The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/28/2016
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: November 28, 2016
Guest: Peter Henning
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW is 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 this hour.
Sixteen years ago, 16 years ago, this man set a record. He ran for a seat
in the United States Senate 16 years ago and he lost that race, which is
why you probably don`t recognize him. But in the course of losing that
race that year, he did set a record.
And this was the record that he set. He spent more money losing a U.S.
Senate race than anyone had ever spent losing a U.S. Senate seat ever
And his name was Rick Lazio. And the person he lost to in that Senate race
in the year 2000 was somebody you will recognize, Hillary Clinton. 2000.
That was the first year Hillary Clinton ran for the United States Senate
from New York state. She beat Rick Lazio badly. She clobbered him by 12
Over the course of that campaign, he spent himself into oblivion. He
outspent her by a mile. He outspent her by something like – she spent $29
million and he spent $40 million. He ended up millions of dollars in debt
and he lost and he lost by a lot and he had to give up his day job for all
Rick Lazio had been a member of Congress but you can`t hold on to a seat in
the House while you run for the Senate. So he was like quintupley crushed
in that Senate race in 2000.
Well, Hillary Clinton became the United States senator.
And then at the end of her first term in the Senate, so six years later,
Republicans went up against her again but they had a hard time getting
somebody to run against her. It was interesting. Rudy Giuliani had sort
of tried and failed to mount a run against her in 2000. That`s how they
ended up with Rick Lazio, is when Giuliani kind of collapsed.
So, six years later when she was up for re-election, there was some noise
that maybe they could get Giuliani to jump in again but Giuliani in 2006
said no. And then former New York Governor George Pataki, he said no, and
then Richard Nixon`s son-in-law, he said no.
And then this happened, which made national fake comedy news on “The Daily
Show” at the time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON STEWART, THE DAILY SHOW: Westchester County D.A. Jeannine Pirro
announced her candidacy for the Senate. The Republican launched a
blistering tirade against Hillary Clinton, the woman she`ll be facing.
JEANNINE PIRRO: Hillary Clinton –
STEWART: She`s probably building up to something. Bet it`s going to be
PIRRO: Do you have page 10?
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
STEWART: That was Jeanine Pirro observing 22 seconds of silence in memory
of the failure of her campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So that was 2006. That would be candidate really did spend 32 1/2
seconds looking for page 10 of her speech.
She also, during her campaign, her brief campaign, claimed that Upstate New
York – she knew the region very well, very familiar with Upstate New York.
She especially liked the part of Upstate New York that shared a border with
Upstate New York doesn`t have a border with Ohio. That was all very
She didn`t really work out. Giuliani didn`t work out. Pataki didn`t work
out. By the time the Republicans really truly had to pick somebody by the
time of their primary, they were down to two final contenders. And one of
them was the mayor of Yonkers, OK, and the other was someone described as
“an Upper East Side society matron with no campaign experience,” end quote.
That`s one of the two big New York tabloids, “The New York Daily News,”
tends to lead to Democrats. The other New York tabloid is “The New York
Post”, they tend to lean towards Republicans. But even “The New York post”
which loves Republicans, they described that candidate as a Park Avenue
patron, essentially describing her as a rich socialite.
“The Post” also turned up that this candidate was illegally registered to
vote at two different addresses in New York state at the same time, and she
had voted from both of them. “The Daily News” reported that she had
treated it as a campaign expense that year when she took Rudy Giuliani
golfing. She took Rudy Giuliani golfing multiple times at some expensive
golf club in the Hamptons and then she charged her campaign donors for his
golf fees and also for his wife`s golf fees and also for caddies.
She was confronted with the news that that was illegal. Her defense was,
quote, “ignorance”. She said she was totally ignorant of the fact that you
can`t charge Rudy Giuliani`s golf games to your campaign donors.
That said, she did have a good looking resume, though, and an intriguing
looking resume. In that campaign, she handed out a written resume to
reporters who were covering her in this Senate and she wanted to be the
Republican candidate against Hillary Clinton. She handed out this resume
that had fascinating and even some inspiring claims.
And this resume she gave to reporters, she claimed to be the highest-
ranking woman in the Pentagon during the Reagan administration. Her resume
also described her as the first female professional staffer on the Senate
Armed Services Committee. It also described her as the person who wrote
Ronald Reagan`s famous “Star Wars” speech. Very impressive resume.
Unfortunately, when you hand something like that out to reporters and
you`ve given it to them because you are running for office, reporters tend
to check those things. And it turns out she wasn`t actually the highest-
ranking woman in the Pentagon during the Reagan administration. She also
wasn`t the first woman professional staffer on the Senate Armed Services
Committee and she didn`t actually write President Reagan`s famous “Star
Wars” speech. At least she didn`t write the part of it that was about
Over the course of that campaign, it just sort of turned into kind of a big
New York politics joke. The state Republican Party actually asked her to
get out of the race, they asked her to please get out of the primary
because she was obviously going to lose it and that would save everyone
time and expense from going through the primary. But she refused to drop
out, she made them hold the primary, and then, naturally, she lost the
primary by a huge margin, by something like 22 points.
In the fall, the guy who she lost to, the mayor of Yonkers, he went on to
get clobbered by Hillary Clinton. She beat him by almost 40 points in
November to hold on to her Senate seat.
And if you`ve got a memory for crazy stories like that in politics, if you
got that kind of mind, right, that kind of interest that let`s you hold on
to stories of characters like that, you know, this sort of laugh out loud,
political failures, if you`ve got that kind of mind, if you`re interested
in that kind of stuff, it usually gets you nothing. Usually, it`s like, if
you`re friends with Steve Kornacki, and you have to happen to run into him
on the subway platform, you have something to chat about. You know, it`s
like, if you have other friends with similar interests, that`s good trivia.
Helps you win pub quizzes.
You know, mostly, it`s just these little threads of history in political
science that never go anywhere. When you pull on them, you hold on to them
for the pleasure of their own absurdity and knowing that obscure stuff.
And then there are days like this when it turns out it`s worth something.
It turns it`s just worth remembering even the most obscure, spectacularly
failed first acts in politics. Because sometimes the fates come along and
they are broke, and so they`ve got to check all of the couch cushions for
change or they are hungry and they`ve got to search like old condiments
section of the fridge for something that might make into a passable meal.
Sometimes, politics gets weird, and people you who never think could have
another run in pubic life, whoop, up they pop. Because now, what do they
call her? The Upper East Side society matron, who was registered to vote
at two addresses, who illegally charged her Rudy Giuliani golf games to her
donors, who said she was the highest ranking woman in the Pentagon when she
was not, who said she was the first female staffer on the Senate Armed
Services Committee, when she was not, who said she were at the “Star Wars”
speech when she did not, turned out what she did do after that hilariously
inauspicious obscure debut in electoral politics, what she did do, what she
got a contributor gig at FOX News after all of that.
And that was apparently enough, because now, she is about to become the
deputy national security adviser to the president of the United States.
And why not? Woo-hoo! Everybody can play.
And this is a done deal. There`s no Senate confirmation for a job like
this. We rely on the good sense and the good judgment of a president or
president-elect to put somebody in a job like this who is really up to the
So, this is kind of a moment here, right? If you were concerned that we`re
about to have a national security adviser who says that Islam isn`t a
religion and who says that Hillary Clinton is a child rapist and who got
fired from his last job not all that long ago because of unspecified
leadership issues and now he`s going to be a national security adviser, if
you were concerned about that appointment for the incoming administration,
we now know that in that role, the national security adviser to the
president will be bolstered by his principal deputy who was the runner-up
to the mayor of Yonkers, who was laughed off her last effort to get to
Washington because of the coffee out the nose spectacular resume inflation
she tried to get away with. I mean, to a point where it makes you
lightheaded to look at it.
National security adviser is a really important job. We`re going to have
Michael Beschloss here in just a moment to talk about where the national
security adviser job came from, what that person does, what the deputy
national security does, what we know from history about what those folks
need to be capable of, right?
National security adviser is important. Deputy national security adviser
is really important, too. That`s the person who does the real crunch time
nuts and bolts synthesis.
This is not a figure head job. This is a person responsible for
coordinating and disentangling and sorting out and synthesizing, making
sense of all of the various strains of national security related
information that come into the White House at any one time, both on a day-
to-day basis, but particularly at times of crisis.
It`s a hugely demanding job. You are the person between the president and
relevant national security information about the world that that president
needs. And I think – I think it`s easy right now.
A lot of people right now don`t want to consume any news, right? People
who are upset about the outcome of the election, I get that.
But if you are consuming news, even if you are, I think it`s a little bit
easy to get swept along in the beltway soap opera stuff about who is up and
who is down, and who is saying mean things about other people and who might
be holding a grudge and who might not be up for something and who might not
I mean, the incoming administration is absolutely stoking that by parading
contenders for various jobs in front of a press corps they refused to
formally speak to while reporters` cameras are staking out the elevators of
the president-elect`s apartment building. They want it to seem like it`s
“say yes to the dress” or something, like it`s an on-air competition. And
it`s easy to fall into that and follow all of the bread crumbs that they
are leaving and get involved in the personal intrigue.
But just step back from that for a second. Just a take a little snap shot
of where we are. As of tomorrow, we`re three weeks from the election. In
those three weeks, things have not gotten any less chaotic or more
professional or more in line with any previous practice of any previous
president over the course of these three weeks.
Just in terms of what is going on right now, right, president-elect is
behind now in the popular vote by about 2.2 million votes. That would be
the largest losing margin in the popular vote by any incoming president in
140 years and that may be trivia to civics dorks at some level but that
fact appears to be driving the president-elect a little bit nuts to the
point where he`s now insisting that actually he won the popular vote. He
says he won the popular vote, quote, “If you deduct the millions of people
who voted illegally.”
The millions of people who voted illegally? A, there`s no evidence that
that is true. B, why would you say that if you`re the person who won the
election? Are you questioning the validity of the election that you just
I mean, who knows? One day earlier he was enraged about the recount effort
in Wisconsin saying the results of the election should be respected instead
of being challenged. That was Saturday. By Sunday, the whole election was
a scam and it was millions of fraudulent votes.
The immaturity, the chaos, the lack of restraint, the lack of coherence,
the lack of professionalism has not changed at all in these three weeks
while he`s been president-elect. He also still has not moved to
Washington, incidentally. The transition offices are being run out of his
house rather than the tax-payer funded transition offices that you and I
right now are paying for in Washington not being used.
The president-elect reportedly spent Thanksgiving night mulling around the
ding room of his golf club, asking the members and guests who are eating
there who he should pick as his secretary of state. OK.
Today, he paraded before the cameras in the lobby of his apartment building
and another reported secretary of state candidate, one who pled guilty last
year to mishandling classified information and lying to the FBI. He`s
literally on probation right now for that. But maybe he`ll also be
secretary of state.
There are a lot of different ways to look at what is going on right now,
but if you just look at national security, just take a look at that one
issue, the decisions he`s making here, the people he`s putting in place,
these roles that he`s filling, what do we know about previous presidencies
about how important those roles are and how big of a deal these choices
he`s made, how big of a deal these choices may already be.
Joining us now is Michael Beschloss. He`s NBC News presidential historian.
Michael, it`s really good to have you with us tonight. Thanks for being
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: How did the – I should say, as sort of a prologue, I`m sort of
focused on the security adviser and deputy national security adviser
announcements right now, in part because there won`t be Senate
confirmations for those positions.
BESCHLOSS: Right, right.
MADDOW: And they`re done.
How did the national security adviser job come about? Where did that job
BESCHLOSS: Well, it really came out – there was a law that was passed in
1947 called the National Security Act. It was by Republican House,
Republican Senate and the idea was, it was the end of World War II, America
was this colossus super power and the Congress wanted to make sure that
foreign policy, national security was run in a very careful way that was
And so, they said there will now be a unified Department of Defense, not
just an Army and Navy and Air Force. There will be a CIA. And at the
White House, there will be something called the National Security Council,
and the idea of that was you have a president who got advice from all sorts
of different advisers with different views and it would be submitted to him
through an honest broker who, as it happened, would turn out to be called
the national security adviser.
And so, you had, you know, presidents appointing people like Gerald Ford
and George H.W. Bush appointed for instance Brent Scowcroft who was in the
government for a long time, former air force general, no one ever doubted
that Scowcroft would submit things to the president he served without
saying, you know, this is what this guy says, he`s an idiot. This is what
I think you should do.
MADDOW: In terms of the appointments that have been made so far, we`ve
gotten an announcement about national security adviser, General Flynn, as
being seen as outside the mainstream, not just in terms of national
security thinking but also in terms of temperament and how willing he is to
engage with people who either know to not be true or is a conspiratorial
nonsense. His chief of staff at his private intelligence firm who also is
his son would regularly sort of tweet stuff from the Info Wars conspiracy
theory website. He sort of traffics in that territory.
BESCHLOSS: Right. I think we would call him a little bit of a partisan.
MADDOW: Yes, partisan. Although – or registered Democrat for most of his
time as an adult life.
MADDOW: And so, not necessarily a traditional partisan, but somebody who
BESCHLOSS: Partisan of certain very strong views.
MADDOW: Yes. And now, we`ve got a FOX News analyst who has got an
interesting past of her own, brought on as the deputy national security
adviser, and it just feels like these aren`t the kind of people who usually
fill jobs like this.
Are there experiences from presidential history where the person in those
kinds of jobs, where the capabilities of those job holders ended up being
really crucial for national security?
BESCHLOSS: A perfect example would be 1962, you know, we`re all talking
about Fidel Castro tonight.
BESCHLOSS: You know, in the Cuban missile crisis, John Kennedy had to
decide, how do I get these Soviet missiles out of Cuba and he appointed
this group of people called the Ex Com Executive Committee, all sorts of
advisers and for a week, they argued. Robert Kennedy was there, John
Kennedy stood aside because he didn`t want to intimidate them.
And during that week, this committee talked and talked and talked and then
moved from what they would have done on the first day, which was to bomb
Cuba and invade it, get rid of the missiles, to what they decided
ultimately to do with Kennedy`s agreement which was to blockade the island
and tell the soviets to get the missiles out, which worked.
We now know if you had not had that deliberative committee with the great
national security adviser helping out, you would have probably have had the
president being pushed to decide to invade the island, bomb the missiles.
Had that happened, we know those missiles would have been fired off, there
would have been an escalation that would have led to possibly 15 million
human beings being dead and incineration of much of the northern
That`s how much it meant that there was a process with people who know how
to do this.
MADDOW: We know now that the Russians planned to actually hit the button,
actually launch those missiles had the U.S. invaded that –
BESCHLOSS: The commanders on the ground had been given that order.
MADDOW: Wow. Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian,
invaluable as always, Michael. Thank you for your time.
BESCHLOSS: Thank you. So sorry to leave you with such a cheerful thought
MADDOW: Well, you know, it`s our responsibility.
BESCHLOSS: Right. Right. Right. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more ahead tonight, including some news
that is of an entirely nonnuclear variety but it will curl your hair. And
that news tonight comes out of Alabama. That`s ahead.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Outside of politics in the normal contours of the usual news cycle
today, we, of course, have been following the developments all day today
out of Ohio State where there was that attack this morning which left 11
people in the hospital, left the attacker dead at the hands of a campus
police officer who shot him immediately following the attack.
Tonight, we have some new information on the attacker and his possible
motive. We`ve got some new information about what the experts are looking
at when it comes to that attack in terms of trying to find its links to
potential terrorism, some very specific information on the tactics of how
that attack was carried out.
That`s just ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: At this hour, there are still a lot of questions about this
morning`s attack at Ohio State University. Here`s the basics of what we
know right now.
It`s 9:52 local time this morning, a young man deliberately drove a car
into a crowd of people on the Ohio State campus, smashed people with the
car and then witnesses say he got out of the vehicle and then started
trying to stab people nearby with a butcher knife that he had on him.
Eleven people, a mixture of students, faculty and staff were injured in
this attack, one of them was critically injured, and then very shortly
thereafter the suspect was shot and killed by a campus police officer who
reacted quickly to what happened on that campus.
Now, late tonight, officials confirmed the suspect was 18 years old, first
year at Ohio State, who`s legal U.S. resident, who was born in Somalia.
Authorities say he left Somalia in 2007, lived in Pakistan for seven years
from 2007 to 2014 and then he immigrated to the United States with his
family in 2014.
Well, tonight law enforcement officials have confirmed to NBC News that
prior to this morning`s attack, the student posted a message on Facebook
saying that he had reached a, quote, “boiling point”. In that message, he
made reference to lone wolf attacks and he cited by name radical Islamic
cleric Anwar al Awlaki who, of course, was killed by a U.S. drone attack in
Yemen in 2011.
Now, even with all of that and with officials confirming that NBC News that
was something that he posted on Facebook, officials still say the
investigation is ongoing. They are still not definitively stating a motive
for the attack. And they may not be willing to make that declaration yet.
But understanding what happened today at Ohio state does mean looking at it
in context and in terms of tactics, this particular kind of attack, it
seems like a strange type of attack, particularly because so much of the
news this morning described it as an active shooter situation and there
turned out apparently to not be a gun involved in this. It seems like a
strange style attack but we have seen it before. It`s low-tech, it did not
involve sophisticated weaponry. There was no firearm from the attacker.
But in the past several years, both al Qaeda and ISIS have tried to get
their followers from around the world to start using cars to cause mass
casualty attacks. Al Qaeda wrote about modifying cars to make them more
deadly to pedestrians in their “Inspire” magazine in 2010. ISIS aped that
from al Qaeda, told their own followers to run down people with cars as
In 2013, you may remember in London, two attackers knocked a British
soldier named Lee Rigby to the ground. They hit him with a speeding car
before they set upon him and killed him in the street. They tried to
decapitate him with knives that they had.
The following year, 2014, attacker in Quebec rammed his vehicle into two
Canadian soldiers, killed one of them, hurt the other. That same year,
2014, in Dijon, France, a man who had a history of mental problems
reportedly shouted “Allahu Akbar” before deliberately crashing his vehicle
into 13 random pedestrians.
The very next day, also December 2014, in another part of France, western
France, another man drove his truck into a group of shoppers on the street.
He hurt ten people.
And, of course, the one that`s very present in our minds because it was the
most deadly attack of all and because it was this year was in Nice, where a
radicalized Muslim truck driver in that attack turned his large truck into
basically a battering ram on a seaside promenade, killed 86 people who were
watching fireworks for Bastille Day.
So, this tactic of using a vehicle like this, we have seen it before and we
don`t have a conclusive statement from law enforcement about the motive in
today`s attack. Authorities are not confirming terrorism. They are also
not ruling out terrorism. But they say it was a deliberate attack.
We know that this type of attack has become something approaching a
hallmark for terrorist motivated attacks, if not in this country, then
around the world.
And bottom line tonight, we`ve got 11 people injured, one critically. The
attacker is dead, thanks to that campus police officer. But all of his
victims are expected to survive.
More as we get it tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: You know when you catch somebody doing a thing you know they
weren`t supposed to be doing? And then they make that face?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You were caught today. You know what I`m
talking about, Senator. There you are. There`s the picture. During the 3
1/2 hour hearing –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That face. That “you caught me red-handed playing internet poker
at work” face.
An eagle-eyed “Washington Post” reporter indeed, this is not photoshopped,
snapped this picture of John McCain in 2013 playing video poker. And I
think part of the reason Senator McCain actually growled at his interview
there when he got caught that day was because when this photo was taken,
this wasn`t just like any hearing, just like some random moment in the
Senate. This was during the first congressional hearing to debate military
intervention in Syria, which John McCain had made his signature issue, he
had been going on and on and on about it.
So, like, probably not the time to be working on that royal flush, Senator.
But there he was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Occasionally, I get a little bored and so I
resorted but the worst thing about it is, I lost thousands of dollars on
BLITZER: You what?
MCCAIN: I lost thousands of dollars. I probably –
BLITZER: What do you mean?
MCCAIN: Well, it was a poker game and you play with play money, you know -
BLITZER: But you were playing for real money?
MCCAIN: No. No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: No. Not real dollars. Fake dollars.
John McCain made it through that brush with cell phone embarrassment
largely unscathed but that kind of thing can be largely destructive. In
politics, that can be career-ending destructive if you do it just the right
way and that story is still to come tonight.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: When Rick Perry finished his final term as Texas governor last
year, he took off two weeks and then he joined the board of an oil and gas
pipeline company. Two weeks. And that`s why the swamp stays so swampy.
Two weeks after leaving office as governor, he hopped on to the board of a
company called Energy Transfer Partners. Then, though, within a few months
he decided he wasn`t finished with politics. He launched his presidential
And usually when somebody becomes a presidential candidate, he or she
resigns from things like corporate boards, because you don`t want to have
the appearance of a conflict of interest while you are running to be
But Rick Perry did not resign from that corporate board. He stayed on the
board of the oil pipeline company all the way through his presidential
campaign. He`s still on that board today and not only was Rick Perry on
the board of directors of Energy Transfer Partners while he was running for
president, making hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and stock, his
presidential campaign was also essentially funded by the CEO of that same
That man`s name is Kelsey Warren and he gave $6 million to super PACs
supporting Rick Perry for president. Even Kelsey Warren`s millions,
though, could not win Rick Perry the presidential nomination. So,
eventually, after Rick Perry flamed out, Kelsey Warren started investing in
a different candidate. He started investing in Donald Trump.
And when a reporter caught up with that CEO, Kelsey Warren, just three days
after the election that Donald Trump won, well, he looked like a man whose
investment had just paid off.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelsey Warren is confident a Donald
Trump presidency means his company`s controversial Dakota Access Pipeline
will be completed.
Once he takes over January 20th, what are the prospects?
KELSEY WARREN, CEO, ENERGY TRANSFER PARTNERS: Oh, 100 percent.
REPORTER: A hundred percent that –
WARREN: That the easement gets granted and the pipeline gets built.
REPORTER: The president-elect has minor holdings in Warren`s company and
Warren donated $103,000 to Trump`s campaign.
Have you spoken to Donald Trump about the pipeline?
WARREN: I`ve never met the man.
REPORTER: You`ve never met him?
REPORTER: But he`s invested in you and you`re invested in him.
WARREN: Well, I wish him well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: He`s invested in you and you invested in him, cute cartoonish
laugh and twirling the ends of a mustache. Yep.
Donald Trump holds thousands of dollars of stock in Energy Transfer
Partners, which is the company that is building the Dakota Access Pipeline.
He owns hundreds of thousands of dollars in stock in another oil company
that has a huge share in that same pipeline.
So, there`s these hundreds of protesters who are currently camped out on
federal land, blocking the completion of that pipeline. If those
protesters are still there when Donald Trump becomes president, he will
have to decide as president whether to continue the Obama administration`s
dialogue with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe or maybe he`ll decide to
forcibly remove the protesters and force the pipeline through.
And when he makes that decision, the president`s own personal finances will
be affected by that decision by whether or not that pipeline gets finished
and in what way and how quickly because apparently he is not even bothering
to sell his stock, even in companies that we can tell from right here will
be directly affected from the decisions of himself and his administration
as soon as he takes office.
We`ve never seen anything like this before. I mean, in talking about the
president-elect`s enumerable conflicts of interest around his business
life, we have been mostly focused on whether he would try to extricate
himself from his, you know, business interests and properties around the
world, things associated with Trump Incorporated.
Explained why he would not extricate himself from his real estate holdings
and his other business ventures, Mr. Trump told “The Times,” quote, “That`s
a very hard thing to do because I have real estate. Selling real estate
isn`t like selling stock. Selling real estate is much different. It`s in
a much different world.”
Right. Selling real estate is not like selling stock. Selling stock is
much easier. You just sell it.
But so far, it doesn`t appear that Donald Trump has any intention of making
even that small gesture. Even in terms of companies where he`s already got
a direct conflict, even if that means he will take office having a personal
and direct financial stake in one of the most contentious policy
flashpoints in the country right now. How can that possibly be legal?
Joining us now is Peter Henning, law professor at Wayne State University.
He`s been writing about these issues as a contributor to “The New York
Professor Henning, really appreciate you being here tonight. Thanks for
PETER HENNING, LAW PROFESSOR, WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY: Thank you for having
MADDOW: Can the president legally make a decision about approving or
disapproving a pipeline, something like this, if his decision will increase
the value of stock that he holds in the company building that pipeline?
Can he do that?
HENNING: Short answer is yes. The law has an exemption for the president,
vice president, members of Congress and judges that the restriction on
making any decision that affects financial interests of that person, that
they are exempt from it. The idea being that presidents make decisions
every day and any decision could affect his financial interests and so the
law has an exemption for them.
MADDOW: Let`s imagine a scenario that I think is not particularly
hypothetical. I think I`m making more of a prediction here. But let`s say
that Trump Towers all over the world start rocketing through the building
permit process and Trump Towers and real estate projects all over the world
in 150 countries everywhere start getting big, you know, really low
interest loans from state-owned banks and it`s clear what`s going on is
that other countries are trying to curry favor with the president by
helping his business out and the Trump family, therefore, makes millions,
maybe even billions of dollars out of those transactions.
Are those also legal?
HENNING: Well, Trump can`t control what a foreign government or a foreign
company does but he certainly has to be aware of that. And he`s got to
take steps at some point to make sure that there isn`t that kind of
currying of favor.
This is – we have a law called the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
American businesses cannot pay bribes abroad. We don`t have anything
reciprocal in that regard but we`ve never had to confront this issue
before. No president has ever had these kinds of financial interests.
So, we`re really in brand-new territory. How do you deal with that
situation? The starting point, of course, is transparency. What are
Trump`s financial interests? And I don`t know if we really know the extent
of his financial interests except he has a lot of buildings with his name
MADDOW: When you say he`s got to take steps, you mean that just in terms
of like preserving the illusion of decency here, right? You don`t actually
mean that in any legal sense?
HENNING: No, not in any legal sense. And he certainly can`t be forced to.
But as this becomes more and more of a distraction, as every decision gets
examined and every presidential decision becomes a punching bag, at some
point you have to get rid of the distraction and one way to get rid of the
distraction, of course, is to divest. But Trump is right, you can`t just
go out and sell property, but at least if everybody knows what your
financial interests are, that is a good first step to being able to say –
this isn`t that big of a deal, or maybe it is. But let everybody know what
you are doing.
MADDOW: Also, be susceptible to criticism. I mean, that whole premise,
you`re embarrassed or distracted or bothered by this. That is one thing
HENNING: Right. If you have very thin skin, then this is going to be a
HENNING: But in business, there are a lot of sharp elbows. Well, deal
MADDOW: Peter Henning, law professor at Wayne State University,
contributor to “The New York Times DealBook”, writing about these issues –
appreciate your time tonight, sir. Thanks for being here.
HENNING: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: NBC News has just reported some interesting news from the Trump
transition team. I`ll read it to you verbatim.
Quote, “A high level source familiar with the decision making tells NBC
News that Georgia Congressman Tom Price is expected to be announced as the
president-elect`s pick to head the Department of Health and Human
This is described as a single-source reporting but it`s a high-level source
familiar with the decision making. Tom Price, of course, is a Georgia
Republican congressman. Right now, he`s chair of the House Budget
Committee. The thing he`s most known for in Washington, he`s the guy who
writes the bill over and over and over and over again to repeal Obamacare.
Remember when they passed that like 50, 60 times and they kept repealing
Obamacare and it never repealed Obamacare? He`s the guy who wrote that
If this reporting is accurate, he`ll be in charge of Health and Human
Services for the Trump administration. We await a formal announcement from
the Trump transition team. NBC thinks they`ve got this dead to rights
More ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Siding with veterans is one of the no-brainers in American
politics. I mean, at least saying that you`re taking the side of veterans,
it`s mandatory in American politics.
But a couple of years ago, we learned that taking care of veterans could be
turned into a convenient political turned into a convenient political
crisis, and that crisis could be driven on purpose.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
PETE HEGSETH, CEO, CONCERNED VETERANS FOR AMERICA: Concerned Veterans of
America is an organization this network literally created. Now, unless
you`ve been under a rock for the last couple of months, you know about the
crisis at the Department of Veterans Affairs. What you probably don`t know
is the central role that Concerned Veterans for America played in exposing
and driving this crisis from the very beginning.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Exposing and driving this crisis, you know the crisis of the V.A.,
we`ve been exposing and driving that from the very beginning.
That was the head of a group called Concerned Veterans for America,
reportedly speaking at a secret Koch brothers donor conference in June
2014. That audiotape was posted at “The Nation” magazine by a group called
“The Undercurrent.” I should tell you that recording was not independently
confirmed by MSNBC, but it has not been denied.
That said, the group represented by that speaker, Concerned Veterans for
America, they have long prioritized privatizing the V.A., getting rid of
the V.A. basically in favor of a, quote, “market-based reform”. Meaning,
you lived it up to the private sector to take care of our veterans.
They`d get a coupon or a voucher or something, and fight it out on the
private market to try to get interest needs met. And they also try not to
make it sound like they want to privatize the V.A.
But when you hear market-based and veterans choice, what they are talking
about privatizing the V.A. They`re talking about killing off the Veterans
Now, it used to be, politically, you can touch that topic with a 10-foot
pole, right? Veterans don`t want the V.A. privatized. Veterans don`t want
the V.A. abolished. Nobody wants to look like they`re in favor of leaving
veterans in the dust.
But during the Republican presidential primary last year, this group,
Concerned Veterans for America that wants to privatized and get rid of the
V.A., they started putting on these sort of town hall political shows, they
called them defend and reform and they`d interviewed big name Republican
candidates like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul
and Jeb Bush and they would get them sort of aligned on their issues, and
suddenly, almost the entire slate of Republican presidential candidates was
also saying that they, too, were all about privatizing parts or all of the
So, politically, it seemed like their plan was working. All of these big
name Republicans were getting on board with something that used to be
considered red hot, used to be considered way too radical, and used to be
considered crossing veterans. I mean, the people who were most definitely
on board were veterans.
I mean, when Ben Carson proposed abolishing the V.A., saying we no longer
needs the V.A., eight veterans groups joined forces and wrote him a
scathing letter. Quote, “We vehemently disagree with this dangerous
When you poll actual veterans at large on whether or not they want to
privatize the V.A., the answer is a resounding no.
During his campaign, like other Republican candidates, Donald Trump`s team
said he was cool with privatizing at least big parts of the V.A. and as
president-elect, the group advising him right now on veterans policy is the
“kill the V.A.” group, this Concerned Veterans for America group, that
claimed credit for driving that crisis around V.A. care, to turn it into a
political opportunity to abolish the V.A.
Well, tomorrow big meeting scheduled at Trump tower with the guy who used
to run Concerned Veterans for America, the guy who was caught on videotape
apparently boasting about how his group played a central role in driving
He tells “The New York Times” now that he hopes to get privatization of the
V.A. rolling in the first six months of President Trump`s term. Maybe
he`ll whisper into the ear of President-elect Trump tomorrow.
Already Donald Trump is taking heat for it from veterans. Iraq and
Afghanistan Veterans of America put out a statement tonight, saying, quote,
“We are extremely concerned that President-elect Trump has jet do meet
publicly with a single leader of any of the established national veterans
organizations. But instead, Mr. Trump`s first publicized meeting on
veterans issues is with a leader of controversial and partisan political
Again, that meeting is scheduled for tomorrow. I have a very good idea of
what they`ll be talking about.
MADDOW: I have a correction tonight on one of the tawdriest stories we`ve
covered all year. Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions is going to be the new
administration`s nomination for attorney general. If he gets that job, the
chore of replacing him in the United States Senate would go to his state`s
governor, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley.
In talking about that the other day, I said that Governor Bentley could
potentially nominate himself for that Senate seat, thereby avoiding
potential impeachment back at home over his alleged affair with his top
adviser, and maybe even the results of an investigation, where the state
attorney general looking into that.
It turns out, though, I was not up on my current reading of the Alabama
state constitution, which would forbid the governor from appointing himself
to that seat during his term as governor and for a year afterwards. So,
Governor Bentley can`t appoint himself to the Senate. I was wrong about
that. I`m sorry.
But someone the governor could appoint who wants that seat is Alabama state
attorney general, he says he`ll open – he`ll run for that seat if it
opens. He said he would accept the appointment to the seat from the
governor, in the meantime.
And that is incredible, because the Alabama state attorney general right
now is conducting an investigation into Governor Bentley`s sex scandal, in
which he allegedly used state resources to carry out an affair with his top
political adviser, he was caught on tape talking about how he loves
standing behind her and doing stuff.
The attorney general is investigating that and he`s also now telling the
governor he`d like that Senate seat, please.
There`s also a wrongful termination lawsuit that`s been filed against the
governor from his former chief of security, his body man. Within this
lawsuit are some details we`ve never heard before, detailed allegations
we`ve never heard before about the governor. The former body man to the
governor says he was ousted from the administration for this affair with –
outed for this affair to his wife, because according to the suit, the
governor synched his iPad and his iPhone, but he didn`t understand what
So, he gave his iPad to his wife, she ended up seeing some of the text
messages from his adviser, and he says that`s how the wife learned about
The body man also says the governor sometimes leased a private plane so
there`d be manifest showing him jetting around with his adviser with whom
he was having the affair.
But of all the allegations, one stands out, after everybody around governor
begged him to break it off, the body man says he got sent to actually dump
the girlfriend. He says, the governor said, quote, “I need you to go
upstairs and break up with her for me.”
The break up had dragged on for about an hour apparently, this discussion.
The body man and the mistress both crying according to this lawsuit when
the governor walked in and started rubbing the woman`s shoulders and
stroking her hair and telling her, quote, “Baby, it`s going to be all
right.” As you might expect, it didn`t take, the breakup thing, so says
the body man.
New allegations against the governor in this lawsuit, new questions as to
who will replace Jeff Sessions and new interesting potential negotiation
between the governor and the attorney general investigating him for this
affair and the use of state property to further that in that state.
See, Trump administration`s going to be fun to cover in Washington. It`s
going to be really, really, really fun to cover its ramifications in
statehouses around the country.
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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