CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That`s ALL IN for this evening.
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts now with one of the four co-hosts of the next Democratic presidential debate, Rachel Maddow.
Congratulations. It`s a great lineup.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thank you very much. Could have knocked me over with a feather. Thank you. But it`s an honor and it`s super intimidating.
HAYES: Yes. Well, it`s going to be a good one.
MADDOW: Thanks, my friend. Appreciate it.
HAYES: All right.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining me this hour.
So, this was -- this is one of those days, this was another one of those days, right, not just a lot of news or just, you know, fast-moving news, but shocking and jarring developments one after the other. By the end of the day, like, just feel like too much, right? This is overstimulation.
Nobody should have to pay this much attention to the politics in their country, right? Usually, in well-run countries, you don`t have to think about what`s running your country for days at a time, but we`re now in -- we`re having these series of days where stuff happens that is shocking, right, it`s stuff that`s happened that`s never happened before that you`d never imagine would happen ever. I mean, among the things we`re going to be talking about this hour is this decision by Republican members of Congress who are supporters of the president today that they would storm into the classified hearing room where the impeachment proceedings were taking place, they took it over, refused to leave, they broke every security protocol for that highly secured space that is specifically designed to hear the most classified information that is ever discussed on Capitol Hill.
A senior Pentagon official, deputy assistant secretary of state, Laura Cooper, excuse me, deputy assistant secretary of defense, Laura Cooper, was due to give her sworn deposition to the impeachment proceedings today starting at 10:00 a.m., but as her testimony was due to begin, these Republican supporters of the president swarmed into the hearing room where she was going to give her deposition. They swarmed in, barged in, through three different doors, yelling about the proceedings. The witness reportedly got up and left the room.
I mean, the White House and the State Department, apparently even now the pentagon, have done everything they can to try to block witnesses from testifying to the impeachment proceedings against President Trump, but because witnesses are still coming forward, apparently, today, they decided the one thing they hadn`t tried yet was to physically stop the impeachment proceedings and that`s what they escalated to today.
And it did work for a while. They did succeed in chasing the witness from the room. Her testimony was put off for several hours. Ultimately, she came back in the afternoon around 3:30 p.m. her deposition, therefore, started more than five hours late because of what they did.
I mean, the physical disruption of the impeachment proceedings today was just a surreal, you know, weird, almost unimaginable development, and honestly, it was led by some of the weirder members of congress. I mean, people like Steve King who has been stripped of all his committee assignments because of his professed support for white supremacy. There he is, front row.
Also a Florida congressman whose stunts on President Trump`s behalf included him threatening Michael Cohen ahead of Michael Cohen`s congressional testimony. Remember that? The threat that if Cohen testified, this congressman would tell Michael Cohen`s family about all his supposed girlfriends. So he better not testify if he knows what`s good for him, right?
I mean, this was a weird crew, at least the guys right up front there at the microphones, but it also included the number two Republican in Congress, Steve Scalise. And it wasn`t just a little clown car of these guys. It was dozens of them.
And as "Bloomberg News" was first to report today, what these guys did today, physically storming the hearing room to stop the impeachment proceedings, chasing that witness out of the room to block her from testifying, according to "Bloomberg News" today, this is something that the president put these members of Congress up to. President Trump knew yesterday that they were going to do this and he told them that they should go ahead and do it.
Quote, according to four people familiar with the matter, President Trump had advanced knowledge of and supported a protest by Republican members of Congress who told him they planned to barge into a secure hearing room on Capitol Hill where impeachment testimony was being heard. Trump met yesterday with about 30 House Republicans at the White House. During a nearly two-hour meeting which focused mostly on the impeachment inquiry, lawmakers shared their plans with the president that they intended to storm into the secure room. President Trump supported the action.
That`s one way to try to stop yourself from being impeached. Organize a riot. I mean, I know that every day is a crazy day in the news now, right, to a certain degree, but today was the day when the president and his Republican supporters in Congress turned to physical intimidation to try to block the impeachment proceedings from going forward. Today is also the day when in court the president`s legal team asserted, in all seriousness, the craziest thing you could possibly imagine about what the president thinks of himself and his powers in the presidency.
I mean, the hyperbolic thing that everybody uses as an example of absurdity when it comes to criminal behavior by a president, that is now where they are staking their flag. I know you`ve probably seen the headlines about this today, right?
"Politico" has Trump lawyer says Trump can`t be prosecuted for shooting someone. At CNN, it was "Trump lawyer argues Trump couldn`t be charged for a 5th Avenue shooting while in office." "The New York Times," they put it sort of poetically, "If Trump shoots someone on 5th Avenue, does he have immunity? His lawyer says yes."
I know you`ve probably seen these headlines today. To really get what happened to this today, what the president is trying to do to the presidency, I think you ought to hear the way it happened in real time. And, thankfully, as we sort of previewed on last night` shows show, this argument that the federal appeals court in the Second Circuit today were live streamed, we got the audio stream of them as the arguments happened so you could listen in and hear how it went.
And so, I feel like this is worth just hearing the way it went. Let this wash over you for a second. The first time this issue of the president committing crimes and getting away with it, the first time it comes up in the hearing today is actually when it`s brought up by the lawyer who was arguing against the president. The lawyer on the other side from the president brings it up. It`s the lawyer for the district attorney that`s trying to enforce this subpoena for the president`s financial records.
That lawyer raises it first and he says essentially, yes, there are these Justice Department memo memos, there`s this internal justice department policy that says a president can`t be criminally indicted while he`s in office but the lawyer explains basically to the court, let`s use common sense when we talk about that. There are obviously some limits to that if we apply our common sense, right? What does that really mean? And he spells it out.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CAREY DUNNE, MANHATTAN DA GENERAL COUNSEL: So that, again, implicates the sort of OLC memo questions, whether hypothetically, there could be a charge brought against the president while in office. I think people could argue about the implications of that language versus other provisions.
You know, I guess, again, hypothetically, if we want to entertain that kind of thing, you know, you can invent scenarios where you can imagine that it would be necessary or at least, perhaps, a good idea for a sitting president to be subject to a criminal charge even by a state while in office, if he, for example, did pull out a handgun and shoot someone on 5th Avenue, well, what would be the impact of that? Would he -- would local police be disabled from restraining such a person, or from processing such a person? Would, you know, would -- would we have to wait for an impeachment proceeding to be initiated?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s how it comes up the first time. That`s the lawyer arguing against the president saying, yes, we know there`s this Justice Department policy, which says that you can`t bring criminal charges against a sitting president, but the implication of what he`s saying there is, right, we could all acknowledge there`s some constraints on that at the edges, right? You can`t possibly be arguing that if the president shoots someone in the street with a handgun that the fact that he can`t be charged with a crime also means he couldn`t be investigated for doing that, that even the police wouldn`t be allowed to stop him from that shooting or from shooting more and more people, however many he wants. Honestly, you can`t say that`s what the implication of those DOJ memos is, right?
So that`s the lawyer who`s arguing against the president. And then the president`s lawyer is up next and he says, yes, actually, that`s what we mean. This president, President Trump, believes and contends in court that he can start murdering people in the street, personally, and not only is that not going to result in him being charged with murder, he can`t be subject to any process. Any law enforcement process at all. So he can literally keep murdering people as long as he wants and the police are not even allowed to stop him from doing so.
So, here`s the president`s lawyer today. The first voice you`ll hear is one of the federal judges who`s hearing this case then it`s the lawyer for President Trump.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JUDGE DENNY CHIN, U.S. COURT OF APPEALS: What`s your view on the 5th Avenue example? Local authorities couldn`t investigate. They couldn`t do anything about it?
WILLIAM CONSOVOY, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think once a president is removed from office, any local authority -- this is not a permanent immunity.
CHIN: Well, I`m talking about while in office.
CHIN: That`s the hypo. Nothing could be done. That`s your position.
CONSOVOY: That is correct. That is correct.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s the hypothetical. While in office, local authorities in the 5th Avenue example, they couldn`t do anything about it? He`s killing people on a street in New York City. That`s the 5th Avenue example.
Nothing could be done? Local authorities couldn`t do anything about it? That`s your position? That`s correct, your honor. That`s correct.
And, you know, it`s one thing to argue that, like, ad absurdum, right? It`s one thing to argue that as an abstract concept. It`s nuts as an abstract concept but it does become the thing you have to argue in the specific, in federal court, as the president`s lawyer once it`s become so clear that the commissions of crimes while he`s in office is going to be a regular part of the news cycle for this presidency. Then you really have to argue this.
Yes, your honor, we mean every crime, all the crimes, any crime you can imagine, they`re all OK. We`re not going to argue that he`s not criming, clearly there`s no point in that. He`s definitely criming. We can all see it.
It turns out it`s all kinds of crimes. So our new argument is we`re not even going to engage on what kind of crimes he`s engaged in, any crime is OK. Yes, even the worst one you can imagine. Not just having killed somebody but continuing to kill people in front of cops. We say the cops can`t stop him.
That`s where we ended up today. The president`s crimes cannot be investigated by Congress, they`re going to physically shut down the impeachment inquiry while simultaneously argue in court that the president`s crimes can`t be investigated by any court anywhere or by any law enforcement entity. He can`t even be stopped by police if he gets caught committing crimes red handed. That`s where we are as of today.
And I know that a day like this can feel overwhelming, but I feel like because today feels overwhelming, because I feel like we kind of hit the wall with both of those arguments today, with those positions on behalf of the president and his supporters, I feel like this is a time to look at what`s going on here for a second, just line these things up, right? Deep breath. Let`s start at zero and go to 60 here. Let`s just do this.
Where this started was with a dark horse unconventional presidential candidate who took oddly pro-Russia and pro-Vladimir Putin stances during the primary, right? And it started off as curiosity, right? When nobody thought he had a chance of winning, it was an odd trivia point about him. There was that joshing moment between the then-Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and the man who`s now the leader of the House Republicans, Kevin McCarthy, where McCarthy sort of half joked/half asserted that as far as he was concerned one person he was pretty sure was on the Vladimir Putin payroll was Donald Trump.
It was, like, a joke, it was a weird observation that you could make about Trump. This is a strange quirk about him.
Early on in the primary that led ultimately to him getting the nomination, you might remember that he became the first and ultimately the only Republican candidate who said Russia shouldn`t have any U.S. sanctions on them at all. He was against the U.S. sanctioning Russia for anything it had done. We would later learn that the person who asked him the question that teed up that answer from him is someone who would go on to be charged in federal court as a secret agent who was working illegally for the Kremlin in this country.
I mean, it`s still amazing to look back on that but the person during the campaign who asked candidate Trump what he thought of Russian sanctions, and he said, we should definitely get rid of all Russian sanctions, and he thinks he`ll get along great with Vladimir Putin, the person who teed him up to say that who asked him that question was Maria Butina who is currently in federal prison for being a Russian agent and, fun fact, she`s due to be released the day after tomorrow. She`s due to get out of federal jail and be deported back to Moscow on Friday of this week.
After that weird, auspicious beginning in terms of him talking about Russian sanctions, that candidate would go on to secure the Republican presidential nomination. When his campaign hit some turbulence in advance of the Republican convention, the candidate made a surprise decision to hire a new guy to run his campaign, someone who hadn`t worked on U.S. politics in years.
Trump hired a new campaign chairman who he didn`t know. His only recent experience in presidential politics was presidential politics in Ukraine where he was working for pro-Putin political parties, specifically, working for a Ukrainian president who tried to turn that country away from the West and instead secure its alliance with Moscow. That work that Manafort did for pro-Putin interests in Ukraine had been financially supported very richly by a series of Kremlin-connected oligarchs and they paid him a little bit on the books, apparently, quite a bit off the books. They also engaged in a whole bunch of shady business dealings with him that in retrospect look an awful lot like schemes for large-scale money laundering.
Manafort`s finances were a crime scene. And he would ultimately be arrested and prosecuted for having taken millions of dollars of those off- the-books payments and not paying any U.S. taxes on them. He was convicted of multiple felonies and before what was due to be his second federal felony trial, he signed a cooperation agreement with prosecutors, a plea deal, that theoretically would have saved him from that second federal trial and reduced his time in prison. He said he would cooperate. That should have really helped him.
But he only said he would cooperate. He didn`t actually go on to really cooperate with prosecutors. Prosecutors would soon be back telling the court that Manafort, despite this plea agreement, despite his cooperation pledge, he repeatedly lied to those prosecutors he was supposed to be cooperating with. He didn`t give them any useful information they could use for other prosecutions or for the broader Mueller inquiry.
In fact, those prosecutors told the court that Manafort used his supposed cooperation agreement to help other subjects of the inquiry who were possibly in prosecutors` crosshairs. Specifically, they said he back channeled to the Trump White House information about what Mueller`s investigators were asked. What they were looking for. What they were zeroing in on in their investigation that might be particularly relevant to the fate of President Trump.
Because of Manafort`s duplicity and his lack of cooperation, he ended up getting lots of years in federal prison. We, the American public ended up getting no insight at all into the stuff that you might think prosecutors wanted him to come clean about when they thought he was going to be a cooperator. His apparently ongoing dealings, financial dealings, with the pro-Putin oligarchs he`d moan from Ukraine. His ongoing financial dealings with them during the time he was running the Trump campaign.
I mean, he took no salary from Trump`s campaign. Remember? But for some reason, he proposed to at least one of these pro-Putin oligarchs from Ukraine that something about the Trump campaign should help Paul Manafort get whole in terms of his debts to those pro-Putin interests. What was he offering to do from his position as chairman of the Trump campaign that would be so beneficial to these pro-Putin interests that it would allow him to forgive his debts?
In the Mueller report, we learned that prosecutors also never got to the bottom of why Manafort was sending detailed Trump polling and strategy information via encrypted apps to his intermediary to those pro-Putin oligarchs. The guy who Manafort sent all that Trump campaign data to during the campaign, all that polling, is somebody who prosecutors say is actively linked to Russian intelligence. What does Russian intelligence want with all the Trump campaign strategy data and polling data for the Rust Belt?
That guy to whom Manafort sent all that Trump campaign data was, himself, indicted by federal prosecutors. He apparently fled to Moscow to avoid prosecution and he`s still at large. Manafort remains in prison, which itself is one of the most astonishing things you could say about any president, right?
I mean, his campaign chairman sits in prison during the term of the president who he helped elect. I mean, that, itself, is crazy enough. But from his prison cell, he hasn`t just been working on his abs. The president`s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, says Manafort has been providing strategic advice to Giuliani. As Giuliani at president t direction has been running a sort of shadow foreign policy in Ukraine in which the U.S. basically stopped supporting Ukraine in its ongoing war with Russia.
Instead, on the basis of some fairly insane claims that have been promoted in Russian state media that it wasn`t Russia who intervened in our 2016 election, it was actually Ukraine and Ukraine has the DNC server that the Russian government hacked and Joe Biden somehow arranged for Paul Manafort to have taken all those millions of dollars and bought himself ostrich leather jackets instead of paying U.S. taxes on that money.
This scheme that President Trump is now being impeached for, this scheme to extort and pressure Ukraine into cooking up an exoneration of Russia and cooking up and publicly announcing new more politically useful fake investigations and fake claims that Giuliani and Trump and, honestly, Paul Manafort can use here at home for their own purposes, Paul Manafort from his prison cell has been advising on this scheme.
And as serious as this turns out to be in our politics, it`s also a life- and-death thing. Russia really has invaded Ukraine. There is a live hot war there where people are being killed. We are Ukraine`s most important ally. We`re their most important source of military support against Russia.
This deadly serious real-world corollary to our impeachment drama is that this whole scheme also screwed Ukraine while they have been invaded by Russia, while they are fighting this war. We have abandoned them in the middle of a hot war against an adversary that really is trying to take over that country and take it for itself.
But it`s all one story, right? I mean, it`s all the same guys. It`s all same aims. It`s all the same beneficiaries.
And even if President Trump`s supporters in Congress are trying to physically shut down the impeachment inquiry and his lawyers in court are arguing today that he could walk into that courtroom and start shooting people in that courtroom and nobody would have any legal right to stop him from doing that, let alone charge him for it -- I mean, as the defense of the president in this crisis gets almost literally crazy, every piece of this scandal redounds to him, right? We need to learn who all the characters are. We need to see how all these plot points connect, need to hear all depositions from the witnesses, we need to see all the evidence. But it all redounds to him. All of it.
It all -- I mean, starting with this odd story we`ve now lived through which started in 2015 when he became a very strange candidate for president, with very weird ideas about the world at large and one foreign country in particular, that would go on to intervene in our election to try to install him in the White House, right? It starts there, and, yes, now we`ve got all these characters, but they`re all part of that same story that started there.
We`ve got one of these pro-Putin oligarchs who financed Paul Manafort`s pro-Putin work in Ukraine. He`s now hired these pro-Trump lawyers. They, in turn, hired new help. They hired at least one of these guys who were supposedly helping with the Dmytro Firtash criminal case, whose activities were reportedly being financed by Firtash.
These guys were supposedly arranging meetings for Rudy Giuliani all over Ukraine as Giuliani pushed this scheme to invent this plotline of allegations to use against the Democrats and try to exonerate Russia, and what, to try to spring Paul Manafort, too?
I mean, everybody involved here looks like they`re potentially in criminal trouble. Dmytro Firtash, the oligarch guy, he`s fighting extradition to this country to face charges in a huge corruption case. Rudy Giuliani, the president`s lawyer, is a person of interest in at least two federal investigations.
Giuliani`s guys who apparently were also Firtash`s guys, they were arraigned in federal court today. One of them was represented by Paul Manafort`s lawyer. That was Igor.
The other one, Lev, pulled the world`s most amazing rabbit out of the hat today in federal court in New York. Lev today in federal court, his lawyer claimed there may be some complications when it comes to prosecutors in his case reviewing material that has been seized by search warrants. Said there might be some complications with that since some of that material might implicate attorney/client privileges involving the president of the United States? What? For Lev`s case?
I mean, as far as we know, Lev is not a lawyer. But his attorney explained today in court that Rudy Giuliani was working for the president as his lawyer and Lev was, quote, working for Mr. Giuliani, quote, in that capacity. Which seems insane even for the funny papers. Let alone for a federal court hearing, right?
That somebody working for a pro-Putin oligarch who was under indictment in this country and who prosecutors say is an upper-echelon associate of Russian organized crime, a person in that position working for that guy could also be part of the president`s legal team? At his defense of the Russia investigation? What?
I mean, Lev Parnas in court is saying there`s going to be executive privilege issues involved in some of the evidence against him because it has to do with the president`s legal representation because he was on that team. I mean, in the wildest fantasies about this insanity that we are living through in the Trump presidency, nobody would have ever claimed that a guy linked to the Kremlin and to Russian organized crime would somehow get installed on the president`s legal defense team in the Russia scandal.
But apparently, that`s where we are. I mean, "The Wall Street Journal" did just publish picture from Lev Parnas` private Instagram account, and in fact, there he is at the celebratory dinner that the president`s legal team held the night that William Barr said the Mueller investigation was over and that Mueller report would have nothing in it.
You can see from the picture that he posted, there`s Rudy Giuliani, oh, there`s Jay Sekulow. This is Lev`s Instagram. This is the Trump legal team, including Lev who`s also working for Firtash who`s under indictment and linked to the mob.
There`s this incredible moment at the arraignment today for Lev and Igor where the judge says to Lev`s lawyer, quote, you`re not suggesting that your client worked for the president, are you?
Well, yeah. Because Rudy Giuliani worked for the president and Lev, Lev worked for Giuliani. Or maybe it was Giuliani working for Lev?
I mean, remember, just like Paul Manafort worked for Trump for free, Rudy Giuliani is working for Trump for free, as his lawyer. The entity here who we actually know is paying Rudy Giuliani is Lev. Giuliani says Lev`s company, some entity associated with Lev Parnas, has paid him a half million dollars. Trump`s not paying him. Lev is.
Through this whole scheme, throughout this whole time, as the president`s bizarre personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani is not being paid by President Trump. He is being paid by Lev. And where is Lev getting the money to do that? Well, Lev appears to be getting paid by the indicted foreign oligarch who ran Paul Manafort for all those years in Ukraine, taking orders from the Kremlin for years and who has said by U.S. prosecutors to be an upper-echelon associate of Russian organized crime. That`s where the money comes from for those guys. That`s where the president got his legal defense team for the Russia scandal.
And for this whole cast of geniuses who hatched this plot to screw Ukraine. This plot that will now result in the president of the United States being impeached, if not removed from office, that depends on whether Republicans decide they agree with him that no crime of his matters, no matter what it is, no matter how egregious.
I mean, I know the news feels like it`s going fast here, but, like, just -- look at it, take it zero to 60. Take it back to the beginning. Ultimately, there is one scandal here. Tip to tail.
And, yes, part of it will result in the president`s impeachment, at least in the House. But it is all one scandal. The impeachment is just the part for which they are now inescapably caught.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. ALEX MOONEY (R-WV): Good morning. This is Congressman Alex Mooney. I`m calling you live from the SCIF. It is precisely 1:22 p.m. I`m proud that over 30 members of congress, including our whip, Steve Scalise, walked into that room and demanded transparency and justice for our president. I`m calling you from the SCIF.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: I`m reporting from inside the SCIF. Breathless reporting today from very excited West Virginia Republican congressman named Alex Mooney. He was one of the roughly two dozen Republican members of Congress who today resorted to a physical attempt to try to stop the impeachment proceedings against the president by storming into the secure hearing room to try to block the testimony of Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defense.
The administration, the White House, and the Defense Department, had tried to block Cooper from testifying today. She received a subpoena and showed up, anyway. The Republicans` plan "B" apparently was this physical takeover of the hearing room in which she was due to give her deposition. That effort did essentially chase the deputy assistant secretary of defense out of the room at the time her deposition was supposed to start, but once the Republicans got bored and left a little later on, the witness returned more than five hours later and she did give her testimony. That testimony has now wrapped up.
Joining us now is California Congresswoman Jackie Speier, who`s a member of both the intelligence and oversight committees. She sat in on this deposition today and tonight.
Congresswoman, thank you so much for your time.
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So --
SPEIER: Great to be with you.
MADDOW: We understand it was a five-hour delay, but the assistant secretary of defense did -- deputy assistant secretary of defense -- did eventually testify. I know this is a closed-door deposition. We`ve had a little bit of reporting that she explained sort of how the normal process works for delivering military aid.
Can you tell us anything about her deposition today?
SPEIER: Well, I can`t tell you about her deposition. I can tell you that she was a very strong witness and she provided us with yet additional information that will make the case for why we need to move forward with this impeachment inquiry.
MADDOW: We know that her testimony was delayed by quite a bit, by five- plus hours because of what the Republicans did today. We also know that her deposition was also a lot shorter than some of the other witnesses who you have heard from. Was she cut short, effectively, because of that time that was lost to that disruption? Do you expect that you`ll bring her back?
SPEIER: I think she provided us with all the information we needed, so while it was delayed by the antics of our Republican colleagues who, frankly, acted like a mob as they entered into the secure facility in which the Intelligence Committee always meets, they also violated ethics rules that prevent us from bringing in cell phones. They created an environment in which the SCIF became inappropriate for carrying on any classified information because, you know, one of the high-value targets for the Russians and the Chinese are members of Congress. If they can get into our phones, even when they are turned off, it becomes a very valuable resource for them.
So they acted very recklessly, and I think their shenanigans proved once again that if you can`t beat us on the merits, then let`s move somewhere else and try something dramatic which I think they did, frankly, because the president yesterday whined that they weren`t fighting for him hard enough. And so they showed him today that they were fighting for him.
MADDOW: "Bloomberg News" is reporting today that the president had advanced notice that they were going to do this specific thing and that he effectively signed off on it, he told them that they should do it. Those were strong words you just used in talking about what they did, the seriousness of it.
Do you think those members of Congress should face some consequences for what they did either in the ethics committee or some other way?
SPEIER: I mean, they violated one of their oaths of office, to protect the Constitution and to comply with the House rules. So, it was a very reckless act by them. It was clearly being done for one person, the president of the United States.
And I think once again it shows that they are not recognizing their responsibilities as members of Congress to protect the Constitution and comply with the rules of the House. So I think there should be some action taken to admonish them.
MADDOW: Congresswoman, I have to ask you about a report tonight in "The Hill" newspaper that says you are in the running, you are tossing your hat into the ring to become the new chairman of the Oversight Committee, succeeding beloved Chairman Elijah Cummings, who will be laying in state tomorrow and laid to rest at the end of this week.
Can I ask you if you can confirm that report? And if so, tell me why you`re doing so?
SPEIER: So, I am looking at it, but as you pointed out, he is beloved. And Elijah Cummings will lie in state tomorrow and be put to rest on Friday. And it`s the appropriate for which we should mourn his loss and celebrate an extraordinary life.
MADDOW: In other words, you would rather not talk about the successions plans at the committee, potential candidacy for the chairmanship, until after Elijah Cummings is laid to rest?
SPEIER: That`s correct. Thank you.
MADDOW: California Congresswoman Jackie Speier, I really appreciate you being here tonight. Thanks very much for your time.
SPEIER: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So imagine you`re the vice president. Imagine you`re Mike Pence.
OK. And in a court proceeding, apropos of nothing, not asked, just brought up out of thin air, you hear that the lawyer for the president has said this about you.
Quote: The country can persist without a vice president. A president subject to proceedings in a state court, the distraction that would create, the multitude of problems that could arise, those are unique and different in both degree and kind from anything that would attend to a proceeding against the vice president.
If you`re Mike Pence, that flips your wig, right? I mean, that happened a few weeks ago in court and one of the cases about whether President Trump has to hand over his taxes. Mike Pence is like, why did you guys say that?
Well then today, it happened again. Again, it was apropos of nothing. It wasn`t asked about. Nobody else in the courtroom was talking about the vice president. And his potential -- potentially being subject to criminal indictment.
But, again, President Trump`s lawyer today just hauled up the specter of Mike Pence and volunteered to these federal judges, him, Pence, oh, yes, he definitely could be indicted. From today`s transcript from the president`s lawyer, quote, the vice president does not have this kind of immunity. Nobody was asking about the vice president in that moment.
Now, if you`re Mike Pence potentially legally exposed in the impeachment proceedings, after all, you`re the guy who personally went and told the president of Ukraine to his face he wasn`t getting that military aid. I mean, this is not a comforting pattern from the president`s lawyers especially now that we know it wasn`t just a glitch, it`s something they`re apparently going to push with every federal court that they`re before.
But that dyspeptic moment for the vice president in court today was, of course, overshadowed by the president`s lawyers also claiming in the same hearing that president Trump is free to commit all crimes, any of them, even murder. And not only can he not be prosecuted for murder, nobody could stop him in the middle of one.
Chuck Rosenberg joins us on that and more coming up next.
MADDOW: During the presidential campaign, the man who is now president famously said that he could shoot somebody on 5th Avenue in Manhattan and he could get away with it. Today, his lawyers made that argument formally in court.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DUNNE: You know, you can invent scenarios where you can imagine that it would be necessary or at least, perhaps, a good idea for a sitting president to be subject to a criminal charge even by a state while in office. If he, for example, did pull out a handgun and shoot someone on 5th Avenue, what would be the impact of that? Would local police be disabled from restraining such a person or from processing such a person? Would, you know, would -- would we have to wait for an impeachment proceeding to be initiated?
CHIN: What`s your view on the 5th Avenue example? Local authorities couldn`t investigate, they couldn`t do anything about it?
CONSOVOY: I think once a president is removed from office, any local authority, this is not a permanent immunity.
CHIN: Well, I`m talking about while in office.
CHIN: That`s the hypo. Nothing could be done. That`s your position.
CONSOVOY: That is correct. That is correct.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s the hypothetical. Nothing could be done. Local authorities couldn`t -- no, that`s correct, your honor. That`s correct.
President`s lawyer claiming in a federal appeals court today if the president started gunning people down, not only could he not be charged, he couldn`t be stopped.
Joining us now is Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, former senior official at the Justice Department and the FBI.
Chuck, it`s great to see you. Thanks for your time tonight.
CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: My pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, to a non-lawyer listening today to this argument live, this, to me, sounds like a horror movie. This is the sort of thing that non- lawyers would make up as an argument to make a hyperbolic over the top absurd statement. To a lawyer, especially a lawyer experienced in federal practice, is this less bad than it seems on the surface?
ROSENBERG: It`s pretty bad, Rachel. I think what happened is Mr. Trump`s lawyer painted himself into a rhetorical corner, right? He wants to argue a president is immune from investigation. You can`t even investigate.
And so, he almost has to say that there is no circumstance, including shooting someone on 5th Avenue, under which a president could be prosecuted. If you concede he can be prosecuted, if you concede that he could be charged, you essentially have to concede that he would be -- he could be investigated. And that was the rhetorical problem. That was the strategic problem that Mr. Trump`s lawyer had today.
I`m not -- I don`t mean that as an excuse for him. I think it`s a ridiculous argument, but I think that`s where he found himself.
MADDOW: I mean, how about we all just learn through the Mueller proceedings and all of the legalese that we all had to wade through in terms of the Mueller report and the arguments about why the president was not described as having potentially committed a criminal offense, wasn`t the whole idea there that Mueller and his team accepted the premise from the Justice Department that the president would not be indicted but that did not preclude them from investigating the president which they did quite robustly.
ROSENBERG: In fact, Mueller says in his report we`re free to investigate a president. In fact, you know where that comes from? It`s pretty interesting. We keep talking about these OLC, Office of Legal Counsel memos out of the Justice Department. One issued under President Nixon, one issued under President Clinton.
The one issued under President Clinton in 2000 actually contains a footnote. I`m going to nerd out on you. Footnote 36, Rachel, which specifically says you can investigate a sitting president. Not just by a federal grand jury, but also by Congress.
And so, the department of justice has conceded the point. Mr. Trump`s lawyer has not.
MADDOW: That, even though you`re taking about a footnote there, you`re making a very clear point. I was struck also listening to the hearing today that the judges and the attorneys seem to all agree that this is going to end up at the Supreme Court.
If the point of law here is that simple, that the Justice Department says a president can be investigated, even if Justice Department policy says he can`t be criminally charged, now the president`s lawyers are saying no, no, no, he can`t be investigated, either, that doesn`t sound to me like such a hard point of law that I would assume that it may end up at the Supreme Court.
ROSENBERG: It may well. You know, one thing we have to watch for is how the 2nd circuit writes its opinion. If they write a very narrow opinion and simply say this is a subpoena to the third party, the president`s accounting firm, not even to the president, and we are going to uphold that, it might be something the Supreme Court isn`t all that interested in.
And so, the 2nd Circuit`s opinion becomes the final word. And its ruling governs the parties. If they write more broadly and talk about presidential immunity both from investigation and from prosecution, maybe the Supreme Court is interested and they take the case and it issues the final word.
So, I don`t know that we`ll necessarily end up in the Supreme Court. I imagine the Supreme Court will have an opportunity to decide whether or not it wants to weigh in on the case.
MADDOW: Chuck, let me ask you about one last thing. This argument`s happening at the federal courthouse in New York today about the president potentially being prosecuted -- this crazy argument about him committing murder and the police being enjoined from stopping him. At the same courthouse today an hour later, two associates of the president`s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, were both arraigned in a felony campaign finance case that does seem to be linked to the impeachment scandal. These are my friends, Lev and Igor.
CNN is reporting tonight that Rudy Giuliani, himself, is now looking for his own defense lawyer, potentially in conjunction with this case. Do you think that is a wise move for Mr. Giuliani?
ROSENBERG: Absolutely. Look, Rachel, even witnesses in federal criminal investigations? People who have no criminal exposure, it`s often wise for them to get an attorney and probably very likely Mr. Giuliani is not merely a witness. He is at least the subject of the investigation, if not a target.
One very interesting thing to look for, any good lawyer, any good white collar criminal defense lawyer will tell her client not to talk. And so one, it will be a measure of how effective this attorney is. And, two, if Mr. Giuliani really follows that advice, if he really doesn`t talk anymore, it will be a gift to us all.
MADDOW: It also strains the bounds of physics at this point.
Chuck Rosenberg, former senior official at the Justice Department, the current host of an awesome MSNBC podcast called "The Oath" where this week, Chuck talks to the former commissioner of the Mounties, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Chuck, congratulations on the success of "The Oath". Thanks for being here tonight. Great to see you.
ROSENBERG: My pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Just a heads up, this is a thing that looks small but could end up being a very big deal. I just want to kind of put it on your radar. You might have seen today that the chairs of the impeachment committees wrote to the State Department today. They`re demanding documents from sit relates to Ukraine and the impeachment scandal. And I know, you know, ho- hum, we`ve seen this standoff between Congress and the Trump administration over and over again, during impeachment but also even before this.
Here is where it potentially gets way more serious. These documents about the Ukraine impeachment scandal that the State Department won`t hand over to Congress, that Congress is demanding, a similar group of documents at the State Department have also been the subject of litigation by an outside group that actually sued to get those documents.
And so, yes, on one track, we`ve got this story that we`ve seen over and over again. Congress is demanding these documents. But in addition to that, because of the litigation to try to get those documents, today, a court, a federal court ordered the State Department to start handing those documents over and start doing it within the next 30 days.
We have seen a lot of the Trump administration resisting congressional oversight, right? That`s one thing. And that`s a serious thing.
But we have not seen the Trump administration try to defy a court order.
They are not turning these documents over to Congress when Congress is demanding them. Now a court is demanding that they must. How are they going to respond?
If they defy that court order -- if that happens, we are in a qualitatively different kind of circumstance for our country. Everybody throws around the phrase constitutional crisis. If the executive branch stops respecting the judiciary and does not go along with court orders, we are in a whole different type of crisis. That`s an actual constitutional crisis.
So, keep your eye on this. I know it looks small but it`s a big deal. Keep your eye for not only what`s in those documents, because they will relate to the impeachment of the president and will be interesting. Watch this bigger question of whether or not they will obey a court order, what that could mean for whether or not the executive branch still believes it`s operating under the Constitution is something to overstate in terms of its importance.
So, heads up. Watch this space.
MADDOW: A giant of American politics, the respected even revered Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings lay in repose today at Morgan State University in Baltimore. He had wanted to be home for the people of Baltimore, before anything that might be done in his honor in the nation`s capital. That happened today where he laid in repose.
Tomorrow, he will lie in state at the National Statutory Hall at the U.S. Capitol and then his funeral will be held Friday morning.
You might have seen news about depositions that were expected to be impeachment inquiry that were scheduled for this week being pushed off, including to this weekend. A lot of that was done to give lawmakers time to honor the late chair of the Oversight Committee, Congressman Elijah Cummings.
That`s going to do it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
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