JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And if we`re going talk the talk, we need to walk the walk. So, yes, I think in different ways.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Julian Castro, former secretary of HUD and running for president of the United States, based out of San Antonio -- good to have you here in New York.
CASTRO: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: Come by any time. Thank you.
And 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: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
A very busy news day today. We`ve got sort of a packed show tonight. Lots going on, including a little bit of breaking news that we`re going get to in just a moment.
But the wake of last night`s State of the Union Address, President Trump today, you may have noticed, he did not set off on any kind of message- driven bus tour or any other kind of political event somewhere out in the country, trying to sell the elements of his State of the Union Address from last night.
Presidents always used to do that. I mean successfully or not, they would at least try. You remember like George W. Bush trying to sell his privatized social security plan, right? He did this traveling road show on that, which ended up making that idea less popular every time he did a new event. But at least he tried.
You might remember President Obama and Vice President Biden going off on a road trip and making appearances with preschoolers to try to promote the prekindergarten initiative from one of the Obama State of the Union Addresses at the start of his second term. And who knows if these kinds of hammer home the message tours actually do anything after a State of the Union Address in terms of persuading Congress to pass legislation to effectuate that presidential idea and pass appropriations to fund it. But at least those stunts, those trips, they did at least have the effect of keeping the press focused on the president`s message from the speech. For a few more days after the biggest speech of the year was over, and those efforts do at least show a president exerting a little bit of energy, trying to at least maybe make a gesture toward selling his key ideas from his biggest speech of the year.
This year didn`t happen. This year after the State of the Union Address last night, they are not even trying anything like that, not with this president. And maybe that makes sense to the extent that the big takeaway message from this State of the Union was the president`s somewhat odd declaration that there can be no more investigations of him with the implied "or else" threat.
I mean, if that`s the point of this year`s State of the Union, there really is no need for any sort of presidential stunt or bus tour trip to keep the focus on that weird line in the president`s speech and that key element of his presidency. I mean, he doesn`t need to do anything to change the fact that the ambient news hook events around this State of the Union this year were what happened the day before the address, which is federal prosecutors subpoenaing his inaugural committee, and what happened the day after his address, today, when the Intelligence Committee announced the parameters for its renewed investigation of the president, including spelling out the lines of inquiry that have since arisen, that have derived from the original sin inquiry into Russia interfering in the 2016 presidential election to make Donald Trump president in the fist place.
And I know you have probably seen headlines today about the Intelligence Committee announcing the parameters of its new investigation now, right? Yes, there was an investigation when the Republicans were in control. They ended early, closed up shop and said no collusion. Now the Democrats are in control.
Now, Adam Schiff is the chairman of the Intelligence Committee. Chairman Schiff and the Democrats in his committee will be able to employ subpoena power for that investigation. And you probably saw headlines about them announcing the parameters of that investigation today. But did you actually look at what they announced?
I mean, just -- I knew they announced something. This is not what I was expecting. This is way more of a capital doozy than anybody was expecting outside of this committee.
Check what they announced. Quote, in the more than two years since the intelligence community released its assessment of Russia`s malign influence operation targeting the 2016 U.S. elections, much has been learned about the scope and scale of the attack on our democracy, including how covert and overt Russian activities -- excuse me -- covert and overt Russian activities intersected with individuals associated with Donald Trump`s presidential campaign, transition, administration, and business interests, including the Trump Organization.
From late 2015 through early 2017, individuals close to Donald Trump engaged in a significant number of contacts with an array of individuals connected to or working on behalf of the Russian government, and several of these contacts involved efforts to acquire and disseminate damaging information about Hillary Clinton and her campaign or related to Russia`s desired relief from U.S. sanctions. Quote: During the prior Congress, the committee began to pursue credible reports of money laundering and financial compromise related to the business interests of President Trump, his family, and his associates. Unfortunately, these and numerous other avenues of inquiry were not completed during the last Congress. Now, in this new Congress, the committee`s investigation will focus principally on five interconnect lines of inquiry, beginning with these, incomplete or unexamined investigative threads.
So, this is where they say the investigation is going to go from here on out. There is five items. The first two items are going to sound a little bit familiar to you. They are in some important ways new, but they are going to sound familiar.
Here is the first one, quote: The intelligence committee says it will investigate number one, quote, the scope and scale of the Russian government`s operations to influence the U.S. political process and the U.S. government`s response during and since the 2016 election. So, this is close to the sort of remit that the Mueller investigation was given when Mueller was appointed as special counsel to look into Russian governments` operations to interfere in the 2016 election.
But you will note this is a little broader, right? This is about influencing the U.S. political process more broadly, and it expands from just the 2016 election to include time since the 2016 election as well. So even though that is familiar, that first point, it is also expanded. That`s one.
Two, the Intelligence Committee also says that it will investigate the extent of any links and/or coordination between the Russian government or related foreign actors and individuals associated with Donald Trump`s campaign, transition, administration, or business interests in furtherance of the Russian government`s interests. And, again, this sounds familiar, right? It sounds familiar from the remit of the Mueller investigation, right?
This is collusion. This is looking at whether the Trump campaign was involved in what Russia did. But it is a broader definition, right? Links or coordination between all sorts of people associated with Donald Trump and the Russian government or foreign actors associated with the Russian government. So, again, it looks similar to what Mueller`s remit is, but it is a little bit broader, including extending into the transition and the current administration.
And now look at this. This is brand-new. The intelligence committee is also going to investigate, quote, whether any foreign actor has sought to compromise or holds level, financial or otherwise, over Donald Trump, his family, his business, or his associates. This means they`re now officially and with subpoena power investigating directly the thing that you shout out in the dark in the middle of the night when you wake up sweating and you thought it was a dream and you didn`t realize you said it out loud. You know how you wake up in the night drenched in sweat saying what if the president is a foreign agent?
That`s point number three. They`re actually just looking at that. How foreign actors sought to compromise or hold leverage over the president, his family, his business, or his associates financially or otherwise. Yes.
Is the president a Russian agent? Or his family or his business or his associates, have they be compromised by foreign actors, including Russia? That would be a good thing to know. It would help us all sleep, for one thing.
But there is more. Number four, the Intelligence Committee will investigate, quote, whether president Trump, his family or his associates are or were at any time at heightened risk of or vulnerable to foreign exploitation, inducement, manipulation, pressure or coercion or sought to influence U.S. government policy in service of foreign interests.
In other words, has the Russian government or any other foreign interest succeeded in these efforts? Have they by any means succeed in getting the president or his family or people associated with him to act on behalf of foreign interests when it comes to U.S. policy.
So, number one, have they been compromised. Number two, have they been acting essentially as a Russian or otherwise foreign agent in trying to influence the United States and our policies. Gulp.
And lastly, number five, whether -- the Intelligence Committee, the fifth of their five points today, happy State of the Union, Mr. President. They`re also looking into this. They`re looking into whether any actors, foreign or domestic, sought or are seeking to impede, obstruct, and/or mislead authorized investigations into these matters, including those in the Congress.
So that`s broadly obstruction, right? Anybody in foreign countries or here, have they lied to or misled or blocked or attempted to intimidate or otherwise divert the Mueller investigation or any other law enforcement investigation related to this matter or any of the congressional inquiries that relate to this matter? Five points.
And I don`t know what the president was hoping for last night when he decided to say in his State of the Union Address that Congress shouldn`t investigate him anymore or the country gets it, but I cannot imagine this was the desired result of that now indelible and permanent line that will always be part of the history of the Trump presidency and the history of the State of the Union Address in America. And these five threads that the Intelligence Committee says they`re going to investigate, this isn`t just a Democratic wish list for what they hope people might look into. This isn`t just like a table of contents for stuff to worry about and sweat over in the night. This is now the stated parameters of the new active intelligence committee investigation in the House of Representatives under Democratic leadership who have subpoena power.
Today in their first act, the Intelligence Committee also voted to convey witness transcripts to the special counsel, to Robert Mueller. Mueller, of course, has already charged two people associated with the president for lying to Congress. Mueller has charged -- or federal prosecutors have charged the president`s long-time political adviser Roger Stone, also, the president`s long-time personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.
Federal prosecutors have also made reference to Sam Patten allegedly lying to Congress in the plea deal that Patten made over his funnels foreign money into the Trump inauguration. Now, we do not know if anybody else that has testified with the Intelligence Committee is likely to face the same kind of trouble in terms of potential felony charges, potential legal liability for having lied to Congress under oath, but this is a whole lot of transcripts that Mueller received today from the Intelligence Committee.
These are a lot of witnesses that we are talking about here, including the president`s eldest son and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Trump campaign figures including Brad Parscale, who is his new campaign manager, and Steve Bannon, who ran the Trump campaign after Paul Manafort, and Hope Hicks and Corey Lewandowski and Erik Prince of Blackwater fame, right? And Keith Schiller, the president`s long-time bodyguard. Alexander Nix from Cambridge Analytica, former Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, the president`s long time secretary from his business, Rhona Graff.
I mean, lots and lots of people, transcripts amounting to thousands of pages. And, again, we don`t know if any of those people, any of those witnesses who testified under oath before the Intel Committee, we don`t know if any of them are facing any kind of felony legal jeopardy that Roger Stone and Michael Cohen have run up against and Sam Patten have run up against in their dealings with federal prosecutors. But the conveying of these official transcripts to Robert Mueller`s office today means that the special counsel, if they do want the bring legal charges against anyone for false statements in this testimony, the special counsel now has the ability to do that with these official transcripts.
So, in terms of what`s going to happen next here, don`t expect a bus tour from the president to highlight his State of the Union messages, such as they were. The president`s long-time personal lawyer Michael Cohen had been scheduled to testify in Congress in public tomorrow, an open door hearing in Congress before the House Oversight Committee. That has now been delayed after Mr. Cohen said he felt his own safety and that of his family was in jeopardy because of threats from the president.
The day after tomorrow, Mr. Cohen had been scheduled to testify behind closed doors to the Intelligence Committee. That as of today has also now been put off. They have rescheduled that testimony for February 28th.
There`s a couple of things interesting about that testimony being rescheduled. First of all, I think it`s interesting to note that these committees, these members of Congress who are expecting him and his testimony, none of them seem to be angry or dissatisfied with Michael Cohen for this delay. Everybody is saying that Cohen is still being cooperative. They`re not upset with him. They do not think that he is dodging them.
Congresswoman Jackie Speier today, veteran member of the Intelligence Committee, she told reporters today that this delay should not be blamed on Cohen. She said, quote, I think he is being very cooperative. She said the delay is, quote, not at his request.
Well, who did want the delay, then? Congressman Adam Schiff, the new chairman of the Intelligence Committee, added somewhat cryptically today that the delay of Michael Cohen`s testimony was, quote, in the interests of the investigation. When Congressman Schiff was asked by reporters today to explain what that meant, he helpfully said Mr. Cohen`s testimony was delayed in the interests of the investigation. Just repeated his previous cryptic statement, basically telling reporters, listen, that`s all you`re getting.
And so I think there are a couple of things to watch here. As I mentioned on Monday of this week, on the eve of the State of the Union Address, prosecutors from the Southern District of New York did issue a subpoena to the president`s inaugural committee. Now, we don`t know if that relates at all to this delay in Michael Cohen`s congressional testimony. Or why delaying his testimony is something that might have been done in the interests of the investigation.
But keen-eyed observers have noted that the prosecutor whose named on the subpoena to the inaugural committee is one of the same prosecutors who was involved in prosecuting the Michael Cohen case in the Southern District of New York. So that suggests that perhaps there is some overlap there. It has also been reported that the subpoena to the Trump inaugural committee asked specific questions about one specific donor, interestingly, a donor who had previously given to Obama and Clinton, who nevertheless became a very enthusiastic Trump donor once Trump won the election. He is mentioned in the subpoena, specifically, he is reported to have had dealings with Michael Cohen.
So, it`s possible that whatever is going on with this federal investigation and this federal grand jury subpoena to the president`s inaugural committee this week, it`s possible that that is quite substantively related to Michael Cohen, to whatever is going on in his criminal case right now as he awaits the start of his federal prison sentence a month from today. It may have to do with the delays to what had been expected otherwise to be his congressional testimony this week.
Also, there is this new reporting from CNN as of last night, as yet unmatched by any other news organization, but CNN reported last night that prosecutors from the Southern District of New York are also now seeking interviews with Trump Organization executives, meaning with executives from the president`s business. Now why would federal prosecutors be seeking interviews with Trump Organization executives now? We don`t know.
We know the special counsel`s office subpoenaed the Trump Organization almost a year ago, last March. We know Michael Cohen has since been charged by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York in that hush money case, which implicated the president himself in effectively laundering money through the Trump Organization in order to make an illegal campaign contribution.
We know that Mueller has since charged Cohen with lying to Congress about the Trump Organization and their dealings with the Trump Tower Moscow project during the presidential campaign. So, again, we don`t have any clear window into why Michael Cohen is all of the sudden no longer testifying to Congress this week, and members of Congress who were expecting his testimony seem to be not at all bothered by that today, not at all bothered by that tonight. They say the delays are in the interest of the investigation, and they won`t explain any further.
So we don`t have a clear window into what all of that means, but we can see the various dots here. It`s just a question of how they connect. It seems clear that something is afoot here, that something is brewing, but we will continue to watch that story tonight as it continues to develop.
And as we were watching that story continue to develop tonight, as we were watching that story continue to develop tonight, we also got a legitimate surprise new development out of South Dakota, of all places. This indictment has just been filed by federal prosecutors in South Dakota. It lays out 11 felony charges against a long-time Republican Party and NRA activist named Paul Erickson.
Now, Paul Erickson, that name is ringing a bell for you because he is reportedly the boyfriend of Maria Butina, Maria Butina, the Russian citizen who was charged last summer with acting as an agent of the Russian government in an effort to cultivate the American Republican Party ahead of the 2016 election and the American conservative movement on behalf of the Russian government using gun rights and using the NRA as a point of entry. Maria Butina was arrested and charged in July. She plead guilty in December and agreed to start cooperating with prosecutors.
We have since learned through inadvertently unsealed court filings that she has been testifying before a grand jury in Washington as part of her cooperation. Paul Erickson, her purported American boyfriend was clearly referenced in the charging documents related to the Maria Butina case. He was clearly referenced as essentially her co-conspirator in the Russian influence operation that she was initially charged with. And that led to interesting and until now unanswered questions about why Maria Butina was the one sitting in jail while her American boyfriend and alleged co- conspirator was still at large.
Well, now, he is technically still at large, although he is only at large because he is out on bond. He is now charged with 11 felonies -- 11 felony counts of wire fraud and money laundering.
Now, this indictment was issued yesterday. He appeared in court in South Dakota today. He pled not guilty to each of the 11 felony charges. As I mentioned, he is now out on bond.
And it is hard at this point to tell if this is some sort of strange South Dakota offshoot from the main Russia investigation, or is this an important new avenue in that investigation. But this indictment we have just learned about it tonight, we`re going get some expert help on that from South Dakota coming up next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: So we are following the breaking news tonight of the latest indictment that appears to be related to or at least adjacent to the Russia investigation. There have been a whole bunch of Russian nationals hit with U.S. criminal charges since Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel to investigate the Russian attack on our election in 2016. A dozen GRU officials from Russian military intelligence were charged, a bunch of people employed by the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, Russia, which was run by a Putin-aligned oligarch. That Putin-aligned oligarch himself has been charged by the Justice Department. His Russian company was also charged.
But the only Russian citizen who was both charged by the Justice Department and then actually was arrested and turned up in a U.S. courtroom, there has only been one of them, and that is Maria Butina. She was charged last year with acting as a secret agent of the Russian Federation. According to prosecutors, she was dispatched by Russian government officials to infiltrate the Republican Party and the American conservative movement through the pretext of gun rights and the NRA.
Well, the man who`s the subject of this latest indictment tonight is described in the case against Maria Butina as her American boyfriend. His name is Paul Erickson. He is 56 years old. He is a long-time Republican Party and conservative activist going back to his role on the Pat Buchanan for president campaign in 1992.
This indictment against him tonight describes alleged crimes that on the surface don`t appear to be Russia-related. They`re basically just accusing him of being a crook, although there are some intriguing clues here. Let me read you a little piece of the indictment.
Quote: From on or about 1996 to August 2018 in the district of South Dakota and elsewhere, the defendant, Paul Erickson, did knowingly and unlawfully device a scheme and artifice to defraud and obtain money by means of false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises. Defendant Paul Erickson was a resident of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, who solely owned and operated a number of business entities, including Compass Care Incorporated, Investing with Dignity, LLC, and an unnamed venture to develop land in the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota. The object and purpose of the scheme was for the defendant to unjustly enrich himself at the expense of people he defrauded.
The indictment goes on to explain that Erickson was persuading people to invest in these company`s named earlier in the indictment which supposedly built assisted living facilities in the case of Compass Care. The investing with Dignity one was supposedly a company that was going to build wheelchairs that would allow people using these chairs to go to the bathroom without needing help from somebody else to lift them out of the chair. The unnamed Bakken oil field one was apparently a retail venture, a home building venture, to build homes for workers in the North Dakota oil fields.
In the indictment, though, prosecutors say despite all of those supposed investment opportunities, what Erickson was really just doing was taking people`s money, in amounts ranging from five grand from someone with the initials K.H. to over half a million dollars from somebody with the initials V.T.
Now, what does this have to do with Paul Erickson`s purported Russian secret agent girlfriend, now that she`s plead guilty and is cooperating with prosecutors? We don`t know, but in the indictment, somebody with the initials M.B. appears to have been paid out some of the proceeds of this alleged fraud. The indictment also flags a large payment from Paul Erickson to American University where Maria Butina was enrolled at school.
There is also a $14,000 cash withdrawal that is flagged by prosecutors. That occurs right at the time that Maria Butina and Paul Erickson were bringing a delegation of NRA officials to Moscow to meet with high-ranking Russian government officials.
Joining us now is Seth Tupper. He is an enterprise report for the "Rapid City Journal" in South Dakota. He joins us by phone.
Mr. Tupper, thanks for joining us on short notice tonight. You have been really out in front on this story in South Dakota. I really appreciate you making time to talk to us tonight.
SETH TUPPER, RAPID CITY JOURNAL ENTERPRISE REPORTER (via telephone): Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So you`d reported in the past year on fraud allegations that had dogged Paul Erickson in South Dakota that didn`t necessarily seem to have anything to do with his involvement with Maria Butina in this somewhat exotic Russian agent case. Given what you have learned about those fraud allegations against him and those sort of rumors about potential financial wrongdoing by him, is this indictment tonight the kind of thing that you were ultimately expecting from federal prosecutors?
TUPPER: Certainly, yes. I did a profile of Erickson about a year ago, and for that profile I analyzed a lot of court records and spoke to a lot of sources, and it appeared to me that Erickson`s M.O. for quite some time had been exactly what`s described in this indictment today, that he got close to people, he offered them investment opportunities, even appeared to have somewhat of a form letter that he would send to people, offering them these amazing returns on this latest investment deal. He would say that he was only offering it to friends and family and people that were close to him.
And people would fall for this. And he would make the money and move on to something else. And it was always just informal allegations of fraud. He had been sued a few times, but he had never faced criminal charges until -- for any of this until today that I know of.
MADDOW: The thing that stuck with me from your profile on Erickson about a year ago, this past February was when you quoted Republican former legislator from Watertown, South Dakota, who told you, quote, he is the single biggest phony I`ve ever met in South Dakota politics.
And that stuck with me all this time because I felt like, OK, there is some view of the ground truth of about this guy, even if we don`t understand how this fits into the larger story about Maria Butina and the Russia investigation.
Do you feel you have any brighter window or any clearer window into how this fraud stuff may or may not relate to his relationship with Butina and the larger case that she`s involved with?
TUPPER: Well, I think the relation is that as I said, this has been his M.O. It just led him -- he`d been doing this, as it says in the indictment, at least all the way back to 1996 allegedly. As he went from one thing to another, eventually he met up with Maria Butina, and that was I think from what we know so far he got involved in just sort of another scheme with her, allegedly. This time, it was -- he bit off a little more than he could chew, perhaps, compared to some of his other dealings.
But we also know that from some reporting that I`ve done in the past that Maria Butina had been offered by prosecutors here in South Dakota, perhaps been offered something in exchange for her cooperation in the wire fraud and money laundering investigation into Erickson. And so, there could be a connection there. That could perhaps I would suspect maybe play a role in her sentencing if she did give investigators information on the South Dakota investigation and help them with that, perhaps that will play a role in her sentencing, by she is currently awaiting.
MADDOW: Right. In terms of prosecutors` narrative about her own case, that sort of cuts crosswise if in fact as you say she is helping prosecutors with this case against her purported boyfriend, even before she was arrested in the Russia secret agent case. Tangled web.
Seth Tupper, enterprise reporter for "The Rapid City Journal" in South Dakota. Thanks for your help in understanding this story tonight. I look forward to seeing you continue to follow this one up. Thanks, Seth.
TUPPER: You`re welcome and thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Much appreciated.
All right. Much more to get to here tonight. I said it is a busy night that includes the national president of the NAACP, Derrick Johnson, who is joining us live next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: "The Washington Post" tonight has just posted a blistering editorial with this headline, "Ralph Northam must resign."
Quote: His governorship has been irredeemably wrecked by the self- inflicted, racially callous and clueless mess he has made in recent days. Quote: Virginians deserve better. Mr. Northam`s time is up.
But today is day five of the scandal over this photo unearthed from his medical school yearbook page. And so far, Virginia`s governor, Ralph Northam, isn`t resigning. Calls of his resignation have come from inside and outside the Democratic Party and the Commonwealth of Virginia.
This "Washington Post" editorial is the latest blow. It will be a powerful one, though, given the influence of the post both as a national newspaper but also as a newspaper that covers Virginia intensively and that publishes on Virginia`s doorstep. Northam will either have to absorb this additional political blow tonight in the form of this editorial from "The Post," or it will be something that contributes to him leaving office.
We don`t yet know how this ends. The Northam scandal has been politically complicated and aggravated by serious and troubling but also contested allegations about Northam`s would-be successor, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax.
Dr. Vanessa Tyson, California college professor, has accused Justin Fairfax of sexually assaulting her in 2004 in a detailed account she released publicly today. Fairfax denies her claim. He did so before and after her powerful statement today. He says they did have a sexual encounter, but that it was consensual.
The Northam and Fairfax situation, of course, is further politically complicated and aggravated by the additional admission today from the third ranked would-be successor in the state, Attorney General Mark Herring, who today said he once wore blackface in college. Herring today issued a long apology, and he resigned as the chair of the Democratic Attorneys General Association.
But where is this going? I mean, I remember -- if you watch this show for a long time, you may remember, when we covered the gigantic corruption and bribery scandal involving then Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell a few years ago, remember that? Everybody in Virginia politics kept telling us that what was so amazing about the Bob McDonnell story is that ethics scandals like that didn`t happen in Virginia politics. That no Virginia governor had ever been involved in any kind of scandal of that magnitude, of that thing that Bob McDonnell got into.
Now, just a couple of years later, Virginia is in this mess involving not just the governor, but the other two top statewide officials as well all at once.
If you want to see the toll this is taking on some in Virginia politics, this is Virginia State Senator Louise Lucas, taking a moment to try to collect herself in a parking lot outside the Virginia state capitol today, where reporters were gathered in a scrum to try to follow this continually developing story.
Joining us now is Derrick Johnson. He`s the president of the NAACP nationwide.
Mr. Johnson, really appreciate you making time to be with us tonight. Thank you so much for joining us.
DERRICK JOHNSON, PRESIDENT & CEO, NAACP: Thank you for the opportunity.
MADDOW: So this obviously is a still evolving scandal that you and your organization is one of many calling for Governor Northam to resign. You released a statement calling Governor Northam`s failure to take accountability sickening, which is a word that stuck with me from your statement. It`s part of the reason I want to talk with you about this today.
As this evolved over the last few day, do you feel like this has just gotten worse as it has strung out, or do you feel like it`s evolving in a way that`s made you change your thoughts on it at all?
JOHNSON: It`s bizarre. First, the governor took accountability on Friday evening, and then on Saturday, in what I must say was an unusual press conference where he retracted whether or not that was him, he then state that he in fact was in blackface. He then talked about the fact that it`s hard to give shoe polish off the skin, and everyone knows that. I don`t know who he is speaking of.
So it was just bizarre, but not unusual considering the Southern culture. We have a problem in this nation where many Southerners are still trying to reconcile the concept with the Confederacy and racism. There is no way to address it other than denouncing the Confederacy, and Virginia, like most Southern states, they have truly come to grips that that was a treasonous act, and the outcome of the activity of the confederacy was strictly racist.
MADDOW: In terms of this -- as I mentioned continuing to evolve as a political story, there have been serious allegations now leveled against the Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, accused of sexual assault, including in a powerful statement today from the woman, California college professor who says -- who described what she said happened in detail. He denied that charge both before her statement today and since.
Simultaneous to the evolution on those charges and that story today, we also got the attorney general of the state, another statewide elected official saying that he, too, wore blackface. He wore blackface once when he was 19 years old in college.
Now that we`re looking at this, from the entire top tier of leadership in state politics, is this clear to you how this should resolve involving all of these leaders?
JOHNSON: Well, first of all, in NAACP, we denounce sexual assault under any circumstance. We`re going watch that scenario to see how it plays out. The fact that the attorney general also has come forth today to talk that he also was in blackface is not surprising.
You know, understanding, Rachel, that in the South, particularly after the Brown versus Board of Education decision, many parents withdrew their children from public education as a result of black children being allowed to receive the same access to education. But any time you have communities who live in close proximity, and there is the level of intentionality of separating those communities, the level of intentionality to dehumanize one of those communities, the level of intentionality to maintain a structural system of apartheid, there is no empathy for African Americans from the Southern residents.
And so, you have many young people who grew up during this era simply mocking African Americans, very similar to what took place in 1960 with release of "Birth of a Nation." It`s a continuation on the page in the yearbook for Northam. It was an individual dressed up in a Klan uniform.
For African-Americans, that is domestic terrorism, that is the symbol of domestic terrorism and for me and those who live in the South is something that should not be tolerated. And for Northam and the A.G., they have permitted to participate in this activity. And for that reason, we stand by our position. They should resign.
MADDOW: Derrick Johnson, the president and CEO of the NAACP -- sir, thank you for making time to be with us tonight. I really appreciate you being here.
JOHNSON: Thank you for the opportunity.
MADDOW: All right. We got a lot more ahead tonight. Do stay with us.
MADDOW: Today, for the first time in eight years plus, the House of Representative held a hearing on gun violence. Just do the math on that for a second. That means today was the first response by the U.S. House of Representatives, the first response, the first time anything since San Bernardino, since Las Vegas, since Parkland, Florida, since Aurora, Colorado, since Sandy Hook, since Newtown. The first time they have responded in any way now that Democrats are back in charge.
Also today, the House restarted hearings on climate change. At one point today, there were two climate change hearing going on in the House at the same time. One of those panels had not heard testimony on the subject in nine years.
Here`s another one to keep an eye on in this new Congress. Last night of course was the president`s State of the Union Address. He spent a considerable amount of time talking about the dignity of life, about the dignity of children`s lives in particular, about the importance of protecting their right to live a safe and healthy life.
What was missing from his speech last night, of course, was any mention of how his administration has been forcibly taking thousands of kids away from their parents at the Southern border and locking up the kids simply from their parents in a manner so disorganized that the exact number of children who have been taken way from their parents is still unknown. Well, now, after the Republican Congress not taking notion of that at all, after a long silence on that, Congress is now trying to get to the bottom of it.
Tomorrow the Democratic-led house will hold its fist substantive hearing on child separation hearings at the border under the Trump administration. It will be the first congressional hearing since the policy started more than a year ago and since thousands of kids have been taken away from their parents by action of the U.S. government. The lawmaker who is going to chair that hearing joins us next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The Democrats won control of the house in November. One material consequence of that is that the woman in charge of congressional oversight over the Department of Health and Human Services is now Democratic Congresswoman Diana DeGette. And tomorrow in that capacity, Congresswoman DeGette is going to lead the first hearing Congress has had into the Trump administration forcibly removing kids from their parents at the Southern border.
Congresswoman Diana DeGette joins us now.
Congresswoman, thanks very much for being with us tonight. I know this is a big night and tomorrow`s going to be a big day.
REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D), COLORADO: It`s good to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So I know that tomorrow is just presumably a start, but how high are your expectations in terms of what you`re going to be able to get out of the Trump administration and out of HHS about this policy of taking kids away from their moms and dads?
DEGETTE: Well, so in April last year, the administration announced that they were having this family separation, and we heard about all those kids taken away, but then later this fall, we found out from the government watchdog agencies, the GAO and the inspector general that this was happening much sooner, much sooner. And what they said, there may still be thousands of children out there who have been placed in foster homes or other places who have still not been reunited with the their families.
What we want to find out is when did this start, what is the policy, and obviously most importantly, what are we going to do to get these kids reunited with their parents?
MADDOW: One of the things that has been the most troubling just watching the legal wrangling over this, watching the ACLU case and others, is the government asserting and in some cases the court seeming to accept or at least observe that the Trump administration doesn`t have the capacity to figure out how to reunite these families, to figure out which kids go with which families. In your oversight role, is that something that you can at least force the question on, if not force into reality?
DEGETTE: Absolutely. I went to the border in June, and that`s exactly what happened, is when this policy came down, they just took the kids away. They sent the parents to the criminal system and then they placed the kids with the office of refugee resettlement in HHS. They didn`t even bother to try to figure out how to track them.
And then when the ACLU filed the court suit in California, they told the court that they couldn`t find a way to get the kids back together with their parents. Well, the judge forced them to do that, but still, as you say, Rachel, there are many kids out there who still haven`t been reunited and there`s this specter that there may be many more. This weekend, we got an affidavit from a government official saying he doesn`t believe that they can even find the parents.
Of course, that`s not acceptable. We`re not going to accept that. These kids are going to have long-term consequences from these separations. It`s just outrageous.
MADDOW: Obviously, the fact that the Republican-controlled Congress did not hold hearings on this, did not pursue this as a matter of oversight -- I mean, it says something about the difference between the parties. But now that your party is in the majority and that you are the chair of this oversight subcommittee and that you are convening this hearing, are you hopeful that the combination of the court`s interest and your oversight role can, in fact, compel the Trump administration to do what they haven`t yet been able or willing to do, that you can actually force them to do better when it comes to getting these kids home?
DEGETTE: Absolutely. I`ve been on this committee for many years as -- in the minority, as the ranking Democrat on the committee, and I`ve seen how frequently when we have these oversight hearings that that actually makes people do things.
And don`t forget, the court suit in California actually made them find the parents for most of these kids from the April executive order, and so I think that by doing this hearing, combined with the court case, we can make them do it. It`s not easy because they didn`t take records. They have to comb through three or four different data points. They have to in some cases take DNA samples.
It`s not easy, but it`s the right thing to do and we intend to make them do it. Tomorrow won`t be the end of the investigation. Whatever testimony we get tomorrow and whatever documents we get from the administration, we`re going to continue to pursue this up as high as we need to go in the agency.
MADDOW: This is obviously one of the most difficult -- at an emotional level, one of the most difficult things to wrangle with what the administration has done. But at a technical and logistical level, the fix here is going to be hard.
I have to say from all the times I`ve spoke with you on lots of different issues over the years, I`m glad you`re one of the key oversight people who is going to try to fix this. I think of you as one of the most practical people in the Congress and I long forward to see what you can get done here.
DEGETTE: You know, Rachel, thank you for that. This is why we have oversight. This is why we have checks and balances in our government.
MADDOW: Congressman Diana DeGette, chairs the Energy and Commerce Committees Oversight and Investigations Panel -- absolutely key right now in terms of sorting this out. Really appreciate your time tonight.
DEGETTE: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Good luck tomorrow. Thanks.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: As we wrap up tonight, I do just want to underscore a little bit of news that just happened here on this show, a new development in the growing and compounding scandals enveloping the top levels of state government in the great state of Virginia this week.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam continues to defy calls for his resignation over the scandal around the photo from his medical school yearbook page that shows a man in blackface and another in KKK robes. As he continues to deny those calls for resignation, you have seen the news today that the Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring also admitted he once wore blackface.
The Attorney General Mark Herring apologized. He stepped down as the head of the Association of Democratic Attorneys General today. But tonight this hour on our show, just a few minutes ago, the national president of the NAACP, Derrick Johnson, on our air called on Mark Herring to resign as Virginia attorney general. The NAACP had previously called for -- excuse me, for Governor Ralph Northam to resign. The national president of NAACP tonight extending that tonight to the attorney general of Virginia, Mark Herring, saying that he too should step down from office.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
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