Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: October 15, 2018 Guest: O.J. Semans, Emily Jane Fox
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is ALL IN for this evening.
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Well done, Chris. That`s very well done. Thank you.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
We`ve got a big show coming up this hour. I will tell you, we are expecting a live report in just a few minutes from reporter Emily Jane Fox who is here from "Vanity Fair" tonight. She is reporting this evening that the president`s personal lawyer has spent more than 50 hours, 5-0, more than 50 hours in talks with prosecutors in the special counsel`s office and in a couple of other prosecutors` offices since he plead guilty to campaign finance felonies not long ago.
While he was pleading guilty to those campaign finance felonies, you will remember that under oath in open court, he said he was directed to commit those felonies by the president of the United States. Now, he has spent more than 50 hours with the special counsel`s office and other prosecutors. So, this is previously unreported. Emily Jane Fox has this tonight at vanityfair.com. This news is presumably causing a little agita in the White House tonight, but we`ll get that full report coming up in just a few minutes.
We`re going to start, though, in the great state of North Dakota. North Dakota is a really, really red state overall. In the 2008 presidential election, you will recall that Barack Obama absolutely shellacked John McCain, was not anywhere near close. Obama beat McCain easily and handily in that election, but in North Dakota, Obama lost. John McCain won there by eight points.
Then four years later, 2012, Barack Obama again won the presidential election. He beat Mitt Romney. It was a little closer, but he still beat him pretty badly. In that 2012 election in which Obama won nationwide, he still lost North Dakota, this time by almost 20 points. North Dakota is a red, red, red state. All statewide elected state officials are Republicans in North Dakota, from the governor on down.
And look at the state legislature. This is the -- this -- yes. That makes it clear. This is the state house in North Dakota there are 94 seats in the state house. Of those 94, 81 of them are held by Republicans.
This is the state senate. There are 47 seats in the state senate. Of the 47, 38 of them are held by Republicans. I mean, that ratio is amazing, right? In the state Senate, 38 Republicans, 9 Democrats.
But it`s not a monolithic story. Look back at those Obama numbers for a second. So, that`s 2008 on the left, 2012 on the right. Look at this county-by-county breakdown. Now, yes, in both of these elections, Obama loses overall in the state.
But there are places in the state that go for Obama. And in fact, there are a couple of places that go for Obama with 70 plus percent of the vote both times. Look, in 2008 and 2012, there are pockets of North Dakota that are the deepest blue, that voted more than 70 percent for Obama, even in that deep red state.
The two counties that voted for Obama by more than 70 percent in 2008 and 2012, those two counties are the two counties in North Dakota that are majority Native American. This county here, Sioux County, is about 85 percent Native American in terms of its population. This county up here at the top, the other deep blue one, Roulette County, it`s over 70 percent Native American in terms of its population. Those are the two counts in the state that are majority Native American.
So like I said, North Dakota not a red state, but not everywhere, and really, really, really not among North Dakota Native Americans. In 2012, when President Obama was doing great with Native Americans in North Dakota, but otherwise losing that state, there was another important race on that same ballot that year. It was an important, contested U.S. Senate race in North Dakota in 2012.
That Senate race in North Dakota in 2012 was won by the Democratic candidate, won by Heidi Heitkamp, just barely. In 2012 in North Dakota, Heidi Heitkamp won that Senate seat by a margin of less than 1 percent of the vote.
And in a state with the population as small as North Dakota`s, that means the absolute number of votes we`re talking about here is incredibly small. Heidi Heitkamp won that U.S. Senate seat in 2012 by a margin of less than 3,000 votes statewide. But, again, look at how the vote came in.
I mean, if you`re a Democratic candidate, you know, you`re Barack Obama. You`re running in North Dakota. It`s a race -- it`s not going to be all that close. You`re not going lose in the end.
It`s probably still nice to get huge concentrations of Democratic votes in majority Native American parts of the state, right? But if you`re Heidi Heitkamp, and you know it`s not going to be a blowout. You`re running a race that is close, that you might actually a chance to win.
If you are in a race that is as tight as that Senate race was in 2012, those couple of deep, deep, deep blue counties, those aren`t just nice. Those aren`t just heartwarming. That`s how you win, right?
It`s a statewide race. You get votes wherever you can. You chase them all across the state. You try to appeal to as wide a group of North Dakotans as you can. But in particular, it`s absolutely crucial in a close race that you turn out the voters who you know are going to vote for you in incredibly strong concentrations, right?
If there is any place in your state, you`re a Democratic candidate, I don`t care who you are. If there is some place in your state where you know you`re going get more than 70 percent of the vote in that county, you have to turn out the voters in that county. And Heidi Heitkamp did in 2012. And strong Native American support for Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota is a big reason why right now, there is a Democratic held U.S. Senate seat from that red state.
And the closeness of Heitkamp`s last race, the crucial support that she got from Native American voters, that did not escape notice among Republicans. And in particular, among Republicans who are now making decisions about whose going to be allowed to vote this next time and who might find it exceedingly difficult to vote this next time.
And you may be noticing a sort of theme these days in the news, right? We`re 22 days out from the midterm elections as of right now. Late last week, we reported a story out of Waller County, Texas. Waller County is a county that is about 70 percent white, but it`s also home to a historically black college, Prairie View A&M, where the student body is over 80 percent black.
Under constitutional law, under crystal clear Supreme Court precedent, college students are allowed to vote wherever they live, which includes if they live at college. Prairie View A&M students can vote in Waller County, Texas. Nevertheless, Waller County, Texas keeps coming up with new ways to try to keep students at this college from voting -- new hurdles, news on calls for those students to make it harder for them to vote.
Over the decades, students at Prairie View A&M have had to fight for their vote, fight for their ability to vote, year after year, election after election after election after election. This year, that perennial fight incredibly included this year the county arresting the field director for a local Democratic congressional candidate when that field director went to the Waller County courthouse to hand over a letter advocating for voting rights of the students at that college, that they should be allowed to vote without hassle. They arrested the guy after he -- after the officers asked him what the party affiliation was of his candidate. He told them Democrat. They arrested him.
We told that story here on the show last week, then Friday night after much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, Friday night, the Texas secretary of state local officials finally announced, OK, OK, the students at Prairie View A&M will be allowed to vote this year like everybody else. No strings attached. No extra hurdles. No supplemental paperwork that they have to fill out to satisfy the county that they have indeed allowed to vote.
So, we reported on that fight and that win in that fight last week. We`ve also been reporting over the last few days on a situation in the great state of Georgia where the Republican secretary of state, a man named Brian Kemp has made it his mission to rip up the voter roles as aggressively as possible over the last few years in preparation for his own election campaign for governor this year.
For context here, the last two governor`s races in Georgia were each decided by only about 200,000 votes out of millions of votes cast. In a state as big as Georgia with a population as big as Georgia, a 200,000 vote margin is nothing. These last couple of governor`s races in Georgia have been exceedingly close, 200,000 votes.
Last year alone, Brian Kemp took 670,000 people off the voter rolls, last year alone. What`s he afraid of? This year, he is facing calls to resign as secretary of state ahead of the election 22 days from now because, among other things, he and his office have put 53,000 new applications for voter registration on hold in his office ahead of his own election. Over 70 percent of those 53,000 registrations he`s holding are from Georgia voters who are African-American. What does he have to fear from them?
Tonight, we are waiting to find fought the federal lawsuit that was filed against Brian Kemp last week is going to include a request to the federal courts that they should issue an injunction to block Secretary of State Brian Kemp from what he is doing with these voter registrations in Georgia ahead of the election at which he will be at the top of the ticket. That lawsuit, federal lawsuit was filed against Kemp on Thursday night. We are watching to see what`s going to happen in terms of how that plays out.
I mean, this is very much down to the wire in Georgia. Early voting in Georgia started today. "Atlanta Journal Constitution" is reporting there were some pickups. There were some screw-ups around the state that resulted in long lines at some polling places on the first day of early voting. More worryingly, "The Journal Constitution" reports tonight that in the second most populous county in Georgia, in Gwinnett County, official there`s have been throwing out people`s completed absentee ballots when they`ve been mailed in.
This is from the "Atlanta Journal Constitution" tonight, quote, nearly one- in-ten vote by mail ballots have been rejected by Gwinnett County election officials, alarming voting rights groups. Gwinnett is throwing out far more absentee ballots than any other county in Georgia, according to the records from the secretary of state`s office.
Gwinnett County, as I mentioned, is the second most populated county in the state of Georgia. It`s also the most diverse county in the state. More than 60 percent of the residents of Gwinnett County are Latino, black, or Asian, and that is the county where ballots are being thrown out at a rate far exceeding every other county in that crucial state.
So, you are noticing a theme here. You are noticing the tilt of the playing field, right? You`re noticing how Republicans are using their power to administer elections to try to make sure that their voters have an easy time voting. But voters who are less likely to vote for them have to run some sort of steeplechase in order to even try.
We`re seeing that all over the country this year. Here`s how it`s going right now in North Dakota, where the U.S. Senate seat that is now helped by Democrat Heidi Heitkamp may well be the key to whether or not the Democratic Party controls the U.S. Senate or the Republican Party does.
I mean, every seat matters. But the way the math and the map match up this year, Republicans are pretty confident that if they can take Heidi Heitkamp`s seat in North Dakota, they`re pretty sure Democrats will not take the U.S. Senate.
Given the theme that we have seen in Texas and Georgia and other places so far this year, you can probably predict the Republican game plan for how they`re trying to tilt the playing field against Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota.
Again, Heitkamp won her seat in 2012, six years ago, by a margin of less than 3,000 votes. Just couldn`t have been closer. The tightness of that race made her strong support from Native American communities in North Dakota not just important, but critical. In a race decided by less than 1 percent of the vote, imagine how Heidi Heitkamp would have done without those deep blue counties that are the majority Native American counties in the state.
Right after Heidi Heitkamp was elected in 2012, right after she was sworn in as the Democratic Party`s U.S. senator from the great state of North Dakota, right after that, the Republican-controlled legislature in North Dakota swung into action to see what they could do to, forgive me, but effectively, to cut down on the Native American vote.
I don`t say that ad hominem. I don`t say that sort of willy-nilly as an insult, I say it because that`s what they did, surgically, like a laser. After Heidi Heitkamp got elected in 2012, Republican-controlled state legislature comes in in 2013 and passes a law to severely limit the type of ID you`d be able to show in order to vote in North Dakota. Two years later, the legislature came back in session, 2015. They cut down the number of IDs even more.
What they specifically were working to get rid of in that state was your ability to vote if your ID doesn`t have a street address on it. Tens of thousands of people in North Dakota don`t have a street address on their ID. In most cases, they have a P.O. box instead.
This is especially the case -- I mean, this is the case across the country in rural areas, but it`s particularly the case on rural Native American reservations where tribal IDs as a matter of course don`t have a street address. They have a P.O. box instead. That`s just the way it`s done.
Well, that`s what the Republican-controlled legislature zeroed in on like a laser in terms of cutting off the right to vote. Native Americans in North Dakota at double the rate of everybody else don`t have street addresses on their IDs. They may not have street address at all. That`s just not how it works in many rural and reservation communities.
So, that was the big backhand from the Republican-controlled North Dakota legislature after native Americans proved themselves willing to vote for Democrats with disturbing frequency, and after they provided Heidi Heitkamp with the crucial enthusiasm and the crucial margin she needed to narrowly get elected to the United States Senate from North Dakota in 2012.
New rule once she is in there. No street address on your ID? Then you can`t vote. That affects Native Americans, again, at double the rate of other North Dakotans.
The law was initially blocked by a federal judge. Republican-controlled legislature then rewrote the law to get around the judge`s ruling. Under the second iteration of the law, you still couldn`t vote like everybody else did if your ID doesn`t have a street address, but in order to account for that judge`s ruling, they said, OK, OK, you would be given a provisional ballot. That sounds better, until you get to the part where they decided that your provisional ballot will never be counted unless and until you show up with an ID that has a street address on it. Which of course you don`t have or they wouldn`t have made you use the provisional ballot in the first place.
What North Dakota Republicans did is fire a heat-seeking missile to nuke the Native American vote in their state. Native American vote in their state is really Democratic. They`re a red state. The only way a Democrat is going to get through is with concentrated native American support in the communities most likely to provide large numbers of Democratic votes. You got to appeal statewide. You got to appeal to everybody.
But when it comes to mobilizing people who are almost sure are going to vote for you, if the Republicans can turn off the Native American vote, if they can end that, they can run the table. They don`t have to worry about there being any U.S. senators from the Democratic Party.
There`s been legal wrangling over this voter suppression effort in North Dakota for years now. That legal wrangling, that back and forth in the courts and with the legislature, that means that in addition to just this blunt effort by the legislature to cut off the Native American vote, there`s also been a lot of confusion in the state because there has been this legal fight back and forth with all these different iteration of the law and all these different court rulings. Because of that legal wrangling, IDs with P.O. box addresses, they were accepted as okay for voting as recently as this year`s primaries, June of this year, just because there were ongoing legal fights over this.
But now, the fights are over. The Supreme Court has weighed in on this. The conservative majority in the Supreme Court has now said this North Dakota law is good to go ahead. And so, now, next month, 22 days from now in the general election, with Heitkamp`s seat up for the first time, if you show up in North Dakota with your tribal ID, with your P.O. box on it, just like you`ve always used before you will be turned away and not allowed to vote.
And so now, 22 days out from the election, one of the most critical races in the entire country, which may determine whether or not the Senate is controlled by the Democrats or the Republicans, which honestly may decide everything in American politics for the next couple of years, now on this short time frame, now there is a scramble under way to try to protect Native Americans` right to vote in that crucial race.
The chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, a man named Mike Faith put out this blistering statement. Quote: Native Americans can live on the reservation without an address. They`re living in accordance with the law and treaties, but now all of the sudden, they can`t vote?
Our voices should be heard and heard fairly at the polls just like all other Americans. Quote: There is no good reason that a P.O. box address is not sufficient to vote. This law clearly discriminates against Native Americans in North Dakota.
Jamie Azure is the tribal chairman of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, that`s actually the group that sued to stop the law after the Republican-led legislature put it first in place. He tells NPR that the law and its timing might actually have an unintended effect. Quote: It has already unified the tribes in North Dakota. Now, we are working together. We are members of this U.S. government, and we are not going to let you keep us down. We are going to figure out a way to go over the barriers that have been put in front of us, and this unified movement moving forward with the tribes, that`s going jump our percentages up with that native vote.
That same tribal chairman told reporters today that he signed an executive order to provide free tribal IDs, new free tribal IDs to all members of his tribe, IDs that will be newly and quickly configured to add street addresses that they`ve never had before. After signing that executive order to provide the free tribal IDs, Chairman Azure told reporters today that demand was so high from members of his tribe that the machine they bought to produce the IDs, quote, overheated and starting melting them.
It`s 22 days out. All over the country, we are seeing a blitz by Republicans wherever they`re in power, whenever they`re in power in the county level, whenever they`re in power as the legislature, whenever they`re in power as secretaries of state and governors, we`re seeing a nationwide blitz by Republicans to tilt the playing field, to run elections, to administer democracy in a way that is maximally inconvenient or just flat-out suppressive of likely Democratic voters.
It`s not like we didn`t see it coming. But I think because we did see it coming, you are also seeing an incredible organizing effort, a scramble, and honestly, just a lot of rage on the other side to push back and to beat them at this. Twenty-two days.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: If you are a U.S. citizen living in the great state of North Dakota, you were able to show up at your local polling station on primary day, primary election day earlier this year in June with a state-issued ID, like a driver`s license or with IDs like these issued by Native American tribal authority in the state. Any of those IDs were valid, even if they didn`t include a street address, as many tribal IDs don`t.
On November 6th, less than five months after North Dakota`s primary elections where all those IDs were all valid, now for the general election that happen next month, the big midterm election, you won`t be able to use those tribal IDs anymore, not if they don`t have a street address on them. Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012 by less than 3,000 votes. She was elected with critical support from Native American voters in her state.
Now, just weeks before her crucial reelection bid, which may hold the key to whether Democrats or Republicans hold the whole U.S. Senate, the Republican-controlled legislature in North Dakota has finally succeeded in getting through the courts a law that could keep thousands of Native American voters from voting in North Dakota on Election Day. The relationship between how Heidi Heitkamp won her seat in the first place and how Republicans are trying to make her lose it now, this is not a coincidence. These things are not unrelated.
Joining us now is O.J. Semans. He`s executive director of Four Directions, which is a native American Voting Rights Group that`s working with North Dakota tribal leaders to try to figure out a way for everybody in the state to be allowed to vote despite this new law.
Mr. Semans, thank you very much for your time tonight. I really appreciate you being here.
O.J. SEMANS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FOUR DIRECTIONS: Oh, thank you, Rachel, for having me here.
MADDOW: Can you tell us a little bit of sort of the lay of the land right now in terms of this late change? This has been wrangled over for a long time in the courts it looks like with the Supreme Court`s ruling, this is now settled, that they are going to not allow people to vote unless they`ve got street addresses on their IDs.
How many people do you think this will affect in North Dakota and what`s the effort to try to get people into the polling places, able to vote even if they`re old IDs don`t have street addresses?
SEMANS: You know, it`s going to affect thousands of people, even 5,000 to 10,000. The street addresses is very common maybe in cities, but on reservation street addresses literally do not exist. And so, by taking one stroke of the pen, they`re able to at least cross out thousands of Native Americans from participating in the democratic process.
MADDOW: In terms of the scramble here between now and 22 days from now when the election happens, the state has said they see no undue burden in trying to make sure that as you say, 5,000, 10,000 people who are affected by this, that they can all get themselves new IDs. They can all get themselves street addresses, even if they don`t have them now, and that the state says it won`t be an undue burden. It won`t be hard to do that. It`s all doable.
What can you tell us about the effort to try to get people either proper IDs or some other sort of workarounds so people who have always voted but don`t have street addresses might be able to this time?
SEMANS: Well, actually we are working with the tribes in North Dakota. And during the course of our visiting, we have come up with a plan in which we will take and work with the tribes in creating physical addresses for them to be able to sit at the polling place when the tribal member comes in and he can look at the map and see I live right here, then we will create a physical address for that individual on a tribal letterhead with the name and date of birth. And then he is going to be eligible to vote in the North Dakota elections.
MADDOW: Has the secretary of state`s office signed off on that being a way forward here?
SEMANS: No. We did send them a letter asking that he would -- whether or not he would support this proposal. He responded that due to the litigation, he would not be able to respond to our proposal at all.
MADDOW: Wow. I want to read you something from the dissent in the Supreme Court on this. This was from Justice Ginsburg and her dissent when the majority of the court decided to okay this law. She said the risk of voter confusion appears severe here because the injunction against requiring residential address identification was enforced during the primary election, and because the secretary of state`s website announced for months the ID requirements as they existed under that injunction.
I wanted to ask about that risk that Justice Ginsburg was identifying there in her dissent. Separate and apart from the new restrictions here, are you worried that people will just be confused about whether or not they can vote, and that itself will be suppressive?
SEMANS: Yes, because of the fact that one election they`re able to vote with this ID and the next election they`re not, it`s going to create confusion. But we`re hoping that by having tribal officials in every polling place and having the maps with the districts like the court requires, we`re going to be able to assist them in voting. It is not going to be easy.
I mean, we`re really scrambling to get this done. And meeting with the tribes and identifying the street addresses. And you to understand, tribes are sovereign nations. They can create their own street addresses. They don`t have to rely on the state of North Dakota.
One of the things I`d throw in is that that 911 address system North Dakota is talking about was really that easy, it seems like during the first court case, they would have sent the 911 addresses to the tribes or even during the eighth circuit appeals they would have sent it or even during the Supreme Court. But they didn`t do it that way. They said they want each and every individual tribal member to get their own 911 number.
So, that is just a blatant use of -- misuse I should say of power.
MADDOW: O.J. Semans, executive director of Four Directions, which is a Native American voting rights group, also a member I should say of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Mr. Semans, thank you very much for being with us. Keep us apprised over these next three weeks. I`ll be really interested to see how efforts go in the state. Thank you.
SEMANS: I will. And one of the things I will say is standing rock will vote. And we will forgive the state legislatures in the North Dakota secretary of state for their sins because Custer already died for their sins. Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you, Mr. Semans. I appreciate you being here tonight.
All right. What he was just saying there about the 911 system, one of the things the state has said is you can call the 911 -- if you don`t have a street address on your ID, you can call the 911 coordinator for your county, and you can request to be assigned an official 911 system street address, and then once they assign that to you, then you can contact them again and request a letter affirming your new 911 assigned street address.
What Mr. Semans was talking about there was, well, if they want that to be the system that saves the Native American groups, saves people who live on the reservations from being able to vote whether or not they`ve got a street address on their ID or ever had it before, there is an easy way for the state to have done that, right? They could have told all the 911 coordinators in all the counties on the go ahead and proactively do this. Or they could have allowed the tribes as entities to as a group get from the 911 coordinators all street addresses for all eligible voters in their area.
They will not allow that to happen. They want each and every individual voter to go through this quasi-legal system themselves in 22 days in order to get this type of street address so that then maybe they`ll be allowed to vote. Like I said, this is a heat-seeking missile that is trying to nuke Native American voting rights in that state. It is about Heidi Heitkamp, and Heidi Heitkamp is going to decide whether or not the Senate is Republican or Democratic-controlled. It`s just as simple as that.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Good news. Good news.
We have good news today for one particular ankle bone. The federal court system has kept the president`s deputy campaign chair Rick Gates on a very tight leash ever since he was indicted a year ago on October 2017. That leash on Rick Gates stayed quite tight, even after he flipped. He pled guilty in February earlier this year to one count of conspiracy and another count of lying. Rick Gates pled guilty to those charges from Robert Mueller and the special counsel`s office. He agreed to cooperate.
Well, we can now say that according to the court, Rick Gates has been doing a satisfactory job when it comes to cooperating. We can say that because today a federal judge in his case in D.C. agreed to finally ease up on the bail conditions for Rick Gates in ways that the same judge and the same court had previously declined to do. Quote: The court now has the benefit of additional information, including defendant`s record of ongoing cooperation with the government, his testimony at the trial of Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in the Eastern District of Virginia under difficult circumstances, as well as his compliance with all the travel conditions to date.
In light of that and general good behavior by Rick Gates, his judge today said, quote, the conditions of defendant`s release will be modified to eliminate the curfew and the requirement of GPS monitoring. Ah, GPS monitoring. That means no more pesky ankle bracelet for the president`s deputy campaign chairman.
Rick Gates is still moving towards sentencing at a date that is not yet determined, but now, he can move toward that date a little more freely, at least in terms of the old ankle bone. The president`s campaign chairman, Mr. Manafort, is still in jail awaiting sentencing, but his deputy campaign chairman has now lost his ankle bracelet, which means he is free to move about the eastern district of Virginia. It`s nice. It`s right in time for the midterms.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: In August, the president`s long-time attorney who until recently was a senior executive at his real estate business as well, in August, Michael Cohen plead guilty to breaking campaign finance laws under oath, in court as part of those felony pleadings, he also told the judge he committed those felonies, quote, in coordination with and at the direction of then candidate Donald Trump.
Thanks to some subsequent reporting, we`ve since gotten an even broader picture of the kind of coordination and direction that was still going on in connection with that whole mishegoss as late as this year. Early this month, "The Wall Street Journal" reported this year in February 2018, in a phone call, President Trump instructed Michael Cohen that he needed to get a restraining order against Stormy Daniels to try to keep her from doing a media interview about her allegation of an affair with the president.
Quote: Mr. Trump told Mr. Cohen to coordinate the legal response with Eric Trump and also another outside lawyer who had represented Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization.
Quote: Eric Trump then tasked a Trump organization staff attorney in California with signing off on the paperwork.
So that report from "The Wall Street Journal" brought in a new player in this sort of felony adjacent part of the president`s story, right? The president`s son Eric apparently has been part of this effort related to Stormy Daniels in terms of trying to enforce this nondisclosure agreement.
But that reporting also put a spotlight on the president as president continuing to direct at least this part of the Trump Organization`s dealings, despite him saying that he of course would step away from his business entirely while he served as president. So, "Wall Street Journal" published that reporting back on October 2nd. Some intriguing questions deriving from that.
Well, now, tonight, Emily Jane Fox at "Vanity Fair" is corroborating "The Journal`s" reporting that the president directed his attorney, Michael Cohen, in February, to enforce the nondisclosure agreement with Stormy Daniels. She is also corroborating that President Trump deputized his son Eric specifically to coordinate the legal response to Stormy Daniels.
But Emily Jane Fox is also going further, reporting just tonight that, quote, using his Trump organization e-mail address, Eric approved the statement that the company`s lawyers offered the "Wall Street Journal" about enforcing the nondisclosure agreement. Also, you will be very interested to know according to new reporting from Emily Jane Fox tonight at "Vanity Fair," Michael Cohen, Trump attorney, former Trump organization executive, the man who is at the red hot center of that effort to keep Stormy Daniels quiet and who was copied on those e-mails with Eric Trump, Michael Cohen, according to this new reporting tonight, has spent more than 50 hours speaking with prosecutors at the special counsel`s office and from the southern district of New York, federal prosecutors there and state prosecutors as well.
Oh really? Tell me more. Joining us now is Emily Jane Fox, senior reporter at "Vanity Fair."
Emily, thank you for being here.
EMILY JANE FOX, SENIOR REPORTER, VANITY FAIR: Thanks for having me back.
MADDOW: So, you report that -- let me ask you about the last thing first.
MADDOW: Mr. Cohen has been speaking and has spent more than 50 hours talking to prosecutors in several ongoing investigations.
MADDOW: So, that`s Robert Mueller, special counsel`s investigation, SDNY, federal prosecutors.
MADDOW: Were the people who brought those felony charges against Cohen. Also state prosecutors or other people involved in other investigations?
FOX: So the state has opened up an investigation into the Trump Foundation, and the state had subpoenaed Michael Cohen in that investigation.
So, Michael Cohen has spent a great deal of time wanting to share what he knows about his time in the Trump Organization, which is a lot. It is the kinds of e-mails that I reported about tonight. It is the kind of stuff that is very interesting to you and me, but it`s also the kind of stuff that is clearly very interesting to investigators.
And it is very clear for my reporting that there is nothing that Cohen wants to hold back. There is nothing that he wants to protect the president from, nothing that he wants to protect the president`s family from. He is interested in telling the truth and getting out there all the things that he was directed to do as an employee of the Trump Organization. And he doesn`t want to leave anything out of those conversations.
MADDOW: He doesn`t have a cooperation agreement that requires him to do this.
FOX: From my reporting, there is no cooperation agreement that has been struck. This is stuff that Cohen is voluntarily telling investigators.
MADDOW: And do you have any insight into why -- I mean, have -- I`m not a lawyer and I`ve never been in this situation personally. I`m trying to imagine the sort of mentality around it. But is there some advantage to him or some reason why he wouldn`t have insisted on a cooperation agreement or tried to get some sort of formal deal that might provide some sort of structure for these discussions with prosecutors? Or he just -- he just wants to be out there at their mercy talking about anything and everything?
FOX: So there are a couple of reasons why this could be the case. There is one option where investigators don`t want to give him a cooperating agreement, and there is another reason where being a cooperating witness is a very difficult thing. He has already spent 50 hours with investigators in various different investigations. Imagine how many hours you have to spend with investigators if you are a cooperating witness, and not only are you talking about the kinds of things the Trump organization, but you are - - from the day you were born until the day you`re meeting with them, you have to tell them everything that you know, everything that you personally have done, and everything that you have witnessed that other people have done in your life -- family, friends, acquaintances, business associates.
And so, whether or not is there is a cooperating agreement, there are a couple of reasons why. But it is a daunting thing.
MADDOW: A formal cooperation agreement, that makes sense. If you have to go back and confess to everything, including the chemistry test you cheated on in tenth grade.
FOX: And you do.
MADDOW: And you do, then I could see. OK.
I`m going ask you to sit tight for just one second because I also want to talk to you about Mr. Eric Trump. The president`s children are obviously not covered by any constitutional requirement that they can`t be indicted.
MADDOW: The implication of Eric Trump in this is something that I`m starting to see the contours of as a matter of plot, but not necessarily a matter of law. If you hold tight, I want to talk to you about that when we come back.
All right. Emily Jane Fox is here from "Vanity Fair." Stay with us.
MADDOW: We`re back with Emily Jane Fox, senior reporter at "Vanity Fair".
Emily, thank you.
I wanted to ask you about this new reporting that you`ve got tonight, specifically about the president, as president, not just during his campaign, staying involved in Trump Organization business, specifically Trump Organization business trying to keep quiet Stormy Daniels from talking about his affair. This is important not just because the Stormy Daniels thing is salacious, she lost her defamation case against the president, for example. It`s always still on the news.
But the president has said as president he would divorce himself, there would be a firewall between him and his business?
FOX: Remember, there were stacks of papers or manila folders that all the ways he was going to divorce himself from this?
FOX: Well, he very clearly did not divorce himself from this. I will say from my reporting obviously, I know that the president was directing all of this Stormy-related stuff this year. But I actually first-hand witnessed a phone call. I was interviewing Michael Cohen in February, in mid-February of this year about unrelated stuff, and the phone rang, and I obviously did not hear the conversation. It was not on speakerphone.
But Cohen answered the phone greeting Mr. President, so I have reason to believe it was the president calling. And I believe the substance of the conversation from what I could pick up was that President Trump wanted Michael Cohen to publicly reiterate or make sure that it was reiterated that the allegations that Stormy Daniels was putting forward were false.
MADDOW: That there was no affair.
FOX: There was no affair.
So I first-hand witnessed the fact the president was involved in this and directing it. And now, we know not only was he involved but Eric Trump who has been minding the shop while dad is down in Washington was also involved. And what sticks out to me is if you`re the president and you are a parent, you`re going to stick your child in the middle of cleaning up something for the president of the United States that has to do with an affair your father had allegedly with a porn star, four months after your half brother was born. So, not only are you potentially putting your son in whatever legal implications could come out of this --
MADDOW: Right, but I mean the payments to Stormy Daniels are now associated with felony counts for which there have been guilty pleas.
FOX: This is something that Michael Cohen pleaded guilty, too.
FOX: To put your child in that position, as someone who is spent a lot of time dealing with the Trump family, is not terribly surprising for these people, but it`s just an unbelievable fact to get your mind around.
MADDOW: Emily Jane Fox, senior reporter at "Vanity Fair", thank you for coming in. Much appreciated.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Two weeks ago now, a "Washington Post" communist, Saudi journalist, U.S. permanent Jamal Khashoggi walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, and he disappeared. We do not know what happened to him.
Turkey has been saying he was lured into that consulate and then killed by a 15-man Saudi kill team that flew in from Riyadh. The Saudi government meanwhile is denying involvement. The Saudis initially maintained Mr. Khashoggi left the consulate that day, but as this story has evolved, no evidence of that has come forward and the Saudis have since been serving up a bunch of fast evolving spin about what might have happened to him.
One theory they floated was that Mr. Khashoggi was a runaway groom, that he got cold feet over his upcoming marriage, so therefore went into the Saudi consulate in Turkey and then arranged to run away, to disappear himself.
Another Saudi spin effort was that the 15 Saudis who happened to arrive in Istanbul the day Khashoggi disappeared, they were just tourist, very well- built tourists. They also tried to push out the idea Mr. Khashoggi had ties to Islamic terrorism. But when none of those things worked, then we started seeing warnings in the media about the direction the Saudis might ultimately have when they really decided they were going to need to come up with something to explain his disappearance that didn`t make the Saudi leadership look too murderous and bad.
Last week, "The New York Times" hinted that the Saudis might, quote, blame Mr. Khashoggi`s disappearance on a third party or on rogue elements of the Saudi security forces, or maybe on an accident during an interrogation that went wrong. "The Times" essentially giving a heads up last week, like watch out, they might use these excuses next.
Today, President Trump helped the Saudis with that newest test balloon. The president announcing that he spoke to the king of Saudi Arabia, passing on the king`s denial of what might have happened, quote, to our Saudi Arabian citizen. I should mention Mr. Khashoggi has a green card. He`s a legal permanent resident of the United States, not that the president appears to care about that.
But before taking off for Florida today, the president said, quote, we`re going to leave nothing uncovered. With that being said, the king firmly denied any knowledge of it. He didn`t really know. Maybe, I don`t want to get into his mind, but it sounded to me maybe these could have been rogue killers. Who knows?
I don`t know want to get into his mind, but it sounded to me like maybe these could be rogue killers. Who knows, Mr. President? Parroting the newest self-exculpatory, Saudi Arabian talking point.
Well, today, CNN was first to report and "The Wall Street Journal" and ABC News later matched the reporting that the Saudi government is now discussing a plan to admit that the missing journalist was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, but they`re going to say he was killed by rogue operatives maybe during an interrogation or a rendition attempt that went awry. I should point out that the Saudis haven`t released any such reports. They`ve just been floating these trial balloons today in the American media.
Even if they do release a report like this, we will have no idea if this newest batch of spin is what happened. Bottom line, in fact, we have no idea what happened to Jamal Khashoggi. But one thing we do know is that president Trump went out today and parroted Saudi`s newest test balloon, which is designed to make the kingdom looked all right.
Their latest explanation for happened to missing "Washington Post" columnist, Jamal Khashoggi, which, of course, is exculpatory for the kingdom`s leaders. The president is helping them with that now.
Watch this space.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD". Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight.
Good evening, Ali.
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