Chuck Schumer Interview Transcript 11/2/17 The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Chuck Schumer

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: November 2, 2017 Guest: Chuck Schumer

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: You bet.

MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the United States Senate, is going to be joining us here live for "The Interview" tonight. I`m very much looking forward to that.

OK. In 2014, a longstanding, well-respected Democrat senator from Iowa, Tom Harkin, retired. Eventually, Tom Harkin`s Iowa Senate seat went to Republican Joni Ernst. But because everybody knew that 2014 would be a good year for the Republicans and because Republicans knew that Tom Harkin`s Senate seat was a good chance at a Republican pickup in 2014, it ended up being a very big and aggressive primary that was fought on the Republican side to see who would get to be the Republican competing for that seat that year.

And Joni Ernst ended up winning that primary and winning the seat. But one of the people that she ran against in the Senate seat primary in 2014 was a locally well-known conservative radio host. And in March 2014, during that primary, that talk show host did an interview with the Radio Iowa.

And the content of the interview stuck out at the time and I will explain why. But it sticks out a lot now in retrospect three years later given with what ultimately became of that candidate.

Now, I say it stuck out a little bit at the time because at the time of this radio interview in 2014, Russia had just invaded Ukraine. They`d taken Crimea from Ukraine. And at that time, 2014 in mainstream American politics, nobody in either major party was particularly soft on Russia, but particularly in a Republican primary in a state like Iowa, you`d actually expect all the candidates to be pretty aggressively hawkish on Russia, particularly after Russia had just invaded one of their neighbors.

But it was interesting. In that Senate primary, that Republican Senate primary in 2014, this one primary candidate, the local talk radio host, he really went the other way. He called himself a former Pentagon expert on Russia and he told Radio Iowa that, quote, pushing the Russians out of Crimea is not a realistic option.

He said, quote, I think a lot of people, I`m not sure they understand the history of Russia. You go back, you know, 1,500 years to the foundation of the Russian empire. It actually started in Ukraine and was evolved out of that. This whole issue is about as Russian as it gets -- meaning Russia should be allowed to take parts of Ukraine. That`s Russia`s business, not anybody else`s.

And this candidate, he apparently felt pretty passionately about it. He went on in some detail, saying, quote: Crimea is mostly Russia speakers -- I think he means Russian speakers. Crimea is mostly Russian speakers. OK. Ukraine has been part of the Russian sphere of influence for centuries.

Quote: I really think this is just the flexing of muscles and the expansion of the Russian empire back to more traditional historic borders.

So, this is a Republican Senate candidate in 2014, arguing that, yes, Russia just invaded a neighboring country and took part of it, but Russia is just operating within its own sphere of influence. This is really a Russia thing. Besides, there are Russian speakers in that country they invaded. This is really historically the kind of thing Russia ought to be able to do.

What did he call it? The expansion of the Russian empire back to more traditional historic borders. Why not reestablish the Russian empire, right?

And besides, if we did want to raise a stink about it, there`s no reason to think we`d have any power to do so anyway. He said, quote: Economic and diplomatic sanctions won`t work against Russia.

So, let Russia have it. I mean, so that stuck out a little bit, right, in 2014. That`s an unusually pro-Russia, detailed, pro-Russia stance to be taking in American politics in a Republican primary in 2014. This is not at a time when the attitudes toward Russia had a particularly big spotlight on them in mainstream American politics.

So, that interview stood out a little bit, but ultimately, I doubt that interview had much to do it when that candidate lost that Senate primary, but he did lose that Senate primary. In the end, Joni Ernst won the primary. She ended up winning that seat in the Senate.

And that radio talk show host who had given that really pro-Russia interview about just letting them keep Ukraine, it`s pretty much theirs anyway, he just went back to being a radio a talk show host in 2014. He billed himself as an expert on the Soviet military operations. He went back to being a radio talk show host.

His name was Sam Clovis. He lost that Senate primary in 2014. In 2015, he started to run Rick Perry`s Iowa campaign, and that ended up to be a short job. And then in 2016, he ended up joining the Donald Trump for president campaign. Sam Clovis became the national co-chair of the Trump for president campaign. He became the Trump campaign`s top policy official, and weird Russia stuff kept following him around.

When "The Wall Street Journal" reported earlier in the year about a Republican operative named Peter Smith who mounted an effort to contact foreign hackers and specifically Russian government hackers to try to get Hillary Clinton`s e-mail from them, Peter Smith claimed somewhat famously now that he was working with retired General Mike Flynn from the campaign. Peter Smith described Flynn as not just aware of, but allegedly supportive of his efforts to try to find the Russian hackers to obtain stolen documents from the Democrats.

In addition of bragging about his contacts with Flynn, though, somewhat less famously, Peter Smith also bragged that he was in contact with Sam Clovis from the Trump campaign on that operation.

Now, as far as I know, Sam Clovis has never had to answer any questions as to his alleged role in Peter Smith`s project to try to work with the Russians to help Trump and hurt Clinton during the campaign. But, like I say, weird Russia stuff kind of follows Sam Clovis around.

Sam Clovis is also credited, if that`s the right word, with bringing on to the Trump campaign, Carter Page, who traveled to Moscow during the campaign, who said tonight that he informed Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he was going to Moscow during the campaign.

Carter Page also turns up in the indictment of a Russian spy ring that was discovered operating out of New York City Russian bank branch. Sam Clovis is credited with bringing Carter Page on to the Trump campaign. Clovis is also credited with bringing on to the Trump campaign, George Papadopoulos, another otherwise unknown figure who`s now become quite famous because his Russia connections during the campaign and because of the unsealing of his guilty plea for lying with the FBI about his contacts with Russia during his work on the Trump campaign.

In the plea agreement that was unsealed by a federal judge on Monday, it is apparently Sam Clovis who was George Papadopoulos` supervisor who told Papadopoulos that he was doing great work when he initiated and maintained contact with Russian sources and tried to set up high level meetings between the Trump campaign and the Putin government.

When Papadopoulos suggested that there be an off-the-record meeting between Trump campaign personnel and Russian officials up to and including people from Putin`s office, Sam Clovis is reportedly the campaign supervisor who encouraged George Papadopoulos to take that trip.

Well, now we`ve learned that Sam Clovis has not only spoken to investigators from Robert Mueller`s special counsel`s office in the Russia investigation. We`ve now learned that Sam Clovis is also now reportedly testified to the grand jury in the Mueller investigation.

Now, this happened while Sam Clovis was working in the Trump administration. And apparently tonight, he remains the White House liaison to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is apparently a job.

Despite his ongoing White House role, ABC News reports tonight that the White House had no idea that this senior figure from the Trump campaign, national co-chair of the Trump campaign, the top policy official on the Trump campaign, this guy who is currently an administration official working for the Trump administration, apparently the White House had no idea that he testified to the grand jury until they read about it in the press this week, which presumably means they have not been advised as to whether or not Sam Clovis sought immunity in exchange for his grand jury testimony.

And just based on that plea agreement that`s just been unsealed regarding George Papadopoulos, I mean, Clovis as Papadopoulos` campaign supervisor, he has some obvious exposure to matters that the special counsel is investigating. For example in the plea agreement, Papadopoulos said that he was advised by his Russian contacts that they had dirt on Hillary Clinton and that they had thousands of e-mails. It doesn`t say anywhere in the plea agreement whether or not Papadopoulos tried to obtain that dirt from the Russians or those thousands of e-mails. It also doesn`t say in the plea agreement if he told his superiors on the Trump campaign that the Russians told him they had dirt on Clinton and thousands of e-mails.

It doesn`t say whether he ever tried to arrange any exchange or delivery of information from his Russian sources up the chain of command on the Trump campaign. But we do know that Sam Clovis was his campaign supervisor and we do know from the plea agreement and Papadopoulos` guilty plea that he did have those conversations with the Russians and he was in frequent contact with the Trump campaign, including his campaign supervisor, Sam Clovis, about the fact that he was talking to the Russians.

So, I mean, you want to ask, right, you want to ask what, you know, what Papadopoulos` supervisor heard from George. Hey, what did George tell you about his Russia contacts?

His supervisor was Sam Clovis and Sam Clovis was due to be in a Senate nomination hearing, one week from today, because the Trump administration nominated Clovis to be the top scientist in that department, despite the fact that Mr. Clovis is not a scientist. At that hearing, which is scheduled for a week from today, Democratic senators had already started to signal they had things to ask him about besides his lack of scientific credentials and his potential role at the Department of Agriculture.

Senator Patrick Leahy, quote, member of the Senate Agricultural Committee, said he planned to ask Sam Clovis at his confirmation hearing about George Papadopoulos` efforts to obtain stolen Democratic e-mails from the Russians. Right? Of course, you would ask him that.

Once you got Sam Clovis under oath in front of the United States Senate, you would ask him. Hey, about this the kid who is reporting to you on the Trump campaign who`s just pled guilty and cooperated with the Mueller investigation. Can we talk to you what he told you?

I mean, knowing that was going to be the character of Clovis` confirmation hearing next week, right, and absorbing this new news that Sam Clovis apparently started to Mueller`s investigators and testifying to the grand jury without ever notifying the White House that he was doing so, today, Clovis` nomination for the agricultural job was yanked.

I`m going to go ahead and post that old interview from Radio Iowa, to post a link to that tonight at maddowblog.com, where you can yourself -- see for yourself. Sam Clovis representing himself as a Pentagon expert on Russia and on the Soviet military, that was how he portrayed himself in Iowa in 2014 when he was running for Senate.

But the collapse of his nomination and these revelations about Clovis` involvement with the special counsel`s office and the grand jury, that`s just one of like a million fascinating things that happened today. This is one of those days when any one of these things would have been a blockbuster story any day of the week. It just happened they all happened today.

This afternoon, we had the unexpectedly dramatic court hearing for campaign manager Paul Manafort and Trump campaign official Rick Gates. Manafort and Gates were both arrested on Monday. Today`s court hearing was to discuss among other things the terms on which they were released after they were arrested.

At least until next week, we know that Manafort and Gates will be continued to be confined to their homes. And we didn`t know this before now, but apparently not just Manafort, but both of them are subjected to electronic monitoring devices while they are being held in their homes.

I should also tell you that Rick Gates does now have a lawyer. Manafort`s associate, Trump campaign official Rick Gates was represented by a public defender. At his initial arrest and court appearance on Monday, he didn`t have his own lawyer. He has now picked up expensive lawyers of his own, like Paul Manafort has.

That said, I have to tell you, Paul Manafort`s expensive lawyers appear to be having some trouble already in this case. The judge today harshly criticized Paul Manafort`s lawyer for having spoken to reporters on the courthouse steps after Monday`s indictment. She asked, in fact, for arguments from the prosecution and the from the defense as to whether she should institute a gag order now that prevents either side in this case from making any further statements outside of the courtroom, because she was so annoyed of what he said to reporters on Monday.

Gates` lawyers and Manafort`s lawyers both submitted requests to the court today that the terms of confinement for Manafort and Gates be loosened. But there again, problems for Manafort`s lawyer. The judge criticized Manafort`s lawyer for submitting his argument that his Manafort`s House arrest should be loosened, the judge criticized Manafort`s lawyer for not submitting that argument as a formal motion to the court.

So, Manafort`s lawyer today had to issue an apology in court for the inappropriate form of his application on his client`s behalf. The judge appeared to not be impressed by the apology, told him to turn around and refile as a proper motion tonight. OK.

That said, because these are public proceedings, we all got to see the improper application that Manafort`s lawyer filed in the first place today, which included his repeated misspellings of the word Cyprus. Remember how Manafort had all of those foreign bank accounts in the nation of Cyprus? Cyprus. On the left side of your screen is do we have that? Cyprus? Right. Cyprus, that`s the nation of Cyprus, ends in u-s. That`s a country.

From the right side of your screen is cypress the way that Manafort`s lawyer spelled it throughout today`s motion and the way he spelled it, that is not a country, it`s a lovely tree. Cypress, c-y-p-r-e-s-s is the tree, and Cyprus is where your client held his millions of dollars without telling the IRS. Tree-trouble. Tree-trouble.

The judge today indicated that the trial for Manafort and Gates may start in April. She also indicated she`s not inclined to release either Manafort or Gates from home confinement or to lower the terms of their bail or set them free from their electronic monitoring devices. The judge said in court today that their charges are significant, and their ties abroad are significant and she said, quote: I have concerns about flight.

Then, shortly after that court hearing broke up today, CNN broke this news about senior White House adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner. CNN reporting late this afternoon that Kushner has turned over documents to special counsel Robert Mueller`s office.

Now, we don`t know if Jared Kushner has testified to Mueller`s inquiry, but according to CNN, quote: Mueller`s investigators have expressed interest in Kushner as part of its probe into Russian meddling, including potential obstruction of justice in the firing of FBI Director James Comey. Sources tell CNN that, quote, investigators have asked other witnesses about Jared Kushner`s role in firing James Comey. Oh.

Investigators also asked about how a statement was issued in the name of Donald Trump Jr. regarding a meeting at Trump Tower, that meeting that involved Donald, Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and a whole bunch of Russians. According to CNN, investigators have also asked about, quote, circumstances surrounding the departure of other White House aides.

Why those would be related to obstruction of justice or any other potential criminal matter, I don`t know. But they`re asking about Jared and other people leaving the White House? No idea what any of that is about.

But if CNN`s right and those inquiries are being made by the special counsel`s office, that would indicate at the very least that Mueller`s investigators aren`t just looking at things that happened during the campaign. They really are pursuing matters that occurred after the inauguration once Trump was sworn in, actions by White House officials. And they`re not just looking at people who used to be White House officials and they`re now gone, they`re looking at people who are currently in senior positions in the Trump administration.

And that brings us to what I think is probably the biggest uh-oh in the news today for the Trump administration, which is Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Part of the reason that presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner has been in interest in terms of the potential contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia is because Kushner appears to have tried to conceal those ties, right? He`s tried to conceal a number of contacts that he had with Russian officials, Kushner`s multiple meetings with the Russian ambassador, his still-unexplained-meeting with a Russian banker close to Putin, his presence at the Trump Tower meeting with all those Russians.

Jared Kushner left all those contacts with Russian officials off his security clearance, application, right? That`s part of the reason that Jared Kushner is of such interest in this inquiry. Well, that`s one thing for Jared Kushner.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, he was also secretive and concealing about his own meetings with Russians and about his knowledge of other Trump campaign officials meeting with Russians. But the problem for Jeff Sessions is that unlike Jared Kushner, he didn`t just do it on a security clearance application. Jeff Sessions did it repeatedly under oath.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D-MN), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Senator Franken, I`m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians and I`m unable to comment on it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That was under oath.

Then Senator Jeff Sessions during his confirmation hearings to become attorney general, telling the Senate he didn`t have communications with Russians during the campaign. It was later reported that Senator Sessions did have communications with Russians during the campaign. When that emerged in March, Senator Sessions at first continued to deny it, then he admitted it while recusing himself from overseeing any Justice Department matters involving the campaign, but he still insisted these meetings that he did take with Russians that he`d forgotten about, he still insisted they weren`t about the campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SESSIONS: Let me be clear -- I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Senator Sessions later appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee and whittled that denial down a little further, admitting, OK, he might have had conversations with Russians in which they did discuss the campaign but when he was meeting with Russians and talking about the campaign with them, he wasn`t talking about Russians interfering in the campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SESSIONS: I have never met with or had any conversation with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States. Further, I have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected to the Trump campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That, too, was under oath. Now, though, in the plea agreement just unsealed involving Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, the government asserts and Papadopoulos affirms that it`s true that not only did he as part of the Trump campaign have contacts with the Russian government while he was working for the campaign, those conversations really were about the Russians interfering in the campaign by collecting dirt on Hillary Clinton and obtaining thousands of e-mail.

Papadopoulos asserts in a meeting during the campaign, which is pictured here on the president`s Instagram account, Papadopoulos told that national security meeting at which Trump was present, and it was a group being chaired by Jeff Sessions, Papadopoulos says he told that meeting that day that he was in contact with the Russian government and was in a petition to link the Trump campaign up with the Putin government, including for high- level meetings.

The attorney general was there for that meeting, clearly. You see him on the left side of your screen. Sources close to Jeff Sessions today told NBC News that Papadopoulos did raise that issue that issue of engaging with Russia at that meeting with Jeff Sessions there, but nevertheless repeatedly under oath, including just a couple of weeks ago, Sessions insisted that nothing like that ever happened. He never heard of it happening and it certainly didn`t involve him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN: Was that what you`re saying that you don`t believe that surrogates from the Trump campaign had communications with the Russians? Is that what you`re saying?

SESSIONS: I did not and I`m not aware of anyone else that did. And I don`t believe it happened but --

FRANKEN: And you don`t believe it now.

SESSIONS: I don`t believe it happened.

FRANKEN: OK, so --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Whatever you think of the power of the United States Congress and specifically the United States Senate, whatever you think of how they are doing their jobs right now, the Senate does confirm people for major jobs in any administration and that means that they get people under oath answering questions, and that means that they get the people back to answer further questions when they need to.

Senator Al Franken sent Attorney General Jeff Sessions an eight-page letter today demanding that he explain a, quote, alarming pattern in which you, the nation`s top law enforcement officer apparently failed to tell the truth under oath about the Trump`s contact with agents of Russia.

Democratic Senator Pat Leahy released a statement tonight saying, quote: Attorney General Sessions needs to come back before the Senate Judiciary Committee. A description of the March 2016 Trump campaign meeting contained in unsealed documents is impossible to reconcile with the attorney general`s appearance before the Judiciary Committee just two weeks ago. He now needs to come back before the committee in person and under oath to explain why he cannot seem to provide truthful, complete answers to these important and relevant questions.

I have to be honest with you. When I think about public service jobs, being a United States senator mostly does not sound like a fun job. But right now, Democratic senators are absolutely pinning the attorney general to the wall on this. And he appears unable to get away from them. And as such, that is starting to feel like a pretty powerful job, to be a U.S. senator in this context.

Top Democrat in the U.S. Senate, Chuck Schumer joins us live, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Joining us now for "The Interview" tonight is the top Democrat in the United States Senate, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York.

Senator, thank you very much for being here tonight. Appreciate it.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: Good evening. Good to be here.

MADDOW: A whole bunch of things I want to ask you about.

SCHUMER: Oh yes.

MADDOW: I know. I`m sorry. You`re in my clutches. So, I got to ask you whatever I want.

I definitely want to talk to you about the Republican tax plan that was unveiled today.

SCHUMER: Yes.

MADDOW: I want to ask you about the conflict that the president appeared to single you out for in the wake of the terror attack in New York this week.

SCHUMER: Yes.

MADDOW: But I want to start by asking about something that has been unfolding over the course of the day, which is a couple of senators in your caucus and actually some Republican senators as well expressing real concerns about the attorney general. Senator Sessions came under fire after his confirmation, about what he said about contacts with Russia in his confirmation hearing.

SCHUMER: Yes.

MADDOW: And in subsequent appearances before the senate.

Now, Senator Leahy from Vermont, Senator Franken from Minnesota have said that they want Senator Sessions to clarify what they say are false statements by him about contacts with Russia during the campaign.

SCHUMER: Well, from what I`ve seen, and I`d just seen, I heard in the car when I came -- got off the plane. It seems serious. And I think they are exactly right. Senator Sessions should come back before them. They had asked him questions in the past. They weren`t sure they got straight answers. And now, it seems some of the facts that we have seen seem to make it even more serious. He has an obligation to come back.

MADDOW: He has, his answers on this matter have evolved overtime. He initially said he personally had no contacts with Russians during the campaign.

SCHUMER: Right.

MADDOW: He later admitted that was true but he said they weren`t discussions about the campaign. Then he said they may have been about discussions about the campaign but they weren`t discussions about interference.

SCHUMER: Right.

MADDOW: He then elaborated and said he knew of nobody on the campaign having contacts with Russians, which is not only false, in terms of what other people have admitted --

SCHUMER: Right.

MADDOW: -- it was false under oath.

SCHUMER: Yes.

MADDOW: And so --

SCHUMER: It`s serious stuff.

MADDOW: What`s the remedy with an official like the attorney general lies under oath?

SCHUMER: Well, it will have to be -- you know, perjury is a very careful standard, but it`s something that would be looked at.

I think -- I have not seen, I`ve just heard second hand what he has said. It`s been reported. I`d want to see all the facts before coming to a judgment, but it`s serious enough just seeing a cursory description of what happened.

I agree with Franken and I agree with Leahy. He`s got to come back.

MADDOW: What`s your reaction to the indictments this week and unveiling of the guilty plea this week involving those Trump campaign officials?

SCHUMER: Well, look, obviously now, when Donald Trump says collusion with Russia is -- or is fake news, it`s clearly not. Here you have one of the best prosecutors in the land who has shown at least a campaign official involved with Russia, heavy indictments of top campaign officials with all kinds of financial problems. And so, this is serious.

And, look, this has got to go forward unimpeded. No one -- no one should put any barriers in Mueller`s way, whether it`d be shutting the investigation down, that would be horrible, curtailing his funding, diverting him to something that is not what he wants to do. He ought to have complete freedom and if God forbid he`s interfered with, I think the Congress has to come together. It will be the ultimate test of our Republican colleagues because rule of law is paramount in America. And interference with Mueller`s investigation would violate that principle because no person, even the president of the United States, is not above the law.

MADDOW: We`re seeing a real concerted full court press on the part of the conservative media, and not just on -- with our friends at the FOX News Channel but also in "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page and --

SCHUMER: Yes.

MADDOW: -- "The New York Post", a lot of Murdoch properties and a lot of - -

SCHUMER: But the hard right, as usual, they are well-organized and they all sing from the same hymnal. I don`t know how that happens but they sure do. They are attempting to do one of two things, maybe both.

One is certainly divert attention away from this investigation. That`s futile. This is a serious investigation. There are indictments here, with real facts behind them by a professional prosecutor. They`re not going to be able to do that.

The second may be to try and steer things off course. That would be -- if there were actions by the president, anyone in the administration, even the Congress to steer things off course, that would be really serious.

MADDOW: Do you believe if the president took action to fire Robert Mueller or to otherwise try to impede the investigation or block -- or knock it off course, do you have confidence that your Republican colleagues in the Senate would stand --

SCHUMER: Well, you know, they`re very afraid of the hard right but I have -- this is so serious and I`ve talked to some of my colleagues privately, that I`m hopeful that they would join us and do -- and we could by law set up an independent counsel law and restore Mueller to the job.

MADDOW: There are reports tonight from the "Associated Press" that the Mueller investigation -- and again the Mueller investigation is not very leaky and reports don`t always turn to be --

SCHUMER: He`s such a pro.

MADDOW: Yes.

SCHUMER: No one even knew about a lot of this stuff until it happened.

MADDOW: Yes.

SCHUMER: He`s a pro all the way through. There`s -- they can`t say a bad thing about him.

MADDOW: Well, they do.

SCHUMER: They can`t say a legitimate bad thing about him.

MADDOW: "The Associated Press" reports tonight that an emerging target of the Mueller investigation or focus of the investigation may be not just people associated with the Trump campaign but people who they may have on the hook for violations of the Foreign Agent Registration Act, including prominent Democratic firm the Podesta Group and Tony Podesta stepped down from that group this week. Also the Mercury Group, which is led by a former Republican congressman named Vin Weber.

If the Mueller effort is going to start really going after people for foreign agent registration and it is going to start ensnaring lobbying groups and other people well outside the Trump campaign, is that an appropriate use of --

SCHUMER: Well, I`m not going to speculate until I would see more facts.

MADDOW: OK.

SCHUMER: OK? You don`t know what the relationships are, the interlocking relationships. Maybe it is related, maybe it isn`t related. I think it`s safe not to comment on this until you saw some real facts.

MADDOW: Let me ask you about the popular perception that whatever people think of the Mueller investigation and however safe we think the Mueller investigation is --

(CROSSTALK)

SCHUMER: Well, the public, I saw a poll today that the public thinks he`s doing the right thing.

MADDOW: Whatever you think about Mueller though --

SCHUMER: It`s 2-1 it said in the newspaper. I didn`t see the numbers.

MADDOW: There is an increasingly widespread perception and there`s increasing reporting that the congressional investigations are off course, that both in the House and in the Senate things have become partisan, divided, there`s no hope for any investigation, let alone a bipartisan investigation.

SCHUMER: Well, I talked at length to Mark Warner obviously --

MADDOW: Yes.

SCHUMER: -- and to Adam Schiff. They feel it does go off course and then they feel they have some success steering it back to course. The kind of stuff they`ve done this week looking at social security media and Russian involvement to social media certainly was a very positive step in revealing some of the bad things going on.

MADDOW: Do you think in the Intelligence Committee or in the Judiciary Committee in the Senate, that we may end with Democratic reports and Republican reports?

SCHUMER: I hope not.

MADDOW: Do you think there --

SCHUMER: I -- look, both Republican leaders have gone off course at times but then -- and particularly in the Senate, Warner has brought them back. So I think we have to have a little patience. Is it going as smoothly or as quickly as I would like? No. But would I write it off and say, oh, it`s going to be hopeless? No.

MADDOW: I know you want to talk about taxes.

SCHUMER: Yes, I do.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW: I know you do. I can see it in your eyes.

I also want to ask you about this fight that the president picked with you --

SCHUMER: Sure.

MADDOW: -- on a very auspicious occasion this week.

We`ll be right back with Senator Chuck Schumer, top Democrat in the United States Senate.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Joining us once again for "The Interview" is the top Democrat in the United States Senate, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York.

Senator Schumer, thank you for sticking with us.

The Trump administration has unified control of Capitol Hill and the White House. They have passed no significant legislation since president Trump was sworn in, despite their almost heroic efforts to try to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Are they going to pass a tax bill?

SCHUMER: Well, they`re going to have a rough time mainly because the bill is so warped towards the very wealthy, top -- you know, the big corporations. And they want to do so much, it`s greed, that they have real trouble and they`re stuck, on the one hand to pay for the tax breaks for the wealthiest and particularly for the biggest corporations who, by the way, don`t pay a 35 percent actual tax. The average -- the top thousand I believe it is pay 16 percent.

But that they are stuck. They have to eliminate deductions that the middle class needs. That`s very unpopular and it`s unpopular particularly in their district, sort of middle class, upper middle class suburban districts. If they eliminate those deductions, the deficit goes way up and there are, to their credit, a handful of Republicans in the Senate who still believe in reducing the deficit.

The hard right, total fraud, phoniness, fraudulence. They were against deficits whenever President Obama were going to spend money on anything. But now, there are huge tax cuts which raise the deficits much greater, that`s perfectly OK.

MADDOW: Do you think that the --

SCHUMER: So, I think that they have a rough road to hoe and we`re going to have a problem for two reasons, Rachel. One, we have two big problems in America. One is income mal-distribution, the top is earning so much. This will make it even worse, even worse.

And second, the only way we can get middle class people and people trying to get into the middle class out of -- doing better, keeping those who are there in it, getting those up, is government, it`s education, it`s road building, it`s scientific research. If you create deficits like this, it will be all decimated and they might have to cut Medicare and Medicaid. So --

MADDOW: When you say they`re not sure they`re not going to be able to pass it, they could pass it with their own votes.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHUMER: Yes. They`ve rejected any bipartisanship. We could do some bipartisan things but they`ve rejected that completely.

MADDOW: There`s been no Democratic involvement at all?

SCHUMER: None. What their view of bipartisanship is they get into a closed room, they come up with a bill and then say, you support it. That`s bipartisanship.

I`ll say one other thing. They are so embarrassed about this bill. It`s so -- you know, the hard right, which is running the show for the first time, is so far away from what Americans want. That`s why health care failed. And hopefully that`s why this will fail.

So, what they`re trying to do is rush it through. Not one hearing on this major, major bill affecting our whole economic system, our tax code. No discussion, no analysis by outside experts.

They introduced it today. They want to start marking it up, doing amendments Monday.

So -- they`re afraid. They`re embarrassed. I call this bill a dead fish. The more it`s in the sun, the more it stinks. They don`t want people to know about it.

MADDOW: Are there red state Democrats or conservative Democrats who are potentially going to vote for this thing?

SCHUMER: Well, we had 45 Democrats sign a letter that said we had three principles, very simple, easy principles. No tax breaks to the 1 percent, don`t blow a huge hole in the deficit and don`t do reconciliation, do it bipartisan, 45 signed. There were three who didn`t.

But if you listen to those three and what they say, they agree with our principles. They just didn`t want to sign the letter.

MADDOW: So, that`s Heitkamp and Donnelly and Manchin.

SCHUMER: Manchin, Donnelly. Joe Manchin has been eloquent about the deficit, which he really cares about it. So, I think we`re going to have the same unity. I`m hopeful. Each person will make their own decision, but I`m hopeful we`ll have the same unity on this that we had on health care. It was our unity that helped sink it.

MADDOW: On -- the New York part of this, actually, a New York question here. I think New York is a particularly important state when thinking about the politics --

SCHUMER: Absolutely.

MADDOW: -- of this tax plan. There are nine Republican senators from New York. New York is the kind of states, blue states, that will be particularly hurt by this tax plan.

SCHUMER: You got it.

MADDOW: People who get -- places that have relatively high housing costs, for example, those the kinds of places where a working family is going to get --

(CROSSTALK)

SCHUMER: And guess what? Those tend to be Republican districts.

MADDOW: Yes.

SCHUMER: Suburban districts.

Peter King, to his ever lasting credit, has taken this on. His district will get killed.

The fella out on the first district, Lee Zeldin.

MADDOW: Yes.a

SCHUMER: Now, he`s a Trump guy, but he`s opposed this because he knows what it will do in his district. I went around the state and actually, I don`t like to do this but I named names. I said congressman so and so and so and so, they would be betraying New York by voting for this, going for the hard right, wealthy people.

And seven of the nine voted against the budget.

MADDOW: The budget --

(CROSSTALK)

SCHUMER: And so, I have called the governors, Democratic governors of the eight or nine other states, California, Colorado, Virginia, Pennsylvania, where you have a lot of these districts and asked them to do the same. And they`re in the process of doing it.

So, the Republicans, particularly those from the suburban districts, particularly those who tend to be a little more mainstream -- not hard, hard right -- are squirming. And they`re going to be damned either way. If they vote against it, they will have their right-wing leadership mad at them, but if they vote for it, they face real electoral problems. They`re really hurting their constituents in a very big and real way.

MADDOW: Let me ask you another --

SCHUMER: So, I think we have a good shot. I think we have a good chance of defeating it and I hope for the sake of the country, forget the politics, that we defeat it.

It would blow a hole in the deficit for a decade. We couldn`t do things we need to do to rebuild this country, and it would make income distribution even worse, bad enough as it is now.

Taking money away from middle class people and giving it to the wealthiest and these big corporations.

And one more thing, I`m sorry (ph), this myth that if you give these corporations tax cuts they`ll create jobs is utter bull. They`re stocked with money now. They`re not putting it into jobs, stock buybacks, corporate salary, you know, high -- corporate salaries for the high end, dividends.

They don`t use it for jobs. It`s a myth. And what we`re up against, this is the one thing that, you know, I am fighting hard in this job and I`m enjoying it actually. I didn`t know I would have enjoyed it as much as I did.

But they have a machine and they have these think tanks and these professors they pay (ph), and they perpetrate utter bull. So, this -- even the mainstream newspapers, well, maybe it will create jobs, maybe it won`t. It won`t.

MADDOW: Senator Schumer, I have one more thing to ask you about.

SCHUMER: You can ask me whatever you want, Rachel.

MADDOW: Now I got really fired up about taxes.

We`ll be right back with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Joining us once again is the top Democrat in the United States Senate, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York.

Senator Schumer, thank you for being here tonight.

I want to ask you about the president`s reaction after the terror attack this week in New York. Obviously this --

SCHUMER: Oh yes.

MADDOW: -- this attack on Tuesday, eight people died, 11 people hospitalized.

The president responded to it in part and quite quickly by criticizing you and trying to essentially say that it`s your fault because of immigration policies that you had supported in the past.

I don`t want to do balls and strikes on immigration policy on this --

SCHUMER: Right, no.

MADDOW: -- because I don`t think it`s appropriate, but what did you expect from the president? Did that behavior surprise you?

SCHUMER: No. Because what I`ve said -- I said this before and I said that day, he ought to stop tweeting and start leading. Just contrast him with George Bush, who I opposed on most of his issues.

After 9/11, he called Senator Clinton and I to the White House. He said, what can I do to help? How can we work together? And we put a picture online of Bush and I at Ground Zero.

Look at what Trump does. He makes it political. The people -- we don`t know the names of the dead and he is already trying to gain political points.

It is so demeaning to this country and, you know, it doesn`t bother me. I stick by my values. You know, there are times online he`s flattered me. There are times online he`s called me names. It doesn`t bother me.

You stick to your values and that`s fine but this is so bad for the country, so bad for the country that in times of tragedy he seeks to -- he seeks political advantage and he had to back off.

His spokesperson, I tweeted back at him I think in a good way. Not nasty. He didn`t tweet back because I think he knew.

And then his spokesperson said, oh no. He wasn`t saying Senator Schumer`s responsible. Well, he had to back off.

And yet this morning, interestingly enough, not only did "The New York Times" liberal and "The Washington Post" moderate but "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page criticized him for what he said about me.

MADDOW: Do you feel like those kinds of norms and mores that the president has broken, do you feel like they`re repairable?

SCHUMER: Yes.

MADDOW: Do you feel like that this example --

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW: -- they come back?

SCHUMER: Well, Americans -- repairable with him? I thought after three months maybe he`d learn. I`m having my doubts about that. I really am. I think he`s incorrigible to do these things. Not, forget my -- thing that he did. Just over and over and over again.

What I worry about, aside from the policies and this hard right movement which so hurts the middle class, we have norms in this country. We have laws but we have norms that we have obeyed for two centuries. He`s breaking them.

And whether they can be repaired again is a very good question. He`s doing real damage to those norms which are so fundamental to our democracy.

MADDOW: Senator Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the United States Senate, thank you for being here tonight and spending this much time and as the tax bill goes forward, I can tell that you`re fired up about it.

SCHUMER: I am.

MADDOW: Keep us apprised in terms of the chances are and how you think they`re moving in your caucus.

SCHUMER: Right. And let me just ask your viewers.

MADDOW: Yes.

SCHUMER: Please call your Congress people, call your friends and all of those Republican districts. This is really vital to America. And with health care, because we had real movement in the streets, combined with what we did in our unity as a caucus, we won.

We can do the same thing here but we need the same activity.

MADDOW: Senator Schumer --

SCHUMER: Sorry for that commercial.

MADDOW: -- thank you for being here.

SCHUMER: Thank you.

MADDOW: Let the record show, that was the senator and not me.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Quick update to a story that we brought at the top of the show regarding Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the new questions about his repeated denials that he was aware of any contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the campaign. Those questions have now put the attorney general in a very difficult position. Now that the Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos has admitted in a plea agreement that, in fact, he did meet with Russian officials in the campaign and he told the campaign about it, and he later lied to the FBI about it.

Well, tonight, Carter Page who also served as a foreign policy adviser on the Trump campaign, he tells NBC News in an e-mail tonight that during the presidential campaign in June of last year, he says he informed now attorney general then Senator Jeff Sessions that he Carter Page was making a trip to Russia during the campaign. Page tells NBC news, quote: Back in June 2016, I mentioned in passing that I happened to be planning to give a speech at a university in Moscow.

Now, a source familiar with the conversation says Page told the House Intelligence Committee in closed testimony today that he shook Jeff Sessions` hand, told him he was on the Trump team and he told him that he was heading to Russia. According to the source, Sessions did not respond and moved on to the next person, but this is yet another instance in which Jeff Sessions appears to have been told about contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, contact that is he unequivocally and without condition later denied under oath.

That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".

Good evening, Lawrence.

END

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