Franken on photo: "I shouldn't have done it." Transcript 11/16/17 The Rachel Maddow Show

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: November 16, 2017

TARA DOWDELL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: So, yes, there are some challenges. But Democrats are energized. And also, I want to point out one thing. It`s women and people of color that are running, too.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: Particularly in Virginia.

Tara Dowdell and Cornell Belcher, thanks for joining me.

That`s "ALL IN" for this evening. It`s good night to stay up late, or set your DVRs. I`ll be on "Late Night with Seth Meyers" tonight on NBC, talking about all the craziness and much more. Don`t miss that.

And don`t miss THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW which starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

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

HAYES: You bet.

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

It is a good day to stay up late, if only to absorb everything that happened today, right? It has been just a whiplash day of big news developments. I feel like we`ve got a lot of ground to cover in this hour tonight, including, of course, the news about Democratic icon, Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, a Los Angeles radio host publishing and then describing an incident on a USO tour in 2006 when she says Senator Franken forced a very unwanted kiss on her in the guise of rehearsing for a skit. He then says that he groped her for what was essentially a prank photo while she slept on the flight home from the Middle East.

This incident happened two years before Al Franken was a U.S. senator, but it has now called into question the future of his Senate career. Senator Franken today has issued two statements in response to these claims. A short apology and then a much longer one. His fellow Democrats have been just withering and unanimous in their condemnation of him today, which itself has been remarkable to watch over the course of the day.

We`ll have more on that coming up tonight, including why there is widespread speculation on Capitol Hill tonight, that this may be the start of a whole bunch of allegations coming out. Not necessarily more about Senator Franken, but more potentially about other members of Congress, too. I will also get some expert help tonight in assessing how the Al Franken story and his apology today might affect the handling of the allegations against Republican Alabama Senate candidate, Roy Moore.

Also, in what I have to describe as a related matter, today, a seventh woman came forward to say that she had been groped, sexually, by former President George H.W. Bush. Now, with the six previous accusers of the former president, those incidents were all incidents that they allege took place well after President Bush had left office. And to be honest, those repeated and strikingly consistent allegations from those six other women, those have been, I think, treated differently than they might have otherwise been about another prominent public figure, specifically because of the advanced age of the former president when the incidents took place.

But the latest allegation, which was first published today by CNN, this one is from a woman who says it happened in 1992, when George H.W. Bush was not old, when he was running for re-election. So we`ve had no response thus far from the Bush family about this very different type of allegation about the former president.

Today also brought the shock of news of a mistrial in the federal corruption case against New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez. Now, the jury not being able to come to a unanimous verdict in his case means that he was not convicted of the corruption charges he faced. But it also could mean that it`s not over for him either, either in the Senate or potentially in the courts. We`ll have more on that story coming up tonight, as well.

Today also brought news that the Keystone Pipeline has sprung a leak. New portions of the incredibly controversial pipeline were green lit by the Trump administration in March after years of controversy over its safety and environmental impact. Well, today in South Dakota, the original Keystone Pipeline sprung a big leak and dumped 5,000 barrels of oil -- not gallons, barrels -- just outside a town called Amherst in Marshall County, South Dakota.

And you know, the timing here may end up being very important. This coming Monday, the state of Nebraska is going to decide whether to permit the building of the Keystone XL Pipeline through the state of Nebraska. We`ll see if it focuses their minds at all on that decision to have the sister Keystone Pipeline in the neighboring state of South Dakota currently swimming under a 200,000 gallon tar sands oil spill.

So, a lot of dark news today. That said, there was joy in Washington today among House Republicans, when they passed their new tax bill through the House. That very visible and audible elation from Republicans in the House, though, was followed almost immediately by this.

The Senate gets the bill next, because now it`s passed the House. The Senate version of it, officially, with according to the nonpartisan office that studies this stuff in Congress, the Senate version of this bill will give large tax cuts to millionaires while raising taxes on American families earning between -- get this -- $10,000 a year and $75,000 a year. Those are the people whose taxes are going to go up under the Republican bill. Because, you know, if there`s one thing that Americans families making $10,000 a year can really afford to do for their country, it`s to give a little something extra, so American millionaires can get more.

It`s going to raise taxes on people who make $10,000 a year, all the way up through $75,000 a year. And it has the added bonus of throwing 13 million Americans off their health insurance. So, like I said, a very big news day today. Today was like playing pinball in multi-ball mode for way too long, right? It`s kind of exciting in the moment, but there`s too much going on, all at once, to keep a handle on all of it.

And that was -- all of those news stories I just did, what was before we got news from the "Wall Street Journal" tonight that the Robert Mueller special counsel investigation has now subpoenaed more than a dozen officials from the Trump campaign. According to "The Journal" tonight, the subpoena, quote, caught the campaign by surprise. The campaign had previously been voluntarily complying with the special counsel`s request for information, but that apparently was not enough to fend off the subpoena. Now, there is this legally binding demand asking for e-mails and documents from more than a dozen top officials.

This is the first subpoena that we know of to the campaign from the Mueller investigation. That story in "The Journal" tonight also followed news that presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner was told by the Senate that he did not hand over to them what he was supposed to in the investigation of the Russia matter. This letter today from the Senate demanding more documents from Jared Kushner, names, a few different things that we didn`t know about before. Names that Jared Kushner is having been involved in discussions about and with Russians, that we previously didn`t know about.

So, we`ll have more on all of that ahead tonight. As I say, a busy night.

But NBC News tonight has just broken an important piece of news about what appears to be a dramatic and new and probably bad development for the Trump national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Now, overall, the special counsel investigation into the Trump campaign and the Trump administration is about Russia, right? And a lot of Michael Flynn`s role in the scandal does have to do with Russia. He was fired as national security adviser 18 days after the acting attorney general went in person to the White House to warn the White House counsel that Flynn was compromised by Russia, that he was lying about the content of his communications with Russian officials. He was lying in some cases about the existence of those Russian contacts.

Michael Flynn would later come under investigation at the Department of Defense for his financial ties to Russia, including that all-expenses-paid trip to Moscow that he took with his son in December 2015, the trip that led to the most-famous-photo ever of Jill Stein`s left ear.

Michael Flynn is definitely an interesting part of the Russia-specific investigation that ultimately led to the appointment of Robert Mueller, special counsel. But from the beginning, there has also been a whole bunch of Michael Flynn stuff that is about a totally different foreign country. Now, the first we, the public knew about that was on Election Day, of all days, when he published this over-the-top hyperbolic op-ed in "The Hill" newspaper attacking a guy who was a legal permanent resident of the United States who the government of Turkey really hates and blames for everything bad in that country, including last summer`s coup attempt.

Now, that op-ed, honestly, to my mind, would have been seen as bizarre on any day, but it was particularly bizarre on Election Day, when it had a byline from the top national security adviser to one of the candidates in that day`s presidential election. And a lot of people noticed how strange that was and that generated considerable public reporting on Mike Flynn`s apparent business ties, financial ties to the government of Turkey, while he was working on the Trump campaign.

Mike Flynn ultimately decided to retroactively register as a foreign agent, who had been working during the presidential campaign, to advance the interests of Turkey for money.

This past week, we learned that Mueller`s investigators have interviewed a man named Hank Cox, who is some kind of consultant who maybe appears to ghost write things for people, I can`t quite tell. But he`s thought to be involved in the production of that weird Election Day op-ed, that Flynn published in "The Hill" newspaper. Robert Mueller`s investigators have reportedly interviewed that gentlemen about that, so we know that that op- ed, that work Flynn was doing for the government of Turkey in exchange for money during the campaign, we know, at least based on that reporting, that that`s of interest to Robert Mueller and his investigation.

So, there`s the op-ed from Election Day. Then, the next bizarre revelation we got on this subject was in March, when former CIA director, James Woolsey, told "The Wall Street Journal" that, well, six months earlier, during the campaign, September 2016, he says he went to a meeting in New York with a bunch of Turkish government officials and Mike Flynn. And he says one of the things that was discussed at that meeting, much to his chagrin, was a plan to kidnap that same guy in Pennsylvania, who Flynn had written that over-the-top op-ed about on Election Day.

Quote: Woolsey said the idea was a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away.

So, that was -- that was really weird, when that news broke in March, right? I mean, for one thing, why did James Woolsey wait six months to say anything publicly about that, if he knew that`s the sort of thing that top campaign advisers to Donald Trump -- if he knew that`s what they were doing during the campaign, especially when Mike Flynn later got named national security adviser? If he knew that`s the kind of thing he was up to, why did he wait until March to say anything about it? For some reason, Woolsey didn`t mention it publicly until March.

But then, it got even weirder, and more serious, when last week, "The Wall Street Journal" furthered that story in two important ways. Last week, "The Journal" reported that on a second meeting, between Mike Flynn and Turkish officials, also in New York, except this time, it was after the election. It was during the transition, in December. And once again, they reportedly talked about kidnapping Gulen, kidnapping this Turkish cleric who lives in Pennsylvania.

If "The Wall Street Journal`s" reporting on this story is right, though, that means after the initial meeting in September where Woolsey says they talked in general terms about kidnapping this guy, if "The Wall Street Journal" is right about this, that means that Flynn and Turkish officials then met again to talk about it three months later, in December. So they met about it first in December and talked about it in general terms and then met in December and talked about it again. And that time, when they met about it in December, according to "The Wall Street Journal," the plan wasn`t some amorphous general idea, now it was an actual plan with specifics.

Quote, FBI agents have asked at least four individuals about a meeting in mid-December about the 21 Club in New York City where Mike Flynn and representatives of the Turkish government discussed removing Mr. Gulen. The discussions allegedly involved the possibility of transporting Mr. Gulen on a private jet to the Turkish prison island of Imrali.

And not only was this a very specific plan, it was also one with a specific price tag. Quote: Under the alleged proposal, Mr. Flynn and his son were to be paid as much as $15 million for delivering Gulen to the Turkish government.

So, that allegation reported in "The Wall Street Journal" last week. That`s obviously a very serious allegation about Mike Flynn. It`s also potentially a very serious matter for anyone who, say, might be under scrutiny for having maybe obstructed justice when it came to Flynn`s potential prosecution, right? I mean, it`s one thing to obstruct an investigation into somebody for forgetting to fill out forms. It`s another thing to obstruct an investigation into someone plotting a violent felony, right, an international kidnapping and involving a prison island and millions of dollars.

So, that was a very serious allegation that was laid out in "The Wall Street Journal" last week, something reportedly under investigation by the Mueller special counsel investigation.

But now, tonight, the story has just become even more cinematic and more specific in terms of its human intrigue, because NBC News has a scoop on this story tonight. NBC previously reported on November 10th last week that when it came to that December meeting during the transition, the one at the 21 club, where they supposedly discussed the specifics of the kidnap plot with the private jet and the prison island and the $15 million and all of that. NBC news reported last week that Mueller`s investigation was looking into not just whether Flynn was shopping the idea of kidnapping that guy in Pennsylvania and flying him to Turkey, Moore is also, according to NBC News, investigating whether Flynn was shopping another plan as well, a plan to spring a guy who was facing federal charges in New York, but who Turkey desperately wants freed.

Now, the guy who`s facing charges is in federal custody. He`s charged in federal district court in New York. He`s being prosecuted by the U.S. attorney`s office in the southern district of New York. And the charges are related to potential violations of sanctions on Iran.

This Turkish guy, who`s facing these charges, though, he`s very rich, he`s very well-connected, including to the Turkish government, and even to the Turkish president`s direct family, and Turkey really doesn`t want that guy on trial. Turkey has been trying everything they can to get the charges against that guy dropped and to get him freed.

They have attacked the New York judge and the prosecutors in his case. They hired Rudy Giuliani and the George W. Bush era former attorney general, Michael Mukasey, to lobby on this case, basically to try to negotiate between Turkey and the United States, to get the charges dropped against this guy. Turkey has also reportedly raised this guy`s case repeatedly with the U.S. government as a bone of contention between our two nations.

Did Turkey also, in addition to all of that, did they also hatch a plan with Mike Flynn to find some way to use Mike Flynn/Trump campaign magic to try to make the charges go away against this guy?

We absolutely do not know whether that is the case, but NBC News reports that Robert Mueller is investigating whether that kind of deal was attempted or Flynn would somehow get these charges dropped in exchange for the Turkish government paying him a lot of money.

Well, now, here`s the kicker because today, we`ve just learned that the dude in question, the guy who Turkey really, really wants freed, the guy who they really don`t want to go on trial, he`s up on these very serious criminal charges in New York in federal court, we have just learned that that guy has been sprung from jail. His trial is about to start in a few days. He was being held at the MCC, the Metropolitan Correctional Center, which is a federal prison holding facility near the courthouse, where he was going to be tried in New York.

Katie Zavadski at "The Daily Beast" today was first to report that this Turkish guy was secretly sprung from that federal jail last week. Now, tonight, NBC News reports that the reason he has been sprung from jail is because he`s now cooperating with federal prosecutors. Quote: A gold trader who is close to the Turkish president is now cooperating with federal prosecutors in a money laundering case. Legal experts say prosecutors may be seeking information about any ties between the Turkish government and former national security adviser, Mike Flynn.

This guy, Reza Zarrab, is his name. He`s now out of jail, speaking to prosecutors. This is a move President Erdogan had been desperately hoping to avoid. Quote: Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating will whether Erdogan, the Turkish president, offered Flynn upwards of $15 million during the presidential transition in December to use his upcoming position as national security adviser to return his top political rival from the U.S. to Turkey, that`s the guy in Pennsylvania, and also to see that Reza Zarrab`s case was dropped.

So, the Russia investigation still appears to be mostly about Russia. The Mike Flynn part of the Russia investigation appears to be partly about Russia. But it also appears to be partly about this other foreign country.

How unusual is it for prosecutors to spring a guy out of jail, right before he`s about to go on trial? So they can instead flip him for some other case? Does this happen? And we mere mortals just don`t know about it? Is this a normal thing in law enforcement?

And also, in this case, if they have flipped this guy, what does he potentially know?

Joining us now is Tom Winter, NBC News investigative reporter who broke the story tonight.

Tom, thanks very much for being here.

TOM WINTER, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, NBC NEWS: Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: Let me just first ask you if I screwed up any of that in terms of your reporting there?

WINTER: Not a single inch of it.

MADDOW: Wonderful.

WINTER: You`re right on point.

MADDOW: Good.

Let me be clear: we don`t have reason to believe that this is the special counsel, this is Robert Mueller`s investigator who was this guy, right?

WINTER: That`s correct. This case originally was prosecuted by the U.S. attorney`s office for the southern district, their terrorism and international narcotics unit. And he`s wanted for allegedly laundering hundreds of millions of dollars of Iranian money and some of that money flowing through some terrorist panels, going to banks all around the world, China, Russia, numerous U.S. banks were flagged, this type of activity, banks in the Middle East.

So, this was originally had nothing to do to our knowledge, anything having to do with Michael Flynn or anything having to do with Russia specifically. So, this is a case that was handled in New York and is still being prosecuted in New York. And there are some other people that were scheduled to go on trial with him. That`s still, again, all being held here in New York.

There`s no overt indication at this point that Robert Mueller is necessarily involved. Just based on what we`ve seen in the court paperwork.

MADDOW: And the other people he was going to go on trial, they`re still going on trial?

WINTER: They are still going on trial. As a matter of fact, there was a significant hearing held today in that matter and Reza Zarrab was not in court. So, that was yet another signal to folks that, hey, something here is afoot.

MADDOW: And so, these are -- as you described that, I mean, hundreds of millions of dollars, potential terrorist involvement, Iran sanctions obviously being a very serious thing is itself. Obviously, this is a serious case. This is the kind of case -- this is not a piddling item.

I imagine, I don`t know about how these things work. I imagine there has to be some sort of formal agreement, something that`s argued and agreed to, to get somebody taken out of jail, taken out of this trial?

WINTER: Right.

MADDOW: Who negotiates that? Who signs off on that?

WINTER: Well, that`s something between the Department of Justice and his attorneys. He`s got 17 of them, including noted criminal defense attorney here in New York, Ben Brotman. So he`s got a huge legal staff.

And what they would do is they would go to the government and say, hey, we`re about ready to go to trial. This is the time to do it. He is not somebody who you already alluded to, this is not somebody used to spending time in jail. He`s got a young daughter, he`s got a wife, and he just spent 18 months in a Manhattan prison, jail, which I don`t think anybody is used to spending time in. And now, he`s facing significant time, a sentence if he`s convicted at trial.

There`s been discovery that`s been shared, which means he would have had a chance to see some of the evidence that the government is going to present at trial. So he knows and his legal team knows exactly the gauntlet that they`re going to have to walk down in this case. And so this is typically the time where we might see somebody saying, you know what, no mas.

I want to -- I might have some information that you`re interested in, the government, likely already talked to him and said, hey, these are some of the things that would be great if you could help us out with. If he wants to plead guilty, we can do something for him on sentencing where he doesn`t need to spend as much time in jail.

The other thing is, we can get him out of jail now. He`s still in federal custody, but not at MCC in Lower Manhattan.

So, that`s -- those are some of the benefits he has to immediately cooperating. There will be a written agreement. He`s pled not guilty in this case. At some point, we`ll get a notice that there`ll be a change of plea. That will become public.

And he`ll go before the judge and say, your honor, this is what I`ve did, and I`ve agreed to cooperate with the government.

We won`t necessarily know right away what he has agreed to cooperate on, and some things might be sealed and some things we might never know. But to go back to your point, if Michael Flynn was a gardener, if he never existed in the Trump orbit, to have this guy come forward and say, I`ll cooperate with the government, just because of what he knows about Iranian money laundering and potentially those ties to terrorism would be a huge deal.

If he knows anything else about the president of Turkey, Recep Erdogan, if he knows -- and he`s close to that family, if he knows anything else about Michael Flynn`s relationship with the Turkish government, even just how the Turkish government operates, at this point, that could be an advantage to U.S. prosecutors on numerous levels, as well as perhaps to special counsel Robert Mueller.

MADDOW: There are a lot of people who are freaking out about the fact that this guy is no longer in MCC and talking to prosecutors tonight. But as you say, we don`t know yet what he`s saying.

Tom Winter, NBC News investigative reporter -- Tom, thank you. I really appreciate it. Congratulations on this scoop.

WINTER: Thanks.

MADDOW: All right, lots more ahead. Very, very, very, very, very, very busy news night.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: When it comes to alleged very bad behavior and the United States, we knew heading into today that this would be yet another day of the Roy Moore saga. Last night, as we reported, breaking live in our hour, the Alabama Republican Party decided to stand by Roy Moore as their candidate for the Senate in Alabama. Alabama Republicans can`t take him off the ballot at this point. They could decertify him, so he couldn`t win. That would prop the door open for a write-in campaign by a Republican without a long list of women accusing him of sexual misconduct and several cases when they were teenagers.

But instead of decertifying him, leaders of the Alabama Republican Party last night decided to stick with Roy Moore. He continues to deny the allegations of wrongdoing.

Today, Alabama Republicans put out a statement of support for him saying, quote, Alabamians will be the ultimate jury in this election, not the media or those from afar.

That said, according to a poll out today from Fox News, Alabamians now prefer the Democrat in the race, by eight points.

If you believe this Fox News poll from after the accusations began, Roy Moore`s list of nine accusers is now larger than Doug Jones` lead, but only by one.

We also had an inkling this morning that we were in for a second story about alleged bad behavior in the U.S. Senate, when the jury in a federal court in Newark, New Jersey, headed into its fourth straight day of deliberations in the corruption trial of Senator Bob Menendez. They had previously said that they were stuck and it was starting to feel like that jury was going to teeter on the edge of permanently stuck, of not coming to a verdict at all.

Sure enough, midday today, the jury announced that they could not agree on a verdict. No unanimous agreement means no verdict, means a mistrial.

Afterwards, Senator Bob Menendez was happy, pretty happy about that. Glowing. Close to gloating, even, maybe.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: To those who were digging my political grave, so they could jump into my seat, I know who you are. And I won`t forget you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: People standing up there with him are like, he`s kidding, right? Hey, New Jersey! Yes. Is he really going to hunt down his enemies? Is he really threatening that outside a courthouse?

But, you know, it is a little early for the senator to be celebrating this, as if it`s over. A mistrial is not the same as an acquittal. The government can decide to retry you again on the same charges after a mistrial. Just ask Rod Blagojevich, the Democratic Illinois governor celebrated very happily in 2010 after his corruption case ended in a mistrial. And then the government tried him again after that and today, right now, 2017, Rod Blagojevich is still in prison.

But because Bob Menendez and Roy Moore were not enough for one day, today also brought us the bombshell news about liberal Democratic Senator Al Franken. A radio host named Leeann Tweeden said today that Al Franken, before he became a senator, he kissed her and groped her against her will while they were on a USO tour together in 2006.

Last night, on the air, at the end of the show, after that "Washington Post" story came out about Roy Moore, I had to read the quote from the woman who said she was 18 when Roy Moore did almost this exact thing to her. Now tonight, on the air, I have to read a statement that sounds remarkably similar in terms of the alleged behavior, except this time it`s about Al Franken.

It`s -- this is my life now. The woman here is talking about being backstage with Franken as he insisted they rehearse a kiss that he had written into a comedic script for them to perform on their USO tour. Quote: he continued to insist, and I was beginning to get uncomfortable. He repeated that actors really need to rehearse everything and that we must practice the kiss. I said, OK, so he would stop badgering me.

We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth. Leeann Tweeden recounted that incident.

She also included a photo in her account. You have probably seen this picture today. I have to tell you, had the photo not been distributed by the woman who is being mistreated in this photo, I don`t think there`s any circumstances under which I would show it.

But because she is the one who made this publicly available today and she wanted this to be seen, here it is. She is legit asleep in this photo and that is the future senator from Minnesota standing over her with his hands on her flack vest.

So, the response today from Al Franken`s fellow Democrats in the Senate has been unanimous, swift and pitiless and resolute condemnation.

Amy Klobuchar, his fellow Minnesota senator says, quote: This should not have happened to Leeann Tweeden. I strongly condemn this behavior and the Senate Ethics Committee must open an investigation.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, quote: The allegations against Senator Franken are deeply concerning. This kind of behavior is unacceptable and should not be tolerated anywhere in our society. There`s nothing funny about it and there`s no excuse for it.

Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, from the Democratic leadership. Quote: There`s never an excuse for this behavior, ever. What Senator Franken did was wrong. It should refer to the ethics committee for review.

Senator Tammy Duckworth, also of Illinois. Quote: These types of actions are simply unacceptable and should be reviewed by the Ethics Committee. Women across America should be able to feel safe in their workplace.

Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, quote: Sexual harassment is never acceptable and must not be tolerated. I hope and expect that the Ethics Committee will fully investigate this trouble incident as they should with any credible allegation of sexual harassment.

So, these statements went on and on and on today. Democrats lining up to say what Al Franken did was wrong and he should be investigated for it and there`s no excuse for it.

Honestly, the only evolution we saw in response to this story today came from Al Franken himself. His initial response was a short little three- sentence rift saying he didn`t remember the incident, quote, in the same way as the woman who recounted it. He said the photo was something that was clearly intended to be funny but it wasn`t. And he said he was sorry.

We got that short statement shortly before 11:00 a.m. Clearly, that was insufficient. By early afternoon, Senator Franken realized he needed to put out something less dismissive, something more fulsome. And then shortly before 1:00 p.m., we got this new statement from the senator, which was eight paragraphs long. And it ended with the senator asking for an ethics committee investigation into himself.

So, all this news, all happening at once today does raise some interesting, I think, answerable questions. When was the last time a senator asked for an ethics investigation of himself? Has that ever happened before? Does it matter if this is going to be handled by the Ethics Committee investigating Franken, does it matter in terms of the jurisdiction here that the behavior involved happened before Al Franken became a senator?

I remember when David Vitter was the subject of a sex-related scandal and the Ethics Committee said they couldn`t look into it because it was from when he was only in the House, and he wasn`t in the Senate. Will that factor in here given that Franken wasn`t a senator yet?

And what about Menendez? Even if Bob Menendez wins in court, if he`s not retried, or if he gets retried and he`s acquitted, could he still face getting booted out of the Senate now? Now that they`ve restarted their ethics inquiry into him?

And then, of course, there`s candidate Roy Moore. Mitch McConnell has promised that if Roy Moore wins in Alabama next month, Moore will be investigated the second he steps foot on the Senate floor. What would that really look like, what would it take to carry out? Does the same jurisdictional issue apply in terms of you not having been a senator when the alleged behavior happened?

So much bad behavior in such close proximity to the U.S. Senate. It all calls for some real expertise and that`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: -- that should be referred to the Senate Ethics Committee. I think that`s the appropriate way to handle it.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It`s going to be referred to the ethics committee. We`ll see what happens.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: As the vice chair of the Ethics Committee, I cannot comment on any matter that may or may not come before the committee.

REPORTER: Could he be expelled from the Senate, do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the right place to address it is the ethics committee.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: I think it`s an appropriate statement. He`s asking for an investigation on himself. And the Ethics Committee is very, very, very, very competent and very good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Look, bipartisanship! Democrats and Republicans agreeing on something, down to the letter. All it took to bring them together was a lewd photo, some truly breathtaking sexual harassment allegations and an apology by the Democratic senator in question.

Joining us now is the great Steve Kornacki, MSNBC national political correspondent.

Steve, great to have you with us again on this. Really appreciate you being here.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: So I don`t -- I don`t know -- I guess this is knowable. I guess we keep records of these sort of things. Do we know if anybody has ever asked for the Ethics Committee to investigate themselves in the Senate before?

KORNACKI: Yes, I -- you know, I saw you raise that in the last block, off the top of my head, I can`t think of one. That doesn`t mean it hasn`t happened, but I can`t think of it.

This is a -- it`s an unusual move, I think, and there`s -- it also just sort of raises the point here that when it comes to the Ethics Committee and the investigations, that it chooses to launch, there really is no standard, in terms of what triggers it. Sometimes a certain set of political forces align in a way and the Ethics Committee looks into something. Other times, it doesn`t.

I think the most famous example of the Senate not looking into something, you go back to Ted Kennedy, former -- late senator from Massachusetts, the Chappaquiddick accident in 1969 and all the questions about his behavior. Senate Ethics Committee never looked into it.

MADDOW: And I`m thinking about that little bit of tape that we just played from Chris Coons there, vice chair of the Ethics Committee, and he says, as the vice chair of the ethics committee, I cannot comment on any matter that may or may not come before the committee.

If the Ethics Committee is going to take the unanimous bipartisan advice from everybody who talked about it in the Senate today and they are going to investigate Franken on this, should we expect a statement of confirmation from them about that? Will any part of the process be public? Will we know for sure if and when they`re doing that?

KORNACKI: Yes, we will know if they do it.

MADDOW: OK.

KORNACKI: In terms of what is actually transpiring beyond that timetable, anything like that, that`s usually, you know, pretty well guarded. But we will know that they are doing it if they do choose to go down that road.

MADDOW: OK. And Steve, I`m remembering the David Vitter scandal. There were allegations about him and prostitution and there was a lot of political heat around that. The allegations were from the time that he was in the U.S. House before he went to the Senate and the Senate Ethics Committee at the time, if I remember correctly, I think, they said that they were not going to open an investigation into Vitter, because the alleged behavior happened yes, while he was in Congress, but not while he was in the Senate.

Is that a hard and fast jurisdictional, like, you know, red letter decision -- I guess, black letter decision, or is that an arguable thing in terms of jurisdiction for the Ethics Committee?

KORNACKI: I think it falls into the category of arguable. Again, I think it gets to the point where you have a body called the Senate Ethics Committee, and I think when we all hear that term, we instinctively assume there are a series of hard and fast time-honored, tested principles, rules, standards that a company, how it conducts itself, the sorts of cases it looks at. And really, there aren`t.

And I think it`s a situation where, look, if the Senate -- the Senate chose, for instance, in this case, if they did, to look into Franken and conduct before he was elected to the U.S. Senate, or for that matter, if Roy Moore were to get elected and Republicans were to convene the Ethics Committee, as Mitch McConnell has suggested they might and they were to look into his conduct years ago before he was elected, I think that`s something that would have to be tested in the courts, if a Roy Moore or if an Al Franken or if any senator whose behavior came under the microscope like that wanted to test it in the courts.

I don`t think that`s something that`s been established. I think to the extent you have some sort of guidance in the past. I think the most famous example, the most famous case was Adam Clayton Powell, member of the House back in the 1960s. And this was the House that was refusing to seat him and basically the guidance that came from the courts at that point was, well, you have to seat him and then it`s up to you if you want to expel him.

But, again, the guidance that came there at the time, too, suggested that the expulsion would have to involve conduct while he was in office. But it`s never been tested certainly on the Senate side that I know of.

MADDOW: Steve Kornacki, MSNBC`s political correspondent, you never know when your arcane base of knowledge on this stuff is going to become very important for multiple stories in one 24-hour news cycle. Steve, we`re lucky to have you. Thanks for being here, my friend.

KORNACKI: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right. Another part of our federal government, another Senate committee made some very, very surprising news today concerning the president`s son-in-law. And that`s next.

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MADDOW: A few days ago, Julia Ioffe at "The Atlantic" magazine had a bombshell report that during the presidential campaign last year, Donald Trump`s eldest son, Don Jr., he exchanged direct messages on Twitter with WikiLeaks. Donald Trump Jr. released some of the messages himself, shortly after that "Atlantic" piece dropped, including the one where WikiLeaks tells him there`s a specific link that should be used while promoting WikiLeaks` stolen Democratic documents.

Two days after getting that advice from WikiLeaks about how to most efficiently promote their stolen documents, Donald Jr., in fact, tweeted that exact link to his followers, which means, it`s now settled at a granular level that the Trump campaign or at least the Trump family did provide direct assistance to the Russian intelligence operation that used WikiLeaks to distribute stolen Democratic documents during our election.

So, just in case we`re keeping track of that old chestnut, that`s now not just proven, but agreed to. Julia Ioffe also reported on the same day, Donald Jr. got his first message from WikiLeaks. He told everybody else on the campaign that he was now in contact with WikiLeaks. He told Steve Bannon, he told Kellyanne Conway, he told Brad Parscale, he told Jared Kushner, Jared Kushner then told Hope Hicks.

We don`t know exactly how "The Atlantic" got ahold of those messages, but we know that Don Jr. has turned over documents to the Senate Judiciary Committee, as have others, including Paul Manafort and the campaign itself.

Last month, the committee asked Jared Kushner to turn over documents as well, and apparently he did turn over some, but today in a letter to Jared`s lawyer, the Judiciary Committee said there`s a problem. And they broke some news while explaining this problem. The committee`s lawyer told -- excuse me, the committee told Jared Kushner`s lawyer, quote, you produced documents to the committee, but the production appears to have been incomplete.

There are several documents that are known to exist, but were not included in your production. For example, other parties have produced September 2016 e-mail communications to Mr. Kushner concerning WikiLeaks, which Mr. Kushner then forwarded to then another campaign official - Hope Hicks. Such documents should have been produced to us, but they were not.

In other words, hey, Jared, you said you gave us all the relevant Russia e- mails and messages, but over here in Don Jr.`s pile, there are these other e-mails to you and from you about Russia stuff. What gives?

But that`s not all. That correspondence about WikiLeaks that the committee says that Jared Kushner left out, we know what that is, or at least we think we do because of that reporting at Julia Ioffe, but the Judiciary Committee also describe something else in this letter to Kushner`s . It`s correspondence that we didn`t previously know about before today. It`s stuff we`ve never heard about, at least as far as I can tell.

Quote: Other parties have also produced documents including a Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite, which many Kushner also forwarded. Russian back door overture and dinner invite, you say?

The letter continues, quote, and still other parties have produced communications with Sergey Millian, copied to Mr. Kushner. Sergey Millian who runs kind of a fake Russian-American business group, widely reported to be one of the key sources for the Christopher Steele dossier, the report by the former British intelligence officer about connections between Trump and Russia.

Sergey Millian has claimed to be a big player in Trump`s circles. But Trump`s advisers have sworn up and down, this guy had nothing to do with Donald Trump. But, today we learned that somebody in the campaign was corresponding with him during the campaign and copying Jared Kushner. And then Jared Kushner didn`t hand that over when he was asked.

Kushner`s lawyer Abbe Lowell, who`s also representing Bob Menendez, busy day today, Abbe? Says in a statement today that he and his client have produced all relevant documents, but they say they are happy to respond to additional requests from the committee, senators are giving him until the 27th of this month to hand over the missing materials and anything else they might be holding back, including a gazillion categories of information related to Michael Flynn.

In the meantime, though, the committee sent the letter, which is a public document, alerting Jared Kushner but all the rest of us that they`ve got communications involving Kushner and a Russian backdoor overture during the campaign, also correspondence with a guy who reportedly provided juicy information for the Steele dossier.

Why are they telling us all of this? Why did they do this in a public letter? And is there more stuff Jared Kushner didn`t turn over that they know they ought to be able to get? You know, Senate Judiciary Committee, if you`re trying to get our attention, you`re being a little obvious about it.

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MADDOW: -- week of the federal response to hurricane Maria, which has left 3.4 million American citizens living in more or less Stone Age conditions in Puerto Rico. Tonight, 57 percent of the island is in pitch darkness. And that`s an improvement. Last night, three quarters of the island was in the dark after a major power line went down.

And you know what? You can get specific about this because we know that that same power line went down last week, too. When it happened last week, that left 82 percent of the island in the dark. After that power line went down last week, 82 percent of the island in the dark, they clawed their way back and then, boom, same one went down again. Twice in one week.

That particular power line that`s so key to the power on the island, that one that keeps going down, twice in a week, throwing hundreds of thousands if not millions of Americans into darkness every time it happens, that particular power line was one repaired by Whitefish Energy, the Montana Company that won a $300 million no-bid contract to repair Puerto Rico`s power grid, despite the fact they appear to have two full-time employees.

Whitefish`s contract was cancelled amid a national scandal over that contract on October 29th. But we found out after they were fired that their contract contains a clause requiring 30 days notice before termination which means the government is still paying them now. The government will continue to pay Whitefish until the end of the month.

So, their work has still resulting in people continuing to lose power even now. They`re still being paid and thanks to newly released records unearthed by a congressional investigation we know that whitefish energy charged Puerto Rico more than double the regular wages for utility crew line workers and higher than normal daily meal rates. So, worked out great for them.

The federal response to hurricane Maria has been historic in the ineptitude. Conditions in Puerto Rico, forgive me, are a national disgrace. But what was a botched recovery effort is starting to give way to no recovery effort. I`ll stay on it.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: All right. I`m about to be deliberately mysterious. And I`m not doing it for effect and not doing it for nothing. I just am not -- I can`t explain it yet.

So I have to tell you to trust me even though I can`t show my work, I can`t explain it yet, but trust me on this.

Tomorrow night, MSNBC is going to have a scoop. Specifically NBC`s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel is going to have a scoop. I really truly cannot tell you what it`s about, I can only tell you that it`s an important story, and that it`s brand new and you haven`t heard anything like it before, and it`s tomorrow.

And so, I wanted to make myself the first person to tell you absolutely nothing about it except the fact that it`s going to happen and you should trust me about that. So there. That`s as far out on a limb as I`m willing to go.

That does it for us tonight.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD". Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight.

END

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