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Manafort to be sentenced Thursday in Virginia. TRANSCRIPT: 3/5/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: David Fahrenthold, Chris Murphy

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She doesn`t threat (ph) any hate, animus or discrimination.  And, you know, she`s been on the receiving end of hate.  She has the Republican Party in West Virginia saying she`s a terrorist.  You have an advisor to the president going on Fox and calling her filth. 

So, the idea she should be targeted by a resolution is absurd and I would say one thing here.  Everything she said about Israel, she`s pretty much said about Saudi Arabia.  So, if she`s an anti-Semite, she must be Islamophobe as well. 

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  She has been hard at Saudi Arabia from the beginning, which s worth nothing.  And that poster there was in the West Virginia capital the other day put up by the Republican Party. 

Jeremy Bin Ami (ph) and Mehdi Hassan (ph), thanks for joining us. 

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. 

HAYES:  You bet. 

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

This is the U.S. attorney, the top federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C.  Her name is Jesse Liu.  She also served in the Justice Department during the George W. Bush administration.  She also briefly served as a lawyer at the Treasury Department.

But early on in the Trump administration, President Trump named Jessie Liu to be the U.S. attorney for D.C.  And that is a -- I mean, all U.S. attorneys jobs are important.  Being U.S. attorney for D.C. is a particularly important prosecutor`s job. 

The D.C. U.S. attorney`s office is the largest U.S. attorney`s office in the country.  Prosecutors from that office have jurisdiction over all sorts of things that have national resonance, including all sorts of juicy stuff involving the federal government.  In the Trump administration, the U.S. attorney`s office in D.C. has been particularly high profile because of the role of that office in either handling or taking part in the investigations and the prosecutions of a whole bunch of people who have been caught up in various Trump administration scandals, including the Russia scandal. 

Jessie Liu`s office, that U.S. attorney`s office in D.C. has been involved in the criminal cases against Sam Patten, who is now cooperating with investigators.  Among other things, Patten has links to Cambridge Analytica and to Konstantin Kilimnik, and prosecutors say he helped funnel foreign donations into the Trump inaugural. 

The U.S. attorney`s office in D.C. has also pursued the Maria Butina base.  She too is now cooperating with federal prosecutors after she was charged with acting a secret agent of the Russian government.  She was charged as working here in this country to infiltrate the American conservative movement and the Republican Party ahead of the 2016 presidential election.  She was working, according to prosecutors, as an unregistered, undeclared secret agent of the Russian Federation when she was enacting that plan. 

Jessie Liu`s office, the U.S. attorney`s office in D.C., has also taken the lead on the president`s longtime political adviser Roger Stone.  Jessie Liu`s office has also been involved in the D.C. prosecutions of the president`s campaign chair Paul Manafort. 

And there may be others as well.  Those are the ones I can do just off the top of my head.  And obviously all of those cases I just mentioned, they`re all ongoing in one way or another. 

But as of tonight, that U.S. attorney in D.C., the U.S. attorney heading up that key office that`s been involved in all of those cases related to the president, as of tonight that U.S. attorney, Jessie Liu, is out.  "The Wall Street Journal" first to report tonight that U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu is being moved out of the U.S. attorney`s office in D.C.  She`s being moved over instead to what they call main Justice.  They`re going to try to give her the number three job in the whole Justice Department.  It`s a job that has been vacant now under the Trump administration for more than a year. 

If Jessie Liu is confirmed to that position at DOJ, she`ll be working, according to "The Journal," primarily on antitrust matters and civil issues.  And I`m sure that`s great, but that will also mean she will have nothing more to do with any criminal cases of any kind, let alone the kinds of national security criminal cases that she has been involved in at the U.S. attorney`s office in D.C., including all of those multiple high- profile cases she has been running or involved in all of this time against all of these people who are directly related to the president and/or his campaign and/or the Russia investigation. 

By moving Jessie Liu out of that top prosecutor job in D.C., the president, of course, will also get the opportunity to pick a new person to take over all of those now ongoing cases while they are in process, plus any other cases that derive from the various scandals in this administration and from the Russia investigation that might reasonably be taken up by that key U.S. attorney`s office in D.C.  Moving Jessie Liu out of there means he takes out the top prosecutor that`s been handling those things, but also he gets to pick somebody new to be in charge of all of that stuff.  Gulp. 

Sadie Gurman is the reporter at "The Wall Street Journal" who got that scoop today about Jessie Liu being moved out of that U.S. attorney`s office.  Credit to her and "The Journal" to being first on this story.  But, boy, this seems like it`s potentially a big deal, at least potentially a big deal.  Since "The Journal" first broke that news today, I should tell you it has been confirmed by NBC News and by other news outlets. 

And now, as of tonight, as of just a short while ago, it has just been formally announced by the White House.  So it looks like this is, in fact, happening. 

Meanwhile, the president`s campaign chairman Paul Manafort is due to be sentenced in that jurisdiction in D.C. federal court as of next week.  Before he even gets to that sentencing in D.C. next week, though, Paul Manafort is going to be sentenced first in the other federal jurisdiction where he was charged with multiple felonies.  Manafort`s sentencing in federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia takes place the day after tomorrow, and tonight, prosecutors from Mueller`s office submitted this filing to the judge in Manafort`s case in Virginia, basically telling the judge that he should throw the book at Paul Manafort. 

Quote: The government opposes any credit or mitigation for Manafort`s alleged cooperation and contends that consideration of his lies to the government and the grand jury are aggravating factors and an additional basis for the denial of any reduction for acceptance of responsibility.  That`s prosecutor speak for "lock him up, judge."

Prosecutors are arguing in this filing tonight that Manafort is recidivism risk, meaning he`s likely to offend again.  Part of the way they say you can tell that is because they say Manafort was still committing crimes as recently as October.  Which would be not only after his indictment, it would be after his conviction.  It would be after his guilty plea on other charges and after he supposedly became a cooperating witness, they say even after all that as recently as October, he was still crimes more.  He was still committing more crimes. 

This is Mueller`s office essentially arguing to that federal judge who is about to pass sentence on Manafort in Virginia, they`re arguing the judge should not be persuaded that Manafort is some old and washed up criminal who is no longer actively seeking to commit crimes.  They`re saying he`s still in the game.  The prosecutors tonight are also brushing aside any concerns about Manafort`s health because those concerns have been raised obliquely by Manafort`s defense team. 

Prosecutors from Mueller`s office tell that judge tonight whether it`s Manafort`s gout or anything else that is physically bugging him, they`re telling the judge tonight that the Bureau of Prisons is more than capable of treating any much maladies while Manafort serves his years behind bars, and they do mean years.  Remember, this is the jurisdiction where Paul Manafort is looking at 19 to 24 years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines. 

And the judge, of course, can depart from those guidelines, either up or down as he sees fit.  This is the interesting judge that you might remember was a bit of a character in overseeing the Manafort trial, so we may expect yet more fireworks from the judge when it comes to sentencing the day after tomorrow.  That said, this filing tonight from Mueller`s office, we think it`s the last thing we`re going to get in the Manafort case before we find out Manafort`s fate on Thursday from that judge. 

Meanwhile today, the D.C. federal judge who is overseeing the case of Manafort in D.C., that is also the same judge overseeing the case in D.C. that involves President Trump`s longtime political adviser Roger Stone.  And that judge, Judge Amy Berman Jackson, today, came just that much closer to the end of her rope when it comes to Roger Stone and Stone`s ongoing public statements about his case. 

I mean, it is one thing to generally be known as a blurter, as somebody who has a tendency to blurt things, as a person who is unavoidable for comment on pretty much any subject, especially when it comes to himself, but it is quite another thing when you apparently can`t shut off that propensity in yourself, even upon getting direct orders to do so from a federal judge, a federal judge who has told you in no uncertain terms that you must shut it. 

Shortly after Roger Stone was arrested in January, the federal judge overseeing his case established a limited gag order for Stone that basically said that Stone was essentially banned from making public pronouncements about his case from the courthouse steps.  And I say that specifically because the judge`s order was geographically specific in terms of where Roger Stone could say what about his case, at least in the initial order. 

But then, Mr. Stone decided it would be a good idea to post online a picture of the judge in his case with a crosshairs next to her head.  And so, the judge`s initially quite limited gag order got way more strict.  A lot of people observing the Stone case thought Stone would end up in jail right away because of that stunt with the threatening statement about the judge and the judge`s photo and the crosshairs. 

The judge did not jail Roger Stone and revoke his bail immediately after he did that.  She instead decided to make the gag order significantly more strict and admonish him in court that he needed to follow it.  The new iteration of the gag order banned Roger Stone from making basically any public statements about his case or the overall investigation that it derived from. 

Since then, since the newly strict gag order was imposed on Roger Stone and he definitely understood it because she explained it to him face-to-face in court while he sat on the witness stand.  Since then, it is almost unbelievable to say, but since then, Mr. Stone has gone ahead and posted this image online, who framed Roger Stone.  And within the last few days, he and his defense team have notified the judge in his case of his new book introduction that is just now being published. 

And by this point in the story, you will not be surprised to hear the character of this new book introduction that Mr. Stone is publishing in this new thing he describes himself as being on the, quote, hit list of crooked special prosecutor Robert Mueller. 

And, you know, it`s one thing to say stuff like that if you are Florida man, you know?  Like on social media or on Fox News TV show.  But, you know, in this case the guy spouting about the crooked prosecutor and being on the hit list, he`s the defendant in a serious felony trial about which the judge has already said he`s banned from making public statements. 

So, today, the judge in D.C. federal court in Roger Stone`s case, she was nothing if not clear in response to the news of this new book introduction that is being published for Mr. Stone.  The judge said today in court, quote: There is no question that the gag order prohibited and continues to prohibit the defendant from making any public statements, using any medium concerning the investigation.  It does not matter when the defendant may have first formulated the opinions expressed or when he first put them into words.  He may no longer share his views on these particular subjects with the world. 

Can we make -- would you like it embroidered on a pillow?  Would that help? 

So it may only be a matter of time, but at this point in time, Roger Stone still has not had his bail revoked.  He is still at liberty.  That said, the judge has yet to weigh in on his additional public claim this weekend that he`s being framed. 

CNBC did report late today that a couple of websites associated with Roger Stone today were taken down.  Maybe that`s an effort to remedy that kind of problem, too, but for now, Roger Stone remains out on bond and not in jail and the matter will be back before the judge on Monday. 

As I say, observers of the Roger Stone case have been surprised that he has not yet had his bail revoked, given how much he appears to be yanking the judge`s chain over and over again in this case.  But we`ll see.  He is at least at liberty for almost another week before the judge takes up this matter again on Monday. 

So, as we have been watching, you know, the Stone case and the Manafort case and all of -- and the Butina case and the Patten case and the Erickson case, I mean, as we`ve been watching all of these cases proceed through the courts, they`re all interesting, they`re all potentially going interesting places.  It will be interesting to see the fate of all of these people and how they fit into the overall narrative if the special counsel ever spells out that narrative in a readable way.

But while we`ve all been watching those cases, there are a couple of things that are sort of new factors for us now as observers as this part of the news about this administration.  One of the new factors we have to keep an eye on as we`re watching all these cases is the new leadership at the Justice Department, right?  There are still unanswered questions about how the new Attorney General William Barr may or may not be influencing things.  May or may not be influencing anything having to do with these ongoing cases run by special counsel Robert Mueller and these derivative prosecutions that have been farmed out to other U.S. attorneys. 

Ongoing questions about how Mueller is being handled by the new attorney general and how William Barr is approaching all of these cases that touch on the Trump administration and the Trump campaign in general, I think that`s in part why there`s going to be a lot of questions asked over the next few days about this new reporting about Jessie Liu.  "The Wall Street Journal," again, first to report today the decision to take her out of the U.S. attorney`s offices in D.C., where she has been in command of a whole bunch of these cases that relate to the Russia investigation, right?  There will be questions about that in part because it`s presumably, presumably, it is William Barr who is topping her to leave that U.S. attorney`s office and move to main Justice.  There will be questions before we understand more about how Barr is approaching these things as to whether or not that may have implications for those ongoing cases. 

So that`s sort of one factor that`s new that we`re all watching having to do with all these cases.  Sort of an X factor when it comes to this change in Justice Department leadership.

  The other new factor that we`ve also had to map on to all of these cases as we`re watching them go through the court system is Congress.  The newly energized congressional investigations that exist in parallel alongside all of these criminal matters in the courts.  For example, today, the White House rejected the request for documents that had come in from the Democratic controlled Oversight Committee about security clearances, about security clearance processes in the Trump White House and particularly these recent reports that the president`s personally intervened to order the issuance of a clearance, a security clearance to his son-in-law Jared Kushner despite some kind of adverse material that turned up in Kushner`s background investigation at both the FBI and CIA, which led career national security officials to recommend that Jared Kushner shouldn`t be given a clearance. 

I should tell you incidentally that CNN tonight is also reporting that the president also intervened to get his daughter Ivanka Trump a security clearance.  NBC News has not yet verified that reporting, but CNN has run with that this evening. 

Now, the Oversight Committee had asked the White House for documents about their security clearance processes last month.  They got no response at all.  Last week, they re-upped those requests urgently in light of the new reporting about the White House, you know, flouting all previous precedent for how security clearances were being handled. 

Today, the White House counsel Pat Cipollone finally responded to those requests from the Oversight Committee, and he responded with this refusal, a refusal to hand over any of the documents that that committee is demanding. 

Now, in terms of, right, these two lanes that we`re watching, right, courts, the courts and Congress, and these new questions we have to ask about how these two lanes sort of function alongside one another in all of these various investigations and in these confrontations between the administration and the law and these confrontations between the administration and congressional oversight -- I mean, this refusal today from the White House to hand over documents requested by Congress, this is -- this is new, right?  This will presumably lead to Congress issuing subpoenas to try to get those documents.  That will presumably lead to not just a political fight but a legal fight over those subpoenas and what the Congress is going to be able to get from this White House and what the White House is going to be allowed to legally hold back.  So, that`s a whole new area of fighting we haven`t had to deal with before.  We`re about to start that area of fighting, too. 

And here are just a couple of things to keep an eye on as we are watching these two lanes, the courts and Congress.  And as we are starting to see these newly aggressive congressional investigations and these ongoing court proceedings sort of not only proceed on parallel tracks, but in some cases they`re sort of starting to touch.  And one of the things I think you should be watching for right now concerns WikiLeaks, right?  What the -- and I know you`re thinking like WikiLeaks, oh, my God, if I never hear another thing about WikiLeaks in my life -- no, this is a really specific thing that looks like it`s starting to happen. 

What the Roger Stone case is about really, I mean, separate and apart from all that personal circus stuff that surrounds Roger Stone, right, what that criminal case about Roger Stone is really about is his contacts with WikiLeaks, right?  That indictment lays out seven felony charges that are pertain to lying to Congress or witness tampering related to his alleged contacts with WikiLeaks during the presidential campaign at the time when WikiLeaks was staging and releasing the stolen documents that had been hacked by Russian intelligence.  Staging them and releasing them in a way that was designed to cause maximum damage to the Clinton campaign and maximum benefit to the Trump campaign. 

In that massive pile of document requests sent out yesterday by the Judiciary Committee, WikiLeaks and Julian Assange and Roger Stone were all asked by the committee for documents and communications that relate to that issue, that relate to WikiLeaks and their role in dumping Russian intelligence`s stolen material during the presidential campaign. 

And, you know, we will see what kind of response the Judiciary Committee gets from WikiLeaks and Julian Assange and Roger Stone.  I mean, presumably if the committee doesn`t get responses, those requests will become subpoenas and then we`ll have fights about those things, too. 

But it`s interesting.  It`s not just those three entities.  It`s just not WikiLeaks, Julian Assange and Roger Stone who are being asked by the Judiciary Committee about WikiLeaks.  We`ve been going through all of those document requests and it turns out a ton of people -- yes, a ton of people in Trump`s orbit and related to the Trump campaign have been formally asked by the judiciary committee now for any documents or communications they have regarding WikiLeaks. 

Everybody from, you know, Reince Priebus to Corey Lewandowski, to Brad Parscale, who is the current Trump reelection campaign manager, to Don McGahn, who is White House counsel, to Rhona Graff, the president`s secretary.  I mean, all of these different people got Judiciary Committee requests specifically about WikiLeaks.  All of these other people on that list. 

Actually I should tell you, there may be more.  There were 81 different document requests to go through.  We might have missed some.  That`s what we got on the first pass. 

All these other characters in the drama are being asked about WikiLeaks communications.  Because of that and because of the criminal case against Roger Stone, you should also know that today in federal court in Virginia, a little bit of drama.  Today in federal court in Virginia, the U.S. attorney himself, the top of that prosecutor`s office, the EDVA U.S. attorney himself personally turned up in court for a sealed hearing today that appears to be about some sort of legal case potentially involving WikiLeaks and/or Julian Assange. 

You might remember back in November right after the election there was a little flurry of news stories about what seemed to be a weird even slightly surreal error in a federal court filing.  One of the federal prosecutors who works in the U.S. attorney`s office in EDVA inexplicably in the middle of a filing, in a totally unrelated case, somehow randomly popped in this language in a whole different case that referenced Julian Assange.  It was very weird.  This was this unexpected insert in a random case which said that Julian Assange from WikiLeaks had been charged in an American federal indictment and that fact needed to remain under seal until after Julian Assange had been arrested in conjunction with those charges, and everybody was like, dude, what, this case isn`t even about that and Julian Assange has been arrested and he`s going to be charged and what? 

That was back in November.  It was such a random way to learn that information and the U.S. attorney`s office came out quickly and had their spokesperson say that was an error.  That was not supposed to be there.  That was just a mistake, just a typo, fat finger kind of.

"The Washington Post," however, reported at the time that although that language about Julian Assange was unintentionally disclosed in that unrelated case, according to people familiar with the matter, that language about Julian Assange was, quote, true.  Oh. 

Well, if so, that was a weird way to learn about it.  Today`s news makes it seem like maybe it was true.  Today, that same assistant U.S. attorney, that same federal prosecutor who was blamed for making that weird mistake and putting that language about Julian Assange in that unrelated case, that exact same U.S. assistant attorney today was spotted in court for the sealed hearing.  That assistant U.S. attorney blamed for that mistake was spotted in court alongside the U.S. attorney himself from the Eastern District of Virginia. 

And then, Chelsea Manning of all people also appeared at that same courthouse, walking out at the end of the day to tell reporters that she was there to fight a grand jury subpoena to testify in a sealed case.  Chelsea Manning, of course, went to prison in her role for supplying documents to WikiLeaks, documents that WikiLeaks later posted online.  So, if there is a new criminal case involving WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, you can at least draw a dotted line to Chelsea Manning as somebody who might be facing a grand jury subpoena to testify in conjunction with such a case. 

That scene at the courthouse came today after another WikiLeaks volunteer this weekend announced publicly that he is cooperating with federal prosecutors in a case related to WikiLeaks.  He told reporters this week that he is seeking an immunity deal in conjunction with his testimony in a case involving WikiLeaks.  So, all of this to say between that court filing error in November, the reporting around that error that suggested that it was weird he was in that case and it was a mistake but the information was true, and then what we saw today in Virginia, something appears to be happening in federal court that pertains to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. 

And this is happening as the president`s longtime adviser Roger Stone goes to trial for lying to Congress and witness tampering, allegedly, about his supposed communications with WikiLeaks during the campaign.  It happens potentially as he`s going to jail for violating the gag order in that case.  It happens as tons of people associated with the president and his campaign are being asked detailed questions by the Judiciary Committee about their interactions with WikiLeaks, including during the campaign. 

And it happens within a week of the president`s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen testifying in Congress that the president himself was personally notified by phone in advance about WikiLeaks` plans to dump stolen material that Russia hacked from the Democrats during the campaign. 

Now, I will warn you, if you are an interested news consumer who is interested in following this part of the story, I will warn you, just about everything that pertains to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange and Roger Stone is basically un-Googleable for all of the online trash there is that relates to these characters.  Put your virus protection on. 

But something does appear to be happening there in federal court.  And so, that is worth watching, particularly as we are looking at the intersections between all these court cases and what is going on in Congress. 

And there`s just one more thing to watch that came up today, came as a surprise to me when the news crossed late this afternoon in "The New York Times."  We`re going to talk about this right after the break.  The most important thing about this new story that broke today is I think it sort of calls the question as to whether or not the president will be able to disappear some new elements of these investigations, either through pressure on the Justice Department or through use of the pardon process.  That story`s next. 


MADDOW:  Since late last week, we have been following with interest statements from the new chair of the Financial Services Committee in the House, Maxine Waters.  According to Chairwoman Waters, that committee is really getting somewhere when it comes to its document requests to a major financial institution called Deutsche Bank. 

Her committee has expressed two areas of interest when it comes to Deutsche Bank.  One is the bank`s history of doing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business with President Trump, even after all other major lenders had sworn him off.  The second area of interest is Deutsche Bank`s admitted involvement in massive amounts of Russian money laundering. 

Ten days after President Trump was sworn in in January 2017, Deutsche Bank was hit with a $425 million fine for its role in a multibillion dollar Russian money laundering scheme that they ran out of several of the bank`s offices. 

But it`s interesting, though, $425 million fine against Deutsche Bank was not levied against that bank by the U.S. Justice Department.  That fine was actually extracted from Deutsche Bank by New York state, by a powerful agency in New York state called the Department of Financial Services.  Department of Financial Services is essentially the regulator of the banking and finance and insurance industries in New York state. 

And although this Department of Financial Services is a state agency, and that means its jurisdiction only extends as far as New York state, that doesn`t limit it to much, given that New York is the financial capital of both the country and the world.  New York state`s Department of Financial Services is an incredibly powerful agency with basically worldwide reach because of New York`s role as a financial capital. 

Well, today, "The New York Times" was first to report that that New York state agency, the Department of Financial Services, that same agency that got that $400 million-plus fine for deutsche bank for their role in Russian money laundering, that same agency late yesterday served an expansive subpoena on Donald Trump`s insurance broker. 

Quote: New York state regulators have issued an expansive subpoena to the Trump Organization`s longtime insurance broker, the first step in investigation of insurance policies and claims involving President Trump`s family businesses.  The subpoena was served late Monday on the company and one of the largest insurance brokerage firms in the world, as part of an inquiry by the New York State Department of Financial Services.  It came just days after Michael Cohen, President Trump`s former fixer and lawyer, indicated in congressional testimony that the Trump Organization inflated the value of its assets to insurance companies. 

And Michael Cohen, remember, testified that they inflated assets to insurance companies, but you`ll remember, he also handed over financial documents that he said were given to insurance companies as part of the Trump Organization`s efforts to reduce its premiums.  Even before Michael Cohen testified last week to Congress, "The Times" had previously reported that Michael Cohen was speaking to SDNY prosecutors about insurance claims the Trump Organization had filed over the years. 

And we didn`t really know what that line meant when "The Times" first reported that the in late February, but last week in open session in Congress, Michael Cohen spelled it out.  He told members of Congress, he cold William Lacy Clay from Missouri and he told Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York that the president`s business and the president inflated the president`s assets in financial statements to insurance companies in order to lower his insurance premiums, which is illegal.  And, you know, that`s - - it sort of sounds like garden variety financial crime, but that`s garden variety felony financial fraud. 

And now, according to these new reports, the insurance entity that would have handled the documents in any such alleged fraud is cooperating with this new investigation by this powerful New York state agency that oversees the finance industry in this state and essentially by extension around the world.  And one of the reasons this is going to be fascinating to watch is because there is absolutely no way that President Trump can stop this one.  The Department of Financial Services in New York state can`t bring criminal prosecution itself, but they can bring civil proceedings.  Hello, $425 million fine against Deutsche Bank. 

And if they find evidence of criminal behavior, they can refer criminal matters to state prosecutors or to D.A.s.  And if you are being prosecuted for this kind of financial crime by those kinds of prosecutors, it does not matter if you are president of the United States, at least when it comes to pardoning your way out of that kind of a problem because presidential pardons only apply to federal crimes and federal prosecutions. 

So this one, this one`s untouchable.


MADDOW:  All right.  This story is such a perfect and tidy portrait of Washington during this moment in American history under this president.  The story goes like this. 

April of last year, two big wireless companies, T-Mobile and Sprint, announced a huge merger, $27 billion merger, 27 billion with a "B."  Once the two companies reached that deal between them that they wanted to merge, the next thing they had to do was convince the federal government, convince federal government regulators to let them go ahead with this merger. 

Well, what reporter David Fahrenthold discovered at "The Washington Post" is that the day after that merger was announced last April, the next day, the merger that was going to need federal government approval from the Trump administration, the next day after they announced the merger, nine top executives from T-Mobile, including the company`s CEO, booked themselves into stay at the Trump Hotel in Washington.  And then they kept coming back.  One T-Mobile executive came back and stayed at that Trump hotel 10 times in six weeks.  I don`t stay home ten times in six weeks. 

The T-Mobile executives were all listed on the hotel`s VIP arrivals list, which was distributed to Trump Hotel staff, and while all those executives were there, you better believe they were making sure they were visible, walking around literally wearing bright neon clothing that had the T-Mobile logo on it, greeting people, being noticed, having their pictures taken there ostentatiously. 

David Fahrenthold found that T-Mobile executives booked dozens of nights at the Trump Hotel last year once their merger need Trump administration approval. 

Look, to be fair, maybe T-Mobile executives have always just loved Trump Hotels.  You know, they`re coming to Washington to push for this deal.  They stay at the same hotel.  They always stay, right?  They`ve always loved that place.  Nothing to do with currying favor and to bribe somebody to get the merger approved, right? 

Well, David Fahrenthold`s latest report in "The Washington Post" today puts the finishing touch on the arc of this story.  Quote: T-Mobile acknowledges its patronage of Trump`s Washington hotel increased largely after the announcement of the merger with Sprint.  In a letter responding to questions from Democratic lawmakers, the company says before the announcement of this merger that needs government approval, quote, only two top officials from T-Mobile had ever stayed at Trump`s hotel with one overnight stay each in August 2017. 

But since the merger was announced, since April of last year, T-Mobile employees have spent $195,000 staying at the Trump hotel in Washington.  That is $195,000 into the pocket of the president of the United States, whose administration will soon decide whether T-Mobile will be allowed to go through with this giant multi-billion dollar deal. 

And this will be called bribery in the fable version of this story that will be some day used to teach future generations about corruption in the American government at this time in American history.  Some day this will be called some variation of the word bribery, but today it`s just breaking news.

Joining us now is David Fahrenthold.  Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter at "The Washington Post."

Mr. Fahrenthold, it`s nice to see you.  Thank you for being here.


MADDOW:  I`m describing this as simple, and I always get self-conscious when I do that, but I fell like this is one of the most direct, simple news arcs that we`ve had about how this is working here. 

Did I miss anything important or did I fudge any complications here? 

FAHRENTHOLD:  No, you`re right.  It`s very simple.  You saw that they barely stayed at this hotel in the 16 months it had been open.  The day after they announced this merger that needs Trump`s approval, they all show up and keep coming back, $195,000 over ten months of hotel stays.  That`s a lot of money in a pretty short time. 

MADDOW:  Now, I have to say that we contacted t-mobile for comment, and a spokesman for the company declined to comment on the record, but T-Mobile in their letter to Congress, they say that these Trump Hotel stays were only a small portion of their hotel expenditures in Washington.  They say they stay other places too.

But, I mean, for everything we`ve seen, I haven`t seen any firm denial here from the company that they may have been doing this at the Trump Hotel to try to curry favor with the Trump administration and the president.  What`s your reading of this? 

FAHRENTHOLD:  You`re right about this.  We found John Ledger, the CEO of T- Mobile, we actually found him in the Trump lobby, sort of caught him there.  And he said at the time, oh, no, I just stay here because it`s convenient to the Justice Department where I`m going to lobby for my merger.  It is not in any way attempting to curry favor.

But you`ll notice in the letter they wrote to the Democratic lawmakers, they didn`t make that claim, you know, we weren`t doing it to curry favor.  They`re just saying we trust that regulators will make a good decision and not be influenced by this.  There will be a trustworthy decision despite this. 

MADDOW:  I mean, I have to ask, I made the joke about bribery when this is told as a children`s story some day.  Obviously, there is concern about the president`s potential violations of the Emoluments Clause in the Constitution in accepting particularly foreign gifts by continuing to do business while he`s still serving in public office.  Is there potential legal liability, even civil liability by shareholders or some other entity for a company if a company could be shown to be trying to curry favor with regulators by doing something like this, by putting money in the president`s pocket in the ostentatious way that T-Mobile seems to have done here. 

FAHRENTHOLD:  Well, this is where I wish I went to law school like my mother wanted.  I don`t know the law enough to say if there`s certainly liability.  But there`s a lot of people who oppose this merger.  A lot of other companies that have lost market share -- will lose market share if T- Mobile grabs Sprint and grows in size so much.  They certainly will use this against them. 

You said this is -- this is a sign of the way business is done in Washington now.  The president has created this private channel, while you`re lobbying him publicly, you can also pay him privately.  If we haven`t gotten ahold of these VIP arrivals lists, I don`t think anybody would have known how much they were paying him privately.  So, you see how these created this second channel for influence and people seem to be using it. 

MADDOW:  Wow.  "Washington Post" reporter David Fahrenthold -- David, great to have you here.  Thank you for your work tonight. 

FAHRENTHOLD:  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  All right.  Lots more ahead.  Stay with us.


MADDOW:  Twice now, the dictator of North Korea has been able to summon the president of the United States to come to Asia, come talk with him in a bilateral summit and praise him as a great guy in front of all the world`s news cameras.  It must be nice. 

The first summit was less than a year ago.  It`s not clear what exactly North Korea did after that summit to get themselves a second summit, but they got themselves a second summit and this one was definitely a bust.  Not only was there no discernible outcome from the summit at all, President Trump said at the event that he believed the North Korean dictator`s claim that he had no idea that Otto Warmbier was tortured at one of his North Korean prisons.  He pulled the U.S. military permanently out of joint military exercises with South Korea, one of North Korea`s big priorities that President Trump gave them in exchange for nothing.

He also said that when Kim Jong-un made vague promises about nuclear testing, quote, I trust him.  I take him at his word. 

Why?  On what basis? 

Well, now here`s breaking news from NBC News tonight.  Courtney Kube, Andrea Mitchell, Carol Lee are now reporting that within 48 hours after that bust, within 48 hours after Trump left following that disastrous failed summit, North Korea was already rebuilding a key long-range missile site, a site that essentially been dormant since Trump`s first meeting with Kim Jong-un last year.  According to this exclusive NBC News report tonight, that missile site is now showing activity consistent with, quote, preparations for a test. 

We know this thanks to commercial satellite images obtained by NBC News.  These images were taken March 2nd, that`s two days after the summit fell apart.  The images show what experts say is renewed activity at this long- range missile launching site. 

I should clarify, these images don`t show an actual missile being moved to the launch pad, but one of the authors of this report points out, quote, they have already tested a few of these and it looks like they are preparing the launch pad for another act.  Again, that breaking news tonight from NBC News. 

Senator Chris Murphy is on the Foreign Relations Committee.  He`ll join us in just a moment.



DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE:  We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival. 


MADDOW:  It`s leaders view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.  Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats speaking January 29th. 

One more Donald Trump/Kim Jong-un summit later, we now know that Dan Coats and the intelligence community were apparently on to something there.  NBC News reporting tonight within two days of the president leaving his failed denuclearization summit with Kim Jong-un last week, the North Koreans appear to have started preparations for a new missile launched at a previously dormant testing site. 

Joining us now is Senator Chris Murphy.  He`s a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, thanks very much for joining us tonight.  Nice having you here. 


MADDOW:  So have members of Congress, have senators been briefed on these developments?  If so, is there anything you can share? 

MURPHY:  No, we haven`t.  In fact, today we had an off the record conversation with the president`s primary negotiator with the North Koreans.  And this did not come up.  I`ve seen the reports you have.

It`s certainly very worrying that they`re back working on a test site that was supposedly closed.  You know, there was an assumption that when the president at the end of this summit announced that notwithstanding the fact they didn`t get any agreement, he was going to permanently shut down these joint exercises with the South Koreans that maybe that had come in exchange for a promise from the North Koreans to permanently stop these tests as well.  That may not be the case, given the fact that they look to be restarting one of these facilities. 

And if we have unilaterally decided to stop not military exercises without any behavior given an exchange from the North Koreans, that`s even worse than coming out of the summit without a deal. 

MADDOW:  On this point of the president giving up the military exercises, there`s a -- I mean, as far as I understand this, this is one of North Korea`s major priorities in terms of dealing with the United States, sort of one of their major international demands.  I have been slightly unnerved about the president being so willing to trade away those joint military exercises, not only because our military says they`re important, but also because the president himself apparently told people that he got this idea by speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who suggested this to him as something he ought to give away to the North Koreans. 

That was reported in "The Wall Street Journal" a very long time ago.  That`s very much stuck in my craw.  I don`t know if you have any take on that aspect of this. 

MURPHY:  Yes.  So much for "The Art of the Deal".  There were, you know, a small number of things other than the sanctions that really stuck with the North Koreans.  There were a small number of things that we could give away in part of a confidence-building deal if we didn`t want to start loosening the sanctions.  And those exercises were one of the few chips we had. 

Trump went into the negotiations thinking the, you know, these Danielle Steele love letters that he exchanged with Kim Jong-un was going to lead to a big comprehensive agreement.  That was never going to happen and he walked away with nothing.  What he should have been doing was trying to work on some small preliminary deal that would lead to a bigger deal later on.  And we`re now seeing that the stakes of failure were pretty high if the consequence is the North Koreans are going to start again. 

One last thing I`d mention, we have not gotten confirmation on this, but there were reports that Sergey Lavrov was in Hanoi during the time of the summit, which makes you even more worried about what he was doing there. 

MADDOW:  In terms of what happens next here, I know you are a dedicated student and leader on foreign policy issues, and I think that you have strong ideas about negotiating even with people whom you disagree in order to get America`s way in the world.  With this president and the way he has approached this, though, do you think there is a course correction that is available here in terms of how he is handling this matter?  Obviously, this is a -- this is a huge deal for not only the Korean peninsula, but for the world in terms of national security. 

MURPHY:  Yes, you are running out of time and, of course, it may be that this has all been simply a delay play by Kim Jong-un.  That he has been assiduously working behind the scenes underground on developing nuclear weapons capacity while he`s been sitting across the table from us.  In a six-month period of time, it will be too late. 

The problem, though, is we could have used this last year to continue to build up crippling sanctions.  Instead, because Trump was so eager to get this deal, he set aside the sanctions work and went right for the comprehensive agreement without having done any of the prep work ahead of time. 

So, we`ve lost critical time to build up sanctions pressure.  We now are at ground zero.  We don`t have even a preliminarily agreement that could have been worked on in Hanoi.  And it may be that we`re going to find out as this nuclear site continues to be developed that it`s all too late. 

MADDOW:  Senator Chris Murphy of Foreign Relations Committee -- really appreciate your time tonight, sir.  Thanks for being here. 

MURPHY:  Thanks. 

MADDOW:  All right.  We`ll be right back.


MADDOW:  Thank you for being with us tonight.  We will see you again tomorrow. 


Good evening, Lawrence.

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