Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: September 5, 2017
Guest: Cristina Jimenez, Adam Schiff
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Woodrow Wilson was first elected president in 1912. When he ran for re- election in 1916, one of the animating issues of that campaign was World War I, which was raging in Europe in which Wilson promised the United States would not join.
In 1916, Wilson was reelected barely, but then in 1917, the U.S. declared war on Germany and threw itself into World War I, and by the time the midterm elections came around the year after that, in 1918, Wilson was not only facing the typical headwinds that a president`s party usually faces in midterm elections he was also just roundly detested for World War I and for other stuff too.
And so, in those midterm elections in 1918, Woodrow Wilson`s party, the Democratic Party, got walloped. Republicans took over control of the Senate and they took over control of the House. And the Republicans get in Congress that had far-reaching consequences in all sorts of ways.
But in the House, it meant a gigantic and very, very consequential promotion for this man. His name is Albert Johnson. Such a generic name, right? It`s actually hard to Google. There was another congressman named Albert Johnson from a different state who had nothing to do with them. There was a federal judge was called Albert Johnson. There was a famous Canadian fugitive called the Mad Trapper of Rat River who was called Albert Johnson.
But this was Albert Johnson, a backbench congressman from Washington state whose whole public profile had been built around the defense of the white race and the threat that non-white immigrants posed to white civilization in the United States. Albert Johnson at home in Washington state, he ran a rabble-rousing anti-immigrant newspaper called the home defender. He bragged about having been part of mob violence that chased immigrants out of Washington state and out of the United States into Canada.
And so, he had been a rabble-rouser and an orator on that pet issue for decades, but he`s never really wielded power on the subject until Woodrow Wilson got shellacked in the 1918 midterm elections, and Albert Johnson`s party, the Republican Party, took over leadership of the Congress. And that is what made it possible for Albert Johnson to take real power. He became chairman of the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization. It was his life`s dream to be in charge of something like that and he did what he could with it.
As soon as soon after he took over, the House of Representatives Committee on Immigration and Naturalization hired themselves an expert eugenics agent. Albert Johnson, the chairman, in addition to serving in Congress, he had become the president of the Eugenics Research Association of America. And once he was chairman of that committee, he brought on one of the officers from the Eugenics Research Association, this guy Harry Laughlin, to become an expert eugenics consultant to the immigration committee in Congress. And together, these two eugenicists -- they got to work.
In 1922, Harry Laughlin created this chart. Look, science, it`s a chart. You can see diagonal there. That`s the watermark of Truman State University. They`ve preserved this document online as part of their history of eugenics project.
But this is a chart that Harry Laughlin created when he was the expert eugenics agent for that congressional committee. What this chart purports to show is the relative social inadequacy of various immigrant races in the United States.
What counts is social inadequacy?
Well, according to the chart, that includes feeble-mindedness, insanity, crime, epilepsy, tuberculosis, blindness, deafness, deformity and dependency. And then the chart ranks your likelihood of being any of those things or having any of those things based on your national origin.
Eugenics is best understood and best remembered now as the pseudo scientific mumbo-jumbo that the Nazis used to explain why they felt the need to categorize and kill whole populations as part of this insane supposedly defensive plan to preserve their fragile but still superior Aryan gene pool, right?
Eugenics is I think most easily associated with that genocidal, murderous 20th century movement. But eugenics wasn`t a Nazi invention. It wasn`t only a foreign fascist fascination. In the 1920s, we really did have a chief congressional eugenicist who was using taxpayer dollars to rank the relative feeble-mindedness of American immigrants on the basis of their national origin.
Before Congressman Albert Johnson made Harry Laughlin the chief eugenics consultant for his congressional committee, Mr. Laughlin had made a name for himself by promoting model compulsory sterilization laws around the United States. Laughlin wanted states to forcibly neuter people as if they were animals, to improve the American gene pool and Laughlin was frustrated with the inefficient way that some states were going about that. So, he wrote model legislation to try to standardize it, make it more aggressive, make it more widespread -- sterilize more people against their will if their genes are up to it.
So, Albert Johnson became chair of the committee in 1919. He hired this chief eugenicist for the committee in 1921. By 1922, they were publicly ranking the genetic failings of Americans by their national origin. And by two years after that, by 1924, they actually had achieved what they were aiming at.
By 1924, Wilson was gone. It was a new president, Calvin Coolidge, and he signed an anti-immigration bill that was written by Albert Johnson. It was called the Johnston Reed Immigration Act of 1924. Johnson was the author in the House. Reed was the author in the Senate.
And it was a eugenics bill. It was a bill to protect America from a stream of alien blood. It was a bill to stop American civilization from descending into barbarism. That 1924 bill restricted immigration dramatically.
But also in a very specifically targeted way, it banned immigration from Asian countries altogether. It defined an Asian exclusion zone from which you were not allowed to come to this country. It targeted Jews. It targeted Italians. It targeted other unworthy populations that tended to be unpopular with the ascendant Klan at the time.
And it did so through a kind of a neato (ph) math trick. The Johnson Reed anti-immigrant formula that they put into law in 1924. It limited immigrants based on national origin, but it did it in this very specific way. The numbers were based -- the numbers of immigrants who would be allowed and now were based on the number of people of that national origin who had made it into this country by 1890.
They went all the way back to 19th century to pick a date that they decided was white enough in American history to try to bring the country back to. So, they used the 1890 census as their benchmark to basically say, if your people weren`t here in sufficient numbers by then, you can`t come now. We want the country to look like it did in 1890, not the way it`s getting a little swarthier now.
And, you know, you can look back on that now and see how radical it was. I mean, looking at it from almost any contemporaneous angle, but what is in arguable about that law is what`s clear in the contemporaneous record about how it was argued. It was nothing subtle about it. It was an explicitly racist law, it was explicitly race-based in its intention there was no secret about that.
That was openly the way the legislation was talked about and argued about. The senator who wrote the bill with Albert Johnson, a Rhode Island senator named David Reed, he was quoted in "The New York Times" saying that thanks to that bill, quote, the racial composition of America at this time is thus made permanent.
Another senator named Ellison Durant Smith got up on the Senate floor to spell out why the Johnson-Reed 1924 immigration bill was getting his vote. He said, quote: It seems to me that the point of this measure is that the time has arrived when we should shut the door. Thank God we have in America perhaps the largest percentage of any country in the world of the pure unadulterated Anglo-Saxon stock. It is for the preservation of that splendid stock that has characterized us that I would make this not an asylum for the oppressed of all countries, but a country to assimilate and perfect that splendid type of manhood that has made America the foremost nation in her progress and in her power.
I mean, it`s somewhere between embarrassing and painful, right, to think about the fact that this is less than a hundred years ago, that the United States made an explicitly eugenicist overhaul of its immigration policy, right? To make America more white, to protect the white race from these genetically inferior hordes who are somehow going to threaten the genetic superiority and purity of white Americans, right?
I mean, we can at least be thankful that the historical record on this is so clear, right? So there can be no mistaking that that`s what it`s about. Anybody looking at the immigration policy in this country and where we`ve been has to know what that was all about. That really was eugenics.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
THEN-SENATOR JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: In seven years, we`ll have the highest percentage of Americans non-native born since the founding of the republic. And some people think, well, we`ve always had these numbers but it`s not so. This is very unusual. It`s a radical change. And in fact when the numbers reach about this high in 1924, the president and Congress changed the policy, and it slowed down immigration significantly and we then assimilated through the 1965, and created really the solid middle class of America, with assimilated immigrants, and it was good for America changed the president and the Congress changed the policy that was good for America.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: That 1924 change, the president and the Congress changed the policy. That was good for America.
That was Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaking in October 2015 when he was still senator. He`s speaking on Breitbart Radio with man named Steve Bannon who would soon go on to run Donald Trump`s campaign for president. That was surfaced at the time by Right Wing Watch, was picked up in January by "The Atlantic". Slate.com picked it up again today.
Today, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions, he was sent out by the president to make the announcement that the hundreds of thousands of people who were brought to this country by their immigrant parents when they were still kids, those hundreds of thousands of people who had been given leave by the previous administration to stay in this country legally, they are now on track for deportation.
NBC News confirming tonight that a set of talking points is distributed by the White House to offices on Capitol Hill. It advises people who have been living here under the DACA program, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, it advises them to, quote, prepare for a departure from the United States.
So, this affects -- I mean, as you`ve been hearing today, this affects directly about 800,000 people who live in the United States. By virtue of their participation in the DACA program, you can generalize about this group of people to say they are people who don`t have criminal records, people who are constructively engaged in contributing to society, in the military, in college, of gainful employment. We`re going to be talking tonight about the prospects for exactly how the Trump administration plans to now round these young people up, including the key question of whether the information these kids provided to the government in order to join this program will now be used against them, to find them, collar them, send them to countries they have never lived in as adults.
It is not an accident that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is the one who was sent out to make this announcement about this today. He is -- I mean, Jeff Sessions has a long adult record on this subject, right? He is -- he is outspokenly against legal immigration, let alone illegal immigration. For years, he has been an outspoken, unabashed admirer of the eugenics- based, race specific immigration bans of the 1920s Klan era in U.S. politics.
But it`s not like we couldn`t see this coming either because of previous echoes in American history or because of the rise of this particular president. I mean, Jeff Sessions has always stood for this stuff, but so has Donald Trump as a public political figure.
I mean, even just in presidential politics, he started his presidential campaign saying that Mexican immigrants were rapists and in bringing crime. He proposed a ban on Muslims entering this country. He argued repeatedly and vehemently that a judge of Mexican-American origin could not fairly serve as a judge in a case involving the Trump business -- remember that? He`s a Mexican. He`s a Mexican. He`s a judge born in Indiana, isn`t allowed to judge Trump because he`s a Mexican.
Since the election, Trump has claimed that the only reason he lost the popular vote is because millions of undocumented immigrants somehow voted for Hillary Clinton, which is not true. He has issued a pardon -- his first pardon to a convicted former sheriff who defied a court order in order to continue to racially profile immigrants in Arizona, despite the fact that it was against the law and there was a court order he needed to follow on that subject.
His administration literally opened an office of immigrant crime to try to promote the visibility of criminal acts by people who are immigrants to this country, even though immigrants commit fewer crimes than people who are not immigrants. So, there`s a lot to talk about tonight in terms of the specifics, right?
In terms of what`s going to happen to the 800,000 DREAMers in communities all across this country, and seeing some of the reaction today to this news in terms of people turning out in the streets, people risking arrest, people protesting, it`s pretty intense stuff. We`ve got some pretty incredible footage from that coming up in just a second.
But in terms of where this came from -- I mean as far as I can see, we`ve covered the Russia stuff a lot in this show, right? As far as I can see, there are really only two bright through lines for this president, in what is otherwise been kind of an incoherent and hard to follow mishmash, political ideology from him. There are really only two things that are clear as a bell and never changing.
One of them is really unprecedented, which is the president`s strange, continued and unerring insistence on saying nice things about Russia and excusing their behavior, right? That`s weird. That is unprecedented.
But the other through-line, the other thing that is consistent and coherent and unswerving in this administration is vehement antipathy toward immigrants, blaming immigrants, trying to stir up animosity and hatred toward immigrants, making immigrants a scapegoat, punishing immigrants for even sins that are not theirs. Those are the two through lines that I can see that are consistent in this administration.
But unlike the Russia one, this one about immigrants this is not unprecedented. This one taps into a deep, old through-line in this country that we have seen before and it is a history that we used to look back on with astonishment and with shame.
MADDOW: This was 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time today. A lot of people counting down to that hour today once it was clear what was coming.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GUSTAVO TORRES, CASA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: I just want to let you know that is 11:00. Son las once. And we just received information he`s right now official, this administration just ended up DACA.
TORRES: We are here to stay. We are here to keep fighting. We are here to send a very strong message to this administration -- hate doesn`t have a space in this country. We are going to keep fighting with our DREAMers. We are going to keep fighting with our community for justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The woman you can see there in that footage is Monica Camacho Perez. She`s 23 years old. She works for the advocacy group Casa. She came to this country 16 years ago, when she was 7 years old. She has never lived anywhere else other than here since she was 7. She`s a DACA recipient.
So, this was D.C. today. Protesters gathered in front of the White House. Protesters also marched to the Trump Hotel in downtown D.C. In New York City, people gathered in front of Trump Tower. More than 30 people were actually arrested outside Trump Tower.
In Denver, Colorado, hundreds of kids from several schools walked out of their high schools today. The same thing happens in Phoenix, Arizona. Same thing happened at the University of New Mexico and Albuquerque. This was the University of Arizona in Tucson today.
Protests popped up all over the country today, in Nashville and Louisville and Austin and San Francisco, in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Sacramento and San Jose.
A line from the White House is that Congress is now supposed to fix what the administration just did to set up for deportation these kids who don`t have criminal records, who don`t know any other country other than this one. Frankly, it`s hard to imagine this Congress having the unified will to tie its own shoes these days, let alone pass legislation to help immigrant kids.
But it looks like that may be the only way out here of what the president has just done.
Joining us now is Cristina Jimenez. She`s the executive director and co- founder of United We Dream.
Ms. Jimenez, I really appreciate your time tonight. I know this is a very, very busy time.
CRISTINA JIMENEZ, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UNITED WE DREAM: Great to be here with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, let me just ask your first reaction today. We -- you knew as well as we did that this was probably coming mid-morning today. How did you hear about it and how do you feel?
JIMENEZ: Rachel, since the day of the election, Donald Trump around the campaign committing to end the DACA program, and the anxiety and the fear and our community has been rising. And so, today is a very difficult day for families like mine. My brother Jonathan who`s 23 years old is one of the close to million young people that have benefited from the DACA program, that has allowed him to live without the fear of being deported, to go back to school, to help my family out financially because he`s been able to work. And like him, thousands of young people have received the difficult news today.
So, we are outraged at this decision, Rachel. And I want to be cleared about something -- Sessions mentioned in his speech today that this was all about DACA being not constitutional.
Now, what I want to be cleared about is that this was not a legal decision. This was a political decision, and the reality is that the president did not have to make this decision. The September 5th deadline was an arbitrary deadline pushed by Attorney General Paxton from Texas.
If he wanted to do the right thing, as he had said in multiple interviews that he had heart for immigrant youth, if he did have the heart for immigrant youth, he did not have to make this decision. He could have kept the program in place. But today, we know that thousands of undocumented young people, and many, many allies are joining us in ensuring that we do all that we can to protect young people.
I grew up undocumented, Rachel, and I came out as undocumented and unafraid over 10 years ago and we`re not going back into the shadows and that`s the commitment that members of United We Dream and immigrant youth across the country have.
MADDOW: And, Cristina, we`ve been hearing news today, strategizing today, about a legal fight in the future, about various entities and even states considering bringing this matter into the courts and trying to stop it that way. Beyond whatever may happen in terms of a litigation strategy and I think that`s sort of yet to be understood in terms of how viable those strategies are, do you expect is going to be a direct action resistance to this as well, that there`s going to be direct community resistance to try to protect people and stop deportations in a physical way, in terms of protest and confrontation?
JIMENEZ: I mean, if there`s anything that that we show today is that not only undocumented young people in our communities but many of our allies, faith leaders, educators business leaders that have come out from the Democratic side, from the Republican side, we have the majority of the country standing in favor of the DACA program, standing in favor of undocumented young people. You show the images of the walkouts of happen in new Mexico, in Colorado, the direct actions that happen in Washington, D.C. I was there with thousands of people that join the actions in D.C.
So, what is very clear to us is that we will continue to lead a direct action movement. This is the way that we won DACA, Rachel and I remember having this conversation with you a few years ago in your show, it was undocumented young people who came out as undocumented and unafraid, share our stories, led seat-ins, let direct action and marches across the country. That`s how we push President Obama to do the right thing and that`s what we are determined to do, because we are very clear, Rachel, that this is -- that this decision about terminating DACA, it was a priority led by white supremacist in the administration, folks like Miller and Jeff Sessions. This was one of their policy priorities of folks that want to drive people like me and my family and my brother out of this country.
And so, for us, the intention of the administration and those that are advising the president is clear, which is why we are ready with allies to continue to organize and to push for a permanent solution that will protect young people from deportation.
MADDOW: Cristina Jimenez, executive director and co-founder of United We Dream -- thank you. I know again that this is an incredibly intense time. But what you just said about how DACA came apart came about in the first place, I absolutely remember absolutely remember having those conversations with you watching the power of direct action to make it happen, and that will be the most effective tool to try to keep it in place now.
Good luck. Keep us apprised.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right. Some unexpected news breaking late tonight in the Trump-Russia investigation. It turns out one of the congressional committees investigating the Trump-Russia scandal has now just subpoenaed the FBI, which is as weird as it sounds. But that story`s next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: In 1972, Richard Nixon was about to make history, or at least he was about to make Republican history. The Republican Party had run Richard Nixon from vice president in 1952 and 1956, when he won, right, as Eisenhower`s vice presidential running mate in those two elections. Republican Party had also run Richard Nixon for president in 1960 when he lost to Kennedy. And then they run him for president again in 1968, when Nixon beat Humphrey.
So, heading into the 1972 election, Richard Nixon had already been the Republican Party`s candidate for president or vice president four different times. So, standing for re-election as president in 1972, Richard Nixon was due to make history. He was going to match FDR`s record for being on the national ticket for his party in five different elections.
FDR had stood for vice president once. Of course, he stood for president four times, well, finally, in 1972, Nixon was going to match that record. He was going to become as preeminent a figure in Republican politics as FDR had been to Democratic politics.
And so, heading into the 1972 election when he knew he was going to get that nomination, he wanted to make a big self-centered deal about it, specifically, he wanted to hold the Republican nominating convention that year in southern California, where he had been born and raised, where he knew his presidential library would someday be located.
The Nixon White House wanted it to be a hometown thing. They picked San Diego in southern California as the site of the 1972 Republican Convention for Nixon to get that historic fifth nomination. And the RNC made this public announcement that San Diego was where they were going to hold their convention that year.
But then they didn`t do it. They had already said the previous year that it was going to be San Diego. But three months before the convention, three months before Nixon`s triumphant 1972 homecoming, history-making convention, they didn`t do it in San Diego at all. They moved it real quick out of San Diego and instead decided to do it in Miami Beach, where the Democrats were holding their convention that year already.
This is the last time the Republicans and Democrats held their convention in the same city, and it was a last-minute change by the Republicans that forced it to happen. So, this radical late change to dump San Diego and go with Miami instead totally messed with Nixon`s plan to get his moment in the sun in his home state, with that final historic fifth nomination.
The whole reason they had to make that change and dump the San Diego idea is because of this guy, Jack Anderson, legendary columnist and investigative reporter. In February 1972, Jack Anderson got something red- hot. He got his hands on a memo that had been written by a lobbyist for the big phone company at the time, ITT. And in the memo, which was marked for internal use only at ITT, the lobbyist laid out how that company, ITT, had made a surreptitious deal with Nixon`s Justice Department.
The Justice Department under Nixon had been pursuing an antitrust lawsuit against ITT, trying to stop that company from gobbling up other companies and becoming an even larger conglomerate. ITT did not like that legal pursuit by the Justice Department. To try to evade that legal scrutiny, to try to squirm out of that antitrust case, they made this secret deal. The Justice Department would go easy on ITT for an antitrust case, and in exchange, Nixon`s beloved San Diego convention would get that much closer to reality because ITT would make a huge monetary donation to that convention. They donate $400,000, which in today`s dollars would be like a couple million bucks.
So, Jack Anderson got that scooped he got that memo, that internal memo from ITT, and he wrote about it, and the whole thing just blew up. And suddenly, the San Diego Republican Convention didn`t seem like such a good idea anymore. The ITT lobbyists tried to claim the memo wasn`t real, but by that point, the FBI had already authenticated it. Then it turned out, the FBI had been pressured by the White House, by the Nixon White House to not authenticate it, to disprove the memo and call it a forgery even though it wasn`t,
Then, the Senate Watergate Committee turned up an internal White House memo that warned that the president himself appeared to have been directly involved in arranging this corrupt ITT deal to drop that prosecution in exchange for the donation. It all just -- it all just spiraled.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TV ANCHOR: Attorney General Elliot Richardson today asked the special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox to look into a government investigation of last year`s controversial merger of the International Telephone and Telegraph Company with the Hartford Fire Insurance Company. This could mean that IT&T may be drawn into the Watergate scandals.
REPORTER: The FBI has conducted an extensive investigation into the case in recent weeks and has come up with a great deal of new evidence. This evidence is now being studied by a team of four lawyers working under the government special prosecutor Archibald Cox. The evidence is regarded as so incriminating that a prosecution already is being planned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, the special prosecutor who was already looking into the Watergate scandal came across this other thing, this ITT thing, this other scandal in the Nixon White House came across it in the course of the Watergate investigation and even though it had nothing to do with the Watergate break-in at the Democratic Party`s headquarters or the efforts to cover that up, the special prosecutor still went after it.
Within the Watergate investigation, the special prosecutor set up an internal task force to work on that ITT thing specifically, dropping the prosecution in exchange for that donation. It was basically an offshoot investigation within the Watergate special prosecution, even though it wasn`t related to anything the prosecutor had originally set out to uncover.
And you can see that lines here as they found out about it at the time. 1973, Cox bolsters team investigating ITT. That`s the Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox bulking up his team to look for evidence of perjury and obstruction of justice in the ITT scandal.
And, of course, Nixon ultimately fired the special prosecutor Archibald Cox, but he couldn`t kill the Watergate investigation just by firing people. And eventually, the Watergate investigation that led to Nixon`s resignation, it also led to the first ever criminal conviction of a U.S. attorney general. Nixon`s Attorney General Richard Kleindienst had lied about the ITT scandal during his confirmation hearing, and he got nailed for it, because of the task force that was set up under the Watergate special prosecutor to look at that specific thing.
So, what started with a check for $400,000, and a supposedly triumphant homecoming Republican convention for an insecure president, that discrete, standalone, quid pro quo corruption scandal, unrelated to the Watergate break-in and the Watergate cover-up, that ITT scandal, making that antitrust case go away in exchange for money, that separate distinct scandal got vacuumed up into the special prosecutor`s investigation and it eventually resulted in a guilty plea from a U.S. attorney general.
And you know what, had Gerald Ford not pardoned Richard Nixon, that ITT task force might eventually have led to charges against Nixon, too, because Nixon really was caught on tape explaining how he`d taken care of that whole ITT prosecution at the Justice Department.
So that -- that ITT case has always been a very interesting loose thread from Watergate, right? It looms large and the what-if questions about what criminal charges Nixon might have faced if Ford hadn`t pardoned him. It also looms over the potential obstruction of justice questions involving President Trump`s first use of the pardon power.
If Trump has, as has been reported, if Trump in fact tried to get his Justice Department to quash the federal prosecution of convicted Sheriff Joe Arpaio before Trump issued him a pardon, then that successful ITT task force that was formed by the Watergate special prosecutor in the 1970s, well, that`s the model for how the Robert Mueller special counsel investigation now might expand its inquiries to cover that potential obstruction of justice related to the Arpaio pardon today.
We know that the Mueller investigation is already looking into potential obstruction of justice and Trump`s firing of the FBI Director James Comey. In fact, we know there is a new wrinkle that has come up in that part of the investigation and that`s coming up with Congressman Adam Schiff.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, tonight, we`re getting some, frankly, strange new reporting, about subpoenas coming from the House Intelligence Committee, subpoenas that relate to the dossier of alleged Russian dirt on Donald Trump that was prepared by a former MI-6 officer and that was published to great controversy by "BuzzFeed" in January.
It`s "The Washington Examiner", that conservative outlet, that`s reporting tonight that the House Intelligence Committee has now sent subpoenas about that Trump-Russia dossier to the FBI and to the Department of Justice. So, this is not the Department of Justice or the FBI issuing subpoenas, right? This is like -- this is Congress subpoenaing the FBI. Does that mean they`re trying to force the Mueller investigation to hand over stuff to Congress? What does this mean?
As "The Washington Examiner" describes it tonight, quote: The subpoena is - - excuse me -- as "The Washington Examiner" describes it tonight, the subpoena is for documents, quote, relating to the dossier, the FBI`s relationship with dossier author Christopher Steele, and, quote, the bureau`s possible role in supporting what began as an opposition research project against candidate Donald Trump in the final months of last year`s presidential campaign.
They`re mad at the FBI and they want information from the FBI about them receiving the dossier? According to this reporting tonight, the FBI and the Justice Department were given a deadline of September 1st to hand over documents related to these requests, a deadline that they did not meet. This latest news about the subpoenas comes, of course, amid tension within the House Intelligence Committee.
Last week, the top Democrat on the committee, Adam Schiff, warned that the investigation in that committee might result in two separate partisan reports, one by the Democrats, one by the Republicans. That came after reports that two Republican staffers on the committee flew to London this summer unbeknownst to the other members of the committee apparently in an effort to contact the author of the dossier, ex-British MI-6 agent Christopher Steele.
That move prompted Democrats to start voicing their fears that their Republican counterparts were more interested in trying to discredit the Christopher Steele dossier rather than trying to substantiate its allegations. And now, we have these new subpoenas from the committee to the FBI and to the Justice Department demanding documents related to the dossier.
I`m not quite sure what to make of this, but I am very happy to say that joining us now is Adam Schiff. He`s the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee in the House.
Congressman Schiff, thank you for being here tonight. I really appreciate your time.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: You bet. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: I described this as strange news and I will admit to being a little bit baffled by this. Can I just ask if this is something that you were surprised to learn tonight? Did you know this was happening? And can you help me understand what it means?
SCHIFF: Well, during the recess, we were informed that the majority wanted to send subpoenas to the DOJ and FBI requesting these documents, which I think perplexed us because we hadn`t even made a voluntary request to by letter for the information. We have a committee practice, we don`t subpoena parties unless they turn down our request for information, which the FBI and DOJ really hadn`t done.
So, we opposed it. We thought it wasn`t warranted. They told us they were going to do it anyway.
And this also stood in stark contrast to a different situation where we had requested twice in writing documents from the White House any tapes or memoranda reflecting conversations between the president and Director Comey and the White House basically sent us misleading and incomplete replies and there, we really should subpoena the White House but they have not been willing.
So, I was concerned about both the disparate treatment here, but also really trying to antagonize the FBI and DOJ, trying to provoke a conflict potentially special counsel. I think, Rachel, basically what`s going on here is you know something that I saw back in my days as a prosecutor, sometimes the defense opts for a strategy of trying to put the government on trial and here, I think there`s a hope that if they can impeach Christopher Steele and they can impeach the FBI and DOJ, maybe they can impeach the whole Russia investigation.
But that`s not our purpose. It`s really at cross-purposes we ought to be trying to figure out how much is accurate within what Mr. Steele reported, not trying to discredit him for some reason.
MADDOW: Are they -- I mean, I don`t want to ask you to put words in their mouth and I know that you can really only speak for yourself and you`re very careful about that in terms of dealing with your colleagues on the committee. But I don`t really understand the point that they`re trying to make. Are they trying to create a counter-narrative in which the existence of the dossier is itself a scandal, that that`s the Russia scandal, that the dossier itself is the original sin and that that therefore the FBI is participating in some sort of Russian plot when it comes to the dossier?
SCHIFF: You know, I honestly don`t really understand what they hope to accomplish with this. Maybe they can discredit Mr. Steele, although he`s held in very high regard within the intelligence community. Maybe they want to discredit people in the FBI or the Department of Justice.
But what`s to be gained about that? It doesn`t undercut the fact that Russia hacked our election institutions and tried to influence the outcome of our election. It`s only going to impede our ability to get at the facts. So, I don`t really understand what they hope to accomplish from this.
But I am disturbed at this quite evident double standard of subpoena agencies for public effect I think that`s really what was designed here rather than investigatory purposed and where we really do have a need for subpoenas as in the case when the White House refuses to voluntary requests to comply, we can`t get their acquiescence in the subpoena.
So, it is a worrying trend.
MADDOW: And I`m all that familiar with what the FBI is required to do in response to a subpoena like this. This just isn`t a process that I`m all that familiar with.
Is there anything that could be done through this process? Is there anything that Mike Conaway or Devin Nunez could do on your committee to really interfere with the Mueller investigation or to either I guess forced them to disclose stuff that might impede their ability to prosecute and investigate this? Or otherwise screw with what the special counsel is doing?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, they certainly could make the department and special counsel`s life difficult if their subpoena materials that are part of the investigative work product that the department normally would not share with Congress. And so, yes, it could create real problems. Now, here, they`ve threatened to bring the attorney general in open session before our committee. Frankly, many of us would welcome that, welcome the chance to question the attorney general under oath. I have a hard time believing they would actually fall through on that threat. But nonetheless, we would welcome the opportunity to have him testify before the committee.
But we don`t want to interfere and anything that Bob Mueller is doing and we made it clear and committed at the outset, we would do our best to coordinate so that we wouldn`t. This to me violates that commitment to the special counsel, and I leave it to my colleagues in the majority to explain why they`re doing this, why this confrontation with the Department of Justice which seems so wholly unwarranted.
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee -- thank you for joining us on short notice tonight, sir. It`s nice to see you.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Rachel. You too.
All right. More ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: We just set a new record. Hurricane Irma is now the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the open Atlantic. It`s not even two weeks since Harvey slammed ashore in Texas, but if you haven`t been paying attention to this next storm Irma yet, this is the time to start worrying about it.
Forecasters are saying this could be worse than Harvey. The National Hurricane Center calls it potentially catastrophic. It`s a category 5 storm and then some. Sustained winds of up to 185 miles per hour, which is insane even for hurricane winds. It`s also big. It`s over miles wide, which is larger than the state of Ohio.
Florida`s already declared a state of emergency. There`s mandatory evacuation in the Keys starting tomorrow. The mayor of Miami`s told everybody to stockpile at least three days of food and water and medicine and fuel. But ahead of that potential mainland threat, tonight, Irma is already a life threatening storm for people on the islands of Barbuda and Antigua where the storm is expected to hit. As early as tonight, we`re already seeing some of these harrowing images from those islands.
Irma is also a very real threat to the residents of Puerto Rico. Late tonight, the president declared a state of emergency of Puerto Rico, as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands. Officials have been warning that a combination of the size of the storm and challenges to the infrastructure and the election the electrical grid in Puerto Rico means that certain parts of Puerto Rico could be out of power for up to six months once this storm hits.
And then as I said, starting Friday, Florida could get hit with the first edge of this, the tropical storm force winds. The latest models show Irma making landfall mainland sometime over the weekend. So, forecasters say Americans from Texas to Virginia need to be on alert, but prayers for the Caribbean tonight. I`ll be right back.
MADDOW: I just want to real quick underscore two things as we wrap up tonight.
First, this "Washington Examiner" report tonight which I just spoke about with -- spoke with Adam Schiff about. This may be important. If this bears out, this may be the first real substantive effort by Republicans in Congress to mess with the special counsel investigation by Robert Mueller, these subpoenas they`ve now sent to the FBI and the Justice Department. They apparently haven`t gotten a response yet, but this does look like it may be the first real salvo by congressional Republicans to try to interfere with the Bob Mueller inquiry. So, stick a pin in that. That`s one.
Second thing to underscore tonight is that Lawrence O`Donnell has Senator Kamala Harris from California on his show tonight. She never talks to anybody on cable news. She`s talking to Lawrence tonight.
That does it for us tonight.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
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