Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: April 24, 2018 Guest: Ari Shapiro
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Tuesday.
All right. It was September 3rd, 2015, which is right before the Labor Day weekend that year. Politically speaking, at that moment, Donald Trump was a real problem for the Republican Party. Or at least he was a real worry for them.
Like lots of other Republican household names, Donald Trump was running for the Republican nomination for president by that point, and by that point, September 2015, nobody in Republican politics actually thought he could win their party`s presidential nomination. But by that time already, it was clear that he had enough support that if he wanted to, he could potentially really screw things up for the Republican Party.
The party was worried that if and when Donald Trump lost the Republican primary, he didn`t get the nomination of the party for president, they were worried he might still keep running anyway, he might become a spoiler. The conventional wisdom in Republican politics at that time, September 2015, was that even if Trump couldn`t win the nomination or the presidency, his stint as a candidate for president thus far was going well enough that it was really good for his celebrity status. It was probably good for his business, and so he would keep going with his candidacy regardless.
So, Republicans were really worried about this worst case scenario where Trump would not win the Republican primary but he`d stay in the race, and he`d run as a third party or an independent candidate. And from that position, he could also definitely never win the presidency, but he might siphon off enough Republican votes to really screw up the general election chances for whoever did eventually become the Republican nominee. That was the worry. That was what was going on in that moment in Republican electoral conventional wisdom.
Now, looking back on it from this distance, it`s a good big picture reminder how good common wisdom can be at any one moment. Every aspect of that was wrong. But at the time, September 2015, heading into that long holiday weekend, that`s where the Republican Party was at. And over the course of a few weeks as this problem, this worry was really starting to solidify, Republicans had decided that the way their party was going to solve this problem was with a loyalty pledge.
Do you, Republican candidates for president, have any objection to signing a pledge that you will support and campaign for whoever gets the Republican nomination this year, even if it is not you. Any of you have any objections to that? Yes.
For a long time, even as all the other candidates were saying, no, no, they had no objection to signing the pledge, there was one guy saying yes. He would go along. He said that he wouldn`t go along with the Republican Party in making this promise. Trump held out when all the rest of them said they`d sign the pledge.
And that was a cause of great consternation, great gnashing of teeth in Republican politics in the late summer. Trump was holding out. He was refusing to take the pledge. That left open the possibility that he would run as a spoiler third party candidate. That would be terrible for the Republican Party.
But then, September 3rd, 2015, it all gets resolved. The Trump campaign summons everybody to Trump Tower in New York, to the atrium lobby of Trump Tower, and they say it`s going to be a big, exciting announcement. Donald Trump would, in fact, sign that pledge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The best way for the Republicans to win is if I win the nomination and go directly against whoever they happen to put up, and for that reason, I have signed the pledge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I have signed the pledge. So, this was this big celebratory moment for candidate Trump and for the Republican Party. For the party, it`s a load off their mind because they won`t face an independent spoiler candidacy from Trump when he inevitably loses the primary. For Trump, he clearly relishes being in a driver seat like that and getting all this attention for this big decision, and having the crowd turn out and hyping all the excitement of the moment, he turned it into this Trump Tower event.
But it was weird. At the end of that event, amid all the excitement of this big, hyped moment, Trump decided to do something sort of inexplicable, something that struck everybody as a little weird.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Thank you, everybody. Thank you. Thank you.
Hey, ladies and gentlemen, this is a very -- an amazing man. He is, as you know, right, the -- speaker of the house of Indonesia. He`s here to see me, Setya Novanto. One of the most powerful men and a great man and his whole group is here to see me today, and we will do great things for the United States, is that correct?
SETYA NOVANTO, INDONESIAN SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Yes.
TRUMP: Do they like me in Indonesia?
NOVANTO: Yes, I like you (ph). Thank you very much.
TRUMP: Speaker of the house in Indonesia. Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Do they like me in Indonesia? Yes, I like you. As you know, everybody, this, of course, is -- what`s your title?
This is sort of a weird moment. The thing was over, he says good-bye to everybody, he walks away and everybody starts to, you know, break down and the reporters there are going to go report to camera about what`s going on. And then he starts the whole event again. This weird tacked on coda to the signing the loyalty pledge event.
It was just a strange moment in the moment. It did solve the mystery of who that guy was who looked a little confused to be in the middle of the big loyalty pledge announcement. He was standing right behind Trump while Trump was doing this thing and holding up the pledge that probably made no sense for somebody who hadn`t been following every twist and turn in the Republican presidential primary this year, but it turns out that guy standing behind Trump looking confused while he made that announcement was the Indonesian speaker of the house. Just an unusual cameo for that man in the middle of our presidential politics.
Now, we have talked about that weird moment a couple of times on this show before because it was so strange. From what we can figure out, we think the reason the Indonesian speaker of the house was there in Trump Tower that day is because of a business meeting. We think the Indonesian house speaker was there not to talk to Trump about running for president. We think he was there to talk to him about Donald Trump business interests in Indonesia.
Well, today, that same man from that weird cameo in the Republican presidential primary, former Indonesian speaker of the house, Setya Novanto, today he was sentenced to 15 years in prison in the biggest corruption bust in modern Indonesian history. Quote: Novanto was convicted of masterminding the theft of more than $170 million from a national identity card program.
"The New York Times" calling this today one of the most high-profile convictions in the history of this graft-plagued nation. The conviction is expected 15-year prison term represents the downfall of one of Indonesia`s most powerful men, and the climax of a long public corruption saga involving this particular guy. As "The Times" puts it today, Setya had been, quote, implicated in a number of corruption scandals over the years but he had seemed untouchable. He had seemed untouchable, past tense, now he`s been touched and he`s going to the pokey for 15 years so.
So, that groundbreaking prison sentence today is important for Indonesia. Also turns out to be a nice sort of coda to the coda of that moment, a sort of final epilogue for what was that all about. I mean, in that moment, if we`d all had better foresight at the time, we might have recognized that that moment with Setya Novanto would be a tone-setting moment for the Trump administration, right, for a recurring problem in the Trump presidency. I mean, if you think about what Trump was doing there, in that -- I mean, what was Trump doing in that moment, in the Trump Tower lobby, right? He was doing something weird. An event was stopped and over and he restarted it to do this thing. He restarted it to brag about the powerful nature of this man who had come to see him on a business matter.
But he also sort of randomly and without needing to, he went out of his way to give his own Donald Trump public endorsement to this man in front of the assembled national press corps. I mean, it seems clear from the way he handled that moment, he didn`t even know the guy`s name. You could see him reading the guy`s name off a note card when he makes this announcement, even reading it off the note card, he still gets the guy`s name wrong.
In such a circumstance, why would you call that person a great man, as he did? He said, this is a great man. Why would you give that kind of endorsement when you don`t even know the guy`s name well enough to read it correctly off a piece of paper? Why make that sort of public endorsement when you apparently really have no idea about even the very basic background of this famously corrupt person who`s standing beside you.
But that was Trump as a candidate, and now we`ve got Trump as president. Which brought us national security adviser Mike Flynn, who was the subject of an FBI investigation led by a veteran counterespionage prosecutor even before he started lying to the FBI his second day on the job at the White House, so that did not work out with Mike Flynn.
He was not the only one for whom things did not work out. For a while, we had a nominee for labor secretary until it turned out that his marriage had been the subject of an Oprah Winfrey TV show episode back in the day about white-collar wife beaters. So, that one didn`t work out. We got a head of the Centers for Disease Control who turned out to be buying and trading tobacco stocks while running the Centers for Disease Control. So, yes, that one didn`t end up working out either.
I mean, remember for a hot minute, we had a nominee for army secretary who had turned out had quite recently punched a guy out at a high-end horse auction. There was a very unusual reason for that one not working out, but I mean, there`s been a lot of them that just didn`t work out. Nobody asked about the background stuff.
I mean, those ones -- those are just off the top of my head. But this has been a dominant pattern in the effort by President Trump to staff up the federal government and his administration. Lot of folks have really not worked out in the end because Trump gave his endorsement, made the pick, said, yes, go for it, I want you, you`re the nominee, without him apparently knowing anything about the basic background of the people that he was choosing.
It`s happened again and again and again. It`s still happening. In today`s news, it means yet more about Scott Pruitt at the EPA, whose ethics scandals are now like a never-ending gross chocolate fountain of muck. The most dramatic headlines on this story today, though, are about Ronny Jackson. "The Washington Post" was first to report that when White House physician Ronny Jackson was named as his nominee to lead the veterans administration, the White House did no vetting of Ronny Jackson pursuant to that decision.
As "Washington Post" reporter Lisa Rein told us on the air last night, Jackson never even interviewed for the job, but they nominated him anyway. "The New York Times" today confirms that, saying, quote, the White House did little or no vetting of Jackson`s background before announcing his nomination on Twitter, Trump chose Dr. Jackson largely out of personal affinity.
Now, personal affinity is not nothing. Personal affinity makes the world go round. I mean, when it comes to being a presidential appointee, the president personally liking you is undoubtedly an asset, but it is not everything. When Ronny Jackson was first nominated to lead the V.A., there were immediate top line concerns about him not having the relevant experience to take on a job quite like that.
I mean, the very night that his nomination was announced, I remember one long-time Republican lobbyist telling Axios.com that his response to the nomination could be summed up in two words, Harriet Miers. Harriet Miers was by all accounts a lovely person. She was George W. Bush`s Supreme Court nominee for one hot minute in 2005 because he liked her a lot. That nomination collapsed very quickly and catastrophically when everybody realized that the president liking a person is not enough to qualify that person for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Now, it remains to be seen whether or not the Harriet Miers analogy is the exact right one for Ronny Jackson. As of today, it seems like his nomination to lead the V.A. may turn out worse than what happened to Harriet Miers. At least at the end of her ordeal, everybody still thought she was nice and doing OK at her current job and she went home to Texas and has had a law career and continued on and everybody still likes her and she still has a good reputation.
I mean, that same pattern might have been true up until about 24 hours ago when it came to Ronny Jackson, but now, that part of the Ronny Jackson scenario is starting to fall apart.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Dr. Jackson, can you say anything at all about these allegations that have come out against you in the last few days?
DR. RONNY JACKSON, WHITE HOUSE PHYSICIAN: I`ll just say that I was looking forward to the hearing tomorrow, kind of disappointed that it`s been postponed, but I`m looking forward to getting it rescheduled and answering everybody`s questions.
REPORTER: You`ve seen the allegations, hostile work environment, allegations about essentially drinking on the job, overprescribing medications. Are you saying those are categorically untrue?
JACKSON: I`m saying I`m looking forward to the hearing so we can sit down and I can explain everything to everyone and answer all the senators` questions.
REPORTER: Was there an I.G. report about the allegations?
JACKSON: No, there was not.
REPORTER: How much vetting did the White House do before you were formally announced as the nominee?
JACKSON: Thanks, guys. I appreciate it.
REPORTER: Sir, you`re definitely not withdrawing, you`re going to continue this process, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Dr. Ronny Jackson`s awkward interaction with reporters today, obviously mostly dodging their questions. He did -- if you listen closely, though, he did give one direct answer to one of their questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Was there an I.G. report about the allegations?
JACKSON: No, there was not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It turns out there was an I.G. report about the allegations, which was first reported today by "The Associated Press". The I.G. report on Jackson was in 2012. The navy medical inspector -- navy medical inspector general investigated what was basically a bad workplace environment for the medical staff who were working under Jackson`s leadership at the White House.
Now, tonight, I need to tell you, the White House has mounted a sort of strange effort to try to save Ronny Jackson`s nomination. In order to try to save his nomination tonight, they have circulated positive evaluations of Jackson by both President Obama and President Trump. This is evaluations of his performance as a White House doctor.
But they also made a weird decision about that inspector general report from 2012. First, a senior White House official told news organizations, including NBC News, that Ronny Jackson has never even been the subject of an inspector general review. Yes, he has. And we know that because the "A.P." reported it, but we also know it because shortly after those remarks from a senior White House official, the White House itself actually distributed the inspector general review that is about Ronny Jackson. They said it doesn`t exist and then they gave it to reporters. That was weird.
So, now, we`ve got the inspector general report, and it`s not good. I don`t know why they sent this around if they were trying to save Dr. Jackson`s nomination. Just going to quote to you a little bit from this inspector general report on him which was sent out by the White House tonight.
Quote, the medical inspector general command climate findings were based on observations obtained from both officer and enlisted focus groups and 14 interviews of staff members conducted over a two-day period. Inspector general climate finding one, lack of trust in leadership. Trust in the organization is noted to be between two and three on a scale of one to 10.
There is a severe and pervasive lack of trust in the leadership that has deteriorated to the point where staff walk on eggshells. The lack of trust is largely attributed to the open division between Captain Kuhlman and Captain Jackson. Ronny Jackson was Captain Jackson at that point. Now, he`s one star Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson.
Quote: Both Captain Kuhlman and Captain Jackson complain about the other to subordinates and seek alliances from them. The inspector general described an opinion among White House medical unit staff that, quote, Captain Jackson undermines Captain Kuhlman because he desires to be the physician to the president and he`s less concerned about effectively leading the White House medical unit. That`s finding one.
Finding two. Command climate. Overall unit morale on a scale of one to 10 is a two. Quote, when reviewing the most recent command climate survey from 2010, one member states they personally witnessed Captain Kuhlman and Captain Jackson scrutinizing the results of the survey, attempting to attribute specific comments to staff members and dismiss their concern.
Stating, quote, they will be transferring soon. It should be noted there were virtually no positive characterizations of the command climate during the visit. Members stated they strongly supported the mission, were exceptionally proud to be part of such an important mission, but they believed the current atmosphere was toxic and not sustainable.
Page four of the report, quote, focus group comments. Some specific quotes and comments from the focus groups concerning the command climate are noted. Quote, worst command ever. Senior officers are not leading.
Quote, passive aggressive behavior is exhibited by leadership. Command climate is terrible. The leaders are child-like.
Again, the leader in this case, who`s been reviewed, alongside this other officer who he apparently could not get along with, I mean, this is Ronny Jackson. And this was given to the reporters tonight by the White House, as part of an effort to salvage Ronny Jackson`s nomination to lead the V.A. I mean, this is an inspector general report into how he was doing running the relatively small office of the White House medical unit.
I mean, we know from people who have served in the White House over multiple administrations, we know from these positive evaluations that were released by the White House tonight, alongside this I.G. report that presidents and White House staff who were treated by Dr. Jackson in his capacity as physician, they all liked him as a doctor. Should he be something other than a doctor? Should he run a very large, complex organization with a very complex leadership environment?
Well, this is a fairly devastating report about his capacity to lead an organization of even modest size. The conclusion of this I.G. report from 2012 is that the White House should consider removing him from this job, because of his leadership capacity. And the White House didn`t remove him, and we know that multiple presidents have, again, liked him being their doctor, both Obama and Trump recommended that he get navy promotions while still serving as the White House doctor.
But this nomination to lead the Veterans Administration would be a very different kind of job and a very different kind of promotion. The V.A. has a budget of $185 billion. Billion. It has 360,000 employees. It treats 9 million veterans in terms of their health care. It`s one of the hardest jobs in government.
However well people like Dr. Jackson as a doctor, the nomination to this much larger stage has apparently brought people out of the woodwork in the military to caution against it. Earlier this afternoon, CNN reported that two former White House medical staff had come forward, both through the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and also to CNN, to allege questionable behavior by Admiral Jackson at the White House, quote, including excessive drinking and a toxic work environment under his leadership.
We`ve seen the vague outlines of these allegations over the past 24 hours, and now, we`ve got inexplicably this I.G. report released by the White House which is very unfavorable to Ronny Jackson. So, we`ve seen some of these allegations. We`ve started to get some flesh on the bones as to what the problem is with Jackson`s nomination specifically.
But then tonight on NPR, the top Democrat on the Veterans Committee, Senator Jon Tester, finally agreed to spell it all out, to lay it all out in a long and frankly jaw-dropping interview.
Did you hear this tonight? Hold on. We`ve got that coming up. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Over the course of last night and into today, there have been increasingly serious allegations swirling about the president`s nominee to head the Veterans Administration, the second largest agency in the entire U.S. government. The nominee is White House physician Ronny Jackson and until tonight, even though these allegations were swirling and there was increasingly serious noises coming from senators who were considering his nomination, until tonight, it was a little hard to put your finger on exactly what Ronny Jackson was being accused of.
It was hard to know exactly what these allegations were, until a breakthrough interview tonight when Montana Senator Jon Tester went on NPR to do an interview with Ari Shapiro, where he finally just spelled it all out.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ARI SHAPIRO, NPR: And you also use the word repeatedly drunk on duty. What can you tell us about that?
SEN. JON TESTER (D), MONTANA: Well, I mean, once again, it was on travel and he is the physician for the president and in the previous administration, we were told the stories were he was repeatedly drunk while on duty where his main job was to take care of the most powerful man in the world. That`s not acceptable.
SHAPIRO: I do want to ask more about where these allegations came from, but first, the third accusation is that he oversaw a hostile work environment. What is that phrase mean in this context?
TESTER: Well, I think it`s -- I mean, some of the exact words that were used by the folks who we talked to were abusive toward staff, very explosive personality, belittles the folks underneath him, staff that he oversaw, screamed toward staff, basically creating an environment where the staff felt that they needed to walk on eggshells when around him.
SHAPIRO: So, we`re talking for the most part about verbal abuse?
TESTER: Yes, correct.
SHAPIRO: And did you hear that he was the instigator of that hostile worm environment work environment or a participant in it.
TESTER: No, I think it was pretty clear that he was the person that was creating the environment.
SHAPIRO: Let`s talk more about where these allegations come from. You said more than 20 current and former military personnel who worked with him, worked under him, are you confident that they are not politically motivated?
TESTER: Well, I mean, these are -- these are military personnel that have come forward, that are absolutely worried about the potential reaction that Admiral Jackson could have on this because of his personality and previous actions toward staff. And so, I will tell you that I think that we heard the same story from enough people repeatedly that there`s a lot of smoke there.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Democratic Senator Jon Tester of Montana speaking on NPR with Ari Shapiro tonight.
Two things here, on that allegation of drinking on the job, being drunk while on duty, there`s two new instances of additional reporting on that tonight in "The New York Times" and from CNN. Just as we were going to air tonight, reporters Nicholas Fandos and Michael Shear posted this at the "New York Times".
Quote, members of Mr. Tester`s staff said they had been given several credible accounts of Dr. Jackson being intoxicated during official White House travel. In several cases, they said, he had apparently grabbed his medical bag and was attempting to assert himself to show he was in charge. On one trip during Barack Obama`s presidency, White House staff needed to reach Dr. Jackson for medical reasons and found him passed out in his hotel room after a night of drinking. Staff members took the medical supplies they were looking for without waking Dr. Jackson.
Since then, CNN has also described another incident. Quote: During an overseas trip in 2015, Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, the White House physician, was intoxicated and banged on the hotel room door of a female employee according to four sources familiar with the allegation. The incident became so noisy, says one source familiar with the allegation, that the Secret Service stopped Jackson out of concern that he would wake then-President Barack Obama.
Two sources who previously worked on the White House medical unit described the same incident with one former staffer telling CNN it was, quote, definitely inappropriate. At the time, the incident was reported up the chain of command. It`s one of multiple drunken episodes involving Ronny Jackson on overseas trips according to a source familiar. Members of the Senate Veterans Committee have been working through all the allegations but have not substantiated the claims with little documentation available to corroborate them. Important point.
If the allegation about drinking on the job is substantiated, it will become very important to Ronny Jackson`s nomination that he has talked to senators, at least one senator specifically, about this allegation. He told Kansas Senator Jerry Moran, unequivocally, that he never took a drink on the job. Senator Moran told reporters today that he got that specific assurance from Ronny Jackson. Jackson telling him that that definitely did not happen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. JERRY MORAN (R), KANSAS: The only specific allegation he mentioned was that he has never had a drink while on duty.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: We`ve now got multiple detailed allegations of multiple sources of drinking while on duty. If the drinking allegation is substantiated, that will be a real problem, probably an insurmountable problem for Jackson`s nomination that he said that to Senator Jerry Moran. It will be worse if it`s part of a pattern.
I mean, Ronny Jackson also today told reporters there had never been an inspector general report and allegations against him. We now know there was an inspector general report of that kind in 2012, and it was pretty devastating.
For any nominee to any Senate confirmable position, it`s never a good idea to lie to a senator who will be voting on whether or not to confirm you. That`s usually fatal if you get caught lying to one of these senators. On veterans issues, it`s maybe even more crucial than for other areas.
Leo Shane points out in "The Military Times" tonight not only do V.A. nominees tend to get confirmed by overwhelming numbers, V.A. nominees always get confirmed unanimously. There have been precisely zero no votes against nominees to the Veterans Administration out of the Senate in the past 30 years. That`s because there is a robust tradition of bipartisan consensus on veterans issues, on this as an issue of policy.
But if we`re being honest, that zero no votes record for 30 years is also because senators who work on veterans issues fully expect they will be consulted ahead of time about who is getting put up for important jobs at the V.A. They expect no surprises. They expect consensus picks. They expect no controversy.
There was apparently no consultation with the Veterans Committees in Congress about Ronny Jackson. There was apparently no vetting and no interview for the job either. There is now bipartisan concern about his experience and what`s emerged in his background since the rubber hit the road on this nomination.
Frankly, there`s also now one more chapter ready to go for the book that will eventually be written based on this administration about what can possibly go wrong when you nominate someone for a big, gigantic, high- profile important job without ever checking their background.
Joining us now is Ari Shapiro, who is the host of "All Things Considered" on National Public Radio, who did this breakthrough interview tonight with Senator Jon Tester, which finally shed some light on these allegations.
Mr. Shapiro, thank you very much for your time tonight.
ARI SHAPIRO, NPR HOST: Thank you for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, what was notable to me about your interview was that it was long and detailed and for the first time it really put meat on the bones in terms of these serious allegations against Jackson. An important point, though, Senator Tester is still telling you that these are all allegations and none of them have been documented other than by corroboration from other staffers who worked under Jackson.
SHAPIRO: That`s right. I asked him whether there was any real-time documentation, any complaints to human resources or anything like that, and he said everything they had was verbal complaints. He said that the complaints came to them. They didn`t go out and seek these complaints.
He did say that they spoke to more than 20 current and former active duty military personnel who worked alongside and underneath Dr. Jackson and, you know, he said this is the reason that he and the chairman decided to postpone the confirmation hearing was to continue looking into them.
MADDOW: So, to be clear, the White House medical office is staffed by military -- currently active duty military personnel, and Senator Tester is tell you that this wasn`t the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee going out and mounting an investigation.
SHAPIRO: That`s right.
MADDOW: That this was -- that these were staffers who had worked with Admiral Jackson who came forward on their own terms.
SHAPIRO: Yes, and as you heard, I said, well, could these staffers have had a political motivation and he said he heard the same stories from enough people that there seems to be a lot of smoke there.
MADDOW: Well, in terms of how this is going to play out, obviously, since your interview, we`ve now seen "The New York Times" and CNN report details on allegations of drinking on the job, "The New York Times" reporting that on one overseas trip, Admiral Jackson was passed out drunk when they needed him for a medical matter. CNN is reporting that he had an incident in which he loudly knocked on somebody`s door in the middle of the night while intoxicated to the point where the secret service intervened so as to not wake up the president.
We`re getting more and more details on this, but it sounds like from your interview and what we know about this situation, there may never be any written documentation of these incidents. It sounds like there wasn`t a -- there wasn`t a practice of documenting these things and reporting them.
SHAPIRO: And it does sound like a lot of the complaints are about things that took place during presidential travel. When I spoke to Senator Tester, he said there were basically three buckets of complaints. One was improperly prescribing drugs. He said it was mostly sleeping and waking up pills, things like Ambien. The other side of complaints was drinking on the job and both of those, he said, were primarily during presidential travel.
The third set of complaints about hostile work environment seems to have been overarching beyond just the president trips. But I really do think that as senators continue to dig into this, that question of what happened when the president traveled abroad is really going to be a focus.
MADDOW: One last question for you, Ari. In terms of the hostile work environment, we`ve all now seen because the White House has released this 2012 inspector general investigation into the workplace environment at the White House medical unit while Admiral Jackson was one of the leaders there. These concerns about the hostile work environment, was it your sense from talking to Senator Tester and NPR`s reporting on this, that the concerns about the hostile work environment extended beyond that point in time, post-2012, or are these all issues that were all related to things that came up in that I.G. report five years ago?
SHAPIRO: It`s really hard to say. The only inspector general report that we have is from 2012, and we know that Senator Tester and his staff have heard from more than 20 people from multiple administrations, but I didn`t get a clear sense of whether these problems continue to the present day or whether this is something that was resolved with, say, personnel changes, reprimands or other things that might have happened behind the scenes that we just haven`t heard about yet, and I say yet because there are now so many reporters digging into this and so many senators digging into this, that it seems only a matter of time before this all comes out.
MADDOW: Ari Shapiro, the host of "All Things Considered" on National Public Radio, really appreciates your time tonight, Mr. Shapiro. Thank you very much.
SHAPIRO: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got a lot more to get to tonight. Do stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: We learned today that the FBI conducted a pre- dawn raid of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort`s home using a no-knock warrant. Yes. No-knock. No-knock.
It is the same kind of warrant Donald Trump used at the Miss Universe dressing room. Just no-knock. Hello!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You know what? We were all wrong. In the end, it`s going to turn out we were wrong about a lot more than this, but today, we learned that we have definitely been wrong about one part of the ongoing story of the president`s campaign chair, Paul Manafort, facing felony counts and a prosecution led by special counsel Robert Mueller.
We have been wrong. One of the first signs things were taking a really serious turn for the president`s campaign was when we got word that the FBI had raided Manafort`s home in Virginia last summer. The reporting at the time, as you just saw Stephen Colbert talking about, was that the raid was conducted in pre-dawn hours and FBI agents executed a no-knock warrant, meaning they entered his house unannounced.
"Washington Post" was first to report in August last year that the search warrant on Manafort`s home was executed in the pre-dawn hours. That same day, ABC News went further, reporting that according to a source familiar with the investigation, Manafort was awoken by a group of armed FBI agents knocking on his bedroom door, as they executed the warrant. No, that`s not his front door, his bedroom door.
CNN also reported it was a no-knock warrant. "The New York Times" reported that Manafort was in bed when FBI agents picked the lock of his front door and entered his home. Later, NBC news and lots of other media outlets also reported on that no-knock warrant for Manafort`s house. I did it. Basically, everybody else who reported on that said it the same way.
Turns out, it`s time for a no-knock mea culpa. In a late night filing from special counsel Robert Mueller`s team last night, we got this. It`s on page six of last night`s filing. Quote: The government executed the warrant on July 26, 2017, the day after it was issued.
Look, footnote four. Best parts are always in the footnotes. Footnote four says, quote, the warrant application had not sought permission to enter without knocking. In issuing the warrant, the magistrate judge authorized them to execute the warrant any day through August 8th, 2017, and to conduct the search in the daytime from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. The government complied fully with those date and time conditions and Manafort does not contend otherwise.
Not a no-knock warrant, and not a pre-dawn raid. I did look it up. And I think on that day, on July 26, 2017, sunrise that day was 6:04 a.m., so maybe they knocked between 6:00 and 6:04, so that technically makes it a pre-dawn raid.
Regardless of whether the sun was up, should we even call it a raid if they knocked and didn`t pick the lock or kick the door down? This is now cleared up. Prosecutors are now saying and apparently Paul Manafort is not contesting that the Manafort raid was not based on a no-knock warrant and it wasn`t in the dead of night, even though that`s what everybody reported in detail at the time, including me. I`m sorry.
And this is yet another reminder that whatever you think may be going on with the Mueller investigation, any reporting to that effect is probably not coming from people who are actually working on the Mueller investigation. Special counsel`s office itself really doesn`t leak. And when people talk to reporters about what the special counsel is supposedly doing or what the special counsel has supposedly done, we now know they often get it wrong.
When the special counsel`s office does speak, when they do have something to say, they tend to do so on the record through public court filings, and we saw that in this new filing from last night. And that brings us to the next thing. We`ve also all apparently been getting wrong that we can also now clear up.
MADDOW: There has been a ton of ink and a ton of breath exhausted over the issue of whether the president is going to end the Russia investigation by shutting down Robert Mueller and the special counsel`s office.
It turns out those two things may no longer be related, shutting down Mueller and shutting down the investigation. We`ve now got a new filing from Mueller`s prosecutors that show they have taken yet another step to ensure the continued existence of their investigation even in the event that the special counsel`s office gets somehow raptured to heaven and disappeared by President Trump.
And this is a clear pattern now. They`re doing it again and again and again. We saw it clearly in the Mueller team`s decision to refer the Michael Cohen part of their investigation to the U.S. attorney`s office in New York rather than pursuing it themselves.
It`s New York federal prosecutors who are running that investigation into the president`s personal attorney now. If the special counsel`s office goes away, the Michael Cohen investigation will not go away.
We saw the same principle at work when the special counsel`s office declared in open court that it wasn`t their own decision to bring charges against Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort. They explained in court that the Justice Department`s tax division signed off on the tax-related charges against Manafort and the national security division at DOJ signed off against him.
So, separate and apart from the special counsel`s office, those charges exist and have been approved elsewhere in the Justice Department. Making the special counsel go away doesn`t make those charges go away.
We saw it also when Mueller`s team went out of their way to make the point again in open court that somehow if magically Mueller was disappeared and the special counsel`s office was no longer empanelled in these investigations, the investigations would persist.
Quote: The senior assistant special counsel in charge of this prosecution is a long-time career prosecutor with the internal authority to conduct this prosecution, separate and aside from his role in the special counsel`s office. They declared to the judge in that case.
Well, now, we`re seeing it again. One more step. Late last night, we got new filings in the Paul Manafort case, and in these new filings, in a couple of footnotes, all the best stuff is always in the footnote.
The government tells the court that the search warrants that were executed on Paul Manafort`s home, in a storage unit he has in Virginia, those warrants didn`t come from the special counsel`s office. Quote: The warrant application makes clear that the agent who sought the warrant was assigned at the time to the FBI`s international corruption squad and the warrant application was reviewed by an assistant U.S. attorney in the eastern district of Virginia.
So, when it comes to these warrants that led to these raids on Manafort, those weren`t just out of the special counsel`s office. They were signed off in the U.S. attorney`s office in the Eastern District of Virginia with advice from the FBI`s international corruption squad. Again, totally separate and apart from the special counsel`s office.
So, out of all the political anxiety around Robert Mueller potentially being fired or what the president could do to try to make the special counsel`s office go away, the special counsel`s team has already rooted their investigation in all these other parts of the Justice Department and law enforcement. So even if you chop down the special counsel`s office, its roots will survive and presumably they will sprout new trees.
MADDOW: On this busy news night, to help us understand what`s going on, we are very lucky to be joined by Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama.
Joy, it`s great to have you here tonight. Thank you for being here.
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY IN ALABAMA: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So, we got new filings last night from the special counsel`s office that say once again that there are law enforcement offices that aren`t part of the special counsel`s office that are involved in their investigation. In this case, it`s the FBI`s international corruption unit and a U.S. attorney`s office in Virginia who were part of -- who got the warrants against Paul Manafort that are now being fought over in court.
Is that significant in terms of the durability of that investigation, given all the threats to Mueller`s office?
VANCE: You know, I think it is significant. The justice department, we sometimes laugh and say that we`re the biggest, you know, law firm in the country. We have offices every place.
And that really could matter in the Mueller investigation, because if you say if he was somehow, you know, to disappear up into the ether without warning, there would still be United States attorneys` offices that would have jurisdiction to pursue already indicted cases. He`s received signoff for charges brought in the area of tax from the tax division, in the area of national security from the national security division, both of those divisions have litigators, and Andrew Weissmann, one of Mueller`s chief prosecutors, left the fraud section of the criminal division to go over to the special counsel`s office and we`ve seen pleadings that indicate he retains internal authority to bring prosecutions.
So, what this tells you is that if you have faith in the career people at the department, and I do, it`s, you know, it`s just part of prosecutorial DNA to make sure that righteous cases move forward, then you have to believe that the good cases here will continue to progress whether Mueller is in place or not.
MADDOW: And, Joyce, just as a practical matter, am I right in thinking that just in terms of the logistics and a president`s ability to hire and fire people, it`s actually kind of hard for a president to fire career Justice Department officials, right? When it comes to a presidential appointee, sure, the president`s decision holds, but with career folks, it`s harder, isn`t it?
VANCE: It`s hard for anybody to fire career folks in government. You know, you have to go through all sorts of progressive disciplinary processes. The president can`t just say, let`s fire a career employee tomorrow. It doesn`t work that way. Those people aren`t going any place.
MADDOW: Joyce, one last question for you about Jeff Sessions, the attorney general reported today by "Bloomberg News" to be not recused from the investigation into Michael Cohen. That clearly is being led out of the Southern District of New York, federal prosecutors here in Manhattan.
Does that decision surprise you? Does that make sense to you? Do you think it`s important?
VANCE: Well, it surprises me because at the end of the day, one of the reasons for recusal is to avoid the appearance of impropriety, and given how heavily the president pressured Attorney General Sessions over his original decision to recuse from the Mueller investigation, this really looks, in many ways, like pandering to the president, avoiding another confrontation with the president. It may, at the end of the day, be a way of preserving the investigation, but on its surface, it looks like the sort of case that the attorney general should not have been involved in. It does continue to have aspects of the president`s campaign that are still being investigated, and so, it is troubling. We`ll have to see how it plays out in real-time.
MADDOW: Right, if part of what`s going on with Cohen is potential campaign finance violations, this is the campaign in question from which Sessions is supposed to be recused.
Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney in Alabama, thank you very much, Joyce. Great to see you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Two things for your calendar. Actually, one is coming up so quickly, it`s more for your watch.
Polls are closing at 10:00 p.m. Eastern in that closely watched congressional special election in Arizona tonight. Deeply red district, but Republicans have nevertheless been fighting and spending hand over fist to try to hold on to that seat. You`ll be able the get more on that with Lawrence O`Donnell with polls closing momentito.
Looking ahead for tomorrow, though, you should also know that about 2:30 p.m. tomorrow on live TV, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is likely to get a really hot grilling. He is appearing before a Senate subcommittee at a time when a lot of things around Sessions are very controversial. This is a budget hearing. It`s technically supposed to be routine and boring. Things don`t work that way in our politics anymore.
So, if you have been missing -- if you`ve been missing -- Attorney General Sessions and you`ve been looking forward to people getting to ask him pointed questions, 2:30 tomorrow, that live coverage should be fascinating.
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.
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