The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 12/5/2016
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: December 5, 2016
Guest: Justin Bamberg, David Cay Johnston, Christina Greer
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now with Ari Melber
in for Rachel.
Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. Rachel is
off tonight. She`ll be back tomorrow.
Now, looking back, maybe the tipping point, the point of no return was Jade
Helm. This all started about 18 months ago when the U.S. military
announced an 18-week training exercise in several states in the American
Southwest. The idea was for Green Berets and Navy SEALs and other Special
Operations troops to train in different kinds of terrain, that they might
find themselves in overseas.
Now, that was the official stated purpose of Jade Helm. But on conspiracy
theorist websites, and on the far right fringe, Jade Helm was the first
stage of a martial law takeover of Texas and maybe other states. On the
fringe right, Jade Helm was actually the military setting up prison camps
for American citizens and also something to do with aliens hiding
Jade Helm was all about a network of underground tunnels where the
entrances were disguised by mysteriously closed down Wal-Marts. The
tunnels went into deep military bases, DUMs for short, DUMs. That`s
Now, if you line the maps upright, you can see with your wide open eyes the
network of underground Wal-Mart tunnels and that would be where the Chinese
troops would set up their headquarters or maybe the Wal-Mart where they
stash all of the Texas patriot guns after the Jade Helm troops helped take
them away. Whatever it was, folks, it was all in the maps.
(BEGIN VDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are maps circulating that show several
underground, deep underground bases around the United States. There are
also maps circulating that show tunnels that connect those bases. You will
also see how Wal-Marts connect to some of the bases and some of the
ALEX JONES, RADIO HOST, INFO WARS: In the document, Texas, Utah, and
conservative areas of southern California are listed as hostile areas.
RICK WILES, TRUNEWS: I hope Jade Helm 15 is not the preparation for or the
actual implementation of a roundup of patriotic men who have the capacity
to influence and inspire the citizenry to resist a coup against the
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MELBER: We hope so, too.
Now, that was the Jade Helm conspiracy theory, just basically a nutty
theory. It could have ended there, a few people out on the fringe
uploading the videos or calling into radio shows. But it spread. It grew.
And here`s why it may be a tipping point. It went from the fringe to
mainstream conservative and fast. The Republican governor of Texas, Greg
Abbott, actually ordered the state guard to monitor the Jade Helm exercise
so that, quote, “Texans know their safety constitutional rights, private
property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed.”
To be clear now, he called out his state guard to monitor the U.S. military
He wasn`t alone. Texas Senator Ted Cruz said he wrote to the Pentagon to
demand answers about Jade Helm. Senator Rand Paul, of course, a
presidential contender at the time, said he was looking into the issue.
Suddenly, along with legitimate policy issues like guns or abortion, this
fantasy conspiracy of a military takeover of Texas became some sort of
sleeper litmus test in Republican politics. How seriously you took the
threat of this takeover of Texas was a litmus test for the GOP presidential
primary. That is just nuts.
Now, President Obama has cited this very case study, which you may or may
not remember, as exactly what was wrong with the modern GOP.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We did a military exercise,
Texas and suddenly all of the folks in Texas are like, they are going to
take over right now.
And then the senator down there said, yeah, we better look into that. And
the governor says, well, I don`t know.
What do you mean you don`t know?
What does that mean? Are – really? You think that like the entire
Pentagon said, oh, really, you want to declare martial law and take over
Texas, let`s do it under the guise of routine training missions and
everybody is going to be – but they took it seriously. This is in the
swamp of crazy that has been fed over and over and over and over again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, it may not have been totally obvious at the time, but Jade
Helm was a kind of an early warning about how fake news can be
mainstreamed, especially when the misinformation is powered through fact-
free partisan politics and especially when fringe believers just want to
hear candidates say they`ll look into some theory. It`s a rhetorical
specialty of the candidate who took conspiracy theories to another level
this year, Donald Trump, and he was perhaps eclipsed only by Ben Carson for
peddling things he should have known better than to peddle.
Dr. Ben Carson was not using the scientific method when he offered up
theories like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. BEN CARSON (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, Mahmoud Abbas
of the Palestinian Authority and Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran,
were both classmates in the class of 1968 at Patrice Lumumba University in
Moscow where they became acquainted with a young Vladimir Putin. So, these
are deep ties.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Deep. Well, those three people were not classmates in Moscow or
For starters, Putin is a good decade and a half younger than the other two.
Ben Carson later said he learned about the ties between those leaders from
advisers across the government that he wouldn`t name, including the CIA,
and he added, “There`s a lot more information I`ve gotten that`s probably
not appropriate for the revelation.”
Well, there was a time Carson asserted the Chinese had deployed troops in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARSON: We also must recognize it`s a very complex placement. You know,
the Chinese are there as well as the Russians and you have all kinds of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, that could have been a simple misstatement. We all make
them. But what`s important, rather than deal with that kind of a defense,
Carson aides just doubled down. They said their own special intelligence
determined China had deployed in Syria, which it had not.
Ben Carson was getting a lot of weird and accurate information from a lot
of places in the campaign and we haven`t mentioned the story he likes to
tell about how there was a Star of David on the back of the $1 bill –
spoiler, there isn`t one – or that the pyramids in Egypt were not built by
the Egyptians and were used as grain silos, no matter how archeologists
And, tara tara ra ta, Dr. Ben Carson today, as you may have heard, is
Donald Trump`s nominee for the secretary of housing and urban development,
which is strange on a few levels, the fact that Carson, though he is a
remarkable surgeon, has no qualifications for a federal housing agency.
The fact that during the campaign Trump called him a pathological person
and compared him to a, quote, “child molester” at point, and the fact that
Carson, according to his closes advisers just today still doesn`t feel
qualified for the job or want it.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RACHEL MARTIN, NPR: A few weeks ago, you were quoted in media reports
saying Ben Carson wasn`t interested in the cabinet job. And I`m quoting
now, “Dr. Carson feels he has no government experience, he`s never run a
federal agency, the last thing he`d want to do is take a position that
could cripple the presidency.” Is that no longer the case?
ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS: That was not accurate, by the way. Dr. Carson`s
position was that he preferred that Mr. Trump could find someone that could
fit the role of what he wanted. He would have preferred to stay in private
industry but that`s not what Mr. Trump wanted. He wants Dr. Carson on his
cabinet and he`s going to have to serve.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MELBER: That was this morning. This nomination was just weird when you
consider all of the ways in which Ben Carson seems to have a kind of
disconnect with reality. If Dr. Carson is confirmed, he`ll not only be –
he won`t be the only conspiracy theorist in Trump`s inner circle.
Take General Michael Flynn, who is Trump`s national security adviser. He`s
been a frequent distributor of conspiracy theories online, including on
Twitter and fake news stories, slamming Hillary Clinton, including the
false and slanderous allegation she was involved in some kind of child sex
General Flynn`s son, who also his chief of staff and we know how a
government transition e-mail account already has been pushing a Hillary
Clinton sex ring conspiracy theory that also involves a pizza restaurant in
Washington, D.C., and he continued to push that theory over the past day,
even after a gunman entered that very restaurant and fired at least one
shot. The gunman reportedly telling police he was there to self-
investigate one of those conspiracy theories.
We want to be clear tonight, we don`t know enough yet about the mental
state of that man or what motivated him or even whether even him or his
actions fit into any political affiliation. We`re reporting on this
because it`s so much bigger than that individual gunman. The fact is, that
Trump`s national security advisory and his chief of staff are peddlers of
these kinds of outlandish conspiracy theories with all kinds of real
And when the transition team says Trump was well-briefed on his call with
the president of the Taiwan, they might be taking a page out of Ben
Carson`s campaign defense that his private briefings Trumped the actual
facts and intelligence because while Trump reportedly skips most intel
briefings offered by the actual CIA, this is one of the people who is
There`s a lot of concern about fake news right now in the body of politic.
We can add fake intelligence to that list as well, as it appears to be
working its way right up through the new president`s cabinet.
Joining us now for historical context is Michael Beschloss, NBC`s
presidential historian. Great to have you here tonight.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Great to see you, Ari.
MELBER: How new is this in our government and politics what does this say
to you about how much we have to worry about this?
BESCHLOSS: Well, I think we`re seeing this grow in recent years. You
know, you well remember in 2004, when a lot of people who voted for George
W. Bush thought Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11 or there was
something grossly wrong with John Kerry`s war record, which is heroic, in
Vietnam, and now, we have an outgoing president who many people have been
led to believe is a secret Muslim or was born in Kenya. Still a lot of
people believe that.
These things did not all happen by accident.
MELBER: Have other outsiders who have come to Washington – and we know
it`s been popular throughout history in both parties – relied as much on
picking outsider candidates? It`s hard to come up with any example of
someone like Carson who has so publicly suggested that he neither wants nor
is capable of doing this post?
BESCHLOSS: Yes, I guess one point for honesty and candor. But beyond
that, usually we`re watching a huge experiment. We`ve never seen a
president like Donald Trump come in with, as we`ve said before, no military
experience, no public service experience. He wears that as a badge of
But would you think that he would be trying to sort of calm people who were
worried about the fact that there are certain things he doesn`t know and
John Kennedy had been in Congress for 14 years yet he felt that because he
was only 43 years old, the youngest elected, he`d better appoint some
pretty senior people to foreign policy positions which he did. George W.
Bush came in after being governor of Texas with no foreign policy
experience. He immediately appointed Colin Powell as secretary of state.
I`m surprised that Donald Trump doesn`t say a lot of people who voted
against me, even some who voted for me, are unsettled by the fact that
there are some things I haven`t done before, and maybe I can calm them down
by appointing people who have had a lot of time in this work.
MELBER: What do you think about the idea that one of the traditional
knocks against the press was to try to influence what the incumbent or
traditional press would do and certainly that`s a feature of modern
campaigns for a long time. What about the shift here that perhaps when you
look at people like Steve Bannon in the White House who began – worked to
push Breitbart.com out and the reliance on these stories, including what we
just showed, the idea that their an effort to supplant the entire press, to
replace it with your own web drop?
BESCHLOSS: You`ve seen Republicans saying in the most recent days saying
we don`t need the press anymore, and that`s something different than almost
the whole of American history because that`s only been possible during the
time of the Internet which is, what, 15, 20 years.
So, we as Americans who want to preserve our democracy, we better think
about new ways to make sure that in this age in which fake news can be
disseminated in a very big way on the Internet, that people who read this
will know how to disseminate, how to separate wheat from chaff.
MELBER: Right. I mean, this is – this seems to be where it`s going when
you have a president-elect so proud of his own communication abilities,
which obviously served him well partly politically.
NBC presidential historian Michael Beschloss – thanks for being here
BESCHLOSS: My pleasure, Ari.
MELBER: Appreciate it.
Coming up, we are going to talk to the attorney for the family in the North
Charleston police shooting case that joins – he`ll join us tonight. Stay
MELBER: Vice President Joe Biden paid a visit to his old colleagues in the
U.S. Senate today. Now, tons of reporters gathered around to hear what he
had to say. And he was a little bit pensive and also just this side of
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every time I come up
here, I feel invigorated. I love this place. I mean, this is where I
spent my life.
REPORTER: Are you going to run again?
BIDEN: Yes, I am. I`m going to run in 20.
REPORTER: For what?
BIDEN: For president. You know, so what the hell? Anyway –
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, regardless of whether the VP was kidding today when he said
he was going to run in 2020, the Democrats know they need a plan. We`re
going to take a deeper dive into what we`re learning about that a little
later in the show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDY SCOTT, MOTHER OF WALTER SCOTT: He will get his just reward and we
have the federal trial and another trial to go. I`m just waiting on the
CHRIS STEWART, SCOTT FAMILY ATTORNEY: He may have delayed justice, but he
did not escape it. We all saw what he did. We all saw what happened. But
that`s the justice system. One person or two people can disagree.
JUSTIN BAMBERG, SCOTT FAMILY ATTORNEY: There is no way at the end of the
day that former officer Michael Slager can escape what`s coming to him and
that is a conviction and that is prison time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The lawyers and family of Walter Scott reacting today to that
deadlocked jury in the case against the police officer who shot him. That
was Michael Slager. The 50-year-old Scott was unarmed and fleeing when
Slager shot him in the back last April. This was after a traffic stop in
A bystander recorded video of the incident sparking national attention,
outrage, and two indictments from local as well as federal authorities.
Now, we want to advise you, the video we`re about to show is very graphic
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MELBER: The video, which was shown in the trial, showed not only that key
moment of the shooting where Scott doesn`t look like he poses the kind of
threat legally required to justify deadly force. It also showed the key
moments after the shooting where Slager handcuffed Scott`s dead body and
appears to drop an object near it.
Prosecutors accused Slager of planting evidence to stage a fight over a
taser that never happened. You can see some of that here, according to
that citizen-produced video. Now, the prosecutor told the jury that action
was revealing because it showed Slager`s, quote, “first instinct after
killing Scott was to stage the scene.” The jury heard that evidence in the
month-long trial, along with Slager`s denials that he ever planted evidence
or fired without cause.
They deliberated over four days and after that deadlock, the jurors told
the judge most of them were ready to convict but they were facing at least
one holdout. The holdout wrote a letter to the judge saying that at times
his heart was with the Scott family. He wrote, quote, “My heart does not
want to have to tell the Scott family that the man that killed their son,
brother and father is innocent,” but he also wrote, “But I cannot with good
conscience consider a guilty verdict.”
The jury deliberated further but by this afternoon today, they hit a wall
and the judge read their note as he ruled the case a mistrial.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDGE: I received a note that says, “We as a jury regret to inform the
court that despite the best efforts of all members, we are unable to come
to a unanimous decision in the case of the state versus Michael Slager.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: With no unanimous decision, the judge ruled a mistrial.
Prosecutors quickly announced tonight they are going to try this case
again. Now, if the jurors were correct that prosecutors were one vote away
from a conviction, they may have good odds at a new trial.
But the entire act of pressing a murder case against any police officers an
uphill battle. Prosecutors rarely bring these cases to begin with, and in
the 78 cases against officers for shooting since 2005, only one case has
resulted in a murder conviction.
Joining me now is South Carolina State Representative Justin Bamberg who
represented the family of Walter Scott.
Thanks for joining.
Your reaction to the mistrial and what it says for a new trial.
BAMBERG: Well, it`s admittedly disappointing. Of course we wanted a
conviction. Of course, we think a conviction was warranted.
But at the end of the day, this is not a win for a former officer Michael
Slager. This is not a loss for the Scott family. This is just justice
delayed and we do know that at the end of the day, the state, they are
going to proceed forward, the feds are going to proceed forward and officer
Slager will get what`s coming to him and that`s a conviction for murder or
MELBER: You are making a prediction about what the next case my result and
there are a lot of people are asking how with such seemingly damning video,
you couldn`t get a unanimous verdict in the first place? To those people,
do you think their concern, outrage or skepticism is warranted?
BAMBERG: You know, I understand their concern. We all know it is very
difficult to convict a law enforcement officer in this country. In part
because with what they are tasked with doing every day, which is protecting
and serving. They deal with difficult situations.
But here – I mean, it`s without question, anybody with a soul would think
that what officer Slager did was wrong. I don`t think that the problems
with the jury here boil down to a question of fact. Fact, officer Slager
shot an unarmed man running away with the first shot being at 17 feet and
the last being at approximately 50. Fact, he attempted to plant the taser
afterwards. Fact, he lied about what he did.
I think the concerns here with this one juror was questions of law and
their interpretation of the law. Anybody who is familiar with trial work
knows that is one of the risks you take whenever you do go to the jury.
MELBER: When you look at the issues of race that are so often raised here,
what do you take from this and does it matter that this jury in a community
that is very diverse was a breakdown of 11 Caucasian and one African-
BAMBERG: You know, when you look at the jury, of course you`d want it to
reflect the population a bit more accurately. But hey, let`s call it how
it is. At the end of the day, white people believe in justice in these
So, you know, that was never really a concern for myself, the legal team or
the family. I think when you look at the questions that were posed – and
we will find out, Lord willing, for certain when the prosecution has the
chance to speak with the jurors, but I don`t think this was an issue of
race with the jury.
Anybody, black, white, red, brown, you can look at what Slager did and know
that it was wrong and that it was a murder. At a minimum, it was a
voluntary manslaughter. There just so happened to be one juror and that`s
all it takes, there was one that was not willing to convict him for
whatever reason. And that`s okay. That is how the system works.
But at the end of the day, we are going to get justice. This family is
standing tall. There`s a saying that if you fall on your back, as long as
you can look up, you can get up. Well, I can tell you that the Scott
family is up. They`re hopeful, prayerful, they`re faithful and we will see
MELBER: And, briefly, you mentioned those two charges. Do you have any
indication from your work over whether the jury was deadlocked over a
murder charge or the lesser manslaughter charge?
BAMBERG: I do not. The inkling that I had is a juror didn`t think one of
the elements of manslaughter was met, for whatever reason. Only that
person knows. Bull I think here, you`re looking at a situation where
you`re almost unanimous with regards to either murder or manslaughter and
there was just one holdout.
MELBER: All right. Attorney and State Representative Justin Bamberg on
what was a busy for you and your team – thanks for your time.
BAMBERG: Thank you.
MELBER: Still ahead tonight, Republicans now have unilateral control over
more than two dozen states but they lost one. Hold that thought.
MELBER: Statistically speaking, governors running for re-election just
about always win. If you have the title of governor already and what
you`re trying to do is keep that title – well, you`re about five times
more likely to win than you are to lose. Sitting governors, of course, can
lose, it just doesn`t happen often. And that makes the announcement in
North Carolina all the more remarkable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. PAT MCCRORY (R), NORTH CAROLINA: As Ann and I get ready for the
Christmas holidays, we are reminded of how fortunate we are to live in a
free country. We are also thankful for all of those who have served and
protected our freedom and for those who continue to do so. You know, being
the 74th governor of North Carolina has been a privilege and an honor.
But during this wonderful season, it`s also time to celebrate our
democratic process and respect what I see to be the ultimate outcome of the
closest North Carolina governor`s race in modern history. Despite
continued questions that should be answered regarding the voting process, I
personally believe that the majority of our citizens have spoken and we now
should do everything we can to support the 75th governor of North Carolina,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: A conciliatory note there from North Carolina`s Republican
governor conceding that race. It is almost four weeks after the actual
Election Day. Governor McCrory had at times alleged massive voter fraud.
Last week, he demanded and received a recount in one heavily Democratic
But after teams poured over the results in that county this weekend and
into today, Governor McCrory didn`t gain a single extra vote. His
opponent, Democrat Roy Cooper, picked up six. Cooper is the attorney
general. And as you can see, will become the governor next month.
This was writ large an unusual election year and there have been many
lectures from Republicans about dealing with new realities and giving new
office holder as chance to govern.
That maybe a self-serving argument in Washington, D.C., firmly a one-party
town, and now it may be tested in North Carolina, a Trump red state that
still rejected what many there saw as right-wing overreaches by McCrory.
The question now is whether Republicans there who still control the state
legislature will actually give their new Democratic executive a chance. If
you believe in the votes that have been tallied, he has certainly earned
Watch this space.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEC BALDWIN AS DONALD TRUMP: Kellyanne, I just retweeted the best tweet.
I mean, wow, what a great, smart tweet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Trump, we`re in a security briefing.
BALDWIN: I know, but this could not wait. It was from a young man named
Seth, he`s 16, he`s in high school and I really did retweet him.
Seriously. This is real.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He really did do this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, sir, you`re the president-elect so I guess you
can do whatever you want but we`d really like to fill you in on Syria.
BALDWIN: Gosh, Seth seems so cool. His Twitter bio says he wants to make
America great again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is cool, sir.
BALDWIN: It also says he loves the Anaheim Ducks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was the opening sketch from “SNL” this weekend, poking fun at
Trump`s habit of retweeting the compliments he gets from pretty much
randomly anyone on Twitter.
Now, at least one viewer didn`t take kindly to it. The president-elect
found time to tweet right after midnight, quote, “Just tried watching
`Saturday Night Live`, unwatchable, totally biased, not funny and the
Baldwin impersonation just can`t get any worse. Sad.”
Trump`s remarks offer a window into his mind, his viewing habits, and even
his many petty grievances. At midnight, the president-elect was tweeting
about Alec Baldwin. By 6:40 a.m., though, the next morning, he was back,
threatening to punish companies for leaving the U.S., saying, “Any business
that leaves U.S. soil and takes those jobs abroad can be expected to be
taxed heavily, 35 percent on any goods they plan on selling to America,”
this includes foreign cars or A.C. units.
He added, quote, “The U.S. is open for business.” Now, warning the global
economy will penalize other countries is not necessarily the warmest or the
most traditional way to stay open for business and also doesn`t sound like
the way to endear yourself to Republicans in Congress. These are the
people who would have to actually pass the laws to turn any tweet ideas
into actual policy.
And it turns out, get a load of this, Republican Majority Leader Kevin
McCarthy already came out to this approach in response to the tweets today.
In fact, it`s not even clear the Trump/Pence transition team itself or
incoming administration supports the policy he brain stormed on Twitter.
Last week, their administration cut its first major economic deal, and as
you might recall, they traded billions of dollars in tax benefits just to
keep on some of Carrier`s plant jobs in Indiana. Carrier still plans on
moving a separate plant all the way out to Mexico.
So, will Carrier, that just hosted a Trump event last week, also be
punished with this 35 percent retribution threat?
We are fully in unchartered territory here where we are seeing the soon-to-
be president lay out his economic policy or issuing threats of retribution
to U.S. companies on Twitter.
Joining us now is David Cay Johnston, investigative reporter and author of
“The Making of Donald Trump.”
What do you make of these threats? Are they real and could they be turned
into federal policy?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, AUTHOR, “THE MAKING OF DONALD TRUMP”: Well, I have a
hard time imaging that a lot of the free trader Republicans are going to
completely reverse course and support a 35 percent tariff that will benefit
China and effectively raise prices on Americans because domestic companies
will face less pressure than on pricing to increase the prices that are
goods. You know, the Republicans tried this in 1930 with Smoot-Hawley
tariff and it made the Great Depression worse.
MELBER: Why did the foreign impacts then affect the price of U.S. goods?
JOHNSTON: Well, if you – this is what developing countries did and what
we did at the beginning of the republic. If you put a tariff on foreign
goods, it allows domestic manufacturers to charge higher prices, build up
their capital and become more successful over time. But it is really a tax
on people at the bottom end. It`s one of the major reasons we got the
income tax in this country, the last major industrial countries to get the
income tax a little over 100 years ago, was to get away from tariffs and
how punitive they are of people down the income ladder.
MELBER: Where do you think he`s actually getting these ideas? In other
words, you`re explaining why they don`t work very well. You`re giving the
history that some of this has been tried and we`ve moved on from it. Is
this the fact that his toolbox is somewhat limited because he`s kind of
just brainstorming or do you have any knowledge of advisers around him that
actually want to go back down this hole notwithstanding where the
Republican leadership is in Congress?
JOHNSTON: Well, there are certainly people Donald is listening to, like
former Ambassador Bolton who want to provoke a change here in policy. And
I certainly wouldn`t argue that we should just accept the China policy that
we have. But you don`t do it by tweeting. You do it in a thoughtful,
The important thing to remember, Ari, about Donald is, he`s like a cub
newspaper reporter. The last thing he heard is the most important thing in
the world and so pay attention to who has just seen him and then watch his
tweets and you`ll have a pretty good idea of who is influencing him just as
he changed his tone on Obamacare after meeting with President Obama and
talking about pre-existing conditions and young people under the age of 26.
MELBER: Right. And so this raises the other point, which is we hear a lot
of defenses of Trump, well, this is a fancy negotiating tactic, and he`s so
good at leveraging in business. And that seems like a weird defense
because anyone who is good at leverage in business can follow the same
tweets and same backtracking and see that Carrier actually got money, that
he was a lot of tough talk but then he handed out corporate welfare.
So, I know we`re not to take too much of that seriously. But what do you
make of that, that sort of folks are pretending that the best defense of
him is that no one around the world is paying attention?
JOHNSTON: Well, first of all, it`s a facade that Donald is a great
negotiator. There are actually professors of law who teach litigation and
negotiating strategy and some of them have spoken about that Donald is not
a good negotiator.
Secondly, this isn`t negotiation. This is an erratic personality that
we`re going to have in the Oval Office, behaving the way he`s always
behaved. He`s not deeply steeped in these issues. Donald doesn`t
understand the important historical issues, including U.S. military
obligations to the government and the Chinese government initially
responded to this in a very thoughtful, measured way.
Now you`re seeing them ramp this up. And you can be sure they are out
there talking to Pacific Rim countries and saying, hey, we`re the country
of the future. You want to look to Beijing, not to Washington and that guy
who thinks that tweeting is a form of diplomacy.
MELBER: David Cay Johnston, author of “The Making of Donald Trump” –
thanks for your time tonight.
JOHNSTON: Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: And still ahead, when you lose an election, the way Democrats lost
this last one, a little soul searching is understandably in order. But
first, the latest on a surprise win for progressives.
Stay with us.
MELBER: For months, this has been the scene in Cannon Ball, North Dakota.
Thousands of people camped out to protest the construction of an oil
pipeline. That`s near the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Reservation. They say
the pipeline would pollute their drinking water, disrupt sacred burial
grounds, and that they would not budge until a new route has been
It`s been a long few months for many people there, battling harsh weather,
clashes with law enforcement. But then yesterday, this happened.
Yesterday, the Army Corps of Engineers announced it would not allow the
pipeline to run upstream from that Standing Rock reservation, that it would
look into other places to try to place the pipes. Protesters hugged, they
held hands and they cheered. They celebrated that this time, this direct
action worked. Their voices were heard. They won.
Or at least we can tell you they won for now. The pipeline builder is
saying they are committed to that original plan, that they will complete
construction of the pipeline without rerouting it and in 45 days, you know
this, the U.S. will get a new president, one who says currently he supports
this pipeline and he could easily try to have the decision reversed made by
the U.S. army corps of engineers which is part of the government.
Yesterday, celebrations more into more protests today, with demonstrators
marching in blizzard conditions and gearing up for the fight that lays
And the chairman of this tribe, Dave Archambault, says he knows it`s not
over but told protesters today it is time for them to go home now, that
their purpose has been served. And we can tell you, he will be on “THE
LAST WORD” tonight with Lawrence O`Donnell. So, you want to tune in for
that if you`re interested.
Now, whether they go home or maintain their ground for now, they wait.
Inauguration is 45 days away and the clock is ticking.
MELBER: It is called “Monday morning quarterbacking” for a reason.
Everybody knows it`s an easier to handicap a losing team`s mistake after a
game is played, but that doesn`t mean it won`t help your next game. Yet,
if you think about it, when you look at the collective responses of
professional Democrat since November, the operatives, the strategists,
pollsters who run a good chunk of the party, there`s been very little
public soul searching.
Now, some of these are actually understandable. It was a close bruising
race. Clinton`s own team had many positives worth emphasizing.
She won more votes than Trump, 2.5 million more. She has the dubious
historical distinction of winning the largest popular vote margin of any
losing nominee. Take that Samuel Tilden. He was also a Democrat from New
York, by the way.
Clinton also won more votes while serving as America`s first female major
party nominee. That`s not nothing.
But top Democrats have been slow to address some of the mistakes under
their own control. Maybe the FBI did hurt Clinton`s cause. But what about
mistakes that Democrats can learn from on their side? They have to decide
how they want to run the party in this new Trump era which is why it`s
super weird, if you think about it, that there isn`t a more robust, honest
public debate or more top candidates for the job of literally running the
The DNC chairmanship is about to become very important, but despite a giant
“help wanted” sign in front of the building, it looks like nobody really
big wants the job.
Howard Dean was running but he dropped out on Friday, saying he didn`t want
a divisive race. Now, as a former party chair and governor, he was
traditionally the highest ranking name in contention. Now, what Dean would
have been stepping into an old job, the remaining candidates are looking
for a promotion from Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota endorsed by
leaders like Chuck Schumer, to some lesser known figures like Ray Buckley
and Jamie Harrison who run state parties.
The Democratic Party chair is not just someone who raises money for the
party or joins us here on TV, although they do do that. For a party out of
power in this Trump era, it is a post that can shape whether the party
keeps working on these little questions like should there be a few more
organizers in rural Wisconsin or the big questions, like should the Obama
White House have cleared the whole primary field for Hillary Clinton before
voting even began? Or should the party keep backing a corporate free trade
agenda while its own labor base revolts?
Many Democrats and liberals say they pride themselves on debate, on facing
facts, on diversity. So, why is there so little debate about how to run
the party and who should run the party and why do so few people even want
to run the party?
OK. These may be some tough questions for Democrats. One loyal Clinton
booster, though, is pushing them. Former conservative-turned-liberal David
Brock is saying the party should conduct a formal audit on itself today to
recon with what`s gone wrong.
Is there an appetite to dig deep down and figure that out? Do they see the
Joining me now is Christina Greer, a Fordham political scientist who
studies electoral politics, identity and immigration in the U.S.
CHRISTINA GREER, FORDHAM UNIV. ASST. PROF. OF POLITICAL SCIENCE: I do.
MELBER: Let`s start at the top. Why aren`t there more people applying for
GREER: One, it`s a big job. We had some scandals with Debbie Wasserman
Schultz and then when Donna Brazile took over, there are some issues there.
And so, whoever comes in is going to have to not only clean up what has
been done in these past few months, possibly years. They`re going to have
to possibly do an audit about what happened in 2016 and the months and
years leading up to 2016 and they also have to provide a vision for the
party when a party is out of power not just in the presidency, but also in
Congress by pretty significant numbers.
MELBER: It seems like there are times when parties just want to tweak, and
there are times when parties hook really inward to the structure or what we
used to call, the system, man.
MELBER: So, is this one of those moments in your view, or when you look at
a party that as some Clinton aides have repeatedly stressed that got more
votes, maybe they don`t have to blow up the whole thing, what do you think?
GREER: Well, I think, you know, there`s a certain level of arrogance
within the Democratic Party, and I think I`ve been part of that arrogance,
thinking that, you know, Hillary Clinton was essentially heir apparent in
many ways. I mean, I think the extra 2.6 million votes show that the
country was responsive to a particular portion of her message.
But we can`t forget, Bernie Sanders really made an impact. And so while so
many Democrats were pointing the finger at the civil war going on in the
Republican Party, I don`t think people realize with how many Democrats are
not satisfied with the centrist moderate candidates that we keep putting up
for the presidency, and they wanted someone who was a lot more progressive,
a lot more left-leaning and somebody who looked like a big D Democrat,
which Bernie Sanders in some way represented, possibly not the packaging
wasn`t ideal for many Democrats, which then sort of raised the question.
What happened to Martin O`Malley, who could have had a more progressive
message and a package that more Democrats could have understood or
So, We need to think about the pipeline on the local, state and national
levels, why is it when it comes to the presidency, either we get people out
of nowhere in Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama or the party faithful and the
Clintons from `92, `96, and all the way up until the mid aught.
But also, we really need to think about, if we choose someone for the head
of the DNC, what is the real vision? Are they going to sort of run after
white men in the rural counties in the suburbs, the way sort of Hillary
Clinton started to do? Or are they really going to double down and say, we
are the party of diversity, we`re stronger together and actually show us
we`re stronger together.
MELBER: Democrats have been very critical of the Trump appeals to the way
America was, and “make America great” is a plagiarized slogan from Reagan.
GREER: And George Wallace.
MELBER: If you go back further.
But what does it say not that it`s the same cultural appeal, I certainly
wouldn`t suggest that. But with regard to nostalgia, what does it say that
Democrats are constantly talking about the Clintons. Today we`re hearing
about Biden. Howard Dean had run the party before.
Do they have to worry that sometimes the implicit political mood seems to
be, I love the `90s?
GREER: Yes, I think, you know, the greatest hits are the `90s, because
that`s when, you know, things were pretty good for the Democrats to a
GREER: We had a strong president. You know, the economy was booming. But
I think we also need to think about real-world economics. So, Donald Trump
has tapped into something in some of the ways that Barack Obama tapped
into, it`s just the opposite feeling, right?
Barack Obama really inspired people with hope and sort of this new idea in
a very positive direction that was very inclusive. And sort of thinking
about economics, which would be together we can rise up, sort of all boots
Donald Trump tapped into something as well for a large percentage of the
population, it`s just, because of those people, you don`t have. And that
is a powerful message that can take us to the, quote-unquote, “good old
days” of the 1930s. But if we know anything about the 1930s, the only
people benefitting in the 1930s were white men.
And so, that is a really important message that he`s pushing. And so, as
I`ve said on this network and many others, you know, if he`s trying to
dismantle the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act and the
Immigration Act, and all of the progressive politics of LBJ, and even Bill
Clinton and Barack Obama, he wants to essentially erase the Democratic
message and bring it back to sort of the good days –
GREER: – when white men were white men.
And I think that is a message that clearly resonates. It`s a message that
resonates with white women as well. And so, the Democrats have their work
cut out for them in many ways to try and think about how to be an inclusive
party and tap into certain level of hope and excitement on the economic
level but also on racialized-based as well.
MELBER: Political scientist Christina Greer, thank you. Very interesting.
GREER: Thanks, Ari.
MELBER: Appreciate it.
Up next, it turns out you can fool a lot of people if you get your hands on
an American flag and a picture of President Obama. We will explain.
That`s straight ahead.
MELBER: This is the website for the U.S. embassy in Ghana. It`s basically
everything you`d expect to see, emergency contact info in case you get into
trouble while traveling in Ghana, there`s information about voting overseas
and a lengthy section about romance scams where are a big problem for the
U.S. embassy in Ghana.
Now, it`s come across all these instances of scam artists striking up
romantic relationships online and asking people to send their money to
Ghana. It`s so prevalent that the U.S. embassy even tells you there how to
be on the lookout. They warn you to be alert if, quote, “you`ve sent.” Or
your supposedly love interest promises to pay you back after they inherit
gold or gems.
So, the U.S. embassy in Ghana knows a thing or two about con artist and
they all know about fake marriage scams.
But they didn`t know fake embassies were also an issue. This is the real
U.S. embassy in Accra, Ghana. It`s a prominent building with tight
security in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the coal country.
It`s a nice embassy.
But this run-down two-story building with the corrugated roof has been
masquerading as a U.S. embassy in Ghana, it turns out, for the past decade.
The people who ran it flew an American flag outside, to hung up a photo of
President Obama. They put some signs that said it was a totally normal
U.S. embassy. They kept strict hours, Monday, Tuesday, Friday from 7:30
a.m. until noon.
The group that run the fake embassy even advertised their services with
flyers and billboards around the region. And for ten years, they managed
to stay in business. How? Well, for starters, for $6,000, the U.S.
government says they were issuing fraudulent obtained but legitimate U.S.
visas, as well as counterfeit visas and false ID documents.
When authorities busted this operation, they found documents, 150 passports
from 10 different countries, plus legitimate and counterfeit visas from the
U.S. And until the bitter, bitter end, these guys are conning authorities.
Part of how they made them was while using an industrial sewing machine at
a dress shop. When authorities tried to raid that dress shop, U.S.
officials say a corrupt Ghanaian attorney lied to detectives, telling them
they weren`t allowed to access the premises because of a separate criminal
investigation on the scene.
How convenient. But there wasn`t another criminal investigation. The
person just said that so the people inside could move their passport sewing
machines somewhere else, hide all their fake documents.
This basically was not someone just selling fake Rolex watches in an alley.
This was someone building a fake Rolex store in the center of town and
operated for ten years. Wow is an understatement. Quite a story.
Now, that does it for us. Rachel will be back tomorrow.
And now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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