Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: February 8, 2018 Guest: Sean Patrick Maloney, Gerry Connolly
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
If you enjoy roller costars. If those are sorts of things that make you feel excited and not just barfy, then you have already been enjoying today in the news, haven`t you?
This is what`s going on right now in the Asian markets where the time difference, of course, means it is tomorrow there already. Markets are open and trading. What`s happening in the Asian markets right now is important news in the United States tonight because the Dow Jones went off a cliff again today.
It has been a crazy few days in terms of the U.S. stock market. The Asian markets right now make it look like it might be another bad day tomorrow, but who knows? It`s really been all over the place.
Friday, as you remember, the Dow dropped a beastly 666 points. Then, we have the weekend. Then, on Monday, at one point, the Dow was down 1,600 points. It ended up by the end -- of the end of the day closing down around 1,200 points. Then, Tuesday, the Dow was actually up 567 points. Wednesday, it was almost perfectly flat at least by the end of the day.
But now, today, it dropped another thousand points. And you know, at first it looked like when this all started maybe there was a little hiccup in the markets. Now, after these five days, it`s more like a violent sneezing fit and nobody knows when it`s going to stop or where it`s going to stop.
So, whether or not you personally have got a stake in the stock market, it`s unsettling to see the market like this. This is the Dow since November. I think we`ve got a shot of that. Yes, this was actually this time frame was posted on the front page of "The Washington Post" Website tonight right after the closing, right? This is what`s happened since November, gulp.
But even more so than just the giant point drops that we`ve had a few times in the last few days. It`s just this crazy volatility. It`s the down and then up and then down and down again. You know big 500, 600, 1,000 point 1,200 points swings, they can be nauseating in real life and in the markets.
I have to say though, some people like rollercoasters. And if you like them, if you like volatility, presumably, you not only are really enjoying the markets right now, you probably are also really much enjoying the American government right now.
Two weeks ago, we had a federal government shutdown that was the one-year anniversary of the Trump administration being sworn in. It was marked at the stroke of midnight with a government shutdown. That was also the first ever government shutdown while a single party controlled the White House the House and the Senate, USA, USA. That was two weeks ago.
That shutdown lasted three days it accomplished nothing except for drama and waste. Well, tonight, it looks like we`re going to have another one. That last one was so awesome, maybe we`re going to have another one.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, the junior Republican Senator from Kentucky, he is not exactly filibustering tonight, but he is using the Senate rules to single-handedly threaten a shutdown of the government tonight. He`s delaying the vote that would need to happen if we`re going to keep the government running. Now, a shutdown will happen at midnight if there`s no government funding. That`s when the money runs out.
Senator Paul right now is on track to prevent there from being any vote before midnight. Now, why is he doing this? You tell me. Technically, what he`s demanding is a vote on an amendment that relates to the budget.
I`m not going to go into that much detail about it because it`s moot. Even if he did get what he wanted and he got a vote on that amendment, that amendment would definitely fail, which he knows and everybody knows. So, given that, nobody it really is quite sure what this is about.
But under the Senate rules, he can delay anybody from voting on anything until 1:00 a.m. if he wants to. That`ll be an hour after the government shuts down and that`s what he says his plan is. If at that point, if after 1:00 a.m., he wants to stretch it out even later and later and later, well, the Senate could hold a cloture vote after 1:00 a.m., then Senator Paul could do some more talking basically if he wants to single-handedly he can shut the entire government down just on his own say so for about three hours.
He will exhaust his ability to stop the process of voting to keep the government going. He will exhaust that process at around 3:00 a.m., and at 3:00 a.m., that means Senate staffers will presumably be called upon to go crack smelling salts underneath the noses of their elderly employers to drag their bosses bodily onto the floor of the Senate where they will vote to fund the government with nothing having changed other than government agencies having to go through the wasteful motions of having to shut themselves down for three hours so Rand Paul can get on TV to accomplish nothing.
Now, if that sounds like an excellent, coherent way to run the government of the greatest nation on the face of the earth, I salute you. I will also have what you`re having.
It should be noted though that this new shutdown were apparently heading toward this evening I think it`s important to see that this is not the product of some political strategy by one of the two parties. This is not the product of even some coordinated effort by a group of senators who hatched this plan to try to get something done. This really is just one dude shutting down the entire U.S. government because he wants to and because he can.
And this is the sort of thing that we are now liable to as a country. This is the thing we have a vulnerability. This can happen to you when this is how we fund the government.
If every few weeks you leave it to literally the final day and the final few hours before a midnight shutdown arrives, whereupon in that tiny window of time you have to count on a vote in both houses to keep the government going again, if that`s the way you`re going to run it, one guy can shut it down.
The federal government is a really big operation. Millions of employees, the biggest ablest military in the face of the earth, right, even with one party having complete control of the government -- of the two branches of government, of Congress and both houses of Congress and the White House, even with unified Republican Party control in Washington, the way we are choosing to run the giant machine that is the U.S. federal government right now, it`s like -- it`s like -- it`s like if -- let`s say we have a giant airliner and we are trying to take it on a very long cross-country trip.
But we refused to fill up the gas tanks, so we just fill up the tanks until the low fuel morning light goes off and then we stop, and with those a little bit of vapors in the tank, we take off and we start flying and then when we see the low fuel light come on or we start to run out of gas and the engines start sputtering, then we land, quickly. We land anywhere we can because it`s an emergency. And so then we add a couple more gallons of jet fuel, again, just enough to make the light go off.
The low fuel light, oh, it`s off, OK, so we`re fine. Then we take off again and then sure enough, the light comes back on, the engines start sputtering again, oh no, it`s another emergency. And then we look for another nearby airport that can land -- which we can land. And you can fly across country that way. Eventually, you might make it across the country.
I mean, hopefully, you won`t run into a problem at like a Podunk little airport that you had to stop at that you never planned for where you`re not quite sure what facilities they have or if the runways long enough for you. That`s Rand Paul tonight. Random Podunk airport in the middle of nowhere with a runway too short who has decided to not help us with this little short hop refueling plan, the means by which we have been limping along for the last few months trying to get to the coast.
So, we will be watching this slow-motion pointless disaster unfolding tonight over the entire course of this evening and into the wee hours.
Meanwhile, the White House is reeling from the sudden departure of another top administration official. Rob Porter held the top rank of White House staffers he was technically an assistant to the president, which is the highest rank you can be in the White House. Rob Porter`s departure today makes him the most recent name on what is now our fairly epic list of high- level Trump administration staff departures thus far.
Look how small the fonts is getting. We don`t even put their names up there. We just put the titles. I mean, it`s like -- it`s like everybody from a national security adviser, a chief of -- White House chief of staff to communications directors and FBI director, the head of the CDC, a health secretary, cabinet secretary, right? And now, the staff secretary the guy who is in every picture of President Trump doing anything in the White House.
The tremendous amount of senior staff turnover in this administration, in this White House is in one sense just a measure of volatility. It`s like the stock market bouncing around like a pinball is a measure of volatility, but a lot of the departures that we have seen from this White House and from the upper ranks of this administration. In fact, they represent something more than just churn and craziness. They represent a specific problem a specific failure in the way this president is running the federal government.
And that problem is that they don`t appear to vet people even for high- level jobs. That cabinet secretary who`s already resigned, Tom Price, you know by the time they nominated him to be health secretary, he had already admitted to using his position in Congress for illicit personal financial gain. He had already admitted that he`d been trading stock in health care companies while he was taking action in Congress that affected the price of the stocks that he was trading. He was already on the record with that. He had already admitted to that from his time in Congress when they decided, well, let`s promote that guy, let`s elevate him into the cabinet despite that red flag.
Well, he did not last long in the cabinet. He ended up quitting after surprise treating the health secretary job like an audition for lifestyles of the rich and famous. I mean, it`s a same deal with the CDC director. Running the Centers for Disease Control is a very powerful, very important job. But for some reason they picked somebody for that job who had intractable financial conflicts of interest for anybody in any significant job at the CDC, let alone running it.
And further to that, as a requirement of offering her the job, they apparently didn`t require her to even try to fix those conflicts. We know that because even after they named her to the job, a month after she was appointed, she was still making new big investments in tobacco company stocks, after she was appointed. That is a conflict of interest with her job, but a conflict she apparently didn`t take very seriously, why would she? She had just before they picked her and they didn`t care. They picked her anyway. Oh, this is a big deal?
So one of the hallmarks, one of the more boring hallmarks of this administration is that they haven`t done a very job vetting people for even very high profile high lever high-level government positions. And that results in some of the like background steady noise of scandal on this administration, right? It results in embarrassment and scandal when you install people in high-level jobs and then they flame out publicly because they never should have been there in the first place.
It is also a cause of embarrassment and scandal not to mention a waste of everybody`s time when you nominate unvetted people to high-level government jobs and then they don`t make it through the nomination process because of stuff the world comes to learn about them during that nomination process that you should have figured out first before you ever put their name forward. I mean, that`s how you end up pulling the nomination of your labor secretary because oh hey there are those domestic violence allegations against him and him evading taxes on his household help.
And, hey, let`s pull the army secretary nominee, too. Didn`t he punch somebody else out at a race track? A race track?
And, hey, let`s put forward a guy to be a federal judge who considers himself to be an expert ghost hunter, his area of legal specialty is the paranormal and he forgets to mention in his confirmation proceedings that he`s married to a White House official, I`m sure that had nothing to do with how he got picked.
All White Houses, all administrations get their occasional bad apples. But in this White House, it`s a system because they appear to just not have had a vetting process. Maybe it started on the campaign. But it is wasteful and it makes for incredible turbulence and volatility.
And then there`s the dangerous part about it, too. A year ago today, February 8th, last year, an "Associated Press" photographer snapped this photo in the Oval Office. It`s got a nice shot, right? President Trump sitting at his desk wearing a snazzy blue and white tie, dudes shaking hands standing behind him.
There`s a bunch of photographers in the Oval Office that day. This was a posed photo ops. What they call a pool spray at the White House in the Oval Office. The president actually made a remark at that pool spray about all that all the papers you could see stacked up on his desk there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You`ve never seen so much paper on a president`s desk. That`s because we`re negotiating lots of deals for a country which would be tremendous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Look at all the paper.
Here`s the problem with that photo-op and with the lots of paper on the president`s desk, all right? Look again at the photo. That`s we`ve got blown up the little lower right hand corner there.
See that key? That key is sticking into something looks like a little cone. What it`s sticking into is a lock and that lock is on the corner of a lock bag and that is the type of lock bag which is used to transmit, literally to carry around highly classified written material.
So, presidents got all these business dudes visiting him in the Oval Office, including the CEO of Intel, who`s standing right next to the lock bag which has the keys stuck in the lock hanging out of it. And even though the president is very happy to brag about all the paper you can see on his desk, you have to only hope that none of the papers you can actually see on his desk that all these photographers are being allowed to take pictures of, you can only hope that those are all documents that came from somewhere other than out of that locked bag.
But even if those papers that you can see on his desk didn`t come out of the lock bag, you know, you`re not supposed to leave the key sitting in the lock in the classified lock bag, especially not around a whole roomful of people who have no security clearance including the guy from Intel who`s like six inches from it.
Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico tried to alert the White House to what they were doing wrong here. Quote: Never leave a key in a classified lock bag in the presence of non cleared people, #classified101.
When this happened a year ago today, this was at a time when the Justice Department, the head of the National Security Division of the Justice Department and the acting attorney general had already personally come to the White House to warn them that the national security adviser was compromised by a foreign government. He was lying about his contacts with a foreign government. This was a very unusual hair on fire in person warning from the top level of the Justice Department.
How`d the White House react well at the time of the loose key sticking out of a lock box the lock bags the White House still had had no response to that warning. When this photo was taken Mike Flynn was still there, still serving as national security adviser during that 18-day interregnum after the warning when we don`t know why they didn`t react to the warning and why they kept him on board. They took no action to curtail his access to classified information despite that very serious warning they had just received about him as a counterintelligence risk.
A few days after, the key in the lock bag photo-op, President Trump went to Mar-a-Lago where he hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. During their dinner, the president received notification that North Korea was having another missile launch rather than getting up and going to a secure facility to handle intelligence and information about that national security crisis, the president decided to review the matter at the dinner table at Mar-a-Lago.
See, there was mood lighting. At the time, it`s a little bit dark so then people gathered around with their cell phones and they did the president a favor. They lit up all the material he was reviewing about the North Korean missile launch that night using the flashlights from their cell phones. So, they`re shining lights from their cell phones onto the materials about the emerging national security crisis while President Trump and his staffers in a foreign leader talked about this matter and figured out what they were going to do about it.
And it all unfolded at the head table in front of all the other delighted guests who were present at that dinner, who were all Mar-a-Lago club members some of whom posted about how neat it was to be inside a Situation Room-style national security crisis while they were enjoying their dinner.
People who posted about this and took these photos and post them on Facebook, these were not people with security clearances. The random people gathered around President Trump using their phones to illuminate the documents he was reviewing about the North Korean missile launch were all those phones definitely secured devices using the light of the phone, make sure get the light on there.
All the waiters, all the people clearing the dishes, servicing the dinner, including at that table, were they all cleared to access secret national security information?
You know, the president had initially denied reports that he would seek top-level security clearances for his children. He called that typically false news story. That denial was false. He did in fact seek top-level security clearance at least for his son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Jared Kushner`s security clearance application has been a bit of a disaster. He initially omitted mention of any meetings he`d ever held with any foreign official. He then revised his security clearance application multiple times, multiple, multiple, multiple times.
We learned several weeks ago that not only is Jared Kushner not been able to obtain a permanent security clearance through the FBI background check process even after more than a year in the White House now, we`ve also learned that there was a top-level warning from the FBI to the White House that a member of the president`s family was the target of an ongoing sophisticated Chinese intelligence operation, which is literally a red flag.
Despite all of those worries, the president has apparently decided to disregard the fact that Jared Kushner can`t get a security clearance, and it was -- it`s within a president`s right to disregard that fact. President can`t change the FBI background check session -- processes but he can choose to disregard the FBI`s conclusions about whether somebody deserves surge security clearance and he has apparently chosen to do so with Jared Kushner. He has cleared Jared Kushner to see all manner of highly classified information up to and including the president`s daily brief, which is kind of amazing if you don`t have a security clearance that you`re allowed to see the president`s daily brief.
But Jared Kushner`s case, I mean, you can understand why the president might make that kind of a decision. You put yourself in his mindset, right? When it comes to Jared Kushner, sure, he can`t get a clearance. Sure, there are problems with this application sure there have been ominous warnings about members of the family being targeted in sophisticated intelligence operations.
But the president clearly, clearly believes he can trust members of his own family, even when he thinks he can trust no one else and Jared Kushner`s family. So, he has ignored the security clearance problem for Kushner. He`s cleared him through anyway right up to the top levels.
And I can think my way to that. I can understand that. Nepotism is weird. It`s weird that he`s got his kids working for him and he`s making decisions like this about them. I can understand it. It doesn`t mean it`s not weird, but I can get there.
Here`s where I can`t get now we have learned that the president apparently also made that same kind of a decision for this guy, who is not a member of the president`s family. And for a very specific reason, that decision is not just troubling, it is potentially a big legal problem for the White House, and that is next.
MADDOW: Rob Porter as White House staff secretary would normally need we think a top-secret sensitive compartmented information clearance, which has a lot of words in it because it`s supposed to be intimidating, right? It`s a very high level security clearance.
We now know that Rob Porter was not able to get that clearance. He was not able to get a permanent security clearance of any kind. We also now know that that`s because of what his two ex-wives told FBI special agents who contacted them as part of the background check process for Porter.
Porter`s ex-wives say they both told the FBI about their allegations that Rob Porter was violent toward them in their marriages, supporting evidence reportedly included this -- protective order that was obtained against Porter in Virginia in 2010, plus photographs, plus what his second wife says was another contact with local police who she called to their home because of his behavior.
A third woman who was also involved with Porter though not married to him is also reportedly working for the Trump administration. She hasn`t been named publicly but multiple news outlets have described her going to White House counsel Don McGahn directly to discuss these concerns about Porter, her own concerns about Porter and what she knew about Porter`s ex-wives and their accusations against him as well.
Now, we should note that Rob Porter denies the allegations. He calls them simply not true.
But this is not just a salacious and dark story about the departure of yet another high-level Trump White House employee. This is also a security story that matters to all of us because this is a security story about how Donald Trump is running this government. White House employees don`t get handed security clearances as perks, right? The FBI has to clear you for one after this rigorous background check process.
And there are all sorts of ways to fail that process. It doesn`t mean you`re a criminal, right? Some of them are dramatic, right? You can fill the FBI background check process for a security clearance because you have undisclosed foreign contacts that you`ve been trying to cover up or you`ve been lying about, right?
Those would obviously screw up your chance for a security clearance because they`d show that you could potentially be in cahoots with or being hoc to some foreign government or some foreign government knows something about their contacts with you that you feel like you can`t be straight about and they could use that to blackmail you, right? That`s like -- you know, that`s the stuff we worry about about Jared Kushner not disclosing his foreign ties.
It can also be more pedestrian stuff. You could be in a lot of debt. Being deeply indebted, that`s not a crime, but it might prevent you from getting a security clearance, because that might give some bad actor or some foreign intelligence service a way to get at you.
If you were in a lot of debt, they could conceivably offer you a lot of money to hand over information that you shouldn`t and you might be more vulnerable to that kind of an approach than if you weren`t in a lot of debt. So, it could be something like that. It could also be something in your past or something in your personal life that you don`t want people to know, whether or not it is a criminal act.
And so, White House staff secretary Rob Porter with credible corroborated allegations of domestic violence against him and police records to back it up, he doesn`t get a clearance. Now, once the FBI makes that determination that he`s not going to get a clearance because of those reasons, they reportedly alert the White House to that fact.
Now, we know separately that White House counsel Don McGahn was also alerted to the problem here, but the White House counsel and the White House Chief of Staff, Don McGahn and John Kelly, apparently sat on that information and did nothing about it. They certainly did nothing to get Rob Porter out of that job or away from classified information that he was explicitly not cleared to see.
When President Trump decided to ignore the fact that Jared Kushner couldn`t get a security clearance, presumably, that decision was made on the basis of the President thinking that he knows everything there is to know about Jared Kushner, Jared Kushner`s family. The president felt comfortable blowing off the FBI`s concerns about how him and he cleared Jared Kushner to see everything.
But with Rob Porter, the White House is now letting us know explicitly that the president had no idea that there was any sort of problem with him, and yet he put him in this job, he allowed him to continue in this job where he saw and handled every single piece of information that crossed the class the president`s desk including classified materials. Did the president not know -- did the president not know that Rob Porter couldn`t get a security clearance? Did the president think that he had one?
The White House chief of staff and the White House counsel knew that Rob Porter couldn`t get a security clearance and they knew why. The White House tonight is putting out word that the president had no idea. So, that`s legally important, who cleared this young man to see all this stuff that you need a top-secret security clearance to see? Who cleared him to do it?
FBI did not grant him a clearance, did not provide information to the White House that said he deserves a clearance. Who cleared him to see all this stuff? I mean, it is disturbing and unprecedented enough that this president has decided to have blind faith in his son-in-law and give him access to classified information, just this is a judgment call.
But with this Rob Porter situation, it`s not even clear that this was the president`s judgment call. This is a problem in the White House for the highest classified -- for the highest level classified information that we`ve got. I mean, this is a systemic problem.
If the president didn`t know there was a problem with this guy`s clearance, that means somebody provided that guy with classified information without him being cleared to see it and without the president waiving the clearance process. Isn`t that illegal?
Joining us now is Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney. He`s a Democrat of New York. He once served in the Clinton administration in the job that Rob Porter held until yesterday, staff secretary.
Congressman, it`s really good to have you with us tonight. Thank you.
REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D), NEW YORK: Good to be with you.
MADDOW: Am I right to think that being the staff secretary means that you routinely handle highly classified information?
MALONEY: Spot on. There is not a day that goes on that there are not a stack of red folders on the staff secretary`s desk marked "top secret". They are often above that level of secrecy, by the way. Top secret is actually where you start. They go all the way up to levels that are themselves classified, and there is a burn bag under the desk of the staff secretary because when you describe materials, it will be collected by a special team and incinerated that night.
The staff secretary sees everything. I don`t think people understand. The national security adviser, the chairman of the Joint of the Chiefs of Staff, they don`t give memos to the president. They give them to the staff secretary and the staff secretary manages those documents as they go to the Oval Office. You see everything.
MADDOW: In terms of Mr. Porter, it has emerged as part of the story about his personal difficulties that that information was conveyed to the FBI and that information was conveyed to the White House. Even aside from this story about these domestic violence allegations against him, how unusual is it that somebody be in the staff secretary position without a permanent security clearance of any kind, with just an interim clearance?
MALONEY: Yes. Well, that blows my mind, Rachel. Let me just tell you. When -- let me just give you one example. When I was going through this background check, the FBI sent agents from Montevideo, Uruguay, from their office there, to the small Peruvian village where I did social work with the Jesuits between college and law school.
They take this stuff seriously. They go through every address, every person you`ve ever lived with, every contact, and they ask you detailed questions going back, in my case, when I was 18 years old.
So, the notion you would allow somebody to work this entire time with no security clearance is nuts.
Now, if I may, normally you start and it`s an iterative process. So, they assume you can do the job and are doing it quick while you`re on the job. That`s normal.
But in this case, we know that they knew as early as January 2017, right up front that this guy had issues in his background, wife beating, credible allegations of it, that would have permanently disqualified him from holding this job. And so, why they even gave him an initial clearance is beyond me because they must have known he would never have cleared the full background check.
MADDOW: Now, as far as I understand how the security clearance world works, there is the FBI background check process. If you`re in the military or some other part of the national security world, you may get your clearance through some other agency. But when you`re just a civilian like Rob Porter was, and you`re working for the White House, it`s actually the White House grants you your clearance based on this background check information from the FBI. Therefore, it`s sort of the president`s decision whether or not to disregard the FBI`s advice and clear somebody anyway.
Is that -- is that the way it works?
MALONEY: Yes, and in an extraordinary case and maybe we`d expect that from the Trump White House. But as you point out, if the president didn`t do this, it`s nobody else`s call.
MALONEY: The chief of staff -- I can`t imagine the chief of staff making this call without informing the president and there is no way you`re going to convince me that somebody said we`re going to let the staff secretary to the president do the job without a security clearance and not tell the chief of staff. So, the chief of staff was up to his neck in this, I`m sure, and he and the White House counsel would have been the first people to review this.
And it really blows my mind they would take on to themselves the decision to let a staff secretary work without a security clearance. And I`ll tell you what else, there is going to be an FBI investigative report that should come out because we ought to know exactly what the FBI told the White House counsel and chief of staff and when and what they said about it and did about it.
MADDOW: If there is a -- if there is a potential criminal matter here in terms of mishandling classified information, if this -- if the president never made the call to waive -- basically waive the process and clear this young man despite the FBI`s counter-indications, if that never happened, if the president believed he was operating with a security clearance and that`s why he could say this stuff, if somebody else cleared this to happen and put classified information in this young man`s hands, who -- would the FBI investigate that on their own initiative? Would there have to be -- would there be a congressional inquiry? Like how would that -- who looks into that?
MALONEY: Well, I`ve written to the chairman of the Oversight Committee in the House, Chairman Gowdy, to ask for an investigation of this. That`s what that committee exists for, by the way. And we know they`re concerned in the Republican Party for handling classified information because we were lectured about it throughout 2016. So, we ought to get to the bottom of this.
But I can just back up? I mean, you`re right to ask ultimately whether someone broke the law in extending classified information to someone not cleared by the president to see it and who failed their background check, but can we also just point out that they knew that they had a person in the sensitive position who was credibly accused of beating his not his wife but both of his ex-wives that those people have come forward and there were police reports.
And they made the decision to keep that person on the job, knowing those allegations and knowing he couldn`t have a security clearance. What the hell is going on? What does that say about the value system of this White House and of these officials? And that would be terrible.
And then you had -- even if you didn`t have to add on to it, as we must, the fact you then have someone who is imminently blackmailable seeing our nation`s top secrets, and then as you point out, you may be breaking the law in the process because remember, the FBI would have asked him about these allegations and I`d like to know what Rob Porter said to the FBI, and that`s why we need to see the investigative report.
MADDOW: Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, who represents the state of New York and served as staff secretary under President Bill Clinton, really appreciate your time tonight, sir. Invaluable perspective given your experience here. Thank you.
MALONEY: My pleasure.
MADDOW: All right. Much more head here tonight, including, yes, another government shutdown before you go to bed. All right. Sorry.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: -- shutdown. It`s for nothing. It`s probably just going to outlast a few hours. Why is this happening? I don`t know. This is the floor of the United States Senate right now.
As you can see, Rand Paul not talking. That`s because Rand Paul -- or is that him? No, he`s not there.
The reason that Rand Paul is able to bring about a one-man government shutdown tonight without so much as standing up there and talking is because he`s just using the Senate rules to stretch it out and delay a vote on keeping the government open until after the government runs out of money at midnight. He`s doing in such a way where he doesn`t even have to stand up there and filibuster.
With his use of the rules to do this, though, the schedule that we`re looking at is that they won`t be able to stop him from doing this delay tactic until 1:00 a.m. They`ll then start a series of votes at 1:00 a.m. which will probably result in the Senate voting to keep the government open 3:00 a.m.
But then it won`t be over, because then the House has to vote. A House leadership is just advised members to expect a vote tonight between 3:00 and 6:00 a.m. maybe, so that Rand Paul can do his thing, so we`ll shut down the government between midnight and sometime between 3:00 and 6:00 in the morning. Nothing will change, but we`ll waste a lot of time.
So, what we`re looking forward to tonight.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: The third largest employer in the world is -- the Chinese army, with just over 2 million people. Coming in at number two is the Walmart army, with about 2.3 million employees. But the largest employer on planet earth is the United States Department of Defense, with more than 3 million employees. It`s the largest single organization on earth.
With all those workers and all those many agencies within it, all part of the gigantic U.S. Department of Defense, they have a lot to keep track of at the Pentagon.
But last year in September, it made for particularly bracing headlines when the director of one Pentagon agency said, quote, I have got murderers who have access to classified information, I have rapists, I have pedophiles, I have people involved in child porn. I have all these things at the interim clearance level, and I`m pulling their clearances on a weekly basis.
January of this year, NBC News obtained a report from the Defense Department showing that 165 contractors to the Department of Defense had had interim security clearances revoked because of illicit activity at some time, thing like questionable financial transactions or being influenced by a foreign government or, one person who got an interim security clearance in 2015 was discovered in 2017 to have been found guilty of raping a child. He was found guilty of raping a child before he ever applied for that clearance.
Think of that. Guilty, on record, as guilty of child rape, nevertheless sailing right through to an interim security clearance. Seems like getting an interim security clearance isn`t that hard.
For the past several months Democrats in the House oversight committee have been trying to get answers about the machinery of security clearances inside the defense department and beyond. The top Democrat on that committee is Elijah Cummings. He wrote to the Republican chair of the committee last month.
Quote, I have asked you repeatedly to join me in investigating critical failings in our nation`s security clearance processes and troubling irregularities with the security clearances of senior aides to President Donald J. Trump.
Well, today, in light of the news going on right now. Congressman Cummings sent another letter, this time asking again for an investigation into the White House`s practices around security clearances and now particularly asking for information about former senior aide, Staff Secretary Rob Porter.
Quote: If you had agreed to any of our previous requests for information on this matters, the White House would have been required to answer key questions about why Rob Porter was denied a final security clearance, who at the White House was aware of that information and how Mr. Porter was allowed to remain in his position. Instead, because of your multiple refusals, we did not find out about any of these issues until they were reported in the press.
Mr. Porter, the White House staff secretary, announced he was stepping down yesterday after allegations of abuse from his two former wives. He denies those allegations. But the White House reportedly knew about them for months and knew they were stopping him from getting a permanent security clearance and they kept him on, handling the flow of documents to the president including super sensitive material while there were active concerns that he was a potential target for blackmail and that he was unsuitable for the type of clearance that would allow him to see that type of material.
The White House maintains tonight that the president had had no idea about any of these concerns about Rob Porter, thus raising the question of who exactly cleared Rob Porter to see that classified information and whether or not the president ever formally waved the clearance process so he could see those documents without criminally mishandling classified information.
Joining us now is Congressman Gerry Connolly. He`s a Democrat who serves on the House Oversight Committee.
Congressman, I really appreciate you being with us tonight. I know it is a busy night in Washington.
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Actually not much going on right now. So, it`s great to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Let me, actually, before we talk about the security clearance issue, let me just ask you about the shutdown situation tonight. We were just told that members of Congress and the House have been advised maybe there will be a vote between 3:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. depending on Rand Paul`s mood?
CONNOLLY: Yes. That was a notice sent out by the majority whip, Mr. Steve Scalise to his members, we got a copy of it, saying be prepared to vote sometime between 3:00 and 6:00 possibly.
MADDOW: And at that point, we expect that a government funding bill will pass and the government will be reopened after a few hours of being shut. Is that your expectation?
CONNOLLY: That`s certainly my expectation and hope.
But a word of caution: the Republicans in the House do not have the votes to pass that bill. We think they need 60, maybe 70 Democrats. Given the mood of the Democratic Caucus with respect to the Dreamer issue and the amount of additional debt being added by this budget agreement, I`m not at all sure that those 60 or 70 votes are going to be there.
MADDOW: Is it your sense that either your party or the Republican Party is whipping votes right now trying to line up the numbers that they will need for that predawn vote?
CONNOLLY: Actually, in our party the minority whip is whipping against the bill.
MADDOW: Do you know how you are going to vote?
CONNOLLY: I am going to vote yes. I think it`s wrong to shutdown government. I think the linkage between the Dreamers whom I fully support and keeping the government open and functioning isn`t there. I think it is a mistake strategically to link the two.
MADDOW: All right. Congressman, let me ask you about this other matter that is roiling Washington now, and obviously a source of great consternation on Capitol Hill, these revelations about the staff secretary. A very high-ranking White House aide, somebody who had access to every piece of paper that crossed the president`s desk.
It`s now emerging not only that there were credible domestic violence allegations against Rob Porter, that the White House was aware of while he was in this senior role, allegations he denies, but also those allegations were sufficient to deny him a security clearance.
As a member of the oversight committee, what exactly are your concerns here? What do you think should happen next?
CONNOLLY: One of the biggest concerns I have Rachel is a deliberate conspiracy, if you can put it that way, between the Republicans in the House, especially on our committee, and the White House to make sure nothing is investigated, nothing is pursued. No subpoenas are issued.
Now, we are now chaired by Trey Gowdy, who was the Torquemada of Benghazi. His hand got tired of writing subpoenas. He got documents, millions of pages of documents, millions of dollars of taxpayer money spent investigating something that ultimately went nowhere and found nothing.
The crowd claimed to be so concerned about the compromise of Hillary Clinton`s materials with classified material. Here we now have a known wife abuser, violent abuse, as the secretary of the White House staff given some kind of clearance status, protected and harbored.
We wrote the White House, as you pointed out earlier, in June, asking for information about security clearances that were provided to people like Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner who had issues that had been flagged.
We wrote in October about interim security clearances being granted to people of highly questionable character. We then followed up of those messages asking the chairman of the committee to issue subpoenas seasons we got no White House response, crickets, , nothing, on vacation, doesn`t care, or isn`t interested. And now this. And this is a very serious business.
So, we need to get to the bottom of this. We need in the only Mr. Porter`s testimony, we need John Kelly in front of our committee, under oath explaining himself. We need Hope Hicks who apparently has been dating Mr. Porter and wrote the White House defense of him when these allegations first surfaced. And, of course, maybe the White House counsel who apparently was given this information several weeks ago. We don`t know what he did with it. But there is a lot here going on, and this is inside the Oval Office of the White House.
MADDOW: Congressman Gerry Connolly, Democratic member of the House Oversight Committee -- Congressman, thank you both for the update in terms of tonight`s shut down, and also on this story. Appreciate having you here.
CONNOLLY: Thank you Rachel. Any time.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: On Monday of this week, the House Intelligence Committee voted unanimously to release a Democratic memo, a Democratic memo that rebuts Republican claims that the FBI and the Justice Department abused their powers when they got a surveillance warrant for former Trump campaign aide Carter Page. Once they sent it, they agreed to vote on it out of committee.
That memo went to the White House. And that starts a clock ticking. The president has five days to review this Democratic memo and determine whether or not he will block its release to the public. That clock started ticking on Monday night.
Tuesday, Chief of Staff John Kelly said the president had the memo on his desk but hadn`t yet read it because, quote, it`s lengthy. It`s 10 pages.
But that five-day countdown clock had been ticking since the night before. What if he doesn`t get to the end by the end of five days? It`s 10 pages long.
There`s been real concern among Democrats that the president will block the memo or redact it beyond the brink of meaning. It looks like we shall see. Tonight, "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that the White House is inclined to approve the release of the memo. That decision they say is likely to come tomorrow, on Friday. They reportedly now haggling over which parts to redact.
But you think about the timing here, you know how things get crazy on Friday nights. We get like biblical news dumps on Friday night. Well, tomorrow, we could have the government shutdown, the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, and the Democratic memo unleashed. And all the other nonsense that always happens on Fridays now.
Timing is everything.
MADDOW: All right. Here`s how this is going to go. I`m going to leave your TV screen now. But I`m just going to go to my office and eat donut holes for a little while because I`m going to be back here live at midnight eastern time. You and I together at midnight will ring in the second government shutdown in two weeks. I`m delighted.
That does it for now. See you in a bit.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Good evening, Lawrence.
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