Trump's 2013 letter to Putin. TRANSCRIPT: 03/09/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Rosalind Helderman, Melissa Falkowski

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: March 9, 2018 Guest: Rosalind Helderman, Melissa Falkowski

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Have an excellent weekend.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": Thank you. You too.

MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Really happy to have you all here. Happy Friday.

"The Washington Post" has just broken news that Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating the Russian attack on our election in 2016 and whether or not the Trump campaign was involved in that, Robert Mueller and his investigators according to "The Washington Post" has obtained a personal letter written from President Trump to President Vladimir Putin. A typed letter that reportedly has a handwritten postscript on the bottom.

I don`t know why Robert Mueller`s team has been able to obtain this document. If you think about it, typewritten letter with a handwritten postscript, that presumably only exists for the person who received it, right? But Mueller somehow obtained it.

Anyway, "The Washington Post" has just broken that story. We have got one of the reporters who broke the news joining us in just a couple of minutes. So, that just breaking tonight. We`ve got that ahead.

In addition to that, I have some great news for you. You are getting a new yacht. It is a gigantic yacht. It`s apparently worth a quarter billion dollars. Not a quarter million, a quarter billion dollars, $250 million.

This is the kind of yacht that is so big and expensive, it turns out, there is a person in the world who posts online under the name "Dutch Mega- Yachts." And this person has put slow-mo pictures of your new yacht on the Dutch Mega-Yachts page on YouTube. And the pictures of your new yacht are so alluring, so inanimate object sexy that whoever this is has posted these pictures of your new yacht on YouTube, I kid you not, with a Barry White soundtrack.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

MADDOW: This is a thing that exists. Did you ever see the Steve Martin remake of "Pink Panther"? Somebody says to him, are you ever lonely? And he says, not since the internet.

My whole favorite part about this is that this Barry White soundtrack, sexy slow-mo footage of the yacht is not just from anywhere, this is dutchmegayachts.com. So, their sexy pictures of the yacht have Barry White singing sexily to it while it sails through the cargo container loading area of the industrial port city of Rotterdam.

That`s your yacht. And that`s a big crane. I love this so much. Look, with the cargo container.

The world is full of amazing people who do amazing things. Mostly online. People have all sorts of feelings that you wouldn`t expect.

But the reason that we went looking for this footage today is because that yacht in that Barry White-themed slow-mo movie, that yacht does now belong to you. We also have slightly less glamorous footage of the same yacht being boarded by local law enforcement officers and FBI agents this past week in Bali and Indonesia.

This new yacht that you own is a $250 million yacht. It`s called "The Equanimity." It has now been seized by the FBI, by U.S. federal agents, and is being handed over to the U.S. government.

So congratulations, U.S. taxpayer! Hope you like your new boat.

I should also tell you that this week, you also just became the proud owner of $60 million worth of proceeds that were earned by the film "Wolf of Wall Street." The producers of the movie have now surrendered $60 million of what that film made to the U.S. government. So you own those proceeds now too.

You apparently are also about to become the owner of some of the proceeds of the movie "Daddy`s Home" starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, and you are also about to become the owner of some of the proceeds from the movie "Dumb and Dumber 2" which stars a car that looks like a dog.

In the case of those two movies, though, unlike "Wolf of Wall Street," where we know it`s $60 million that you`re getting, I don`t know exactly how much of the proceeds you are about to get from "Dumb and Dumber 2", and the dad one, but you`re about to get some of it as a U.S. taxpayer.

And the reason you are now the owner of all of this new stuff you didn`t own before is because of this guy. Not the one on the left, the other guy, who is the prime minister of Malaysia.

If you are the prime minister of a country and hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars suddenly show up in your personal bank account, you better have a really good explanation for that, right? I mean, prime minister jobs do tend to come with a nice salary, but not hundreds of millions of dollars overnight kind of salary.

A couple of years ago, though, somebody put almost $700 million into the bank account of the prime minister of Malaysia. And he really had no good explanation for it. For months, he just said it was nobody`s business. It was his money.

He said these allegations, these insinuations that there was anything inappropriate about the sudden infusion of $700 million into his private bank account, he said this was just his political opponents trying to undermine him, there was nothing to see here. Then his own attorney general and his deputy prime minister started saying, actually, you know, maybe the prime minister should answer questions about this mysterious $700 million. The prime minister reacted to that by firing both of them. He fired his deputy prime minister and he fired his attorney general.

The prime minister then appointed a new attorney general to look at the circumstances of that money turning up in his bank account, and that new hand-picked attorney general looked into it and declared that really it was all fine. Nobody had done anything wrong.

And that`s when they decided what their public explanation would be for where the money came from. The explanation was that that money, that $700 million, it was a present. It was a no-strings-attached gift for the prime minister from the Saudi royal family. Their line was that there was a Saudi prince who decided that he liked the prime minister of Malaysia, and no occasion really, he just decided that the prime minister could probably do with $700 million, so he gave it to him. Free for nothing.

When that`s your good-sounding explanation, when that`s your "everything is fine, nothing to see here" excuse that a Saudi prince dropped it off and we don`t know why, if that`s the good sounding explanation, you know the bad- sounding explanation must be really, really, really bad.

Well, sure enough, a few months later the United States Department of Justice filed a 250-page complaint alleging that that $700 million cash that turned up mysteriously in the personal bank account of the Malaysian prime minister, that was just a fraction of the proceeds of a gigantic heist. A giant act of thievery, a corruption scheme, in which the prime minister and his family and his associates stole billions of dollars from the Malaysian government, $4.5 billion they stole in cash from the Malaysian government. And some of it they just stacked up in bank accounts, but mostly they laundered it all over the world, including in the United States, which is why the U.S. Justice Department brought the case even though the money was stolen from the people of Malaysia.

And the list of stuff that they spent the stolen money on is a ridiculous list of stuff. The prime minister`s family and friends -- they bought penthouses in New York City. They bought mansions in Beverly Hills. They bought yachts, yes, yachts, Barry White style and otherwise. They bought Picasso paintings. They did a lot of gambling.

The prime minister`s wife mysteriously ended up with a lot of ridiculous Jewelry. The prime minister`s step-son used a bunch of the money to finance some Hollywood movies, including "The Wolf of Wall Street," "Daddy`s Home" and "Dumb and Dumber 2" all through a company called Red Granite Pictures. If you actually watch the trailers for any of those Hollywood movies, you`ll see a splash page at the beginning of all those trailers for Red Granite Pictures.

U.S. Justice Department says that was the money laundering vehicle for some of these gazillions of dollars that were stolen from the Malaysian government by the prime minister, his family and their associates.

And yes, that`s sort of a bonkers list of things to spend money on, particularly if you are trying to stay low-key and get away with this kind of theft, right? Ostentatious much? But in a way, if you think about it, you sort of have to spend the money on something. It is hard to explain hundreds of billions of dollars, let alone billions of dollars just sitting in bank accounts. Maybe it`s better to convert it into real-world salable assets, converted even into assets that might make a profit. If "Dumb and Dumber 2" is anywhere near as good as the original, it might be a great investment.

Well, now, the United States has started the process of seizing the assets that are believed to have been bought by the criminals who carried off the scheme. The stuff that was stolen with Malaysian government money, U.S. federal official, the FBI, started last summer going after the real estate. They made Leonardo DiCaprio hand over the Picasso that he was given as a gift by the good people who turned up with barrels full of cash to finance "The Wolf of Wall Street." And the Justice Department has continued to pursue its investigation into this huge heist, this massive theft of billions of dollars in government funds, which ended up resulting in the purchase of all of these things.

So, a few things here. Number one, congratulations on your new yacht. It is lovely! Even to the point where it`s attractive. Two, yes, it was strange when President Trump hosted the Malaysian prime minister at the White House just a few months ago, in September, in the middle of this big investigation. White House never mentioned the federal agents who were pursuing the Malaysian prime minister as a multi-billion dollar thief in this gigantic scheme.

There was actually worry in advance of the Malaysian prime minister visiting Trump that, if on this trip to the White House, the prime minister`s wife wore some specific jewelry she is known to possess, federal agents might be put in the awkward position of having to take that jewelry off her, like maybe when she was leaving the White House grounds, or maybe at their hotel. Naturally, the Malaysian prime minister and his entourage, including his wife, all stayed at our president`s hotel in Washington while they were for that visit, which means that government funds that rightfully belong to the people of Malaysian have now gone into the pocket of the Malaysian prime minister himself but also into the pocket of our president. Nice. No wonder they get along so well.

So, the ongoing Justice Department investigation and the seizure of all these luxury items bought with the stolen funds, that makes that White House visit a little weird. Now, it`s getting weirder because the "Wall Street Journal" has obtained documents, e-mails, that appear to show that a top Republican fundraiser close to President Donald Trump was in negotiations to earn tens of millions of dollars if the Justice Department dropped the investigation into the graft scandal involving a Malaysian state investment fund.

Quote: in emails dated during the past year, Elliott Broidy and his wife discussed setting up a consulting contract with a Malaysian businessman at the center of a multi-billion dollar graft scandal.

I should tell you, the specific businessman we`re talking about here who they were trying to set up some sort of contract with, he is the guy who is technically the owner of your new yacht, "The Equanimity," this yacht that FBI agents just seized in this case. FBI agents have found the yacht, but the guy himself who is technically the owner, who is allegedly part of this big theft scheme with the prime minister, that guy has gone missing.

And they are now looking for him right now. But according to the "Wall Street Journal," within the last year, these e-mails that "The Journal" obtained show that a Trump fundraiser was pursuing a draft business agreement with that guy, the guy who is now a fugitive, right, the guy who owns the yacht and cannot be found. Elliott Broidy and his wife were pursuing a deal in which he and his wife would get paid a cool $75 million if they were able to succeed in getting the Justice Department to drop this Malaysian case.

This is weird, right? This massive corruption case, massive heist, multi billion-bar scheme and Trump is hosting the prime minister at the center of it, in the middle of this big case by the Justice Department?

And the main business guy who also seems to have benefited from it, at least it got him a $250 million yacht, he is involved with one of Trump`s fundraisers who are asking for a $75 million payment to get the U.S. Justice Department to drop this case against him. It`s a strange story, right? Who knows where this one ends?

There is another story in the "Wall Street Journal" tonight about the president`s lawyers making an offer to the special counsel Robert Mueller. Quote: President Donald Trump`s lawyers are seeking to negotiate a deal with special counsel Robert Mueller that uses an interview with the president as leverage to spur a conclusion to Mueller`s investigation. The president`s lawyers are reportedly considering, quote, suggesting a deadline of 60 days for Mueller to wrap up his investigation.

I don`t think that`s going to happen. I don`t think anybody thinks that`s going to happen. I mean, not only are the president`s lawyers not in a position to be laying down demands at this point, with at least four guilty pleas in the case already, at least. There may be more that are not yet unsealed, with two criminal trials on dozens of felony charges due to start this summer and into the fall.

But in addition to the fact that the president`s legal team wouldn`t seem to have the leverage that Mueller do anything, let alone wrap things up quickly for them now, frankly, we are still at the part of the scandal where we keep meeting new characters, we keep starting new episodes. We all just got a new yacht! Come on!

I mean, this guy Elliott Broidy, the Trump fundraiser who turns up in the middle of this weird Malaysia heist, we first met him in the middle of the presidential campaign, May 2016, when we marveled, at least I marveled on the air at the fact that the RNC had just named this guy Broidy the vice chair of the Trump Victory Fund for the Republican National Committee. I marveled at that on the air because he was at the time most famous for one of the most astonishing bribery cases ever in a U.S. state that is so corrupt already it`s hard to be astonished by anything here.

In 2009, this guy Elliott Broidy pled guilty to paying an amazing series of bribes to officials in New York state. He was bribing those official so they could give his financial firm a piece of a big New York state controlled pile of money. They give his firma a piece of the pension fund for state workers.

Elliott Broidy paid the state officials a million dollars in bribes. He paid -- the bribes were incredible. He paid an all-expense-paid luxury vacation for the state comptroller and his family, first-class airfare to Israel, luxury suites at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, a chauffeured car and driver, helicopter tours. I mean, that was the bribe to the comptroller and his family. To the deputy comptroller, he got his brother a $400,000 Tony Soprano style no show job. For the chief of staff to the comptroller, he slipped over a 100 grand to the guy`s girlfriend.

All of these bribes, it was spelled out in the indictment when all these state officials had to go to jail for taking all these bribes. Elliott Broidy is the guy who bribed them. He bribed them to get business for his firm. It worked. His firm got the business. He personally made like $18 million off this scheme, which is a good investment if he only had to put out a million.

The only problem was they caught him. And in the end, it was the state officials who he bribed who ended up going to prison. Elliott Broidy himself flipped and went state`s evidence. He pled guilty to a felony charge of rewarding official misconduct. So, he was a felon. Ultimately, in reward for his cooperation, he got to withdraw his felony plea and, in the end, just admit to a misdemeanor because he flipped and weaseled on the people he paid the bribes to, those are the people who went to jail, while he didn`t.

And then the Republican Party named him vice chair of the Donald Trump Victory Fund for the RNC, of all the people in the world. His felony bribery charges were not even that long ago. That was late 2009.

Well, now that the Trump campaign is over, Elliott Broidy has since become the deputy finance chairman of the RNC, working in Steve Wynn`s shop there, one of the other deputy finance chairman is Michael Cohen, president`s personal lawyer, now known for the porn star payment scandal. How are you doing staying out of the Trump scandals, RNC?

Now, their deputy finance chairman, Mr. Broidy, has just taken a hard turn into the middle of the Robert Mueller investigation. A few days ago, we learned that Mueller and his team of prosecutors have a new cooperating witness in their investigation. His named is George Nader. He`s an adviser to the government of the United Arab Emirates. Mueller`s team is reportedly interested in what Nader has to say as a cooperating witness because they`re investigating, quote, the influence of foreign money on Trump`s political activities. Mueller`s prosecutors have reportedly asked witnesses about the possibility that George Nader has funneled money from the United Arab Emirates into President Trump`s political efforts.

It`s illegal, of course, for their foreign money in U.S. politics. It`s illegal for any American to facilitate that. So, Mueller is reportedly looking into that issue using this cooperating witness, George Nader. His cooperating witness, George Nader, turns out to be in business with Elliott Broidy, the same guy who has reportedly been offering to get rid of the Justice Department`s Malaysia investigation for a $75 million fee to him and his wife -- the guy who is a New York state pension fund bribery felon, this magnificent specimen of civic-mindedness who was named deputy finance chairman of the RNC.

He surfaces now in the reporting about this new cooperating witness helping the Mueller investigation examine the possibility of foreign money flowing into the Trump political operation because Elliott Broidy has reportedly been giving George Nader detailed briefings on the work he has been doing at the White House, including meetings with President Trump to pursue the foreign policy aims of this country that George Nader works for, UAE, and to try to turn the Trump administration against UAE`s rivals in the Middle East.

Elliott Broidy himself is someone who has recently received hundreds of millions of dollars from UAE. Quote: After the inauguration, George Nader, quote, became friendly with Elliott Broidy and introduced him to the crown prince of UAE. Broidy`s company then signed contracts with the UAE worth several hundred million dollars. I wonder if they know he once pled guilty to a felony.

This is all getting pretty ugly pretty fast. This child pornography indictment against George Nader surfaced last night in a report from Natasha Bertrand to "Atlantic Magazine". George Nader was charged with receiving and possessing child porn. Police recovered a big trove of it from his bedroom in Washington, D.C., but the charges were eventually dismissed because of a procedural problem with the search warrant in that case.

For Elliott Broidy`s part, he says the reason his e-mails are now turning up in news reports all over the world, including the one where he puts a $75 million price tag on getting the Justice Department to drop its case about the heist in Malaysia, he says the reason his e-mails are turning up all over the place in news reports now is because he says he has been hacked by a foreign government and he is the real victim here.

It`s hard to know how to weigh any of these claims or why this stuff is coming out now, but just step back from this for a second. Just this week, we learned about a new cooperating witness and a new line of inquiry into foreign money allegedly coming into the Trump political operation. Apparently, they have had this guy since January, just finding out about it now, including his ties to the deputy finance chair of the RNC.

And a Trump aide named -- Trump campaign aide named Sam Nunberg did just do seven hours of testimony today before Mueller`s grand jury in Washington, D.C. Apparently, the grand jury is still getting a workout.

And the freaking "Washington Post" just reported tonight that Robert Mueller has obtained a personal letter from Donald Trump to Vladimir Putin from 2013, a typed letter with a handwritten note from Trump below the typed part. How on earth have Mueller and his prosecutors obtained that document?

So, yes. This is cute. This is cute tonight. Trump lawyers seek deal with Mueller to speed end of Russia probe. That`s cute.

I am thinking, probably not. We are still meeting new people. We are still winning new prizes. This just doesn`t feel over at all.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: In late 2013, the man who is now president of the United States, Donald Trump, he traveled to Moscow in Russia to attend the Miss Universe Pageant. Mr. Trump was very open at the time about the fact that he hoped Russian President Vladimir Putin would show up to the beauty pageant. Mr. Putin never showed up, but the Russian leader did, we`re told, he did send Trump a gift.

"The Washington Post" first reported it in the summer of 2016. Quote: Putin canceled at the last minute but sent a decorative lacquered box, a traditional Russian gift, and a warm note according to Aras Agalarov, a Moscow billionaire who served as a liaison between Trump and the Russian leader. What the warm note from Putin to Trump said, we have no idea.

But tonight, "The Washington Post" has a new scoop about a previously unknown letter going in the other direction, a previously unknown letter from Trump to Putin. Here`s the headline. Quote, in a personal letter, Trump invited Putin to the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant.

The article says, quote, Donald Trump was so eager to have Vladimir Putin attend the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow that he wrote a personal letter to the Russian president inviting him to the event. That`s according to multiple people familiar with the document.

Quote, at the bottom of the typed letter Trump scrawled a postscript, adding that he looked forward to seeing beautiful women during his trip.

So, this is -- this is 2013. This personal letter from Trump to Putin. Now, I just -- I am not all that bewitched or bewildered by the fact that he wrote the personal letter inviting him to the pageant. What I am bewildered by is the fact that "The Washington Post" says in this report tonight that special counsel Robert Mueller somehow has this letter.

According to "The Washington Post" tonight, quote, the letter, the first known attempt at direct outreach by Trump to Putin, the letter has been turned over to investigators probing Russia`s interference in the 2016 campaign.

If you send somebody a typed letter with a hand-written postscript on it, how many people can actually have that letter? Who did Mueller get it from? And how?

For the record, a lawyer for the president tells "The Washington Post" tonight that he is not familiar with the letter. The comment from the lawyer John Dowd to "The Washington Post" is, quote, it`s all nonsense.

Joining us now is Rosalind Helderman, political investigations reporter at "The Washington Post," one of the three post reporters who is bylined on this scoop. Ms. Helderman, thank you very much for joining us. I appreciate your time.

ROSALIND HELDERMAN, POLITICAL INVESTIGATIONS REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST (via telephone): Thank you for having me.

MADDOW: It seems that this is a 2013 letter, because of the timing of the pageant. Do we have more specificity as to exactly when it was or where Trump sent it from?

HELDERMAN: It was in June of 2013. And we don`t know where he sent it from. And I should say we don`t, in fact, know it was delivered. But we know that the letter exists, and we know that investigators now have a copy of it.

MADDOW: The thing that is hard for me to get my head around, which I just mentioned, is when you describe a physical object like this, a typewritten letter with a handwritten postscript, that`s not the sort of thing you would imagine somebody would keep carbons of or make photocopies of. You don`t imagine that that`s the sort of document that would routinely be duplicated except possibly by the person who received it.

Do you have any insight that you can share as to how Mueller`s team may have obtained this or how they know it existed?

HELDERMAN: Well, the short answer is that we don`t know. There are certainly kind of mysterious possibilities.

I can also think of some fairly not mysterious possibilities. I know generally speaking, we know that one thing that Donald Trump was known to have done in his communications at times was to write letters and sign them and then have his staff and people around him scan those letters and then e-mail them because he was not a user of e-mail.

And so, he would send letters that would be ultimately e-mailed but the letter itself would be a PDF of a letter. So I don`t know that that`s what happened here, but I think it`s certainly not inconceivable, and of course, once the document is made electronic, a lot of people might have a copy.

MADDOW: Last question for you. This is remarkable reporting, especially given the secrecy around the Mueller investigation itself.

Does this indicate some sort of broader look or area of focus of the Mueller investigation into Trump`s relationship with the Agalarovs?

Obviously, the Agalarovs are his business partners in the Miss Universe pageant. They were reportedly were involved in other business ventures with Trump potentially in Moscow, whether or not those ever came to fruition. And he`s been described -- the senior Agalarov has been described as a conduit between Trump and Putin. We know that Emin Agalarov was involved in setting up that Trump Tower meeting during the campaign.

HELDERMAN: The short answer is yes. We do understand that Mueller and his team have asked a variety of witnesses, a whole bunch of questions about the relationship with the Agalarovs, about the Miss Universe pageant, about financing of the Miss Universe pageant and, in fact, about this particular storyline, Donald Trump`s eagerness for Vladimir Putin to attend the pageant and how that all unfolded. What were the outreaches and why was it in the end that Putin did not attend?

MADDOW: Rosalind Helderman, political investigations reporter at "The Washington Post", helping break this scoop tonight that Mueller`s investigators have obtained a personal letter from Trump to Putin from 2013 -- Rosalind, thank very much. Congratulations on the scoop.

HELDERMAN: Thank you so much.

MADDOW: All right. We got much more ahead tonight. Stay with us. Busy night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: I told you there is a lot going on tonight. "Wall Street Journal" has just published this. Quote: Inside the Oval Office late Thursday, so last night, President Donald Trump interrupted a trio of top South Korean officials as they analyzed an offer to meet from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and outlined possible diplomatic options. Mr. Trump cut short the discussion, saying, OK, OK, tell them I`ll do it.

The South Korean officials looked at each other as if in disbelief, according to a White House official with knowledge of the meeting. President said, quote, tell him yes.

The spur of the moment decision from Mr. Trump to have the South Koreans speak for him announcing the decision was itself unexpected. This is an agreement, quote, for a meeting between Trump and Kim with no advance preparation. Trump agreed to the summit before any of his aides had even sat down with a North Korean representative to clarify precisely where Pyongyang stands on fundamental nuclear issues.

He blindsided everybody, even the people who are in the room with him, when he made the decision. Yes, yes, tell him I`ll do it. OK, OK. Tell him yes.

This week, right up until the announcement was made last night, administration officials had been saying they were not expecting any change on North Korea anytime soon. State Department said it yesterday afternoon. The vice president just got back from South Korea and he personally said it.

But then, surprise! Last night the South Korean national security adviser turns up in the White House driveway to announce that, for the first time, a sitting U.S. president will say yes to a North Korean dictator`s invitation to meet one on one. This is a decision that even the South Koreans reportedly couldn`t believe themselves. They looked at each other as if in disbelief.

Well, because of the strangeness of this announcement, and its novelty, today, there was only a half measure of surprise when White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders at her press briefing walked back the president`s commitment from last night, saying actually there wouldn`t be any summit until North Korea met a bunch of provable preconditions. Interestingly, though, after she said that at the press briefing, some unnamed White House official clarified that, even though Sarah Huckabee Sanders might have tried to take back the president`s saying yes, her take- back was itself now being taken back.

Quote, the invitation has been extended and accepted, and that stands, despite what the press secretary said about it not standing.

Imagine that you worked in the federal government. You are a highly trained person. You`re a subject matter expert. Your job is national security and foreign policy, your job is the threat of nuclear annihilation, right? Stuff like that.

That`s your job. And this is how major decisions on this subject are really being made now in real time. Would you stay in that job? Would you find your work fulfilling?

Joining us now is Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent and the host of "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS", weekdays at noon Eastern.

Andrea, thank you so much for being with us tonight. I`m really glad you could be here.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Thank you.

MADDOW: Let me ask you a couple very specific questions here, because if anybody knows this, you will know this. Why wasn`t the South Korean national security adviser who got to announce this and once they decided he was going to announce this, why did they have him standing on the White House driveway making the announcement outside?

MITCHELL: In the dark.

MADDOW: Do you know?

MITCHELL: Yes, they didn`t think it would be appropriate to do it in the briefing room or in one of the White House official rooms. They didn`t want him to do it with the president, clearly. They didn`t want to have him do it with the United States, with McMaster, his counterpart.

So, they sent the poor man out in the driveway, and it looked incredibly awkward. There was a background briefing later, you know, for White House correspondents and the rest of us dialing in. But the fact is, this was such an audible. This man was supposed to meet with the president on Friday. But the -- when Donald Trump heard that the national security adviser of the delegation from South Korea was meeting with intelligence officials and military officials, senior cabinet officials, in the White House, he invited them into the Oval Office.

And, as you just -- as was described by the "Wall Street Journal" and earlier by Mark Landler of "The New York Times" this morning, he just said, yes, I`ll do it. And they hadn`t even gone through their points of trying to persuade their counterparts, their American counterparts. And then -- so Minister Chung said, no, I haven`t consulted my President Moon. So, they said, well, let`s call him. And so, they all get on the phone with President Moon, apparently, and he said sure, because this is the policy he ran on.

Of course, then they had to circle back and explain all of this to Shinzo Abe in Japan, who has been nervous about these moves by South Korea, which is going a lot faster than Japan is comfortable with towards this new bilateral and potentially trilateral relationship with the United States where everyone is supposed to be in lockstep. This was not lockstep.

MADDOW: So, Andrea, one of the things you`ve highlighted in your reporting is we don`t have an ambassador to South Korea. Victor Cha withdrew his name from consideration.

MITCHELL: Forced to be dropped out.

MADDOW: Right.

Also, the top Korea policy person in the State Department who is a 30-year foreign service veteran just quit. I think just left the administration, is gone now within the last few days. Obviously, Rex Tillerson is in Africa while this is happening.

Is it clear the president was advised as to why every other modern president has said no to this same invitation from North Korean`s dictators?

MITCHELL: It is not at all clear, although there were divisions -- there are divisions about this, you could hear that in the run-up to the announcement from the president last night. There were a lot of officials telling us, you know, we are not going to move too quickly.

Tillerson, in his defense, was trying to not get out of -- out front of the president. He had talked to the president yesterday morning. He knew it was going to happen, talks about talks about negotiations, not real negotiations. And he was very much in favor of that, as was Secretary Mattis. But it`s always been McMaster who has been more muscular about using possible military action and threats.

They do feel that the sanctions are hurting, that China has been stepping up. But the disorganized way this was announced and the fact that the president -- I am not sure that the president has fully absorbed how important this is for Kim Jong-un, to be the first Korean leader to have an American president doing his bidding, really, and what was really interesting is that they leaked the fact that there was a letter being delivered to him from Kim Jong-un, which would have been interesting because Dan Coats and others were there from the intelligence community and would have had a document they could have analyzed.

There was no such letter. This was a verbal message communicated by the South Koreans who have a dog in this hunt. So, now, they are back- channeling at the U.N. and other arenas where they do have contacts and have had a continual relationship with North Koreans at a lower level to try to ascertain if Kim Jong-un actually meant what the South Koreans said he offered, which was significant. Not to be concerned about the joint military exercise, not to find that threatening, to be willing to talk about denuclearization and the moratorium on tests which may not be militarily significant because they may have achieved what they need to do right now, which is, according to the defense intelligence this week, three intercontinental missiles, two of which can reach the United States and we don`t know what stage of miniaturization and re-entry technology they`ve achieved.

MADDOW: Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent, host of "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS" weekdays at noon here. Andrea, remarkable time to be covering this stuff and I feel grateful to be your colleague with your depth of knowledge on this stuff.

MITCHELL: Certainly mutual. Thank you.

MADDOW: Thanks.

All right. I will say the last point Andrea was making in terms of what the North Koreans still have to prove with various tests and everything -- I mean, it has been the dream of North Korean leaders for decades now that they would advance their missile programs so much so that the United States would be forced to acknowledge them as an equal and to meet with the North Korean leader one on one with the U.S. president.

They got there with this president, and I`m not sure -- I`m not -- I don`t know whether the administration intended it to be that kind of a gift. It is just a remarkable time to be covering this stuff.

All right. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELISSA FALKOWSKI, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER: I had 19 kids with me in the closet. It`s a small closet. We were standing, you know, two by two, you know, in the closet. It was -- it was tight. And we were in there for about 30 or 35 minutes. We know we were getting texts and information that they were still looking for the shooter, and so I told the kids we would stay put until the -- either we heard an announcement or the SWAT team came to get us.

MADDOW: Do you feel like the training you have gone through, the drills, the emergency protocols that you have at your school, that they were the right kind of training now that you have been through this in real life?

FALKOWSKI: Yes. I definitely think so. They knew what to do. We knew what to do.

And even still, even with that, we still have 17 casualties, 17 people who aren`t going to return to their families. And to me, that`s totally unacceptable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: On Valentine`s Day, on February 14th, last month, we were joined by a teacher from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who told us about what it had been like that day trying to keep the kids in her class safe in the face of one of the worst gun massacres in U.S. history.

Since the shootings, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have been leading a national movement for changes in gun law in their state, in Florida, and across the country. Well, today their state, state of Florida, did do something. Governor Rick Scott signed a new law with changes.

The new Florida law will raise the age from buying a gun from 18 to 21. The law will ban bump stocks, which are an accessory which allow semiautomatic weapons to fire more quickly. It will also put more state funding toward mental health.

The law also, though, will probably put more guns in schools, making it easier for a school district to arm some members of their staff.

This law today passed with bipartisan support but also bipartisan opposition. It is now the law, though, a law that never would have happened without the national and the statewide reaction to what happened at Douglas High and to what those kids have been leading in response.

Joining us now is Melissa Falkowski, a teacher from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Ms. Falkowski, it`s nice to see you again. Thank you for being here.

FALKOWSKI: Thank you for having me.

MADDOW: It`s been a remarkable few weeks. It feels like a lifetime.

Let me ask how you have been doing over the last few weeks.

FALKOWSKI: You know, honestly, it depends on the day. It depends on the hour. I have times where I am fine and I feel totally fine. And then, you know, there are times where things hit and then you cry. And then there are times when I`m angry.

And so it is just, I think, just a spectrum of emotions. And it just sort of depends on kind of what`s happening at the moment.

MADDOW: Those kids who were in your class who you were with in the closet. You described the tight space to us actually as the shooting was unfolding. I imagine it`s been a particularly emotional, a particularly fraught thing, a particularly important thing, the bond in that class among those kids and you given what you all went through together.

Obviously, everybody went through it in their own way in their own classrooms no matter where they were in the school, but you guys who were it at that time, I imagine it`s pretty intense.

FALKOWSKI: Yes. I mean, there are kids I already had a very close relationship with anyway because they`re any newspaper students. And, you know, so after this, we`ve just been kind of in the business of, you know, telling our story and moving forward and, you know, trying to participate, you know, in the march for our lives. And so, you know, to say that we haven`t had time to grieve. But, you know, we grieved, and then when we got back to school we got back to the business of journalism which is reporting on what`s happening at our school.

MADDOW: You have a special expertise because of having lived you through this, and done what you needed to do to shepherd your kids that day. So, as such, as that kind of an expert, I wanted to ask your opinion on the bill that was signed into law today. Obviously, it`s got a few different parts. What`s your reaction to it? What do you think?

FALKOSWKI: I mean, I think it has some things in it that are definitely an improvement. I mean, it`s the first gun legislation in our state in over 20 years so I think that`s remarkable. I think it has good things in it, raising the age to 21, banning bump stocks, increase funding for mental health but it fell short of what the kids wanted. It`s not a ban on assault rifles which they wouldn`t even take up the debate in the legislature.

It doesn`t close loopholes and it has this provision in it, this marshal program, which was originally when they started was a program to arm teachers and then they rolled it back to be not people that were exclusively classroom teachers, to people that perform other duties, so like librarians, or custodians, or office staff or principals, you know, could carry a weapon under this program. And I find that to be extremely problematic. I don`t think that, you know, the solution, you know, to our gun problem is to put more guns in schools. I think it raises, you know, more problems than what it solves.

MADDOW: Melissa, who teach journalism at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, will you keep in touch? I`d love to keep the conversation going with you guys.

FALKOWSKI: I`m sorry, I didn`t hear what you said.

MADDOW: I said, will you stay in touch? I`m looking forward to keeping this conversation going forward with you guys.

FALKOWSKI: Yes, me too.

MADDOW: OK, good. Thanks for being with us.

We`ll be right back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: You know today and tonight you might have heard about new reporting about a dramatic list of counterpunches that the Obama administration considered against Russia for them messing in our election, including the possibility of outing Putin`s secret bank accounts where he stashed money for him and his family. You may have heard about some reporting in the last day or so about a prior meeting in Trump Tower that involved Donald Trump himself and two of the people who later set up the Trump Tower meeting, which Trump denied any knowledge of.

You know, both of those pieces of reporting are from Michael Isikoff and David Corn on the Russia attack. Their new book "Russian Roulette" breaks a ton of new news.

Programming note, we`re going to have them both here in person, in studio, on Monday night for the very first interview on that book Monday night. I know, right?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: That does it for us tonight, but once again let me encourage you to be here for Monday night`s show. The new book from Michael Isikoff and David Corn is about to come out which breaks a bunch of news on the Trump- Russia scandal. They`ve put out excerpts, thus far. There`s not going to be anymore excerpts. They`re going to be breaking that new news with me here on Monday night at 9:00 Eastern. That`s the first interview they`re going to do on the book. So, I want you to be sure to be here again on Monday.

For now, though, here`s something completely different. If you haven`t been watching MSNBC promos this week, you might not know this is coming up. But this is actually really good and you should watch it. It`s called, "This Happened: Sex, Lies, and the Candidate".

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