Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: May 15, 2018 Guest: Jed Shugerman, Adam Schiff
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Congratulations on that, my friend.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Where do you find the time?
HAYES: You know, we`ve got a great staff here and a lot of people pitching in, and I like to talk. Oh, Lord, do I like to talk.
MADDOW: I am impressed and slightly jealous. Well done. Thank you, my friend.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
It was nice to be away. I got a little poison ivy and I caught and released a bunch of fish and gained five pounds. I had a great time.
Thanks to everybody here for making it possible for me to have time away. Thanks to Ari and Joy for filling in while I was gone.
Now that I am back, I want to say thanks to the news gods for keeping things suitably insane so there`s a real reason for me to be here trying to make sense of what`s going on.
Here is one just for a sampling. Today in North Dakota, the United States Air Force announced that it is posting a $5,000 reward for the public to help with a very unsettling problem the Air Force has gotten itself into. Look at the headline on this, force that protects U.S. nuclear weapon.
Do we have the headline? Come on, put it up there. Oh, I can`t see it on my monitor. I have the wrong monitor up. There we go. Now, I couldn`t tell that you could see it.
Force that protects U.S. nuclear weapons loses explosives on North Dakota road, offers $5,000 to get them back. Yes, this is how the news gods welcome me home from vacation.
There`s the lead, quote, the Air Force is offering $5,000 for leads on the whereabouts of a box of explosive grenade rounds that its personnel accidentally dropped on a road in North Dakota while traveling between two intercontinental missile sites. According to a statement from Minot Air Force Base, airmen from the 91st Missile Wing Security Forces Team were traveling on gravel roads on May 1st in North Dakota when the back hatch of their vehicle opened and a container filled with explosive ammunition fell out.
The Air Force sent more than 100 airmen to walk the entire six-mile route where the grenades were probably lost, according to a statement from the local sheriff. But two weeks after it was lost, the box of explosives still has not been found. The missing ordinance is a belt of linked grenades for the MK-19 automatic grenade launcher.
According to the sheriff, quote, this ammunition is specific to that launcher and will not operate in any other launching device without catastrophic failure.
So, if you`re watching tonight from North Dakota and you have recently found a 42-pound green metal crate on a dirt road somewhere near Minot, do not open it. The Air Force apparently didn`t tell the local sheriff until three days after this thing went missing, but now they are setting up an anonymous tip line and offering the $5,000 reward and making this public service announcement because, quote, any damage to the container could result in an explosion.
According to an air base spokesman, quote, if anyone locates the box and finds the ammunition in a damaged state, the area should be evacuated immediately. Again, this is a box of live grenades dropped out of the back of a truck on a bumpy road and nobody noticed for at least six miles, couldn`t find it when they went looking for it, didn`t tell the local cops for three days. And now, it`s been two weeks and, so, uh-oh -- oh, and by the way, this is the part of the U.S. military that is responsible for the security of our live nuclear weapons.
It`s been that kind of day in the news today. Welcome back, right?
Today, North Korea called off talks with South Korea less than 24 hours before those talks were supposed to start in the DMZ. The North said they were calling off tomorrow`s planned summit because there`s a joint military exercise going on between the U.S. and South Korea militaries right now. Now, this is an exercise that happens every year.
It`s not a surprise. It`s been happening every year for like a decade. But today, North Korea, surprise, decided this planned military exercise, this annual thing is now viewed by them as such a terrible provocation that the talks tomorrow with South Korea are off at the last minute and, by the way, they say this also might mean the meeting next month between Kim Jong- un and Donald Trump, that`s off, too.
Nobody ever accused the North Korean dictator of being the world`s most rational negotiator, at least not until the Trump administration decided there was no reason why Donald Trump shouldn`t become the first president ever to meet with the Korean dictator. But now, that totally unprecedented meeting next month may be off. Both South Korea and the White House appear to have been caught completely flat-footed by the surprise announcement today from the North. They had no idea it was coming.
And no matter how you feel about the prospect of Donald Trump talking to the North Korean dictator and calling him honorable and complimenting him for how excellently he treats American prisoners in North Korea, no matter how you feel about all that, surprise is not a feeling anybody looks forward to when it comes to anything having to do with North Korea and nuclear weapons. We are still watching that story develop this evening.
For now, it looks like the North and South Korea summit tomorrow is definitely off. It looks like the U.S./North Korea summit next month is basically on ice, but anything could happen at any moment. We`ll let you know more if we learn more over the course of this hour.
In federal court in Washington this afternoon, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was dealt a big setback. His lawyers had once again sought to have the multiple felony charges pending against him thrown out, basically by arguing the special counsel, Robert Mueller, was somehow improperly pursuing this line of inquiry and these charges against Paul Manafort.
Manafort is pursuing that same line in both D.C. and in Virginia. He`s facing charges in both districts. The Virginia motion is still pending but the judge ruled today on this matter in D.C. and she ruled against Manafort in a big way.
Quote, the indictment alleges not only that defendant Manafort`s Ukrainian clients were supportive of and supported by Russia, but that Manafort`s primary client was embedded in Russia during some of the events relevant to the charges. Defendant Manafort`s main client in Ukraine was former Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who sought Manafort`s assistance and his effort to be reelected. Mr. Yanukovych was widely reported to have ties to Russia. Manafort has also done business with and was sued in New York state court by an entity owned by Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who reportedly has ties to the Russian president.
The special counsel would have been remiss to ignore such an obvious potential link between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Quote: the indictment falls well within the authority granted to the special counsel to conduct the ongoing investigation previously confirmed by then director of the FBI James Comey, before Congress, including any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign.
Quote: In order to reach the end of the road and come to a conclusion about whether or not there was coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, a key place to begin is with the individuals who would have been in a position to coordinate, who had connections to the Russian government, who attended meetings on behalf of the campaign. Given the combination of Manafort`s prominence within the campaign and his ties to Ukrainian officials supported by and operating out of Russia Manafort, as well as to Russian oligarchs, Manafort was an obvious person of interest.
So, Donald Trump`s campaign chairman Paul Manafort had his civil suit against the special counsel and the Justice Department thrown out. The judge hearing his criminal case in D.C. has also now today ripped Manafort`s attack on the legitimacy of Robert Mueller and the legitimacy of the special counsel`s investigation. The judge has also denied Manafort`s motion to dismiss the felony charges pending against him in D.C.
Again, Manafort will be trying this same line of argument in Virginia, as well, to try to get the charges dropped there, too. But this ruling today does not bode well. It was not just a no. It was a no with about ten exclamation points from this judge.
Beyond that legal trouble for the president`s campaign chairman today, "The New York Times" tonight has also just dropped this little box of grenades off the back of the truck. According to "The Times" tonight, the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department are now investigating the data firm that the Trump campaign used during the 2016 election. The controversial data firm that has disbanded itself in Britain, Cambridge Analytica.
According to "The Times" tonight, quote, it is not clear whether the DOJ and FBI investigation of Cambridge Analytica is tied to the inquiry being led by Robert Mueller, the special counsel. But at least two executives from Cambridge Analytica were questioned by Mueller`s team as recently as December. "The Times" reports tonight, quote, in a sign of the inquiry`s scope, one of the prosecutors involved in the Cambridge Analytica case is the assistant chief of the Justice Department securities and fraud division. The effort is being assisted by at least one agent who investigates cyber crime for the FBI. That`s interesting.
And, meanwhile, we also have a whole new plot line to try to figure out here tonight. I swear, the news gods save these things up for me when I go fishing. It`s like a test to see if I can get back in the swing of things and make sense of something like this right after I get back. This is a weird one.
This one starts with basketball sort of. You know how there`s regular soccer, this pro soccer, and then there`s indoor soccer, which kind of looks like a cross between ice hockey and foosball but it`s live. Arena soccer hasn`t caught on the same way but it`s basically a spin of for normal soccer, which is obviously hugely profitable successful, and popular.
Similarly you know how there was once an XFL? There was once an XFL spinoff of pro-football. Not the NFL, the XFL. It was like a cross between pro football and pro wrestling. That spinoff didn`t catch on either. The XFL only lasted one season.
Well, like arena soccer, for soccer, and like the XFL for football, there is also a pro basketball spinoff now. It`s three on three instead of five on five. You play on just a half court instead of the full court, and the rules are tweaked to make it just different enough that it`s a spinoff of regular basketball. It`s not just a mini version of pro ball.
There`s all sorts of gimmicks in this three-on-three game. In regular basketball, you got one point for a free throw, you get two points for a normal shot, you get three points if you shoot from outside that arc that marks the far distance from the basket. In the new three-on-three basketball spinoff in addition to one, two, and three point shots, there`s also a four-point shot if you stand in one of those specific circles marked with a 4. Those spots are really far away. And so to shoot from there you get extra points, 4 points.
There`s also, of course, only three players on a side instead of five players. There`s a very fast shot clock which means you have to take a shot at the hoop very quickly after you get the ball, which I`m sure makes it exciting for fans because there`s tons of shooting.
For the players, it`s maybe also nice because there`s not that much running around, right? It`s a short court. It`s only half a court. You have to shoot really fast.
There`s not a lot of players on the court to be passing the thing around anyway. It is perhaps not a coincidence that the athletes expected to be the stars of the three-on-three league are players that are retired from the NBA, players who are presumably still very big and very strong and probably still very good shots but maybe they don`t want to run up and down the court so much anymore.
Three-on-three pro basketball may eventually become, you know, the biggest -- it may become bigger than NASCAR, bigger than the NFL, bigger than Olympic curling. Who knows? The sky is the limit.
But for now, pro three-on-three basketball is a quirky idea, right? It`s a first season startup idea. It might work. Might not. Among the founders of the league are Ice Cube, legendary rapper from NWA and lots of other things, who has gone on to an extremely successful career in music, acting, and now sports entrepreneurship. If you saw the movie "Straight Outta Compton", the guy who played Ice Cube in "Straight Outta Compton" was actually Ice Cube`s son in real life. What? I know.
Another league founder for this three-on-three basketball league along with Ice Cube is a connected Hollywood guy named Jeff Kwatinetz. Now, last month, Mr. Cube and the Mr. Kwatinetz, co-founders of this basketball league, they filed a lawsuit in California related to the financing for their new basketball league. They brought a civil lawsuit against investors who they say promised a ton of money to get the league up and running. But these investors then didn`t follow through on their commitments, and that hurt the league.
And whatever the merits of this lawsuit overall, it definitely makes clear that these guys are thinking big about their little startup basketball league, because in this civil lawsuit, they`re suing for damage, specifically they`re suing for $1.2 billion in damages. Sure, why not? The reason this random startup half court basketball league is making national news tonight is because of a new filing in the lawsuit. And with that new filing, that lawsuit diverts a little bit from the four-point shots and the quick shot clock and the exciting new rules about technical fouls and swearing.
With this new filing in the lawsuit, it instead veered sharply toward the White House and weirdly towards the special counsel`s investigation. The basketball league lawsuit did. I`m not kidding. That story is next.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ICE CUBE: Now let`s break down some basic rules for the big three. The home team starts with the ball. No jump ball. The first team to 50 wins, but you have to win by two points. Halftime hits when a team reaches 25. There`s a 14-second shot clock. That`s right. You only got 14 seconds once the ball is in play.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Animated Ice Cube explaining the rules of the big three, three-on- three pro basketball league that he`s a founder of.
And our life as American citizens is just weird enough now that Mr. Cube and his co-founder and by extension their new quirky basketball startup league, they`re now part of our national political news and the news about scandal involving our new president because of a lawsuit that was just filed by the co-founders of that league against investors in the league.
So, check this out. This is a sworn declaration that Ice Cube`s business partner Jeff Kwatinetz, has now filed in that lawsuit. Quote, I, Jeff Kwatinetz, declare, that I am the co-chief executive officer of the Big3 LLC with the popular entertainer O`Shea Jackson, aka, Ice Cube.
Big3 LLC is a basketball league with its corporate headquarters in Los Angeles, California. Big3 held its very successful first season in 2017, and played games in front of many highly attended large arenas across the country, from June to August 2017. That`s not a very long season.
The players in the Big3 basketball league include popular retired NBA players, legends, and hall of famers. The Big3 commissioner is Clyde "The Glide" Drexler, who is a Hall of Fame player, and one of the undisputed top 25 players of all time, by way of introduction, right? Now, we get to the reason for the lawsuit.
Quote: In June 2017, I was introduced to the defendants in this action, through Big3`s former commissioner who stated these individuals would bring strategic value to the league as investors. The defendants in the lawsuit agreed to, quote, immediately fund $11.5 million for a passive minority position in the company. They also agreed on top of the $11.5 million to pay another $9.5 million in sponsorship commitments.
And now, here`s the reason for the lawsuit, quote: Defendants only funded $6.5 million. So, they said they`d put up over $20 million, they only coughed up $6.5 million. Quote, the complaint sets out this detail the actual text messages and letters from defendants for defendants` fake excuses of why they could not come up with the remaining money.
In December 2017, defendants did make an additional $1 million payment to Big3 and claimed they would promptly pay the remainder, but they never did, prompting this litigation. Now at this point, I need to tell you the defendants in the lawsuit are four guys, supposed deadbeat investors, who said they gave all this money, and didn`t hand it over, four guys from the nation of Qatar. And the lead defendant, supposedly the lead investor, is an official with this gigantic pool of money that the government of Qatar uses to make investments and otherwise flagrantly spend Qatari money all over the world, the Qatari sovereign wealth fund. His name is Ahmed al- Rumaihi and he`s the lead defendant in this civil lawsuit, over this basketball league.
And at this point in the lawsuit, Mr. Al-Rumaihi becomes basically the main character of intrigue. Ready?
OK, quote: After making partial payments to Big3, there were numerous occasions during the 2017 season where Mr. Al-Rumaihi would bring up Steve Bannon`s name to me and comment upon his political positions. His views on the Gulf State blockade of Qatar, the Trump administration`s position toward Qatar. He persistently inquired about wanting to meet with Steve Bannon.
I did not engage with Mr. Rumaihi on this topic, so when we brought them up, I tried to politely ignore him and change the subject.
On or around January 2018, Mr. Al-Rumaihi invited me on a hike. I found this unusual. I assumed we would be talking about the money the defendants owed the Big3 since I was consistently requesting they complete the funding they owed and had set a rapidly approaching deadline. The hike was after the Michael Wolff book regarding President Trump was published and it had been reported the Rebekah Mercer and the Mercer family had pulled financial support from Mr. Bannon.
During the hike, Mr. al-Rumaihi stated to me that he wanted me to convey a message from the Qatari government to Steve Bannon. Mr. al-Rumaihi requested I set up a meeting between him, the Qatari government, and Steve Bannon to tell Mr. Bannon that Qatar would underwrite all of his political efforts in return for his support.
Now, this guy, who helped found this basketball league, had a previous business relationship with Steve Bannon. He was connected to Steve Bannon. He is a friend of Steve Bannon`s. So, maybe it`s a normal thing that this investor guy and his firm is like, hey, I need to you hook me up with Bannon. But, yes, technically, by the rules of logic, but step back from this as a citizen.
This is crazy pants, right? I mean, this is a lawsuit about Qatari guys not coughing up their full promised investment in Ice Cube`s basketball league for aged NBA players and in this lawsuit now the Qatari government is offering money to make Steve Bannon their paid agent after he`s been fired from the White House? What? Yes, this is real. This is our life now. You`re not asleep.
Back to the transcript. Quote: I immediately let Mr. Al-Rumaihi know that I was offended by this request. I was trying to run a basketball league. I stated that neither I nor Steve Bannon would ever take or even entertain the concept of a bribe of any kind. Quote, I was appalled.
Mr. Al-Rumaihi laughed and then stated to me that I should not be so naive, that so many Washington politicians take our money. He stated, quote: Do you think Michael Flynn turned down our money?
Well, I have no idea about Michael Flynn and your money.
But at this point the story is still absolutely worth ignoring, right? Maybe this is just a fascinating wacky offshoot of the plucky story of the three on three basketball league that could, right? I mean, without casting any aspersions than any of the people involved, this is a civil lawsuit filed in California in a showbizy sports world case by a guy who once had business connections to Steve Bannon.
I mean, there`s no reason to think this is anything other than a wild assertion that`s being made as a publicity stunt, right, to make people start talking about this new way to play basketball without running around too much.
But then this happened. Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels in her case against the president and Michael Cohen, he has a flair for the dramatic obviously. He has also honestly broken some significant news over the last few months, during which time he has become unavailable for comment in the media but he has made substantively claims that have been borne out. And he just posted online this picture with this cryptic caption.
Quote: December 12, 2016, Trump Tower. Details to follow. Obviously the only recognizable person in this photo is Michael Cohen on the right there. We don`t really know what Avenatti is up to with this. Tik, tik, tik, what is this about? What details to follow? What is this about?
Here was the follow-up. Quote, why was Ahmed al-Rumaihi meeting with Michael Cohen and Michael Flynn in 2016? And why did Mr. al-Rumaihi later bragged about According to a sworn declaration filed in court.
Now, at this point it`s still possibly just a publicity stunt for the three-on-three basketball league. Now with an assist for the lawyer from Stormy Daniels hyping that publicity stunt and maybe this is one of his own. These wild claims about this Qatari guy, being somehow linked not just to the basketball.
It seems like a nutty allegation, right? But then de-whoop, late this afternoon we, in fact, get confirmation from the Qatari guy in question who really was an official with the Qatari sovereign wealth fund, he confirms, yes, that`s me. He`s confirmed, yes, that was him in the elevator in that picture at Trump Tower. He confirms he was there, December 12, 2016, to meet with Trump transition officials.
A person familiar with the meeting saying, quote, there were several meetings that took place between the Qatari delegation and Trump transition officials. And during one Michael Cohen briefly popped in. So, the news gods are mischievous and I swear they sometimes throw things out just to make sure we`re paying attention.
But in this story, we`ve got a Qatari government official who really was in control of a huge pot of Qatari government money. He has now accused of bragging that he used Qatari money to bribe/slush fund Mike Flynn and it turns out, believe it or not, that whatever you think of the veracity of those nutty allegations, the dude was actually at Trump Tower during the transition and he confirms and admits he was there during the transition to meet with Trump transition officials, plus Michael Cohen, who was not a Trump transition official or a Trump campaign official but whose financial life is being held up by the ankles and shaken by a federal investigation led by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York.
Qatar was also, as you will recall, approached by Jared Kushner`s family about funding their real estate company. Those approaches made after Jared Kushner was working at the White House. Qatar is also famously electing not to hand over information to the Robert Mueller investigation, as the investigation clearly tries to follow the money.
So, there you have it. Three on three pro basketball of all things is now part of the scene and the cast of characters here, and eventually somebody is going to have to explain why the teeny, teeny, tiny very rich nation of Qatar keeps turning up in the middle of all these shady Trump storylines.
Joining us now is Jed Shugerman. He is a professor of Fordham Law School who among other things has been curating a time line of connections between Qatar and the Trump/Russia investigation.
Mr. Shugerman, thank you for joining us. I appreciate you being here.
JED SHUGERMAN, FORDMAN UNIVERSITY LAW PROFESSOR: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: This story is nuts. And I spent almost all of the first -- almost all of the amount of time that I spent reading about it, thinking that this was a publicity stunt that was being -- that was sort of dropping names and dropping provocative allegations just to get attention to this basketball league.
Then at the end of the day, we got confirmation from this Qatari official that actually he was involved in trying to meet with Trump transition officials which suddenly makes it seem like maybe this isn`t just a publicity stunt. Maybe there`s something here.
I have to ask you what you think is important about this story.
SHUGERMAN: Well, there are a lot of moving parts on this time line. Qatar keeps popping up at various weird points along the story. So, let`s start really briefly with the Steele dossier --
SHUGERMAN: -- which alleged that there was going to be a plan to sell 19 percent of this giant oil company that Russia owned as a state oil company, and to sell 19 percent and generate commissions to pay off the Trump people as a quid pro quo for lifting sanctions. Now, that dossier doesn`t get published until after the election right around the inauguration.
So, it turns out that while that allegation was in a couple of hands, the events were actually playing out in real time. So, then, jump to after the election, December 2016. First of all, you got Kushner and Flynn trying to set up a secret line of the Kremlin on December 1st.
Then December 7th, this is the key event, Qatar and another company called Glencore from Switzerland, they actually go ahead and buy 19.5 percent of that Russian company Rosneft. And then these events you`re looking at happened four days later, right? December 12th in Trump Tower, what are these two officials al-Rumaihi and the finance minister, al Tani, they show up, OK?
There seems to be a plan that is connecting the dots. And then one month later, we get the Steele dossier that shows this plan was coming together. It turns out when that purchase was made, we didn`t know it was Qatar. It was only revealed later.
So, here is how this connects, I think, to the story of the basketball organization. If that timing is right that in June 2017, why is Qatar back in the story? My speculation is that Qatar was in on this deal to be the intermediary between Russia and Trump. They need add way to get that money to the Trump world. But then once the dossier is published in January, Qatar gets cold feet, OK?
Then when they start backing out, there is a gulf crisis with Saudi Arabia and with the United Arab Emirates and the reporting is, allegedly, Kushner tried to escalate that crisis. That`s April. Then you have these Qatari officials trying to get back in the good graces with people like Bannon and, eventually, several months later, finally, there`s a $184 million loan that Qatar backs to give to Kushner.
So, my speculation is that this deal was in place. Qatar plays an intermediary role in December. Then the dossier is published. They freak out. And then ultimately when the screws are turned, they then deliver a loan to Kushner.
MADDOW: So when these allegations that turn up in the basketball lawsuit turn up, this is after, according to the lawsuit, allegations in the lawsuit that are denied by the gentleman in question, this effort is to try to make contact with Steve Bannon. Steve Bannon has already left the White House at this point? This is after -- reportedly after the "Fire and Fury" book comes out that upsets the White House and leads to Bannon being fired.
At that point, why would Qatar trying to be -- be trying to cultivate Steve Bannon after he`s left the White House?
SHUGERMAN: I think they`re trying to figure out -- they`re in a very tough position, right? This crisis between Saudi and Qatar is still brewing. It`s still -- there is still a blockade and they`re trying to find various angles to try and work things out.
I`m just speculating, but if you look at the time line, that seems to connect the dots. But here -- let`s take another -- just focus on the key events of the story, right? Qatar is at Trump Tower, these two Qatari officials, just coincidentally show up at Trump Tower on December 12th, immediately after Qatar is the purchaser of Rosneft.
I think there`s a lot of investigation to try to connect these dots. I think that`s the key event we learned today. And that seems to be the linchpin that could have been part of delivering this money from Russia to the Trump world in return for sanctions.
I don`t think any of these people knew exactly what they were doing. I think there`s a lot of sloppiness in the story, and I don`t think they expected the Steele dossier to come out. So, we have, I think, a degree of inexperience, overconfidence, a desperation, and panic that leads to a lot of weird steps to the story.
MADDOW: Emphasis on weird. Jed Shugerman, professor at Fordham Law School, this is a -- this is a weird turn. And the confirmation from the Qatari official that he was actually there in Trump Tower that day was a very unexpected turn in this.
Thanks for helping us through it tonight, Jed. Nice to see you.
SHUGERMAN: Yes, thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got a lot more to get to tonight. It`s good to be back, kind of.
I`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The investigation took almost three years, but when they closed it, they did so with just a couple dozen words. Quote: In January 2008, Attorney General Michael Mukasey appointed assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham to investigate the destruction by CIA personnel of videotapes of interrogation. Since that time, a team of prosecutors and FBI agents led by Durham has conducted an exhaustive investigation into the matter. As a result of that investigation, Mr. Durham has concluded that he will not pursue criminal charges for the destruction of the interrogation videotapes.
That was November 2010, prosecutor John Durham had been put in charge of investigating a specific part of the CIA`s post-9/11 secret torture program. He was assigned to investigate the tapes that the CIA made of its agents torturing and interrogating their prisoners. A judge had ordered the CIA to turn over those tapes, but instead the CIA fed them into an industrial shredder.
Durham investigated the destruction of the tapes, investigated almost three years, to figure out how it happened and whether anybody involved in destroying the tapes should be charged with a crime for having done so. He turned up a ton of new information. He found that the CIA had destroyed 92 tapes logging hundreds of hours of interrogations and torture. He wrote up a report with all of his findings. There was a big, long, extensive investigation.
Because it recommended no charges, just kind of came to a close with a whimper. No charges. Case closed. End of story.
The Durham report went off to sit in a filing cabinet at the Justice Department somewhere. When "The New York Times" wrote about it the next day, they buried about it on page 12 of the newspaper.
But there was one new nugget in that story if you bothered to read past the first couple of paragraphs. Quote: Government officials said the special prosecutor John Durham could still decide to charge current and former CIA officers` lawyers with making false statements to a grand jury over the course of the investigation.
A spokesman for Durham telling "The Times", quote, the investigation is ongoing. So, John Durham gets appointed to look into this stuff. He decides nobody should be charged for shredding the tapes of the torture sessions, even though a judge said to preserve them, but could CIA officials involved in that whole mishegoss get charged anyway not for destroying the tapes, but for lying to a grand jury and lying to federal investigators about the destruction of the tapes? Ongoing investigation for that part of it.
Well, that second investigation kept going for another couple of years, digging into whether anybody at CIA had lied to federal investigators and the grand jury about turning those torture tapes into confetti.
Charlie Savage is a veteran reporter at "The New York Times." He was bylined on the original page 12 report about the Durham investigation. Now, he`s reporting again with some new urgency on that little known second report written by Durham related to his investigation, the one that centered on whether anybody who was interviewed by investigators or testified before a grand jury about the tapes might have made false statements or committed perjury during the investigation.
Gina Haspel is now poised to be next director of the CIA. As a CIA official, Gina Haspel not only oversaw one of the sites where CIA torture took place, she`s the person at CIA who drafted the cable that ordered the tapes to be shredded. Because Gina Haspel play as big part in the story of the shredded tapes and the investigation that came after it, and because the Senate is about to vote on whether or not she should be in charge of the CIA, now seems like a good time for the Senate to maybe finally see that second secret John Durham report.
Democrats in the Senate have now asked the Trump administration to see it. They want senators to be able to read it before they decide about their vote on Haspel`s confirmation.
Confirmation process for Haspel thus far has turned up a little more explanation for what happened to those tapes, not much, but a little. But did Gina Haspel tell the truth? When investigators looked into her order to destroy the tapes? Did she tell the truth to investigators? Did she tell the truth to a grand jury?
It turns out there was a two-year-long investigation of that. What were its findings? Should senators be allowed to know that before they vote on her?
The Senate Intelligence Committee votes tomorrow on Haspel`s nomination to lead the CIA, the most recent whip count suggests she will be voted out of committee. She is on track to be confirmed by the whole Senate. But before that vote, before this becomes official, there is a key piece of Gina Haspel`s story, her history with the CIA torture program, that right now is a locked in a filing cabinet at the Justice Department with senators not allowed to see it.
The first vote on her nomination is tomorrow. Will Senate Democrats get the key to that filing cabinet in time? Watch this space but don`t hold your breath.
MADDOW: In March 2012, toward the end of the first Obama term, we got a special report from the "Reuters News Agency". A Chinese firm helps Iran spy on its citizens. "Reuters" found documents that suggested a Chinese phone company called ZTE had violated sanctions on Iran by selling the Iranian government technology that allowed Iran to spy on its own citizens. The House Intelligence Committee investigated. This was before the House Intelligence Committee went crazy.
They reported back that ZTE didn`t answer questions. They couldn`t be trusted. The matter of ZTE was a big issue during the Obama administration. It remained an issue into the new administration.
Just last month, Trump Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced a huge penalty against ZTE, a fine of more than a billion dollars, a seven-year ban on the company getting any parts from the United States. He said the company had lied to U.S. officials about how it handled and settled those allegations. Allegations not just of them selling equipment unlawfully to Iran but also them doing the same thing to North Korea.
That was just last month. A fine of more than a billion dollars and a seven-year ban on getting any parts from the U.S. But then all after sudden, this weekend, new arrangement.
Wilbur Ross and the Commerce Department have now been instructed by President Trump to help get ZTE back into business right away, fast. The tough on China trade wars are good and easy to win president has all of a sudden decided that he wants to help this Chinese company which Republicans and Democrats have said is a threat, which violated sanctions on both Iran and North Korea, and then lied to the U.S. government about it. And maybe it has nothing to do with new reports about the Chinese government offering a half billion dollars in financing for a theme park at an Indonesian resort where President Trump and his company have a big financial stake.
Maybe the president reversing course on this big Chinese company is something the president just wants to give in on for reasons of his own unknown to us, maybe out of the goodness of his heart. But national security folks are tearing their hair out over this, and nobody has come up with a cogent explanation for what`s going on here yet.
Congressman Adam Schiff joins us next.
MADDOW: Adam Schiff is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman Schiff has become very well-known over the past year and a half for his role in the intelligence committee`s investigation of the Russia scandal.
But back before anybody knew that this was going to be a Trump administration controversy, Congressman Schiff was also a key part of a bipartisan investigation into a Chinese telecom company called ZTE. That bipartisan investigation condemned ZTE, described as a threat to the United States. Now, somewhat inexplicably, President Trump has reversed policy on that company. He has declared that he wants to help that company, despite previous bipartisan conclusions that ZTE was a threat, despite decision by the Trump administration just last month that they should be fined more than a billion dollars and banned for seven years from buying any parts from the United States.
Congressman Adam Schiff joins us now live.
Congressman, thank you very much for being with us. Much appreciated.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Thank you.
MADDOW: What was the threat from ZTE?
SCHIFF: The threat was that the Chinese government essentially could use the telecommunications backbone that ZTE provides to commit espionage in the United States, to spy on our government agencies, to spy on our defense contractors that we considered after an investigation of ZTE and Huawei and other Chinese telecom firm, that this was an unacceptable risk to our national security and, in fact, very recently, Mike Conway, my colleague on the Russia investigation, introduced legislation to prohibit the U.S. government from buying technology and doing business with ZTE, a bill that I`m co-sponsoring.
Those are pretty powerful reasons not to make a special deal for ZTE. But even more compelling, Rachel, frankly, is the fact that they were cheating on sanctions we imposed over Iran`s nuclear program and their missile program and sanctions over North Korea, and then lying about it to us. And this capitulation by the president is really inexplicable.
This is not something you deal away our national security interests in a trade deal. That is inviolable, our national security. So something else must be going on. And, of course, you know, you wonder when you see this reporting about China investing half a billion in a Trump-related project whether the two are connected.
MADDOW: And that`s -- wonder is the right word there. There is no obvious direct suggestion that their president has made this U-turn in U.S. policy away from a bipartisan consensus in U.S. policy, and the conclusions of his own administration even just last month, there is no indication that that has anything to do with the Chinese government having funded this project that the Trump organization is invested in overseas. But there is a reason why presidents in the past had those kinds of business interests and haven`t accepted that kind of foreign financing for anything they`re involved in so as to avoid that appearance that might have been motivating the president`s decision making.
SCHIFF: That`s exactly right. This is the whole point of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. We shouldn`t have to guess what the president`s motivation is. We shouldn`t have to wonder, is the president doing this because of some unseen stratagem involving trade or national security, or is this because his family stands to benefit to the tune of who knows how many millions of dollars? We shouldn`t have to wonder.
And he, like other presidents should have divested of his business interests. His family members shouldn`t be using their positions of responsibility in the administration to further their own businesses. It`s, you know, exactly the problem that the Emoluments Clause was designed to address.
And unfortunately, we should be doing an investigation of this in Congress. We should be doing oversight of this in congress. But the committee that would be doing it, government reform the chaired by Trey Gowdy. Although he brought us those endless Benghazi investigations, he has now decided that now that the Clintons are no longer a target, there really isn`t any point in conducting investigations on that committee.
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee -- sir, I know this is something you`ve been involved with for a very long time. Thanks for helping us understand it tonight. Much appreciated.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: There`s a bunch of elections happening tonight in four states -- Idaho, Nebraska, Oregon and Pennsylvania. All have statewide and federal elections tonight.
But check out Pennsylvania, where something particularly special is going on. This is the entire congressional delegation from Pennsylvania. Both U.S. senators on the left plus all 18 members of Congress from Pennsylvania, including two who just resigned.
Notice anything particular about everyone? How about now? This is the entire Pennsylvania congressional delegation and all the statewide elected officials in the state, including their senators. If you look closely, you`ll notice no women. All dudes. The entire representative corps of represented officials in Pennsylvania all men.
That might be about to change. There is a bunch of women in Pennsylvania who ran in primary elections tonight. Three of them ran unopposed in their primary race and will go on to the general election. We`ll wait to see in terms of what happens in the general election, a lot of these victors tonight were just in the primaries.
But regardless, what has been basically a fraternity in Pennsylvania statewide elections has just been crashed by at least some women. Hope that doesn`t make Pennsylvania dudes too uncomfortable.
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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