The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 03/11/14
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, man.
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
If you have flown into John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City over
the course of the last decade or so, there`s a good chance that you have
taxied past hangar number 17 at that airport. But even if you did, you
might not have known it, even if you were looking out the window of your
plane when you went past.
For a long time, the location of hangar 17 at JFK Airport was a
secret. Officials at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey did not
want people to know exactly where that building was on the grounds of
Kennedy Airport. And that`s because for many years, hangar 17 at JFK
housed the wreckage, the salvaged wreckage from the terrorist attacks on
New York City`s World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Two massive buildings now gone, and now we
look at where it all went. We have a special look tonight at all the
wreckage that was taken from Ground Zero, all of it sacred. And it`s all
awaiting a home, a permanent memorial. It`s all being cared for in a
hangar at New York`s JFK Airport.
It`s as if that day five years ago is now contained in this room. The
violence is over and the heat has cooled, but it`s all here. You can feel
it, you can smell it. It`s enough to make anyone angry and sad and
spiritual all over again.
It`s an airline hangar as church.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s no question that this is sacred ground
here again, as it is down at Ground Zero.
WILLIAMS: In the first big room, the once mighty, once shiny outer
rims of the building now broken, burned and rusted and lying on their
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: After 9/11, one of the hard questions, one of the daunting
responsibilities facing the people who are tasked with cleaning up the site
of the attacks was what to do with the wreckage. The terrorist attacks
left 1.2 million tons of debris behind in New York City. It all had to be
sorted and cared for.
People`s personal belongings, jewelry, clothing, papers, that all had
to be sifted through. There, of course, were the human remains. There was
the dust that contained human remains. There was the building material
from the destroyed buildings. All of what was left there in that small
pile, it all had to be not just cleaned up but in a way laid to rest.
Part of the 1.2 million tons of sacred wreckage was the twisted and
mangled heavy-grade steel that made up the World Trade Center buildings,
themselves – those huge, tall, straight buildings. People tasked with the
cleanup had to figure out whether they should keep that steel, and if so,
how they should keep it. And how they should transport it when it needed
to be moved and where they should send it to.
That`s how they arrived at hangar 17. That is where authorities
decided to house that wreckage indefinitely in that giant airplane hangar,
hangar 17 at JFK Airport.
Well, ten years down the line, leading up to the tenth anniversary of
the 9/11 attacks, the Port Authority decided that cities around the world
could apply to obtain a piece of the wreckage. They could make their case
about how they wanted to commemorate the 9/11 attacks in their city and if
they made a compelling enough case, they would be given one of these
basically sacred objects. Hundreds of cities from around the world applied
for that honor.
It was London that got the biggest piece of the world trade center
outside of the United States. London is using it in a program to teach
kids about the terrorist attacks.
The city of Calgary in Canada, they received a piece of the exterior
wall of one of the World Trade Center buildings to display in a military
Austin, Texas, received a column to display at their 9/11 monument at
the Texas State Cemetery.
Trenton, New Jersey, received a piece of the south tower for their
There were hundreds of applications – one city in China, military
bases in Afghanistan. At least one city or one facility in every single
state in the country wanted that honor.
And it was hard to get. One group in Canada who had hoped to obtain a
piece of the buildings ultimately withdrew their application because the
application process had been so lengthy and so onerous so they took their
name out of contention.
But that process was one way that people got to take a little piece of
that day for themselves, to remember and to grieve. If they proved to the
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey that they should be allowed to
have one of these precious, somber remnants from the terrible moment in
history that killed so many people. That was one way.
But according to a front page story in today`s “New York Times”, there
was another way as well. This is Bill Baroni. He`s the former deputy
executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Mr.
Baroni had been a Republican state senator in New Jersey and then he was
appointed to this new high-ranking, high-paying job at the Port Authority
by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
This picture shows Mr. Baroni in his capacity as an executive of the
Port Authority. He`s speaking in 2012 in this photo. And this is at a
ceremony where, see what he`s got his hands on there? He is presenting to
the mayor of Secaucus, New Jersey, one of the pieces of steel from the
World Trade Center ruins. That`s what Mr. Baroni has his hands on there.
That is an actual piece of the World Trade Center that he`s giving to the
mayor of Secaucus.
Why did that mayor of Secaucus get that piece of the World Trade
Center towers? “The New York Times” today reports that beyond this
difficult worldwide how will you commemorate 9/11 application process,
another way people got pieces of the actual steel from the wreckage of the
World Trade Center from that terrorist attack was to be a New Jersey mayor
who the Christie administration was wooing for an endorsement for Governor
Chris Christie`s re-election.
According to “The Times,” pieces of steel from the ruins of the World
Trade Center were, quote, “presented by the Port Authority of New York and
New Jersey to 20 carefully chosen New Jersey mayors who sat atop a list of
100 whose endorsements Governor Christie hoped to win.”
If you feel the need to hit pause and go take a shower to rid yourself
of the feeling you are having right now, I understand. I`m probably on
DVR, so just hit pause. But wait, there`s more. Quoting from “The Times”
today, “at photo opportunities around the mangled pieces of steel, Bill
Baroni, Mr. Christie`s top staff appointee at the Port Authority, told
audiences how many people wanted a similar remnant of the destroyed
buildings and how special these mayors were.”
These mayors who were at the top of that list because Governor Chris
Christie wanted them to endorse him.
In this same cringe-inducing article that makes you want to run into
every social studies class in the country and tell the kids not to go into
politics unless they`re emigrating to a country where it isn`t this
disgusting, “The New York Times” makes clear they have seen this numbered
list of 100, this numbered list of 100 mayors from whom Chris Christie`s
re-election campaign was trying to get endorsements and apparently choosing
people to get remnants of the World Trade Center.
They knew that the top 20 received a sacred piece of 9/11 wreckage as
essentially part of a Chris Christie political goody bag. Apparently,
because they have seen that list, though, “The Times” is also able to
report where the mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, Mark Sokolich, falls on the
list. Mayor Mark Sokolich is the mayor of the town that was gridlocked as
part of some as yet unexplained political scheme to close access lanes on
to the George Washington Bridge to punish Fort Lee for something we still
Mark Sokolich was number 45 of 100. Number 45 on the Christie
administration`s list of 100 mayors that were important to them, 45th in
importance, in terms of the people who Governor Christie thought he need to
sign off on him in order to get him re-elected by the margin he wanted.
That`s kind of interesting, right? I mean, the theory that has been
posited over and over and over again, including in today`s front-page story
in “The New York Times,” the theory that has been posited over and over
again for why lanes on the busiest lanes in the world were shut down by
members of Governor Christie`s inner circle. The theory is it was all
about political retribution against that mayor, political retribution
against Mayor Mark Sokolich in Fort Lee for him refusing to endorse Chris
Christie for re-election.
Seriously, though? Think about that for a second. You close down
access to the world`s busiest bridge for number 45 on your list? You
gridlock a town for five days for a guy who`s only number 45 on your list
of priorities? Seriously?
What does that mean they did if number 35 failed to endorse them? I
mean, I shudder to think what would happen if number five refused to
endorse. Would that be nuclear?
When Governor Christie gave his marathon press conference addressing
the lane closures back in January, he said the political retribution
explanation didn`t make sense to him. And he made a good case for it. He
said, listen, I can`t pick Mayor Mark Sokolich of Fort Lee out of a lineup.
He said Mayor Sokolich was not on my radar. The mayor of Fort Lee was
simply not that important to the governor`s re-election campaign to warrant
this kind of retribution.
According to the governor, himself, why would anybody do something so
dramatic and so risky, so outrageously punitive against a little town that
just didn`t matter that much to this statewide campaign?
Governor Christie made that case publicly and emphatically back in
January, saying basically I got bigger fish to fry than this Mark Sokolich
guy, shutting down the bridge to hurt him over the endorsement issue, it
makes no sense.
And we find out today that Mark Sokolich was, in fact, number 45 on
the list of critical endorsements that was created by the campaign. OK.
So, then, why did one of Governor Christie`s top staffers order
traffic problems for that town? Why did they apparently order those lanes
closed? The unexplained nature of what happened on that bridge is still
the most interesting question in this whole scandal and it`s the reason,
frankly, why the scandal continues to be so fascinating in addition to
being the cause of ongoing investigations.
If it wasn`t worth it to rain down a week of traffic hell for one
endorsement from number 45, Fort Lee, then, why did they rain down a week
of traffic hell on Fort Lee? Why did they do it?
While we were absorbing the new information about the pieces of the
World Trade Center in the new piece from “The New York Times” today,
Bridget Anne Kelly, Governor Christie`s former chief of staff, the person
who sent the “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” e-mail, she
appeared in court today. Lawyers for Ms. Kelly and also for Bill Stepien,
Governor Christie`s former campaign manager argued today in court that
Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien shouldn`t have to comply with subpoenas they
received from the New Jersey legislative committee that`s investigating the
And it`s going to be a little while before that matter is decided.
The judge made clear she wants additional information from the attorney for
the legislature. The judge will rule some time thereafter. The co-chair
of the investigation, John Wisniewski, today, said it looks like from
today`s proceedings this thing is going to go on for longer than anyone
So, the Fifth Amendment issues and whether or not they have to turn
over their documents, we shall see.
But one of the other issues that came up in court today right away and
then repeatedly was the issue of immunity. The judge asked the attorney
for the legislature, if you want those documents so badly, why fight them
on their Fifth Amendment claims? Why not just grant them immunity from
prosecution, then they can`t incriminate themselves because they`re immune
from prosecution and they`ll obviously hand it all over.
Watch how this went.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REID SCHAR, NJ LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE ATTORNEY: Obviously, Ms. Kelly
is critical to what occurred based on the communications that we presented
to your honor, that we have.
JUDGE: But you could grant her immunity and then they have their
right against self-incrimination goes away, and we don`t have the
constitutional issue and you have the right to proceed with your
SCHAR: Well, I – that`s a – that`s a complicated analysis, Your
Honor. One, what – yes?
JUDGE: Well, under the statute, the committee has the explicit right
to grant immunity.
SCHAR: The committee has explicit right to grant immunity for
testimony. It shouldn`t be that the committee has to grant immunity in
order to get documents that otherwise are rightfully within their power to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OK. The two people at the very, very center of this scandal, the two
people who we know of who are directly connected to this so far are Bridget
Kelly who sent “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” and the guy
who received that e-mail and replied “got it,” David Wildstein.
When David Wildstein was called to testify before the legislature, he
invoked his Fifth Amendment rights as well, but his attorney said
specifically if he were granted immunity, he would talk.
Well, today we heard a similar line of argument from the attorneys for
Bridget Kelly and from the judge discussing her case. If she were granted
immunity from criminal prosecution, then maybe she, too, would reveal what
she knows about why this all happened and how this all happened and, of
course, the question of who was in on it.
The question of immunity in terms of what happens next – does the
legislature have the power to grant immunity to the people who are saying
“I`m taking the Fifth, I`m pleading the Fifth, I don`t want to hand over
documents, I don`t want to testify, I don`t want to incriminate myself.”
If they can hand out immunity to those people who are pleading the
Fifth, will those people sing? It`s a legal question and a strategic
question. More on that in just a second.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHAR: Ms. Kelly was a public employee communicating about the use of
public resources on the lane closures to reassign the lanes, public lanes
in a public thoroughfare. And the bottom line is the cost of being a
public employee is that the records that she has, whether in her personal
possession now, or otherwise, that deal with state issues are not protected
by the Fifth Amendment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Reid Schar, a lawyer arguing in court today that
Bridget Kelly, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie`s former deputy chief of
staff, should be forced to hand over records to the legislature`s
investigation into the bridge lane scandal in New Jersey.
Joining us now, Shawn Boburg, “The Bergen Record” reporter who`s taken
a lead on the coverage of this investigation for his paper. He was in
court today for the Kelly/Stepien hearing.
Shawn, thanks very much for being here.
SHAWN BOBURG, THE BERGEN RECORD: Thank you.
MADDOW: So, on the question of immunity which I did not expect
today`s court proceedings to be about as much as they were, what was that
argument about? Was that – was that argument about whether or not the
legislature can indemnify these people from prosecution? People who don`t
want to hand over documents or don`t want to testify, thus potentially
opening up an avenue to get them to talk?
BOBURG: Yes, that`s part of it. Part of the question here is does
this committee – it`s a legislative committee. These are lawmakers who
are elected officials. Do they have the right – do they have the
authority to grant immunity to someone who agrees to talk to them and
You heard a little bit of a disagreement today. You know, Ms. Kelly`s
lawyer said you could do it with a snap. On the other side, it was Reid
Schar who said it`s not quite clear.
And remember, what we`re talking about is immunity from both the state
and federal prosecution. This is a committee that doesn`t have
prosecutorial power, is not coordinating with federal authorities, so it`s
kind of tough to imagine how that might work logistically.
MADDOW: Right. It`s one thing if the prosecution was going to come
from the legislative committee that`s doing the investigating, they could
say, we agree to not prosecute you. But it`s hard to believe they could
mange an agreement for immunity that then the U.S. attorney for the state
of New Jersey, or indeed, Manhattan, would respect if they – if those
investigations at the federal level found some sort of criminal, potential
BOBURG: Yes, and that possibility was raised today that even if the
committee granted immunity, you could still have a federal prosecutor who
comes in, finds wrongdoing, proceeds with the case. In that event, what we
might likely see if that was immunity granted is a challenge, an appeal
based on a judge`s decision and the committee`s promise that anything you
say or provide to us cannot be used to prosecute you.
MADDOW: Shawn, I want to ask you – a little bit of tape from the
hearing today that I want to ask you about. We have been saying over and
over again in shorthand that Bridget Kelly sent that e-mail that said,
“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Her lawyer contested that
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL CRITCHLEY, BRIDGET ANNE KELLY`S ATTORNEY: I am not conceding
today, nor do I have to, and it would be unethical for me to do it as an
attorney, concede any element of proof that potentially could be
incriminating to my client or provide a link of information to be
incriminating to my client.
So, I start with this proposition – I do not concede that my client
sent this. The government has to prove it. The committee has to prove it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: He does not concede that Bridget Kelly sent the e-mail “time
for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
Reid Schar seemed to be surprised to hear that argument today. Was
that a surprise?
BOBURG: It was in some respects, but I think the broader point that
Critchley is making here is he`s placing the burden fully on the committee.
He`s saying we`re not going to help you. You`re asking us to provide
documents that may incriminate my client. We`re not going to concede the
documents already in your possession are authentic.
So, he`s really – he`s really laying the gauntlet down and
challenging the committee to prove its case much the same way that a
federal prosecutor or another law enforcement agency would do it.
MADDOW: Shawn Boburg, reporter for the “Bergen Record” – thank you
for helping us understand this. This is – I mean, it`s amazing to be able
to see these people in person because we`ve heard so much about them
without seeing them in action today, but the story continues to get thicker
BOBURG: Thank you.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
Again, one of the major issues that needs to be settled here is
whether or not the committee really does have the subpoena power that it
thinks it does. If the judge rules that Bill Stepien and Bridget Kelly
don`t have to hand over these documents, it will raise real questions as to
whether or not the legislature effectively has the power to keep
investigating this story by compelling people to hand stuff over.
Watch this space. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: My favorite song. Sorry.
There are not too many congressional seats left in the country where
either party conceivably could win a particular congressional race. Almost
every seat now is a safe seat, either for the Republican Party or the
Democratic Party. That`s the mess we`ve gotten ourselves into as a nation.
But tonight, there was a congressional race, a special election in one
of the remaining districts in the country that sort of vaguely still a
little bit swingy, leans Republican but not entirely Republican. It`s
Florida`s 13th congressional district, one of the only places in the
country where Democrats thought they might conceivably pick up a seat this
year that was previously held by a Republican – in this case, by longtime
Republican Congressman Bill Young who passed away late last year.
Well, for this special election today, the Democrats ran former
gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink against Republican former lobbyist and
Bill Young aide, David Jolly.
Polls closed in the 13th district of Florida at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, and
with 48.4 percent of the vote, Republican David Jolly has won the race.
Republicans will hold on to that seat in Florida. The margin was 48.4
Special election tonight in Florida, one down, lots more to go, but
not for months. Doesn`t mean there aren`t people spending money hand over
fist to get there now, and that story is ahead.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: On December 6th, 2007, “The New York Times” published this
bombshell report saying the CIA destroyed videotapes the agency made of
interrogations. You know what kind of interrogations I mean. It was the
so-called harsh interrogations, where the CIA subjected prisoners to
waterboarding and other forms of torture.
It was later reported that the destruction of those videotapes was
contrary to the wishes of both the Bush White House at the time, in 2005,
and also the director of national intelligence. But the CIA made the
decision on their own. They made the decision to destroy those tapes on
the advice of their own internal lawyers, never mind what anybody else
wants them to.
Now, Congress, which is supposed to be overseeing the CIA, was
horrified by this revelation. The director of the CIA came up to the Hill
to brief the intelligence committee after this revelation in “The New York
Times” exposing what the CIA had done to destroy these tapes. He told the
Congress essentially – don`t worry about us destroying those videotapes.
Those tapes didn`t mean anything, didn`t show anything important. He told
Congress that the CIA had taken detailed written notes of everything they
did in those interrogation rooms and those notes would be handed over to
Congress now, all that written information and that should satisfy their
Well, the Intelligence Committee did send some of its staffers to go
read those written reports from the CIA, and what they found in those
written reports apparently upset them significantly. Members of the
Intelligence Committee were briefed on a lot of things that the CIA had
done, but apparently they were not briefed on this stuff.
According to the chair of the Intelligence Committee, now, Dianne
Feinstein, what Senate staffers found in those reports, quote, “was
chilling. The interrogations and conditions of confinement at the CIA
detention sites were far different and far more harsh than the way the CIA
had described them to us.” “Us” meaning the Intelligence Committee, which
is supposed to be overseeing the CIA.
As a result of what they found and were disturbed by in those written
reports, the Intelligence Committee voted they would do a complete review
of this issue. They`d do a complete review of the CIA`s secret prisons and
CIA interrogations in those prisons.
And you know what? The CIA is obliged to go along with that. They
are not allowed to act unilaterally. They are overseen by Congress. And
so, when Congress authorizes and votes for an investigation, and asks the
CIA for documents, the CIA really is supposed to turn those documents over.
And the CIA did turn over millions of documents. Sort of. What they
did was set up some sort of secure location somewhere in northern Virginia
where they would allow members of the committee and staffers from the
committee to come to that off-site facility managed by the CIA and there at
that facility, they could review those millions of pages of documents.
They couldn`t take them, themselves, to the Senate. They had to do it
where the CIA could keep an eye on them. What could possibly go wrong?
Within a few months of having set up that arrangement with the CIA,
starting to review those millions of pages of documents, the Intelligence
Committee and its staffers realized that something was wrong. That
documents they had seen were disappearing.
The CIA was taking some stuff back, even after they had given it to
the committee in the first place. They appeared to be going through the
staffers, going – excuse me, going through the computers that the Senate
staffers were supposedly using to oversee the CIA and they were removing
documents from those computers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE CMTE. CHAIR: In May of
2010, the committee staff noticed that the documents have been provided for
the committees that had been provided for the committee`s review were no
longer accessible. Staff approached the CIA personnel at the off-site
location, who initially denied that documents had been removed. CIA
personnel then blamed information technology personnel who were almost all
contractors for removing the documents, themselves, without direction or
And then the CIA stated that the removal of the documents was ordered
by the White House. When the committee approached the White House, the
White House denied giving the CIA any such order.
After a series of meetings, I learned that on two occasions, CIA
personnel electronically removed committee access to CIA documents.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, the Senate is trying to oversee the CIA. It`s their
constitutional responsibility. They`re trying to investigate something the
CIA has done.
The CIA is messing with the investigation. They took away documents
that the Senate was looking at. They went into the Senate`s computers and
said, huh-uh, we`re taking that.
That ended up being really important and led to two things. First of
all, it led to public allegations, bombshell allegations that the CIA was
in effect spying on Congress, that they were using spy tactics, the things
they`re empowered to do as a clandestine agency. They`re using those
tactics against the United States Congress, against the part of the U.S.
government that is supposed to oversee them.
So, that`s the first consequence of the CIA getting caught taking
those documents off the Senate computers.
The second consequence, though, was more spy versus spy style.
Because the second consequence of the CIA getting caught messing with the
Senate in that way is that Senate staffers decided, in response,
effectively, to take matters into their own hands. Now, remember, this
whole thing started with that revelation in “The New York Times” that the
CIA had destroyed evidence about themselves.
Right? They had destroyed those videotapes of them effectively
torturing prisoners. Years later with the Senate trying to investigate
that, the CIA was again trying to get rid of evidence, trying to remove
documents from the view of the investigation.
And there was one particular document turned up, an internal document,
that they apparently believe undercut a lot of the CIA`s denials and that
they knew the CIA wished the Senate hadn`t had access to. Senate staffers,
knowing that, took that document. They took it physically out of that
secure location in northern Virginia and they apparently took it here to
the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., one of secure
facilities in that building designed to handle secret intelligence
information. And, apparently, inside that building, they then locked it up
in a safe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FEINSTEIN: The CIA has previously withheld and destroyed information
about its detention and interrogation program, including its decision in
2005 to destroy interrogation videotapes over the objections of the Bush
White House and the director of national intelligence. Based on the above,
there was a need to preserve and protect the internal Panetta review in the
committee`s own secure spaces.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: To preserve and protect it, we needed to take it away from
the CIA and keep it ourselves.
So, theoretically, as a constitutional republic, we are supposed to
have a spy agency that does all sorts of clandestine stuff that is kept
secret from the public by necessity. But everything they do is supposed to
be briefed to the intelligence committee in Congress. Congress is supposed
to know everything that they do. And they`re supposed to effectively set
bounds by policy for what the CIA can and cannot do.
On paper, that`s how it works. Now, we know that in real life, these
two sides, the supposed overseers and the agency they oversee, they`re
stealing documents from one another. The Senate is hiding stuff in safes
in their own office building in order to keep the CIA from destroying stuff
they think the CIA will destroy unless the Senate steals it from them.
This is nuts!
But then it gets even more nuts, because once the CIA figures out that
they`re dealing with this death of the republic-style allegations, that our
own spy service has turned on our own government, that the CIA is spying on
Congress. Once they learn that Congress in response has moved CIA
documents on to Capitol Hill in order to keep the CIA from destroying them
and hiding them from Congress. Then the CIA decides to strike back. Oh,
yes. You said, we`re doing something illegal? No, you`re doing something
The CIA decided that they would refer those Senate staffers for
prosecution. They would refer them for criminal prosecution, for moving
those documents into that safe on Capitol Hill.
And that is where everything went completely off the hook today when
the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who has been very pro-CIA
all along, when Dianne Feinstein, no liberal on these matters, got up this
morning on the Senate floor and made a totally remarkable, possibly
unprecedented 40-minute speech, where she flat-out accused the CIA of doing
things in those interrogations that they never admitted to Congress. She
accused them of committing crimes to cover it up. She accused them of
spying illegally on Congress.
And listen to what she said about the CIA`s counter-threat that the
CIA was going to go after the staffers of the committee that is making
these allegations against them. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FEINSTEIN: Weeks later, I was also told the acting counsel general of
the CIA filed a crimes report with the Department of Justice concerning the
committee staff`s action. I view the acting counsel general`s refer as a
potential effort to intimidate this staff and I am not taking it lightly.
I should note that for most, if not all of the CIA`s detention and
interrogation program, the now-acting general counsel was a lawyer in the
CIA`s Counterterrorism Center, the unit within which the CIA managed and
carried out this program. From mid-2004 until the official termination of
the detention and interrogation program in January, 2009, he was the unit`s
chief lawyer. He is mentioned by name more than 1,600 times in our study.
And now, this individual is sending a crimes report to the Department
of Justice on the actions of congressional staff. The same congressional
staff who researched and drafted a report that details how CIA officers,
including the acting general counsel, himself, provided inaccurate
information to the Department of Justice about the program.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Dianne Feinstein got up on the floor of the Senate today and
alleged that one of the CIA staffers who she says not only effectively took
part in the torture program but lied to the Department of Justice about it,
is now the person at the CIA who is threatening to prosecute members of the
Senate staff who are about to expose what he did.
The acting general counsel of the CIA is not one of those positions
that they post the guy`s name on the Web site. We are not necessarily
allowed to know who that is at the CIA. And Senator Dianne Feinstein did
not say his name today, but “The New York Times” reports tonight that it is
likely to be this person who is officially the chief deputy general counsel
of the CIA, which means he would be the number two in that office.
The reasoning goes that the number one job in that office has been
vacant since last fall, so it would make sense that this number two guy
would be acting general counsel, until somebody new could be confirmed to
lead the office. If it is him, if that is who she is talking about, he
signed off, reportedly signed off internally at the CIA in 2005 when the
agency decided to destroy those videotapes of those torture sessions. I
mean, interrogations. Same guy.
Our country must sometimes act in secret, or at least arguably our
country must sometimes act in secret. We must have, for example, a spy
service to spy.
But the only way we can have secret government and still remain a
democracy is if there is some part of our government that is allowed to
oversee what the secret agencies do. If those agencies use their
clandestine tactics against the government, that`s a sort of thing that`s
an instant forfeit. That`s the kind of thing that undermines the whole
justification for any part of our government to have any kind of power of
What Dianne Feinstein alleged on the floor of the Senate today is a
huge Constitution-sized big deal for our country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: You said at your confirmation hearing
you wanted to restore the trust between CIA and the overseers in the
Senate. This is a pretty major gulf. If it is proved the CIA did do this,
would you feel you`d have to step down?
JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: I am confident that the authorities will
review this appropriately, and I will deal with the facts as uncovered in
the appropriate manner. I would just encourage some members of the Senate
to take their time to make sure that they don`t overstate what they claim
and what they probably believe to be the truth.
And if I did something wrong, I will go to the president and I will
explain to him exactly what I did and what the findings were. And he is
the one who can ask me to stay or to go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: CIA Director John Brennan today with NBC`s Andrea Mitchell at
the Council on Foreign Relations answering her question of whether these
allegations of CIA spying on Congress are serious enough allegations that
effectively they should threaten his job at CIA director?
Joining us now is Senator Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado. He`s a
member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Senator Udall, thank you very much for being here tonight. I really
appreciate your time.
SEN. MARK UDALL (D), COLORADO: Of course, Rachel. If I might start,
just thank you for doing what needed to be done which is to lay out the
comprehensive history here.
It was a dramatic and historic day today, given Senator Feinstein`s
speech on the floor of the Senate. She laid out the facts. Facts speak
If I might say this, the situation begins with the CIA and it ends
with the CIA. And I would add one other note. I`ve lost confidence in
Director Brennan, particularly because he won`t acknowledge the misdeeds
and misconduct of the CIA. As Senator Feinstein in her speech today
pointed out, about six weeks ago, he acknowledged to Senator Feinstein and
Senator Chambliss that the CIA had, in fact, gone into the computers of our
intelligence committee staff. Today, he denied it.
I don`t understand why he won`t come clean. That`s why I`ve lost
confidence in Director Brennan.
MADDOW: To be clear, you`re saying that he`s telling the Intelligence
Committee, the leadership of the Intelligence Committee, something
different in private than he`s willing to admit to in public?
UDALL: That`s what I only can conclude after listening to him today
and also after listening to Senator Feinstein lay out the history with
which I`m all too familiar. This is really unfortunate that we`re in this
But as you pointed out, my role in the intelligence committee is to be
an overseer of the executive branch. That is a sacred responsibility. We
are the conscience of the nation. We have to uphold the public trust. And
that role, to me, is very important.
That`s why when I first went on the committee some three years ago, I
went about understanding the CIA`s program of interrogation detention which
was brutal. It was ineffective. It was clumsy. It was filled with flaws.
I call it torture.
And we`ve been pushing ever since to get this report released and to
clear the record because we know in America when we acknowledge our
mistakes, we`re the stronger for it. We`re the better for it.
And there were enormous mistakes made. There was a stain on our
country`s reputation. We can lift that by letting the truth let us free,
but as long as the CIA continues to stall and delay and not work with the
committee in an appropriate way, we`re not going to get to that point.
MADDOW: Do you feel like the ability of the Intelligence Committee to
meaningfully oversee the CIA has been meaningfully undermined? Is this –
is this, in effect, a fight tactics or a disagreement about access to that
one internal report? Or is there – does this signify something larger
that has broken down about whether or not that clandestine agency can be
overseen by elected officials?
UDALL: We can oversee the agency, but it has to cooperate. It has to
act in a respectful manner.
I think the focus is on the latter points that you make, that there
are constitutional questions here tied to the Fourth Amendment. There are
also questions of legality.
It`s clear to me that there are significant reasons to believe that
the CIA broke the law when they searched our computers.
In contrast, if I might add given your comments about the Intelligence
Committee staff, they may have broken a rule in bringing those documents to
the Hill, but in bringing those documents to the hill they`ve complied with
all the policies that the CIA has when they deliver documents to the Hill.
You also pointed out the great fear many documents have disappeared
when the CIA went into our computer systems. There was a concern that the
Panetta review would also disappear.
MADDOW: Fascinating. It`s an incredible story.
We see so little of what the agencies do. We learn about most of it
through things like letters from you to the president earlier this week and
from these –
MADDOW: – these remarkable moments in Congress. This is an
incredible window on a very serious constitutional issue.
Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, thank you for helping us understand it
UDALL: Thanks, Rachel. Please stay on the story. I know you will.
MADDOW: Absolutely. Thank you.
All right. More ahead. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: There was one congressional race happening in the country
today. It was in Florida. It was a special election. It was the only
Republican David Jolly won in Florida`s 13th congressional district.
None of the other congressional races that will happen this year are
happening any time soon. None of them are going to happen for another
But you know, what is time really? If you inherited a privately held
oil and chemical company from your dad and you and your brother are one of
the richest men on Earth, and you decided to spend that money trying to
make over American politics in your own conservative image, and in a way
that benefits your enormous interests, then what is time to you really?
I mean, most people competing in normal American political terms have
to wait until they`re within a few weeks, at least a few months of their
election before they start buying tens of millions of dollars worth of TV
time to try to influence that election, to trash the other side or to exalt
their own side.
But if you`re not operating on normal American political terms, if you
are the Koch brothers, say, well then time is money and you`ve got all the
money. And that means that time is always on your side.
So, while everybody else in the country outside of Florida`s 13th
congressional district does not feel like we are having an election right
now or any time soon, in places where the Koch brothers have decided to
throw their weight and their money around, it has not been just weeks
already, but months already where they`re already running ads all over the
country. Not just for a special election here or there, these are ads for
the November election, and they`re running more than a half year in
advance, trying to soften up Democratic candidates, trying to hurt poll
numbers and public opinion on Democratic issues.
And when you have got all the money in the world, you can pay for good
ads. You can at least pay for effective ads.
And this is an example of one of their effective ads. A Koch brothers
funded group called Americans for Prosperity has been running this ad in
Michigan to hurt the U.S. Senate prospects of Congressman Gary Peters,
who`s running as a Democrat in the November election.
This is a well-done, emotionally effective ad. The woman in this ad
lives in Michigan. She tells about getting a diagnosis for leukemia and
then having her old health care policy canceled under Obamacare. And she
then says with the new insurance that she can buy under health reform, her
treatment is, quote, “unaffordable.” She says without her medication,
quote, “I will die.”
The ad is very tough, it`s riveting. And she is a real person facing
a real illness and may the woman who is in this ad get well soon. Nobody
wishes her anything but the best.
But even though that ad remains effective, it is still turning out to
be a big embarrassment for the Koch-funded group that made it and
potentially a big political problem not just for them but also more broadly
for the Republicans who are trying to capitalize on these Koch-funded
groups that are running these campaigns.
Right after the ad appeared, “The Washington Post” fact checked it and
said the woman was eligible for a plan that would include her doctor who
she liked, and it would also cut her premiums in half. The paper learned
about the way cheaper premiums because before she appeared in the ad, she
talked to the local “Detroit News”, which “Detroit News” also noticed when
another ad, a different ad suggesting a different outcome started running
on their local TV sets. The new ad, quote, “is making misrepresentations
that aren`t consistent with what she told the `Detroit News` three week ago
in an interview.” So, “Detroit News” kept digging.
Yesterday, the paper ran another headline. Look. “Patient who called
health care unaffordable will save more than a thousand dollars.”
Continuing, quote, “The new plan will save $1,000 compared with her former
insurance plan.” When advice of the details of her new plan, the patient
said the idea it would be cheaper, quote, “can`t be true.” She said,
quote, “I personally do not believe that.”
Some things are apparently not believable when you don`t want to
Koch brothers say they are not responsible for that ad. We asked them
about it today. They referred us to Americans for Prosperity, which
produced the ad in which they fund. Americans for Prosperity told us the
woman liked her old plan. We asked if they had heard from the Koch
brothers about the ad being debunked, we did not get an answer to that.
Over the past few weeks in Washington, Democrats have talked about
holding the Kochs accountable for the campaigns they fund and the ads their
money buys. It`s not always obvious when Koch money is involved, or when
the ads are not telling the truth.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has made a point lately of calling
out of Koch brothers for misleading ads on Obamacare. It`s kind of his new
thing in Washington. But on the ground, in the states where it matters,
can Democrats do anything to match the Kochs` campaign? Can they make a
meaningful counterattack even when the Kochs ads are false?
The answer may start in Alaska with this new Democratic ad from
Senator Mark Begich.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AD NARRATOR: First, it was a D.C. actress pretending to be an
Alaskan. Now, ads attacking Mark Begich have been called false and not
true. Who`s behind these attacks?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Koch brothers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The billionaire Koch brothers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do not believe them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They come to our town, buy our refineries –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just running it into the ground.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leaving a mess.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of Alaskans are losing jobs. I`m
definitely concerned about the drinking water.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t go down to tell them what to do. I expect
them not to come up to Alaska and tell us what to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Look, nobody on the Democratic side has the fully formed
strategy or the ability to spend infinitely that the Koch brothers have,
but that new ad for Mark Begich is kind of a good ad.
Are the Democrats just going to do that here and there where they can
afford to? Are they going to be able to match the Kochs ad for ad, make
the Koch`s false ads about health care actually hurt them?
The response in that Snate race in Alaska is the first sign that the
Democrats might actually have an effective counterattack planned. Can they
do this everywhere? Because the Kochs are playing everywhere.
That`s the game now. That is 2014.
Now it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Have a great night.
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