UK expels Russian diplomats after attack on ex-spy. TRANSCRIPT: 03/14/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Caleb Melby, Sarah Chadwick

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW March 14, 2018 Guest: Caleb Melby, Sarah Chadwick

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: We`re going to be speaking with one of the student leaders from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that endured that gun massacre that cost 17 Americans their lives one month ago today. We`re going to be speaking with one of those student leaders a little later on this hour as we watch those incredible walkouts all over the country today, which Chris was just talking about there with Rev. Al.

We`re going to start tonight though, as it is our want to do because I`m a weirdo, we`re going to start with Cuban missile crisis.

Cuban missile crisis was 1962. It took place over 13 very, very stressful days in October 1962.

The United States at that point had had long been flying high altitude surveillance flights over the nation of Cuba but on October 14, 1962, a U-2 surveillance flight picked up imagery in Cuba of something that started that whole crisis, started that whole standoff.

It`s interesting. The Cuban missile crisis is very precisely identified in all the history books as having started on October 16th, two days after that U-2 spy plane captured those images in Cuba.

But the crisis didn`t start on October 16th, because something happened that day because there was some overt act by Cuba. There was some provocation there, or some announcement by them. It didn`t start because on October 16th, there was some act by the Soviet Union or some announcement by the Soviets that kicked off this crisis.

The reason we can be so specific about when the Cuban missile crisis started on October 16th is because that crisis began when the United States had a revelation. The United States realized and figured out with high confidence exactly what it was looking at in those photos that had been taken two days earlier.

The way the United States was able to identify exactly what they were looking at in those photos the way the Kennedy administration was able to look at those photos and come to the conclusion that in fact this was a new secret deployment of nuclear weapons by the Soviet Union, they could get specific about what kinds of missiles and missile launchers and equipment they were looking at, the reason the Cuban missile crisis started was because the U.S. was able to make that into identification. And the reason they were able to make that identification is because of this man.

His name is Oleg Penkovsky. Oleg Penkovsky was a Russian double agent. He was a colonel in the GRU and Soviet military intelligence. And unbeknownst to the Soviet Union, he was secretly spying for Britain and the United States. And he provided the technical materials and descriptions that allow the Kennedy administration in 1962 to confirm in fact that the Soviet Union was secretly moving nuclear missiles to Cuba.

And we can be we can now be even more specific about the value of that information that he provided. At the CIA`s Website, still now, if you go there now, you can see they have a whole section devoted to Oleg Penkovsky and explaining what information he provided. He provided detailed plans and descriptions of the launch sites in Cuba to which the Soviet Union had deployed these missiles starting that summer in 1962.

Penkovsky`s information gave the Kennedy administration such specific technical insight into what they were looking at in the surveillance photos that President Kennedy was able to conclude in October of `62 that he had exactly a three-day window, he had a 72-hour window for negotiating a diplomatic solution to this crisis with Khrushchev before those Soviet missiles would be fully functional and ready to launch.

Three-day window, they knew about it because they knew what they were looking at because Oleg Penkovsky showed them what they were looking at.

According to the CIA, quote, for this reason, Oleg Penkovsky is credited with altering the course of the Cold War. So, that U-2 spy plane, American spy plane, takes the pictures October 14, 1962. The U.S. is able to analyze the photos and have this important revelation about what they were looking at based on Penkovsky`s information. They`re able to come to that revelation on October 16. That is the start of the crisis.

But then less than a week after that, while the crisis is in full flower, while it is at its most terrifying and not at all resolved and it seems like we might be about to have a nuclear war over this issue, on October 22nd, in the middle of the crisis, Oleg Penkovsky was walking down the street in Moscow and the KGB snatched him off the street. They arrested him. They figured out that he was a double agent.

And we apparently still don`t really know how they got him, whether the Soviets were able to somehow reverse engineer what the U.S. had figured out about these missile sites and so maybe that`s how they were able to figure out who might have given the U.S. that information or maybe a British or American double agent who was secretly working for the Russians knew about Penkovsky being this important asset for the Western allies and maybe some American or British double agent gave this guy`s name to the Kremlin, we don`t know.

But in the middle of the crisis, before there was any diplomatic resolution in reach, at a time when the whole world thought the U.S. and Russia might be about to start shooting nuclear missiles at each other, Oleg Penkovsky gets snatched off the street in Moscow. He was the highest-ranking Soviet officer to have ever spied for the U.S. or Great Britain up until that time.

And the KGB snatched him off the street, they charged him with high treason and espionage. He was convicted and in the spring of 1963, they killed him. They executed him inside the Lubyanka Prison in Moscow. They dumped his ashes in a mass grave.

Even today in 2018, the CIA calls Oleg Penkovsky, quote, one of the most valuable assets in CIA history.

Of course, one man`s ceiling is another man`s floor, and this agent, this asset who was so valuable to the American side. From the other side of the equation, from the Soviet perspective, he was seen as one of the most damaging traitors to ever hurt the Soviet Union.

Fast forward 40 years to 2004, December 2004, and the successor agency to the KGB arrests another turncoat double agent colonel from the GRU, another double agent secretly spying for the West while serving in Russian military intelligence. It`s 2004. They snatched him off the street December 2004, on suspicion of treason.

They put him on trial secretly in a military court. Nobody knew what had become of him for two solid years before finally in 2006, the Russian government announced that in this secret military tribunal, he had been convicted of treason. Quote, he convicted -- he consent -- excuse me -- he confessed to selling the names, addresses and code names of several dozen Russian agents to the British security service, to MI6.

Many of the Russian agents betrayed were deep cover spies in Britain and in Europe.

Kommersant newspaper in Russia reported at the time that his conviction was announced, they reported at the time that his conviction was announced in 2006, quote: The FSB considered that damage he had done to Russian spying operations was comparable to the damage caused by Oleg Penkovsky. By Oleg Penkovsky, that other GRU colonel from 40 years earlier who had tipped off the United States to start the Cuban missile crisis.

This guy that they picked up 40 years later in 2004 was considered by the KGB and the FSB to have done comparable damage to this guy from the Cuban missile crisis.

All right. Now, that is a very dramatic assertion and it may be overstated. I mean, after all, when they got Oleg Penkovsky back in 1962, they arrested him, they put him on trial for treason, they convicted him and they shot him. They killed him in prison.

When they got this next guy in 2004, they also arrested him, charged him with treason and convicted him, but they didn`t kill him. They didn`t execute him. They sentenced him to 13 years, and then he didn`t serve out that time.

In 2010, he was pardoned and traded to the West, traded in a in a Western spy swap. He and three other Russian prisoners were swapped for 10 Russians who`d been operating an undercover spy ring in the United States. Ultimately, he went to live in Britain, the country for which he had done his spying and, of course, he was the man who ended up slumped on a park bench in the British town of Salisbury last week. He was in some sort of fugue state. Witnesses described him making strange hand motions while otherwise being non-responsive while his 33-year-old daughter slumped next to him unconscious with her eyes rolled back in her head.

Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. Sergei Skripal was seen in Russia as a very, very consequential double agent, somebody who`s spying for Britain had done profound damage to Russia`s intelligence services. And because of that, it doesn`t take a great leap of imagination to figure out why somebody might have wanted to attack him, who had the strongest motive to attack him.

But since he was attacked in Britain last week, we still have no explanation for why it happened exactly the way it did. Where the attack happened in Salisbury, it was quite near to the British military`s science and technology lab at Porton Down. That`s exactly the secret facility in Britain that would be used to identify a suspected chemical or biological agent.

According to British authorities, the agent that was used to attack Skripal and his daughter was a very specifically identifiable Russian nerve agent. It`s the opposite of a generic poison. I mean, this isn`t even like you know sarin, which is hard to make but scientists and a Japanese doomsday cult figured out how to make it, and they used it to gas a subway platform in Tokyo. This isn`t ricin, which is also an exotic poison but you can`t make it from castor beans if you try hard enough.

This was a Russian military specific sub varietal of nerve agent that doesn`t exist anywhere else in the world and has never been manufactured anywhere and by anyone other than the Russian state. It was therefore a very unusual choice for how to kill someone, especially if you had any interest at all in getting away with it. This is like signing a bullet and putting your return address on it before shooting someone.

Why do that? I mean, it`s very possible because of his history, because of the seriousness of his espionage past, it`s very possible that they were going to get Sergei Skripal someday, somewhere, somehow.

But the way they went after him in broad daylight in a provincial British town right next to the military laboratory, and they went after him with a very dangerous nerve agent that contaminated and hurt other people and that is unmistakably traceable to the Russian military, that`s a very specific kind of attack. The specifics of that attack almost make it feel like it was some sort of international test.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Mr. Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent developed by Russia. Based on this capability, combined with their record of conducting state- sponsored assassinations, including against former intelligence officers whom they regard as legitimate targets, the U.K. government concluded that it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for this reckless and despicable act. They have treated the use of a military-grade nerve agent in Europe with sarcasm, contempt and defiance.

So, Mr. Speaker, there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian state was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr. Skripal and his daughter, and for threatening the lives of other British citizens in Salisbury, including Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey.

This represents an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: British Prime Minister Theresa May today announcing that this attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter was an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the U.K. Prime Minister May went on further to announce the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats from Britain. In response, she canceled high-level bilateral meetings with Russian officials. Britain is pulling back on its attendance at World Cup Soccer events in Russia later this year.

And interestingly, the prime minister also announced increased checks on private flights, customs and freight. She did not explain exactly why she did that but it does raise some intriguing questions about the British investigation into how this nerve agent got into the U.K. in the first place.

So, the prime minister`s announcement today was followed by an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council which included actually quite strong remarks from America`s ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: The United States believes that Russia is responsible for the attack on two people in the United Kingdom using a military-grade nerve agent. Alone, Russia`s crime is worthy of this council`s action, but this is not an isolated incident. The Russians complained recently that we criticize them too much.

If the Russian government stopped using chemical weapons to assassinate its enemies and if the Russian government stopped helping its Syrian ally to use chemical weapons to kill Syrian children, and if Russia cooperated with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, by turning over all information related to this nerve agent, we would stop talking about them. We take no pleasure and having to constantly criticize Russia. But we need Russia to stop giving us so many reasons to do so.

Russia must fully cooperate with the U.K.`s investigation and come clean about its own chemical weapons program.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, speaking today. Strong remarks from her. Those strong remarks appear to have precipitated a fairly strong statement from the White House as well.

A statement released by Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tonight saying, in part, quote: The United States shares the U.K.`s assessment that Russia is responsible for the reckless nerve agent attack on a British citizen and his daughter, and we support the U.K.`s decision to expel Russian diplomats as a just response. This latest action by Russia fits into a pattern of behavior in which Russia disregards the international rules-based order, undermines the sovereignty and security of countries worldwide, and attempts to subvert and discredit western democratic institutions and processes.

Oh really? Right? Strong, strong statement. Russia`s undermining the sovereignty and security of countries worldwide, attempting to subvert and discredit western democratic institutions and -- yes, right. This is a -- for this White House, this is a strong written statement from the press secretary. Also a strong statement today at the U.N. from Nikki Haley.

You will notice the strong contrast between those strong remarks and what the president himself has said on this matter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Mr. President, people think there should be a response from the United States. Do you believe there should be a response from the United States?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes. As soon as we get the facts straight and we`re going to be speaking with the British today, we`re speaking with Theresa May today. And as soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Maybe, it`s a 400-pound guy sitting in his bed.

The president has made no further remarks on this matter since then.

So, this Russian guy being attacked with a nerve agent developed by the Russian military in broad daylight on the street in Britain, this is a bizarre and serious and scary thing. There are international repercussions to it, already, and those will continue. A first strong statement from the U.S. condemning the attack was from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who was then fired just a few hours afterwards.

Now, since then, we have seen subsequent strong statements from Ambassador Nikki Haley and a strong written statement from the press secretary. They appear to not be getting fired. President himself on this matter though, still sort of, no, we`ll see who it is. We`ll see if we agree.

And the elephant in the room, of course, is the ongoing investigation, the ongoing open questions about our president`s own relationship with the Russian government and on that point I will just make one point here. Last night, we reported that Democrats on the Intelligence Committee had unexpectedly released a 21-page document in response to the Republicans shutting down the Russia investigation in the House. The document the Democrats released last night was not just a response to what the Republicans that said they were doing. It was also their own status report on where they believe the investigation stood at the moment the Republicans shut it down.

Now, we didn`t know this report was coming out until we saw it last night and it was a surprise when it came out. As we described last night, that document contains some serious assertions about President Trump and his relationship with Russia, including this blunt statement on page six of their report.

Quote: The committee has learned that candidate Trump`s private business was actively negotiating a business deal in Moscow with a sanctioned Russian bank during the election, period. If you think that`s old news and you`ve heard that before, it`s not. This is a new and specific and potent assertion from the Intelligence Committee Democrats.

Well, tonight, a source familiar with the Democratic report tells us a little bit more about what that grave assertion is about. The source tells us that this is not based on public reporting that everybody has seen from news agencies. A source tells us that testimony did the committee raised serious questions about the effort during the campaign by the Trump Organization to secure foreign financing for a Trump Tower Moscow, including from a sanctioned Russian bank.

According to our source, there are troubling inconsistencies between public assertions about this matter and what the committee discovered through documentary and testimonial evidence during the committee`s investigation.

So, there appears to have been an attempted assassination by chemical warfare on British soil, British government is attributing that attack to the Russian government. U.S. Security Council is taking up the matter. The U.K. government is addressing the matter. The U.S. government is sort of starting to address the matter.

But we are in this bizarre situation where our own president`s silence and mealy-mouthed hemming and hawing on this subject is in the foreground -- while his own secret dealings with the Russian government are starting to unfold and starting to be exposed by a congressional investigation that his Republican allies are trying to shut down. This is -- I mean, we`ve been watching this at one level or another over the course of the past year and a half, right?

But right now with this crisis and this attempted murder, this attempted assassination in Britain, police officers still hospitalized for having gone into the House of these people who apparently were targeted in this attack, two people still fighting for their lives in critical condition, trying to fend off the effects of this Russian military news agent.

Now, in the face of this crisis, what we`re watching here from our perspective as Americans it`s like watching a spy movie that has another spy movie embedded inside of it. I mean, we`ve heard from a bunch of people that they`ve had a hard time getting a hold this Democratic status report that we first reported on last night and now again tonight. We have posted that report tonight at MaddowBlog.com if you want to look at it.

We`ve got lots more to get to tonight. Stay with us. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Now, the Japanese have bought a piece of The Rock, New York`s Rockefeller Center, one of the great symbols of American business, home to, among others, NBC and NBC News. The Rockefeller Group has sold a major interest in the office complex to Mitsubishi state company. The price: $846 million.

NBC`s chief financial correspondent is Mike Jensen.

MIKE JENSEN, NBC NEWS REPORTER: It is one of America`s most famous landmarks. The skating rink, the Christmas tree, the skyscrapers that were built years ago by the family of that symbol of American capitalism, John D. Rockefeller. Now, his heirs are selling a huge chunk of Rockefeller Center to Mitsubishi.

It was big news on Japanese TV, happy news. But not in the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What really bothers me is not that the Japanese bought it, but that the Americans couldn`t afford to keep it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems that they`re taking over the world.

JENSEN: For the first time, foreign investors now own more U.S. property than U.S. investors owned overseas. And polls show that most Americans believe Japanese economic power is a greater threat to the United States than Soviet military power.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Late 1980s, a palpable worry, sometimes approaching a panic that the United States was being economically eclipsed by Japan. It really did kind of freak out about it. News weeklies ran covers with sumo wrestlers and samurais, with these screaming headlines, how Japan does it, containing Japan, the world`s toughest competitor. American car companies released a whole bunch of explicitly anti-Japan car ads.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Cutlass Ciera is a family car built for our size families, not theirs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: One celebrity who made it known at the time how upset he was about Japan taking over America was New York real estate and tabloid celebrity named Donald Trump. In 1987, Mr. Trump had his first public flirtation with running for president. He kicked off his I might run for president campaign that year by spending nearly $100,000 on this full-page ad in "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" and "The Boston Globe", complained that America was getting screwed out of billions of dollars by, among other places, Japan.

But it was the Japanese buying American real estate, buying New York real estate that really seemed to bother Donald Trump the most. This was the Allentown, Pennsylvania paper quoting Trump`s graduation speech to students at Lehigh University in 1988.

Quote: So many countries are whipping America, making billions and stripping the U.S. of economic dignity. I respect the Japanese, but we have to fight back.

The newspaper continues, quote: Trump related an experience with a Japanese business tycoon who brought several henchmen and an aggressive attitude into Trump`s New York office. The man, Trump said, slammed his fist on his desk and demanded, we want real estate.

And whether or not that ever happened, a few months, after a Japanese firm did by Rockefeller Center in New York City, Trump told "Playboy" magazine, quote: the Japanese double screw the U.S., a real trick. First, they take all our money with their consumer goods, then they put it back into buying all of Manhattan. The Japanese can buy our buildings, our Wall Street firms and there`s virtually nothing to stop them. In fact, bidding on a building in New York is an act of futility because the Japanese will pay more than it`s worth just to screw us. They want to own Manhattan.

Japanese did not end up owning Manhattan. Japan`s economy ended up going through its own pretty severe crunch. By the mid-`90s, the real estate binge they had been on in the previous decade had become a big liability. Japanese firms urgently offloaded their U.S. real estate holdings, particularly their New York real estate holdings. Rockefeller Center was forced to file for bankruptcy by its Japanese owners. They eventually took a $2 billion loss, and walked away.

And that kind of experience will scar you. There`s a reason why there hasn`t been a resurgence of government-supported Japanese firms showing off their big New York real estate plays.

But last year, it turns out the Japanese government did find a New York real estate investment that they really liked, and the reason they liked it looks like it might be trouble, and that story`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: During the presidential campaign, most of America`s allies around the world we`re freaking out more or less about the potential presidency of Donald Trump. But one ally in particular was super duper freaking out -- Japan`s leader Shinzo Abe.

Shinzo Abe, the Japanese government, all mainstream Japanese politics, they were scared and gobsmacked and weirded out by the way Trump constantly scapegoated Japan during the campaign, blasting the trade deal they had worked so hard on with the U.S., saying Japan needed to pay more for its defense, saying that Japan should develop its own nuclear weapons.

And then once Trump was actually elected, an unusual thing happened. Shinzo Abe of Japan managed to get himself to be one of the very first world leaders who spoke with Trump after his victory.

There`s supposed to be a protocol to these things, right? An order in which a president-elect is supposed to speak with foreign heads of state so that our allies are sort of ranked according to their importance and it`s predictable and nobody gets offended.

The Trump transition though just winged it and they just took calls from world leaders from wherever, just whoever called through to the Trump Tower switchboard. And Shinzo Abe was calling through to the Trump Tower switchboard and he got himself on the phone with Donald Trump before just about anybody else, and then in that call, he was able to set up a meeting with Donald Trump the very next week in Trump Tower.

Look at the timestamp on this article. The election of course, November 8th, wasn`t called until the wee hours of November 9th. Before nightfall that day, Shinzo Abe had gotten Trump to agree to this meeting with him in Trump Tower.

So, Japan`s prime minister reportedly very nervous over the anti-Japan rhetoric from this new guy in U.S. politics. He became the very first world leader to meet with our new president-elect. He rushed to New York to show his eagerness to turn things around with Donald Trump who had just spent well over a year bashing Japan as part of his campaign shtick.

When that meeting happened in Trump Tower, the first hard evidence that we had of it these photos actually came from the prime minister`s office. The Trump transition wasn`t allowing any U.S. press into the meeting, even just a document that it was happening. But the Japanese photographers were allowed in so we got to see their pictures, these photos from the Japanese government and it was from these photos that we learned that the president invited his children to the meeting. Jared and Ivanka were there too.

And that`s weird because a president-elect doesn`t usually have his adult daughter and son-in-law sit in on meetings with world leaders. This was one of the first concrete signs, concrete warnings we had about the nepotism problems, we were going to have in this administration.

And in this particular case, it wasn`t just that Jared and Ivanka were around, they were in on this meeting with a foreign leader, right? President-elect and a foreign leader eager to make nice with this new administration. But the president-elect daughter and son-in-law are in business. They each have their own web of business interest, including interests potentially or really already with Japan.

Jared Kushner`s business interests, of course, are largely in New York real estate. At the time, he`s still running his family business, Kushner Companies. Well, now, Bloomberg News reports that not that long after that meeting, something unusual and previously unreported took place.

Quote: Two months after Jared Kushner joined the White House as a senior advisor, his family firms sold a stake in a Brooklyn building to a unit of a company whose largest shareholder is the government of Japan. The Brooklyn transaction represented a premium of more than 60 percent on a price per square foot basis over what Kushner Companies and its partners paid four years earlier. The deal enabled the Kushner Group to take larger ownership stakes in nearby buildings. The property which is connected to one of the Kushner owned buildings by a pedestrian walkway remains vacant today.

The Japanese company primarily operates in Japan, it has only seven U.S. properties as of September 2016. Its purchase of the Kushner property was the only purchase made in New York City last year, everybody involved in this story denies any political component to the deal or involvement by Jared Kushner.

But we actually sent a producer out to this building in Brooklyn today, this building co-owned by Jared Kushner`s family and the Japanese government. The building is definitely still empty even though the Japanese government-controlled company bought it a year ago in a very unusual real-estate transaction for them for a 60 percent premium. And even though this is in one of the hottest neighborhoods for development in New York City, it remains vacant.

It`s just a nice investment to have, nice thing to dump millions and millions and millions of dollars into, when your country trying really hard to build a good relationship with a new American administration and a new president who brings his son-in-law and his daughter to the first meeting with your country`s prime minister.

Joining us now is Caleb Melby, financial investigations reporter at "Bloomberg News" who broke the story.

Mr. Melby, thank you very much for being here.

CALEB MELBY, REPORTER, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: Did I get any of that wrong?

MELBY: It all looked great.

MADDOW: OK. So, there`s a number of things that are unusual here. The meeting between Shinzo Abe and President Trump -- President-elect Trump attended by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, while they were still not divested from any of their business interests. How soon after that meeting did the purchase happen, where the Japanese government in effect invested in Kushner companies?

MELBY: Right. So, that way the meeting took place November 2016. They ended up purchasing the building at the end of March 2017. Between there actually, Abe came to the U.S. again.

He came to Washington with his deputy prime minister to start trade talks and then he actually got on Air Force One with the Trump family and Jared to go down Mar-a-Lago for the weekend and as you probably recall, it was -- it was that weekend that North Korea fired a missile and Trump conducted diplomacy in the middle of the Mar-a-Lago dining room.

MADDOW: The open-air situation room, I believe it`s been pointed out.

MELBY: Yes.

MADDOW: The company that made this investment with the Kushner Companies, they are a firm that is partially owned by the Japanese government. Does the Japanese government have a controlling interest in that firm? Could the Japanese government have been the deciding fact -- the decision maker in terms of making this investment?

MELBY: So, on a technical basis, because they own a third of the company, they have a controlling stake in the sense that they could veto any big decisions this company makes.

However, we have been told by analysts who track the company that typically the company is making its own business decisions and isn`t looking to the government to help them make those decisions, especially none of them like say a transaction to transaction basis.

MADDOW: But with that 1/3 stake --

MELBY: Yes.

MADDOW: -- the Japanese government significant stake in the company, we`ve obviously heard a lot of reporting, a lot of speculation a lot of concern about whether or not Jared Kushner`s role as a White House adviser might overlap in some ways or might have some conflicts with his complex family businesses seeking investment from state-owned firms or from foreign governments. This seems to me like this might be the first one that we`re not just worrying about, the first one -- this is the first one that we`re actually seeing. This is the first completed deal with government funds going to Kushner Companies.

MELBY: That`s correct. So, Kushner Companies had previously approached Anbang Insurance, which is a Chinese firm that has close ties to that country`s government. Also, Qatar`s -- a member of Qatar`s royal family, and we know they had made entreaties to do investments with them on a big indebted property they have here in New York, 666 Fifth Avenue. But this is the first one that we`ve seen where the money changed hands and in a stake -- a stake was traded.

MADDOW: And we went to the right building. It`s still standing up, right?

MELBY: That`s the one and it`s fascinating because all the ones around it have started to get really big tenants.

MADDOW: Yes.

MELBY: You have Etsy, you have We Work, the neighborhoods Dumbo, it has a lot of art galleries it`s very hip, a lot of tech firms in New York are moving there.

We`ve been told that they`re making final changes to that building in anticipation of tenants moving in. That photo you showed though seems it`s empty --

MADDOW: Yes.

MELBY: -- but it looks like there`s a little bit of work be done yet.

MADDOW: So, the Japanese government paid a big premium to buy a building in a really hip neighborhood, left it sitting standing empty for a year now and Jared Kushner`s family got the money. Weird.

Caleb Melby, financial investigations reporter at "Bloomberg News", congratulations on this scoop.

MELBY: Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: It`s really good to meet you. Thanks for being here.

All right. More to come tonight, including the remarkable scenes from across the country today of school kids, mostly high school kids, but also middle school kids even elementary school kids walking out of class today to protest America`s school shootings.

One of the student leaders from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, is going to join us live. Next stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Students in Boise, Idaho, today, taking over four floors of the Idaho state house. This video from a reporter from "BuzzFeed" captures them shouting "enough is enough, enough is enough". Outside the capitol building and Idaho students were just as deafening.

Can you drop that lower third there so you can see more of the kids? Thank you.

This kind of thing happened for hours today all across the country. Students by the hundreds, by the thousands, in some cases, by the tens of thousands, took place in a national walkout to mark one month since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that took 17 lives.

Mark out -- the walkouts today started on the East Coast. At the stroke of 10:00 a.m., students streamed out of their classrooms. And then in each successive time zone right at 10:00 a.m., students walked out en masse. It went on like that every hour, on the hour, like a giant weight of washing from East Coast to West Coast.

In Boston where schools were closed because of snow, kids showed up to march anyway. In southern California, in East L.A., they put marching band skills to good use, spelled out #enough.

It wasn`t just college students or high school students or even junior high school students in Virginia, elementary school kids put together handwritten press packets for local reporters and then they marched as elementary school kids. In Cobb County, Georgia, kids held banners with the phone numbers of state and local representatives along with suggestions about what to say to encourage those representatives to take action on gun violence.

In Littleton, Colorado, in Newtown, Connecticut, and Parkland, Florida, towns with a deep and personal experience of gun violence in schools, they marched today. There are more than 3,100 walkouts today, and there are more marches to come in this movement. We expect that the next big one is going to be ten days from now, centered round a massive march in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, March 24th.

After seeing the turnout today at these events across the country, I`m starting to get the sense that Saturday, March 24th, in D.C., is going to be a big deal. It has been four weeks it has been one month since 17 people were killed by a single gunman with a single gun in Parkland, Florida.

But in that time, the movement led by these passionate and articulate and organized and unwavering students has just started something big here that seems to be getting bigger and not smaller.

Joining us now is Sarah Chadwick. She`s a student at Stoneman Douglas High School. She`s one of the leaders of this movement. She participated in the walkout today.

Miss Chadwick, I know it has been a long and difficult day and with a lot of energy expended already. Thanks for staying up to be with us tonight.

SARAH CHADWICK, STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: Thank you for having me.

MADDOW: Well, first, let me just ask you how you think today went, what you were hoping for, what your own experience was like, whether this was what you were expecting?

CHADWICK: I just wanted to start off by saying thank you to all the high schools and to all the students who participated in the walk out today, even though they knew they could have been punished or suspended, they still went out there and they still walked out for what they believed in, and it`s just heartwarming and it`s my heart is filled with love and grief at the same time for all the students who did walk out and for the students who are not able to.

But it`s overall been an incredible experience today. People are sending me pictures of their schools walking out in social media, people are sending me "thank yous", people are telling me that they got suspended for walking out but they`re glad they did because they did it for something that they believed in. And it`s just honestly -- it`s really humbling and it`s amazing.

MADDOW: The experience of direct action like kids took all over the country today is not just a performance for other people to watch, it`s also often personally transformative for the people who are involved. It often is a catalyzing thing. I think people remember their whole lives or the thing that changes people`s level of commitment to work on this issue. Do you think things will I guess do you feel like this movement that you`re such an important part of will grow larger or change its direction or have any new momentum because of today, because so many kids did this in so many places?

CHADWICK: We already expected the march on March 24th to be a big one. But I think after today, it`s going to be massive. We`re expecting a lot more people to show up now just by all the support. We`ve saw and all the support people are giving us yesterday, people are realizing that this isn`t just a one-time thing, we`re marching for our lives basically and it`s honestly just amazing and I think the turnout will be amazing at the march especially.

MADDOW: How are things at your high school? Obviously, it`s been a month since what happened in Parkland at Douglass High and it took a while to get back into classrooms to get back to the school being open again after what happened. How is it now going back to school?

CHADWICK: Well, the reality is that around 3,300 kids will never be the same. A lot of us lost friends, a lot of us lost teachers, a lot of us lost role models, people that we looked up to and it`s heartbreaking and it`s heartbreaking that something like this had to happen for things to change, for people to realize.

It`s happened before and it`s going to continue to happen unless we do something about it. And I think the main thing that all the students all of us teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas are focusing on is changed and what we can do to ignite it.

MADDOW: Sarah Chadwick, student at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, one of the leaders of this growing movement. It was an incredible display today what you guys were able to organize on your own terms. Thanks for helping us understand it tonight. Thank you for being here.

CHADWICK: Thank you so much.

MADDOW: All right. More to come tonight. Stay with us. We`ll be right back.

MADDOW: At 5:19 a.m. Eastern Time today, NBC declared in the Pennsylvania congressional special election in the 18th district outside Pittsburgh last night, 5:19 a.m., NBC News declared that the Democrat in that race, Conor Llamb was the apparent winner.

Now, whenever the elections desk makes a call, makes a declaration like that, every word matters. So, they`re calling him the winner, but they`re calling him the apparent winner. That was followed about 12 hours later tonight by the "New York Times," also deciding that in its "New York Times" estimation, looking at the closeness of that race and the number of outstanding absentee and provisional military ballot, in "The New York Times" estimation, they, too, are saying as of tonight that Conor Lamb`s lead appears to be insurmountable given everything that`s left to be counted.

So, newspapers and news organizations don`t get to officially declare winners in American elections. There`s still been no concession from the Republican in the race. There`s the possibility there will be the pursuit of sort of recount, but for now, it is looking like Democrat Conor Lamb declaring victory last night around 1:00 a.m. wasn`t just some sort of psychological tactic. It at least appears right now that he has won that congressional seat.

Now, Democrats, of course, are over the moon about that. Not just because they wanted Conor Lamb to win that seat, but his victory would represent a 20-point swing in Democrats` direction from how Hillary Clinton fared in that district versus Donald Trump. Trump won that district by 20 points.

At the liberal Website "Daily Kos" today, there was a little bit of chest pounding over how big a swing this victory was in Democrats` direction. If Democrats everywhere this November do as well as Conor Lamb did last night in Pennsylvania, folks at "Daily Kos` elections are now howling at the moon about how many congressional districts would flip from red to blue if Democrats everywhere did as well as Conor Lamb did last night. If every congressional election in November had a swing toward the Democrats as big as what Conor Lamb did last night in Pennsylvania, well, there are 119 Republican held congressional seats that would instead go to a Democrat in November.

A hundred and nineteen flips? Yes, probably not.

But Democrats only need to pick up 23 seats if they`re going to win the House. If they picked up 119 seats, they could do North Korean style coordinated placard waiving and call it Arirang on swearing in day.

Now, in Pennsylvania, the Republican in the race isn`t conceding. This evening, Saccone`s campaign sent a fundraising letter telling Rick`s supporters, quote, this fight is not over.

For now, it is Democrat Conor Lamb who is the apparent winner in Pennsylvania. But now, here`s the heads up. Here`s the next local election that`s going to get a ton of national attention. Next month in Wisconsin, they`re electing a new state Supreme Court justice. They have elected justice.

This is technically a nonpartisan election, but the national political interest is clear. Former Obama Attorney General Eric Holder started a two-day visit to Wisconsin tomorrow. He says it`s for events where he plans to engage with activists and voters, at least in part about the stakes of the upcoming state Supreme Court race in Wisconsin.

That Wisconsin state supreme court race is April 3rd, national attention. If it`s anything like what happened last night all night long in Pennsylvania, we`re going to all need a nap corner at work the next day.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: There are best new things in the world and then there`s really best new things in the world. This is my favorite kind of best new thing. An honest-to-goodness brand new, just a few hours old new thing.

Look. Look at this little guy. His name is Laith. Laith means lion in Arabic. Laith was just born today, healthy as a lion, handsome as his beautiful parents. Congratulations to mom, RACHEL MADDOW SHOW producer Rohan (ph) and to dad Waleed (ph). We are so excited for you guys.

And look at this perfect little lion cub. Best new thing in this big good world.

That does for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.

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

Good evening, Lawrence. This is going to be fun to watch.

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