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National security experts testify. TRANSCRIPT: 6/12/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Adam Schiff, David Laufman, Sean Patrick Maloney

BASIL SMIKLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  I think that`s absolutely right.  A lot of people have said that Sanders, for example, needs to go after Biden.  But I think his real opponent is Elizabeth Warren here. 

STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST:  Isn`t that -- they want to go after Biden.  But you know who wants that the most?  President Trump.  Sitting back at the White House, eating popcorn saying, bring it. 

SMIKLE:  What`s going to be interesting is if Biden uses the tactic to say, I`m not going to engage my opponents.  I`m just going to engage Donald Trump.  I don`t know if everybody else on the stage has the same philosophy. 

RUHLE:  Well, I know I`ll be watching.  Steve, Basil, thank you so much.

And thank you for watching.  It has been quite an evening.

Here at ALL IN, I`m Stephanie Ruhle.  You`re in luck, Chris Hayes will back tomorrow. 

And you`re in even greater luck, because I`m now handing off. 

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. 

Good evening, Rachel.  You got a lot of news. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  I do.  And you are creating like a big expectation here.  I feel like I need to lower the temperature a little bit.  It`s not that big a deal that I`m here.  It`s 9:00.  It`s sort of a normal thing. 

RUHLE:  Well, it`s a great thing.  Have a good show. 

MADDOW:  Thank you, my friend.  Well done. 

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. 

You know, it has become a regular feature of our lives now as Americans that we have a president who says very disruptive, very shocking things.  Now frequently the president says these shocking things beyond the hearing of the outside world.  We just get reporting about them, right? 

Like the time last year when he asked a room full of lawmakers in the Oval Office about immigration policies for countries including Haiti and El Salvador and several different countries in Africa.  The president reportedly asked those lawmakers in the Oval Office, quote, why are we having all these people from bleep-hole countries come here? 

He said that inside the White House, inside the Oval Office, and the multiple people who heard him say it were so shocked that his comments ended up making their way outside the White House into the national news. 

Now, depending on your perspective, what the president said that day was embarrassing or unfortunate or maybe it was just tough talk depending on how you think about it, but he said it.  People around him who heard it were shocked enough about it that they told reporters about it.  He weathered the criticism that poured in after.  That`s one of the ways this happens around him. 

There is also the time during the campaign when it emerged that he had been riding around in 2005 on the "Access Hollywood" bus talking about grabbing women by the privates, and how they let you do that when you`re a star. 

Again, it was -- in that case, that was on tape, and it was, again, something shocking.  We had the audiotape of that.  It was shocking to hear a major party nominee for the office of the president of the United States talking like that. 

But again, he said it.  That tape sat around for a long time.  It eventually came out during the campaign.  There was a torrent of criticism.  In that case, he actually apologized for it, but once again, he weathered the criticism that poured in after those remarks. 

I mean, mostly what happens is the president says shocking thing.  It upends one or two or three or ten news cycles, depending how shocking, and then he weathers it and gradually equilibrium gets restored until shocking new thing said by the president.  Rinse, cycle, repeat. 

On occasion, though, our president with this tendency to say shocking things, on occasion, he manages to say something that is not merely shocking, it turns out to be consequential.  On occasion, he managed to say manage so shocking that it isn`t just short-term destructive, it maybe changes the course of history, because it`s something that sticks and is something big. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I was going to fire Comey.  There is no good time to do it by the way. 

LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR:  In the letter, you said, I accepted their recommendations.  So you had already made the decision? 

TRUMP:  Oh, I was going to fire regardless of the recommendation.  He made a recommendation.  He is highly respected.  Very smart guy. 

The Democrats like him.  The Republicans like him.  He made a recommendation.  But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. 

And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. 


MADDOW:  What the president told NBC`s Lester Holt that day saying he had the Russia investigation in mind when he decided I know there is no good time to do it, but I got to fire the FBI director, when he said that one, yes, that was shocking, but that was more than shocking.  I mean, first of all, the president said that in public on audio and videotape.  He came right out and said to it the anchor of a major national newscast on tape. 

And when see said about firing the FBI director because of Russia, that stuck because it raised a lasting legal question.  Six weeks before, James Comey had confirmed for Congress that the FBI was investigating the Trump campaign and whether it worked with the government during Russia`s attempts to clear the 2016 election in Trump`s benefit. 

Comey revealed to the House Intelligence Committee on March 20th, 2017, that the investigation at the FBI was under way.  The president then fired James Comey on May 9th, and it was two days later that the president explained what he had not previously made public. 


TRUMP:  And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. 


MADDOW:  So we are used to this cycle, right?  From back through the campaign, maybe even back before the campaign, maybe him as a public figure, but certainly him as a political figure.  We`re used to this cycle, right? 

Trump says shocking thing.  People are shocked.  Some level of criticism levied at Trump because of shocking thing he said.  Trump weathers criticism.  Country moves on. 

We`re used to this cycle, right?  I think the president does it on purpose a lot of times because he enjoys that cycle.  But when he said this thing about firing Comey because of the Russia investigation, that wasn`t just your typical shocking thing, that was potentially an admission of criminal behavior, an admission specifically of criminal intent, right?  What the president did there was he drew a connection between the investigation into his campaign about Russia and his decision to fire the man in charge of that investigation. 

And so that raised the question as to whether or not the president had just confessed to the criminal intent necessary to prove criminal obstruction of justice.  The firing of James Comey and to a certain extent what the president said about why he did it ultimately led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller and the Mueller investigation to look into, among other things, whether or not the president obstructed justice. 

And now, we`ve got these multiple expanding investigations still going on in Congress about Mueller`s findings and the standoffs over witnesses and subpoenas, right?  All of that began with the shocking thing said by the president that stuck, right?  It still stuck to him despite his best efforts to shake it off. 

Because of that investigation, we now have memorialized in the Mueller report the gleeful response from the Trump campaign when the Russians came calling in 2016 with an offer of dirt on Hillary Clinton, right?  Donald Trump Jr. wrote back almost at once, if it is what you say, I love it, right? 

A foreign adversary, a long-term foreign adversary, comes calling offering one presidential campaign dirt on their opponent.  The future p president`s own eldest son says, oh, yes, if the Russians have dirt on our opponent, I love it.  Let`s hear it, let`s set up the meeting. 

Donald Trump Jr. got that message in June 2016.  Today, three years later, June 2019, he is back on Capitol Hill today testifying in the Senate Intelligence Committee.  They called him back in part because they`re trying to figure out whether Donald Trump Jr. was telling the truth about how much his father knew about that offer from the Russians and that subsequent meeting with the Russians to get dirt on Trump`s presidential campaign opponent. 

And this situation here presents a couple of difficulties for the president and his family.  I mean, first of all, there`s the question of whether the president lied to Congress at any moment.  Members of Congress have said they suspect he has done so.  So, he`s back under oath today.  There is the question of whether or not he has told any lies that could be potentially - - that could potentially pose legal jeopardy for him. 

Secondly, there is the question of whether getting help from a political campaign foreign source is illegal, right?  How that meets up with the federal laws about what campaigns in this country are allowed to do.  Those are questions that tend to stick.  Those questions have stuck. 

If you spent all of your presidency so far dealing with those questions, beating them back, fending them off, you might want to rethink going down that road if the choice got presented to you again. 

But tonight, when the president himself was asked on tape about his son and the Russian offer of help during the campaign, he was asked by ABC News anchor in an interview today, the president said something that once again is shocking, but this is another one of those things that we will be talking about for a long time to come, because this one has reason to stick. 


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR:  Your son Don Jr. is up before the Senate Intelligence Committee today.  And again, he was not charged with anything.  In retrospect though --

TRUMP:  Not only wasn`t he charged, if you read it, with all of the horrible fake news -- I mean, I was reading that my son was going to go to jail.  This is a good young man, that he was going to go to jail. 

STEPHANOPOULOS:  In June of 2016, just months before the election, Don Jr. received an email from a business associate promising dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government.  Don Jr.`s response: If it`s what you say, I love it.

The conversation led to a meeting in Trump Tower that included the president`s son, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and a Russian lawyer.  Don Jr. insists nothing came of it. 

And special counsel Robert Mueller concluded there was not enough evidence to charge a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia. 

TRUMP:  And then the report comes out and they didn`t even say --


STEPHANOPOULOS:  Should he have gone to the FBI when he got that email? 

TRUMP:  OK.  Let`s put yourself in a position.  You`re a congressman.  Somebody comes up and says hey, I have information on your opponent.  Do you call the FBI? 

STEPHANOPOULOS:  If it`s coming from Russia, you do. 

TRUMP:  I`ve seen a lot of things other my life.  I don`t think in my whole life I`ve ever called the FBI.  In my whole life, you don`t call the FBI.  You throw somebody out of your office, you do whatever --

STEPHANOPOULOS:  Al Gore got a stolen briefing book, he called the FBI. 

TRUMP:  Well, that`s different.  A stolen briefing.  But this is stuff -- this is somebody who said we have information on your opponent.  Oh, let me call the FBI.  Give me a break.  Life doesn`t work like that. 

STEPHANOPOULOS:  The FBI director says that`s what should happen. 

TRUMP:  The FBI is wrong. 

STEPHANOPOULOS:  Your campaign this time around, if foreigner, if Russia, if China, if someone else offers you information on an opponent, should they accept it or call the FBI? 

TRUMP:  I think maybe you do both.  I think you might want to listen.  There is nothing wrong with listening.  If somebody called from a country, Norway, we have information on your opponent.  Oh.  I think I`d want to hear it. 

STEPHANOPOULOS:  You want that kind of interference in our elections? 

TRUMP:  It`s not interference.  They have information.  I think I`d take it.  If I thought there was something wrong, I`d go maybe to the FBI, if I thought there was something wrong. 


MADDOW:  If I thought there was something wrong about getting help from a foreign country with my election, if I thought there was something wrong with it, maybe I`d go to the FBI.  If I thought there was something wrong about it, but, yes, I`d want to see what any other country was offering.  Call the FBI?  Who says you have to call the FBI.  The FBI director says you have to call the FBI?  Well, the FBI director is wrong. 

I mean, this is not the president riding around on the "Access Hollywood" bus saying grab them by the genitals.  I can get away with it.  I`m famous.  And then the tape comes out. 

I mean, this is the president saying on tape, the president who has been saying no collusion, no collusion.  The Russians were trying to help me?  Well, I didn`t -- that wasn`t me. 

This is that same president saying yes, I would want to see information from a foreign power, never mind the FBI director`s opinion about that.  I mean, again, it`s not like this is a hypothetical concept that has never come up before. 

I mean, literally today, in Congress in the Intelligence Committee, even the Republicans` witness, who the Republicans brought in to try to discredit the whole Russia investigation, even that witness brought in by the Republicans today conceded in the intelligence committee literally today that, yes, you know, if a foreign government comes to you with something, you`ve got to call the FBI. 


REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL):  Putting yourself in the place of those who receive the contacts, at any of those points, would you have called the FBI? 



ANDERSON:  I call the FBI for things probably a lot less serious than that I imagine. 

QUIGLEY:  Thank you. 

ANDERSON:  You know, I do think --

QUIGLEY:  How ever else you feel about the report, do you think someone should have called the FBI? 


QUIGLEY:  Thank you. 

ANDERSON:  I think there is no question, and my colleagues here have worked counterintelligence I`m certain would tell you, we always want information, any information that would be helpful to us in apprising what the likely intentions of potentially hostile powers are. 


MADDOW:  You`re here called by the Republicans to undermine the whole Russia investigation and the whole Mueller report specifically, but even you admit that when they got contacted by the Russians, they should have called the FBI.  Yes, of course, they should have called the FBI.  Yes, you call the FBI. 

You don`t take stuff for your campaign from the Russians.  Of course, you call the FBI says the guy the Republicans called as their witness to try to undermine the whole Russia investigation. 

But it turns out, what he asserted about his colleagues who worked in counterintelligence, they did certainly agree with him, that, yes, yes, you don`t take stuff from a foreign country if a foreign country comes with stuff to help you in your campaign.  You go to the FBI. 


QUIGLEY:  What counterintelligence risk is this when a campaign uses this information about a political opponent that was stolen and released by a foreign adversary, Mr. Anderson? 

ANDERSON:  Thank you, sir.  First of all, troubles me that no one -- if they did not communicate this type of information to some government agency just because of the facts laid out in the report and what you just brought up.  Individuals that are giving information as Stephanie said are being tasked and then receiving information, that is the initial way you vet any asset or any person that you`re targeting for a possible either unwitting asset or recruitment in the future. 

STEPHANIE DOUGLAS, FORMER EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, FBI NATIONAL SECURITY BRANCH:  I`d just like to add, I think if you`re a foreign power and you have a campaign or individuals who are willing to entertain receiving information that you were collecting for their benefit, I think that is a tacit approval of that action, and I think that`s where we have to be careful of allowing people to communicate to either a foreign government, a foreign actor that what they`re doing, which is illegal by hacking and collecting information and then releasing it, giving that kind of approval by a head nod or a suggestion or, you know, any kind of inference that it`s OK is a tacit approval of that kind of behavior.  And I think that puts us at greater risk. 


MADDOW:  That puts us at greater risk. 

Literally today in Congress, there are former senior counterintelligence officials from the FBI warning about how dangerous it is as a national security matter for a campaign to take information surreptitiously shopped to them from a foreign government. 

Yes, that`s how you compromise people in the U.S. government.  That`s how a foreign government, particularly a hostile foreign adversary would compromise people in the U.S. government.  That`s how a hostile foreign adversary would conceivably get power over our government, and, of course, over our elections. 

But when the sitting president said today, yes, he would happily take derogatory information on opponent from a foreign government in the next election, no, you wouldn`t call the FBI.  It`s interesting.  The president, in making those remarks today, he was also fleshing out what the special counsel Robert Mueller investigated as to the potential criminality of the president`s campaign taking a meeting in the summer of 2016 at Trump Tower to accept supposed dirt on the Hillary Clinton campaign that was being offered to them by the Russian government. 

I mean, Mueller investigated that as a potentially criminal act by Trump and his campaign.  And in explaining what they found when they investigated that acceptance of an offer of information from the Russian government, Mueller and his team wrote this. 

Quote: The communications setting up the meeting and the attendance by high level campaign representatives support an inference that the Trump campaign anticipated receiving derogatory documents and information from official Russian sources that could assist candidate Trump`s electoral processes.  This series of events could implicate the federal law election ban on contributions and donations from foreign nationals.  The special counsel`s office considered whether this evidence would establish a conspiracy to violate the foreign contributions ban.  The solicitation of an illegal foreign source contribution or the acceptance or receipt of an express or implied promise to make a foreign source contribution. 

Quote: There are reasonable arguments that the offered information would cute a thing of value within the meaning of these provisions.  However, the office determined that the government would not likely be able to obtain and sustain a conviction on these counts. 

And why would they not be able to obtain and sustain a conviction for the behavior around the Trump Tower meeting that the upper echelons of the Trump campaign took in June 2016 when the Russian government came to them and said hey, we`ve got dirt on Hillary, you want some?  Why did they not think they could obtain and sustain a conviction for that behavior by the Trump campaign? 

Well, they said there was a big problem with potentially trying to bring charges about that.  The big problem is that they, quote, did not obtain admissible evidence likely to meet the government`s burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these individuals from the Trump campaign acted willfully, i.e., with general knowledge of the illegality of their conduct. 

Quote: To prove the defendant acted knowingly and willfully, the government would have to show that the defendant had general knowledge that his conduct was unlawful.

Quote: On the facts here, the government will be unlikely to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the June 19th participants had general knowledge that their conduct was unlawful.  The investigation has not developed evidence that the participants in the meeting were familiar with the foreign contribution ban. 

Yes, so when the Trump campaign accepted that offer of foreign assistance from Russia back in June 2016, you know what their best defense is?  They were a bunch of political newbies, right?  Why would they know there is some obscure little law against accepting help from a foreign government in your campaign?  How could they know? 

It`s not like that had ever been a controversial thing.  It`s not like any of them had ever been asked about something like that or had to worry about something like that.  Back in June 2016, Mueller`s team concluded they couldn`t have known, or couldn`t prove that these people knew that these people in the Trump campaign knew taking dirt like that, taking anything of value for their campaign from the Russians would be illegal.  How could they have known back in June of 2016? 

Well, now, of course, I mean, they`d have to know.  Right now, after all of this controversy, now, if those guys set out to accept something from their campaign from a foreign country, now obviously, they would know that sort of thing is illegal given the past few years of controversy over this matter.  Now they`d know.  Now if they did it, prosecutors would have no problem proving that they had criminal intent if they did it, if that prospect came up, say, today on ABC News. 


TRUMP:  This is somebody that said we have information on your opponent.  Oh, let me call the FBI.  Give me a break.  Life doesn`t work that way. 


MADDOW:  The president tonight promising that he would happily take illegal campaign contributions in the form of dirt on an opponent from a foreign government, and no, he wouldn`t call the FBI.  Which is direct irrefutable evidence on tape of criminal intent, right?  That`s the criminal intent that Mueller said he couldn`t quite nail down the last time Trump`s campaign actually did take help from a foreign country. 

But now, there it is, out loud on tape as he is promising to do it again in the next election. 

Joining us now is Congressman Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. 

Sir, thanks very much for being here.  I really appreciate your time. 

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA):  Great to be with you. 

MADDOW:  So what is your reaction to this news tonight in which President Trump said he wouldn`t call the FBI if he was approached by a foreign country with information he could use on his 2020 opponent.  He might accept that information.  He says FBI Director Chris Wray is wrong if he thinks the correct thing to do there would be to call the FBI. 

SCHIFF:  Well, like many things with Donald Trump, at first you`re shocked, and then of course you realize, yes, that`s exactly him.  There is no ethical standard.  There is no bar below which he will not go. 

What I find so striking about this is he went to such trouble to deceive the country about that Trump Tower meeting.  He dictated that false statement about adoptions to mislead people.  So, if this was so perfectly OK as he would have us believe, then why did he go to such trouble to deceive the country about that meeting? 

I think what the president is really saying is, yes, I knew this was unethical, maybe illegal, and I would do it again. 

Plainly, I think we`re going to have to spell it out crystal clear in the law that getting dirt from a foreign power is considered a prohibited foreign contribution to a campaign.  We can call it the Donald Trump act if we need any further clarity, but plainly, he hasn`t learned the lesson.  Rudy Giuliani is going off to Ukraine or was going to go off to Ukraine to see if they could drum up some more dirt on one of the president`s opponents. 

Giuliani, certainly, as the president`s lawyer, hasn`t learned a thing.  Jared Kushner also wouldn`t commit to notifying the FBI if he was contacted in this way.  They plainly have learned nothing from these two and a half years of our exploration of this and of all the public censure around this. 

MADDOW:  Do you think there is a possibility the president is essentially in doing this interview the way that he did tonight is essentially inviting interference by other countries, that he is welcoming anything that other countries might want to dish up for him on any of his potential 2020 opponents? 

It seems sort of like a strange thing to ask, but we know from Mueller`s report that after the president did solicit hacking assistance in his campaign in 2016 from the Russian government, the Russian government was in fact listening, and within five hours of him making that public proclamation, they did mount their first attempt on trying to access Hillary Clinton`s private email server. 

Do you think the president could potentially be asking for what he wants here? 

SCHIFF:  Well, I think without a question, that`s going to be the affect of this.  Foreign nations, particularly our adversaries watch every word said by the president of the United States, and they analyze it, what does this mean.  If you take two things the president recently said, one in his conversation with Putin where he said he still thinks this whole Russia intervention on our election was a hoax, and if you combine it today with him saying I wouldn`t necessarily call the FBI if the Russians offered me dirt again, you put two and two together and the Russians know as long as they intervene on Trump`s behalf, he is too weak to ever call them out, and he may even be grateful for it. 

So, yes, I think it gives a green light to other nations to once again interfere in our election.

MADDOW:  If the president`s remarks tonight are to be taken literally and seriously, when he was confronted by George Stephanopoulos who said the FBI director says that you should contact the FBI if a foreign government offers to intercede in an election or provides you of something in an election, the president responded bluntly to that by saying the FBI director is wrong. 

In terms of the independence of the FBI, the independence of the Justice Department, the president`s role as the head of the executive branch, is that potentially the president giving a directive to the FBI that something like that shouldn`t be prosecuted? 

SCHIFF:  Look, I have faith that Christopher Wray is a person of principle and he is going to speak truth to power as he did when he was asked that question before.  I`m sure he knew this was going to be anathema to the president`s ears, but he is approximately absolutely right that should be reported to the FBI. 

So, I have confidence he will continue to run the FBI properly.  But others may be influenced by Donald Trump, wearing them down, battering them down, urging them to do unethical things.  It does take a toll. 

And I think you see in actions of the administration, unethical actions by others in the administration that they`re following the president`s example.  We saw in our own committee just last week, we did a hearing on the national security implications of climate change, and we found out after the hearing that no written testimony was provided by one of the witnesses because the White House tried to censor in references to the cataclysm of climate change. 

So, it does have an affect on those who are too weak to stand up to the president.  I don`t think Christopher Wray is one of them. 

MADDOW:  Congressman, I`m interested to hear you talk about FBI Director Chris Wray in that way, particularly because you suggested today that he and his agency may be about to receive a subpoena from you.  If you can hold on for just one moment, I`d like to ask you about that on the other side of the break. 

SCHIFF:  Sure. 

MADDOW:  Congressman Adam Schiff is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.  He is right in the middle or it in about ten different ways today.  We`ll be right back with him right after this.  Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  Today, the Intelligence Committee in the House held its first open hearing on the Mueller investigation, specifically on its counterintelligence implications.  Right after the hearing was concluded, the chairman of that committee spoke with reporters and basically threatened that what might happen next here is him giving a subpoena to the FBI to try to prize information out of the FBI about the counterintelligence findings of Mueller`s investigation. 

That chairman telling reporters today, quote, we are determined to get answers, and we are running out of patience.  If necessary, we will subpoena the director of the bureau and require him to come in and provide those answers under oath. 

Joining us once again is Congressman Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. 

Sir, thank you again for sticking was. 

Why do you think it might be necessary to subpoena the FBI and the FBI director? 

SCHIFF:  Because we can`t get answers.  And there is no reason why the FBI should be holding back.  They`re required by law under the national security act to keep us currently apprised of any significant intelligence or counterintelligence activity, and there are few more significant counterintelligence investigations than the one that involved the president and people around him. 

When James Comey was fired, that counterintelligence investigation went into a black hole.  Whether it was completely subsumed within the special counsel`s work, whether there was separate agents who were embedded in his team that reported become to headquarters, but there were also other FBI agents working on it within the team, we don`t have clarity. 

But at the end of the day, we need to know what happened to those investigations.  Are any of them still ongoing?  If some were concluded, what were the findings?  And we have been searching with answers for the bureau, and I don`t know where the bottleneck is, but I` am running out of patience. 

And if necessary, we will subpoena the director to come in and answer those questions under oath, because we need to find out if there are steps we need to take to protect the country from people who may have been compromised. 

MADDOW:  You had threatened a potential contempt citation against the attorney general when you were trying to prize information from him from the Justice Department broadly that was were unable to get.  You basically pulled back on that threat when the attorney general, when the Justice Department did agree to start handing over some material. 

Is there overlap here between what you have been able to get from the Justice Department and what you`re expressing frustration about right now in terms of what the FBI isn`t giving you? 

SCHIFF:  Well, I think there should be overlap.  But these are not documents.  This is not information that they have yesterday provided to us.  And if necessary, we will take the same steps we were prepared to do with the department of justice officials with the FBI. 

I hope that won`t be necessary.  I think the director understands the requirements of the law, and if he is under some pressure that committee can`t see that`s not being disclosed to us, then they need to level with us and tell us what the circumstance is.  But at the end of the day, we`re going get this information. 

MADDOW:  Congressman Adam Schiff of California, the chairman of the intelligence committee in the House, sir.  Thank you very much for being with us.  I know it`s been a busy day. 

SCHIFF:  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  I want to bring into the conversation now, David Laufman.  He`s the former chief of the Justice Department`s Counterintelligence Section under President Obama and during the first year of the Trump administration. 

Mr. Laufman, it`s a real honor to have you here.  Thank you for making time for us tonight. 


MADDOW:  So, we are continuing to cover the surprise news involving the president tonight, did an interview with ABC News in which he flat-out, bluntly asserted under fairly open-ended questioning that he would be basically happy to accept foreign assistance in the next election, that he would not necessarily contact the FBI if a foreign government contacted him to give him things that would help him beat his opponent in the next election.  This struck me as I was reading this and my staff as we were trying to sort out the implications of those comments as remarkable and striking and potentially touching on some of the thresholds for criminal intent that were described in the Mueller report when we talked about the president`s campaign having accepted foreign assistance during the 2016 campaign. 

I want to just get your reaction to it tonight. 

LAUFMAN:  Well, my first reaction was I was somewhat shocked that I remained capable of being shocked.  But when I got over that, I was rather dumbfounded to hear those words coming out of the mouth of a sitting president of the United States that can be described as only fairly construed as a scenario for a foreign influence operation part two, in the context of a sitting administration. 

There is only one right answer to the scenario that Mr. Stephanopoulos presented to the president, and that is, A, you don`t take the meeting.  But if you become aware of such an overture, you instruct your staff to pick up the phone and call the FBI and report what is an overture by a foreign government to engage in an influence operation in the United States, ostensibly, again, to subvert our democratic process. 

MADDOW:  Today at the Intelligence Committee in the House, we just spoke with the chairman of that committee.  There were former FBI officials who testified at experts who talked about why foreign governments might want to offer a candidate in a U.S. election assistance with dirt on their opponent or something else that they could use to help them get elected, why that might be an influence operation. 

Can you -- as somebody who has done counterintelligence work like this from the perspective of the Justice Department, can you tell us how this work from an intelligence perspective, why a foreign government would want to do that, and what is dangerous about it to our national security?

LAUFMAN:  Well, assessing motivations depends on the facts that present themselves.  It could be see they see their national interests, the foreign government`s interests better advanced through a particular candidate, particularly one they think may have legs and a capability of winning election.  They may see it as creating a kind of kompromat with respect to that candidate, something some of previous guests talked about, gaining some sort of leverage over that person.  This is a secret, after all, that the Trump campaign in 2016 worked studiously to protect from disclosure. 

And in some instances, it`s simply an effort to create havoc in the United States, as we saw in, for example, the Mueller team`s indictment of the Internet Research Agency by sowing divisiveness and fractiousness amongst us as a people.  That weakens us, makes us more susceptible to the aims of our foreign adversaries. 

MADDOW:  When the president tonight said the FBI is wrong when George Stephanopoulos told him that the FBI director would say that a campaign should contact the FBI if they ever are on the receiving end of this kind of a foreign overture, when the president said the FBI director is wrong, what sort of impact will that have in the law enforcement community at the Justice Department, at the FBI in terms of how they approach potential notifications like this in the future, how they follow up on threats like this?  Is that -- could that conceivably be seen as an order from the president as to how these things should be handled when it comes to counterintelligence, when it comes to law enforcement? 

LAUFMAN:  Well, my guess is this kind of weariness that settled over the law enforcement and intelligence committee because of the many utterances excited or otherwise that come out of the president`s mouth.  But be that as it may, this is a deeply disturbing comment for the president to make for the men and women of the FBI, other members of law enforcement and the intelligence community who work strenuously every day to protect our country against threat, foreign and domestic. 

And he took an oath to protect the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.  And to invite them in, if you will, through welcoming the receipt of derogatory information about another candidate runs entirely contrary to his oath and to his obligation to protect us from our adversaries. 

At the end of the day, I don`t think it`s going to have any material impact on the effort that the FBI or the intelligence community continue to put in day in and day out to protect us, but it certainly sends the wrong signal.  And I would hope that Director Wray would choose an appropriate time to push back against what the president said today. 

MADDOW:  David Laufman, former chief of the Justice Department`s Counterintelligence Section -- sir, thank you very much for your time tonight.  I really appreciate you being here. 

LAUFMAN:  Thank you, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  All right.  We`ve got much more ahead here.  A very, very busy news night.  Stuff keeps happening. 

Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn is currently awaiting sentencing.  He pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian government during the presidential transition.  After pleading guilty, he became a cooperating witness for the government, and now he is awaiting pronouncement from a judge of how much time he gets, if any. 

Six months ago, back in December, as Flynn was heading into what he thought would be his sentencing then, prosecutors told the judge in his case that they were so happy with Flynn`s cooperation over the previous year, that they were recommending to the federal judge overseeing his case that Flynn get no jail time at all. 

If you`re Mike Flynn, obviously, that`s exactly the kind of sentencing advice you want the government to be giving your judge, right?  I mean, yes, you have to submit your own sentencing memo, but I can write it from here. 

I`m very sorry for all I`ve done.  I throw myself on the mercy of the court.  I swear I`ll never do it again.  Thank you so much, Your Honor.  I`m really sorry.  I mean, full stop. 

And they`re recommending no jail time for Mike Flynn.  Just keep your mouth shut and don`t do anything to distract the judge from that fact. 

Instead, Mike Flynn and his lawyers decided to give the judge a memorandum ahead of his sentencing that described how Flynn basically felt like he was being railroaded by the FBI because the agents who interviewed him never warned Flynn it`s a crime to lie to the FBI because, of course, who wouldn`t know it`s a crime to lie to the FBI?  I mean, the implication of their sentencing memo to the judge was that the real villains here were these dastardly investigators who were looking at Flynn in the first place.  They set him up. 

They didn`t have to do that, but they did, and the judge in Flynn`s case was having none of it.  The judge said out loud in open court that arguably -- he said arguably, quote, Mike Flynn, you sold out your country. 

The judge asked prosecutors if Flynn could have been charged with treason.  It was at that point that Flynn decided if he really wanted to get the no jail time he had been hoping for and that prosecutors recommended, maybe it would be best to postpone his sentencing hearing and see if he couldn`t do anything to get this judge look more kindly upon him at a future date. 

Well, we are now closing on that future date.  It has now been months since that blown-up sentencing hearing for Flynn.  This week, Flynn is potentially back before that judge.  He`s got a status update in his case on Friday. 

Leading up to that status update, things have been a little hinky for Mike Flynn.  Just in the last week, we have seen that judge release the voice mail of President Trump`s lawyer calling and appearing to dangle a pardon for Flynn when it became apparent to the president and his lawyers that Flynn was going to flip and start cooperating. 

We`ve also seen a bunch of materials unredacted in Flynn`s case, including lots more information that we didn`t have before about other contacts Flynn had with Russia that were previously undisclosed.  And in advance of getting before the judge again, after the judge started releasing all this stuff, Flynn fired his lawyers.  He fired his lawyers who were the ones representing him the last time he went up for his botched sentencing effort in December. 

Now, we didn`t know when he fired his lawyers a few days ago who he was going to replace them with, but now we know.  And given what he`s been through just over the past few months, Mike Flynn has gone in maybe the opposite direction from what you might have expected, because this is Michael Flynn`s new lawyer.  And yes, that`s all Fox News. 

She is a frequent guest on the Fox News Channel where what she does, what they hire her to do, what her role is on Fox is that she opines about the Mueller witch hunt.  You can also read her frequent op-eds in the conservative press about how Robert Mueller destroyed evidence and obstructed justice, and Mike Flynn should withdraw his guilty plea because it was a wrong guilty plea because he didn`t do anything wrong. 

Over at her website which features these lovely caricatures of Robert Mueller and his top prosecutors under the tag line "Creeps on a Mission", you can buy her book, which is all about what she says the corruption of the Justice Department and how Robert Mueller`s top prosecutor on his team is an epic villain for the ages. 

You can also buy one of her t-shirts with that fun logo with all those creeps like Robert Mueller on it.  Sliding scale, $25 to $30. 

Mike Flynn`s new lawyer also likes to tweet about how the judge in his case is way out of line and has crucial facts wrong, and that judge doesn`t make any sense.  I mean, six months ago, there was like a hair`s breath of this kind of stuff in that sentencing memo from Flynn`s old lawyers, and that was enough to blow up Flynn`s case, to blow up his sentencing.  Now he`s gotten rid of them and hired somebody who basically that`s her entire expertise is describing Mueller and Justice Department prosecutors as villains and Flynn as railroaded and Flynn`s guilty plea as a mistake.  I mean, that is what she makes her living doing, right?  Selling that literally on t-shirts and books and TV appearances. 

Now, rationally, why would a person like Flynn do that in his sentencing given the way the judge responded to just a hint of this kind of thing six months ago?  I mean, either Mike Flynn has a great desire to spend a really long time in prison.  I mean, what?  It`s rent free, what are you think? 

Or perhaps Mike Flynn is planning on not being sentence beside they judge, coming up with some way to get around that.  I mean, it would make sense to throw away all your normal attorneys who made the mistake of allowing you to hint at all that stuff, go instead with somebody who is going to go all- in on that stuff.  It might make sense if you`re making your legal strategy into a 100 percent presidential pardon Hail Mary strategy, right?

My client was a victim of the Mueller witch hunt.  He is standing up to this injustice and this terrible Justice Department and this terrible Mueller investigation that has been so criminal in its own right.  You hear that, Mr. President? 

Today, Flynn`s new lawyer told the conservative press that she plans to ask the judge for a 90-day delay before Flynn`s next status update.  She doesn`t want to go before the judge right away.  She wants another 90 days. 

During that time, if she`s not able to make her case for leniency for Flynn to the judge, presumably, she could spend that time making that case on TV, making that Fox News, which means making that case to the president, because that were the president gets all of his information. 

So, this adds a whole new really suspenseful element to the weird case of Mike Flynn, right?  But it also means the case of Mike Flynn is not a historical case.  It`s not over. 

The reason Mike Flynn features so prominently in volume two of the Mueller report, it`s not just about his contacts with the Russians in volume on, it`s about the dangling of that pardon to him, right, in volume two that is described as one of the potentially criminally obstructive acts by the president. 

Well, if the president is now going to grant Flynn the pardon, that means the obstruction investigation, the investigation, the president potentially being implicated in that, trying to affect Flynn`s cooperation, trying to affect what he might say to investigators, trying to interfere with any investigation that Flynn might otherwise be helping with.  I mean, that makes the obstruction issue live once again. 

At today`s open hearing in the House Intelligence Committee on the counterintelligence implications of Mueller`s report, there was further light shed on the counterintelligence implications of what Michael Flynn got in trouble for in the first place. 


REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX):  Michael Flynn used secret back channel discussions with the Russian ambassador to in effect undermine the Obama administration`s ongoing foreign policy.  So my question is, what counter intelligence concerns arise from this type of back channel coordination between an incoming presidential administration and a foreign adversary. 

ANDERSON:  When it comes to back channel communications on political or national security issues or views from the White House, one of the things that Russia and other significant nation states, intelligence organizations tried to have that created.  And the reason they will do is they try to get the current administration, whether it`s the one currently in there now or whenever, having their public face confuse with what either the State Department is saying or people saying stuff through a back channel.  This is absolutely the exact same thing that was going on with the Maria Butina case, which I was the expert for for the Department of Justice four weeks ago in sentencing. 

And they will do it at different levels.  The key here is Russia wants to get the administration, whatever administration that is, off balance.  What their real political views are and potential back channels. 


MADDOW:  Trying to get things off balance.  That`s just what Justice Department counterintelligence chief David Laufman told us a moment ago live here on the show, that`s what a former FBI official told the Intelligence Committee as you saw there today. 

As the president today tells ABC News that he would welcome anything he could get from a foreign country to help him in an election. 

I mean, the back channel secret communications Mike Flynn had with the Russians during the presidential transition, that`s the kind of stuff Russia uses to keep adversaries off balance.  And then Flynn lied about those contacts and Donald Trump fired the FBI director who wouldn`t shut down the investigation into Flynn, and then Trump`s lawyer seemed worried enough what Flynn might tell prosecutors he appeared to dangle a pardon for Flynn depending on how Flynn was going to talk to prosecutors about the president and now Flynn has hired somebody as his new lawyer who makes a living off of demonizing Robert Mueller and calling the whole thing a witch hunt. 

Whatever has been going on with Mike Flynn is not over it appears to still be red hot.  Watch this space. 



TRUMP:  This is somebody that said we have information on your opponent.  Oh, let me call the FBI.  Give me a break.  Life doesn`t work that way. 


MADDOW:  We`re still gathering reaction and perspective tonight to the president telling ABC News that is yes, he would appreciate a foreign government helping him out in his next campaign and no, he would not necessarily alert the FBI. 

We`ve just had reaction from the man right now leading in all the polls in the Democratic presidential primary, former Vice President Joe Biden responding to tonight with this.  Quote: President Trump is once again welcoming foreign interference in our elections.  This isn`t about politics.  It`s a threat to our national security and an American president not should seek to aid and abet those who seek to undermine democracy.

Joining us now is Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney of New York.  He`s a member of the House Intelligence Committee. 

Sir, I know this has been a busy day.  Thanks for being here tonight. 


MADDOW:  Let me just ask your reaction to those words tonight from the president, that we were not planning on covering this at all.  We had a whole different show planned and then the president came out with that and it stopped everybody in their tracks. 

MALONEY:  Right.  It`s as if he rejects the standard.  It`s as though Richard Nixon said so what if I organize the cover-up of the break-in of the Watergate hotel, everybody does that. 

In other words, at least Richard Nixon when caught in the lie bought into the basic standards of right and wrong.  He knew we had him and he had to give in.  Trump rejects standards.  That`s very pernicious. 

And what he`s doing in that interview is really threatening the very institutions at their core because they`re rooted fundamentally on shared values. 

MADDOW:  If the president goes through with what he was promising to do today.  If the president openly solicited or surreptitiously solicits and gets found out later on he is actually working with a foreign government of some stripe to try to obtain information that he can use against his opponents or some other form of advantage that he can get in the election, how do you think the Congress would react?  How do you think law enforcement would react?  What should the country do if something like that is revealed for 2020? 

MALONEY:  Well, we don`t need to guess.  He`s already done.  And we`ve got 200 pages in volume one in the Mueller report that details it. 

So, unfortunately, we live in a time where because he rejects the standards, because the Republican Party in Washington is bankrupt morally on this issue, he`s getting away with it, to a degree.  I do think Congress is not powerless and we could for example, have mandatory disclosure of contacts with foreign nationals or with entities that could be linked to foreign governments.  We could require campaigns to do the right thing.  We shouldn`t have to.  But we could do that. 

But the fact is that the American people will get the final word here.  We need to hold him accountable at the polls and everywhere else. 

MADDOW:  In terms of the president`s directive tonight that the FBI director is wrong to suggest that campaigns should contact the FBI if they get an overture like this from a foreign country, would you expect as a member of the intelligence committee and as a member of Congress, would you expect the FBI to have to rebut that from the president? 

MALONEY:  Well, you know, in the hearing I participated today in the intelligence committee, the Republican witness was asked that question by my colleague Mike Quigley and I followed up on it, and the Republican said I would expect them to tell the FBI.  Their own witness said it. 

The fact is that only Donald Trump thinks it`s a good idea to keep from your own government the fact that a foreign government may be trying to undermine our election.  Again, he`s rejecting a standard that shouldn`t be in question and we all need to stand up for what`s obvious and what`s right. 

MADDOW:  Congressman, there`s one other matter I wanted to ask you about briefly in the minutes that we got left.  You`re on the Transportation Committee, as well.  We`ve been covering the sort of snowballing series of corruption allegations against Elaine Chao, who`s the secretary of transportation.  It`s a sensitive matter because she`s a cabinet minister, but also because she`s married to the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. 

I wanted to know if you know of any plans for the Transportation Committee to hold hearings on any of those allegations, if there`s anything else happening from an oversight perspective on those things? 

MALONEY:  Well, I`m glad you ask me that.  I chair the Marine Transportation Subcommittee.  My committee has jurisdiction over the issues raised by "The New York Times." and more broadly, the larger committee has jurisdiction over the issues raised in the "Politico" story and you better believe it. 

So, the chairman has given me the green light to proceed with an inquiry on this subject.  We intend to get the facts about what happened.  And we`re not going to prejudge it.  We`re going to be fair. 

But there are serious allegations that the secretary of transportation has used her position to benefit her family`s business, that`s the first story.  And to help her husband, that`s the second story. 

That`s wrong.  It`s not politics as usual.  It`s nepotism.  And the public deserves to know what the truth is. 

MADDOW:  Congressman Sean Maloney, member of the Intelligence and Transportation Committee making news here with that pronouncement.  Sir, thank you very much.  We`ll follow up with you on that in coming days.  I really appreciate you helping us understand that tonight. 

MALONEY:  Thank you very much.

MADDOW:  All right.  That does it for us tonight.  We will see you again tomorrow. 


Good evening, Lawrence, on this busy night.

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