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AP: Trump believes memo proves FBI conspiring against him Transcript 1/31/18 The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Ken Dilanian and Betsy Woodruff

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: January 31, 2018 Guests: Ken Dilanian and Betsy Woodruff

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

It has been a day of fast-moving news developments on big, important stories. I`m always grateful that you tune in to watch this show. Tonight, I am particularly happy that you are here. Because I think today was a really important day.

There`s a lot of important stuff going on all at once, a lot of news stories about important things are changing rapidly today and into tonight. I think that this next hour is going to be very helpful in terms of sorting out these developing stories. We`ve got a couple of really, really good, really clued-in reporters who are working at the heart of the most complex stuff that`s in Washington right now who are going to be here to help us tease it out. This is going to be a good show. So, thank you for being here.

First, I want to let you know that we will be talking about the surprise resignation of yet another senior administration official from the Trump administration. This time it`s the director of the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control. Now, this is not just the latest high-profile departure of yet another high-ranking Trump-appointed official.

It appears to be yet another case where this resignation was over something that really should have been caught in the normal vetting process before this official was ever appointed in the first place. And there have been a bunch of those who have departed from the Trump administration today. This is just the latest. We`re going to have more on that story ahead tonight.

And while we are talking about high-profile departures from the Trump administration, we can also now confirm what we first reported during the president`s State of the Union Address last night, which is that the president`s nominee to be ambassador to South Korea, obviously a very important ambassador post, that nominee has now either withdrawn or been pulled from consideration.

During the president`s speech last night, the ambassador nominee, Victor Chao, announced that he was no longer in contention for that position and he publicly came out in opposition to the president`s approach to North Korea, calling it a huge risk to Americans.

And actually, there`s a trifecta tonight. If you are looking at departures and potential departures for people in high-profile roles in the Trump administration, "The Washington Post" is now out with a brutal report on corruption allegations, involving Housing Secretary Ben Carson. Juliet Eilperin and Jack Gillum at "The Washington Post" is reporting that Secretary Ben Carson was warned. He was warned in writing. He was warned in person, that he was giving the appearance of using his position for his son`s private gain. But Secretary Carson, nevertheless went ahead with HUD events that appear to have materially benefitted his children and actually appear to have been designed to materially benefit his children.

One agency that`s part of HHS, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, also reportedly awarded a no-bid contract to a firm run by Secretary Carson`s daughter-in-law, a firm that his son is on the board of. Even for the Trump administration, these are serious corruption allegations against Ben Carson. Not least because even Trump-appointed ethics officials were the once who repeatedly went on the record warning him to not do these things to benefit his family, but he did so anyway, despite having received that formal advice in advance.

Now, in a normal Congress in a normal time, that`s the kind of thing that would be front page news for days. It would lead to multiple congressional investigations. If the charges were proved out, it would be one of the things for which a whole presidency was remembered in a bad way. In our life it time right now, though, this is just a Wednesday. Oh, Ben Carson corruption allegations, uh-hmm.

But there are, alongside all those, there are two really big stories that we are focusing on at the top of the news tonight. One of them involves this transcript, which was just released from the Intelligence Committee in the House. This transcript reads like a script from one of the best episodes of "West Wing."

In real time, in sometimes astonishing language, this explains how we got to this dramatic point tonight where congressional Republicans and White House are apparently planning to, not just threatening to, release highly- classified information to the public, despite the objections of the agency that classified it. The FBI and the Justice Department we now know have spent the last two day the warning the White House about the danger of what they are about to do with this release of classified information. The FBI then took the extraordinary step this afternoon of releasing a public warning. About what the Republicans in the White House are about to do, expressing their grave concerns.

There is only one official overseeing the FBI`s Russia investigation and its obstruction of justice investigation who the president has not yet tried to fire or actually fired. That`s Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Well, tonight CNN was first to report that ABC was first to match, followed tonight by "The New York Times", they have all now confirmed this reporting that Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general, the guy who`s leading, overseeing the Mueller investigation, he is the latest law enforcement official involved in the Russia investigation who the president appears to have pressured, directly, about it.

Quote, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein visited the White House in December, seeking President Trump`s help. Rosenstein, the top justice official in the Russia investigation wanted Trump`s support in fighting off document demands from House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes, but the president had other priorities. Trump wanted to know from Rosenstein where the special counsel`s Russia investigation was heading, and he wanted to know whether Rosenstein was quote, on my team.

Deputy attorney general appeared surprised by the president`s question. Sources say he demurred on the direction of the Russia investigation and responded awkwardly to the president`s team request. Rosenstein told Trump, quote, of course we`re all on your team, Mr. President.

It`s not clear what Trump meant or how Rosenstein interpreted the comment. This first reported by CNN then confirmed in separate reporting by ABC News and the "New York Times." For context here, when the president reportedly repeatedly asked FBI Director James Comey for his loyalty, when he pressured James Comey about the progress of the Russia investigation, that was very early on in the Trump presidency.

One charitable interpretation of the president`s actions was that, yes, sure, maybe that looked like textbook obstruction of justice, but the president is new to this. Maybe he didn`t know you`re not supposed to do that. You could come up with the same charitable explanation maybe about the president`s reported entreaties last year, last spring, last summer to the director of national intelligence, to the majority leader in Senate, to the leader of the Senate Intelligence Committee, all of whom the president apparently pressured and directed to get rid of the Russia investigations.

You know, maybe this particular president just doesn`t know you`re not supposed to do that. Maybe he doesn`t know that it`s illegal to try to obstruct an ongoing investigation. Maybe he didn`t know that for all of those incidents of pressure on people in a position to potentially block these investigations, which he wanted blocked.

But since all of those actions by the president have been publicly reported, and since it has also become public knowledge that the president is indeed being investigated for potential criminal obstruction of justice because of those actions, it`s no longer possible to say that ignorance is the defense here. It`s no longer possible to say that the president doesn`t know, it`s wrong, it`s illegal to pressure people who are running or overseeing these investigations about those investigations. I mean, if he didn`t know that was illegal and wrong before, he certainly knows now. And these new reports tonight that the pressure, the president pressured Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the man overseeing the Mueller investigation, these new reports tonight say that the president did this to Rosenstein last month, at the White House. Are you on my team, Rosenstein?

So, that is one of the two big stories at the top of the news tonight. Deputy attorney general reportedly was at the white house and was pressured by the president over the Russia investigation. The president made basically a loyalty request, asked him if he was on the president`s team on these matters. Now, the reason Rod Rosenstein was at the White House was reportedly to talk to the president, to enlist the president`s help about House Republicans and now the White House, planning to release classified information. That was only provided to them by the Justice Department under the understanding that that information would be handled as classified material. It wouldn`t be widely disseminated.

Well, this story is super hot. It continues to unfold tonight, including this big pushback that we`re getting from the FBI tonight and the quite amazing prospect that the White House itself may have been involved in creating this document that they`re now going to release, which is insane, if the White House is involved in creating it and they`re about to release it in their own defense while saying it`s other people`s work, that`s insane.

So, the story continues to develop tonight. We`re going to have more on the big story coming up over the course of this hour, including two reporters who are right on that story.

But here`s the other major story that you should know about. I said there were big ones that were sort of fronting with tonight.

Here`s the other one. One of the things we have had to get used to over the last 377 days is that in this administration, when there is a meeting between our American president and the president of Russia or a meeting between our president and senior officials from the government of Russia, as a rule, we don`t hear about that from our own government. We do get news about these meetings, we do get reports about these phone calls, these contacts between our president and Russia, but we get that news from Russia. And it`s happened again and again and again.

This fall, when President Trump took his big trip to Asia, he raised some eyebrows when it emerged that he`d be meeting with Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of that Asian summit. Now, the way we learned those meetings were going to happen during the Asian summit is that a member of the Kremlin staff made the announcement. And that`s how U.S. news agencies first learned of that plan. Only there afterwards that the White House admit, yes, the Kremlin is correct, those meetings are going to happen.

President Trump actually ended up meeting three separate times with Vladimir Putin on that Asian trip. And then when he came back from Asia, for some reason he had to meet with Vladimir Putin again. On November 21st, President Trump had a one on one phone call with President Putin. We learned that here in this country at 1:00 a.m. on the day of the call because that`s when "Reuters" translated into English a report from Interfax, a Russian news agency.

And where Interfax got this news that Trump and Putin were going to be having this call, where they got the news was from the Kremlin. And so, that third hand is how we learn that important information about the American president that day. We learned what the American president would be doing that day and who he`d be talking to. We learned that from the Kremlin.

And it`s not even just his meetings with Putin himself. In May, the day after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, President Trump told the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador to the United States that firing James Comey would take a lot of pressure off of him when it came to the Russia investigation. He told them that in the Oval Office, which is remarkable enough. Other American presidents haven`t made a habit in generations of inviting high-ranking Russian officials into the Oval Office, but President Trump did, and we learned about it from Russian state media, because while U.S. media was barred from covering that event and no White House announcement was made about that Oval Office meeting, Russian state media not only knew about it, they were invited in to photograph it. Those were those photos. Those photos, the byline, we have to put the credit on them, Russian foreign ministry, that`s how we got that news.

We learned about that historic and telling meeting in the Oval Office at the White House because the Kremlin decided to tell us about it. I mean, given the enormous Klieg light of news attention that the American media shines on the president of the United States 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, ad nauseam, ad infinitum, it`s kind of a remarkable thing, right? It`s become this sort of remarkable pattern with this presidency, that when it comes to meetings with high-ranking Russian officials, the one thing we`re not allowed to find out for ourselves, one thing that we have to get from another country about the behavior of our own president is any news about his contacts with Russia.

And apparently, it`s not just the president. This is a story that started to break last night just before the State of the Union and then it broke wide open this morning. Once again, "Reuters" was the first, "Reuters" was the first English-language news source to report about a high-level meeting, indeed, a high-level visit to the United States by an important Russian government official. In this case, by the chief of Russia`s foreign intelligence service, the SBR.

Now this is amazing for a few reasons. I mean, first of all, once again, I`m thankful to "Reuters" that they monitor Russian language media and pronouncements in Russian state controlled broadcasts by Kremlin officials about what the Trump administration is doing, because otherwise we wouldn`t know. In this case, the Russian spy chief visiting Washington? It was first reported on Rossiya-1 television. And then it was written up by the ITAR-Tass Russian news agency.

"Reuters" was able to pick up that announcement, based on Russian state media. They were able to get that announcement from the Kremlin, and that`s how we learned that last week, quote, the head of Russia`s foreign intelligence service met outside Washington with American intelligence officials. He reportedly met with the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and other officials.

After that initial report from "Reuters", "The Daily Beast" followed up with news that the head of Russia`s intelligence service not only came to the United States and met with Trump-appointed National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, he also met with Trump-appointed CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Then, "The Washington Post" dumped this whole cake and sprinkled it with jimmys when it announced it wasn`t actually just the head of the Russian foreign intelligence service, the SBR. It was also the head of the FSB, which used to be the KGB, and also, the head of the GRU, which is Russia`s military intelligence service. All three of their spy chiefs, including the chiefs of the two agencies who mounted that attack on our election in 2016, they all came to the United States last week. And there were meetings with Dan Coats, and there were meetings with Mike Pompeo, and there were apparently other meetings with other officials that we don`t know about.

And apparently, our government was going to make no announcement about this. But luckily, the Kremlin let us know. Shane Harris` report on this in "The Washington Post" this morning says, quote, current and former U.S. intelligence officials say they cannot recall so many heads of Russian security apparatus coming to Washington all at once. Yes. It does seem kind of weird. What were they all doing here? And why was this not being kept secret from the Russian public, but it was being kept secret from us, by our government?

Here`s the other part of this that is mind-bending. Of these three Russian intelligence chiefs who were apparently brought to the United States last week to meet with the Trump administration in secret, the first one who is reported, the guy who is the head of the SBR, SBR is the foreign-facing intelligence service in Russia. This is their service that puts spies in other countries. Don`t see why there`s any reason why you wouldn`t invite him here.

Well, one of the specific reasons you might not have that guy here, that guy in particular here, is that since 2014, he`s been sanctioned by the U.S. government. He was the head of a lower house of parliament in Russia when Russia invaded Crimea, and the Obama administration imposed sanctions on Russian government officials over that attack on Crimea, that annexing, that piece of a neighboring country.

The guy who`s now head of the SBR, he was one of the named figures who was sanctioned as an individual and therefore, we believe he is barred from entering the United States. So, then how did he enter the United States last week?

The Trump administration has not given an explanation as to how this official who`s been sanctioned and has frozen assets and is barred from the United States, the Trump administration has not explained how this guy was allowed to enter the United States. We`ve talked with experts on Russian sanctions who`ve told us that there can sometimes be a special dispensation maid for a person who`s sanctioned and is barred from entering the United States. But the U.S. government for some reason determines that there`s a good reason to bring them here anyway.

In such an instance, as far as we can tell, the remedy is that the secretary of state can personally intervene, can choose, in an individual instance to disregard the sanctions on that person which bar them from entering the United States, the secretary of state can decide to provide an individual visa for that individual person for that individual visit at the secretary`s discretion. So, we called the State Department today. Hey, is that what happened here? Did Rex Tillerson give special dispensation, a special permission, a special personally-approved visa to the head of Russia`s foreign intelligence service to come over here secretly last week to meet with Trump administration officials?

State Department answered our question. They told us this, quote: visa records are confidential under Section 222 sub section F of the Immigration and Nationality Act, INA. Therefore, we may not comment on the details of individual cases.

To be clear, I don`t want to know about any other individual visa cases. We`re just trying to figure out why and how the head of Russia`s spy service, the head of Russia`s foreign-facing intelligence service who is banned from entering the United States was nevertheless green lit and let in secretly and we wouldn`t have known about it until the Kremlin started bragging about it.

When it comes to the United States and the Trump administration enforcing sanctions of all kinds against Russia, there`s a whole lot that`s going wrong there, in increasingly flagrant and bizarre ways. We`re going to have more reporting on that, I warn you, over the next couple of days. There`s a hard thread to pull over why the State Department and the Treasury Department decided yesterday to defy Congress and not implement sanctions on Russia, which were due by law to be implemented this week.

We are pulling that thread as are a lot of other news agencies right now. But before that reporting bears fruit, even before we get to the bottom of what they are doing about sanctions, which is the thing Russia most wants them to change. Before we get to the bottom of what the Trump administration is trying to deliver to Russia in terms of giving them relief from sanctions, this other specific story about secretly letting in all three of Russia`s spy chiefs? And in one of their cases, that being against the law, that being against our American law, and somebody in the Trump administration green lit it anyway? That is going to need an answer sooner rather than later.

I cannot imagine the State Department is going to get away with not saying if they were the ones who did it, and f they were not the ones who did it, who did?

Stay with us tonight. Busy news night. Lots to come.

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MADDOW: Quoting from page 38, the ranking member: With that, I yield back.

Mr. Quigley, and I reclaim my time. Thank you. I respect you all. I don`t respect this process of what you are doing, and I am from Chicago, and you know, the reputation I have lived with most my life, working first as a staff person for the Chicago City Council, I saw the worst of the worst.

They got nothing on you on this one, folks. This is extraordinary. And I know what`s important here. Let`s make sure the White House gets a copy of this first, because that`s who we`re all working for apparently. Thank you, I yield back.

Quoted from page 39, the Chairman: Ms. Sewell, I try to use my voice sparingly on this committee, because I have such deference to the fact that I think all of us care about our national security and take serous our jobs. But I have to tell you how disappointed I am. It`s a sad day to be on this committee, and I never thought I would say that since I thought this was the committee that really took seriously our national security and people put their own views and their party`s interest aside, and tried to do what`s in the best interest of all of us. I just wanted for the record to say that I am very disappointed for all of us that we have gotten to this place.

This is from the Intelligence Committee on Monday. Their meeting on Monday, quoting members of Congress, Mike Quigley and Terri Sewell from the transcript that`s just been released where this committee is fighting tooth and nail over whether House Republicans and the White House are going to release a classified memo that disparages the FBI and tries to undermine the Mueller investigation.

And now that this transcript is out, we actually know how it got to this huge standoff which we`re in tonight and which has caused the FBI to make this remarkable public warning today about the dangers of what the White House and Republicans are about to do. Quote: The FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it. As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo`s accuracy. So, that was a statement from the FBI today.

Here was Congressman Eric Swalwell of California pleading that case against that vote before the vote happened. He says: It was our belief, and it still is, that there was a cooperation agreement between our committee and the Department of Justice, that there would be limited access to the most highly-sensitive of materials as it relates to Russia and we have seen the majority break that agreement by releasing a four-page memo to the whole House.

We are violating an agreement with the Department of Justice. We talking about the most-classified materials, and I take it, Mr. Chairman, as a privilege to serve on this committee. We are each one of 22 individuals who are trusted to conduct oversight of our intelligence community.

If we were to put out to the public the most sensitive materials that they have trusted us to look out without asking them to conduct a review, without collaborating together to make sure that inaccuracies are not disseminated to the public, then we will break trust with them. And we may not see the effect today or tomorrow. But I promise that as we bring them in on non-Russia related matters, they are going to be more guarded, they`re not going to trust us because we have broken an agreement and aired for the whole public something that we have been trusted to conduct privately. Congressman Eric Swalwell.

So, they met on Monday for this fight. We got the transcript today, as we learned that the deputy attorney general and the FBI director have gone personally to the White House to warn the White House, to tell them how dangerous it would be to release this classified information. Beyond that, we understand what the FBI further sent subject matter experts to the White House, to tell them more specifically about the danger of this release of this type of classified information would pose.

Now, one major fly in the ointment about those warnings is the question of whether the White House itself may have been involved in cooking up this classified memo to attack the FBI. This is from page 23 of the transcript just released today.

Mr. Quigley: Let me ask you another question with the greatest respect. When you conceived of doing this memo, the preparation, the thought of doing it, the consultation of it, was any of this done after or during conversations or consultations with anyone in the White House? Did they have any idea you were doing this? Did they talk about doing this with you?

Did they suggest it? Did you suggest it to them? Did you consult in how to go forward with this before, during and after this point right now?

Chairman Devin Nunes: I would just answer as far as I know, no.

Mr. Quigley: Mr. Chairman, does that mean none of the staff members that worked for the majority had any consultation or communication at all with the White House?

Chairman Nunes: The chair is not going to entertain a question by another member. Do any other members wish to be heard? Your time has expired.

Quigley: Does that mean just questions you don`t like? Or questions in general, sir?

Nunes does not respond to that.

The leader of the House Republican effort to undermine the FBI`s investigation, House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes refusing to say whether or not his staff wrote this classified memo that they`re about to release now in consultation with the White House. I know that sounds like a process thing, but think about that. If that did happen, he won`t answer whether his staff wrote it in conjunction with the White House. We know this staff has worked in junction with the White House on depending them from the Russia investigation in the past.

If this happened, if this staff worked with the White House on making this thing, then this current firestorm in Washington is about the White House releasing an anti-FBI document that it helped create to try to undermine the FBI investigation into itself, into the White House. So, this is the White House putting out a document that it wrote to defend itself against the FBI`s investigation, and releasing classified information in the process.

I know you probably wouldn`t wish a life in Congress on your worst enemy, but these kind of fights that they`re having shows you why it really matters who`s there, and sometimes they deal with stuff that is not just consequential, it is freaking compelling to read it word for word.

Told you this was going to be a really big show. We`ll be right back with the reporter who`s right at the heart of this story.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Just as we were getting on the air tonight, "Reuters" was first to report that the classified memo written by Republicans in the House, memo alleging surveillance abuses by the FBI in the Russia investigation, that memo is likely to be released tomorrow by the White House. This comes despite repeated warnings from the FBI and the Justice Department that it would be dangerous to national security to do so, but a White House official reportedly says to expect this release tomorrow. NBC News has now confirmed that report.

A senior administration official confirming to NBC News that the Nunes memo will likely come out tomorrow. That official also tells NBC that there could be redactions from what was originally in the memo, but we won`t know what those are until we see them. And because we`re apparently still having the news equivalent of a super blue blood moon, "The New York Times" has just moments ago broken news about how the special town is honing in on the Trump Tower meeting between the Trump campaign and Kremlin-connected Russians, and even more tightly than that, the Mueller investigation homing in on the Trump administration response to that story getting out.

"The Times" is reporting tonight that Mark Corallo, a former spokesman for the Trump legal team is, quote, planning to tell Mr. Mueller about a previously undisclosed conference call with President Trump and Hope Hicks, the White House communications director. Mr. Corallo planned to tell investigators that Ms. Hicks said during the call that e-mails written by Donald Trump Jr. before the Trump Tower meeting in which the younger Mr. Trump said he was eager to receive political dirt about Mrs. Clinton from the Russians, she reportedly said that those e-mails will never get out.

That left Mr. Corallo with concerns that Ms. Hicks could be contemplating obstructing justice.

Now, we should note that Hope Hicks` lawyer denies this account, telling "The Times" tonight, she never said that. The idea that Hope Hicks ever suggested that e-mails or other documents would be concealed or destroyed is completely false. Oh, but it goes on.

Joining us now is Ken Dilanian, national security reporter for NBC News.

Mr. Dilanian, it`s great to have you with us tonight.

KEN DILANIAN, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, NBC NEWS: Nice to be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW: I don`t really know where to start. Let`s start with the memo.

The FBI has made what looks to a lay observer like me, has taken extraordinary public, an extraordinary public position that this should not happen, what the White House is about to do. But it sounds like the White House has now -- feels they`re good to go and they`re going to release it tomorrow.

DILANIAN: This whole thing is extraordinary from start to finish. Yes, that statement by the FBI was absolutely extraordinary, but it was extraordinary that members of the House got access to a classified FISA application. That does not normally happen.

And it`s further extraordinary that they`re making moves to make that public even though without the normal classification review that tends to happen when we declassify things.

Now, you and I are journalists, we are in favor of transparency. I want to read all this stuff, right? But the way this has happened is so disturbing to people on the Republican and Democratic side of the aisle who worked in the intelligence community. My sources are beside themselves. This threatens, they say, to blow up 40 years of congressional oversight of intelligence.

MADDOW: Wow. And let`s break that down a little bit. The reason they got access to this information is because even though the Justice Department and the FBI went directly to the speaker of the House and to the White House to say this is inappropriate, we should not be required to hand this stuff over, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and the White House, apparently, pushed for it to happen anyway, and then according to this transcript that was released today about the intelligence -- from the intelligence community meeting on Monday, it sounds like the Justice Department and FBI handed over this very sensitive information with the understanding -- they thought they had an agreement it would not be disseminated and then House Republicans turned around and spread it to the entire House and now are giving it to the public.

DILANIAN: That`s what it looks like. And this is a special case, because there is a legitimate oversight function on the Russia investigation. But normally, pending criminal investigations are not briefed to Congress. The Justice Department has a very hard-line.

You`ll remember that James Comey refused to acknowledge before the election that the FBI was investigating Donald Trump, even after Senator Harry Reid raised a stink and says you have this information. He wouldn`t talk about it, even privately. So, that`s not normal.

Now we know there`s an investigation, but they tend not to turn over these highly-classified pieces of evidence in the pending investigation. They`ve done that because the Republicans are saying, look, we have a legitimate oversight function here. And that`s true, but to make it public is a whole other kettle of fish.

MADDOW: Do you think that it is -- again, just to kind of reestablish norms here, at least remember what they were, is it a scandal that the Justice Department and FBI handed over this information when it was demanded?

DILANIAN: No, I don`t think it is. I mean, I think, look, you know, the Congress has a right to, to --

MADDOW: But even in ongoing criminal investigations? I mean, we all know that`s a great way to say no, you`re not getting it. It`s an ongoing criminal investigation.

DILANIAN: Well, the problem is what they`re doing with it. And as you read Eric Swalwell saying, they`re never going to give this stuff again. They`ve poisoned the well here. That`s -- there`s always a worry about, what are we going to turn over to the Hill, because it`s going to be leaked, it`s going to be made public, and their sort of worst nightmare for the intelligence communities is coming true with this.

MADDOW: Now, "The New York Times" is reporting, the headline as Mueller zooms in on Trump Tower cover story. I looked at that headline, like, uh- huh, yes, we know that. This is part of what they`ve been looking at in terms of whether or not, you know, misleading the public about their contacts with Russians may have crossed some sort of the line into obstruction of justice or some other criminal activity.

What`s new about this, what seems to be specific allegations from somebody who used to be on team Trump, Mark Corallo, who`s a spokesman for the Trump legal team, saying that Hope Hicks -- during this call, Hope Hicks said that these e mails written by Donald Trump Jr. that gave lie to the statement that was being constructed on Air Force One, partially dictated by the president himself, that those e-mails, quote, will never get out.

That`s a -- that`s a very serious assertion.

DILANIAN: That seems deeply significant to me. You`re right. You had to read a lot of paragraphs into that story to get to that nugget of new.

MADDOW: Yes.

DILANIAN: But, I mean, we`ll recall that she`s 28-year-old political neophyte, but this is a serious matter, and Mark Corallo resigned in the wake of this. And in the Michael Wolff, he alleges that Mark Corallo did because he was concerned that this was obstruction of justice. And now we know according to the story, the details that Hope Hicks is essentially implying that they can make these incriminating e-mails go away. Of course, they couldn`t, it became one of the defining stories of this whole investigation and I think the special counsel still has questions that are not answered in this article about why Donald Trump in particular insisted on drafting that statement the way he did.

MADDOW: And this also -- this does sort of spell out a little bit what might be a problem for the president in that regard. This is describing towards the end of the article, describing a call between Hope Hicks and Mark Corallo, according to three people who relayed his versions of events to "The Times" and Mr. Corallo is not disputing any of this account, which was relayed to "The Times" by three people who he supposedly told at the time, Hicks was reportedly told by Corallo that she was either being naive or she was suggesting that e-mails could be withheld from investigators.

He described himself as concerned, alarmed that she had said that in front of the president without a lawyer on the phone. And that conversation could not be protected by attorney-client privilege. That implies the president having legal liability over the falseness of that statement.

DILANIAN: It absolutely does. Now it`s not only known to the special counsel but it`s known to the rest of us.

MADDOW: The new story in "The New York Times" as Mueller zooms in on Trump Tower cover story, the news story reported first by "Reuters", confirmed now by NBC News is that the Republican memo based on classified information that the FBI and the Justice Department say will be dangerous to be released is nevertheless is going to be released in some form tomorrow by the White House. There remain questions as to whether or not that memo was in part authored either in conjunction with or by the White House. It sort of changes the whole cast of this.

Ken Dilanian, national security reporter for NBC News --

DILANIAN: Good to be with you.

MADDOW: I feel like we still just started.

All right. Lots more to come tonight. Stay with us.

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MADDOW: So, tonight, we have this new 51-page transcript showing exactly what happened behind closed doors that led to the memo release that we`re going to get tomorrow. This is what happened in the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors on Monday. We now know because of this transcript that Republican Chairman Devin Nunes got stapled by a Democrat on that committee. He got stapled specifically by Democrat Mike Quigley who asked directly, hey, where did this memo come for really? Asked Nunes directly whether he or his staffers worked with the White House on this classified memo that bashes the FBI and attempts to basically vindicate the White House as far as we can tell on the Russia investigation.

Chairman Nunes first tried answering, quote, I would just answer, as far as I know, no. When Mike Quigley further asked him, well, what about your staff, if it wasn`t you, did your staff with the White House on this? Chairman Nunes answered by basically saying time`s up, literally, he said your time has expired.

The House Intelligence transcript, when you read it, it instantly makes itself into a really good movie inside your head, but it almost came with a spoiler, because somebody outside that committee hearing followed this story closely enough and had good enough sources that she actually found out what happened in that particular instance before anybody else and before the rest of us knew about it.

Just before the State of the Union last night, "Daily Beast" reporter Betsy Woodruff had this scoop, Devin Nunes getting grilled about whether or not the White House was involved in prepping this classified memo, Devin Nunes saying, don`t ask me, as far as I know, no. But I don`t want to talk about it.

That`s exactly what we learned in the transcript today. But Betsy Woodruff of "The Daily Beast" had it first. She joins us now.

Betsy, thanks very much for being here. Congratulations on your scoop and being vindicated in black and white within 24 hours.

BETSY WOODRUFF, THE DAILY BEAST: Thanks, Rachel. It`s always -- it`s always nice to see that.

MADDOW: Yes. Well, let me ask you -- let me ask you about the significance of this. We`ve now been told that the White House is planning on releasing this classified memo. We`ve also in the last 24 hours had a lot more information about how alarmed the FBI and the Justice Department are about the fact that this classified information is going to be released. Ken Dilanian was just here saying his Republican and Democratic sources and intelligence veteran sources are beside themselves that this specific kind of information is going to get out there.

Given all of that concern and upset, how radical a decision this is, what`s the significance of the prospect that the White House may have actually helped prepare the memo?

WOODRUFF: It`s extraordinarily significant. And one thing that stood out to me about this transcript and also popped out when I was chatting yesterday and getting our details confirm is the specific nature of the question that Congressman Quigley asked Nunes. At first, he asked Nunes something to the fact of, did you know about this, were you involved? And Nunes sort of hems and haws, and then Quigley followed up with a really important question, and that question was, did your staff work with the White House?

The reason that particular question is important, is that as your viewers will recall, several months ago, Nunes took a big step back from this investigation, but what I have been told, what I`m hearing from my sources over the last few months, as I`ve followed this story closely is that while Nunes himself took a big step back, his staff kept doing what they were doing and very much run being the show in his stead.

So, what Quigley is asking here is, even if Nunes himself, you know, weren`t involved in sort of going back and forth between the Hill and the White House, did he know what his staff were doing? You know, did he know what they were up to?

And when Quigley pressed him on that and sort of tried to get a clear answer, Nunes said, all right, time for somebody else to ask a question, I don`t want to talk about this. It really tells you what Nunes isn`t willing to say about the work that his staff are doing on this pivotal investigation.

MADDOW: And if the point of this memo is to somehow insulate the White House from this investigation because of these supposedly revealed details about the FBI, if the White House itself was involved in crafting these revealed details, it changes -- it changes the whole dynamic in terms of what exactly we are about to get tomorrow.

Betsy, I want to ask you about another piece of this, which is revealed very early on in this transcript, and it unexpectedly coincides with another big politics story today. As you mentioned, Devin Nunes himself sort of stepped back from this investigation for a while, while he was under ethics investigation from mishandling classified information, his staff kept working on it.

When it comes to the underlying intelligence that the FBI is so freaked out about, the Justice Department is so freaked out about, intelligence veterans are so worried that this is about to get disseminated, that underlying intelligence, the FISA stuff, a really highly classified stuff, it was seen by Nunes` staffers, it was seen by Congressman Adam Schiff and it was seen by one Republican member of Congress, Trey Gowdy. Memo`s coming out tomorrow, Trey Gowdy unexpectedly announces that he`s running from Congress today.

I don`t think any of us have any particular insight into what Trey Gowdy has in his mind when he decided to announce this resignation today, but clearly there`s got to be some interest here at stake in terms of him having access to that underlying super controversial intelligence.

WOODRUFF: Trey Gowdy, without a doubt, is a really important character in this saga. And he`s one of the Republicans that hasn`t gone after the FBI with the type of verve or excitement that some members of the House have. If you look at the transcript from some of these other House Intelligence Committee hearings, Gowdy is one who sometimes will pull in the reins a little bit when his fellow Republicans are just sort of zooming after the FBI.

So, his role is definitely an interesting one. I can tell you that folks on the committee view him differently than they view Nunes, at least on this particular matter. He is seen, comparatively, it`s perhaps a low bar, as an honest broker, right, and as somebody who`s acting in comparatively better faith. What that means for the intelligence committee next year after Gowdy is no longer in the House is significant. We just don`t know who`s going to take it over.

At the same time when we`re talking about these really important questions about intelligence and the significance of the memo being released tomorrow, something important to remember or that I can share that`s really important is that Rod Rosenstein, the number two guy in the Department of Justice, the guy who`s the boss of Chris Wray who runs the FBI, rout himself I can tell you, is deeply concerned, my understanding, about the release of this memo, according to the letter that the Justice Department`s top hill liaison sent to Nunes last week.

What I can tell you is that Rosenstein was closely involved in the crafting of that letter. His name isn`t on the letter, but that letter very much reflected -- according to a source familiar, very much reflected the way that Rosenstein feels about the release of this memo. I can also tell you that Rosenstein has done nothing to indicate that just because the FBI director saw the memo, just because he was allowed to eyeball it, means that Rosenstein feels differently.

If Rod Rosenstein wanted to, he could sort of publicly give a wink and a nod to Nunes. It`s something that would help him curry favor with the White House. It`s something that might take some of the heat from Trump off his back. But Rosenstein has not done that. The Department of Justice has done anything to try to dial back the statement that the FBI put out this morning.

And we`re on pretty safe ground assuming that this memo doesn`t just divide Republicans and Democrats, it actually divides the Trump administration against itself. Rod Rosenstein is a Trump appointee. He`s a member of the administration and that letter that came out last week, that was just scorching, that was Rod`s view.

MADDOW: Betsy Woodruff, politics reporter for "The Daily Beast", and these days a real scoop machine -- Betsy, I really appreciate you being here tonight and helping us through this. Thanks very much.

WOODRUFF: Sure thing.

MADDOW: That`s remarkable what she was reporting there. Obviously, we`ve been talking about Rod Rosenstein as the one person in charge of the Russia investigation who hasn`t been fired or tried to have been fired, which is wrong grammar, by the president. This is a really point of contention, a serious point of contention between the FBI and the Justice Department on one hand, and House Republicans and the Trump White House on the other. The Trump White House and the House Republicans are obviously winning this. It remains to be seen whether or not the Justice Department and the FBI gets more steel in their spine on this or whether they continue to cave and concede to what the Trump administration wants.

The independence of law enforcement system in this country is an important thing and we haven`t seen it tested like this in our lifetimes. We`ll be right back.

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MADDOW: -- control is a really important job. The head of the CDC is responsible for informing and protecting the American public about the biggest risk to their health like this winter`s deadly flu epidemic or ongoing threats like smoking which remains the leading cause of preventable death in this country.

You know, it`s one measure of the weirdness of this administration that the Trump appointee to run the CDC, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, she made a big investment in tobacco stocks a month after she took over running the CDC for the Trump administration. After?

Politico.com reported yesterday that Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald bought up to $15,000 worth of Japan Tobacco Company stock in August after she started running the CDC. Well, today after that reporting and a bunch of other reporting about her financial conflict of interests with her job, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald has resigned from running the CDC. And that`s interesting about the CDC. But that`s also particularly interesting for us here at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW and our incredibly talented graphic`s team, because we work hard on the list of trying to keep up on the list of senior officials who have cycled out of the Trump administration already even though they`ve only been there a year.

It now includes, the secretary of health and human service, the White House chief of staff, a deputy White House chief of staff, another White House chief of staff, the senior adviser to the White House chief of staff, a press secretary, an assistant press secretary, a communications director, another communications director, the White House director of Raid Response, the national security advisor, deputy national security advisor, another deputy national security advisor, the intelligence director at the National Security Council.

The Middle East director at the National Security Council, director of strategic planning at the National Security Council, the deputy chief of staff at the National Security Council, the chief White House strategist, Steve Bannon. Also another strategist who did not appear to have any particular job in the White House, but he went on TV a lot, that guy Sebastian Gorka, remember him? Also the director for the office of public liaison, that was Omarosa.

The FBI director, the deputy FBI director, the chief of staff of the FBI, the special advisor to the president on regulatory reform, the director of the Office on Government Ethics. Counselor to the treasury secretary, director of the National Security Agency, deputy director of the National Security Agency, deputy director of the National Economic Council, deputy director of the domestic counsel.

The vice president`s chief of staff, the vice president`s wife`s chief of staff, the vice president`s press secretary, the vice president`s chief counsel, the vice president`s chief policy adviser and now, the head of the Centers for Disease Control.

We even screwed one of those up. Look, we put press secretary on the same line as senior adviser to the White House chief of staff. Technically, that`s a screw up. I think honestly, that might be kind of an intentional screw up, because where else are you going to put a dot?

How many -- we`re going to have to start doing it. It`s a slide show. More than three dozen relatively high ranking and significant officials who have resigned or have been fired or forced out in just over a year. That is well over tripled the turnover rate of President Obama`s staff in the same time, which probably means nothing at all, but we`re going to keep it on track. We`re going to get a bigger graphic.

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

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."

Good evening, Lawrence.

END

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