MCKAY COPPINS: It`s being led by Mitch McConnell and a very kind of ambitious, aggressive way of confirming these nominees.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Yes, I`m reminded there is a Grover Norquist line. I think it was back in 2012 when he was trying to rally the faithful around Mitt Romney and the said faithful were not particularly excited about Mitt Romney. He said all we need is a hand for member to sign stuff, right? it`s sort of like that with the judges at this point.
Jane Coaston, and McKay Coppins, thanks so much for joining us.
JANE COASTON: Thanks for having me.
HAYES: That is ALL IN for this evening.
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much appreciated.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks for joining us at home this hour.
It was September 12th, 1962. It was a really, really hot day that day. And the president`s speech was held in a big outdoor stadium where there was not a single inch of shade for anyone who was sitting there listening to him.
And that whole event ended up being a bit of an endurance test for the thousands of people who were in attendance, not only because of the unrelenting heat, but also because before the president eventually got up to give his speech, all these other people went first. The university president and a whole other cast of sort of lesser dignitaries all gave fairly long remarks of their own, while all these thousands of people wilted in the stadium under the noonday sun. All before the president even started his remarks.
But when the president finally did come up to the podium at the football stadium at Rice University in Houston, Texas, that hot September day in 1962, he I think somewhat wisely sort of recognized the environment he was in. He started off taking note of the setting he was in. He was in the school, the city, the state, and then frankly, the weight of the matter he was about to discuss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT: Ladies and gentlemen, I appreciate your president having made me an honorary visiting professor, and I will assure you that my first lecture will be very brief. I am delighted to be here, and I am particularly delighted to be here on this occasion. We meet at a college noted for knowledge in a city noted for progress in a state noted for strength. And we stand in need of all three. We meet in an hour of change and challenge in a decade of hope and fear in an age of both knowledge and ignorance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was the somewhat somber start before that very quiet crowd of what would eventually become recognized as one of the triumphant oratorical moments in U.S. presidential history. I mean, that was the quiet, somber start to the speech in which JFK went on to inspire the nation to commit to move proverbial mountains to do whatever needed to be done for America to become the first nation on earth for Americans to lead humanity in put a man on the moon.
And that speech is remembered for its pinnacle moments of inspiring rhetoric, the stirring records from JFK. But it`s interesting. When you go back to that speech now, what`s really striking given the legend of that moment in history is that all the way up until the apex, the memorable apex of that speech, JFK honestly was barely dragging that audience along.
This huge, sweaty stadium full of heat-struck Texans who had been sitting there for a long time before he ever got up there, they were really not all that into anything he was saying for any of the rest of his speech. But the one indelible stanza from that speech, the one historical moment we can all right now off the top of our heads recite from memory, that moment with the crowd roaring and his crescendoing into this great memorable moment about America putting a man on the moon, you know, when you go back and look at it, it turns out the way he got the crowd to roar in that moment was not because they seemed particularly psyched about going to the moon before he got to that point in the speech. The thing they were all making noise about at the start of that apex moment in the speech was that he had just made a comedic football reference about why Rice University even bothered to play Texas in football given what a mismatch that always was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENNEDY: There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind. And its opportunity for peaceful cooperation for may never come again.
But some say why the moon? Why choose this as our goal. And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why 35 years ago fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas? We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon --
We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy but because they are hard. Because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we`re willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And then he sort of has the crowd with him there. Why does Rice play Texas? And the crowd wakes up and is like, yes, Rice against Texas. Why does Rice play Texas? That`s hard too, but we got to do the hard stuff, like go to the moon, right? Right?
For all the rabbits that JFK had to pull out of the hat there, for everything he had to do to bring that crowd, that tired, exhausted, hot crowd, to bring them along with him, because that speech did ultimately signal the public launch of an American effort that was extraordinary and unprecedented and triumphantly successful in the end, that speech, those words from JFK, they didn`t just go down in history as an important moment in the JFK presidency, those words went down in history as an important moment in the history of the U.S. presidency, in the history of this country, frankly, in the history of the world.
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do other things. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard, right? This iconic indelible moment.
Not just because it was a well delivered line, but because in retrospect, in hindsight looking back on that moment, we now know what JFK was setting in motion. He really was setting in motion putting a man on the moon.
And now here`s the Trump administration version of that, which is happening right now. Vice President Mike Pence has just gone to the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, and he has given what he clearly believes to be a rousing, momentous speech for the ages about us going back to the moon again.
For the first time since 1972, we`re going to put astronauts on the moon again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going back to the moon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Just like JFK, right? If Kennedy could make world history in 1962 with the "we choose to go to the moon" speech, clearly this is just as inspiring, right? Mike Pence saying we are going back to the moon.
Here`s the thing. The reason JFK`s speech in 1962 became an iconic moment in world history and will be remembered for the ages, no matter what ever else ever happens on earth is because Kennedy said "we choose to go to the moon," and he was actually choosing that we would go to the moon, and then we actually did it.
In contrast, Vice President Mike Pence has just announced we are going back to the moon, and he has done it in like JFK style, but the Trump administration actually has no plan to go back to the moon. And part of the reason we know this is because Mike Pence admitted it in another awkward part of his speech.
It turns out he didn`t make plans to go to Alabama to announce we`re going back to the moon because he knew we had plans to go back to the moon. In fact, he was just going there to give a speech and somebody said hey, maybe we could do that a couple of minutes before he walked on stage. So, he hoped that announcing it would make him look like JFK, maybe?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENCE: Administrator Bridenstiner told me five minutes ago we now have a plan to return to the moon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Mike Pence only heard about this going back to the moon idea five minutes ago, but this speech sounds really good if you conduct that in there. And by the way, I should mention when he says Administrator Bridenstiner told me five minutes ago we now have a plan to return to the moon, the dude`s name is not Bridenstiner. It`s just Bridenstine.
But you know, make sure you get my good side when you shoot this for the news reels and the time capsules. This is what presidents and vice presidents are supposed to talk like, right?
I mean, you could forgive the audience at Mike Pence`s speech for believing that maybe this really was an announcement about something new that America was going to do, something that was going to happen. You might forgive them for thinking he was announcing that there was some new thing that was being unveiled in order to actually effectuate putting people back on the moon, but really, no.
After Pence`s speech, the NASA administrator, whose name is not Bridenstiner, he actually got up and tried to explain what could conceivably be a plan that might make good on what Mike Pence just said in this speech. He told the aught audience at Marshall Flight Center that maybe some of the way they could do it to accelerate research on a rocket NASA has been working on for years. The part he said they could accelerate work on I should tell you is a specific NASA project that was just put on ice and stopped all together in the Trump budget that was submitted two weeks ago.
He also said another part of the astronauts back on the moon within five years plan would, of course, be a lunar lander program, which sounds amazing. It has not been funded at all by the Trump administration. They`re not even working on it. They`re not getting that.
Astrophysicist Katie Mack helpfully pointed out what the current administration might be missing about what it takes to be remembered for a JFK-style speech about going to the moon. As she points out, this is NASA`s budget over time. An arrow over there on the left, that shows where the NASA budget was, and you can see where it was going when Kennedy gave his landmark speech in 1962 saying we`re going back to the moon.
See what happened after Kennedy made that announcement? Looks like he actually had a plan to do something, right? And that`s how we got to the moon.
You can follow along here. I don`t need to put an arrow on the right side of the graph to show you that`s where the Trump administration has the NASA budget right now. But still, the speech sounds awesome. We`ll go back to the moon! Please clap!
NASA does not actually have a plan the get astronauts back on the moon in five years. They were hoping to do it by 2028. That`s what they were already planning on doing. But Mike Pence has now announced no, we`re going right away. We`re -- there is no plan to do that at all.
And this has happened often enough now that I think we can see how this works. I think we can see their mindset here. I think they think that if you just give the speech, if you just make the announcement, that`s enough to get credit for it if people don`t pay attention to the fact that you don`t actually mean it.
I mean, this just seems to be a recognizable pattern now, two plus years into this new American political experience we are all having. Announce we are going to the moon. Maybe people will think you are like JFK who said we are going to the moon, but he meant it.
Announce the denuclearization of North Korea, yes. Make sure you get the handshake. It`s like they don`t know it`s not historic. It`s not an iconic moment if it`s not real.
But they want the announcement. They want what appears to be the big moment. So, we`ve had the announcement we`re going to the moon. Just this week, we`ve had the announcement that North Korea is denuclearizing. We`ve had the announcement from the president that ISIS is defeated. ISIS is totally gone, which is an awesome thing to announce. Regardless of whether -- right?
The president has also announced there will now be health care for everyone. Everybody in America now has health insurance. He says the way it works is the hospitals will bill the government, and the government will pay the bills.
Everybody gets health care now. That`s how it works now. The president made the announcement.
The president not only announced, he actually signed a thing and said that the thing that he was signing would require henceforth that only American made steel would be used in U.S. pipelines. Look, he signed the thing. He made the announcement. Summoned cameras for the photo op, had people stand around him.
There, in fact, is no requirement that U.S. steel be used in U.S. pipelines. He announced that he was doing that. That does not exist in real life that is not at all what that signature meant on that piece of paper.
He goes and he has these rallies in rural America and announces that he has established rural broadband across America, and everybody goes crazy, because that sounds amazing, right? It does sound amazing. That would be great thing to announce. Even better, it would be a great thing to do.
But they`re not actually working on doing it at all. They just have him announce it at his rural rallies because it sounds like a great thing to be able to announce. I mean, we should have known it was going to be like this when we got the initial White House announcements about his record win the Electoral College, which he didn`t get, and the record crowd size at the inaugural. We should have known this would be the pattern.
But I think we can all see the pattern now, right? And we should all be able to agree that the announcement of things the White House wishes to be true or wishes to be credited for should not be confused with actual things, with actual reality, actual plans, actual policies, actual things that may have come to pass. And I have receive my share of grief over these past couple of years for my loose policy of not covering anything they say, and instead only covering things they do.
But since this week is we`re going back to the moon and also I have been totally exonerated by Robert Mueller, I`m going to stick with my policy for now, because what they say is not that helpful for understanding what`s actually happened or is going to happen. It has now been five days since the report from special counsel Robert Mueller about the results and the findings of his year and ten-month-long investigation, since that report was delivered to the Justice Department.
So far, that Mueller report has not been released to the public at all. The Trump administration has issued a brief characterization of Mueller`s findings written by Trump`s newly appointed attorney general, but if you don`t want to count on what the Trump administration is saying about itself, and you want the see Mueller`s findings on all of it, on the criminal side of it, on the counterintelligence side of it, on the collusion side of it, on the obstruction side of it, on all of it, at this point we don`t even know how close we are to all of that.
The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, said he spoke with the Attorney General William Barr about that today, and he basically came away frustrated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I had a phone call with the attorney general, and I asked him about the length and breadth of the Mueller report. He told me it was a very substantial report, a very substantial report, one that in my judgment a four-page summary can do no - - cannot begin to do justice to. I asked him when we could see it and he couldn`t get specific. He said weeks, not months, as we`ve heard before.
I asked whether he could commit that the full report, an unredacted full report with the underlying documents evidence would be provided to Congress and to the American people, and he wouldn`t commit to that. He wouldn`t make a commitment to that. I am very concerned about that.
REPORTER: How many pages is the report? When you say very substantial, do you mean hundreds of pages? How many pages?
NADLER: I can`t say that, but it`s very substantial.
REPORTER: And you know how many pages it is?
NADLER: Yes. It`s very substantial.
REPORTER: Fox News is saying 700. Is that accurate? More than that?
NADLER: I can`t comment.
REPORTER: Why is that? Why is that an issue?
REPORTER: Why is that confidential?
NADLER: Because he -- I was told that I wasn`t told I could release that information. But it`s very substantial.
REPORTER: Is very substantial, less than a thousand?
NADLER: Oh, I would think so.
REPORTER: Is it more than 500?
REPORTER: Did he say it was a counterintelligence component to this report?
NADLER: We didn`t talk about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It`s very substantial. You know how many pages. You can`t say how many pages is it less than a thousand? I would think so. Is it more than 500? Hmm.
That last point he was asked about, did he say whether there was a counterintelligence part to this report, that`s interesting. It`s a point that looms large right now.
The Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has been hitting this very hard, saying that even if Robert Mueller concluded in his investigation that criminal charges shouldn`t be brought against the president or against anybody in his campaign for coordinating with the Russian government in that government`s attack on the 2016 election, Schiff says as far as the evidence he`s seen, there was broadly speaking collusion between people associated with the president and Russia, and it is the counterintelligence part of Mueller`s investigation that he says should shed light on this broader national security question of whether the president himself or people around him have been under the influence of or compromised by any hostile foreign power, Russia included. Until Mueller`s findings are released, all we`ve got is Barr`s assertions. All we`ve got is what they say about this report.
We`ve got Barr`s assertion that he and not Robert Mueller has decided that the president shouldn`t be prosecuted for obstruction of justice, and we`ve got this narrowly tailored assertion, again, from Trump`s newly appointed attorney general, saying that there should be no American prosecutions for helping the Russian government with the 2016 election attack. But that`s all we`ve got is those assertions from the Trump administration thus far.
In terms of what we can actually observe beyond what they`re saying -- well, today in federal court in Washington, there was a surprise. Today in federal court, the chief judge of the D.C. district court unveiled a surprise about Mueller`s grand jury and ongoing investigations involving foreign countries and the enforcement of subpoenas and potential forthcoming indictment, and it was unveiled in court today in a way that seemed to shock not only the reporters who were there in court to witness that hearing, that revelation today in court also seemed to shock some of the lawyers who are involved in that case and who are involved in that hearing today. And that story is next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: OK. So on last night`s show, we talked about the handful of criminal cases that derive from the Mueller investigation that haven`t yet been handed over from Mueller to other prosecutors. It`s an interesting little list. It includes the Mike Flynn case. Flynn is awaiting sentencing. Also, the Roger Stone case. He`s awaiting trial.
Also, the case against the Russian GRU officers. They`re all in Russia so they haven`t been put on trial yet. Also, the company of that Kremlin- connected oligarch who is accused of financing and organizing the Russian government`s disinformation effort during the last presidential election to help the Trump campaign and hurt Hillary Clinton.
All of those cases still today the special counsel`s office appears to have not yet handed off. We expect that they will very, very soon. We expect that will happen imminently. But it hasn`t happened yet, as far as we can tell.
That said, Mueller has handed over to other U.S. attorneys some of the other cases they`ve been working on, including the Paul Manafort case. Manafort has started his federal prison sentence already. But that`s got some interesting ongoing litigation now where news organizations are trying to have more of the material from his case unsealed.
They`ve also handed off the Rick Gates case, the president`s deputy campaign chair. He is awaiting sentencing. Also a couple others.
I mentioned last night on the show that today there was going to be a hearing in federal court in D.C. in one of these cases that until now was handled by Robert Mueller and his prosecutors, but it`s been handed over now to a U.S. attorney`s office, to the U.S. attorney`s office in D.C. That hearing happened today. It was the case that has become known as the mystery case.
It`s a mystery because we don`t know who it`s about. Still. This case has been in the court since last fall. It`s a mystery company owned by some mystery foreign country that was sent a subpoena last year from Mueller`s grand jury. Now this company is apparently not being targeted by the special counsel`s office for prosecution. They`re considered a witness.
But the subpoena they got requires them to come give evidence to the grand jury. The company refused to honor the subpoena, and it has been up and down the federal court system ever since, including just a few days ago, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear their appeal. So this unknown company, this mystery company, they really do have to comply with the subpoena. They really do have to go give their evidence to the grand jury. Under U.S. law now definitively, they don`t have a choice.
That is, of course, provided there still is a grand jury that still wants to hear from them. And now that`s an interesting question, right? Because the special counsel`s report has been given to the Justice Department, even though it hasn`t yet been made public. The special counsel`s office is closing down. They`re handing off all of their cases to other prosecutors, right?
So, it seems pretty clearly, well, this whole thing is over, right? So presumably, this court fight will now end. It would appear, heading into this hearing today, that the mystery company, whoever they are, they outlasted the Mueller investigation.
They outlasted the grand jury that Mueller convened to collect evidence in that investigation, right? It`s done, right? It`s over. They never had to produce their evidence, right? It`s done.
That`s what we thought. Ahem. March 27, 2019, that`s today, 11:28 a.m. Eastern Time. United States district court for the District of Columbia. The honorable chief judge of the district court, Beryl A. Howell, presiding.
Court deputy, quote: Matter before the court, grand jury matter 18-41 in regards to grand jury subpoena number 7049.
The judge: All right. Welcome, everybody. Let me just begin by reviewing where we are in the case, because the reporter`s committee for freedom of the press has a motion before me a motion to unseal redacted versions by my count of the briefs, the records, the orders and transcripts in this action, as well as the identity of the mystery company, the corporation that has been held in contempt of court for not responding to Mueller`s grand jury subpoena.
So there are lawyers in this court hearing today for the mystery corporation owned by this foreign country. Also, there`s lawyers from the U.S. attorney`s office in D.C. who just inherited this case from Mueller and the special counsel`s office. And there is also lawyers there from the reporters committee for freedom of the press.
And they`re there because they have been trying mightily for a long time now to take the mystery off this case. To get these proceedings unsealed, to publicly reveal the identity of this company from this foreign country that is resisting Mueller`s subpoena. They`ve been fighting all the way to the Supreme Court to try to avoid providing evidence to this investigation. This investigation that is now over, right, isn`t it? So this case, this part of it should be over too.
Here`s Ted Boutrous, famous Washington lawyer, making the case here to the judge.
Your Honor, I think the key here is the unique circumstances that we are in, that this is not an ordinary witness. This is a country, a nation. We have foreign policy issues here where this country has been taking this position in this court to the Supreme Court and back. It seems to me that here where special counsel Robert Mueller has submitted his report to the attorney general, the attorney general has submitted a four-page summary, we don`t really know what the conclusions really are. It seems that this is a time for this court, consistent with the rules, its inherent authority -- and then the judge jumps in and interrupts. And this is, just so you know, that is one of the questions I will ask the government, the prosecutors, the prosecutors to explain.
The judge says why are we still here in terms of the fact that the special counsel`s report has been delivered and whether this contempt proceeding continues or not.
Mr. Boutrous: I was wondering what that -- I was wondering what the status of that was myself, because it certainly seems the report is in.
The judge: And the reason that that question is important, I think, is to clarify whether there is a closed grand jury investigation now or whether this is a grand jury investigation that is continuing, because I think you would concede, would you not, Mr. Boutrous, that if it is an ongoing grand jury investigation, that the redactions and the amount of information that can be publicly disclosed has to be measured against the needs of an ongoing grand jury investigation, correct?
Mr. Boutrous: Yes, Your Honor, I agree with that. I do think that the arguments for disclosure are stronger, much stronger for greater disclosure if in fact the grand jury investigating the Russia matters and related matters has completed.
The judge: But if in fact, and we`ll hear from the government, if the grand jury matter is continuing robustly, then that is a significant consideration in terms of the response that may be available to your motion, correct?
Mr. Boutrous: I agree with that, Your Honor.
So, the judge and the lawyer who is arguing for this case to be unredacted, for us to find out, you know, which country this is that`s resisting so hard against Mueller`s subpoena, this judge and this first amendment lawyer here, they`re basically both agreeing in court today. Hey, if Mueller is done, and that means the grand jury here is done, then the grand jury doesn`t need this testimony anymore. So this isn`t an ongoing investigation anymore. So, yes, that makes it easier to make the call that we should unseal this information and tell the country who this is.
The judge and the lawyer are agreeing on that point. The judge then says thank you to the lawyer. The judge is very complimentary to him about his good lawyering and the importance of what he is trying to do. She says, thank you very much. She says transparency`s important. She says thank you.
The judge says -- excuse me, the judge says thank you. The lawyer sits down.
But then look at this. The judge knew exactly what she was doing. She then calls on the other lawyers in the courtroom. She turns to the prosecutors, the government, right? The prosecutors from the U.S. attorney`s office who have just inherited this case from Robert Mueller. She calls them by name.
Mr. Faruqui, Mr. Goodhand, so, let`s start with the first question, is the grand jury investigation over?
David Goodhand, the prosecutor: No, your honor, it is continuing. I can -- in the court`s words, I can say it`s continuing robustly.
The judge: All right. So this is a situation where the court must evaluate the reporter committees request for unsealing in the context of a robust and ongoing grand jury investigation. Is that correct?
Mr. Goodhand, Exactly. The judge: All right.
So, there is still a robust and ongoing grand jury investigation involving at least one unknown foreign country which is still resisting subpoenas from Mueller to provide evidence. And the ongoing litigation is not just about whether or not that country needs to respond to that subpoena as a matter of law and whether or not they`re in contempt. It`s an ongoing matter because that grand jury investigation that they need to provide evidence to as a witness, that grand jury investigation that Mueller convened, it is, quote, continuing robustly, according to the chief federal judge of the D.C. Circuit and the U.S. attorney`s office there, which is now handling that grand jury and that ongoing investigation.
What does that mean? We`re going to have a report from the courtroom coming up, and a lot more still to come.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Today in federal court in Washington, D.C., lawyers for the Reporters Committee Freedom of the Press, they were doing great in a hearing before a federal judge in which they were trying to get a whole bunch of stuff unsealed from one of the ongoing Robert Mueller cases. Things were going great. They`re sort of getting what they want out of this case. They`re getting stuff unredacted. They`re getting stuff unsealed.
And at one point today they`re sort of getting what I think they thought would be the kill shot in their case, where they would point out to the judge that, yes, we`ve been arguing for all this stuff to be unsealed all along. They`ve been trying to get all these redactions unredacted all along. But now, they`re going to point out to the judge today, now Robert Mueller is done. The investigation`s over. So clearly, we should -- and the judge basically jumped in and said not so fast. The legal version of that without the drama.
But the judge today in this hearing, surprise, revealed that in fact the investigation is not over. The Mueller grand jury is still at work on its investigation. In her words, the grand jury`s investigation is, quote, continuing robustly, which is bad news for the people who are trying to get information about this case unsealed because it`s apparently an ongoing investigation. But it`s also a big surprise as to what we thought was going on with the work of the special counsel`s office.
Joining us now is Darren Samuelsohn. He is a senior reporter at "Politico" who was in the courtroom today for this little surprise.
Mr. Samuelsohn, thank you very much for being here. I really appreciate it.
DARREN SAMUELSOHN, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: Good evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, let me start with a logistics question. Obviously, we`ve only got the public transcript of what happened. But it seems like this must have started some sort of sealed proceeding today, and then later they opened the doors so you and other reporters and people from the public could cover sort of the second part of this? Is that how this went down?
SAMUELSOHN: Yes, that`s correct. So this morning, I showed up at the courthouse not even knowing if the doors would be open and I`d be able to go in. I really was there primarily just to see who would be representing the special counsel, who would be going in the doors, knowing that the investigation had ended a couple of days ago, and obviously looking to see who the D.C. U.S. attorneys would be and just simply lay eyes on the sort of new world post-Robert Mueller.
The doors were opened after a couple of minutes of sealed proceedings that we didn`t get a chance to see. Ted Boutrous, the lawyer you were talking about, was standing outside with the reporters waiting to go in. There was a brief intermission and we were brought into the courtroom. And that is when the arguments that you just read the transcript from played out, I would say for about 15, 20 minutes.
MADDOW: So there is this startling moment in court that I just recounted where we learned that the grand jury that Mueller convened for his investigation is continuing robustly. Obviously, I`m covering that tonight, because that came as a surprise to me and to everybody here. You mentioned that Ted Boutrous was not in there for the sealed part of the proceedings.
It sort of seems like he and the other lawyers arguing for this case to be unsealed, it seems like they had no idea about that either until the judge basically directed the prosecutor to say so in open court. Is that fair?
SAMUELSOHN: Yes, that`s fair to say. I think we were all wondering if this question would be coming up and how the answer would play out. Obviously, knowing that Robert Mueller had supposedly finished four days ago, that he was told pencils up by Bill Barr, and Bill Barr releases the summary that we`ve all been poring over here for the last couple of days.
So, it was shock not only to Ted Boutrous, but to the reporters in the room. Certainly my ears perked up. I thought about running out and immediately filing that first story, but waited for the proceedings to end just to see how it would play out and how everything else would go down.
It was about five or ten more minutes of questioning between the judge and the U.S. attorney asking him a couple more questions about the nuances of the grand jury proceedings. And then it was adjourned. Actually she brought Ted Boutrous back up one more time if he wanted to do any counterarguments.
And she basically told him, you might want to stop. You`ve done pretty good so far. You might want to end this thing right now. Boutrous recognized he was being given a pretty strong hint that he should go sit back down. Proceedings would be over.
I think we now have -- a 30-day window we`re waiting to see if Judge Beryl Howell will release the name of the company we`ve been wondering about for so long.
MADDOW: And clearly, Darren, I think I know the answer to this, but we did get this definitive statement from the prosecutors today and from the judge that the grand jury investigation is ongoing, that the grand jury is alive and kicking. We didn`t get any indication of what they`re working on, right?
SAMUELSOHN: We did not get any indication of what they`re working on. Obviously, we`ve been watching the grand jury closely, you know. Your network and other networks have had people staked outside that courtroom for a long time, watching and seeing that there had been sort of a dark period for a couple of week news where the grand jury hadn`t met. I don`t think since Roger Stone back at the end of January.
So it had appeared that the grand jury was finished for all practical purposes. Learning today it wasn`t just Judge Howell, but it was the U.S. attorney`s office indicating that this grand jury proceeding is continuing robustly. And the use of the world "robustly" as I talked to some other people, you know, sounded purposeful. That it indicated indeed there are things going on right now. We don`t know what they are. I`ve heard a lot of speculation today what they could be.
But at this point in time I would think that anybody who maybe had been breathing easy thinking that the Mueller investigation was over maybe shouldn`t be, and that, you know, continuing to -- that Robert Mueller handed things off to other federal prosecutors. Obviously, you talked about southern district of New York, possible in Virginia, and it seems like possible here in Washington, D.C., there are active grand juries that are looking into things, and it`s very possible Robert Mueller, you know, he did have to take the pencil up and hand things over. But there could still be indictments to come in the future.
MADDOW: Darren Samuelsohn, senior reporter of politico.com. Darren, I want to take a moment the thank you for the clarity of your prose when you`re covering this complicated stuff. It`s good to have you here on the show. I read everything you write, your work at "Politico", you and Josh have been so clarifying. Thanks for being here. Thanks for your work.
SAMUELSOHN: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Much more to come. Stay with us.
MADDOW: One of the first things that Betsy DeVos did as Trump`s education secretary was go to a diner on Capitol Hill to support the Special Olympics. The Special Olympics is an amazing American institution. It relies on both private and federal funding to stay afloat, federal funding that comes from the U.S. Education Department run by Betsy DeVos.
The Special Olympics is, frankly, a treasured event in sports and in the American education system, and Betsy DeVos said as much at that dinner in D.C. that she went to just a few days after she was put in charge of the U.S. Department of Education. She told the Special Olympians who were there, quote, I`m proud to stand beside you as a partner and support Special Olympics, an important program that promotes leadership and empowers students to be agents of change.
The very next day, a group of school kids involved with the Special Olympics went to the capitol to meet with lawmakers and advocate for federal funding. Being the one in charge of that federal funding, Betsy DeVos was there, too, offering her support.
And it wasn`t just photo ops. Betsy DeVos comes from extraordinary personal wealth. When she became education secretary, she loudly announced that she would donate her whole government salary to charity. A big chunk of it that first year specifically to the Special Olympics.
You put all that together, the donation, the dinners, the photo ops, the bragging about her charity to them, it makes it all the more -- stunning, I don`t know. All the more Trump era expected to learn that Betsy DeVos just proposed killing, eliminating the entire federal budget for Special Olympics.
When the Education Department put out its budget for next year, they suggested a 10 percent cut in spending across the board, but when it comes to the Special Olympics line in their budget, the Education Department is not suggesting a cut. Betsy DeVos is specifically asking not for just a reduction in spending on the Special Olympics, she is specifically calling to eliminate all federal funding, all U.S. government support for the Special Olympics, full stop.
It turns out that it`s not going to happen quietly. Did you see the fight break out over this today? That`s next. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARK POCAN (D), WISCONSIN: I want to follow up on the thing Ms. Lee mentioned about the cuts to Special Olympics. Do you know how many kids are going to be affected by that cut, Madam Secretary?
BETSY DEVOS, EDUCATION SECRETARY: Mr. Pocan, let me just say again we had to make some difficult decisions with this budget.
POCAN: Again, this is a question of how many kids, not about the budget.
DEVOS: I don`t know the number of kids. I also know that --
POCAN: It`s 272,000.
I`ll answer it for you. That`s OK, no problem. It`s 272,000 kids that are affected.
DEVOS: I think the Special Olympics is an awesome organization, one that is well supported by the philanthropic sector as well.
POCAN: I have two nephews with autism. What is it that we have a problem with children in special education? Why are we cutting these programs over and over within this budget?
DEVOS: Well, sir, we have continued to retain the funding levels for IDEA and held that level, so in the context --
POCAN: Sorry, I don`t think I brought up IDEA. I believe I brought up Special Olympics, the special education grants to states, the National Technical Institute for the Blind, Gallaudet University, federal program for printing books. So if you could address those, that`s the question. I would really appreciate it.
DEVOS: I`d address the broader question.
POCAN: If you could address the question I asked, that`s even a better way to answer a question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: How did she describe the Special Olympics there? She said it`s an awesome organization. An awesome organization that is no longer going to be supported by the United States government because Betsy DeVos has just asked that the agency she supports entirely kill off funding for the Special Olympics, because the Special Olympics are awesome.
Joining us now is Congressman Mark Pocan. He`s a Democrat from Wisconsin. He`s on the House Appropriations Committee, including importantly, the part of that committee that oversees Betsy DeVos` budget at the Department of Education.
Congressman, thank you so much for making time for us tonight.
POCAN: Thank you, Rachel. Glad to be here.
MADDOW: After that exchange that I saw between you and Secretary DeVos, I was interested to see her put out a statement saying she`s very upset about the shameful falsehoods that are being reported about her cutting all funding to the Special Olympics and she`s very upset about all the terrible media coverage and criticism she`s getting on that. She actually is proposing cutting all funding to the Special Olympics, isn`t she?
POCAN: Yes, she is proposing about an $18 million cut. And important, Rachel, she`s also while she`s cutting the department 12 percent across the board, she`s increased the executive pay line in her department by over 15 percent. So I was just trying to figure out why it`s okay for her and her political pals to make more money when kids with real special needs are being cut -- not just in Special Olympics but also in state grants, in programs for visually and hearing impaired students and on and on. She has an abysmal record in this area.
MADDOW: You know, I was struck by her inability or her unwillingness to answer direct questions about this. I feel like if you are going to single out the Special Olympics and not just give them the same 12 percent cut that everything else in the department is getting, but to single them out for zero funding, you can`t -- you don`t do that by accident. Obviously you`re going to expect blowback. Special Olympics are such a beloved and treasured and important American institution.
I have to expect that the Trump administration is doing this for a reason, for effect. They couldn`t think this would go quietly.
What do you make of the way they`ve rolled this out and dealt with criticism, including from you?
POCAN: Well, you know, even taking it back just a little bit, they`re cutting Social Security, they`re cutting Medicaid, they`re cutting by about $5 billion funding to the National Institutes of Health, which help us find cures for diseases. This is just the Trump budget. So when it comes to education, they don`t care that much about education so they do these cuts.
Something like Special Olympics, I have two autistic nephews. I hear from many parents, millions of people in this country rely on quality special education for their children and to cut program after program after program and then even something like Special Olympics after she`s praised it shows a complete lack of understanding of what her job is as the secretary of the Department of Education. She just doesn`t understand her job and Donald Trump doesn`t understand his job either.
MADDOW: Well, let me press you on that a little bit because it may be that Betsy DeVos doesn`t understand the priorities of the nation as the way that you might understand them, or it may not be that she thinks that American policy should continue to support things that she thinks are awesome. I honestly don`t understand whether or not she gets that she is cutting the Special Olympics, whether or not she actually knows that she has proposed as the agency head zeroing this out.
I mean, I couldn`t read in that interaction with you and with other Democrats on the committee whether she actually got this is what she was doing or whether this might have been sort of, you know, handed to her by the Office of Management and Budget, by the Trump administration, by the White House more broadly, because she didn`t have any plan to defend it.
You`d have to know you were going to have to defend something like this when you sat down before this committee having just proposed zeroing out funding for an American institution that is so treasured.
POCAN: Either she`s the world`s worst, most evasive answering person when it comes to questions or, you know, I saw a lot of light in the deer eyes as she answered things that she clearly wasn`t getting what I was asking. Because I thought I asked very clear and simple questions. At one point, I had to ask her if I was speaking a different language because the answers I was getting weren`t related to anything I asked.
But when it came to special education, she just refused to answer any questions whatsoever in addition to a number of things we talked about during the hearing.
MADDOW: Well, Congressman, thank you for pushing so hard to try to get the answers you did try to get. I will back you up on the deer in the headlights thing.
POCAN: Only are we going to get that funding fixed. But I talked to the subcommittee chair tonight and I think we`re going to propose increased funding for special education as well.
MADDOW: Thanks for helping us make that news tonight, sir. Thank you. Congressman Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, much appreciated, my friend. Thank you.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Heads up for your morning news consumption tomorrow morning. Maria Butina who pled guilty in December to acting as a secret agent of the Russian government in an influence operation targeting the U.S. conservative movement and the NRA and the Republican Party, she`s going to appear in federal court at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time tomorrow. We expect to find out whether she is done cooperating with prosecutors and ready to be sentenced.
If prosecutors are done with her, she will likely get a sentencing date tomorrow. If they ask for more time yet again, it means she is still providing yet more information that they are using in ongoing investigations because, yes, it turns out there are ongoing investigations. But, again, that hearing tomorrow, 10:00 a.m., we should learn more.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END