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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 5/23/22

Guests: Mikie Sherrill, Julia Davis, Kate Kelly

Summary

Interview with Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ). A Russian diplomat at the U.N. quits over Russia`s invasion of Ukraine. New reporting from "The New York Times" suggests that Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin may have actively been using their government positions to tee up these money-making enterprises for themselves once they left office.

Transcript

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is "ALL IN" on this Monday night.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now.

Good evening Rachel.

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

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

Big consequential primaries, of course, happening tomorrow in Georgia and in a handful of other states. We`re going to be talking about those primary elections tomorrow over the course of this hour. There`s a number of those primaries tomorrow in which there`s a lot of suspense about the outcome. The polling is close. Nobody knows how it`s going to turn out.

I will tell you, though, also that there is one race tomorrow, a high-profile race about which there is almost no suspense. It`s quite clear exactly how it`s going to turn out and who`s going to win.

But even so, that one, to my line -- to my mind is actually the most astonishing of all the races in all the states that are holding elections tomorrow. It is basically a shoe-in for this guy and that is amazing. So we`ve got that that story and that coverage coming up this hour.

We`re also going to get some expert help this hour as well on the potential impact the potential consequences of a very unexpected high-profile resignation from a Russian diplomat today. Today, he not only resigned from the Russian government, he put them on blast over Putin`s invasion of Ukraine and Putin`s corruption and what Putin has done to Russia. One of the consequences of that in terms of public morale and the sort of guise of public morale in Russia and potentially what are the consequences for that guy who resigned today. S we got expert help on that. We got a bunch of news to get to tonight.

But I want to start with something that has taken us more than a year to figure out. It was last yea, last January, one week after the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. A member of Congress came forward that day with a hair curling allegation about other members of Congress, and you`ll forget me for saying it this way, but I think you`ll know what I mean.

This was not like a usual suspect who brought forward this allegation. It was not a -- you know, particularly, you know, the way we describe it is unavoidable for comment member of Congress. This is not a member of Congress who you see all over television who`s known for making hyperbolic claims, who sometimes says things just to get on television. In fact, this allegation came forward from a member of Congress who doesn`t much like going on TV at all.

This is a member of Congress who did a decade on active duty in the United States Navy, flying Sea King helicopters in missions all over the Middle East and Europe. The Navy, in fact, trusted her enough that they put her in charge of overseeing the relationship between the Navy of the United States and the Navy of Russia.

She`s a Naval Academy graduate. She has a law degree from Georgetown University. She`s a very, very serious person. And she came here on this show exactly one week after the attack on the Capitol and she made a very serious claim here. She said that on January 5th, the eve of the attack, she had seen groups being given tours of the inside of the Capitol complex by members of Congress.

Now, the reason that is unnerving is because when the mob breached the Capitol and broke in the following day on January 6, there was an uncanny sense among a lot of members of Congress that this mob that by right sort of should have been lost and not known where to go because the Capitol complex is a very big and confusing place, they seemed oddly-oriented. They seemed like they knew where they were going.

What seemed even more worrying about it was that on January 5th, the day before the attack, there shouldn`t have been any tours of any kind happening inside the Capitol complex. This was a time when the Capitol was closed to the public, closed to all tours.

And -- I mean, let`s be honest this was a day January 5th, the day before Trump had called for a wild protest of his supporters in Washington, this was a day when this member of Congress and other members of Congress were bracing for potential violence in D.C. around that wild rally that Trump had planned for his supporters the very next day.

So it was -- it was a little unnerving what were members of Congress doing showing people around inside the Capitol complex just one day before the attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MIKIE SHERRILL (D-NJ): I`m a former Navy helicopter pilot. I served for almost years and so, at every duty station, whether it was in Norfolk or in Manama, Bahrain, and every overseas place I was, and I would enter as a military member, we would receive a security brief. And that security brief would --we would be told to look for things that were out of place, look for things that were odd and look at them with an eye towards security.

[21:05:02]

And so, if somebody was loitering around my helicopter on the tarmac, that would be questionable to me, for example. And so, I arrived in the Capitol the week of the 6th and I was very secure -- I was very concerned about the violent crowds, the violent extremist groups that were coming to the Capitol for the mobs on the 6th, called there by the president. And I told my staff not to come in that day, to work remotely not to be anywhere near the Hill.

And I was really shocked when I got into the house office building and saw these groups inside and what was so shocking is as you brought, you know, as you mentioned, visitors aren`t allowed in the Capitol complex. You know, since March -- since the start of COVID, that has been shut down all tours are shut down. That was true in the last Congress and was reiterated on January 3rd in the new Congress, that there would be no tours allowed even tours given by members.

So to see these groups around the Capitol complex was really striking. It was so odd to see them that my chief of staff called the sergeant-at-arms to say what is going on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, she said that her chief of staff actually called the House sergeant-at-arms on January 5th, on the day before the January 6th attack to say, hey, what we are seeing here seems off. This stands out to us from a security perspective, this is something that shouldn`t be happening at any time right now, let alone the day before this big event is planned in Washington.

Her chief of staff called the House sergeant-at-arms to raise the alarm and to say hey, do you know what`s going on here? And, of course, the following day the Capitol was attacked.

And it was a week after the attack that Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey made these claims. And she made a request. It was in a form of a letter co-signed by the 33 other members of Congress. She requested that the sergeant at arms in the House and the Senate and the U.S. Capitol police investigate this matter.

She said, quote: We write today to request an immediate investigation into the suspicious behavior and access given to visitors to the Capitol complex on Tuesday January 5th, 2021, the day before the attacks on the Capitol. Many of the members who signed this letter including those of us who have served in the military are trained to recognize suspicious activity, as well as various members of our staff. We witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups in the Capitol complex on January 5th. This is unusual for several reasons including the fact that access to the Capitol complex has been restricted, since public tours ended last spring due to the pandemic.

The tours being conducted on January 5th were a noticeable and concerning departure from the procedures in place as of spring of 2020, procedures that limited the number of visitors to the Capitol these tours were so concerning that they were reported to the sergeant-at-arms on January 5th. The visitors encountered by some members of Congress on this letter appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day. Members of the group that attacked the Capitol did seem to have an unusually detailed knowledge of the layout of the Capitol complex.

Given the events of January 6, the ties between these groups inside the Capitol complex and the attacks on the Capitol need to be investigated. It is important we feel safe in the halls of Congress. We applaud the sergeant-at-arms and the U.S. Capitol Police for their efforts, but the fact remains that there were unusually large groups of people throughout the Capitol who could only have gained access to the Capitol complex from a member of Congress or a member of their staff.

Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill and 33 other members of Congress signed on to that letter asking for an investigation, they asked a series of detailed questions that would in effect help them investigate these circumstances too. It was very disconcerting, very disconcerting allegation.

And that night, that that letter was sent to the Capitol police and the sergeant-at arms, that night one week after the attack, I asked Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill here if she knew who did it, if she knew which members of Congress might have led tours like this might have effectively helped the attackers case the joint, do reconnaissance on the Capitol complex. She told me she wouldn`t tell me who it was. She wouldn`t say it publicly, but she would report what she knew to a formal investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Do you know which members of Congress or which congressional staff members allowed these groups into the Capitol and were showing them around? I know that you haven`t talked publicly about that yet, but do you -- do you know that information, have you conveyed that information to, for example, the House sergeant-at-arms?

SHERRILL: So, Rachel, as you showed, we have asked and other members over other members have asked for an investigation. That investigation has started and is now ongoing. So I`m not talking about exactly the people that I saw, but I will be conveying that to them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That investigation has started and is now ongoing. Again, that was last January, that more than a year ago, this is a week after the Capitol attack.

[21:10:05]

And that makes this you know more than a year now that we`ve been trying to get to the bottom of this story.

As the congresswoman told us that night, more than a year ago last January, an investigation had been started into whether members of Congress really did this and if so who and if so why? A few days after that interview here on this show, House speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed that in fact the U.S. Capitol police were investigating this matter. Then the following month in February of last year, Congressman Tim Ryan who has an oversight role for the Capitol police, he told us here on this show that actually federal prosecutors were reviewing the matter as well. The U.S. Justice Department was looking at this issue as well.

But we still had no idea which members of Congress were potentially implicated, which members of Congress might have done this. Until all of a sudden, it got sort of easy to figure out, because last spring and into the summer while those investigations were apparently underway. Again, Congresswoman Sherrill, House Speaker Pelosi, Congressman Paul Ryan -- Tim Ryan, excuse me, all told us that investigations had begun of this matter.

And while those investigations were underway, this guy kind of raised his hand, Republican Congressman Barry Loudermilk, emerged basically from nowhere to release an out of the blue statement saying he and other Republicans had checked this out. They had looked at all the security footage from January 5th, and they wanted to assure everyone that this whole allegation was bunk. There was no one who led any tour of the Capitol building on January 5th the day before the attack.

The Republicans later followed it up with a Republican staffer describing this supposed review in detail to "The Hill" newspaper, telling "The Hill" that the Republicans watched every second of the security camera footage from inside the Capitol complex on January 5th, telling the paper, quote, there were no tours, no large groups, no one with MAGA hats on. There`s nothing in there remotely fitting the depiction in Mikie Sherrill`s letter.

Congressman Barry Loudermilk went so far as to file a formal ethics complaint against Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, claiming that she was the real criminal for having the temerity to claim that any member of Congress had led a tour of the Capitol complex on January 5th. How dare she suggest such a thing? She should be investigated for even suggesting that such a thing might have happened.

Congressman Barry Loudermilk -- I mean, one of the most amazing names in congressman -- in Congress, by the way, right? Barry Loudermilk, yes.

But Congressman Loudermilk, why are you personally so jazzed up on this issue? Why does this allegation that a member of Congress or more than one member of Congress led a tour of people on January 5th in the Capitol complex the day before the attack? Congressman Loudermilk, why you -- why does this allegation make you feel so defensive and like you need to start threatening the person who made this allegation.

Nobody said anything about you connecting you to this issue. Why does it bother you so much?

I mean, at this point, it`s not like the most suspenseful thing in the world, right? The psychology here is very transparent. This is one like tiny embarrassing noise away from the famous principle known as the smelt it, dealt it hypothesis.

And so, yes, as you have no doubt concluded, sure enough, late last week, we get the word from the January 6th investigation that in fact it was Congressman Barry Loudermilk who the investigators want to speak to now about a tour of the Capitol complex that he Congressman Loudermilk personally led on January 5th.

Ah, you`re kidding, right? The guy who said definitely no one led a tour on January 5th and anybody who says there were was a tour on January 5th, they themselves should be investigated. It turns out that`s the guy who led the tour on January 5th? Crazy, who could have seen that coming? What a twist.

So, Thursday last week was the day the January 6th investigation said, hey, Congressman Loudermilk, we`d like to talk to you because you led a tour on January 5th. In response, he released a new statement that contrary to his earlier denials, he now admits he did lead a tour of the Capitol complex on January 5th. He admitted that in print on Thursday.

Then on Friday, he released a video saying that he was only being persecuted for giving that tour that he previously denied. He was only being persecuted for it because the people on the tour were wearing red baseball hats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. BARRY LOUDERMILK (R-GA): On January the 5th, I took a family with young children and their guests who were visiting Washington to lunch in a cafeteria in one of the House office buildings. So what was so awful about this family that caused the committee to make false accusations about them? Well, some were actually wearing red baseball caps.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: A family with young children and also their guests was the tour that you led on the Fifth and they were wearing red caps, you say. First, he said there were no tours given and anybody who said there was a tour should be reported to the Ethics Committee and investigated.

[21:15:06]

Then the further detail that if there was a tour, which there wasn`t, definitely no one was on such a tour wearing a red MAGA baseball cap, now it turns out, yeah, there was at least the tour led by him, the tour he led of all the people wearing the red caps.

Congressman Barry Loudermilk got caught out by the by the investigation on this on Thursday. He cop to it on that video on Friday. Then guess what happened on Saturday? Guess what happened next?

You probably guessed this, too. Statement from Donald J. Trump. Quote: Barry Loudermilk has my complete and total endorsement so this very serious-minded congresswoman came forward with this blood-curdling allegation over a year ago. This particular congressman has not just been denying that allegation. He says that he`s seen the proof that this definitely never happened. He`s been mounting an attack on the congresswoman ever since, trying to get her in trouble for making this allegation.

But now, it turns out it was him. It at least was him, might have been him, plus others but at least was him. He did it.

Despite all his denials, he has been caught. Now what happens?

Joining us now is Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, Democrat of New Jersey. A Navy veteran.

Congresswoman Sherrill, thank you so much for being here tonight. I appreciate you making the time.

SHERRILL: Thanks so much for having me, Rachel. So we did talk about this here over a year ago. A week after the attack on the Capitol and I asked you that night if you knew who the specific members of Congress were who had led these tours that you had described and that you wanted investigated.

I have to ask you now, I have no idea if you`ll answer me, but I have to ask you -- was Congressman Barry Loudermilk one of the members of Congress who you knew had done this?

SHERRILL: Well, that`s right, Rachel. As we discussed about a year ago, I had seen those tours being given on January 5th and then the next day, of course, the Capitol building was attacked. And I had pledged at that time to get to the bottom of that, to determine who is responsible for those tours which member of Congress and to ensure that that person was held accountable.

And we see now that the January committee has done just that. They`ve investigated it and it appears from their letter that they have evidence that that Representative Loudermilk conducted those stories, although he himself admitted that and has confirmed the concerns that I had.

So what`s so chilling to me about this is it reminds me really of my time as a federal prosecutor when you saw people trying to shut down investigations or intimidate witnesses and here you have a member of Congress who actually now new evidence has come out and reporting has come out that he was on a radio program on January 6 saying that he led a tour and that some of the people on that tour went to the insurrection the next day. But by May, he was saying not only that no tourists took place, but then filing an ethics complaint against me for wanting an investigation into what those tours were doing. So let that sit with you a minute.

A member of Congress filed an ethics complaint, lied in that ethics complaint about what he knew was going on on January 5th. And now we see that video that you just showed that in fact he was giving tours. So that to me is so incredibly chilling really about this process, but that`s why the work of the January 6 committee is so critically important, that they get to the bottom of what led up to the events on January th so we can ensure that that never, never happens again.

MADDOW: Do you believe that Congressman Loudermilk is the extent of this? Were there more members of Congress who you believe were involved in this? Is it a problem that is limited to him? Can you comment on that at all?

SHERRILL: Well, I think that that is what we have called upon the January 6th committee to do and certainly we`ve seen different things coming out and various hearings in in the Senate about who may be involved. But really I think that`s what we`re hoping the January 6 committee will tie together for us. And certainly from what we`ve seen so far from the Chairman Bennie Thompson, to the Vice Chair Liz Cheney, this bipartisan committee has worked diligently to get to the truth. To make sure that they are working as hard as they can to ensure this never happens here in our country again.

[21:20:03]

MADDOW: In terms of the sort of investigative firepower that`s been brought to bear here, this allegation that you first made, which has now been worn out by the January 6 investigation more than a year later, it`s sort of one of the most discreet, provable, simple and yet terrifying allegations that surrounds actually the way things went down in the lead-up to the attack and during the attack itself. It makes me wonder how you feel about or what you`ve been able to observe about -- your level of confidence in the effort that has been put to clarify this, to investigate it?

We`ve heard -- we had it confirmed from Speaker Pelosi that the U.S. Capitol police was looking into this matter. We had it stated by Congressman Tim Ryan that this is something that federal prosecutors were looking at as well, the January 6 investigation has now publicly confirmed that they have investigated this, that they have looked at the evidence, that the evidence directly rebuts and contradicts the denials that we had had from Republican members of Congress on this matter.

Are all of the investigations that have happened all sort of oars that are rowing in the same direction have there been people -- have there been different investigations working at cross purposes, how confident are you in the fact that this is all getting taken right down to the brass tacks?

SHERRILL: So, Rachel, as a former federal prosecutor, I oversaw investigations like this and certainly as you`ve alluded to, these work best when all the agencies are working together sharing information, sharing what they found. And I think what we`ve seen thus far is the January 6 committee, despite a lot of adversity -- some witnesses refusing to testify, including members of Congress, they have certainly gotten an incredible amount of information about what led up to that -- to that event.

And I am very hopeful that people will continue to come forward with what they know because this was probably for me the darkest day in our nation`s history. You know, as I was on the floor of the House, as I tell people with a cell phone in one hand and a gas mask and the other, I simply could not believe that we were being attacked because a president of the United States did not want to concede in our democratic election and he sent people over other Americans to attack us as we work to certify the election.

This is the heart of our democracy. We`ve all taken oaths to the constitution. I can`t even tell you how many times I`ve taken that oath as I sit here. I took it for the first time when I was 18 years old. I took it when I was promoted throughout the Navy. I took it when I was at the U.S. attorney`s office and a federal prosecutor and I took it again when I entered into the House of Representatives and at the beginning of this session.

And I have committed to guard our Constitution, to support and defend it from all enemies, foreign and domestic, and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same. And every single member of Congress has taken that oath and every single member of Congress now owes it to this country to stop putting any of their personal ambition, any of their self-dealing, they need to put that aside and they need to remember their oath and we need to get to the bottom of this and we need to make sure that this democracy that we all love so dearly is still intact for our children and our grandchildren.

That`s what I`ve committed to do.

MADDOW: Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, Democrat of New Jersey, Navy veteran -- thank you so much for your time tonight. Thank you for coming back to put the other bookend on this story. We`ll continue to watch as it unfolds, thank you.

SHERRILL: Well, Rachel, thank you for staying on this. As you can tell, I think it`s incredibly important. So thanks. Have a great night.

MADDOW: I agree. Thank you.

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

(COMEMRCIAL BREAK)

[21:28:34]

MADDOW: He is a Russian diplomat. He works for Russia at their U.N. mission in Geneva, in Switzerland. He`s worked for Russia`s foreign ministry, their equivalent of our State Department, for two decades. He spent a large part of that time serving as an advisor on nuclear non-proliferation for the Russian government.

Today, he quit and he didn`t just quit quietly, he turned it up to 11. This is how he told his colleagues. He said, quote: For 20 years of my diplomatic career, I have seen different turns of our foreign policy but never have I been so ashamed of my country as on February 24th of this year, the day Russia invaded Ukraine.

Quote: This aggressive war unleashed by Putin against Ukraine and in fact against the entire Western world is not only a crime against the Ukrainian people but also perhaps the most serious crime against the people of Russia. Those who conceived this war want only one thing, to remain in power forever, to live in pompous, tasteless palaces, to sail on yachts comparable in tonnage and cost to the entire Russian navy, enjoying unlimited power and complete impunity. To achieve that, they are willing to sacrifice as many lives as it takes, thousands of Russians and Ukrainians have already died just for this.

He goes on to say, quote: I studied to be a diplomat and have been a diplomat for 20 years. The foreign ministry has become my home and my family but I simply cannot any longer share in this bloody, witless and absolutely needless ignominy.

[21:30:03]

The diplomat`s name is Boris Bondarev. His statement also took a direct shot at his boss, Russia`s longtime foreign minister, which again is their equivalent of our secretary of state. He says of their foreign minister, that he, quote, went from a professional and educated intellectual, whom many of my colleagues held in such high esteem, to a person who constantly broadcasts conflicting statements and who threatens the world with nuclear weapons.

And this resignation is fascinating. That final point is very provocative, right? This guy who has just quit the highest profile diplomatic resignation since Russia started this war, he`s a nuclear non-proliferation expert. After he quit today, he told "The New York Times" he was disturbed by the nonchalant with which some of his fellow Russian diplomats chatted about possible nuclear strikes against the West.

That is also a thing that is apparently increasingly happening on state-controlled Russian TV. Mr. Bondarev said of that talk, quote, they think that if you hit some village in America with a nuclear strike, then the Americans will immediately get scared and run to beg for mercy on their knees. Quote: That`s how many of our people think and I fear that this is the line that they are passing along to Moscow.

Joining us now is Julia Davis. She`s a columnist for "The Daily Beast". She`s the founder of the Russian media monitor which tracks Russian government-controlled television and propaganda.

Ms. Davis, I really appreciate you making time to be here tonight. Thank you.

JULIA DAVIS, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: Thank you so much, Rachel. It`s my pleasure.

MADDOW: Mr. Bondarev today raises this issue in his resignation letter and then in follow-up interviews, including with "The New York Times" saying the nonchalance and the frequency of discussion about what a good idea would be to use nuclear weapons, he as a long-time diplomat, as a expert in the field finds unnerving. I have to ask in your monitoring of Russian state television. If you`re seeing what he`s describing?

DAVIS: Absolutely, and it`s so refreshing to hear someone, who`s an insider like him to address it, because it`s become redundant. Every single day, they bring up the idea of nuclear strikes against Ukraine or against the West and it`s a non-stop chatter that has been basically normalized at this point if you could ever normalize anything as abnormal. They`ve become a larger, more dangerous North Korea in their rhetoric.

MADDOW: And this has changed. to be clear. This isn`t a constant. This is something that`s changed and become more frequent over the course of this war, over these last three months?

DAVIS: Absolutely. They followed the Putin`s lead when he said, if anyone dares to interfere in what`s going on in Ukraine, they will be met with such retaliatory action that they have never contemplated or have seen before.

And on state television, they are repeatedly reiterating that what he meant was a nuclear strike, and they repeat that with a great sense of pride. That that is one thing that they know the West fears. So they like to constantly repeat it and convince the Russians or attempt to convince them that even if they have to die for the motherland, there`s no better way to go.

MADDOW: From your monitoring of this type of propaganda, the state-controlled television in Russia, do you feel like that should make the West, that should make of the American government, that should make us as people observing this more fearful about the prospect that Putin might choose to use nuclear weapons in either -- in some tactical way or in some strategic way, do you feel like the saber-rattling that you`re seeing there should make us feel like this is a more acute threat or do you think this is just a sort of generic sign of belligerence and chest pounding that might not translate directly into a nuclear worry?

DAVIS: We should remain clear-eyed about Russia`s capabilities. But at the same time, keep in mind that they are saying it for us to be afraid for the west to stop helping Ukraine. So it`s definitely posturing and we need to see it for what it is. It`s the only thing that they could threaten us with. They can`t threaten us economically. There`s not much they can do to us basically.

So that is one weapon at their disposal that they like to saber rattle with. And their motive is to make us fear them and that`s exactly what they`re hoping to do and that should be the opposite of what we do.

MADDOW: The Russian government has yet to respond to this resignation from Mr. Bondarev today. At least as far as I know, they haven`t responded yet. What do you expect their reaction to it will be or do you think they`ll just pretend this didn`t happen?

DAVIS: I can safely predict what they will probably do, they usually follow the same exact script in this types of instances. They will say he`s a traitor. They will claim that he was offered some sort of a reward by the West and he sold out.

And this is the way that they will portray him, especially because his letter was so scathing, because he referred to Navalny`s investigations about Lavrov`s extended family, taking advantage of Oleg Deripaska`s luxury properties and Putin`s palaces -- all of those based on Navalny`s investigation. So they will certainly try to claim that he is a, quote/unquote, traitor simply for exposing their corruption and not being willing to put up with their warmongering and horrific acts of aggression that they have engaged in.

MADDOW: Julia Davis is a columnist of "The Daily Beast". She`s creator of "Russian Media Monitor". Ms. Davis, thanks for making time to be with us tonight. It`s really helpful to have you here.

DAVIS: Thank you so much.

MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:40:35]

MADDOW: Here`s a little quiz: can you identify these three gentlemen? If your idea of a fun party is identifying recent, lesser-known government officials, then this is a fun party, right? You got it? Know who these guys are?

Yes, they are all former U.S. treasury secretaries. One treasury secretary from the George W. Bush years, and the other two are from the Obama years. If you got that, congratulations, you`re going to kill it at your next pub quiz trivia night, right?

Of course, one of the things that treasury secretaries do is they have to travel around the world to discuss financial stuff. Occasionally, for example, they have to travel to the Middle East, to the Persian Gulf countries to talk oil prices or to encourage investment in the United States or whatever.

These are all photos of those three treasury secretaries visiting the Persian Gulf states, but there aren`t all that many photos of them because there weren`t all that many of those trips. Those three guys over the space of a decade over two different administrations, all three of them together visited the Persian Gulf states eight times -- eight times in total between all of them.

Now, how about this guy, you recognize him? A little more recent. Guy who held the same job, Donald Trump`s Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. During Trump`s one term, during the four years he was treasury secretary, you know, how many times he went to the Gulf States? At least 18.

The last three guys went eight times in total between them, Mnuchin went 18 times just himself. That`s a 12-hour transatlantic flight to visit his friends in the Gulf, probably more often than you visited your friends who live across town. I mean, his three predecessors, eight times combined over a decade. Mnuchin, 18 times in four years. Why is that?

Well, new reporting from "The New York Times" suggests one answer to that question. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was visiting Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates and Qatar and Kuwait to scare up new investments for himself not for the United States, which is a thing that`s called self-dealing, and it`s a thing that we`re not supposed to do.

Last month, "The New York Times" reported on truly remarkable sums of cash that the various Gulf monarchies had invested in private projects being run by Steven Mnuchin, as well as projects for Trump`s son-in-law, White House advisor Jared Kushner. And the monarchy started paying out this fund these funds almost as soon as those guys left the Trump administration.

Last year, after Trump was out of office, the Saudis gave Steven Mnuchin $1 billion for his new investment fund.

They gave Jared Kushner $2 billion, and they did this even though Saudi Arabia`s own investment advisors explicitly recommended against it in writing because they determined that Kushner had no experience. He had no other investors. Their due diligence on Kushner`s operations showed that they are, quote, unsatisfactory in all aspects.

But still, the Saudis gave $2 billion to Jared. Why is that? Well, his father-in-law`s administration had bent over backwards for four years to try to protect Saudi interests, starting with making Saudi Arabia Trump`s very first foreign trip as president, something no president had ever done and no other president ever will. Trump and Kushner and Steven Mnuchin defended the Saudis` autocratic de facto ruler after he rounded up and imprisoned hundreds of royal family members, after he started a blockade of the U.S. ally in Qatar, after he signed off on an operation to kidnap -- kidnap and ultimately murder and dismember a "Washington Post" journalist.

All that favor and protection over the course of four years has got to be worth something, right? A couple billion dollars at least, especially if Donald Trump might be president again one day.

So there`s this sort of implicit quid pro quo in that situation. Hey, remember how good you were when you were in office. Well, how about -- remember how good our administration was to you when I was in office. Well, now, how about you put some money in my pocket? How about you invest in my new project?

That quid pro quo with Kushner in particular is icky enough. But this new reporting from "The Times" suggests that Kushner and Mnuchin may have actively been using their government positions to tee up these money-making enterprises for themselves once they left office.

Right before the 2020 election, Kushner and Mnuchin unveiled a new U.S. government-backed investment fund that would ostensibly raise billions of dollars for projects in the Middle East. All through the end of the Trump presidency, Kushner and Mnuchin kept flying all over the Middle East on the taxpayers` dime trying to raise money for the supposed government fund.

[21:45:08]

Jared made three trips to the Middle East just in the weeks between the election and the inauguration of Joe Biden. And when the January 6th attack happened, he was on his way back from Saudi Arabia and Steven Mnuchin was on his way to Saudi Arabia. Mnuchin ultimately cut his trip short because of the Capitol attack, but he did stretch it out still just a couple more days to try to squeeze in one more meeting with the leader of Saudi Arabia.

Here`s the thing though, all those meetings were supposedly about this U.S. government-backed investment fund. "The Times" describes it as, quote, little more than talk, with no accounts, no employees, no income, and no projects, the fund vanished when Mr. Trump left office. Except Kushner and Mnuchin did later raise billions from all those countries they were scrambling to visit in their last months in government. They just didn`t raise it for any U.S. government fund, which appears to have never really existed. They raised it for themselves.

Just three weeks after leaving office, Mnuchin was talking about a plan he had. A few weeks later, he had detailed investment plans and a half billion dollars from the Emiratis, the Kuwaitis and the Qataris. A half billion dollars from each of them, all these folks he had just been fundraising from as treasury secretary.

Then came the billions from Saudi Arabia. Mnuchin and Kushner both took the government officials who had ostensibly been working with them on this government project and installed them at their new private ventures, where they would get the money. In April of last year when Mnuchin sent the Saudis, a roster of the top executives at his new private venture for them to invest in, one of the managing directors was still at that moment employed by the U.S. Treasury Department.

I mean, this isn`t even like speeding up the revolving door between government and the private sector. This is like there`s no door. It means you go to work for the U.S. government and in the name of the U.S. government, you raise money for yourself.

On the one hand, it feels like you know another bit of corrupt detritus from the Trump administration that is stuck to our collective national shoe. On the under on the other hand, this feels like something so blatant it cannot possibly stand. Can it?

Hold that thought.

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[21:51:53]

MADDOW: In a distant hard-to-pronounce foreign country, if a high-ranking government official and a high-ranking family member related to the country`s leader repeatedly did big favors for a troubling foreign monarchy and then as soon as they left office, that family member and that high-ranking official personally collected billions of dollars from that same monarchy for their own private business ventures, you might say, you know, wow, the former Soviet Union is really corrupt, or wow, yeah, those countries that end in stan, they sure are unreformed in their corruption. They`ll never make it as a real democracy like us.

Or you might say, yeah, it`s crazy that the United States of America put Donald Trump in the presidency. But then what did you expect once he was in there?

"The New York Times`" new reporting now reveals that Trump`s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Trump Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin apparently spent the final months of the Trump administration meeting with foreign government officials in their government capacity who then shoveled literally billions of dollars to Kushner and Mnuchin`s own private business ventures right after they left office. It is just as gobsmacking as it sounds, but it is us. It is not some foreign, distant, hard-to-pronounce far-away land.

Joining us now is one of the reporters who broke this story, "New York Times" correspondent Kate Kelly.

Ms. Kelly, thank you very much for being here.

KATE KELLY, CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thank you, Rachel. Pleasure to join you.

MADDOW: What is the connection between the meetings that Mr. Kushner and Mr. Mnuchin took as government officials and the later investment that was made by government officials in these foreign countries you`ve described to make these massive investments in private ventures for both of those men?

KELLY: Well, at a minimum, Rachel, I think those business meetings built the relationships and kept them warm at a time when both Kushner and Mnuchin were a mere weeks away or just a couple of months away from leaving office as Trump stepped down. So they got to know their foreign counterparts. In Kushner`s case, these were rulers of countries, these were other senior officials but also importantly the heads of sovereign wealth funds or, you know, the large government investment funds run by many countries and notably in the Persian Gulf.

In Mnuchin`s case and you pointed this out in your intro, these 18 country visits over four years which had a huge cluster toward the end of the administration actually in January of `21 helped him get acquainted with these major, major investors who just near months later would invest in his funds.

Now, we also know that this Abraham Fund you mentioned, this $3 billion -- or at least that was the goal -- U.S. government-backed fund that was meant to fund development projects in places like Palestine where Israeli checkpoints would be improved and modernized among other things, that was something that was on both of those officials item agenda as they toured the Gulf in those final months of office, to talk about building enthusiasm and support for the fund.

But as you noted, it didn`t really go anywhere. What did go somewhere right after government was Jared Kushner`s private equity fund -- Affinity Partners, and Steven Mnuchin`s private equity fund, Liberty Strategic Capital.

[21:55:05]

MADDOW: I described this as self-dealing because as somebody who`s not an expert in this, somebody just a lay observer, this seems like kind of the dictionary definition of somebody using their public position, their access to government resources potentially even their actions as government officials to set themselves up for private gain. Is that fair in terms of the layman`s understanding of that? And as an extension of that, is this potentially illegal behavior?

KELLY: Well that was obviously one of the top questions we were asking ourselves, Rachel, as David Kirkpatrick and I reported on this. And what we discovered from talking to ethics experts is this is quite legal. If we as Americans want to see this kind of activity ceased in the future, we need to probably codify some new rules and regulations that prevent one from seeking outside investments from former government counterparts once they leave office, in this case the executive branch.

But right now, this is quite legal. Self-dealing is a little bit more of a term of art, but sure -- I mean, depending on your perspective I think that that is something you could say. There are laws that govern your participation as a government official in matters that substantially or personally affect your financial position or that of your immediate family. I`m sure you`re familiar with those. I believe it`s USC 208.

But in this case, while not impossible, while I did speak to some ethics experts and some lawyers who thought this could theoretically be applied here. it`s very hard because what you really need to establish is a quid pro quo. So both parties in this case, a sovereign wealth fund and these officials would have to know there was sort of a two-part transaction going on that resulted in them receiving this money.

And I think -- I don`t know that that`s the case. I wouldn`t want to suggest that it was. But in any case, even if it were, very hard to demonstrate for a prosecutor.

MADDOW: Right. Certainly to prove it in court, of course.

Kate Kelly, "New York Times" correspondent with this groundbreaking reporting, thank you for helping us understand it. I appreciate your time.

KELLY: Thank you.

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

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MADDOW: So, thanks for being with us here tonight. Ayman is going to be here tomorrow night with MSNBC PRIME.

But now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" where Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight.

Good evening, Ali.