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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, December 3, 2020

Guests: Adam Hohman, Karl Racine


MSNBC's continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. There are new reports that President Trump, as he winds down his last few weeks in office, is considering preemptive pardons for all his adult children, including his son-in-law Jared. The original lawsuit brought by the D.C. attorney general into the Trump inaugural committee says that it seeks relief for non-profit funds after the Trump presidential inaugural committee grossly overpaid for use of event space at the Trump Hotel.


LILY ESKELSEN GARCIA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION: So, we need the leadership that's going to get us through this.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": Quickly, would you like to be secretary of education?

GARCIA: Yes, it's an honor to be considered, but right now regardless of who President-elect Biden picks, I'm grateful. I'm excited we're about to turn a page --

HAYES: I'm going to take that as a yes.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia, thank you so much for making time tonight.

That is "ALL IN" for this Thursday.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

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

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. We got a lot to get to tonight.

There's some breaking news that's just emerged that has filled in some of the details about that intriguing, very largely redacted federal court document that we told you about over the last couple of nights. This appears to be about the Justice Department investigating the possibility that there was a bribery scheme to try to essentially pay cash for presidential pardons and/or clemency from the Trump White House. "The New York Times" has developed that story considerably this evening, and so we're getting more flesh on the bones there from that redacted court document in terms of what that investigation may have consisted of and who may have been in its crosshairs.

We're working on that story right now, working on adding our own reporting to the extent we can, and we'll have that for you coming up within the course of this hour.

But I want to start tonight by introducing you to Chris Rosqvist. Chris Rosqvist is a registered nurse at Intermountain Healthcare, which is in Murray, Utah. Murray is just south of Salt Lake City.


CHRIS ROSQVIST, REGISTERED NURSE: It just is, you know, day after day. These patients are here fighting, you know, some losing their lives and others, you know, regaining their freedoms and ability to, you know, care for themselves. I mean, the one thing that comes to mind is exhausting. With these people here, they're not here for three days or a week. They're here for weeks and months at a time.

LOUISE BEZDJAIN, NURSE PRACTITIONER: Well, we've noticed what COVID does to our patients is they're shut out from everybody. Even the care providers are covered up. We're in a PAPR. They can't see our mouths. They can't see our nose. They can't see our expressions.

BETH DEJONG, REGISTERED NURSE: For the most part, they're stuck inside themselves. They can't talk. They can't stretch their arms because if we lose the ET tube, the tube that's helping them breathe, they'll die.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sometimes it felt like there's no end in sight. And we have hope, but for right now our everyday lives are pretty -- pretty strained.

DEJONG: It's always in your face. When I come to work, I deal with COVID patients, and when I go home, I don't get to hug my kids. I have a 4 and an 8-year-old, and they don't run to the door anymore because we don't give hugs when I get home. They know that the first thing I do is I shower, and then I get to spend half an hour with them, and I come back, and I do it again.

And I think that all of our nurses are in the same boat. You know, you get a call from somebody after a shift, and they just sob because one or two or three patients died on the shift. Sometimes these patients are awake and they know what's going on.


MADDOW: Those are registered nurses and nurse practitioners and patient care technicians who all work at Intermountain Healthcare, which as I said, is in Murray, Utah, just south of Salt Lake City. You can see the strain on them, right? How hard they're working and what they're having to deal with on a daily basis in a way that has now gone on for months and months and months and is now getting worse.

I'm putting this at the top of the show right now because I feel like that strain on frontline health workers is probably the single most important thing in the country right now, not just the scale and scope of the epidemic, but what we can reasonably expect from the people who we need to handle the scale and the scope of the epidemic right now.

Here's somebody else you should meet. Her name is Morgan Krohne. She's a nurse at Indiana University Health, which is in Indianapolis.


MORGAN KROHNE, NURSE: It's about 3:30 in the morning, and this is my fourth shift in a row. We're feeling, you know, a capacity of patients and the need for more nurses, so I offered to help out an extra shift this week.

Most of our patients over here are on monitors, and they're very sick. Most of them have COVID. A lot of them are requiring a lot of oxygen, so we have to keep them monitored very close. We're really seeing a lot of patients coming through our E.D. here at Methodist, and more and more patients are coming up to these units and we're seeing a lot of COVID.

So, we're admitting a lot here at night, and we're feeling the brunt of it, I think, right now. So -- but we deal with a lot of COVID up here, and that's predominantly all my cases tonight.


MADDOW: That's predominantly all my patients tonight. It's 3:30 in the morning when she's recording that, admitting lots of patients every night through the E.D., through the emergency department.

NBC News reporter Ellison Barber was able to go into DePaul Hospital in St. Louis this week, specifically to their ICU to talk to their staff there. And all of us right now in this country are looking at the same numbers, looking at the same statistics, feeling scared about the weeks ahead. The people who are going to try to get us through the weeks ahead, though, they are already rocked back on their heels right now by how much they're doing already, by how big the problem is right now, before we get into what is about to be the worst of it in these next few weeks.


JENNIFER DAWSON, NURSE: Once they get to us, we're not seeing a lot that make it out of here. So it's just like a day in and day out. I don't know. I just wonder in the end how, you know -- if things are going to be different. I don't know.

REPORTER: How much patients have you lost?

DAWSON: I -- I don't even know our numbers. There's days when it's three and four a shift, so it's -- it's hard.

REPORTER: And how many hours is a shift typically?

DAWSON: Twelve hours.

REPORTER: In a 12-hour period, there's some days where you're losing three or four people?

DAWSON: Yah, at least, uh-huh. We're an 18-bed unit, so, you know, that's a lot, you know. And it affects everybody on the floor too, you know, because everybody -- like I said, it's a team effort. The entire floor is a team effort.

So it affects everybody. We just kind of have to pick each other up and move on to the next room. What do we need to do in here?

We do -- part of the care that we give is proning patients, putting them prone and, you know, you think of yourself in that position, you know. It's just -- I can't imagine the stuff that we do to these people, the care that they require, it's just unbelievable.

I've never -- you know, we've proned one patient maybe my entire career, and now we're doing it daily, multiple times a day, because that's what these patients are requiring. Their body -- that's the only position that their body will hopefully do better in. Otherwise, they're not going to survive.


MADDOW: One of the words that we outside the medical profession ever had to know before 2020 is that word "proning" that she just described there, Ms. Dawson.

I mean instinctively, you think of someone in the hospital. You think of them lying on their back in a hospital bed, right? One of the lessons thus far in treating COVID is that just structurally in terms of the way we are built, it can be easier on a patient's lungs apparently. They can sometimes get better lung function, more oxygenation if they are not lying on their back, if in fact they're flipped over and they're on their stomach.

And I remember early on in the first surge, the spring, talking with doctors in New York about that and having them explain that and having me as a layperson learn that. I remember thinking, you know, as somebody who doesn't know anything about medical stuff, well, at least that's a simple, easy thing. That's great. It's true.

It's not some newly invented, super-expensive, monoclonal antibody, right, or some fantastical space age treatment that needs to be kept in subzero temperature control. It's just a position, just a way you shift the body.

Now we're ten months into this thing. It's true that it's helpful for a lot of patients. But I want to show you this. One of the things that Ellison Barber and her crew were allowed to shoot at this hospital in St. Louis this week was that process that I've been thinking all this time is that cheap and easy thing that helps so many patients. I'm going to show it to you now.

It's not gruesome by any means. It's not gory, but what I'm going to show you is a procedure in a loss. If there's a chance you don't want your kids to watch, if they're watching with you know, I would understand so I'm pausing for time here, for a second, in case you don't want them to see this.

Okay. But here it is. I've watched this today a number of times cutting this footage. Part of the reason I wanted you to see this is I know that I can't get it out of my head, and I also just think it's something we should probably all see. In this case, this is a patient who has been proned already, and this team in St. Louis in this ICU, this is a five-person team in the ICU that's turning the patient again, back to what's called the supine position, putting the patient back on the back, back on the patient's back.

And you can see the team, you know, running through their checklist. They move all the lines and the tubes that are going into and out of the patient that confirm which way they're going to do this movement of the body. They make sure they all understand that. The doctor leading the team calls one, two, three to move the patient from the center of the bed to the side of the bed. The team then repositions, rechecks, confirms nothing is dislodged.

The doctor calls one, two, three again. They then move the patient two-thirds of the way through that turn. And then they recheck and retuck everything around the patient, recheck everything, and then it's one, two, three again to recenter the patient in the bed, having now been supined because the patient was proned before.

I mean you can just see the care it takes, the work it takes to take care of everything that's hooked up to that patient, all the monitors and the tubes and the lines and the bedclothes and the catheter and the coordination between that team, right? Five of them in that room for that one procedure.

And you can see at one point it's written on the patient's door in black marker the time that this patient was put in the supine position and then the time that they were flipped prone. They spent hours proned, lying on their stomach, and then this is again them moving them back to supine, and they mark that time. This is the simplest thing they do. This is the simplest, easiest thing they do, and it takes five trained people in the ICU, and that much time and that much care.

Think about that. This is the bottom of the totem pole in terms of what they do.

And you heard the nurse there, Jennifer Dawson, say we've proned one patient in my entire career, but now we're doing it daily multiple times a day. They're also losing three and four people, three and four of their patients are dying per 12-hour shift on a unit that's only 18 beds.

I mean how long can we keep asking the health care workers and our frontline hospitals to do this, this intensively, with this many patients, with this much death, with this much intensity, right? This much intensiveness in terms of the care they're offering.

What you just saw is the simplest thing they do. I mean, given what we are asking of them, especially given what's coming, how can we relieve them? How can we make it any easier on them given what we're asking from them, right?

I mean you look at the numbers. I know we've been looking at the numbers every day for ten months. But today was like if you've ever really been through a period in your life -- and it might be right now -- when you're really, really broke. You know you didn't make ends meet for this pay period.

But like today's the day, you knew you weren't really making it. I've been there. In my life, I have had times like this.

But today was the day where, like, you found out -- you knew you weren't really making it. You knew you were in trouble financially, but today's the day you found out it's worse than you thought. You got a call from the bank or an alert from the bank, and it turns out you're way overdrawn in your bank account, something you didn't expect to get automatically deducted or some check you had to write you were really hoping wouldn't clear yet. It cleared, and you're screwed, right?

Today is that kind of day. The bank is mad. There's big red flag in your account. You're way overdrawn. You're going to have to pay overdraft fees. You're in trouble, right, and you've got that panic because of it.

And then on top of that, at the same time you get that call, right? You get that alert from the bank that you're way overdrawn, and you don't know what you're going to do about it. You also at that same time get a new bill in the mail or in your inbox, and it's from the utility company or taxes or something else you've absolutely got to pay.

And that bill is way bigger than you thought it was going to be, way bigger than it's ever been before, than you ever had to plan on before, and it arrived at a time you just found out you have zero money. You not only have no way to pay, you are overdrawn. That's what the COVID numbers are right now, right?

That's what the COVID numbers are specifically today in terms of what we've got in the bank and the bill that is coming due, in terms of the resources that we have to devote to the problem that we've got in our country and how big the problem just got.

Look at the numbers today and think about it in those terms. Look at the COVID tracking project numbers today. Number of Americans hospitalized, the highest it has ever been by a lot, over 100,000 of our fellow Americans in the hospital right now, over 100,000 inpatient COVID patients.

All right? That is how taxed our resources are right now in terms of health care and look at what's coming. Look at the bill that just arrived for how much more hospitalization is about to be demanded of us.

The number of people newly infected today is also the highest number we've ever had as a country, more than 210,000 new infections in America today.

Our hospitals are already bending under the strain of having more than 100,000 people in the hospital. And when I say the hospitals are bending under the strain, I mean the people who work in them. Our fellow Americans who work in the hospitals are bending under the strain.

There is too much already being put on our doctors and nurses, right? We have overdrawn from them as a resource in terms of what they're capable of keeping up with just as human beings with families and feelings and limits.

And while the hospitals are maxing out, we are simultaneously accelerating what we are sending them newly to deal with. That's what these two different numbers mean in tandem, right? We're already taxing the resources that we've got beyond anything we've ever tried before as a nation while we are racking up daily new infections so large they will produce new hospitalizations, new hospitalization numbers so large within the next two weeks that we really don't know what our hospitals will do.

Our hospitals in many parts of the country are approaching the point where they are capped out in terms of capacity already, particularly in terms of human capacity among our health workers. And yet these raging new case numbers every day mean that we're about to send a tide of sick COVID patients to our health care workers, the likes of which we have never before contended with on top of what they've already got.

I mean that's looking at the number of people we've got in the hospital and the number of people headed toward the hospital. The death numbers are already bad enough. In the past day, more than 2,700 deaths. That means one American is dying from COVID every 32 seconds now.

And keep that in mind as a benchmark because that's a couple of weeks or so before we see the impact in the hospitals and then ultimately the impact in the morgue of these new infection numbers that we are seeing now.

I honestly -- I don't know what to say. I mean I don't know what's going to happen in the hospitals. I don't know where the ambulances are going to take people after the surge capacity is exhausted.

We finally got our hands on the document from the White House coronavirus task force that I mentioned on last night's show. This is the document that they do not make publicly available for some reason, but they send it to public health officials in the states.

And, again, I'm not sure why this hasn't been a bigger story since the news of the content of this document broke. It's maybe because people haven't seen the actual document from the White House. They've only heard about it.

But we have now obtained pieces of that document, and I can tell you what the White House -- ignore the president, right? Ignore whatever is going on with that circus. What the coronavirus task force in the White House is telling public health officials to do right now in the states, it's the equivalent of when the National Hurricane Center starts putting out those warnings in all capital letters telling people they will definitely die unless they evacuate ahead of the oncoming storm.

That is what's coming now from the coronavirus task force to the states. Just look at this. NBC News obtained this last night. I know you may have seen quotes from it, but we finally got the document itself.

And this is the top of the new recommendations from the COVID task force at the White House to public health officials in the states. It says this. If state and local policies do not reflect the seriousness of the current situation, all public health officials must alert the state population directly.

Look at this language. It must be made clear that if you are over 65 or have significant health conditions, you should not enter any indoor public spaces where anyone is unmasked due to the immediate risk to your health. You should have groceries and medications delivered.

If you are under age 40, you need to assume that you became infected during the Thanksgiving period if you gathered beyond your immediate household. Most likely you will not have symptoms. However, you are dangerous to others. You must isolate away from anyone at increased risk of severe disease. You must get tested immediately.

The COVID risk to all Americans is at a historic high. The national daily COVID incidence after Memorial Day was fewer than 25,000 new cases a day. Now it is more than 180,000 new cases a day. In fact, today it's even higher than that.

The task force continues, quote, COVID inpatients then -- meaning in the spring, hospitalizations in the spring -- were fewer than 30,000. They are now more than 90,000. And in fact, tonight they're more than 100,000.

Fatalities have more than doubled. We are in a, quote, very dangerous place due to the current extremely high COVID baseline and limited hospital capacity. A further Thanksgiving surge will compromise COVID patient care as well as medical care overall.

Anybody who got infected during Thanksgiving travel, you know, they say that two days before symptoms and five days after you first get symptoms is the time when you're most likely to give it to somebody else. That's the time that you're most infectious in terms of when you get the symptom onset yourself, you might never get it. But it will likely be within the first seven to ten days that you've been exposed.

So if people traveled at Thanksgiving and got infected, which the White House Task Force says you should assume you did if you saw anybody outside of your household, that means that the time -- if you're infected and you're giving it to others, this is the time you're infected and you're giving it to others.

And so there is this -- I don't know why they keep this secret, this secret advice from the White House to the states that reporters have to dig up every time they update it. And we get little pieces of it leaked. But we can see from their non-public advice to the states that they are telling public health officers to pull out all the stops, go around state officials and whatever policies do not reflect the seriousness of what is happening for you locally. Pull the rip cord. This is what we were most worried about. It is here.

And that's what's happening while the Americans who we count on to save us, if we can be saved, are already being pushed to their limits. I mean, things will eventually get better. Vaccines will someday, hopefully someday soon start to make a dent.

In less than 50 days, we will have a new president. Today, President-elect Biden announced that he has asked Dr. Tony Fauci to stay on as the nation's top infectious disease doctor and has additionally asked Fauci to become his top medical adviser. Reports are also now circulating about President-elect Biden's choices for surgeon general, for the coordinator of the government's overall health response efforts.

And it turns out none of them are quacks that he found on Fox News who thinks masks don't work and it's cool if we all get infected and my magic flower juice from the My Pillow guy will cure us all. That's good.

Ever since FDR first introduced the concept of the first 100 days for his administration in 1933, he coined that phrase in a fireside chat. Ever since then, new presidents have made pledges to the public about what they will do in their first 100 days in office, right? They've all defined these ambitious first 100 days agendas for what they want to accomplish in their first 100 days when they are sworn in -- after they are sworn in as president.

Well, Joe Biden said today what he wants for his first 100 days is for the country to commit to wearing masks for 100 days, for the first 100 days that he's in office. That's what he wants, for us to commit to that for 100 days to break the back of the explosive viral transmission that has overtaken us coast to coast.

I mean if we could do that one thing, it would have a huge, huge impact. I don't know if we can do that. I hope that we can just like I have lots of hope for what the vaccine might mean.

But even if vaccines are all that we hope for and more, even if we could do 100 days with masks with the new president, it's still nearly 50 days away before we'd start it. And tonight, I want to know what we can do to help American health providers, to help them get through not what's coming yet, but even just to get through December on the way toward what we know is building as the tsunami that's coming at them.

Joining us now is Adam Hohman. He's a nurse practitioner on the front lines in not one but two of the country's hardest hit states. He works both in North Dakota and Minnesota. He's also an assistant professor at North Dakota State University School of Nursing.

Mr. Hohman, thank you so much for being with us tonight. I really appreciate you making time.

ADAM HOHMAN, MINNESOTA NURSE PRACTITIONER: Yes. Thank you, Rachel. Thanks for having me on.

MADDOW: Let me just ask you if my level of worry is commensurate with your level of worry as somebody who's doing this work?

HOHMAN: Yes, I would agree. I think -- I have huge concerns as we come into the next one to two weeks post-Thanksgiving that we're going to see a huge surge in cases, particularly for the number of people who traveled over Thanksgiving and, you know, there's a potential that we could surpass our local capacity not only here in the rural setting but also in our urban facilities.

MADDOW: Adam, one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you is I know that as part of your Air Force Reserve service, you traveled this spring to New York City to help out and treat patients as New York was having its terrible surge. I wonder if you could compare the experience there and what you saw there versus what you've been seeing in rural North Dakota, in rural Minnesota, in terms of places with fewer resources, smaller health systems overall having to deal with their own kind of strain right now.

HOHMAN: Yes. So, I think one of the things that we maybe got lulled into in North Dakota was that we were so rural and that we weren't New York. But if you compare data per capita, we obviously have led the nation in both deaths and hospitalizations and cases. New York was unique in that when we arrived, there was a significant amount of lack of beds, staff. You know, some of the staff themselves who were the normal nurses and medical providers were either the patients, had died, or had quit because the COVID pandemic was just so significant.

I've not seen that level yet here locally, but I do have concerns, you know, coming into the worst part of the surge right now and what weeks to months to come look like. One of the things I think often gets forgotten in rural America is most of our -- what we call critical access hospitals, our hospitals that have 25 beds, 24-hour E.R. requirements, but typically are staffed by primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, nursing assistants, just by the nature of the remotes. And in those facilities, they typically don't have respiratory therapists. They don't often have an anesthesia team, frankly, don't have ICU beds.

So I worry, you know, as this kind of progresses out from the urban setting into our rural communities, you know, what does that look like for rural because we're hearing, you know, some of our smaller communities, that the pandemic is devastating our communities, but I think potentially the worst is yet to come.

MADDOW: Adam Hohman, nurse practitioner on the front lines in both North Dakota and Minnesota, assistant professor at North Dakota state university school of nursing. Thanks for helping us understand what you've seen, Adam. Best of luck to you. Thank you.

HOHMAN: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. As I mentioned at the top of the show, we've got some late breaking news tonight from "The New York Times." Fascinating development and a story we covered earlier this week about an alleged bribe for pardons scandal that has been investigated by the Justice Department.

This is alleged payments to the Trump White House to pay for presidential pardons or clemency. This derived from a highly redacted court document which was unsealed in Washington earlier this week. "The New York Times" has just filled in some of the proper nouns behind the big black lines in that court document. We started to figure out who this might be about.

We've got that story for you next. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Update for you. On a story we first brought you a couple of nights ago about newly unsealed court documents that managed to be sort of a bombshell even though there was a lot we didn't understand about it because so much of it was redacted. It was a 20-page-long order that was unsealed on Tuesday night from the top judge in federal court in D.C. Her name's Chief Judge Beryl Howell.

Judge Howell issued this order in late August. She unsealed it on Tuesday. Although a whole bunch of stuff in the order was still blacked out.

What we could see in this document that made it such big news was that it showed that federal prosecutors, Justice Department prosecutors, had been actively investigating what the judge described as a bribery-for-pardons scheme. A, quote, secret lobbying scheme and bribery conspiracy by which some number of people were suspected of arranging bribes in the form of substantial political contributions. What they wanted in exchange for those substantial political contributions was, quote, a presidential pardon or reprieve of sentence.

So, a cash-for-pardon scheme in the Trump White House being investigated by the Justice Department? Really? That was as far as we knew this story went two days ago.

Well, just within the last hour, just in the last few minutes, "The New York Times" has started to fill in a bunch of the blanks here. The headline on the story just posted at "The New York Times" is this. Trump associates said to have been scrutinized in suspected pardon scheme. Hmm.

Here's the lead. Quote, the Justice Department investigated as recently as this past summer the roles of a top fund-raiser for President Trump and a lawyer for his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in a suspected scheme to offer a bribe in exchange for clemency for a convict, specifically a tax crimes convict.

Two people familiar with the inquiry said it concerned efforts by the lawyer for Mr. Kushner, Abbe Lowell, and the fund-raiser, Elliott Broidy, who pled guilty in October to a charge related to a different scheme, to illegally lobby the Trump administration. Elliott Broidy is a figure who has popped up in a lot of Trump-related scandals since before the inauguration. Broidy pled guilty to a scheme to lobby the Trump administration on behalf of undisclosed foreign clients weeks ago, not long ago.

Broidy was also a key part of the presidential inaugural committee, which has come under lots of legal scrutiny. We'll talk about that more this hour. He was also part of the Republican National Committee's finance team along with Michael Cohen and the disgraced casino billionaire Steve Wynn and all sorts of other unsavory characters.

But now, there's understandably been a lot of speculation in the last couple of days, once we got this court document about who might have been seeking this pardon from Trump, especially with all the family members and friends and well known associates Trump has reportedly been considering preemptively pardoning before he leaves office. We'll be talking more about that tonight too.

But it turns out according to "The New York Times" reporting tonight, the guy who was seeking this pardon which led to this Justice Department investigation into whether or not pardons were for sale in the Trump administration, the guy who was going to pay the bribe to make it all happen, it seems like these are guys that nobody's ever really heard of. This is from "The Times" tonight.

Quote, a billionaire San Francisco real estate developer, Sanford Diller, enlisted the help of Abbe Lowell, Jared's lawyer, and Elliott Broidy, the Trump fund-raiser, in securing clemency for a Berkeley, California, psychologist named Hugh L. Baras, who had received a 30-month prison sentence on a conviction of tax evasion and improperly claiming social security benefits.

Under the suspected scheme, Mr. Diller would make a substantial political contribution to an unspecified recipient in exchange for Mr. Baras getting the pardon. Mr. Diller died in February 2018. There's no evidence that the effort continued after his death. Mr. Baras, for his part, did not receive clemency.

Now, Abbe Lowell, who is Jared's lawyer, has his own lawyer, and that lawyer tells "The Times" tonight that Abbe Lowell did represent Mr. Baras in this unsuccessful effort to avoid being locked up. But he says that no bribe was paid, and Mr. Baras didn't get out of prison as far as we can tell. He went to prison in June of 2017. He was released in august 2019.

He didn't get a pardon. He didn't get clemency. "The Times" says that as part of this bribery for pardon alleged scheme, quote, someone approached the White House counsel's office to ensure that the clemency petition reached the targeted officials. They did not say who made the contact or how the White House responded.

Now, again, Elliott Broidy, who, as I said, has already pled guilty in a whole different scheme to illegally lobby the White House on behalf of foreign interests -- while Brody apparently knew this real estate guy previously, it's not clear what Abbe Lowell had to do with this. He's a very high powered, big-name Washington lawyer who works for Jared Kushner among other people. It's not clear how he might have become involved in this or what, if anything, that might mean for Jared Kushner's potential exposure in this.

But that all comes as we continue to get new reports, even tonight, that President Trump, as he winds down his last few weeks in office, is considering preemptive pardons for all his adult children, including his son-in-law Jared.

What a mess. More as we know it.


MADDOW: just posted tonight, quote, President Donald Trump is considering preemptively pardoning as many as 20 aides and associates before leaving office, 20, 20 preemptive pardons. You get to be Nixon, and you get to be Nixon. And look under your chair. You'll all go down in history like Richard Nixon.

Twenty? That huge number of people reportedly on the president's preemptive pardon plan is new, 20? But some of the names on the list are familiar. It was "The New York Times" that first reported earlier this week that the president was considering preemptive pardons not just for his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, but for three of his adult kids too.

And, you know, not to state the obvious here, but as far as we know, none of the Trump kids have been charged with a crime. The reason the Trump kids might need preemptive legal protection even before getting charged with anything is a little woolly when "The Times" first broke that news that Don Junior and Eric and Ivanka all might get Nixoned here.

But then yesterday, we learned that the president's eldest daughter, Ivanka, just this week was deposed in a lawsuit by the D.C. attorney general. This is a lawsuit that alleges in the D.C. attorney general's words that the president's inaugural committee abused nonprofit funds to enrich the Trump family. It specifically says they illegally spent inaugural money at the president's hotel in Washington, D.C. according to the lawsuit brought in D.C., the president's inaugural committee coordinated with the Trump family, specifically with the president's kids, to have the inaugural committee grossly overpay for event space at that hotel during the inauguration.

In other words, the allegation in the lawsuit is that the Trump kids used their sway inside the family business to up-charge the inaugural committee as a way to put a little extra cash into the family business.

Today, Ivanka Trump confirmed publicly that she did give a deposition to the D.C. attorney general's office this week. She said she answered questions there for more than five hours about what the inaugural committee was charged by the Trump family hotel and why. She publicly pushed back on the allegation that she had done anything wrong. She called the whole investigation a demonstration of vindictiveness.

The D.C. attorney general conducting that responded like this. He said, quote, we filed suit after gathering evidence that the inaugural committee knowingly entered into a grossly overpriced contract with the Trump hotel. Any claim to the contrary is incorrect. D.C. law requires nonprofits to use funds for stated public purposes and to avoid unreasonable, wasteful expenses.

Our investigation revealed the inaugural committee willfully used nonprofit funds to enrich the Trump family. It's very simple. They broke the law. That's why we sued.

And that last line there, that's why we sued, that's not just like a punchy comeback. It's an important reminder here that the president can't just pardon his daughter, Ivanka, out of this particular jam.

The D.C. attorney general's case here is a civil case. Presidential pardons only cover you for federal crimes. So unless the president believes this civil lawsuit could mature into a criminal liability for his family, a preemptive pardon who do bupkis for Ivanka.

It would also do bupkis for Melania. The first lady has also been subpoenaed for documents as part of this lawsuit as well. The first lady for her part as said, quote, she has no knowledge of the financial spending during the inauguration.

But regardless, this is very much a live matter and one which seems to be agitating the president considerably. The attorney general from Washington, D.C. brought this case against the Trump inaugural committee, and he joins us live next.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: This is from the original lawsuit brought by the D.C. attorney general into the Trump inaugural committee. It says that it seeks relief for non-profit funds after the Trump presidential inaugural committee, quote, grossly overpaid for use of event space at the Trump Hotel.

The next inaugural, of course, will be the Biden/Harris inaugural next month but this case over the potentially illegal misuse of funds at the Trump inaugural is just heating up now. We have learned this week that the president's deputy campaign manager Rick Gates and his inaugural chairman, Tom Barrack, have been subpoenaed, along with the president's life, Melania. The president's eldest daughter Ivanka just gave five hours of testimony as part of this suit. What happens next here?

Joining us now is Karl Racine. He's attorney general for the District of Columbia. He brought this civil suit against the inaugural committee.

Mr. Racine, thank you very much for being here. It's an honor to have you tonight, sir.

KARL RACINE, WASHINGTON D.C. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Good evening, Rachel, I'm happy to be here. And great that Susan is back in good health.

MADDOW: Thank you for saying so. That means a lot to me. It's been a wild ride.

Let me ask you if any of the noise that we have heard so much about in the past week in terms of the president potentially preemptively pardoning all of his family members, trying to pardon himself, preemptive pardon for other people sir surrounding him in part of the administration, potentially part of the inauguration, will that have any bearing on this case that you've brought in D.C.?

RACINE: No, not in this case for the reasons that you stated, namely that this is a civil case. Not a criminal case. And so, the president cannot pardon anyone for a violation of a civil wrong that would likely result if established and we're confident about our case, in moneys going back into the not for profit from the Trumps' pockets.

MADDOW: I know as much as any non-lawyer about the types of distinctions between different types of cases that you're talking about which is to say not much. But I do know enough to ask whether or not you have made any criminal referrals stepping out of what you have learned in this case or whether you expect to make any criminal referrals.

RACINE: I think any case where depositions are being taken, where folks are put under oath and are sworn to tell the truth under threat of perjury, it's important that they honor those oaths and follow the truth to the extent that something like that doesn't occur, then we would be in position to make an appropriate referral. It would be only in those circumstances that a criminal matter would arise from this case.

MADDOW: Okay. Let me just make sure that I understand the full contours of that. I mean, there were public reports that the U.S. Justice Department might have convened a grand jury last summer to look into some issues related to the inaugural committee.

Can I ask you if that's your understanding as well? Or whether there's any -- whether there has been any question about whether the Justice Department, federal Justice Department, might have an interest in this case as well?

RACINE: So, I'm not able to comment on that, nor am I able to share information with you that I don't know. I can tell you that the Trump family and misuse of not-for-profits is not something new. You'll remember, Rachel, that they had the Trump Foundation based in New York that was forced to shut down and that they had to repay for the public good $2 million as a result of that foundation doing things like purchasing portraits, paying legal expenses, clearly, not for not-for-profit organizational purposes.

MADDOW: There's a long list of people and entities who have been subpoenaed for documents as part of your investigation. We learned a lot more about that with documents that we were able to see in the case this week.

In general, have parties been forthcoming? When you have been wanting to depose people represented to the inaugural committee, when you have sought documents from them, you been able to get your hands on everything you need to conduct your investigation? Been able to talk to everybody you'd like to talk to?

RACINE: Yah, our prosecution of this civil case has been thorough and, indeed, we've received numerous documents. We think that the productions to date have been complete. We are deposing additional witnesses.

You've had on your show before Ms. Wolkoff who will be deposed on December 9th. Mr. Gates will be deposed, Rick Gates, on December 17th. We'll have a fulsome opportunity to assess whether everyone has been truthful with us after all of the deposition testimony.

I want to emphasize a couple of points, and I think that with all due respect to Ivanka Trump, what she put out today was highly misleading and at best only a part of the story. For example, Rachel, she makes a lot of an email wherein she claims that she directed the foundation to pay market rate for the Trump Hotel. That email was dated December 14th.

Days after that email, there was clearly an attempt to pay a lot more than the market price. Stephanie Wolkoff sent emails including to Ivanka Trump raising alarms about the prices that the Trump Hotel was seeking to charge the inauguration committee. Interestingly, Ms. Trump does not cite any email after Ms. Wolkoff's red-alarm email saying, oh my goodness, this should not be charged at these high levels and, in fact, as we know, the foundation was charged at extraordinarily high levels.

If I could give you one example that I think really tells you exactly what was going on, on one of the days of the inaugural committee, it paid $175,000 for full use of the hotel's event space including use of a large ballroom for a half day which was double booked by a different not-for-profit.

The presidential inaugural prayer breakfast, not-for-profit. That not-for-profit paid $5,000 for that same ballroom, $175,000 charged to the inauguration committee, $5,000 to another not-for-profit. Doesn't sound like market rate to me.

MADDOW: D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, sir, thank you for being here. Thank you for helping us understand this case.

RACINE: Thank you.

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


MADDOW: That is going to do it for us tonight. I'm going to see you again tomorrow tonight, though.


Good evening, Lawrence.


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