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Barr Picks Replacement TRANSCRIPT: 7/10/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Adam Schiff

BENJAMIN WITTES, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Instead, there`s just a kind of nudge, nudge, wink, wink, in that direction in public. And, you know, who knows what happened in private.

And then, Roger Stone says, you know, I -- I stayed loyal. So, here I am. Commute me. And he gets it.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": Yeah. Ben Wittes, who has been following this so closely, for so long. Thank you for joining us on short notice tonight. I really, really appreciate it.

That is "ALL IN" on this Friday night.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now and I am going to go watch THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW on a night like tonight.

Good evening, Rachel.

(LAUGHTER)

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend.

You are free to go about your business, and not watch if need be. But I am almost literally on fire as we speak. So I know what you`re talking about. Thanks, my friend.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. If it is, you know, late on a Friday night in the late stages of the Donald Trump administration, then, yes, you guessed it. We`ve just had a new adventure in the decline and fall of the rule of law.

One of the things that has happened tonight, which actually has been out of the headlines a little bit because of all the dramatic things in the last few hours, is that the president`s attorney general has just ousted another federal prosecutor, whose office was handling sensitive criminal cases related to the president. This time, tonight, it`s the U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of New York.

Now, if you are the president and you and your campaign and your inaugural committee and your donors and your lawyers and your campaign staff and your longtime friends and associates keep finding themselves accused of felonies or at least targeted or involved in serious criminal investigations, then, if you are the president, the federal prosecutors you probably most have to worry about are three.

Number one, the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C. where the nation`s capital is, where lots of national security stuff gets handled.

Second, New York. Even if you are not a president from New York, whose business is headquartered in New York, like this one, if you and your marching order as president often find yourselves adjacent to criminal, financial matters -- well, the famously independent federal prosecutor`s office in New York tends to take advantage of the fact that New York is the financial capital of the world. And so, most crimes that involve mine, AKA, most crimes, sometimes, can, somehow, find their way into New York`s federal jurisdiction.

And that applies, in the first instance, to the prosecutors` office in the Southern District of New York, in Manhattan, but the Eastern District of New York gets its beak wet on cases like that, too.

So, those would be three federal prosecutors` office. If you are a criminally adjacent president, those are the three federal prosecutors` offices you most have to worry about.

Well, over just the last few months, the president`s attorney general, William Barr, has system systematically decapitated all three of those federal prosecutors` offices, starting first with the prosecutor`s office in Washington, D.C. He offered the U.S. attorney there a sort of lateral move, pseudo promotion elsewhere in the Trump administration. Then, while that was pending, he went ahead and installed all his own guys in her office to take over and big foot all the sensitive cases and investigations there that touched on the president`s interest.

Once he had installed those puppies in that office to do his work, he then yanked the offered new job to that U.S. attorney. Yanked the job for which she had been sort of -- that had been sort of dangled to her to entice her to leave that post. They yanked that job offer, got her out of there anyway, and formally installed Barr`s own guys. Thereby, the U.S. attorney`s office in Washington, D.C. was effectively neutralized.

The premiere public prosecution experts in the United States effectively neutered, tamed, put under the thumb of Attorney General William Barr who has not been shy at all about bending the enforcement of American law to benefit the president and punish his enemies.

Any -- any threat to the president or his interests from the U.S. attorney`s office and the District of Columbia has been over for months now. And, you know, even in the cases that already had gone through there, like the Mike Flynn case, for example. Well, once Barr had his guys inserted into that office, they tried to retroactively drop the Flynn case, even after his guilty pleas. That`s still winding its way through the legal system.

So that was first. D.C. U.S. attorney`s office. Then, it was SDNY, which is reportedly investigating things like the slush fund, super sketchy Trump inaugural committee, which is also about to put Rudy Giuliani`s guys, Lev and Igor, on trial, and which was busy not long ago sending out subpoenas by the boatload about Giuliani`s own financial trail.

Well, late on a Friday night, several weeks ago, Attorney General William Barr ham-handedly tried to force the U.S. attorney in SDNY to resign. Barr announced to the public that he was stuffing one of his own guys into that office.

Instead, the U.S. attorney there, Geoffrey Berman, pushed back. He said, no, I`m not resigning. You are going to have to force me out if you want me out. And by the way, you`re lying to the public about what is going on here and I`m not letting you get away with it.

That hard shove back from Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney in the Southern District in New York, it didn`t succeed in keeping Berman in his job. They still forced him out. But it did succeed in keeping Bill Barr from installing his own puppy dog there, the way he did in D.C. What Geoff Berman`s bravery and pushback did in SDNY is that it, at least, ensured that Berman`s own deputy got to take over at that office to ensure some continuity.

Still, though, Geoff Berman`s out. So D.C. U.S. attorney`s office -- gone. Geoff Berman and SNDY -- gone.

Now, tonight, it`s the other one, it`s the last one, the other U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of New York.

Now, with this guy, Attorney General Bill Barr tried the same trick that he tried with the other two. In all three of these cases, he`s offered these U.S. attorneys some sort of dubious maybe, possible promotion/lateral move. At least, he`s offered some other job in the Trump administration as a sort of enticement if they would just give up the U.S. attorney`s office and let Barr take over those offices, for himself.

Well, in the Eastern District of New York, the U.S. attorney there, Rich Donoghue, decided he would accept the dubious job offer from the attorney general. The not-quite promotion, rather than stand up for himself and the independence of his office.

Bill Barr initially put out word that it would be -- you know, this is no big deal, no cause for concern here, like there was so much concern expressed over the other U.S. attorney`s offices. Bill Barr initially announced that in EDNY, while Donoghue would be leaving, his deputy would be taking over as you are supposed to do in the course of events.

But surprise, instead, tonight, late on Friday night, the attorney general has announced that he is installing his own guy up in EDNY, just like he did in D.C., just like he tried to do in SDNY. His own handpicked footman will be taking over the Eastern District of New York`s federal prosecutor`s office, just months before the election, in the middle of, among other things, a reported investigation into the president`s inaugural committee and its alleged shenanigans.

So, yeah, if it`s Friday night, the attorney general is advancing, in what really does appear to be a quite systematic plan, to end the independence of federal prosecutors` offices, all over the country, at least the offices known to be investigating things related to the president and his interests. I mean, if -- if you are this president, there are really three prosecutors offices you had to worry about. D.C., SDNY, EDNY. Now, in short order, Bill Barr has decapitated them all.

We hope you have enjoyed this experiment in being a rule-of-law country. But we`ve, apparently, decided that the experiment is over. It`s not for us. So, now, we`ll try what ever this is, instead, that we`re living through.

I`ll, also, just say, keep in mind that this is the same attorney general who has ordered the opening of federal criminal investigations into the Obama administration officials and law enforcement officials and intelligence officials, who were involved in investigating Russia helping President Trump in the last election. It sort of slipped our mind because the way our country has fallen into catastrophe since he did it, but Bill Barr has ordered probes into Obama administration officials, law enforcement and intelligence officials, who were involved in investigations of the president. He has ordered criminal investigations of those people.

When do you think he`s going to want to bring those charges? And which prosecutors` offices do you think he`ll use to do it?

So that is tonight. On top of the breaking news we have tonight, that feels like we have been waiting for it all day, if not all year. This has been the talk, the chatter, the gossip, the prediction, in some circles, the source of great anxiety for a long time. But now, it`s come to past.

The president has commuted the sentence of his longtime advisor Roger Stone. This is just days ahead of Mr. Stone`s scheduled reporting date at a medium-security federal prison in Georgia. Before the president issued this commutation, Roger Stone was due on Tuesday to start serving a sentence of 40 months. Three years and four months in a case that grew out of the Mueller investigation.

Mr. Stone was convicted in federal court in November on seven counts. He was charged with seven felonies. The jury found him, unanimously, guilty on all seven counts. He was found guilty of obstructing a congressional investigation into his 2016 effort to learn when WikiLeaks would be releasing more of the e-mails that Russian intelligence had hacked from the Democratic Party and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Charges ranged from making false statements to Congress and obstruction, to witness tampering. The case against Mr. Stone included lurid, sort of mob- movie allegations that he tried to bully a man named Randy Credico, a friend of his, into lying in his own testimony to Congress. Mr. Stone told him to make like the mobster character in the "Godfather" who lies to Congress because he`s too afraid not to. Mr. Stone threatened to take away his friend`s dog. Told him to prepare to die, and then called him a thing I can`t say on TV.

That`s what Trump advisor Roger Stone was on the verge of going to prison for, before the president took this action tonight. Those pleasantries on the part of Mr. Stone, and the seriousness with which witness intimidation is treated in the federal criminal justice system may be part of why Republicans were anxious about the effect that a presidential pardon or commutation might have on the president`s, say, re-election bid. The Trump Justice Department had already kicked up a considerable scandal by popping into the U.S. attorney`s office that was handling the Stone matter, and undermining the sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone from the D.C. U.S. attorney`s office.

Last month, the lead prosecutor on the case, Aaron Zelinsky, came forward as a current Justice Department employee and told Congress as a whistle- blower, quote, in the many cases I have been privileged to work on in my career, I have never seen political influence play any role in prosecutorial decision-making, with one exception.

United States versus Roger Stone, Aaron Zelinsky, the career prosecutor, told Congress that pressure from higher ups in the Justice Department resulted in the virtually unprecedented decision to override the original sentencing recommendation in Stone`s case, and file a new sentencing memo that included statements and assertions at odds with the record and contrary to Department of Justice policy.

Zelinsky testified, quote, what I heard, repeatedly, was that Roger Stone was being treated differently from any other defendant because of his relationship to the president. I was told that the acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, Timothy Shea, who Bill Barr installed in that office as his personal footman, after he ousted the real U.S. attorney.

Timothy Shea was receiving heavy pressure from the highest levels of the justice department to cut stone a break, and that the U.S. attorney`s sentencing instructions to us were based on political considerations. He said, quote, I was also told that the acting U.S. attorney was giving Roger Stone such unprecedentedly favorable treatment because he was afraid of the president.

Truly remarkable. Detailed, quite direct testimony, from prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky, career prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky, testifying as a whistleblower, gave that testimony to Congress, despite still being employed by the Justice Department.

The other part of Aaron Zelinsky`s testimony that day had to do with what the Trump campaign and, crucially, President Trump, himself, knew about the Russian effort to help him get elected in 2016. Specifically, about this plan for dumping all the hacked Democratic e-mails that Russian military intelligence had stolen, dumping those materials into public view.

Quote: In the summer of 2016, Stone was considered by the Trump`s -- by the Trump campaign to be the campaign`s access point to WikiLeaks. Throughout the summer and fall, Stone was in regular contact with the highest levels of the Trump campaign, which was relying on him for information about WikiLeaks` activities.

He continued, quote, beginning in spring 2016, Stone told Trump campaign officials that he had inside knowledge regarding WikiLeaks` plans and that he communicated with Julian Assange. Stone made these claims throughout the summer to Rick Gates, campaign chair Paul Manafort and campaign CEO Steve Bannon. These men believed his claims, and they sought information from Stone about what WikiLeaks would do to help the Trump campaign.

Moreover, as the summer wore on, the senior leadership found Stone`s predictions to be reliable. And that summer, Stone wasn`t just talking to the CEO, the chairman, deputy chairman of the campaign. He was, also, then talking to then-candidate Trump, himself.

Aaron Zelinsky described the interactions like this. Quote: On June 14th, 2016, the Democratic National Committee announced that it had been hacked earlier that spring by the Russian government. That night, Stone called Trump and they spoke on Trump`s personal line. We don`t know what they said.

On July 31st, Stone, again, called then-candidate Trump and the two spoke for approximately ten minutes. Again, we don`t know what was said. But less than an hour after speaking with Trump, Stone e-mailed an associate of his. A man named Jerome Corsi, to have someone else living in London go see Julian Assange.

Deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates was present for a phone call between Stone and Trump. While Gates couldn`t hear the contents of the call, he could hear Stone`s voice on the phone and see his name on the caller ID. Thirty seconds after hanging up the phone with Roger Stone, then-candidate Donald Trump told Rick Gates that there would be more information coming.

Trump`s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, also stated that he was present for a phone call between Donald Trump and Roger Stone, where Stone told Trump he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange. And in a couple of days, WikiLeaks would release more information and Trump responded, oh, good, all right.

Paul Manafort also stated that he spoke with Trump about Stone`s predictions and his claimed access to WikiLeaks. And that Trump instructed Manafort to stay in touch with Stone.

He was their inside line to the material that the Russian government had stolen to help him in the campaign. The way they were going to help him in the campaign, with that information, was to release it, publicly, in ways that were designed to cause maximum damage to the Clinton campaign and maximum benefit to the Trump campaign. Roger Stone was their inside line on those forthcoming dumps of information, which increased the ability of the campaign to leverage those information dumps, to hype them, to tell people they were coming, and to make the most of them, once they arrived. He was their force multiplier for what Russia did to help put Donald Trump in the White House.

Notably, three of the Trump associates who were all involved in the Roger Stone intermediary gig, were later sentenced to prison time. Rick Gates, Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, all got sentenced to prison. Tonight, actually only Michael Cohen is physically in prison. He was sent back yesterday. We`ll have more on that, later in the show tonight.

But consider what this prosecutor, Aaron Zelinsky, said about the president`s own recounting of the events that summer, right? The same president who, just this week, was crowing about how solid his mind is and how he aced a test that`s designed to detect dementia.

Aaron Zelinsky telling Congress, quote, in his written answers to the special counsel`s office, President Trump denied remembering anything about his conversations with Roger Stone during the summer of 2016. He denied being aware that Roger Stone had discussed WikiLeaks with anyone associated with the campaign.

One week after submitting his written answers, President Trump criticized flipping witnesses, and stated that Stone was very brave in indicating he wouldn`t cooperate with prosecutors. The special counsel`s report stated that president`s statements complimenting Roger Stone support the inference that the president intended to communicate a message that witnesses could be rewarded for refusing to provide testimony, adverse to the president.

The president will reward you, if you refuse to rat, if you refuse to provide testimony, adverse to the president. Again, that`s witness tampering, and that`s the backdrop, in terms of Roger Stone getting close to his report date to federal prison. That testimony about the Roger Stone case and the president`s role in it happened just last month in Congress.

Now, tonight, maybe a full presidential pardon for Roger Stone was too far to go. Maybe, it was too politically risky? Even for an old friend who was convicted of trying to throw Congress off the scent of what Trump and the Trump campaign did.

But the president does think it`s worth it. Or, at least, not going too far to commute that old friend`s sentence, and keep him out of prison.

The experiment in America as a rule-of-law country has been a bumpy ride. It has been hard. It`s, also, not one that goes on, indefinitely, on its own. Not without the right people in power, making sure that we stay that kind of country.

Joining us now is Congressman Adam Schiff. He is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Sir, thank you for joining us on short notice tonight. Thanks. I really appreciate it.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It`s good to be with you.

MADDOW: Let me just start by getting your reaction to this news. There had been a lot of chatter and a lot of threats from the president that he might do something like this. So I know it doesn`t come as a complete surprise.

But now that it`s happened, what`s your reaction?

SCHIFF: Well, another, you know, appalling (ph) attack on the rule of law. There are two systems of justice now in America -- one for criminal friends of the president, like Michael Flynn and now Roger Stone, and one for everybody else.

It wasn`t enough when president intervened and Bill Barr intervened to recommend a shorter sentence for Donald Trump. They now had to take action -- the president had to take action to make that sentence go away completely. And, you know, of course, this is part of the broad pattern of the president rewarding his friends and potentially, the more serious shoe to fall, punishing his enemies.

I think you were exactly right, Rachel, earlier in the show when you talked about how, you know, essentially, the president is using, through Bill Barr, a shield right now to protect those who are lying for him and covering up for him. But what may be more dangerous is what`s to come and that is Bill Barr using the sword (ph) to investigate and prosecute the president`s enemies. That`s another, even more serious attack on the rule of law.

And so, what`s to come may be worse than what we`re seeing today. But what we`re seeing today is an appalling overture to people, essentially from the president saying, if you lie for me, you cover up for me, I will reward you. On the other hand, if you`re a rat and you cooperate, then, like a mafia boss, I will come after you.

And it`s a sad day in America when our democracy is reduced to this.

MADDOW: Some of this involves you, directly, and your committee. One of the felonies that Roger Stone was charged with was lying to your committee.

He was convicted on all counts. Now that his sentence is commuted, despite that conviction, is there anything that your committee can do or would want to do with regard to Stone and his case given -- given what he did to the function of Congress and its investigating role?

SCHIFF: I don`t know that there`s anything more that the Congress can do vis-a-vis Roger Stone. Now, Roger Stone may have state law problems. He won`t have them arising I think from his direct testimony to Congress.

But, you know, what we can do, I think, when this president is gone, is we can enact a whole series of, what I`m calling, are post-Watergate reforms where we try to attack these abuses of the pardon power or the power to commute sentence. I introduced a bill, for example, that would require, in a case like this, where the president is a witness, subject, or target of an investigation, and takes action to pardon or commute someone. That the complete investigative files are turned over to Congress so that Congress can determine whether this is yet another act of obstruction of justice.

So there are remedies. But it`s hard to see what remedy we can use now, beyond the ultimate remedy in November when we get to vote these bums out of office.

MADDOW: Let me just ask you about what we started with this hour. And you mentioned it a moment ago. The continuing and, apparently, sort of systematically designed actions of William Barr, to undermine or, in fact, end, the independence of important federal prosecutors` offices around the country, to directly intervene and take over criminal investigations and criminal prosecutions involving people and interests related to the president.

And, in fact, to command that there`d be criminal investigations of the president`s political enemies, including people who had the temerity to investigate potential foreign interference in trying to get him elected.

I know that the Judiciary Committee, for example, has had a heck of a time of getting William Barr to agree to come sit down in a chair in Congress and answer questions. But as Barr gets more and more aggressive with this, he`s now taken out the U.S. attorney in D.C., in SDNY, in EDNY. He`s installed his own people in all of those offices. There is incredibly detailed reporting and whistle-blower testimony about the way that he has undone things, to benefit the president within the criminal law.

Does that just end at the election? Or is there some remedy? Is there some accountability, even in the long run, in terms of what Barr is doing here?

Because his actions are, you know -- I`m not going to say they`re existentially challenging to the republic that we are, but they`re close.

SCHIFF: Well, they are doing grave and long-term damage, certainly, to our democracy, our rule of law, the reputation and the reality of the independence of the Justice Department. You know, I think what we can do now until November is shed light on these malevolent actions, these destructive actions, by holding hearings, by bringing these witnesses in, and by shedding light.

And, you know, and frankly, there are, in addition to all these nightmare stories, there are some heroes. Like those that are coming before Congress to expose, in whistle-blower fashion, these acts of attack on the rule of law.

You know, I`ll also -- and this is, also, something within the last 24 to 48 hours, but Judge Sullivan, taking the action to ask for a full-panel review of the decision by the Court of Appeals to dismiss the case against Michael Flynn. You know, that`s an act of real bravery by that district court judge, Berman`s act of defiance, the fact that Strauss is now acting in the capacity of acting U.S. attorney in New York. There are some stories of great heroism right now and that is what is I think keeping the wheels on the cart.

But, you know, exposure, now, in terms of repercussions later, you know, we need to pass reforms too make it much more difficult for a future craven president and craven attorney general to get away with this. But there may be, you know, criminal law accountability. You know, for example, the president as individual-1 in that celebrated case in the Southern District of New York, where he was directing and coordinating this campaign-fraud scheme. There is no shield to protect Donald Trump when he leaves office.

You know, what Barr is doing may not be criminal. It may just be a deeply damaging to our democracy. And I don`t know whether there`s a remedy for Bill Barr, after this administration is over, except the stigma of history. And that will be a severe judgment.

MADDOW: House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, thank you again for joining us on such short notice, sir, and for making that point actually about the other side of this, about the heroism that you see of people pushing back and not going silently, in the face of these -- in the face of these actions by the administration. I think it`s really, really important.

Thank you, sir. It`s good to have you here.

SCHIFF: Good to see you.

MADDOW: All right. I`m going to bring now into the conversation, our dear friend, Barb McQuade, former U.S. attorney for the great state of Michigan.

Barb, I`m always happy to talk to you. But particularly grateful you could be here tonight. Thank you so much.

BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY OF MICHIGAN: Yeah. Thanks for inviting me to the Friday night horror show.

MADDOW: Yeah, it really is.

Actually, let me just start right there. And ask you if you want to talk me down a little bit, in terms of how dark I have portrayed this. I recognize that I have laid this out, in pretty horrific terms.

Is there any way in which I`m wrong about this? Or that you can tell me that this isn`t as bad as it looks?

MCQUADE: No, I`m sorry, Rachel. It`s as bad as it looks. You know, there are times when I try to be the voice of reason and point out other sides of an issue. But this is as bad as it looks.

Number one, we`ve got William Barr who is greasing the wheels in the key U.S. attorney`s offices that have jurisdiction over the activities of president Trump. But even though, you know, maybe we should have seen this coming and there have been all kinds of hints that it`s coming. I feel no more disgusted than I, otherwise, would be that Roger Stone has been -- seen his sentenced commuted.

This is a man who obstructed justice, lied to Congress, threatened a witness. And the purpose of that was to protect President Trump. You know, this isn`t President Trump rewarding Stone for being a loyal friend. This is President Trump protecting President Trump.

And I think it is a terrible attack on the rule of law. So, if anything, you have not painted a bleak enough picture.

MADDOW: Well, on that point, I mean, I recognize that the power to pardon is a constitutional power, an ordinal power of the president. It`s not something that is subject to any form of scrutiny.

But, in this case, Roger Stone appealed for a commutation. Specifically, on the grounds that he didn`t testify adverse to the president. He did an interview today. I mean, he hasn`t been shy about this in the past. But he did an interview today, the day of the commutation, in which he made a public plea saying that the reason he deserved a commutation is because he resisted pressure to testify as to what he knew about the president.

The president responded, almost immediately, in fact, with commuting his sentence. When it is transparently corrupt, when the president is, you know, pardoning someone or commuting a sentence, specifically as an overt reward for that person having protected the president from potential liability. Is -- I mean, I guess -- I guess what you`re supposed to do is impeach a president for that. I guess there`s -- I guess there`s no other way that this is supposed to boomerang on him.

MCQUADE: Well, as we have learned through the Mueller investigation, the Department of Justice will not indict a sitting president. Whether the law, ultimately, permits it or not, that is the policy of the Department of Justice.

So he`s not going to be charged with a crime. Though, I think one could make an argument that this is bribery, pure and simple, a quid pro quo, an exchange of a thing of value, in exchange for an official act. I think you could frame it that way.

So, perhaps, Donald Trump could be charged with a crime after he leaves office. The statute of limitations for bribery is five years. The other remedy, as you mentioned, is impeachment. And as we have seen, even if the House were to impeach, I don`t think that the Senate has demonstrated an appetite for conviction.

Although, Rachel -- here is a theory -- even if Trump should lose re- election in November, there could be value in impeaching him because the remedy for impeachment is not simply removal from office. But it is to bar someone from seeking office in the future. And if President Trump were to decide to run for president in 2024, if he were impeached, he could also be barred from holding office in the future.

So there is a little bit of ray of sunshine in your otherwise dark day.

MADDOW: Wow. That is a dim, dusty, little ray of sunshine, barb. But wow. I am impressed that you were able to conjure that.

MCQUADE: I do what I can.

MADDOW: You are -- you -- that is a very, very, very tiny glass half full.

Barb McQuade, former U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Michigan -- Barb, thank you again. I really appreciate you being here.

MCQUADE: You bet, Rachel. Thanks.

MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more ahead tonight, this very busy Friday night. When we got word, actually, of the EDNY, of -- of Barr completing his trifecta of trying to decapitate all of the U.S. attorneys offices that were known to be investigating or pursuing cases that touched on the president`s interest, when he finished the trifecta with that tonight. And then moments later, we learned about the Roger Stone commutation.

The person I wanted to call and talk to about it immediately is a woman named Nicolle Wallace, who you might know if you watch MSNBC. I thought it would be better perhaps if I made that call on TV, instead of doing it in my office, privately.

So I am going to have that call to Nicolle when we come back with you guys, if that`s all right. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Welcome back to our ongoing coverage of the latest Friday-night news dump from the Trump administration. The president tonight, commuting the sentence of his longtime friend Roger Stone, who was convicted of lying to obstruct the Russia investigation and threatening a witness and, and, and, seven felonies in all. He was charged with seven felonies. A jury, unanimously, convicted him on all seven counts.

Mr. Stone had been due to report to federal prison for a 40-month sentence starting on Tuesday. That now will not happen.

Joining us now is my dear friend Nicolle Wallace, the host of "DEADLINE: WHITE HOUSE", a veteran of the George W. Bush White House and somebody who I missed seeing frequently.

Nicolle, I miss you. I`m sorry for talking to you on a dark night under dark circumstances. But thanks for making time to be here.

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST, "DEADLINE: WHITE HOUSE": I feel your pain. And you`ve gone deep and you`ve gone wide, and you`ve gone back. And let me -- let me just go forward.

I mean, there is no discernable difference between William Barr and a bouncer. He has been intellectually overestimated from day one. He is not a mastermind of anything. He is Donald Trump`s body man.

There`s some well-sourced spin coming out of the White House tonight. I spoke to someone who was enlisted to try to talk Trump out of this. No one talks Trump out of anything, and no one ever resigns. So, there will be rumors, in the coming days, that William Barr almost resigned over this. That Pat Cipollone was deeply troubled by this. They may be true, but no one will leave.

They are all -- and we should remember their names forever. They are accomplices in corruption of one of the most sacred powers. I spoke to two former Justice Department officials who said Trump pardons people because he can and William Barr goes along with it because he is complicit in the erasure, just erasing Robert Mueller`s probe. And it -- we should be asking really serious questions. We should all be looking to November, and try to understand why.

Why does Robert Mueller need to be erased before November? And why is Bill Barr working around the clock to do it? And why is the criminal investigation being run by Mr. Durham, why is that still open? What are they still looking at?

What do they want to normalize? What do they want to make okay? What prosecutions, by career prosecutors who spent decades at DOJ and there are some -- there are some Bush-era DOJ officials, who went along with some of the Trump-era DOJ officials who are now throwing their hands up with disgust at Barr`s role in seeking to erase the work of career prosecutors.

So remember their names. Pat Cipollone and Bill Barr, they will not resign, and if they do, I will come on and apologize to both of them. But I bet my last dollar, that no one will resign. They will all look the other way.

And as you said, it is -- we are watching something that makes headlines in this country, when it happens in other countries, when it happens in third- world countries -- the obliteration of the rule of law.

MADDOW: Nicolle, there is, in the specifics of Roger Stone`s conviction, and the specifics of what we learned about him in the course of his trial and spelled out about him in the Mueller report, especially when bits about Stone unredacted after his trial came to conclude. We did get some really specific stuff about the president, including a portrait of his conviction and a portrait of the crimes he committed in obstructing that investigation. Which really made it seem like what he was doing was trying to protect the president from investigators knowing what the president`s personal role was in trying to interact with the -- this foreign effort to -- to -- to influence the election on his behalf.

Roger Stone says, openly, that what he was doing was trying to protect the president when investigators were trying to get at what Donald Trump, himself, was doing. If it`s that blatant, if he is willing to say, listen, commute my sentence because I was protecting you, what`s the -- if -- I mean, if Republicans don`t mind that, what`s the correction to that? What door doesn`t that open?

WALLACE: There is no correction. And Republicans -- who? Who? The Republican governors, who have thrown up in their states to surging coronavirus cases, the zombies in the Senate who acquitted Donald Trump after refusing to hear from John Bolton?

I mean, here is the problem. You pull the fire alarm. Who`s coming? There`s nobody coming.

And I am also heartened that Adam Schiff sees some heroes. But they`re ostracized, they`re unemployed, and they are on an island. I mean, I -- where is everybody else? I mean, there are a whole lot of people who know just how bad this is.

You know, the Mueller report, and we`ll never know the answer to this until and unless Robert Mueller does an interview or Rod Rosenstein does an interview. It doesn`t explain why they didn`t push for an interview with Donald Trump to ask him those questions. I mean, what was -- we only know half of the conversation.

There`s also some corroboration in the e-mails in the Mueller report that are included, I think, in some of the footnotes between Roger Stone and Bannon. But this was an on-book operation for the Trump campaign. This isn`t some off-book Stone escapade. The whole Trump campaign was basically off book.

So this was the campaign knowingly benefitting from Russian assistance or - - or -- or information. And the fact that this is where we are that, that guy, who was prosecuted by Donald Trump`s own Justice Department, has been commuted. With Bill Barr, at least, as -- as -- as exasperated as he`s described to me tonight, as against this move as I`m told he was, he won`t be gone tomorrow, and someone with a compass, someone who cares about that department, someone who cares about that building, someone who cares about their legacy will be gone in the morning. Pat Cipollone won`t be gone in the morning, either.

So, there`s a lot of sort of sort of selectively -- I`m told that Sean Hannity was one of the champions of this. And just think about that. Think about how profoundly weak the people running the Justice Department are if they can`t win an argument against Sean Hannity. That`s where we are.

MADDOW: I`m not going to comment on that at all. But, boy, is that seared into my brain like a hot brand.

Nicolle Wallace, the host of "DEADLINE: WHITE HOUSE", veteran of the George W. Bush White House, my dear friend. Nicolle, I -- I miss you a lot. Thank you for being here tonight.

WALLACE: I miss you a lot.

MADDOW: All right. Up here, next, a new record today, more than -- more cases -- more new cases of coronavirus diagnosed today in America, than ever before. And some details about it that you haven`t heard anywhere else, that we`re going to bring you tonight, exclusively. That story`s ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Today, the United States of America hit a new record high in terms of new coronavirus infections in one day.

Back at the beginning of this week, when we had just surpassed the mark of 50,000 new cases in a single day. The top infectious disease doctor at Mass General, Massachusetts General Hospital, said it appeared the coronavirus epidemic was in, quote, free fall. Talking about last weekend, in the July 4th holiday weekend, she said, quote, we know of the 50,000 cases this past day, a single day of this holiday weekend. If they`re young people, it could be 500 people who die from that. If they`re older people, it could be 7,500 people who die from that. Just from one single day of infection.

It`s the infectious disease chief at Mass General, saying we`re in free fall. That was at the beginning of this week. Well, now, it`s the end of that same week and our daily new infections have risen from 50,000 in a day, to over 70,000 in a day, per NBC News calculations this evening. Again, this is breaking news.

NBC News is reporting, as of right now, that the United States has crossed 70,000 new coronavirus infections, in one day. We had 50,000 a week ago, 70,000, as of tonight.

In the last 24 hours, we just got in this footage I`m about to show you from NBC reporter Ellison Barber. He and his crew were allowed into one of South Carolina`s largest medical units, Lexington Medical Center. She and her crew, excuse me.

The CEO of the medical center has been pleading with local officials to, please, require masks in the area. The hospital has actually been running ads, begging people in the local community to wear masks. But things just keep getting worse. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. BRENT POWERS, LEXINGTON MEDICAL CENTER CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: What we`ve seen, over the past couple weeks, is increasing rates of infection among younger persons, as well as hospitalizations. Just a month ago, our census was 22 patients on the hospital side that were COVID positive that needed our care. And this morning, we were at 64.

So we`ve seen a tripling, over the past 30 days. I mean, it is not an unlimited resource, that we can keep tapping into. We have only a certain number of beds, certain number of staff, and a certain number of resources to meet our healthcare needs.

LONDON KINARD, CORONAVIRUS PATIENT: Had to wait until the results come back. It would have really helped if I could have got some attention before the five days, you know. By the time I got the attention, I couldn`t breathe. I was weak. I couldn`t -- couldn`t walk from here to the restroom.

I thought that -- that I wasn`t going to make it. So I called -- I called all my family, and pretty much told them I love them. But I was actually telling them good-bye. You feel helpless when you can`t breathe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s now going on two weeks. And it -- it -- it`s bad. I want everybody to realize this is not something that goes away real easy. It`s been rough. It`s a painful and you`re scared. You hear all these especially at my age, you are scared that something really bad is going to happen. And I want everybody to take it for what it`s worth. Anybody can get it, any age. Follow all the rules that you can.

DR. CAROL CHOE, LEXINGTON MEDICAL CENTER: Hello. I talked to your daughter and to your grandson, okay, and I kind of told them what`s going on with you, that I`m worried about your breathing and your oxygen levels because you are on 100 percent of oxygen and your oxygen levels are still really, really low, OK?

So what we decided, if you are OK with it, is to give you the best chance possible and put that breathing tube in you so that hopefully the machine can do all the work. You are not doing as much work. You are not breathing as hard and then hopefully we can get you off the machines as quickly as possible. OK? OK.

But we want to at least give you that chance. I know we want to make sure that you are, you know, get the best chance possible to recover as quickly as possible, OK? All right, now.

So we`ll give you some medicines to make you nice and comfy, all right? And then while you are on the ventilator, we`re going to lighten the sedation a little bit so you can actually communicate with us. If you can, you know, write or nod your heads and let us know how you are doing, that would be ideal. But if you`re not able to tolerate it, we will give you some sedation so that you are comfortable, OK? OK.

You`re doing OK otherwise? OK. All right. So there is going to be a lot of people in here, all right? But we`re all in here just to make sure that you are taken care of and that you`re safe, OK? All right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to take this away, OK?

CHOE: I`m going to move your bed forward a bit. OK? All right?

This is my third intubation of the day, and that`s not typical for us. We have been trying to avoid using the ventilator, doing all these other therapies to try to get them better and unfortunately that hasn`t worked for us as of right now. And so, we`ve had to put the patients on the ventilator.

One of our patients that was the sickest for the longest period of time and had gone through so much and, you know, I think, you know, he was an otherwise healthy person, young, and still didn`t survive this. The only thing at this point that we as a community can do is really wear a mask.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Reporter Alison Barber and her crew with medical staff at the Lexington Medical Center in South Carolina.

You never want to hear a nurse or a doctor talk to you the way that doctor was talking to that patient about getting that ventilator tube put in, right? I mean, it`s just happening by the dozens, by the hundreds, by the thousands in America all over now, 70,000 new cases today, 70,000.

South Carolina is now calling in the National Guard to bolster hospital staffing in the state because it cannot piece it together in that state with the existing hospital staff. In Charleston, South Carolina, at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, "The New York Times" reports today that waiting times in the emergency room are up to four hours now before people can see a doctor.

They set up tents outside that hospital to try to keep people in a safe place to wait for those four hours before they can have an initial visit with a doctor. A lot of people are leaving rather than stay out there in those tents for four hours.

In Mississippi today, they are finally doing a mask ordinance in multiple counties. This after a week in which there is finally a considerable freak out in the state government in Mississippi over the extent and rapid growth of the virus in that state.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. TATE REEVES (R), MISSISSIPPI: To my fellow Mississippians, please take this as an alarm. Our numbers are getting worse. We need your cooperation.

I know that no orders will be effective if we do not have the participation of our people. It is up to all of us if you live in any corner of our state, please follow the rules. We are in the middle of a spike. It is putting a strain on our hospital system. Mississippi is in a fight for our lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That`s the Republican Tate Reeves, governor of the state of Mississippi.

The state health officer, Thomas Dobbs, is even perhaps even more stark about how far Mississippi is already off the cliff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. THOMAS DOBBS, MISSISSIPPI STATE HEALTH OFFICER: We have been talking about this, saying it`s coming and here it is. And not only is it here, it`s going to get worse.

Yesterday, five of our biggest hospitals in the state had zero ICU beds, zero. An additional four had 5 percent or less, an additional three had less than 10 percent.

Our biggest medical institutions who take care of our sickest patients have no room to take care of additional folks. When I talked to my ER colleagues, I`m understanding they can`t get them anywhere because there is nowhere to send them. We`re sending people out of state all the time because Mississippi hospitals cannot take care of Mississippi patients.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Mississippi hospitals cannot take care of Mississippi patients. That`s Mississippi state health officer Thomas Dobbs.

When I said there is a considerable freak-out in the Mississippi state government about what`s happening in that state, I would be remiss to not mention part of that is undoubtedly the fact that there are also now at least 26 members of the state legislature who all just tested positive after a long in person legislative session in the Mississippi capital where many legislatures did not wear masks. That led, as we reported last night, to the governor of the state warning specifically any Mississippi resident who has had any contact with someone connected to the state legislature -- they are being warned now to please get tested because the state government in Mississippi is itself in outbreak.

In Texas tonight, as that state passes 10,000 patients hospitalized, this is the headline right now at "The Texas Tribune". Texas surpasses 10,000 coronavirus hospitalizations. Houston hospitals increasingly turning away new patients as coronavirus overwhelms emergency rooms. The busiest hospitals in Houston increasingly telling emergency responders they can`t safely accept new patients as hundreds of COVID patients crowd emergency rooms and hospitals scramble to open more intensive care space.

In Corpus Christi, Texas, a dire and gruesome situation there. The county morgue, the county where Corpus Christi is, they have now been overwhelmed. They`re now asking for FEMA morgue trailers to help process the dead there.

In Maricopa County, Arizona, they`re also now trying to bring in new refrigerated morgue trucks to handle the dead. That large county, Phoenix is the fifth largest city in the country, that large county is now approaching the point where they are unable to cope with the numbers of bodies they are trying to process. So they are bringing in what they`re calling cooler space, refrigerator trucks to store bodies.

In Florida, that state has just started releasing data about the numbers of COVID patients specifically in the state`s hospitals. They have resisted this for weeks and months, but now it is out. And according to this brand new state data, the number of COVID patients in Florida hospitals is nearly 7,000.

But that will rise. Today was the highest number of people yet newly hospitalized in Florida, and Florida is one of these places that doesn`t have just one or two problem areas in the state they`re worried about. Increasingly it is all over Florida. There are over 40 hospitals in Florida that have no more capacity in their ICU units, 40 completely full ICUs, 40 different hospitals in 21 different counties.

In California, we have been covering a story this week in the Bay Area. The situation in the southern part of the state is much worse than the northern part of the state. But in Bay Area, there is a huge outbreak.

One of the top ten largest outbreaks in the country at the San Quentin state prison. This was caused by transferring prisoners into San Quentin from the other facility where the virus was rampant. There is now more than 1,600 cases among prisoners at San Quentin, at least 7 prisoners have died in quick succession.

Today, the state announced new rules to make more space in their crowded and highly infected prisons. This remarkable -- look at how this is entitled, letter to all incarcerated people. This was published by the state corrections chief in California this afternoon. It explains the state is adding 12 weeks of credit to almost everyone`s time served, which will put basically a booster rocket on people moving up toward their release dates in California. Statistically, it is expected to release about 8,000 prisoners across various California prisons, including probably a few hundred from San Quentin.

We have turned a corner with this thing. This week was a terrible week. We thought hitting 50,000 cases a day was the new apex, right? Tonight, as NBC News`s numbers were over 70,000 cases in one day.

In Atlanta they said today they`re going to reactivate the field hospital that they built at city convention center. In California, as I said, they`re freeing large numbers of prisoners as a last resort, in hospitals from South Carolina and all over the country have now started begging the public directly. Hospitals and doctors are inviting the press in now to see what`s going on so they can communicate to the public directly to please wear masks, please socially distance, even when the politicians in that state won`t do it.

It would just be amazing to have some national leadership right now to organize, you know, a smart, science-driven integrated, all hands on deck, national fight against this thing as it goes so bad so fast. That would be -- that would be great. We don`t have that. We`ve got what we`ve got, and God forgive us for that. And God bless us through this.

That is going to do it for us tonight. We`ll see you again on Monday.

Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."

Good evening, Lawrence.                                                                                                                 THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END