The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 08/5/15

Sam Youngman

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I have to believe that Jon Stewart
decided to end his program on the night of the first debate, essentially to
give like a booster rocket to Trevor Noah coming in after him. It is going
to be very sad that he`s not there.

STEVE KORNACKI, UP: Maybe he should extend it one more night. How
about that?

MADDOW: Let`s start a petition.

Thank you, Steve. Thanks, my friend.


MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next

I have an important video to show you right off the top tonight. I
need on warn you. It is a little bit graphic. It`s not like war graphic.
It is more like nature graphic.

It`s a little bit weird. Where it comes from, this is, you know the
videos that start playing now whenever you go to a political campaign`s
website? This is the thing they all have now.

This for instance is what you get when you go to the Web site for
Chris Christie`s super PAC. You get all the normal stuff in the
foreground. But in the background, you get the video of Chris Christie
telling it like it is, you know, meeting with potential voter, kissing
babies, and you know, doing that sort of thing.

Here`s the Web site for Carly Fiorina`s super PAC, the same deal. It
looks like the same template. You get a patriotic video that plays in the
ground, the American flag waving around and you get Carly Fiorina out there
in the campaign trail and everything else is in the foreground. So, those
are the videos that you get now when you go to a campaign or a candidate`s
Web site, sort of standard issue for this year in politics. Got it.

Well, here`s the video that you get when you go to the Rand Paul
super PAC website. You go to the Web site, and this just starts playing
even if you don`t do anything. You go to the Web site and this –


MADDOW: Bald eagle, slow motion. Very nice.

Now, what`s the bald eagle doing? What`s that? What – what is

Oh, God. Rand Paul`s super PAC has a video that plays when you go to
the Web site even if you do nothing, that shows a bald eagle, or three bald
eagles, maybe the same eagle, three different angles, three videos of
eagles grabbing live fish out of the water. And it just runs on a loop.

At a certain point, you can even see blood spurting out of the fish
as the eagle`s talons yank it out of the water.

Look. Look at that. I told you it was a little graphic. I think
this is a little graphic and I fish.

So, this is one great service that the Rand Paul super PAC has done.
It gives you more information than you ever wanted and that you never asked
for about what it looks like for an eagle`s talons to impale a live salmon
and hoink it out of the water with blood everywhere. That`s one service
they have done.

One thing they have not done is raise very much money for Rand Paul.

And today, we may have learned why. This is the section of that same
Web site that shows who runs Rand Paul`s super PAC. And the guy you see
right at the top there, today he was indicted by the U.S. Justice

The president of Rand Paul`s super PAC Indicted by the feds today and
he is not the only one. The guy who has been running the super PAC who is
not pictured here, he was also indicted today. The Justice Department made
this big announcement. Of course, it is one day before the first 2016
Republican debate.

The Justice Department announced that had two key members of Rand
Paul`s inner circle have now been federally indicted for their alleged role
in a presidential campaign bribery scandal.

And if you want to know what a big deal this is, if you want to know
how close they are to presidential candidate Rand Paul, you do have to back
up a little bit here. Rand Paul announced his presidential in April of
this year. He made his announcement in his home state of Kentucky. And he
was surrounded at that event, surrounded on stage by his closest friends
and family, including his former campaign manager.

See the gentleman that you see there on the left with the adorable
little kid on his lap. The guy in the red tie, his name is Jesse Benton.
He was on stage for the Rand Paul announcement. He is one of the people
who was indicted today by the Justice Department.

It raised eyebrows at the time that Jesse Benton was up there on
stage for the presidential announcement. It raised eyebrows even then
because at the time of that Rand Paul presidential announcement, Jesse
Benton had just been basically forced out. He just had to resign his
position as campaign manager for Mitch McConnell. And he`s had to resign
it basically because of his connections to this campaign bribery scandal
from the last presidential election.

I mean, Jesse Benton when he was up there on stage with Rand Paul, he
was already under investigation by the FBI. When Rand Paul tapped Jesse
Benton to run his super PAC time, he did so with the knowledge that Benton
was already under FBI investigation.

Then fast forward to today, after Rand Paul inserted him to this
really high position in his campaign, today, he was indicted. Jesse Benton
indicted for his alleged role in paying for a political endorsement four
years ago when it was Rand Paul`s father Ron Paul who was running for
president and Jesse Benton was the Ron Paul for President campaign manager.

The indictment lays out in stark detail the lengths that Rand Paul
for President campaign allegedly went to, to basically buy an endorsement
to win the Iowa caucuses this year. The scheme revolved around this
Republican state senator, the bald guy. He`s a Republican state in Iowa.
His name is Kent Sorensen. And his price according to the indictment was
somewhere around $70,000.

In the lead up to the Iowa caucus in 2012, Kent Sorensen had been
traveled a state co-chair for the Michele Bachmann. Kent Sorensen traveled
the state for Michele Bachmann. He helped run her efforts in Iowa.

But then it was this shock just a few days before the Iowa caucuses
in 2012 when Kent Sorensen suddenly switched sides. He made this dramatic
announcement just a few days before election day in Iowa that that he was
leaving the Bachmann campaign and instead endorsing Ron Paul.

It was a big deal, a big surprise when it happened. But almost
immediately, it smelled sort of fishy, right? This state co-chair for
Bachmann just suddenly switching sides days before the election. Well, the
night that it happened, Bachmann herself, she held an impromptu press
conference where she made this wild-sounding allegation that this had just
happened to her. This shock had just befallen her campaign because Kent
Sorensen was being paid to do it.

It sounds crazy, right? She said, though, he was being paid by the
Rand Paul campaign to switch sides. That would be a crazy sounding
allegation coming from almost anyone, coming from Michele Bachmann, though,
it wasn`t just crazy sounding. It was almost incoherent.

I mean, she tried but watch how it went.


personally – let`s see. Excuse me just a moment. Kent Sorensen said to
me yesterday, here we go. Sorry about that.

Kent Sorensen personally told me he was offered a large sum of money
to go to work for the Ron Paul campaign. Kent campaigned with us earlier
this afternoon in Indianola, Iowa, and then he went immediately afterward
to a Ron Paul event and announced that he was changing team. Kent said to
me yesterday that everyone sells out in Iowa, why shouldn`t I?


MADDOW: Everyone sells out in Iowa. Why shouldn`t I?

That was Michelle Bachmann unveiling to the world this campaign
bribery scheme in the middle of the Republican nominating process in 2012.
She was unveiling this scheme, one misplaced iPad swipe at a time.

And I think because it was her and because of the iPad thing and
because it sounded so crazy, it was hard to see at the time what exactly
she was trying to expose. But it turns out, Michele Bachmann was right.
At least according to this indictment from the Justice Department, she was
really on to something, because today, the Justice Department laid out in
this indictment exactly how they say the Ron Paul campaign led by Jesse
Benton, allegedly made more than $70,000 in payments to this Iowa state
senator in exchange for his endorsement, straight up bribery.

The payments were transferred through two shill companies, so it
would be hard to trace them in the campaign finance report. Part of this
indictment involves the conspiracy between the Ron Paul aides and this
state senator to lie about those payments at official campaign documents
and government filings. These payments for this state senator switching
from Michelle Bachmann to Ron Paul, these payments from the Ron Paul, they
went on so long that in June 2012, which is well after Ron Paul was
effectively out of the race that year. In June 2012, the Ron Paul campaign
and its staffers were still apparently paying the state senator.

Quoting from their communication in the indictment, quote, “This is
the last payment for Kent Sorensen, the deal Jesse agreed to with Kent.”

Well, now, it`s the next presidential campaign and now it is the son
of Ron who Jesse Benton has been working for. Not Ron Paul himself.

And this is sort of a bombshell indictment. I mean, Jesse Benton
himself has been charged with lying to the FBI about this payment scheme
when he was questioned about it last year. Mr. Benton is being charged
with five counts, which include making false counts and conspiracy. The
president of the eagle eating fish Rand Paul super PAC, this guy John Tate,
he is facing four counts. Another associate is facing a further count of
obstructing justice by allegedly trying to cover up this whole scheme.

Jesse Benton shared the stage with Rand Paul just four months ago.
He is a Ron Paul/Rand Paul lifer and he is now staring down the barrel of a
five-count federal indictment. He and John Tate are schedule to appear in
federal court next month, September 3rd. Jesse Benton said through a
lawyer a tonight that he is eager to go before a judge so he can clear his

The Rand Paul campaign put out a statement today saying this was a
politically motivated investigation.

But this is – this is a big deal. It was a big development last
month alone when the Rand Paul super PAC announce that had they barely
managed to raise any money at all for the Rand Paul campaign. The Rand
Paul super PAC raised the lowest total of all the 2016 candidates.

Now, maybe we have an inkling as to why, the reason behind that`s
surprisingly bad showing. Maybe it is because, eagle videos
notwithstanding, the Rand Paul super PAC may soon be going to prison.
They`ve had other thing on their mind than getting Rand Paul elected.

Joining us now is Sam Youngman, political reporter for the “Lexington
Herald-Leader” in Rand Paul`s home state of Kentucky.

Sam, it`s great to see you. Thanks very much for being with us.


MADDOW: First, let me ask you. I`ve just been absorbing this today.
I read the indictment, this 20-page indictment. As far as I explain this,
does that basically comport with what you understand the government is
alleging here?

YOUNGMAN: That`s right. I guess I would add that part of conspiracy
involves filing a false FEC report. Basically what they did was they hid
these payments in their FEC report as audio visual equipment. So, that`s
part of it too. I guess the long and the short of it is that I think Jesse
Benton can now empathize with the fish in the video you showed earlier.

MADDOW: In terms of Jesse Benton and trying to think about this in
terms of this otherwise, you know, conceivably viable presidential
candidacy from Rand Paul. How central is Jesse Benton to the Rand Paul
presidential campaign to the Ron Paul and Rand Paul political machine? How
important is he in Kentucky where he is not just part of Rand Paul`s
operation, he`s been a very high profile asset for Mitch McConnell?

YOUNGMAN: Well, Jesse Benton is not just Paul`s staff. He`s Paul
family. He is married to Ron Paul`s granddaughter – Ron Paul`s niece.
You would say he is one of the top lieutenant.

I first met Jesse going back in 2007 when Ron Paul was running for
president then. So, I`d say as he central cog in that operation. But,
you`re right. I mean, Jesse`s finger prints are all over the campaign in
Kentucky. He was Senator McConnell`s campaign manager until Kent Sorensen
pled guilty last August.

Jesse resigned that position about three days later. Currently,
Jesse is running a campaign for state auditor here. It`s a state
representative, Republican running against a state auditor who is
considered to be a rising star within the Democratic Party, a gentleman by
the name of Adam Edelen. When Jesse took on this client, State
Representative Mike Harmon, he was pretty candid with me that part of the
reason for doing so was to sort of rough up Edelen ahead of a possible
challenge to Rand Paul next year.

Remember, he is running for re-election to the Senate next year, as
well as president. So, yes, Jesse`s reach is pretty deep in Kentucky.
This will send I think shockwaves through quite a bit of the Republican
Party here.

MADDOW: Sam, one of the interesting national story lines about Rand
Paul`s presidential campaign is that it`s not very good. People expected
at least at the national level, people expected more from him as a
candidate. They expected more from him in terms of his operation. They
certainly expected more from his fundraising.

Do we have any reason to believe that this – the threat of this
happening today and now obviously this indictment coming down today and it
being three Paul family associates named by the federal Justice Department,
do we have any reason to believe some of this might have been what was
distracting them or holding them back or gumming up the works for Rand

YOUNGMAN: I don`t know. This has been hanging over their heads for
a long time now, going back to late 2011. So, I don`t know that that is
necessarily the reason he`s failed to get off the ground. I think there
are a number of reasons, not least of which, you know, Rand Paul is not
exactly the candidate – when you look at the poll now and Donald Trump
leading, what Rand Paul has tried to do, other people are doing it better.

He is not the outsider candidate he hoped to be. You know, I think
this is problematic. My guess is that this only, you know, force – they
feel like they have to double down and support Jesse and forge through

But you mentioned money earlier. I mean, Carly Fiorina who didn`t
even make the cut for the debate stage, her super PAC raised $3.4 million.
Jesse raised $3.1 million. Now, if you`re already having trouble raising
money, I don`t know how you start calling up these – you know, what we
call the sugar daddies and get them to fund your super PAC, and say, yes,
I`m under indictment. But will you still write me a check?

So, I think, look, it has been a problematic campaign. They stumbled
getting off the ground. They`ve stumbled through the summer. A bad summer
just got much worse.

MADDOW: Sam Youngman, political reporter for “The Lexington Herald-
Leader” – Sam, thanks very much for your time tonight. It`s good to have
you here on this.

YOUNGMAN: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: I will say – I mean, there`s a few ways this is going to
fall out, right? There`s a few things to watch here. One, obviously, is
what happens with this criminal case. I mean, especially, if they`re going
to make a political issue out of it and say these are politically motivated
charges, the Obama Justice Department trying to tear down the Paul family?
I don`t know.

Watch how the criminal case goes. Watch in the short term to see how
Rand Paul does at the debate, to see if this is a distraction for him or if
he is able to do anything. If other candidates are going to use it against
him in some way.

But, honestly, like the sort of third and fourth day implication of
this story that I`m really interested in is – are they still bribing
people in Iowa? I mean, Michelle Bachmann was right about this in the very
beginning. She said everybody is on the take in Iowa.

Are bribes still being paid for endorsements in Iowa? Can that be
part of this investigation?

We`ll be right back. We`ve got a lot ahead tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: So, authorities in Tennessee have just wrapped up a press
conference about the very scary situation that happened at a movie theater
there today when a man attacked several people with a hatchet and some
other weapons.

So, we`ve got this new information. We`re just getting it in right
now tonight, which as far as I understand it, it actually changes much of
what we thought we knew about this attack, in terms of the information we
had earlier in the day.

Again, that new information which changes the picture of the attack,
this movie theater attack today in Tennessee, that new information is just
coming in. We`ve got it right after this. So, please sit tight.


MADDOW: So, I have never quite seen anything like this at a crime
scene in the aftermath of a crime. We`re going to show you this tape here.
This is from this afternoon. It starts with a public information officer
from the Nashville police.

But then watch who he introduces on how this goes. I have never seen
this happen before. And I can`t exactly put my finger on why but I find
this very moving actually. Watch.


All right. The gentleman standing to my right, first name is Steven. S-T-
E-V-E-N. That`s the only identification that Steven wants to give you for
his name right now.

Steven was one of eight persons, including the suspect, who was in
the theater during the showing of “Mad Max”. Steven was the person who
suffered the laceration. Thankfully minor from the hatchet or axe that the
suspect was carrying.

Steven has agreed to make a brief statement to you all. He is not
going to entertain any questions. He is going to make a brief statement
and then he`s going to turn around and walk away. He is doing this today
so that his privacy is maintained and his family is not disturbed or
bothered today or in the coming days.

Again, Steven has agreed to make this statement now. No questions.
And then when he`s done, he`s going to turn around and walk.

OK, sir?

STEVEN, VICTIM OF THE THEATER ATTACK: The only thing that I would
like to say is that I am eternally grateful – excuse me – for the Metro
Police Department for their fast response today and the fact that no one
else got injured other than the person who did this.

I would ask anyone to pray for his family because he obviously has
some mental problems or something else. My family does not want any kind
of 15 minutes of fame. We were not looking for any of this. We did
nothing to bring this upon ourselves.

And I am very, very grateful that no one else got injured here today
other than the person who perpetrated this.

Again, I just want to say I am eternally grateful for the Metro
Police Department for the absolutely phenomenal job they did, the speed
with which they got here when they were called and the emergency medical
technicians. And I would also like to thank all the citizens who gathered
around us, helped my daughter when we were pepper sprayed. That kind of
gives me a little more faith in humanity again.

I really don`t have anything else to say. I know you all like a lot
of questions answered but there`s nothing I can answer. I have no idea why
this gentleman decided to attack us. He is – from my understanding, he is
no longer able to answer those questions. In the coming days that come
ahead, please direct all of your inquiries to the Metro Police Department
so they will find out what they can about this gentleman, or TBR (ph) or
whoever handles these kind of things. I don`t know. I don`t want to be
involved in any of this kind of stuff.


MADDOW: He said no questions and he meant no questions. That was
it. He turned and walked.

And that statement today from the man who was superficially injured,
he was hit with a hatchet, in what appears to have been a completely
random, totally unprovoked attack inside a movie theater in Antioch,
Tennessee. That is a very human reminder that it could be any one of us at
any time. You don`t have to do anything in particular to potentially be
the victim of a random unprovoked violent attack like this.

People stay perpetrator of this movie theater attack in Antioch,
Tennessee, which is a suburb of Nashville, they say as he`s a 51-year-old
man who lived locally and officials just moments ago just announced new
information tonight about what happened. They have a little background
information on the attacker of this, they specifically talked about what he
was armed with.


AARON: It appears this individual has had significant psychiatric or
psychological issues. They are reporting that he had been committed four
times, twice in 2004 and twice in 2007, the that Murfreesboro Police
Department has informed us that he was reported as a missing person on
August 3rd after they received a call from the Texas Rangers.

We have no motive for this today. We need to see where he has been,
who he may have been talking to. We`ve release ad photograph of the gun.
As you all have seen, the gun is a very realistic gun that strongly
resembles a semi-automatic pistol. It is in fact an air soft gun.


MADDOW: An air soft gun. So, it`s not a regular gun. That
contradicting the information, at least the implication of information that
we had earlier in the day that this suspect, this now dead suspect had
engaged in an exchange of gunfire with police on the scene of that theater
attack. He may have exchanged something with police but he was not armed
with a gun that fires bullets as we regularly think of them. He was armed
with an air soft gun – I`m sorry.

We also had, I`m sorry, just getting news from the control room. We
had been told earlier that he was a 51-year-old man. That information was
also corrected today. He is a 29-year-old man.

In any case, the information we got earlier on this event today ended
up being different than what happened tonight. We expect I think further
information, shedding hopefully even more light on the scary attack at this
movie theater in Antioch, Tennessee, today. What motivated it, and what
potentially could have had happened there, but did not end the way it did
with the attacker being killed. But we`ll let you know more as we learn

Stay with us.


MADDOW: In March, Texas Senator Ted Cruz became the first major
Republican to announce that he was running for president this year. He
gave his announcement speech at a school in Lynchburg, Virginia, a school
that calls itself the largest evangelical Christian university in the
world. Liberty University founded by the late televangelist Jerry Falwell.

And as you can see from the pictures of the event, Ted Cruz drew
quite a crowd at Liberty University for his presidential announcement.
That crowd that day actually turns out to be by far the biggest crowd that
Ted Cruz has drawn throughout the course of his campaign. In fact, the
11,000 people that Ted Cruz had at that event, that is tied for the largest
crowd any candidate has had at any 2016 event this year so far.

If you rank the largest crowds for events on the 2016 presidential
campaign trail, if you rank the size of the crowds so far, Ted Cruz is the
only Republican Ted Cruz is the only Republican who makes it into the top
six. The other five places are all held by Bernie Sander, every single one
of them.

And honestly, given the relatively small poll numbers Ted Cruz has
gotten in the campaign, it is quite impressive that he got 11,000 people to
show up to hear him announce at Liberty University. It is impressive
except for the fact that attendance at Ted Cruz`s speech at Liberty
University was required for Liberty University students. It was mandatory
for them, and not in a euphemistic must-see TV kind of way. It was
actually imaginer to for them as part of the school. School rules.

The Ted Cruz presidential announcement at Liberty University was part
of something called convocation. Liberty students have to go to
convocation. So, yes, you know, it took some real cojones for Donald Trump
to apparently pay actors to appear at his presidential announcement, but
honestly, it`s much cheaper to just find a crowd that`s required to be
there and then appear before them.

But that is how we got by far the largest crowd any Republican has
yet drawn in the 2016 race. And with that in mind, consider the following:
today we got new news, it was announced that next month, Liberty University
is going to host another 2016 presidential hopeful as a convocation

This time that candidate will be – guess. Guess who it will be?
No. It is actually going to be Bernie Sanders, the only guy who doesn`t
need to fake his crowd size to impress. But Liberty University`s
fantastically conservative student body will be required, next month, to go
see Bernie Sanders at convocation at Jerry Falwell`s Liberty University,
September 14th. That`s going to be amazing.

Mark your calendars. September 14th.



JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT: First, examine our attitude
towards peace itself. Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many
think it is unreal.

But that is a dangerous defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion
that war is inevitable. That mankind is doomed. That we are gripped by
forces we cannot control.

We need not accept that view. Our problems are manmade. Therefore,
they can be solved by man and man can be as big as he wants.

No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man`s reason and
spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable and we believe they can
do it again.


MADDOW: President John F. Kennedy, June 1963. He was assassinated
less than six months after that.

But on that June day in 1963, he spoke at American University. He
gave what has become known as his Strategy of Peace Speech. He was talking
about the strategic pursuit of peace with the Soviet Union as an
alternative to war with the Soviet Union, which is basically what everybody
thought was inevitable at that time. That the U.S. and the Soviets would
go to war.

But in that Strategy of Peace Speech, JFK did this one very, very
radical rhetorical thing for which this speech is now remembered more than
50 years later. I mean, in that speech, he announced new policy and he
made news in that speech and it was an important speech. But the really
shocking thing he did that day was that he broke a rhetorical taboo.

He broke the taboo of talking about the Soviet Union like they were
freaking unknowable savages. He decided to stop doing that. At the height
of the Cold War, just months after the Cuban missile crisis, in that
speech, it turns out he had some nice things to say about the Soviets,
which at the time blew everyone`s minds.


KENNEDY: No government or social system is so evil that its people
must be considered as lacking in virtue. As Americans, we find communism
profoundly repugnant as a negation of personal freedom and dignity. But we
can still hail Russian people for their many achievements in science and
space, in economic and industrial growth, in culture and acts of courage.


MADDOW: Outrageous, right? I mean, outrageous at the time. The
Soviets were only supposed to be pure evil. He`s talking about them as
less than evil.

Well, today, 52 years later, our current president also went to that
same place. He also went to American University and he referenced that
speech by President Kennedy from back in 1963. And then, our current
president committed JFK`s same rhetorical heresy, talk not about how to
avoid war with the Soviets, but now how to avoid war with Iran. Watch


hard liners chant “death to America” doesn`t mean that`s what all Iranians
believe. In fact – it`s those –


In fact, it`s those hardliners who are most comfortable with the
status quo. It`s those hardliners chanting “death to America” who have
been most opposed to the deal. They`re making common cause with the
Republican caucus.


The majority of the Iranian people have powerful incentives to urge
their government to move in a different less provocative direction.


MADDOW: Not all Iranians chant that “death to America” nonsense.
But those who do, they`re making common cause with the Republican caucus in
the United States Congress. Ouch.

President Obama has been making an aggressive case for weeks now that
Congress should support this deal with Iran and give this diplomatic effort
a chance to succeed so there doesn`t have to be a war with Iran over its
nuclear program.

Today though, in supporting that deal, he went really hard at the
critics of the deal and the war with Iran that he says they want.


OBAMA: Between now and the congressional vote in September, you are
going to hear a lot of arguments against this deal, backed by tens of
millions of dollars in advertising. And if the rhetoric in these ads and
the accompanying commentary sounds familiar, it should. For many of the
same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against
the Iran nuclear deal.

For the last couple weeks, I have repeatedly challenged anyone
opposed to this deal to put forward a better plausible alternative. I have
yet to hear one. What I`ve heard instead are the same types of argument
that`s we heard in the run up to the Iraq war.

Iran cannot be dealt with diplomatically. We can take military
strikes without significant consequences. We shouldn`t worry about what
the rest of the world thinks, because once we act, everyone else will fall
in line. Tougher talk, military threats will force Iran into submission.
We can get a better deal.

I know it`s easy to play on people`s fears, to magnify threats, to
compare any attempt at diplomacy to Munich. But none of these arguments
hold up. They didn`t back in 2002 and 2003. They shouldn`t now.


The same mindset in many cases offered by the same people who seem to
have no compunction with being repeatedly wrong, led to a war that did more
to strengthen Iran, more to isolate the United States than anything we have
done in the decades before or since. It is a mindset out of step with the
traditions of American foreign policy, where we exhaust diplomacy before
war. And debate matters of war and peace in the cold light of truth.


MADDOW: President Obama today making that pointed case for Congress
to support the nuclear deal with Iran. He actually closed that speech with
the request that people contact their members of Congress to tell their
members of Congress that they support the Iran deal.

One of the things that`s been going on at our show over the last
couple days and weeks, behind the scenes around here, you will see this
eventually. But we`ve been working behind the scenes on some shows we`re
calling the tale of the tape. They`re deep dives into the news archives to
find out about the people running for president this year, find out about
them before they were presidential candidates.

So, we just – this tape is amazing. We`ve all been happily
wallowing in the old news archives like hippos wallow in mud. It`s been

Sometimes you come across archive footage that is not just cool or
interesting because it shows us what we used to be like. Sometimes
something takes you up short, because it makes you realize that we`re
really not who we used to be at all. You come across something that makes
you realize that the modern us has actually screwed something up. The
modern us has lost something that we used to think we would have forever.

And that`s how I felt today when I was watching that old footage of
JFK at American University from 52 years ago. Watching that footage today
and he said this.


KENNEDY: The United States as the world knows will never start a
war. We do not want a war. We do not now expect a war. This generation
of Americans has already had enough, more than enough of war and hate and


We shall be prepared if others wish it. We shall be alert to try to
stop it. But we shall also do our part to build a world of peace where the
weak are safe and the strong are just.


MADDOW: It used to be taken as a given that the United States of
America would never start a war. That used to not just be true. That was
a truism. It didn`t even need to be proved.


KENNEDY: The United States as the world knows will never start a


MADDOW: Of course the United States would never start a war. Until
we did. And we became a country that can never claim that moral high
ground again. Never claim that American exceptionalism ever again.

And today, President Obama said we are now being sold the chance to
make that mistake all over again. Do we really want to go there again?
Because we can if we want to.


MADDOW: So there have already been several points in the fascinating
2016 presidential campaign at which Donald Trump has said things or done
thing that would have spelled political doom for just about any other
candidate, but not for Donald Trump. It seems like everything he does that
would kill a normal candidate just seems to make him stronger.

But now tonight, there is new reporting of something that Mr. Trump
apparently did that is qualitatively different than everything else that
should have stuck to him so far and hasn`t – qualitatively different
something, something that could really hurt his campaign.

We`ll have to see. But it`s a new thing. And that`s next.



people, they`re not sending their best. They`re not sending you. They`re
not sending you.

They`re sending people that have lots of problems and they`re
bringing those problems with us. They`re bringing drugs, they`re bringing
crime, they`re rapists, and some I assume are good people.


MADDOW: Donald Trump in June announcing that he was in the running
to become the leader of the free world, also announcing that Mexicans
coming to the United States are rapists. Those remarks drew tons of
criticism in the days and weeks following Mr. Trump`s presidential

But there was never an apology. There was never any clarifying
statement for Mr. Trump. He meant what he said. So, as everybody
criticized him for it, he just kept saying it over and over again.

We keep thinking that the over the line things that Donald Trump says
will have some sort of political cost for him. That never new rail comment
he makes will hurt him this time or sink his chances this time, make him
somehow less appealing to Republican voters.

But none of that has happened, not when he made the comments about
immigrants being rapists, that he is number one with Hispanics, which is
hilarious. Not when he questioned Senator John McCain`s heroism as a
prisoner of war for five years.

I mean, all of these things, for normal candidates, these would be
gaffes or worse. For Donald Trump, though, they only seem to make him
stronger. For whatever reason, the normal political rules either don`t
apply to him or reply in reverse.

And so, we`re sort of left with this question on the eve of the first
Republican debate. If none of those things that would sink normal
candidates, if none of those things hurt him, what could hurt him?

We don`t know. But “The Washington Post” reports tonight on
something that for most normal candidates would actually be an asset for
their campaign. It would make them look great.

In the upside-down world of the Donald Trump campaign, what “The
Washington Post” reported about him tonight though might be toxic for him.
It might be toxic for him, if he is now seen as someone who is running for
president with the support of former President Bill Clinton, and that is
the sort of woolly implication of this have provocative report from “The
Washington Post” tonight.

Robert Costa and Anne Gearan reporting that in late May, while Donald
Trump was considering a run for the presidency, former President Clinton
and Donald Trump spoke on the phone about it. Quote, “Former President
Bill Clinton had a private phone conversation in late spring with Donald
Trump at the same time, Mr. Trump was nearing a decision to the run for the
White House, according to associates of both men.”

Quote, “Four Trump allies and one associate familiar with the
exchange said that President Clinton encouraged Trump`s efforts to play a
larger role in the Republican Party, and offered his own views of the
political landscape.”

Trump`s allies telling “The Washington Post” that, quote, “The 42nd
president listened intently, and then analyzed Trump`s prospects and his
desire to rouse the Republican base. One person with knowledge said the
former president was upbeat and encouraging during the conversation.”

One Clinton associate telling “The Washington Post” that it was Mr.
Trump who reached out to President Clinton a few times, that this
conversation took place when President Clinton returned those phone calls
in late May. This associate telling “The Washington Post” and NBC News
tonight that actually the 2016 race was not discussed.

So, like I say, this is a little bit of a woolly story. But,
apparently just a few weeks after that reportedly encouraging phone call,
Donald Trump did jump into the race, and then started calling Mexicans

The first Republican primary debate is tomorrow night. Donald Trump
is by far, by a mile the Republican front runner for the nomination. This
report in “The Washington Post” will likely be the last thing anybody
learns about him, the last new thing, heading into that debate.

We don`t really know what hurts him as a candidate and what makes him
stronger in this campaign. He doesn`t seem to play by the normal political
rules. But this one`s got to be a real test at least, doesn`t it?

Joining us now is MSNBC political reporter Alex Seitz-Wald. He`s
been covering Hillary Clinton`s campaign.

Alex, it`s great to see you. Thanks for joining us tonight.


MADDOW: So, what is the reaction from the Clinton campaign tonight
to this report? Obviously the top level implication is that Bill and
Hillary Clinton want Donald Trump in the race because he makes all
Republicans look terrible.

SEITZ-WALD: Well, the Clinton campaign is staying about as far away
from this as possible, which I think it`s the right move. I mean, in
politics if your opponent is struggling, you don`t get involved.

But that`s the strange thing here. I mean, I would not be surprised
if you see a Republican opponent of Trump using this against him, starting
with the question, why were they even on the phone with Bill Clinton to
again with? You can`t picture Ted Cruz or Scott Walker shooting the breeze
with Bill Clinton. And here you have, you know, you have the coach much
your arch rival team coming and offering you advice on your starting
lineup, you probably don`t take the advice, because in politics and sports
and anything, you`d love to be able to pick your opponent, but generally,
the other team, the team you`re on, you don`t want to let the others guys
pick your opponent.

So, all of this just opens up a huge Pandora box for Donald Trump,
which is his long relationship with the Clintons. He`s donated over
$100,000 to the Clinton Foundation. He`s donated to Hillary Clinton`s
Senate and presidential campaigns.

Hillary Clinton sat at the front row of his wedding in 2005, in 2012,
he said Hillary Clinton was doing a great job as secretary of state.

So, do Republicans really want to make this guy the ones to go up
against Hillary Clinton?

MADDOW: MSNBC reporter Alex Seitz-Wald, Alex, thanks for that. Very
helpful in terms of understanding this. Really appreciate it.


MADDOW: The other side of this of course is what this says about the
Clinton campaign, right? If they say that this had nothing to do with
Hillary`s campaign, this is not a strategic matter at all, as Alex said,
what was Bill Clinton doing on the phone with him? Is Bill Clinton helping
with the Hillary Clinton campaign?

I mean, it might help if Trump is now seen as a Democratic tool, but
was it deliberate on the part of the Hillary campaign or does Bill just do
what he wants? No matter the implications for anyone?

Oh, it`s going to be such a fun year. It`s going to be such a fun

Stay with us.


MADDOW: Programming note, sort of – actually, it`s not really at
all, but it`s great news.

Since 2013, former Congressman Patrick Murphy is a wonderful guy – a
guy I`m very proud to call him a friend. Patrick Murphy hosted a show
called “Taking the Hill.” It`s a show specifically about veterans,
veterans navigating their way through life and continued service and
politics and everything after they have come home from serving in war.

I`m here to tell you tonight that “Taking the Hill”, Patrick Murphy`s
show is going away. But it is going away from the best of all possible
reasons. The White House has just announced its nomination of former
congressman Patrick Murphy to serve as the undersecretary of the United
States Army. It`s the second highest ranking civilian position in the
army. It`s a huge deal. And honestly couldn`t happen to a better guy.

Patrick Murphy was the first Iraq war veteran to ever serve in
Congress. He was outspoken about his opposition to the war in which he
served and which he was he was awarded a Bronze Star as an airborne ranger,
decorated straight male combat vet, he was an early leader in calling for
the repeal of “don`t ask, don`t tell”, which was the policy that banned
gays in the military.

Since Congressman Murphy left in 2011, he`s been a tireless advocate
for veteran`s issues and he`s just a smart and great person to have around
in any organization.

It is a big loss for this network, and for the show to the extent
that we`re able to call on Congressman Murphy in a day in and day out
basis. But it is a huge gain for the army and this country he`s going to
take on this next stage of his service.

Congratulations to Patrick Murphy. We are so excited about this.

That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.


Good evening, Lawrence.


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