CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Tonight was a lot of fun. So, make sure to stay up and check it out. That`s tonight at 12:35 a.m. Eastern here on NBC.
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: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
When it rains, it pours. It feels like a Friday. Literally since dinnertime tonight, we have learned in "The Washington Post" that the president`s son Jared Kushner is White House official number one who was denied a security clearance last year because of concerns about foreign influence over him, his private business interests and his personal conduct. After a ruling by career security officials that Mr. Kushner had too many significant disqualifying factors to receive a top secret clearance, a Trump political appointee nevertheless overruled that determination and gave Jared Kushner the top secret clearance anyway.
Kushner, you might remember, issued a statement in February saying that his security clearance was handled in the regular process. It now seems clear according to a whistle-blower in a position to know that that statement was absolutely not true. "The Post" reports tonight that Kushner`s top secret clearance was granted against the recommendation of security officials on May 1st. It was, in fact, initialed by the Trump appointee who overruled security staff on that same day, also on May 1st, Ivanka Trump, the president`s daughter who is married to Mr. Kushner, she was also given her clearance that same day as well.
And you at home should look under your chair because you get a top secret clearance too, and you get a top secret clearance and you get a top secret clearance. Everybody gets one, no matter the serious disqualifying red flags in your background checks and how many ways actual national security screeners believe that you can`t be trusted with the nation`s most secret information, you get one anyway.
Again, the president`s son-in-law Jared Kushner being named as White House official number one, previously not described by name in those reports. We`re going have more on that story ahead.
We`re also going to have more ahead on this major shot across the bow tonight from the Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal. Congressman Richard Neal of Massachusetts heads the ways and means committee. Today, he notified the IRS in writing that he is invoking the section of the federal tax code that requires the IRS to show him specific tax returns that he wants to see as chairman of Ways and Means.
Chairman Neal is requesting six years of President Trump`s personal tax returns, starting in 2013, two years before he declared his run for the presidency, all the way through to 2018 last year. Congressman Neal has also told the IRS to turn over tax returns for those same years for all of these different Trump business entities. According to background information provided by the Ways and Means Committee, those specific entities, quote, constitute the core of the president`s business. The committee says the first five entities on that list, quote, control hundreds of other business entities associated with President Trump.
So, again, we will have more on that story ahead over the course of this evening, including the fact that the IRS, you should understand they`re not being asked for these records. They`re not being subpoenaed for these records. They appear to be plainly required by law to hand these tax returns over now that the committee chairman has demanded them.
Congressman Neal claims today that the IRS has never before in U.S. history rejected a request for a tax return filed under this section of the tax code. But those demands of the IRS are in and formally worded and formally requested/demanded as of tonight. That one is red-hot and brand-new, and just as we were digesting that, then we got this.
Ah, you don`t say. Yes. Who could have seen this coming? The headline in this breaking news report in "The New York Times" tonight, this has just broken within the last hour and a half, you see the headline there, "Some on Mueller`s team see their findings as more damaging for Trump than Barr revealed."
Oh. Who could have seen this coming? You mean to tell me when the newly installed Trump attorney general decided to sit on the Mueller report and not release to it anyone, not a single page, and instead the White House and congressional Republicans and conservative media tried to claim total vindication for the president in Mueller`s report based just on Attorney General Barr`s odd, vague characterization of what he says Mueller concluded, which the A.G. then later said shouldn`t even be taken as a summary of what Mueller concluded.
You mean to tell me that maybe the Mueller report isn`t as exactly as exciting and positive and exculpatory for the president as the Trump administration and conservative media and congressional Republicans would have you believe? Really? Who could have seen this coming? Hope you`ve enjoyed your victory laps.
Here is the lead tonight in "The New York Times." Quote, some of Robert Mueller`s investigators have told associates that Attorney General William P. Barr failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry and that the findings of their inquiry were more troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr indicated, citing government officials and others familiar with the simmering frustrations of Mueller`s investigators, "The Times" tonight reports, quote, some members of Mueller`s team are concerned that because Mr. Barr created the first public narrative of the special counsel`s findings, Americans` views will have hardened about the Mueller report before the investigation`s conclusions actually become public.
Quote: At stake in the dispute is who shapes the public`s initial understanding of one of the most consequential government investigations in American history.
Today, of course, congressional Democrats led by Chairman Jerry Nadler of the House Judiciary Committee, they authorized a subpoena to obtain the entire unredacted report from Mueller`s office. They did not send that subpoena to Attorney General Barr today. Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler insisted today he wants to give Attorney General Barr time to change his mind. He basically wants to negotiate with the attorney general to try to persuade him to release the unredacted report of Mueller`s findings to the Judiciary Committee.
Attorney General Barr for his part appears to be basically ignoring all requests and demands from Congress when it comes to Mueller`s report. He insisted in his last letter to the Judiciary Committees that he`s going through the report now and cutting out a whole bunch of different kinds of information that he believes Congress shouldn`t be allowed to see. He has said that Mueller himself is assisting with this redaction process, although no one quite knows what that means, and that may become a very, very different thing in terms of how we understand this process given this new reporting from "The Times."
This report from "The Times" tonight suggests that Mueller`s team, however involved they are in the process from here on out, this report tonight suggests that Mueller`s team is not on board with how Attorney General William Barr is handling this. And according to "The Times" reporting, members of Mueller`s team are basically warning people that Attorney General William Barr is trying to publicly sell a version of what he says are Mueller`s findings that is not actually a fair representation of what Mueller found, and that happens to be way too kind to President Trump when you compare with Mueller`s actual conclusions.
And this new reporting goes right back to that strange initial question of why exactly Barr is behaving the way he is. Why it is that Barr decided to provide his purported summary/don`t call it a summary of Mueller`s findings in the first place. Nobody expected him to do that. There is nothing in the special counsel regulations that required him to do that. There was no warning or any sort of expectation that he would do that. Why in fact did Barr decide to not release anything from Mueller`s report and instead to release his own take on what Mueller found?
Here is more from "The Times" report tonight. Quote: The special counsel`s investigators had already written multiple summaries of their own report, and some team members believe that Barr should have included more of their material in the four-page letter he wrote on March 24th laying out their main conclusions, as he characterized them. Mr. Barr, quote: only briefly cited the special counsel`s work in his letter.
Going on, "The Times" says the government officials familiar with the investigation and others interviewed declined to flesh out why some of the special counsel`s investigators viewed their findings as potentially more damaging for the president than Barr explained. Quote, it was unclear how much discussion Mueller and his investigators had with senior Justice Department officials about how their findings would be made public.
So, I mean, this is just -- this is remarkable. What "The Times" is describing here, remarkably, is criticism, right, what they describe as simmering frustration from Mueller`s investigators about the pro-Trump characterization of their findings that Attorney General William Barr made public as his own summary of their work while he, A, prevented any of the actual report from being made public or even provided to Congress, and, B, he apparently prevented even their own written summaries of their own work from becoming public at all.
This is totally new. We had no idea that Mueller`s team summarized their own findings themselves. They prepared a summary themselves.
Barr did not release that summary. He wrote a different one himself, which Mueller`s investigators say is wrong. They at least say it is less damaging for president Trump than what their report and their investigation actually found.
Now there is a couple more things here. One is reporting that -- I mean, it`s all anonymous sources, right? But this is reporting that appears to be sourced from DOJ. I say that because "The Times" describes its sources for some of this as unnamed persons close to Attorney General Barr`s thinking.
But those sources are telling reporters at "The Times" why Barr might have released his own summary that was only sunshine and bluebirds when it came to President Trump rather than releasing the actual written summary prepared by Mueller`s investigators themselves. I have to warn you, this is a little bit rich in terms of the explanation about why Barr did what he did.
Quote: Barr has come under criticism for sharing so little from Mueller`s report, but according to officials familiar with the attorney general`s thinking, he and his aides limited the details they revealed because they were worried about wading into political territory. Mr. Barr and his advisers expressed concern that if they included derogatory information about Mr. Trump while clearing him, they would face a storm of criticism like what James Comey endured in the Clinton investigation.
Quote: Barr was wary of departing from Justice Department practice not to disclose derogatory details in closing an investigation, according to two government officials familiar with Barr`s thinking. They pointed to the decision by James Comey to harshly criticize Hillary Clinton in 2016 while simultaneously announcing that he was recommending no charges against her in the inquiry into her email practices.
So, according to sources close to Attorney General Barr`s thinking, that`s what he`s thinking. I mean, just -- imagine you`re writing the history chapter about this for people not yet born, right?
Here`s the thinking. Because the FBI made an announcement of free-floating criticism and derogatory information about presidential candidate Hillary Clinton right before the presidential election, thus helping her opponent Donald Trump win the presidency, now Donald Trump appointees are soberly pledging that when it comes to a sprawling criminal counterintelligence investigation of Donald Trump as president, the Clinton example is why nothing should be released to the public about Trump whatsoever, not at least if it`s negative, only if it`s good. Because that`s the principle, right, that we`re upholding.
Here`s one last point in this "Times" story, though. A couple of times "The Times" says tonight that they`re not exactly sure, they`re not reporting here what exactly the objection is from Mueller`s team, what the frustration is here from Mueller`s team about the distance between what they actually found and the way Barr has characterized their investigation. For example, "The Times" says explicitly in their report tonight, quote, it was not clear what findings the special counsel`s investigators viewed as troubling for Mr. Trump.
But clearly, they`re troubling findings for Mr. Trump are listed in their own report, right? They have written these things down. They are the findings of the Mueller investigation. They`re there in the report, which 12 days now we can`t see.
So the question is do we get to see what those troubling findings for Mr. Trump are? And whose going to decide? I mean, whose deciding what is getting cut out of Mueller`s report?
Congress says they get it all unredacted. Well, whose deciding what they`re going to try to ship to Congress when they reject Congress` claim that they should get an unredacted report? Who`s to decide what goes to the public and what the redactions are?
Again, Attorney General Barr says that Mueller, the special counsel, is assisting in the process of deciding what`s being redacted from the report before Barr lets it out of his clutches and gives it to either the Congress or the public. So Mueller is supposedly helping in this process of, you know, cutting stuff out of his own report, blacking stuff out.
Well, according to "The Times" tonight, Mueller`s team, again, prepared their own summaries of what their own findings were. And Barr decided not to release their own written summaries of their own findings and instead substituted his own explanation of what he says they found, which they now take issue with.
One of the weirdest things in this whole report tonight, though, is what "The Times" is basically saying, according to sources that appear to be in the Justice Department or sources familiar with the attorney general`s thinking is that when Mueller`s team prepared their own summaries of their own findings, they prepared them in such a way that they would be unreleasable, either to Congress or to the public. Why would they do that?
Here`s what "The Times" reports, quote: The special counsel`s investigators had already written multiple summaries of their own report, and some team members believe that Mr. Barr should have included more of their material in the four-page letter he wrote on March 24th laying out Mueller`s main conclusions. However, the special counsel`s office never asked Mr. Barr to release the summaries soon after he received the report, a person familiar with the investigation said. OK.
And the Justice Department quickly determined that the summaries contained sensitive information, like classified materials, secret grand jury testimony, and information related to current federal investigations that must remain confidential. That`s according to two government officials.
So, this is the part of it that kind of throbs like a fritzing neon sign here. What "The Times" is reporting based on what appears to be current government officials and Justice Department sources is that Mueller and his team prepared their own summaries to their findings. Mueller`s team is angry that those summaries were not released to the public by Barr and instead he released his own, which was much nicer to Trump.
But Mueller is also involved in deciding what can and can`t be released from his report, and his summaries were written in such a way that they definitely can`t be released to the public or to Congress? I mean, that -- something just doesn`t add up here.
I will say there is one last implication, though, of this reporting from "The Times." When`s the last time over this whole two-year process that you remember seeing reporting that sourced to Mueller`s investigators? Mueller`s investigators say, Mueller`s investigators have told. When is the last time you saw reporting like that? You haven`t seen reporting like that before.
One of the other implications of this reporting tonight is that whatever William Barr is trying to do with Mueller`s report, it appears to be rubbing Robert Mueller and his team the wrong way. And for the first time in this whole two-year process, they appear to be willing to squawk to make some public noise to make sure their findings are not abused or mischaracterized or submarined.
Maybe there will be now a new voice in this whole process from Mueller and his team themselves. They`ve been silent throughout this entire process. Now we`re starting to hear from them.
Joining us now is Neal Katyal, former acting solicitor general in the Obama administration. He is the author of the Justice Department regulations that define the Office of Special Counsel.
Neal, it`s great to have you here tonight. Thanks for joining us on short notice.
NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL IN THE OBAMA ADMINISRATION: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Let me just ask you, I know you`ve had a time to read this "Times" report. I know you just heard my sort of takeaways from it. Let me ask you what you think is important from it and what you think people should understand about this new reporting.
KATYAL: Well, totally clears the president, no, Rachel. It`s obviously due to this reporting and other things show to be a lot more complicated than that. And President Trump said those words and his advisers that the Mueller report clears him totally, and the like, and they`ve got to prove it up now.
And last week, Trump said that the report clears him and he wants the public -- he wants the Mueller report to be publicly released. And today, he switched tunes in a press conference and said huh-uh, it shouldn`t be released, blah, blah, blah, excuse after excuse.
And I think what`s really extraordinary about this, as you were saying just towards the end of your discussion, is we`ve gone 22 months. We`ve never heard anything from team Mueller until tonight. And that just I think underscores that what Barr did in those two letters and the games he`s been playing are deeply damaging and the Mueller team is evidently not going to stand for it.
MADDOW: Obviously, this is complicated, because this is "The Times" has got three very impressive reporters by-lined on this. They`re being very specific about the types of sources they`ve got here, but their sources are unnamed. I have been wondering all along if the Trump administration or William Barr specifically really tried to abuse Mueller`s findings, tried to mischaracterize them, tried to submarine them, tried to represent them to the American people or to Congress in a way that Mueller felt was not fair.
Would he surface himself as a voice? Or do the special counsel regulations, again, that you wrote essentially make him so subordinate to the attorney general at this point in the process that he can`t speak for himself, that he is not allowed to essentially advocate for the fair treatment of his own findings?
KATYAL: No. We anticipated this. That`s why the special counsel comes from outside the Justice Department, because once Mueller leaves and the attorneys in his office leave, they have more freedom to speak to Congress on matters of public concern than they might as department employees. And that`s one reason why it exists that way.
And so, the whole idea behind the special counsel regulations, because the Constitution gives the attorney general the full prosecution power, the idea is to say attorney general, if you start messing with the special counsel, then it`s got to be public. There`s got to be sunlight on that. And the ultimate safeguard is what we`re seeing play out tonight, which is if an attorney general starts to abuse the special counsel`s report, abuse the special counsel`s findings, then the special counsel will come forward and shed sunlight into what might look like a cover-up. And that is what we`re starting to see now, something that looks like a cover-up.
Now, it might not be. It might be there are totally legitimate reasons for this. But so far, Barr has given nobody any reason to think that this is all on the up and up. It looks like he`s protecting his guy, and that`s why the special counsel regulations and indeed all the investigations of presidents such as Nixon, such as Clinton, the special prosecutor report comes out because that`s what guarantees public confidence in the administration of justice. And it`s got to come out now.
I mean, it might have been one thing if Barr hadn`t wrote those two summary/non-summary, whatever you call it letters, but Barr did. He took it on himself to clear President Trump on stuff that Mueller didn`t clear him on. And at that point, it starts to look even more like a cover-up and why the report has to be released.
MADDOW: Neal, briefly, one last question on this point about what is going to come out. Obviously, with this authorized subpoena today in the Judiciary Committee, a lot of interesting and actually I thought quite substantive discussion in the Judiciary Committee today as to whether or not the attorney general is within his rights to be personally going through the Mueller report and taking grand jury material out of that, saying that that can`t be conveyed to Congress. A lot of discussion in the Judiciary Committee today about the prospect of some entity, maybe the Judiciary Committee itself, some entity going to the court, going to ask for a court order, filing a lawsuit or making a motion with the court so that grand jury material can be conveyed to Congress, much as happened with the Watergate road map in 1974 and with other investigations as well.
If Barr doesn`t want to do that and he so far hasn`t responded to congressional Democrats asking him to make that request of the court, is it possible that Mueller himself, that Mueller`s team as the special counsel`s office could make that sort of a request to the judge, that the grand jury information be conveyed to Congress?
KATYAL: Yes, Mueller can do it or Congress can do it on its own or even a third party. So, Barr is right when he says grand jury material can`t be released absent a court order. But he could have sought that court order last Monday, nine days ago. And he hasn`t done it yet.
So it does seem like it`s not really about grand jury information. It`s about something else. It looks like he is trying to protect certain information, perhaps damaging information from coming out. And if he actually cares about Rule 6E, he could go to court tomorrow and get this thing lifted. That`s exactly what happened in Watergate, exactly what happened in the Clinton impeachment, and it should happen here.
MADDOW: Neal Katyal, former acting solicitor general -- sir, thank you very much for weighing in tonight.
KATYAL: Thank you.
MADDOW: It`s a real pleasure to have you here on a night like this.
All right. Up next, the news that on any other night would have led the show for a week, but we`ll be right back with that.
MADDOW: Just in the past few months, just since Democrats took over the House, a whole bunch of stuff has started being pried open when it comes to the president`s finances. The president`s long-time lawyer Michael Cohen testified publicly to Congress earlier this year that among other things, Trump had committed insurance fraud at his New York business.
That led to Aon, Trump`s insurance broker, a gigantic firm, subsequently being subpoenaed by the New York Department of Financial Services. And an entity like that has a name that sounds almost quaint like oh, they provide services. Actually, they are a law enforcement agency that has an incredible and cinematic history of busting people, up to and including major mafia families based on financial crimes and fraud.
Cohen also testified that Trump inflated his assets not just to commit insurance fraud, but also to apply for bank loans, which if true constitute bank fraud. That led to Deutsche Bank subsequently being subpoenaed by the New York attorney general`s office, specifically on the issue of that bank`s large loans to Trump.
Deutsche Bank has also been reportedly cooperating with request for documents from the House Financial Services Committee and from the House Intelligence Committee. Now today, Elijah Cummings, chair of the Oversight Committee, says that Trump`s accounting firm has also agreed to hand over years worth of financial documents from their time working with Trump.
Interestingly, though, Mazars alerted Congress that they would please like a subpoena if they really wanted to see this information so that it`s clear that they legally had no choice but to hand over these document about their work with Trump. Congressman Cummings today told reporters that he would be happy to oblige.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: They have told us that they will provide the information when they -- pretty much when they have a subpoena. And we`ll get them a subpoena.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: We`ll get them a subpoena, no problem. Ask and ye shall receive.
So it`s only, you know, early spring, and the president`s financial world is opening like a crocus poking its nose through the snow. But now tonight, there is this -- Democrats tonight starting to tackle the original open question about the president`s finance, his tax returns. I mean, Trump never releasing his tax returns is something we`ve gotten used to about him. It doesn`t mean now it`s now normal. It is still an absolutely unprecedented and abnormal thing.
Trump remains not just the first president, but the first major party presidential candidate to not release his tax returns in decades. And the reason he`s consistently given over and over again for the reason he`s not releasing his tax returns is that the returns are under audit, and therefore he can`t release them. Love to, but he can`t.
That claim has never made any sense at all. Nothing about being under audit would prevent you from releasing your tax returns. But now, tonight, Democrats appear to be throwing the harpoon and going for this white whale. From House Ways and Means chair Richie Neal to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig tonight, quote: Dear Commissioner Rettig, the Committee of Ways and Means has oversight and legislative authority over our federal tax laws. With this authority comes a responsibility to ensure that the IRS is enforcing the laws in a fair and impartial manner.
Chairman Neal then goes on to explain that the IRS is required to examine the tax returns of every president. He says his committee in Congress has a duty to make sure the IRS is performing that examination properly. Quote: Pursuant to my authority under IRS Code Section 6103F, for each of the tax years 2013 through 2018, I hereby request the following return and return information. Number one, the federal individual income tax returns of Donald J. Trump and the federal income tax returns of the following entities. And then there are eight Trump business entities listed there.
Those businesses according to the Ways and Means Committee, quote, control hundreds of other business entities associated with Trump.
Now, the authority that Chairman Neal is referring to here, this tax code - - portion of the tax code that allows him to request any tax return in the country, up to and including the president`s, that section of the tax code, the authority under which he is making this demand to see Trump`s taxes, that section of the tax code actually originated from a White House scandal.
You remember from high school history the name the Teapot Dome, right? The Teapot Dome scandal. I know you remember that phrase, even though you don`t remember what it was. You don`t need to remember every detail of the Teapot Dome scandal.
Basically, it was a bribery scandal. It happened in the early 1920s. The important part for us today is that the president himself at the time was potentially implicated in that bribery scandal, and that created a problem for investigators, because at the time, only the president himself had the power to request someone`s tax return.
So how was Congress supposed to perform proper oversight and investigation into this executive branch bribery scandal if they had no power to follow the money when it came to administration officials, including the president himself? So, Congress needs the ability not just the president. Congress needs the ability to request to see, to demand to see individual tax returns, up to and including the president`s tax returns.
There was also another impetus at the time interestingly. The guy who had just become treasury secretary at the time of the Teapot Dome scandal, he happened to be a very, very, very, very, very rich guy. He did not divest from his own businesses when he joined the government as treasury secretary. Stop me when this starts to sound familiar.
Congress said at the time, we have to be able to make sure that this guy as treasury secretary is not making tax policy or other federal policy in order to benefit his own business interests. We need to see his tax returns, too. And since he`s the president`s cabinet official, the president isn`t going to do it. There is a conflict of interest there both for the president himself and for anybody he wants to protect. Congress needs to be able to get returns as well.
For those -- for those reasons, Congress in 1924 passed a loss that explicitly clearly allows the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, those two specific people to request and receive any American`s tax returns in order to perform congressional oversight.
That law ended up coming in handy a half century later when Congress needed to look at President Nixon`s tax returns, only to discover he had failed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes. That`s how we get the modern tradition of presidents and presidential candidates releasing their tax returns, because of what Congress found in Nixon`s taxes when they pried them loose and took a look.
And now, Congressman Richie Neal is making this request under this nearly century old law, and he is making clear that he expects to get what he is asking for. He makes clear, for instance, that this letter today is not a subpoena because he doesn`t need a subpoena. Quote, Chairman Neal is explicitly authorized to receive tax returns under this statute.
Quote: The committee has used this provision to request tax returns as part of its previous investigations. This provision is not obscure. President Nixon, President Ford and Vice President Rockefeller all were subject to congressional inquiry of their tax returns.
Neal also makes clear why he is asking for these returns. Quote: The committee is concerned about the president`s compliance with federal tax laws. He`s also calling the question of whether or not Trump was ever really under audit at all, which has been Trump`s excuse for not releasing his taxes. That was always an excuse that never made sense anyway. But, of course, it`s also possible that was never -- that it was never even true in the first place.
And in releasing this request tonight, Richie Neal also put out this essentially impassioned plea that what he is doing here is not rash and it`s not playing politics and it`s not for some ulterior motive that you can`t see. This is interesting.
He says, quote: I take the authority to make this request very seriously, and I approach it with the utmost care and respect. This request is about policy, not politics. My preparations were made on my own track and timeline, entirely independent of other activities in Congress and the administration. My actions reflect an abiding reference for our democracy and our institutions and are in no way based on emotion of the moment or partisanship. I trust that in this spirit, the IRS will comply with federal law and furnish me with the requested documents in a timely manner.
I will also just note, and this is a little bit of a sort of maybe inside the news business peek at this, but Congressman Richie Neal of Massachusetts, chairman of Ways and Means, having released this letter tonight, having told the IRS that they need to hand over these tax returns, he is refusing all interviews on this subject, and he has been from the very beginning, which itself is an interesting part of this dynamic here. I mean, other chairs who have been going after Trump`s financial information, they have made very much a public case, and in many cases a televised case as to why they`re doing what they`re doing and why in particular they`re doing the most controversial and confrontational things they`re doing when it comes to investigating and overseeing President Trump.
Congressman Richie Neal in Ways and Means is taking absolutely the opposite approach. There is a reason you have not seen him on TV talking about this.
But this is also going to be fraught, right? Here he is trying to get the tax returns of the first president in decades, the first presidential candidate in decades who decide on his own not to release them under what appears to be a spurious excuse. He has vowed to fight to keep them secret. Richie Neal says the IRS has never, ever refused a request under this portion of the tax code to show him, to show the chairman of this committee a return that was requested under this provision.
They`ve never before said no. Are they going to say no specifically for Trump and on what grounds?
Stay with us. More ahead.
MADDOW: Ways and Means Committee is where tax law gets written, which makes that a very powerful committee in Congress. Ways and Means also has oversight and jurisdiction over tax policy and taxes in general. And one of that committee`s sort of super powers is that the chairman of that committee is empowered by law to request and receive the tax return of any person in the United States.
Tonight the chair of that committee in the House has announced he is exercising that power, and he is directing the IRS to turn over to him the last six years of President Donald Trump`s tax returns. And his business tax returns too.
Joining us now is Congresswoman Judy Chu of California. She is a member of the Ways and Means Committee.
Congresswoman, thank you for joining us tonight. I really appreciate your time.
REP. JUDY CHU (D-CA), WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: So it`s clear and Chairman Neal makes clear that this is not a subpoena, but he also seems to be saying in the way that he is laying this out in his letter and the background information we`ve received from the committee, he seems to be saying that the IRS has no choice but to comply with this request that the language of the statute says they shall provide a return requested by the chairman in this circumstances.
Is that your understanding?
CHU: Oh, yes. It was in 1924 that it was established in the tax law in Section 6103 that the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee had the authority to ask for the returns of any individual in this country, including the president.
And Chairman Neal is exercising this. He is asking the IRS to provide this, and never has the IRS refused such a request. It`s always been granted, even in the case of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Nelson Rockefeller.
So it would be unprecedented not to have the IRS comply with this.
MADDOW: The president has reacted to this news this evening by essentially suggesting that he won`t allow his tax returns to be handed over, as if he has a role that he can direct the Treasury Department, that he can direct the IRS specifically, that they should not respond to this request. What`s your response to that?
CHU: He doesn`t have the authority to do so. The tax law allows us to ask the IRS for those returns. The IRS is an independent committee and federal agency, and so they -- they must comply with the law. And indeed, they have in every incident in which these returns have been asked for. So, no, the president is not standing on the right ground on this.
MADDOW: I might imagine if try to put myself in the president`s shoes or in the shoes of his advisers and people who might be worried about what turns up in his tax returns, I imagine that they might be worried not just about the committee seeing these materials in terms of their oversight on tax matters, they might be worried about public scrutiny and what this would reveal about the president and his business life and anything else that these tax returns might speak to.
To that end, at the end of Chairman Neal`s letter today, I`m no expert on this stuff, but the way I read his letter tonight, he seemed to be suggesting that whatever the IRS gives him in response to this demand, whether it`s the president`s tax returns or anything else the IRS hands over in response to this demand, Chairman Neal seems to be suggesting that those materials will become the property of your committee and thus importantly, they can`t be FOIA-ed. No public citizen, no journalistic entity can file a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain these materials that the IRS is handing over. It seems to be sort of an assurance to the IRS that this material, just because it`s being handed over to your committee, doesn`t mean that it will be in the public eye.
CHU: That is true. And actually, the information goes to Chairman Neal. It is up to Chairman Neal to decide whether to even share it with us. So I certainly hope to see them, but nonetheless, it is up to Chairman Neal.
The law is very, very clear on this, and, yes, you can`t do a Freedom of Information Act just to get this. This is private information and up to the purview of the chairman`s decision.
MADDOW: Congresswoman Judy Chu, member of the Ways and Means Committee, this is stuff that we -- doesn`t usually come up in the course of a normal news decade. So it`s helpful to get your help walking us through the specifics. Thank you very much for joining us tonight.
CHU: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more to get to tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Chicago has long held the mantle of being the most corrupt major city in the United States, and you know what? There is stiff competition for that title. Honestly, though, Chicago is special.
Over the past four decades, more than 1,700 people have been convicted of public corruption in that one city. What? The city has convicted fathers for bribery and then convicted their sons on the exact same charges years later.
One prominent city clerk was once indicted on Ash Wednesday. The ashes were fresh on his forehead when he learned he was being criminally charged.
More than 30 Chicago aldermen, members of the city council have been convicted of corruption since 1973. More than 30. Another one is awaiting trial right now. He is alleged among other things to have looted a charity fund for senior citizens in his ward.
You would think it couldn`t get much worse, but it did. Right before this year`s mayoral election, this January, scandal involved one of the most well-known figures in Chicago politics, an alderman named Ed Burke who is a 50-year veteran of the city council -- 50. He was indicted on charges that he tried to shake down the owners of a Burger King franchise. Shakedown corruption isn`t rare in Chicago, but when it`s connected to someone as senior and someone as much as a permanent fixture as Burke -- well, trouble.
One of the consequences of that was that suddenly the top candidates in the mayoral race all found themselves under scrutiny for long-standing ties to Burke. That ultimately led to an opening for this woman, a bit of an outsider. Her name is Lori Lightfoot.
Lightfoot is a former federal prosecutor. She has never before been elected to political office, much less been a part of the Chicago political machine. She won the Chicago`s mayor`s race last night. That makes her Chicago`s first African-American female mayor as well as the city`s first openly gay mayor.
And despite running as an outsider, Lightfoot just dominated in this election. She won a landslide victory. She won all 50 city council wards, all 50 of the wards. She took home 70 percent of the vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR-ELECT LORI LIGHTFOOT (D), CHICAGO, ILLINOIS: With this mandate for change, now we`re going to take the next steps together. Together, we can and will finally put the interests of our people ahead of the interests of a powerful few. Together, we can and will make Chicago a place where your zip code doesn`t determine your destiny.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Lori Lightfoot`s win comes at a really interesting time not just in Chicago but in our country. There is a real renewed interest in U.S. mayors right now as political leaders, right? They`re making themselves heard as candidates on the Democratic side of this presidential race.
Outside of that, they`re presenting themselves as models of national leadership. Last night, our nation`s third largest city, the great city of Chicago, for all its troubles, they added another very new, very high- profile member to those ranks.
And joining us now is Lori Lightfoot, mayor-elect of the city of Chicago.
Madam Mayor, congratulations. It`s really nice to have you here with us tonight.
LIGHTFOOT: Thank you very much, Rachel. It`s my pleasure.
MADDOW: I have to ask you if it makes you cringe as a Chicago leader, as a Chicago resident hearing me describe Chicago in terms of its history of corruption and the challenges that have really become legendary in Chicago in terms of public corruption.
LIGHTFOOT: Well, as you know, Chicago is a complicated nuance place, and yes, of course, we have a history of corruption, but we also have a history of doing really, really great things. I`m going to be focused on that part of it and making sure that we make city government much more transparent and accountable to the voters. I think that`s what they voted for last night and I intend to deliver.
MADDOW: As a former prosecutor, obviously you bring law enforcement bona fides into this race. It`s a special kind of outsider to come from the law enforcement community into elected office. I wonder if that`s part of your promise to your constituents in Chicago, that there`s something to do with law and order, there`s something to do with the -- specifically the order of the law and the promise of the law that holds the key to Chicago righting itself.
LIGHTFOOT: Well, I`m a former federal prosecutor who charged, convicted and sentenced city alderman. And in the context of the corruption scandals we`re now living with, I think that resonated with voters. Voters are sick and tired of the political machine. They absolutely voted for change, and I`m humbled and overwhelmed by the mandate that we received last night, but I think it gives us an opportunity to do some things to break from the grip of that machine that we probably haven`t had maybe in a lifetime.
MADDOW: As an African-American woman, as a lesbian, as an openly gay public official, you`re breaking a lot of glass ceilings all at once with this election. I have to ask how you`re reflecting on that today. Obviously here you are on national news talking to me, but you`re an object of national interest, and you immediately become a national leader for all sorts of different communities and people will be looking to you to see not only what you can do but also to appreciate how far you`ve come.
I wonder what your reflections are on that -- on that, 24 hours after you found out you won?
LIGHTFOOT: Well, I`m really focused on making sure that I speak to the children in our community. They`re absolutely watching. This was a very difficult and challenging campaign.
And I want to make sure that I exemplify for them a leader of integrity and let them know that one day they, too, could be the mayor of Chicago and stand on my shoulders just as I stand on the shoulders of other trailblazers in our great city.
MADDOW: Lori Lightfoot, the newly elected mayor-elect of Chicago -- good luck, Madam Mayor, as you get underway and as you take on the challenges of this job. I hope you`ll check back in with us and keep us apprised. We`re all so looking forward to seeing what you do.
LIGHTFOOT: I definitely will. Thank you so much.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: This is the kind of news night when you probably should get a little merit badge just for absorbing it all, keeping it all straight. Tonight, on the eve of what are expected to be protests around the country tomorrow, the "Trump is not above the law" coalition planning protests around the country tomorrow to try to pressure the administration to release the Mueller report, as the Trump administration heads into day 13 since they have received Mueller`s report but not release it.
Tonight, on the eve of those nationwide protest tomorrow, we got this "New York Times" exclamation point of a story about the Mueller report and its content. We are not used to seeing news reports that quote members of Mueller`s team, we`re not used to seeing news reports that ascribe anything to members of Mueller`s team, but that changes tonight with the "New York Times" saying that some of Mueller`s investigators have told unnamed associates that Attorney General William Barr failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry and that the findings were more troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr has publicly indicated.
Now, this report in the "New York Times" goes on to say that Mueller`s investigators actually wrote their own summaries of their findings and their investigation, which the Justice Department decided not to release. So instead they could release Barr`s summation of their supposed findings which, according to this "Times" report, is not an accurate reflection of what Mueller`s investigators concluded and put in their report which he, again, is still sitting on.
So, that`s just a wild bunch of news tonight from the "New York Times." Also tonight, within an hour or so of that breaking, we got this from the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee asking the IRS for six years of tax returns from the president and a bunch of his businesses. The plan language of the law under which this request/demand is being made to the IRS appears to back the Democrats up on this point.
The statute actually says that the IRS shall provide tax returns when they are requested from the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and the way that Chairman Richie Neal has now requested tonight.
And more news apparently can`t still fit, "The Washington Post" tonight says, yes, Jared Kushner is senior White House Official A who was identified by the House Oversight Committee by a whistleblower that career staffers had ruled that Kushner shouldn`t get a security clearance but a political appointee in the White House overruled those career officials. That story about the White House intervening security clearances has been gaining steam for months since NBC News first reported details of it.
But now, the whistleblower report, the early NBC News report about Jared Kushner`s filings or security clearance application, those seem to be all lining up. So it`s all happening all at once.
And the news often requires for fortitude, patience and hydration, but I`m hoping someday soon we get merit badges, too.
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.
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