CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Thank you all for joining me.
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.
It has been an incredible 24 hours in the news, hasn`t it? I mean, this time last night we were just getting news that the president`s older sister, a federal judge, had suddenly retired from the bench just after it was announced that had she was being investigated by a judicial conduct counsel for her alleged role with her brother, the president, in a long running and very lucrative tax avoidance and fraud scheme that was run out of their family businesses. According to breakthrough reporting on the "New York Times" on that tax scheme, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry may have benefited personally to the tune of tens of millions of dollars from the alleged tax fraud schemes that she and her sibling concocted and ran for years, primarily to radically boost the amount of money that all the Trump siblings were able to extract from their father`s business when he died.
Judge Barry`s own share of the windfall from Fred Trump`s business estate was nearly $200 million. Her sudden resignation from the bench, again, just reported this had time last night, that resignation ends the judicial conduct inquiry into her role in that alleged fraud scheme. She made it go away by resigning.
But that instantly just makes the spotlight that much hotter on the taxes and the tax related controversies surrounding her younger brother, who right now is the sitting president of the United States, who`s administration is now two days in to just defying the law and refusing to hand over the president`s tax returns for review by the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
And it`s interesting. This Trump taxes standoff with the House, it really is a little bit different than all of the rest of the conflicts that have arisen between Trump and the Democratic led Congress. I mean, in this case about the tax returns, there is just clear, unambiguous, bold simple law here that they are now defying. I mean, legally, the IRS has to -- they have no choice, they have to hand over tax returns when such returns are requested by the Ways and Means chairman and the law was written specifically to apply to the tax returns of high level administration officials.
I mean, in this case, the Trump administration really is just flat-out breaking back letter law full stop. We`re now just waiting to see what somebody`s going to do about it. No presidential administration has ever broken this law before. Therefore, nobody has ever had to coerce compliance with this law before, so we don`t know how that works. We don`t know yet how that resolves. Not yet.
Today as we reported last night might be a possibility today, we also, in fact, got the indictment of President Obama`s first White House counsel, Gregory Craig, for his alleged role in one of the illegal foreign lobbying schemes coordinated by president Trump`s now imprisoned campaign chairman Paul Manafort. We`ll have more on that coming up.
Today, we also got a third federal indictment of Michael Avenatti, the telegenic, previously unavoidable for comment California lawyer who represented adult film star Stormy Daniels in her legal cases against Michael Cohen and President Trump, the case that`s ultimately resulted in Michael Cohen, the president`s long time lawyer being sentenced to federal prison for, among other things, campaign finance felonies deriving from his paying off Michael Avenatti`s client just before the election. So her claims about the president wouldn`t hurt his prospects in that election. The president himself has been described by prosecutors as having directed the commission of those felonies and there remain these weird unanswered questions as to whether the president, too, will ultimately get charged with those felonies that prosecutors said he committed.
Meanwhile, Michael Avenatti is now facing dozens of charges now in multiple federal jurisdictions and they are not related to his Stormy Daniels` work, they`re related to alleged misbehavior towards his client, not to mention an alleged extortion effort against the giant athletic corporation, Nike.
And because everything`s happening all at once, the hush money campaign finance felony part of this story is apparently back open as well with "The Wall Street Journal" now reporting that prosecutors` interest in the hush money case not only continues, it is way more sprawling and includes way more people than you might have expected.
And, again, because everything`s happening all at once, another extortion allegation not from Nike but instead from the richest man in the world, the CEO of Amazon, may also simultaneously be undoing the immunity deal at the heart of the hush money case, the immunity deal that allowed a close friend of the president, the head of a supermarket tabloid to testify against the president and against Michael Cohen while still having immunity that saved his own skin. That immunity deal may now be unraveling because of allegations by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, if that immunity deal is unraveling, that means there`s a whole bunch of skin that may no longer be saved in that criminal case, that means the hush money case in which the president is already implicated by prosecutors, that case appears to be alive and well right now and no, nobody knows what`s going to happen in that next.
Everything is happening all at once. I know, I know. We`re going to have more on all that stuff coming up over the course of this hour.
Plus, we`ll have a mind bending update on how the newly appointed Trump attorney general is steaming toward the start of week four since he received the Mueller report and still hasn`t released any of it. It has been amazing to watch William Barr really make stuff up as he goes along as to what he`s doing with the Mueller report, and why and on what grounds and what he might do next and what he`s allowed to say about the process and what he feels compelled to not disclose -- I mean, he`s just been winging it completely.
Today, he tried to take a whole bunch of it back, which was astonishing and it`s all on tape, so you will want to see that. There`s a lot to get to. Lots going on.
But I want to tell you, the first person we`re going to bring on the show tonight, the first guest is going to be the great Chuck Rosenberg, and we`re going to have him live in just a moment because I think we need somebody that`s as big as brain and well experienced as Chuck is to try to answer some big basic questions about what just happened today with organization one, not individual one, that`s the president, not law firm A, that`s Gregory Craig`s law firm, not magazine one, that`s the "National Enquirer", which may be losing its immunity deal. No, this is about organization one, which is WikiLeaks per their description in the indictment that Robert Mueller and the special counsel`s office filed last summer against an even dozen military officers from the GRU in Russia.
Quote, indictment: The grand jury for the District of Columbia charges count one, conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States. Quote: In or around 2016, the Russian Federation operated a military intelligence agency called the main intelligence directorate of the general staff, aka the GRU. Specific units of the GRU conducted large scale cyber operations to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The defendants were GFU officers who knowingly and intentionally conspired to gain unauthorized access to hack into the computers of U.S. persons and entities involved in the 2016 presidential election, to steal documents from those computers, to stage releases of the stolen documents to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Starting in at least March of 2016, the conspirators used a variety of means to hack the email accounts of volunteers and employees of the U.S. presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, including the email account of the Clinton campaign chairman.
By in or around the following month, April 2016, the conspirators also hacked into the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic National Committee, the National Democratic Party. The conspirators covertly monitored the computers of dozens of DCCC and DNC employees, implanted hundreds of files containing malicious computer code, malware, and stole emails and other documents from the DCCC and DNC.
By in or around that same month, April 2016, the conspirators began to plan the release of materials stolen from the Clinton campaign and the two Democratic Party organizations. Beginning in or around June 2016, the conspirators staged and released tens of thousands of the stolen emails and documents, they did so using fictitious online personas including DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0. The conspirators also used Guccifer 2.0 persona to release additional stolen documents through a website maintained by an organization, organization one, WikiLeaks, that had previously posted documents stolen from U.S. persons, entities and the U.S. government.
Organization one is WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks is the organization who`s founder was arrested today in London pending extradition to the United States.
Now, according to the special counsel`s office and this live indictment that has since been handed off to the national security division at the Justice Department, here`s how prosecutors say WikiLeaks helped in the Russian military intelligence operation that attacked our election in 2016. From page 17 of the indictment: Use of organization 1. Use of WikiLeaks.
Quote: In order to expand their interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the conspirators, meaning the defendants, the GRU officers, transferred many of the documents they stole from the DNC and the chairman of the Clinton campaign to WikiLeaks. The conspirators, the Russian military officers pose is as Guccifer 2.0 discussed the release of the stolen documents and the timing of those releases with WikiLeaks to heighten their impact on the 2016 U.S. presidential election. On or about June 22nd of 2016, WikiLeaks sent a private message to Guccifer 2.0 to send any new materials stolen from the DNC here for us to review and it will have a much higher impact than what you are doing.
Less than a month later, on or about July 6th, 2016, WikiLeaks added, quote, if you have anything Hillary related, we want it in the next two days preferably because the Democratic national convention is approaching and she will solidify Bernie supporters behind her afterwards. The conspirators responded, OK, I see. WikiLeaks explained, quote, we think Trump has only a 25 percent chance of winning against Hillary so conflict between Bernie and Hillary is interesting, meaning send me that stuff.
Between June and July, the indictment explains how WikiLeaks allegedly got all the stuff they got from these Russian military intelligence officer and, quote, you don`t know or about July 22nd, 2016, WikiLeaks released over 20,000 emails and other documents stolen from the DNC network by the conspirators, this release occurred approximately three days before the start of the DNC, for maximum impact. Got to make sure those Bernie supporters never, ever cross over and agree to vote for Clinton.
Then, a month before the election, just as the "Access Hollywood" tape was coming out and the Trump campaign was nearly imploding just moments after the release of the "Access Hollywood" tape, on October 7th, 2016, WikiLeaks released the first set of emails from the chairman of the Clinton campaign that had been stolen by Officer Lukashev and his Russian military intelligence co-conspirators.
Between on or about October 7th and November 7th, organization 1, WikiLeaks, released approximately 33 trenches of documents that had been stolen from the chairman of the Clinton campaign. In total over 50,000 stolen documents were released.
So, WikiLeaks is the entity, according to prosecutors that leased with Russian military intelligence to get the best stuff that would hurt Clinton the most, soliciting specific stuff about Hillary that would hurt Hillary the most, specifically both in terms of the timing and the content of what they wanted. They leased with Russian military intelligence to time the release of the documents that the GRU officers had stolen so as to inflict maximum political damage on the Clinton campaign and to help Trump the most, and to make sure specifically that Bernie Sanders supporters never, ever would consider voting for Clinton.
During the time that WikiLeaks was leasing with Russian military intelligence in order to accomplish all this stuff, WikiLeaks was also in direct contact with the president`s eldest son, with Don Jr., advising him on how to better circulate the documents that the GRU had stolen for maximum impact. What link exactly his father should mention and that he should tweet out to make sure that the Russian documents got the widest distribution. Don Jr. appears to have been psyched about that particular outreach from WikiLeaks, he turned right around and posted exactly what they told him to post, posted that link exactly as they told him to post it.
WikiLeaks also gave the Trump campaign, they gave Don Jr. login information for a website criticizing Trump`s friendliness toward Putin. WikiLeaks gave don junior heads up that that website was about to launch and information about how to break in to that Website. On that one, Don Jr. appears to have been slightly dumbfounded on what he was just to do so he forwarded that information to lots of other people on the campaign.
On Election Day, WikiLeaks sent this note to Don Jr., quote: Hi, Don. If your father loses, we think it is much more interesting -- we think it is much more interesting if he does not concede and spends time challenging the media and other types of rigging that occurred as he has implied that he might do. Election Day. If your father, quote, loses, we think it`s much more interesting if he doesn`t concede.
So, WikiLeaks in the 2016 campaign had kind of a singular role, right? They had a role that at least was very well-appreciated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This just came out, this just came out, WikiLeaks -- I love WikiLeaks.
The Hillary Clinton documents released today by WikiLeaks.
Exposed by WikiLeaks.
We want to talk about WikiLeaks.
They want to distract us from WikiLeaks.
They got it all down, folks, WikiLeaks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was then, this was today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. President, do you still love WikiLeaks?
TRUMP: I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It`s not my thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: WikiLeaks what`s it? Hum hum? I can`t hear you. Oh, wick can I -- the thing with the mermaids?
No, that`s not my thing. Yes, actually, sir, yes, it is your thing. It`s your thing. It`s been your thing for a long time.
There are receipts and everybody in the whole wide world has them. But the charges unsealed against Julian Assange from WikiLeaks today, they`re not about the hacking of computers and stealing of documents from the Clinton campaign and the Democrats by the Russian government during the campaign. Charges today are not about the WikiLeaks` role in soliciting that material, asking for specific types of material that they wanted from the Russians and then distributing those documents with help from the Trump campaign and the president`s son.
I mean, we know from the special counsel`s indictments that prosecutors have plenty of evidence about WikiLeaks` involvement in that effort. They not only put all that information that I just read to you from the GRU indictment last summer they restated a lot of that material in a more recent indictment of Trump political adviser Roger Stone. The government knows a lot about WikiLeaks working with Russian intelligence in their plot to mess with the 2016 election and to distribute the Russians stolen stuff. The indictment unsealed today, though, it instead derives from a hack of classified information from U.S. government computers which dates back to 2010.
That was tons of information including classified information related to the Afghanistan war, the Iraq war, hundreds of thousands of documents from the State Department, the soldier who stole those huge databases of information and shipped them to WikiLeaks, that soldier was convicted at court martial and sentenced to 35 years in prison. Chelsea Manning, she ultimately served seven years of that 35 year sentence before having the rest of her sentence commute by President Obama.
And that commutation was a dramatic thing. I mean, announced by the president himself right at the end of his time in office because of that commutation, Chelsea Manning got out of prison in the spring of 2017. She otherwise would have been held in prison until the year 2045. But President Obama commuted her sentence.
But that`s the Chelsea Manning side of that leak and that hack dating back to 2010. When it comes to WikiLeaks, that posted all of that material, although the Justice Department confirmed at the time that they had an open and ongoing investigation into WikiLeaks` role into that hack and leak of classified material, an investigation I should mention that would have been led by the FBI at the time which was led at the time by a man named Robert Mueller who you may have heard of. Although WikiLeaks was the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation dating back to the Chelsea Manning case, under Obama, WikiLeaks never got charged.
Chelsea Manning got charged, convicted, sentenced, served seven years got the rest of her sentence commuted by Obama. WikiLeaks never got charged during the Obama administration and we will get expert advice on this in just a second.
But to the extent that WikiLeaks was the entity that published the information that was stolen by Manning, the decision not to prosecute WikiLeaks does make sense under the First Amendment, right? I mean, anybody who works anywhere even remotely adjacent to the news business knows the free press in this country has the right to publish even stolen material, even material obtained by seriously unsavory or illegal means. The free press is not responsible for the origins of any material that gets to us, unless, of course, we are responsible for it because we had something to do with how it was illegally obtained.
I will oversimplify it here, but basically what you learn day one in this business is that if your source breaks into a safely and steals a document, your source may have committed a crime in so doing, but you won`t commit a crime just for publishing that document. That said, if you help your source break into the safe or the locked filing cabinet or the encrypted and password database, if you help in the stealing of classified material or anything, nothing about the First Amendment is going to insulate you from charges that you stole regardless of whether or not you publish it, right? That`s -- you learn that day one in news business school.
I mean, in the Assange indictment, today, he is not charged with publishing the documents and materials that were taken by Chelsea Manning. In the indictment unsealed against Julian Assange today, he is not charged with publishing that material, he is charged I mean, in the Julian Assange indictment today, he is not charged with publishing that material. He is charged with helping Chelsea Manning hack into a government database by trying to break a password on someone else`s account so Chelsea Manning could continue to steal more documents without being noticed, without being found out.
And that`s fascinating, right? I mean, part of the strength of this case will obviously depend on the facts as alleged by prosecutors and what they can prove, but part of the strength of this case may depend on whether the court sees that act that alleged act of WikiLeaks helping Manning try to crack into that database as if she were somebody else. Will the court see that as helping Chelsea Manning in her efforts to steal government documents and classified stuff? Or could the court see that as WikiLeaks just helping Chelsea Manning keep her identity secret?
You can see how that would have an important -- that would be an important distinction when it comes to whether or not you can invoke the First Amendment as some sort of defense to these kinds of charges and we will see, but if prosecutors convince a court of the theory of the case that is laid out in today`s indictment, that Julian Assange was helping Chelsea Manning steal classified material, steal government documents, if the government convinces a judge, convinces a jury of that, then Assange will be convicted on the same general theory of the case that convicted Manning. And this time there will be no President Obama to commute anyone`s sentence.
That said, this time there is a president Trump instead who today really is pretending that he never praised WikiLeaks let alone more than 140 times while campaigning for president while WikiLeaks was helping a slue of now indicted Russian military intelligence officers do what they could to sabotage Hillary Clinton to get Trump elected and even to encourage Trump to go nuts and not accept the results if he lost.
And so who knows what that means for how this will be handled by this president and by this Justice Department? And by the prosecutors who filed this indictment against Assange last March specifically four days before the statute of limitations expired on his alleged crime, four days before the expiration of the statute of limitations?
And yes, the Obama administration clearly struggled, clearly wrestled with whether or not to charge Assange and WikiLeaks related to what Chelsea Manning stole and gave to them. But since that all happened, a whole new WikiLeaks chapter has opened, since the whole Manning thing, WikiLeaks and Assange opened up a whole new lease on life in terms of how they operate, right?
With Assange alleged by prosecutors to have played a major role in the Russian military intelligence operation that monkey wrenched the 2016 election, with Assange during that same 2016 campaign reportedly declining to post leaked documents or materials about the Russian government, with Assange who supposedly this big anti-secrecy activist denouncing the Panama papers reporting on massive international money laundering as an attack on Putin. With Assange getting hired by state owned Russia Today TV, he got a TV show on the Russian state owned -- yes. What happened there for one?
But now that Assange is arrested, what is likely to happen to the evidence Justice Department prosecutors have collected and already put into indictments about WikiLeaks as organization 1, right, for its role in the Russian election attack? And I am no lawyer, but from the way that I read this stuff today, I think if they are going to charge anything about Assange and his role in that attack, if they are going to charge anything against Assange other than what they`ve already put in this initial indictment, the way I read this, I think, they`re going to have to do so really, really quickly like imminently, like this isn`t going to linger.
And that is a heck of a prospect with the president of the United States right now saying Wiki, who? I`ve never -- and the president`s newly installed attorney general, the head of the Justice Department now sitting on the Mueller report and not letting it out, I mean -- if they`re going to charge Assange anything other than what they`ve done today, they`ve got to do so right away. What do you think it`s going to happen?
All I know is that everything happens all at once. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The indictment today of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is not that long as these things go. It`s seven pages. It contains a single charge, quote, count one covering an alleged conspiracy to hack into a Pentagon computer network. We`ve heard lots of talk today about how this is maybe just a placeholder indictment, that this one charge might just be enough to get him extradited, but it might just be a placeholder for a lot of other charges -- maybe Assange will be charged with other stuff particularly given what prosecutors have said in other indictments about WikiLeaks and Assange having a key role working with Russian military intelligence in the Russian attack on the 2016 election. We`ve heard a lot of talk about that today.
Here`s the thing -- as far as I understand this, if U.S. prosecutors are going to charge Assange with anything other than the one count that`s already in this indictment, chop, chop, because this is an international matter, because Assange will need to be extradited from the U.K. back here to face charges in the U.S., as far as I understand this and I might be wrong, there`s an international doctrine at play which is called the Rule of Specialty. Why is that not a board game already? The Rule of Specialty.
And under normal circumstances, the Rule of Specialty means that the country that wants to get someone via extradition, in that case that would be us, that country cannot add new charges against the defendant after the sending country has shipped that person over to face justice. So you can`t say, extradite this person to our charge we want to charge this person with jay walking and once you`ve got him add a murder rap on top of it, right?
After you`re extradited, no more charges. The extraditing country has to know exactly what you`re facing before they make the decision to send you over here, the Rule of Specialty. Don`t take it from me, though. I`m not a lawyer. As far as I understand this, if U.S. prosecutors do intend to file any more charges against Julian Assange, they really won`t have much more time to get that done because the U.K. will extradite him in short order and that`s a full stop on anything else being added to the charges against Assange.
Joining us now luckily is somebody who actually knows this stuff. Chuck Rosenberg is a former U.S. attorney, former senior FBI and Justice Department official.
Mr. Rosenberg, thank you very much for being here.
CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Oh, thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: So the Rule of Specialty, I am not a specialist, did I explain that basically correctly?
ROSENBERG: Precisely. The extradition between the United States and many countries including the United Kingdom is governed by treaty, and one of the provisions of our treaty with the united kingdom which went into effect in 2007, is that if they send somebody here via extradition, they want to know precisely what it is we`re charging that person with and as you said, we can`t add charges once they get here.
There`s a few exceptions to that not worth talking about right now, but you`re right. We have to tell them why we want Assange and what we`re going to charge him with when he gets here.
MADDOW: And, again, you said that the exceptions here aren`t necessarily going into, does that mean in your view despite the fact that there are some exceptions in the law around these matters, they don`t appear to be exceptions that would meaningfully change what Assange might be facing here?
ROSENBERG: Right. So, let`s go to the exceptions then, Rachel. If he commits another crime while he`s here in the United States he assaulted a correctional officer, he could be charged with that, but if we want to extradite him on matters related to the GRU indictment and any other role WikiLeaks played in spreading that information and receiving that information and hacking into that information, we would need to tell U.K. authorities what we had in mind. We would need to charge him with that other stuff.
And so, to your point, we would need to do that before he`s extradited and therefore quickly.
MADDOW: And, Chuck, based on what we have seen about WikiLeaks or organization one, he`s obviously a subject of discussion in the Roger Stone indictment, he`s the subject -- WikiLeaks is the subject of extensive discussion in the GRU indictment. Given what prosecutors did lay out about WikiLeaks` behavior during the 2016 election in that GRU indictment, would you expect that it`s possible prosecutors will want to add a charge or charges related to that behavior?
ROSENBERG: It`s possible, but the distinction you drew earlier is a really important one, Rachel, WikiLeaks is arguably a media outlet. I don`t admire their work or what they do or how they do it, but you could make an argument that they are a media outlet.
Assange, however, at least in the indictment in front of us now is a criminal. He helped someone try to crack a password and so there`s a big difference between the act of publishing, which is first amendment protected and stealing, which is not. Again, I think you nailed it earlier. Imagine the scenario where, let`s say, a wayward IRS employee wants to give the "New York Times" Donald Trump`s tax returns. "The New York Times" just receives it and publishes it. The employee will go to jail because that`s a crime, but the "New York Times" is within its First Amendment rights to publish what it received.
However, if the "New York Times" reporters break into the IRS and steal those tax returns and publish it, that act is not First Amendment protected. So really crucial distinction here and I`m sure because I`ve been through this in the Department of Justice that they were very, very careful to make sure that what they were charging Assange with was not covered by First Amendment protections.
MADDOW: Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney, former senior FBI and Justice Department official, Chuck, thank you for helping us understand this. When you tell me I`ve gotten something right on TV, it burns like a hot sun in my chest for days on end. Thank you very much for saying that.
ROSENBERG: You got it. Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: Thanks, Chuck.
All right. We got a lot more to get to tonight. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Tomorrow, we`ll be three weeks since Attorney General William Barr got the Mueller report and still hasn`t released it. In that time, he has made clear that he has zero intention of giving Mueller`s report to Congress. The legal precedent here is that Congress gets everything even if some stuff has to be cut out for public release, but Trump`s newly appointed attorney general, William Barr, is instead insisting that he`s going to cut stuff out of the report even from the version that goes to Congress.
His latest promise, there have been a few, but his latest promise is he`ll release both the public and to Congress a censored version, redacted version, next week hopefully. So who knows? Kind of making it up as he goes along.
Today, though the attorney general appears to be trying to cleanup from his latest accidental "oops, I didn`t mean that" moment, which came when he thought about it on the spot, you can actually seal the wheels turning and decided to declare while testifying before Congress that it was his personal belief that U.S. law enforcement was spying on the Trump campaign in 2016.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal, it`s a big deal.
SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH): So, you`re not -- you`re not suggesting, though, that spying occurred?
BARR: I don`t -- well, I guess you could -- I think there`s -- spying did occur. Yes, I think spying did occur.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, I think spying did occur and it`s a big deal. That -- right? We all agree? Is that weird that I said that? Did I say something happened when it didn`t actually happen? I could have been sure that I thought I heard that there was like spying and we all agree.
Within moments of saying he was setting up a team to investigate the spying that he believes occurred against the Trump campaign which is a big deal, the attorney general decided maybe no, maybe try to take that back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: I`ve said I`m reviewing this. I am going -- I haven`t set up a team yet. This is not launching an investigation of the FBI.
SEN. BRIAN SCHATZ (D-HI): Do you want to rephrase what you`re doing?
BARR: Unauthorized surveillance. I want to make sure there was no unauthorized surveillance.
SEN. JERRY MORAN (R-KS): You`ve indicated that there`s the possibility that unauthorized surveillance or spying occur.
BARR: Did you say that I said that it occurred? I believe there is a basis for my concern, but I`m not going to discuss the basis.
Chairman, could I add one point of clarification, that I want to make it clear thinking back on all the different colloquies here that I am not saying that improper surveillance occurred, I`m saying that I am concerned about it and looking into it, that`s all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Please -- point of clarify -- what I have been saying up until now was -- I -- it`s no longer operative. That cleanup job about his spying comments was an amazing thing over the course of a not very long hearing.
It continued into today. After the testimony, a person familiar with Barr`s thinking told "The Washington Post," quote, he was not trying to provide conservatives with rhetorical red meat and was using the word "spying" in a technical sense of collecting intelligence. It`s not what he said at all. That`s another explanation.
Now, today, more sources familiar with Barr`s thinking tell NBC News that actually, Barr doesn`t see much of a semantic difference between spying and surveillance and he`s more invested in whether the FBI followed proper procedures in launching the Trump/Russia investigation. Loose translate, it`s dark, it`s hard to see the light switch, trying to make sure it`s off but it`s -- the longer we wait for the Robert Mueller report, the more it is clear that the newly appointed attorney general is absolutely making it up as he goes along. It is almost entertaining to watch, but only almost.
MADDOW: Gregory Craig is a high profile well-connected Democratic lawyer in Washington. He was President Obama`s first White House counsel. He also worked on Clinton impeachment.
An indictment filed today, federal prosecutors in D.C. have charged Greg Craig with lying to the special counsel, as well as lying several years earlier to the Justice Department about work he did for the Ukrainian government.
At the time he was doing that work, Ukraine`s pro-Russia leader was a client of Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort. Part of what prosecutors are alleging here is that Manafort arranged for his Ukrainian client to secretly shovel millions of dollars to Greg Craig`s big rich influential American law firm from Skadden, Arps. Prosecutors say Greg Craig lied to cover-up that he too, just like Paul Manafort should have registered as a foreign lobbyist for his Ukraine work. That`s one of the crimes for which Paul Manafort is now in federal prison.
Gregory Craig`s lawyer says he never lied to anybody. They say the government`s, quote, stubborn insistence on charging him is a misguided abuse of prosecutorial discretion. We shall see. Robert Mueller initially referred Gregory Craig`s case for potential progression to the Southern District of New York. Prosecutors appeared to have passed on it and decide not do anything with it.
Today, instead, Craig was indicted by a grand jury working with prosecutors in the U.S. attorney`s office in D.C. So, it started with Mueller, it went to the Southern District of New York and went to D.C. before they finally did charge him. Today, Greg Craig`s lawyer and Craig himself in a video statement posted online said essentially, see you in court.
Craig says he is confident that a jury will vindicate him. If so, that promises to be quite a trial. The U.S. Justice Department prosecuting one of the most prominent lawyers in the country, a former Democratic White House counsel.
Mueller investigation is apparently over but its ripple effects and ongoing prosecutions emanating from his work are clearly going to be playing out for a very long time. Another one of those ripples seems to be turning into a bit of a tsunami and that story is just ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Last month when a federal judge gave the green light to unseal the search warrants from the raid on President Trump`s long-time attorney Michael Cohen, there were 18-1/2 pages of redactions to those unsealed search warrants. Redactions specifically related to the illegal campaign contribution scheme. The hush money scheme, the campaign finance felonies that Cohen`s going to prison for.
The judge said those 18 1/2 pages from the search warrants had to stay redacted because otherwise they would, quote, reveal the scope and direction of the government`s ongoing investigation. Ongoing investigation, oh? And they would unveil subjects of the investigation and the potential conduct under scrutiny. Also, federal agents told the judge they expected to find evidence of a conspiracy.
Now, a whole bunch of people who might have been part of that conspiracy around the campaign finance felonies, the hush money payments a poll whole bunch of people involved in that will already have immunity is, say, Allen Weisselberg, Trump`s long time financial guy at the Trump Organization. Weisselberg has been reportedly been granted immunity, at least limited immunity in conjunction with his testimony related to that issue.
Also, David Pecker, publisher of the "National Enquirer". Also the "National Enquirer`s" parent company, AMI. AMI entered into a non- prosecution agreement with prosecutors in this matter which is contingent on AMI not committing any more crimes which shouldn`t be hard but stick a pin in that.
The universe of people who could be part of the conspiracy and also still on the hook not potentially getting immunity here is getting smaller. Meanwhile, the SDNY investigation of the conspiracy appears to be getting bigger. "The Wall Street Journal" now reports that SDNY has interviewed more people about this than we previously knew, including Hope Hicks, the president`s former White House communication director. They interviewed Keith Schiller, the president`s former chief of staff.
But when it came to talking to Hicks, they wanted to talk to her about her contacts with David Pecker, around the time that David Pecker and everybody else involved in the scheme was still selling a fake cover story to deny what had really happened. Hope Hicks was involved in conversation with David Pecker around that time? When they were covering it up? And now David Pecker has immunity? What about Hope Hicks?
"The Journal" is reporting she was questioned, as was Keith Schiller. Now, AMI has that non-prosecution agreement, don`t commit any crimes and you`ll be fine. CNN is now reporting that Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, will talk to SDNY prosecutors as soon as sometime this week. They are reportedly investigating whether AMI extorted Jeff Bezos, extortion is a crime, running stories about his extramarital affair in the "National Enquirer" basically to punish him, to punish him according to Bezos for how his newspaper, "The Washington Post", has covered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and Saudi Arabia`s apparent complicity in that murder.
SDNY is looking at whether AMI might have been doing the bidding of Saudi Arabia in going after Bezos on their behalf. So, AMI already has federal prosecutors in their grill over the hush money scheme and had to admit their an role in it in order to get their non-prosecution agreement which they only continue to benefit from as long as they don`t commit any more crimes. Now, prosecutors are reportedly asking whether they were committing crimes to do Saudi Arabia`s bidding to shut up Jeff Bezos.
If that screws up their non-prosecution agreement, how much would that reopen this whole story of these campaign finance felonies for which the president`s long time personal lawyer is already going to prison and in which the prosecutors say the president is already implicated.
Joining us now is Nicole Hong. She`s a legal reporter for "The Wall Street Journal", has been part of the team of that has broken so many of these stories.
Nicole, thank you for being here.
NICOLE HONG, LEGAL REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Thank you.
MADDOW: First, let me ask you if I laid that out in a way that makes sense to you, given your reporting.
HONG: Yes, that`s right.
MADDOW: OK. Do we know whether the non-prosecution agreement for AMI might be at risk?
HONG: So, it`s hard to tell at this stage. It`s in relatively early stages and, especially if there is a Saudi element, that could take months and months to investigate, because at the end of the day, you have the world`s richest man alleging that he`s a victim of state-sponsored hacking. That`s a very serious allegation and it`s also on that could take a long time to investigate.
MADDOW: If the AMI non-prosecution agreement is at risk, my expectation as a layman looking at this, that would open them up to potential prosecution for everything they told prosecutors and under the terms of that agreement. And we know from the Cohen indictment that they laid out their own involvement in the campaign finance felonies for which Cohen is going to prison.
We`ve had this ongoing question, this open question whether the president, individual one, might himself have liability there. But it seems like AMI might itself have liability if they lost their immunity.
HONG: They would certainly be at risk if the non-prosecution agreement were ripped up. But it`s just too early right now to speculate about what the southern district is finding because they`re still calling people in as you noted and kind of in the fact finding stage right now.
MADDOW: In terms of their communications with Hope Hicks and Keith Schiller, the implication from your reporting is that Hicks and Schiller might have been aware of again what prosecutors say was a criminal conspiracy to commit campaign finance policies. They might have been aware at least of elements of it at the time that it was happening. I mean, that`s what I`m reading from the way you`re describing what we know what they were asked.
Is that fair?
HONG: So, they were definitely asked about their contacts with David Pecker. It`s possible that prosecutors were causing them in early on to try and get some leverage over David Pecker when they finally met with him in early July.
MADDOW: OK. And if Schiller and Hicks were questioned about prosecutors in this way, do we know anything about whether they might have entered into any sort of deal with prosecutors or how they`ve approached their own legal representation in these matters? Is the Trump Organization providing them lawyers to handle this stuff?
HONG: So, our sense is Keith and Hope were not facing any criminal exposure. They were called in early on possibly as witnesses. It`s possible they were asked about phone calls and meetings that Pecker and Trump had. One thing we do know through our reporting is before SDNY met with David Pecker for the first time, they were already aware he had had conversations with Trump. So, it`s possible they got that through the e mails they got through Cohen`s personal e mails.
But it`s also possible that Hope or Keith told them about they might have been in a position to know about those meetings and calls.
MADDOW: Fascinating. Nicole Hong, legal reporter for "The Wall Street Journal", you and your colleagues have advanced this and so many other stories in this part of the scandal universe we live in with such clarity. Thanks for coming in.
HONG: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: That does it for us tonight. Was there enough news for you today? Tomorrow, I`m sure will be much calmer. We`ll see you again tomorrow night.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
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