Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: January 17, 2018 Guest: Adam Schiff, Jacob Weisberg
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you here.
It is now officially 51 hours until the federal government shuts down. The Republican Party controls the House and the Senate and the White House, so it is a little hard to believe that they, amongst themselves cannot come up with a way to keep the lights on, but not for the first time in the past year.
We are once again on the brink of the shutdown of the federal government, because, even though they mathematically don`t need a single vote from a single Democrat to do it, Republicans appear to, at least at this point, they appear to not be able to agree amongst themselves on a plan to keep the government funded past Friday, again. So we are on the brink of that again.
In weirder news, today was the day the president announced he would hold some "I hate the media" anti-awards ceremony. It had originally been scheduled for last week, then the president rescheduled it for today. Then it didn`t end up on the White House schedule, even though it was rescheduled for today. At a White House press briefing today, they said maybe something will happen later.
Well, late tonight, they did post something online, a PDF file, a document, this was the awards ceremony, I guess, whether or not you care about journalism the president likes versus journalism the president believes should be held up for public ridicule, just the public suspense over whether he was really going to do this thing has been a very strange moment. It feels like kind of a hallmark actually moment in the unprecedented weirdness of this administration.
And, of course, the president`s denouncing fake news and calling some journalism fake news, that comes at time when the real news is queasy making enough. Por ejemplo, despite every fiber in my being rebelling against this idea, tonight, we will have some reporting on the new evidence about cash payments allegedly being made to multiple women right before the presidential election to prevent those women from discussing extramarital affairs they allegedly had with the president or sexual activity they allegedly engaged in with the president or sexual advances they allege came from the president.
You know, a year ago, Barack Obama was the president. The prospect to there being an opening to a national newscast like the one I just did would be so unthinkable, even one year ago, you`d check yourself into a doctor if you found your mind accountably skittering into a gutter like that, that that`s what the news would sound like. But this is our life now. This is our nightly news now about the American presidency.
You know, one of the things that used to happen in the news were those great sign-offs. Remember? Not all of them but a lot of the greats in American TV news, they had these little tag lines they would sign off with.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s the way it is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Goodnight and good luck.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dan Rather. Courage.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And so it goes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Goodnight, Chet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Goodnight, David.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I always wanted it to be goodnight, Chet, goodnight, David. No, good night, Chet, good night, David. I wanted them to compete about it.
News anchors don`t really do those sign-offs anymore. One of the ways I know that I will never be one of the greats is because last night at the very end of the show, I think I got as close as I will ever get to my own signature news signoff. I didn`t plan on it, I didn`t script it.
It was absolutely an ad-lib based on breaking news happening at the end of the show. I think this is as close as I will ever get.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: His lawyer that he has retained for this Russia stuff, who was with him today in the House Intelligence, his lawyer is also the lawyer on Russia matters for the White House counsel, who was the person who was presumably advising Steve Bannon not to talk to the committee today. Having somebody on those two different sides of the story both represented by the same attorney, that`s weird.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s my signoff. That`s weird, complete with a cartoonish grimace. That`s my signature goodnight for the Trump era for TV news. If somebody who`s already trademarked, that`s weird, but if not, we should totally do it.
The story I was talking there about -- at the very end of the last night`s show ended up not just being a weird thing we notice in last night`s news. It ended up being really important today in terms of what has just happened in the biggest scandal involving this presidency.
I finished the show last night, exclaiming over the weirdness of this fact. Today, we figured out something that is not weird about it and what is really important about it.
All right. A lot of the people who worked on the Trump campaign and in the White House have had to retain private counsel to represent them on the Russia investigation. We noted I think a couple of months ago the unusual fact that the current White House counsel, Don McGahn, and the fired White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, both retained the same lawyer to represent them on the Russia scandal.
Now, that`s notable for a couple reasons. One, I mean, it`s plainly notable when the White House lawyer has to get a lawyer. Also, it`s not inconceivable that Reince Priebus, former White House official, and Don McGahn, current White House official, they might eventually have different interests or they might end up being on different side of an important recollection about an important event when it comes to this scandal, them sharing a lawyer was already notable before we learned this past week that the same lawyer representing both, Reince Priebus and Don McGahn also now also represents a third figure in the investigation. Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, the man who ran the Donald Trump campaign after Paul Manafort was fired and after Corey Lewandowski was fired.
I mean, from the outside looking in, it would seem rationally that there might be a conflict there, for the same lawyer to represent multiple people who represent different interests in this investigation. That said, we can report tonight because NBC News has learned that the special counsel`s office, Robert Mueller, they have now advised that lawyer, whose name is William Burck, that as far as the special counsel investigation is concerned, it`s fine for him to represent Steve Bannon and those other Trump officials.
Now that we now that Steve Bannon will soon be meeting with Mueller and his prosecutors, I have to say, though, it`s not clear that he`ll use that same lawyer to represent him through his interactions with the special counsel. But if he wants to keep that same lawyer that Reince Priebus and Don McGahn have, Mueller`s office has apparently okayed it in terms of conflicts of interest. Again, that`s being newly reported tonight by NBC. That`s interesting.
Well, today in Congress, today at the House Intelligence Committee, the first man to run the Donald Trump for president campaign, Corey Lewandowski and the White House deputy chief of staff, Rick Dearborn, both testified on the Russia scandal, and like Steve Bannon yesterday, Corey Lewandowski, reportedly refused to answer some of the committee`s questions today.
And that`s part of how we know that something really important and something really different is going on when it comes to Steve Bannon and the Mueller investigation and the Russia scandal overall. Yesterday, the big news we were trying to sort out last night is the fact that Steve Bannon went into that House Intelligence Committee, he refused to answer questions and then he was immediately while he was sitting there hit with a subpoena from that company to try to compel him to answer their questions.
Well, that`s an unusual occurrence, and part of the reason we know how unusual that is is because today, Corey Lewandowski walked into that same committee. He also apparently refused to answer their questions, but they didn`t subpoena him the way they subpoenaed Steve Bannon. There wasn`t word that the committee demanded to have him back in to ask him the questions in a harsher tone. Like previous Trump campaign and Trump administration officials who have refused to answer congressional committee`s questions for a variety of reasons, yes, there were complaints from the Democrats on the committee about that, but the Republicans didn`t seem so particularly bothered.
Why was Steve Bannon treated so differently, right? A lot of people refused to answer questions. He`s the only one that got subpoenaed by the committee. Somebody -- something is going on with Steve Bannon that is very different than the way everybody else is being treated who is caught up in this scandal.
Everybody else in the orbit of this president, from Trump`s organization employees, to Trump campaign workers, to Trump administration officials, both current and former, we know a great long list of them who have been brought in to speak to Robert Mueller and his investigators in a voluntary context. We now know that Steve Bannon was never asked to come in and meet with Robert Mueller in a voluntary context, before he was hit with a subpoena from the Mueller office. The subpoena which was first reported yesterday, a subpoena to Bannon that he must come in and testify under oath before a grand jury.
Bannon was treated very differently by Mueller than everybody else involved in Trump -- in the Trump campaign. Bannon was also treated very differently by Congress. Just in that House Intelligence Committee, right? Attorney General Jeff Sessions was interviewed behind closed doors and said he wanted to not answer their questions on the basis of the fact that the president might someday want to assert executive privilege to stop him from giving that testimony maybe somebody in the future hypothetically.
That was a strange argument, particularly from the attorney general. Corey Lewandowski hasn`t given any doctrinal reason for why he refused to answer questions today from the House Intelligence Committee.
When the president`s son, Donald Jr., came in to testify before that committee, he refused to answer questions about conversations he had with his father he said on the basis of attorney/client privilege. Neither Donald Jr., nor Donald Sr. is an attorney, and which one of you is the client?
But in all of those instances, the Republican-led committees in Congress, the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee, said no problem with those bullpucky, I mean dubious, even laughable attempts to avoid answering questions, to assert some even pseudo legal rationale for not answering the committee`s questions. Everybody else has weaseled out of answering questions and they have not cared at all. Democrats have complained, Republicans have not cared.
Then, Steve Bannon shows up. Bannon tries the same thing, boom, here`s your subpoena.
Why is he being treated so differently?
I think we have now figured that out.
Here`s the story: last July, July 25th, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, surprise, appeared on Capitol Hill, and his spokesman announced that Paul Manafort, surprise, had just testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee on the Russia matter. Now, nobody had known that was going to happen before Manafort turned up and his spokesman sprung it on everybody. It had been kept secret. That was July 25th.
Well, that night after midnight, so, it`s technically on the 26th, Paul Manafort got his house raided by the FBI. Remember the no-knock warrant, showing up in the predawn hours, taking all these files, taking pictures of all the labels of all his suits and all that stuff.
What we now believe about that chain of events is that Paul Manafort had been in communication with the special counsel`s office. He had been handing over documents, he and his lawyers thought they were in a constructive or at least a voluntary dialogue with Robert Mueller`s office. That dialogue apparently did not extend to the special counsel`s office knowing that Paul Manafort was about to go to Congress to give them testimony and to give them documents.
When Manafort turned up on July 25th on Capitol Hill, out of the blue, surprise, it appears that the special counsel`s office obtained their no- knock search warrant for Paul Manafort`s house that day and then they executed it that night.
His congressional testimony, his surprise congressional testimony and that raid on his house that night were apparently not unconnected events. After Paul Manafort appeared before the Senate intelligence committee that day, surprising the Robert Mueller team, "Washington Post" reported that was just the start of it. Manafort and his lawyers expected to continue to cooperate with the Intelligence Committee`s investigation. Quote: Manafort`s lawyers have agreed to make him available to speak with Senate Intelligence Committee staffers and members in the future to discuss other issues. Manafort turns over notes from Trump Tower meeting with Russian lawyer, right?
So, he surprised everybody by testifying to them once. He handed over documents to them. He`s planning on continuing to give them stuff, continuing to meet with them. He was also scheduled to testify to a whole different committee, the Judiciary Committee, the following day.
But you know what? None of that happened. Those further rounds of testimony, those further tranches of documents to Congress from Paul Manafort, those did not happen, because in a dramatic fashion, with a predawn raid on his home, Robert Mueller and the special counsel jumped in there, that FBI raid with its speed, its swarm of officers, no-knock provisions, all that drama, that may have been because of a fear that Mr. Manafort would destroy some important evidence the special counsel wanted.
But it may also have been because it appears that Mr. Manafort was starting to give that evidence away to Congress, right? Paul Manafort, eventually, was charged with a dozen felonies in October. So, we got a look at the special counsel`s evidence they put together in their case against him. Given the seriousness of the crimes with which she was eventually charged, given the fact that Manafort`s charges came alongside another Trump campaign official facing an equal number of felony charges and two other Trump campaign officials pleading guilty to felonies, I mean, it now seems clear in hindsight that the special counsel`s office may not have found it helpful in their inquiries had all the evidence they collected from Paul Manafort been spread all over Capitol Hill, possibly even provided to the White House by the president`s Republican allies in Congress, maybe even leaked to the public.
Until the special counsel wraps up its investigation, we won`t know if other evidence collected from Manafort ended up being in another case against any another person who may be end up charged in this Russia investigation.
But Robert Mueller`s investigation is very obviously going full steam, right? They`ve got multiple charges against two senior campaign officials. They have got guilty pleas and cooperation agreements from two other campaign officials. We know from the fact that they obtained a grand jury subpoena for Steve Bannon`s testimony last week that they are still working actively with a grand jury, alongside their ongoing negotiations with the president`s legal team to get the president himself interviewed by Mueller`s prosecutors.
And, you know, I just have to say, in an alternate universe on earth one where things retain their rational size and shape, it is a huge freaking deal that the former national security adviser is quietly cooperating with the special counsel and has been for months, the special counsel who we know has actually working with the grand jury, which has already handed down dozens of felony counts against the president`s top campaign officials, right?
That`s happening right now, that Mike Flynn cooperation. While that is happening, while him and at least one more cooperating witness are looming over this presidency, think about the president`s defense team and what they need to strategize, right? President`s defense obviously needs all the intel they can get on what they are up against, on what Mueller might have, what testimony or evidence might be out there that they`re going to defend against or mitigate or investigate themselves.
To the extent that the evidence and the testimony is going to come from other White House officials, other Trump campaign officials, you know, a lot of those folks are people who the White House has direct access to, right? There`s no question, for example, that the White House is going to have ongoing access to and communications with people like Hope Hicks or Jared Kushner or Donald Trump Jr., people like that are not going to tell investigators anything that`s going to surprise the White House, because those folks are in the White House every day.
But then, there`s Steve Bannon who ran the president`s campaign. He`s in a position to know a lot of really high-level insider information about a number of things we believe the Mueller investigation is looking at. The White House doesn`t necessarily what Steve Bannon`s going to say. They don`t necessarily know what he knows. They don`t necessarily know what he`s inclined to talk about. They don`t necessarily know what he would like to talk about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS HOST: Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon testified yesterday, didn`t answer a lot of questions, refused to answer some before the House Intel Committee. Did the White House tell him to invoke executive privilege?
JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: No.
Steve has had very, very little contact with the White House since he left. I know Steve a little bit. Not very well. He left the White House and has certainly never returned to the White House, with the exception of a few phone calls here and there, very, very little contact with the White House. And I certainly have never spoke to him since he left.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s White House chief of staff John Kelly talking with Bret Baier at Fox News tonight.
To the extent that it is strategically important for the White House to have tabs on what they`re up against, on who`s telling investigators what about the Russia matter, for all the other senior and even semi-senior people who are in a position to know a lot of what happened during the campaign and the transition, the White House basically has access to all those people. Not necessarily Steve Bannon, though, not anymore, especially not now after the president denounced him publicly and flagrantly and repeatedly, right?
Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve had very little to do with our historic victory. Steve doesn`t represent our base. He`s only in it for himself. Steve spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seemed far more important than he was. It`s the only thing he does well. Steve was rarely in a one on one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence.
The president then threatened a civil lawsuit against Steve Bannon, right? This is after Michael Wolff`s book came out, in which Bannon was quoted as saying disparaging things about the president and his family and his administration.
Then the president, after threatening to sue him, gave Mr. Bannon a derogatory nickname. Sloppy Steve has been dumped like a dog. I don`t think the president understands dogs.
The president kept pouring it on, said publicly that Steve Bannon cried. He cried when he got fired from the White House and he begged for his job. And the White House press secretary from the White House briefing room said, yes, Bannon`s employer should consider firing him. And then in fact, Breitbart.com did fire Steve Bannon. And Mr. Bannon`s longtime billionaire benefactors publicly disparaged him and cut him off at, again, what appears to be the insistence of the White House.
And then right after all that, Bannon got a subpoena to go talk to Robert Mueller about the president, which is good timing from the special counsel in terms of getting a guy at a moment he might be most inclined to talk, right? But he also got that subpoena right before Mr. Bannon was summoned to Capitol Hill, to go talk to Congress for the first time. Like everybody else to tell tales about the Trump campaign and the Trump transition and the Trump administration, the White House must be very eager to know what Bannon has to say.
But unlike every other senior person who is in that kind of position, who`s now already been charged with a crime, the White House is probably not in a position to find that stuff out on the down low from Steve Bannon, because they`re not talking with him. They`re fighting him tooth and nail. He`s not going to tell them what he`s saying.
I mean, plausibly. This time last night, we had no idea why Bannon was getting subpoenaed twice, once bit Mueller investigation and once behind closed doors at the Intelligence Committee while they`re trying to force him to talk. Well, NBC News reports tonight based on a source familiar with the matter that the people who are directly involved in this conflict over Bannon`s testimony are operating on a belief that Steve Bannon`s subpoena to testify to a grand jury and the subpoena to testify in Congress, these are not unrelated matters. They`re operating on the belief that the Mueller subpoena to Steve Bannon was designed essentially to preserve for Mueller the first crack at Bannon`s testimony on the Russia scandal.
What happened last night with Bannon being in that congressional committee for 10 hours was not the Republicans in the House Intelligence Committee suddenly being outraged that a witness was not being forthcoming with them about the Trump administration. They haven`t cared about any other witness. What happened last night with Steve Bannon in there for 10 hours was not a principled fight between Steve Bannon and the White House over how much the white house could block by exerting executive privilege, right? The very idea of that is absurd.
I mean, Steve Bannon and the current White House counsel have the same lawyer, so, right? If his was really a big fight over executive privilege, what would that mean? That the lawyer`s picking up his phone saying, I represent the White House, tell Bannon he can`t talk. Then he moves the phone to the other ear, I represent Steve Bannon, tell him Steve really wants to talk. Then back to the other ear, I`m the White House, I say no. Well, I`m Steve Bannon and I say -- it`s the same lawyer. There was no principled fight going on between two sides over executive privilege between the White House counsel`s office and Steve Bannon. If so, the same lawyer would not be representing both of those entities.
And in the Iran-Contra investigation in the Reagan administration, Congress gave immunity to some figures from the administration who are involved in that matter and it ended up screwing up some of the prosecution in that scandal. In this Russia investigation, the House Intelligence Committee in particular is led by a Trump transition member who has pretty openly been working with the White House to advance the president`s defense on the Russia investigation.
That kind of thing has consequences. It appears that the Mueller subpoena is at least believed by people involved in this to have been designed to stop Steve Bannon from talking to Congress so his evidence goes to Mueller instead, to preserve and protect his evidence for the criminal part of this investigation.
Right now, the consequences of there being Trump partisans leading at least some of the congressional investigations into the Russia matter, the consequence of that right now, what it appears to mean about this whole Steve Bannon mishegoss is that the special counsel`s office, Robert Mueller, is jumping in ahead of what Congress is doing to make sure Congress doesn`t mess up what Mueller is doing. That`s what`s going on.
And now is the part where I look soberly at the camera and intone with sincere fake gravitas. That`s weird.
MADDOW: This next little tape is going to sound very calm, but I`m quite sure this is the sound of a leading U.S. congressman who has had it! Who is sounding an alarm for his colleagues and the country and who in his own incredibly, indelibly calm way is putting down his foot.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We as an investigative committee cannot allow that to become the routine, to allow witnesses to decide when and where they`re willing to answer questions. But moreover, given that another executive branch official today was fully willing to answer all these questions, it does tell us the White House is treating Steve Bannon differently than others who served in the administration. And this committee is treating witnesses differently than they treated Mr. Bannon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff today, he`s the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee in the House where they have tried to get answers this week from three figures in the orbit of the president, current White House deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn who we`re told did answer questions today. Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski who showed up but said apparently, maybe he`ll answer questions sometime later and former Trump senior adviser and campaign CEO, Steve Bannon, who would not answer questions yesterday but did get a nifty subpoena from the special counsel, Robert Mueller, in addition to the on-site subpoena he got yesterday.
Although the House Intelligence Committee had apparently expected Mr. Bannon to come back tomorrow, his lawyer tonight is now casting doubt on that. In contrast, a source familiar with the situation also now says that Mr. Bannon will cooperate fully and answer all questions from the special counsel, from Robert Mueller`s investigation. The initial subpoena to Mr. Bannon, to appear before the grand jury has apparently now given way to Mr. Bannon agreeing to meet voluntarily with Mueller`s investigators, a meeting that is expected to happen soon, and, again, one where sources familiar with the matter say Bannon intends to answer all questions and cooperate completely.
Joining us now is Congressman Adam Schiff, top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, it`s really nice to have you back with us tonight, particularly this evening. Really -- thankful for you to be here.
SCHIFF: It`s good to be with you.
MADDOW: If a person is subpoenaed to testify to a grand jury on a criminal or counterintelligence matter and then they are subpoenaed to testify to Congress on the same matter, are -- do those things potentially conflict? And if so, does the criminal or counterintelligence matter take precedence over Congress`s subpoena?
SCHIFF: They don`t necessarily conflict, and one doesn`t necessarily take precedence over the other. I can`t tell you anything about the timing of the special counsel`s subpoena or whether it was a reaction to our inviting Mr. Bannon to appear before our committee, but there`s nothing that would preclude him from testifying completely before our committee and also fully cooperating with the special counsel.
What makes this so bewildering, is the position the White House has taken with Steve Bannon was directly contradicted by the other executive branch witness that we had testify today. And that is, that witness, a current member of the administration answered all of our questions, questions during the campaign, questions during the transition, questions during his tenure in the administration.
So, what Sarah Huckabee Sanders said yesterday, not surprisingly, completely wrong. They didn`t discuss on some long discourse with the committee about the parameters in which executive witnesses would be allowed to testify. He answered all of our questions.
They are treating Steve Bannon very differently for reasons we don`t understand. It may be they`re afraid of what he has to say, it may be that they don`t know what he has to say. It may be that they`ve thrown him under the bus and they have their own reasons for this.
But there`s no denying the incredible contradiction between what they said to Steve Bannon, what they have said publicly and the treatment of the witness today.
MADDOW: There is something strange and interesting going on about Steve Bannon. He`s being treated differently by the special counsel`s office compared to other administration and campaign officials. He`s being treated differently by the Republican leadership of your committee than they have treated other senior campaign officials and he is being treated differently by the White House in terms of White House intervention in his potential testimony.
Do you believe, at least on the part of the way the White House is dealing with him, do you believe that this is because they`re scared about what he is going to testify about? Is there something about the scope of the questioning? The kinds of topics he could conceivably be asked about, that there`s more reason for them to be more nervous about compared to the other people who have testified without any White House interference at all?
SCHIFF: That is certainly I think a very plausible explanation. As you pointed out earlier, many of these other witnesses, they have direct access to, they currently work in the administration or they`re members of the president`s family, there`s no question about what they`re going to say. With Steve Bannon, there`s always a profound question about what he`s going to say.
And that book, "Fire and Fury" couldn`t be better proof of that. So, they are treating him differently, but you`re also absolutely right the committee is treating him differently.
The other witness that we had today, as you point out, Corey Lewandowski, yesterday goes on Fox News and says I`m going to answer every question of the committee. But then what happens between yesterday and today? We have Steve Bannon`s testimony, and Steve Bannon says I won`t answer any questions after I left the campaign.
What does Corey Lewandowski decide to do today in contrast to what he said he was going to do yesterday? He decides I`m not going to answer any questions after I left the campaign. Now, he can`t claim any executive privilege, or any potential privilege, so he just says, I`m not prepared to do it. And what does the majority say? That`s perfectly fine with us, come back when it`s convenient to you.
That is no way to run an investigation. It directly contradicts what happened a day before. And when we asked Mr. Lewandowski, did you speak with the president in the last 24 hours about your proposed testimony, he would not answer the question.
So, there is a lot more we`re going to need to know. He says he`s willing to come back, but the committee wasn`t willing to insist on answers today, and we`ll have to hope that they`re as good as their commitment to bring him back in the near future.
MADDOW: Congressman, one last point I want to clear up with you briefly. There`s been a lot of discussion, a lot of reporting today that the White House is asserting executive privilege in order to block testimony from Bannon.
It`s my understanding that the White House is not formally doing that. The White House chief of staff John Kelly today on Fox News told Bret Baier they are not doing it. There is reporting that suggests it`s happening. Is it happening? Are they asserting executive privilege on behalf of the president?
SCHIFF: This is I think the exact kind of dodge which they have been making all along, which is they send General Kelly out to say we haven`t invoked executive privilege. Technically, that`s true. But what they have done, which is more problematic, is saying -- telling witnesses don`t answer the questions, but also don`t tell the committee that we`ve invoked executive privilege.
We don`t want to look like we`re hiding something by invoking privilege, but we don`t want you to answer the questions, so don`t answer them.
MADDOW: This is getting weirder and weirder.
SCHIFF: Can I mention, too, Rachel?
MADDOW: Yes, please. Sure.
SCHIFF: This is an important point which you started out with, which is if we allow this, it will not only obviously impair our ability to get to the truth, it will impair the ability of any Congress in the future to hold any administration accountable if we will simply take no for an answer when it`s convenient to the White House.
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee helping us sort some of this out -- thank you for your clarity, sir. Thank you for being here. Much appreciated.
SCHIFF: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Stay with us.
MADDOW: -- celebrity news? How likely is it that you`re coming to me to be updated on your celebrity news? I know, I know. But you do actually need to know about this.
"In Touch" magazine, Stormy Daniels, my affair with Donald. Stormy Daniels is a former adult film actress. The details of her alleged affair in 2006 with our current president are now available on your local newsstand. And whether or not you care about the president`s alleged marital fidelity or lack thereof, you should actually know about this story and let me say why.
Ms. Daniels says that -- she alleged that this affair happened between her and Mr. Trump in 2006. The magazine says they heard the story from Ms. Daniels in 2011, but they`re publishing it today. We do have the question as to why this magazine is choosing to publish it now, seven years down the road. They didn`t publish it in 2011, they had it then, they published it now.
We asked "In Touch" about that today, they gave us a no comment. But this tabloid account, published today after a seven-year delay, that nobody can explain, this follows a report last week in "The Wall Street Journal" at any other time and with any other president, it would have blown the doors off whatever else was going on, right?
"The Wall Street Journal" last week that one month before the 2016 election, Donald Trump`s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 to purchase her silence over her claims of a 2006 affair with the president. And she was not, reportedly, the only one.
In a story that got buried, because it came out four days before the presidential election, the same "Wall Street Journal" reporting team reported that a different adult star named Karen McDougal, had also been paid for her silence by Mr. Trump. She was reportedly paid $150,000 by the "National Enquirer", which bought her story of a month`s long consensual after with Trump, also in 2006. After buying the exclusive rights to that story, exclusive being the important part of that there, the Trump-friendly "National Enquirer" quashed that story and never ran it.
I should tell you that the Trump-supporting "National Enquirer" denied quashing the story. The Trump campaign denied any knowledge of what "The Journal" said "The National Enquirer" did or any knowledge of the alleged affair.
The White House has been denying these reports of affairs and other ones like them ever since the campaign. But in this case of Stormy Daniels, whose story today appears on the cover of "In Touch" magazine, when Donald Trump`s lawyer, Michael Cohen, denied that there had been a Stormy Daniels/Donald Trump affair, notably, he did not address the alleged payment, the $130,000 payment to Ms. Daniels that was reported in the "Wall Street Journal."
We have been trying to track this down ourselves. We got basically the same response. We reached out to Mr. Cohen specifically about that payment and where the money came from. He was very nice, but he told us, quote, how many more denials are needed?
Again, though, on the subject of this alleged $130,000 payment, sir -- crickets. Nothing. No specific denial on that.
So, there is still this question of this alleged payment from Trump world to the porn star for her silence about an affair that`s now being described in a different context from an earlier time before this payment was allegedly made.
So, the question in this story of payment, that is the part that really matters in this story regardless of what you think about the president`s pants or lack thereof, right? That`s why we plunked down $3.99 for a copy of this magazine today. If there was a payment, if people surrounding the president were making payments to women to silence their stories about extramarital affairs with this president, right before the presidential campaign, where did the money come from? Who paid?
Hold that thought.
MADDOW: Who paid? Where`d the money come from?
If money was paid to silence talk of alleged affairs with the president, as "The Wall Street Journal" has reported in the case of porn star Stormy Daniels, then where did the money come from? Who paid it? Might there be more payments that we do not know about?
Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon is quoted in Michael Wolff`s new book "Fire and Fury", telling this story about a Trump lawyer named Marc Kasowitz. Quote: Kasowitz has gotten him out of all kinds of jams. Kasowitz on the campaign, what did we have, 100 women? Kasowitz took care of all of them.
We called Marc Kasowitz about that and asked him about it tonight. He was very nice. He had the spokesperson right his back. That spokesperson told us this, quote, the statements attributed to Mr. Bannon and Mr. Wolff`s book concerning Mr. Kasowitz are fiction. Neither Mr. Kasowitz nor his firm had or has any knowledge of or participation in any such payments during the campaign or otherwise, period.
That statement from Marc Kasowitz about him and his firm knowing or doing anything about any payments to any girls, that is the closest we have come to getting any answer at all about these alleged payments, and it is not for lack of trying. Since that "Wall Street Journal" story appeared on Friday, we`ve learned that no fewer than six media outlets were chasing this Stormy Daniels/Donald Trump affairs story prior to the election, including one publication run by this very impressive guy.
Joining me is Jacob Weisberg.
Thank you so much for being here, Jacob. Nice to see you.
JACOB WEISBERG, EDITOR, SLATE GROUP: Nice to see you.
MADDOW: You`re the editor of the Slate Group. "Slate" has played an interesting part in this story coming to light. Can you explain that, your Stormy Daniels story.
WEISBERG: It`s not my usual type of journalism.
WEISBERG: But I did get on to the story in the late summer of 2016 through the friend of a friend. I reached Stormy Daniels. She told me this story, and at that point, she was in the midst of negotiating, or so she said, with representatives of Donald Trump to not tell her story. But because she didn`t believe they were going to pay, she knew Donald Trump pretty well, she thought they`d get past the election. Of course, nobody thought Donald Trump was going to win the election.
And then she thought the market value of the story would drop to zero, they wouldn`t pay and she`d be left high and dry, which is why she was trying to sell her story as an alternative. You know, it`s interesting. There`s a market for everything.
The market price for a porn star selling her silence about Donald Trump seems to range between $130,000 and $150,000 depending on the date in October or early November. But after November 8, it would have dropped precipitously.
MADDOW: So she`s telling you she`s in negotiations to get an NDA, to try to get money out of Trump in, exchange for her silence. That`s what she`s looking for. She`s talking to you. She`s talking to other media outlets to try to basically increase her leverage in order to get that, and also to give herself another place that might potentially pay her for her story if the NDA doesn`t come through.
WEISBERG: And she sent me a couple pages from this document. Now, they weren`t signed and I didn`t have independent corroboration, which is why "Slate" couldn`t do this story before the election.
WEISBERG: But this document is really interesting, and it didn`t seem like the time this lawyer of hers, Keith Davidson in L.A., had worked on this type of agreement. There`s a confidentiality agreement, which it uses pseudonyms, and then there`s a rider, a side letter published in "Slate" that says here are the real names behind the pseudonyms. Stormy Daniels is Peggy Peterson and blank to be filled in is David Denison. And it says only two people can keep the signed copies of this agreement, Keith Davidson, Stormy Daniel`s lawyer, and the lawyer for the other party who was we now know, Michael Cohen.
MADDOW: Michael Cohen has not denied specifically that there was a payment made to Stormy Daniels. If there was, is that something that could be legally chased? Is there a paper trail behind that that could be found? The reason it seems to even matter is because the source of the funds is potentially important. If this is something that ends up having a meaningful effect on the campaign, somebody who paid that for Donald Trump, for the Trump campaign might conceivably been making a the campaign donation to Donald Trump by putting up that $130,000.
What`s the best way to find out where that money came from?
WEISBERG: Whether there was an FEC violation because it was, in fact, a campaign contribution. That would have been true if someone else paid for it, if Michael Cohen paid for it with his own money, I doubt that.
Now, in this other case of the former Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal, who was paid by "National Enquirer" to not tell her story, that looks maybe like a third party paid. In this case, I know Donald Trump doesn`t like to pay for much himself, but this might be the rare case where he actually does pay with his own money.
MADDOW: And again, there is no denial on the record that the money was paid.
WEISBERG: Well, you know, not only that. I mean, Michael Cohen, Trump`s personal attorney, released Stormy Daniels statement. I mean, it`s almost a kind of finger in the eye. If you`re trying to make the case that you did not make a deal with someone, why do you release their statement?
MADDOW: Why do you release their statement?
WEISBERG: Maybe they would release their statement. It also sounded like it was written by Donald Trump. I don`t think that, but somehow people take on this guy`s lingo.
MADDOW: We could all take on his lingo. We could all write a Donald Trump statement.
WEISBERG: Trust me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Exactly. Believe me when I say it.
I just want to underscore one last thing you said there about David Pecker, the publisher of the "National Enquirer", if the "National Enquirer" bought the story to help the Trump campaign, paid that woman $150,000 in order to make the story go away, the possibility that that was an in-kind campaign - - well, it was a campaign donation is a matter that should be looked at in terms of campaign finance.
The money here is important whether you care about the sex part.
Jacob Weisberg, editor in chief of the Slate Group -- thank you for helping us understand this story.
WEISBERG: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Really appreciate it.
WEISBERG: Great to see you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: -- a business meeting. Look, meeting, colon, business meeting, colon, consideration of a public release of a committee transcript.
Tomorrow at 9:00 a.m., the Intelligence Committee in the House will hold a business meeting, colon, in room 304 at the U.S. Capitol. At that business meeting, they will vote whether the committee should release the transcript from the meeting with Glenn Simpson, a transcript they`ve had in the vault for months. Simpson is the head of GPS Fusion, the firm that compiled the dossier of alleged dirt on Donald Trump that has been a source of such controversy.
Simpson testified behind closed doors at the House Intel Committee back in November, kept him for almost seven hours. CNN reported at the time that in that hearing Simpson told the committee that the sources of the dossier weren`t paid. None of the source for any allegations in that intel was given any money in exchange for this information.
But other than that CNN reporting, we really have no idea what Simpson told House Intel. We, of course, have one transcript from him already from when he talked to the Senate. That 312-page transcript that had tons of good stuff in it. We got that last week.
This is a different transcript, a second transcript with him from a whole different seven-hour long interview. Fusion also wants this one released, just like the other one. And the committee will take a vote whether or not they`ll release it.
Now, there are 13 Republicans on House Intelligence, there are nine Democrats. They only need a simple majority to release that transcript to the world.
We asked the leadership on that committee how they thought vote would go tomorrow, nobody got back to us. They never do.
We also don`t know when the transcript would come out, if they indeed vote to release it tomorrow. What we do know though is that when Glenn Simpson testified in the Senate, it lasted 10 hours, yielded 300 pages of testimony. That released a truckload of valuable information that we didn`t have before and a bunch of new questions we didn`t know we should be asking.
You should watch this vote tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. Transcript watch round two.
We are advised by people who are watching the circumstance that it`s not impossible that the Republicans will join Democrats in voting to let this out. That`s the rumor, that`s what we`re hearing. We`ll find out tomorrow, seven hours worth of testimony. If they release it tomorrow, you are going to wish you got a better night`s sleep than you are about to get.
MADDOW: By now you might have heard about a special election that had a surprise positive result for Democrats last night in Wisconsin. This was a Senate district where every county in that district had gone for Trump in a state where Trump won by 17 points. He won by 17 points in that district. It had been held by a Republican incumbent for 17 years.
Last night, there was a special election for that state senate race. It was won by a Democrat and she won by a lot. She won by double digits. That story today freaked out a lot of Republicans including what is supposed to be Trump country, Wisconsin. We got news tomorrow, the president will be traveling to Pennsylvania. There`s a special congressional election that`s going to be held in a district in Pennsylvania that`s been held by a Republican for a very long time.
In a normal year, Republicans would not have to lift a finger to hold onto this seat. This year in this Pennsylvania race that the president is going to be campaigning for tomorrow, the Democrat is out-raising this Republican. Republicans are really worried this seat in Congress is going to flip. The president is heading out there tomorrow to Pennsylvania, ahead of an election that doesn`t happen until March 13th. Republican seems spooked.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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