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Acting Director Cuccinelli grilled. TRANSCRIPT: 10/30/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Mary Gay Scanlon, Mark DeSaulnier

JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  But I`ll tell you, from people I speak to, it`s already been chaotic.  They have policies that are enacted through a tweet before they actually get a memo how to implement it, and courts are holding things up.  Every day, they have to figure out how they`re going to carry out these policies.  Not having someone either confirmed or even in an acting position is hard for them. 

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  Julia Ainsley and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, thank you both.  That is ALL IN this evening. 

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. 

Good evening, Rachel.

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

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. 

You know, you almost never get footage of these things right as they`re happening.  Even if you do at some point get footage of these kinds of confrontations, it`s often from some great distance or through some, you know, grainy surveillance interface, and you kind of need a narrator to figure out what`s going on.  In this case, we got something very rare.  We got up close like Cinema Verite "you are there" footage.  That was not only from an eye level perspective, you could even hear like the Russian swearing in the background. 


BILL NEELY, NBC NEWS REPORTER:  Russia`s navy chasing three Ukrainian ships.  This video appearing to show the moment of impact. 

One ship rammed, shots were fired.  The ship seized.  Two dozen Ukrainian`s sailors captured Russian war planes threatening above. 

The Ukrainian ships were traveling between two of their own ports and were hit at the narrow strait between Russia and Crimea which it illegally annexed.  Russia now claiming these waters as its territory and blaming Ukraine for provoking the incident. 


MADDOW:  That was a report from NBC correspondent Bill Neely right at the time this happened. 

We also got publicly released at the time, just a sort of an amazing raw video from what I think appears to be maybe the bridge of one of the Russian ships that was involved.  It was a video that was shot as this thing was happening. 


MADDOW:  This happened just a little less than a year ago, Sunday, November 25th, last year, 2018. 

What happened here is that a Russian ship rammed into a Ukrainian tug, then the Russians opened fire on that tug that they just rammed, and they opened fire on two other Ukrainian ships.  The Russians then sent commandos onboard the Ukrainian ships they had just rammed and shot at, and they took the crew members off those ships.  They took two dozen Ukrainian sailors as their prisoners.  Some of the Ukrainian sailors were hurt in the attack, but they took them as prisoners. 

If you look at the map of where this happened, it gives you a little bit of a sense of what might have motivated this Russian behavior.  You saw Bill Neely spell this out the night it happened. 

On this map, it`s pretty obvious.  On the right side of your screen, that`s the western part of Russia.  Left side of your screen, that is the southeastern part of Ukraine.  At the bottom of your screen, below the other part of Ukraine that`s called Crimea, you can see the Black Sea there. 

But in between Russia and the part of Ukraine that is called Crimea, you can see there`s this tiny narrow little strait, which is called the Kerch Strait.  And north of there, north of the Kerch Strait, that is a different body of water, that`s the northern extension of the Black Sea.  It`s called the Sea of Azov.

And once upon a time, the Sea of Azov, you know, was a relatively non- controversial thing, to say that the Sea of Azov was sort of Russia is on the right, and Ukraine is on the left, since those two countries that border it.  But 5 1/2 years ago, Russia invaded Ukraine, and they took a whole big chunk of the nation of Ukraine.  They took Crimea for themselves.  They decided that Crimea was now a part of Russia. 

And after they did that, after they took Crimea to sort of solidify their hold on Ukraine, Russia built a big weird expensive bridge across the Kerch Strait, and a bridge that connects Russia to Crimea, to this part of Ukraine that Russia is now claiming as its own.  And upon doing so, upon seizing Crimea for itself and building this bridge between Russia and Crimea and putting the Russian military into the other parts of eastern Ukraine outside of Crimea, in so doing, Russia apparently decided not only were they taking parts of Ukraine for themselves, right, they were taking Crimea, they were invading and occupying eastern Ukraine.  Not only were they taking those parts of Ukraine`s territory for themselves, but they were also taking the sea between the two countries. 

They were also taking the Sea of Azov.  They basically decided they would treat that as Russian waters. 

And so, at roughly this time last year, there`s these three Ukrainian ships full of Ukrainian sailors.  They setoff on their journey from Ukrainian port, they are going through another Ukrainian port.  They are traveling through Ukrainian waters to get there on their journey, but Russia swoops in, shoots at them, boards their vessels, seize their vessels and takes all these guys prisoners. 

Russia put all of these Ukrainian sailors in the Lefortovo Prison in Moscow.  Lovely facility, first open in 1881.  That`s where they brought these Ukrainian sailors who they shot at and injured and seized.  They took prisoner this time last year.

And, you know, they`ve been holding them all this time.  They only let these guys out of prison this past month in a prisoner exchange. 

So, it is kind of a crisis, right?  I mean, for the first time since World War II, you had a country on the borders of Europe, right, using military force to seize another country`s land.  That was when Russia took Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. 

Then here they were just this past year, less than a year ago, seeing how much further they could push it, not just taking Ukraine`s land but taking the sea as well in 2018, right?  This is -- this is really bad from the perspective of international relations, international law, the basic principles of modern interactions among civilized states.  This is very bad Russian behavior here.  This is serious crisis. 

Now, as I mentioned this thing that happened in the Sea of Azov, this thing that happened at the Kerch Strait, it was a about year ago.  It`s on a Sunday in late November last year.  President Trump was asked about the crisis the following day, on the following Monday.  He did not seem that concerned about it. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We do not like what`s happening.  Either way, we don`t like what`s happening. 


MADDOW:  Yes, either way.  Either way.  I mean, what, you`re asking about what Russia did in shooting up those boats and taking all those sailors hostage from our ally, but we didn`t like those sailors being there anyway, in their own boats, in their own waters, in their own country, doing their own thing, they too are part of the problem.  Yes, we didn`t like either side of this.  We didn`t like either the old lady in the crosswalk or the speeding truck, frankly. 

Russia was delighted with this answer.  "The Washington Post" interviewed a senior Russian official, their deputy foreign minister, to get his response to how President Trump was addressing this crisis.  Quote: Russian deputy foreign minister, Alexander Grushko, interpreted the calls for both sides to ease tensions as a signal that even Western officials believed that Ukraine shares some of the blame.  Quote, this is the sort of acknowledgement through their teeth that the Ukrainian side is also at fault, even from their point of view, Grushko said. 

So, the attack happens on a Sunday.  Most leaders in the Western world freaked out.  The following day, on Monday, President Trump does not freak out and says I`m concerned about both sides.  Russia`s delighted. 

Within just a few days from then, though, Trump was due to travel.  I mean, later that same week, on Thursday of that week, he was due to travel to the G-20 conference, which was held in Argentina last year.  At that G-20 conference, there was already an announced plan for President Trump to have a bilateral head to head meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Now, obviously under these circumstances where Russian forces have just opened fire on a U.S. ally, wounded some of their sailors, seized three of share ships by force and taken 24 of those sailors prisoner, and, obviously, under those circumstances, the Russian president who just did these things cannot then have a friendly meeting with the U.S. president.  Not just days after this attack on one of our allies, right? 

I mean, you`re meeting with President Putin is off, sir, right?  That`s not happening anymore, is it? 


TRUMP:  I think it`s a very good time to have the meeting. 


MADDOW:  Oh, of course.  Why not have the meeting?  What could possibly get in the way of you having yet another opportunity to stare into those steely blue marbles? 

Now, ultimately, however good a time President Trump thought that was going to be, that was an answer that even the Trump White House had to acknowledge could not stand.  Within less than an hour after the president saying what I just showed you, less than an hour after President Trump said he thought it would be a great time to meet with Vladimir Putin, less than an hour later the White House announced in fact maybe it wouldn`t be a great time.  President Trump would be canceling his meeting with Vladimir.  They would not be meeting together at the G-20. 

It`s interesting, though, it`s almost like Russia knew they were more in control of the situation than the White House might be because Russia never expressed any concern in response to that White House announcement.  They never seemed concerned at all that meeting might actually be off.  In fact Russia subsequently bragged as far as they were concerned, the meeting was still on. 

Kremlin`s spokesman Dmitry Peskov telling reporters, quote, this meeting is being prepared.  In other words, oh, did the White House tell you the meeting was off?  That`s adorable.  If we say Putin is going to meet with Trump, then Putin is going to meet with Trump.  You`re going to listen to those people? 

And sure enough, the day after the White House officially announced that meeting would not happen, that it was canceled after which Russia kind of cockily asserted, oh, yes, that meeting is still on, it will still happen.  In fact, the following day, Russia formally announced that the meeting between Trump and Putin at the G-20 was still on.  And in fact, when Donald Trump went to Buenos Aires, to the G-20 meeting, he did in fact meet with Vladimir Putin just like Russia said he would. 

Sure, the White House said he wouldn`t take that meeting but Russia said he would.  And he did, good boy.

And now as of today, as of this afternoon, now we actually know more of the real story about what really happened there.  More of what happened behind the scenes.  And here`s how we know it. 

Quote: Mr. Chairman and ranking member, thank you for the opportunity to provide this statement today.  I`ve served as a Foreign Service officer in the State Department since 2005.  I`ve spent most of my career serving in countries on the periphery of the Russian federation including Mongolia, Armenia and most recently Ukraine.

For the last five years, I`ve worked in Kiev and Washington to advance our national security interest, by promoting a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, countering Russian aggression and defending the principles that international borders should not be changed by force.  It has been a privilege to serve our country and promote our national interests on such an important foreign policy issue.  These efforts have benefitted from strong bipartisan support. 

In August 2017, Ambassador Kurt Volker asked me to serve as special advisor for Ukraine negotiations.  In this role, I helped develop negotiating positions, analyze Russian and Ukrainian ceasefire proposals, provided context on the history of the conflict and past negotiations.  But on November 25, 2018, November 25th, last year, Russia further escalated the conflict when its forces openly attacked and seized Ukrainian military vessels heading to a Ukrainian port in the Sea of Azov. 

While my colleagues at the State Department quickly prepared a statement condemning Russia for its escalation, senior officials in the White House blocked that statement from being issued.  Ambassador Volker drafted a tweet condemning Russia`s actions which I posted to his account. 

If you want to see the power of that tweet, I think we were able to figure out what it is today.  We think it`s this.  You see the date on that, November 25, 2018, 9:36 p.m., from Kurt Volker, the special representative for Ukraine.  It says, quote: Russia rams Ukrainian vessel peacefully traveling towards a Ukrainian port.  Russia seizes ships and crew and then accuses Ukraine of provocation, question mark, question mark, question mark. 

Those are very poignant question marks.  If you think the power of the U.S. government is not behind those three question marks, Russia seizes ships and crew and then accuses Ukraine of provocation, question, question, question.  If you think the U.S. government`s power is not represented by those question marks, let me refer you to the White House statement on this matter.  There isn`t one, sorry.  There never was one. 

This testimony today is from Christopher Anderson, long time Foreign Service officer who was brought in to be the top advisor to Kurt Volker when Volker became Trump became his special envoy to Ukraine.  For the first time in Anderson`s testimony today, we learned that someone senior at the White House intervened to prevent the issuing of a statement that would condemn Russia for what they did.  Just last year, a actually less than a year ago when they rammed into and shot at those Ukrainian ships and took all those sailors hostage. 

That`s our ally, right?  We supposedly do not recognize Russia taking part of Ukraine and calling it Russia.  We certainly do not recognize Russia considering those international waters or Ukrainian territorial waters to be their own, but then they pull this off with one of our allies including taking those sailors hostage and nothing?  The White House intervenes to stop a statement of condemnation? 

Why did that happen?  Which senior official at the White House did that? 

We didn`t know about that before today.  But it`s amazing all the stuff that`s turning up in this impeachment inquiry.  Christopher Anderson served in that top role on the Ukraine issue as the top advisor to the Ukraine envoy until July of this year.  He testified today in addition to that incident involving the Russian navy and the kyboshing of a statement condemning it, he also testified today at White House meetings, he heard national security advisor John Bolton express concerns about Rudy Giuliani intervening in this part of U.S. foreign policy. 

And Giuliani`s calls for Ukraine to perform some sort of investigations that might benefit President Trump.  Christopher Anderson was succeeded in his job after he left this summer by Catherine Croft, she`s another foreign service officer.  She succeeded him this summer in July.  He also testified today in the impeachment proceedings. 

Among other things Catherine Croft confirmed the details of a meeting that happened at the White House on July 18th, soon after she took up this key post.  And this July 18th meeting is one of the key moments that Ambassador Bill Taylor testified about to impeachment inquiry last week.  Bill Taylor was sort of the sea change witness for the impeachment proceedings so far. 

And you might remember one dramatic moment from Taylor`s testimony.  Here`s how he put it in his testimony.  He said, quote, in a regular national security counsel secure video conference call on July 18th -- I heard a staff person from the office of management and budget say that there was a hold on security assistance to Ukraine but could not say why.  Towards the end of an otherwise normal meeting a voice on the call, a person off screen said that she was from OMB, the Office of Budget and Management, and that her boss had instructed her not to approve any additional spending of security assistance for Ukraine until further notice. 

Taylor testified, quote: I and others sat in astonishment.  The Ukrainians were fighting the Russians and counted on not only the training and weapons but also the assurance of U.S. support.  All that the OMB staff person said was that this directive to hold the military aid had come from the president. 

So, that was Bill Taylor`s very dramatic testimony.  Today, he got backup.  Today, Catherine Croft corroborated that directly and basically entirely. 

This was her testimony today.  She said, quote: On July 18th, the same date that Taylor identified, July 18th, I participated in a sub-policy coordination committee videoconference where an OMB representative reported that the White House chief of staff had placed an informal hold on security assistance to Ukraine.  The only reason given was that the order came at the direction of the president. 

So to the extent that Bill Taylor`s testimony last week, that President Trump intervened to personally insist military aid and White House meetings be denied to Ukraine until they coughed up investigations that could help President Trump and his domestic politics, to the extent that Bill Taylor`s testimony last week was the nail in the coffin or the first nail in the coffin for these impeachment proceedings, well, this today was direct corroboration that Taylor was telling the truth and there are other witnesses who will put their names to sworn statements where they back him up. 

And I will say the drama here is just kind of beginning.  For one thing, Taylor says that he is willing to testify in a public hearing if the congressional impeachment committees want him to.  I`ll tell you also that both of these people who testified to, Christopher Anderson who testified about the White House blocking condemnation for Russia for what Russia did to those Ukrainian ships and sailors a year ago, Christopher Anderson and his successor, Catherine Croft, who backed up Taylor on one of his most alarming claims, both of those witnesses who testified today worked as I mentioned in succession as top advisor to Kurt Volker who was President Trump`s U.S. presidential envoy to Ukraine. 

You might remember some of the drama about Volker already.  Within hours of Volker returning he himself had been called to testify before the impeachment proceedings, remember what Volker did?  He quit.  He quit his job on a Friday apparently to free him up in some way, so he could testify to the impeachment proceedings early the following week. 

Since then, we`ve also seen one of the top officials at the State Department, Michael McKinley, also resigned his position in the Trump administration.  He stepped down after more than three decades in the State Department ahead of his own testimony to the impeachment proceedings.  Well, now, today, there`s another senior Trump administration official stepping down before testifying to the impeachment proceedings. 

This time it`s Tim Morrison, a senior official on the national security counsel under John Bolton.  He was seen as a John Bolton guy.  He`s been known throughout his career as a hard core, hard core, hard core national security conservative and in particular a real hawk on nuclear issues. 

He served until today as the senior director for Europe and Russia at the National Security Council.  NPR was the first to report his resignation today. 

And I do want to underscore today, according to NPR`s report, quote, Morrison is expected to leave his post imminently.  Meaning he`s gone, which is important because his scheduled testimony for the impeachment proceedings is tomorrow morning.  So, Tim Morrison, a senior director at the National Security Council with responsibility for Europe and Russia tonight resigning in advance of his testimony tomorrow morning. 

Now, John Bolton himself recently fired as Donald Trump`s national security advisor.  It`s always seemed interesting to me that Bolton was ousted as national security advisor basically the same time Donald Trump was forced to relent and let that military aid finally go through.  That all happened around September 11th, September 12th. 

John Bolton himself I think is viewed as a wild card in terms of what his testimony might amount to at the impeachment proceedings.  What he would be willing to say, what indeed he was part of.  There are mysteries about John Bolton`s behavior including why he wasn`t on the call between President Trump and President Zelensky when people like the secretary of state were. 

Well, the House today has officially requested testimony of the impeachment proceedings of president Trump from John Bolton as of next week.  We don`t know whether or not Bolton will appear.  When he served as national security advisor, his number two, his deputy was Charles Kupperman.

Kupperman was the one last week brought a lawsuit in response to his request to testify to the impeachment committees.  Kupperman asked a judge to intervene, to tell him whether or not he should obey the White House instruction not to appear or the congressional subpoena that says he must appear.  That case is due to get its first hearing before a federal judge tomorrow afternoon at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. 

Again, Charles Kupperman was John Bolton`s deputy until September when they both left, slash were pushed out.  John Bolton I believe also shares a lawyer with Mr. Kupperman on these lawyers.  That suggests that whatever happens on this court case that Kupperman has instigated, maybe John Bolton will try to predicate his own behavior and answer on the impeachment proceedings on the results of that legal action.  We don`t know.

Maybe John Bolton will say, yes, I`ve been waiting to testify.  Can I bring my notes?

Impeachment committees testified -- excuse me, have scheduled Bolton for his testimony next week, even though these impeachment proceedings are still at this point behind closed doors, the drama still increases every day.  Today, the Rules Committee voted on the format and procedures that the impeachment committees will use to move onto the next phase of their inquiry which will include public hearings.  A full vote on those rules will take place in the House tomorrow, and spoiler alert, it will pass. 

Meanwhile, while that is moving forward, while the House is moving toward the public hearings part of their impeachment proceedings, members of the administration who have any proximity to these events that are the basis for the impeachment are increasingly finding themselves getting asked about this stuff.  Any time they pop their heads above water, even if it`s not formally part of the impeachment. 

Today, for example, the number two official at the State Department under Mike Pompeo had his confirmation hearing to become Trump`s new ambassador to Russia.  John Sullivan may or may not continue being President Trump`s nominee for his ambassador to Russia after the hearing John Sullivan went through today in Senate Foreign Relations. 

I mean, what -- all of these officials, you know, you were in the middle of this.  What are you going to get -- what are you going to do when you get asked questions like this?  I mean, honestly, there is probably no better honest way to answer a question like this no matter how much John Sullivan might have preferred not to be asked it. 


SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D-NJ):  Do you think it`s ever appropriate for the president to use his office to solicit investigations into a domestic political opponent? 

JOHN SULLIVAN, NOMINEE FOR U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA:  Soliciting investigation into a domestic political opponent, I don`t think that would be in accord with our values. 


MADDOW:  Once you have to admit that under oath on the record because of course, you have to admit that, do you still get to work in the Donald Trump administration?  Do you still get to be his ambassador nominee for Russia of all places?  Do you? 

We got lots to get to tonight.  Stay with us. 



REP. JIM MCGOVERN (D-MA):  It is a little frustrating they kind of hear all complaints about process which by the way I think it`s a good process.  The real sham process quite frankly is coming out of the White House. 

What we know based on what this president has been admitted, based on what his acting chief of staff has admitted, based on what we know that has under the Intelligence Committee, I mean this is serious stuff.  And so we can -- some can continue to circle the wagons around the White House and make believe there`s nothing there, but I don`t know by any measure how people cannot be shocked by what`s going on. 


MADDOW:  That`s the chair of the House Rules Committee, Congressman Jim McGovern, speaking tonight shortly before his committee voted on an impeachment tax resolution that will be voted on tomorrow by the full House of Representatives. 

It`s an eight-page resolution.  It calls for public hearings.  It permits staff lawyers to question witnesses in those public hearings.  Thank you.

It authorizes the intelligence committee to publicly release transcripts of depositions taken for witnesses thus far.  It also says the intelligence committee has to compile a final report on its findings from this inquiry, a report which will be released to the public. 

Joining us now is Pennsylvania Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon.  She`s vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee and she`s a member of the Rules Committee.  She took part in today`s hearing.

Representative Scanlon, thanks so much for your time tonight.  It`s good to have you here. 

REP. MARY GAY SCANLON (D-PA):  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  So, it`s -- obviously, tomorrow`s House vote on the House floor is not a vote whether or not the president should be impeached, but it`s going to be historic moment.  This is the full house going on the record regarding these impeachment proceedings and how they should be carried out.  How significant do you think this moment is?  Should the American people be looking at this as a touchstone or as a benchmark moment? 

SCANLON:  It absolutely is a benchmark moment.  I mean, tonight, we moved to the House floor procedures for how on the House we`ll consider whether to have articles of impeachment.  We haven`t done this -- we`ve only done this what three times previously in our history, so it`s a very significant moment.  Other members of the Rules Committee and I were saying it kind of gives you shivers when you have to vote on something like that.  It`s serious. 

MADDOW:  Republicans have recently been attacking the process by which the impeachment proceedings have gone forward thus far.  They`ve been saying in particular that they really want public hearings and they don`t recognize the legitimacy of this inquiry because the depositions thus far have been behind closed doors.  Now, there is going to be a move toward public hearings, those are the rules and the format that you and your committee voted on today, I imagine that the line of attack from the Republicans will not go away, that it will not switch to a new avenue.  Is that what you`re expecting? 

SCANLON:  It always does.  I mean, when you don`t have the facts and you don`t have the law you go after the process.  So, yes, we`ve been hearing process complaints. 

The process we`re hoping to have approved tomorrow or expecting to have approved tomorrow is basically going to be the same process as was used in the Nixon and the Clinton impeachment hearings.  What has happened up until now has been an investigation. 

Now, we move to the point where the House itself will be considering whether or not to move towards articles of impeachment.  There`s different phases here and this is just setting up us up for the next one. 

MADDOW:  There have been a lot of -- I think a lot of us watching from the outside have been gaming out what these public hearings might be like.  This impeachment proceeding, a move toward that.  There`s been a report today that the top diplomat, U.S. diplomat in Ukraine Bill Taylor is willing to testify publicly if he`s called to do so. 

His testimony behind closed doors, what we know of it because of his opening statement released publicly, appears to be a key perspective on this matter.  It`s also reported today that people -- who heard this testimony believe that Colonel Vindman might make a good witness as well.

What can you tell us of what you expect, when we should expect public hearings, how you expect them to be conducted, whether the public is going to be able to follow along at home with the narrative that`s been explored thus far? 

SCANLON:  I mean, that`s going to be the challenge for Judiciary and for leadership in the House is to put together a narrative people can understand.  Unfortunately, we have an embarrassment of material that could be used in these proceedings and that`s going to be part of our job is to whittle it down and get the best witnesses out there so people understand just what the real threat is here. 

I mean, we`ve had abuse of power, betrayal of the country, potential corruption in our elections, and we need to get the truth out there, so the American people can understand and decide where we go from here. 

MADDOW:  When you go home to your district in Pennsylvania and talk to your constituents about this, what are they telling you about this impeachment proceedings?   Are they generally supportive, are people giving you a hard time about it? 

SCANLON:  Generally supportive.  We did a couple of town halls about a week ago because people have so many questions about how this process unfolds.  So, while people have been generally supportive, I mean, I come form Philadelphia, that`s where the Constitution was written.  People are pretty up on it, but, you know, there are definitely some people who are less supportive. 

MADDOW:  Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon of Pennsylvania, serves on both the Judiciary and Rules Committee, thank you for your time tonight, ma`am.  It`s good to have you here.

SCANLON:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  All right.  Much more to get to tonight.  Stay with us.  We`ll be right back.


MADDOW:  A man named Lawrence VanDyke has been nominated by the Trump administration to serve in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  A lifetime federal judgeship, federal appeals court, one level below the U.S. Supreme Court.

Now, ordinarily, nominees for federal judgeships are vetted to a certain degree by the American Bar Association, the ABA.  And you can rate ABA ratings for judicial nominees however you want.  But in Mr. VanDyke`s case the assessment of his fitness to be a judge is like none I have never seen or heard of.  The ABA in his case did interviews with 60 lawyers and judges that Mr. Vandyke has crossed paths with professionally across four different states. 

Not only did the ABA conclude that Lawrence VanDyke is, quote, not qualified to be a federal judge, but they made this extraordinary case that it was the assessment of these 60 interviewees they spoke to that Mr. VanDyke is and I quote, arrogant, lazy, an ideologue and lacking in knowledge of the day to day practice, including procedural rules. 

Quote: There was a theme that the nominee lacks humility, has an entitlement temperament, does not have an open mind, and does not always have a commitment to being candid and truthful. 

Arrogant and lazy.  This is not a normal ABA rating for a normal judicial candidate.  According to the ABA, those 60 people they spoke to across four different states also raised a specific concern about whether Mr. VanDyke could be, quote, fair to persons who are gay, lesbian or otherwise part of the LGBTQ community.  Quote: Mr. VanDyke would not say he would be fair to any litigant before him, notably members of the LGBTQ community. 

And with that ringing endorsement today, Lawrence VanDyke went before the Judiciary Committee and Senate for his confirmation hearing.  And you can bet that warning letter, that almost bizarre, intense wording from the ABA about this candidate, you can bet that that came up. 


SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT):  You`re rated not qualified by a majority of the ABA, the most alarming ABA ratings I`ve ever seen.  Interviewees raised concerns you wouldn`t be fair to the persons of the LGBTQ community and interviewed 60 people across four states you`ve worked in and they based it on interviewing 60 people across four states. 

Interviewed one or two people I might ignore it, but 60 across four states, that`s -- I`ve been here for about 45 years.  I don`t recall quite that of an in-depth interview on these kind of -- these kind of ratings. 


MADDOW:  I`ve been here for 45 years.  This is one of it most alarming ABA ratings I have ever seen.  Senator Patrick Leahy expressing disbelief at the warning flare that this candidate earn after 60 people were asked about his integrity, and in the end, even Lawrence VanDyke seemed undone by the questioning and ultimately by its intensity. 


SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO):  Did you say you wouldn`t be fair to members of the LGBT community? 

LAWRENCE VANDYKE, JUDICIAL NOMINEE, 9TH CIRCUIT:  Senator, that was the part of the letter -- I did not say that.  I apologize. 

HAWLEY:  That`s all right. 

VANDYKE:  I`m sorry.  No, I did not say that. 


MADDOW:  The confirmation hearing for Lawrence VanDyke today in the Senate Judiciary Committee took that very dramatic turn.  I`ll let you know what happened with his nomination, but I`ll tell you, today was a very dramatic day in Congress.  That was not the most dramatic moment.  That`s still ahead. 

Stay with us. 



REP. WILLIAM LACY CLAY (D-MO):   What do you expect them to do?  You want them to leave the country, pack up their stuff, take their sick child and go? 

KEN CUCCINELLI, ACTING DIRECTOR, USCIS:  Either that or make their case in the immigration process where it`s appropriate to do so. 


MADDOW:  Pack up their staff, take their sick kid and go?  Yes, yes, either that or they could, you know, try to work something out.  That`s pretty much what we had in mind they would grab their sick kid and get out. 

Trump administration today not exactly tiptoeing around their recent policy adventure when they tried to get ill kids to discontinue their medical care that was saving their lives in this country so the Trump administration could force them and their families out of the country. 

In August, the Trump administration sent letters to families of sick kids like that announcing the end of a policy that`s known as medical deferred action.  The Trump administration telling those families they had 33 days to pack up their bags and get out of this country, even if that would result in death because the medical care that was keeping these kids alive was only available in this country. 

Well, the resulting backlash to that policy change and the general revulsion of what they were trying to do eventually led the Trump administration announce they would reverse course on that.  But since that announced reversal, the administration has basically gone quiet on the matter.  And quietly the vast majority of critically ill kids who rely on this policy to stay in this country and receive treatment that`s saving their lives, they and their families haven`t heard a peep about their cases. 

They`ve been given no indication as to whether their requests to stay have been approve.  You can imagine the daily, the hourly anxiety that goes along with that since the decision by the U.S. government whether or not those kids can stay here is the decision as to whether or not those kids die or not. 

Well, today, we finally got some answers.  Today, we learned who is the person who directed that change in policy, the person who oversaw that change in policy, the person who`s now taking responsibility for it is the acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ken Cuccinelli.  And he was on Capitol Hill to answer questions today. 

And to be honest, for as frank as he was in admitting that the administration really did want parents to pack up their sick kids and take them out of the country, for all his honesty on that point -- yes, they need to get out even if staying here is keeping them alive, I mean, despite his honesty on that point, he also just lied about a bunch of things having to do with the policy.  He for example claimed the families were never threatened with being forced out of the country despite the fact all these families got letters telling them to get out of the country within 33 days. 

There was also a stunning exchange in which Mr. Cuccinelli admitted while he instituted this change, while he`s the one that put it into place he never bothered to learn about the cases of the severely ill kids that he was potentially going to kill by making this policy shift. 


CLAY:  Pediatricians in Indiana reported that parents of at least two infants in a neonatal intensive care unit received letters from USCIS telling them to leave the country within 33 days.  Imagine that, you have just had a child that is so sick she is in ICU.  At the moment your child`s health should be the only thing you have to worry about, the U.S. government orders you to pack up and leave the country. 

Mr. Cuccinelli, did you know about these cases before you USCIS decided to end deferred action? 

CUCCINELLI:  My answer is the same as the earlier. 

CLAY:  Which is? 

CUCCINELLI:  We do not look at particular cases when making --

CLAY:  So you don`t care? 

CUCCINELLI:  No, you asked me did I know.  You bet I care. 

CLAY:  Do you care that somebody`s in --

CUCCINELLI:  You bet I do.  And it would be great, we can take care of this --

CLAY:  In an intensive care unit about to die. 

CUCCINELLI:  -- we had a law, if you cared enough to pass a law, we`d enforce it. 

CLAY:  Let me ask you this, what would you recommend those parents do when they receive that letter?  What should they do?

CUCCINELLI:  Well, what we expected most of them to do was very little, candidly.  We send a lot of those letters out and not in circumstances --

CLAY:  What do you expect them to do?  You want them to leave the country, pack up their stuff, take their sick child and go? 

CUCCINELLI:  Either that or make their case in the immigration process where it`s appropriate to do so. 

CLAY:  All in the middle of them being there trying to hoping and praying that they save their child`s life --

CUCCINELLI:  Which is why deferred action continues to exist elsewhere --

CLAY:  How cruel.  Really?  Really?  I don`t believe this.  I yield back. 


MADDOW:  That is Congressman William Lacy Clay, Democrat of Missouri. 

Well, now, there`s more.  Today there was this hearing where Ken Cuccinelli gave that performance and elicited that reaction from members of Congress who know what they were talking about and asked him about it.  But now, we`ve got some of the paper trail how this whole disaster came to be and what happened here.  And that story is next.  Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, told Congress today that he`s the one, he`s the one responsible for the abrupt unannounced change in policy that led to critically ill kids and their families being told to discontinue lifesaving medical care and get out of the U.S. within 33 days.  After a national uproar in response to that policy change, the administration reversed course.  Now, as part of a new legal filing, we can see how that happened. 

This letter sent from the Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan on September 18th to Ken Cuccinelli ordering him to resume the old policy, resume considering pleas from these families to stay in the U.S. for the sake of their kids who need to stay here in order to stay alive.  We all know that Secretary McAleenan has seen resigned as secretary of homeland security.  His last day is expected to be tomorrow. 

We also know that Ken Cuccinelli is one of the people who the White House reportedly wants to replace him.  What`s to stop this policy from getting up ended again once McAleenan is out the door? 

Joining us now is one of the leading congressional voices on this issue, Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, Democrat of California.  Let`s point out that he`s also a member of the Rules Committee that voted tonight to advance the impeachment inquiry. 

Sir, thank you very much for your time. 

REP. MARK DESAULNIER (D-CA):  Thank you for inviting me. 

MADDOW:  Let me ask you about this hearing today.  Were there surprises other what I`m sure was a surprise in term of the tone from Mr. Cuccinelli today in defending this policy? 

DESAULNIER:  There`s not much left for surprise from this administration.  I guess what I was surprised by was some of the things he asserted that weren`t true.  For instance, that all of these people were here illegally.  In Isabel`s case who you`ve reported on and thank you for doing that, we know she was here legally the entire time. 

MADDOW:  Yes, and that`s true for a lot of these families who profiled.  A lot of these kids who found out about, and this is a long-standing policy.  They`re not here illegally.  They`re here legally. 

They applied to stay essentially under this medical compassionate deferral.  We`ve been worried about the fact the administration reversed this on paper, but all these families and kids still don`t know about the way their case is going to be resolved. 

Do you have any further clarity on that? 

DESAULNIER:  No, and I brought this up in the hearing, that they`re in limbo.  They don`t know what`s happening in the case of Isabel, they were approved four times and they accepted the precedent including this administration, and then all of a sudden, they get this letter.  So we have to be on guard all the time. 

MADDOW:  In terms of what happens next, while these people are still in limbo, while the policy is changed on paper but its manifestation in the real world remains to be seen, are you concerned now we know that Secretary McAleenan who ordered the reversal of this policy, now that he`s leaving, we don`t know who`s going to be taking his place, are you concerned that the administration might once again just go for it full force? 

DESAULNIER:  Yes, I`m very concerned because whoever takes responsibility for the actual action in my mind, it`s clear who`s ultimately responsible by his tone, and that`s the president of the United States.  So -- and also because he`s not interested in finding out that he may be hurting people.  So, whether he`s a sociopath or just lazy, we have to be on guard all the time. 

MADDOW:  In terms of how to move forward on this, do you expect further hearings?  How do expect to continue oversight on this? 

DESAULNIER:  Well, I did get in my interplay with the acting secretary that he would work with us because he kept asserting it was Congress` fault, that they were just complying with the law which is not factual from a historic perspective.  So, I asked him we would have a process and communicating with one another because there was consensus from him at least that I took that he wanted to take care of these cases but he wanted to work with Congress. 

MADDOW:  Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, Democrat from California, thank you for your time tonight, sir.  Thanks for your attention to this. 

DESAULNIER:  Thank you. 

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


MADDOW:  We warned you this week was going to be like this.  We`re going to have another busy day tomorrow.  I want to repeat one of our top stories from tonight. 

A senior Trump administration national security official, an official named Tim Morrison, suddenly resigned his position at the White House tonight.  And that would be news in its own right just like that, but it`s a particularly intriguing piece of news given that tomorrow morning, that same official, Tim Morrison, is due to give testimony behind closed doors in the impeachment proceedings against the president. 

I don`t know if we`re going to get an opening statement or any other readout from Morrison`s deposition tomorrow, but watch this space. 

That does it for us tonight.  We`ll see you again tomorrow. 


Good evening, Lawrence.

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