Matt Lauer fired by NBC News Transcript 11/29/17 The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Eric Mouthaan

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: November 29, 2017 Guest: Eric Mouthaan

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

NBC News fired Matt Lauer, the longtime host of the "Today Show", today after NBC says a credibility allegation of sexual harassment was brought to the attention of the company on Monday night this week. Matt Lauer was fired overnight last night.

Then, this afternoon "Variety" magazine and "The New York Times" published details of other allegations of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct on the job by Matt Lauer. The instance described by "The Times" and "Variety" appeared to be different than the allegation that was brought to NBC News on Monday night. That led to Mr. Lauer`s firing.

Now, NBC News is obviously our parent organization here at MSNBC. As you might imagine, this news has gone off like a proverbial bob inside this building. I don`t have any access to special insider information about the story because I work here. I sort of wish I did.

But we have spent a considerable portion of today trying to report out the details of this story, how it was handled, how big of a scandal this is. We`ve been working on that today since this news broke this morning and we`ll have our version of this story coming up in just a moment.

Along with NBC News reporter Stephanie Gosk, who is aggressively reporting this story for NBC News -- again, with all of the awkwardness that comes from the fact that this is an NBC News story. Again, it is weird to report on a story that is directly about an organization that you are a part of, but when these things come up, that`s what you`ve got to do. So, we`ve got that story ahead.

Our colleagues across town at CNN had to deal with their own iteration of this story today. A senior producer on Jake Tapper`s show was fired from CNN today for, quote, behavior attributed to the producer that does not align with the standards and values of CNN.

Leaping from the news media to Congress, but staying on the same story, one of the founders of the Congressional Black Caucus, until recently the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, period, John Conyers today faced renewed and wider calls for his resignation as allegations from former Conyers staffers continue to pile up.

NBC`s Channel 4 in Detroit was first to report tonight that John Conyers` plan is not to resign from Congress but to announce after the holidays, after Christmas, to announce in January that he will not stand for re- election next year. That`s the plan as of today, according to Channel 4 NBC`s affiliate in Detroit.

Now, the Michigan Democratic Party has not yet weighed in on John Conyers. And the amount of pressure on him from his colleagues in Washington appears even today to be in flux, as several of his Democratic congressional colleagues have now called for his resignation explicitly. And as the number of Conyers` accusers has risen to four.

Now, in the House of Representatives today, Congress did vote to require annual anti-harassment training for members of Congress and their staff, which really does seem like the least they could do. It will perhaps not surprise you to learn that they decided to take that teeny, teeny, teeny, tiny baby step forward today in the bravest way possible. They decided to just say today that that vote was unanimous. They took it as a voice vote, which means in practical terms that nobody ever actually had to go on record one way or the other agreeing that, yes, maybe it`s time for Congress to join the 1970s and require sexual harassment training once a year for members of Congress and their staff.

Tomorrow in the House, Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be testifying behind closed doors to the Intelligence Committee. In addition to Attorney General Sessions appearing under oath for that committee tomorrow, it`s also been reported but not confirmed by the committee that the same committee tomorrow is also going to hear from Erik Prince, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a major Trump donor, the founder of the controversial security firm Blackwater that became so notorious during the Iraq War. Erik Prince had previously been described as an unofficial Trump administration intermediary who met during the transition with a representative from Russian President Vladimir Putin`s office at a secretive meeting in the Seychelles Islands.

Well, it was reported this week that the person Erik Prince met with in the Seychelles Islands was not just some random emissary from Putin`s office, it was reported by "The Intercept" this week and confirm by Erik Prince`s company that the Russian dude he met with in the Seychelles just happens to run the Russian sovereign wealth fund, which is a multibillion dollar entity funded by the Russian government.

So, that news that it was the sovereign wealth fund guy, that news expands by one, the number of Russians by one connected to the Putin government who we now know made contact with the Trump campaign or Trump associates during the election or during transition.

We also, I should tell you, we heard on our show, we heard from that Russian sovereign wealth fund today after our report on that story last night. And I cannot wait to tell you what exactly we heard from them. That`s coming up tonight.

At the other end of Capitol Hill in the Senate tonight, they voted along party lines. All Republicans saying yes, all Democrats saying no, to advance the Republican tax bill for a final vote. Remember, this tax bill has already passed the House. The version of it that they want to pass in the Senate would throw 13 million Americans off their health insurance coverage. It would increase the deficit by nearly $1.5 trillion. It was raise taxes significantly on people at the lowest end of the income spectrum. It would raise taxes on a majority of the American middle class families as well.

For all those reasons and more, this tax thing is profoundly unpopular with the American public, but Republicans in the Senate have now cleared the decks to take that to a vote. We`re going to have more on that coming up tonight, including what we`ve just learned about what`s in the bill.

I mean, this is a massive multitrillion dollar bill. They`ve held no hears on it, they`ve held no substantive debate on the bill. So, even as they are preparing to cast their final votes on that, we`re just now starting to figure out some of what`s in it. We`ve also got the latest on its prospects for passage and what`s likely to happen next in this fast-moving thing they are doing. So, that`s coming up this hour.

The president today went to Missouri to promote the tax bill. If those of us reporting on that bill are not clear what`s in it, I should tell you it`s not clear to the president himself knows what`s in it either. But the president did insistently make one quite blatantly false claim about the tax bill today and he made it over and over again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is going to cost me a fortune, this thing. Believe me. Believe me. This is not good for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Believe me. I think the president feels safe in making a claim like that because he`s the only presidential candidate, the only president since Nixon not to release his own tax returns. So, we don`t technically know all the information we could know about how his own tax policies would affect him and his families.

But the little bit of tax information we do have from Donald Trump indicates that the president`s claims about this tax bill not helping him, those claims are just wildly false. NBC News has analyzed what`s been made publicly available about the president`s taxes and it`s likely in this new Republican tax bill, at least the House version of it that passed already, it`s likely that bill could put over a billion dollars in the pockets of the president himself and his family.

So, we`ve got eyes on all of those moving parts tonight. All of those stories. Got a lot of show coming up over the course of the next hour.

But while we`re on the subject of politicians saying laugh out loud, blatantly untrue things, today`s news brought back in a rush one of the all-time, hall of fame greatest, blatantly wrong made up things ever said by somebody running for president.

In 2012, Mitt Romney was the Republican nominee to run for president against Barack Obama. Romney ended up losing and Obama obviously got a second term. But do you remember who the runner-up was to Mitt Romney in the 2012 Republican primaries?

It`s kind of surprisingly hard to think your way back to this answer. But, in fact, it was Rick Santorum, who had previously been a senator from the great state of Pennsylvania. He was turfed out of office by a gigantic margin by his own constituents in Pennsylvania. He was replaced by a Democratic senator, Bob Casey.

But then Rick Santorum mounted a comeback, in part by becoming part of a permanent presidential campaigner. And in 2012, he ended up being the last man standing against Mitt Romney. And that was weird for a lot of reasons, but one of the reasons it was weird because Rick Santorum campaigned for the presidency in 2012 by very earnestly, very sincerely in his Rick Santorum way telling audiences stuff that was just absolutely completely made up and bonkers. Stuff like this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Netherlands, people wear different bracelets, if you are elderly. And the bracelet is: do not euthanize me. Because they have voluntary euthanasia in the Netherlands. But half the people who are euthanized every year, and it`s 10 percent of all deaths for the Netherlands, half of those people are euthanized involuntarily at hospitals because they are older and sick.

And so, elderly people in the Netherlands don`t go to the hospital. They go to another country because they`re afraid because of budget purposes that they will not come out of that hospital if they go in with a sickness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: You can hear the crowd reacting, oh, my God. Ten percent of people get killed by euthanasia? Half of them are people who don`t want to be killed. The old people have to wear don`t kill me bracelets, if they go to the hospital, they never get out. They have to leave the country if they break it -- none of that is true. None of it.

But that was in part how Rick Santorum campaigned for the presidency in 2012. The Dutch kill their old people. Their old people are terrified to go to the hospital.

And at the time, it kind of upset the Dutch that this is how somebody who might be president of the United States was talking about there country. So, at the time, when Rick Santorum was campaigning for the presidency and making those claims, we brought a Dutch reporter on to this show to try to sort that out and it was one of the weirder interviews I have ever had to do in this business.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: For the benefit of our viewers, I hope you won`t mind if I -- if I could just ask you some yes or no questions to clarify what Mr. Santorum said about your country. He says 10 percent of all deaths in the Netherlands are the result of euthanasia.

ERIK MOUTHAAN, DUTCH REPORTER: Not true.

MADDOW: He says half of all those people, so 5 percent of all deaths in the country, are people being euthanized involuntarily.

MOUTHAAN: Totally not true.

MADDOW: He says elderly people in the Netherlands do not go to the hospital.

MOUTHAAN: That`s not true. Of course, they go.

MADDOW: He says specifically, elderly people in the Netherlands don`t go for the hospital and instead leave the country because they are afraid of Dutch hospitals.

MOUTHAAN: Not true and insulting.

MADDOW: The reason he says they are afraid of hospital is that anybody going to the hospital with sickness, as he put it, in the Netherlands will not come out of that hospital. If you go to the hospital with sickness, the hospital will kill you for budget purposes.

MOUTHAAN: Not true, and funny but insulting at the same time.

MADDOW: Last one. Elderly people wear specialty bracelets in the Netherlands that say "please don`t euthanize me."

MOUTHAAN: Would be cool, right? But, no, I have not seen one.

MADDOW: So, I can`t apologize on behalf of Rick Santorum because I can`t speak for him. As an American, I`m sorry this is happening in our politics to the extent that it is insulting. I`m sorry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That was 2012. Erik Mouthaan, the U.S. correspondent for the Dutch RTL Evening News, having to bear the brunt of my personal apology, as well as my detailed questioning about whether or not Rick Santorum was saying something as insane as it sounded. Rick Santorum was saying something as insane as is sounded.

That was 2012. We are now in a different era of a different kind of expressed insanity in American presidential politics. Within the last 48 hours, "The New York Times" and the "Washington Post" have reported, among other things, that the president has started to tell people that even though he earlier admitted it was him on that tape, he now no longer believes it was his voice on the "Access Hollywood" tape where he talked about his inability to stop himself from sexually assaulting women he did not know.

The president has also reportedly been telling people recently that he is convinced that the Russia investigations are over. That the Robert Mueller special counsel inquiry will end next month and he will be completely exonerated. People close to the president have even suggested that President Trump will go nuts, that he will blow a gasket if that exoneration doesn`t happen by the end of next month because he`s so convinced that it will.

The president has also reportedly started pushing the birther conspiracy theory again about President Obama. He has reportedly been recently raising the issue unprompted, including with Republican senators, telling them that he believes President Obama really was secretly foreign. That he wasn`t born in the United States at all. That he was never actually president, that the whole Obama presidency was a conspiracy to conceal his foreign origins.

And, you know, with the birther thing, given the other things the president has been talking about, his behavior in public recently, it`s kind of hard to know, like, where on the number line you put the birther thing now between delusion, I`m about to be exonerated in the Russia thing, right? Delusion and purposeful racial provocation.

Let me say something that sounds really racist that`s going to rile people up and divide people along racial lines. Like the birther conspiracy theory thing, where do you put that on the number line for him anymore?

But this news about him bringing back that birther story line, it comes on the same week that the president really did stand before a portrait of Andrew Jackson in the Oval Office, the author of the Indian Removal Act, the architect of the Trail of Tears, and standing in front of that portrait of Andrew Jackson, he tells an assembled group of Native American World War II war heroes that he likes to call Senator Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas as an insult.

I mean, that`s this week, too. Even for the president, it has been an intense few days of delusion and racial provocation and insults. Leading into today from his Twitter account, where this string of incidents from the president now includes the president retweeting three videos from a far-right anti-Muslim group in Britain that is called Britain First. It`s an inheritor of the Britain National Party.

But Britain First is not well-known in the U.S. If they`re known here at all, it`s in conjunction with the murder of a British member of parliament named Jo Cox who was stabbed to death in the streets by a neo-Nazi who screamed "Britain First" as he attacked her and killed her in cold blood and her constituency because he said she was too pro-immigrant. That happened a week before the Brexit vote last year in Britain.

The only other thing that Britain First is known for in his country is having run an overtly racist, overtly anti-Muslim campaign for mayor of London. They ran the leader of their party for mayor of London. He received a whopping 1 percent of the vote.

He did distinguish himself, though, on the night of the London mayor election when all the candidates were standing up on stage and the winner of that election, London Mayor Sadiq Khan got up to give his remarks and the guy from Britain First turned his back on the stage, turned his back and showed his back to Sadiq Khan -- the second guy from the left there. He did that specifically because Sadiq Khan is a Muslim.

One of the Britain First videos that the president tweeted today was a straight-up, unadulterated piece of al Qaeda propaganda. It was an al Qaeda propaganda video that was made by the al Qaeda affiliated group in Syria. This is a video that was not doctored or changed in any way from al Qaeda propaganda. It was just re-labeled in English by Britain First and then it was distributed today by the president of the United States.

The president of the United States not essentially but literally distributing raw al Qaeda propaganda to his Twitter followers today.

Another one of the videos the president retweeted today was labeled with this, "Muslim migrant beats up Dutch Boy."

Now, this video does, in fact, show an incident that happened in the Netherlands in May of this year, in a small town outside of Amsterdam. It is not a video of a Muslim migrant beating up a Dutch boy. Neither of the 16-year-old boys in this video that was sent out by the president today, neither of them is a migrant. Both of them are Dutch and Dutch born.

Now, one of them does have dark hair and one of them has blonde hair, but that`s pretty much as far as you can get from this actual video towards the president`s use of it today to apparently just blatantly try to incite fear and hatred of Muslims with something he made up for the purpose of doing that.

The British prime minister felt compelled today to put out a statement in response to the president`s online behavior. Theresa May said in very simple terms, quote: It is wrong for the president to have done this.

But, you know, the Dutch embassy in the United States also felt compelled to respond to this today. They sent out this, quote: Facts do matter. The perpetrator of the violent act in this video was born and raised in the Netherlands. He received and completed his sentence under Dutch law.

And thus recurs my personal nightmare of sitting at this desk in this seat once again having to apologize to the Dutch, right? I never thought it would be worse or weirder than having to apologize to the Dutch for the behavior of one of our rando presidential candidates who you can`t quite believe got that far.

But it`s like -- it`s like a nightmare on top of food poisoning, on top of stabbing yourself in the eye with a fork of having to make this kind of an apology yet again. This time, not for the behavior of some guy who you can`t believe is this far into the primaries, but this time you have to say it for the sitting president of the United States.

Joining us once again, I`m sorry to say, is Erik Mouthaan, U.S. correspondent for RTL Dutch TV.

Erik --

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW: I feel like I now have a weird dynamic with you.

MOUTHAAN: Yes, a little bit, but you don`t have to apologize. We get that, you know, you`re not the president and there is a multitude of opinions in the United States, but the Dutch government did decide to push back.

MADDOW: And tell me about that decision. So, that was a -- a decision that was at least pushed out through or made by the embassy.

MOUTHAAN: Right.

MADDOW: And what they`re saying is that this did happen in the Netherlands.

MOUTHAAN: Right.

MADDOW: This is a really thing. Some people were describing this today as a fake video.

MOUTHAAN: Sarah Huckabee Sanders said if it`s not a real video, it doesn`t matter. Well, it is a real video. It`s just not what they said it was. I watched the video. It`s horrible.

I don`t know if you saw it, there is this kid being beaten up and --

MADDOW: By another kid.

MOUTHAAN: By another kid. And they`re both minors. The police won`t tell us a lot about what happened because they`re minors, so the prosecutor doesn`t give out all the details, but they did look into it and said this was a Dutch born assailant and local sources tell us he was definitely not Muslim, he just had dark hair.

The district attorney`s office will not comment on that because they don`t register the religion of people, because in the criminal system, it doesn`t matter what your religion is. But as far as we know, he`s not Muslim, the assailant. He got a penalty, community service and the matter seemed to be closed. The video was uploaded to a Dutch Website and was taken down after the victim said, please, take this down. I find it horrible to watch.

Now, it`s all over again. The whole world is watching and people getting this whole new idea behind it.

MADDOW: So, the video was posted online. Obviously, part of the issue in the video is somebody who is filming it, who`s egging on the perpetrator.

MOUTHAAN: Right.

MADDOW: As I understand it from Dutch law enforcement perspective, both the person egging it on, the person filming it and the person who is beating up the other kid were prosecuted for this.

MOUTHAAN: Right, yes, the prosecutor told us today that just the guy who - - the actual assailant was given community service. The other person was looked to and talked to by police.

MADDOW: OK.

MOUTHAAN: Them all being minors may have had a part in the sort of lower sentence that didn`t actually got to court or not sentenced to prison.

MADDOW: Now, this -- as you said, this was taken down in the Netherlands because the victim didn`t want, these were minors. The victim didn`t want it circulated. It was taken down off the Dutch Website.

Somebody obviously saved it.

MOUTHAAN: Right.

MADDOW: But for the president to use it this way, I guess I have to ask just from your perspective as a Dutch reporter, your perspective covering your own government reacting to the Trump administration. Is our country seen differently now or is -- are we seen as the same country who just has a really different kind of leader?

MOUTHAAN: I think it`s a pendulum. People -- Holland is kind of a liberal country. They didn`t care much for George W. Bush and the Iraq war. They loved Obama. They didn`t want here -- if I told something negative about the president, they didn`t want to hear it.

So, now, the pendulum has swung back. The added difficulty is that the president just says things that are not true and that astonishes people around the world and also in the Netherlands.

In this case, it`s just the sad story. This guy got beat up. He`s a minor. This was horrible for him. And now, the whole world is watching it and there`s this sort of added layer of like fake news on top of it.

MADDOW: Erik Mouthaan, U.S. correspondent for RTL Dutch TV -- the next time I`m having you on this show, I swear to God, it`s going to be for something awesome America has done to Holland.

Thank you for being here.

MOUTHAAN: Thank you so much.

MADDOW: Nice to see you.

All right. Much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: "A Prairie Home Companion" is a variety show that Public Radio listeners either love or hate. I think most people love it. It`s been on the air since 1974, hosted by the same man for almost the entire time. The show`s very creative creator Garrison Keillor.

Garrison Keillor actually left the program last year but Minnesota Public Radio has kept him around to produce another show that`s carried across the country called "The Writers Almanac".

Today, though, Minnesota Public Radio severed all ties with Garrison Keillor and his production company after a person who worked with him accused him of inappropriate behavior. Minnesota Public Radio has retained an outside law firm for investigate the allegations against Garrison Keillor.

In the meantime, Mr. Keillor has put out a lengthy statement in which he says, in part, quote: I have been fired over a story that I think is more interesting and more complicated than the version MPR heard. Most stories are.

So, that happened today.

Also, this happened: CNN announced that it had fired a senior producer over claims of inappropriate behavior. Quote, a comprehensive investigation was conducted as soon as this matter was brought to our attention. The behavior attributed to the senior producer does not align with the standards and values of CNN, and he is no longer with the company.

Like I said, it`s been a heck of a day. But before any of those stories unfolded today, the biggest news yet in sexual harassment in the news media broke first thing on NBC`s "The Today Show".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: From NBC News, this is "Today", live from Studio 1A in Rockefeller Plaza.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: And good morning, everybody. Welcome to "Today." And Hoda`s here with me this morning because this is a sad morning here at "Today" and at NBC News.

Just moments ago, NBC News chairman Andy Lack sent the following note to our organization.

Dear colleagues, on Monday night, we received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer. It represented, after serious review, a clear violation of our company`s standards. As a result, we have decided to terminate his employment.

While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over 20 years he has been at NBC News, we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: NBC News terminated Matt Lauer overnight after a complaint was filed with NBC News human resources alleging inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.

Now, we don`t know much about that specific allegations, other than the fact that the alleged behavior began during the Olympics coverage in Sochi in 2014, and it reportedly continued after that.

Now, NBC News tells us tonight that they found that allegation that they were confronted with on Monday night, they say they found that credible. They confronted Matt Lauer with the allegation and he did not deny it, and that`s what led to the process of him being fired.

NBC also tells us that Matt Lauer was fired for cause, which implies that he will not be paid out for the rest of his contract, but NBC News is not confirming that implication explicitly one way or another.

NBC News is obviously our parent company here. So, we`re reporting on this story taking place in our own proverbial house as best as we`ve been able to report this out today. As far as I can personally tell today, I think these are the open questions that are important tonight. The open questions we should expect to get answers to at some point.

The first one obviously is, will there be more people who come forward with accusations about Matt Lauer? Already over the course of today, that has started to happen.

After the firing was announced, "Variety" published accounts from three women separate and apart from the complaint that was made to NBC News on Monday night. According to "Variety," quote, Matt Lauer once gave a colleague a sex toy as a present. It included an explicit note about how he wanted to use it on her, which left her mortified.

On another day, he summoned a different female employee to his office and showing her his -- after the employee declined to do anything, visibly shaken, he reprimanded her for not engaging in a sexual act.

So, that report came out from "Variety." Then, shortly thereafter, the "New York Times" reported tonight that at least two more women have come forward to NBC human resources today since Matt Lauer`s firing was announced this morning.

Quote: One complaint came from a former employee who said Mr. Lauer had summoned her to his office in 2001, locked the door and had sex with her. She told "The Times" she passed out and had to be taken to a nurse. She said she felt helpless because she didn`t want to lose her job and that she didn`t report the encounter at the time because she felt ashamed.

In 2001, the woman said Mr. Lauer, who`s married, asked her to his office to discuss the story during the workday. When she sat down, she said he locked the door, which he could do by pressing a button while sitting at his desk.

People who worked at NBC said the button was a regular security measure installed for high-profile employees. The woman said Mr. Lauer asked her to unbutton her blouse, she did. The anchor then stepped out from behind his desk, pulled down his pants, bent her over a chair and had intercourse with her. And then this is the pass out point, sorry I read this twice.

Quote, at some point, she said she passed out with her pants pull halfway down. She woke up on the floor of his office and Mr. Lauer had his assistant take her to a nurse. The woman told "The Times" that Mr. Lauer never made at an advance towards her again and never mentioned what occurred in his office. She did not report the episode to NBC at the time because she believed she should have done more to stop him.

She left the network about a year later. On Wednesday, the episode in Mr. Lauer`s office was reported to NBC News after the woman told her then supervisor who still works at the network. The woman said an NBC human resources representative has since contacted her.

So, we get the news about the firing. The firing happens overnight. We get the news about the firing this morning and all of these detailed allegations unfold over the course of today. And those allegations have been in some cases reported to NBC News human resources. And in several cases, they`ve been reported out into detail in "Variety" and "The New York Times."

So, that`s one of the open questions here. Will more accusers come forward?

Beyond that, though, now that there are multiple allegations involving multiple NBC employees over multiple years, that, of course, raises the question of whether NBC had knowledge of allegations about Matt Lauer in the past? And if so, how were those allegations handled?

Today, "Variety" made a nonspecific claim that several women, quote, complained to executives at the network about Lauer`s behavior which fell on deaf ears.

Now, NBC News today took issue with that. They responded to that by saying prior to Monday night this week, quote, we can say unequivocally that prior to Monday night, current NBC News management was never made aware of any complaints about Matt Lauer`s conduct.

So, NBC News tells us they are and have been looking into whether any current or former NBC News executives have received any complaints about Matt Lauer`s behavior before what was brought to the network on Monday night. So far, they tell us they have not found evidence of that.

They also say as far as they know, there are no instances of NBC News paying settlements related to Matt Lauer`s past behavior. NBC News also tells us the human resources department will continue to field any further allegations, but they tell us it`s too early in the process to say whether NBC will handle the investigation internally or whether they may eventually retain some third party to come in to try to figure out what happened here. Over all these years, over the course of all of these accusations and whether or not NBC should have known before they say they did.

So, there remain some important open questions in the hours after Matt Lauer`s termination from NBC News. I should also tell you that NBC News has reached out to Matt Lauer for comment, but he has not responded.

Joining us now is NBC News correspondent Stephanie Gosk, who has the unusual task --

STEPHANIE GOSK, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: To say the least.

MADDOW: To say the least.

GOSK: Yes.

MADDOW: Of reporting out these matters for this news organization, for NBC News.

What`s today been like?

GOSK: Incredibly strange. It starts with a gut punch and it has been very strange.

You know, Rachel, typically if there is a story we are this close to as reporters, you remove yourself from that story and say, I`m too close, guys, I can`t do it.

Obviously we can`t do that with this story. We need to report it. And for me, the important thing has been over the course of the day, to make sure I report it in the same way that I report let`s say the CBS story about Charlie Rose that I reported on last week.

It gets difficult because I`m in this building and although some of the conversations I have had in this building have been on the record, things that are being shared publicly, very obviously there are also other conversations among -- that I overhear amongst colleagues, things that are being said privately to each other that are things that typically a reporter might glob on to and want to report. I have to draw those lines just by the very nature of the fact that I`m in this newsroom all day long.

For instance, there was a meeting held by the president of the news organization, Noah Oppenheim, today to talk about all of this. It`s not a public meeting. It was not an on the record meeting. I chose not to attend it.

MADDOW: Because it wasn`t on the record?

GOSK: Because as I report the story, this is not something that reporters were being invited into, per se. I wasn`t told not to attend. I made the decision not to attend.

But that also meant some of my colleagues decided to walk up to my desk and say, oh, you weren`t there, x, y and z happened. So, I had to draw a line there.

MADDOW: Right.

They had off the record information, they leaked with you, gave it to you and allowed you to put it on the record as a source.

GOSK: Essentially, yes. But that`s say very difficult line to draw. It is difficult to report this story as I would report any other.

MADDOW: Yes.

GOSK: So it has been tricky.

MADDOW: So, let`s -- in terms of the way this has unfolded today. NBC says they didn`t know anything before Monday night. They say -- and "Variety" made that vague allegation today, which is a very serious one. "Variety" said that other accusers had reported concerns about Lauer to NBC executives in the past and they`d fallen on deaf ears.

NBC is taking issue with that and saying as far as they know before Monday night, no NBC executive ever had fielded --

GOSK: Current NBC News executive.

MADDOW: Current and --

GOSK: So that leaves open the question of previous NBC News executives who have not spoken on the record to us about whether or not they`ve received - -

MADDOW: OK.

GOSK: -- any past complaints. So that issue is out there.

There has been, and this happens in newsrooms, rumors of "Variety" and "The New York Times" working on articles. There had been talk that there was something coming out.

In terms of NBC saying they didn`t know anything before Monday night, they didn`t know of this accuser until Monday, and her lawyer says the same, that 6:00, they sat down with HR and the legal department at NBC and they laid out her story over a period of hours. And what`s remarkable in this timeline, Rachel, is that you consider the fact that it was 6:00 on Monday night, by Tuesday night, roughly 24 hours, Matt Lauer was fired. The most high-profile face in his company, his contributions, you don`t even have to tick them off to know how important they are to our news division.

MADDOW: Yes.

GOSK: Twenty-four hours was how long it took. I think that is a testament in part, and NBC says this, to the seriousness of what she is alleging, together what --

MADDOW: And how seriously and credible NBC found those allegations when they were brought to them on Monday.

GOSK: Yes, as Andy Lack`s statement also said, the idea that there might be other allegations as well that are out there, that that combined together. I also think it is important to make note obviously of this context that we are living in right now. What the last few weeks have since the Harvey Weinstein story broke, and the reaction that this country has had to subsequent stories.

That climate has to have played a role in this.

MADDOW: Oh, absolutely. Well, now that accusers are coming forward to other news organizations, can you confirm the news that we had today that more accusers came forward to NBC after the firing was announced today?

GOSK: Yes, two.

MADDOW: Two NBC, so two more people came forward to NBC specifically --

GOSK: Yes.

MADDOW: -- in addition to going to other news organizations?

GOSK: Yes, and we don`t know those details that you outlined in "The New York Times," whether those accusers are the ones that NBC has confirmed to us. Our understanding from NBC is that there are two new accusers today since those accusations.

MADDOW: OK. That`s going to end up being the important thing as a news organization and as a corporation going forward, the question of whether or not, if with lots of accusers over lots of years involving a very powerful person in the company, will it turn out to be true that no executives knew? That the company wasn`t -- really wasn`t legitimately aware of these things and they terminated him as soon as they knew. That`s what --

GOSK: I would also say as well, the details of the allegations and what these women went through, and I know they don`t want to come out publicly and name themselves, but as we as a society try to lock at these issues and figure out where we`re going to draw the lines and what`s appropriate and what`s inappropriate, this is a murky territory. The details of what happened to them are extremely important to be able to figure that out going forward.

MADDOW: Yes. And they own that information and they get to do with it what they want.

GOSK: Of course.

MADDOW: Yes. Stephanie, thank you.

GOSK: You`re welcome. Thanks for having me on.

MADDOW: Good luck. I don`t envy the job that you`ve got at NBC. But thank you for helping us understand it.

GOSK: Thanks.

MADDOW: All right. We will be right back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: "The New York Times" concerning White House presidential adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner. We first learned in March about a meeting during the presidential transition between Mike Flynn, Jared Kushner and the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.

Now, the White House played down the significance of that meeting when it was first reported. But then, a couple of months later, in May, "The Washington Post" reported that that meeting was about something quite serious. It was about, quote, setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump`s transition team and the Kremlin.

Who needs a secret hotline to the Kremlin and for what?

Well, now, tonight, we learned from "The New York Times" that Jared Kushner has met with the special counsel, has met with special counsel Robert Mueller`s team of investigators. He met with them earlier this month to answer questions about that meeting during the transition.

Now, CNN was first to report tonight that Kushner had met with Mueller`s team earlier this month but CNN sources actually told a somewhat different story about what Mueller asked him about. CNN sources told them that Kushner did meet with Mueller`s team but he was asked to come in and speak with them specifically about Mike Flynn.

A CNN source said the conversation lasted less than 90 minutes and nature of the conversation was principally to make sure Kushner doesn`t have information that exonerates Mike Flynn.

So, we`re getting news from both "The Times" and CNN that Kushner spoke with Mueller. We`re getting two different stories about what Mueller talked to Kushner about.

Now, I don`t mean to be weird about this, but we reported last week that Donald Trump will not be contributing any money to Mike Flynn`s legal defense fund. Ever since around that time, it sort of feels like a lot of people, a lot of people who appeared to have connections to White House figures are talking anonymously to reporters about how terrible Mike Flynn is and how much trouble he`s in.

A lot of this stuff about how bad things are for Mike Flynn right now seems to be sourced to people who are connected to the White House. I don`t know what that means exactly. But that`s what I`m reading between the lines right now.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: I have a correction to make. Last night on this show, we went through the list of all the Russians and Russia-connected people who we now know were in contact with Trump campaign and the Trump transition. We came up with 19 different Russians.

But our handy chart, look, six, and then six, and then six. It only had 18 people on it. It turns out we forgot to include on our pictorial tableau of Russians, a guy named Ike Kaveladze. He`s the Russian money laundering suspect who is the eighth man in the infamous Trump Tower meeting last summer which involved Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort and Donald Jr.

So, for the record, we have on our list of people connected to the Russian government who were in contact with the Trump team. Ahem, Russian ambassador, Russian banker, Russian ex-con, Russian real estate guy, Russian military intelligence guy, Russian oligarch, another Russian banker, Russian lawyer, Russian lobbyist, Russian billionaire, Russian billionaire son, Russian academic, Russian deputy prime minister, Russian oil executives, Kremlin connected academic, Russian foreign ministry guy, Russian president`s fake niece, new guy we learned about yesterday who is the head of a Russian sovereign wealth fund.

And Ike Kaveladze, Russian money laundering poster child. He goes on our chart there next to the Russian lawyer and the Russian lobbyist. He, too, a little box around him there -- he, too, was at that Trump Tower meeting.

So, that`s my correction. It`s not 18, it`s 19. It`s quite a roster.

And there could, of course, be more. More than a year after the election, more like a year and a half since the FBI started their counterintelligence investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russia, we are still adding to the list of Russian figures who successfully made contact and got themselves involved at one level or another with the Trump campaign and the Trump transition.

Last night, thanks to reporting by "The Intercept," we told you about the latest Russian name added to that list, the CEO of the Russian`s government multibillion dollar investment fund. He flew to the Seychelles Islands just before the Trump inauguration to meet Erik Prince, major Trump donor, founder of the controversial security firm, Blackwater, and brother of Trump`s education secretary Betsy DeVos.

"Washington Post" reported earlier this year that they were in the Seychelles to discuss setting up a backchannel communication between the Trump team and the Putin team. Now, Erik Prince denies that that meeting had anything to do with Donald Trump, but this Russian government investment fund that he admits he might have crossed paths with in the Seychelles, they`re under sanctions by the United States. And that limits the kind of business that Americans can do with that fund.

So, if Erik Prince was not meeting with its CEO about Donald Trump and they`re a sanctioned firm, what exactly were they meeting about? Well, we reported on that last night. Today, we heard from the Russian sovereign wealth fund.

It`s a fund called the Russian Direct Investment Fund. They did not like the way that we described American sanctions against them. They did not like I suggested it might be illegal to do -- for Erik Prince to do business with them as a sanctioned entity.

There are particular careful ways in which an American might be able to invest in Russia alongside this sanctioned fund. Although doing so while complying with sanctions is admittedly quite tricky. So, banks and funds for the most part don`t touch investments with this kind of a sanctioned entity.

But, you know, maybe Erik Prince would. So, therefore, I`m happy to make that clarification.

They are a sanctioned entity by the U.S. government, but maybe you might be able to figure out how to do business in Russia alongside them without violating sanctions. Maybe.

But it doesn`t make that meeting with Erik Prince any less weird, because the CEO of that sanctioned fund is the 19th Russian government connected person to have successfully made contact with the Trump camp during the campaign and the transition -- the 19th that we know of thus far.

There are 19 people on this list. As of this week, it is still growing. I`m assuming we`re going to have to get a bigger wall.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: -- Carmen Yulin Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico. It has not always been easy to get an accurate picture of the conditions on the ground for the nearly 3.5 million Americans living there. It was useful to get a reality check from Mayor Cruz. She did not candy coat it.

People still do not have clean water and people do not still have water in their homes. Some hospitals are still using generators for power. So, useful details in terms of figuring it out.

But one of the starkest measures of what`s gone wrong is the death toll. Until a few hours ago, the official death toll from the storm was 55. A few hours ago, it went up by three to 58 officially.

But tonight, Vox.com is reporting the actual death toll may be more like 20 times that, nearly 1,100 people.

Researchers went back seven years to compare the average numbers of death in September and October to the September and October after Hurricane Maria. In September, there were more than 500 excess deaths. In October, another 567 excess deaths.

The official death toll, again, inched up by three today, but there is an increasingly large amount of evidence piling up that the official death toll may be many, many, many times what the government is admitting to.

Watch this space.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Hey, looky-loo, where does the time go?

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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