Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: July 17, 2017 Guest: Ezra Levin, Chris Murphy
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: A big breaking news night. So I`m happy to hear what Rachel Maddow may have in store for us.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: You are giving us a calendar alert that could only exist in the age of digital calendars. You`re telling us to pencil this in in general for 6:00 p.m. Eastern weeknights, but I can`t give you a start date.
MELBER: Well --
MADDOW: You want us to write a macro, so at some point it kicks in and that starts.
MELBER: Just know that is as much as I was allowed to say.
MADDOW: Very good. That`s a very lawyerly approach to it, Ari. Thank you.
MELBER: Good. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Well done.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. You know, tonight, I`d go to say, I had an A block all set and ready to go. We worked on it this weekend. It was all this breaking news stuff and this happened this evening and we had all this thing about all this crazy stuff that`s happening with the legal teams that are trying to defend or represent the various people involved in the Russia scandal up to and including the president himself. We`re all ready to go. And then, boom, health care blows up.
So, this is going to be one of those shows where it`s all moving parts. But what has just happened on health care tonight is a very big deal. I think we are still actually going to get to those big stories that we`ve got tonight on the legal team on the Russia scandal. But this is a bigger deal.
This is breaking news from our nation`s capital. If you have been following the health care fight, you will know the magic number has been two. That is the total number of Republican votes that the Republicans can afford to lose in the Senate and still kill the Affordable Care Act, to get rid of Obamacare.
The Senate Republican leader is Mitch McConnell. He has said he is determined to get the vote on his party`s very, very, very unpopular health care bill that is expected to cost millions of Americans, potentially tens of millions of Americans their health insurance. He said he was prepared to push back the traditional August recess so that he could keep Republicans in Washington longer, the better to be near them so as to twist their arms and offer them, you know, stuff that might sweeten the deal. But he really does need almost every Republican in the Senate to go along if he`s going to pass this repeal of the Affordable Care Act. He could afford to lose two Republican senators and no more.
And coming into tonight, those two spots were taken, right? This has been true for a few days. And we had every reason to believe it would be true all this week. Coming into tonight, these two Republican senators, Rand Paul and Susan Collins, they had already said that they would vote no.
Senator Collins of Maine said she wouldn`t vote for the Republican plan because of its huge cuts to Medicaid. Medicaid provides health insurance to more Americans than another health insurance provider in the country. Those huge cuts, she said, would be devastating to Maine, devastating to the country, she wouldn`t do it.
Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky said he wouldn`t vote for it because repealing Obamacare was still too much like Obamacare. Whatever.
For whatever reasons, the two of them said they wouldn`t vote it. And so, we were heading into this week thinking, right, stasis, because we knew that, you know, the next things that were going to happen in the health care bill that might effectuate some sort of change in those numbers, either Collins and Paul changing their mind or additional senators joining with them and saying no, which would of course end their chances of repealing Obamacare. We knew some of those things were about to fall into line. We knew heading into this past weekend that today, Monday, or maybe tomorrow, Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office was going to give us a new score of the Republicans` bill, which tells you not just how much it`s going to cost but how many millions of Americans it`s going to cost them their health insurance.
We knew that was going to happen today or tomorrow. We knew from Senator McConnell`s office that he wanted a vote by Thursday. An impending vote can be something that really, you know, presses the point, makes people decide what they`re going to do, often in unpredictable ways as you get closer to the voting time. So, we knew those triggers were coming.
But then this weekend, Senator John McCain was admitted for emergency surgery or admitted for, I should say, admitted surgery to repair a blood clot. We`re told that it was serious surgery. The reaction in political terms from Republicans was that they wanted to delay their vote until Senator McCain was recovered and back in Washington. Obviously, everybody wishes Senator McCain the best. It was a little jarring to see this political response immediately from his party that the way they were responding was by holding off this vote but that`s what they said.
Then, we learned that the Congressional Budget Office wouldn`t be putting out their score today or tomorrow. And we really didn`t have an explanation as to why that wasn`t going to happen. But all that meant is the triggers that were going to happen this week were gone, right? They were -- their bill was perched and paused and finally balanced on the edge of failure, heading into this week.
Would anybody else come out against the bill? Would there be a third Republican no vote? Would that Congressional Budget Office score be terrible and cause more Republicans to say no? Would the impending vote on Thursday be enough to nudge individual senators one way or the other?
That would be -- those were supposed to be the triggers. When both of those triggers fell away and neither of them is going to happen this week, we assumed that we just have another week of stasis, where they`re right on the edge of failure. They`ve got two votes and they can`t lose another. We thought they would be there this week.
But now, tonight, it has fallen apart. We got the first inklings this evening from Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, suggesting that maybe he would vote no, that he was offended about the way that Mitch McConnell has been talking about the Obamacare repeal. I don`t know if that`s what opened the flood gates. But right after we got that from Ron Johnson, then a half hour ago, Senator Mike Lee of Utah tweeted, my colleague Jerry Moran and I will not support the motion to proceed on this bill.
And it was like -- I mean, we thought all week long we`d be standing at two. Now, all of the sudden, the Republicans went from the two no votes they could barely afford to four no votes and Ron Johnson too, definitely enough to doom the bill with no votes to spare.
How did that happen? Is this some sort of disturbance in the force for this evening and they`re going back to a safer position tomorrow and in the days ahead for this week or did this thing really just completely fall apart tonight? Millions of people`s health insurance is at stake.
Joining us on the phone is NBC News Capitol Hill producer and reporter Frank Thorp, who has been following these events closely.
Frank, thanks very much for taking our call. I know you`re right in the middle of reporting this out.
FRANK THORP, NBC NEWS CAPITOL HILL PRODUCER (via telephone): No, thank you. Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So, when I described about the timing there, it was just sort of me observing this out of Washington in terms of what I expected. Did anybody -- from your perspective on Capitol Hill, in Washington, did people expect that tonight would be the night we`d get a whole bunch more Republican senators saying no?
THORP: There wasn`t the expectation that this is going to happen tonight. I think that there was an expectation that most of these Republican senators who were on the fence were actually waiting for the CBO score. And now that had been delayed, we were expecting maybe any of those kind of announcements to be happening once that came out. But there was also kind of an expectation that folks who weren`t -- they didn`t want to be that one senator that was the one that doomed the bill.
So, the idea that Senators Lee and Moran came out together and did this together, it makes it a lot of sense, because it allows them to be able to do it together. Now, it`s four, not three. Neither one of them is the one senator that decided to be the nail in the coffin for this current version of the bill. But, you know, notably, you know, somebody like Jerry Moran, he came out and said that he wants to basically start this process over.
Also, notably, Jerry Moran was one of the Republican senators to actually have town halls during the Fourth of July recess. So, this is a situation where I don`t think there was an expectation that this was going to happen so early. But I also think that it did -- it needed to be at least two senators to come out to get this number to over the two that would actually kill the bill.
MADDOW: Frank, that`s a really good point about how Senator Moran has been approaching this. One of the things -- I`ve been trying to keep an eye on it, and my staff, we`ve been trying to keep an eye on every day what`s happening in the states, what`s happening in these senators` home district offices, what`s happening when they`re facing their own constituents about these things and Kansas is one of those places that you think of as a very conservative state, a lot of red state voters with the red state mindset.
But nevertheless, there have been tons and tons of protests and demonstrations and town halls and mock town halls, and a lot of home-state pressure on a senator like Jerry Moran to vote no on this, in a way that, you know, I think if you`re just looking at it from a national perspective, you wouldn`t expect. But that has got to be part of what`s in his mind as he`s approaching this.
Frank, do you know if Senator Mitch McConnell has a plan around these traffic cones that have just been put in his way? Is this a temporary problem, something he might have anticipated or is this really potentially the end?
THORP: It could be. But I mean, we`re waiting to hear back from McConnell`s office on what they plan to do. It`s likely that Senate Republicans will meet. They always meet on Tuesday. They have their lunch and McConnell always has his press conference where he and leadership, they speak to the reporters on Capitol Hill and tell them what they`re usually going to the with next steps. That`s where we`ll end up hearing what they want to do here.
The thing is, though, is that, you know, if Senators Moran and -- Senator Susan Collins also wanted to basically scrap the entire bill and start over again, start an entire legislative process, one with hearings and one with just more time, and there`s a real question about whether or not they have more time. Whether or not they can do that, even with the two extra weeks they`ve given themselves during the August recess.
And the other question is, is that between now and lunchtime tomorrow, whether or not there`s doing to be moderate Republicans who are expecting to come out against the bill, whether they will start to trickle in as noes now, now that they know that this bill is -- or at least this current version is not going anywhere.
MADDOW: Fascinating stuff.
NBC Capitol Hill producer Frank Thorp, thank you very much, Frank. I know you`re in the middle of reporting this out tonight.
You know, that last point that Frank was just making there, for the people on my staff who have been watching this more closely and for Steve Benen, who writes at MaddowBlog.com, one of the things that Steve has been counseling us as we`ve been looking at this just as a staff, is that once you get past that hurdle, once you get past those two votes that they can endure and still pass this thing, what we have been expected is that that would sort of open the flood gates and you would get -- in all likelihood, you will get a whole bunch more senators saying no once more people have short of broken the ice there.
So, what Frank there was saying about expecting the moderate senators to sort of all pour out now and all say no, we`re all no votes on this as well, I will tell you from perspective of my staff and Steve Benen`s expertise on this, which I trust a lot, that is, I think what a lot of people are expecting. That said, this year, we have learned to expect the unexpected. You know, we tend to look at news from Congress as though what happens there is driven by forces that are purely inside Washington, D.C.
It`s understandable, right? You`re covering stuff in Washington and so you look around in Washington to see what explains what just happened. I continue to believe, though, that if you really want to understand why Republicans are failing again to pass their health bill, right, why Republicans with Republican control of the House, Republican control of the Senate and a Republican in the White House who would likely sign anything labeled health care, why these folks cannot pass the one thing they all agreed on and campaigned on, which was repealing Obamacare.
Why can`t they do it? I don`t think it can be explained in Washington. I think in order to understand that, you might also look around at what is happening right where you live.
For example, take the ninth district in Virginia. It`s represented by this guy, Congressman Morgan Griffith. He`s a Republican congressman from Virginia. He voted to repeal Obamacare. His constituents say if the Republican health care bill becomes law, 62,000 people in his district, 62,000 of his constituents will lose their health insurance.
To help drive that point home, they made him a visual aid. This weekend, Virginia Congressman Griffith`s constituents spent their Sunday piecing together 62,000 little strips of paper, stapling them into a giant paper chain. Remember you used to make those in elementary school? Every link in their paper chain represents a person in that district who they say would lose all health insurance under the Republican health care plan to repeal Obamacare, 62,000.
They pieced out together. They laid it out flat across a football field. The whole thing clocked in around three miles long. Then, they stuffed all 15,000-plus feet of it into bags, into trash bags, and delivered this chain to their congressman, to Morgan Griffith.
Grassroots efforts against the Republican bill did not take the weekend off, this weekend, leading into these dramatic developments in Capitol Hill tonight. Tucson, Arizona, you know how hot it is in mid July. Tucson, Arizona, protesters braved just brutal heat outside of Senator John McCain`s office. Few people even brought umbrellas with them to stay cool.
Over in North Carolina, Congressman Patrick McHenry`s constituents spruced up his office`s road sign. You see, his office is listed there at the bottom of the official sign. But now, it`s decorated with tombstones to remind him about people who could die in his district if they lose all health insurance because of the Republican bill.
Also, here in sparsely pocketed pocket of California where a good size group of people turned out to talk to their congressman, Paul Cook. When they found out Paul Cook`s office was closed, they just stood downstairs chanting, we`ll be back. We`ll be back.
When the Senate got to work today in Washington, D.C., they would barely make it through the door. Protests started in the Senate atrium in Washington, D.C. People chanting their stories about how Obamacare helped save their lives.
Capitol police gave their first warning to clear the area. Protesters sat down on the ground. Police started rounding them up, folded up their banners and made arrests.
Some people did make it upstairs, though. About 15 activists crammed into Nevada Senator Dean Heller`s office. They wrote him a song to the tune of "For He`s a Jolly Good Fellow", expect they changed the word to "you should vote no on Trumpcare." The rhymes are a little strange, but I get it.
But Ohio Senator Rob Portman`s office, protesters were slightly less jolly. They were yelling, your job is on the line, your job is on the line. Eventually, they were kicked out of that office. They parked themselves on the floor right outside the senator office`s door. Police made more arrests there, including this woman in a wheelchair who kept chanting as she and her friends were put in zip ties.
More than 30 people were arrested at the Capitol today. While all that was going on, a group of young kids with disabilities also door-stopped a bunch of senators at their D.C. offices. They call themselves the little lobbyists. They carry around this big binder full stories about kids who have stayed alive because of the health insurance they`ve got through Obamacare. They took that book all over the Capitol today. Nobody from Senator Heller`s staff was able to meet with the little lobbyists but to the senator`s office staff`s credit, they did give the kids ice cream, which is awesome.
After enduring this face-to-face pressure, this kind of intense pressure from their constituents for weeks and weeks and weeks, both at home, in their home states and home districts and also at their offices in Washington, D.C., the flood gates really did open tonight. They had two no votes before tonight. That`s all they could spare. Now, we`re up to four.
Four members of the Senate who say they`re firmly against the bill. That means that Mitch McConnell is not going to pass this thing, not unless he changes two of their minds and doesn`t lose anybody else.
So, what happens now really is anyone`s guess. This is really big news tonight. But I got to tell you one constant throughout this entire process from the very start has been how the majority of this country really strongly does not want the Republicans to do this.
And these protests have been relentless. And they were -- they`re still planned, more are still planned at the capitol and all over the country throughout this week. But they`ve had a huge victory tonight.
Joining us now is Ezra Levin. He`s a co-founder of the activist group, Indivisible, which has been helping folks to organize all across the country, in response to the Trump administration. They have taken point in as best they can really when it comes to this health care bill.
Mr. Levin, thank you for joining us on short notice tonight. I appreciate you taking the call.
EZRA LEVIN, CO-FOUNDER, INDIVISIBLE (via telephone): Thanks for calling me.
MADDOW: So, let me ask just your -- you`ve heard my take on why this is big news tonight and where I think this comes from. As somebody who has been, really, involved as these Indivisible groups across the country have mobilized so aggressively on this, are you seeing this tonight as a victory? Are you cautious in viewing what`s happening here? Do you think you`ve won?
LEVIN: So, this is absolutely a win. And I think the way you framed it, Rachel, was absolutely right. That change is coming to Washington. It is not starting in Washington.
We are, as of Thursday, six months into the Trump presidency. There`s a unified conservative Republican government, the likes of which we have not seen in over a decade. And yet, they have yet to pass a single significant piece of legislation.
That`s not because they don`t have control of the government. They do. It`s because the people are against the agenda they`re pushing. And it is amazing to see.
Tonight is, indeed, a big win. Its not a final victory but it is a huge one win and one that groups across the country have been working towards and will continue to work towards. And that`s -- like you were covering -- really just all across the country. And that`s inspiring to see, is people standing up on their home turf and making their voices heard.
MADDOW: And, Ezra, that is -- well, that has been the core of the idea behind the Indivisible movement is that wherever you live, you should be contacting your own representative, your own member of Congress, your own elected officials because they only really want to hear from their own constituents. That`s why there have been so many calls across the country for town halls and any other meeting, any other forum where representatives have to look their own constituents in the eye.
Given that has been your focus on the Indivisible side of things, what do you make about the direct action tactics that we`re showing on the screen here and that we`ve also been focusing? Just people doing sit-ins, people doing die-ins, people protesting, people getting arrested. How does that integrate with the kind of work that Indivisible has been doing?
LEVIN: So, I -- you know, I have a huge amount of respect for the groups on the ground that have been carrying these out. They`ve been Indivisible members. They`ve been National ADAPT and Planned Parenthood and Move On and UltraViolet and others. This is a direct part of this strategy, which is shining a light on exactly what Congress is doing.
I think one of the interesting things we`ve seen over the last several months is Republicans aren`t holding town halls. They`re not actually facing their constituents or very few of them are. And so, what we`re seeing in response to that is people saying, look, if you`re not going to come to me, I`m going to come to you. And they`re going to the district offices. They`re going to other public events with the senators or representatives and it`s working.
You know, Senator Moran ought to get a lot of credit because he was one of a couple of senators, Republican senators who held a town hall over the July 4th recess. He held it in a very tiny town in Kansas, with population 277; 150 people showed up at that town hall, including Kansas City Indivisible and others who made the trek out there to talk to their senator. That works.
Showing up and doing sit-ins works. Staging die-ins to illustrate the effect that this bill is going to have on their constituents, that works. It`s about putting pressure on the senators and letting me know, hey, we`re watching you.
So, I love seeing that.
MADDOW: Ezra Levin, co-founder of Indivisible, thanks for talking to us tonight, Ezra. I know it`s a big busy night with the breaking news. I really appreciate it.
LEVIN: Well -- thank you. Tomorrow is a big busy day for National Day of Action. People should keep this pressure on and we`ll kill this bill dead.
MADDOW: Ezra Levin, again, Indivisible, cofounder -- again, we are absorbing this news tonight that the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare appears to have fallen apart. As you heard Ezra Levin say there, one of the groups, he`s a cofounder of a group nationwide organizing efforts that`s really been trying to stop the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare. You heard him say this is not over, sort of cautiously optimistic.
But four Republican senators now saying they will vote no. It`s definitely enough to kill it if those four noes hold. I, for one, was not expecting this development tonight.
We`re going to be talking with one of the Democratic senators who`s been leading the fight against the bill on the Democratic side of the bill, to get his perspective on how final this victory is. And what needs to happen in the days ahead.
Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut is going to join us live, next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The Republicans road to repealing health reform, to repealing the Affordable Care Act appears to have hit another set of potholes tonight, this time in the form of Republican senators. Just in the last couple of hours, we`ve gone from two Republicans against the bill, which is the maximum number of no votes they can get and still pass this thing, to now as of tonight four no votes, which means it fails and the Affordable Care Act stays.
Susan Collins, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Jerry Moran, they`re all Republican senators. They all say they`re voting no. That is twice as many no votes which the Republicans can afford. They can`t pass their bill like this.
That said, I think very few people don`t expect them to quit trying.
Joining us now is Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. He does sit on the Senate Health Committee.
Senator, it`s really nice to have you here tonight. Thanks for being here.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Yes, thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So, we`re trying to figure out whether this is -- I guess, whether this is a normal pothole or whether this is an axle breaker. How big of a deal are these defections tonight?
MURPHY: Well, there`s a couple of wheels off of the bus right now, but this is a bus full of Republicans that are determined to ultimately deliver it to its destination. You have to look at this effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, this kind of a perpetual motion machine. They are not going to give up on it.
But the statements tonight, paired with those from Susan Collins and Rand Paul, they feel a little bit different. Susan Collins says it`s time to sit count and work with Democrats. Jerry Moran`s statement tonight actually criticizes the behind closed doors process and says it`s time to start over.
So, you have a feeling that this is now beyond a couple small fixes. And, listen, I think it proves that reports of democracy`s death were probably greatly over-exaggerated. The fact of the matter is, it`s hard to reorder one-fifth of the American health care system with a bill that enjoys a 15 percent approval ratings, no matter how long you have been promising it.
So, I think they are going back to the drawing board at this point, but they are going back to the drawing board. They`re not giving up.
MADDOW: You know, it`s also hard to remake a fifth of the American economy with a bill on which you hold no public hearings and that there`s really no public debate in the Senate about it. I wonder, when you talk about them going back to the drawing board, do you look at the types of criticism that have been laid out by the senators who now say they`re no votes. Do you actually think there`s a chance that Mitch McConnell might go back and start over and do this in a normal way, where there are hearings, where there`s a publicly viewable process, where there is an actual debate?
MURPHY: It would be a fairly sizable admission of guilt if he did that and opened up a process after he swore he didn`t need it. You know, but the public hearing process is not just for show. It actually is a means to get real feedback from professionals and experts.
And I think part of the hesitancy of a lot of Republicans, and I put Jerry Moran in the category to support this bill, are that this still wasn`t just a moral monstrosity. It was an also an intellectual train wreck. It just didn`t work. It didn`t accomplish any of the things they set out to do.
So, if they really want a product that improves the health care system, it may be the only way for them to actually have an open process in which they solicit feedback of people who know what they`re doing. That being said, you know, McConnell would have to admit that the way he did this was wrong and I think that will be a tough thing for him to do. I hope they do that, but I would expect that they would go back behind closed doors.
MADDOW: Senator, I`ve asked you this before and I think I know that the answer to it is going to be the same as the answer you gave me before. But given their current struggle to whip votes, given the fact that they cannot seem to get this thing passed, at least not yet, with votes from members of their own party, has there now been any effort by Mitch McConnell, by the Republican leadership, by any of your colleagues to try to get any Democratic votes? Have they -- have they changed their mind on that or are they still trying to do it purely with Republicans?
MURPHY: So, what a political gift this would be to Democrats if they continue to do this in a way that ultimately secured only Republican votes. I mean, there`s only political upside to Democrats. But we`re actually sincere, Rachel, in saying that we hope that they come and talk to us.
Now, they`ve got to jettison the tax cuts and gutting of Medicaid, but we will talk to them about some of their concerns about flexibility if they will give us some long-term guarantee that these exchanges will be solvent and strong. And wouldn`t it be great for health care to stop being a political football that gets tossed from one side to the other every five or ten years?
I don`t know that Mitch McConnell thinks that we`re sincere, because it`s such an easy political cudgel for us to use, but we are. The answer is no. They haven`t reached out to us, but it would be to their political benefit and to the country`s policy benefit if they actually took us up on the offer.
MADDOW: Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, thank you for helping us through this tonight, sir. Really appreciate it.
MADDOW: All right. We are continuing to follow the breaking news tonight. The latest effort, the only effort on the table right now to try to repeal Obamacare, the Republican bill in the Senate as of right now is dead. They could lose two votes. As of the last hour or two, they are down to four no votes.
This is a story that started breaking in the states, that started break in all of those congressional district offices and Senate offices out in the sticks and all of those places all across the country, but today, it came home to Washington and this bill right now is dead, at least for now.
Much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, this is the news that we bumped right from the top of the show, when we got the breaking news about the health care bill dying in Washington. We`re continuing to keep an eye on that tonight.
But I wanted to let you know as well that the "Wall Street Journal" has reported this evening that a new subpoena has been issued into the investigation into former Trump campaign chair, Paul Manafort. This is Michael Rothfeld at "The Journal" tonight.
The subpoena is from the district attorney`s office in Manhattan. It`s directed at a small bank in Chicago run by a member of President Trump`s economic advisory panel. The subpoena is reportedly seeking information on some gigantic multimillion dollar loans that the tiny bank gave to Paul Manafort in November, the month of the election, and in January, the month of the inauguration.
And I say these loans are gigantic in one specific sense, they`re gigantic loans when you consider the size of the entity that gave those loans. Apparently, what looked nutty to investigators about these loans is that the $16 million that this little bank gave to Paul Manafort, that $16 million was almost one quarter of the bank`s equity capital.
And I don`t speak banker either. But what I think that means is that the bank had "X" amount of money it could loan out in total in the world, and these loans that they gave to Paul Manafort, those loans, that was them loaning him one of every four dollars it could loan to anyone in the world, which means this little bank in Chicago bent over so far backwards to give Paul Manafort money that the dude`s head pop out between his knees and he started waving forward, even though he started off going backwards.
One out of every four dollars that they were able to loan, they loaned to Paul Manafort all at once when the campaign was -- we really don`t know what was going on there. But "The Journal" does raise one interesting prospect in this new report they just posted tonight. I`m just quoting from "The Journal".
Quote, the bank`s loans to Mr. Manafort equaled almost 24 percent of the bank`s reported $67 million of equity capital. Around the time the loans were issued, Mr. Calk, the leader of the bank, had expressed interest in becoming Mr. Trump`s secretary of the army. Oh. He wants to be secretary of the army and he`s giving these gigantic loans that his bank really cannot afford to the (INAUDIBLE)
Steve Calk is the head of that little bank in Chicago. He did not become secretary of the army. Now, was there any connection between him wanting to be army secretary and giving those seemingly inexplicable giant loans to Paul Manafort? We have no idea. But "The Journal" is raising those two points together tonight and they are reporting that the D.A.`s office in Manhattan has subpoenaed this bank in Chicago for information on those loans.
And if you feel like this is a story you have heard before, you have not heard this story before. It`s just that it rhymes with a lot of the other stories we have heard about Paul Manafort. For example, in mid-June, we learned that the FBI was looking into Paul Manafort`s real estate deals and investments in southern California.
In April, we learned that a federal grand jury had subpoenaed Paul Manafort`s bank records from Citizens Bank in Virginia. In March, NBC`s Richard Engel reported that the attorney general of the nation of Cyprus had been asked to hand over information about Paul Manafort`s offshore banking activities to investigators at the United States Treasury. And now, there is this breaking news tonight, New York prosecutors from the Manhattan D.A.`s office subpoenaing this bank in Chicago, run by a Trump campaign adviser, that shoveled up to $16 million to Paul Manafort and his wife in November and January and now, apparently, the D.A. wants to know why.
And that`s all just the law enforcement stuff. We also learned last week in the "The New York Times," almost in a passing reference, and their big story on the Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner and all of those Russians, the parenthetical reference in that reporting, "The Times" noted that Paul Manafort had discussed that meeting with congressional investigators. Oh, which means in addition to him handling all these legal inquiries and subpoenas related into his financial matters, Paul Manafort has also apparently been discussing things with congressional investigators. I didn`t know he was talking to them.
There was a period of a couple of months between when Paul Manafort said he would register as a foreign agent and the time when he finally did. That meant it was months after a lot of people had seemed he had done it when Paul Manafort finally filed as a foreign agent and declared that over a two-year period, excuse me, over a two-year period, he had been paid nearly $17 million by a political party in Ukraine. Those numbers may be starting to look a little hinky as well.
Andrew Cramer at "The New York Times" reported this out from Kiev this weekend. He found that even though Paul Manafort said that he and his firm were paid nearly $17 million from this political party in Ukraine, he found that that political party in Ukraine which supposedly paid them they said they didn`t spend $17 million on anything. They didn`t spend $17 million in total over that same period, not just on him but on everything that they spent money on combined.
In 2012, Manafort says this Ukrainian political party paid him just over $12 million. That same year, this Ukrainian political party said it only spent $11 million on everything it spent money on. The following year, it was worse. Manafort said he received $4.5 million from that party but the political party says it didn`t spend $4 million in total on everything it spent on that year.
It`s like, you know, showing up and seeing someone taking off in a private jet and them yelling out the window, yes, my lemonade stand paid for it, like. I mean, if he didn`t get the $17 million from that political party and the records say he didn`t, then where did he get the $17 million from? I don`t know and neither do you.
But you know what? There`s another thing here that really, really, really does not make sense. And it doesn`t make sense in Washington and that`s next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: WilmerHale is a big, famous American law firm. It`s got a great reputation. It`s got offices all over the country. Lots of big name lawyers, particularly Washington lawyers associated with the firm. For example, Robert Mueller.
When Robert Mueller was brought on as ex-FBI director to be special counsel looking into the Trump-Russia thing, Robert Mueller quit his partnership at WilmerHale in order to take the special counsel job, and that created a little bit of an issue for that law firm because no matter how big and how professionally operated a launch law firm is, it`s awkward and there can be some ethical and practical issues if your law firm is representing both sides of the same case.
Even with Robert Mueller quitting WilmerHale, there were concerns about that related to Jared Kushner in the Russia affair because Jared Kushner`s lawyer also worked for that same law firm, for WilmerHale. So, Robert Mueller quit the firm in order to take that job, but you can see how the firm might worry that one of its ex-partners is leading the special counsel investigation into Russia and another one of the partners is representing one of the dudes right in the middle of the Russia scandal.
So, that tension -- that worry about the same law firm having that connection to both sides of the case, that was the explanation that we got from Jared Kushner`s lawyer at the end of last week as to why she was dropping out of representing him on Russian matters. Quote, once Bob Mueller and three of our partners left to the firm to form the special counsel`s office, we advised Jared Kushner to get independent legal advice as to whether to continue with us as his counsel.
So, that`s how Jared Kushner lost his main Russia lawyer last week. She had to drop out because she worked at Bob Mueller`s old law firm. OK.
Well, you know what? Paul Manafort`s Russia law firm works at Bob Mueller`s auld lawmaker too. He`s also at WilmerHale.
His name is Reginald Brown. He`s very well-regarded lawyer. He works at the same law firm, which is fine. He`s otherwise a totally normal choice for somebody to represent Paul Manafort in the Russia investigation that he`s up to his neck in.
Except why did Jared Kushner lose his Russia lawyer, because he -- she was at WilmerHale, but Paul Manafort gets to keep his Russia lawyer, who is at WilmerHale? How can there be a conflict or one of them and not for the other?
And while we`re on the subject, there`s something even weirder going on with the lawyer hired to represent Donald Trump`s eldest son. One of the unusual things about this presidency is that the president announced the formation of his re-election campaign on the day he was inaugurated. That campaign has just released its first FEC filing.
From those filings, we`ve learned a couple of things that don`t make sense. First of all, if there`s one thing that you think the members of the Trump family could afford paying for themselves, it would be their lawyers, right? It`s kind of a personal thing. I mean, the whole family`s public persona is about how fabulously wealthy and independent they are.
But Donald Trump Jr. is not paying for his own lawyer in the Russia matter. His Russia lawyer is being paid for by people all across America who send campaign donations to Donald Trump. Now, what exactly are those campaign donations paying for in terms of the president`s eldest son? Why is he getting a lawyer paid for by the campaign on Russia stuff?
Well, the lawyer himself a week ago today explained to "New York Law Journal" why he had been hired to represent the president`s eldest son. Quoting from the "New York Law Journal", quote, Futerfas said, Trump Jr. hired an attorney because congressional committee members are interested in speaking with him. Quote, so you get a lawyer, he said.
That was the explanation. That was Monday, July 10th, that was a week ago today.
You know what? The first day any member of -- the first day that any member of Congress ever said publicly that they wanted to speak to Donald Trump Jr. at a congressional committee, it was on the previous day, July 9th, July 9th and July 10th, a bunch of members from the investigating committees said they wanted to talk to Donald Trump Jr.
We know that they didn`t also reach out to him in private because the lawyer has said on the record that Donald Trump Jr. has never been privately contacted by any of the committees. So, him having to appear before these committees or members of the Congress being interested in talking to him, that`s the purported explanation for why Donald Jr. is getting a lawyer being paid for by the campaign, because as of July 9th and 10th, members of the congressional committees were saying that they wanted him to come testify. That is a fine explanation. That makes total sense.
Except with the SEC filings that came out show that Donald Trump Jr.`s lawyer was actually hired in June, when no one from any congressional committee was talking at all about wanting to interview Donald Trump Jr. So, the explanation they`ve given doesn`t make sense.
Something weird is going on with Paul Manafort`s representation, with Jared Kushner`s representation and also with Donald Trump Jr.`s representation. Something doesn`t make sense about the public explanation about all of those legal teams. And I`m not sure who will ever be expected to tell the truth about these things. But the on the record explanations so far do not pass muster.
And this is driving me nuts. We`re going to figure this thing out. I`m telling you. This should be easy to figure out. We are going to figure this out.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: It`s called the Magnitsky Act. Magnitsky. It`s U.S. sanctions on Russia. Magnitsky Act.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY SEKULOW, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S ATTORNEY: The discussions involve the Majinsky (ph) act. What was discussed at the meeting actually ended up being more about the Majinsky (ph) act. The same lawyer that has the Russia affiliation was down in Washington, pitching the Majinsky (ph) act repeal.
The Majinsky (ph) act. The discussion was about the Majinsky (ph) Act. It`s going to be about the Majinsky (ph) act. Again, the conversation was on the Majinsky (ph) Act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: There`s no Majinsky (ph) act. There are a lot of hard Russian words and names in this scandal. Magnitsky is not one of the hard ones.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEKULOW: The Majinsky (ph) act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: No, there is no Majinsky (ph) act.
This is the high-profile lawyer working for the president on his Russia legal team. He`s the one who was brought on board because he`s supposed to be the excellent TV communicator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEKULOW: And now, he`s being investigated by the Department of Justice. So, he`s being investigated for taking the action that the attorney general -- deputy attorney general recommended him to take.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: First of all, you`ve now said he is being investigated after saying that you didn`t --
WALLACE: You just said, sir, that he`s -- you just said that he`s being investigated.
SEKULOW: No. Chris, I said that the -- let me be crystal clear so you completely understand. We have not received, nor are we aware of any investigation of the president of the United States, period.
WALLACE: Sir, you just said two times that he`s being investigated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Jay Sekulow is the lawyer who was brought on to the president`s legal team because of his excellent TV communication skills. Here he was this weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
INTERVIEWER: Do you accept what we heard from the president`s pick to run the FBI that what should have happened there if, you know, a situation where you have representatives of a foreign government offering assistance in an election, that what should have happened is that the FBI should have been notified?
SEKULOW: Well, I`ve wondered why the Secret Service, if this was nefarious, why did the Secret Service allow these people in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The Secret Service doesn`t comment on stuff like this, but after that guy went on TV and said that, they had to put out a statement saying, that`s not how it works.
Donald Trump Jr. was not a protectee of the United States Secret Service in June 2016. Thus, we would not have screened anyone he was meeting with at that time.
The duh is silent.
So the president has assembled a small team of lawyers to represent him in the most serious scandal afflicting any president in modern history. This guy, Majinsky (ph), Sekulow, he`s one of the president`s lawyers. Apparently, the president is keeping him.
It has also been reported but not confirmed that the new lawyer that the president has brought on now to take over the Russia defense will mean the demotion of his other lawyer who used to be in charge of his Russia defense. I should tell you the new lawyer who the president is reportedly bringing on board will apparently be a member of the White House staff, which means that for him at least, you and I will be paying for his salary.
Other than him, though, it was reported last week that the president might be trying to make the Republican Party, the Republican National Committee, pay the expenses associated with his other lawyers. The RNC committee chair responded by saying in a radio interview over this weekend that she`s not even sure that would even be legal.
But for all the pieces of this that don`t yet make sense, that we haven`t yet tracked down and explained. I will tell you one piece of this now is crystal clear. Now, we know why there was such urgency to start raising money for the president`s re-election campaign the day he was inaugurated, because they are paying a lot of their legal fees out of campaign funds for the president`s family, for who knows how much of the campaign. That is how they are paying for at least some of their lawyers.
So, when you see somebody in a "Make America Great Again" hat, which you paid the campaign to get, you know what that hat means? That hat means billable hours -- billable hours being covered by that person in that hat whether or not they knew it when they bought it.
MADDOW: Tonight, unexpectedly, the Republican effort to kill Obamacare, to repeal the Affordable Care Act, appears to have died, or at least it is stalled in the middle of the intersection where it doesn`t seem safe. The Republicans tonight lost at least two more votes for that bill, which means they`re down to at least four no votes. They can only afford two no votes to still get the thing passed.
Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas saying tonight, we must now start fresh with an open legislative process. And since the statement from Moran, more senators may now be peeling off. Senator Lindsey Graham saying tonight, quote, it`s time for a new approach.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow. Our continuing coverage now on "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END