Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: April 20, 2018 Guest: Eric Swalwell
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Friday.
It`s a Friday. So, that means there`s lots going on.
In Missouri tonight, the sitting Republican governor of the great state of Missouri, Eric Greitens, he has just been hit with new felony charges. The first felony charges against Governor Greitens came a couple months ago in conjunction with revelations about an extramarital affair and alleged extortion by Greitens` related to that affair. Then came an extraordinary bipartisan report from the Missouri legislature containing graphic allegations of violence and sexual abuse by Greitens in the course of that alleged affair. The Republican-dominated state legislature in Missouri has been considering whether they may want to start impeachment proceedings about Governor Greitens.
Now tonight, these new felony charges against the governor have just been filed. And these new felony charges against him are actually not related to the alleged affair. These new felony charges allege that he misused a veteran`s charity that he ran basically to fund his campaign.
Missouri Governor Eric Greitens has steadfastly refused to concede anything about any of the charges against him from the very beginning. He has already refused calls for his resignation from the leaders of the House and the Senate in his state, both of whom are Republican leaders. He has been on the edge of the abyss for quite some time now. But these new felony charges tonight represent one more hard shove toward him becoming airborne.
So, lots of eyes on Governor Eric Greitens of Missouri tonight in the wake of these new charges.
Internationally, the news of the night is North Korea. North Korea announcing that they will freeze their nuclear and long-range missile tests for the time being and they plan to close one of their nuclear test sites. Now, this news comes less than a week before Kim Jong-un is due to meet with the president of South Korea next week on the border between those two countries. It also follows by one day the installment of a brand-new between the Korea`s telephone hotline. That was set up for these two leaders yesterday. So, they could communicate directly with each other and without notice.
Now, today, they get the announcement of this freeze. North Korea is not announcing it`s dismantling its program, only that it`s hitting the pause button on testing for now. But in this case, the pause button is better than the play button, which is where we were before. So, this next week will be very interesting to see how that evolves ahead of these talks.
Here at home, "The Washington Post" has broken news about the fraying edges of the nation`s justice department. According to this reporting in "The Washington Post" tonight, quote: Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently told the White House he might have to leave his job if President Trump fires his deputy Rod Rosenstein who oversees the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Sessions made his position known in a phone call to White House counsel Don McGahn last weekend as Trump`s fury at Rod Rosenstein peaked after the deputy attorney general approved the FBI`s raid on the president`s personal attorney Michael Cohen. Of course, because this is our live -- this is our collective life now.
We also tonight learned in "The Washington Post," we learned more about the mean nicknames the president has given the top law enforcement officials in the country. We get more detail on that.
Quote: People familiar with Jeff Sessions` thinking say he has said several times that he would find it difficult to remain as attorney general if Trump for no good reason fired Rosenstein. The veteran prosecutor in Baltimore that Sessions chose to be his deputy. But Sessions has had little ability to do anything about it given his own shaky standing with Trump for recusing himself from the Russia investigation. Trump at times has referred to Attorney General Sessions as Mr. Magoo and he has referred to Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein as Mr. Peepers, a character from a 1950s sitcom, whereupon in order to cover the news tonight I have to show you a picture of Mr. Peepers from that 1950s sitcom. And now everybody laughs about the mean nicknames the president is so good at coming up with when he gets into the wallowing fun of humiliating people for his own pleasure.
The headline here is that the attorney general says he may resign in protest if the president fires Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as a way of trying to kill the Russia investigation. And that is a capital S scoop for "The Post" tonight.
Quote: Sessions` message to the White House which has not previously been reported underscores the political firestorm that Trump would invite should he attempt to remove the deputy attorney general, while Trump also has railed against Sessions at times. The protest resignation of an attorney general, which would be likely to incite other departures within the administration, that would create a moment of profound crisis for the White House.
So, if Rosenstein gets fired, Sessions says he is out in protest. "The Post" may be right that that would set off a string of resignations, possible -- totally possible. As I said, it`s Friday. So, surprise, there`s a lot going on in the news. But, you know, from that "Post" story, while we are on the subject of profound crisis in the White House, today history played a rerun. And it turns out it`s one of my favorite episodes.
On June 17, 1972, at 2:30 in the morning, five men got busted breaking into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in Washington, the Watergate break-in, right? The next day, there was definitely news coverage about that. It was interesting, right? Five guys all with ties to Miami for some reason? What were these five guys doing in Washington burglarizing that Democratic Party office?
This was from the first "Washington Post" story about that burglary, a story by Alfred E. Lewis. Quote: There was no immediate explanation as to why the five suspects would want to bug the Democratic National Committee offices or whether or not they were working for any other individuals or organizations.
So, there was news coverage of that. It was of interest that there had been this burglary. But it was kind of mild interest.
Certainly, nobody in the press was immediately jumping to conclusions about this being the first signs of a gigantic political conspiracy that would take down the sitting president, Richard Nixon. Which it did.
But it`s interesting. Somewhat lost to history, that the Democratic Party actually did kind of go right there right away when the Watergate burglary happened. The rest of the country didn`t see it that way, the press certainly didn`t see it that way. But the DNC, the Democratic Party, they went right to the end game immediately.
Watergate break-in was June 17th. On June 20th, a couple days later, the DNC filed a civil lawsuit against the re-election campaign for President Nixon, saying that that little burglary at the headquarters, that wasn`t just a burglary. That wasn`t just a moment of intrigue. That was a dirty trick by the president and the president should have to answer for it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lawrence O`Brien, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, today filed suit for $1 million against the committee for the re-election of the president and against five men arrested early Saturday who were charged with breaking into the party`s national headquarters at the Watergate in Washington.
Carl Stern has a report.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wish to emphasize as national chairman of this party the deadly seriousness with which we view this entire matter. I am pleased to know that the FBI is investigating this case, but I am shocked to learn that the White House through its official spokesman deems unworthy of notice this blatant act of political espionage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Famed criminal lawyer Edward Bennett Williams whose law firm represents O`Brien will try to question the five intruders a week from tomorrow and to take depositions even inside the committee to re-elect the president and the White House. Two of the intruders had a name and phone number of another ex-CIA agent who now works as a part-time consultant to the White House.
O`Brien refused to link the committee and the White House directly to what happened but he says he knows more than he`s telling and he says he feels he is on the right track in suing the committee as a co-conspirator with the five men.
Carl Stern, NBC News, Washington.
MADDOW: So, right after the Watergate burglary happened, right away, the DNC filed a civil lawsuit against the committee to re-elect the president, saying that wasn`t just some random assemblage of burglars. Their lawsuit basically said, hey, President Nixon, you did this, your campaign did this, you have to answer for it.
And, you know, you saw that very sober coverage the night that the lawsuit was filed there on NBC News. Honestly, people thought there were a little bit nuts for doing this and for saying that this was some conspiracy that went all the way to Nixon. To people at the time, it really seemed over the top.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Democratic Party blames the Republicans for sending five men to burglarize or bug its national headquarters. Accordingly, it is suing for $1 million. If it works, if they win the suit, it will be a new and quite novel way of raising political money, a device no one has ever used before.
The Democrats are $9 million in debt and if they win, if they should squeeze a million dollars out of the Republicans, that will be just 1/9 of what they need to pay off their old campaign debts.
It is not clear why if the Democrats are intent on suing, why they didn`t sue for the full amount they need, $9 million, and try to force the Republicans to bail them out of debt. It is one way of getting even.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: People tell me all the time, oh, our era is so poisoned by terrible cable news has gotten so snarky -- you know what? David Brinkley had a pretty good on-air snark in 1972. Like ooh, the Democrats brought this cute little lawsuit obviously, it`s just to get them out of debt and they`re saying it`s about that burglary, huh!
David Brinkley is saying there what everybody was thinking at the time. This was a joke. The Democratic Party is going to lay a blame for that burglary at the doorstep of the White House? Everybody thought it was a joke. But they did it. They filed this lawsuit.
This was "The Washington Post" coverage the next day. Byline: Bob Woodward. Headline: O`Brien sues GOP campaign lays blame for bugging on White House. Democratic National Chairman Lawrence O`Brien apparently seizing on the break-in and attempted bugging of party headquarters here as a major campaign issue, attempted yesterday to lay responsibility for the incident at the door of the White House. He said there`s a developing clear line to the White House and cited what he called the potential involvement of special counsel to the president, Charles Colson.
O`Brien made his remarks as the DNC filed a million-dollar lawsuit in the U.S. district court here against the committee for the re-election of the president, whose chief security agent, James McCord was one of the five men arrested at the break-in at 2:30 a.m. on Saturday. President Nixon`s campaign chair, former Attorney General John Mitchell, denied any party responsibility for the break-in and called the lawsuit, quote, another example of sheer demagoguery on the part of Mr. O`Brien.
Mr. Mitchell called O`Brien`s lawsuit a political stunt. It`s a stunt, sheer demagoguery. That was the line from the president`s reelection campaign and nobody in the press took it seriously.
But we now know that those wacky over-the-top Democrats were onto it. They were right. I mean, the DNC chair said, we think there`s potential involvement here by President Nixon special counsel Chuck Colson. Well, Chuck Colson ended up serving time in federal prison for Watergate.
The DNC said, hey, look we`re suing the president`s re-election campaign because the chief security agent for the campaign this guy, James McCord, he was right there in the middle of it. Well, James McCord also ended up going to prison for Watergate.
When the Democrats filed their lawsuit, the president`s campaign chair, John Mitchell, comes out and calls it a political stunt, sheer demagoguery. Well, John Mitchell, former attorney general of the United States, Nixon`s campaign chair -- yes, he ends up serving months in federal prison for Watergate.
All of these guys dismissing it, are you kidding? That`s a crazy -- all those guys went to prison.
And it wasn`t that lawsuit by the DNC that put all those guys in prison, but that lawsuit by the DNC was the Democratic Party`s way of planting a flag on that break-in and saying, you know what, this is a really big deal and it`s a political scandal, it`s not burglary. That was their way of putting a flag in it saying this is going to end up going right to the president, right to Richard Nixon, and nobody believed them when they started.
But that lawsuit itself was the way they chose to try to get to the bottom of what was going on, but also to keep it in the public eye. For example, when they found something new in their investigation into what happened behind the Watergate burglary, one of their tactics was that they would amend their lawsuit. They`d amend their complaint in this lawsuit. That would result in a new filing showing up on the docket for that case that would be publicly available, that would give reporters something else to report about this scandal as it slowly, slowly, slowly widened out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In politics today, the Democratic Party was in court, strengthening its complaint that the committee to re-elect President Nixon had engaged in political espionage. Tomorrow, the Democrats will file a complaint which alleges that Maurice Stans, former secretary of commerce and now finance chairman for President Nixon, financed the break-in at Democratic Party headquarters. Stans says this is a scurrilous pack of lies. The Democrats complaint will, say Stans, used $114,000 in Republican campaign funds to establish a political espionage squad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: A scurrilous pack of lies. This was the fall of 1972. The Democrats had a new filing and their lawsuit they amended their complaint so everybody got access to their amendment they`re signaling that they thought they had found an even closer link between the burglary and president Nixon on his campaign.
And indeed, Mr. Scurrilous pack of lies, Maurice Stans, the finance chair for Nixon`s campaign did end up leaving guilty on multiple charges.
That was -- that was late 1972, that little clip we just showed you there. The public at that point still basically wasn`t all that interested in the Watergate scandal. Good evidence of that fact is the fact that in November 1972, Nixon was getting reelected even while all the burglars were under indictment, like people just didn`t care that much about Watergate.
The Democrats using this lawsuit to try to pry out new information in the case, right? They got sworn depositions that help them establish the links between the campaign and the burglary, they keep filing amendments to the lawsuit to try to get people to cover it as an ongoing and widening scandal. In part that lawsuit was just their way of trying to keep the story alive, because they believed it was about the president.
Well, by the following year, by the spring of the following year, by 1973, spring, that story would no longer need any helping along, no longer need any kindling by the Democratic Party because by then the Watergate hearings started and John Dean flipped as White House counsel and special prosecutor got appointed and ultimately, the president would have to resign the office and leave in disgrace.
But back in the slow days that lawsuit by the DNC even though everybody thought it seemed hysterical and they first filed it, not only were the Democrats right in their claims in that lawsuit, in the end, they actually won that case. They had sued the committee to re-elect the president for monetary damages.
On the day that Richard Nixon left office in disgrace, the committee to re- elect the president, his re-election committee quietly, sent the Democratic Party a check for three-quarters of a million dollars. The Democrats were right. They won that lawsuit and on the day Nixon left office, nobody noticed, right, because people had other things on their minds. The Democrats getting their check and being proved right that wasn`t exactly the headline news of that day.
And I think because of that, the fact that the Democrats did this during Watergate, it was sort of lost to history for a long while. It was dug up just a few months ago though as a feature story on the hit slate.com podcast "Slow Burn" by reporter Leon Neyfakh.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
LEON NEYFACK, SLOW BURN PODCAST: After the lawsuit was filed, Democratic National Committee Chair Lawrence O`Brien did something hardly anyone was willing to do at that early stage, he directly blamed the burglary on the White House. O`Brien pointed out the irony of a president who had run as tough on crime being involved in illegal campaign tactics. He said the country was about to witness the ultimate test of this administration had so piously committed itself to a new era of law and order just four years ago.
O`Brien`s lawyer thought he should be careful accusing the president of criminal activity, but the chairman of the DNC was not worried. I`ve studied Nixon since the Kennedy campaign, he said. I have no doubt that the trail will lead to the Oval Office if we can hang in there long enough.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, that was on the "Slow Burn" podcast just a couple months ago, digging out that fascinating and mostly forgotten artifact from how the Democrats bought their side of the fight in Watergate.
Well, now, today, surprise, that artifact from Watergate not only proved itself to be dug up. Today, it reanimated and came back to life because, look, today, the DNC, the Democratic Party today filed a forgotten Watergate-style civil freaking lawsuit against the Trump campaign over the Russia scandal. It`s about the way they were broken into in this scandal just like DNC headquarters were broken into back in the summer of 1972.
Today, the DNC contends in this suit that although it was Russia who did the hacking to break into DNC headquarters, they alleged that the Trump campaign and people associated with the campaign were willing and active partners for Russia in this crime.
And the list of defendants is long. The DNC is suing the Russian Federation, which means Russia, the GRU, which is Russian military intelligence, they`re suing the specific staff from the GRU who posed as the hacker Guccifer 2.0, which was the hacker that took credit for the hacking and robbery of the DNC.
They are bringing this suit against Aras and Emin Agalarov, excuse me, Russian business associates of Trump who were behind setting up the Trump Tower meeting during the campaign. They also brought this suit against Joseph Mifsud, who`s the mysterious character who prosecutors say told Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos that Russia had stolen Democratic emails. The lawsuit has also brought against WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange who packaged and distributed the stuff that Russia stole.
After them, there`s a whole bunch of familiar names. The Trump campaign, Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Jared Kushner. George Papadopoulos, Rick Gates, also the last line there some unnamed John Doe`s one through 10. These are named unknown Russian operatives who had been part of the hacking scheme against the DNC.
So, in this lawsuit today, the Democrats are seeking monetary damages just like the Democrats did in Watergate back in `72. They`re also seeking an admission from the defendants that they participated in this conspiracy and, of course, in order to justify this claim, the DNC has to spell out what happened to them and why they believe they were the wronged party here and so, we get a long prose, well-written narrative of what they say happened.
It starts like this: in the run-up to the 2016 election, Russia mounted a brazen attack on American democracy. The opening salvo was a cyber attack on the DNC carried out on American soil. Russian intelligence services hacked into the DNC`s computers, penetrated its phone systems and exfiltrated tens of thousands of documents and emails.
Russia then used the stolen information to advance its own interests, destabilizing the U.S. political environment, denigrating the Democratic presidential nominee and supporting the campaign of Donald J. Trump whose policies would benefit the Kremlin. In the Trump campaign, Russia found a willing and active partner in this effort.
And then it goes on from there at length and in detail, spelling out that allegation.
Now, here`s the thing a lot of people who have been watching Robert Mueller and the special counsel`s investigation very closely, a lot of people who - - a lot of people who are close observers of the Mueller probe believe -- I sort of come to expect that at some point, Mueller will probably bring indictments that relate to the hack of the DNC, and I don`t say that because I have any insider information, I don`t.
But when Mueller indicted all those Russians a couple of months ago, that wasn`t for the break-in at the DNC. That wasn`t for the DNC hack. That indictment of all those Russians a couple of months ago that was for some of the social media stuff that Russian intelligence did. The DNC hack, breaking into Democratic Party`s computers and phone systems and stealing stuff, that is much more obviously criminal activity under American law.
And so, since we already saw that other sort of more abstract indictment of all those Russians, people have really been waiting for the other shoe to drop and of an indictment over what happened to the DNC. That hasn`t happened yet. Maybe it`ll never happen, but people have sort of been expecting it. Who knows if that had happened already, maybe the Democrats wouldn`t have gone ahead with this lawsuit, spelling out how they were wronged by the attack on their computers and phone systems that stole all that stuff.
But they have now done that. They have now filed this lawsuit and so now we get their whole written narrative, their whole very specific timeline of how they were attacked and when and what the Trump campaign did to make it all work and to help disseminate the fruits of these Russian crimes.
Now that the DNC has filed this lawsuit, there`s the possibility if it goes ahead that they could end up demanding documents from all these defendants. They could demand depositions, sworn testimony from all these defendants. And when you look at this list of defendants, that could be a fascinating turn in this case, ahem, Don Jr., ahem.
But before we get there first, the judge in this case will have to decide if this lawsuit goes ahead. That`ll be a very consequential decision that judge has to make, a decision with very clear echoes in history, which makes this almost more history than I can stand.
This is the bio of the judge to whom this case has been assigned. Look way back in his resume there, way back when he was just a young legal pup. See what it says there?
He served as an assistant special prosecutor, Watergate special prosecution force, Department of Justice from 1973 to 1974. The judge they gave the DNC lawsuit to today was a Watergate prosecutor.
In this news today, history isn`t even just rhyming anymore. History is full-on plagiarizing at this point.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Democratic Party blames the Republicans for sending five men to burglarize or bug its national headquarters. Accordingly, it is suing for one million dollars.
(END IVDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: One million dollars. June 20 of 1972, National Democrats sued the Richard Nixon re-election campaign for the Watergate break-in, which had just happened three days earlier. At the time, the media scoffed and leading Republicans called the charges scurrilous.
But the Democrats` charges in that lawsuit that that burglary was something to do with Richard Nixon in his campaign, that was borne out. They were right, and the Democratic Party ended up taking three quarters of a million dollars off of Nixon`s campaign when they settled that suit on the day Nixon left office in disgrace over that scandal. Well, today in federal court, that cockamamie seeming at the time lawsuit that was eventually borne out and won today, that lawsuit had a child. Today, the Democratic Party sued the Trump campaign and the government of Russia and WikiLeaks and all a bunch of key figures in Trump world for this latest break-in to the Democratic Party, the hacking of Democratic Party servers and the theft of Democratic documents during the campaign.
The new Trump campaign manager today responded with words straight out of 1972. They called it sham, bogus, corrupt, desperate, frivolous.
This is just day one. We have no idea how this Democratic lawsuit will play out, but we can look at the consequences from the last time something like this happened.
Joining us now is NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss.
Mr. Beschloss, this is my present to you.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Thank you.
MADDOW: I got you something for this -- for this difficult week.
MADDOW: I`m amazed by this story. First of all, I`d like to ask you what parts of this I screwed up. Did I get any of this wrong?
BESCHLOSS: No, you got it right, absolutely right. Everything old is new once again. And you know, when David Brinkley dismissed that in that broadcast, he was sitting about a hundred feet from where I am in the NBC bureau in Washington.
MADDOW: When we think about lawsuits in politics, I mean, sometimes they are scurrilous. Sometimes they are just used as political weapons. Substantively, one of the things we always wonder about though is whether lawsuits can be used to actually provide new factual evidence, can you get depositions? Can you get discovery? Can you turn up documents or communications that you otherwise wouldn`t get access to because of -- because of a lawsuit?
Was that a factor? Did the Democrats end up (AUDIO GAP) in `72 with this lawsuit?
BESCHLOSS: Oh, it was a total factor because, you know, as you were saying, this was three this lawsuit came three days after the break-in, and there was no real assurance that there would be a proper investigation. You know, we now know there was a Senate Watergate committee led by a Sam Ervin and, you know, two special prosecutors got in on the act. And finally, the House Judiciary Committee voted impeachment.
But three days after the break in, there was no way of knowing that. So, this was Larry O`Brien, the chairman, and the DNC`s way of saying we want to make sure this is investigated because we think this wasn`t just a break-in, we think this was connected not only of the Nixon campaign but the Nixon White House.
MADDOW: And am I right looking back on that era, in remembering or at least thinking about the time because I wasn`t born yet, that --
BESCHLOSS: Indeed. I was.
MADDOW: That -- George McGovern, right, who was running against Nixon and in `72, that other Democratic candidates for office hadn`t figured out a way to talk about the Watergate scandal or maybe decided they didn`t want to talk about the Watergate scandal in a way that resonated with people. It wasn`t a major campaign issue that was working for individual Democratic politicians, and that`s part of why the Democratic Party bringing on this lawsuit sort of shocked people because it was not in keeping with what people were hearing from Democratic electeds.
Is that -- is that the way it went?
BESCHLOSS: Totally right. You know, I talked to George McGovern late in life, and he said one of the greatest frustrations of his life was during that fall `72 campaign. He was not able to talk about the offenses of Watergate that he saw in a way that moved the electorate.
And sure enough after Nixon was elected in that big landslide in `72 that you mentioned we now know from secret document and also from the Nixon tapes he was working a hundred ten percent of the time to try to shut down the investigations that were being discussed both by Congress and by DOJ.
MADDOW: Yes, and we also know from documents at the time that Nixon actually was a little bit freaked out by the DNC lawsuit at the time even as everybody around him was publicly dismissing it, partly, I`m guessing because he knew they were on to something. It`s fascinating stuff.
BESCHLOSS: It is, absolutely.
MADDOW: Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian, thank you, my friend. I was so excited to talk to you about this. I really appreciate you being here.
BESCHLOSS: Thank you. Me too. Be well this good weekend.
MADDOW: All right. Much more to get to. Busy Friday night. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Last night, former FBI Director James Comey was here for an hour while I asked him a gazillion questions about things he said he was not allowed to talk about. There were a few he was able to answer. But even when he was not able to answer a question, sometimes that itself gave us some news -- something new and intriguing to consider.
Here`s one I wanted to bring your attention to. Last night, I asked Mr. Comey about Paul Manafort who the government has admitted in open court. Paul Manafort has been under investigation by the FBI as far back as 2014. The FBI obviously knew that when Manafort unexpectedly became chairman of the Donald Trump presidential campaign in 2016.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Is there some duty to warn? Is there any sort of -- is there some action that the FBI should take you`re not asked to do background checks on people for political campaigns, but when you know what you know about these folks, you know about ongoing investigations involving people in serious matters, should something have been said?
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I don`t want to talk about those in particular, but in general, it depends upon what the facts are that started the investigation and what you`ve learned. The goal is always to disrupt and defeat the adversaries` actions, so sometimes that means building a criminal case and then locking up the person who`s been working with the foreign power. Sometimes, it means going to the person and saying, hey, we know you`re hooked up with them, knock that off.
Sometimes, it`s a -- it is a laying in the weeds trying to develop sources of information to get close to them. Lots of different techniques. Always the goal is to defeat the adversaries` actions in an effort to influence the United States.
MADDOW: Did anything like that happened in terms of Paul Manafort?
COMEY: Yes, I can`t answer that. I mean, I could, but I can`t.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I could but I can`t. It`s becoming the story of my life.
I don`t -- what he says you can`t -- you can`t answer that. I mean, there`s Director Comey saying that in some situations where someone is suspected of working with a foreign power, the FBI, you know, has a number of different techniques to try to defeat the adversary nations` actions.
You know, what were those if any in the case of Paul Manafort when he became chairman of the Trump`s campaign -- of the Trump campaign and the FBI knew what they knew about him?
I mean, as of yesterday, we now know from Justice Department prosecutors speaking in open court that Paul Manafort is being -- was being investigated for possibly being a back channel between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Well, what did the FBI do when Manafort took over a presidential campaign in the United States? James Comey last night left open the possibility that they did do something.
Likewise, when I asked Mr. Comey about Trump`s first national security adviser Mike Flynn, after the FBI had interviewed Mike Flynn about his contacts with Russians, after the Justice Department had warned to the White House that Flynn was compromised by the Russians, they appeared to be vulnerable to Russian blackmail. I asked Comey if after all that, during the weeks that Flynn stayed on as national security adviser, whether the FBI or any other intelligence agency took any measures to keep sensitive information away from Flynn, to protect national security since he was somebody who they believed to be compromised?
Again, Mr. Comey told me and I quote directly, I`m not permitted to answer that. That`s interesting. The former director of the FBI says he cannot answer whether his agency took any action with the Trump campaign, the Trump transition or the Trump administration given what the FBI knew about Paul Manafort and Mike Flynn who were under active investigation by the FBI while they were involved in these roles. That is new and intriguing, right? If, for instance, the FBI warned the Trump campaign about Paul Manafort or warned Paul Manafort about what they were looking at him for, that would add a whole new dimension to our understanding of what was happening during the election.
So, that is one big thing we learned last night and I`ve got one more, too. That`s next.
MADDOW: As we all remember quite acutely, just 11 days before the presidential election in 2016, FBI Director James Comey sent a note to Congress saying, hey, he was reopening the Hillary Clinton FBI investigation. That letter more or less blew up the presidential race the Hillary Clinton campaign believes that was like a comet flying down from the heavens and smashing into their campaign.
Last night, I asked Director Comey about something that happened right before he sent that note to Congress when Rudy Giuliani, at that time a top adviser to the Trump campaign, he got on Fox News and he said some surprises were coming that would really turn the race around in Trump`s favor. That was two days before James Comey in fact announced the reopening of the Clinton investigation. After Comey made that announcement, Giuliani went back on TV and basically said, yes, that was what he`d been hinting at. He`d had advance notice from FBI agents that the investigation was going to get reopened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Did Rudy Giuliani and therefore the Trump campaign have advance notice from inside the FBI, from the New York field office or wherever, that this announcement from you was coming?
COMEY: Not that I know of, but I saw that same publicity. And so, I commissioned an investigation to see if we could understand whether people were disclosing information out of the New York office or any other place that resulted in Rudy`s report on Fox News and other leaks that we were seeing in the media. I don`t know what the result of that was. I got fired before it was finished, but I know I asked that it`d be investigated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That answer from James Comey here last night has gotten a good bit of attention in the wake of that interview. Mr. Comey telling us that Rudy Giuliani`s comments during the campaign prompted him Comey to order an FBI investigation into whether people inside the FBI were feeding the Trump campaign non-public information about the Clinton investigation during the campaign. James Comey confirming to us last night that he ordered an investigation into that, but he said he doesn`t know what the result was of that investigation he ordered because, of course, he got fired.
Well, we`re not percent sure what happened to that investigation, but we think that what probably happened to it is that we think it got rolled into a broader investigation by the Justice Department inspector general, an inspector general investigation into the FBI and its activities related to the 2016 election. We think that leak issue is part of what the inspector general is due to report on very soon.
Mark Hosenball at "Reuters" reported yesterday that that inspector general report will be issued next month, which means we may be able to get -- we may be about to get the results of the investigation James Comey talked about so intriguingly last night, including the part about Rudy Giuliani, right as Rudy Giuliani is becoming the president`s new lawyer on the Russia case.
Joining us now is Congressman Eric Swalwell. He`s a member of both the Intelligence Committee and the Judiciary Committee.
Congressman, it`s nice to see this evening. Thanks for being with us.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D, CALIFORNIA: You too, Rachel. Thanks for having me back.
MADDOW: So, the Justice Department inspector general we believe is still doing an investigation broadly speaking into the FBI`s various activities related to the 2016 campaign. We surmise that that might involve -- a look at whether or not FBI agents were leaking non-public information to the Trump campaign during the campaign. Do you think that the inspector general is a credible investigator? Are you -- do you think these will be determinative results?
SWALWELL: I worry about that, Rachel, because what we`ve seen as recently as today is now perhaps former Director Comey himself is under investigation by the director general, because of what looks like Republicans seeking the memos that he wrote, leaks that came out about those memos immediately yesterday and now a report today that he may be under investigation and, of course, we see a president who wants to direct the FBI and the attorney general as to who he believes they should investigate. So, I do fear that the inspector general could be untowardly influenced by what they`re doing. But I`d like to see that report as soon as possible.
It -- what is suggested to me is that there were a number of people on the Trump campaign who had foreknowledge about hacks that were occurring against Hillary Clinton, whether it was Roger Stone and, of course, what was being reported out by Julian Assange then, of course, Rudy Giuliani intimating in Fox News appearances that there was an investigation that was about to be reopened. And so, it certainly looked like the fix was in from all sorts of angles throughout that late fall of the 2016 campaign.
MADDOW: If something like that was going on during the campaign and Rudy Giuliani was a recipient of that kind of information from inside the FBI and was using it for the Trump campaigns benefit, is -- does that pose an issue for him becoming a leading member of the president`s legal team?
SWALWELL: Certainly, Rachel. Again, he would be just another individual who, you know, it looks like was -- you know, communicating with the Trump campaign during -- right before the election and in passing along perhaps illicitly obtained information. This is an area that we tried to explore in our investigation. Unfortunately, the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee showed no interest in being willing to subpoena the documents, the communication logs, the travel logs the bank records for situations like this, that we believed occurred because of what we saw in press reporting and from other credible individuals.
So, hopefully, Bob Mueller will tell us, and hopefully with this new DNC lawsuit, we may be able to find out. And remember, Bob Mueller can only tell us what he can prove beyond a reasonable doubt. This DNC lawsuit will be quite illuminating because they don`t have the same standard of proof. It`s much lower in a civil lawsuit, so what we may learn through a deposition may tell us a lot more about what was going on at the peak of the campaign.
MADDOW: And, Congressman, I was -- if you heard the top of the show, I`m fascinated by that DNC lawsuit just as a tactic, also by its historical echoes in terms of the DNC having done that during Watergate and it actually having worked even though people forgot about it at the time.
One of the things that was reported about this Democratic Party lawsuit today is that a lot of Democratic elected officials and serving members of Congress were just as blindsided as the Republicans were and as the Trump campaign was that this was coming, that this is not something that a lot of people knew was in the works before it was sort of sprung on everybody today when it was filed. Did you have advance notice that this lawsuit was coming? Did you work on it in any way?
SWALWELL: No, I did not. And actually, I`m OK with that, because that suggests to me that it`s a serious lawsuit. It`s not something just to really drum up you know political talking points. It was something that, you know, lawyers put together looking at the evidence, not asking for other politicians to weigh in. And so, there should be a separation between what we`re doing in Congress and what happened to the victim in this case, the Democratic National Committee.
MADDOW: Congressman Eric Swalwell of California, thank you very much for being here, sir.
SWALWELL: My pleasure.
MADDOW: Thanks a lot.
All right. We just got a little bit of breaking news that I`ve seen the headline for but I have not absorbed it yet. I`m going to make sure I know what I`m talking about before I tell it to you and I will do that right after the commercial. Thank you, commercial.
MADDOW: So, I mentioned just before the break, there is some breaking news.
This has just come out in "The Washington Post". One of the dominant stories that we and I think the White House has been I`ve been coping with and trying to understand over the past couple of weeks has been the FBI raid on the Manhattan office home and hotel room of the president`s personal attorney Michael Cohen. Since that raid last week, very dramatic development in the whole legal saga surrounding the president, there`s been a lot of reporting that among the things that FBI agents were looking for when executing those search warrants was information related to payments that were made to women, payments to pay them basically to not talk about their alleged affairs with Donald Trump.
One of the things that has emerged since we`ve started to realize that that may actually be a central legal concern for the president and for his attorney is that there seems to have been a sort of pattern of collusion -- forgive me -- between lawyers and at least two of those instances where women were paid off, Michael Cohen was involved in the transaction on the side of don`t talk about Trump. And the same guy in both instances was involved on the other side of the deal, this guy named Keith Davidson. It led to suspicions that there was some sort of pattern basically -- or possibly some sort of rigged system for these women who were coming forward where they thought they were getting legal representation, but their lawyer was sort of in cahoots with Michael Cohen to make sure that Trump got what he needed and these women didn`t get much.
Both Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal have sued to get out of these payment deals that were negotiated in part with these -- this attorney Keith Davidson supposedly on their side. Well, now, here`s the story that`s just broken in "The Washington Post". Quote: Keith Davidson, the former attorney for two women who were paid to keep quiet about their alleged affairs with Donald Trump is cooperating with federal authorities who are investigating Trump attorney Michael Cohen Davidson has been asked by prosecutors in the southern district of New York to provide electronic information.
According to his spokesman, quote, he has done so and will continue to cooperate to the fullest extent possible under the law. When lawyers have lawyers, it`s bad. When lawyers have lawyers who have spokesman -- go ahead and set yourself on fire.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: At 10:00 a.m. today, high school kids around the country walked out of their classrooms to protest gun violence and demand policy changes to stop it, the kids you see here are in D.C. Taking part in a second round of nationwide walkout softer the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, killed 17 people in February. Unlike what happened with the walkout on the one-month anniversary of that shooting in March, this time a lot of schools did not give their blessing to kids to leave school grounds for this protest.
These students staged a sit-in outside Speaker Paul Ryan`s office at the U.S. capitol. You see them being handled there by U.S. Capitol police. Back home in Paul Ryan`s district, a handful of kids walked out at George S. Parker High School in Janesville, Wisconsin.
In Parkland, Florida, the kids were told yesterday they could face disciplinary action if they walked out, but they did it anyway. Parkland kids have continued grassroots organizing both at home and around the country. Some of the Parkland survivors went to Colorado today for a day of service and remembrance at Columbine high school.
Today marks 19 years since the Columbine massacre, which means some of the kids who protested today I`ve never known a world before having an armed gunman storm the school was an event you really needed to fear.
This movement of theirs is still going. They`re still marching, speaking, now sometimes getting arrested for change. They are happy to have help from grown-ups. Clearly, they are not waiting for permission from anyone.
That does it for us tonight. We will see again on Monday.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" tonight with Ari Melber sitting in.
Good evening, Ari.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END