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Trump-Putin call first announced by Russia Transcript 12/18/17 The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Sari Horwitz

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: December 18, 2017 Guest: Sari Horwitz

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

The day started today with an almost unimaginable terrible train derailment in Washington state. We`re continuing to follow the ongoing response even now. The derailment happened at 7:33 a.m. local time. That was 10:33 Eastern Time this morning.

This Amtrak passenger train came off the track, nose-dived right onto interstate 5. Eighty passengers and five crew members were on board. All but one of the 14 cars on the train, all but one, 13 of the 14 cars jumped the track. Now, this is a train that was bound from Seattle south to Portland, Oregon. The derailment happened just south of Tacoma, Washington.

As of tonight, officials are confirming three passengers on the train were killed. At least another three passengers suffered critical injuries. More than 100 people were sent to the hospital after the crash.

This train was making its first run on apparently what were refurbished tracks meant to provide a faster trip for this popular route. It happened at a spot where the track curves and the speed limit drops dramatically.

NBC News reports tonight that investigators are looking at the possibility that this train was going as fast as 80 miles per hour in a 30-mile-per- hour zone. Now, that`s being looked at. Investigators have not said yet what caused the crash. But they have said that the train wasn`t using the latest safety system, which is a system known as positive train control. Had positive train control been in effect, that system might have been able to slow down the train remotely if in fact it was going too fast for that curve.

So, Interstate 5 in Washington is still closed and it will be. This is a huge accident, a terrible derailment. We`ll let you know more as you learn more over the course of this hour. This is still very much a developing story.

So, we woke up to that major news this morning. Shortly thereafter we got some lower-profile but fairly shocking news out of Washington, when one of the highest-profile judges in country stepped down. Federal judges are appointed to lifetime tenure. They are entitled to take senior status, which makes it something like a part-time job after they`ve been doing the gig for decades. But lots of judges stay on the bench, working actively until they`re wicked old. Judicial resignations are very rare. Judicial impeachments never happen. Judicial resignations because of scandal, it`s just -- doesn`t happen.

But today, Judge Alex Kozinski from the 9th Circuit announced that he will be retiring. He`s 67 years old. He has served on the court for 32 years. He`s one of the few judges outside of the Supreme Court who has a national profile and a national reputation.

He`s influential because of his seniority, because he`s been on the court for so long, used to be the chief justice of the 9th Circuit. He`s also influential because of his somewhat flamboyant reputation, because his rulings are often written in such a way they get picked up and discussed to even outside legal circles.

But he`s also particularly influential within the judiciary and the legal community more broadly because he`s one of a handful of judges across the country who reliably get their own law clerks gigs at the Supreme Court. Kosinski clerks very frequently end up becoming Supreme Court clerks after they leave his chambers.

And that might not sound like much because the words "clerk" inherently sounds, but a Supreme Court clerkship is basically the golden ticket in the American legal system. I mean, if you want to become a future judge yourself or you want to become a future legal big wheel, a Supreme Court clerkship is a very good start to that. And Alex Kosinski for decades, he`s had the power to make or break very important legal careers because of his influence in getting people spots on the Supreme Court as clerks.

And that`s been true for a very long time and now he`s out. "Washington Post" two weeks ago broke the news of six former clerks and associates of Alex Kozinski`s who said he had behaved inappropriately, people accused him of sexual misconduct. At the end of last week, on Thursday, the Ninth Circuit Court said it would investigate Judge Kozinski based on those claims. Then, a day after that, on Friday, "The Washington Post" came back with accounts from another nine women, describing uncomfortable or inappropriate encounters with Kozinski. That brings the total to 15.

We then learned that of Kozinski`s four law clerks he has on staff that year, two of them have resigned from that absolutely plum position with him, in the wake of these allegations against him. And now as of today, Alex Kozinski will step.

And I know if Kozinski is not familiar to you, they may seem like not the biggest story in the world. It may just seem like yet another one of these powerful men who`s being taken down in this new era of openness and accountability over sexual harassment and sexual misconduct in the work place.

But this is an American story in a different sense as well. It`s just hard to state how much of an outlier his resignation is in the judiciary. This kind of thing just doesn`t happen among high-level federal judges. And at a time when many people in this country are saying the stability and integrity of the judiciary as the biggest and best check we`ve got, while lots of other political norms seem to be falling by the wayside, you should just know that apart from and aside from the content of the allegations against Judge Kosinski, his decision to resign is resonating like an earthquake within that branch of our government right now. So, that`s an important story.

In Washington today and tonight, there are two big competing news stories right now, one of which seems to be steaming straight ahead. The other one seems to be getting a little weird. The one that`s steaming straight ahead is the Republicans` tax bill. Since Trump has been president, the Republicans have passed no legislation of any significance.

But if they are able to pass this tax bill, it will be a huge deal. It will be the largest overhaul of the tax system in 30 years. If they do pass it, it`s remarkable how big it is that they will pass it without holding any substantive hearings on this legislation, without any substantive expert testimony on this legislation. They will pass it without the vote or even the consultation of a single Democrat in either House of Congress.

If they pass this tax bill, you will still be able to say Republicans were only able to pass one thing in the whole first year of the Trump presidency but if this is the thing they pass, it really is a doozy.

As currently constituted, the bill`s expected to throw 13 million Americans not just off the health insurance they have now, but off of health insurance altogether. Most Americans, 60 percent of Americans from the bottom rung of the income ladder, up through the middle class, according to a new analysis released today, 60 percent of Americans will actually have your taxes raised by this bill. At the same time, the bill`s expected to add $1.5 trillion to the deficit.

Now, if you just think of that basic math for a second, how can you raise taxes on 60 percent of people in the country, and still have the government lose tons of money in terms of tax revenue taken in? How does that happen? It`s because of what happens to the corporations and people at the very top of the income ladder, who will see gigantic benefits from this bill, so much so that we will add $1.5 trillion to the debt.

I mean, the general shape of this legislation has been clear from its first iterations, that it will hurt people who make less money. It will hurt poor people, working people, middle-class people, and it will it benefit people at the very top, the rich and corporations. That has been the basic shape of it from the beginning.

As they have continued to change this bill and tweak it and add new stuff to try to shore up Republican votes for it, that dynamic in this bill where it hurts the poor and helps the rich, it has been getting worse, not better. Worse, not better.

You`d think they would be helping this thing become more popular. They are doing more of what has made it very unpopular. This afternoon, Mike Lee and Susan Collins removed their names from the short list of Republican senators who had been uncommitted on the tax bill. Both Utah Senator Mike Lee and Maine Senator Susan Collins both came out and announced they`d vote for it. That probably means the Republicans will have votes when they put this to the vote in the House tomorrow and the Senate tomorrow night or on Wednesday.

Republicans are rushing ahead with this thing. We`ll have more on that process and where that stands. We`ll have an update on the people who are still trying to stop it at this late date. We`ll have that coming up in just a few minutes.

So, that is -- I said there are two big competing stories in Washington. That`s the one that`s steaming straight ahead. The other major story in Washington is the status of the Russia investigation.

And as I mentioned, that one does not appear to be steaming straight ahead. That one appears to be veering a little bit into some strange territory. NBC News has remarkable exclusive today on what has been one of the very central basic questions about what happened between the Trump campaign and Russia and how strange it was.

One of the things would`ve tried to keep track of on this show is the very large roster of Russians, people connected to the Russian government who made some kind of contact with the Trump campaign or the Trump transition before Trump was sworn in as president. There are a lot of them. And we`re not like some crack intelligence agency that`s been able to unearth all these obscure contacts. We`re just going from publicly reported information about all of the different Russians and people connected to the Russian government who all made contact with the Trump campaign.

And because there are so many of them, because there were so many contacts with Russians and people connected to the Russian government, one of the very central, very basic questions about all this from the beginning is isn`t that weird? Like that`s -- like other campaigns don`t talk about having 19 different Russians and people connected to the Russian government contacting them. Didn`t the Trump people think that was weird?

It has remained a singular question, like an important framing question from the very beginning. Why didn`t a single person associated with the Trump campaign or the Trump transition ever think upon being contacted by a Russian that maybe that`s weird, maybe that`s a contact that should be reported to the FBI?

NBC`s exclusive report today puts an incredibly hot spotlight on that original question because NBC reports today that right after Trump and Clinton secured the presidential nominations from their respective part ideas, right around the time the FBI was due to give each of them their first classified intelligence briefing as presidential candidates, the FBI also warned them to be on the lookout for foreign spies.

And this makes sense, right? Russian intelligence, any aggressive foreign intelligence service, they might happily target anybody in the U.S. who has access to information that Russia wants or China wants something, some other foreign intelligence service wants for some reason. But if a person doesn`t just access to normal information, if a person all of a sudden is getting high-level top secret classified intelligence of a kind only provided to presidents and presidential candidates, well, yes, by virtue of that person`s brand new exposure to these high-level intelligence briefings, certainly that person would become a much more attractive target for any spy who was trying to go after them to get new information.

And so, the FBI prepared a warning. Quote: In the weeks after he became the Republican nominee in July 2016, Donald Trump was warned that foreign adversaries, including Russia, would probably try to spy on and infiltrate his campaign. The warning came in a form of a high-level counterintelligence briefing by senior FBI officials. A similar briefing was given to Hillary Clinton.

The candidates were urged to alert the FBI about any suspicious overtures to their campaigns. The briefings were designed to educate the candidates and their top aides about potential threats from foreign spies. The briefings were timed to occur around the period when the candidates started receiving classified intelligence. Those classified briefings put them at greater risk for being targeted by foreign spies.

So, we`re learning this for the first time today. We already knew that Trump`s first classified intelligence briefing as a newly minted presidential candidate happened last August, August 17th, 2016. This warning that we now know went to Trump and his top staffers on the campaign, this is very interesting for a few reasons.

First of all, we know by the time Trump was getting that warning, more than a half dozen Trump campaign staffers, including members of his own family, had already taken high-level meetings with Russians and people who were sent as emissaries from the Russian government. So, how does not come up in the big be aware of Russian infiltration overtures meetings, right?

I mean, counterintelligence, counterespionage officers from the FBI are telling you, hey, you know, you`re probably going to get some overtures from people connected to the Russian government or people who may be have connection to the Russian government but you can`t quite tell. If that happens, we know what that is. That`s a big deal. Give us a call.

The Trump guys are sitting there thinking, I wonder if that includes like the Trump Tower meeting last month when there were so many Russians there they had to like come in a minibus. Should we tell them about that?

It`s not like the FBI was warning them about something they hadn`t done yet. Nobody tells the FBI after they get that warning that yes, actually, glad you mentioned, if there have been tons of Russians, these Russians -- we keep taking meetings with them. Is that bad? Also, after this warning from the FBI, we know that the Trump campaign, including Trump`s own family members, they kept interacting with Russians, right? After this warning, let us know about any overtures in Russians, there`s Jared Kushner taking his meeting with the head of a sanctioned Russian bank. There`s Jeff Sessions taking his meetings with the Russian ambassador. There`s Donald Trump Jr. having his back and forth with WikiLeaks which by that point is being publicly described as a Russian intelligence cutout.

So, they have already been warned by the FBI to call the FBI if there are any overtures from any Russians. But apparently, they don`t say beep. Now, the Trump campaign`s line on all those contacts with all those Russians is that those were totally innocuous things. There was nothing wrong with any of them. The reason they kept all of them secret for months is awful them slipped their mind.

If there was nothing wrong, nothing nefarious about all those Russian contacts, why didn`t they tell the FBI about them after the FBI gave them an explicit warning and said you need to call us when Russians call you? But here`s the other really interesting part about this scoop from NBC. If NBC is right that these warnings to the Trump campaign about overtures from Russians, if those warnings, in fact, came right around time of Trump`s first classified intelligence briefing in mid August, we know that by then, the FBI was already aware that the Trump campaign had had lots of contacts with agents of the Russian government, right?

By August -- the FBI and the CIA, by that point they`d already started their counterintelligence investigation into the unusual number and unusual nature of contacts between Trump associates and people connected to the Russian government. So, how weird is that, right? How weird is that? Aren`t you dying to know what these FBI guys were thinking? I mean, just think about that timeline, right? They`ve already started their investigation.

The counterintelligence guys at the FBI they know all about all these suspicious contacts between Trump folks and Russians before they go into this meeting with Trump to warn him hey, you know what, when you have contacts with Russians you should let us know, those might be real problem.

If you were a counterintelligence official at the FBI, what were you thinking around that time? What was going on in your head at the time the FBI was having to give this warning to Trump? What was in your head? Like what would?

Turns out we can answer that, because on the first week -- excuse me -- on the week of Trump`s first classified intelligence briefing as a presidential candidate, within a week of that briefing, we`ve got a direct quote from the personal text messages of the deputy assistant director of the counterintelligence division at the FBI, and he in this text message says what he thinks about what he knew at that time when the FBI was giving its warning. And this was his text message, all caps, OMG. I cannot believe we are seriously looking at these allegations and the pervasive connections. The pervasive connections.

Deputy assistant director at the counterintelligence division of the FBI apparently exclaiming over exactly what the FBI was looking at in terms of the Trump campaign and its pervasive connections with Russia.

OMG indeed.

The reason we have that text is itself kind of a scandal. And it`s part of why the Russia investigation kind of feels like it could go any one of a number of ways right now. As you know, from the start of this investigation Republicans in the Trump White House have come up with a whole series of things they say are the real scandal instead of the Russian attack on our election, and the question of whether the Trump campaign had anything to do with it.

Their first alternate scandal was unmasking. Remember that? The problem wasn`t that Mike Flynn was secretly talking to the Russians. It`s that we somehow found out that Mike Flynn was secretly talking to the Russians. That`s the scandal.

After they tried the unmasking one, then they tried Uranium One. Yes. That`s the real scandal. Robert Mueller is secretly made of Canadian uranium.

Then they tried to make the Christopher Steele dossier into the real Russia scandal.

And then last week, they picked a new new scandal. Texts between Peter Strzok, the deputy assistant director of the counterintelligence division at the FBI, and Lisa Page, who`s an FBI lawyer. Page at one point had worked on the Mueller investigation, but she`d been off that team for months. Peter Strzok had initially been part of the Mueller investigation and then had been removed this summer after the Justice Department inspector general turned up a bunch of his ext messages that showed Strzok and Page communicating with each other at a personal level and expressing various strong political opinions.

Mueller saw those text messages from the inspector general`s office. He responded by taking Strzok off his team back in I think June of this year. So, Strzok no longer works on the Mueller investigation. No longer works in counterintelligence. He`s now in human resources.

But the texts themselves have been seized upon by Republicans as proof that Mueller`s team is somehow irreparably biased against Trump and therefore Mueller must be fired. And, you know, there definitely are some anti-Trump sentiments expressed in some of these texts.

After Trump went after the khan family who lost their son in Iraq, Lisa Page forwarded an article about the khan family to Peter Strzok. She said, Jesus, you should read this and Trump should go F himself. Strzok replied, God, that`s a great article. Thanks for sharing. And F Trump.

During what I think was a debate in October, Strzok said, I am riled up. Trump is an F-ing idiot, unable to provide a coherent answer.

On election day, we got another OMG from Peter Strzok. OMG, this is F-ing terrifying. And then he forwards a story that says that Clinton might lose.

So, because of those anti-Trump texts from this FBI official who until six months ago did some work on the Mueller administration, Republicans have been on fire for a week now, right, saying these texts show incredible anti-Trump bias on the part of someone who once worked on the Mueller investigation but hasn`t been there for six months.

I`ve got to say, though, the initial outrage about how anti-Trump this FBI official was are based on a pretty specific reading of his texts. Because it turns out he`s pretty ecumenical in terms of who comes in for criticism. Quote -- texts between Page and Strzok -- I just saw my first Bernie Sanders bumper sticker. Makes me want to key car. He`s an idiot like Trump.

Well, how about this one about Paul Ryan? I hope Paul Ryan falls and crashes in a blaze of glory.

And poor Martin O`Malley. Martin O`Malley is a freak show. Don`t know what he did to deserve that. God, Trump is a loathsome human. Yet he may win. Good for Hillary. It is. Would he be a worse president than Cruz? Trump? Yes, I think. So I`m not sure.

Here`s one where Strzok says he may vote for Trump. Quote, OK, I may vote for Trump, he was pretty much calling for death for Edward Snowden. I`m a single issue voter. Then he gives a winky emoticon.

There`s also negative stuff between the two of them about Richard Clark. There`s negative stuff about Black Lives Matter. There`s negative stuff about Mitch McConnell. There`s more negative stuff about Bernie Sanders. There`s some fiercely negative stuff about former Attorney General Eric Holder. There`s negative stuff about Jeff Sessions. There`s as I said negative stuff about Paul Ryan. There`s negative stuff about Chelsea Clinton.

There`s actually quite a bit of anti-Clinton stuff. Peter Strzok at one point says he`s worried about what happens if Clinton is elected. In another exchange, Strzok says there is clear and utter bias by the media, specifically, "The New York Times" "The Washington Post", and CNN, if you look at them, all of them have large donors for Clinton, the fact citing source they use is owned by a newspaper which publicly endorsed Clinton.

At one point, Peter Strzok says that he`s a conservative Democrat who`s going to vote for John Kasich.

I mean, depending how you excerpt these text messages, you could make a case here that these FBI officials were anti-Clinton. You could also make a case, read them a different way that these FBI officials were anti-Trump. You could also make a case that they`re anti-Congress, that they`re anti-a lot of people in public life. They certainly both express a lot of animosity about Bernie Sanders. OK.

I mean, read holistically, we don`t exactly know what these things mean in full context because we`ve only seen little pieces of them. Why do we have these, though, right? These text messages were part of an inspector general investigation of the Justice Department, which is ongoing. These text messages have been selectively leaked for political effect in the middle of that ongoing investigation.


REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Do you know of any other cases where material in an ongoing investigation were released by the press officer to reporters?

ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: I don`t know the details, Congressman. But --

RASKIN: And are you aware of the I.G. rule which says that material in an ongoing investigation cannot be ruled?

ROSENSTEIN: Oh, yes. Thank you. Yes, I appreciate that. When this inquiry came in from the Congress, we did consult with the inspector general and he determined that he had no objection to the release of the material. If he had I can assure you I would not have authorized the release.

RASKIN: The release of material that`s part of an ongoing investigation. What they released is material that the inspector general obtained. These texts from FBI officials.

Despite what Rod Rosenstein said there to Congressman Jamie Raskin last week under oath, the inspector general has now released a statement making clear what that Rod Rosenstein said there is not true. Yes, the Justice Department made a decision to release the text of these FBI officials and give them to reporters. Even though Rosenstein said they checked with the inspector general before doing that, the inspector general says that is not true.

His office was never asked to sign off on giving these things to reporters. So, why`d they do it then? Right? This is a serious battlefield as to accountability for the Russia scandal and the future of the Mueller investigation.

Republicans have been trying with all sorts of different stuff to smear the investigation, smear the special counsel as biased. In this case, the Justice Department releasing these texts appears to be helping them try to make that case in a selective and out of context way.

And when asked about it under oath, the deputy attorney general appears to have not told the truth about that. Is that going to end up being trouble for the deputy attorney general, for Rod Rosenstein who oversees the Mueller investigation at the Justice Department? If it is going toned up being trouble for Rod Rosenstein, the White House will love that.

All of these swirling beltway reports right now that the president is seriously considering what means he has to impede the Mueller investigation, to block it somehow, if he gets any sort of reason to fire Rod Rosenstein, that will get them a good distance down that road.

The president does have options if he wants to start firing people in the Mueller investigation. The "Washington Post" reports today on hundreds of cities and towns around the country that have planned demonstrations in the event that Trump fires Robert Mueller. And it`s very specific. If the firing happens in the morning, people will demonstrate at 5:00 p.m. that day. If the firing happens in the afternoon, people will demonstrate the following day at noon, plans in effect.

But what if it`s not Robert Mueller who gets fired? What if it`s Rod Rosenstein or Jeff Sessions? Either of whom could start the process that would result in the end of the Mueller investigation.

The Republican effort to try to undermine Mueller and create a politically plausible pretense for firing him has gone through a bunch of different iterations since this investigation started, and it`s one thing to see the attempt to create that pretense from the White House or from pro-Trump members of Congress. It is another thing to see it from the Justice Department itself.

The president does not have the world`s greatest legal eagles on his side in this fight, though, and that may end up being the most important thing in deciding what`s going to happen in this radically veering story next. And that`s next. Stay with us.


MADDOW: "Washington Post" has just broken a new story that will unsettle the White House when it comes to the Mueller investigation. "The Washington Post" reporting tonight, just as we got on the air, that members of the Mueller probe have been advised that they will be -- well, members of the Mueller probe have advised other people that they expect to be working on their current gig, the Mueller investigation, for much of 2018. If you`ve been following the president`s confident assertions that this is all going to be all over immediately, definitely by Thanksgiving, I mean, Christmas -- I mean, New Year`s. That news has got to be causing some agita in the White House.

I`ll be talking with "Washington Post" reporter about that in just a moment. I also want to offer you one more piece of evidence, though, that the Trump team is having a little bit of a freak-out right now as to what the Mueller investigation is doing.

This lawyer was sent this weekend to two congressional committees apparently chosen at random by a lawyer for the Trump transition team. His name is Kory Langhofer. Mr. Langhofer says in his letter that Mueller`s office has taken thousands and thousands of the transition team`s e-mails without permission. He says he took them illegally.

Even though the transition team wrote their e-mails using government-issued computers and devices, using dot-gov e-mail addresses, the Trump transition lawyer is now saying that those e-mails they sent were all private, those were all private and Mueller can`t have them.

The Trump transition lawyer also says that many of these e-mails in his estimation are protected by, quote, the attorney-client privilege, the deliberative process privilege and the presidential communications privilege.

Now, I`m not a lawyer. And statistically speaking neither are you. But think of that for a second. This is for the transition.

So, Trump`s not president. So he`s claiming presidential privilege over stuff that happens before he`s -- I mean, there can`t be presidential privilege if Donald Trump wasn`t president yet unless there`s presidential privilege for the president of the Trump organization, right? That`s not how it works.

Counsel of the General Services Administration, which is the agency that provided these devices and e-mail accounts to the transition, told "BuzzFeed News" this weekend that, quote, in using our devices, transition team members were informed that materials would not be held back in any law enforcement actions. Deputy counsel read to "BuzzFeed News" a series of agreements that anyone had to agree to when using GSA materials during the transition, including that there could be monitoring and auditing of the devices and that, quote, therefore no expectation of privacy can be assumed.

Apparently, all the Trump transition folks who got e-mail addresses and devices signed off on that but maybe they didn`t have their readers. Those little tiny print.

Apparently, the way that team Trump found out that Mueller`s team has these thousands of e-mails from the transition is that members of the Trump transition team have gone in for interviews with Mueller and they`ve been asked about these e-mails. That is how the Trump legal team has been surprised to discover that Mueller has got them, all of them, thousands of them.

So, team Trump is having a little bit of a freak-out around that issue right now, evidenced by these accusations that Mueller`s team is acting unlawfully by obtaining these e-mails that Trump`s team wrote on government-owned devices and from government e-mail accounts. But this is just one of a number of stories we`ve had break over the weekend and into this evening that tell you why the Trump White House may be having a difficult night right now.

More ahead. Stay with us.


MADDOW: (AUDIO GAP) "Washington Post", quote: White House lawyers are expected to meet with special counsel Robert Mueller`s office late this week, seeking good news that his sprawling investigation`s focus on President Trump will soon end and their client will be cleared. But people with knowledge of the investigation said it could last another year. The special counsel`s office has continued to request new documents related to the campaign and members of Mueller`s team have told others they expect to be working through much of 2018 at a minimum.

Joining now is Sari Horwitz. She`s reporter for the "Washington Post".

Ms. Horowitz, thank you very much for being here. Really appreciate your time.


MADDOW: So I know that you have been reporting about I guess they call them attacks. Attacks, certainly oppositional strategy against the Mueller investigation from the president`s allies including Republicans in Congress. If this meeting later this week between Mueller and the president`s lawyers doesn`t go the way the president likes it to, are we starting to get a sense of what the president sees as his options?

HORWITZ: Well, this meeting that you`re talking about might sort of signal a new combative, contentious phase in this investigation because as you just said, we were told that at the meeting the lawyers are expecting or hope that the Mueller team will tell them they can go tell their boss that the phase of the Mueller investigation that involves the president and the White House is ending. And that he`s sort of cleared or exonerated.

But what we`ve been told of course is that this investigation could go on at least another year. And so, they will not be betting that kind of news. So they may be becoming more combative and contentious up to this point.

They feel like, the lawyers feel like they`ve been cooperating. They`ve been turning over documents. They`ve been giving witnesses -- allowing witnesses to be interviewed and that now, they may say what do you want from us? What documents do you want? And that`s what we may be seeing next.

MADDOW: Do we know why it is that White House lawyers keep telling the president that he`s going to be exonerated? I mean, it creates an interesting psychological dynamic where the president may realistically be expecting that and then we all have to wonder about how he`ll react if he doesn`t get that thing that he expects. But is the basis for the lawyer`s advice to the president on that front simply that the Mueller investigators haven`t interviewed the president, that they haven`t held back any documents, that nothing`s happened thus far that has scared them?

HORWITZ: They may believe from the questions that they`ve heard about and the documents they`ve been asked for that there`s no collusion. And thus, that the president is not vulnerable on that point. And that`s what they`re telling him. And, of course, we`ve heard President Trump say as recently as Sunday there`s no collusion.

And the president also said this weekend that he`s not going to fire Mueller. And his spokesman told us this morning on the record that the attorney general and the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, should not fear for their jobs. Hard to know what that really means because the president of course has been very angry with Jeff Sessions since March he when he recused himself and sort of everything from there led directly to the Mueller investigation.

And we also know that the president has spoken sort of ill of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. He thought that his testimony last week was weak. And he`s also -- he`s referred to him as a Democrat which is odd because Rod Rosenstein is actually a Republican. But he has said they don`t have to fear for their jobs. So, you know, it`s hard to know what`s going on there.

MADDOW: I will say in trying -- I`ve been sort of fascinated from the very beginning about the team that the president has put together to mount his legal defense. The initial hiring of Marc Kasowitz and then Kasowitz sort of disappearing, Dowd and Cobb both being interesting and not necessarily the first people you`d think of for important jobs like this. Mr. Sekulow who`s playing a big role on television, even though he doesn`t seem to be having any grounding in this kind of law in terms of his previous practice, we now have this unusual legal contention from a lawyer for the Trump transition who seems blindsided by the fact that Mueller was able to obtain the transition team`s e-mails.

The General Services Administration seems to have responded to the allegations by saying, hey, listen, you should have read the fine print, once you`re using dot-gov e-mails addresses and our equipment, that stuff you shouldn`t have had any expectation of privacy. It`s a strange bout of lawyering here. The admission that they were blindsided, the fact that they have taken this case that Mueller acted illegally not to a judge, which is what you`d think but they`ve instead sent it in a letter to two random congressional committees.

It feels to me as an observer that there`s some idiosyncratic lawyering happening here.

HORWITZ: Well, there have been lots of questions about the abilities of the legal team, Trump`s legal team, and we`ve written a lot about that. You`re right about those e-mails, the thousands of e-mails that the Trump transition lawyer complained about. The special counsel`s office has said hey, we got those legally. They say dot-gov, they`re not your personal e- mails and we`re able to obtain those legally.

So, you know, this is part of again what you talked about earlier in the show, the intensifying attacks on Mueller and what they`re doing and their integrity and questions of bias and the texts between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. I mean, this is all sort of a pattern.

And what we saw with the e-mails coming from the GSA this weekend or that they were discovered, that`s part of that pattern.

MADDOW: Yes. Sari Horwitz, a reporter for "The Washington Post," making sense of justice issues for America for a very long time now -- thank you for helping us understand this. I really appreciate it.

HORWITZ: Sure. Thank you for having me.

MADDOW: All right. Much more still to come tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: If you were walking down Lisbon Street in Lewiston, Maine, you could miss it between the district court and the depositors trust building front entrance. You can see -- there it is. Little light -- yes, there you go.

The office of Susan M. Collins, U.S. senator. This was 11:00 a.m. this morning inside Senator Collins`s Lewiston, Maine office. Around a dozen faith leaders and clergy members paying their senator a visit. They came by to tell Senator Collins`s staff they were disappointed to hear that she was going to be voting for the Republican tax bill. They thought the bill was immoral, they wanted her to change her mind and vote no.

These members of the clergy also said that they weren`t going to go anywhere, they were going to stay in that office until the senator changes her mind.


REVERED JODI HAYASHIDA: We are really feeling called to witness to the immorality of this bill and we are committed to remain here until we hear from Senator Collins that she will vote against this bill.


HAYASHIDA: So we`re going to stay here and we`re going to share in some prayer and some song together.

STAFFER 1: OK. I will share that.

STAFFER 2: Which is totally fine. However, if people are trying to come in here to do actual service issues, just let them in.

HAYASHIDA: Of course, thank you.

STAFFER 1: Thank you.

PEGGY SMITH: We are doing actual constituent services.

STAFFER 2: No, I mean, we have a lot of people from immigration populations that come in, that`s what I kind of meant, who are looking for our help.


STAFFER 1: Just leave a path here, please.

PEGGY SMITH: Sorry, I didn`t mean it like that. I didn`t mean it. Sorry. And we are also asking for your help.


MADDOW: The politest possible protest.

Those faith leaders sand, and they said prayers. When Susan Collins announced that she decided to vote yes on the tax bill late in the day, they stayed put. At the close of business, they were asked to leave first by the staff and then ultimately by the police.

When they refused, five of them were zip-tied and arrested and taken to jail. They kept singing as when they were loaded into police vans.

So, that was tonight in Lewiston, Maine. Senator Collins faced pressure all over this state while this bill makes its final push through Congress. In Biddeford, Maine, her constituents never made it through the front door. They held a rally on the ice in 20-degree weather because the senator`s staff apparently locked the office when they showed up. They left this note: You left us in the cold. And they all signed their names.

This was in Texas today, outside Senator John Cornyn`s office in Dallas, Texas. His constituents singing him tax bill Christmas carols.

The longer Republicans wait to vote on this thing, the more we`re figuring out what`s actually in it. Republicans unveiled it on Friday, and the reporting since then has been -- well, it`s been about a lot of unpopular stuff. Obscure sweeteners to benefit the high-end real estate business. Who`s that for?

That`s also incidentally not just the president`s business, but business that Senator Bob Corker is in. You might remember Senator Corker needed a push from Republican colleagues to change his vote to yes.

We also got another analysis of the bill that shows how it favors the richest Americans and how middle-class Americans, most Americans, 60 percent of Americans will actually get your taxes raised by this bill. The bill will represent a massive transfer of wealth that will touch almost every corner of American life.

It will add over a trillion dollars to the debt. It will kick millions of Americans off all health insurance. But we can say tonight it is probably going to pass.

This is video taken tonight in the hallway in the U.S. capitol. People getting arrested in pretty good numbers.

Do we have that video? We have that, you guys? No?

I will tell you what we will show you as soon as we get it is the video we just saw. In this evening, people getting arrested in pretty good numbers tonight at the U.S. Capitol.

Opposition has been mounting as we learn more and more about what the Republicans are going to vote on in this bill. But Republicans did today probably scrounge up the last votes they need. Senator John McCain will be home in Arizona recovering in Arizona from recent cancer treatment and he won`t be able to vote but they probably won`t need him. As of tonight, they think they`ve got 50 Republican senators in line to vote yes.

A vote in the House will happen tomorrow. The Senate vote could happen tomorrow night or on Wednesday.

You want to roll that tape? This is from tonight in the U.S. capitol. Expect a final herculean push from the people who face real harm if this bill passes, people who`ve been out there since the beginning pushing against this thing. Even though they look like they`ve got the votes on the Republican side, I expect protesters to be out there until the end.

Watch this space.


MADDOW: The president of the United States had yet another call with the president of Russia this weekend. So if you`re keeping track, this is the second one-on-one call between them in less than a week. There was one on Thursday. And then apparently yesterday, Putin called again. Hey, boo, what are you doing? What`s on TV where you are? What are you doing?

By our count, today`s call marks at least the fifth time where there is a meeting or call between Washington and Russia but we here in the United States have to learn about it from Russia. White House communications department is usually pretty good at sending out regular readouts of calls and meetings in the president`s schedule, except when it comes to contacts with the Russian government. Calls with Putin, meetings with the Russian foreign minister. Those things the White House doesn`t tell us about.

Moscow, on the other hand, is great at announcing each and every time Russia gets a meeting with Trump. It was the Kremlin who let us know last week about Putin and Trump having that call on Thursday. Before that, November 21st, we learned from a Russian state-run news agency that Trump and Putin would be speaking that day. Two weeks before that, at the Asia summit, it was a Kremlin staffer who announced plans that Trump and Putin would be having one-on-one meetings on the sidelines of that summit.

Before that, it was the oval office meeting between the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador and the president of the United States. Not only did Russian state media inform us of that meeting and release these pictures of that meeting but American media, American media was flat out banned from the environment event.

Well, now, there`s another one. The Kremlin just letting us know about a second call between Trump and Putin in four days. After the Kremlin let us know about that, the White House did later confirm.

How long is this going to keep happening?


MADDOW: Chart imitates life. This summer, we did a chart imitates life about people who are running for Congress for next year. Blue are Democrats, red are Republicans. These are people who are running who aren`t currently in Congress. So, non-incumbents. People who are running to try to get a seat in Congress who don`t already have one.

Now, all of these candidates have filed formal paperwork with the FCC saying they`re going to run. And they`re all serious candidates. They haven`t just declared and filed the paperwork. They`ve all raised at least $5,000 toward their campaign. These are numbers as of June 30th. This shows you the best way to look at this is that these are for numbers the year before somebody`s going to run.

So, where it says 2003, that`s people trying for a spot on the ballot for the 2004 election. Where it says 2005, that`s people trying for a ballot in the 2006 election, right?

For our purposes, though, take a look at 2009. 2009, big difference between the Democrats and the Republicans, right? Twice as many Republicans running that year as Democrats, tons of them running.

In hindsight, that spike in Republican challengers running in 2009, that was an alerted that big Republican election was coming in 2010. And Republicans picked up a huge number of seats in 2010. They picked up 63 seats in the House and six seats in the Senate. You could see that wave coming because of how many more Republicans than Democrats were jumping out of the gate early to run that year.

Well, now look at this one more time. As we showed you in July this summer, this is next year`s election for 2018, Democrats, boom, flooding the zone ahead of the 2018 elections, 209 Democratic challenges compared with 28 of Republicans as of June.

Well, three months later, up to September 30th, look at this. The Democrats pulled further away from the Republicans. It is now 391 Democratic challengers compared to 71 Republicans, five and a half times more Democratic challengers saying game on, I`m in, when compared with Republicans.

If that lopsided count of candidates in 2009 was a harbinger of Republican domination in 2010, what is that lopsided count this year tell you about what`s coming up next year? Midterms are only 323 days away.

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


Good evening, Lawrence.




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