CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: I mean, honestly, there was a world in which he could have gone the other way.
MICHELLE GOLDBERG, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right. That would have been the worst-case scenario for Democrats. The world in which he pursues infrastructure is the world he gets above 50 percent.
HAYES: Michelle Goldberg and Sara Nelson, thanks for joining us.
That`s 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: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
We`re going to be joined by phone in just a moment live by the prime minister of the Bahamas, a country that has been and right now continues to be just absolutely pummeled by Hurricane Dorian.
The Bahamas, of course, are a nation of about 400,000 people, about 700 islands in the Bahamas. The devastation there from Hurricane Dorian is not evenly spread, to say the least.
The focus for rescue and recovery now is on the places in the Bahamas that have been hardest hit. It`s all just almost impossible to visually take in what you`re looking at here, but this is what it looks like as of now in the Abaco Islands, which is part of the northern Bahamas. This is less than 200 miles off the Florida coast.
Hurricane Dorian hit Abaco on Sunday as a category 5 hurricane with winds that reached more than 185 miles per hour. This is the most powerful storm to ever have been known to have hit the Bahamas.
Prime Minister Hubert Minnis announced just in this past hour that the known death toll in his country has risen to seven. Before tonight, it had been five. Now, it is seven. It is feared that that toll will further rise for the reasons you can see on your screen right now.
This widespread devastation in the Bahamas as aerial photography is finally able to get in there and people are finally able to get in there to see the results of what has happened with that storm. I mean, beyond the hurricane`s sheer strength, the death and destruction in Abaco and on the neighboring island of Grand Bahama are in part the result of how static Dorian has been, how slowly it has been moving.
The storm basically stalled over grand Bahama for 41 straight hours. To get a sense of what that means, "The Washington Post" described it as the equivalent of a strong tornado and a flash flood happening at the same time, but roaring on and on and on for more than a day and a half. Tornadoes don`t usually last a day and a half.
For a visual perspective, I know that some of these images are sort of hard to place. In part, this looks sort of like a boat out on the ocean -- out on the open ocean, like maybe you`re looking from a vessel here. This is actually a view taken at the international airport. This is the airport in Freeport in the Bahamas, which is the nation`s second largest city.
This is not a boat out on the ocean. This is the land or what used to be it. This is the international airport.
This is the town of Marsh Harbor on Abaco, just entirely underwater. The fact that Dorian wouldn`t move, the fact that it was stuck there for so long, has meant it took a long time to get these images. It was basically impossible to get a sense of what happened there and to get relief efforts under way until the eye of the storm finally moved off Grand Bahama, which only happened this afternoon. As "The Washington Post" reports tonight, emergency responders are now conducting, quote, targeted rescues.
Quote: On the Facebook page of the prime minister`s office, the government asked people stranded on Grand Bahama to send their GPS locations via WhatsApp. One user posted, quote, Freeport gospel chapel multipurpose building, meaning I`m trapped there, I need rescuing there. Another person posted, quote: Hi, struck by grand central four-way in plot -- excuse me, grand central four-way. Please send help. Holding on to a wall.
People sending live reports with their GPS coordinates WhatsApping them to the Facebook page of the prime minister. When you have to try to save people however, you can in circumstances like this. But, again, this is the strongest storm to have ever been known to hit the Bahamas.
Joining us now by phone from Nassau, from the capital of the Bahamas is Prime Minister Hubert Minnis.
Mr. Prime Minister, sir, I know this is an incredibly difficult time. I will not keep you long, but thank you for taking a moment to talk to us about what`s happening there.
HUBERT MINNIS, PRIME MINISTER OF BAHAMAS (via telephone): Thank you very much.
MADDOW: I know, sir, that you were able to survey the damage in the Bahamas among other places from the air today. You were able to get up in a plane. Can you tell us what you`ve been able to see?
MINNIS: Yes, we were able to survey Abaco, one of the islands that was hit by this monster hurricane, and the damage is less in the southern area of the island and more progressive as you move north. As we entered the airport area, the international airport in Marsh Harbour, we find that the runway and the adjoining areas are underwater, and therefore, no aircraft can land to bring any form of relief.
And as we move further north, we note that the Marsh Harbour area has been decimated. I would estimate that at least 60 percent of the homes in Marsh Harbour have either been destroyed or damaged. The -- an area that we call the mud where many of the Asian nationals live, that area has been completely destroyed. And as we move further north heading into the Cooperstown and other northern areas, we find that the roadway is flooded and in some aspects the roadway is broken, and therefore, there is no roadway transportation network between the north and the central of these different communities.
And the airport in the Treasure Cay area, that is one of the northern settlements, that airport, though the runway is useable, there is no access between the main road and the airport because that adjoining area is, again, flooded underwater. And there was a community, the homes within that community were gravely damaged, partially destroyed, and there were at least about 30 individuals who were standing outside the home on dry ground, what would be considered relatively high ground.
Those individuals as we passed by were waving yellow cloth, any type of clothing that they had available to them, trying to point out to us that they were still alive and needed some form of assistance. Fortunately, that exact location was mapped and information was sent to a helicopter in the nearby area and those 30 individuals would have been rescued and transported to safety. So that`s basically what we`re seeing with -- Abaco at this particular time.
We have not yet surveyed Grand Bahama. It`s not an all-clear yet. So we cannot survey Grand Bahama. But we expect to find quite a bit of devastation there and damage as a result of flooding. As you know, the storm essentially we would say fell asleep on Grand Bahama, which would have caused even more damage.
You can imagine being battered by 180 to 200 miles per hour wind for in excess of almost two days. That can be very devastating.
MADDOW: Mr. Prime Minister, sir, that amount of devastation that you were describing on Abaco as you were able to get up and see that today from the air, when you describe neighborhoods, you know, with 60 percent of homes destroyed or damaged, other neighborhoods that appear to be entirely destroyed, coupling that with what you were describing about the infrastructure in terms of roads and airports being inundated and unusable, I have to ask if you feel the evacuation orders were successful? Will there be large numbers of people that need rescue efforts in Abaco or were people largely evacuated from the areas that were most hurt?
MINNIS: I think Bahamians are a resilient group. What you will find that even if evacuation after asking them to leave, et cetera, you find that the average Bahamian would want to stay in their community and rebuild. We face challenges not as bad as this before. We`ve faced many hurricanes where areas and communities were devastated, and communities tend to come together and rebuild.
Our homes are built at a very great standard. Our building codes were built to withstand about 150 miles per hour wind. We never expected that we would one day encounter wind velocity as high as 180 to 200 miles per hour.
But we will take that as a lesson and we will even build our -- strengthen our codes even more to ensure that we are protected and protect ourselves and prepare as best we can in the event that storms approach our shores with even greater velocity. But we are resilient people and we will stay and we will rebuild. We will not leave our islands to move to another.
MADDOW: Sir, in terms of people who may still be there and who may need help, either on Grand Bahama or anybody remaining in Abaco, especially as the storm now moves away from the Bahamas and people start to emerge and realize what`s around them and realize that they may not be able to travel, is there communication? Are cell towers down? Are people able to communicate who may need help?
MINNIS: As we passed through the Abaco area, several of our towers are down. And communication is limited. We`re using satellite phones to communicate with the various areas.
MINNIS: Still in some areas, we`re getting WhatsApp messages going through. So we`re communicating via that. But as soon as the all-clear is given, you can be assured that vessels and international community will be there and Bahamians will commence rebuilding their lives immediately.
We`re happy that -- we`re grateful, I should say, that the storm has not hit our economic engine of the Bahamas, which is New Providence. This is the main tourist destination. And I can say that New Providence was not touched at all and the hotels, our airports, our streets, our infrastructure, telephone systems, everything is still 100 percent functional, just -- just as was before the hurricane.
Those islands that are hit -- that were hit does not necessarily affect New Providence.
MINNIS: Our economic engines still function and the economic engines will use its power and resources to help rebuild those two islands.
MADDOW: Prime Minister Hubert Minnis of the Bahamas -- sir, thank you so much for giving us some of your time tonight. People around this country and the world are obviously expressing concerns and prayers for the people of the Bahamas. Thank you for helping us understand what`s happening there, sir. Good luck.
MINNIS: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: A live report there from the prime minister of the Bahamas. He just completed a press conference earlier tonight. We were able to get him on the phone. I`m grateful for his time.
As I mentioned earlier, Hurricane Dorian`s eye wall did finally move off of Grand Bahama this afternoon. The prime minister saying there that it was as if the storm went to sleep over Grand Bahama Island.
It is, I mean, to talk about -- hear the prime minister say, listen, we build to 150-mile-an-hour wind standard here. We didn`t expect to have 180-mile, 200-mile-an-hour winds for that sustained a period. Right.
Again, strongest storm to ever -- ever known to have hit the Bahamas. Now that the eye wall has moved off of the Bahamas, it is still moving slowly toward the U.S. coast and it is still a hurricane.
Dorian is now a category 2 hurricane. It`s gone from tropical storm to 1 to 2 all the way up to 5. It`s now back down to 2. Right now, the winds are topping out, as you can see there, at about 110 miles per hour.
According to the National Hurricane Center, they expect the storm now to move what they call dangerously close to the Florida coast and the Georgia coast, late tonight through tomorrow and into tomorrow night. Then they expect it to be near or over the coast of South Carolina and North Carolina through Friday morning.
Florida`s east coast is already getting rain from the outer bands of Dorian right now. There are hurricane warnings and storm surge warnings in effect for most of the Southeast coast. There are mandatory evacuation orders along coasts of Florida and Georgia and South Carolina. We expect North Carolina`s mandatory evacuations to begin tomorrow morning.
So, again, we will continue to track Dorian as it threatens the United States. Those scenes from the Bahamas are absolutely devastating. Interesting to hear the prime minister there talk about the economic engine of the Bahamas being alive and being relatively untouched by the storm. He`s talking about that as being key to be able to mount rescue and rebuilding efforts in Abaco and Grand Bahama that were hit so badly, but we`re just starting to get the first images off the islands because the storm stayed there for so long.
So, again, we will stay on that over the course of the night.
I also want to give you an update on a story that we covered pretty intensively last week. This was a story first broken by WBUR, a public radio station in Boston and by "Commonwealth Magazine" in Massachusetts. It was also picked up thereafter by the "Boston Globe" and the "Miami Herald", and ultimately by "The New York Times".
But when the story first broke in Massachusetts, it was based on a couple of cases that centered around Boston Children`s Hospital. Boston Children`s Hospital, really elite children`s hospital.
It was almost an unbelievable bit of news when this started to emerge in the Northeast last week. There had been no announcement about this from the Trump administration. The only way anybody learned this Trump administration plan was unfolding was when individual families started receiving letters from the Trump administration that they had no warning of. They couldn`t believe them when they received them. They didn`t know what to make of them. They started to turn to doctors and lawyers and advocacy groups for help with understanding what this could mean.
But the long and short of it, the cartoonishly evil caricatured bottom line of it as it emerged last week and as we reported here on this show last week is that the Trump administration had somehow figured out a way to zero in on kids with life-threatening illnesses -- kids with cancer, kids with cystic fibrosis, kids with rare diseases for which they need specialized, delicate, advanced medical care of the kind that you can only get at elite children`s hospitals.
The Trump administration in their wisdom figured out a way to find those kids and those families in America and target them, target them in some cases for death. The Trump administration with no warning started sending families of those kids in those situations letters telling them that even though those kids were here in this country legally to receive lifesaving medical care, the Trump administration had decided in its wisdom that that was no longer a reason for those kids to be allowed to stay here. So, those parents needed to stop getting lifesaving medical care for their children and they needed to get them and their families out of this country within 33 days.
They all got the same boilerplate letter. This policy, this program no longer applies. You need to be out in 33 days. No appeal. No referral. That`s it.
And as I said, this started as a local story in Massachusetts. I think it took a few days to boil up into a national news story, in part because who could believe this was really happening, right? This was so indefensible. This was so morally repugnant, you know, literally they`re targeting kids with cancer now?
I think the national press corps may not have been able to fully sort of grok that this was what the Trump administration had decided to do next. But this is real news, this is a real thing they`ve been doing and they`re targeting these kids actually extended to kids and families who were literally invited to come to this country by America`s best children`s hospitals. You know, invited here not as charity cases, not as, like, heart strings cases where America was being generous. Literally, these families and these kids were invited here simply because American medical researchers needed access to these kids to try to develop cures to rare diseases.
I don`t know if you ever wanted to be a doctor when you were growing up. I was always really squeamish about needles and blood and everything, so I knew I could never do it, so it was never one of my fantasies ever. But I know for all of the people who do end up becoming doctors and, you know, medical researchers in this country, there are thousands more Americans who grow up having this kind of superhero fantasy about how cool it would be to become a great doctor, right? How cool it would be to become a groundbreaking medical researcher.
It`s an understandable, like, childhood fantasy, right? One of the great super heroic conquests you can imagine for yourself as one of the world`s great doctors, as one of the world`s great researchers would be if you could come up with a cure or a treatment for a previously untreatable rare disease. Like imagine what that would mean. How meaningful that would make your life if that was your life`s work, right?
There are real doctors. There are real super heroic doctors who do that kind of work at the best children`s hospitals in the world, many of which are in the United States. But that work doesn`t just happen by genius alone, right?
It doesn`t happen with, you know, capes and superpowers. In order to develop cures for rare diseases, what you need is the ability to work with patients who have those rare diseases. And by definition of the word rare, there are not all that many of those patients.
And so, doctors, for example, at the UC-San Francisco Children`s Hospital in northern California, doctors who are looking to test a potential treatment for a devastating rare disease called MPS VI where kids are born without an enzyme they need to live. Doctors wanting to develop a treatment for that rare disease.
Well, they found a little 7-year-old girl named Isabel, Isabel Bueso, who lived in another country. She had that rare disease. At UCSF, they recruited her and her family. They asked her family to please come to this country so she could be part of a clinical trial that was testing an experimental treatment for her rare disease.
They need patients to be able to test these treatments, to be able to develop these treatments, to be able to cure these rare diseases. There is no other way to do it, and so, they need to find these patients wherever they are in the world and bring them here. And because Isabel was able to come from another country to California to be part of this clinical trial, that clinical trial finally had enough patients to be allowed to go ahead.
And the clinical trial went ahead and it was successful. And that treatment for that rare disease is now FDA-approved, thanks to her and her family.
And then last week, we learned that the Trump administration had decided it was time for her to die. She gets weekly intravenous infusions of that experimental treatment which is not approved for distribution in her home country. Nevertheless, the Trump administration sent her family a boilerplate letter, a phone letter telling them they needed to take Isabel off treatment and get out of this country, go back to where they came from.
And so, that letter going out to Isabel`s family and other families like Isabel`s led to this initial coverage at WBUR, "Commonwealth Magazine". Follow-up coverage from the "Boston Globe," including a devastating editorial from the "Boston Globe." We picked up this story here on this show. The story also started getting covered in Florida, "The Miami Herald," "The New York Times" ultimately front paged the story with this headline: Sick migrants undergoing lifesaving care can now be deported.
The oversight committee in the House noticed what was happening. They announced an emergency meeting at which the head of the U.S. Citizenship and immigration services and acting head of ICE were both told to appear. Then this letter went out signed by 127 members of Congress, remarkably every single one of them a Democrat. Apparently Republicans don`t care about this.
A hundred twenty-seven members of Congress, all Democrats, sent this letter to the Trump administration demanding a reversal of this policy, demanding that they don`t kill these kids, but also demanding answers to a bunch of very direct questions. Like this one, essentially, who did it and why?
Quote: What was the rational for the policy change? Please provide any emails, memoranda, guidance or other documents discussing the rationale for the policy change.
Also, who were the most senior officials in the White House and the Department of Homeland Security who approved this change? Why did you not provide advanced notice to the public or to Congress before this change was enacted? For that matter, what formal notice at all has been provided to the public or to Congress that this change has been enacted?
In other words, we, the Congress, are only learning about this from the press. And the press is only learning about it from the families you have taken aim at. This is a major policy change. Were you just not going to mention it?
The groundswell of disbelief and criticism and outrage over what the Trump administration is doing here just kept building steadily over the course of last week. The story started to make network TV news. The anchors like Gayle King at a CBS morning show expressing on the air that surely, surely this must be an error. Surely something could be done to fix this.
"Boston Globe" ran a second editorial, a blistering one. The headline, "The most inhumane of Trump`s immigration policies."
Here`s the lead of that editorial, quote: President Trump`s most outrageous immigration policy has become a bureaucratic hot potato -- an attack on sick immigrants seemingly so cruel that seemingly no part of the federal immigration system wants to implement it. And really, why would they? Unless the administration takes the hint and withdraws the proposal, it`s asking officials to take actions that ought to haunt their conscience and the country`s.
And then, finally, after a week of this we have been watching this story break in Massachusetts and slowly build and slowly get flushed out and Congress start to notice and editorial boards start to pick it up and it become a national news story. We`ve seen a week of this growing disbelief and outrage at what they`re doing, and now Trump administration has changed their mind. They have reversed the policy, sort of.
MADDOW: You might have seen some of these headlines over the last 24 hours. This is from "The New York times": Faced with criticism, Trump administration reverses bankrupt end to humanitarian relief.
From WBUR in Boston, which did some of the first reporting on this story: After public outcry, feds agree to re-open certain medical deferment process.
At "Commonwealth Magazine" in Massachusetts, which also did great reporting on this story from the very beginning, quote: Trump administration changes course on immigrant parents. Those told to leave the country will be allowed to stay for now.
But that "for now" is doing a lot of work there because even though the Trump administration appears to have caved on this, they appear to have reversed themselves on this, they will at least now consider the applications of kids who are already currently here in this country receiving lifesaving medical treatment. They will consider the applications of those kids to stay on, which is a reversal. It appears that the bigger picture of what they`re doing here is not so much a reversal of this astonishing policy they were trying to get away with, it appears to be more of just a temporary reprieve to try to cool down the heat of the spotlight that has been burning into them about the course of the last week.
And, you know, we should have expected that. We have seen this before when it comes to the Trump administration`s anti-immigrant policies, that they want to crow about to their base for political purposes but they really don`t want to defend on the merits. We saw it, for example, when the Trump administration was initially found to be taking little kids and babies away from their moms and dads at the border, forcibly separating families against their will. You might remember that the Trump administration initially claimed that that wasn`t their policy at all.
Then they admitted, OK, it was their poll icy, but it wasn`t a new policy. Everybody had always done this, hadn`t they?
Then in a nationwide convulsion of outrage over their policy, they made a big show of announcing that they were stopping the policy. Well, of course, we have since learned that despite that big showy announcement and despite court orders telling them that they can`t separate kids from their parents anymore, the Trump administration has actually just gone ahead and continued taking away little kids from their families at the border, even to this day.
And it looks like that may be sort of what they are trying to pull off with this new announced apparent reversal of their new policy targeting kids with cancer and kids with cystic fibrosis and kids with rare diseases who are undergoing lifesaving medical care.
The New England chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association has multiple clients who have been targeted by the Trump administration in this latest dystopian turn. She tells "Commonwealth Magazine" in Massachusetts today, quote: They created a problem and are now pretending to solve it. They are not solving the problem with this new pronouncement. They are just punting it to be dealt with later.
Joining us now is that immigration attorney, Mahsa Khanbabai.
Ms. Khanbabai, thank you so much for joining us tonight. I appreciate you making time to be here.
MAHSA KHANBABAI, AMERICAN IMMIGRATION LAWYERS NEW ENGLAND CHAPTER CHAIR: Thank you so much for having me, Rachel, and drawing attention to this.
MADDOW: So we`ve seen all of these headlines suggesting that the Trump administration has backed off, that maybe this was an error, that maybe they didn`t necessarily know what they were getting into when they started telling all these families that they were going to have to stop lifesaving medical treatment and leave this country. But you`re suggesting at least from the way you understand it that this may not be a reversal. They essentially may just be sort of hitting pause?
KHANBABAI: Yes, definitely this seems to just be a temporarily -- temporary step back from their policy change and that they`re going to no longer retroactively apply this policy, which is what one would have expected in the first place. But going forward, any application that was filed after August 7th will no longer be accepted or reviewed, and instead, they will have to go through the deportation process as the government, you know, recently stated.
MADDOW: So the people who have been profiled in the press reports about this policy change from the Trump administration, some of them are people who had applied for this status and received this form letter in response saying, no, we`re no longer considering that. We can sort of imagine what will happen now, now that those applications will be reconsidered.
But you`re saying anybody else who is in this similar situation, who is in this country who is receiving life-threatening -- lifesaving medical care here, who can`t get that lifesaving medical care in another country, while that previously would have been the basis for applying to stay in this country, they`re not planning on looking at any of those applications in the future?
KHANBABAI: Correct, right. So, essentially, they`re continuing with this gratuitously cruel policy. So if someone were to apply on August 8th or today saying, I have a very rare heart condition, for example, like my client who did not have arteries connecting to her heart and had to come to the United States for this treatment. If she tried to apply today, they would not take her case. And instead, she would have to go into the deportation process, which would use tremendous government resources from ICE to having to process these individuals to going to an immigration court where they have to see a judge and use the resources of an already overburdened immigration court and the trials court system.
And then, finally, when they get a deportation order from an immigration judge, only then could they ask the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, ICE, saying, please don`t carry out this deportation order. Let me apply for a stay of my deportation.
MADDOW: Wow. It`s, I mean, a very key distinction there that this is a legal status being taken away. These are not people who are here in an illegal status. These are people who have legal status now and it`s being removed, putting them in a totally different part of the enforcement section.
Let me just ask you briefly, you mentioned your 14-year-old there. We talk about her the last you were here, Ms. Khanbabai. She`s 14 years old. She has had heart surgery from this rare condition. She`s expected -- she`s recovering from that. She`s expected to have further heart surgery in the future.
Can I ask what this has been like for her and her family, having received this word that she would have to leave and now going through this apparent reprieve?
KHANBABAI: Right. They`re obviously so thankful that she will no longer have to worry about this in the near future, but we`re not sure yet how the government`s even going to look at these applications.
KHANBABAI: When they put their statement out, they seemed to bring in a new condition, a higher standard or burden to be met comparable to what individuals have to do when they`re applying for a visitor visa at a U.S. embassy.
So, frankly, I`m still concerned about how her application and all the others will be looked at.
MADDOW: Mahsa Khanbabai, who`s chair of the New England chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, representing several people who have been caught up in this new nightmare from the Trump administration -- ma`am, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Please keep us apprised.
KHANBABAI: Thank you.
KHANBABAI: Thank you so much, Rachel.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
All right. Much more to get to tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The great un-winnowing.
So the next Democratic presidential debate is next week. It`s 10 candidates, Thursday next week in Houston. The DNC set tougher criteria for qualifying for next week`s debate. That cut the field in half, right?
So the previous two debates had 20 contenders competing back-to-back over two nights. The next one, the third debate is just going to be 10 candidates all on one night. In other words, the winnowing of the Democratic presidential field begins.
But now, let it also start unbeginning because why not, Democrats? The DNC just this weekend confirmed the qualifying criteria for the fourth debate, the one that happens in October, next month, under the rules just announced by the DNC, all of the candidates who qualify for next week`s debate are definitely already in for October, but people who don`t qualify for next week`s debate, people who don`t hit their marks, either in polling or fund- raising in time for next week`s debate, will get another month to try.
So, the criteria for getting into the next two debates, the one next week and the one in October, criteria`s the same. But the window for qualifying for the second one is longer. So, same start debate for qualifying for both debates, that means you get a longer time to try to get into the October one.
That means even though the September debate is going to reduce the candidate numbers down to ten, the October debate is probably going to open them back up. The October debate will end up being an un-winnowing, which is the opposite of trying to zero in on the strongest candidate to represent the party, right?
But that`s where Democrats are. With one night of debate set in September and as they announced over this Labor Day weekend, possibly two nights again in October for a newly re-expanded field. People who got cut from this next debate might be there next month. Oh, Democrats.
That said, we also learned about something else that is likely to have significant political impact that could be happening at the exact same time of that weird un-winnowing debate and that story is next.
MADDOW: "The Washington Post" today broke some surprising news, that as soon as next month, as soon as October, the House Judiciary Committee is preparing to hold hearings and call witnesses involved in hush money payments to ex-"Playboy" model Karen McDougal and adult film star Stormy Daniels. Hmm.
This is the case that already put the president`s personal lawyer Michael Cohen in federal prison for campaign finance felonies. It`s a case in which federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York have already named the president as individual one, who they say directed the commission of these felonies. Well, now among other things the Judiciary Committee apparently wants to find out what the president knew about these felonies. They`re interested in exploring the president`s own evolving explanations about what he knew of the scheme.
Judiciary Democrats also apparently want to investigate why the Justice Department ended their own criminal investigation of this hush money scheme after Michael Cohen was sent to prison for it. Clearly, other people were involved in this or it wouldn`t have been a scheme. Why did the Justice Department end it after only charging Michael Cohen?
Joining us now is Tom Hamburger, reporter at "The Washington Post", who is part of breaking this story.
Mr. Hamburger, really appreciate you making the time to be with us tonight. Thanks.
TOM HAMBURGER, REPORTER, THE WASHINGON POST: Good to be with you, Rachel. Thanks.
MADDOW: So I say this is surprising news, because I -- while this seemed to me like a big dangling thread in terms of the scandals that have surrounded the president, this one a particularly interesting one because of what federal prosecutors told the judge about the president`s own involvement.
We didn`t have any sense that the Democrats in the House were interested in pursuing this on their own terms. Am I right that this is the first we`ve known that they`ve been interested in going after this?
HAMBURGER: This is the first indication we`ve had from the Judiciary Committee that they are putting this on their list of priority topics to investigate. We knew, Rachel, already that they were focused on some of the things that were -- that were front and center in the Mueller report, particularly the alleged incidents of possible obstruction of justice.
But this sixth case, this sixth matter involving the hush money payments had been very much on the back burner, and there was no definite sign that it was going to be investigated by the Judiciary Committee or other committees until just the last few weeks.
MADDOW: The prospect of there being hearings on this in the House, I suppose could go a couple of different ways. A lot of the high-profile witnesses that the committees have gone after, they haven`t been able to get to come in to testify at all. When people have been able to come in and testify, more often than not we have seen those people testifying behind closed doors.
Do we have any sense as to whether or not the witnesses for this -- this hearing, including presumably Stormy Daniels herself who said today on Twitter "bring it", that she`s willing to testify. Do we expect that these hearings would be held in public, that these would be televised hearings rather than closed-door hearings?
HAMBURGER: Rachel, the terms of the hearing have not been formally set, but our expectation -- interview that my colleague Rachael Bade at "The Post" and I did suggest that this is a high-profile hearing. It would be a high-profile hearing. So, yes, public. It is something that the members of the Judiciary Committee felt in a sense that they have a public duty to present publicly, in part because as you just suggested, the investigation of this hush money payment seemed to end rather suddenly in the Southern District of New York.
Michael Cohen was sentenced to -- is doing jail time because of his involvement with it, but the documents that were released by a federal judge also concerned about getting public attention to this showed that there were strong indications that there was a group of individuals, not just Michael Cohen, involved in a conspiracy to basically subvert campaign finance laws, make payments that would assure that the testimony of these women would remain quiet, at least -- and not go public, at least not before lengths day.
MADDOW: And, Tom, we know that the judiciary committee authorized some subpoenas that seemed to be related to this case. Earlier in the summer, like in July, they authorized subpoenas for Keith Davidson, who is one of the attorneys who was involved in this. Also, Stormy Daniels herself. Also Karen McDougal. Also David Pecker, Dylan Howard from AMI and the "National Enquirer".
As far as we`ve been able to figure out here on the staff of my show, those subpoenas, while they got a lot of attention at the time, they were authorized by the committee. But as far as we can tell, they have not yet been served. Those people have not actually received those subpoenas. Is that true?
HAMBURGER: That`s what we understand as well, Rachel. There are reports that there have been some preliminarily discussions with some of those people. And I wanted to turn back to a point you mentioned just a moment ago.
HAMBURGER: Which is that one of the reasons there is excitement about this particular case is that unlike the five obstruction cases, for example, where the Judiciary and other committees have been frustrated in their investigation because the Trump administration has basically refused present or former administration employees to testify. In this case you`re dealing with employees and individuals, including those you just mentioned, who have never been employed by the administration and thus may not be subject to that kind of constraint.
There`s one other thing that I think has the investigators` attention and has members of the committee eager to move forward, and that is unlike some of the other investigations and subpoenas that have been issued for government documents, in this case, we know that AMI, the publisher of the "National Enquirer," has turned over to the committee some documents already.
So, there are documents in hand and there is a fair possibility of getting some witnesses to testify. What that -- the bottom line for the committee is the possibility of getting -- of having some real drama at a public hearing, and I think that`s where they`re headed in early October.
MADDOW: Tom Hamburger, our reporter with "The Washington Post" -- Tom, thank you very much for helping us understand this reporting that you broke with Rachael Bade. I really appreciate it.
HAMBURGER: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Thanks. We`ve got more news to get to tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: This is something you have to see. Whether or not you`ve been following every twist and turn in the ongoing debate in our great ally, the U.K., where this ancient storied democratic government is basically falling apart over Brexit, over the question of whether and how and when Britain should leave the European Union, whether or not you have been following that at all -- today, you should know they went over a bit of a cliff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BERCOW, U.K. HOUSE OF COMMONS SPEAKER: Order. Order.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ayes to the right, 328. The nos to the left, 301.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not a good start, Boris.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Not a good start, Boris.
That was the new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson losing his very first Brexit vote in parliament. And Brexit is the reason he`s prime minister.
Even worse for him, a whole bunch of members of his own party crossed over to the other side to vote against him despite the threat that they would actually be kicked out of the Conservative Party permanently if they did so. And, again, you don`t need to know all the ins and outs of the Brexit fight to get a sense of how out of control and chaotic things are right there, right now.
After that initial vote, that "not a good start, Boris" vote, what Boris Johnson decided to do in response was call a snap national election, and by snap I mean six weeks from now -- ready, set, go national election.
And then lawmakers got so riled up by the leader of the opposition Labour Party that the speaker of parliament, the guy who controls the business on the floor, the guy who is always yelling "order", he basically had to take one of Boris Johnson`s top cabinet officials out behind the woodshed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I don`t want an election, but if MPs vote tomorrow to stop negotiations and to compel another pointless delay to Brexit, potentially for years, then that would be the only way to resolve this, and I can confirm that we are tonight tabling a motion under the fixed term parliament. Thank you.
JEREMY CORBYN, LABOUR PARTY LEADER: He wants to table a motion for a general election, fine. Get the bill through first in order to prevent -- in order -- in order to take no deal off the table.
BERCOW: Order. Order. Order! Very rude for members -- order! Order! Order!
I say to the chancellor of the Duchy, that when he turns up at our children`s school as a parent, he`s a very well-behaved fellow. He wouldn`t dare behave like that in front of (INAUDIBLE) and neither would I. Don`t gesticulated, don`t rant, spare us the theatrics, behave yourself. Be a good boy, young man -- be a good boy.
Point of order, Mr. Blackford (ph).
Yes, we know the theatrics that he perfected at the Oxford Union. Not interested. Not interested. Be quiet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: "Be a good boy" to the chancellor of the Duchy -- I don`t know what the chancellor of the Duchy is.
Anybody who tells you they know even what`s going to happen tomorrow in Britain is lying. Nobody knows how this is going to resolve. This is just a remarkable situation over there right now. Whether or not you have been watching the Brexit fiasco closely, it really is threatening the basic idea of political conflict resolution. It really is threatening governance in a basic way in our most important overseas ally in a way that is utterly unpredictable.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: That is going to do it for us tonight. I will tell you, though, that if you are interested in this story that we`ve been covering over the past week about the Trump administration literally targeting sick and dying children for deportation along with their families, Lawrence is going to be speaking live in the next hour with Congressman Mark DeSaulnier who is a congressman from California who has been right out in front on this issue.
He, in fact, is the congressman for Isabel Bueso, that young girl who was brought to California at the age of 7 to help out in that clinical trial who now relies on weekly treatment at U.C. San Francisco Children`s Hospital to keep herself alive. She is one of the people who was targeted by the Trump administration and told to get out of this country. Congressman DeSaulnier is going to be joining Lawrence live ahead. Plus, lots more.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, sir.
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