Michael Schmidt reveals in his new book that Rosenstein ended investigations into Trump's ties to Russia. Congressman Eric Swalwell, Democrat of California, is interviewed.
CORNELL BELCHER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: In the end, do I -- Joe Biden is not going to win the majority of white voters. The question becomes, does -- you know, he get to 38, 39 percent of white vote? That's a big X-factor.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST : Cornell Belcher, it's always great to talk to you on this stuff. We'll have you back soon. Thank you so much.
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. Thanks, my friend. Much appreciated, man.
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Thanks for being here on a Monday night.
Here's something we did not know until now: in November, this past November, you might remember there was a little bit of a health scare or at least a lot of health questions raised about President Trump. It was a Saturday afternoon in mid-November, and president Trump was seemingly rushed off to Walter Reed Medical Center.
This was an unannounced trip. It was a surprise. It led to widespread discussion about what might conceivably have gone wrong for the president medically that day that would lead to that kind of a rushed trip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: The president leaving on an unannounced trip to Walter Reed Medical Center with his personal physician riding by his side. The White House insisting it was for portions of an annual physical, but the Saturday visit was different from his two previous presidential physicals, raising concerns about his health.
Those were on his official schedule, took more than four hours, and were not done in phases.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was late last year, mid-November. The White House later cooked up some sort of weird story about how that sudden, unannounced trip to Walter Reed had actually been a long-planned segment of the president's annual physical. He was like doing a piece of it? As if physicals are a thing that happen in episodes over the course of a season or something? It was very strange. That's not how physicals work.
President Trump is the oldest person ever elected to the presidency. Even though Joe Biden is older than Donald Trump, Biden's campaign has recently made an issue out of Trump seeming unwell, seeming doddering and occasionally out of it. The Biden campaign and supporting PACs run ads now showing, you know, Biden running around and biking and lifting weights and looking strong, while they showed Trump wobbling all over the place. The Trump campaign naturally has responded in kind, claiming that Biden is really the frail one and actually Trump's health is just fine.
But even if they are going to contest the presidency this year on those grounds, there does remain this unexplained Walter Reed trip last November. People who have worked at the White House say the White House medical office is so well-equipped that White House medical staff can handle on site all but the most serious incidents without a president ever having to be rushed off campus from the White House to a hospital. But rushed he was that Saturday afternoon in mid-November. What was that all about?
Well, tomorrow, this book comes out. It's called "Donald Trump Versus The United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop a President." It's by two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning "New York Times" reporter Michael Schmidt.
And we get a little bit of a hint about what might have happened there on page 389. Quote: Either the Constitution meant something and was worth defending, or it wasn't, Pelosi contended. The Senate would almost certainly not convict, but that wasn't the point. This was for the record and for history.
The whistle-blower on the Ukraine matter had accomplished what everyone before him had failed to do. He'd stopped President Trump in his tracks and had him on the path to being impeached. Two months later on a Saturday afternoon in mid-November, as Democrats moved toward their impeachment vote, Trump made an unexpected visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
The White House played off the trip as part of the president's annual physical but provided no other details about the examination, raising questions about the president's health. In reporting for this book, Schmidt writes, I learned that in the hours leading up to Trump's trip to the hospital, word went out in the west wing for the vice president, Mike Pence, to be on standby to take over the powers of the presidency temporarily if Trump had to undergo a procedure that would have required him to be anesthetized.
Pence never assumed the powers of the presidency. The reason for Trump's trip to the doctor remains a mystery.
So we still don't know why President Trump was rushed off to Walter Reed last November. But we do know now, thanks to Michael Schmidt's reporting, that whatever it was, it was serious enough that the vice president was warned to be on standby, that the president might have to be put under general anesthesia, which would occasion Mike Pence having to temporarily become president. And he had warning to be doing that.
And I mean, to state the obvious, that is not something that happens when you go in for a segment of your annual physical. If you had to go under general anesthesia to have an annual physical, nobody would have an annual physical. Michael Schmidt's new book, again it's out tomorrow, is full of stuff we did not know before, which itself is saying something because Michael Schmidt has been a scoop machine at "The New York Times" since Donald Trump has been president. He has reported a lot.
But there is a lot that is new here. Here's another one. This is about the Mueller investigation and specifically what the president thought he could do to get out of it if need be. This is amazing.
People talk about, like, oh, there's too many lawyers in public service. In this case, maybe a little more lawyer, a little more legal knowledge for this particular public servant might have been -- anyway, this is from page 18.
Quote: To anyone paying attention, Trump looked like he was in trouble, but he still didn't seem to get it. Instead of taking a disciplined approach led by experienced Washington white color defense lawyers as Bill Clinton had done when he was under investigation, Trump had initially put together a hodgepodge legal team of undisciplined lawyers and television pundits.
In the same way that he views the tabloids in New York, he thought he could use his twitter account to undercut Robert Mueller. Even as he intuitively sensed the danger Mueller posed to him, he still coped with that danger with bravado and arrogance the same way he had managed banks, creditors, civil lawsuits and divorce lawyers throughout his public life.
At one point, as the investigation seemed to be intensifying, Trump told White House counsel Don McGahn that there was nothing to worry about because if it was zeroing in on him, he would simply settle with Mueller. He would settle the case, as if he were negotiating terms in a lawsuit.
Robert Mueller was not suing Donald Trump. Why did he think he could settle the case? He thought he could pay Mueller, and that would make the Mueller investigation go away?
In Michael Schmidt's new book, he also reports that same White House counsel, Don McGahn, was personally responsible for choosing two of our nation's Supreme Court justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, as well as choosing most of Trump's other judicial nominees because the president apparently had no idea and he just let Kavanaugh do it -- excuse me -- let McGahn do it.
Quote, McGahn had accepted the White House job on the condition that he essentially serve as a committee of one to determine whom Trump would nominate to the federal bench, including district courts, appeals courts, and Supreme Court vacancies. Unlike previous administrations that relied on teams of White House and Justice Department officials who spent months, if not years carefully deliberating on candidates for judicial nominations, McGahn streamlined the process and just ran it out of his own office. When he settled on candidates, he'd present them to Trump, who would approve the nominations without raising many questions. Simple as that.
This hastened the pace at which the administration could get nominations to one of McGahn's closest allies in Washington, the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who would then ram them through the senate.
And just in case the power of that is lost upon us, that decision-making power just being delegated sort of without a thought to one White House employee, Michael Schmidt also reports in his new book that President Trump's own proposals for who should be on the Supreme Court were, number one, Rudy Giuliani and, number two, Andrew Napolitano, the judge from Fox News. Giuliani and Judge Andrew Napolitano from Fox News were the president's big ideas for his two Supreme Court vacancies. But instead he let McGahn do them.
Of course, he's also a man who reportedly also believed he could pay money to settle any adverse findings from the Mueller investigation so -- here's more. Michael Schmidt describes in his book President Trump in April 2018 convincing himself that he personally, he the president, could prosecute and lock up Hillary Clinton and James Comey, and he tried to.
This is remarkable. It starts on page 308 of Michael Schmidt's new book, which is out tomorrow. Quote: In the middle of April, Trump turned to one of the few people in the White House who, in spite of their differences, he believed could actually get something done, Don McGahn.
In an Oval Office meeting, the president complained to McGahn about Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his refusal to prosecute Hillary Clinton and James Comey. Trump told McGahn he wanted to order sessions to prosecute them. If sessions didn't want to do it, Trump said he wanted to use his power as president to prosecute Clinton and Comey on his own. It was a startling disclosure even for Trump.
Immediately, McGahn realized that the president's determination to use the justice system to selectively direct prosecutions against his enemies was an enormous problem. Trump was already under investigation for obstructing justice for his firing of Comey. Now his push for revenge, a blatant abuse of presidential power, could put Trump in the position of trying to prosecute a potential chief witness against him. Trump's request also showed McGahn that the president had little idea how prosecutions actually functioned because the president has no power to order someone to be charged with a crime.
First of all, McGahn told the president, you can't prosecute anybody. Second of all, that's the Department of Justice's job. And if you do that, they're all going to quit.
Trump said he did not understand. He was the president and ran the executive branch. Why couldn't he tell the Justice Department whom to prosecute?
Then over the next five or ten pages of his book, Mike Schmidt explains in great detail and quotes liberally from the written memo that Don McGahn prepared for President Trump, telling him that, no, he couldn't personally prosecute anybody. Schmidt quotes from it in part. McGahn saying to the president in this memo, you've asked what steps you may lawfully take if you disagree with the attorney general's decision not to pursue criminal prosecution or not to conduct further criminal investigation, McGahn said, in the opening paragraph of one memo. The line seemed charitable to Trump, who had rarely asked his lawyers whether something he wanted to do was legal. It's not as if Trump had gone to McGahn and specifically asked what was legal. He just wanted to know how he could throw Clinton and Comey in prison.
Yeah, in case you're thinking about what a second term of the Trump presidency might be like, here's a little window into what he thinks he ought to be able to do, right? As quoted by Michael Schmidt in this new book, the legal guidance that Trump got from his White House counsel, Don McGahn, told him he couldn't personally direct the criminal prosecution of his political enemies because that would cause a number of negative things to happen. McGahn warned him that, for example, senior Justice Department people would quit in protest. He also warned him that if the president went ahead and try to do that, he could be impeached and removed from office.
Those were the warnings when McGahn was still White House counsel. Think about where the president's at now. Those were the warnings that kept him from trying to do that.
But now, he has been impeached already, and he wasn't removed from office because Senate Republicans decided they didn't want to hear it. And now, he's got William Barr at the Justice Department, who seems willing to do absolutely anything to benefit the president.
So the Justice Department, the attorney general isn't going to -- first of all, he's not going to have to fire the attorney general to get him to do something that he wants, right? He's not going to have to threaten that. What won't Bill Barr do for this president? He doesn't have to worry about mass resignations at the Justice Department, not under Bill Barr.
And he clearly doesn't have to worry about impeachment and being removed from office. So do you think the president would feel constrained by those bounds on his behavior in a second term, now that we've got black and white evidence about what he wanted to do with his power in his first term?
Michael Schmidt at "The New York Times" was first to break the news that Trump had told FBI Director James Comey that he wanted him to go easy on Mike Flynn, to go easy on national security adviser Mike Flynn, basically to ease up in this criminal case against Flynn. Comey wouldn't agree to that. Comey got fired. Comey ultimately gets threatened with prosecution by the president for his troubles.
Flynn did get prosecuted by the Justice Department for a time, but then when President Trump got his new attorney general in place, Bill Barr, Barr went ahead and followed through on that old request from Trump, and he did drop the charges against Flynn. Just today, a full panel of judges on a federal appeals court ruled that the judge in Flynn's case doesn't have to accept that decision at face value. An appeals court just ruled that if Barr dropped those charges against Flynn for improper reasons, the judge doesn't have to go along with it.
This stuff is all still alive. This stuff is all still working its way through the courts in some cases. But now with reporting like this, we know so much more about it.
Schmidt, for example, reports that in the lead-up to the 2016 election, in the summer of 2016, the intelligence community knew some of what Russia was doing, but they really didn't get it. They could observe that Russia was hacking documents and stealing them, but they thought Russia just wanted secrets. They thought Russia was just taking information for their own edification.
They did not realize at all that the Russians were going to take that information and repurpose it. They were going to dump it back on the American public and the American media as misinformation to try to hurt Hillary Clinton's chances of becoming president.
If you were hoping that congressional leadership might have been more attuned to those kinds of risks in the summer of 2016, Michael Schmidt further reports that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell fell asleep in the summer of 2016 in the middle of a classified briefing on what Russia was doing. Senator McConnell's office is denying that, but that is reported in Michael Schmidt's new book. Classified briefing is when they give you all the good stuff. He reports that McConnell, again, fell asleep.
Michael Schmidt also reports that Trump tried the "you must be loyal to me" thing that he did with Comey on another potential FBI director. Here's how Schmidt tells that story. Quote, the day after the president fired Comey, Trump had called John Kelly, who was then secretary for the Department of Homeland Security. Trump told John Kelly, he wanted him to become the next FBI director.
But the president added something else. If he became FBI director, Trump told him, Kelly needed to be loyal to him and only him. Kelly immediately realized the problem with Trump's request for loyalty. He pushed back on the president's demand. Kelly said he'd be loyal to the Constitution and the rule of law, but he refused to pledge his loyalty to Trump.
In addition to illustrating how Trump viewed the role and independence of senior officials who work for him, the president's demand for loyalty tracked with Comey's experience with Trump. Trump had, of course, denied Comey's account of president at a private White House dinner, demanding that Comey pledge his loyalty to president Trump.
But here was another senior administration official recounting an almost identical demand from the president, a demand that had come the very day after Comey was fired. Schmidt goes on to explain that had Robert Mueller's team demanded a longer and more detailed interview with John Kelly, they might have gotten around to that story. But in their relatively short interview of him, they didn't get to that, so they missed, which might have helped them on whether or no the firing of Comey was obstruction of justice.
There's also -- I should tell you on the John Kelly front, there is a moment in which John Kelly describes something about Trump as the equivalent of French kissing a chainsaw. And I couldn't explain all that part of it to you, but you're going to have to read the book for that one.
Michael Schmidt also reports in this new book the back story on how White House officials tried to stop Jared Kushner and the president's daughter Ivanka from getting top-level security clearance clearances because of some warning that turned up in the investigation into whether or not they should qualify for that kind of clearance. Some sort of highly compartmented information that John Kelly was briefed on, which led to a strong recommendation that Jared Kushner not receive a top-level clearance. Nevertheless, the president overruled that objection and said that Kushner should get one as well as his daughter, Ivanka.
This is from Schmidt's book. May 22nd, 2018, Chief of staff's office, the West Wing. Don McGahn's recommendation meant nothing to Trump. The following day he told John Kelly that despite the concerns of the agencies and over McGahn's objections, he would grant Kushner and Ivanka top-secret security clearances. Like McGahn, John Kelly felt the need to take measures to protect himself at that point.
Memorandum for the file, read the memo at the top. The subject line read, re: security clearances for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. The memo was only one paragraph. It said this. Quote, the president of the United States has ordered that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump be allowed to access national security administration up to the top-secret level. Accordingly, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump shall be granted top-secret security clearances.
That's how we protect national security now. You've got the White House counsel and the White House chief of staff having been briefed on highly compartmented, classified information that led those officials to say, no, these people cannot have high level officials. It is not safe as a matter of national security.
They make this recommendation explicit to the president. The president says, I don't care. Give them the security clearances anyway. They do so and then write a memo to file memorializing that's why they did it. That's how we protect national security now.
The thing that Michael Schmidt reports here, though, in this new book that is most unnerving, though, is directly about the president himself, and it's something that we all thought had happened, but it hasn't. Ever since I got a hold of Schmidt's book, knowing I was going to be able to interview him about this tonight, again, the book comes out tomorrow, I have tossed and turned about this because I -- I find this very upsetting and unsettling.
Here's the major news here. This is from -- I'll quote Schmidt directly here. Quote, it would take me a year to put together the pieces of what I believe is one of the most important parts of the Mueller report, what it did not contain. Back in May 2017, the FBI had opened a two-pronged investigation into whether Trump obstructed justice and whether he was a Russian agent. When Mueller took over the investigation, the acting FBI director, Andy McCabe, had briefed him on this. Over nearly 200 pages, Mueller's team took on the question of whether Trump had obstructed justice.
But nowhere in the unredacted version of the report was there a thorough examination of Trump's ties to Russia. The report said nothing about whether Trump posed a threat to national security or whether his long-standing ties to Russia were problematic. Schmidt says, quote, in reporting for this book, I spoke to several people involved in the Mueller investigation. They told me that investigators never undertook a significant examination of Trump's personal and business ties to Russia.
For instance, they said, investigators knew of financial documents that might show Trump's ties to Russia, but they never pursued them. Mueller didn't explain himself along these lines. If the American public or official Washington had expected the Mueller investigation to answer questions of the president's loyalties that only a counterintelligence investigation could answer, it would not.
And reporting for this book, Schmidt says, I discovered why. In May 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had appointed Robert Mueller to pick up where acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and the FBI had left off in their two investigations -- the obstruction investigation and the counterintelligence investigation. But in handing off the investigation from McCabe and the FBI to Mueller, Rod Rosenstein had suspended the counterintelligence investigation into Trump.
Again, this is the investigation basically into whether Trump is a foreign agent, whether he is compromised by a hostile foreign power. According to Michael Schmidt's new book, Rod Rosenstein called off that part of the investigation. Rosenstein, quote, believed that the decision by McCabe and top counterintelligence investigators at the FBI to open the inquiry into whether Trump was a Russian agent in the first place had been precipitous and premature.
Without informing McCabe, Rosenstein told Mueller that his investigation should concentrate on whether crimes were committed. It should not be a fishing expedition into whether president Trump was a Russian agent. If Mueller's prosecutors wanted to expand their investigation, they could come back to Rosenstein and ask for the authority to do so. But Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had foreclosed any deeper inquiry before the investigation even began.
Just trying to factor this in, trying to factor this into what we have learned over the past few years, right? I mean, there has been public reporting, right, that we've all been aware of for years now that the FBI opened a criminal investigation into the Russian interference in our election and a counterintelligence investigation into, bluntly, whether the president is or was a Russian agent, whether the president is doing the bidding of a hostile foreign power, whether they either have leverage over him or he has otherwise signed up with them.
When that second investigation didn't turn up in the Mueller report, we assumed that Mueller hadn't done it, but that investigation had been continued by the FBI outside of Mueller's purview. Indeed on page 13 of the Mueller report, Mueller and his team said that any counterintelligence stuff that they turned up over the course of their investigation, they fed back to the FBI for the FBI to handle it on their own, separate and apart from what Mueller was doing.
But now in this book, Michael Schmidt from "The New York times" reports that Mueller didn't investigate the president's ties to Russia and whether he was compromised, including by any financial involvement with them. But neither did the FBI. Rosenstein told them they couldn't do it, and so they didn't do it either. The FBI apparently thought that Mueller was doing it. Mueller thought that the FBI was doing it. Nobody did it.
The Senate intelligence report we just learned two weeks ago didn't look at it either. Nobody's done it all these years in. No entity of the U.S. government has ever investigated whether the president is compromised by his relationship with Russia all these years in. Why not?
Mike Schmidt joins us next.
MADDOW: "The New York Times" was the first news organization to break the news that President Trump had asked FBI Director James Comey to go easy on national security adviser Mike Flynn. They also revealed that Comey had written contemporaneous memos documenting that interaction that he had with the president. That came out under the byline of "New York Times" reporter Mike Schmidt.
Days after that bombshell, "The Times" dropped another one, that Trump had also called Jim Comey, pressuring him to put out public word that he was not under -- that the president was under investigation. That was also reported by Mike Schmidt.
Then "The Times" broke the news that the president had asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to go back and retake control of the Mueller investigation after Attorney General Sessions had already recused himself. That again was reporter Mike Schmidt.
Schmidt was then first to report that Trump had ordered Special Counsel Robert Mueller to be fired, only backing off when White House counsel McGahn threatened to quit. When we later learned that McGahn, the White House counsel, had cooperated extensively with Mueller's investigation, that too was reporting by Mike Schmidt.
Schmidt was first to report that in the days after James Comey was fired, the FBI had opened an inquiry into whether or not President Trump was secretly working as a Russian agent. That was a Michael Schmidt byline, too.
Schmidt was first to obtain the news that special counsel Robert Trump wanted to ask of President Trump. He was first to break the news that Trump had wanted his Justice Department to prosecute political adversaries, including Hillary Clinton and James Comey.
On top of story after story after story on the Russia investigation, Michael Schmidt was also first to report that President Trump had overruled national security officials in order to give son-in-law, Jared Kushner, top secret security clearance.
Hide your secrets, hide your ice cream. "The New York Times" Michael Schmidt has been a fearsome scoop machine during the Trump era.
And now, with this new book that he's got out tomorrow, he's breaking even more news. Among the book's many revelations is the fact that no element of the U.S. government, including the Mueller investigation, including the FBI, has ever examined President Trump's ties to Russia, including his financial ties.
It's not that anybody looked into that and found out all was fine and that's why we never heard anything about it. Literally, no one has ever looked, not the FBI, not Mueller, not the intelligence committees, no one.
Joining us now for "The Interview" is Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington correspondent for "The New York Times", the aforementioned Michael Schmidt. The new book is called, "Donald Trump Versus The United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop a President."
Mr. Schmidt, congratulations on this. Thanks for being here tonight for the first interview.
MICHAEL SCHMIDT, AUTHOR, "DONALD TRUMP VERSUS THE UNITED STATES": Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So I've read enough of this stuff that I know you're thinking, now, nobody is going to read the book because Rachel read so much of it. But I want to -- I want to zoom in on what feels to me like the very heavy revelation you land on by the end of the book about there not being any counterintelligence investigation of the president.
How does this -- how should people understand the importance of that and how different is this from what we previously understood about what had been looked into and what hadn't?
SCHMIDT: I think that the media and a lot of folks in the country assumed that Robert Mueller was doing something that he was not. And then he was going to be coming down from the hills and he was going to get to the bottom of all these questions.
In the midst of the Mueller investigation, we reported that the counterintelligence investigation had been open. But when the Mueller report comes out, there's nothing there. It's not there.
There's all this stuff on obstruction but there's nothing on Trump's long standing ties to Russia. If you look at the questions that Mueller wanted to ask the president, it's all stuff related to 2016. It's not stuff about his history.
So, you looked at this and I said, well, we wrote this story about the counterintelligence investigation and we learned that McCabe thought that Mueller was absorbing it, so where did it go? So, then I thought, maybe it was in the redacted sections of the report.
So, I talked to people who had seen the unredacted sections of their report, and they said that it was not there either.
And I just thought that given all of the attention that Russia has received during the Trump presidency, that it was important to try and make it clear to the public that these questions were not answered by Mueller. Mueller said this in his testimony on Capitol Hill. He answered these questions but it never got the attention to -- for the whole public to, sort of, digest it and understand it.
And I went back and I looked at that testimony and I said I need to try and tell as much of that story as possible because I don't think people understood what the Russia investigation was. And I think that they thought it was something that maybe it wasn't.
MADDOW: Mike, why did Rod Rosenstein not tell Andrew McCabe who had opened, who approved the opening of this investigation, why did he not tell the FBI leadership that he had kyboshed this investigation? It seems like the FBI was under the impression that Mueller had taken that over. Mueller, the way that he wrote about it in his report, seemed to indicate that he thought he was feeding that stuff back to the FBI.
You reported that it ended up in neither of those camps. The investigation just wasn't done.
Why did Rosenstein keep this from the FBI when he made this call?
SCHMIDT: Rosenstein felt that McCabe and the FBI were out of control. The -- McCabe had taken this decision to open -- to open the two-prong investigation on his own, and Rosenstein felt that McCabe may have conflicts of interests, the president had been attacking McCabe, the bureau was grieving over the firing of Comey.
And here was the FBI opening up the most extraordinary investigation that you can ever open on a president. Is the president compromised by our chief foreign adversary?
And Rosenstein did not want this all to turn into a fishing expedition. He did not want this thing to go on for years and for there to be this examination of every little thing in Donald Trump's life to figure out what his ties were to Russia.
Rosenstein thought that it was a secret that the president had an affinity towards Russia, he essentially run on that, and that this was not something that should be undertaken. He says to Mueller, if you guys want to do more, you can come back and ask for that. But he tells Mueller to focus on the 2016 election, focus on whether crimes were committed as part of that.
MADDOW: Clearly though, the -- at the leadership levels at the FBI, they weren't under the same under -- they didn't have the same understanding about this as Rosenstein did.
I want to play a real quick clip from Andy McCabe on "60 Minutes" talking about what he thought happened to that counterintelligence investigation and why he thought it was safe.
Control room, this is clip number two. If you can just play this in a way that Mike can hear it and so can our viewers. Thanks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDY MCCABE, FORMER DEPUTY FBI DIRECTOR: That was the team investigating the Russia cases and I asked the team to go back and conduct an assessment to determine, where are we with these efforts and what steps do we need to take going forward. I was very concerned that I was able to put the Russia case on absolutely solid ground, in an indelible fashion, that were either removed quickly or reassigned or fired, that the case could not be closed or vanish in the night without a trace.
INTERVIEWER: You wanted a documentary record --
MCCABE: Yes, that's right.
INTERVIEWER: -- that those investigations had begun because you feared that they would be made to go away?
MCCABE: That's exactly right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Andrew McCabe thought he had made sure that the counterintelligence case couldn't vanish in the night without a trace, that it couldn't be made to go away, at least without people knowing it had been made to go away.
It seems like that's exactly what happened, though.
SCHMIDT: Well, this is about these eight days in May between the firing of Comey and the appointment of Mueller. Comey is fired. The White House relies on a document created by Rosenstein as the White House's rationale for the dismissal.
The president comes out afterwards. He says a lot of unusual things.
McCabe and these investigators eventually sat down in this period of time, and opened up this investigation. And they believe, McCabe believes by opening it, he will be protecting it, that he will be creating a paper trail.
And he's pushing Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel. He's saying we need a special counsel, if we had one in the Clinton's e-mail case, we would be in much different footing. This needs to happen.
And Rosenstein goes ahead and he appoints Mueller. And McCabe thinks it's one of the greatest accomplishments of his life. Here he has opened up these investigations, and Bob Mueller, one of the great heroes of the post-9/11 era, is going to take these over. And he will be a safe steward for these investigations.
And McCabe goes and he briefs Mueller on these investigations and he assumes for the remainder of his time as a deputy FBI director, which lasts for several more months, that Mueller has taken these over and will do them.
McCabe, then, two years later, picks at the Mueller report and looks at it and says, it's not there.
MADDOW: Remarkable stuff.
Michael Schmidt, "New York Times" Washington correspondent, the author of "Donald Trump Versus the United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop a President", which comes out tomorrow and is chockfull of craziness.
Michael, congratulations. Good luck on the book tour. Thanks for being here first. I really appreciate you making the time.
SCHMIDT: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: All right. We got much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So as we've been reporting, the new book out tomorrow from "New York Times" reporter Michael Schmidt reports the startling news that nobody, not the Mueller investigation, not the FBI, has ever done a counterintelligence investigation into President Trump's ties to Russia and whether there's anything there, financial or business or otherwise, that might indicate that he could be compromised by that hostile foreign power. Nobody has ever investigated it. Nobody has ever looked at it.
We got that news in the book that's coming out tomorrow from Schmidt. This dovetails with some other startling news we got late on Friday when the Office of the Director of National Intelligence announced that Congress would be cut off altogether when it comes to the question of Russia or any other foreign adversary interfering in the forthcoming elections.
John Ratcliffe, the newly appointed director of national intelligence, told the intelligence committees late on Friday that he's suspending all in-person briefings for Congress on election security and foreign election interference just weeks before the upcoming election. They are no longer going to do those briefings.
Joining us now is Congressman Eric Swalwell, Democrat of California. He sits on the House Intelligence Committee, one of the committees whose members will no longer be getting these in-person election briefings from ODNI.
Congressman Swalwell, it's nice to see you. Thanks for joining us tonight.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): You too. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: I feel like these stories are coming together in a way that is a little bit unnerving, both in terms of what we know but also what we deliberately don't know, what hasn't been investigated and now what Congress won't be allowed to ask questions about.
Are you worried that this is going to materially change what Congress knows, what you know about what's going on with this election?
SWALWELL: Yes, but we're not helpless, Rachel, and Chairman Schiff is leading us in our own counterintelligence investigation on the committee. We are pursuing the Deutsche Bank records of course so we understand the president's personal, political, and financial relationship with Russia.
But with this president, as you know, corruption is a reflex. And in 2016, while the Russians were trying to corrupt our democracy and the intelligence community was playing catch up, Donald Trump wasn't. He has corrupted individuals. He has corrupted our democracy, and he continues to corrupt information.
And so what we must do is to put in place the guardrails to protect this upcoming election and then in a post-Trump world make sure we put back in place everything that his corrupt wrecking ball has caused damage to.
MADDOW: In terms of whether we're going to have a post-Trump world anytime soon, I know that a lot of the intelligence committee's information is stuff that you can't discuss publicly. But we have heard reference, particularly from Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, that the information about current foreign interference efforts in 2020 is quite serious stuff and is not just a replay of 2016, as alarming as that was. There's new information, and it is something that requires significant national vigilance.
Can you tell us if you share that impression and if there is anything that the public ought to know that you feel like we don't otherwise have our arms around?
SWALWELL: Yes. The American people must know what the Russians are trying to do. This president is not worthy of being re-elected without a plan for COVID. He has no plan for COVID, and he cannot win an election without Russian interference or sabotaging the mail or conveying misinformation and inciting violence.
And so, instead, we are left with his ODNI, the director of national intelligence, putting out these conflating threats that you have China and Iran and Russia all trying to meddle in our election when the evidence shows that there's just one country that has a preference for Donald Trump, that is trying to tear down Joe Biden, has a prior in the past, has greater scope, capability, and intent than any of the other countries and that's Russia. There's a lot more I wish I could say about that, but the president and his team are trying to keep it from the American people.
MADDOW: This news about John Ratcliffe, the current DNI, saying that he's no longer going to brief Congress about any foreign election interference between now and the election comes on the heels of Robert Draper reporting in "The New York Times" magazine a couple of weeks ago that both of Trump's previous directors of national intelligence, both Dan Coats and Joseph Maguire were both fired after refusing basically to go along with the president's line on Russia. Dan coats was fired after he refused to lie to the public about a judgment that Russia had favored Trump in the 2016 election. Joseph Maguire was fired after his deputy briefed Congress about Russia's inclinations in the 2020 election.
Now, clearly there's a new director of national intelligence who wants to not get fired for the same reason. I wonder if this means that the office of the director of national intelligence is something in which you've lost confidence. Should the ODNI still exist? Is Ratcliffe making decisions here that call into question whether he's the right man for that job?
SWALWELL: Well, the office has been used to weaponize intelligence, and in fact over the weekend, Director Ratcliffe said that China is the greatest threat, which does not match what we have been briefed on privately and what people have been let go for, in public reporting at least, for telling the congressional committees. Look, Rachel, we must make sure that we receive unvarnished intelligence assessments from intelligence officials, and right now that is not what we are receiving. They are really playing to an audience of one, the president, and not the American people.
We have 65 days to go. This is our last chance. With a president who is the first impeached president to run for re-election, the first president who is probably facing criminal charges if he is not re-elected, is willing to do anything to win and will sacrifice any value that we all treasure to do so.
And so, we must get it right in Congress, but your viewers are not helpless either. They have to ask themselves what are they willing to do to save their country? I hope it's at least being willing to vote, and I hope more than that, it's being willing to ask others to vote as well.
MADDOW: Congressman Eric Swalwell of California, member of the Intelligence Committee -- sir, thanks for your time tonight. It's nice to see.
SWALWELL: My pleasure. Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We'll be right back. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Ask yourself do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?
I want a safe America, safe from COVID, safe from crime and looting, safe from racially motivated violence, safe from bad cops. Let me be crystal clear -- safe from four more years of Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I want a safe America, safe from four more years of Trump.
That was the theme of Joe Biden's speech today responding basically to a week's worth of Republican convention speakers who portrayed Joe Biden as basically a mugger hiding in the bushes right outside your house.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: A common thread, the incumbent president who makes things worse, not better, an incumbent president who sows chaos rather than providing order. Trump and Pence are running on this, and I find it fascinating. Quote, you won't be safe in Joe Biden's America. And what's their proof? The violence we're seeing in Donald Trump's America.
These are not images of some imagined Joe Biden America in the future. These are images of Donald Trump's America today. He keeps telling you, if only he was president, it wouldn't happen, if he was president. He keeps telling us if he was president, you'd feel safe.
Well, he is president whether he knows it or not, and it is happening. It's getting worse, and you know why. Because Donald Trump adds fuel to every fire.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Donald Trump adds fuel to every fire.
What Joe Biden was talking about specifically in that portion of his speech are the recent protests in Wisconsin over the police shooting of Jacob Blake. He remains in the hospital, reportedly paralyzed after a police officer shot him in the back seven times.
Today, the president remarkably defended the actions of a 17-year-old militia member who is charged with shooting and killing two protesters in Wisconsin last week, saying without any apparent basis that that young man probably would have been killed had he not shot the two people who he killed.
Tomorrow, President Trump is set to visit Kenosha over the objections of Kenosha's mayor and the objections of the state's governor. Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers sent a letter to President Trump today urging him to reconsider this trip, saying, quote, I am concerned your appearance will only delay our work to come together.
But where there is fire, this president is always standing by, ready with more fuel. So as of right now, at least his trip is still apparently on. But watch this space.
MADDOW: One thing to watch for in tomorrow's news. Two interesting Democratic primaries in the great state of Massachusetts tomorrow. Democratic U.S. Senator Ed Markey is facing a challenge from Democratic Congressman Joe Kennedy.
Also, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee in the House, Democratic Congressman Ritchie Neal, is facing a quite strong challenge from the mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts, a young rising star named Alex Morse.
So, eyes on both of those Democratic primary races tomorrow in Massachusetts. But that's going to do it for us tonight. See you again tomorrow night.
Now it's time for "THE LAST WORD" the great Lawrence O'Donnell.
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.END
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