Education How to record better audio on your phone

Transcribe high quality audio from events with Sonix - how to better record audio from your phone

There’s a smartphone in your pocket everywhere you go. You can make phone calls with it using the built-in microphone. And with easy to use recording apps, you the ability to easily record in-person interviews, lectures, and meetings.

But when you re-listen to these recordings, the audio just doesn’t sound quite right. Sometimes the audio sounds muffled, or there’s a lot of intrusive background noise, or you can’t easily discern certain words and phrases. Don’t worry, this is completely normal.

Bad audio quality is something that you and your listeners can quickly detect and be frustrated about. Not only is it hard to listen to, but it’s hard to understand what is being said. Automated transcription services such as Sonix have a hard time with low quality audio recordings.

What should you do? Well, you don’t have to buy thousands of dollars of gear or book a recording studio to have great sound. It’s easy to capture great audio from your phone by simply tweaking a few key settings, changing how you record, and for the best results: invest in a portable microphone.

Tweak your recording settings:

Put your phone on airplane mode and mute your notifications.

By putting your phone in airplane mode, you prevent phone calls and text messages from interrupting your recordings. Also, most phones have a “Do not disturb” feature, this will prevent notifications and vibrations from interrupting your audio recording.

iPhone (iOS): Voice Memo app (included with your iPhone)

Improve the audio quality by recording in lossless format (which is a non-compressed audio file). You can easily do this by going to Settings > Voice Memos > Audio Quality and choosing “Lossless.”

iPhone (iOS): Voice Record Pro app (free with ads or ad-free for $7 USD)

Voice Record Pro is a more powerful version of the built in Voice Memos app. You can control the gain, sample rate, bit rate, and encode quality. You’ll need to use trial and error to see what settings will suit the environment that you are recording in. Try a short test recording and re-listen to it with headphones to see what settings decrease the environmental distortion and sounds clearest.

Android: Titanium Recorder (free with ads)

Titanium Recorder is a powerful voice recorder. Tap the menu button (it has three dots in the top right of the screen) and choose Settings. Here, like in Voice Record Pro, you can adjust the sample rate, bit rate, and gain to make sure that your audio recording is clear in the environment that you are recording in. Just like above, try a short test recording and re-listen to your recording with headphones and change the settings as necessary.

Change how you record:

Ensure that your microphones are not covered or obstructed.

First, find where your phone’s microphones are located. They are usually at the bottom of the smartphone because that’s where you’d speak into if you were making a phone call. They could also be by the camera(s). Just make sure that when you are recording, you don’t have a case or your finger covering these microphones. By uncovering your microphones, you will prevent your recording from sounding muffled or garbled.

Point your microphones towards your main speaker.

Most phone microphones are directional and if your microphones are pointed away from the main speaker, it relies on the echos or reverberations of the speaker’s voice off of the wall or table. These echos are really hard to decipher and cause the audio quality to be very poor.

For big rooms, bring the microphone closer to the speaker.

If you are recording in a conference room and want to better transcribe your meeting minutes, pass the phone around from speaker to speaker. Having the microphone closer to the speaker will make the audio sound much better. Also, if you are recording a lecture or a speech, sit in the front row if possible; do not try to record from ten rows back.

Portable microphones you should consider:

An external microphone will give you the best audio quality.

By supercharging your phone with an external microphone, you will ensure that you have the best recordings. However, it’s a challenge to choose which microphones will work best with your phone. iPhones require the microphones to have a Lightning connector, while Android phones require the microphones to have a USB-C connector.

Based on our interviews with a few of our most active customers here at Sonix, we have narrowed down the list to a few affordable options:

iPhone: Sennheiser HandMic Digital

The hand-held Sennheiser HandMic Digital is ideal for recording speeches and is great for mobile journalists, podcasters, and musicians. It is a top quality microphone with a high-quality cardioid microphone with a shockmount – which allows it to significantly reduce handling noise while recording only the speaker and eliminating any side noise. It has a lightning adapter so you just plug it into your iPhone and you’ll have instant broadcast quality recordings as long as you hold the microphone close to the speaker. The Sennheiser HandMic Digital Microphone is available on Amazon for $259.

iPhone: Shure MV88 iOS Digital Stereo Condenser Microphone

The Shure MV88 iOS condenser microphone conveniently connects to the bottom of your iPhone and provides a stereo microphone to capture more of the surrounding environment instead of just one speaker. It automatically can adjust the EQ, compression, and limiting features to guarantee that you always get the optimal results. This microphone is built for the on-the-go journalist for when you need a quick and easy microphone to record that on-the-record interview. The Shure MV88 iOS Digital Stereo Condenser Microphone is available on Amazon for $149.

Android: Beyerdynamic FOX USB Condenser Microphone

The desktop Beyerdynamic Fox Microphone is a studio grade quality microphone that you can put on a desk or a table when recording and it will give you great audio quality over USB-C. It has a large diaphragm condenser capsule that will accurately reproduce your voice and eliminate a lot of environmental noise. The Beyerdynamic FOX USB Condenser Microphone is available on Amazon for $149.

Both iPhone and Android: Apogee MiC +

The Apogee MiC Plus is a professional studio quality microphone that you can plug into both your iOS devices (iPhone, iPad), Andoid, or Mac/PC. This microphone is incredibly flexible and can record any sound from interviews to podcasts to vocals to music. It’s small enough to fit in your pocket so it is perfect for recording on the go and has flexible connectivity over both lighting and USB-C. Just plug it into your phone and you are ready to get a high quality recording with increased dynamic range. The Apogee MiC Plus is available on Amazon for $259.

Lavalier Microphone: BOYA Omnidirectional Clip-on Lapel Mic

For a more subtle approach, you might want to consider clipping a lavalier microphone to a tie, shirt, collar and then run the cable to your phone under your clothing. This is great for capturing great sound during a video without having to hand hold a microphone. A lavalier microphone helps capture high-quality, clear sounds because by clipping it to your clothing you guarantee that it is only capturing your voice.  The BOYA Lavalier Microphone model BY-DM1 is the iPhone/Lightning version that’s available on Amazon for $69.95, and the BOYA Lavalier Microphone model BY-DM2 is the Android/USB-C version that’s available on Amazon for $69.95.

One final thought:

Not only will having high quality audio recordings improve the quality of your automated transcriptions with Sonix, they will also benefit your listeners who have a higher likelihood to stay better engaged with your content. If you only were to do one thing as a result of reading this article, we would highly suggest that you add a portable microphone.

Or if you are truly rebellious, you can add a standalone portable digital recorder such as the Zoom H1n Portable Digital Recorder (available on Amazon for $139.95) and have a fully dedicated, pocket-sized device for your recording needs.

Popular Transcripts FULL TRANSCRIPT: Rachel Maddow Presents – BagMan – Episode 6: A Disappearing Act

Sonix is an automated transcription service. We transcribe audio and video files for storytellers all over the world. We are not associated with the BagMan podcast. Making transcripts available for listeners and those that are hearing-impaired is just something we like to do. If you are interested in automated transcription, click here for 30 free minutes.

To listen and watch the transcript playback in real-time , just click the player below.

Rachel Maddow Presents – BagMan – Episode 6: A Disappearing Act (transcribed by Sonix)

Rachel Maddow: What you're about to hear, I think, is one of the most surreal clips I've maybe ever heard when it comes to American politics. This is a TV interview with a Vice President. And what he's about to allege here is that the President of the United States, who he served with, was threatening to have him murdered. This is not an outtake from some over-acted political thriller. This is a real interview that really happened. And the Vice President here, of course, is Spiro Agnew.

Male Voice: Agnew says he left because of a death threat from the White House. He quotes Nixon Chief of Staff Alexander Haig urging him to resign with the words, "The President has a lot of power. Don't forget that." Agnew writes that the remark sent a chill through his body. He took it as an innuendo that anything could happen. He might have, in Agnew's words, "a convenient accident," an interpretation that, even today, he refuses to disown.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: I didn't know what General Haig meant when he said, "Anything may be in the offing, things may get nasty and dirty." There's no doubt in my mind that these things are possible. I don't say it was a probability, but I do say it was a possibility.

Male Voice: You think that there were men around Richard Nixon, either in the White House staff or in the official mechanism of the CIA, who were capable of killing a Vice President of the United States if they felt he was an embarrassment?

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: I don't doubt that at all.

Rachel Maddow: Spiro Agnew didn't just make that allegation that one time. He made it repeatedly. He wrote about it in a book. He went on the record in a series of interviews stating that he believed President Richard Nixon might have him killed.

Male Voice: You say that you were actually fearful that if you did not go along, President Nixon or General Haig, it's not quite clear, might have ordered you assassinated. Could you explain that?

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: I was concerned. And I think my concern at that time, based on my frame of mind after being seven months in a pressure cooker of attempts to get me to resign office, gave me reason to be concerned. I brought along with me this testimony from the Select Committee on the Government Operations Committee involving intelligence activities. This is the United States Senate-

Rachel Maddow: What Spiro Agnew pulls out at this point is a copy of a US government report about the CIA's efforts to assassinate Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. He says what that report shows is that even though the CIA was never given a direct order from the President to kill Castro, they knew they were authorized to do it. He's making the point that even if Nixon never gave a direct order to kill him, to kill his Vice President, it's conceivable the CIA would take its cues from Nixon and act anyway.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: It is possible for these things to happen. I've never said it was a probability that my life was in danger. I said it was one of the factors that crossed my mind, and it was the straw that broke the camel's back after all the pressures that had been put on me.

Rachel Maddow: Spiro Agnew was alleging on national television that as a sitting Vice President, he was possibly the target of a contract killing by the President. He said he even bought a gun at the time for his own protection.

Nick Thimmesch: You acknowledge that you had fear at this time, but after you left office, did you ever go to the federal government to get a permit for a handgun?

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: Yes.

Nick Thimmesch: Why did you get that handgun, and what period was this?

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: I think was immediately after I left office. I got it because I still had some fears.

Nick Thimmesch: Do you have a handgun?

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: No, I've never carried a handgun. I thought it was sufficient that people would know I had the permit to carry one.

Rachel Maddow: This is the story that Spiro Agnew wanted people to believe about the circumstances in which he left office, that he was another one of Richard Nixon's victims. Agnew's tale of woe was that Nixon's inner circle, specifically Nixon's Chief of Staff Al Haig, pressured him for weeks to resign. And when he refused to do it, they threatened his life. And thereby, forced him out when he otherwise wouldn't have left. Okay, maybe. Seems nuts, but maybe.

Rachel Maddow: That said, there is another explanation for why Spiro Agnew stepped down when he did. And it does involve a three-letter federal agency but not the CIA. It involves special agents from the IRS who had been quietly and very diligently going through Vice President Agnew's past.

Rachel Maddow: Those agents and the Baltimore federal prosecutors working with them had already turned up the smoking-gun evidence of the bribery and extortion scheme that Agnew had been running in Maryland and in the White House. But they also started turning up something else, details about what exactly Spiro Agnew seemed to be doing with all that money he was making as a criminal. And that part of the investigation got into areas of Agnew's personal life that were maybe becoming a little uncomfortable for him.

Ron Liebman: There were some personal expenses in there that pre-Monica Lewinsky and pre all that we've come across, and some stories that we came across, which, unlike Ken Starr, I guess, we just said, "This is not a part of the case."

Rachel Maddow: Ron Liebman and his fellow Baltimore prosecutors had stumbled upon an aspect of Agnew's life and crimes that may have hit a nerve for the Vice President.

Ron Liebman: You know, these guys, they have all personal peccadilloes. You know, they have money and power, and they do stupid things. And we came across financial evidence of that, and we heard some stories about that. One of them quite bizarre, but that wasn't part of the case.

Rachel Maddow: The Baltimore prosecutors never actually used the information they would start to uncover about Agnew's personal life, but Spiro Agnew was aware that the IRS was digging into it. And what it involved was evidence of what seemed like a secret life. mistresses, sports cars, expensive gifts that never seemed to make it to Agnew's wife, Judy. Here's Prosecutor Tim Baker.

Tim Baker: There was jewelry, too.

Mike Yarvitz: Jewelry to Agnew?

Tim Baker: A woman's watch, which Judy never got.

Mike Yarvitz: What does that suggest?

Tim Baker: Uhh.

Rachel Maddow: Death threat, and handguns, and CIA assassination plots sounded like a really cool reason to have to step down. But that probably wasn't the reason he had to step down. Spiro Agnew had carefully crafted this straight arrow, moralistic, hard line public image as a man of honesty, and virtue, and conservative integrity. He knew that if he continued to fight, all of that would come crashing down around him. It was finally time to cut his losses and go away.

Rachel Maddow: You're listening to Bag Man. I'm your host, Rachel Maddow.

John Chancellor: Good evening. Washington was stunned today by the disclosure that Vice President Agnew was under criminal investigation by federal authorities in his home state of Maryland.

Ron Liebman: Well what we were concerned was, you know, he gets into court, and he says, "Well, wait a minute, I changed my mind."

Marty London: And the people in the room, they gasped. It then became clear what this was about.

John Chancellor: Spiro Agnew is in disgrace, fallen from power, a convicted criminal.

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Rachel Maddow: Episode 6: A Disappearing Act.

Male Voice: The Tonight Show will not be seen tonight, so that we may bring you the following NBC News Special Report.

John Chancellor: Good evening. The country tonight is in the midst of what may be the most serious constitutional crisis in its history.

Rachel Maddow: The Saturday Night Massacre took place on October 20, 1973. It was Richard Nixon in a fit of rage, trying to end the investigation into Watergate that his own Justice Department was conducting. Nixon ordered his Attorney General, Elliot Richardson to fire the Special Prosecutor who was leading that investigation. And when Richardson refused to do that and resigned himself instead, that sparked a true-blue constitutional crisis.

John Chancellor: Agents of the FBI, acting at the direction of the White House, sealed off the offices of the Special Prosecutor, the offices of the Attorney General, and the offices of the Deputy Attorney General. That's a stunning development. And nothing even remotely like it has happened in all of our history.

Rachel Maddow: The Saturday Night Massacre is the signal moment in US history. But many of the people who've lived that history are still around to tell it. JT Smith was Elliot Richardson's top assistant at the Justice Department that day.

JT Smith: I don't want to sound like a pretentious 29-year-old, but I was sorely vexed by events. And I had a lot of yellow, legal pad notes that bore upon the stuff we've been talking about. I took my notes, put them in my briefcase, and walked out without being searched by the FBI. And I took them home, and I was sufficiently paranoid about the direction of the country, I hid them in the attic of my house.

Rachel Maddow: What sort of incredible to realize with hindsight and what's never mentioned in the history books about that moment is that Elliot Richardson and his team, when the Saturday Night Massacre happened, they were just coming off what may have been one of the most dramatic moments in the history of the US Justice Department.

Rachel Maddow: The Saturday Night Massacre happened on October 20, 1973. Just 10 days before that, on October 10th, Attorney General Elliot Richardson had single-handedly forced the resignation of the Vice President of the United States. It was October 9th when Elliot Richardson cut a high-stakes plea deal with Vice President Agnew's lawyers that would keep Agnew out of jail, but in exchange, he would offer his immediate resignation from office. Agnew's attorney, Marty London, helped reach that deal.

Marty London: I thought Elliot Richardson, in the end, made a deal because he saw this as a potential Constitutional crisis and a national disaster.

Rachel Maddow: The deal was made. As controversial as it was, it was made. But what happened to Spiro Agnew in the last 24 hours of his Vice Presidency? It was this all-night, sirens wailing, down to the last minute, surprise sweat fest like you can't believe.

Rachel Maddow: In all of US history, a Vice President had never before been forced to resign. And at that moment, it wasn't really clear how to do it, logistically even. They had to dig through the archives to figure out the logistics, to figure out that the way a Vice President technically resigns, the instrument of resignation, turns out it's through a letter submitted to the Secretary of State. Okay, so, he'll resign to the Secretary of State.

Rachel Maddow: After figuring that out, and finalizing the deal, and setting a court date for the very next day, October 10th, Marty London and the rest of Agnew's defense team rushed back to the Vice President's office to draft that resignation letter. Again, there was no precedent for what that should look like. What should the letter say?

Marty London: Nobody had written, thought about preparing for this. So, we've got two hours to get out a resignation letter. I don't know how so many people got in that room. He had — The Vice President had some guy who was like counselor to the Vice President, another guy was there, another guy was there, Frank Sinatra had sent a lawyer. And, now, people are writing fantastic, long explanations.

Marty London: One guy said, "I'm resigning because the President is pushing me out, and outrageous." Another guy writes a letter, "I'm resigning because of the press wanted me gone." And the other guy said, "The Department of Justice want to be gone." And another guy said, "It's the fucking Democrats, they want me gone." It's everything. And we're going nowhere. It's an hour and a half later, the clock is ticking, the temperature room is 85 degrees, I said, "I got it guys. I got it." Thus, I pat myself on the back here. I got it. "Oh yeah? What's your letter?" It says, "I hereby resign as Vice President of United States. Respectfully." Everybody says, "Well geez, that will do it."

Rachel Maddow: That chaotic scene in the Vice President's office though, that was nothing compared to what was happening back in Baltimore that night at the US Attorney's Office. The plea deal that had been reached with Agnew allowed the prosecutors to submit a detailed statement of evidence into the record laying out what crimes exactly Spiro Agnew had committed. The payoffs as Governor, the payoffs as Vice President, everything the prosecutors had.

Rachel Maddow: What the prosecutors would, ultimately, draft was a 40-page long statement of evidence laying out Agnew's alleged crimes. But the night before the court date, it wasn't done yet. And these three Baltimore prosecutors, they stayed up all night that night trying to get it finished in time.

Barney Skolnik: It was all written the night before we went to court. I mean, it was like this all-nighter thing, like it was being back in college. We were exchanging drafts. I think maybe Timmy wrote, you know, these parts. And I wrote some parts. And Ron wrote some parts.

Tim Baker: We just started dictating and drafts would go, pages would. It wasn't like complete drafts. Sections would go back and forth, back and forth, marked up, retyped, marked up, retyped, and we were on a deadline.

Ron Liebman: At like 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, the Attorney General of the United States and Henry Petersen, I think, drive to Baltimore in the middle of the night, early in the morning, and sit in George Beall's office as we start feeding him these papers, which was extraordinary. This is the Attorney General the United States at 2:00 in the morning in Baltimore? You know, on my best days, I wouldn't want to be in Baltimore at 2:00 in the morning.

Tim Baker: And I think it's like 6:00 a.m., it's given to the US Marshals, who then, we were later told, at points on the Baltimore-Washington Expressway, we're doing in excess of 85 miles an hour. And then, it had to be to Agnew's lawyers by something like 8:00 a.m. in Washington. It was some terrible hour, and they got it there just in time.

Rachel Maddow: They got it there, in fact, five minutes late. This 40-page statement of evidence that was thrown together all night, overnight, it was rushed to DC with a sirens wailing police escort, like it was the holy grail. For these prosecutors, it kind of was. Spiro Agnew was about to walk into court and plead to a felony count of tax evasion, and these prosecutors wanted the American people to know that he had not only been caught for tax evasion.

Tim Baker: We knew what it had to do. It had to bury him, so that the country could see this wasn't a witch-hunt, to use a current expression, that there was a very substantial, solid case against him.

Ron Liebman: It was a big issue for all of us, all of us, because what we certainly couldn't allow to happen would be for Vice President to plead Nolo to a tax count, and then the walk out and say, "This is nothing. This is some little mistake I made. This is absolutely — These guys are liars. I made a little mistake on my tax returns. I've made amends. I'm going to pay back the money that I should have paid. And I'm going back to work."

Rachel Maddow: So, the statement of evidence was finally ready. The Vice President's resignation letter was finally ready. A 2:00 p.m. court date was set. But not a single soul in the country, except for the people directly involved, knew what was about to happen in that courtroom.

Rachel Maddow: Now, the press knew that there was going to be a hearing in court that afternoon, something to do with the wrangling over the Agnew case, but what the press thought the hearing was going to be about was them, about newspapers' efforts to quash these subpoenas that Spiro Agnew's lawyers had sent to various reporters to try to get them to reveal their sources. The press showed up that day ready to cover a hearing about that. All of the lawyers for the news organization showed up at the counsel's table ready to fight about those subpoenas to the reporters. And then, into the courtroom, walked the attorneys for the Vice President.

Marty London: And they see us walking in, and we sit at the near table, and they look at us with hostility. I mean, sneering. Just Angry. And then, two federal marshals come over to them, and they say, "Pick up all your papers and move to the gallery." And they're resistant, but, I mean, these are federal marshals, and the marshals do not explain why. They just said, "Clear this table and clear it now. You can go stand in the back." And they stand in the back. And in walks, to occupy that table, Elliot Richardson, George Beall, and some more of Beall's assistants.

Ron Liebman: The bailiff makes an announcement, you know, "Ladies and gentlemen, proceeding is about ready to begin. This courtroom is going to be locked. So, if you can't stay, you have to get out. You have to leave now."

Rachel Maddow: The Baltimore prosecutors are there, sitting next to the Attorney General himself. They know, and the Vice President's lawyers know, that what was about to happen in that courtroom was something really big and surprising. The resignation was ready. The 40-page statement of his crimes was ready. The deal was ready, and the country was about to have the whole thing sprung on them for the first time. The hearing was set to begin at 2:00 sharp. There was just one problem.

Marty London: It's now 2:00, and I am sweating because at our table is me and Jay Topkis, and Jud Best is back in the clerk's office on the telephone. And it's 2:00, and somebody from this play is missing.

Rachel Maddow: Everything was set. One of Agnew's lawyers was in the clerk's office at the court waiting to give the order over the phone to deliver Agnew's resignation letter, to transmit that letter to the Secretary of State as soon as the Vice President himself walked into the courtroom. It was all choreographed. Each moment scripted and ordered for a very specific reason. And the time was now, but the Vice President of the United States was nowhere to be found. On the prosecution side, they had long feared that something just like this might happen.

Ron Liebman: What we were concerned was, you know, he gets into court, and he says, "Well, wait a minute, I changed my mind. These are bogus charges. I don't know why I'm here. I'm the Vice President the United States. I'm immune from prosecution. Marshal, could you unlock that door please. I got to go." You know, we're dealing with the Vice President of the United States. We are being as careful as we can be. We're on tenterhooks, right? We want this done just so. It had to be done just so, or it wouldn't happen.

Rachel Maddow: At 2:00, when the Vice President was the only one missing, it looked for a brief moment like it might not happen, even to Agnew's lawyers.

Marty London: Listen, you want to know if I got a little nervous between 2:00 and 2:01 because the man was a minute late? The answer is I was anxious. I wouldn't say nervous, but I was anxious. I said, look, if I have a 2:00 court date, I'm there at 1:45. I mean, I've been doing this for a long time. I can understand him not wanting to come into that courtroom, and I do get it, him not wanting to come into that courtroom, and sit there at that table for 15 minutes with all those people staring at the back of his neck. So, I don't know. I assume that he may have been there at 1:45, sitting in his car out at the curb, looking at the watch and saying, "Okay, I better go in." And maybe my watch was a minute fast. Maybe he was there at 2:00. I was anxious, but I'd never occurred to me that he was not going to do it.

Rachel Maddow: That wait for the Vice President to show up, the question of whether or not he would show up, that hung in the air for a very tense moment, until the courtroom doors swung open again.

Marty London: 2:01, exactly, in walks our client. And the people in the room, they gasped. It then became clear what this was about.

Ron Liebman: It was a noticeable hush. Gasp. You know, it was a surprise to so many people in there. The courtrooms is locked, Agnew walks in, the judge gets on the bench, the bailiff or the law clerk calls, "Oyez, oyez. All rise." Everybody rises, everybody sits down, and there's, you know, Spiro Agnew in his well-tailored suit and his nice haircut about to plead Nolo Contendere to a felony.

Marty London: Jud Best comes out of the clerk's office and says, "I've just been on the telephone with the offices of the Secretary of State. They have received the Vice President's resignation letter." And, ultimately, the judge accepts the plea, and he sentenced him to a fine and a sentence of probation. And we walk out of the courtroom with the ex-Vice President of the United States. It was a stunning, stunning, stunning development.

Rachel Maddow: For the first time in American history, a sitting Vice President appeared in court to answer criminal charges. For the first time in American history, a Vice President plead to a felony. And for the first time in American history, a Vice President resigned his office in disgrace.

Rachel Maddow: Spiro Agnew arrived at the courthouse as the Vice President. As he crossed the threshold into the courtroom, his resignation was simultaneously submitted. He left that courtroom minutes later as a convicted felon. He, then, spoke to the stunned reporters outside who had had no idea that any of this was coming.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: I categorically and flatly deny the assertion that have been made by the prosecutors with regard to their contention of bribery and extortion on my part. I will have nothing more to say at this point. I will make an address to the nation within a few days.

Rachel Maddow: Spiro Agnew decision to agree to a plea deal and resign, it happened so fast that Agnew's own staff at the White House didn't even know that day that it was going to happen. Here's David Keene, Agnew's top political aide.

David Keene: He went to Baltimore to plead nolo. And Mike Dunn, who is the Chief of Staff, and he called the senior staff together to tell us. And I pounded my fist on the desk and said, "Can't the son of a bitch have the balls to come and tell us himself?"

Rachel Maddow: There was a lot of crazy stuff that happened in the United States of America in 1973. But the Vice President of the United States suddenly resigning in disgrace, surprise. That stunned the country.

Male Voice: Good evening. If you have just joined us, we are obliged to tell you the story we've been running since shortly after 2:00 this afternoon, namely, that Vice President Spiro T. Agnew is now the former Vice President. He resigned today. It's been quite a day for news, JC.

Female Voice: It really has. I think the public is still in shock. Many people just disbelieve it. It's hard to accept that it has come to this.

Male Voice: There was disbelief on Capitol Hill where most House and Senate members had come to believe the Vice President's assertions that he fully intended to fight the charges all the way.

Mark Hatfield: We have a period of time when there is political erosion. Confidence and faith in the whole system has been challenged by many people. And, now, to have this confirmation of the worst suspicions that some people held is really a very profound impact on the whole country.

Male Voice: Can you tell us what your reaction is to the resignation?

Mike Mansfield: Well, it was totally unexpected. And I don't know what to say.

Rachel Maddow: That was the Majority Leader in the Senate at the time, Democratic Senator Mike Mansfield. The reaction in the country to Spiro Agnew's sudden resignation was kind of a muddled mess. It was a lot of things all at once. It was stunned confusion from a lot of people. There was elation from those who felt that justice had been served. There was also absolute outrage from Agnew's supporters, who really had stayed with him right til the very end.

Female Voice: I'm just sick about it. I think he's a man of his word, and I think they've all been doing the same thing ever since I started voting. And I think it's just too bad. I think he's a great man.

Female Voice: I think it was very unnecessary. I'm just, oh, I'm just sick. I'm very unhappy. I don't think it was necessary. I think it's a lot of political hogwash. And I'm, oh.

Male Voice: Did you vote for Agnew?

Male Voice: I certainly did.

Male Voice: What do you think of him now?

Male Voice: I think it's very unfortunate. The man seems to be railroaded or something. I don't know if this is all fact, a lot of insinuation has been brought out.

Rachel Maddow: Spiro Agnew built this base of support in the Republican Party. He convinced his supporters that he was innocent. He was the victim of a witch hunt. And even though he had just plead no contest to a felony in open court, his supporters just still couldn't accept it. They couldn't absorb it. They have been primed to believe in his innocence, and to hate, and resent, and suspect everything about this prosecution.

Rachel Maddow: But, you know, a weird thing happened in the courtroom that last weird day. It was just an odd moment in the courtroom itself that didn't seem like much at the time, but it would ultimately shake even Agnew's most committed supporters. And it would ultimately cost Agnew much more than just having to resign from office and walk away. That's next.

Chris Hayes: Hey, it's MSNBC's Chris Hayes. If you enjoyed Bag Man, be sure to check out my friend, Rachel Maddow, on my podcast, Why is This Happening?, where I get the opportunity to dig deep into the forces behind the stories playing out in the news in order to understand why certain cultural and political phenomena came to be. Rachel joins me to talk about covering the news in this unprecedented political moment. We also talk all about Bag Man and how this incredible podcast came to be. So, click on over and check out Why is This Happening? And you can listen now wherever you get your podcasts.

John Chancellor: Spiro Agnew is in disgrace, fallen from power, a convicted criminal. It's something that none of his critics would even have predicted not long ago. And it is one of the biggest news stories of our time.

Rachel Maddow: The day that Spiro Agnew walked into a federal courthouse in Baltimore to plead to a felony and resign the Vice Presidency, one of the people inside the courtroom that day was a Law Professor from George Washington University, a professor named John Banzhaf.

John Banzhaf: I showed up and, initially, they would not let me in. I was reluctantly led into the courtroom, but with a very solemn warning that if I attempted to say anything, if I stood up, if I did anything at all, there were two big marshals behind me, and they would immediately take me out of the courtroom. And I was told in very strong language, "Don't stand. Don't say anything. Don't try to have any role."

Rachel Maddow: It was a little bit of a strange thing for this law professor to be in court that day. To him, it was stranger still the way that he felt threatened by those federal marshals. But in his view, the strangest thing about the whole proceeding in that courtroom that day was the resolution of it. Spiro Agnew was being allowed to plead to a felony, but he wasn't being sent to jail, and he wasn't even being forced to pay back any of the bribe money that he allegedly took.

Rachel Maddow: What was the punishment here exactly? I mean, resigning from office, yes. But is that it? After that remarkable day in court where, surprise, the Vice President is pleading to a felony and, oh by the way, he's also resigned, after that day, Banzhaf went back to his law classes at GW. And there, he found that his law students were as perplexed as he was about how the whole thing had shook out.

John Banzhaf: I mean, they said to me, "Professor Banzhaf, if somebody robs a bank, and he's given a plea deal, he's, at least, required to give back the money." Agnew, as a Governor and Vice President, should be held to an even higher standard. They were outraged that he was allowed to get off on a minor plea, no time, and keep all the ill-gotten gains.

Rachel Maddow: Spiro Agnew had resigned his office. He was basically starting to disappear into obscurity, but this class of law students decided they were going to make a project out of him. They weren't going to let him go away quietly.

Rachel Maddow: The law students and Professor John Banzhaf's class came up with a plan. Their first effort was to lobby Maryland's governor to bring a civil lawsuit against Agnew, since after all when he was taking those bribes and shaking down those contractors, it was the State of Maryland that was being defrauded. The State of Maryland should get that money back.

Rachel Maddow: The Governor of Maryland met with these students to hear them out, to hear their plan. But even though he took the meeting, and he heard what they had to say, at the end, he told them no, he wouldn't do it.

John Banzhaf: When we left, we were literally bewildered. I recall riding back in the car and the students are saying, "Well, why didn't they bring it? We don't understand. What's going on?" And I'm their professor who's supposed to know these things. And, of course, I had no answer for them. I could not figure out why they wouldn't want to bring the action. It was only quite a bit later when we learned that Governor Marvin Mandel was, likewise, on the take and was probably on the take, literally, while he was deciding not to bring this action.

Rachel Maddow: The State of Maryland had been harmed, but the Governor of the State said he wasn't willing to bring this case. So, the students went to Plan B. They found an old British common law legal principle that they believed would let them sue on Maryland's behalf, even if they didn't have the State's support to do it. They found some Maryland taxpayers to be their plaintiffs.

Rachel Maddow: And those law students did sue Spiro Agnew on behalf of Maryland taxpayers to recoup the bribe money that he had taken. It ended up taking years, but, eventually, they won. A court ruled that Agnew had, in fact, taken bribes, that he had defrauded the State, and he was ordered to write a check to the State of Maryland for more than a quarter million dollars.

Rachel Maddow: And those students, they not only exacted some of the punishment, they felt like Agnew had escaped back in 1973. They also got one more crucial thing when it comes to the scales of justice here. They got a confession. Well, a confession by proxy.

Rachel Maddow: Back in 1973, when this little investigation in Baltimore first started, Agnew himself, it turns out, admitted the whole scheme to his lawyer, his personal lawyer, a man named George White. Then, later, in his own book about the scandal, Agnew, oops, broke the confidentiality of his own attorney-client relationship with George White when he chose to write about the conversations he'd had with White while the case was unfolding.

Rachel Maddow: That was a mistake because when that lawsuit was eventually brought against Agnew by the law students at GW, not only was the court able to force Agnew to pay back some of the money he had ripped off from the taxpayers, the court was also able to get sworn testimony under oath from Agnew's own lawyer about Agnew confessing that he was guilty.

Female Voice: Today, only because ordered to by the judge, George White broke his silence. He described learning about the kickback scheme from three Agnew associates who were threatening to implicate the Vice President. Confronting Agnew, he said, "Ted, this is terribly serious. You've got to level with me. I've got to know the truth." According to White, Agnew replied, "It's been going on for a thousand years. What they told you is true."

Rachel Maddow: Quietly, in the courts, when Spiro Agnew was already a trivia question and a hard one, quietly, while basically nobody was watching, Agnew's entire story fell apart. All the denials, all the claims that this was a witch hunt, or that he was the real victim here, iI all fell apart. And his guilt was laid bare in court and for the record because his longtime personal lawyer flipped on him.

Rachel Maddow: When Agnew showed up to court that day in October 1973 to plead to a felony and resign the Vice Presidency, that 40-page statement of evidence that was assembled by the prosecutors, it was released to the public. It was this damning recitation of what Agnew had done as an elected official. All of the payoffs, all of the extortion, all of the crimes committed even as Vice President.

Rachel Maddow: And that document, all these detailed allegations from the prosecutors, it is a matter of public record. But even so, it's one that sort of feels secret even now. All these years later, it is hard today to find that document, even if you're really looking for it.

Rachel Maddow: The information contained in it is not what people immediately think when they hear the name Spiro Agnew. "Oh yeah. Agnew, Nixon's Vice President. Didn't he have like a tax evasion problem? Something from back before the time he became Vice President?" That's how Agnew's remembered, but Agnew really was way worse than history remembers him for, if he's remembered at all.

Rachel Maddow: Agnew, basically, disappeared into history after he resigned. He got a job working for Eva Gabor's fifth husband, seriously. Frank Sinatra helped him pay the relatively minor fines that were imposed by the court back in 1973. Agnew wrote a bad novel, a thriller with sort of unsettling sex scenes in it, frankly. He also published that memoir in which he claimed that Richard Nixon was going to have him killed. But basically, big picture, Agnew just went away. And the few times that he did reappear, he was always asking for sympathy. This was from an interview with him in 1980.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: The penalty I've paid is very heavy. People say, "Agnew didn't pay any penalty. He bought his way out of jail with the Vice Presidency," but they don't know what a penalty I paid. They don't understand I lost my right to practice law, I lost my pension. And the worst penalty of all is during those years immediately following my resignation when I was not at all answering the charges to walk down the street and see people say. "There he goes." To be recognizable, not just in the United States, but any place I went in the world. That's a pretty severe penalty.

Rachel Maddow: Spiro Agnew probably does deserve to be more infamous than he is. But the team of federal prosecutors who discovered his crimes and took him down, they deserve to be more famous than they are. George Beall, the US Attorney who refused to let pressure from the White House interfere with his investigation. He went on to prosecute that subsequent sitting Governor of Maryland for corruption. Marvin Mandel, a Democrat. He got him too.

Rachel Maddow: Run Liebman and Barney Skolnik, They both took part in that prosecution of Maryland's next Governor. And then, like George Beall, they both moved into quiet careers in private practice. Tim Baker he ended up getting George Beall's old job as Maryland US Attorney before he, too, went into private practice. They all ended up doing fine.

Rachel Maddow: But none of them ended up etched into our history books and our national memory for the role that they played in, well, saving the republic from a national catastrophe, saving the country from a criminal Vice President ascending to the Presidency amid the ashes of Watergate, which would have plunged the country from Watergate right into another catastrophic scandal in the White House, and likely the forced removal of the next President right after Nixon.

Rachel Maddow: What further damage would have been inflicted on the country if we had had to remove not one but two corrupt criminals sitting Presidents back-to-back within months of each other? These young kids from Baltimore, these determined federal prosecutors, they saved us from that disaster. Their case was obstructed from the White House on down. They were attacked and maligned by the most powerful politicians in the country. They endured that at the ripe old average age of about 32, they kept their heads down and they kept going.

Rachel Maddow: Their bosses, US Attorney George Beall and Attorney General Eliot Richardson, they led them without fear or favor. They shielded them. And then, Elliot Richardson single-handedly got Agnew out, restoring and protecting the line of succession for the American Presidency.

Rachel Maddow: Elliot Richardson held a press conference the day after Spiro Agnew resigned as Vice President. And remember, Elliot Richardson would, himself, be forced out of office just days later, less than two weeks later in the Saturday Night Massacre. But during that press conference upon the resignation of Agnew, Richardson was asked directly what lessons the country should take from what we'd just been through.

Male Voice: We've been through a period of unprecedented in American history. What do you believe a nation can learn from the Agnew case?

Elliot Richardson: I would hope, first, that the nation would feel that the process of criminal justice is one that it can trust and have confidence in. I would hope they would feel that the interests of the nation have been placed first by all those concerned, including the Vice President himself. I would hope that, most fundamentally, all of us would have confidence that our system works.

Elliot Richardson: Indeed, I think this is the most affirmative aspect of all that has taken place over recent months, all the disclosures, the investigations, the indictments. They have exposed the shoddy side of the governmental and political process, but they have also demonstrated that the governmental and political process is capable of uncovering these things and having uncovered them taking proper action.

Rachel Maddow: The system works. The system is not destroyed by bad people behaving badly. It can deal with bad behavior and with corruption from those in power. Our system doesn't break when that happens. It's designed to confront that problem and to fix it. And in this case, it did. A criminal occupant of the White House who tried to obstruct justice at every turn, to destroy the credibility of his own Justice Department, to smear the free press reporting on it, he was not allowed to get away with it.

Rachel Maddow: Thanks to Elliot Richardson, and George Beall, and that team of young, scrappy Baltimore prosecutors, the line of succession to the US Presidency was restored and protected, and justice was done.

Rachel Maddow: George Beall passed away not long ago. He died in January of 2017, just days before the inauguration of our current President. Upon his passing, one of his successors as US Attorney in Maryland put out a public statement honoring the work that George Beall did throughout his career, but particularly focusing on this case.

Rachel Maddow: The statement said this. "George Beall was a legendary federal prosecutor, an exemplary public servant, and a lawyer of unsurpassed integrity. Although George Beall's family was politically active, and Vice President Agnew was a member of Beall's own political party, Beall did not hesitate to pursue this case. His commitment to justice serves as an example to us all."

Rachel Maddow: That statement about one Republican having the courage to pursue another without hesitation, that was written by one of George Beall's successors as Maryland's US Attorney. It was written by Rod Rosenstein, who's now Deputy Attorney General of the United States.

Rachel Maddow: Be sure to join us next week for the final episode of Bag Man. You will want to hear how this all turns out. That's next week. We'll see you then.

Rachel Maddow: Bag Man is a production of MSNBC and NBC Universal. This series is executive produced by Mike Yarvitz. It was written by myself and Mike Yarvitz. Editorial and production support from Jonathan Hirsch and Marissa Schneiderman from Neon Hum Media. And you can find much more about the story on our website, which is

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Rachel Maddow Presents – BagMan – Episode 4: Turn It Off (transcribed by Sonix)

W. Clement Stone: This is W. Clement Stone saying I feel healthy, I feel happy, I feel terrific.

Rachel Maddow: W. Clement Stone was an eccentric, self-made millionaire. A business tycoon who transformed himself from insurance salesman into a power-of-positive thinking, self-help guru.

W. Clement Stone: I love all my fellow men. I love every one of you. And it's my sincere prayer that you respond and learn how to help yourself by learning the art of motivation.

Rachel Maddow: W. Clement Stone looked sort of the way that he sounds. He had a pencil-thin mustache. He was always immaculately dressed in a bow tie and a vest, sometimes a big cigar. He was an ostentatiously wealthy millionaire who wanted you to be a millionaire too. And the way you could do it was by purchasing his motivational records. The Sounds of Success.

Announcer: The Combined Group of Companies presents The Sounds of Success.

Rachel Maddow: W. Clement Stone's patented self-help you can be rich to mantra was PMA, positive mental attitude.

Rachel Maddow: And in the Fall of 1973, he came to the rescue of a man whose mental attitude and whose life, in general, had suddenly become something quite less than positive.

John Chancellor: Good evening. For the first time in American history, a grand jury today began hearing evidence, which could link a Vice President to criminal charges. The federal prosecutor's office in Baltimore began, in strict secrecy, the presentation of evidence concerning Spiro Agnew.

Rachel Maddow: Vice President Spiro Agnew was facing the prospect of a federal indictment on bribery and extortion charges. And what John Chancellor said there was right, nothing like that had ever happened before in US history. And in that darkest hour, the man who rode to the rescue of the Vice President was W. Clement Stone.

Rachel Maddow: That fall of 1973 with the possible indictment of the Vice President looming, Stone's setup the official Spiro T. Agnew Legal Defense Fund. In a slightly over-the-top press release, he described how honored he was to start accepting donations from average Americans on behalf of the Vice President. He estimated that Agnew's defense bills could reach a half-million dollars. And after setting up a nationwide phone bank to start taking in those donations from across the country, W. Clement Stone, by the end of that first week, had raked in all of about 300 bucks. It didn't work.

Rachel Maddow: But Spiro Agnew did like having celebrity friends like W. Clement Stone. Frank Sinatra also came to his aid. Sinatra hit up his friends to give money to Agnew. One friend of Sinatra's reportedly told him in response, "Look, we don't give a damn about Agnew, but if you want some money, Frank, we'll give it to you.".

Rachel Maddow: The truth was Spiro Agnew really did need the money. He had hired this team of big-name lawyers who were waging an aggressive battle in the courts to try to keep him out of jail. He also had his PR strategy, at that point, which was to throw the kitchen sink at his own Justice Department to attack the prosecutors as biased. That was the strategy that was happening out loud in public, so you could see it.

Rachel Maddow: But there was also his strategy that was hidden from public view. Hidden then and hidden for years after. That was the one Spiro Agnew had been waging secretly from the very beginning. It was a coordinated effort to obstruct justice, to use the power of his position in the White House to block that investigation, to shut it down before it closed in on him. And that story, the story of that secret obstruction effort, it hasn't even been known to the prosecutors who were investigating Agnew at the time. They are about to hear it here for the first time.

Rachel Maddow: You're listening to Bag Man. I'm your host, Rachel Maddow.

John Chancellor: For the first time in American history, a grand jury today began hearing evidence which could link a Vice President to criminal charges.

HR "Bob" Haldeman: He feels the publication of this stuff would finish the VP.

Barney Sklonik: That's the kind of classic crap that we feared might happen.

Ron Liebman: Forty-five years later, and my blood still boils when I read stuff like that.

Chris Hayes: Hey, it's MSNBC's Chris Hayes. If you enjoyed Bag Man, be sure to check out my friend, Rachel Maddow, on my podcast, Why is This Happening?, where I get the opportunity to dig deep into the forces behind the stories playing out in the news in order to understand why certain cultural and political phenomena came to be. Rachel joins me to talk about covering the news in this unprecedented political moment. We also talk all about Bag Man and how this incredible podcast came to be. So, click on over and check out Why is This Happening? And you can listen now wherever you get your podcasts.

Rachel Maddow: Episode 4: Turn it Off.

Barney Sklonik: This is an actual conversation?

Mike Yarvitz: Yeah, transcript of an audio recorded conversation.

Barney Sklonik: Whoa. Oh my God. This is beautiful.

Rachel Maddow: You've heard from Barney Skolnik before. He was the senior prosecutor at the US Attorney's Office in Baltimore in the spring of 1973. What he's reacting to here is a transcript of a conversation that he has never seen before. My producer, Mike Jarvis, gave him a copy.

Barney Sklonik: "There's an investigation going on in Maryland. He asked Bob for help in turning it off." Okay. Well, these are fun.

Mike Yarvitz: Well, let me give you a couple more.

Barney Sklonik: Don't get my juices flowing. I mean, I'm too old for this shit.

Rachel Maddow: In the spring of 1973, this team of young federal prosecutors in Baltimore, led by Barney Skolnick, they were hot on Spiro Agnew's trail.

Rachel Maddow: Agnew had been the Governor of Maryland before becoming Vice President. He'd been Baltimore County Executive before that. And what this team of prosecutors had just discovered is that throughout his time in government, Spiro Agnew had been a crook. He was a shakedown artist. He had been extorting money from government contractors for years, demanding payoffs, excepting envelopes stuffed with cash. It all started back when he was first elected in Maryland politics, but it continued right through his time as Vice President. It was cash delivered to him, usually through a Bag Man, in exchange for government contracts that he controlled.

Rachel Maddow: And in early 1973 when Spiro Agnew first learned that there was some investigation going on back in Maryland, he started taking actions almost immediately to try to make that investigation go away. What we know about this secret effort from within the White House to interfere with that ongoing investigation, we know about because there are tapes.

Richard Nixon: You've got it across very strong to him that this is terribly important.

Rachel Maddow: Richard Nixon's secret White House recording system famously led to his own demise as President. But the tapes from that recording system also picked up hours of conversations about this investigation in Maryland that was closing in on the Vice President.

Rachel Maddow: In April 1973, Vice President Agnew first heard that one of his co-conspirators, a man named Jerry Wolff, was on the radar of prosecutors.

Ron Liebman: Jerry Wolff, who is another one of these guys, became hysterical in his lawyer's office, we were later told, and was screaming in the hall about, you know, "He's going to take everybody down." You know, he was — It was terrible pressure.

Rachel Maddow: Jerry Wolff had been a really big part of Agnew's bribery scheme. He got a cut of the payoffs himself, he knew all about what Agnew was doing. And when Agnew learned that Jerry Wolff was about to be questioned by prosecutors, he went to one of President Nixon's closest aides, White House chief of staff HR Haldeman, for help.

HR "Bob" Haldeman: Wednesday, April 10th, the President got me in first thing this morning.

Rachel Maddow: What you're hearing right now is an audio diary that Bob Haldeman kept during his time as Nixon's White House Chief of Staff. Here's what he recorded that night about a conversation he'd had with Agnew that day.

HR "Bob" Haldeman: Vice President called me over today and said he had a real problem, because Jerry Wolff, who used to work for him back in Maryland, and then brought him to Washington with him, is about to be called by the US Attorney up there who's busting open campaign contribution cases and kickbacks to contractors. It seems that Wolff kept verbatim records of meetings with the Vice President and others back over the years.

Rachel Maddow: Agnew tells the White House Chief of Staff that this guy, who's now under scrutiny by prosecutors, he kept verbatim notes of all his meetings. Agnew clearly knew that Jerry Wolff was a really dangerous witness. If he squealed, he could potentially unravel the whole thing. What Agnew wanted HR Haldeman to do about this threat was help him stop the prosecutors.

Rachel Maddow: Now, in order to understand what you're about to hear on these tapes, there's one other character that you need to know about. The US attorney in Maryland who is leading that investigation was someone we've talked about a lot, a Republican US Attorney named George Beall. He oversaw that team of federal prosecutors. He also came from a family that was, basically, Republican royalty in Maryland.

Rachel Maddow: Part of the reason that he was Republican royalty was at the time that George Beall was leading this investigation out of the US Attorney's Office, his older brother was a sitting US senator from Maryland, Republican Senator Glenn Beall.

Glenn Beall: The United States is the strongest free country on the face of the Earth. And since we are that, we are interested in promoting freedom around the world.

Rachel Maddow: And Spiro Agnew and the Nixon White House, they thought that Glenn Beall, the Senator, would be their key to making this entire investigation go away.

HR "Bob" Haldeman: He made the point that George Beall, who's Glenn Beall's brother, is the US Attorney there. And that if Glenn Beall would talk to him, he could straighten it out. The Vice President's tried to get him to, but apparently not successfully. So, he wanted me to talk to Glenn Beall, which, of course, I won't do, in order to verify a White House awareness and concern. He feels the publication of this stuff would finish the VP because Wolff was with him for so long.

Rachel Maddow: If you're ever trying to explain the concept of "obstruction of justice" to a second grader, this would be a good case study.

Rachel Maddow: The Vice President believes that what this witness will say could finish him. He tries to get the White House to stop the prosecutor from questioning that witness by pressuring the prosecutor through his family. It is an overt, spelled-out effort to use political power and political leverage to shut down this potent criminal case.

Rachel Maddow: That said, if it was just a failed effort, if this had ended there at that conversation with HR Haldeman, and Haldeman saying he wouldn't do it, then you could maybe just chalk it up to the Vice President blowing off steam and having obstructionist inclinations.

Rachel Maddow: But it didn't stop at that conversation. Bob Haldeman didn't agree to pressure Senator Glenn Beall himself, but he did relay that request from Agnew to another top Nixon aide, John Ehrlichman. And then, three days later, Ehrlichman was discussing it with President Nixon in the Oval Office.

Rachel Maddow: Now, don't worry about picking up every word here. I will sum up the gist of what you're about to hear. The first voice you're going to hear is John Ehrlichman, and the voice you're going to hear in the background is President Richard Nixon.

John Ehrlichman: Did Bob tell you about his meeting with Agnew?

Richard Nixon: No. I didn't see Bob and Agnew. What is it? He saw him?

John Ehrlichman: Well, he saw him two or three days ago. And your Vice President has problems of his own.

Rachel Maddow: "Your vice president has problems of his own," Ehrlichman tells Nixon. What you're going to hear next is Nixon asking if this has something to do with Watergate. Ehrlichman, then, has to correct him, get him up to speed to let him know that this is Agnew's own totally separate scandal.

Richard Nixon: With this?

John Ehrlichman: No, something else, back when he was governor. Apparently, there's an investigation going on in Maryland, and he asked Bob for help in turning it off.

Rachel Maddow: "There's an investigation going on in Maryland, and he asked Bob for help in turning it off."

Rachel Maddow: And, again, if it just stopped right there, if Nixon, Ehrlichman, and Haldeman all said, "Agnew was trying to get us to interfere with this investigation, but we obviously can't do that," if it had stopped right there, then maybe, but it didn't stop there. Days later, Agnew himself was in the Oval Office putting a plan in place with the President himself to obstruct this investigation, to shut it down.

Rachel Maddow: The tape you're about to hear now is a little bit rough. Don't worry about picking up every word. What you'll hear first is Agnew venting to President Nixon in the Oval Office about that US Attorney in Maryland, George Beall, who's been digging into the county where Agnew got his start.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: Can you imagine a guy going into an in-depth investigation and going into the county that I was in at the beginning of this ..

Rachel Maddow: Agnew's complaining here about this US Attorney, George Beall. And what Nixon immediately moves to is, " Who is this US Attorney and what can we do about it?" Listen.

Richard Nixon: Who is this US Attorney that's handling it? Is it Beall?

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: Beall.

Richard Nixon: Well, is he a good boy? Why the hell did we appoint him?

Rachel Maddow: "Is he a good boy?," that's what Nixon asked Agnew. "Why the hell did we appoint him?" What the two men, then, start putting together is a plan to start pressuring George Beall to stop this investigation. What you'll hear in this next clip is Agnew, first, talking about all the IRS agents who have been assigned to the case. And then, Nixon and Agnew talk about getting to George Beall, getting to the prosecutor through, his brother, Republican Senator Glenn Beall.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: He's got 30 IRS people in there snooping around. They're lookig at everybody, every angle.

Richard Nixon: Well, how can we get that word to him though?

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: Glean Beall's the only way to influence this.

Richard Nixon: The senator?

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: Yes.

Richard Nixon: Well, look, has Glenn Beall been talked to? Well, Glenn Beall better take a real deep. We helped him bury that one in '70.

Rachel Maddow: What you heard Nixon say at the end there is, "We helped Glenn Beall bury that in 1970."

Rachel Maddow: That was actually the key here. Senator Glenn Beall owed the Nixon White House because Nixon and Agnew helped him get elected. The father of George Beall and Glenn Beall had previously held that US Senate seat in Maryland, but a Democrat had beaten him and taken the seat in 1964. When that seat came up again in 1970, Nixon and Agnew helped the Beall family avenge that loss and take back that seat in the US Senate.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: I think we have a candidate in Glen Beall that we can be extremely proud of. I think he's a candidate who will carry the …

Rachel Maddow: And it worked. The Republican Party got that Senate seat in Maryland back, but so did the Beall family. And, now, one of the Beall's sons was going to try to destroy Spiro Agnew with this investigation? No. Nixon and Agnew decided no. Now, it was time for Senator Glenn Beall to return the favor and to shut down his little brother.

Rachel Maddow: Agnew goes on in that conversation to bring up a potential witness who might tell prosecutors that he came to the White House to hand Agnew an envelope full of cash.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: He may say he gave me a kickback of some kind, came over here, and handed me $50,000. That is totally ridiculous.

Rachel Maddow: Agnew says that claim would be totally ridiculous, but listen to how Nixon responds to that, to this idea of a witness who could incriminate Agnew inside the White House. Listen to the very end of this.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: There are all kinds of rumors.

Richard Nixon: Good God, isn't it awful?

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: But this man is-

Richard Nixon: Well, can we destroy him?

Rachel Maddow: Did you hear Nixon at the end there? He says about this witness, "Can we destroy him?" So, what the President and the Vice President are discussing in the Oval Office at this point is, number one, how they can get a US Attorney to shut down an ongoing investigation of the Vice President? And number two, how they might destroy any witnesses who might try to come forward with information on the Vice President?

Rachel Maddow: But there is one more piece of this conversation I want to play. What they're talking about here is instructing the US Attorney George Beall, specifically, to fire the main prosecutor working on the case., Barney Skolnik.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: Somehow, get Glenn Beall or Georgie Beall, the brother, to realize that he's — to get — go in there, finish up what he's doing. Get this thing over with, and get this guy, Skolnik, who's a Muskie volunteer, the hell out of his office.

Rachel Maddow: "Get this thing over with, and get this guy, Skolnik, who's a Muskie volunteer, the hell out of his office." So, end the investigation now and fire the lead investigator from the case, Barney Skolnik. He's a Democrat.

Rachel Maddow: That was June 1973. Fast forward a little more than a year, Nixon resigns after the revelation of his role in obstructing the investigation into Watergate. The first article of impeachment drawn up against Nixon was obstruction of justice for his role in trying to cover up that scandal.

Rachel Maddow: But what we can, now, hear on these tapes is a robust obstruction effort by Nixon and Agnew totally separate from Watergate. It's Richard Nixon hearing about an investigation into his Vice President and saying, "How do we go about shutting this down? How do we use the power of the White House to force the prosecutors to drop the case? How do we destroy witnesses that might come forward?" And they weren't just musing about doing this. They did it. That's next.

HR "Bob" Haldeman: Monday, April 30th, Resignation Day.

Rachel Maddow: In April 1973, Richard Nixon's White House Chief of Staff HR Haldeman suddenly resigned over his role in Watergate. When he did, the man Nixon named as his replacement, his new Chief of Staff was General Al Haig.

Male Voice: Press secretary Ron Ziegler said General Haig's appointment is an interim one, but he said Haig already is on the job carrying out most of the duties HR Haldeman used to perform.

Rachel Maddow: When Al Haig took over that job, one of those duties that he inherited was a White House plan that was already in action to obstruct and try to shut down a criminal investigation of the Vice President. Al Haig took the job, and he didn't miss a beat. Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew had come up with a plan to get to George Beall, the US Attorney leading that investigation, and they would get to him through his brother, a Republican US Senator named Glenn Bell. It was Haig's job to make that happen.

Rachel Maddow: And, again, we know that because there are tapes, like this one where you can hear Nixon and Haig in the Oval Office putting together a plan to have a White House adviser, named Mel Laird, be the middleman. Now, the tape here's a little rough, but you'll hear Nixon trying to figure out with Haig how to do this secretly, how to do this in a way where Nixon's fingerprints weren't on it. Nixon starts here by saying, "I think you better talk to Mel."

Richard Nixon: Well, I'll tell you, you better talk to Mel.

Al Haig: I'll talk to Mel.

Richard Nixon: I don't think I better-

Al Haig: No, no, no.

Richard Nixon: I can't have it put out that I was trying to fix the case.

Al Haig: No, no, you cannot do this.

Rachel Maddow: Nixon says there, "I can't have it put out that I was trying to fix the case." And Haig says, "No, no, you cannot do." Al Haig, then, lays out what exactly they want this Senator Glenn Beall to do for them.

Al Haig: So, if Glenn Beall can get his brother, who's the US Attorney, who we appointed, who's a Republican, but who's turned this thing over to two fanatical prosecutors, if he just sits in on them and supervises this.

Rachel Maddow: "If Glean Beall can get his brother, who's the US Attorney, who we appointed, who's a Republican, but who's turned this thing over to two fanatical prosecutors, if he just sits in on them and supervises this." In other words, what US Attorney George Beall needs to do is sit in on these fanatical prosecutors in his office who are taking this investigation to places we don't want it to go.

Rachel Maddow: Nixon and Haig are devising this plan in secret to interfere with this ongoing investigation. They, then, start putting this plan into action. But the middleman they end up using, the guy who they dragged into this obstruction scheme, ultimately, isn't Mel Laird. Who they end up using for this obstruction effort is the Chairman of the Republican National Committee at the time, a man by the name of George Herbert Walker Bush.

Rachel Maddow: The future President of the United States, George Bush, gets enlisted in this effort to reach out to Senator Glenn Beall to have him pressure his brother to shut down this investigation. Listen to this phone call between Richard Nixon and Al Haig. The audio here is a little bit distorted, but the first voice here is Nixon, and he's talking to Haig about enemies of the White House who are now going after everybody.

Richard Nixon: It's amazing, isn't it? By golly, the way they start, they go after everybody, don't they?

Al Haig: Yeah, they're after everybody. And the Vice President has been very nervous. He called me three times.

Rachel Maddow: I know. I know, and you decided to have Harlow try to — Well, he isn't here.

Al Haig: He isn't here, so I did it through George Bush on the first run.

Richard Nixon: That's good. That's good.

Rachel Maddow: "I did it through George Bush on the first run." This didn't ever stick to George HW Bush, maybe because these audiotapes have just been collecting dust for the last four decades. But George Bush was brought in to a potentially criminal effort organized and directed by the then-President of the United States, Richard Nixon, to obstruct an ongoing investigation into his Vice President.

Rachel Maddow: And George Bush did it. US Attorney George Beall ended up donating his papers to Frostburg State University in Maryland. And if you go to those archives, you can now see an official memo-to-file that US Attorney George Beall wrote that summer of 1973. In that memo to file, it is made quite clear that after the White House came up with this plan, George HW Bush did, in fact, contact US Senator Glenn Beall, and he tried to have Senator Glenn Beall get word to his little brother, the US Attorney about this investigation.

Rachel Maddow: This is what he wrote in the file. "With respect to conversations with my brother, Glenn, the discussions were most superficial and very guarded. He occasionally mentioned to me the names of persons who had been to see him or who had called him with respect to this investigation. Names of persons that I remember him telling me about included Vice President Agnew and George Bush."

Rachel Maddow: Now, there are a few amazing things here. First, of course, is that a future US President participated in what was likely a criminal scheme to obstruct justice. But there's also the fact that Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew would even attempt this sort of thing in the climate of Watergate that they were in.

Rachel Maddow: This was the summer of 1973. The Senate Watergate hearings were on TV every day. The Watergate cover-up was starting to unravel around Richard Nixon. Nixon had just fired his Chief of Staff, HR Haldeman, his White House Counsel John Dean, his Attorney General Richard Kleindienst, his top Domestic Aide John Ehrlichman. It was all supposedly to clean house from the Watergate mess.

Rachel Maddow: But right then, at the same time, Nixon and Agnew decided to undertake a whole separate effort to interfere with a totally unrelated investigation into Agnew. And the final amazing thing here is that the Baltimore federal prosecutors who were building this case against Agnew, at the time, which Agnew and Nixon were actively trying to shut down, they have never known about any of this. 45 years later, this is all brand new to them.

Barney Sklonik: This is an actual conversation?

Mike Yarvitz: Yeah, transcript of an audio recorded conversation.

Barney Sklonik: Whoa.

Mike Yarvitz: That's Barney Skolnik, the lead prosecutor on the team. Remember that audio diary from HR Haldeman?

HR "Bob" Haldeman: The Vice President called me over today and said he had a real problem.

Rachel Maddow: Here's Barney Skolnick learning about that recording for the first time.

Barney Sklonik: Oh, he had an audio diary? Jesus.

Mike Yarvitz: He made the point that George Beall, who's Glenn Beall's brother, is the US Attorney there, and that if Glenn Beall would talk to him, he could straighten it out.

Barney Sklonik: "If Glenn Beall would talk to George, he could straighten it out." Yeah. Well, you want my reaction to this. I mean, you know, it's exactly what you would think. That's the kind of classic crap that we feared might happen is, you know, somebody like Agnew going to somebody like Haldeman, to go to somebody like Glen Beall. I mean, that's — You know, that's the — What our president calls the swamp. I mean, that's — You know, that's the swamp, you know, in operation.

Mike Yarvitz: But you didn't know at the time that it was an operation.

Barney Sklonik: No. Well, I mean, we knew — We had some sense as the whole country did of what kind of administration Nixon, with Haldeman, and Enrlichman, and so on, were running. But we had no knowledge that this was happening.

Rachel Maddow: Here's Ron Liebman, another one of the Baltimore prosecutors, seeing Nixon on tape here talking about destroying a potential witness in their case.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: There are all kind of rumors.

Richard Nixon: Good God, isn't it awful?

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: But this man is-

Richard Nixon: Well, can we destroy him?

Ron Liebman: "Well, can we destroy him?" Forty-five years later, and my blood still boils when I read stuff like that.

Rachel Maddow: That conversation between Nixon and Agnew in the Oval Office, also, included them strategizing about how to pressure Senator Glenn Beall.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: Glenn Beall's the only way to influence this.

Richard Nixon: The senator?

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: Yes.

Ron Liebman: This is the Nixon White House. This is what they did across the board.

Mike Yarvitz: I mean, what does — You're a lawyer. What does that look like?

Ron Liebman: Clearly obstruction of justice or attempt to obstruct justice clearly. Clearly.

Mike Yarvitz: If you had known about that at the time, would obstruction have been something in your mind in terms of-

Ron Liebman: You bet. Yeah, you bet. Sure. I think — I don't think it would have been very difficult at all to start investigating obstruction of justice if we had known about this.

Rachel Maddow: Here's Tim Baker. He was the third prosecutor on the team. Tim Baker, himself, is referenced in one of those conversations as one of the fanatical prosecutors that's taking this investigation in a direction they didn't want it to go.

Al Haig: So, if Beall can get his brother, who's the US Attorney, who we appointed, who's a Republican, but who's turned this thing over to two fanatical prosecutors.

Tim Baker: Two fanatical prosecutors. Funny. Well, we were — I'm a fanatical. Boy, once we thought he was guilty, then we were really focused on it. We were going to do this. We were going to get this guy out of there and more.

Rachel Maddow: Tim Baker wasn't the only one of the prosecutors referenced directly in these tapes. Remember that conversation between Nixon and Agnew about getting the lead prosecutor, Barney Skolnik, thrown off the case? Barney Skolnik himself never had any idea about that.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: Get this thing over with and get this guy, Skolnik, who's a Muskie volunteer, to hell out of his office.

Barney Sklonik: Oh, there's my name. Wow. Agnew said my name. Oh joy. "Get this thing over with, and get this guy Skolnik, who's a Muskie volunteer, the hell out of his office." Oh, man, you got to give me a copy of this.

Mike Yarvitz: You can have it.

Barney Sklonik: Oh, wow. Makes my whole life worthwhile. Oh, that's beautiful. "Get him the hell out of his office." Oh, thank you, my man. This is so beautiful. Michael, you really have — You really have this. This doesn't just make my day. This makes my decade, "Get this guy, Skolnik, who's a Muskie volunteer, the hell out of his office."

Rachel Maddow: These prosecutors who are now reading through these conversations for the very first time, their emotions about this case, and what they're seeing, 45 years later, it's all still very much on the surface for them.

Ron Liebman: It makes your skin crawl, doesn't it? It really makes your skin crawl. Even 45 years later, with all the stuff that we have come across in terms of public corruption, it still makes your skin crawl.

Barney Sklonik: This is essentially somebody under investigation going to an authority — In this case, it happens to be the President — to say not just stop the investigation but get a prosecutor fired for no apparent reason other than he's running the investigation. That's obviously illegal and obstruction of justice.

Barney Sklonik: And to have political pressure put on the lead prosecutor, George, to stop the investigation, again, for no discernable reason, I mean, you know, stop the investigation because statute of limitations has run or, you know, fill in the blank, some legitimate reason but this is, "Stop it because I want it stopped because I am exposed to possible criminal prosecution." Obviously, that's obstruction of justice. I mean, all of these conversations are, if not literally illegal, they are certainly suggesting that illegal things be done.

Rachel Maddow: So, it's remarkable for us to realize that the prosecutors have never known about any of this until now. It's amazing to hear them reacting to it for the first time. But the reason they never knew about it until now is not just amazing. In a sense, it's sort of heroic. Think about what this says, what this means about their boss, George Beall, the Republican US Attorney who was overseeing their investigation.

Rachel Maddow: That coordinated obstruction effort launched by Spiro Agnew and carried out by Richard Nixon and the whole machinery of the White House and the Republican Party, that plan was actually carried out as intended. People close to Richard Nixon, including George HW Bush did, in fact, push this senator who may have owed his seat to the White House, they pushed Senator Glenn Beall to try to influence this investigation.

Rachel Maddow: Spiro Agnew himself, personally, lobbied Senator Glenn Beall over and over again. Agnew's records and papers are now held at the University of Maryland. What you find when you go through those papers, as we did, are multiple face-to-face meetings that Agnew himself held in his office with Senator Glenn Beall. It's all right there in his notes in his daily calendars

Rachel Maddow: This effort to get to that senator, to get him to help them shut down this investigation that his little brother was running, that plan was put into place. And the first part of it worked. Senator Glenn Beall himself took all of that pressure that he was getting, and he did, in fact, reach out to his little brother, George, about it.

Rachel Maddow: In that same memo to file in his papers in the Frostburg State Archive, George says his older brother related to him expressions of concern from George Bush, and Agnew, and others. His senator brother was contacting him, telling him about all the powerful and important people in Washington who'd been in touch with him, concerned about Georgia's investigation. The obstruction effort got to George Beall. And George Beall memorialized that pressure that he was getting for the record, for history, but he stopped it there. We, now, know he never once passed a word of any of it along to his team of young federal prosecutors who were just quietly working that case.

Tim Baker: There wasn't any moment in which the George hesitated at all about this.

Ron Liebman: George never, to me, as far as I know to my colleagues, never once said anything like, "Hey, you know, my brother called, and he says this is really causing a problem. Are we really sure about this? Do we really want to do this?" Nothing like that ever, ever happened.

Barney Sklonik: There was never any. Not only was there never any specific information along those lines, but there was never any indirect indication from the way George spoke to us that anything his brother had said to him had any effect. Whatever they wanted George to do, he didn't do.

Rachel Maddow: If that had happened, there would have been the mutiny of mutinies on the part of Tim, Barney, and me. There would have been a world-class mutiny, but it wouldn't have happened because there's no way that our boss, George Beall, would come near that, 100%.

Rachel Maddow: US Attorney George BeAll was all of 35 years old at the time. He was a Republican on the rise in Maryland. He had his whole career in Republican politics ahead of him, but he refused to bow to that pressure that was coming right at him from this Republican White House through his direct family.

Rachel Maddow: This coordinated obstruction effort that involved Vice President Agnew, President Nixon, HR Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, Al Haig, George Bush, this coordinated effort to shut down an investigation into the sitting Vice President, it failed. And it failed because this Republican US Attorney was in a position of responsibility. He had this investigation to pursue, and he never once blinked.

Rachel Maddow: And so, what happened next when that obstruction effort failed because of him? Richard Nixon had been actively trying to interfere with this investigation on behalf of his Vice President. But when that effort failed, Nixon was more than willing to turn on Agnew in order to save himself. And that is when things went totally off the rails, to the point where Spiro Agnew actually believed that Richard Nixon might be plotting to have him killed.

Male Voice: You say that you were actually fearful that if you did not go along, President Nixon might have ordered you assassinated. Could you explain that?

Rachel Maddow: That is a real live part of this story, and that is still to come. I'm Rachel Maddow. And this is Bag Man.

Rachel Maddow: Bag Man is a production of MSNBC and NBC Universal. This series is executive produced by Mike Yarvitz. It was written by myself and Mike Yarvitz. Editorial and production support from Jonathan Hirsch and Marissa Schneiderman from Neon Hum Media. And, by the way, if you want to see that memo to file that George Beall put in his archives at Frostburg State University, we have posted it at, along with a whole bunch of other materials you might want to see from this episode.

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Rachel Maddow Presents – BagMan – Episode 3: Hang In There, Baby (transcribed by Sonix)

Martin London: My name is Martin London. And in 1973, I was part of the defense team for our client, Spiro T. Agnew, who was Vice President of the United States.

Rachel Maddow: Martin London was an attorney at a prestigious, white-shoe, New York City law firm called Paul Weiss. London had recently wrapped up a high-profile case representing Jackie Kennedy, the former First Lady of the United States. But in the summer of 1973, along with the rest of the country, Martin London was busy following every development of the rapidly unfolding Watergate saga.

John Chancellor: Good evening, it was John Mitchell's turn at the Senate Watergate Committee today. he spent the whole day in the witness chair.

Rachel Maddow: One afternoon, that frantic summer of Watergate, Marty London's law partner got a phone call from an unknown number in Washington DC.

Martin London: He says to me, "Marty, I just got the strangest call. A fellow me," and he says, "He introduces himself. He's from Chuck Colson's firm in Washington, DC. and he asked me if I can come to Washington DC tomorrow morning to meet a new client."

Rachel Maddow: That caller presented Marty London and his law partner Jay Topkis with that cryptic offer about a mystery client who needed representation fast.

Martin London: "Well, that's very interesting. Who is the client?" And he says, "Well, I can't mention his name on the phone. It's so secure. It's so confidential. I'm not allowed to mention his name." So, Jay says, "Well, what is he?" He says, "He's a very high government official." And Topkis says, "Oh, is he a congressman?" The caller says, "Higher." He says, "Is he a senator?" He says, "Higher." He says, "Oh my goodness, is he a Cabinet Official?" He says, "Higher." He says, "Oh my God, you're talking about the President of the United States?" He says, "Not quite so high."

Rachel Maddow: It was early August. Marty London and his law partner hopped on a flight from New York City down to Washington DC to sit down with their new client, the Vice President.

Martin London: I found the Vice President to be everything I did not expect him to be. He was charming, he was soft spoken, he was gracious, he was a nice guy. You would meet him and you would like him.

Rachel Maddow: The reason Vice President Spiro Agnew needed to beef up his legal team, and on very short notice, is because that night, the federal criminal investigation targeting him was about to go public.

Male Voice: This is NBC Nightly News. Tuesday, August 7th. Reported tonight from Washington by John Chancellor.

John Chancellor: Good evening. Washington was stunned today by the disclosure that Vice President Agnew was under criminal investigation by federal authorities in his home state of Maryland. Involved are possible charges of bribery, extortion, and tax evasion. Agnew says he is innocent. A member of his staff said today "You are probably going to hear more that is terribly serious."

Rachel Maddow: The President of the United States was already under investigation in Watergate. And, now, the Vice President was the subject of a criminal bribery-and-extortion investigation of his own. He'd been secretly accepting envelopes of cash inside the White House and inside his own Vice Presidential residence. That investigation had been such a well-kept secret that the day it broke publicly, Agnew's own staff, including top aides like David Keene, they had no idea it had been going on.

David Keene: I was in Hilton Head taking a few days off. And Johnny Damgard called me and said, "Dave, you have to get back here because the Vice President is thinking about canceling his schedule. And there's nothing I can do." He was the scheduler. I said, "What?" You know, he said, "Yeah, there's an investigation going on." And it broke with an article in The Wall Street Journal.

Rachel Maddow: The press, which had been working the Watergate story all summer long, they now had this giant new scandal, and they were instantly all over it.

Ron Liebman: And it took about three seconds for the American press to attack the federal courthouse.

Rachel Maddow: That's Ron Liebman, one of the prosecutors who had been quietly pursuing the case.

Ron Liebman: I remember the FBI came in and talked to us about how we had to secure our files, and we had to put them in the lead file cabinets, and had to take my name out of the out of the directory assistance — phone books in those days — none of which we did. We told them, "Yeah, okay." We're really don't have the time for that right now. "Okay, fine. We'll take care of it." "Are you sure?" "Yeah, yeah, yeah. We will." I mean, the press was — There was a frenzy.

Rachel Maddow: All of this press attention that was now being paid to this team of Baltimore investigators, it was partly because this was a giant case they had broken open, a bribery scandal involving the sitting Vice President.

Rachel Maddow: But the other reason they were the focus of so much attention at that time is because the target of that investigation, the Vice President, had decided that his defense would be about them. His defense would be that there was this biased and partisan group of investigators who were unfairly persecuting him from inside his own Justice Department for their own treacherous reasons.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: Some Justice Department officials have decided to indict me in the press, whether or not the evidence supports their position. This is a clear and outrageous effort to influence the outcome of possible grand jury deliberations. I will fight. I will fight to prove my innocence, and that I intend to remain in the high office to which I have been twice elected.

Rachel Maddow: Spiro Agnew, with his back against the wall, with the investigation of him now public, he started attacking that investigation as a witch-hunt, as a witch hunt led by politically-motivated, biased, bad actors inside the Justice Department.

Rachel Maddow: This was something new in American politics. A sitting occupant of the White House, under criminal investigation, trying to save himself by declaring war on his own Justice Department.

Rachel Maddow: You're listening to Bag Man. I'm your host Rachel Maddow.

Male Voice: For the first time in American history, a grand jury today began hearing evidence, which could link a vice president to criminal charges.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: They are trying to recoup their reputation at my expense. I'm a big trophy.

Male Voice: Republicans are hearing from their constituents that this is our guy.

Male Voice: Will you inform me what he's done? No one has. That's not American justice

Chris Hayes: Hey, it's MSNBC's Chris Hayes. If you enjoyed Bag Man, be sure to check out my friend, Rachel Maddow, on my podcast, Why is This Happening?, where I get the opportunity to dig deep into the forces behind the stories playing out in the news in order to understand why certain cultural and political phenomena came to be. Rachel joins me to talk about covering the news in this unprecedented political moment. We also talk all about Bag Man, and how this incredible podcast came to be. So, click on over and check out Why is This Happening? And you can listen now wherever you get your podcasts.

Rachel Maddow: Episode 3: Hang in There, Baby.

Rachel Maddow: The 1970s Republican Party was a big tent political party. It was the Barry Goldwater Libertarian Republicans of the '60s. It was right-wing conservatives, who would later make up the Reagan Revolution. There were moderate and liberal Republicans, but none of those ideological slivers of the party had a monopoly on the energy and the legwork that it takes to really get stuff done in politics. Inside the Republican Party, everybody knew who the real activists were, the real soldiers who really got stuff done, Republican women.

David Keene: I mean, the two arms of the Republican Party that were important were the young Republican Federation and the Women's Federation because that's where the ground troops came from. The Democrats had the unions. We had the women.

Rachel Maddow: That's David Keene again. He was the top political aide for Vice President Agnew in 1973. And that fall, when Agnew was looking for a place to mount his big public defense against the investigation into him, when he was looking for friendly territory, David Keene knew there was no better place than an event that was about to pop up on the political calendar, the Annual Convention of the National Federation of Republican Women.

David Keene: That's the place to do it. That's your army.

Rachel Maddow: The National Federation of Republican Women held their convention in Los Angeles that fall of 1973. In the fall of '73, Spiro Agnew was fighting for his political life.

Garrick Utley: Time Magazine today quotes officials in the Department of Justice as saying that the case against Vice President Agnew is growing steadily stronger and that an indictment appears inevitable.

Rachel Maddow: Agnew now had lawyers like Marty London who are fighting his battles in court, but Agnew himself had devised a very specific PR strategy for his own survival, a full-frontal assault on the Justice Department that was investigating him, attack the investigators in order to discredit the investigation. And that gathering of Republican women in Los Angeles, that would be his venue for launching that public attack.

Male Voice: We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you this NBC News Special Report. Vice President Spiro Agnew is about to speak in Los Angeles.

Rachel Maddow: If you want to get a sense for how the hardcore Republican base felt about Spiro Agnew, even when he was in the worst legal trouble of his life, just listen to the reception he got from that crowd of Republican women in Los Angeles that day.

Female Voices: Fight Agnew, fight. Fight Agnew, Fight. Fight Agnew, fight. Fight Agnew, fight. Fight Agnew, fight.

Rachel Maddow: Even before he showed up, the hall was electric. These Republican women activists were holding homemade signs that said, "Spiro is My Hero." One newspaper reporter in the hall said the enthusiasm these Republican women had for Agnew was maybe surpassed only by the hostility they had for the press that was there to cover him.

Rachel Maddow: That reporter wrote, "Some women approached newsmen ready for a fight. Several women took notes or tape-recorded Agnew's speech themselves, so they could report on it when they returned home. A precaution they said in case the papers did not tell the entire story."

Rachel Maddow: This was a crowd that was angry at the press and they had full-faith in the man they were there to see. And what Spiro Agnew unleashed in that packed convention hall was an all-out attack on the Justice Department, the likes of which nobody had really seen before in US politics.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: Irrespective of the claims of certain individuals in the Department of Justice, it was not through my fault that this became a non-secret procedure, but through deliberately contrived actions of individuals in the prosecutorial system of the United States, and I regard those as outrageous and malicious. And if we find, in fact, that in Baltimore or in Washington, individuals employed by the Department of Justice have abused their sacred trust and forsaken their professional standards, then I will ask the President of the United States to summarily discharge those individuals.

Rachel Maddow: The Vice President there was calling his own Justice Department malicious and out of control. And with that crowd of Republican women hanging on his every word, he then started targeting specific officials inside the Justice Department, including the head of the Criminal Division who was directly involved in his case.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: I say this to you, the conduct of high individuals in the Department of Justice, particularly the conduct of the chief of the Criminal Investigation Division of that department, is unprofessional, and malicious, and outrageous if I am to believe what has been printed in the news magazines and said on the television networks of this country, and I have had no denial that that is the case.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: People will say to me "Why? You don't make sense. Why should a Republican Department of Justice and a Republican prosecutor attempt to get you?" Well, I don't know all the answers, but I would say this, that individuals in the upper professional echelons of the Department of Justice have been severely stung by their ineptness in the prosecution of the Watergate case, and they are trying to recoup their reputation at my expense. I'm a big trophy.

Rachel Maddow: Now, keep in mind Richard Nixon, who at this point was neck deep in Watergate trouble, he had not even taken the pretty extraordinary step of attacking his Justice Department, at least, not in public, not like this. But here was the Vice President at a Republican rally accusing officials in the Justice Department of professional misconduct, accusing the investigators of leaking information about him to the press, pledging to seek out bad actors participating in the investigation to have them purged from the department.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: I want to make another thing so clear that it cannot be mistaken in the future, because of these tactics, which have been employed against me, because small and fearful men have been frightened into furnishing evidence against me, they have perjured themselves in many cases it's my understanding, I will not resign if indicted, I will not resign if indicted.

Rachel Maddow: The strategy here wasn't to challenge the specific and credible allegations of wrongdoing that were now public. This was a strategy to smear the investigators who were looking into him, to smear them as biased and corrupt, to accuse them of leading a witch-hunt against him. This was a strategy, specifically, to convince the Republican base, the party activists in that crowd and Republicans watching at home, that the corrupt Justice Department and the biased press were out to get him, and his supporters shouldn't believe either of them. This is a deliberate strategy and it worked. At least, in the short run, it worked.

Rachel Maddow: After that speech, Agnew started receiving hundreds of letters from supporters all across the country. There are boxes and boxes of these letters that you can see in Agnew's files at the University of Maryland to this day, the letters he received and even the replies that he sent.

Rachel Maddow: One couple from Kansas City wrote, "Dear Mr. Vice President we believe in your innocence. Give them hell. The press and the liberals are out to get you and all conservatives." One school-teacher from Colorado wrote to him, "I'm sick of what the media and the Democrats are doing. They lost, and they can't take it.".

Rachel Maddow: A man named Joe Taylor from Missouri wrote, "Dear Veep. Give the god damned sons-of-bitches hell. It's a good thing somebody in Washington has guts enough to say something and fight back." Agnew, actually, responded to that one. He wrote back, "Dear Mr. Taylor. Thank you for your very kind letter and for your excellent advice. Warm regards."

Rachel Maddow: Again, the allegations that were public at that point were that Agnew had been illegally extorting people throughout his time in public office, up to and including accepting cash payoffs throughout his time in the White House. But Republicans across the country really didn't seem to mind.

Rachel Maddow: And they didn't just write letters to Spiro Agnew about it. The Attorney General Elliot Richardson also started getting these letters. But his were just bins, and bins, and bins full of hate mail. "I hope you and all your smart Justice Department lawyers are pleased," one woman wrote to him, "I feel you have done a great wrong to this nation. And one day, you are going to have to pay."

Rachel Maddow: One woman from Lubbock, Texas wrote, "Are you a Democrat or has this been done by the Democrat Party? If so, that explains it, for it looks like they can't bear for the Republicans to get any glory or praise for anything." One man wrote, "I believe there is deliberate malice from the liberal news media and also from politicians who fear Mr. Agnew's appeal to the average American."

Rachel Maddow: Agnew was defending himself, not by attacking the actual case against him, but by attacking the institution of the Department of Justice and the specific people bringing the case against him. These three young prosecutors who had led the case against Agnew: Tim Baker, Ron Liebman, Barney Skolnick, they were all now fair game. Here's Tim Baker.

Tim Baker: I remember Agnew saying that Skolnick was a Muskie volunteer and I, horror, had been to show what a complete Pinko I was. I had been a Peace Corps volunteer.

Rachel Maddow: Discredit the investigation by going after the investigators, that was the first part of Agnew strategy. Agnew's legal team had something else up their sleeves. That's next.

John Chancellor: Good evening. In the matter of possible criminal charges against Vice President Agnew, it was a dizzying, bewildering, and historic day.

Rachel Maddow: Once the investigation of Spiro Agnew went public in the summer of 1973, something started happening in the coverage of the scandal that the Vice President's lawyers quickly tried to turn to their advantage. They noticed that some articles about the investigation seemed to contain lots and lots of very specific details about the case, details that were supplied to reporters by anonymous sources. Here's Agnew's defense lawyer Marty London.

Martin London: We were made aware of great varieties of newspapers who had always begun their articles with, "High sources in the Justice Department have told us that," or "High government officials report to us that," but there was no question, this was a very leaky investigation.

Rachel Maddow: Agnew's public defense at that point was to portray the Justice Department as corrupt, portray the media as out to get him. All of these leaks to the press. This was a golden opportunity for Agnew's lawyers to nail both of those targets at once, the Justice Department for leaking and the horrible press for publishing those leaks without unnamed sources.

Rachel Maddow: With that two-birds-one=stone idea as their basic strategy, Agnew's legal team decided they would pursue the leaks about the case in court. They came up with a fairly radical plan to try to prove that the Justice Department was the source of those leaks to the press. Their plan was to put individual news reporters under oath and try to force them to testify about their sources.

Rachel Maddow: Agnew already had a well-earned reputation for being hostile to the press. Well, now, his lawyers would try to turn that into legal strategy too. The question was, would the court go along with it? Marty London's request to the judge, his demand to the judge, was pretty extraordinary.

Martin London: I reached into my briefcase and pulled out of an order that I had written the day before. I said, "Here's an order. All you got to do is sign it." What the order does is gives us the opportunity to put these reporters under oath. If you want to know if they're telling the truth, let's put them under oath. And while we're at it, taking their depositions, let's take the depositions of the government's officials too.

Martin London: The judge said, "Well, that seems like a pretty sensible idea to me." George Bill, I think he almost had a coronary. He was a young fellow. I was if I was afraid for his health. They got red in the face. They said, "This is outrageous." They said, "This has never been done before. There's no rule permitting this. There's no precedent for this. It's just not right." And the judge said, "Where do I sign?" And that's really, to use a legal expression, that's when the shit hit the fan.

Rachel Maddow: Agnew's legal team was trying to change the story, so it was no longer about the alleged criminal activity of the Vice President, it was instead about criminal misconduct on the part of these investigators.

Martin London: I was a lawyer here. I'm not a judge, and I'm not a philosopher king. In this case, it was in my interest to get as much information from that journalist as I could.

Rachel Maddow: Marty London got that judge to sign off on this order, to haul in news reporters, and put them under oath. And then, he sent out a raft of subpoenas to reporters from The New York Times, The Washington Post, The NBC News, Time Magazine, Newsweek magazine, nine reporters in all from the biggest news outlets in the country, demanding their testimony.

Martin London: The press was up in arms, and they had fashioned lapel buttons, you know, it said, "Free the Agnew nine," because they all swore they'd go to jail before they would testify. And I got a call from a reporter from a local New York newspaper who says, "Marty, I'm in deep shit here. You killed me." I said, "What did I d?" He said, "I didn't get a subpoena.".

Martin London: We had, at that time, what was known as subpoena envy. Everybody wanted a subpoena. I said, "Well, look, I really — I apologize. No hard feelings. I only served subpoenas on people who wrote stories that said they had sources." And he said, "I did that. I did that." I said, "Send me your article, and I'll send you a subpoena." So, he sent me the article, and I sent him with a subpoena. And the Free the Agnew Nine became Free the Agnew Ten.

Rachel Maddow: This strategy from the Agnew legal team turned into a bit of a circus, but that was by design. It put all sorts of pressure on the Justice Department about these supposed leaks. And the American press corps, which had been covering the actual allegations against the Vice President up until that point, they got completely sideways defending themselves over these subpoenas.

David Brinkley: So, they are showering subpoenas all over town, and ordering reporters to come to Baltimore, and tell where they got their news. Those responding so far say they will tell nothing. Whether or not these lawyers learn much about that, they will have succeeded, to some extent, in turning the public's attention away from their client, and turning the attention and some abuse on the press.

Rachel Maddow: So, the American press corps was now under attack by the Vice President and his lawyers, rather gleefully, and the Justice Department too. The Baltimore prosecutors who were still assembling their case, they were not only being attacked publicly by the Vice President, they were now also being threatened by Agnew's lawyers as potential criminals themselves. Here's Barney Skolnik.

Barney Skolnik: I mean, it was — it really was ludicrous. I mean, we're investigating the case, and suddenly, people are coming from Washington to present us with — You know, strangers are coming from the Department of Justice in Public Integrity Section or something and saying, "Here, this is an affidavit about, you know, whether or not you have leaked, and you must fill it out, and you must sign it." Everybody. I mean, it wasn't just — It was the secretaries. I mean, it was-

Rachel Maddow: This was a maximum pressure campaign that Agnew's lawyers launched against the Justice Department and these individual prosecutors all to try to put them on the defensive. And to this day, Agnew's lawyers believe, Marty London believes that this pressure worked. Prosecutors themselves, like Tim Baker, they still bristle at that idea. The first voice you'll hear is producer Mike Jarvis.

Mike Yarvitz: He thinks that the pressure that they were able to put on the Justice Department about this issue of leaks-

Tim Baker: Phooey.

Mike Yarvitz: … was-

Tim Baker: Bullshit.

Mike Yarvitz: … what ultimately-

Tim Baker: Phooey. There wasn't any pressure about leaks. We weren't leaking anything. We knew it. They weren't going to be able to prove that we leaked anything because we hadn't. The pressure was get the guy out of the Vice Presidency. That was always the pressure.

Rachel Maddow: Whether they had leaked anything or not, this was a strategy. The Vice President was trying to save himself by targeting the press, and by targeting these prosecutors, and dragging them through the mud. And the prosecutors couldn't publicly defend themselves. Instead, they reacted to that strategy from Agnew by doubling down on what they could do, by doubling down on their case.

Ron Liebman: That was noise, noise to be pushed aside. We knew that. That's all designed to distract you. Don't let it distract you. We were too good for that. Kids that we were, we were too good for that.

Rachel Maddow: For all of that noise and distraction that Agnew brought to bear on this investigation and against the prosecutors, it didn't just come from him and his lawyers. He had political backup. A whole army of Republicans in Congress who are about to rush to his defense.

Male Voice: At the Capitol, the Vice President got some welcome support from fellow Republicans, GOP senators of all shades rose to his defense, suggesting he may be the victim of politically-inspired rumors.

Rachel Maddow: Republicans in Congress knew in 1973, when their own Vice President got in serious trouble, that it was in their own best interest to try to save him. And that may, in part, just have been raw partisan instinct. But they also knew that Spiro Agnew still had the Republican base wrapped around his finger, regardless of the allegations against him.

David Keene: It was easy to rally support for Ted Agnew. I mean, people loved him.

Rachel Maddow: It was David Keene's job to rally Republican support for Agnew in Congress.

David Keene: The Republicans were hearing from their constituents that, "This is our guy," but they liked him as well.

Rachel Maddow: When the criminal allegations against Agnew came to light, rather than turning against him or waiting for the investigation to play out, Republicans in Congress rushed to give him as much cover as they could. They adopted his line that he was the victim of a witch hunt.

James Buckley: I believe that the man has been put under incredible pressure because of the habit we've gone into a trial by print, based on third-hand leaks of information that may or may not be sound.

Carl Curtis: To condemn someone, to have innuendo, to raise questions, "When is he going to retire? Will he be impeached?" when no one has made a specific charge against him, damages him all across the country. And furthermore, it's damaging our country.

Rachel Maddow: Even the discussion that Agnew might need to go, even talking about that possibility, in the words of that Republican senator, that was damaging to the country. Republicans in Congress went after alleged leaks in the case. They went after the news media for reporting the leaks. This was not, "Let's allow the investigation to run its course." Republicans instantly circled the wagons around their man in the White House who was in legal trouble, but still as popular as ever in their party.

Barry Goldwater: He's innocent until somebody has proven guilty. And if we've reached a point in this country where we're guilty just because some newspaper or some lesser member of the Attorney- General's office hints that we are, then we've come to the end of justice in this country.

Rachel Maddow: That was Republican Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona talking about a lesser member of the Attorney General's office. He'd later say, "I don't give a damn if Agnew is as guilty as John Dillinger. In his view, Agnew was getting railroaded, railroaded by the press and by the Justice Department. That was the way Republicans talked about this case. This was Republican Senator Carl Curtis from Nebraska.

Carl Curtis: Will you inform me what he's done? No one has. Now, that's not American justice. That may be a certain brand of American newscasting, but it's not what prevails in the courtroom. We lawyers have a better record than that.

Male Voice: Do you feel there's some kind of plot against the Vice President?

Carl Curtis: I think there's a scheme on to destroy the President, and if they can drag down his Vice President, that helps. Somebody got John F. Kennedy. I believe that same sadistic element is very tiny. But you add to that the professional Nixon haters, you've got a bad combination. Here, Mr. Agnew hasn't been accused of a specific single transaction. And for me, to say iffy things about what would happen if he resigned, I don't think he should resign, or he will resign.

Rachel Maddow: Spiro Agnew, in his public campaign to beat back the allegations against him, he had backup, elected Republicans coming to his defense, publicly casting doubt on the investigation, attacking and disparaging the investigators. Two House Republicans even traveled over to the White House one afternoon that fall to personally deliver to Agnew a giant physical display of support from his fellow Republicans. It was a larger-than-life card signed by a hundred Republicans in Congress. The image on the front of the card was a cat barely clinging to a tree branch by its claws. The caption underneath said, "Hang in there, Baby.".

Rachel Maddow: Republicans in Congress had taken sides. They were firmly behind their Vice President, even though he was under criminal investigation. What those Republicans didn't know at the time though, what only a handful of people inside the White House knew, was that Spiro Agnew wasn't just counting on vocal support from the Republican base and vocal support from Republicans in Congress. He also had a private plan. He was undertaking an elaborate, behind-the-scenes effort to obstruct the investigation, to try to shut the investigation down. It was an effort to use his political power from his position inside the White House to make the investigation go away. It involved enlisting the help of Richard Nixon's inner circle, people like White House Chief of Staff HR Haldeman.

HR Haldeman: The Vice President called me over today and said he had a real problem.

Rachel Maddow: It also included the assistance of President Richard Nixon himself.

Richard Nixon: It's amazing, isn't it? By golly, the way they start to go after everybody, don't they?

Alexander Haig: You know, they're after everybody. And the Vice President has been very nervous.

Rachel Maddow: This part of the story has never really been told in depth before. The investigators themselves had no idea that any of this was going on at the time. They're about to hear it here for the first time.

Tim Baker: I never knew this.

Barney Skolnik: Ways they can pressure George. Wow.

Mike Yarvitz: I mean what does — you're a lawyer — what does that look like?

Ron Liebman: Clearly obstruction of justice or attempt to obstruct justice, clearly.

Rachel Maddow: That part of the story is next time. I'm Rachel Maddow. And this is Bag Man.

Rachel Maddow: Bag man is a production of MSNBC and NBC Universal. This series is executive produced by Mike Yarvitz. It was written by myself and Mike Yarvitz. Editorial and production support from Jonathan Hirsch and Marissa Schneiderman from Neon Hum Media. And you can find much more about this story on our Web site which is

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Popular Transcripts FULL TRANSCRIPT: Senator Chuck Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s full response to President Donald Trump’s border and shutdown speech

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FULL TRANSCRIPT: Schumer and Pelosi's full response to Trump's border address (transcribed by Sonix)

Nancy Pelosi: Good evening. I appreciate the opportunity to speak directly to the American people tonight about how we can end this shutdown and meet the needs of the American people. Sadly, much of what we heard from President Trump throughout this senseless shutdown has been full of misinformation and even malice. The President has chosen fear. We want to start with the facts.

Nancy Pelosi: The fact is on the very first day of this Congress, House Democrats passed Senate Republican legislation to reopen government and fund smart, effective border security solutions. But the President is rejecting these bipartisan bills, which would reopen government, over his obsession with forcing American taxpayers to waste billions of dollars on an expensive and ineffective wall, a wall he always promised Mexico would pay for.

Nancy Pelosi: The fact is President Trump has chosen to hold hostage critical services for the health, safety, and well-being of the American people and withhold the paychecks of 800,000 innocent workers across the nation, many of them veterans. He promised to keep government shut down for months or years, no matter whom it hurts. That's just plain wrong.

Nancy Pelosi: The fact is we all agree we need to secure our borders, while honoring our values. We can build the infrastructure and roads at our ports of entry. We can install new technology to scan cars and trucks for drugs coming into our nation. We can hire the personnel we need to facilitate trade and immigration at the border. We can find more innovation to detect unauthorized crossings.

Nancy Pelosi: The fact is the women and children at the border are not a security threat. They are humanitarian challenge, a challenge that President Trump's own cruel and counterproductive policies have only deepened.

Nancy Pelosi: And the fact is President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage, must stop manufacturing a crisis, and must reopen the government. Thank you. Leader Schumer.

Chuck Schumer: Thank you, Speaker Pelosi. My fellow Americans, we address you tonight for one reason only, the President of the United States, having failed to get Mexico to pay for his ineffective, unnecessary border wall, and unable to convince the Congress or the American people to foot the bill, has shut down the government.

Chuck Schumer: American democracy doesn't work that way. We don't govern by temper tantrum. No president should pound the table and demand he gets his way, or else, the government shuts down, hurting millions of Americans who are treated as leverage. Tonight, and throughout this debate, and throughout his presidency, President Trump has appealed to fear, not facts. Division, not unity.

Chuck Schumer: Make no mistake. Democrats and the President both want stronger border security. However, we sharply disagree with the President about the most effective way to do it. So, how do we untangle this mess? Well, there is an obvious solution. Separate the shutdown from arguments over border security. There is bipartisan legislation, supported by Democrats and Republicans, to reopen government while allowing debate over border security to continue.

Chuck Schumer: There is no excuse for hurting millions of Americans over a policy difference. Federal workers are about to miss a paycheck. Some families can't get a mortgage to buy a new home. Farmers and small businesses won't get loans they desperately need.

Chuck Schumer: Most presidents have used Oval Office addresses for noble purposes. This President just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear, and divert attention from the turmoil in his Administration.

Chuck Schumer: My fellow Americans, there is no challenge so great that our nation cannot rise to meet it. We can reopen the government and continue to work through disagreements over policy. We can secure our border without an ineffective, expensive wall. And we can welcome legal immigrants and refugees without compromising safety and security. The symbol of America should be the Statue of Liberty, not a 30-foot wall.

Chuck Schumer: So, our suggestion is a simple one. Mr. President, reopen the government, and we can work to resolve our differences over border security, but end this shutdown now. Thank you.

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Popular Transcripts FULL TRANSCRIPT: President Donald Trump’s full speech from Oval Office on shutdown and border wall (Full national address)

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FULL TRANSCRIPT: Trump’s full speech from Oval Office on shutdown and border wall (Full national address) (transcribed by Sonix)

President Donald Trump: My fellow Americans, tonight, I’m speaking to you because there is a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border.

President Donald Trump: Every day, Customs and Border Patrol agents encounter thousands of illegal immigrants trying to enter our country. We are out of space to hold them, and we have no way to promptly return them back home to their country. America proudly welcomes millions of lawful immigrants who enrich our society and contribute to our nation, but all Americans are hurt by uncontrolled illegal migration.

President Donald Trump: It strains public resources and drives down jobs and wages. Among those hardest hit are African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans. Our southern border is a pipeline for vast quantities of illegal drugs including meth, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl. Every week, 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin alone, 90% of which floods across from our southern border. More Americans will die from drugs this year than were killed in the entire Vietnam War.

President Donald Trump: In the last two years, ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of aliens with criminal records, including those charged or convicted of 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4000 violent killings. Over the years, thousands of Americans have been brutally killed by those who illegally entered our country, and thousands more lives will be lost if we don’t act right now.

President Donald Trump: This is a humanitarian crisis, a crisis of the heart, and a crisis of the soul. Last month, 20,000 migrant children were illegally brought into the United States, a dramatic increase. These children are used as human pawns by vicious coyotes and ruthless gangs. One in three women are sexually assaulted on the dangerous trek up through Mexico. Women and children are the biggest victims, by far, of our broken system.

President Donald Trump: This is the tragic reality of illegal immigration on our southern border. This is the cycle of human suffering that I am determined to end. My administration has presented Congress with a detailed proposal to secure the border and stop the criminal gangs, drug smugglers, and human traffickers. It’s a tremendous problem.

President Donald Trump: Our proposal was developed by law enforcement professionals and border agents at the Department of Homeland Security. These are the resources they have requested to properly perform their mission and keep America safe. In fact, safer than ever before.

President Donald Trump: The proposal from Homeland Security includes cutting-edge technology for detecting drugs, weapons, illegal contraband, and many other things. We have requested more agents, immigration judges, and bed space to process the sharp rise in unlawful migration fueled by our very strong economy.

President Donald Trump: Our plan also contains an urgent request for humanitarian assistance and medical support. Furthermore, we have asked Congress to close border security loopholes, so that illegal immigrant children can be safely and humanely returned back home.

President Donald Trump: Finally, as part of an overall approach to border security, law enforcement professionals have requested $5.7 billion dollars for a physical barrier. At the request of Democrats, it will be a steel barrier rather than a concrete wall. This barrier is absolutely critical to border security. It’s also what our professionals at the border want and need. This is just commonsense.

President Donald Trump: The border wall would very quickly pay for itself. The cost of illegal drugs exceeds $500 billion dollars a year. Vastly more than the $5.7 billion dollars we have requested from Congress. The wall will also be paid for indirectly by the great new trade deal we have made with Mexico.

President Donald Trump: Senator Chuck Schumer, who you will be hearing from later tonight, has repeatedly supported a physical barrier in the past, along with many other Democrats. They changed their mind only after I was elected president. Democrats in Congress have refused to acknowledge the crisis, and they have refused to provide our brave border agents with the tools they desperately need to protect our families and our nation.

President Donald Trump: The Federal Government remains shut down for one reason and one reason only because Democrats will not fund border security. My administration is doing everything in our power to help those impacted by this situation, but the only solution is for Democrats to pass a spending bill that defends our borders and reopens the government.

President Donald Trump: This situation could be solved in a 45-minute meeting. I have invited Congressional leadership to the White House tomorrow to get this done. Hopefully, we can rise above partisan politics in order to support national security.

President Donald Trump: Some have suggested a barrier is immoral. Then, why do wealthy politicians build walls, fences, and gates around their homes? They don’t build walls because they hate the people on the outside but because they love the people on the inside. The only thing that is immoral is the politicians to do nothing and continue to allow more innocent people to be so horribly victimized.

President Donald Trump: America’s heart broke the day after Christmas when a young police officer in California was savagely murdered in cold blood by an illegal alien who just came across the border. The life of an American hero was stolen by someone who had no right to be in our country. Day after day, precious lives are cut short by those who have violated our borders.

President Donald Trump: In California, an Air Force veteran was raped, murdered, and beaten to death with a hammer by an illegal alien with a long criminal history. In Georgia, an illegal alien was recently charged with murder for killing, beheading, and dismembering his neighbor. In Maryland, MS-13 gang members who arrived in the United States, as unaccompanied minors, were arrested and charged last year after viciously stabbing and beating a 16-year-old girl.

President Donald Trump: Over the last several years, I’ve met with dozens of families whose loved ones were stolen by illegal immigration. I’ve held the hands of the weeping mothers and embraced the grief-stricken fathers. So sad, so terrible. I will never forget the pain in their eyes, the tremble in their voices, and the sadness gripping their souls. How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?

President Donald Trump: For those who refuse to compromise in the name of border security, I would ask, imagine if it was your child, your husband, or your wife whose life was so cruelly shattered and totally broken? For every member of Congress, pass a bill that ends this crisis. To every citizen, call Congress and tell them to finally, after all of these decades, secure our border.

President Donald Trump: This is a choice between right and wrong, justice and injustice. This is about whether we fulfill our sacred duty to the American citizens we serve. When I took the oath of office, I swore to protect our country, and that is what I will always do. So, help me God. Thank you and good night.

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Popular Transcripts, Uncategorized FULL TRANSCRIPT: Rachel Maddow Presents – BagMan – Episode 2: Crawling In

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Rachel Maddow Presents – BagMan – Episode 2: Crawling In (transcribed by Sonix)

Rachel Maddow: Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew were officially sworn into office for a second term on January 20th, 1973.

John Chancellor: And welcome to the 47th Inaugural of an American President. David Brinkley and I here to cover that, something the United States has been doing since 1789 …

Rachel Maddow: The festivities that day were a celebration of what had just been a political annihilation. Nixon got 520 electoral votes that year. George McGovern got 17. The Nixon-Agnew ticket won every state in the country except Massachusetts. Newly re-elected Vice President Agnew celebrated that night with his wife, Judy, at a party that was thrown in their honor at the Smithsonian.

Judy Agnew: This time, I know more or less what to expect.

Male Voice: What do you expect, Mrs. Agnew?

Judy Agnew: Oh, what do I expect? Well-

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: She expects to have fun.

Judy Agnew: Fun, right. I expect to be much more relaxed this time.

Rachel Maddow: Spiro Agnew was in triumphant good spirits that night, blissfully unaware of the danger that was unfurling for him just a short drive up the Baltimore Washington Parkway.

Rachel Maddow: In Baltimore, Maryland, just days before that inauguration, a team of three young federal prosecutors were preparing to unleash a blizzard of federal subpoenas with no warning.

Tim Baker: And we put together a team of IRS agents, and we had all 50 subpoenas served on a Monday morning.

Rachel Maddow: That's Tim Baker, one of the federal prosecutors who worked up these subpoenas out of the US Attorney's office in Maryland. These prosecutors were hoping to bust open a political bribery scheme in local Maryland politics. In terms of who exactly they thought they would nab though, the expectations, at least, early on, were relatively low.

Ron Liebman: And I think the general thinking was maybe we'd be able to find a corrupt Congressman, maybe a State Legislator. I think that's what the level of expectation.

Rachel Maddow: That's Ron Liebman. He was the second prosecutor on the team. And you can hear from him there that this was a little bit of a fishing expedition. But these prosecutors did have one particular fish in mind. They were after the head of the county government, the Baltimore County executive at the time who was a Democrat named Dale Anderson.

Barney Skolnik: The word is, you know, the word on the street, the rumor, the scuttlebutt is that Dale Anderson is corrupt and is taking bribes.

Rachel Maddow: That's Barney Skolnick, the lead prosecutor on the team. What he, and Tim Baker, and Ron Liebman started to uncover evidence of was that corruption scheme that they'd been hearing all these rumors about, that County Executive Dale Anderson was taking cash payoffs as bribes and kickbacks for handing out county contracts.

Male Voice: Anderson was cited on 39 counts involving more than $46,000 in contracting kickbacks.

Rachel Maddow: This local official, Dale Anderson, was their big fish. And these prosecutors were now getting the goods on him and on this big bribery scheme in that specific county government. But here's the thing, the man who had Dale Anderson's job right before he did was just then being sworn in for his second term as Vice President of the United States.

Male Voice: Off behind and out of power range, Vice President Agnew has just gotten into his limousine with Mrs. Agnew. Presidential motorcade is lining up here on the south lawn of the White House.

Rachel Maddow: Spiro Agnew, before he ever got to the White House, began his political career in that county. He had been Baltimore County Executive for four years. And, now, the guy who had that job right after him was being busted for taking bribes in what was starting to look like a pretty slick, well-established, smooth-running bribery kickback and corruption criminal enterprise.

Rachel Maddow: Had Vice President Agnew taken part in running that same criminal scheme while he was in that job? What prosecutors didn't know at that moment, but what Spiro Agnew very much knew that night while he was celebrating his re-election at the Smithsonian is that not only had he taken part in that same criminal scheme back then; in fact, he had just accepted an envelope stuffed with cash.

Rachel Maddow: I'm your host Rachel Maddow. And this is Bag Man: The Wild and Untold Story of the Presidential Line of Succession, Impeachment, Indictment, and Panic in the White House.

Male Voice: Good evening. Washington was stunned today by the disclosure that Vice President Agnew is under criminal investigation by federal authorities in his home state of Maryland.

Male Voice: I read his expression as saying, "I need this right now like I need another hole in the head."

Male Voice: This was this was like opera, you know, on the grand scale. It really was.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: I will not resign if indicted. I will not resign if indicted.

Male Voice: The constitutional problems raised by the Agnew investigation aren't bewildering. We've never had a problem like this one before.

Female Voice: The news breaks, details start pouring in.

Male Voice: All the breaking news items. You've got some news on the FBI investigation.

Female Voice: How will you keep up? TuneIn Premium exclusively brings you live commercial free news, so you can hear 24/7 breaking news without the breaks.

Male Voice: A trillion dollar market, and it's 250 billion, and it has to get to a trillion.

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Rachel Maddow: Episode 2: Crawling In.

Richard Nixon: As the new Attorney General, I up today named Elliot Richardson, a man of unimpeachable integrity and rigorously high principle.

Rachel Maddow: Elliot Richardson had just become the new Attorney General of the United States in the Spring of 1973. He'd been Nixon's Secretary of Defense. He was Health Secretary before that. But from the moment that he became the Attorney General, Elliot Richardson's life was consumed by the Watergate Scandal.

Elliot Richardson: I have decided that I will, if confirmed, appoint a special prosecutor and give him all the independence, authority, and staff support needed to carry out the task entrusted to him.

Rachel Maddow: One of Richardson's closest aides at the time was a young lawyer named JT Smith.

JT Smith: He knew that Nixon was under a cloud. He didn't know what was in the tapes, but the White House didn't seem eager for the tapes to see the light of day. He knew that the mood in the White House on the part of the President and his staff was quite bleak.

Rachel Maddow: That summer though, Attorney General Elliot Richardson also knew something else. He held a secret that only a handful of people in the entire government knew. In the middle of that summer, right in the middle of Watergate. Elliot Richardson got a visit from his US Attorney in Maryland, George Beall and Beall's team of three assistant US attorneys. What those prosecutors brought to him that day was hard evidence that the sitting vice president Spiro Agnew was actively engaged in criminal activity. These prosecutors had not set out to discover that. But they had launched an investigation into local corruption in Maryland and where that investigation ultimately led them was inside the office of the Vice President.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: Ladies and gentlemen I'm Ted Agnew, I'm a candidate for governor. And I ask for your vote …

Rachel Maddow: To the extent that Spiro Agnew is remembered in history, it's for this sort of vague sense that he went down over tax evasion or something sort of benign. What he actually did though was way worse than that, to the point of being sort of bonkers.

Rachel Maddow: When he was Baltimore County Executive, Agnew would had the power to award local contracts. What prosecutors discovered is that he was awarding those contracts almost exclusively to local businessmen who were paying him off, who were delivering him cash bribes, literally stacks of bills stuffed into envelopes.

Rachel Maddow: Here's Barney Skolnik one of these federal prosecutors in Baltimore who helped crack the case.

Barney Skolnik: The scheme, it doesn't even deserve the appellation scheme. It wasn't a scheme. It was just a payoff.

Rachel Maddow: When Agnew left that County Executive job and became governor of Maryland, prosecutors learned that he took the payoff system with him. But then, of course, it wasn't just small-time local contracts he was controlling anymore. As governor, of course, he moved up to big state contracts. And that required him to scale up his criminal efforts. Here's Ron Liebman, another one of the prosecutors on the team.

Ron Liebman: When Agnew became Governor, it was explained to him, "If you want a bag man, you don't want to take directly, you want to insulate yourself because, then, it's just you against another person." And Agnew had at least one bag man, I think two, But he also took directly. He was greedy, absolutely greedy.

Rachel Maddow: Agnew, as Governor, enlisted his State Roads Commissioner to start awarding state contracts to the firms that would pay Agnew off. And as advised, he also got himself a bag man, a longtime friend named Bud Hammerman. Bud's job was to personally go collect the money from the companies that just got the contracts.

Ron Liebman: The deal was that the contractor would pay Hammerman. He's holding the money and paying the money directly to Agnew because he's one of the bag man.

Rachel Maddow: What Agnew put in place as Governor was a slick, well-run extortion ring. Agnew himself would keep 50% of the cash. His Roads Commissioner, who picked the contractors, and his bag man who leaned on them for the cash, they would each get to keep 25%. So half for the two of them, half for the governor. Here's Barney Skolnick.

Barney Skolnik: I mean, taking large sums of cash in a succession of white envelopes over, and over, and over again is about as crass as it can be if you're a public official.

Rachel Maddow: What prosecutors discovered that spring was that this wasn't just some old scheme that Agnew had been running back in Maryland, which he then stopped when he became Vice President. What they discovered was that this was a scheme Agnew was still actively carrying out as Vice President of the United States, on the grounds of the White House itself.

Rachel Maddow: The prosecutors discovered a local Baltimore businessman named Lester Matz. Matz told them that he'd been making regular trips to the White House to secretly deliver cash to Agnew since Agnew had been in office as Vice President, in fact, starting pretty much immediately after Agnew was elected Vice President. Here's Ron Liebman explaining how it worked,

Ron Liebman: After the election the Vice President's office, temporary office was in the basement, I think, of the Old Executive Office Building. And Lester Matz went to see the Vice President-elect with an envelope stuffed with cash in his suit jacket pocket. And he walked in to see Agnew, as he told us the story and as I recall it. And one of them I think maybe Agnew pointed to the ceiling like don't say anything because we could be overheard, or taped, or something.

Ron Liebman: And Lester Matz took out this envelope with $10,000 in cash as I recall, stuffed envelope, and handed it to Agnew. Agnew took it, put it in the center drawer of his desk, and closed his desk. And when we heard that, we were just — couldn't believe it. I believe it, but I was just shocked, just shocked, and we all were, that kind of crass bribery.

Rachel Maddow: These young prosecutors had discovered at the height of the Watergate scandal that the Vice President of the United States was committing his own crimes on an ongoing basis inside the White House.

Barney Skolnik: I mean, cash in white envelopes, I mean, that's crazy to a Vice President.

Ron Liebman: I think we realized at that moment that we had a tiger by the tail.

Rachel Maddow: It turned out that Agnew was also getting paid off by a Maryland engineering executive named Allen Green. Green would make regular trips to the Executive Office Building right next to the White House. He would go into Agnew's office and hand Agnew plain envelopes stuffed with $2000 in cash.

Rachel Maddow: Allen Green told prosecutors he went to the White House three or four times a year during the whole first term of the Nixon Administration. On each trip, he delivered Agnew thousands of dollars, always in envelopes, always in cash. And prosecutors soon discovered that Agnew was secretly accepting illegal deliveries of cash inside his Vice Presidential residence, as well as in the White House.

Rachel Maddow: And if you're wondering what all these businessmen were paying for when they were paying off Agnew, these prosecutors soon figured out that where he could, Agnew was actually steering federal contracts to the businessmen who were now streaming into his office and his apartment with big wads of cash for him. So, it wasn't just a one-sided shakedown operation, it was a true quid-pro-quo, it was government, federal government for sale.

Rachel Maddow: These young guys from Baltimore had not set out to find this, but what they soon realized they had rock-solid evidence of was that the Vice President was running an ongoing bribery-and-extortion scheme from inside the White House.

Ron Liebman: It was shocking. I mean, all of a sudden, this case involving, perhaps, payoffs in Baltimore County, Maryland, or maybe in Annapolis was going to become not only more significant. Keep in mind, Watergate is going on. So, the President of the United States, to put it mildly, is under a cloud. And here, we, three Baltimore federal prosecutors, are being told that the next guy in line, the guy a heartbeat away, he's also under a cloud. So, it was shocking.

Rachel Maddow: It was shocking. And it was now time for them to do something about it. They realized they needed to tell the Attorney General about what they'd uncovered. Here's Barney Skolnik, again, with producer Mike Yarvitz.

Barney Skolnik: I had, in fact, no doubt at all that we had a prosecutable case. The issue was who the defendant was. If the defendant was John Smith, I had no doubt. I mean, I was a good enough prosecutor and an experienced enough prosecutor to know that when you have what we had, that's a case.

Mike Yarvitz: If it's John Smith, you've got it locked up.

Barney Skolnik: You just indict.

Mike Yarvitz: In this case, it was not John Smith.

Barney Skolnik: In this case, you say to the Attorney General, "What do you want us to do?"

Rachel Maddow: This wasn't just posing that question to any Attorney General. This was going to see Richard Nixon's Attorney General, which meant giving a presidential administration that was famous for covering up political scandals the chance to cover up one more. That's next.

Chris Hayes: Hey, it's MSNBC's Chris Hayes. If you enjoyed Bag Man, be sure to check out my friend Rachel Maddow on my podcast, Why is This Happening?, where I get the opportunity to dig deep into the forces behind the stories playing out in the news in order to understand why certain cultural and political phenomena came to be.

Chris Hayes: Rachel joins me to talk about covering the news in this unprecedented political moment. We also talk all about Bag Man and how this incredible podcast came to be. So, click on over and check out Why is This Happening?, and you can listen now wherever you get your podcasts.

Rachel Maddow: Richard Nixon didn't exactly have a stellar track record when it came to the job of Attorney General. By the summer of 1973, Nixon had already lost two different Attorneys General in connection with Watergate.

John Chancellor: A witness at the Senate Watergate hearings today directly implicated former Attorney General John Mitchell in the Watergate bugging and cover up and implicated the cover up …

Rachel Maddow: That summer of '73, as Watergate was full-on boiling, a little team of federal prosecutors in Baltimore was facing the prospect of going to Washington to tell Richard Nixon's newest Attorney General, Elliot Richardson, some news that they knew would be an absolute disaster for the Nixon White House.

Rachel Maddow: They were coming to Washington to tell him that at the height of Watergate, that Vice President Spiro Agnew was conducting an active criminal scheme of his own from inside the White House. These prosecutors were going to take that news to Nixon's Attorney General, knowing full well that he could do whatever he wanted with it. Here's prosecutor Barney Skolnik.

Barney Skolnik: I had a very conscious, not just realization that it was possible, but that under all the circumstances, it was highly likely that he was going to say, perhaps, for the most honorable of reasons. I mean, he probably wouldn't say, "Shut it down," but he could say words that would amount to "shut it down."

Rachel Maddow: These three young Baltimore prosecutors and their boss, the US Attorney George Beall, they all drove to DC and they went to go see the new Attorney General, Elliot Richardson, not sure what to expect, fearing the worst. But they knew they could no longer keep to themselves this criminal secret about the Vice President.

Ron Liebman: We all drove in one car up the Baltimore Washington Parkway, July 3, 1973, game-planning how we're going to do this. George is going to introduce us. Then, we're going to do this. And when we do this, we're going to do that. And when we do that, we're going to do this. So, we get there. We're ushered up to the Attorney General's office, which to say impressive is understated. And we wait, and we wait.

Tim Baker: And then Richardson comes in, and he's annoyed, "What's so important that I have to — You're interrupting my day, and you won't even tell my secretary what it's about. What's so important?" He's sitting there starting to take notes, but then more doodling, and more, and more impatient, and just at the point where the secretary comes in, and gives him a note. He just get up and leave, no explanation. Just gets up and leave. And he's gone for seems like hours, probably 20 minutes.

Ron Liebman: And the minute he leaves, of course, we're saying, "George, say this, say that." Then, Richardson would come back in, and George would begin, "Well, we started in Baltimore County. We're thinking about corruption." None of this, the Attorney General needs or wants to hear. And when George gets a little closer to the Vice President, another note comes in, Elliot Richardson gets up and he leaves, doesn't say excuse me, comes back. Richardson is clearly under pressure. And George says, "Okay, now, we're going to tell you why we're here."

Tim Baker: "We have evidence that Vice President Agnew took bribes as County Executive, Governor, and even as Vice President." Now, we have Richardson's attention. And my job, at that point, it was my job now to lay out the evidence that we had. And he's very interested in the evidence. What he, of course, wants to know is how, good a case is this? And it's a good case. I mean, we've got good stuff, and we know it. I just started banging away on, "So and so will testify, and he's got documents, and he's backed up by his vice president, nail, after nail, after nail, after nail.

Ron Liebman: I read his expression is saying, "I need this right now." Like, "I need another hole in the head." That was his expression like, "Jesus", you know, "Jesus, sweet Jesus."

Rachel Maddow: Put yourself in Elliot Richardson's shoes for a minute. He had just become Attorney General weeks earlier. He was overseeing the most sensitive investigation maybe in the history of the Justice Department, an ongoing, serious criminal probe of the President.

Rachel Maddow: And here were these barely-out-of-law-school Baltimore prosecutors who he's never met telling him, "We know you're investigating the President of the United States, but we need you to investigate the Vice President as well." If you were the attorney general, would you take on that burden? Here's JT Smith, Elliot Richardson's top aide.

JT Smith: I remember Richardson after that meeting saying to me, "Oh my god."

Barney Skolnik: You really were talking about a ship that's in bad shape, and the captain's having a heart attack. And, now, the first mate, you're going to throw the first mate overboard. I mean, what's going to happen to the ship? It made the whole thing very heavy. What's the right thing to do?

Rachel Maddow: The Baltimore prosecutors raced to DC. They dropped that bombshell on Elliot Richardson during that meeting. And then, they waited and watched to see how he would respond.

Ron Liebman: I remember watching Mr. Richardson, Elliot, very, very closely thinking, "All right. Is this where he's going to say, "Good work guys. Really, really good work. Thanks for coming in. Leave the files here. We'll see you later"? And what he did was, he started crawling into the case. He just crawled into the case, "So, what about this? What are you going to do about that?" Like he was a collaborating with us, which he was. He immediately crawled into the case with us. It was extraordinary.

Rachel Maddow: In that meeting, without flinching, Elliot Richardson took on the unimaginable burden, think of this, of overseeing an active criminal investigation of the President and the Vice President at the same time with two different cases.

Rachel Maddow: There's no telling what any other Attorney General might have done in that situation. You could almost understand an Attorney General saying, "I've got this investigation that might bring down the President, I can't wipe out the Vice President too. The country can't survive that."

Rachel Maddow: But Elliot Richardson's response to these young prosecutors who cracked this case was, "Keep going, keep digging." He told them that he would now directly oversee their investigation. It would be conducted in secret, with the knowledge of only the people in that room.

Rachel Maddow: The stakes were potentially taking out the President and the Vice President, which would effectively overturn an entire national election, which had been a landslide win for Nixon and Agnew. But Elliot Richardson, who had just gotten on the job, decided that he had to take on that burden. He had to.

Rachel Maddow: Here's how Barney Skolnik, one of the prosecutors, remembers that meeting with Elliot Richardson even today, 45 years later. The first voice, you'll hear is producer Mike Yarvitz.

Mike Yarvitz: What are your memories from that meeting, that first meeting with Richardson? What are you feeling going into that meeting?

Barney Skolnik: This is something about which I can get very emotional. I went to that meeting as, I think, most people in my position would have. We don't know him. I mean, I've heard good things about him, but we don't know him. And it's like very much with a great sense of anxiety that we are going to say to him, "Here, what do you want us to do?" And then, figuratively speaking, hold our breath until he tells us what he's going to tell us.

Barney Skolnik: Within the first few minutes of being with him, I knew, I think we all knew that we were in the presence of a very special human being. To me, it is the single most, it's the key to this whole saga. If Elliot Richardson had not been the Attorney General at that particular time, Spiro Agnew would have become President in August of '74. I mean, I'm certain of that.

Rachel Maddow: These Baltimore prosecutors happened to draw as an Attorney General a figure in American political life who was equal to the moment when, how could you expect that of anyone? Elliot Richardson was a Republican, a decorated military veteran. He went ashore on D-Day. He was an ex-federal prosecutor himself, unimpeachable integrity.

Rachel Maddow: What began at that moment, in that meeting with Elliot Richardson's decision was an unprecedented emergency mission inside the Justice Department to oust the Vice President of the United States before it was too late, before he ascended to the presidency himself.

Barney Skolnik: We're talking about the summer of '73, I mean, Watergate hearings are going on. Everybody was conscious that Nixon, aside from being a crook in his memorable word, might not last.

Rachel Maddow: Watergate was beginning to reach a boil. The President might go down at any moment, either by resignation or removal from office. And on top of that, teetering drama. It was now on the Attorney General and this small team of federal prosecutors to somehow make sure that an active criminal wasn't next in line to replace him.

Rachel Maddow: They had the criminal scheme in their sites. They had the evidence by then pouring in. They had leadership that almost, unbelievably, proved to be unafraid of the stakes and willing to see this through. The only problem was the man they were about to take on was not going to take any of it lying down.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: I want to say at this point, clearly and unequivocally, I am innocent of the charges against me.

Rachel Maddow: Spiro Agnew was gearing up to wage war on this band of prosecutors. And he knew that his real power base was the legion of supporters he had, both in the public and in Congress, who loved what a hard liner he was, who love what a bomb-thrower he was, and who were willing to angrily support him basically through anything, no matter what Agnew got charged with. They were ready to go to war with him.

Carl Curtis: Will you inform me what he's done? No one has. Now, that's not American justice. I don't think he should resign or he will resign.

Rachel Maddow: That part of the story is next time.

Rachel Maddow: Bag Man is a production at MSNBC and NBC Universal. This series is executive produced by Mike Yarvitz. It was written by myself and Mike Yarvitz. Editorial and production support from Jonathan Hirsch and Marissa Schneiderman from Neon Hum Media. And you can find much more about the story on our website, which is

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Rachel Maddow Presents – BagMan – Episode 1: An Unsettling Secret (transcribed by Sonix)

Rachel Maddow: When Richard Nixon tapped Spiro Agnew — Ted, to his friends — to be his running mate in 1968, this was the Ted Agnew the country was introduced to. Agnew was a fresh face in national politics. He wasn't much known at all outside of Maryland where he had just been elected governor. Heck, he wasn't even all that well-known in Maryland. But he was an effective politician. His quick rise out of nowhere was thanks in large part to his my-kind-of-man personal image. He was the son of Greek immigrants. He was an outsider. He forged a reputation as a straight shooter, hard work, honesty, integrity.

Female Voice: Well, I like him because he's honest. He's really honest.

Male Voice: The one thing that I can definitely say is Ted Agnew would make a perfect administrator for the State of Maryland.

Female Voice: Well, I think he's going to be our next governor.

Male Voice: He's my kind of man.

Rachel Maddow: Agnew got elected Baltimore County Executive in 1962. Four years after that, he became the Governor of Maryland. And two years after that, he found himself being tapped by Richard Nixon to be Vice President. A virtual unknown in national politics, a man who Nixon himself barely even knew. Here's a reporter asking Nixon how Agnew reacted when Nixon called him to offer him the gig.

Reporter: Mr. Nixon, was Mr. Agnew surprised when you called him? What does a Vice Presidential nominee say?

Richard Nixon: I think the best indication of surprise is when a lawyer has no words. Governor Agnew, as you know, is a lawyer and is a very articulate man, as you saw in his press conference. I'd say there's about 20 seconds before he said a word.

Rachel Maddow: Nixon had had a really hard time figuring out who to pick as his running mate that year. He had considered a close friend or two. He had considered one guy who ran against him in the primaries, a guy by the name of Ronald Reagan. But, ultimately, Nixon had decided on Agnew. And the process had been stressful. And, actually, the initial reaction to the pick was not great.

Rachel Maddow: This was a TV ad that was run by the Hubert Humphrey campaign during the 1968 election. This was it. No words. Just a man laughing hysterically as the camera slowly pulled out to reveal words on the TV screen that read "Agnew for Vice President?"

Rachel Maddow: Spiro Agnew was a literal laughingstock when the 1968 presidential campaign got underway. But as much as the Democrats might have wanted to keep laughing at him, Agnew soon became sort of a rock star on the right. He was blunt. He was politically incorrect. He loved trashing liberals, and the press, and minorities. He shot down hecklers at his events with glee. He described them as spoiled brats who never had a good spanking.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: Somewhere somebody failed you. Your churches must not have gotten through to you because you don't even know anything about the golden rule. I'm frankly ashamed of you. And I think you ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

Rachel Maddow: During that campaign, Agnew stepped in it a number of times, often on the issue of race and on ethnic stereotypes.

Male Voice: Spiro Agnew took a day off from campaigning following weekend speeches in Hawaii. And one of his Monday appearances before a racially mixed audience on the island of Maui, he replied to criticism of his having used slang labels "Polack" and "Jap," and referring to Americans of Polish and Japanese ancestry.

Rachel Maddow: Agnew's lack of filter when it came to racially-insensitive remarks, it sometimes got him in trouble with the press. But big picture, the campaign actually saw it as a plus. Rather than hurting him, that stuff actually seemed to solidify his support on the right. Agnew the political outsider who didn't care who he offended, that was a feature, not a bug.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: And if you tell me that the hippies and the yuppies are going to be able to do the job, I'll tell you this: they can't run a bus, they can't serve in a governmental office, they can't run a lathe in a factory. All they can do is and sleep or kick policemen with razor blades.

Rachel Maddow: Spiro Agnew pushed the limits. He was deliberately outrageous. He defended his over-the-top rhetoric during that campaign by saying that he never hit first, he just hit back. He told reporters, "I guess, by nature, I'm a counter-puncher. You can't hit my team in the groin, and expect me to stand here, and smile about it."

Rachel Maddow: A counter in the White House. How exactly does a politician who is a self-styled counter react when his own political survival is directly threatened? When the full weight of his own Justice Department comes crashing down on him?

Rachel Maddow: This is a story that is not well-known, but it really should be, especially maybe now. It's the story of a criminal occupant of the White House, whose crimes are discovered by his own Justice Department, who then tries to hold onto power by obstructing the investigation into his crimes, by smearing and threatening the prosecutors who are investigating him, and by trying to convince his legion of supporters across the country that none of the allegations are true, that it's all just a big witch hunt. And if that sounds familiar, it's because history is here to help. I firmly believe it.

Rachel Maddow: I'm your host Rachel Maddow. And this is Bag Man: The Wild and Untold Story of the Presidential Line of Succession, Impeachment, Indictment, and Panic in the White House.

Male Voice: Good evening. Washington was stunned today by the disclosure that Vice President Agnew is under criminal investigation by federal authorities in his home State of Maryland.

Male Voice: Not only is it Watergate, but he's the Vice President, and we have quite evidence of corruption.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: I will not resign if indicted. I will not resign if indicted.

Male Voice: The constitutional problems raised by the Agnew investigation are bewildering. We've never had a problem like this one before.

Chris Hayes: Hey, it's MSNBC's Chris Hayes. If you enjoyed Bag Man, be sure to check out my friend, Rachel Maddow, on my podcast, Why is This Happening?, where I get the opportunity to dig deep into the forces behind the stories playing out in the news in order to understand why certain cultural and political phenomena came to be. Rachel joins me to talk about covering the news in this unprecedented political moment. We also talk all about Bag Man and how this incredible podcast came to be. So, click on over and check out Why is This Happening? and you can listen now wherever you get your podcasts.

Rachel Maddow: Episode 1: An Unsettling Secret.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: Ultra-liberalism today translates into a whimpering isolationism in foreign policy, a mulish obstructionism and domestic policy, and a pusillanimous pussyfooting on the critical issue of law and order.

Rachel Maddow: Spiro Agnew doesn't exactly loom large as a political figure in US history. His name barely registers as a political trivia question these days. But when Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew won the White House in 1968, Spiro Agnew — even though he doesn't get the credit for it — he basically created the mold for the modern iteration of confrontational conservatism in America.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: But you know how it is with radical liberals, you zing one of them, and call his hand, cite his voting, quote his speeches, tell America the harm he's done, and he howls like a coyote with his tail caught in a snake hole.

Rachel Maddow: Even though he was now Vice President of the United States, there had been no transformation from candidate Agnew into a less divisive public official Agnew. If anything, he got even more aggressive.

David Brinkley: He was asked why he — more than other politicians — was accused of dividing the country. Agnew said it was because he was the foremost destroyer of liberal dogma, that when liberals are attacked, they salivate like Pavlovian dogs.

Rachel Maddow: Spiro Agnew was a flamethrower. He loved defending the press. His whole political brand was about offending liberals, and Democrats, and minorities. The more political norms he blew through, the stronger he got with the Republican Party's hardline base. And that was the only base and the only audience he ever tried to cultivate. Democrats were mystified. Republicans loved it.

Rachel Maddow: After one comment in which Agnew publicly denigrated black leaders across the country, one of the most prominent African-American members of Congress, William Clay of Missouri, took to the floor of the House to deliver a condemnation of Agnew that was almost not safe for work.

Rachel Maddow: He said about the Vice President, "He is seriously ill. He has all the symptoms of an intellectual misfit. His recent tirade against black leadership is just part of a game played by him called mental masturbation. Apparently, Mr Agnew is an intellectual sadist who experiences intellectual orgasms by attacking, humiliating, and kicking the oppressed." Imagine if there had been C-SPAN back then for that. But the group that Agnew seemed to reserve the most venom for, his favorite target of all, was the press.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: The purpose of my remarks tonight is to focus your attention on this little group of men who not only enjoy a right of instant rebuttal to every Presidential address, but more importantly, wield a free hand in selecting, presenting, and interpreting the great issues in our nation.

Rachel Maddow: During the first term of the Nixon Administration, Vice President Agnew took it upon himself to try to discredit the American news media. And all presidents — presumably most vice presidents too — they all undoubtedly hate the press. They all think they're covered in a way that isn't fair. But Agnew set out on an overt campaign to try to turn the country against the press in a way that nobody had really done before from the White House.

Rachel Maddow: In a series of speeches in 1969, with the seal of the Vice Presidency underneath him, Agnew delivered prepared attacks on the news networks, which he portrayed as a danger to the nation, as biased and untrustworthy.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: A raised eyebrow, an inflection of the voice, a caustic remark dropped in the middle of a broadcast can raise doubts in a million minds about the veracity of a public official or the wisdom of a government policy, when a single commentator or producer, night after night, determines for millions of people how much of each side of a great issue they are going to see and hear, should he not first disclose his personal views on the issue as well?

Rachel Maddow: Agnew's assault on the press was sort of a shock to the system at the time. The President of NBC News took the rare step of appearing on NBC's nightly newscast to push back.

Julian Goodman: Evidently, he would prefer a different kind of television reporting, one that would be subservient to whatever political group happens to be in authority at the time. Those who might feel momentary agreement with his remarks should think carefully about whether that kind of television news is what they want.

Rachel Maddow: The Vice President seemed to be stirring up something dangerous in the country. The Washington Post wrote in December 1969, "One little noted and wholly unintentional result of Vice President Agnew's speeches against the press and television is a renewed wave of public expression of anti-Semitism. It was noticeable at once in this city where local television stations were swamped for three days after Agnew's first speech with obscene phone calls protesting 'Jew-Commies on the air.'"

Rachel Maddow: One Jewish newspaper editor in Louisville, Kentucky reported at the time that he was, "buried under an avalanche of sick anti-Semitic mail." A leading Jewish organization said anti-Semitic groups across the country were "Using Agnew's speeches to justify their hate campaigns and urging their followers to support him." And it's not that Spiro Agnew himself ever directly espoused any of those beliefs, but something about his rhetoric seemed to give his supporters license to express these views that they hadn't felt free to express before.

Rachel Maddow: His attacks on enemies of the administration became so heated that Democrats, and even some Republicans, started to warn that if he didn't tone down his rhetoric, somebody was going to get hurt. Here's Arkansas Democratic Senator William Fulbright.

William Fulbright: He intimidates people. I don't think there's any doubt about him intimidating. He inspires other people to do radical actions. I think of threats through letters, and telephone messages, and so on is an outgrowth of this kind of a spirit.

Rachel Maddow: That was Spiro Agnew, the political figure. He was a lightning rod. He was a demagogue. He had a devoted base inside the Republican Party that he seemed to be able to control in ways that other politicians couldn't, in ways that seemed even dangerous at times. And he was about to bring all of that to bear on members of his own Justice Department who had just discovered that Agnew, in addition to all of that other stuff, also happened to be an active criminal. Stay right there.

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David Brinkley: Richard Nixon chose Governor Spiro Agnew of Maryland for his Vice President. Until two years ago, he was unknown outside Maryland County politics.

Rachel Maddow: When Richard Nixon tapped Spiro Agnew to become his Vice President, Agnew was on a very fast rise in Republican politics. When Nixon picked him to be VP, Agnew had been Governor of Maryland for just a couple of years. Before that, he was a local elected official. He was Baltimore County Executive. So, Agnew emerged onto the national scene, basically, out of nowhere. But his rise in Maryland, in famously corrupt Maryland, that came with some secrets that would slowly start to be revealed right at the height of the Watergate scandal.

Garrick Utley: Good morning. The place: the Senate Caucus Room in Washington. This is day four of the Senate Watergate hearings.

Rachel Maddow: That spring of 1973, as the country was in the grips of Watergate fever, a team of young federal prosecutors based in Maryland had just launched a brand new investigation that had nothing at all to do with Watergate.

Tim Baker: It was based solely on just kind of rumors.

Rachel Maddow: That's Tim Baker. He's one of the people at the heart of this story. He was an assistant US attorney in Maryland in 1973. And the rumors that he's talking about there were basically whispers that Maryland politics, at the time, had a real bribery and corruption problem. And that spring, Tim Baker, along with two of his fellow prosecutors, they decided they were going to dig into those rumors. Ron Liebman was another prosecutor on that team.

Ron Liebman: In essence, it was follow the money, get the documents, follow the money.

Rachel Maddow: If the Watergate era had a theme song, this was it, right? The FBI, and congressional investigators, and intrepid reporters from The Washington Post, they were all busy following the money.

Garrick Utley: And that brings us to the third major element in the Watergate story: money. Cash. Cash given to the President's re-election committee secretly and, in some cases, illegally.

Rachel Maddow: Following the money led to almost all of the most interesting stuff in the Watergate scandal, but in their unrelated, contemporaneous investigation in Baltimore, these young federal prosecutors from the US Attorney's office in Maryland, they too were following the money.

Barney Skolnik: Investigate, which is like, you know, it's like throwing catnip. I mean, you know, "Oh, okay, fine. You know, we'll investigate."

Rachel Maddow: That's Barney Skolnik. He was the senior prosecutor on this three-man team. There are some people in this story you will come to know and love. Top of that list is these three young, scrappy federal prosecutors. They're all around 30 years old at the time. They're trying to take a bite out of political corruption in their state.

Rachel Maddow: What Barney Skolnik, and Tim Baker, and Ron Liebman all started to find when they started following the money in Maryland was a scheme, a bribery scheme, where local elected officials took thousands of dollars in cash kickbacks from companies that got public contracts. It was exactly the way that you imagine it, businessmen putting cash into plain envelopes, handing those envelopes full of cash to elected officials, and then walking away with a job to design that local bridge or that county building.

Rachel Maddow: These three young prosecutors started lifting this rock in Maryland. And what they found underneath it was an underworld of longstanding, local corruption. Basically, small-time officials who were on the take. That's what this case looked like to them in early 1973. Watergate may have been gripping the nation. President Richard Nixon looked like he might end up in deep trouble, but these guys had this local investigation going that was world's away from all of that. Until suddenly, it wasn't.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: I, Spiro Theodore Agnew, solemnly swear …

Rachel Maddow: Because that spring, Richard Nixon's Vice President, Spiro Agnew, who came from that swamp of Maryland politics, he started hearing rumors of his own about this team of investigators who were now poking around in his old neck of the woods. And upon hearing that, Spiro Agnew did something that was sort of suspicious. He went to go see the Attorney General of the United States himself to ask the Attorney General about this local investigation that was under way in Maryland.

Rachel Maddow: At the time, the Attorney General didn't even know about that investigation yet. But that little visit from the Vice President, that sent alarm bells ringing with these three prosecutors in Baltimore because, at that point, as far as they knew, their investigation had nothing at all to do with the sitting Vice President. Here's Tim Baker and Ron Liebman.

Tim Baker: I immediately thought to myself, "Why is he so upset? He's upset because he's got something to hide." So, I say in this meeting, "We're going to get Agnew."

Ron Liebman: I remember Tim Baker telling me and Barney, in so many words, that he smelled a rat. It was way beyond our horizon. But Tim, to his eternal credit, smelled it first. He saw something.

Rachel Maddow: There sleepy little investigation in Maryland was about to change the country. What these young prosecutors were about to discover was that the country didn't just have a criminal President in power, but a criminal Vice President as well, who, of course, was next in the line of succession.

Tim Baker: We have evidence that Vice President Agnew took bribes as County Executive Governor and even as Vice President.

Ron Liebman: Not only is it Watergate, but he's the Vice President and we have hard evidence of corruption.

Tim Baker: Fifteen $100 bills he gave Agnew in the basement of the White House. This was in the White House.

Barney Skolnik: It really was, "We're all in this together, and we got to figure out what to do for the country because this is some heavy shit."

Rachel Maddow: This isn't just the story of a political corruption scheme that got exposed. It is that, but it's also a story of how exactly a criminal occupant of the White House reacts and lashes out when his own Justice Department starts to zero in on him for his criminal behavior.

Spiro "Ted" Agnew: Because of these tactics which have been employed against me, I will not resign if indicted. I will not resign if indicted.

Rachel Maddow: Spiro Agnew rose to national prominence as a lightning rod, as a flamethrower, as someone who wasn't afraid to smear his opponents and roll around in the mud. He was quite willing to be dangerous to the country if it suited his own purposes. And ultimately, he employed all of that for this fight, to fight back against an investigation and a small team of investigators who were not only threatening to remove him from the White House, they were threatening to throw him in jail.

Martin London: And that's really — to use a legal expression — that's when the shit hit the fan.

Rachel Maddow: That's Marty London. He was Spiro Agnew's defense lawyer. We will spend a little more time with him later in this story. You're going to love him. This scandal has somehow gotten itself forgotten. It barely registers, but it's wild. A sitting White House occupant under criminal investigation from his own government, pulling out every stop to survive, including obstructing that investigation and trying very hard to shut it down.

Barney Skolnik: I mean it was, you know. That's why get sort of emotional about it.

Tim Baker: The pressure, and it was big pressure, the pressure was, "Get the guy out of the line of succession."

Ron Liebman: We were determined. You know, we're kids, but we we were determined to follow this case through.

Rachel Maddow: Part of the reason we wanted to make this podcast now is because this is a story that I think is worth hearing for the first time, particularly right now. But it's also because, now, there's new stuff to know about it. The prosecutors themselves haven't even been aware of the full story all these years. They're going to hear it all right here for the first time.

Tim Baker: Good night. No, I didn't know this.

Barney Skolnik: Oh my Lord.

Ron Liebman: 45 years later, and my blood still boils when I read stuff like that.

Rachel Maddow: For the last several months, ace producer Mike Yarvitz and I have been digging back into this story, going through the archives, and interviewing the people who were involved in it. What we learned is that when law enforcement gets on a collision course with the White House, specifically with a criminal in the White House, who is a self-styled counter-puncher, who seems to be able to command at will an entire base of supporters across the country, when that kind of collision happens, what we've learned is that things get pretty thoroughly insane pretty quickly.

Rachel Maddow: I'm Rachel Maddow, and that's all ahead on Bagman.

Rachel Maddow: Bag Man is a production of MSNBC and NBC Universal. This series is executive produced by Mike Yarvitz. It was written by myself and Mike Yarvitz. Editorial and production support from Jonathan Hirsch and Marissa Schneiderman from Neon Hum Media. And you can find much more about the story on our website, which is

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Education 7 best ways to market your podcast

You’ve created an awesome podcast and you want more people to know about it. What do you do? These 7 tips will help you market your podcast and drive more listeners.

Number 1: First impressions matter

You need your show to be awesome and catchy right from the start. Remember that your voice and your guest’s voice are literally in your listeners’ heads. And in many cases, during very intimate times like a run, on a train, or in the car. They’re on their own. Just you, your show, and them. So forming a relationship really matters. It’s easier to develop a relationship when you get off to a good start.

Number 2: Benefits, not features

In traditional marketing speak, it’s important to talk about the benefits, not the features of your product or service. This same philosophy applies to your podcast. What is the listener going to get out of your podcast? Why should they spend time listening to you versus doing something else? And listeners want to understand what they’re in for right away. Get right to the point or you will risk losing them. There are numerous stats that show that listenership drops off precipitously when podcasts have drawn out intros.

Number 3: Build a web presence

While many listeners may find you through iTunes, Spreaker, or GooglePlay, having a web presence is important. It shows your serious and gives a little more background as to who you are, and why you created your show. Your website needs to work well on any device. Especially mobile. Your listeners are on the go and so it follows that your website caters to mobile users.

Number 4: Transcribe your podcast

Optimizing SEO is paramount. Transcribing your podcast is the first step to getting SEO benefit. If you are not familiar with SEO, it stands for Search Engine Optimization. Search engines like Google can’t crawl audio so it’s best to have a transcript of your podcast alongside the audio. You can also use excerpts from the transcript in social media.

Services like Sonix convert audio to text very inexpensively. Sonix also provides a media player that will host your transcript with the full transcript driving you better SEO.

Number 5: Promote on social media

Social media is a relatively easy way to promote your show and engage with your audience. Best thing to do is just get in the habit of posting regularly on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Create a simple spreadsheet so you can keep track of your social posts. Also, you should consider posting things that aren’t readily available to your audience. Things like a quick behind-the-scenes video can add personality and help you develop a relationship with your audience.

Number 6: Collaborate with other podcasts

Get on other podcasts! This is one of the most useful things you can do. Many podcast listeners find out about other shows from the shows that they listen to regularly. Getting on another podcast gives you the perfect opportunity to plug your own show–if you have a big-name guest coming on your show, make some noise about it! A good way to develop relationships with other podcasts is to hype up other podcasts on your show.

Number 7: Send email and newsletters

Emails and newsletters are great for sharing details that entice people to listen to your podcast and spread the word. In these communications, you can talk about popular guests you’ve had on your show, share feedback you’ve received from listeners, or even ask your audience for ideas for upcoming shows. Email and newsletters help you cultivate a relationship with your listeners.