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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 1/19/22

Guests: Linda Greenhouse, Amy Klobuchar, Susanne Craig


The Supreme Court won`t block release of Trump documents to January 6 Committee. Interview with Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. The New York attorney general`s office saying for the first time that her office has uncovered significant evidence that the Trump Organization misrepresented the value of its assets to boost its bottom line; the A.G. is now asking a judge to order the former president, his children, Don Jr. and Ivanka Trump, all to sit down for questioning and hand over documents.


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

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. I`m in a weird place.

HAYES: You sound weird.

MADDOW: Thank you very much. I`ll explain.


MADDOW: All right. Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

I know this does look a little different and sound a little different than it usually does. I`m at my home studio in all of its cabiny glory.

There have been times in the past when I appeared from my home studio with no notice because something was desperately wrong. This is not one of those times. Nothing is -- nothing is really wrong. There`s nothing serious going on. We`ve just been beset with technical gremlins a little bit. Something about the internet not working in an ice storm-ish days ago.

I don`t know. It`s technical gremlins. This has always been our back-up plan in case the studio goes kaput. Tonight, the studio went kaput, so here we are.

Again, nothing to worry about other than the fact that when I managed the lighting myself, my head looks like Richard Nixon dressing up like the great pumpkin. Aside from that, we`re basically all systems go. So, here we go, forgive me.

As you know, President Biden held a big press conference today on the occasion of the start of his second year in office. He took reporters` questions for a couple of hours almost, which is almost twice the lengths of the longest press conference he had done before this one.

At his press conference today, he warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that he will regret the consequences if Russia does in fact launch another war against Ukraine. But provocatively, President Biden also says that he thinks Putin will try it in Ukraine which of course caused headlines around the world. The president saying again, Putin will regret it if he does it, but if he had to guess, he thinks that Putin will.

President Biden said today he is not giving up on voting rights. He said it was unthinkable effectively that zero Republicans support voting rights anymore, something that at least until recently had been a fairly bipartisan thing. He said what Republicans are trying to do with election subversion efforts, he said that absolutely poses a risk of delegitimizing future elections and on purpose.

Interestingly, he also said this about the recent reporting on Republicans in multiple states forging fake certificates of electors trying to get them counted in the Electoral College. This is something we`ve been reporting on a lot recently. The president referred to it today in his press conference.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I never thought we`d get into a place where we were talking about being able actually what they tried to do this last time out send different electors to the state legislative bodies to represent who won the election, saying that I didn`t win but Republican candidate won. I doubt if anybody thought that would ever happen in America, in the 21st century, but it`s happening.


MADDOW: But it`s happening. President Biden today saying in effect, nobody would have believed they would try to do this stuff like this to our elections, sending in fake slates of electors from multiple states, to try to cast votes in the Electoral College for the losing candidate, says it`s essentially unimaginable that they would even try this. But, hey, as unimaginable as it might have been even very recently, that is what they tried and that is therefore where we are.

The Senate debate on voting rights has been frenetic today, including this sort of interesting decision, interesting spectacle in which Democratic Senator Joe Manchin who is one of two conservative Democratic senators who`s actually blocking the voting rights bill with Republicans. He got up and made his anti-voting rights speech in the Senate today while President Biden was giving his press conference. I`m sure that timing was purely coincidental, I don`t know.

We`re going to check in live with the United States Senate and their progress tonight in just a moment. But we actually had to make a late adjustment to the show in addition to having me broadcast from home, because when it rains it pours. And tonight, we did just get a big cannonball of news from the United States Supreme Court. An eight to one ruling against former President Donald Trump in his efforts to try to prevent the January 6th investigation from accessing documents from his time in office, an eight to one ruling from the Supreme Court.

Only Justice Clarence Thomas would have sided with Trump.


The other eight justices, including all three of the very conservative justices that Trump appointed to the court, they all came down against him on this and you know, on its face, this is a pretty straightforward thing. I don`t want you to trust me entirely on this. We`re going to get expert help on this from someone in just a moment. You absolutely can trust.

But as far as I can see, the basic through line here is pretty straightforward. Again, I -- I will happily stand corrected if I`m oversimplifying this, but as I understand it, basically started this past summer, August last year, the January 6th investigators started to make not enormous but pretty wide pretty significant requests for documents from the Trump White House, not millions of documents but hundreds of pages, potentially thousands of pages.

We know from court filings that the documents they wanted to see included things like draft speeches and talking points for communicating to the public about the election. One of their requested documents that always seemed particularly worrying to me was this one, quote, a draft executive order concerning election integrity. Trump drafted some kind of executive order on election integrity? Really?

Also this one, quote, a document containing presidential findings concerning the security of the 2020 election after it occurred and ordering various actions. I have no idea what that means, ordering various actions? But I would love to see it, or actually, more accurately, I would love for the January 6th investigators to see it.

So, we do have these -- in some cases, fairly specific descriptions from court filings that`s the kinds of documents the January investigators have been seeking from the Trump White House. Former President Trump, you know, what happened next, he invoked the concept of executive privilege. He said these documents the committee was looking for should not be handed over to them.

That said, he`s no longer the sitting. President Biden is. That`s -- it`s only the sitting president who gets to wield that privilege when it`s appropriate to do so. The Biden White House did their own review of the requested documents, and they said no, this stuff isn`t privileged. It can be handed over to the January 6 investigators.

It was then that Trump sued. In October of last year, he sued to stop the documents from being given to the investigation. And on a timeline that was remarkably quick moving for the modern federal court system, a federal court judge in Washington, he sued in October. In November, the first federal court judge ruled against him in that case, ruled that the documents could be given to the investigators.

Again, he sued in October, that judge -- district court judge in D.C. ruled in November. Trump then appealed that, up to the federal D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel of judges on that appeals court, then also ruled against him unanimously. That was in December. So, again, he filed in October, first ruling against him was November, filed an appeal, the appeal came down against him in December. This is incredibly quick for the federal court system these days.

Now, Trump then had a choice after that three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals turned him down. He could have appealed en banc, which means he could have asked not just that three-judge panel but the whole D.C. appeals court to take another look, but he skipped that step and decided he would go straight to the United States Supreme Court. He appealed to the United States Supreme Court. He also filed an emergency application with them to try to get them even before they handled the substance of the matter, tried to get them to wade in to block the release of these documents to the investigation.

Well, it`s that emergency application that he put into the United States Supreme Court, that`s what we got the 8-1 "no, sir" ruling from the Supreme Court tonight.

Moments like this, one of the people I think who writes very clearly about this and quickly about these things right when they come out is Josh Gerstein at He and his colleague Kyle Cheney at tonight describe tonight`s ruling as, quote, the most significant moment yet for the January 6th select committee investigating the attack on the Capitol. I want to know why they think that. I`m no lawyer and, you know, I`ve got to tell you what we are literally talking about here is the court`s ruling on the actual name -- the title of the document, is an application for stay of mandate and injunction pending review.

Those are all words that I understand individually and alone but I do not necessarily understand them when they were all put in that order. So like I said, I think the basics here are fairly straightforward but I do have some questions for which I think we need some expert help. I have a couple of them. First question is, probably the same question that you have, is this it? Is this it?


I mean, Trump was waiting. He filed a Supreme Court appeal. He was waiting to hear from the Supreme Court about whether the January investigation is going to get ahold of the documents. He`s trying to keep secret from them.

What we just got tonight from the court is a clear eight to one no to Trump, but it`s also a ruling in response to his emergency application for a stay, right? Which is a different thing than a ruling just on his case.

So how should we understand that, particularly us non-lawyers? Maybe to lawyers, this is obvious. But to us not lawyers, does the fact that this is a ruling on that emergency application for a stay, does that mean that its impact is more limited either in terms of duration or in terms of what documents it applies to?

Bottom line is this going to be the last word from the United States Supreme Court on this issue or is there something else we`re waiting to hear from on them, something else that could conceivably go in Trump`s direction.

That I feel like is the first question we basically need advice on. Is this it?

I`ll tell you, the January 6 investigators just put out a statement tonight that says, quote, the select committee has already begun to receive records that the former president had hoped to keep hidden. They say in response in a very short amount of time, a very short amount of time having elapsed after this ruling tonight, they say they are already getting documents.

Does this mean they`re going to get them all? Does this mean they`re only going to get some selection of them? And there`s rulings yet to be made on the rest of them?

If they are going to get them all, when? How fast does this happen? Especially since it looks like it`s starting to happen tonight.

Joining us now to help sort me out on some of these issues is Linda Greenhouse. She is longtime Supreme Court reporter and analyst for "The New York Times". She`s a lecturer at Yale Law School as well. Her latest book is "Justice on the Brink: The Death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Rise of Amy Coney Barrett and 12 Months that Transformed the Supreme Court".

Linda Greenhouse, I`m always grateful you can make -- when you can make time to be here. I`m particularly grateful for you being here on short notice tonight. Thank you.


So, it is true --

MADDOW: Let me just -- yeah, please?

GREENHOUSE: So, the document has been in the custody of the archivist, the archivist the United States, who had taken the position that yes, this stuff is releasable, but I`m not going to release it until I make sure that the court`s not going to stop me. So that`s why they`re all coming out tonight. So, this is it functionally for that bunch of documents. I think it`s 700-some odd pages. There are other bunches of documents that as I understand the archivist hasn`t yet fully gone through, but, certainly, you know, the opinion that came down tonight, the unsigned opinion is just one paragraph, just one paragraph long. It could be one of the most important one paragraphs that we`ve seen in a very long time from any court.

MADDOW: And as you mentioned, this would appear to apply to about some 700-odd pages that the archivist had sort of come to the end of their office`s handling of. And so, it was just a matter of settling the privilege question and President Trump`s claims to the courts on this.

The types of claims that he has made in the courts to try to block the handing over of these documents, does this ruling settle them all? I mean, the archivist may have some other things they need to go through with the Biden administration or some other processes unrelated to the privileged claims Trump was making, but as it -- as it matters in terms of the privileged claims, this will apply to all the documents?

GREENHOUSE: Well, I think that`s a fair guess, although it`s a technical matter not yet. But what a court does when it`s asked for an emergency action like this to stay in the junction, it balances the two sides, the compelling need that the applicant is putting forward and Trump says, you know, it`s my -- it`s my right as president, have this executive privilege claim, and the compelling need on the other side.

So what the D.C. Circuit said in the opinion by Judge Patricia Millett is there`s a compelling need on the other side as shown by the fact that Congress is asking for this material and President Biden, the incumbent president, has waived any claim of executive privilege. So it was a combination. In other words, it was the entire architecture of the government -- was the House anyway and the current White House saying, yes, this is releasable.

The Supreme Court did something kind of interesting in this unsigned opinion, interpreted -- took one way of reading the D.C. circuit opinion, which was that it doesn`t really matter that Trump is the former president, not the incumbent, it doesn`t really matter that President Biden, the incumbent, has waived any kind of privilege, that no matter -- in what way, either an incumbent or a former president was making this claim of privilege, it wouldn`t hold up.


It`s not -- it`s not strong enough. It`s not good enough to overcome the compelling public need to get this material. So, the Supreme Court said, we`re not deciding whether Trump had more or less of a right as the former president. That`s not in the case. He -- we leave intact the D.C. Circuit`s finding that he didn`t have a right to get it no matter what -- what title he was cloaked in when he -- when he made the claim.

MADDOW: And, Linda, one of the other things that we have watched unfold over the past few months, a lot of people have received subpoenas from the January 6th investigation. Most people have complied, but a bunch of them have sued the January 6 committee. Some of them echoing these privileged -- privilege claims that that Trump was pursuing in the courts, that as you know, appear to have been sort of cut off at the knees by the Supreme Court unsigned ruling tonight.

Do you expect that this ruling will have sort of cascading implications for the other people who have sued the committee to try to avoid testifying or handing over documents?

GREENHOUSE: I would certainly think so. I mean, if I were any of those people, I would not be sleeping very easily tonight. Now, I suppose someone who could make a claim that, well, there was a compelling public need for the kind of documents, Rachel, that you showed on the screen earlier, but you know, I`m just a little fish and there`s nothing compelling my role in this and so, the subpoena is overbroad. It does not justify that kind of thing.

But certainly we`ve seen the courts from -- as you said, the district court, all the way up now, eight justices taking a very dim view of any kind of claim of privilege here. So I think this really will kind of turn on the faucet of being able to find out more about what happened on January 6th.

MADDOW: Wow. Linda Greenhouse, Supreme Court reporter and analyst for "The New York Times," lecturer at Yale Law School, Linda, again, I really appreciate you making the time to be here tonight on short notice, this momentous short ruling. Thanks for being here.

All right. You know, all day long yesterday and all day long today and live right now as we speak, the United States Senate has been debating Democratic legislation to establish federal protections for voting rights, and to block the subversion of election results. With Republicans unanimously opposed to that legislation, the question at hand is whether Democrats as they say would go nuclear and allow themselves to pass these voting rights protections with a simple majority vote.

And I`ll tell you, I was just looking back today at when Republicans were in the majority in the Senate and President Trump was in office. During that time, right, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell`s running the Senate, Trump is in the White House. During that time, Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans went nuclear and decided it would be a majority vote only, it would be votes only to confirm Supreme Court nominees.

Then, Mitch McConnell went nuclear another time and decided it would be a majority vote only, it would be 50 votes only needed for lower level executive branch nominees. Then he went nuclear a third time and decided he would change the filibuster rule and it would only have to be a majority vote, 50-vote threshold for federal district court judges. Even since President Biden has been president, the United States Senate has decided to go nuclear as they say to require just a majority vote, just 50 votes on a bill to fund the government last year.

They also did it. They went nuclear. They decided it would be just a majority vote, just 50 votes for a random vote that didn`t go anywhere about vaccine requirements.

I mean, we use the phrase go nuclear because it`s supposed to be the end of the world, right? Supposed to be mutually assured destruction. Turns out they go nuclear all the time. They go nuclear and decide that a 50-vote majority is enough that we can`t have a 60-vote threshold for a particular type of action in the Senate or a particular type of legislation or particular amendment, a particular vote. They do that all the time.

Now even in this Senate, even when the Republicans were in control with Trump in the White House, it happens all the time.

But Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema keep saying that this would be an unprecedented thing to do, even though that`s absolutely not true. They just keep saying they won`t do it for voting rights.


Tonight in the Senate, they`re not even voting to go nuclear, like they have on so many other issues in the recent past. Tonight, they`re voting on the narrowest possible way to do this, a rule just to require a talking filibuster, a physical effort to actually be there and speak and hold the floor for a long time if you want to filibuster voting rights specifically.

And presumably, Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema will vote against making that change too. But just in case, Vice President Kamala Harris is presiding over the Senate right now, and she is available to cast that 51st vote to pass voting rights legislation if it comes to that.

All day long, senators have gone back and forth today about voting rights and whether to change Senate rules so that there can be a 50-vote margin to protect them.

Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas at one point tried to say that Democrats were hypocrites because he read a letter from 2017 in which several Democratic senators said they supported keeping the filibuster as it is.

One of the senators who signed that letter is New Hampshire Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan who has talked here on the show a couple of times including last night about how her position on the filibuster has evolved and why. After Senator Cotton invoked her and the other Democratic senators who signed that letter, Senator Hassan actually got up for an impromptu response. This was really interesting.



SEN. MAGGIE HASSAN (D-NH): I know I was not scheduled to speak but I do want to respond as one of the signatories of the letter. I associate myself with everything that the other signatories have talked about in terms of wanting to restore the Senate`s tradition of extended debate on issues of grave importance to the American people. But let me be clear about the reason that I now support an adjustment to the long-standing rules of the Senate, and it is because I never imagined when I signed that letter that not a single member of the Republican Party would stand up for our democracy since January 6 when we saw an acceleration of state laws that would allow partisans to overturn the impartial count of an election.

But if we do not have a functioning democracy where people know that when they vote, that vote will be impartially counted and upheld, and the people who are defeated will accept defeat so that they can have an accountable elected representation in Washington, then there is no democracy.

And when I signed that letter, I never imagined that today`s Republican Party would fail to stand up for democracy.


MADDOW: New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan with impassioned remarks today in the United States Senate. I never imagined that today`s Republican Party would fail to stand up for democracy.

When President Biden was giving his press conference this afternoon, as I mentioned earlier, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin chose that moment to get up on the Senate floor to defend his decision to block voting rights with Republicans and interestingly, he gave that speech in front of a big sign that he and his staff made that said the United States Senate has never been able to end debate with a simple majority, implying that what Democrats are trying to do in terms of having a majority vote on voting rights is implying -- stating there that is completely unheard of. This kind of thing has never been done before.

That is deeply, deeply wrong, deeply ahistorical and wrong. It`s just not true.

But don`t take it for me. Here was Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota speaking in part in response.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): There are 160 exceptions, 160 exceptions to the filibuster rule. Things have been changed to benefit my colleagues from the other side of the aisle. Somehow, it only takes 51 votes to put in place the Trump tax cuts or the Bush tax cuts. Somehow, it only took votes to put Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court of the United States, a change by them, made by them. Somehow it only takes votes to try to overturn a regulation or try to mess around with the Affordable Care Act.

But then, when it comes to something like voting rights, suddenly, everyone on the other side of the aisle is hugging that filibuster tight, knowing that so many times in history, including most recently with a debt ceiling, changes have been made to allow a vote with less than 60 votes. The National Gas Policy Act in 1977, in 1995, the Endangered Species Act, in 1996, a change to the reconciliation process, 160 times.

I think by voting this down, by not allowing us to even debate this to get to the conclusion of a vote, that is silencing the people of America, all in the name of an archaic Senate rule that isn`t even in the constitution that`s just wrong. I yield the floor.


MADDOW: All in the name of an archaic Senate rule that isn`t even in the Constitution.

Joining us now live is the senior senator from the great state of Minnesota, Senator Amy Klobuchar.

Senator, I know you are in the thick of it. Thank you for joining us tonight. Thanks for taking a moment tonight --

KLOBUCHAR: Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW: -- to give us your perspective.

Tell us about what has happened today and into tonight.

KLOBUCHAR: First of all, I love that you played that clip of Maggie Hassan. I love Maggie Hassan, I just want to say that. She stood up strong and made the case like no one ever could.

Secondly, what`s happened tonight is we had a first vote that just occurred to get on the bill and both Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema who are co- sponsors of the bill that we work with them on all summer, the Freedom to Vote Act, that I`ve been leading and they did vote for that because they do support the bill. I think that`s important for people to know.

But now is going to be the second vote and that is where the argument really pivots because to me, if you`re serious about voting rights and you so well-pointed out, Rachel, how many times there`s been exceptions and I know 160 times we`ve changed the process. I could even add to that compensation for victims of space accidents, that we changed the numbers for.


KLOBUCHAR: You can go through history and it`s replete with examples. But why? Because senators wanted to get things done, because they came to Washington to do things and when they saw an obstacle in their path still allowing the filibuster to stay in place they made practical changes to get things done -- sometimes on small things but sometimes on really, really big things, like Supreme Court justices, which Mitch McConnell did, like the Bush and Trump tax cuts, the Trump tax cuts the recent ones for the wealthy, all on 51-vote margins.

MADDOW: Senator Klobuchar, you have been uh telling this history in various ways throughout the debate and particularly as the debate has become more and more heated and more and more focused on this point. I find myself frustrated by the assertions from Senator Manchin and from Senator Sinema that it would be unprecedented, that it`s never been done before, that there`s nothing in history that suggests that you could have a 50-vote -- a 50-vote threshold for voting on a bill like this, like it would be something that was -- would -- you need to be able to move mountains.

I wonder if you had any perspective on that. I mean, clearly, you know the history, clearly, Senator Manchin today put up, didn`t just say it, he put up a board on the floor of the Senate, giving an ahistorical untrue statement about these things. I just I wonder how are you -- how you and your colleagues are handling that?

KLOBUCHAR: We keep making the case. I think we`re pretty sure how this is going to end tonight. But what`s been important for me is that we have every other senator on board. And you know, your viewers should know, we have an election coming up, and neither of those two are up, but there are strong possibilities for taking over Senate seats across the country. If we get to 52, that`s a whole different ballgame when it comes to the Senate rules and getting this done.

Your viewers should know that we have a Justice Department filled with people like Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke who are committed to enforcing the Voting Rights Act and the bills that are right now on the books. We are going to be mobilizing in state legislatures across the country. We`re going to be working to fund elections something that we can do with mail-in ballots and the like.

So there`s so much work that we can do, including fixing the Electoral College. But none of it -- I want to make clear, Rachel, why I work so hard on this year -- none of it will be a replacement for the Freedom to Vote Act, because I would have finally put the standards into law, because everyone knows what`s happening here. You know, get rid of same-day registration in Montana, that counts. Like 8,000 people use that in the last election, been in place 15 years. Get rid of registration during the last month, the runoff period in Georgia, 70,000 people registered that time. Those things were put into law with what one court described as another voting rights suppression law as surgical precision.

We`re going to continue to see that and I will not give up this fight.

MADDOW: Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, busy night for you and your colleagues, thank you for helping us understand it.


I know you`re still in the middle of this and other things.

KLOBUCHAR: Rachel, Dr. Martin Luther King once said that disappointment is finite, but hope is infinite. Let`s not forget that.

MADDOW: No, I couldn`t say it better and I have nothing to say in response. Thank you, Senator. Good luck tonight.

KLOBUCHAR: OK, thank you.

MADDOW: Thank you.

All right. We got much more to get to here on this busy night again. I apologize for the set here looking a little different than it usually does, it`s because it`s not a set. It`s my house.

It`s just technical gremlins. There`s nothing to worry about. There`s nothing weird going on other than technical gremlins.

But we got a full show tonight. Lots of stuff going on, late breaking Supreme Court ruling, huge ruling or huge filing overnight in the Trump family business case that`s being pursued as a civil matter in New York state. There`s lots going on. Big show, still lots to come, stay with us.


MADDOW: Get a quote here.


With respect to Mr. Trump`s triplex apartment in Trump Tower, the Office of the Attorney General has discovered that the valuations of this asset as incorporated into his statements of financial condition since at least 2012 were based on the assertion that the triplex apartment was 30,000 square feet in size, 30,000. The actual size of Trump`s triplex apartment was only 10,996 square feet.

He lied about the actual square footage of his hands -- I mean, his apartment, and not a little bit. Not like he added an extra room, he said it was three times as big as it actually was. And if you`re thinking, oh, maybe, you know, maybe he wasn`t lying, maybe he was just mistaken, how many square feet is my apartment, I don`t know.

In this case, quote, documents demonstrating that the actual size of Mr. Trump`s triplex apartment was only 10,996 square feet were easily accessible inside the Trump Organization and were signed by Mr. Trump.

But the square footage is just the start. There`s also this, quote: The supporting data for Trump`s 2015 financial statement reported the value of his triplex apartment as $327 million. This assertion was repeated in the supporting data for Trump`s financial statement.

The valuation of Trump`s triplex in the 2015 and 2016 financial statements were overstated almost by a factor of three as the Trump Organization`s CFO Allen Weisselberg conceded in his testimony to the attorney general`s office. Mr. Weisselberg admitted that the evaluation of Trump`s personal apartment amounted to an overstatement of, quote, give or take, $200 million.

Give or take, the error there, the overstatement was, give or take, $200 million. And just for context here, as of last year, the most expensive apartment on the market, not just in New York City but in the entire nation, the most expensive apartment in the country was $169 million. Trump said his apartment was worth almost double that.

Year after year, in official financial statements, he said his apartment was worth nearly twice as much as the most expensive apartment in the country, and he said it was three times larger than it actually was, which is wild and flagrant and almost impressively dishonest, and it does make you think back to him bragging about his hand size at the debate. I mean, it`s just too on the nose, right?

But according to the New York attorney general, it`s not just an interesting like personality pathology. It was part of a pattern of behavior by Donald Trump and his company that was potentially illegal.

Quote: Since moving to compel the testimony of Donald Trump`s son Eric Trump in August 2020, the office of the attorney general has collected significant additional evidence indicating that the Trump Organization used fraudulent or misleading asset valuations to obtain a host of economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage and tax deductions.

New York Attorney General Letitia James has been investigating these potentially fraudulent practices for nearly three years. She`s laying it out there -- bank fraud, insurance fraud, tax fraud.

Now, there is a parallel criminal investigation that`s being run by state prosecutors in the Manhattan D.A.`s office, but this investigation by Attorney General Tish James, this is a civil investigation. That means if she finds illegal activity, she can bring a lawsuit against the Trump Organization, which is a kind of a bigger deal than it might seem on the surface.

Similar lawsuits from the New York attorney general`s office, after all, have succeeded in shutting down Trump`s scam university, also his scam charity. Now, they`ve apparently got their sights on his family business.

Tish James says in these new filings that her office has not yet determined whether they will take legal action against the Trump Organization, but their investigation would appear to be nearing its end because, you know, they`re kind of going after the big fish, if you will. The reason we got this filing late last night is that they`re asking a court to compel testimony from Donald Trump himself and from his son Don Jr. and his daughter Ivanka, who, of course, were both intimately involved in running the family business.

In these latest filings, the attorney general lays out the most detailed allegations we have yet seen about the potentially fraudulent activity at the Trump family business that the A.G. is investigating and you can I think see it most easily if you don`t try to look at the patterns more broadly but instead you just like look at one property. Just as an example, the Trump family business owns an estate north of New York City in Westchester County at a place called Seven Springs.

Well, follow the bouncing ball here. Watch the money associated with Seven Springs. In 2004, Trump said it was worth $80 million. Three years later, he said it was worth not $80 million, but $200 million. A few years after that, it wasn`t worth $280 million anymore. It was worth $291 million.

What`s happening there? Some enormous flock of geese has moved into the pond and is laying golden eggs by the millions. Where are all these extra millions coming from?

Then they brought in an actual professional appraiser to value the property, and wouldn`t you know it, the professional appraiser said the property was worth a maximum of $50 million.

I thought it was $281 million. Even after that, the Trump Organization insisted in its official financial statements that the property was worth $291 million. How did they come to that valuation? The basis of that valuation per the records was, quote, a telephone conversation with Eric Trump.

That was the basis for the Trump Organization`s assertion that it was worth $291 million despite an appraisal that said it was worth 50 max. How`d they get to 291? They asked Eric and Eric said it was definitely worth $291 million, and that -- you know, how can you argue with that? Seems legit.

The New York Attorney General`s office writes, quote, asked to explain various aspects of the 2012 and 2013 valuations, Eric Trump repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege. In fact, according to the attorney general, Eric Trump pled the Fifth more than 500 times during his testimony to the attorney general`s office.

And crucially, the attorney general alleges that all of this asset inflation was not just like bragging rights and puffery and hand-sized stuff. She says the Trump Organization in some cases was using this kind of information to actively lie to banks or insurance companies about like where these valuations were coming from, for the purpose of doing business with those banks and insurance companies. Quote, representations to an insurance company that the valuations listed in Trump`s personal financial statements were prepared annually by professional appraisal firms.

Those representations were false. The valuations were prepared in fact by Trump organization staff, contrary to what the insurance company was expressly told and believed.

So, it`s one thing to make up fantastical valuations for your properties, it`s another thing to go to an insurance company. In order to do business with that insurance company, on the basis of those fantastical assertions of the value of these properties, and then to tell those insurance companies and you know, by the way, that appraisal came from the pros, that`s a professionally done thing, when in fact it was not. When in fact it was like a call to Eric or somebody else working in the Trump Organization apparently making these things up.

Tish James also alleges that Donald Trump and his company may have lied to the IRS. He got tax deductions worth millions of dollars on the Seven Springs estate. Those deductions appear to have been based on a wildly inflated valuation based in part on what the Trump Organization asserted were seven mansions on the property, but those are mansions that did not exist.

And all -- that`s just one example. That`s just one Trump property. That`s all the Seven Springs place in Westchester.

The attorney general has filed over 150 pages with the court as of last night, covering many, many properties, many of which have other stories like this one.

But again, there`s no charges in those pages. This is still just an investigation. Is it going to lead to charges? Is it going to lead to the kind of civil suit that could take down the Trump family business? What kind of allegations in these kinds of filings? What kind of legal case do allegations like these add up to?

I have just the person to ask about all this and she joins us next. Stay with us.



MADDOW: In late night legal filings last night, New York Attorney General Letitia James asserted that an on going civil investigation into President Trump`s business has uncovered evidence that the Trump Organization, quote, used fraudulent or misleading asset valuations to obtain a host of economic benefits, including loans, insurance and tax deductions.

My next guest has been covering Donald Trump`s finances since 2015. She was part of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team at "The New York Times" that obtained decades of Trump`s tax documents and then brilliantly translated them for public understanding.

Joining us now is Susanne Craig, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigator reporter of "The Times".

Susanne, thank you for being with us on this story. I appreciate your time.

SUSANNE CRAIG, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: Did you learn anything in the filings that you did not know or that you didn`t anticipate from what you and your colleagues already turned up at "The Times"?

CRAIG: Well, I was intrigued by one of the legal arguments that surfaced in the documents, which is these cases are difficult because people like Donald Trump and others often say when they`re in the situation I relied on the advice of experts I hire, accountants I hire, lawyers, and I rely on their advice. And often that can help navigate or a good shield against these sort of charges.

And last night we saw, I think, an avenue that the attorney general is going to be going down, which is she said, and I`ll just read from it. She said they misstated the purported involvement of outside professionals in reaching valuations. What she`s saying is they were much more involved in setting these valuations than we may have thought and I think she`s going to use that to say that they have some liability potentially here. And that it wasn`t that, they were just phoning the lawyer the accountants. They were very involved in some of the valuations that ended up in banks and insurance companies and elsewhere that could get them in hot water.

MADDOW: That`s interesting because it occurred to me that making the misrepresentations to a bank or insurance company or -- would have itself been a problem in terms of your duty to be honest to those types of institutions when you`re trying to get money out of them.


But out of them, but it would also, as you say, undercut any claim they made that they were counting on professional advice in order to come up with these numbers.

CRAIG: We don`t know right now. Both could be true. You know, it depends on the evidence that`s brought forward. It`s one thing for Donald Trump to sign off on a document and say okay on a post-it note that this is great. And it`s another thing for them to have been heavily involved.

But it seems like they`re building toward a case that would say they were heavily involved and were sort of the direct link to, you know, Donald Trump`s forwarding information to a bank or, you know, Allen Weisselberg, former CFO, who was the CFO for decades. You know, they were deeply involved in discussions on this and in contact with these financial institutions. And that`s the contact that could get them in trouble, is potentially filing false information to financial institutions.

MADDOW: In terms of the documents and like you mentioned post-it notes, one of the things that surprised me is that there`s this reference to a filing cabinet. We know that Trump famously doesn`t use a computer, doesn`t use e-mail, doesn`t put his thoughts in a replicable format like that, in a way that investigators would I`m sure like to see.

But there`s some sort of filing cabinet with his papers and correspondence that the attorney general appears to know about. Does that strike you as important?

CRAIG: Yeah, no, I`m not a lawyer, but I would think that would be one. First things I would want to look at if I was an investigator. Apparently, there`s a filing cabinet that everything`s chronological and they`ve kept all of Mr. Trump`s post-it notes and handwritten notes for years, correspondence to employees.

We don`t know what`s in there. I`ll volunteer if they need a middle man to go look. Wow, I`d really like to see that. And that could go to what we`re talking about.

Millions of documents have been turned over already according to the filings, but this filing cabinet still is one of the things that there`s still a lot of tension over and they haven`t seen it yet. There`s other documents as well. This one in particular was just like I`d love to see it. I`m sure the investigators would.

MADDOW: Susanne Craig, investigative reporter for the "New York Times" -- Susanne, I really appreciate you making time to be here tonight. This is fascinating new step here.

CRAIG: Thank you. Yeah, it is.

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



MADDOW: So heads up tonight. And this is a story where we really don`t know what`s happening yet. But something is.

This afternoon, news outlets in Texas started reporting that FBI agents have been seen near the home of a congressman, Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar, in Laredo, Texas.

Now, Cuellar is a conservative Democrat. He often makes headlines for sort of bucking his party. He was Texas secretary of state before he was first elected to Congress in 2004.

But as for why the FBI was at his home today or outside his home today, we don`t know. The FBI is saying only this is a "court-authorized ongoing investigation" and they will not "provide any further comments." Congressman Cuellar`s office released a statement had evening just saying that the congressman will fully cooperate in any investigation.

But nobody knows what investigation this is. He was not known to be under investigation for anything. This is all very new and quite mysterious. But clearly something`s going on.

We`ll keep an eye on this story tonight as it continues to unfold. Watch this space.


MADDOW: All right. That`s going to do it for us tonight, for this show that we have unexpectedly had to shoot from my house because we had -- again, we had technical gremlins. Nothing weirder than that is going on. This is always the backup plan if something goes weird at the studio. Something went weird. We just had technical trouble. So this is where I`ve been.

Any rumor that Susanne Craig was in a different room in my house is totally not at all true. I know it looked like we were in adjoining cabins. It just happens to be a similar aesthetic, and that was weird. So, enough.

All right. That`s going to do it for me for now. I will see you again tomorrow with what will probably look like a more normal backdrop.


Good evening, Lawrence.