DANIEL WEINER, SENIOR COUNSEL, BRENNAN CENTER DEMOCRACY PROGRAM: You know, what I worry about where you asked before, though, is again, what`s going to be -- what are we going to be left with when Donald Trump is not in the political scene anymore?
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Yes.
WEINER: And that -- this is a model for campaigns that could persist long after he`s gone.
HAYES: Michelle Lee (ph) and Daniel Weiner, thank you so much for sharing your time.
That is ALL IN for this evening.
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: It`s OK, Chris.
HAYES: You know I did that, because I call him Weiner, I didn`t know if he was Winer or Wiener, I said Weiner. That was all in my head about whether -- anyway.
MADDOW: That`s going to be on your mind all night, my friend.
HAYES: Follow me on my commute home. I should probably just e-mail on what his name is --
MADDOW: You can call me anything you want.
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you here.
And, you know, this is one of those days. I have to tell you, actually, it`s getting to be a little bit nuts. This time last night, we were working on the story of the Trump administration having nominated someone to be secretary of defense, despite the fact that that nominee was trying to keep secret a bloody and terrible domestic violence situation in his family, one that was known to police. It was starting to be investigated by the FBI, but that nominee was hoping he would be able to keep it secret anyway and maybe it wouldn`t come out and he would be able to be the secretary of defense and nobody would know, right?
It is amazing enough that the White House had been reckless enough to put somebody who was in that compromised position at the Pentagon at all as acting defense secretary for six months, let alone they nominated him to try to confirm him for the position on a permanent basis. I mean, it`s -- whatever you think about the circumstances of what happened in his family, the fact that he was trying to keep it secret, I mean, that`s the danger, right? That`s the potential liability to black mail or somebody trying to leverage that secret against him while he`s running the Defense Department.
It emerged after "USA Today" and "The Washington Post" broke that story yesterday and Patrick Shanahan withdrew his nominations for -- to be defense secretary. It emerged that U.S. senators on the Armed Services Committee were especially aggrieved that they had never been notified about that very serious situation in Shanahan`s background that he was trying to keep under wraps. Senators were angry because Shanahan had gone through the Senate confirmation process actually for a lower level job at the Defense Department in 2017.
As part of that confirmation process, the administration should have turned over vetting materials and background check information that provided senators with that kind of information about that nominee before they held his confirmation hearings and voted on him. So, in the Patrick Shanahan baseball bat beating grim history involving his wife and his son and his own involvement after the fact in trying to manage the consequences of that crime.
I mean, when that all came out yesterday, senators were mad that they were learning about that like all the rest of us were for the first time in the pages of the "Washington Post." They were mad because they had just gone through Senate confirmation with that guy as the nominee the previous year. And none of that stuff had been flagged for them.
So, that`s what we were working through in terms of the news this time last night. That was just yesterday. Well, now I see your acting secretary of defense vetting disaster conflagration and I raise you Vice President Pence`s national security adviser.
OK, this is Maria Butina. See the red-haired woman asking a question reading off her notes? That`s Maria Butina. This is a conservative confab that happened in Las Vegas in the summer of 2015.
The very first time any presidential candidate running in the 2016 election weighed in on the issue of Russian sanctions. It was when this red-haired woman, Maria Butina, walked up to a microphone at the audience Q&A thing with then-candidate Donald Trump and she asked candidate Donald Trump about sanctions on Russia. And Trump responded with this long soliloquy about how he liked Vladimir Putin very much and didn`t think he would need the sanctions and, no, he was against sanctions on Russia. He`d get rid of them.
And so, that was July 2015, very early on in the 2016 race. And, of course, overtime, the odd dynamic between Trump and Putin and Trump and Russia and the Trump campaign`s secret discussions with Russia about dropping sanctions on them, I mean, that would all end up becoming a huge deal, right? It became such a big deal. We still haven`t sorted it all out. We are still not over it.
But the very first time, the whole idea of Russia sanctions came up in the campaign for any candidate, it was through that question at that conservative confab in Las Vegas in July 2015, a question from the floor for candidate Trump that elicits the statement from him, I am against the U.S. government having sanctions on Russia.
And it turns out that woman who asked that question who injected the whole Russia sanctions thing in the campaign in the first place, it turns out she would later be indicted as a secret foreign agent running an influence operation in this country on behalf of the Russian Federation. The Maria Butina story is just nuts, right? I mean, when she was ultimately arrested and indicted and put in jail, she was described by prosecutors as a secret agent, basically, working on behalf of the Russian government, regularly reporting home to her Kremlin handler about how things were going and her efforts to make contacts and meet influential people inside the Republican Party, particularly through conservative organizations like the NRA.
But in the charging documents in her case, in an FBI affidavit filed with the court, the government also described a different person who was involved in the scheme. The person named by prosecutors as U.S. person one. If you piece it together through various documents and reporting, U.S. person one in the Butina case appears to be her American boyfriend, who according to the government, worked closely with her throughout the duration of her influence operation to try to influence the Republican Party in a way that would, quote, advance the interests of the Russian Federation.
There also has been a ton of public-facing report about Maria Butina and her American boyfriend, including this seminal "New York Times" piece that broke the news that Paul Erickson, the boyfriend, had during the campaign in 2016, he had sent to the Trump campaign an e-mail that literally had the subject line, Kremlin connection. He was offering in that e-mail to set up a connection to Donald Trump with an emissary from Vladimir Putin`s office. He said he could set Donald Trump up in a meeting with somebody who set an emissary from Putin, and you can do it at an upcoming NRA event.
So, today, Maria Butina is still in jail. She pled guilty. It`s expected she will be deported back to Russia as soon as she finally gets released from prison.
Her boyfriend, U.S. person one in Butina case, according to prosecutors, he helped her throughout with her illegal influence operation that she was running here on behalf of the Russian government. He has meanwhile been indicted himself on financial fraud charges in his home state of South Dakota. He`s facing several charges there. He`s pled not guilty. He is awaiting trail.
But the saga of those two, right? The story of these two even before their indictments, it`s been like the made-for-TV Technicolor spy movie dramatic subplot in this whole scandal and the whole investigation and all of it, right? I mean, all of this stuff around the Russia scandal is interesting to a certain degree. It`s incredible, right, that we are looking at Russian influence in a U.S. election, and potential leverage over the campaign and the candidate. I mean, it`s all pretty cinematic, pretty cinematic.
But when it comes to Maria Butina and Paul Erickson, her American boyfriend, I mean, that`s the stuff that definitely makes like the trailer for the movie, right? What are all these Russians doing with the NRA? And why did all those NRA people end up in Moscow at the same time Mike Flynn was there doing that gala dinner celebrating the Russian propaganda TV channel where he sat down with Vladimir Putin and is that Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate there, too? What?
I mean, Maria Butina sends a message to her Kremlin handler the night that Trump gets elected. She says, I am ready for further orders. Then she immediately sends word to her handler that she has heard that a specific person is going to be nominated by Trump to be secretary of state and she sends word of who that person is because she tells her handler, basically, our people in Russia should have a heads up about that choice, the Russian government`s opinion on that choice will be taken into consideration. So, please, you know, circulate the name and let me know what I should tell people here about it.
I mean, this is crazy stuff. The Russian government being consulted on who Trump is going to pick as secretary of state? What?
I mean, the Butina and Erickson stuff is the most sparky, most lurid and therefore I think some of the most heavily covered part of this -- the whole scandal.
Well, Josh Rogin at "The Washington Post" reports tonight that Maria Butina also turned up at the wedding of Mike Pence`s national security adviser. What? Yes, this was June 2017.
Mike Pence`s national security adviser, a woman named Andrea Thompson, she got married that summer of 2017, first summer of the Trump administration, right? She`s got that awesome new job. She`s getting married and Maria Butina was at the wedding.
And why was Maria Butina at that wedding? Because U.S. person one, her boyfriend, Paul Erickson, he was officiating the wedding. Oh.
It also turns out that the man who Mike Pence`s national security adviser, the man who Andrea Thompson was marrying at their wedding that day, he had recently given Paul Erickson $100,000.
Now, just a quick looky-loo at the timeline here, right? Trump administration comes into office the beginning of 2017. The summer of 2017, Vice President Mike Pence`s national security adviser gets married and her wedding is officiated by Maria Butina`s boyfriend.
By the end of 2017, there is news reports about Maria Butina and her boyfriend, including her boyfriend offering to be the Kremlin connection setting up secret back channel meetings for Trump with people from Putin`s office. I mean, this news is like the front page of "The New York Times" in December 2017. December 2017, that`s the front page of "The Times".
Thereafter, in the spring of 2018, Mike Pence`s national security adviser gets put up for a big new job. And so, the Senate holds confirmation hearings to decide whether Andrea Thompson will become the new U.S. under secretary of state for arms control and international security affairs. She goes through that whole confirmation process in the spring of 2018, knowing that her new husband had given $100,000 to Maria Butina`s boyfriend and Maria Butina`s boyfriend officiated their wedding.
And he had since been named as one of the people secretly trying to set up the back channels between Putin and Trump that by then were widely understood, widely known to be the subject of a major FBI inquiry, the special counsel`s investigation, and a whole country having its hair on fire over what happened between Trump and Russia during the campaign, and what were guys like Maria Butina`s boyfriend doing during the campaign, offering to set up all these secret back channels to the Kremlin? Why would a campaign need that?
She knew all of that when she was put up for this top job at the Department of State, going up for Senate confirmation. But, apparently, none of it came up. Did not mention it.
None of the senators who voted on her confirmation had any idea of any of that because she didn`t say and nobody told them. Well, you do want to know what the job she was up for is really like? What you have to do on a day to day basis if you in fact are Senate confirmed, as she was, to be under secretary of state for arms control and international security affairs? You want to know what that job actually is? What you actually do when you have that job?
You negotiate with Russia. You negotiate with the Russians on arms control treaties. That`s your job.
So, Josh Rogin spoke with a senior Trump administration official in response to this scoop today. That senior administration official told Mr. Rogin, quote, when the person who marries you gets into trouble with the Russians and your job is to negotiate with the Russians, you have to disclose that. Everybody within an intelligence clearance knows that.
But as Josh Rogin reports today at "The Post", not only did Andrea Thompson not report any of this when up for confirmation to be the top negotiator with Moscow. Not only did she not disclose it, she never disclosed it to anyone inside the government. According to three administration officials, quote, Thompson never disclosed these ties to her superiors until approached this week by this columnist.
So that`s what`s going on in the Trump administration tonight. I mean, we are trying to get our heads around new and unprecedented stuff from them all the time, but it is remarkable, right? We now in the space of 24 hours, we`ve got this twin revelations that the guy who they had working as acting defense secretary for the last six months, he the whole time was sitting on an incredibly potent disturbing family secret that he was trying desperately to keep anyone from knowing about while he was running the Pentagon. That is a national security intelligence risk in terms of his vulnerability to blackmail and leverage. That is almost impossible to overstate.
Now, tonight, you can add to that the chief high ranking official negotiating on arms issues with Russia had a really big Russia-related secret that she had been sitting on as well, not disclosing it to her superiors, not disclosing it apparently to the FBI for her background checks or her clearances. She can surmise that because it was not disclosed apparently to the Senate when they voted to confirm her to this post more than a year ago.
I mean, that`s like -- this is like a plot you would invent in a shiny cover airport novels -- airport spy novel, right? I mean, high level U.S. government negotiator secretly linked to Russia`s undercover agent. Russia knows it. But the American public doesn`t. What can Russia do with the information now they have the top official over a barrel as they head into arms negotiations and they know that she knows? I mean, it`s just insane.
And that news breaking tonight as Russian military intelligence is being called out internationally for this catastrophe which happened five years ago next month. If you think back to the summer of 2014, you will remember this. This was the shoot down of MH-17, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
This was not the plane that disappeared. This was the commercial airliner full of civilians that was shot out of the sky. Two hundred ninety-eight souls aboard, most of them Dutch citizens. The flight originated in Amsterdam, was heading to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia.
As that plane was flying over Ukraine, over eastern Ukraine where Russia was waging basically an undeclared war at the time, that passenger plane was hit with a sophisticated military anti-aircraft missile. Everybody on board was killed, 298 people killed. Their bodies and debris from the crash strewn over a large area of rural eastern Ukraine.
Investigators from the Netherlands and from Malaysia and from Ukraine, also from Australia and Belgium who also had their citizens on board, they formed an international group to jointly investigate this and have diligently and aggressively investigated the circumstances of that crash, right? How could it be that 300 civilians could be shot out of the sky on a well-marked commercial plane, on a civilian passenger airliner, on a normal. not off track flight?
What they determined over the course of this five years of investigating is that the plane was definitely shot down by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile. They figured out where it was fired from. They figured out which Russian anti-aircraft missile brigade it to be traced to. That kind of missile is shot from a big bulky unmistakable anti-aircraft system that is not a little thing. It`s not a thing that you cover up in the back of the truck. You can`t move it in a subtle way.
As Andrew Kramer reports for "The New York Times" today, quote: Western analysts have said it was improbable that anyone other than a senior Russian military commander if not President Putin himself could have ordered the bulky anti-aircraft system mounted on a tracked vehicle to be deployed across an international border.
Well, today, the Dutch-led international investigative team announced charges -- criminal charges against four suspects in these 298 murders. The suspects announced today, charged today, include a colonel from the FSB, the Russian spy service, and two officers from the GRU, the same military intelligence agency that ran the Russian attack on our 2016 election, the same military intelligence agency that`s alleged to have carried out the nerve agent poisoning of a Russian dissident and his daughter in Salisbury in the U.K.
Russia, of course, still denies having anything to do with the shoot down of MH-17. But in addition to these charges announced today, the international prosecutors also named and implicated a senior aide to Putin himself for having been involved at the highest level in organizing the transfer of military equipment that made the shoot down possible. And so, Russia doesn`t want to admit it. They do not want to have to answer for this and I think their denials are good enough.
But this has been, I`m sure, an emotional day for the families of the victims of that disaster five years ago. It is astonishing that Russia is still denying all responsibility for it. But now, these guys are going to get charged and I`m sure Russia will not extradite them. And so, they will be charged in absentia when their trial starts in the spring.
Prosecutors, though, they do say they`re going to seek international arrest warrants and they say they`re looking for still more witnesses to potentially charge more people. That happens today, also today.
And because the news gods have basically been humming the same theme all day, this afternoon, we also got word about a newly reported U.S. federal criminal investigation involving a major international bank that has been implicated in billions of dollars in Russian money laundering. It`s a bank called Deutsche Bank that has also come under scrutiny by law enforcement and congressional investigators not only for that Russian money laundering problem they are on the hook for. They`ve also come under scrutiny for the bank`s somewhat inexplicable, long financial history with President Trump and his businesses.
Just yesterday, the president`s lawyers filed this lengthy argument in the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals trying to block Deutsche Bank from handing over records related to Trump and his businesses, records that have been subpoenaed by congressional committees. One federal judge has already ordered that those subpoenas are valid and Deutsche Bank has to comply with them. Trump and his lawyers are trying to get this appeals court now to stop that ruling, to block that subpoena, to stop Deutsche Bank from handing over his records.
But now, David Enrich, Ben Protess and William Rashbaum at "The New York Times" report that what started as a Russian money laundering investigation at Deutsche Bank has been an investigation into something very specific and related to high ranking White House officials. It is become an investigation into whether Deutsche Bank broke money laundering laws or committed other crimes in their handling of what are called suspicious activity reports, quote, that its employees prepared about possibly problematic transactions include being some linked to President Trump`s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.
Both the Kushner family real estate business and the president and the president`s businesses have been deeply involved in financing deals with Deutsche Bank. "The Time" had previously spoken with whistleblowers who alleged that Deutsche Bank employees had flagged transactions involving the Kushner family business and also Trump business entities, had flagged them as potentially suspicious transactions, but higher ups at Deutsche Bank had sat on those reports and not submitted them to the government for investigation.
Now, "The Times" reports that those whistleblowers have been contacted by the FBI and "The Times" reports there is an active criminal investigation underway involving the FBI, the Justice Department`s money laundering and asset recovery section, and the U.S. attorney`s office in both Manhattan and Brooklyn.
You will recall that the U.S. attorney`s office in Manhattan is the one that has already named the president as individual one in multiple campaign finance felonies to which the lawyer is now serving a prison sentence.
And all this news breaks on the day that Congress for the first time today took testimony from a Trump White House official on the issue of the Mueller investigation and Russian interference in the election. They had their first witness from the Trump White House.
Former Trump Organization employee, former White House communications director Hope Hicks testified behind closed doors to the Judiciary Committee today. She was there for seven hours. One of the members who questioned her joins us live, next.
MADDOW: The former White House communications director Hope Hicks spent seven hours with the Judiciary Committee today in the House, behind closed doors. The White House has made clear they will try to prevent any White House official from testifying about time working in the White House.
But in addition that, on the eve of Hicks` testimony, last night, we got this rocket from the White House claiming that Hope Hicks not only couldn`t testify about her time in the White House, but they were also giving her a cloak of invisibility covering her whole life, giving her absolute immunity so she doesn`t have to answer anything. The committee`s chairman wrote back to the White House, rejecting that voodoo out of hand.
But heading in today, nobody really knew how this would work. Nobody knew what would happen when Hope Hicks showed up. The testimony, as I said, was behind closed doors, so we can`t show that to you. We couldn`t see it for ourselves.
But members of the committee did talk to reporters today about how it was going and they sounded -- well, they sounded like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Were you satisfied with her response about hush money payments?
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): I think we will have to move towards a court proceedings to delve into those questions.
REPORTER: What about her knowledge of the campaign -- the knowledge on the campaign of hush money payments? Were you satisfied with what she said about them?
LEE: Well, since they are still questioning, I said I would just say that this is a building block and there are a lot of unanswered questions.
REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): I`m watching obstruction of justice in action. You have the White House asserting absolutely immunity, which is not a thing. It doesn`t exist. And you have to ask a question, what are they trying to hide from the American people.
REPORTER: So, they are preventing her from talking to anything?
LIEU: Anything related to her tenure in the White House, absolutely. Even something as simple as where was your office located? Objection. It`s ridiculous.
REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): It`s proceeding. The witness has been directed by the White House and the president not to answer questions. This is an ongoing effort, I think, by the president of the United States and the White House to prevent Congress from getting to the truth and getting the answers we deserve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now is Congressman David Cicilline, who you just saw there, from the great state of Rhode Island. He was on the committee. He was in the room for today`s interview with Hope Hicks. She is the first Trump White House official to be questioned by Congress since the release of the Mueller report.
Sir, I thank you for being here. Appreciate your time.
CICILLINE: My pleasure.
MADDOW: So, your frustration, I don`t know you that well, but I talked to you a few times, I feel like I can read your body language a little bit. And I felt like you were seething with frustration there.
MADDOW: Am I right to read that?
CICILLINE: You are right to read that. This is a very important witness to hear from. She was a member of the president`s inner circle. She was there when the president directed the outside individual, Corey Lewandowski, to directing the attorney general of the United States to order the special counsel to limit his investigation to future campaigns and not look at the current presidential campaign.
She was there when Don McGahn was directed by the president to fire the special counsel and then lie about it and prepare false documents to support that lie. She was there when Director Comey was fired.
So, she`s a very important witness. However, throughout her testimony today, she was directed by the White House counsel and the lawyers there for the president not to answer questions. They objected to any question that posed to Hope Hicks that had to do with anything she observed or did during the course of her employment in the White House, claiming absolute immunity which doesn`t exist.
This idea that you are immune from ever being asked anything about your service simply because you worked for the president doesn`t exist. They know that. A court rejected it.
This is an effort for the president to make sure that witnesses do not share valuable information to the committee to continue in this ongoing cover up to prevent the American people from knowing the full truth. This is all put before the committee. It`s on the record. The next step will be for the committee to go to court to compel the testimony of this witness and to kind of strike down this claim of absolute immunity.
We don`t have a king. No one has absolute immunity in this country. Everyone is subject to the law of the land and these witnesses will be ordered to testify.
MADDOW: If court proceedings are next, as you just says, as we saw Sheila Jackson Lee today, as we saw Chairman Nadler talked about today, what does that mean for Hope Hicks? Is this a lawsuit against her? Or is this a court order that she would be in personal legal jeopardy if she chose to defy it or chose to evade it in some way as a witness, as an individual?
We`re going to have Annie Donaldson, there`s going to be other witnesses that are going to be put in the same position by the White House. How much trouble can they get in when you start taking these matters to court?
CICILLINE: Well, the issue will be settled first in the litigation that we brought to enforce the subpoena against Don McGahn. If you remember, he made the claim with absolute immunity. In fact, he said he didn`t have to show up.
So, that will be litigated first. The court will then decide whether or not this doctrine which they have created is valid. We all expect that they will reject it and say there was no such thing.
That will apply to all the witnesses that claimed absolute immunity and require them to come back and provide testimony. If they don`t, then that will require separate action to compel them. But the first instance, I expect, will be Don McGahn. I think that will be the first litigation. That`s the witness that didn`t appear at all and claimed absolute immunity.
MADDOW: Is this going to be the kind of thing where there`s a legal fight that stretches beyond the amount of time that Donald Trump is president and we`re going to finally have this stuff resolved years down the road?
CICILLINE: No --
MADDOW: Or are these proceedings that you think are meaningfully going to work functionally to get testimony and soon?
CICILLINE: I think they absolutely are going to meaningfully work. I think the court will give expedited consideration to this. This is very clearly a tactic by the White House and by the president to delay and to impede and obstruct Congress from getting to the facts and continue to behave like somehow he is above the law. I think the court will respond quickly to this and render a decision that will allow the committee to continue to collect evidence and do our job.
MADDOW: Briefly, Congressman, I know that you and a number of other members today said that we should wait for the transcripts of what happened today with Hope Hicks, that the transcript will be released soon. Obviously, you are expressing the frustration and talking about next steps in terms of the question she wouldn`t answer. We know she did answer some things, including about her time on the campaign.
When do you expect we will get that transcript from you?
CICILLINE: The transcript should be available within 48 hours. So, in very short order.
MADDOW: Congressman David Cicilline from the great state of Rhode Island, Judiciary Committee member -- sir, thank you. Much appreciated.
CICILLINE: My pleasure.
MADDOW: All right. Actually, we got some breaking news coming up next on a story that we have been covering very closely on this show, a story on which we did a special report a couple of weeks ago. There is considerably important breaking news on that story tonight. We are going have that for you right after this break.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: It has been 21 days. Right now, the state of Missouri has just one abortion provider at Planned Parenthood at St. Louis. We have talking about how they are trying to shut down the clinic by threatening to yank their license, to stop them from providing abortions.
As of now, that last clinic, the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis is hanging on by a thread, and Missouri is close to becoming the first state in the country with zero access to legal abortion. The clinic`s fight to stay open has been tied up in court. The judge has given both sides until Friday, Friday of this week, to decide whether or not the clinic can stay open, whether women can still get a legal abortion in that whole state.
And as you know, access to abortion has been under attack in Republican- controlled states and in Missouri in particular, for the better part of a decade and in an accelerating way since President Trump got to put two nominees on the U.S. Supreme Court. But something specific changed in this fight 21 days ago. Every year, that Planned Parenthood clinic in Missouri has to renew their license with the state government. They have to show they are complying with all the health rules and regulations in the state of Missouri to be allowed to stay open and keep performing abortions. If they check all the boxes, if they follow all the rules there, they are supposed to get their license. It`s a pretty simple thing.
Well, this year when Planned Parenthood went to renew, there were no new laws they had to newly start following. There were no new rules or regulations that had been put on the books that they had to newly start following. It was the same set of working instructions as all the times before both in terms of laws and regulations.
But starting 21 days ago, the state told Planned Parenthood that now, in order to stay open, now, in order to keep their license, the state says that clinic must subject every woman who seeks abortion to a mandatory, medically unnecessary internal pelvic examination. I mean, doctors already administrator a pelvic exam right before an abortion. That is medically necessary. That is fine with them.
But when Planned Parenthood went to renew their license this year, the state told them they had to start doing this extra thing, another pelvic exam, an extra one. An extra internal vaginal examination that is mandatory, at least three days before the woman actually goes to get her abortion. She has to do this first, three days ahead of time.
She doesn`t want it. Doctors don`t want to do it. The state health director now says you have to do it.
The state is citing the same rules and regulations that have been on the books for years as the reason they were making Planned Parenthood start to do this to their patients. But the state had never interpreted any state laws or regulations in this way before. This is new.
For whatever reason, the state decided they would enforce laws a new way this year and put patients through this extra vaginal exam that they don`t need, that they didn`t have to get before. They said that now for the first time, Planned Parenthood has to start asking women to take their clothes off and submit to an intrusive vaginal inspection that they don`t need before they`re allowed to even start the process of getting an abortion three days later.
Either do that or the state said the clinic would be shut down. All abortion services will be shut down in that clinic. Missouri will no longer have any legal abortion provider.
And so, the doctors at that Planned Parenthood clinic facing this new ultimatum from the state, they said OK. They said they would start performing those extra, medically unnecessary pelvic exams. The patients don`t need them. Doctors don`t want to give them, but if they said no, if they refused, then the clinic would be closed, leaving the state of Missouri without a single abortion provider in the whole state.
That was the situation we discovered when we went to St. Louis a few weeks ago to talk to the staff and the doctors of that clinic, right after they had to start complying with this new interpretation of the law. They told us how traumatizing it was for their patients and honestly for the doctors too who had to administer these exams by orders of the state government.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAWANNA SHANNON, ST. LOUIS PLANNED PARENTHOOD DIRECTOR OF SURGICAL SERVICES: These women Thursday and on Monday were traumatized at the fact that they had to get undressed to get a pelvic exam to get an ultrasound.
TRMS PRODUCER: How do you explain that to a patient who is so traumatized?
SHANNON: Well, basically, we let them know that we do not agree and that the state of Missouri is requiring us to do this to them and they have every right to contact who they feel they need to contact to voice their opinions. But we make it very clear that this is not our doing. We do not want to violate your rights. We do want to make you do unnecessary, invasive procedures that we wouldn`t do at this moment.
And most women are quite disturbed at that, but they are pretty remarkable because they are actually apologizing to my doctors, saying, I`m sorry you have to do this to me. And that`s shameful.
DR. COLLEEN MCNICHOLAS, ST. LOUIS PLANNED PARENTHOOD REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH SERVICES: And really, it is just so inappropriate to subject somebody to a pelvic exam which includes putting your fingers and other instruments in the vagina when really that gives no medical information. It doesn`t do anything to help the patient or myself choose what is the best approach for their abortion care.
The state continues to put us in a position where we are choosing between what we know is medically and ethically appropriate and I would put avoiding unnecessary pelvic exams squarely in that box or making the choice to say, well, we can`t provide abortion care at all. And so, obviously, now, that`s an impossible choice for us, right? We either have to ask patients to subject themselves to a state-sanctioned essentially sexual assault or they can`t have an abortion here in Missouri.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The physicians from that clinic describing this as state- sanctioned sexual assault.
So, that all started 21 days ago in Missouri. State government enforcing the law in way they have never done before to force patients, force these women to withstand a medically unnecessary vaginal probe before they can get an abortion. For 21 days, the doctors of this clinic had to tell their patients to take off their clothes for no medical reason, newly mandated by the state.
For 21 days, they had to insert instruments into their patients` vaginas for no medical reason, duly mandated by the state. For 21 days, they performed what they considered to be state-sanctioned sexual assaults on their patients, newly mandated by the state. For 21 days, the doctors put up with it.
Well, tonight, the doctors say enough is enough. Quote: Planned Parenthood of St. Louis, Missouri`s last remaining abortion clinic, says it will no longer conduct a second pelvic exam that state regulators have recently mandated. Planned Parenthood doctors say the examination is unethical and they stand by the decision even as it moves the clinic one step closer toward losing its license.
CBS News was first to report this tonight. I should tell you, there was some confusion in the first version of the story. CBS initially reported that the Planned Parenthood was defying a state regulation by refusing to administer this second unnecessary pelvic exam. They since corrected that part of the story, but that is not what`s happening here.
The state government moved the goal post this year, right? The state government changed the rules of the game and reinterpreted existing laws and regulations as a new way to force Planned Parenthood to perform this invasive, unnecessary procedure on women who want an abortion. A lot of people have I think guessed or surmised that the state was trying to bully the doctors by making them do this to their patients, that they were trying to get the doctors themselves to throw up their hands and say, no, shut us down.
The Planned Parenthood is not rejecting anything in state law in Missouri. They are not defying the law. They are not defying regulations. They are rejecting the state`s brand-new reading, brand new interpretation of the law which is what is making them force women to take off their clothes, put their feet in stir ups and get a pelvic, invasive exam that they don`t need as the cost of asking for an abortion in Missouri.
Planned Parenthood, as of tonight, says enough. We have been doing this for 21 days and we are not going to do it anymore.
The medical director of that clinic joins us next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Joining us now is Dr. David Eisenberg. He`s the medical director at the St. Louis Planned Parenthood clinic that is the last abortion provider standing in Missouri.
Dr. Eisenberg, thank you so much for being here. I know this is a stressful and busy time for you.
DR. DAVID EISENBERG, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, ST. LOUIS PLANNED PARENTHOOD: It is and I really appreciate the opportunity and for you to tell our story so well in the national media and explain what`s been happening for women in Missouri.
MADDOW: Well, thank you for saying that. I wanted to start off by giving you the opportunity to correct me if I have been getting any of this wrong. Honestly, some of this really feels like dystopian fiction, so I would be delighted if I have any of this wrong. But basically the way we`ve been telling the story is accurate as you understand it?
EISENBERG: It is perfectly accurate. As a physician who`s been the one taking care of women in the state of Missouri for the last three weeks at the our Planned Parenthood and health center forced to do things that seem unthinkable, as you said, dystopian. It has been a difficult reality for me and my patients.
And, you know, we do everything we can to provide the highest quality patient-centered care that Planned Parenthood has been known for for over 100 years. We take that really seriously. And the idea that we`ve been having to put women through something that`s totally unnecessary, uncomfortable, inhumane, just because the state has reinterpreted the rules, just doesn`t seem fair.
Abortion care is health care. And we don`t ask to be treated differently, we ask to be treated the same as every other health care provider. And the patients who come to us for care don`t want to be kicked around like a political football by Governor Parson or Department of Health here in Missouri.
MADDOW: When the state decided to newly interpret regulations and state laws to require you to do this new exam that you didn`t have to do before, the one that you`ve just described in those vivid terms, did they warn you they were making this change in interpretation? Did they tell you why they were doing it? Did they give you any indication as to what they think this is for?
EISENBERG: You know, I honestly don`t have a good explanation for why. There`s no medical or legal justification. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, which I`m a member of, the American College of Physicians, all support the idea that having a pelvic exam is an invasive and uncomfortable experience for patients, but it`s justified when there`s a medical need for it.
If a patient`s having a Pap test to screen for cervical cancer, STD testing, for instance, or just before a surgical abortion procedure so I can understand her pelvic anatomy before I perform her abortion. Abortion care is health care. A patient who`s about to have a colonoscopy has a rectal exam done by their physician just before the colonoscopy, but not three days in advance.
MADDOW: Dr. Eisenberg, I know that you and your colleagues have made a remarkable decision as of today that you are going to stop going along with what the state government of Missouri has been making you do for the past three weeks. If you could stay with us for another few minutes, I`d love to talk to you in detail about how you arrived at that decision and what you think will happen as a consequence.
Can you stay with us?
EISENBERG: I can.
MADDOW: Great. Dr. David Eisenberg, who is the medical director at reproductive health services of Planned Parenthood in St. Louis, Missouri, he and his colleagues have decided to stop complying with what the state has been making them do for the past 21 days. We`ve been covering the story extensively. We`re going to hear the story about that decision by he and his colleagues when we come back.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: CBS News was first to report tonight that the doctors at the last Planned Parenthood clinic, the last abortion provider in the state of Missouri, who have recently been ordered by that state to provide basically punitive, medically unnecessary pelvic exams to their patients as a new requirement for getting an abortion in that state, CBS was first to report tonight that that clinic, the physicians at that clinic, have decided to stop complying with that order, that new order, from the state government.
Joining us again is Dr. David Eisenberg. He`s medical director at the St. Louis Planned Parenthood clinic that just made this decision.
Dr. Eisenberg, can you just tell us about you and your colleagues and how you arrived at this decision tonight, and what you think the consequences will be as you fight to keep your clinic open?
EISENBERG: So this is not the first time that the state has redefined already existing rules around abortion care to try to limit access to abortion care in Missouri. Last year, they forced us to start doing pelvic exams for women choosing pill abortions in Missouri. Most women who choose pill abortions all over the country don`t have to take their pants off. We can determine if they`re an appropriate candidate for a pill abortion with an ultrasound on their abdomen, on their lower tummy, you know?
And the fact is, they might have to unbutton the top of their high-waisted jeans, but that`s really as invasive as it gets. They get to administer medications, then pass the pregnancy at home. It`s a very common process.
We were forced last year to make an impossible decision as to whether we choose to do pelvic exams for women wanting a pill abortion knowing there`s no medical utility when the state redefined that their interpretation. And we said, you know, it`s not going to compromise access because we have a health center in Illinois where women can get a pill abortion the same day without a three-day waiting period.
And our physicians said, we`re not going to do those pelvic exams for those women because they can get that care elsewhere. This year, despite all that conversation, and the fact that the state watched me do pelvic exams prior to the procedure, on the procedure day, when it`s medically appropriate, they said, this year , we`re going to reinterpret the rules again and say, you know what, you`ve got to do a pelvic exam as part of that informed consent.
I don`t have an explanation for why. But what I can tell you is I work with some of the most highly trained, highly qualified, and compassionate health care providers, physicians, nurses, medical assistants, front desk staff, who work as a team to ensure the best quality of care for our patients. That`s patient centered and that respects our patients` values.
And for the last three weeks, we felt like we had to make an impossible choice between ensuring access to care and compromising my medical ethics. And I`ve been the one to do it. I`ve said to patients, I am sorry, more times than I can count the last three weeks.
And I have to say, I`m tired of doing that. I cannot justify the harm that is being inflicted on my patients for the last three weeks just so they can get one of the safest types of medical care provided anywhere in this country. The fact that Missouri is holding women`s access to care hostage and threatening the last bit of abortion access we have left in this state at my health center, I think it`s time for us to stand up and fight back.
MADDOW: Dr. David Eisenberg, medical director of reproductive health services at Planned Parenthood in St. Louis, Missouri, I know you have an important court date this week as you fight to keep this clinic open, as you wrestle with these ethical issue and the position the state has put you in, please keep us apprised.
EISENBERG: We`ll do the best we can and we`re going to be here to take care of patients not matter what.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: That does it for our show tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
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