The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 6/28/2016
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: June 28, 2016
Guest: Rukmini Callimachi, Elijah Cummings
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: We`ve thrown our planned rundown and
planed segments out the window for tonight as well, Chris. I know how you
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: All right.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
We`re going to have NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard
Engel just here live in just a moment. Richard is going to be joining us
live from Istanbul, where we continue to cover this terrorist attack that
hit Istanbul`s main airport. We also continue to cover the response to
this attack both internationally and locally on the scene in Turkey.
If you`re a regular viewer of this show, if you`re a fan of Richard
Engel`s and I know a lot of you are, Richard often joins us very late in
the middle of the night in the predawn from Istanbul. He`s often stationed
in Istanbul for his reporting.
You may also remember that Richard has done some of his most intense,
stunning, on-the-ground reporting, from the nation of Turkey, right on the
outskirts of the Syrian civil war. Some of the most amazing and award-
winning footage that Richard has ever shot was right on the border of
Turkey and Syria from a town called Kobani.
In late 2014, ISIS masked its fighters and took over Kobani. Now,
Kobani was not the biggest population center. It was not seen as hugely
strategically important but it was right on the border between Syria and
Turkey and the effort to take it back from ISIS became one of the epic and
truly internationally famous battles, not just of the Syrian civil war, but
specifically the international fight against ISIS.
And Richard Engel`s reporting from right in the middle of that house-
to-house battle, embedded with these anti-ISIS, Kurdish fighters in Kobani,
it was just some of the most stunning footage and stunning reporting I have
ever seen. Richard being right there in the middle of that fight as the
fight was happening is part of how we know that it happened and what it
But the fight to take back that town from ISIS against incredible
odds, it was successful. ISIS did get beaten back, the Kurds took Kobani
back. And a few months after that battle was won in July of last year,
there was a conference held by a youth group on the Turkish side of the
Syria/Turkish border, and that conference included a sort of rally to
celebrate the victory over ISIS in that town, kicking ISIS out of Kobani,
the banner these kids are holding says, we defended it together, we are
building it together.
The whole point of this rally and this youth conference was to
basically plan the reconstruction of the city of Kobani. Kobani was taken
back from ISIS, but it was so damaged by months of all-out heavy fighting
in that city, that the city really needed to be rebuilt. So this youth
group held this event to celebrate Kobani, to talk about rebuilding Kobani,
they held up the banner, posed for photos.
And in the middle of that, as these photos were taken, one of the
students in the middle of that crowd set off a suicide vest and 32 of those
kids were killed. Suicide bomber was apparently a Turkish student. He had
crossed over into Syria and joined up with is and crossed back over the
border. They sent him back home to Turkey to infiltrate that youth group
and then he ended up killing dozens of those kids all at once.
That`s ISIS picking a soft target to be their revenge for losing the
city of Kobani. ISIS very much likes soft targets.
Today`s bombing in Istanbul`s airport, this huge cosmopolitan busy
airport, the third busiest airport after London`s Heathrow and Charles de
Gaulle in Paris. This footage today of these multiple suicide bombers
getting apparently shot by police and then detonating their suicide vests
inside the airport. I mean, every one of these attacks is obviously new,
but this one almost feels like a new angle rerun of the attack that we just
had on the airport in Brussels. That was only in March.
The Brussels ISIS attack was also multiple attackers in the airport.
They had bombs that were studded with nails in Brussels. Those attackers
hit one of the departure halls in the Brussels airport. That attack was
followed a few hours later by a second coordinated attack in a Brussels
And, of course, Brussels came just four months after Paris when
multiple attackers used bombs and guns and grenades and hit a soccer
stadium and a cafe and a restaurant and a music hall.
In the meantime here in the U.S., we`ve had ISIS-inspired gun
massacres, at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, just this month, and at a
random workplace gathering in San Bernardino in December.
ISIS claimed credit in October for killing 224 people in one attack,
mostly Russians, all killed when ISIS says they exploded a bomb on board an
airplane that had just taken off from the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. ISIS
also took credit in November the day before Paris, for a huge attack on a
touristy shopping district in Beirut, in Lebanon, in the middle of rush
hour, a double suicide bombing that killed 43 people, the day before the
Paris attack. ISIS loves soft targets the world over.
But Turkey, Turkey is almost a special case. Turkey is the dividing
line between Asia and Europe, quite literally, the city of Istanbul has a
line through it that defines the distance between Asia and Europe. Turkey
has suffered with frequency of terrorist attacks, even just over this past
ISIS operates primarily in Iraq and Syria, mostly in Syria. Syria
has a long land border with Turkey. That Turkish Syria border, that`s the
main way that foreign fighters have crossed into Syria to join up with
ISIS. At the same time, Turkey is also part of the anti-ISIS, military
coalition, along with the United States and Turkey has its own separate
ongoing war with Kurdish rebels like the ones who took back Kobani from
ISIS, and that epic fight, that border back at the beginning of last year.
So, Turkey is just at – not just at a cross roads, it`s at a cross
roads so complicated it looks more like an asterisk. Turkey is just
geographically and politically and militarily right in the thick of it,
from multiple angles. Just in this past year, just since that ISIS bomber
killed all those kids celebrating the Kobani victory over ISIS this time
last year, just since then, Turkey has suffered at least five major fatal
terrorist attacks that weren`t even committed by ISIS. Attacks that the
Turkish government attributed to Kurdish militants, those attacks included
a massive double bombing in the capital city of Ankara last November that
killed at least 95 people.
Kurdish rebels also assigned responsibility for a fatal attack on the
other airport in Istanbul, the smaller airport in Istanbul that`s not the
one that was hit today. And interestingly, in that case, it was not in the
departures hall or somewhere near the entrance to the airport. In that
case, Kurdish rebels are believed to have smuggled a bomb onto the tarmac
somehow. That airport bombing happened in December.
In terms of ISIS attacks, for a variety of reasons which we`ll talk
about tonight, ISIS does not always claim responsibility for its attacks
inside Turkey, but ISIS has been assigned responsibility for at least two
other suicide bomb attacks in Istanbul just this year, one in January,
another one in March. ISIS has also been assigned responsibility for a car
bomb attack in southeastern Turkey just last month.
But even as ISIS has mounted or inspired so many terrorist attacks
all over the world, including the United States during the past year, and
even as Turkey has been bombed by ISIS and by other groups, again and again
and again over the course of the past year at its airports, in its capital,
in its countryside, in its largest city, even with all of that momentum and
all of that violent context, it was still alarming, maybe even a little
rattling a couple weeks ago.
A week ago Thursday, when NBC`s Richard Engel reported from Istanbul
that something new was up with ISIS, something that was worrying overall,
in terms of ISIS being able to mount future international attacks, but
specifically what Richard reported a week ago Thursday, it was particularly
worrying about new attacks that ISIS might be planning in Turkey.
Watch this. This is from “Nightly News”. This is Richard Engel from
June 16. This is 12 days ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESONDENT: ISIS is bigger
and more widespread than al Qaeda ever was, and isn`t getting weaker,
according to an especially sober CIA assessment today.
JOHN BRENNAN, CIA DIRECTOR: Our efforts have not reduced the group`s
terrorism capability and global reach.
ENGEL: The CIA director also warned ISIS is trying to stage its
fighters into position for more violence.
BRENNAN: ISIL is training and attempting to deploy operatives for
ENGEL: Militants may already be on the move. A senior U.S.
counterterrorism official told NBC News that more than 30 ISIS fighters
have been dispatched from Syria to Turkey, site of previous attacks and the
main gateway for ISIS fighters to and from the West.
Why the increased concern now? It appears ISIS wants to make a big
splash during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan which lasts until early
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, that is slightly uncanny and unsettling, right? That
was Richard Engel reporting less than two weeks ago for “Nightly News”,
saying that a U.S. senior counterterrorism official had told him, had told
NBC News that more than 30 ISIS fighters had been dispatched from Syria
into Turkey. That report, less than two weeks ago.
Now, after this spectacular multiple suicide bomber attack on
Istanbul`s main airport tonight, here was Richard`s live report tonight for
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ENGEL: We reported several weeks ago, Lester, that ISIS had forward-
deployed more than 35 militants from Syria to Turkey with the intention of
carrying out attacks on an international scale during the month of Ramadan.
Ramadan is supposed to last for one more week. Today, I was told that this
attack was highly likely the work of those same militants who had been
forward deployed and that this could be just the start of a series of
attacks before Ramadan is over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: At this point, the death toll in today`s airport attack in
Istanbul stands at 36 people. That`s according to Turkey`s prime minister,
just a terrible attack today on a soft civilian target, unbelievably
terrible, but also in its way, both foreseeable and foreseen.
Joining us now from Istanbul is NBC News chief foreign correspondent
Richard, I know it`s been a long late night for you. Thanks very
much for being with us.
MADDOW: Richard, thinking about Ataturk Airport in terms of its
softness as a target, I know you`re in and out of Istanbul all the time.
Is it a well – is it a well-defended space? Is it – would you think of
it as a secure environment?
ENGEL: I think it`s a very well-defended airport. Security is
tight. You have to go through a checkpoint just to get into the airport
itself. And I think that probably saved a lot of lives tonight, because
the first two of the explosions took place outside. It was only the second
explosion that burst a hole in the wall, that allowed the third suicide
attacker to enter into the arrivals terminal.
So, on a normal day, there`s outside security, then there is security
when you clear immigration, and for certain destinations, if you`re going
to Israel or Canada or the United States, there`s yet another layer of
security, another bag check, and another someone who will come up and ask
I would say internationally, it`s quite a secure airport. But the
problem is, Turkey has become the main transit route for ISIS for the last
several years. It`s become an entrenched problem. It is the home airport
that ISIS uses to get its people in and out of Syria. And after several
years of ISIS beating a well-trodden path through this country, even the
hard targets can be cracked.
MADDOW: Richard, what would you assess in terms of how good these
attackers were? How much coordination this took? How much training this
took, what kind of, I guess the level of their specialized equipment and
explosives? Were these high level, highly trained operatives pulling off a
complex attack, or did they get lucky with the number of people that they
ENGEL: I think this was a pretty sophisticated attack, and the
militants seemed dedicated. You saw that one piece of footage that has
made the rounds where an attacker seems to have been shot. Then in pain,
one would assume, he detonates his vest.
This was not the work of an amateur who picked up a gun and decided
to spray up the airport – multiple attackers, multiple locations. The way
it happened is quite revealing, the first attack, according to two
witnesses took place in the parking lot, that attack also involved gunfire.
When the militant was firing his AK, blew up his vest and drew security
away from the parking lot.
The second attack took place right next to the arrivals hall by a
taxi stand. That attack blew a whole in the wall and allowed the third
attacker to go in. That could have been an accident. It could have been
an opportunist moment that this gap opened up. But for militants to react
this way, when they`re under pressure, when they`re under fire, when
they`re wearing bombs, does not suggest the work of an amateur.
MADDOW: Richard, in terms of Turkey and its experience with
terrorist attacks, even just over the last year or two, obviously, there
have been previous ISIS attacks, including very large scale fatal terrorist
attacks attributed to Kurdish militant groups. What I`ve seen today is
that although nobody has any incredible claims of responsibility for this,
this is being assigned responsibility to ISIS in part because of the
target, in part because this was an international target, the international
terminal at the airport, the Kurdish militants are seen as having more
Turkey specific targets.
Do you think that`s a reasonable difference, an important part of
this to be looking at in terms of figuring out who did this and why ISIS is
ENGEL: I think this attack does bear all the hallmarks of ISIS,
multiple suicide bombers, high profile target, plus the intelligence that
we got a couple of weeks ago that more than 30 – it`s actually more than
35 ISIS fighters have been forward-deployed from Syria, with the objective
specifically to carry out attacks during the month of Ramadan.
And Ramadan just has a few more days. So, if you just do the math,
there were three attackers killed tonight. What happened to the other 30-
plus attackers who were deployed? Are they still here? Are they planning
other things in the last week of this Muslim holy month?
MADDOW: Richard, last question for you. How do you think that
Turkey is going to respond to this? Obviously, they have faced terrorist
attacks just over the past year, including some with a larger death toll
than this. This one has a lot of international consequences. It`s getting
a lot of international attention in part because it`s at the airport and
because there are likely to be a lot of different nationalities among those
killed, I`m anticipating when we start getting those lists.
How do you think Turkey is going to respond?
ENGEL: Well, I think Turkey will respond by cracking down, by going
and arresting some people that it has under surveillance. Turkey to a
degree is paying for its sins of the past, because over the last several
months, Turkey has stepped up security quite dramatically. It has gone to
great lengths to seal the border with Syria. It is trying to get a better
understanding of the extremists who are living in this country.
The problem is, for a couple of years before the security crackdown,
ISIS felt very much at home here, established networks, established its own
understanding and base in this country if you want to call it that.
So, even if Turkey wants to crack down now and I think we`re going to
see that because this harms the economy, the prestige of the country, the
Istanbul airport is a fundamental hub for all of the world, not just the
Middle East, but it is especially important in the Middle East. But even
if they crack down harder than they have been, after you`ve opened the
floodgates and allowed this group to establish roots here for a couple of
years, it`s going to be very difficult to root it out.
If you allow your country to become Peshawar in Pakistan, which was
the gateway for al Qaeda, it`s hard to get rid of that, even if you try to
MADDOW: Richard Engel, NBC News, chief foreign correspondent
reporting from Istanbul tonight where it`s considerably after 4:00 in the
morning – Richard, I know it`s been a really long night. Man, thank you
for being with us.
ENGEL: Yes. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Much more to come tonight. We have Congressman
Elijah Cummings tonight who is great to talk to on a night like this.
Looking forward to speaking with the Congressman.
Also, we`ve got “New York Times” reporter Rukmini Callimachi who is
turning into a decoder ring for all of us, for understanding international
terrorism, and in particular, claims of responsibility after attacks like
this. She`s joining us ahead tonight.
Lots to come. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Quick update for you on the situation in Istanbul. Just
within the last half hour, the Turkish prime minister visited the site of
today`s multiple suicide bombing at Istanbul. Istanbul`s airport is the
third busiest in Europe after London`s Heathrow and Charles de Gaulle in
Paris. It`s also the 11th busiest airport in the entire world. That
airport is now shut after this attack tonight.
The prime minister said tonight on this visit to the airport that the
death toll from the attack now stands at 36 people. The number of wounded
now stands at nearly 150. The prime minister also says that Turkey
believes this attack was carried out by ISIS. That said, ISIS has not
claimed responsibility for this attack.
Why that might be, with “New York Times” Rukmini Callimachi, in just
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was in and people were shooting on one side.
We all ran the other way. And then the bombs went off and people started
running the other way and there was more shooting. And after that, I think
there was another bomb, but I`m not really sure.
They had cuts, people were very badly injured. One guy had holes in
his back from shrapnel, from glass. That`s what I was holding.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was there and the explosion happened. We were
searching for others and I saw – we saw the bomb.
REPORTER: Were you outside the airport?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to get the package of the car and he
was inside, my brother was inside. And he is coming and the explosion
REPORTER: And this happened at the arrivals area?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. In the arrival, yes.
REPORTER: Did you hear an explosion? Was there gunfire?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a lot of, you know, gun. And my brother
also have a lot of injuries.
REPORTER: And he`s been taken inside now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. And my brother, he is not very good. I
can`t see him now. I want to see him. I don`t know what to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The footage and the witness reports out of Istanbul`s
Ataturk Airport tonight have just been terrible. I`m going to show you a
little bit of the footage of the actual attacks. If you do not want to see
the blasts, this is the moment that you may want to turn away from watching
this. This first bit of footage has not been confirmed by NBC News, but
it`s consistent with the other footage from the scene.
You can see sort of confusion, people not knowing which way to go,
then a big wave of people running from the right side to the left. That is
followed by what appears to be a bomb blast, and you see people continue to
run away after that blast, including people who are clearly hurt here in
the foreground, or at least shocked by it.
This is another angle on what we believe may be the same blast. This
appears to be CCTV video playing on a computer. This appears to be one of
the explosions. And the images and the markings are similar to the other
video we`re seeing from the Ataturk Airport, they`re similar to the other
videos we`re seeing from the airport.
So, we think is what happened tonight. But again, NBC News hasn`t
independently confirmed this is the blast. We have one more video to show
you. It`s video that we believe is one of the suicide bombers. And
Richard Engel described it in his live report just a moment ago. It
appears to show is one of the suicide bombers being shot and then blowing
Even if you`re OK seeing the blast itself which you just saw, you may
not be OK seeing this, so this is your chance to not watch this if you
don`t want to. Here it is. Again, NBC News has not confirmed that this is
what it appears to be. But it appears to be is one of the Istanbul airport
attackers being shot, being knocked down by police, and then he – there
you see him on the ground, you see what appears to be his gun skitter away
and then after he`s on the ground for a few seconds, he apparently
detonates a suicide bomb vest or belt.
The reason this video may being particularly newsworthy not just as
documentation of this event, but also as an explanation of what happened
here, some terror analysts are suggesting that action, the logistics of
that suicide vest detonation, some people are suggesting that those
hallmarks indicate an ISIS-trained attacker, that`s how they train people
to do suicide attacks, that`s how they equip them to do suicide attacks.
That said, ISIS has not claimed credit for the attack. At one point
tonight, ISIS posted its daily sort of packet online, it`s a day in the
life of the terrible things we did today as ISIS. They posted their June
28 packet online today. There was no mention of the Istanbul attack in
that daily report.
It may just be that ISIS hasn`t claimed credit yet and they will
soon. It may be that ISIS did this but they won`t claim credit, that`s
believed to be true about several other ISIS attacks in Turkey. Or
conceivably it may be that somebody else did it and not ISIS. How do we
figure it out? What should we watch for online and around the world in
order to figure out which of those things it is?
Joining us now is “New York Times” excellent beat reporter on Islamic
terrorism, including al Qaeda and ISIS, foreign correspondent Rukmini
Callimachi, joining us by Skype.
Rukmini, thanks very much for making time to talk to us tonight.
RUKMINI CALLIMACHI, THE NEW YORK TIMES FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Thank
you, Rachel. Happy to be here.
MADDOW: So, Turkish officials are indicating that they believe this
is ISIS, but ISIS is not claiming this as their work. Should we expect
CALLIMACHI: Turkey is one of the strangest countries in terms of
ISIS attacks. This is the only country that I know of where they have been
blamed for several major attacks and yet they have not claimed credit.
Analysts that I`ve spoken to, whom I trust, say that this is most
likely because ISIS very much needs Turkey. It`s been described as their
rear base. This is the country through which their foreign recruits must
come through when they`re flying into the country. And so, perhaps there`s
a strategic reason for not claiming credit.
That said, it`s still early, about six hours since the blast went off
inside the airport. By this time in Brussels, when the major attack
happened at the airport, they had claimed credit, but by this time in
Paris, last November 13th, they had not. It took around a day for them to
claim credit for Paris.
So, it`s still early. We might see a claim in the next few hours.
But I worry that we will end up in a situation where they do not claim
credit and officials have already said they believe it`s ISIS and that
creates certain a confusing and muddied situation when the group itself
refuses to claim responsibility.
MADDOW: It is – I know this is naive, but it does seem crazy that
they would see it as unpolitically advantageous to claim credit for a
terrorist attack in Turkey but they would see it as somehow politically
strategically advantageous to commit the attack. Why – if they need
Turkey on their side, why attack Turkey in the first place, whether or not
you want credit for it?
CALLIMACHI: Right. That is a very good question, Rachel, and I
really don`t know the answer to it.
Keep in mind, this is the month of Ramadan. We`re in the final ten
days, I believe. And the spokesman of ISIS had specifically called for a
ramping up of attacks during the holy month and specifically in the
corridors of their enemies as they call it.
So, they very much cheered the Orlando attack. Now, if they have a
major attack in Turkey, as well in the third largest airport in Europe,
it`s easy to see how that would be a win for them and it`s hard to see how
they would not want to claim credit for it. But then again, in the past,
MADDOW: Rukmini, setting aside the issue of credit, are you also
seeing evidence today that ISIS supporters are celebrating this attack?
Whether or not ISIS is saying we did it, are ISIS supporters happy that
CALLIMACHI: The response so far is somewhat muted. And we usually
see this, when there`s not an official claim, and when their leaders are
not starting to applaud, the community as a whole remains somewhat muted.
What`s interesting about Turkey, Rachel, is that starting last year, soon
after the U.S. negotiated access to the Incirlik Air Base and began
conducting air strikes in Syria from Turkey.
Turkey, which hadn`t been mentioned in ISIS propaganda that much,
suddenly began to get more mentions. And one example is the 11th issue of
Dabiq, which is their flagship magazine, which came out soon after, the
cover of that magazine had a picture of the Turkish leader shaking hands
with Obama. So, the cover model was really the leader of this country and
since then, we`ve seen an increasing number of references to Turkey.
People that I`ve spoken to see this as a sign that they were
preparing the way for a major attack of their neighbor.
MADDOW: Rukmini Callimachi, foreign correspondent with “The New York
Times” and somebody who`s proving to be increasingly indispensible on
nights like this – Rukmini, thank you very much.
CALLIMACHI: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
You know, in terms of trying to look for a proximate cause here, like
why does something like this happen, in the grand scheme of things, who can
say. But in terms of proximate cause, the immediate spark at this, there
are a lot of things, anniversaries and sort of notable news events in
political happenings that could – any of them could be sparks for this.
As Rukmini and Richard have just mentioned, this is not just Ramadan,
it`s a Ramadan on which the head of ISIS has said they want home-grown
attacks committed by ISIS fighters. They want their fighters to commit
attacks at home specifically during the month of Ramadan. That`s going on.
This is also roughly the two-year anniversary of ISIS proclaiming
itself as a caliphate. Maybe that anniversary is significant to them.
Just within the past week, Turkey also announced a reconciliation
with Israel. Israel and Turkey have had six years of not talking to each
other because they were mad themselves about previous conflicts. They had
sort of a reconciliation this week. Maybe that is something that set
As Rukmini just mentioned, U.S. military cooperation with Turkey also
could be something that is seen as some sort of spark for this.
In the absence of explanation, we extrapolate from everything. I
wish and don`t wish we could get inside their head. But on nights like
this, I`m grateful for great reporters.
Quick break and we`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: With Republicans in Congress today releasing their 800-page
report on the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, with that report
out today, there was already going to be focus on today`s news on bad
political responses to terrible terrorist attacks. What we did not know at
the start of the day is that we would be talking about bad political
responses to terrible terrorist attacks in real-time. Because of what
happened today in Istanbul and some of the political reaction to it here in
Both of those stories ahead. Congressman Elijah Cummings is here
Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, we`re continuing to monitor developments out of Turkey
tonight where the suicide bombers attacked the Istanbul airport. We`ll
have more on that coming up tonight.
There was also big news today domestically about a different fatal
terrorist attack, the one four years ago, about 800 miles southwest of
Istanbul, in Benghazi, in Libya, where Ambassador Chris Stevens and three
other Americans were killed.
Today, the eighth – the eighth – official government investigation
into that attack came to a close. The Republicans leading the House Select
Committee on Benghazi released their draft final report. Democrats
released their own version of the report yesterday, and then no Democrats
reportedly even saw the Republican version of today`s report before it was
released to reporters this morning. So, bipartisan this was not.
The Benghazi committee did apparently set a record, though. It was
one of the longest, if not the longest running congressional investigation
into anything ever. It was longer than the investigation into the federal
response to Hurricane Katrina, or the attack on Pearl Harbor, or the JFK
assassination, or the Iran Contra scandal, or the 9/11 attack. I mean, for
comparison sake, the 9/11 commission, investigating the worst terrorist
attack in the history of this country, the 9/11 Commission worked for 604
They created a bipartisan report endorsed by each and every one of
the commission`s members. In contrast, the Benghazi committee worked for
200 days – nearly 200 days longer than that, they spent over $7 million on
their investigation, and not only was there report not endorsed by everyone
on the committee, but the Democrats weren`t even allowed to know what was
in the report before it was released.
After the Republicans` report went to the media this morning,
Democrats on the committee spent the rest of today first trying to get a
copy of it and then putting out press releases debunking the Republicans`
This is not to say that the Benghazi investigation didn`t accomplish
anything. Politically, the various investigations into Benghazi have had a
remarkable political impact. It was through the Benghazi investigations
that we learned about Hillary Clinton`s private e-mail server, which gave
us the many tentacled Hillary Clinton email scandal.
It was also how we got what was probably Hillary Clinton`s best
moment of her presidential campaign, it terms of political momentum and
public perception of her as a candidate, her 11 hours of testimony before
the committee was a turning point in her favor, especially when the
committee chair conceded after those 11 hours that they basically got
nothing out of her, those 11 hours.
Arguably, California Congressman Kevin McCarthy did not become
speaker of the house, which he was due to become after John Boehner,
because of his on-camera comments basically saying that the Benghazi
investigation was a partisan exercise designed to bring down Hillary
Clinton`s numbers. So, we got Paul Ryan as speaker because of the Benghazi
Benghazi investigations are also arguably by Susan Rice is national
security adviser and not secretary of state. Susan Rice was President
Obama`s first choice to be secretary of state to succeed Hillary Clinton,
but Susan Rice got caught up in all the conspiracy theories about the
talking points she delivered on the Sunday shows immediately following the
attack. So, Susan Rice ended up being President Obama`s national security
adviser and John Kerry ended up being secretary of state.
So the Benghazi investigations have been consequential. But they
have not been consequential in any of the ways they were ostensibly
supposed to be. I mean, this years` long, $7 million Republican
investigation that published its report today, they didn`t find all the
hidden truths that were supposedly missed by the seven previous
investigations. In particular, the allegation that launched a thousand
right-wing Internet memes, that Hillary Clinton blocked a rescue attempt
that could have saved American lives, that she ordered rescuers to stand
down and not rescue those Americans.
That allegation was once again investigated and once again disproven
even in this Republican report. For 800 days and $7 million, pretty much
all we got was months and years of accusations and conspiracy theories and
ultimately in the end, a reiteration of everything all the previous
reporting already showed. As a political exercise, this was honestly a
But on days like this, that feels less important than the fact that
this was also a display of how we respond to terrorist attacks as a
country. And if this is the best we can do, that`s an even greater fiasco.
Congressman Elijah Cummings joins us next.
MADDOW: The House Republicans, running one of the longest ever
congressional investigations, their select committee on Benghazi, they
released their draft final report today to the press. And then after that,
they released it to the Democrats serving on that committee.
Just in case you needed a capsule perspective on what was wrong with
this Benghazi investigation.
Joining us now is Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland. He`s the
ranking Democrat on the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
Congressman, it`s really nice for you to be here tonight.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: Thank you.
MADDOW: Let me first ask you about the overall context here. Nobody
knew the report would be released on the day of another terrible terrorist
attack. In this case, the one in Istanbul.
Does the whole process of how this was treated, how we dealt with
this as a country and in Congress, does it make you worry about how we are
capable of responding to terrorism anymore?
CUMMINGS: No doubt about it. You know, when you have a situation
where you end up moving towards partisanship, as opposed to – and
attacking each other, as opposed to uniting, I think it`s bad, not only for
Congress, but it`s bad for the country.
And in this instance, Rachel, we had a situation where the
Republicans were given an endless budget to conduct this investigation and
basically what happened is, they shut out the Democrats from the very
beginning. And I don`t think they really ever had any intention of this
being a bipartisan effort.
But to go to your question, in these moments, it`s just a reminder,
particularly what`s happened in Turkey that we need to be united – and
it`s sad, and it really is, and it pains me to think that we cannot leave
our party hats at the door and try to address issues like Benghazi, because
Benghazi was a very serious situation. I mean – and keep in mind that we
lost four very brave and strong Americans. And for us to move to a point
where Democrats are shut out of a process, where Republicans are
interviewing witnesses and not even telling us about them, are not sharing
transcripts with us, not even creating rules for the committee, issues
subpoenas without consultation, I could go on and on and on.
And as late as this morning, after the press had had the report –
and by the way, this is a report that we had asked to be a part of and to
help to develop, but this morning, we get the report after the members of
the press, some of them probably had it for like 12 to 13 hours, at least.
So it does concern me.
MADDOW: Congressman, after what you described as essentially an
infinite budget, the blank check, they could spend whatever they want,
after going 200 days longer than the 9/11 commission went, one of the
longest congressional investigations in history, after, as you describe,
essentially shutting out the Democrats from the process, so they could
proceed just as Republicans, with everything they wanted in terms of
witnesses and subpoenas and everything, did this eighth investigation into
the Benghazi attack, actually produce any new information that was not
known through previous reporting or through the seven previous reports?
CUMMINGS: I think they may have come up with a few additional facts,
but Rachel, I can tell you that nothing that I have read, nothing that I
have heard, nothing that I`ve seen with to this investigation changes what
the other eight reports that already said. Rachel, keep in mind that a
number of those reports and investigations that were done before, were done
in a bipartisan way.
So, basically, what the Republican said was that although fellow
Republicans had previously come to conclusions, had looked at all of the
facts and made determinations, we want to look a little bit deeper, we`ve
got to get a little deeper. And so, again, you know, and I kind of get the
impression that maybe they`re addicted to Benghazi because I just found out
that they`re going to be interviewing another witness tomorrow.
CUMMINGS: So it just – it`s kind of sad.
MADDOW: Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Select
Committee on Benghazi – I remember talking with you, sir, about whether or
not Democrats should participate in this all and you said watch and see how
it goes. Now we know.
Thanks for helping us understand what just happened today, sir.
Thank you for being here.
CUMMINGS: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right.
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: In terms of our continuing coverage tonight, I want you to
know that it`s almost 5:00 a.m. in Turkey right now. The sun will be
coming up soon in Istanbul. We continue to get in new images from the
attack today on the big airport in that city.
But as the sun rises in Turkey, we`re looking ahead to “THE LAST WORD
WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL” tonight. He`s going to be having a live report
from Istanbul with the latest on the investigation coming up in just a
couple of minutes at the top of the hour.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Five days after the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, in
December, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump made this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We put out a
statement a little while ago and these people are going crazy. They won`t
report it right. Should I read you the statement?
Donald J. Trump is calling for – now, you`ve got to listen to this,
this is pretty heavy stuff. Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and
complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was in December, less than a week after the San
Bernardino attacks calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims
entering the United States.
He kept reading that statement in the campaign trail for days and
weeks. He elaborated. He said the way he would do it was that border
agents under President Trump would be ordered to ask people when they tried
to enter the country, quote, are you Muslim? And if the person said in
response, yes, I`m Muslim, then they would be banned from stepping foot on
U.S. soil. Simple as that.
What could possibly go wrong? Mr. Trump has reiterated this plan
over and over and over again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
TRUMP: We have to have a temporary ban on Muslims coming into this
country, I`m sorry.
AD ANNOUNCER: Donald Trump calls it radical Islamic terrorism.
That`s why he`s calling for a temporary shut down of Muslims entering the
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Do you stand by them? Do you stand,
for example, by the idea of a ban against foreign Muslims coming in?
TRUMP: I do, we have to be vigilant.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: On the trail, in campaign ads, in interviews, Donald Trump
has not been shy about this. After the Orlando attack two-and-a-half weeks
ago, he said it again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I called for a ban after San Bernardino and was met with
great scorn and anger, like many are saying I was right to do so. And
although the pause is temporary, we must find out what is going on. We
have to do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Even when he`s on the teleprompter and breathing heavily
through his nose to prove it. He`s still with this, right? That was just
two weeks ago. Muslim ban on, that`s his plan.
But then in the last few days, perhaps mesmerized by the beauty of
the 18th hole of his newest golf course, Mr. Trump told reporters a whole
new thing, when they asked him once again about his famous Muslim ban. He
said this weekend, quote, “I don`t want people coming in from certain
countries. I don`t want people coming in from the terror countries. You
have terror countries. I don`t want them unless they`re very, very
strongly vetted”, end quote.
Asked which countries constitute the terror countries, Mr. Trump
said, quote, “They`re pretty well decided, all you have to do is look.”
So, heading into today, because of that, there were some considerable
confusion as to whether or not the Republican Party`s presidential
candidate this year really is still proposing to ban Muslims from the
United States, leading to this from the “Wall Street Journal” today. Look
at this, this is great. They`re groaning on their way to the confusion.
Direct quotes from “The Journal” today, quote, “The evolution of the
policy has come in fits and starts, with conflicting statements by Mr.
Trump that have confused some of his strongest supporters on Capitol Hill.
Mr. Trump has never said he was wrong or explicitly said he was abandoning
that policy. Asked about the confusion, one of Mr. Trump`s top foreign
policy advisers, retired Rear Admiral Charles Kubic, says he was `working
with the campaign to address this issue`.”
However, campaign spokesman Hope Hicks said Mr. Kubic was not
advising the campaign on this issue. But another Trump representative,
Katrina Pierson, confirms that the policy is being clarified.
Oh, that settles it then. He`s definitely calling for a Muslim ban
unless he`s only calling for a terror country`s ban now, whatever that is.
But that is what his advisers say he`s doing unless they`re not really his
Tonight in the wake of the Istanbul attack, Trump did not cover at
length on Istanbul or on his previous response to a terrorist attack, which
was to propose his Muslim ban. All he said tonight was, “We better get
tough or we`re not going to have much of a country left.”
Fair enough. Mr. Trump, do you still want to ban Muslims from coming
into this country? Are we allowed to know that before people are suppose
to start voting in the presidential election?
That does it for tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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