CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: I think he`s handed the Democratic nominee an enormous weapon in 2020. We`ll see if they use it.
Emily Atkin and Tyson Slocum, thank you both.
That is ALL IN for this evening.
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now with Joy Reid, in for Rachel.
Good evening, Joy.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you very much. Have a great rest of the night.
HAYES: You bet.
REID: All right. Well, thanks to you all for joining us this hour. Rachel does have the night off, but she will be back tomorrow.
But I want to start with the story of Courtney Wild. Here`s her picture. She was 14 years old at the time that it was taken living in Florida. She was in middle school. She was captain of the cheerleading squad and played the trumpet.
She got good grades, she had braces and when she was 14 years old, Courtney was introduced to a man named Jeffrey Epstein. Jeffrey
Epstein is a well-connected, incredibly wealthy multimillionaire. He surrounded himself with powerful high profile people. His private airline has hosted high profile guests like former President Bill Clinton, Britain`s Prince Andrew and various celebrities. And Donald Trump has described him as a friend.
In 2005, Florida police started investigating Jeffrey Epstein, and what they turned up was horrifying. Investigators say they found that Jeffrey Epstein was essentially running a criminal operation to molest and at least in one case rape large numbers of girls, many of whom were underage. Jeffrey Epstein was in his 50s, many of his victims were children.
The FBI got involved and was able to identify dozens of girls who had been Epstein`s victims. Most of them were between 13 and 16 years old. Some people think there could be hundreds of other victims out there.
One of Jeffrey Epstein`s alleged victims was Courtney Wild who again was 14 when she met Epstein. She said he sexually abused her for years. Her story was identified by the FBI spelled out in the "Miami Herald`s" heroic reporting on the story. The FBI then used her account and dozen of others to prepare criminal against Jeffrey Epstein for being a serial child sex offender. The indictment the FBI wrote up, the one listing all of Jeffrey Epstein`s heinous crimes, it was 53 pages long, 53 pages of stories like Courtney Wild`s.
The indictment accused Epstein of recruiting underage girls for sex across state lines. Those are federal charges which could have sent Epstein to prison for the rest of his life. Instead, a federal prosecutor named Alex Acosta prevented Jeffrey Epstein from being charged with any federal crimes, and prevented federal charges against any potential accomplices of Epstein, too.
Today, that man, Alex Acosta, is in the president`s cabinet. He is Donald Trump`s labor secretary.
But back when that FBI investigation was going on, he was the U.S. attorney in southern Florida. Instead of changing Jeffrey Epstein with those 53 pages of child sex crimes, Alex Acosta made a deal with him. He allowed Epstein to enter into something called a non-prosecution agreement which gave him immunity from all federal charges. Instead, he plead guilty to two state charges for prostitution as if the girls like Courtney Wild were prostitutes and not children being victimized by an accused child molester, thanks to the very sweet deal that he got from Acosta. Epstein served just 13 months in a county jail. He got to leave jail during the day to work in his office.
Since then, Jeffrey Epstein has gone back to living off his millions, jet- setting all over the world. As for Alex Acosta, he agreed to do his special deal for Jeffrey Epstein in secret. Federal crime victims have the right to be told when there are plea negotiation going on, but Alex Acosta did not notify Jeffrey Epstein`s victims before he granted him that plea deal. Epstein`s lawyers asked Acosta to keep the deal a secret and Acosta agreed.
And so, Courtney Wild, one of Epstein`s victim who was kept in the dark about that deal, she sued the government, alleging that Alex Acosta and his team of prosecutors broke the law by keeping secret from her and all the other victims the fact that they gave Epstein this non-prosecution deal. She filed that naught 11 years ago. It dragged on for over a decade.
In the meantime, Courtney Wild bravely and courageously put her name on the record and told her story about Jeffrey Epstein to the "Miami Herald." Courtney wild did not give up, she did not drop her case after all that time. Eventually, earlier this year a federal judge agreed with her, ruling that the current secretary of labor, Alex Acosta, broke the law when he agreed to keep that deal with Jeffrey Epstein a secret from his victims.
And yet still, even then, there was no justice for Courtney Wild and her fellow victims. Alex Acosta stayed labor secretary. Jeffrey Epstein stayed free. Jeffrey Epstein could not be held accountable for his alleged crimes toward Courtney Wild and those dozens of other women like her with that non-prosecution agreement still on the books in Florida. In Florida.
Over the weekend, federal prosecutors in New York City busted down the door of Jeffrey Epstein`s Manhattan mansion and arrested him at the airport after he landed in his private jet fresh off a vacation in France. This morning, Jeffrey Epstein was arraigned in federal court on federal sex trafficking charges in the state of New York.
In this new indictment, prosecutors allege that between the years of 2002 and 2005, Epstein abused dozens of underage girls at his homes in Manhattan and in Palm Beach. The allegations are practically a mirror image of the allegations written up against Epstein more than a decade ago in Florida, the ones that were shelved by Alex Acosta.
They cover the same period, the same crimes -- kinds of lurid sex crimes against children, but they are new charges about different allegations from the last time that he was investigated in Florida. The ones covered by that non-prosecution agreement, which has been protecting Epstein from being charged there.
But that agreement not to prosecute him, that`s only valid in southern Florida where Acosta made the deal, which left the field wide open for prosecutors in New York to conduct an investigation of their own into Epstein`s conduct in New York, in their own backyard, which led to these brand-new charges today. And this time, prosecutors in New York do not think Epstein should be set free with just a slap on the wrist.
Under this new indictment, Epstein faces 45 years in prison. Now, he`s 66 years old, which means that if he`s found guilty in New York, Epstein could spend the rest of his natural life behind bars. And prosecutors seem to think they have enough evidence to put him there.
Today, investigators announced what they found when they busted through Epstein`s front door -- documents, notes, messages, including names and contact information for Epstein`s alleged victims, as well as call records confirming Epstein`s contact with them, with the victims. Prosecutors say that all that evidence is, quote, consistent with victim recollections. Further strengthening the evidence of the conduct charged in the indictment.
Prosecutors also say they found hundreds if not thousands of lewd photographs of young women and girls without their clothes on. Many of whom are believed to be underage. Some of those photos were discovered in a locked safe.
Prosecutors writing today, quote: The defendant is not reformed. He is not chastened. He is not repentant. Rather, he is a continuing danger to the community and an individual who faces devastating evidence supporting deeply serious charges.
That devastating evidence, prosecutors say that they have against Jeffrey Epstein, that must be relief to women like Courtney Wild, relief to the dozens maybe hundreds of Epstein`s victims just like her who lost their shot at justice the first time around because Alex Acosta took that shot away. But it`s potentially devastating news for the president`s labor secretary, too. Since Alex Acosta gave that sweetheart deal when he was U.S. attorney, he has defended his handling of the case. Now, he says without that deal, Epstein could have gotten zero jail time, zero registration as a sexual offender, and that there would have been zero restitution for the victims in this case.
He said that what he did was the best that he could get based on the evidence that he had. But with this new indictment, prosecutors in New York seem to directly contradict that assertion, because according to this new indictment, there is enough evidence documenting Epstein`s child sex crimes to put him in jail for the rest of his life. Alex Acosta, for whatever reason, did not see it that way.
Joining us now is Julie Brown, the "Miami Herald" investigative reporter whose in-depth reporting series on Jeffrey Epstein not only broke this story wide open last year and was credited for by prosecutors with assisting in the investigation. She was inside the court today.
Julie, thanks so much for being here.
JULIE K. BROWN, MIAMI HERALD INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Thanks for having me.
REID: First of all, thanks for being this reporting. For these young victims it had to be a relief to see at least what could be the beginnings of justice. Does it surprise you that the charges that are being brought against him today are so similar to the charges that he was given a sweet deal for before and how can that be explained to sort of the ordinary person out there?
BROWN: Well, he had an operation going. He had people who worked for him. He had a whole setup of recruiters all over in New York, in Florida, as far as we know this was probably going on in the U.S. Virgin Islands where he also had a home and in Europe.
And he had schedulers, such as like an organized crime organization operates with a boss at the top and you have the lieutenants and you have capos and you have soldiers. He had, you know, pilots and schedulers and recruiters and people who handled his money, you know, and paid the girls. People who, you know, valets who drove the girls back and forth. He had his schedule where, you know, two, three of them would come every single day.
So, it wouldn`t be surprising that -- since he had the same organization in place that that same kind of operation existed in New York as well as in Florida.
REID: And how -- how publicly known -- I mean, among the people who knew Jeffrey Epstein, was this something that was known? This was something that he was doing or was this a secret operation, where as you said the employees knew, but outside that group of people, no one knew?
BROWN: Well, there were people outside the operation that probably knew that what he was doing, whether they participated in it, just knew about it and looked the other way, we don`t know for sure.
BROWN: But there was certainly a number of people that had to know what he was doing because it was just too pervasive for them not to know.
REID: And how was it that the first time he was sentenced and he got this deal, I mean, the idea that he was even allowed to be out of jail on a sort of work release program and he was barely punished at all. And why -- and the girls were classified -- I mean, what he was convicted of was prostitution?
BROWN: Right. Right. Well, I think that they -- they treated these girls like they were prostitutes, even though they were underage. I think that`s one of the excuses they gave for not charging him with more serious crimes, because they accepted money, it was somehow, you know, their fault in their minds that, well, these girls, you know, they came from vulnerable families, broken homes. Some of them were really pretty much homeless.
And so they -- they didn`t take these girls seriously, which in hindsight they probably should have because a couple of them actually took them to court and have been fighting for this for ten years and they`ve been pretty persistent in fighting for justice.
REID: How well did Jeffrey Epstein know Donald Trump? When Donald Trump calls him a friend, is that an accurate reflection of their relationship?
BROWN: I think that they were friends. Yes, I don`t know if they still are. But he flew on Jeffrey`s plane. They were neighbors in Palm Beach. Jeffrey at one time belonged to Mar-a-Lago.
The rumor is that Trump actually kicked him out of Mar-a-Lago because he had hit on one of the member`s younger daughters. So, I don`t know how friendly they are any longer, but at one point, yes, they were in the same social circle.
REID: And have you been able to interview or talk to people who are in the U.S. attorney`s office with Alex Acosta that had any thoughts with the way he ended this case?
BROWN: Well, Jeff Sloman, his deputy, has been very vocal in his support of Mr. Acosta. He agrees that Alex Acosta did everything that he could, that he faced a lot of pushback by Epstein`s attorneys, that the -- you know, in their view, any way that the girls at the time were reluctant to, you know, go to trial because they were scared. You know, they were very young, 13, 14 years old.
BROWN: But he here`s what, you know, I always point out to people is that if this was such a good deal, if this was the right thing to do, why did you seal it and keep it secret?
BROWN: You know, I don`t understand why anybody hasn`t forced him to answer that question.
BROWN: They always say, well, you know, the girls didn`t want to cooperate. Oh, their stories were different. There were all these, you know, other reasons, but, OK, then why did you seal it and then make them fight for almost a year? The government fought them.
BROWN: Wouldn`t even give them the agreement.
So, you know, it`s -- it`s baffling that they could justify this by saying, you know, all these reasons, but in reality, the real reason is that they kept it from them.
REID: Yes, it would be nice to ask him those questions during his confirmation hearing. Maybe we could have gotten answer.
"Miami Herald" investigative reporter Julie Brown, thank you very much for your time. Congratulations on the wonderful reporting.
BROWN: Thank you.
REID: Thank you.
And while the charges against Jeffrey Epstein were welcomed news to anyone who cares about the welfare of children, something about those charges was particularly eye-catching. When Epstein was charged today with two counts related to sex trafficking of minors, prosecutors in the Southern District of New York announced the case is being handled by the office`s Public Corruption Unit. That`s unusual. Sex trafficking cases are normally run out of the -- not run out of the Public Corruption Unit, a fact which was seized upon by reporters at today`s press conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Why is it being handled by the Public Corruption Unit if it`s just sex trafficking charges at the moment?
GEOFFREY BERMAN, U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Well, I`m not getting into the staffing decisions at the U.S. attorney`s office. I will say that I have confidence that the Public Corruption Unit is able -- can ably handle this investigation prosecution as it has so many matters. I will, again, urge you not to read into the unit assignment anything one way or another.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Joining us now is Mimi Rocah, who supervised sex trafficking cases as a prosecutor in the Southern District of New York.
Mimi, thanks so much for being here.
MIMI ROCAH, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks for having me.
REID: Why is this case? It did seem interesting that this case is being handled out of the Public Corruption Unit. What is that -- what should we take from that?
ROCAH: It is unusual. I mean, look, the Public Corruption Unit handles cases that involve, just like it sounds, public officials, whether it be elected officials or it can be police officers, it can be anyone who holds some kind of position of public trust basically. And so, there are I think two different ways that that could be something that we see develop in this investigation. One is that we see somebody who is either a public official or an elected official who was involved in this sex trafficking scheme with Epstein, with which he is now charged. That is possible.
The other possibility is we know, as you just discussed at length with Julie Brown, that there was real mishandling at a minimum of the plea in Florida with Epstein. Does that -- that involves prosecutors --
ROCAH: -- and defense attorneys. Even attorneys can be considered public officials.
So, is that something now that the Southern District is looking at, sort of that piece of it of how and why did Epstein get that ridiculous slap on the wrist that really shocks anyone`s conscience? I think who understands how serious this case is. And that would be, you know, and it could be both of these.
ROCAH: It`s not one or the other. But those are the two ways that I see it possibly sort of involving public corruption.
REID: So meaning that, you know, the fact is that Alexander Acosta, he violated the law that said he should have given these victims notice. He did not do that. Are you saying that there is a possibility that that act is also being investigating?
ROCAH: Well, the lack of notice to the victims is one specific part of what I view as a just complete mishandling of the plea negotiation process. The judge sort of ruled that the lack of notice to the victims was a violation of federal law. But there were other things about it.
I mean, why he got this deal in the first place, why Alex Acosta when he was the U.S. attorney was having private meetings with the -- Epstein`s defense attorney off site by himself. I cannot tell you how improper and unusual that is. Just -- it smells really bad.
REID: It does. And it also raises the question of whether or not it is the power and the people that Jeffrey Epstein knows and, you know, is involved in.
REID: Could it be that he could try to cut another deal by saying there were other people who were involved in this, too? You just heard the reporter say there were other people involved. Could he be maybe trying to leverage what he knows about other people who are committing similar crimes?
ROCAH: Well, he certainly has a lot of incentive to try to cooperate. I will tell you this, though, from what I know of the Southern District of New York, which is a lot, they are not going to give him a pass. If he has valuable information to trade for a cooperation agreement, and it would have to be really valuable, I only know of two instances in my 16 years where someone charged with these kinds of crimes was even allowed to enter into a cooperation agreement and it was not without a lot of debate.
ROCAH: Because these kind of crimes, you don`t give that, you know, any kind of break. Most prosecutors would not do it. These are the kinds of crimes that make your blood boil.
ROCAH: If he had really valuable information, and it`s hard to imagine what that could be, but it`s possible, he would still have to plead guilty to everything and be facing a lot of time but then possibly his cooperation could give him some kind of benefit in that sentence. And that might be the only hope that he has because these charges seem very strong to me. When I read the Southern District`s bail letter, they`re talking like prosecutors who are very confident in their case and they don`t do that lightly.
REID: Yes, absolutely. The Southern District of New York standing up for justice. Let`s hope that these young girls get it.
Thank you very much. Really appreciate your time, Mimi Rocah.
Much more to get to tonight, including a development in the race for Democratic run for president that has us bringing back one of RACHEL MADDOW SHOW`s favorite special effects. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIEO CLIP)
RICK PERRY (R), THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I will tell you, it`s three agencies of government when I get there that are gone. Commerce, education, and the -- what`s the third one there? Let`s see.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need five.
PERRY: Oh, five. OK. So, Commerce, Education and the --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can`t name the third one?
PERRY: The third agency of government I would do away with, the Education, the -- Commerce, and let`s see. I can`t. The third one, I can`t. Sorry. Oops. .
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Oops. It might seem hard to believe now, but there was a point back in 2012 where Rick Perry was a front-runner for the Republican nomination for president of the United States. At one point, Perry held the lead in more than 15 straight national polls. That is until the oops moments started to pile up.
So, he took a second stab at it in 2016. The only problem, he was the same Rick Perry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Joining me now is former Texas governor, Rick Perry.
Governor, do you want to make news on the real story? Is Donald Trump right? Are you getting out of the race?
PERRY: You know, a broken clock is right twice a day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: A broken clock is right twice a day.
Rick Perry was the first candidate to drop out of the Republican presidential primary following the departure from the race. Rachel and team Maddow started a tradition on this show where by candidates got poofed when they called it quits. Rick Perry was the first candidate to get poofed. Ten days later, Rachel poofed Scott Walker.
Maddow land poofed our way through the Republican primary. Poof! Poof! Poof!
With Rachel out, I have the honor of poofing the first candidate in the 2020 Democratic primary. California Congressman Eric Swalwell today announced that he is ending his presidential campaign. Instead, he will focus on his re-election bid as he looks to serve a fifth term in Congress.
That means this massive Democratic primary field just got one person smaller. As a result, Congressman Eric Swalwell is going bye-bye from the big board. Three, two, one. Poof! There he goes.
Since last week, there have been three major changes in the 2020 race for president. The first we just show you. The field has been narrowed, at least for the time being.
The second is that Senator Elizabeth Warren turned in a massive fund- raising haul in the last quarter despite holding no fund-raisers. Senator Warren announced today that her campaign brought in more than $19 million over the past three months. That`s quite a bit more than the other candidate, making big polling moves this week and Kamala Harris who raised $12 million.
But perhaps more importantly it also puts Senator Warren ahead of Senator Bernie Sanders, the only other candidate to have spurned closed-door fund- raisers and corporate money. Warren brought in $1 million more than Sanders this quarter. In fact, she pulled in nearly as much money as former Vice President Joe Biden. And, again, she did it without holding any fund-raisers, instead, focusing on a small army of small donors.
The result is that she more than tripled her first quarter fund-raising total. That`s a big deal. Warren`s big haul comes amid a shifting power dynamic that produced the third big change this week. Former Vice President Joe Biden shifted gears and apologized for comments he made nearly two weeks ago about working with segregationists.
Here he was this weekend in South Carolina.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, was I wrong a few weeks ago? To somehow give the impression to people that I was praising those men who I successfully opposed time and again? Well, yes, I was and I regret it. And I`m sorry for any of the pain or misconception they may have caused anybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Senator Kamala Harris, who has called Biden`s record into question, had this to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that he is -- he is right to recognize the impact of his words, and I applaud him for doing that, having the courage to do it. There is still a point of disagreement between he and I, and that remains, but I applaud for him having the courage to at least, as it relates to his comments about segregationists, make the statement he made.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: So how does all of this change the race going forward?
Well, joining us is Karine Jean-Pierre, chief public affairs officer for moveon.org.
Karine, always great to talk to you.
And I want to start with Eric Swalwell. Let me play what Eric Swalwell said about getting out of the race. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): The polling wasn`t moving after the debates, and, you know, the donor number was going up but it was never going to reach the point where we could qualify -- you know, for the September debate is 130,000. And, you know, you know what, I`ll be honest, I welcome those thresholds. Just as someone who is putting everything into it, expecting your family and your staff and your volunteers to put everything into it, we didn`t want to just screw around here. We wanted to grow with the thresholds and if we didn`t, we were going to get out. So, those thresholds I think are fair and it`s the best way to narrow the field.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: So do you think, Karine, that we`re going to start to see more people catch the realistic bug and move out of the race?
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, CHIEF PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER, MOVEON.ORG: Can I just say poof, Joy? I have to say it.
JEAN-PIERRE: Poof. I`m here. I`m not disappearing.
So, a couple of things. So, with Eric Swalwell, look, there is not enough oxygen in the room, right? You have 20-plus candidates. Donald Trump takes about 90 percent of the media political time, the rest of the candidates have to divvy up the rest of that, 20-some-odd of them.
And, you know, after awhile if you can`t get on the news, if you can`t push out your agenda because there are so many other candidates, your money dries up, you don`t move up in the polls so it`s not surprising.
I mean, look, Swalwell, Eric Swalwell is 38 years old. He was able to put out his platform in front of 18 million people, which was the gun reform. So he got something out of it, right? He got himself in there for a little bit, and now he goes back and he runs a re-election.
But, look, as we get closer, as we get more and more debates under -- under people`s belts it`s going to be harder to get on those debates, right? The thresholds are going to change. As he was talking about, the third debate is going to be very difficult to get on. And we are going to see a kind of dwindling down of the race, of the candidates.
REID: And I wonder, you know, we`re going to talk money in a minute. There are two Coloradoans.
REID: You still have two Texans. Is there a certain point in just in terms of the donor base an attrition within the states? Because this is now one less Californian.
JEAN-PIERRE: Right. That`s an excellent point. You saw -- I think one of the things, one of the plays that Julian Castro was doing at the debate two weeks ago was he went after a Texan, after someone in his own state, which was Beto O`Rourke, and he went after him pretty hard.
And you could probably if you think about the strategy that Julian Castro was thinking about, it probably was, OK, let me get someone who is kind of in my space talking about immigration reform, from a big state like Texas that Julian Castro would need to do well in, especially with the Latino voters, as seems to be his play, so he went after Beto O`Rourke, which was a smart strategy.
JEAN-PIERRE: So, yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. Now you have one less Californian in the race and he doesn`t, you know, there`s no competition there for Kamala Harris, assuming that there was any real competition.
REID: Yes, absolutely. And Super Tuesday, California`s in it. Let`s talk about money.
JEAN-PIERRE: Super Tuesday.
REID: Yes, absolutely.
The big haul by Elizabeth Warren, big deal, right?
REID: That she was able to raise that much money without doing big-ticket fund-raisers.
JEAN-PIERRE: That -- I have to tell you, Elizabeth Warren is truly changing the game on all levels. Leaning in on her plans and talking about racial inequality as a white candidate in this race. It`s incredibly impressive, $19.1 million without big fund-raisers, with small donors. This is a grassroots operation that she`s running.
And the thing about it that is really amazing is that majority, virtually majority of her donors have not maxed out. So she gets to go back and get more money from them. And they`re not from the Upper East Side or the Upper West Side or Hollywood Hills. They`re from across the country. She is energizing this base, the base, which is what you need to be doing.
And so she is a -- she is, number one, a really direct competition to Bernie Sanders. But he will have enough money to continue. She is also -- she`s up there in the tier one as a real competitor with the fund-raising and the polling.
REID: Absolutely. Let`s talk about the guy who is number one, at least in the polls, Joe Biden. Do you think he`s turned the corner during the debate?
JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I`ll say this. Look, black voters understand one thing. They understand how dangerous Donald Trump is. They understand the hatred. They understand the bigotry, the outright racism. And, you know, that is not surprise why we see black voters, one of the number one things they care about is to get rid of Donald Trump, to beat Donald Trump in 2020.
And so, when the two things that Biden has to deal with after this debate was number one, he showed his vulnerability on race. Number two, he put that doubt in people`s mind, which was can he beat Donald Trump? And that`s a very dangerous doubt to put in people`s minds when you`re the front-runner and you`re running this electability, this kind of general election campaign.
And so, you saw that in the polls. You saw about an average of 6 points he was going down in polling. And who are his number one kind of community that`s lifting him up, propelling him to being a front-runner are African- American voters.
JEAN-PIERRE: So for him, it was really important that he apologize for praising segregationists. He needed to do that. It took three weeks. He took a lot of body blows and it was showing in the polls.
REID: Yes, absolutely. Definitely did take quite awhile. We shall see from here.
Karine Jean-Pierre --
REID: OK. Now I`m going to make you poof but in a loving way. Thank you very much for being on. Talk to you later. Poof.
Now we have a ton of show ahead. There is -- was one person whose diary of notes was cited almost 70 times in the Mueller report. Her testimony to congressional investigators and that is hot off the press and that is next.
REID: When former White House communications director Hope Hicks testified before the house judiciary committee, there was a smackdown between the committee and hicks` fleet of lawyers who blocked her from answering 155 questions, including super basic stuff like where was your office in the West Wing?
Her lawyer cited a concept called absolute immunity which, for the record, is not a real thing. One hundred fifty-five non-answers sounds bad, but Chairman Jerry Nadler had a strategy, namely that Hicks` stonewalling the committee gave them ammunition in any future court battle, specifically in getting Hicks and former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify.
Shortly thereafter, Nadler cut a deal with the other fact witness to go before Congress, Annie Donaldson, former chief of staff to Don McGahn. Donaldson was known for taking copious notes in the White House, notes cited 65 times in the Mueller report. Nadler agreed to allow Donaldson to submit written answers rather than appearing in person.
The theory goes, Hope Hicks stonewalling the judiciary committee gives them future ammunition for future court battles. The same thing goes if Annie Donaldson gives a bunch of "no comments" in her written responses.
Well, tonight, behold. Chairman Nadler has released Annie Donaldson`s written responses. It seems like they were singing from the same songbook. Now, we should say when asked where her office was in the West Wing, unlike Hope Hicks, Annie Donaldson answered, so we`ll give her that.
But Donaldson claimed, quote, constitutionally-based executive branch, confidentiality agreements 212 times.
She refused to answer whether her boss Don McGahn asked her to takes notes, and whether the president asked her not to.
The committee asked about the time that Donald Trump called McGahn and ordered him to get Jeff Sessions to unrecuse from the Mueller investigation. Annie Donaldson`s notes on that episode are cited in the Mueller report but the White House wouldn`t let her answer. They asked her about handwritten note about being, quote, in the middle of another Russia fiasco. And you guessed it, the White House wouldn`t let her answer.
The same thing about her note of serious concerns of own obstruction, as cited in the Mueller report. And the time Trump called McGahn and ordered him to fire Robert Mueller. No surprise, the White House wouldn`t let Annie answer that one either.
But it wasn`t a total loss. Because Ms. Donaldson did confirm a few key passages from the Mueller report. Like that when Donald Trump asked -- Donaldson asked, identified several actions that exposed Trump to obstruction of justice charges and ordered McGahn to meddle in the Mueller investigation.
The plot thickens. One week and two days until Robert Mueller testifies. But who`s counting?
REID: So it`s the Monday after a long holiday weekend, when for most people the priorities are to, you know, readjust, get back into the swing of the work day. Take the OOTO thing off of your email.
Well, try being in the Trump era Department of Justice. They got called back into work this weekend from vacation due to a presidential tweet. For months, the DOJ attorneys had been in court defending the Trump administration`s efforts to add a citizenship question to the census, which it done could be expected to result in an undercount of Latinos and an overrepresentation of white people and Republicans in the U.S. population count. That would give those groups more money and more federal resources and more power over the next ten years.
The lawyers had been defending the Trump administration`s gambit by claiming that the administration`s reasons for adding the question had nothing to do with undercounting Latinos or targeting undocumented immigrants and trying to convince the court that the real purpose was enforcing the Voting Rights Act. Well, that didn`t work. Multiple federal judges saw through that story and found that the Trump administration`s voting rights excuse was made up.
Finally, the Supreme Court told the Trump administration that the lower courts were right and they could not go ahead with their census plan, at least not in the terms they`d been trying to. Early last week, the Justice Department lawyers admitted defeat, that the census would be printed without the question and went on vacation.
Then came the presidential tweet which said the opposite of what lawyers told the court. And so, a Justice Department lawyer on Independence Day eve phoned in to a federal conference from his composed vacation to tell the judge that, nope, he had no idea what was going on either.
Here are the quotes from the hearing. Quote: The tweet this morning was the first that I had heard of the president`s position on this issue. I do not have a deeper understand of what that means at this juncture, but obviously as you can imagine I`m doing my absolute best to figure out what`s going on.
Quote: I can`t possibly predict at this juncture what is going to happen. The one thing I would request is that given tomorrow is the Fourth of July and the difficulty of assembling people from all over the place, is it possible that we could do this on Monday? The judge: No.
No? He told the court this was over. Now, the president says it`s not over, and you`re going to come back from vacation and figure it all out. That was Wednesday, as Rachel explained on this show.
Well, on Friday the Trump administration told the court it was busy coming up with a new rationale for changing the census, which was impressive because the administration has changed its rationale for changing the census at least 10 times in four months. And this weekend, Donald Trump himself went ahead and gave away the game, saying they need the citizenship question to draw congressional districts, which the DOJ lawyers had explicitly been arguing for months is not the rationale. Now, today, those lawyers arguing the census case who have been trying to come up with a reason the federal courts would believe was real and valid for changing the census, they`ve all been replaced.
"The Washington Post" was first to report the personnel change could signal, quote, "career attorneys legal or ethical concerns over the maneuvering ordered by the president." Today, Attorney General William Barr acknowledged that a number of people who had been litigating the case preferred, quote, not to continue during this new phase.
Oddly enough, if anything that happens during this era could still be called odd, these DOJ lawyers who specialize in cases like this are being replaced with lawyers from completely different sections of the Justice Department, that do not appear to have anything to do with this type of litigation. And just in the last hour or so, the plaintiffs in one census lawsuit have filed a motion to block the Justice Department from replacing those lawyers, but no matter, Trump`s attorney general, his Roy Cohn, says they`ve got a plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I`ve been in constant discussions with the president ever since the Supreme Court decision came down. And I think over the next day or two, you`ll see what approach we`re taking. I think it does provide a pathway for getting the question on the census.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Meanwhile, the census is actually being printed right now without the citizenship question. So how is the Trump administration planning to add it? Stick a citizenship question post-it note on all the printed census forms?
I mean, there`s a lot of ineptitude on display here from the Trump administration, for sure, but there could be serious consequences ahead, even if they continue to lose in court. For one thing, if the goal of the citizenship question is to depress Latino participation in the census then Trump and Barr at all may accomplish that goal just by sowing confusion about whether the question is included. And second, there is the real possibility here that we could be rolling toward an event that has never happened in 243 years of American history, the president of the United States simply defying a Supreme Court order, in f this case by simply going ahead with a citizenship question regardless, possibly through an executive order. And that is real constitutional crisis territory.
Joining us now is Jess Bravin, "Wall Street Journal" Supreme Court correspondent who`s been covering this story.
Mr. Bravin, thanks so much for being here tonight.
JESS BRAVIN, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL SUPREME COURT CORRESPONDENT: You bet.
REID: So let`s talk about that last bit. William Barr has claimed they have a plan for how they could somehow get around the Supreme Court ruling that said they can`t put this question on the census. Do you have any reporting what that plan might be?
BRAVIN: Well, what the think is inside the main justice building, but a few ideas floated on opinion pages or editorials about a new rationale or different rationale that the government could put forward. One idea was that this was in a Hugh Hewitt column that ran in "The Washington Post." It was to say that the government needs information -- precise information about the number of noncitizens in the United States because several Democratic candidates have suggested expanding health coverage to include immigrants as well as U.S. citizens, and they need to know exactly how much that might cost. That`s one rationale that has been suggested.
Another is that it could be used to enforce Section 2 of the 14th Amendment which has a provision that has never taken effect so far, that would reduce representation in Congress by the number of eligible voters who are denied the right to vote. That`s a Reconstruction Era provision to deter former Confederate States from suppressing African-American votes but it`s never been implemented. That`s another idea that was floated in an opinion column.
What the Justice Department eventually settles on we don`t know, but we know they hadn`t thought of it before Wednesday because the prior day they told the courts that they were going ahead with the census form without the question.
REID: And let`s talk about just what`s happening inside the Justice Department. There`s a couple of things here. There is reporting that the lawyers who are now going to be handling this come from things like the civil division, the department`s federal programs branch, just branches that have nothing to do with this. And morale in your piece that you wrote is pretty low.
At one point from your article, administration officials and attorneys appear to be scramming. Nobody has any F-ing idea when someone familiar with the matter when ask what the president`s tweet is referencing.
So, essentially, are people getting off this case because they want off or is William Barr pushing them off because he wants more compliant attorneys?
BRAVIN: I can`t say we know for sure, but it was quite evidence that Mr. Gardner who you quoted and other attorneys are very uncomfortable with having to present shifting positions to the court. It`s one thing if you`re a politician or public figure making statements for public consumption, but judges have an ongoing relationship with lawyers and a lawyer`s credibility is very important because the courts rely on the representation of these lawyers, who are actually officers of the court. That means they have a duty to the court as well as their clients.
We don`t know exactly what it was about the case as it is now that has made some of those lawyers uncomfortable. But there are a few things that one might think about. For instance, they argued quite strenuously that the printing deadline was June 30th and that`s the reason that courts had to expedite this case to get it decided by the Supreme Court before they left town at the end of last month.
Well, if that turns out not to be so, judges might be unhappy, and the other side in these cases would say and actually has said in the New York cases, filed a motion complaining about this, saying that you manipulated the process.
BRAVIN: So that is -- that`s another area that is apart from any of the substance of the issue involving whether it is a good idea or a lawful idea to put this question back on the census.
REID: Yes, especially since the reporting has already been that the person, the gentleman who died, instead of what it was. It was something they probably don`t want to argue in court in front of a judge if they ever want to go back in front of that judge again.
Jess Bravin, Supreme Court correspondent for "The Wall Street Journal" -- thank you very much for your time tonight. Appreciate it.
BRAVIN: Of course.
REID: Thank you.
More ahead here tonight. Stay with us.
REID: After a week dominated by news of the horrendous conditions under which the Trump administration is holding migrant children and families at the southern border, Donald Trump and a couple of his top immigration officials jumped in and tried to do some PR cleanup, insisting that all the horrible reports from the border are unsubstantiated.
But right into the middle of that cleanup effort, "The New York Times" and "El Paso Times" dropped a giant-reported bombshell. A report for the first time cites current and former Border Patrol staff detailing the atrocious conditions at the Clint, Texas, facility where hundreds of children and babies have been held.
This new reporting confirmed and expanded on what we`ve heard from the agency`s own inspector general, from doctors who have seen and treated children being held in these conditions, and from lawyers representing them. There`s something else, too. "The New York Times" and "El Paso Times" piece for the first time exposed a line of accountability, allegations that government officials knew what was happening and did nothing to stop it.
Quote: At least two Border Patrol agents at Clint said they had expressed concern about the conditions in the station to their superiors months ago. Border Patrol agents even spoke to a state lawmaker who visited Clint about their repeated complaints about overcrowding. According to that lawmaker, quote: They said we were ringing the alarms, we were ringing the alarms and nobody was listening to us. Agents told me that I genuinely believed the higher-ups made the Clint situation happen.
So, Border Patrol agents are telling lawmakers, they`re telling "The New York Times," they`re telling the "El Paso Times" that Border Patrol top brass knew. They knew because the agents told them but nothing was done to fix these conditions, to make them livable and at least legal until the group of attorneys visited Clint and facilities like it last month.
Those lawyers who started this whole thing, who first made us aware of what was happening at the border, they are part of the team of attorneys tasked with making sure the government sticks to a decades-old agreement that requires the U.S. to provide safe and sanitary care for migrants in government custody. And those lawyers scored a major win in court today. The court overseeing this case has allowed the appointment of a pediatrician who will help assess the health condition of kids in U.S. custody and give advice about the steps necessary to bring the conditions of custody and systems of childcare into compliance with the law.
The Trump administration might continue to publicly deny the conditions inside the detention centers, but these lawyers have documented them in detail and they will see the Trump administration in court.
REID: OK. A quick note before we go. If you have plans tomorrow night, you need to cancel them immediately because Rachel will be back here tomorrow and she`ll be joined right here live on this very set by the one and only Megan Rapinoe, fresh off her World Cup win.
And Rachel has a couple of big guests this week -- but Megan Rapinoe. On Wednesday night, Senator Bernie Sanders will be here for his first interview with Rachel since he announced he`s running for president. Then on Thursday night, Kamala Harris will be.
So, a big week on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW. Actually, make no plans for the rest of the week. Megan Rapinoe is here tomorrow. Hooray!
That does it for us tonight.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence. I`m fan-girling.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END