Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: August 8, 2018 Guest: Gene Rossi, Jerry Zremski
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
You know, if you wanted to hold a pageant to decide the president's favorite member of Congress, I don't think any of us knows who the final winner would be. It might depend on whether the president insisted on some sort of swimsuit contest or something even scarier.
But without any argument at all, I think almost all of us who paid any attention to the news in this era, we could all name at least a couple of the pageant finalists were this contest to happen. One of the finalists would undoubtedly be the member of Congress who started off today being taken into custody at the offices of the FBI in lower Manhattan.
Chris Collins is a Republican congressman from New York. He's from Buffalo. He was the first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump's presidential campaign all the way back in February, 2016.
We know that is the kind of thing that really matters to this president. Congressman Collins has since been among the most faithful visible Trump loyalists in Washington. But now, he's been arrested in an alleged scheme that also resulted in the arrest of his son today, as well as the father of his son's fiancee.
But the Chris Collins alleged insider trading scandal which burst into view today with the unsealing of his indictment, that scandal is one that touches is several other serving Republican members of Congress and also disgraced Health Secretary Tom Price who was the first Trump cabinet secretary to resign in scandal. I mean, we have had our fair share of political scandals and public corruption indictments as a country. That is a history that includes today's date on the calendar in 1974, when President Richard Nixon resigned the presidency in the wake of the Watergate scandal. That was this day, 1974.
But even so, even with that rich history under our belts, it really is something when you wake up to the news of a sitting member of Congress being indicted by federal prosecutors and the site of a sitting member of Congress being hauled before a federal judge for criminal arraignment.
So, we will have more ahead tonight on Trump ally Republican Congressman Chris Collins turning himself in and being indicted and arraigned on federal criminal charges today, including, we will be talking to the intrepid local reporter at the Buffalo News, who first broke the story that turned into this scandal and who himself, the reporter, gets a cameo role in today's indictment of the congressman he first exposed. So, that is all -- that's all coming up tonight.
But, we have gotten an exclusive story that we've got break ourselves tonight before we get to Chris Collins and the other stuff that happened today. And our exclusive tonight concerns another Republican in Congress who would definitely make the finals in our hypothetical pageant to choose the members of Congress who is the president's favorite.
Before Donald Trump was elected, California Republican Congressman Devin Nunes was important but he was a low profile member of Congress, low profile to the extent that nobody really recognized him on sight. Definitely nobody knew how to pronounce his last name. But even though congressman Nunes was a relatively anonymous member of Congress he had a big important job. He's the head of the Intelligence Committee which is a very big deal.
Well, since Trump was elected, Devin Nunes, Trump's supporter, a senior member of the Trump transition, he has turned that important job of leading the Intelligence Committee into a full-time crusade to try to derail the Russia investigation by any means necessary and to defend Trump in that investigation at almost any cost. Congressman Nunes has pressured the Justice Department and FBI into making unprecedented disclosures of law enforcement sensitive material and classified information that's actively being used in ongoing open investigations. Congressman Nunes got himself investigated by the Ethics Committee for himself engineering an elaborate stunt from information that he received from Trump allies in the White House and then he called a press conference to announce that he was going back up to the Trump White House to deliver to them this shocking classified information that in fact they had just given him.
The man has been acrobatic to the point of contortion in his efforts to make the Russia investigation go away, and to turn the investigation of that attack into itself a bigger scandal than the attack in the first place. The president has been very appreciative of congressman Nunes' efforts in this area. A great American hero. A true American patriot, Devin Nunes deserves everyone's support. Vote for Devin Nunes.
Well, tonight, we have some news about Devin Nunes. One of the Republican members of Congress who had an unexpectedly tough time in a primary last night is a senior member of the Republican House leadership from Washington state. Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers. Tonight, we have obtained an audiotape that was made at one of her final fund raisers before last night's difficult primary.
Now, we obtained this from a progressive group called "Fuse Washington." Someone from that group paid to attend this Cathy McMorris-Rodgers fund- raiser and made this recording at this event. This fund-raiser was held last week. It was held on Monday of last week. It was a closed press event.
Because of that, what happened at this fund-raiser has not been reported anywhere simply because reporters were explicitly not allowed in when this thing happened last week. But tonight, we have obtained the tape of what happened at that fund-raiser. And on that tape, you will hear Congressman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers a little bit. You will mostly hear the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Devin Nunes, who was her guest at that fund-raiser, trying to raise funds for her for her re-election battle.
At this event, Congressman Nunes somewhat radically veers from the script where he's supposed to be raising money for Cathy McMorris-Rodgers and encouraging Cathy McMorris-Rodgers' supporters to be enthusiastic about her candidacy, he veers from that script as you will hear and he instead makes lengthy and controversial remarks about the Trump White House and specifically about the Russia investigation.
Now, these are not the kinds of things Devin Nunes usually says in public. Again, this was an event that was closed press. It was held behind closed doors for these Republican donors only.
So, these remarks from Devin Nunes were never supposed to be public as far as he and Cathy McMorris-Rodgers knew. Presumably they thought they would never become public. But we have now obtained them.
We believe these remarks are newsworthy. We believe they are in fact revelatory in several instances. So, I'm going to make those remarks public right now.
So, here goes. We'll sort of go smaller to medium-sized to big here. First thing to know about the way congressman Devin Nunes talks behind closed doors when he thinks there will be no press coverage of what he says is that for all of his very public, very fulsome expressions of fealty and support for President Trump, turns out when he's speaking behind closed doors, he's willing to say he's actually a little embarrassed by President Trump that, the president's statements sometimes make him cringe.
So, this is the first clip from Devin Nunes. This is in the context of Congressman Nunes criticizing the Russian investigation and specifically talking about the recent news the president's statements on Twitter might be cited as evidence in that investigation.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: They know it's ridiculous to go after the president for obstruction of justice. But if they tell a lie often enough and they put it out there and they say, oh, we're looking at the tweets, because you know you got a mixed bag on the tweets, right? Sometimes we love the president's tweets and sometimes we cringe on the president's tweets, but they're trying to make a political -- this is all political as to hwy that story ran in the "New York Times" on tweets.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Congressman Devin Nunes, sometimes we cringe on the president's tweets. Substantively, who could possibly take issue with that, right?
In real political terms, though, the president probably will take issue with that, especially given the way the president has used Twitter specifically to hype up support for Congressman Devin Nunes. Nunes, we now know, tells donors behind closed doors at private events that the president's tweets make him cringe.
More substantively, though, the White House will also want to know while the congressman has been the single lead antagonist of the Russia investigation in Congress, while Congressman Nunes has done more than any other congressional Republican to try to monkey wrench the Robert Mueller investigation and the FBI and Justice Department more broadly in order to protect President Trump and his campaign, turns out even Congressman Nunes behind closed doors is willing to concede that if anyone in the United States had anything to do with the release of e-mails and documents that were stolen during a campaign, that unequivocally would be a criminal act.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
NUNES: Now if somebody thinks that my campaign or Cathy's campaign is colluding with the Chinese, or you name the country, hey, could happen, it would be a very bad thing if Cathy was getting secrets from the Portuguese, let's say, just because I'm Portuguese, my family was. So Cathy was getting secret information from the Portuguese. You know, may or may not be unusual.
But ultimately let's say the Portuguese came and brought her some stolen emails. And she decided to release those. OK, now we have a problem, right? Because somebody stole the emails, gave `em to Cathy, Cathy released `em. Well, if that's the case, then that's criminal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That's criminal.
Now, just in case it's not clear here, the reference to the Portuguese here, you hear a chuckle here, it's not because Congressman Nunes is saying Portugal did anything wrong. The congressman himself is of Portuguese descent. He's explaining here that he's using Portugal as a hypothetical example of a country interfering in our election. That's why you get the Portugal and Portuguese references here. Can we re-rack and play the last part of that again?
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
NUNES: Ultimately let's say the Portuguese came and brought her some stolen emails. And she decided to release those. OK, now we have a problem, right? Because somebody stole the emails, gave `em to Cathy, Cathy released `em. Well, if that's the case, then that's criminal.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: If that's the case, then that's criminal. Again, substantively it is hard to argue with the idea that it is bluntly criminal for anybody to have been involved in the dissemination of stolen e-mails as part of a political campaign. Substantively, we agree, right?
But with federal prosecutors now claiming in a federal indict that WikiLeaks and DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 were the means by which stolen e- mails were actually disseminated during the presidential election and with lots of still accruing evidence that people associated with the Trump campaign and the president's family and the president himself helped in that dissemination during the campaign, it cannot help that the lead opponent of the Russia investigation privately concedes when he thinks nobody is recording him that sort of activity, if proven, that would definitely be criminal.
Now, we have a problem, right? Because if somebody stole the e-mails, gave them to Cathy, Cathy released them, if that's the case, that's criminal.
How does that line up with the Trump campaign and what they did with WikiLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks?
MADDOW: All right. There's twos other statements at this closed door event that will make a little bit of news here. This next one includes audio cameo from the member of Congress whose fund-raiser Devin Nunes was speaking at. Again, Cathy McMorris-Rodgers is the number four Republican in House leadership. She's from Washington state.
This fund-raiser we obtained this audio is from Spokane, Washington, held on behalf of Cathy McMorris-Rodgers' re-election campaign. This fund- raiser, as I said, was last week, last Monday. The primary for which she was getting Devin Nunes' help to raise money is actually a primary that was held last night. You should know for context that that primary went very badly for Cathy McMorris-Rodgers. Look how close it was.
This is jungle primary so the top two finishers will go to a runoff in the general election in November. But when you are a long-time incumbent in the district and you're in the number 4 leadership position in all of Congress, you're not supposed to squeak into your primary runoff with less than a single percentage-point lead over your Democratic challenger. Given those results last night, Republican Cathy McMorris-Rodgers looks like she's in real danger of losing her seat this fall.
Well, now, when her constituents decide whether or not they're going to return her to Washington, they will also have this is to chew on in addition to everything else they already know about our long-time member of Congress. Here, for the first time ever, is Congressman Devin Nunes. The tape you will hear is Congressman Nunes responding to a question from the audience at this fund-raiser.
The question is about the Justice Department official who oversees the Robert Mueller investigation, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. You might recall right before they left for summer recess a couple weeks ago, a few hard line/fringe pro-Trump Republican members of Congress actually introduced impeachment proceedings against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. That was greeted with sort of slack-jawed stares by most of mainstream -- most of the mainstream beltway press and most mainstream political figures.
The Republican leadership in the House led by House Speaker Paul Ryan quickly made clear once those articles of impeachment were introduced that, really, the impeachment of Rod Rosenstein was a fringe interest, not actually a Republican congressional priority. Yes, there might be a few fringe members pursuing it but that's not something that's going anywhere.
Paul Ryan basically immediately made clear after those articles of impeachment were introduced, the Republican leadership is not on board with that kind of crazy stunt.
Now, we know that at a closed door private fund-raiser last week, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers is part of the leadership. She's a member of the top leadership of the House, you will hear her chiming in and appearing to agree with Devin Nunes, as Nunes explains to a closed door group of Republican donors that actually there is a live House Republican plan to impeach Rod Rosenstein. They just don't want it to seem like they're pursuing it now. They're waiting for two important things to happen first and then their plan is to go ahead.
So, here's that tape. You will mostly here Congressman Devin Nunes here. There are two other voices here. You'll here at the top an audience member asking the question that starts the whole discussion. At one point in this middle of Devin Nunes' response, you will hear a woman's voice interjecting, that is the chair of the House Republican Conference, the number four Republican and House leadership, newly embattled Republican Congressman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: But also, on things that came up in the House on Rosenstein impeachment thing. And it appears from an outsider that the Republicans were not supported.
NUNES: Yes, well, so it's a bit complicated, right? And I say that because you have to, so we only have so many months left, right? So if we actually vote to impeach, OK, what that does is that triggers the Senate then has to take it up.
Well, and you have to decide what you want right now because the Senate only has so much time. Do you want them to drop everything and not confirm the Supreme Court justice, the new Supreme Court justice?
So, that's part of why, I don't think you have, you're not getting from, and I've said publicly Rosenstein deserves to be impeached. I mean, so, I don't think you're going to get any argument from most of our colleagues. The question is the timing of it right before the election."
REP. MCMORRIS RODGERS (R), WASHINGTON: Also, the Senate has to start --
NUNES: The Senate would have to start, the Senate would have to drop everything they're doing and start to, and start with impeachment on Rosenstein. And then take the risk of not getting Kavanaugh confirmed. So, it's not a matter that any of us like Rosenstein. It's a matter of -- it's a matter of timing."
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: It's a matter of timing. This again is audio that was recorded at a closed door closed press private fund-raiser for Cathy McMorris-Rodgers last week. McMorris-Rodgers facing an unexpectedly difficult fight to hold on to her seat in Congress. She only won last night by 1 percent of the vote.
Can we put -- do we just have that transcript to put up for a second, though?
Right. There have been these public statements by the Republican leadership in Congress that they're not pursuing this crazy idea of impeaching Rod Rosenstein. But despite those public statements, here's Cathy McMorris-Rodgers appearing to agree that in fact, they are going to pursue impeaching Rod Rosenstein once the election is over and once they have got the new Supreme Court justice installed.
Now, impeaching Rod Rosenstein, of course, that has nothing to do with Rod Rosenstein. What it is, is the only option, the one option the Republican Congress has to really force the end of the Mueller investigation. If they impeach and forcibly remove from office the man who oversees the Mueller investigation, that is how they could arrange the installation of somebody else who could be put in place in that same job who would shut the investigation down.
It's really the only thing congressional Republicans could do to stop the Mueller investigation. It's their emergency brake. It's an extreme, even a crazy option and it has been seen that way. It's been seen as extreme if not crazy thus far in Washington, at least in public statements by House Republican leadership in Washington.
But here's evidence from this audio that the House leadership is secretly on board with this plan, but for after the election. And they want to specifically sequence it so it happens once President Trump's nominee is safely installed on the Supreme Court. And that may be just about wanting the Supreme Court nomination fight to take precedence over everything else. It may also mean they're expecting the impeachment of Rod Rosenstein to precipitate some kind of constitutional crisis for which they want to make sure they've got the new Trump justice already ensconced on the high court.
All right. Here's one last one. Congressman Devin Nunes leads the Intelligence Committee. As I said, that's a really big deal. It's big responsibility.
Cathy McMorris-Rodgers helps lead the whole Republican Caucus in Congress. At this closed door private fund raiser for Congresswoman McMorris-Rodgers last week, Devin Nunes spelled out in quite blunt terms how he views his role in Congress when it comes to the Russian investigation and how he sees the responsibility of all Republicans in Congress when it comes to the Russia investigation, specifically why he sees it as so important for them to keep their majority so they keep control of Congress in the elections this fall.
This is just the last clip here, one more piece of tape from this fund- raiser. Here we go.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
NUNES: So therein lies, so it's like your classic Catch-22 situation where we were at a -- this puts us in such a tough spot. If Sessions won't unrecuse and Mueller won't clear the president, we're the only ones. Which is really the danger.
That's why I keep, and thank you for saying it, by the way, I mean, we have to keep all these seats. We have to keep the majority. If we do not keep the majority, all of this goes away.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: We're the only ones, that's the danger. Can we just put -- again, just put up the transcript of that again. Thank you.
If sessions won't unrecuse and Mueller won't clear the president, we're the only ones. If we do not keep the majority, all of this goes away. So, behind closed doors when they don't think there's any recording of what they're saying, they've been told there's no press, they've disallowed the press from being there, it's a private Republicans only closed fund-raiser, the case they're making is that they either need to stop the investigation of the president, they need to stop the Russia investigation or keep using the power of Congress to impede that investigation, or else, right? Or quote all of this goes away.
That's why they want to keep the majority. That's the stakes for them keeping the majority. They're using the majority to impede the investigation. If they lose the majority the investigation might go forward, and then, quote, all of this goes away.
So, again, we obtained this audio from a progressive group called "Fuse Washington," someone from that group paid to attend this fund-raiser and made this recording. We, of course, asked Congressman Devin Nunes for comment. He has thus far not responded. We hope he will.
We asked Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers for comment. This was her fund-raiser after all. Her office has not yet commented either. Although we hope that they will.
We will let you know if we hear back. We will post all this audio and these transcripts online tonight.
Stay with us tonight. More to come.
MADDOW: Prosecutors pressing the case against the president's complain chairman Paul Manafort say they will rest their case in the Eastern District of Virginia the day after tomorrow. Between now and then though, it looks like things are going to go fast or they're planning on having long days. They say they plan to get through eight more witnesses over the course of the next two days.
Now, if that's true, that means none of the rest of the witnesses will be on the stand anywhere as near as long as the star witness thus far. The Trump deputy campaign chairman, Rick Gates, who finally wrapped up three days of testimony today.
Now, I admittedly I am not a lawyer and so I may not just be getting this. Here is something that happened with Rick Gates today towards the end of his testimony that I really don't understand. This is Paul Manafort's defense attorney asking Rick Gates about the old 31-count indictment against gates that got dropped by prosecutors once Gates decided to flip and cooperate with the prosecution in their case against Paul Manafort.
I don't understand this at all. But here's how it goes. Manafort's lawyer, question: That indictment has been dismissed? Gates: it has.
Question: Are there circumstances under which that indictment can be brought again? Gates: there are. Question: What are they? Gates: If I fail to them tell the truth here today, the special counsel could claim abridge of the plea agreement and they can indict me on those charges.
Question: and if you were indicted on that, how much time would you be facing? Gates: A significant amount. Question: A hundred years by your account? Gates: yes.
A hundred years. See, I imagine if I were on the jury, that might make me think that Rick Gates is going to be really super duper absolutely positively committed, unbelieve -- Supercalifragilisticexpialidociously committed to telling the complete truth, right? Because we've just spelled out in court that the price of him lying would be him going to jail for 100 years.
This seems like the kind of questioning you would pursue in court in front of the jury if you wanted to make sure the jury would definitely believe that everything Rick Gates said was true, because the consequences of him lying were so terrible.
Instead, though, this is the line of questioning we got from Manafort's side, from Manafort's defense lawyers. They're supposedly trying to make the jury think Gates is as unbelievable as possible, that he's a lying liar who lies, right?
I don't get it. They really kept going with this today. Hammer and tongs.
Manafort's attorney, quote: as you sit here today, Mr. Gates, do you have any doubt in your mind if you lied that the special counsel's office would rip up your plea agreement? Gates: no doubt at all.
Why would you have that conversation in front of the jury? Why is this a good strategy for the defense? Why keep clearly laying out how high the stakes are for gates if he does lie, he can go to jail for a century?
I mean, the Manafort defense has simultaneously tried to make Gates look as bad as possible for the jury, up to and including the jury hears that he's had multiple extramarital affairs. But they simultaneously also keep telling the jury that Gates has this huge incentives to definitely not lie in his testimony in this case because that would be so terrible for him.
How does that work? Why do you tell the jury you definitely can't believe this liar and also tell the injury this guy definitely isn't lying to you now? Do not get. I don't understand it.
Joining us now is Gene Rossi. He's a former prosecutor with the Eastern District of Virginia. He not only tried cases like this in this court, he tried cases like this before this specific judge. And Gene Rossi has been ringside at the Paul Manafort trial all this week.
Mr. Rossi, thank you very much for being here.
GENE ROSSI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Good to see you. Good to see you.
MADDOW: Nice to have you here.
Am I being dense? Is there something clear about that legal strategy?
ROSSI: And here's why. When a defendant pleads guilty and becomes a cooperator, in their plea agreement, they have the maximum penalties and they also have the number of counts and they also say that those counts would be consecutive. If the defense hasn't brought that out, I am sure on redirect the prosecutors would have brought it out. In fact, I think in the case today the prosecutors did bring it out. So --
MADDOW: So, the jury knows what's in the plea agreement. They know that he can't lie. They know that he would go to jail for 100 years.
ROSSI: Absolutely. And as a matter of fact, most jury gets the plea agreement. I'm sure it's an exhibit, I think it is.
So, when I was a prosecutor a lot of years, I would put that plea agreement in and I would front in my direct exam which I don't think the prosecutors did that as much as the defense did, and in redirect, I would front, you're facing 100 years. You're facing five counts.
What in your mind will happen if you lie? The plea agreement will be ripped up and I could face 100 years.
MADDOW: Which tells the jury this guy is not going to lie.
MADDOW: So, it's weird for the defense to be pursuing that while simultaneously trying to undermine the credibility of Rick Gates.
ROSSI: Well, not really.
ROSSI: If I'm a defense attorney, which I am now, I'm going to ask that witness, OK, you're facing 100 years. You know the only way to get a reduction in sentence, a 5K or rule 35, those are the vehicles, you know the only way is to tell the prosecutors what they want to hear.
ROSSI: To lie to them, to dupe them. That's the only strategy.
MADDOW: Oh, they're suggesting that he lied to the prosecutors in order to get his deal?
MADDOW: Boy, are they doing that backwards.
ROSSI: Well -- this is what you have to do and it is done every -- every criminal trial I had, the defense attorney would get up there and say, you're facing 100 years, you're facing a mandatory minimum of 25 years.
ROSSI: You will do anything to get a reduction in sentence. You will lie about anybody to get a reduction. That's really the best you can do.
MADDOW: I've been reading all this through the transcripts and following all the reporting from this.
Sitting in the courtroom, especially with your experience in the Eastern District of Virginia, how do you feel -- what do you think about the strength of the case? This is tax fraud, bank fraud. We've seen, somewhat surprising approaches, at least from a Lehman's perspective on both sides.
How do you as an observer, somebody experienced in this field in this courtroom think both sides are doing?
ROSSI: In my career, I had 30 tax trials, civil and criminal. And here's my analysis. The case against Paul Manafort, if the government rested today, is very powerful.
ROSSI: And in my opinion, there's a high likelihood Paul Manafort will be found guilty of 10 counts, five for the tax returns. And all they have to show is under oath, which a tax return is, and two material falsehoods, income not reported and the FBAR, Foreign Bank Account Report. Those are the 10 counts against Paul Manafort.
There is absolutely no way that the jury is going to ignore the mound of documents that suggest and point towards Mr. Manafort failing to report $30 million in income over many years.
MADDOW: And that evidence, as presented by the prosecution, at this point, is uncontroverted, the jury is not going to have any doubt?
ROSSI: Let me tell you this. I sat through Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The defense attorneys are phenomenal attorneys. They're all from the tax division of DOJ, former.
I worked with Tom Zendley (ph), I know Jay Nanovatti (ph). I know Kevin Downey. I worked for the tax division. They are doing a fabulous job.
But trials are like poker. You are dealt cards and you have to do the best they can. And they are doing the best they can, it's just the cards they have are horrible. He didn't file an FBAR when he knew he had to, and he lied to people.
And I want to say this. Every criminal tax trial has to have a theme. Here's the theme of this trial -- greed, lies and manipulation. And you have this, no pun intended, card analogy in spades. It's unbelievable.
So, I think it's a very strong case. I could be shocked if something happens in the next few days. But the government could rest today. They could have rested probably yesterday.
MADDOW: And you think he'd still be convicted?
ROSSI: Absolutely, on those counts.
MADDOW: Gene Rossi, former prosecutor at the Eastern District of Virginia, there's another element of this actually which is your connection to this case which I'm going to ask you about when we come back.
ROSSI: And I can't wait.
MADDOW: Hold your breath.
We'll be right back with Gene Rossi right after this. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Joining us once again is Gene Rossi. He's a former prosecutor in the Eastern District of Virginia.
Gene, I know you have another connection to this case. You represent one of the five witnesses --
MADDOW: -- who the government said could be called to testify against Manafort in exchange for immunity. Your client is Connor O'Brien. As far as I understand it, he worked with Cindy Laporta, one -- only one of the five people on than list who has actually been called thus far.
Now, the government said these were just potential witnesses but I guess your client was prepared to testify because he was on the list. He had gone through the process of getting an immunity agreement. What does it say to you your client was not called to testify in the end?
ROSSI: Very simple. They didn't need him. My client had just a little bit sliver of the overall affair, scheme that they had. They had (INAUDIBLE) testify. They had Heather (INAUDIBLE) testify, Cindy Laporta, Rick Gates actually helped, too. They did not need my client.
He had a very -- he's a great kid and I'm so happy he didn't have to testify.
MADDOW: So, in the case of Cindy Laporta, she too had an immunity deal.
MADDOW: She's not therefore in legal jeopardy for what she testified to in court which was --
ROSSI: If she tells the truth.
MADDOW: -- helping Paul Manafort with his tax returns. She said she regrets it. She got use immunity for that testimony in court so they can't prosecutor her on that.
But we learned yesterday she has nevertheless been fired. She nevertheless lost her job. Immunity deals usually involve copping to some sort of illegal activity.
Is your client having to worry about that kind of stuff too? The other clients on this list?
ROSSI: I can't comment on that.
MADDOW: OK. Let me ask you about one other connection that you have in this courtroom. Judge Ellis --
ROSSI: That's what I thought you were going to start with. That's why I was smiling.
MADDOW: You've tried cases before him.
MADDOW: Is he always like this?
ROSSI: Let me just tell you this. I appeared in front of Judge Ellis for 20 years. I had seven trials and hundreds of hearings. I lost count of the number of hearings.
And what you're seeing from Judge Ellis is what I saw the first time I appeared in front of him in 1997. He is what he is, and he's never going to change.
MADDOW: It seems like he's really ragging on the prosecutors.
MADDOW: But he's not going after the defense. Is that his M.O. as well or is that unusual and specific to this case?
ROSSI: It's not unusual because my seven trials, there were times he was ragging on me, and, you know, it's part of the process.
Here's what I want to give advice to anybody who appears before Judge Ellis. Do not take it personally. That is the way he rolls. He is a brilliant jurist. He likes to get involved in the case, in questioning and correcting.
And the thing I like about Judge Ellis, he is a perfectionist. He has made hundreds if not thousands of attorneys better, including me, because he is a perfectionist.
MADDOW: Is he always harder on the prosecution than on the defense?
ROSSI: Not always.
MADDOW: In this case, do you think he is notably harder on the prosecution?
ROSSIS: I think in this case, yes.
ROSSI: But not -- I wouldn't say notably. Last week, he was pretty tough on the prosecutors.
ROSSI: Yesterday and today, I have noticed that Mr. Andres who is doing a great job.
MADDOW: The prosecutor, right.
ROSSI: And the other two prosecutors, Uso and Brandon, OK? I know those two very well. He's getting a little warm with Andres.
ROSSI: And it's because they now realize -- they have almost an understanding. And you got to understand, Judge Ellis does this in every single case, no matter how big or how small.
MADDOW: Just that every single case doesn't get this kind of national attention for all the reasons this is. But that's why we need your expertise.
Gene Rossi, former prosecutor of the Eastern District of Virginia -- thank you, my friend.
ROSSI: Thank you.
MADDOW: Really good to have you here.
ROSSI: Thank you so much.
MADDOW: All right. Much more to come tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Today, a Trump enthusiast Republican congressman from Buffalo, New York, suddenly became very nationally famous when that sitting congressman and early Donald Trump devotee Chris Collins was arrested, indicted and arraigned for insider trading and lying to federal agents.
Our next guest is so close to this remarkable story today that our next guest is actually mentioned in the indictment that was unsealed as Chris Collins was taken into custody today.
He's mentioned and not as one of the many unnamed co-conspirators in the indictment. That guest joins us next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Before former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was booted out of office, in a taxpayer spending and luxury travel scandal, before all that, Tom Price had a stock scandal that arguably was an even bigger deal. When Tom Price was a congressman from Georgia, he bought tens of thousands of dollars in stock in a company called Innate Immunotherapeutics.
And he bought that stock at a discounted rate. It was a big sticking point at his confirmation hearings. He testified he didn't get a special price on that stock.
In fact, he did. He was one of fewer than 20 U.S. investors who were offered that sweet deal. He admitted that he first heard about that company from another colleague down the hall.
Congressman Chris Collins is a Republican from Upstate New York, from Buffalo. He's also one of the largest shareholders in that Australian pharmaceutical company and he sat on the board of directors of that company which itself is an unusual thing for a sitting member of Congress let alone one on a committee that oversees health care companies.
After Congressman Collins allegedly tried to get his colleagues like Tom Price to invest in that company, House ethics investigators started looking into you Chris Collins and his ties to that company last year. Well, today, this long brewing scandal culminated with Congressman Chris Collins getting arrested on federal insider trading charges and for lying to federal agents. That's him spot shadows there at federal court in New York City today.
Today probably felt like the longest day of Congressman Chris Collins life. But it also must have felt like a long time coming for the local reporters at Congressman Collins' hometown paper, the "Buffalo News" who have frankly been on the story from before the beginning.
Jerry Zremski is the Washington bureau chief for "Buffalo News". He's the reporter who first broke the story there was a House ethics investigation into Congressman Collins and his ties to the company way back before any of it had taken the turn to being an alleged crime. Buffalo News stayed on the story even when the congressman repeatedly publicly attacked them, all up until this criminal indictment today.
Mr. Zremski, I imagine this has felt a long time coming. Thanks for being here today.
JERRY ZREMSKI, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE BUFFALO NEWS: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: How did this evolve from the first stories that "Buffalo News" ran on this matter to where it ended up today?
ZREMSKI: It was a long, long trail that we ended up following. It all started as you mentioned with the investigation into Tom Price and his stock trades and how they related to Chris Collins. But really the big break in the story I think was one that went largely unnoticed. It was late in June last year when, all of a sudden, one Wednesday night, Innate Immunotherapeutics introduces this press release saying, hey, we've got this great news from the FDA. We're going to be able to do clinical trials in the U.S.
And then a couple days later, there's a sudden hold on the stock trading. And that seemed very, very suspicious. And then only a couple of days later, the following week, the following Monday night, we find out why there was a hold. The clinical trials of their much touted drug to supposedly cure multiple sclerosis failed completely.
So, the company's only product was essentially worthless and so was the company.
MADDOW: And that's an unusual dynamic to have this hyping press release saying things are going great right before things actually cratered.
ZREMSKI: Exactly. I did a story where I talked to people in Australia involved in the investment industry and also people in Buffalo. And they both looked at this as what's called a pump and dump scheme, where you tout the price of the stock and then everything goes quiet for a day or two while the insiders sell. And then the bad news comes out.
MADDOW: So the investors in the know will get the best possible price for their stock while they are selling it off, while the rest of the dupes in the public who don't know it are about to take a bath.
ZREMSKI: One interesting though is that the indictment doesn't address the first part of that, that highly touted optimistic press release, that's not in there. But the second part of this long delay and the insiders dumping the stock, yes, that's in there.
MADDOW: Now, one of the other things that's in the indictment I think is a reference to you. There is part of what's alleged in the scheme is that Congressman Collins' office released a statement to a reporter, who I think is you.
ZREMSKI: That is me.
MADDOW: Essentially saying that, hey, when my family sold off this stock as the stock cratered and dropped by 92 percent in value, you shouldn't see that as any -- essentially giving you a statement exonerating the family of any wrongdoing for having done that, making it seem like they actually got hit very hard just like members of the public did who might have held this stock.
Is that essentially the way that you feature in the indictment and what did you make of that statement when he actually got it the from Collins' office?
ZREMSKI: Well, that's pretty much the way it was, is in terms of how it happened, I asked the questions about the family. And the family's investment, what happened with that, did they sell, et cetera? And I got this very straightforward statement which said there was nothing suspicious here, that everyone had taken a loss, et cetera.
And it clearly turned out not to be true, that statement turned out not to be true. Of course, when I was reading the indictment this morning, I read that and said, oh, that sounds like a very familiar little press release, come to think of it.
MADDOW: Congressman Collins has been reportedly overheard near the floor of the House bragging about how many millionaires he made in Buffalo back home by talking people into investing into this company. He's also tried to raise funds politically by attacking the "Buffalo News", by attacking you and your paper for having pursued this story.
How do you think this will play at home for him? He says he's going to run for re-election.
ZREMSKI: That's a very, very interesting question. The thing he really has going for him is that he is representing one of the most Republican districts, probably the most Republican district in New York state.
ZREMSKI: So, there are a certain percentage of people in his district who are simply going to believe him, who are going to think this is another attempt by the press and the evil FBI to go after Republicans again and will vote on partisan lines. I think discerning voters may think about this a little bit more. But it's really going to be a struggle, I think, for any Democrat to win in that district just because of the partisan lean of the district.
MADDOW: This is one of those speaking indictments written for a public audience. To the extent it gets circulated and people read this for themselves, it's a pretty powerful case.
Jerry Zremski, Washington bureau chief for "Buffalo News," I know it has not been fun to be the target of the congressman's ire for pursuing the story, back home especially. But congratulations on being out ahead of this and it's -- boy, is this turning into a big deal. Congratulations.
ZREMSKI: Thank you. I appreciate it. OK.
MADDOW: Subscribe to your local paper. We'll be right back.
MADDOW: The story we broke at the top of the show tonight was of audio recordings and audiotape previously undisclosed that was made at a Republican fundraiser last week in which Congressman Devin Nunes, the head of the Intelligence Committee, and Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, number four Republican in the House, discussed some surprise plans among congressional Republicans both the Mueller investigation and for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
I mentioned at the top of the show, we will post those audio clips and the transcripts of those remarks online. They are now posted online.
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.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2018 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.