Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: November 20, 2017 Guest: Paul Rosenzweig, Shannon Pettypiece
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: That is "ALL IN" for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: You know, you get what you paid for in terms of your political consulting. You`re getting it for free on TV.
HAYES: That`s exactly right. Yes. Not what you want to lead with on the yard signs in America.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You watch Rachel Maddow. I watch Rachel Maddow. Vote for me.
HAYES: Defends on the district.
MADDOW: Yes, that`s worked for absolutely everyone who`s ever around on that one.
MADDOW: Thanks, my friend.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Wow. So, this has been an incredible and fast-moving day of news. I sort of think like the news gods are looking ahead and thinking all right, Thursday`s a holiday, for Thanksgiving, we`d better get moving because we`ve got a lot to cram into what looks on the calendar like a week, but it`s going to have to go fast. I mean, just in terms of me and my staff putting this show together, what we thought was going to be on the show at the start of the workday today has changed 100 percent over the course of today, over the course of this day and afternoon and evening where big news just keeps breaking.
So, let`s start at the top, which tonight feels like starting at the bottom of the barrel. "The Washington Post" has just published a long stomach churning expose describing eight different women making allegations of sexual misconduct against long-time PBS and CBS News anchor Charlie Rose. Charlie Rose is accused by more than a half dozen women that worked for him in various capacities of unwanted sexual advances and groping and lewd calls and frequently figuring out ways to take off all his clothes around a series of his female subordinates, once he found ways to get them alone, even though they thought it was a work environment.
Charlie Rose hosts his own long-running TV show on PBS and on Bloomberg TV. That has now been suspended. He`s also a high-profile co-host of the daily morning show "CBS This Morning." He`s also a contributing correspondent for "60 Minutes." CBS has now suspended him from both of those programs as well.
So, again, that news breaking today in the "Washington Post" and that news about Charlie Rose comes immediately on the heels of news from "The New York Times" that they have suspended their high-profile White House reporter Glenn Thrush after Vox.com this morning published a number of sexual harassment claims against Glenn Thrush. Most of the claims made against thrush are from his time as a reporter at politico.com, not from his time at "The New York Times." But he now works at "The New York Times" and that`s who suspended him today.
And that brought us to the news that broke this evening in "Reuters", about 21st Century Fox. "Reuters" was first to report tonight that 21st Century Fox, which is the parent company of the Fox News Channel, they have, quote, reached a $90 million settlement of shareholder claims arising from the sexual harassment scandal at Fox News.
Fox, of course, has previously been known to have paid tens of millions of dollars to a large number of women who have made sexual harassment claims about the work environment and workplace behavior by specific personalities and executives at Fox. But according to "Reuters" tonight, the settlement that was arrived at today, will result in an additional $90 million being paid out, this time to shareholders of the company. The $90 million will reportedly come from insurers of Fox officers, Fox directors and Roger Ailes` estate.
But again, if this settlement is approved by a judge overseeing this matter, this will be another $90 million paid out in Fox News sexual harassment claims.
And those are just the media sexual harassment and sexual abuse claims for the day. Now for the politics ones. Today was the day a second woman came forward to say she was touched inappropriately by Senator Al Franken. This alleged incident took place at the Minnesota state fair in 2010. That would be when Al Franken was a United States senator and that would mean if Franken`s case is ever taken up by the Senate Ethics Committee, the jurisdictional question of whether or not any of the alleged behavior happened while he was a senator, well, that would be different for this alleged case from 2010 as compared to the one we learned about last week which was from before he was a senator.
And then there`s the case of Roy Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate who`s remaining in that Senate race despite the National Republican Party and almost every sitting Republican senator calling on him to drop out following multiple allegations of him making different kinds of sexual advances on teenagers when he was in his 30s. We`ll have more on that story coming up later in the show tonight. But you should know that this weekend, the largest papers in the state of Alabama made news by forcefully and unequivocally and aggressively endorsing Roy Moore`s Democratic challenger for that Senate seat, Doug Jones.
In Washington today, the big news is the Trump administration decided to declare that North Korea is a state sponsor of terrorism. Now, the U.S. flipped back and forth on this designation for North Korea over the years. There is no sign that today`s announcement from the Trump administration is based on any new information about North Korea. So, this appears to have not necessarily been driven by events. It appears to be a strategic decision of some kind by the Trump administration.
As to whether or not this is a good strategic decision, don`t know. It is hard to anticipate how a declaration like this one today might affect the ongoing insult go-round that our president has adopted as his strategy toward the North Korean leader on a personal level.
Then, late tonight, came this headline from NBC News. The president is closing his controversial self-named charitable foundation. The Trump Foundation is closing.
Now, reporting on the dubious financial practices of the Trump Foundation last year earned "Washington Post" reporter David Fahrenthold a Pulitzer Prize. That`s how we learned, for example, that Trump himself had not donated any money to his own charitable foundation since at least 2008. Since that round of reporting sparked by the president`s campaign last year, since that round of reporting began, the Trump foundation has admitted formally to self-dealing, meaning it disburse what`d were supposed to be charitable funds to benefit Trumps rather than for any charitable purpose.
The foundation has also come under intense legal scrutiny from the attorney general`s office in the state of New York where the foundation is incorporated. And that leads to a really interesting detail to watch in this story. As Ken Dilanian notes at NBCNews.com tonight, even though president Trump may wish to now close his charitable foundation, and indeed he may have started the process of dissolving it, legally, he might not be able to close it, while the foundation is under legal scrutiny by the attorney general. You cannot evade legal scrutiny by ceasing to exist as an organization.
On the Russia investigation, "The Washington Post" had a long somewhat ominous report on what it`s like to work in the White House right now under the specter of Robert Mueller`s special counsel investigation. According to the report in "The Post" today, witnesses questioned by Mueller`s team warned that investigators are asking them about foreign contacts and meetings that have not yet become public. Which means, quote, expect a series of new public revelations.
Recent revelations over the past few days have not been great for current senior White House staff, particularly White House senior advisor Jared Kushner. Over the weekend, we learned Jared Kushner reportedly told two congressional committees under oath that he was unaware of any contacts between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks. Those congressional committees we now know have proof, they have documented evidence that Jared Kushner was not only notified during the campaign, that the campaign was in touch with WikiLeaks, he went further than just receiving information by e-mail, he turned that information around and forwarded it himself to another member of the campaign staff, which is going to make it hard for him to explain why he denied any knowledge of that under oath.
In addition, Jared Kushner appears to have omitted any mention to investigators of yet another overture to the Trump campaign by another Russian -- in this case another Russian banker. Jared Kushner reportedly received and responded to an overture from an official at the Bank of Russia who`s linked to Vladimir Putin and who`s been accused of having ties to Russian organized crime.
With this latest set of reports Jared Kushner, I`m not exaggerating here, Jared Kushner appears to have had more contact with more different Russians during the campaign and the transition than any other senior member of the Trump campaign that we yet know about. Jared Kushner has also been 100 percent unforthcoming about those contacts, at least in the first instance. And he continues to serve at the highest levels in the White House. And that would seem to be an untenable situation in the long run.
But it remains to be seen what Robert Mueller`s inquiry and the congressional investigations are going to do with this continually evolving not good information about Kushner and how honest he`s being and what kinds of contacts he had with Russia while Russia was attacking the election to try to benefit Trump. So, eyes on Jared Kushner now.
We`re also right now waiting for the White House communications director Hope Hicks to have her scheduled interview with Robert Mueller`s investigators.
Now, we`re told that the Hope Hicks interview may happen as soon as this week. Crucial question, it`s also not clear whether Hicks will be called to testify to the grand jury, in addition to speaking with Mueller`s prosecutors in an interview setting.
So, again, we don`t know exactly when the Hope Hicks interview and/or testimony is going to be but we expect it should be any day now if it hasn`t happened already.
So like I said, busy day. All of that is going on in the news right now. That`s the kind of news cycle we`re in right now.
And on top of all that, Charles Manson died -- news at which the world does not weep.
In August 1970, Charles Manson was on trial, along with two of his accomplices for multiple murders when the man who was president at the time threw that Charles Manson trial into chaos. The president totally messed it up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT: I noted for example the coverage of the Charles Manson case when I was in Los Angeles. Front page every day in the papers that usually got a couple minutes on the evening news. Here is a man who is guilty, directly or indirectly, of eight murders without reason.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On his way back to Washington from San Clemente today, President Nixon stopped in Denver to talk to a meeting of law enforcement officials and then he called a news conference and then the president made the flat statement that Charles Manson, who is on trial for his life in Los Angeles, is guilty, directly or indirectly, of eight murders. A few minutes later, his press secretary called back and said he was retracting the president`s statement because he had failed in referring to Manson, failed to use the word "alleged." But by then the trial in Los Angeles had been thrown into a small uproar.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Had been thrown into a small uproar. Charles Manson, of course, proved to be profoundly guilty. But when you`re president, you can`t prejudice the outcome of any ongoing criminal trial by making a statement like that in public. If somebody is on trial, if you`re the president, you can`t say that person`s guilty. I mean, short of a pardon, that`s the best way a president has to set somebody free by, screwing up a prosecution that way.
Still, for whatever reason Nixon said it. The White House spokesman tried to rescind it right after Nixon said it. Nixon had to come out later on after his spokesman tried to take it back and say he didn`t really mean to say what he had said, but he had said it.
This was the cover of the "L.A. Times" the next day. Look at that. That`s how big the headline read. "Manson guilty," comma, "Nixon declares."
Manson`s lawyers held up that headline in court and used it to call for a mistrial. And the judge had to make the call. And ultimately, the judge didn`t allow for a mistrial but he could have. I mean, the jurors were supposed to be sequestered from all news about the Manson case. But once the president proclaims a defendant to be guilty, there are reasonable worries that the president declaring the defendant to be guilty might leak through to the jury. The jurors might unavoidably hear that news or see it in the paper in three-inch headlines.
Presidents are not supposed to influence law enforcement. Presidents are not supposed to have sway over the behavior of the Justice Department when it comes to federal law enforcement. It`s a very, very, very bright line in our democracy. All sorts of stuff to worry about in our government and our country, one of the bright lines to worry about, one of the things actually worth keeping you up at night is the question of whether or not law enforcement is being perverted for political means.
Richard Nixon was a president who didn`t get that. He crossed over that line frequently and easily, and that`s ultimately what led to his resignation as president. The articles of impeachment against Nixon were about obstruction of justice, his interference with law enforcement.
I mean, this is a big thing that presidents can get wrong, it could get you impeached. It could lead to you almost accidentally springing Charles Manson from his murder trial. In Nixon`s case, it got his own attorney general convicted. In Nixon`s case, it resulted in the first time we ever had a criminal conviction of a U.S. attorney general.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIODENTIFIED MALE: For the first time in American history, a former attorney general of the United States, Richard Kleindienst, pleaded guilty today to a crime. Kleindienst admitted to federal Judge George Hart in Washington he had withheld information from the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearings. This information involved a presidential order to Kleindienst to drop antitrust proceedings against ITT.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The former attorney general entered the plea swiftly and un-dramatically. In a written statement, he said he regretted not being more candid. He told a Senate committee there had been no White House interference in the ITT case when in fact there was.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was all that was seen of Kleindienst outside. His car sped away from the courthouse basement.
Kleindienst will be sentenced early next month.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Nixon`s attorney general pled guilty to lying to Congress about something called the ITT case. The ITT case was an antitrust case brought by the Justice Department when Nixon was president and it was a case that Nixon as president corrupted.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
NIXON: And incidentally, Kleindienst has the ITT thing settled. He cut a deal with ITT. Now, this is very, very hush-hush and it has to be engineered very delicately. And it will take six months to do properly. But --
HALDEMAN: Does ITT have any money?
HALDEMAN: Geneen, yes.
NIXON: Oh God, yes. Does he ever. That`s part of this ball game. But it should be later.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Does he have money? Oh yes does he ever. Oh, God yes. That`s part of the ball game. But it should be later.
That`s Nixon on the Oval Office tapes in 1971 talking about the corrupt deal he cut with ITT and how the money part of it should be settled later because this all has to be very hush-hush. Not very subtle on the Oval Office tapes, right?
What that was about is this company ITT wanted to merge with some other companies. Justice Department sued them on antitrust grounds. They said, no, you can`t merge with the other companies. You can`t buy those other companies.
And then Nixon quite bluntly arranged for that suit by the Justice Department to be dropped, to be settled, in exchange for ITT giving the Republican Party a whole bunch of money.
The ITT scandal was basically an adjunct to the whole Watergate scandal. It was a whole tangent in the prosecutor`s office where they went after just the ITT scandal. They got the attorney general`s scalp to show for it. It was plainly criminal interference by the president, by the White House, in the law enforcement functions of the Justice Department.
Even if there hadn`t been any money, even if there hadn`t been a bribery component of it, it still would have been illegal influence by the president to have done what he did in that case. More than anything what made Nixon Nixonian, more than anything what resulted in the Watergate catastrophe and the resignation of that president, more than anything what led to that was Nixon not being able to keep his paws off the Justice Department, off of law enforcement.
He treated law enforcement as his own and because that is a violation of the law and because that is a violation of our American norms, because that is widely viewed as the lesson of what went wrong in the Nixon presidency, since Nixon resigned we did not see a president proudly exert overt political pressure on the Justice Department and its law enforcement decisions. We didn`t see that for more than a generation.
We are very obviously seeing that now. President Trump has proudly publicly pressured the Justice Department to prosecute his political opponent from the last election, Hillary Clinton. He has proudly publicly pressured the Attorney General Jeff Sessions to try to get him to reverse his recusal on the Russia investigation.
The president has taken personal meetings with candidates for federal prosecutor jobs in high-profile jurisdictions where he personally has business or other interests. And now in this nutso news cycle we`re having today there are two new reports, one very high-profile, one lower profile, about President Trump reportedly exerting or at least appearing to exert improper influence on the decisions of the Justice Department when it comes to something quite important.
The lower profile incident was reported last night at the "Washington Post" by national security reporter Devlin Barrett. Quote, Justice Department officials are preparing to announce several cases involving Iranian suspects in the coming months.
Now, that`s the lead. It`s kind of a weird lead. Right? Why would we know in advance there are going to be announcements about specific kinds of suspects being charged with crimes? Why would you know that in advance?
To get to the why, you have to read into the sub-lead which is really the important part of this story. Quote: Last month, national security prosecutors at the Justice Department were told to look at any ongoing investigations involving Iran or Iranian nationals with an eye toward making them public.
Quote: The push to announce Iran-related cases has caused internal alarm at the Justice Department with law enforcement officials fearing they`ve been directed to publicize these specific cases, quote, because the Trump administration would like Congress to impose new sanctions on Iran.
Quote: Federal law enforcement officials have voiced concerns that announcing the cases rather than keeping them under seal could imperil ongoing investigative work or make it harder to catch suspects who might travel out of Iran.
So, if this reporting is accurate, yes, you can look at this through the lens of what`s going on with Iran. But look at this through the lens of our democracy here for a second. The Trump administration is reportedly pushing the national security prosecutors at the Justice Department to unseal specific cases they are working on for political effect, even though it might negatively affect the ability to prosecute those cases. This is like a huge red flag in terms of the independence of the Justice Department and of federal law enforcement.
So, that I think ended up being a lower-profile story in part because it broke on Sunday night. But then there is tonight`s bombshell financial page reporting that for the first time in decades, the Justice Department will be filing an antitrust lawsuit against AT&T, to try to block its acquisition of Time Warner. Now, however you feel about that proposed merger, if you feel anything about it at all, this president declared once this proposed merger was announced that if he became president, he would make sure it never happened. That`s not your decision as president.
On November 8th, "The New York Times" reported that the Justice Department under President Trump had told Time Warner that they`d have to spin off and get rid of CNN if they wanted this big multibillion-dollar merger with AT&T to go forward.
I mean, with any other president, it would be weird to consider the president`s personal antipathy toward a media outlet like CNN as a factor in whether or not the Justice Department of the United States was going to court to block a merger like this. But the Justice Department hasn`t tried to block a merger like this in decades, and with this president, he hasn`t just hinted at that as a motivation for the actions of his administration, he`s openly threatened that`s what he will do amid a cascade of behavior and public comments by the president that make clear that he sees the Justice Department and the power of law enforcement as his personal political arsenal. Unprecedented since Nixon. If only because everybody is supposed to know that`s what brought Nixon down.
And in the midst of that, there is something else that has just broken in the news, which is also about the Justice Department which I will confess to absolutely not understanding. With that backdrop of what`s going on between the White House and the Justice Department, there is also this report that is about the Mueller investigation, new reporting that in the Russia investigation essentially, the Justice Department has just subpoenaed itself.
I don`t get it, either. That I need explained, and that one`s next.
MADDOW: It`s a little hard to believe at this stage of the big sprawling complicated Trump Russia investigation which has already resulted in a guilty plea and two felony indictments, but we have news tonight of what we think is a first. It`s not only a first for me from the Russia investigation. For me, this is a first-first. Never heard anything like this before.
Special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed by the second in command at the Justice Department by the deputy attorney general. He reports to the deputy attorney general. He could conceivably be fired by the deputy attorney general.
And that arrangement between Mueller and the Justice Department makes this a potentially awkward piece of news. Citing a source who has not seen the request but was told about it, ABC News now reports the special counsel Robert Mueller has just demanded that the Justice Department itself should hand over a bunch of documents that pertain to Mueller`s investigation.
Now, NBC News has not confirmed this reporting. But ABC News is reporting that sometime in the last month or so, the special counsel demanded documents from the Justice Department. The special counsel is reportedly particularly interested in e-mails relating to the president firing FBI Director James Comey and before that, Attorney General Jeff Sessions` decision to recuse himself from things related to Russia or the 2016 campaign.
Quote: The directive marks the special counsel`s first records request to the Justice Department, and it now means that Mueller is demanding documents from the department overseeing his investigation.
And I mean, you know, carry the three, right? Put these things together. I think this means that the Justice Department by way of special counsel Robert Mueller has just subpoenaed itself in the Russia investigation, which would be awkward under the best of circumstances.
But for me, this is new. This is kind of what it`s like now. New and awkward things every day, at least for this go-around in the investigation of a president and his administration.
Joining us now is Paul Rosenzweig. He was a senior counsel on the Ken Starr investigation during the Clinton investigation. He`s currently a senior fellow at the R Street institute which is a new think tank in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Rosenzweig, I really appreciate your time tonight. Thank you for being here.
PAUL ROSENZWEIG, SENIOR COUNSEL ON THE KEN STARR INVESTIGATION: Thank you very much for having me.
MADDOW: So, I am not an expert in these matters. I`m just an agog lay observer of these sorts of things. The Justice Department demanding documents from itself to me feels strange. It feels like something I haven`t seen before.
Is this an unusual move?
ROSENZWEIG: Well, it`s both unusual and not. I mean, the not portion is of course, Mueller is going to want to get all of the documentary evidence relating to anything he`s investigating and in this instance the issue at hand is potential obstruction of justice charges relating to the dismissal of Director Comey. So, naturally, he`s going to want the documents.
What makes this odd is that even though de facto he is independent of the Department of Justice, he is, as you pointed out, de jure under law a part of the department. So, this is like a subordinate demanding documents from his superior officer. It`s one of the reasons why we have an independent counsel law, to take that oddity out and put the independent counsel formally in the judicial branch.
Now, that that`s gone away, we`re left with this kind of unusual circumstance. And it`s going to be an interesting story to see how it plays out going forward.
MADDOW: This would be unusual and would have that almost backwards dynamic you`re describing even if the deputy attorney general was not himself directly personally a player in the obstruction of justice matter that is being investigated here. Rod Rosenstein of course played a key role in at least the public explanation of what happen in the firing of James Comey.
Is it possible that Robert Mueller in investigating that matter and requiring documents from the Justice Department around that matter, that Robert Mueller would have seen it as inappropriate to bring that to Rod Rosenstein himself? Rosenstein as a potential witness in that matter himself. Is there anybody else he would go to or does he have to take it to Rosenstein himself?
ROSENZWEIG: Well, I imagine the document request was sent over to whoever is their liaison. One thing I`m not sure about from the reporting is whether it was actually a subpoena or just a letter demand that doesn`t have the force of law. But to the extent that the deputy attorney general is a witness in this case and you`re right to say that this aspect of the case does suggest that he might be, then the natural order of things, oversight would fall to the associate attorney general, a woman named Rachel Brand, who would then be responsible for managing the department`s response to Mr. Mueller`s request at least in a formal way.
MADDOW: Do we have -- as the public, do we have any right to information about these processes?
I noted that NBC News has not confirmed this report. This is an ABC News report that we`re basing these discussions on. I know a little bit about what parts of the government are subject, for example, to FOIA requests. And we`ve seen -- in the Manafort and Gates indictments, we`ve seen essentially a gag order from the court in terms of barring people involved in those proceedings from talking to the press or anybody outside the court from talking about those things.
When it comes to matters of recusal, document requests, things like this being handled in the Justice Department, do we have any right to know?
ROSENZWEIG: In general, the answer is no. In general, criminal investigations are exempt from FOIA requests. Grand jury investigations in particular are subject to a very stringent rule of grand jury secrecy. Rule 6-E of federal rules of criminal procedure. The violation of which is actually a crime.
That having been said, the confidentiality obligations are on Mr. Mueller and his team. There is nothing that says the recipient of a document request like the Department of Justice could not voluntarily disclose it if it wanted to. I don`t imagine that the department wants to very much.
MADDOW: No, but that gives me a whole good idea for how to spend my afternoon tomorrow trying to figure this out.
Paul Rosenzweig, former senior counsel on the Ken Starr investigation, currently a senior fellow at the R Street Institute -- Mr. Rosenzweig, first time you`ve been on the show tonight. I really appreciate your time. I hope you`ll come back.
ROSENZWEIG: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Thank you. I appreciate it.
All right. When you work for a president who counts himself among the very, very capital v, very rich and you yourself are more in the category of just going along OK, you might want a little help paying the lawyers you need on account of your very rich president boss. It would be only human of you to want a little help. And tonight, that dynamic between and you your very rich boss, that would be big news. That`s coming up.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: (AUDIO GAP) news tonight is word that the Trump administration, their appointee who`s head of the Federal Communications Commission, is due to announce tomorrow the Trump administration`s plan to kill what`s called net neutrality. This was first reported by politico.com tonight. Net neutrality is now one of those Washington phrases that makes a lot of people`s eyes glaze over.
But if this happens, not only is this going to be a huge political deal. This is something that is going to change your life if it goes through. The net neutrality rule was put in place by the Obama administration meaning big Internet providers can`t pick which traffic goes fast and which traffic goes slow online. That makes the Internet more or less a level playing field in terms of what content you want to access and how you want to receive it.
Under the changes the Trump administration is going to propose tomorrow, though, Internet companies can pick and choose which stuff you get in a hurry and which stuff you have time, you know, to fold the laundry and run around the block before it gets to you. In a sense, they get to shape what the Internet is for money.
The proposal comes up for a vote formally next month but given the Republican majority on the FCC, it`s expected to pass. FCC commissioner`s going to roll out this plan tomorrow, in my opinion or in terms of the way I guess I look at this story and how I followed it over the years, they`re going to roll out this announcement tomorrow, I think you will probably be able to expect pretty significant protests to start at least by the time of the rollout but more likely they will probably start before. This is a big deal and this is going to become a very big political deal for people fighting this administration. Watch.
MADDOW: There are a lot of current and former Trump administration and Trump campaign staffers who are staring down the barrel of really big legal bills. And all of them have been on the hook for their own legal fees up to and including the vice president of the United States, Mike Pence.
But not the Trump family. President Trump and his eldest son, they have been having their legal fees paid for by the Republican National Committee and by the Trump reelection campaign. The Republican Party, the RNC, for example, spent $167,000 on Donald Jr.`s lawyer in September alone, which is awkward and would seem to be counter-strategic for somebody whose current and former staffers are talking to federal investigators right now.
I mean, somebody like former White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, he was head of the RNC for, what six years? He doesn`t get his legal bills paid for by the RNC, but Donald Jr. does? Who decided that?
Honestly, was there a formal decision made at the RNC? No, we`re not going to use donors` money to pay for normal staffers or even any of our former employees, but we will pay for the billionaire president`s grown son and the billionaire president himself him but nobody else, right? This has always been such a weird and unexplained arrangement.
Well, on Friday, it started to change. Shannon Pettypiece at "Bloomberg News" reported that President Trump would start paying his own legal fees. And he would maybe start paying for the legal fees of current and former White House staffers, or maybe he`d set up some mechanism by which other people could pay for the legal bills of those staffers maybe. That was Friday.
Well, now tonight, Shannon Pettypiece reports that the Trump campaign, the campaign, the Trump re-election campaign, is going to stop paying for Donald Jr.`s legal bills. And that`s not because he`s going to cover them himself or because his dad is going to cover them. Instead, they`re going to be setting up a campaign legal fund to pay the legal fees of campaign staffers and Don Jr., even though technically Don Jr. wasn`t a campaign staffer.
And so, this is clearly changing but I still have lots of questions, right? We have this reporting tonight that the Trump campaign, the campaign, has stopped paying Donald Jr.`s legal fees. What about the RNC, though? What about the Republican Party? Have they also stopped paying Donald Jr.`s legal fees? And who decided to pay them in the first place?
We still don`t have a satisfactory answer as to why the Republican Party was paying the legal bills of the president and his son and no one else. We don`t know why that was set up in the first place nor do we know why it is reportedly stopping now.
White House lawyer Ty Cobb told NBC News that paying his own legal fees, quote, "was always President Trump`s preference. So, why didn`t he? If he really wanted to pay his own legal fees, what, did the RNC body-block him?
I mean, does the president think it was a bad idea for the Republican Party and its donors to be paying for him and his son? If so, why doesn`t he repay them? So many questions.
Joining us is Shannon Pettypiece, White House correspondent for "Bloomberg News".
Ms. Pettypiece, it`s really nice to have you with us tonight. Thank you for being here.
SHANNON PETTYPIECE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Thank you.
MADDOW: This story confounds me. It has confounded me from the very first inkling that we got that members of the administration and the campaign were going to need private legal counsel in these investigations. Without getting into the -- all the back and forth detail that I just ran through in this new reporting, do you understand basically what`s going on in terms of paying for legal fees in this investigation? Is there some method to the madness here?
PETTYPIECE: I understand what`s going on at the moment, but I thought I`ve understood that before, and I have been asking the questions you`ve been asking since the summer really, since this investigation started to heat up, who was going to be paying these legal bills, and asking the campaign, the RNC, asking the individual lawyers. And it was a question that people really couldn`t answer for me for the longest time.
Then, finally, it seemed there was some resolution, that the president would have his bills covered by the RNC and the campaign and the campaign would pick up bills for the staffers. But now, of course, it`s changed again. There has been endless back and forth between the lawyers.
But as it stands right now, they`re looking at setting up at least two legal defense funds. These are common funds that people have set up in the past, one for White House staffers and one for campaign staffers. And the big question out there right now is whether the president will be able to contribute to one or either of these funds. It`s something that`s on the table that they are looking at right now but we don`t have the answer to that yet.
MADDOW: It`s funny this is happening at the same time, like on the same night we`re getting this reporting the president is closing down his charitable foundation. And we know how he handled financing through the charity in order to handle business expenses and settle legal disputes and things like that. I think the idea that the president really wants to contribute to legal fees is hard to square with the fact he`s the only person we know aside from his adult son who`s had legal fees paid for by other people thus far.
I mean, does the -- do we know for sure that the RNC has only been paying for Donald Trump Sr. and Jr.? Is it possible they have been paying for anybody else?
PETTYPIECE: It is because we don`t have the filings yet. I believe the most recent filing we have is from the third quarter. So the next round of filings there could be more in there. But yes, it raised a lot of people`s eyebrows to see those bills from Donald Trump Jr. in there, eyebrows of people who had worked on the campaign.
I`ve been keeping in touch with campaign staffers who are faced with $30,000, $60,000, $100,000 in legal bills themselves, who are liquidating their own kids` college fund, their retirement accounts to pay for these. And yes, when they saw $286,000 I think is the most recent number we had going to Donald Trump Jr. and no one else there were a lot of questions and there were a lot of frustrated campaign staffers.
MADDOW: Is this also becoming a controversy been the Republican Party in terms of how these decisions were made and who`s responsible for these outcomes?
PETTYPIECE: Well, there`s plenty of donors who donated money to the Trump campaign and the RNC and donated that money to help get Republicans elected to office, not to pay for legal fees from the past campaign. One of the reasons the president`s lawyers have said they are now having the president pick up his own legal bills is because they realized they wanted to keep that money in the RNC coffers to help elect Republicans.
And the campaign is a similar situation. The Trump campaign is limited as to how much they can fundraise. They are an official campaign so they can only raise so much from individuals between now and 2020. So they want as much money as they can to actually help with the reelection, not pay what could be millions and millions of dollars in legal bills. They`ve already spent $2 million in legal bills.
MADDOW: Wow. Draining the RNC and the president`s reelection campaign to pay for legal bills not even a year into the administration. This is a remarkable thing.
Shannon, thank you very much for being here. I do feel like I am super glad that this is part of your beat at Bloomberg, and I also feel like eventually, this is going to turn into being -- part of this story I think transfixes the country. It`s confusing right now, but this is going to end up be a really important part of it.
Thank you so much for helping us understand your reporting.
PETTYPIECE: Thank you.
MADDOW: Again, Shannon Pettypiece, White House correspondent for "Bloomberg News".
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: -- we have known was brewing for a while but which now might be both starting to move fast and it may be starting to turn into a big, big deal. Veterans groups are saying they were blindsided when the White House started holding quiet meetings this past week to start the process of radically undermining health care for veterans at the V.A. The White House is reportedly starting talks, quiet talks, to fold veterans` health care into a private health care program that`s run by the Defense Department.
"The Associated Press" reporting that, quote, news of the plan stirred alarm from veterans` groups who said they had not been consulted.
One official from the American Legion telling "The Military Times", quote, we certainly want to be brought into the conversation or at least notified about it.
Trump`s V.A. Secretary David Shulkin is aligning himself now with the conservative groups, many of them funded by the Koch brothers, conservative groups fighting a sort of stealth campaign over the past few years to do away with the V.A. health care system, to privatize it.
From "The Wall Street Journal" today, "The top official at the Department of Veterans Affairs said he wants private sector providers to play a larger role in veterans health. Quote, David Shulkin said in an interview he wants to make the V.A.`s hospital system compete with private sector providers for military veteran customers.
When "The Wall Street Journal" pointed out to the V.A. secretary that what he was saying was very much in line with what the Koch brothers and their conservative donor network have been agitating for for the past few years, Secretary Shulkin responded, quote: Well, if I it is, that`s by coincidence.
Just like maybe it`s a coincidence that veterans` groups watching out for what`s happening with their health care. Veterans` groups have been on alert against privatizing the V.A. I`m sure it`s a coincidence that those groups didn`t see this one coming at all. Must have happened when they blinked.
That the Trump administration is actively considering this plan for veterans is one thing. That veterans themselves have been kept in the dark is a pretty good sign about the character of what they`re trying to do. Privatizing the V.A., we have known they wanted to do this for the last few years. They are actually moving on it now. And they have to keep vets` groups in the dark to do it.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: It`s tempting to keep your eyes on the president here in this clip. But don`t watch him. Watch the cabinet officials around him trying to pretend like they can`t hear anything that`s being said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For the media, to the press, thank you very much. Really appreciate it. Thank you.
REPORTER: Your thoughts on Roy Moore, Mr. President. Do you believe his accusers? Do you believe Roy Moore`s accusers, Mr. President?
TRUMP: Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Thank you. Thank you very much. Cannot hear you. Can`t hear. Can`t understand any of those nouns you said there. Thank you.
Anybody have any coloring I could work on?
Eleven days after "The Washington post" first reported on multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against Senate candidate Roy Moore, the president will still not answer a single question about Mr. Moore. But despite the president himself not talking about it, the White House appears to have settled on its line of choice, which is that the people of Alabama should decide.
Support for Roy Moore among Republicans in D.C. has fallen off a cliff, but his support among Republican officials in Alabama remains strong. The state`s Republican governor who was the lieutenant governor who got the big chair herself because of another sex scandal that forced out the predecessor in Alabama, she`s on board with Roy Moore. Alabama Republican Party is sticking with him. as are many of the state`s elected Republican officials. They`re all steadfast in their support for Roy Moore despite the allegations against him, by at least nine women.
But now, even his support back home appears to be getting its first hairline cracks. The young Republican Federation of Alabama, a group of Alabama Republicans between the ages of 18 and 40 -- yes, 40 is young! -- announced over the weekend that they have suspended their support for Roy Moore.
Latest polls also show some real hesitance among Alabama voters. Two thirds of Alabama voters tend to vote Republican but the last two polls now show Democrat Doug Jones winning that race. And who knows whether polling means anything anymore in America. But that trend line is now suddenly showing the blue line ever so slightly above the red line there.
And that was before three of Alabama`s largest newspapers this weekend ran this shared editorial on their front pages. Not just above the fold but above everything else. "Stand for Democracy." Excuse me. "Stand for decency. Reject Roy Moore."
We don`t know ultimately what effect that will have. Today, the Alabama secretary of state told NBC News he is expecting lower than typical turnout in that special election, as well as a higher than expected number of write-in votes.
The secretary said he lowered the initial turnout projection as high as 25 percent to the 18 percent to 20 percent range predicting nearly 250,000 fewer ballots will be cast than might have previously been expected. Again, how this affects the vote on December 12th is anybody`s guess. But things do seem to be changing not just in the country but in Alabama on this one.
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.
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