The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 01/05/15
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Welcome back. Happy New
HAYES: Welcome back to you. Great to see you.
MADDOW: Happy New Year.
And thanks to you at home as well for joining us this hour.
Welcome back from the holiday break. It`s great to be back. Here is just
the thing to welcome you back into the news cycle.
It`s terrible Nazi art. Neo Nazi art, it should be clear. This is not
vintage. This is now.
Some of the stuff is for sale online by an artist who appears to have a
whole series of this kind of thing. This one appears to be sort of a
southwestern theme, plus swastikas, swastikas forward and backward.
This one is called “sun under the south”. First glance it just looks like
a bag geometric flag painting until you realize it`s a bad geometric flag
painting with lots of different swastikas. See, lower left there? There`s
the big obvious swastika and then the little backwards swastika and then,
hey, look, cute swastikas made with leaves, nature swastikas.
This one is supposed to be an African swastika. That`s nice. These
terrible, terrible paintings, including this super extra racist one are
available online. They appear to have been created by either the same guy
or somebody using the same pseudonym as the person who brought us these
Steve Scalise scandal.
When Louisiana blogger Lamar White broke the news that the number three
Republican in the House, Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana, had spoken
to David Duke`s white supremacist organization in 2002, a main data source
for that story was the neo-Nazi message board that`s called Storm Front.
Apparently, the same guy now posting his terrible Nazi drunken crayon
scribblings online as art, apparently that same guy wrote at Storm Front in
2002 about Steve Scalise, about having seen this up and coming Republican
state rep, Steve Scalise, speak at David Duke`s neo-Nazi meeting at a Best
Western in Metairie, Louisiana.
To this day, nobody has seen any photographs of Steve Scalise speaking to
that white supremacist group. Nobody has seen any video of Steve Scalise`s
remarks to that white supremacist group, but Storm Front as an online sort
of, you know, hate exchange, it still exists. And the Storm Front archives
are searchable back to when it was founded.
And so, that contemporaneous reporting about Steve Scalise speaking to that
white supremacist group, that contemporaneous reporting on Storm Front,
somebody saying on storm front that they`d seen him there, that`s the
seminal evidence that Steve Scalise in fact, spoke to that David Duke
associated white supremacist, Klan-derived group.
Since that story broke last week, national media outlets, including “The
New York Times” have been able to track down confirmation he was there from
people who remember going to that event and who remember Steve Scalise
speaking there. One former representative from this white supremacist
group told “The Times” that Steve Scalise`s speech was about how America
was founded on Christian principles and how America would go forward as a
Another contemporaneous source, a long time reporter for “The Times
Picayune” newspaper in New Orleans, and now writes for the advocate in
Baton Rouge, she is now also said that she remembers meeting with
Congressman Steve Scalise about 20 years ago, so around this time, right?
And then he called himself – she says, “I met Steve Scalise nearly 20
years ago,” I should be specific about that. She says that he called
himself David Duke without the baggage.
That dovetails pretty neatly with an article from “Roll Call” in 1999. So,
it should be three years before Steve Scalise spoke to the David Duke
group. So, 1999, “Roll Call” article about whether or not David Duke might
make another run for Congress, and if he did, whether or not Louisiana
voters they might actually elect him. As part of their reporting on that
story, “Roll Call” in 1999 talked to the other Republicans who were
thinking of running for the congressional seat in question. At that time
in 1999, Steve Scalise was one of those Republicans and he basically told
“Roll Call” that he was a David Duke Republican.
Quoting from the article, “Another potential candidate, State
Representative Steve Scalise said he embraces many of the same conservative
views as David Duke but he is far more viable.” Scalise told “Roll Call”,
quote, “The voters in this district are smart enough to realize they need
to get behind someone who not only believes in the issues they care about
but also can get elected. David Duke has proven he can`t get elected and
that`s the first and most important thing.”
Really? I mean, the most? It`s got to hard to look at the legacy of David
Duke, former Klan leader and say the first and most important thing about
him is his electability. It`s not the first thing I think of when I think
of David Duke. Let alone the most important thing.
But that was what Steve Scalise thought about him in 1999, saying that
voters should pick him because while he agreed with David Duke on the
issues, he, Steve Scalise, could get elected.
The new Congress set to be sworn in tomorrow, Republican leadership
apparently has made the decision that these revelations about Steve Scalise
are not enough to keep Steve Scalise from ascending to the very top tier of
Republican leadership in Washington. Steve Scalise is due to be the number
three Republican in the House now. He`ll be the House majority whip.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest was asked about that prospect today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: So far, Republican leadership seems to be standing by Scalise.
Does the president feel that`s appropriate?
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, he believes it`s
ultimately their decision to make. But there`s no – but there`s no
arguing that who Republicans decide to elevate into a leadership position
says a lot about who – what the conference`s priorities and values are.
And, I mean, ultimately, Mr. Scalise reportedly described himself as David
Duke without the baggage. So, it will be up to Republicans to decide what
that says about their conference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The White House today trying to put Republicans on the spot for
this decision they`ve made to keep Steve Scalise in the leadership despite
his David Duke problem. It`s important to note in that moment Josh Earnest
looks down at his note to get the exact quote right, “reportedly described
himself as David Duke without the baggage.” He was prepared to talk about
that. Yes, that quote ready to go.
Democrats intend to keep putting Republicans on the spot about this. But,
you know, whether or not this is an interesting partisan food fight aside,
if you put it in factual context in terms of what really happened here and
who the players are involved here and what`s happening over time, it is
really hard to see how Republicans are going to stand by this decision to
keep this guy. How they`re going to let Steve Scalise be there in the
leadership in this visible role every day, the number three guy in
Congress, the whip, right? It was a very public role. He`s going to be
there indefinitely given these revelations?
I mean, think about the whole reason that Scalise is ascending into the
leadership tomorrow? I mean, the Republicans aren`t just taking over the
House now. They`ve been in control of the House already. John Boehner is
speaker. He`s staying as speaker. Kevin McCarthy was in the leadership
before and is staying in the leadership now.
The only reason a job has opened up at the top, the only reason the job has
opened in the leadership for Steve Scalise to ascend, too, is because a guy
named Eric Cantor was just thrown out of Congress, right? Eric Cantor, the
highest ranking Jewish Republican ever in Congress.
At the time he had to leave Congress, he was the only Jewish Republican in
either the House or the Senate. But he was thrown out of Congress by his
own party, right? He lost a Republican primary and, thereby, lost his
And the only Jewish Republican in either house of Congress will now be
replaced in his leadership position by David Duke without the baggage.
If you want David Duke`s own take on this controversy, and I will admit I`m
not sure that you do. On his David Duke Web site, he calls this the Steve
Scalise lynching. A textbook example of how the Zio-media lies. Zio-
Zio in this case, in case you`re not up on your white supremacist lingo,
zio in this case would be his catch-all phrase for anything Jewish.
On his Web site today, here`s David Duke on the Jewish takeover of America,
the Jewish hate campaign and war against Christmas. Christmas symbols
banned while giant menorahs erected on public land. Hear David Duke on
Jewish supremacist racist hypocrisy. Zio treason against America.
American Zio-media, and Zio government vicious attack on family values.
Under a picture of the vice chair of the Fed being sworn, the David Duke
Web site said that`s straight out of the protocols, as in the protocols of
the elders of Zion, right? If you don`t know what that is, don`t look it
Also, weird thing I should mention, he has nothing against carbs. Jewish
online extremists. A review of Dr. Duke`s Jewish supremacism book. Low
carbohydrate diet is best weight loss program. What?
And it`s like, guess how many teaspoons of sugar in two thin slices of
whole wheat bread? So, there`s like a little bit of David Duke as
revolutionary weight loss guru, but everything that isn`t about how to
improve your diet for a healthier neo-Nazi you is pretty much about the
evil Jews taking over the world.
David Duke`s latest beef, if you want to stay current on your neo-Nazi
news, his latest beef is apparently with Nikki Minaj. But even his beef
with Nikki Minaj is a beef with the Jews. In his – OK. It exists.
“Why do people blame blacks like Nikki Minaj?” he says. “Inexplicably, she
is promoted by the Jewish record producers. It was, quote, “the Jewish
record producers that promoted this degenerate, sick and horrific music.”
You can still buy stuff from David Duke on his Web site. You can buy David
Duke for president t-shirts. You can also buy books like this one, “The
International Jew: The World`s Foremost Problem.”
Congressional Republicans are promoting the Republican with David Duke ties
to replace the one Jewish Republican member of Congress, who again was
thrown out of Congress by the Republican Party because high lost a primary
among Republican voters in his own district.
The Steve Scalise defense here is ignorance. A series of statements since
the revelations came out last week, he said he had no idea of the racist
and anti-Semitic affiliations of this white supremacist group that he was
speaking to. Basically, he says like the David Duke connection didn`t pop
for him as a meaningful thing when he was agreeing to speak to this group.
He didn`t have enough staff. He didn`t have the Google for some reason,
even though Google had already been around for four years at that point.
When all this happened, it should be noted, it was not like David Duke was
hiding white, white, white light under a bushel. It was not like people
didn`t know who David Duke was in Louisiana politics in 2002, right?
In 1989, as a Klan leader, he won a seat in the Louisiana House of
Representatives. He served there from 1989 to 1993. In 1990, he ran for
U.S. Senate. He got 44 percent of the vote in a U.S. Senate race as a
former Klan leader.
In 1991, he ran for governor in Louisiana. A Klan guy and very nearly won,
came in second in the run-off.
David Duke doing so well in statewide races in Louisiana didn`t just get a
ton of Louisiana attention. It got all sorts of national Republican
figures involved in Louisiana politics. National Republicans who had
nothing to do with the state got involved in those races by endorsing David
Duke`s opponents so David Duke wouldn`t be seen as the face of the
Republican Party in Louisiana.
David Duke was a very big deal at this time. He was a very famous guy and
a very big deal in Republican politics in that state and indeed around the
country because of it. David Duke was a Klan leader who had just won
office and was trying to win even bigger offices and he was doing very well
in his efforts. He was not a secret.
In 1998, he ran for Congress and came in third in one of those big jungle
primaries, where everybody gets to run all at once. David Vitter very
narrowly beat David Duke to come in second in that primary. That got him
into the run-off. That`s how David Vitter got to Congress for the first
1999, the serving governor of Louisiana, Mike Foster, was revealed by a
grand jury to have spent $150,000 to buy David Duke`s racist mailing list
of Louisiana voters for his Louisiana gubernatorial run. That was a big
scandal in 1999.
That was the same year Steve Scalise was describing himself to “Roll Call”
as a David Duke Republican. As somebody who agreed with David Duke on all
the issues but who could probably do a better job getting elected than
David Duke himself could. It`s not like Steve Scalise didn`t know who
David Duke was.
And then three years later, he`s speaking at David Duke`s group, talking to
them about America being a Christian nation. And the Republicans in
Congress have decided to let him be the guy who replaces Eric Cantor in the
House leadership because they say, Steve Scalise probably just didn`t know
what he was doing. Didn`t know where he was. Duke who? David what?
Steve Scalise`s most detailed explanation of what he was doing at that
David Duke white supremacist event was that he was speaking out against a
tax plan he disagreed with. None of the contemporaneous accounts we have
of that day say anything about that tax plan.
And the new reporting today from the guy in Louisiana who initially wrote
this, his new reporting today is that Steve Scalise`s explanation about
this tax plan, itself makes no sense because that tax plan he was
reportedly so upset about hadn`t even been filed in the state legislature
on the day that Steve Scalise made his speech to the David Duke white
But, apparently, the Republicans believe his story anyway. Apparently, the
Republicans are going to keep him in the leadership for the new Congress.
Not a single Republican member of the Republican Congress has called for
Steve Scalise to step down or even for him just to withdraw from the number
three leadership position in Congress.
They are joined in that sentiment by David Duke himself. David Duke wants
Steve Scalise to stay exactly where he is. This is the first time he made
a related threat on that subject in an interview with Fusion.
Quote, “He delivered a warning to both Republicans and Democrats: Treat
Scalise fairly and don`t try to make political hay out of the situation or
David Duke said he would be inclined to release a list of names of all the
politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, with whom he has ties.”
Quote, “If Scalise is going to be crucified, if Republicans want to throw
Steve Scalise to the woods then a lot of them better be looking over their
shoulders,” says David Duke.
And he followed it up with this on CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: You said this week that if he`s crucified, I
think that was your word choice, then you`re going to name names. What are
we talking about?
DAVID DUKE, FORMER LOUISIANA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: I would name names of
any Democrat or – I know some Democrats and Republicans in the House of
Representatives who tried, on in fact, urged me to support them. Legally,
in fact, I did. The governor of the state of Louisiana, Mr. Foster wanted
SMERCONISH: In other words, you are saying there are members of Congress
today who have relationships with you –
DUKE: Have had relationships.
SMERCONISH: Have had. But they choose to keep those private and you honor
DUKE: And that`s fine. And I respect somebody`s privacy.
SMERCONISH: But you`ll call them out?
DUKE: But I would call them out if they – hypocritical.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: David Duke, that guy is now threatening that associating with him
and associating with his white supremacist groups has to become an OK thing
in our modern politics. David Duke now threatening that if Steve Scalise
gets in trouble for his association with David Duke and white supremacist
groups in Louisiana, then David Duke will disclose the names of all the
members of Congress and all the elected officials who have associated
themselves with him over the years but that people don`t know about yet.
You know, if you weren`t going to get rid of Steve Scalise from the
leadership before, don`t you have to now that David Duke is demanding that
he stays? I mean, are the Republicans keeping Steve Scalise in their
leadership replacing Eric Cantor? Are they replacing him with David Duke
without the baggage because David Duke will release more names of people
he`s worked with over the years unless Steve Scalise gets to keep that job?
Is that why they are keeping Steve Scalise in his job?
It seems ridiculous, right, to think that anybody is handing David Duke the
reins of power like that. That he`d get to determine who gets to be in the
leadership of Congress because he`s able to make a threat like that. David
Duke gets to decide that?
That seems ridiculous. Of course, one way you could defuse any suspicion
about that, one way you could certainly sort of sap his power and his
ability to make threats like this, this implicit blackmail, Lord knows how
many members of Congress, one way to take this threat off the table would
be to say to David Duke, yes, ask him. Just release that list. Don`t use
it as blackmail. Just make it public.
I mean, nobody who didn`t cozy up to the Klan and neo-Nazi groups for their
own political benefit should have anything to worry about that list being
disclosed, and if you just have partisan concerns, apparently, it would be
a bipartisan group. David Duke says it`s Republicans and Democrats who are
on his list of people that he can prove sought him out for political help
over the years.
And honestly, just as pure newsworthiness, it would be a darn newsworthy
thing to know who else besides Steve Scalise has been courting the David
Duke wing of white supremacy and neo-Nazism in the modern Klan for their
own political benefit. Who else has done that? Who else is on the list?
That would are a newsworthy thing to know. It`s newsworthy about Steve
Scalise. It would newsworthy to know who else is on that list.
We called David Duke today, to ask if he`d release that information to us.
We were told he was on the other line. He hasn`t called back yet. We
remain hopeful that we will hear from him.
We also contacted Congressman Steve Scalise`s office for comment today.
They just referred us back to their original statement from last week. So,
they wouldn`t give us new information.
If we do hear back from the former Klansman David Duke who is pulling out
all the stops to keep Steve Scalise in power, if we do hear from David
Duke, you will be the first to know.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUBTITLE: Today at the TRMS production meeting –
MADDOW: David Duke is now saying if Steve Scalise gets in trouble with
this, I will release the names of all the people who we ever dealt with and
you`ll be sorry that you`re going to pay a price for his. And he`s saying,
where does he live now? Like he`s saying this from his Klan cave
SUBTITLE: On his Website, David Duke lists his current location as
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, top Republicans in Congress have said they`re sticking by
Congressman Steve Scalise who has been tapped for the number three
Republican leadership post in the new Congress, despite revelations he
spoke to a white supremacist group in Louisiana in 2002.
Late this evening, though, “Politico” is reporting that Republicans in
Congress are now questioning whether Steve Scalise has become too great a
liability for the party. One named aide telling “Politico”, quote, “It
will be difficult to raise money from major Republican donors. It remains
to be seen what sort of role he can play in terms of helping incumbents in
Republicans have maintained a totally closed face on this before. They`ve
said they supported him and nobody has been willing to put their names to
critical comments. But tonight, unnamed Republicans willing to breach the
prospect that Steve Scalise is too banged up from this scandal to help the
Republican Party. Is this the dam breaking? And if so, what will be the
political cost of the Republican Party letting him go?
Joining us is John Stanton, D.C. bureau chief for “BuzzFeed”.
John, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here.
JOHN STANTON, BUZZFEED DC BUREAU CHIEF: Good to be here.
MADDOW: So, before this “Politico” piece came out tonight, my impression
was that Republicans thought this was over. They could wait it out. They
were grateful it happened over the holidays and they assumed it would just
go away over time if nobody said anything about it.
Is that now changing? Is it your sense that`s changing?
STANTON: Well, actually, this has been a concern for leadership in
particular for about a week or so. You know, since this happened, they`ve
looked at this and said if he can come back in and in the first couple of
days clear the decks with this thing, you know, maybe make a couple of
statements and deal some questions and get it out of the way, everything
will be fine.
Their question, though, is, if they come back and there are more
revelations, if there are more questions that come up like about what he
was talking about, and these kinds of things, it is concerning them.
I think, tactically, for them, they did not want to get rid of him
certainly before tomorrow. They want to make sure that Boehner is back in
his speakership role. They wanted to try, they don`t want have another
leadership election for the other leadership positions because that opens
up the possibility of having a conservative member potentially make a real
run at taking over a spot. They don`t want to have to replace him if they
can avoid it.
But I think the thing they are now realizing is that this is sucking the
oxygen out of the room for them and they got a bunch of things like
Keystone, the immigration issue they`re going to try to deal with next
week, and a couple other things that they want to try to do at the front
end to demonstrate, you know, this ability to govern, and to pass bills to
And so long as Scalise is leading the news, it`s killing that ability.
MADDOW: And I guess in terms of how to move forward, I mean, Scalise
released semi-self contradictory and evolving statements when the news
broke. In recent days, he has just stopped talking altogether. The most
recent development in this story from the guy who did the initially
reporting on it in Louisiana, is that the latest Scalise explanation that
he was there talking about this tax thing that he was opposed to may not
hold water because that tax thing hadn`t been introduced in the Louisiana
legislature at the time he made this speech.
I mean, is it expected he can do something else himself to put this to bed?
I mean, they can`t really hide him under a bushel if he`s going to be in
the leadership. He`s got to speak publicly.
STANTON: Right, he can`t follow David Vitter`s playbook which works very
well for him, right? Just sort of disappear for six months and come back.
I mean, he`s the whip and has to be able to be out there.
Leadership and other members privately have said to me that if he can find
that route to do this and get this out of the way in the next day or two, I
think they are going to be OK with him being there. That said, he`s going
to be damaged.
But the longer he`s – you know, this is hitting him, the harder it`s going
to be for him to be the whip for both the back behind-the-scene kind of
activity, and out in front. And, you know, raising money is a big part of
leadership and it is kind of tough to go to people and ask for money when
you`ve got sort of a David Duke albatross hanging around your neck. It`s
not a good look.
MADDOW: Yes, it`s not. Doesn`t actually sound good in any language no
matter how you spin that at all.
STANTON: Yes, right.
MADDOW: John Stanton, D.C. bureau chief for “BuzzFeed” – John, thank you
very much. I appreciate you being here. Thanks.
STANTON: Good to be here.
MADDOW: I will say David Duke, anybody in the news business knows, is one
of those sort of fringe guys really thrives on publicity. I think he has
never not returned a press call. The press is what is his lifeblood. I
don`t know if there is (INAUDIBLE) on Congress that David Duke might
release more names. But this is a guy who loves to be in the news, who
loves to have his name out there. If he can do that by drip, drip,
dripping more names out there in response to the way Scalise is being
treated, I`m sure he will.
This story is not over by a long shot. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: When your time in elected office is done, you have to go
somewhere. Consider Virginia`s crusading attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli,
for example. We learned this weekend that the Cuch has moved on after
losing the last governor`s race in Virginia. He is now an oyster farmer.
Ken Cuccinelli now a partner in an oyster farm in the Chesapeake Bay. Ken
Cuccinelli, oyster farmer. Sounds delicious, interesting choice.
But not every politician gets to pick his or her next act. Tomorrow, in
federal court, the governor who Ken Cuccinelli served under as attorney
general will get his new gig handed to him by a federal judge. Federal
prisoner doesn`t sound nearly as fun as oyster farm, but that is Bob
McDonnell`s career track now, unless he`s scratching, clawing, last ditch
effort to avoid the hoosegow somehow saves him. That soap opera just
MADDOW: Just five days into the war in Iraq in March, 2003, a big domestic
crisis erupted for the George W. Bush administration. Everyone remembers
the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003 as a pretty fast strike. U.S. forces
overwhelmed the Iraqi military almost everywhere they could find them.
Saddam Hussein was toppled in a matter of weeks, right?
But five days into that initial invasion, there was a disaster, there was a
human disaster for the U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq, and there was a
political disaster for the Bush administration at the time.
A small unit of American troops in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah was
ambushed by Saddam Hussein`s Iraqi military. The U.S. convoy apparently
took a wrong turn and headed straight into an Iraqi military position.
Four U.S. troops were killed in the attack on that convoy and five American
troops were captured. And the ones who were captured were then paraded on
These were American troops effectively prisoners of war being forced to
appear in propaganda videos that were then broadcast all over the world.
Iraqi TV outlets also broadcast images of the bodies of American troops who
were killed in that ambush. We are not going to show those images here.
But this video of them parading American prisoners, this was sort of a
shock to the American people in the very first week of the Iraq war in
March, 2003. When it happened, it prompted a very direct and very stern
warning at the time from President George W. Bush.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORE W. BUSH, THEN-U.S. PRESIDENT: If there is somebody captured and it
looks like there may be, I expect those people to be treated humanely. I
expect them to be treated the POWs, I expect them to be treated humanely
and, just like we`re treating the prisoners that we have captured humanely.
If not, the people who mistreat the prisoners will be treated as war
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I expect those people to be treated humanely just like we`re
treating the prisoner that is we have captured humanely. The people who
mistreat the prisoners will be treated as war criminals.
That`s President Bush on March 23rd, 2003 talking specifically about those
American troops who had been captured by the Iraqi military.
That same day, as the President Bush was warning, that those who mistreat
prisoners will be treated by war criminals, as an example of how we treat
prisoners in our custody to warn that prisoners must be treated humanely.
That same day, half a world away, U.S. personnel were hours away from
completing their 183 waterboarding session of captured al Qaeda operative
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
President Bush on March 23rd, said any mistreatment would constitute a war
crime. On March 24, the next day, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed underwent his
15th straight day of torture at hands of his American captors.
But that day, one day after President Bush gave that public warning,
publicly warned Iraq against committing war crimes, that`s the day that
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed`s torture abruptly, finally stopped.
Why did it stop on the 15th day? We don`t know. Could just be a weird
quirk of timing.
But President Bush`s assurances to the world in March 2003 that the U.S.
treats our prisoners humanely, that assertion was very publicly challenged
just a few months later. The International Committee of the Red Cross a
few months later wrote a letter to the Bush administration saying
essentially we have a list of prisoners you`re holding and torturing at
undeclared prisons around the world, at black site prisons.
And the Red Cross was specific about it. They said we know you have
prisoners in country X, that you are not giving us access to as the Red
Cross. You`re mandated to give us access to prisoners by law. We know
that you`re not doing it.
And that letter from the Red Cross went to the U.S. State Department. And
the State Department, at the time, appears to have been flabbergasted by
this allegation. The State Department sent a delegation to Geneva, to Red
Cross headquarters, and they told Red Cross officials that it was U.S.
policy to encourage all countries to provide access to the Red Cross for
detainees, including the specific country in question.
Secretary of State Colin Powell went as far as ordering the U.S. ambassador
in that specific country to demand that that country provide full access to
the Red Cross for all prisoners being held in that country.
So, the Red Cross says to the U.S. government, you have prisoners in
country X that you`re not giving access to. The State Department says the
U.S. always gives the Red Cross access to our prisoners, and we demand that
country X do the same thing.
And while the State Department was doing that, what we now know is that the
CIA, behind the scenes, was telling that same country to deny the Red Cross
access to the CIA`s prisoners who are being held in that country.
One of the bombshell revelations from the Senate report on CIA torture
during the Bush administration, the report that came out last month, was
that the CIA was essentially conducting a separate foreign policy on its
own, often in ways that were directly contradicting what other parts of the
U.S. government were doing or were trying to do.
The State Department was telling other currents do X and the CIA was
telling those same countries, no, don`t. Do not do X.
And the State Department had no idea why this was happening. According to
the Senate report in two countries where negotiations on hosting new
detention facilities were taking place, the CIA told local government
officials in those countries that they should not inform U.S. ambassadors
in those countries about what was going on.
So, you`re an ambassador trying to do your job and the CIA is telling that
other country to keep things secret from you. You are an ambassador trying
to negotiate with that country about the most important things in that
country`s relationship with the United States, and something incredibly
sensitive and incredibly politically potent is being negotiated by the CIA
with that country. You`re not allowed to know about it. How can you do
And if the CIA is doing that, in what sense were they acting as part of the
We`re now about a month out from the torture report being made public.
Today, the chair of the committee that put out the report publicly issued
some specific recommendations for how the U.S. government should try to
prevent what happened during the Bush administration from ever happening
Among the recommendations, U.S. ambassadors in countries where the CIA is
at work should be kept fully and currently informed with respect to all CIA
activities in that country.
Senator Dianne Feinstein advising that going forward, all principal members
of the president`s National Security Council should be informed of all
significant covert action and programs that are being conducted, and not
just the principles but the lawyers in their departments as well for
obvious reasons. That`s an important point, right?
One of the things that has come out in the years since the Bush presidency
is that there were officials at that time who were warning what was going
on with the CIA torture program wasn`t right.
One of those officials was Philip Zelikow. He was deputy of Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice. He was counselor to the State Department. Mr.
Zelikow authored memos inside the State Department in 2005 and 2006. So,
toward the end of the torture program. Memos that argued the program which
had been under way for years was likely against the law.
Joining us now is Philip Zelikow. He was counselor to the State Department
from 2005 to 2007, a trusted adviser to Condoleezza Rice. He`s currently
on leave from the University of Virginia where he`s a history professor.
Mr. Zelikow, thanks for being here.
PHILIP ZELIKOW, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Glad to be here.
MADDOW: You were counsel to the State Department at a critical time. Did
this happen as far as you know, where State Department and specific
ambassadors did not know what the CIA was negotiating with other countries
and did not know what the CIA had told other countries to keep secret from
the rest of our government?
ZELIKOW: Yes, that did happen. The information about that in the Senate
report is accurate. It happened in the early phase of the program,
especially in 2002 and 2003.
MADDOW: When did the State Department learn how it was sort of being
hoodwinked here? And what was the reaction inside the department?
ZELIKOW: One of the ambassadors had gotten some information about the
existence of the program – challenged, asked for something from the
secretary of state letting him know it was OK.
The White House – this is in the Senate report – the White House was then
obliged to make sure that Secretary Powell who was secretary of state at
the time, and deputy Secretary Richard Armitage were briefed. Then they
could talk to the ambassador and ask him to basically go along with what
was being done by the administration at that time. That was in one of the
countries in which there was a black site.
In general, the identity of the countries in which these black sites
existed was kept secret from everyone in the administration. It`s not at
all clear that President Bush himself knew which countries were the
locations of black sites. There was a sense in CIA that if you don`t know,
then you can`t say anything untrue about it.
MADDOW: The implication is that the decision to keep President Bush and
potentially Vice President Cheney in the dark about which countries had
these facilities was essentially a deliberate decision in which the
president and vice president knew that there was something they should not
know. They, thereby at least implicitly, the implication is, consented to
It seems different with regard to the State Department. There`s this one
damning line in the torture report where basically an internal CIA memo
says the White House says that Colin Powell should not be informed about
these things. He shouldn`t be briefed. He`ll blow his stack if he is
Is it your sense the State Department didn`t have the opportunity to opt
out of knowing this information in the same way that other senior parts of
the administration did?
ZELIKOW: That`s fair.
One of the – there`s a technical point that is missed a little bit in
Senator Feinstein`s recommendation when she talks about telling people
about covert actions. That`s actual current policy.
The technical point that a lot of people don`t understand is when this
program was first proposed it wasn`t proposed as a covert action but an
intelligence collection measure. The arcane point is the bureaucratics for
how to get approval for doing an intelligence collection like running an
espionage operation is not the same as getting the policy approval for a
covert action which is a policy measure.
Because this was presented as a matters of intelligence collection, it
circumvented the usual covert action approval procedures and circumvented
the secretary of state.
MADDOW: Did go through the proper procedures for being an intelligence
ZELIKOW: Well, those procedures are very simple. The intelligence agency
decides it wants to do it and if it thinks it`s important enough, it asks
the president for permission. That`s what they did in this case.
And the president basically asked two questions. He said – asked the CIA,
one is this effective? And then asked the attorney general, two, is this
legal? The attorney general says it was legal and the director of the CIA
said it`s effective, and the president, after months of circling around
this said, well, OK then.
MADDOW: Philip Zelikow, former counsel of the State Department during the
Bush administration – I have a feeling with those recommendations coming
out now, obviously, there were no recommendations in the initial report,
but with these recommendations coming out now, there actually will be some
policy reckoning not I think with Congress but within the administration.
As that happens, I`d love to talk to you more about this more if you`re
willing to come back.
ZELIKOW: Great. Love to.
MADDOW: Thank you very much. Good to have you here.
ZELIKOW: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: OK. Nothing naturally occurring drops off this much from one year
to the next. But this just happened. And that very dramatic story is
MADDOW: If you`re one of the declining number of the people in this
country who is in a union, then your union negotiates with the management
of your company on your behalf for salaries and benefits and workplace
rules et cetera. If those negotiations come to an impasse, your union
might, as a last ditch bargaining option, organize a strike.
For example, right now, 1,800 unionized employees of Fair Point
Communications in New England are on 81st day of a strike. That company
and its workers have a disagreement about how much to cut employee
benefits. When neither side would budge, the workers walked out.
That`s a private company. When workers at public service jobs go on
strike, it can cause a little bit more chaos. In 2013, employees at the
transit system in the San Francisco Bay Area went on strike, twice.
Hundreds of thousands of people in the San Francisco Area who commute by
train had to find different ways to get to work.
That`s generally the idea of a strike, right? It makes life so bad for
everybody involved that everybody rushes back to the bargaining table to
try to hammer something out.
But there are some unions that just aren`t allowed to strike. Laws on the
books in just about every state prohibit police unions and other public
safety unions like firefighters from striking. And it makes sense. If
cops walk out, who takes care of public safety, right? Who responds when
there are crimes committed? Who`s going to do their jobs if police won`t?
To the state and city governments who are negotiating with unions, allowing
police to walk off the job in protest would (a), hand them too big a
bargaining chip, and (b), it would be dangerous for the public. So, in
most places, it is banned by law.
But right now, in America`s largest city, police appear to be doing the
closest thing they legally can to any illegal strike.
In the two weeks since NYPD Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were
murdered as they sat in their patrol car, there`s been a dramatic drop in
police activity in New York City. Look at this, this is the number of
arrests made by police in New York City during Christmas week and New
Year`s week a year ago, and then this is the same time period this year,
the number of arrests plummeted, dropped by more than 50 percent compared
with this time last year.
And it isn`t a fluke. These are the numbers for arrests. These are the
numbers for people being issued criminal summons, as in people being
ordered to show up and pay a fine. This year compared with last year,
summons down 90 percent. Police just aren`t doing this work anymore.
And it`s everything. This is the drop off in numbers for moving
violations, things like speeding tickets. This is the year-to-year drop
for parking ticket.
This is not a fluke. The drop-off from what is happening now is
After those two officers were killed last month, a memo attributed to the
police union advised officers to not make arrests, quote, “unless
absolutely necessary.” Now that the numbers are in about what police are
actually doing, the union`s denying that this huge decline in arrest and
summons and tickets is any sort of coordinated action. Must be some kind
of coincidence, some kind of fluke.
Police in America`s largest city are mad at politicians and the New York
mayor in particular, because they feel like they don`t get enough support
for what they do. So, now, it appears from the numbers they`re just
stopping much of what they do, for two weeks running now, and the police
unions are denying that that`s what they`re doing, but plainly, that`s what
And if you don`t want the police arresting people and ticketing people and
making people pay fines, then the police giving up their jobs might seem
like a good thing. But if you think police play a role in keeping a big
city safe, then what New York police are doing right now, without admitting
that they`re doing it is a pretty radical form of holding a city hostage.
If they feel like they don`t have public support now, is this supposed to
earn it back?
MADDOW: Tomorrow`s going to be a day of high drama in a court in Richmond,
Virginia. At 10:00 a.m., proceedings will start in the sentencing of
Virginia Republican Governor Bob McDonnell who was convicted in September
of 11 felony corruption charges. He is the first Virginia governor in
history to be indicted, let alone convicted for crimes committed while in
Two things to watch here: first, nobody knows how much time he`s going to
get. In things like this, a federal agency looks at the conviction and
looks at the sentencing guidelines and makes a recommendation for how much
time the convict should get. In McDonnell`s case, the recommendation is 10
to 12 years in prison. If he does get that sentence, federal prison rule
say that sentence is long enough that he wouldn`t be allowed to serve it in
minimum security. He`d be in the kind of prison you imagine when you think
On the defense side, they say they don`t want anytime in prison at all.
Despite the 11 felony convictions, they say he should just do community
service. The defense has turned over 400 letters turned in asking the
judge to be lenient because Bob McDonnell`s such an excellent guy.
The prosecution side has basically thrown that back in their face, saying,
yes, we`re sure McDonnell is a great guy. We`re sure he has a great
character, quote, “The vast majority of the nation`s governors are good,
hardworking, civic-minded, generous, caring people. That is as it should
be. And also in all likelihood, not one of them would claim that those
characteristics are a license to commit bribery without fear of jail time.”
That`s basically the tenor of the fight between the defense and the
prosecution. That`s part of the reason there`s such dramatic tension about
what`s going to happen tomorrow morning.
The other reason, though, everybody`s expecting drama is that both sides
are going to call witnesses to make their case for what the sentence should
be tomorrow. Bob McDonnell himself is expected to plead his case, to plead
not to be sent to prison. Nobody knows who else is going to get called to
plead for him or to plead for him to get sent away.
At least one former Virginia governor, Doug Wilder, tells “The Washington
Post” that he`s been asked to prepare a statement in case he gets called
tomorrow at the hearing, but nobody knows who`s going to be there. Nobody
knows what anybody`s going to say.
And at the end of the hearing tomorrow afternoon, the judge will declare
how long Governor Bob McDonnell will have to serve and where. And then
next month, we`ll go through it all again with the governor`s wife, when
she gets sentenced for all her felony convictions.
That hearing starts at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow in federal court in Richmond,
Virginia. And as I say, it should be a very dramatic scene. Watch this
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Good evening, Lawrence. Happy New Year!
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>