Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: December 6, 2017 Guest: Mazie Hirono
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: Fifteen percent of the Democratic Caucus are women, 5 percent Republican. And I think it would be good for everyone if those numbers came dramatically up.
Donna Brazile and Michelle Goldberg, thank you.
That is "ALL IN" for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Appreciate it.
And thanks to at home for joining us this hour.
It's been a very, very busy news day. We're tracking a number of stories tonight's including the uncertain fate of Minnesota Democratic Senator Al Franken it has been 20 days since the first woman came forward to allege that Senator Franken had behaved in a sexually inappropriate manner toward her some years ago, at a USO event.
Since then, a half dozen more women have come forward to describe sexually inappropriate actions by Senator Franken, mostly what has been described is groping in a public place or workplace environment or inappropriate attempts to kiss women against their will. It's not clear tonight if one of those allegations was viewed as significantly more important than the others or if maybe it is the sheer number of them now, but something happened today to break the political dam in terms of Senator Franken having the support of his own colleagues. Nearly three dozen Democratic senators all came out today in quick succession to call for him to resign.
Senator Franken's office that announced that he'd be making a public statement tomorrow mid-morning. Shortly thereafter, Minnesota Public Radio reported that at that press availability, Senator Franken would announce his resignation from the Senate. But very shortly after they posted that report, Senator Franken's Twitter account contested that reporting, saying that NPR should change their story, saying that Senator Franken had made no such decision that he would resign.
So, a number of big questions right now around the fate of Minnesota Senator Al Franken, one of them is what's going to happen tomorrow on that one I have a feeling we'll just find out tomorrow. But the other big question is what drove this dramatic news today, what happened behind the scenes among Democratic senators that caused so many of them to come out in quick secession today, with all of them uniformly calling for his resignation.
We're going to be getting that story tonight from one of those Democratic senators who made that decision today. She is Mazie Hirono, Democratic senator from Hawaii. She's going to join us here live in just a moment.
We're also tonight continuing to follow the dramatic news out of southern California, where Los Angeles is right in the bull's-eye of a number of large and mostly uncontrolled wildfires California is dry right now. There hasn't been rain in a while, there's no rain expected in the immediate California forecast.
Forecasters had predicted that this might be a very dangerous fire situation this week when Santa Ana winds blowing in from the desert were expected to reach 40, 50, 60 miles an hour. And so, in concept, it was not a surprise that there would be fire trouble in California right now, but I don't think anybody anticipated scenes this dramatic out of the nation's second-largest city. Gigantic fires that are scary in any circumstance, but have a certain human terroristic value when we see fires this big in such close proximity to so many people, and houses and because it's L.A., such close proximity to many cars.
I mean, some of the most dramatic footage we've seen today has been taken by people sitting in their cars in traffic, on like the 405 freeway before it was shut down because of these fires today. Now, the most dangerous of these fires are still almost entirely uncontained. We expect that the danger in southern California and the now massive fire and safety response will continue through the night in southern California, so we will keep you apprised as best we can.
But in addition to those fires and in addition to the major political drama over Senator Al Franken, the U.S. government also instigated a major international controversy today when the president announced his intention to eventually move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Now, if you don't follow these things closely, it may not seem immediately apparent why this would be the cause of so much consternation in the Middle East and around the world.
But West Jerusalem is mainly Jewish, East Jerusalem is not. It's mostly Palestinian, and the eastern part of Jerusalem contains a number of really important holy sites for Christians and for Muslims and for Jews. If there was ever going to be a two states we're both the Israelis and the Palestinians have a country to call their own, the Palestinians had hoped and expected that their capital of their country would be in East Jerusalem.
And regardless of how you feel about Israel's claim to the whole city of Jerusalem, and regardless of how you feel about the Palestinians' hopes for a Palestinian national capital someday in East Jerusalem, the sensitivity of this issue not just to Israelis and Palestinians but to everybody in the Middle East who has a stake in that conflict, that sensitivity is a very well-known thing. That's why no U.S. government no matter how hawkish and pro-Israel, no U.S. government has ever done this before.
That's why the U.S. State Department issued safety warnings from embassies abroad today, anticipating and then in the wake of this decision. NBC's Richard Engel was in Ramallah today where protests started almost immediately after Trump's announcement. There were also significant protests today in Gaza, including here you see them lighting the flag. There were very large protests today in Turkey, thousands of people turned out in protest today in Turkey.
Hamas announced today that Trump had, quote, opened the gates of hell with this decision today. Hamas is calling for a day of rage in response.
So, that is just an international cauldron that has been deliberately stirred by the Trump administration with this announcement today. Governments around the world, including some of our closest allies are expressing alarm and dismay over the president's decision. There may end up being an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting over this. So far, more than half the members of the U.N. Security Council have cold for an emergency meeting to try to come up with a plan for how to handle the aftermath of this decision.
So, that major international brouhaha is continuing to unfold tonight as well, and it will be very important over the next couple of days as we start to see the full scale of the response in the Middle East.
Here at home, there's another story that we've been following today. It's potentially very important for the U.S. presidency. We knew that we'd be covering this story over the course of the day. We did not expect that we would be covering it into the course of this evening as well, but it went really long.
The president's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. ended up testifying before the House Intelligence Committee today for what appears to have been an eight- hour stretch he went in at roughly 10:00 a.m. He didn't get out until roughly 6:00 p.m. tonight. This was a closed-door session with the Intelligence Committee.
Because it was behind closed doors, we don't know exactly what the president's son testified to but starting to figure out how this works with these closed-door sessions, as best as I can tell, there appears to be an agreement within that committee that members aren't allowed to come out of those closed-door sessions and describe what a witness testified to behind closed doors. But a member of that committee can come out from behind those closed doors and they can describe something that a witness refused to discuss, something a question or a witness refused to answer. So you can't say what they said but you can't say what they wouldn't say.
And I think that's the rule. I think that's also the rule that explains why we got that very dramatic news last week from Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee when he came out and told reporters that he had questioned Attorney General Jeff Sessions directly as to whether or not President Trump had ever told Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he should hinder any aspect of the Russia investigation.
The Attorney General Jeff Sessions would not answer that question, wouldn't say whether the president however told him to hinder the Russia investigation. Now, had the attorney general answered that question one way or the other, had he said yes or no, I think Congressman Schiff couldn't have come out and told reporters what Sessions his answer had been.
But when he refused the answer the question, Adam Schiff could come out and say you know what he refused to answer that question this seems important. The attorney general won't say under direct questioning under oath if the president told him to block these investigations.
So, I think that's the principle at work. That's how we got that very dramatic story about Jeff Sessions last week. A similar principle appears to have been at work today when again Congressman Adam Schiff came out from behind the closed door hearing where they've just had eight hours of testimony from the president's eldest son, and tonight, Congressman Schiff made an announcement basically. He told reporters that there was something important that Donald Trump Jr. wouldn't answer in his questioning today.
According to Congressman Schiff, Donald Trump Jr. today would not answer a question that might have been the most important one he was there to answer today, and the reason he wouldn't answer that question is absolutely dumbfounding. Neither Donald Trump, the president nor Donald Trump the Jr. is a lawyer, but according to Adam Schiff, Donald Trump Jr. is refusing to answer questions about conversations he had with his dad and the basis on which he is refusing to answer those questions is that he is citing attorney-client privilege.
Again, neither of them is a lawyer, let alone a lawyer who has one of the other of them as a client. They're just father and son, not lawyers. But that's apparently what he's saying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Good evening. We just concluded several hours of asking Donald Trump Jr. questions about not only the meeting at Trump Tower, but a range of other issues as well. He answered the overwhelming majority of our questions.
There was one significant area though where he declined to answer. He acknowledged having discussed the June 9th meeting and the emails that went into establishing that meeting after those emails became public. He acknowledged discussing that matter with his father, but refused to answer questions about that discussion on the basis of a claim of attorney-client privilege. In my view, there was no attorney-client privilege that protects a discussion between father and son.
REPORTER: Who's the attorney and who's the client in that construction?
SCHIFF: Well, the claimed privilege is that at a time when father and son were discussing the June 9th meeting and the emails that led up to it, they had the discussion in the presence of counsel. The presence of counsel though does not mean communications between father and son are privileged, I did not ask them to relate any communications that he had with his counsel, and I don't believe any attorney-client privilege can shield the conversations that Trump Jr. had with Trump's senior.
REPORTER: Because there was an attorney in the room, anything they discussed is privileged?
SCHIFF: That was the nature of the claim, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Since Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn pled guilty on Friday morning to lying to the FBI and thereby implicitly announced that he would become a cooperating witness, we have seen the legal defense of the president on the Russia scandal get a little hinky, right? It's gotten a little -- there's been a few weird things.
The first weird thing was when White House Russia lawyer Ty Cobb came out and praised the special counsel for bringing the Mike Flynn portion of the investigation to a conclusion. It's not concluding it was as if he didn't know that the Mike Flynn part is not over, that Mike Flynn only pled guilty to that one count because he's now cooperating with the government in an ongoing way.
So, that was a strange statement right off the bat from the president's Russia -- one of the presidents Russia lawyers, right? That was strange presidential legal defense statement number one after the Flynn guilty plea.
Then we got a bunch more of them. Then the president's lawyer started saying that by definition, the president can't obstruct justice, whereupon the grave of Richard Nixon started to just spit up little volcanoes of dirt because the former president was spinning around very rapidly and giggling in his grave.
Then another Trump lawyer came out and said it would be actually fine if the president and his campaign colluded with Russia to influence the campaign because -- well, who could possibly object to that?
Then, yesterday, amid multiple reports that the president's largest lender, a bank he owned -- he owes hundreds of millions of dollars to, a bank that has been implicated in a multibillion-dollar Russian money-laundering scheme, amid reports yesterday that that bank had been subpoenaed by Robert Mueller special counsel office in the Russia investigation, the president's lawyers had a very unusual response to that news. They responded to that news by denying that there was any such subpoena.
There appears to have been a subpoena. Everybody who's reported on the Deutsche Bank subpoena is standing by they're reporting. There has been a subpoena. That's the president's lawyers say, uh-uh, there wasn't. It will be proven when way or the other.
It appears that they might not know that Deutsche Bank doesn't have to tell them if they've been subpoenaed.
So, it's been a weird few days for the president's legal defense since Mike Flynn pled guilty. It appears to have caused a few short circuits in the legal defense of the president on this massive scandal. But this one today kind of tops it. I mean, if the president's son -- not a lawyer -- is now refusing to testify as to his conversations with his father -- also not a lawyer -- and they're using a claim of attorney-client privilege to avoid talking about those conversations, I mean, that's --
I remember when a Nevada senator named John Ensign was under ethics investigation a few years ago, remember this story? John Ensign?
Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma was Senator Ensign's dear friend. He was asked in the course of that scandal and investigation to describe his conversations with senator Ensign about the sex and money scandal that was the cause of all Senator Ensign's problems. Tom Coburn announced that he would not characterize any of those conversations in any way because of doctor-patient confidentiality.
Now, Tom Coburn was an OB/GYN. John ensign was a veterinarian. So, the basis of that claim that there was doctor-patient confidentiality that couldn't be breached there, the basis of that claim was either that Tom Coburn was John Ensign's gynecologist, or that Tom Coburn was Senator Ensign's cat, dog? Like who's the patient?
Before now, that was the most remarkable and remarkably insane claim of miraculous privilege to shield a conversation from investigation when it came to a prominent politician. Ultimately, in that case, Doctor and Senator John Ensign resigning from the Senate rather than face his fate before the Ethics Committee. And so, that privileged claim was never tested to the extent I so hoped it would be.
But now, the president and his son trying to shield their conversations about the Russia meeting at Trump Tower by claiming that one of them is secretly a lawyer or that there was a lawyer nearby and that's good enough -- that may well get tested. Congressman Adam Schiff will be here in just a moment to talk about that unusual claim by the president's son during his eight hours of testimony today.
But I have to tell you, the House Intelligence Committee has also now released a transcript, a verbatim transcript of the testimony they obtained a few days ago from Erik Prince. And there appears to be a whopper of a new revelation in the transcript of that testimony that was just released and that's next.
MADDOW: This is the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. He's also recognizable as the founder of the controversial Iraq War era security contracting firm Blackwater. He was a Trump donor this electoral cycle. His name is Erik Prince.
He was also the subject of a bombshell "Washington Post" report in April that he as an emissary of the incoming Trump administration had gone to a secret meeting during the presidential transition in the Seychelles Islands with an emissary from Russian President Vladimir Putin's office. Subsequent reporting revealed recently that the Russian in question, the Russian he met with was the head of the Russian sovereign wealth fund, which is a wealth fund that is subject to sanctions by the U.S. government.
Well, we now know because a transcript of Erik Prince's testimony to the House Intelligence Committee has just been released today, we now know based on the transport of his testimony that Erik Prince denies he went to that meeting in the Seychelles on behalf of the incoming Trump administration. He also denies that he had any idea before he got halfway around the world to the Seychelles Islands. He says he had no idea that while he was there he would be meeting with this Russian with the head of this Russian sovereign wealth fund, says he did no idea that was going to be what he did there in the Seychelles, but he does admit that once he got there he met the Russian guy.
And based on this transcript we now for the first time have Erik Prince's characterization as to what that meeting was about. I'm going to quote to you from the transcript.
Prince: So we talked about like I said trade matters and how the United States and Russia should be working together.
Question from Congressman Adam Schiff of California: Now trade matters can mean a lot of different things, particularly when you were talking to someone who controls a sanctioned financial institution. What in particular did you discuss regarding trade? Did you discuss the fact that certain trade was prohibited because of U.S. sanctions?
Prince: I wasn't talking about trading with him, but he just -- I remember him saying how much he wished trade would resume with the United States in a normal way.
So, in this previously secret meeting held during the transition between Erik Prince and the head of this Russian sovereign wealth fund, what they talked about was the resumption of normal economic relations between Russia and the United States, and how desirable that would be. And the resumption of normal economic relations between Russia and the United States means the end of U.S. sanctions against Russia.
The U.S. government and the European Union have levied sanctions against Russia most recently for them invading Ukraine.
Sanctions on Russia -- again, if you were going to get a tattoo to help remind you about what this whole scandal is about on the Russia side, what Russia wanted, why Russia might have did what they did to us last year in this election, if you needed to get a little mnemonic device, a little handy pictorial reminder, you'd come up with something that means sanctions to you, because sanctions over and over and over again have been Russia's clear animating force.
All right. That's their motivation. That's what comes up over and over and over again, and all of the different instances that we know of involving nearly 20 different Russians connected to the Russian government as they approach the Trump campaign one by one by one.
Over and over again, what they were all bringing up, what they were all looking to discuss what they were all trying to bring conversations around to with sanctions. And over and over and over again, that is what the Trump side agreed to discuss with them and later tried to cover up. When Mike Flynn pled guilty on Friday morning, he pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian government concerning sanctions.
Vice President Mike Pence is now right this second roasting on a proverbial spit because of his repeated false statements to the American people, not just about Mike Flynn but whether or not Mike Flynn was talking with the Russians about sanctions.
Thanks to the Mike Flynn guilty plea in the statement of the offense that was released by Mueller's office while Flynn was in court, we now know that lots of senior people on the Trump transition, Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, Hope Hicks, Steve Bannon, Tom Bossert, KT McFarland -- lots of people were involved in discussions during the transition about sanctions. They that Mike Flynn was talking to the Russians about sanctions. That means they all also knew that Mike Pence, vice-president, was lying to the American people about sanctions.
That Trump Tower meeting about which Donald Trump Jr. is now exploring the concept of attorney-client privilege what is an attorney, really. That Trump Tower meeting was kept secret by the Trump camp for over a year, the way they've tried to explain their secrecy over that meeting was they downplaying the idea that anything at that meeting was of any significance or importance.
Whether you believe them or not, the one thing we are sure they spoke about at that meeting was sanctions.
In February, we learned about another secret meeting that happened at the very start of the Trump administration. Trump's personal lawyer and a mob- connected Russian ex-con who has worked repeatedly with the Trump Organization, they met to write up a new Ukrainian peace plan which they reportedly hand-delivered to Mike Flynn at the White House as national security advisor. That peace plan was also basically just a plan to lift sanctions on Russia.
We now know as of today that the mysterious Erik Prince meeting that happened between Prince and the head of this Russian sovereign wealth fund in the Seychelles Islands during the transition was a meeting about Russian sanctions.
Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a flurry of reporting about Mike Flynn pursuing and getting paid to pursue a plan to build nuclear power plants all over the Mideast. That story first broken by "Newsweek".
The initial scandal about his involvement in that plan was that he didn't disclose that he was working on that as a paid operative, nor did he disclose a trip to the Middle East that he had taken in advance -- as a means of advancing that plan. The next tier scandal about that plan was that he had apparently continued to pursue it up to the highest levels of the White House after he became national security adviser, despite the fact that you're not supposed to work on anything you have a that you have had a financial interest in once you are a public official.
But, you know what? The night after Mike Flynn pled guilty to lying to the FBI this past Friday, "Reuters" advanced that nuclear story in what is now a very familiar direction. It turns out the Mike Flynn nuclear plants in the Middle East plan was also a plan to get rid of -- say it with me now -- Russian sanctions. The idea was to build these nuclear plants with a whole bunch of different sanctioned Russian companies, if Flynn had succeeded, if it had become the policy of the U.S. government to pursue this plan, the only way the plan could have been effectuated is if the Russian sanctions were dropped.
They even figured out a little sweetener to try to bring Ukraine along, right? Ukraine is the reason Russia has this latest round of sanctions. They would understandably freak out if the U.S. was going to drop those sanctions.
In order to get Ukraine to not squawk too much about it, they even came up with a sweetener deal where they'd cut Ukraine in on the deal, so they wouldn't mind too much about the sanctions on Russia getting dropped.
So, that whole nuclear plan, the putting nuclear plants in the Mideast -- what could possibly go wrong? -- you could -- if they were too convinced the Trump administration, if they had succeeded in making it the policy of the Trump administration to pursue that, that would have created a political imperative in U.S. policy that would have required the dropping of those sanctions. They would -- they had a plan to clear the political way to do that by buying off the Ukrainians who would otherwise object to dropping sanctions.
And now, today, House Democrats have made public claims from a witness who says that on Inauguration Day, literally while Trump was giving his inaugural speech, Mike Flynn was allegedly texting one of the businessmen involved in this plan to drop Russia sanctions and pursue these nuclear plants.
Flynn reportedly texted this business associate during the inauguration that their nuclear plan was good to go. He reportedly assured this business contact that Russia sanctions would be ripped up immediately as the Trump administration's first order of business.
Now, the company is denying that Flynn sent those messages, but Elijah Cummings the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee says frankly these communications are a matter of record, and you can prove it one way or another if this were properly investigated.
Now, it would appear that Republicans in Congress are never going to be persuaded to investigate something like this, but it sounds like the molar investigation is already working on it. They may have already covered that.
And Congressman Cummings' letter which he's made public today, he makes clear that the Mueller investigation was notified about this new evidence of yet another effort to drop Russia sanctions, in this case, using a scheme -- this nuclear scheme that Mike Flynn was secretly paid to represent. Elijah Cummings notes in his letter today, quote, in this case, my staff consulted with the special counsels' office which asked my office to hold on the public release of this information until they completed certain investigative steps. They have now informed us that they have done so.
In other words, Elijah Cummings handed this info about tearing up the Russian sanctions, handed it to Mueller. Mueller said, we'll look into it, don't say anything until we have. Now, they have apparently looked into it and so they've cleared Elijah Cummings to let this public information become publicly known. So, a lot of movement on this today, a lot of stuff is coming to light every day now it's like every quarter of a new cycle, some new piece of this comes to light.
But bottom line, that weird Flynn nuclear deal appears to have been about Russian sanctions. The secret Ukraine peace deal cooked up by Trump's personal lawyer and a Russian guy delivered to Mike Flynn at the White House, that appears to have been about Russian sanctions. The Seychelles secret meeting with Erik Prince and the Russian guy appears to have been about Russian sanctions.
The Trump Tower meeting was about sanctions. What Flynn lied to the FBI about, sanctions. What Vice President Mike Pence lied to the American public about, sanctions.
And now, apparently, what the president and his son are pretending to be lawyers about is how they cooked up their public statements about that meeting that was about sanctions.
It's a lot of news going on right now. There's a lot to get to even just over the course of the rest of this hour. But with the news that we got today, it at least finally seems clear that we at least now know what Russia was after from their side. It seems indubitably clear what the quo was that they were trying to get in any quid pro quo from the Trump campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BEN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: -- admitted in the past that they believe these women in Alabama and somehow now, the RNC is giving money -- it doesn't make any sense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Even Republicans are at a loss to explain why the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Party, is suddenly writing checks to Roy Moore's Alabama Senate campaign again after they previously cut ties with Roy Moore following reports from multiple women who accused him of sexual misconduct when they were teenagers and he was a grown man in his 30s.
Now, that special election in Alabama happens in less than a week. It happens six days from now. While the national Republican Party is uneasily lining up behind Roy Moore ahead of that election, simultaneously, Senate Democrats today almost as a unit decided that they would turn against their own colleague, Minnesota Democrat Al Franken.
Franken was first accused last month by a radio host of having forcibly kissed her on a USO tour in 2006. Allegations of groping soon followed from a handful of other women, including a new allegation from a woman who told politico.com today that she was a congressional staffer in 2006 when Franken tried to forcibly kiss her after a taping of his radio show.
Franken came out after that report in "Politico" and denied this latest allegation unequivocally. He said, quote: This allegation is categorically not true. I look forward to fully cooperating with the ongoing ethics committee investigation.
And I don't know if that allegation, that story is what broke the dam or not. In terms of the timing of this, that appears to have been it. But after that "Politico" story came out this morning, midday today, a large simultaneous, wave started breaking, of Al Franken's Democratic Senate colleagues or the independents who caucus with the Democrats, all calling for him to resign, started just before noon with Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, and then post after post on social media, senator after senator after senator after senator, all called on Senator Franken to step down, to resign.
By our count, 33 Democratic senators called on Franken to resign today. This afternoon, Franken's office announced that he would be making an announcement mid-morning tomorrow. Soon thereafter, Minnesota Public Radio reported that he will resign when he makes that announcement.
But then Franken's staff pushed back on that report, writing on Twitter that Franken is, quote, talking with his family at this time and plans to make an announcement in D.C. tomorrow. Any reports of a final decision are inaccurate.
So, will he resign tomorrow? And what caused this group led by Democratic women senators to choose this moment to demand that he must resign? How did they decide what to do and when to do it?
Joining us now is Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. She is one of many Democratic senators who called on Senator Franken to resign today.
Senator Hirono, really appreciate your time tonight. Thank you for being here.
SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D), HAWAII: Good evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, today, you described coming to a tipping point with regard to Senator Franken and the allegations against him. Was it something about the latest accusation or was it the number of accusations? What brought about that tipping point?
HIRONO: This was not a moment that we arrived at it. I certainly did not arrive at easily. It's been a struggle, and especially when it involves a colleague and a friend which Al is. I serve on two committees with him, I know how hard he works.
So, it was very difficult, but at some point you just say, you know what, when the third, fourth, fifth, sixth woman steps forward, you come to him what I would describe as a tipping point and the need to take a position.
And I have been talking with some of my colleagues and we independently came to the point that this was it. And I consider this a cultural change moment where, you know, I've been talking about the need for a cultural change so that these kinds of actions by man mainly do not continue to occur in all phases of life in all workplaces. And this kind of cultural change where women are no longer viewed as objects and toys and are respected for our talents and achievements, this is the moment.
And I believe that we need to step forward each of us is the change that we seek and that change is to stop viewing women as objects and toys, so this kind of behavior can stop.
MADDOW: Senator Hirono, can you give us a little bit of window into how this decision was made within the Democratic Caucus today? Obviously, you're able to speak quite eloquently about your own coming to this decision, what led you to it, what is important about it, but obviously, there was some coordinated effort today to roll out all of these statements all at once, it was just -- it was -- it was a very impressive number by the end of the day about the number of Democratic senators who did this. How was that organized?
HIRONO: It was not coordinated. I did talk with a number of my colleagues, my women colleagues and others, and I think that we were all wrestling with this and, of course, the latest allegation was -- I would say it was the thing that really impelled us to come forward.
And I did talk with Kirsten, among others, and when she issued her statement, I already have prepared a statement for today and I decided to issue my statement then, and a lot of other people who I know also struggled with this decision decided that this was the time to come forward.
MADDOW: Do you expect that Senator Franken will resign tomorrow? I mentioned in the introduction a little bit of ambiguity on that subject. There had been reports in the afternoon that his announcement tomorrow will be the announcement of his resignation. Then there was pushback on that from his office.
Do you think that he will resign tomorrow? Do you have any expectation for what might happen next if he chooses not to resign?
HIRONO: I hope he'll do the right thing and step aside. We can't force him to resign, but I think so many of us have called upon him to set an example. I think we should be held to a standard, and that standard is that we cannot tolerate this kind of behavior.
And we know that men in positions of power and influence have manipulated, even assaulted women, certainly harassed them. And it's gone on ignored for far too long, but not anymore. And, you know, I want to note that "Time Magazine" today called the women who have come forward that the persons of the year and that says to me that this is a moment of a cultural change where we finally recognize that this kind of hassling and harassment has gone on too long, and it's got to stop, enough is enough.
But as they said, we each have a responsibility to step forward. We each is the change that we need.
MADDOW: Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, thank you so much --
HIRONO: Thank you. Aloha.
MADDOW: -- for coming to talk to us about this. I appreciate it, ma'am. Thank you.
All right. We've got much more to come tonight. Congressman Adam Schiff is on deck for us tonight.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: You've put your food in, and grease rolls down. Fat rolls down. It's different. It's different you guys.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE FOREMAN, FORMER BOXER: George Foreman grilling machine is very special. Everyone should have one. Number one, because this grill has something no other grill has, slants. You put your food in, and the grease rolls down. And because of the slanting of it, the fat rolls down. It's different.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It is different. The George Foreman lean mean fat reducing grilling machine, which is nowhere in the news today. But I love that tape very much. And we did have what appears to have been an epic grilling today on Capitol Hill.
And that story is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, we should have smellovision at this point, because --
FOREMAN: I've already got smellovision.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You do?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: -- Donald Trump Jr. today spent eight hours testifying on Capitol Hill to the House Intelligence Committee. We do not know what he told that committee behind closed doors, nor will we. No transcript of that Donald Trump Jr. testimony will ever be released.
But already, Democrats who were inside that room today for the testimony are claiming that Mr. Trump Jr. was not willing to discuss conversations between him and his father when his father, the president, helped draft the initial misleading statement aboard Air Force One which described the June Trump Tower meeting attended by his son, his son-in-law and his campaign chairman, along with a gazillion Russians.
Now, whether Donald Trump Jr.'s unwillingness to answer the committee's questions about that, whether that bothered members of the committee at all -- well, that depends on which one you asked.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you feel like he did, was able to answer all the questions about the Trump Tower meeting, his communications with his father and --
REP. MIKE CONWAY (R-TX), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: My answer is no different. He answered our questions.
REPOPTER: And when he answers the questions, is he answering them in detail or --
CONWAY: Yes, yes, he answered our questions.
SCHIFF: As to this very central conversation between father and son, the witnessed declined to answer the questions. He acknowledged discussing that matter with his father but refused to answer questions about that discussion on the basis of a claim of attorney-client privilege.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Top Republican committee says he answered all our questions. Top Democrat on the same committee hearing the same testimony says he doesn't answer those questions.
Joining us now is Congressman Adam Schiff, top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee.
Congressman Schiff, really appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.
SCHIFF: You bet.
Rachel, did you compare me at the teas to the George Foreman grill, because if you did, that may be the nicest thing anybody's ever said about me.
MADDOW: The fat rolls down. It's really different.
Yes, in that -- in that construction, you would be the grill and not the chicken burger.
MADDOW: But let's talk about the chicken burger. The president's son, you came out of this eight hour long stretch of testimony with the president's eldest son today, saying that he had claimed there was an attorney-client privilege between him and his dad, and that's why he wouldn't testify about their conversations. I'm quite sure I don't understand what he might have meant by that.
SCHIFF: Well, that was the claim that he wouldn't reveal the conversations he had with his father after the emails about the meeting at Trump Tower became public because he and his attorney claimed they were protected by the attorney-client privilege. I think the claim was based on the fact that there were other attorneys present.
But as I understand the privilege, the privilege exists between the attorney and their client, to protect communications where you seek from your attorney counsel about your particular legal situation. They can't be used to shield conversations between two people who don't enjoy the privilege between themselves and I don't think this claim can be maintained.
The only question is, will the House insist on getting the answer?
MADDOW: What was he being asked about when he gave that as his as his reason for not answering?
SCHIFF: Well, specifically, he was asked did you and your father discuss that June 9th meeting at any time, and tell us about those conversations.
Now, a lot of this difference in perspective that you played earlier between Mr. Conaway and myself goes to a very fundamental question which is, will Congress insist on getting the answers or will we take I'd rather not answer that question along with a meritless claim of privilege, as the last word.
We had this issue come up as you pointed out last week where the attorney general. He wouldn't answer a question about whether the president of the United States had ever instructed him to take action which he believed would hinder the Russia investigation. That is also not privileged.
But Congress's ability to get the answers is only as good as our willingness to insist on it, otherwise we not only don't get the answers in our investigation but we set a precedent for future investigations that you can stonewall Congress just by making an illusory claim of some sort of privilege.
MADDOW: One of the other ways that people get pressure to answer these questions when they initially refuse to is when people become publicly aware of the fact that they are refusing to answer these questions, and you've made some of that public, that information public when you talked about Attorney General Jeff Sessions refusing to answer our question about the president, when you talked about what Donald Trump Jr. did today.
The other way we've had other ways we've had access to information about these sort of things that was when we've had transcripts. We got a transcript today of Erik Prince's testimony to your committee. We have seen a transcript of Carter Pages testimony, but we're told that there won't be a transcript of Donald Trump Jr.'s remarks today.
We know that there wasn't a transcript for Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week. How do these things get to side in terms of whether we get a transcript or not?
SCHIFF: Well, very arbitrarily by the majority, we had a practice where we weren't releasing transcripts and without consulting with us and for reasons that are not apparent to us, they may decided to make exceptions when they choose. That's obviously not a good investigative practice.
There are reasons to have these meetings in private. The number one reason from my point of view is you don't want witnesses to be able to coordinate their stories, and if they testifying the transcript is released, well, then in this case, Steve Bannon knows what Erik Prince has to say and can align his story with Erik Prince's and then you have others that here Carter Page and they can align their version with Carter Page.
I would hope that when the investigation is over, we would disclose all of these transcripts. So, the public can see exactly what Don Jr. had to say today and what the attorney general had to say, and that others can scrutinize these transcripts. So, I think there's good reason ultimately to make it public, but there are good reasons during the investigation, at least for fact-based witnesses to keep them private.
I think when you're talking about experts it's one thing. We're talking about agency heads, it's another thing. But for these what I consider percipient or fact-based witnesses who were there, then I think there's an investigative purpose behind confidentiality.
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, thank you for helping us understand that, sir. Appreciate your time tonight.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We'll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: I know it felt like a lot of news every day recently. Tomorrow's another really, really busy day, at least just in political news.
Chuck and Nancy, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, top Democrats in Congress, are supposed to be going to the White House to meet with the president tomorrow. Maybe. You'll remember there was a big kerfuffle in Washington a few days ago when Chuck and Nancy pulled out another similar planned meeting with the president. But what they've got to talk about tomorrow is the impending shutdown.
The House is set to vote tomorrow on a spending bill, very short-term spending bill the try to keep the government up and running past the end of this week. Funding runs out on Friday if they don't pass something. So, there's this meeting at the White House tomorrow with the top Democrats, and the House is going to try to vote tomorrow to avert a shutdown for a big two weeks. Wow. Aim high, you guys.
One of the many Russians orbiting planet Trump is reportedly due to testify very soon, before the House Intelligence Committee, possibly as soon as tomorrow. His name is Felix Sater. He's a Russian-American real estate developer/FBI informant/ex-con, who's done extensive deals with the president. He is set to testify behind closed doors and again, that may happen as soon as tomorrow. We'll be watching for that.
But also, tomorrow, on this show, I got to tell you, we're going to have an update on a story that has haunted me since I first heard about it and we first covered it. It's a story about a dramatic arrest that happened a year ago at a meeting of intelligence officers, where they came in to this meeting of intelligence officers and arrested one of their own people.
This is crazy story. They literally threw a bag over this guy's head at the meeting and dragged him out of the room. We now may know at least specifically why they put a bag over his head when they arrested him that day before they dragged him out.
We've been following this story for a year since we first learned about it. We think we may finally have the explanation for it. We'll have that on tomorrow night show.
That does it for us tonight. We'll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it's time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O'DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
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