tv The Rachel Maddow Show MSNBC August 28, 2017 9:00pm-10:00pm PDT
we're continuing to watch developments in houston where rain continues to fall in just epic amounts and where local authorities are having to make hard decisions act essentially what neighborhoods and what areas they may have to condemn to further flooding on purpose for the sake of the greater good. today and tonight houston has been letting huge amounts of water flow out of flood control reservoirs into areas that have already been fatally inundated. they've been doing that to relieve the threat that the reservoirs and the dams that hold them together might fail because of the massive volume of water. with the entire texas national guard now activated, hundreds of thousands of americans in harm's way tonight, it is hard to overstate the magnitude of the crisis in texas. houston is the country's fourth largest city. it's also the fastest growing major city in america. and even though houston has been hit by disastrous flooding in the past, including flooding
caused by hurricanes, the rapid groetds a growth and sprawl in the houston area has created worse conditions for a storm like this. it's also created some insurmountable challenges in terms of trying to move people out of harm's way and trying to rescue people when the effort to get them out of harm's way is a failed effort. so we're continuing to watch this story tonight. we're going to be getting a live report from houston in just a moment. we're also going to be speaking with an expert tonight who is an expert specifically on the question of what options houston has right now. what options texas has right now in the middle of the thing to cope with what has happened over the last four days and what is likely to continue to get worse over the next 48 hours. they have some very painful decision to make. and getting a sense of what options they have and what the consequences of the decisions might be at this point. it's very difficult stuff but
we're going to be covering that in detail tonight. today has seen some stunning breaking news about the trump organization and the trump campaign about its tie to russia at the time russia was attacking the u.s. presidential election last year. one of the investigative reporters at the washington post who broke the story open both over the weekend and then today, carol is going to join us live in just a moment. we've got a little news to break on the trump-russia dossier prepared by former british mi 6 agent christopher steele last year. the dossier of the alleged dirt published by buzzfeed in january, created such an uproar at the time. people who commissioned the dossier described it as a road map into the investigation as to whether or not donald trump colluded with the russian attack. people who commissioned the dossier stand by it saying that the dossier is direct. the dossier is now back at the
center of what we know about the trump-russia investigation. we're going to break a little bit of news on that later on the show this evening. but you know, the day that we the public all first learned about the dossier was actually before the election. it was on october 31st, halloween, 2016. david corn at mother jones magazine was the first person in the country to break the news that a former western intelligence agent collected a series of intelligence reports that were potentially very damaging to donald trump, specifically in terms of his relationship to russia. david corn reported on halloween just before the election that the fbi had seen these findings and was looking into them. nobody quite knew what to make of it at the time. i wish that i had known what to make of it at the time. i wish we all had, right? it really wasn't until the dossier itself was published months later in january, after the election, that we all learned how serious this thing was, that david corn had been
describing in october. but on that same day that david corn published that story, right, the story that in retrospect now appears to be so important but at the time we didn't really get it. on that same day there was another really big hard to understand story that kind of landed the same way. it was written by franklin ford at slate.com. wrote a long piece published on halloween that described unusual computer interactions between a computer server in trump tower serving the trump organization and a computer server in moscow associated with a big russian bank called alfa bank. and what this slate article described is hard to put your finger on in terms of significance but the granular reporting was there as an unusually high volume of server to server communications of some kind between those two servers
in 2004 and in moscow. there was no information about the content. there were explanations offered as to why the serves may have been communicated with each other but it was never explained in terms of what the significance of that information was. because of that, because it didn't have a clear bottom line, it was just like a hmm, i think ultimately that story kind of withered away in the public consciousness. whatever the reason was why the trump organization servers and the alfa bank servers were talking to each other during the campaign, it's interesting but we didn't know what it meant and there didn't seem to be any other connection between donald trump and alfa bank. so interesting story, we don't really know what it means and the whole thing went to the back of the stack in terms of things to worry about when it comes to donald trump and russia. maybe that whole alfa bank server was a coincidence or a technical glitch. that story came out october 31st on slate.com. then a week later donald trump
won the election and then during the transition when he was president-elect, there emerged the next weird inexplicable maybe coincidental thing involving trump world and a russian bank. one of the numerous contacts with russian officials that trump's son-in-law jared kushner did not disclose on his request for security clearance was a meeting that he took at trump tower during the transition where he hosted the head of another russian bank. jared kushner met with the head of a russian bank called veb bank. veb bank is a bank but it's really just an entity of the russian government. the leadership of veb bank is hand picked by lad peer putin and veb bank's connections with russian intelligence are not subtle. sergei gorkov is the person that kushner met with.
he is a grant of the fsb academy which means he went to kgb grad school. veb bank was coordination of a spy ring, that was the russian spying investigation where carter page was found by the fbi to have been essentially a willing target for those russian spies. at least he was a source of information for those russian spies who were looking for americans to give them information to help them with their spying efforts against america from their home base in new york, where they were ostensibly working for veb bank but really, they were spies. so there was the alfa bank servers communicating with the trump organization for some reason. what's that russian bank got to do with anything? then in the transition there's jared kushner meeting with the head of veb bank for some reason. what's that russian bank got to do with it? then not long after trump got inaugurated along comes another inexplicable seemingly random intersection between trump world
and yet another russian bank. the next one we learned about was i think the biggest russian bank of all, a bank called sberbank which announced in march they hired new counsel to represent them in a big, complicated civil case that was filed in federal court in new york. sberbank was accused of rigging the granite mining industry in russia. why is that a federal civil case in new york? it's a long story. in march, sberbank in the middle of the case, they made a lot of eyebrows arch in the legal news when they announced they chosen their new counsel for that long, complicated, and peopleably very expensive case and they said their new counsel was going to be donald trump's personal lawyer, marc kasowitz. right? marc kasowitz heading follow-up trump's legal team on the russian investigation. if you're the lawyer coordinating defense for the president of the united states
who is facing a major counterintelligence and criminal investigation from the fbi while he is serving as president, if you are in charge of that you think you would be too busy to take on other clients, right? but if there are russian interests who are concerned to know what is going on in the russia investigation it might be handy to have conversations under the cover of attorney-client privilege with the lead lawyer on the trump-russia investigations. what is that big russian bank doing with trump's lawyer in maybe the alfa bank thing was a coincidence. maybe the veb jared kushner meeting was a coincidence. maybe the sberbank thing was a coincidence. maybe it has nothing to do with president donald trump and whether or not he has some sort of illicit relationship financial or otherwise with russia that explains why russia
tried to rig the election on his behalf. maybe none of those bank connections, alfa bank, veb bank, sberbank, maybe none of those have anything to do with the question of whether trump and his campaign knew about or were involved with the russian effort to disrupt our election. if you want to talk about donald trump personally and specifically, honestly, until today the only suspicious banking relationship we've known about him recently isn't with any russian bank is with deutsche bank. deutsche bank is the bank that donald trump owes hundreds of millions of dollars to. deutsche bank is the bank that dealt with donald trump for years when no other banks would. deutsche bank is the bank that continued to lend donald trump hundreds of millions of dollars for many deals even when he was
unable to pay them back on loans and he went so far as to file lawsuits against deutsche bank because he failed to pay them back. there are aspects of the donald trump-deutsche bank relationship that have seemed unexplained by the bounds of normal financial business dealings. deutsche bank on the surface appears to have been uncommonly generous to him and forgiving of him. deutsche bank gave jared kushner several hundred millions of dollars in loans in october of last year, right before the election. loans that jared kushner personally guaranteed which made it all the more unusual that he failed to disclose those loans from deutsche bank on his financial disclosure state. hundreds of millions of dollars. deutsche bank has been plagued by its legal liability for a multimillion dollar russia money laundering scheme that was operated out of deutsche bank
schemes in moscow and elsewhere. but you know after today, the deutsche bank russian money laundering case will no longer be seen as the connection between donald trump and it comes to the russia investigation. because, all right, there was alfa bank with the server thing. there was veb bank with the carter page connection and then the jared kushner meeting. sberbank hiring trump's russia lawyer. there's all of these russian banks getting strange new starring roles in american politics. there's another one, alfa bank, veb bank, sberbank and another one called vtb bank. it's a very large russian bank not as big as veb bank but it is very big. vtb pabank is sanctioned by the u.s. government as punishment for crimea because this bank is seen as the russian government.
it's an arm of the russian government and that's how the u.s. government views them. in fact if you go to vtb's website tonight, click on about vtb and they'll tell you in exact mathematical terms how they're controlled by the russian government. the russian government owns and controls 60.9% of the vtb bank. the majority shareholder of the vtb bank is the russian government. what that means in plain english is that putin runs vtb. putin controls the bank and what it does and what it spends on. and today we learned that up until last year, up until the middle of the presidential campaign, vtb bank was lined up and committed to provide hundreds of millions of dollars in financing to build trump tower moscow. the russian government was going to do that deal. actually, even without the knowledge that the financing for this deal was going to come from the russian government, it's still a heck of a bombshell. this is not some old deal that happened back in the past that people may have forgotten about. this is not something that trump worked on in the '90s and it
fell apart. this was what he was working on during the campaign after he announced that he was running for president, months into his presidential campaign when he was full-on running for president, he was trying to do this deal with the russian government in moscow. quoting from carol's story in the washington post, trump posted numerous supportive comments about putin on the campaign trail setting himself apart from his republican rivals for the nomination. remember when trump warned that a few weeks ago in an interview with "the new york times" that if robert mueller wanted to go looking into any of his business dealings that would be crossing a red line because clearly none of those personal financial interests or business dealings had anything to do with russia, that would be crossing a red line? well now we know that his
business, the trump organization had everything to do with russia, even during the campaign. and we probably should have seen this coming. back in may we should have seen this coming when donald trump's lawyers started hiring their own lawyers. michael koen has been donald trump's lawyer, his personal lawyer at times, a trump organization executive and lawyer. when trump started flirting with and running for president in the last election cycle. he is trump's lawyer and he did hire his own lawyer this spring. he then confirmed the committees investigating the trump-russia affair asked him to give testimony and hand over documents to those committees. michael cohen's response was no, i won't. the committee subpoenaed him to testify and hand over documents. he is due as far as we know, to testify next week, in front of the house intelligence committee. but apparently today he handed over document to the house intelligence committee and some
of those documents and a long statement about them found their way to certain reporters and publications upon the handover of these document to congress. and just to reads between the lines a little bit, it does not appear that what happened here is michael cohen handed stuff over to congress and congress leaked it. i'm not speaking from direct knowledge here. i'm speaking in terms of reading between the lines. the way that this is phrased and described in the reporting tonight is that michael cohen handed this stuff over to the house intelligence committee and in so doing gave some of it to reporters and a statement about it to reporters. to put the best possible spin on that information himself before investigators themselves can start chewing on it and putting it out in their own terms. and in this case the best possible spin is still pretty bad. the bottom line is that while trump was insisting publicly that he had no deals with russia and while he was questioned repeatedly about why he was being so bent over backwards
positive about vladimir putin and russia throughout the campaign, he never thought to mention and apparently nobody in the trump organization or the trump campaign thought to mention that during the presidential campaign for five months of the presidential campaign the trump organization was aggressively pursuing the building of a gigantic real estate project in moscow that the russian government agreed to finance. an intent to proceed with the project october 2015. michael cohen spoke with trump three times directly about the project. michael cohen also wrote directly to the kremlin, last january. he wrote to vladimir putin's spokesman to ask for direct kremlin help to restart discussions about the building project which by then he said was stalled. the other trump organization figure involved in these negotiations is someone we've talked about before named felix
sater. he is a russian-born ex-con who was convicted of a $40 million mafia-connected pump and dump stock scheme. in 2015 trump in a sworn deposition professed to not be able to recognize felix sater if he had been sitting in that room that day. it's a little hard to believe felix seder had been associated with the trump organization for years. carried a trump business card that described himself as senior adviser to donald trump even after trump said he wouldn't recognize him if he were in the room. he said that in 2013. by 2015 apparently felix sater was recognizable again because he was working with michael cohen to make the trump-moscow thing happen and trump was signing off on the letter of intent to move forward with it. michael cohen i think has to testify to house intel next week. he definitely seems to have handed over documents to house intel today. his strategy in so doing is to try to spin what he's handed over in the best possible way.
it still looks very bad. it also appears to try to play down the importance of felix sater and his involvement in this project especially sater's comments in the e-mails that have been handed over to congress now and to some reporters in which felix sater brags that there's something about this real estate deal in moscow that in the end will result in donald trump becoming president of the united states. quote, our boy can become president of the usa and we can engineer it. i will get all of putin's team to buy in on this. i will manage this process. felix sater wrote this to michael cohen. michael, arranged for ivanka to sit in vladimir putin's chair at the kremlin. i know how to play it. we will get this done. michael cohen's strategy in releasing these documents to the press ahead of him giving them to congress involves him playing
down whether or not felix sater would could have been serious about that. he said, quote, over the course of my business dealings with mr. sater, he has sometimes used colorful language and been prone to salesmanship. that said, when the "times" today went to check out felix sater's boast that he was so connected he could arrange for ivanka trump to sit in putin's private chair at his desk in his office at the kremlin. when "the new york times" checked out that boast today, the response from team ivanka was not exactly on brand. ivanka trump told the times she did in fact take a brief tour of red square and the kremlin when she was in moscow with felix sater, but she insists she was only there, quote, as a tourist. i have to say, though, it does not seem she had a totally typical tourist experience,
because, quote, she said it is possible she sat in mr. putin's chair. but maybe that's just a coincidence or don't all tourist visitors to the kremlin get to sit in putin's chair? alfa bank, veb bank, sberbank and vtb bank the russian government agreeing to finance to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a trump tower moscow project that no one ever admitted to prior to today that was happening during the campaign. probably just a coincidence. a lot going on today. lots happening in the news. carol joins us next. stay with us. four seconds on th, down by one. championship on the line. erin "the sharpshooter" shanahan fakes left. she's outside of the key, she shoots... ...she scores! uh... yes, erin, it is great time to score a deal. we need to make room for the 2018 models. relive the thrill of beating the clock.
trump-russia investigation is sort of built on three ideas, three questions. one is u.s. intelligence agencies saying the russian government interfered in the presidential election to try to help trump win. two, there are allegations about whether the trump campaign colluded with or helped the russians conduct that meddling during the election. and three, there are questions about the absolute denials from our now president that he has anything to do with russia beyond that one beauty pageant he held there. the reason while his dealings with russia and his statements about his dealings with russia are of investigative interest is because investigator need to figure out if there is some way in which he is compromised when it comes to russia. what that means is investigators
need to figure out if russia holds something over him. do they know something, do they have documentation of something that he's done that he would not like them to reveal to the public? right? that's the essence of being compromised. being beholden, being in a position where for some secret reason you feel the need to ingratiate yourself to a foreign power or at least to not say no when they come calling. it boils down to this stuff. russia interfered in the application to help trump win, proven. the trump campaign is alleged to have helped in that effort being investigated. and our now president says he's had nothing to do with russia, nothing. that's why this is a heck of a bombshell. top trump executive organization asked putin aide for help business deal. top executive from trump's real estate company e-mailed vladimir putin's personal spokesman during the presidential campaign
last year to ask for help advancing a stalled trump tower development project in moscow. that is submitted today by a trump executive who has been trump's personal lawyer and who served as trump's political adviser for the start of his campaign. while he was having trump sign a letter of intent to go forward with trump tower moscow to be financed by a russia-government run bank. nobody thought to mention this before now. joining us now is carol lenning, reporter for the "washington post." thank you for being here. >> it's great to be here, rachel. >> congratulations on the scoop. you broke this story yesterday about the trump organization trying to build a trump tower in moscow early in the campaign. what you report in this story and what the president said about his dealings with russia seem to me to be very much at odds. do you feel like what you've been able to report really contradict the way the president has characterized his own dealings in russia? >> i don't think it catches him
in a horrid absolute lie. i think what it shows is that he hasn't really been forthright about just how eager he was while a presidential candidate to let his at least trump organization and his executive vice president pursue a very potentially lucrative deal in moscow. there are debates about how valuable it would be to him. but i think that there's something bigger behind what we've learned in the story that we broke on sunday night and the news story that we broke this afternoon. i think there's something much bigger in the fabric here and you kind of only learn it as each piece comes. but the bigger thing is while donald trump's sort of third son, michael cohen, a long time friend, ally, not his son by birth but while this person is working, negotiating a deal in
moscow to develop and license moscow trump tower, a russian-born friend of his is saying, hey, if we make this deal the president can get elected. it's going to make him look like such a great incredible negotiator. and hey, i'm connected in russia and i can get vladimir putin to start saying nice things about this, you know, kind of distant horse gop hopeful. then we learn in our more recent story that at the same time, michael cohen, this long-time ally of donald trump's is reaching out to extremely high-ranking friend of vladimir putin's and saying i'd like your help. we're stalled. we would like to get this deal done, nudge nudge wink wink we know how it works in russia. you need to go to putin. and says we'd like your help. so that's a pretty dramatically different thing than what the
president has said which is i have zero interest in russia, i have zero deals. i've got nothing going on there. >> when felix sater connects this deal to trump's chances at becoming president, is it clear the -- why he sees those two things as connected? you just mention head said, wow, this will really make him look like a great negotiator. i'm not sure i get his argument or the credibility of his argument in terms of why he thought these things were connected. it's very provocative to see somebody saying we're doing this deal and it will result in trump becoming president. we're doing a financial deal and it will result in his winning the election. but i don't get why he was connecting the two ideas. >> it could have been incredible braggadocio commentary or it could have been somebody doing something a little bit different. but remember at this time vladimir putin is pretty angry with the u.s.
he views himself on a bit of a revenge mission and he also wants to look like he has some sort of detente. it appears that he thinks he can create a nonadversarial relationship with donald trump. a kind of iconoclastic relationship. and felix sater, again, this russian-born broker long connected with donald trump and has introduced him since 2013 to fairly significant russian money men, this guy is saying look, this is good for putin and this is good for you, donald. he's telling this to michael cohen. you will look like you have negotiated with one of america's toughest adversaries. it happens that that would also be beneficial to vladimir putin. he would look like he had sort of a detente, a happy relationship with the u.s. >> it is a bizarre reading of how it would have been greeted had that deal gone through.
that's the -- in terms of just understanding how the news works and how people were treating trump once we started learning about russian bids to get involved in the election. this is such a puzzle here that the fabric is absolutely stunning. and i have a feeling there's a lot -- this feels like the start of a lot of reporting in terms of us getting to understand this part of the campaign. carol lenning, appreciate your time tonight. congratulations again on this scoop. >> thanks, rachel. >> the. the city of houston today has been making hard choices on how to imagine the epic flooding that's inundated the american city. we've got an expert to ask about this stuff. that story is ahead. plus the little bit of news we're going to break on the russia dossier. that's all ahead. stay with us. each year sarah climbs 58,007 steps. that's the height of mount everest. because each day she chooses to take the stairs. at work, at home... even on the escalator. that can be hard on her lower body,
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houston, texas is basically flat. it's america's fourth largest city with an elevation of 50 feet. houston is in a flat and watery part of the world with the gulf of mexico on one side and bayous running all through the city. since 1960 houston has suffered more deaths an property loss from flooding than any other locality in the country. and the people of houston has developed ways of trying to keep the water from winning. today with this huge, huge storm they tried one of their more desperate measures. there are two big dams on the west side of houston that hold back reservoirs, reservoirs that
are designed, basically to keep water upstream from houston proper, to keep water from rushing into what are now the already flooded bayous in downtown houston. this is how the reservoirs looked before the storm. after the storm the water had begun rising high enough and fast enough that officials feared the dams themselves would be overcome. to save the dams to keep holding back the gigantic quantities of water held in those reservoirs, they opened the spillways enough to let some of the water out of those reservoirs. in so doing they flooded the neighborhoods in the path of that water that they had to let out then they don't do it gratuitously. they did it as a way to save the dams, to save more people. it's a difficult choice that no mayor, no engineer ever wants to have to make. might have been the best choice they had today in houston, though. how do you manage a catastrophe like this when it is not only
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doing controlled releases from two reservoirs before the storm even moves away. it's an effort to reduce the risk of destructive flooding and lessen the chance of dams bursting. >> we were fine until they started releasing the reservoirs. everything started happening really fast this morning. >> you weren't flooded before then? >> not yet, no. the waters were rising but we weren't flooded. i understand they have to do what they have to do to save houston but that accelerated the process. >> they have to do what they have to do to save houston. that was reporting on "nbc nightly news" about a family directly affected bring the controlled release of the reservoirs today. even on day four of this disaster in houston, people who are not flooded yet may yet find they're flooded tomorrow or the next day as the effects of the storm continue to crescendo and as officials make hard decisions. joining us now is jim blackburn.
codirector of the speed center. it was established ten years ago to address severe storms and their impact on the gulf coast area. professor blackburn thank you for joining us tonight. i'm glad you were able to join us. >> thank you. >> today the army corps of engineers decided to open up the spillways west of houston, west of the downtown. as far as i understand it's basically a way to save the dam to preserve the integrity of the reservoirs, to save a greater amount of people. the short term result is that some neighborhoods face new or worsened flooding. you've studied these things. what do you make of that decision they made today? >> that decision is based on these dams being evaluated as two of the six most dangerous in the united states by the corps. that's both in terms of risk of failure and the population affected downsteam. we've never seen this much rain before and they made i think the prudent decision, although very difficult decision to go ahead
and begin to release water while also filling up the reservoir. but i don't think the reservoirs are intended to be used at full capacity which is a tragedy because we need every ounce of flood control that we've got? >> in terms of the flood control options that local officials have, what kind of tools do they have at their disposal? what kind of decisions are they going to be making today, tonight, tomorrow as the storm continues to play out? >> i think we've really got some of the most difficult decisions -- i'd say these are decisions that frankly will be facing every coastal city in the future. we've never seen a rain like this. on the other hand, there's a lot of options that houston has never really seriously considered before. we've always approached flooding from the standpoint of quote unquote, controlling it, primarily with engineering solutions. and there are a lot of nonstructural alternatives. we're going to have to pull out a whole new bag of approaches that require creativity and that
require you know really trying to come up with new and different ways of solving these problems. we cannot solve these problems by thinking the way that we've been thinking. we've got to come up with better, new ideas. >> given not only the size of houston but its critical location, things like the houston ship channel and the oil refineries there and all of the infrastructure there, some of which can be dangerous to human beings and other forms of life when it is put in danger. given what houston is and what's at risk here, what's been in the way of houston coming up with better decision to deal with flooding? it is striking that a city with that much chemical and oil infrastructure is also the most flooded locality in the united states. >> well i think first of all, it's sometimes difficult to get the officials to really envision the magnitude of storms that we actually are foreseeing. we've foreseen, for example,
something that didn't happen in this storm, which would be a hurricane with a large surge, perhaps 20 to 25 feet come in and hitting the houston ship channel. i've had several people tell me that's unrealistic. if we had modelled and presented the scenario that is unfolding, we would have been accused of coming up with unrealistic future scenarios. so i think one thing is trying to get people to really be open-minded about what the risks are. because i think we're really at a time of unprecedented risk with the heat, the gulf of mexico is extremely warm, among the warmest if not the warmest of the oceans of the world and it is a virtual heat pump into a hurricane. and that is a huge source of power for these storms. >> professor blackburn, i read in propublica, that since 1989, what they call a 100-year storm,
a storm that's only supposed to happen once in 100 years, since 1989 that's happened six times in houston. are you saying this isn't just a houston issue, this is a climate change issue in terms of how we anticipate the magnitude of storms and flooding? >> it's the type of things that they've been predicting in the sense that our normal distribution of storms is changing and will be skewing to more severe events. that is i think exactly what we're seeing. we've seen two 500-year storms in the last two years in certain parts of town. and i have no idea what this storm is going to evaluate as but certainly way beyond a hundred-year storm. i think the term hundred-year rainfall is virtually meaningless today. and the federal emergency management agency is the ones who come up with the storm evals. and i think this affecting everybody in the united states. i think houston has a chance to be a trend setter for the
country in figuring out how to cope and deal with these kind of new unprecedented storm events. but it's going to take every bit of creativity that we have. >> jim blackburn, co director of the speed center at rice university in houston. thank you for helping us understand this. this is very sobering coming from you. >> really appreciate your taking the time, rachel. >> thank you. all right. we've got more ahead tonight. stay with us. ♪ music
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but at the height of friday's hurricane-themed news dump, we learned that president trump was granting a pardon to former arizona sheriff joe arpaio. that was friday. by late saturday morning, new reporting opened up a whole new question about that for the white house. "the washington post" cited three sources in reporting on saturday that last spring, months before sheriff arpaio's case even went to trial, the president looked into quashing the arpaio prosecution altogether. he, quote, asked attorney general jeff sessions whether it would be possible for the government to drop the criminal case against arpaio, but the president was advised that would be inappropriate. a short time later, "the new york times" published its version of the story citing four sources, reporting that the president brought up the possibility of quashing the arpaio prosecution not just with attorney general jeff sessions but also with the white house counsel. okay. here's my question. if the president asked the a.g. and the white house counsel if they could maybe drop the arpaio
prosecution somehow, is that potentially a legal problem for the president? where's the line between, hey, i'm just asking for a friend and obstructing justice? we got some expert advice on that today. former u.s. attorney barbara mcquade. she's an msnbc contributor. you've seen her here on our show numerous times. tonight she tells us that this could be a separate count of obstruction of justice against the president if the president tried to interfere with the prosecution that's being investigated in terms of the comey firing. conceivably that could be investigated or pursued in this case. she also told us this, quote, if sessions or anybody else explained to trump that it is inappropriate to interfere with a criminal investigation before trump attempted to do so with former fbi director james comey, that could help establish that trump understood that what he was doing in firing james comey was illegal. ah, so in other words, this might get rid of his ignorance defense. if the president was told
explicitly that he's really not allowed to interfere in a criminal investigation of joe arpaio, then he was in a position to know explicitly that he shouldn't interfere in the fbi investigation of michael flynn by pressuring james comey about that. so that's what we heard from former federal prosecutor barbara mcquade. we also asked bob bauer today, former white house counsel under president obama. he cited the unusual nature of the arpaio pardon coming before sheriff arpaio was even sentenced. he told us, quote, should the president ever face impeachment on obstruction related grounds, this will color the case against him because it's a pardon that does not meet the standards for granting one in the normal course of events. so, again, asking about the arpaio pardon could be trouble for the president. we also heard from a former top official in the justice department, walter dellinger, who led the office of legal counsel under president clinton. walter dellinger told us, quote, no president should be interfering in a criminal prosecution on behalf of friends or supporters. it fundamentally violates equal justice under law.
blunt from walter dellinger. so obviously a pardon is a presidential prerogative, but can a president try to quash a prosecution? is that legal? it turns out it's a good question. so stay tuned on that. we also have some exclusive new reporting tonight on the dossier of alleged russian dirt on president trump and the ten hours of testimony by a key player in the production of that dossier. we've got that story next. stay with us. my sweetheart's gone sayonara.
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now through august 31. last week, the head of the senate judiciary committee, chuck grassley, got asked by a very persistent, very bright constituent at an iowa town hall. the question that he faced was about the controversial dossier that first detailed collusion between the trump campaign and russia. the head of the company that commissioned that dossier, the co-founder of fusion gps, glen simpson, he spent ten hours giving a transcribed interview to judiciary committee staffers recently, all about the dossier. ten hours of testimony. afterward, glen simpson said he stands by the dossier. he also said, quote, the committee can release the transcript if it so chooses. the transcript of ten hours of his testimony on the dossier. at that town hall in iowa, senator grassley told his persistent constituent that he was open to releasing that transcript of those ten hours of testimony if his committee voted to do that. here's what we can report tonight. judiciary has 11 republicans and nine democrats.
we think all nine democrats would likely vote to release that transcript. we reached out to all of them as well as the republicans on the committee. one of the republicans who isn't the chairman, senator orrin hatch of utah, tells us now that he would vote to release that transcript. quoting from a statement that his office gave us, quote, the senator, like chairman grassley, believes we should make as much public as possible and as soon as we can. barring additional and unexpected developments, he would vote in favor. so says orrin hatch's office. that's interesting. it means if one more republican votes to release that transcript, that would mean those ten hours of testimony about the dossier by the guy who commissioned it, who stands by the dossier absolutely, those ten hours of testimony may soon see the light of day, which would really be something. watch this space. this does it for us tonight. we will see you again tomorrow. now it's time for "the last word" with lawrence o'donnell. >> good evening, rachel. let me add one sort of
senatorial courtesy point to what you just said, which i think makes it a pretty certain proposition that you're going to see those transcripts. orrin hatch is the senior most republican serving in the senate. he's been there for 40 years. serving republican senator in history, and he believes in senate traditions, protocols, courtesies. he would never have said that without checking with chairman chuck grassley. >> so you think that hatch saying that and saying it the way he did means that both hatch and grassley would vote to release the transcript? >> well, what it absolutely means is grassley has no problem with orrin hatch saying that. it doesn't necessarily mean that grassley is going to join him, but it probably means there are others who will come along. also orrin hatch used to be the chairman of the judiciary committee. >> right. >> chuck grassley has complete respect for orrin hatch in this matter and, and hatch would never, never do something that