CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That`s "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.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Very happy to have you with us.
The government shutdown is now in day 27, but winter doesn`t care. Looks like there will be another major storm arriving in the next few days. This one looks like it`s going to hit the northeast this weekend.
I know that, I feel comfortable telling you that on television. I can describe elements of that. I can talk about potential places that might be hit harder than others and when these -- I can do all that.
I can even factor that all into my own weekend plans this weekend because there are thousands of employees of the National Weather Service who are working 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide we the people with that very kind of valuable information. And all those employees of the National Weather Service are doing that work for free. They are doing it without being paid, hour after hour, day after day, storm after storm.
Yesterday, you might have seen headlines about a Georgia man who was arrested for planning attacks on multiple sites, including the White House. You should know that the FBI agents who got that guy and arrested him yesterday, those FBI agents are also working without pay. We learned tonight that at the New York City offices of the FBI, they have started a food bank, as of today, for FBI agents and their families because you can only work so long without pay before you really do need to turn to charity in order to eat.
And as of today, we are now having ping-ponging fights in Washington about what the president is personally able to do during the shutdown and what congressional leadership is personally able to do during the shutdown. We still have no clarity on whether or not there will be a State of the Union Address this year. There`s never been one before while the government was shut down.
Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the house, says as a matter of security they cannot responsibly bring the president to a Joint Session of Congress to issue such an address this year, not while the government is shut down, not while so many of the personnel who would already be involved in the planning for a security event of that significance, so many of them are not working at all right now or, again, they are working without pay.
In response to that potential cancellation or rescheduling of the State of the Union, which Pelosi suggested to the White House yesterday, the president today decided he would cancel the military transport for a congressional delegation that Nancy Pelosi was set to join to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Now, the Defense Department, military transportation for a congressional delegation, that`s not actually affected by the shutdown, but the president decided he wanted to do that anyway to smack her back about the State of the Union or something. And because he wanted to make as big a deal as possible about him cancelling that military transportation, the president also today publicly disclosed for the first time that that trip was supposed to happen, which means even if Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress did find alternative means of transportation to go take that congressional delegation to go visit troops in Afghanistan, they now, of course, cannot for security reasons, because the president blew that up.
There`s a reason when high-ranking American officials are flying into an active war zone we don`t find out about it until they`re already there. It`s for their own safety. The president blew that up today and told Nancy Pelosi she should fly commercial anyway.
And whether or not you care where the president or whether any other political leaders are personally spending their days while the shutdown persists, it is now increasingly bizarre and just -- I mean, it`s more than remarkable, it is bizarre that the Trump administration with each passing day now, they really are expecting hundreds of thousands of federal employees to show up to work all day long without being paid. And that is something that federal workers have been able to do for a few days here and there when we have had shutdowns here and there in the past. But we`ve never had a shutdown this long and showing up and working without pay is only sustainable for so long. How long could you sustain that in your family?
I mean, it`s only sustainable practically for so many days. It may not be sustainable legally for all that much longer either. And politically, it`s hard to see how the president and the administration more broadly are going to be able to sustain this expectation that hundreds of thousands of Americans will work without pay. It`s hard to see how they will be able to sustain that politically when the cost is now so blunt and so human, and each passing day of this just makes it that much worse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We`re not paying people to keep us safe, the TSA agents who stop bombs from coming on to planes, the FBI agents who tracked -- who track down terrorists in our country, the DEA agents who stop the flow of drugs into our country and the officials who patrol the border.
People think of public employees, federal employees only being in the Washington area. No, they`re all over the country. They`re in small town USA and other places around the country.
I don`t understand why the reality of this in people`s lives isn`t -- is not felt or concerned or cared about by the administration. Not only are these workers not paid, they`re not appreciated by this administration. These are the people who deliver services to the American people. We should respect what they do for our country.
We`re saying let`s get a date when government is open. Let`s pay the employees. Maybe he thinks it`s OK not to pay people who do work. I don`t. And my caucus doesn`t either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaking with reporters today, and I am not a political expert. Ask me about some of my past political predictions. I`m not great at it.
I am not a great political expert. I have never run for office. I never would. I have never been part of a campaign of anybody else running for office.
But it strikes me, in political terms, that if you have picked a big political argument and in so doing you have put your political opponent in the position of arguing against you that it`s their position that people who work should be paid for their work, if that`s their position against you, that seems to me like maybe you`re going to lose that fight. I mean, honestly, if you think about what`s going on right now with the shutdown, logistically, I don`t know how they`re going to end it. Politically, what this boils down to right now is that the way the president has set this up is that he`s put the Democrats in the position of being able to make two cases to the public.
The Democrats have two public positions right now in this fight with the White House. They have two points. Let`s open the government and if people work, they should be paid.
The Trump administration and now the Republicans in Congress are in the position now of saying, OK, we get that you want to open the government, but -- OK, but, yes -- and we understand that people should be paid, but, you know, there`s this other stuff that we also need to -- there`s other factors here that you need to -- I mean, the polling is increasingly terrible for the president and the Republicans on this issue with each passing day. It started off bad for them. It`s getting worse as this thing goes on longer and causes more real human pain.
That doesn`t mean, though, that any of us know when it will end. Certainly, the politics of this are only going to get worse for those who are trying to sustain it and not better, but, again, we don`t know how long they decide that they`re going to keep this going.
Outside of the ongoing standoff for the shutdown, there were a few surprises in the news today related to the scandals swirling around this president. It turns out -- this presidency. Turns out that stuff doesn`t -- doesn`t stop for the shutdown. Emily Jane Fox is going to be here in just a moment from "Vanity Fair" to talk about one of those surprises that concerns the president`s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen. Emily Jane has some new important reporting on that story tonight, specifically about President Trump potentially having some new criminal liability from yet another campaign-related revelations ala Michael Cohen.
So, Emily Jane Fox is going to be joining us live in just a second with some of that new reporting. You are going to want to see that.
Before we get to that Michael Cohen case, though, there`s a couple of other developments you should know about today as well. One of them, I can`t tell you much about what the bottom line of it -- in terms of what the bottom line in terms of what it means, but I am very intrigued by this. We have learned late this evening just before starting this show tonight that the Supreme Court of the United States tomorrow, the justices of the Supreme Court tomorrow are once again going to consider at least some part of what we now affectionately call the mystery case.
This is a mystery case that appears to relate to Robert Mueller and the special counsel`s office. High-level prosecutors working for Mueller in the special counsel`s office are believed to be associated with this case. I have to couch it like that, though, because all the filings, all the argument in this case, they`ve all been conducted under seal so I can`t just show you something that proves that.
The parties in this case are secret. The lawyers involved in this case, it`s all secret. And even with the Supreme Court apparently considering an element of this case tomorrow, we`re still not exactly sure what aspect of the case Supreme Court justices are going to be looking at.
I mean, broadly speaking we know from previous court filings that this appears to be a case involving an unnamed corporation. "The Washington Post" has reported that they believe it is a financial institution of some kind, but who knows?
From court filings we can tell this unnamed corporation that`s maybe a financial institution. It`s definitely owned by a foreign country but we don`t know which country. It`s just country "A" in the filings.
A federal court has previously ruled that this mysterious foreign-owned corporation can`t ignore a subpoena that they received. And it appears to be a subpoena they received from the special counsel`s office. Lower court ruled that this company has to respond to that subpoena. That court also imposed a $50,000 a day penalty on that corporation for every day that they refuse to comply with the subpoena. That`s got to be adding up.
Well, some element of that mystery case is going to be considered in conference by the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court tomorrow. So, in conference means it`s not going to happen in open court where you get to see the lawyers arguing back and forth. This is just going to be the justices behind closed doors deciding amongst themselves.
But I`m intrigued. It`s funny, everything about this case has seemed like it must be of outsized importance just because it`s secret. It may end up being a small thing. It may end up being mundane, but all I can tell you is something about it is being adjudicated tomorrow at the very highest levels of the U.S. judiciary. The Supreme Court is taking it up and we still will not know about it until somebody finally decides if and when this can all be unsealed.
We also had another surprise announcement today from the Justice Department about a big fancy expensive well-regarded law firm, one of the biggest and richest law firms on earth. And they`ve just gotten in trouble for their role in the Russia scandal and its various criminal offshoots.
Do you remember the guy Alex Vander Zwaan? He`s a tall, blonde, very dapper foreign lawyer who pled guilty lying to federal investigators about his work with Paul Manafort? Alex Vander Zwaan has not only pled guilty to a felony, he`s been sentenced to prison. He`s already completed his prison sentence and gone home to Europe.
When he turned up in federal court in Washington, there`s a couple things interesting, not just about his case but who he is. First of all, it turns out that he`s the son-in-law, he`s married to the daughter of a Russian billionaire, one of the billionaire owners of Alfa Bank.
Alfa Bank is not a state-owned Russian bank. It`s the biggest bank in Russia, I think, that`s not state-run. Although there has been some noise quite recently that the Kremlin might take over Alfa Bank.
The owners of Alfa Bank have turned up numerous times on the periphery of the Russia scandal involving President Trump and his campaign. For one, they`re mentioned in the Christopher Steele dossier that`s been such a controversial part of the anecdotes and allegations around potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. The Alfa Bank owners are currently involved in a legal dispute with Fusion GPS over their being named in Steele`s dossier.
Alfa Bank has also turned up on the periphery of the scandal because computer servers associated with Alfa Bank were reportedly observed during the summer of 2016 having lots and lots of unexplained online communications with computer servers for the Trump Organization. Why would computers at the president`s business in Trump Tower be communicating repeatedly with computers owned by a Russian bank during the campaign? We still have no idea, but that was Alfa Bank.
And one of the billionaire owners of Alfa Bank is this guy, Herman Khan. And Herman Khan`s son-in-law is handsome Alex Vander Zwaan who just got out of prison because of his role in the Russia scandal, and his role specifically in lying to investigators about the work he did for Paul Manafort.
So, when Alex Vander Zwaan turned up in court, that was a strange biographical detail we learned about him right off the bat. Maybe that`s a coincidence, right? Maybe that`s just like a weird hairpin turn in the middle of space time continuum.
But the other thing that was interesting about Alex Vander Zwaan when he turned up in court was not just his odd family connection, but also the firm where he worked because when Alex Vander Zwaan got in trouble for the stuff he got in trouble for, he was a relatively junior lawyer at a super fancy American white shoe law firm called Skadden Arps.
Alex Vander Zwaan`s supervisor, the senior partner who oversaw his work at Skadden Arps, including at the time he was doing the stuff that he got in trouble for, his supervisor, the senior partner over him was a very famous, very well-connected American lawyer named Gregory Craig, who was a former Obama White House official. Greg Craig worked in the Obama White House at the very outset of Obama`s first term in office. He was Obama`s first White House counsel.
Well, Alex Vander Zwaan no longer works at Skadden Arps. Gregory Craig is no longer a senior partner at Skadden Arps. He left the firm in April.
But today, surprise, the Justice Department revealed a multimillion dollar civil settlement between the Justice Department and that very fancy law firm, Skadden Arps. The firm in the settlement agrees to retroactively register as having been an unregistered foreign agent working on behalf of the government of Ukraine, the pro-Russian government of Ukraine that Paul Manafort represented. The firm has also agreed to pay back to the U.S. government the more than $4 million Paul Manafort allegedly secretly shoveled to them so they would do work that looked like the independent work product of this very prestigious Western law firm while what they were really doing was just whitewash work for Manafort`s pro-Russian clients.
So, there are a few things that are interesting about this. Number one, this is a surprise. I didn`t know this was coming.
Also, big prestigious rich connected American law firms like this one don`t usually get in trouble for anything. Let alone for grotty criminal foreign corruption cases like this one.
So, seeing Skadden Arps in this Justice Department settlement in itself is a remarkable thing. That said, what they`re getting from the Justice Department in this settlement financially doesn`t even qualify as a slap on the wrist.
I mean, Skadden is such a gigantic rich law firm. "The Wall Street Journal" said today that their annual revenue as a law firm is something like $2.5 billion in revenue every year now -- $2.5 billion a year. Them having to pay the government pack $4.6 million, that`s like a freckle on a flea to them. That is not even a rounding error for them. They will not even feel that in one day`s billings.
And we should also note that the money they are paying back apparently according to prosecutors, that $4.6 million they got to pay back, yes, they have to pay it to the government, but that`s just the money they received to do this illegal foreign lobbying work. That`s just the money they got secretly shoveled from Paul Manafort.
So that means all the Justice Department is requiring them is that they don`t keep the illegal money they got, but they don`t have to pay anything on top of that. This is like if you were caught going 100 miles an hour in a school zone, the cop was like, whoa, you were 80 miles an hour over the speed limit. This is a school zone. It`s 20. You didn`t see the flashing yellows? What are you doing?
And then it turns out your punishment for having done that is that you have to slow down. You are no longer allowed to go 100 miles an hour in a school zone and you pledge that you won`t anymore, but other than that, you`re free to go. Aren`t you ashamed? Right?
That`s the equivalent of what happened here to this rich, influential, politically-connected law firm. I mean, Skadden technically gets in trouble. Ooh, embarrassing press release. They have to retroactively register as a foreign agent, but they otherwise sort of get off scot-free for what they did.
That said, the Justice Department does praise them for their cooperation in this matter, so maybe they`re helping with something else. Also, this may not be the end. This civil settlement between the Justice Department and this rich law firm today, it doesn`t resolve anything other than the conflict between the firm and the government. It doesn`t resolve any related allegations that may arise under -- about any individuals.
Greg Craig himself, the former Obama White House lawyer, Obama`s first White House counsel, he appears to play a starring role in what is described in the settlement today as the firm`s misconduct. He or somebody who is described as partner one, who appears to be Gregory Craig, is repeatedly described in this settlement as having made false and misleading statements to Justice Department investigators who were looking into what was going on here, who were looking into whether or not this firm was engaged in illegal lobbying with Paul Manafort.
So, there have been previous public reports that Gregory Craig is personally under potential criminal scrutiny for his individual role in this part of the Manafort saga, but as of tonight, we know his firm at least has settled things with the government in a way that is embarrassing but super cheap for them. It remains to be seen whether any other shoe, white shoe or not, is about to drop -- with any further indictments or any further plea agreements or, you know, cooperation deals or anything else we might hear about.
And on top of that, there is the freaking unbelievably weird story about the president`s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen, which broke this morning in "The Wall Street Journal." did you see this? Did you see this today?
In one of the surreal things about this presidency is that no matter what else is going on, no matter what happens in any given day in the news, right, in the back of all of our minds, we all know somewhere that this president, whatever he`s doing, good or bad, you know, exciting or embarrassing, whatever it is, this president is also technically known as Individual One in a multiple felony criminal case that`s about to send his longtime personal friend and business associate to federal prison for three years. The president is Individual One and was named as such by prosecutors when they brought charges against Cohen for having paid more than $250,000 in hush money to try to assure that two women wouldn`t go public ahead of Election Day with their allegations they had had affairs with the president.
Of all the things this president has been accused of and associated with, those hush money payments to those two women seem so small, right? So tawdry and tabloid and dumb, and embarrassing to talk about, right? It was almost hard to take the legal maneuvering around them as something potentially quite serious to the president and the presidency, but Michael Cohen pled guilty to two campaign finance felonies because of those hush money payments.
The president got that moniker, right? The president became Individual One. He is described by prosecutors as having been the person who conspired with Cohen to commit those felonies. They describe him as the person who directed the commission of those felonies and benefitted from them.
NBC News has reported that had the president not been president, with all the complications that implies for a potential felony prosecution of someone holding that office, had he not been serving as president of the United States at the time that felony case came ripe, he, too, would have been charged with felonies in the Cohen case.
Well, now there`s another one. As broken this morning by "The Wall Street Journal" by Michael Rothfeld, Rob Barry and Joe Palazzolo. Quote: In early 2015, a man who runs a small technology company showed up at Trump Tower to collect $50,000 for having helped Michael Cohen, then Donald Trump`s personal lawyer, try to rig online polls in his boss` favor before the presidential campaign.
Quote: In his Trump organization office, Mr. Cohen surprised the man by giving him a blue Walmart bag containing between $12,000 and $13,000 in cash and, comma, randomly, comma, a boxing glove that Mr. Cohen said had been worn by a Brazilian mixed martial arts fighter. The man in question then confirmed to "The Wall Street Journal" in an interview that he did do what he was paid to do. He did try, quote, to manipulate online polls in Trump`s favor, after he was directed to do so by Michael Cohen and promised $50,000 for his trouble, even though he only got paid $12,000 to $13,000 plus a glove.
Because the news god`s have a sense of humor, I should also tell you that the man currently serves as the chief information officer at Liberty University, which is the televangelist university founded by Jerry Falwell, because who among us is not asked whose online poll Jesus would rig, in exchange for Walmart bag with a glove in it.
This again is that perfect Trump-era crossover between I need to take a shower and I can`t believe I have to read this for work, right? Now we can update the cast of characters here from the "Playboy" model being paid by David Pecker at "The National Enquirer" not to write a fitness column, and the charming and hilarious, smart adult film star with the bombastic lawyer who maybe is going to run for president, to that cast of characters, we can now add the chief tech guy from televangelist university who was moonlighting from the Jerry Falwell school by taking bags of cash and maybe boxing memorabilia as payment for trying to rig Drudge Report polls to get Trump to seem like a top-tier candidate.
It`s too stupid and dirty to care about, right? Instinctively, that is what you are feeling, but sometimes crime is small and dirty and boring and embarrassing. I mean, after "The Wall Street Journal" broke this story this morning, Michael Cohen said publicly online, quote: As for "The Wall Street Journal" article on poll rigging, what I did was at the direction of and for the sole benefit of Donald Trump.
And embarrassing as this all is, if Donald Trump did not this was happening on his behalf, and if he did direct it and if he did pay Michael Cohen $50,000 for this service and Michael Cohen did turn around and pay this contractor a bag of dirty $2 bills for this service plus a boxing glove, and this service was designed to increase Trump`s perceived public standing so he would be seen as a credible presidential candidate so this would help him in the election then, yes, this is dirty and small and hilarious, but this is also in the same ballpark as the felony campaign finance violation that is already sending Michael Cohen to federal prison for three years. He starts his sentence in a few weeks. And it`s the kind of case for which the president has already earned the legal moniker Individual Number One.
If this was an illegal campaign contribution, if this was an in-kind payment to aid the president`s election that was not reported as such, that may not seem like the most important thing of this disgusting little story, but it may be the criminal part. And that question of whether the president was in on this, whether the president, as Michael Cohen says, knew about this and directed it, that may end up being a question of critical legal significance for the president and for the presidency.
And Emily Jane Fox is going to break some news on that front here with us next.
MADDOW: Joining us now here on set is Emily Jane Fox, senior reporter at "Vanity Fair."
Emily Jane, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here.
EMILY JANE FOX, SENIOR REPORTER, VANITY FAIR: Thank you.
MADDOW: So the story broke in "The Wall Street Journal" this morning that Michael Cohen was paid $50,000 by either Mr. Trump or the Trump Organization, I`m not sure which, for something that Cohen sort of invoiced as technical services. "Wall Street Journal," we found out that some reimbursement like that had happened. We found out during earlier charging documents concerning Mr. Cohen. "Wall Street Journal" appears to have tracked that down and figured out he was paying a guy at Liberty University to rig online polls to make Trump seem like a better candidate.
Now, does Mr. Cohen deny that this happened?
FOX: No, I think he said in his tweet today -- there was no denial there. What he said very clearly today was, I did this at the direction of President Trump, which is what he has said about the other things that he pleaded guilty to last year, and it was the exact same language.
FOX: He expressed his remorse. And I think from my reporting today, what I know is that only does Cohen say this, but there are documents or there is a document that backs up his claim.
MADDOW: There`s a physical document that backs up his claim that the president was aware of this, the president directed --
FOX: The president was aware that this was happening.
MADDOW: Now, the president does not use e-mail. At least we believe. The president, we don`t think, uses a computer at all.
FOX: From all my reporting, I -- in every reporting I`ve done on the president, he doesn`t text, he doesn`t e-mail.
MADDOW: So it wouldn`t have been an electronic communication.
FOX: I don`t know what the document is, but there is documentation.
Now, this is what I will say about Cohen. He has pleaded guilty to lying about things. There have been things in the past that he has lied to me as a reporter about, other reporters about, that he has lied about publicly. Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress. That is part of the reason why he is going to prison in March.
FOX: It would seem incomprehensible to me and against any better judgment for him to go to Congress again and lie. He`s already going to prison for this.
So, this is the kind of thing, this document and what he is saying about the president directing him or the president`s knowledge about this payment ahead of time is the exact kind of thing I`m sure he`ll be asked about on February 7th when he goes to Capitol Hill. This is the whole reason why he`s going.
There are things in the Mueller probe that Cohen will not be allowed to talk about. There are things in that investigation that are going to be totally off the table. This seems to me to be squarely in line with what he`s going to be asked about and allowed to talk about and that`s why this hearing is going to be so important.
It would just be unbelievable for me to believe that Cohen would go and lie to Congress again about this.
MADDOW: So let me just -- let me be totally clear about what we`ve got here. Cohen has said publicly he did this at the direction of Donald Trump. You say that he`s told you that there is a document that backs that up.
FOX: My reporting.
MADDOW: Your reporting is that there is a document that backs that up.
MADDOW: And that Cohen has access to that document?
FOX: I would -- I would assume that he has access to this document.
MADDOW: Do we know if this is something that he has discussed already with either the Southern District of New York, which prosecuted him on the other campaign finance felonies or with the special counsel`s office or with other investigators.
FOX: Here`s what I do know. I know he has spent upwards of 70 hours with investigators. If there is something that is pertinent to one of the cases he is involved in, he`s shared it. You`re not sitting in rooms with investigators twiddling your thumbs or talking about the weather. You`re talking about everything you know that is relevant to those investigations.
I know he wasn`t an official cooperating witness in the southern district of my New York, but it was my understanding he was fairly if not fully cooperative in the investigations we have known about publicly.
MADDOW: Is it your impression -- my last question for you on this. Is it your impression what "The Wall Street Journal`s" describing and what Cohen is not denying and what there may or may not be documentation of in terms of backing up his assertion this is at the direction of the president -- is it your understanding that this is the same kind of campaign-related expenditure that may be -- may have criminal implications?
FOX: How could it not be? I mean, it`s not $130,000 to one woman.
FOX: But if it is a payment that was made at the direction of President Trump and potentially could have influenced the election, isn`t that the exact kind of payment that Cohen was in trouble for and the exact kind of payment people in this network has been saying for months could potentially implicate the president or Individual One? It`s the same thing in my mind.
MADDOW: Well, we will see if it is ever adjudicated. There, of course, is the complicated question you`re allowed to spend as much money as you want on your campaign. You have to declare.
FOX: That pesky little rule.
MADDOW: Stuff it in a boxing glove and stick it in someone`s carry-on bag. This is remarkable.
Emily Jane Fox, senior "Vanity Fair" reporter -- Emily, thank you very much. Much appreciated.
FOX: Thank you so much.
MADDOW: All right. Much more to get to. Stay with us.
MADDOW: We have been covering unexpectedly suspenseful effort over this past week to try to block the Trump administration from dropping sanctions against companies associated with a Putin allied Russian oligarch named Oleg Deripaska. Deripaska has been sanctioned over Russia`s interference in our election.
When the effort to stop the lifting of those sanctions came up for a vote in the Senate yesterday, 11 Republicans broke ranks with Republican leadership and with the Trump White House and voted with the Democrats that the Trump administration`s plan to lift those sanctions should be revoked, should be blocked. The vote to block the administration from lifting those sanctions, it was 57-42, and that sounds like it won.
That`s a big majority, right, 57 votes, 11 Republicans joining the Democrats, breaking ranks, but still that wasn`t enough to get them to the 60-vote threshold they needed to stop this thing. So they got close to stopping it in the Senate. They did fall short by a couple of Republican votes. You can thank Mitt Romney and Lindsey Graham.
But check this out. Today, Democrats in the House introduced their own version of this resolution trying to block the lifting of sanctions on Deripaska`s companies. And in the House, they hit it out of the park. The House voted overwhelmingly to stop the Trump administration from lifting the Deripaska sanctions.
The vote in the House was 362-53. Of the 362 yes votes, there were 136 Republicans who broke ranks, who joined House Democrats today in a big bipartisan overwhelming rebuke of the Trump administration on this issue. And the House vote alone cannot stop the Trump administration from lifting these sanctions on Deripaska`s companies. Can`t do it without the Senate passing it, too.
But the House spoke in a pretty unified voice. That`s a lot of Republicans, way more Republicans telling the Trump administration they`re wrong on this than siding with the Trump administration on this.
Now what does this mean going forward? A super pointed question you ought to be asking about that is coming up next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Check this out. You may remember this. It`s a video posted to Instagram a couple of years ago. Two guys on a yacht, apparently somewhere in Norway. Pretty scenery, fancy yacht, lots of random jump cuts and there`s some dance music.
But if you ignore the weird production of it and look really closely, one of those guys on the yacht reportedly is Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. A Belarusian woman named Anastasia Vashukevich posted this video to Instagram in August of 2016, so during the 2016 campaign, along with some audio of someone she says is Oleg Deripaska discussing relations between the U.S. and Russia.
Her video was uncovered last year by the anti-Putin Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. He used the video in his own work. He argued that the yacht trip amounted to a bribe paid by Deripaska to the other guy on the boat with him, who is allegedly the Russian deputy prime minister.
Now, Oleg Deripaska famously was the patron of Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort. Manafort reportedly owed him millions of dollars before joining the Trump campaign where he offered to work for free. Manafort also offered Deripaska private briefings on the campaign while he was Trump`s campaign chair.
The apparent video of Deripaska on the yacht with Russia`s deputy prime minister, it got a lot of attention at the time, including in the American press, but shortly after that news appeared, just three weeks after the video appeared online, the woman who had posted the video, Anastasia Vashukevich, she got arrested in Thailand. She said she was in Thailand teaching seduction seminars for tourists.
She was initially arrested for working without a permit. She said she was scared of being deported. She was scared specifically of ending up in Russian hands. And it was under those circumstances from inside a detention center in Bangkok that Anastasia made a very startling claim.
She said that she had more recordings of Oleg Deripaska. She said she had audiotape, in which you can hear Deripaska and his associates discussing the U.S. 2016 presidential election. She said those tapes would specifically shed light on the Russian government`s interference in that election.
She told "The New York Times," quote: They were discussing elections. Deripaska had a plan about elections.
She said she also had recordings of conversations between Deripaska and three people who spoke English fluently, people who she thought were Americans.
Now, to be clear, Deripaska has denied any wrongdoing, denied any involvement in Russian interference in the U.S. election. He`s denied that Russia did interfere in the U.S. election. As far as we know, nobody`s heard these tapes or can confirm whether or not they exist, but there Anastasia Vashukevich was in March making those claims and in conjunction with these claims pleading with the United States government to please give her asylum and fleeing specifically that if she was able to get out of jail in Thailand, that she please not get deported back to Russia.
Quote: If America gives me protection, I will tell everything I know. I am afraid to go back to Russia. Some strange things can happen.
She stayed in that jail for months in Thailand. She would end up charged soliciting prostitution. She faced a decade in prison.
According to "The New York Times", the FBI did try to get in touch with her when she detained but she definitely never got the asylum she was seeking from the United States. In August, she said she no longer had these tapes. She said she had given them to Deripaska and promised him her silence.
But then on Tuesday, in an unexpected move, she appeared in court, pled guilty to prostitution charges and under a deal worked out ahead of time with the judge apparently, that guilty plea laid the groundwork for her to be released, time served, you`re out. Released and deported.
A friend of hers told "The Washington Post" she was hoping to be deported somewhere on earth other than Russia. If a situation like this could be described as hopeful -- well, Thailand shipped her out of the country this morning. She reportedly had been offered safe passage on her way home to Belarus. She reportedly had been told that even show she would have to stop in Moscow on her commercial flight on her way home to Belarus, she would be allowed to proceed home.
But today when she landed in Moscow for a change of flights, she was arrested. She was taken at the airport. There were a ton of journalists in that airport waiting there to try to talk to her. She was not allowed to speak to anybody. She was taken by Russian law enforcement.
She had asked for help months ago after challenging this Russian oligarch, challenging Oleg Deripaska and said she had evidence of his involvement in what happened in our election. She wanted U.S. help. She definitely did not get U.S. help. What happens now we don`t know.
While all of that has been playing out on the other side of the world, stateside, we have been following a very little different challenge to Oleg Deripaska. The Trump administration moved just before Christmas to drop U.S. sanctions on all of his companies.
As we have been covering on Monday, 11 Republicans in the Senate joined Democrats in trying to block that plan, but that effort fell two votes short. In the House today, though, as I mentioned, it was a different story. Today in the House, 136 Republicans, nearly 70 percent of the Republican members of the House, joined the Democrats in saying no, no sanctions relief for Deripaska, not now, not in the middle of this.
Other intelligence consequences of what`s going on around this Russian oligarch, these votes and this action overseas.
Congressman Eric Swalwell joins us live in just a moment.
MADDOW: Joining us now is Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. He`s on both the Intelligence Committee and the Judiciary Committee.
Congressman, it`s really nice to have you here tonight. Thanks for your time.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Yes, thank you, Rachel. Thanks for having me back.
MADDOW: I want to ask you first about -- actually just about the shutdown. I don`t know if you have any insights for us or any predictions for us about how and when this is finally going to end. I don`t know if you can tell if the end is coming.
SWALWELL: Boy, I hope it`s coming. Before the show, I was serving meals to federal workers at the World Central Kitchen with Jose Andres` team, and it was very hard to see, you know, FBI, police officers in uniform coming in for meals, mothers bringing their kids. And it was also federal workers volunteering to serve other federal workers, showing solidarity with their colleagues.
And they just want us to open up government. I heard time after time. Whatever the politics is here, can you at least just open up government and then negotiate what has to be done for border security.
MADDOW: We`ve seen an interesting I think sort of collapse of what is the usual partisan divide in Congress, specifically on this issue of Russian sanctions over the past few days. We saw 11 Republican senators peel off from their leadership and from the Trump White House in the Senate. We saw 136 Republicans today in the House peel off from the Trump White House and join Democrats to try to stop the Trump administration from lifting Russian sanctions associated with Oleg Deripaska.
I know the shutdown and the sanctions issue are different things, but I wondered if that kind of fissure, that kind of fracturing of our usual partisan expectations gives you some hope.
SWALWELL: Well, it does. It also shows and demonstrates that there`s bipartisan consensus in both chambers. Over 400 members between both chambers that believe that this is a bad move for our national security, and also recognizes that sanctions are a tactic to change behavior. And Russia hasn`t changed its behavior.
Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that they actually sought to interfere in the 2018 election just as they were in the 2016 election. So why would we be rewarding them?
I`ll just say this, Rachel. If you`re looking at a quid pro quo, I think you can file this under the quo. More quo evidence between Donald Trump and Russia. And it`s actually dramatically sped up since that Helsinki meeting, where we don`t know what was said, where the interpreter`s notes have been taken by the president.
Since that meeting with Vladimir Putin, President Trump has now sought to ease sanctions, he`s pulled us abruptly out of Syria, and now we`ve learned from reporting he has time after time talked about pulling us out of NATO. And just today as Speaker Pelosi was going to Brussels to meet with NATO leadership, he cancels her trip, which may be a petty move in light of what`s going on with the shutdown on his part, but may also be I think his insecurity about demonstrating support for NATO.
MADDOW: On that specific vote in Congress, too, I`m also struck by the fact that we`ve had a whole bunch of revelations and hard questions raised specifically about Deripaska while the Trump administration is lifting sanctions specifically on his companies. I mean, we just got that the somewhat inadvertent revelation that Manafort was sharing polling data from inside the campaign with his intermediary with Deripaska, who is a guy associated with Russian intelligence. Deripaska, of course, is the guy who Manafort was offering private briefings too.
There`s this disturbing case of this Belarusian woman who just got out of prison saying -- after having said that she had damning evidence linking Oleg Deripaska to the Russian election interference effort. She had apparently given assurances that she would be left alone by Russia and allowed to go home. Russia then picked her up at the Moscow airport today and she hasn`t been heard from since. I mean, all of these things are sort of Deripaska adjacent. While the administration is moving to ease sanctions specifically related to him.
SWALWELL: Yes, there are only open questions about Deripaska, and there`s none that have been closed. We know that the Mueller investigation is still open, that the line of inquiry into Paul Manafort is still open. His sentencing hasn`t occurred. And Manafort had a direct line of communication to Deripaska.
There`s classified information about Deripaska as well that Mr. Schiff, our chairman, talked about. Not the classified information but the existence of it, on the floor today. We know he`s connected to Vladimir Putin.
I think the most responsible thing to do would be if there`s ever going to be a discussion about easing sanctions against Russia, have that conversation, have that discussion after the Mueller investigation is closed.
MADDOW: Congressman Eric Swalwell from the Intelligence Committee, the Judiciary Committee -- sir, thank you very much. Good to have you here.
SWALWELL: My pleasure. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Thanks for being with us tonight. For the record, I just want to say there is no symbolic significance to the fact I`m accidentally wearing a blue blazer instead of the same black blazer I`ve been wearing for the past 2 1/2 years. I didn`t realize it was blue.
The lighting in my office is a little dim and I`m getting old. We`ll be back to black tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
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