tv The Rachel Maddow Show MSNBC March 31, 2017 1:00am-2:01am PDT
the statement then goes on to include a detailed summary of the general's impressive long military career and the various awards he received for his military and intelligence work. and then that statement ends with this sort of call to arms. quote, not withstanding his life of public service, the media are awash with unfounded allegations, outrageous claims of treason. he is now the target of unsubstaniated demands to be criminally investigated. no reasonable person would submit to questioning in such a highly politicized witch hunt environment without assurances against unfair prosecution. this is the statement from general mike flynn's lawyer explaining with a dramatic flourish that he certainly has a story to tell but also defending why the general only wants to
tell that story if he is granted immunity from prosecution. that is worth knowing in terms of understanding how general flynn is framing his offer. it is worth knowing in terms of what our expectations should be for how the fbi and congressional committees may look at that offer in terms of the way that it is being couched. it's also worth knowing given mike flynn's previous statements about what it means when somebody asks for immunity from prosecution. >> five people around her have been given immunity to include her former chief of staff. when you are given immunity that means you probably committed a crime. >> now that mike flynn is asking for immunity we don't know if that means he is implicitly confessing to having committed crimes.
if he does come forward and freely speak about what he knows, i don't know what that will lead us to in terms of the trump russia scandal. him speaking freely facing difficult questioning, that would likely go some distance towards answering some of the big unanswered questions that have surrounded him in his role in the trump administration and this scandal from the beginning. from the beginning of his appearance in this tale there were questions as to why he was brought on board at all at the trump campaign in the first place. mike flynn did have a very distinguished military career including long deployments overseas. his time in washington thereafter was the opposite of distinguished. in 2014 general flynn was fired at the defense intelligence agency after what was widely considered to be a disastrous tenure there. before the trump campaign
officially brought him on board in 2015 there was inexplicable but widely publicized appearance in moscow where he sat next to vladimir putin and led the standing ovation for the russian president. by the time mike flynn had come on board the trump campaign investigative reporters were already at the republican national convention asking about that trip to russia, asking whether he had been paid for making that appearance. it has emerged that mike flynn was paid tens of thousands of dollars in addition to free all expense paid trip to moscow in exchange for showing up at that gala and sitting next to putin. in addition to that money from the russian government media outlet he also receives two other five figure payments from
two other russian companies after he was fired from the defense intelligence agency. nevertheless the trump campaign brought him on board. by election day it was clear that general flynn was on the payroll of another foreign government. he was on the payroll on the government of turkey while advising the trump campaign. he was not registered as a foreign agent but it was reported that he was, that he was taking money from a foreign government to advance that country's interests in the united states while he was simultaneously advising the trump campaign. one of the unexplained things that the official announcement just makes no sense, one thing that doesn't make sense about mike flynn is how on earth he made it through the vetting process in the first place to become national security adviser, after the trip to russia with the undisclosed payments by russian firms with the then undisclosed work as agent of another government. he was taking hundreds of thousands of dollars as an agent
to turkey while the administration was supposedly vetting him to be national security adviser? he is an unregistered foreign agent. they didn't pick that up in the vetting? wasn't hard to vet that about him. it was like lots of news stories about it. that didn't trip wires? that has never made any sense. it has never made any sense. then he gets into the job and becomes national security adviser. mike flynn or the white house speaking on his behalf repeatedly misstated the facts when it came to flynn's contacts with the russian government. they had to repeatedly revise the number of calls and contacts they admitted that mike flynn had with the russian government and russian ambassador. flynn reportedly also down played the content of those communications and the white house backed him up on that. it was after the inauguration when sally yates and another official tells the white house
that mike flynn wasn't being honest about the content of his communications with the russian government. he was in fact discussing u.s. sanctions on russia even though he said publically that he wasn't. the department of justice came to the white house. those officials came to the white house. we are told that what they told the white house is a pretty lurid story. they came to the white house and told the white house that national security adviser mike flynn was compromised by a foreign power. he was vulnerable to black male and that is obviously a serious, serious matter for somebody who had access to national security and intelligence information that he had access to as national security adviser. after they received that blockbuster information from the department of justice, after they got that message at the
white house, it still to this day remains unexplained that the white house having been advised of that fact, they kept him on, kept mike flynn on in his national security adviser job for almost another three weeks. when they did finally fire him their explanation was that they had to fire him because mike flynn had lied about the russian government contacts to vice president mike pence. that explanation is the official explanation from the white house that we are supposed to believe about what happened with mike flynn. that explanation makes no sense and never has. after the white house learned that mike flynn lied to the vice president about contact with the communications with the russian government, after the white house learned that information they waited almost three weeks before firing mike flynn. that delay is unexplained.
and, in fact, the vice president's role in this saga at multiple points doesn't seem plausible in terms of the white house explanation of events. it doesn't make sense that flynn had to go because he lied to pence. once they learned that they didn't do anything about it for almost three weeks. that makes absolutely no sense. mike pence had been the head of the trump transition. as such he would have been involved with the selection and vetting process for a job as important as national security adviser. nevertheless, vice president mike pence has professed absolute ignorance of any scandals and allegations of
foreign payments and contacts surrounding mike flynn. pence was the leader of the transition. never heard about any of it. that is shocking. never heard any of it until weeks after he was fired until weeks after he was fired mike flynn registered as a foreign agent admitting that he had been on foreign government's payroll while sitting in on the president's daily brief and all the other high end intelligence matters and national security matters he was privy to. vice president mike pence claims he had absolutely no idea of that despite him being notified about it on the record multiple times and it being a matter of considerable public discussion. mike pence's role in the mike
flynn scandal is flashing loik a red beacon for anybody who sees him as normal republican in this setting. there are two people who have the most areas of unanswered questions throughout this whole debacle. one of them is paul manafort. the other is mike flynn. and the "wall street journal" reports tonight that he's making an offer. if he can get immunity, mike flynn says he's ready to tell his story. i'll believe it when i see it. but the man who reported this story to the "wall street journal" is shane harris. and shane harris joins us now tonight. thanks for being with us on the. congratulations on the scoop. >> thanks thanks for having me. >> your reporting is that flynn has made this offer. he's spoken to both house intelligence committee and senate intelligence committee. also you report that he approached the fbi with the same
offer that he would testify in exchange for immunity. now, i'm putting a fine point on that because the statement from flynn's lawyer tonight mentions the house and senate intelligence committees, but he doesn't mention the fbi. are you quite sure of that point that he went to the fbi with this same offer? >> yeah, our sources have confirmed that to us. i trust these individuals in particular. it would not be surprising, by the way, for him to approach law enforcement with that offer as well. we don't know the exact sequence of it but it wouldn't surprise me. getting immunity from congress would be i think more difficult for him than getting it from the fbi because there's a whole a lot of procedures the congress has to go through to give him that immunity. clearly as his lawyer said, he has a story to tell, and feels he needs protections in order to do that. it makes perfect seens that he would seek those before he gives that testimony to investigators. >> what can you tell us about how offers like this are weighed. you mentioned that it may be a
different calculus for the congressional committees than it is for the fbi. how would those committees decide whether or not to take this offer? >> in general what investigators are weighing is how important is the information that that witness has to give us, and is it so valuable or do we need to get to it that we're willing to give that grant of immunity. there's different kinds of immunity. you can give limited immunity which is narrowly focused. that was given to some of hillary clinton's aides in change for information. but generally the basic weighing that you're doing is is it worth it to get that information and is there perhaps no other way to get that information. we're seeing potentially not many takers for mike flynn's offer that could be an indicator
that they feel they can obtain this information from other means. they could also subpoena him and he could take the fifth, but they may have over avenues they can get at without taking that remarkable step of immunizing him. >> do we have any word tonight in terms of either the president himself or the white house more broadly having any sort of response to this? part of the way i think we assess the seriousness of the likelihood of this coming to pass is whether or not the white house seems shaken by the offer. >> we haven't heard anything from the white house yet. i would expect sean spicer will be asked about this in the briefing tomorrow. that's going to be very telling. obviously if mike flynn says he has a story to tell, it's about his story working for donald trump presumably for the many months he was the advisor. we'll find out i suspect tomorrow if not before the briefing what the white house thinks of his offer. >> shane harris, senior national security writer for the "wall street journal". congratulations on this scoop tonight. it's a big deal. >> thanks, rachel. >> on the one hand, this is as big a night for news in this
senator john mccain has memorably described the scanning -- trump russia scandal as a centipede where every day we're not waiting for the other shoe to drop. every day we just watch one by one as the other 99 shoes drop one after the other. the biggest one that dropped today is the news that former national security adviser, fired
national security advisor michael flynn is offering to testify in exchange for immunity. he's obviously in a position to know a lot about the worst case scenarios within this scandal, so that is a very big deal. only something that big a deal could overshadow one of the other shoes that dropped today. "the new york times" named two trump administration officials who allegedly funneled classified information to devin nunez, head of the intelligence committee. the man you see here works in the white house council's office. he was formerly a staffer on the house intelligence community his name is michael ellis. the other figure is the controversial young intelligence chief. after michael flynn was fired at nationals adviser, it was widely reported mcmaster was given free reign to staff the council as he saw fit. he would not be micromanaged by
the white house nor would he be stuck with mike flynn's leftovers on the national security council. that promise apparently led general mcmaster to believe he would be safe and fine in firing ezra cohen watnik who had come in with mike flynn who reportedly was the source of strong objections from the intelligence area, particularly from the cia. mcmaster, he tried to fire that kid. but according to "politico," this protege when he found out the national security adviser wanted to fire him, he appealed directly to jared, the president's son-in-law. told him he should be allowed to hold on to his job and they agreed. so he was brushed back and told to keep this guy even though he didn't want him. "the new york times" describes
him, the two of them as having played a role in providing this mysteriance -- mysterious information to nunes. "the new york times" named those two. then tonight "the washington post" added to it. they confirmed "the new york times" reporting about those two names. they then also added a third name to the mix of white house officials that according to "the washington post" were involved in the handling of this data and getting it to devon nunez. they added john eisenberg who is the top lawyer at the national security council. out of all of this news today if you're on one of those committees, if you're part of the investigation of this scandal, seems to me there are two big questions for you that we had no idea needed to be asked before today. number one, how are you going to
handle mike flynn exchange for immunity in exchange for his testimony? part of that question is what are the logistics of that. how do you access how good his information is. how do you decide, what are the factors? who makes the call? how do you question him and his lawyers about that? that's one, dealing with mike flynn. here's the other new question we didn't have before this morning, before tonight even. this was raised by national security investigative report
it or tracking it in that way and taking parts of it and putting them out to throw smoke screens out there, if that's happening, how do you fix that? what's the remedy there? a member the house intelligence committee joins us next. this is 100% useful for a 100% fresh mouth. just ask listerine® users. the very people we studied in the study of bold. people who are statistically more likely to stand up to a bully, do a yoga handstand, and be in a magician's act. listerine® kills 99% of bad breath germs so you can feel 100% in life. bring out the bold™. want a less intense taste that still cleans your whole mouth? try listerine® zero alcohol.
follow what has been sort of a wild ride of breaking news about the russian attack on the u.s. election last year and the question of whether or not there was collusion. the senate intelligence committee held the first open subject in which one expert testified that part of the reason russian active measures were so effective in the election is because the trump campaign and donald trump himself amplified russian active measures and repeated them. mr. trump helped the russians in what they were doing in terms of their public attack. since that hearing this morning, there's been multiple news stories that have broken in this field, including "the new york times" and "the washington post" confirming that there are white house officials who can be named, people whose job titles we understand who may have been involved in getting classified information into the hand of the house intelligence
chairman, nunez which he with an book into the white house as of he needed to notify the white house of this information that came from the white house in the first place. we have three named white house officials named who may have been involved in that. "the wall street journal" broke the story that mike flynn has covered to testify on this subject if he's granted immunity from criminal prosecution. if you're a member of the intelligence communities conducting these investigations right now, how do you deal with a news day like today? not a rhetorical question. jim heinz, congressman from connecticut joins us now. thanks for being with us. we really appreciate it. >> hi, rachel. >> a lot to deal with. a lot on your plate right now. what can you tell us about general flynn reportedly offering to testify in exchange for immunity?
>> well, interestingly when i last checked in which was a couple hours ago, actually nobody on the intelligence committee had received a communication from general flynn. we'll need to wait to see if that comes in. and then of course what we're going to need to think about is it is true that congress or a congressional committee can offer immunity from prosecution. obviously with law enforcement, they do this because the individual grant immunity has a story to tell which implicates higher ups. you arrest the corner drug dealer and give that individual immunity so you can go after the king pin. here we'll have to think about and coordinated with law enforcement. the reason i say law enforcement is because you don't ask for immunity unless you feel like you're in legal jeopardy. so we have to be very careful that the congress or my committee doesn't give immunity in such a way as to damage the ability of law enforcement, fbi,
whoever it might be that it doesn't damage case, whatever that might be. >> in terms of your own experience and background and also your experience on this particular committee, when the committee is weighing this offer, if it does come through to the house intelligence committee, do you expect that as part of those negotiations you would have a more specific offer from mike flynn as to what he's able to testify about, as to what the character is of the story he's so eager to tell? would that be part of the negotiations? >> that's the essential part of the negotiation around immunity. you need to know what it is that the witness might actually say and whether it's valuable information. you're not didn't going to grant immunity unless you think you're going to get something of real value. again, this isn't just one committee being asked for immunity. it is possible that law
enforcement might be interested here. and so my committee can't say, no problem, general, we'll give you immunity without closely coordinating with whatever law enforcement agency might be in the back of michael flynn's mind as possibly creating legal jeopardy for him. >> let me ask you, congressman, about this other news from the "new york times" and then added to by "the washington post" this evening. that there were white house officials who provided this mysterious classified information to your chairman the white house to notify them about this information which apparently it came from the white house in the first place. what do you make of that? are you concerned that white house officials were involved and they were tracking this information for some reason?
>> i keep thinking that alice in wonder land, curiouser and curiouser, nothing about this story is in any way, shape, or form by the book. remember that the national security council, this is a group of people who advise the president on national security. they're not the ones deep in the basement in some building outside of washington looking at raw intelligence and intercepts. they are the people thinking strategically. it starts out being strange that there are people scrutinizing raw intercepts. and then, of course, these are so why if this is all true, individuals at the nsc would say instead of going to our boss with this information that we think is important, maybe compromising, we're going to call up a member of a congressional committee, a totally separate branch of
government, and share it with him and not with the president. and then we get to part one of the story which is the chairman decides not to share this with his committee. none of this makes any sense. none of this is by the books. unfortunately both a ranking member, adam schiff and the chairman have been invited by the white house to look at this stuff and hopefully get to the bottom of it. >> intelligence committee member congressman jim himes, connecticut. we have to keep pushing until it does make sense. thank you so much, sir. >> thanks, rachel. >> do keep an eye on this question about the national security council staffers and white house council staffers. if they really were reviews intercepts of foreign surveillance involving members of the trump transition, why
were they reading that stuff? and is it possible that the white house has been tracking the fbi probe into the trump/russia scandal using the intelligence community's capacities, using the surveillance capacities of the u.s. government in order to track the investigation into themselves? if so, i really don't know what the fix is for that. a lot still to come. stay with us. ♪ ♪
insatiable appetite for political intelligence all coupled with a do it yourself white house staff regardless of the law. >> john dean was the chief white house council during the nixon watergate scandal. the senate watergate committee investigating that scandal granted him immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony in watergate. john dean still ended up going to prison for his own role in that scandal. immunity from prosecution in a presidential scandal is complicated and it has some mind-bending historical precedent as we now face some of
those same questions with michael flynn offering to testify in the trump/russia scandal in exchange for immunity. >> michael, it's great to see you, thank you for being here. >> thank you, rachel. >> why did john dean go to prison for watergate even though congressional investigators did grant him immunity. >> he got newton testify before -- he got immunity to testify before the senate watergate committee which meant things he said in his testimony could not be used against him in a trial. but the prosecutors did not give him immunity and the result was that he went to prison for four months for obstruction of justice. he pled guilty. >> we're talking about this earlier with shane harris who broke this story at the "wall street journal" with jim himes. there's a difference between
getting immunity from congress and immunity from prosecutors, it can make all the difference whether or not you go to prison. they also have to weigh those competing imperatives when deciding whether or not to grant it. and then later on in the iran contrascandal, ronald reagan, john poindexter who had the same job mike flynn had got immunity testimony before congress, but later on was prosecuted. he was convicted of a number of things including lying to congress. that was thrown out by an appeals court that said that somehow the trial used material that was from his testimony and therefore that undermined his verdict. you're absolutely right, it's really complicated. >> in terms of the history here, i mean, informed by that watergate history and other presidents and other scandals, what do you think we should be watching for right now in terms of white house reaction to what mike flynn is offering and what else is going on in this scandal in terms of what effect this may have on the white house? what should we be looking for. >> signs of a coverup in the white house.
that's what we saw in watergate. finally the last what brought richard nixon down. the big test is going to be the same test with john dean and john poindexter in the 1980s with reagan which is were they able to say things that implicated the president directly in the scandal. john poindexter did not do that with the iran contra. john dean said president nixon has committed offenses. he said i hope that he will be excused and that he'll be forgiven for these. but that led directly to nixon's resignation. doane's testimony led to the revelation that nixon taped the secret conversations. >> exactly the right lane to put those in. poindexter didn't implicate reagan. reagan survived narrowly around contra. >> he could be asking that question tonight about mike
mr. watts? >> i think this answer is very simple and it's what no one is saying in this room, part of the reason active measures worked in the u.s. election is the commander in chief used it against his opponents. on 14 august 2016, his campaign chairman after a debunked -- >> when you say "his"? >> paul manafort cited the story as a terrorist attack on cnn and he used it as a talking point on 11 october, president trump stood on a stage and cited what appears to be a story from sputnik news. >> that was part of the senate intelligence committee in their open hearing today. fairly simple and devastating in terms of the bottom line, right? what we can observe even through open sources about the russian attack on our election. part of the reason it works well because the candidate himself helped them with their attacks.
want. the scandal menu is like one of those menus that is a binder with tons of pages, too many choices and you can't narrow it down. just start anyway. start anywhere. start with carl icahn who has been tasked with the new administration with advising them on regulations. what carl icahn has been advising the administration is that administration should kill a regulation that will result in nearly a quarter billion dollar a year wind fall for a company in which carl icahn has 82% ownership stake. when the administration did across the board regulation freeze after the inauguration, the one new regulation they didn't freeze was one that would positively effect carl icahn's stake in that company for tax purposes. that is a capital s scandal. that is as big a scandal as like say the one that made vice president resign in 1973. if you don't like that one, may i the tropical storm you in the scott perut special, the former attorney general in oklahoma having his law license reviewed by the state of oklahoma because he overtly simply, clearly lied to the united states senate under oath during his confirmation when questioned
about whether or not he conducted government business on his personal e-mail accounts. he did conduct personal business in oklahoma on pers simply clearly lied to the united states senate to when questioned about whether or not he conducted business on his personal e-mail accounts. he did conduct personal business on his e-mail in oklahoma on personal business accounts. he lied to the senate about that. he told them he did not. who cares about e-mail? who cares about lying to the senate.
scott isn't a hum drum who cares member of the trump administration. scott may be the most radical cabinet appointment trump has appointed to any agency. today scott pruitt took the almost unprecedented step of throwing out the window's the epa's scientific findings that one particular pesticide is unsafe and should be banned in this country. today scott pruitt took that scientific finding and threw it out the window, set screw it, don't care. and on his own say so, he decided that that own pesticide will now be legal. forget the process of determining whether or not it's safe. forget whether the scientists
concluded in his own agency which is it is not safe. he threw that out the window and said it's legal on his own say so. so it's not like scott pruitt is an obscure or controversial figure in the new administration. he is doing his best to make himself as highly visible as possible by being a real radical when it comes to policy. but even if you like what scott pruitt is doing in terms of policy, he really did lie to the united states senate. he might lose his law license like seven seasons of "fox & friends." even beyond washington, there is stuff going on right now that in any other time would be huge points of focus for the whole country. governor of alabama is probably going to be impeached next week. arkansas is planning to execute eight men in ten days. they're planning on four doubleheader executions. doubleheaders, back-to-back, four of them, using drugs they have never used before. the u.s. military has now launched investigations into the second apparently terribly botched military operation of the young trump era. the first one was the catastrophic raid in yemen,
which the new president apparently approved over a dinner with jared. second was a massive air strike in a civilian populated area of mosul in iraq. the u.s. and iraqi forces had dropped leaflets reportedly in that neighborhood telling civilians to definitely stay in their homes, to not leave. and then u.s. planes came in and apparently bombed that exact same neighborhood. there are reports of as many as 200 men, women, and children, all civilians, killed in their homes. after the united states reportedly told them to stay in their homes. and then bombed their homes. so take your pick from this scandal menu. that's even setting aside any issues about self-dealing and conflicts of interest and the president appointing his children to high-ranking sensitive government positions and the question of whether the president is profiting from the presidency or even receiving payments from foreign governments through his
businesses from which he has not yet divested. i mean, if you set that stuff aside, the self-dealing stuff, we are already changed as a country because before now, any one of these scandals they just mentioned in washington or around the country would be nationally riveting, right? it would be a source of seething outrage. if not bipartisan outrage, at least partisan outrage. but in this new american era, what we're doing instead is kind of cataloging that stuff in the background, assuming we'll get to it at some point. but in the meantime, what we've been doing every day is watching the unfolding of the one trump scandal that seems existential. the one trump scandal that it seems like might undo this presidency by revealing this presidency as basically the product of a crime. at least the product of a foreign actor, acting with american confederates.
every day it is these ongoing revelations which keep getting worse and not better about the russian government attacking the election, attacking the process by which we got this new president. and the prospect that it wasn't just an attack. it was a collaborative or at least coordinated effort between the foreign government and our president's campaign. the news today that we may get testimony in exchange for immunity from fired national security adviser mike flynn who is in a position potentially to know more about the scandal than anybody else. that news today revs this scandal up into a higher gear than we didn't even know we had in our national transmission. and we here at the show and on this network we will cover this as aggressively as anybody. i think it's fair to say we have been as aggressive as anybody on this story already. and that will remain the case. but i want to just plant this flag here there remains the possibility that the president and his campaign are innocent. there remains the possibility that the president and his
campaign are not innocent, but that the scandal does not prove to be an existential presidency ending conflagration, even if they are found to have committed very bad acts. there remains the possibility that at the end of this, even if these investigations continue to go as badly as they have for the president thus far, there remains the possibility that at the end of all of it, he is still president. and then for the sake of our democracy, we have to figure out how we are going to regain our intolerance for corruption and scandal and throwing our american ethical and political norms out the window. one of the consequences already of the russia attack and its aftermath is that what otherwise would be presidency-ending scandals in any presidential administration are like woo, page 15 if you get there, man. and when all this is over, and who knows how it ends, if we are ever to regain our previous standing as a liberal democracy, right, there is going to have to be consequences for, you know, the carl icahn stuff, for the lying to the senate stuff, for the personal ethics stuff for, interest nepotism
ever to regain our previous standing as a liberal democracy, right, there is going to have to be consequences for, you know, the carl icahn stuff, for the lying to the senate stuff, for the personal ethics stuff for, interest nepotism. each for the political radicalism that we see is no big deal because at least it's not treason. whether or not the russia scandal brings down this presidency, and it might, the point of the russia attack was to knock america down a few pegs in the eyes of the world. they win and we lose if the outcome of all of this, regardless of this presidency is that we become a country that lets all this other stuff slide, right? where even rank corruption becomes normal or too small potatoes for us to worry about it. we cannot let ourselves be the american generation where the
standards slipped that badly. right where that happened. at some point we're going to have to get back to zero in terms of being able to be shocked by corruption, nepotism and crime in government. we're going have to get back to zero when it's all done. that does it for us tonight. seeking immunity, president trump's former national security adviser michael flynn has told the senate intel committee he's willing to be interviewed about the trump campaign's possible ties to russia in exchange for immunity from prosecution. a firestorm reignited. white house officials outed as possible source of devin nunes claims. now one of the busiest interstates in america suffers a partial bridge collapse after a massive fire. good morning, everyone. it's friday, march 31s. i'm