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Senate Democrats demand vote. TRANSCRIPT: 7/24/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Adam Schiff, David Laufman

JOSH MARSHALL, TALKING POINTS MEMO EDITOR AND PUBLISHER:  The thing I`m more focused on is they really are pushing these legal battles forward, but they are pushing them forward not quite to the emergency level. 


MARSHALL:  To me, the fact of almost a bigger deal right now, they have said we are not going to do any oversight and that`s just not acceptable.  They can`t accept that.

HAYES:  Josh Marshall, Jason Johnson, Michelle Goldberg, thanks for sharing your time. 

That is ALL IN this evening. 

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.  Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris.  Thank you, my friend.  Much appreciated.

HAYES:  You bet.

MADDOW:  I have been looking forward to be on TV tonight in a way I almost never am on any other day.  But this is -- I`m always glad for my job.  I love my job.  It`s the greatest job on the face of the Earth. 

But, boy, on a day like today, it`s a privilege to be able to do this work and to be able to talk about what we have just seen as a country. 

All right.  So, buckle up.  Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff is going to be joining us in just a moment.  You will be wanting to hear from him.  And this is the first time I`ll have had a chance to speak with him since today`s landmark hearings. 

But in order to set the stage with talking with him, I want to start with the very basics.  I want to start -- my favorite place to start, which is at the end.  I want to start with the bottom line. 


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA):  I like to see if we can broaden the aperture at the end of the hearing.  From your testimony today, I gather that you believe that knowingly accepting foreign assistance during a presidential campaign is an unethical thing to do. 


SCHIFF:  And a crime. 

MUELLER:  Circumstances, yes.  And a crime in given certain circumstances. 

SCHIFF:  And to the degree it undermines our democracy and institutions, we can agree it is also unpatriotic. 

MUELLER:  True. 

SCHIFF:  And wrong. 

MUELLER:  True. 


MADDOW:  Knowingly accepting foreign assistance during a presidential campaign is a crime, in certain circumstances, according to Special Counsel Robert Mueller.  It`s a crime in certain circumstances.  It is unpatriotic.  It is wrong, it is unethical.

And, you know, coming from a person who said repeatedly today that he was blocked by Justice Department policy from bringing an indictment against the president, even if he had wanted to, you know, maybe that rings a little hollow for him to say, yes, that might have been a crime.  Maybe it is, you know, just interesting, just dismaying to hear the actions of the president of the United States described as unpatriotic and unethical and wrong, like, maybe that`s just a bummer, you know, like maybe that`s a terrible thing to hear about your country and its leader. 

Except Special Counsel Mueller made clear today under close questioning that there is more to it than that. 


SCHIFF:  The need to act in an ethical manner is not just a moral one, but when people act unethically it also exposes them to compromise, particularly in dealing with foreign powers.  Is that true? 

MUELLER:  True. 

SCHIFF:  Because when someone acts unethically in connection with a foreign partner, that foreign partner can later expose their wrongdoing and extort them. 

MUELLER:  True. 

SCHIFF:  And that conduct, that unethical conduct can be of a financial nature if you have a financial motive or an illicit business dealing, am I right? 



MADDOW:  Yes.  If you have behaved in an unethical, unpatriotic, wrong, potentially criminal manner, when it comes to another country, that`s not just gross.  That`s not just a dismaying thing that somebody might say about you.  If you have done that, it means that you are compromised by that foreign power.  They can use what they know about you, they can expose your wrongdoing and extort you.  You`re compromised. 

And if somebody associated with a presidential campaign is compromised by a foreign power, that doesn`t just compromise that person, that puts our country at risk of being compromised by a foreign power.  I mean, even if it`s not the presidential candidate himself, but especially if it is. 


SCHIFF:  In the case of Michael Flynn, he was secretly doing business with Turkey, correct? 


SCHIFF:  And that could open him up to compromise, that financial relationship. 

MUELLER:  I presume. 

SCHIFF:  He also lied about his discussions with the Russian ambassador and since the Russians were on the other side of that conversation, they could have exposed that, could they not? 


SCHIFF:  If a presidential candidate was doing business in Russia and saying he wasn`t, Russians could expose that, too, could they not? 

MUELLER:  I`ll leave that to you. 

REP. ANDREW CARSON (D-IN):  I want to look more closely, sir, at the Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.  Your investigation, sir, found a number of troubling contacts between Mr. Manafort and Russian individuals during and after the campaign, is that right, sir? 

MUELLER:  Correct. 

CARSON:  Manafort also met several times with a man named Konstantin Kilimnik, who the FBI assessed to have ties with Russian intel agencies, is that right, sir? 

MUELLER:  Correct. 

CARSON:  In fact, Mr. Manafort didn`t just meet with him, he shared private Trump campaign polling information with this man linked to Russian intelligence, is that right, sir? 

MUELLER:  That is correct. 

CARSON:  And in turn, the information was shared with a Russian oligarch tied to Vladimir Putin, is that right, sir? 

MUELLER:  Allegedly. 

CARSON:  Director Mueller, meeting with him wasn`t enough.  Sharing internal polling information wasn`t enough.  Mr. Manafort went so far as to offer this Russian oligarch tied to Putin a private briefing on the campaign, is that right, sir? 

MUELLER:  Yes, sir. 

CARSON:  And, finally, Mr. Manafort also discussed internal campaign strategy on four battleground states, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Minnesota, with the Russian intelligence-linked individual, did he not, sir? 

MUELLER:  That`s reflected in the report. 

CARSON:  It`s clear he hoped to be paid back money he was owed by Russian or Ukrainian oligarchs in return for the passage of private campaign information, correct, sir? 

MUELLER:  That is true. 

CARSON:  Would you agree, sir, that Manafort`s contacts with Russians close to Vladimir Putin and his efforts to exchange private information on Americans for money left him vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians? 

MUELLER:  I think -- generally so, that would be the case. 

SCHIFF:  Several individuals associated with the Trump campaign were also trying to make money during the campaign in transition, is that correct? 

MUELLER:  That is true. 

SCHIFF:  Paul Manafort was trying to make money or achieve debt forgiveness from a Russian oligarch? 

MUELLER:  Generally, that is accurate. 

SCHIFF:  Michael Flynn was trying to make money from Turkey? 

MUELLER:  True. 

SCHIFF:  Donald Trump was trying to make millions from a real estate deal in Moscow? 

MUELLER:  To the extent you`re talking about the hotel in Moscow?

SCHIFF:  Yes. 



MADDOW:  I will tell you, I was not quite sure what to expert from today`s testimony by Robert Mueller.  I mean, I think that agnosticism was warranted.  Who knows, right?  We`ll see what happens. 

But even with that studios refusal to try to anticipate anything, you still could have knocked me over with a feather as late as last night if you had told me today, we would get from Robert Mueller over the course of these seven hours such a blunt accounting from him, a blunt, unequivocal accounting from him on -- of who in the campaign was compromised by Russia, and how, specifically how they were compromised by Russia, including the president. 


SCHIFF:  Dmitry Peskov, the spokesperson for the Kremlin, someone that the Trump Organization was in contact with, to make that deal happen.  Your report indicates that Michael Cohen had a long conversation on the phone with someone from Dmitry Peskov`s office.  Presumably the Russians could report that conversation, could they not? 


SCHIFF:  And so, if candidate Trump was saying, I have no dealings with the Russians, but the Russians had a tape recording, they could expose that, could they not? 


SCHIFF:  That`s the stuff of counterintelligence nightmares, is it not? 


MADDOW:  Robert Mueller`s answer to that was that, well, it points out the need for a strong counterintelligence effort, which I thought was a plucky way to put it, right? 

Mr. Mueller would not say anything about how the country has handled that particular counterintelligence nightmare or even whether it has yet been resolved, whether it`s over. 


REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX):  Special Counsel Mueller, I want to ask you something that`s very important to the nation.  Did your investigation evaluate whether President Trump could be vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians because the Kremlin knew that Trump and his associates lied about connections to Russia related to the Trump tower deal? 

MUELLER:  I can`t speak to that. 


MADDOW:  He can`t speak to that. 

Did your investigation evaluate whether Trump could be vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians because the Kremlin knew that Trump and his associates lied about the connections.  And as Adam Schiff put it, they might have tape record those conversations.  They could have blackmailed him that way.  Did you look into that?  I cannot speak to that.  So, we`ll take that as a maybe, right? 

A lot happened at this historic testimony today.  Special counsel Robert Mueller definitely seemed older than his 74 years.  He seemed less on top of matters, I think, than anybody who has worked with him in the past appeared to have expected in terms of his appearance today.  There had been the justice department threat ahead of today`s testimony that Mueller shouldn`t tread outside the bounds of his report and he shouldn`t talk about uncharged third parties and shouldn`t talk about any decision-making processes and he did reference those boundaries at times today, but he surely went outside them at times, as well. 

And he did so in ways that -- it seems to me, point these sort of neon big bright arrows towards what we couldn`t and didn`t get from him today that it now seems fairly imperative to chase down.  Given the unrelentingly dire descriptions he gave about the president`s conduct and the conduct of the president`s campaign and its ongoing implications for the country.  Seems like they gave us two big directions today that feel imperative in terms of what we try to figure out next and the paths that we next follow to try to get to the bottom of this still open scandal. 

I mean, the first one is that Mueller`s personal performance today, I think, puts a spotlight on the man who was sitting next to him and not speaking today, his deputy, Aaron Zebley.  He`s described now as the deputy special counsel.  We`re now told that he ran the day-to-day operations of the investigation and the rest of Mueller`s staff. 

There was so much that Mueller seemed sort of detached from today, and he seemed to be, at times, taking it on trust that certain things were in his report or not, whether or not he personally recalled those things. 

Because of that performance from Mueller today, I think that lights a fire under the need to speak to the people on his team.  Who actually did the work, I mean, if Congress really does want more substantive and detailed answers from the people who actually did that work, it would seem like they would have to pursue conversations now and testimony now from Zebley and from the other members of Mueller`s team, including those who are sitting be behind him in the hearing room today and those who we`ve seen involved in the various cases and those who we know were on his staff.  So, we will talk about this later on over the course of this hour. 

But I think one of the outcomes of today`s hearing is going to be a renewed interest by Congress and hearing from the people who were on Mueller`s team and did the work beyond the sort of distant figurehead figure of Mueller himself, which was revealed today by his sort of surprising affect. 

The second thing that I think sort of comes out of today`s hearing as an imperative and I think we`re already seeing come out of the hearing today will be a renewed focus, at least by Democrats, on figuring out the money side of it, figuring out the financial side of it, because all day long today, again, much to my surprise, Robert Mueller affirmed the money stuff.  He affirmed the financial motives of the president and his closest advisers that led them all into compromising positions with Russia. 

But when it came to following those financial paths in his investigation, following the money, it seemed from Mueller today like maybe he and his team didn`t do that. 


REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL):  Other than Trump Tower Moscow, your report does not address or detail the president`s financial ties or dealings with Russia, correct? 

MUELLER:  Correct. 

KRISHNAMOORTHI:  Similarly, since it was outside your purview, your report does not address the question of whether Russian oligarchs engaged in money laundering through any of the president`s businesses, correct? 

MUELLER:  Correct. 

KRISHNAMOORTHI:  And, of course, your office did not obtain the president`s tax returns, which could otherwise show foreign finance sources, correct?

MUELLER:  I`m not going to speak to that.  I`m not going to speak to that. 


MADDOW:  Special counsel says he`s not going to speak to that.  Special counsel did not address or detail the president`s financial ties or dealings with Russia or any potential Russian money laundering through the president`s business, special counsel today would say nothing when it comes to the president`s tax returns. 

Your office did not obtain the president`s tax returns, which could otherwise show foreign financial courses, correct?  I`m not going to speak to that. 

Well, did they follow that money trail?  I mean, simultaneously today, Mueller is talking about how foreign compromise of the president and his campaign were driven by these financial entanglements that they all lied about that Russia knew about and could expose at will, right? 

It was money.  It was financial interest.  It was lies about financial entanglements, that were the roots of the compromise that he described when it came to the president and multiple people in his campaign, but he just won`t say out loud whether or not he and his investigators pursued that financial line of inquiry, in order to chase any of that down. 

Specifically on the president`s taxes alone, I think this is now kind of an urgent mystery.  You might remember, after the Mueller report came out, but before today, the president at one point started saying that he`s sure that Robert Mueller looked at his taxes and since Robert Mueller didn`t say anything about that in his report, that must mean that the president`s taxes are totally clean and clear.  That`s how we should read that.  Remember when the president started making that case? 

You may also remember that Senator Amy Klobuchar who is running for president as a Democrat, she at one point asked Attorney General William Barr if that was true.  If, in fact, Robert Mueller had obtained and looked at Trump`s taxes as part of the Mueller investigation.  Barr told her in his testimony that she should ask Robert Mueller that if she was so interested in getting that question. 

Senator Klobuchar then did ask Robert Mueller that question in writing, hey, did you obtain Trump`s tax returns?  Did you look at them as part of your investigation?  As far as we know, she got no answer from Mueller. 

Well, now today, in person under questioning from Congressman Krishnamoorthi, Mueller still wouldn`t answer it.  While he simultaneously is arguing that the president`s secret financial dealings with the Russian government opened him up to being compromised by that hostile foreign power, as were several other people in his campaign. 

So, did Mueller look at Trump`s taxes or didn`t he?  And shouldn`t someone, given what Mueller just said about the financial basis of Trump`s compromise by Russia? 

I mean, if you didn`t think this was urgent before, it was weird, right, this is the first president to not release his tax returns, and it has been interesting to see Democrats pursue them and it`s a fascinating legal matter at this point.  But it`s never been a more urgent manner than it is today, after Mueller directly linked the president`s compromise to Russia to the foreign entanglements and the business pursuits that he secretly maintained concerning the government of Russia that he lied about, that Russia knew about and that Russia could expose at will. 

Now, given that new urgency around the president`s taxes, I should tell you that literally eight minutes after the close of the Mueller hearings today, eight minutes after the second hearing was adjourned, the president filed an emergency writ in federal court to try to block his taxes from being released in New York state.  An emergency writ, eight minutes after the hearing wrapped up.  Nervous much? 

The other thing I think that nobody expected today from Robert Mueller was his blunt accusation, his blunt assessment of what the president did with regard to Russia, when it came to them releasing the stolen material that they had hacked from the Democrats to try to benefit his campaign. 


REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL):  If we could put up slide six. 

This just came out, WikiLeaks.  I love WikiLeaks.  Donald Trump, October 10th, 2016. 

This WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable.  It tells you the inner heart.  You got to read it.  Donald Trump, October 12th, 2016. 

This WikiLeaks is a like a treasure drove.  Donald Trump, October 21st, 2016. 

Boy, I love reading those WikiLeaks.  Donald Trump, November 4th, 2016. 

Do any of those quotes disturb you, Mr. Director? 

MUELLER:  I`m not certain I would say --

QUIGLEY:  How do you react to them? 

MUELLER:  Well -- it`s probably problematic is an understatement, in terms of whether it displays, in terms of giving some -- I don`t know, hope or some boost to what is and should be illegal activity. 


MADDOW:  Problematic is an understatement, could be the theme of the day today.  Robert Mueller saying the president`s encouragement, his praise, his promotion of the way Russians were releasing the information they had hacked and stolen to help his campaign, Robert Mueller saying today that that was a boost to illegal activity, and problematic, to say the least. 

And immediately after that sort of show-stopping moment in the hearing, Robert Mueller went on to suggest that other interactions between the Trump campaign, people associated with the president and the Russians and their cutouts, those may still be the subject of ongoing investigation. 


QUIGLEY:  Volume one, page 59, Donald Trump Jr. had direct electronic communications with WikiLeaks during the campaign period.  On October 3rd, 2016, WikiLeaks sent another direct message to Trump Jr. asking, you guys to help disseminate a link alleging candidate Clinton advocated a drone to attack Julian Assange.  Trump Jr. responded to that, quote, he had already done so. 

Same question.  This behavior, at the very least, disturbing, your reaction? 

MUELLER:  Disturbing, and also, subject to investigation. 

SCHIFF:  Director, I think you made it clear that you think it unethical, to put it politely, to tout a foreign service like WikiLeaks publishing stolen political documents in a presidential campaign? 

MUELLER:  Certainly calls for investigation. 


MUELLER:  Certainly calls for investigation.  And, yes, what you just quoted me about the way that Donald Trump Jr. communicated with WikiLeaks, that is subject to investigation.  Oh. 

The touting of WikiLeaks publishing stolen documents, calls for investigation -- so, these investigations are happening? 

I mean, there is an indictment against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks which relates to stuff that well precedes the 2016 presidential election, seems to have nothing to do with it, but this suggests that not just what WikiLeaks did, but also the president`s son and his engagement with them is subject to investigation and calls for investigation, implying that it is under investigation.  And by the way, while we`re on the subject, there are other investigations still happening that Robert Mueller described for the first time publicly today. 

Here`s the part in today`s hearing where Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn swallowed his tongue. 


KRISHNAMOORTHI:  Individuals can be subject to blackmail if they lie about their interaction with foreign countries, correct? 

MUELLER:  True. 

KRISHNAMOORTHI:  For example, you successfully charged former national security adviser Michael Flynn of lying to federal agents about his conversations with Russian officials, correct? 

MUELLER:  Correct. 

KRISHNAMOORTHI:  Since it was outside the purview of your investigation, your report did not address how Flynn`s false statements could pose a national security risk, because the Russians knew the falsity of those statements, right? 

MUELLER:  I cannot get into that, mainly because there are many elements of the FBI that are looking at different aspects of that issue. 


MUELLER:  Currently. 


MADDOW:  Currently.  There are many aspects -- excuse me, many elements of the FBI that are looking at different aspects of that issue.  That`s about -- that`s in response to questions about Mike Flynn`s lying about his involvement with the Russian government and whether that could pose a national security risk to the United States, because the Russians knew about the falsity of his statements, therefore compromised him, therefore in a position to put the United States over a barrel because they had their national security adviser by the you-know-what. 

So that`s new.  Mr. Mueller telling us today that there are many elements of the FBI who are looking at different aspects of that issue right now. 

I should tell you, currently, we know from the appendix to Mueller`s report that there are a bunch of ongoing cases that we don`t know the names of.  In the appendix D to Mueller`s report, remember, there were 14 cases that were described as criminal matters from Mueller`s investigation that were ongoing.  They`re all blacked out.  We were not able to say what any of those ongoing matters was. 

One of the cases that was listed in that appendix, however, by name, wasn`t blacked out, was a case that was described as transferred to other prosecutors was the case of Mike Flynn`s business partner, Bijan Kian.  He was Trump transition official.  He was Flynn`s former business partner. 

Just yesterday, Bijan Kian was convicted on all counts by a jury in federal court, literally yesterday.  But that Kian case isn`t one of the 14 that is blacked out, that we can`t name.  That, according to Mueller`s report, is spun off from Mueller`s investigation.  And today, with these references that Mueller made, surprising everyone as to ongoing investigations and things that the FBI is looking at, that was a very good reminder that we still don`t know what any of this stuff is behind these redactions. 

The reference today by Mueller to an ongoing FBI investigation of Flynn and his compromise by a foreign country and Donald Trump Jr.`s and WikiLeaks, I mean, those -- those were all very much put on the table today by Mueller, presumably there are lots of billable hours been earned by the attorneys for those gentlemen.  We shall see.  But that was -- that was Mueller propping open the door into a wing of this house we didn`t even know existed. 

But I mean, all in all, as you can tell, there was a bunch that happened today that I thought was surprising.  But even some of the stuff you might have predicted would have come out because of the way that we knew Democrats wanted to walk Mueller through his own findings and all that stuff, all in all, just look at today as a whole, it was just a remarkable day, not just for this presidency, but for the presidency. 

I mean, I know that the Trump White House and conservative media are trying to, like, chin up tonight, make it seem like they had a great day today, everything was fine, nobody died.  They did not have a great day today.  I mean, this was the president`s day today.  It was just breathtaking. 


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY):  Director Mueller, the president has repeatedly claimed that your report found there was no obstruction and that it completely and totally exonerated him.  But that is not what your report said, is it? 

MUELLER:  Correct, it is not what the report said. 

NADLER:  So, the report did not conclude that he did not commit obstruction of justice?  Is that correct? 

MUELLER:  That is correct. 

NADLER:  And what about total exoneration?  Did you totally exonerate the president? 


NADLER:  In fact, your report states it does not exonerate the president. 

MUELLER:  It does. 

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA):  So, national security adviser Flynn lied about discussions with Russian ambassador related to sanctions, is that right? 

MUELLER:  That`s correct. 

SWALWELL:  Michael Cohen lied to this committee about Trump Tower Moscow, is that correct? 


SWALWELL:  George Papadopoulos, the president`s senior foreign policy adviser, lied to the FBI about his communications about Russia`s to possession of dirt on Hillary Clinton.  Is that right? 

MUELLER:  Correct, yes. 

SWALWELL:  The president`s campaign chairman Paul Manafort lied about meetings that he had with someone with ties to Russian intelligence.  Is that correct? 

MUELLER:  That`s true. 

REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA):  On January 25th, 2018, "The New York Times" reported that, quote, the president has ordered McGahn to have the department of justice fire you.  Is that correct? 

MUELLER:  Correct. 

BASS:  After the news broke, did the president go on TV and deny the story? 

MUELLER:  Do not know. 

BASS:  In fact, the president said, quote, fake news, folks, fake news.  A typical "New York Times" fake story", end quote.  Correct? 

MUELLER:  Correct. 

BASS:  But your investigation actually found substantial evidence that McGahn was ordered by the president to fire you, correct? 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did Mr. Trump Jr. or his counsel ever communicate to your office any intent to invoke his fifth amendment right against self- incrimination? 

MUELLER:  I`m not going to answer this. 

REP. SEAN MALONEY (D-NY):  I ask this respectfully, by the way, the president didn`t ever claim the Fifth Amendment, did he? 

MUELLER:  I`m not going to talk to that. 

REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL):  What did you term about the president`s credibility? 

MUELLER:  That I can`t get into that. 

BASS:  Next, the president told the White House staff secretary Rob Porter to try to pressure McGahn to make a false denial, is that correct? 

MUELLER:  That`s correct. 

BASS:  You found, quote, the president said he wanted McGahn to write a letter to the file for our records, correct? 

MUELLER:  Correct. 

BASS:  And to be clear, the president is asking his White House counsel, Don McGahn, to create a record that McGahn believed to be untrue, while you were in the midst of investigating the president for obstruction of justice, correct? 

MUELLER:  Generally correct. 

BASS:  And Mr. McGahn was an important witness in that investigation, wasn`t he? 

MUELLER:  I`d have to say yes. 

SCHIFF:  From your testimony today, I gather that you believe that knowingly accepting foreign assistance during the presidential campaign is an unethical thing to do. 

MUELLER:  And a crime. 

SCHIFF:  And a crime. 


MADDOW:  And a crime.  Bottom line. 

I mean, that`s what today was like for the president of the United States.  That`s what today was like for the presidency of the United States.  Has a president ever been substantially accused of the litany of things that he and his campaign have now been accused of, not just in print, but out loud by special counsel called to investigate his behavior?  Or anything close to this? 

I mean, that interjection on the last question, and a crime, yes, Mr. Chairman, and don`t overlook that, it`s a crime, too. 

It`s just -- just a remarkable day in the history of this country and the chairman of that committee, who you just saw there, Adam Schiff, joins us live next. 

Stay with us. 



REP. PETER WELCH (D-VT):  My concern is, have we established a new normal from this past campaign that is going to apply to future campaigns so that if any one of us running for the U.S. House, any candidate for the U.S. Senate, any candidate for the presidency of the United States, where if a hostile foreign power is trying to influence an election has no duty to report that to the FBI or other authorities? 


WELCH:  Go ahead.

MUELLER:  I hope this is not the new normal, but I fear it is. 

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA):  Perhaps one of the most chilling moments in our committee was when he expressed the fear that this become the new normal.  And, of course, I think what is animating that fear of the director, what certainly animates it for me is the fact that even after the nightmare of the last 2-1/2 years, the president of the United States will not forswear receiving foreign help again. 


MADDOW:  Joining us live is Congressman Adam Schiff, who is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. 

Sir, I know today must have been exhausting.  I really appreciate you taking the time to be with us tonight. 

SCHIFF:  Great to be with you. 

MADDOW:  So, you probably know by now that I`m somebody who follows this story closely.  I have read the Mueller report.  I paid as much attention to this story as I think is humanly possible.  Even still, Robert Mueller to my eye covered a bunch of topics today, particularly in your hearing that I have never expected them to touch. 

I feel like he sort of cracked open some new avenues of investigation.  I did not expect to hear him talking about.  Did you learn new information today from Mr. Mueller that you didn`t know before heading into today`s hearing? 

SCHIFF:  You know, it wasn`t so much I think for those of us on the committee new information and some of us have seen the more complete versions of the report, and have a better window into some of the other issues.  But it was just new and fresh hearing it from him. 

And you`re right, he did go beyond the report.  The report doesn`t talk about the lack of ethics, the lack of morality, the lack of patriotism that characterized the Trump campaign.  It doesn`t characterize as directly as he did today how the president`s statements are false. 

And so, it was powerful hearing it from him.  And that moment you just played and the questions he had with Peter Welch, that was to me the most chilling, because it was so true.  And all of this, of course, is forward- looking.  We are protecting ourselves in the next election, and what do we have to expect? 

And the point I tried to underscore at the end is, we can`t control what the Russians do, but we can control what we do.  And if we`re still open for business for foreign intervention, then, God help us. 

MADDOW:  One of the things that I found interesting today, and I didn`t expect as much detail from Mr. Mueller as we got from him today, was him talking about the relationship between hidden financial ties and compromise by a foreign power.  He talked about how financial ties that are elicit, that are potentially illegal, that are hidden and being lied about is perfect leverage for a hostile foreign power to compromise or to extort a number of different people in the president`s orbit, and indeed, the president himself. 

Now, Mr. Mueller was not specific or at least not definite when asked whether or not his investigation, therefore, looked at the president`s finances and tried to see if the financial records would show evidence of those kinds of ties or might be able to detail the ways in which the president may have been compromise by those things. 

Do you have clarity on whether or not Mueller and his team looked at the president`s finances and looked at his taxes? 

SCHIFF:  I don`t think the Mueller team looked at his finances.  I don`t think they followed the money.  I think they really -- and the document bear this is out. 

They viewed their mission as quite narrow, looking at these two vectors of Russian intervention, the social media campaign, the hacking and dumping operation, and then narrowly trying to assess, did the Trump campaign conspire with either one of those two things?  Beyond that, they really didn`t look.  And the one glimpse we got today is when Mueller said, we got this counterintelligence information, this compromised information and we fed it out to the bureau. 

So, I think Mueller viewed his job as to determine if he can prosecute on these issues, some of the other cases were farmed out.  But in terms of whether he observed the red line that Donald Trump tried to set around his finances, he wouldn`t answer directly, but indirectly, it looks very much like that line was observed. 

MADDOW:  Does that create new urgency or new justification for Congress being able to inspect those records themselves?  Does that bolster what they are pursuing in court as the president sues to stop compliance with subpoenas for those kinds of materials? 

SCHIFF:  It does and it certainly underscores just how falsely the argument is if Mueller never looked into the issues of compromise, then the nation is exposed.  If we can`t tell and at the end of the hearing, Mueller talked about whether -- you know, he couldn`t speculate about whether Trump is motivated because he still wants to do that Moscow Trump Tower deal, he knows he needs Putin`s approval, and that`s why he can`t bring himself to criticize Putin, or it`s something else. 

And the fact that we the American people also don`t know, that we have to speculate is the problem. 

And so, I think it falls on the Congress to do oversight, to make sure the president is pursuing policies on our interest, not on his financial interests, that people don`t have clearances, that shouldn`t have clearances, and we are starting to get some of those answers, Rachel.  We had a lengthy meeting with one of Mueller`s staff a week or so ago on the counterintelligence issues, but there is a lot we don`t know.  There`s still a lot the Justice Department is withholding and we`re going to fight to make sure we get that information. 

MADDOW:  Over the course of the two hearings today as the hours stitched together and as Robert Mueller, I don`t think increasingly, but persistently seemed old.  He seemed like he was struggling at times to hear what was going on, maybe struggling to comprehend compound questions to him when they were put in terms that were complex.  Robert Mueller today and I don`t mean this in an ad hominem way, he did just seem sort of less vital than I think I expected and a lot of people expected. 

As that persisted over the course of the day today, and I don`t mean to suggest that he is incapable.  It just seemed that he wasn`t totally on top of everything he was talking about.  My mind kept wondering to the gentleman who was sitting next to him during the testimony before your hearings, described as deputy special counsel, Aaron Zebley, and my mind kept wondering to the guys who are sitting behind him, who are some of the senior members of his team. 

You mentioned that you have spoken with at least one member of Mueller`s team recently in a closed door hearing about counterintelligence matters.  Do you expect you will be calling Mr. Zebley or Mr. Quarles, or Mr. Van Grack, or any of the other members of Mueller`s team, particularly Mueller himself today to try to get more from his team who seems to have done the work about what their investigation was like? 

SCHIFF:  Well, you may have noticed this morning that one person was particularly unhappy that Aaron Zebley was there and sworn in as a witness.  And, of course, that was the president who was tweeting about it.  There`s another person who was very unhappy about it was Bill Barr.  The Justice Department did not want him there. 

We wanted that precedent, frankly, that these members of the team can be called as witnesses.  They can be sworn in.  They can provide testimony that the DOJ trying to stone wall that and make some claim of a policy just doesn`t hold water.  And this is more true for people who have left the Justice Department. 

We are going to press to get the answers and whatever format and for whatever means that we need to.  I think the short answer is going to be some of this work was done, we`ll find out what work was done.  And where there was no follow-up, where they were not allowed to pursue leads or allegations, we`ll do that ourselves.  But at the end of the day, we want to make sure we leave no stone unturned when it comes to protecting the country from people who may be compromised. 

MADDOW:  Let me just press on that a little bit, Mr. Chairman.  Should we expect open hearings with other members of Mueller`s team? 

SCHIFF:  I wouldn`t rule it out.  You know, we think that today`s hearing was very powerful and very important in bringing that report to life and hearing it through Mueller`s own words, and we look for other opportunities to do that, too.  Some of the counterintelligence questions, it may be more difficult, particularly if it involves either ongoing litigation or classified matters. 

But where we can, we would like to do hearings like this in public that help inform the nation of the dangers that we face. 

MADDOW:  Yes.  I think if today (ph) -- we learned anything today, it`s about the power of an open hearing.  I know that in intelligence committee, you have to do a lot of things behind closed doors because of classification issues.

But to the extent that the country has the opportunity to hear these stories and particularly to hear it from the horse`s mouth, boy, is there an appetite for it?  And, boy, is it valuable? 

Congressman -- 

SCHIFF:  Absolutely.  And this is why, Rachel, the judiciary is working so hard to get Don McGahn to come in and testify.  That`s also very important. 

MADDOW:  Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee -- sir, I know it`s a big day.  Thanks for helping us understand it.  Much appreciate it. 

SCHIFF:  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  All right.  We`ve got much more ahead tonight.  Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  Before there was a Special Counsel Robert Mueller and a Mueller report and now an entire day of testimony from Robert Mueller, before all of that, there was a Russia investigation that preceded him, our nation`s first and contemporaneous attempt to understand Russia`s de facto invasion into American democracy in our 2016 presidential election. 

Our next guest tonight was there for the beginning of that pre-Mueller investigation.  He served as a top official in the Justice Department`s national security division.  His work there, particularly the steps that he took to strengthen the country`s laws about registering as a foreign agent, that led to, ultimately, some of the biggest convictions we`ve seen in this whole scandal, including the conviction of the president`s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and the president`s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and just yesterday, the Trump transition official, Bijan Kian. 

Joining us now live here in studio is David Laufman.  He`s the former chief of the counterintelligence section at the Justice Department.

Mr. Laufman, thanks for making the trip.  It`s good to have you here. 


MADDOW:  At the Justice Department, you obviously dealt specifically with national security and counterintelligence matters.  That came up in a big way sort of all day today.  But I was struck by an exchange that Adam Schiff had with Robert Mueller in which he described some of the compromising behavior around the president and by the president as a counterintelligence nightmare. 

Robert Mueller did not answer that directly.  That`s your characterization, not mine. 

How did that strike you?  Was that fair? 

LAUFMAN:  I thought it was fair for him to answer those questions.  I understand why the special counsel demurred on responding to it, specifically in the context of the president.  He sort of generic answers, yes, that would present a counterintelligence concern, and that`s precisely why, for example, senior Department of Justice officials went to the White House and told White House counsel about their concerns regarding Michael Flynn, because they felt he was a counterintelligence pinata for the Russian security service.

MADDOW:  He was also suggesting that the Trump Tower Moscow deal and the secrecy around that deal and that persisting throughout the campaign when the president was lying to the public and saying that he had no deals and business, that that, too, was a counterintelligence nightmare, because it gave the Russians the ability to expose something about a leading presidential candidate that could potentially extort him. 

LAUFMAN:  That`s right.  Anything that a foreign power can exploit that a U.S. person wants to keep a secret creates a vulnerability that puts that person and arguably the national security at of the United States, if they have access to classified information, at risk.  That`s why you if you`re Joe Blow or Jane Doe applying for a security clearance and you are filling out a gazillion question, security clearance questionnaire, you`re going to have to respond to a number of questions about if there`s anything going on in your life that could cause you to be subject to compromise. 

MADDOW:  What`s the remedy for that, when somebody that has implications for national security, has been compromised.  What do we do as a country to fix that when we discover it?  I mean, having a secret real estate deal with Russia is not a crime, but if it is potentially a point of leverage and a fulcrum for extortion against a presidential candidate and therefore against a president, how do we fix that as a country? 

LAUFMAN:  Well, in the first instance, you undergo a vetting process that any responsible transition operation would, in the run-up to taking office, and that didn`t happen in this case, because, as we`ve been led to believe, the Trump campaign didn`t actually think they were going to be successful, so, they were playing catch up.  So, they played a lot of corners in the vetting process for people in the administration. 

MADDOW:  And the transition would not have been in the position of vetting the president. 

LAUFMAN:  Well, fair enough, yes.  Fair enough.

MADDOW:  I mean, to me, I feel like we`re back to these brass tacks questions, the big questions that started the investigation that you were involved in, back again because of Robert Mueller`s blunt, quick answers to all of these questions today. 

How did you -- how did you feel just watching it today and thinking about what the country`s been able to absorb about this threat, particularly given your early work on the investigation? 

LAUFMAN:  You know, I think there weren`t any major revelations factually by the special counsel today.  I think it was important for the country to hear his clear voiced affirmations of basic things that are in the report, if one had the time to read it, that the Trump campaign welcomed derogatory information about an opponent, that they welcomed the dumping of documents, derogatory to the opposing candidate, stolen through unlawful cyber activities.  Those things, even if they didn`t result in sufficient admissible evidence to charge anybody criminally with a conspiracy, to say it mildly, do not reflect in a becoming way of the Trump campaign.  And, so, you know, there were minor things like that. 

I think it was important, though, for the country not to view what happened today as a summation of this matter.  I mean, to paraphrase former President Gerald Ford, you know, this is not the end of a long national nightmare.  We are in the middle of a long, national nightmare.

And Special Counsel Mueller emphasized it today, as he did in his public remarks some weeks ago, by calling attention to not just the historic Russian threat to subvert our democracy in 2016, but an ongoing present danger.  And that requires an acknowledgement by the president of the nature and severity of this threat and continuous leadership, mobilizing all levers of national power, to understand and counter that threat. 

MADDOW:  One of the things that was unusual today was that some Republican members of Congress who were involved this both committees did, at least in a -- at least in a sort of pro forma way, did suggest that the Russian threat was real and it`s important we deal with it heading into 2020.  The reason that seems significant, there has been a party line take on that following the president`s lead.  In the Republican Party, it`s been fashionable to deny that there`s any real threat. 

LAUFMAN:  It`s just contemptible.  It`s contemptible for any member of Congress not to stand shoulder to shoulder with the men and women of intelligence community, with the FBI, to call this what it is.  It is a threat to subvert American democracy again in the election that comes before us.

And, for members of Congress to equivocate about the nature of that threat or what needs to be done to it is doing an enormous disservice to this country. 

MADDOW:  Let me ask you one quick question, I doubt know if you can answer this or not.  I was surprised to hear Mr. Mueller today talk about ongoing investigations, things being -- things calling for an investigation, things being the subject of an investigation.  At one point, he said there were numerous elements of the FBI who were looking at something.  Those were -- he brought those up in questions about Mike Flynn, questions about Donald Trump Jr., questions about WikiLeaks. 

LAUFMAN:  Right.

MADDOW:  How should we understand what he was saying there? 

LAUFMAN:  Yes, I`m not sure.

I mean, Michael Flynn is not a threat anymore, he`s out of government.  Kislyak is no longer ambassador to the United States.  I mean, it`s quite possible that the counterintelligence investigation having to do with the Russians effort to subvert the 2016 election bleeds into the next election cycle, and there`s some continuation of that counterintelligence investigation writ large. 

The other specific matters that they indicated still have live strands.  I`m not (INAUDIBLE) precisely what he was taking about.

MADDOW:  Those live strands are of acute interest to me now and I guess that`s all we can say about it at this point. 

David Laufman is the former chief of counterintelligence section at the Justice Department.  If you have been interested to see all of these people getting charged with violating the Foreign Agent Registration Act, that`s not something we used to pay a lot of attention to, a lot of the legal groundwork in our country was laid by David Laufman.  Sir, thank you for being here.

LAUFMAN:  So good to see.  Thank you.

MADDOW:  Good to have you here. 

All right.  We`ll be right back.  Stay with us.



REP. WILL HURD (R-TX):  In your investigation, did you think that this was a single attempt by the Russians to get involved in our election or did you find evidence to suggest they`ll try to do this again? 

MUELLER:  This wasn`t a single attempt.  They`re doing it as we sit here.  And they expect to do it during the next campaign. 


MADDOW:  They`re doing it while we sit here and they expect to do it in the next campaign. 

During his testimony today, Robert Mueller reiterated his earlier plea to the country that Russia`s efforts to undermine our elections deserve the attention of every American.  We`ve heard similar warnings from other leaders in law enforcement and intelligence, including from FBI Director Christopher Wray just yesterday in the Senate. 

So, the alarm bells are definitely going off, and yet the Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, keeps blocking any and all legislation, even bipartisan legislation, that is aimed at doing anything about this threat. 

Well, tonight, Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia unexpectedly took to the Senate floor, to demand a vote on this once and for all, to demand a vote on legislation to try to protect the 2020 election from foreign interference. 


SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA):  In the nearly three years since we uncovered Russia`s attack on our democracy, this body has not held a single vote on standalone legislation to protect our elections.  Just a month ago, the president of the United States sat in the Oval Office and by dismissing this threat effectively gave Russia the green light to interfere in future elections.  If a foreign adversary tries to offer assistance to your campaign, your response should not be thank you, your response should be a moral obligation to tell the FBI. 


MADDOW:  That was just tonight. 

One of the pieces of legislation Senator Warner is pushing is something called the Fire Act, which makes sure that attempts to interfere in future presidential elections are at least promptly reported to the FBI. 

Despite Mueller`s warning about foreign interference today and Chris Wray`s warning about it yesterday, despite this plea tonight from Senator Warner, as you might guess, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, tonight, once again blocked this request to get a vote on that legislation, as well as all the other bills for election security this year. 

It makes you wonder exactly what it is he is so worried about if he might pass some of that legislation and that might actually do it. 

We`ll be right back. 


MADDOW:  As I mentioned at the top of the show, I love my job.  And I have always loved my job and I consider my job to be the single greatest job in the country. 

That said, a day like today is something special.  I hope that members of Congress, in particular the leadership in Congress, recognizes that open hearings, open hearings before the really important for the country in terms of dealing with even the most controversial issues in terms of airing out complex stuff that we are fighting about as citizens and as partisans and as independents and voters and non-voters. 

When it`s stuff that really matters to the country, airing it out, having us all have the same information is a really solid basis for us to move forward with higher level conversation, a more constructive debate and enables us all to be better citizens.  So, I`m super glad that Congress had open hearings.  I hope they are the first of many.  I`m ready to hear from every single member of Mueller`s team who will agree to come before them.

But being able to talk about this tonight just feels like a real privilege. 

So, thanks for being here.  That does it for me tonight.  We will see you again tomorrow. 


Good evening, Lawrence.

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