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Manafort's lawyers file sentencing memo in Virginia. TRANSCRIPT: 3/1/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Eric Swalwell

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  That is ALL IN for this evening.

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. 

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris.  Have a great weekend, my friend.

HAYES:  You too.

MADDOW:  And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.  Happy Friday. 

Since it`s Friday, that, of course, means ten pounds of news in a five- pound bag, as usual.  We should get a bigger bag for this day of the week.  We`ve got a lot to get to tonight, including the still expanding, still- developing story first broken in the "New York Times" last night that President Trump overruled career national security officials and ordered that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, be given a security clearance, despite whatever it was that turned up in Kushner`s FBI background check and in a CIA review that led to him being denied a permanent security clearance until his father-in-law had to intervene. 

The president, the president`s daughter and Mr. Kushner`s very famous lawyer all appear to have made direct, detailed and very false public statements about this matter before now.  We`re seeing tonight some sort of confused and to my eye, slightly desperate efforts tonight to clean up some of those false statements.  But the story is still developing tonight.  We`re going to have more on that ahead. 

We`re going to start tonight, though, with a little bit of breaking news.  This document has just been filed tonight in the criminal case involving the president`s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.  Paul Manafort, as you know, is due to be sentenced next week, Thursday, next week, by a federal judge in Virginia. 

This new filing tonight is Manafort`s best effort with his defense team to argue for lenience in that sentence from that Virginia judge.  Quote: Defendant Paul J. Manafort comes before the court for sentencing after having been convicted at trial of five counts of subscribing false income tax returns, one count of failing to file a foreign bank account report and two counts of bank fraud. 

Mr. Manafort acknowledges that he received a fair trial before this court.  He accepts the jury`s verdict.  He is truly remorseful for his conduct.  Mr. Manafort submits the sentencing memorandum to aid the court in determining an appropriate sentence. 

Quote: The U.S. probation office has calculated under U.S. sentencing guidelines, an advisory sentencing range of roughly 19-1/2 to 24 years.  This range is clearly disproportionate to the conduct for which Mr. Manafort was convicted.  The defense submits that a sentence substantially below the range calculated by probation is warranted. 

And that`s how it starts.  Thereafter, we get 40 or so more pages of how -- what Paul Manafort did is really no big deal.  And we get lots and lots of letters of support from his relatives about what a good guy he is. 

On page 11 of this new filing tonight, we literally get a reference to Paul Manafort being an altar boy.  There`s the inevitable mention of his humble beginnings.  There is that odd clanging assertion that Paul Manafort, quote, has spent his life advancing American ideals and principles.  That was in the other sentencing memo, his defense filed in the other court where he`s facing charges, too. 

But here`s the thing that I think is really going on here.  Here`s why I think this sentencing document is actually really important here, because I think it explains a whole bunch of what we have been seeing recently in this case.  And I think it explains something important about how this whole thing with the president`s campaign chairman, how it may end up playing at the White House. 

This Manafort case in Virginia is basically done now, right?  All that`s left in that case is for the judge to pass sentence.  That`s where this document tonight is Manafort`s lawyers telling the judge their client should get a very light sentence because he was an altar boy. 

And you`ll remember, that case in Virginia -- remember when he was convicted for, right?  Tax fraud, bank fraud, tabbing money overseas and overseas bank cuts without reporting it to the IRS.  Those were the crimes in this case. 

Nevertheless, throughout their argument to the judge tonight in this new filing, Manafort`s defense team makes one argument to the judge over and over and over again about why Manafort should not get a long prison sentence.  And it is not an argument about tax fraud or bank fraud or foreign bank accounts. 

The argument they keep making over and over again to the judge tonight is - - no collusion!  It`s not even in the case.  But that`s what they`re arguing to the judge. 

Quote: In October 2017, unable to establish that Mr. Manafort engaged in any such collusion, the special counsel charged him in the District of Columbia with crimes unrelated to Manafort`s work in the 2016 campaign.  Quote, several months later, Manafort was charged in this district, allegations again that were unrelated to the 2016 campaign or to any collusion with the Russian government. 

And just in case that`s not emphatic enough in this filing tonight from Manafort`s defense team, both of those sentences I just read you, they both have footnotes.  And the footnotes to those no collusion sentences also say no collusion.  The first one says, quote, Mr. Manafort`s guilty plea in the District of Columbia case includes no charges that he colluded with the Russian government.  Footnote two: the special counsel`s strategy in bringing charges against Mr. Manafort had nothing to do with the special counsel`s core mandate, Russian inclusion. 

And then, again, later on in the filing, your honor, let`s come back to our main point.  The prosecution in this case did not charge him with anything related to Russian collusion.  And did we mention he was an altar bar who did no collusion, which is an even better way to do no collusion. 

I mean, this judge, this federal judge in Virginia who is weighing Paul Manafort`s sentence, he`s not supposed to be sentencing Paul Manafort on whether or not Paul Manafort colluded with Russia.  That`s not in this case.  This is tax fraud, bank fraud and foreign bank accounts.  So, there`s no reason for Manafort or his lawyers to believe that the no collusion, no collusion argument is going to have any impact on how the judge interprets the sentencing guidelines in this case, right?  And figures out how Manafort`s conduct and these crimes might map on to those sentencing guidelines. 

Because of that, because they`re making this argument, this no collusion argument that is totally external to this case, I think it is worth recognizing, at least worth considering, that the real idea here from Paul Manafort`s defense is that they are now aiming their arguments not necessarily at this judge.  They are now aiming their arguments at the public, at the press, and ultimately at the White House.  It appears that their idea here is that it would be more politically palatable for Paul Manafort to get a presidential pardon if Paul Manafort seems like a grownup altar boy who became just a poor old, you know, normally corrupt guy, who had gotten away with all of his financial crimes for years and who only got caught this time, this year, because of his unfortunate turn at the helm of the Trump campaign. 

Poor old corrupt guy never would have otherwise been caught.  Just getting away with his normal corrupt stuff.  How could he know that the spotlight might eventually fall on his foreign bank accounts and his bank frauds and tax cheating just because he ended up running this presidential campaign.  Oops, Paul Manafort tripped. 

I think the idea here may be that that guy kind of is a more palatable target for a pardon from the president than a guy who was running the president`s campaign while Russia was interfering in the campaign to benefit Trump and simultaneously this guy running the campaign was meeting frequently with a Russian guy linked to Russian military intelligence who among other things was -- delivering messages back and forth between Trump`s campaign chairman and a Putin-linked Russian oligarch who is tied to Russian active measures campaigns in other countries to affect other elections, not to mention suspected money-laundering plots, right? 

I mean, that guy is maybe not as attractive a target for a presidential pardon.  Not, at least, in this environment with all of these dangling threads still out there in terms of the president`s own potential implication in the Russia scandal. 

So in this new filing tonight, in this sentencing memorandum from Manafort`s defense tonight to the judge in Virginia, this judge in Virginia is being bombarded with this no collusion, no collusion message.  It is somewhat inexplicable if you`re looking in the four corners of what that case was about.  But in the larger context, it might make sense.  I also think it may explain what`s been going on in the other jurisdiction where Paul Manafort is set to be sentenced soon, as well. 

This document that we got tonight -- again, this is for the Virginia case.  Manafort is due to be sentenced there next week on Thursday.  The week after that, Manafort is due to be sentenced in federal court in Washington, D.C. and like the Virginia case, that D.C. case is also technically over with. 

Manafort is guilty.  The filings are in.  The judge is deciding what he`s going to get. 

Nevertheless, there has been otherwise seemingly inexplicable, furious fighting over the past week or so in that D.C. case.  It seemed inexplicable.  It`s now starting to make sense in terms of what it looks like Manafort might be after here. 

You`ll remember that in the D.C. case, that`s the judge that ruled that Paul Manafort broke his cooperation with prosecutors, when he lied to them intentionally about a few different matters.  That determination by that judge in the D.C. case is going to have a major impact on the res t of Paul Manafort`s life.  It`s going to have a major impact on his sentence.  I mean, just as one example, one ramification of that, her ruling that Paul Manafort broke his plea agreement. 

That ruling precludes Manafort`s defense from even trying to argue in her courtroom that Manafort should get less than the sentencing guidelines when she sentences him in D.C.  They can`t even ask for that, because he signed away the right to even ask for that when he entered into that plea agreement, which he later broke when he lied, right?  When the judge ruled that Manafort lied to the prosecutors intentionally about three separate matters, he really did seal his fate in a serious way in that D.C. case. 

That said, there was a little bit of a curveball thrown on that point this week when the special counsel`s office surprised everybody by notifying that D.C. judge earlier this week that they actually turned up some new evidence.  They had turned up new exculpatory material on this issue of whether or not Manafort had intentionally lied. 

When I say exculpatory material, I mean, even though the stuff was being shown to the prosecutors, what prosecutors told to the judge this new material they turned up actually helped Manafort`s case.  And we don`t know exactly what this new exculpatory material was that the prosecutors turned up and dutifully handed over to the judge.  We got some filings on it, but as you can see, it looks like mad libs, right?  It`s more redactions than words.  Nobody has been able to put it together. 

But we do know that the material the prosecutors handed over to the judge, it appears to be about Paul Manafort`s relationship with Konstantin Kilimnik.  He`s the Russian guy who worked for Manafort for years.  He`s the guy who prosecutors say has been assessed by the FBI to be actively linked to intelligence. 

Apparently what happened this week is that Manafort`s former codefendant, the guy who served as deputy campaign chair on the Trump campaign, Rick Gates.  Gates apparently saw news coverage about Manafort`s ongoing legal case and him heading towards sentencing and the litigation over what Manafort lied to prosecutors about, and something about that coverage made Rick Gates contact Mueller`s office to tell them, hey, I`ve actually got something for you on that issue. 

And whatever it was that Gates had, he brought it to Mueller`s office.  Mueller`s office this week turned around and brought it to the judge in D.C. and told the judge, hey, judge, this may be exculpatory for Manafort.  This is new information we just got from Gates, we didn`t have it before.  It is apparently about Kilimnik and the issue of Manafort lying about his relationship with Kilimnik. 

The judge this week considered that new material that she got from prosecutors and late tonight she just issued a ruling on it.  This is that ruling in its entirety.  It`s a minute ruling so a minute order, so not one of these long ones.  And even in this short little minute order, it`s still got a bunch of redactions. 

In short, though, what the judge says in this ruling is that she, quote, appreciates the clarification of the record.  However, this new information that has clarified the record, quote, does not alter the court`s determination that the defendant, Paul Manafort, intentionally made multiple false statements concerning his interactions and communications with Konstantin Kilimnik. 

So, this is the judge tonight saying, hey, thanks, for handing over the stuff you thought might help Manafort`s case.  It doesn`t help Manafort`s case.  Dude still lied, still lied about his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik.  So why is this Kilimnik stuff being fought ought so hard to the very, very end? 

I mean, this Kilimnik issue turns out to be a very key area of focus.  This is the last thing that Manafort appears to be fighting to the proverbial death over, as all of his criminal cases come to an end.  And as he literally waits to find out if he`s going to die in prison. 

This Kilimnik thing is the last thing he is trying to do, right?  No collusion, no collusion.  He`s arguing at the Virginia judge. 

With the D.C. judge, he`s arguing everything he possibly can about Kilimnik.  Manafort`s lawyers have been fighting specifically in the D.C. case to get stuff about Konstantin Kilimnik unredacted from transcripts in the Manafort case and unredacted from court filings in that case. 

And, again, remember, that case is done.  It`s over.  Why are they fighting to unredact all this stuff in the D.C. case?  The D.C. case is over. 

I mean, whether or not this stuff is redacted is not going to make a difference to the judge in the D.C. case.  Nothing is redacted to her.  She has seen everything that`s behind every black box.  Why do they care whether or not this stuff is unredacted to the public and made available to the public? 

Well, they may be trying to have an influence on the other judge in Virginia, who is going to rule on Manafort`s sentencing there first.  They may also be trying to influence public opinion about Paul Manafort and his links to Russia, more specifically his links to Russian intelligence.

And they may specifically be trying to say something to the White House about whether or not pardoning Paul Manafort would make it look like the president was pardoning the guy who was the link between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence during the Russian attack on the campaign.  I mean, the special counsel`s office has said in court filings and their prosecutors have said in open court that this guy, Kilimnik, Manafort`s right-hand man, right?  He is assessed by the FBI to have active links to Russian intelligence. 

This big redactions fight that`s been happening over the past week in D.C. is that Manafort`s defense has been insisting that other stuff about Kilimnik needs to be unredacted.  It needs to come out from behind those black boxes in order to balance out the assertion from the prosecutors that Kilimnik is Russian intelligence. 

Specifically what they have been fighting to unredact in the public-facing filings and in transcripts are their own assertions from the defense side that Kilimnik is known to have met with U.S. personnel at the American embassy in Ukraine.  OK. 

This is how -- this is the last big fight of Manafort`s case in D.C.?  Yes.  His defense fighting tooth and nail to get these references out from behind the black boxes.  So we, the public, can see that information.  The judge in D.C. appears mystified by why they`re fighting so hard for this. 

This is from the judge.  Quote: We have on the record the assertion that Kilimnik has connections to Russian intelligence.  I think there`s a desire on the part of the defense that I understand to have on the record the defense assertion to say he was providing information to the U.S. government. 

Quote, they were definitely -- excuse me.  There were definitely communications that Kilimnik has with people in the State Department.  The judge says, I don`t think it`s relevant, but he`s not denying it.  So, if that`s something you want to see publicly, it`s said.  Is that enough? 

The judge continues.  To the extent you want the public record to reflect the fact he talked to the State Department, OK.  It`s in there. 

The judge says, quote, I do think that this is just not relevant to what I have to do.  It may be relevant to something, but it wasn`t relevant to what I had to decide.  To which Paul Manafort`s defense lawyer, Kevin Downing says, well, then, it seemed to be relevant to the office of special counsel.  Otherwise they never had to say it.  They never had to put it in one file.  So if it`s obviously relevant to the special counsel, it`s relevant to Mr. Manafort. 

The judge says, quote, you`re still acting like these two things that one disproves the other.  I don`t find that. 

Defense lawyer: I know you don`t, your honor.  That`s clear.  But it is important that there`s no reason for this to be redacted.  We think it`s important that the allegation for the prosecution on more than one occasion about his being known about connections to Russian intelligence, it needs to be countered on the public record. 

It is very important to Mr. Manafort.  And that`s why we raise the issue again.  We do think it`s very important for that allegation of his known ties to Russian intelligence to be countered and to be countered in a balanced manner. 

And, again, the way they are trying to balance that out is by letting it be shown in the public record in unredacted court filings that Kilimnik, yes, is assessed to be linked to Russian intelligence.  The FBI assessed him to be actively linked to Russian intelligence.  But they want it to be known that Kilimnik has also had conversations with people at the U.S. embassy and Ukraine. 

Now, the judge, as I say, appears bewildered that this is so important.  And that this is even a defense to the charge that Kilimnik is linked to Russian intelligence.  I mean, I think that`s key, that point where she says, quote, you`re still acting like these two things that one disproves the other.  I don`t find that. 

But as unimpressed as the judge is by what Manafort and his defense team are trying to get in the public record about Konstantin Kilimnik, it`s clear that they are trying this point harder than anything else they are trying at the end of Manafort`s rope, at the very end of his journey through the criminal justice system in the District of Columbia.  And we don`t know exactly why they are doing it, except, perhaps, to try to create some sort of impression that maybe the issue of Kilimnik being linked to Russian intelligence is fuzzier than it seems.  Maybe that means that Manafort shouldn`t be seen as the person who was linking the Trump campaign to Russian intelligence during the Russian intelligence attack on the election. 

That is not an argument that is likely to matter to either judge within the four corners of these cases.  But that`s how they`re finishing up.  That means the audience for that is you and me, and Donald Trump. 

So these legal cases continue.  As of today, it is now March.  Remember when the Mueller investigation was definitely never going to make it to March?  It would be all over?  It`s March. 

And the Mueller investigation is intact and proceeds, and all of these different legal cases attached to it and related to it continue.  I mean, the Manafort case is taking this very interesting public sort of inexplicable no collusion turn at the very end.  Trying to make the case all about no collusion and Konstantin Kilimnik isn`t a Russian spy. 

Judges in the case aren`t considering that, but they`re nevertheless trying to make that their last public case.  I think the audience for that is the White House. 

Also, Robert Mueller and the special counsel`s office this past week, they won one of their big cases in federal appeals court.  A former aide to Roger Stone trying to get out of responding to his grand jury subpoena from Mueller, arguing that Mueller`s appointment was somehow unconstitutional, so he didn`t need to respond to the subpoena.  A federal appeals court this week ruled in Mueller`s favor on that one. 

We also got unsealed filings this week that make it look like Mueller`s probably winning his other big appeals court case, as well.  This is the case about the mystery corporation that`s owned by a mystery foreign country.  We still don`t know the country or the company. 

But newly unsealed filings this week show that the courts at every stage have been very skeptical of that challenge to Mueller, as well.  Ruling at every turn that the company does have to respond to Mueller`s subpoena, and, in fact, they do have to pay $50,000 a day in penalties until they comply with that subpoena. 

Both of those appellate cases show that not only the special counsel`s office, Mueller`s investigation, appear to be on very strong legal ground.  Also a practical matter, the grand jury that Mueller has convened is likely going to get new evidence from both of those entities that have received Mueller`s subpoenas, both of those entities fighting those subpoenas.  Both of them have lost or are losing their fights to not respond to those subpoenas.  That means more information to the grand jury. 

Also this week, there was another surprise in the Maria Butina case.  Her sentencing put off for at least another month because federal prosecutors say she continuing to operate with ongoing investigations. 

Also, the Roger Stone case proceeds apace.  The judge in that case being told by prosecutors today that they expect the Stone trial to take five to eight days in court.  The judge in that case ruling late tonight, just before we got on the air, that Stone once again appears to be banging his forehead into the low-hanging gag rule that that judge has imposed on him and his counsel in the Roger Stone case. 

Apparently from her ruling, it appears that Stone is somehow involved in a book that is coming out shortly, and the judge was never advised of that book and the book may somehow violate the judge`s gag order that stone can`t make public comments about the case.  I don`t know.  We`ll find out more on Monday, when new filings are due to address that issue with the gag order and roger Stone`s case.  That order, again, just coming out late tonight, just as I sat down here tonight. 

So, all of these legal cases are proceeding apace.  And I actually want to put one other thing on your radar in terms of what`s been happening in the courts and what might happen next because of it.  You might remember headlines a few weeks ago about "BuzzFeed".  "BuzzFeed" prevailing in a libel case that had been brought against them in federal court in Florida. 

"BuzzFeed", of course, was the entity that published the Christopher Steele dossier in January 2017.  "BuzzFeed" was subsequently sued by a Russian guy whose name appeared in unredacted fashion in that dossier.  That libel case against "BuzzFeed" made headlines recently in December because the libel case was not successful.  "BuzzFeed" won the case.  The case is over. 

But now, the judge in that case appears to have just ruled that a whole bunch of information and proceedings that were part of that case are going to be unsealed and shown to the public within the next two weeks.  Among those things that are going to be unsealed is apparently the deposition that was made in that case by Christopher Steele himself.  The former British spy who collected those intelligence memos that became the famous/infamous Christopher Steele dossier. 

Steele gave a deposition for that case.  He has been fighting legally to try to keep that deposition under wraps.  He has cited potential danger to himself or his family, were that deposition to be made public.  Nevertheless, it looks like the federal court in Florida is going to make the Steele deposition public soon, this month. 

So these legal cases are humming.  After Michael Cohen`s testimony this week in Congress, anything to all of the legal cases are humming, congressional investigations have just had a fire lit under them as well.  Cohen himself will be due back before the House Intelligence Committee next week on Wednesday. 

The same committee is now saying they will solicit testimony from Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, whose name was sung like a hymn, mentioned more than two dozen times.  Now as of tonight, Massachusetts Democratic congressman, Richie Neil, head of the House Ways and Means Committee, tells NBC News that although he had initially planned to wait for the conclusion of the Mueller investigation before making any decision on whether he would seek president Trump`s tax returns, he tells NBC News now that, well, given what`s happened recently, they have decided to go ahead with it. 

Quote: Ways and Means Committee chairman, Richie Neal, Democrat, asked the committee`s attorneys to prepare the request for years of Donald Trump`s person tax returns.  According to two aides involved in the process, that request is expected to land at the IRS as early as the next few weeks. 

Oh.  They kept telling us this thing was winding down.  You thought this thing was winding down.  Turns out we`re just getting started. 

Stay with us.



REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE:  What did he or his agent communicate to you? 

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY:  Unfortunately, this topic is something being investigated right now by the Southern District of New York and I`ve been asked by them not to discuss it and not to talk about these issues. 

REP. PAUL GOSAR (R), ARIZONA:  The committee understands you`ve been in contact with the Southern District of New York, is that true? 

COHEN:  I am in constant contact with the southern district of New York regarding on going investigations. 


MADDOW:  Constant contact with the southern district of New York regarding on going investigation.  You are? 

That was somewhat of a surprise from the president`s long-time lawyer Michael Cohen this week for this specific reason.  As recently as December, that federal prosecutor`s office in the Southern District of New York told a judge in writing that they were recommending a substantial prison term for Michael Cohen in part because Cohen was not as helpful to them as he might have been.  Quote, to be clear the prosecutor said, Cohen does not have a cooperation agreement and therefore not properly described as a cooperating witness as that term is commonly used in this district.

So, that was in December when he got his three-year prison sentence.  They are saying Cohen helped then out a bit but not enough to be seen as a cooperator, not enough that the court should see him as qualified for a sentence reduction as a cooperator.  But now this week, he says he is in constant contact with the prosecutors, constant contact, regarding ongoing investigations. 

Well, that made us wonder if something changed between December and this week.  Does Michael Cohen have a new arrangement with prosecutors?  Has he finally after the fact become a formally cooperating witness in SDNY? 

While we think we have an answer to that and it`s interesting, despite Michael Cohen`s assertion this week that he is in constant contact with SDNY on ongoing investigations, two sources close to Michael Cohen have confirmed to us that Cohen is still not working under a formal cooperation agreement with SDNY.  He is not therefore a cooperating witness in a formal sense.  Even though he is meeting with them frequently and assisting them with multiple ongoing inquiries. 

After three straight days of testimony before congressional committees this week, next week Michael Cohen has somewhat unexpectedly been called back for a second round of testimony before house intelligence. 

Cohen`s attorney Lanny Davis told us here on our show last night that that second invitation to Cohen for him to come back for another day of testimony, that invitation was extended to him last night after quote new information developed, new information quote that really could be game changing.  He told us quote the development of this new information is the reason Cohen is coming back next Wednesday. 

What does that mean?  What new information, and how is it developing and what do you mean by game-changing? 

Joining us now is Congressman Eric Swalwell of California.  He`s on both the Intelligence and Judiciary Committee.

Sir, thank you very much for being here. 

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:  Of course.  Good evening, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  So, last night, Mr. Cohen`s attorney told us it wasn`t the original plan to have Mr. Cohen return next week with your committee, the Intelligence Committee.  He said that became necessary after Cohen developed new information.  He characterized it`s potentially game changing and I know you don`t tell us what he said behind closed doors, but can you tell us if his lawyer is spinning us?  Can you tell us if there is new information or broadly what it`s about? 

SWALWELL:  He is not spinning, and we truly were at the edge of our seats listening intently as Mr. Cohen told us information that he certainly did not tell us in October 2017 when we interviewed him and he certainly did not testify to during the open hearing.  And that was the arrangement, was that he was going to make sure that when he testified to the intelligence committee, he wouldn`t talk about anything that could compromise any other agreements he had or any ongoing investigations. 

But we did take a deeper dive into what Mr. Cohen knows and we expect him to come back on Wednesday with corroborating documents, to see if it`s true. 

MADDOW:  He contents he has corroborating documents to back up whatever it is he told your committee behind closed doors?

SWALWELL:  He does.  And, you know, Rachel, I found him to be a liberated man.  I watched him for about ten hours in October 2017.  And he seemed -- like someone who had, you know -- an interest in protecting someone else as he did.  He wasn`t straight with us.  There were a lot of I don`t recalls if it was convenient to protect the president. 

But here, he was very careful in his testimony.  You could tell he wanted to understand the question.  He didn`t want to give an answer where he would be called to speculate and you can tell that he put his hand on the hot stove and he learned not to do that again.  And I also think that as much as he talked about his family, that he does care to not spend the next ten years or the rest of his life in prison. 

MADDOW:  And part of that may not be his hope.  Part of that maybe his effort.  One of the reasons we were trying to chase down whether or not he has a formal cooperation with SDNY right now is even though he`s been sentenced in the district, if he provides prosecutors with information that`s good enough for them to use it in the investigation or prosecution of another person, at the judge`s discretion, and at prosecutors` discretion, that could be used to reduce his sentence. 

And I think Mr. Cohen was coy about that -- or wasn`t coy about that when he was speaking in that public session with the Oversight Committee.  Does that factor into how you assess his credibility?  And do you have to factor that in in terms of not stepping on the toes of law enforcement matters? 

SWALWELL:  Well, it`s really interesting, Rachel, because he`s a man without a life jacket.  If that`s what he`s doing because without a cooperation agreement, there is no assurances with the prosecutors as to what they would do or recommend. 

And so, you know, that`s why I think if he is indeed telling the truth, you know, he is risking -- telling a lot more about the Trump organization and Mr. Trump than he had agreed to do and may not even benefit from it at all.  And that`s why I think you have to even, you know lend more credibility to that.

And when I worked as a prosecutor with people that had broken away from the gang as Mr. Cohen has, sometimes just doing the right thing is what motivates them more than anything.  I`m not naive.  I know he wants to see his family as soon as possible, but it`s important for us to take this information and fill it in by looking at other corroborating evidence out there. 

A lot of what he`s told us matches other pieces of evidence that we had but now we`re getting the color that we didn`t have before. 

MADDOW:  We had reports, Congressman, that Allen Weisselberg, CFO of the Trump Organization, and Felix Sater, who`s former employee to the Trump Organization employee or executive, we had reports that they are going to both come before your committee hopefully soon. 

Can you confirm that they have been invited and can you tell us if anybody else is on your list already? 

SWALWELL:  They are invited.  Mr. Sater will come on March 14th.  It`s long past time we take an MRI to every organ and tissue in the Trump administration to understand, one, whether the president and his team and family are financially compromised.  And two, to understand if even today as he serves in the Oval Office, if he`s making decisions that affect our national security to just benefit himself financially. 

There`s reason to look.  So those are certainly the two witnesses we have announced publicly.  But there are others that we are learning about in these investigations who will help us better protect our democracy and the American people from a potentially compromised and corrupted president. 

MADDOW:  Congressman Eric Swalwell of California from the intelligence committee, Judiciary Committee -- sir, thank you for being with us.  Much appreciate it.

SWALWELL:  My pleasure.  Thank you.

MADDOW:  All right.  Still a lot to get to tonight.  Stay with us.


MADDOW:  You will recognize this top White House staffer as Jared Kushner, senior advisor and son-in-law to the president. 

Here we have Jared Kushner and his super lawyer Abbe Lowell, who has been representing Mr. Kushner in his dealings with Congress and the Russia investigation and so on.  These are the leading news reports over the past 24 hours that say Jared Kushner got a top secret security clearance only after the president ordered that Jared be given one, over the objections of intelligence officials who review these things for a living. 

But now check this out.  This is new tonight.  If you know somebody who says they don`t believe in evolution, show them this. 

Here are the changing statements from Abbe Lowell, Mr. Kushner`s very well- regarded lawyer, about how exactly his client Jared Kushner got his top secret security clearance. 

Statement numero uno, yesterday to the "New York Times", this is the first one.  Quote: In 2018, White House and security clearance officials affirm that Mr. Kushner`s security clearance was handled in the regular process with no pressure from anyone.  Regular process, no pressure, no story here.  That`s statement number one.

And tonight, we got statement number two from Abbe Lowell.  Quote: Whatever the accuracy or not of recent news stories, we were not aware of or told of any request for or action by the president to be involved in the security clearance process.  That`s statement number two. 

While we were wondering who is included in the "we" there, yet another statement came in from Jared Kushner`s lawyer Abbe Lowell, the third one of the last 24 hours and this third one is notably focused on Abbe Lowell himself.  Quote: Whatever the accuracy or not of recent news stories, Mr. Lowell was not aware of or told by action by the president to be involved in the security process. 

Again, officials affirmed at the time the regular process occurred without pressure.  They told me it was regular process.  I mean, Abbe Lowell seems to be saying there: don`t ask me, ask them, ask the White House. 

Mr. Lowell was not aware of nor told of anything the president might have done about ordering up a top secret clearance for Jared Kushner over objections.  Can we -- I don`t know if we can do this graphically.  Do we try to cram all of that evolution into one page for a second?  Can we do that tiny print?  Yes.

In 24 hours, Jared Kushner`s lawyer had to go from "no, dad didn`t intervene to get Jared a clearance, statement one.  Two, OK, maybe dad did intervene to get Jared a clearance, but if so, Jared had no idea about that. 

To statement number three, OK, maybe dad did intervene to get Jared a clearance but if so, Jared didn`t tell his lawyer about that.  In fact, his lawyer might have been lied to about this which is the only reason his esteemed lawyer might have ever lied to the public about it unwittingly.  Jared might have known but Abbe Lowell, super lawyer, he was in the dark.  Don`t blame him.  It`s 24 hours, one guy, all statements on the same thing. 

As reporting has continued on exactly this point, this is looking bad in terms of how the White House is handling this story and raising questions about whether or not Jared Kushner gets to keep his super lawyer who among other things has been helping him with Russia stuff.  Lawyers do break up with clients when they find out their clients are lying to them and the lies cause the lawyer to make false statements and they have to put out multiple evolving corrections for in one night.

And that little part of that story is Jared Kushner`s to figure out now.  The bigger problem for the rest of us is just ahead.  Stay with us.



REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA), CHAIR, FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE:  Now that I`m chairing that committee and the Democrats are in charge of the House, they said they will cooperate.  We have people going up to New York to sit with his people and go over our document requests. 

HAYES:  So you have staffers that are coordinating with the -- I imagine -- attorneys at Deutsche bank on document production now? 

WATERS:  Yes, I do. 


MADDOW:  Wow, that`s news.  Actually, there is two pieces of news tonight for which I feel like we need some presidential scandal perspective. 

Number one is that breaking news that happened with Chris Hayes here on MSNBC last hour.  Congresswoman Maxine Waters, chair of the Financial Services Committee, announcing that her committee staff are going to Deutsche Bank offices and coordinating with Deutsche Bank to begin producing documents related to the committee`s request which are about the president`s finances.  That`s a big deal.  Has that ever happened before with the sitting president? 

Similarly there is the still developing story from "The New York Times" that the White House chief of staff and White House counsel both wrote memos to file which are apparently somewhere in the White House right now expressing their concern and their objections to the president overruling national security officials to give his son-in-law Jared a security clearance despite whatever turned up in Jared`s background that led national security officials to not clear him before the president intervened. 

A, has that ever happened before?  And B, does history tell us whether or not we ever get to see those White House memos that explained what happened and explain the objections? 

Joining us now is NBC presidential historian Michael Beschloss. 

Mr. Beschloss, great to have you here.  Thanks. 


MADDOW:  Let me ask you about the breaking news we got from Chairwoman Maxine Waters.  She says congressional staffers are basically obtaining financial information about the president`s finances that he himself refused to give.  Is this historically unprecedented territory? 

BESCHLOSS:  Not a bit.  Congress is now doing its job it should have been doing for the last two years.  In 1973, Richard Nixon, there was a report Nixon had seriously under paid his taxes.  1970, 1971, he paid less than $1,000, each of those years. 

Congress investigated.  They found that it was absolutely right.  Nixon had taken illegal tax deduction, backdating a gift of his vice presidential papers to the National Archives.  He owed $475,000 which he had to pay up, half of his net worth.  But in the process, Nixon voluntarily gave his tax returns to Congress so that they could track this down. 

MADDOW : And that relates to the other breaking news story we had tonight from Chairman Richie Neal from Ways and Means who said that although he had previously planned, the previous plan had been to wait until the end of any Mueller investigation before they started about wanting to obtain the president`s tax returns.  It now sounds like they have tasked staff attorneys on that committee with pursuing them. 

BESCHLOSS:  That`s right. 

MADDOW:  I`m struck by the president`s reported sensitivity, specifically on the issue of Deutsche Bank.  His relationship with this bank, his personal finances, his business finances.  For Maxine Waters to say that Deutsche Bank is handing over materials, we know what they`ve asked for, that seems like -- I mean, banking materials, financial stuff that the president wants hidden that he`s very sensitive about, that seems to me almost closer to him than his taxes. 

BESCHLOSS:  Well, yes.  You are quoting the word game changer earlier in this hour.  We may be seeing that right now. 

MADDOW:  On the issue of these security clearances, Michael, there are these reported memos by former chief of staff and former White House counsel John Kelly and Don McGahn that according to "The Times" object to the president overruling national security career staff in order to give Jared Kushner a clearance. 

And the issue of giving somebody a clearance in this way is one thing.  That`s a whole kettle of fish.  I`m very -- my interest is piqued by the existence of these memos.  I mean, as a historian, what can you tell us about whether we might ever see those memos? 

BESCHLOSS:  Well, number one, McGahn and Kelly would not have written those memos saying they objected to the security clearance unless it was pretty bad and they wanted to get on the record that they were opposing a decision that was being made that they thought was damaging to national security. 

The problem in terms of your and my finding out what was in those memos is, in terms of actually seeing them, unless someone decides to leak them, you know, these might be said to expose sources and methods.  Let`s say the objection to the security clearance was bad information on Kushner that had been learned through interception of a conversation between two Russian officials. 

So, the government would say to release that would expose sources and methods.  You know, the president is, for instance -- Jay Oppenheimer famously had a security clearance withheld by Dwight Eisenhower in 1954.  Some of the documents took 60 years to come open.  I hope we don`t have to wait that far, that long.  We may get a leak or get people talking about what`s in them. 

MADDOW:  NBC presidential historian Michael Beschloss, I knew you would know.  Appreciate you being here, Michael.  Thanks. 

BESCHLOSS:  My pleasure. 

MADDOW:  All right.  More to come.  Stay with us.


MADDOW:  I may have seen this week amid all the news going on that there was finally an arrest and an indictment.  And that botched/stolen congressional election in North Carolina.  Here`s some slightly jaw- dropping news about how exactly that went down this week.  McCrae Dowless is the operative in question.  He worked in this election for Republican congressional candidate Mark Harris.  Dowless was the guy who`s arrested and indicted this week. 

Prosecutors say McCrae Dowless ran the same illegal election scheme in races up and down the ballot in that part of North Carolina for years.  But this week when McCrae Dowless got arrested, the guy who turned up to bail him out is an elected county commissioner in North Carolina, who maybe doesn`t care so much about his reputation in this matter. 

Local station WRAL asked why he did that. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The reason I`ve got him out and other people have assisted is with him being out, we can have legal people contacting him to get to the bottom of the true source of what has been going on with elections in Bladen County for a long time. 


MADDOW:  McCrae Dowless denies any wrongdoing and is expected in court next week.  Watch this space.


MADDOW:  One quick note before we go tonight.  Newly announced presidential candidate Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington state, is going to be my guest live here in studio on Monday night.  It will be his first cable TV interview since he announced today that he is running for president.  I`ll see you then. 


Good evening, Lawrence. 

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