GOP representatives storm deposition. TRANSCRIPT: 10/25/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Ronan Farrow

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST:  That is "ALL IN" for this evening and for this week. 

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now. 

Good evening, Rachel. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  I am so glad you played that, Ali.  That was excellent.  Thank you for doing that. 

VELSHI:  Good night.

MADDOW:  All right.  Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour as well.  Happy Friday.  Happy to have you here. 

Well, this sort of changes everything.  One of the increasingly awkward dynamics in the impeachment proceedings against President Trump is that even the president`s most ardent supporters by large they have already given up arguing that the president`s behavior was OK.  And that is perhaps inevitable given this impeachment for this conduct.  I mean, it is hard to argue that it is, you know, Coolio with the Constitution or with the American people or even just with Republicans for a president to solicit help from a foreign government in the form of stuff he can use against his domestic political opponents. 

I mean, the president`s supporters and the White House tried for a while to argue that it was OK that he asked for that stuff from a foreign government because he was asking for it for free, there was no quid pro quo, and they tried that for a while.  It was kind of a besides the point argument because it doesn`t matter if you agreed to trade for information to use against your political opponents at home.  It doesn`t matter if you give them something in exchange for it.  You`re just not allowed to solicit.  You`re not legally allowed to ask for it at all whether or not there`s a quid pro quo. 

Even still, though, that besides the point no quid pro quo argument fell apart like a paper suit in the rain, when we started to get mutually corroborating testimony in the impeachment inquiry, that in fact yes, there was a quid pro quo and the president had insisted on it personally.  Then, of course, the White House chief of staff just flat out admitted to the press.  So, it`s just -- it`s just been a mess. 

They have had to abandon any defense of the substance of what the president did.  They really can`t defend it, so they instead tried to argue maybe it wasn`t as bad as it seems.  The White House has basically confessed to it being just as bad as it seemed, so that is no longer operative. 

What they`ve evolved from thereafter -- what they evolved into thereafter was this argument about the process of impeachment, inside Congress that has taken the form of Republicans complaining about how the committees have been taking depositions from witnesses, even what room they`ve been doing it in, the room is the problem.  I mean, this cockamamie argument and why it`s not OK for Democratic-led committees to use closed door depositions with witnesses, but it is OK for Republicans to have done that.  I mean, it`s just been kind of weak, and I think that`s why it`s been kind of a circus.  There`s usually is an inverse ratio between the volume of which an argument is made and the quality of its logic. 

But now, tonight, it really does appear we`ve hit the end of the line for the Republicans and for the Trump White House in terms of trying to argue the impeachment inquiry away.  You might remember earlier this month, the White House said officially in writing that the Trump White House refuses to recognize the legitimacy of impeachment.  As "The New York Times" simply put it in their headline the day the White House tried to pull this off, quote, White House declares war on impeachment. 

I mean, the basis of this claim from the Trump White House was this sort of astonishing letter signed by the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, a letter to Congress telling Congress that the entire administration, the whole executive branch would be carrying on as if impeachment wasn`t happening.  They would not be responding to any document requests.  They would not be allowing any witness from any point in any part of the administration to come forward and cooperate with the impeachment inquiry because the impeachment is illegal.  It`s unconstitutional or illegal or very bad or something. 

I mean, the letter was nut ball.  It started off, quote: I write on behalf of President Donald J. Trump in response to your numerous, legally unsupported demands made as part of what you have labeled contrary to the Constitution, a scare quote, impeachment inquiry.  Oh, dear.

And then it`s sort of downhill from there.  President Trump and his administration reject your baseless unconstitutional efforts to overturn the democratic process.  President Trump and his administration cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry. 

The White House counsel went on in his letter to attack the, quote, lack of democratically accountable authorization that makes clear the illegitimate partisan purported, scare quotes, impeachment inquiry.  They won`t even admit it`s an impeachment inquiry.  They`re saying, you`re calling it that, but we know it`s not.

I mean, it`s one thing for -- we`re so used to the president arguing that on Twitter or standing in front of a helicopter, but this a lawyer.  The White House counsel sent this off the hook cross-eyed letter to the House of Representatives and then they released it publicly because they wanted to make clear that they intended this letter to be their final word on the subject.  Based on this letter, nobody from any point in the administration should participate in the fake impeachment because the fake impeachment is fake. 

And the immediate reaction of the legal world to this letter was like, whoa, are you sure that was written by a lawyer?  I mean, it was just greeted with widespread ridicule.  It wasn`t a particularly legal or even legal-ish argument.  But that is being put forward as the official position of the White House. 

And that crazy letter from the White House has now been used and cited by other government agencies in their efforts to try to block witnesses from those agencies from testifying when they`ve been called to testify before the impeachment committees. 

For example, the Department of Defense referred to this crazy White House counsel letter this week when they warned the Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper that she shouldn`t show up and testify to the impeachment proceedings this week.  The Pentagon sent a lawyer to her -- excuse me, sent a letter to her lawyer the night before she was due to testify. 

Quote: This letter forms you, the lawyer, and your client, Ms. Cooper, of the administration-wide direction that executive branch personnel cannot participate in the impeachment inquiry under these circumstances.  And then it says, see tab C.  And what a Tab C is an attached copy of the crazy pants White House counsel`s letter that says neener, neener, neener, we don`t think this is real.

So, this is an odd strategy.  I mean, it`s all odd strategy.  This is the Trump White House asserting the impeachment inquiry doesn`t exist.  It`s illegal and unconstitutional, so we`re not going to allow you to use the word. 

It`s one thing for the White House to assert that.  It`s another thing for the White House counsel to assert that.  But now we are seeing that crazy argument cited in writing as the basis for other government agencies telling their own officials that they shouldn`t show up and testify because the White House says the impeachment isn`t real. 

I mean, it`s a little bit nuts.  I should say, federal agencies have not had great luck in trying to stop their officials from testifying to the impeachment proceedings.  We`ve already seen eight witnesses that we know of show up to give depositions or transcribe testimony including a bunch of current administration officials who went and gave that testimony despite the stern letters from the White House saying, no, no, we said this doesn`t exist. 

But here`s the other part of this.  The Justice Department, led by Bill Barr, has also been trying its own version of this in the courts.  I mean, alongside the White House`s crazy letter arguing that the impeachment isn`t real, it`s not a real impeachment, it`s not legal, it`s not constitutional, we`re pretending like it`s not happening. 

Alongside that from the White House counsel`s office, the actual Justice Department has also been arguing the same thing in court.  They`ve been trying the court filings version of that bizarre White House letter.  The Justice Department has been trying to argue in court that, like the White House says, this impeachment isn`t real.  It isn`t legal.  It`s not really happening. 

Well, that was ultimately destined to run into a brick wall and tonight, it has run into a brick wall.  As of tonight, we have a ruling from the federal judge saying quite bluntly that what the Justice Department is trying to argue here is wrong.  Literally that`s on page 2 of the ruling, it`s the shortest sentence I`ve seen a federal judge write.  The entire sentence is it DOJ is wrong. 

It`s a long ruling, 75 pages from Beryl Howell, who is the chief judge in the federal district court in Washington.  But it really rings clear as a bell.  Permit me. 

The Department of Justice claims that existing law bars disclosure to the Congress of grand jury information.  DOJ is wrong.  In carrying out the weighty constitutional duty of determining whether impeachment of the president is warranted, Congress need not redo the nearly two years of efforts spent on the special counsel investigation, nor do they need to risk being misled by witnesses who may have provided information to the grand jury and the special counsel that varies from what those witnesses may tell the judiciary committee. 

The committee`s application for an order authorizing the release of certain grand jury materials related to the special counsel investigation is granted.  So, this is Congress winning and the Justice Department, the position of the Trump administration losing.  And there`s two major findings here.  One is that the judge finds that the impeachment proceeding is a real thing.  It`s legal.  It exists. 

She says, quote, contrary to the DOJ`s position, an impeachment trial is, in fact, a judicial proceeding under Rule 6(e).  The reference to Rule 6(e) there means that one of the major consequences of the ruling is all the stuff that is redacted from the Mueller report as a grand jury material, that is all given to the impeachment proceedings now.  That is all going to be given to Congress.  The actual redacted words from the report, what`s behind the black boxes, and also, the underlying transcripts of grand jury testimony and exhibits that underlie those redacted portions. 

You might remember from Watergate, the way the Watergate investigation evolved, right?  There were special prosecutors for Watergate, and then ultimately the judiciary committee in the House drew up articles of impeachment based on what the special prosecutors found.  Well, how did that work?  How did the evidence get from one place to the other? 

Well, in Watergate, the Justice Department famously told the court that all the grand jury material that had been collected by Watergate special prosecutors, right, all the evidence that they had gotten from witnesses talking to the grand jury about the president`s behavior, about the whole Watergate scandal, all of that grand jury material collected by Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski, the Watergate special prosecutors, Justice Department agreed that material collected in that grand jury investigation needs to go to Congress, because Congress needs to decide if this is a basis for impeaching President Nixon.

And in fact, that grand jury material was packaged up into what`s now called the Watergate road map and that Watergate road map of grand jury material is what the judiciary committee used to draw up the impeachment articles against Richard Nixon which ultimately led to his resignation.  So, that`s the relevant, most recent precedent here.  Clear as day. 

When it came to this special counsel investigation though, the Bob Mueller investigation, the Justice Department under Bill Barr decided they didn`t like that precedent and they flipped and decided they wouldn`t support that kind of position anymore.  They would not support the grand jury material collected by special counsel Mueller being handed over to Congress for potential impeachment the way that happened in Watergate. 

The Justice Department said, yeah, we know we did this that way before but we`re not going to do it this time. 

Well, Judge Howell addresses that in a sort of kidney punch of a footnote here.  She says, quote, when queried about reconciling DOJ`s current position with its historical support of providing grand jury materials to Congress for use in impeachment inquiries, DOJ responded its position has, quote, evolved.  The judge continues, no matter how glibly presented, an evolved legal position may be estopped.  And consider yourself estopped. 

So, Attorney General Bill Barr tried to make it so Congress couldn`t see the evidence that was collected by Robert Mueller.  This judge in this ruling today says, actually, Congress gets that. 

Now, the other important implication here is that there`s been this attempted argument among the supporters of the president in Congress and you`ve seen it picked up some in conservative media.  There`s been this argument, this sort of pseudo-legal argument that maybe the House could have a more legal impeachment proceeding.  Maybe the House could be doing something more proper if they took a full vote authorizing the impeachment, right? 

That`s been part of what the president`s defenders have argued.  Unless the House takes a full vote supporting this impeachment inquiry, then it`s not a real impeachment inquiry. 

It`s been a weird claim all along because honestly if Nancy Pelosi organized that, a full house vote on impeachment inquiry, she would get a full House vote on it.  It`s weird they`re arguing she must do it or it`s not real. 

The judge today sort of dispatches that one.  She said the argument in favor that it`s not a real impeachment unless it`s a real House vote, she calls that, quote, cherry picked and incomplete and she says more significantly, this so-called test has no textual support in the U.S. Constitution or the governing rules of the House or Rule 6(e), which is the rule that concerns handing over grand jury materials to Congress. 

More broadly, she says the White House has brought this on itself.  Quote: The White House`s stated policy of non-cooperation with the impeachment inquiry weighs heavily in favor of disclosing these materials.  Congress` need to access grand jury material relevant to potential impeachment conduct by a president is heightened when the executive branch willfully obstructs channels for accessing other relative evidence, meaning the case for letting this stuff going on go to the Congress wouldn`t be nearly so strong if you weren`t completely obstructing everything they`re trying to do in this lawful impeachment inquiry. 

So, you could say you`re beating your chest and calling it fake, all of these things you`re going to do, but ultimately, this is a court order and you`re not helping yourself and that material is going to Congress for them to consider as part of your impeachment. 

Now, in terms of what the impeachment committees are actually going to get when they get this material, Judge Howell has ordered that it be handed over by October 30th, presumably there could be an appeal that stops that from happening on such a tight time frame.  But if they do get what Judge Howell is ordering them to get, Judge Howell goes out of her way to highlight a number of subjects that are addressed in this material that Congress doesn`t yet have that she`s now ordering they should get.  She goes out of her way to address subjects in this material that would seem to be quite relevant to these impeachment proceedings against President Trump, including, as she describes it, quote, evidence suggesting that then- candidate Trump may have received advanced information about Russia`s interference activities. 

She also describes indications that, quote, then candidate Trump may have had advanced knowledge of damaging leaks of documents, illegally obtained through hacks by the Russians.  She`s like, that`s what`s in the grand jury material, evidence about Trump having advanced knowledge about what the Russians were doing.  So, if you`re thinking about impeaching him in terms of foreign election interference, you`re going to want to see this. 

So, I mean, there`s some major takeaways from this ruling.  The first, you can see clear as day, plastered on the front page of "The New York Times" tonight, quote, the impeachment inquiry is legal, judge rules, which means that Republicans were already reduced to these process arguments about how the impeachment inquiry is somehow unfair to them.  They`re now going to have to try to find something else, just arguing that this isn`t a real impeachment.  That`s going to be, that`s no longer going to fly. 

It`s no longer going to fly in Congress but no longer going to try for the White House to use this as justification to try to block executive branch officials from testifying in response to duly authorized congressional subpoenas.  The judge says, no, no, this is legal.  This is a real impeachment. 

But on the substance, this also means all the redacted grand jury material from Mueller`s report is now turned over to Congress and -- I mean, the judge does a good job pointing out some of that material and how it may be quite explosively related to the impeachment proceedings that are already under way.  I don`t want to put too fine a point on it because we`ll see this stuff when we see it, but if you`re only interested in what the impeachment committees might be about to get on Ukraine specifically, its sketchy dealings with Ukraine, since that`s the heart of what Trump is impeached for, in volume I of the Mueller report, there is stuff in that report that is clearly about sketchy dealings in Ukraine.  I commend you to page 141, volume I of the report.

And now, if those grand jury redactions are going to go away, Congress is about to get all of that stuff about whatever these sketchy dealings are described in -- having to do with Ukraine, that Mueller investigated and got material about but hasn`t yet told Congress because it`s redacted for grand jury purposes.  Those redactions are going to go away and Congress is about to get all of that stuff in the midst of the impeachment inquiry that it turns out has been legal all along, and is chugging along at quite a pace. 

I mean, not only was the House impeachment of President Trump declared absolutely legal by this federal judge today, it looks like the investigators running the inquiry about to get access to a lot of new, very germane, potentially very explosive information to help them in those efforts. 

And the lesson here is when you have bad arguments, you tend to lose the argument and when your bad argument is intended to keep the truth from coming out, the truth in the end always has a way of coming out. 

Much more to get to tonight.  Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  It has been two years since the stories of sexual predation by movie mega producer Harvey Weinstein burst into the national consciousness through blockbuster reporting from Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey at "The New York Times" and then very shortly thereafter by Ronan Farrow at "The New Yorker" magazine. 

And whether or not Weinstein`s predatory behavior had been an open secret in Hollywood or not, most of us don`t live in Hollywood.  And so what we, the public, have now seen unspool over time has had a few different layers and a few different layers of impact. 

I mean, first, it`s just the story of Harvey Weinstein`s predation itself.  I mean, the scale and scope of the allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault and rape stretching over decades.  And it all follows the same pattern -- allegedly isolating young women, getting them alone, women who are in a position of either directly working for Weinstein or being professionally dependent on him as a big Hollywood producer, and then the alleged behaviors, just textbook sexual harassment up to and including serious allegations of serious sexual assault. 

The same description from all these different women over and over again, him taking off his clothes and exposing himself, demanding sex, demanding sexual contact of various kinds, refusing to take no for an answer.  And then him allegedly retaliating against young women who managed to get away from him, managed to escape, managed to rebuff what he was trying to do. 

And because there was such a distinct pattern in the allegations, because the allegations stretched over such a long period of time, because it was supposedly this kind of open secret in Hollywood, the reporting was really, really disturbing, right?  I mean, it`s a horror show in terms of the individual encounters that have been recounted by these women, but it`s a story about America too, right?  This rot in the culture right at this apex of American culture that allow this very powerful guy in the American movie business to allegedly commit these acts over and over again with the complicity of so many people, victimizing even women who are well-known and seemingly powerful in their own right. 

Even if you didn`t care about Hollywood, this was a riveting story with all kinds of very upsetting implications. 

The second part of the Weinstein story was the reporting about what he did to keep his alleged behavior secret or at least shielded from the media or from legal scrutiny for so long.  The high-power household name famous lawyers and the very expensive PR firms, these folks making legal threats for him, arranging financial payouts to his accusers that came with non- disclosures agreements so that the accusers couldn`t talk, organizing smear campaigns against the accusers when they did talk to make them seem crazy, to undermine their claims. 

And then beyond that, there was this other layer of stuff we`ve really never heard about before, which is about -- I guess what you`d call the more baroque tactics that he brought to bear.  Ronan Farrow reported vividly on Weinstein hiring a foreign private intelligence firm staffed largely by former agents of the Israeli intelligence service.  These agents adopted a variety of fake identities.  They pretended to be all sorts of different kinds of people to try to get close to at least one of Weinstein`s accusers, to try to gain trust, to try to find out what this accuser might plan to say about Weinstein.  Also to gather dirt to undermine accusers to make them, again, seem nuts, seem unreliable. 

And it wasn`t just the people who Weinstein had allegedly attacked who might speak about their experiences with him.  The reporters going after the Weinstein story were also targeted by these intelligence operatives. 

While reporting on the story, Farrow writes about trying to shake off the suspicion that he was being followed, only to later uncover evidence that he was, he had been indeed been the subject of a surveillance operation.  Ultimately, he met and then interviewed one of the men who had been following him on foot and surveilling him through his phone. 

So, Weinstein deployed all of these intimidation tactics against the women accusing him, and against the reporters and media outlets who are digging into the allegations him.  He also deployed himself personally making calls and sending emails to news executives, a lot of whom he knew through the business.  According to Farrow`s reporting, sometimes, these calls were belligerent.  Weinstein defending himself, demanding information, insisting stories be submarined, trashing the women who are accusing him.

But also in emails Farrow obtained, it was clear that Weinstein could be ingratiating and slippery, talking about deals he was really looking forward to doing with those executives. 

Ultimately, though, the stories Weinstein tried to stop from coming out, they did come out.  Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey were first with the story at "The New York Times".  Ronan Farrow published just days later at "The New Yorker".  Together, those reporters would win the freaking Pulitzer Prize for those stories. 

For his part, Harvey Weinstein is currently awaiting trial on several felony charges, including predatory sexual assault.  He`s pled not guilty.  He`s denied all allegations of non-consensual sex. 

But the last part of the Harvey Weinstein story, the part that`s being told right now is the story of how the story got told at all, the story of great journalism and how it gets done. 

And in the last few weeks, we`ve had two of these journalistic thrillers published.  Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey told their story in "She Said".  We spoke to them on the show last month.

Now, Ronan Farrow is telling his reporting story in "Catch and Kill."  In his book, Farrow describes the pressure brought to bear on him, and his sources and his employers, and really everyone around him as he tried to report this story.  The private detectives following him around, the legal threats, the constant approaches from people representing themselves as fellow journalists or as emissaries from decent-sounding non-profit organizations, people it would later emerge were, in fact, intelligence agents working on behalf of this Israeli private intelligence firm. 

It was also the alliance between Weinstein and executives at the "National Enquirer", which Farrow said published smear pieces about him when he broke unflattering news.  Farrow reported that "The Enquirer" had gathered dirt on Weinstein`s accusers and explored paying at least one of them for her story not so they could run it, but so they could bury it. 

And if that sounds familiar, because that`s the carbon copy of the relationship that "The Enquirer" had with Donald Trump, whose lawyer Michael Cohen is currently in prison for his role in the hush money schemes involving Trump and "The Enquirer" during the 2016 campaign. 

But one of the central allegations of Ronan Farrow`s book is that amidst this atmosphere of relentless, even creative intimidation and pressure, the story he was working on about Weinstein almost didn`t get told and Farrow says that`s because his employer for the first several months of his reporting, NBC News, slow-walked and even at times, tried to stop his reporting.  Farrow says he was repeatedly told to pause any new reporting while his story was reviewed by increasingly higher level executives at NBC.  That some executives seem to feel the Weinstein story was not newsworthy or not worth the trouble and yes, that`s while NBC executives, as I described earlier, were getting repeated calls from Weinstein himself, not to mention his lawyers. 

It was only when NBC News allowed Ronan Farrow to take his reporting elsewhere that it found a home at the "New Yorker" magazine.  He had worked on a story at NBC News for seven months when went to the New Yorker in August 2017. 

Seven weeks after Ronan left NBC, "The Times" published their Weinstein story, and five days after that, Farrow published his Weinstein story -- the piece he had started at NBC but it ran in the "New Yorker" magazine.  And that piece included the most serious allegations against Weinstein to that point, three allegations of rape. 

NBC News has strenuously denied the allegation, that it intentionally stymied Ronan Farrow`s reporting.  They say his story was simply not up to NBC`s standards nor ready for network TV in August 2017.  They said the network was prepared to continue working on the story to get it into shape, but that Ronan wanted to move more quickly, and so they allowed him to go to a print outlet instead. 

According to NBC, when Ronan Farrow left, he had no Weinstein accusers on the record.  Farrow says that when he left NBC, he had, quote, an explosively reportable piece that should have been public earlier. 

NBC News says his "New Yorker" article bore little resemblance to his NBC News reporting.  But again, that "New Yorker" piece was less than two months after he left his reporting at NBC and took it somewhere else. 

NBC letting the story get away is -- I think the best way I can put it is, when you take NBC`s word for it, NBC letting that story get away is a shame.  But in Ronan Farrow`s telling, it`s not a shame, it`s a scandal. 

NBC is saying, essentially, it`s too bad that story got away.  We were really hoping to get it to air once ready.  Ronan Farrow is saying, no, you were stopping me from getting it to air and that`s why I had to leave. 

But that`s not the only allegation that Ronan Farrow levels against NBC News in his book.  About seven weeks after his reporting appeared in the "New Yorker" in 2017, NBC abruptly fired the long-time host of "The Today Show", Matt Lauer, after what NBC called a credible allegation of inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace that was brought to the company`s attention.  The company never detailed what the specific allegation was that led to Matt Lauer`s firing.  But "The New York Times" and "Variety" quickly had reports out with multiple allegations against Matt Lauer. 

In his book, Ronan Farrow interviews the woman who made the complaint to NBC human resources that resulted in Matt Lauer getting fired.  She tells Farrow that it was reading the accounts of Weinstein`s accusers in his "New Yorker" piece that convinced her to make her complaint about Lauer in 2017. 

And now, in Farrow`s book for the first time, we learn what she alleges happened between her and Lauer.  She says while covering the Olympics in Sochi in 2014, Matt Lauer raped her in his hotel room while she was both too drunk to consent and she says she repeatedly told him no. 

Matt Lauer has vehemently denied this account.  He says the encounter was consensual.

Farrow alleges in his book that this woman was one of several NBC employees with sexual misconduct allegations against Matt Lauer who received big payouts, accompanied by non-disclosure or non-disparagement agreements. 

NBC says these payments, those agreements were all standard.  They weren`t specific to anybody making any allegations against Lauer.  The company says management was unaware of any allegations against Matt Lauer at all before the one allegation for which they fired him. 

NBCUniversal did an internal investigation last year that said as much, that concluded. 

But I`ll tell you, there has been consternation even inside this building, inside MSNBC and NBC News, that that matter was handled with an internal investigation, with the company, in effect, investigating itself rather than hiring an external firm to do it. 

Now, NBC News is obviously our parent company here at MSNBC.  The allegations about the behavior of Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer are gut- wrenching at baseline, no matter who you are, or what your connection is to this story. 

But accusations that people in positions of authority in this building may have been complicit in some way in shielding those guys from accountability?  Those accusations are very, very hard to stomach.  And I can tell you that inside this building, this issue, the Weinstein story, having to leave the building in order to get told and combine that with another previous gigantic story on a related subject, the "Access Hollywood" tape Billy Bush story, also leaving this building to get told, the amount of consternation this has caused among the rank-and-file people who work here would be almost impossible for me to overstate. 

I`ve been through a lot of ups and downs in this company since I`ve been here.  It would be impossible for me to overstate the amount of consternation inside the building around this issue. 

Since Ronan Farrow`s book was published, I`ve been trying to get answers about some of his key allegations.  As to whether or not Ronan Farrow was told to hit pause on any new reporting at a time when NBC didn`t think there was enough to go to air with, we have independently confirmed that NBC News did that.  That did happen.  He was told to pause his reporting. 

In light of Farrow`s assertions that there was a pattern at the company of women making allegations against Matt Lauer and being paid off and signing away their rights to speak about it, all before Matt Lauer was ever fired?  Well, we`ve doubled back with NBC and they confirmed their denial that that ever happened before Matt Lauer was fired.  But as far as we can tell, there has never been an independent investigation of that.  So until there is an independent investigation of that, if there is ever going to be one, that remains NBC`s word versus Ronan Farrow`s reporting and assertions. 

In terms of the specific question of women signing away their right to speak about any such incidents -- well, there we actually have a little bit of news tonight.  NBC News is now telling us on the record that there is nothing in any non-disparagement or non-disclosure agreement anyone may have signed with the company that can legally prevent you from talking about your experience. 

Here`s the statement from NBC -- from NBCUniversal.  This is from a spokesperson from NBCUniversal.  Quote: Any former NBC News employee who believes that they cannot disclose their experience with sexual harassment as a result of a confidentiality or non-disparagement provision in the separation agreement should contact NBCUniversal and we will release them from that perceived obligation. 

So that`s new.  That`s news. 

As to whether or not any external review will be done of the handling of the Weinstein story and why that story couldn`t be broken here, but it later broke with another news organization, whether the company would submit itself to an external journalistic review to try to restore some confidence that the company isn`t just, you know, further investigating itself and clearing itself on issues like this?  Well, again, we did get a statement on this, this time from NBC News.  Short form, I`ll tell you, the answer is no, that`s not going to happen. 

Quote: Over a year ago, NBC News released a 12-page transparent accounting of the Weinstein reporting.  That`s another internal investigation.  They told us tonight, quote, once again, we stand by it. 

So, since Ronan Farrow`s Weinstein reporting and the saga to get it to print described in his book, you should know that he has gone on to break stories about decades worth of allegations of sexual harassment by the chairman of CBS, Les Moonves, one of the most powerful television executives in the history of this country.  Those allegations led Moonves to resign last year. 

Ronan Farrow also reported with Jane Mayer the stories of four women who accused New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman of physical abuse.  Schneiderman resigned his post as New York attorney general three hours after that story broke in "The New Yorker." 

Just last month, the director of the elite MIT Media Lab stepped down less than a day after Ronan Farrow reported on emails and documents he obtained showing that the lab was more deeply involved than it had admitted with billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, and had accepted lots of money from him even after they knew he was a convicted sex offender. 

Ronan Farrow`s reporting has changed how we understand sexual predation by very, very powerful men in this country and how we understand the vast resources they can bring even on powerful institutions to shield themselves from accountability -- and that`s worth talking about anywhere, anytime. 

And Ronan Farrow joins us here next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Joining us now for the interview is Ronan Farrow. 

Along with Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey at "The New York Times", Ronan Farrow won the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting in "The New Yorker" on Harvey Weinstein`s decades of predatory sexual misconduct.  His book about reporting that story and the vast resources that Weinstein employed to try to stop it and why he says that story didn`t make it out of the door at NBC News, that book is called "Catch & Kill: Lies, Spies, and A Conspiracy to Protect Predators".  It`s everywhere. 

Ronan, thank you for being here.  I appreciate --

RONAN FARROW, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING JOURNALIST:  Pleasure to be here.  Thanks for doing this. 

MADDOW:  So, first, I summarized sort of my -- the context of this story, how I think your book fits into it and sort of what I`ve learned since.  Let me just ask you if you -- if I got any of that wrong or if you want to push back on any of that (ph). 

FARROW:  I think that was a very accurate, very fair summary. 

MADDOW:  OK.  And I do believe that it is new, this statement from NBCUniversal tonight that anybody who believes they`re constrained from talking about sexual abuse or sexual harassment by non-disparagement or confidentiality clause, if they come forward to NBCUniversal, they will be released for that. 

FARROW:  It is new and NBC executives deserve praise for that. 

As of today, Rachel, I have spoken to multiple women who knew that I was talking about this more and expressed agony over the fact that they are constrained by these agreements. 

MADDOW:  Hmm.

FARROW:  Which to be clear, this a very meticulously fact-checked book.  NBC`s response and rebuttals are woven into it, including their claim that this was all a coincidence, that they were paying out these women who happen to have these harassment complaints about Lauer and others. 

That said, these women, to a one (ph), consider these to be payouts to silence them.  Executives involved told me they were payouts to silence them.  The fact they are ending that and releasing these women is significant.  It should be a model for other companies. 

MADDOW:  So, let me -- let me ask you about that specifically, because I have been trying to track this down myself.  It`s such a specific claim.  It`s so empirical that I feel like I naively believe that I should be able to get to the bottom of this by the time I had you on the show tonight, independently verify (ph) --

(CROSSTALK)

FARROW:  It sounds like you made some headway. 

MADDOW:  Well, but on this issue of whether or not enhanced severance or these other types of payment deals and the types of language people sign when they leave, whether women who had allegations against Matt Lauer were treated any differently other than other people who left the company under circumstances that didn`t have anything to do with any claims of sexual misbehavior, I -- I feel like that`s -- those are two data sets that you could compare.  Did you actually get access to normal severance to compare this to? 

FARROW:  Yes.

MADDOW:  OK.

FARROW:  And it`s laid out very clearly in the book.  You can judge for yourself.

But this was described atypical, not part of the general process of people leaving the company by just about everyone involved in these transactions.  Except for these spokespeople putting out the statements now, on the inside, not only the women who received these payouts and their agents but also senior executives on the NBCUniversal side who brokered these agreements described them openly as sexual harassment settlements. 

MADDOW:  OK.  In terms of this change that`s been announced tonight right here from NBCUniversal saying that these non-disparagement or confidentiality clauses don`t constrain women from talking about these things, based on your reporting, what you just described, it`s an ongoing reporting since the book, it sounds like you think that women will come forward now once they`ve been released. 

FARROW:  That will be their choice, but I do know that -- as I said, women felt constrained, they were agonized over that, and I think this will go a long way towards making them feel that they can discuss this openly. 

MADDOW:  Why do you think that you were told to pause for the reporting on your Weinstein story at NBC News?  I got -- I was able to independently verify this.  NBC News confirming to me that happened, but they say it was due to concerns about your reporting and a breakdown of trust between you and the investigative unit. 

Why do you holistically, not in one of one of these instances in particular, but holistically, why do you think they told you to pause your reporting? 

FARROW:  Look, important to note, these past rounds of legal and standards reviews, there was no breakdown of trust.  I was told specifically that there were no issues with the reporting again and again.  And over the course of the reporting that we laid out here, there is a paper trail of the shutting down of the story. 

And includes Noah Oppenheim, the president of NBC News, on six occasions ordering us to stop reporting.  The head of the investigative unit underneath him ordering eight times to stop reporting.  That eventually escalated to ordering us to cancel interviews. 

And, look, you can judge for yourself.  It`s laid out in the book, whether what we had was enough.  We had a tape of Weinstein admitting to sexual assault.  We had multiple named women in every version of this story. 

But that actually is not the point.  The order to stop was un-journalistic. 

And this is not just my account.  It`s my working level producer`s account.  He recently wrote a piece for "Vanity Fair" saying, I witnessed all of this.  It was inappropriate shutdown of exclusive reporting we had. 

And we were concerned that people were going to continue to get hurt. 

What the book lays out is that this was a set of executives making these decisions, all the way up to our parent company, who were cornered on some very difficult issues within the company.  And if, indeed, they are moving towards more transparency, releasing women from NDAs, maybe eventually this independent review that people inside this building have called for again and again, those would be positive steps. 

MADDOW:  In terms of cancelling interviews, the interviews that you say NBC cancelled, were those interviews in shadow?  Were those interviews on camera?  Were those interviews off camera?  What kinds of -- what kind of interviews were they cancelling? 

FARROW:  So, that includes fully on the record offers to go on camera full- faced. 

A wonderful brave woman named Emily Nestor who has gone on record in recent days and talks about in the book how she offered while the story was on NBC.  Rose McGowan was full-faced, on the record for many months.  Rose McGowan was getting intimidated legally and was becoming frustrated with NBC slow rolling the story for months and months, pulled out. 

The moment that happened, Emily Nestor said, I will record my interview again.  She had previously been in shadow, full face.  The executives here were not interested in that. 

So, it included a combination of interviews in shadow, which we do very often in our investigative stories, including ones that I`ve aired on this network, and also full-faced, on-the-record accounts that were very explosive and ultimately were a part of the "New Yorker" story. 

MADDOW:  When NBC News told us tonight -- again, I think this might be unprecedented statement from them. 

Quote: We very much wanted to break this story, which is why we assigned it and supported it editorially and financially for seven months.  We are profoundly disappointed that we weren`t able to do so. 

That might just sound like expression of feelings.  I will say, inside the building, that expression of profound disappointment that the story didn`t get broken here is meaningful to me because I feel like I`ve been waiting to hear that.  But I wanted to put that to you and ask you how that strikes you and whether you might -- whether -- I don`t know, whether you share this sense of that as a significant impression? 

FARROW:  The book is in many ways a love letter to and a tribute to fellow reporters, including great reporters across this building, at NBC News.  Many of them are sources that allowed me to tell this story.  They are anguished over this.  They were lied to. 

The general counsel of this company in this book says, we had no settlements in this period, where we ultimately lay out a paper trail of seven settlements. 

There`s a feeling in this building, as you alluded to, that coverage is being distorted and good journalists have a problem with that. 

I think the transition from an almost, sort of, Trumpian response of we dig in, we reiterate the talking point that there wasn`t a "there" there to the story, to something that more forthrightly acknowledges disappointment and a need to release people from non-disclosure agreements -- 

MADDOW:  Uh-huh.

FARROW:  -- that is immensely positive.  And I can only imagine will be received well here. 

MADDOW:  There`s one other aspect on this, Ronan, that I want to ask you about that actually I`m going to ask you about both as a lawyer and a reporter. 

But if you could stick with us through the break, I`ll ask you about that right after this.

We`re back with Ronan Farrow, contributor at the "New Yorker" magazine, the author of the new bestseller, "Catch and Kill".

We`ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  We`re back now live with Ronan Farrow, author of a new book "Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators".  It`s an account of his Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting and allegations of predatory sexual behavior by Harvey Weinstein, and why Farrow says that ended up in the "New Yorker" magazine instead of at NBC News. 

Ronan, thank you again for doing this.  I appreciate it.

FARROW:  Thanks for having me. 

MADDOW:  I know it`s fraught to be here, and it`s -- you know, it`s -- I feel like talking about this in this context like makes it feel like I can feel the portentous music behind us while we`re talking. 

But -- yes.

FARROW:  There`s a scene in great portent where you do the same -- may I say -- brave thing after the story breaks and confront things forthrightly.  And I think people speaking truth to power about their own bosses, their own institutions is a really important part of how we can have an honest conversation about this. 

MADDOW:  Let me ask you about what it`s like in this building, and confronting your reporting and knowing -- you know, as much as I do from being here and trying to figure it out, trying to verify some of this stuff, I feel like in a lot of different kinds of institutions, and the one that keeps coming to me is, like, U.S. attorneys offices, but a lot of different institutions and news organizations and legal institutions, different places, there are -- and there are moments when improper external pressure will be brought to bear, and it is very important for the integrity of the outfit that that external pressure not be such a shock to the system that it actually blows up the product of that entity, but rather it`s expected. 

And so, there`s an air lock, there`s an insulation, there`s some sort of an anticipation for that in a way to structure the work of that entity in a way that it isn`t infected by external pressure.  I feel like it ought to be that way.  I feel like we have developed that a little bit in a small way on my show. 

Do you feel like a big news organization like NBC News, especially when it`s integrated into this much larger NBC family, can effectively do that?  Is it possible to do that structurally?  Or do you have to rely on individual -- individual bravery?

FARROW:  I think it requires both.  We need to push our great news organizations, and I put NBC News in that category, to be transparent and accountable, and as you say, to have a firewall between the executive suite, when it receives this kind of pressure, and reportorial decisions. 

That did not happen here.  Executives descended and -- at a point where the normal process was playing out and a request was issued to the president of the news organization to go to comment, to seek comment from Harvey Weinstein, that process was stopped. 

The point of this book and the reporting in it and the fact that we fact- checked it so carefully is to make it clear this isn`t about a tit-for-tat, it`s not about me, it is about a set of facts that are laid out that show there was a lack of that firewall.  That shouldn`t happen at CBS that I`ve reported on, or at AMI with "The National Enquirer" and all the reporting about that that`s in the book, and it shouldn`t happen at NBC News. 

And I think you`re seeing a lot of great journalists in this building asking tough questions.  It is not for me to say what should happen in response to all of that.  I`m not an activist.  I`m a journalist.  But I`m really happy that people like you are asking those hard questions. 

MADDOW:  Ronan Farrow, the book is called "Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and A Conspiracy to Protect Predators", thanks for being here.

FARROW:  Thank you, Rachel, for all you do. 

MADDOW:  Thanks.  Yes, thanks.

We`ll be right back.  Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Where does the time go? 

That does it for us tonight.  We will see you again on Monday.  Have an excellent weekend.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" where Katy Tur is in for Lawrence tonight. 

Good evening, Katy.

 

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