Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: July 3, 2017 Guest:
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Happy Fourth of July holiday weekend.
Pop quiz. How many people have held the position of president of the United States? How many people have had that job?
If you answered 45, it is understandable that you would answer that way. Everybody, including our current president calls Donald Trump the 45th president of the United States.
But you know what? If we`re counting him as 45, technically that means we`re counting Grover Cleveland twice because he was the 22nd and 24th president of the United States. And I`m sure that Grover Cleveland loves to be counted twice.
But, in fact, if we`re talking about individual people, only 44 people including the current president have actually held that job.
Here`s another item on our quiz. How many presidential elections have we held in this country? The answer to that is a58. A lot of two-termers and even one four-termer. There had been 58 presidential elections since we started having them in the 1700s, in year 1789.
In terms of which American presidential election has been the most contentious, the most exhausting, the most politically divisive. That is up for debate and every century has its candidate. But in terms of which one was heavily scrutinized after the fact, that one I think it`s pretty clear we are living it right now.
There were hints in the months before the November election that something was off, that something was going on in this one that was different. It all seemed almost too big to grasp at the time, in the middle of what was already this incredibly interesting campaign, this incredibly volatile campaign. But in the middle of all of that, there was also this external foreign dynamic at work, beginning with the news last summer that the e- mail servers of the Democratic Party headquarters had been hacked by Russian hackers. And there was the news that voter registration systems in at least two states or maybe 10 states or maybe 20 states had been probed or breached to some level by again, hackers.
By October, a month before the election, the United States intelligence agencies came out and said that while they couldn`t agree on whether, it was definitely the Russians behind those voter registration system hacks, they said they were confident that the Russians, the Russian government, had definitely directed the hacking of the DNC and other American political organizations in order to, quote, interfere with the U.S. election process.
So, the bizarre story out of all of the weird stuff that`s ever happened in American elections, this story, our story, our generation`s story of the bizarre Russian hacking of our election, that story was at least starting to emerge in the weeks before the election. But at the same time, you know, as usual, as normal, there was a super contentious fascinating presidential campaign going on. And that was very engrossing at the time. And it was not until after the election that the extent of the Russian involvement in our presidential election really came to light, and that started with a startling report from the "Washington Post" that came out the evening of Friday, December 9th, a report that kind of blew all other news right out of the water.
MADDOW: So, we had a whole show planned tonight that had honestly nothing to do with this topic but then "The Washington Post" just dropped this astonishing bombshell within the last hour. Now, I`m going to -- if you haven`t seen this yet, I`m going to put the headline up on the screen so you can see it.
I`m just going to quote the lead directly here.
The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system. They`re citing officials briefed on the matter. Quote, Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked e-mails from the DNC and others, including Hillary Clinton`s campaign chairman.
This is stunning stuff, right? I mean, this has just broken within the last hour in "The Washington Post." They`re reporting that the CIA not only concluded that the Russians intervened in the election, stole information, publicized stolen information to help Donald Trump win the presidency, but the CIA gave its information about Russia to the leadership in the House and the Senate and the White House want to make a big public bipartisan stand against it.
And Republicans said no. Mitch McConnell specifically said, no, no, don`t tell the public.
And so, we held the election with the leadership in Congress knowing full well what Russia was doing and we all went to vote while they sat on that. Until now. Until "The Post" published this tonight.
MADDOW: That was Friday night, December 9th, 2016. Breaking news from the "Washington Post." The first of many Friday nights when I would have to work late.
Basically since then, since December 9th, we have been in kind of a sustained period of very distracting, very engrossing political crisis. This has felt like a sustained political crisis. As since then, we`ve learned more and more and more after the extent of Russian involvement in the election and the investigations into the Trump campaign`s contacts with Russia both during and after the campaign.
Watch the date stamps on these as they fly by.
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MADDOW: Just as we`re coming on the air we got news the former CIA Director James Woolsey tonight has abruptly quit the Trump transition team with no explanation.
Tonight, after saying for weeks that there would be no Senate or House investigation of this matter, the Senate Intelligence Committee finally said, yes, we`ll look into this.
All of a sudden, this is starting to feel like the most important political story certainly in the world, with one week to go before we are supposed to swear in Donald Trump as president of the United States.
"The New York Times" has just published a story titled "Intercepted Russian communications part of inquiry into Trump associates." This is obviously a very inflammatory, very hot story. These new details coming out the eve of the inauguration is a bombshell.
OK, we have major breaking news this evening. We have just been notified within the last minutes while we were in our commercial break that the acting attorney general of the United States has just been fired.
OK, we`ve got breaking news, a national security story just post bid "The Washington Post" about national security adviser Michael Flynn and his contacts with Russia.
So, we have breaking news tonight that goes to the question not just of whether or not the national security adviser is about to be fired, but it also goes to how many people in the new administration knew the kind of trouble that national security adviser Michael Flynn was in, how many people knew about that and when they knew it.
I want to bring you some breaking news that "The New York Times" just posted. This has just gone up since we went on the air. I`ve just been marking it with my trusty highlighter. We haven`t prepared any graphics on this or anything, but let me just tell you what they`ve reported directly relevant to what we need to talk to Congressman Schiff about and what we are just discussing.
Trump campaign aides has repeated contacts with Russian intelligence is the headline. The operative word being campaign. This is during the campaign. This is during the election.
There`s also some brand-new breaking news right now from "The Wall Street Journal." Can we put this article on the screen please? Can we make a full screen out of this? Yes. Thank you.
You see the headline there: Spies keep intelligence from President Trump. They`re not showing this him that because they`re not sure if he can be trusted with it. He`s the president.
"The Washington Post" breaking news just this evening that will frankly tie your socks in a knot if you were thinking that maybe the whole Trump sheriff Russia thing was going to be investigated impartially and aggressively by Congress.
The two Republican chairmen of the intelligence committees in the House and the Senate, they have both admitted to "The Washington Post" that they have been calling reporters off the record at the request of the White House to tell reporters that there`s nothing to these stories.
We interrupt this regularly scheduled broadcast for some breaking news tonight regarding Attorney General Jeff Sessions. We have just learned that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has agreed to amend his testimony. In his testimony at his confirmation hearing at the Senate in January, he now famously failed to disclose meetings he had with the Russian government official when he was asked about Trump campaign meetings with Russian government officials. Jeff Sessions told the Senate he didn`t meet with any Russians but he did. He now says he will go back and change his testimony.
We`re following the breaking news tonight that the fire national security adviser, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn was fired from the Trump administration after only 24 days on the job. Tonight, he`s asking for immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony in the Trump-Russia scandal.
We have to start tonight with a little bit of breaking news, which has just been published by "The Washington Post". "The Washington Post" reports that a FISA warrant was issued last summer to monitor Carter Page`s communications while he was an adviser for the Trump campaign.
I`m never going to get another Friday night off in my life. I`m telling you. Friday nights are very news heavy in the Trump administration.
According to tonight`s front page scoop in "The Washington Post", Mike Flynn was warned explicitly that his conversations with Russian officials were, quote, undoubtedly being monitored by the FBI and the NSA. There are interesting questions about what`s happening with the department of justice and Paul Manafort, right? Is Jeff Sessions involved in any work at the Department of Justice concerning Paul Manafort or is he recused?
We can report tonight that the Justice Department will not say. We started asking yesterday. We asked throughout the day today. We have asked it five times in five different ways, including me making the request myself personally multiple times in as many different ways as I could think of it. They will not say whether or not he`s recused.
He has recused on Flynn they say. He is recused on things related to the Trump campaign broadly. They won`t say about Manafort.
So, we have some news to break tonight. Another subpoena has been issued as part of the ongoing investigations into President Trump`s associates. Again, NBC News reporting exclusively tonight that federal investigators have subpoenaed records related to a $3.5 million loan taken out by former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort last year.
We`ve got much more to come tonight and, actually, because this is our life now, new substantive breaking news has just happened in the last couple of minutes.
Because no night is complete anymore without several new major breaking news stories about the administration. Just in the last few minutes, we`ve gotten this reporting from "The New York Times". Quoting from "The Times", Michael Flynn told President Trump`s transition team weeks before the inauguration that he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign.
All set to do a very specific show today, A block, B block, C block, all planned out, people booked, ready to go, scripts in. We know we`re reporting. We`re ready -- had it all planned out. New breaking news. Throw everything out the window.
This is the new schedule. This is how we work now. You wait long enough into the evening without getting too drunk to pay attention to the news and you`ll find that something breaks and changes your plans.
Monday evening, it was President Trump passing on classified intelligence to the Russians in the Oval Office. Tuesday night, it was the existence of a memo from fired FBI director James Comey describing a conversation if which he says the president asked him to back off the FBI investigation of former national security adviser Mike Flynn. Last night, it was the appointment of a social counsel to take over the Trump-Russia investigation. Now, it`s the fourth day of the week and so, now, we`ve got a new one.
Tonight`s scoop comes courtesy of Michael Schmidt at "The New York Times". And it`s a sorry that he`s just broken tonight. The front page of "The New York Times" Web site is that in addition to the alleged direct pressure by the president on Director Comey to kibosh the Mike Flynn Trump-Russia investigation, apparently the president, or reportedly, the president called the FBI director and pressured him to put out public word about Trump not personally being under investigation.
NBC reports tonight that Jared Kushner is now under scrutiny in the FBI`s Trump-Russia probe. This is according to multiple U.S. officials. Those officials telling NBC News tonight that Jared Kushner is a person of interest.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back to another Friday night of what seems like extraordinary news from the Trump-Russia inquiry beginning with "Reuters" reporting that special counsel Robert Mueller is taking over the grand jury inquiry into Michael Flynn and the lobbying Flynn did for Turkey without registering as an agent of the foreign government, which is required under law. "The A.P." then with that report that Mueller could expand the probe to include Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for their roles in firing of the FBI director. If Mueller wants to go in that director, the deputy A.G. as we were just discussing say Mueller has room to run. "The A.P." reporting Muller is also taking over the criminal probe involving the former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.
MADDOW: I mean, talk about dot-connecting. This is a -- I feel like this is one of those moments where we`ve kind of been bushwhacking through the forest for a long time and all of a sudden, we just came out into a clearing and we can see where we are. It`s really sort of a landmark moment in terms of understanding this investigation, I think.
MADDOW: Great to be back and because we have to begin tonight naturally the universe has welcomed me back with late-breaking Trump-Russia news, news that has just broken in the "Washington Post" within the last hour. According to night`s "Washington Post", yet another senior serving national security official in the U.S. government has reportedly now told associates that the president directed him, the president told him to intervene with the FBI to try to stop the Trump-Russia investigation.
The new reporting from "The Washington Post", again, just out in the last hour, concerns not James Comey but the nation`s top intelligence official, the director of national intelligence, appointed by President Trump, former Senate Dan Coats. Tonight, we have this brand-new reporting from "The New York Times" about CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn. It concerns the question of what happened in the 18 days between the time when the acting attorney general, Sally Yates, warned the White House that Mike Flynn was vulnerable to Russian blackmail.
What happened in the 18 days between when Yates gave that warning and when the White House finally fired him?
MADDOW: This is your life, America. This is what your life has been like since December. Do you wonder why you`ve been a little stressed out over the past few months? Have you been following this news?
It has been a long but gratifying seven months for journalism, particularly the nonstop, feels like nonstop breaking news from our excellent national treasure, world-class American newspapers like the "Washington Post" and like the "The New York Times."
We have -- as a country we`ve covered a lot of ground over the last seven months or so here on this show, covering these breaking news updates every night as these stories have broken night after night after night. For the rest of this hour tonight, we`re going to be, not just looking at where we`ve been and what we`ve learned over this remarkable seven-month period in American history, we`re also going to be zeroing in on the major things to look out for as the investigations into this current administration continues.
So, happy Independence Day. Stay with us tonight. This is going to be fun.
MADDOW: On May 17th this year in the evening, 7:04 p.m., Robert Mueller confirmed that he had been named to be special counsel in the Trump-Russia investigation. That was confirmed at 7:04 p.m. Thirty-four minutes later, 7:38 p.m. that same night, his law firm confirmed that -- the law firm that he had just left in order to become special counsel, they confirmed that Bob Mueller was already staffing up for the Trump-Russia investigation.
Among the people he would be taking with his from his old law firm would be this man. His name is James Quarles. Fun fact, James Quarles started out as an assistant special prosecutor in the Watergate investigation. That was the first Bob Mueller hire that we learned about.
Then we learned about Andrew Weismann also going to work with Mueller. Andrew Weissmann`s last gig was running the fraud section at the criminal division of the U.S. Department of Justice. But as we`ve previously talked about on this show, Andrew Weissmann is also a veteran of more than 25 mob prosecutions. He managed to get a long-term mobster to testify against John Gotti after that guy understandably went into witness protection. He got that same guy to come back out of witness protection to testify against a different crime family boss, Vinny the Chin Gigante.
Andrew Weissmann was involved in the prosecution of one-time Trump business partner Felix Seder for a mob-connected fraud scheme to which Felix Seder pled guilty.
So, after Quarles and Weissmann, we then learned about Mueller hire, we learned about Michael Dreeben. Dreeben was hired out of the Justice Department as well. When Dreeben was hired, the former solicitor general of the United States, Walter Dillinger, told "The Washington Post" that Dreeben in his opinion is, quote: The most brilliant and most knowledgeable criminal lawyer in America, period.
Since then, we have also learned that Bob Mueller has added an experienced Justice Department trial attorney named Lisa Page to his team. "Wired Magazine" had an interesting profile of her that included her experience with money laundering and organized crime cases, including investigations where she partnered with an FBI task force based in Hungary which focused specifically on eastern European organized crime. That`s another interesting hire.
And then there`s Elizabeth Prelogar. I think that`s how you say her name, Prelogar. She comes to the Bob Mueller team via the U.S. solicitor general`s office. And there`s a lot of very highfalutin things and important clerkships on Elizabeth Prelogar`s resume. She`s very accomplished, very well-regarded.
But I can just point out one thing, she appears to be fluent in Russian. From "The National Law Journal", quote, as an Emory College undergraduate, she majored in English and Russia. After graduating from Emory, she was a Fulbright scholar in Russia. When she was first year in at Harvard Law in 2006, she won an Overseas Press Club scholarship to study Russian media and censorships.
So, if you`re thinking about the team here, Watergate, mob, money laundering, criminal law, fluency in Russian. That`s who he`s put together so far. Any sense of what Robert Mueller might be working on here? Any base he hasn`t covered yet?
Watch this space.
MADDOW: Ten days after Election Day when the Trump victory was still quite fresh and the implications of it were still starting to become clear, tend days in, the Trump transition team made a decision. It was a decision that made me do a do-whoop when I heard about it. It led me to do something that I rarely do on this program and you might not know this is a real thing, but I will tell you. It was a rare decision.
I broke format. I threw out what we were planning to do. I went off script. I did an unproduced off the cuff segment where I just rift into the camera live on national TV for two minutes about what that decision might mean. And ultimately, the effects to that one momentous decision have now colored the five months of the Trump presidency.
What that decision was that made me take everything I had done and throw it out the window. That`s next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: The cliches that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. But good old Mike Pence, he never even got a single chance to make a first impression. Because the biggest night of Mike Pence`s public life, the night that Mike Pence was chosen to be Donald Trump`s vice presidential running mate. That same night, there was a sudden dramatic coup attempt in Turkey which is a major American ally, one of the big anchor countries in NATO.
And that surprise, bizarre, intense news, that pretty much swallowed up all of the other news in the world. And if the Turkish coup itself was dramatic news, which it was, dramatic enough to overshadow the choosing of a vice presidential running, I have to say the aftermath of the coup attempt has been even more dramatic. Turkey`s president had already been trending autocratic, but after the coup attempt he started rounding up people by the tens of thousands. He started building hundreds of new prisons to lock those people up.
The guy he blamed for than anybody for the coup attempt was this imam, who is Turkish but who had long ago fled Turkey, fearing persecution. He has since become a permanent resident of the United States. He lives in the Poconos of all places. Turkey`s president after the coup attempt demanded that the U.S. hand this guy over so he could be dealt with back in Turkey.
And while I`m sure that Turkey`s president feels very strongly about that, this guy is a legal permanent resident of our country now. We don`t just hand people over because other countries say so. Other countries don`t just get to demand that we hand them over.
But interestingly on Election Day, on our Election Day here in the United States in November, we learned in a strange way that somebody who was about to become very, very powerful in this country was apparently totally on board with that demand to hand over that Turkish guy to the Turkish government.
MADDOW: On Election Day this week, on Tuesday, Donald Trump`s top military and intelligence adviser wrote an op-ed in "|The Hill", saying basically, you know what? We should hand that guy over. He called this imam who`s living in the Poconos, quote, a shady Islamic mullah, and he also said this -- this is nice -- quote, if he were in reality a moderate, he would not be in exile, nor would he excite the animus of the Turkish president.
You know what? Honestly right now there are 100,000 journalists, professor, mayors, politicians, freaking libraries who excited the animus of the Turkish president. He`s building 174 new prisons to lock up tens of thousands of people who he has rounded up in a gigantic purge since this supposed coup, right?
The hand them over guy, the guy who says we should just hand this guy over, he probably deserves it, that`s General Mike Flynn, who is Donald Trump`s top military and intelligence adviser. He was also today named to the executive committee of Donald Trump`s new transition team.
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MADDOW: That was November 11th, that was the Friday after our U.S. presidential election this past November. That was the day that we first learned that Michael Flynn`s lobbying firm was on the payroll of the Turkish government. Three days after the election and red flags were already going up.
But just one week later, President-elect Trump announced that, in fact, Mike Flynn would be his national security adviser. At which point when that announcement happened during our show on the air that night, I went into an extended ad lib about Mike Flynn.
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MADDOW: At this point in the show, I had something else we were going to cover, but I scrapped it, because there`s a thing I feel like I need to say about the Mike Flynn national security adviser announcement. It is an announcement. It`s done.
All a president-elect or president ultimately has to do to get a national security adviser and have them say yes. So, this Mike Flynn thing is done. That means it will not be discussed all that much compared to the other people who have to go through the Senate confirmation process.
But the choice of Mike Flynn really is a different kettle of fish than anything that I think we might have expected from the Trump campaign. Mike Flynn calls Islam a political ideology hiding behind a religion. Mike Flynn calls Islam a malignant cancer.
Mike Flynn really did sit next to Vladimir Putin and take money to go to a gala honoring Russian state television. He`s also been a frequent guest on Russian state television and says he sees no difference between Russian state television and, for example, MSNBC.
He will now be the closest person to the president of the United States on a day-to-day basis on all foreign policy issues, on all military issues, on all national security issues, and he is way outside anything that anybody on the left, right or center might consider to be the mainstream, either in thought or temperament in terms of national security issues, and it`s done. And Trump gets him unless he has some change of heart or awakening of conscience about doing something like this for such a key position.
I would also say that Mike Flynn has been on the payroll, his intelligence firm has been on the payroll of Turkey, including during the Trump campaign, without him disclosing that while he was working for the Trump campaign. So, this is just -- I know he`s not going to get as much coverage as the other people who have to get confirmed over the next few days, but stick a pin in that. It`s a really, really important, really, really worrying announcement.
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MADDOW: I`m not the kind of person who ever says I told you so, but imagine somebody else who looks like a lot like me, sounds like me, maybe dresses cheap like me saying I told you so.
The first evident trouble with the choice of Mike Flynn to be national security adviser came even before the inauguration, came about a week before the inauguration. "Washington Post`s" David Ignatius, national security columnist, he reported that Mike Flynn called the Russian ambassador several times on December 29th, which is a key day because that`s the day that the Obama administration had announced retaliatory measures against Russia for them hacking or election.
So, Ignatius reports that Flynn had called the ambassador several times that day. That led to several days of Sean Spicer insisting there was no call by Mike Flynn to the Russians on December 29th. And then he said it was a call on the 29th, but it was nothing but holiday pleasantries. Then it was OK, maybe they talked about a couple of other things, or maybe even they talked about several other things, but definitely, absolutely, it had nothing to do be sanctions.
And, you know, that explanation held for almost three whole weeks until "The Washington Post", "The Post", again, broke that story wide open. And in breaking that story, "The Post" finally found the answer to something that had been nagging at people ever since the Obama administration had expelled those Russian diplomats and seized those Russian compounds. There had been this nagging question. Why didn`t Moscow retaliate when Obama did that? That`s how these things are worked out. We kick out a whole bunch of their guys. Then they kick out a whole bunch of our guys.
But then here`s at the end of last year, it didn`t work that way. Putin didn`t respond in kind. Obama took over this long held Russian compounds in the United States, seized them, and took them away from the Russians, kicked out dozens of Russian spies and diplomats, kicked them all out. You would expect Putin to respond exactly, tit for tat. Putin responded by doing nothing. It was weird.
MADDOW: But then here`s where "The Washington Post" picks up the story. Quote: Putin`s muted response took White House officials by surprise. It triggered a search by U.S. spy agencies for clues.
One former senior official tells "The Post", quote, something happened in those 24 hours between Obama`s announcement and Putin`s response. Officials began pouring over intelligence reports, intercepted communications and diplomatic cables. They found evidence that Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn and the Russian ambassador to the United States had communicated by text and telephone around the time these sanctions were announced.
So, we`ve got U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies bugging the Russians, right, listening in on this Russian officials calls. And what they hear, according to these multiple and multiply corroborated reports is the man who`s going to go on to be Trump`s national security adviser calling the Russian government and essentially telling them, don`t worry about these sanctions that the U.S. government is putting on you.
He`s calling Russia to undermine the sanctions that the Obama administration is putting on Russia for their attack on our presidential election. He reportedly told them in essence, hey, you know what, don`t bother reacting to these sanctions. Don`t worry about it. Once Trump is sworn in, we`ll fix it. We`ll take care of it.
Now, working secretly with a foreign power to undermine the actions of the U.S. government, that`s kind of a big deal. I mean, even the Trump folks recognize that somebody doing that would be kind of a big deal. They recognized it enough that they took great pains to deny the heck out of this for weeks now.
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REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The subject matter of sanctions or the actions taken by the Obama administration did not come up in the conversation.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: They exchanged logistical information on how to initiate and schedule that call. That was it, plain and simple.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States decision to expel diplomats or impose a censure against Russia. I can confirm that those elements were not part of that discussion.
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MADDOW: Either the White House spokesman, the White House chief of staff and the vice president all bluntly lied knowingly about Mike Flynn and what he was doing about Russia or they lied inadvertently, unknowingly because they were saying something that they thought was through, because Mike Flynn told them a lie and they passed it on thinking it was true.
Either way that can`t stand, right? That seems like a big deal for the top people in a brand-new administration.
MADDOW: That was February 10th of this year, not even a month into the new administration. Less than four days later, Mike Flynn was out.
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MADDOW: Late last night in the middle of the night, the national security adviser to the president resigned -- was fired, resigned, resigned, was fired, we don`t know. But he`s out. National security adviser Michael Flynn.
We now that the Justice Department, including the acting attorney general Sally Yates, she went to the White House at the end of January and they informed -- she and another senior career justice official informed the White House counsel that Mike Flynn had had contacts with the Russian government that were not only undermining U.S. government sanctions against Russia, these were also contacts that he lied about and they told the White House that he had done it. And we know that the White House knew about that for weeks and they took no action.
Why did they take no action? Why did they continue to let Michael Flynn have the access to the president and the access to classified information that he enjoyed up until the night he was fired?
"The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" have both reported citing multiple sources that his contacts with the Russian government didn`t start once she was national security adviser, they didn`t start once Trump was elected and they were in the transition period. Both papers report that Mike Flynn was in contact with the Russian government during the campaign, before the election, while Russia was interfere in the U.S. election in multiple ways trying to tip the election to Donald Trump.
Did Mike Flynn help them with that? Did Mike Flynn or anyone else collude with the Russian government in their efforts to elude the election?
It`s a very, very, very serious charge. Right now, it`s an absolutely unanswered one at this point.
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MADDOW: That is still an unanswered charge.
Since Mike Flynn left the White House, he and his businesses and business associates have reportedly been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury and by congressional committees investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Mike Flynn is reportedly a focus of special counsel Robert Mueller`s investigation which is reportedly looking into not only Flynn`s Russian contacts but also his work lobbying for Turkey.
Mike Flynn`s activities during the presidential campaign, his activities during the transition, his very brief tenure in the White House itself, those are turned out to be right at the center of the ongoing investigations into this new administration and the Russian attack on us last year. And those ongoing investigations have ended up putting a spotlight on one particular member of the Trump administration and the specific question of whether or not he knew what Mike Flynn was up to.
That spotlight is now on a very high ranking, currently serving member of the administration, one who never got a first chance to make a first impression. And that story is next.
MADDOW: It was three days after the presidential election last year. It was November 11th, that we first talked on this show about Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn and the possibility that he was being paid to represent the interests of another country other than the United States.
November 11th, three days after the election, that was the day that we learned that Flynn had been on the payroll of the nation of Turkey. And that presumably is what explained why Mike Flynn on Election Day published a weird, over-the-top op-ed praising Turkey`s authoritarian government. That all happened right after the election.
But it wasn`t until four months later, long after Flynn had become national security adviser and then lost his job as national security adviser. It wasn`t until months later that he finally filed paperwork to retroactively declare that he had in fact been working as an agent of a foreign power while serving the Trump campaign in transition.
Now, Mike Flynn may be long gone from the White House now and may be reportedly under all kinds of investigation. But, you know, we never did get a straight answer from the Trump administration about how and why they installed someone as national security adviser who really was acting as an unregistered paid agent of a foreign power.
MADDOW: Mike Flynn has finally retroactivity registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent. He`s admitted that he took hundreds of thousands of dollars to lobby for the government of Turkey last year, between August and November.
But again this filing is retroactive. It as not like he`s filing now saying he`s about to start taking money to lobby for the Turkish government. He`s filing now to report that he was lobbying for the Turkish government last year while he was also working for Trump.
Now, the White House said today that President Trump had no idea, no idea that Michael Flynn was an agent of a foreign government while he was advising the Trump campaign and leading the national security part of the Trump transition. And honestly, while he was sitting in on the presidential daily brief and all of the other things he did as part of the Trump effort.
And maybe -- maybe, amazingly, that`s true that President Trump had no idea Michael Flynn was a foreign agent while he was doing that because maybe the president consumes no news and information that is publicly available to the rest of us, maybe he didn`t notice anything on cable news, maybe he didn`t notice anything on "The Daily Caller" or "Politico" or "The A.P." or CNN or Bloomberg or any of it, just didn`t notice.
But you know, just a week after we did that big segment that we did on Michael Flynn working for a foreign government, just one week after that, Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings wrote to the Trump transition team to formally alert them to these credible news reports that the top national security adviser to the transition and to the new president was lobbying for Turkish interests, notification from Congress.
And now, today, "The Associated Press" has confirmed that the transition team beyond the letter from Elijah Cummings, beyond all the news coverage, beyond all the public discussion of this matter, the transition team was formally notified by Mike Flynn`s lawyers during the transition that he was on the payroll of a foreign government. Quote: Lawyers for Flynn told Trump`s transition team that Flynn might need to register as an agent of a foreign power.
Even if the president had no access to that publicly available information, we know for certain the White House is actually tonight confirming that even if they`re still saying the president didn`t know, they`re confirming that the transition knew. The transition team was informed at the highest levels that Michael Flynn may be needed to register as a foreign agent. Even if you don`t -- even if the president somehow was completely immune to this information, the White House confirms the transition knew, that the head of the transition was informed.
Who is the head of the transition? An incredibly honest-looking gentleman named Mike Pence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS HOST: Michael Flynn has filed with the Department of Justice as a foreign agent for making more than $500,000 as a lobbyist essentially for Turkey. Your reaction to that considering that doesn`t that mean, Mr. Vice President, that even if he didn`t lie to you about what the Russian ambassador said or didn`t say, that you would have had to fire him anyway?
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, let me say hearing that story today was the first I heard of it and I fully support the decision that President Trump made to ask for General Flynn`s resignation.
BAIER: You`re disappointed by the story?
PENCE: The first I heard of it and I think it is -- it is an affirmation of the president`s decision to ask General Flynn to resign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: First of all, Bret Baier at FOX I think asks the question perfectly, right? He lays it out, lays it out accurately, let me get your reaction to this. You know, basically saying is this not a significant scandal involving General Flynn? How does Mike Pence respond to that? Just play that bit again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENCE: Well, let me say hearing that story today was the first I heard of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was not actually the question you were asked. But -- nobody asked when you heard of it but twice without being asked when he first heard of this, twice, Mike Pence volunteers that this is all news to him. Never heard this before.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: You`re disappointed by the story?
PENCE: The first I heard of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It is impossible that this is the first time Mike Pence has heard of it. It`s impossible.
Mike Pence was the head of the transition while all of those stories about Michael Flynn being on the Turkish government`s payroll were breaking. He was the head of the transition when Mike Flynn was being vetted for the national security adviser job. He was the head of the transition when Congress formally notified the head of the transition that Mike Flynn appears to be on a foreign government`s payroll. He was the head of the transition when Mike Flynn`s personal lawyers came and told the head of the transition that Michael Flynn maybe needed to register as a foreign agent.
And now, Mike Pence`s explanation for this whole story inexplicably is he`s never heard any of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENCE: Well, let me say hearing that story today was the first I heard of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That cannot be true.
MADDOW: That cannot be true. That cannot be true.
The Mike Flynn scandal in this White House, the inexplicable hiring of Flynn, the secret foreign ties of Flynn, the national security adviser to the president of the United States being forced out of that job just 24 days into the new administration because of his secret foreign ties and contacts -- all of it. The Mike Flynn matter is astonishing in its own right.
But the Mike Flynn matter is also the Mike Pence matter. The vice president`s behavior, his account of his own actions around Mike Flynn, these things just don`t add up, and they never have. Vice President Pence tends to keep a low profile in this administration, but he really has made a number of blunt, direct, false statements related to the Trump/Russia investigation.
He bluntly asserted that the Trump transition had not applied for a security clearance for Mike Flynn`s son. They actually had applied for a security clearance for Mike Flynn`s son. Mike Pence also bluntly, boldly asserted that James Comey was not fired for anything having to do with the Trump/Russia investigation. The president himself has admitted that is in fact exactly why James Comey was fired.
Mike Pence has bluntly asserted that there were no Trump campaign contacts with Russian officials during the campaign. That is not true. He has bluntly asserted that he had no idea that Mike Flynn had a paid relationship with any foreign country`s government. That would seem to be impossible.
Mike Pence formed a political action committee in May, which is an unusual thing for a vice president to do. That was May. In June, he hired an A- list private lawyer to represent him personally in the Russia probe. And then after weeks of speculation and reporting to the contrary and the vice president`s office refusing to confirm one way or the other, eventually the vice president`s private lawyer said that Mike Pence will not use that new PAC that he set up as a vehicle to raise funds to cover his legal fees. But, you know, he could if he wants to.
The Mike Flynn story, the Mike Flynn story is unprecedented in American history. Honestly, it`s incredible. But it also is the vice president`s story now. And unlike Mike Flynn, Mike Pence of course is still in office.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: This week, right after this glorious Independence Day holiday, President Trump will be heading to Europe for his second overseas trip of his presidency. He will be stopping in Poland. He will be stopping in Germany.
And in Germany in Hamburg, he has planned a very special meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin. In person, first time. I wonder if they`ll get along.
That does it for us tonight. Happy Fourth of July.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED. END