Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary who oversaw Iraq and Afghanistan wars, died at 88. "The Washington Post" reports that a grand jury has now produced indictments and filed criminal charges against the Trump Organization and its long-time chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg. Tomorrow, the last U.S. Supreme Court decisions of the term are going to be released.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": Yeah. And a game theory standpoint in terms of the legislative tactics here, I think it really matters where they think they can find the votes. And right now, we have people, you know, climate Democrats saying we won`t vote for this. That puts -- that changes the calculation.
Waleed Shahid, thank you so much for coming on tonight.
WALEED SHAHID, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Thank you.
HAYES: That is "ALL IN" for this evening.
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 at home for joining us this hour.
In 1845, Frederick Douglass, the great American abolitionist, published the first of what would become three autobiographical accounts of his life. The first one was called "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave."
Frederick Douglass is, of course, one of the greatest Americans of all time. His auto biographies about life as a slave and his struggle to become free, in addition to everything else he did in his life, those written works are some of the most influential written American accounts of anything on any subject.
In "Narrative of the Life", which is the most widely read of the three of his three autobiographical accounts but also in the subsequent autobiographies he wrote as well, including the next one, "My Bondage and My Freedom," one of the most harrowing things that Frederick Douglass describes about his own life is a yearlong period when the man who owned him as a slave decided that young Frederick Douglass was incorrigible.
Douglass` owner decided that Frederick Douglass needed in effect to be tamed, to be broken. And so he shipped Frederick Douglass off to a man that is literally known as a slave breaker. The slave breaker was named Edward Covey. C-O-V-E-Y.
This is part of how Frederick Douglass describes him in "My Bondage and My Freedom". He says, quote, I have now lived with him, meaning his slave owner, nearly nine months, and he had given me a number of severe whippings, without any visible improvement in my character or my conduct. Now he was resolved to put me out as he said, quote, to be broken.
There was, in the Bay Side, a man named Edward Covey, who enjoyed the execrated reputation of being a first rate hand at breaking young Negroes. Breaking.
Frederick Douglass then goes on in chapter after chapter after chapter in this autobiography. Look at this. The experiences at Covey`s, unusual brutality at Covey, driven back to Covey`s. You know, Covey`s manner of proceeding to whip, right? Chapter after chapter after chapter, he describes this experience, the way that Edward Covey tortured him and beat him nearly to death and worked him nearly to death all the try to destroy Frederick Douglass` spirit, to try to destroy his mind, to turn him into a docile slave who would work out question whereupon he would then be returned to his owner.
And because Douglass is so capable and so brilliant, his own recounting of what happened to him in that period of his life, what happened to him when his slave owner sent him to Edward Covey, what happened to him at Edward Covey`s hands, what happened to him when he stayed for a year at Edward Covey`s farm and Covey was tasked there with breaking him, because Frederick Douglass is such a luminous, important, brilliant, inspiring, incredible figure, unparalleled figure in American history, because of what we know he is capable of, because of what we know what his mind was capable of and what he did for his country in his life, when he recounts what happened to him at the hands of Edward Covey, it is the most dispiriting and desolate and just miserable thing that Douglass writes about.
He said: I shall never be able to narrate the mental experience through which it was my lot to pass during my stay at Edward Covey`s. I was completely wrecked, changed and bewildered, goaded almost to madness at one time and at another reconciling myself to my wretched condition. I suffered bodily as well as mentally, he says.
The overwork and brutal chastisements of which I was the victim, combined with that ever gnawing and soul devouring thought, I am a slave, a slave for life, a slave with no rational ground to hope for freedom, it rendered me a living embodiment of mental and physical wretchedness.
That was Frederick Douglass` account of his own life in that lowest period in his own life. And that written account did more than any other to galvanize the American abolitionist movement to bring an end to slavery. Of course, it was not fiction. It really happened and it happened as Frederick Douglass said it did and Edward Covey was a real person who operated a slave breaking operation at his farm to which Frederick Douglass was sent.
Now, if you go back to that initial description, Douglass describes Covey`s farm as being on the Bay Side. What he meant by that is that the farm was on the far side of Chesapeake Bay, the far side of Chesapeake Bay from the mainland of Maryland, which is where Douglass was being sent there from.
Edward Covey`s farm, his slave breaking operation which he tortured Frederick Douglass and countless others was this house and its surrounding farmland on the eastern shore of Maryland, in a town that`s now called St. Michael`s.
The farm and the house at the farm itself had a name, a fitting name. It was called Mount Misery.
About 15 years ago now, a literature professor wrote a very thoughtful piece in the "Baltimore Sun" newspaper suggesting a new future for mount misery, suggesting that the United States of America should consider buying Mount Misery to make it a commemorative site. He argued, would not the most fitting outcome for Mount Misery be as a monument or museum wherein a key moment from the country`s past can find a rightful place in the public memory. The old Edward Covey house deserves our understanding and preservation, the fight between slave and slave breaker that took place there is emblematic of two of the elemental themes of American history, the horrors of legally sanctioned racial violence and also the nobility of the struggle against it.
And then here`s actually the kicker from that piece. The professor says, quote, preserving Mount Misery as a public site of contemplation where the meanings of democracy and despotism are given a human face also would help keep St. Michael`s from being merely a resort for the wealthy.
A resort for the wealthy? Check this out. The occasion for that call that well-argued piece in "The Baltimore Sun" that mount misery should be purchased and preserved by this country as a monument to the epic violence committed there against slaves in great numbers but specifically against one of the greatest Americans of all time, the key role that the torture in that house played in turning on our American conscious to eventually overthrow slavery, the occasion for that call to preserve Mount Misery as a monument to the hell that happened there, the reason "The Baltimore Sun" published that just less than 15 years ago now was this revelation that was published in "The New York Times" exactly 15 years ago today.
On June 30th, 2006, it`s titles "Weekends with the president`s men." It is kind of a kicky sidebar piece in "The New York Times" that was published in the summer of 2006. And that piece revealed that that site on the eastern shore of Maryland, Mount Misery, that house, that farm had actually been recently purchased and was now being lived in as a private home.
Can you imagine, right? First of all, the house is still called Mount Misery today. That`s still the name by which it is known. Who would want to live in a place called Mount Misery?
But then you get to the reason that it`s called Mount Misery, right? It was the home, the same building standing there since 1804. Frederick Douglass was tortured there in 1833 and 1834. It`s the same actual physical place in which the great Frederick Douglass was tortured and beaten and worked nearly to death every day for a year.
Whether or not you think that place should be purchased by this country and made into a memorial for the worst most violent evils of slavery and their role on turning on American`s conscious to end slavery, again, that`s a substantive and interesting proposal. Whether or not you are into that idea, would you want to live there yourself? Would you like to wake up there in the morning and plan breakfast, have that be your home? Who would do that?
That article published in "The New York Times" 15 years ago today was actually controversial at the time that it was published because in writing that piece it did reveal the exact home address of a senior government official who in fact had made Mount Misery his private home. His name is Donald Rumsfeld, and he was at the time, the summer of 2006, struggling to the end of his disastrous tenure as secretary of defense under the George W. Bush administration.
He lived at the time at Mount Misery. He bought the place in 2003 as he was leading the nation into the invasion of Iraq. That was where he went to get away from Washington while running two disastrous wars. He would like to have the Chinook helicopter drop him off at the slave breaker`s home where Douglass was tortured to death. He could relax there.
Donald Rumsfeld died today at the age of 88. He had a singular career. He made gazillions of dollars in business running companies that invented Nutrasweet and early HDTVs. He served four terms in congress, which is something that`s not frequently remembered about him, especially given his later overt and pronounced disdain for Congress.
He served in a variety of roles in the Nixon administration before becoming President Gerald Ford`s White House chief of staff and then Ford`s defense secretary.
George W. Bush brought him back to the Pentagon in 2001 to be secretary of defense again. It`s the only person to have served two nonconsecutive terms as secretary of defense. On September 11th, 2001, he was in his office at the Pentagon as one of the hijacked planes slammed into the building.
To his credit, Rumsfeld helped personally in the immediate aftermath of the impact and the fire, he helped rescue people. He stayed on site at the Pentagon that day all day while Cheney got rushed to the bunker and, for some reason, they just flew the president in the air for a long time as if they weren`t sure where to put him. Rumsfeld stayed in the Pentagon.
In the aftermath of 9/11, it was Donald Rumsfeld who planned for the invasion of Afghanistan, but then not for what to do in Afghanistan after the invasion.
Less than two years, it was Donald Rumsfeld planned for the American invasion of Iraq, but then not for what to do in Iraq after the initial invasion.
As chaos and civil war overwhelmed Iraq in the wake of the U.S. invasion there, Donald Rumsfeld famously insisted that Americans should see all of that as good news, really, because freedom is untidy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Freedom`s untidy and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things, stuff happens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Stuff happens, stuff happens.
Donald Rumsfeld who died today, again at the age of 88, was responsible for the planning of the American invasions and the subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are only just now getting out of Afghanistan today.
When it came to the systematic torture of prisoners in U.S. custody at facilities like Abu Ghraib in Iraq, Rumsfeld in his memoirs blamed that on what he called a small group of prison guards who ran amok. The historical record, however, shows that Rumsfeld was sent memos in real time about the actual planning, the actual orders for torture like that to occur as a matter of U.S. policy and on purpose directed down the chain of command.
On the margins of one memo that spelled out that prisoners in U.S. custody should be tortured by among other things forcing them to stand for hours at a time, Rumsfeld hand-wrote in the margin, I stand for eight to ten hours a day. Why is standing limited to four hours? By which he meant why aren`t they forcing these prisoners to stand for even longer, this doesn`t seem harsh enough.
There was also the memorable moment in Rumsfeld`s tenure as defense secretary and it was discovered that on more than a thousand condolences letters that were sent to the families of U.S. servicemen and servicewomen killed in Iraq, Donald Rumsfeld did not feel it was necessary to sign his name. He instead used what`s called an autopen, basically a machine that rubber stamped his name to sign all the supposedly heartfelt condolence letters to the families of American service members killed in action in Iraq.
As roadside bombs started killing American service members by the dozen and then by the hundreds and then ultimately by the thousands, Secretary Rumsfeld was asked why U.S. forces didn`t have up-to-date body armor, why there wasn`t more of a rush to get it to them.
He replied famously that you go to war with the army you have, not the one you might want or wish to have -- implying not only that we didn`t have the army that we want, also implying that the timing of that war somehow wasn`t our choice, wasn`t somehow his choice, and the choice of the other senior officials in the administration who made that decision to invade Iraq based on a false premise made up supposedly threatening things about Iraq that were not true, that they insisted the American people were true, right?
Telling the American people that Iraq had terrible weapons that Iraq didn`t actually have. Telling the American people that Iraq was in cahoots with al Qaeda when Iraq was not in cahoots with al Qaeda. Telling the American people that Iraq was poised to invade us or attack us or come after the U.S. in some devastating way that was imminent.
None of that was true. But no one was as enthusiastic a promoter as the false pretext for that war, no one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUMSFELD: No terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people and the stability of the world than the regime of Saddam Hussein and Iraq.
We have what we consider to be credible evidence that al Qaeda leaders have sought contacts in Iraq that could help them acquire weapon of -- weapons of mass destruction capabilities.
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Do you have hard evidence that they`re in Iraq?
RUMSFELD: Oh, there is no question about that al Qaeda have moved through and some have stayed.
BROKAW: And that`s not just an assumption, we know that?
RUMSFELD: I know that.
If someone is waiting for a so-called smoking gun, it is certain we will have waited too long.
REPORTER: What do you make of the statement made by the Iraqi government the statement by the Iraq government yesterday that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction and is not developing any?
RUMSFELD: They`re lying.
It is not knowable if force will be used. But if it is to be used, it could last, you know, six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I doubt six months. Who is telling you a war in Iraq might last six months? Who saying it will go that long?
I`m Donald Rumsfeld. You can take it from me. Try six days.
Donald Rumsfeld was also a master at unusually specific lies about the most consequential things that led to that war that ultimately cost hundreds of thousands of lives. He told ABC News, for example, after the invasion when he was asked, how come the weapons of mass destruction you guaranteed were there they haven`t been found? He insisted that not only were there weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that were going to be found, but he knew where they were.
He said, quote, we know where they are. They`re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.
Donald Rumsfeld has died today at the age of 88. He did not die at his home at Mount Misery, which was the slave breaking site of the life-changing and world-changing torture of Frederick Douglass, place he bought as a weekend retreat while serving as defense secretary. He died instead in New Mexico at a ranch he had there in Taos.
And Donald Rumsfeld`s death comes on a day with about five weeks worth of news in it otherwise. We`re covering a lot of different breaking news stories tonight.
Tonight, "The Washington Post" was first to report, NBC News has confirmed, that a grand jury in Manhattan filed criminal indictments today against the company of former President Donald Trump and its longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg. "The Post" and NBC are both citing two people familiar with the indictments. Again, this means the indictments have been handed down by the grand jury. They are at this point sealed.
NBC reported earlier today that the indictments are expected to be unsealed at a court proceeding at 2:00 p.m. tomorrow whereupon we`ll find out exactly what the charges are and whereupon the defendant or defendants are expected to be in court to face those charges.
Now, there is not an expectation at this point that former President Trump himself is going to be hit with criminal charges tomorrow, although, that apparently remains a possibility for some theoretical potential superseding indictment coming after this one. I`m not sure I totally understand the legal world common wisdom that there very well may be a superseding indictment beyond the one that comes tomorrow. But we`re going to chase that a little bit tonight and try to get some perspective on why that seems to be the prevailing wisdom about this case against the president`s company is likely to unfold. We`ll have much more on that ahead tonight.
But like I said, it is a remarkable news day today. Today, also brought the shocking news that the conviction of Bill Cosby was overturned by Pennsylvania`s Supreme Court. Cosby had served more than two years in prison after he was convicted of three counts of aggravated indecent assault in 2018. He will never serve another day of the 3 to 10 year sentence he had initially been given.
After the court overturned that conviction today, they overturned it on the grounds that a previous Pennsylvania prosecutor, who happens to be the shambolic, bizarre, Trump impeachment lawyer, Bruce Castor, Bruce Castor when he was serving as a prosecutor in Pennsylvania had apparently given Bill Crosby an unwritten, unofficial, though apparently binding assurance that he wouldn`t be prosecuted. And on the basis of that, the Supreme Court today overturned his ultimate prosecution and deemed that he cannot be tried on those charges again. A bizarre turn in one of the highest profile prosecutions of the #metoo era today and Bill Cosby is tonight out of prison and at his home in suburban Philadelphia.
And that arrives just in this whirlwind of news. I mean, everything else going on, don`t forget that tomorrow is the last day of the term for the United States Supreme Court this year. And that means two very important things. First, there is two really big cases left to be decided. One about dark money, undisclosed money in politics. And another that, frankly, could put the final nail in the coffin of the already gutted Voting Rights Act based on an Arizona voting case.
Both of those decisions are expected from the Supreme Court tomorrow. Election reform and voting rights advocates bracing for what`s expected to not be great news on either of those fronts, but we shall see. The court has been full of surprises this year.
So, in the substance tomorrow being the last day of the term matters, in terms of what they`re going to tell us with these last cases. But tomorrow also matters because it is the last day of the term.
And if Justice Steven Breyer or any of the other 80-something-year-old justices on the court are going to retire from the court, past precedent would suggest that tomorrow could be the day which we will get that announcement. In the vast majority of modern Supreme Court retirements, they are announced to either take effect at the end of a Supreme Court term or they are announced at the close of a Supreme Court term.
So if you are planning on this being the summer in which we get a Supreme Court vacancy and a Senate fight over who to put on the court, we will likely tomorrow is the day we will most likely learn that news. It all happens at once.
Joining us now is my friend Ron Suskind. He`s a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and the author of many tell-all and award-winning books about U.S. presidential administrations. Three of his best selling books "The Price of Loyalty," "The One Percent Doctrine," and "The Way of the World" all featured Donald Rumsfeld as the central if not the starring character. I know nobody else who knows about Donald Rumsfeld that Ron Suskind.
Ron, it`s really nice of you to be here tonight. Thank you for joining us.
RON SUSKIND, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING JOURNALIST & AUTHOR: Good to be here.
MADDOW: So I did not give any sort of holistic look at Defense Secretary Rumsfeld `s legacy. I turn to you for that. I think I`m still quite red- eyed in every sense of the word about his legacy with the Iraq war.
How do you think that we should look at his legacy today, the day of his death?
SUSKIND: You know, Rumsfeld crosses eras. You know, he starts with Nixon and Ford during the bipolar world of Soviets and the U.S., and he bridges all the way to the era that follows it, with rogue states and terrorists. So, he bridges really this modern period.
And you can see in Rumsfeld`s life, how the United States dealt with its place in the world in that earlier period when the world in a way was kind of neater. Two countries of awesome power crossing swords, to the world in which really I think significant disasters under Rumsfeld`s guidance are really at the center of his legacy.
I mean, mind you, under the name Rumsfeld, you have two very, very long wars that in no way fulfill the goals intended, and you have what was then called enhanced interrogation techniques. We now call it torture.
Those are now under the name of the United States. You know, in some ways, you see now the struggle we have with truth in public institutions in our public life. You can trace quite a bit of it back to going to war under false pretenses. That`s an enormous historic crime.
Even dictators hesitate to flirt with that when young men and women will be dying on some foreign battlefield, but that is what happened here. Rumsfeld was at the center of that.
MADDOW: Rumsfeld, also, personally, was at the center of that in a way that resonates for me in terms of what you just said there. Rums -- going back today and looking through old tape and public pronouncements from Secretary Rumsfeld, I was struck by how many of the things that he said were factually untrue, not only known now to be factually untrue, but he was confronted at the time with evidence of what he said was factually untrue.
Not only did he recant his statements or repent for having told significant and consequential untruths to the American people, he never, as far as I know, and I put this to you, expressed any sort of regret for having told the American people a pack of lies to justify that war, nor for the consequences of those lies or the war itself. Was he ever regretful? Was he ever reflective?
SUSKIND: Not one iota. That`s interesting. He had many opportunities late in his life. Everyone pressed him to say, please, even if you are not faulting yourself, say it was the wrong decision with terrible consequences in a variety of ways. He wouldn`t do it.
It was interesting what you said before, Rachel, about that period, that period after 9/11 right up until the Iraq invasion, Rumsfeld was really the most forceful, most in the way electric personality commanding the news cycle, speaking with great clarity and pointedness, that was his way, during that administration. He really did sell that war to the American people. And he did it very effectively.
You know, during the time in which he`s doing that, there was evidence inside that administration which I found and other people did as well saying there were not weapons of mass destruction that anyone was able to find and would likely be findable in Iraq. That was known before the invasion. You know, Rumsfeld and others were warned, but it was full steam ahead.
I mean, in a way, in a way this is a last generation of leaders and policymakers who believed in the exercise of U.S. power to re-shape the world. That was something we saw in the post World War II period. And I think what they showed for the limits of U.S. power and a hubristic notion of what the United States could do in the ways that it thought it could reshape the world. That is the legacy of that time. Rumsfeld was a key actor.
MADDOW: Journalist and author, Ron Suskind, who has done more than perhaps anyone to illuminate the truth behind that very difficult period in American history "The Price of Loyalty," "One Percent Doctrine," "Way of the World", all seminal texts about that dark period and some of the driving characters in it -- Ron, thank you for joining us tonight. I appreciate you being here, sir.
SUSKIND: Good to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Coming up next, we have had confirmed tonight now by NBC news as well as "The Washington Post" that a grand jury has indicted the Trump Organization and its CFO. We`ve got more on that ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Former President Trump`s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, had his license to practice law suspended in New York this summer. Thirty-five years ago this summer, President Trump`s other personal lawyer, Roy Cohn, was disbarred from the practice of law altogether.
But there is another between those two. It has been three years now since Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen also lost his license to practice law when he pled guilty to multiple felonies in a scheme by which illegal contributions were made to Trump`s 2016 presidential campaign. Those illegal contributions came in the form of hundreds of thousands of dollars that were paid out to two women to stop those women from speaking publically about them allegedly having affairs with the president.
Those payments were designed to hush those women before the campaign. The payments were, therefore, designed to benefit his presidential campaign. They were illegal payments. They were, in fact, federal felonies.
Michael Cohen remains the only person who went to prison for that scheme, even though he didn`t benefit from those payments. Donald Trump did.
That said, federal prosecutors quite famously in court documents and Michael Cohen actually testified in open court that he committed those felonies in coordination with and at the direction of individual-1, who was Donald Trump. It was, of course, the person who was also the beneficiary of the actions described in those felony counts.
And then that raised all sorts of actually still outstanding questions as to why federal prosecutors from the southern district of New York would ascribe that kind of blame to an individual who directed the commission of those felonies who actually benefitted from the commission of those felonies. But then they closed the case without ever bringing charges against that individual.
It is one thing to think that individual-1, President Trump, was safe from indictment himself there because he was president at the time and the Justice Department won`t indict a sitting president. But he`s no longer president. Nevertheless, that SDNY case was closed.
In addition to individual-1, though, there was also executive-1, described by prosecutors. Executive-1, a top executive who prosecutors said disguised the reimbursements to Cohen for those hush money payments, disguised them as legal expenses on the Trump Organization`s books.
Executive-1 is the Trump Organization`s chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg. Prosecutors described his key role in covering up the commission of that felony by falsifying the books of that New York business.
Now, the reason Weisselberg was apparently not -- the reason Weisselberg was not charged in that hush money scheme was that he apparently got immunity in exchange for his testimony. But, again, the testimony in that case was only used to lockup Michael Cohen and individual-1 and executive-1 both got away.
These questions still linger about why SDNY closed out that case and why Michael Cohen is still the only person who ever faced the music for those felonies, even though federal prosecutors identified other people having played bigger, more important roles in those felonies than he did.
But that was it, apparently in terms of any federal case. Maybe some day we`ll figured out what happened at SDNY there. But tonight, "Washington Post" was first to report NBC News and others have now confirmed, that a grand jury in Manhattan filed criminal charges against the Trump Organization and its CFO Allen Weisselberg, and those indictments will be unsealed tomorrow afternoon. These are not federal charges. These are state charges under New York law.
"The Post" is reporting that Mr. Weisselberg is expected to surrender tomorrow morning at the Manhattan district attorney`s office and that he`s expected to be arraigned later in the day before a state judge in a New York courtroom. The Trump organization will also be arraigned. It`s hard to arraign an entity, at least it`s hard to imagine that. The way it works in person is that the entity will be represented in court by one of its attorneys.
A person familiar with the matter telling NBC News tonight that the indictments are expected to be unsealed at around 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time tomorrow. Because the indictments are sealed until then, we don`t know exactly what the charges will be. There`s been lots of reporting that the charges are expected to focus on tax-related alleged felonies.
The Trump Organization`s lawyers have been working overtime for days, telling the media that the charges are small potatoes and politically motivated and they can`t believe prosecutors would even bother to charge such little crimes because everybody does this kind of stuff. And, of course, you would expect defense lawyers to say exactly that.
The truth is we just will not know what the charges are until they are unsealed tomorrow afternoon. What we do know is that the state prosecutor that`s been working on this, along with the New York attorney general`s office that`s been working on this, it`s been three years that they have been at work on this case. And the question of whether former President Donald Trump personally himself ever faces charges in this case, that remains open, an open question.
The Trump Organization`s lawyer, Ron Fischetti, has said what he`s heard from prosecutors is that Donald Trump himself will not be charged in tomorrow`s indictment, but that doesn`t mean that he might not be charged in a subsequent indictment, or as they call it in legal terms, a superseding indictment.
Now, people who watch these things tell us that`s not unusual. It`s not routine, but it is not at unusual for initial indictment of a company like this, for individuals associated with a company like this. It is not unusual for an initial indictment to be followed by subsequent superseding indictments with additional charges either more charges against the original defendants or potentially more charges against additional defendants.
My question is, why do they do it that way? And as we`re looking at the first potential legal accountability for former President Trump, in this case connected to reportedly alleged tax felonies committed at his business, this prospect of his potential individual criminal liability remains open because of this expectation that there might be further indictments.
What is the basis for that expectation? For those of us that aren`t lawyers, should we understand that as a reasonable expectation to have in this case? Is that wishful thinking by people who are hoping that Donald Trump will get indicted some day? How should we understand this in proper context?
I have answers for you ahead. Hold that thought.
MADDOW: Last month, "The Washington Post" was first to report that a special grand jury was meeting on a very intense schedule, meeting like three days a week to consider evidence against the company of former President Donald Trump. Well, tonight, "The Washington Post" was also first to report that that grand jury has now produced indictments. Criminal charges have been filed against the Trump Organization and its long-time chief financial officer, an executive named Allen Weisselberg.
Charges were filed today by the grand jury. They will be unsealed tomorrow afternoon. Meaning, we will not know the exact nature of the charges until they are unsealed. That reporting has now been confirmed by NBC News and several other news organizations. But whatever charges we do see tomorrow, we keep being told that may not be the end of the story.
This is what I have questions about. Basically, every news organization that has reported this has sort of put forth this prospect in their own way, just as an example I`ll tell you here is how "The Wall Street Journal" put it today. Quote, the charges expected tomorrow, Thursday, could be the first in a series of charges in the future, particularly if prosecutors are able to gain cooperation from Mr. Weisselberg in order to bolster their broader investigation.
So I am not a lawyer. I have questions. If that is true, why is that true? Why would prosecutors approach it that way? Why are people who know these things telling the public that it is a reasonable expectation that there might be additional indictments beyond what we`re told is coming tomorrow.
Why, even theoretically, or why as a matter of course would prosecutors wait to add more charges later against either the individuals and entities that will be charged tomorrow or indeed against other people involved here?
Joining us now is Danya Perry. She previously served assistant attorney in the Southern District of New York. Also, as a deputy attorney general for the state of New York. We should mention that this state case that apparently is going to produce these indictments tomorrow has apparently been a joint operation between the Manhattan D.A. and the New York attorney general`s office.
Ms. Perry, it`s nice to see you. Thank you for being here tonight.
DANYA PERRY, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Thank you, Rachel. Glad to be here.
MADDOW: Am I asking a dumb question about this superseding -- potential superseding indictment advice that we keep getting along with the reporting about tomorrow`s expected charges?
PERRY: You`re asking a great legal question. And, look, there may be inside information that people are actually aware that there are additional charges coming. But I think as someone who has prosecuted both federally in the state`s system as you point out, my observation is that is almost certainly correct. And I think there are a number of different flags for that.
The first is D.A. Vance has also made clear that one of the emanating principles here is equality under the law. As he has said that no man, not even a president, is above the law. The flip side of that coin is that no one, not even a president, should be scrutinized more closely or held to a higher standard or more heavy-handed prosecution than anybody else. And he has made that clear. And I believe that he is a believer in the rule of law.
And, so, it was a head scratcher when it was announced including by Trump`s lawyers that the charges to be filed or, I`m sorry, that now have been filed appear to be very narrow, and focused particularly on fringe benefits. As Trump`s lawyers have pointed out, that`s highly unusual. It`s unusual for a corporate entity to be charged criminally in the first instance, and it`s even more unusual for them to be charged with fringe tax benefits, you know, or payroll tax evasion and the like.
And, so, it does seem like there is something missing here and that there will be either additional charges in a superseding indictment or perhaps that the fraud scheme that is actually alleged in this initial indictment will be broader than Trump`s lawyers have made it appear to be. It could be a larger tax scheme. There may be additional tax fraud acts or it could be a larger scheme to defraud.
But it does seem that this is part of something bigger and that either we will see that tomorrow or I expect in due course we will see that as part of the superseding indictment.
MADDOW: But why would they be sequenced? Is there something about an initial indictment that would somehow facilitate or make possible a second indictment with additional charges for those same defendants or charges against new defendants that aren`t named in tomorrow`s charges?
I mean, that`s the thing that I don`t understand. If there is a broader scheme that prosecutors are pursuing here and that they want to try and court, why wouldn`t we learn about it all at once?
PERRY: So the quick answer with respect to Weisselberg is that he is being charged because they want to put a squeeze on him and there is nothing more persuasive than charges that are actually filed in order to convince a target to actually flip and give the goods on other targets.
So, it could very well be that Weisselberg is being charged now in order to turn him so that he can then provide evidence against a bigger fish likely Donald Trump himself. With respect to the organization, it could be part of the same answer. It could be that the facts are still developing. But as I said, I do suspect we will see tomorrow this is not just a small penny ante, or as you called it, small potatoes case, with respect to just fringe benefits, but it will be larger scheme to defraud.
That may develop based on whether or not they turn Mr. Weisselberg or others. But I think we will see a larger case that will evolve.
MADDOW: Danya Perry, who has experience in these matters as a former attorney in the federal district of New York, that`s a federal side, and as a deputy New York attorney general, that`s the state side -- thank you for your time tonight. I think everybody is going to be obviously waiting on that news in the afternoon. But I think even once we see those charges, we will need further explanation by people who have done this stuff like you. Thanks for being with us here tonight, Danya.
PERRY: Thank you. Good night.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more ahead here tonight. Do stay with us.
MADDOW: I know today has been a huge and at times dizzying news day. Tomorrow might be bigger. Tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time, the last U.S. Supreme Court decisions of the term are going to be released.
Two cases left, they`re both election related. One is about dark money. Political donations funneled through third-party organizations that don`t have to disclose their donors. The transparency group Open Secrets says roughly a billion dollars of dark money has been spent influencing our politics since a Supreme Court decision in 2010 made it legal.
Right now, the state of California has a small transparency measure that`s designed to target. It requires nonprofits to disclose their largest donors, specifically to the state attorney general`s office. Supreme Court justices tomorrow will decide if even that teeny tiny level of transparency is allowed.
The second case centers on to Arizona voting laws, two laws that the Democratic Party says disproportionately target minority communities in violation of the Voting Rights Act. If the Supreme Court justices agree tomorrow with the Democratic Party that laws like these can be thrown out because of that discriminatory effect on minority voters, that white be good news for voting rights advocate who are looking for some help at the federal level at stopping voting restrictions that target minority voters.
On the other hand, if the Supreme Court justices decide that it doesn`t matter and those laws disproportionately affects minority voters, that will be one more brutal blow against the Voting Rights Act which they gutted in the ruling in 2013.
So if you want to keep track at home, the Brennan Center is tracking all of the bills that the Republican Party across the country has been pushing this year to restrict voting rights often in ways that target minority votes and their count is up to nearly 400 votes introduced this year across 48 different states.
So, this couldn`t be more consequential and more timely. Those questions would be answered tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern by the Supreme Court. But then, of course, there`s perhaps even a larger question on the mind in everybody in the whole legal world and in some ways everybody -- on the mind of everybody who pays attention to the news and politics, which is the question of whether Supreme Court justice might announce retirement tomorrow.
Justice Stephen Breyer`s name has been in a lot of headlines recently because he is 82 years old. He has been facing increasingly impassioned calls to voluntarily retire. Step down from his seat on the court. Those calls coming from people who worry about a repeat of what`s happened in 2016 when Republicans blocked President Obama from filling a vacate seat.
Also, people worried about what happened when Ruth Bader Ginsburg died while still sitting on the court at a time when Republicans controlled the United States Senate. That is how we got president Trump`s third Supreme Court justice nominee on the Supreme Court.
In worst-case scenario, if Justice Breyer should step down after the Senate is retaken by the Republicans, nobody believes that President Biden will be allowed by the Republicans to put his own nominee on the court.
Justice Breyer has given no hints that he is going. From the outside, we can objectively observe that he has authored a few of the courts bigger decisions in the past few weeks. Maybe that sort of a last hurrah, we don`t know. History says, though, if he`s going to go, if he`s going to make that announcement, it will be soon. Ten of the past 11 justices to retire from the court either announced their retirement or timed their retirement for the end of the term.
Again, the end of the term is tomorrow, big day tomorrow -- potentially gigantic news day tomorrow.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: Today was the biggest news day we`ve had in a long time. Just news coming of every stripe from every angle all day long into the evening. Tomorrow is likely to be a bigger news day than today was.
Make sure you get your beauty sleep tonight. Make sure you eat your Wheaties in the morning. I will see you here again tomorrow evening.
Now, it is time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Good evening, Lawrence.