ANDREW YANG, 2020 DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- bigger about how to build an economy that trickles up, for people, families and communities up.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: All right. Andrew Yang, thanks very much for making the time.
That is ALL IN for this evening.
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now with Ali Velshi in for Rachel.
Good evening, Ali.
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Excellent conversation with Andrew Yang.
HAYES: Thank you.
VELSHI: Have yourself an excellent weekend.
HAYES: You too.
VELSHI: Thanks to you at home for joining us at this hour. Rachel is off tonight but she will be back Monday.
It`s Friday night, which these days means we should be bracing for just about anything to happen at any moment. Friday seems to be the day when everything happens all at once, so we are ready for anything. But in the meantime, consider the week we have just had. Consider the week the president has just had.
We are used to the news cycle moving fast now, how quickly one narrative can be replaced by other. But it was just one week ago that Donald Trump was in the midst of probably the best news cycle of his candidacy. Now, in normal times, not being explicitly charged with a crime would be a pretty low bar to clear for a president in a given week, but these are not normal times and the president and his supporters one week ago were reveling in his not being recommended for indictment.
He was claiming total exoneration by the report from special counsel Robert Mueller. His complaints that it was all a witch hunt had been vindicated. In fact, his allies said that now the tables were going to turn. All the people who had wronged him -- well, now they were going to be at the receiving end of investigations.
But the past week has maybe not gone how Trump planned. The cracks first started to show a week ago tonight when Attorney General William Barr sent a third letter to Congress about the report delivered to him by Mueller. Only the first letter he sent was actually required. The second letter in which Barr offered his own gloss on Mueller`s findings was what the president used all week last week to claim vindication.
In his third letter, Barr told Congress that whenever he managed to get the Mueller report to them, they would not see the whole report, that a lot of material in four broad categories would be redacted. And, oh, by the way, Bill Barr also did not like the way his previous second letter had been characterized.
Please do not call it a summary of the Mueller report, he said. That apparently was bothering him.
At which point, it started to seem like maybe Bill Barr was kind of making it up as he went along. He had issued three letters in a week about the Mueller report, but no more than a couple of sentence fragments from the letter itself. Well, last night we got the fourth installment of Bill Barr wants you to know a thing about the Mueller report.
This came after federal prosecutors and FBI agents who had worked in relative radio silence for 22 months suddenly started to make some noise, triggering an avalanche of reporting about how Mueller`s team is frustrated by the way Bill Barr characterized Mueller`s findings. That it is actually a lot worse for the president than Barr let on, and that they had specifically crafted their final report, quote, so that the front matter from each section could have been released immediately, or very quickly, with minimum redactions. The work would have spoken for itself.
In the wake of those reports, the Justice Department last night said no, no. None of the Mueller report could be released because of a pro forma stamp on the top of each page. A legal disclaimer, you see it here, noting that it may contain confidential grand jury material and therefore, the Justice Department argues, it could not be publicly released. Every single page has this stamp on it. Cannot release any of it.
All of this comes as the House Judiciary Committee this week has authorized a subpoena for the Mueller report. Its chairman, Democrat Jerry Nadler of New York, insists that his committee will get it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: To do our job, we need the Mueller report. Not the attorney general`s summary or a significantly redacted version of the report that the attorney general has offered to give us without the underlying evidence collected by the special counsel. The release of the report in its entirety is part of what we have to do, but an essential part of what we have to do to make sure that this president and future presidents are accountable to the Constitution, are accountable to the people, and are accountable to the Democratic institutions of this government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Jerry Nadler was speaking at a protest yesterday outside the White House. It was one of hundreds of protests held all around the country demanding release of the full Mueller report. Those protests would seem to be the latest indication that the White House is losing its grip on the Mueller narrative and that the story of exoneration is giving way to the sense that in fact the Trump administration is hiding something by not allowing the report to be released.
So fair to say that this week has not been as good as last week was for Donald Trump, and that this is only when it comes to the Mueller report. This is only on one front. Congressional Democrats are also pressing ahead with their investigations into Trump`s finances. We learned this week that committee chairs have requested records from one of Trump`s banks as well as from his accounting firm as part of their various corruption, counterintelligence and financial fraud investigations.
The company said they would hand over the records if they`re issued subpoenas. Lawmakers say they`ll happily oblige. Now this week we also got the first White House whistleblower to come forward publicly on the record. Tricia Newbold, an 18-year veteran of the White House personnel security office, has sounded the alarm to Congress and now to the public about what she says are deeply troubling practices in giving out security clearances at the White House.
Tricia Newbold says the Trump administration overruled at least 25 security clearance denials made by career government employees. Trump`s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is reportedly one of the people who was given a clearance despite career officials raising serious red flags and recommending that he not get one.
Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings has now subpoenaed one former senior official in the White House security office, and he says more subpoenas are coming. Meanwhile, dozens of other whistleblowers from across the government are reportedly also working with House Democrats on a range of issues. So, Tricia Newbold is likely just the tip of the iceberg.
Also this week, Congress delivered not just a foreign policy rebuke to Donald Trump, but an historic one. Yesterday, the House joined with the Senate with bipartisan majorities in both chambers in passing a resolution to end U.S. support for the Saudi war in Yemen, which is the first time Congress has ever successfully invoked the 1973 War Powers resolution. Who says Trump can`t bring Congress together?
Also this week, the president folded on his renewed push for a Republican plan to replace Obamacare, right in the middle of his victory lap over the invisible Mueller report, Trump announced that Republicans would come up with a new, amazing health care plan for the country. This week he said that meant they would do that after the 2020 election. He never meant they would do it right now.
And then yesterday, after days and days of insisting he would close the border with Mexico, economic consequences be damned unless Mexico did something or unless Congress did something, it was never quite clear what he meant, yesterday, Trump completely caved on his threat and settled for a vague warning to Mexico and pretending that Mexico has changed its policies this week to meet his demands, even though Mexico said it did no such thing.
Speaking of pretending, Trump was at the border wall today admiring his wall. Meanwhile, he was hit with two new lawsuits from the House of Representatives and from 20 state attorneys general seeking to block his emergency declaration that would ostensibly fund that wall. We`re going to have more on that in just a moment.
But of all the things that have gone wrong for Trump this week, the thing that may be bothering him the most is the thing that brought us to the metaphor portion of the news and not the subtle kind. Quote: This is a hill and people would be willing to die on it.
A member of the Trump administration telling CNN today that if Congress wants the president`s tax returns, they had better be willing to climb a very steep, very symbolic hill leading all the way to the Supreme Court.
The next big fight in Washington kicked off this week when Democrat Richard Neal, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, sent this letter to the IRS politely asking to see six years of tax returns from the president and his business. He cites an arcane piece of tax law that allows him to see any American`s tax returns as long as it`s for a legitimate legislative reason.
Now, in this case, Congressman Neal says this has nothing to do with partisan politics. He says he needs the president`s tax returns to check in on how the IRS, quote, audits and oversees the federal tax laws against a sitting president.
Now, right away the president was adamant that he would not release his tax returns without a fight. He says the law is 100 percent on his side, that the IRS has no reason to give in to the Democrats` request and turn over his returns.
And today, the president escalated that fight over this by hiring a lawyer, a lawyer who sent this letter to the IRS calling into question the legal ground that Democrats are standing on. Quote: I write to explain why Chairman Neal cannot legally request and the IRS cannot legally divulge the president`s tax returns.
Requests for tax returns and return information must have a legitimate legislative purpose. Chairman Neal`s requests flout these fundamental constitutional constraints. Ways and Means has no legitimate committee purpose for requesting the president`s tax returns or return information. Chairman Neal wants the president`s tax returns and return information because his party recently gained control of the House. The president is their political opponent, and they want to use the information to damage him politically.
So the initial legal battle lines appear to have been drawn today, and the president says his side is ready to fight all the way to the Supreme Court. What`s the view from the congressional side?
Well, joining me now is Congressman Dan Kildee. He`s a Democratic member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which has asked the IRS for the president`s tax returns.
Congressman Kildee, good to see you. Thank you for joining us tonight.
REP. DAN KILDEE (D), MICHIGAN: Thanks for having me on.
VELSHI: The president`s lawyers, Congressman, have told the Treasury Department that your committee`s request for his taxes, for Donald Trump`s taxes has no chance of standing up in court because it`s politically motivated. What`s your response?
KILDEE: Well, first of all, it`s not politically motivated. You know, Chairman Neal, who I think has done an extraordinarily good job of handling this, faced a lot of criticism because people said he wasn`t moving fast enough. Look, there`s a legitimate public policy question that the Ways and Means Committee is attempting to address, and it`s not up to the president or some lawyer that he hires to determine for the Congress when it has a legitimate public question, public policy question that it`s attempting to address.
That`s up to us. We have a separation of powers in this country. The Constitution makes it clear that we have the authority to exercise our responsibilities in Section 6103 of the tax code, makes it crystal clear that the chairman of the committee can order a tax return to be delivered to him in order to inform the committee when it`s deliberating on a public policy question.
There`s a big question as to whether or not the IRS is legitimately exercising its responsibility to audit the president and enforce tax law on him. He says he`s under audit. We`ve asked for -- the chairman has asked for six years of returns for the president and eight separate entities.
I don`t believe it`s possible that every one of those returns is still under audit. Even if it is, there`s nothing in the law that says the fact that the returns might be under audit somehow exempts them from this 98- year-old law that gives the chairman of the committee the ability to access any taxpayer`s return. Not just some taxpayers, any taxpayer return.
VELSHI: But to be clear, your public policy objective, because that`s what you`d have to prove in court, your committee would have to prove in court, is the IRS may not be doing what it should be as relates to managing the president`s taxes?
KILDEE: We have very serious questions as to whether or not the IRS is properly enforcing the tax law. Of course, those questions are made a little more relevant when we see the president`s lawyer writing to the commissioner of the IRS essentially threatening them or ordering them to take certain actions relative to this request. Who`s in charge here? Since when does the president --
VELSHI: So, the IRS commissioner, Charles Rettig, had written a piece in "Forbes" before the election basically arguing the case for Donald Trump not to disclose his taxes. What`s your thought on that?
KILDEE: Well, I would suppose the commissioner has a bias, which maybe he ought to set aside and actually just look at the law. I mean, he can have his opinions as to whether the president should voluntarily release his returns, but he can`t have an opinion as to whether or not this law, which was passed in 1921 following the Teapot Dome scandal that gives this extraordinary authority to the chairman of this committee, he doesn`t get to have an opinion as to whether on this day relative to this particular taxpayer the law governs. The law is the law, and he should follow the law.
VELSHI: Congressman, last night, "The New York Times" reported that President Trump had asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to prioritize the confirmation of the IRS counsel, reportedly indicating that it was a higher priority than confirming William Barr as the attorney general. "The Times" said the president made his request on February 5th. That was well after your committee had made it public that it would be seeking the president`s tax returns in the new congress.
Do those two things have a connection to you?
KILDEE: Well, it`s certainly curious. I mean, the president seems quite willing to use his authority to defend himself personally whenever he wants to.
And again, this just elevates our concern about this question. We are considering legislative proposals that could change the way the IRS deals with presidential tax returns, largely because this president is the most opaque president in recent history. I mean, he broke with nearly 50 years of tradition by first promising and now absolutely refusing to release his tax information.
And let`s be clear, there`s also a legitimate question here, a legitimate public value in knowing whether or not the president`s personal financial interests, which he claims and we know to be quite vast, which he still has control over, whether those interests somehow influence the public decision-making that he`s engaged in.
There`s a legitimate question here. And we need to know whether or not in that context, in that already interesting and difficult context whether or not the president or the IRS itself is somehow engaging in a way that does not fully enforce the tax law on the president of the United States.
He says he`s under audit. We don`t know that he`s under audit. The law doesn`t require an audit. There`s been a practice of the IRS to audit presidents who are holding office, but there`s no law requiring it.
So, we have an absolute right to be informed as we make these very difficult decisions. The idea that the president is somehow uncomfortable now because he`s trying to keep something from the chairman of the committee. Now, these returns wouldn`t be made public. This would be for the chairman of the committee in order to evaluate the policy questions we`re trying to address. That`s a legitimate public purpose.
VELSHI: Congressman, good to talk to you. Thanks for joining us tonight.
KILDEE: Thank you, Ali.
VELSHI: Congressman Dan Kildee of Michigan.
All right, coming up, they had fun hats and long capes and big gowns. And they`re making an unexpected cameo in the newest legal fight against the Trump administration. I`ll have that story next. Stay with us.
VELSHI: Well, it was not a light Friday at the office for House Democrats. Late today, Democrats in Congress filed this lawsuit against the Trump administration in D.C. district court, arguing that the president is breaking the law by declaring a national emergency to get money to build his border wall.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced yesterday that the suit was coming, but we had no idea it was coming with ye olden times references. Quote: Even the monarchs of England long ago lost the power to raise and spend money without the approval of parliament.
Last month, Congress overwhelmingly passed a bill to undo Trump`s national emergency on the border. The president vetoed that bill and is now using the national emergency to reallocate money from other parts of the government to build his wall, which House Democrats allege in this suit is against the law.
To be clear: the Constitution gives the legislative branch the power of the purse, not the president. And now, that legal argument is barreling toward the president not just from that lawsuit in Washington, but from one of the most potent successful forces of opposition to the president and his agenda, the states.
Twenty states led by the attorney general in California are asking the judge for a nationwide injunction that would block the president from diverting taxpayer money to build his border fence. The California attorney general, Xavier Becerra, calls Trump`s national emergency, quote, a threat to our democratic institutions. He and 19 other attorneys general from across the country are asking a judge to stop the president from spending federal money on a border wall and to declare his national emergency unconstitutional.
This is from their motion. Quote: The U.S. Constitution entrusts the power of the purse to Congress and denies the president the powers to legislator appropriate. The president`s actions amount to a usurpation of the Congress` legislative powers in violation of bedrock separation of powers principles embedded in the Constitution.
President Trump`s actions in effect unilaterally modify Congress`s limited appropriation in violation of the Constitution.
Continuing: The court should grant plaintiff states` motion for preliminary injunction and enjoin the White House from diverting funding and resources and taking any additional steps toward border wall construction.
With the president stumping for his wall and his national emergency, these states are asking the court for a full stop.
OK, joining me now, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong whose state is part of this suit to stop the national emergency.
Mr. Attorney General, thank you for joining me.
WILLIAM TONG (D), CONNECTICUT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Thank you, Ali.
VELSHI: What`s the argument that the states have about the president diverting federal money that`s already allocated? I understand Congress` argument. What`s the states` argument?
TONG: Well, the states` argument is that he`s hijacking $1.6 billion that`s already been committed by Congress to the states through treasury forfeiture funds, military construction, military spending, that states rely on for public safety and law enforcement. My own state police in Connecticut, the Department of Public Safety in Connecticut, are depending on this money, and the president is just taking it away from us when he has no right to do so.
And, you know, it would be funny that in your last segment you mentioned the president`s lawyers are complaining and demanding that we stay within constitutional restraints if he weren`t already -- it would be funny if he weren`t blowing through them himself and trampling our Constitution and our political norms.
VELSHI: So just tell me what it looks like. If your injunction is granted, what happens?
TONG: So, we stop the president from taking that money and then we move on to a full-blown hearing on the merits. And I think what federal courts will find and we`re confident that not just the district court but the appellate court and also Supreme Court will agree with us and with both houses of Congress. We`re talking about the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives that the president has overstepped his power under Article 1, that Congress shall have the power to appropriate money and that the president is abusing his power under the National Emergencies Act.
VELSHI: How do these two cases differ, the one filed by Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats? They`re making different claims. Do they ending up coming together at some point as far as you can tell?
TONG: Yes. You know, I think the claims are different because the states are sovereign. I`m the attorney general for the sovereign state of Connecticut and the Constitution state. And the Constitution is really an agreement among the 50 states bound together by our consent in our federal system that will agree that the federal government has certain limited powers if they follow the rules set forth in the Constitution. The president has decided, you know what, I`m not going to follow those rules. I want to build a border wall for a national emergency that doesn`t exist and I`m going to do exactly what Congress and the Constitution forbids me from doing.
You know what`s really scary is that there are other national emergencies, like gun violence or listen to the director of the FBI today, Christopher Wray, saying that hate and the rise in white supremacists and their activity, that`s a real national emergency, not some manufactured national emergency at the border.
VELSHI: Now, you`re a long way away from the border and someone might criticize that you don`t know what`s going on at the border and whether it`s a national emergency.
TONG: I went down to see it myself. The president was a couple of hundred miles from San Diego just today. I was down there two weeks ago. I crossed the border into Tijuana.
And the only thing I really saw were Mexicans legally crossing the border into the United States to go to work, which they do every day to help power our economy. I also saw the way in which we turn our backs on people. You know, for all of my life and most of history if you were in fear for your life, you could knock on the door at the border and the United States would open the door and say, you know, how can we help you?
If you are under imminent threat of harm or feared for your life, we might help you and grant you asylum and we had that conversation. Now we don`t do that. Now we turn our back on people. Right across from the border, we literally disavow human beings who need our help.
VELSHI: Attorney General William Tong, thank you for joining us.
TONG: Thank you, Ali.
VELSHI: All right. Up next, a court ruling today has raised new questions about who gets what material in the Mueller report. That story is next. Stay with us.
VELSHI: Last year, the intrepid reporter Katelyn Polantz over at CNN petitioned the D.C. district court to unseal 11 miscellaneous dockets in the Ken Starr investigation into former President Clinton. The judge who decided that case, her name may bring a bell, Chief Justice Beryl Howell.
The grand jury special counsel Robert Mueller has been using for the last 22 months, that`s her grand jury. Judge Howell is going to have a big say in terms of whether secret grand jury information in Mueller`s report ever sees the light of day.
And one year ago in that other case involving CNN and the Ken Starr report Judge Howell said some things that in the rear-view mirror feel kind of important. She cited case law that grand juries are an appendage of the court and said because of that, the court, which in this case is her, has authority over the grand jury and its records, that the district court, which again is her, that the district court has an inherent authority to unseal and disclose grand jury material.
And then she says, quote, the D.C. circuit, which in rock, paper, scissors, is above her, the D.C. circuit has, quote, affirmed the district court`s exercise of this inherent disclosure authority.
Judge Beryl Howell here is saying: My court has the inherent authority to decide whether grand jury material goes public. And even the mighty D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals agrees with me on that, except maybe not anymore, because today, the mighty D.C. circuit court of appeals may have just thrown a hurdle up in terms of having the secret grand jury material in Mueller`s report come out.
Now, this was a totally unrelated case, a murder mystery involving a Columbia university professor who disappeared in 1956 and an historian who was researching a book about the murder and wanted access to secret grand jury records. The district court in that case, the Beryl Howell in that case claimed that it had, quote, inherent authority to disclose the grand jury records. The same super power, Judge Howell argued she had in the Ken Starr case last year.
But, today, the mighty D.C. circuit court of appeals said not so fast, ruling that the district court does not have the inherent authority to release grand jury material. Quote: The district court has no authority outside rule 6E to disclose grand jury matter. Rule 6E, you will hear this referred to in William Barr`s letter being the federal statute that lays out under what circumstances secret grand jury information can be made public.
So this totally unrelated cold call case, CSI murder mystery, today`s ruling in that case may have just handcuffed Judge Beryl Howell and any of her attempts to release the secret grand jury records in the Mueller report.
This is getting interesting. So I have the perfect person to explain it to us.
Joining me now, Barbara McQuade, former attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan and thankfully a professor, because this is a hard case, Barb, I really appreciate you being here tonight.
Could today`s ruling in this murder case actually handcuff Judge Howell in terms of releasing Mueller`s secret grand jury information? Is there a difference here in terms of releasing it to the Congress or to the public?
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN: It could impact her ability to release it, but I don`t think it`s going to prevent it. What the court said today in the D.C. circuit, contrary to some other circuit courts of appeals that have decided this, is that the court does not have an inherent power to release grand jury material. Instead it is bound by Rule 6E that you mentioned, but Rule 6E does have some permission for a court to disclose grand jury material. It has about five difference provisions there.
One of the things that the D.C. circuit court said today is that it distinguished the case involving this historian and this book from disclosures to Congress that occurred in the Watergate era because it said those disclosures, although the case wasn`t clear, were likely done under Rule 6E which permits a court to disclose grand jury material to another judicial proceeding, and it considered the House Judiciary Committee to be akin to a judicial proceeding.
VELSHI: Why do you do that? Because what you`re referring to are they cited a previous case during Watergate, Haldeman versus Nixon. Why did that even come up?
MCQUADE: Well, the dissent raised it and said that is a basis to show that the court does have inherent power because, look, this very same court, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, allowed the disclosure of grand jury material to Congress in that Haldeman case. What the majority said was, well, the Haldeman case was not clear on what authority it was relying. Yes, they did allow that relief but they didn`t say why and we can reconcile that holding with Rule 6E, so we will say it is permissible for a court to release it to a congressional committee under Rule 6E without resorting to that larger inherent authority.
So it may, this ruling, limit a court from allowing disclosure to the public at large, although I`m not sure that the equities are there yet in a case that`s this recent anyway. But I don`t think that this ruling is going to prevent a court from disclosing the Mueller report on the basis of grand jury material to Congress.
VELSHI: So today`s ruling seems to say the default is to keep grand jury material secret unless it falls into a list of exceptions that you noted. Until now, cases of intense political or historical interest weren`t on that list of exceptions but they have been considered to be situations in which the court has inherent authority to release that grand jury information.
In your opinion, does today`s ruling end that informal arrangement?
MCQUADE: It may but, you know, I don`t think this is the last word on this issue because as we said other circuits have found a contrary view -- the Second Circuit and Seventh Circuit, both of which are influential. Just in recent weeks we saw Ben Wittes and Jeff Goldsmith from Lawfare get disclosure of the Watergate road map, to a court`s inherent authority to disclose grand jury information.
So I could see at some point this issue going to the Supreme Court. But I don`t know if that`s going to happen very quickly, probably not. But in the meantime, I think that Congress can still get Robert Mueller`s report based on this Rule 6E exception.
VELSHI: Barbara McQuade, always smarter conversation with you, thank you so much for joining me tonight. Barbara McQuade is a former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.
Just when you thought your next story could not get any more bizarre, it took one wild turn. This one involves Lysol and the leader of a state Republican Party. Stay with us.
VELSHI: All right. I should warn you, this next segment is a little blue. Not in the sense of blue versus red politics but in the sense of PG-13, so you might want to clear the little kids out of the room.
OK. The story begins in 1996 with a hotly contested Republican primary for governor of North Carolina. One of the candidates running in that primary was this guy, Congressman Robin Hayes.
Now, part of what made that primary contentious was that Hayes` opponent accused him of being so conservative that he would never be able to win the general election. Among the things they pointed to as the fact that as a U.S. congressman, he was a fervent backer of abstinence-based sex education.
One of the North Carolina newspapers noted at the time that Hayes had denounced programs teaching children about birth control saying they were, quote, based on lust. Instead he had pushed for a curriculum called Choosing the Best. Now, Choosing the Best was and still is pretty out there.
A narrator on one of the programs educational videos tells students that if they have sex before marriage they, quote, just have to be prepared to die. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, just be prepared to die.
But what`s even more shocking is that the program Congressman Robin Hayes was advocating for told them to prevent disease by rubbing their genitals with rubbing alcohol or Lysol after sex. And so maybe it`s no surprise that at a Republican forum, one of the Hayes` opponents dubbed him the Lysol man. Now, soon, attack ads cropped up with one of them showing Hayes dissolving to reveal a bottle of disinfectant.
For his part, Hayes said he never advocated Choosing the Best suggests. By the way, the Lysol man never became governor. He did, however, become the North Carolina Republican Party chairman and this week he was indicted, charged with bribery and other crimes that officials say were related to a scheme designed to aid a major political donor in the state. Now, that donor, an insurance executive named Greg Lindberg, has donated mostly but not solely to Republicans.
Lindberg was also charged this week along with two other men, one of whom was a former county Republican chairman in North Carolina. They are accused of trying to bribe the North Carolina insurance commissioner with $2 million in campaign contributions, quote, to get him to take actions favorable to one of Lindberg`s companies. Those favorable actions included the removal of one of his subordinates, an insurance regulator in charge of overseeing Lindberg`s firm.
They were caught because it turns out that the insurance commissioner they were trying to bribe was actually working with the FBI and was secretly recording their conversations. But wait, there`s more. I`m not done.
The indictment refers to someone as public official A, whose PAC took $150,000 from these guys who were trying to get the insurance regulator fired. That public official A turned around and made multiple calls to try to get the insurance regulator axed. That official is not charged. He is referenced in the indictment.
"Politico" is now reporting that that official appears to be current Republican Congressman Mark Walker, which could become a headache for Republicans not just in North Carolina but in D.C. So, in one fell swoop you have that major Republican donor indicted, along with the chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party who is a former congressman, as well as a former county Republican Party chairman, and a public official A who appears to be a current Republican congressman from North Carolina.
And that`s on top of the congressional election having to be rerun in NC 9 because of appear illegal vote buying and ballot stuffing scheme to benefit the Republican candidate. That`s on top of the recent court ruling that the state Republican Party illegally rigged congressional maps to benefit themselves.
I know we do talk about blue versus red politics, but what`s going on right now in North Carolina is more like red versus red. One key state`s Republican Party unable to get out of its own way.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: So let me introduce to you the next president, the next vice president of the United States of America, Joe Biden!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: That was Barack Obama in August of 2008 introducing Joe Biden as his running mate. He accidentally referred to him as the next president of the United States. Shortly after that, Joe Biden also flubbed the money line in his speech, referring to Senator Obama as Barack America.
Now, Barack`s introduction as vice president in August 2008 was not without its hiccups, but his apparent entry into the 2020 race is proving to be much rockier. Today, he all but declared his intention to run for president telling reporters that he`s, quote, getting everything together and that he had always intended to be the last person to announce their candidacy.
Earlier in the afternoon, the former vice president made his first public remarks since accusations emerged that he had made several women uncomfortable with his physical contact.
Now, speaking at a Conference of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Biden tried to push past the controversy, highlighting the need to restore the middle class in this country. He also cracked jokes about the recent criticism he has received. After hugging the union president, he told the crowd he had gotten permission to do so. He made a similar joke after putting his arm around a young boy.
But later, Biden had this to say to reporters.
(BEGIN VIDEDO CLIP)
REPORTER: There are some women who want to hear directly I am sorry. Are you sorry for the way that you made these women feel uncomfortable?
JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I`m sorry I didn`t understand more. I`m not sorry for any of my intentions. I`m not sorry for anything I have ever done. I have never been disrespectful intentionally to a man or a woman.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Now, Biden was also asked whether he could win a primary in a Democratic Party that has many thinking it`s drifting to the left.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: The fact of the matter is, the vast majority of the members of the Democratic Party are still basically liberal to moderate Democrats in the traditional sense. You look at those, I went into 65, 66, 67 races on the ground. I campaigned I think for virtually everyone of the 41 people who won. Show me the really left, left, left winger who has beat a Republican. A Republican.
So, the idea of the Democratic Party that stood on its head, I don`t get it. By the way, we should welcome -- the party should welcome this -- I don`t know how you want to characterize it, the progressive left. It should be welcome and we should have a debate about these things. That`s not a bad thing.
But the idea that the Democratic party woke up and everybody asked what kind of Democrat? I`m an Obama-Biden Democrat.
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VELSHI: Joe Biden today declaring he`s an Obama-Biden Democrat. And fair enough, the question now is whether Democrats want an Obama-Biden Democrat for 2020.
Joining me to discuss is Zerlina Maxwell, an MSNBC political analyst and former Clinton campaign adviser.
Good to see you, Zerlina.
He said that most people in the Democratic Party are liberal to moderate Democrats in the traditional sense. Do you believe that`s true?
ZERLINA MAXWELL, CLINTON CAMPAIGN FORMER DIRECTOR OF PROGRESSIVE MEDIA: I think the party is diverse and we are in a moment where there is this push and pull and a robust policy discussion happening where people are taking out different flanks and putting out specific policy plans that put them all over the spectrum that I think is center left. The people, the voters are actually dictating a lot of this.
The people are saying do something about health care. Costs are too high. I don`t have access. Do something about child care and give me a plan. Show me what you`re going to do. So, I think In a lot of ways, the politicians are following the people in terms of what policies they are putting forward and some of that are very progressive.
VELSHI: How much is policies that may make sense that Republicans are targeting as progressive. As you know, we talked about that this. I`m from Canada. Universal health care is not a conservative or liberal philosophy.
VELSHI: It`s shared by everybody.
To what degree do Democrats have pushed back and say, these aren`t progressive left policies, they are better health care systems than we got right now?
MAXWELL: Well, I think they need to push back strongly because we need to understand that there are special interests making sure the system stays the way it is, so that companies are profiting, right? And so, the system is not actually helping and caring for the people and their health.
That`s what we need to reform. We need to make sure that people have access. Just because an insurance company exists does not mean you can afford the health care that you and your family may need. So, I think that this policy discussion is long overdue. We`ve tried this in many incarnations. We have Obamacare, Republicans are trying to dismantle that.
So, progressives are actually putting forward a vision of where we are going to go in the future and that is progressive vision. I don`t think the party is moving and swinging so wildly far to the left. I think it`s actually the voters that are demanding changes on these critical issues.
VELSHI: Let`s talk about the controversy with Joe Biden. What do you think about the way he handled it?
MAXWELL: I was not happy with the way he handled it today. It`s too soon to be making a joke about this and Joe Biden is a genuine advocate for survivors of sexual assault. He was there and I met him at the Academy Awards in 2016 when we were all there with Lady Gaga.
And he is very genuine. He makes that connection. That is part of his appeal. That`s the kind of politician he is.
But in this moment, in this cultural moment, I think, you know, the party is having a policy discussion. The country is having a cultural discussion about women`s place in our society. What is their role? How should we treat them in the workplace and on the street and in the classroom?
All of this is part of a cultural moment and a turning point and Joe Biden actually is a person I think that can take that mantle. He has a network of survivors he can speak to and listen to. He said I`m going to listen respectfully. And so, I think in this moment, don`t make jokes about it. This is a serious issue.
When women said they are uncomfortable, they are not claiming assault. Lucy Flores did not say that. She said I felt uncomfortable and women often felt uncomfortable.
So, Joe Biden needs to listen to us and take our concerns seriously, because it`s not a joking matter.
VELSHI: We`re all need to listen. Thank you very much for joining us.
VELSHI: Zerlina Maxwell is an MSNBC political analyst and a former Clinton campaign adviser.
All right. We`ve got more story for you, one more story for you right here. Stay with us.
VELSHI: This is Dr. Charles. He`s the one on the left in both of these pictures posing in front of all those flags. He runs the United Nations Chinese Friendship Association and he calls himself the secretary general of the group, like the secretary general of the United Nations.
In a 2017 posting, the organization run by Dr. Charles listed Congresswoman Grace Meng and Congresswoman Judy Chu, along with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao as honorary chair persons. I should tell you, neither of those members of Congress, nor the transportation secretary, is associated with this group.
I should also tell you, the United Nations Chinese Friendship Association run by Dr. Charles is not affiliated with the United Nations. And you probably saw this one coming -- Dr. Charles is not a real doctor. He runs an influence business where he basically promotes and sells access to American power in the form of memberships to his organization.
But it`s not just that. In a press release from 2012, Dr. Charles promoted the fact that he met with the deputy director of a unit in China responsible for coordinating influence operations. Here he is standing with the deputy director of that group on the right.
Dr. Charles is a regular at the president`s resort in Florida, Mar-a-Lago. So much so that over the weekend when the Chinese woman allegedly tried to sneak in to Mar-a-Lago carrying four cell phones, two passports, a laptop and thumb drive with malicious malware, prosecutors say she told the receptionist she was there to see her friend, Dr. Charles. This week, that woman made an appearance in the federal courthouse in West Palm Beach. She is charged with lying to a federal officer and entering restricted property.
Now, she is not charged with any counts relating to espionage. Chinese diplomatic officials are aware of her arrest and offering assistance.
Now, the FBI is reportedly looking into whether Mar-a-Lago in general is vulnerable to foreign spying. Democrats on Capitol Hill are also pushing this issue because you cannot join the White House, but you can join Mar-a- Lago and once you join, you can go inside and it`s not up with the Secret Service.
One intelligence veteran described Mar-a-Lago to us this week as an incredible treasure chest for foreign intelligence, a soft target for malfeasance, from tinkering with the computers to find a way to listen to in to conversations. This is the kind of ongoing vulnerability that you would expect to spark real concern and apparently it has.
That does it for us tonight. Rachel will be back here on Monday. You can catch me here Monday at 1:00 p.m. and again at 3:00 p.m.
Time now 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