The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 05/22/13
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks very much, my
Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
On another day, frankly, of relentlessly breaking news all day long,
the attorney general today wrote a letter to Congress saying for the first
time that four American citizens have been among the people killed by the
U.S. government`s drone program overseas. Some of these U.S. citizens
killed by drones were previously known, but at least one of them was not.
This comes on the eve of the president`s big civil liberties and
national securities speech planned for tomorrow. We are told today that
speech will also include a major announcement about starting up the process
again of sending prisoners home from the prison at Guantanamo.
The former general counsel for the Pentagon, Jeh Johnson, is here to
talk some more – to talk about that and more, as well. There`s a lot
Today in Congress, a senior official at the IRS took the Fifth and
refused to answer questions from Congress, while the George W. Bush
appointed commissioner of the IRS who left his job in November, but who was
there through the whole conservative group`s targeting scandal, he did
answer questions and he got lambasted by both Republicans and Democrats.
Also today, the city of Chicago announced they are going to be closing
50 schools in the city. That is the largest mass public school closing in
U.S. history. Chicago says the schools are underutilized. They want to
consolidate the school district, but as you can see from this footage, a
lot of the protesters in the city say otherwise.
In the city of New York today, disgraced former Democratic Congressman
Anthony Weiner, who left Congress because he got caught distributing lewd
photos of himself on Twitter and then lying about it, Anthony Weiner
announced today in a video on YouTube that he is going to run for mayor of
New York City this year. Yes, this year. He`s ready to come back.
After the federal appeals court in the ninth circuit yesterday struck
down Arizona`s law to ban abortions at 20 weeks, in Washington today, House
Republicans announced plans for a national ban on abortion at 20 weeks.
Kind of unclear as the whole struck down as unconstitutional concept there.
And today at West Point, we learned that a staff member, a staff
adviser responsible for the health, welfare, and discipline of 125 West
Point cadets, that staff adviser has been relieved of his duties and
charged with four counts of indecent acts, dereliction of duty, cruelty and
maltreatment, and violations of good order and discipline. The Army says
the charges relate to the accusation that he planted hidden cameras in the
showers and the locker room facilities of female cadets.
As I say, it has been a day of unrelenting news.
But in London today, a man was brutally attacked and killed on the
streets of south London. It`s the kind of incident that would be seen as
just crime, as a local tragic incident of senseless violence, but for the
motive and the means by which this particular crime was carried out.
It happened just after 2:00 p.m. local time in southeast London, a
neighborhood called Woolwich, near an army barracks there. A man was
walking on the sidewalk. From eyewitness and police accounts, what appears
to have happened is two men driving a car appeared to have deliberately
steered onto the sidewalk to hit the man who was walking. The man then
exited the vehicle, and set upon the man they just hit with the car and
they essentially cut him to pieces.
They were armed with large knives, what appeared to have been at least
a large kitchen knife and a cleaver. And whether the man was dead already
when they hit him with the car or whether they set upon him, whether they
killed him with the car or killed him after, regardless, in the end, it was
these two men left standing covered in blood and not trying to flee the
This was in broad daylight in a well-trafficked area, lots of
pedestrians around. There`s a primary school nearby. Some of the people
who witnessed this attack are said to be parents who are picking up their
kids at the end of the school day.
Look at this photo, though, this is one of the men who`s thought to be
one of the assailants. You can see he`s holding a knife still in this
photo. He has been approached by a passerby who is standing right next to
him seemingly calmly having a conversation with him.
Another passerby with a camera shot a cell phone video of what seems
to be the other assailant in the case. He is covered in blood and holding
what looks to be two knives, two weapons. And he, fairly calmly, explains
the whole thing to the guy who`s filming him.
He blames British soldiers for killing Muslims and then says it is an
eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. He says by the almighty Allah, we
will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone. So what if we want
to live by Sharia in Muslim land, why does that mean you must follow us and
you must chase and call us extremists and kills us? Rather you are
extremists, you are the ones.
And then he goes on to say the British people should get rid of their
government and Western countries should get their troops out of Muslim
Nothing like getting a lecture on not wanting to be called an
extremist from a man covered in blood carrying a meat cleaver, which he
appears to have just used to hack up somebody on the street, right?
The timing here, though, is remarkable. It is clear this was designed
to be a public spectacle. The manner of the crime, the fact it was done in
broad daylight in front of lots of passersby. The fact the men who
appeared to be assailants waited around and engaged with passersby about
what they had done afterwards, waiting for an opportunity to explain
themselves. Hey, get this on film.
From eyewitness accounts, the period after the crime before the police
showed up appears to have gone on for a pretty long time, perhaps up to
about 20 minutes before eventually armed police arrived on the scene and
both of those men, the one you saw talking to the camera and the one you
apparently calmly talking to the passerby there, both of those men when
police arrived were shot by police. Neither of them was killed. They were
both taken to the hospital. They are in custody and are considered to be
the suspects in this case.
NBC News has confirmed that the victim in the case was an active duty
David Cameron was abroad when the attack happened, he was in France.
He called the attack the most appalling crime and said there are strong
indications that this is a terrorist incident.
Yes, that would seem to be hard to dispute here, because at least one
of those assailants went out of his way to tell us, in fact, that it was,
while he stood there covered in blood over his alleged handiwork. This is
not a subtle thing.
I mean, had these guys fled the scene, this might have looked like,
maybe, the work of an insane person or simply a random, senseless killing.
But we now know it was designed as a spectacle for maximum shock, and for
maximum political resonance, that`s terrorism.
Our own most recent experience of this kind of attack here in this
country was just over a month ago in Boston when again it appears to have
been two assailants, in this case, it was two brothers. One of whom was
killed by police four days after the bombing, and one of whom is now facing
the death penalty on terrorism charges as he recovers from his injuries.
That case and the one big mystery that remained after the Tsarnaev
brothers were found in Boston, that case took a huge and unexpected turn
At roughly the same time we were learning about this grotesque
incident in London, we also got news from Florida, we got news from
Orlando, Florida, another person was not just being questioned in
connection with the Boston bombings case and with the other unsolved crime
that was maybe associated with the Boston bombers, but we got word that the
person being questioned had been shot and killed by law enforcement during
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Six-fourteen, and we want to get you back to our
breaking news in Orange County. A suspect is dead following a
confrontation overnight with an FBI agent.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re just learning that investigators may have
been looking into the Boston marathon bombing in relation to this person
who lives here in Orlando.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The man who was killed while being questioned in an apartment
in Orlando today was this man. He`s a 27-year-old man who lived in Florida
now, but he previously lived in the Boston area. And in the Boston area,
he had apparently been friends with the older of the two Tsarnaev brothers,
with Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the one who was killed by police just after the
Tamerlan Tsarnaev and the man who was killed today in Florida were of
similar age. They were both of Chechen origin, they were fighters. They
both worked out at the same gym. Tamerlan was a boxer. The guy who was
killed today did mixed martial arts.
Law enforcement sources today said the man they killed in Florida was
not a suspect in the Boston bombings, but he was a suspect in this other
unsolved Boston area triple murder that everybody has been wondering since
the bombings whether or not it was connected to the bombing suspects.
We reported about this on this show before. But before now, we have
never been able to say that there was anything more than a count dental
link between these two stories, now it appears there was a real link.
Remember that this happened in 2011. It was actually specifically on
9/11 that year, so September 11th, 2011, it was a brutal murder in the
quiet Boston suburb of Waltham, three young men were killed by having their
throat slit, one of the three men had a previous conviction for position
with intent to sell marijuana. When the three bodies were found in that
house in Waltham, their bodies were found strewn with marijuana, somebody
had thrown marijuana all over them.
So lots of drugs were left on the scene. Also, $5,000 in cash was
left on the scene, and these three big, fit, healthy guys were all killed.
One of the men who was killed was known to be a good friend of one of
the Boston bombings suspects. He was known to be friends with the older of
the two Tsarnaev brothers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
Since the bombing, because of that connection, there`s been a lot of
speculation on whether that unsolved triple murder in 2011 in Waltham,
Mass, might have been committed by Tamerlan Tsarnaev. For the first time
today, we are told that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who again is dead, is now
considered to be a suspect in those unsolved Waltham murders, as is the man
or has was the man who was killed today while he was being questioned about
those murders by Massachusetts state police and the FBI.
Now in terms of why this guy was killed today in Florida during
questioning, initial reports were that he lunged at the agents who were
questioning him with a knife, then there were reports later in the day
maybe the knife part of it was less clear, but according to the FBI,
they`re saying it was at least some sort of violent confrontation, some
sort of physical confrontation between this young man and the law
enforcement officers who were questioning him in his apartment, and that
resulted in him being shot to death.
The intersection of all of these horrible crimes and investigations
and these loose threads and this ongoing counterterrorism work was at least
one of these mysteries solved today. Do we actually have more clarity here
or do we have less?
Joining us now is “Boston Globe” reporter Wesley Lowery. He`s in
Florida, just a few feet from the apartment complex where the shooting
Mr. Lowery, thank you very much for joining us.
WESLEY LOWERY, BOSTON GLOBE: Of course. Thanks so much for having
MADDOW: What can you tell us at this hour in terms of the
developments in the case or anything that you know about the case that
might contradict anything that I just explained?
LOWERY: Of course. No, I think you had a very good synopsis there.
I mean, essentially, what we know is that this man, Ibragim Todashev was a
friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev`s. They knew each other in Boston, when they
both lived there, and moved down here to Florida sometime in the last few
months, just got a Florida driver`s license back in February, was being
questioned last night just a few feet to my right by FBI agents from
Boston, as well as other law enforcement officials about what, if anything,
he knew, one, about the Boston marathon bombing, but, two, about this 2011
grisly, very cruel Waltham triple homicide.
Our understanding what we`re hearing from our sources and I know NBC
has been reporting this, as well, is that he was getting ready to sign a
confession to his involvement in that murder and potentially to implicate
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, as well, when he became aggressive, potentially lunged
at the FBI agent, and was shot and killed. Again, it`s a tight scene down
here. The FBI is not saying much.
But again, our sourcing is saying that he became aggressive
immediately before signing a written confession and that`s when he was shot
MADDOW: Do you have any clarity on whether or not he was armed?
There were some conflicting reports today about whether he might have
injured the agents who he actually had this confrontation with and some
conflicting reports about whether he might have had a knife.
LOWERY: You know, I`ve seen the reports about a knife, and I
personally have not gotten confirmation on that. The FBI confirmed the
agent involved in the interview was, in fact, injured with nonlife-
threatening injuries, which may or may not be consistent with him having a
weapon. But right now, it`s really unclear in which the FBI would shoot
and kill a suspect. Details are very, very tight as they continue this
You know, like I said, a few feet away from me, they are continuing to
investigate this apartment where this happened.
MADDOW: I know that in these cases sometimes looking into the motive
feels beside the point, especially when the suspects are dead.
But, obviously, one of the big questions about this Waltham murder is
whether it was a crime as we usually understand it, or whether there might
have been any sort of political or extremist motivation for those murders.
Do we have any further clarity about whether any sort of motive was going
to be part of that confession?
LOWERY: You know, right now we really don`t. What we`ve been hearing
is that the man, the victim, or suspect who was killed here in Florida was
saying it was a robbery gone wrong. They realize that these guys were
friends of theirs who knew them, so robbing them of their drugs would leave
them implicated, because they could identify them, which is why they had
committed the murders.
There had been some speculation when Tamerlan Tsarnaev was first tied
to this murder, potentially following the bombings, that maybe there was
significance that occurred on the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
But again, it`s unclear if this was a crime that had any type of political
or religious significance or if it was just a very grisly drug crime.
Like I said, it`s very unclear and the picture of Tamerlan is still
one that`s being undeveloped. We really don`t know everything there is to
know about him, and it will be years before we really do know all the
answers to the questions.
MADDOW: To be clear, though, the man who was killed in Florida is not
considered, has been essentially cleared of any potential involvement in
the Boston marathon bombing itself. Is that right?
LOWERY: Of course. The FBI`s saying right now they have nothing to
indicate he had knowledge of it previously and/or that he played any role.
Again, he was being investigated because he was some who is a friend of
He had – his cell phone had been linked to Tamerlan Tsarnaev`s, as
well, they came down. They interviewed him. He became a suspect in this
Waltham murder. And again, to our knowledge, he was beginning or had
already confessed to being involved in the triple homicide, was preparing a
written statement when something went wrong in that room.
MADDOW: “Boston Globe” reporter Wesley Lowery, thank you very much
for helping us get through the details of this amazing story. Thanks very
LOWERY: Thank you so much for having me.
MADDOW: On the eve of a major address by President Obama, the Obama
administration made a startling announcement today that nobody knew was
coming and that has really big implications for stuff we thought we knew
before, but now it turns out we didn`t understand the way it really was.
What happened today with that late announcement, what it means.
We`ve got former Pentagon general counsel, Jeh Johnson, joining us
tonight for the interview.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: The attorney general of the United States broke some major
news today in an unexpected way, took a lot of people by surprise. Part of
the reason we know that is because this wanted poster was still posted at
FBI.gov this afternoon for several hours after the attorney general
admitted in print this afternoon that actually this guy is no longer
wanted, he`s dead. So, he`s not wanted anymore.
Shortly after the national security reporter, Spencer Ackerman, and a
number of other folks started tweeting links to the poster, the FBI
apparently took it down.
Did the FBI really not know that that guy had been killed until the
attorney general told Congress and the general public about it this
I mean, they had a wanted poster out for him. So presumably, they
were expending some FBI resources wanting the guy, right, looking for him.
If they were looking for him but another agency of the U.S. government,
presumably the CIA or maybe the military, some other part of the U.S.
government knew that that guy had been killed by us in a drone strike, did
those other parts of the U.S. government really just not tell the FBI until
they told the whole world today? Was the FBI maybe just playing along with
the rest of government in some sort of ruse the government was not
admitting the guy was dead?
I don`t say that in a conspiratorial way. I say that because the
government has been so acrobatically cagey when it comes to taking
responsibility for killing people in U.S. counterterrorism efforts around
Like this, for example, watch for the uncharacteristic use of the
passive verb tense here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to say a few
words about some important news. Earlier this morning, Anwar al-Awlaki, a
leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, was killed in Yemen. The
The death of Awlaki is a major blow to al Qaeda`s most active
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The president at an unrelated event there getting interrupted
with applause that Anwar al-Awlaki had been killed. That`s the specific
instructions he used. Awlaki was killed. He was killed.
Well, how did that happen?
Today, a year and a half later in this letter sent to Congress, the
U.S. government admitted what everybody already knew, which is that it
wasn`t just that he was killed. It wasn`t just an observed phenomenon that
he came to be dead. But rather, Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by the United
States. The attorney general went on in this letter today to go into an
elaborate explanation of why it was not just legal, but also a good idea
for the U.S. to kill Anwar Awlaki. This letter says, quote, “that the
United States specifically targeted and killed him.”
But then the same letter today also goes on to name three other U.S.
citizens who were also killed by the United States, even though they were
not, quote, “specifically targeted for killing.”
One of those three is the guy from the FBI wanted poster. Again, this
announcement about the U.S. killing him appears to be a bit of surprise
today, including maybe even to the FBI, who wanted him.
The other two are Americans who were widely known to have been killed
in U.S. drone strikes. One of them was Anwar al-Awlaki`s teenaged son, who
was killed a coupler of weeks after his father was killed. The other was
the guy thought to be involved with the al Qaeda magazine, making a bomb in
the kitchen of your mom thing. He was killed in the same strike that
killed Awlaki`s son in 2011.
But again, those two guys were widely thought to be killed by U.S.
drone strikes, as was Anwar Awlaki, despite the president`s passive
phrasing when he described the fact that he was killed. Those guys
everybody pretty much figured had been killed by U.S. drone strikes, even
though the government had never admitted to it before today.
So, here`s my question, actually, here`s by questions – why didn`t
the government admit to these things before today? Why did they admit to
them today? And why was it the attorney general who made the admission?
The attorney general doesn`t direct the CIA drone pilots or the
military drone pilots who made these killings. Why did we hear this from
the attorney general?
What the government basically admitting only one of these four
Americans was killed on purpose as part of specific targeting, doesn`t that
mean the government today admitted that the other three Americans were
essential killed by accident. And if they were killed by accident, if
those were mistakes, do their families get some sort of recourse for that?
President Obama`s due to give a big national security and civil
liberties speech tomorrow, a major address, and that clearly is driving the
timing on some of this. But, boy, do I have questions! Most of all, about
whether or not all of this movement on this issue right now and this speech
tomorrow means that things are going to be changing in this area or whether
this big speech and this bombshell admission from the attorney general
today means things are not changing, but the justifications for things are
going to be changing.
Here next for the interview tonight is a man who actually can answer
some of this stuff. Until the end of last year, he was the top lawyer at
the Pentagon and he is our guest exclusively, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
OBAMA: It`s the foundation of Anglo-American law, which says very
simply, if the government grabs you, then you have the right to at least
ask, “Why was I grabbed,” and say, “Maybe you`ve got the wrong person.”
You know, the reason you have that safeguard is because we don`t always
have the right person. We don`t always catch the right person.
We may think this is Mohammed the terrorist, it might Mohammed the cab
driver. You may think it`s Barack the bomb thrower, but it might be Barack
the guy running for president.
So, the point is, so the reason that you have this principle is not to
be soft on terrorism, it`s because that`s who we are. That`s what we`re
Don`t mock the Constitution. Don`t make fun of it. Don`t suggest
that it`s un-American to abide by what the Founding Fathers set up. It`s
worked pretty well for over 200 years.
Where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to
take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to
Now, as we do, we must enlist our values in the fight. That`s why my
administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable, legal, and policy
framework to guide our counterterrorism efforts. Throughout, we have kept
Congress fully informed of our efforts. I recognize that in our democracy,
no one should just take my word for it that we`re doing things the right
So in the months ahead, I will continue to engage Congress to ensure
not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists
remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but
that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Same man, same ideas, very different times. Very different
Today, on the eve of what is expected to be a major policy address by
the president on those issues, the Obama administration released this
letter. The attorney general writing this letter, owning up for the first
time to American citizens being among those who U.S. counterterrorism
efforts have killed abroad.
Why (ph) they do that today? How important is it? What`s going to
happen in this speech tomorrow?
Joining us now for the interview to help us understand some of this
stuff, what to look for in the president`s major address, in part, is Jeh
Johnson. He served as general counsel at the Pentagon during President
Obama`s first term. He`s now a lawyer in private practice and he`s here
tonight in person.
Mr. Johnson, it`s great to see you.
JEH JOHNSON, FORMER PENTAGON GENERAL COUNSEL: Thank you for having me
MADDOW: Eighteen months ago, President Obama announced that Anwar al-
Awlaki was killed, but not that we killed him. Why – why wouldn`t we have
said before that we killed him, and why could it be said now, why should it
be said now?
JOHNSON: Well, any disclosure of that nature, which today involved
declassifying certain things, involves careful consideration. We think
about the consequences in a variety of context, and I think what we saw
today was the result of continued efforts at transparency.
When I was in office, I, John Brennan, the attorney general, Harold
Koh, gave a number of speeches on the legal foundations for our efforts.
Last year, we declassified the military`s counterterrorism efforts in Yemen
and Somalia. And so, the conversation about acknowledging Anwar al-Awlaki,
who was a U.S. citizen, and acknowledging that there were three other U.S.
citizens who were not targeted, but who were killed as a result of our
actions, was something that has began a while ago, has been going on for
quite some time.
And there were a number of people in government, the president most
prominently, who thought and believe, obviously, that if a U.S. citizen who
is involved in terrorist activities against the United States, is the
target of lethal force, our government should acknowledge that. So this is
the result of those discussions, obviously.
MADDOW: With this letter today, it is the acknowledgment of what was
widely believed already to be true about Anwar al-Awlaki. His son, another
young man who was killed at the same time he was killed, and now a third
man who was not clear before today had been killed in these kinds of
efforts, they are all described as being killed by the United States but
not as having been specifically targeted.
Is that –
JOHNSON: I think you could remove the word specifically from that
MADDOW: Not targeted at all?
JOHNSON: Not targeted.
MADDOW: They are effectively saying it was an accident.
JOHNSON: We are effectively saying that they were not targeted as
part of those specific operations.
MADDOW: But killed anyway.
JOHNSON: But they were, obviously, killed.
MADDOW: Doesn`t that – shouldn`t that afford their family some kind
JOHNSON: That is a very good question. I think you should put that
to the Department of Justice.
MADDOW: If I we putting it to you as a lawyer in private practice who
knows from these things, what would you say?
JOHNSON: I – like I said, it`s an interesting question. It doesn`t
come up too often in my private practice, but it`s an important question.
And as you probably know, Anwar al-Awlaki`s father brought a second
lawsuit after his son was killed for wrongful death, seeking damages for
the loss of his son and his grandson, and I believe that lawsuit is still
pending right now.
MADDOW: One of the things that arose in the renewed congressional
attention to these matters, particularly around John Brennan`s nomination
to be head of the CIA, was whether or not people who were being targeted by
the U.S. government had a right to surrender and if they don`t know they
were being targeted, you don`t have a right to surrender, because you don`t
know it`s coming until it happens.
Is there a way – as changes are being made around the way the
government talks around these things, are there ways that you can foresee
that that issue could be addressed?
JOHNSON: Well, yes, actually, it`s in that letter that was issued
today. The government acknowledged Anwar al-Awlaki. We acknowledged three
other U.S. citizens who were killed in counterterrorism operations that
were not targeted.
But in addition, set forth in that letter is effectively a new
standard for our counterterrorism activities, that the individual must be a
continuing and imminent threat to Americans and that capture should not be
feasible. Those standards previously were only in place when it comes to
U.S. citizens, and what the letter discloses is that from this point
forward, and this is probably been in place for awhile now, that standard
will be in place for any targeted lethal force off the so-called “hot
And that`s a pretty rigorous standard, and I think it`s an
acknowledgment that we are moving to a different phase in our
counterterrorism efforts. We`ve been in a so-called arm conflict now for
almost the last 12 years, since 9/11, that is involved the U.S. military.
It`s involved other assets of the U.S. government, and we`re now in a
different phase. Some call it an inflection point, where core al Qaeda has
been effectively disseminated, captured or killed, and we see splinter
groups, we see affiliates in North Africa, in other places.
And so, I think what you`re seeing now is an acknowledgment we need to
move away from conventional armed conflict to the more traditional
approaches to counterterrorism where you have intelligence assets, law
enforcement assets, the military in reserve, and the bar is going to be
really high when it comes to targeted lethal force. So, that is – to me,
that is actually probably going forward the most significant thing in the
attorney general`s letter.
MADDOW: You were the one who said we should start looking for that
inflection point, and I think there`s going to be great debate when we hear
it in the speech tomorrow from the president about whether or not that –
whether or not that`s it.
There`s one other matter that I wanted to ask you about, though,
totally different part of what your responsibilities were as general
counsel, and that is the issue of the military really struggling with this
problem of sexual assault. It`s another just terrible set of charges
levied today by, in this case, a staff member at West Point, but we saw
this top-ranking U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel who is in charge of
sexual assault (INAUDIBLE) himself arrested in a related case.
JOHNSON: All in the category of you can`t make this stuff up.
MADDOW: It`s unbelievable. But the scale of the problem seems like
it is, both, getting worse and the military has not been able to handle it
himself. Are – itself – are there shortcomings in the military`s justice
system that make it so that this isn`t being treated seriously enough and
that victims don`t trust the system?
JOHNSON: I have recently come to the conclusion that the answer to
that question is, yes. We saw a recent report there were an estimated
26,000 inappropriate advances, sexual advances, within the military in FY-
2012. In that same period, only about 3,300 get reported and only about
300 or so end up in criminal convictions in our military justice system.
We`ve tried a lot of different things. We`ve tried additional
training. We`ve tried better resources, assets for investigations, we`ve
tried victims counseling.
Last year, Secretary Panetta raised the initial – the initial
disposition authority for how these cases should be handled to the 06
colonel captain level. And the problem, I believe, has become so
pervasive. The bad behavior is so pervasive. We need to look at
fundamental change in the military justice system itself.
There`s something like 16 bills pending right now in Congress. Some
of them would change the system. I think they are all worthy of
consideration, and there`s a panel that`s been appointed by the secretary
and the Congress to look at all this and they have to be sensitive to the
political calendar, but I think that this panel should look at all the
MADDOW: Jeh Johnson, former general counsel at the Pentagon – I
think you just made a lot of news here tonight. Thank you for being here
and willing to do it on this show. It`s nice to see you.
JOHNSON: Thank you.
JOHNSON: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Taking the Fifth today in baroque (ph) and entertaining
style. That`s next.
MADDOW: A big change today on a story that we have been covering for
months now. The Veterans Administration, as you know, has built up this
huge backlog of hundreds of thousands of disability claims from veterans,
disabled vets, waiting a year, waiting longer than that, just to even hear
from the V.A. about the status of their claims.
There are a lot of different reasons for the backlog, a lot of
veterans coming home after 12 years of war, disabilities that are
complicated to diagnose, lots of types of claims from older veterans that
would not been accepted before, but now, they will be accepted. Too much
of the recordkeeping being done on paper, there`s lots of reasons.
One of the big reasons is the fact that your records when you`re
active duty in the Defense Department are kept under a totally different,
incompatible system from your records when you e in the V.A., once you`re a
veteran and when you are out.
Well, today, that particular problem changed, maybe. Today, the
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that the Pentagon is going to get a
whole new huge system for its computerized medical records. That is in
part because of the hope that the new system might integrate better with
the system over at the V.A.
Now, the Pentagon had just considered dumping their own system and
adopting the V.A. system for the Defense Department so everybody would be
on one big system and there would be no issue with integration, but when
they looked into it, the Pentagon decided – no, let`s build our own new
And, you know, maybe that will help the backlog. Maybe it will set it
back even further, but it is a ginormous change that is going to affect
millions of Americans.
Watch this space.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOIS LERNER, IRS EXEMPT ORGANIZATIONS DIRECTOR: I have not done
anything wrong. I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS
rules or regulations, and I have not provided false information to this or
any other congressional committee.
And while I would very much like to answer the committee`s questions
today, I`ve been advised by my counsel to assert my constitutional right
not to testify or answer questions related to the subject matter of this
After very careful consideration, I`ve decided to follow my counsel`s
advice and not testify or answer any of the questions today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If you`re going to take the Fifth, that is, like, the deluxe
version of taking the Fifth, right?
When a person pleads the Fifth, they are referencing the specific part
of that amendment to the Constitution that says that a person cannot be
forced to be a witness against himself.
The IRS official who heads the division that has been caught up in
this scandal about processing applications from ideologically specific
groups, she pled the Fifth today because she said she believed the
committee was trying to get her to say things on record under oath,
essentially for the purpose of prosecuting her for those statements, even
though she says she has done nothing wrong.
Well, some members of the committee appeared enraged today that she
tried to explain even that much while still refusing to take their
questions, but that is what she did.
And then, members of the committee, both Republican and Democratic,
proceeded to shred both her and the agency as a whole over the course of
the whole afternoon, including a series of particularly grueling exchanges
with the guy who doesn`t even work there anymore, the George W. Bush
appointed former head of the IRS, who hasn`t even worked there since late
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D), NEW YORK: At no point in the letter did Ms.
Lerner mention that IRS officials were conducting their own internal
review. And, Mr. Shulman, why did she admit that fact?
DOUGLAS SHULMAN, FORMER IRS COMMISSIONER: I – I`m not familiar with
that letter. I`m sorry.
MALONEY: And, in fact, Ms. Lerner never informed the committee of
what was happening in the IRS tax exempt status in any way, and I just
would like to ask you, do you think it`s appropriate for the IRS to send
such a misleading response back to this committee?
SHULMAN: I`d have to look at the whole response and, you know, if it
came from Ms. Lerner, it`s very unlikely at, you know, I knew about it or
MALONEY: Well, I would say that we`re all outraged, but it`s not too
early to start talking about what we can do to fix it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s, essentially, the baseline starting point on this one
– we`re all outraged.
The question is not only about what can be done to fix it, but whether
we fully understand the scope of what the problem is already.
Joining us now is Congressman Carolyn Maloney of New York, you just
saw on that footage from the hearing. She`s member of the House Oversight
and Government Reform Committee.
Congresswoman, thanks very much for your time tonight. It`s nice to
have you here.
MALONEY: Great to be here.
MADDOW: So, this was the third hearing on this topic so far. Do you
feel you`ve been getting the answers you need from these IRS officials who
have appeared before your committee?
MALONEY: Well, not yet. Those of us who want to get to the facts and
we were to the facts, we were very disappointed, frustrated she pled the
Fifth Amendment today, but it is her constitutional right.
But you have to realize we are now confronting four different
investigations. The Department of Justice has a criminal investigation.
The House has an investigation. I.G. George is going to continue with his
audit and investigation, and the Senate has investigation.
We have hearings when we come back in a week from now with the new
director, Werfel, so there`s more to be done to get the answers and to get
MADDOW: From what you have been able to discern thus far, obviously
more needs to be asked and more needs to be forthcoming from the agency
itself. But does it seem to you thus far like a screw up or does it seem
to you like there`s any evidence that this was being directed as a
political tactic to try to hurt conservatives?
MALONEY: Well, I would say – I would say, Rachel, that it`s – we
are united for one, so Democrats and Republicans, in our outrage and are
united in our incompetence. They had people that were appointed by
Republicans and by Democrats that participated in this really misjudgment,
incompetence, screw up, whatever you want to call it.
So, what we did learn is that the IRS had their own investigation that
they did not inform the White House or Congress about. We learned that
there was no outside influence from any direction. It was totally an IRS
operation and we know the investigation is ongoing.
MADDOW: Are the guidelines surrounding, this whole 501c part of the
tax code, in terms of group getting assessed for their tax exemption
status, do you think the guidelines in the code are clear enough or are
they ambiguous enough that there`s necessarily going to be some kind of
error here if not abuse?
MALONEY: They are extremely vague and guidance needed to be clear
about it. I for one do not understand why you are granted tax-exempt
status if 49 percent of your activities can be political. The whole
purpose of not for profits is to be for social benefit, to help people.
I, for one, would support legislation that would ban any political
activity if you`re getting a tax-exempt status. It also carries the cover
that you can contribute to these 501(c)(4)s and not be disclosed. So, that
is also a problem when trying to influence politics or elections.
MADDOW: In the midst of scandal, the worst possible time to make
smart policy about fixing big, complicated systems. But I have a feeling
when the scandal is fixed, that big complicated problem is going to remain.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, thank you very much for your time
tonight. Thanks for helping us understand what`s going on.
MALONEY: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: I appreciate it.
All right. As if enduring a devastating natural disaster wasn`t
enough, now we get crazy pants political conspiracy theories that portend
to explain that first problem. That`s coming up next.
MADDOW: Two things happened recently that are related. They do not
seem related at first, but trust me, they`re related. So, stick with me
The first thing was a small piece of one of the planes that was used
on 9/11 being found wedged in a narrow alley way not far from Ground Zero.
Now, at first, it was reported to be part of the landing gear from those
landing gear from one of those planes. We learned that it actually came
from under one of the wings. So, that was thing number one.
Just a couple days later, thing number two: Republicans on the House
Oversight Committee had a joint hearing on the amount of ammunition the
Department of Homeland Security has on hand. See, if the federal
government has more bullets than the general population, how are we going
to defend ourselves in the fight against the government? Can`t let the
government get the upper hand in the weapons race, right?
Next thing, you know, they`ll have a standing army and bombs that can
take out whole cities and stuff. So, yes, Republicans in the House and the
Senate followed up the ammo thing with an actual bill, an actual piece of
legislation that`s supposed to prevent the government from buying too many
bullets. Yes, this is the same federal government that already stock
piles, say, Abrams tanks and armed drones and giant intercontinental
missiles that carry nuclear weapons – all that, yes, but it`s an excess
bullets that congressional Republicans have decided is the really worrying
That worry was so crazy, so out there, that even the National Rifle
Association wouldn`t touch it with a ten-foot rifle.
And yes, the conspiracy theory about the government having too many
bullets is nuts, but it`s not out of nowhere. That conspiracy theory comes
from the mother of all conspiracy theorists that can (INAUDIBLE)
Republicans. It`s an Internet talk show called “Info Wars”. Yes, this is
the same guy selling the idea that the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary
School and massacre at Aurora, Colorado, were actually fake, they were
faked as an excuse to take away our guns, enslave us to the giant wasps who
hive beneath the U.N. building or whatever.
It`s the same guy who says the Boston bombing was also fake. It was
fake for political purposes.
The same guy who says he doesn`t believe the Columbia space shuttle
disaster actually happened. He doesn`t believe there was actually an
Oklahoma City bombing.
Naturally, of course, he also knows and sells the idea that 9/11 was
an inside job, so that landing gear, that must be faked, too, the
And every tragedy, the “Info Wars”/Alex Jones world thinks they see
Monday`s devastating record breaking tornado in Moore, Oklahoma killed
two dozen people, flattened a community, just devastating, devastating,
right? But now, I am not kidding, the same conspiracy theory folks are
peddling the idea the tornado was a conspiracy as well. Seriously, the
tornado was a conspiracy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEX JONES, INFO WARS: And tornadoes are way down. Of course, they
lie and say they are way up, to try to get carbon taxes. But I don`t know
if this was a weather weapon or not, but they can – with the right weather
conditions, they can create and steer groups of tornadoes.
If people 50 miles out of storm systems see aircraft in and around the
clouds spraying and doing things, if you saw that, you better bet your
bottom dollar they did this. But who knows if they did. You know, that`s
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Who knows? Who knows if the U.S. government uses a secret
made up weather weapon that only exists in the mind of – yes. I mean,
that`s the thing, right?
Here`s the other thing. Alex Jones should be disqualified from
participating in Republican Party politics. His crackpot theories
shouldn`t prompt hearings in Congress and they shouldn`t inspire actual
legislation in Congress, and you shouldn`t do a money bomb on his show
running for Congress. Do not fund race on this theater of the absurd by
showing yourself to be one with this guy, really.
He says the tornado was a conspiracy, the tornado. Can we agree it is
over now, Republicans, going on his show, really? Can we agree? Please?
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Have a great night.
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