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For details, The Rachel Maddow Show weeknights at nine Eastern on MSNBC. Happy Monday.
Happy to have you with us tonight. Don't tell Lawrence O'Donnell that I told you. I sort of said that I'd be low key about it.
But today is the ten year anniversary of Lawrence show. Today is the ten year anniversary of the last word. Ten years.
Nobody gets to be ten years old in this business on the occasion of that big celebratory birthday. You should know that Lawrence has a live interview tonight with the Democratic Party's vice presidential candidate, Senator Kamala Harris. That is happening live right after me right after the show tonight. So you should plan now to stay on after me to watch that with Lawrence and Senator Harris. Senator Harris, of course, will be debating Vice President Pence next week. That vice presidential debate is next Wednesday.
But tomorrow, of course, is the first presidential debate between Trump and Biden. I'll have more details for you a little later on this hour about what our coverage of that is going to be like. Tomorrow night. I will be anchoring right up to the start of the debate with my beloved colleagues, Joy Reid and Nicolle Wallace. And then you'll be able to watch the whole thing live right here with us tomorrow night. Again, have more on that for you later on this hour.
But the debates in this last lead up to the election, we now know will coincide with the Republicans in the Senate trying to rush through the confirmation of a new, hard, hard, hard line arch conservative Supreme Court nominee. The Republican plan is to try to confirm Amy CONI Berrett right before the election. I think they are hoping that they will excite their base and demoralize the Democratic base by doing that is close to the election as they can. Democrats, though, are not conceding that this is a done deal.
Vice President Biden this weekend urging Republican senators to not move the nomination forward, to not move any nomination forward until after voters have chosen who they want as the next president. There is every senator to take a step back from the brink. Take off the blinders politics for just one critical moment. Stand up for the constitution you swore to uphold. Just because you have the power to do something doesn't absolve you of your responsibility to do right by the American people upon your constitutional duty.
Summon your conscience.
Summon your conscience. We shall see. It would take two more Republican senators to side with Senators Collins and Murkowski in saying this nomination should wait until after the election. If two more Republican senators join with them on that, then this nomination, any nomination will wait until after the election. Democrats are pledging to do everything they can to stop any confirmation after the next president is inaugurated with public opinion polling on their side. The pressure on Republican senators is intense, that elements that are trying to stop this nomination are getting some backup.
Now from boldface editorials like this one this weekend from The Washington Post headlined The Senate Should Ignore Amy CONI Barret's nomination. This editorial is not about Amy CONI Barrett. No matter whom President President Trump had picked to fill the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg Supreme Court seat. It would be the wrong choice because it is the wrong time. Senate Republicans should be disgusted at playing the role they are being asked to play. The president himself has said he's counting on Judge Barrett's hurried confirmation so she can rule on what he appears to believe are the inevitable election disputes he will bring before the court.
He has spoken in recent days about getting rid of the ballots and enlisting the court in stopping the Democrats voting scam, arguing that the that he needs a ninth justice of his choosing to ensure the court rules his way. The editorial board continues, quote, Imagine the turmoil that would cause a court hastily stacked with Trump nominees. Hanns re-election to the president based to a degree on his view that some Americans ballots should not count. Are there not four Republican senators, which is all it would take with sufficient conscience or care for the country?
Are there not four Republican senators? That's The Washington Post editorial board this weekend. The effort to delay any Supreme Court confirmation until after voters have chosen the next president will also get some additional backup. We now know from a new women's march that is scheduled for Saturday, October 17th in Washington, D.C., that means that will proceed the election by about two weeks. That march will be aimed at trying to backstop these efforts to stop any Supreme Court nomination until after the inauguration.
It's all happening all at once, right? All news streams on STON, everything at the same time. And you might have heard The New York Times got Trump's taxes, more than 20 years of Trump tax returns. Finally, after all this time, in terms of how we got here, The Times had previously published three pages from Trump's taxes in nineteen ninety five. Those three pages they received mysteriously anonymously in the mail that was in twenty sixteen that they published those three pages.
Those pages showed the president declaring huge financial losses from his failing business efforts, like potentially more business losses than any other single taxpayer in the country that year. Then in twenty seventeen we published two pages from Donald Trump's two thousand five taxes, two pages from his two thousand five federal tax returns. Those two were obtained sort of mysteriously. They were mailed anonymously to a reporter, David Cay Johnston, who then gave them to us to put on TV. Those two pages from the two thousand and five tax returns showed Trump paying a bunch of taxes that year, but no real detail explaining why.
Then the year after that, in twenty eighteen, The Times published an epic multi thousand word piece, an epic investigation into the financial history of the Trump family and the Trump family business based on financial and tax records that we later learned they had obtained from the president's niece, from Mary Trump. Mary Trump, of course, published a best selling book this summer that was in part about her providing those family financial records to the Times, which became the basis for that expose in the Times for which Times reporters won a Pulitzer Prize and which led ultimately to marry Trump, filing a new lawsuit against her uncle, the president, for allegedly cheating her out of tens of millions of dollars worth of the inherited family fortune.
So all of that had happened twenty, sixteen, twenty, seventeen, twenty eighteen, the book this summer from Mary Trump, the new lawsuit from Mary Trump about the family finances. But now what has just happened in the Times. This is something different on an order of magnitude from this from the Times.
Right now, there's a reason elected Republicans in Washington have all been in hiding today. No idea what they're supposed to say about this. They're all under their respective rocks at this point because how are they going to explain this to the American people, particularly when so many of them are going to the American people are saying, put me back in office alongside this president.
The reason we have a modern expectation that every president will show the public their tax returns is because of Nixon. In nineteen seventy three, when he was caught cheating on his taxes, Nixon was making two hundred grand a year as president, but as the the newspaper that got his tax returns put it in nineteen seventy three as the Providence Journal Bulletin in Rhode Island put it, President Nixon was paying in taxes at that time, not what you would expect from a person making two hundred grand a year.
He was paying what you would expect from quote, a wage earner with one exemption in the seven thousand dollars a year income bracket. Nixon was making two hundred grand. He paid taxes like he was making seven grand. Nixon was found in that tax return that was anonymously mailed to that newspaper. Nixon was found to have paid a federal tax bill in nineteen seventy of seven hundred and ninety two dollars and eighty one sense.
That's it. People were outraged. That's ridiculous. He's making two hundred grand a year, he paid less than eight hundred dollars in taxes while he was president. Nixon immediately tried to quell the damage he released, I think it was four years of his tax returns publicly, and that turned out not to be an awesome idea because he was found out he was found to have, in fact, have weaseled out of his taxes on a much grander scale. It turned out that he actually owed almost half a million dollars in back taxes, which he did end up having to pay.
And that ended up being just one more thing, driving Richard Nixon absolutely nuts and driving public opinion of him through the floor in the middle of the Watergate scandal. But that debacle from Richard Nixon weaseling out of his taxes. That's why presidents have released their tax returns ever since. Because of that Nixon debacle, we expect presidents will not be allowed to hide stuff like that in their taxes anymore, that they will proactively show us their tax returns and let us see what they've got to hide, if anything.
Well, Donald Trump has broken that rule. If it weren't for The New York Times and their new reporting, President Trump would still be hiding his taxes. And now, thanks to this new reporting from The New York Times, we know that President Trump paid even less than Richard Nixon did in federal income taxes. Even if you don't adjust for inflation between 1970 and now, Nixon paid more. Nixon paid, what was it, seven hundred and eighty something.
Now we know the year that he was elected in twenty sixteen, Trump paid seven hundred and fifty dollars in federal income taxes and again in twenty seventeen. That year, he paid seven hundred and fifty dollars in federal income taxes. That's it, the Biden campaign has already turned just that fact into a new ad contrasting what President Trump contributes to this country financially compared to what you contribute to this country financially compared to a nurse, a teacher, a construction manager, a firefighter, basically anyone.
And, you know, I think that the American people have learned about how the rich rigged the systems of this country in their favor. To know that the people expect now that rich people find ways not to pay taxes. I think the American people broadly expect that rich people will make the system work for them and come up with complex tax avoidance or tax evasion schemes. But even though we have a sort of cynical expectation about that for rich people more broadly, what the Times has just revealed is that Trump is doing something way different than even normal, really rich people do.
On average, we know what the richest one, one hundredth of one percent of Americans pay in taxes each year. Now, if Trump had even just paid that what the other mega rich people in the universe pay, he would have paid four hundred million dollars in taxes than what he actually paid. I mean, even compared to the way the mega rich gamed the system, he is gaming that system like no one else. And the details are weird and damning and memorable.
I mean, that year from which we got the two pages of his tax returns from two thousand five, we got those two pages from David Cay Johnston that showed, you'll recall that he was paying a bunch of taxes. Turns out that year, two thousand and five was a huge anomaly in that he paid any taxes at all. In 11 out of the past 18 years, President Trump paid zero dollars in federal income taxes, zero 11 out of the past 18 years.
In two of those 18 years, he paid only seven hundred and fifty dollars for the whole year. He has radically, radically avoided paying taxes and he has done it in part by declaring stuff as business expenses that are things that don't really seem like legit business expenses. For example, he deducted as a business expense the legal defense for Don Junior in the Mueller investigation, which was mostly defending Don Junior over him, meeting with Russians during the campaign who were offering dirt on Hillary Clinton, courtesy of the Russian government, that they wanted Donald Trump to be able to use against Hillary Hillary Clinton in the campaign.
Well, tax law says you can't deduct business expenses. You can't deduct as business expenses, things that expenses that were accrued based on your participation in a political campaign. But that does appear to be the type of expense this was for Don Jr. He nevertheless deducted it as a business expense from his taxes. The president also deducted as a business expense from his taxes over seventy thousand dollars of hairstyling expenses for himself.
Really. Fee also deducted almost one hundred thousand dollars of hair and makeup expenses for his daughter, Ivanka. He also deducted as a business expense consulting fees that he appears to have paid to his daughter, Ivanka, even though consulting fees are supposed to go to independent consultants and not to your own employees. And executives like Ivanka Trump was in the Trump company. And as the Times notes today, the IRS is pretty aggressively pursued other companies for breaking those rules.
The tax records that are reported on now by the time show that the president has taken millions of dollars from foreign sources since he has been in the White House, including money from Turkey and from India and from the Philippines, taking money from foreign sources is not supposed to be allowed clearly under the emoluments clause of the Constitution. But he has done that to the tune of millions of dollars when it comes to money from Russia. The tax documents reviewed by the time showed that Trump's Miss Universe pageant, that pageant, lost money regularly, basically every year, except for that year when the pageant was moved to Russia in twenty thirteen, somewhat inexplicably for what was otherwise a money losing enterprise in twenty thirteen.
A Russian billionaire close to the Kremlin offered to pay millions of dollars to put that pageant on that year in Moscow. That Russian oligarch himself lost his shirt on the thing. He lost millions of dollars himself, but millions of his dollars did end up in Donald Trump's pocket, making what was otherwise an unprofitable enterprise quite profitable for Donald Trump that year that the Russian oligarch was paying. You'll recall this is sort of a pattern with the president, the Russian oligarch giving up millions of dollars so Trump could have a big payday with that pageant that happened not long after another Russian oligarch appears to have wildly overpaid Mr.
Trump for a Palm Beach, Florida, property that Trump marked up by tens of millions of dollars without doing much to it at all. That's the property that Michael Cohen says in his new book The President bragged was money in his pocket that had been personally approved by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who Trump believed controlled major spending by oligarchs abroad. But the big story here, the big takeaway is really two things. First, it's that the president has avoided paying taxes to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars over the year.
And that is in part by declaring dubious business expenses. But it's mostly by him telling the IRS that his businesses are all massive failures mean on paper in terms of what the president has reported to the IRS. The Trump Corporation since the year 2000 has lost one hundred and thirty four million dollars. According to the president, his golf courses since the year 2000 have collectively lost almost three hundred and sixteen million dollars. He says that he has lost over one hundred and sixty two million dollars on his Doral golf course alone, the one in Florida that he wanted to put the G7 that at his D.C. hotel in just the first two years of his presidency, the president told the IRS that that hotel has lost over fifty five million dollars.
I mean, that's the that's the first of the two big picture takeaways here that we might have guessed about how the president was conducting his business, but this shows it in black and white. He has avoided paying hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes by telling the IRS that everything he touches fails. That all of his business dealings, all of his signature projects, his golf courses, his hotels and everything, he tries to run with his name on it, it all has just failed catastrophically and it all fails every year.
That's now in the record that has been exposed by the times, we can now see that in terms of the Times account of his taxes and we can see how that story he's been telling the IRS diverges from what he's been telling us, the public. I mean, just look at twenty eighteen alone. His financial disclosure from the White House public facing document, its financial disclosure from the White House for twenty eighteen said that he made at least four hundred and thirty five million dollars that year.
Well, his tax records show that he lost forty seven point four million dollars that year, but which is it? Did he make four hundred and thirty five million dollars, it'd be lose forty seven million, which is it? He told two different audiences two very different things about that same year. He told the IRS he lost forty seven million dollars. Is that true? Is the president comfortable admitting that he lost all that money in twenty eighteen and that he's been losing hundreds of millions of dollars for years?
Can he just shut up and eat that right now that everybody is going to be able to see the figures and see officially that his business empire is a terrible and consistent failure? Or can his ego not take that? Will he feel obliged to disclaim what he's told the IRS? Will he feel obliged to claim publicly that, yeah, yeah, yeah, those losses are on paper in terms of what I told the IRS. But in reality, I really am making hundreds of millions of dollars.
I just told the IRS, otherwise I don't want to pay taxes on it.
I mean, his ego is going to drive him to say that. But there's a problem if he cops to, that the president is potentially showing the necessary intent and understanding of his actions to cross the line from obvious tax avoidance, which is legal into obvious tax evasion, which is potentially a quite serious crime. So that's the first of the two big takeaways here can the president's ego endure the public knowing that what he says has happened to his business empire is catastrophe upon bankruptcy, upon failure year after year after year?
Or will he explain that away and thereby come to a crime? The second big takeaway here is that officially, at least, the president appears to be up against the wall right now financially, as the Times puts it, is clearly as the president wages a reelection campaign that polls say he is in danger of losing, his finances are under stress, beset by losses and hundreds of millions of dollars in debt coming due that he has personally guaranteed, quote, His tax records make clear that he's facing a battery of threats to his business and his own financial well-being.
Quote, Over the past decade, he appears to have filled his Cash-Flow gaps with a series of one shots that may not be available again. In twenty twelve, for example, he took out one hundred million dollar mortgage on the commercial space in Trump Tower. He took nearly the entire amount as a cash payout. His tax records show his company has paid more than 15 million dollars in interest on that loan, but his company has paid nothing on the principle.
That means the full one hundred million dollar mortgage is going to come due in twenty twenty two, which is only two years from now. The president also has huge loans coming due for the Doral Golf Resort. One hundred and twenty five million dollars owned there and the Washington, D.C. Hotel. He owes one hundred and sixty million dollars there. Both of those businesses are struggling, so it's hard to believe that he'll be able to refinance those loans in a way that makes any sense for his financial situation.
In all, the president, quote, is personally responsible for loans and other debts totaling four hundred and twenty one million dollars, with most of it coming due within four years from now. Should he win re-election, his lenders could be placed in the unprecedented position of weighing whether to foreclose on a sitting president.
The Times calls this a tightening financial vise. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today calls it a national security issue that the sitting president owes hundreds of millions of dollars to God knows who and loans that are coming due very shortly, loans that he appears to have no way to repay. What would a person in such dire straits do to get themselves out of that hole? What would a president do to get himself out of that hole? Well, here's something to consider separate and apart from the times obtaining these tax returns, this remarkable reporting that's likely to just keep producing more and more news in the days ahead.
Separate and apart from that, from the Times, we do have a new piece of help from history to help us sort of brace ourselves, to help us prepare ourselves for the lengths this particular president might go to now that he appears to be in serious financial distress. I mean, judging from these years of tax records that have now been pieced together and scoured by the times, it seems like the last time Donald Trump was in financial straits this dire was in the late 80s, in the early 90s, when he again had run all of his business enterprises into the ground.
He had taken huge loans he had no way to repay. He owed hundreds of millions of dollars, including a whole bunch of stuff that he had personally guaranteed, meaning that his creditors could come for his personal assets, his personal bank accounts, anything he owned personally in order to make good on those loans. That that's what's going on with him. Now, it appears from these tax returns, tax result tax records that also happened to him in the late 80s, early 90s.
Well, Mary Trump, the president's niece who provided Trump family financial records to the Times, as I mentioned, she's brought legal action against President Trump and other family members for them, allegedly cheating her and her brother out of tens of millions of dollars in Trump family assets when it came to inheritance. Well, alongside this Times reporting this weekend, this bombshell stuff from The Times this week in The Washington Post also reported that in nineteen ninety, the last time Donald Trump was in financial distress, this severe had gone through six corporate bankruptcies.
He owed hundreds of millions of dollars, including personally guaranteed loans. He was worried that his expected huge inheritance from his father when his father died would be seized by his creditors as soon as he was given that inheritance. And so in nineteen ninety, as detailed in the Post this weekend, Donald Trump sent an accountant at a lawyer to go see his father, to tell his father, quote, to immediately sign a document changing his will to benefit Donald Trump.
Quote, It was a fragile moment for the senior Trump, who is eighty five years old and had built a real estate empire worth hundreds of millions of dollars, he would soon be diagnosed with cognitive problems, such as being unable to recall things he was told 30 minutes earlier or remember his birth date, according to his medical records. Trump's father was eighty five years old at the time. He was about to be diagnosed with significant cognitive impairment and then senile dementia and then Alzheimer's.
And that's when Trump went home and said, sign over the estate to me.
The president's brother, Robert, gave a sworn deposition in a lawsuit over that will that in 1990 when Donald Trump was in financial distress and he tried to push his dad into signing over control of his estate to him. Robert testified in that deposition that his father, his son, Donald's father, was in, quote, notable decline cognitively starting that year. But Trump went to him anyway to try to get him to redo his will to help Trump out because he was in dire straits.
Mary Trump has now released recordings of her aunt, the president's sister, talking about that incident. I still have all the papers, my contemporaneous handwritten notes of when I look at this, I on this trust the state house, but this I showed to John, he says this is basically taking the whole and giving it to. He would be our hero. You want to get. A cup of coffee? Oh, may I have 50 cents? You know, I exaggerate, but.
Now, he was also in bankruptcy and several bankruptcies. Only John got a new lawyer in the next day and that was never signed. There was some dementia called. So Trump family medical records and tax records and these recordings of the Trump family talking about their financial history, all this stuff is making its way, its way into the press the day before the first presidential debate. And so now we know that apparently the president owes hundreds of millions of dollars in loans to God knows home loans, that is personally guaranteed, that are all coming due very soon, and that he has no obvious way to pay back.
We now know that the last time that happened to him, he wasn't president, but he did have a father sliding into dementia from whom he apparently tried to hijack the family fortune, this time his father's gun, and he squandered the family fortune. But instead, in his desperation, he's got us, the American people, and he's got the powers of the federal government. And he's got an election coming up, coming up soon by which he will try to stay in office, which happens to offer him immunity from prosecution as long as he's in power and which might conceivably cow his creditors into not seizing everything he owns.
So how far do you think he'd go to hold on to power in this context, what could possibly go wrong for us as a country? How is a person with liabilities like this in the presidency in the first place? I got. The fact is, more than 190, nine million Americans experienced cyber crime last year and victims spent more than 500 million hours trying to resolve their issues. That's a lot of victims spending a lot of time dealing with cybercrime.
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I mean, you couldn't get the lowest level security clearance from the federal government with that kind of liability hanging over you. But here he is, president the Times. This previous Pulitzer Prize winning reporting on the president's financial and tax history was based on documents we later learned were provided to them by Mary Trump, the president's niece. Well, tonight, Mary Trump says that she is not the source of the documents for this latest reporting from the Times. The Times says in their piece that they received the documents from somebody who held them legally.
They say they're not releasing the underlying documents, the tax returns themselves in order to protect the anonymity of their source. That means that nobody else, including MSNBC and NBC News, have seen the raw documents. Only the Times has seen these. But the reporting itself is remarkable. Joining us now is Mary L. Trump, who is the niece of President Donald Trump. She's the author of Too Much and Never Enough How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man.
Mary, it's really nice to see you. Thank you very much for making time to be here tonight. Thanks so much, I'm really happy to be here. Rachel. So there's a bunch of things going on here at once, I feel like the new revelations in The Washington Post about what your uncle did when the last time we knew he was in dire straits, financial straits this dire when he tried to go to his father, who was in decline to try to get him to change his will.
I feel like that is a scary piece of foreshadowing or reason to worry about what he might do now that he's president and he appears to be sliding back into financial straits that dire. Do you see a parallel there?
Yeah, unfortunately, it's a parallel in a long series of parallels that for reasons I'm still grappling with, a lot of people have either chosen to ignore or to take advantage of. But you ask exactly the right question, and it's not what a theoretical president would do. It's what Donald would do in this situation. And we know. In terms of what the Times has reported today, obviously in twenty eighteen, they had that huge exposé that you later explained in your book was based in part on documents from you.
Now, this is new reporting. They've been able to access 20 years of tax returns that nobody's ever seen before and that nobody except them has seen. How does this what they're reporting comport with what you understood about your uncle's financial history, about your family's financial history? Did this open big new avenues of understanding for you, or is this in keeping with what you expected? It's in keeping with what I would what I expected, because, again, unfortunately, nothing was done in the last five years has surprised me.
But that doesn't mean it's not horrifying and it doesn't mean it isn't necessary. You know, as usual, Suzanne Craig and Russell Buettner have just been extraordinarily brilliant in their reporting, I believe every word of it, and also had tip to Mr. MacIntire, whom I don't know. But laying it out this way is very important for the American people, because it's one thing for me to have an opinion or for me to say I'm not surprised. It's all part of a pattern.
And despite your own brilliant synthesis and connecting of dots, people like to see proof and numbers. I mean, it's interesting how that seven hundred and fifty dollar number has resonated so strongly with American taxpayers, even though I don't think it's the most important aspect of the article. I think the national security threat is infinitely more important. But if it helps people connect to the story and and if it's a if it's an inroad into understanding this fairly complex tax information, I'm all for it.
Mary, the presidential debate, the first debate is tomorrow between your uncle and former Vice President Biden. Obviously, this is going to be I don't know if this will be the basis for questions, but it's clearly an important part of the backdrop for the news heading into this debate. It strikes me that the your uncle's ego around financial issues, the way he likes to sort of perform this sort of pageant of success and never having any sort of failures might be a weak point for him in the debate on this if Vice President Biden wanted to try to pin him on this issue.
I mean, you know his brain better than anybody else I've talked to. Do you think that he will cop to the fact that his businesses, at least on paper, at least according to the IRS filings, appear to be massive failures? Or do you think that he might try to explain that away as something he did just to avoid taxes, which, of course, would provide its own form of risk for him in terms of potential future prosecution?
He is in a bit of a bind, isn't he? I hope that this is a major topic of debate, honestly, for people to ignore this and ask him about his policy positions or his corrupt Supreme Court nomination is once again to legitimize him. This is a topic that cannot be let go. It can't be ignored. It has to be hammered on, because if he's just asked once your rate, his ego will kick in. But he'll spin in a way that makes it seem like it was the smart thing to do, as he said in twenty sixteen.
But if he goes there because obviously nobody is going to be able to prove criminal criminality on a debate stage. But, you know, it's one thing to be a private citizen and not pay taxes because you're quote unquote smart. It's another thing to do. It is the leader of a country you're supposed to be protecting and caring about. It's deeply unpatriotic and it needs to be seen, at least in those terms right now. And we'll deal with the rest later.
The niece of President Donald Trump, the author of Too Much and Never Enough How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man. Mary, I am looking forward to talking to you after the after the debate tomorrow. I know it's going to be I feel sort of a sense of foreboding. And also I can't wait to see it. Yeah, I'm with you.
All right, thank you. All right, still ahead tonight, we are going to be speaking with somebody who had more of a chance than almost anybody on Earth to actually investigate the president's finances with subpoena power and all the rest of it, except he was told to stop. He has written a remarkable new book about it and he joins us for his first TV interview about that book, next. Stay with us. Support for this podcast and the following message comes from the Disney bundle, get Disney Plus, Hulu and ESPN Plus together for just 12 99 a month at the Disney bundle.
Dotcom, great shows and movies like The Handmaid's Tale, Little Fires Everywhere and Palm Springs on Hulu, exclusive sports and originals like Peyton's Places on ESPN Plus and big blockbusters like Hamilton and Frozen two on Disney plus something streaming for everyone all only twelve ninety nine a month. Don't just get one when you can get all three at the Disney bundle. Dotcom includes Hulu ad supported plan access content from each service separately. This is from page one forty six, quote, I had arrived at the special counsel's office expecting to conduct a rigorous financial probe.
There was no shortage of intriguing threads to pull on when it came to Donald Trump and the Trump organization. Tax fraud, foreign bribery, election fraud, bank fraud. But our office was put on notice by the White House early on that engaging in such a broad based financial investigation might lead to our firing from a new book that comes up tomorrow, which is called Where Law and Order Inside the Mueller Investigation, in which lead Mueller prosecutor Andrew Weissman explains how and why the special counsel's office failed to investigate, among other things, the president's finances.
Really anything about the president's finances. This is how Weissman describes what happened when his fellow prosecutor on the Mueller team really wanted to subpoena the Trump Organization for emails about the Trump Tower Moscow project, which the president kept secret throughout the twenty sixteen campaign from page to 60, quote, most chief of staff Aaron Zebley and Jim Quarrels, the prosecutor leading the obstruction investigation, knew that making a move like this would get back to the White House and there could be consequences.
And sure enough, Aaron Zebley eventually told Jeannie to stand down in her pursuit of Trump Tower Moscow emails. He said that Mueller agreed with him that this was not worth the potential blowback. We were still negotiating with the White House to get an interview. And once again, Erin claimed this would hurt that negotiation for me. This directive was the last straw. We shut the door to her office and had the mother of all bitch sessions. So what, she railed better to get fired than to voluntarily pull our punches.
All I could do was reiterate her point in various different ways and with rising amounts of ire and profanity from then on. Better to get fired was the refrain we tossed back and forth every time we sensed our office pulling back from our mission. We both knew that the lack of follow up here meant that any chance we had of ever performing a classic financial investigation to assess Trump's ties to Russia and motive excuse me and motive evidence was dead. Needless to say, this meant that Trump's tax returns were out of bounds.
In the end, Weissman says, we would fail to conduct a full investigation and we never got an interview with the president. In the end, the wrongdoing we found in the areas in which we chose to look, particularly in the one Russian financial deal we examined as a result of Cohen's cooperation, left me with a deeply unsatisfying feeling about what else was out there that we did not examine. The inability to chase down all financial leads or to examine all crimes gnawed at me.
And it still does. That's from the new book By Lead.
Robert Mueller, Prosecutor Andrew Weissman. It comes out tomorrow. That is the first real unvarnished look we've had inside the Mueller investigation from someone who was there from day one until the end. Andrew Weissman is not shy about describing where he thinks their investigation fell short, particularly on the issue of following the money. Now that we've got this New York Times report on all the unexploded bombs that are inside Trump's taxes that reporters have been able to find, even though prosecutors didn't go looking for it.
We've got Andrew Weissman joining us next here live. Stay with us. It's the fall of twenty eighteen, Andrew Weissman is in a meeting arguing his case to Robert Mueller. Weisman writes, quote, The way I saw it, our office had a mandate to conduct a thorough investigation and we needed to be appropriately aggressive in order to fulfill it. I'm concerned about the precedent we're setting. I began. What do we say to future presidents and future investigators will have our decision thrown in their face if we don't subpoena the president and this investigation, how can others justify the need to do so?
The facts warrant it. If taking our shot with a subpoena leads to our getting fired, so be it. I concluded Mueller sat patiently through all of this, nodding but offering no reaction, no indication of whether it was affecting his thinking. This, I knew, was not a good sign. The meeting ended unceremoniously shortly after I had concluded my soliloquy. It was clear a decision had been made and that the rest of us were simply late in recognizing that and accepting it.
As much as we respected Mueller and understood that his decisions were governed by a sense of duty and right and wrong, we also knew how each of us would have proceeded if we'd been in charge. It just didn't sit right. We were left feeling like we'd let down the American public who were counting on us to give it our all. Andrew Weissman, one of the lead prosecutors for Special Counsel Mueller, he headed up the prosecution of Paul Manafort. His book is called Where Law and Inside the Mueller Investigation.
It is on sale tomorrow. Andrew, thank you for being here.
Nice to be here, Rachel. This is a heartbreaking book, this is not the book that I expected to read and your were sort of rending of garments and your regret about what wasn't done feels terrible. I mean, the book is beautifully written and I learned a ton and I'm sort of got. Did you know it was going to do this to me? Well, it did it to me also, it was a very hard book to write, but I really thought it was necessary for me to be as candid as possible about the things that we did right and the things that I thought we could have done better.
I do think one thing that's certainly relevant to the New York Times story that you've been reporting on is just how much the White House did not want us to do a financial investigation. In the book, I tell the story of our issuing a grand jury subpoena to Deutsche Bank. It turned out that that grand jury subpoena was for Paul Manafort. But the White House got wind of the fact that we issued that grand jury subpoena and called up and demanded to know whether we were doing a financial investigation of the president, what that was a red line.
And at that early stage in the investigation where there was this sort of Damocles over us as to whether we were going to be fired from one day to the next, the decision was made better to let the investigation go forward and put the financial investigation on hold. The issue I have is that that decision was not revisited and that we really should have done the financial investigation. And many of the questions that people have from The New York Times reporting would have been answered.
In a normal prosecution that doesn't involve the president when a suspect or a target of an investigation tells you some things are red line, don't go there usually, wouldn't you take that as an indication that that's where the crime is and that's why they don't want you to look their. That would be a red flag, you usually with someone saying, don't look there as a prosecutor, you want to look there. And also it's completely abnormal to be investigating somebody who has the power to pull the plug on your investigation.
So it's important to remember that for twenty two months we did not know from one day to the next whether we would have a job the next day. So it was an extremely unusual situation. That said, I feel like you would have all had you would have not had the jobs that you had working on the special counsel's investigation, but you would have all had jobs, you would have all gone back to whatever it was you were doing before you were seconded to this investigation.
I guess the thing that I didn't the thing that I still feel like I don't understand and maybe I just I'm not a lawyer and I've never worked at the Justice Department and I can't empathize for those reasons. But it just feels to me like getting fired was not a fate worse than death. If you'd been fired because you did something that angered the president, you could all then say, this is why we were fired. And then other investigators, potentially even a subsequent special counsel, would know that you hit the landmine, that you stood on something that exploded and that's why you were all fired.
There would have been, just as after the Saturday night massacre in Watergate, there would have been there would have been a reason and a way to follow up on what happened to you guys if you push too hard. Rachel, I completely agree with you, that is a decision I think that we should have made, whether it came to subpoenaing the president, whether it came to doing a financial investigation, there's absolutely nothing wrong with being fired for doing your job.
And I think that's a lot. And we we had an obligation to the public to do that. Andrew, let me ask you about something that emerged over the course of the Manafort investigation, which you were sort of team leader on, and that was the issue about Manafort contact with Konstantin Klimek. In your report, he was described and in court he was described as somebody who was tied to Russian intelligence. Senate Intelligence Committee later came out and said bluntly, he's a Russian intelligence officer.
I wanted to ask you about those different those different ways of describing Kalinich and whether that was sort of a pulled punch or whether you think the Intelligence Committee actually came up with something other than what you guys had, but also what you take, what you think the people, the American people should take away in terms of the seriousness of this incident in which Manafort was providing Kalinich with all of this internal polling data, strategic data about the campaign while Manafort was serving as Trump's campaign chair.
So I'm not sure whether the Senate intel committee came up with new evidence, there was a lot of debate about the team that is, my team wanted to have a classified appendix to the report that put in information that would supplement our information about Konstanty and Kalinich. So it could very well be that that information is what guided the bipartisan Senate report. I think what people need to understand that's remarkable is that Paul Manafort, during the presidential campaign in June, July, August of 2016, was sharing Trump campaign polling data with Konstantin Kalimna, who has been identified as a Russian asset.
He met with him in person on August 2nd and described for him the state of the campaign. He described the state of play in so-called battleground states, of which one of the battleground states he described was Wisconsin, which I don't think people generally thought of that way. So there was a lot of private information going to a Russian intelligence officer, which, of course, is remarkable. At the same time that Russian intelligence was mounting an effort to make sure that candidate got elected and doing so with some level of skill and detail, it's a remarkable story that still is not told.
Sorry. Go ahead. I was going to say, tying it back to what we learn from The New York Times yesterday, if you remember, Eric Trump in 2014 made the statement that the Trump organization did not rely on American banks because they got plenty of funding from Russia. So the outstanding question and the question that we, I think, really did drop the ball on is the four hundred or so million dollars that the president has in debt. Who does he owe that money to?
We have some inkling from our Trump as to one possible answer to that. The book is called Where Law Ends Inside the Mueller investigation, it is on sale as of tomorrow. Andrew Weissman, thank you so much for your time tonight. Really good to have you here. Congratulations on the book. Thank you very much. We'll be right back. Stay with us. That's going to do it for me tonight. I'll see you again tomorrow. The Rachel Maddow Show weeknights at 9:00 Eastern on MSNBC.
Hey, guys. Willie Geist here this week on the Sunday Sit Down podcast. I get together for a rare conversation with John Cusack to talk about his new series, Utopia and his long career of memorable roles. And get our conversation now for free wherever you download your podcasts.