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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 2/22/2021

Guest: Susanne Craig, Dan Alonso


The Supreme Court declines to block a New York grand jury from

obtaining Donald Trump`s tax returns. New York prosecutor`s investigation

of Trump escalates. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin announced that he won`t

vote to confirm Neera Tanden. Tomorrow is going to be a big news day

particularly in Washington, second day of confirmation hearings for

Attorney General Merrick Garland.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: We`re working hard to commemorate this in an

appropriate way as we come up on a year of this pandemic.

That is ALL IN on this Monday night.

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

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


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

Tonight, just after 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time, President Biden and the first

lady and the vice president and her husband led a long just devastatingly

sad moment of silence from the South Portico of the White House to honor

the half million Americans who have now died from COVID-19. It has only

been a year, and already, we have lost this year more than all the

Americans who died on the battlefield in World War I, and World War II, and

the Vietnam War, combined.

More Americans that are buried at all of Arlington Cemetery, all gone in

one year, all from this one contagion, this botched, terribly mishandled


Before the moment of silence and the candle lighting at the portico,

President Biden gave what basically amounted to a national eulogy for all

of those lost. He addressed the bulk of his remarks to Americans who

personally have lost someone they loved to COVID, bringing to bear what`s

become sort of his emotional trademark in his political life, his empathy

for people who are hurting.



described as ordinary Americans. There`s no such thing. There`s nothing

ordinary about them.

The people we lost were extraordinary. They spanned generations, born in

America, immigrated to America. But just like that, so many of them took

their final breath alone in America.

As a nation, we can`t accept such a cruel fate. While we`re fighting this

pandemic for so long, we have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow. We

have to resist viewing each life as a statistic or a blur or on the news.

We must do so to honor the dead, but equally important, care for the

living, those left behind.

For the loved ones left behind, I know all too well. I know what it`s like

to not be there when it happens. I know what it`s like when you are there,

holding their hands, as you look in their eye, they slip away.

That black hole in your chest, you feel like you`re being sucked into it.

The survivor`s remorse. The anger. The questions of faith in your soul.

For some of you, it`s been a year, a month, a week, a day, even an hour.

And I know that when you stare at the empty chair around the kitchen table,

it brings it all back no matter how long ago it happened, as if it just

happened that moment when you look at that empty chair.


MADDOW: Looking at that empty chair. President Biden tonight marking

500,000 American lives lost to COVID-19.

But let`s put up these new graphs as of today from the COVID tracking

project. Look, there is good news now, new cases now continuing to steadily

drop since mid-January. Cases have been steadily dropping and new

hospitalizations have been steadily dropping, too.

We are still at a hospitalization number that matches the worst of the

spring surge and the surge in the summer. See how our low point now is

still as high as those high points ever got from earlier in the year? But

at least it is heading down and deaths are heading down, too, but not fast

enough. Even now we are still losing nearly 2,000 Americans every single


And nobody knows yet whether the decline in new cases and new

hospitalizations and deaths are attributable to Americans finally starting

to get vaccinated in considerable numbers.

Dr. David Kessler, top science advisor to the Biden administration`s COVID

response, told us on this show last week that it is just too early to

separate out any potential vaccine effect as the cause of these recent

improvements that we have seen over the past month. But on average, about a

million and a half Americans are getting the vaccine every single day now.

That, of course, is coming too late for the half million Americans who have

already been killed and for their families and the people who love them.

Frankly, the vaccinations that are happening now are coming too late for

the 60,000-plus Americans who just got diagnosed with COVID today. We`re

still over 60,000 new vaccinations -- excuse me, 60,000 new infections a

day, even coming down from that massive peak.

All right. The vaccination effort moved too slowly to prevent 60,000-plus

Americans from getting infected now. But at least after all of this loss

and failure, at least we are finally headed in the right direction,


And, you know, it is probably time to start thinking of what we are ever

going to be able to do for our nurses and doctors and hospital staff and

EMTs and nursing home workers, all of the frontline health care staff who

we have just put through hell this past year. Forgive me. I mean we are

still asking more of them than is humanly possible.

We will be for months yet, as long as 50,000 and 60,000 Americans are still

getting newly infected every day. It will still be that we are asking them

to do the impossible as long as our numbers stay that high. But we are the

country that has had more deaths from COVID-19 and more sickness from

COVID-19 than any other country on Earth, and the people who have had to

care for us all through it all, the health care workers, are going to need

some kind of thank you, some kind of respite at least when this is all

done. They have had to do things that are unimaginable, and for such a long

time, for a running sprint of a year.

I don`t know what we should do on that front, but we really have asked the

unimaginable of our nurses and doctors and health care staff. We are going

to have to turn our minds eventually, and I think soon, to how we do right

by them, to how we convey our thanks.

In the midst of the pandemic, at 500,000 dead now, President Biden`s

nominee to be health secretary in the United States will get his

confirmation hearing, finally, tomorrow, more than a month after Biden was

sworn in. Republican senators are already lining up to say how they don`t

want President Biden`s nominee, Xavier Becerra, to be confirmed as the

health secretary, but it is likely he will be confirmed.

There will also be nomination hearings this week for Deb Haaland for

interior secretary. She will be the first Native American cabinet secretary

in U.S. history if she is confirmed. Republican senators, though, are

absolutely opposed to her too. While we`re running down all the people of

color that Republicans object to as Biden cabinet nominees, we should also

note his nominee to lead the office of management and budget, Neera Tanden,

is also on the big bubble right now in terms of her nomination because of

not just Republican opposition to her nomination, but at least one

conservative Democrat, Joe Manchin, has decided he doesn`t like her and

won`t vote for her.

Senator Manchin, I should say, has apparently invented a whole new standard

for Neera Tanden that he never applied to other nominees that he voted for,

which has put her nomination at risk. We will have more on that in a few

minutes tonight.

But in addition to Becerra and Haaland and Tanden, there will be hearing

this week for the nominee to be CIA director, William Burns, and Vivek

Murthy to be surgeon general.

Today, of course, was first of two days of confirmation hearings for

Merrick Garland, President Biden`s nominee to be attorney general. Judge

Garland was President Obama`s nominee for a Supreme Court vacancy but

Republicans in the U.S. Senate decided they would hold that Supreme Court

seat open for more than a year so a Republican president could fill it

instead of even considering Judge Garland when he was nominated. Republican

senators are still pretending like that was some sort of normal move. It

absolutely was not.

But Merrick Garland himself apparently does not hold a grudge. I do. I

think a lot of people do. I think holding a Supreme Court seat open for

more than a year when you later prove once a Republican president was in

there that you could fill it in about five minutes if you wanted to, I

don`t think that`s normal. I kind of have a grudge about that.

Merrick Garland apparently does not -- which means he is a better person

than I am on that scale and many others. But in a sort of twist of fate,

the news gods gave us a confluence of events today that you`ve got to feel

like they`ve been cooking up for some time with a little bit of a smirk

perhaps, because while Judge Garland was having his confirmation hearing

today, not for the Supreme Court because Republicans held a seat open for a

year instead of allowing him to be considered for that, today while he was

not being considered for the Supreme Court but instead was considered to

lead the U.S. Justice Department, it actually was the Supreme Court that

made news big enough to justify news organizations breaking into the

confirmation hearings for the next attorney general of the United States.

And the news was, in fact, big enough to justify that. As "The New York

Times" put it in their coverage of the story today, quote, the Supreme

Court`s order set in motion a series of events that could lead to the

startling possibility of a criminal trial of a former U.S. president.

The former U.S. president in question soon affirmed that when he released a

rambling and even for him almost hysterical statement in response to the

Supreme Court ruling, saying, quote, the people of our country won`t stand

for it. He called the ruling of the court, quote, fascism. He was rambling

about the court -- excuse me, rambling about what he called, quote, all the

election crimes that were committed against me.

Really? Election crimes committed against you?

He said in his statement that he won the last election and, therefore, Joe

Biden isn`t even really the president. I don`t know why that claim is at

all relevant to the Supreme Court ruling that he is freaking out about

here, but it seems clear that that`s what he`s going to say from here on

out whenever he freaks out about anything. That`s going to kind of his go-


This isn`t happening. I`m still secretly the president in my mind. This

can`t all be true.

The Supreme Court`s ruling today was issued in a short, unsigned opinion

with no noted diss certificated, was that no one, not even a man who

believes in his heart of hearts that the earth is flat or that Donald Trump

was reelected, no one is immune from investigation if prosecutors believe

they have committed crimes and they have a legal predicate to move forward

with such an investigation. No one is above the law.

In August 2019, it was state prosecutors in New York who sent a subpoena

for Trump`s financial and tax records to the accounting firm used by the

president and his business, and President Trump pulled out all of the stops

to try to block the subpoena from ever being effectuated.

He sued to stop the firm from complying with the subpoena. That case went

to the United States Supreme Court twice. He lost both times at the Supreme

Court. He also lost at every lower court the case was heard in as well. His

legal avenues are now well and truly exhausted.

The accounting firm is now going to hand over the data. Multiple news

reports tonight describing their expected production to prosecutors as

millions of pages of tax returns and financial documents. Millions of

pages, terabytes full of data. Prosecutors will reportedly collect this


"The New York Times" says this week from the accounting firm`s lawyers in

Westchester county, New York. Prosecutors will get access to those millions

of pages and then get to work examining them and determining if they prove

a crime.

Prosecutor already retained a large outside consulting firm that

specializes in crunching this kind of data. The prosecutors` office has

also brought in a heavy-hitting outside counsel who is a former chief of

the criminal division and chief of the appellate division at SDNY. He is a

lawyer with a long history in white collar crime prosecution and defense


The investigation that led to this point started with the investigation

into payments made during the 2016 campaign, payments to two women designed

to keep them from talking publicly about their alleged affairs with

candidate Trump. Those payments were made to benefit the campaign of

candidate Trump, and they were designated and prosecuted as campaign

finance felonies by prosecutors in SDNY. The president`s lawyer, Michael

Cohen, who facilitated those payments, he went to prison for those


But those payments that Mr. Cohen made to those women to benefit the

president`s campaign, those payments were reimbursed by the president`s

business. Reimbursed in a way that was apparently designed to look as if

they were payments to Michael Cohen for legal services. That is not what

they were, but that is how they were processed through the Trump

organization`s financial systems.

Now, depending on how exactly that was done, that cover-up could be a crime

related to keeping fraudulent business records. If those fake legal

expenses reimbursed to Michael Cohen were ultimately deducted in the Trump

organization`s taxes, that could also be tax fraud. Michael Cohen, of

course, then testified to Congress and provided documentation attesting to

what he described as a long-running scheme by the former president and his

business to defraud insurance companies and banks and tax authorities. He

described a scheme in which the president and his business radically

changed the valuation of various properties depending on who was asking.

They basically kept two sets of books in Michael Cohen`s telling. When it

came time to pay taxes on a property, Trump would call the property

basically worthless. But when it came time to use that property as

collateral to get, like, a loan from a bank or something, well, then,

suddenly that same property would be worth the sun, the moon and the stars,

which is a cute way to do it. Also, it is potential tax fraud, bank fraud

and insurance fraud.

But then came September 2020. It feels like it was 30 years ago. It was

like several months ago. It is only February now. This was only September

when it happened. It feels like a million years ago.

September 2020, in the pages of "The New York Times", we came to learn in

very dramatic fashion why exactly President Trump had been working so hard

on keeping his tax and financial records hidden, why he was working harder

on that than on anything else in the whole country.

We learned why he was so panicked about keeping these things under wraps in

September when "The New York Times" reporters through separate means

obtained more than two decades of Trump tax records. And that reporting,

those documents that "The Times" obtained threw off a World War`s worth of

bombshells. The president, a self-described billionaire, turns out he paid

a grand total of $750 in federal income tax in 2016, which is the year he

ran for president.

Then in 2017, his first year in the White House, he again paid a grand

total of $750 in federal income tax. In ten of the previous 15 years, he

paid zero in federal income tax, he paid nothing. "The Times" reported he

owed as much as $100 million to the federal government in back taxes and

penalties. They reported that the president had apparently paid his

daughter Ivanka as an employee of the Trump Organization and then double

dipped, also paid her as a consultant to the Trump Organization.

Why does that matter? Well, the money that he paid her as a consultant he

deducted from his taxes as a business expense, and that may sound like an

arcane little bit of accounting mishegoss, but that`s a kind of a fraud

that other people regularly go to prison for.

And now, Trump tax and business records by the millions are in the hands of

state prosecutors for the first time. Prosecutors who are reportedly

investigating him for tax fraud, bank fraud, insurance fraud.

Now, lots of questions remain as to why federal prosecutors did not pursue

Mr. Trump for prosecution after they named him as individual-1, this

undecided co-conspirator, in the federal case for which Michael Cohen went

to prison. Lots of questions remain as to what happened to the culpability

of individual one in that case, let alone the president`s business and

those who signed off on those bogus checks to Michael Cohen, which were

really repayments for the campaign finance felonies he was committing but

were disguised to look like business expenses.

One of the things that Merrick Garland is going to have to sort out when he

is confirmed as the nation`s next attorney general is why his predecessor,

William Barr, personally spent weeks leaning on prosecutors at SDNY to try

to get them to go easy on that case, and then Barr ultimately fired the

U.S. attorney in charge of that office. Merrick Garland is going to have to

sort that out. The solution to that can`t be, don`t do it again. The

solution for that has to be accountability for hose who abused the Justice

Department and the justice process in ways that were designed to shield the

president from accountability if that is, in fact, what happened there.

But what`s happened here, what the Supreme Court set in motion today is

something that does not involve federal prosecutors in that whole SDNY

mess. These are state prosecutors, and their case is moving forward and

there really is now, as "The Times" puts it today, the startling prospect

of a criminal trial of a former U.S. president.

We, the public, will not get to see these millions of pages that are

getting handed over now. We won`t see them unless and until there are

criminal charges filed in this case and they surface as evidence in that

case. The closest we can get now is maybe to talk to the reporters for "The

New York Times" who have themselves seen more information like this than

any other civilian we can talk to, reporters who, in fact, won the Pulitzer

Prize for their reporting on exactly this scandal.

One of those reporters is Susanne Craig, investigative reporter for "The

New York Times". She joins us now.

Ms. Craig, it`s nice of you to make time to be here for us tonight. Good to

see you.



MADDOW: From what you understand of the scope of the subpoena that was the

basis of the Supreme Court ruling today, do you think that prosecutors are

about to get their hands on a subset of what you and your colleagues saw at

"The Times" or do you think they`re getting considerably more than what you

guys were able to see?

CRAIG: When it comes to the tax returns, they`re going to get a subset.

They`re going to see eight years of the tax returns and we had over two

decades of the tax returns, so in that sense, they`re going to be seeing

less. But they`re getting just an entire universe more of information in

terms of other documents that have been subpoenaed that could be really

critical to actually making the case, and that includes communication

between Donald Trump and his accounts, audited financial statements,

communication that has gone back and forth and a whole other array of

documents that are going to be produced that sort of explain sort of what

went into the taxes in a lot more detail.

MADDOW: In terms of the communications between the president and his

business and the accounting firm or, indeed, the communications among

people at the accounting firm who were working on this account, why would

those be so valuable potentially to prosecutors who are looking to try to

uncover evidence of the kind of white collar fraud that I just described?

CRAIG: When you say tax returns (ph) they`re really important, but they`re

sort of top line. So, by using an example, there`s a lot of questions --

and you mentioned it about the payment to Stormy Daniels and other

potential hush money that was paid. We still have the tax returns. Those

payments aren`t itemized but there`s a lot of places those payments could


For example, legal fees is a likely one and they could have been put into a

line where, you know, legal fees are a tax deduction but they`re not

itemized on a tax return. But prosecutors could now get really detailed

information that goes exactly to what was in those legal fees and they

could find something there. So that`s one really clear example of where

they`re probably going to look right away. They can get all of that.

They`re also going to see communication back and forth, so you`re going to

see, you know, the decisions that were made about what to file, what did

the Trump Organization or Donald Trump tell his accountants, were there

misrepresentations there. So, a lot of things are really important and the

pieces that go into it.

We did a story in 2018 where we found tax fraud that Donald Trump had

committed in the 1990s. We did that by piecing together financial

statements, bank statements, general ledgers, public information, but it

was a whole, you know, kind of puzzle that we had to put together.

Financial statement -- or tax returns are kind of your best case when

you`re submitting to the IRS. There`s actually a line where you can say, I

accepted a bribe. People don`t usually fill it in, but it is usually you`re

not filing something that`s just apparently illegal.

MADDOW: Susanne, one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you today was

seeing your reaction to this Supreme Court ruling. One of the things you

talked about as a potentially sort of dangerous area for the president

might be these consulting fees that he paid to his daughter, Ivanka Trump.

You also pointed out that there are a lot of unanswered questions about

something that happened in 2016 where the president, when he was running

for president, that his campaign was sort of low on funds and you and your

colleagues were able to report that he engineered a big cash windfall

himself that appeared to originate with a Las Vegas hotel.

I wonder if you could walk us through sort of both of those concerns, the

Las Vegas issue and the Ivanka issue in terms of what the potential

pitfalls might be there for the president?

CRAIG: Well, let`s start with the payments, the consulting payments to

Ivanka Trump. What is interesting about this, she got a lot of money for

consulting payments. We don`t know the totality of it. We were able to

specifically identify some of it.

The question there is she was an executive at the company, so why is she

getting consulting payments. That could be a potentially illegal issue for

them there. I think they`ll be looking at her siblings. Did they also get

these consulting fees?

What did they do for that since they were already on the payroll at the

Trump Organization that warranted these special payments?

And then at the Las Vegas hotel, very interesting. In 2016 he got several

one-time really outsized cash payments, more than $20 million that we could

see flowing from a hotel in Vegas that he co-owns with another individual

to companies that Donald Trump alone controls, and then they went out as

just huge cash distributions in the middle of the election.

He has said that there are agreements underpinning these. We could

identify, you know, a couple of the payments where there was an agreement,

others we`re not sure. We haven`t seen those agreements so we don`t know,

and I think it is one of the things that probably investigators are going

to look at when they can get in and start to understand what`s there.

You know, let`s see the agreement. What did he tell his accountants about

it? They were very unusual and it was $20 million, $30 million coming to

him, you know, during 2016 when he was, you know, his campaign was running

low on cash.

MADDOW: It`s amazing that we had a candidate for president, ultimately a

successful candidate for president who engineered a mysterious $20 million

or $30 million payment to himself in the middle of his campaign and all of

these years later, it is still a total black box. Susanne --


CRAIG: No, those were -- they were shock --

MADDOW: Go ahead.

CRAIG: No, they were shocking to see when we could actually trace the

money through, and it was significant amounts of money that we couldn`t

really explain and they wouldn`t provide us with the underlying agreements

that they said existed for these just massive cash infusions that suddenly

came to him just as he needed money.

MADDOW: One of the things that I have always found difficult about this

story from beginning to end, having read every word of your reporting on

this, having read a whole bunch of books that touch on this subject, having

followed it so closely, is that I feel like I`m at a disadvantage because

I`m not sure how bad the context is in which he appears to have been a bad


Again, I`m not supposing any criminal behavior by the president. I realize

this is an open investigation, no charges have been filed. He, of course,

denies any wrongdoing.

But it is my impression that the New York high-end real estate market is

sort of scummie and gray area enough in terms of legality and money

laundering and all sorts of gross stuff that the president might be a sort

of normal actor for New York city real estate standards, and that it`s

therefore hard for me to understand whether his behavior will be seen as

essentially normal for a gross pseudo illegal area of business or whether

what he`s done really stands out even in that sector?

CRAIG: Well, I think New York real estate, they do get a lot of tax

deductions, but that`s one thing. I mean the things that we`re talking

about are much different than that. Were there payments, potentially hush

money paid to women so that they wouldn`t talk and used as a tax deduction?

That has nothing to do with being a real estate developer in New York.

You know, so there`s a lot of things that are outside of that. I mean we`ve

talked about the appraisals, and there`s been a lot of attention on that,

and that`s going to be one thing that`s going to be interesting to watch.

And, you know, when you look at that, I mean it is not an easy case. People

who use appraisals, they usually rely on experts, they hire an appraiser.

So you hire a professional, so they can point to that and say, we relied on

professional advice.

What they`re going to be looking for in cases like that is did Donald Trump

go and shop for appraisals until he found the one he liked? We`ve seen that

plenty of times in New York where people do that, that`s one example that

fits into what you`re saying.

All we can see on a lot of things when we look at tax information is the

final appraisal that arrives. Cy Vance in New York will be trying to find

out did he go appraisal shopping or did he put undue pressure on the


MADDOW: Susanne Craig, investigative reporter for "The New York Times,"

the only -- one of the only humans on Earth who could preview for us what

these prosecutors are about to get their hands on. Thanks for helping us

understand. It`s good to see you.

CRAIG: Thanks for having me. Good to see you, too.

MADDOW: All right. We have much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: "The New York Times" wins the prize for the most eloquent summary

of today`s plot twist involving the potential criminal liability, potential

criminal trial of a former president of the United States for the first

time in U.S. history.

"The Times" saying today, quote, the Supreme Court`s order set in motion a

series of events that could lead to the startling possibility of a criminal

trial of a former U.S. president. They win the eloquence summary.

But the prize for brevity today goes to the New York prosecutor whose

office learned today that the Supreme Court had decisively cleared the way

for something that president Trump fought for a very long time and fought

very hard to try to block from happening. Former President Trump`s taxes

and financial records will be handed over to a grand jury.

Upon receiving the Supreme Court`s ruling clearing the way for that today,

District Attorney Cy Vance`s response was three words. He said, quote: the

work continues, period.

Dan Alonso was Cy Vance`s top deputy for four years at that prosecutor`s

office. If anybody can tell us what today`s plot twist means for Mr.

Vance`s investigation into Donald Trump and what this may mean for the

former president, Mr. Alonso is my bet.

Joining us is Dan Alonso. He`s a former federal prosecutor and a former New

York prosecutor who did serve as chief assistant D.A. under Cy Vance.

Mr. Alonso, it`s a real pleasure to have you with us tonight. Thanks for

making the time.


MADDOW: I am not a lawyer and I want to give you a chance first to set me

straight if there is anything that I have explained about this court ruling

and its implications that strikes you wrong or you think I might have

gotten the wrong way around.

ALONSO: No, I think you got it pretty much right, and your previous guest

obviously is incredibly well-versed in this stuff. So you got it right. To

a certain extent we are all speculating a little bit, right? It`s educated


We know from the D.A. and some statements made in court and we know from

some of the great reporting that`s been done that there may be six to eight

areas of inquiry that they are tracking down. But we can`t know, you know,

whether they have smoking guns, whether they can really prove intent to

defraud, as Susanne was saying.

So there are definitely a lot of questions to be answered, but I would say

that today`s development is huge, not just because it is significant but

also because they probably bought themselves millions of pages to have to

sift through now.

MADDOW: When you say six to eight areas of inquiry, and this being

potential huge consequences, how serious are the crimes that are

potentially implicated here? Obviously, again, there have been no charges.

The president and his business deny all wrongdoing and we won`t know

anything about what the grand jury has done until they present evidence in

court, if they ever do.

But given what has been publicly reporting about what they are looking at

and the types of allegations that have been made by people who know

something about these business practices, are these the sorts of things for

which people get a fine and, you know, sort of a slap on the wrist, or are

these potentially serious charges?

ALONSO: I mean, look, as with so many things in the law, they are -- it

depends. So, obviously, there are very many serious charges that they`re

considering. Just the fact that they`re saying the words "insurance fraud,"

"tax fraud," "bank fraud," those are all serious charges.

Now, do they require time in prison? Only at the high end, so we would have

to know whether the loss was high enough to require a judge to put

whomever, you know, behind bars. You know, lower level felonies don`t

require it but they do permit it.

So we really need to know how much loss they can prove, whether that`s tax

loss or loss to the banks or loss to insurance companies or intended loss.

We can -- once we know that, we can start to figure it out.

But I would say all of these are at least potentially felonies, so I would

say that by itself makes them quite serious.

MADDOW: And, Dan, in terms of what you know about the operations of this

office, it`s one thing for us in the journalism world and the citizens to

talk about millions of pages being handed over, terabytes full of data. But

from a prosecutor`s perspective and from the perspective of people trying

to put together potentially felony charges here, how long does it take to

go through something like that? I mean it sounds like kind of a life`s

work, and presumably you need certain people quarterbacking it and

organizing other people to work on it, delegating certain pieces out.

How big a job is this? How much time do you expect that much paper work,

how much time you expect prosecutors to take going through it?

ALONSON: Well, on one hand it is an enormous job. If this happened when I

was starting out as a prosecutor 30 years ago, I`d say the sky is the limit

on how long it would take. But today, the D.A. and the consultant he has

hired have serious data analytics tools that can be used to sort through

what they have to quickly do the kinds of searches that will get them to,

you know, separate the wheat from the chaff pretty quickly.

Those are -- those start out as simple word searches and number searches,

but they involve artificial intelligence. So I think that they will be able

to do this, you know, relatively quickly. You know, this is very

complicated. The New York real estate industry is extremely complicated to

begin with, so they have experts guiding them on how that works and how all

these, you know, 500 or so LLCs work together.

But I think at the end of the day they`re really going to be -- you know,

right now they already know what they want to look for, so they`re going to

start there, and then they`ll do the sort of bigger sifting through the

stuff. So it will take a while, for sure, but it is not an impossible task,

not in 2021.

MADDOW: Dan, there`s also been some very interesting reporting in recent

days that the office has brought in a very prominent former federal

prosecutor and high-level white collar defense attorney, a man named Mark

Pomerantz whose real pedigree is in New York law, and he is going to be

involved in the Trump investigation only, signed on as a special assistant

D.A. in the office for that purpose.

There`s also very recent reporting that Mr. Pomerantz recently within the

last few days, interviewed, re-interviewed, Michael Cohen, the president`s

former lawyer who, of course, went to prison for these campaign finance

felonies and other charges and has made a lot of serious allegations about

the president that seem to track at least somewhat with these tax fraud,

bank fraud, insurance fraud allegations that we`ve heard in public

reporting describing the conditions of the investigation.

What do you think of the appointment of Pomerantz and does it surprise you

that he is talking again to Michael Cohen? Is Michael Cohen going to end up

being a valuable witness here?

ALONSO: Well, for sure you said it correctly. Pomerantz is a prominent

lawyer, what we call a heavy hitter, so that`s good thing because he will,

you know, have seen cases of this magnitude before in civil and criminal

context. I will put in a plug for my former colleagues. The office already

has some fantastic assistant das that have been working on this case for a


So I think even without Mark Pomerantz, the case would have been in good

hands. I think that only enhances it to have him in the case.

In terms of Michael Cohen, very interesting. So, you know, I actually

watched the Cohen hearing today when he testified before Congress, and some

of the attacks that were made by the Republicans will probably be made if

he testifies in a trial, assuming that Trump or someone close to him is

indicted, and I thought those -- you know, if handled correctly by the

prosecutor, those will ring hollow. Basically, the attack is, you know,

this is a perjuring witness. This is somebody who lied to Congress. How

dare we have as a witness somebody who lied to Congress?

Well, okay, but that doesn`t end the story. I mean I have put witnesses on

the stand who have committed perjury, who asked others to commit perjury,

and that`s not the question. If that was the question, then we wouldn`t put

them on the stand. The question is not whether they lied before, it is

whether they`re telling the truth now.

And so, you`ve got to ask yourself, well, why did Michael Cohen lie to

Congress? Well, it was obvious to protect Donald Trump. It is not like

Donald Trump corrected the testimony afterwards, even though he presumably

knew the truth. So, you have to ask yourself, you know, is whatever Michael

Cohen is going to say corroborated by other evidence, and that`s a lot of

what they`re doing now by pouring through these documents, other evidence

and other documents and other witnesses, too.

So, no, I think Michael Cohen could be a significant witness but I think he

has warts, so it`s got to be a very careful prosecutor who puts everything

out on the table, warts and all, so the jury can see it all. But I do think

that he could be a persuasive witness if properly corroborated.

MADDOW: And, you know, nothing corroborates like millions of pages of

documents that the president fought tooth and nail to try to keep hidden.

Dan Alonso, former federal prosecutor, veteran of the New York state

prosecutor`s office, that`s Cy Vance`s team, and Cy Vance`s team that just

got this incredible, decisive ruling from the Supreme Court today. Dan,

thanks very much for helping us understand. I appreciate it.

ALONSO: Thanks so much for having me.

MADDOW: All right, we have a lot more to get to this busy, busy Monday

night. Stay with us.



UNIDENTIFEID MALE: We`re going to start off with a nice easy warm-up,

start jumping jacks. Nice, easy jumping jacks, everyone. We`re going to

have a lot of fun today.

I don`t even know what to do right now, I`m so nervous. I`m like, oh, my

God, Michelle Obama.

The fact that our first lady is so into physical fitness and now we`ve got

her on "The Biggest Loser" working out, that could not be any cooler.


MADDOW: Trainer Bob very nervous. There`s the first lady with that group

of people, working out, Michelle Obama, April 2012, encouraging American

families to get moving, to be fit and healthy. Watching the first lady in

action like that for a good cause, trying to encourage people doing

crunches and lunges and jumping jacks, that was inspiring to a lot of


This guy, though, had a different take. His reaction was this. Quote, did

you notice that while Michelle Obama is working out on TV, she is sweating

on the East Room`s carpet? I`m just saying. Dot, dot, dot.

The guy who tweeted that is named Ric Grenell. Back in 2012 when he tweeted

that, he was a Republican operative who had a very public habit of tweeting

mean and frequently sexist things about the Obamas and about their kids,

also about then Vice President Joe Biden, about prominent Democrats.

He would also sometimes use his Twitter account to go after members of his

own party as well. He repeatedly attacked former Republican speaker of the

House, Newt Gingrich. He liked to go after Newt Gingrich`s wife, he would

make fun of her hair, that was kind of his level of insults, insulting

people`s looks and their weight, attacking their families, particular venom

for women in the public eye. He`s a real nice guy.

This became a little sticky, kind of for Ric Grenell when President Donald

Trump surveyed the American landscape and decided that above all other

Americans, the best pick for ambassador to Germany would be that guy, Ric

Grenell. There was talk when the nomination was announced that Grenell`s

past behavior online might disqualify him from getting confirmed in the

Senate because it was so mean and sexist and petty and ad hominem and


It turned out to be no problem, though, really, ended up being smooth

sailing. Mr. Grenell and his archive of mean tweets were confirmed in the

Senate with bipartisan support, with votes to spare, not a big deal,


Right now, the current president, President Biden, is dealing with a

confirmation speed bump for one of his nominees, though. Her name is Neera

Tanden. She is President Biden`s nominee to run the Office of Management

and Budget. And her nomination drew immediate complaints from Republicans

in the Senate who complained that her past tweets about them were mean.

They said her tweets about Republican lawmakers were too combative. They

said her old tweets about them long before she was a nominee would make it

impossible for her to work with Congress. They would never work with her

given what she had tweeted.

From the start, it looked as if Neera Tanden would receive few if any votes

to the Republicans to confirm her for the job at a 50/50 Senate. If every

Republican votes against her, Neera Tanden would need every Democrat to

vote in her favor in order to get confirmed.

On Friday, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin announced that he won`t vote to

confirm Neera Tanden. He said that it was because of her partisan

statements on Twitter. And they would have -- he said those statements

would have a toxic and detrimental impact on her work.

Today, Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins also announced that Neera

Tanden`s tweets are a problem for her as well. She says they demonstrate

that Ms. Tanden does not have the temperament to lead the OMB, which is a

peculiar decision on the part of those senators, given that both of those

senators had absolutely no problem supporting someone with a hyper-partisan

Twitter warring history in the past.

Susan Collins and Joe Manchin both voted to confirm Ric Grenell in 2017,

the guy who used his Twitter account to attack the sitting -- the sitting

president`s children, to mock a woman`s hair, to attack all sorts of women

for their appearance, to attack Michelle Obama for sweating on the East

Room carpet.

But for them, Neera Tanden`s criticism of Republican senators, that`s

caustic and inappropriate and so she must be barred from a Senate-confirmed

position. Ric Grenell is fine. Neera Tanden, uh-huh.

They`re not the only senators to announce they will be voting no on the

Tanden confirmation. Ohio Senator Rob Portman, who also voted to confirm

Ric Grenell, he announced his opposition to Neera Tanden. So did Utah

Senator Mitt Romney.

There`s still time to find one Republican, any Republican vote for Ms.

Tanden. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was notably quiet on

the prospect. But until then, until a Democrat -- a Republican senator

decides he or she will vote for Ms. Tanden, Tandem`s nomination to lead OMB

is hanging by a thread tonight because of the absolutely outrageous and

overt double standard to which she is being subjected by even at least one

Democratic senator who was happy to excuse much worse behavior than hers

for a male nominee in a previous administration but has discovered some new

standard to keep her from getting his votes.

Republicans have done it. At least one Democrat is doing it. That might

make the difference here.

The Biden administration says they remain in full support of her nomination

and they`re not pulling it.

Watch this space.


MADDOW: A couple of developments worth watching on the aftermath of the

January 6th attack on the Capitol.

Back on December 14th, Wisconsin`s state electors met to finalize their

state`s ten votes for Joe Biden for the Electoral College, but despite the

fact that Biden clearly won Wisconsin, a separate group of Republicans in

the state decided that they would try to appoint themselves as Wisconsin`s

state electors.

It was weird, right? Biden won the state. It was therefore his electors who

would cast Wisconsin`s votes for the Electoral College, but these

Republicans, including the state party chairman, they just decided they

would name themselves anyway.

And then they started forging documents. They signed bogus certificates of

election. They sent fake documents to federal and state officials

proclaiming that Trump had actually won the ten electoral votes from

Wisconsin when, in fact, they were all won by Joe Biden.

Well, that was a weird moment in the post-election craziness in the

Republican Party, but now, lawyers for a Wisconsin union, for SCIU in

Wisconsin, have sent a complaint to the Milwaukee county district attorney,

to state prosecutors in Wisconsin, requesting that a criminal investigation

be opened into those acts.

The union has written this letter to the Milwaukee County D.A. and says

these Republicans violated six state laws, forgery, falsely assuming to act

as a public officer, misconduct, conspiracy to commit criminal acts.

Something to keep an eye out of Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, tomorrow at the national level on Capitol Hill, we`re going to

have the first big investigative hearing on what happened on January 6th.

It is a joint oversight hearing conducted by the Homeland Security

Committee and the rules committee. And we`re going to hear from a number of

officials who should be interesting witnesses.

The sergeant of arms from the house and the sergeant of arms in the Senate

both resigned in the immediate aftermath of the attack. They will testify

tomorrow as well as the former chief of the Capitol police who also

resigned after the attack. Those officials as well as the acting chief of

police for the D.C. police department, they are all going to face questions

from senators in tomorrow`s hearing. It is called examining the January 6th

attack on the U.S. Capitol. It should be one to watch.

Watch this space.


MADDOW: That is going to do it for us tonight. I will tell you -- tomorrow

is going to be a big news day particularly in Washington, second day of

confirmation hearings for Attorney General Merrick Garland. Today`s first

day of hearings was very newsy, tomorrow should be a big deal.

Also confirmation hearings tomorrow for Xavier Becerra for health

secretary, Deb Haaland for interior secretary. She`d be the first Native

American cabinet secretary in U.S. history if confirmed.

A lot going on. This is going to be a really busy week, tomorrow in

particular. I`ll see you again tomorrow night.


Good evening, Lawrence.




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