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NBC News: Coats and Rogers have spoken to Mueller Transcript 1/24/18 The Rachel Maddow Show

NBC News: Coats and Rogers have spoken to Mueller Transcript 1/24/18 The Rachel Maddow Show

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: January 24, 2018

FORMER SENATOR BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: No. I will tell you, the deal lies between the wall or border security, it doesn`t have to be a wall and DACA. I think that`s clear. And I also think, my sources tell me, there are negotiations going on between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, but I got to tell you this. As someone who lived and died by polls my whole life, every election, oh, my god, where am I.

If he starts deporting these DREAMers, and these DREAMers are going to have the face. He`s going to go down below 30 percent. It`s a powerful issue.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: Barbara Boxer and Josh Marshall, thanks for joining me. That is "ALL IN" for this evening.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks my friend. Much appreciated it.

HAYES: You bet.

MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

All right, deep breath. I sort of felt like yesterday`s news cycle was a little overwhelming, especially because into the afternoon and into the evening yesterday, about a half dozen different big news stories broke, almost all of them about the Russia scandal and the Russian investigation that is kind of enveloping this new presidency as it hits the one-year mark. We did -- we got like six or eight very large stories breaking on that one scandal in the afternoon and in the evening.

But it turns out yesterday was nothing compared to today. Just in terms of the sheer quantity of significant developments that we have had, even just in this one scandal over the course of today, it`s a lot. It`s even a little overwhelming. So, we`re going to try to methodically go through these one by one so you know what`s happened over the course of this last day and particularly into this evening, because the news keeps on breaking.

And I will tell you it`s a lot and we don`t know exactly why it`s all breaking right now, but the one national security reporter who broke more of this news today than anybody else is going to be here live in just a minute to help us understand so I think that`s going to be a big help.

We`re also just going to try to stack these up one after the other, so we`re all clear on what`s going on right now and what it connects to in the news.

So, let`s start with the president himself. The president himself tonight making a surprise appearance in front of a whole scrum of White House reporters. He made off-the-cuff remarks to these reporters tonight about his legal standing in the Russia scandal. Now, the president`s remarks did not apparently caused immediate cardiac arrest among his Russia lawyers, but he did definitely shorten the lives, he definitely shortened the expected lifespan of his entire legal team tonight when he popped out of John Kelly`s office unexpectedly and surprised, it said this.


REPORTER: Are you going to talk to Mueller?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m looking forward to it, actually. Here`s the story --

REPORTER: Do you have a date set?


TRUMP: Just so you understand, there`s been no collusion whatsoever. There`s no obstruction whatsoever. And I`m looking forward to it. So, here`s the story.

REPORTER: You have a date set, Mr. President?

TRUMP: I don`t know. No. I guess you`re talking about two or three weeks. I would love to do it.

REPORTER: In person?

TRUMP: You know, again, I have to say, subject to my lawyers and all that, but I`d love to do it.

REPORTER: Would you do it under oath, Mr. President?

TRUMP: You mean like Hillary did it under oath? Who said that?

REPORTER: I said that. Would you do it under oath?

TRUMP: You did say it. You say a lot. Did Hillary do it under oath?

REPORTER: I have no idea --

TRUMP: I think you have an idea. Don`t you have an idea?

Wait a minute, wait, wait, wait, do you not have an idea? Do you really not have an idea?

I`ll give you an idea. She didn`t do it under oath. But I will do it under oath. Listen, I would do it.


TRUMP: You know she didn`t do it under oath, right?

REPORTER: But you would do it under oath, sir?

TRUMP: If you didn`t know about Hillary, then you`re not much of a reporter.


TRUMP: Say it?

REPORTER: To reach a higher standard, you would do it under oath?

TRUMP: I would do it under oath, absolutely. No, I would do it.


MADDOW: OK. After the president made those remarks tonight to reporters at the White House, volunteering publicly that he would love to and he will testify under oath in the Russia investigation, despite the fact that those are exactly the kinds of terms his lawyers have been very carefully negotiating with the special counsel about for weeks, you know, to try to limit his exposure potential legal liability in the event of any such interview after the president made those apparently off-the-cuff remarks tonight, his lawyers thereafter had to rush in with proverbial mops and buckets, reminding every other lawyer in America why they did not volunteer to be Donald Trump`s lawyer in the Russia scandal.

Quote: Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer, leading the response to the Russian investigation said after the president`s remarks that Mr. Trump was speaking hurriedly. He said the arrangements were being worked out between Mr. Mueller`s team and the president`s personal lawyers. Mr. Cobb said the president was not trying to volunteer to testify before a grand jury, which is how prosecutors speak to witnesses under oath.

The president tonight apparently thinking he was getting in some good shots at the press about them not bring stuff about Hillary Clinton, but in the process he did repeatedly publicly volunteer to testify under oath specifically before a grand jury in the Russia investigation, which is something his lawyers do not want him to do. Oops. So, yes, that is one thing that happened just tonight that is amazing.

Speaking of lawyering, at about 6:00 Eastern Time tonight, this was weird, lawyers for Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort -- Paul Manafort currently facing multiple felony counts in the special counsel investigation -- Paul Manafort`s lawyers around 6:00 this evening appear to have mistakenly uploaded their own notes on Manafort`s case to the publicly viewable docket that the court maintains in this case.

Now, I can`t overemphasize how weird this is. I don`t know a ton about federal criminal cases but I can tell just from following news stories like this that there are a few different levels at which federal criminal proceedings happen and we the public have different degrees of visibility into those different types of proceedings. So, like, you know, sometimes stuff will get discussed in open court and we get visibility into those proceedings because people can sit in court and take notes on what happens and report it out. You know, sometimes we even get a publicly released transcript of what happened in a court proceeding, right?

So, sometimes stuff gets acted out but then there`s the part of court proceedings that happens in writing. Lawyers for the prosecution, lawyers for the defense, the court itself, the judge, they all file various written documents over the course of a federal criminal case. You know, they filed motions and the judge makes rulings and stuff like that.

Unless those documents are sealed, we the public can monitor those written proceedings as well. They will often get posted online in a publicly facing docket that you can you can access with your computer, so you can read when you know Rick Gates has made a motion to the judge that he`d like to go to his kids school Christmas pageant and you can read the judge`s ruling on that motion saying yes you can go or no you can`t go and here`s the reason why.

But what happened tonight is that Paul Manafort lawyers, they were apparently trying to file a motion related to some scheduling issue in Paul Manafort`s federal criminal case. Their motion included an attachment.

But then they uploaded the wrong attachment and it is now publicly available, so we can all see what appears to accidentally be their case notes on how the special counsel`s office obtained some of the evidence that they used against Manafort in his indictment, what Robert Mueller and his team put in their search warrant, why they subpoenaed Paul Manafort spokesman, what materials Paul Manafort spokesman was forced to turn over to the special counsel while Robert Mueller and his team we`re building their case against Paul Manafort.

It`s all there. We don`t know exactly what all of these notes from Manafort`s lawyers, what they all mean search warrants, hard drives, Paul Manafort being paid through the Ukrainian black ledger.

There`s notes on all of that stuff. We don`t know what all of their notes mean. They`re clearly some sort of internal work product that wasn`t meant for the public, but we can definitely tell but this was not the right attachment. This is not something that was supposed to be filed with the court today, let alone shown to everybody.

So that happens tonight as well, and you know, hey, lawyers make mistakes and that brings us to the almost unbelievable third development in this story today. We`re going to have more on this coming up a little later on in the show, but a sharp-eyed legal affairs correspondent at CNN today appears to have spotted a big new development related to the defense lawyers for the Trump campaign personnel in this scandal.

It`s a -- it`s a development that suggests that Robert Mueller and his special counsel team may be about to flip somebody else. They may be about to get a new cooperating witness, right? They`ve got two already, foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn, they`ve both not just pled guilty, they`ve both flipped. They`ve both become cooperating witnesses for Mueller`s investigation.

Well, now, there`s this new interesting reporting out today that suggests they may be able -- to they may be about to get cooperating witness number three. If this new reporting is accurate, the new cooperating witness that Robert Mueller is about to get is somebody who appears to be way better positioned than George Papadopoulos or even Mike Flynn to help Mueller out with inquiries that he might have about the campaign, about the Republican National Convention, about the transition about the inauguration, about even the outside network of pro-Trump groups that supported the administration after the campaign was over.

So, as I said, we`re going to have more on that story in a moment. There`s also an amazing Watergate connection to that development today too which will blow your mind it`s not just an analogy it`s actually related to actual Watergate. So, that story`s coming up a little later on this hour.

But we`re just barely getting started here. This is Stephen E. Boyd. Stephen E. Boyd is the assistant attorney general for legislative affairs at the Department of Justice. Over the past week, we have watched House Republicans and conservative media whip itself into an increasingly out-of- control frenzy against the FBI led by California Republican Congressman Devin Nunes, who was a member of the Trump transition who`s led most of the previous efforts in Congress to try to undercut the Mueller investigation, to try to create alternate scandals that the White House likes better.

Devin Nunes, for example, is the guy behind the "they wiretapped Trump Tower" allegation. He`s the guy who tried to make it into a an unmasking scandal. Susan Rice is the real scandal here, right? Devin Nunes is the one who said the real scandal here was Uranium One. He`s the one who`s led the charge against all the senior leadership of the FBI somehow being corrupt and terrible.

Over the past week, that congressman, Devin Nunes, has led a conservative media and Republican full-scale freak out over a memo, a memo that conservatives insist will be the magic antidote to the Robert Mueller investigation and a get out of jail free get out of jail free card for anybody who was implicated by the Mueller investigation. This is a memo that was written by Devin Nunes himself, his office wrote it, and he and Republicans and conservative media and lots and lots of Russian bots online are all now insisting with increasing ferocity that this memo that Devin Nunes wrote, it must be released, even though it contains classified information because if this memo is released, that will bring down the FBI.

Devin Nunes has written a memo which reportedly says that the FBI behaved badly somehow when it obtained search warrants from a court to collect evidence in the Russia investigation. This memo that he wrote has been an all-consuming thing in Republican congressional politics and particularly in conservative media and at the Fox News Channel for the past week. They like didn`t even notice there was a government shutdown because they were so excited that Devin Nunes wrote a memo that he then demanded must be released.

Well, tonight, big new development on this, Stephen Boyd, assistant attorney general at the Justice Department who is no liberal snowflake, he`s a former Jeff Sessions Senate staffer, he has now written to Congressman Devin Nunes warning him about what he has been trying to do with this memo.

Quote: Dear Mr. Chairman, recent news reports indicate a classified memorandum prepared by intelligence committee staff alleges abuses at the Justice Department and the FBI. As you know, we`ve provided the intelligence committee with more than a thousand -- with more than a thousand pages of classified documents related to the FBI`s relationship if any with a source and its reliance if any on information provided by that source.


Media reports indicate that the committee`s memorandum contains highly classified material confidentially provided by the Justice Department to the committee in a secure facility.

They then explain in a footnote that when the Justice Department gave this classified information to Devin Nunes and the intelligence committee, he wasn`t supposed to share it. He wasn`t supposed to then show it to every other Republican member of the House, which is what he is now done.

Quote: The terms of access for that classified information stipulated that review of the documents would be limited to the chairman, Mr. Nunes, or his designee, the ranking member Adam Schiff or his designee and two staff members each. That`s it.

Quote: The department takes any allegation of abuse of our justice system seriously. Further, we assume that intelligence committee members want to provide evidence of any specific allegation of misconduct to department officials so we may take appropriate action.

In addition, we`ve also heard that your committee is considering making the classified memorandum available to the public and the media, an unprecedented action. We believe it would be extraordinarily reckless for the committee to disclose such information publicly without giving the department and the FBI the opportunity to review the memo and advise the intelligence committee of the risk of harm to national security and to ongoing investigations that could come from public release. Indeed, we do not understand why the committee would possibly seek to disclose classified in law enforcement sensitive information without first consulting with relevant members of the intelligence community.

So, the letter goes on. We have obtained a complete copy of the letter. We`ve posted it at tonight if you want to read it.

But the assistant attorney general basically goes on to say, listen, Congressman Nunes, if you`re uncomfortable giving the memo that you wrote about the FBI to the FBI director or to the deputy attorney general, if you`re uncomfortable with that for any reason, there`s lots of other officials here that you could give it to. But you can`t just keep spreading this stuff around. It is dangerous to national security.

Now, this is a remarkable pushback from the Justice Department. I have a feeling that conservative media and Republicans in Congress won`t care, right? This threat to national security -- oh, pshaw, show us what Devin wrote.

I have a feeling they will keep doing exactly what they`re doing here, but if you have been wondering when someone, anyone inside the Trump administration might feel compelled to stand up for the FBI against this assault on the FBI by Republicans in Congress and the conservative media, this letter tonight, this brush back, this is the first sign that somebody is at least trying to stand up for the FBI against what Republicans are trying to do to them. So, now, we`ve got this hard shove back from the Justice Department against what Republicans have been doing.

And we also now have a whole bunch of competing demands to release different memos, different documents alongside what Devin Nunes has been trying to do with his. Today, the top Democrat on the intelligence committee, Adam Schiff, says that Democrats on the Intel Committee have now drafted their own classified memorandum which purports to explain what`s wrong with what the Republicans have been trying to do with their classified memorandum. They want their memo shown to all other members of Congress if Devin Nunes is recklessly showing his thing to all members of Congress, well, they want to show theirs too.

Tonight, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley said he wants to declassify and release the referral he made a few weeks ago to the Justice Department where he and Lindsey Graham said that Christopher Steele should be investigated for criminal charges. Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent who wrote the Christopher Steele dossier should be criminally investigated by the justice department according to Chuck Grassley. Chuck Grassley now wants that declassified and released as well.

And then, Senator Richard Blumenthal, the Senator Sheldon Whitehouse came out and said, you know, if we`re declassifying stuff, if we are releasing stuff and letting people see important damning information that has been turned up in the course of our investigations, well, what we want released is the transcript of Donald Trump Jr. testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Donald Trump Jr. testified to that committee for hours behind closed doors.

Right after he gave that testimony, you might remember one of the senators on the committee, Chris Coons of Delaware, put out this very conspicuous public statement reminding everybody that it`s a crime to lie under oath, Mr. Trump Jr.

If we didn`t know what that was about at the time. but Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Senator Richard Blumenthal today said that whatever Donald Trump Jr. said in those transcripts, it`s important and it should be released if not to the public then at least to the special counsel. It should be given to Robert Mueller, because they say that that transcript of what Donald Jr. said is definitely relevant to Mueller investigation so what this means bottom line is that Congress is freaking out right now.

I mean, whatever you think of the various investigations or lack thereof on the Russia scandal in Congress, there is a wide scale, fast-paced freaked- out happening in both the House and the Senate as of today, and it`s creating a lot of pressure to publicly release stuff that the public has not yet seen. And I don`t know if we`ll ultimately get those documents. I don`t know what is causing that congressional freak-out, but we have had a ton of revelations, a ton of developments on this story in the last 36 hours.

And maybe all of this stuff is starting to flood out all at once, but it really does feel like it`s all happening all of a sudden for a reason. And one of the reporters who has been breaking this dam, setting loose this torrent of new information joins us next.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: Yesterday, we learned that the top law enforcement official in the United States, Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with, was interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller last week for several hours. Within hours after that revelation, we learned that former FBI Director James Comey who was fired by President Trump, he also has met extensively with Robert Mueller and his special counsel team, those meetings happened last year. Both of those revelations happened yesterday.

Then today, NBC News added a whole new raft of stuff that we did not know before, starting with Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn. One year ago today, January 4th last year, which was four days into the Trump administration, two days after Flynn had been sworn as national security adviser, on this day last year, FBI deputy Director Andrew McCabe`s office called national security adviser Mike Flynn`s office at the White House and scheduled a meeting through Flynn`s scheduler, a meeting that we didn`t really understand the contours of until now.

NBC News reports today that Mike Flynn took that initial meeting with FBI agents, again four days after the inauguration, two days after he was sworn in. He met with those FBI agents alone. He had no lawyer present. And then, NBC News reports, he told no one that the FBI had visited him and questioned him in his office at the White House. That happened on January 24th. Two days after that, January 26th is when Acting Attorney General Sally Yates came up to the White House and essentially pulled the fire alarm about Mike Flynn.

Now, we had previously known from her congressional testimony that Sally Yates warned the White House that Mike Flynn had been lying about his contacts with the Russian government, that he was potentially compromised by the Russians. This was a very dangerous situation given that he was serving his national security adviser and had access to very sensitive information.

What we learned today from Carol Lee at NBC News is that in addition to all of that information that Sally Yates conveyed to the White House on January 26th, the other thing she told them that day which was news to them was that Mike Flynn had been interviewed by the FBI. That interview would happen in the White House, in his office. It had been set up through official White House channels, but Flynn at that point had not apparently told anyone that the FBI had come to visit him to interview him about his foreign contacts.

Why didn`t Mike Flynn tell anybody once the FBI showed up in his office and started questioning him? We obviously have no idea but this does add to the mystery of how on earth the Trump White House decided that they would react to that warning they got about Mike Flynn, right?

Upon being informed that the surfing national security adviser was lying about his foreign contacts, was compromised by a foreign government and he had been interviewed by the FBI at the White House and hadn`t mentioned it to anyone, the White House upon learning that information decided to do nothing, decided to keep him on for another 18 days. What? Is it weird to have a national security adviser who`s the subject of an active FBI counterintelligence investigation and he`s lying about it? Is that weird? Should we do something?

We also learned today from NBC News that in addition to James Comey meeting with Mueller and his investigators last year, the acting attorney general who gave this morning about Flynn who was later fired by Trump herself, Sally Yates, she too also met with Mueller in his team last year, quote, extensively. NBC News further reports today that the head of national the National Security Agency, Mike Rogers, and the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and the CIA Director Mike Pompeo, they have all been interviewed by Robert Mueller and his investigators as well.

Now, that may end up being really important if as reported, Mueller is particularly interested in potential obstruction of justice by the president. Dan Coats, national intelligence director, and Mike Rogers, head of the NSA, both of them will reportedly asked by President Trump to make public statements exonerating him on the Russia matter. In March, the president also reportedly asked the Intelligence Director Dan Coats if he would intervene with the FBI to stop the Russia investigation.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo was reportedly in the room when the president made that request, that Coats should intervene the FBI to stop this inquiry. Well, now, all three of those leaders have been questioned by the Mueller investigation and we`re all reminded that in one of the impeachment proceedings that was brought against -- one of the articles of impeachment that was brought against Richard Nixon and Watergate, one of the things that they were going to impeach him for was him trying to use the intelligence community to stop the FBI investigation into Watergate, because that`s obstruction of justice.

Joining us now is Carol Lee, NBC News national political reporter and the author of today`s big compound scoop for NBC News.

Carol, it`s really nice to see you. Congratulations on this huge story.

CAROL LEE, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: It`s great -- it`s great to be with you. Thank you.

MADDOW: I`ve just tried to download some of the stuff that we --

LEE: You did great job.

MADDOW: Well, let me ask you first have I gotten me that wrong or if I misstated any of those facts as you understand them. I know that was a big download.

LEE: Yes. No, the only thing is that Flynn was interviewed by the FBI the day after he was sworn in. So, he was sworn in on a Monday with all senior staff, and then he was interviewed on that Tuesday. But, no, you -- very nicely laid out.

MADDOW: So, it`s his second day as national security advisor was two days after swearing in. Roger that.

Carol, let me just ask you first. Obviously, this story that you broke today had a whole bunch of news that we did not know before, and it comes on the heels of a whole bunch of other revelations that have just happened on this scandal, particularly on the legal side of the scandal and the progress of the Mueller part of this investigation.

LEE: Yes.

MADDOW: Do you have any sense why so much of this news is breaking right now? Is it just a coincidence that all the stuff is coming out?

LEE: Well, I think it`s a couple things. One is you`re seeing just the number of people that the special counsel is interviewing is just expanded and so anytime that do you have more witnesses, it gives us special reporters and more opportunities to try to learn what`s on the mind of investigators, what kinds of questions that they`re asking. And so, that`s one piece of it.

And then I also think it`s just -- it`s just moving faster. You know, I mean we`re at the point where the president himself could wind up sitting in front of the special counsel`s team within a matter of weeks. And so, that has led people to think that, you know, Robert Mueller is getting closer and closer he`s got a bunch of the big fish around the president who just come everybody`s come and talked to the special counsel and then he`s going to go to the president and that could mean that we`d at least see some sort of conclusion on the obstruction piece of this. So, I think it`s both of those things.

MADDOW: In terms of all of these people who we are now learning, including high-ranking administration officials and law enforcement officials who we know have now gone before Mueller and his team, I guess I have two questions about that. One is, are these witnesses, these people have been called in and asked to talk to the special counsel`s office, are they bound by secrecy? Are they not supposed to be telling people if they`ve had those interviews?

LEE: So, it depends. I mean, sometimes, technically no they can talk. But it depends it depends on what the kind of the relationship is what or what the agreement is but also you know sometimes people will just the special counsel or an investigator will just say you know we don`t want you to and people take that very seriously and so you may not get as much information out of them.

MADDOW: OK. Let me ask you also about this Flynn scoop that you`ve got. This -- the story that you`re able to tell not just about that timing but about the fact that Flynn apparently, according to your reporting, didn`t tell anybody in the White House about this interaction with the FBI. Did he know that he wasn`t just having a friendly meeting with the FBI but they were actually questioning him too in a way that should have indicated to him that he was under investigation?

LEE: You know, it`s interesting. It`s a great question because we`ve I talked to people who were in the White House at the time who were kind of, you know, involved in this and in some way or form and they said it just seemed like he didn`t get it, that he didn`t understand the significance of it and part of that could have been the way he was approached. You have the FBI call up his scheduler and say we need to talk to him to put us on the schedule.

And, you know, that that is not entirely unusual because they may come over and have some sort of counterintelligence brief or something like that and -- but typically if your national security adviser, you would then notify the legal team of the National Security Council so you could have a lawyer in a meeting like that. And Flynn didn`t do that and he didn`t tell anybody and he did also suggests because he didn`t have his own personal lawyer in there that he didn`t necessarily -- either he didn`t get what that he might need his personal lawyer in there and this was about as his personal conduct and he was vulnerable, or you know he just thought he could handle it.

And you talked to some experts and they say you know military decorated military folks like Flynn who`s you know has worked in intelligence feels like he can handle this and why would he need a lawyer? And so, I -- we don`t know, but it could be any combination of those things but it definitely sounded like new people describing how it went down that it was just haphazard and just happened to get on his schedule and then he showed up and they didn`t tell anybody.

MADDOW: Yes, I`ve never been in this situation, but I have to imagine if you`ve had a meeting with the FBI, even if you didn`t know what it was going into it, if once you`ve had that meeting you think you shouldn`t tell anybody about it, it probably means you should, A, get a lawyer and, B, start telling everybody about it.

LEE: Yes.

MADDOW: Just remarkable human side of the reporting, but also just an incredible addition to what we know about this whole saga.

Carol Lee, NBC news national political reporter -- congratulations on this huge scoop. Thank you so much.

LEE: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks.

All right. I will say -- I got a say, in all of the news that is breaking today, I -- one of the things I am most fascinated by is the news that CIA Director Mike Pompeo has sat down with Mueller`s investigators.

A very careful word choice in Carol`s reporting today. She described a number of people is cooperating with the special counsel. She described Mike Pompeo as having also been interviewed by the special counsel. Mike Pompeo has an incredibly important role to play in this scandal at a lot of different levels, him talking to the Mueller investigation is a big deal and one that I hope that we`re going to find out more in coming days.

Stay with us. We`ll be right back.


MADDOW: -- a day for flipping flapjacks everywhere. You can flip flapjacks for a good cause in New Bern, North Carolina. You can flip flapjacks in Wichita Falls, Kansas.

The power of pancake flipping in its lobby is such that you can actually get Miss Pennsylvania in her crown and gown to come to your town and flip pancakes on Pancake Day in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

National Pancake Day, it`s a real thing. It doesn`t roll around until March 4th this year. So, you have a little bit of time to practice your flip.

But in the meantime, if you want to warm up, you can watch special counsel Robert Mueller who looks like he may be out to -- may be about to flip a new cooperating witness in his special counsel investigation. The evidence on this is absolutely fascinating and that story is next.


MADDOW: The Watergate scandal, of course, resulted in the resignation of President Richard Nixon. His vice president and successor Gerald Ford then pardoned him. Nixon was never impeached or prosecuted for anything related to that scandal.

He`s kind of the only one who got away clean though. Sixteen different people were indicted in connection with the Watergate scandal and a lot of them went to jail. The White House counsel John Dean, he went to jail. The Attorney General John Mitchell, he went to jail. White House chief of staff H.R. Haldeman went to jail.

One of the dozens of high-ranking administration officials who was criminally indicted in Watergate was an assistant attorney general of the United States. He`d been part of CREEP, the Committee to Re-Elect the President. He`d been counseled with that committee. He`d been its political coordinator which meant he was up to his neck in the Watergate break-in and in the cover-up of the Watergate break-in.

His name was Robert Mardian. Now, he always maintained his innocence, but prosecutor said he was totally involved in trying to get the Watergate burglars out of jail once they were arrested. They say he helped with the hush money plan to keep them quiet and he helped with concocting the false story to put a shine on what had happened there with that burglary.

Assistant Attorney General Robert Mardian was indicted in conjunction with Watergate in 1974. He was ultimately convicted. He was sentenced to ten months in prison in 1975. But then in 1976, his conviction was overturned, and his conviction was overturned for a very unusual and specific reason,

Assistant Attorney General Robert Mardian did not have to go to prison for Watergate. He got his conviction thrown out. He got his sentence thrown out in the end for a very specific reason, because in the middle of his trial for Watergate, his lawyer collapsed in the courtroom and wasn`t able to go on. His lawyer was sick, he passed out in court during Mardian`s trial, he was too sick to continue with his representation of his client.

The judge informed a junior lawyer who had just been helping with the case, hey, you, you`re now the lead defense counsel for your client, the assistant attorney general of the United States, who has been criminally charged in this case. That junior lawyer was 33 years old at the time. I`m what now?

But he stepped up. He mounted that defense in 1976, by which point the original distinguished defense lawyer had died. That young assistant who had been unexpectedly thrust into that case, he got his client off. He got Robert Mardian off, got the jail time thrown out, got the conviction thrown out and that was probably the end of Robert Mardian being famous even as a Watergate figure.

But it was really the start of something for that kid lawyer who unexpectedly ended up in charge in that case in those dramatic circumstances. That kid lawyer was named Tom Green and Tom Green has been representing political figures in massive political scandals ever since his strange start in Watergate. After accidentally ending up defending the assistant attorney general in Watergate, Tom Green went on to represent defendants in the Whitewater scandal, and in the Iran-Contra scandal, and in the long-forgotten Bill Clinton`s State Department passport scandal.

When the same prosecutors who convicted Nixon`s vice president, Spiro Agnew, also went after Spiro Agnew`s successor as the governor of Maryland, Tom Green represented defendants in the governor of Maryland corruption case as well. He defended one of the senators charged in the Keating Five. He represented a senator named David Durenberger when Senator Durenberger got indicted while he was still serving in the Senate.

In 2009, Tom Green represented the governor of Puerto Rico when he was charged with money laundering. The horrifying scandal involving former Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert and child molestation and hush money paid to his victims, Tom Green, represents Speaker Denny Hastert in that scandal.

If you are a significant political figure or even if you`re not but you find yourself criminally charged in a political scandal of any significant size, you know, if somebody loves you, if somebody loves you enough, they will look into the possibility of whether they can hire Tom Green to be your defense lawyer. He`s the head of the white collar practice at a big law firm called Sidley Austin.

And I don`t mean to be rude or insulting or anything, I really don`t, but it remains one of the unusual things and maybe one of the important things about the gigantic scandal and investigation that envelops this presidency, that so many of the people caught up in the scandal almost everybody caught up in the scandal even at the highest levels has secured legal representation for themselves that isn`t that impressive, right, that doesn`t seem quite right.

I mean, yesterday, we got news that Attorney General Jeff Sessions spent hours last week being interviewed by the special counsel. Alongside that headline was the news that he brought and his old friend from Alabama as his counsel in that matter who sat next to him through all that questioning. His old friend from Alabama is a well-known D.C. lawyer now, but what that lawyer is known for is like losing gay marriage cases, and in cases about putting up statues of the Ten Commandments. He`s not like a white-collar political scandal criminal defense lawyer.

The president himself has hired a legal team that is -- again, I don`t mean to be rude but they`re more like people`s court and Supreme Court if you know what I mean. And this president if he`s going to get charged, it`s not going to be before Judge Wapner.

We just found out that the former spokesman for one of the president`s discarded lawyer, the discarded lawyer who got in swearing screaming matches with people who randomly emailed him at night. The spokesman for that era of the president`s insane legal team just hired his own lawyer for the Russia scandal. He hired a husband-and-wife legal team who go on FOX News and say they have secret sources who are going to spill the beans on the uranium that Hillary Clinton stole from Russia, right?

The legal firepower on the Robert Mueller special counsel side of the investigation is considerable. The legal firepower on the other side, the defense counsel hired by people in the administration, in many cases, it has not been as impressive, nearly as impressive.

But one person on the Trump side just got Tom Green, just got the guy you want. He just upgraded his previous legal team to add Tom Green to it, which is a very serious move and what makes it potentially a really important move for this whole scandal in this whole case is that the guy who appears to have hired Tom Green is one of the people who`s already been charged with multiple felonies in this case, Rick Gates, deputy campaign chair of the Trump campaign. CNN broke news today that Rick Gates has added Tom Green to his defense team. Tom Green was seen twice last week outside Robert Mueller`s office.

There`s a few things you can draw from this. One of them is the idea that Gates could be facing more charges in this investigation. CNN reporting that the special counsel has prepared additional charges, a superseding indictment against Rick Gates and Paul Manafort. That`s a superseding indictment to go along with a dozen criminal accounts that are already facing.

Now that Tom Green, Rick Gates` new lawyer, Mr. DC fix it, now that he was seen at the special counsel`s office, we can`t know for sure but it seems like they could be negotiating something the Gates side could be negotiating something new with Robert Mueller`s office.

We know it can`t be about Gates` bail package. That`s already squared away. We know that Gates` lawyers aren`t working in tandem with Manafort`s lawyers, they don`t have an agreement to share information with each other. So, it`s not about the two of them together. That means Gates is free to operate on his own without Manafort or anybody else knowing about it.

And all of that leads through the inevitable question which is, may be what they`re negotiating that Robert Mueller is about to get a new cooperating witness in the form of Rick Gates? I mean, if you have a special counsel, if you`re trying to find witnesses to flip against the president or other senior administration officials, Rick Gates is a human through line through for the Trump campaign, the transition and the presidency.

Before the campaign, he worked with Manafort. They were business partners for years, with clients like Oleg Deripaska, the Putin-connected Russian oligarch. Then he went to the Trump campaign. He was deputy campaign manager, managed the day-to-day operations of the campaign, traveled with the president, even after Manafort got fired off the campaign, Gates stuck around on the campaign right through the election.

After that, the Trump folks took him on to help with the Trump transition. After that, they hired him to help run the Trump inauguration. He was deputy chairman of the inaugural committee. After the inauguration, they helped lot he helped launch a nonprofit to support the president`s agenda, working with lots of people who had been part of the Trump campaign.

That outside work had him frequently visiting the White House though. "The Daily Beast" reports that as late as June, Gates was seen frequently at the White House. Now, we do not know what Rick Gates was up to at the White House or at the Trump nonprofit or at the inauguration or at the campaign. His involvement is never really made clear since and all this from day one. But we do know he`s had a front-row seat to almost everything that has plagued this president since his campaign got off the ground. You could wager a guess that Robert Mueller would very much like to hear all about it if Gates wants to talk about it.

We called Tom Green today, Rick Gates` reported new lawyer to ask if it`s true that he`s joined the Gates defense team and whether gates is negotiating with the special counsel now. We also tried his law firm. Nobody`s calling us back yet. They do seem busy though.


MADDOW: -- busy news night is Chuck Rosenberg, former senior Justice Department official, former U.S. attorney, former FBI chief of staff, Mr. Rosenberg, thank you very much for your time tonight. There`s so much going on.


MADDOW: The president surprised everybody tonight told reporters that he would happily -- he`s happy to testify under oath to the special counsel. His lawyers appear to be freaking out about the president`s remarks, trying to say that`s not what the president meant.

Are they right to be concerned? Is a statement like that from the president -- I mean binding? Might that short circuit whatever negotiations have been happening about this?

ROSENBERG: It`s not legally binding, Rachel. He can take it back. It sounds like they already did. People smarter than me, and that includes about everyone in the whole world, could argue whether or not it`s politically binding, but it has no legal value. If he changes his mind, he changes his mind.

MADDOW: We also had a dramatic development tonight from the Justice Department. The Justice Department releasing a letter to Congress, specifically to the Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes basically requesting that the Justice Department and the FBI be allowed to review a memo that`s reportedly based on classified information that Mr. Nunes has written and has been circulating and threatening to make public. The Justice Department warning that that could be seriously damaging to national security if he does that without DOJ and FBI being able to review it.

How do you -- how strange is that kind of a warning is there precedent for this kind of thing in the past?

ROSENBERG: It`s a strange warning. I have a bit of a rhetorical question here, Rachel. Do you care about good government? Because if you care about good government and you think the FBI did something wrong, look the FBI is awesome. They`re terrific but they`re not perfect.

So if you think they did something wrong and you care about good government, you`re going to give it to the FBI so they couldn`t look at it and fix whatever process broke. If you don`t want the FBI to fix it, you could give it to the Department of Justice inspector general.

There`s even this thing called the privacy and civil liberties oversight board it`s a bipartisan independent part of the executive branch. You could give it to them. So, if you care about good government, there`s a bunch of avenues you can walk down in order to try and fix whatever you think went wrong.

If you care about politics, then you do what the folks on the House Intelligence Committee appear to be doing. You politicize it.

MADDOW: Is that dangerous to your mind? One of the things that I have been increasingly thinking about over the last few days as the -- a lot of Republicans in Congress seem to be really ramping up and getting quite extreme and their criticism of the FBI and we`re seeing that echoed in conservative media.

I`ve just been wondering, in these circumstances, who stands up for the FBI, who protects the FBI in terms of its investigations, and also, it`s integrity to be able to act as an independent law enforcement agency.

ROSENBERG: Yes, very question. So, let me take the very first map, Rachel. Is it dangerous?

we have very good questions let me take the very first part of it Rachel is it dangerous I think it`s dangerous in the following sense we send FBI agents out into the field and ask them to do really, really difficult and important stuff -- find missing children, investigate domestic abuse on Indian reservations, political corruption, civil rights cases, all sorts of really hard things. And the way they do that is by getting people to talk to them and the way they do that is if people believe that the FBI is going to handle the matter, you know, in a sensitive thoughtful way you know faithful and honest way.

And so, the more you chip away at that, the more you undermine their work in the field. So, yes, it`s dangerous. It`s also very, very sad. It`s hard to imagine our political leadership undermining the FBI.

We asked them to do really hard things let`s try and support them when they do it.

MADDOW: Chuck Rosenberg, former FBI chief of staff, former U.S. attorney, former acting head of the DEA -- really appreciate your time tonight, sir. Thanks for being here, Chuck.

ROSENBERG: My pleasure.

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


MADDOW: It has just been an incredible night for breaking news. Just before we got on the air tonight, the president volunteered to reporters at the White House in a sort of surprise press availability that he would love to testify in the special counsel investigation, he would love to speak to the special counsel, and he volunteered under oath.

When you speak under oath in an investigation like this, that means that you are sworn in before a grand jury, which means the president publicly volunteered tonight that he will testify under oath before a grand jury in the Mueller investigations. His lawyer, Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer who`s leading the response to the Russian investigation, says, Mr. Trump, President, didn`t mean that when he said it.

But the president said it. So, we`ll see who win that is fight.

It`s been a remarkable day. We`ll see you again tomorrow.


Good evening, Lawrence.



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