WV teachers strike ends after nine days. TRANSCRIPT: 03/06/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Adam Goldman

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: March 6, 2018 Guest: Adam Goldman

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.

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

HAYES: You bet.

MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Tuesday. Just had to throw another show out the window tonight.

I shouldn`t even -- the thing is, I need to change myself. I need to change my own expectations. We made it as far as dinner time tonight with an actual show we worked on all day and like planned and produced and the whole thing and I was like oh, scot-free, we`re done -- I`m going to have to revise my expectations. I thought we were going to have a normal night. That was my mistake.

Now, this is the new normal. It`s fine, we can do it all. There is all sorts of different types of breaking news tonight and today. There are elections tonight, very interesting elections tonight in Texas, a particularly interesting special election in Oklahoma. And a few other states we`re watching returns coming in right now into the wee hours tonight looking for upsets in other interesting results in those local elections, especially ones that may have national implications.

Also today, in West Virginia, the teacher strike there came to a very dramatic ending, a triumphant ending for the teachers that had a remarkable labor action in the state over the course of nine days. We`re going to be getting to that story, as well, this hour.

But, you know, you never know what you`ll be able to lead with because other stuff keeps coming. You and me, we are Lucy and Ethel. We`re working in the chocolate fact tor factory and the conveyer belt keeps speeding up. That`s what it`s like. This is our life now. But we can handle it. We can do it all.

Let me start here. Saturday morning, this past Saturday morning at 7:00 a.m. East Coast time, NBC News published a weird news story about the Trump White House. The story came out early Saturday morning, but it was about an announcement President Trump had made at the White House two days earlier, on Thursday of last week.

You definitely heard about this announcement from the president. You heard he said this. You heard that he announced there would be new big tariffs on steel and aluminum, but did you actually see the way he announced it? There was something a little weird about how he actually rolled out the details of this very big, very important, very dramatic change in policy. This is how he actually announced it. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, we`ll probably see you sometime next week. We`ll be signing it in, and you will have protection for the first time in a long while and you get to re-grow your industry. That`s all I`m asking. You have to re-grow your industries.

Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for being here. We appreciate it. Mr. Secretary, thank you very much and we`ll see you next week.

Thank you, everybody. Thank you very much.

REPORTER: What size are the tariffs?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Make your way out.

REPORTER: How long, do you think, on the tariffs?

TRUMP: Unlimited period. Unlimited period.

REPORTER: Twenty-five on steel?

REPORTER: What percentage?

TRUMP: It will be 25 percent for steel. It will be 10 percent for aluminum. And it will be for a long period of time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks, guys.

TRUMP: Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you.

REPORTER: Twenty-five for steel and ten for aluminum.

TRUMP: Twenty-five for steel --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come on, Steve. Let`s go.

TRUMP: It`s being written now.

REPORTER: Thank you, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: It`s being written now. Yes, 25 for steel, 10 for aluminum.

So, the president held this big event with all these business people. He kept saying during the event as if he had previously announced there would be these new tariffs on steel and aluminum, but it wasn`t actually until he was saying good-bye to everybody, until he was declaring the event over saying he would see people next week that a reporter finally got him to spit out what these tariffs were going to be.

It turns out they were very round numbers, 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum. He answered the reporter shouted questions after he had declared the event over. That`s how the president rolled out these numbers for the big tariffs. Kind of as an after-thought, something that didn`t turn up in his prepared remarks.

And, you know, kind of seemed like maybe he didn`t have prepared remarks, right?

That was on Thursday. It took a couple days to report out, but by Saturday morning, Stephanie Ruhle and Peter Alexander at NBC News were able to report what actually led up to the strange announcement in the White House. Quote: According to two officials, Trump`s decision to launch a potential trade war was born out of anger at other simmering issues.

In the words of one official familiar with the president`s state of mind, quote, on Wednesday evening, the president became unglued. Unglued is a quote. Trump was angry two officials said. He was angry and gunning for a fight and he chose a trade war.

By midnight Wednesday, which was less than 12 hours before the president made this announcement, quote, no one on the president`s team had prepared any position paper for the announcement. The White House counsel said they were two weeks away from being able to complete a legal review of the matter.

When the president showed up at that meeting where he made that announcement, quote, there was no diplomatic strategy for how to alert foreign trade partners. There was no legislative party for informing Congress. There was no communications plan for how to announce the policy let alone explain or defend what the president was going to announce that day. They hadn`t told the State Department they were going to do this. They had not told the Defense Department they were going to do this, and they had told the Treasury Department they were going to do this.

And "The Washington Post" further reports tonight that wasn`t just a matter of bad manners or not following protocol. "The Post" reporting tonight that Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson started warning senior trade officials today that there are national security consequences to what Trump just announced. They have started warning trade officials today that these tariffs Trump just announced. They started warning trade officials that these tariffs Trump just announced, quote, could endanger U.S. national security relationships with allies.

And just to put the icing on the cake and just to explain that weird tape we showed, it turns out there were actually no prepared remarks for the president to give at that meeting. So on Thursday, he`s apparently been mad and steaming all night and he wants to announce something. He`s sitting there at this meeting. He announces a huge economic policy that has big implications for regular Americans and jobs and relationships with all of our allies, apparently, it`s national security implications of this incredibly controversial, deeply consequential thing.

And the president apparently just winged it. No prep, no policy, no notes, nothing written for him. And it seems not impossible that he had no numbers in mind for this policy until he declared the event over and a reporter shouted out, hey, sir, what are the numbers? And he, you know, looks off into the distance and grasps those two nice round numbers.

He had 25 percent for steel, 10 for aluminum. It`s almost like he was saying, does that sound good? Is that good?

The president said at that bonkers announcement last week after -- as reporters are being ushered out of the room, he said, it`s being written, this thing that he had just announced with no notes, no policy, no legal review, no communications plan, nothing. There`s still no signs that this thing is being written, apart from the fact that today that announcement from the president resulted in yet another very senior departure from the White House staff.

The director of the White House National Economic Council, the main economic advisor to the president, former Goldman Sachs executive Gary Cohn announced tonight that he is quitting. Which means I now have to turn around and face a different camera so you can see me in front of a different wall, so I`m really smooth with that, aren`t I? So I can update the departure board, turning out to be a White House and presidential administration absolutely unlike any other in terms of its ability to fire, lose and repel top staff.

I mean, this president has only been in office a little more than a year. And he`s lost secretary of health and human services, White House chief of staff, deputy White House chief of staff, another deputy White House chief of staff, yet another deputy White House chief of staff, senior adviser to the White House chief of staff, national security advisor, that was Mike Flynn, deputy national security adviser, another deputy national security advisor.

On the National Security Council, he`s lost the intelligence director there and Middle East director there and the director of strategic planning there and deputy chief of staff. He lost his chief White House strategist, that was Steve Bannon. He lost that other White House strategist where we don`t really know what his job is but he went on TV a lot, Sebastian Gorka I think was his name.

They lost the director of public liaison for the White House, the communications director for the public liaison, Omarosa, FBI Director James Comey, deputy director of the FBI, chief of staff of the FBI, special advisor to the president on regulatory reform, Carl Icahn, more on him in a moment. He`s lost the director of Office of Government Ethics, the counselor to the treasury secretary, the director of the National Security Agency, the deputy director of the National Security Agency, the deputy director of the domestic policy counsel.

And the vice president staff -- it has been amazing. The vice president`s chief of staff, the vice president`s wife`s chief of staff. The vice president`s press secretary, chief counsel, and chief policy adviser, the head of the CDC has left, White House staff secretary, the White House speechwriter, acting administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, the associate attorney general, Rachel Brand, press secretary, assistant press secretary, the White House director of rapid response, communications director, another communications director, another communications director, assistant communications director, the deputy secretary of homeland security, the special representative for North Korea policy, the top person on Korea policy in the State Department for the past 30 years, bye, bye, assistant to the president in the Office of American Innovation, Jared and Ivanka`s friend, he just left around the same time the president lost Hope Hicks.

Senior advisor to the defense secretary, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, that was just a couple of days, deputy director of the National Economic Council is somebody who we lost a while back, but now he`s lost the director of the National Economic Council, the White House chief economic advisor Gary Cohn.

We`re going to have to like start broadcasting in an octagon so I can keep turning to different walls.

I mean, Gary Cohn, they haven`t been there that long. Gary Cohn may be the latest senior White House person to leave. It may also though have more ramifications that most departures.

You may remember in August, the president made some inexplicably positive comments about neo-Nazi protesters who in fact had just killed someone in Charlottesville, Virginia. Gary Cohn criticized the president`s remarks after Charlottesville, and there were signs at the time that he might be considering resigning from the White House, just the prospect that Gary Cohn might resign from the White House in August led to a big plunge in the markets that day even though Gary Cohn didn`t ultimately leave.

Well, tonight, Gary Cohn`s actual resignation was reporting after the markets had closed. After the markets closed, people can still trade in basically what amounts to bets on how the market will open in the morning and after the news broke of Gary Cohn`s resignation tonight, that trading showed the markets going off a cliff.

So, Gary Cohn`s resignation tonight, you can see it tonight as just the latest in an incredibly chaotic and unstable White House and presidential administration unlike we have ever seen before. But the Gary Cohn resignation also feels like it`s a little bit part of a cluster, double entendre intended, because in a period of about three weeks, I mean, we`ve had the resignation of a lot of people very close to the president, the staff secretary who was very close to the president who resigned amid lurid domestic violence allegations. We`ve also had the resignation of Hope Hicks, who is the White House staffer considered personally closest to the president. And now, we`ve got Gary Cohn who was also reportedly close to the president and had reportedly been considered as the next White House chief of staff.

We`ve also just had this other reporting several days ago from NBC citing five sources saying that the national security advisor, H.R. McMaster is on his way out the door as well. When Nicolle Wallace broke that story for MSNBC, a national security veteran named Colin Kahl who had been national security advisor to Vice President Biden, he responded to that news from Nicolle by saying, quote, if John Bolton replaces H.R. McMaster, we are all going to die.

Well, tonight, John Bolton was seen visiting the White House. I didn`t call Colin Kahl for comment but I probably should have.

Nicolle Wallace`s report that McMaster is on his way out had five sources and nobody has contradicted it yet. John Bolton seen at the White House today. Maybe that`s next.

We`re going to have more on the sudden departure of Gary Cohn, the president`s top economic adviser coming up in just a couple of minutes. We`re going to be talking with somebody who`s very well-sourced in his circles and has been the source of some very good reporting about his role in the White House. We`ve got that coming up.

But after the Gary Cohn news broke tonight, more stuff happened. "The New York Times" broke some very dramatic new news tonight about Robert Mueller and the special counsel`s office flipping a new cooperating witness.

President Trump was sworn in January 20th of 2017. And as the one-year anniversary of his inauguration approached in January of this year, you might remember there was a little bit of controversy, a little bit of awkwardness about a big party planned at his club in Mar-a-Lago to celebrate his one-year anniversary in office. There is always a little controversy being hosted at the president`s own private for profit club surrounded by his hand-picked members.

But in this case, the awkwardness was more acute than usual, because while the one-year anniversary of his inauguration was approaching, simultaneously, the federal government was shutting down. And the president was reportedly upset that the government shutting down was going to interfere with his ability to attend the parties that were going to be held in his honor at his private club. Well, on January 17th, a couple of days before those parties were supposed to start happening, just a few days before the one-year anniversary of Trump`s inauguration, a man named George Nader, a Lebanese-American man reportedly flew into the Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. and he was apparently planning to switch planes at Dulles so he could fly down to Florida to be there at Mar-a-Lago for all the celebrating.

And that`s where "The New York Times" tonight picks up the story. Quote, Mr. Nader was first served with search warrants and a grand jury subpoena on January 17th shortly after landing at Washington`s Dulles International Airport. He had intended to travel to Mar-a-Lago, Mr. President`s Florida estate, to celebrate the president`s first year in office, but the FBI had other plans, questioning him for more than two hours and seizing his electronics.

Now, this man, George Nader, was the subject of a story in "The New York Times" this weekend that was interesting, intriguing, you might say, it was a little opaque, but this weekend, "The Times" described the same man, George Nader, as a Lebanese American businessman who had become a focus of the Mueller investigation. In this reporting this past weekend, "The Times" said that George Nader had been questioned by Mueller`s prosecutors and other witnesses had been questioned about him, about his role advising the government of the United Arab Emirates and, quote, any possible attempts by the Emiratis to buy political influence by directing money to support Mr. Trump during the presidential campaign.

So, that was the reporting this weekend, that people were asking about this guy`s role, that Mueller`s investigators were asking witnesses about this guy`s role, that this guy George Nader was a focus of Mueller`s investigation.

Well, now, tonight, "The Times" reports something that is an order of magnitude different. They are reporting tonight that George Nader is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller and he has testified to the grand jury. And if this reporting from "The Times" is true, this is no longer just intriguing, this is no longer opaque, this now explains a lot.

And that`s next, along with the reporter that broke the story. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: All right. "The New York Times" has broken this scoop on the front page. Advisor to Emirates with ties to Trump aides is cooperating with special counsel. This means there is a no cooperating witness for Robert Mueller and his prosecutors in their investigation.

Now, the guy who is reportedly cooperating with Mueller now is said to be an advisor to the government of the United Arab Emirates. United Arab Emirates is best known for cities Dubai and Abu Dhabi. UAE has a big, long desert border with Saudi Arabia. They`ve got another long border with Oman. They are geographically very close to but politically at odds with another small rich conservative Arab country nearby that`s called Qatar.

But United Arab Emirates stands out in that region in the way that you couldn`t necessarily discern from looking at it on a map. UAE in recent years has really emerged as a dominant strategic actor in that part of the world. They have lots of money, lots of influence and lots of ambition. And for the purposes of the Trump administration and its scandals, UAE also happens to make lots of cameo appearances in meetings with people associated with Donald Trump that nobody reports at the time that people try to keep secret and that nobody can explain months later when they finally ultimately get exposed in the press. It happens over and over again from people from UAE, from people representing the government of UAE.

First one of those was on December. The month after the presidential election, December 2016 at Trump Tower. The de facto ruler of UAE, their crown prince, turned up in New York and took a meeting at Trump Tower reportedly with Mike Flynn and Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner.

Now, that meeting itself is not that weird for a foreign leader to meet with top officials of an incoming U.S. presidential administration. It`s not unheard of. What was unheard of about that, what was really weird about that is that they did it in secret.

Donald Trump wasn`t president yet. Barack Obama was president. Whatever a foreign head of state or senior member of the foreign royal family comes to the U.S., particularly if they`re going to visit with American political officials, they`re supposed to notify the U.S. government that they are coming. I mean, it`s a matter of long-standing diplomatic protocol and frankly, it`s a matter of security.

But they try to do that meeting secretly. The crown prince of UAE came to Trump Tower in December 2016, he took that meeting with Flynn and Bannon and Kushner for some reason and he just turned up in New York without notifying the Obama administration. So, they tried to keep it secret for some reason.

The Obama administration, of course, knew he was here, intelligence agencies tend to know the whereabouts when a foreign heads of state when they arrive here. But the fact that they tried to keep it secret was just an interesting red flag about that meeting. That was December 2016.

Then the following month, January 2017, that same country, United Arab Emirates turns up again in a mysterious and for a long time secret meeting involving somebody from Trump world. This is first reported several months later in "The Washington Post" months after this meeting happened. But it ultimately was proven out their reporting was correct that in January before the inauguration, United Arab Emirates convened a secret meeting in the Seychelles islands between a Russian financer who said to be very close to Vladimir Putin and an American guy named Erik Prince.

Erik Prince is the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. He`s the founder of the controversial Blackwater security firm and he`s a major Trump donor and Trump supporter. Now, Erik Prince has denied there was anything nefarious about that meeting, but that meeting is believed to have been sort of an effort to create an unofficial back channel between Trump world and Putin world at a personal level.

As "The New York Times" puts it in the new report tonight, quote, at the Seychelles meeting, Emirati officials believe that Erik Prince was speaking for the Trump transition team and the Russian fund manager represented Mr. Putin.

So, secret meeting one involving UAE is in December at Trump Tower. Secret meeting two involving UAE is in the Seychelles between Erik Prince and this Russian financier guy close to Putin, and the UAE surfaced against just last week in that dramatic new reporting from "The Washington Post" about Jared Kushner`s contacts raising serious national security concerns about him.

This is the reporting that came out around the same time that we learned that Jared Kushner was stripped of his security clearance, one of the most dramatic details in the reporting was that U.S. intelligence surveillance of foreign officials turned up conversations in which foreign officials talked about their dealings with Jared Kushner.

This was the lead of that article in "The Washington Post" last week. Quote: Officials in at least four countries have privately discussed ways that they can manipulate Jared Kushner by taking advantage of his business arrangement, his financial difficulties and his lack of foreign policy experience.

From the same report, the UAE surfaces again. Quote: officials from the UAE identified Jared Kushner as early as the spring of 2017 as particularly manipulable because of his family`s search for investors and their real estate company.

So, UAE turns up over and over again, potential efforts to create a personal back channel to Putin through this financer guy who`s thought of somebody that can get messages to and from Putin, secret meeting being held without notifying the U.S. government. The foreign government that believes its got sway over Jared Kushner because Kushner and his family have been freaking asking him for money.

So, UAE turns up in all these stories, and it all feels sort of drenched in intrigue but we don`t know how to connect these things or whether they connect or whether they point in some particularly nefarious direction. Well, tonight "The New York Times" reports that George Nader, advisor to the crowned prince of UAE, is cooperating with Robert Mueller`s inquiry. They further report that this guy George Nader was at the meeting in the Seychelles with Erik Prince and the Russian fund manager who can supposedly get messages to and from Putin.

According to "The Times", what Mueller appears to be looking at with this new cooperating witness is, quote, the influence of foreign money on Mr. Trump`s political activities. Mueller has reportedly asked witnesses about the possibility that this adviser, George Nader, funneled money from the Emirates to the president`s political efforts. It is illegal for Americans to knowingly accept foreign money for political races and that guy is cooperating with them now.

Days like this you`re like no wonder everybody is quitting.

Joining us now is Adam Goldman, "New York Times" reporter covering national security and one of the reporters who broke this story.

Mr. Goldman, thank you very much for joining us on short notice and congratulations on this scoop tonight.

ADAM GOLDMAN, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES (via telephone): Thanks.

MADDOW: So, can you tell me about the difference between and the transition between the reporting from "The Times" this weekend that Nader was a focus of Mueller`s inquiry to the reporting tonight that he`s actually cooperating with the investigation? What`s the importance there and how did that reporting involve?

GOLDMAN: Well, Nader`s importance is he was essentially unregistered foreign agent of the United Emirates and he was essentially peddling influence on behalf of UAE, you know, in the United States and around the world, sort of delivering their message, right?

And he has become the focus because I believe that Mueller and his team want to learn what he did, what George Nader did with some money the UAE gave him and, of course, did any of that money make it to the Trump campaign or its coffers.

MADDOW: In the reporting from earlier, from a few days ago, there was a description about a Republican fundraiser, I think deputy finance chair at the RNC now, somebody who`s a Trump donor and now a Republican fundraiser who at some point appears to have secured for himself a defense contract worth several hundred million dollars possibly through his connection with Mr. Nader.

Is that part of the question, I guess, of whether or not money was funneled inappropriately from UAE to people associated with Mr. Trump?

GOLDMAN: I mean, I suspect they`re certainly look at that. The interesting thing about Brody is after Erik Prince meets with the Emiratis and Mr. Nader in the Seychelles and makes a pitch to sell them defense contract and services, he`s denied it. He doesn`t get that contract.

Fast forward, Brody who gets a similar contract with the Emiratis. So, there is something going on there we`re not exactly sure.

MADDOW: Now at that meeting in the Seychelles, you guys described it`s as something that`s been sort of -- a bit of a mystery. It`s been a bit of a sort of object of fascination at that meeting, what was that about. And I said in summarizing some of the speculation and those supporting reporting around that meeting that it`s believed that meeting may have been an effort to set up a line of communication between Vladimir Putin himself, between the president`s office in Russia and the incoming Trump administration.

That`s how I`ve sort of view the universe of reporting around that meeting. Is that supported by how you understand that Seychelles meeting?

GOLDMAN: I`m not really saying there was a back channel to the Russians based on this meeting. I mean, what we know, the facts are, Prince goes there and makes a pitch to the Emiratis and after that meeting, he meets with Erik Prince and Nader too at the bar. We don`t know what is said at the bar. They have a drink. It`s a short meeting. We don`t know what is said.

It`s true that the Emiratis believe that Flynn was pitching himself as a representative of the Trump administration. You know, just remember, Kirill Dmitriev, the Russian investment guy, you know, they have a lot of money invested in UAE, and UAE has money invested in this fund. So, there is a reason for him to be there. And in fact, the reason for him to be there, Dmitriev, he was meeting with UAE officials.

MADDOW: OK. Adam Goldman, reporter for "The New York Times", really appreciate you helping us sort it out. Congratulations on this scoop.

GOLDMAN: All right. Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. Again, "The New York Times" reporting there is a new cooperating witness in the Mueller investigation, an advisor to the Emirati government.

Mr. Goldman was just saying there about the money flow among UAE and Russia. The Russian financer who Erik Prince was reportedly set up to meet with in that meeting in the Seychelles, he heads up a fund that doesn`t distribute Russian money abroad, but accepts money from other countries to invest in infrastructure. United Arab Emirates had pumped billions of dollars into the fund. So, they are sending billions of dollars to that guy, Dmitriev, the guy who meets with Prince, Prince goes and meets with him and we don`t know what that`s about, but the guy who brokered that meeting and part of it is now part of Mueller`s investigation on the prosecutor`s side, which makes me think maybe we`ll figure out about that meeting after all. Maybe we will get that full story.

All right. Much more ahead including another big breaking story out of the White House because that`s today. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Last night, we reported on new concerns about.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Carl Icahn. Carl, Carl Icahn. Carl Icahn.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Carl Icahn, somebody who the president likes to say the name of more than himself. Carl Icahn billionaire investor, former special advisor at the president on regulatory reform who quit that job and then tried to deny he ever had it in the first place when "The New Yorker" reported that Icahn had made a regulatory change that would have put effectively hundreds of millions of dollars in Carl Icahn`s own pocket.

The New York attorney general`s office say they have reportedly taken an interest in that matter. But now, Carl Icahn is back in the thick of it again because it turns out Mr. Icahn happened to sell off $30 million in stock in a company`s who stock price would definitely tank if the U.S. government announced a steel tariff. He sold off that $31.3 million of stock right before President Trump in fact announced his new steel tariffs.

We reported on that story last night. Now, a non-partisan watchdog group called the Project on Government Oversight has asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate Mr. Icahn for possible insider trading. They want to know if someone in the Trump administration provided Mr. Icahn with information that the steel tariffs were on their way.

Those tariffs today also cost the president his top economic advisor Gary Cohn, which at one level is just another one out. But I`m also interested in really knowing why he left and what the consequences are of him leaving and how nuts this whole process has been in the White House.

Joining us now is someone who knows. Stephanie Ruhle, she`s the host of "MSNBC LIVE" with Stephanie Ruhle, which airs every day at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

Stephanie, you know more about this than anybody else I know.

STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST, "LIVE WITH STEPHANIE RUHLE": I know some and President Trump who loves to say I and I alone is going to have to look at the stock market because Dow futures are now down 400 and that is because Gary Cohn, his economic advisor has said sayonara.

After he got taxes done, early January, Gary said to the president, and General Kelly, I got time on my hands. I came to do taxes, I`m done, give me more. He was, could he do something at state, could he something at cabinet level position, maybe Trump said, how about infrastructure? Gary said, giddy up, infrastructure.

Have you heard them talk about infrastructure? Has Gary rolled out a plan? No.

MADDOW: Infrastructure Week is now a punch line. Yes.

RUHLE: Correct. No, because we`re dealing with the president of unforced errors who gets distracted or changed the narratives and says let`s look at DACA and he keeps changing the narrative when Russia gets closer and closer and, of course, things, you know, we change the narrative because we`re looking at the gun control issue.

But last week, sort of Wilbur Ross` coup d`etat on policy. Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro, and remember, you`ve reported it. Wilbur Ross is a guy who has been falling asleep in meetings for months. Peter Navarro could not get a job inside Goldman Sachs in the mail room. He`s not a widely accepted economist. Wilbur Ross said to the president, if you want to war, let`s go for a trade war. How about China?

And the issue isn`t policy for Gary Cohn, it`s process. So, Gary is not surprised that President Trump has a nationalist agenda. He was elected on one. But Gary has repeatedly said, America first doesn`t have to be America alone.

The president led Wednesday and Thursday with this cockamamie 10 percent, 25 percent tariff plan without coordinating with the State Department, the Defense Department, and the Treasury Department and most importantly, White House legal counsel. The president has said this is an issue of national security. That`s why we need to move forward with these tariffs and were the tariffs supposed to hit China. But now, suddenly, it`s about Canada and Mexico and now we heard from Mattis, Tillerson potentially saying this will hurt national security.

So, if Gary Cohn is in the White House to focus on economic issues and he cannot get the president to listen to all sides and we could be moving to a direction that would hurt our economy, who will he stay for?

MADDOW: So, if Gary Cohn is a process guy, though, if he wants a deliberate process and even if he doesn`t agree with the president on everything, at leas he wants things to be rational, how could somebody who wants deliberate process and rationality have lasted this long.

RUHLE: Agree.

MADDOW: I mean, yes, this is stuff that`s in his wheelhouse that`s gone haywire. But the whole White House is haywire.

RUHLE: He would make the argument, taxes. I`m a process guy and the one thing I got done whether we like the tax reform plan or not, he came to do taxes and hangs his hat on that and Gary led that process. And, you know, Ivanka likes to take credit for the taxes, so does everybody else out there. He can walk out saying, I`m a process guy, I came to do my job and I did it. Now, there is no job for him to do.

MADDOW: So, in terms of the chaos that led to the tariff announcement, you and Peter Alexander had that remarkable report this weekend about what led up to the president making that announcement on Thursday. There`s a roomful of executives. The White House as of midnight the night before didn`t know who those people would be. They couldn`t have the Secret Service clear them and get background checks. They didn`t know who they were going to be.

Then the president announces the tariffs but he doesn`t actually say what they are until he`s told everybody good-bye and reporters start shouting, hey, hey, hey, what are they? Are there numbers? He then appears to my eye to kind of grab these numbers like 25 for steel, 10 for aluminum. I mean, you reported that there were no prepared remarks for him.

RUHLE: None.

MADDOW: And no position paper and no legal back ground.

RUHLE: None. There was no plan how would we discuss this with our allies? How are we going to alert Congress? John Kelly wasn`t aware of how they were going to do this.

So, if it is your responsibility to lead the process and it`s absolutely going bonkers, how can you put your name next to it?

You know, Gary is getting criticism saying, well, you stood with the president after Charlottesville but money is the issue? That`s what you won`t stand with him over? Well, after Charlottesville, fair point, after Charlottesville, he did say I`m not happy with this, but he would make the argument now I came to focus on the economy, how can I do that going forward? I`m guessing.

MADDOW: Is there any possibility the president didn`t know what the numbers are going to be on the tariff before he shouted them out to that reporter?

RUHLE: Sure.

MADDOW: Like was 10 and 25 decided before he got there?

RUHLE: I don`t believe so but President Trump --

MADDOW: So he just was like yeah, we`re going to do this tariff, 25 percent? He just made up the number.

RUHLE: President Trump has given prepared remarks before and while practicing his team said, for example, President Trump you`re wrong on the stock market value, how much it`s gone up and he said I get my numbers from Hannity, not from his own economics` team.

President Trump repeatedly called China a currency manipulator and it was after he won, they walked him over to the Treasury Department and said we have an actual model. We put in the currency and that`s factually incorrect, and the president walks back from that.

Now, Gary is staying another two weeks. Do we think he`s going to -- Trump will move forward with the tariffs? Sure. What they`re going to look like exactly unclear, but I`m guessing that globalist side of the House will try to fight it.

MADDOW: Stephanie Ruhle, NBC News correspondent, the anchor of "MSNBC LIVE" which airs here at 9:00 a.m. Eastern -- thank you for helping us. You made me feel worse about the whole thing. It`s nice to see you.

RUHLE: So sorry.

MADDOW: But I just feel more worried.

RUHLE: There you go. Thank you.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEACHERS: Who made history? We made history. Who made history? We made history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Teachers of West Virginia today ended a nine-day strike and you can hear from what they were saying there how it worked out. This was all 55 counties in West Virginia, all 680 public schools in the state. The governor had actually told the teachers that they should go back to work because he was promising them a pay raise.

That was days ago but the teachers decided they would not take his word for it. They stuck it out and kept the strike going until the legislature actually approved the pay raise, which is I think the only reason they approved that pay raise. They did it and today, the governor signed a bill giving teachers and all state employees a 5 percent raise, and the teachers when they weren`t chanting, they were breaking into song.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

MADDOW: Now, the victory after this long strike, it wasn`t without a serious price. The pay raise is going to be financed through very deep cuts to the budget including $20 million slash to general services and Medicaid. Funding that keeps health care premiums lower and benefit cuts at bay only lasts until the middle of next year and then it`s back to the drawing board or picket line.

So, the teachers today celebrated, but they know the real victory won`t come until November, if not then.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Folks, remember what they put you through. Get out there and get active and make sure everybody goes and votes in November.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Hard-fought victories like the one in Virginia today are like yawns in a crowded room. They are contagious, right? You see your co- worker yawn and then you`re yawning, right?

Same thing, it`s already happening. Teachers in Kentucky and in Oklahoma say they are considering following in the footsteps of what West Virginia`s teachers did. In Kentucky, they are asking for better pay and benefits.

In Oklahoma, the teacher`s union is threatening to shut down schools within months if their demands aren`t met, they are the worst paid teachers in the country. If Oklahoma teachers do strike, they will be looking for the first pay raise in a decade. They are the lowest paid teachers in the nation right now in a state that`s just gone through the big oil and gas boom.

What we saw in West Virginia today was more than a victory lap. It`s a bit of reckoning but it is definitely a story that is not over. Watch this space.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: This afternoon, "The Washington Post" broke a new story about the scope of the Robert Mueller investigation. We`ve had a lot of these stories recently. A lot of national news organizations have reported on things that Mueller is believed to now be investigating.

And all the stories are interesting. Mueller investigations really important, really interesting. But we take all the stories with the same grain of salt because presumably, the sourcing on these stories is witnesses who have been asked about these matters or their lawyers talking to reporters about it. And witnesses and their lawyers, they can see a little bit of what Mueller is doing from their own perspective. But unless you`re involved directly in Mueller`s team, nobody can see the overall strategy that they`re pursuing in the special counsel`s office, which is why we all keep being surprised every time they unveil new indictments.

But with that grain of salt, what "The Washington Post" reported today is that the president`s long-time personal lawyer Michael Cohen, he is the focus of some of Mueller`s inquiries now, specifically Michael Cohen`s role in pursuing a Trump Tower Moscow project during the presidential campaign while Trump himself is denying to the public that he had any dealings with Russia.

Michael Cohen is reportedly working on a possible Trump Tower Moscow for the president, including having Mr. Trump sign a letter of intent to pursue that project while he was running for president. "The Post" reports that Mueller is looking into that. And also that Mueller is looking into that and also that Mueller is looking into a strange meeting and a strange proposal that was first reported by "The New York Times" in February of last year.

This is a meeting that took place right after the inauguration, about a week after the inauguration. It was in a New York hotel. And it took place between Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, a Ukrainian lawmaker, and Felix Sater, a Russian born long-time Trump associate who is an ex-con and who is believed to have had Russian mafia ties and who for decades has had an association with the FBI as a cooperating witness.

These fellows reportedly got together in New York right after the inauguration and created a proposal for a peace plan between Russia and Ukraine. A plan that would result naturally in the U.S. dropping sanctions against Russia. Now, the headline from "The Washington Post" today is that Mueller and his investigators are looking at that matter, that peace plan meeting, as part of their investigation.

But "The Post" also buried one super interesting new piece of reporting about that story which I think is brand-new, and I think makes this whole area of inquiry much more interesting and much more hard to explain if you`re the Trump campaign or the Trump White House. According to this new story in "The Post" today, when Michael Cohen`s, Trump`s personal lawyer and these other guys were working on this proposal, they did so under the explicit impression that this plan they were writing up, that they were going to deliver to the Trump White House, they were working on this plan under the explicit impression that the plan had come from the Russian government.

Quote, Cohen told "The Post" that the Ukrainian lawmaker had announced at their meeting that he had devised this proposal in consultation with the Russian government.

Cohen telling "The Washington Post," quote, he said Russia was on board, the Russian government. Oh, really? I mean, it was already an amazing prospect that the president`s personal lawyer was working on plans to drop Russian sanctions within a week of the inauguration after Russia intervened in the election to get Trump in office.

If this plan, though, that he was pitching actually came from the Russian government and he knew it at the time, and the people who were working on that plan talked about that fact amongst themselves, while they were making plans to drop it off at Mike Flynn`s office in the White House, if they were knowingly being conduits of the Russian government`s demands about dropping sanctions, that`s going to be hard to explain.

And now, apparently, some of the people who are trying to get an explanation for that are the prosecutors who work for Robert Mueller. So, important new advance in that story today from "The Washington Post." We get lots of reports about what Mueller might be working on. In this case, we`ve also got a big weird new admission that we never had before.

Stick a pin in that. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: So amid all the other breaking news stories this evening, the president`s top economic adviser resigning, the Mueller investigation getting a new cooperating witness, allegation that foreign money has been funneled into the Trump campaign or into the Trump administration -- amid all of that jazz, all those stories breaking tonight, the president tonight also just got sued by adult film actress Stormy Daniels. She is now sued the president, saying her agreement not to discuss her alleged affair with the president is not valid because she says the president never signed the agreement. And so she is suing him over that.

If you want more details on that, I`m going to hand you over to the tender administrations of Lawrence O`Donnell, whose show begins right now.

Hi, Lawrence.

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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END