2020 candidates consider running mates. TRANSCRIPT: 3/21/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Andrea Bernstein, Micah Kubic

 CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  We`ll be taping in the afternoon on Friday, March 29th.  It will air here on MSNBC that night, March 29th.  We`ll put details on how to register to attend on our Web site and Facebook page and the ALL IN Twitter account.  So, check that out.  We hope to see you in the Bronx in eight days. 

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:  A convo in the boogie down.  I love it.  I want to go.  I want tickets.

HAYES:  We`ll get you a ticket. 

REID:  OK.  That sounds like fun.  All right.  Thank you, Chris.  Appreciate it.  Have a good night.

HAYES:  You bet.

REID:  All right.  And thanks to you at home for watching us this hour. 

Rachel has the night off, but we promise she will be back soon. 

OK.  Now, everybody all together take a deep cleansing breath.  There, we get it.  You`re stressed out. 

Not because Rachel is off, which is stressful enough, but because we are once again at peak Mueller watch.  If you listen, you can hear the nation impatiently drumming their fingers on their desk for Mueller to finally drop that report. 

As Rachel has said, we do not know if it`s coming today, tomorrow, three weeks from now, who knows?  But we do know that clues are piling up that things are winding down, whether it`s Mueller`s team carrying out boxes and pushing carts full of files out of their office or the steady drip, drip, drip of Mueller`s prosecutors peeling off and going back to their lives. 

Yesterday, it was Andrew Weissmann`s tan suit.  Remember when a tan suit was the most controversial thing about an American president?  Ah, memories. 

And today, there was another not so subtle hint, Mueller`s prosecutors holding an unofficial take your kids to work day.  See, kids this is where daddy or mommy defend America against the Russians and maybe also the president. 

You know folks are getting antsy when special counsel Robert Mueller gets the full paparazzi treatment on his commute to work.  And if the tension wasn`t already thick enough to cut with a spork -- you can cut things with a spork -- today, several key players in the Russia investigation all showed up at the Justice Department -- Attorney General William Barr, former Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  It did not, it turns out, have anything to do with the Mueller report.  It was just a ceremony to bestow former A.G. Jefferson Sessions with a, wait for it, ceremonial cabinet chair, for all his illustrious service to the Justice Department. 

According to the "A.P.", the name Robert Mueller was not even mentioned once.  Something tells me, though, that Mueller was on everybody`s mind, however.  So, for now, we wait and refresh Twitter and some of us are handling the long wait better than others.  Say, for instance, the president of the United States who cannot seem to resist the urge to pick Twitter fights with a war hero who is no longer alive and with the husband of his top aide.  Maybe someone should get him a fidget spinner. 

So we are all on standby for all things Mueller, but we promise we will tell you immediately if there is any breaking news.  We`re also following the latest shot across the bow from the White House in their standoff with Democrats, this time over notes from the president`s private discussions with Vladimir Putin.  We also have a look inside the president`s attempt to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, which we now know continued into the 2016 campaign.  And we`ll have more on all of that later in the show. 

But we begin with Richard Schweiker.  He started out life as an executive at his family`s tile company and wound up as a Republican senator from Pennsylvania.  When he died in 2015, "The New York Times" eulogized him like he was some kind of political uniform calling Schweiker, quote, an enigmatic Republican who looked conservative to many liberals and liberal to many conservatives. 

In part, he earned that reputation because during Watergate, he was an outspoken critic of President Nixon.  In 1974, he became the third Republican senator to call for Nixon to resign saying, quote, I cannot remain silent in the face of a now obvious moral corrosion destroying and debasing the presidency.  That was in 1974. 

Two years later in 1976, this happened --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RICHARD SCHWEIKER (R-PA), REAGAN`S CHOICE FOR VICE PRESIDENT:  I am proud to accept Governor Reagan`s invitation to be his presidential running mate.  This bold unprecedented action dramatizes the leadership, the courage and the openness which Governor Reagan will bring to the White House.  Governor Reagan`s decisive stroke in one fell swoop units the Republican Party for November by bringing together the conservative and moderate wings of our party.  It instantly gives our party across the board appeal.  This exciting action spells victory in November, but more importantly, it spells government that is responsible and responsive to all people. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID:  This exciting action spells victory in November.  Or not.  If Reagan was hoping to get everybody`s attention by choosing the former tile company executive to be his running mate, three weeks before the convention, well, that worked.  "The New York Times" called it, quote, "a total surprise.  Reagan chooses a liberal for his running mate." 

It definitely earned Reagan some headlines.  It did not, however, earn Reagan much more than that. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  West Virginia. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This should do it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Votes for Gerald R. Ford. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That did it.  Gerald Ford was over the top. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID:  Reagan lost to Gerald Ford and then Ford lost to Jimmy Carter, which you might make other would-be presidential candidates think of the whole pick a veep out of the gate strategy. 

But that didn`t stop Ted Cruz from dusting off the Reagan playbook and give it another shot in 2016, when he tried to energize his campaign and appeal to voters who wanted a woman on the ticket, by declaring one-time rival and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina as his running mate.  We now how that turned out for Senator Cruz and we know that worked out for Carly Fiorina. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARLY FIORINA (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Help me welcome your next first family, Heidi Cruz, your next first lady, Carolyn and Catherine, and the next president of the United States, Ted Cruz. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID:  He just kept shaking everybody`s hand. 

OK.  OK.  So this grand gesture by Ted Cruz, you know, it backfired.  But you could see what he was going for, same thing Reagan was going for, making an early vice presidential pick to secure more voters than he might have been able to do on his own. 

We`re already seeing hints of that in the 2020 race.  A reboot of the Reagan-Schweiker gambit.  But this one actually might just wore.  We saw it when Senator Cory Booker sat down right here with Rachel at this very desk.  When asked if he would commit to putting a woman on the ticket as his running mate, Senator Booker said he would, quote, be looking at women first. 

Shortly after announcing he was in, Beto O`Rourke said if he wins the nomination he also would pick a woman as his running mate.  So, this is now a thing, right? 

But now move over, Booker and Beto, Biden might be ready to do you one better.  "Axios" is reporting advisers close to Joe Biden are debating the idea of packaging his presidential announcement with a pledge to choose Stacey Abrams as his vice president.  Stacey Abrams, of course, has a wind at her back, having narrowly lost her bid for governor of Georgia and then becoming the first African-American woman to deliver the State of the Union response.  The Stacey Abrams it factor is so high right now that ten days ago when she tweeted that 2020 is definitely on the table, she nearly broke the Internet. 

So the possibility that 2020 is on the table for Stacey Abrams perhaps as a part of a Biden/Abrams ticket has made some waves.  So far, Abrams is not denying it.  Far from it. 

A spokesperson for Stacey Abrams said that, quote, she continues to keep all the options on the table for 2020 and beyond. 

And that`s not the only unconventional strategy that Biden is reportedly considering.  "The New York Times" reports that he`s also considering pledging to serve only one term.  Quote: Framing Mr. Biden`s 2020 campaign as a one-time rescue mission for a beleaguered country. 

The Abrams strategy and the one-term pledge both an effort to tamp down concerns about electing a 78-year-old president next year.  "The Times" notes that Biden and Abrams had lunch in Washington last week and both declined to say if he had broached the subject of the vice presidency. 

So read into that non-denial denial whatever you will.  But here is something that is less up for interpretation, 76 and 45.  The respective ages of former Vice President Joe Biden and Stacey Abrams.  That`s a 31- year spread.  Hard to argue that that wouldn`t make a Biden/Abrams ticket appealing to a younger audience and one looking past 2020 to the future. 

Joining me now is Karine Jean-Pierre, a senior adviser to MoveOn.org. 

Karine, great to see you, as always. 

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, SENIOR ADVISER, MOVEON.ORG:  You as well. 

REID:  All right.  Let`s go through this Biden gambit.  There are two ways to interpret it.  One, he wants so badly to be president he wants to have Stacey Abrams as the human dangle to say, look, look, if you let me have this thing I want, you can have her as my apprentice, as my number two.  Or that he sees himself as a stabilizing figure but he recognizes people might be concerned with his age so he wants to have somebody waiting in the wings to be vice president. 

Are either of those things striking you are more true and do you think this gambit might work? 

JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes.  So, I just want to add one more thing, Joy.  Can you imagine four years ago that we would be having this conversation?  That we would be talking about Stacey Abrams, a black woman who graduated from Spellman, a Spellman alum, who is being seriously considered for a V.P. pick.  And she should be on everybody`s list, period.  She should be on that short list for everyone that has already announced that they`re in the race and also the diversity of this primary. 

We have Kamala Harris who is an alum of Howard University who is in the top tier.  That is pretty phenomenal and I don`t -- we would never be having this conversation four years ago. 

Look, with the two examples you gave me, I think I`ll add one more to that, which is I do think there is from Biden he feels as if, look, if I`m going to jump in, and he understands he`s going to be 78 years old if here to get the nomination in 2020, that he wants to show, look, I am like, just handing over the party or bringing with me the younger generation of the party as well. 

Like, he`s realizing that, look, I know where the party`s going.  It`s going younger and black women are a big part of it.  I mean, since 2016, as we saw across the -- across the country, that black women came out in record numbers.  So I think there is a little bit of that as well. 

Now, if this is going to work, I do not know.  Voters are ultimately going to decide.  Is it actually going to happen?  Also, I do not know.  I think at the end of the day it`s going to be up to Stacey Abrams if this conversation really happened. 

She`s not a shrinking violet.  Stacey Abrams is incredibly smart.  She has a plan for everything.  She said herself, as you mentioned in the intro, that she has 2020 on the table. 

And so, she has the power right now.  She`s a rising star.  And I am ecstatic that she`s being considered at all. 

REID:  Right.  But she`s also considering maybe running herself, right? 

JEAN-PIERRE:  Exactly. 

REID:  There is also the line of argument why should she consider be number two when she could be number one? 

JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes, that`s a great argument, too.  Look, we are so excited.  People are excited about Beto.  Beto, is he going to run?  When is he going to run?  How is he going to launch his campaign? 

Why are we not having that conversation about Stacey Abrams?  She ran an impressive race in a deep red state, Georgia, and outperformed everybody else who was a Democratic nominee for the gubernatorial seat before her.  And we should, I think she should if she wants to run, she should definitely do it. 

Why not?  Why not have the number one seat instead of the number two?  But that`s also up to her.  She said she would decide by April. 

So I think that`s also a very good argument.  And I think there is a little bit of a double standard there because we`re talk about Beto but how about Stacey Abrams? 

REID:  Yes.  Speaking of Beto, I mean, one of things that has been so impressive has obviously been his fund-raising.  Out-fund-raised Bernie Sanders who had been the leader, raised over $6 million.  Biden reportedly has expressed some concern that he might not be able to raise those kinds of online donations in the same way. 

Adding Stacey Abrams would likely fix that, right? 

JEAN-PIERRE:  Absolutely.  I think adding Stacey Abrams would add an energy and give a boost to his launch.  We`ve been judging a lot of these folks not just by the money one but by the launch.  How are they launching the campaign?  What are they doing?  What`s the inspiration?  What`s the message? 

It would be all connected.  Clearly the money is important, because what it does is when you see these small dollar donations it shows there is a movement for your campaign. 

REID:  Yes. 

JEAN-PIERRE:  Those are people that you can go back to over and over again.  And so Biden has never really done that before.  Let`s not forget the last time he ran alone was 12 years ago.  He was supposed to raise $20 million.  He raised about $11 million.  And so he didn`t reach the number that he needed to at that time and he dropped out right after the Iowa caucus. 

So, yes, this is a different scenario for him that he`s never experienced.  And, yes, a Stacey Abrams would add that energy, for sure. 

REID:  And, lastly, would she kind of be the human interlocutor the same way he was for Barack Obama to say to white working class voters he`s OK.  Would she serve that same sort of function for him?  Because he does have some issues in terms of his past issues on bussing, things about Anita Hill, stuff that`s going to come up. 

JEAN-PIERRE:  Yes.  You know, I was thinking about that one.  I don`t think Stacey Abrams is a buffer for all of the other issues that he`s going to have to deal with, with his record on the crime bill, on Anita Hill.  I think that is -- it doesn`t take away from that. 

I think he has to seriously come out and when he runs, whether it was the V.P. ticket or not, he really has to say, hey, let me address these issues of my past.  My record on things that I`ve said.  That`s not going to go away.  I don`t think, like I said, she`s a buffer for that. 

REID:  Yes.  Karine Jean-Pierre, senior adviser to moveon.org, always so smart.  Thank you very much.  Appreciate you.

JEAN-PIERRE:  Thanks, Joy.

REID:  All right.  Thank you.

And joining us now is Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian.  Michael, always great to see you. 

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN:  Same here, Joy.  Thanks. 

REID:  So, let`s talk about the history of this.  It didn`t work for Ronald Reagan who had to try to unite the right and left of the party as an outsider.  This hasn`t been tried other than that in Ted Cruz. 

BESCHLOSS:  That`s really it in terms of modern major party candidates.  And in both of the cases that you said, you know, that you mentioned in history, both Cruz and Ronald Reagan, it was a gimmick because you had candidates who were running behind and they thought maybe this would be a Hail Mary that would fix it. 

But if you look at it more generally, Joy, there are a couple of reasons to do this.  One is that we as voters all have to know what a presidential candidate will do once he is in the fall campaign and beyond.  This gives us a very good idea of what the future will be like, if we know who the vice president is going to be. 

And another thing is that if a candidate like a Joe Biden chooses a running mate, it will make him look different almost instantly.  It makes me think of Walter Mondale, for instance, in 1974 who chose, as you know, the first female for a major party ticket, Geraldine Ferraro.  People saw Mondale in a different way.  They saw him as sensitive to what the future should be.

But there are a couple of reasons not to do it.  This is not just on Biden.  This is more generally.  One is that this is sort of a gift to front- runners.  A front runner has much easier time to get someone to run with him or her than someone who is 95 percent in the polls. 

Jimmy Carter let`s say at the beginning of the campaign would have had a hard time going to someone like Walter Mondale and saying would you be my vice president?  And the other thing is I think you can fairly say it`s a little bit of a distraction because in this nominating process, after all, we`re really choosing a president and not a vice president. 

REID:  Yes, and in a way, does it -- does it undercut -- I mean, there are other women running.  There is another black woman running. 

BESCHLOSS:  Right. 

REID:  Does it sort of almost try -- an attempt to clear the field?  Is that what it might look like? 

BESCHLOSS:  It might well do because if you have, you know, a front-runner running with a vice presidential candidate of this kind of quality, then the others may feel that they have to do the same thing as well.  And you`ve got tickets running against one another.  It`s something we`ve never seen before.  If it happens, it`s going to be very fascinating. 

REID:  Yes, it will be very complicated.  Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian.  Thanks, as always. 

BESCHLOSS:  Thanks, Joy.  You, too. 

REID:  Thank you.

And coming up, Elijah Cummings is used to running into a wall of White House opposition, but the response to his latest request, well, that`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REID:  This week, the powerful head of the House Oversight Committee, Elijah Cummings, tore into the White House for its failure to provide a single piece of paper or make a single official available for testimony to the current Congress.  The Trump White House`s blanket denial of any and all requests for records appears to be part of a deliberate intentional strategy.  The latest example came today with the White House refusing to turn over any documents related to Donald Trump`s multiple private meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Cummings and other House committee chairs had demanded details of meetings between Trump and Putin in the wake of a "Washington Post" report that Trump had taken active steps to conceal details of those meetings, including having no note takers present, and at one point seizing the notes of a State Department interpreter and instructing her not to discuss what transpired. 

After this latest White House refusal to hand over documents, Cummings and the other Democratic chairs say tonight in a statement that they are, quote, consulting on appropriate next steps.  Cummings may have more luck getting a response to some other news that he injected into the headlines today. 

Remember back in late 2017 when it was revealed that both the president`s daughter and son-in-law had been using private e-mail accounts to conduct official White House business?  Oh, and that they were not alone but were among at least six White House advisers doing the same thing?  It was kind of shocking, right?  You would think that would be the one thing they knew not to do, considering the Trump campaign spent a year and a half beating Hillary Clinton over the head with a virtual crowbar and labeling her a criminal who need to be locked up for using a private e-mail while serving as secretary of state. 

At the time of those reports in late 2017, Jared and Ivanka tried to explain it away saying that, well, you know, it all had taken place in the early days of the administration.  It was just a few e-mails. 

Except in 2018, we got reports that Ivanka Trump actually continued to use her personal e-mail to conduct White House business, not just in the early days, but throughout much of 2017.  And that Kushner was managing the U.S.- Saudi relationship and the fallout over the murder of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi on WhatsApp.  Reaching out via secret message to his friend, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

Now, today, House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings says this practice never stopped.  He says Kushner continued to conduct official business, White House business on WhatsApp as recently as December.  In a new letter to the White House, Cummings says that in a meeting in December, Kushner`s lawyer, quote, confirmed that Mr. Kushner has used and continues to use WhatsApp as part of his official duties in the White House and that Ivanka Trump continues to receive e-mails relating to official business on her personal e-mail account. 

I should also note, in addition to Jared managing the U.S.-Saudi relationship over WhatsApp, Cummings also said that his committee has documents showing that in the early days of the administration, Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland was discussing transferring sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia using her AOL account.  She still has an AOL account.  That`s what she used to discuss handing over sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.  This is real life. 

But back to Jared, remember, the only reason Jared Kushner even has a top security clearance is because his dad-in-law, the president, demanded that he get one, overruling the advice of his own intelligence officials, his chief of staff, the top White House lawyer and over the keep concerns of the CIA.  At their meeting in December, Cummings says he asked Mr. Kushner`s attorney if Jared used WhatsApp to send classified information. 

That`s above my pay grade, Kushner`s attorney replied, and recommend that Cummings take up this Jared issue with the White House.  Oh, OK.

Cummings is demanding that the White House provide documents about Kushner`s use of the encrypted app by April 4th, and suggested that he may issue subpoenas for the White House refuses to comply.  Today, a White House spokesman says the White House will review Cummings` letter and, "provide a reasonable response in due course." 

Yes, OK.  Well, don`t hold your breath. 

Much more ahead.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  It is one of the juiciest anecdotes to emerge from all the great reporting on Trump and Russia.  In 2006, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump got to go to Moscow.  An adviser to their father who has Russian connections gets them a private tour of the Kremlin.  And Ivanka gets a special perk, she gets to go behind Vladimir Putin`s desk in the Kremlin and sit in Putin`s private chair. 

The best part when "The New York Times" asked Ivanka Trump whether the story was true, she said, quote: It`s possible she sat in Putin`s chair during that tour, but she just did not recall it."  I mean, who could remember.  Maybe I sat in Vladimir Putin`s chair in the Kremlin that one time.  Who can say? 

Anyway, the guy who claims to have arranged that tour encounter with Putin`s chair is Felix Sater, born in Russia, grew up in Brooklyn with Trump attorney Michael Cohen, convicted of financial fraud but avoided prison time by becoming an FBI informant.  And he wound up as a senior adviser to Donald Trump at the Trump Organization. 

Felix Sater is now best known for working with Michael Cohen to broker the Trump Tower Moscow deal, which Donald Trump was secretly pursuing during the 2016 presidential campaign, even as Russia was attacking our election.  Felix Sater is set to give public testimony next week before the House Intelligence Committee, which will mean that the two primary players in the Trump Tower Moscow deal, Michael Cohen and Felix Sater, will have given testimony under oath to Congress. 

And today, less than a week before Sater`s testimony, WNYC and "ProPublica" have unearthed new information about the developer who was supposed to build Trump Tower Moscow.

In the latest edition of their "Trump Inc." podcast, WNYC and "ProPublica" they go through this letter first obtained by "BuzzFeed News" in which the Russian developer that Felix Sater recruited to build Trump Tower Moscow pitched himself to Michael Cohen.  Cohen has testified that he was keeping his boss, Donald Trump, apprised of all these developments. 

In this letter, the developer Andrey Rozov describes his qualifications, his current projects, a suburban development outside Moscow, a giant mall in Williston, North Dakota, and an office building in New York City.  Maybe not the resume of someone prepared to build a giant Moscow skyscraper, but OK. 

But what today`s "Trump Inc." podcast discovered is that even those accomplishments were oversold.  The suburban development in Russia has never been completed.  The mall in North Dakota was never built, though they did create this nice artistic imaging of it.  And the building in New York City, well, here`s what happened when two "ProPublica" reporters went to that building. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MEG CRAMER, SENIOR PRODUCER, "TRUMP, INC.":  They asked to talk with the super, David, who has been there since the early `90s. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, hi.  Nice to meet you. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Pleasure to meet you.  Hands are cold. 

CRAMER:  Property records show that Rozov owned this building for just over a year, bought it all cash, took out some financing on it and old it for 23 percent profit. 

David says during that year, they didn`t make any major improvements on the building and that he never met Rozov. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You`re smiling. 

CRAMER:  But he did meet another Russian speaker connected with the deal. 

DAVID:  This gentleman has a very colored history, Felix Sater. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes. 

CRAMER:  Felix Sater.  His name shows up on the sale documents as an authorized signatory. 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

REID:  So, the one actual building this developer appears to have actually owned, he owned for a year, and Felix Sater was the only guy who ever went there or signed any paperwork.  That`s what the developer is holding out as a qualification to build Trump Tower Moscow, billed as the tallest building in Europe because, of course.  Apparently, that was good enough for Donald Trump.  He signed a letter of intent for the developer, Mr. Rozov to do just that, he signed it on the day of the third day of the Republican presidential primary debate, a primary he, of course, went on to win while saying nice things about Vladimir Putin and never revealing his Moscow project.  The more you know.

Joining us now is Andrea Bernstein, co-host of WNYC and "ProPublica`s" "Trump Inc." podcast. 

Thank you so much for being here tonight. 

ANDREA BERNSTEIN, WNYC SENIOR EDITOR FOR POLITICS AND POLICY:  Thank you for having me.  Great to be here. 

REID:  OK.  So, there is the letter of intent signed by Donald Trump and Andrey Rozov to build this Trump Tower Moscow.  There is an architectural rendering of it.  Was there any other qualification this gentleman had to build the largest tower in Europe? 

BERNSTEIN:  Well, this is the strange thing is that there are people who were actually real developers in Moscow, one of their names has come up in connection with the Trump Tower meeting much letter on, Aras Agalarov was an actual developer in Moscow. 

REID:  Right. 

BERNSTEIN:  So what is really confusing is we know Trump was in touch with a real developer.  This developer seems to be a second tier developer.  He didn`t bring projects to fruition. 

The whole deal, the more that we looked at it, the pieces did not add up.  And what is so strange is that all of the parties seemed really bent on getting this thing built.  We know now that Michael Cohen did indeed call the Kremlin, did ask for a favor and this was while the Kremlin was planning its attack on the U.S. election. 

So, I mean, this is kind of business as usual for Donald Trump since he started in real estate in New York decades ago.  He has been cultivating high-level government officials.  That`s been something he`s tried to monetize. 

But when you go to Moscow, when you`re trying to build a building with a second tier developer and you`re literally asking for help from the president of Russia`s office, the question has to be raised, why, what are you trying to do here?  How do you think you`re going to make this money and why are you keeping all of this secret? 

For years, Trump kept this secret from the American people.  So we got some answers but we also got a lot more questions. 

REID:  The key question I think you asked is, if you were trying to do this ambitious project.  It`s so important you don`t feel like you can disclose it but you pick somebody who is not an experienced developer and in theory couldn`t even do it.  Did you have -- did you find just in what you were looking at, was it a real project?  Because if it was real, you would think they would go to people like Agalarov.

BERNSTEIN:  One of the things that we have asked ourselves over and over again is that Trump often works with inexperienced developers.  Over the years he has done this.  And sometimes the projects get built and sometimes they don`t and there are delays and there are lawsuits. 

But the way the Trumps structure these deals is that they are able to make money. 

REID:  Right. 

BERNSTEIN:  And this deal was particularly front loaded if you read the licensing agreement in terms of the amount of money Trump would get up front.  It was one of the most lucrative up front deals.  So there is a possibility there was just an intent to get money up front.  We don`t know. 

But one of the things that is so confusing there seemed to be not a site and they seem to be asking the Kremlin for perhaps permission to get a nice coveted location. 

REID:  Right. 

BERNSTEIN:  So there you have it.  The question of why were they seeking a favor from the Kremlin from a hostile foreign power at a time when nobody else was really investing in Russia or few people were because of the U.S. sanctions. 

REID:  Yes. 

BERNSTEIN:  So the more you look at this deal, the stranger it seems.  It wasn`t just, yes, he was going to put up a tower like Trump Tower in New York.  It was a sort of strange confusing deal with a lot of business partners that have a lot of questions around them. 

REID:  And Donald Trump has built with Felix Sater before.  So, is this similar to the deals he`s done with them? 

BERNSTEIN:  So they worked on the Trump SoHo.

REID:  Right.

BERNSTEIN:  Which is here in Manhattan and we have done a lot of the reporting on it.  That building did go up but it went bankrupt.  During the course of the marketing or after the marketing, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. were investigated for felony fraud by the Manhattan D.A.  That case was never brought.  And the building is now no longer the Trump SoHo.  It`s called the Dominic Hotel. 

Nor even though one of the things they were investigating for was claiming that it was 60 percent sold, nor was it ever more than 30 percent sold. 

REID:  Wow. 

BERNSTEIN:  So there was a building but it had a lot of problems.  And one of the things that`s so interesting with Trump, that seems more typical than say Trump Tower New York, which is the sort of tall and as it goes relatively normal development project as these things go. 

REID:  It`s the licensing money.  That`s what they always seem to be going for. 

Andrea Bernstein, co-host of WNYC and "ProPublica`s" really great "Trump, Inc." podcast -- thank you very much. 

BERNSTEIN:  Thanks so much. 

REID:  Thank you very much.

And coming up, a native U.S. citizen, get this, battles with ICE.  Details on the policy that almost got him deported.  That`s straight ahead. 

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PETER BROWN:  I felt totally, totally powerless.  I -- there was a moment where I panicked.  I went from angry -- because nobody was listening to me -- to a really frightful moment because I was literally told at one moment that I was to sign this paper.  That they were tired of listening to me lying and that I had three days and I was being sent back to Jamaica. 

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REID:  That is Peter Brown recounting the harrowing details of how he, a Philadelphia native, almost got deported by ICE.  Brown turned himself in to local authorities for violating his probation on a felony charge of violence against a police officer and he was flagged by ICE as an unauthorized immigrant. 

The ACLU says he spent three weeks trying to prove to the county and to ICE that they had the wrong guy.  He was finally released but only after his roommate e-mailed his birth certificate to an ICE officer.  Well, now, he`s suing the Monroe County, Florida sheriff`s office for violating his constitutional rights. 

Peter Brown is just one of potentially hundreds of U.S. citizens detained by ICE in Florida alone.  According to a new report from the ACLU, they say ICE is issuing requests known as detainers, asking Miami-Dade County and municipalities in other states to hold people in jail for an additional 48 hours after they normally would have been released so the agency can take them into custody.  What the ACLU is describing is illegal.  ICE does not have the authority to detain American citizens. 

The ACLU analyzed data they got from a lawsuit and found 420 cases between February 2017 and February 2019.  In which ICE issued detainers for people listed as U.S. citizens by Miami-Dade records.  They argue that ICE cancelled 83 of these cases because the agency ultimately determined that those that had been detained were in fact U.S. citizens.  If ICE can make those mistakes in these cases, how do we know there aren`t more? 

"The Orlando Sentinel" reports that more than 30 of Florida`s 67 counties have signed agreements with ICE to hold inmates for ICE in exchange for $50 an inmate.  And for the American citizens who have been through this experience, it sounds terrifying. 

Here`s more of what Peter Brown told the ACLU. 

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BROWN:  I didn`t know what I was being shipped there for.  I didn`t know who I was being shipped in place of.  I didn`t know what I was being sent into.  I just know I was being told I was being sent away from home, my home, to another country. 

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REID:  Joining us now is Micah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU in Florida. 

Micah, thank you so much for being here. 

MICAH KUBIC, ACLU OF FLORIDA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR:  Thanks for having me. 

REID:  So, let`s go through this, because it sounds -- I mean, it is illegal on its face for an American citizen to be detained and deported.  How is it that half the counties in Florida have signed up to do this anyway? 

KUBIC:  So I think the national administration in its eagerness to create an environment of fear and harassment and intimidation for immigrants have been so overzealous and so sloppy in the way that they`ve managed this detainer process that American citizens wind up getting caught up in the process.  The process is a sham from beginning to end. 

You know, even folks who watch just television, police procedurals, know that in order to be detained you`re supposed to have probable cause, but ICE doesn`t create probable cause in these detainers.  So as a result they never go through the process to figure out whether the people that they`re trying to find are actually the ones who are being detained or not.  And in the process, American citizens, folks who have never been immigrants at all, natural born citizens as well as naturalized citizens wind up getting caught in the process.  That`s a tragedy and a shame. 

REID:  Absolutely.  I should note we did reach out to ICE and they did not respond to our request for comment.  This is what they told "The Huffington Post."  Currently facing several lawsuits related to its detainer policy, told "HuffPost" that the agency could not comment on the ACLU report due to pending litigation.  They throw that out there.

Has anyone to your knowledge, any American citizen actually been deported via this process? 

KUBIC:  So I don`t know of anyone myself that has been deported.  But there are certainly dozens and dozens of cases of citizens who were detained and who absent intervention from the ACLU or other organizations would have been deported.  There are systematic structural problems in the way that this detainer process works and that`s why local jurisdictions, cities, counties, states all over the country should stop participating in it in this way. 

I think it`s important to note that the detainers that ICE  issues are really just requests that cities and counties can choose to grant or can choose to refuse, and the fact that so many of them choose to grant them is a serious problem that winds up having financial liabilities for the taxpayers of those jurisdictions. 

REID:  And we know, you know, CNN has reported that there is an ICE officer called Brian Oxley in Little Rock, Arkansas, who was fired last may and faces charges, including forging his supervisor`s signatures on request warrants for undocumented immigrants, internal emails and other ICE documents obtained show other officers across the five-state region where Oxley worked improperly signed forms.  Some supervisors even gave their officers pre-signed blank warrants, in effect illegally handing them the authority to begin the deportation process. 

It feels like ICE has a mandate to just grab as many people they think are immigrants as possible, not have to check if they`re undocumented and get them out of the country.  That`s at least what it looks like. 

KUBIC:  So, I think it`s very clear there is a policy in place to try to make life very difficult for immigrants or people they think might be immigrants.  One of the problems with this process is it creates an enormous incentive for racial profiling and communities of color suffer the worst impact from this policy.  But you`re absolutely right, the policy involved in order to issue a detainer is really a sham from beginning to end. 

What happens is they essentially fill out a list of check boxes to decide whether someone stays or goes, whether someone is eligible for detainer or not.  There is no individual probable cause.  There is no individual determination.  It doesn`t go before a judge.  It`s at all bureaucratic paperwork, and no one`s constitutional rights should be violated because someone checked a box. 

REID:  Yes, we saw in other state, what happened with rapper 21 Savage.  It feels punitive and like an aggressive effort to do something Trumpian.

But, thank you very much, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, Michael Kubic.  Thank you so much.  Appreciate your time. 

KUBIC:  Thanks for having me. 

REID:  Thank you. 

KUBIC:  Up next, it makes sense that airline manufacturers would charge extra for fancy seats or extra lighting.  A new scary report shows they`re charging airlines for things that seem pretty darn essential.  That`s next.

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REID:  Airbags are now standard on all vehicles here in the United States.  But that was not always the case. 

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Now, Washington is concerned about requiring airbags in automobiles, devices that if you have a head-on collision inflate instantly and the front seat passengers are thrown forward into something like a soft balloon.  A woman who had this happen said it not only saved her from injury but didn`t even mess up her false eyelashes. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The insurance companies say airbags are best.  This insurance industry test shows an airbag inflating to protect a passenger in a 35-mile-an-hour crash.  He was unharmed.  But the car industry favors seat belts. 

SYDNEY TERRY, CHRYSLER CORP.:  We know that when safety belts are used they`re more effective than airbags.  They`re also cheaper. 

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REID:  That says it all right there.  Seat belts are cheaper than airbags.  So why do we need airbags? 

In 1971, top Ford executives met secretly with President Richard Nixon in the Oval Office to persuade him to kill a regulation that would require airbags on every new car sold in the United States.  Nixon played along, and those regulations were quashed. 

But automakers weren`t just waging their war on airbags in the Oval Office.  In 1976, "The Wall Street Journal" did an extensive report on how car companies and their dealerships often sought to pour cold water on any interest that customers showed in airbags.  "The Wall Street Journal" spoke to customer after customer and they found they were basically getting stiff-armed every time they tried to buy a car equipped with airbags. 

Quote: Dr. Ludwig Klein, a New York physician, says seven Buick and Olds dealers he talked to gave him various excuses.  Some told him the airbag was too expensive.  Others claimed erroneously that it might suddenly pop out in his face, causing him to lose control of the car.  Some even claimed that airbags were not sold on a Buick LeSabre, the model he was interested in. 

That was also not true.  Because of relentless pushback like that, airbags did not become mandatory in this country until 1998.  And that was because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the safety requirement. 

Since that ruling, airbags have saved at least 44,000 lives.  Imagine what that number could have been had that safety feature been mandated sooner. 

Well, today we got another story along that same vein, this one involving the airline industry.  When airplane manufacturers sell their planes, they charge airlines extra for things like premium seating, special lighting and extra bathrooms.  But it turns out they also charge the airlines extra for other things. 

Por ejemplo, according to the "New York Times", Boeing charges extra for a backup fire extinguisher in the cargo hold.  That same report said that a Brazilian airline carrier was forced to pay $6,700 extra for oxygen masks for its crew. 

Well, then there`s this.  "The Times" reports that as the pilots of the doomed Boeing 737 jets in Ethiopia and Indonesia fought to control their planes, they lacked two notable safety features in their cockpits.  One reason?  Boeing charged extra for them. 

Now, while it`s not yet known what caused the crashes, investigators are looking into whether a new software system might be partly to blame.  Faulty data from sensors on the plane may have caused the system to malfunction.  As "The Times" reports, Boeing`s optional safety features in part could have helped the pilots detect any erroneous readings. 

Boeing says its software upgrade for the MAX fleet will be coming soon along with those safety enhancements.  But today`s reporting certainly makes you wonder, could a lot of lives have been saved if those safety features were standard to begin with? 

We`ll be right back.

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REID:  Four months after 20 school children and six adults were slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Congress considered a relatively small tweak in our nation`s gun laws.  A bipartisan measure to require background checks for all gun purchases to close the loophole that allows gun shows to skip background checks.  That modest straightforward little tweak failed in the Senate. 

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BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT:  I`ve heard some say that blocking this step would be a victory.  My question is, a victory for who?  A victory for what? 

All that happened today was the preservation of the loophole that lets dangerous criminals buy guns without a background check.  That didn`t make our kids safer. 

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REID:  The unspeakable tragedy of the attack on Sandy Hook got the entire nation seemingly to agree that surely something must be done this time.  This time Congress simply had to act because this time we were talking about little kids and their elementary school teachers.  Surely, Congress had to do something about a massacre like that.  But everyone was wrong.  Nothing changed. 

Then, on June 12th, 2016, 49 people were murdered at the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida.  Following the shooting, the FBI revealed that the gunman was on the terrorist watch list for a year.  Then, a logical next step emerged in the public discourse that maybe people who were on the terrorist watch list should maybe be banned from buying deadly weapons. 

So, Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida sponsored legislation aimed at stopping suspected terrorists from buying guns.  That failed too. 

On October 1st, 2017, a gunman murdered 58 people and wounded hundreds of others at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas.  The deadliest mass shooting in modern history was carried out with the help of bump stocks, a modification that makes guns fire like machine guns.  Families of the victims advocated for a ban on bump stocks.  Who needs to make a semi-automatic weapon into a machine gun anyway? 

It was a very modest proposal.  And that modest proposal almost failed too.  But it passed and it will go into effect next Tuesday after nearly two years of back and forth.  That is gun politics in America where the NRA is the boss and Congress acts like their employee. 

Contrast that with New Zealand where six days after a gunman killed 50 people at two mosques the prime minister announced today that assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons will be banned. 

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JACINDA ARDERN, NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER:  New Zealand will ban all military-style semi-automatic weapons.  We will also ban all assault rifles.  In short, every semiautomatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned in this country.

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REID:  It has not even been one week.

That does it for us tonight.  We`ll see you again tomorrow.

Now, it is time for "THE LAST WORD".  Ali Velshi filling in for Lawrence tonight.

Good evening, Ali.

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