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Trump-Russia probe TRANSCRIPT: The Rachel Maddow Show, 12/9/2019

Guests: David Laufman, Val Demings

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  That is ALL IN for this evening.

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

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

HAYES:  You bet.

MADDOW:  Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.  Happy Monday. 

You know, at least today, we knew in advance that there was going to be way too much news to keep up with, right, so we knew, you know as long ago as the end of last week today was a day for which we should, you know, gird our loins.  I don`t know what girding our loins means, it sounds terrible.  Bracing ourselves, if you will. 

But if you nevertheless did end up feeling overwhelmed by the amount of news today, it may make you feel a little better to note that it wasn`t just you.  It wasn`t just you and me and everyone we know.  We are not the only people having a hard time keeping up with a news day like today. 

The Justice Department also today had to ask for a little extra time, please.  Just couldn`t keep up.  One of the things we were expecting today was for federal prosecutors to file notice with the judge who was overseeing the criminal case of this man, President Trump`s deputy campaign chairman, Rick Gates.  Federal prosecutors were due to notify the judge in Gate`s case today as to what sentence they think Rick Gates should get. 

And this has been a really eagerly anticipated part of this case, and indeed, part of the overall Trump scandals and their criminal case components.  Because unlike Paul Manafort, the president`s campaign chairman who said he would cooperate with prosecutors and then didn`t, and lied to prosecutors and now he`s in prison for seven-plus years because of it, unlike Manafort who said he`d cooperate and didn`t, Manafort`s deputy, Rick Gates, who worked with Manafort, both in his Ukraine work, and you know, they were working for pro-Kremlin political parties who came with Manafort to work on the Trump campaign in 2016, Rick Gates actually has been cooperating.  Manafort said he would and then he didn`t.  Gates said he would cooperate and he certainly has, including testifying in multiple trials so far. 

Gates has been a cooperating witness for prosecutors for almost two years now.  So, we have been really anticipating this statement from prosecutors summing up the extent of his cooperation, the value of his cooperation, how they think a judge should weigh his cooperation against his felony convictions and the stuff that he has confessed to, right?  It should be super-interesting, right?  This is kind of the super cooperator of all the Trump scandals, at least in terms of these criminal cases. 

Seeing what prosecutors have to say about how helpful he was to them, it should tell us a bunch of stuff that we probably don`t know already.  So, we have been waiting for this for a long time, and that document from prosecutors was due by close of business today.  But surprise, in a last minute filing right before the close of business today, right up against the deadline, the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C. filed instead this short notice with the court acknowledging that the judge, yes, had told the prosecutors and the defense that they both had to have their sentencing memos about Rick Gates in today, but the prosecutors say they are not ready. 

Quote: The government is continuing to gather materials for the government`s memorandum in aid of sentencing.  With the court`s leave, we also plan to file under seal a supplemental motion regarding Mr. Gate`s assistance.  A supplemental motion that contains sensitive information related to ongoing criminal matters.  Oh, therefore, the government, quote, respectfully requests a one day extension of time to file its memorandum in aid of sentencing and also moves this court for leave to file under seal its supplemental motion.  Mr. Gates consents to the government`s request. 

So, I mean, who knows why they need one extra day.  To the extent that it had deadlines today, I put my deadlines off too.  It`s just one of those days when it was impossible to keep up with everything. 

Now, it may be possible that there`s something materially significant about exactly which day it is that they`re asking for as an extension.  Maybe they really needed something they couldn`t get until tomorrow morning.  But they have asked for a one day extension, and it is news itself that Rick Gates is still providing assistance to prosecutors even at this last date, something that relates to ongoing criminal matters and is sensitive and has to be filed under seal.  That`s new itself.

I mean, we kind of thought Rick Gates testifying against Paul Manafort, Rick Gates talking to the grand jury in the Mueller investigation, Rick Gates testifying on the stand in the Roger Stone trial.  We kind of thought that was it.  But apparently not, apparently there is more to get out of Rick Gates and it is sensitive enough that we the public won`t be allowed to see whatever it is that prosecutors are going to file. 

That was a little bit of a curve ball tonight, and I should tell you, just as we were getting on the air, heading down to the studio just a few minutes ago, we did get in the defense submission, Gates defense lawyers telling the judge in his case why they think he shouldn`t get any prison time.  That alone is interesting but we`re still waiting for what the prosecutors have to say, which should be fascinating.  We`ll have a little bit more on that coming up later on. 

I should also mention that we originally thought we`d be seeing Trump national security adviser, Mike Flynn, finally getting sentenced around now as well.  It was this time last year that Mike Flynn was initially in court expecting to get his sentence for the felony counts on which he has pled guilty.  This time last year when he showed up for his sentencing, that`s when things sort of fell apart for Mike Flynn in open court when the judge made clear that there was a real possibility that Flynn was going to get the book thrown at him with his sentencing judge. 

After confronting Flynn with all sorts of things he thought about him, the judge did show some mercy and allowed Flynn to delay that sentencing so he could go back to prosecutors and cooperate some more to try to alleviate what otherwise looked like it was going to be a really stiff sentence.  That was a year ago that the judge sent him away and said you probably don`t want to be sentenced by me right now.  You probably want to help yourself a little more in terms of what you can stack up against the sentence I`m thinking about giving you. 

He went away a year ago on that basically advice from the judge, but over the course of this past year, that`s really not how it went.  Mike Flynn didn`t go to prosecutors and help them lots more so prosecutors would come back and say, wow, he`s been even more helpful, we want you to be more lenient than he might otherwise been.  It didn`t go that way.  Prosecutors to the contrary are now expressing dissatisfaction with the degree to which Flynn has continued to be helpful to them. 

Flynn has switched to a different legal team, which is a sort of Fox News pundit-based legal team, which appears to be gunning for a presidential pardon for Flynn.  The legal team has made all sort of over-the-top allegations about the evil Justice Department and evil FBI and innocent Mike Flynn being targeted by deep state cabal, and the FBI themselves being the real criminals.  Just a couple of weeks ago, Mike Flynn`s sentencing was delayed again because his new lawyers said there was this inspector general report coming out of the Justice Department which would shed important new light on the bogus case against Mike Flynn. 

The judge in Flynn`s case, the same one who sent him away a year ago and said you might want to help yourself more before you hear the sentence I`m going to give you.  That same judge agreed to once again delay Flynn`s sentencing, this time until after the inspector general`s report came out so that everybody could see what the inspector general concluded about the propriety of the case, even the propriety of the FBI`s original decision to open an investigation into Flynn. 

Well, now, as of today, that inspector general report is out.  If you read the judge in Mike Flynn`s case, it`s easy to imagine that you might be a little bit annoyed at this point if in fact you delayed the sentencing because of what you believed were good faith assertions from Mike Flynn`s lawyers that this new report was going to change everything, it was going to, you know, make the case against Mike Flynn fall apart.  It was going to expose the dastardly FBI for, you know, only having pursued Flynn because of some political vendetta against Flynn or against Donald Trump. 

Whatever else they thought this would give him, you might imagine the judge today having the opportunity to see this report might be annoyed, because the inspector general report out today does discuss the FBI opening their investigation into Mike Flynn and they conclude that it was no problem.  They took a hard look at it, it seems pretty kosher is pretty much the conclusion.  Definitely nothing wrong with the Mike Flynn investigation. 

This is what`s in the inspector general report on Flynn.  Quote, the initial investigative objective of Crossfire Hurricane, the Russia investigation, was to determine which individuals associated with the Trump campaign may have been in a position to have received the alleged offer of assistance from Russia.  After conducting preliminary open source and FBI database inquiries, intelligence analysts on the Crossfire Hurricane team identified three individuals, Carter Page, Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn associated with the Trump campaign with either ties to Russia or a history of travel to Russia. 

On August 10th, 2016, the team opened separate counterintelligence cases on Page, Manafort, and George Papadopoulos, under code names designed by the FBI.  Six days later, on August 16th, a counterintelligence case was opened on Flynn under another code name assigned by the FBI.  Each case was designated as a sensitive investigative matter because the individual subjects were believed to be prominent in a domestic political campaign. 

Inspector general then explains the predicate information that was cited as the reason for opening FBI investigations into each of those people, including Flynn.  Quote, the opening electronic communication, the opening statement for the Flynn investigation, stated that there was an articulable factual basis that Flynn may have wittingly or unwittingly been involved in activity on behalf of the Russian Federation, which may constitute a federal crime or threat to the national security.  The document cross- referenced the predication to Crossfire Hurricane investigation and stated that Flynn was an adviser to the Trump campaign who had various ties to state affiliated entities of Russia and who traveled to Russia in December 2015. 

That`s what the FBI did when it opened its investigation into Flynn.  Was there anything wrong with them opening that investigation into Flynn?  The inspector general says no.  Not at all. 

From page 352, quote, we concluded that the FBI had stuff predication to open full counter intelligence investigations of Papadopoulos, page, Flynn and Manafort in August of 2016, as with the opening of Crossfire Hurricane itself, we concluded that the quantum of information articulated by the FBI to open these individual investigations was sufficient, particularly in the context of the FBI`s separate and ongoing efforts to address Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. 

So, the FBI was looking at Russia interfering in the 2016 elections.  They were looking specifically at whether anybody on the Trump campaign might have been in the position to accept that offer of assistance from Russia or otherwise coordinate with Russia, wittingly or unwittingly, while they were carrying out this operation to interfere in our election.  The FBI looked at people in the Trump campaign who might have been in a position to do that sort of thing and Flynn is one of the people they investigate.  That`s the investigation that ultimately resulted in him pleading guilty to a felony.  That`s now what he`s now waiting to be sentenced on.

So, to the extent that Mike Flynn`s sentencing was just delayed again because his lawyers were totally sure, and told the court that this inspector general report was going to be something the judge definitely wanted to see before any effort to sentence poor old innocent Mike Flynn, since the FBI so obviously set him up, let`s wait to see that report that shows that he was. 

I mean, the inspector general report is now out.  It concludes that Mike Flynn was not set up, and the FBI did nothing wrong when they opened their investigation into him.  There`s also no indication in the inspector general`s report that the FBI did anything wrong over the course of its case against Flynn which again resulted in him pleading guilty to a felony. 

So, President Trump`s national security adviser Mike Flynn is resume apply presumably running out of rabbits in terms of what his lawyers have available to continue to try to pull out of a hat, to try to keep the judge in his case from pronouncing his sentence.  We know he wants a presidential pardon.  It would appear he`s at end of his rope in terms of what he can do to continue to use to delay his federal court sentencing.  We`re now waiting to hear at any time from the judge in Flynn`s case.  The inspector general report is out.  It offers Flynn no help for this somewhat crazy defense he and his Fox News lawyers have been mounting in court. 

Now when it comes to Rick Gates, we expect we will hear from prosecutors about the Rick Gates sentencing tomorrow.  Some of that will be filed under seal.  It`s not known if the ongoing criminal matter that Rick Gates is still helping with pertains maybe to Mike Flynn.  I mean, after all, the Mike Flynn case is still open.  Flynn hasn`t been sentenced.

It could also pertain to anybody else from Trump land, right?  But the criminal cases adjacent to this president and his campaign in the various Trump presidential scandals, all of these criminal cases, so many of them are still live and underway. 

And don`t forget, all of these federal criminal cases are technically under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Justice run by Attorney General William Barr, and that is becoming an increasingly weird and even concerning dynamic, because the prosecutors who have brought all of these cases against Manafort and against Gates and against Flynn and against Papadopoulos, and against stone and all the Russian military intelligence officers and against Konstantin Kilimnik, and against the guy who run the Russian troll farm for the Kremlin, even guys like Alex Van der Zwaan and Michael Cohen, all of these federal criminal cases that have been brought by prosecutors that are alongside or abutting Trump and his presidential scandals, all of the prosecutors who have brought all of those cases are working under the auspices of Bill Barr, and Bill Barr appears now day by day to increasingly be at war with the Justice Department that he is leading, including specifically on this inspector general`s report, which doesn`t just clear the FBI and the Justice Department in terms of their handling of the Mike Flynn investigation, it includes the whole fantasy that the Russia investigation was some sort of a deep state plot designed to sabotage Donald Trump`s political chances. 

I mean, the inspector general chased down all the little fuzzy threads of that hairball conspiracy theory and just found it to all be nonsense.  And just look at the conclusions of the report.  There`s a long executive summary.  Look at that.  Look at the conclusions.  Conclusion, page 410. 

Quote: The decision to open the Crossfire Hurricane investigation was made by the FBI`s then Counterintelligence Division Assistant Director Bill Priestap, and reflected a consensus reached after multiple days of discussions and meetings among senior FBI officials.  We concluded, I mean, the inspector general`s office concluded that Priestap`s exercise of discretion in opening the Crossfire Hurricane investigation was in compliance with department and FBI policies, we did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced his decision.  We found that Crossfire Hurricane was opened for an authorized investigative purpose and with sufficient factual predication. 

Now, as to the use of informants and confidential sources and these, you know, allegations from the president and from Attorney General William Barr that the Trump campaign was some how spied on and that was a real scandal here, well, the inspector general ran all that down.  Quote: We did not find any documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the FBI`s decision to conduct these operations.  We found no evidence that the FBI attempted to place any confidential human sources within the Trump campaign or recruit members of the Trump campaign as human sources or task human sources to report on the Trump campaign. 

So the inspector general looked into it in detail, and concluded that the individual investigations they opened into people associated with the Trump campaign, those all sound.  The Russia investigation and the specific investigation into whether the Trump campaign was in on what Russia was doing, that was fundamentally sound. 

Now, the report did criticize the way the FBI filled out the court application for the one FISA warrant they obtained over the whole investigation.  It was a FISA warrant into Trump campaign adviser Carter Page who we know before the Trump administration -- before his involvement with the Trump campaign was also someone whose name surfaced in other Russian intelligence investigations in the United States. 

But the inspector general`s report broadly debunks the conspiracy theories on the right that everybody in these investigations had FISA warrants against them.  It turns out one guy had a FISA warrant, Carter Page.  They do take issue with the way that the Carter Page warrant was applied for and the way the updates to those applications went.  But that`s it. 

The inspector general debunks that there was any anti-Trump political bias motivating these decisions.  They debunked the idea that the Christopher Steele dossier of opposition research against Trump was the basis for opening the FBI`s Russia investigation.  It absolutely was not, and oh, by the way, no, there was no spying on the Trump campaign. 


SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH):  So, you`re not -- you`re not suggesting, though, that spying occurred? 

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL:  I don`t -- well, I guess you could -- I think there`s a spying did occur, yes.  I think spying did occur. 


BURNETT:  Spying did not occur, according to the Justice Department.  Justice Department`s inspector general report came out concluding definitively, that the Trump campaign was not spied on, which you would -- I mean, given the seriousness of the allegation the Trump campaign was spied on, given the fact that the attorney general made that allegation, right, while giving sworn testimony in Congress that he threw that out there, now that his own Justice Department has concluded, no, they weren`t spied on. 

Under normal circumstances that would be the occasion for the attorney general to resign, right, from having thrown out an allegation that serious, that grave, with no reason for doing so, and then being disproven, under normal circumstances, a senior government official having being called out that badly on something that serious, you might expect a resignation.  Rather, what we actually got today was Attorney General William Barr releasing a statement taking issue with the findings of the inspector general report, basically saying he doesn`t believe it, trying to spin the findings of the inspector general`s report to make them seem much more in line with the kind of crazy criticism that he and the White House have been promoting for months. 

It`s like when the Mueller was completed but we couldn`t see it yet, and William Barr put out his report saying, well, I`ve read the Mueller report and trust me, it`s awesome for Donald Trump, right?  It was oddly effective for the public understanding -- public misunderstanding of the Mueller report when Barr did that the first time.  It appears that he is trying to do this again with this inspector general report, right?

This inspector general report debunks all the conspiracy theories about the Russia investigation.  Barr has nevertheless put out a statement saying, well, as far as he can tell, none of that is right.  The problem this time is that, number one, we`ve all got the report.  We can read it ourselves.  We don`t have to rely on Bill Barr summarizing for us this time before we`re allowed to see it. 

But number two, we`ve also seen him pull this trick before, right?  So, we can now more easily recognize that, yes, this is what Bill Barr does as Trump`s attorney general.  Him putting out a statement today dissenting from the findings of the inspector general of his own department, we now know that`s an important story about Bill Barr as attorney general, and about how devoted he will apparently remain to whatever fake exculpatory theory he and the president are promoting about the behavior of the president and even though that of his campaign, including all the guys who are under indictment or already in jail. 

I mean, it tells you something about William Barr as attorney general.  But we know better than to expect that his statements about things like this tell you anything about what`s actually in the report.  So, we can all read the inspector general report ourselves. 

In terms of the criticism of the way the FISA application for the Carter Page FISA warrant went, the FBI has already said they not only accept, they embrace those findings of the report and they embrace the recommendations of the inspector general about how to improve those policies and procedures, apparently there will now be some sort of follow on report about reforming the way the FBI and Justice Department seek wiretapping applications from the FISA court, OK. 

But the whole witch hunt idea, the deep state cabal, the Russia investigation being a coup against President Trump, all of those talking points today, took a hard blow from this 476-page deep examination of all of those crazy claims.  And that report arrives in the middle of what may be the climactic impeachment hearing today before the Judiciary Committee. 

The committee spent the first several hours of this impeachment hearing today having one long opening statement after the other from the committee chair from the ranking member, from the committee counsel, then the from other committee counsel, then from the witness who was also a committee counsel and other witness who was also a committee counsel.  I mean, for many hours today at the start of this hearing, it was just individual guy lawyers talking out loud. 

When they finally started mixing it up and cross-examining the witnesses and having actual back-and-forth between the questioners and really interrogating the factual record about the president`s behavior in this impeachment scandal, of course, that moment in the hearing is when they released the inspector general report, and everybody had to go pay attention to something else for a while when the hearing was finally getting super interesting.  But we have to pay attention to everything at once.  This is just what it`s like in our nation`s history and this news cycle. 

In the end, this impeachment hearing today will go down in the record of the scandal as the sort of definitive summation of what the president is accused of having done.  What he`s being impeached for, and some of the questioning, members of the Judiciary Committee did a good job, drilling down not just into the nature of the president`s alleged crime here, but the direct culpability for it and the ongoing danger of what the president did, which is ultimately why the House of Representatives said they are moving fast now to get this resolved before the next election is monkey wrenched too. 


DANIEL GOLDMAN, DEMOCRATIC COUNSEL, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:  Just two days ago, President Trump stated publicly that he hopes that his personal attorney rouge will Rudy Giuliani will report to the Department of Justice and Congress the results of Mr. Giuliani`s efforts in Ukraine last week to pursue these false allegations meant to tarnish Vice President Biden.  President Trump`s persistent and continuing effort to coerce a foreign country to help him cheat to win an election is a clear and present danger to our free and fair elections and to our national security.

  REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA):  Mr. Goldman, who sent Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine to smear Joe Biden? 

GOLDMAN:  President Trump. 

SWALWELL:  Who fired the anti-corruption ambassador in Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch? 

GOLDMAN:  President Trump. 

SWALWELL:  Who told Ambassador Sondland and Ambassador Volker to work with Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine? 

GOLDMAN:  President Trump. 

SWALWELL:  Who told Vice President Pence to not go to President Zelensky`s inauguration?

GOLDMAN:  President Trump. 

SWALWELL:  Who ordered his own chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to withhold critical military assistance to Ukraine? 

GOLDMAN:  President Trump. 

SWALWELL:  Who refused to meet with President Zelensky in the Oval Office? 

GOLDMAN:  President Trump. 

SWALWELL:  Who ignored on July 25 his own National Security Council`s anti- corruption talking points? 

GOLDMAN:  President Trump. 

SWALWELL:  Who asked President Zelensky for a favor? 

GOLDMAN:  President Trump. 

SWALWELL:  Who personally asked President Zelensky to investigate his political rival Joe Biden? 

GOLDMAN:  President Trump. 

SWALWELL:  Who stood on the White House lawn and confirmed that he wanted Ukraine to investigate Vice President Biden? 

GOLDMAN:  President Trump. 

SWALWELL:  Who stood on that same lawn and said China should also investigate Vice President Biden? 

GOLDMAN:  President Trump. 

SWALWELL:  As to anything we do not know in this investigation, who has blocked us from knowing it? 

GOLDMAN:  President Trump and the White House. 


MADDOW:  So there`s a lot of moving parts here.  Right now, a lot of stuff happening at once.  I should tell you this is important breaking news, the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House, Congressman Eliot Engel, tonight said that we should expect a press conference early tomorrow morning in which the chairs of the various committees investigating the impeachment scandal are going to announce their next steps on articles of impeachment.  We had been expecting that that announcement might actually include their plans for what they are going to put in the articles of impeachment against President Trump. 

That`s what -- I was comfortable saying we are expecting that when we got on the air.  Since I have been on the air in the past few minutes, a senior Democratic aide has confirmed to NBC News that the House will introduce articles of impeachment tomorrow morning. 

"The Washington Post" has just in the past few minutes reported that their expectations, that the House of Representatives is going to draft two articles of impeachment against Trump, one on abuse of power and the other on obstruction of Congress. 

So, again, that`s breaking news.  That`s from Eliot Engel, the chairman of foreign affairs, one of the committees that has been investigating this thing, saying at the press conference that they have called, that the chairs of the investigatory committees have called for tomorrow morning, we may be getting the articles of impeachment against the president as early as then. 

So, it`s just a remarkable bookend on this time in our history, right, the night before we`re apparently going to get the impeachment articles against Donald Trump, for him inviting a foreign country to interfere on his behalf of the 2020 election, the eve of those impeachment articles being unveiled.  We also get the validation that the Russia investigation was sound and when the FBI looked at Russia interfering in our election, and started investigating whether anybody on the Trump campaign was wittingly or unwittingly coordinating with Russia on that interference over our last election, that decision by the FBI to launch that investigation was sound.  It was not a witch hunt.  It was not the product of political bias. 

These bookends, right?  I mean for this to be happening the day before we`re going to get the impeachment articles for him trying to get interference in 2020, the spin coming out of Washington on both of these developments, the inspector general`s report, and the expectations of this impeachment articles, the spin coming out of Washington on these things is like, you know, a blender or puree with a lid off.  You know, it`s an absolute chaotic whirlwind of messy, messy spin, and it will stay like that for a while. 

But there are simple facts at the heart of this that we are going through right now as a country.  We`re going to be talking with a member of the Judiciary Committee.  We`re also going to be talking with somebody who has a significant role himself in this inspector general report reviewing the origins of the Russia investigation. 

Big night for us tonight.  Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  This is from Section 2, Subsection A, Department of Justice National Security Division. 

The department was first notified about the opening of Crossfire Hurricane on August 2nd, 2016, when FBI official Bill Priestap and the Intelligence Section  briefed several representatives from the National Security Division, including Deputy Assistant Attorney George Toscas, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Adam Hickey, and David Laufman, counterintelligence and export control chief. 

According to Laufman, and his contemporaneous notes of the briefing, FBI officials described the information received from a foreign government that had caused the bureau to open the initial investigation and the four individuals the FBI had identified through its initial investigative work, who are members of the campaign and had ties to Russia.  Laufman told us, meaning he told the inspector general`s office, his impression had raised obvious alarm bells in the FBI and he said the information resonated with him.  He also said the information the FBI provided at the briefing presented the question whether someone in the Russian government was working with the campaign to influence the U.S. elections. 

Laufman told us that, quote, we certainly understood the significance of the matter and the need for further investigation, and he said that it would have been a dereliction of duty and responsibility of the highest order not to commit the appropriate resources as urgently as possible to run these facts to the ground, to find out what was going on. 

David Laufman led the counter intelligence and expert control section at the Justice Department.  He served first under President Obama, and then for a year under President Trump.  His work at the Justice Department has led to the high profile convictions you have seen lately for unregistered foreign lobbying.  He helped to oversee the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation and the Trump/Russia probe. 

He was there from the beginning.  He was there in the room, and he joins us here now. 

David Laufman, former head of the intelligence section of the DOJ under President Obama and Trump, sir, it`s great to have you.  Thank you.


MADDOW:  So, that is one of the sections of the inspector general report that discusses you, and your involvement at the outset of the Russia investigation.  Let me just ask you whether you take any issue with the way that you appear in this report and how you feel about it overall. 

LAUFMAN:  I`m fine with their mention of me.  I mean, I think this is a prestigious (ph) piece of work that reflects really credibly on the inspector general and his team.  There are a number of serious flaws and irregularities in the FISA process, which we talked about before.  This shouldn`t be pooh-poohed or swept under the rug.  The FBI as you said is going to embrace those and commit to reforms that the Department of Justice will support.

But on the key issues, on the thing that were gravamen of the grievances by congressional Republicans who asked for this investigation that this was a witch hunt, that this was spying on the campaign.  This was an effort to, you know, foment a coup, there could not be a more utter and complete repudiation of those conspiracy theories and the meticulousness with which this investigation was conducted, laid out in hundreds of pages for the American people to see. 

MADDOW:  And in terms of the somewhat -- I mean, this is a dense report.  It`s 470 something pages but it`s also single space, small type at times, it`s got so much detail, it doesn`t read like a beautiful narrative, but we do actually get a compelling narrative about the initial days of the investigation, the FBI being confronted with information that they believed was adequate predicate to start looking at something they knew was very sensitive.  When you told the inspector general`s office that the initial information that you heard about why the FBI opened that investigation, this information from the Australian government that somebody in the Trump campaign appeared to have advanced knowledge of what Russia had done, four individuals associated with the Trump campaign who appeared to have links to Russia that were at least worth looking at, according to the report you said that resonated with you, what did you mean by that? 

LAUFMAN:  Right.  So, what`s important to remember, what get lost at times, we had been living for weeks and months with the FBI cyber campaign to subvert the upcoming election.  So, we already knew there was an intense state sponsored effort by the Russian government to subvert the election.  Now comes this report from the Australian government official that someone associated with the Trump campaign said they may come into possession of information derogatory to the rival candidate and it was like a bookend to use your phrase to what we are living with. 

And it came from a credible source.  We would have been irresponsible not to take appropriate actions to commit resources to undertake that investigation, and I think everything you see in that report bears that out. 

MADDOW:  Are you troubled by the fact that there isn`t, as far as we know, there isn`t a parallel Justice Department or FBI investigation into the president`s actions to openly solicit Ukraine and even China to provide derogatory information about his political rivals for 2020?

LAUFMAN:  Well, I do think it`s curious.  In the end, the Department of Justice, that normally undertakes the investigations, the public integrity section is not known as wallflowers when it comes to aggressive, investigative, creative theory and here along the side, we have this attorney general fomenting reinvestigations of investigations that were already begun and perhaps closed at the behest of political supporters of the president, but in this current situation involving campaign finance, we`re just not even going to start an investigation -- I mean, that`s really kind of hard to add up. 

MADDOW:  I want to ask you to stay with us for just a second because I want to ask you about that.  We have statements taking issue with the inspector general`s report from the attorney general but also a very unusual statement from a U.S. attorney who`s been tasked by the attorney general as looking into other parts of this.  Can you stick with us?

LAUFMAN:  All right. 

MADDOW:  All right.  Our guest is David Laufman.  He`s the head of the counterintelligence section in the Justice Department until recently. 

We`ll be right back.  Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  As we are informed this evening that the Congress will be moving forward as early as tomorrow morning with unveiling articles of impeachment against President Trump, remarkably because all of these things have to happen all at once, and because there are poets among the news gods, remarkably tonight, we have also got an inspector general report from the Department of Justice reflecting on the origins of the Russia investigation finding that there was not political bias or other improper considerations that led the Justice Department and the FBI to open up investigations into Russia interfering in our election and the question of whether the Trump campaign was in on it.

Joining us once again is David Laufman, who`s the former head of the counterintelligence inside the Justice Department under President Trump and the first year of President -- under President Obama and the first year of President Trump`s turn, which means he was there at the outset of the Russia investigation. 

David, I wanted to ask you about the response to this report today.  We just discussed the fact that Attorney General William Barr put out a statement essentially contesting the findings of his own department of the inspector general, but there was also a second statement from John Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut who has been additionally tasked by Attorney General William Barr with looking into other elements, a criminal investigation into the Russia investigation.

LAUFMAN:  Right.  If you think Barr`s statement was unusual, Durham`s statement is even more bizarre.  Here you have a sitting prosecutor conducting a pending criminal investigation making a public statement seeming to denigrate the scope and adequacy of the findings of the I.G. investigation while pointing out that he appears to be in position of some secret information from some other government agency that the I.G. had no access to as if to preserve the possibility that these findings will be undermined later by some new revelations. 

MADDOW:  It is -- I mean, it`s worth stressing this is an active U.S. attorney who is involved in an active criminal investigation that is pending, of which we have seen no public facing indictments.  Even if all he had said was -- we`re positive things had nothing to do with the sort of controversial ground that he`s tread upon, it`s weird for the prosecutor to talk about his investigation while it`s ongoing period. 

LAUFMAN:  It`s very uncommon, for prosecutors speak through charging documents, opening statements, closing arguments, examinations of witnesses, they don`t issue press conferences in the middle of their investigation to comment upon someone else`s investigation and to talk about how much better their investigation is than the other investigation.  I`ve never heard of such a thing happening. 

MADDOW:  Is Mr. Durham breaking a rule at the Justice Department by doing this?  Are there regulations that prevent sort of thing? 

LAUFMAN:  You know, I`m not sure that there`s a specific rule that governs that.  And maybe because no one has ever done this before, they didn`t think they needed a rule to govern this.  Suffice it to say, it`s highly unusual.  I think it reflects poorly on Mr. Durham to lend his name prematurely and reflect and credibility into this political arena because this has the patina of political support for Barr`s own statement, for the statements that other people on behalf of the president have been making and that reflects incredibly upon Mr. Durham. 

MADDOW:  David Laufman, head of the counterintelligence section at DOJ under President Obama and President Trump, sir, thank you.  It`s good to have you here. 

All right.  Much more here tonight.  Stay with us. 



SWALWELL:  Take a wild guess, Mr. Castor, how many times has President Trump met with Vladimir Putin or talked to him? 

CASTOR:  I don`t know the number. 

SWALWELL:  It`s 16. 


SWALWELL:  How many times has President Trump met at the White House with President Zelensky? 

It`s zero. 

And who is President Trump meeting with at the White House tomorrow, do you know? 

CASTOR:  I`m not. 

SWALWELL:  It`s Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. 

REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL):   And what makes me angry is that this president, President Trump thinks he can get away with it, but he got caught.  And he tried to cover it up.  But we won`t let him do that. 


MADDOW:  Scenes from today`s apparently potentially climactic public impeachment hearing at the Judiciary Committee.

Joining us now is Congresswoman Val Demings.  She`s a law enforcement veteran, long time police chief.  She`s now a member of Congress with a seat on the Judiciary Committee and the Intelligence Committee.

Congresswoman Demings, thank you so much for being here tonight.  I know it`s been a heck of a long day. 

DEMINGS:  Good to be with you, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  So, multiple news outlets, including NBC News, are now reporting that the House is going to introduce articles of impeachment first thing tomorrow, basically unveiling articles of impeachment against the president at a press conference with key Democratic chairman.  I am guessing that you can not get out in front of that news, but I`m hoping that you can share what you might know about what seems like a fast moving series of events, culminating that announcement tomorrow. 

DEMINGS:  Well, Rachel, as you know, the speaker made an announcement last week that we were proceeding with writing articles of impeachment.  Of course, we take this process very, very seriously.  We were at work all day Saturday and all day Sunday.  After the hearing today, we had a meeting today, and we`ll be back meeting first thing in the morning. 

So in terms of what the articles will look like, that is not my announcement to make, but I do expect an announcement will be made tomorrow in conjunction with the committee chairs who have jurisdiction over those committees. 

MADDOW:  In terms of putting together the case against President Trump here, obviously, all those closed door depositions with 17 witnesses, that remarkable series of public hearings in front of the Intelligence Committee and now these two long public hearings in front of the Judiciary Committee talking about not just the factual record but the constitutional basis for impeachment.  Do you, yourself, in terms of thinking about making up your own mind about how you are going to vote and also what you want to be in those articles, do you feel like you know what you need to know or do you feel like there are holes in the record that may materially affect your base level decision here? 

DEMINGS:  Well, you know, it`s been amazing how much evidence that we have been able to accumulate in about 75 days.  But the bottom line is this, the best witness, the most effective witness, the most compelling witness in this impeachment inquiry has been the president of the United States.  We don`t have to guess or try to figure out or surmise on what the president said on the call record from July 25th.  The president was clear when he spoke to President Zelensky that he wanted him to get involved in political investigations.

In other words, the president put his own personal political interests above that of the nations, and also really jeopardize our national security.  So, while it appears to have been a short period of time, the evidence that we have in this case is pretty overwhelming, the testimony has been very compelling.  And I do believe that we have everything we need right now to proceed. 

MADDOW:  Congresswoman Val Demings really appreciate you being here tonight, over nine hours today in that hearing today.  I know you all working very hard.  Tomorrow`s going to be a very big day as well.

Thank you for making time for us. 

DEMINGS:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  All right.  Again, we`re following breaking news.  Actually, I can tell you a little bit of it, in advancing the story -- NBC News has now confirmed what the "Washington Post" was reporting earlier this hour, which is that the house is expected to draft two articles of impeachment against President Trump.  Those may be unveiled as soon as tomorrow morning. 

Stay with us.


MADDOW:  I mentioned at the top of the show we got hold of a new court filing from the defense attorneys for this man, Rick Gates, President Trump`s deputy campaign chair.  He`s awaiting sentencing in federal court after pleading guilty on felony charges. 

We just had time to review the submission.  Rick Gates` lawyers are asking for no prison time for Mr. Gates.  Quote: We respectfully ask, your honor, to impose a sentence consisting of a term of probation with minimum supervision. 

Gates` lawyers say that their client`s extensive cooperation is the reason he should get no jail time.  They`re saying specifically he spent over 500 hours working with the special counsel`s office and other federal prosecutors.  They note that he testified in the trials of Greg Craig and Roger Stone and Paul Manafort, and they say he is, quote, committed to testify in still other trials if requested.  Prosecutors told the court tonight that they want to file a sealed statement tomorrow about Rick Gates` cooperation in ongoing criminal proceedings.  That is something they describe as too sensitive to be shown to the public.  They want it to be filed sealed with Gates` sentencing judge.

Despite all his cooperation, looks like there may be more to get out of Rick Gates.  We will know more within 24 hours. 

Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  The calendar is starting to look weird, all the stuff we have to put at the same time, it`s like you should do some sort of weird mix of colored pencils and pens and crayons and stuff.  Stuff just doesn`t fit together. 

For example, the Iowa caucuses are eight weeks from tonight.  Also, NBC News is reporting impeachment articles are expected to be unveiled against President Trump tomorrow morning.  Also tomorrow night, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is going to be joining me here live at 9:00 p.m. here in studio. 

How do I make these things coexist in my calendar in a way that keeps me sane? 

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


Good evening, Lawrence.

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