CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is ALL IN for this evening.
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now with Joy Reid, in for Rachel.
Good evening, Joy.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris, my friend. Thank you very much.
HAYES: You bet.
REID: Have a great rest of your night.
All right. Thanks to you at home for joining us. Rachel has the night off. She will be back on Monday.
So, happy Friday, everybody.
So, yesterday, we were treated to two related pieces of news that were both shocking in their own way. We witnessed the sitting president`s campaign chair being sentenced to prison that, the first time in U.S. that that has ever happened. That is one.
But the second piece is what kind of sentence Paul Manafort got. One that shocked even veteran prosecutors because Paul Manafort`s sentence of nearly four years in prison on eight felony financial fraud counts was far less than the 19 and -- 19-1/2 to 24 years that were recommended by the federal sentencing guidelines for his crimes, far less than we`ve seen people sentenced for for anything from mistakenly voting in an election with a previous felony conviction or being convicted for marijuana possession.
For a lot of people watching that sentence yesterday, felt like an object lesson in rich man`s justice. And then, last night, Manafort`s lawyer exited the courtroom with a complete non sequitur talking point that had nothing to do with what just happened in the courtroom.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN DOWNING, PAUL MANAFORT`S ATTORNEY: Good evening, everyone. As you heard in court today, Mr. Manafort finally got to speak for himself. He made clear he accepts responsibility for his conduct, and I think most importantly what you saw today is the same thing that we had said from day one. There is absolutely no evidence that Paul Manafort was involved with any collusion with any government official from Russia. Thank you, everybody.
REPORTER: What do you think of the sentence?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Thank you, everybody. No collusion. Wait, wait, what?
Even the very lenient judge who said that Manafort had led an otherwise exemplarily life besides the eight major felonies that robbed the United States of tens of millions of dollars, even that judge said early on the trial that the charges against Manafort had nothing to do with Russian collusion. So, to come out of that trial saying see that, no evidence of collusion, that makes about zero sense.
And today, as if by coincidence Donald Trump picked up that familiar talking point and ran with it, very pointedly directing reporters to those comments from Manafort`s lawyers. Trump said he was quote honored that the judge and case declared that there was no collusion in Russia. First of all, that`s not true. The judge did not say that, because again, that`s not what the Manafort case was about.
But Trump was very honored by those imaginary words by the judge. And Donald Trump didn`t stop there. He kept on stirring the discussion back to no collusion and even back to his long time lawyer Michael Cohen, even though there is literally nothing in the Cohen saga that benefits him, let`s talk about my other close associate who is headed to prison soon. #nocollusion.
So, a couple things are weird about this. The fact Manafort through his lawyer seemed to be parroting the Trump script as he prepares to go to another judge for a second sentencing, who the judge was now absorbed the massive public outrage how short a sentence he just received. And more than a few legal observers are thinking the reason he`s singing from the Trump no collusion song book is pardon, something Trump also brought up, unprompted today about Michael Cohen.
Trump told reporters today that Cohen lied to Congress when he said he had never saw a pardon. Then as soon as he boarded this plane for Alabama today, Trump tweeted that Michael Cohen had asked him directly for a pardon and Trump claimed he said no.
Now, Cohen says Trump is lying about that but Republican Congressman Jim Jordan says he`s going to send another criminal referral to the Justice Department over Cohen`s alleged lie about whether he asked for a pardon, raising the following intriguing question: will Donald Trump have to be interviewed as part of an investigation into Michael Cohen`s alleged lying about trying for a pardon. I mean, if they had a one on one conversation about it as Donald Trump alleges in his Twitter feed, wouldn`t Trump have to give evidence?
Also today, White House Communications Director Bill Shine abruptly resigned, meaning that this White House has gone through more communications directors than the real housewives had cast members. Bill Shine came to the White House from Fox News and he will now go to work on Donald Trump`s reelection campaign. Perhaps one day, he`ll end up back at Fox News. Oh, yes. It`s the circle of life.
And speaking of White House communications, one of the things that has made this White House different from all the other White Houses is the amount of leaking that happens inside it. This White House is so leaky, last year "Axios" published a piece entitled "White House leakers leak about leaking", in which some of the administration`s most prolific anonymous leakers spoke to "Axios" anonymously about what they leak and why.
And when it comes to White House leaking, there is the petty score settling kind. There is the kind designed to advance your preferred policy position if you`ve lost some internal debate. And in this White House, there is even leaking because maybe you think the only way to reach the president is to get something on to the TV so that he can see it during his executive time.
But there`s also leaking out of concern, leaking that appears to be undertaken to sound the alarm. It was six months ago this week that we got the astonishing op-ed in "The New York Times" in which an anonymous senior Trump administration official described being one of a number of senior administration officials, quote, working diligently from within to frustrate parts of Trump`s agenda and his worst inclinations.
Quote, we believe our first duty is to this country and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic. Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We are trying to do what`s right, even when Donald Trump won`t.
Now, your mileage may vary as to whether you thought that op-ed was courageous or self-justifying, reassuring or terrifying, but it was the kind of leak from inside this administration. Here is something I think the American people should know about what`s happening here. There have been a number of these. At the beginning of Trump`s presidency, anonymous White House officials leaked details and eventually transcripts of Trump`s phone calls with foreign leaders.
And sure, maybe they did that to embarrass him, but it seemed that some people inside this White House thought the public need to know what Trump was saying on those calls. There was the report a few months ago that the president was carrying on all kinds of sensitive conversations with friends on his unsecured cell phone, conversations being listened to by Chinese and Russian intelligence. Now, that leak certainly sounds like a warning or maybe a cry for help.
Quote: Mr. Trump`s aides have repeatedly warned him that his cell phone calls are not secure and have hold him that Russian spies are routinely eavesdropping on the calls, but aides say the voluble president has still refused to give up his iPhones. White House officials say they can only hope he refrains from discussing classified information when he is on them. Well, we haven`t been able to get him to do that dangerous thing, so we better alert the public about it, those leaks seem to say.
And there have been various leaks about presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner and his security clearance. That he had an interim clearance for a year because officials would not clear him for a permanent one. And then his interim clearance was revoked.
Then the president reportedly ordered that he be given a top security clearance despite all the red flags that were raised by intelligence officials. And the president`s chief of staff and White House counsel being so alarmed by the president`s decision that they both wrote contemporaneous memos documenting why they thought Jared Kushner should never have gotten a clearance. And, yes, someone in the administration who has a beef with Jared may be leaking this to undercut him. That is certainly possible.
But this is also someone sounding an alarm that this guy is having a lot of trouble getting a security clearance for a reason. Like I said, we are used to these leaks to the media, every day, it seems like we get at least one. But today we got a signal that there may be a substantial shift under way in the nature and the seriousness of these disclosures, a shift that has all kinds of implications for oversight and for investigations of this White House.
The House Oversight Committee has been asking the White House for documents on the security clearance issue for weeks, ever since Democrats took over the committee. And this week, the White House finally said, no, no documents, which was expected to trigger a subpoena from the committee and then possibly a big, huge fight over that subpoena.
Well, today, "Axios" reports that the Oversight Committee has already gotten its hands on a number of the documents. They were leaked to the committee by someone inside the White House. Quote: The House Oversight Committee in early February had already obtained the leaked documents that detail the entire process from the spring of 2017 to the spring of 2018 on how both Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were ultimately granted their security clearances. Hmm.
Well, think about that. Leaking damaging information or sound the alarm type information to the press is one thing. Leaking documents with national security implications to a congressional committee controlled by the opposition party with broad investigatory and subpoena power -- if this report is correct, we may be in a whole new ball game.
Joining me now is Congressman Ro Khanna, Democrat of California, who sits on the oversight committee. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
REP. RO KHANNA (D), CALIFORNIA: Joy, it`s good to be on.
REID: OK. So let`s go get into this leak. Obviously, now, the committee now has the documents that walk your committee through the process of how Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump got their security clearances. What now does the committee want to do about it? Is this -- is this going to trigger hearings and could we see Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner forced to testify or White House officials who granted them their clearances?
KHANNA: Well, Joy, let me explain why this is such a big deal. For a president who spent the entire 2016 campaign trail railing against Hillary Clinton`s private e-mail servers, this is a far bigger national security crisis. There are allegations that Jared Kushner had sensitive information that he has allegedly been giving lists to MBS, the Saudi crown prince, about Saudi dissidents. That he`s been on WhatsApp with Saudi Arabia`s crown prince.
And we need to know what is it in his background that was causing concern? Has he been sharing sensitive top-secret information with people in Saudi Arabia or other countries? Why is it he has not disclosed a number of his foreign business relations?
So this is not a partisan issue. It`s not a bureaucratic issue. This is our most sensitive information that may be getting into the wrong hands.
REID: And can I ask you, does the committee have the contemporaneous notes that John Kelly, the former chief of staff, and the White House counsel Don McGahn wrote about the obtained -- about these two obtaining these clearances, do you all have those notes?
KHANNA: I don`t think we have those yet, but as you pointed out, both John Kelly and the White House counsel at the time were opposed to the decision to give Jared Kushner top secret clearance. They were so opposed to it, that they felt the need to write a memo documenting how concerned they were and why Jared Kushner shouldn`t be getting this information.
And this has implications about our policy in the Middle East. I mean, the president has made Jared Kushner the point person on Middle East peace and -- or Middle East policy and we need to know what information he has and who is he sharing it with.
REID: And in the documents that were leaked to the committee, is there anything in those documents that indicates to you that Jared Kushner might have shared classified information with the Saudi prince?
KHANNA: I can`t say it`s in that, but there has been public reporting on a number of key points. One, that Jared Kushner had access to the president`s daily brief, in that daily brief were numerous reports about Saudi dissidents and he allegedly shared that list with the Saudi crown prince. Second, Jared Kushner has allegedly had meetings with the Saudi prince without having anyone in our embassy there. That is not standard protocol.
And we know the crown prince most likely ordered the killing of Khashoggi. We know he`s ordering the bombing of hundreds of thousands of civilians in Yemen. And here there are serious allegations of what Jared Kushner is sharing with him.
This is not a bureaucratic issue. This is a hugely sensitive issue about the highest national security of this country.
REID: And we know just from public reporting that one of the challenges that Jared Kushner likely had getting a clears was the fact that he was in a lot of debt. He had a building here in Manhattan that had a big balloon payment due. His father was reportedly looking -- helping him to try to look for ways to pay that bill.
Have you found in anything of those leaked documents, any of those leaked documents, anything that would indicate to you that Jared Kushner was seeking funding, seeking money from the Middle East while he was in the Middle East purportedly negotiating on behalf of the United States?
KHANNA: I can`t comment on those documents, but just in general with the public reporting, there are huge reports that Jared Kushner hasn`t been fully forthcoming about all of his overseas business dealings and all of his foreign contacts. You know, I had a security background check when I worked at the Commerce Department. You have to disclose every single person you`ve ever met with in a foreign country in the past seven years.
And for Kushner not to have disclosed financial transactions or his overseas contacts puts him and the country in a vulnerable spot. It might not have even been something that he realized put him in a vulnerable spot, but that`s why we have those background checks, to see if someone could take advantage of him, and I have concerns whether the Saudis have been taking advantage of the situation.
REID: All right. Congressman Ro Khanna, member of the House Oversight Committee -- thank you so much. Really appreciate your time tonight.
KHANNA: Joy, thanks for having me back on.
REID: Thank you very much.
Well, if this report today from Axios is accurate that somebody inside the White House has leaked documents to the House Oversight Committee about how Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump got their security clearances, documents the White House has been refusing to hand over to that committee, how big a change is that from the run of the mill leaks to the press that we`ve all gotten accustomed to? How worried should the White House be?
Joining us now is NBC presidential historian Michael Beschloss.
Great to have you with us, Michael.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Thanks, Joy.
REID: So just give us the answer to that question. How unprecedented is it for the White House to refuse to hand over documents of this sensitive nature related to national security and then have someone in the White House leak it to a congressional committee?
BESCHLOSS: Well, that`s the thing. Anyone who is complaining that the Trump White House is not full of innovations, here is one of them, which is that usually you see someone in the White House leaking something to the press and if there is an investigation in Congress, the committee uses it. The Trump White House, if that is the source of these documents, has now cut out the middle person.
You know, Joy, maybe two of the biggest revelations of government secrets in the last 50 years were the Pentagon Papers and the Nixon tapes. The Pentagon Papers were leaked by a former pentagon employee, Daniel Ellsberg, to "The New York Times" and "Washington Post" because he felt that this was something that Americans needed to see, how we go into this catastrophic Vietnam War.
And the Nixon tapes, that was one of the most closely-held secrets in the Nixon White House. A member of the Senate Watergate Committee staff basically guessed that perhaps Nixon was taping his private conversations and asked a serving White House aide, Alexander Butterfield. That`s the traditional way, very different from what we`re seeing now with these documents from the Trump White House.
REID: You know, just to take it even further afield, right, if Donald Trump, the president of the United States, ordered these security clearances to be granted over the objections of his national security advisers, national security staff -- I mean, Ulysses S. Grant testified in the whiskey ring scandal, right? I mean, so there is a precedent for a president of the United States giving testimony to a special prosecutor, no less.
Could you see Trump has to do that?
BESCHLOSS: For sure. And Gerald Ford -- yes, Gerald Ford testified before the House saying there was no deal leading to the Nixon pardon. He did that in the fall of 1974. There sure is.
So some of these old traditions -- executive privilege is a tradition. It`s not something that`s in the Constitution.
REID: Yes. And lastly, is there an antecedent to a Jared Kushner, somebody who had so much debt, who was looking for it presumably among foreign sources, and who was in a position to read the president`s daily brief?
BESCHLOSS: And if he used his position -- if he did, to essentially compromise our American security interests in order to get money to bail out his family in that building, that is something that we have never seen before, and you have to assume that whoever leaked this, if this is someone in the White House, felt that this was such an outrage and there was such a danger that there might be future such behavior if Jared Kushner or his wife had top security clearances that they would be a clear and present danger.
We`ve got to look at this as a cry for help.
REID: Yes, it`s all extraordinary. I mean, just new historical record being set seemingly every day.
NBC presidential Michael Beschloss, always here to unpack it for us. Thank you, sir. Really appreciate it.
BESCHLOSS: Thank you, Joy. See you soon.
REID: Thank you very much.
Still ahead tonight, a little court transcript theater. Go get your popcorn. I`ll wait here and we`ll be right back.
REID: We now know from the transcript of yesterday`s Paul Manafort sentencing that moments after the judge handed down his fate, Manafort`s defense team made one last brazen appeal. Specifically Manafort lawyer Kevin Downing asked Judge T.S. Ellis if he could order, and I did say order, that the sentence he just issued be served concurrently with whatever the judge in his D.C. case issues next week.
Now here is the transcript. I cannot do this as well as Rachel, but go with me on this.
OK. Quote: Your Honor, there is one other issue we`d like to raise, Manafort`s lawyer told the judge. It has to do with whether or not you can order this sentence to be concurrently served with -- at which point the judge interrupts him to say, quote: I can`t, but she can. I don`t believe I can. If you find in the law that I`m incorrect, you can bring that to my attention.
The judge then adds: I think it is entirely up to her whether any sentence she imposes is to run concurrent to this sentence. It`s up to her. Anything else, Mr. Downing?
To which Manafort`s lawyer replied: No, your honor -- which is the more diplomatic way of saying of course not! I mean, it takes a special level of rich guy privilege to think you could ask the judge who just cut you a massive break to make sure that the next judge makes that break stick. So, clearly, there is no sense of contrition or remorse from Manafort`s camp, like none, but rather a pretty bold presumption that the system should and will continue to work for him.
Next week, Manafort will be in court before Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who first ordered Manafort to jail for tampering with witnesses, who could tack on as much as ten years to the four he`s already facing behind bars. Manafort`s ultimate fate next week comes as the prospect of Mueller`s report looms over everything.
Today, the top Republican on the house judiciary committee said that he met recently with Attorney General Bill Barr and predicted that the public may only get a short summary of Mueller`s findings. Great. This is all fine.
His remarks today come as the Democratic chairs of six house committees introduced a resolution that when completed, the Mueller report should be made available to the public and to Congress.
Well, joining me now is David Corn, Washington bureau chief for Mother Jones, and Chuck Rosenberg, former attorney from Virginia.
David and Chuck, I appreciate your time.
Chuck, I`m going to go to you first just to ask how unusual it is just from your point of view for a defendant, who was just sentenced to say to a judge, hey, judge, can you make the next sentence concurrent so I can have less time? Like, is that normal at all?
CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: You know, Joy, I was a prosecutor for a long time in federal court. Defense attorneys ask for all sorts of crazy things. This one is an easy one. There is a federal statute right on point.
I`m going to be a little bit of a nerd here, but if your viewers want to read it, it`s Title 18 of the United States Code, section 3584. The simple answer is no. The next judge, Amy Berman Jackson, gets to run the sentence consecutively if she wants or concurrently if she wants, or some combination of the two.
So I`ve seen lots and lots of defense attorneys ask for things that they know they can`t have, and the judge was right in this case to say not in my court, not in my jurisdiction. I don`t have the authority to give you what you`re asking for.
REID: You know, Chuck, just to stay with you for a second, a lot of people -- I was. A lot of people were shocked with how little time that Manafort was given for this sentence -- this stuff about him leading an exemplary life. We know what his life was beforehand.
Were you equally shocked by it and do you think that shock and outrage that people felt around the country will impact Judge Amy Berman Jackson`s decision? Do judges react to the public reaction to other sentences?
ROSENBERG: You know, they probably try not to, but they`re human beings like all of us. Inevitability she saw what Judge Ellis did in Virginia and had some sort of reaction to it. I`m sure in her own mind, probably already having read, Joy, the presentencing report for Mr. Manafort in her court, she has an idea of what she thinks is the just outcome here.
Was I shocked? Not entirely. I`ve practiced in front of Judge Ellis for many years as a federal prosecutor.
Was I disappointed? I was deeply disappointed. I think it was the wrong call, a bad call.
Here`s why: many, many years ago Congress passed the statute to create federal sentencing guidelines to bring some parity into the system. So, somebody who did what Manafort did in San Diego or Spokane or Topeka or whatever would get roughly the same sentence, regardless of which court and which judge was handling the matter.
And so, this was not just a departure, this was a dramatic departure, and it was a departure without a motion from the government. Normally, if someone helps the government, if they`re truthful and cooperative, the government will move the court, will ask the court to depart downward.
Manafort did not help. He lied. He did not earn a departure. He certainly was not entitled to what he got. He got a real lucky break in front of Judge Ellis. I don`t think the same thing is going to happen next week in front of Judge Jackson.
REID: Yes. And, you know, David Corn, that`s part of I think what`s so outrageous about this. I mean, you have Michael Cohen out here bearing his soul in front of Congress, and going back over and over again to be helpful without really a deal. He knows he`s getting three years regardless, you know, maybe he`ll get a break down the road.
But Manafort is a guy who wasn`t even helping the government. As a matter of fact, he was obstructing the government`s attempt to find the truth here. Tampering with witnesses, all the other things he did. So, just preview for me then how it`s going -- I guess not the optics, that`s the wrong word, I feel. If in the end this man who did not help, then the Mueller report comes out and we don`t even get to see it, what are we left with here as a country after having gone through three years of this?
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: That won`t be the end of it, OK? Let`s just, you know, I`m a little bit frustrated, Joy, because people seem to be putting all their eggs in the Mueller report basket and Mueller has no obligation under the Justice Department guidelines to produce a comprehensive report telling -- stating what he found out and what he learned. His only obligation is to give a report at the very end to the attorney general explaining why he prosecuted cases or declined to prosecute other cases.
You know, it could easily be a 12-page report, you know, telling -- you know, without getting into details. Or if he chose to, it could be a 5,000-page report explaining everything he found and why he decided to prosecute or not prosecute. We don`t know.
So it may well be at the end of the day if it`s a more limited report there may not be much to show. And this gets back to a point I know you and I have discussed previously. It`s not his job to tell Americans the truth. That`s not what he was hired to do. He was hired to prosecute, look for and then prosecute criminal cases.
It`s Congress` job or maybe an independent commission to dig into all of this and tell us what happened with Trump/Russia connections and everything else and the Russian intervention because a lot of probably what went on may not have been a crime. It could just be wrong. You can have scandals that aren`t necessarily illegal but they still can contain acts of profound betrayal.
So, you know, we still have the, you know, the House Democrats have taken control of the intelligence committee and are going back over an investigation that the Republicans turned into a clown show. And so there`s that. And hopefully they will give us some deeper and wider answers than Robert Mueller was ever asked to do.
REID: But, you know, David Corn, my friend, you and I both know that what the Democrats are saying publicly, what you`re hearing in the reporting, is that they`re hanging everything on the Mueller report. That they don`t even want to talk about impeachment, which is the hearings that would get the public the answers you just described. They would have a public hearing. It isn`t removal. It`s impeachment as a hearing.
CORN: Well, no --
REID: They say no, not unless the Mueller report comes out.
CORN: Well, not necessarily. I believe they are setting up expectations and standards for the Mueller report that may well be unjustified, and, you know, sort of painting themselves into a corner. But you can have a robust investigation with public hearings into the Russia connections and into, you know, emoluments and into, you know, Trump bad business practices.
You can do all that through these committees without it being an impeachment proceeding. In fact, I would argue that it`s probably more responsible of Democrats in Congress to look at all these various things that need further digging and scrutiny and that the public deserves to know about the security clearance issue that you talked about earlier in the show, and they should spend their time not worrying about to impeach or not to impeach, but go after the tax returns, look at the insurance issues that Michael Cohen has raised, the tax fraud story that "the New York Times" put forward a couple of months ago about the Trump family getting away with hundreds of millions of dollars in tax fraud. That`s amazing.
CORN: They should look at each and every one of these and then at the end of the day, then they can have a debate over whether to impeach or not. By then it might be election time. But the American public is owed answers and you don`t need impeachment to do that.
REID: Well, before we go, we are out of time, but, Chuck Rosenberg, very quickly, can you envision a leak of the Mueller report, whatever it is, coming out of that White House counsel`s office, if it`s not released?
ROSENBERG: Yes, I can`t imagine it coming from the Mueller team, Joy. But almost everything becomes public some way at some point. My guess is that we`re going to see it but we`re not going to see it from Bob Mueller. He`s running a very tight ship over there.
REID: Yes, he is.
David Corn, Washington bureau chief of "Mother Jones", Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney for Virginia, thank you guys very much.
REID: All right. So I am not an accountant. Tax law`s not my thing. Statistically speaking, it`s probably not your thing either, but there is a strong possibility it`s about to be. More on that in a minute.
Stay with us.
REID: The new Democratic House has ushered in a whole lot of changes, apart from all the new incredibly diverse freshmen members and a new, if returning, speaker at the helm. The change of leadership in the committees means that we are seeing oversight for the first time since Donald Trump entered the White House.
And that kicked into high gear earlier this week when the House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler`s committee sent over a sweeping document request to 81 people and entities related to Trump world. That happened on Monday. On Tuesday, we learned that the House Ways and Means Committee is preparing to go after a decade`s worth of Trump tax returns, and they plan on doing so using a 1924 law that gives the chairman of that committee broad power to demand the tax returns of White House officials. In this case, the White House official is the president.
Well, today, we`re learning that that committee might be taking that request one step further. "Reuters" is reporting that Democrats are looking at the possibility of broadening the request to ask for Donald Trump`s business returns.
Now, Trump owns more than 500 companies and entities. And what that exactly means basically is that Donald Trump`s business is not really a business in the sense that we understand it. Those more than 500 companies are all a series of LLCs that normally should show up on your personal income taxes. That setup is common in the New York real estate business.
So, for the committee, the first step would be to get Trump`s personal returns, to look for those 500-plus LLCs, and if they`re not listed there, step two would be to try to go and get Donald Trump`s business tax returns. So it could get compliment so it could get complicated.
The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee tells "Reuters", quote, tax policy is pretty complicated. There are times individual returns can instruct you, other times you might seek a business return.
So, that`s something to look out for. It does make you think, if Donald Trump never ran for president, all of this could have remained hidden forever. So, elections do have consequences, including for Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, THEN-U.S. PRESIDENT: Now, too many kids don`t have parents who care. Gangs and drugs have taken over our streets and undermined our schools. Every day, we read about somebody else who has literally gotten away with murder.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: After Lyndon Johnson made the surprise decision not to run for president again in March of 1968, and after anti-war Democrat George McGovern was blown out of the election by law and order incumbent Richard Nixon in 1972, Democrats were shook. And after those presidential defeats there was a way to run for president as a Democrat. That way was to run as a centrist, to try and reconnect as a Democrat with white working class and white suburban voters who fled to Nixon and then to Reagan in 1980.
And number one on the list you needed to do was to talk tough on crime. It worked for Bill Clinton. It`s one of the ways that Clinton got elected in 1992. And though he wound up apologizing for his part in mass incarceration once his wife was running for president, being tough on crime and fending on Republicans on the issue is how Bill Clinton came to sign the omnibus bill against crime in 1994.
Today, Democrats who are trying to run from that same playbook are finding themselves in a very different Democratic Party, where the progressive wing is getting stronger again and winning elections for Congress. Candidates for president who might naturally have appealed to the Rust Belt white working class voter 20 years ago are struggling to figure out a credible path to the nomination, this early on in the race.
And it may be impossible to say what kind of candidate or platform will work in the Democratic primary. Just this week, we`ve seen a number of potential candidates from that more centrist wing of the party begged off from running.
First, Eric Holder who was an assistant attorney general under Bill Clinton and attorney general under President Obama says he is not running. Then, Senator Jeff Merkley, the only senator to endorse Bernie Sanders, another crime bill yes vote last time, and New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. Also this week, Hillary Clinton confirmed in a local television interview that she was not running for president again. And the latest, Senator Sherrod Brown from Ohio announced that he would rather stay in the Senate.
Which brings us to Joe Biden, the former vice president of the United States, the ride or die bestie of Barack Obama, is reported to be seriously consideration making his third run for president. The challenge is that Joe Biden comes from that law and order school of Democratic politics. If you reach into his crates, what you`re going to find is the kind of dialogue on crime that used to be the way that you became the nominee. Whether it`s the way he oversaw the Clarence Thomas hearings and his treatment of Anita Hill or the way he wrote and defended the 1994 crime bill. All of that is going to sound very different when you hear it played again today.
For Joe Biden, the upside is that he would enter the race as the front- runner if he gets in, full stop. He was the vice president. Everybody knows him. But the risk is the replay. Today, "The Washington Post" published parts of an interview that Biden gave in 1975 to a local Delaware paper.
At the time, he was a freshman senator on the verge of successfully passing a measure to block federal funding for busing that would help integrate school systems. He argued against that, saying, quote: The real problem with busing, you take people who aren`t racist, people who are good citizens, who believe in equal education and opportunity, and you stunt their children`s intellectual growth by busing them to an inferior school, and you`re going to fill them with hatred.
He continued, quote: I do not buy the concept popular in the `60s which said we have suppressed the black man for 300 years and the white man is now far ahead in the race for everything our society offers. In order to even the score, we must now give the black man a head start or even hold the white man back to even the race. I don`t buy that.
Joining me now is Karine Jean-Pierre, chief public affairs officer for moveon.org and a former deputy director for President Obama`s 2012 campaign.
Karine, great to see you.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, CHIEF PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER, MOVEON.ORG: Good to see you, Joy. Good to see you.
REID: Thank you very much.
So, let`s talk about this. Biden`s spokesman on the busing issue, this is a quote from spokesman Bill Russo about "The Washington Post" article said he never thought bussing was the best way to integrate schools in Delaware, a position which most people now agree with, Russo said. And he said during many years of debate that busing would not achieve equal opportunity.
So, it looks like on this and on the crime bill and other things, Team Biden is just doubling down on whatever he said before. They`re just defending it. They`re going to the battlements. Is that wise in today`s version of the Democratic Party?
JEAN-PIERRE: No, it is not wise at all. And full disclosure, I know Joe Biden well. As you mentioned, I worked in the -- I worked for Obama on the campaign, but I also worked in the Obama administration, where I got to work with Joe Biden.
And, look, it is a complicated position that Joe Biden is in. He is incredibly popular. People remember him fondly and connect Joe Biden with the successes of Obama.
And, you know what? That will help him in the primaries, especially a state like South Carolina. Where Joe Biden is now is he`s in a situation where the last time that he ran alone without Obama was 12 years ago, and now, he`s going to be in a situation where his 40-year record is going to be examined. There is going to be a fresh new look and things like the crime bill, things like Anita Hill, the hearing with Thomas, Clarence Thomas, is going to come up.
And so the thing is here is that they have to deal with this head-on because four years ago was a different time. We have move add we have moved away from that. We`re talking about structural inequality. We`re talking about things that have really hurt the brown and black community, like the crime bill, over these last few decades.
And so, they need to talk about how that was a mistake. They need to talk about how the things that he has done in the last 15 years that dealt with, you know, the -- he`s talked about civil rights issues. He`s talked about women`s issues. He`s going to have to talk about that as well, but say, you know what? Where I was 40 years ago was a mistake and talk about why it was a mistake.
But by doubling down on things -- on records on things that he said in 1970s, on the crime bill, where he voted on Anita Hill is a huge mistake.
REID: You know, Karine, you and I both know during the 2016 campaign, young voters, particularly young black voters really held Hillary Clinton, who was first lady at the time. She didn`t pass or sign the crime bill. She was just the first lady.
JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, predators.
REID: She really got tagged with her comment superpredators about the crime bill.
We know in this cycle, Kamala Harris is being really tagged by a lot of -- but not a lot of, but, you know, some African-American voters because she was a prosecutor and prosecuted people in California and the way that that office ran.
Can Biden -- I don`t know how to put this, but Biden`s legacy is Obama, his support for Barack Obama, his ride or die support for Barack Obama. If he runs, does his legacy then get relitigated by young voters who really weren`t around during his tenure in the `90s but who will now learn the things they learned about Hillary Clinton about him.
JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, 2016 should be a wake-up call, not for just Joe Biden but for everybody who is jumping in. And, clearly, for some folks who decided they were not going to jump in. Remember we had the Black Lives Matter movement that happened around that time and led to really playing a big role in the primary of 2016, as you just mentioned, with superpredators that Hillary Clinton said as first lady that really hurt her in that primary.
And so, you -- we`re just in a different time, Joy, and you cannot -- you cannot go by and not talk about your record because you`re going to be called out for it, and this is just where we are. There is an energy, there is an activism, there is a conversation happening, people are calling out white supremacy, and we also have Donald Trump who is in the White House who would -- who is doing a bunch of things that hurt, you know, front line communities.
So, we need candidates, not just talking the talk but walking the walk. Not just having lines about the community, the African-American community or the brown community in their stump speech, but actually putting forth what are they going to do?
And here`s the thing, Joy, the reality is you cannot -- a Democrat cannot win the primary without the African-American vote. They cannot win the general election without a high turnout in the black vote. Black community and women in particular, black women hold the key to the White House.
REID: Yes. In sort of the reverse way. One might envision some more of the Philadelphia speech, what President Obama did to sort of fix an issue that came up regarding past associations.
JEAN-PIERRE: They have to deal with it.
REID: People might have to do it.
Karine Jean-Pierre from moveon.org, you are the best.
JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, Joy.
REID: Thank you very much. Appreciate your time.
And up next, special purpose communication tubes. OK, it`s all going to make sense in a minute. I promise. Stay with us.
REID: Special purpose communication tubes, they are a thing that looked like this. They did not seem to do very much, even though these three gentlemen are making some pretty intense eye contact with them. Those tubes had something to do with radar technology. They were made by a company called the International Telephone and Telegraph company, ITT for short.
They took this video when they opened a new radar tube plant in Virginia in the late 1950s, but ITT was not just a special purpose communication communications tubes company, they were a huge phone company in their day. And in 1970s, ITT wanted to get even bigger. They started gobbling up other companies to make one big monster conglomerate and they eventually were sued for it for allegedly violating antitrust laws.
During the Nixon administration, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against ITT for bulking up their company in a way that potentially violated federal antitrust law. It was a huge ordeal for ITT, being sued by the Justice Department, until Richard Nixon made the whole thing go away. In what wound up becoming kind of a sibling to the Watergate investigation, Nixon ordered the Justice Department to drop the antitrust lawsuit against ITT, and let them go ahead and make their mega company, and he did it in exchange for a $400,000 check from ITT written out to the Republican Party.
The Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox set up a task force to investigate that payoff and the allegation that the president leaned on the Justice Department to get them to drop a lawsuit. The special prosecutor reportedly turned up so much evidence of wrongdoing around the ITT scandal that they were planning a prosecution, but they never got the chance. Richard Nixon, of course, resigned and was pardoned before he could be held accountable for his conduct in the Oval Office.
Now, Rachel has talked about this on this show before because there is a lesson here that is important. The president cannot interfere with the Justice Department. The president is not allowed to lean on or give orders to the DOJ about who they do and do not prosecute. That kind of thing is illegal, whether it comes with a $400,000 check from the telephone company or not. Hold that thought.
REID: This week, Jane Mayer at "The New Yorker" reported that in 2017, the current president tried to pressure the Justice Department when they were trying to decide whether to open an entrust lawsuit against AT&T. AT&T was trying to merge with Time Warner, which owns, drum roll, CNN.
The president has repeatedly attacked CNN at his rallies and on Twitter and made CNN his number one enemy in the media. Even before he was elected, he said that he did not think that the AT&T/Time Warner merger should go through.
Now, mind you, blocking that merger from happening would have been really bad for those companies` business, but Donald Trump -- from Donald Trump`s point of view, it also would have been a kind of punishment for CNN. According to "The New Yorker," Donald Trump as president demanded that his advisers instruct the Justice Department to open that antitrust investigation into AT&T, a roundabout way of ordering the DOJ to meet out that punishment against the company that owns CNN because he doesn`t like the way he`s being covered.
The Justice Department did wind up filing a lawsuit to block the AT&T merger that the president wanted, a case that they eventually lost. DOJ says the president had no say in their deliberations when deciding whether to bring that suit, but now that the Democrats control Congress, they say they are going to find out for sure. Democrats on the House judiciary committee have sent two letters, one to the Justice Department and one to the White House counsel, requesting a trove of documents relating to the president and his involvement in the AT&T/Time Warner merger.
The document request spans a time period of more than two years. They`re essential asking for any piece of paper or communication that might document Donald Trump`s actions or directions surrounding the merger. They write, quote: Even the appearance of White House interference in antitrust law enforcement matters, undermines public trust. The fact that actual interference would constitute a serious abuse of power.
Democrats are asking for those documents by March 20th, so hold on to your radar tubes, everybody, and watch this space.
That does it for us tonight. Rachel will be back on Monday and I`ll see you tomorrow morning on my show "A.M. JOY."
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with the great Ali Velshi in for Lawrence tonight.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END