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Putin talks up Russia's invincible nuclear weapons. TRANSCRIPT: 03/01/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Adam Schiff, Brigitte Amiri

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: March 1, 2018 Guest: Adam Schiff, Brigitte Amiri


Good evening, Rachel.

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

HAYES: You bet.

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

We`re juggling a bunch of important new stories that have broken late today and into this evening.

Nicolle Wallace of MSNBC was first to report today based on five sources that national security adviser H.R. McMaster is on his way out of the White House. We will have more on that in a moment.

NBC News also first to report today on the next round of criminal charges that are expected from the Robert Mueller special counsel investigation. We will have more on that in a moment as well.

We`ve got some exclusive reporting tonight on this show about a Trump administration official who we have got on tape. This is a story we`re going to be breaking here tonight. You have not heard it anywhere else.

It`s going to give us a new development in what one of the more radical Trump administration scandals, one they have consistently been losing court battles over for months now. But we`ve got a new development in that story tonight. Again, including that Trump administration official on tape.

So, we`ve got a big show ahead, a big hour ahead.

If you felt, though, like today was a chaotic day in the news, you`re right. Today was more chaotic than usual, in ways large and small. We woke up today to an unexpected show-stopping nuclear weapons announcement from Russian President Vladimir Putin. He used a video presentation with some cartoonish animation. He read from a script that was very bellicose and very emotional.

President Putin announced a whole new family of nuclear weapons today, nuclear weapons that are considerably different than any existing weapons anywhere on earth. He repeatedly bragged that these new nuclear weapons that the Russians had developed would be unstoppable by any missile defense system anywhere on earth.

Now, the reason I think it`s fair to say that this was part of the chaotic nature of our news day today is not just because of the alarm bells that Vladimir Putin intentionally rang with that announcement today, it`s also because nobody quite knows how to take it. Nobody actually knows if these new nuclear weapons he announced are real or even plausible. I mean, he`s not likely to be just purely bluffing, but nobody can say whether Russia is on some sort of path to ultimately end up having these weapons some day or if this might have just been Vladimir Putin spitballing about the kind of nuclear weapons he`d like if they had a magic wand but they`re not actually going to build them.

So, the confusion over Putin`s remarks came shortly after the initial alarm from his announcement. But then the confusion was heightened when it emerged later on today that those fancy cartoonish graphics he used to supposedly demonstrate the capabilities of these new weapons where it looked like they were flying down to hit Florida and all of that, some of that wasn`t even new video. Some of it was taken from a Russian thing that came out seven years ago that you can still look at on YouTube today if you know how to check it for it.

So, he didn`t even event new videos, let alone new weapons? It`s kind of a weird story.

Here at home in our domestic politics, confusion also reigned today over gun reform. The president really does appear to just been riffing inconsequentially when he told lawmakers yesterday at the meeting at the White House televised that there were all sorts of gun reform measures he thought should be pursued and he thought could pass Congress and that he supported. Today, the White House showed no sign of actually pursuing any of those policies.

And Republicans in Congress are going to pretend that the president either didn`t say what he said yesterday or if he did say it, he definitely didn`t mean it. In any case they do not appear to be changing any of their plans about not pursuing gun reform.

The kids who survived the latest school massacre in Parkland, Florida, have called for a nationwide march on D.C. on March 24th, the March for Our Lives. Today was the kind of day when even that fairly simple news was complicated by, in this case, by "Washington Post" reporting that actually a conflicting event has already been permitted for the National Mall on the day of the big gun march.

I kid you not. They`ve already permitted for the national mall that day a talent show. And so, the talent show gets the permit and not the big gun reform march. So, the kids from Parkland continue to lead a remarkable national response and sort of national political uprising on guns, yet more big retailers announcing they won`t be selling guns or they`ll be changing the way they do that.

But even the news about the national march they`re planning got knocked off its rails a little bit today by the turbulence of this very strange news cycle that we`re in.

At the White House, the word used most often today to describe what`s going on there, the top of this administration, the word used most often today was the word meltdown. And I don`t -- I don`t place that much stock in pseudo-psychological profiles of how things feel in any particular White House. But you can see by the actions of this White House today that there`s certainly something chaotic is going on behind the scenes.

We woke from early morning news from the president that he was planning to impose new tariffs on foreign aluminum and steel, those tariffs being debated to such good effect on Chris Hayes` show just moments ago.

That early morning announcement from the president that he was going ahead with those tariffs today, that was quickly followed by a round of news stories that said actually, no, he`s not going to go ahead with those tariffs. The president had been planning on it but changed his mind, the White House now letting people know that wasn`t going to happen. Policies weren`t ready. People talked him out of t at least that`s not going to happen now.

News that we wouldn`t get new tariffs today was followed by a new round of news that, oh, yes, actually, we would get new tariffs today or at least the president would like to make that announcement but that second round of no, there`s not going to be an announcement story, that was correct when they said there was no policy for him to announce. So, instead what we ultimately got was the president announcing this afternoon that he will announce something next week about tariffs on aluminum and steel, whereupon the stock market dropped 482 points, closed for the day and everybody looked around and said, my god, what just happened? Which round of those new stories is correct?

Did we get tariffs? He said we`re going to them? We don`t have them now? We`re going to? Are we sure? Should we have reacted that way?

Will he remember next week he said he was going to announce them next week? Given that he said.

Part of the more chaotic than usual goings-on at the White House may have to do what`s with what`s happening in the upper echelons of White House staff. In the past 24 hours, of course, we`ve had word of the departure of the White House staffer who was reportedly closest to the president without being related to him. There were some conflicting follow-up reports today about the circumstances of the departure of White House communications director Hope Hicks. But last night`s news that she is out, that news still holds. She has resigned.

In terms of staffers who are related to the president, we appear to be hitting a little bit of a crisis for them right now. "New York Times", of course, last night, broke the news that Jared Kushner`s family real estate company received two gigantic loans, two truly huge loans, totaling a half billion dollars from two companies whose executives met with Jared Kushner as part of his White House responsibilities.

Now, in the fallout from that bombshell report last night, we`ve seen denials from the company side and from Kushner`s side, claiming that there were saying there was nothing nefarious about these loans, there was nothing wrong about Jared meeting with these guys at the White House or Jared subsequently taking their money. But crucially, that "New York Times" reporting from last night is holding up.

Nobody is denying that these huge loans were, in fact, made, one for more than $180 million. One for $325 million. Nobody is denying that the loans were made to the Kushner companies. Nobody is denying that Jared actually has a personal financial stake in the specific entities that received these giant loans at Kushner companies. I mean, nobody is denying that the White House meetings took place with Jared before those loans were made to his family company.

And so, that means, you know, yes, the people named in the story may not like the sound of the story, but the White House is effectively conceding that a White House adviser took meetings in the White House with companies who are seeking something from the White House, and then subsequently those companies shoveled hundreds of millions of dollars to that White House official and his family business. That`s a problem. That has got to be a problem.

I mean, that`s the kind of problem where if that was happening in another country, that would be like a flag for the Foreign Corrupt Businesses Act that Americans shouldn`t do business in that company. I mean, even an administration like that one, that is so blunt, it has to be a problem.

And you can imagine it is unsettling to the president on a few different levels. I mean, the prospect of his son in law, his daughter`s husband being in a whole new round of high dollar trouble, based on meetings in the White House, on top of him already this week being stripped of his security clearance, for a president who famously puts his family first. Jared`s troubles may loom large for the president on a personal level. I mean, it could only be worse if it wasn`t just his daughter`s husband, it was also his daughter.

And CNN is now reporting that it`s also his daughter. According to this new report from CNN, FBI counter intelligence officials are looking into a business deal made by Ivanka Trump. It is a deal involving a Vancouver hotel and spa which opened right after the inauguration. Reportedly both the negotiations leading up to that deal and its financing have attracted counterintelligence interests from the FBI. We`re not sure of the nature of the FBI`s interests and this CNN reporting has not been confirmed by NBC News.

But this is now the latest in a litany of bad national security stories that have come out over the last few days about president`s children who have high-ranking White House jobs, Jared Kushner and now Ivanka Trump herself.

That brings us to tonight`s big scoops, both of which happen to have been broken by NBC. I would be talking about these scoops no matter who broke them. It is a coincidence but they both derived from this building today. The first one was about H.R. McMaster, national security adviser, he, of course, replaced Mike Flynn after Mike Flynn lasted a record 24 days, shortest time period ever for a national security adviser. After his 24 days as national security adviser, Flynn, of course, has now pled guilty to a felony and is awaiting sentencing while he serves as a cooperating witness in the Mueller investigation.

MSNBC`s Nicolle Wallace reports today, based on five sources with knowledge of the matter, that H.R. McMaster will be out soon as Trump`s second national security adviser. He will be out by next month.

Now, if this president does think of his family first, the departure of H.R. McMaster as national security adviser was probably written on the wall as soon as we saw Mr. McMaster named in that bombshell "Washington Post" story a few days ago about Jared Kushner and national security concerns that were driving White House officials to oppose a permanent security clearance for Jared Kushner separate and apart from anything that the FBI might have been finding out about him in their background check. In that report, General McMaster was said to have been, quote, taken aback by what he learned about Jared Kushner`s meeting with foreign officials that he took without notifying National Security Council that those meetings were happening.

McMaster had also reportedly been briefed repeatedly on what foreign officials were saying back home about what their meetings with Jared Kushner were like. Just as an aside here, one of the rationales for having anti-nepotism laws, anti, you know, hiring your children laws, when you hire close relatives for important positions, it creates weird incentives, it creates weird power dynamics. When other senior officials come into conflict with a special White House official, somebody who is special because they`re a presidential family member, what happens in that case of a conflict, especially if it`s an important, substantive, principled conflict?

I mean, in this case, we`ve got this flood of reporting about national security concerns about members of the president`s family. And that report points explicitly to H.R. McMaster. As the national security adviser, as the senior official who has those national security concerns about the president`s family members and he has voiced them. Well, now, if Nicolle Wallace`s reporting bears out, we are seeing how that kind of conflict ends when he employs his children, the presidential family members about whom there are serious national security concerns, they appear to be staying. Can`t fire your kids.

And so, the White House official, who is worried about those national security concerns and is expressing them -- well, that`s the guy who`s got to go. That is exactly why we have laws to prevent this sort of thing. That is why it is not in the national interest and it is, in fact, dangerous to national security for you to have your kid working in an important and sensitive White House role, right?

File for future reference. Hey, future generations, don`t do this. Don`t let them do this. It`s not a hypothetical concern. This is not like a manners issue.

This is not that it`s uncouth. It`s really bad. Nepotism stuff is really bad. It has terrible consequences for the country.

But then there`s the other big scoop tonight. As I mentioned, it`s also from NBC. Ken Dilanian and Julia Ainsley reporting about new charges that are expected in the special counsel investigation. A couple of weeks ago, you will remember that Robert Mueller and his prosecutors charged 13 Russian nationals and three different Russian entities with a big long list of criminal charges related to one part of the Russian attack on our presidential election. Those charges were related to the way that Russia used online operations to disguise their identities and insert themselves into the American election to try to influence the outcome of that election.

That, of course, is just one component of what Russia did to try to influence that election. It was interesting at the time those charges were filed a couple of weeks ago. But although these were the first criminal charges related directly to what Russia did, the most obvious crime committed by Russia in their election attack, it hadn`t been charged in the first criminal indictments brought against them.

We`re finally getting criminal charges on this thing. But the big, obvious crime wasn`t what Mueller charged. The big, obvious crime committed by the Russians in their attack was, you know, electronic breaking and entering. When they broke into and stole documents and e-mails from the Democratic Party and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

That kind of online breaking and entering, that hacking and theft, that is very clearly, very simply, very uncontroversially a crime. That crime has not been charged yet.

Well, yesterday, NBC reported that one of the things people are being asked about by Mueller`s investigators when they`re brought in for interviews is whether or not the Trump campaign, whether or not President Trump himself had knowledge during the campaign of Russia committing that crime, Russian hackers hacking into the Democratic Party in the Clinton campaign, stealing e-mails and documents.

Quote, was Trump aware that Democratic e-mails had been stolen before that was publicly known? Quote, was Trump involved in the strategic release of those emails and documents? Quote, Mueller`s investigators have asked witnesses whether Trump was aware of plans for WikiLeaks to publish the stolen Russian e-mails.

This is the heart of the matter, right? This is the crucial question. NBC reports that the investigation -- the Mueller investigation is now zeroing in on that crucial question, when the Russian government committed these criminal acts to try to influence the outcome of our election, was there a conspiracy with people here in America to help pull that off?

Who on the Trump campaign knew that Russia had committed that crime and stolen those documents? Who on the Trump campaign knew about the Russian`s plan to disseminate those documents to try to influence our election? Did anybody on the Trump campaign know about that crime while it was a crime in process?

Did anybody on the Trump campaign abet that crime? Did they give their assent, their encouragement? Did they offer to help out or play a role in it, or give advice, or help plan any aspect of that crime? That`s the heart of the matter, right?

Well, we learned from NBC yesterday that Mueller and his prosecutors are focused in on those questions now in this investigation, and we learned from NBC tonight that charges are coming related to that part of the crime, related to the hack of those stolen e-mails. And the first sign we knew that something like this was coming actually came from a member of Congress, came from Congressman Adam Schiff a few days ago.

I will explain the sort of heads up he gave about this. He is here to help us understand it, next.


MADDOW: "The New York Times" reported late last year that it all started because of a demon drink. "The Times" reported that the FBI`s counterintelligence investigation on the Russia matter began during the campaign because of some drunken talk by Trump adviser George Papadopoulos.

Quote: During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos made a startling revelation to Australia`s top diplomat in Britain. He said that Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton. That is what triggered the FBI investigation.

When the special counsel charged George Papadopoulos with lying in October, we got more about where that drunken talk had come from. Quote: on or about April 26th, 2016, the professor, a professor from Malta named Joseph Mifsud, mysterious character, told defendant George Papadopoulos that they, the Russians, have dirt on her. The Russians had e-mails of Clinton. They have thousands of e-mails.

George Papadopoulos bragged about that to a guy in a bar drunkenly in May 2016. But he really had been told about it the month before, in April 2016. And it turned out to be true. I mean, it was drunken smack talk when he bragged about it to this Australian guy, but it was true information. The Russians did have thousands of e-mails they stole from the Democrats and the Clinton campaign.

Thanks to Mr. Drunky Pants and his eventual guilty plea, we know that before those stolen Democratic e-mails began appearing online in July 2016, the Trump campaign, at least one member of the Trump campaign, knew that Russia had them, knew, was aware that Russia had those e-mails, aware about it enough to brag about it in a bar over a few drinks.

At least that guy on the Trump campaign knew Russia had committed that crime, by breaking in and stealing all that stuff from the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign. So, we knew that.

And then this week, we got the other part of it. This weekend, we got that 10-page memo from the Democrats on the Intelligence Committee that was, in part, about their ongoing fighting with the Republicans on that committee. But it also gave us some very specific new information about this investigation, like this important line from page six.

Quote: DOJ appropriately provided the court with a comprehensive explanation of Russia`s election interference, including evidence that Russian agents previewed their hack and dissemination of stolen emails.

That last line there, Russian agents previewed their hack and dissemination of stolen emails, that is new. And that`s potentially a big deal. I mean, knowing that they had these stolen e-mails is one thing. But hacking in to computer servers from the Democratic Party and Clinton campaign to steal those documents, that`s a crime. And disseminating those e-mails in an attempt to alter the election is also likely to be a crime.

If Russia previewed to the Trump campaign that they were going to commit those crimes before they actually committed them -- well, that`s trouble. And we know about that trouble thanks to that memo that Adam Schiff and other intelligence Democrats just released. And that seems not just important but critically important if this new NBC reporting is correct, that a new round of indictments is coming about that`s going to be related to this part of the Russian attack and that Mueller`s team is now asking witnesses directly if the president himself is one of the people on the campaign who got that preview, that preview of what the Russians were doing before they actually did it.

Congressman Adam Schiff is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and he joins us now.

Congressman, thank you for being here.


MADDOW: I am reading a lot into that specific line in the memo that you and other Democrats on House Intel released. I am reading into that in part because you, yourself, have done a few interviews about it. You have talked about that new information. This wasn`t just the same information we had before phrased in a different way. This is the first time that we`re learning that Russia previewed for at least one person on the Trump campaign that they were going to disseminate this stuff that they had stolen.

SCHIFF: Well, that`s exactly right. And it is significant because we know from the guilty plea and the statement of the Papadopoulos defense that the Russians told them, hey, we have stolen Clinton or DNC e-mails. We know from the FISA application and what the Justice Department allowed us to share that they previewed the dissemination, that they could basically unanimously publish these emails. That`s in April, before the Clinton campaign even knows the Russians have those e-mails.

So, a few weeks later when the president`s son takes this is meeting in Trump Tower with the Russians with this lawyer sent out from Moscow for the purpose, with the promise of incriminating information about Hillary Clinton as part of the Russian government`s effort to help Donald Trump, what`s Don Jr.`s response? If it`s what I think it is, I would love it.

What does he think it is? Does he think it is e-mails because Papadopoulos was told the Russians have it and the Russians are prepared to disseminate it? It`s certainly one very plausible explanation of what he was expecting. It would also explain why he was so deeply disappointed that what they produced at this meeting wasn`t what was expected.

Now, shortly after that meeting when word goes out that have meeting that the Trump campaign at the highest levels wants Russian help but they`re disappointed in what we produced at the meeting, within days of that, Julian Assange announces he has received stolen Clinton e-mails which we now know he has gotten from the Russians. So, it is significant. It`s another piece of the puzzle.

I think when I saw that indictment of the 13 Russians and all its detail and whatnot, what leapt out at me is the same thing that leapt out at you, which is there`s no discussion of the hacking and dissemination of e-mails. Now, why is that? I can tell you one thing, it`s not because of a lack of evidence that the Russians did all this. There`s abundant evidence that could have been included.

Indeed, if there were going to be the end of the story, it would have been included. You would want to make the most complete and powerful case against what the Russians did. These two things complement each other. They explain the whole story or a large part of the story.

So, why don`t you do it? You don`t do it if you`re not ready for some reason on that piece. And it`s not because they weren`t ready on the Russian piece. It may be because they weren`t ready on the collusion piece. That is, would U.S. persons be included in that conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and violate U.S. election laws?

So, I don`t know that Mueller has reached the conclusion about whether he can prove that beyond a reasonable doubt or not. But it seems to me that the reason you don`t include that in the first indictment is you`re still working on that part of the investigation.

MADDOW: And you are speaking not just as the top Democrat in the Intelligence Committee but also as a former prosecutor yourself. And conspiracy, I think, means different things in layman`s language than it does in legal terms. But if we`re talking about a crime being committed, which is the stealing of the documents, the way that Mueller defined conspiracy to defraud the United States in some of his earlier indictments, I think we may also see -- I can imagine him also describing the dissemination of those document back to the U.S. public in an effort to influence the U.S. election as also being a criminal act.

If a person was aware that criminal actions like that were taking place, that a theft had happened, that the proceeds of that theft were going to be used to commit another crime -- if somebody was made aware of that, is just that awareness itself, does that create some sort of responsibility? Do you have to go to the authorities with it? If you cheer for that action without doing anything to stop it, is that also potentially criminal liability? Do you actively have to be helping and be part of what they`re doing in their criminal acts to be part of a conspiracy?

Where is the line in terms of just bad behavior versus getting indicted?

SCHIFF: Yes. Well, one of the reasons that I`ve used the term collusion rather than a conspiracy to violate sections such and such and such and such, is the bar shouldn`t be set so low as to what was a crime. It ought to be if the Trump campaign was aware of what the Russians were doing, had a preview of what the Russians were doing, urged the Russians to do it -- you had Donald Trump speaking publicly, hey, Russians, if you`re listening, hack Hillary Clinton`s e-mails. You`ll be richly rewarded.

If that message had gotten to the candidate and the candidate is egging them on, whether it`s a crime or not, it ought to be condemned by the whole country, Democrats and Republicans alike.

Now, what does it take to prove a case or indict a case? I think there has to be a meeting of the minds between the campaign and the Russians. OK, we`re going to do this. There has to be some overt act. Not necessarily an overt act on the part of the Trump campaign`s part but there has to be an agreement.

And I think what bob Mueller may be looking at and weighing is if you compare this to Watergate, there was a lot of evidence of Nixon`s involvement in Watergate. Even insiders like Dean who spoke in voluminous detail about conversations with the president, it was the recordings that made the difference, though, that gave the Congress and the country enough evidence that warranted his removal.

Bob Mueller may be trying to weigh what does it take in this kind of environment to prove this kind of a case. But I don`t think we should set the bar so low. That`s Bob Mueller`s job. It`s our job to tell the country what happened, to protect the country from it happening again, but also to condemn unethical conduct, whether it meets the standard of conspiracy or not.

MADDOW: Well, condemn it and -- yeah, potentially bring about some sort of accountability for it. And that`s a different standard in terms of congressional investigation than it is for this criminal investigation that Mueller is doing.

Congressman Adam Schiff, top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, working on a committee that seems to be pulling apart at the seams right now, but hanging in there -- thank you so much for being with us, sir. It`s really good to have you here.

SCHIFF: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. We`ve got a lot more show to come. Stay with us.


MADDOW: We keep putting up this list. And it`s getting longer and longer and longer and more ridiculous. I mean , literally at this point, we have to do like do fancy camera work where I turn, so you can have the bigger wall behind me so we can make the list this big.

This is nuts. And, you know, even after the Hope Hicks` departure news broke last night, we got even -- we got more. Another career diplomat leaving, Roberta Jacobson leaving after more than 31 years in service, most recently as our ambassador to Mexico. She`s actually the fifth senior level departure from the administration in five days and now, we`d just had tonight`s headlines about the impending departure of yet another national security adviser, this time H.R. McMaster.

So, we`re ready to add to this gigantic list at a moment`s notice. But even with all these people gone or going, there is at least one Trump appointee who is going nowhere. Despite him starting all on his own, one of the strangest and most radical scandals of this young administration.

And we`ve got him on tape for an exclusive story, next. You won`t see this anywhere else. You will want to see it here. It`s right after the break.


MADDOW: The presidential transition from Obama to Trump was a little rockier than most transitions. Remember, they had thrown out the guy who had been in charge of planning the transition, Chris Christie. That included throwing out all the briefing materials he had prepared, the list of possible candidates for administration jobs, even national security staffers have said crucial briefing materials even on national security issues appear to have just never even been opened, let alone used substantively by the incoming Trump teams.

Well, at the Health and Human Services Department, one of the people brought in as an adviser to the Trump transition was a long-time anti- abortion activist lawyer named Scott Lloyd. During that transition, Scott Lloyd was brought in as a special adviser in Health and Human Services, but he didn`t have any specific job title. One day, though, somebody came to him and said, hey, Scott, we`re going to pick you to be the head of the -- what`s it called again -- Office of Refugee Resettlement. That`s going to be your new job.

Scott Lloyd had not applied for that job. Somebody from the White House just asked him, approached him and asked him if he wanted to do it. And he said, OK, sure, yes. What? What`s it called again?

There is nothing about Scott Lloyd that screams put me in charge of the Office of Refugee or resettling anyone or anything. But why not?

Alongside the very controversial immigration policies and behavior of ICE, Immigration of Customs Enforcement, during the Trump administration, there`s also the specific matter of what happens to people who are underage when they come to this country. Kids who come to this country alone and cross the border without parents, they actually don`t get handled by ICE. They don`t get put into detention centers the way people who get picked by ICE do. They get funneled into a completely different government agency, into Health and Human Services, specifically to an office inside HHS that`s charged with putting those kids in shelters, shelters that have social workers, and people who can help the kids get medical care and help these kids who are here without their parents find a sponsor, an adult sponsor who could help them stay in this country, potentially, as a refugee.

There`s a specific office in HHS that does this work with those kids and it is the Office of Refugee Resettlement now headed somewhat randomly by Scott Lloyd, the anti-abortion activist who had never resettled refugees in his life. Where Scott Lloyd`s resume really pops is in anti-abortion activism. That`s what`s he`s been his whole life. He`s written extensively on the subject.

If you want to know where he falls on the number line of activism on that issue, you should see his essay how birth control is just as bad as abortion -- actually how birth control is abortion. He said you can`t even call yourself anti-abortion if you think contraception is OK. So, Scott Lloyd, this very conservative, anti-abortion activist, he takes over as the head of the office of refugee resettlement. And then headlines like this follow.

Trump official sought to block abortion for 17-year-old rape victim. That 17-year-old rape victim was ultimately able to get an abortion only because the ACLU helped her sue Scott Lloyd. She`s one of four anonymous teenagers who say they`ve been blocked from action toes abortion and taken Scott Lloyd to court in order to get it.

Tonight, we have new insight into the kinds of tactics Scott Lloyd has been using against pregnant teenagers who have somewhat randomly ended up under his control because the Trump administration gave him this job. ACLU has been suing on behalf of these teenagers. They deposed Scott Lloyd in December and they have just now released selections of the transcript and the video of that deposition.

The lead ACLU attorney on this case is Brigitte Amiri and she`s asking the questions here. Watch.


BRIGITTE AMIRI, ACLU: You`re personally opposed to abortion, correct?


AMIRI: You`ve written on the subject?


AMIRI: You`re personally opposed to contraception, correct?

LLOYD: Depends.

AMIRI: You wrote an article that said in order to be pro-life, you need to be anti-contraception?

LLOYD: That was the title of the article. Something along those lines.


MADDOW: Something along those lines, something like -- we have the article? We have the article? There you go.

Facts on abortion. Why you can`t be pro-life and pro-contraception. Yes, something along those lines. It was exactly along those lines. That`s what it was.

ACLU attorney in this case goes on to ask Scott Lloyd about his time spent in federal government trying to personally block teenagers from getting abortions that they`re legally supposed to be able to get.


AMIRI: Have you ever approved an abortion request in your time as ORR director?


AMIRI: Are there any circumstances under which you would approve an abortion request?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Objection. Calls for speculation.

LLOYD: Yes. I`m not going to answer that.

AMIRI: You can still answer it.

LLOYD: I don`t know.

AMIRI: You denied abortion request, correct?


AMIRI: You denied abortion requests even in the context where the pregnancy was a result of rape, right?



MADDOW: So the way this has been working is that a 17-year-old pregnant rape victim, a girl who became pregnant because she was raped, she made her way to the United States by herself, seeking help after this rape. She had to get permission from that guy, that individual guy if she could have an abortion and he told her no.

We`ve also obtained a document that the ACLU plans to file in court tomorrow that sheds more light on how Scott Lloyd treated this particular 17-year-old rape victim, whom he was trying to force to carry her pregnancy to term and bear her rapist`s child against her will. In this email from Scott Lloyd obtained by the ACLU as part of their ongoing lawsuit against the government, Mr. Lloyd runs down a list of things he wants shelter staff to tell this pregnant teenage rape victim who`s asking for an abortion, that he`s not going to allow her to get anyway.

He says in this e-mail that he wants the shelter staff to make sure this girl has a proper understanding of the development of her baby. He instructs them to inform her of the possibility that she may experience an abortion as an additional trauma on top of the trauma of her rape. He then instructs the staff to tell her that if born in the U.S., her baby would be a U.S. citizen.

That reason the 17-year-old girl was able to get an abortion is because somebody tipped off ACLU about what Scott Lloyd was doing about her case and the ACLU got her case into court and beat Scott Lloyd in court and that lawyer joins us next. Stay with us.


MADDOW: So we have this document tonight which the ACLU plans to file in court tomorrow as part of an ongoing legal case against the head of the Office of Refugee Resettlement in the Trump administration, a young man named Scott Lloyd, this is an e-mail where he tells shelter staff what they should tell a pregnant teenager who is a victim of rape and is asking for an abortion.

He tells the staff they should tell this girl of, quote, the possibility that she may experience abortion as an additional trauma on top of the trauma of her rape. He also tells staff to instruct that if born in the U.S., her baby would be a U.S. citizen. Scott Lloyd tried to force that 17-year-old rape victim and at least three other pregnant teenagers to carry their pregnancies to term against their will.

Not only has Scott Lloyd defied access to every girl who has requested an abortion since she took over as the head of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, under his leadership, shelter staff had been instructed not to allow pregnant girls in their care to meet with lawyers about getting a judicial bypass and outside approval from a judge for an abortion. Scott Lloyd told the ACLU in its deposition in December that he believes these girls who ended up under his control at his agency, he doesn`t believe they have a right to access abortion like everybody else in America, he says that he doesn`t thin they have that right because of their immigration status.

This would be a novel legal claim. Not even the Justice Department makes that claim. We don`t know how many pregnant girls are under his control right now or how many of them he`s blocking from access to abortion, just held until they give birth against their will.


AMIRI: In what universe or facts could present themselves to you that would lead you to approve an abortion request?

LLOYD: I don`t know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Objection, calls for speculation.

AMIRI: If a young woman`s life was in jeopardy if she carried the pregnancy to term.

LLOYD: Potentially.

AMIRI: Potentially, that would lead you to approve the abortion.



MADDOW: Potentially. Maybe if the girl were literally dying, it was literally going to kill her, maybe then he`d have to think about it, maybe he would then let her have an abortion to save her life, maybe. But he might just keep personally stopping him. Why does he have this power, this one guy?

Joining us now is Brigitte Amiri. She`s the senior staff attorney at the ACLU`s reproductive freedom project. She is the person who is questioning Mr. Lloyd in that deposition.

Ms. Amiri, thank you very much for being with us.

AMIRI: Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: Can you tell me about how -- I`m trying -- the Office of Refugee Resettlement was not something high on my visibility list in terms of how government official behaves. How different is Scott Lloyd`s behavior compared to other people who`ve previously held this job.

AMIRI: It`s very different. Actually, we`ve been investigating the Office of Refugee Resettlement and their policies with respect to abortion access for over a decade. So, in the Bush administration, there was concerns about government funds going to religiously affiliated shelters that were blocking access to abortion. And we did a number of FOIAs.

And eventually, we sued the Obama administration for violations of separation of church and state. But Scott Lloyd has taken it to a whole new level. He is directly obstructing access to abortion, at his direction holding young women hostage at the shelter to prohibit them from accessing abortion. This is unprecedented in terms of the government official robbing young women of their right to access abortion.

MADDOW: He`s obviously a young man. He`s an attorney, we know from his back story of background story in terms of how we got the job that he was working on the Trump landing team at HHS, and apparently was just plucked by the White House into this job, has no experience in this field. He`s now making the case to you that these women, these young women, teenage girls who end up under his control because of his job at the agency, they actually don`t have a right to access an abortion.

My reading of that, not as a lawyer, is that not even the Justice Department under President Trump says that. That seems to me to be a very novel claim that there`s something about these women`s immigration status that infringes on their constitutional right to get an abortion if they want one.

AMIRI: That`s right. And it`s deeply troubling that this political appointee who has sworn to uphold the Constitution thinks the Constitution doesn`t apply to the marginalized young people in his care. That is frightening and, you`re right, the Justice Department doesn`t even take that extreme position.

MADDOW: Tell me about the status of this case right now. Obviously, this is an ongoing concern. As far as we know we don`t know right now how many other girls may be in this circumstance where they`re effectively being forced to continue a pregnancy that they`d like to end.

AMIRI: And I`m deeply concerned about the young women that we will never find out about. And as you mentioned before, we are relying on anonymous tips right now so we can potentially find young women who need our help. We`re asking the district court to certify a class action and block the policy while the case continues. That -- those motions are fully briefed and we`re waiting for a decision. So, we`re hoping to stop this to prevent this from happening to young women going forward.

MADDOW: Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney at the ACLU`s Reproductive Freedom Project, reproductive rights are always such a fraught and interesting battleground in this country. This case involving this one official taking on this much power for himself to chance all of these young women`s lives in this profound way, it`s like fiction. It`s very hard to get your head around. Thank you for helping us understand it. Thanks.

AMIRI: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: All right. One last very important thing to get to tonight, slightly embarrassing on my part, but we`re going to do it. That`s next. Stay with us.


MADDOW: OK. It`s a little weird. I have to take a point of personal privilege here. This is embarrassing. It`s embarrassing but I can`t not do it.

One last thing to let you know about and I`m going to hand you off to the good graces of Lawrence O`Donnell. I want you to forgive me for doing this on the show, but I am bursting with pride and I have to say something.

Tomorrow or maybe even late tonight, you should check now, the "New York Times" is going to publish something by me. I`ve never had a thing published in "The New York Times" before. I sometimes do columns in "The Washington Post." I`ve never done one in a long time, but I never had a thing in "The New York Times" before.

And this thing I just did for "The New York Times", it almost killed me putting it together. I got it done and it is about to come out. I was going to say I hope you like it, but honestly, I`m so excited about it, I don`t care. Even if everyone hates it, I am still so excited.

So, drum roll please, tomorrow, it is -- it will be my first ever "New York Times" crossword. By which I do not mean that I am a clue in "The New York Times" crossword tomorrow, although that is a huge enough did. I mean, I actually did, I made a "New York Times" crossword, I made one, with a genius guy named Joe DiPietro, who is so freaking smart about this stuff and who was so nails with me about how terrible I was at the start of the process, that I`m scarred for life. But he was amazing.

Joe DiPietro, you`re amazing. You`re terrifying me. And, of course, legendary "New York Times" crossword editor Will Shorts tore the whole thing apart and put it back together.

But I mean, technically, I did it. And it comes out tomorrow. It`s a hard one. It`s a theme-less Friday puzzle. So good luck. No cheating. I`m sorry I just bragged about that. But I`m very excited.

That does it for us tonight.


Good evening, Lawrence.