The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 09/16/15
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you.
And we will be keeping an eye on that as well. As Chris mentioned, a
tsunami watch issued for Hawaii after that earthquake. Again, this is one
of those stories where the early indications are obviously something that
you want to be riveted to. The early indications can be very scary. They
do not always end up being a scary thing, particularly given the direction
in which these things move over the course of the – over the surface of
the ocean. But we`ll watch that closely tonight and let you know as we
But I thank you for joining us tonight. Thank you for being with us.
Let`s be honest, I know why you`re here. The Republican Party is hosting
its second presidential candidate`s debate tonight, the second of the two
debates being hosted on CNN tonight is three hours long. In the three-hour
debate, the candidates are being given one bathroom break over the course
of the three hours. And that comes after another two hours of a different
subset of candidates who were made to debate first and separately from the
larger group. So that is five straight hours of Republicans talking. And
I know why you`re here. Sometimes that feels like too much Republicans
But in addition to the five hours of Republicans talking plan, CNN also
made the strange decision to make the main event, the later of the two
debates, the one that has 11 podiums on stage, they made this strange
decision to pick that weird and large number of candidates for the second
debate, 11. The reason they`ve got 11 candidates on stage instead 10
candidates, which is what FOX News did for their first debate, the reason
tonight have 11 instead of 10 is because CNN broke its own debate
eligibility rules, specifically to let and can a candidate called Carly
Fiorina into tonight`s debate. Under CNN`s previous rules she would not
have been there. CNN wanted in and so they broke their own rules.
In the first debate, Carly Fiorina was not allowed in the main event, she
was at the kids table with six other candidates. CNN moved her into the
big table tonight so today`s a big day for Carly Fiorina. I think because
she`s at the big debate tonight and she`d been at the kids table before
really this is a bigger day for her than it is for any other candidate.
This is really Carly Fiorina`s moment.
And so, naturally, because that`s how it`s going this year for every
candidate not named Donald Trump, because today is Carly Fiorina`s big day
in the campaign, naturally a giant rainstorm just opened up over her
Carly Fiorina has never held public office before. She did run once
before, she ran a losing U.S. Senate campaign against Barbara Boxer in 2010
but more than that one failed run for political office, Carly Fiorina is
known for having been a business leader, right? She was CEO of Hewlett-
Packard for from 1999 to 2005 during which time she made a number of very
controversial decisions at HP, including firing more than 30,000 people.
She herself then got fired by Hewlett-Packard`s board of directors in 2005,
but it was the nice kind of firing. It was the kind of firing where they
tell you, you can`t have your job but they also give you $40 million on
your way out the door.
So it`s kind of this awkward foundation for her presidential candidacy,
right? One state didn`t want her as a senator but now she wants the
country to want her as president. She wants to run as a business leader.
But to most people, firing 30,000 people and then getting fired yourself,
it doesn`t seem like a great business record to run on, right? I mean,
even if you were able to cash in when you did it, it just doesn`t seem like
the kind of thing you want to offer the country.
Well, today her big day, the day that Carly Fiorina is participating in the
big kids` debate for the first time ever. Today, today, her old company,
Hewlett-Packard, decided to remind everybody of the worst part of her
business record by putting out this announcement.
Literally on the day of this debate HP announces that they are going to be
firing another 30,000 people a la Carly Fiorina. And also they may be
breaking the company apart. So that happening today is a nice reminder of
what Carly Fiorina probably does not want people to think about when they
think about her time as a business leader.
But even with that, Carly Fiorina today is better off than the boys who are
still stuck at the kids` table. I mean, at least first time there was a
kids` table debate when FOX News did it there were seven people at that
table. It looked like a substantial number of candidates. There was a
significant number of people to watch.
But between the first debate and the second debate, the kids` table went
from seven people to six people to five people to four people after Jim
Gilmore fell so low in the polls he didn`t even qualify to name CNN debate
at all and then Rick Perry quit the presidential race altogether. And then
CNN made this inexplicable decision that they were going to let 11 people
instead of 10 people in the big debate so that took away another slot at
the kids` table debate. And so, the kids` table tonight was really only
four people and it was therefore sort of a terrible and awkward place to be
for these guys in political terms.
I mean, these four guys who CNN apparently decided to organize left from
tallest to shortest like a decrescendo of disappointing height – really,
CNN? George Pataki is there on the tall side, or the left side of the
stage. He ended up speaking a lot so that was probably good for him, more
people heard George Pataki`s voice tonight than heard in the other parts of
his not very impressive campaign.
In terms of the guys in the middle, Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum both
seemed frantic and urgent, but they basically stuck to all the same stuff
they always say on their campaign speeches, just more of a panicky tone of
voice from those two tonight.
South Carolina Lindsey Graham, he had been criticized at the last debate
for being morose, one Republican observer told the “Washington Post” that
in the last debate Lindsey Graham seemed like someone had quote “just
killed his dog.” Tonight Lindsey Graham tried to turn that one around by
being the jokester of the kids` table.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I wasn`t the best law
student. By the end of this debate it will be the most time I`ve ever
spent in any library.
GRAHAM: We`re not going to deport 11 million people here illegally but we
will start with felons and off they go. As to the rest, you can stay but
you have to learn our language, I don`t speak it very well but look how far
I`ve come. Speaking English is a good thing. Ronald Reagan did a couple
of really big things that we should all remember. He sat down with Tip
O`Neill, the most liberal guy in the entire house. They started drinking
together, that`s the first thing I`m going to do as president. We`re going
to drink more.
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re having a good debate, but there is this problem
of Washington elites and saying wonderful things about each other.
GRAHAM: I`ve been called wonderful things but never “elite” before. My
dad owned a liquor store or bar in a poolroom. So only in America can you
go from being in the back of the liquor store to being elite.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So Lindsey Graham at least brought some levity to the proceedings
today. But for all these guys at the bottom of the Republican polls right
now, all these guys at the kids` table tonight, they are in a pretty
hopeless position. It`s possible to imagine that something might change
for them in future but right now if you add up all the support that all
four of them collectively receive in the last national Republican
presidential poll, all of those candidates on stage tonight, those four
guys, all of them totaled combined support in the last national poll was
one percent, total combined. And it was easy to add up because three of
them had zero percent support in the last poll and only one of them had
The rest of the field, though, is not exactly a study of contrast in terms
of strength. Almost everybody else running right now is stuck in single
digits in every national poll. I mean, yes, it`s embarrassing to be Rick
Santorum at one percent, but how much more embarrassing is that than being
Jeb Bush at six percent?
It`s just numerically unavoidable right now. You have to admit that the
top of the ticket on the Republican side is so dominant, Donald Trump`s
huge lead is so big it`s just squeezing almost everybody else in the race
out as they try to find any support.
So Ben Carson and Donald Trump are way up there at the top. But until
Donald Trump in particular with his big leads, until he is cut down a
little, until his lead shrinks, not only is nobody else going to have a
chance to be a leader but a lot of people at the bottom of the race won`t
be able to get above zero percent or one percent or two percent and there`s
going inevitably to be more and more pressure for them to get out of the
race entirely just because of how badly they are failing.
The longer Donald Trump stay this is far out ahead, the more not just non-
viable but sometimes self-parodying it looks like for guys like Jindal and
Santorum and Graham and maybe even Chris Christie and Rand Paul to be
talking about themselves as the next president of the United States. I
mean, the longer those guys stay at one percent because Donald Trump is up
over 30 percent, the more ridiculous their odds look at the bottom of the
race. And the more inevitable it feels that they will have to get out of
the race and maybe soon. And even facing that sort of existential trauma
none of his presidential opponents have been able to cut Donald Trump`s
lead down at all.
But, Donald Trump is now facing two new opponents trying to cut him down
from elsewhere in the political firmament, not other candidates but other
big hitters in politics. The first one is happening in Iowa. It`s the
largest and most influential newspaper in Iowa which, of course, is the
“Des Moines Register.”
The “Des Moines Register” has previously feuded with Mr. Trump. They said
after he criticized John McCain`s war record that Mr. Trump should drop out
of the race. Since then the “Des Moines Register” has found its
photographers and reporters frozen out of all Donald Trump Iowa events.
But that`s really not causing them to back down.
Heading into tonight`s debate, the “Des Moines Register” has just run one
of the most blistering editorials I have ever seen against any American
politician in any state in any context let alone a front-runner for a
national Republican presidential nomination.
This is from the “Des Moines Register.” I`m not tuning this up at all.
I`m not making it more hyperbolic than it is. This is actually what they
published. Here`s how it starts.
Every woman has met a Donald Trump. He is the jerk at the bar, family
reunion or sporting event who disrespects women. He laughs the loudest at
his own jokes and thinks the world resolves around him. He puffs up his
chest and stares at yours. If you tell him to back off, he asks if you`re
menstruating. Every man has met a Trump, too, he`s the guy who makes
comments about your sister, yells out car windows and just won`t shut up.
All of just met a Donald Trump. He might be a family member who
embarrasses us regularly, he`s the person you probably don`t want to take
home to mother. And the idea of that guy being seriously considered as a
candidate for the president of the United States is inconceivable.
Look at that face he recently said about fellow candidate Carly Fiorina.
He called Rosie O`Donnell a slob and a pig. It doesn`t matter what`s
written about you quote “as long as you`ve got a young and beautiful piece
of ass said the man seeking the job of leader of the free world.”
These are a few comments made by Donald Trump over the last several years
that an overtly sexist candidate continues to poll so well among potential
caucus goers reflects negatively on all of us. It`s increasingly difficult
to believe he could garner support from any male with a mother, daughter,
wife, or sister let alone support from any female. The way he talks about
the opposite sex is disgraceful. Then again, maybe it`s just that time of
the month for this editorial board.
I have never seen an editorial like that about a presidential candidate in
Iowa. I mean, there`s a New Hampshire paper, the union leader, that`s
really known and proudly known for being brutal in its editorials. Some of
the New Jersey papers have prided themselves on being New Jersey crass in
the way they`ve gone after Chris Christie.
But this is Iowa, and this is the biggest paper in the state. And Iowa is
first in the country in terms of the presidential race. What does it mean
for Donald Trump to have made an enemy this potent in a place that
important? I don`t know, but I`m really interested to watch that space.
That is one huge new variable in the Iowa contest.
Now, add it this second variable. Add to that a million dollars in anti-
Donald Trump ads that are going to start running in Iowa tomorrow. These
ads are being run by a group called Club for Growth. Club for Growth is
not an Iowa group. They`re a national group. Over the years they`ve
earned a fearsome reputation in Republican circles for getting elected
Republicans and candidates to vote the way the club for growth wants them
to vote. Club for Growth has a very efficient system for bending
Republicans to their will and it works in Congress in particular like
First the Club for Growth puts out an alert telling elected Republicans how
they`re supposed to vote on a specific bill up in Congress. If you`re an
elected Republican who decides to ignore that alert, if you decide to vote
contrary to the way Club for Growth has told you to vote, then more than
likely the Club for Growth will start running ads against you in your home
district. They`ll try to bury you with a primary challenger in your own
party primary. They pride themselves on essentially firing elected
Republicans who don`t toe the Club for Growth line.
So the Club for Growth, whatever you think of them, for years they have
been a serious power player in Republican politics. And now that Donald
Trump is the prohibitive front-runner for the Republican presidential
nomination, it is the Club for Growth that has stepped up to argue most
aggressively against his candidacy.
This week, Club for Growth called a press conference in D.C. to unveil
their new million dollar anti-Donald Trump ad campaign. And because the
Club for Growth is such a heavy hitter there was anticipation about this
killer punch they were about to throw against Donald Trump. Again, this is
not just one of the other people running for president, this is a
heavyweight Republican operation. These are big political guns being
trained on Donald Trump for the first time since he has been the front-
So they had their big Washington unveiling of what their big ads are going
to be. They`re going to start running tomorrow in Iowa, a million dollar
buy. All that anticipation, right? What will are they going to hit Donald
Trump with? Nobody`s hit him like this before. What have they got on him?
And I swear to you, this is what they came up with. This is how they say
they`re going to stop Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Supreme Court`s kilo decision gave government
massive new power to take private property and give it to corporations.
Conservatives have fought this disaster. What`s Donald Trump say about the
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I happen to agree with it 100
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump supports eminent domain abuse because he can make
millions while we lose our property rights. Trump, the worst kind of
Club for Growth action is responsible for the content of this advertising.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s it? The Club for Growth has been telegraphing they`re
going to hit Donald Trump hard, they are going knock him out of the race
even though nothing else could but this is what they came up with? Donald
Trump favors the Supreme Court Kilo decision from a decade ago, the Kilo
decision. Which if you know case law that maybe Donald Trump wants to take
In fairness, they also put out a second ad that compares Donald Trump with
Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton but the Donald Trump want yours house
something is what Club for Growth is now dumping a million dollars into.
These ads are going to start running tomorrow in Iowa. And who knows?
Maybe they`ve struck focus group gold here. Maybe this he`s stealing your
house ad resonates with Republicans more than I can get my Commie Pinko
(ph) liberal brain around.
But if that`s it, if the kilo decision ad is the best they`ve got, is that
the best the big money establishment power brokers and conservative
politics can muster against Donald Trump, then it is looking brighter for
Donald Trump now than it ever has before. That can`t really be it, can it?
There is one ray of sunshine, though, for anybody on the left or the center
or the right who wants Donald Trump to not become the Republican nominee
for president of the United States, and it turns out to be something that
we uncovered somewhat unexpectedly here on this show last night. That
story has developed later today and particularly it has developed tonight
in a way that is really, really bad for the presidential front-runner and
MADDOW: So last night we brought you a story from the very, very top tier
of Republican national politics that I almost couldn`t believe was sitting
there unclaimed in plain sight. Well, today with some terrific digging
that story got even better I guess is the right word. It at least became a
much bigger scandal. Stay right there, you need to hear this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Boy, oh, boy, I didn`t expect that. You know Joel and the group
called and they said would you come over and speak? I`m here for a certain
reason, you know, it`s called tomorrow night. So I got here and they asked
a couple of days ago would it be possible to come over and say a few words.
An endorsement from your group with so many veterans, hundreds of thousands
of veterans, I really appreciate that, Joel. I did not expect it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Hundreds of thousands of veterans, Joel.
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump last night did a campaign
event on board a decommissioned battleship called the USS “Iowa.” We had
known an event this was going to happen. It was sort of inherently funny
because Mr. Trump has no personal history of military service although he
says he felt like he was in the military because he went to a military-
themed prep school. He also has no expertise whatsoever on anything
related to national security. And so naturally he has to go stand on a
battleship right underneath the 16-inch guns.
Part of the reason that event last night got so much live national press
attention is because it had been billed by the campaign as Donald Trump`s
major foreign policy address. Since he`s been the Republican front-runner
Donald Trump has yet to give a policy address of any kind let alone a
foreign policy address and since he`s the presidential front-runner it
seemed like that was going to be a newsworthy thing. Turned out to not be
a newsworthy thing, at least not for that reason. There was no foreign
policy in it at all and it frankly wasn`t even that much of a speech. What
it was, was a fund-raiser. A fund-raiser for a group called Veterans for a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Boy, oh, boy, I didn`t expect that. You know, Joel and the group
called and they said would you come over and speak? I`m here for a certain
reason, you know, it`s called tomorrow night. So I got here and they asked
a couple days ago would it be possible to say a few words. An endorsement
from your group with so many veterans, hundreds of thousands of veterans, I
really appreciate that, Joel. I do not expect that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Let that be indelible in your mind. Donald Trump last night
saying this group he was raising money for included hundreds of thousands
of veterans. That does not appear to be the case. In fact, veterans for a
strong America does not appear to have any members at all. If you wanted
to become a member of Veterans for a Strong America, there is no way for
you to join.
Iraq and Afghanistan veterans of America, you want to go check them out?
You go check out iava.org, check them out online, here`s how you join. You
want to check out veterans of foreign wars, you go check them out, find out
about them, here`s how you join. There`s no way to join this Donald Trump
group which nobody heard of before last night. And it really does appear
to be just one guy, the guy in the glasses there.
The reason this fiasco of Donald Trump wrapping himself up in the mantle of
veterans support and saying he`s raising money for veterans, although he is
raising money for a group that doesn`t appear to represent any veterans
other than its one founder. The reason this fiasco maybe be good political
news for opponents of Donald Trump and people who are hoping Donald Trump
might eventually blow up as a presidential front-runner, is that this guy,
the Donald Trump just hopped into bed with and then his big battleship
event for and race money for and basically plated his political trump with
by saying, this is his legitimacy on the issue of veterans. That guy is
really somebody who Donald Trump should have Googled.
As we reported last night, the client that Mr. Joel Arends worked with on
her U.S. Senate campaign in South Dakota last year, his client in that
campaign just last year was later convicted on 12 election-related
felonies. She says on the basis of advice given to her specifically by
Donald Trump`s new friend on the battleship.
Further googling might have turned out news that Donald Trump`s new friend
on the battleship was also involved in the Arizona governor`s election last
year in a way that now has him under investigation by two different parts
of Arizona state government including a referral for investigation to the
state attorney general.
Further googling by Donald Trump or his campaign might have next turned up
this rather lurid story of Donald Trump`s new friend on the battleship
being part of a super PAC scam operation that apparently relieved some
naive old guy in Texas of several million dollars of his own money. Pro-
Publica calling it an egregious example of what can happen when people
running super PACs, use super PAC contributions to basically hire
A little further googling might have revealed that “the Associated Press”
first posted today, that just last month the IRS posted this public
notification that Donald Trump`s new friend on the battleship and his group
Veterans for a Strong America, they just had their nonprofit status revoked
officially because they haven`t filed tax returns with the IRS in at least
We knew last night according to their last FEC filing this group that
Donald Trump did his battleship event with, they only had $30 in the bank
and about $300 of outstanding obligations. Something just didn`t seem
right about Donald Trump calling this a group with hundreds of thousands of
people and doing this big high profile fund-raiser for them. But now that
we know more about that this group or I should say this guy, which appears
to be the whole group, it now seems clear that Donald Trump and his
campaign are either in on some kind of scheme with this group that is not a
nonprofit or Donald Trump and his campaign just got duped and taken for a
ride by a guy who you could sass out pretty easily with literally one page
of googling and 30 spare seconds.
In either instance, that`s the kind of base-level failure in a presidential
campaign that doesn`t bode well for the long-term viability of that
candidate just in terms of the basic functions of what it takes to run.
Maybe Republican voters don`t care and it doesn`t look scandalous to them.
But if he keeps doing stuff like what he did with that fake veterans group
on the battleship last night, the “Des Moines Register” hating his guts is
going to be the least of Donald Trump`s problems in Iowa.
MADDOW: CENTCOM Commander General Lloyd Austin today had to fold his
considerable 6`6” self into a wooden chair in a Senate hearing room for
what ended up being a very difficult day of testimony to the United States
For the first time, General Austin today confirmed with as little fanfare
as possible that despite what you might have heard, the United States
military does have boots on the ground inside Syria. General Austin
confirming for the first time today that U.S. special operations troops are
working with Kurdish forces inside Syria as the Kurds fight on one side of
the many sided Syrian civil war.
That is not a politically popular thing to admit because the U.S. strategy
for intervention in that war has really centrally been about keeping U.S.
boots off Syrian soil. You know, airstrikes, yes. Ground troops, no.
Americans in Iraq is supposed to be OK, but Americans in Syria is not
supposed to be OK.
That was the official line until today at this Senate hearing when they
admitted that U.S. boots are on the ground in Syria. That`s big news.
Syria, of course, feels impossible and unsolvable. It feels like nothing
is going to make it any better. But the U.S. government has not been, you
know, staying out of it entirely, right?
The U.S. government has had a military intervention in Syria of various
kinds over the past year. The U.S. government decided to spend $500-$600
million training vetted Syrian rebels to fight against ISIS and to fight
against the Syrian government inside Syria.
Well, today, after having to admit that actually the U.S. military does
have people on the ground in Syria directly, General Austin then had to
explain that even though the U.S. started this training program for Syrian
rebels back in May, and the plan was to help more than 5,000 fighters
trained by the U.S. and back in the fight in Syria by the end of this year,
after all of these months, after all of the money that has been spent so
far right now he admitted to the Senate today that the total number of
U.S.-trained fighters who have been sent back into Syria and are engaged in
the fight on Syrian soil right now, the total number is four. Not four
divisions or four battalions or even four platoons but literally four.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you tell us what the total number of trained
COMMANDER GENERAL LLOYD AUSTIN, CENTCOM: It`s a small number and the ones
that are in the fight is – we`re talking four or five.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Four or five. This is a half billion effort. It has produced
four or maybe five people fighting in the entire Syrian civil war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: So we`re counting on our fingers and
toes at this point when we envisioned 5,400 by the end of the year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I love me some Claire McCaskill but if you want to get literal,
we`re not counting on our fingers and toes. The numbers of fighters, this
half billion dollar program has produced, if you have the standard number
of fingers and toes, you can just pick one or the other because if there`s
a maximum of five of them, you can do that with just one foot or one hand
depending. Four or five people?
There have been five years of war in Syria and it is not only going
nowhere. It seems to be going nowhere faster and faster and faster. It
would be awesome if this absolutely riveting presidential contest we`re
having in the United States was producing constructive new ideas being
well-debated in our own country by our best and brightest in terms of what
we ought to do about Syria. What to do about ISIS? What to do about
It turns out that`s not exactly the kind of campaign we`re having this
year. But NBC`s Richard Engel has been right in the thick of it today and
all this past week in terms of the human consequence of that war not
ending. And the people of that country having nowhere to go as that war
gets more and more hopeless.
Last night on “NBC Nightly News,” Richard reported on the human smugglers,
the people who are taking money from these Syrian refugees, these desperate
Syrian families, offering to somehow sneak them around various border
controls that have sprung up all over Europe as Syrians flee their home
country and try to find somewhere safe.
At one point in latest report last night, Richard and his crew had to hide
a camera to get footage of the smugglers. At one point Richard tried to
film an interaction with some of the smugglers using a cell phone camera
hidden in his pocket.
But now today Richard was in Serbia, right at one of those rapidly closing
European border checkpoints, in this case between Serbia and Hungary. And
watch what happened.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They made it
this far but got here too late. Hundreds of migrants and refugees are now
stranded on the wrong side of the Hungarian border, sealed off this week.
Dreams of a better life in western Europe now blocked by Hungarian riot
Today, a group of young men trying to push across the border. Police
pushed back. Tempers flared and when bottles started to fly, the cops let
loose the pepper spray and tear gas. Clouds of it.
The frustration and disappointment that these people feel because they are
not allowed to go further has now just boiled over. This woman just
collapsed in front of me. This woman just collapsed. She is breathing.
They`re calling to bring her – get her some water. She is breathing.
She`s waking up. She`s waking up.
I try to keep her head up. Leaning her against her bag. It`s clear she`s
pregnant. People carry her off to a makeshift infirmary. Aid workers try
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get some air.
ENGEL: But as she comes around, tear gas wafts into the infirmary.
Volunteers take the woman outside. She can barely walk.
Right there. Right there.
She`s carried off for care, so for some of the children. Hours later, we
managed to find the woman again, smiling, reunited with her husband. Her
name is Zana (ph) and she`s 19 years old. Her baby is due in two weeks.
She told me her husband defected from the Syrian army. If they go back,
she says, he`ll be executed. “Even if we wanted to go back, we don`t have
any money left,” she says. I asked her how she felt before in the gas.
“Everything was burning,” she says. “My eyes, my skin, my stomach was
hurting.” She doesn`t remember falling. She`s more worried about what
happens next, no way forward, no money left and a baby on the way.
MADDOW: Joining us now from Ruskoh, Hungary is NBC`s chief foreign
correspondent Richard Engel.
Richard, thank you so much for being here. It`s just phenomenal footage
today. I have to ask you what happened to that woman. Do you know where
she came from and where she and her family ended up?
ENGEL: She is from Qamishli which is a Kurdish part of northern Syria, very
close to the Turkish border. Her husband was a regime soldier who
defected. He didn`t believe in the regime`s policies or couldn`t stomach
them anymore and was hiding out. And then once the town got surrounded by
ISIS and their neighbor`s house was destroyed, this family, this young
couple, he a defected soldier, she`s 19 years old, decided that they had to
leave so they went to Turkey. They spent six days in Turkey.
They took a boat to go to Greece. It actually took them four different
trips because one of the times the motor didn`t work. Another time, the
boat started to sink and they were rescued by Turkish fishermen. She had a
miscarriage a year ago. Then after this fourth attempt on the boat, she
successfully made it to Greece with her young husband and they have been
transiting through Europe.
They finally arrived at the Serbian-Hungarian border which is where I am
right now. I`m on the Hungarian side. They had spent about $3,500 to make
that journey. All of it borrowed money. And they spent their last dimes -
- actually, it wasn`t even their last money. They had to borrow money from
the people around them to make it this far and they found the door closed.
So when she was saying “We don`t have the money to go back.” Not only do
they not have the money to go back to Syria, they don`t have the money even
to move around inside Serbia to look for another possible way out. And
there are a lot of people in that situation. So she`s stuck there. She
and her husband are stuck there. She`s obviously still pregnant, due in
two weeks and trying to figure out where to go next.
There`s a possibility that the Serbian government will put on buses and
bring people to the Croatian border, but right now, they are in a period of
indecision. They`re trying to figure out what to do, not facing many
MADDOW: Richard –
ENGEL: I think most likely they`ll try and get on one of those buses.
MADDOW: Richard, as fences go up and as new border checkpoints go up, and
as trains get cancelled and borders get closed, obviously, people – these
people in this situation don`t just cease to exist and they don`t go back
in almost any conceivable circumstance.
Do new paths open as so many of these existing paths are closing?
ENGEL: They do. And the Croatian route is the new path. For many weeks,
the path has been to go like this woman did to go through – by boat into
Greece and then up through the Balkans, Macedonia, Serbia then through
Hungary. That is now effectively shut down by the Hungarian government so
people are diverting before they get to Hungary and are taking a path into
We will see if that continues and if that path gets shut down, will they
find another way? But that seems to be the path that opened in the last
24, 48 hours.
MADDOW: Reporting live from Ruskoh, Hungary, chief foreign correspondent
Richard Engel. Thank you, my friend, for staying up so late to be with us.
ENGEL: Absolutely. Absolutely.
MADDOW: Much more ahead. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: Programming note, the polls say he`s gaining on the front-runner,
the establishment says there`s no way he can win. The crowd suggests he`s
way more popular in person than anyone else on either side, but the
candidate himself is going to join me, join us, here, live, on this show
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is going to be here for the interview, 9:00
p.m. Eastern tomorrow. I get to ask Bernie Sanders about the campaign and
about black lives matter and about winning in Iowa and New Hampshire
And we can ask him about the “Washington Post” saying he`s not as
progressive as you think. We can ask him about what he thinks about the
“Washington Post” saying that. This is going to be good. Bernie sanders
live here in person for the interview. This show tomorrow night. Set your
calendar beeper thing right now.
MADDOW: One of the all time great acronyms, they called it a PICL. Stood
for the President`s Intelligence Checklist, PICL, pronounced pickle. And
the PICL was a super secret intelligence document prepared specifically
for the president of the United States.
The first PICL was issued for President John F. Kennedy in 1961. He`d been
very specific with the CIA about how he liked his PICLs. He wanted them to
be short and to the point. He wanted the card stock. The thing was
written on to be small enough to fit into a breast pocket of a jacket so he
could read the thing anywhere. He wanted the PICL to be written in simple
plain English. He said no gobbledygook.
Well, today, the director of the CIA now, John Brennan, explained what
happened on the day that first PICL was first delivered to President John
F. Kennedy in 1961 – poolside.
Check this out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BRENNAN, DIRECTOR OF CIA: It was June 17, 1961 and an aide had just
arrived from Washington carrying a top-secret document. The president sat
down to read it next to the swimming pool, perched on the edge of the
diving board. The document was seven pages long and printed on short
square blocks of paper with spiral binding along the top.
Inside were two maps, a few notes, and 14 intelligence briefs. Most no
more than two sentences in length, on topics ranging from Laos to Cuba to
After reading the document, the president sent word that he was pleased
with the contents. An aide contacted the offices at CIA who had written it
and said “so far so good.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: “So far so good.” poolside. This whole idea of a digest, an
easily readable literally physically small digest of intelligence made up
of the most important things the president had to know that day. That was
basically invented for President JFK at his request.
The briefs for him at that time, of course, included, you know, the lead-up
for the Cuban missile crisis, August 4, 1962, quote, “11 soviet merchant
ships on their way to Havana. We strongly suspect they`re carrying arms.”
A week into the crisis, October 23, 1962, quote, “We can now account for 33
missiles and 23 launchers.”
This was the JFK PICL on east Berlin building the Berlin Wall to separate
it from West Berlin, quote, “Flood lights are being installed. Mazes of
concrete stanchions, permanent fences replacing the temporary barriers.”
On the day that president, the day President Kennedy was assassinated, the
CIA took the rare and possibly unprecedented step of filing a second PICL
that day, a second intelligence brief for that day after the president was
killed. It said, quote, “In honor of President Kennedy for whom the
President`s Intelligence Checklist was first written, for this day the
checklist staff can find no words for fitting than a verse quoted by the
president to a group of newspaper men the day he learned that the presence
of Soviet missiles in Cuba.”
Quote, “Bullfight critics ranked in rows crowd the enormous plaza full but
only one is there who knows and he`s the man who fights the bull.”
A couple days after the assassination, the president was Lyndon B. Johnson.
And the new president got his first PICL, which included information on the
travels of Lee Harvey Oswald, JFK`s assassin. But as time went by, it soon
became obvious that what President Kennedy had liked in the PICL was not
what President Johnson liked. So they renamed it and they revamped it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRENNAN: So the editors of the checklist decided to change course. They
gave the document a new name, “The President`s Daily Brief.” They
repackaged it, adding longer articles that supplied greater detail as well
as thoughts on future trends. And they delivered it in the afternoon, not
the morning, since Johnson liked to do his reading at the end of the day,
often in his pajamas while lying in bed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: End of the diving board or pajamas in bed. You choose your
Today, the CIA released thousands of these PDBs. From the first ones with
JFK starting in 1961, right through the end of the Johnson administration
in January 1969.
Before now, the CIA had resisted ever allowing any President`s Daily
Briefing to be released to the public, other than under the most extreme
President Obama issued an executive order in 2009 that said, “After 25
year, unless there`s some reason to keep stuff secret, it should be made
And now today, this is the first release. 2,500 documents released today.
2,500 PDB`s released to the public for the first time. And the man who
knows more than anyone else in the country about what we just learned from
this new historic trove of stuff is our guest – next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRENNAN: Today for the first time ever, the Central Intelligence Agency is
releasing en masse, declassified copies of the PDBs and its predecessent
publications. Some 2,500 documents from the Kennedy and Johnson
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The CIA director John Brennan today announcing that the CIA has
just let out of its clutches more than 2,000 Presidential Daily Briefs from
the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. These were all classified before
today. Now they`re out. And they are a historical treasure trove. What
did we learn?
Joining us now is Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian.
Michael, it`s great to see you. Thanks for your time tonight.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Same here. My
MADDOW: From getting to look at these PDBs, do we know what explains why
they were kept so highly classified? Are we seeing things here that are
mind blowing? Are they very different than what we would have expected to
BESCHLOSS: Well, you know, it`s not something that sort of overturns the
history of the cold war, but I think there has been resistance to this
because, if you think about it, you know, the finished intelligence that
the CIA gives to a president, that`s probably the most guarded thing that
they have in many ways, because not only does it show where they`re – it
shows kind of information the CIA is getting in real time, but also what
they think is important enough to show a president.
And the argument of the CIA for years has been if we show what we did in
the 1960s, that might give our enemies in 2015 some idea of what we`re
giving President Obama now. The result, of course, as you suggested,
Rachel, is that the CIA basically jumped before it was pushed, realized
that you can`t hold documents that are over half a century old close
MADDOW: In terms of the historical significance of these specific
documents, you`ve done so much work and written so many books on Kennedy
and Johnson. Do you feel like you`ve at least seen from what`s come out
just today, new areas of inquiry, new lines of potential research that you
didn`t know to pursue before these documents came out today?
BESCHLOSS: Sure. For instance, specifically what John Kennedy knew about
the missiles that the Soviets had slipped into Cuba in October of 1962.
It`s almost chilling to see the words on the paper, where he`s essentially
told that the CIA presumes that these missiles can be fired and are
And you know from the larger context that that wasn`t a moment that the
joint chiefs of staff were screaming at Kennedy. You know, you`ve got to
get these missiles out of Cuba at almost any cost, bomb the sites, invade
Cuba. And Kennedy was trying to resist that. With hindsight, we now know
that had Kennedy listened to them, there probably would have been a nuclear
war that would have eliminated maybe 40 million human beings in the
northern hemisphere of this area.
Now what really made me think, Rachel, we`re at the outside of a
presidential campaign, it really does matter who is president. That`s one
of the incidents that really shows it.
MADDOW: When you see the kind of information that presidents have on which
they get to make real decisions, it becomes all the more humanly stark.
Michael Beschloss –
BESCHLOSS: And you want someone who`s going to ask the CIA for more and
question certain things he`s going to be told.
MADDOW: Mr. Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian. Michael, thank
you very much. Good to have you here.
BESCHLOSS: My pleasure. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Talk to a presidential historian on the day that 2,500
presidential daily briefs get declassified for the first time ever in
American history. It`s kind of like talking to him on Christmas and his
birthday altogether. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: We`ll have an update for you on the breaking news tonight out of
Chile, where shortly before 7:00 tonight, there was a big quake that struck
off the northern coast there.
It`s a magnitude 8.3, possibly 8.4, which would make it the strongest
earthquake anywhere in the world this year so far. The reports from Chile
of at least one person killed, many injuries so far, but those reports are
The top concern at this hour, globally, is whether this quake could
generate a tsunami. Authorities in Chile have ordered residents out of
low-lying coastal areas. We`re getting some reports of buoys at sea,
registering a rise in the water of several feet.
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