The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 10/22/15
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: What a remarkable spectacle. Hillary
Clinton wrapping up tonight before the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
I have to tell you the last time Secretary Clinton testified on this
issue on Benghazi, she was recovering from a concussion, you might
remember? Her previous Benghazi testimony. Do you remember, she was
wearing those prismatic glasses because she`d had a concussion, that made
everybody worry about her health.
Well, tonight, I think we know, we can put any health concerns aside.
What a remarkable display of endurance.
Secretary Clinton, I don`t know offhand how old she is. I think she`s
probably 25 years older than I am. I`m exhausted from having watched her
testify for this long today, let alone imagining the prospect of sitting
there for 11 hours, taking this kind of a beating. Former Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton has just wrapped up more than 11 hours of testimony
before the House Select Committee investigating the attacks on the U.S.
diplomatic facility in Benghazi in 2012.
This testimony began at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time this morning, which
seems like a lifetime ago, and for some insects, it is. This thing has
stretched all the way from 10:00 a.m. this morning all the way through the
day into the late hours of tonight.
Secretary Clinton still in the room right now. As you see, these are
live pictures. Her shaking hands, her still talking to people. And if you
just think about how this went today, the committee members, they took
Chairman led. The ranking member spoke. They went through each of
the committee members.
The committee members got to take turns. They went one by one by one.
You see Secretary Clinton there with the ranking Democrat on the panel,
Each of those members of the panel – Adam Schiff standing by.
Secretary of state`s long-time aide Huma Abedin standing behind him.
Each these committee members that questioned, they got to take turns.
They got to rest or at least shut up for a while, while the other committee
members got to do their thing. But for her, she was the only – she was
the only witness. There was nobody else getting asked questions but her.
For her even when the Democrats were asking questions, for her it was all
day long and all night long.
You saw the secretary there sharing a handshake with the chairman of
the committee, Trey Gowdy. Secretary Clinton took question after question
after question today from the 12 members of this committee who were all
there. Some of the previous witness depositions that they have done on
this committee, other members including even the chairman haven`t bothered
to show up. But they were all there today, seven Republicans and five
Democrats. I can`t overstate how remarkable it is that they kept her there
for 11 hours.
This testimony today, if you saw any of it, you saw that at times it
was combative, although never to the point of raised voices between
Secretary Clinton and members of the committee. They raised their voices
at her. She did not raise her voice at anyone.
There was one loud laugh at one point, but in terms of her yelling or
exclaiming loudly like she did a little bit in her 2013 testimony, there
was nothing like that. That said, even without raised voices or her raised
voice, it was combative at times today between Secretary Clinton and
members of the committee.
Interestingly, it was always – it was also at times combative between
the committee members themselves. There was a lot of fighting on the dais
and snarking and sarcasm and in some cases just outright bickering between
the Democratic and Republican members of this committee. That happened
throughout the day today to the point where at times they interrupted one
another`s questioning or one another`s statements.
There was some political theater, like there always is in these
things, with some committee members bringing props into the hearing room
and then grilling former Secretary Clinton about their props that they
brought. You can see the members of the press who are still in that room
and who have themselves been there all day. It will be interesting to see
how many people actually watched this on whatever news network over the
course of the day today.
We here on MSNBC took it all day long. I know that some of other
cable nets made different decisions about that. But it will be interesting
to see what the level of public endurance was for this incredibly long
event. Because mostly what this was, was an endurance contest.
I mean, that last time that Hillary Clinton testified about Benghazi,
that was the time after her concussion. That was January 2013. And that
day she testified before both the House and the Senate. You might
remember, right? She had two different instances of testimony that day
before the House and the Senate. Her testimony that day lasted a little
more than five hours between the two committees.
Today it was one committee, and the testimony went on for more than 11
hours. And that did include a couple of breaks they took throughout the
day, but it was just grueling.
Now, if you didn`t watch all day long or you dipped in and out, or if
you just want a little taste of how this went today, this I think – I
pulled this because I think this is representative, particularly if you
didn`t see it today. I think this is representative of the kind of
discussion it was. This is representative of the approach toward Hillary
Clinton that was taken from the Republican side of the committee today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PETRE ROSKAM (R), ILLINOIS: What`s your responsibility to
Benghazi? That`s my question.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, my responsibility
was to be briefed and to discuss with the security experts and the policy
experts whether we would have a post in Benghazi, whether we would continue
it, whether we would make it permanent. And as I`ve said repeatedly
throughout the day, no one ever recommended closing the post in Benghazi.
ROSKAM: No one recommended closing but you had two ambassadors that
made several – several requests. And here`s basically what happened to
their requests. They were torn up.
CLINTON: Well, that`s not true, Congressman.
ROSKAM: No, Madam Secretary, they didn`t get through. It didn`t help
them. Were those responded to? Is that your testimony today?
CLINTON: Many were responded to. There were affirmative responses to
a number of requests for additional –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Republican Congressman Peter Roskam of Illinois playing the
part of the paper-ripping performing attack dog today in one of the – I
think more failed moments of today`s confrontation.
I want to go now live to Andrea Mitchell who`s NBC`s chief foreign
affairs correspondent who not only covers the State Department but has
covered Hillary Clinton forever. She`s been monitoring these hearings all
day and she`s on Capitol Hill.
Andrea, I just have to ask you, after 11 hours, what you think just
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPODENT: Well, they
relitigated what the previous committees had done. I think, Rachel, that
there could have been a better inquiry into the security failures, what the
system was in the State Department, where security requests didn`t get up
to the top, where people who were in charge did not respond in any way
really as far as we can tell to, you know, requests from Ambassador
Stevens. But that was not the hearing we saw today.
There was so much focus on Sidney Blumenthal and the e-mails. And it
just seemed as though it was a detour from a bigger question perhaps about
the Libya policy. And they only asked about the Libya policy to try to
nail her down as the proponent of the NATO mission, to try to set her up
perhaps for a general election debate that she has been too militaristic,
too much of a hawk. I don`t know where that gets them if she is the
Democratic nominee against a Republican.
It just seemed to me that you had this panel of former prosecutors who
are skilled lawyers, and I`m not sure that they either had a line of
questioning, coordinated their questions, or had a game plan. And she, of
course, was very rehearsed. You saw that in 2013 when she had just come
back from a concussion and hospitalization. She had really prepared very
carefully and didn`t get rattled.
She only got angry at all in the end when Trey Gowdy, the chairman,
was questioning the credentials and the credibility of Admiral Mike Mullen,
the co-chair of that Accountability Review Board along with Ambassador Tom
Pickering. And she came to the defense of Mike Mullen, who of course is
the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and with a very vigorous
defense. And that was the only point of real sparks in terms of anger that
you saw from her.
MADDOW: I think that`s right. And I had said that she didn`t raise
her voice today. I think you`re right, that she did raise her voice in
defending the integrity of the former chairman of the joint chiefs.
Also very early on, there was a little bit of sparks from her on a
similar note when she had an exchange with one of the Republican members of
the committee about whether or not the State Department`s security officers
were good at their jobs, not to be considered basically honorable in
carrying out their work, their very dangerous work. We also saw a raised
voice. I think that`s right.
Andrea, let me also just ask you, in all the things that you`ve
covered on capitol hill, in all the investigations you`ve seen whether or
not they`re national security matters – is it normal to have one witness
in the chair for 11 straight hours?
MITCHELL: That is not normal. It`s also not normal to have a
bipartisan panel where they can`t agree on the rules, where they don`t go
according to any kind of set procedure. And I`m thinking back to Iran
Contra, the investigation that I covered, and several of the other really
Just as Hillary Clinton frankly mentioned, a number of investigations
following State Department security failures and terrible tragedies, going
all the way back to the Beirut bombing during the Reagan years. And the
embassy bombings under bill Clinton in Nairobi, and all of these
investigations, 18, before this one, of these Accountability Review Boards.
And I can`t recall one that has become this political. And she said
and I know it serves her purpose, but her opening statement was when can we
get back to a bipartisan approach to these tragedies, so that whether it`s
under George W. Bush after 9/11, although I must say the 9/11 commission
and a lot of those investigations were pretty tough on the Bush
So, perhaps, that`s not a fair analogy, but certainly after the
embassy bombings and after the Beirut bombing you saw in both Republican
and Democratic administrations you never had this kind of approach to a
national tragedy where we lost American lives.
MADDOW: I will agree with you there, Andrea. I spent some time today
watching the hearings but also going through contemporaneous reporting
around investigations into things like the Khobar Towers bombing and the
Beirut attacks, looking for evidence that there woos a partisan split or
even partisan worries about the way those things were investigated in
Congress, that`s maybe weren`t as partisan as Congress is now, But were
seen as pretty partisan at the time. And it does feel like the norm used
to be that you put partisanship aside when investigating matters like this.
I think what we saw today is something new in that regard. I think
the secretary`s trying to say let`s make this an aberration. And I`m not
sure there`s been an answer from the other side on that.
MITCHELL: Exactly. And I do think that there`s a bigger policy
debate about why we went into Libya the way we did in the first place and
that that could be a part of a debate if she is the Republican nominee –
or the Democratic nominee against a Republican or it could be a debate
right now with Bernie Sanders and other Democrats. But I don`t – I didn`t
hear that today.
MADDOW: NBC`s Andrea Mitchell, remarkable today, a remarkable thing
to watch. And it`s great to have you with us talking about it. Appreciate
you being here.
MITCHELL: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: In terms of how Secretary Clinton`s testimony and the
grilling of Secretary Clinton has been received across the country today,
about eight hours into the hearing today, it ultimately went 11 hours, but
I arbitrarily decided ahead of time if it goes eight hours, eight hours is
going to be my snapshot. At about eight hours into today`s hearing I
snapshotted what was the fairly representative sample of the headlines that
were being used to head up stories about the testimony.
So, this was the eight hours in snapshot. And if these initial
impressions are anything to go by, the political impact of today`s hearing
is not going to be negative for Secretary Clinton.
Look, “Clinton maintains relentless calm as Benghazi hearing passes
eight-hour mark.” This one, “Amid shouting at Benghazi hearing,
Republicans land no clear punches.” Or this one, “Clinton testifies on
Benghazi amid shouting.” Or this one, “First take, Benghazi hearing chaos
could help Clinton.”
“Hillary Clinton keeps her cool as Benghazi hearings devolve into
political theater.” “Hillary Clinton has won the Benghazi hearing.” That
was at Salon. This one, “A blow by blow account of the Benghazi hearing
where Clinton continues to keep her cool.”
“Partisan sniping flies as Clinton testifies before Benghazi
committee.” “Clinton evades GOP blows in Benghazi hearing.” Again, that`s
an eight hours in snapshot of the way this is being received.
If that is the overall takeaway from the spectacle of the hearing,
that will essentially be a political positive for Hillary Clinton.
Republicans had been gearing up for this testimony for months. They saw
this as their chance to finally take down Hillary Clinton. The House
majority leader admitted as much explicitly.
But if those kind of reviews hold, that is not the result that
Republicans were surely anticipating. And to that point I just want to
play one more moment from this hearing today. This took place toward the
end of the night. Just a very short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: And I just for one want to thank
you. And I appreciate what you`ve done. It has not been easy. You`re
right, it`s easy to sit up here under these lights and Monday morning
quarterbacking about what could have been, what should have been.
You have laid it out. I think you have said this has not been done
perfectly. You wish you could do it another way. And then the statement
you made a few minutes ago where you said, you know, I have given more
thought to this than all of you combined.
So, I don`t know what we want from you. Do we want to badger you over
and over again until you get tired, until we do get the gotcha moment that
he`s talking about?
We`re better than that. We are so much better. We`re a better
country. And we`re better than using taxpayer dollars to try to destroy a
campaign. That`s not what America`s all about.
So you can comment if you like. I just had to get that off my chest.
CLINTON: Thank you, Congressman.
I came here because I said I would. And I`ve done everything I know
to do, as had the people with whom I worked, to try to answer your
questions. I cannot do any more than that. The answers have changed not
at all since I appeared two years ago before the House and the Senate.
And I recognize that there are many currents at work in this
committee. But I can only hope that the statesmanship overcomes the
partisanship. At some point we have to do this. It is deeply unfortunate
that something as serious as what happened in Benghazi could ever be used
for partisan political purposes.
And I`m hoping that we can move forward together, we can start working
together, we can start listening to each other, and I appreciate greatly
what you said, ranking member Cummings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I can only hope that the statesmanship overcomes the
partisanship. That was right toward the end.
But this was an endurance test of a hearing today. We were expecting
a long intense day. Honestly, I`m not sure any of us were expecting what
we actually got. Certainly, the Republicans weren`t.
We`ve got more to come. Stay with us.
MADDOW: After 11 hours on Capitol Hill today, don`t you wonder what
Hillary Clinton thinks about what she just went through today, this
marathon? Don`t you wonder what she thinks about it?
And Joe Biden just announced he won`t run for president. That was
just yesterday. Don`t you wonder what Hillary Clinton thinks about that?
So here`s the plan. Meet me here tomorrow night at 9:00 Eastern,
right here, because that is going to be my first ever interview with former
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It will be her first interview after
today`s astonishing marathon on Capitol Hill. It will be her first
interview since Joe Biden took himself out of contention for the Democratic
That first interview here. This bat time, this bat channel. Tomorrow
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Fact: What gave rise to your
appearance here today was many months ago a group called the Stop Hillary
PAC which aired an offensive ad during the Democratic debate showing the
tombstone of Ambassador Stevens among other things, delivered 264,000
signatures demanding that you appear before us.
Fact: it was the next day, the majority approached us to have you come
before this committee.
Fact: After “The New York Times” issued its story in March, this
committee canceled all other hearings except for the hearing with a witness
Fact: We abandoned our plans to bring in the secretary of defense and
the head of the CIA.
Fact: We haven`t had a single hearing from the Department of Defense
or the Department of Defense in 17 months. Fact.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Democrats, including that one, Congressman Adam Schiff of
California, they have publicly debated whether they should even be part of
this Benghazi committee. Whatever you think of their decision to stay
instead of boycotting it, I think it`s inarguable that today it was a very
different 11-hour-long day in that hearing room because the Democrats were
Joining us now is Congressman Adam Schiff, Democrat of California.
Congressman, I know it has been as long a day four as it has been for
anyone. Thank you for being with us.
SCHIFF: Oh, you bet. It`s good to be with you.
MADDOW: You and I have talked about this decision, about whether or
not Democrats should even be part of this process. Were you glad you were
in the room at that committee today?
SCHIFF: I was. And I have to say as someone who from the outset
questioned whether we should participate at all in this, I think Elijah
Cummings was right. It was important for us to be in the room. There were
so many collective quotes from ARB reports and e-mails. It was very
important to have us there to be able to set the record straight.
So, yes, I think it was important that we be in the room tonight.
MADDOW: Do you think that anything was accomplished? This was an 11-
hour hearing with one witness. A lot of people all over the country
watched at least some of it if not all of it. Did we learn anything
through this process?
SCHIFF: I think we learned one thing, and that is notwithstanding all
of the numbers of witnesses that the majority says we`ve interviewed and
notwithstanding all the thousands of documents they like to talk about, we
actually haven`t learned anything particularly new about the events in
Benghazi. We have a great volume of materials now, most of which, much of
which we`ve already had for quite some time. But in terms of shedding any
new light on the events of that tragic night in terms of shedding any new
light in terms of what we have to do to improve security going forward,
this investigation hasn`t provided anything.
And I think maybe the only goal after all was the one we saw on
display today and that is to try to attack the credibility of the
secretary. But I think that effort also failed.
MADDOW: Congressman, can I just ask you on that point, in terms of
the real goal of the committee, if it wasn`t to get new information, no new
information seems to have been obtained, what they were trying to do.
Obviously, there`s always the hope for a gotcha moment. You know, if you
put enough lines out there, something might bite.
I have to ask you, and I don`t mean to be too conspiratorial. But is
part of the reason this went so long because fatigue on the part of a
witness can increase the chances of an outburst or some inappropriately
emotional moment or some sort of trip-up that might be of political use?
SCHIFF: Absolutely, absolutely. This was an effort to go well into
the evening starting in the morning in the hopes of wearing down Secretary
Clinton to achieve that kind of gotcha moment. I don`t think there`s any
question about that.
Otherwise, there`s no way to explain really why this witness was
treated so much differently. The chairman has made a big point of saying
we`re not going to treat someone named Clinton any different than any other
witness. But the reality is this hearing went on not only longer than her
combined testimony in the House and Senate when she previously appeared,
this went on longer than all of the hearings we have had in this committee
combined. And that`s been with multiple witnesses during the course of
three other hearings. This went longer than all of them put together.
Clearly, the idea here was to see if they could wear her down, to see
if they could get that moment on camera that they could play endlessly
during the presidential campaign.
MADDOW: Now that this has happened, Chairman Gowdy was asked by
reporters as he was leaving the committee room if he could identify a
single new piece of information that he learned from today`s hearing. He
could not name one.
Now that that has happened and this is behind you and you saw how it
went, what about that question of whether or not Democrats should continue
to participate? Is this still an open question for you guys?
SCHIFF: Well, I think it is an open question. And part of the reason
why it`s still open is the Republicans haven`t given us any idea what
In other words, everything`s been building up to today. They don`t –
they haven`t told us. My guess is they don`t even know themselves where
they want to go from here.
And this has been much of the problem all along, which is we`ve asked
them, OK, what`s the scope of the investigation, what issues are we going
to look into? Is it gun running or stand-down orders? Tell us what we`re
looking for. Or at least give us some idea of how long we`re going to take
to get there.
They haven`t been willing to do that. I think we`ll have to say what
they`re willing to say tomorrow, wait to see what kind of plan they come up
with. They may lose interest now that the big day has come and gone. But
we`ll have to use that information to decide how much longer it makes sense
for us to participate.
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff, member of the Select Committee on
Benghazi – I wish a hardy nightcap this evening. Congressman, thank you
for being with us. I appreciate it.
SCHIFF: You bet.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got lots more ahead tonight. Please stay
MADDOW: I said earlier that if you didn`t watch today`s hearing all
day long or if you just dipped in and out, I wanted to give you a
representative taste of what it was like. But I have to tell you, this was
a non-representative moment, if only because it ended in a really loud
laugh. This is an exchange between Secretary Clinton tonight and
Republican Congresswoman Martha Roby of Alabama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARTHA ROBY (R), ALABAMA: Secretary Clinton, I want to follow up
on questions about the night of the attack and decisions made then. You
wrote in your book “Hard Choices” that you were directing the State
Department response the night of September 11th, 2012, but you also stated
that you left your office on the night of the attacks and went to your home
in northwest Washington because you said you knew the next few days were
going to be taxing and the department was going to be looking to you.
Who else was at your home? Were you alone?
CLINTON: I was alone, yes.
ROBY: The whole night?
CLINTON: Well, yes, the whole night.
ROBY: I don`t know why that`s funny. Did you have any in-person
briefings? I don`t find it funny at all.
CLINTON: I`m sorry. A little note of levity at 7:15.
ROBY: Well, I mean –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The whole night? That was right around hour 9 of this
marathon hearing tonight. People get punchy.
We`ve got more to come tonight. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: New things you learned today.
REP. TREY GOWDY (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: I – I think some of Jimmy
Jordan`s questioning – well, when you say new today, I mean, we knew some
of that already. We knew about the e-mails. In terms of her testimony, I
don`t know that she testified that much differently today than she has the
previous times she`s testified. So, I`d have to go back and look at the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So that`s the bottom line, then, I guess. What information
did we just get? What was this for? Hmm. I will read the transcript and
see if I can ferret some.
Joining us now is Joel Rubin, former deputy assistant secretary for
legislative affairs at the State Department.
Mr. Rubin, thank you so much for being here this evening.
JOEL RUBIN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS
AT THE STATE DEPARTMENT: Great to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Those were comments just moments ago from Chairman Gowdy,
saying that he does not think that any new information was provided by this
hearing process today. I know you have testified before this committee as
well. Did you go through some same kind of process that Secretary Clinton
RUBIN: Well, Secretary Clinton did us all proud. For those of us who
served at the State Department, she was poised, eloquent, and really
explained how foreign policy is executed.
And I found that the same kinds of questions came at me as well back
in January. There`s a serious lack of understanding on this committee
about how the State Department does its work, how foreign policy is worked
inside the administration and by our career professionals. And yes, at the
end of the day I found that it was a very unsatisfying experience, to say
the least, and the committee really didn`t endeavor to get at what it
needed to, to figure out how to help the State Department`s security going
MADDOW: That`s what I want to ask about next. This committee is
being looked at on all sides in terms of its political implications for all
the obvious reasons. But what about its practical implications? I mean,
there`s the question of whether or not there`s an opportunity through this
committee process to actually get somewhere in terms of safety at U.S.
There`s also the question about whether or not this process is good
for the State Department, is good for our diplomats and other people
serving abroad, or whether this holds some hidden risks?
RUBIN: I can tell you, Rachel, as a former career officer and
political appointee as well recently at the department, people are tired of
this. The people at the State Department are overworked and taxed across
many different crises around the world. Now they have this investigation
on top of the seven previous hearings, the Accountability Review Board.
Many reforms are already under way related to previous investigations.
So for this to go on now nearly a year and a half, it is very taxing.
So there is a hidden cost, and that`s to the morale of the people at the
State Department who we rely on for our security and for advancing our
interests around the world. And frankly, nobody really believes that this
is going to come out with anything different as even Chairman Gowdy says
just now, from what we knew before.
MADDOW: This – one of the remarkable things about this process is
that there have been I believe it`s two Senate investigations of this
attack already. Six House investigations under the Republican-led House,
plus the independent Accountability Review Board. So this is something
like the ninth – I mean, depending on how you count and which ones you
count. There`s been so many previous assessments.
In terms of there being recommendations from those previous
investigations, in terms of how to make diplomatic outposts abroad safer
places, are those reforms being enacted? Are those recommendations being
implemented and funded? Is Congress supporting what needs to be done in
order to make those improvements?
RUBIN: Well, they have been since 2012 in particular and those
reforms in terms of getting more money to the diplomatic security account,
that has gone forward. And the State Department also has enacted protocol
to evacuate embassy personnel effectively and more effectively when they`re
But there`s a cost to that as well – and Secretary Clinton spoke to
that – which is that it makes the State Department more hesitant. It has
in a census seeing our diplomats pull back from engagement around the
So, there`s a cost to how we are projecting our power, which is in
many ways our diplomatic power and our ability to speak with people in
difficult places and figure out how to advance our interests. So, there`s
that cost. We have seen the investigations. They have made
I don`t think this committee`s going to come out and recommend greater
resources for state. We just saw this Congress cut funding for the State
Department recently. So I`m very concerned about where this will head in
MADDOW: Joel Rubin, former deputy assistant secretary for legislative
affairs at the State Department – Mr. Rubin, thank you for your time
RUBIN: Thank you.
If Secretary Clinton had not been on the Hill today, I`ll tell you
what today`s front page news would have been. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So on any normal news day, on any day in which there had not
been a ten-plus-hour-long inquisition of the leading Democratic
presidential candidate live on television all day, had this not been the
day of the epic, unbelievably partisan Benghazi hearing, then today`s
front-page news would have instead been this. For the first time in nearly
four years, a U.S. service member has been killed in direct combat in Iraq.
And the combat mission in which the service member was killed was a
It apparently happened here in Hawija, a semi-rural area near Tikrit
and Kirkuk. What happened was apparently a raid on a makeshift prison in
which ISIS was holding dozens of prisoners. The Pentagon said today they
got a request from the Iraqi government in that part of Iraq because of
information that the prisoners is was holding at this facility, they
thought were all going to be executed in one big mass execution at dawn
“The New York Times” reporting tonight that a trench was already dug
on site to apparently serve as the mass grave for these hostages once they
were all going to be killed today at dawn. But in what “The Washington
Post” describes as a Delta Force raid, hours before dawn this morning
apparently dozens of elite U.S. Special Operations troops flew in by
helicopter and raided that ISIS prison. We`re told they were expecting to
find about 20 hostages being held there by ISIS, but what they found
instead was more like 70 hostages being held.
In the ensuing firefight, one American soldier was killed. We do not
know the identity of that soldier. But it was apparently a hell of a fight
they had on the ground. At least some of the ISIS fighters who were not
killed in that fight were taken into custody, which is an intriguing
Joining us now to fill in more of what we know about this raid and
this U.S. service member being killed is Courtney Kube, NBC News Pentagon
Courtney, thank you for your time on this. Appreciate you being here
COURTNEY KUBE, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY PRODUCER: Sure. Thanks for
MADDOW: Do we know that this was a Delta Force raid? Does that mean
the soldier who was killed was probably a Delta Force operator?
KUBE: Well, we don`t know for certain that the individual who was
killed was Delta but we do know that all of the U.S. service members who
were involved in this were U.S. Army Special operators. So it`s likely
that the person was a Delta operator. It`s possible he could have been a
ranger or green beret. We just don`t know for sure yet.
MADDOW: OK. Obviously, it`s a big deal that this one American was
killed. It`s a big deal just as itself. It`s also a big deal for American
policy because it`s the first American to be killed in combat in Iraq in
about four years, in Iraq.
Despite that one casualty, that one American being killed, is this
considered to be a successful military mission? Did they find what they
expected? Were all the hostages safely rescued?
KUBE: They didn`t exactly find what they were looking for, what they
expected. But they do consider it a successful mission because they
rescued more than 70 people. The breakdown of who they found in that
prison was what was the surprise to the U.S. and to the Kurds.
They expected to go in and to rescue a large group, somewhere in the
means of 15 to 20 Peshmerga fighters, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters. That`s
what the Kurds came to the U.S. and said we need help, some of our Pesh
guys have been captured by ISIS, we believe they`re about to be executed.
But in fact when the Kurds and the U.S. went into this prison, they
found more than 70, about 75 people being held. There were about 20 to 22
were Iraqi security forces. There were a number of more than 50, about 50
who were Sunni Arabs, civilian Sunni Arabs, and then there were actually
about five who were ISIS fighters who the ISIS had imprisoned for one
reason or another, which is also fascinating.
Those are the ones that you mentioned who`d been taken into custody
and the U.S. and the Kurds now have them in custody in the Kurdish region.
MADDOW: So specifically, just to clarify on that point, those
fighters being in custody – those is guys being in custody, are they in
Iraqi custody or are they in American custody?
KUBE: Kurdish. They`re in the custody of the Kurds, who were part of
MADDOW: Do we expect they`re going to be brought to the United States
or they`re going to be exploited in some way for American intelligence
purposes or they`re the Kurds` prisoners now?
KUBE: I was told that they were handed over to the Kurds and they are
the Kurds` problem – was the exact word that was used to me.
KUBE: So this was supposed to be a Kurdish mission, and the U.S. is
basically just supposed to provide the lift, to get them in the helicopters
and get them there. But once the Kurds got there and they started fighting
these ISIS militants at the prison, they got pinned down. And that`s when
these U.S. troops who were basically just there protecting their own
helicopters, they are own assets, they had to come in, go into the compound
and help their Kurdish allies.
Frankly, you know, there were a lot of questions today. Does this
fall under the rules of engagement that are allowed for this mission in
Iraq? And that`s where it falls into, is the U.S. has the ability, they
have the right to protect their allies and for their basic force protection
for the U.S. soldiers who are there.
MADDOW: Right. And to defend themselves when they`re on the ground
and in danger.
MADDOW: This is a fascinating story, 70 people rescued, 75 people
Courtney Kube, NBC News Pentagon producer, thank you so much. I
KUBE: Sure. Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: It`s been an incredible day in the news. We`ve got much more
ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Outside the Benghazi committee room today, we got almost
unbelievable news from St. Louis – St. Louis, Missouri. That there`s been
yet another church set on fire in the St. Louis area, again.
This happened right after a community vigil and a prayer service in
support of the six St. Louis area churches that have already been hit with
arson attacks in the last couple of weeks. But last night after that
service, church number 7 got hit. It happened at the shrine of St. Joseph.
Now, like all the other recent attacks there it appears to have been a
fire set at the doors of the church, in this case the rectory. Luckily, it
didn`t spread into the church beyond that. But there`s an interesting
point about this new one. The other six fires but this new one at the
shrine of St. Joseph`s, this place that was hit last night, their
worshippers are predominantly white.
Now, federal investigators are on the case. There`s a $9,000 reward
being offered for information that leads to the arrest of anyone involved
in this string of fires. But this string of fires, there`s no longer six
churches, it`s seven.
And in addition to that worrying news out of St. Louis, we also got
disturbing news tonight from Claremont, New Hampshire. Police say someone
in Claremont, New Hampshire, broke into a Planned Parenthood clinic in that
town early this morning and basically just trashed the place. They used a
hatchet to destroy computers and phones and medical equipment, even the
plumbing fixtures. The resulting damage from hitting the plumbing fixtures
included flooding that not only flooded out the clinic, it also flooded a
nearby business as well.
This attack in New Hampshire, of course, follows an arson attack on a
Planned Parenthood clinic in Washington state last month, and an arson
attack in a Planned Parenthood office in Thousand Oaks, California, earlier
this month and an arson attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic construction
site in New Orleans in August.
This latest attack last night in New Hampshire was not arson. Again,
it was a hatchet, but police say they have arrested a suspect in this case.
They say the suspect is a juvenile. They`re not saying more than that.
We`ll keep you posted on those stories as we learn more.
But, of course, today`s news was dominated by the marathon 11-hour-
long Hillary Clinton Benghazi testimony, which turned out to be, A,
historical and also infuriating at times for one specific reason that dates
to Ronald Reagan. And that`s ahead.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: On December 19th, 1983, a House Republican and a House
Democrat appeared together before the press to announce something very
harsh. Two months earlier, a huge Mercedes truck bomb had been driven up
to and into a marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, detonated its payload,
241 service members were killed in the ensuing blast. More American
marines died in that attack than had died in any other single attack since
Iwo Jima in World War II.
Ronald Reagan was the Republican president at the too many. The
Congress was controlled by the Democrats at the time. And the Democratic
speaker of the House, Tip O`Neill, put Congress to work investigating that
1983 attack and put them at work to figure out why it happened and how it
could be stopped from happening again.
The chairman of that inquiry was Democratic congressman named Bill
Nichols of Alabama. The highest ranking Republican was a Republican
congressman named Larry Hopkins of Kentucky. And two months after starting
their inquiry, those two congressmen, the Democrat and the Republican, they
together released the results of their panel`s investigation into what went
wrong in Beirut that so many U.S. marines could be murdered in their own
And it was a blistering report. It said the marine commander in
Beirut when the bombing occurred, quote, “bears the principal
responsibility for what happened.” It said, beyond him, the responsibility
stretched all the way up the chain of military command to everyone who
failed to see that marine security protocols were totally mismatched to the
dangers they were in in Beirut.
The president was a Republican, the Congress was Democratic. But that
investigation and that report made partisanship completely beside the
point. And before that barracks bombing in Beirut, there had already been
another terrible, deadly attack on the U.S. embassy in Beirut.
And after the marine barracks bombing in Beirut, after the
recommendations for increasing safety from that bipartisan report, there
was, in fact, another terrorist attack on an American target in Beirut when
the CIA station chief there was kidnapped and tortured and murdered.
And all of those attacks were terrible and hundreds of Americans died,
and the security recommendations from that tough, good investigation of
what went wrong at the barracks, frankly, those security upgrades didn`t go
in effect fast enough to even stop the next attack on an American target in
that same city. But that experience in Beirut is how we got a phrase that
you heard a thousand times today on Capitol Hill. The Accountability
Review Board, that`s how we got that because the Beirut security fiasco in
the early `80s caused Congress to pass a law, which was signed by president
Reagan, which said that any time there was a serious security incident at
the U.S. government facility overseas, the secretary of state should
convene an Accountability Review Board to assess what went wrong and to
make sure the problems got fixed.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did that after Benghazi. She
appointed Accountability Review Board to be chaired by a former chairman of
the joint chiefs and by a 40-year career diplomat who was first appointed
by President Nixon.
And that Accountability Review Board for Benghazi came back with
frankly harsh criticism for the Obama administration and the State
Department specifically in terms of what went wrong and why in Benghazi.
They made 29 recommendations for how to improve. And then Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton said she was humbled by that report and she accepted
all of their recommendations.
And today, the Republicans on this ninth congressional committee to
investigate Benghazi today, in the 17th month of just this ninth
investigation, the Republicans on this committee derided that
Accountability Review Board as a terrible and useless thing, specifically
because Hillary Clinton appointed its members. And she appointed its
members because she is required to do so by law, by the law signed by
Ronald Reagan to try to ensure a rigorous and real response when things go
wrong abroad and Americans lose their lives.
And that process comes from a time when the worst terrorist attacks
imaginable were investigated and addressed in a way that had absolutely no
room for partisanship, where you wouldn`t even know whether the
investigators were in one party or another unless you asked. Partisanship
played no role. None.
That was a different time. We have never before as a country treated
a specific national security event like this, like this. We have never had
a congressional partisan carnival like this over an attack on a U.S.
outpost overseas, never.
In the history of Beirut, of Khobar Towers, of the East Africa embassy
bombings, of the 9/11 Commission, of the attack on the USS Cole, on even
the intelligence leading up to the Iraq war, I mean, the history of all of
those incredibly inflammatory, incredibly consequential national security
issues and attacks, they have been handled by Congress as matters of sober
and serious investigation in which partisanship was seen as repellant and
unwelcomed and mostly just not evident.
That is how our country, our Congress has comported themselves on
national security matters like this in the past, until now – until
Republicans have turned it all into one big hilarious partisan joke.
If God loves America, we will find out soon that somewhere, there is a
reset button that we can hit after this is over, to erase this as a
potential precedent for our country moving forward. We used to have this
right. It is so screwed up right now.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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