The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 3/29/2016
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: March 29, 2016
Guest: Rukmini Callimachi
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: That`s “ALL IN” for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us there.
So, we have been covering this story out of Alabama recently where the
family values, sanctity of marriage, far right Republican governor in that
state, he may ultimately end up getting turfed out of office after
extensive and increasingly lurid details have been made public about him
having an affair of some kind with one of his senior staffers.
Governor Robert Bentley of Alabama has simultaneously apologized for his
behavior in that relationship. He`s also denied that anything physical
ever happened in that relationship. Now because of that very specific
denial from him that nothing physical ever happened, because of that, the
very specific language and the anatomical descriptions of behavior that can
be found in Governor Robert Bentley`s phone sex tapes, those details have
become really specifically newsworthy both in Alabama and for the rest of
us in the country in terms of reporting out and trying to figure out
whether that red state governor is going to resign or get impeached or
maybe somehow stay in office despite all of this.
And so, in reporting on that Alabama story, we have been playing Alabama
Governor Robert Bentley`s phone sex tapes here on the show, here on the
news, over and over again, which admittedly is weird, even though I firmly
believe it`s newsworthy and important. That said, since we have been
covering this Bob Bentley story in Alabama, we have heard from a few
different viewers who have explained rather patiently that sometimes they
like to eat dinner while watching this show and our coverage of this
Alabama story is making that difficult.
It turns out Governor Robert Bentley`s hubba, hubba bunga bunga talk is
spoiling a lot of people`s appetites. So, I`m sorry about that.
That said, tonight, we do have what I think is an important update on that
Alabama story. But because of these concerns that have been voiced to us,
tonight, we were going to put off that Alabama story until the very end of
this hour. Specifically, so y`all can have some time to digest before we
get to it. You`re welcome.
We do also need to start tonight with an unappetizing story of a different
kind. And the story we start with concerns the D.C. madam. Pamela Martin
and associates operated as an escort service in Washington, D.C. from the
early to mid-1990s until 2007 when it all came to a screeching halt because
the woman who ran the escort service was brought up on criminal charges in
Now, I don`t know whether she and her attorney felt at the time they had a
lot of different options for how they defend themselves against those
charges, but what they settled on is their defense strategy in the D.C.
madam case is they would threaten to out all of their D.C. customers. They
threatened to expose customers of this longstanding, high end escort
service as of way to get the government off their back. It made for some
explosive political news at the time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Faced with charges of running a Washington, D.C. prostitution
ring, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, is trying an unusual defense, giving phone
records, a list of numbers to a news organization to smoke out the names of
DEBORAH JEANE PALFREY, D.C. MADAM: I do expect the reporting to help
identify potential witnesses for my defense.
REPORTER: She admits running an escort service called Pamela Martin
Associates. The government claims it made more than $2 million through
illegal prostitution. She denies that.
PALFREY: I operated a sexual, albeit legal business for 13 years.
REPORTER: But her lawyer says she has no record of who the clients were
who could testify in her defense.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jeane never kept a black book. She kept telephone
records. Significant resources are required to call the identities of the
individuals who are making the phone calls.
REPORTER: So, she gave phone records to ABC News which has figured out one
name, a State Department official who resigned last weekend though he said
nothing illegal happened.
SEAN MCCORMACK: He felt as though the circumstances dictated the fact he
should resign. We understand that. We appreciate his taking that step.
REPORTER: Legal analysts say threatening to reveal the names of prominent
Washingtonians will not get prosecutors to back off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That strategy did not get prosecutors to back off. It was their
strategy. The State Department official, Randall Tobias, incidentally, he
was the George W. Bush administration`s AIDS czar at the time who had taken
a hard line against prostitution in the George W. Bush anti-AIDS effort
which he headed up.
So, clearly, when his name turned up in the phone records, he had to go.
His was not the only famous name that emerged not just from that case, but
from the way the D.C. madam and her attorney chose to defend themselves in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC ANCHOR: Now, we move to Louisiana where Republican
senator David Vitter made his first public appearance. He went under
ground after being caught up in what has become known the D.C. madam sex
scandal. Vitter is one of the Senate`s most conservative members. He`s
longed campaigned for legislation as part of his platform of strict family
values, defense of marriage. But last week, he admitted in a statement he
made some serious mistakes. Tonight, the senator and his wife spoke for
the first time since.
The story from NBC`s Chip Reid.
CHIP REID, NBC REPORTER: Republican Louisiana Senator David Vitter,
accompanied by his wife Wendy made his first public appearance today since
admitting one week ago that he had been linked to an alleged prostitution
THEN-SEN. DAVID VITTER (R), LOUISIANA: I want to offer my deep, sincere
apologies to all those I have let down and disappointed with these actions
from my past. I am completely responsible, and I`m so very, very sorry.
REID: Vitter`s phone number was found in the records of Deborah Jeane
Palfrey, the so-called D.C. madam who operated an escort service that she
says was legitimate but prosecutors say was a prostitution operation
catering to prominent Washingtonians, charging clients as much as $300 a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, this was an unusual defense in this criminal case. It was not
just unusual as a strategy. It was also unusual in terms of its logistics.
What happened at the time is the head of this escort agency and her lawyer,
they gave a list of phone numbers of the escort agency`s clients to a news
organization and asked the news organization to figure out who the phone
numbers belonged to. Once the news organization figured that out, then
those names became reportable information and that is what created the D.C.
madam sex scandal of 2007.
I mean, David Vitter`s patronage of that escort service, ultimately, it
didn`t keep him from getting reelected to the U.S. Senate from Louisiana.
But it`s not like he ever escaped scot-free. His Democrat opponent in the
Louisiana governor`s race this past year hit him with the D.C. madam
scandal all these years later. Hit him with it like a ton of bricks in
this past election, it was arguably the most effective thing about John
Bell Edwards` campaign for governor in Louisiana this year. And now, John
Bell Edwards is the governor of Louisiana and David Vitter is not. He`s
now out of a job.
Even though these revelations about the D.C. madam story, they first broke
almost ten years ago now. They continue to hang over individual
politicians` careers and individual government officials` lives. And in
addition to that, there`s long been a sort of loose end in that scandal and
in that story, which was that the rest of the D.C. madam escort phone
records never got publicly released.
And that`s where this story takes a turn toward this year`s presidential
campaign. Deborah Jeane Palfrey was ultimately convicted in the D.C. madam
case. She ended up facing a very long term in prison on what turned out to
be racketeering charges for which she was convicted. Sad end to her part
of the story is that she killed herself in the spring of 2008.
Her lawyer, who was her lawyer then and says he continues – the man who
was her lawyer then says that he continues to be the legal custodian of the
remaining D.C. madam escort service phone records from this case. He`s
still around. He says he`s still got those records.
But since 2007, he`s been under a court order from the federal court in
Washington, D.C., which says he cannot release any of those records that
he`s got. Now, though, something has happened. We don`t know what
exactly. But something has made the lawyer not only want to release those
old records from the D.C. madam case. He now says he plans to release
those old records from the D.C. madam case despite that still existing
He says he has a right to release those records under the First Amendment.
He also says he has a duty to release those records because it`s now in the
national interest that he do so and that he do so quickly.
This is kind of amazing but in court filings, which we obtained today, the
lawyer from the old D.C. madam case, his name is Montgomery Blair Sibley,
he claims that at the start of this year, January 2016, he, quote, “came to
believe” that information contained in the sealed from the public records
from the D.C. madam case, quote, “contain information relevant to the
upcoming presidential election.”
He tells the court that he feels a duty to publish matters of public
concern. He says he`s determined to exercise his right to engage in a free
discussion of the importance of these sealed records and on January 13th,
he took action to do that. On January 13th, he filed a motion with the
federal court in Washington which issued a gag order. He said release me
essentially from this gag order. Let me release the records. It`s a
matter of national importance.
That court was apparently not having it. They kicked it right back to him.
That was in January.
Then at the beginning of March, the same lawyer decided he would go
upstairs. He would go to the appeals court in Washington, D.C. And as far
as we can tell having filed his motion, the first week of March, first week
of this month, he hasn`t heard back yet from that appeals court.
Now, though, he apparently feels he can`t wait any longer for a response
because he has just filed this motion with the United States Supreme Court
arguing that time is of the essence here.
Literally, literally, he argues time is of the essence. That`s in the
filing. He`s asking the United States Supreme Court to release him from
this gag order on the D.C. madam phone records. He`s asking the Supreme
Court to let him put the records out there publicly.
This is from his filing. Quote, “Time is of the essence. Given the
significance of the upcoming political primaries and caucuses, in the
looming Republican and Democratic conventions on July 18th and July 25th
respectively, and given the impact of the presently sealed from the public
record that this attorney seeks to release, upon those electoral
deliberations, expedited resolution to this application is incumbent upon
He says that these records he wants to release will have an affect on the
nation`s electoral deliberations. He says if the Supreme Court doesn`t act
quickly to let him release these D.C. madam phone records, the court will,
quote, “deprive the People of information they may deem material to the
exercise of their electoral franchise.”
Just in case it`s not clear enough, he`s insinuating there`s something in
the phone records that will affect how people vote for president. He goes
on to spell it out more clearly for those of us who might be a little slow
on the uptake.
This is the next line. Quote, “The delay by this court and resolution of
this application in hindsight will intentionally favor one presidential
candidate over others by protecting that candidate from the release of the
D.C. madam phone records, which the attorney maintains are relevant to this
Now, look closely. You see that, you see on the word “hindsight”. That`s
not a quotation mark after “hindsight”. That`s a footnote. There`s a
little one there.
Lesson in terms of producing legal filings for maximum political and news
impact, always put the good stuff in the footnote. It`s a really good
dramatic device. It`s like the P.S. on a fundraising letter.
So, this footnote ends up being the whole shebang here. Remember, the
whole reason the D.C. madam case is a famous case, the reason arguably that
David Vitter is not governor of Louisiana today, and that George Bush AIDS
policy is not just remembered for good stuff done in Africa, but it`s also
remembered for the hooker guy who is preaching against prostitution on
behalf of the George W. Bush administration, right, the whole reason this
whole story exists and all its political fallout persists to this day is
because when charge in that prostitution case, excuse me, that prostitution
case a decade ago, the woman who ran this escort service in D.C. and her
lawyer, they decided the best defense to her being charged criminally was
to threaten to release their client information about who used the services
of this escort agency in Washington.
That was their strategy and at the time ten years ago, it did not work to
keep her from getting convicted. But now, almost a decade later, that same
strategy is at work again, apparently with some relation to the
That same strategy is what`s being employed by the same lawyer with the
United States Supreme Court now. Because in that footnote, in footnote
number one, the old attorney from the D.C. madam case says if the Supreme
Court does not act to release him from this gag order, if he doesn`t get
quick resolution if this issue which he says is a burning importance of
this presidential election, what will he do? Look, he will just consider
the restraining order void, which means he`s just going to release the
records himself if he doesn`t hear back from the Supreme Court. Tick tock.
Look, quote, “Will simply release publicly the Verizon Wireless subpoena
returns records containing the names and addresses of 815 Washington, D.C.
clients of the D.C. madam escort service.” That is what he says he will do
if the Supreme Court does not give him permission to do it. He`s going to
do it anyway.
We contacted Montgomery Sibley today to find out him to see if he really
means it. He said he does.
I mean, I`m not a lawyer. This is not a professional opinion. Presumably,
he`s risk being jailed on contempt of court charges if he does this. But
he says not only will he release the 815 names, one he says will be
relevant to the current presidential election, not only will he release the
names and addresses if the court does not on his own petition, he says
he`ll release them within two weeks.
And, so, welcome to the next chapter in one of the most lurid presidential
elections we`ve ever had in this country. I mean, I should say, it is
possible this is all a bluff and a bid for attention. Montgomery Sibley is
what they call a colorful lawyer. He`s sued individual justices of the
U.S. Supreme Court before. He has sued members of Congress. He`s had his
law license suspended for three years for being vexatious litigant.
I mean, his strategy back in day of releasing all those names in the
initial D.C. madam trial back in 2007, as a legal matter, that produced
more publicity than anything constructive for his client at the time.
So, make of him what you will. Make of his motivations what you will. But
if you thought “The National Enquirer” allegations last week were as low as
this presidential campaign would go, now behold the trailing ends of one of
the saddest, weirdest, longest running Washington, D.C. sex scandals ever.
If you thought the D.C. madam story was over, if you think this stuff is
too old to matter anymore, just run that by Governor Vitter down in Baton
Watch this space.
MADDOW: We have a big show rated G, for general audiences, almost the
entire rest of the show. Yes, mom, I got your text.
I too am ready for news that does not require a shower after delivering it.
I`m therefore happy to tell you we have some of the smartest reporting that
I`ve seen in a very long time coming up this hour from one of the smartest
reporters working any beat anywhere in the world. That edifying if
unsettling story is straight ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, it was May 2014, right, smack dab in middle of a contentious
Republican primary race in Mississippi, when suddenly, this fairly awful
headline popped up in the local paper, “The Clarion Ledger”. Quote, “Man
arrested for sneaking into Senator Tad Cochran`s wife`s nursing home.”
Three Tea Party guys in Mississippi were arrested for a scheme that
involved taking pictures of Senator Tad Cochran`s elderly ailing wife as
she laid asleep in the nursing home she`s lived in for the past 15 years.
If there was a silver lining to that grossness at the time, it was that the
pictures they surreptitiously took of that elderly woman in a nursing home,
those images never got into wide circulation, but it was not for lack of
trying, particularly by one fringy figure in a far right corner of the very
far right media, a man who offered a $1,000 for any photo of Tad Cochran`s
wife in the nursing home. Quote, “I will publish it.”
That`s tickly feeling in the back of your throat is your sense of decency
trying to escape your body and get some fresh air.
But that scandal is how a lot of people met this guy. It`s the stuff he
does. Last year, after he tried to solicit people online to, quote, “take
out a particularly civil rights activist he didn`t like,” he was finally
sidelined by more mainstream conservative media outlets. He was actually
banned from Twitter, never to be heard from on Twitter again – until this
month when the Donald Trump for president campaign decided to rehabilitate
They decided that they would use that guy in this event which happened a
few weeks ago. An event at the Trump National Golf Course in Jupiter,
A woman named Michelle Fields reports for a conservative website. At that
event, she tried to ask Mr. Trump a question. As she approached the
candidate, she says a man grabbed her arm very firmly and nearly pulled her
to the ground. She later tweeted this photo of bruises on her arm which
she says were pursuant to be being grabbed by that person.
Reporter at “The Washington Post” basically confirmed her accounts as he
was there contemporaneously when it happened, and that he talked to the
reporter immediately after the incident about what she had experienced.
The person who the reporter herself and “The Washington Post” corroborator
say did this was Donald Trump`s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, you
see there on the left. The way that Mr. Lewandowski responded to the
allegations from this reporter was that he basically decided the try to
ruin her reputation. He spent a whole day tweeting lurid allegations about
her, including posts from the creepy, will publish your nursing home guy
photos who is no longer allowed on Twitter.
This is Mr. Trump`s campaign manager citing articles by the world`s
arguably – the world`s creepiest blogger. This is how they made their
argument in this case. This is how they attempted to personally discredit
the reporter who she says was manhandled by the Trump campaign manager.
Mr. Trump`s campaign manager also tweeted to the reporter at the time,
quote, “You are totally delusional. I never touched you.”
Donald Trump also told reporters that he thought this reporter had made up
the whole thing. Now, today, though, there`s new tape of the incident
which appears to show Corey Lewandowski touching that reporter. This tape
was released by the police department of Jupiter, Florida, where Mr.
Trump`s campaign manager turned himself in to police after facing one
charge of simple battery.
That`s a misdemeanor charge that of which Mr. Lewandowski lawyer says Mr.
Lewandowski is, quote, “absolutely he`s innocent”.
Now, lest you think that that tape is unreliable or suspect or contested in
some way, candidate Donald Trump himself said he`s proud of that tape.
Here`s the very first thing Mr. Trump said when asked about his campaign
manager turning himself into the police to face these charges, to face this
charge this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can only say Corey`s a fine
person. I looked at the tape. The tapes were supplied by me. You know,
those tapes, just so you understand, this is a very end club. And we had
tapes all over the place. We supplied those tapes.
The tape was given by me because my places are very successful. I have
cameras all over the ceiling. That tape was given by me.
(END VIDOEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Donald Trump has only the best tapes. Very beautiful tapes. Huge
tapes. Big league. Big league. Big league.
Anyway, now that we have this huge tape, the argument from the Trump camp
is no longer that the campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, never touched
Michelle Fields. The argument is the touching wasn`t that bad.
Mr. Trump said there was no chargeable offense. He said reporters get
roughed up more than that in your average media scrum. He said maybe she
faked bruises and she was grabbed at him and maybe he, Donald Trump, should
file charges against her.
However, you feel about the nature of the touching of that reporter by
Donald Trump`s campaign manager, that campaign manager and Donald Trump and
the Trump campaign up until today, maintained that no touching ever
happened. Police say it did. The charges have been filed.
And so, the campaign manager for the Republican frontrunner has just been
arrested. What happens now?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And I think he should – I told him, I said you should never settle
be chase. You should go all the way. I think they really hurt a very good
And I know it would be very easy for me to discard people. I don`t discard
people. I stay with people. That`s why I stay with this country. That`s
why I stay with a lot of people that`s treated unfairly.
That`s the one of the reasons I`m the front-runner by a lot. If you look
at that tape, he was very, very seriously maligned. I think it`s unfair.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump today pledging
that he will stick by his campaign manager who was arrested this morning on
charge of simple battery for allegedly yanking a reporter at a Trump event
against her will. The Trump campaign has maintained that campaign manager,
Corey Lewandowski, never touched the reporter.
But today, after Florida police released this video, Mr. Trump said, the
touching just wasn`t so bad. He also said maybe the reporter faked the
bruises on her arm which she tweeted a picture of not long after the
Joining us now is Robert Costa, national political reporter for “The
Robert, thanks for being here.
ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST: Great to be with you.
MADDOW: So, Mr. Trump said repeatedly today that he`ll stick by his
campaign manager. Is that a reflex reaction on his part or is there
something special about this staffer and this case that has him going in
COSTA: There is something special about Corey Lewandowski, because as much
as Trump is expanding his orbit and his campaign as he nears possibly being
the nominee. At the heart of this campaign is a small group of operatives,
advisors led by Lewandowski who had been Trump at the beginning of 2015,
who are outsiders of Republican politics. They have grown close to the
candidate. They are tight-knit inner circle. And Trump believes that
group has guided him so far.
And in spite of their lack of experience in the national state, he`s
committed to stay with them. And that`s based on all the reporting I`ve
done today through Trump`s orbit.
MADDOW: If Mr. Lewandowski is convicted on this charge, will he be able to
keep running the Trump campaign?
COSTA: Most national Republicans are very concerned that Lewandowski could
become a distraction. At the same time, Trump and his high command show no
signs of moving away from him. They believe he has been maligned. That`s
the line today to reporters. They`re sticking with him.
MADDOW: If Mr. Lewandowski has this to deal with, there`s the question of
whether or not, he`s going to continue to be good at running the campaign.
Let me also just ask you, your perception of how well-run the Trump
campaign is right now? Obviously, he`s the frontrunner, so they`re doing
But I know you`ve been reporting on the Trump campaign`s efforts to try to
switch to this delegate issue to lock down the delegates for the
convention. Are they doing a good job of that?
COSTA: They`re definitely expanding the operation. To understand the
Trump campaign, you have to think about the campaign at large which is
including former Carson advisors, Barry Bennett and Ed Brookover. They`re
bringing in a long time Reagan hand, Paul Manafort, to help out with
convention planning and delegates.
And then you have the inner circle. Corey Lewandowski, the campaign
manager, Hope Hicks, the spokeswoman, Michael Glassner, a former aide to
Sarah Palin and Bob Dole. The group, Lewandowski, Hicks, Glassner, that`s
the group that travels with him on the plane, is on the trail with him.
They`re the confidants.
But the operation itself, you`re seeing people from throughout the party
gravitating towards Trump. Some recommended by Chris Christie, some by
Jeff Sessions, the Alabama senator. It`s more of a different, wider galaxy
than that tight operation.
MADDOW: Robert, do you perceive that – I guess those concentric circles
with the interesting dynamics in terms of their closeness to the candidate
and loyalties and stretched loyalties and all of those things, do you
perceive that they`re going to be able to compete with the kind of
operation that say Ted Cruz has put in place for the convention?
COSTA: They`re running from behind at the moment. Cruz objective
reporting has more operatives working at the state conventions. That`s
where Trump is really limited at the moment. He`s trying to pick up some
momentum because it`s not just about winning the states. It`s about
keeping a hold on the delegates in the states after the contests are long
MADDOW: Robert Costa, “Washington Post” national political reporter –
Robert, as always, thank you very much.
COSTA: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We got much more ahead tonight in our G-rated show.
There`s a little PG-13 are at the end but I`ll give you warning.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: I`ve been practicing my rolling Rs for this. Are you ready?
Programming note: here`s what you need to know about our big tomorrow
night. Starting at 7:00 Eastern, Chuck Todd is going to be hosting a
special town hall with Republican presidential candidate John Kasich.
That`s at 7:00. Then, at 8:00, Chris Matthews will host a town hall with
Donald Trump. That`s at 8:00 tomorrow.
Then at 9:00, we`re going to have an extra special jam-packed edition of
this show. I`m going to have an exclusive interview with Hillary Clinton
at 9:00 p.m. And then at 10:00 p.m., tomorrow, I will go one-on-one with
You got all that? Yes, that is nuts that`s all happening on one night.
But that`s all happening on one night here on MSNBC, starting at 7:00
Eastern, and then at 8:00, and then at 10:00. And heck, we`ll probably
keep going all night with this stuff.
So, this is your Tuesday night warning. Tomorrow`s a big one. The show
will last more than one hour because of it.
So, sleep well tonight. You`ll need it.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Let`s say your unlucky enough to live in part of the world will al
Qaeda has come in and decided to take over your town. Let`s say one of the
branches of al Qaeda somewhere in the world has decided that your town is
going to be their new home base. They`re going to set up a new al Qaeda
However, lucky for you, it turns out it doesn`t work out for them. One
night in the middle of night, all the al Qaeda guys get up and take off.
They realize that they`re plan for your town is not working out for some
reason. Maybe they fear they`re about to be attacked or something. Maybe
they get an idea they would rather take over somewhere else.
But for whatever reason, in short order, they bug out, leaving all their al
Qaeda junk behind in their al Qaeda house.
Here`s the question. Who gets all their al Qaeda junk? Who gets all their
paper work, including like al Qaeda manifestos, and logistics stuff, and al
Qaeda job applications and receipts and expenses, what happens to that
stuff one al Qaeda flees in the middle of the night?
When that did happen in Timbuktu in Mali in January 2013, the person who
got all that stuff was a freaking excellent reporter named Rukmini
Callimachi who then worked for the “A.P.” and who now works for “The New
York Times”. Her beat for years now has been international Islamic
extremism, specifically terrorist groups like al Qaeda and now, ISIS.
You might remember a story from a couple of years ago about al Qaeda having
one particularly terrible employee in west Africa. Remember the story
about how his bosses sent him a scathing letter describing how he wasn`t
answering the phone when they called. He didn`t turn in his expense
reports, he was ignoring meetings, he wasn`t following al Qaeda
instructions. And most of all, they were very upset with him for failing
to carry out any single spectacular terrorist operations.
In response to that criticism, he stormed out. He quit. He cut ties with
al Qaeda international and formed his own competing terrorist group.
Whatever you think about that guy as a terrorist, when you`re al Qaeda,
that guy`s a bad employee.
That incredible tale was Rukmini Callimachi`s story. She recovered that
letter about that bad employee from those al Qaeda documents that she found
You might also remember a story about how al Qaeda and its affiliates are
being bankrolled by ransom payments made to them mainly by European
governments, even though those governments vehemently deny those
allegations. The piece reports since 2008, al Qaeda has made over $100
million in revenue off of ransom payments for hostages. That, too, was
Rukmini Callimachi story.
Then there was the piece the week after the “Charlie Hebdo” attack. The
piece that systematically detailed how the two brothers behind that attack
evolved from amateur, wannabe, lousy, pitiful terrorists into fully
radicalized, skilled killers over a period of years under the eyes of
European authorities. That was Rukmini Callimachi`s story.
Earlier this month, there was a devastating, gut wrenching story on ISIS`
sex slaves that included interviews from more than three dozen Yazidi women
and girls who had escaped ISIS` capture and described how they were forced
to take birth control and how ISIS fighters went to great lengths to make
sure that they avoided pregnancy as they were raped systematically as sex
slaves. That was Rukmini Callimachi`s story.
And now, today, “The New York Times” has broken another one of these
incredible, granular, super specific, I can`t believe we know these stories
by the same reporter, by Rukmini Callimachi. This time, it is the stuff of
nightmares for real. This time it`s about how ISIS operates the specific
part of their operation that isn`t preoccupied with fighting Assad in Syria
or governing Mosul in Iraq or blowing up priceless world antiquities in
Palmyra or executing religious minorities and journalists and hostages in
any of the territory that ISIS controls.
Now, what she`s been able to document is the specific part of that
organization that exists purely to kill people outside of the territory
that ISIS controls and specifically to kill people in Europe and the West.
When I say specific, I mean specific. She`s just reported the name of the
software that these guys have been given by ISIS to delete their whole
online history from any computer they work on.
She`s reported the name of the software they use to encrypt their
communications. She`s described the apartment building that`s been set up
in ISIS-controlled territory in Raqqa in Syria, basically as a dorm.
Specifically for these ISIS trainees who are about to sent back into Europe
to commit terrorist attacks in Europe.
She reports the name of the senior official in ISIS who oversees this
external operations bureau. He`s basically the minister of propaganda for
ISIS. He`s already got a $5 million price on his head by the U.S. Rewards
for Justice Program.
But in addition to him, she also reports on the guy under him who ran the
program, who personally ran the program to send ISIS fighters into Europe
specifically to go shoot people in Europe and blow things up in Europe.
She reports his name. She reports his driving habits.
She reports the way he recruited people, how he treated them once he
recruited with, who he was happy with, who he was disappointed in. She
reports the nickname that he gave his recruits to use for him when they
contacted him by cell phone or by code or by encrypted communication.
It turns out what he wanted them to call him was “Dad”. By the way, that`s
not like a word that means something else in Arabic. Just dad. Ugh.
So, there`s only two pieces of good news here. One, this guy running the
European branch of this external operations bureau for is, this guy in
charge of recruiting and training ISIS fighters specifically to leave Iraq
and Syria and go back to Europe and commit terrorist attacks there, one
piece of good news here is that he`s believed to be dead. He`s one of the
guys believed to have been killed in Paris.
The other piece of good news here is that there`s a reporter now at “The
New York Times” who is doing work this granular and this fascinating.
She`s here tonight for the interview.
Rukmini Callimachi, foreign correspondent for “The Times” – I hope I
didn`t embarrass you. Thank you for being here.
RUKMINI CALLIMACHI, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thank you so much for having me,
MADDOW: So, let`s talk about this newest scoop you`ve got. It seems like
what you`ve got access to which nobody had been able the report on before,
at least in the Western media, was interrogation reports and intelligence
documents from European agencies.
I don`t want to ask you how you got those things.
MADDOW: But what is so telling about that kind of documentation that lets
you tell this stuff in such granular details?
CALLIMACHI: Sure. Let me just add that “Le Monde” newspaper was able to
get some of the same interrogation records as me, as with CNN. So, I don`t
want to claim as if I`m the first one to have gotten this entire pile.
What I have done is I think I`ve brought new analysis to it. And what
we`re seeing is that the accepted wisdom on ISIS was that unlike al Qaeda,
they were interested in holding territory and in governing, whereas –
MADDOW: Building a state.
CALLIMACHI: Building a state, exactly.
Whereas Al Qaeda was interested in hitting the West. In fact, that`s
wrong. It was never binary. It was always a question of both. As of two
years ago, so two years before the Brussels attacks, ISIS was already
sending operatives back to Europe. The very data point that I have is a
guy called Ibrahim Boudina, who leaves ISIS held territory after having
been trained there, including on how the make a bomb with TATP, this
He leaves in December of 2013, is arrested in February of 2014.
Now, we don`t know for sure, was he sent by ISIS or did he come of his own
volition? But very soon after him, there`s another guy called Mehdi
Nemmouche. This man goes onto attack the Brussels Jewish Museum.
At the time, we`re told he was acting alone. In fact, the documents that I
have now show he was in direct contact – he has a 20-minute telephone call
before the attacks with Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who was the architect of the
MADDOW: So, he`s not operating on his own terms. He`s been dispatched by
ISIS central in Iraq and Syria to do this in Belgium?
CALLIMACHI: Exactly. And the second piece of that data on that is he is -
- when he`s arrested, his mugshot is all over Europe. Nicolas Henin, who
was one of the French hostages who was chained to James Foley, the American
reporter that was beheaded by ISIS, immediately recognizes him as one of
people who tortured him.
The hostages were a very precious resource. They were getting millions of
euros for the Europeans and they were getting a very big propaganda hit for
killing the Americans. Not everybody has access to those hostages. This
is a man who not only had access to guarding them but was allowed to
torture one of them.
So, he`s not just anybody in ISIS. And yet, that`s what European officials
told us at the moment of his capture in May of 2014.
And we go on. I was able to document 21 people, these are Europeans.
Almost all of them French and Belgians who leave Europe, go to Syria, train
under ISIS, in many instances, commit atrocities under ISIS. Then come
back, they infiltrate Europe. Some of them are on commercial flights.
They`re not coming through the refugee route, through the most mundane of
They`re able to return to Europe and try to commit plots in Europe.
Luckily, most of them are stopped. But yet, this arc of these people
coming back roughly every two months was missed.
We describe Paris as somehow a change in strategy in ISIS. It was not a
change in strategy. It`s been going on for at least two years.
MADDOW: Is it good news that the man who you identify as the head
operations bureau specifically to dispatch fighters to Europe, that we
believe he`s dead? Is that good news in terms of this being a capacity of
CALLIMACHI: It`s always – it`s always a good thing when one of these
operatives is taken out, but let`s go back to Osama bin Laden. When bin
Laden is killed, we were told that al Qaeda has been degraded, that al
Qaeda is now in shambles, that it`s falling apart. It wasn`t true. Al
Qaeda is still here today.
Just a couple of weeks ago, they did the attack on the Grand Bassam resort
in Ivory Coast. Just before that, they did an attack on the Splendid Hotel
in Burkina Faso. These are places that I know because I spent a lot of
time in Africa. It`s quite personal to me. And before that, on the
So, they`ve had, you know, this is a group that we were told was degraded
after the head was killed, after the head of the serpent was cut off, and
the way these organizations have been built is in this very organic manner.
It`s created in a way that it regenerates itself as soon as a leader is
MADDOW: And us understanding their regenerative capacity in the way that
they adopt to the pressure they`re under, it`s scary, but I feel like it
actually makes me feel better to understand more about how they operate
than to be – I`m happy to be informed and afraid, rather than ignorant and
And a big part of that is because you do such a great job on this. Thank
you for doing this work.
CALLIMACHI: Thank you. I`m really touched.
MADDOW: Rukmini Callimachi is a foreign correspondent for “The New York
Times” and “The New York Times” is smart to have her.
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: One of the things that we have evolved into as a show over the
years is that we didn`t set out to do it in advance, but we`ve turned into
the national news show that covers governors in trouble. It`s become kind
of our special beat. For instance, Paul LaPage of Maine, whose office
promises they will tell us next month how many people in Maine have written
to the governor to ask him to resign his office. We started asking for
those documents in August. They say they`ll come next month. OK.
Also, John Kitzhaber, Democrat of Oregon, who really did have to resign
Or there`s, for example, Rick Snyder of Michigan whose administration
poisoned that town that state. Are you sticking around, Governor?
And now, there`s this guy from Alabama whose situation is getting more
embarrassing and more serious by the day. The latest on Alabama`s
surprisingly embattled governor is just ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So when last we checked in on whether or not Alabama`s going to
cashier its Republican family values, sanctity of marriage governor because
of a sex scandal involving his chief political adviser, the Republican
Party of Montgomery County in Alabama had called on the governor to resign.
Alabama government is pretty much a one party Republican only affair at
this point. Forgive me for saying affair. But because of that nobody
needs to pay attention to whether or not Democrats are calling on the
governor to resign now, but every day, we`ve got increasing numbers of
Republicans in the state who really are calling for the governor to step
In addition, the Montgomery County Republican Party and now, it`s the
Alabama division of Republicans calling on Governor Bentley to resign, also
at least two Republican state representatives, at least two Republican
state senators, a member of the executive committee of the state Republican
As more and more information is released each day about the alleged affair
that Governor Bentley denies consummating, it is becoming an increasing
pile of Alabama Republicans who are calling on the governor to step down.
On Wednesday, we got the first phone sex tapes involving Governor Bentley
and his alleged mistress. On Monday, we got the second round of phone sex
Now, there`s unconfirmed reporting in the state that the governor and his
alleged mistress may have shared ownership of a mysterious safe deposit box
at a bank in Montgomery, in the state`s capital. Again, that reporting
from Yellow Hammer News. It`s not been confirmed, but it`s the next piece
of the scandal that`s been circulated inside that state.
There are also now multiple unconfirmed reports that the governor and his
relationship with his alleged mistress are the subject of criminal
investigation, both from the state, Alabama attorney general`s office, and
also from the feds.
Local Alabama press saying the point of these federal and state criminal
investigations is, quote, “to determine if the governor used public funds
to facilitate the affair or if he misused state property.” That, of
course, would be a serious and potentially criminal matter if prosecutors
found evidence of official misconduct beyond whatever embarrassing
misconduct has taken place so far.
All this means that we`re in officially full red alert resignation watch
for the governor of Alabama. And that`s a big deal.
Today, the great John Archibald of Birmingham News and AL.com,
AlabamaLive.com, he described the mood in Alabama right now this way,
quote, “This isn`t politics, not anymore. It`s some kind of war.
Thermonuclear, scored earth, mutually assured destruction at the highest
levels of Alabama government. There`s going to be nothing left and we all
“Look, Governor Robert Bentley is desperately trying to save his job and
his name and his dignity. He is failing. This is a massacre, an
annihilation. The very people Alabama elected to manage the state and help
it prosper are the ones who burned our village to the ground and salted the
Alabama, you right now are in a pickle. I`m not going to tell you that
having your governor on resignation watch is any kind of fun, any more than
it is any kind of expected outcome in our politics, but Alabama, that`s
where you are right now, thanks to governor. Good luck you guys.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow when we got
that big show that`s going to last longer than an hour.
But now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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