Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: July 23, 2018 Guest: David Kris
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. I missed you last week.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: Well, I missed you. But also, it was nice to be with my fam.
MADDOW: You don`t even have to tell me that you missed me. That`s weird.
HAYES: I missed this moment. This is part into this. They`re taking off the make-up. It`s like part of the ritual.
I liked it very much. I did miss it. I missed seeing you. I`m happy to be back as well.
MADDOW: I love you, my friend. Welcome back.
HAYES: Love you too.
MADDOW: Thank you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you here. Happy Monday.
The former head of the national security division at the Justice Department is going to be our guest here tonight. I`m very excited about that.
There`s a whole bunch of news that has unfolded over the course of, really, the last 48 hours, but also the day to day and into the night tonight, a whole bunch of news that is national security division at the Justice Department kind of news. So, I`m very happy we`ve got that guest on top. He`ll be here in just a few minutes. That is a big deal.
In August 2016, specifically on August 19th, 2016, the chairman of the Donald Trump for president campaign resigned. Now, looking back on that moment now, it is important and strange for a whole bunch of different reasons. I mean, at the time, it was remarkable that the campaign chairman of a major nominee for president was resigning from the campaign under a cloud of allegations that he had received millions of dollars in off the books payments from a pro-Russian political party operating in the former Soviet Union, right?
In the history of American presidential politics, that was kind of a moment in itself. In terms of the immediate electoral politics of it all, that August 19th departure of Paul Manafort was also remarkable because you know, after that candidate had just received his party`s nomination just two and a half months before the general election, that`s the Republican Party`s nominee for president, losing yet another campaign chairman. Having to get a third campaign chairman, right?
That moment in time, August 19, 2016, it also ended up being an historical turning point because the new campaign chair who came on to replace Paul Manafort was the publisher of a fairly obscure, super hard line, right wing website that was very controversially associated with the white nationalist movement in this country. It was also oddly associated with over the top passionate support for Britain leaving European Union.
The Brexit campaign and the Trump campaign would, of course, both later come under scrutiny for having been illegally assisted by the Russian government. But at the time, that was only one of a million bizarre story lines in the presidential election of 2016. And now, looking back at that date, looking back at August 19, 2016, the day Paul Manafort left the Trump campaign, we can also see one other very, very specific reason why that date, that occasion of Manafort leaving the campaign was so important, and ultimately so weird, because on that date, that exact date, when Paul Manafort quit running the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, he also somehow found time that same day to set up a new LLC called Summerbreeze. Huh?
I mean, you might think he would be busy that day being ousted from running the Republican Party`s presidential campaign just weeks before the election. But nope, that day, he found time to set up this little holding company. And I don`t know why he set it up that holding company on the exact day he left the Trump campaign, but it later turned out to be a very handy little holding company. In December 2016, so after the election, during the presidential transition, that company Summerbreeze, which Manafort had set up on the day he quit the campaign, that company received a $9.5 million loan from a little tiny bank in Chicago that supposedly specialized in loaning to U.S. veterans. Paul Manafort is not a veteran.
Not only did he get $9.5 million loan from that Chicago bank in 2016, the following month in January 2017, he got two more multimillion-dollar loans from that same bank for a total of about $16 million in cash from this one bank that again specializes in lending to veterans. Now, "The Wall Street Journal" was first to report on these odd transactions between Manafort and this little Chicago bank, including the fact that the holding company was set up literally on the day that Manafort left the Trump campaign.
"The Journal" was also first to report that these loans to Paul Manafort were hugely outsized compared to the resources of that little bank. That $16 million that the bank handed over to Paul Manafort, those loans represented nearly a quarter of all the loanable assets for that little bank. Well, in February 2018, NBC News reported that Robert Mueller`s office, special counsel`s office, was looking into those loans to Paul Manafort during the transition. And somewhat ominously for Paul Manafort, and for that little bank, NBC reported in February that, quote, the three loans to Manafort were questioned by other officials at the bank.
One source told NBC News that at least one of the bank employees who felt pressured into approving the Manafort deals is now cooperating with investigators. Eek!
That same day, "Wall Street Journal" reported that the bank`s decision to give all that cash to Paul Manafort during the transition, it might have been part of an almost too ridiculous to be believed quid pro quo. Quote: Around the time, his bank made the Manafort loans in late 2016 and early 2017, Steve Calk, the chief executive of the Chicago bank, was seeking to become secretary of the army.
Now -- like the U.S. army. Secretary doesn`t always mean highest job in the company, right? But in this case, being secretary of army means this guy from this little Chicago bank who has given all this money to Paul Manafort, he thought he was going to run the U.S. Army.
Quote: Mr. Calk was placing calls to the Pentagon and specifically to Army headquarters, asking for briefings, to obtain information and prepare himself for a possible job. According to a person familiar with the inquiries. Mr. Calks` overtures raised questions among military leaders as to how to respond.
"The Wall Street Journal" was first on this story out of the gate. They had initial reports on something unusual having happened between the Trump campaign chairman who resigned under this weird cloud related to Russia and then this little bank in Chicago. They had those first reports in the spring of 2017, not long after the inauguration, and "The Journal", of course, stayed on the story ever since. Even still, though, even as we have seen the story slowly simmer and start to steam and boil over the course of more than a year now, it is still rather astonishing that somehow, the president`s campaign chair duped this guy in Chicago, not only into giving him $16 million, but he apparently duped him into doing that after the Trump campaign chair had already been kicked off the Trump campaign for being too obvious a Russian stooge.
I mean, months after that, he convinces this guy to give him $16 million. And persuades the guy that will result in him becoming secretary of the Army. I mean, this guy was allegedly not only going to get this quid pro quo, he thought he got it.
I mean, he`s like 1-800 go army. Hey, this is Steve. I`m the new guy had charge of the Army, they told me. Can I speak to my office, please? I need my briefing materials. What?
This is months after Manafort had to resign in disgrace, right? We haven`t seen that bank CEO, this guy, Steve Calk, since the allegations first surfaced. As far as we know no charges were ever brought against him in conjunction with this allegation. But this allegation is no longer just in the papers. It has made its way into the federal criminal case against Paul Manafort.
This is from a filing in the case against Manafort from earlier this month. Quote, counts 29 through 32 of the superseding indictment charged the defendant with bank fraud and conspiring to commit bank fraud against a financial institution, lender D, in seeking and securing two loans, totally approximately $16 million. Now, the financial institution in this filing, they called it lender D. We have every reason to believe that lender D is Steve Calk`s bank, the federal savings bank in Chicago. It`s a big sounding name but it`s a tiny, little institution.
Quote: Between April 2016, so during the campaign, and January 2017, the month of the inauguration, the defendant Paul Manafort made and conspired to make false and fraudulent representations to the Federal Savings Bank of Chicago to secure these loans. Both loan applications ultimately were approved by among others a senior executive at the federal savings bank who sought the defendant`s assistance to obtain a position advising the Trump campaign, which he obtained and later in the administration of President Trump, which he did not obtain.
So, from reporting at NBC News and the "Wall Street Journal" and other places, we believe that this bank executive from this little bank in Chicago, we believe he did get a position on an economic advisory council that was supposedly advising Trump. But if these public reports are true, he was also apparently persuaded by Paul Manafort that he was going to get Army, too. He would be put in charge of the Army. But he never did actually obtain job.
In the list of evidence that the special counsel`s office has filed with the court showing what evidence they`re going on cite in their case against Paul Manafort, there is a number of e-mails that reference this bank CEO, Steve Calk, including one with the now very sad and retrospect subject line, quote: need Steve Calk resume. Do you? So he can go run the Army?
Look at this one: August 4th, 2016. Two weeks before Manafort gets kicked off the Trump campaign. Quote: E-mail to Paul Manafort to Steve Calk. Re: Steve Calk professional bio. At that point, Paul Manafort`s probably already calling him Mr. Secretary.
Well, now, today in court, the judge in the Manafort case started to show us some of the substance behind these allegations that thus far have mostly been spelled out in the press. First of all, the judge unsealed the fact not just one, but two employees of this little bank in Chicago have been granted immunity in exchange for their testimony as witnesses for the prosecution. We knew heading into today that there were five witnesses who are all basically pleading the Fifth. They were all saying they wouldn`t testify to avoid incriminating themselves.
The prosecutors got permission from a very senior official at the criminal division at the Justice Department to grant those five witnesses limited immunity, what`s called use immunity, so their testimony can be compelled. They can be forced to testify and their testimony can`t be used against them as long as they don`t lie in court. Well, the judge today accepted all of those immunity deals for all five of those witnesses, but then surprise, the judge also decided in court today, in a sort of a, it was one of those sessions, you`ve seen it in courtroom dramas on TV where the judge asked the counsel to approach the bench and the people can`t hear what`s going on and it all just happens there at the judge`s bench, that`s how they had the discussion today.
And in that discussion which again, people in the courtroom couldn`t hear but we just got transcript of it. The judge explains that yes, he`s going to grant immunity to these five witnesses but surprise, he is also going to reveal their identities. The prosecution wanted all their names kept secret unless and until they actually ended up testifying.
The judge today said no, I`m telling everybody who they are. That is not something that we knew would happen today. People who watched the hearing in court today didn`t hear this happen but we now know from the transcript that we just got a few minutes ago that this is how that went down.
Quote, the judge, I received a number of motions that were under seal, requested to be under seal for these witnesses. Why do they need to be under seal? These are witnesses, as I understand it, who`ve been granted immunity by the government and yet are reluctant to testify or don`t want to testify.
And therefore, you`re asking the court to issue an order because you`ve granted them immunity, use immunity presumably on their testimony. They still don`t want to testify and you want an order. Now, why in the world should all of that be under seal and ex parte?
Mr. Asonye, prosecutor from the special counsel`s office: no, we have not - - we have told them, we have not -- excuse me. We have told them that immunity from the court which I understand the court must grant under statute. The reason it is under seal, these individuals, their involvement in this case have not been made public and the department has a policy for uncharged individuals to not name them unless we have -- and then the judge intervenes and says I don`t have that policy and it is going to be public. Once we`re here, everything ought to be in open court.
The prosecutor says, your honor, can I make one other point? One other point? The judge says yes. Mr. Asonye says, some of these witnesses we`ve prepared out of the abundance of caution, we`re prepared to call these witnesses but there`s a chance, depending on how the evidence comes in, that we will not call them. And so, again, unsealing these records for a witness who is essentially admitting at some level of criminal exposure and then we don`t call them as a witness. We`re just trying to be thoughtful.
The judge, if I do it here in court, issue an order, it`s going to be public. Prosecutor, oh no, question, your honor. The judge, I don`t care whether they testify or not. I understand your reasons for wanting it to be under seal, but I think it`s appropriate to identify.
So, that`s all happening at the bench. The judge and the lawyers, and they`re talking about whether or not these witnesses are going to have their names made public. The prosecutors were like, we don`t think that`s necessary, their names having been associated with this case before. The judge is like, I`m making them public.
And he did. So these are the five people whose immunity deals were unsealed by the judge in the Manafort case today. Now, these are not household names. These appear to be all be people who worked in banks or financial services of some kind of related to Manafort. These two here are apparently current or former employees of an accounting firm called KWC, which was Manafort`s accounting firm.
This person here appears to be related to an insurance firm. The evidence list suggests that insurance firm was involved in Manafort getting some of these big bank loans that he got over the past two years. But then these would guys, these would guys are current or former employees of that little bank in Chicago, Federal Savings Bank in Chicago.
If all the public reporting about Manafort and his interactions with that bank, him possibly offering to sell a fake job in the Trump administration to that bank president in exchange for $16 million, I mean, if that public reporting is even close to accurate, that is a very bad sign for Mr. Manafort, that there are two people employees from that bank who have been granted immunity in order to testify for prosecutors in their case against Paul Manafort.
But that is just one way in which things have continued to go very badly for Mr. Manafort in court. He sat there today in court in a rumpled short sleeve, dark green prison jump suit. He was not called upon to say anything and he didn`t, but you can imagine that he`s happy with how things are going. Mr. Manafort continues to lose either in whole or in part every single substantive motion related to his case.
Today, for example, his lawyers had tried exclude from consideration in his trial the nature of the work that Manafort did in Ukraine, when he worked for that pro-Putin, pro-Russian/Ukrainian strongman president who was ousted in a popular uprising in 2014. Manafort`s lawyers had said that that information about who exactly his big client was in Ukraine, that would be prejudice information to the jury. It would turn the jury against him. It was unnecessary in order to prove or disprove the specific charges that Manafort is facing in Virginia.
Well, the judge considered that argument today at length. There was a lot of back and forth about that today in the hearing but the judge said no.
The prosecutors said, listen, the jurors need to know where Paul Manafort made all his money and why he suddenly might have been in need of a new source of funds after is big money client got thrown out of office and went back to Moscow to live in exile. The jurors are going to have to know about how he made his money and what happened to that big spigot of money that he was latched on to until 2014. That`s what prosecutors said.
And then here`s how that played out today in court with the judge. The judge says, quote, you`re seeking to preclude the government from offering evidence about the nature of the work Mr. Manafort did for the Ukrainian government of the Ukrainian president. Is that right? Manafort`s defense counsel, that`s correct, your honor. The judge, and why wouldn`t that be relevant? And why wouldn`t that be relevant?
Then the judge decides the prosecutors have won that argument. So, the jury is going to get to hear how Paul Manafort made his money and who he worked for.
Now, Paul Manafort`s lawyers today also tried to exclude from his trial any reference to Manafort`s time as chairman of the Trump for president campaign. The judge in today`s hearing also rejected that from Manafort`s lawyers, basically saying, well, you know, there is this allegation about Manafort getting $16 million from this little Chicago bank in exchange for him allegedly promising this guy that he could run the army, right? The judge ruled, yes, you know, whatever else we decide about this information about you running the Trump campaign, that stuff has to stay in.
Quoting from today`s transcript, the judge says, quote: the defendant seeks to preclude argument concerning any alleged collusion with the Russian government and defendant`s affiliation with the Trump campaign. Prosecutors says, as to point one, what he said is we don`t intend to admit any evidence about Russia collusion, but we said that as to Mr. Manafort`s involvement in the Trump campaign that a very small portion of the trial deals with his bank fraud, relating a particular bank.
And in that instance, Mr. Manafort`s role in the Trump campaign is relevant because one of the motivations of the chairman of the bank: to extend the loan, notwithstanding the fraud, was that the chairman sought and obtained a position in the Trump campaign for Mr. Manafort and then sought but did not ultimately obtain a position in the Trump administration. And the judge says, did this person know that the information submitted was not accurate? The prosecutor says yes, he did.
The judge says, doesn`t that present with you a problem of fraud? Since he knew? Meaning he was in on it? The prosecutor says, it doesn`t present with us a problem because the fraud was on the bank and not just the individual. And the judge says, all right.
The prosecutor says, Mr. Manafort, it was prevalent throughout. So, we`ll try to do it in a discrete way, but it`s hard to take out those facts if not impossible. The judge says with respect to the affiliation with the Trump campaign, that motion would be denied in part and granted in part. It is denied as to what you just referred to, that is the bank loan with respect to the banker who went along with the fraud so that he could get a job.
The judge`s ruling that that part of Manafort working for the Trump campaign, that`s going to be in the trial.
Paul Manafort also today asked for a long delay in this trial, this felony trial in Virginia. Specifically, he asked for this trial to be delayed until after his other felony trial in Washington, D.C. this September. Now, one reason he`s asking for that delay is that he only got access to his own bookkeeping records just recently. Manafort made -- Manafort`s lawyers made the case in court that he needs more time to go through his own bookkeeping records.
The judge in this hearing today did not seem impressed with this line of argument. The judge, Mr. Downing, you`re telling me you didn`t have any access to your own bookkeeping records? Mr. Downing, correct, your honor. The judge, really? Mr. Downing, yes.
The judge, it`s your own bookkeeper. Mr. Downing, it`s your own bookkeeper until your bookkeeper gets a subpoena from the United States government and demands -- the judge says, until what? Mr. Downing, Manafort`s defense lawyer, says, the bookkeeper got the subpoena from the U.S. government. At which point of time, the bookkeeper was demanding that reimburse the booker for the subpoena production. We didn`t do that and they refused to turn the records over to us. So --
The judge says, and what steps did you take? The lawyer says, we have communications with the bookkeeper on more than one occasion to get files back. The judge says, well, go to court and get the documents. They belong to your client.
Manafort`s lawyer says, well, we thought we would get them in discovery, your honor. Its` a lot cheaper. The judge says, no. No. It depends on how you calculate the expense other than dollars and cents.
So, the judge today considered that request from Paul Manafort to delay his trial in part because he hasn`t reviewed his own bookkeeping records. Why has he not reviewed his own bookkeeping records? Because his bookkeeper wants to charge him some money to get them back to look at them.
It`s a part of -- the way evidence under fold in addition case like this, if the government is going to use the evidence, the government has to show you what they`re going to use and so, they need to provide copies of what they`re going to use to the defense. Paul Manafort decided that had rather than pay his bookkeeper to he get his own records back, he would just wait until the prosecutors looked at and it then he would get a copy of it later on from the prosecutors.
And that has created this big delay. And so, now, he wants to delay his whole trial until November, because please cheap about his own records.
So, the judge is like really? Are you sure? Just because it was too expensive? Are you sure?
The judge ruled on that and said, yes, Paul Manafort, you can have your delay in this trial. You want a four-month delay until November? You can have a delay. You want four months? You can have six days. I`ll see you Tuesday next week.
The judge says, quote: I have before me a motion for continuance. There are equities and good reasons on both sides of this motion. In the end, what I`ve decided to do is I`ve decided to postpone the commencement of this case until the 31st of July.
In other words, it gives you approximately another week and then we`re going ahead. We`ll start tomorrow with the juror questionnaires. Quote, you will simply have to work hard to complete your review.
So, jurors will start turning up in the court house in Virginia tomorrow. A whole pool of potential jurors will be on site tomorrow. The judge says he`ll pick the 12 jurors and four alternates. That means the trial is on. The campaign chairman of the sitting president of the United States is now officially going on trial.
Now, we don`t know how much the president is paying attention to that, whether or not he is at all rattled by that. Whether or not this trial of his campaign chairman going ahead now is causing what it seems like we`ve seen in the past few days with the presidency seeming a little more volatile than usual. Alongside his escalating public attacks on the Russia investigation and the FBI and the intelligence agencies over the past few days, the president has also threatened a war with Iran.
Today, he had his White House press secretary announce that he was maybe going to revoke security clearances from all the former national security officials who have criticized him in public, including a bunch of specifically named individuals who don`t actually have security clearances now. So, there is nothing for him to revoke.
The president also today at the White House in front of reporters went on sort of an unscripted rant about globalists. Whatever you think of that, it was definitely unhinged from the specific topic the president was supposed to be making remarks on at that moment.
But the legal cases keep unfolding here, regardless of the president`s complaining and regardless of whatever he says or does, these things keep unfolding now and I think it is worth sort of bracing ourselves that as these legal cases proceed, that may generate more, not less, zigging and zagging, and even radical changes of subject matter from the president.
Just in terms of what to expect over the next couple of days, we had initially thought that Maria Butina would be back in court in D.C. tomorrow. She`s the Russian citizen who`s charged with being a secret agent of the Russian government operating in the United States to influence the Republican Party around the 2016 election. That hearing from Maria Butina has been moved from tomorrow. It will now be Wednesday instead.
But "The Washington Post" has also now reporting that Butina received significant financial support in her allegation from a Russian billionaire oligarch. It was a nameless description of him in the Butina indictment, but he is now named in the "Washington Post." "The Post" also notes that that oligarch`s son worked on the Donald Trump campaign.
So, the Russian guy who apparently funned this alleged illegal Russian government influence operation related to the 2016 campaign also had his son working for Trump. And I know that feels like a marginal new development of the kind we`ve been hearing a lot of lately but that is a remarkable new thing, right? Especially just because over the last few days, that kid, the oligarch`s son, is at least the second person tied an alleged government spying operation who was actively working as part of the Donald Trump campaign in 2016.
The government took the unprecedented step this weekend of declassifying multiple applications for surveillance warrants against the Trump foreign policy adviser named Carter Page. That raised a whole lot of national security questions about why they did that, why we can see that material, whether it is dangerous that that stuff has been forced into the open. We`ll get to some more of that later in the show tonight.
But even though president responded to that FISA warrant being declassified by insisting that it somehow indicated him in the Russia investigation, what that warrant actually showed in black and white is that the president named somebody as a foreign policy adviser to his campaign who was believed to be a foreign agent, a Russian foreign agent, advising him on foreign policy in the campaign.
One week ago today, the president had his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Since then, his public statements and his public behavior have been volatile and erratic even for him. As we watch these legal cases continue to unfold over the course of the next few days, I think it is reasonable to expect that things are probably going to get weirder before they settle down, if they ever do settle down.
Buckle up. We`ve got lots to come tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: About a month after Paul Manafort left the Trump campaign and made a whole raft of controversies involving his tie to Russia political entities, another figure left with the Trump campaign too in somewhat similar circumstances.
Carter Page had been part of the Trump campaign`s foreign policy team but in September 2016, the month after Manafort left, Michael Isikoff reported for Yahoo News that Carter Page was being investigated by U.S. intelligence agencies. Three days after that article, Page resigned from the campaign. He said he was taking a leave of absence. He didn`t want to be a distraction.
Immediately, the campaign started distancing themselves from him, saying that Carter Page had had no rule. They weren`t aware of any of his activities, past or present. He was never really part of Trump`s circle.
Well, this weekend, the government declassified portions of four applications for court ordered surveillance warrants for Carter Page. This is from after his time on the Trump campaign. These are FISA warrants which were made public over the weekend.
The government used to not even acknowledge these things existed let alone let us look at parts of them, but these applications for FISA warrants starting in 2016, continuing into late 2017. They bluntly describe Carter Page as, quote, an agent of a foreign power. Quote: The FBI believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government.
For months, the president and Republicans in Congress have called the Carter Page FISA surveillance a gross abuse of power, some sort of prime example of FBI overreach. But in these newly released documents, you can see not just the FBI considering the Steele dossier, but as spy Christopher Steele, as a reliable and credible source, you can also see the FBI telling the court that Steele was hired to do this digging on the Trump campaign in Russia for political reasons, something that Republicans denied the court had been informed about.
But more substantively than that, leaving the Republicans out of it, we`ve all now just got this mountain of other evidence that went into the FBI calling Carter Page a Russian agent. Everything from the meetings he had in Moscow, to investigative reporting stateside, to the Russian spy ring that really did try to recruit him in New York.
Tonight, Republicans are calling for even more of these application for Carter Page FISA warrants to be revealed, for more of it to get unredacted and released. I`m not sure they want that as much as they say they do, given what we`ve learned from the parts we can already see.
There are very few people who have dealt with FISA applications on a day- to-day basis who have personally signed thousands of these applications for approval.
But joining us now is one of those people, David Kris, former assistant attorney general for the national security division of the Justice Department. He has personally signed many applications for FISA warrants. He also literally wrote the book on national security investigations and prosecutions for the U.S. government.
Mr. Kris, it`s really nice to have you with us tonight. Thanks for your time.
DAVID KRIS, FORMER ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY DIVISION: Thank you.
MADDOW: For our lay audience, can you explain what the difference between a FISA warrant and a normal warrant that a court might sign off on in normal circumstances?
KRIS: Yes. A FISA warrant, whether for electronic surveillance or for a physical search is focused on dealing with agents of foreign powers. That is national security threats to the United States, rather than ordinary crime. So, FISA is focused on spies and terrorists, whereas ordinary warrants are typically focused on ordinary criminals like drug dealers and the like.
MADDOW: I think a lot of people seeing these partially, well, redacted, but unclassified application this weekend were struck by just their heft. We got about 400 pages released this weekend, 412 pages.
Given that focus of FISA warrants, as you just said, spies and terrorists, in order to prove somebody is a foreign agent, is that sort of typically the amount of volume that the prosecutors have to provide to the court in order to cross that threshold so the FISA warrant could be approved?
KRIS: Yes. FISA applications are typically quite long. They`re big enough that you don`t want to drop them on your foot and they contain a lot of information and detail, because the statute is quite exacting in what it requires the government to establish in order to get warrant granted.
MADDOW: In terms of this release this weekend, this is obviously the product of some wrangling in terms of trying to get this made public, both for political reasons and for giving the public the right to know, before this, the public has never had access to anything close to this kind of information about FISA warrants or applications for FISA warrants. This is an absolutely unprecedented disclosure, isn`t it?
KRIS: It is absolutely unprecedented. FISA applications are not even released to defense attorneys in criminal prosecutions of people who have been wiretapped under FISA, let alone revealed to the general public, even with these heavy redactions. So, this is an extraordinary event that has occurred here.
MADDOW: Do you think it is dangerous? Are you concerned about this?
KRIS: Well, by the time we got to these particular FISA applications, a lot of water was already under the bridge, thanks to the back and forth precipitated by Chairman Nunes of the House Intelligence Committee and his disclosures of various information. What I see in these redacted FISAs is that the government has revealed things were already in the public domain, thanks to that prior activity, but they haven`t added any new information, or not very much that I see.
MADDOW: The current calls by Republicans in Congress to unredact even more of this application -- obviously, they`re trying to create political pressure and even potentially pressure from the White House to expose even more of this application. I just wanted to ask, your reaction to that, and whether I`m right in reading this just to a layman to suggest or to wonder if any further redactions would just result in more evidence that Carter Page was a foreign agent.
KRIS: Yes. Well, a couple things. First, I think you are right that these applications already substantially undermine the president`s narrative and that of his proxies. And it seems to me very likely that if we get below the tip of the iceberg into the submerged parts and more is revealed, it will get worse, not better.
But it would also potentially be dangerous to disclose additional information because some of this obviously pertains to ongoing investigative activity and intelligence sources and methods, and that`s why the government kept the information back which means that we`re going to be in a posture of asymmetric political warfare with the president free to make up whatever facts suit him and the FBI limited in what it can say in response because of his obligation to protect its sources and methods?
MADDOW: David Kris, former director of the national security division at the Justice Department -- thank you for joining us tonight. It`s a real pleasure to have you here, sir. Thank you.
KRIS: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Much more to come with us tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: They were back out there tonight. A smaller group but still loud on purpose, now with drummers and now with more organized singing to help reach the president`s ears. They also sang the national anthem tonight, which they said was meant to launch the start of Paul Manafort`s trial. This marks their eighth night in a row across the street from the White House. The president stood alongside Vladimir Putin and questioned whether Russia interfered in the U.S. election.
Now, these post Putin protests across the street from the White House are no longer reserved for just across the street from the White House. In Philadelphia tonight, protesters decked themselves out in a very specific costume, to greet Vice President Mike Pence, who was there to campaign for a Republican Senate candidate. You see, they`re in Margaret Atwood handmade tale red in Philly tonight.
This might be a one night only event in Philly, but across from the White House, this very determined group is telling us they are gearing up for another night of protests tomorrow and I guess, every night from here on out, across the street from the White House, as loud as possible, using all possible means of generating noise.
More ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: When "The New York Times" first reported on one of the most consequential decisions in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court, it didn`t make the front page. Instead, it was right here on page 3 in teeny, teeny, teeny tiny font.
Homer Adolph Plessy versus J. H. Ferguson. In error to the Supreme Court of Louisiana, judgment affirmed with costs.
That was it. That was how "The New York Times" reported on Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, the day after the ruling. Plessy v. Ferguson was the ruling that upheld racial segregation in this country and racial law, separate but equal.
It took almost 60 years for that precedent to get knocked back when the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that separate but equal was unconstitutional.
There are very few big Supreme Court cases in our country that are not just legal landmarks. They`re also now considered consensus cases, cases where everybody agrees that the decision made by the court was either definitely the wrong one, like Plessy, or definitely the right one, like Brown v. Board.
It`s not many of those big consensus cases. One of those cases involved a sitting U.S. president in 1974. 1974, the Supreme Court ruled unanimous reply that sitting President Richard Nixon had to turn over the audio times he made from the Oval Office. The tapes that ultimately confirmed President Nixon`s rule in the Watergate cover-up. That ruling put a clear sealing on the power of the presidency.
The Supreme Court said unanimously, in no uncertain terms, that not even the most powerful person in the country is above the law. Just days after the public learned what was on those tapes, Richard Nixon, of course, resigned the presidency in disgrace.
U.S. v. Nixon, Nixon has to comply with a court order to hand over the tapes. That is one of our nation`s consensus cases. It is almost impossible to find somebody who thinks, yes, those tapes should have stayed secret. The president should have defied court order. The president should be allowed to evade the justice system and get away with what he did in Watergate.
It`s almost impossible to find somebody who disagrees with U.S. v. Nixon. Here`s someone, quote, maybe U.S. v. Nixon was wrongly decided. Heresy though it to say so.
Quote: Nixon took -- U.S. v. Nixon took away the power of the president to control information in the executive branch by holding up the courts had power and jurisdiction to order the president to disclose information in response to a subpoena sought by a subordinate executive branch official. Quote: Maybe the tension of the time led to an erroneous decision.
That`s a transcript from 1999. It`s a transcript of an interview with Brett Kavanaugh, who was then a lawyer in private practice. He is now President Trump`s nominee to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court that would be created by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy.
That transcript turned up in a bunch of documents given to the U.S. Senate ahead of his Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Now that we know this about our next Supreme Court nominee, now that it is right there loud and clear and black and white, maybe U.S. v. Nixon was wrongly decided, what are the odds that questions whether a president has to comply with the law, comply with court orders, what are the odds that it might come before the court again at a time when Brett Kavanaugh would get one of those nine votes, now that we know he is one of the only people could you even imagine in America who would think that actually Nixon should have gotten away with Watergate?
Joining us now is Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney for the great state of Alabama.
Joyce, it is great to have you with us. Thanks for being here.
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY FOR ALABAMA: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: As a non-lawyer, I look at U.S. v. Nixon and a handful of other cases that I can name off the top of my head and I see that as a consensus case. In the legal community, in the legal world, is U.S. v. Nixon a controversial thing?
I mean, it was -- it was a unanimous Supreme Court ruling, right?
VANCE: It`s not controversial. And much like Brown versus Board, it`s a consensus case that people agree on. That`s why it was so shocking recently to see federal judicial nominees refusing to affirm the principles of Brown during their Senate confirmation hearings.
Same for Nixon, it`s is universally revered as a case that was correctly decided.
MADDOW: And this transcript that has just transcript that`s been put forth as part of the documentation around Judge Kavanaugh`s confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court, this was not him refusing to answer a question about whether or not Nixon, U.S. v. Nixon was appropriate precedent, or whether he agreed with that -- whether or not he agreed with that. This is not him dodging the question or avoiding saying what his opinion was on it.
This was him volunteering that he thought Nixon was a bad case. Are there other people in sort of mainstream judicial circles who make that same argument?
VANCE: So to be fair, I think it`s not really clear whether he was throwing this out as an argument prompt for the round table he was participating in or whether it was his own view. It`s largely consistent with his jurisprudence over time and it would be a pretty unique view, Rachel.
MADDOW: In terms of Judge Kavanaugh`s views, obviously, there`s enough significant political controversy around his nomination, around there being a nomination for the Supreme Court now, given what happened with the Scalia vacancy in 2016, that I think it`s hard to predict exactly what`s going to happen in terms of his confirmation hearings.
But do you expect that this will be the central issue, at least a central issue for Democrats when it comes to questioning him, if it gets to that point, in terms of whether or not he sees this president who is nominating him as somebody who ought to be subject to criminal inquiries, subpoenas, potentially having to give testimony in some other way. Is this going to be the fulcrum on which Kavanaugh is viewed?
VANCE: It should be a central issue that every senator considers. The senators have the constitutional duty to advise and consent with the president on this type of decision. And Nixon -- you know, that case about the tapes is really important because it establishes that the president is not beyond the reach of the law. That`s something that we all fundamentally understand, whether we`re lawyers or not, that we are a rule of law country. No individual, even the president, should be beyond the reach of the courts.
So, this is something that every senator will need to have the opportunity to fully consider.
MADDOW: Joy Vance, former U.S. attorney for Alabama -- Joyce, thank you very much. Good to have you with us tonight.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Head`s up about something that`s going to unfold over the next couple of days. And we just got some new information about this tonight. We are hurdling toward a deadline imposed on the Trump administration by a federal court.
The administration faces a deadline to get all the kids that the Trump administration forcibly took from their parents at the border. They`re facing a deadline to get those kids back to their parents. That said, the administration has already blown the deadline for reunifying kids under the age of 5 with their parents.
Just over half of those youngest kids were given back to their parents, but nearly half of those kids that the government took away from their parents they`re now -- they`re now, quote, deemed ineligible to be given back to their parents. So, that`s how the administration handled the last deadline for kids under five. Nearly half of the kids they just decided to not give back.
Well, the next deadline, the one that`s upon us now is for kids over the age of five. That deadline is Thursday. We just got a new progress report on how that is going.
Now, for this group, we are talking about approximately 2,500 kids. The government says of the 2,500, there have been just under 1,200 reunions, quote, or other appropriate discharges, which we think might mean kids went into another family member or some other sponsor. It`s possible some of those kids went to a sponsor and then got reunited with their parents after the government stop keeping track, we don`t know. This process has been marked by total chaos and uncertainty.
But here`s the thing to focus on. Another 900-plus kids are being called by the government not eligible for reunifying with their parents or not yet known to be eligible, right? We believe those kids will eventually be released to a family member or sponsor at some point maybe. But something like half those kids have parents who might have already been deported, and the kids are here and in limbo.
It`s not clear how this is going to get worked out, but the deadline is coming. The next hearing is going to be tomorrow whereupon we will get hopefully an even tighter update and then the deadline again is Thursday, which is supposed to be mandatory. Tick-tock.
MADDOW: It`s going to be a big week you guys. Tomorrow, the process of jury selection starts in the felony trial of the president`s campaign chairman, accused Russian agent Maria Butina will be in court not on Tuesday, not tomorrow, but on Wednesday. That`s been delayed now from tomorrow. It`s almost like the news gods are trying to piece these things out so we have something overwhelming happening every single day.
Happy dog days of summer, right?
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Good evening, Lawrence.
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