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Interview with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. TRANSCRIPT: 1/16/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Kirsten Gillibrand, Dina Titus

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: January 16, 2019 Guest: Kirsten Gillibrand, Dina Titus

  HAYES:  That is "ALL IN" for this evening.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.  Good evening, Rachel. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris.  Thanks, my friend.  Much appreciated. 

HAYES:  You bet.

MADDOW:  And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.  Happy to have you with us here tonight. 

We`re going to be joined tonight by Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.  We have a lot to talk with her about.  She is going to be life in studio with me.  Tonight is going to be her first TV interview since she announced last night that she is, in fact, running for president. 

Everybody`s supposed to use that, like, slightly euphemistic legalese language about forming a exploratory committee to explore the possibility of running for president, and legally, technically, that is what everybody is doing at this stage of the game, but Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is also bluntly saying, cutting through it -- actually, I`m running for president.  Exploration whatever.  She is running. 

And Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is going to be here in just a moment.  I`ve never had her in studio before.  I`m really looking forward to having a chance to talk with her about her run. 

We do have a little bit of late-breaking legal news tonight.  This time last night, we had just gotten in this court filing from Robert Mueller, from the special counsel`s office, related to the criminal case against President Trump`s campaign chairman Paul Manafort. 

This obviously is a very long filing that was submitted to the court last night.  It was very intimidating when it crossed the docket.  In my mind, I planted several trees as penance when I printed it out so I could read it on paper.  I was worried last night about having enough time to get through the substance of this gigantic filing, until I started actually going through it, and I realized a vast majority of what`s in this filing looks like this, just fully blacked out pages completely redacted by prosecutors. 

Lots of pages like this.  Even more pages in the filing that just look like this.  Just the big word "redacted" on them, and that`s it.  And when you do it that way, instead of this way, one thing that happens is you save on toner. 

But, you know, you get a big important filing and a big important case like this, this is the president`s campaign chair.  And it`s frustrating to have all these black boxes, to not be able to read what the special counsel`s office is saying about Manafort.  This is a filing about what they say he has lied to prosecutors about, how they say he has breached his plea agreement since he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. 

I mean, mostly, what we were able to discern substantively from this big almost entirely redacted filing last night is that it`s clear the Manafort case is ongoing.  It`s clear it involves a lot of material that is still considered sensitive, stuff that cannot be released to the public.  There is clear reference to some ongoing investigations that appear to relate to Manafort and to the evidence surrounding his case. 

Now, that`s pretty much all we could derive.  Now tonight, Manafort`s defense team has filed their response, and their response is a request to the judge to please have some extra time to respond to these allegations from Robert Mueller and the special counsel`s office. 

Now, Manafort`s defense team, of course, when they got access to this filing last night in court in D.C., they didn`t get the same redacted version that we all got.  They got the version with no black boxes.  They didn`t get whole pages that just said redacted on them.  They got whatever the exhibits were that we the public weren`t allowed to see. 

And in Manafort defense team -- the Manafort defense team`s filing with the court tonight where they ask for extra time, they make clear that if you do fill in what`s in all the black boxes, if you do put in the real evidentiary exhibits in place of these place holder pages that just say "redacted" on them, ultimately what you get, ultimately what they got last night and what the judge in this case got last night is the unredacted version of this declaration of evidence against Paul Manafort.  And apparently, it amounts to more than 800 pages. 

So, I thought this is a lot.  This is the redacted version.  You unredact this and apparently it`s over 800 pages. 

So, again, we don`t know much about the substance and the details of what Robert Mueller and the special counsel`s office say the president`s campaign chair lied to about, and how they know he lied to them.  But we do know now their statement of evidence to prove their case amounts to more than 800 pages of evidence.  And as they told the judge last night in their filing, that`s not all they`ve got.  Here`s 800 pages.  Do you want any more? 

So, some of that news, the response from Manafort`s team, that`s breaking tonight.  The clearest conclusion I think we can draw from all of this back and forth is that this is very much a live issue before the courts.  This issue involving the president`s campaign chairman and the ongoing criminal case against him, it`s very much live.  The prospect of this being over and him being sentenced and this being done with appears to be quite a ways off. 

And one of the offshoots of the Manafort investigation, and that criminal case involving the president`s campaign chair, that also had an important development today in Washington.  Paul Manafort during his time running the Trump campaign, he is known to have offered private briefings about the campaign to a Russian oligarch named Oleg Deripaska.  We`ve also learned from other Mueller court filings that prosecutors have also alleged that Manafort shipped internal private polling data from the Trump campaign to a close business associate of his who is a Russian and who is a Russian who was assessed by the FBI to be linked to Russian intelligence. 

That person allegedly linked to Russian intelligence to whom Manafort shipped internal private Trump campaign polling data during the campaign, that guy is also known to have been Manafort`s intermediary with that same Russian oligarch he was offering briefings to, Oleg Deripaska.  So the Manafort criminal case continues to work its way through the courts.  We can still only speculate about the hundreds of pages of evidence that the Mueller team has shown the defense and has shown the court about their case against Manafort.  We still don`t know really basic information about why the Trump campaign might have been sending internal campaign data to Russia in the middle of the election campaign, why they would have been offering private briefings to this Russian oligarch close to Putin and the Russian government. 

But presumably, we will eventually find that stuff out, at least some of it.  I mean Manafort`s case will eventually be finally adjudicated.  He will presumably at some point be sentenced.  The Mueller investigation, as it pertains to Manafort and the connections through Manafort between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, that investigation at some point will come to a close, and we the public will know something about its ultimate disposition.

  Presumably, some day, we will understand this better.  But before we find any of that out, while this is all ongoing, while the criminal case against Manafort still spins, while the Mueller investigation still proceeds, and while everything they file with the court that`s public facing is totally redacted, I mean, before we know what Mueller has turned up about this Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and what in god`s name he was doing mixed up with the Trump campaign in 2016, we now know before we get any of that stuff resolved, the Trump administration will succeed this month in its effort to prematurely lift U.S. government sanctions on companies associated with Oleg Deripaska. 

And this is something we`ve been covering for a while now.  Shortly before Christmas, the Trump administration quietly released plans to lift U.S. government sanctions on companies connected to Deripaska.  Deripaska is sanctioned because of the U.S. -- because of the Russian government interfering in the U.S. presidential election in 2016.  Now, the sanctions on Deripaska`s companies are consequential.  The companies linked to Deripaska happen to be huge companies. 

So, even if you set aside the sanctions` effects on Deripaska personally, unsanctioning these huge Russian companies will also be really substantially economically beneficial to the Russian economy as a whole.  Under American law governing sanctions like this, Congress has 30 days to review any decision by the administration to lift these kinds of sanctions.  Within that 30-day window, Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer brought forward legislation to in fact challenge that decision by the Trump administration, to block the lifting of the Deripaska-related sanctions. 

As we reported last night, every Democrat in the Senate chamber voted with Schumer on this, as did 11 Republican senators, in a heterogeneous bunch of Republican senators who broke ranks with Mitch McConnell and sided with the Democrats to stop the Trump administration from lifting these Deripaska- related sanctions.  That`s a big number of Republican senators breaking ranks, especially after the Trump administration lobbied the Senate and the House really aggressively on this issue.

Well, today, this afternoon, despite those 11 Republican senators breaking ranks and being willing to side with the Democrats on this, it turned out to be not enough because today there was a crucial vote on this matter which came with not a 50-vote threshold, but a 60-vote threshold to stop the Trump administration from lifting these Deripaska-related sanctions.  Schumer and the Democrats and the breakaway Republicans were able to put together 57 votes, but 57 isn`t 60, and so you can thank top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell.  You can thank all of these other Republican senators who get all of this public credit for supposedly being so hawkish and so realistic on Russia.  You can thank them all for voting today to give Vladimir Putin`s government in Russia a huge big economic present and voting to give Oleg Deripaska the biggest break of his life even while his potential role in the Russian attack on our election remains a critical matter that is under ongoing investigation related to multiple criminal cases. 

Last night, I said that would be a test case in terms of whether or not the Republicans had any compunction about the Trump administration and the president and its relationship to the Russian government.  It was a test case.  It didn`t pass the test.  Eleven of them did.  Not enough to actually make a difference. 

Today also brought another round of revelations flowing from the bombshell "Washington Post" reporting this weekend, from "Washington Post" reporter Greg Miller.  His bombshell several days ago was the revelation that President Trump confiscated his translator`s notes and otherwise blocked any U.S. officials from finding out anything or obtaining any record or readout or notes from his multiple meetings with Vladimir Putin since he has been president. 

Well, that reporting, again, first broken by "The Washington Post" this weekend, today, Peter Baker at "The New York Times" builds on that.  He reports on an unusual phone call that President Trump placed in July 2017 when he was on his way home from what we believe to have been Trump`s first in-person meeting with Vladimir Putin in Germany.  That Germany meeting was the one where the president reportedly confiscated his translator`s notes and told the translator that translator couldn`t tell any other U.S. officials about the content of his discussion with Putin. 

After that mysterious meeting between Trump and Putin in Germany, which the president went to such great lengths to keep secret, which he behaved afterwards, one of which he behaved so strangely in terms of his relationship with the translator and his barring any U.S. officials from knowing what happened there, after that Germany meeting, Peter Baker reports today that on the way home from that meeting, Trump placed a phone call to a "New York Times" reporter from Air Force One on the flight home from Germany. 

And in that phone call, the president insisted to the reporter that, quote, the Russians were falsely accused of election interference when it comes to the U.S. presidential election in 2016.  And needless to say, of course, the Russians were not wrongly accused of interfering in our election.  But for some reason after speaking directly and privately, in fact secretly with Vladimir Putin face-to-face for a long time, President Trump tried to sell the Russian government`s false version of those events to an American reporter. 

As president of the United States, not like as some pundit paid by the Kremlin to go on Sputnik and spout Putin-approved talking points on this issue, but as the sitting president of the United States, placing apparently unsolicited phone calls to "The New York Times" to deliver them the Russian government`s false line on that story.  Nice work if you can get it.  How`s the pay? 

Peter Baker further reports that a year later, after the Helsinki meeting, and we all remember the Helsinki press conference.  But remember, the Trump/Putin meeting in Helsinki also included a two-hour meeting between Trump and Putin, again, the two of them alone with no other U.S. officials in the room, just Trump and Putin in Helsinki this past year.  After that two-hour meeting, U.S. intelligence officials were reportedly so disturbed by the fact that they had no American observers for that discussion, no notes, no readout, no American account whatsoever about what happened between Trump and Putin in that room over two hours, U.S. intelligence agencies were so disturbed by that they attempted to, quote, glean details about that meeting from surveillance of Russians who talked about it afterwards. 

Oh, right, because the Russians were allowed to know about it.  Whatever Trump said, whatever Putin and Trump said to each other in that secret meeting which no Americans were allowed to know about, it was only secret to the Americans, to the American government.  It was not secret within the Russian government.  The Russian government presumably kept their notes of that meeting.  The Russian government presumably did a readout for other officials in their own government and in their own intelligence agencies. 

Other Russians besides Vladimir Putin apparently talked about the contents of that meeting afterwards, because they knew something about it, because Trump`s behavior and discussions with Putin at that meeting are known to the Russian government.  They are just not known to the U.S. government, including to our intelligence agencies.  I wonder why that is. 

So we learned all of that today, and with that as context, things proceeded on a bunch of different fronts today, both foreign and domestic.  We learned early in the day that four Americans were killed and three were wounded in Syria.  This was two U.S. service members, one American civilian, who was a Defense Department civilian, and one American contractor who was also working for the Defense Department. 

The terror group ISIS has claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing that kill these Americans.  This, of course, comes four weeks after President Trump announced a surprise withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria on the basis of what he described as the total defeat of ISIS.  Oddly, Vice President Pence put out a statement after today`s deadly attack echoing that tragically terrible false assertion about ISIS being gone on the day that ISIS claimed responsibility for this attack that killed and wounded all these Americans.  I`m not sure that anybody pays all that much close attention to written statements put out by the Office of Vice President Mike Pence.  Nothing personal in that, just sort of the nature of the job. 

But still, it`s just head-snappingly weird that the vice president`s office literally put out a statement today saying, quote, we have crushed ISIS.  And in the same breath that statement laments this ISIS attack that killed four Americans and left three others wounded. 

We do not yet have any public identification of these Americans who lost their lives today or were wounded in Syria.  We expect that we will have those identifications eventually once their families have been notified. 

In Britain today, in the parliament of our closest overseas ally, the British Prime Minister Theresa May faced a very dramatic no-confidence vote after her Brexit plan went down to crushing defeat yesterday in parliament.  That no-confidence vote was a pretty dramatic moment. 


JOHN BERCOW, SPEAKER OF THE UK HOUSE OF COMMONS:  Order!  Order!  Under the order of the house of today, I am now required to put the question.  The question is that this house has no confidence in her majesty`s government.  As many of are that opinion, say aye.

CROWD:  Aye! 

BERCOW:  Of the contrary, no. 

CROWD:  No! 



MADDOW:  It is a little confusing, because you can hear the ayes and the no`s screaming at the top of their lungs there.  But the no`s there, they were saying no, we want Theresa May to stay as prime minister.  We vote no on the no confidence motion.  The double negative means yes, we vote yes for Theresa May. 

Theresa May ended up winning that confidence vote today.  She won by a very slim margin.  Over 630 lawmakers voted.  She prevailed by less than 20 votes in that no confidence measure today.

But she did prevail.  Theresa May survived that vote.  She remains as prime minister, although her leadership role is as precarious as it has ever been, as is the prospect for how Great Britain will try to extract itself from the European Union. 

Theresa May has been rejected roundly including by her own party in terms of how she wants to achieve a Brexit.  She remains in power, though, and nobody knows what`s going to happen between Great Britain and the European Union.  Domestically here at home today, the United States government is still shut down.  We have never had a shutdown this long.  We are now in our 26th day. 

A new twist in shutdown politics arrived today when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent this letter to President Trump, suggesting to him the State of the Union should be delayed this month until the government is open.  Or if the president doesn`t want to change the date, maybe he should just cancel the speech and submit a State of the Union assessment in writing, like presidents used to do back in the day. 

Republicans were quite upset today by this overture of the State of the Union from Nancy Pelosi, but as speaker of the house, it is honestly her call as to whether or not the president is actually invited to deliver a State of the Union Address.  Pelosi and her office today insist that her effort to reschedule or perhaps cancel the State of the Union derives entirely from security concerns since the State of the Union Address is a major security event at which the president and the vice president and both houses of Congress and the cabinet and the Supreme Court and the chairman of joint chiefs are all in the same room together. 

Pelosi`s office says they are concerned that nobody`s ever tried to have a state of the union in the midst of a shutdown before.  They say specifically, they are concerned about furloughed affirmative action who have a key role to play in assuring the security of the event.  They`re saying there would be no way to guarantee responsibly the safety of that event if it were to go through while the government shutdown persists. 

Now, Speaker Pelosi did suggest to the president that if he wants to, he could just give the State of the Union Address like from the Oval Office instead of from a Joint Session of Congress.  If it was him in the Oval Office, it could be just like him and the camera guy, right?  Him and the camera crew, and maybe somebody to make sure he had a paper copy of the script in case the teleprompter went wonky. 

He wouldn`t need a ton of people.  It wouldn`t be as big a security thing.  That might seem easier. 

I don`t know if he wants to could it from the Oval Office.  He could technically do it anywhere he wants, even if it wasn`t officially a State of the Union anymore.  Presumably, the Trump administration could probably make the president very happy by popping the president into a rodeo arena somewhere or a basketball stadium.  Have him give a fake State of the Union before a bunch of people in red hats who applauded for everything. 

Maybe that is how this will work out.  But the potential cancellation of the State of the Union this year in the midst of this government shutdown, that is a new twist in those shutdown politics today. 

Today was also the second and final day of the confirmation hearings for William Barr, the president`s new nominee to be attorney general.  Through one lens you might expect this to be the most controversial thing in the world, but sometimes it`s hard to narrow it down in this administration.  William Barr does appear to be poised for confirmation, in large part because he can be confirmed with only Republican vote, even if no Democrats vote for him. 

In his confirmation hearings yesterday and today, it should be noted bottom line that William Barr didn`t pledge that he would abide by ethics advice if career officials at the Justice Department tell him he has to recuse from the Mueller investigation or any other matter.  He did not commit that he would follow any such advice.  He also made no commitment to allow the publication of any potential report that may derive from the Mueller investigation.  He did not even commit that he would provide such a report to Congress whether or not he provided it to the American public. 

And, again, Republican senators appear to be perfectly comfortable with that from William Barr, even if every Democrat opposes him, he is still quite likely to be confirmed. 

So there is a lot going on all at once.  There is also a sort of business page scandal that broke today about the president and one of his prime real estate properties.  This is a scandal that could end up hitting the president in the place that would most hurt him, the place we know he is physically most sensitive, which is his wallet.  So, we`re going to be talking with a key member of Congress about that a little later on in this hour. 

But in the meantime we have got Senator Kirsten Gillibrand here.  She is going to be live in studio here since her first announcement for her run for the presidency, which is very exciting. 

Heads up, everybody.  There is lots going on.  There is lots to get to.  Stay with us here tonight.


MADDOW:  The year was 2006, and four-term Republican Congressman John Sweeney was running for reelection.  Congressman Sweeney was well-known, not just in his district, not just in his home state of New York, he was also a cherished friend of the George W. Bush White House. 

Six years earlier, 2000, as ballot counters in Florida tried to figure out who won the presidential election, it was Congressman John Sweeney of New York who played a key role in dispatching Republican operatives to Florida to where the ballot counting was happening, and he famously ordered them to, quote, shut it down.  Sweeney uttered a three-word order to his troops, shut it down. 

He was really the orchestrator of what became known as the Brooks Brothers riot to shut down the ballot counting effort in favor of George W. Bush.  For his efforts that year, President George W. Bush nicknamed him -- his nickname for him was, forgive me, Congressman Kick-Ass. 

Congressman Sweeney was also known less favorably for his junkets with lobbyists, and in the spring of that election year, he made national news for being spotted as a grown man at a frat party in Schenectady.  What was he doing there? 

By the fall, the party was over for him.  John Sweeney lost his bid for a fifth term in office.  His upstate New York district had not elected a Democrat to Congress in nearly 30 years, but the Democrat they picked that year at the time was interesting.  She was not seen as all that big of an ideological shift because at the time, the Democrat who replaced Congressman Sweeney that year in that district, she had conservative bona fides.  She had an A rating from the NRA.  She said she wanted to make English the official language of the United States.  She opposed amnesty for undocumented immigrants.  She used the phrase illegal aliens when she talked about that issue. 

That conservative congresswoman was Kirsten Gillibrand.  Now, Senator Gillibrand, who was not seen as a conservative at all, Senator Gillibrand has had a transformation.  She has changed a great deal on policy in the decades since she was a card-carrying member of the Blue Dog Democrats from an upstate conservative district. 

After she was first appointed to the Senate in 2009 to fill Hillary Clinton`s Senate seat when Hillary Clinton went on to become secretary of state, Senator Gillibrand very quickly became not a Blue Dog Upstate New Yorker anymore.  She quickly became a progressive hero.  She became the driving force, for example, behind efforts in the Senate to repeal "don`t ask, don`t tell". 

She became a very outspoken advocate for women, starting with victims of sexual assault in the military with an approach that caused friction with some conservatives even in her own party.  She was the first member of her caucus to call for her colleague, Senator Al Franken of Minnesota to resign from the Senate over multiple sexual misconduct allegations against him.  And again, that caused friction with some members of her own party. 

Senator Gillibrand`s political journey has taken unexpected turns over the past ten years.  She has been on her own party`s right.  She has been on her own party`s left. 

Right now, she is running for president.  She is running for president as the senator who has voted against President Trump and the Trump agenda more than any other senator in the United States Senate. 

Why is she running?  Why is she running in this field?  How does she distinguish herself in this field?  And what`s it`s like to have her here on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW? 

Joining us now for the interview, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. 

Thank you so much for coming in, Senator. 

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK:  My pleasure.  Thank you for having me. 

MADDOW:  Well, congratulations on your announcement, and thank you for not beating around the bush and being like, I`m thinking about considering, talking to my family about it.  You`re just flat-out saying I`m running. 


MADDOW:  Tell me about -- tell me about that transformation that I was just describing there.  I think a lot of people watching the show tonight certainly know your name, certainly know some stuff about you.  But there has been an evolution in the perceived sort of place -- your perceived place on the number line in Democratic politics.  Tell me about that change. 

GILLIBRAND:  So, ten years ago when I became senator of New York state, I recognized I didn`t know everything about the whole state, and one of the first thing I did was I travel to Brooklyn, and I met with family who had just lost their daughter, a teenaged girl who was shot with a stray bullet.  And when I meant Nyasia`s (ph) parents and her classmates and realized the pain and suffering that they were going through, I just knew I was wrong, and I knew I had to do something to make sure that young beautiful girl did not die in vain. 

So I met with the leaders of various gun reform movements in my state, a lot of moms who had lost their children and experts and wrote a bill to end gun trafficking, because in New York state, one of our biggest problems is 90 percent of the weapons used in crimes come from out of state.  And so, I wrote that. 

And now, I`ve been a leader on these issues, making sure we have universal background checks, making sure we can ban assault rifles and large magazines, making sure that we can make sure that people who shouldn`t have weapons never get access to them.  And so -- with the universal background checks.  And so, I just knew I had to do more, and I had to be a strong voice for that family and all the families who suffer from gun violence around my state, and now the country. 

MADDOW:  Let me ask you about immigration as well.  I was struck.  You were asked about some of these same dynamics, some of these same changes over the course of your career in an interview with "60 Minutes" not long ago, and you essentially said that you were embarrassed about your previous position --


MADDOW:  -- on immigration.  Tell me about that. 

GILLIBRAND:  Well, I don`t think it was driven from my heart.  I was callous to the suffering of families who want to be with their loved ones, people who want to be reunited with their families.  I recognize, as we all do, that immigration and diversity is our strength as a country.  It`s always driven our economy.  It`s the American story. 

And so, looking back, I just -- I really regretted that I didn`t look beyond my district and talk about why this is an important part of the United States story and why it`s an important part of our strength. 

MADDOW:  Coming from -- having changed positions on issues like that, which are so emotive and which are so viscerally felt by so many people, I wonder if -- I mean, obviously, in a Democratic primary, you`re going to have to give explanations like this and you`re going to have the talk from the heart --


MADDOW:  -- about why you changed your mind on things like that.  But I wonder if it also having been in a different position on those issues, if it gives you a way to sort of bridge some of these divides that we`ve got between people who have almost a theological division, you`re either pro- gun or anti-gun -- 


MADDOW:  -- you`re either pro-immigrant or anti-immigrant.  Because you`ve gone through that transformation yourself, does it give you way to talk to people who might be more conservative on these issues now? 

GILLIBRAND:  Surely.  And I think it all starts with listening, because you can find common ground with anybody on any issue.  I work all the time in the Senate with my Republican colleagues.  I just worked on trying to end sexual harassment with Ted Cruz. 

And so, there is literally nobody in the Senate that I can`t work with on something that`s important to all of America and to all of our constituents.  And so, I do believe I can bring people together, and there are shared common values.  And sometimes you have to bring people to where you are, and perhaps on these issues, I can bring people to where I am, because now I know the difference. 

I know why you should care.  I know why you should care, even if it`s not in your become yard.  I know why you should fight for other people as hard as you would fight for the people in your own family. 

And so, I think I can do that.  I think I can bring people together, because the country is so divided.  The country has been torn apart by this president.  He has brought a darkness of hate and division that I`ve never seen, and only light can end darkness.  Only light can break through. 

And that`s why we have to speak to our better angels, not our worst demons, and make people understand that what`s made this country so strong generation after generation is each generation decides to protect more people, to make a more perfect union, to provide more rights for more people.  And we are our best selves when we look to help others. 

MADDOW:  Senator Gillibrand, I have a couple of things I want to ask you about.  There is some news today, stuff that`s going on with the shutdown I want to talk to you about.  Some are just questions I`ve never heard you weigh in, some sort of commander-in-chief questions.  Can you stick with us? 


MADDOW:  All right.  Senator Gillibrand, her first interview since she announced that she is running for president.  Stay with us.


MADDOW:  We`re back now with Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, newly announced candidate for president of the United States. 

Senator, thank you again. 

GILLIBRAND:  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  As I mentioned in the introduction I brought you on, you do have a voting record in Senate that has a distinction, a sharp distinction which is that you appear to be the senator who has voted against the president, voted against the Trump administration more than any other.  Is that deliberate?  Did you set out to do that? 

GILLIBRAND:  Well, I looked at every nominee on the merits, and frankly, each nominee I looked at wasn`t worthy of my vote.  They either had an agenda that was so contrary to our values and what I believe in, or they weren`t plain old qualified in. 

Betsy DeVos was not qualified.  She did not have the acumen and background to help fix our schools which, you know, should be right in this country, that no matter what block you grew up on, you can get a good education. 

I looked at each nominee, Scott Pruitt.  I voted against him because I knew he would spend his time just polluting the environment, polluting the air and the water, letting polluters pollute and having no oversight or accountability.  He did exactly that. 

And so, for each nominee, I looked at the merits and decided, is this person going to help move our country forward or not?  And for the most part, President Trump has really lined his cabinet with people who are absolutely uninterested in helping American people. 

MADDOW:  A few nights ago we had here on the show in that seat where you`re sitting there right now an official who until last year, less than a year ago was the top counterintelligence official of the Justice Department.  He ran the counterintelligence section, and he sitting right here described President Trump as a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States.  And you`ve spoken of the president in very clear terms, strong terms even tonight.  You obviously voted against him more than any other senator. 

Do you think about this presidency in national security terms, in terms of the president being that kind of a threat?  Or do you think there is something else going on in terms of why you oppose him? 

GILLIBRAND:  I do.  I think his judgment is so wrong for this country.  One of the first things he did was decide to step away from the Iran deal, something that the world community came together to say let`s make sure this country doesn`t build nuclear weapons that could result in war, and stepping away -- he steps away from the global climate accords.  It could be the greatest threat to our nation`s future in the next several decades, and to not be willing to stand on the world stage and have that leadership that America has always shown. 

The fact that he`s unwilling to hold Russia accountable, that he makes excuses for Putin, he can`t stand up to him in Helsinki, the fact that he wants to walk away from START treaties and nuclear treaties that make us safer.  He is literally creating so much disruption in foreign policy that he is making this country less safe. 

MADDOW:  In terms of the president`s involvement in the Russia scandal, obviously, I know that you had to sort of scramble your rollout for your campaign today a little bit because I know you had to make sure you were able to cast your vote on the Rusal sanctions, on the Oleg Deripaska sanctions. 


MADDOW:  I was interested that 11 Republicans crossed over to vote with you and other Democrats on that.  It wasn`t enough ultimately to reverse the Trump administration`s decision, but I wonder what you think about those Republicans crossing over.  Do you see that as a sign that there might be a less partisan way forward in terms of trying to fix whatever has gone weird between the president and the Russian government? 

GILLIBRAND:  I really don`t see the Republican Party standing up and doing what`s right.  The fact that you couldn`t get enough to even pass this one measure, to hold Russia accountable when President Trump wants to unwind sanctions that are absolutely necessary, I`ve not seen their strength and courage to stand up to the president when it matters and when it counts. 

And I was exceedingly disappointed that there weren`t enough Republicans to actually pass this very simple -- this very simple measure. 

MADDOW:  When you ran in your Upstate New York district in 2006, you ran as an opponent of the Iraq War --


MADDOW:  -- in a fairly conservative district. 

Today, we saw four Americans killed in Syria.  I know that you have criticized this administration for acting in Syria without congressional authorization.  I wonder if either today`s bombing or the situation in Syria more broadly has affected your overall view about whether or not we should have troops there at all. 

GILLIBRAND:  Well, I don`t believe the president has the authority to have the troops there.  We don`t have an AUMF to have combat operations in Syria.  And I know the president will say, oh, well, they`re not in combat operations, but people are dying. 

I think we should be drawing down our troops, not only in Afghanistan but the remainder in Iraq and in Syria, and then give Congress the opportunity that if they believe we should be in combat missions in any of these countries, that we actually file a new authorization for the use of military force. 

What President Trump has done is just create disarray because he`s not working in combination with our allies and making a plan for how we`re going to create more stability in the region.  Because he is unwilling to hold Russia accountable, because he is unwilling to even engage in Middle East peace in a process that can make sense, we have massive instability. 

And the world community is looking at us.  Where is America? 

So, one of the reasons why I`m running for president is I want to restore that leadership in the world.  We have to restore the integrity.  We have to restore the stability.  We have to make sure that America continue to be that beacon of light and hope for the world. 

And I`m running because we need to fight for each other`s kids as hard as we fight for our own, and I will do that.  And I truly believe that if you believe that, then you`ll fight for health care as a right and not a privilege.  You`ll actually care about public schools and want to help kids no matter what block they grew up on.  And you`re going to actually want to reward work again in this country. 

We haven`t looked at workers and rewarded work with national pay leave or equal pay or affordable day care, all the things that would make it easier for workers to excel.  And to get any of that done, you`ve got to take on the corruption in Washington because there are so many systems of power in place today that make it impossible to do what`s right. 

Bills are written in the dead of night by lobbyists.  Bills are written by the special interests.  There is so much corruption.  There is so much money and greed. 

And unless you`re willing to take that on by, you know, having publicly funded elections.  Actually, that`s why I`m banning corporate PAC money.  That`s why I`m banning lobbyist money.  It`s why I don`t think individuals should have super PACs because my vote is not for sale.  My character, my integrity is not for sale. 

And you have to tell the American people that by having bold ideas about how to serve them, to put them first.  And so, that`s what this election is about.  That`s why I`m running. 

And I know that I have -- I have the compassion.  I have the courage, and I believe I have the fearless determination to do the things it will take to restore this leadership in the world that President Trump has just walked away from. 

It is a moment for all of us, Rachel, to be called to do whatever it takes to make a difference in this country, and I feel called to run this race, to show the strength of America, to show what`s possible in America.  That is our story.  That is the American story. 

We never give up.  We try to help others.  We believe in the golden rule, and that`s what President Trump has destroyed. 

MADDOW:  Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, running for president, here to talk to us about it very early on in the rollout of this campaign.  Thank you for making time.  Thank you.

GILLIBRAND:  Oh, you`re welcome. 

MADDOW:  I hope over the course of this campaign, you`ll keep us apprised. 

GILLIBRAND:  Thank you so much.  Thank you, Rachel. 

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


MADDOW:  One thing you didn`t used to be able to do in Washington, D.C. was spend lots of money at the business that belonged to the serving president of the United States, thus lining the president`s pockets while he was serving as president, just in case you might ever need a presidential favor some time soon. 

But now you can do that.  We have indeed seen tons of foreign governments, for example, spending lavishly at President Trump`s D.C. hotel, which is located on a site that he leases from the federal government.  They lease rooms -- they rent rooms at his hotel.  They spend money in his hotel, and foreign dignitaries come to town to meet with his administration on official business.  They presumably think that will be noticed. 

And it`s not just foreign governments or foreign companies.  Today, "The Washington Post" reports that immediately after T-Mobile announced that it was seeking a merger with Sprint, a merger that would require government approval from the Trump administration, T-Mobile executives started showing up at Trump`s hotel in D.C. very quickly, over and over and over again, lots of them, renting rooms and conspicuously hanging out in the lobby, wearing their T-Mobile gear. 

Well, today, the internal watchdog, the inspector general at the U.S. General Services Administration, which is the part of the federal government that is the Trump Hotel`s landlord, the inspector general there released the findings of an investigation into the decision to let the president continue his lease on that hotel, even after he became president of the United States.  The report is scathing. 

The I.G. says the agency`s decision-making process had serious shortcomings, saying the GSA not only failed to examine the president`s lease properly, it ignored the constitutional lease problems with him owning this hotel while serving as president.  Quote: We also found that the GSA improperly ignored the constitutional Emoluments Clauses, even though the president`s lease itself requires compliance with the laws of the United States, including the U.S. Constitution.  GSA had an obligation to uphold and enforce the Constitution.

But this question, this basic question about when the president`s operation of his D.C. hotel, whether it may not just be obviously improperly, it may be illegal, even unconstitutional, this is a live question right now.  Two lawsuits from state attorneys general and from hundreds of Democratic members of Congress have been making their way through the federal court system, charging that Trump is violating the Constitution with his hotel business. 

Well, now the internal watchdog at the agency that leases that land to him says the way the agency decided to let him continue on with that lease was roundly and manifestly improper. 

Joining us now is Congresswoman Dina Titus from Nevada.  She is poised to become the chair of the Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management Subcommittee, which is a lot of syllables, but that means pretty soon she`s about to be overseeing the GSA in Congress. 

Congresswoman Titus, thank you so much for joining us. 

REP. DINA TITUS (D), NEVADA:  Oh, it`s my pleasure.  Thank you for having me. 

MADDOW:  So I`ve briefly summarized what`s going on with this GSA report that they essentially, improperly considered the constitutional issues about the president`s hotel.  What do you make of this overall issue and about how this report today advances our understanding of it?

TITUS:  Well, as you mentioned, this is not anything new.  We have filed lawsuits against it.  We`ve had some investigations and some complaints. 

The press has been all over this, even camping out in the hotel lobby to see who is staying there because they`ve not been forthcoming with any information.  But when the inspector general issued this report today, it just confirmed what we know, that it`s against the Constitution, the Emoluments Clause. 

Now, a lot of people aren`t familiar with that term.  It doesn`t just roll off the tongue, but if you use plain language, they get it.  And to borrow from the bard, bribe by any other name would smell as foul. 

MADDOW:  Well, in terms of the remedy here, I mean, I read this inspector general report.  It`s long.  It`s not that hard to read, though.

And essentially, they said the remedy here is that, look, the lawyers at this agency never looked at the constitutional issues here.  In a word, they punted.  They decided not to consider this because they didn`t want to deal with the hassle of it.  And the remedy that the inspector general is directing here that actually there needs to be a legal assessment here.  This properly needs to be looked at by the government. 

As the woman who is going to be overseeing this agency in Congress more acutely than any other, does that remedy seem like enough to you?  Do you have faith if they`re directed to finally legally consider these matters, they`ll do so properly? 

TITUS:  Well, that doesn`t give me a lot of comfort.  They started out by saying we`ve never seen anything like this before so we don`t know what to do with it, so we just won`t do anything. 

I also worry about the lawsuits, because even though we may win in some lower courts, when the president has stacked the Supreme Court, I`m not too optimistic.  But in my role, and I think this will be formalized fairly soon on this committee, we will hold hearings and we will bring the inspector general in and the GSA and whoever it takes from the hotel to see if we can`t get some answers.  It`s pretty clear from the language of the lease and the language of the Constitution that this is just not something that should be happening, either legally or constitutionally. 

MADDOW:  And bottom line, do you think the president`s going to have to divest himself of that hotel in order to stay within the bounds of the Constitution? 

TITUS:  Well, I think he should.  Whether he will or not, who can say, based on the ways he`s broken other laws and told other lies, who can anticipate it?  But I certainly think this report gives us more ammunition to show that this is just being ignored. 

MADDOW:  Congresswoman Dina Titus of Nevada, thank you so much for joining us tonight.  I`m super interested in this story.  I hope you`ll come back and update us as this proceeds. 

TITUS:  Well, please invite me.  We sure will.

MADDOW:  We will do that.  Thank you very much.

We`ll be right back.  Stay with us.


MADDOW:  Remember those puzzles you could do in the waiting room at the pediatrician`s office?  Those puzzles, what`s wrong with this picture, like find the thing that doesn`t fit? 

This issue of the paper was out today.  One of the things that doesn`t fit is that it`s got the forecast in the D.C. area today as sunny, high of 75.  It`s January, so that`s off. 

Also, this issue is free, and I know that independent journalism is invaluable, but this type of newspaper does generally cost money. 

Here`s another dead giveaway, this paper is dated May 1st, 2019, and May 1st, 2019 will some day be a real date, but we are not there yet. 

It did not take an eagle eye to notice that there were things funky going on with this purported copy of "The Washington Post" that was distributed in Washington today.  There were those subtle things, but then this was the rest of the front page.  "Unpresidented."  Trump hastily departs White House, comma, ending crisis. 

This newspaper to put it mildly is not real.  This is actual fake news.  It imagines a world in which the president of the United States was essentially run out of town by a surge of protests. 

According to this bizarro world version of "The Washington Post," the president quit the presidency by scribbling out a note on a napkin.  He then skipped down in the middle of the night via helicopter which made a beeline straight for Crimea. 

None of the news in this thing is anywhere close to real, but the paper was, look, this is not just like an online thing, look, it is a physical paper.  It has an insert and everything.  These things were handed out all over D.C. today. 

We got our copy at the local D.C. bookstore busboys and poets.  About 10,000 paper issues of this satirical paper were handed out around D.C. today.  They apparently were made by the activist group the Yes Men, who have been known to pull these types of very public, very provocative stunts before. 

The Yes Men said they made these fake papers to give people ideas for how they can support the impeachment of the president. 

Whatever the reason, you should know that the real "Washington Post" was definitely surprised by the whole thing today.  They said they will not tolerate others misrepresenting themselves as "The Washington Post."  They say they are looking to halt the improper use of their trademarks. 

But as a stunt, this thing is already out there.  And it`s -- I think it`s, you know, as much a thought experiment as it is satire.  Can you imagine a day when something like this might be real? 

Even so, even if it is just a stunt, the whole thing is weird, right?  What happens the next time when it isn`t so obviously fake?  Is this going to be a thing now, impersonating papers, faking the news?  New chapters every day.  New chapters. 

That does it for us tonight.  We will see you again tomorrow. 


Good evening, Lawrence. 


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