Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: September 12, 2018 Guest: Moira Whelan
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you with us.
This is a busy news night. It`s been a busy news day.
U.S. senators have submitted their written questions for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Some of those questions, some of those lines of questioning I think will be seen as news in themselves, including at least two senators asking Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh pointed, detailed questions about a potential gambling problem, and the prospect of other people paying off Brett Kavanaugh`s debts. That was an unexpected turn. We`ll have more on that ahead tonight.
There`s also some very provocative reporting out tonight from ABC News. Now, ABC has this, I need to tell you that NBC News has not verified it. But what ABC is reporting tonight is that the president`s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, ABC says that he`s in talks with prosecutors about not just potentially pleading guilty to some of the felony counts that he`s charged with in Washington, D.C. for which he`s expected to go on trial starting next week, but ABC is reporting that he`s in talks with prosecutors and the special counsel`s office about pleading guilty and potentially cooperating with the special counsel`s office, specifically against President Trump.
Now, the reporting on that story has come from multiple news outlets and has been sort of building slowly over the past few days. As I say, ABC has this one very provocative advance in that story that Paul Manafort is discussing with the special counsel`s office potentially flipping and starting to cooperate with the special counsel`s office about the president in particular. We`ll have more details on that ahead tonight for you, as well.
Last night, we had Bob Woodward here for the launch date of his new book about the Trump presidency. His book "Fear." Today, you may have seen his publisher said that they sold three quarters of a million copies of that book, hard cover copies of that book, three quarters of a million in its first day. The book seller Barnes and Nobles says that makes "Fear" the fastest selling book among adults in the past three years.
Well, now that it had that huge first day, there are revelations from that book that are still making news today, including some interesting granular revelations about the president`s defense in the Russia investigation, and some of the more desperate efforts that were previously unreported by the president and his legal team to try to make Mueller`s investigation stop. So, we`ll have more on that this hour, too.
And you may remember that last night at this time, we broke the news that just ahead of hurricane season this year, the Trump administration appears to have transferred $10 million out of FEMA, out of the federal emergency management agency to instead give that money to ICE for jailing immigrants. Well, we have a lot of pickup on that story last night. Again, the reason we were able to break that story is because Senator Jeff Merkley provided us with a document that showed us the Department of Homeland Security had made those transfers out of FEMA, instead to transfer that money to ICE for immigrant detention.
I have to tell you, we have an important advance on that story tonight coming up here momentarily. And our advance on that story tonight comes as all eyes are on the forecast, as Hurricane Florence does continue to barrel toward the Carolina coast. Forecasters did shift their expectations overnight in terms of the path of the storm. The models mostly now have it hitting the North Carolina coast before making an unusual left turn.
After hitting the coast, forecasters are now saying they expect it to turn left and head southwest, creeping inland, meaning that it could sit there dumping epic amounts of rain on the Carolinas for days. Hurricane Florence is now a category 3 hurricane. It`s got maximum winds up to 115 miles an hour.
Because of how slowly the storm is moving, when I say the Carolinas could get epic amounts of rain, I mean, they`re talking conceivably about 40 inches of rain in some places, right? That`s more than three feet of rain. That`s a lot different than three feet of snow even, right? But this is over -- the risk of this is in a relatively wide area, while the storm just stalls.
The storm is expected to make landfall tomorrow night or Friday morning. While we wait for the storm to hit, coastal areas, of course, are expecting not just rain and high winds, coastal areas also expecting a big storm surge.
Look at those storm surge amounts. That one in the middle says nine to 13 feet, of the sea being that much higher than it normally is. And they`re saying that could persist for days as the storm makes its way west.
So, with a storm this big, with this kind of unexpected impact, we are as a country are bracing for impact. This is what it looked like in the Carolinas today. Businesses closed, business openers hoping and praying for the best, people boarding up the windows of their homes, sandbagging anything that could be protected from expected flooding. Again, that expected large storm surge.
This hotel in South Carolina put all of their patio furniture right into the pool. Maybe keep it from blowing away in the storm. People staying in the state for the hurricane lined up for ice today because everybody is expecting all the power will go out. Others caught some of the last evacuation buses out of town to take them somewhere safe before the storm hits.
Mandatory evacuation orders are in effect along coastal areas. And what is now a familiar sight but still strange to see, lanes on many highways were reversed. So cars could drive one way on both sides of the highway.
Today, the U.S. Coast Guard held a briefing in Charleston, South Carolina. This is Rear Admiral Keith Smith. He`s the commander of readiness command. He talked today about the basic mechanics of what the Coast Guard will do, not just during the hurricane but after the hurricane hits.
You know, as worrying as this impending storm is, admitted, it`s somewhat reassuring for us as Americans to see the Coast Guard out in front talking about their readiness, because the Coast Guard is great at what they do. We know from past experience the Coast Guard has been a literal lifeline over and over and over again whenever a big, bad hurricane hits the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Lester Holt has been covering the southern end of hurricane Sandy. He`s in Elizabeth City tonight.
Lester, good evening.
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS: Brian, good evening. A dramatic rescue at sea today. Sixteen crew members aboard a 180-foot tall ship had to go overboard, abandon ship when they took on water. Two people were missing.
Late word tonight, though, one of those people has been found, a woman described as unresponsive and flown to a hospital here in Elizabeth City. That boat, that ship was on its way from Connecticut to Florida, trying to steer around the storm when it ran into trouble.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First survivor is coming out of the raft.
HOLT: The video shows members of the ill-fated ship`s crew jumping into the heaving ocean and into the grasp of a Coast Guard rescue swimmer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Survivors in the water.
HOLT: The distress call came in last night. The ship had lost power and was taking on water, some two feet an hour. "The Bounty" and her crew were 90 miles off of Cape Hatteras. And then earlier this morning, the 16- member crew was given an order to don their survival suits and abandon ship, into two life rafts. Spotted first by Coast Guard C-130, two choppers were launched into the teeth of 58-mile-per-hour winds and low visibility.
LT. COMMANDER STEVE BONN, COAST GUARD: There was a lot of rain and wind. Fortunately going out there, it was a tail wind, so we got out there pretty quick, even though 180 miles we had to go.
HOLT: The first chopper crew spotted one crew member floating in the water. The others in life rafts. Rescue swimmer Daniel Todd was lowered into the churning ocean.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Being down there in those waves is like being in a washing machine. We have these waves hitting at you from every single direction.
HOLT: One by one, the Bounty`s crew were hoisted up into the helicopters. One of the crew members was later hospitalized with a broken arm.
BONN: With storms like this, you can easily see how violent the ocean can become. If you don`t prepare yourself properly and handle it the way you should, it can come back and have drastic consequences.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Being down there in those waves is more like a washing machine. That`s just one. That was October 2012. That was Hurricane Sandy.
The U.S. Coast Guard flying helicopters in 58-mile-an-hour winds, spotting that tiny little raft in terrible visibility, jumping into those violent waves to pluck those guys out of the sea. Waves strong enough to break your bones.
That`s what the Coast Guard does. They`ve got capability and skills and record bravery and achievement in disasters like this. That`s just unmatched. I mean, look, 1995, Hurricane Aaron, when a 234-foot long boat sank, the Coast Guard was there and pulled up members of the crew one by one in these cage-like harnesses.
2005, Hurricane Katrina, a catastrophe, a national disaster. But of the 60,000 people who were stranded all over New Orleans, 35,000 of those people were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard. Grabbed off roofs, grabbed out of rolling water and carried to safety.
2008, Hurricane Ike, the Coast Guard rescuing people in helicopter baskets to save people who tried to wait out the storm. 2017, Hurricane Maria, three people stranded on top of an overturned boat off the coast of Puerto Rico.
Here`s the Coast Guard plucking those guys out of a water, rescuing them from 115-mile-an-hour winds and 20-feet waves. Same year, 2017, Hurricane Harvey, this is the view out of the Coast Guard helicopter that they fly over Houston. They spot these guys stranded in the water, they lower down these metal cages we`ve seen them use in hurricane after hurricane.
This guy practically hanging out of the helicopter as it lowers down. But then he yanks them to safety. And he does it again and again and again and again.
This is what the Coast Guard does, right? They dangle themselves out of helicopters with hurricane victims strapped to their vest. They wade through knee-deep floods to search for survivors. They scoop up families and kids in these little red canoes and tow them to safety.
The Coast Guard is the life ring of hurricane response in this country, right? They`re the muscle that yanks people out of the jaws of this kind of American natural disaster.
Without the Coast Guard, we have direct evidence from these pictures, right, year after year after year, storm after storm after storm, without the Coast Guard as rescuers of last resort, many more people would die of hurricanes.
So, last night, we brought you the story Donald Trump`s Department of Homeland Security, the Trump administration, this summer, at advent of hurricane season, this summer, they took money out of the budget for FEMA. Just as hurricane season was getting under way, they chose to divert nearly $10 million out of FEMA to instead fund detention and deportation of immigrants by ICE.
Specifically last night, we brought you that story, we brought you this Department of Homeland Security document, which is obtained by Senator Jeff Merkley`s office and shared first with us. It`s basically a list of all sorts of places where DHS decided to take money from one agency and move it to another. The vast majority of the money they were moving was going to upscale their ability to lock up immigrants and to fund beds in detention centers for immigrant families.
Now, the practice of moving money around between agencies is not unusual we`re told, right? But what stood out to Senator Merkley and what we were able to show you last night is this nearly $10 million, $9.75 million, being transferred out of FEMA on the cusp of hurricane season, almost all of it going to ICE in order to fund more detention beds, and ICE`s transportation and removal program for immigrants. Well, that was a report as of last night.
Tonight, we can report that it`s not just FEMA that`s being tapped for the Trump administration`s ICE programs instead. They`re not just taking money from FEMA. According to this document from the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Homeland Security is also taking tens of millions of dollars from the Coast Guard to instead give to ICE for immigrant detention. Just over $29 million taken from the Coast Guard, targeted by the Trump administration to be transferred instead to ICE for immigrant detention, $29 million from the Coast Guard, triple what they took from FEMA.
We asked the Coast Guard for comment on this tonight. They would not comment. We expect they`re busy, given what`s bearing down on the Carolina coast right now. We`re redoubling our efforts to get comment from the Coast Guard. We`ll let you know if we ever do.
But on the FEMA part of it, we asked Homeland Security about this document last night. They authenticated it, but they told us that the money taken out of FEMA to go to ICE, that money didn`t come any disaster response or recovery efforts. That`s what they said. Even though there are specific line items where you can see, where does it say there? Response and recovery, where money funneled out of FEMA is labeled coming out of response and recovery programs.
Nevertheless, that line of defense continued today as it told by the administration and was advanced by other news outlets. Another Homeland Security spokesperson arguing today that the money they took out of FEMA to instead bolster their program of locking up and deporting immigrants, that money couldn`t have been used by FEMA to prepare for this season`s storms like Hurricane Florence that`s bearing down now on the Southeast Coast.
According to another Homeland spokesman, quote, the money in question transferred to ICE from FEMA`s routine operating expenses could not have been used for hurricane response. So that spokesperson is essentially saying, hey, this $10 million they took away to give to ICE, it was like general money, general FEMA money. It was not like hurricane response money. Not that kind of FEMA money.
That earned some pushback from people who used to work at Homeland Security, and specifically for FEMA, calling out that response today as bullpucky. One former FEMA official named Moira Whelan told "The Washington Post" today, quote, anyone who knows FEMA knows this is parsing words. Money being siphoned out of FEMA, she says, this response money pays for plans and logistics and supply chain management. That`s what response and recovery money is.
Joining us now is that very same former FEMA official, Moira Whelan. She`s a former chief of staff in homeland security`s office of gulf coast rebuilding, which was established after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. She also worked on the first select committee overseeing Homeland Security in Congress. She spent time at State Department as well.
Ms. Whelan, thank you very much for joining us. I really appreciate you being here.
MOIRA WHELAN, FORMER FEMA OFFICIAL: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, you were quoted in "The Washington Post" today saying essentially that the Homeland Security/Trump administration response for this saying don`t worry about this money, taking $10 million out of FEMA won`t hurt FEMA at all, it certainly won`t affect anything about the way that they can respond to major hurricanes. You were quoted as being a skeptic to that response from Homeland Security.
Can you elaborate on that?
WHELAN: Sure. The spokesperson when he responded in his tweets last night after your great interview with Senator Merkley, basically talked about how FEMA couldn`t use disaster response money, known as the disaster relief fund for FEMA. That money is dedicated to -- for any disaster, is a different bank account for every disaster we have, and is dedicated to going to individuals and to communities to recover in the wake of a hurricane, or in the wake of any other natural disaster.
And it`s pretty specific that it has to go there, and can only finance additional things like phone banks for you to be able to call in your claim after a disaster. So anyone who knew FEMA at all knew that, of course you can`t touch the disaster, what is known as the DERF. You can`t touch the DERF funds. But there are other operating expenses at FEMA and general operating money at FEMA goes to doing things like training for all hazards, preparing our warehouses, making sure we have things ready to go, so that we can pre-deploy like you see FEMA doing now.
So taking money away from that operation doesn`t just harm hurricanes, it harms us with any disaster that we face.
MADDOW: And when we talk about plans and logistics and supply chain management, prepositioning of supplies, as you were describing there, that seems like the sort of thing that we saw go so disastrously wrong, for example, in the Hurricane Maria response in Puerto Rico. It was one thing to say that Puerto Rico was in danger and in a fragile place when it came to the actual winds and rain of that storm. What fell apart and why Maria ended um being such a fatal disaster, nearly 300,000 Americans killed, was because the plans, the supply chains, the logistics weren`t managed.
CBS today was broadcasting images of thousands of pallets of bottled water that never got distributed to people in Puerto Rico who didn`t otherwise have access to water and still to this day, a year after hurricane Maria hit, those water bottles are sitting on a runway, disused in Puerto Rico. It sort of seems like plans, logistics and supply chain management is the difference between life and death in terms of hurricane response.
WHELAN: It is the difference between life and death. People who watch FEMA will tell you that last year was an unprecedented year, three storms, back-to-back. The FEMA administrator himself, Brock Long, said that the agency was strapped and they need additional support.
And they didn`t just say this in press, you know, briefings, they put out an after action report where FEMA criticized themselves and the FEMA administrator called for the preparation of a culture of preparedness. And when we talk about that, what we`re talking about is better enabling communities to get ready for things. We`re talking about the exercises and the practices that FEMA would do with agencies like the Coast Guard to make sure that when they found someone on a boat, they could get that helicopter out there and save those people.
Those are the things they practice well in advance, day-to-day, that this funding pays for. And so, you know, yes, there`s simply no way around it. We lost 3,000 American lives last year. We faced an unprecedented season and that`s not acceptable. FEMA will be the first people to tell you that. In addition, they`re facing an unprecedented season this year.
As of Thursday, there will be five cyclones in the Atlantic, that some of which could hurt the United States. So, we`ve really got to prioritize being ready. But instead, what we`re seeing is an issue of priorities.
This isn`t -- FEMA didn`t make this decision, the Coast Guard didn`t make this decision. This decision was made by the White House. It was made by DHS to prioritize programs that imprison people that are performing a human right to seek asylum in the United States.
They`re ruining lives. They`re incarcerating families who don`t even have a right to a hearing quite yet instead of implementing programs that are proven to save lives, at a time when we know more storms will be hitting our country.
MADDOW: Moira Whelan, former official at Homeland Security and State Department, I appreciate your perspective on this. Thanks for helping us with the story. Much appreciated.
WHELAN: Thanks so much.
MADDOW: Again, bottom line here, advance on our story from last night, last night, we were first to report that the Trump administration has taken $10 million out of FEMA. They did that this summer just ahead of the hurricane season. They moved that money instead to pay for immigrant detention at ICE.
We`re furthering that reporting tonight by noting in addition to that $10 million taken out of FEMA, at the same time the Trump administration appears to have at least targeted the Coast Guard for $29 million in transfer funds, $29 million taken away from the Coast Guard right in advance of hurricane season and given to ICE to lock up immigrants.
We`ve got much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: At the very end of the Bob Woodward book "Fear", which came out yesterday, we had on last night, we learned a couple of things we didn`t already know about the Trump White House and the Mueller investigation.
First, on Page 347, Bob Woodward tells us there is a joint defense agreement among 37 witnesses who have been called to testify so far by Mueller, 37 witnesses. And the joint defense agreement means those witnesses and their defense teams have all signed onto an agreement that allows them to collaborate and share information in the investigation, specifically about what they`ve told Robert Mueller.
Now, as a party to that agreement, representing the president, the president`s old Russia lawyer John Dowd tells Bob Woodward that he was debriefed by all the lawyers for all 37 of those other witnesses as to what they told Mueller`s investigators. That means the president`s Russia lawyers are very well-informed about what everybody else has said to Mueller thus far. Or what more than three dozen other witnesses have said to Mueller thus far.
Now, we had previously known there was a joint defense agreement applying to a lot of people in the Trump orbit. We had not previously known how many people were in it. But apparently, according to this Woodward book, it`s 37, all in the joint defense agreement.
We are currently trying to find out who are the 37 witnesses with whom the president has signed a joint defense agreement so their lawyers are all sharing information. We`re also trying to figure out if that is the agreement that was in place while John Dowd was representing the president on Russia, has that agreement changed in the months since John Dowd left.
It may be an important distinction. We know for example that Mike Flynn was once a part of the joint defense agreement, but he left that agreement right before he pled guilty and agreed to cooperate. We also know that Michael Cohen was once a part of that joint defense agreement, but he too left that joint defense agreement right before he pled guilty to eight felonies in federal court in New York. So it would be good to know if anyone else is planning to leave that agreement any time soon, since it seems like that`s a harbinger of significant headlines to come.
We also learned in the book that the president has been sending messages to the Mueller team through John Dowd, through his old Russia lawyer, saying the investigation was interfering with his ability to do his job as president, because it was making other world leaders doubt that president Trump would be around long enough to make good on any deal he made. Even on important national security issues.
The press has picked up on the fact that President Trump reportedly said it was a, quote, kick in the -- nuttelas when the -- that`s not what he said - - when the Egyptian president asked him questions on the phone about the investigation. What has been less widely reported, is that anecdote apparently came up in the context of President Trump reporting that incident with the Egyptian president to Robert Mueller, sending word of that incident to Mueller`s office as a way of basically trying to make Mueller`s team back off the investigation.
Quote: Trump was continuing to explain to his attorney, John Dowd, that the Mueller investigation was hampering his ability to act as president. He passed on some classified anecdotes that Dowd who had a security clearance could pass to Mueller and his deputy Jim Quarles who also had the proper clearances. One of those was a phone call with Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, where Trump says Sisi asked him, quote, I`m worried about this investigation, are you going to be around?
That`s the question from the Egyptian president that the president reportedly described as a kick in the -- a kick in the -- guts. A kick in the guts. It`s not what he said.
But the whole point of that anecdote, as colorful as it is, as colorful as the president`s language is, the whole point of that anecdote is not just that the Egyptian president said something that bugged President Trump, it`s that President Trump and his Russia lawyer apparently shopped that anecdote specifically to Robert Mueller and Mueller`s deputy at the special counsel`s office as a way of trying to get them to stop the investigation.
Those entreaties apparently did not work, because now, tonight, there is new reporting about the next trial that Mueller`s prosecutors are preparing for in the Russia scandal. New reporting that comes with a holy mackerel possibility that a very serious potential witness who is in serious legal jeopardy, has started negotiations with the special counsel`s office about potentially flipping and cooperating with prosecutors against the president.
And yes, this is who you`re thinking it is, we have that whole story next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Prosecutors working in the special counsel`s office under Robert Mueller handed off a lot of cases in the Russia scandal to other prosecutors, to specific U.S. attorneys, to the national security division at the Justice Department, to the public integrity division of the justice department. But they`ve also held onto some stuff that they`ve kept for themselves.
Lawyers working for the special counsel`s office last month obtained eight felony convictions against Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort in federal court in Virginia. The jury was hung. The jury was unable to come to a decision. They were -- we know they were deadlocked 11-1 on 10 felony counts but they did convict him on eight other felonies.
Well, we now know that Mueller`s prosecutors are busily filing motions in preparation for their next trial against the president`s campaign chairman, that`s due to start in federal court in D.C. next week, when jury selection gets under way. This, for example, is a motion they filed last night, prosecutors spelling out the evidence they plan to use against Manafort in his D.C. trial, which is about to start.
But parallel to that, over the last few days, we have had a flurry of new reporting that Paul Manafort might be looking for a plea deal instead of going to trial, to try to avoid the kind of fate he had in his last trial where he got convicted on eight felonies, but also presumably to try to avoid the legal expenses of going through with this trial. The first reporting was actually a couple weeks ago in the "Wall Street Journal". Then there was a similar report in Bloomberg News on Friday night. Then, yesterday, "The Washington Post" had a report saying essentially the same thing. Now, tonight, it`s ABC News.
So four major news organizations, all of them with top notch reporters working the story, all reporting the same basic plot twist heading our way. Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort is in negotiations to plead guilty. Now, the ABC story is the notable breakthrough in all this reporting, because in addition to that same basic plot twist that they`ve got that everybody else has got, too, ABC is the outlet that`s reporting today about whether Manafort might also agree to cooperate with prosecutors as part of any potential plea.
Here`s the big money part of ABC`s reporting tonight. Quote: sources tell ABC news that prosecutors have seeking cooperation from Mr. Manafort for information related to President Donald Trump and the 2016 campaign. Manafort however is resisting and his team is pushing prosecutors for a plea agreement that does not include cooperation, at least as relates to the president.
Well, if that reporting is true, that is potentially a big freaking deal, right? The president`s campaign chair could conceivably flip or is being pressured by prosecutors right now in ongoing negotiations to flip and start cooperating with them against the president.
Here are my questions. Number one, does this make sense? In terms of the timing, Manafort is presumably trying to save money in legal fees by cutting short his second trial. With that in mind, does it make sense in terms of the timing that Manafort would be negotiating a guilty plea right now, right before all those potential jurors show up at the courthouse on Monday for jury selection? Is this when people typically plead?
I don`t know the pulse of these things. I don`t know the rhythm of which these things usually happen in legal proceedings. Is this a typical time for somebody to start pleading?
Also, big picture, how likely is this reporting to be true? At this stage in the game, are prosecutors really likely to be trying to convince Paul Manafort to cooperate with them and specifically to cooperate with them against the president, this late in the game? If it is true, how would they be trying to convince him?
For example, we know that Mueller`s team right now, Mueller`s prosecutors are weighing the option of retrying Paul Manafort again on those ten felonies where the jury wasn`t able to reach a verdict in the first trial in Virginia. Would their decision on whether or not to retry him be part of what they put up in the negotiations? Also, would it affect his sentencing from the first trial?
If Manafort agrees to plead guilty in his second trial, presumably that would have some sort of beneficial effect not just on the sentence he would likely get for the crimes he`s charged with now, if he were convicted of them, but wouldn`t it potentially reduce the sentence for the eight felonies for which he`s already been convicted?
And the judge in Virginia hasn`t sentenced Manafort for those eight felonies yet. Would that Virginia sentence get lighter for Manafort just because he pleads guilty ahead of the D.C. trial or would he have to agree to cooperate with prosecutors in order to get a retroactive deal from that Virginia judge, lightening his sentence for the crimes on which he`s already been convicted?
These are answerable questions. We`re going to get answers. But again, big bottom line here, per ABC News, the president`s campaign chair is in negotiations with the special counsel`s office about him potentially cooperating with them against President Trump.
Joining us now is Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney for eastern district of Michigan.
Barbara, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here tonight.
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Thanks, Rachel. Great to be with you.
MADDOW: Does it make sense that Paul Manafort would be negotiating with prosecutors for a plea deal now at this point in his legal saga just as the jury is about to be selected starting on Monday in that court?
MCQUADE: Yes. I`ve been listening to your questions and I say yes to all. I think this is precisely the moment when they want to work out a guilty plea because, you know, they had the first trial, which was an opportunity for Paul Manafort to make the government show its cards, see how a jury reacts to that. And now, knowing he was convicted in that case and how he faces another one, on much of the same evidence, this is a moment when I think he probably thinks I`m going to lose. I want to cut my losses. Is there anything that we can get here with a guilty plea?
My guess is that it`s cooperation that is the sticking point.
MADDOW: In terms of the cooperation element of this, we`ve been watching this reporting evolve over the past week or so, starting with "The Wall Street Journal," they were first on it, then Bloomberg, then "The Washington Post" had it, then ABC News had it with this detail on the cooperation being a sticking point. "The Wall Street Journal" tonight came out with another piece reporting that it is unlikely that the deal will include the cooperation of Manafort. That, of course, implies that they are, at least chewing it over.
Is there any way for anybody not involved in these negotiations to be able to tell from the outside whether this kind of deal is going to include cooperation or not?
MCQUADE: No, I don`t think so. I think that there`s nothing that ever stops Paul Manafort or any defendant walking into court and pleading guilty. He could do that without a deal. He would get a slight reduction in his sentence for doing that.
But, you know, the way for him to get a better deal of course is to work out a plea agreement with the special counsel. He could work out a global resolution that could resolve what`s going on in Virginia and what`s going on in the District of Columbia, come up with a cap on the total sentence of all of those things.
But in terms of Robert Mueller`s team, the special counsel, they are really in a position of strength having won those eight counts conviction in the other case. I don`t see them giving this case away on the cheap. What they really want, and the real value that Paul Manafort has, is cooperation. So, my guess is, the way they`re pressuring him is holding out, saying if you want to deal with us, it has to include cooperation.
MADDOW: What I imagine Paul Manafort`s plight right now, which I try not to do often because it`s scary, one of the things that I ponder is how he sees his own fate and his own options. If he thinks he`s really got nothing to say about Donald Trump, if he thinks that his time on the campaign, his other interactions with the president, what he witnessed, wouldn`t be of much value because he didn`t see anything that was particularly interesting at least as far as he`s concerned.
If he thinks he`s got nothing of value to offer, if prosecutors believe that Manafort didn`t actually witness anything from President Trump, that might imply potential legal liability for President Trump, does that curtail his options? Would they still want cooperation from him, even if he`s not sure he`s got anything valuable to offer?
MCQUADE: I think Robert Mueller would in this case, because what`s valuable to him is the truth. This is a quest for the truth. A defendant can get value, substantial assistance for cooperation if they can give you information that leads to the investigation or prosecution of others or if you can provide intelligence information that`s valuable to understanding something that`s going on.
And I think just telling the truth, even if that truth is an exonerating picture. If he can talk about what happened in the Trump Tower meeting in June of 2016 and explain it. Robert Mueller wants to understand what happened. He doesn`t want to get anybody, he wants to understand the truth.
I think Manafort can provide information that is truthful, that would help, be enlightening to Robert Mueller make progress in that effort. So, yes, I think he has something of value to give and tell everything he knows.
MADDOW: One last question for you, Barb. Tonight, the Senate passed a resolution on a voice vote. It wasn`t much drama around it, but we`re all surprised to see it. It was a resolution where they agreed to hand over the transcript of an interview with the intelligence committee to special counsel Robert Mueller. We think it was the transcript of Sam Patten`s interview with the intelligence committee. Sam Patten turned up in court in conjunction with this case.
Patten pled guilty. He had spoken to Senate Intelligence Committee before he pled guilty. The Senate has now approved giving the transcript of that testimony to Mueller`s office. Can you shine any light for us on why that might happen or what that might mean?
MCQUADE: Yes, I find it very interesting, because the resolution says not only are they going to turn it over, but it`s specifically in relation to the case of United States versus Paul Manafort, now pending, as requested by special counsel.
I think Sam Patten is an intriguing figure. He worked with Konstantin Kilimnik, who is the person that is purported to be involved with Russian intelligence and also worked closely with Paul Manafort. And so, Sam Patten may be a really key figure here. He`s agreed to cooperate in his case in the U.S. attorney`s office for the District of Columbia, and now, they`re going to look at that testimony.
So, as you pointed out earlier, Robert Mueller has given away a lot of cases that are on the periphery of the investigation, but he`s always kept the Paul Manafort case close. And that, I think, is because he believes that it is closely connected to the Russia investigation. So, I don`t know exactly why or what`s in that testimony, but they clearly believe it has some potential impact on this case.
MADDOW: Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan -- Barb, thank you very much for your time tonight. It`s good to see you.
MCQUADE: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Coming up next, we`ve actually got a little bit of breaking news concerning Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Even though Brett Kavanaugh`s confirmation hearings ended at the end of last week, senators from both sides of the aisle had a lot more to ask him. They sent him lists and lists and lists of questions.
And tonight, since I have been on the air just moments ago, Brett Kavanaugh, in fact, answered all of those questions. We`ve just got the answers a few minutes ago. I have a lot of work to do on the commercial break. I`ll be right back.
MADDOW: We have some breaking news tonight on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. His confirmation hearings ended last Friday. Senators on the Judiciary Committee then had a chance to submit written questions in addition to the ones they asked him out loud in the hearing room.
So, we`ve been watching those questions pour in. Democrats alone submitted more than 1,200 questions for Kavanaugh. And a short time ago, I was actually going to try to hold you the stack, but it`s such a mess on my desk right now, I can only show you pieces of it.
We got a gigantic response to those questions from Brett Kavanaugh. It`s 263 pages. It`s just come in over the course of the hour while I`ve been on the air. So, now, going through these 263 pages as fast as we can, we`re starting to see his answers to a lot of the controversial things that came up last week in those blockbuster hearings. But we`ve also got his answers to some questions that were definitely brand spanking new from the Democrats. Things we hadn`t heard about last week in the confirmation hearings at all.
Like this very simple question from Senator Pat Leahy. Quote: What is the Eureka Club? When did you take part in activities or gatherings under that name or a substantially similar name? Good question, I think.
Here`s Kavanaugh`s just released response. The Eureka Club is, quote, a group of friends, sometimes gathered for dinner. The scheduling e-mails for those dinners would sometimes be titled eureka. OK, I have found it.
But another big line of inquiry on those questions from the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee was about unexplained swings in Brett Kavanaugh`s finances, which led a couple of senators to ask him very pointed questions about gambling and debts. These questions are from Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. He asked Kavanaugh about a sudden and unexplained uptick in his finances, particularly one bank account that increased significantly in value between 2008 and 2009 with no explanation in his finances of why that happened, where did that money come from?
Senator Whitehouse also asked Kavanaugh about a longstanding debt Kavanaugh had racked up, up to $200,000 in debt that he had for years that suddenly disappeared around the same time that President Trump nominated him to the Supreme Court in 2018. Where did that longstanding debt go after all those years? And why?
Those questions about the rather mysterious ebb and flow of Judge Kavanaugh`s finances ended up being for Senator Whitehouse a line to this line of questioning about Brett Kavanaugh`s potential history with gambling. Question 21, quote, have you ever received a form W-2G reporting gambling earnings? Question 22, have you ever reported a gambling loss to the IRS?
From there, Senator Whitehouse`s questions started to seem like a heat sinking missile. Quote, have you ever gambled or accrued gambling debt in the state of New Jersey? Why pick on New Jersey? Have you ever had debt discharged by a creditor for losses incurred in the state of New Jersey? Question 23E, have you ever sought treatment for a gambling addiction?
Have you ever sought treatment for a gambling addiction?
Senator Whitehouse was not the only senator pulling on this thread. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut also asked Brett Kavanaugh, have you ever incurred any debt over $5,000 from gambling? Has anyone paid off your debts from gambling in the past ten years?
Well, tonight, as I said, we have just received. We`re starting to go through Brett Kavanaugh`s responses. I will tell you on these debt and financial questions, to all of them he gives the same answer, and his answer is, please see my response to question 11.
His response to question 11 is very long. He gives a lengthy explanation of his finances, including how expensive it is to maintain an old house.
I`ll read you a little piece of that. He says I have truthfully provided financial information in conjunction with this nomination process and my service in the judicial and the executive branches since I graduated from law school, I worked in public service. For 25 of those 28 years, for most of my wife`s years of paid employment, she likewise has been a federal, state or government worker. During that time, I filed regular financial disclosure reports as required by law. The federal government is required disclosure reports that`s broad ranges for ones assets and debts, as of one day or period in time.
As of this time, my wife and I have no debts other than our home mortgage. We have the following assets and then he lists the house minus a mortgage, a bank account, a car that we own, a car that we lease. He also says, quote, I have not had gambling debts or participated in fantasy leagues.
So, again, we are still pouring through this 260 pages of answers from Brett Kavanaugh that we just received. This is -- it`s 263 pages to answer 1,200 questions. I`m going to be up all night again, aren`t I?
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled to vote on Brett Kavanaugh`s Supreme Court nomination tomorrow, although just about everybody expects Democrats will be able to do something tomorrow to postpone that vote for about a week. If the committee votes him through, Kavanaugh will then be scheduled for a full vote in the full Senate soon after.
Now, there are two Republican senators who are seen as maybe being persuadable to vote no on Kavanaugh, at least a couple. Democrats, if they stand together only need two Republicans to join them in voting no in order to block Kavanaugh`s nomination. Senator Susan Collins of Maine, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska both say they are pro-choice. Neither has publicly said how they will vote.
Last week as Kavanaugh`s confirmation hearings got under way, a reporter for "The Anchorage Daily News" got this quote from Senator Murkowski on how she would be deciding her vote. Quote: I`ve been very clear in terms of what my vetting process is going to be. So far, I haven`t heard anything that is earth shaking, something that hasn`t been out there as a point of discussion before. But I know they just started questions this morning.
That was the start of the hearings. That same day, last Wednesday, when Murkowski gave that interview to "The Anchorage Daily News" reporter in Washington saying she hadn`t heard anything earth shaking yet.
That same day, Senator Mazie Hirono was at the Judiciary Committee`s hearing asking Brett Kavanaugh about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D), HAWAII: I think you have a problem here. Your view is that native Hawaiians don`t deserve protections as indigenous people under the Constitution, and your argument raises a serious question about how you would rule on the constitutionality of programs benefitting Alaskan natives. I think that my colleagues from Alaska should be deeply troubled by your views.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: My colleagues from Alaska like say Lisa Murkowski who`s vote is still undecided or at least unannounced and who might have a real problem at home with her Alaskan native constituents if she votes for nominee who has just been exposed in confirmation hearing as being absolutely on the record hostile to any programs that benefit them or even recognizes them.
And it turns out that strategy from Mazie Hirono looks like it`s sort of working. This is at least an issue now for Lisa Murkowski at home. An official from the Alaska Federation of Natives, which is the largest statewide Alaska native organization, told "The New York Times" this week, quote, we view ourselves in solidarity with our native brothers and sisters. The fact that Kavanaugh questions their validity tells us he`s going to do the same with us.
"The Times" reports that Lisa Murkowski was scheduled to meet with the Alaska Federation of Natives today specifically on this issue. They are now outspoken against Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court nominee. And they are not a small constituency or a niche constituency for Murkowski. They are the most key supporters she has.
You might remember Lisa Murkowski, 2010, lost the Republican primary as incumbent. She was forced to run for reelection as a write-in. Well, Alaska natives more than anyone helped her win that unlikely write-in campaign. One tribal president joking that they helped most Alaskans learn how to spell the word Murkowski.
That group`s meeting with the senator they helped elect today is important, potentially vote swaying news. But I got to tell you, even though we`re sort of on pins and needles wondering how that meeting went, this crucial time with this crucial vote with this crucial constituency, undecided senator, when the Democrats only need two and she`s one of them, we don`t know anything about that meeting today except that it was scheduled. And the reason we don`t know anything about it is at least in part because "The Anchorage Daily News" reporter who published that story last week on Senator Murkowski`s Kavanaugh vetting process, her name is Erica Martinson.
Erica Martinson was laid off yesterday. Erica Martinson was the entire Washington, D.C. bureau of "Anchorage Daily News", she`s one of the only people in the state covering Alaska politics in Washington and the national implications of Alaska politics.
They closed their D.C. bureau, they laid off their one D.C. correspondent. Now that her reporting is gone, we are all left, all of us in this country are left with a political coverage vacuum the size of Alaska in the wake of Senator Murkowski`s vote on this nominee.
Subscribe to our local paper and give them hell when they make bad decisions.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
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