"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 chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, California Congressman Adam Schiff. President Joe Biden announces new "Atlantic Charter" with Europe.
HELENE COOPER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: But that means it does tend to skew a little bit more to the right because while you have a lot of black and Latino -- there, you also have a very strong -- a lot of people coming from the American south and west.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": Helene Cooper, who is a great reporter on this beat, thanks for making time tonight. I appreciate it.
HAYES: That is "ALL IN" on this Thursday night.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
We have thrown out the show as we sometimes have to do because we need to start tonight with some news that has just broken on the front page of "The New York Times." This is a big deal.
I will tell you we`re about to speak with one of the reporters whose is bylined on the story. We`re also about to speak with one of the subjects of this story.
But in all the time I have been in this business, I have never covered anything quite like this before. I have never read about anything like this before happening in American politics, in government. As far as we know, nothing like this has ever happened before. But "The New York Times" says tonight that it has, and the consequences remain to be seen.
All right. Let me spell this out. You may have read over the last couple of weeks newly reported revelations about the Justice Department under Donald Trump secretly obtaining the communications of a number of reporters, journalists from CNN, from "The Washington Post," from "The New York Times", reporters` communications seized by the Trump Justice Department secretly.
And those communications that the Trump Justice Department went after, they were all from 2017. The Trump administration was frantically trying to find out who the sources were for those reporters when they were writing stories about the early days of the Trump administration and the 2016 campaign. Now, the reason this has come out now, the reason all of these stories about first "The Washington Post," then CNN, now we know "The New York Times" -- the reason all of those have come out has been, I think in part, because of the change in administration.
The reporters who had their communications searched by the Trump Justice Department, which is hunting for their sources, in many cases, those reporters didn`t know their communications had been seized until now. The Trump Justice Department in some cases had secured gag orders so the reporters couldn`t be told that they were being targeted. Their news organizations couldn`t be told. It couldn`t be discussed.
The reason these stories are now finally being written, the reason those reporters now finally know that their records were searched by the Justice Department under Trump is because those gag orders on their media outlets have expired or they have been lifted now that the Biden administration is in place.
Those revelations about the Trump Justice Department going after reporters` sources, that prompted the Biden Justice Department just last week to announce that they will no longer seize reporters` communications in leak investigations. President Biden himself has weighed in on that, saying going after reporters in that way is simply, simply wrong, and he did not want his Justice Department to do that.
So that`s sort of the context here in which tonight`s story breaks. But just within the last hour, "The New York Times" has broken a whole new level of the story, and, again, this is not just sort of a shocking revelation about the Trump Justice Department. This is something, as far as we can tell, that has never been done before in U.S. government, and it has profound implications for the separation of powers between the branches of government that we got.
This is the headline tonight in "The New York Times." Hunting leaks: Trump officials focused on Democrats in Congress, meaning members of Congress who are Democrats.
Quote: As the Justice Department investigated who was behind leaks of classified information early in the Trump administration, it took a highly unusual step. Prosecutors subpoenaed Apple, the company Apple, for data from the accounts of at least two Democratic members of Congress on the House Intelligence Committee and staffers and family members. One of those family members was a child, a minor.
According to committee officials and two other people briefed on the inquiry, all told, the records of at least a dozen people tied to the intelligence committee were seized in 2017 and early 2018, including the records of Congressman Adam Schiff of California, who was then the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who is now the chairman of that committee. Prosecutors under the beleaguered Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions were hunting for the sources behind news media reports about contacts between Trump associates and Russia. Ultimately, the data and other evidence didn`t tie the intelligence committee to any leaks. Investigators then debated whether they had hit a dead end. Some even discussed closing the inquiry.
But following the departure of Jeff Sessions as attorney general and the installation of William Barr as Trump`s new attorney general, Mr. Barr revived languishing leak investigations once he became attorney general according to three people with knowledge of his work, Barr moved a trusted prosecutor from New Jersey, who had little relevant experience, to the main Justice Department in Washington to work on the Congressman Schiff-related case and about a half dozen others.
The zeal in the Trump administration`s efforts to hunt leakers led to the extraordinary step of subpoenaing communications metadata from members of Congress. That is a nearly unheard of move outside of corruption investigations.
While Justice Department leak investigations are fairly routine, current and former congressional officials familiar with this inquiry said they could not recall any instance in which the records of lawmakers had been seized as part of one.
Moreover, just as it did in investigating news organizations, the Justice Department under President Trump secured a gag order on Apple, which expired this year. So lawmakers did not know they were being investigated until Apple was able to inform them of that fact last month.
After the records provided no proof of leaks, prosecutors in the U.S. attorney`s office in D.C. discussed ending that piece of their investigation, but William Barr`s decision to bring in an outside prosecutor helped keep the case alive. There do not appear to have been similar grand jury subpoenas for records of members or staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee, just the House.
Spokesman for Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee did not respond to a question about whether Republicans were issued subpoenas. The Justice Department has declined to tell Democrats on the committee whether any Republicans were investigated.
David Laufman, a former Justice Department official, who has worked on leak investigations, tells "The Times" tonight, quote, including family members and children strikes me as extremely aggressive.
Then he says this quote: In combination with former President Trump`s unmistakable vendetta against Congressman Adam Schiff, it raises serious questions about whether the manner in which this investigation was conducted was influenced by political considerations rather than purely legal ones.
I will also tell you that as part of this reporting tonight, the reporters at "The Times" tonight say that William Barr`s perceived motivations here within the Justice Department came under scrutiny.
Mr. Barr directed prosecutors to continue investigating, contending that the Justice Department`s National Security Division had allowed the cases to languish according to three people briefed on the cases. Some cases had nothing to do with leaks about Mr. Trump and involved sensitive security information. But Mr. Barr`s overall view of leaks led some people in the department to eventually see these inquiries as politically motivated.
The attorney general of the United States seen as politically motivated, seen within the Justice Department as politically motivated as he used subpoena power to secretly obtain communications records for members of Congress, including members of the Intelligence Committee, who are allowed to see the most secret information that the U.S. government possesses.
Joining us now is "New York Times" reporter Michael Schmidt. He is one of four reporters bylined on this breaking story. I should also note that Mr. Schmidt is one of "The Times" reporters who recently learned that his own records were also secretly seized by the Trump administration in a separate leak investigation.
Michael Schmidt, thank you so much for joining us. I know it`s really short notice.
MICHAEL SCHMIDT, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Let me ask you, you`ve heard me sum up your reporting essentially just by reading experts from it hereto. Let me ask you to sum it up in your own terms and tell us what it is, as far as we can tell, unprecedented, what is important about this.
SCHMIDT: I think that the most important thing or the biggest sort of -- one of the more fundamental problems with the entire episode is that this is what Donald Trump wanted, and this is why legal experts and people on both sides of the aisle say that the president of the United States should not weigh in about criminal investigations, and he should not talk about using the Justice Department to target a rival because if the Justice Department does something, it is seen immediately through that lens.
We look at this, and we say, Adam Schiff, a constant target of Donald Trump, has his entire staff and one of the staff`s children subpoenaed, has their information subpoenaed from Apple. This is exactly what the president said publicly and privately that he wanted.
So, now, here we are today, more than six months after Trump leaves office, finding out about this, and what is the first thing that comes to mind? This is what Trump wanted. This is what he said.
And you have to remember, this happened in a period of time in early 2018 in which the Justice Department was under immense pressure from the president. Now, do we know that this exact move was done because of that? No. But we do know that in that period of time, the attorney general and the deputy attorney general thought they could be fired at any moment. They were afraid that if they were fired, Robert Mueller would be removed. And they were also under fire, especially the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, from Republicans on Capitol Hill who wanted to impeach him. So it was in that period of time that this happened.
MADDOW: And, Michael, as far as we know, from your reporting, the way it`s described, there`s no evidence that Congressman Schiff or any other members -- Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee or their staff or indeed their children were actually involved in mishandling classified information or any leaks. There`s no indication in your reporting that there was any wrongdoing on their part that might have at least retroactively justified this kind of unprecedented step.
SCHMIDT: Look, we have no idea what the Justice Department was basing this on. We have no idea what type of evidence there was to get them to this point. Issuing a subpoena for a member of Congress is supposed to be treated as something that has to clear a high bar because of the fact that it is another branch of government and it is a very invasive thing. It can be seen as a political action given the give and take, certainly the give and take that was going on at the time.
But, you know, we don`t know what the Justice Department was basing this on, but we do know that this is exactly what Trump was saying and what Trump wanted. Trump was ranting and raving in private about how the powers of the Justice Department should be used to go after the press, to go after his rivals. And he was open about that.
You know, he`s not going to, you know, question the authenticity of that reporting. I mean this is something that he really, really wanted, and he was asserting enormous pressure on the department when this happened.
MADDOW: It is -- but it is one thing to know that President Trump was, as you say, demanding that the Justice Department be used as a political tool against his enemies, that they use their immense power, investigative power and otherwise, to punish and investigate his enemies at his whim. It`s one thing to know that about him. It`s another thing to know that the Justice Department was doing this stuff, that this did not land on deaf ears. That under two different Trump attorneys general, stuff like this happened.
One of the things that I sort of audibly gasped when I got to the end of your article was the note, the list of names of people who were involved in these actions at the Justice Department, certainly briefed on them and kept up to date on them, who are still at the Justice Department under Merrick Garland. These aren`t just Trump political appointees who are now gone who did this stuff. These -- at least from your reporting, would appear to be people who are still there now.
SCHMIDT: Correct, people that are still there now. And in regards to the larger stuff that has been disclosed here, the other subpoenas and fights that have gone on for information between the Justice Department and the press, the Justice Department was seeking information from my and three of my colleagues` emails up until just a few days ago.
This was until early June that this fight was going on between our legal counsel, David McCraw, in secret with prosecutors at the Justice Department. This wasn`t something that happened into February, maybe a couple of weeks into the Biden administration. It wasn`t something that happened a couple of weeks into when Merrick Garland took over. This is something that was going on close to almost the six-month mark of Biden being in office.
And now the Justice Department has completely reversed itself and says they don`t want -- they will not do this. Is that because they`re embarrassed by what happened? Why is it that the fight continued under Merrick Garland for the metadata from my emails?
MADDOW: Right. And if these were politically motivated and/or otherwise improper actions by the Justice Department, not only why did they continue after the change in administration, but even if they hadn`t continued after the change in administration, what`s the recourse within the Justice Department to find out the extent of this, to punish the people who did it, or at least to investigate them to figure out what exactly they did and to deter this from happening again. That`s becoming a larger and larger question every day in the Merrick Garland era of the Justice Department, the more we learn about what`s been happening.
"New York Times" reporter Michael Schmidt, I know this is a breaking story just posted -- thanks for helping us understand it.
SCHMIDT: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: All right. I want to bring into the conversation now one of the subjects of this story, one of apparently two, we believe, Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee who had his records seized -- now chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for being here. This is short notice for you as well. I appreciate you making the time.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): You bet.
MADDOW: What Mike Schmidt just told us is that your records, the records of your entire staff, and the child of one of your staff members were all seized secretly by the Trump Justice Department as part of this investigation.
Does that comport with your understanding now that the gag order has apparently been lifted on Apple and they were able to notify you at least of some of the scope of what happened here?
SCHIFF: I don`t know whether it was the full staff or not, and we`re trying to obviously observe the privacy of our staff members, so we`re reliant on people who want to report what they have received.
We also don`t know whether it extended beyond Democrats on the committee to Republicans. I guess the Republicans are not saying.
But, you know, we`re obviously deeply suspicious of what the Justice Department was doing. More than that, this looks like a patent abuse of the department. Yet another example of the president politicizing, using the Department of Justice as a cudgel to go after his enemies. He would repeatedly attack our committee, attack me personally, call for investigations of our committee while we were doing an investigation of him.
And apparently, those pleas were met with a receptive audience at the very top level of the Justice Department, among Sessions and Bill Barr, even though there was no evidence to support a leak coming from our committee.
And so, you know, look, it`s going to take a decade, I think, before the department recovers from this politicization. I spent almost six years with the department. I really venerate the department, and it`s heartbreaking to see what he did to it and how -- you know, how difficult it is to rely now on the impartiality of the department given this sordid four-year history.
MADDOW: You released a statement tonight, and you spoke with "The Times" as well, calling on the inspector general, the independent inspector general inside the Justice Department, to look into this, to investigate this essentially as the -- potentially, the weaponization of law enforcement for political purposes.
Can you explain to our audience, to people who hear this as kind of an extension of what they`ve heard about going after reporters` records, who may not necessarily grasp why this is -- why this is a big deal, why this is something that hasn`t happened before? Why is it such a big deal? Why would it be perhaps unprecedented, at least very unusual thing for a member of Congress to have records like this seized by a Justice Department?
SCHIFF: Well, it`s, you know, really norm within norm within norm being broken here. The first and most important norm post-Watergate is the president of the United States does not get involved in particular cases at the Justice Department, doesn`t urge the Justice Department to investigate particular people. That`s one very important norm.
Beyond that, the president of the United States doesn`t urge the department to investigate his political adversaries or his political enemies. That is even a more important norm.
And then I think even beyond that, you have the specter of a president who is himself under investigation by our committee, calling for an unprecedented subpoena -- unprecedented subpoenas for account information pertaining to members of Congress, to staff members, to family members, even to a minor child.
And that -- that is, I think, a terrible abuse of power. It violates, I think, the separation of powers. But it also makes the Department of Justice just a fully owned subsidiary of the president`s personal legal interests and political interests. And that does such damage to the department.
So, it`s extraordinary, maybe unprecedented for the department to seek records like this of a member of Congress or staff of a member of Congress or staff of a committee, to do so in a partisan way, to do so when they`re investigating him, to do so openly calling on his department. It`s hard to express just how shocking an abuse of power this really is.
MADDOW: Mr. Chairman, do you know who the other Democratic member is on the committee whose records were targeted?
SCHIFF: You know, I know some of the information about other people who received subpoenas. Out of respect for their privacy, I will let them speak or not speak.
But the truth is I don`t know how broad these subpoenas were except that I know they were extraordinarily broad. Went out to a staff who weren`t even related to the committee, who had no responsibilities on the committee.
And in terms of how many members were affected, part of the difficulty in knowing for sure is a lot of people who got this notice from Apple thought it was spam. And we may learn more now that the story has come out about others who similarly got these notices as they go back and they check their old email to see whether they got a notice like this as well.
So we may learn more. I would certainly like to know, and we`ve asked the Justice Department, and they`ve not been forthcoming, whether this was just directed at Democrats or whether this was a committee-wide investigation. I wouldn`t be surprised if this was a purely partisan investigation, really targeting one party.
But there`s a lot we still don`t know, and I imagine we`ll find out more.
MADDOW: And, well, on that point, though, are you going to find out more?
It would seem to me that Merrick Garland, as the new attorney general, inherited not just the awesome responsibilities of being attorney general of the United States but a whole extra awesome responsibility that nobody`s had to deal with since, you know, the era of Nixon and John Mitchell perhaps at the Justice Department, which is that there`s all this stuff that happened in the Justice Department, including people -- including with the involvement of people who are still there.
That is a profound departure from previous norms. In many cases, that is a profound and shocking violation of Justice Department policy. Everything from, you know, intervention in criminal cases involving the president`s friends to the way that reporters were apparently surveilled, and now what you`re describing here.
In terms of getting to the bottom of this, do you expect Merrick Garland to publicly testify about this, to make Justice Department officials who were involved in this testify? Do you want Congress to exercise its oversight responsibilities here, or do you want this just handled quietly by the inspector general on the I.G.`s own terms?
SCHIFF: Well, look, I think Congress has certainly had a role here. Merrick Garland will testify before different committees in Congress. I`m sure he will be asked about these actions by the department, actions in going after members of Congress with baseless subpoenas, actions in going after reporters the way that they have, the gag orders that were issued.
But also as you point out, the intervention of the attorney general apparently in this investigation involving our committee but also to reduce the sentence of Roger Stone, someone who committed perjury, lying to cover up for the president. The dismissal of the case against Michael Flynn, another person convicted or pled guilty twice to lying to federal authorities.
So I think that the attorney general has an obligation to clean house, to essentially understand exactly what the department was doing over the last four years, make sure that there`s accountability for those that were engaged in political and partisan investigations within the department. And, you know, in terms of the oversight by Congress, I don`t think I have a role in that given that some of my records were apparently the subject of a 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.
MADDOW: Yeah, clean -- clean house, I think, is an appropriate term there.
The Justice Department was used over the last four years in ways that can`t just be left to sort of drift into the ether without us knowing the extent of it and without it being corrected -- if you`ll forgive me saying so.
Congressman Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee - - sir, thank you for joining us on short notice. I am sorry that this happened to you and to your staff and to their families in particular. I look forward to getting to the bottom to it -- bottom of it as fast as we damn well can. Thank you, sir.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more to get to this very busy news night. Just astonishing. Stay with us.
MADDOW: It doesn`t even start properly until tomorrow, and I`ve already had to learn three whole new words and phrases. This is not a series of typos or some hack of our graphics on set. All those words there, those are correct actually.
I had to learn all of this today. Every day is a new challenge when you are covering the news, all right?
So here`s the first one. It`s Tuesday night. The plane with the president onboard is obviously Air Force One, but there`s also a huge cadre of the White House press corps that is going too. And for the press corps, they charter a big plane, a big Airbus 330.
And the press goes out to Dulles Airport just outside D.C. They are set to take off at 9:00 p.m. Tuesday night ahead of the president`s plane flying to Europe for the big G-7 trip. And it turns out the press plane can`t go. It can`t go because cicadas.
You might have seen one landing on President Biden`s neck as he was leaving the White House to go start his leg of this trip. That`s a giant cicada on him.
But it was more than one. It was many more than one that apparently infested the plane that the press was supposed to travel on alongside the president. A spokesman for Delta, which operates the press plane in this case, told "USA Today" that these bugs infested and overran something called the auxiliary power unit, a small turbine engine that powers the cabin and other onboard equipment. So many cicadas got into that auxiliary power unit that it broke.
Delta telling "USA Today," quote, at issue was the presence of periodical cicadas within the APU, rendering it unworkable. The spokesman then said, quote, we apologize to our charter customers for this rarest of entomological delays. This rarest of entomological delays.
Entomological delay. Bug trouble grounds entire gigantic airplane. So that was first. Entomological delay. That was first for me.
Next challenge, mizzle. Mizzle. It`s not a Snoop Dogg quote. It`s mizzle, M-I-Z-Z-L-E.
This is Saint Michael`s mount. It sticks out off the coast of Cornwall, which is the far, far southwestern corner of Great Britain. And this is sort of an island although at low tide, you can walk to it across a manmade causeway. Once the tide comes in, it`s an island again until the tide goes back out. They`re called a tidal island.
And Saint Michael`s Mount has an ancient castle on it. It has tons of history. That cool, kind of spooky place that you can only walk to at low tide, it was supposed to be the site today of the first in-person meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and the somewhat shambolic conservative prime minister of Great Britain, Boris Johnson. They were supposed to meet in person for the first time at Saint Michael`s mount in Cornwall.
But then mizzle. Mizzle made it not happen. Whatever means they were going to use to convey President Biden and Prime Minister Johnson and all their entourages out onto this tidal island and its fancy castle for their meeting, those means of conveyance were grounded. They could not travel because of what they call in Cornwall, mizzle, a combination of mist and drizzle. Really?
So not like thunderstorms or high winds or heavy rain, but, rather, very, very light rain, so light it`s a combination of mist and drizzle. But apparently is prohibitively impassable even with all the resources at the disposal of a British prime minister at home and a traveling U.S. president.
There can be no castle meeting. We blame the mizzle. They had to stay on the mainland and change all their plans.
So we get the entomological delay. Then we get the mizzle. Then one more. This one happened today after the mizzle problem.
Some of the press traveling to cover the G-7 Summit -- and I believe also some of the security staff for one of the countries attending the G-7 Summit, they were all due to stay, I think, in all the rooms at what appears to be a lovely beachside hotel in Cornwall. It`s actually operated by a brewery called Saint Austell.
But the unhappy eventuality involving that cute hotel is that as the traveling international press and the security staff and the entourages for the G-7 leaders have converged on Cornwall ahead of tomorrow`s summit of all the G-7 leaders, at this hotel due to host the press and security staff, they had a big COVID outbreak among their staff, and they had to shut down at the very last minute. They first shut their restaurant and bar. They then shut all of the rest of the public spaces at the hotel.
But then today they had to shut all of their guest rooms as well. They had to shut down their hotel entirely because of a COVID outbreak. They had to oust all their guests. It`s not like there`s other rooms to book because, hey, the G-7 is happening around there. Everything`s booked.
So, first, it`s the entomological delay with the bugs eating the engine, infesting the engine for the flight out there, 6 1/2 hour delay while the reporters wait for a new plane. Then it`s mizzle grounding and diverting President Biden for his first bilateral meeting with the British prime minister. Now it`s a COVID outbreak shutting the hotel at the summit.
And what is the name of the hotel? The name of the hotel is -- you tell me. That`s not a typo. First word P-E-D-N. Second word, O-L-V-A. I think it`s Pedn Olva.
But after entomological delays and mizzle and now -- it feels like an elaborate joke to prove that saying about America and Great Britain being two countries divided by a common language.
But the G-7 itself kicks off in earnest tomorrow, plagues be damned. Leaders from U.S., Great Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, for all the bugs and viruses and freak weather they`re already contending with, we can be fairly sure that this year`s G-7 will end up being less of a fiasco than last year`s. They hold the G-7 once a year. Presidents and prime ministers, all these big influential countries all get together in person.
Last year, it was America`s turn to host it. We were supposed to host it. Do you remember what happened last year? Do you remember what Trump did when the U.S. was supposed to host the G-7? Do you remember how that went?
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DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: My people looked at 12 sites. All good, but some were two hours from an airport. Some were four hours. I mean, they were so far away. Some didn`t allow this, some didn`t allow that.
With Doral, we have a series of magnificent buildings. We call them bungalows. They each hold from 50 to 70 very luxurious rooms with magnificent views. We have incredible conference rooms, incredible restaurants. It`s like -- it`s like such a natural.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: With Doral. He decided that if it was the turn of the United States of America to host the G-7 Summit, the best place in America -- really the only place in the whole country that would be suited to do that would be his own hotel in Florida.
And President Trump didn`t just, like, float this as an insane and totally illegal idea that he later tried to pass off as a joke on Twitter. The White House actually formally announced that this was what was going to happen, that this was the site that had been chosen for the G-7.
It was absolutely astonishing. This was "The Washington Post" that day. Trump has awarded next year`s G-7 Summit of world leaders to his own Miami area resort, the White House said.
Quote, the decision is without precedent in modern American history. The president has used his public office to direct a huge contract to himself. Trump`s Doral resort, set among office parks near the Miami airport, has been in sharp decline in recent years. But now the G-7 summit will draw hundreds of diplomats -- actually likely thousands altogether -- hundreds of diplomats, journalists and security personnel to the resort during one of its slowest months of the year, when Miami is hot and the hotel is often less than 40 percent full.
Trump`s decision to select his own resort as host of the international gathering is a sign that he`s becoming more brazen about flouting criticism from Congress and shattering ethical norms that have been observed by previous presidents with regard to separating the duties of their office from their financial well-being. The Trump Organization said today that it was, quote, honored to have been chosen by its owner, the president, for this event, end quote.
They actually tried to do this. I mean, we`re still learning like what he had the Justice Department do on his behalf. I hate Adam Schiff. Subpoena his records. Have the Justice Department go after him and investigate him and all his staff and their families, right?
But then there`s also just like, I want the U.S. government and lots of foreign governments to pay me. I`ve decided we`re going to do that stuff at my hotel.
The president said he wanted the G-7 at his hotel. White House personnel went along with it. Whoever the poor sod who was operating the White House twitter account at the time had to tweet this out as a big announcement about where the G-7 was going to be.
The White House chief of staff at the time, Mick Mulvaney, announced it to the press from the White House briefing room. This was not a lark. They really tried to do it.
And, yeah, sure, it is actually written in the Constitution that U.S. officials can`t take money from any foreign governments. But who cares, right? Who`s going to enforce it? Can`t prosecute the president, and no prosecutor after he`s gone will be interested.
The way they did this, any foreign government that wanted to participate in the 2020 G-7 Summit would have to pay Donald Trump and his family if they wanted to attend it. I mean your country may or may not want to pay a personal bribe to the U.S. president and his family. But in the case of the G-7 under Donald Trump, all of those foreign governments would have been forced to.
The headlines in response were sort of amazing. Trump`s most shameless act of profiteering. Trump`s move to host the G-7 at his resort takes self- dealing to new levels. The corruption is becoming more and more brazen.
They did it. They tried to get away with it. Ultimately, they backed down, and ultimately the 2020 G-7 got canceled as an in-person meeting anyway because of COVID-19. But that came close to happening. They really tried to do it.
And since we as a country went through insanity like that, let it be noted that apparently that was not enough of a wake-up call to make us make sure it couldn`t happen again. We never enacted any sort of reform, any sort of change, any sort of binding rule to prevent something like that from happening again, particularly when a president can`t be prosecuted for crimes while he`s in office according to the office of legal counsel at the Justice Department.
I mean what did we do to make sure something like that doesn`t happen again? We didn`t vote out vote out the guy who did it. But what`s to say he`s not coming back or someone who`s even worse than him? He showed what could be done with the American presidency, with absolutely heck-bent on that kind of self-dealing and corruption and abuse.
We leave it open to future abuse by not putting teeth in the rules and the norms that are supposed to prevent that sort of thing. And of course we leave it open to future abuse by deciding he`s never going to face charges for any laws he broke while in office. He couldn`t face charges while he was a sitting president, and now that he`s out of office, we`re just -- let`s just hope that doesn`t happen again?
The presidency is still like that. This presidency still affords those opportunities for self-dealing and corruption if we get that bad an actor in there again. That`s like an entomological mizzle. We`re going to need to get Olva if we`re ever going to set ourselves back on the right course.
We`ve got more on that ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: On his first overseas trip as president, in Britain today for the start of the G-7, President Joe Biden is reaping the international rewards of not being his predecessor. He gets to revel a little bit, at least at first, at how relieved the world is at just that fact.
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BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: All the things we believe in together, democracy, human rights, the rule of law, the U.S. and the U.K. stick up for those two things together. So it`s incredibly important that we should affirm that. The talks were great. They went on for a long time. We covered a huge range of subjects.
And it`s wonderful to listen to the Biden administration and to Joe Biden because there`s so much that they want to do together with us, from security, NATO, to climate change. And it`s fantastic. It`s a breath of fresh air.
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MADDOW: It`s fantastic, a breath of fresh air. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking today on the eve of the G-7 Summit in Cornwall in the U.K.
Today, the Pew Research Center released its annual global survey, and it turns out the whole world agrees with that breath of fresh air thing from Boris Johnson.
Here`s the headline from Pew today: America`s image abroad rebounds with transition from Trump to Biden. Quote, the election of Joe Biden as president has led to a dramatic shift in America`s international image. Throughout Donald Trump`s presidency, publics around the world held the United States in low regard. This was especially true among key American allies and partners.
Now, a new Pew Research Center survey of 16 publics, meaning the public in 16 countries, finds a significant uptick in ratings for the United States. When they say uptick, they mean it.
I mean look at this. They ask people in countries around the world this very blunt general question, whether they had a favorable opinion of the United States. Last year under Trump, the answer to that was not good. Our approval rating around the world was 34 percent.
This year, one year later, 62 percent. From 34 to 62 in one year. Huh, what`s changed?
Here`s a hint. Last year in countries around the world, Pew asked the public, do you have confidence in the president of the United States to do the right thing regarding world affairs?
Last year, the percentage of people around the world saying they had confidence in President Donald Trump to do the right thing was 17 percent. This year under President Biden, it`s not 17 percent anymore. It`s 75 percent.
That`s not a jump of 70 to 75 percent. It`s a jump of 17 percent to 75 percent. That`s an uptick. That`s how the world`s confidence in America and the U.S. president to do the right thing -- that`s how it has leapt by virtue of us voting Trump out and Biden in.
That said, some considerable damage is done. Only 11 percent of people around the world say that the United States is now a very reliable partner. I mean, yeah, how can we be all that reliable given what we just did the past four years?
A majority of people around the world, 57 percent, say democracy in the United States, quote, used to be a good example, but we haven`t been a good example in recent years.
President Biden abroad is, you know, obviously benefiting from the contrast with his predecessor. But the aftermath of his predecessor is also posing ongoing challenges as Biden tries to stand up the United States as, once again, an example to the world. He keeps saying -- he`s made it the touchstone of his presidency that the United States is a beacon for the possibility and promise of democracy against rising authoritarianism and dictatorships around the world.
To credibly make that case abroad, the home front challenges left in the United States in the aftermath of our previous president are an increasingly pressing thing, one that I think as a country we`re not sure whether the Biden administration is up to dealing with or not. Clearly they`d rather look forward, but the past has a way of holding on.
We just learned tonight, interestingly, that Attorney General Merrick Garland has scheduled a public speech for tomorrow, an announcement about, quote, voting rights and the concrete steps the department is taking to secure the fundamental right to vote for all Americans. Concrete steps you say?
The Justice Department under Merrick Garland has thus far taken no visible concrete steps to defend voting rights, even as every Republican-led state across the country has moved to roll back voting rights. As the former president continues to insist that the election was stolen from him and therefore voting needs to be restricted. We`ll see what Attorney General Garland says about that tomorrow. We`ll see what he has to say if anything about this very disturbing report in "The New York Times" tonight that the Justice Department, including some officials, who are still there were involved in obtaining communications records secretly for sitting members of Congress.
We`ll see if Attorney General Garland has any sort of follow-up of the warning sent by his department a few weeks ago, the warning that the sham audit, a sham recount of the presidential election result in Arizona was violating federal law in terms of mishandling ballots, mishandling elections equipment.
That Arizona event, that Arizona potential crime scene has now hosted Republican state legislators from Pennsylvania, Nevada, Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, and Virginia with more states to come, because Republicans want to do this sort of thing, they want to try to effectively decertify the presidential election results in all of those states, or at least delegitimized those results with an eye towards pressing to decertify the results. They`re trying to do it anywhere that they can get their hands on the ballots and voting machines.
So, Attorney General Garland announcing some sort of speech, and announcement tomorrow, we`ll see if he says anything about enforcing federal laws that are supposed to block that sort of mischief that we are seeing down there in Arizona, that the Republican Party wants to take that nationwide.
On Tomorrow night show, we will have the gob-smacking story of a nonpartisan, experienced, effective local elections official who was just run out of his job by this braying mob on the political right that`s increasingly going after even low-level nonpartisan officials who won`t go along with Republicans efforts to undo and overturned election results to benefit Donald Trump.
So, there is these huge international stakes in terms of standing up for democracy and the world, right? President Biden saying that the role of America right now is to show that democracy performs for its people, that democracies can get stuff done. Democracies will show up the tyrannies and autocracies competing with us, so the future of the world is free and self- determined couldn`t be larger stakes. That`s what the new U.S. president is selling today out there in the mizzle, at the G-7 in Cornwall, saying America is back and the world saying, yeah, we sure hope so.
But the home front is wobbly, in terms of whether we are successfully fighting off our own rapidly consolidating authoritarian movement inside our own politics, and whether we are establishing the necessary deterrence for would-be authoritarian leaders here who have proven pretty good at grabbing the reins in our own country.
When we heard today that President Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be signing a new Atlantic Charter, renewing an updating a commitment our countries made to each other as free nations in 1941 as Hitler rose, and FDR and Churchill wanted to shore up the alliance of the free world against him, against fascism, and against authoritarianism, when we learned that Biden and Johnson will be signing this new Atlantic compact today, we called NBC presidential historian Michael Beschloss to get his take on where these two leaders are at right now with this update of that compact, compared with FDR and Churchill fighting fascism 80 years ago.
Mr. Beschloss` answer was not at all what I expected, and it curled my hair.
Joining us now is the great Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian.
Michael, thank you so much for being with us tonight.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Hi, Rachel, I didn`t mean to curl your hair.
MADDOW: You did. You freaked me out a little bit talking about the -- both the parallels and the contrasts that you see between what FDR and Churchill were doing 80 years ago and what happened today!
BESCHLOSS: Well, you know, a couple of moments of history our democracy has almost been taken away. That happened in the 1860s, there was a southern insurrection. That happened in 1940 when Americans had to decide whether we would stand up to Hitler and Mussolini and the Japanese to make sure that we and freedom survived.
The Cold War, especially in 1960, when John Kennedy became president, he said, we are in an hour of maximum danger. That our system may not survive it.
We have lived, you and I and all of us watching for four years through Donald Trump, our democracy was almost taken away. But here we are, he is gone. The danger remains.
You were talking about the fact that the Russians and Chinese would love nothing better than to chase democracy out of our country. They are uncomfortable with it.
But the worst thing, just as you were saying Rachel, is that we have at the same time what we did not have a 1940 or 1960, and that is a danger to democracy from within. Another insurrection like January 6th, maybe another attempt at coup d`etat, or worse, just as you`ve been saying, we`re seeing these state legislatures stealing voting rights from people in state after state. We are in danger of American elections, and the presidency and other offices being something like the elections for Mussolini, which he won with about 90 percent.
MADDOW: NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss, I have been thinking about history all day. And in starker and starker terms, the more that I have heard from you today. Thank you for being so clear. Thank you for joining us, sir.
BESCHLOSS: Thank you, Rachel, as always.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Just to recap, the breaking news we got at the top of the show, "The New York Times" reporting tonight that the Trump Justice Department secretly seized communications records from members of Congress, from Democratic members of Congress serving on the intelligence committee in the House. This is something that`s never been done before as far as we know.
At least two Democratic members of Congress serving on the House Intelligence Committee as well as some staff members and their family members, including at least one child, had communications data subpoenaed from Apple by the Justice Department under Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions and then by Attorney General William Barr as well.
"The Times" reporting that Barr`s behavior around these investigations, quote, let some people in the department to see the inquiries as politically motivated.
Earlier this hour, the Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, is one of the lawmakers who has communication seized, told us that the new attorney general under President Biden, Merrick Garland, has an obligation to clean house, to understand what the Justice Department was doing the last four years, to make sure there is accountability.
That`s going to do it for us for now. I`ll see you again tomorrow night.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Good evening, Lawrence.