Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: April 5, 2018
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Very happy to have you with us, happy Thursday.
So, our ongoing list of senior level departures from the White House and the Trump administration frankly is quivering in anticipation of another cabinet secretary being added to this list. So far, there are three Trump cabinet secretaries on this wall.
The first was Tom Price who resigned him in a scandal about his over-the- top luxury travel spending, while running the Department of Health and Human Services.
Then there was Rex Tillerson. There`s Rex Tillerson, secretary of state. His firing still has a little bit of an asterisk over it, because of the White House lying about the timing of when exactly Rex Tillerson was fired, and then the White House firing another senior State Department official, that guy. When that guy told the truth about when Tillerson actually got canned.
I know that I`m sort of the only person the media who`s fixated on this, but I do think it`s an intriguing open question. Why did the White House go to such lengths to concoct a proven false story about when exactly Rex Tillerson got fired as secretary of state? We still don`t know but that false story is why they had to fire that other guy on the way out the door as well.
And then, of course, there was David Shulkin, the secretary of Veterans Affairs who was also fired recently. And again, in his case, the White House went to some lengths to concoct a false story about that. In David Shulkin`s case at V.A., the administration said that Shulkin resigned when, in fact, David Shulkin did not resign. He didn`t quit. They fired him, and the White House has been caught in a lie trying to convince people that he quit when he didn`t.
So, the number of high level departures from the most chaotic presidential administration in modern history is itself a remarkable spectacle. I didn`t even used to have to have a chair that swiveled. When it comes to cabinet officials resigning though, the spectacle has been even more chaotic for them than it has been for all these other kinds of officials who have quit or been forced out. And as of tonight, we are on career death watch for another cabinet official, for the head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt.
Scott Pruitt`s name is title is not up there, which is starting to feel astonishing when you consider the now immense pile up of revelations about his behavior in office especially when you consider what we`ve learned about Scott Pruitt compared to the comparatively small things that have cost some of these other people their jobs.
I mean, I do think it`s possible though that in order to understand what`s going on with Scott Pruitt, I think it`s possible that one of the other names that is on this wall behind me, one of the other names on this list of high-level Trump administration departures may actually help us explain a little bit about what`s going on with the Scott Pruitt story, with this now quite astonishing Scott Pruitt scandal. And I think the guy who is on this list who could help us understand what`s going on with Scott Pruitt would be where we have them their special adviser to the president on regulatory reform that is the sort of boring title that the Trump administration gave a very high profile business guy who President Trump was very, very, very excited to brag about knowing all through the campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, we have the greatest business people in the world. I have so many people endorsing me. Carl Icahn, great, he`s a great natural, natural negotiator.
Carl Icahn endorsed me. We`ve got Carl Icahn. Carl Icahn, Carl Icahn, Carl Icahn, Carl Icahn, Carl Icahn, Carl Icahn. Carl -- Carl Icahn. Carl Icahn, and I have Carl Icahn.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Carl, Carl Icahn.
The president liked to talk about him a lot during the campaign. Carl Icahn is a very rich, very famous corporate raider who`s built up an absolutely enormous personal fortune as what they call a shareholder activist. He gets a hold of a controlling interest in a company, sometimes that means he gets himself or his handpicked people on the board of that company, and then he uses that control to pick that company up by its ankles and shake it until money comes out of his pockets.
And sometimes, he forces the kinds of changes on companies that make them stronger and more profitable, sometimes he just tears them apart and eats the remaining assets. But that is how Carl Icahn has made his fortune. He`s not a specialist in any one area of business. He`s basically considered to be kind of a polymath financial genius, but he has cut a swath through all sorts of different kinds of companies all over the country, wherever he thinks he can use them to extract money for his self himself.
And the reason Carl Icahn is up there on that board, the reason he didn`t last as special advisor to the president on regulatory reform is because of this reporting from "Reuters" and this reporting from Patrick Radden Keefe at the "New Yorker" magazine. Both "Reuters" and the "New Yorker" documented in really granular detail how Carl Icahn used that Trump administration White House gig like it was just any other Carl Icahn corporate raider business opportunity. He leveraged that White House gig into what may have ended up being hundreds of millions of dollars in personal profit for himself.
One of his interests at the time, his business interest, was a refinery concern that was up against significant environmental costs. Carl Icahn was very outspoken against those environmental regulations that imposed those cost on his refinery business. When he was announced as Trump`s regulations czar, the market responded essentially by expecting that those environmental regulations would go away.
Well, it turns out Carl Icahn had already placed his own bets on the markets that they would do that. And so, when his bet paid off, he pocketed tens of millions of dollars in the value of his refinery went way, way up, in direct relation to actions he took as a government official to make that happen.
So, it`s slightly more complicated than that, but that`s basically the story that was right out laid out by "Reuters" and "The New Yorker". So, Carl Icahn ended up, up on the board, he had to go. He actually quit the night that "The New Yorker" article came out about him using this White House position to make himself potentially hundreds of millions of dollars.
It was amazing. Right after he quit, the White House went through this remarkable through the looking-glass exercise where they actually try to pretend that Carl has never had that White House job in the first place, so what was there to quit?
The press release announcing that Carl Icahn had that job, I can`t see a press release. Can you? What press release? This doesn`t say that. It`s really weird.
In that "New Yorker" article, though, the one that ended Carl Icahn`s brief career as a public official, we also learned how EPA administrator Scott Pruitt got his job in the first place. Quote: when Scott Pruitt visited Trump Tower to discuss the top job at the EPA, the president-elect concluded the interview by instructing Scott Pruitt to walk two blocks uptown to meet Carl Icahn.
According to a "Bloomberg News" account Trump told Scott Pruitt, quote, Carl has some questions for you. Scott Pruitt goes up, meets with Carl Icahn, Pruitt then gets nominated for the EPA job on December 8th.
The following day, Carl Icahn says in an interview, quote: I`ve spoken to Scott Pruitt four or five times. I told Donald he`s somebody who will do away with many of the problems at the EPA. So, that is reportedly how Scott Pruitt got his job in the first place. Carl gave it to him.
Since Carl -- since Scott Pruitt got that job at the EPA, he has been an out-of-control, open spigot of scandal -- scandal and also just strange news about his preferences and his priorities and his behavior as head of this agency. It was not a surprise to anybody that Scott Pruitt was going to be an EPA administrator who was very hostile to the EPA and to the environment in general. Everybody knew that, right? That`s what Trump ran on.
But it was a surprise to everyone when we learned that Scott Pruitt was charging the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars initially without his around $20,000, we`ve since learned it was over $40,000 to build himself a cone of silence in his office, a soundproof security booth inside his office at the EPA where he could have secured communications without being listened to by anybody else in the EPA, except presumably the ones who listened to him through his fillings.
We also learned that Scott Pruitt charged the taxpayers to install mission impossible style biometric locks on his office and to have his offices swept for bugs, then we learned he was charging taxpayers for an expanded 24 hour a day, seven day a week multi-man security detail which is far in excess of what anybody else who`s ever run that agency has had.
In keeping with his security requests, we learned today that Scott Pruitt also sought to have taxpayers buy him a bulletproof SUV with run flat tires, and he also wanted taxpayers to buy a reception desk, for the reception desk outside his office that would be a bulletproof desk. Wow.
Pruitt also claimed that his very intense security needs were why he also had to always fly at least first class if not on chartered private planes or on military planes, which are even more expensive than private planes. Pressed on the connection between his security needs and those travel requirements, Scott Pruitt later explained that, well, someone had once said something rude to him in an airport.
It`s still unclear whether the person who said something rude to him in an airport, you know, said whatever he said that offended Scott Pruitt. You know, hey, Scott, I think you`re terrible or whatever, and then did that guy also say and by the way, I always sit in coach, so you better steer clear of me and my kind. I mean, somebody was mean to you in an airport, could you tell he was low class rabble? Nobody`s ever been mean to you in first class, you ever talk to the other people in first class?
It was clear from the beginning that there was just a lot of weird stuff, weird and very expensive stuff about Scott Pruitt running this agency. We have since learned that there was an effort by Pruitt staff at the agency to buy him $100,000 a month private jet membership so we could have a private jet on standby at taxpayers` expense whenever he wanted to go anywhere.
We`ve also since learned that he used an emergency contingency provision in the Safe Drinking Water Act a provision that`s meant to hire scientists and specialists in the event of a drinking water emergency. He used that provision instead to hire lobbyists and spokespeople and to give big raise, $30,000, $40,000, $50,000, raises to young staff members of his who he brought with him from Oklahoma.
We then learned that one of those staffers who we gave a $30,000, raise to, she had among her taxpayer-funded responsibilities, the job of shopping for potential apartments for Scott Pruitt in Washington, D.C.
And as you no doubt have come to know, that has since led to revelations that at least for his first year in office, where Scott Pruitt lived in D.C. was in a swanky Capitol Hill townhouse co-owned by an energy lobbyist, who charged Scott Pruitt the princely sum of 50 bucks a night to stay there, but he only had to pay for nights when he actually slept in the building. Now, that news broke last week it`s been getting even shakier for Scott Pruitt since then.
He`s basically had a two-part defense as to why nobody should see that living arrangement as weird. Part one is that he said the EPA ethics staff signed off on that arrangement, while the EPA ethics staff has since clarified that the only reason they did sign off on that arrangement is because they didn`t exactly understand that arrangement. They now say they didn`t have all the facts about that, and that`s the only reason they OK`d it only if only we`d known.
So, that`s half of Pruitt`s defense on a $50 a night lobbyist`s house problem. The other half of his defense is that he says even if he was living in that lobbyists house for $50 a night, he says that lobbyist did not have any business before the EPA, that lobbyist did not have any business before his agency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Why did you then accept $50 a night to rent a condo from the wife of a Washington lobbyist?
SCOTT PRUITT, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: Well, let`s talk about that. That is something that, again, has been reviewed by ethics officials here. They`ve said that it`s market rate.
REPORTER: You`re renting it from the wife of a lobbyist?
PRUITT: Yes, who has no business before this agency.
REPORTER: Hold on a second. So --
PRUITT: They had no business.
REPORTER: So, in part, is that Williams and Jensen (ph), right, major lobbying firm, ExxonMobil`s a client.
PRUITT: Mr. Hart (ph) has no client --
HENRY: ExxonMobil has business before you, sir?
PRUITT: Mr. Hart has no clients that have business before this agency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Mr. Hart, my $50 a night landlord, has no clients that have business before this agency.
That was Scott Pruitt`s defense as of last night. It turns out Mr. Hart, his lobbyists landlord, absolutely does have clients, multiple clients with business before his agency.
A good rundown on this published tonight by Sam Stein and Lachlan Marquis (ph) at "The Daily Beast", detailing at least nine clients of that lobbyist who absolutely have active business before the EPA, including Enbridge who Scott Pruitt just approved a very controversial new pipeline for, and a glass manufacturer who just settled Clean Air Act violations with the EPA in June, and a whole bunch of other companies, at which point it becomes impossible to imagine this cabinet official continuing to stay in this job, right, given this reported evidence of corruption and conflict of interest.
His defense to what he`s done has been disproven. He says it was clear by ethics officials. Ethics officials are like, oh, no, we didn`t know that. He says these lobbyists didn`t have business before my agency. Oh, yes, they absolutely freaking did.
But even after that likes -- that end of the road stuff breaks, still more keeps coming about Scott Pruitt, still more just today that he demanded that his security detail used sirens and lights to get him through traffic jams in Washington, D.C. despite the fact that his security detail told him that wasn`t allowed. CBS was first to report on that today, saying that Pruitt wanted the lights and sirens to get him to cut through traffic to go to an official event.
Well, then :"The New York Times" followed up with their own reporting that said actually Scott Pruitt told his security detail to do that thing with the lights and sirens not just to get into an official event but also to get him to the airport and oftentimes to fancy dinners, including specifically to this restaurant which apparently he loves to get to in a hurry and he likes to arrive with a splash when he dines there in Washington. And the reason we know these kinds of details about Scott Pruitt`s behavior as EPA administrators because members of his security team who is telling to use the lights in siren, there among what is reportedly a large number of EPA officials who are now telling reporters that they were demoted, reassigned or effectively fired by Scott Pruitt when they confronted him about his crazy spending, or in one case by a guy who says he told the White House personnel office about it.
And that said, from what we know about the White House personnel office, it appears to be a place where people go at the White House to vape and play beer pong, so maybe the office didn`t notice Scott Pruitt`s staffer turning up at the door didn`t knock him out. Even if Scott Pruitt noticed and allegedly retaliated by demoting that guy who complained about him to the White House.
Since this avalanche of unflattering news has come down the mountain and landed on top of Scott Pruitt, both Scott Pruitt`s critics and Pruitt himself have complained -- complained a little bit that this might be what costs Scott Pruitt his job, that he`s getting all this attention not necessarily for his substantive actions as EPA chief but for this ethic stuff.
I have I have heard that criticism from Pruitt but also from people who are real critics of Pruitt in terms of what he`s been trying to do at the EPA. I actually think the important thing to recognize about the Scott Pruitt disaster is that his ethic stuff and his substantive behavior as the head of the EPA are not at all separate things, and Carl Icahn is part of what proves it.
Just pick out one of these little scandals right the inspector general at the EPA is reportedly looking into all this luxury travel that Scott Pruitt has taken on the taxpayers` dime. One of the most lavish of those trips was a trip he took first-class along with seven staffers and an undisclosed number of staff from his protective detail to Morocco in December. And there`s all sorts of amazing Scott Pruitt ethics thorns on this particular rose, right? Why were they all flying first-class? Why did he bring seven people plus a full security detail with him?
One of the people he brought with him was one of those staffers who he gave a $50,000 bump in salary to courtesy of the Safe Drinking Water Act, a salary bump he now denies knowing anything about. Another one of the staffers he brought is a woman named Samantha Dravis, who quit the agency sometime in the last few days amidst all this scandal, we just learned about her quitting today. The top Democrat on the Senate environment committee, Senator Tom Carper, last week sent the EPA inspector general a request to look into Dravis` employment at EPA because he says he`s been notified that for all of November, December and January, Dravis didn`t show up to work even though she was, quote, likely compensated as a full-time employee throughout that time.
Well, during that time, she did apparently go on that first-class trip to Morocco and according to a letter from Congressman Elijah Cummings that was just released tonight, part of the fun of that trip to Morocco was that they all took a layover on the way. On the way to Morocco, they decided to stay overnight in Paris on a Saturday night, December 9th, Saturday night, and it must have been a good time or something because according to Congressman Cummings, they, quote, missed their connecting flight from Paris to Morocco at 10:25 the next morning.
And so, that meant a whole another day and night in Paris. This big Morocco EPA trip only actually resulted in one day in Morocco, but it resulted in lots of time in Paris for Scott Pruitt and his whole entourage all flying first-class including his peeps from Oklahoma who got them -- he got the big raises for and this other aide who allegedly wasn`t actually doing any work at the time, at least not for that month or the month before or the month after, even though taxpayers were allegedly still paying her salary.
Sounds like the kind of tour for which they should have made t-shirts at the end, right? But here`s the -- here`s the thing what was this trip to Morocco for?
"The Washington Post" reported at the time, Scott Pruitt and a crew of EPA aides, as you see in the headline, they`re just spent four days in Morocco promoting natural gas. That`s weird right Pruitt went over there met with Moroccan officials. He tried to talk them into making a major change in the Moroccan economy. He went to Morocco, took this whole trip to convince the Moroccan government that they should start importing liquefied natural gas from the United States to meet that country`s energy needs. That is a weird thing for an EPA administrator to do.
As "The Post" noted at the time, quote, the EPA plays no formal role in overseeing natural gas exports. Such activities are overseen by other U.S. government agencies like the Energy Department, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC.
So, as ABC News has reported, the only active liquefied natural gas export plant in the entire United States at that time was one owned by a company called Cheniere Energy.
Well, Cheniere Energy is a Carl Icahn joint. Carl Icahn major shareholder, activist shareholder.
It`s kind of fun to read through all the business reporting about Carl Icahn using his leverage at Cheniere Energy to get the CEO of the company fired. He was that big a shareholder. He had that kind of power at Cheniere Energy. Cheniere Energy, the only liquefied natural gas export terminal in the United States.
If you`re going to buy liquefied natural gas from the United States, you`re going to get it through Cheniere Energy. Carl Icahn is a controlling shareholder. Carl Icahn gets Scott Pruitt his job. Scott Pruitt inexplicably flies to Morocco on the taxpayers` dime, yes, and what does he go there for? To promote Cheniere Energy, to try to persuade inexplicably, to try to persuade Morocco to import American natural gas, to the benefit of Papa Carl Icahn`s pet financial project of the moment.
And if this seems farfetched, keep in mind, this all happens just before Carl Icahn has to resign and a big scandal from this administration over a totally separate matter where he was allegedly using his government position to enrich himself and benefit companies in which he was a big investor.
And, yes, yes, in addition to his connection to Carl Icahn, Scott Pruitt at the time was also living for fifty bucks a night in the home of the principal lobbyist for Cheniere Energy.
So, all this to say, don`t worry about whether the focus on the bonfire of Scott Pruitt`s ethics is somehow distracting from the attention that ought to be paid to his behavior as head of the EPA. It is all one in the same story. But as of tonight, he is still in that job. Anybody know why?
MADDOW: So, there is a bunch of news still unfolding tonight. President Trump tonight continues to make noise not just about starting this trade war he appears to want with China, but now, tonight, really ratcheting it up. The president tonight saying he wants another $100 billion in tariffs on Chinese products, which is making front pages around the country tonight. This would go along with the other $50 billion in tariffs the White House already announced this week, which already caused China to announce retaliatory measures.
Here`s a direct quote from Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska in response to what President Trump just asked for tonight on China. Direct quote, no kidding, quote: Hopefully, the president is just blowing off steam again, but if he`s even half serious, this is nuts. China is guilty of many things but the president has no actual plan to win right now. He`s threatening to light American agriculture on fire.
Let`s absolutely take on Chinese bad behavior but with a plan that punishes them instead of us. This is the dumbest possible way to do this.
OK, Republican Senator Ben Sasse, tell us what you really think.
I should also tell you in terms of developing news, that we have some brand-new news from Robert Mueller`s prosecutors in the special counsel Russia investigation, a new court filing has just been made public. This was just put on the docket right as we were getting on the air.
Thanks to this new filing, we now know that as recently as last month, Mueller`s prosecutors were still executing more search warrants against Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, including them seeking materials that were for, quote, ongoing investigations that are not the subject of either current prosecution involving Paul Manafort. Oh.
And on top of that, honestly, nobody can figure out how it`s possible that the EPA administrator is still in his job after non-stop headlines covering everything from him living in an energy lobbyist`s house, to him wanting to drive around town with sirens blaring because it was on his way to dinner and worried he might be late, or maybe not thought of as important enough once he got there.
Joining us now is the great Nicolle Wallace, communications director from the Bush White House, host of "DEADLINE: WHITE HOUSE" weekdays on MSNBC at 4:00.
Nice to see you, my friend.
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST, "DEADLINE: WHITE HOUSE": Nice to see you.
MADDOW: You`re hosting for Brian`s show tonight.
WALLACE: I am, filling in at 11:00.
MADDOW: Thank you for coming in early to talk to me about this stuff.
WALLACE: Of course.
MADDOW: Let me talk to you about the EPA stuff first. You went through lots of different kinds of crises in the in the George W. Bush White House. Every White House is different. Every White House has its own level of scandal.
Do you have any sense of the rhyme or reason about what makes a person have to quit this administration versus allows -- it being something that you`re allowed to stay on for days and weeks amid press like this?
WALLACE: There is no rhyme. There is no reason. What I think happened today that that just as a former White House adviser put this story at the doorstep of the White House staff is that "The New York Times" reporting and you referenced it in your a blog about the six individuals whom out to whistleblowers basically. They objected to Administrator Pruitt`s conduct --
MADDOW: To his face, they confronted him about it.
WALLACE: To his face. Two of them include presidential appointees, so these were not career officials. And in the Bush years, a lot of the kind of whistleblower scandals were career officials at places like the CIA who had profound policy concerns about policies that you covered in depth.
That is not the case for Pruitt. These are people that had concerns about Pruitt`s conduct about the lack of ethics about the wackadoo stuff, about a phone booth that sound proof, about the weird stuff, about the just the rot of ethics. And they were people that knew Donald Trump personally. One was one of his advanced guys, that`s a body guy. That`s someone who has every, you know, White House staffer on the advanced team on his cell.
The other one was the chief of staff, also a political appointee, placed in EPA by the Presidential Personnel Office. I think you also covered the story in "The Washington Post" about a game called icing, where I might start playing it myself, where you run around the person that finds the vodka has to drink it. That`s that office, the PPO office.
MADDOW: It`s the beer pong office.
WALLACE: The icing office placed the chief of staff at EPA in his job. He is someone who could get high-level White House staffers on the phone if there were troubles. This Pruitt story is no longer an EPA story. It`s a White House dysfunction story and the notion that they didn`t know what was going on is an implausible account.
So, I think the days when the White House can kick this over to the EPA press office are over.
MADDOW: So, there`s also these reports tonight that there`s a Scott Pruitt fan club effort in among the industries that he`s been so favorable to at EPA.
WALLACE: No surprise.
MADDOW: Yes, that they`re trying -- but they`re lobbying heavily, lobbying conservative media, lobbying the sort of right wing influencers to make this a witch-hunt against Scott Pruitt, to try to get the White House to pledge to keep him on. I mean, there is an organized effort on the right to say that this ethic stuff for Scott Pruitt shouldn`t be a reason that he`s pushed out.
WALLACE: Yes, well, it`s an ethics mythix. I mean, nobody cares. It`s difficult to get ensnared in an ethics scandal and the Trump administration, right?
I mean, this is a president who has taught the country with the word "emoluments" means --
WALLACE: -- because he`s so corrupt, and he had never separated himself from his own businesses.
So, the idea that you could be in ethics trouble -- I mean, it`s really almost an oxymoron at a Trump administration ethics scandal.
MADDOW: But you`re saying -- you`re saying in this case, what`s different what we`ve crossed into that`s new territory with Pruitt is that some of what looks like an ethics scandal may eventually be -- may become more potent and more dangerous for him because it`s crossing the White House, because it`s defying the White House?
WALLACE: Because they`re not people who are offended by the dismantling of all of our regulations to keep our air and water --
MADDOW: Right, it`s not a policy dispute.
WALLACE: They are not people who are blowing the whistle on enhanced interrogations at the CIA in the Bush era. These are people who largely agree with the dismantling of all of our clean air and water regulations, who are blowing the whistle on conduct that is so reprehensible that they could pick up the phone and call their friends in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, which to assume was the office that placed Pruitt`s chief of staff in his job at EPA.
So, this story is much more of a White House story than it`s being covered right now and I think, you know, those flashing red lights, there`s also a flashing neon light. There`s something seedy about this story. There`s something gross about it and I don`t think that all these conservatives who are wrapping their arms tightly around Mr. Pruitt are going to feel good about that at the end of this.
MADDOW: Do you think he`s ultimately going to go?
WALLACE: I don`t think he lasts not because he -- you know, the defense has been he`s so ideologically aligned with us with everything the president wants to do. Well, so is Jeff Sessions.
WALLACE: And his job is on the line not just day by day but hour by hour. So, nobody is safe in the Trump administration and some of them dominate the headlines away Mr. Pruitt has certainly seems like the least safe of all. But someone told me today, I asked a Trump confidant how Kelly was doing. There`s been mixed reports about Kelly standing. He says -- Kelly OK, is Kelly safe? And he said, nobody`s safe, nobody`s OK.
Nicolle Wallace, White House veteran, host of "DEADLINE: WHITE HOUSE" at 4:00, also hosting "THE 11TH HOUR" at 11:00 p.m. Eastern. And I should tell you on Sunday night at 9:00 Eastern, Nicolle is the host of a special in-depth look at a man you might have heard of named Robert Mueller.
Nicolle, you are a very busy woman, especially today. Thank you, my friend. Great to see you. Thank you.
WALLACE: Good to see you.
MADDOW: All right. Bit of breaking news in the Mueller investigation, actually beyond the breaking news I just told you about at the top of this segment. Somebody we haven`t heard of before who Mueller`s team is now reportedly questioning and we can apparently tell something about his direction based on this, just breaking news, we`re going to have that for you next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: OK. So, here`s that breaking news we just got word of. There are two pieces of very late-breaking news related to the Mueller investigation tonight. I mentioned this one a moment ago. This is the new filing tonight from the special counsel`s office, which reveals that as recently as last month, the special counsel`s office executed a new search warrant on Paul Manafort, last month, March, this is on top of the six previous search warrants they have obtained in his case.
Paul Manafort and his lawyers, they`re asking the special counsel to provide the search warrants in unredacted form. Mueller`s team says in response that they have to maintain substantial redactions in the latest search warrant, quote, relating to ongoing investigations that are not the subject of either of the current prosecutions involving Paul Manafort. So, last month, as of March, they were still executing search warrants against Manafort and they`re redacting information in those search warrants that relates to ongoing investigations that aren`t the subject of either of the prosecutions involving Paul Manafort. Oh.
So, that`s breaking news item number one from the Russia investigation the second breaking news item is this, a form of this -- it comes in the form of this new McClatchy story which is just out, which tells us two things. Here`s the first, quote, special counsel Robert Mueller`s investigators this week questioned an associate of the Trump organization who was involved in overseas deals with President Donald Trump`s company in recent years.
Quote: Armed with subpoenas compelling electronic records and sworn testimony, Mueller`s team showed up unannounced at the home of a business associate who was party to multiple transactions connected to Trump`s efforts to expand his brand abroad.
Now, part of what`s very intriguing here is that McClatchy tonight doesn`t name this Trump business associate who was questioned at his home and searched this week by the special counsel`s team. But the other thing we learned here is that Mueller`s team is apparently very keen on asking about one person in particular.
Quote: Investigators were particularly interested in interactions involving Michael D. Cohen, Trump`s longtime personal attorney and former Trump Organization employee. Among other things, Cohen was involved in business deals secured or sought by the Trump Organization in Georgia, the nation of Georgia, in Kazakhstan and in Russia.
I don`t know what any or all of this signals, but we do have a federal prosecutor on tap to help us out with this. Stay with us.
MADDOW: I have some questions. You know, I start off this not just the day but every show, like we`re live at 9:00 Eastern Time, I sit down here, this is not on tape. I sit down at the top of the show and I have a few questions in mind that I`d like to have answered with our expert guests and reporters.
Then you get into the show and all the breaking news happens in the middle of the show and the questions, they change over the course of the hour. So, I have new ones.
We`ve just learned since we`ve been on the air tonight in a new court filing just made public tonight that Trump`s campaign chair Paul Manafort has had seven search warrants executed against him already, seven, including one most recently last month. When I started the show I didn`t know I was going to have this question but now, I want to know. Dude was indicted in October. Dude was later up -- indicted again, what, in February? What are they doing still executing search warrants against him in March, as of last month? After he`s already on trial on two different sets of dozens of felony charges?
And in those search warrants, the government saying it can`t unredact them, because some of the information in those search warrants pertains to an ongoing investigations that are unrelated to the existing prosecution`s of Paul Manafort. Does that just mean that Paul Manafort is in way more trouble than we can already see or does that mean there`s something they`re seizing from Paul Manafort that relates to ongoing cases against other people?
Joining us now is Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney from the great state of Alabama, somebody who gets these things much better than I do.
Joyce, thank you for being here. I`m sorry I`m incoherent.
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Thanks for having me, Rachel. You`re not incoherent.
MADDOW: Well, thank you. That`s just because you`re nice that you`re saying it that way.
Let me ask you about this recent -- this new filing that we`ve just gotten in and this has just been made public, and nobody`s had that much time to review it. But it appears from this back and forth between Manafort`s lawyers and Mueller`s prosecutors, that this is the seventh search warrant executed against Paul Manafort and this one they`re saying can`t be fully redacted and given to Manafort`s lawyers, even though Manafort`s lawyers want that, because it relates to ongoing investigations.
That strikes me as strange given that metaphor is already on trial in two different jurisdictions. Does this seem more typical to you as somebody who`s been through federal prosecutions?
VANCE: It would maybe be a little bit unusual if this was your standard simple case. But in a complex white-collar investigation or a public corruption case, you`ll often see this sort of wave of indictment with ongoing investigation, and although you can`t continue to use the grand jury to investigate once you`ve indicted a defendant on certain charges, you can continue to investigate other crimes, ongoing crimes, or as you point out, perhaps even crimes that Manafort is not the defendant or the target, that they`re investigating. So, a couple of different possibilities here.
MADDOW: And over the course of a criminal trial, does the defendant and his legal team have the right to see unredacted versions of the search warrants that were used to obtain evidence in the government`s case.
VANCE: Usually, they do but here, Mueller`s team makes very clear that they`ve only redacted two kinds of information. They`ve redacted information to protect the identity of their confidential sources which they`re entitled to do under Supreme Court precedent, and they`ve also redacted information that would possibly impair ongoing investigation. Same, they`re also entitled to do that and they clarify that the search warrant stands on its own, that sufficient probable causes established by the unredacted information that they`ve provided to Manafort.
So, this looks like a situation where the government wins. They also point out that three of the search warrants aren`t redacted in any way. So, that information has been fully provided to Manafort`s team.
MADDOW: And, Joyce, let me ask you about one other matter here. "McClatchy" is also reporting tonight that a business associate of the Trump organization this week had a very dramatic encounter with Mueller`s team. Quote: armed with subpoenas compelling electronic records and sworn testimony, Mueller`s teams showed up unannounced at the home of this Trump business associate this week. This comes on the heels of a bunch of reporting from "The New York Times", CNN and others that Mueller`s team has been door stopping -- well, not door stopping -- airport stopping, a number of different people in this investigation.
George Nader, who became -- who was granted immunity reportedly and became a cooperating witness, a number of Russian oligarchs, according to CNN, "New York Times" reported last night, an Australian entrepreneur, all these people described as being stopped at the airport and confronted by officials who in some cases took their electronics, took their phones and searched them on the spot. That from a civilian perspective, that seems like an incredibly invasive and aggressive tactic.
Is that also a typical prosecution tactic?
VANCE: So, the Fourth Amendment protects us from search and seizure, us as citizens are just simply people that are present in the United States. Investigators can`t stop -- you can`t seizure things without probable cause and or a search warrant. But everything is different at the border.
And when you`re coming through customs, law enforcement actually doesn`t need a warrant. They don`t even need probable cause. And interestingly enough, there`s recent case law from the eleventh circuit, which is the home of Atlanta, one of the biggest airports in the world, that confirms yet again that even for your cell phone or your computer, at the border, the police don`t need a warrant. They can simply ask you for those items and they can in fact compel you to let them take a look at what`s on your phone or your computer at the border.
MADDOW: So, in customs at the border, they don`t need a warrant in the case of this business associate who`s -- who had these folks show up at his house. They had subpoenas compelling his record and sworn testimony according to this later -- according to this late-breaking reporting from "McClatchy".
Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney from Alabama, really appreciate your time tonight. Joyce, thank you.
VANCE: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The most vulnerable Republican in the United States Senate is widely considered to be this guy, Nevada Senator Dean Heller. He`s up for re-election this year in a state that Donald Trump lost in 2016. There`s a lot of press interest in Republican Senator Dean Heller because of that vulnerability. But he doesn`t do a lot of interviews.
And interestingly, this year, that has meant that a lot of them news Dean Heller has made is when someone has leaked audio from an event where Dean Heller thought he was speaking in private. For example, politico.com obtained a audio recording of Dean Heller at what he thought was a private event saying that he hopes Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy retires this year, otherwise he says Republicans might be in for a rout in November.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. DEAN HELLER (R), NEVADA: I believe we`re going to have another Supreme Court justice this year. I think that Kennedy`s going to retire sometime early summer. That being the case, Republicans are going to have an opportunity now to put another Supreme Court justice in the place which I`m hoping will get our base a little motivated, because right now, they`re not very motivated. But I think a new Supreme Court justice will get motivated.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was a few weeks ago. Dean Heller hoping -- wishing and hoping that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will resign with perfect timing to help Republicans hold on to the Senate.
That was audio he didn`t know was going to be made public. Now, it`s happened again. Dean Heller gave a speech this week in which he offered a prescription for how someone could beat him. He told the Nevada Republican Men`s Club that registered Democrats currently outnumber Republicans in Nevada by about 60,000.
He said, quote: If we can get that number below 50,000, we can get the number of registered Democrats down below 50,000, I can`t lose. And then he says this, I should warn you, the audios are a little choppy here. But here`s Senator Dean Heller talking about voter registration in Nevada for this upcoming election.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
HELLER: Here`s the math: if we have 100,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in the state of Nevada or more, I can`t win. Let me say that again, if we have 100,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in the state of Nevada, I can`t win.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: That audio at a private event obtained by "The Las Vegas Review- Journal", their reporter Colton Lochhead, what Dean Heller says there is: let me say that again, if we have a hundred thousand more registered Democrats than Republicans in the state of Nevada, I can`t win. Let me say that again, I can`t win.
That`s what`s called a road map. You know, it`s like Dean Heller got up there and said, are there any rich Democrats anywhere in the country who want to fund Democratic voter registration efforts in Nevada, because if there were those Democrats who wanted to fund that five minutes ago, now that he has broadcast that sentiment about what it would take to beat him, there`ll be about 5,000 rich Democrats around the country who absolutely want to fund exactly that effort.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Last summer, Congress almost unanimously passed a law that required the Trump administration to draw up a list of Russian oligarchs to be hit with potential sanctions, punishment against the Kremlin for them attacking our election in 2016. Specifically, that law told the administration to draw up a list of very high net worth Russian individuals who are known to have acquired their wealth at least in part thanks to Putin`s government.
But despite being legally required to make that list, on the day of the deadline, Trump`s Treasury Department instead released something else entirely. They put out a laugh-out-loud list of Russians that was literally just names copied out of the "Forbes" magazine list of the richest people in Russia.
Now, our reporting at the time indicated that a real list of the kind required by the law was actually made or at least was seriously worked on at the State Department and other agencies who were responsible for responding to this law and producing this list for sanctions. We never found out what happened to that list the real list.
Well, "Reuters" was first to report and NBC News has now confirmed that the Trump administration is planning tomorrow to list its first sanctions on Russian oligarchs, tomorrow. If that reporting is true, it`s going to be really interesting to see if tomorrow`s oligarchs list just comes from the table of contents from "Forbes" magazine, or if we`re finally going to get to see the real oligarchs list we have reason to believe was actually created.
If it turns out to be this real list, this was mandated by Congress, meant to hurt Putin by making it financially difficult for his best friends -- well, that could conceivably cause some real reaction from Russia. It`s really going to be worth watching to see what that list looks like tomorrow.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END