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New York Attorney General accused of physical abuse. TRANSCRIPT: 05/07/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Jane Mayer, Colin Kahl, Michael McFaul

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: May 7, 2018 Guest: Jane Mayer, Colin Kahl, Michael McFaul

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Much appreciated.

And thanks to you at home for joining us at this hour.

A lot of news breaking into this afternoon and into this evening.

At "The New Yorker" magazine tonight, Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow have just posted a bolt from the blue. A long story in which a number of women go on the record, including using their names, so these are not anonymous sources, claiming abusive behavior in personal relationships by New York`s Democratic Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Now, Eric Schneiderman is denying the allegations. But these are two named accusers. And the activity they`re accusing Schneiderman of is quite serious. Again, the reporters on the story are Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow. We`re going to be speaking with Jane Mayer about this stunning new report in just a moment.

Although Eric Schneiderman is just one state`s attorney general, which on paper is not the most high-profile political gig in the country. After all, there are 49 other state attorneys general at any one time. Even still Schneiderman cuts an unusually high profile. That`s in part because the attorney general in New York state just tends to be a high-profile thing. The immediate previous owners of this job before him are Andrew Cuomo, who`s now governor of New York, and Eliot Spitzer, who is a lot of things, also a former governor of New York.

In addition to that just being a high-profile job, Eric Schneiderman is also unusually high-profile even for a New York attorney general right now, because of the perception or at least the theory that his office might essentially function as kind of a backup to Robert Mueller`s special counsel`s office at some point. If president Trump decides to fire his way through the Justice Department to end the Mueller probe or if he decides to issue presidential pardons to people who have thus far been caught up in the Russia investigation.

The theory`s been that even if Trump issued pardons to people like, say, Paul Manafort or hypothetically Michael Cohen or national security adviser Mike Flynn, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in New York state might at that point be able to bring parallel charges under state law instead of federal law, which could allow cases against any of these people, again, hypothetically in the case of Mr. Cohen, to proceed regardless of the president`s federal pardon powers.

Well, as of tonight, Eric Schneiderman is still in his job as New York state attorney general, but the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, is now calling for his resignation. This explosive report in "The New Yorker" just out tonight has obviously put a huge and hot spotlight on Schneiderman. We will have more on that coming up.

Again, right now, the last word from Attorney General Schneiderman himself is he denies any wrongdoing, denies any non-consensual behavior with the women who are named in this article and described in this article. But again, Andrew Cuomo is calling for his resignation and more.

This is a still developing story. We`re going to have Jane Mayer joining us in just a moment. We thought we`d be able to get her on camera. I actually think we`re only going to get her on the phone because I think that she is still working the story as it develops tonight. That`s coming up.

Also, this afternoon, in the space of one single hour, the Trump administration gave birth to a remarkable set of policy twins. The first twin, born just minutes ahead of her little sibling, was this announcement from First Lady Melania Trump.


MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY: I`m asking you all to join me in providing support and guidance to our children. Let us teach children the importance of all aspects of their well-being, which includes a social, emotional, and physical health.

There are too many critical issues facing children today. Children deserve every opportunity to enjoy their innocence. Every child should know it is safe to make mistakes and that there are supportive adults and friends nearby to catch them if they fell.


MADDOW: That was the first of two policy twins that were born within the space of one hour in the Trump administration today. First Lady Melania Trump announcing as of 3:21 p.m., that she will be creating something called "Be Best", which she described as an awareness campaign dedicated to the most valuable and fragile among us, our children.

Less than an hour later at 4:12 p.m., Attorney General Jeff Sessions in California gave birth to the second twin when he announced that henceforth, the United States government will officially pursue a policy of forcibly tearing children away from their parents and incarcerating the parents, putting the kids in homes or shelters.

Separating parents and kids against their will is now the announced proud policy of the U.S. government in terms of border enforcement. The Trump administration has been quietly pursuing a version of this policy for parents and kids crossing the U.S. border without papers, but now as of today, they are normally announcing that this is what the U.S. government stands for.

So, as the first lady said, children deserve every opportunity to enjoy their innocence. She said that within one hour of Attorney General Jeff Sessions announcing that it will now be U.S. policy to rip children out of the arms of their parents and lock them up. And it is remarkable, and it will be seen as a landmark moment that the U.S. government is announcing and pursuing this policy of literally taking babies away from their mothers.

This is not like grown kids -- like babes in arms, infants, toddlers, being forcibly taken from their parents is now U.S. government policy at the border. Which itself is a landmark moment.

But the White House really did not do anybody any favors today by scheduling the announcement that we will now rip babies from their mothers` arms to coincide almost exactly with a very rare public appearance by the first lady in which she announced how much she wants everybody to value children and take care of them. The most valuable and fragile among us.

The White House also not doing the first lady any favors when they, in conjunction with this appearance put out document and called it, quote, a booklet by First Lady Melania Trump and the FTC. They sent out this document today saying it was created by Mrs. Trump. This brochure was actually created during the Obama administration. All they did was put a new introduction on it with a picture from Melania Trump. They also changed the icon inside from an old-looking phone to a sort of new-looking phone to update the iconography there.

And there`s nothing wrong with reissuing and redistributing a somewhat effective pamphlet on an important issue like cyber bullying. But for the White House to put out an overt claim saying this was written by Melania Trump when anybody who`s ever seen that document before would know that it was created years ago and distributed by the Obama administration, that was an unkindness to her, especially after the fiasco involving her Republican National Convention speech, which turned out to be partially plagiarized from a speech by Michelle Obama.

Mrs. Trump does not give very many public remarks. She has not been a high-profile public figure of any kind, let alone as a first lady. But that makes it doubly, triply important that it shouldn`t be a scandal or embarrassment when she does appear in public. I mean, whoever`s working on her staff and arranging things around her skimpy public schedule is not doing her any favors.

Shortly before the attorney general and the first lady gave their twin announcements about the U.S. government caring for children and forcibly separating them from their mothers and fathers, the White House announced that President Trump will make an announcement early tomorrow afternoon about the Iran nuclear deal. Over the past two weeks France sent its president, Germany sent its chancellor, and Britain sent its foreign minister to all try to persuade president Trump to not pull out of the Iran nuclear deal. It is nevertheless widely expected that that is what he will announce tomorrow.

There is basically mainstream national security consensus in the United States that pulling out of the Iran deal is equal parts reckless and pointless. And it is certainly vociferously opposed by most of our allies around the world.

But the president campaigned against the Iran deal, and he did just bring on the Fox News Channel`s most vociferous proponent of war with Iran, as his national security adviser. So, the dollars to donuts bet tomorrow is that President Trump will be announcing that the U.S. is withdrawing from that landmark deal.

And alongside the anticipation of that announcement, we got an absolutely bizarre story today about some shady covert private detective-style nonsense apparently targeting people who have advocated that the U.S. shouldn`t pull out of that deal. Colin Kahl is not a household name. You might recognize him from seeing him on TV or maybe reading an op-ed, maybe. Colin Kahl was the national security adviser to Joe Biden when Joe Biden was vice president.

Before serving as Joe Biden`s national security adviser, Mr. Kahl served as a deputy assistant secretary of defense, specifically focusing on the Middle East. So, Mr. Kahl had important jobs in that area of policy in the Obama administration, but I mean no disrespect by suggesting that he isn`t exactly a household name. I mean, no offense at all.

But I imagine he is able to walk down most streets at most times of day without people dropping everything and exclaiming, hey, weren`t you deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East from 2009 to 2011? I mean, I think that he`s able to get by in life without that being a serious hindrance to being able to get through the drive-thru, you know?

Nevertheless, Mr. Kahl appears to have become the target of some sort of covert campaign. And it was not just him. It appears to also have been his family.

Here`s how Mr. Kahl explained it over the weekend. Last year my wife was serving on the fund-raising committee of my daughter`s public charter school in Washington, D.C. One day, out of the blue, she received an e- mail from someone claiming to represent a socially responsible private equity firm in the U.K. This U.K. person said she was flying to D.C. soon and wanted to have coffee with my wife to discuss the possibility of including my daughter`s school in their educational fund network.

So, basically, it`s a person calling from overseas saying, hey, I`m a socially responsible investment fund, we might be wanting to give your kid`s school some money.

Mr. Kahl says, quote: this was not a generic Nigerian prince scam. This person had all sorts of specific information on my wife`s volunteer duties at an obscure D.C. elementary school. Mr. Kahl says there was a Website for this person`s purported firm, this purported investment firm that this person said she represented, but he says the Website, quote, no longer exists, by the way. The Website had no depth to it and there was no detailed information about this U.K. person who had reached out to my wife.

My wife shared the e-mail with me and with a few people we know in both finance and education fields. All agreed that the entire scenario seemed implausible. It seemed like an approach by a foreign intelligence entity.

To test the implausibility, my wife kept trying to encourage this person over e-mail to meet with other fund-raising officers and school leadership while she was in D.C. She provided relevant contact info for such people. But this person in the U.K. kept insisting that she had to meet specifically with my wife.

At that point, my wife stopped corresponding. It all happened in May and early June of last year. We actually obtained a screen grab of the initial e-mail that was sent to Colin Kahl`s wife last year.

As you can see, that email says, in part, quote, my name is Adriana Gavrilo. I`m writing to you on behalf of Reuben Capital Partners, a London-based private equity firm that specializes in wealth, investment and management. I`m currently seeking partners to build and coordinate the program internationally and I`m reaping out to you because of your affiliation with this named D.C. public charter school. You were brought to my attention.

I`ll be flying to Washington and would love the opportunity to meet with you and tell you about our program and perhaps think of possibilities for mutual collaboration.

So, that goes to Colin Kahl`s wife. The next piece of the reporting puzzle customs from veteran national security journalist Laura Rosen who sussed out that the name of the supposed British company -- what was it, Reuben Capital Partners? This company that was reaching out to Colin Kahl`s wife and trying desperately to meet with her, that was the same company name that had been given in a totally different case to actress Rose McGowan when Rose McGowan received a remarkably similar approach when she was being targeted by a private intelligence group that had been hired by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein when he was mounting a scorched earth campaign to discredit women who had accused him of sexual assault.

This private that was reportedly hired by Harvey Weinstein`s attorneys in the middle of the Harvey Weinstein story breaking out, that firm is reportedly a company called Black Cube. It`s a private intelligence group based in Israel. That reporting on Harvey Weinstein`s attorneys allegedly hiring Black Cube and then Black Cube basically approaching women who were accusers of Harvey Weinstein to get intel on them and discredit them, that reporting was first done by Ronan Farrow at "The New Yorker."

So, between Colin Kahl telling the story about this weird approach to his wife last year, Laura Rosen piecing this together with what had previously been learned from that other scandal from that intel group, and from the initial reporting from "The Guardian" newspaper this weekend and a subsequent follow-up story by Ronan Farrow at "New Yorker", what has emerged altogether is this almost unbelievably bad movie script in which somebody, we don`t yet know who, appears to have hired this private intelligence agency from a foreign country to get intel on and apparently run some sort of smear campaign against a not very high-profile official from the Obama administration, Colin Kahl. And also against Ben Rhodes, who is a slightly higher-profile national security official from the Obama administration. He was a national security aide to President Obama.

This effort targeting Colin Kahl and Ben Rhodes appears to have been an effort to discredit the Iran deal, which they both support and which they both had a role in negotiating. The idea of discrediting the two of them is apparently to try to prepare some sort of better political environment for President Trump to dump out of that deal tomorrow. Here`s how Mark Townsend and Julian Borger put in it in "The Guardian".

Quote: Aides to U.S. President Donald Trump hired an Israeli private intelligence agency to orchestrate a dirty ops campaign against key individuals from the Obama administration who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal. People in the Trump camp contacted private investigators in May last year to get dirt on Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl as part of an elaborate attempt to discredit the Iran deal. One source with details of the dirty tricks campaign said, quote, the idea was that people acting for Trump would discredit those who were pivotal in selling the deal, making it easier to pull out of it.

Now, Ronan Farrow at "The New Yorker" corroborates much of that initial "Guardian" story, but Ronan has a source saying the effort was not bought and paid for by people in the Trump administration. His source says it was, quote, for a private sector client pursuing commercial interests related to sanctions on Iran.

Well, whoever did it, whoever paid for it, which is what I`m particularly interested in, this is obviously a bizarre and baroque twist to your usual tales about how U.S. foreign policy is made. Trying to dig up dirt on Colin Kahl and Ben Rhodes because they were involved in the Iran deal and if we can smear them, the Iran deal looks bad and this makes it easier for Trump to get out of it? I mean, really?

If you`re trying to think of a historical antecedent here, there`s a reason you might be stuck on Watergate. Just to make the loop close even tighter, this is actually the latest reporting in a follow-up story tonight in "The Guardian." In addition to this campaign targeting Colin Kahl and Ben Rhodes, according to "The Guardian" tonight, quote, In November 2017, the Washington offices of a pro-Iran nuclear deal advocacy group were burgled.

According to officials from the organization, it was a sophisticated break- in in which the whole building`s closed circuit TV and alarms were disabled. The thieves went to offices at the back of the organization suite and took only two computers used by senior officials, ignoring many other expensive electronics, including a new computer still in its box which was lying close to the entrance.

So, Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl apparently get targeted by this intel company. There`s a burglary of an advocacy group that is also promoting and supporting the Iran deal. "The Guardian" is also describing activists, including Iranian-American activists who are supporters of the deal being targeted in what appeared to be fake journalistic entreaties. Reporters calling up activists and trying to elicit information from them that could potentially be used to make guys like Colin Kahl and Ben Rhodes look bad.

It is a huge deal that the president is probably going to announce the death of the Iran nuclear deal tomorrow. Alongside that, it lends a bizarre cast to that huge deal if part of the way they tried to arrive at this political outcome is with this cloak and dagger alleged burglary and black ops targeting the family members of Obama administration officials using foreign private intelligence groups.

Joining us now is Colin Kahl, former national security adviser to Vice President Biden.

Mr. Kahl, thank you very much for being here. I really appreciate your time.


MADDOW: First of all, I imagine this must be unnerving. So I appreciate your ability to -- your willingness to talk about it publicly. Second of all, I`m sorry I implied that maybe people don`t know you all across America on a first name basis just seeing you on the street.

KAHL: It`s fine.


KAHL: It`s a good thing.

MADDOW: Yes, exactly. And I hope you can retain that for as long as you want.

Can you just tell me your overall reaction to this reporting, how plausible you see all this reporting? And if you have any insight into why this might have happened to you?

KAHL: Yes, it`s a great question. I think the story is still taking shape.

I would just tell you about a week ago those reporters from the "Observer" and "Guardian" reached out to me. My understanding is they also reached out to Ben Rhodes separately. And they essentially said, look, we got -- in the process of us doing an investigation on Cambridge Analytica, we came across references that Trump aides had hired a foreign intel ops firm from Israel and to dig up dirt on you and Ben to try to discredit the Iran deal, have you heard about this?

To which I responded: no, actually, I`ve never heard about this and that`s crazy, do you have any more information.

They then repeated -- they then published their article a few days later and kind of story snowballed from there. To my wife`s memory about this encounter to Ronan Farrow`s reporting, and Laura Rosen`s reporting and all of the rest. I think the $64,000 question is really who paid for this firm? I think the evidence is now pretty solid this firm was behind it. And the question is why?

I don`t find it terribly plausible that this was kind of corporate, you know, shipping interests or something like that. It doesn`t make any sense why they would go after Ben and me specifically in this regard. And the thing I keep coming back to was, this campaign was allegedly organized last May, so May of 2017, and it targeted Ben and I.

And we`re both senior Obama administration officials, but we weren`t the only officials involved in the Iran deal, nor the most senior officials involved in the Iran deal. And as you said, I`m less senior than Ben. So, why the two of us? Why conjoin Ben and I?

And then I recalled that, you know, in May and June of last year, there were a bunch of Trump aides, Sebastian Gorka in particular, out in public essentially arguing that there was a Ben Rhodes-Colin Kahl nexus, his exact words, on Fox. That was somehow masterminding this kind of deep state conspiracy to leak things against Trump and bring the president down. There were leaks to right-wing tabloids trying to smear Ben and I and only Ben and I.

And so, it`s just weird. It`s weird that you had aides to the president of the United States trying to essentially put Ben and I as a pair, blame us for all the ills in the Middle East for the Obama administration, say we were orchestrating the deep state, at the very same time that someone hired this foreign intel firm. So, maybe it`s completely a coincidence. I have zero, no evidence that Trump aides were involved. The only thing I have is the reporting from "The Observer"/"Guardian." But it`s something that needs further investigation for sure.

MADDOW: Do you know what the connection is with Cambridge Analytica? You mentioned that when you were first contacted by reporters for your comment on this story they said that they had basically come across this information while they were investigating Cambridge Analytica.

We should say Cambridge Analytica just technically shut down. They were the data firm associated with the Trump campaign and they`ve been the subject of some incredible reporting and expose particularly in the U.K. in terms of their sort of dark tactics in elections in & other intel and data- related concerns.

Do you know what the Cambridge Analytica connection would be here?

KAHL: I don`t. And I think it`s worth talking to reporters more about it. I can -- you know, there is some reporting not from these reporters but others that suggested that Cambridge Analytica and this organization in Israel, Black Cube, had worked together before in other areas like Nigeria for a contract they did for the government there, which is a little odd since Black Cube says they don`t work with foreign governments, but anyway.

But I don`t know whether that was the connection or rather some of the sourcing that came out of the Cambridge Analytica investigation also tipped them off to this other thing. I just don`t know.

MADDOW: Colin Kahl, former deputy assistant to President Obama, national security adviser to Vice President Biden. As I say, imagine this must be unnerving for you and your family. Thanks for helping us understand it. Please, as the story continues to evolve, please stay in touch with us about it.

KAHL: Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thank you.

All right. Much more ahead tonight. In just a moment, we`re going to get the latest on this explosive new reporting in "The New Yorker" magazine which was just posted tonight. Allegations of physical and sexual abuse by one of the most powerful and high-profile attorneys general in the country. That story with the reporter who`s breaking that story tonight is next.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: Every state has an attorney general. They`re almost all statewide elected jobs. A pretty high-profile jobs. Not counting Washington, D.C., there are 22 Democratic attorneys general in various states right now.

Just as Republican attorney generals -- attorneys general made a practice of suing President Obama and blocking his administration in the courts, so now are Democratic A.G.s using their power in the states to fight Trump administration policies wherever they can -- on the environment, on immigration, you name it.

And some of these state A.G.s are more high-profile than others. By the end of last year, for example, the Democratic A.G. in the state of New York had taken some form of action against president Trump and the Trump administration at least 100 times. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has taken on the Trump administration over all sorts of policy matters, the Muslim ban, reproductive rights. He brought that potent and ultimately successful fraud lawsuit against Trump for Trump University.

The New York A.G. is also highly visible in national politics because his state-level jurisdiction includes key figures in the Russia investigation and some related legal matters. Eric Schneiderman`s office has reportedly teamed up with the special counsel on the investigation into Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, who did business in New York. Trump`s long-time personal lawyer Michael Cohen, his home and office and hotel room were all searched last month by prosecutors after a referral from the special counsel. Michael Cohen lives and works in New York state.

There`s so much talk in Washington that President Trump will at some point fire his way through the Justice Department to stop the Mueller investigation. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been seen as one way to potentially keep the Russia probe going, if the president fired everybody involved on the federal level or if he issued pardons to people for federal crimes. Trump Tower and close associates of Trump have been based here in New York, and so, the idea is that a New York A.G. like Schneiderman could bring state charges separate and apart from whatever happens at the federal level.

Just a couple weeks ago, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman started laying the groundwork to change New York state law for just that eventuality. He started work on changing state law so he could still bring state charges even after a presidential pardon cleared somebody from federal charges.

So, that`s the context for what I`m about to tell you and the reason why Eric Schneiderman is a much higher-profile state attorney general than almost anybody else.

As I mentioned at the top of the show, "The New Yorker" magazine tonight reports on the direct accounts of four women who accuse New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman of physical abuse in the past several years, going back to 2013. Two of these women have not given their names. Two women have gone on the record, named, identifiable.

Quoting "The New Yorker," quote: They accuse Schneiderman of having subjected them to non-consensual physical violence. They allege that he repeatedly hit them, often after drinking, frequently in bed and never with their consent. The women categorized the abuse he inflicted on them as assault.

They did not report their allegations to the police at the time, but both say they eventually sought medical attention after having been slapped hard across the ear and face and also choked. One of the women says Schneiderman warned her he could have her followed and her phones tapped. Both said he threatened to kill them if they broke up with him.

So, what`s described here in this new piece from "The New Yorker" is harrowing. These women are alleging very similar acts of violence and degradation inflicted on them repeatedly without consent by Eric Schneiderman.

In response to these allegations, Mr. Schneiderman has given this statement to "The New Yorker". He says, quote: In the privacy of intimate relationships, I have engaged in role playing and other consensual sexual activity. I have not assaulted anyone. I have never engaged in non- consensual sex, which is a line I would not cross.

So, that`s the denial from the New York state A.G. On the other side, these women apparently told friends about the alleged abuse while it was still going on. And those potential corroborating witnesses are vouching for these women now. They include high-profile figures including the novelist Salman Rushdie.

Even so, one of the women describes speaking out now as, quote, torturous. Quote: I know it`s going to be my word against his because I don`t have photos of bruises and I don`t have a police report. She continues, "what do you do if your abuser is the top law enforcement official in the state?

Not long after "The New Yorker" published the story tonight, New York`s Governor Andrew Cuomo called for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman`s resignation. The government saying, quote: My personal opinion is that given the damning pattern of facts and corroboration laid out in the article, I do not believe it`s possible for Eric Schneiderman to continue to serve as attorney general and for the good of the office, he should resign.

Further, Governor Andrew Cuomo says tonight, he will ask a local district attorney to commence an immediate investigation and proceed as the facts merit.

Joining us now by phone is Jane Mayer, who reported this bombshell piece tonight along with Ronan Farrow in "The New Yorker" magazine.

Jane, thank you very much for joining us. I know this is a very busy night as you`re breaking this story.

JANE MAYER, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER MAGAZINE (via telephone): Well, good to be with you. Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: Let me ask you first about the very last thing that I just said. Governor Cuomo is calling for Eric Schneiderman`s resignation, also suggesting that some of the behavior that is described in your piece tonight may be criminal and may warrant a criminal investigation by a district attorney in the state of New York.

Is that -- in terms of your understanding of what`s being alleged here, is it possible that the attorney general could be facing criminal liability for these actions?

MAYER: Excuse me. Sorry. Yes. I think it is possible and it`s just an incredible turn of affairs since as of this morning, you had instead the attorney general of New York, Eric Schneiderman, overseeing an investigation into the same district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., in Manhattan. So, it is possible. It`s a question I suppose also of whether the women will want to press charges. And I don`t actually know whether that`s true or not at this point. But you know, the stories they told us were certainly harrowing.

MADDOW: You and Ronan describe -- a very moving part of your piece. Obviously, these are harrowing allegations, and the similarity between them I think doubles the weight in terms of how they come across as allegations. But there`s this very moving portion of your reporting where you essentially describe two women who had both had allegedly remarkably similar abusive experiences with the attorney general finding each other, talking to each other about it, and being able to corroborate one another`s experiences.

That is -- it`s a remarkable thing to read about and I don`t need to you tell me too much about your sources, but I`m interested in why those women were able to share something that intimate and personal with you.

MAYER: Well, I think, it is -- it was really interesting watching this whole thing unfold. I think part of it was the backdrop was the "Me Too" movement but also really the allegations that came out about Rob Porter and domestic violence. The top White House aide who had to resign because of the pictures of a black eye that his wife got and she said they were -- it was from him.

And as these women who had dated Eric Schneiderman over the years watch all these headlines and these stories unfolding, they felt they had some responsibility to speak up themselves. All these women are -- excuse me, I`m sorry, I have a cough -- are supporters -- were supporters of Schneiderman. They are -- they were progressive feminists, very articulate people, who, you know, were -- I would say at least three of them sort of described themselves as having been in love with him. So, they were big supporters of his.

But they also were supporters of, you know, women`s empowerment and they felt tremendously conflicted as the news moved in this direction. And then with the attorney general taking such a prominent role in, you know, supervising the Weinstein case, which is one of the most high-profile sexual harassment cases in recent history. They just felt the hypocrisy became kind of untenable. And they began to reach out to each other and form an alliance kind of really.

MADDOW: Jane Mayer, who along with Ronan Farrow has broken this remarkable story tonight, four women accuse New York`s attorney general of physical abuse. I know this continues to be a developing story -- Jane, thank you for joining us in the middle of this. I really appreciate it.

MAYER: Great to be with you.

MADDOW: Yes. I should mention, as I said at the top of the segment here, Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic governor of New York state, has called on Eric Schneiderman to resign as New York`s state attorney general over these allegations. He has also said that he`s asked a local district attorney to commence an immediate investigation and proceed as the facts merit.

The NYPD has said in regard to this reporting involving Eric Schneiderman, quote, the NYPD has no complaints on file. If the NYPD receives complaints of a crime, it will investigate those complaints thoroughly.

We also just as I was speaking with Jane Mayer there got a statement from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. She says, quote: The violent actions described by multiple women in this story are abhorrent. Based on this extensive and serious reporting, I do not believe that Eric Schneiderman should continue to serve as attorney general. There should be a full and immediate investigation into these credible allegations.

Also, just to note one other thing about this reporting, in addition to these four women, two named, describing similar instances of alleged physical violence at the hands of Mr. Schneiderman in the context of intimate relationships, there`s also extensive allegations here about heavy drinking, including one detailed allegation about drinking while driving -- or driving while drunk.

Again, this is a developing story. We will let you know more as we learn more over the course of this evening. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Today was inauguration day in Russia. Since this was the fourth time for Vladimir Putin, they decided to keep it low-key, at least according to a weird video, Russian state television put out. It shows Putin all alone in his office, presumably hard at work, when suddenly he gets a call to come on down, time to be president again. OK, I guess I`ll turn off the desk lamp. That Excel spreadsheet will have to wait. Takes his jacket that had been draped over the back of his chair, so casual, puts it on, and then we watch him start to make his way out of the office on the long tracking shot.

Big day. Gets himself off straighten, buttons his jacket, walks out the door. There is one guy whose hand he shakes. But other than that not a very busy day at the office, nobody else around.

And then the camera literally follows Putin all the way down the corridor, all the way through a whole bunch of different hallways and rooms in the Kremlin. Wordlessly. There`s no sound. It`s just like this the whole time.

This is the start of Putin`s inauguration. We just follow him the entire way to the ceremony. And it goes on -- can we speed this up? Yes, thank you.


MADDOW: Just a nonstop shot of Vladimir Putin walking all the way from his office down the long winding corridors of the Kremlin. Nobody in sight. Not speaking to anybody. Nobody around. The world just watches him walk for three straight minutes.

At some point, Putin finally makes it to his brand new Russian-made limousine. Very snazzy. Then escorts him soundlessly over to the other side of the Kremlin. And then finally, it`s time at the stroke of 12:00 the doors on the Grand Kremlin Palace opens up. And bam, turns out he`s not alone at all. Everybody`s there, and there`s music.

All of Putin`s friends have been waiting so patiently for him to arrive at his inauguration ceremony, like Steven Seagal.


MADDOW: And Gerhard Schroeder, former chancellor of Germany, who now lives full-time in the Kremlin`s pocket.

Vladimir Putin`s inauguration today was a much more choreographed event than what took place over this weekend. We`ve got some footage from that in just a second that you`re going to want to see. Stay with us.


MADDOW: This weekend thousands of people took to the streets in cities across Russia including St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg and Moscow to protest Vladimir Putin`s umpteenth inauguration Protest his staying in office for six more years and hand-picking fake opponents to ensure he would win this re-election.

We`re used to seeing robust protests take place against Putin now, people waving flags and signs and saying down with the czar. We`re even used to seeing pretty violence arrests taking place at these protests. Over 1,600 people were arrested this weekend, including Putin`s main actual adversary, opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was dragged away and arrested by police this weekend for the umpteenth time.

Putin won this re-election after hand-picking his fake opponents and jailing his real ones. This is a tactic we`ve grown accustomed to in Putin`s Russia. But we haven`t been used to seeing all of this stuff. These guys in the fur hats, not the guys wearing police visors but the guys in the fur hats, these are pro-Kremlin Cossack fighters. They were also at protests this weekend wielding leather whips to lash protesters and bully people.

"Guardian" reports that those Cossack fighters will once again be out in full force in just a few weeks during the World Cup. Quote: According to documents published by the Moscow mayor`s office, Moscow`s administration paid to train Cossacks in how to ensure public safety at events in the city. Having Cossack fighters out in the street with whips taking on protesters, it seems bad, giving them a municipal contract and putting them in charge of public safety at an international event like the World Cup, that seems even worse.

Vladimir Putin`s last term as president was marked by his decision to invade and take over part of another country. Also invading Syria. Also, of course, monkey-wrenching the American presidential election to the benefit of Donald Trump.

But it seems at the start of his next term it seems like things are getting worse. It just -- it seems like that the more attention you pay, the worse it seems. If you`re somebody who takes a wider view, though, a longer view, a better informed view of Putin`s place in Russia right now, are things worse or have they always been this bad?

Joining us right now is Michael McFaul. He`s the former U.S. ambassador to Russia. He`s author of the very timely new book, "From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin`s Russia."

Mr. Ambassador, it`s great to see you. Thank you for joining us.


MADDOW: Congratulations on the book.

MCFAUL: Nice to be on the set, instead in Palo Alto.

MADDOW: Yes, it`s nice to have you here. Congratulations both on the timing and accomplishment of this.

MCFAUL: Thank you.

MADDOW: Let me just ask in terms of news right now, Putin`s sworn in today for another six years. When he was first president, it was only a four- year term.

MCFAUL: Correct.

MADDOW: Now, it`s six years. This will be his 18th year in office.

MCFAUL: Correct. Depending how you count the prime ministership, but yes.

MADDOW: But he essentially seems like he was running the place still while he was prime minister.

MCFAUL: Yes, he was.

MADDOW: Do you think he`ll be in office until he dies?

MCFAUL: Probably so. He does not have an exit strategy. He does not have a political party. He doesn`t have a successor. And the people around him that depend on him for their money, the oligarchs, some of those people you just showed in the video there, they can`t afford for him to leave because they know that once he does I think -- and I think they`re right about this, that that regime will fall apart.

MADDOW: What did you make of seeing those sort of paramilitary protesters with whips in the street?

MCFAUL: Well, it brought back memories, because when I was ambassador in 2012, those guys -- they didn`t their whips, but they did bring their knives and their big hats and they used to follow me around Moscow all the time. When I would show up to see a human rights activist or attend some of them, they, along with this kind of neo nationalist kids would show up with their cameras all the time wherever I went.

But this is new. Beating up on protesters, people not part of the government, that`s new and that scares me.

MADDOW: In that, I mean, in a government where Putin has centralized as much as power as he has and where law enforcement has become an arm of political control, I don`t necessarily understand why an autocratic environment like that would also need essentially paramilitaries?

MCFAUL: Well, it`s part of the Putin playbook. So, not unlike our elections, not unlike poisonings and assassinations, they like -- Putin likes to have distance between the actual official government and other intermediaries and proxies that do these kinds of things. So, he does it on a lot of fronts, right? So he can deny they`re not part of the government. So when they put out disinformation, as they used to do with me as ambassador, they can say, well, that`s not us, we have a free society.

You got to -- Mr. Ambassador, you have to admire our independent free media here. Pretty classic Putin tactic, sometimes it gets out of hand when those agents don`t follow what Putin wants to have happen.

MADDOW: Or when it becomes too obvious that what they`re doing can`t be on their terms.

MCFAUL: Right.

MADDOW: At the end of the book, you have this sad moment --

MCFAUL: Yes, it`s tragedy. The book is a tragedy.

MADDOW: It is. My life`s work of trying to bring the two countries closer, of trying to integrate a democratic Russia as a responsible and important stakeholder in the international community of states. It seems like a failure. To punctuate a tragedy, I`m now persona non grata in a country I love, a place where I`ve lived for years and which I studied for decades. You are not optimistic about the rest of your lifetime reversing these trends.

MCFAUL: I`m not optimistic in the short run, because I do think Putin is in power, I don`t see that changing anytime soon. But in the long run, I`m incredibly optimistic about Russia and its future with the West and with democracy.

MADDOW: Because you love Russia?

MCFAUL: Well, A, I love Russia, because I`m passionate about Russia. But, B, I`m also a social scientist. And we know that the richer countries become, the more likely they are to become democratic. That`s a trend we`d seen for hundreds of years.

Russia is a pretty rich place with a lot of smart people, they have their heads down now, right? Those brave people you showed have their heads up and they`re getting hit, and some of them were 12 years old, by the way. But a lot of people that were protesting earlier, back when I was ambassador, they have their heads down. They`re the breadwinners in their families. They can`t go to jail, but they haven`t changed their references about Putin.

And I think the era after Putin will be very interesting and hopefully move them in a more democratic direction and that means a closer relationship with the West.

MADDOW: And the longer he stays in power, the more potent it is to be able to imagine Russia without him.

MCFAUL: Good point.

MADDOW: Which at this point is a revolutionary idea.

MCFAUL: That`s a great point.

MADDOW: Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, author of "Cold War to Hot Peace" -- well, done. Thank you. It`s great to have you here.

MCFAUL: Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: Thanks.

All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Well, this evening has at least been efficient. Tonight, "The New Yorker" reported on allegations from four women, two of them named against New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The women alleged that Schneiderman flopped and chocked them without their consent in the context of personal relationships.

Schneiderman gave "The New Yorker" a statement tonight denying the allegations, but mere hours after this report has been published this evening, New York`s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has resigned, putting out a statement tonight, quote: It has been my great honor and privilege to serve as attorney general for the people of the state of New York in the last several hours, serious allegations which I strongly contests, have been made against me.

While these allegations are unrelated to my professional conduct or the operations of the office, they will effectively prevent me from leading the office`s work at this critical time. I therefore resign my office effectively at the close of business on May 8th, 2018. That would be tomorrow 5:00.

The job of picking someone to serve out his term will fall to the notoriously insane New York state legislature, but wow, really big news tonight. The resignation of New York`s attorney general. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Again, the breaking news this hour after Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow published allegations in the "New Yorker" magazine from four women who say they were hit and slapped and otherwise abused by New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Attorney General Schneiderman he has just resigned effective close of business tomorrow.

He said in a statement that he, quote, strongly contests the allegations. But he is out. He says these allegations will effectively prevent me from leading the office`s work at this critical time. I therefore resign my office effective at the close of business on May 8th, 2018.

That does it for us tonight. Our coverage now continues in "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".

Good evening, Lawrence.