tv The Rachel Maddow Show MSNBC March 21, 2018 9:00pm-10:00pm PDT
not long after the united states was attacked by al qaeda on 9/11, the united states did something that was one of the most specific complaint and demands about the u.s. government. less than two years after 9/11, the u.s. government pulled american troops and american bases out of saudi arabia. and it is an awkward thing in u.s. foreign policy that doesn't get talked about all that loudly. people who were part of the george w. bush administration or supporters of that administration particularly don't like to talk about the fact that after 9/11, bin laden got the most specific item on his list of grievances against the united states, got it checked off the list by the george w. bush administration. it's awkward but that is what happened. during the first gulf war when george bush's father was
president, over half a million troops had been based in saudi arabia. saudi bases were the launching pad for attacks to defend kuwait against the forces of hussain. -- saddam hussein. after the first gulf war was over, thousands of troops stayed on those saudi bases thereafter. but in 2003, less than two years after 9/11, saudi government asked, and the u.s. government acceded and handed over the keys to the prince sultan air base, that base that had hosted tens, even hundreds of thousands of u.s. troops. where the united states decided to move its big, new, permanent air base in that part of the world was out of saudi arabia after 9/11 and instead into the nation of qatar. the air base in qatar is now the home of centcom.
it's where u.s. central command is based. there are thousands of u.s. troops there at any one time. and it is not in a war zone, but their is the permanent site of u.s. military headquarters for the middle east. qatar. qatar is a small country, it's a very rich country, and for years now it has been home to this incredibly important strategic u.s. military headquarters. not just a base, a headquarters. and since the trump administration has been in office, one of the unusual and as yet unexplained u-turns taken by this administration and this president in particular has to do with qatar. almost on a dime, basically with no warning, the trump administration decided they were going to take a remarkably hostile turn against this country where we've got this giant base. they were going to take this sudden, dramatic, non-previewed, surprise turn against qatar.
>> we turn to the diplomatic crisis erupting in the middle east. five nations cutting ties with qatar, accusing that country of supporting terror. qatar is a key ally in the fight against isis. today president trump decided to side with its accusers. we get more from andrea mitchell. >> reporter: tonight, only weeks after the president heralded his success at uniting the arab world in saudi arabia. a growing diplomatic crisis against the leaders. back then the president lavishing praising the premier of qatar. >> we've been friends for a long time. >> reporter: but today the president turning against him, praising the saudis who in a sudden move are leading an area coalition, cutting off qatar by air and sea. they claim that qatar sides with extremists which they deny. it's home to a key u.s. base with 8,000 u.s. service members,
flying airstrikes against isis and missions in afghanistan. >> what was not just unexpected but a little weird about that hard turn by the president against qatar was that it sort of felt like it came out of nowhere, not just for those of us observing from the outside, but even from inside the u.s. government. it was the policy of the u.s. government to oppose that block -- blockade on qatar. rex tillerson had publicly stated the u.s. was against that blockade on qatar. he had called for the countries that they shouldn't do it, but the president just blew that up. it was a surprise to people inside the administration, outside the administration. this is a dramatic associated press report about what happened at the time. quote, aides to president trump were in deep talks with how to defuse tensions between qatar and other arab nations when the door to the secure room at the white house burst open. the urgent message?
trump had just tweeted about qatar. one adviser read the tweet allowed and with that the policymakers in mid conference call had no other choice but to rework their plans to reflect the president's tweeted assertion. that nation was funding terrorism. it was an assertion that had never been announced with such indelicacy. so whether or not you care about american policy toward various middle eastern countries and who we side with and who we side against, this was just a strange moment in trump administration year one. what was all that about? what was that big, fast, abrupt turn against qatar? we've got this base in it qatar,
it's usually -- usual policy to support qatar. u.s. policy specifically to hold off other countries giving qatar a hard time. and then the president just, woo, 180, hostile turn. now we're going to support this blockade by saudi arabia and uae against qatar. why was that? any number of possibilities have since emerged. it has since emerged for example that jared kushner's family real estate company had repeatedly approached qatar -- qatar to get money for the family real estate business. one approach was through a former prime minister of qatar. they thought they were going to get that one. they thought they were going to get a half billion dollars from this former qatari prime minister. but the talks well through and the prime minister said no. and tom barrack, a friend of
trump and kushner's familiar with these negotiations and said that jared's dad, charles kushner, was, quote, crushed when the qatari former prime minister turned down that request for funds. they thought it was going to be $500 million, and it was nothing. the intercept then reported on a second meeting april 17, once again between jared's dad and the qataris, but this time it was with the serving finance minister of qatar. jared's dad, charles kushner, had again asked for a big qatari investment. and the "intercept" reported that the qataris said no. he confirmed that that meeting between him and the qatari finance minister, he confirmed for the first time that that meeting did actually take place. butch he has a different explanation for why that meeting happened and what it was all about. he's now telling the "washington post" that he didn't go to the meeting to ask the qataris for money. he went to that meeting to turn
them down when they were trying to give him money and he didn't want it. hmm? jared kushner's father met with the finance minister three months after president trump's inauguration. a meeting at the st. regis hotel in new york city, at which funding for a financially troubled kushner family real estate project was discussed. however, charles kushner says he turned down possible funding. he told the post, even if they were there ready to wire the money, we wouldn't have taken it. it seems a little -- is awkward the right word? kushner companies would spend a couple years trying to get millions of dollars out of qatar, being crushed when they'd been turned down, and then a couple months later, qatar's ready to offer them more money and kushner takes the meeting to say no, we don't want the money? we dond -- don't need it?
it seems strange. it is bizarre to consider the family real estate interests of an adviser when you're trying to figure out weird policy decisions. there is incredible, practical overlap between the kushner family business and their efforts to secure foreign financing for their new york city real estate holdings. there's incredible overlap between that and ongoing international effort and the countries that jared kushner has been dealing with in a foreign capacity since he became adviser. because of that overlap, however crazy it feels to talk about it, it's impossible to discuss out of hand, the prospect that maybe the reason the u.s. government took this radical and unexplained turn against qatar is because qatar wouldn't give jared's family any money when they wanted it and asked for it. and now they're mad at qatar, so it's u.s. policy to all of a sudden be against qatar. is it possible that's what
happened? maybe that is one potential explanation. if that's true, that would be an explanation about money that people inside the trump administration reportedly wanted but they were denied. well, now tonight there is another potential explanation from reporters david kirkpatrick and mike mezetti tonight. and that explanation is not about money being denied to people in the white house. it's about money flowing into the white house. foreign money, flowing in, in great quantities. and the new reporting derives from the robert mueller investigation. we got new reports about a cooperating witness. they introduced america to a new guy, new figure in the mueller investigation whose name hadn't been widely previously known. george nader. in the ensuing couple of weeks
since george nader got his name in the paper, we learned about him and it turns out he is linked to some stuff. he was reportedly involved in that meeting that took place during the presidential transition in the seychelles islands, involving erik prince, who is the brother of education secretary betsy devos, a major trump donor. they seychelles meeting appeared to be an effort to set up some sort of back channel communication between the trump transition and vladimir putin's office. erik prince was reportedly there as an emissary from trump and an emissary for putin. george nader was reportedly involved not just in setting up that meeting, he was reportedly there at that meeting. so, okay, that's one way in which he factors in. we had previously heard about that meeting. that makes sense that a guy involved in that meeting would turn up.
but this new reporting about this new character george nader also brought up a whole bunch of new characters and dynamics and story lines that we've never heard before, that we've never heard about certainly related to the mueller investigation before the last couple of weeks. george nader is reportedly an adviser to the crown prince, the de facto ruler of uae, united arab emirates. mueller has been using george nader as a cooperating witness because he's looking at the possibility that money has been flowing into donald trump's political operation from uae, from united arab emirates. that's a whole new idea for this scandal. george nader also turns out to be linked to a man named elliot brady. you see him on the right there. he was a colorful figure already on the fringes of trump world. mr. brady once pled guilty to a felony bribery charge in a very famous scandal where he paid huge bribes to new york state officials to get business for
his wall street firm. those new york officials went to jail. he became a cooperating witness for the government and initially pled guilty to a felony that was reduced to a misdemeanor. but he was the guy who paid the bribes. that made it a scandal when he turned up as a major trump donor and named deputy finance chairman of the rnc. the bribery guy? but now in this george nader era that we're in, in this new era of george nader reporting here, that same guy, elliott brady, turns up as a defense contractor. a defense contractor? i thought he was a wall street briber. he has very recently received hundreds of millions in contracts from uae, arranged by his new friend, george nader, who he just met at the trump inauguration. boy, that's a quick turn around,
trump wasn't inaugurated all that long ago. you didn't know this guy before the inauguration and now he just set you up with hundreds of millions of dollars in defense contracts? how long ago did you plead guilty to that felony? why is this trump fund raiser, a deputy finance chair of the rnc, a guy who headlined a fund-raiser for the president, why is this guy all of a sudden getting hundreds of millions of dollar from the a -- uae and why is the robert mueller investigation investigating
money potentially flowing from the uae into president trump's political operation, and why is the mueller operation's latest cooperating witness a guy who was an adviser to the government of the uae? and as the trump administration takes this inexplicable, hard, out of the blue turn against uae's archenemy in the east, qatar, does that have anything to do with this strange new influence of uae in the trump administration? well, the "new york times" sort of breaks this open tonight. quote, a cooperating witness in the special counsel investigation worked for more than a year to turn a top trump fund raiser into an instrument of influence for the rulers of saudi arabia and united arab emirates. citing interviews, the times says what's revealed here is quote, an active effort to cultivate president trump on behalf of saudi arabia and uae. these two oil-rich arab monarchies. high on the agenda of the two men, george nader and elliot brady was pushing the white house to remove rex tillerson and to back a confrontational approach to both iran and qatar. rex tillerson of course was fired last week, and the
president has adopted tough approaches to both iran and qatar. mr. nader tempted with $1 billion in contracts and helped deliver deals from the united arab emirates. the times has reportedly seen documents supporting these huge contracts which they have arranged in short order for the trump fundraiser but describe a $2.7 million payment through a variety of pass-through companies. now what these two were reportedly working on, according to their correspondents was number one, getting rid of rex tillerson, check, number two, taking a hard, hard new line -- despite the fact that we've got a base there with thousands of u.s. troops on it. among other things, the times reports that they also discussed blocking a u.s. veteran diplomat in ann henderson from taking a top pentagon job. the key question here is not whether these guys have been able to get what they want out of the trump administration.
all sorts of people get all sorts of things that they want for all sorts of reasons that are more or less legal, right? but if we're talking about a foreign government paying for those outcomes, that's very blatantly illegal. if that's the case, if a foreign government has been paying off trump administration or top officials to get what they want from the u.s. government, you would need somebody close to that scheme, you'd need somebody close to the inside of that kind of an operation to help prosecutors follow the money. the other news that david kirkpatrick has broken in the "new york times" tonight not only has george nader become a cooperating witness, according to the "new york times," mueller's prosecutors have just called him back for an additional round of testimony. nader was apparently overseas when they called him back. george nader's lawyer confirmed to us today that nader's been back and forth between the united states and the united arab emirates. he was called back from overseas for a second round of testimony as of last week.
and, they add this, crucially. quote, mr. nader has been granted immunity. in a deal for his cooperation with the special counsel. i believe this is the first time we've had any reporting about mueller's investigators offering immunity to anyone in exchange for something other than a guilty plea. joining us is new york city washington investigative unit mark mizzetti, bylined on this school. thank you for your time tonight. >> thank you. >> so you and your colleagues at the "times", introduced me to the concept of george nader in the first place. i feel like it's been a couple of weeks where we've had a big influx of reporting about him, and we are still trying to understand what role he may be playing in this investigation being carried out at the special counsel's office. let me ask you if i screwed anything up in that summary and what you think is most important about this new reporting. >> no, it was pretty thorough set up.
i think that what we report tonight, one of the most interesting things is this sort of year-long campaign of influence that was going on with george nader and elliot brady to steer the trump administration on critical issues of foreign policy in the middle east, on rex tillerson, on iran, how the saudi arabian government used these guys to influence the trump administration, and in turn, the correspondence shows that brady, who is the deputy rnc finance chairman got very rich. >> what's illegal here, obviously, influence in washington is something people pay a lot of money to pursue for -- through a lot of different means. if as seems clear in your reporting, at least in the
materials that you say that you've reviewed, if this was money that may have come from the government of the united arab emirates being paid to people close to the trump administration, is that netly and as we're learning from the paul manafort saga, not oftenenoften en enforced. he did not need to register. there is clearly a real gray area on these laws and we're also learning, of course, from
the manafort episode is that the government may take a greater interest in this and may be, in fact, the mueller may take a greater interest in this. >> last question for you, mark. you report that mr. nader has been offered immunity in a deal for his corroboration with the special counsel. as far as i know, that's the first time that we've heard of anybody being offered immunity in this investigation, other than people who pled guilty in federal court and it was formally work. is it possible that there's a sealed indictment against him, that he's got some other legal entanklement here or is there just a straight cooperation for an inimmunity deal? >> we believe it's straight cooperation. he's being called back for more questioning. he is a -- i don't want to say a central figure but seems to be
an important witness in this investigation, not only for questions about what happened before the election, before prup was elected, but what's been going on in the first year of the straight. in terms of how foreign governments were trying to influence the mark, thank you for joining us on shot notice. i know this just broke tonight. thanks for rushing to the studio to talk to us about it. >> lots going on tonight. and we have bunch more people here with us for what has been a busy day of news. stay with us. in the modern world, it pays to switch things up.
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nbc news justice correspondent pete williams just sta taped an extensive interview with the fbi director chris wray. chris wray tells pete that president trump has never personally pressured him about the russia investigation. seems very important to have him on the record about that. director wray also goes on at length about what he sees as the important nonpartisan nature of the fbi and the crucial independence of the fbi. that also seems important right now to have him on the record about that, especially after the firing of the fbi's deputy director following months of pressure and taunting of him by the president. we're going to post those
comments online tonight at madd maddow.com, if you want to see that. it's very interesting to hear him put that stuff in his own words. but in addition to talking about those big foundation an issues with the fbi, that the remarkable time for the bureau, with the white house and him attacking them regularly, they've had some specific remarks, something they jointly warned about a few months ago. >> ywhat do you think the russians were up to there? were they trying to say see what we can do so you doesn't try it with us? what was happening there? >> well, the cyber attack that you're referring to, i think
first i would say it was the real deal. it something we take very seriously. i don't know that i want to -- and we're very confident in our attribution of it to the russian government. >> director of fbi calling the russian government hacking into american power plants "the real deal" saying the fbi is taking it very seriously. the fbi and homeland security issued this urgent, technical alert about that russian attacks so russia could have the ability to turn the merge electric grid on and off at will. that was alert was issued a week ago. the attribution from the fbi here is that this is a russian government attack and that attribution is rock solid. we are very confident in our attory bus of it to the because that was such a recent i letter,
and because of that rock solid attory bus of it to the russian government, it is notable, it is of interest that when prum made his surprise, congratulatory phone call to the russian president yesterday, apparently that didn't come up at all. we also know thanks to this freaking unbelievable reporting from "the washington post" last night that in president trump's briefing materials, his national security -- "do not congratulate." nevertheless, he persisted. he offered his congratulations, and he was directedly his national security individualers to make sure he condemned putin for that poisoning in the u.k. of a former russian spy and his daughter on the streets of
britain, a tack. he didn't follow that instruction. he just didn't bring that up at all. a couple of things have happened since then. carol owe lynnic told us there was basically between trump and putin. she called it an omg moment, what are we going to say to -- the white house trying to find ways to explain, to justify what happened, to clean up after it. one of the things that has happened since that reporting broke last night is we've apparently now seen some of the fruits of the clean-up effort. the white house between a call a and. >> this is the whole readout. quote, president donald trump j.
trope to be with the uncht k. in the wake of weapons against private season sense on the need to take action to hold russianability. >> so he talked to russia yesterday, didn't say anything about the poisoning. but then today he talked to fran and he say, hey france. >> hey, tough guy. the other thing that has happened today after this remarkable do not congratulate reporting is a roar i did about the president's baefing materials, about what the president was told to say in that conversation with putin. who told reporters about what was on the president's note
cards. there wrn that pfrm but like the font size and capitalization of the words in those materials. and it's an interesting personnel and palace intrigue story as to who might have called a reporter to exclaim over what had just happened and how the who would have had access to those swimming materials. this look like someone leaked it to alert the president close to the president pulling the fire alarm. have we ever seen anything like that before in our bern
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to the press. why did a presidential adviser do that? i don't know. i think we can answer the question of whether we've seen anything like that before, in terms of having a president have his advisers essentially fulling the fire alarm on him. has that ever happened before? joining suss michael beschloss, presidential historian. thank you for your time tonight. >> my pleasure, rachel, always. >> are there parallels? have we ever seen a president diverging from his national security team it then being aired publicly in the newspaper? >> occasionally a president will go a little off message. and occasionally a toll and to basically say everyone had agreed that the president would
call up putin and not congratulate him on this horrible regulared election and he did exactly that, congratulated him. so something this extreme we haven't seen before. >> if -- if people around trump, if there's at least one person in the white house in a national security role, who is trying to alert the public to his actions, is there anything we can extrapolate from to&what kind of an effect that might have on a president and his decision making process? >> i think it might make him more suspicious of those around him and even less willing to take advice from oo people who may disagree. whoever called the fair alarm is worried this is a president that is so pro russian that he can barely evency z. this is someone who departed from suckby standers said we don't get to dk eight how other
countries operate. that would have been really news to an you a follow love the rezs michael -- presidents make a lines of a convenience with all sorts of jerks and despots. they all do it for very reasons, for personal or short sided or long sided. the putin love affair for trump seems different, but big picture, is it possible that this is just the latest iteration of what lots of rezs have done with lots of bad thing in and overlooking the scary or
does pottic things about that guy but it's really in the national interest. >> even when you had presidents like fdr dealing with someone like i think the russians have something on trump. this is a month when two other leaders became leaders for life. one is vladimir putin in that so-called election and the other was president sy in china. is the america that talks about the donald trump did. said it was a joke.
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on march 10th, former president barack obama and former first lady michelle obama sent a handwritten letter to the survivors of the shooting at parkland, florida. the website mike got a copy of the obamas' letter and it is very moving. it reads -- to the students of parkland, we want you to know how inspired we have been. not only have you supported each other but have awakened the conscience of the nation. and challenged the decision
makers to marek the children our priority. throughout our history, young people like you have led the country in making america better. you may feel like progress is slow in coming, but we have no doubt you are going to make an enormous difference in the days and years to come and we will be there for you. and it's signed by barak and michelle obama. they sent that just ahead of school walkouts on gun reform. now, in just a few days, on saturday, more than 500,000 are expected at a rally in washington, d.c. with another 800 demonstrations planned not just in the country but around the world, from boise idaho to munich, germany. students of parkland came up with the idea and have been the driving force behind it, this march for our lives. joining us now are three students from marjorie douglas high, they've been a force of nature in terms of the movement. thank you all for being here, i'm honored to have you here,
all three of you. >> thank you for having us. >> let me ask you first about the compliment from the president, the former president and former first lady. and i know you've heard it from not just them but a lot of people feel like you're sort of not just impressive. you're sort of the hope. i wonder if that feels not just good, i wonder if it feels pressure. >> his letter is appreciated. he's shown so much respect current politicians have not shown. we all have hope because we've seen it from kids younger than us, also. i think our generation is going to be the change because we grew up with it we're not going to let future generations grow up with it also. >> we have all the pressure on our shoulders to make a change and we're only teenagers. we're not the ones that should have to make the change, it should be politicians. but unfortunately it's fallen down to our shoulders. but now that we have the responsibility we're going to make sure we get it done. >> the reason that pressure is
on you guys is because you earned it in a way. it's not an automatic thing that kids who are survivors of some tragedy like what happened at your school are then expected to become leaders of a national movement around it. you guys made that happen yourselves in the way that you decided to respond. i want some insight into how that happened and why your school is the place it came out that way. >> it kind of started with david. he pushed for speaking with fox, anyone who would listen, anyone who was at the school, he just kept the door open enough for the rest of us to show up. he gave people's names and cameron showed up and alex showed up. and everyone part of the movement now was there. everyone decided we know how this is going to end up. we know the politicians are going to say thoughts and prayers and that's all they're going to do. we want it to stop. it's time to stop the pattern. the definition of insanity is
doing the same thing over and over, and getting the same result. if they think there are people who are quote, unquote, crazy don't deserve guns, and maybe those people that claim that thoughts and prayers and the second amendment is more important than children as lives, they should get a background check. >> and communities like parkland and close. orlando and los angeles it wasn't a centralized location. that's something we had. we can thank our teachers and faculty, that we have the voices they helped to create to make the change. >> there have been some unexpected changes. i say unexpected in terms of policy since you guys started this movement. there were changes in florida law, signed into law by a governor who had previously been
bragging about his a-plus rating by the nra. in the omnibus bill going forward are bills, including the cdc being allowed to study gun violence as a public health matter. these are things people have been fighting for for a long time and with a republican held congress and president, they seemed doubly impossible. so with those happening, does that give you satisfaction, do you know how this sustains and how it moves forward? >> it's a baby step toward the right direction. we're pushing for stricter gun reform and in the bills we haven't really seen that. we're thankful we've gotten done what we've gotten done. it's only been a little more than a month, but this is more than we've seen politicians make -- do in this amount of time. we're thankful for the baby
steps but it's honestly not enough in our opinion. we're going to keep going until we get what we want. >> we want to address the fact that rick scott defied the lobby group he's endorsed by with the new bill. that might not have happened if he wasn't running for reelection. because people want to sit in their term and get re-elected. we do understand it's a step in the right direction but not enough now. >> what's it like to be personally the focus of so much negative attention? i open up by talking about the admiration expressed to you by the former president and first lady. i know on this network that leans more to the left has been about being impressed by your activism what you've been able to accomplish. i know there has been a lot of negative personal attacks. emma, i know in particular you have been singled out. how are you coping with that? >> it's not hard to cope with.
it's a question of that was kind of funny, let's move on. maybe can i make a joke about that, maybe somebody else will laugh. most of us don't take it personally because at the end of the day, it's -- it's a stupid comment. we don't need to dignify it with a response. and when we want to dignify it with a response we're going to make it funny. that's the best way we can deal with the stuff. >> it's comical because they criticize us as individuals rather than what we're actually preaching because they can't see a fault in what we're saying so they have to go after us directly. >> one on one. has it created any tension among you? obviously you're a fluid group and there's a lot of different leaders from your school. as it goes forward you have to decide what you're doing individually. you three are here together. everyone has pursued this in their own ways. has it created tensions or have you guys created a tacit agreement of how you're going to
come together? >> i don't think there's tension, other than like you ate my muffin, common day in the world place, spit spats. but at the end of the day we're going to end up on the couch watching "the office" to calm down from what happened recently. >> even though we're everywhere, we're never in the same city, which i think has been really like mind blowing. we're in washington, new york, l.a., parkland. somehow we manage to keep in touch with each other really well and we do organize with each other really well, even though we're apart for so long. some of us haven't seen members of our group in weeks. it's crazy, but we're still in touch and we still organize. >> i wish you success, i wish you resilience, the continuing and lifelong ability to laugh at people who use opinions you don't care about who share them with you anyway. >> thank you. >> thank you so much. thank you for coming in tonight. good luck this weekend. they're right here, i know. kind of star struck.
sayer -- sarah chadwick, emma gonzalez, they're here with me. all right. we'll be right back. you could simulate confidence or you could experience it for real at the lexus command performance sales event. lease the 2018 nx 300 for $339 a month for 36 months. experience amazing at your lexus dealer. fthere's flonase sensimist.tchy and watery near pollen. it relieves all your worst symptoms including nasal congestion, which most pills don't.
one simple piece of political news tonight to leave you with before we go. it's been a week and a day since a democratic candidate named conor lamb appeared to flip a republican congressional seat in pennsylvania in a district that had gone for trump by 20 points. it would be a big deal for a democrat to flip that seat. conor lamb finished ahead by 600 votes on election night and when everything was counted, he was up by just over 800 votes. still the republican refused to concede until tonight. conor lamb just tweeted, just got off the phone with rick saccone, who congratulated me and graciously conceded last tuesday's election. i wish him the best. conor lamb will be sworn in next
month. already he and rick saccone are campaigning for already what will come next in a newly drawn district in pennsylvania. this has been the race of the year thus far in the house, and we might get a rematch. that does it for us tonight we'll see you tomorrow now it's they're just so impressive. >> they're very impressive. and they know what they're doing. >> they're very impress and i've -- impress and i've they know