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tv   The Rachel Maddow Show  MSNBC  January 16, 2018 9:00pm-10:00pm PST

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hostile conditions was avoidable, plain and simple. that is our broadcast for tonight. thank you so much for being here with us. good night from nbc news headquarters here in new york. lots going on in the news tonight. i'm very glad you're here. i'll try to get through all of it. i have a feeling this will be one of those ten-pound shows in a five-pound bag. but we will try to get through everything that we can. there is lots going on. there is breaking news two u.s. navy commanders are being charged with negligent homicide with the two crashes of navy destroyers that happened in june and august. involving merchant ships and the
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u.s.s. fitzgerald and u.s.s. john mccain killed 17 navy sealers between them. the fitzgerald hit a tanker. those were both crashes where these navy destroyers hit ships more than three times larger than themselves. those crashes have already ended the career of the chief of the navy's seventh fleet and the top surface warfare officer for the navy is expected to lose his job over those collisions. tonight, this dramatic development, the commanders will reportedly face a long list of serious charges including hazarding a vessel and homicide, negligent homicide. there is also some dramatic breaking news tonight concerning the central intelligence agency. back in may, "the new york times" had some dramatic and even a little bit scary reporting about how the chinese government somehow blew open the cia's whole spying operation inside china. the cia, of course, spies on countries all over the world including china, all countries
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with robust intelligence operations do that whether you like it or not. but somehow starting in 2010, china basically started figuring out everybody who was part of america's spy network in china. everybody secretly informing for the u.s. or working for u.s. intelligence inside china in lots of different capacities. the chinese government started wrapping up that network, arresting these people imprisoning them in at least a dozen cases. the u.s. assets or agents or informants inside china were not just unmasked but killed. they were executed. at least a dozen people. that penetration of america's spy network in china was considered to be one of the worst espionage failures in years and it started what they call a mole hunt inside the cia. was there somebody inside the
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cia that betrayed to china the names operating on our behalf in that country. tonight is the news a lot of people have been waiting for in this story, it is a very dramatic development, a former cia officer suspected of helping china identify the agency's informants in that country have been arrested. his name is jerry chun shing lee. they unsealed the case against him. he worked at the cia until 2007 and since been living in hong
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kong. he appears to have made what is now can be seen as a bad decision to come back to the united states because he was arrested at jfk and has been charged. again, this is a case that this is believed to be connected to more than a dozen people who were working as informants for the cia and china being killed. that's a dramatic development. we have sketchy reporting since this indictment was unsealed, this will be flushed out in coming days. keep an eye on that story. today in washington d.c., the president's campaign manager and deputy campaign manager was back in court for a status conference. both paul manafort and gates are facing multiple felony charges brought by robert mueller who is investigating the russia intervention in the election and the question whether or not the trump campaign was in on it. at the status conference in washington d.c. mr. gates, rick gates was released from house arrest by the judge overseeing both of their cases. that said, paul manafort was not released from house arrest. awkwardly, paul manafort's lawyers asked if there was anyway he could be given special permission by the judge to leave his home, to go to a nearby gym to work out every day. the judge hearing that request from paul manafort's lawyers said no. told paul manafort's lawyers although she confined him to his house, she had not confined him to his couch.
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i kid you not. that's what she said. presumably this means we'll see a republican fundraiser in washington where they try to crowd, fund a nordic track for paul manafort's condo. fund a n paul manafort's condo. speaking of people that ran the donald trump for president campaign, the man who ran the campaign before paul manafort was corey lewandowski. he secured legal representation in advance of mr. lewandowski's house intelligence meeting. corey lewandowski's lawyer is most famous for representing
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ruth madoff in that famous multi billion-dollar ponzi scheme. to tell you the crazy day, consider the fact there were three people that ran the donald trump for president campaign. the first one was corey lewandowski and the third person who ran the trump campaign after lewandowski and manafort got fired, the third one was steve bannon and boy, has he had an unusual day today. you know, if you called for jury duty, that means you're being called to potentially sit on a jury for a trial and in terms of your commitment and what you have to tell your boss, basically if you get picked for the jury, however long that trial lasts, that's how long you'll be on jury duty and away from work. when it ends, you'll get thanked by the judge and if it's hot you
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can sell the story to the tabloid but you're done after the trial is done. that's regular jury duty for a trial duty. the legal name for a trial jury is a petite jury and that is to legally differentiate it, i think that's how you say it. that's how you say it if it's on a french restaurant menu. petit? i don't know. the idea is to distinguish it from a grand jury, small jury on the trial, grand jury, big jury, not in the trial court. you can get summoned for jury duty to be part of a trial jury and you can get summoned to be part of grand jury and that really is a different thing. grand juries don't decide at a trial whether a person who has been charged with a crime is guilty or innocent of that crime. grand juries decide if a person is going to have charges brought against them in the first place. so grand juries work with the prosecutor on whether or not somebody will be charged. the prosecutor brings a grand jury evidence. they have people testify to the grand jury and then based on the grand juror's evaluation of the facts and evidence as put forward by the prosecutor, the grand jury decides if somebody will get indicted. there are ways a federal grand
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jury operates different than a local jury. that's the basic truth of it. if you get called to be on a grand jury, what you're being asked to do, the commitment you're being asked to make is different if you're on a trial jury. if you end up on a grand jury, your boss may be happier or maybe even more annoyed than if you're on a trial jury, depending the job you do and how your boss likes you. on a trial jury, you have a specific but really intense commitment. if you're on a trial jury, you need to be there in the courtroom for the whole trial. soup to nuts, right? minute one, hour one, day one until the trial is all the way over. you need to be there for every second. but then after the trial ends, you're sprung. on a grand jury, you don't need to be there every day. it's not as intense a commitment. but you do serve for months and months at a time. you can serve on a grand jury for up a 18 months, but it's nowhere near every day. as a general matter, you have to
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be there, say, a few days a month. so depending on your relationship with your boss and the job you have, grand jury duty versus trial jury duty, it's just a different kind of commitment. trial juries have between six and 12 people on them. grand juries have between 16 and 23 people on them. i think the way it works is they are supposed to have 23 on a grand jury and 16 of them need to be there at any one time in order to have a quorum to make a decision. if you're on a grand jury, one thing they will impress upon you are all of the proceedings are secret and that is a serious, serious thing. everything that happens within the grand jury room is a secret. i've never been on a grand jury. try showing up for jury duty someday and telling them you work on cable news and see how well that goes over. as i understand it, if you are on the grand jury, prosecutors basically have the responsibility of explaining the law to you as it pertains to this potential case you're considering. but then once you've had those finer points of the law
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explained to you by the prosecutors, as a grand juror you kind of get leeway to make up your own mind about whether there should be an indictment or not. within reason but you get a lot more room to maneuver than you would if you were just a jury sitting on a trial. on the grand jury, for example, you as a grand juror get to come up with questions for the witnesses that the prosecutors bring before you. you and your fellow members of the grand jury, you're the ones who get to request specific documents that you want to see, specific evidence that you want brought before you. you get a witness in to testify before you, that witness doesn't get to have a lawyer with him or her in the room. they can have a lawyer outside the room who they can run out and consult with but when that witness is sitting there in front of you, the grand juror answering questions and have to answer your questions, that witness is sitting there alone, facing you, random member of the public who has been put on this grand jury. no judge in the room. they are talking to you.
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if you're not a lawyer, not a lawyer, i've always -- this is always been a -- this is fascinating and somewhat mysterious a part of the systems. and it also seems kind of intimidating. for those of us that aren't lawyers, we've seen how they operate. we have a sense how that works in the trial. if you're on a trial jury, nobody asks you to request evidence. you have a lot of responsibility. in terms of how a case is handled. it's a little daunting to be on a grand jury, right? imagine if you're being asked to testify to a grand jury. imagine how daunting that must be. think about that.
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you've been called as a witness to testify at a grand jury. skupz witnes room with you. this can be 16 to 23 citizens who aren't lawyers and can ask you anything you want and if you're a witness before a grand jury, you must answer all of their questions. the only way to say no is if you invoke your fifth amendment. unless you plead the fifth you have to answer everything they ask. it could be anything. it's random civilians who have been put on grand jury that are questioning you and even though this is a secret proceeding treated seriously. this whole interaction that you have with the witness to the grand jury, it is transcribed and if you lie, that is criminal perjury and did i mention your lawyer cannot be in the room with you? >> in the special counsel
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election, he's been using a jury in washington d.c. and virginia, as well. so far the special counsel and prosecutors have persuaded the grand jury to bring charges against four people. the president's first national security advisor and a foreign policy advisor from the campaign. everybody is familiar with the four who have been charged or pled guilty. here is the pop quiz, who have the witnesses been? who has been called to testify before the grand jury so far in the mueller investigation? do you have a list in mind? right? special counsel, it's been months now assembling evidence, documents, witnesses, bringing them before the panels of 16 to 23 citizens so the grand jurors can decide. who have the witnesses been? who has been called to testify and subpoenaed and directed? if you can name six of them, i'll give you a dollar. because it is a really weird
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list. obviously we don't have a complete list. grand jury proceedings are secret and there have likely been people we don't know about. it is a weird list. based on publish reports, people that have been called to testify thus far are a former spokesman for paul manafort, a man named jason maloney. and one of paul manafort's lawyer? you can subpoena a lawyer? also sam clovis who worked on the trump campaign who would be an official at the agriculture department who isn't but has white house role but nobody knows who it is. cater page was called to testify, trump campaign foreign policy adviser and one of the guys at the trump tower meeting. russian born fixer with ties to intelligence reportedly been subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury. public relations firms who were at one point involved in
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overseas work with paul manafort. a p.r. consultant that worked with mike flynn's lobbying firm. we don't know who that is. ist just according to cnn, somebody that worked at spear consulting. okay. and the last person we know about who has been directed to testify to the grand jury in the robert mueller investigation is of course, sezgin baran korkmaz. i don't have to pay you that dollar, you didn't get him. he was subpoenaed, an associate of the guy that put mike flynn on the payroll of the turkish government while flynn was advising the trump campaign. i can speculate and come up with what a grand jury might have wanted to get from each of those people in terms of evidence that might help them make a decision
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about a potential indictment, but that's just a weird list of people, right? team is that? that's a strange grown up. today it got a lot stranger because today it got a big name. today the latest person we can add to the odd group of people known to be subpoenaed to testify in the mueller investigation now includes the chief strategist, the guy that ran the campaign. steve bannon. this was first reported by michael schmidt. but here is some questions on the legal side of this. why subpoena steve bannon? why not do a voluntary or informal interview the way they have done with white house people and trump campaign people? based on public reporting, we
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believe everybody from the white house counsel don mcgahn to hope hicks to christopher steele to george papadopoulos, there is a ton of people questioned by the mueller inquiry but didn't get a subpoena. they didn't get told to turn up as a witness. before the grand jury. why is steve bannon the one and only senior trump advisor being treated this way and given a subpoena and told to testify to the grand jury? does that necessary mean they asked him to do an interview and he refused? michael schmidt says, quote, the subpoena could be a negotiating tactic. mr. mueller is likely to forego the appearance if he agrees to be questioned by investigators in the less special setting.
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he says yet the subpoena could be a negotiating tactic. mr. mueller is likely to forgo the appearance if he agrees to be questioned by investigators in the less special setting. should we therefore see the subpoena as an indication they asked bannon to come in for an interview and he says no? is there a reason prosecutors might want to get him in front of the grand jury besides a negotiating tactic besides trying to give him a little shove and make him understand the seriousness of the matter? michael schmidt was first to report this story but this evening fox news confirmed it and published their own version of the story that concluded this somewhat strange line quote, sources told fox news bannon subpoena was issued after the fbi was unable to contact him. is that how this works? fbi wants to have a friendly chat and expect you to say yes. they come to your house three times and you're not there so now it's a subpoena? that seems weird. they couldn't contact him? steve bannon was kind of unavoidable for comment when it comes to the media. the fbi couldn't find him and so then he got a subpoena? i mentioned that steve bannon is having an unusual day today. that's not just because of this news about him being subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury
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but this news comes alongside the news of his other subpoena today. starting at 8:30 this morning, steve bannon went in to speak behind closed doors with the house intelligence committee. it was reported by fox news that the white house told steve bannon at this testimony today that he should not answer house intelligence committee questions about his time on the transition or his time working in the white house. after he refused to answer questions on those matters apparently based on the instruction, the committee reportedly issued him a subpoena on the spot in the room. compelling his testimony despite his initial refusal to answer questions. that reporting has now been backed up by sources. adam schiff came out of the room tonight and said after the subpoena was issued to him, steve bannon continued to refuse to answer questions despite the subpoena.
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if all this is is true, i have more questions. can you refuse to answer questions in the face of a subpoena? is it unusual for the white white house to have told a white house adviser not to answer questions from congress? is it unusual the committee in congress had a subpoena for him ready to go in the room as soon as they came to that standoff? and last but not least, why did both of these things happen on the same day? right? i mean, twice. did one of these subpoenas that make the other one happen? did they tend to arrive in pairs? is one going to interfere with the other one? is this more ordinarily than it seems? i have exactly the right person here in studio next to explain this to us. plus we have michael schmidt here who broke the story today hours before anyone else got anywhere near it. stay with us. to that good night,
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mr. bannon who from the white house asked you to invoke executive privilege? how did the meeting go, mr. bannon? >> great. >> did they ask you? >> what did they ask you in that meeting, mr. bannon? >> what did they ask you in there, mr. bannon? >> great day, thanks, guys. >> i have to say special kudos to nbc camera man there for not just waiting out in the cold to get the shot but also managing to get off a few questions to mr. bannon who said, "great
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great, thanks guys, great." he departed the capitol late tonight after nine and a half hours of what you might call testimony. he was in there a long time but it was not apparently because he was busy answering their questions, at least that's according to members of congress who were in the room. after that marathon session, the top democrat on the committee adam schiff came out and briefed reporters on what happened there. >> we had a long day with mr. bannon today. it began by being informed by mr. bannon's counsel that as he was attending on a voluntary basis, he was going to decline to answer any questions concerning questions, meetings, conversations that took place during the transition or during his time in the administration. he was served with a subpoena during the curse of the interview. his counsel then conferred again with the white house and was
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instructed by the white house to refuse, again, to answer any questions even though he was under process concerning the period of time during the transition and administration. this was effectively a gag order preventing this witness from answering almost any question concerning his time in the transition or administration. if the white house is permitted to maintain that kind of a gag rule on a witness, no congressional administration -- congressional investigation could ever be effective. so this can't stand. we expect to have mr. bannon back in soon with a different position because his position is completely unsustainable. >> adam schiff, top democrat, former trump campaign chief and chief strategists spent nine and a half hours behind closed doors having a fight whether or not he could answer questions about his time in the white house or transition. chuck rosenburg joins us now. he's a former u.s. attorney and chief of staff to james comey and the former acting head of
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the dea. mr. rosenburg, thank you for being here. appreciate it. >> my pleasure. >> there is a few legal matters here that i'm hoping you can help us understand, me as a non-lawyer and the audience trying to figure out the importance. it's petit jury, not petite. right? >> i think petit. i took spanish in high school, i think petit. >> the grand jury works with prosecutors to decide whether or not to bring an indictment. >> you got that right. >> the petit, petite jury. they're more familiar to people who watch "law & order." >> they determine whether you're guilty or not guilty at trial. >> if there is this remarkable news first reported today by michael schmidt, steve bannon, former white house chief strategist, has been subpoenaed
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to testify by the grand jury for the mueller investigation, if he appears before the grand jury as a witness, is it true he's compelled to answer their questions? you're not allowed to opt out, other than invoking the fifth amendment. >> that's right, you have to answer any question asked of you. the way i did it, i would take all of their questions at the end of the session, anything that a member of the grand jury wanted to ask and screen it so i made sure they weren't going to ask something that intruded on attorney/client privilege. they are certainly allowed to ask questions. the witness has to answer it but the prosecutor will serve a screening function to make sure questions are appropriate. >> does the grand jury play a role who gets brought in as a witness? >> they can. i would ask the grand jury after a witness left, did that make sense? do you feel like you need something more? are there things we can do to make this clearer to you? sometimes we would bring in
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whoever we thought we should bring in but often if you talk to the men and women, there is a great collective knowledge among these 23 people and listen to what they think is missing or what they want to hear. it can help drive your investigation. >> even though grand jury proceedings are secret and i know that's taken seriously. >> very serious. >> witnesses' testimony is transcribed and it's illegal to lie in a grand jury proceeding, correct? >> correct. >> it was suggested today and other reporting about the discussion about this reported subpoena today that the fact that steve bannon has been subpoenaed to testify to the grand jury should be seen as a clear indication he himself is not a target of the investigation, is that true? >> probably true. the u.s. attorney's manuel, we have a big manuel with lots of chapters and pages says you formally don't ask a target of an investigation to testify. >> okay. >> there are exceptions and a target could request the opportunity to testify.
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but normally in the main, that's correct, targets don't go before a grand jury. >> if you were going to issue a witness a subpoena to come testify to the grand jury, how much advance notice would you give them? >> well, it might just be a day or two. there's something call a forthwith subpoena, which is very rarely issued, which i would give to you here and require you to come with me right now to testify. that's the exception. normally you try to give people time to get counsel if they don't have one so they can prepare. you try to do it in sort of a thoughtful way. >> one of the unusual things about this news and the reason i spent so much time in the a block going through the context of this is because i'm quite sure we don't know all the
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people who have been subpoenaed to testify to the grand jury. we do know a fairly substantial list, though, based on public reporting. i gather that witnesses themselves are not precluded from confirming they have been called to be witnesses. >> in fact, they can come out on the courthouse steps and hold a press conference. they don't typically do that. >> their choice. >> the grand jury secrecy rules apply to the grand jurors, prosecutors, the folks that work in the courthouse but not to the witness. >> we know about some witnesses who have been called. it's a list that doesn't have a lot of people on it that look like steve bannon in terms of his role in the campaign and white house. therefore i'm trying to figure out why he got subpoenaed. lots of people that look like him were brought in for interviews. jared kushner, hope hicks, rhine priebus and everybody else. what do you make of the fact he's been subpoenaed rather than doing a voluntary interview. >> two primary possible reasons. he didn't agree to a voluntary interview. i ask if you're willing to be
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and i think this is a really important reason. prosecutors often put in front of a grand jury people who they think might not tell them the whole truth. i'm about to become an old guy telling war stories but i'll make it brief. i had a case many years ago, a drive-by shooting and the operative fact was whether or not the girl friend or the guy saw a gun in the love box so we put her in the grand jury. in the grand jury, she admitted to seeing it. but in the trial, she denied seeing it. and the fact that we had locked and now we could use the "it", the grand jury testimony, of substantive prove of what she saw.
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>> that's very helpful. every time up come on this show, you member a guy i can't really believe we can get to come on the show. but doesn't tell him. we'll be right back. i am just trying to learn as much as i can about my culture. i put the gele on my head and i looked into the mirror and i was trying not to cry. because it's a hat, but it's like the most important hat i've ever owned. discover the story only your dna can tell. order your kit now at
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>> we have recessed the deposition.
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the subpoena remains in effect. there were questions that were not answered and we'll resolve those issues to get the answers to our questions and stay tuned. >> so is he going to come back to the committee? the subpoena stays in effect and we'll get the answers from mr. bannon we didn't get answered today. >> the subpoena from the house intelligence committee discussed there by mike conway. that was one of two subpoenas that we learned about regarding steve bannon. the other, of course, was from special counsel robert mueller. michael schmidt reported mr mr. bannon was reported to just not only hand over documents but personally testify before a grand jury condition veined by the special counsel. this is the first time he was known to use a grand jury subpoena to compel testimony.
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joining us now is a man who broke the story, michael schmidt. thanks for joining us. congratulations on the big scoop. >> thanks for having me. >> before now, i'm observing this, it has seemed to me that we've only had a fairly random cast of characters confirmed as having been asked to testify before the grand jury by robert mueller. do we know, do you have further clarity why he has been taken in rather than have a voluntary interview like so many other white house officials? >> no, we don't. that's the curious thing. in the last few months, a bunch on white house a officials met with mueller. they did so in the informal setting of his office, where they met with his prosecutors and investigators. bannon was never among the people that were reported to have met with mueller. why had bannon got in and not heard about it and learn about the subpoena today and say wow, this is funny. he's treating bannon differently than he's treating everyone else. the thing that's changed since
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the end of last year is the book and the president's attacks on bannon. the president really has gone after him. he's threatened to sue him. he's criticized him and been a big fissure there. was mueller trying to protect bannon and basically give him some protection in the face of these criticisms from the president and basically say, look, you can come in and you're being compelled to testify, you have to tell me everything you know despite the fact that the president is bearing down on you. >> the way you reported that, i was struck by the language. you reported today mr. mueller issued the subpoena after mr. bannon was criticizing mr. trump. do you have any idea that the subpoena was sparked by the book? >> we don't know. at the end of the day, we don't know a lot about why mueller did this. sometimes grand jury subpoenas
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can be used as ways to force witnesses to agree to an interview. was that the case? we don't know. the book has very explosive things in it that come from bannon. he thinks bannon's book will end in money laundering. if you're mueller, you want to know why steve bannon believes that. why does he think that will happen? and we don't know the depth and breath of everything mueller will ask him but stuff about the russian collusion and the stuff that's gone on in the white house. >> do you know if there is a relationship between the subpoena today and the subpoena issued to mr. bannon today inside the closed-door meeting room of the house intelligence committee? do we know if there's any legal or strategic einteraction going on between these two investigations and these two subpoenas given to him today? >> it seemed like a food fight. it was all going on behind closed doors.
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we know bannon tried to invoke executive privilege and as soon as he did that, they tried to subpoena him to get more. i don't think they were successful. i think his lawyers did cite the fact that he was under orders from the white house and was not going to answer questions about the white house, time in the white house or time during the transition. i'm sure that was not satisfying to the committee and probably accused the white house of putting a gag order on him. i'm not sure what the game was here but i think at the end of the day, he spent a lot of time in there and everyone left unsatisfied. >> we're left with the question not only of this interesting dynamic between mr. bannon and the white house with the white house reportedly telling him not to testify, there is a subdynamic there that interesting, that advice came from the white house counsel don mccann, steve bannon's lawyer is serving as don mccann's lawyer in the investigation.
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that feels like an odd conflict and the possibility that there is a chance mr. bannon's testimony to the house intelligence committee might interfere with his testimony or with the integrity of his testimony to the mueller investigation now that we know for sure he'll be speaking to them, too. this just got very complicated and you broke a very big part of it. michael schmidt, washington correspondent for the "new york times," thank you for being here to help us understand your reporting tonight. >> thanks for having me. a lot going on, i should tell you fox news reported in the last couple minutes that steve bannon will be returning to the intelligence committee the day after tomorrow. they said that they didn't finish with them today, they only recessed, apparently recess is over thursday afternoon. we'll be right back. >> tech: at safelite autoglass
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putting money back in the pockets of millions of americans. as one of those workers, i'm proud to bring you gillette quality for less, because nobody can beat the men and women of gillette. gillette - the best a man can get. the white house physician that conducted the first presidential physical gave a readout and took questions for an hour. here's what we learned. the president is 6'3", 239 pounds which makes him close to but not quite technically obese. the doctor said flatly the president does no exercise. he said the president needs to lose 10 or 15 pounds this year. he said he has high cholesterol but all of that information was conveyed as just part of how dr. ronny jackson reported the president is in quite excellent health.
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the details versus that assessment sparked what i think was a good question from dr. sanjay gupta. >> dr. jackson, he is taking a cholesterol lowering medication and has evidence of heart disease and borderline obese. can you characterize that as excellent health. >> based on his current cardiac study, his heart is healthy. those are all things we're looking at. >> we heard the president had a cognitive assessment at the president's own insistence as part of the physical, that's not usually included but dr. jackson explained he hadn't planned on giving a cognitive exam and didn't think one was warranted
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but the president requested it given speculation over his mental health. today dr. jackson reported that the president got 30 out of 30 on his cognitive assessment. dr. jackson was asked about the president's bone spurs, remember bone spurs were the basis for the president's deferments from serving in the military during vietnam. >> we didn't examine for bone spurs. he's not come to me complaining of that. >> behold. he's healed. dr. jackson said today that the president is in excellent health. he did not explain why the initial statement from the white house attesting to the president's attesting health misspelled his name but now we know. there you have it. >> he has incredible genes, i just assume. heartburn.
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we've got a little bit of breaking news. all night this evening, we have been covering this remarkable day of breaking news about steve bannon, who is the president's former campaign chief who was also a senior strategist in the white house, which is a job title that never existed before him. steve bannon has been out of the white house since august. he's had a recently very contentious relationship with the president. and michael schmidt reported this morning at "the new york times" that bannon has now been
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given a subpoena by robert mueller and his special counsel investigation compelling bannon to testify to the grand jury in mueller's investigation, that is very unusual. other senior white house officials have been doing voluntary interviews with mueller, getting a subpoena to testify to the grand jury, that is not something that somebody of the stature that steve bannon had in the campaign or the white house, nobody else has been subjected to that. that has been a very interesting and intriguing development particularly given the recent bad blood between bannon and the president. after that story broke today, steve bannon had an unusual development in his testimony at the house intelligence committee. he was due to testify today behind closed doors. he apparently was told by the white house that he should not answer the intelligence committee's questions even behind closed doors about his time in the white house transition or working in the white house itself after the inauguration.
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he was in that committee room for nine and a half hours, during which time the committee decided to issue him a subpoena there on the spot which would then compel him to answer their questions. at least theoretically. he apparently continued to refuse to answer them while he stayed there for nine and a half days. now betsy woodruff at the "daily beast" has broke some interesting news on this story. "former white house chief strategist broke some bad news to house investigators today announcing that the white house invoked executive privilege to keep him from answering many of their questions.
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okay. but executive privilege will not keep steve bannon from sharing information with special counsel robert mueller's team." betsy woodruff cites a person familiar with the situation. that source who is familiar with bannon's thinking says, quote, mueller hear everything bannon has to say. huh? joining us by phone is betsy woodruff, daily beast politics reporter who just broke this story. betsy, thank you very much for joining us on zero notice. >> thanks for having me, rachel. >> so you're citing a source who is familiar with the situation and familiar with bannon's thinking as saying that what he did in the intelligence committee today, saying i'm invoking executive privilege. i'm not going to talk about my communications with the president or my time in the white house that cannot be used when he testifies in the mueller investigation? >> my understanding of this based on conversations that i have been having over the last few hours is as follows. executive privilege is something the white house and the president invoke themselves. so bannon is not the person who invokes that executive privilege. what i have been told is that the white house has specifically invoked executive privilege as it relates to these congressional inquiries, and we should not expect the white house to invoke that privilege as it relates to communications that bannon has with bob mueller. >> ah-ha.
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>> now, of course the obvious caution here is that kit be difficult to predict what this white house will do. but i'm confident enough in my sourcing that we decided to go ahead and move forward with this story tonight. the person who i spoke with is very much a credible, serious person. and we can say with total confidence that as of now, based on what we know, bannon is in a situation where he is ready to talk to mueller, and he is going to tell mueller things that today he did not tell congressional investigators. >> do we know anything about bannon, mr. bannon's state of mind when it comes to this president? obviously they've had a major conflict, a major falling out since he left the white house, particularly i in the last couple of weeks. is that what's motivating his strategy here? do we know anything in terms of having a source who is familiar with his thinking? do we know what he might tell mueller? >> what i've been told is that the question of the indication of the executive privilege is not something where bannon has been able to make decisions for himself. it's up to the white house whether or not to invoke privilege.
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so essentially, the standoff that we with saw today, even though it was between bannon himself and members and staffers of the intelligence committee, in reality was between the white house and members of the intelligence committee. perhaps a little overdramatic to say that bannon is a pawn in this situation. but he is not a character whose -- who is acting. he see not making the decisions about what he can and can't tell people. and that's why this executive privilege question which again is something the white house invokes is such an important one. one person i spoke with pointed out to me that executive privilege, an important part of how executive privilege works is based on the constitutional separation of powers theory. the idea that the executive branch should be walled off from the legislative branch. of course the house intelligence committee is part of the legislative branch while president trump is the white house and bob mueller are all part of the executive branch. so one thing that a person who i have been chatting with over the evening highlighted is if the
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white house were to try to invoke executive privilege in a way that is related to bob mueller, the legal argument could be harder than it is for vis-a-vis congress. >> and betsy, to be clear, as far as we know, and i think i know the answer to this just executive privilege when it comes to the mueller inquiry. not just specific to steve bannon. the white house is not invoking executive privilege when it comes to the mueller inquiry full stop. they haven't invoked it with any of the witnesses or any of the documents they've been asked to hand over hat@this point? >> correct. that's my understanding. in fact, the president's legal team has been adamant for months now that they are fully cooperating with mueller. their public message and the message they share privately with reporters is they think mueller is somehow going to queer president trump's name. of course, that's tbd. but as of now, we are not seeing any sort of stiff-arm tactics
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is from the white house towards mueller's team. >> betsy woodruff of daily beast, politics reporter there breaking an important development in this story just moments ago. betsy, thank you for helping us understand your reporting. i really appreciate you joining us. >> no problem. >> again, a day of dramatic developments. i will just highlight as we go here, i'm out of time. but i want to just highlight one thing i mentioned here earlier and maybe isn't getting much attention. it may get more in the coming days. that is steve bannon bragged for a long time he didn't need a lawyer in the russia investigation. he wasn't even bothering to get himself a lawyer. he now has a lawyer. while he was behind closed doors at the intelligence committee today, we are told that he and his lawyer were communicating with the white house about the white house asserting that he should not testify to that committee. his lawyer that he has retained for this russia stuff who was with him today at house intelligence, his lawyer is also the lawyer on russia matters for the white house counsel who was the person who is presumably advising steve bannon not to
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talk to that committee today. having somebody on those two different sides of the story both represented by the same attorney? that's weird. that does it for us tonight. now it's time for "the last word with lawrence o'donnell." good evening, lawrence. >> good evening, rachel. so that's weird. >> yeah. >> that's the weird thing. >> i found one weird thing in the news today. >> no, but it really is. i remember commenting on that and talking about it when it was revealed who this lawyer attorney burke is representing. reince priebus, don mcgahn, and steve bannon. there was bound to be a conflict very soon. and here we had it today. >> and it's interesting. because he was representing priebus and mcgahn for a long time before this. and that alone seemed like a strange potential conflict. now he is representing bannon as well. one thing to keep in mind here is if there is a conflict of interest, as it relates to the mueller investigation and the