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Kamala Harris Interview Transcript 1/12/18 The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Kamala Harris

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: January 12, 2018 Guest: Kamala Harris

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST, MSNBC HOST: Until then, Rachel Maddow is here and her show starts now.

Good evening, my friend.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: The hardest working woman in the business. Thank you my friend, Joy. Much appreciated.

REID: Thank you. Have a great show.

MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. OK. So where do you start? Where do we start?

I will start by telling you right off the bat that Senator Kamala Harris is our guest tonight. She`s going to be here live. Senator Harris does not do a lot of interviews. There, of course, is fever pitched speculation she will be a serious contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. She is right in the middle of the immigration fight that led to this week`s latest he said what nightmare involving this president.

Senator Kamala Harris is live tonight, in just a couple minutes. So, you`ll definitely want to see that.

Today at the White House, they tried to announce something about the Iran nuclear deal. They were trying to announce that President Trump will continue to certify the Iran nuclear deal for now but maybe he won`t do it any more after this.

And I say they were trying to announce that because they failed at it. They failed at actually making the announcement. They set up a call for reporters to call in to get this news from the White House on this very serious subject and we actually got a transcript of what happened when reporters called in for this call set up by the White House.

Here is how it started. This is where the transcript starts. Man speaking mandarin Chinese. I am going upstairs to the chicken shop. They have nothing downstairs. Everything has been sold out. That`s in Mandarin. We got it translated.

And then next person says cough. Next person says, hey, how are you? Next person says, sorry, I`m on a phone conference. I have -- the nothing usual. I can show you the outlet.

A woman`s voice says, hello. Then a woman comes on also speaking Chinese and says, yes, of course. Then she told me -- so man speaking Chinese at the start, woman speaking Chinese a few lines in, that a man says we can get in trouble doing that sometimes.

Then a different man says, do you have a note pad? Just one note pad? Woman says, it`s not up yet? Man says, I hear a lot of noise. Woman yells, everyone shut up.

Woman says this is Washington D.C. Different woman says I hope not. Yes, that`s what we think. He told me 13 months. But this different woman says, hello, hello? Different woman says, is there an operator?

Woman with British accent says, hello? Is there anyone? We can`t hear anything.

Different woman says, I can`t hear anything either. Yes, yes, we do not recall the president saying these comments specifically. I think I know who she`s quoting there.

Then another woman yelling, has the call started? Then a man says, Martha, can you get me another hard line? I need another land line. I can`t hear anything. A woman says, should we hang up?

Man says, Martha when I try to dial the number, it`s not ringing. Man says, I don`t know. This White House can`t even run an f-ing conference call right. He doesn`t say f-ing. They don`t know how to mute people`s lines. Group laughter.

Man, I`m going to mute myself. Man yelling, hello, is anybody listening? Man, dot, dot, dot, can`t even conduct a bleeping phone call. He didn`t say bleeping.

Then background music starts. Rick Astley`s "Never Going to Give you Up" starts playing softly in the background.

Then the woman with an authoritative voice comes on the line and says hi, this is the AT&T operator. Woman with British accent, of usually excited to hear this says, hello, we can`t hear anything. Different woman says, I don`t know, it`s very noisy and a lot of people are speaking.

And man says yes, Kim Jong-un calling for Donald Trump. Woman, hello? Man, how long can this continue like this?

Different man, hello, this is the State Department. Can you add this line as a host? Woman, how do we do that? Press one. Do we press one?

Man, does anybody know when this conference is starting? Woman, it already has started. Group, more voices, comma, laughter.

Woman, is there any authorizer on the line?

That was the Trump White House today attempting to announce to reporters the new White House policy of increased belligerence toward Iran. They called reporters and asked them to join them on this call. Now, reporters were eventually able to figure out what the White House was trying to announce.

But even with Martha getting that guy a new note pad and somebody playing Rick Astley and the people organizing the call screaming to reporters, shut up, shut up, shut up, you know, they just couldn`t quite get this out the way they wanted to. It`s not like other people set up a conference call to talk about this and the White House was like they were hoping -- this was the White House organized event.

But imagine you were Secretary of State Rex Tillerson today. Today, the whole country is coping in someway with the fact that we have a president like this now. All right. But if you`re that president`s secretary of state after the president said what he said yesterday about Haiti and African countries, if you are secretary of state, if that`s your job, you have a special cleanup to do, right? I mean, today was the day when the American ambassador to Haiti and the American ambassador to Botswana, and the American ambassador to Senegal were all summoned by those governments in those countries to give a formal explanation for what our president said at that meeting with members of Congress yesterday when he told lawmakers he wanted more immigrants to America from places like Norway and he didn`t want immigrants from what he called bleep-hole countries like those in Africa and those in Haiti.

Rex Tillerson today -- so that happened yesterday. Rex Tillerson today wakes up, heads into work knowing that American ambassadors all over the world that report to him are being summoned to explain or maybe apologize for the behavior of the president of the United States as reported in multiple newspapers yesterday. All right?

If you`re Rex Tillerson, one of the things you`re thinking about this morning is the African Union. We have a lot to do with the African Union with military stuff and counterterrorism stuff. The African Union has now issued a formal protest. They are calling for an apology from the government of the United States for what the president said. So, Rex Tillerson, secretary of state, gets up this morning, I don`t know what his morning is. Has some breakfast, maybe does Rex Tillerson yoga, I don`t know.

But he knows about the nightmare he`s about to have today because of what the president let flow from his mouth yesterday. And then presumably, you know, after he does his little morning routine thinking about what his day will be like, he gets in his Rex Tillerson secretary of state motorcade and I`m guessing he turns to the chief of staff or whoever his body man is, he`s in the car there with them, turns to get his daily schedule from his staffer who`s in the motorcade to greet him.

What`s on the books today, Igor? What are we doing?

Turns out, this is what`s on his schedule. First thing in the morning, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivers remarks at State Department before the entire staff. Topic of remarks, quote: the value of respect.

They did not put that speech on Rex Tillerson`s schedule this morning because the president of the United States called every country in Africa a swear word repeatedly in front of U.S. senators. No, this was just already on the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson`s schedule for first thing this morning.

Today was the day he had to give the value of respect speech. That must have been great for everybody.

Do you remember during the campaign when candidate Trump put out that statement from his doctor that was supposed to attest to Mr. Trump`s health? It was a hilarious statement. Mr. Trump had a recent complete medical examination that showed only positive results. Usually positive results on a medical exam are a bad thing, right? What are they testing for?

Only positive results. Quote, his physical strength and stamina are extraordinary. Quote: If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever e le elected to the presidency. That is what Trump put out during the campaign.

Today, President Trump had a physical with the actual White House physician, not his personal physician back home. Now, we thought we might hear from the White House physician himself, that happened in the past with previous White House physicians doing physicals for the president. They often made short summery statements about the president`s health immediately after the president`s physical. We did not get that today.

Instead, we got a statement from the White House which purported to be from the White House physician. Just playing this straight. The White House says this is what White House physician, Rear Admiral Ronnie Jackson, said about the president`s physical today.

Quote: The president`s physical exam today at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center went exceptionally well. The president is in excellent health and I look forward to briefing some of the details on Tuesday.

And then right at the end of that statement from the White House, they put his name on it. Dr. Ronnie Jackson.

You know what? I`m going to go out on a limb here and raise the possibility this statement was not written by the White House physician, Rear Admiral, Dr. Ronnie Jackson, and I`m not going to say that because of the assertions about how exceptionally well the president`s physical went or how excellent his health is. I`m not basing my skepticism about the authorship of the statement, on the Trumpiness of the statement itself.

I`m just sitting that aside. Now, the reason I think this might not have actually been written by the White House physician, Dr. Ronnie Jackson, is because that is not how you spell Ronnie Jackson. Either the White House physician today suddenly lost the ability to correctly spell his own name, in which case he shouldn`t be anybody`s doctor today, let alone the president`s, or alternatively, the White House put out this statement today as if it was from him but actually it`s their statement, but they tried to stick his name on but they couldn`t be bothered to look him up on Google or check his card before they tried to pull this off. Maybe the stress is getting to them.

NBC News reports tonight after the president appeared to be confused yesterday morning about his own surveillance policy, after he tweeted a statement against his own policy while watching "Fox and Friends", the second tweet that was sent nearly two hours later that tried to clean up the mess, NBC reports tonight that that second tweet had to be written for the president by his chief of staff, John Kelly. It`s still not clear if the president even now understands his own policy well enough to know that he was tweeting against it when he woke up yesterday morning.

The cleanup second tweet reportedly written on the president`s account by his chief of staff was the one that ended with the words, get smart. Now we all have to wonder who was the intended audience for that scolding ending to the statement that the president`s chief of staff had to write for him. Get smart.

And it`s not like there isn`t serious stuff going on for the White House to be handling in between the rakes they are stepping on, right? When Russian military intelligence hacked into the servers of the Democratic Party during the 2016 election, do you remember there was a funny name the hackers were assigned by the security people who figured out it was them. Remember they were called Fancy Bear.

Fancy Bear is a weird name but hacking culture is weird. That`s what security firms call hackers associated with Russian military intelligence. And that hack done by Fancy Bear was a big part how Russia tried to tilt the election for Trump, by stealing Democratic Party e-mails and documents and then releasing them online, timed for maximum negative impact.

Since the election, the "Associated Press" got its hands on a list of people and institutions who Fancy Bear has targeted all over the world, with the kinds of online traps and tricks they use to steal the DNC e-mails and the Clinton e-mails. "A.P." has reported on how Fancy Bear has gone after journalist and they`ve gone after people in the National Security Council, and they`ve gone after retired generals.

And it isn`t just Americans. Do you remember when the new president of France was elected this past summer, Emmanuel Macron? And right before, right before his election, a huge bunch of e-mails stolen from his campaign were dumped online by WikiLeaks. Remember that?

Apparently, that was Fancy Bear, too, and a firm called Trend Micro who figured out that Macron hack was Fancy Bear, that Fancy Bear who hacked Emmanuel Macro`s campaign emails, they figured out that it was them and how they did it. That security firm now says that same hacking group, Fancy Bear, Russian military intelligence, has now set up the exact same system they used to get Macron`s e-mails, but they`ve set it up in this country, it looks exactly the same, it`s exactly the same trick, has all the same finger prints on it, except here it is targeting the e-mail system of the United States Senate.

Apparently, what it is is dummy web pages that look like the U.S. Senate`s internal e-mail system. If this was, you know, if you were Russian military intelligence who had done this the first time and it worked great, why wouldn`t you do it a second time?

The next elections in America aren`t another presidential election. It`s the legislature. Oh.

I mean, especially if the U.S. government has no interest in stopping the Russians from doing this again, right? Even if our government did somehow grow the will to try to want to stop the Russians who believes this White House is capable of leading the charge against Russia to get its military intelligence to stop these ongoing attacks. Think they would be good at it?

"Associated Press" says the Fancy Bear Russian military intelligence attacks on the U.S. Senate e-mail system were observed in June and also in September. They say it appears what they are doing is collecting information, looking for information that they are collecting now that they intend to leak later, just like they did to Emmanuel Macron right before his election.

I mean, if you think that proven ongoing international intelligence threat might be top of mind for the White House tonight, I can prove you wrong about that. "The Wall Street Journal" reported this afternoon that the president`s personal lawyer paid $130,000 to an adult film star talking about an alleged affair with the president that took place the year after he married his wife Melania. "The Wall Street Journal" had previously reported on another woman who had been poised three months before the election to go public with her story about an alleged affair with the president. That woman who had been a "Playboy" model was reportedly paid for her story by "The National Enquirer", which is run by a friend of the president`s, and then the publication after they paid her, they didn`t publish it.

Well, "The Journal" is reporting today is that this other woman was also poised to tell her story right before the election and she was also paid not to tell her story. But according to "The Wall Street Journal", who she was paid by was the president`s personal lawyer.

Now, the president`s lawyer Michael Cohen denies this story. He also has produced what he said is a letter from the woman in question denying the alleged affair.

But then, CNN came out and reported tonight that the woman in question, the woman who`s the subject of "The Wall Street Journal" piece, according to CNN, they say she was in touch with producers at "Good Morning America" just before the election in 2016. She was prepared to discuss something about her relationship with Donald Trump before suddenly she cut it off. That was CNN.

And "The Daily Beast" tonight reported that they, too, were negotiating with this same woman immediately before the election to do an interview with her concerning her alleged affair with Trump when she suddenly backed out five days before the election.

So I don`t know what keeps people in the White House up these days, right? The president casually threatening nuclear war with nuclear armed North Korea. The president needing to have other people correct his statements because he doesn`t seem to understand them. The president`s health. The president`s swerving into racist tirades in front of a room full of senators, some of whom will be willing to tell other people what the president said.

This president is being served by a White House that can`t do things like spell Norway or set up phone calls with reporters or properly impersonate the White House physician.

Well, tonight they are also dealing with multiple payoffs that may have been used to silence the women with whom the president is alleged to have had affairs. Does that keep them up more than usual? Is this still a normal day at the office? Where do we start?

California Senator Kamala Harris is here next.



GWEN IFILL, LATE JOURNALIST: There is a great district attorney in San Francisco who`s name is Kamala Harris. She`s brilliant. She`s smart.

She doesn`t look anything like anybody you ever see on "Law and Order". Yet, she`s tough. And she got a big future. They call her the female Barack Obama. I mean, people aren`t very imaginative about these things anymore.


MADDOW: The late great journalist Gwen Ifill in 2009 telling David Letterman in that instance that if he`s looking for the next big thing in the Democratic Party, he should look at this great San Francisco district by the name of Kamala Harris.

Following year in 2020, Kamala Harris became California`s attorney general and in 2016 on the same night Donald Trump won the presidency, Kamala Harris became only the second black woman ever elected to the United States Senate. And honestly, the way she won, she made it look easy.

Today, there of course is a problem in the United States Senate. After the president chose an Oval Office meeting attended by a bunch of senators yesterday as the occasion on which she was going to describe immigrants from Africa and Haiti as coming from bleep-hole countries.

Senators Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham were in the meeting. They are both standing by. Multiple sourced published accounts that the president did use those words, did use that language.

But Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue, they were also at the meeting and they just can`t can`t quite remember -- maybe, maybe, maybe not, who can say? Even though both of these senators, Senator Perdue and Senator Cotton were in the room. Both of them put out a joint statement today saying they, quote, do not recall the president saying these comments specifically.

Tom Cotton and David Perdue`s selective hearing loss notwithstanding, some other Republican senators are finding this stuff hard to swallow. Today, Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said, quote: The best thing the president can do is just admit it and apologize for it and move on. You have a certain responsibility, a certain decorum you have to conduct yourself in public with. You have children watching. You have nations watching.

A stronger statement from Republican Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia, who said that is not the kind of statement the leader of the free world should make and he ought to be ashamed of himself.

Senator Isakson said, the president, quote, owes the people of Haiti and all of mankind an apology.

So, there are Republicans in the United States Senate who are going to try to acre like maybe this didn`t happen, but beyond them, there is a bit of a reckoning going on about what the president said and how we should deal with it as a country, and what it means for this country. Specifically, what it means for the legislation that he was discussing when the president said these words.

Well, no state is home to more Dreamers, more DACA recipients than the great state of California. One of the most vocal champions for the Dreamers is California Senator Kamala Harris.

Joining us now for the interview is Senator Harris.

Senator, thank you so much for being here. I know you have a lot of demands on your time. I really appreciate your time to be here tonight.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you. I appreciate you, Rachel. Thank you.

MADDOW: Let me just ask you for your top line reaction when you heard the accounts of what the president said in that room.

HARRIS: You know, listen, the words of a president are very powerful words and, unfortunately, this president has used his words to demean and belittle instead of uplifting people. And it is deeply troubling. It is unfortunate and it is irresponsible, simply irresponsible.

MADDOW: The response from senators who were in the room and I know there is a collegiality among senators and I know there`s even -- there`s arcane rules and traditions about senators and the way you talk about one another and assess one another`s character. So, I don`t want to ask you to say anything you`re not comfortable with, but I am struck by the fact that two of the senators in the room, one Democrat and one Republican, are saying yes, these published reports are accurate. All the published reports are multiply sourced. There are two Republican senators who were in the room, Senator Cotton and Senator Purdue, who say they don`t recall.

Does that stand? Is that -- what`s your reaction to that?

HARRIS: I know Dick Durbin. I have worked with him over the course of the last year on this issue. This is an issue in terms of immigration and in particular, these Dreamers that he has worked on for years and years. And I believe Dick Durbin when he shared with us the president`s words, and I don`t doubt his word.

And the other folks are going to have to reconcile their memory when they look in the mirror and when they talk to themselves or their god. Yes.

MADDOW: In terms of the context of these remarks by the president. Obviously, they were talking about immigration policy. They were talking about the Dreamers. They were talking about temporary protective status. Senator Durbin and Senator Graham were there together because they have a bipartisan idea that they think might offer a doable way out of the standoff that`s happening right now over immigration policy with the fate of these hundreds of thousands of young people in the balance.

Where do you think we`re going in terms of immigration policy? What are you telling Dreamers and their representatives right now about what`s going to happen to them?

HARRIS: Well, first of all, California has more Dreamers, as you mentioned, than any state in the country. And these kids, and in particular the DACA kids, those that were covered by the president`s executive action, have been coming to my office on a daily basis.

And they are terrified, Rachel. They are terrified. I meet them. I`m a public face of this issue and they come up to me in all places where I am and they will tell me they are DACA, and almost to a one, they then just start crying because they are terrified that at any moment, they are going to be separated from their families and they`re going to be removed from the only home they have ever known.

And what`s most insidious about this issue is that we made these kids a promise. As a country, the United States of America promised these kids if they play by the rules and if they give us information who they are, the circumstances of their arrival, are they living a productive life, we did background checks, have they committed crimes, and if they cleared a vet, we gave them this DACA status and we told them we will not share that information with ICE. We will not deport them.

And now, we`re at a moment where this administration arbitrarily on September 5th decided to revoke that promise and then came up with another arbitrary date, March 5th, by which we`re going to end the protection of these almost 800,000 young people who, by the way, are in our colleges, in our graduate schools, serving in our military, working in Fortune 100 companies.

And so, my perspective on this is that we need to pass a clean DREAM Act. I applaud Lindsey Graham, together with Dick Durbin. There has been a bipartisan effort. There has been a bipartisan expression of concern for protecting these kids. So, let`s just get it done and let`s stop playing politics with the lives of these young people.

It is really -- it`s a tragedy and it is a bad statement when we, as leaders, as supposed leaders are in a situation where people question whether we will keep our word.

MADDOW: Seeing Senator Lindsey Graham work with Dick Durbin on this, seeing at least some Republican senators react with revulsion. I was struck by the strength for Senator Isakson`s statement today from Georgia - -

HARRIS: Yes, yes.

MADDOW: -- talking about how repulsed he was by the president`s remarks and how it was a disgrace and the president needs to apologize to all mankind.


MADDOW: I wonder if you think, in real political terms, if you think that there might -- we might be shifting territory here. There might be enough space for Republicans to find compromise ground with Democrats on this. I know Democrats are unified in terms of wanting to protect the Dreamers. I know mostly Republicans have been on the other side.

Do you think there is any shifting ground particularly given this controversy over the president`s remarks which explain his motivation on this issue?

HARRIS: I think there is common ground and there are many Republicans that I`ve talked with who do have I think a very honest desire to protect these young people and to figure out a way to do that. So I do feel a sense of optimism.

But I will also say that, you know, on this eve of MLK weekend where we honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, it`s an interesting coincidence of timing, frankly, that the president of the United States would speak the words, the hateful words that he spoke at a time that we are honoring a man that lived and died with the spirit of saying we are one people and human rights and humanity should be the priority for all of us.

It`s an interesting moment in time and I do applaud those Republicans such as Johnny Isakson who are standing up to talk about who we are in terms of our better shelves, because I do believe we`re better than this as a country. I really do.

MADDOW: Senator Harris, I know it`s Friday night, but if you don`t mind -- if you don`t mind sticking with us for a quick break.


MADDOW: There`s on other matter that`s a little bit of an elephant in the room --


MADDOW: -- that I have to ask to you about.

All right. We`ll be right back.


MADDOW: Senator Kamala Harris right after this. Stay with us.


MADDOW: -- Senator Kamala Harris. She`s a Democrat of California.

Senator Harris, thank you for sticking with us. I really appreciate it.

HARRIS: Sure. Happy to be here.

MADDOW: Two last things to ask you about.

The first is that you have just been given a seat on the Judiciary Committee, which is a big deal. There is a lot of controversy right now as to how that committee is doing, specifically when it comes to investigating the Russia scandal. Your home state colleague Diane Feinstein unilaterally releasing a transcript of a witness before the committee. The committee chairman, Senator Grassley, going ahead without the committee, making his own criminal referral to the Justice Department associated with this scandal.

Watching the work of that committee, which has this incredibly important remit, it kind of feels like the wheels are coming off, just as an observer. That`s how it seems to me.

Now that you are joining this committee, can you tell us whether you think they are doing a good job investigating the Russia scandal and how you plan to approach it?

HARRIS: Well, I`m -- Rachel, I`m also on the Senate Intelligence Committee and we are conducting an investigation of Russia`s interference in the election of the president of the United States. So, I can speak in a more informed way about that, because I`m now just one week on the judiciary committee.

But I will say, you mentioned Senator Feinstein, I really applaud her courage. As you probably know, she took a lot of heat for what she did but she`s a tough, strong public servant who made, I think, the right decision, which is to bring transparency to a process that otherwise has been opaque and to that extent, her work as ranking member of the Judiciary Committee I think was good work.

And the bottom line is that we need to go where the facts take us. We need to get to the end of this and we have got to make sure that Mueller, that Bob Mueller stays in place and that his authority is not interfered with and not impaired in any way, shape or form. Bob Mueller is doing I think an outstanding job of being a professional and pursuing the facts and I know they will lead him to wherever they should and so that`s how I feel about it overall.

But, you know, let`s also remember, Rachel, it`s important to talk about the issue in some ways there is what happened and we have to get to the bottom of it and find out what happened in terms of the past and in particular around the election in 2016, but we also need to figure out what`s going on currently and look at all of this evidence with a mind to what`s going to happen in the future.

And by that I mean also understanding we`re not out of the clear in terms of 2018 election cycle. I don`t believe we are. I think Russia and probably other adversarial countries taking Russia`s cue are going to do again what they have already done. And so, we have to be vigilant to figure out what happened also so we can prevent this going forward. And in particular, around the 2018 election cycle.

MADDOW: You mentioned protecting Robert Mueller and making sure that he`s allowed to do his work.


MADDOW: I wonder if there are bipartisan conversations among senators about sort of having a go bag, being ready to go, having a plan in case the president makes some sort of dramatic action to try to -- to try to end the Mueller investigation through any means he might try to do that. Are those conversations happening in terms of how you would respond? And if those are happening, are they bipartisan?

HARRIS: A bipart -- I`ve been engaged in bipartisan conversations around mutual agreement about the integrity of Bob Mueller and his investigation. And, you know, I can`t speculate and most of us don`t want to speculate about the possibility of anyone firing Bob Mueller, but if that happens, I think there will be severe consequence. Certainly, I will be calling for severe consequence.

MADDOW: I said I only have two questions for you. I lied.

HARRIS: Yes. Oh, OK.

MADDOW: There is another one. I`m sorry.

A lot of people are talking about you running for president in 2020 and I bet that`s annoying for you to be asked about it constantly.


MADDOW: So, sorry. If you are going to think about it, when is the right time to start thinking about it and talking to people about whether that`s a good idea.

HARRIS: And I`m being totally honest and direct with you, Rachel. Right now, I am completely focused on what is in front of me.

And back to the beginning of our conversation, DACA. We have every day 122 of these kids were losing their status. Since the decision was made and announced on September 5th of last year, over 15,000 of these kids have lost their status, which means they are afraid that at any moment, someone is going to take them. They cannot work now because they`ve lost their authority to work when they lose their status.

And we`ve got to pay attention to this. We have a deadline coming up of January 19th, which is just days prom now and as far as I`m concerned, everybody should be focused on that because a day in the life of these kids is a really long time.

And focusing on what`s out there instead of what`s an urgent matter in front of us today, I think is -- I`ll speak for myself, it would be a fool`s err rand.

MADDOW: That is a good answer to that question.

California Senator Kamala Harris --

HARRIS: Thank you.

MADDOW: -- really appreciate your time tonight. Thank you very much.

HARRIS: Thank you for all your work. Thank you.

MADDOW: Thanks.

All right. Much more ahead tonight, including -- you know, I would -- the reason I complimented her on that answer is because everybody in politics who gets asked, who`s in a position, who`s lucky enough and fortunate enough and has done their job well enough to be in a position where they get asked about 2020, there is a skill to answering that question without talking about 2020, without talking about the presidential election, and bringing it back to talk about something you`re trying to get done right now is the right way to do that.

Whatever it is you`re working on as a politician in any part of our system, if you know you`re going to ask that question, turning it around to what you`re working on now, that`s -- you should all do that all you guys. I`m just saying.

All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: 2016 elections, like all elections, are held on a Tuesday. On the Friday before the 2016 elections, four days before election, "Wall Street Journal" published this story. Headline, "National Enquirer" shielded Donald Trump from Playboy model`s affair allegation.

The story details how Karen McDougal, who was the 1998 Playboy Playmate of the Year, she alleged that she had engaged in a month`s long consensual affair with Donald Trump starting in 2006, which would have been a year after he married hi wife Melania. "The Wall Street Journal" reported that "The National Enquirer" ran by Trump`s good friend David Pecker, he had arranged for that woman to not tell her story by buying exclusive rights to the story so he could kill it.

And that`s the thing in the tabloid world, paying for stories explicitly to then squash those stories, to not publish them, buying a person`s silence that way. That is known in the tabloid world as catch and kill, and that`s reportedly what the "Enquirer" did. They reportedly paid this woman $150,000 so she couldn`t tell anyone else and chose not to publish the story themselves so it would never come to light.

But the details of that arrangement did eventually get out in the pages of "The Wall Street Journal". The Trump campaign and "National Enquirer" denied it. That "Wall Street Journal" story did get a little bit of attention, but honestly, it was buried by the fact that it came out four days before election and right in the wake of the "Access Hollywood" tape which by then had led to a long series of women coming out and accusing candidate Trump of sexual misconduct of a non-consensual nature.

Well, that "Wall Street Journal" story did also have one other maybe important detail. "The Journal" reported that there was another woman, a woman named Stephanie Clifford, an adult film star who went by the stage name Stormy Daniels. "The Journal" reported that around the same time as this Playboy Playmate, Ms. Daniels, had also been involved in discussions with ABC to disclose her own prior sexual relationship with Donald Trump before she unexpectedly cut off contact with ABC without telling her story.

Stormy Daniels once gained notoriety in political circles when she briefly but very publicly considered primarying Louisiana Senator David Vitter in 2010. Those were good times.

But that allegation that she once had a sexual encounter with Donald Trump, other than the brief mention by "The Wall Street Journal" right before the election, we never really heard anything more about it until today.

Today, "The Wall Street Journal" reports, Trump lawyer arranged $130,000 payment for adult film star`s silence. This time, according to "The Wall Street Journal", it was not "The National Enquirer", it was the president`s personal lawyer Michael Cohen who bought her silence. He reportedly so in October 2016, one month before the election, quote, as part of an agreement that precluded her publicly discussing an alleged sexual encounter with Mr. Trump. A source, this is source to people familiar with the matter.

Now since this was published in "The Wall Street Journal" today, both Michael Cohen, the president`s lawyer, and Stormy Daniels, have both denied that the alleged sexual encounter took place. In a statement, Mr. Cohen says, quote: These rumors have circulated time and again since 2011. President Trump once again vehemently denies any such occurrence as has Ms. Daniels.

Notably, Mr. Cohen did not address any alleged payment. He also shared a letter that he says is signed by Stormy Daniels in which she purportedly denies that anything took place and denies that she was paid hush money by Donald Trump. She doesn`t say if she was paid hush money by Michael Cohen.

Anyway, if that wasn`t enough, now, today, just before we got on the air, "The Daily Beast" published this story in which it says that it, too, was chasing the Stormy Daniel story during the campaign, negotiating with her to go on the record with them. They say that they have three sources confirming that a sexual relationship between Mr. Trump and Stormy Daniels did take place.

"The Wall Street Journal" reporter who broke this whole story today joins us here next.


MADDOW: -- broke this story. Trump lawyer arranged $130,000 payment for adult film star`s silence and this is an important story and this is about the serving president of the United States and about an alleged hush money payment that was paid allegedly a month before he was elected president.

This is an important story. I have to tell you, full disclosure, we`ve known each other a long time. I feel like I need to be honest with you, this story makes me want to leave my body.

Having said that, joining us now is Michael Rothfeld, the author of that story in "The Wall Street Journal".

Mr. Rothfeld, I do not mean that it has any sort of personal slight to you. This is the big deal -- I just --


MADDOW: I feel like I have a gigantic case of the ughs even thinking about it.

This is the second story that "The Journal" has reported related to a similar matter. Is this a pattern of behavior that you feel like you`ve discovered and been able to report out?

ROTHFELD: It`s definitely something that was going on towards the end of the campaign when there were a lot of women coming out and making allegations against Donald Trump, about inappropriate conduct and assault, and so, they were obviously in panic mode and nervous and these other women were going to come out and tell their stories of having an affair with him. And so, there were various payments made to at least try to tamp down on some of the damage.

MADDOW: Now, since your story was posted today, other news organizations have themselves verified, at least the media side of this, that this woman in question was negotiating with at least two news outlets to tell her story. And in both instances it seems like despite the fact that the negotiations went on for sometime, they cut off very quickly before the election.

That`s part of this that she was ready to tell the story. The other part of it obviously, which made it into your headline is that she was paid not to do it.

Were you able to trace the money? Were you able to trace the payments? So you don`t have just a description of the payment, you actually feel like you`ve seen documentation of the money?

ROTHFELD: Well, I can`t really talk about the sourcing. We are aware that Mr. Cohen arranged for the payment for the bank account of Mr. Keith Davidson, who is Stormy Daniel`s lawyer at a bank called City National Bank in Los Angeles, and, you know, we have that from various sources. We have a sense of how that occurred but at this point, we have reported just that that payment was made to that bank.

MADDOW: Can you talk at all about whether or not that payment was drawn on Trump organization funds or whether or not Mr. Trump is -- whether there`s any indication that Mr. Trump was aware of these negotiations, these payments?

ROTHFELD: We don`t know where -- whether the source of the funds was Michael Cohen himself, Mr. Trump`s lawyer, who arranged this deal. We have no -- we just don`t have any evidence of whether Mr. Trump knew about it, but I can tell you that he`s very close to Michael Cohen. Michael Cohen worked for him as his primary adviser in difficult circumstances for a decade at the Trump Organization.

MADDOW: And you talk about that in your piece. You describe a 2017 interview, year ago, in which Mr. Cohen described himself as the fix-it guy. What does that mean?

ROTHFELD: Well, he is the guy who handles threats to Donald Trump. If there`s anybody out there that`s causing a problem or is speaking negatively about Mr. Trump, they might get a call from Michael Cohen. He`s been called a pit bull, he`s been by friends -- Anthony Scaramucci, who was briefly the communications director at the White House, said -- told us for that story that he`s the guy you call in the middle of the night at 3:00 a.m. if you have a problem.

So, this is the kind of thing that Michael Cohen did for Donald Trump at the Trump Organization.

MADDOW: Last piece of due diligence and how you reported this out. Obviously, the picture accompanies the story shows that Ms. Daniels and Mr. Trump have been in the same place at least once. Were you able to document any other instances in which they were seen to be in the same place?

ROTHFELD: We don`t know other instances where they were in the same place, but we have spoken to at least three people, three people who contemporaneously spoke to Stormy Daniels about her account of an encounter, sexual encounter with Donald Trump, around that time.

MADDOW: OK. This is -- this is our lives now.

Michael Rothfeld of "Wall Street Journal," one of the reporters who broke the story today -- thank you for helping us understand it. I`m sorry that I`m rude.


MADDOW: We`ll be right back.


MADDOW: Friday has traditionally been a big day for the special prosecution`s Russia investigation. It was Friday, October 27 when we first learned that Robert Mueller would issue his first indictment in the case. It was Friday, December 1st when news broke that security adviser Mike Flynn had pled guilty to making false statements to the FBI. And now, hey, looky-loo, Friday again.

Tonight, "Bloomberg News" is reporting that special counsel Robert Mueller and his team are talking to the president`s lawyers next week to hash out the terms of President Trump`s interview with the special counsel. "Bloomberg" reports tonight that the chat could happen between Mueller`s team and Trump`s lawyers. The chat could happen by phone as early as Tuesday. But Bloomberg is reporting that they expect it to take several weeks and a series of additional phone calls before both sides come to agreement for terms of the president`s appearance.

This all comes on the heels of the president on Wednesday telling reporters it was unlikely he would have an interview with Mueller.

Today, we also learned that the special counsel requested his first trial date. Mueller`s team is asking for May 14th first day of the trial of former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates. Prosecutors say they have completed a substantial portion of discovery in the case, turning up nearly 600,000 documents, including e-mails and financial records. That`s a little weird actually because just a month ago, the Mueller team had only produced 400,000 documents.

They have increased the amount of documents they`re producing to the court by a 50 percent? In the space of four weeks? Which included Christmas and New Year`s?

Prosecutors also reported a way higher number of electronic devices in their possession than they did a month ago. A month ago when they made the declaration to the court, it was 36. Now they`re saying they`ve got 87 devices that they`re making available to the court and to the defense for moving ahead at trial.

You have to wonder what exactly did they stumble upon since this time last month. Oh, we just found 50 more laptops by the way.

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

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

Good evening, Ali.



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