CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is ALL IN for this evening.
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much appreciated.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
I would like to welcome you to Benson, Arizona. Benson, Arizona has about 5,000 people. It`s the home of Kartchner Cavern State Park. Kartchner Cavern State Park, which is like a big cave complex you can go see. It looks very cool, doesn`t it?
I`m kind of claustrophobic. I`m not sure if I can totally handle it, but that`s cool. Benson, Arizona, calls itself the gateway to Cochise County, Arizona. It was founded as a rail terminal for Southern Pacific Railroad in the late 1800. It still has a lot of pride in being a rail depot and in its railroad history.
If you go to the website for the Benson, Arizona, visitor center, as you are poking around on their website, you will note if you look closely that the cursor for your computer mouse has turned into a little locomotive engine look as you were scrolling around the site you no longer have like a little arrow or whatever. It`s a little train. It`s very cool.
And if you go in person to the Benson, Arizona visitor center, there, you can operate a real model train around feet of track. You can use that controllers in the control room and it`s got a camera on the front of it very cool, right? So, lots to recommend it. Benson, Arizona, a lovely looking little place, again population around 5,000 people.
The owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team wants to build a new housing development in Benson, Arizona, which would be 28,000 homes. Think about that for a second. There are 5,000 people there now, but they want to put 28,000 houses into that town, plus golf courses -- golf courses plural -- multiple golf courses, plus the 28,000 houses.
And although Benson, Arizona, is in a lovely little corner of that state, in Cochise County, Arizona, it`s not like the most lush place on earth, right? For example, you think about what`s necessary to keep a golf course, let alone multiple golf courses watered and green -- I mean, this is the desert plains of Arizona.
Water is more valuable than the views. Water is more valuable than the open space. Water is more valuable then even the cool state park tourist attractions with the caves and the rollicking history of southwestern rail depots. You know, water is everything.
Where`s the water going to come from to support 28,000 homes and multiple golf courses in a sleepy little town that right now has just 5,000 people in it?
Nevertheless, the Arizona Diamondbacks owner who was a big Republican Party donor, he has wanted to build this huge development in Benson, Arizona, for a long time. The problem is the likely environmental impact of putting 28,000 houses plus multiple golf courses in this part of the state, and in this little corner of the country that as a matter of common sense just might not be able to biologically sustain something like that.
I mean, the worry about this development in particular has been that it would so tax the groundwater and that area of the desert plains that it would considerably shrink the nearby precious San Pedro River. And if you did that to the San Pedro River, that would have an impact on all sorts of environmental concerns including a whole bunch of threatened and endangered species which are protected by the federal government.
And part of the reason we know about those worries surrounding that proposed housing development and golf development, part of the reason we know about it is that in October of 2016, a month before the 2016 presidential election, the field supervisor for Arizona at the Fish and Wildlife Service made a decision about this gigantic proposed housing and golf development in Benson, Arizona. This development that was being pursued by the guy who owns that Major League Baseball team.
The field supervisor at the Fish and Wildlife Service announced his decision which was basically that this whole proposal was going to need a lot more detailed environmental scrutiny before it could go ahead, before it could get anywhere near receiving the necessary permits that would allow the developer to build this absolutely gigantic thing out there in the desert. The field supervisor`s quote was based on -- the field supervisor`s -- the report was based on the science, based on the protocols of the Fish and Wildlife Service. But his bottom line was pretty simple.
Quote: Direct and indirect effects to threatened and endangered species are reasonably certain to occur and so, we need more scrutiny before we`re going to allow this to happen. So, that was October 2016. Then, a funny thing happened the following month, which was November 2016, and that is that Donald Trump won the presidential election in November 2016.
And that Arizona Diamondbacks owner who wants to pile these 28,000 homes and multiple golf courses into little Benson, Arizona, it turns out he gave quite a lot of money to support the Trump presidential effort. He was named for example as an official sponsor of the camouflage and cufflinks fundraiser, which was timed to coincide with the Trump inaugural.
That camo and cufflinks event, hats and boots welcome, it was originally supposed to be hosted by President Trump`s two eldest sons. That was before ethics officials noticed that that technically was selling access to the president and his family in exchange for money and so maybe Don Jr. and Eric shouldn`t come to that event. But the Arizona diamondbacks guy, that was fine.
Now, this decision in Arizona about the little town of Benson and the mammoth proposed housing development that would something like to pull the size of the town plus all the golf courses -- I mean, when Trump was elected, remember, this was done. The month before Trump got elected, there was a decision made that there was going to have to be lots more environmental scrutiny, lots more looking at this before any permit would be proceeded toward, right?
And this was a decision to make about land in Arizona, and the Fish and Wildlife Service which is part of the Interior Department. They weighed in at the field supervisor level. They got a decision. They`re going to need to do months more scrutiny, lots more assessment about the environmental impact of this thing. The federal government has made its decision.
But not long after Trump was sworn in in the summer of a summer of 2017, a number of things happen to change the course of events and this has been pieced together by some really brilliant journalism, starting with the "Arizona Daily Star" and their work -- their initial work on this very good work on this was picked up and advanced ultimately by the "Associated Press" at the national level and then CNN has also done some additional very good work advancing this story themselves.
And what we have learned from all that very good reporting is that in August 2017, the number two guy in the Interior Department under Trump, a guy named David Bernhardt, he had been an oil company and mining company lobbyist who Trump gave the number two job at the Interior Department. In August 2017, we now know that he, David Bernhardt, took a secret meeting at a Montana hunting lodge with the owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks with this major Trump donor who wanted to build that big development in Arizona. And I say this was a secret meeting because David Bernhardt is the number two official in this federal agency, so his calendar you know the list of people who he meets with as a matter of public record, it`s subject to requests under the Freedom of Information Act.
This particular meeting though when he met the diamondbacks owner at this hunting lodge, that was left off his official calendar. Nevertheless, thank you, journalism, it was turned up that that meeting took place. The company run by the Diamondbacks owner ultimately confirmed that yes the meeting happened.
They have also admitted that what they talked about at that meeting was, of course, that big housing development and golf course development that this guy wanted to build in Benson, Arizona, the one where he had just been told right before the election that it wasn`t going to happen that more environmental work needed to be done before he gets you could get the permit to go ahead because the scientists and the federal government looked at it and said, you know, there really might not be enough water there to do this. You could really end up screwing that whole part of the state, that old part of the country if you do it.
He`d already received the no from the federal government, gives tons of money to support Trump, takes a secret meeting with the number-two guy Trump`s Interior Department. That meeting takes place the summer of 2017, at a hunting lodge in Montana, its left off the calendar of the number two guy at the Interior Department. They talked about the development.
Then, wouldn`t you know it, what happens next is that the field supervisor in Arizona for the Fish and Wildlife Service, the guy who had made the determination that there couldn`t be a permit for this big development, there were big environmental concerns that needed to be sorted out, he got himself an alarming phone call.
According to "The Arizona Daily Star", that Fish and Wildlife supervisor says he got a call from Interior Department headquarters, somebody who he knew who worked at the D.C. headquarters of the agency, a lawyer at the agency, told him that she had received word from a higher-up at the agency that he needed to change his stance on the permit for that development, quote, if he knew what was good for him.
It would later emerge as reporters from CNN and the "Arizona Daily Star" put this together, that right before that call and right after that call, the lawyer at the Interior Department who called the field supervisor in Arizona and told he needed to change his mind on that permit, right before her call and right after her call, she personally was paid a visit by David Bernhardt, by the number two official at the whole agency, the guy who had taken the secret meeting with the Trump donor who wanted that development and wanted his permit to do it.
So, that lawyer at the Interior Department gets paid a visit by the number- two guy in the agency. Right after that visit she gets from him that day, right after, she picks up the phone and calls the field supervisor in Arizona and tells him, hey, someone high up at the agency wants you to change this or else. Then after she places that call but the field supervisor guy, then once again she checks back in with Bernhardt meets with him again.
Back home in Arizona, the field supervisor who got the call who found himself in the middle of all this, he ultimately went to the local press to explain what had gone down and what was so wrong about it. He told "The Daily Star" that he, quote, got rolled. He said that the political pressure that he experienced in this instance was the first he ever experienced in 34 years with the federal government, including 29 years with the Wildlife Service under five different presidents going back to President George H.W. Bush.
This is not business as usual. This has never been done before in his career but it happened now that Trumps in office happened now that David Bernhardt`s at the head of the Interior Department. Under that kind of pressure, something he had never experienced before, that supervisor from the Fish and Wildlife Service, he did reverse his previous call to instead say, OK, maybe the permits are OK. He was told to do that and he did so.
Soon thereafter, he resigned from the service and soon after that, he started talking to the local press to basically confess and to explain what happened.
David Bernhardt, the number two official at the Interior Department, the guy who seems to have engineered this pressure or been involved in this pressure on behalf of this big Trump donor, he has since been promoted to run the whole Department of the Interior. He is no longer than number two guy at the agency. He`s now in the cabinet as secretary of the interior. See, there was an opening for him to take that job because the previous Trump secretary of the interior, Ryan Zinke, remember he had to resign after it emerged that he was under criminal investigation for his own corruption scandals while running Trump`s Interior Department.
So, he had to go because of the criminal investigations into his corruption, that`s how Bernhardt got kicked upstairs into the cabinet secretary job he now enjoys. Only the best people.
Well, now, David Bernhardt`s actions around little Benson, Arizona, and this major Trump donor who wants his development there and screw the river, screw the science, I want it, now, David Bernhardt`s actions in this little this little after-school special, right, like which could be kind titled corruption for dummies. This little tableau vivant explaining how the Trump administration is more than happy to mess up basically anyone and anything as long as it helps their friends and donors.
This little paragon of how corruption works, now David Bernhardt`s actions are being investigated by Congress, by the House Committee on Natural Resources, which is the oversight committee in this part of the federal government. It is chaired by Congressman Raul Grijalva, who is from Arizona and who knows these things and who has proclaimed himself to be mystified as to why the number two official at the Interior Department might have been interested and personally involved in the permitting decisions on this one land deal in Arizona if it wasn`t just to help out a Trump donor with something hugely remunerative that he otherwise should have been blocked from doing for the good of the country.
And now, also this week, that same official, now Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, the oil company and mining company lobbyist who President Trump entrusted to shepherd America`s public lands, he has now just announced plans to move a whole big swath of his agency, to move the Bureau of Land Management out of Interior Department headquarters, out of Washington. Specifically, he`s just announced that he`s telling the employees of that agency that they need to move out of D.C. and into western Colorado, right near his hometown. It should be a boom for that part of -- I mean, this is the part of the Interior Department that oversees the use of federal lands.
Presumably, employees of that agency will now be given the same ultimatum that was just given to all the scientists at USDA, right? Presumably, they`ll be told that they could uproot and move their families to Colorado on no notice or they could choose door number two which is you are now fired. I mean, that`s the trick they just this week played on the scientists at USDA who were told just this week that they had to decide by Monday night if they wanted to either be fired or move immediately to Missouri. Never mind the hardships.
An employee who`s struggling with MS and dealing with serious medical treatment issues for MS was told that is not a hardship that would be considered to keep that employee off the roster of those who were moving. An employee who`s in the middle of chemotherapy was told by USDA that that was not a hardship that would result in the agency taking that person, taking that scientist off the list of people who are being forcibly moved or you move your job.
They`re doing that with the scientists at the USDA right now. Now, they are trying it with the bureau of land management under Interior Secretary David Bernhardt who is also now under investigation by Congress for appearing to intervene to reverse the permitting process for a big land development in little Benson, Arizona, on behalf of a major Trump donor who he met with secretly and off-the-books.
And Congressman Raul Grijalva and his committee are on that, they are on that -- this David Bernhardt scandal and this Arizona Diamondbacks owner Trump donor, housing development scandal. They`re on it. They are investigating. And on the USDA, and the destruction of the science function of that agency, Democrats in Congress particularly in the Senate have been pounding away on that too.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D-MI): You basically gave 547 employees 30 days to decide if they were going to move halfway across the country and take their families. This is not relocation. It`s a demolition.
SEN. BOB CASEY (D-PA): Catherine Green is unable to relocate to Kansas City. Catherine Green expects most of the institutional knowledge on organic agriculture will be lost when she is forced to retire.
STABENOW: For what? It`s still unclear to me what problem the USDA is trying to solve with this move.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Do you truly believe that you`re not going to lose significant expertise in areas of research agricultural research, Dr. Hutchinson, with this move?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Of course, they know they`re going to lose specific expertise. Of course they do. That`s the point. Hollow out these agencies. As Senator Stabenow put it, let`s demolish these agencies. These agencies do inconvenient things. They do science.
Here`s the thing and we`re going to talk with Senator Amy Klobuchar who you just saw there at the end. We`re going to talk with her about this and lots more in just a minute. She just found out what her place is going to be on the two debate stages that CNN just announced for the end of this month. There`s a lot to talk to Senator Klobuchar about.
But you know what? In general in the news right now, I would just say this -- there is a lot. There`s a lot going on. There`s a lot to focus on, right?
I mean, this was the rotunda at the Senate office building today when dozens of nuns and Catholic clergy and other Catholic faith leaders were arrested today while they prayed holding pictures of kids who have died in the custody the Trump administration at the border and the homeland security secretary tried to justify to Congress today that yes, they are still taking kids away from their families. He tried to make the case for why that`s OK.
And the president`s old friend Jeffrey Epstein got denied bail ahead of his trial on child sex trafficking charges today.
And we got new documents today showing the president`s personal involvement in the campaign finance felonies that sent his lawyer to federal prison and that helped get him elected.
And, of course, today, the country continues to be convulsed and confounded and rattled by the president telling female minority members of Congress to go back where they came from, calling them un-American and anti-American. Last night, the country shocked -- I think it`s fair to say shocked by the president presiding proudly over the almost all-white crowd at his rally last night in the south, shouting "send her back, send her back" as he shouted invective about a Muslim congresswoman and how she must hate America.
I mean, there`s a -- there`s a lot going on. But there`s no law that says you have to follow the bouncing ball. There`s no law that says you have to do and think and feel and focus on subjects of the president`s choosing. To the extent that the country`s outrage and horror is being deliberately stoked right now by the president to keep us focused on his outrageous behavior because he thinks that`s good for him, because he thinks that`s better for him politically than if we`re talking about anything else.
I will just say, now more than ever, you know, watch what they do, not what they say. Now more than ever, there`s a lot of news out there and there`s a lot of stuff the Trump administration is not only doing. In some cases, they`re getting caught for it. Do not play requests. Do not be manipulated. Watch what they do. Ignore what they say.
I mean, we`re going to look back one day at this time in this presidency and be astonished at what they were doing. We will all want to answer for what we were doing too and the fact that we were paying attention and not always to what they wanted us to.
Lots to come tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Three days before the election, "The Wall Street Journal" broke a remarkable story which would be one of the biggest presidential candidate scandals ever, if we were talking about any other presidential candidate. But "The Journal`s" scoop right before the election was about candidate Donald Trump. And at that time, three days before the election, and maybe even still now, we didn`t know what counted as a size large Donald Trump scandal versus just the normal kind of Trump scandal that breaks on your average Wednesday and then another one on Thursday and then another one on Saturday.
But "The Journal" reported three days before the election though was kind of an amazing thing, even just on its face. It was a story about a Playboy playmate who had a story to tell about affair with Donald Trump, one that she says took place during his marriage, during Mr. Trump`s marriage to Melania his third and current wife, the soon-to-be first lady. According to "The Journal" in their story that came out three days before the election, this Playboy model had been paid a hundred and fifty thousand dollars to not tell her story, to not talk about the affair before the election.
I mean, even for a candidate like Donald Trump, that was a heck of a thing to ask the American public to swallow three days before the presidential election, I think particularly because it was about his current marriage. What seems to an insulated Trump from what you might otherwise have expected to be pretty significant fallout from that story is that the way "The Journal" told it, it wasn`t Trump who was paying this young woman off to keep her silent.
What "The Wall Street Journal" explained in that story is that it was the "National Enquirer". Huh? Yes, the rabidly pro-Trump wacky supermarket tabloid run by Trump`s friend with a punch line named David Pecker, turns out that`s who paid off this Playboy model to not talk about her affair. It was David Pecker, har-har, not Trump.
And that fact, that fact that there was some intermediary paying her rather than Trump paying her, that meant that that`s scandalous story as scandalous as it was, it was still one step removed from Trump, right, when it came to who made these potentially illegal hush money payments to shut up a porn model about the presidential candidate right before the election. And I think because it was one step removed from Trump itself, because there was this other entity that appears to have paid the money, the story did not make that much of a splash even though it landed three days before the election.
Well, we know from documents unsealed in federal court today that Trump was, quote, forgive me, pissed about that story coming out in "The Wall Street Journal" on the day that it came out. We also know that Trump`s immediate orbit, including Hope Hicks and his lawyer Michael Cohen, celebrated -- sent celebratory text messages to one another when the story did not appear to be getting much traction after it came out. Phew, it worked. The gambit to have a third party do the paying off, it worked to insulate Trump and to keep his election chances intact.
I mean, that was a criminal scheme. That was a felony, to use a big cash payment to benefit Trump`s campaign without ever declaring it as such.
David Pecker and his company that fronted the hush money to the Playboy model of Trump`s behalf to insulate Trump from any fallout if it all ever got exposed, David Pecker and his company cooperated with federal prosecutors and ultimately got themselves immunity from prosecution for their role in the deal, in exchange for them testifying about it.
It would also later emerge that a second hush money payment to a woman with a similar story would be paid around the same time this time it was paid directly by Michael Cohen and again the scam worked for Trump. I mean, who`s sitting in prison right now for having made that illegal hush money payment to the other woman, to Stormy Daniels, it`s Michael Cohen.
And although that payment was to benefit the Trump campaign, and Michael Cohen and prosecutors say that that payment was directed by Trump, today, we got unsealed in court the litany of calls and emails and texts involving the president himself and Cohen and Hope Hicks and Kellyanne Conway and the guys from the "National Enquirer" and the lawyer for the women who are getting these illegal payments. I mean, the president has numerous calls with Michael Cohen as Cohen is going back and forth with the woman`s lawyer. Cohen is on the phone with the president as his first call right after he speaks with the woman`s lawyer.
The president is on the phone with Michael Cohen twice on the day before Cohen sends Stormy Daniels her $130,000. Less than 30 minutes after the second call with Trump, Cohen is out in the -- at the bank setting up a new bank account from which he`ll make the payment. Then right after the payment is set, Cohen is right back on the phone with Trump. I mean, we`ve got all that now from the case that prosecutors brought against Michael Cohen. But we`ve also only got that because they`re apparently not going to bring a case against anybody else.
So, the scam worked, right? I mean, election chances intact. Neither of those women spoke about those affairs before they before the election, right? This is after the "Access Hollywood" tape, right. This was the president had apologized for that. This was -- right.
Neither of those women spoke about those alleged affairs before the election. Election chances intact, candidate himself insulated from the bad publicity at the time and the legal fallout in the end because he got other people to take the fall for him. The felonies were committed.
They accomplished their aim which was in the end to elect the candidate and now elected, the candidate walks despite extensive evidence obtained by the FBI which we can now read about the president`s involvement in the planning and execution of this scheme. The federal judge who unsealed these documents yesterday warned about the weighty public ramifications of the conduct described in these materials. The judge called it a matter of national importance what was revealed in these materials. He said it is, quote, time that every American has an opportunity to scrutinize these materials.
Well, now, we`ve got them and we can scrutinize them and it turns out they show the president`s apparently deep involvement in these campaign finance felonies that helped him get elected. So, what do we do with this now? If what prosecutors are apparently letting us know is that he did it but also he`s getting away with it, what do we do with that now?
Joining us now is Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.
Barbara, really appreciate you being here tonight. Thanks very much for joining us.
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: So I just want to first get your top-line reaction to all these pages that were unsealed today. The judge had given us a heads-up saying that this is a matter of grave public importance and a lot of Americans were going to scrutinize this material once it was unsealed.
What do you make of it now that you`ve had a chance to look through this stuff?
MCQUADE: Well, first, I can see why the judge would want to make sure that this material was not kept secret from the public, that even though the government lawyers wanted to keep it secret, that it was important that it be revealed because what it says is that President Trump himself knew and participated in these calls.
As you said, a flurry of calls back and forth where President Trump gets on the phone with Michael Cohen as they discussed back-and-forth conversations with David Pecker, with the "National Enquirer", and it all comes on the day after the "Access Hollywood" tape is released. So, it seems to me very strong circumstantial evidence that President Trump was aware of this and was directing it, just as Michael Cohen said.
I think one other thing though that`s important is, I don`t know that that means it`s criminal. Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to this, but a essential element of this crime is willfulness and that means that you know it is a crime, you know that it is illegal. And it could be the case that they did not have evidence that President Trump knew that this was illegal.
MADDOW: If you wanted to ascertain somebody`s intent if you were prosecuting a case like this, presumably, you would interview the person whose intent you had a question about, right?
MCQUADE: Yes, that`s one way, and certainly interviewing is important. You know, it goes back to Robert Mueller`s decision not to interview Donald Trump. Now, of course, he also carved this case out and handed it off to the Southern District of New York. So I don`t know that this would have been within the scope of his questioning anyway, but that certainly would be one way interviewing the person.
You can also determine someone`s intent based on the statements of other people. Hope Hicks it sounds like from these documents was involved in conversations with President Trump to get him on the phone, what did she say about it? What did David Pecker know about all of it?
And so, it seems that you can also ascertain someone`s intent from asking others. But it is a very high legal standard and it is one that has stopped many cases in their tracks.
MADDOW: On the question of Hope Hicks, there`s been some concern raised today by members of Congress that when Hope Hicks said that she was not privy to conversations about the hush money payments, that she didn`t learn about them until November, there`s been concern expressed today that Hope Hicks may have not been truthful in her testimony to Congress along these lines. The Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler has just put out a statement and sent a letter to Hicks demanding that she come back before the committee to clarify her testimony, essentially implying that she was untruthful when she answered questions about that.
Is that a significant worry for Hope Hicks?
MCQUADE: I think it is. You know, again, it`s not a hundred percent clear that she lied, but it`s certainly there is some indication that she knew what was happening as early as October 8th about these calls. They don`t have wiretap evidence knowing what the content was all they know is that calls were made back and forth. They have some emails and they have some text messages.
And so it does seem that she was involved in connecting President Trump and Michael Cohen as they`re discussing these kinds of things. I don`t know that it`s clear that she knew exactly what the plan was, but I think at least it raises the question that people are going to want to know.
And I also think it`s important, Rachel, that even if Donald Trump did not technically commit a crime because you can`t prove that legal element of willfulness, what he did was morally wrong it was designed to betray the American people and to conceal from them on the eve of the election the truth about his past conduct with women.
MADDOW: Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, Barb, thanks very much for helping us out, particularly that I can tell you are taking time out of a very lovely setting and has been in order to do it. That gives you double points with me.
MCQUADE: All right. Thank you. Great to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Much more here to come.
I`ll tell you the presidential candidate, Senator Amy Klobuchar, is going to be here live in person with us in just a moment. I had been really looking forward to talking with her. She`s here joining us next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Meanwhile in Minnesota tonight --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: Welcome home, Ilhan! Welcome home, Ilhan!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: They are saying "welcome home, Ilhan, welcome home, Ilhan".
More than 100 people turned out at the arrivals terminal at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport today. Actually, they think they might be in baggage claim as the Congresswoman Ilhan Omar arrived back home to her district in Minnesota for the first time since the president led an almost all-white crowd in Greenville, North Carolina, last night as they chanted "send her back, send her back" as the president denounced Congresswoman Omar and called her un-American.
The senior senator from the great state of Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar, is a presidential candidate who incidentally just in the past hour just learned where she will be standing in the next round of debates, which night she will be on. Today, Senator Klobuchar rebuked the president for his ongoing attacks on her home state congresswoman, saying that the president is putting Congresswoman Omar in a threatening situation, that he is putting her at risk with his continued attacks as this controversy shakes obviously not just Congresswoman Omar in Senator Klobuchar`s home state, but basically rattles everybody in terms of what this country is and what we are capable of under this president.
Joining us now is 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
Senator, it`s great to see you.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Rachel. Great to be on and great seeing you not across from the debate stage.
MADDOW: Well, yes. That`s not a nice way to see anybody.
MADDOW: I know.
KLOBUCHAR: This feels more normal.
MADDOW: I have a ton of stuff to ask you, but let me actually just ask you about the debate stuff first, because you just found out you`re be on night one again of the two nights. This was a random draw that was presented with much glitz and glamour --
MADDOW: -- and drama on CNN.
MADDOW: So, night one is going to be --
KLOBUCHAR: Like an NFL draft.
MADDOW: -- Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O`Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, Marianne Williamson, John Delaney, John Hickenlooper, Tim Ryan, Steve Bullock. Steve Bullock is the only new contender on the stage. Eric Swalwell dropped out basically and Steve Bullock got his spot.
What do you make of your standing -- I mean, what do you make of your position on the stage?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, first of all, it spans the country where people are from.
KLOBUCHAR: I think that`s a good thing. Sometimes we have a lot of coastal people. I think it`s positive.
And also, it`s just going to give me an opportunity to make my case --
KLOBUCHAR: -- of why I believe I`m the best one to lead this ticket. The fact that I have someone that believes they got to tell people the truth at a time when you see a president tearing this country apart, someone that believes we need to move ahead with making healthcare more affordable, bringing down the cost of pharmaceuticals and I`ve got a way to do it, I think a better way than some of the other people on the stage. So, I`m looking forward to sharing that. I think we`ll have some opportunities to go deep into some of those ideas.
And then, finally, the fact that I won in these very red districts and that I can lead a ticket and I won in places that Donald Trump won by over 20 points, every time, every place, every race. And I think that`s important going into this election.
And just to sort of tail off where you ended there with the Congresswoman Omar. Last night, I talked to a lot of people and this morning, staff members in the Senate, people who couldn`t sleep last night who were watching that -- what the president did. And for me, if people are looking for solace, to see those pictures of my airport --
KLOBUCHAR: -- my hometown airport and see the people just showing up spontaneously to greet her with that warmth, you know our state. We`ve got a big refugee population. She is one of them.
And this is just something that Donald Trump has engendered. He divides people. He spread this hate and he does it for no other reason but to, one, invigorate his base and then, two, to divide so people don`t notice what else is going on.
All of these things that he hasn`t gotten done, all the broken promises, the raids this week -- those raids were another example of that, right? Who, if you are really trying to deport the security risk which you would be from time to time, why would you alert them a week ahead of time?
KLOBUCHAR: Because he want to make news. That`s what he does.
MADDOW: And then when the agencies that you say are going to be conducting the raids admit that they haven`t actually committed these raids, then you just change the subject --
MADDOW: -- to try to get people talking about something else.
KLOBUCHAR: Right, yes.
MADDOW: On the subject of what the president did and the targeting of that congresswoman and other minority female congresswomen, I was struck that you said that he is putting Congresswoman Omar at risk, that he is creating a literally threatening situation for her. I wonder if you can elaborate on that a little bit, because I feel like people are horrified by what the president is doing, people horrified by the scene of that crowd chanting those things and the president presiding over, whether or not he was saying that he was happy about it today or not. But in terms of the harm is to the country of that, and what damage is done and how we fix it -- how do you look at that as a practical matter?
KLOBUCHAR: I think, first of all, she had serious threats against her before. And one of them -- one of the guys went to jail, actually. A guy in New York that made threats against her.
So, when he says to a whole rally on national TV, with the echoing on the airways for 24 hours later, yes, people see that. So, that`s the first very serious thing about this.
The second is that he is trying to open wounds and trying to make people hate each other. That`s what he`s doing that and we know it.
And the final thing that she pointed out herself and I thought she put a great quote from the author Tony Morrison. The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work.
KLOBUCHAR: And that`s the other thing he`s doing.
So, to me, the solution is that we must always stand up against what he says, but then at some point, instead of going down the rabbit hole and I think this is why the congresswoman put this quote out there, you have to move on and keep doing your own work, because people have to see an optimistic economic agenda for this country, they want to see an alternative to who he is. They want to see an alternative from the chaos, but they also want to see a different agenda, that you`re going to have their backs and do something for them.
I mean, he said he`d bring down the cost of prescription drugs. He said it would make your head spin how much he would bring them down. And over 2000,000 of them have gone up in double-digits. He hasn`t done his job.
He said he`d make us safer, right, by getting out of the Iranian agreement. And now you have Iran doing things like enriching uranium right now as we speak. That doesn`t make us safer.
He said that he was going to do an infrastructure, major infrastructure package, build things. He said that on election night. And he hasn`t done anything.
So, I think one of the jobs of our candidate is going to be not only to call him on the horrible, horrific, racist things he says, to bring this country together, but it is also to create literally an alternative agenda, so people understand there is another path forward. He broke promises to you.
If you voted for him, maybe you did it because you wanted change, because you felt left out of this economy. And there`s people all over the Midwest that felt like that. But it`s not coming true and here`s the way we can do it.
MADDOW: Senator Amy Klobuchar is our guest.
Senator, stick with us. We`ll be right back after this.
MADDOW: Stay with us.
MADDOW: Joining us again is Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat from the great state of Minnesota, 2020 presidential candidate, who just learned she`s going to be on night one of the next debate, July 30th. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O`Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, Marianne Williamson, John Delaney, John Hickenlooper, Tim Ryan and Steve bullock.
KLOBUCHAR: Can you note that unlike last time, I`m not with all the giant people? Yes.
MADDOW: No. I think if we organize by size, it`s going to be much heterogeneous --
KLOBUCHAR: Yes. You know, I`m average height. I`m 5`4", but I was by far the shortest one on that stage. Someone said that means you are grounded.
MADDOW: Oh, that`s nice. It will be harder to knock over certainly.
Let me ask -- I mean, it is -- it`s funny to read a list of 10 names and I`m sure it is difficult to prepare to be in a 10-person debate under any circumstance. I know it`s very difficult to prepare to be a moderator with 10-person debate. But let me must ask you now that that`s done, and I don`t have to do that anymore, what you just tell me like what sucked the most about the first debate? Like --
KLOBUCHAR: Well, if you want to answer every question and you want to get in there on climate change and tried to raise my hand, hey, and other things, and that`s frustrating because you only have like seven or eight minutes.
The other thing is -- and I think the second night, you guys sort of let people go a little more on the time, you have that one last line and it will be cut off as you`re trying to say it. So, those things are pretty normal in debates. But I think the big thing is, you really want to make your case, especially for someone like me. I come from the middle of the country, I come from a state that`s not as big as some of the other ones. And this is really opportunity -- big opportunity for me to make that case.
KLOBUCHAR: And so, you just want to get in there on everything. And that`s why -- you know, by the fall and I`ll be making those debates, in the fall, there will be less people and that will make it easier to do that.
MADDOW: You are on track to make the debates with a more stringent criteria in the fall.
KLOBUCHAR: Yes, yes.
MADDOW: In terms of -- obviously, the CNN criteria is set, the MSNBC, NBC, Telemundo debate, we already did, it`s already done. Is there a way that you think they could be done better? Is there a --
KLOBUCHAR: Are you asking me this as a moderator?
MADDOW: Yes, yes. I mean, because I have done mine --
KLOBUCHAR: OK, so I`m glad we`re have opening statements because I think for the viewers, they tuned in and they thought -- for some of them -- they thought, who are these people?
MADDOW: Just standing there for a long time not answering questions.
KLOBUCHAR: What is happening?
And so, I think that might have been nice for people to be able to introduce themselves. I think they are doing that.
KLOBUCHAR: And then I think maybe taking one person what they say and then asking another person to respond. You did some of that.
KLOBUCHAR: You guys did.
But I think doing more of that, so there is less interrupting.
KLOBUCHAR: But yet, you want people to be able to go. It`s a very hard thing. It`s hard to be a moderator.
MADDOW: Well, thank you. Very nice of you --
KLOBUCHAR: But it`s also hard to be candidate.
KLOBUCHAR: And I -- I just think the stakes are so big --
KLOBUCHAR: -- and everyone gets that, Democrats, independents, moderate Republicans. I think they understand that the stakes couldn`t be huger. And if you didn`t think that, you know, watch what he did last night.
KLOBUCHAR: We can`t afford to have four more years of tearing this country apart. And so, I actually used the opportunity of that debate, and I hope more people do it. I figure -- it`s not just Democrats watching that. It is independents, moderate Republicans.
KLOBUCHAR: And I also figure I`m not running for chair of the National Democratic Committee.
KLOBUCHAR: I am running for president of the United States. So, I decided it was important to put my vision out there and my bold ideas, but also to show the contrast with Donald Trump.
KLOBUCHAR: And I hope more people do that, because people need to hear that.
MADDOW: In your 100-day -- first 100-day speech --
MADDOW: -- that you gave today, you said that -- you took a line from FDR`s first inaugural saying we need vigorous action, vigorous and direct action --
KLOBUCHAR: Yes. That`s what he said.
MADDOW: -- in the first 100 days.
You feel like the 100 day agenda is more important than it usually would be after the Trump presidency in terms of redirecting the country?
KLOBUCHAR: Completely. And when you look back to then to 1933, obviously, we were in economic crisis. But FDR understood you needed marathons and you needed sprints. And the reason we need a sprint and we need not just plans, but deadlines and not just promises, we need real promises that people can deliver on, is that there is now a crisis of our Constitution. People feel what is happening to our democracy. Why are we divisive all the time?
So, that`s why, in my first 100 days -- one, no mean tweets, OK?
KLOBUCHAR: Two, reach out to our allies. I think that`s very important and stand up to dictators.
Three, move quickly on things -- there are so many things we can do right away. Get back into the international climate change agreement. Put those clean power rules out. You don`t have to go to Congress with that.
The gas mileage standards. Closing the boyfriend loophole for gun safety and introducing gun safety legislation. You can actually apply for a waiver with the FDA and you can apply for a waiver to be able to bring in less expensive drugs from safe countries like Canada.
KLOBUCHAR: Imagine that pressure. And I`ve led that bill, but you can do it, a president can do it herself. So, imagine the pressure that will put on.
So, there are just -- I went through over 100 things that you can do in the first 100 days that are, by the way, legal, unlike what this guy does. That are legal, and then at the same time, you go clearly to Congress and I have got the experience to get this done. I passed over 100 bills, as you know, where I am the lead Democrat.
And you say, these are the three things we`re going to do right away. This is what we`re going to do by the end of the year. And I just think our country is yearning for that kind of leadership. And after last night, I don`t think we can wait much longer.
MADDOW: Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota --
KLOBUCHAR: All right. Thank you.
MADDOW: -- great to see you.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you. Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Come back soon.
KLOBUCHAR: All right.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Here`s a little heads up about something about to happen in the news. There so far have been two criminal trials in front of a jury that derived from the Mueller investigation and the Russia investigation. The first one was the Paul Manafort trial which put the president`s campaign chairman behind bars.
The second one is happening right now. It`s the trial of a Trump transition official who was charged with being a secret foreign agent. In that case, the prosecution rested today and that means we are about to see the defense start to make their case. I think the defense is going to make their case on Monday.
One of the things that emerged has to do with Mike Flynn. The guy, who`s on trial, Bijan Kian, was a business partner of Trump`s national security adviser Mike Flynn. Flynn admitted, as part of his plea agreement, to essentially having been illegally acting as an agent of the government of Turkey. Kian is on trial for related charges.
Mike Flynn`s relationship with the government and his status as a cooperating witness is gone a little wobbly. That may be causing this prosecution of his business partner to go a little bit wobbly. This has already produced some interesting witness testimony about how Flynn was getting basically calls from his paymasters in Turkey during the Trump campaign, while they were arguing with him that they were not getting their money`s worth from the Trump campaign in terms of Trump`s public positions about Turkey while Flynn was on the payroll.
So, it`s been sort of lurid stuff so far, but the defense is going to start we think on Monday. The prosecution rested today and that`s worth keeping an eye on.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END