The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 01/14/15

Guests:
Nancy Youssef, Daniel Benjamin, Robert Costa, Barney Frank
Transcript:


STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: Good evening to you, Chris. And I don`t
care what they say, Buddy Cianci gets my vote.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: I know. This was like the ultimate
Steve Kornacki segment. It was a bummer when I found out guest hosting, we
could not have you.

KORNACKI: I wish I was on it. But let me say, Buddy Cianci is the
all-time best piece of political advice, he said, be careful because the
toes you`re stepping on today may be connected to the rear end you have to
kiss tomorrow. Best political advice I`ve ever heard by Buddy Ciancia.

All right. Chris Hayes, thank you for that.

Thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour. Rachel has
the night off.

There`s a lot of news we need to get to tonight and we`re going to
begin with breaking news at this hour, about the FBI busting an alleged
plot to attack the U.S. Capitol.

We learned late today about what appears to have been a small-scale
nearly lone wolf plot to set off pipe bombs around the U.S. Capitol
building in Washington, and to shoot at members of Congress and
congressional staffers.

According to the arrest warrant, the suspect is a young man who lives
near Cincinnati, Ohio. And his name is Christopher Lee Cornell.

The warrant says that he had, quote, “voiced his support for violent
jihad, as well as support for violent attacks committed by others in North
America and elsewhere. The suspect is alleged to have specifically
referenced as inspiration the late Anwar al-Awlaki, the leader of al Qaeda
in Yemen.

The terrorist attacks last week in Paris that killed 17 people, the
brothers who carried out the massacre at the magazine, “Charlie Hebdo”,
said they had been sent by Awlaki`s group, by al Qaeda in Yemen. And
today, al Qaeda in Yemen released a video in which they claimed
responsibility for that massacre, including funding the brothers and
choosing the target.

U.S. intelligence officials say it appears that at least one of the
Kouachi brothers traveled to Yemen for training and met with Awlaki before
his death in 2011.

Now, in the arrest papers today, in this new case, this busted plot
to bomb the Capitol building in Washington, and to shoot members of
Congress, the revelations we learned today, the suspect allegedly claims to
have been in contact with people overseas. Apparently, he didn`t expect
authorization for conducting an attack. He allegedly said, quote, “I
believe we should just wage jihad under our own orders and plan attacks on
everything. We already got a thumbs-up from the brothers over there, and
Anwar al-Awlaki before his martyrdom and others. I believe we should meet
up and make our own group in alliance with the Islamic State here and plan
operations ourselves.”

Al Qaeda and ISIS had a high profile split last year. ISIS has been
calling for lone wolf attacks. But it`s not clear the people who might be
susceptible to that call make any distinction between those two groups,
between is and al Qaeda.

The FBI says they are tracking the suspect in Ohio. They`ve been
tracking him since the fall, this after an informant first spotted him
posting online about his support for ISIS.

The suspect is 20 years old. Again, his name is Christopher Cornell.
The FBI said he tweeted as Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah.

We have not confirmed that this tweet comes from him, but it appears
that someone using that handle did post ISIS propaganda, and also stuff
like calling Ebola a man-made disease for population control. Again, we
have not confirmed that these are tweets from that same alias. The account
seems to have been disabled.

The FBI says Christopher Cornell chatted online, and later met with
the FBI informant who was, quote, “cooperating” with the FBI in order to
obtain favorable treatment in another criminal case. The suspect allegedly
talked about his idea for planting pipe bombs around the Capitol, described
Congress as the enemy. He allegedly planned a, quote, “move” on his plot
in December.

And then finally, this week, the FBI said that he bought two guns, a
pair of semiautomatic rifles like you`re seeing right here, and 600 rounds
of ammunition.

So, when he did that, when he armed himself like that, that is when
the FBI moved in and made the arrest that we`re learning about tonight.

Officials tonight tell NBC News that Christopher Cornell never bought
the parts to build a pipe bomb. Quote, “There was never a danger to the
public.” That`s what they`re stressing tonight.

Christopher Cornell faces two federal counts, one attempting to kill
a U.S. government officer, another for possession of a firearm to attempt a
crime of violence. His first court hearing is scheduled in Cincinnati for
January 22nd.

We will have much more on the story as it develops and as we learn
more about it.

Now, on to the other major story today, or at least another major
story today, and for the last two weeks. The aftermath of the attacks in
Paris. The chaotic hours after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris,
actually, on the same day that that massacre happened, just before the
hostage crisis at the kosher grocery store, before a police woman was shot
and killed south of Paris, before all of that additional tragedy, back when
the only thing the world knew about this initial terrorist incident is
staff members at the newspaper had been essentially executed. Back then,
media reports all over the world named three suspects, three suspects, not
two, two of them were Cherif and Said Kouachi, who we learned had indeed
carried out the attack.

But there was a third suspect who was named by police, by media
outlets around the world at that time. That third suspect suspected of
having driven the getaway car for the Kouachi brothers was an 18-year-old
student Hamyd Mourad.

So, a week ago tonight, we were all hearing that two guys in their
30s had carried out the “Charlie Hebdo” massacre, with help from an 18-
year-old accomplice. Now, all three of them are named as suspects. But
then classmates of the 18-year-old started posting on social media,
tweeting that he couldn`t possibly have carried out the terrorist attacks
during the day last Wednesday, because he was at school with them, all day,
last Wednesday. They started tweeting an alibi for the 18-year-old.

Quote, “What is this madness? He was with me all morning. Mourad
Hamyd wrongly accused.”

He was in class at the time of the facts. His classmates can attest.
The tweets kept coming in with the hashtag, #mouradhamydinnocent.

And then, late Wednesday night, late Wednesday night last week, on
the night of that attack at “Charlie Hebdo”, Hamyd Mourad and his dad drove
to a police station 145 miles northeast of Paris, and at that police
station the 18-year-old kid, the third most wanted man in the world at that
moment, he walked into the police station, he turned himself in. He
surrendered to police.

What happened next, well, that was just a little weird. Police held
him for a little more than two days and released him without charge,
because despite all of the initial reports, he actually had not been there
when that massacre at “Charlie Hebdo” happened.

This is what he then said after it had been confirmed for the whole
world he was not a terrorist. “I`m no shock, people said horrible and
false things about me on social media, even though I`m a normal student who
lives quietly with his parents. The attack was horrific and my thoughts
are with the victims.”

So, that was the first person in this story, in this drama, this
terrible drama unfolding over the past few weeks. That was the first
person to come forward voluntarily and turn himself in. That happened a
week ago tonight.

Now, today, a second person who`s part of this story has come
forward. And he didn`t come forward claiming his innocence. He came
forward to tell police he`s guilty.

One of the unanswered questions, at least as yet, surrounding these
horrific attacks is, or has been, where did the weapons come from? We only
two of the assailants had criminal records. They served prison time. In
France, you need a permit to own semiautomatic guns. It is illegal to own
fully automatic weapons.

But the terrorists had fully automatic weapons and reportedly a
rocket propelled grenade launcher. Those types of heavy weapons aren`t
just illegal in France, they`re also very hard to come by for anyone, much
less anyone with terrorism convictions on their record.

And so, today, according to the Israeli newspaper, “Haaretz”, the
person who said he sold the weapons that were used in these attacks, that
person got in touch with police in Brussels, Belgium, this today, and
turned himself in. He told the police that he did it, he`s the one who
sold the weapons. According to “Haaretz”, when the police searched the
apartment of the arms dealer, they found papers linking him to a
transaction involving Amedy Coulibaly, that`s the attacker at the kosher
grocery store in Paris.

Now, “Haaretz” reports that the Belgian arms dealer sold Coulibaly
the weapons he used in that attack at that kosher grocery store, as well as
the Kouachi brothers used in their attacks at “Charlie Hebdo”. Weapons
were purchased for less $6,000. According to this report, Coulibaly first
contacted this arms dealer, expressing interest in buying a car. Somehow,
that initially contact about a car turned into the sale of these illegal
and heavy weapons.

Different media outlets are giving varying explanations why this guy
came forward. The British paper “The Telegraph” is reporting that the
underground Belgian arms unit decided to turn himself in, because he was
scared, because he had apparently, quote, “swindled Coulibaly”, and was
scared of the repercussions of swindling an international Islamic
terrorist.

That`s person number two, that`s the underground Belgian arms dealer.
He came forward today. He turned himself into police in Brussels.

And, also, someone else stepped forward today to admit their
connection to the terrorist attacks in Paris, or really, to proclaim it.
And to brag about it. This wasn`t a person, actually. This was a group.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP, this is al Qaeda`s Yemen
franchise. And they released this video on their Twitter account today.
And in it, a senior AQAP leader claims credit for the attack on “Charlie
Hebdo”, carried out by the Kouachi brothers. The video claims that the
order for these attacks came directly from the head of al Qaeda, Ayman al-
Zawahiri.

We know that at least one of the Kouachi brothers spent time in Yemen
training with al Qaeda. Said Kouachi trained there with AQAP in 2011. We
have already known this.

While the attacks were underway last week in Paris, the Kouachi
brothers seemed intent on making it known that they were loyal to al Qaeda
in Yemen. During the hostage crisis that ended with his death, the
youngest brother telling a French TV station that he was sent by Yemen`s al
Qaeda. Quote, “I went there and Anwar al Awlaki financed me.”

Anwar al-Awlaki, as we said, was an American citizen and a leading
AQAP cleric, this before he was killed in a U.S. drone attack four years
ago now, in 2011.

It`s important to note in this al Qaeda video released today, the
group specifically claims credit for just the “Charlie Hebdo” attacks.
They are not claiming credit for the hostage siege at the kosher grocery
store that was carried out by Coulibaly. And Coulibaly declared his
allegiance to al Qaeda`s rival jihadist group ISIS.

It`s also important to note that while U.S. intelligence officials
have authenticated this video and said it did in fact come from al Qaeda in
Yemen, intelligence officials say there is no evidence yet that the claims
made in the video are actually true.

Al Qaeda`s taking credit for what happened in Paris, but U.S.
officials say there`s no evidence – again, yet at least – to support
that.

So, if al Qaeda did order the attack on Charlie Hebdo, why did they
do it now? Why do this years after at least one of the Kouachi brothers
was in Yemen training with al Qaeda? And how do intelligence officials
move forward from here to figure out if al Qaeda`s actually responsible for
that attack, or if the video they released today is just to get credit for
it after the fact?

Joining us now is Nancy Youssef. She`s a senior defense and national
security correspondent for “The Daily Beast.”

Nancy, we really appreciate you taking the time tonight.

So, I guess this cynical – if that`s the right word for it – this
way of looking at what AQAP did today is, you know, they had some contact
with at least one of these guys a couple years ago. It would be a major, I
guess propaganda coup for them if they could be seen by the world as having
done this. So, are they piggybacking on the claim these guys made, or do
you think there`s more to this? What`s your read in this video?

NANCY YOUSSEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, it`s somewhere in the middle,
isn`t it? Because they have come out, during the attack that day, the
brothers said they were part of al Qaeda in Yemen. And now, a week later
this video comes out.

What`s unclear, even from the video, what exactly the relationship
was between al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula and these attackers. If they
ordered the attack as they claimed they did, when did they order it? If
they financed it, how did they finance it? And so on, and so on.

It`s certainly in al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula`s interest to, as
you say, piggyback on this, because remember that they were in a losing
battle, if you will, between themselves and ISIS, and sort of control for
the Arab voice. Here is a group coming forward saying they`re part of this
attack. And it seems, given the way the video was put together, that it
came out so late, and we don`t see any martyrdom videos from these two
attackers, suggest at least at this point that rather being directly as
involved as they suggest, that this was something this is perhaps they were
part of three years ago when they were training them in Yemen. Perhaps
like the authorities themselves lost track of the brothers. And that the
brothers themselves perhaps decided to do this attack when they did.

KORNACKI: So, what – in terms of coming forward then, and claiming
credit, specifically to AQAP, what does this mean? Is this a recruiting
benefit for them? Is this the rivalry with ISIS? Does this position them
better? What does it mean to them to have people believe this?

YOUSSEF: Well, remember, for years and years, five years at least,
through the magazine that they put out called “Inspire”, they have tried to
encourage supporters living in the Western world to carry out these
attacks. So what we`re seeing is perhaps the merging between those who are
core members and those who are inspired members, working together, having a
shared cause, and a shared effort to propagate the group. And that
certainly seems to have happened in this case. And so, that`s the
interesting dynamic here and the new one here.

At the same time, it`s not clear how much control they have over
those who aren`t core members, who are inspired by their attacks. And
that`s why we`re in this gray area of not knowing whether they order the
attack when they did, whether they themselves couldn`t control these
brothers, and that the brothers themselves decided. And so, we`re entering
this gray area of what constitutes a member, what constitutes propagating
al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula, if it`s not clear they had total control
over this attack.

KORNACKI: And it is – is it at all plausible, so you have some
evidence, as we say, linking the Kouachi brothers, at least one of them,
with AQAP, then you have Coulibaly who`s citing ISIS, is it at all
plausible that those two groups could both have been involved in this
somehow, just given what we learned about the hatred between them?

YOUSSEF: It`s hard to see at this point, because the rivalry with
them is quite deep, it was going on just in a couple of months, there was
an online war over Yemen in particular. ISIS was talking about moving into
Yemen. You could see the tensions building up.

What seems more likely is Coulibaly and the Kouachi brothers met and
that heir friendship superseded the tensions between the groups that they
claimed to be members of.

KORNACKI: All right. Nancy Youssef, senior defense and national
security correspondent for “The Daily Beast” – really appreciate the time
tonight. Thank you.

YOUSSEF: Thank you.

KORNACKI: All right. Much more ahead in the show tonight. We`re
going to be speaking with a former top counterterrorism official at the
Obama State Department.

And Barney Frank is going to join us live here in the studio.

So, stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUBTITLE: Today, the new issue of “Charlie Hebdo” was released in
France. It sold out in minutes.

“No more Charlie Hebdo”. “We don`t have any more Charlie Hebdo”.
“Charlie Hebdo out of stock.”

RONAN FARROW, MSNBC: What do you most want the world to learn from
the new Charlie Hebdo?

ZINEB EL RHAZOUI, CHARLIE HEBDO COLUMNIST: We want – well, first of
all, this issue is a message of forgiveness, because we see that we need to
forgive. It is a message for them. If you can`t kill an idea, don`t kill
the people, because you can kill the people, but they cannot kill the idea.
So the idea is still here. And we are also here. And if they kill us, it
doesn`t matter, because others will continue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Al Qaeda in Yemen today came out to claim credit for the
massacre at the offices of the French satirical newspaper “Charlie Hebdo”.

American intelligence officials say while they have authenticated the
video came from al Qaeda in Yemen, they have not authenticated any of the
claims made in that video. In recent months, al Qaeda has receded from the
headlines as the terrorist group ISIS has vied for the role of the world`s
most barbaric terrorist organization. But now, it seems that al Qaeda
wants that title back, or at the very least, they want the world`s
attention back.

So, now that al Qaeda in Yemen has come out to say, we did this, we
are responsible for this terrorist attack, how is the West and how
specifically is the United States supposed to respond?

Joining us is Daniel Benjamin. He`s a former coordinator for
counterterrorism at the U.S. State Department. He`s now director of the
Dickey Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth College.

Thanks for joining us tonight.

Well, let me ask you this – in terms of a response from the United
States to this, what is the difference between finding out that AQAP
essentially masterminded and planned this thing, versus they had some role
in training this guy a few years ago and are now piggybacking on it to
claim credit?

DANIEL BENJAMIN, FORMER STATE DEPT. COUNTERTERRORISM COORDINATOR:
Well, if we do find out that AQAP was responsible in a serious way, not
just putting out the idea of targeting Charlie Hebdo and then claiming
credit when someone who passed through one of their camps or schools years
ago carried out that attack, then there will be serious scrutiny about
their ability to get people into Western countries and maintain contact
with them. That`s the critical thing. How do they maintain contact,
exercise command and control?

But I want to emphasize I think it`s unlikely we`re going to find out
that that is true. And I think what`s more likely is that the Kouachi
brothers were acting on their own initiative, that they took the idea from
the online magazine that AQAP puts out, inspire, and that AQAP has decided
that this is a great opportunity to gain back some of the limelight.

KORNACKI: Well, tell me a little bit then about, Yemen comes up in
this. My understanding has been that the United States, especially with
the drone attacks has been much more focused on Yemen, on the extremist
threats, the terrorist threats from Yemen, as opposed to Europe, as oppose
to France and Europe, France and Europe may be paying more attention to
Syria and Iraq, does this change that equation?

BENJAMIN: Well, many countries have been focusing on Yemen quite
heavily. The United Kingdom has been very, very focused.

The French, it is true, are more focused on the Maghreb and the
Sahel, that is northwest Africa, much less so on Yemen, but also very much
more so in Iraq and in Syria, a country they have long historic ties with.
So, there are a lot of different places to keep an eye out for. Of course,
everyone`s still looking at Pakistan.

So, it`s a complicated picture. But I think the biggest thing to
keep an eye out for right now is the activities of militants within
Europe`s own borders. They may not have the organization and the skill-
set, but some of them seem really motivated to carry out some very violent
attacks.

KORNACKI: Yes. I mean, are you along those lines? Are you worried
about follow-up attacks here?

BENJAMIN: You have to be worried about follow-up attacks. The
period immediately following any attack is, of course, the most dangerous.
First of all, because terrorist organizations, especially jihadists ones,
often plan on follow-on attacks to throw the public even more off-guard.
And also, because there`s the possibility of copycat attacks, and
particularly when you have such a low-tech attack as the one we saw, then
the possibility of others thinking that they should get into the act is
considerable.

And finally, you know, when the original provocation, the Charlie
Hebdo cartoons, is then repeated almost on an exponential scale, then that,
too, is going to have an effect.

KORNACKI: Right. Referring to the publication, I guess 3 million
copies of the next issue of “Charlie Hebdo” and a cover there that`s
drawing some controversy as well.

Daniel Benjamin, former coordinator for counterterrorism at the U.S.
State Department – appreciate the time tonight. Thank you.

And meanwhile, right here at home, we received late breaking news
today, as we told you at the top of the show, about a foiled terror plot to
bomb the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

That and much more is still ahead. So, stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: A year and a half ago, on June 25th, 2013, the Supreme
Court of the United States struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act.
In a 5-4 decision, the court invalidated a key provision of the law, a
provision – validate – excuse me that allowed many states in the South to
change their election laws without any advance federal approval. The
ruling basically gutted the core of the Voting Rights Act. This is a piece
of legislation that was signed into law in the summer of 1965 by LBJ during
the height of the civil rights movement.

And since then, half century since then, 50 years since then, the
Voting Rights Act was amended four times by Congress. Each time it was
amended, it was expanded in terms of what it protected. The last time was
in 2006, this when George W. Bush was president, and he signed the
reauthorization.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, THEN-U.S. PRESIDENT: The Voting Rights Act that
broke the segregationist lock on the ballot box, rose from the courage
shown on a Selma bridge one Sunday afternoon in March of 1965. On that
day, African-Americans, including a member of the United States Congress,
John Lewis –

(APPLAUSE)

BUSH: – marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in a protest
intended to highlight the unfair practices that kept him off the voter
rolls.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Now, the vote that made that possible in the Senate, the
vote in the Senate that made that speech by George W. Bush possible in 2006
was 98-0. It was a unanimous vote. In the House, it wasn`t unanimous, but
it was overwhelming. It was also bipartisan.

Now, after the Supreme Court decision to invalidate that key part of
the Voting Rights Act in 2013, some Republicans, including House Majority
Leader Eric Cantor, hinted at the prospect of working with Democrats to
restore key parts of the Voting Rights Act. And some didn`t just hint
about.

This was Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner from Wisconsin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JIM SENSENBRENNER (R), WISCONSIN: My job is to fix the Voting
Rights Act. Now, the first thing we have to do is to take the monkey
wrench that the court threw in it out of the Voting Rights Act and then use
that monkey wrench to be able to fix it so that it is alive, well,
constitutional, and impervious to another challenge that will be filed by
the usual suspects. I`m with you on this.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Sensenbrenner sponsored a bipartisan bill that picked up
11 Republican co-sponsors in the House. When Congress wrapped up a few
weeks ago at the end of 2014, that bill had gone nowhere. And now, a
brand-new Congress, a Congress dominated by Republicans, is in place.

And today, we got word what this new Republican Congress intends to
do about the Voting Rights Act. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, he is the
chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, telling reporters today that he
doesn`t think any changes to the Voting Rights Act are needed right now.
That even without what the Supreme Court took out of it, the Voting Rights
Act still provides the protections it needs to provide. Goodlatte, by the
way, actually voted to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act back in 2006.

But opinions on the Voting Rights Act in the Republican Party has
changed a lot in the last nine years. And unless they changed back again
sometime soon, it doesn`t look like there will be any fixes to the Voting
Rights Act for the next two years, at least.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: So this woman right here, this woman is nominally in
charge of New Jersey today. In fact, she was in charge of New Jersey for
most of the past month. Her name is Kim Guadagno, and she`s lieutenant
governor of the Garden State.

In New Jersey, when the governor`s out of the state, technically his
powers pass to her. And she becomes the acting governor.

And sure, she might not really have much power, basically no power,
but technically, at least on paper, Kim Guadagno was in charge of New
Jersey for nearly 40 percent of 2014. That`s because Chris Christie, the
actual governor of New Jersey, was traveling for 137 days last year,
traveling to places like Iowa and New Hampshire. And today, he was in
South Carolina. He was there to attend the inauguration of that state`s
governor, and that to meet with business leaders, fundraisers, and assorted
political power brokers.

That trip came a day after Christie was actually in New Jersey to
give his own State of the State speech in Trenton, which in a lot of days
sounded like a presidential stump speech. Not that that`s surprising at
all. It`s no secret Chris Christie is eyeing a run for the White House.
He`s even said he`s eyeing a run to the White House.

And along those lines, it was also no surprise yesterday when
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul announced that he hired a campaign manager for a
likely 2016 bid of his own. Again, people have been talking about Rand
Paul running in 2016 for years now. So, it`s not a big surprise.

But what is surprising is how suddenly and how early Christie and
Paul and so many other potential candidates are suddenly making some very
serious noise, and some very serious moves to position themselves for 2016
and maybe to elbow out their rivals while they`re at it.

Today, we learned Rick Santorum will be meeting with potential donors
this weekend at a gathering organized by his wealthy patron, Foster Friess.
Friess largely funded Santorum`s unexpectedly 2012 bid. It looks like
they`re ready to give it another go.

Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, caught folks off guard
earlier this month when he suddenly left his TV show to explore a run for
the White House. And given his comfortable perch at FOX News and with a
new book coming out, it was widely expected he would wait a while and maybe
size up the field, take his time. But apparently, he felt he just couldn`t
wait to get out there. As he did this week, knock the Obamas are letting
their daughters listen to Beyonce.

Anyway, meanwhile, Florida Senator Marco Rubio was holding meeting
with party activists and donors. Tea Party darling Ted Cruz is headed to
Iowa this month to address a conservative group. Wisconsin Governor Scott
Walker delivered a State of the State speech yesterday that sounded so many
national themes, it was practically treated as a campaign announcement.

Even former New York Governor George Pataki has been trudging through
the snows of New Hampshire, meeting everyone he can, trying to drum up
enthusiasm on Twitter, where he wrote, quote, “Great trip to New Hampshire.
We did over 25 events in two days. We`ll be back soon.”

And I haven`t even mentioned the big one here, Jeb Bush. Jeb Bush,
he`s the one who got all this started. He`s the one who made the first big
move that forced all of these other potential candidates to start making
moves of their own. And he did that last month when he surprised everyone
with an announcement that he was eyeing the race. Then, followed it up by
resigning board memberships and forming a political action committee, this
in a matter of weeks.

His entrance was so early, and so unexpected, at least with the
intensity that he entered, that Chris Christie`s campaign team was
reportedly startled by it. Christie expected to announce his own PAC as
early as next week.

And then, of course, there`s Mitt Romney. A lot of news about Mitt
Romney this week. The news that he`s seriously considering a third White
House run. It surprised absolutely everyone.

But here`s the thing: we`re always talking about our presidential
campaign starts earlier and earlier. It seems to be the story we tell
ourselves every four years. But this is more than that. This isn`t just
potential candidates delicately testing the waters, dipping a toe in to see
if they like the temperature and to deal with it going forward.

This is a serious and intense and emotionally behind the scenes
fight. This is the richest donors, the biggest bundlers in the Republican
Party, being put on the spot, being asked to choose sides now, or sometime
very soon.

Think about what`s playing out right now – the private meetings, the
personal phone calls between Republican candidates and the Republican
donors, the decisions that will soon be made.

Is the Republican nomination for president in 2016, this for an
election that is still nearly two years away, is that nomination actually
being decided right now as we speak in January of 2015?

Joining us now is Robert Costa, national political reporter for “The
Washington Post.”

Robert, thanks for joining us tonight.

So, I`m looking at this and I`m saying, you know, Jeb Bush is making
his big play here to line up all these donors and overwhelmed everybody.
Mitt Romney steps in and says, wait a minute. He makes a much more
aggressive move than anybody thought of. Chris Christie is forming a PAC.

When you look at the importance of money to any campaign, especially
of presidential campaign, are we looking at a situation where in a few
months, we`re going to go from having a jumbled Republican field that
nobody could figure out, to really knowing who the front-runner is in this
thing?

ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST: It`s really hard to say right
now. I talked to Santorum`s people today. And I talked about having this
meeting this weekend in Arizona with Foster Friess. I think that Santorum
model from 2012, find a few mega donors who can fuel super PAC that`s
really informing a thinking of a lot of these camps heading into 2016.

KORNACKI: Yes, that`s the interesting wild card, obviously. We
looked at past elections, except 2012, we didn`t have that as a factor.

So, let`s look at the Romney versus Bush dynamic right now. What
would it take for Mitt Romney – at least I`m seeing in the day two stories
today, a lot of Republicans politely saying, we`re not so sure about a
third Mitt Romney campaign. What would it actually take? What is Mitt
Romney looking for that would get him in this race?

COSTA: According to my sources within Romney`s inner circle, he
feels confident he`s in a good position, because he believes Jeb Bush, he
respects Jeb Bush`s record as governor of Florida, but he hasn`t been on a
ballot in 2002. Romney he feels he`s been in the arena, he has the donor
relationships. He can march into this field and build support early and
fast.

KORNACKI: Can you see a scenario where Romney or Christie or
somebody else actually forces Jeb Bush to reconsider, and backs out of
this?

COSTA: When you speak to Jeb`s allies, they say Governor Bush has
not yet formally decided to run for president. He hasn`t been on the
campaign trail. This is all private meetings. He declined the invitation
from Steve King to go to Iowa later this month. We still haven`t seen Jeb
meeting voters, being pummeled by questions from the press.

KORNACKI: Tell us a little bit – as I say, so much of this is
hugely consequential, because if you line up the donors now, you have a
huge advantage. Where are some of these phone calls like that are taking
place? I know we have all the stories about Mitt Romney working the
phones. I guess Chris Christie is, too. A lot of these other guys are as
well, too.

What are these questions being asked? What are the candidates
saying?

COSTA: According to those who have spoken with Jeb Bush, it`s really
about his leadership PAC, right to rise. He`s sounding off a Paul Ryan
type message on poverty. This GOP focus on poverty. Romney, when he makes
the calls, I hear he`s a little more aggressive – he`s asking for
commitments, he`s asking for advisers in New Hampshire and Iowa to sign on
and to do it now.

KORNACKI: And what about – we talk about the Christie/Romney/Bush.
There`s also sort of the more grassroots conservative side of it, where you
have this interesting dynamic at least to me where, you know, Santorum
wants to run again, and now, Huckabee has gotten in. Huckabee won Iowa in
2008. Very popular with the evangelical Christians.

How is that side of the party shaping up right now?

COSTA: Huckabee`s move is as significant as Mitt Romney. If you
look at Huckabee affects that side of the party, you have Santorum making
moves. Ben Carson, the neurosurgeon from Maryland, he`s doing the same.
Ted Cruz, he`s starting to make calls to operatives and donors as well.

They believe that the Santorum model for 2012, it may have been good
to have a super PAC guy, like Foster Friess, but you have to have
authorization and you have to have money and you have to start now so you
can compete in the long haul. They saw how Huckabee in 2008 and Santorum,
they say faded because they didn`t have the money.

KORNACKI: All right. Robert Costa, national political reporter at
“The Washington Post”, doing great reporting on all these major early
developments. Thanks for being here tonight. Appreciate it.

COSTA: Thank you.

KORNACKI: All right. Still ahead, koalas, kangaroos and compassion.

But, next, former Congressman Barney Frank is here. So, stay with
us.

(COMMERICAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: We`re going to be joined live in studio tonight by the man
who is the Frank in Dodd/Frank. Former Democratic Congressman Barney Frank
from Massachusetts will be our live guest right here. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Republicans, as you probably to know, took control of the
Senate for the first time in nearly a decade last week. Senator Jim Inhofe
who`s famously declared global warming a hoax is now the new chairman of
the Environment and Public Works Committee. John McCain, champion of the
very hawkish foreign policy, he`s new chairman of the Armed Services
Committee.

This man, right here, you`re looking at right now, Richard Shelby of
Alabama, is the new chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. That means
he`s about to become a very busy chairman. The moment that Republicans won
control of the Senate back in November, back then, incoming Senate majority
leader Mitch McConnell made it clear one of his top priorities in this new
Congress, the one that`s meeting now, would be to dismantle one of the
signature achievements of the Obama era. That`s the Wall Street reform
legislation passed in 2010 and known as Dodd/Frank.

Republicans have never liked Dodd/Frank since it passed. They`ve
undertaken a strategy of trying to weaken it piece by piece. For example,
at the end of last year, actually just a few weeks ago, they tried to slip
something into a must-pass spending bill. That`s a bill that had to pass
right away to keep the government from shutting down.

So, they inserted something into that that was aimed at weakening
Dodd/Frank. You may remember how this played out. Elizabeth Warren going
to the floor of the Senate to lobby her colleagues to vote no on that bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The House is about to vote
on a budget deal, a deal negotiated behind closed doors, that slips in a
provision that would let derivatives traders on Wall Street gamble with
taxpayer money, and get bailed out by the government when their risky bets
threaten to blow up our financial system.

I urge my colleagues in the House, particularly my Democratic
colleagues, whose votes are essential to moving this package forward, to
withhold support from it until this risky giveaway is removed from the
legislation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Now, Warren and minority leader in the House, Nancy
Pelosi, went head-to-head with Republicans, also some Wall Street-friendly
Democrats over that legislation during that impasse. As the hours ticked
down to the spending bill deadline to the prospect of a government
shutdown, President Obama personally stepped in and called Democrats to
convince them to pass the bill to avoid the government shutdown, pass it
even though it included the language that weakened Wall Street reform.

And in the end, the president got his way, the bill did pass, with 57
Democrats voting in support. Then this month, just a few days ago,
Republicans added a provision to a bill called the Terrorism Risk Insurance
Act. The new provision that they inserted into that would again weaken
parts of Dodd/Frank.

And again, President Obama criticized the inclusion of the Dodd/Frank
reforms, but Democrats still voted for the bill anyway and the president
still signed it anyway because they said it was that important to get that
bill through, even with the changes weakening Dodd/Frank.

Then, this week, Republicans tried to fast track legislation that
would delay the implementation of what`s called the Volcker Rule. This is
a key part of Dodd/Frank. It limits the number of risky investments that
banks can make. Republicans have called this new legislation, quote,
“basically minor changes, and just modest clarifications to the Dodd/Frank
Act.”

But this time, President Obama drew a line in the sand, the White
House issuing a strongly worded veto threat against the bill. That bill
passed the House today with a simple majority, and with some Democrats
voting for it. Republicans are making it a priority to water down
Dodd/Frank little by little, piece by piece.

But there`s also a question of how committed Democrats are to
fighting them on this. Democrats allowed those Dodd/Frank tweaks to remain
in the final spending bill last year and the legislation that passed the
House today, that passed with the help of almost 30 Democrats.

So, while we know how dedicated Republicans are to dismantling
Dodd/Frank, do we know how committed Democrats are to keeping it intact?

Joining us now is the Barney Frank of the Dodd/Frank law, former
congressman from Massachusetts.

Thanks for joining us tonight.

FORMER REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: You`re welcome.

KORNACKI: So, this is – one of the most significant things, maybe
the most significant thing you did in all your years in Congress, and
you`re watching this right now – and I`m just curious, are you confident
that the law you put on the books is going to still be intact in a
meaningful way two years from now?

FRANK: Yes. I mean, it`s not personal, although I take pride in
what we did. We ought to be clear what`s happening, and it`s a reversion.
You know, the Republicans were in control of Congress from 1995 to 2006.
They like to blame us for all these things. But that`s when the financial
crisis really happened, that`s when they block any regulation, including in
things like subprime lending. It was actually Democrats who tried to stop
loans going to people who shouldn`t be getting them. And the Republicans
blocked us in the name of the free market.

We had to step in, and, by the way, this was done in cooperation in a
bipartisan way with the Bush administration. Secretary of the Treasury
Paulson, Sheila Bair, the Bush appointee that head the Federal Deposit
Insurance Corporation, Paul Volcker, who Republicans support, and Ben
Bernanke. And we put some rules if place.

And I was disappointed that there was kind of a complacency about
this. And it is true, the first two bills were not central pieces of the
legislation. This current one, putting off the Volcker Rule and even more
than that, weakening rules about derivatives, you know, people should
remember it was AIG`s heavy involvement in selling a form of derivatives
and not having the money to back it up when they had to, that was a
precipitating cause of this crisis.

And for people to understand this, AIG came to the federal government
and said, we`re $85 billion short. A week later they said, sorry, $170
billion short. What we did was to make that very, very much less likely to
happen.

So, I was discouraged. But just – too long an answer, I apologize.
But here`s the point – I think they have done us a favor, the Republicans,
by trying to piling on so much. I think you now have a resolve on the part
of the president, clearly backed by well over a third of the Democrats in
both houses at the very at least. So, I do not think they`ll be able to do
anything further.

And they have given us, I think, one of the first issues of the 2016
election. One of the things – so, I`m confident that it still will be in
place –

KORNACKI: Let me just ask you on this a little more specifically,
because we see what the strategy here is. So, now, you can pass a stand
alone bill trying to take Dodd-Frank off the books, and Democrats aren`t
going to be for that, and the president would veto if ever somehow got to
his desk, OK. That`s that piece of it.

But the strategy that they`ve used successfully is to take these
bills, like for instance, funding the government, we`re going to have a
shutdown in 48 hours if this bill doesn`t get through and put something in
there that weakens the law in some significant way. And Democrats, as
they`ve done twice now, saying, I don`t like it, but I want to keep the
government open, we`ve got to do it.

FRANK: I`m going to make this –the trio piece (ph) actually, that
said that one party in the transaction was not bound by some of these
rules. The trio piece is technical, but that had to do with people who
were actually using a commodity and trying to hedge.

But the rules with regard to the financial institutions that did all
the razzle-dazzle that cause trouble hasn`t been weakened. But here`s the
point, I think some people underestimated on the Democratic side how fierce
the determination is not to give in to that. And I regret that the bill
was passed and the people voted for it resigned (ph), but I`m very
confident that won`t happen again.

And the next time they try to take a must-pass bill and use it as a
cover for putting us back into this unregulated forum, it will be veto and
the veto will be sustained, because I think what the president understands,
that choice here about 2016, this is being set up, and I think it`s now
clear, one of the central issues in the 2016 campaign both for the
president and Congress will be, do we keep tough financial reform or do we
in effect repeal it and go back to the situation that brought us the
crisis?

KORNACKI: OK. Well, as we say, this looks like the strategy
Republicans have right now. We`ll see the next time that puts to the test
how Democrats and the president respond.

Congressman Barney Frank, thanks for joining us tonight. Really
appreciate that.

Next, an important way humans can help endangered wildlife in a time
of a crisis. Anyone offended by off the chart cuteness, consider this a
heads up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: All right. Best new thing in the world today, we really
do need one tonight.

So, it`s a cold, hard fact that humans love dressing up fellow
animals. A huge swath of the Internet is devoted to this basic tenet of
human life. YouTube alone has countless videos of animals in costumes.

This one of a dog wearing a teddy bear outfit has 5 million hits.
For better or worse, it`s a lot of fun to dress up animals, I guess. But
every so often, there`s a reason to do it. Sometimes, it`s for the good of
the animals.

In the U.K., a group of volunteers knit jumpers for chicken. These
rescued hens went bald from being held in cramped conditions and needed the
little sweaters to keep warm while they healed up.

Last year, knitting enthusiast in Australia also made sweaters for
rescued wildlife, this time, it was penguins who were caught in an oil
spill. These penguins got sweaters to keep them from grooming themselves
before the oil could be cleaned off.

Now, this week, once again, we got a good excuse to make clothing for
wild animals. In the last two weeks, extremely hot and dry weather in
southern Australia caused massive brush fires. Thousands of acres have
been burned to the ground, damaged homes and killed animals.

Emergency response teams battling the blazes have rescued dozens of
animals in just these past weeks, and koala bears have been particularly
vulnerable. They`re known for being very slow on their feet. They`ve
ended up trapped in their burning treetop homes during all of this.

Many of the rescued koalas are coming in with second degree burns on
their paws. They are so many koalas with burned paws that one organization
taking care of them has put out a call for help. The International Fund
for Animal Wildlife posted this to their Web site on Thursday.

Quote, “Koalas with burns to their paws need to have them treated
with burn creams and wrapped in bandages. They then need special cotton
mittens to cover the dressings. We`re asking if you can help us by sewing
koala mittens. “Koalas sew need you,” S-E-W, you see that? They sew need
you, that`s what the group was saying.

Little homemade mittens started flooding in from all over the world.
Thousands of pairs of them, from the United States, from China, from
Kazakhstan. People in Kazakhstan were sewing mittens for Australian
koalas, are sewing mittens for them.

Now, they have way more than they need. The International Fund for
Animal Welfare is asking people to please stop sending mittens. They have
enough. What they need now are pouches, a whole bunch of them. Hurt
kangaroos and possums and wallabies are also rescued from the fires, and
many of them are babies who need a warm and quite pouch-like environment to
survive.

So, this week, the organization put up a sewing pattern for a
marsupial pouch on its Web site. The instructions say you can make it out
of an old bed sheet or piece of flannel, as long as it`s 100 percent
cotton. And they are asking for the poaches to be made in five different
sizes to fit the needs of growing baby animals.

So, if you have some basic sewing skills, it`s a pretty easy process.
Just cut, stitch and iron and you can make a baby marsupial very happy.
That`s the best new thing in the world today – help in the form of a
cotton pouch. Plus, a baby kangaroo in a homemade pouch. Got to show
that. Come on.

That does it for us tonight. Rachel will be back tomorrow.

Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”

Good evening to you, Lawrence.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

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