The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 12/19/2016
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: December 19, 2016
Guest: Paul Farhi
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: And thanks to you at home for joining us at
There is a very nice hotel in Santa Barbara, California. It`s called the
Biltmore. It`s been owned by a few different companies over the years, I
But it was built in the 1920s and it`s one of these grand California beach
front resorts, and one of the cool 1920s things about it is that in
addition to the main hotel building, I think it`s like a two-story main
building for the hotel, in addition to that, you can rent individual
bungalows, these little bungalows. They have gardens, there`s outdoor
seating. There`s essentially these little houses that you can rent at this
And in January 1973, a man rented one of those bungalows at this very nice
hotel in Santa Barbara and he arranged a meeting there with two men who he
had never met before from the Turkish consulate. It was the consul general
and another diplomat from Turkey and they were basically lured out to this
bungalow at this nice hotel on the beach in Santa Barbara because this
distinguished older gentleman had contacted the consul, contacted the
consulate, and told him that he had a gift for the government of Turkey.
He had come into possession of some priceless artifacts that had been
stolen from the palace of the sultan of Turkey in the 1800s and he wanted
to repatriate these items back to the people of Turkey.
So, the consul general and this other diplomat, they drove out to have
lunch with this man at the hotel. They were going to collect the artifacts
on behalf of their government and when they sat down to lunch with him at
this beautiful bungalow, at this swanky hotel, he shot them both in the
This was the assassin. He did not know either of the diplomats personally.
It was a political assassination.
And then two years later, it happened again. Except this time, it wasn`t
in California. This time it was in Austria. It was the Turkish ambassador
to Austria. He was at work at the Turkish embassy in Vienna. He was at
his study at the embassy. Three men stormed with automatic weapons stormed
into the embassy and killed him.
And just like what happened two years earlier in Santa Barbara, there`s no
indication at all that there was any personal connection between the gunmen
and ambassador. It was an assassination.
And then three days later, it happened again in Paris. This time, it was
the Turkish ambassador to France. He was with his driver and his official
car marked with diplomatic plates. They were outside the embassy in Paris.
They were ambushed by multiple gunmen, both men were killed.
So, at that point, that was two Turkish ambassadors in two different
countries killed over three days, and that was two years after the guys in
Santa Barbara had been killed. But it just – it kept happening through
the `70s, through `80s.
In 1977, it was the Turkish ambassador to the Vatican. He was ambushed and
shot to death on the street outside his house in Rome.
Then, in 1979, it happened again, the Turkish ambassador to the
Netherlands. This was a particularly terrible attack because they didn`t
actually kill the ambassador. They killed his son. His son was a grad
student who was driving to college in The Hague, in the Netherlands. He
was in his VW Bug. Stopped at a traffic light and a gunman shot him
through the passenger side window and killed him.
In 1982, it happened in southern California again. It was the Turkish
consul general. He sat in his car in the red light in the Westwood
neighborhood of Los Angeles. He was shot and killed.
Later that same year, it happened in America again. This time in
Somerville, Massachusetts. It was the Turkish honorary consul. It was the
exact same M.O. He was stuck in rush hour traffic, a guy in a jogging suit
ran upholding two high-powered pistols, shot the honorary consul through
the window of his car and killed him.
Later that same year, it happened in Canada. It was the Turkish military
attache to Canada, same strategy. He was driving to work on August 27th,
1982, stopped for a red light, car near him also came to a stop, gunman got
out of the stopped car, walked over to the vehicle and shot him through the
That monument we were showing there for a second, just in a few years ago
in Ottawa, they erected a monument to that Turkish diplomat right next to
where he was killed in the street of Ottawa. It was beautiful. It was
wood and metal sculpture. It includes more than a thousand handcrafted
silver plates that were made in Turkey specifically for the memorial.
That one in Ottawa, that wasn`t the last one. I could keep going with the
list. The pattern of Turkish diplomats and their family members being tar
get and assassinated, that pattern kept going well into the 1990s all over
the world, right. All over the world.
And, you know what, all over the world for all sorts of different reasons,
diplomacy can be dangerous work for a lot of different country`s diplomats.
But for Turkey, Turkish diplomats for a period of about 20 years, they were
in a very special and very heightened kind of danger compared to diplomats
from everywhere else, because there really was a worldwide terrifying
campaign of targeted assassinations that was directed at Turkish
ambassadors, at Turkish diplomats all over the world.
It was Armenian extremists. Armenian militants made a strategic decision
in the early 1970, starting with those killings in Santa Barbara. They
made a decision that they would try to get their revenge for the genocide
of Armenians during World War I and their form of revenge would be that
they would kill diplomats from the nation of Turkey all over the world.
Even in places where you think they would be safe, even in Canada, even in
the United States.
And this was – this was not personal revenge. None of the diplomats who
were targeted over these 20 years, none of them were even born when the
Armenian genocide began. But again, this wasn`t a personal beef against
any of them. This was terrorism, right? This was a politically motivated
strategic serial homicide campaign against Turkish diplomats in particular.
And because of that very recent history, having a diplomat, having an
ambassador assassinated in Turkey, which happened today, that is a special
kind of national shock in the nation of Turkey. Because Turkey, more than
any other nation in the modern era, they know the pain of having their
diplomats targeted for assassination because of some larger political
I mean, even if there weren`t that history, even in the absence of that
history that Turkey has with this issue, the circumstance of this killing
today in Ankara were enough to shock the world. The Russian ambassador to
Turkey, he had been in Turkey since 2013. Before that, had he spent
decades in a place you would think of as much more dangerous. He spent
decades in North Korea for decades before this as Russia`s ambassador to
But today, by chance, there happened to be a very talented “A.P.”
photographer on site at this event today where the Russian ambassador was
speaking. It was not the world`s most high-profile event. It was a photo
exhibit at a gallery in Ankara. But the murder was caught on tape and the
images of the assassin after the shooting, these images are scary and
Just looking at this footage, it`s almost impossible to believe that this
was a real thing, that this was a real thing. But this is a real thing.
The gunman that you see there was eventually killed by the police at the
scene. He`s described as an off-duty police officer, 22 years old. He may
have used his police credentials to get inside this venue with the Russian
ambassador. But the killing of the Russian ambassador in Turkey comes
after days of large-scale protests in Turkey about the civil war in Syria,
about Russia`s involvement in the siege of the city of Aleppo.
But an assassination is not a continuation of protests, right? An
assassination is something of a different order. And part of what this –
part of the consequence of this is that it will be seen as a massive
security failure on the part of Turkey, that this happened on Turkish soil.
But it happened on a day that was just a remarkable string of events.
This news about this assassination, it broke midday here on the East Coast
of the United States. The shooting happened at 7:00 local time in Ankara,
which is about 11:00 a.m. So we started got that news breaking around
daytime – midday here but right after that news of that assassination
started to break here, we also got this incredibly, incredibly news out of
Over the past year or so, if you`ve been watching this show, you`ve seen us
a few times on and off, we`ve covered the fact that the terrorist group is,
they have a magazine they call “Dabiq.” Dabiq is a place. It`s a
geographic place, it`s a town in Syria. And in ISIS` twisted death cult
theology, the little town of Dabiq in Syria is where the final apocalyptic
battle between themselves and all of the infidels.
And ISIS, when they took over Dabiq, one of the things they did was named
their magazine “Dabiq” and we wondered and talked about on the air what
might happen to ISIS promoting that apocalyptic myth about that town in
Syria once ISIS started losing its territory in Syria and it no longer
became clear that they`d be able to hold on to that city.
Well, now we know. ISIS has changed the name of it is magazine. No longer
sure of its hold on a place like Dabiq, wanting presumably not to be
embarrassed for losing hold of a place they made central to their
international propaganda. They no longer call their magazine Dabiq.
They`re playing that whole thing down now.
Instead, they`ve named it “Rumiyah,” which is the classical word for Rome,
as in Rome, Italy. Why they are now calling their magazine Rome, I do not
know. But they have two issues of it out now and the current one, the one
that most recently came out last month, it includes yet another article
calling on ISIS supporters to mount large-scale attacks in the West using
vehicles, using big trucks.
This is something that al Qaeda had very ham-handedly in their magazine
“Inspire” years ago, and then ISIS started doing its magazine and old
issues of “Dabiq”, the first iteration of the ISIS magazine, they also
promoted attacks with vehicles. Now, the latest magazine from ISIS, they
are claiming credit for previous attacks on civilians made by ISIS
supporters, using vehicles, using cars and trucks. They are continuing to
promote vehicle attacks as a very low-tech terrorist tactic that`s very
hard to defend against in open societies.
The worst vehicle-born attack, of course, is the one that happened in Nice
and France in July, 86 people killed. That`s the most high-profile one and
it was the deadliest one. And there have been a lot of smaller scale
attacks with vehicles as well, particularly since ISIS called for them
explicitly. And the one that happened today in Berlin involving this large
panel truck, semitrailer, it is not on the scale that happened in Nice but
it is still one of the worst.
At this hour, this has just risen recently, the death toll in the Berlin
attack is now 12 people killed and 48 people are injured and in the
hospital. Now, in terms of the motivation and the perpetrators of this
attack on this Christmas market in Berlin, we have very little information
at this point. The ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee, Senator
Dianne Feinstein, describes what happened in Berlin today as having all the
hallmarks of a terrorist attack and we can see that for ourselves as well.
But we know nothing thus far about the killer or killers or their
motivation or their affiliations. There`s reportedly one person in
custody. There`s one person whose body was reportedly found in the
passenger compartment of this large-scale black panel truck that plowed
into this Christmas market in downtown West Berlin, but we don`t know more
than that. I expect over the course of this evening that we`ll know more,
maybe even by the end of this hour.
But it`s interesting. This assassination in Ankara, this terrible
assassination of this Russian diplomat in Turkey and this carnage in Berlin
with this vehicle-born attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, both of
those two very terrible, very dramatic things come right on the heels of
two other really big attacks that happened yesterday that didn`t gets much
attention in part because they happened on Sunday, not Monday, but in large
part because they happened outside of the West.
They are both a really big deal, though. Yemen yesterday, the port city of
Aiden, in Yemen, a suicide bomber disguised himself as a disabled man. He
got himself into a crowd (AUDIO GAP) officers and soldiers who have
reportedly gathered at the end of their workweek to collect their salaries,
and he blew himself up and killed 49 other people in the process. Most, if
not all of whom, were police officers and soldiers.
So, that was yesterday in Yemen. Also yesterday, there was a deadly and
complex attack by multiple attackers in the nation of Jordan. This one
reportedly started with an explosion at an apartment building. Police
responded to the explosion, they got shot at in the process, the gunman
then got away and they drove to a tourist site about 30 miles away from
where the explosion had been at the apartment.
When they got to the tourist site, they attacked a police station that was
adjacent to the terrorist site and then they attacked the tourist site
itself. In the end, they ended up killing seven security officers. They
killed two Jordanian civilians and they killed one Canadian tourist, a
retired teacher from Newfoundland who`s traveling with her son. Her son
was also wounded.
The further worrying detail about that last attack I just described in
Jordan is that when they went back to the site of the initial explosion,
they found more guns on site there. They also found more explosives there
and fully-rigged suicide vests. So, they say they killed or captured four
of the attackers from this attack in Jordan. What we don`t know if there
were more people than that involved and what was a big and complex,
But it looks like, given what they found at the site of the explosion, it
could have been an even bigger and more complex attack than it was. So,
all of that has just happened within the past day – Yemen, Jordan, Ankara,
There was also a shooting at a mosque in Zurich, Switzerland, today,
although we have very few details about that. We do know that three people
were shot and injured. We absolutely – we know nothing at this point
about the assailant in that case including whether or not the assailant is
alive or dead or in custody or at large. So, it has – frankly, I`m sorry
to say it, but it`s been a hell of a day.
Here at home at 5:30 Eastern Time, we officially got a winner in our
presidential election, the president-elect won the election today
officially when he got the necessary 270 electoral votes. That was the big
domestic news here today. We`ll talk later on this hour about the
Electoral College vote and about some of the strange things that happened
in the Electoral College vote today. That did not go the way it was
expected to go.
In terms of the transition effort, though, “The Guardian” newspaper today
reports on an aspect of the transition that might give you a little pause
if you`re a national security voter or maybe if on a day like today, you`re
starting to think about becoming a national security voter. “The Guardian”
reports today that the staff of the National Security Council is emptying
out ahead of the Trump administration arriving in Washington.
Now, to be clear, these aren`t political appointees. These are not people
who are expected to resign as Obama leaves office so they can be replaced
by the people who Trump appoints. These are the people who are supposed to
stay. These are the staffers. These are national security, nonpolitical
professionals. They are not supposed to flip over when a new
administration comes in.
But, apparently, there`s something about this new administration,
particularly the new national security team. We`ve got announcements thus
far, right, of the national security adviser and two of his deputies,
something about the folks who are on their way in to run the National
Security Council has the career national security professionals who work
there running for the exits.
Quote, excuse me, this from “The Guardian”, quote, “The White House is
struggling to prevent a crippling exodus of foreign policy staffers eager
to leave before the arrival of the Trump administration. Top level
officials of the National Security Council are political appointees who
have to submit resignations and leave in a normal transition. The rest of
the 400 national security council staff are career civil servants. An
unusual number of these more junior officials are now looking to depart.”
One source telling “The Guardian”, quote, “I have seen and met with a lot
of these people and there does seem to be an unusual level of worry and
concern and fear.” Another official telling “The Guardian,” quote,
“There`s concern there will be a half empty National Security Council by
the time the new administration arrives.”
When this terrible assassination happened today in front of all of those
people in Turkey, and when that truck went smashing into the Christmas
market today, just hours later in Berlin, the statements of condemnation
and condolence were issued by the spokesman for the National Security
Council, for the current iteration of the National Security Council.
The plan right now is that in the new administration, the national security
spokesperson will be a FOX News commentator who has in the past maintained
that President Obama is not really black, he`s faking it. She`s also
suggested that President Obama faked his birth certificate.
The national security adviser to whom she will report was found by the Army
to have, quote, “inappropriately shared information with foreign military
officers.” During the presidential campaign, he publicly accused Hillary
Clinton of being a child rapist, and he was on the payroll of the
government of Turkey while serving as a top adviser to the Trump campaign
without ever publicly disclosing that fact.
And the gong show/”Star Wars” bar scene quality of the Trump transition,
particularly on national security issues, honestly, to me, most days, it is
usually something approaching funny, but it is national security and it is
hard and dangerous and fraught with peril even in good times. But right
now, what they are inheriting, these are not good times. On national
security, I am literally praying that the transition gets better than what
it is right now.
MADDOW: We have a big show tonight, including a surprise sighting of the
next first lady in a place you would not expect to see her. Also, a
surprise record, a record from the Electoral College today, and we`ve also
got chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel joining us life in just a
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Vladimir Putin goes to the theater. That`s a thing I learned
today. Tonight in Moscow, Vladimir Putin had tickets to go see a play
called “Woe from Wit”. It`s an old Russian play. It was written by
Alexander Griboyedov is famous in Russia because he was a Russian diplomat
who was murdered. He was killed in Tehran in 1829 when a mob of angry
Iranians who were mad at Russia about something, they over ran the embassy
in Tehran and they killed him.
And that made him a national hero in Russia. There`s a big monument to him
in Moscow, nearly 200 years after he was killed. The works of Alexander
Griboyedov are still taught to Russian school kids. Heck, the Russian
president goes to see his play, or he would have tonight except for the
fact that since Alexander Griboyedov, there`s never been a Russian
ambassador assassinated in his post until that happened today. The last
time was Alexander Griboyedov in 1829. The next time was today in Turkey.
Joining us now from Istanbul in Turkey is Richard Engel, NBC`s chief
Richard, thanks so much for being with us. I appreciate you staying up for
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. As you
said, it has been an incredible day. And it is still developing. There`s
still new reports coming out, an incident at the U.S. embassy in Ankara
that is developing right now as well. So, it has been a very long day.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about that. We`ve – this is something – we don`t
have confirmation of this. What we`ve got is local reports that somebody
with a gun tried to get into the U.S. embassy in Ankara, in the capital
city of Turkey.
Do we know if those local reports are true? Do we have any corroboration
ENGEL: There are now multiple local reports. They have just put out a
photograph and it is of a fairly elderly gentleman who was apparently
carrying a shotgun, he fired several rounds into the air. Five, six, seven
rounds into the air and then was taken into custody by police. It does not
seem like this was an organized terrorist attack based on his age, the
weapon that he was carrying, the fact that the embassy was closed at the
Frankly, it sounds more like an angry reaction. There`s been a lot of
reporting in this country online, on Twitter, also on some of the state
television blaming the killing of the Russian ambassador on the CIA,
blaming it on the media. There has been a lot of anti-Western sentiment
that`s been whipped up really since the failed coup attempt in this country
and that every time there is an incident, and like there was an incident
today, you hear more of these conspiracy theories and more of this
So, from what it appears like, it was some angry person who grabbed his
shotgun, fired some rounds off into the air. We contacted the State
Department. The State Department official just said that they are aware of
an incident and referred us to the Turkish authorities. But that said, it
does not seem to be like an organized terrorist attack or an assassination
like the one that we saw earlier today against the Russians.
MADDOW: And, Richard, I mean, it`s actually fascinating and helpful to
hear about the sort of conspiracy theories circulating, blaming the West,
blaming the media, blaming the CIA for what happened to the Russian
ambassador in Ankara. I mean, it`s good to know, but do we have – do we
have any more information in terms of the assailant and what motivated him
and whether he was linked to anyone and why he wanted to kill the
ENGEL: We know quite a bit because he was talking throughout this incident
and there were cameras there, as you mentioned earlier – this
extraordinary “A.P.” photographer. This was a normal diplomatic event that
happens all over the world, that embassies host. This was an art exhibit
to highlight Russian culture. Relations have been poor between Turkey and
Russia, so these kind of events are meant to improve things.
The ambassador was there, a few journalists showed up because it`s an
opportunity to mingle with diplomats, mingle with the Russian ambassador.
As soon as he started to give his opening remarks, a man dressed as a
security guard standing behind him quietly behind him pulled this pistol
out and opened fire. He shot the ambassador in the back.
Then he started shouting, first in Arabic, “Allahu Akbar” and identifying
himself as those who are those who have pledged allegiance to Muhammad and
the jihad. He was holding up one finger, you mentioned Dabiq, pretty much
every single in that magazine is seen holding that up finger. It is a
jihadi symbol, meaning the oneness of god, one religion, one path.
And then he – as the ambassador was lying dead on the ground, he started
to smash some of the photographs on the wall. It was a photography
exhibit. He came back and shot the ambassador again with the Croix de
Guerre in the head and was talking about Syria. He was saying that those
who are responsible for the crimes in Syria will pay a heavy price, saying
that, remember Aleppo, remember the suffering in Syria.
And is well known and as many U.S. officials have been talking about
recently, Russia has been deeply involved in a brutal assault against the
city of Aleppo and other cities in that country and there`s been a lot of
anger here in this country.
We also know he was a police officer. He did use, according to a security
official, his police badge to get into the facility. Then, once he was
inside, even though he wasn`t supposed to be there, he wasn`t on duty, he
blended in with the crowd.
He looked the part. He was the part. He just wasn`t supposed to be there
at the time.
The Russian ambassador didn`t have his own personal security detail and
it`s very possible the ambassador thought that he was just standing behind
him because he was assigned to do that until obviously he pulled out his
gun and opened fire, only shooting at the ambassador but three other people
were injured as the shots were being fired in this quite small gallery
MADDOW: Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent for us tonight
in Istanbul, Richard, thank you. I appreciate you being with us tonight.
MADDOW: Again, as we are following these multiple incidents, there have
been a number of attacks of various kinds over the last few days, large-
scale attacks in Yemen, yesterday a significant and complex attack
yesterday in Jordan and now, a shooting at a mosque in Zurich and
Switzerland, in which three people were injured, the assassination of the
Russian ambassador to Turkey which we were just discussing with Richard and
this large-scale attack in Germany. Again, the death toll tonight over the
course of the evening has gone from 9 people killed in that attack on a
Christmas market to now 12 people killed, 48 injured and in hospital. It`s
possible that the death toll may rise. Of course, we pray that it won`t.
Lots going on. Stay with us tonight.
MADDOW: If you are ever so lucky as to become a president-elect of the
United States, you should know that one of the things you get along with
that title is free office space in this building. The General Services
Administration handles the logistical needs of the next president,
including office space. Every president-elect gets a transition office in
the GSA building.
So, our president-elect now, he`s got office space in D.C. You and I are
paying for it. But he`s not really using it. Instead, he has been
conducting from his house, from his apartment building in midtown Manhattan
and for a number of reasons, but particularly for people who are trying to
cover the presidential transition, that has posed some challenges.
I want you to watch this tape. This is reporters trying to cover some
protesters who had just come to the president-elect`s transition offices to
plead their case. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Who are these people? Are these people? What`s going on?
REPORTER: They`re protesters.
REPORTER: Hi, do you want to come talk to us?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure. Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we are here –
REPORTER: Hold on. This is the microphone. Hold on. Everybody get –
UNIDENTIFEID FEMALE: One second.
REPORTER: There you go.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we are here to deliver over –
REPORTER: That`s our mike.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Over 400,000 signatures.
SECURITY: Sorry, ma`am. You have to move over.
REPORTER: What happened? They won`t let them stop?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If you`re trying to cover the goings on of the highest profile
public office in the world, let alone this country, when the hub of all of
that activity happens not at taxpayer funded offices but in public,
instead, inside the incoming president`s house, it turns out that comes
with some confusing and hard to predict restrictions on what kind of news
coverage, if any, is allowed in that space.
And that`s the least of it. The really spook of it is next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: This is a man named Webster Griffin Tarpley, which is a great
name. Webster Griffin Tarpley is an academic. He has written several
book, none of which I hereby endorse. There`s ” 9/11 Synthetic Terror”
which says the 9/11 attacks were made up. They were fake. They were an
In 2012, he branched out to “Just Too Weird: Bishop Romney and the Mormon
Takeover of America”. In that one, he says Mormonism isn`t actually a
religion. It`s a synthetic ideology sponsored by British intelligence as
part of a covert warfare campaign against the United States. OK.
There`s also this one, which says President Obama is actually the puppet of
Jimmy Carter`s national security adviser who installed Obama in order to –
anyway, who cares, right? You get the idea. But it will arrive before
Christmas if you order now.
If you want to get truly weird with this guy, though, there`s also Webster
Griffin Tarpley`s truly wacky conspiracy theory that the incoming first
lady of the United States is out to get them. She`s sending high-priced,
high-powered lawyers after him for defamation, in what sure looks like an
effort to intimidate journalists and bloggers and bankrupt him.
Actually, the last one is true. In September, the next first lady, Melania
Trump, she filed a defamation lawsuit against old wacky Mr. Tarpley, over
one of his blog posts. He had blogged that it was, quote, “widely known
that Melania Trump was not working as a model when she first came to the
United States but as a high-end escort.” In fact, that`s not widely known
and there`s no evidence of that.
He also claimed, though, that the future first lady was having a nervous
breakdown after the plagiarism scandal surrounding her speech at the
Republican convention. There is also no evidence and no reporting to
suggest that either.
But again, this is the guy who says Mormonism is a British intelligence
plot and President Obama is a secret Jimmy Carter puppet. So who cares,
Rather than let this nut bird stuff just dissipate on its own, which is
does, the future first lady decided to sue Webster Griffin Tarpley. She
also sued “The Daily Mail”, which is a not particularly well-regarded
tabloid in the U.K. “Daily Mail” published similar allegations.
Mrs. Trump`s lawyer said in a statement that the blog posts from Mr.
Tarpley and what “The Daily Mail” posted, they were actions, quote, “so
egregious, malicious and harmful to Mrs. Trump that her damages are
estimated at $150 million.”
But you know what? That was September. That was the heat of the
presidential campaign. Both the conspiracy theory guy and “The Daily Mail”
removed the posts in question. They both issued apologizes. They both
issued retractions. And now that Melania Trump is going to be first lady
of the United States, you might expect that the first lady wouldn`t be
suing every conspiracy website and lower than usual tabloid that prints up
anything made up about her. You`d expect that.
But now, not only is the lawsuit going forward, the soon-to-be first lady,
Melania Trump, last week, she went all the way to Maryland to be in the
courtroom in person for this case. And this was not for critical testimony
or anything. This was a routine scheduling conference. This is like the
lawyers and judge just working out future court dates.
Hardly any plaintiff ever shows up to these things. But there was the
incoming first lady in person in that Maryland courtroom last week. She
showed up. And her attorneys said about that, quote, “Mrs. Trump was not
required to attend the court conference but chose to do so to meet the
judge, meet opposing counsel and show her commitment to this case.” He
said, “She looks forward to seeing the case through to a successful
Here`s the really interesting part. That lawyer`s name is Charles Harder.
His history here is very important. He has proved himself on a case like
this before. Charles Harder was the lawyer in the Hulk Hogan case when
Hulk Hogan sued the website Gawker for posting that sex tape of him.
Charles Harder, lawyer, and Hulk Hogan, they prevailed in that lawsuit
against Gawker. They won a $140 million judgment against Gawker, a
judgment that bankrupted that entire media company and shut down
And you may remember, what we learned at the end of that case, which is
where that case came from. Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel secretly
financed the Hulk Hogan lawsuit with the expressed purpose of destroying
Gawker and put it out of business because Peter Thiel had a personal grudge
against Gawker. He didn`t like the way they covered him and he`s a
billionaire, so he used his limitless financial resources to drive them out
And Peter Thiel is now a member of Donald Trump`s presidential transition
team. He`s the guy who convened the – his new bosses round table of tech
executives a few days ago where the president-elect thanked him for doing
such a good job picking and choosing which companies got to come to that
The incoming first lady of the United States is using the same lawyer to
destroy a media company to pursue her own defamation suits against websites
who say unkind things about her. The president-elect point person on
technology is the man who forced a media company out of business because he
didn`t like the way he covered them and he tried to do it secretly, and
they are each in the near orbit of the president-elect who still daily
denounces the American news media as dishonest and has spent part of last
week attacking a magazine that ran a bad review of one of his restaurants.
That`s what he`s concerning himself with a month before he becomes freaking
president of the United States.
You don`t have to be in the news business to be a little worried about the
news business right now. Hold that thought. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: They are saying as president he
shouldn`t be doing rallies, but I think we should, right?
We`ve done everything else the opposite. Well, no, this is the way you get
an honest word out because you can`t give it to them because they are so
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And by they, the dishonest ones, he means the reporters who cover
his events and soon to be his presidency.
Joining us now is Paul Farhi. He covers media for “The Washington Post”.
Mr. Farhi, it`s really nice to have you here. Thanks for joining us
PAUL FARHI, WASHINGTON POST MEDIA REPORTER: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: I take it as an article of faith that all presidents hate the
press, or at least say they hate the press. Is there anything in terms of
what`s going on with the Trump transition or the Trump White House, is
there anything that`s any different than usual?
FARHI: Yes. He hates us a lot.
There`s been no candidate, no president-elect, no president who has
vilified us, criticized us and demonized us the way Donald Trump has. I
think he`s created a real climate of hatred. There`s no other word for it
but hatred, against the press and against the mainstream media.
He`s cast a lot of doubt on what we do. He`s implicated the very nature of
fact. You know, what we publish is up for grabs from a lot of the people
who support him and he`s been – he`s been inflaming that.
MADDOW: Other presidents who have attacked the press and politicians at
all levels who have attacked the press have done it because the press is a
convenient foil. The press isn`t particularly well-liked by the American
people. It`s not a particularly strong industry in terms of the business
of doing media, the business of doing news, particularly in local media.
Things are tough for reporters and editors and local reporters and local
news anchors and stuff.
When you take it to the further degree that you`re describing, is there an
additional political benefit that you get other than just picking a
political foil? Why is he doing this?
FARHI: Well, it enhances his power. “Don`t listen to those guys in the
press. Don`t listen to the naysayers, the critics, the opinion mongers.
Listen to me. I`m the president of the United States. Or soon to be the
president of the United States and what I say is the truth.
What they`re saying, the criticism that for the history of this country,
the press has always been inveighing against people in power, ignore it.
It means nothing. It`s a lie.”
And that`s the climate he`s created and creating. That`s the whole climate
of criticizing us constantly.
MADDOW: There`s something that`s sort of going on in the sidelines of the
transition, which feels like more than just criticism, more than the sort
of two minutes of hate that he directs at the press at his rallies, and
that is the future first lady. His wife showed up in person last week in a
Maryland courtroom, where he`s suing a sort of low-level blogger conspiracy
theorist guy, for $150 million. And her lawyer in that case is the lawyer
that was used by Silicon Valley billionaire, Trump transition official,
Peter Thiel, to put gawker.com out of business.
Where do you see that going and what do you make of that?
FARHI: Well, first of all, you can`t justify what this guy published.
This was rumor, this was innuendo. On the other hand, he retracted it.
But really, this is kind of a message, a message to the rest of the press,
which is if you dare, you`ll face some very, very serious consequences.
And, you know, this is part of a larger, a larger scheme in some sense.
Trump demonizes us. It gets juries very much inflamed against us. Then
you have things like the Gawker verdict in which it`s overwhelming to
Gawker and puts them out of business.
So, you know, what he`s doing here with this low-level blogger is to send a
message to the rest of the press, you publish at your peril and you`ll face
consequences that could be ruinous to you.
MADDOW: Paul Farhi, reporter for “The Washington Post”, whose beat in
terms of covering the media and politics just got way pricklier than usual
is – Paul, thank you. I appreciate your time tonight.
FARHI: Thank you.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: California`s a little different. For one thing, California has a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA: Some people say that they`re going to
turn off the satellites that are monitoring the climate, low earth
phenomenon, the Landsat, and all the various measuring satellites we have.
Well, I remember back in 1978 I proposed a Landsat satellite for
California. They called me Governor Moonbeam because of that. I didn`t
get that moniker for nothing.
And if Trump turns off the satellites, California will launch its own damn
satellite. We`re going to collect that data.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: California Governor Jerry Brown can crow about launching his own
satellite, with perfect confidence, because California is big enough, and
frankly blue enough, to back that up. And by blue enough, look at this.
California has officially as of today certified its vote and Hillary
Clinton won California by a larger than 30-point margin.
She got the biggest Democratic margin in that state since FDR beat Alf
So, yes, California, you can launch her own climate satellite. You can
stand up Governor Moonbeam against the Trump agenda. You can promise blue
dot Americans in the rest of the country that California will have their
backs, posting the biggest win by a Democrat since 1936, in a country where
the Democrats lost. That gets you something other than bragging rights.
In this case, it probably gets you room to move politically.
And one of the most interesting things to watch in politics this next year
will be, how California intends to use that advantage. I`m telling you.
Watch this space.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: We have the laws. We have the tools of enforcement and we have the
political will. And we will set the stage, we`ll set the example. And
whatever Washington thinks they`re doing, California is the future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Hundreds of people protested at the Michigan state capital in
Lansing today despite temperatures in the teens. There were similar scenes
in state capitals in North Carolina, and Arizona, California, and Texas,
Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. All these protests were aimed at the Electoral
College which voted today to officially make Donald Trump the winner of the
presidential election, even though Hillary Clinton won nearly 3 million
The protesters were out there to try to persuade Trump electors to flip
their votes. In fact, we did see a historic number of electors defect
today. Seven electors voted for somebody other than the person they were
supposed to vote for. That`s the most ever.
Two Trump electors from Texas switched their vote. They instead cast
ballots for Ron Paul or John Kasich.
But most of the electors who defected were actually electors who were
supposed to vote for Hillary Clinton. Four of Hillary Clinton`s Washington
state electors voted for somebody else. Three voted for Colin Powell of
all people. OK. And one additional elector in Washington state voted for
Faith Spotted Eagle, who`s a native-American leader and opponent of the
Dakota Access Pipeline.
But wait, there`s more. Just a short time ago, one of the Democratic
electors in Hawaii who was supposed to vote for Hillary Clinton, he also
broke ranks and voted for Bernie Sanders. So that`s part of the scorecard
Today`s results will be counted by Congress on January 6th. But today, the
Electoral College made it official. Those people all get votes. Hillary
Clinton gets some votes, but Donald Trump will be the 45th president of the
That does it for us. 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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