Republican lobbyist pleads guilty. TRANSCRIPT: 08/31/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Natasha Bertrand

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: August 31, 2018 Guest: Natasha Bertrand

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

You know, Friday night before a holiday weekend, it always pays to go to work if you work in the news business. And if you don`t work in the news business, it always pays to watch the news. Pay attention to the news. I mean, on Friday nights in general, right? The Friday night news dump, it`s legendary.

But particularly before a holiday that you can see coming a long way off, always a good idea. And today is proving that rule of citizenship and the rule of the news once again. It has been a very busy day today on lots of fronts, particularly in the courts.

Just tonight, for example, after close of business, the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C. filed this motion in federal court in Washington asking for a gag order to be imposed by the court on the legal defense team that`s representing Maria Butina. Maria Butina, of course, is accused of being a secret Russian agent who infiltrated the NRA and the conservative movement more broadly to try to influence the 2016 election on behalf of the Russian government.

Maria Butina`s lawyer has done lots of interviews and made lots of media appearances since he started representing her in this case. Prosecutors as of tonight are asking for the judge in the Butina case to put a gag order on her lawyer so he will be restricted to only pleading her case in court rather than on TV.

Maria Butina, of course, remains in jail tonight awaiting trial. The judge in her case refused to allow her out on bail after prosecutors argued that she was a severe flight risk. They argued that her extensive alleged ties to the Russian government would create too strong a possibility that she would take refuge in the Russian embassy in Washington or otherwise find a way to flee the country to avoid this prosecution, potentially with Russia`s help.

So, Maria Butina did not get bail. She does not even yet have a date set for her trial. But it looks like she will be in jail until that trial happens.

And small world, as it happens. The jail where she is being held this very night is the same jail that tonight is also holding President Trump`s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who has been tried again -- tried already once in the federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia. He is now about to be tried again. He is awaiting his next trial which is due to start in just a couple of weeks in federal court in Washington, D.C.

I said today was a busy day in the courts. Today, the same federal judge who is hearing the Paul Manafort case in D.C. in a couple weeks today her courtroom, same courtroom, same judge, was where we learned that there is a whole new defendant in the Russia scandal who we didn`t know was coming. I think the big bottom line here with this new defendant who appeared in court today is that the special counsel`s office has flipped another cooperating witness in the Russia investigation.

But there`s other potential threads here to pull. I mean, Rob Mueller and his prosecutors definitely, we now know, they have obtained another guilty plea to another federal felony charge. This one comes with -- this one comes explicitly with a written robust cooperation agreement for this defendant.

Because of who this defendant is though, I think there are a bunch of intriguing questions as to how he fits into larger case. I mean, it is interesting. A bunch of news outlets including "The Washington Post" and CNN have done the hard work and the very useful work of trying to maintain online an ongoing updated list of all the people who we know have talked to Robert Mueller and the prosecutors. All the people we know are somehow involved in the special counsel`s investigation.

Before today, this guy who just pled guilty in federal court, he was not on any of these lists. Nobody knew that he was coming at the next defendant. But his name is Sam Patten. He`s 47 years old. He`s a Republican activist and political consultant. He was arraigned and pled guilty in federal court in Washington, D.C. today before the same judge who is hearing the Paul Manafort trial next month.

The hearing happened at 11:00 a.m. Eastern. It took less than an hour. And it was a very formal hearing.

The prosecutors were asked by the judge in open court to explain the felony to which Sam Patten was going to plead guilty and the prosecutors did explain that at some length, but they did it kind of in legalese. They didn`t bother to spell it all out in plain English. They basically just read the document they had filed with the court. It`s a very formal proceeding.

But still, the defendant was present himself because he had to enter his own guilty plea. So, in court today, we did get to see him go through the serious nuts and bolts with the judge, with him confirming to the judge that he understood that he was pleading guilty, that he understood the implications of that. He understood that this was a serious thing to which he was pleading guilty.

We also got to see him crucially confirm in open court that basically all this happened to him today because he has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. So here`s from the court transcript today.

The judge: All right, Mr. Patten. Is what the prosecutor just told me a true and accurate description of what did you in this case? The defendant, Sam Patten: It is, your honor.

The judge: And so, did you in fact act as an agent of a foreign principal without registering with the attorney general? The defendant: I did, your honor.

The judge: And now, there is a written statement of the offense which I take it you and your lawyer have gone over carefully? The defendant: Yes, your honor.

The judge: Are you the one who signed it on the last page where it says defendant`s acceptance indicating that it was true? The defendant: Yes, your honor.

The judge: Do you understand if I accept your guilty plea in this case, could you receive a maximum sentence of up to five years incarceration for that offense? The defendant: I do, your honor.

The judge: Now, do you also understand that in this case as part of your plea agreement, there is a paragraph that requires you to cooperate fully and truthfully in this case? The defendant, Sam Patten: Yes, your honor.

The judge: And do you also understand that the government has agreed to bring the nature and extent of your cooperation to my attention at the time of your sentencing? The defendant: That is my understanding, your honor.

And then here`s sort of the moment everybody is waiting for in the courtroom. The judge says, quote: Are you entering this plea of guilty voluntarily and of your own free will because you are guilty and for no other reason? The defendant: I am, your honor.

The judge: Is there anything you don`t understand about this proceeding or about your plea in this case? The defendant: No, your honor.

The judge: Is there anything you want to ask me or ask your lawyer before I ask you for your final decision in this case? The defendant: No, your honor.

The judge: Are you ready now to make a decision about whether you want to enter a plea of guilty or whether you want to have a trial? The defendant: Yes, your honor.

The judge: Ad what`s your decision? The defendant: I would -- I plead guilty to the charge.

And the judge says: I am satisfied that this defendant is fully competent and capable of making a decision today, that he understands the nature and consequences of what he is doing. The transcript won`t reflect it, the judge says, but he has actually nodded his head with every yes, with every question I have asked him today. I find that he is acting voluntarily and of his own free will and that there is an adequate factual basis for the plea, and therefore, I will accept the plea.

And so, Sam Patten today becomes the latest cooperating witness and the latest guilty plea in the special counsel`s investigation. Now, Mr. Patten has not yet been sentenced. He will not be sentenced until probably quite a few months from now down the road when the judge accepted his plea today will consider the information that she gets from prosecutors about how well Sam Patten has actually performed as a cooperator with them. She will take that into account when she decides (AUDIO GAP) if so for how long.

In the meantime, though, before he is sentenced, Sam Patten today was ordered to hand over his passport. He will have to seek permission from the court if he wants to travel anywhere outside the metropolitan Washington D.C. area. Other than that, he is allowed to go home on his own recognizance. The next time he`s due back in court is Halloween, 60 days from now.

But again, he eventually will be sentenced by that same judge who took his plea today. Now, I mentioned that Sam Patten is the latest cooperating witness and the latest guilty plea in the special counsel`s investigation. I should note that this appears to be another one of those cases that started with the special counsel`s office but they appear to have handed it off. The prosecutors who actually appeared in court today for this hearing for Sam Patten were prosecutors from the U.S. attorney`s office in D.C. and also from Main Justice, from the National Security Division at Main Justice.

Reporters say at least one lawyer and multiple FBI agents associated with the special counsel`s office were physically there in court today to see Sam Patten get arraigned, to see him plead. But those FBI agents and lawyers from the special counsel`s office, although they were there, they didn`t speak in court and they definitely didn`t answer any reporters` questions.

So this originated in the special counsel`s office and handed off to those other entities to actual prosecute him. So, how does this latest guilty plea and this latest cooperation agreement from this guy fit into the larger picture? I`m so glad you asked. I have a lot of things to say about that.

I will start small. I don`t mean to be catty, but first of all, I will just note that the president`s outside counsel on the Russia investigation really is supposedly Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City. It`s amazing. We called the White House for comment and confirmation on all sorts of stories all the time. When it`s about the Russia investigation, they refer us to outside counsel. What they mean is that we should call Rudy Giuliani. As if we can get real information from Rudy Giuliani. Thank you, we`ll call back later.

But it should -- he is supposedly the outside counsel on the Russia investigation and it should be noted that Mr. Giuliani as such is on the record saying, the entire special counsel investigation will be wrapped up, done and dusted, definitely by tomorrow.

Well, your honor, since the special counsel`s office just today arraigned and accepted a guilty plea and a formal cooperation agreement from a brand new defendant, I think it`s fair to say that Mr. Giuliani may have been a little off in that prediction about this thing ending by dawn. So, again, I don`t mean to seem catty about that, but it`s amazing that that is who the outside counsel is for the president on a matter this serious. And given that his latest on the record pronouncement about the special counsel`s investigation is that it`s ending tomorrow, it sort of tells you what kind of position the president is in in terms of his representation. So there`s that.

More substantively, it is clear that this latest guilty plea, this latest cooperating witness has very strong links to the president`s campaign chairman and to the ongoing legal travails of Paul Manafort. The actual charge to which Sam Patten pled guilty was that he was operating as an unregistered foreign agent. To be more specific than that, prosecutors today charged him with being an unregistered foreign agent lobbying for and representing the interests of the same pro-Russia Ukrainian political party that Paul Manafort has been charged with being a foreign agent for his trial that`s due to start in a couple of weeks.

Sam Patten today and Paul Manafort in his trial on a couple weeks, they`re both charged with being unregistered foreign agents for something called the opposition bloc which is what forms in Ukraine after Manafort`s pro- Russian client Viktor Yanukovych, the dictator in Ukraine, was deposed and chased back in a popular uprising. They remade Yanukovych`s party as this group`s opposition bloc. So that`s one link to the Manafort case.

Both Sam Patten today and Paul Manafort are charged with the same crime and they`re charged with committing the same crime on behalf of the same foreign entity. Also, Paul Manafort has a co-defendant in his next trial, the trial that`s due to start in Washington, D.C. in a couple weeks. His co-defendant is not likely to turn up in the courtroom though. His name is Konstantin Kilimnik. He`s Russian born. He`s described by the FBI as having active links to Russian intelligence agencies.

Konstantin Kilimnik worked for years at Paul Manafort`s firm and he`s charged alongside Manafort in some of the felony charges that Manafort will be facing in a couple of weeks. But in addition to his work with Paula Manafort, this guy Konstantin Kilimnik also formed a company with -- a consulting firm with Sam Patten, the guy who was charged today. So that`s another link between these two cases.

And here`s another link. The pro-Russian politician, the Ukrainian leader who Paul Manafort worked for and helped get elected in Ukraine, as I mentioned, that was Viktor Yanukovych, there`s no mention of Viktor Yanukovych in the charging documents today relating to Sam Patten, but Sam Patten, according to prosecutors, was placing op-eds in U.S. media outlets and an was organizing political meetings on Capitol Hill.

The guy for whom Sam Patten was illegally lobbying without registering as a foreign agent, it wasn`t Viktor Yanukovych but it was Viktor Yanukovych`s chief of staff. So, Paul Manafort is charged with being an unregistered foreign agent for Viktor Yanukovych and his party. Sam Patten is charged with being an unregistered agent for Viktor Yanukovych`s party and Viktor Yanukovych`s chief of staff.

The unnamed foreign official described throughout the charging documents for Patten today, all indications are that he was this guy, Sergei Lyovochkin, part of the opposition bloc, chief of staff to Yanukovych. He is all over the Sam Patten charging documents today if he is in fact unnamed foreign official who is described in these documents.

It should also be noted that in the evidence that was introduced in the last Paul Manafort trial, that same guy, Sergei Lyovochkin is described as beak being the main pay master for Paul Manafort for all the work he did in Ukraine. More than $40 million of the overseas payments that prosecutors say were funneled to Paul Manafort over the years came from this guy, Sergei Lyovochkin, who has a starring role in today`s new indictment also.

Now, so lots of links to Manafort, right? You may have heard when they charged this guy Sam Patten today and they got his guilty plea and he signed off on this cooperation deal, you may eventual heard today that prosecutors also claimed in this case that Patten illegally funneled foreign money into the Trump inauguration. There`s $50,000 illegal donation prosecutors described today.

This $50,000 in illegal foreign money that was funneled into the Trump inauguration, according to the charging documents today, that money according to prosecutors, also came from this same Ukrainian guy who plays such a big role in the Manafort case, Sergei Lyovochkin.

So, there`s lots and lots of ties today between this guy`s new case today and Manafort`s case which is still ongoing, right? Still ongoing because he`s got another second trial coming up in a couple of weeks.

But on that specific claim by prosecutors today about the Trump inauguration, that is fascinating for a bunch of reasons. I mean, for one, bluntly, this is the first time prosecutors have directly alleged that foreign money was funneled into any Trump campaign entity. Also, the mechanism by which it was done is interesting.

According to the statement of offense in this Sam Patten case, Sam Patten convinced some American person, we don`t know who it was, to write a check that was a $50,000 check that was basically supposed to look like an American $50,000 donation to the Trump inauguration. That $50,000 donation obtained four tickets to Trump inaugural events. That American person, whoever it was, that person who wrote the check in their own name, that person got reimbursed the $50,000 from Sam Patten and his company. Then Sam Patten and his company got reimbursed by the Ukrainian oligarch guy, Yanukovych`s chief of staff. He wired Sam Patten $50,000 to cover the expense out of an offshore bank account that he controlled in Cyprus.

So, that`s -- the mechanism is interesting, right? Money coming from abroad that Sam Patten is passing through his company in Washington through to some other American citizen who donates the money to Trump. It`s foreign money but it has to go through that little route in order to get to the Trump inaugural campaign.

Now, I`m interested in every part of that including who was the unnamed American who wrote the check? Did that person do this wittingly? How did prosecutors find out about all of this? Do prosecutors believe this might have happened in other circumstances when it comes to the Trump inauguration?

I mean, part of the reason this was such an interesting part of the charge from prosecutors, is because from the very beginning, the Trump inaugural committee has looked like a giant slush fund. We`ve been reporting on this for like a year -- more than a year. Something is rotten in Denmark when it comes to the presidential inaugural committee and we`ve been able to see it for a very long time. We`re going to have more on that in the show tonight.

It`s just been clear for almost since the inauguration happened that there was something very wrong with the math around the inauguration, the math and the money. They raised way, way more money than they could have spent on that inauguration that they actually had. They never accounted for what happened to the money. Like I said, we will get to more of that later on this hour.

But seeing these first allegations from prosecutors about the inaugural committee today is something I`ve sort of been waiting for. It also sort of helps us out with the timing about what`s happened with this new defendant and this new guilty plea and this new cooperator. In the plea agreement that prosecutors entered with the court, they said that Sam Patten first came forward with a proffer, with his formal offer of information to prosecutors on May 22nd of this year. Now, what caused Sam Patten to come forward to prosecutors on May 22nd?

We don`t know exactly, but it may be helpful to note that just before that, about a week and a half before that, ABC News published this great and super important investigative piece about the Trump inauguration, about the possibility of foreign money coming into the Trump inauguration. You see the headline: Exclusive special counsel probing donations with foreign connections to Trump inauguration.

ABC News broke that really important story May 11th of this year. We now know according to this charging document and prosecutors today that less than two weeks later, less than two weeks after that piece was published by ABC News, prosecutors had locked down a formal written proffer of information and cooperation from this guy had we now know is a cooperating witness and the newest guilty plea. Now that we know he first started cooperating on May 22nd.

That also tells us that, hey, the Mueller investigation had an active cooperating witness working with them for more than the past three months and none of us had any idea about it. Mueller side of this doesn`t leak. If you were hoping to get juicy leaks out of the special counsel`s office, nobody is getting any leaks out of the special counsel`s office. Otherwise we would have heard that Sam Patten-was a cooperator and due to be charged some day.

Prosecutors also say in that charging documents today that Sam Patten lied to and obstructed the Senate Intelligence Committee and their Senate investigation of the Russia scandal. We haven`t even known that Sam Patten had testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The chairman and vice chairman of that committee, Senator Richard Burr and Senator Mark Warner put out a statement soon after Sam Patten was charged today, confirming that Mr. Patten did in fact speak to the committee earlier this year. They also said in their statement something about Patten`s testimony to the committee caused them on notify the Justice Department that he should be subject to a criminal referral. That`s also new news. We didn`t know that before today.

But did that criminal referral from Burr and Warner about Sam Patten, did that lead to this action by prosecutors today against Sam Patten? It kind of doesn`t seem like it. It`s interesting. Look at the actual language from the statement that Burr and Warner put out today. This is what they said.

Quote: We can confirm that Mr. Patten produced documents to the committee and was interviewed by committee staff. Due to concerns about certain statements made by Mr. Patten, the committee made a criminal referral to the Department of Justice. While the charge and resultant plea today do not appear to directly involve our referral, we appreciate their review of this matter.

So this is fuzzy in an interesting way. Sam Patten testifies to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Something about that testify causes the Senate Intelligence Committee to refer him to the Justice Department for prosecution. He has now as of today been prosecuted. But it`s not clear if the Justice Department prosecuted him for the thing that he was referred about.

We don`t know what upset the Intelligence Committee so much as what the Justice Department charged him with. It kind of seems like maybe it wasn`t. We`ve been trying to figure out how they connect all day. The intelligence committee has been no commenting us all day ever since they issued that statement and we`ve been trying to figure it out. So, that remains unclear in an interesting way.

But the bigger picture here. If there are going to be Department Justice prosecutions for people lying to Congress, for lying to congressional committees investigating the Russia scandal, well, that`s a very interesting turn all together. I mean, members of Congress have made strong and in some cases, angry charges that they`ve been lied to by a whole bunch of different witnesses associated with the president and the administration and the campaign in Russia-related testimony.

Everybody from Erik Prince to Roger Stone to Jared Kushner to Donald Trump Jr., I mean, if they`re now are going to be prosecutions against witnesses for lying to Congress on this subject, where do we start?

So, we`ll have more on that coming up tonight, as well. If you know anybody who has testified to Congress on this subject, if they seem a little more nervous today than they did before today, this Sam Patten guilty plea today and the statement of offense where they nail him for lying to Congress, that`s probably why your pal is nervous today.

On this guy, Sam Patten pleading guilty and agreeing to cooperate, I mentioned before that he wasn`t really on anyone`s radar in terms of the Mueller investigation and the Russia scandal writ large before he turned up in court today. I think that`s true in general.

There are a few important exceptions to that though. This spring, a couple of eagle eyed journalists did interesting interviews with, and profiles of Sam Patten, particularly focused on his relationship with Konstantin Kilimnik and Sam Patten`s role in the Manafort-ish former Soviet political universe that started to come into focus in this investigation when Manafort first got in trouble.

Natasha Bertrand from "The Atlantic" was one of those journalists who interviewed Sam Patten this spring. Her profile of him was not just about Patten`s relationship with Konstantin Kilimnik and Patten`s work in the former Soviet Union. She also wrote about his work with Cambridge Analytica.

Cambridge Analytica is the data firm that was paid millions of dollars by the Trump for president campaign. Cambridge Analytic has since fallen on hard times. They shut down in May after a serious controversy in which it was revealed they had stolen personal information off of Facebook from tens of millions of people without their permission. Part of that scandal was the apparent link of some of that data thief to an academic with ties to the Russian government and there were other unexplained Russia-related interests and ties between Cambridge Analytica and its parent company.

A whistleblower named Christopher Wylie was the main engine behind that scandal that ultimately shut down Cambridge Analytica this year. One of the things he raised alarms about this spring was Cambridge, as early as 2014 and 2015, for some reason, testing U.S. audiences on messaging related to Russia and Vladimir Putin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTOPHER WYLIE, WHISTLEBLOWER: Some of the message testing that Cambridge Analytica did, even in 2014, so well before the 2016 presidential election, involved testing opinions on Vladimir Putin. Testing opinions on Russian expansionism in Eastern Europe. Vladimir Putin was the only foreign leader that this company tests.

INTERVIEWER: As far as you know.

WYLIE: Well, at least when I was there, that was true. During the extent I was there, he was the only foreign leader that we had tested at the time that I was there. And for me, that`s concerning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Why was Cambridge Analytica in 2014 testing American audiences on their views on Russia and Vladimir Putin?

Sam Patten worked at Cambridge Analytica in 2014, 2015. He became a cooperating witness and pled guilty today.

And today, after Sam Patten appeared in federal court in Washington for his arraignment and to plead guilty, Christopher Wylie, that whistleblower, said this on Twitter, quote: Breaking, ex-Cambridge Analytica contractor Sam Patten just charged by FBI after Mueller referral. This guy was responsible for Cambridge Analytica operations in the U.S. that involved covertly testing U.S. voter attitudes on Putin`s leadership. Quote: I know there`s more to come.

All right. So, bottom line here -- thank you for watching the news on Friday night before a holiday weekend. It is so worth it, right?

Special counsel has a new cooperating witness and a new guilty plea. Also, special counsel`s investigation is apparently not ending tomorrow. Sorry.

Also, this case appears to be linked to the Manafort case for sure. Also, this is another unregistered foreign agent case for the special counsel`s office. Also, for the first time, this case raises the possibility of Justice Department prosecutions for people lying to Congress about the Russia investigation. Oh.

Also, for the first time, prosecutors are zeroing in on Trump inauguration, describing illicit foreign funds being funneled into Trump campaign entities for the first time. Tell me more.

But to my mind, most intriguingly, I think, for the first time this new case that we just learned of today, this shows the special counsel`s office getting close to the Donald Trump campaign data operation, Cambridge Analytica. And in the case of Sam Patten, specifically, the unexplained links between that data operation and Russia.

And that, of course, is the bottom line of all bottom lines. So hold on. We got more coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: This is from "The Atlantic" magazine. It was published on April 6th this year.

Quote: A long time Republican operative with ties to the controversial data firm hired by President Donald Trump`s campaign team also has a nearly two- decade-long friendship and business relationship with a suspected Russian intelligence agent Konstantin Kilimnik who has landed in special counsel Robert Mueller`s crosshairs.

The Washington based operative Sam Patten would not say whether he has been interviewed by Mueller`s team as part of their investigation into Russia`s election interference and potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. But Mr. Patten says that his relationship with Kilimnik, the former officer in Russia`s GRU, who worked closely with Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates for over a decade, Patten said that his relationship with Kilimnik has been, quote, thoroughly explored by relevant government entities.

See, this is how you know you`re following a good reporter. Dude, you have never heard of before, turns up in one of her profiles as a potentially interesting connection between two big parts of a big sprawling scandal that otherwise as yet don`t seem to be connected. Never heard of the guy before. You`ve never seen any other evidence that these two different parts of the scandal are connected. She`s like, he might be the connection.

Then months later, much to everyone else`s surprise, but apparently, not a surprise to that smart reporter, dude turns up in court as the connection between those two parts of the scandal, and as the latest cooperating witness in the special counsel`s investigation, pleading guilty for failing to register as a foreign agent, and agreeing to cooperate with investigators. Laced through the court papers in the Sam Patten case today are the threads that reporter started pulling months ago, Sam Patten`s connection to Cambridge Analytica, the Trump campaign data firm, and his connection to Konstantin Kilimnik who is assessed by the FBI to have ties to Russian intelligence.

This indictment, this guilty plea, this cooperation plea today was a surprise to a lot of people today. But some people, some people, were on to this way before almost anyone else.

And that reporter is here next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Joining us now is one of the very first reporters to spot the emerging story of lobbyist Sam Patten who pled guilty today and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in the Russia investigation. Natasha Bertrand is a staff writer at "The Atlantic". She was an early reporter on Sam Patten way before any of us schmoes knew that this was the guy who was going to turn up today having a starring role in the case at this point.

Natasha, thank you for being here. Congratulations on being the early spotter here.

NATASHA BERTRAND, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Why did you write about Sam Patten back in April for "The Atlantic"? He is certainly not only a household name but not a name that has been on a lot of people`s radar at all in conjunction with this case.

BERTRAND: Yes. So, I was researching Konstantin Kilimnik because, obviously, he is a major player in the Russia investigation, being as close as he is with Paul Manafort. And I got a tip that actually Konstantin Kilimnik was not just operating overseas. He had actually opened up this company in 2015 with this operative named Sam Patten.

So, I started researching Patten and I learned that he is actually very much like Manafort kind of like a gun more hire, has been working overseas for a long time for kind of shady people. And he and Kilimnik actually met in Moscow in 2001 when they were working for this organization called the International Republican Institute, kind of like a democracy promoter, which is kind of ironic when you look back on it now.

But they kept in touch over the last couple decades and they`re really fond of each other. They found places to work together over the last two decades. That`s what Sam Patten told me, anyway. And when I was digging into this further, it just made me realize the extent to which Kilimnik, I was looking at this in the frame of Kilimnik had managed to ingratiate himself in Washington politics.

He was working for this lobbying firm. He was a principal in the firm and he was lobbying -- really, the whole purpose of this company was lobbying forth these very same clients that Paul Manafort was lobbying for. So, a whole bunch of threads kind of came together. And then, of course, you have the Cambridge Analytica, I admit, which on its own is very interesting.

MADDOW: And that crossover, I did not know about that before reading about it in your piece in "The Atlantic" in April. And I didn`t really know what to make of it. That`s when we were starting to learn about troubles at Cambridge Analytica. There had been a lot of questions about whether or not the Trump campaign`s data operation might be a key part of any substantive investigation whether or not there was, you know, an American element to the Russian interference in our election.

What do you know about Patten`s role at Cambridge Analytica, with the parent firm of Cambridge Analytica? That`s something we know from your reporting but we didn`t know it -- we didn`t see anything about it explicitly in the charging documents today.

BERTRAND: Right. So, there are two things are really interesting about his work for both SCL group, which is the parent group of Cambridge, and Cambridge itself. So, in 2014, he started working in Oregon for the parent company SCL and he was focusing on microtargeting which, of course, we know was a big part of the Trump campaign`s data operation in 2016. So he was working on that in the run-up to the midterm elections.

And then he ended up working for Cambridge Analytica again in a campaign, in a project they did for the incumbent in Nigeria. And what they did there was also very interesting because part that project actually involved hacking in, hiring Israeli hackers to find dirt on their client`s opponents. So, there are two really interesting things.

MADDOW: Where have I heard this before?

BERTRAND: Exactly. So these are areas that he might be able to discuss with Mueller, for example, if Mueller were to ask him more about Cambridge`s Analytica`s operations or how they did things, and whether or not it was always kind of above water. But it`s interesting because we don`t know whether or not he actually had any role with Cambridge Analytica in 2016. There`s no evidence that he did, but it raises questions about why he would have stopped that work in 2015 going into the biggest election probably in his lifetime.

MADDOW: When you -- one last question about your contact with him. Did he give you any indication that he was speaking with Robert Mueller? That he had been approached by the special counsel`s office? That he had given testimony?

We know because of the events, by the time you spoke with him, he had already testified to Senate intelligence. Prosecutors said he lied during that testimony, attempted to obstruct their investigation and destroyed documents after talking to them. We also know that not long after talking to you for that piece in April, he went to Mueller`s office with a formal proffer of information which eventually became cooperation.

Did he -- did he let you in on any of that when you talked to him?

BERTRAND: So that`s the thing I was most interested in when I reached out. I wanted to know if he had been contacted by Mueller, because, of course, he had all these ties to Manafort and Kilimnik and the people that they worked with. And he told me only that he had spoken to relevant government entities. I assumed that meant, you know, Congress, maybe the FBI had reached out to him once or twice.

But he did not give me a firm answer on whether or not he had been interviewed by Mueller. Of course, now we know he, in fact, was. But he was very coy and he would not go into much detail about the work that this company that he set up with Konstantin Kilimnik actually did.

I asked him point blank, will you say that it was working on behalf of foreign clients? Did you have any kind of domestic messaging role in the U.S.? And all he said was, no, we only represented clients outside of the U.S.

So, he seemed very eager to hide the fact that he was lobbying on behalf of foreign clients in the United States which would explain in turn why he did not register as a foreign agent at the Justice Department.

MADDOW: Right. He was working for foreign clients but he ways lobbying the U.S. government on their behalf. And that`s what he pled guilty to today.

Natasha Bertrand, I want to go right back out there and keep doing what you`re doing. We`ve learned so much about this story from your work. Thank you for being here.

BERTRAND: Thank you.

MADDOW: Congratulations.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Sometimes you follow the money. Sometimes you wonder, where did it all go?

But now this one that I have been wondering about for a very long time is finally sort of turning ripe and falling off the tree. And we may find out what happened to the money.

The committee for Donald Trump`s inauguration raised double the amount of money that had been the record for the gigantic first Obama inauguration. The Obama inauguration was the biggest U.S. presidential inauguration ever. The Trump folks raised double the amount of money that the Obama one did. It raised over $100 million for an inauguration that was many times smaller than the Obama inauguration.

So, where did all the Trump money go? Over $100 million. We know they paid $26 million to Melania Trump`s friend, the event planner, from whom Melania Trump soon cut ties after there was reporting on how much her friend got paid.

They paid this woman $26 million even though they also paid a big event planning firm that did all the previous inaugurations to basically do all the inaugural work. So what exactly did Mrs. Trump`s friend do for $26 million?

Why has the inaugural committee refused to explain their finances? They said in June last year, that I an full audit of their finances had just been completed last June. They`ve still never shared the results of that supposed audit.

I mean, the people in charge of running the Trump inauguration were Rick Gates, who has now pled guilty to multiple felonies and testified earlier this month in open court about all the ways he helped campaign chair Paul Manafort violate tax law and commit bank fraud. He was deputy chairman of the inaugural committee. He is described as the guy who actually ran it.

The vice chairman of the finance committee was Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy who is now reportedly under Justice Department investigation. Also on money laundering charges, right?

So, on the stand in the Manafort trial, I have to tell you, Rick Gates testified under oath that he himself might have stolen money from the fund. Maybe have to check. He literally said under oath, quote, it`s possible. Yes, you know, I have to go back through my files. I might have stolen money from there, too. I don`t remember.

Then there`s the assertion today by federal prosecutors that the new guy, Sam Patten, who today pled guilty to operating illegally as a foreign agent in this country for a pro-Russia/Ukrainian party, today prosecutors said that he illegally facilitated the payment of a $50,000 donation from a Ukrainian oligarch to the Trump inauguration. Of course, the inaugural committee is not illegally allowed to receive foreign money but Patten has testified, or has signed his name on court documents which say that`s exactly what he did.

It`s all so freaking shady. The whole Trump inauguration, and all the finances around it have been so blatantly shady from the very beginning.

If this revelation in the Sam Patten plea today is a sign of more shoes to drop to do with the Trump inauguration, now that prosecutors have named foreign money being illegally funneled into the inaugural committee, honestly, that would be great for us just understanding what`s happened with this presidency because from the very beginning, literally from inauguration day, there was a giant slush fund hiding in plain sight. And it would be great to know what happened to that giant slush fund.

And, by the way, why are these illegal shenanigans around the inaugural committee being described in the plea agreement with Sam Patten today but not actually charged against this guy? Why did prosecutors spell it all out as a crime but then not charge him for doing it. That is a question we can get answered here tonight.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Joining us now is our friend Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney for the northern district of the great state of Alabama.

Joyce, thank you very much for your time tonight. I have questions for you.

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: OK, shoot.

MADDOW: Why would prosecutors describe in charging documents today that Sam Patten illegally funneled foreign money to the Trump inauguration and that he broke the law by lying to and obstructing the Senate Intelligence Committee? Why would they spell those things out in such detail in the charging documents but then not actually charge him with those things as crimes?

VANCE: Sure.

So this is a standard practice for prosecutors. When you work out a plea deal before the defendant is actually charged, which is what happened here. And so, there would have been these three, at least three types of potential charges on the table and prosecutors would have offered Mr. Patten in exchange for his cooperation this deal.

And part of the deal was we`ll only charge you with one of these crimes that you committed. We`ll give you a pass on the other two.

But the rules that prosecutors operate under require prosecutors to disclose all of that conduct to the court, so that`s why we heard this more fulsome conversation in front of the court when the judge took the plea.

MADDOW: So they`re required to say out loud, essentially in, print that they know he committed these crimes simply because of the rules of the court, not because it`s some strategic thing in terms of them trying to tell the public that they`re aware that these crimes were committed?

VANCE: Right. It`s not public facing. It`s actually an internal DOJ practice to fully disclose everything of that nature that you have included in your plea decision. If you were doing it after indictment, you might have a three-count indictment and you would go to the court and say, we`ll permit Mr. Patten to plead just to count one and ask the court to dismiss counts two and three, but not necessary here since you`re doing it pre- indictment.

MADDOW: Pre-indictment, no indictment, just a criminal information. He pled guilty. He waived his right to a trial. Got it. OK.

VANCE: Exactly.

MADDOW: Here`s my next one. Among those items that prosecutors describe but they didn`t charge him was when prosecutors say he lied to the Senate Intelligence Committee in the Senate Intelligence Committee`s investigation of the Russia matter. Now, the heads of that committee came out today after Mr. Patten appeared in court and said in fact, they could confirm that Patten did talk to the Senate about their -- Senate committee about their investigation. And they said they did send a criminal referral on this guy to the Justice Department after he testified.

My question is this. It doesn`t seem like people get prosecuted very often for lying to Congress. If prosecutors want to bring that kind of a charge, do they need to get a criminal referral from the Senate, from whatever committee, from the Congress in order to do it? Or is that something that prosecutors could pursue on their own whether or not Congress wanted them to?

VANCE: The typical practice is for the body that wants to make that referral to let DOJ know about it because in reality, DOJ doesn`t have an independent mechanism for assessing what`s going on in all of these hearings up on the Hill.

Perjury charges are very hard to make for prosecutors. So, they`re scrutinized very carefully. They`re important cases to bring when the evidence is good, but they are difficult to make.

MADDOW: And so other people who have been accused by members of Congress of essentially having perjured themselves in testimony before congressional committees looking at the Russia investigation, I`m thinking about people like Erik Prince, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, should they be more on alert if there were any problems in their potential testimony because of the way this came up in Mr. Patten`s case today?

VANCE: They should be very nervous. And, of course, Mr. Patten has concluded a cooperation deal with prosecutors. We don`t know what he could have been charged with in this regard had that deal not been concluded.

So, if I was one of these other folks, I wouldn`t sleep too well tonight.

MADDOW: Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, clarion as always, clarion. Thank you very much. Great to see you, Joyce.

VANCE: Thanks.

MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Quick programming note, it`s going to be a big news weekend. Today, you undoubtedly saw some of the show stopping memorial service for the great Aretha Franklin. Today that memorial service today for the Queen of Soul was itself a cultural moment.

Following that incredible event today, tomorrow is going to be another incredible memorial of a very different kind. John McCain`s national memorial service is tomorrow in Washington. That`s the service at which Barack Obama and George W. Bush are both expected to deliver eulogies.

MSBNC`s coverage will start at 8:30 Eastern tomorrow morning for the McCain memorial service.

Looking ahead, as you know, the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh, Trump`s Supreme Court nominee, will start on Tuesday, day after Labor Day. We, of course, will be covering those wall to wall when those are underway.

But I also want to let you know that Monday night, even though it is Labor Day, we will be here with a special Labor Day show. A special report on Brett Kavanaugh on the eve of his confirmation hearings.

There will be a RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Monday night with me, Labor Day, 9:00 p.m. Eastern. See you there.

That does it for us tonight. See you soon.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Ali Velshi sitting in for Lawrence O`Donnell.

Good evening, Ali.

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