The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 09/03/14
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. Thanks for joining us this hour.
We begin with some breaking news, with some late breaking political news
about the United States Senate, and what has just happened to the national
Republican hopes for winning control of the United States Senate in the
November elections, what happened tonight was very unexpected news.
OK. The context is that Republicans need a net gain of six seats in order
to win control of the U.S. Senate. And move Mitch McConnell up the ladder
from minority leader to majority leader. Republicans control of the House
is not in jeopardy in these elections barring some act of God, and
Republicans, of course, cannot dislodge President Obama from the White
House in this election. But they really can try to win the Senate. And
that is the big enchilada at stake this year. And of course, it will have
huge consequences, not just for the country, but specifically in political
terms, for the rest of the Obama presidency.
So Republicans have been focused on the Senate singularly. And they have
potential ways to gain the six seats they would need in order to take over
the Senate. Republicans do appear – at least the odds look like they
will. Republicans do appear to be on the way to flipping Senate seats from
blue to red, from Democratic to Republican, in the three states that are
marked on this map right here – West Virginia, South Dakota and Montana.
And nothing`s set in spoken. That`s the way the odds look right now.
Depending at how those races play out, Republicans would then need to win
only three of these other seven states marked on the map right now that are
all considered tossup races in the Senate. Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado,
Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan and North Carolina.
So that`s not the only scenario for Republicans taking control of the
Senate, but it is among the most obvious. And so, because they have that
wide of a pathway in which they can take over, Republicans have been really
optimistic about their prospects of getting the Senate this year. On paper
it looks good, but that optimism, that confidence, what they see as their
rosie odds for controlling the Senate, those odds depend on Republicans, of
course, not just winning seats they don`t already have, and winning the
tossup races. They obviously depend as a baseline on Republicans keeping
hold of the seats they already have. Especially seats they believe to be
safe because they`re in bright red states where they don`t expect to ever
find themselves in competitive races.
And that is what has just happened in this surprise move tonight and what
has just happened broadly to Republicans in this next national election.
Three term Republican incumbent Senator Pat Roberts has been leading in the
Kansas Senate race. Running for reelection, right? Before a veteran
Senator, Kansas`s Pat Roberts has not been doing all that well. All
through the primary season he had to fight off these allegations that he
doesn`t really live in Kansas anymore. That he has become a citizen of
Washington, D.C., instead. And in fact it turns out that pat Roberts does
not own a home in Kansas anymore. He instead rents a room and uses that as
his voting address. Not a good look to an entire incumbent environment
when you have been in Washington for more than 30 years.
That was a very damaging revelation against Kansas Senator Pat Roberts in
the primary. In the Republican primary where he`s trying to hold on to his
seat. Now fortunately for Pat Roberts in that primary, his opponent was
kind of a freak show. His opponent, his claimed to fame is that he was a
distant cousin of Barack Obama, which is funny and, you know, gets you
booked on news max or whatever. But his profession, is that he was a
doctor, and it turned out not very far into the campaign, February of this
year, that the Topeka capital journal reported that as a doctor, Milton
Wolf, this primary opponent to Pat Roberts had made a habit of posting x-
rays of gunshot victims and other victims of violence on his facebook page
along with comments usually mocking the victims. When the Topeka Journal
confronted him about those images, he said, yes, they served to show that
evil lurked in the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: What about this. Do you think there was
permission given about this?
MILTON WOLF, PAT ROBERTS` PRIMARY OPPONENT: Now, this – if you don`t
identify a person, then you don`t need their permission.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to understand what the thinking is. We don`t
know – I don`t know exactly how to handle material like this. I`m asking
you professionally, is this material professional?
WOLF: This is the kind of material you see in medical education –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: This is facebook.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This is facebook. Having that guy for an opponent in the
Republican primary was a real gift to Pat Roberts. Who against a
theoretically competent tea party style opponent might have had a really
bad time. Luckily, he had that guy instead. He did get banged up
statewide over the question of his residency. That`s the kind of charge
that tends to stick with Kansas voters. And honestly, Pat Roberts not
really been popular in Kansas.
It should be note that even with the x-ray freak show guy as his opponent,
Pat Roberts still only beat that guy in the primary 48 to 41 points. He
did beat him, though, and now in the general election, Senator Roberts has
had the double blessing of running in a three-way race in the general
He`s been polling in this PPP poll at 32 percent. He`s the incumbent,
right? Thirty two percent, that`s not good. That`s almost a synonym for
vulnerable. But luckily for him, it`s a three-way race, right? And
because the Democrat and independent in the race, really split the
remainder of the vote evenly, Pat Roberts by virtue of that was still in
this thing. It was looking like he was a winner because that Democrat and
independent running against him were really screwing up anybody else`s
That was the lay of the land until today. Until late today, until a few
minutes before close of business today, which was the deadline for this
thing to happen.
After today, because of what just happened, this is not a three-way race
any more. Because the Democrat has now announced he`s dropping out of the
race to give somebody else a better chance of unseating Pat Roberts. Chad
Taylor was the Democrat in this case, about 45 minutes before the close of
business in Kansas today, on the day of the deadline, he asked the Kansas
Secretary of State to take his name off the ballot. He is done. He had
initially said he was suspending his campaign. He then crossed it out by
hand and wrote, his campaign is terminated.
The Democrats have decided to try to win this race against Pat Roberts by
quitting this race against Pat Roberts. The statement was kind of amazing,
I should tell you about that cross out. The AP posted a picture of it so
you can see the actual change there. Chad Taylor saying quote, “after much
consideration with my supporters, I`ve decided to end my campaign for the
U.S. Senate. I have a great love for the state of Kansas and the people
that live here, I will continue to work in their best interest every day.
But effective today, my campaign is terminated.”
You can see the statement first said suspended then it got changed to
terminated. Kansas democrat Chad Taylor tonight has terminated his
campaign for the Senate. Thus giving Democrats the biggest leap forward
they have had this entire year toward holding control of the United States
Senate for the last two years of the Barack Obama presidency.
I mean, what this leaves is a two-way race between Pat Roberts who has not
been polling all that great and who had a very damaging primary campaign
against the freak show x-ray guy, against the guy in the right side of your
screen here. His name is Greg Orman. And in polling, he had a head to
head matched up against Pat Roberts. He looks comparatively fantastic. I
mean, look at the polling, check this out.
Here, we have Pat Roberts eking his way to victory with the Democrats still
in the race. But with the Democrat gone, the race just between Republican
Pat Roberts and independent Greg Orman. Pat Roberts loses that race by ten
You can bet that Pat Roberts is not happy about this news today. Par
Roberts campaign tonight released a blistering statement about this
decision. The headline says Taylor`s withdraw corrupt bargain with
Democrats. Orman choice of liberals.
Today`s bombshell news out of Kansas marks the second time this week and
it`s been a short week, marks the second time this week that we have seen
Democrats decide that the best way to win a race against the Republicans
was to quit and try to get there a different way.
I mean, in Alaska yesterday, we were able to report that the democratic
candidate for governor of Alaska had announced he would instead run for
lieutenant governor and essentially the fusion candidate. The independent
candidate for governor has a better chance of defeating the Republican
incumbent. So the Democratic candidate jumped out of the race to become
his running mate instead. They formed an unusual but not unprecedented
Democrats made that decision in Alaska this week because the polling shows
it`s their best chance in Alaska to unseat the Republican governor, Sean
Parnell, the exact same way that the polling shows right now that having
the Democratic dropped out in the Senate race in Kansas is Democrats best
hope, not just inside Kansas of unseating Pat Roberts, but in this overall
national fight of control of the United States Senate.
We talked in the show last week about the polling by Sam Wong. He works
out of the Princeton election consortium. In the 2012 election, just so
you understand who we`re talking about here, Sam Wong correctly predicted
all 33 U.S. Senate races. He got zero states wrong in terms of predicting
the outcome for Senate races in 2012. And Sam Wong has been tracking this
race in Kansas, as people has been talking about. What seemed like this
pie in the sky chance that the Democrat would drop out and clear the way
for an independent who is likely to beat Pat Roberts.
With the Democrats still in the Kansas race, Sam Wong put the Democrats
overall chances of keeping control of the Senate for the whole country at
55 percent. The Democrats plus the independents who already caucused with
them have a 55 percent chance of remaining in charge according to this
But with what just happened tonight, with the Democrat dropping out in
Kansas, according to Sam Wong`s calculations, the odds of the Democrats
holding on to the Senate nationwide for the whole country, those odds move
to 85 percent. Eighty five percent chance of a Democrat/independent
majority in the Senate. The Republicans are going to be so mad about this
when they finally take a minute to understand what just happened here.
As Sam Wong wrote last week, the Democrat dropping off on this race could
be quote “total game changer,” a game changer on the national level. And
now, that is exactly what has happened. The Senate race in Kansas doesn`t
have a Democrat in it any more. The Republican who had been limping to a
probable victory is suddenly in a very competitive race as independent Greg
Orman has clearly been a strong candidate.
Before the news broke today, he already got the endorsement of a group of
Moderate Kansas Republicans. A lot of Kansas of the same Kansas
Republicans who had endorsed the democratic challenger for governor over
the deeply unpopular Republican governor there, Sam Brownback.
Greg Orman got that endorsement today from all those Kansas Republican
leaders even though he`s still not told anyone whether he would align
himself with Republicans or Democrats in the event that he actually won
this Senate race.
Our own Steve Kornacki here on MSNBC got a chance to ask Orman about it
just last month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST, UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI: Even if you are an
independent, if you were elected you could have the deciding vote after
this fall`s election, which side would you vote for?
GREG ORMAN, KANSAS SENATE CANDIDATE: Well, you know, I think that`s a
great point, Steve, and ultimately if I get elected, there`s a reasonable
chance that neither party will have a majority in Washington, and if that`s
the case, what I`ve said is I`m going to caucus with whichever party is
willing to actually go to Washington and start trying to solve problems as
opposed to just pleasing the extremists and their own base.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Of course it was Steve Kornacki who got that interview. As seen
as always, Steve Kornacki having last month he did that interview with the
man on whom the prospects for control of the United States Senate now turn.
Greg Orman, as you heard him there, sounding like a legit moderate in that
interview, he really did just become one of the biggest wild cards in the
whole 2014 elections. Game on for control of the United States Senate in a
way that it was not before a few hours ago. Game on as of tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ORMAN: Ultimately if I get elected there`s a reasonable chance that
neither party will have a majority in Washington. And if that`s the case,
what I`ve said is I`m going to caucus with whatever party is willing to go
to Washington and start trying to solve problems as opposed to pleasing the
extremists in their own base.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Just absorbing the breaking news out of Kansas with profound
implications from the overall control of the U.S. Senate after this year`s
midterm election. That candidate is the independent candidate running in
Kansas. His name is Greg Orman. If before tonight was a three-way race
between Mr. Orman who has a lot of money and a lot of support and a
Democrat named Chad Taylor and the incumbent Pat Roberts.
But tonight, about 45 minutes before the close of business, before the
deadline in Kansas for people to get their name in the ballot, the Democrat
in the race has dropped out. Chad Taylor insisted – says now that he is
terminating his campaign. That means it`s a one man versus one man race.
Greg Orman versus Pat Roberts. And that means the prospects for that
Kansas Senate seat and for the overall control of the U.S. Senate are
radically different than they were a few hours ago.
Joining us now Kasie Hunt, as of today, an MSNBC political correspondent.
Kasie, thanks for being here and congratulations on your new gig.
KASIE HUNT, MSNBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Rachel. It`s great
to see you.
MADDOW: Is it a fair interpretation of this news to see this as really
pretty radically altering the prospects of Pat Roberts holding on to this
seat? And everything, that means for the national chances of the
Republicans taking the Senate.
HUNT: Look, this race still has to settle a little bit, but it`s clear
that, you know, Democrats at least view this as a place where they really
could take a step forward, excuse me. And it`s also clear that they
maneuvered behind the scenes to make this happened while the Republicans
are already tagging Harry Reid as responsible for this.
I`m hearing from my sources that Senator Claire McCaskill played a key role
in getting Chad Taylor to drop out of this race. And you know, with the
razor thin margin that we`re looking at here with the Senate any one of
these races could potentially turn the map. And if Greg Orman is ending up
as that person who decides the majority, not only would that put him in a
unique position and give him a lot of power potentially, but you could see
as you say, a tipping of the national balance.
MADDOW: Two questions for you, and I`ll try to ask them one at a time,
although I still feel like I`m trying to wrap my head around this, for
everything comes out at once.
The first question is about that sort of bombshell you just dropped about
Claire McCaskill. Claire McCaskill is the Senator from Missouri. I`ve
been the only person in the pundit class who`s been saying that she`s a
likely democratic candidate for president and should be seen as a national
figure. I have been saying this for a long time. This is a national
figure kind of move to go into Kansas and say, you know what, we have to do
something strategic here that you may not want to do, but I`m going to talk
you into it. Why Claire McCaskill? What explains (INAUDIBLE) here?
HUNT: Well, I think national Democrats give her a lot of credit for being
a really smart and aggressive political thinker. And she clearly wants to
play that kind of a role in her party. Now, whether that means she runs
for president, runs for governor, you know. It`s still yet to be seen what
her plans are. But seeing that this was a neighboring state, my
understanding is, this was on her radar screen. And she made clear to
national Democrats that this could be in play. Beyond that, we`re still
sorting out exactly what role Senate majority Harry Reid may have played in
this, and exactly what role she played, but we do know she was involved.
MADDOW: Fascinating. Let me also ask you about Mr. Orman himself. We saw
that incredibly pressing interview a month ago with our Steve Kornacki,
really pressing Greg Orman to find out who are you going to caucus with,
what are your ideological leanings, who are you going to vote for in the
Kansas governor`s race this year, you know, please tell me something to let
me know what kind of Senator you would be and what would you mean in terms
of tipping the ballots between the parties. He was absolutely very skilled
at evading all of those questions and not answering. I know he has told
other press he voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and then Mitt Romney in 2012.
Do we have any sense of whether he would make his decision about who to
caucus with before the majority decision was made in the Senate? Do we
have and sense of which way he would lean?
HUNT: It doesn`t sound like at this point that Democrats are confident
that they know which way he would go, but they know he`s more likely to
caucus with them than Pat Roberts would have or would rather if he were to
win. And it`s also a question of, you know, if Democrats do hold the
majority in the Senate or they have a one seat advantage, and you know,
this could tip it back to 50/50. They would have a lot of ways to convince
him to caucus with him.
You this a little bit with Angus Kane in Maine. You know, if you`re an
independent Senator who has to make this kind of decision you have a lot
more cards than somebody who comes in with a party labor, because you can
say, hey, I want that plumb committee post I care about. And he would be
able to say something like that. But that also gives Reid and the
Democrats potentially some power. Because they can say hey, we can give
you that post, whereas Senator McConnell doesn`t have that power right now.
MADDOW: Right. Whoever`s in the imagine order has the plums to offer in a
MADDOW: I always thought in American politics, there`s no greater
deflation period that after someone gets elected to be a U.S. Senator which
is this huge accomplishment and then they become one in 100 in terms of the
seniority body in the nation.
HUNT: Just ask Cory Booker about that one.
MADDOW: Exactly. You thought you were the big man on campus. Prepare to
be taking out everyone`s trash for the next several years. But being an
independent who wants to essentially sell your allegiance and gives you the
one way you have in the U.S. Senate that you have to leap frog that system.
Just a fascinating story.
Kasie Hunt, thank you so much for being with us.
HUNT: Thanks, Rachel. Appreciate it for having me.
MADDOW: As of today, an MSNBC political correspondent. You can send her
your congratulations as you wish.
All right, lots more ahead. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will not be intimidated.
Their horrific acts only unite us as a country and stiffen our resolve to
take the fight against these terrorists. And those who makes the mistake
of harming the Americans will learn that we will not forget and that our
reach is long and that justice will be served.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Talking about fighting is not the same thing as fighting. Words
are not the same as warfare, but today the language of the U.S. government
at the highest level, the language of the U.S. government toward the
terrorist group toward ISIS got as close as you could get to war without
actually declaring it or waging it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: We have taken the fight to this kind of
savagery and evil before. And believe me, we will take it again. We`re
doing it today and when terrorists anywhere around the world who have
murdered our citizens, the United States held them accountable, no matter
how long it took.
And those who have murdered James Foley and Steven Sotloff in Syria need to
know the United States will hold them accountable too, no matter how long
CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: It makes you sick to your stomach, but
again it reminds us of the kind of brutality and the barbarism that is
afoot in some of these areas of the world. And it is our responsibility,
the president, vice president, mine, all of us, to do everything we can to
stop this now, it won`t just recede into the gray recesses of history until
we stop it.
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When people harm
Americans, we don`t retreat. We don`t forget. We take care of those who
are grieving. And when that`s finished, they should know we will follow
them to the gates of hell until they are brought to justice. Because hell
is where they will reside.
OBAMA: The bottom line is this, our objective is clear and that is to
degrade and destroy ISIL so it`s no longer a threat, not just to Iraq, but
also to the region and the United States. The United States will continue
to lead a regional and international effort against the kind of barbaric
and ultimately empty vision that ISIL represents, that`s going to take some
time, but we`re going to get it done, I`m very confident of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: All over the course of one news cycle today. Secretary of state
John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, vice president Joe Biden and of course, President
Obama, all today basically saying the same thing in different tones of
voice and in their own and in mythical ways, but they`re talking about how
the United States is planning to get and its is going to get the group that
used to be called Al Qaeda in Iraq and then now calls itself the Islamic
state or ISIS.
This is Lisa Monaco. Lisa Monaco is the chief counterterrorism adviser to
President Obama. And this week, the president is purportedly dispatching
Lisa Monaco, his top counterterrorism adviser, and Defense Secretary Hagel
and Secretary of State Kerry to all personally go to the Middle East to try
to put together a regional strategy in the Middle East for acting against
ISIS is of course, a Sunni militia group, and it`s seen as particularly
important that Sunni governments and governments in Sunni majority states
are not just part of an effort that we are leading or tacitly supporting
something we`re doing. But it`s seen as strategically important that Sunni
governments and Sunni states are seen as part of leading the fight against
This is going to be really hard to organize, but it`s expected to be key to
the likely success of an effort against ISIS. That`s why he`s sending
these people all at once, personally to the Middle East to try to organize
The president also said today that international strategies against ISIS
will be proposed by the United States and discuss at the NATO summit that
begins tomorrow morning in Wales, where the president and those senior
cabinet officers are all going to be personally in attendance.
For almost all the countries in NATO, part of their strategizing against
ISIS has to include not only thinking about how that group is operating in
Iraq and Syria, and what kind of threats might emanate from their home base
in Iraq and Syria, but also the prospect of these country`s own citizens
who have Western passports traveling to Iraq and Syria to fight with that
group and traveling back home to mount attacks in the West.
That threat is thought to be particularly acute in France, most of all, and
also in Britain. Each of those countries have seen hundreds of their own
citizens travel abroad to go fight with ISIS.
But the extent to which that also is a threat to the United States, that
extent was brought home today in this exclusive interview. This interview
was just released by NBC News just tonight. It`s a remarkable piece of
This is thought to be the first on camera interview ever conducted with a
radicalized American who left this country to go fight with ISIS. This is
NBC News footage, this interview was done in Lebanon. It`s remarkable.
You haven`t seen anything else like this.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): ISIS
militants are brutal killers whose victims include Americans. Yet there
are Americans, an unknown number who are ISIS recruits, including Donald
DONALD MORGAN, ISIS RECRUIT: My Islamic name is Nassir Abdul Rahim (ph).
ENGEL: What attracted him to ISIS?
MORGAN: Someone has to defend Islam, and someone has to defend innocent
ENGEL: NBC News interviewed Morgan in Beirut through a freelance
journalist. He didn`t hide his intention to join ISIS, which calls itself
the Islamic State.
MORGAN: (INAUDIBLE) with the intent of entering to Syria, joining up with
medical or food aid convoys or directly with the Islamic State.
ENGEL: Don Morgan was educated at a military academy. He was a member of
the National Guard, a deputy sheriff, a bodybuilder, raised Catholic in
Salisbury, North Carolina.
Morgan had been in trouble with the law, and served time on gun charges.
Colleagues and law enforcement officials describe an angry man struggling
to fit in, and finding a cause in radical Islam.
MORGAN: This is it, this is the path, and this is the way you`re going to
ENGEL: Morgan says, the change came two years ago, spending hours on the
Internet, following the wars in the Middle East. He got sucked in, and
started tweeting radical messages under an Arabic pseudonym.
MORGAN: A push came from being mistreated by people around me who didn`t
share the views I had.
ENGEL: He decided to join ISIS last June and began to make his way from
Beirut to Syria, but he was stopped on the way by authorities in Turkey and
Soon after our interview, running low on money, Morgan returned to the
U.S., knowing the risk.
MORGAN: I think there`s a strong possibility that they`ll charge me with
supporting terrorist organizations and participating in terrorist
ENGEL: But does he think he`s participating in terrorist activities?
MORGAN: Based on the definition, yes.
MADDOW: Again, that is the first on camera interview that`s ever been done
as far as we know with an American who`s gone to the Middle East to try to
fight with ISIS, that man did come back to the United States. He was
arrested. He`s now in federal detention in North Carolina.
ISIS has had enough success in its international recruiting efforts that
almost every country in the world is considering the threats posed by
fighters coming back to commit terrorist attacks at home after fighting
with ISIS or being radicalized by ISIS. But in terms of fighting ISIS,
where they are massed right now, those international negotiations are
explicitly underway at a high level with a lot of urgency.
“The Wall Street Journal” reports today that the prospect of more U.S.
military action against ISIS in Iraq is the one thing, the one thing that
has united the parliament in Iraq. Since Saddam Hussein was deposed, the
Iraqi parliament has never agreed on a single thing, except this. Even
Iraqi lawmakers who fought against the U.S. military during our war in
Iraq, even Iraqi lawmakers who were imprisoned by Americans in Iraq for
fighting against the U.S. military. Those Iraqi lawmakers now say they
want the U.S. military back in Iraq, as long as they`re there to fight
So, the Iraqi parliament agrees as to whether our parliament agrees, our
Congress – nobody knows. Our Congress is still on vacation, fifth week
But if you want to keep track of which members of our Congress agree that
they at least ought to debate, they at least ought to vote about U.S.
military action against ISIS in Iraq and potentially in Syria, we do have
our rolling whip count of members of Congress who agree that they ought to
at least vote. It`s posted online right now, at MaddowBlog.com. We`ve
updated it every day since we put it up.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: It`s been a big news day today, and we actually have some further
breaking news to report at this hour. It involves the shooting death of
Michael Brown, the unarmed teenager shot to death last month in Ferguson,
Missouri. That fatal shooting by a member of the Ferguson, Missouri Police
Department, of course, set off weeks of protests and unrest. It also drew
the attention of the federal government.
One of the landmark moments in the aftermath of that shooting was when
Attorney General Eric Holder travelled to Ferguson after days of protest
and unrest there. Attorney General Holder promised that the U.S. Justice
Department would conduct a fair and thorough and independent federal
investigation into the death of Michael Brown.
Well, the Justice Department did dispatch a team to Missouri from its civil
rights division to investigate that shooting. But that investigation was
specifically about that one shooting of Michael Brown. What has been an
open question since then is whether the Justice Department would launch
also some sort of broader investigation into the Ferguson Missouri police,
and its policing practices.
Well, tonight, we have an answer to that question. NBC News has confirmed
late tonight that the Justice Department will launch a federal civil rights
investigation of the entire Ferguson, Missouri Police Department. This is
The federal government has the power to investigate local police
departments if there`s a suspicion of widespread civil rights abuses in
their policing practices, and we have learned that the Justice Department
now intends to launch that sort of investigation in Ferguson. An
announcement of that investigation is expected tomorrow, but NBC has
confirmed rights abuses of their policing practices, we have learned that
the Justice Department plans to launch that sort of investigation in
Ferguson. An announcement of that investigation is expected tomorrow, but
NBC has confirmed it tonight.
I should also tell you that tomorrow night on this show, we`re going to be
joined live by Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri. Senator
McCaskill has been front and center among national politicians on the
situation in Ferguson. She is convening hearings on the militarization of
police, in light of what happened with policing protests in Ferguson.
Also, I should say as of tonight, MSNBC has learned just earlier this hour,
that Senator McCaskill may have played a key role in engineering this
bombshell Democratic decision in the U.S. Senate race in Kansas tonight.
So, we`ll have lots to talk to Senator Claire McCaskill about. But that
interview will be live here tomorrow night.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: So, last night, I had this whole little whiff at the very end of
the show about George W. Bush visiting Albania, in which I applied that in
which I implied that President Obama`s visit to Estonia today is also a
visit to a Balkan country.
Of course, it`s not. It`s a visit to a Baltic country. Not a Balkan
And while that is hysterical, it`s not nearly as hysterical as the time we
labeled the large body of water off the coast of Florida as the Indian
Ocean. Yes, we once did that. Yes, I – I once did that.
Life is amazing and then you die.
MADDOW: But the president of the United States today was in the Baltic
nation of Estonia, and he spoke with some passion about what is inspiring
to him about that part of the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Exactly 25 years ago, people across the Baltics came together in
one of the greatest displays of freedom and nonviolent resistance that the
world has ever seen. On that August evening, perhaps 2 million people
stepped out of their homes and joined hands, a human chain of freedom, the
And they stretched down highways and across farmlands, from Tallinn to Riga
to Vilnius. They lit candles and they sang anthems. Old men and women
brought out their flags of independence. Young parents brought their
children to teach them that when ordinary people stand together, great
change is possible.
Here in Estonia, when people joined the line, the password was freedom. As
one man said, “The Berlin Wall is made of brick and concrete. Our wall is
stronger.” And it was.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama speaking in Estonia today about this, about the
Baltic way, one day on the 23rd of August 25 years ago, in 1989, when the
people of Estonia and also Latvia and also Lithuania, they did this simple
and staggering protest, in which they just lined up down the middle of the
road and became a single file line holding hands all the way across their
countries. Millions of people in one human line to say that they wanted
their independence from what was then dying as the Soviet Union, and they
got it. President Obama paying tribute to that today.
And then, getting a big response from the same audience when he turned to
the issue of Russia, when he used some of the most aggressive language he
has used yet about what he described as the threat that post-Soviet Russia
poses right now to its neighbors, including its more skittish neighbors
that border Russia directly, countries like Estonia.
President Obama today naming that threat, emanating from Russia, and saying
that the United States and NATO would stop that threat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It`s not the government of Kiev that destabilized Eastern Ukraine.
It`s been the pro-Russian separatists who are encouraged by Russia,
financed by Russia, trained by Russia, supplied by Russia and armed by
And the Russian forces that have now moved into Ukraine are not on a
humanitarian or peacekeeping mission. They are Russian combat forces with
Russian weapons in Russian tanks.
Now, these are the facts. They`re provable. They`re not subject to
During the long Soviet occupation, the great Estonian poet, Marie Under,
wrote a poem in which she cried to the world, who will come to help? Right
here, at present, now?
And I say to the people of Estonia and to the people of Baltics: we are
bound by our treaty alliance. We have a solemn duty to each other.
Article V is crystal clear – an attack on one is an attack on all.
So, if in such a moment you ever ask again who will come to help, you`ll
know the answer. The NATO alliance, including the Armed Forces of the
United States of America, right here, present now.
We`ll be here for Estonia. We will be here for Latvia. We will be here
for Lithuania. You lost your independence once before with NATO. You will
never lose it again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: With NATO, you will never lose your independence again.
President Obama today in the nation of Estonia, which borders right now on
Russia, those words actually today coming within an hour of Russian
President Vladimir Putin, going through a sort of bizarre ritual in which
he said that he had come up with a Ukrainian/Russian peace plan. He said
he came up with it and wrote it in a notebook while he was on a flight to
In the middle of giving remarks in another subject, he asked if someone
could please fetch his notebook, so he could remember what his idea was for
his peace plan.
What looks like a war is on in Eastern Ukraine, although Russia tries not
to talk about it in those terms. President Obama said today that U.S.
troops will be participating in military exercises in the coming weeks
How is President Obama`s speech today and that troop announcement today?
How are those things going to land in Moscow? And given the recent
behavior of President Putin, including what was a pretty weird display,
what should we expect to happen next here?
Joining us now is Michael McFaul. He`s a former U.S. ambassador to Russia,
currently a professor of political science at Stanford University.
Professor McFaul, it`s great to have you here, thanks for joining us.
MICHAEL MCFAUL, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: Yes, thanks for having me.
MADDOW: What do you think is going on right now in terms of President
Putin`s strategic considerations? Am I right to think his display today in
which he unveiled a peace plan that he says he wrote on the plane and then
asked for the notebook was kind of an odd display?
MCFAUL: Yes, it was bizarre, without question it was bizarre, and I don`t
know if it was theater or spontaneity. The substance of the plan itself
was pretty thin, it basically said, the government of Kiev needs to
surrender and start peace negotiations. There was no discussion whatsoever
of what Russia needed to do in order to create the conditions for a cease-
But to your bigger question about what he`s thinking about, it`s actually
been a pretty good week for his surrogates. They have opened a new
offensive. They have rolled back some of the gains that the Ukrainian
military made a couple weeks ago, and so, I think he`s feeling rather
confident today, even despite the rhetoric of the president`s speech in
MADDOW: From a distance, and I`m absolutely a layman in these terms and I
am totally prepared to be corrected, but it seems to me just watching this
like the Russians had propped up pro-Russian separatists inside Ukraine,
including supplying some of them. The separatists in trying to become more
Ukrainian, fell apart, weren`t able to hold themselves against – to hold
their territory against the Ukrainian military. Now, that these so-called
separatists waging a so-called proxy war, sort of falling apart, Putin is
bolstering them by sending in Russian regular forces and making this
something that looks more like a traditional war.
That`s what it looks like to me. Is that how you see it?
MCFAUL: Yes, more or less, I think that was an excellent summary of the
last several months. I would just add a few details. That he sent them in
because the rebels were on the verge of losing. And that`s important.
MCFAUL: And there was a moment there when we weren`t quite sure what Putin
was going to do. He`s now decided to double down and not let them lose.
You know, with respect to whether it`s a conventional war or not, the
Russians are playing this very strange game of trying to disguise what is
happening. But the results on the ground I think make it pretty clear that
he has brought in reinforcements and new armaments to roll back those
Ukrainian gains of just a couple weeks ago.
MADDOW: How important is it that President Obama walls so direct about
The Russian forces that have now moved into Ukraine are not on a
humanitarian or peacekeeping mission. They`re Russian combat forces with
Russian weapons and Russian tanks. These are the facts. They`re provable.
They`re not subject to dispute.
Why is it important or is it important for President Obama to speak in
terms that blunt?
MCFAUL: Well, I`ve got to tell you, I liked the speech a lot. He was
fired up and ready to go today, in a way he hasn`t been for a while in
terms of these foreign policy speeches.
And I worked for the president for three years at the White House, and then
represented him in Moscow for two years. He does not say things like that
unless they are facts. And I think he wanted to make that crystal clear to
the people of Ukraine, the people in Eastern Ukraine, and to Moscow that we
know exactly what is going on.
Now, with respect to what can be done, that`s a harder question. He hinted
at a few things. I think we`ll hear more out of the NATO summit tomorrow.
But to define things in the empirical way he did, and ideological way that
He also talked about this as a fight between democracy and dictatorship, in
essence. That`s a new way of framing this conflict that we hadn`t heard
MADDOW: And to say it in a Baltic nation bordering Russia gives it that
much more resonance.
Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia – Professor McFaul, thank
you so much for being here. It`s nice to see you.
MCFAUL: Yes, thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right. Still ahead, an update on how the man who once thought he
really was going to be the nominee for vice president of the Republican
Party, how he spent his day in court today. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Update for you on Virginia, where the corruption trial continues
for that state`s first-ever governor to be criminally indicted for actions
taken while in office. Not that long ago, Bob McDonnell waited anxiously
to find out if Mitt Romney was going to be picking him to be his vice
presidential running mate.
Today, at a federal court house in Richmond, Governor McDonnell waited
instead for the jury to complete its second day of deliberations on the
fate of his wife and himself while they are facing 14 felony counts.
The jury started deliberating yesterday. Today was their second day, their
first full day I guess. But still no word from the jury in terms of a
Interestingly, even though the judge in this case gave the jury 90 separate
jury instructions, instructing the jury took over two hours, the jury, so
far, still has not asked the judge for any help. At least in open court,
the jury has not yet asked any questions of the judge about the case or
about the instructions to them or about how they ought to decide the case
despite those very, very extensive instructions.
In any case, the jury will pick up tomorrow morning to start their 14th
hour of deliberations in this case. We`ll all still be waiting for the
When Governor McDonnell left the courthouse today in Richmond after waiting
all day for the verdict that did not come, there was one small bit of drama
that was reported by Jeff Shapiro, columnist for the Richmond Times-
According to Mr. Shapiro, quote, “Flanked by his kids and lawyers, ex-
Governor Bob McDonnell joking balks at crossing against the light, quote,
`I`m trying to become a law-abiding citizen`.”
The jury was released tonight shortly before 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time. They
will be back at it tomorrow morning at 9:45 a.m. for their third day of
All right. That does it for us tonight. We`re going to see you again
But I have to tell you, we`re having this weird technical difficulty thing
happening in the building right now, which means there`s going to be a
commercial before Lawrence comes on, but I swear on my life, Lawrence is
going to be with you and live in just a second.
You are not allowed to leave. You have to stay right there. Promise me.
I can see you during the commercial. Don`t move.
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