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Cohen heads to Capitol Hill tomorrow. TRANSCRIPT: 2/25/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Ken Vogel

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  Let me have a final question, to Neera`s point --

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  Let me say I agree with that.  We did put the man on the moon and I appreciate that about the Green New Deal.  That there was a plan to put a man on the moon.  That`s my only point. 

HAYES:  Let me say that living through the 2008 primary about the mandate, Barack Obama was like, no, you can`t have the mandate and won the nomination.  OK, we have the mandate.  So, it`s like -- it mattered more what sort of consensus was in either the positions. 

Heather McGhee and Neera Tanden, thank you both. 

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. 

Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.  Happy Monday. 

Former CIA Director John Brennan is going to be joining us here in studio this hour.  Very happy to have Director Brennan here on the show tonight.  He and more than 50 other former senior national security officials have just signed onto a statement that says, in part, quote, we have lived and worked through national emergencies, and we support the president`s power to mobilize the executive branch to respond quickly in a genuine national emergency. 

But under no plausible assessment of the evidence is there a national emergency today that entitles President Trump to tap into funds appropriated for other purposes to build a wall at the southern border.  To our knowledge, the president`s assertion of a national emergency here is unprecedented. 

This statement from former senior national security officials who have served both Republican and Democratic administrations, this declaration from them comes as Congress prepares to vote on a resolution that would block the president`s declaration of an emergency, which he is using to try to build his wall between the United States and Mexico.  One of the things we will be talking about tonight with John Brennan and then otherwise this hour is the fact that that congressional resolution is going to be brought up in the House of Representatives tomorrow where it will definitely pass. 

And then Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell will not actually have the opportunity here to do his usual everyday trick where he just doesn`t allow things up for a vote if the president doesn`t want him too.  In this case, Mitch McConnell has no choice but to allow for a Senate vote on this resolution, blocking the president from declaring an emergency.  I mean, we won`t know for sure how it`s going to go until that vote actually happens but it actually looks now like enough Republican senators are peeling off from the White House on this issue, that when McConnell is forced to put this resolution on the floor, it looks like this thing is not just going to pass Nancy Pelosi`s House of Representatives, it looks like it is also going to pass Mitch McConnell`s Republican-controlled Senate too. 

So, again, we will have more on that over the course of this hour, including with John Brennan here live in studio coming up.  But that expected rebuke of this president, this rare instance of Congress and what`s expected to be a bipartisan fashion, you know, getting up on their hind lights to actually block this president from doing something, that`s a historic thing. 

We were in this eerie situation for about six hours today when both the president and the vice president were out of the country at the same time.  So it`s a little weird all these things are happening all at once.  The president`s trip to Asia, of course, is for his next one-on-one summit with the dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-un.  The last time he did this was in June of last year when he met the North Korean leader in Singapore. 

Do you remember what the big surprise was from the Singapore summit that Trump had with Kim Jong-un?  Remember the one thing that happened there and people were like, wait, was that supposed to happen?  That was the one where, surprise, President Trump announced that the U.S. would pull out of joint military exercises with the South Korean armed forces.  That`s something that the U.S. military and the South Korean military have been doing for decades, but in Singapore, President Trump unilaterally announced that the U.S. would stop doing those exercises.

And that announcement in Singapore was a surprise at the time.  It also just appeared to be sort of a gift, a unilateral concession in which the president got nothing from them. 

You might have seen headlines in recent days as he heads off to this next summit that national security officials, including Trump White House officials, are worried that at this next meeting with Kim Jong-un, Trump might again blurt out some sort of spontaneous, one-sided concession.  He might just sort of give away the store again in exchange for nothing.  People who have worked on these types of summits in the past are expressing concern now that Trump might be allowed to sort of freelance and think up his own deal points in the moment when he sits down with Kim Jong-un.

Part of the reason there are those concerns about this summit he`s about to have is because last time, he just unilaterally blurted out that the U.S. would pull out of those joint military exercises.  And you have to remember, after that last summit and that weird out of the blue concession from Trump, there emerged this awkward back story, because several months before that summit in Singapore, "The Wall Street Journal" reported where Trump first came up with that idea that the U.S. military should pull out of those joint exercises with South Korea.  "The Wall Street Journal" previously reported, quote: Around the same time in the summer of 2017, Mr. Trump had an idea about how to counter the nuclear threat posed by North Korea.  Where did he get that idea?  He got that idea according to "The Wall Street Journal," quote, after speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

So, I mean, big picture, of course, Russia wants to augment its own influence, they want to show off their own strength, their own intimidating presence anywhere they can in the world, but especially on their own borders, and their zero-sum view of the world.  Russia, of course, also wants to minimize the influence of the United States, the presence and projected power of the U.S. military and also NATO. 

As such, since Russia is a country that borders North Korea, Russia had long opposed there being joint U.S. military exercises with South Korea on the Korean peninsula.  Russia had long been against that.  Apparently, in the summer of 2017, Vladimir Putin called up Donald Trump and told Mr. Trump that Russia was against those joint military exercises, and Putin reportedly told Trump that Trump should be opposed to those exercises too. 

President Trump god got off the phone with Vladimir Putin in the summer of 2017, apparently convinced and told his White House advisers that as far as he was concerned, Putin was right, and those military exercises should definitely end.  That was Trump`s big idea for North Korea.  A big idea that he got on a phone call with Vladimir Putin. 

White House advisers, including then-Defense Secretary James Mattis apparently talked Trump out of ending those exercises in the summer of 2017, but then, in fact, when Trump went and met Kim Jong-un last summer in Singapore, in his own little "art of the deal" moment, he blurted out that apropos of nothing, in exchange for no concessions from the North Koreans, the U.S. would, in fact, pull out of those joint exercises. 

And everybody in national security, everybody in the Trump administration, White House advisers, everybody was like, dude, where did that come from?  It`s actually in the public record, he got that from Putin.  That is where he got the idea.  And then he enacted it when he was given the opportunity at a one-on-one meeting between him and Kim Jong-un. 

Then just last week, there was another awkward episode in this same tragic comic opera when Andrew McCabe, former senior FBI official, published his book about his experiences with President Trump and the FBI`s challenges in the context of the Trump presidency, one of the anecdotes he shared was, again, about what Vladimir Putin told Trump about North Korea and how Trump reacted to that. 


ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER FBI ACTING DIRECTOR:  The president launched into several unrelated diatribes.  One of those was commenting on the recent missile launches by the government of North Korea, and essentially the president said he did not believe that North Koreans had the capability to hit us here with ballistic missiles in the United States.  And he did not believe that because President Putin had told him they did not.  President Putin had told him that the North Koreans don`t actually have those missiles. 

SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS ANCHOR:  And U.S. intelligence was telling the president what? 

MCCABE:  Intelligence officials in the briefing responded that that was not consistent with any of the intelligence our government possesses, to which the president replied, I don`t care, I believe Putin. 


MADDOW:  You know, I don`t care, I believe Putin.  You hear so much about how President Trump doesn`t work well with staff, he doesn`t to listen his briefings, he doesn`t take any advice from his so-called advisers.  It seems like that`s not true about North Korea.  It seems like on North Korea he is very, very willing to be briefed. 

He is very willing to take advice on North Korea from one very, very special adviser.  Just the one, though.  And his name is Vlad. 

Today, President Trump heads off again to meet one on one with the North Korean dictator again.  And now, today, the foreign minister of Russia, Sergey Lavrov, the same guy who met with Trump in the Oval Office, remember him?  Today on the occasion of Trump flying off to go meet with Kim Jong-un once again, Sergey Lavrov today bragged to the press about how the Trump White House has been asking the Kremlin for advice ahead of this summit with Kim Jong-un too. 

This is the headline in "The Associated Press" today.  Quote, Russia: U.S. asks for advice on North Korea talks.  Here`s the lead.  Quote: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says the United States has asked Moscow`s advice in dealing with North Korea before the summit between President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader. 

Quote: In comments carried by Russian news agencies today, Lavrov said, quote, the U.S. is even asking our advice, our views on this or that scenario, on how the summit in Hanoi could pan out.  Yes, I bet.  It`s worked out so well for them before. 

I should mention also that the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the one who is bragging now about how someone in the Trump administration has been begging for Kremlin advice about what to do with Kim Jong-un at this summit , that same Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov somewhat randomly also happens to be in Vietnam this week.  He happens to be in Hanoi.  While the Trump/Kim Jong-un summit will be taking place in Hanoi.  What`s he doing there? 

It could be just a coincidence.  Hanoi is lovely this time of year.  High 70s, low 80s, cloudy and thunderstorms all week. 

So be on your toes over the next few days.  That is going to unfold over the next few days.  A lot of it -- actually, it`s worth noting, seems like small-balance logistical stuff, a lot of potentially newsworthy stuff that may happen around the summit will actually take place in the middle of the night U.S. time. 

We`ll have a cheat sheet later on as to what`s going to unfold over the next few days and when.  It`s a little bit awkward because of the time difference between here and Vietnam, but it`s basically going to make for a real 24-hour news cycle where stuff happens all day long here, you know, in what`s expected to be a big week of news.  And then when we`re supposed to be sleeping, there`s going to be more big news happening where the president is all those time zones away in Vietnam. 

Don`t worry, though, there will be plenty of time to catch up on sleep next year. 

One of the first things that`s going to happen here in the U.S. is the president arrives at the Kim Jong-un summit in Vietnam is that perhaps not coincidentally, the House Intelligence Committee is going to be convening their first open hearing of the new Congress since Democrats took the majority.  Their new hearing, quote: national security implications of the rise of authoritarianism around the world.  For a president who has praised the North Korean dictator as, quote, very honorable and has thanked him for his, quote, courage, and who has gushed publicly about he and the North Korean dictator, quote, fell in love with each other, those were the president`s words.  The House Intelligence Committee will essentially be playing a little theme song tomorrow for the amazing spectacle of an American president jumping into this particular dictator`s lap again. 

Tomorrow`s hearing will be about authoritarianism, the rise of authoritarianism, and also the U.S. response to that.  Quote: The world has witnessed the steady ascendance of authoritarian leaders and illiberal governments in recent years, and the existential challenges these regimes and their underlying ideologies pose to liberal democracies demand our full attention.  From Putin`s Russia to Xi`s China, to Duterte`s Philippines, to Erdogan`s Turkey, and even among other NATO allies, there is a global rise of autocracy and a growing appeal of the authoritarian model which ought to concern every American. 

Which just has a different resonance when it turns out not every American has the same take on this issue or same instinct a authoritarian government has an ick factor when looking from an American perspective.  I mean, when our current president came back from meeting Kim Jong-un in Singapore last summer, he told Fox News upon his return about Kim Jong-un, quote, he is the head of a country and I mean he`s the strong head.  Do not let anyone think anything different.  He speaks and his people sit up at attention.  I want my people to do the same. 

I think it is fair to say it is not an accident that while President Trump is meeting with and undoubtedly, effusively praising and offering free stuff to Kim Jong-un tomorrow, House Democrats will be convening a hearing on authoritarian government and its dangers.  It is also not an accident that tomorrow will also feature that vote in the House of Representatives that is expected to rebuke and potentially block the president from using a declaration of a national emergency in order to get something he wants as a policy that Congress will not agree to.  Again, we will have more on that with John Brennan in just a moment. 

The most interesting thing in that vote tomorrow in the House, and then the following vote that will have to happen in the Senate is that those are likely to be bipartisan votes.  In addition to those 50 plus former senior national security officials from both parties who wrote that letter condemning that emergency declaration today, there was also a really interesting separate letter from more than two dozen former Republican members of Congress and some former Republican senators, advising their own Republican colleagues who are currently in Congress that they too should vote with Democrats to opposite the president on this if for nothing else because it doesn`t comport with Republican Party values for a president to do something like this. 

So, this is turning out to be something where there`s interesting fault lines, interesting nonpartisan and sort of post-partisan stuff going on there around the president`s attempt to use emergency authority to defy Congress.  And, of course, it`s playing off as he goes off to have another summit with this dictator who he says he`s fallen in love with.  And, of course, this is all playing out while the continuing scandal that surrounds this president and his election in the first place proceeds at pace.  I mean, this is week that we are expecting three straight days of marathon testimony from his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who is due to start a substantial federal prison sentence in a matter of weeks.

Michael Cohen will speak behind closed doors to the Senate Intelligence Committee tomorrow.  He`ll speak again behind closed doors to the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday.  But in between those two days while the president is having his big summit with Kim Jong-un, Michael Cohen that same day, kind of that same time, will be testifying in an open hearing that will be televised, that will start Wednesday morning at 10:00 a.m. before the House Oversight Committee.  That House Oversight Committee has announced in advance of Michael Cohen`s testimony that one of the things Cohen will be testifying about is the president`s alleged involvement in two campaign finance felonies, two of the felonies that are among the charges that are sending Michael Cohen to prison for a considerable stretch. 

These campaign finance felonies are charges to which both Cohen and federal prosecutors in southern district of New York told the court that president Trump not only benefited from the commission of those felonies, Cohen and prosecutors told the judge in that case that President Trump directed the commission of those crimes, that he basically ordered them.  That is what makes the president effectively an unindicted conspirator in those two felonies.  We expect Michael Cohen to be testifying about that on Wednesday morning. 

And in addition to all the Cohen testimony this week, we`re also expecting a status hearing in open court tomorrow for Maria Butina, one of the many Russian citizens charged with felonies in conjunction with Robert Mueller`s Russia investigation and the federal prosecutions that have derived from it from that investigation.  Even though she`s one of many Russians who`ve been charged, she`s the only Russian actually arrested and brought to court to face those charges because Russia doesn`t extradite its citizens. 

Butina was arrested in the United States and charged last summer.  Last December, she pled guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.  Since then, accidentally unredacted filings in her case revealed that she has been testifying to a grand jury as part of her cooperation efforts. 

This status conference we`ll have in her case tomorrow originally was scheduled for a couple weeks ago.  But both the prosecution and her defense team jointly asked the judge hearing her case to delay that status conference until this week because they told the judge, quote, her cooperation is not yet complete.  By that point, by the time they were asking for an extension, by the time they were saying her cooperation was not yet complete, Maria Butina`s Republican operative boyfriend had already been arrested in South Dakota and charged with employment felonies. 

By that point, the last person indicted in this scandal, Roger Stone had already arrested and indicted in a case that prosecutors said is related to the GRU indictment to the Russian military intelligence indictment brought last year by Mueller`s office. 

So, since Maria Butina`s cooperation was not yet complete as of a couple weeks ago, we haven`t seen any other action by Mueller or other federal prosecutors that would indicate the fruits of Maria Butina`s continued cooperation.  But nevertheless she`s expected to be in court tomorrow for that status hearing.  We will get the first substantive update on what`s going on in her case. 

Now, here`s one thing to keep an eye on.  Her defense lawyer told a Russian news agency within the past few days that Maria Butina`s passport has been handed over to ICE.  Her passport has been handed over to American immigration authorities, a move her lawyer suggests could expedite the process of her being deported back to Russia as soon as her case is concluded.  Butina`s defense team is obviously hoping that her cooperation is substantial enough that she will be sentenced to very little time in prison or perhaps she`ll be sentence today time that has been served already. 

If so, the ultimate resolution of her case will likely be that she`s deported back to Russia.  Where who knows what awaits her.  I mean, she`s accused of being an agent of the Russian government secretly working here in our country on the Kremlin`s behalf.  On the other hand, the only way she`ll get out with little to no jail time presumably if prosecutors and the FBI attest to the fact she`s been an effective cooperator, helping the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI in their inquiries into, among other things, Russia`s interference in our presidential election. 

If she has substantially helped with ongoing Justice Department inquiries, that`s the way she`ll get out soon, but that might make going home a mixed- emotions sort of thing, right?  We will know tomorrow when we get that status hearing in Maria Butina`s case. 

I will tell you that Maria Butina`s lawyer tonight has confirmed to our office what he told Russian news media within the last few days, that Butina`s passport has, in fact, been handed over to U.S. immigration authorities and in Robert Driscoll`s words, it means we`re working to make sure that deportation which will occur soon after her sentence is complete -- which will occur soon after her sentence is complete, will not be unnecessarily delayed.  Mr. Driscoll acknowledging that her sentence is yet to be determined, but they`re hoping once she gets sentenced, they want her not to be held basically in immigration custody for a long time while her deportation gets sorted out.  They want her deportation to be sorted so she goes straight from custody right home to Russia.  We shall see. 

This weekend, of course, we got a 25-page sentencing memorandum and 800 pages of exhibits from Mueller`s office in support of the sentencing recommendation that prosecutors in that office have made about Paul Manafort.  Numerically, there was no surprise that Mueller`s prosecutors described the sentencing guideline range of 17 to 22 years in prison for Manafort.  Again, this is just his Washington, D.C., case. 

That sentencing range had been spelled out already and actually agreed to my Manafort himself in his plea agreement last fall.  What wasn`t a little surprising in the Manafort sentencing recommendation from prosecutors to my eye, at least, there were a couple things that were interesting if not surprising.  First of all, I thought it was interesting that prosecutors went out of their way in example after example in their narrative about Paul Manafort`s crimes.  They kept going out of their way to talk about how dangerous and corrosive it is to the Democratic process to have people involved in that process who are secretly being paid by a foreign government. 

I thought it was interesting the few times they brought this up.  Prosecutors from Mueller`s office stressed that point when it comes to Paul Manafort`s own history.  When he had worked in the 1980s, as a public official appointed by Ronald Reagan, he had been part of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.  While he was serving in that public capacity, prosecutors say Manafort was also acting as an unregistered foreign agent, and at the time he was confronted by the Justice Department about the fact that public officials cannot be agents of foreign principals. 

Manafort was confronted back then with a choice, he could either keep that political appointment in the Reagan administration and continue to serve as a politically appointed public official, but if he was going to do that, he would have to give up the money foreign governments were secretly paying him, or alternatively, he could quit that political appointment, quick as a public official, but he could keep the foreign money.  Guess which one Paul Manafort picked back in the 1980s.  Yes, he quit the Reagan appointment, quit the public job, kept all the foreign money. 

Then years later when it came to his work with Ukraine and the illegal, unregistered lobbying he did for pro-Russian political elements in Ukraine, prosecutors explained in detail how Manafort duped members of Congress and the executive branch by having them meet with European officials who appeared to be independent, credible authorities on what the U.S. should do with its policy toward Ukraine.  They purported to be people who were independent authorities who had come to their own conclusions about what U.S. policy should be, when, in fact, Manafort had those guys on the payroll, of the Ukrainian government. 

And this dynamic comes up again and again for prosecutors when they`re asking for this sentence for Paul Manafort.  It`s the most narrative we have seen from Mueller`s office about how dangerous it is for Americans and public officials and other people involved in the democratic process to be secretly taking foreign money while the other people involved in the democratic process don`t know that they`re on the take. 

So there was a lot that is still redacted in the Manafort sentencing memo from Mueller`s office.  We can`t tell from this vantage point how many of those redactions are about live, ongoing case or people who haven`t been charged with any crime but may be charged sometime in the future.  Just within the last few minutes, jus before we got on the air, we also got the response from Manafort`s defense team that was just filed with the court and made publicly available. 

The bottom line of the defense sentencing submission, no surprise, they are asking for Manafort to receive as little prison time as possible.  They`re actually I think restricted as too what they can argue when it comes to Manafort`s sentence.  They`re restricted because Manafort did enter into a plea agreement where he signed away his right to contest the sentencing guidelines in his case. 

When Manafort broke that plea agreement by lying to prosecutors that, freed up prosecutors from their side of the deal, but Paul Manafort is still bound by what he signed for and part of what I what did he signed for is he can`t contest with the sentencing guidelines say in his case.  So, the Defense tonight has filed this big pile of exhibits, which is letters from his wife and his relatives and people who have known him that say he`s a boy scout.  They also filed a lengthy 50-page memorandum asking for lenience for Paul Manafort, but their hands are essentially tied as to what they can ask for because Paul Manafort when he pled guilty agreed he wouldn`t contest with the sentencing guidelines say in a case like his.

So, we`ll have more on that later.  But again, that defense memorandum just filed in Manafort`s case.  Manafort`s sentencing itself is going to happen March 8th in Virginia and March 13th in Washington, D.C.  Meanwhile, over the next few days, this is going to be a 24-hour a day, seven day a week news cycle.  Lots is going to be happening all at once during the day and the overnight hours.

We`ve got former CIA Director John Brennan here with us tonight in the studio.  Lots to get to.  Stay with us.


MADDOW:  It`s a busy night.  Lots going on. 

Joining us now here in the studio is John Brennan.  He`s a former director of the CIA and senior national security and intelligence analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. 

Director Brennan, it`s great to have you. 

JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR:  Hi.  Good to see you, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  I want to ask about your decision to sign on to this joint declaration of former U.S. government officials.  This is former senior national security officials, including yourself, more than 50 of you, signing on to this declaration that essentially says the president invoking a national emergency in order to try to do what he`s going to do with this border wall is unprecedented and improper. 

Why did you decide to sign on to this? 

BRENNAN:  Well, my discussions with former colleagues, we decided to do so this for several reasons. 

One is that the claims that Mr. Trump is making about an emergency on the southern border is specious.  There is no basis for him to make that claim.  And so, as we talked about it and as we worked these issues, national security issues, for so many years, including border security issues, even the Trump administration`s own statistics and assessments do not support his claim.  So, we decided that we were going to speak together in unison, several dozen of us that are going to take issue with it. 

Number two, it`s a clear circumvention of the Congress`s budgetary authority.  He went to Congress, tried to get the money for his wall, was denied it.  And so, this is undermining the checks and balances system that we have within our government.  It is Congress` purview, its responsible to appropriate funds.  And for him to make moneys appropriated for other causes and uses for his border wall is wrong in our view. 

And third, it sets a very dangerous precedent.  We don`t know what Mr. Trump might decide next week or next month is a national emergency.  So, there has to be a foundation to do something as significant as this and the previous declarations were solidly grounded in fact.  And that`s why individuals who worked for both Republican and Democratic administrations decided that they were going to speak out and they were going to call the lie a lie. 

MADDOW:  This is another instance, I don`t know if it`s fair to see it as this part of pattern, I do.  But I feel like this is another instance in which the president has heard that he can do something and/or that he might arguably be able to do something and he`s sort of testing to see how far he can go.  The president has done this with all sorts of different red lines that he`s crossed where he`s been told there is no coming back or will be politically damaging. 

I wonder what your expectation is if as seems likely the Congress is actually going to pass a resolution brushing him back on this.  The House of Representatives tomorrow will vote on this resolution to block the president from invoking this emergency, that will certainly pass.  It has more co-sponsors than it needs votes to pass.  It`s now increasingly starting to look like the Senate will have enough votes to pass that, as well. 

Now, the White House says the president will veto that, but I wonder how you anticipate and I sort of an intelligence question.  When somebody is testing the waters like that to see how far they can go, how they react to being brushed back. 

BRENNAN:  Well, I think Mr. Trump has a track record of mischaracterizing the facts and the events.  He probably is going to try to turn around to be in his favor, but I am so glad that some of the Republicans and the Congress are now going to stand up against Mr. Trump.  So, it is going to be interesting to see what Trump does in terms of pushing back.  Is he going to pursue this in some other way?  Who knows?

As you say, he continues to test the limits.  He doesn`t understand what his authorities are and he`s going to continue to push it.  And the fact that you have people around him in the White House who are not trying to rein him in really gives I think a lot of us great pause in terms of what he might do next. 

MADDOW:  In terms of the president`s trip to Vietnam now, he`s on en route.  He`s going to be meeting again with Kim Jong-un one on one.  I opened the show talking about concerns expressed by anonymous national security officials who are currently serving, worrying that the president might give away the store when he`s one on one with Kim Jong-un.  I have identified a few instances in which the president seems to have done things that were a surprise even to his own administration that happened to line up with the preferences of the Russian government, President Vladimir Putin. 

What are you thinking about?  What are you watching for as he heads to this North Korean summit? 

BRENNAN:  Well, I`m looking for whatever concessions he might be tempted to make with the thought that it`s going to get Kim Jong-un to denuclearize.  I was very concerned when he decided to suspend the training exercises with the South Koreans. 

This is so important for U.S. military forces to be able to interoperate and train with our allied and partnered forces in the region, not just for North Korea but also for any eventuality there.  So, I think Mr. Trump gives up the things without understanding the implications of it.  So, who knows as he gets together with Kim Jong-un in a tete-a-tete, especially if Vladimir Putin is whispering in his ear or even President Xi.  President Xi is the biggest offender of Kim Jong-un. 

And so, therefore, Mr. Trump really needs to listen to his experts inside of the intelligence community, inside of the Department of Defense and others who understand and recognize that Kim Jong-un has been masterful in terms of how he has manipulated Donald Trump`s engagement. 

MADDOW:  Hearing that the president has been masterfully manipulated while he`s on his way to the second part of summit. 

John Brennan, can you stick with us for one more segment? 


MADDOW:  I have more things I want to ask you about. 

Former CIA Director John Brennan is our guest.  We`ll be right back.


MADDOW:  Back with us now is John Brennan.  He`s the former director of the CIA and a senior national security and intelligence analyst for MSNBC. 

Director Brennan, thanks again for being here. 

BRENNAN:  Sure. 

MADDOW:  There`s been a lot of discussion and anticipation about how the Mueller investigation is going to end and when and what sort of report will be produced, if any, and what sort of access we`ll have as the public to that information. 

I wanted to ask you about something that happened at the outset of the Russian investigation.  Andrew McCabe in his book has talked about the fact that the Gang of Eight, the heads of both parties in both houses of Congress and heads of the intelligence committees were briefed in detail about what was going on with Russia and election interference.  And that is something that we had known in broad strokes, I think Andrew McCabe has filled in some of the details there that we didn`t necessarily know before. 

What is distressing to people is seeing the behavior of some of those members of Congress who we now know were briefed after they had that information.  People like Senator Richard Burr, who`s the respected head of the intelligence committee in the Senate who`s leading their bipartisan investigation into this matter, publicly denying that there was any reason to attribute these attacks to Russia after we now know he was personally and briefed in detail on the fact that Russia was carrying out these attacks.  And I know you can`t talk about anything classified.  You can`t talk about the content of the briefings, but I wanted your reaction now that we the public know more what happened. 

BRENNAN:  Well, I briefed the Gang of Eight as well on the intelligence community assessment in terms of what the Russia was doing.  So, Andy briefed him on the investigation that the FBI was engaged in. 

I was dismayed that some of the members, the Gang of Eight seemed to be rather dismissive of the intelligence community`s assessment and were being protective of the candidates of their choice during the campaign.  It is disheartening that a number of members of Congress have come out very publicly against the intelligence community assessment and FBI`s work. 

I think Richard Burr and Mark Warner on the Senate Intelligence Committee side have been doing a pretty good job in terms of working in a bipartisan fashion.  Unfortunately, Devin Nunes just totally, totally, you know, undermined the House Intelligence Committee`s credibility by defending to an nth degree Mr. Trump.  So I think now with Adam Schiff and the chair of the House Committee on Intelligence, I think there is a much better shot of getting to the bottom of this, but too many individuals in Congress are just playing partisan politics on something of great importance to our national security. 

So, I`m sure it`s disheartening not just to me, but to a lot of members of the intelligence and law enforcement communities. 

MADDOW:  Just as a member of the public now, somebody with the experience that you have, what are you expecting in terms of how the Mueller investigation will end? 

BRENNAN:  Well, I think Bob Mueller is a meticulous prosecutor.  And I do believe that there is going to be more indictments.  I would think the indictments are going to be probably presented along with the final report.  So far, we haven`t had any indictments of, for example, members of Trump family, as well as any indictment that might identify Americans who are involved in a criminal conspiracy. 

If in fact, there is evidence to that and if the special counsel decides to go forward, I would expect it to be the final act because I think Bob Mueller and his team would know that cutting that close to the bone, so to speak, would be the final bill for them and so I anticipate that sometime in March we`re possibly going to see of the indictments, the final report.  I don`t have any insight into it, but I do believe that Bob Mueller is going to hand off the Southern District of New York, the Eastern District of Virginia to state attorney generals as appropriate, the investigative threads that will need to be continued to be pulled. 

But I do think that we`re going to see more in the coming weeks that will then be the addition to the final report. 

MADDOW:  Former CIA Director John Brennan -- sir, thank you.  Appreciate you being here. 

BRENNAN:  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  All right.  Much more ahead tonight.  Stay with us.


MADDOW:  As I mentioned a few minutes, we just within the last hour got the sentencing memorandum from Paul Manafort`s defense team.  This is Paul Manafort`s response to the sentencing submission this weekend that came from Robert Mueller and the special counsel`s office.  That was the filing in which Mueller`s prosecutors said that Paul Manafort, Donald Trump`s campaign chairman, quote, repeatedly and brazenly broke the law. 

The sentencing submission from the special counsel`s office this weekend told the court in the Manafort case, there were many aggravating factors when it comes to Manafort`s behavior that should make Manafort`s sentence worse, and there were no mitigating factors that should make it better.  Now, according to federal rules, the federal judge in the D.C. case can`t actually sentence Manafort to more than ten years in prison specifically in the D.C. part of his case.  He`s facing up to five years for each of the two felonies that he pled guilty to.  So, the max that judge can give him is ten years. 

But Manafort and his defense team tonight, they are arguing Manafort should in fact get less than that, that he should get no jail time at all if possible.  I mean, the reason they are saying that Manafort should get as little jail time as possible is because of all the bad things Paul Manafort didn`t do.  Manafort`s case, they opened up their submission by saying Manafort`s case is not about murder, drug cartels, organized crime, the Madoff Ponzi scheme or collapse of Enron. 

Well, OK then, I didn`t do any of those, either. 

His crimes are also, Manafort`s lawyers claim, not, quote, related to the primary focus of the special counsel`s investigation, i.e., any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.  Nevertheless, these garden variety and esoteric offenses have led to Mr. Manafort being widely vilified in a manner that this country has not experienced in decades. 

Manafort`s lawyers argue the special counsel`s office charged Manafort with the crimes he eventually pled guilty to only because they couldn`t establish that Manafort engaged in any, quote, Russia collusion.  In other words, what Manafort is going for in the filing tonight is the argument that he didn`t do anything that bad, that he`s the victim of a political prosecution and even though his defense is sort of constrained by the fact that Manafort pled guilty already and conceded what his sentencing guidelines would be in this sort of a case, they`re still arguing for stuff to be as lenient as they can hopefully make it.  How is that going to go for him? 

Joining us now is Ken Vogel, reporter for "The New York Times."

Ken, thanks very much for being with us tonight.  I know you`re joining us on short notice.  I really appreciate you making the time.

KEN VOGEL, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  Yes, great to be with you, Rachel.

  MADDOW:  What do you think we should understand right now in terms of the ultimate fate of the president`s campaign chair and, importantly, what we learned about the course of his case in these two federal jurisdictions? 

VOGEL:  Yes, my biggest takeaway from his sentence -- his lawyer`s sentencing memorandum was this continued effort to try to recast his work in Ukraine and really his work around the world, his international work around the world over the course of several decades where he made a ton of money working for some very unsavory characters whose interests were often not aligned with those of the U.S. foreign policy community or orthodoxy.  And what he said in each of those cases and he makes that case acutely in this memo, talking about his work on behalf of the Russia aligned Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, which is the source of a lot of the charges here that he didn`t register with FARA, that he didn`t that he concealed his income, that he violated banking and financial laws. 

So, he says that working for Yanukovych, and also, working for all these foreign leaders, even though they may have appeared to be bad guys, or could be cast as bad guys, what he was trying to do is further U.S. foreign policy interests by bringing them into alignment with the West, in the case of Yanukovych, with the European Union.  And to critics or folks who have followed Ukrainian politics, the answer to that as well, how did that work out for you? 

He ended up, Yanukovych ended up turning his back on the European Union, embracing Putin, being driven from office by mass street protests related to his pivot towards Moscow and he`s -- the perceived rampant corruption within his regime.  And Manafort ended up making $60 million much of which he didn`t declare as we now know because he has admitted in this case where he is now asking for leniency in the filing --in his sentencing. 

MADDOW:  Ken, there`s another piece about this that I want to ask you about.  And, obviously, we`re getting Manafort`s defense claiming bluntly, you know, they are only prosecuting for these things because you couldn`t get him on collusion.  There was one collusion-specific aspect of the Manafort case that remains sort of unanswered in the public-facing filings, but you`ve done a bunch of report on it this weekend.  And that involves Konstantin Kilimnik polling from the Trump campaign being sent to this Russian guy who`s assessed to be linked to Russian intelligence. 

If you can stick with us for just a second, Ken, I`d love to talk to you about that new reporting when we come back. 

VOGEL:  Yes, happy to. 

MADDOW:  Great.

Ken Vogel of "The New York Times", he`ll be with us when we come back.  Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  Joining us once again is Ken Vogel with the "New York Times."

Ken, in this new filing just within the past hour or so, Paul Manafort, President Trump`s campaign chair, has just told the judge who`s considering his sentence that since Manafort isn`t being charged with any crimes related to Russia collusion, in the grand scheme of things, his crimes aren`t that serious, so effectively he shouldn`t get a tough sentence.  Ken, I know you have been reporting on Konstantin Kilimnik, who`s also been charged by Mueller`s, a long time associate of Manafort, and this contention, this interesting sort of dangling contention that Manafort may have sent Kilimnik internal proprietary data from the Trump campaign during the campaign, at the time that Russia was interfering in the election. 

Can you sum up the importance of that and what we know about it at this point? 

VOGEL:  Yes, sure.  Our sources tell us that when this first occurred, when Manafort actually instructed Rick Gates, his deputy on the campaign, and also his deputy during his time in Ukraine, to transmit polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik, this long time associate of both of theirs, who was been assessed by the FBI to have ties to Russian intelligence, when they first did that, it was in the spring of 2016, which was both right as Trump as wrapping up the Republican nomination, right as Konstantin Kilimnik was preparing to go to New York to meet with Manafort and he told associates he hoped to meet with Trump as well. 

And most importantly, just as Russia was really ramping up its social media disinformation campaign to benefit Donald Trump`s presidential campaign, you could see how potentially, and this is the tantalizing aspect we don`t know this for sure, but how potentially having very detailed polling information that showed how Donald Trump was polling with various segments of the population in various places, having that could potentially assist someone who was trying to launch a social media campaign to help Donald Trump. 

MADDOW:  Ken Vogel, reporter for "The New York Times," thank you for your reporting on this.  Thanks for helping us understand it tonight. 

VOGEL:  Thank you, Rachel. 

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


MADDOW:  That does it for us tonight.  We will see you again tomorrow and every day this week because this week is going to be nuts.


Good evening, Lawrence. 

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