Quigley on MSNBC: Our Moral Standing in the World Matters
VELSHI: I'm joined now by Mike Quigley, Democratic Congressman from Illinois, a Member of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, good to see you. Thank you for joining me tonight. Do you and your -- I can't really speak of the House Intelligence Committee anymore in the last two years because it feels like two separate bodies, the Republicans on the House Intel Committee and the Democrats on the House Intel Committee. So do you and your Democratic colleagues, at least, want to interview Michael Cohen?
QUIGLEY: Oh, absolutely. And look, I don't hold any animosity toward Mr. Cohen. He seems to have finally come to terms with this and I take him to his word that he wants to cooperate. So if he’s finally willing to open up and tell us exactly what took place particularly with meetings with Russians or information about how money flowed through the Trump organization, was there money laundering, we would absolutely love to let him speak unabated about such things. We have to remember that the Special Counsel's role is different than ours. His decision is who to bring to justice. Ours is to find out exactly what happened, how to prevent in the future and how to inform the American public.
VELSHI: I think you make a good point that there are things the Special Counsel is looking into, there’s things the southern district of New York, the United State attorney is looking into, there’s things the attorney general in New York are looking into, and there are things you might look into. Mother Jones has published a story tonight in which it says, “Flynn said he discussed with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak a grand bargain in which Moscow would cooperate with the Trump administration to resolve the Syrian conflict and Washington would end or ease up on the sanctions imposed on Russia.” These sanctions imposed on Russia were sanctions that were imposed because of human rights violations, they were sanctions imposed because of the Russian incursion into a sovereign country, Ukraine. this is obviously an area that you're going to want to inquire about because these were congressionally imposed sanctions in some cases.
QUIGLEY: Sure, these were also sanctions that involved the Russian attack on our democratic process. Before President Trump became President Trump, they were already trying to circumvent and coordinate with the Russians in this extraordinary mix of personal business, professional, political worlds. I once described it as a cesspool – as you see the news break as you described at the opening of the show, this isn’t a cesspool, this is a much larger body of water, but it is certainly just as foul.
VELSHI: If it was just a cesspool, it would be manageable. Sir, I know that you had a meeting, that Gina Haspel, the head of the CIA, has briefed you on some of the matters having to do with Jamal Khashoggi and the Saudi involvement in that. I imagine you might be able to tell me some of what you heard, but you might have to kill me. So let me quote to you what Senator Corker said about this. Let me play for you what he said and then I want to get your thoughts on this. let's listen together.
CORKER: We've got a crown prince that's out of control. I was in the most recent intelligence briefing, the most crisp and clear intelligence briefing I’d been a part of in 12 years by far. If he was before a jury, the crown prince, he would be convicted, in my opinion, in 30 minutes. I’ve never seen such compelling evidence in an intelligence briefing. Never.
VELSHI: So that's interesting. Without telling us what you heard in the intelligence briefing, can you concur that the evidence is compelling?
QUIGLEY: Let me be clear, I have been in several briefings, none of them with the director, but I have been briefed I think pretty thoroughly on the Saudi situation with the murdered journalist. But I also have served on the intelligence committee for four years, I have traveled to the Kingdom – common sense in that wealth of experience have told me there is absolutely no way the crown prince doesn't have knowledge of this before it happens. And everything I’ve learned since then convinces me that he directed this and the United States needs to respond accordingly. A lot of those briefings dealt with a fact, a reminder, hey, the Saudis are really important to us. That's absolutely true. We have to remind ourselves, though, that our moral standing in the world matters. It is one of those things that makes our country special. And we start doing attacks on our moral standing when we build walls, when we pull out of treaties, when we talk about America first, that combination of things sets us apart. It isolates us. In a final analysis, if all we're talking about is America first, that doesn't work. It makes us less safe, keeps us isolated from the world, and our friends simply don't trust us.
VELSHI: As it relates to Russia or Saudi Arabia or anyone else, the President seems to have a very binary view of disagreements with those countries, that these sanctions are equated to war. I mean, the whole point of sanctions is it's not war. It's not an end of all relationships with other countries. You can continue to have certain relationships but these are the signals that say that you don't share certain values or activities that have occurred. That is definitely the water that the President has muddied when it comes to both Saudi Arabia and Russia.
QUIGLEY: Yes, when the Russians invade and take over large areas of Ukraine, when they have a war going on with one of our allies, the alternative to war is diplomacy and sanctions. when the Russians attack our democratic process, our first reaction must be as President Obama did, telling them to cut it out, and if they don't, we sanction them and then we take the next step. These are subtleties lost upon a President who doesn’t believe in the role of the Justice Department, the independence of the intelligence community, and a healthy State Department whose actions will prevent wars. Instead what he's done is gut that State Department. Collectively all this does is make America more vulnerable to our enemies.
VELSHI: Congressman Quigley, good to talk to you, thank you for joining me tonight. Congressman Mike Quigley is member of the House Intelligence Committee.
QUIGLEY: Thank you.