"The New York Times" is reporting that the Trump Justice Department secretly seized communications records from members of Congress serving on the intelligence committee in the House. Interview with the Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Interview with Florida Democratic Congresswoman Val Demings, a member of the House Intelligence Committee. A bipartisan group of five Democratic senators and five Republican senators released a statement today saying they reached an agreement on what they call the framework for an infrastructure bill. The Trump administration subpoenaed the phone records of House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff and the committee staff, and at least one child.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
An obligation to clean house indeed. Your interview with Adam Schiff was exactly what we needed when this news broke tonight.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: This is one of these stories that on the one hand, it`s a little bit like the boiling frog, like we had learned about the Justice Department having intervened at the president`s insistence to help his friends, and to try to investigate his enemies. We had learned the way they were going after reporters` sources in ways that appear to directly violate Justice Department policy. That`s some of those revelations quite recent.
And now, revelations that they were going after sitting members of Congress, including those who are investigating him, and using a gag order to keep it secret from Congress as a whole and from those members. It`s unprecedented and the branches of government aren`t supposed to do this to each other. I don`t know what the consequences are here, but Merrick Garland Justice Department has a huge mess on its hands that it needs to handle, and it needs to handle in a way that restores public trust in that agency.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to be joined by two members of the House Intelligence Committee in this hour. Congressman Krishnamoorthi and Congresswoman Val Demings who is now an announced candidate for Senate in Florida. They both have a lot to say about this.
And, Rachel, here`s how we know -- here is how we know how bad this is. Richard Nixon didn`t do it. Richard Nixon wouldn`t dare do this. And Richard Nixon was trying to go after links to the press just like Donald Trump was, and the way he did it was he wiretapped reporters.
He -- Richard Nixon wiretapped reporters. Richard Nixon committed crimes. Richard Nixon was forced to leave office, but this was a lie line Richard Nixon would not cross.
MADDOW: And now that we know it`s been crossed, the question for us is what do we do about it? What are the consequences? How do we ensure it doesn`t happen again?
Because if it goes -- if it happened, it`s revealed, and it goes unpunished, it becomes de facto precedent for not only, you know, if Donald Trump gets back into the presidency to do it again, but for somebody worse than him to do this because of the de facto precedent that it`s okay to do because once it was exposed, there were no consequences.
If this stuff isn`t rooted out, exposed and punished, it will happen again, it will become the new normal and this Justice Department will become something we have never ever had in this country before, even under somebody as bad and actor as Richard Nixon.
O`DONNELL: Yeah, your focus on what does Merrick Garland do next is so important, he has obligations that no attorney general before him has had.
MADDOW: Yeah, it`s the worst job in government right now. I mean, there`s no job I would less like to have myself in the Biden administration right now. I mean, being attorney general is hard in the best of times. But to have to be attorney general and also to have to turn the Justice Department around, to pick it up by its ankles and shake it to see what falls out and in some cases, they`re going to have to undo actions taken by the personnel who were there during the Trump administration and went along with the stuff. But they are going to meet out some consequences.
And it`s inescapable and it`s as bigger responsibility as anything else I`ve got going on in government right now.
O`DONNELL: Yeah, and of course, traditionally, the attorney general of the new administration even from a different party doesn`t ever really find fault with what`s happened procedurally from the attorney general, the other party that precedes him. And so, they have no real muscles. We have no muscle memory about how you deal with something like this.
And so, this is the time when you need an attorney general who knows how to see things in a way no previous attorney general has had to. Previous attorney general had to --
MADDOW: Yeah, yeah, exactly. It`s not an option to ignore in this case. If you do -- if you are coming in after an attorney general who use the Justice Department at the president`s insistence to reward his friends, to punish his enemies, to spy on his political opponents, not just spy, but use the threat, to use all the powers of the Justice Department to surveil sitting members of Congress, including those on the intelligence community at the president`s insistence -- I mean, this is -- you can`t be like, oh, we had policy differences.
This is not policy, it`s a department that broke, that we can`t afford to let remain broken.
O`DONNELL: Yeah. And with government officials like this, president, attorney general, the line is not crimes. The line is not, did William Barr commit crimes? Did Jeff Sessions commit a crime? Did the president commit a crime?
The line is, should this have been done? Was this wrong? Was this wrong for them to do?
And I don`t see how the attorney -- Merrick Garland can sit atop that bureaucracy without comment on what it did.
MADDOW: Right. And the Justice Department policy is there for a reason, right? I mean, the Justice Department policy about, for example, what you do with reporters is black letter policy. I mean, you could read the memos on that from the previous era of the Justice Department and those policies aren`t rescinded.
If senior members of the Justice Department and perhaps even, you know, career attorneys or line prosecutors violate those policies and there is no consequence of it, then that policy no longer exists in real life because there`s no consequences for breaking it. You just can`t do that.
I mean, the Justice Department has Office of Legal Counsel memos that they treat as binding precedent. They have black letter policy that they treat as the rules. And when those things are broken, you can`t just say we aren`t going to do it that way anymore. We are going to go back to following the rules. It`s not -- it`s not a self-repairing machine.
I just -- I`ve started off a couple weeks ago feeling very urgent about this, and I got to the point I`m feeling more than urgent about it.
We are going to hear from Attorney General Merrick Garland tomorrow. He says he`s going to talk about voting rights. This is one of the things of which is agency has done nothing we can see publicly visible thus far. I imagine he`ll have to talk about some of this stuff, too.
O`DONNELL: We will see what he has to say tomorrow.
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel. Thank you.
Well, Nixon didn`t do it. But Trump did.
Richard Nixon committed crimes as president of the United States. Richard Nixon wiretapped reporters as president of the United States, but even Richard Nixon would not dare go after the phone records of members of Congress or their staff or their family or their children because he suspected they might be leaking accurate incriminating information about him. But Donald Trump did. Donald Trump did that.
The breaking news of this night is "The New York Times" reporting Donald Trump`s two attorney generals, attorneys general, both pursued investigations in which, quote, prosecutor subpoenaed Apple for data from the accounts of at least two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, aides and family members. One was a minor.
All told, the records of at least a dozen people tied to the committee were seized in 2017 and early 2018, including those of Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, then the panel`s top Democrat and now its chairman, according to committee officials and two other people briefed on the inquiry.
The Justice Department secured a gag order on Apple that expired this year, according to a person familiar with the inquiry, so lawmakers did not know they were being investigated until Apple informed them last month. The investigations began under Donald Trump`s first Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and were enthusiastically continued by his second attorney general, William Barr, who brought in a special federal prosecutor from New Jersey, whose previous investigative experience included gangs and health care fraud.
Donald Trump, in his attorneys general, we`re searching for weeks to the news media in these investigations, and "The New York Times" reports, quote, after the records provided no proof of leaks, prosecutors in the U.S. attorney`s office in Washington discussed ending that piece of their investigation. But Mr. Barr`s decision to bring in an outside prosecutor helped the case remain alive.
The last line of "The New York Times" report contains this haunting fact about the officials at the Justice Department who`ve conducted these investigations.
Quote: Mr. Demers, Ms. Edelstein, Mr. Blue, and Mr. Benvenuto are still at the Justice Department and ensuring that Mr. Biden`s appointees including Attorney General Merrick B. Garland would have a full understanding of the investigations.
Leading off our discussion tonight are Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois. He is a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Also with us, Matt Miller, former spokesperson for Attorney General Eric Holder and an MSNBC contributor.
Congressman, let me begin with you. And I just want to give you an open mic here for your reaction to this breaking news tonight.
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): It`s an outrageous trampling of democratic norms. We knew that Donald Trump had politicized DOJ, now we know that he weaponized the DOJ as well.
And so, now, we absolutely must have a full investigation of what occurred at DOJ. Secondly, we must hold those accountable who may have even broken the law in this affair. And third, we have to put in guardrails to prevent this from happening again.
There are a number of questions that need to be answered with regard to that last issue, and I can go into that if you wish.
O`DONNELL: How do you feel about those Justice Department officials who were involved in this investigation still being there, and including that special prosecutor that William Barr brought down from New Jersey?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yeah, that particular prosecutor, the gang prosecutor, Mr. Benvenuto, was brought into basically investigate -- it looks like -- members of the committee.
And why he`s still there? I don`t know. But at this point, I guess he`ll have a lot of explaining to do because there needs to be a full investigation, and he needs to be at the center of that, along with the other three people that you mentioned, and, of course, Bill Barr and others.
O`DONNELL: Let`s get a Justice Department perspective on this.
Matt Miller, again, with your Justice Department experience, I don`t presume to guide your response here or thinking about this. I just want to give you also an open mic for your reaction to this breaking news.
MATT MILLER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: You know, Lawrence, it looks like an unprecedented abuse of power.
I mean, Donald Trump is very clear, repeatedly, about what he wanted the Justice Department to do. He gave a list of people he wanted investigated - - Jim Comey, Andy McCabe, Adam Schiff. And after disclosure after disclosure, we see that each of them repeatedly has been investigated by the Justice Department has -- have had their records subpoenaed.
And look, it`s not like there`s never a case when the Justice Department can subpoena information from a member of Congress. Obviously, in political corruption cases, where members are targets of investigation, they have their information turned over.
There was a case when a Senate Intelligence Committee staffer pled guilty to a leak three years ago and had had records seized by the Justice Department. So, it is not inherently wrong.
But for a Justice Department to target, you know, a member, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and to go after people`s family members. And when you overlay a couple of things, number one, the fact there`s no information yet that they targeted Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee. When you conduct leak investigation, you look at all the people who might have had information and might have disclosed it. Obviously, the Republicans would have had the same information the Democrats had. That`s how Congress works, there`s no indication that they had their records subpoenaed.
And two, when you see Bill Barr make this extraordinary step after the investigation comes up dry, when they find nothing and go for it and he moves the new prosecutor in, that tells you that something is wrong. It doesn`t take a genius to put two and two together and get four.
Donald Trump said who he wanted the Justice Department to investigate, and the Justice Department went out and investigated Chairman Adam Schiff. And when they came up with nothing, Bill Barr doubled down, and moved a new prosecutor in to try to go after it again. It looks like an abuse of power and it`s hard to see it as anything but that.
O`DONNELL: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement tonight in response to this breaking news.
She said: Recently, it has become public that the Trump administration sought account metadata of House Intelligence Committee members and staff and their families. The news about the politicization of the Trump administration Justice Department is harrowing. These actions appear to be yet another egregious assault on our democracy waged by the former president. I support Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff`s call for an investigation into the situation and other acts of the weaponization of law enforcement by the former president. Transparency is essential.
Congressman, what is the next move for House Democrats?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I think there`s going to be a call for investigation. Obviously, the Biden administration and the Justice Department are going to probably initiate their own investigation, if they haven`t already.
But I would not be surprised if we have hearings about this particular issue, whether it`s in a classified setting or otherwise. But this is something that, you know, is unprecedented, and it deserves an incredible amount of attention because, you know, in this particular case, you know, Donald Trump, you know, made out of the Justice Department what, you know, foreign countries routinely do with their supposed justice departments in an effort to intimidate and to basically get rid of dissent. And so, that`s what`s going on here -- and get rid of oversight as well.
So, we`re not going to -- we`re not going to stand down. We`re going to double down on our oversight duties and we`re going to make sure that this cannot happen again.
O`DONNELL: Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi and Matt Miller, thank you both very much for joining us on short notice tonight. We really appreciate it.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
And coming up, we`ll get House Intelligence Committee Member Val Demings` reaction to tonight`s breaking news after she has announced that she is running for the United States Senate in Florida for the seat currently occupied by Marco Rubio. Congresswoman Val Demings joins us next.
O`DONNELL: One reason Republicans have 50 members of the Senate is that one of them switched parties. Alabama Senator Richard Shelby was first elected to the Senate as a Democrat and then when political life in Alabama got increasingly uncomfortable for him as a Democrat, he switched to the Republican Party.
Today, Mitch McConnell was asked if he has invited Joe Manchin to do the same thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you asked him and extended an invitation for him to consider switching parties?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Well, Senator Manchin pointed out over and over again he`s been a Democrat all his life. I`m certainly not anticipating he`s going to cross the aisle. But I do admire his willingness to protect the Senate as an institution.
The filibuster is not so much about a particular issue, as it is about the Senate as an institution. It was constructed in the beginning of the country to slow things down, to make sure the right thing was done for the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The filibuster was not constructed in the beginning of the country. The Founder is expected the Senate to run by majority vote, and it almost always has run by majority vote until Mitch McConnell became a Senate leader and made the 60-vote threshold virtually mandatory for all legislation outside of budget reconciliation.
In a 50/50 Senate, the Democrats are just a heartbeat away from losing control of the Senate. And now, they are hoping to increase their majority in the Senate with a candidacy of Florida Congresswoman Val Demings who has announced she is running for the Senate seat currently held by Republican Marco Rubio.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): When you go up in the South, poor, black, and female, you have to have faith in progress and opportunity.
My father was a janitor, and my mother was a maid. She said, Val, never grow tired. They said we`d never lower crime, but I said, never tire.
And after all, that I still wasn`t tired. So, Iran for Congress. Unlike some in Washington, I never tire of standing up for what I believe is right. Because no one is above the law.
I`m running for the United States Senate because of two simple words, never tire.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Congresswoman Val Demings, a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Thank you very much for joining us tonight.
We had you book here to talk about your Senate candidacy, but let`s begin with this breaking news tonight on your committee, the House Intelligence Committee.
What is your reaction to this breaking news that the Trump administration and both Trump attorneys general pursued investigations of Adam Schiff, his staff, another member of the committee, and even the child of one of the staff members?
DEMINGS: Well, Lawrence, it`s good to be back with you.
And let me just say this, it is absolutely outrageous, but not really surprising. As someone who serves on committees with jurisdiction who has investigated the former president, certainly served as an impeachment manager, it is not surprising.
But I ask you to think about, as a former police chief, imagine if I used my position as a police chief to investigate my political rivals.
What we`re dealing with is a former president who has no regard for the rule of law, no regard for the people who enforce the laws, and no regard for the people in Congress who provide the over -- necessary oversight.
He is lawless and we need to conduct, as we`ve heard earlier, from Adam and from my friend Raja, we need to conduct a thorough investigation and hold everybody who`s responsible for this accountable.
If that means cleaning house in the Department of Justice, then that is exactly what we need to do.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to the way Chairman Schiff put that to Rachel in the previous hour.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): In terms of the oversight of Congress, I don`t think I have a role in that, given that some of my records were apparently subject of subpoena. But I think other committees, as part of their oversight responsibilities, ought to ask the attorney general and others, and I do think the department needs to do a wholesale review of the politicization of these cases over the last four years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And, of course, Speaker Pelosi issued a statement in the last few minutes supporting Chairman Schiff on exactly that calling for an investigation.
DEMINGS: The speaker is absolutely right. I mean, it`s just -- every time you think we`ve heard at all, involving the former administration and the attorney general, the former attorney general, there`s always more to come.
But this, Lawrence, is outrageous. It`s very disappointing. America should be angry about it. And we have an obligation to get to the bottom of it, and we will.
O`DONNELL: I want to get to something else that`s an urgent import in Washington to investigate and that, of course, is the invasion of the Capitol on January 6.
Let`s listen to what FBI Director Wray said today in response to a question from you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Anytime there is a successful attack, much less an attack on the kind of scale and significance that occurred on January 6, you can be absolutely sure that we are asking what else we can do, what we can do better, what we can do more of, what we can do differently in terms of collecting information, analyzing it, disseminating it.
I`m not aware of information that we didn`t share, that we should have. I am concerned that we need to get better and better at developing human sources to be able to anticipate acts like this in the future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Where are we as of tonight in our understanding of what happened on January 6th, and what more do we need to do?
DEMINGS: Well, Lawrence, you know, look, I have the utmost respect for Christopher Wray, but I really wish he would`ve talked about what`s actions he and other law enforcement organizations and others, the administration and others, could have taken to prevent the attack?
I believe that as a nation, we failed law enforcement, we failed members of Congress, even those who are scrambling for their lives, and now say it wasn`t that big of a deal. We failed our staffers. We failed the vice president and his staff.
And so, my question to Director Wray was, obviously, there was a failure that day, and what role did the FBI play in that failure?
So, we still have a lot of questions. Of course, the independent commission would help us get to the bottom of it. You know where we are with that. Matter of fact, the person I`m running against voted against that commission.
But again, just like the abuse of power from the former president, we are going to get to the bottom of this. The independent commission, I think, would be the best way to do it. But we are not going to let this go away. The American people are not going to let it go away.
O`DONNELL: Running for Senate in Florida, you`re just going to be running against Marco Rubio. You`re going to be running against Donald Trump who will be attacking you presumably every day of the campaign.
How do you plan to deal with what will be those two fronts? The candidate you`re running against on the ballot, and the former president attacking you every day?
DEMINGS: Lawrence, Florida is my home. And in my announcement video, I talked about growing up poor, black, and female in the South.
I will never run away from a tough fight. I served as you all know, 27 years at the Orlando Police Department. I have never run away from a tough fight.
But my opponent is someone who runs away from every fight. Any way the wind blows politically, it is cool with him.
Florida can do better, and we will do better.
And if there are those who are listening who would like to take this journey with me and get engaged in this fight, I would just ask them to visit my website at ValDemings.com.
O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Val Demings, U.S. Senate candidate for Florida, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.
DEMINGS: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And coming up, a joke in Washington where the quorum is defined as any meeting of the president of the United States, and the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. When the chairman of finance speaks, Washington listens. And today, Chairman Ron Wyden told me that it`s time to abandon hopeless negotiations with Senate Republicans and pass an infrastructure bill through reconciliation with Democratic votes only. Chairman Ron Wyden will be our next guest.
O`DONNELL: A bipartisan group of five Democratic senators and five Republican senators released a statement today saying they reached an agreement on what they call the framework for an infrastructure bill which, quote, "would be fully paid for and not include tax increases".
The bill would provide $579 billion in new infrastructure spending, a fraction of what President Biden has proposed.
The White House greeted the Senators` announcement with a statement saying, quote, "The president appreciates the senators` work, but questions need to be addressed particularly around the details of both policy and pay-fors, among other matters."
The White House`s statement said the president would be consulting with other members of the House and Senate on the path forward. One of the first senators the president will consult with is the chairman of the senate finance committee, which is the committee that will pay for the Biden infrastructure plan.
Earlier today I spoke with the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Ron Wyden, just as the bipartisan group of senators announced their agreement. Chairman Wyden made news immediately by telling me the bipartisan agreement is a non-starter and it`s time for the Democrats to move the infrastructure bill into a reconciliation process that can pass the Senate with only Democratic votes.
O`DONNELL: And joining us now is Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. He`s chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Thank you very much for joining us, Mr. Chairman. Really appreciate it.
SEN. RON WYDEN (D-OR): Thanks for having me, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Let me start with the breaking confusion of the day. I can`t quite call it breaking news, and that is Senator Mitt Romney believes that that bipartisan group of senators has a deal on infrastructure, on a spending number and on pay-fors. Senator Jon Tester who is part of that group who has a little more senate experience says he doesn`t think there is a deal.
What do you know about the negotiations of that group? Do they have a deal? Has anyone in that group brought a deal to you?
WYDEN: They`ve talked to me, but I just don`t see it, Lawrence. Let me tell you why. First of all, the proposition that the country`s biggest corporations who got an enormous tax cut from Donald Trump in 2017 wouldn`t pay a single penny to use the roads and bridges and ports they depend on, that is just a non-starter.
And second, to take a complete pass on climate change, in other words, include nothing on climate change is a complete non-starter. And because of your history with the Finance Committee, I thought you would be interested in knowing that for the first time in a hundred years, the Finance Committee has passed comprehensive clean energy legislation. What we did is we took the 44 breaks in the tax code for energy and we threw them in the trash. And then we now have one for clean energy, one for clean transportation and one for energy efficiency. That`s the future that bipartisan idea doesn`t have anything on climate. I think it`s a non- starter.
O`DONNELL: So just to finish on this bipartisan group that`s been working on this, as far as you know, they have not agreed on the pay-for side of this, which would include in the Biden proposal, an increase in the corporate tax rate. None of that has been agreed to in a way that`s acceptable to you, chairman of the finance committee who would have to move on all of the pay-fors or most of the pay-fors certainly in this bill.
WYDEN: That`s correct, and literally just a few minutes before you and I started talking, Lawrence, it is pretty clear that the White House won`t accept it as well.
We understand that the American tax code with respect to these mega corporations, both from the standpoint of home and globally, is a mess. And what we got to do is we`ve got to stop these tax havens where companies have been stashing profits. Janet Yellen`s global minimum tax is very useful. And then finally we have to end these digital taxes because they are really what amounts to a digital dagger right at the heart of some of our high-skill, high-wage companies.
O`DONNELL: Let`s just stay with that for a second. I want to clarify that for the audience. You`re talking about digital taxes that are imposed in Europe and elsewhere around the world on American companies. You`d like to see, instead of that, this newly agreed-to led by Janet Yellen, treasury secretary, a global minimum corporate tax rate beginning with the G-7 of 15 percent?
WYDEN: That`s right. And it`s a global minimum. Then there are tough provisions to end these tax havens where the major corporations have been stashing profits and they commit to ending these digital taxes.
This would be like, you know, if an American company has been focused on Cloud storage or something like that. And these companies in the United States are high-skill, high-wage employers.
We cannot allow the Europeans, for example, to impose discriminatory taxes on us. This agreement is designed to ban that. There is some questions about timing and I`m working with the Biden administration on that.
O`DONNELL: So in terms of corporate taxes here in the United States, it sounds like what you`re telling us tonight is that it is unlikely, to put it mildly, that there will be a bipartisan infrastructure bill that`s agreed to in the senate. That sounds like you will be moving or may soon be moving to a reconciliation process to get this done.
WYDEN: That`s correct. I mean, look, I always try to be bipartisan. Sometimes I get flak for being too bipartisan, but I think we have given an enormous amount of time to this bipartisan effort.
Remember, the president spent weeks with Senator Capito. Now we have this new effort. I mean the fact is you try to be bipartisan, but the American people have real needs.
We`ve got physical infrastructure we`ve got to address. We`ve got to address childcare and essential human infrastructure needs. And we`ve got to get on with it.
O`DONNELL: And so will the reconciliation bill have infrastructure in it, or will it just have the pay-fors that you will do the tax pay-fors in the Finance Committee?
WYDEN: The focus, of course, in a reconciliation bill is on spending. I mean that`s really how you get through the tortured path of the senate rules. But we are going to make it very clear -- and the president has said this to his credit -- that we are going to try to have significant tax reforms.
You saw that ProPublica article yesterday. I mean the fact is that billionaires have figured out -- and by the way, the outrage is what`s legal. I mean what was outlined is what`s legal. We need comprehensive reform SALT as it relates to mega corporations who saw their revenue contributions go down something like 40 percent since the Trump tax giveaway.
And we need changes, and I`ll be proposing them shortly to end the kinds of abuses that we saw in the ProPublica article.
O`DONNELL: Senator, you`re the chairman of a committee that has been trying to a hundred years to find the right way to tax mega wealth in this country, trying to push the personal income tax rate up to 39 percent which is part of the Biden proposal. It`s been therefore.
We`ve seen what that`s capable of doing and it has, as ProPublica reported zero effect on the mega-rich, on the billionaire level of wealth, and multi-billionaire level of wealth.
Your newest Democratic member of your committee, Elizabeth Warren, has said the way to do it, the way to get at this is a wealth tax. Is there a future for the wealth tax in the Senate Finance Committee?
WYDEN: Let me tell you what there is a future for. And that is that what we saw with the past efforts -- you saw this in 1986, the ideas of a minimum tax -- it was always focused on income.
What we have seen is increasingly wealthy people don`t even take a salary. In other words, they don`t have income coming in, they have their money essentially in wealth.
And what I have said I`m going to do, and I`ll speak for myself as chairman, is I`m going to end the double standard. Today in America, you can have a nurse in Medford or taking care of COVID patients and she pays taxes or he or -- my constituent pays taxes with every single paycheck. And these billionaires, these multibillionaires end up figuring out ways with their lawyers and accountants to pay nothing.
I`m going to end that. Billionaires are going to have to pay their fair share every single year. And that is what has really changed in this debate, Lawrence. What has changed in the debate is the American people are with us on the proposition that billionaires, for example, ought to pay their fair share.
O`DONNELL: Is that going to be in the reconciliation bill?
WYDEN: I certainly -- again, I`m not going to front run my colleagues. I`m going to push this at every stage because I think what happened this week - - the American people knew that these scams were taking place. I mean they understood how billionaires could their lawyers and accountants in ways that they couldn`t.
But that stark detail is going to give us some momentum. There are a lot of people who are saying, Ron, you got to get this fixed. Now is the time. Don`t miss this opportunity.
O`DONNELL: Senator, before you go, just to get back to the infrastructure bill, you`ve taken what was a confused news landscape on this and made it a breaking news landscape that you believe what will happen now is you will move to a reconciliation process to get the infrastructure bill passed. That will include the Democratic pay-fors, the Biden pay-fors of corporate tax increase and others.
Is that a fair summary of where we are tonight on infrastructure?
WYDEN: Larry, it essentially is. Hope springs eternal. Something may happen, you know, Monday or Tuesday where people say, let`s see if we can find some common ground. But the common ground has got to involve these mega corporations paying their fair share for infrastructure they use. Republicans have said no to that.
And it`s got to involve a real commitment to climate reform. And that includes action like the historic changes that have come out in the Finance Committee.
O`DONNELL: When the chairman of the Finance Committee speaks, Washington listens. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.
WYDEN: Thanks for having me.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, former Obama national security adviser Ben Rhodes will join us with a White House and national security perspective on tonight`s breaking news about the Trump administration subpoenaing the phone records of House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff and the committee staff, and at least one child.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Attorney General Barr, has the president or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone?
WILLIAM BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: I wouldn`t -- I wouldn`t --
HARRIS: Yes or no?
BARR: Could you repeat that question?
HARRIS: I will repeat it. Has the president or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone? Yes or no, please, sir.
BARR: The president or anybody else.
HARRIS: It seems you would remember something like that and be able to tell us.
BARR: Yes, but I`m trying to grapple with the word "suggest". I mean there have been discussions of matters out there that they have not asked me to open an investigation, but --
HARRIS: Perhaps they suggested?
BARR: I don`t know. I wouldn`t say suggest.
BARR: I don`t know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Now we know why he was afraid of answering that question. Joining us now is Ben Rhodes, former deputy national security adviser to President Obama. He is an MSNBC political analyst. His great new is entitled, "After the Fall: Being American in the World We`ve Made".
Ben, we have the breaking news tonight that Attorney General Barr was pursuing an investigation of Adam Schiff clearly, obviously at Donald Trump`s urgings.
BEN RHODES, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Lawrence, I mean this is all out there in plain sight. And this is truly extraordinary. I mean, asking for the Justice Department to acquire metadata, basically the phone records, the communication records of staffers and their families?
I mean, you mention my book, Lawrence. I mean I wish that a book about the decline of democracy around the world didn`t always have proof points in the news. But this is pure thuggery here where they`re in the most partisan way, abusing the powers of the government that are supposed to be separated from political agendas, political revenge, and trying to weaponize them against their enemies, you know, that`s the definition of the kind of undemocratic behavior that America is supposed to stand against, not become.
O`DONNELL: Ben, I was thinking of you and your book title tonight when this news broke, because the title, "After the Fall", and of course you finished writing it sometime ago to have it published now.
You, it seems, are going to continue to be discovering the way we all are that we actually fell even farther than we thought with these kinds of news stories that we have tonight.
RHODES: Yes. I mean, Lawrence, a few things occurred to me. I mean look, I read about this episode where I was spied on by a private intelligence firm, Blackview (ph) former Mossad operatives, the same people that went after Harvey Weinstein`s accusers. And in the reports, it suggested that Trump associates had something to do with that. I never learned what actually happened to that.
I think we`re going to learn, if people pull the thread, as they should, and I hope that the Justice Department -- hope that the executive branch and Congress make a concerted effort to get to the bottom of what happened here.
Clearly, Republicans don`t want to do that. They wouldn`t even support a January 6th commission. But we need to know the scale of the abuse of our government over the last four years. And this matters to the health of our own democracy, the accountability that there needs to be, but also alerting the public to the danger, because each election, there`s the risk that this same crowd of people could be right back there.
And it impacts what we`re doing abroad too, Lawrence, and in the book, I talked to Alexei Navalny who`s currently imprisoned in Russia by Vladimir Putin, and what he said to me was, look, my whole life I`ve been making this argument that in a democracy, the better person can get to the top.
And now, at the top, there`s someone corrupted. He`s talking about Trump, obviously. That is the stain on America and our reputation. And to cleanse that stain, we need to show that we understand just how severe this was.
O`DONNELL: What do you say to an administration that wants to move forward with its new agenda and doesn`t want to look backward at these things? Or if it doesn`t want to look backward?
RHODES: Yes, I mean they`ll obviously make these determinations, but I think it`s -- what I would say is that these things are all related. You know, Joe Biden very appropriately is out there on the world stage, clearly welcomed by foreign leaders, saying that we`re back here to defend democratic values. We`re back here to be kind of the backbone of the free world again. Because right now, it`s under siege from China and Russia and others.
But to do that, we have to show that we`re getting our own democracy in order. That`s the most powerful foundation of American leadership in the world. So, I think looking back is essential to moving forward, knowing that we`re not going to fall back into where we`ve been, the dark places of the last few years.
O`DONNELL: Ben Rhodes` new book has rave reviews from Rachel Maddow and President Obama. It is called, "After the Fall: Being American in the world We`ve Made".
Ben, thank you for joining us once again tonight. We really appreciate it.
RHODES: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: We`ll be right back.
O`DONNELL: The Manhattan district attorney has Donald Trump`s tax returns tonight because of an opinion written by Judge Robert Katzmann (ph) in 2019 which was affirmed by the United States Supreme Court. Judge Robert Katzmann wrote these words which will live in history. "We are not faced in this case with the president`s arrest or imprisonment or with an order compelling him to attend court at a particular time or place or indeed with an order that compels the president himself to do anything. The subpoena at issue is directed not at the president but to his accountants. Compliance does not require the president to do anything at all."
Donald Trump`s lawyers could not crack Judge Katzmann`s solid legal reasoning that the president of the United States could not block that subpoena for his tax returns. Toward the end of his 24 years in the Senate, New York`s Daniel Patrick Moynihan convinced President Bill Clinton to appoint Robert Katzmann to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York City in 1999.
Judge Katzmann was approved unanimously by the Senate and was administered the oath of office by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Six years earlier, Senator Moynihan gave Bob Katzmann the job of guiding Ruth Bader Ginsburg through the Senate confirmation process. Justice Ginsburg said, when President Clinton nominated me, Senator Moynihan thought it would be useful for me to have a savvy, sympathique counselor as I made my way from one senator`s office to another`s. Bob Katzmann was that counselor.
Last night the court announced that Bob Katzmann died yesterday after a long illness. Today, the Attorney General of the United States said, "We lost a giant yesterday with the passing of Judge Robert Katzmann, humble and modest in demeanor, he leaves behind a legion of family, friends, and colleagues who will feel his loss because he enriched our lives through our relationship to him. But that number pales in comparison to the lives he touched through his work, people who will never know the name of the man who helped make their lives better.
Attorney General Garland spoke for all of us who were lucky enough to know Bob Katzmann and call him a friend when the attorney general said, "Bob was my friend. I saw firsthand his decency, compassion and humility. His wife Jennifer, his mother Sylvia and brothers and sister -- Gary, Martin and Susan -- have my deepest sympathy. He will be sorely missed.
Judge Robert Katzmann was 68 years old.