The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 1/2/2017
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: January 2, 2017
Guest: Ed O`Keefe
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Ari. I want to thank you in
particular for all you did to fill and hold things together last week. It
was great. Thank you, my friend.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Great. Thank you. Happy New Year.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
It was really nice to have a few days off. It is really, really nice to be
back. I keep running into old friends and family members and people on the
street and people like, you know, out on the dog walk and stuff. People
want to talk to me about politics. They say with concern in their eyes,
how are you feeling about 2017?
And I found myself by the end of my vacation saying, I`m really excited for
2017. I am. My job is to explain stuff. And oh, my God, is that a good
job to have this year already?
Case in point, this story is amazing. And it starts with copper, the
mineral copper. There`s copper in brass. There`s copper in bronze. The
Statue of Liberty is sheathed in a layer of copper. That`s about the
thickness of two pennies.
Pennies themselves used to be copper, but now they`re just copper-covered
zinc, which sort of seems sad. But it makes financial sense, because
copper over time became too valuable to use in something as cheap as a
penny, because most of what we use copper for now is conducting
electricity. We use copper for wiring. There is a massive global appetite
And the world`s largest producer of copper is an American company. It`s a
company that used to be based in New Orleans but now the mining company
Freeport is based in Phoenix, Arizona. And the Freeport mining company of
Phoenix, Arizona, they do still mine copper in Arizona and they mine copper
in New Mexico and in Colorado. But they are a gigantic firm. And they`re
a global operation.
In South America, they mine copper in Chile, and in Peru. In the
Democratic Republic of Congo, they mine cooper and also cobalt. In
Indonesia, they operate the largest gold mine in the entire world, which is
also the third largest copper mine in the world, which is also a huge
silver mine as well.
This is an American company, but the physical footprint that Freeport has
in Indonesia, it isn`t just visible from space. It`s easily visible from
space. It`s massive. Their mine in Grasberg, which is in Papua province
in Indonesia, it`s basically a massive upside down mountain. It`s almost a
half million acres.
They first discovered mineral wealth there in the 1930s when it was a Dutch
colony. By the 1970s, Indonesia was an independent country and that mine
at Grasberg was one of the biggest open pits in the world.
Among the many products and byproducts of that mine are, of course, all
that silver and copper and gold. Also hundreds of millions of tons of
mining waste that they have dumped in the surrounding jungle and rivers.
That environmental damage associated with that giant mine is one of the
things that mine is most famous for around the globe.
But it is also unappreciably massive, both geographically and economically.
Freeport`s operation in Indonesia is so big, that in Indonesia that company
is the single biggest taxpayer for the whole country.
And it`s not like Indonesia is some rinky-dink country, right? Indonesia
has 260 million people. The biggest countries on earth by population are
China first, then India, then us, then Indonesia. Indonesia is ginormous.
But of all the 260 million people in Indonesia, its biggest tax payment
every year comes from Arizona, comes from this American company. It`s just
In our presidential election this past year, do you remember when Indonesia
had a weird little cameo role? It was in the Republican primary. It came
up. It was so strange, so unexpected, so not just inexplicable but
At the time and until now, it didn`t ever make sense until now. And I love
it when a story like, you know, doesn`t make sense for a year, and then all
of a sudden, it does. It rarely happens when you get it so clearly, like
light dawns on marble head, oh, that`s why that happened. But in this
case, light dawns on marble head, now we get it.
It started off strangely with no explanation. It was last September,
September 2015. So, that was just a few months into the start of the
Republican primary. The Donald Trump candidacy had started in June of
2015, and it was almost, honestly, treated as a joke from the beginning. I
mean, his supporters can crow about that now, and they do, but at the time
it was treated mostly as a joke.
And there were some funny things, some laughable things about the launch of
the Trump candidacy, up to and including reports that the candidate had to
hire extras, he literally had to pay actors to pretend to be his supporters
at his day one announcement at Trump Tower.
But however soft and even silly his candidacy seemed at the very start, it
caught fire for real very quickly, so much so that by the fall of 2015, the
Republican Party was already worrying openly about Donald Trump`s poll
numbers. He was definitely leading. And the were worried that even if one
of their more normal candidates could beat Trump to get the nomination,
they were worried that he was showing such support in the polls, maybe he
might bolt the Republican Party and run as a third party, an independent
candidate against whoever the Republican nominee was.
And so, in the fall of 2015, this was a real worry, real concern,
moderators at the debates, and then ultimately the party itself, they
started asking all the Republican candidates to make a pledge, to pledge
that they would support whoever the party ended up nominating. And there
was a little question as to whether the other candidates would really
pledge to definitely do that, because there was a chance that Donald Trump
might become the nominee and would they all be comfortable making that
There was a little question about that, but mostly the Republicans were
worried about Trump himself. Would Trump make a pledge like that? Would
he really pledge, not just to not run as an independent, but to
wholeheartedly support whoever the Republican nominee was, even if it was
somebody like Low Energy Jeb Bush or Lyin` Ted or Little Marco?
I mean, the Republican Party was very worried about that, because initially
the answer from Trump was that he would make no such pledge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEBATE MODERATOR: Is there anyone onstage, and can I see hands, who is
unwilling tonight to pledge your support to the eventual nominee of the
Republican Party and pledge to not run an independent campaign against that
person? Again, we`re looking for you to raise your hand now. Raise your
hand now if you won`t make that pledge tonight.
So, Mr. Trump, to be clear, you`re standing on a Republican primary debate
DONALD TRUMP (R), THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I fully understand.
DEBATE MODERATOR: – he place where the RNC will give the nominee the nod.
TRUMP: I fully understand.
DEBATE MODERATOR: Just to be clear, we`re going to move on, you`re not
going to make the pledge?
TRUMP: I will not make the pledge at this time.
DEBATE MODERATOR: All right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was August 2015. Major point of contention in the Republican
Party. Major point of contention at the Republican debates. Lots and lots
of drama around that issue.
All the other candidates say, yeah, I`ll make the pledge. But Donald Trump
for a long time would not. And that is why it was genuinely a big deal.
It was the resolution to something around which there was a lot of tension.
It was a big deal when on September 3rd, Donald Trump changed tack, finally
announced that yes, he would sign this pledge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I have signed the problem.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
So I will be totally pledging my allegiance to the Republican Party and the
conservative principles for which it stands. And we will go out and we
will fight hard and we will win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: He signed it. He signed the pledge. I have signed the pledge.
It sort of feels like a silly turn in the campaign, now looking back at it.
But at the time, it was a big deal in the Republican primary.
And there were two things that were weird about it when it happened. The
first one was when he held up that piece of paper, everybody could see that
the date on it was wrong. It was September 3rd, not August 3rd. So, that
was kind of weird, the date was wrong.
The second thing that was strange was, hey, what`s this random Indonesian
guy doing there for this announcement? It was a weird moment at the time
and it really made no sense until now. We`re having one of those moments
when something that previously made no sense, makes sense.
Watch this. This is what happened that day. This is how Donald Trump, he
wrapped up, and then restarted his press conference about signing that
silly Republican pledge. It was so weird at the time. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Thank you, everybody. Thank you. Thank you.
Hey, ladies and gentlemen, this is a very – an amazing man. He is, as you
know, right, speaker of the house of Indonesia. He`s here to see me.
Setya Novanto, one of the most powerful men and a great man and his whole
group is here to see me today. We will do great things for the United
States; is that correct?
SETYA NOVANTO, INDONESIAN POLITICIAN: Yes.
TRUMP: Do they like me in Indonesia?
NOVANTO: Yes, thank you very much.
TRUMP: Speaker of the house in Indonesia. Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was such a random moment in the presidential election, right?
Such a random moment in the Republican primary.
Press conference is over, he convenes this press conference to announce he
signs this pledge, holds the pledge up with the wrong date on it, does a
press conference about that, ends the press conference, thanks everybody,
thanks everybody, walks away, then comes back to the podium, starts up the
press conference again to tell everybody how awesome it is that he`s
meeting with his friend, the speaker of the house of Indonesia. His whole
group is here to see me today. We will do great things for the United
States, won`t we?
It was weird at the time, totally inexplicable. Well, now, we get it.
Because that was last September, September 2015. Donald Trump was doing
Donald Trump business that day. His presidential campaign was only a few
months old. The Indonesian speaker of the house was there meeting with him
at Trump Tower that day to talk about Trump`s business dealings in
Indonesia, a planned golf course and planned hotel.
Since then, that guy, the Indonesian speaker of the house, has gotten into
and out of a lot of trouble, because that company I was talking about,
that`s the largest taxpayer in Indonesia, that mining company that operates
a giant open pit mine that`s the largest gold mine in the world and you can
see it from space, that company with those huge holdings in Indonesia, one
of their executives met in Indonesia with that same politician who we just
saw with Donald Trump, and he secretly taped him. Secretly taped him
trying to shake down the mining company for $4 billion.
That mining company, Freeport, their contract to operate in Indonesia runs
out in 2021, runs out in four years. They would very much like to extend
that contract. They have a big new underground mine that they want to
build there too along with their biggest gold mine in the world.
And that politician, that Indonesian speaker of the house, the guy who was
standing there with Trump who got introduced at that press conference, that
politician was caught on tape telling the mining company that yeah, he
could get them an extension of their contract, in fact he could get them a
20-year extension of that contract with the Indonesian government, they
could get a deal to operate in that country until 2041, if they could
provide him with a little something. They would have to hand over 20
percent of the company, shares worth roughly $4 billion.
He said they could hand that over, what do we call it, an administrative
fee? They would have to hand that over through him. He would pass the
money on to the president and vice president of Indonesia. And that is how
Freeport could get their new contract with the government of Indonesia.
It`s a classic shakedown, right? And it was caught on tape. And the tape
went public in Indonesia just a few weeks after Donald Trump inexplicably
introduced this guy to the American press corps during the Republican
primary in the lobby of Trump Tower when he was making that announcement
about the stupid pledge.
And here we`re all like, who`s that guy? In Indonesia, that`s one of the
most powerful politicians in that huge country. And he`s caught red handed
and it`s on tape, and the tape goes public. Huge scandal.
The tapes were lurid. They were played over and over again in the
Indonesian media. By December of that year, by December 2015, three months
after he had that weird meeting with Trump that nobody understood, that
guy, the speaker of the house in Indonesia, forced to resign in the midst
of this scandal.
And then over the course of the ensuing year, things got even more wild
than that. He was facing this ethics tribunal for this caught on tape
corruption scandal. But then the tape itself got ruled inadmissible as
evidence before the tribunal. And this guy was powerful enough and
connected enough that even though he had had to resign in disgrace, even
though everybody had heard the tape, right after our election in November,
this past November, they actually returned this guy to power as speaker of
the house again.
And now two things have happened that sort of make us understand our new
world. Two things have happened that make this all make sense. Number one
is that the Trump organization has just confirmed to “The New York Times”
that Donald Trump`s new real estate deals, that golf course he wants to
build, that resort he wants to build, the Indonesian resort deals that
brought this politician to Trump Tower in the first place, Trump
Organization has just confirmed to “The New York Times” those deals are on.
Those projects are moving forward.
Remember when Donald Trump said right after he was elected that there would
be no new deals by the Trump organization now that he`s president-elect?
There are new deals that are absolutely under way in West Java, that`s the
golf course, and in Bali, that`s the hotel. Must be nice to have a very
powerful politician like the country`s speaker of the house helping you out
with real estate deals like that. And what does the Indonesian speaker of
the House get out of this deal? The man who was caught on tape trying to
squeeze $4 billion out of that gigantic American mining company, that`s the
largest taxpayer in his country?
And that brings us to the final piece of this, which is apparently how it`s
going to work in our country. We`re used to reading about how stuff works
like this, like, you know, autocratic leaders who have been in power for
decades, and their extended families who own more wealth than the rest of
the country combined, right? Politicians who get caught for corruption in
big foreign companies and how deals get done that helped people with the
right connections, right? I mean, we`re used to reading about this in like
terrible human rights reports on countries that end in “stan.”
But now, we get an American chapter of this story, because the last piece
of this is that just as this speaker of the house in Indonesia gets
reinstated, after his corruption charges get thrown out on a technicality,
just as this speaker of the house helping Donald Trump with his real estate
deals gets put back in power, and just as those deals that will enrich the
next American president personally, just as those real estate deals get
turned back on in Indonesia, at the same time our incoming president
announces the newest member of his administration, a man who will serve
without a formal job title and without a salary and who will not be asked
to give up or even disclose any of his business contacts in order to take
this new position, a man who has been consulted already on the head of the
EPA, who is consulting now on picking the head of the SEC, who will
apparently be in charge of reviewing all corporation regulations in the new
administration, this new key member of the federal government for whom they
have invented a job without a formal portfolio, he is the single largest
shareholder in that mining company, whose mines in Indonesia you can see
The company that did not pay the $4 billion shakedown price to that
politician who is personally helping Donald Trump get richer in Indonesia
as president. And now that company will presumably be in an excellent
position to do whatever needs to be done to benefit whoever needs to be
benefitted. You scratch my back. I scratch a giant hole in the earth that
can be viewed from Mars.
This is apparently what it`s going to be like now. Everybody`s got to pay
attention now. I know it feels like time to not pay attention. We`ve all
got to pay attention.
A lot more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Four years ago, in 2012, Democrats won the White House, when
President Obama was elected. Democrats also held on to control of the
Senate in 2012, which meant that after the 2012 elections, Republicans only
held the House. Things got better for the Republicans two years later, in
2014. In 2014, Republicans increased their hold on the House, but they
also took control of the Senate.
And so, as you know, for the last two years, for the last two years of the
Obama presidency, for this past Congress, even though President Obama has
been in the White House, Republicans have been in complete control on
Capitol Hill. And they had very high hopes for what they would be able to
do with complete control of Congress. We`re looking at archived tape today
of the first day of the Congress that ended today, like what happened,
today is the final day, what happened on the first day?
There was this great metaphor come to life moment on day one, at the very
start of this past Congress. It was then-Republican House Speaker John
Boehner. He was formally taking the podium to start this new Congress, to
start the session. And we learned something we had never known before.
Watch right over that black banner, see the black banner there? Watch
there. Whoop! See that? The podium is a machine. It goes up. Whoop!
It rises from the earth.
If you snap your heels together right and say the magic word, it rises,
whoop! Anyway. So, that was the first option day of this Congress, we
learned that about the podium.
Today is now officially the last day of this Congress, and however excited
the Republicans were, however much the metaphors all pointed in an up-going
direction, for all the things they were going to do with complete control
of the House and the Senate for these past two years, we can now say it has
not gone well.
Let`s start just for perspective with after World War II. This is all the
congresses, all the sessions of Congress that have happened since 1947.
Those blue lines show the number of bills that each Congress was able to
pass. The last line with the arrow pointing to it, that is the Congress
that comes to an end today. You will notice that Congress over the last
few years has been a little stunted, is probably the polite way to put it.
Since the Republicans took over the house in their big wave election in
2010. Look at that, the three Congresses since then, the 112th, 113th, and
114th Congress just ended today, those three are the least productive
congresses of all time. Since the Republicans took control of the House in
2010, the three congresses since then rank first, second, and third as the
least productive congresses we`ve ever had, since anybody started tracking
the productivity of congresses at the end of World War II.
This Congress just ending today also had the lowest confirmation rate for
civilian nominees in modern American history. For the first time since the
modern budget process was created in 1974, this Congress for the first time
ever, they didn`t even try to pass a budget. At least in previous terrible
congresses, they tried and failed to pass a budget. This time, they didn`t
even bother to try before they failed.
This Congress that just died – excuse me, this Congress that just ended
today, they also worked the fewest days of any Congress in the last 60
years. That`s impressive. Congress is less popular than gum on your shoe.
Congress is less popular than gum on your socks. Congress is less popular
than gum in your hair. And it has been for a good long time.
But this Congress just wrapping up today, they are special. They have
truly distinguished themselves for doing absolutely freaking nothing.
That said, a new Congress starts tomorrow morning. And the new Congress
that starts tomorrow is going to be very different than it has been for
these past few years. I mean, it`s possible they may be so atrophied from
lack of activity that they`re all going to spring something when they raise
their hands to get sworn in tomorrow.
But barring that, we`re expecting that things will get very, very busy,
very, very fast, start tomorrow, which will be a new thing to behold, after
watching Congress doing zippo for six straight years. We have – the last
six years we`ve lived through have been the least productive time in
Congress ever. And that`s now what we`ve gotten used to.
Tomorrow, that changes. If you have been zoning out since the election and
not wanted to pay attention to the news, I understand it, I get it. Oh, I
get it. But stuff really is starting to happen very fast now. The time to
not pay attention to the news has come to an end.
And especially we need to focus on something that is about to start
tomorrow that we`re not used to seeing. And the story of that is next.
Please stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: (VIDEO GAP) ready for the
possible opportunity of having unified government in 2017. The House went
through the entire exercise, every committee working every member of the
House Republican conference.
HOST: What were you smoking? No one thought that.
RYAN: I know no one thought that but we wanted to be ready. What I told
our committees a year ago, our members is, assume we get the White House
and Congress, then come 2018, what do you want to have accomplished for the
So, this is exactly what Congress and the House has been working on for the
last year, getting everything ready to basically rock and roll in 2017 and
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is ready to rock and roll,
basically, in 2017.
Republicans lost seats in the House and in the Senate in this election.
They lost two seats in the Senate. They lost six seats in the House. But
they are in charge on both sides of Capitol Hill and are about to have a
president of their own party. Donald Trump will be sworn as president
January 20th. But the new Congress gets sworn in tomorrow.
And what they say they`re going to start working on out of the gate is a
tiny little list – dismantling Obamacare, starting to rip up Medicaid,
which is the health insurance that more than one in five Americans are on.
They want to kill the Consumer Financial Production Bureau. They want to
kill the Wall Street reforms that were put in place after the crash, the
Dodd/Frank law. They want to start privatizing the V.A., which most
veterans say they`re very opposed to. And, of course, they want big tax
cuts for the wealthiest Americans and for corporations.
And that`s just the start. That`s what they want to start with. It`s a
very big and ambitious agenda. They`ve been wait to go fulfill it for
years, as you heard Paul Ryan just explain there. They have been planning
it for some time now.
Remember those dozens of times they fake repealed Obamacare? Now, we know
why they did it so many times. Practice, practice, practice.
But I have to tell you, we`re also just getting in some breaking news
tonight from Capitol Hill. This has just come in since we`ve been on the
air. It`s apparently started already. House Republicans met in a closed
door conference tonight and voted basically to scrap the Independent Ethics
Office in Congress.
This is the Office of Congressional Ethics that was created eight years ago
after a particularly lurid period of repeated congressional scandals. It`s
an independent ethics office that investigates misconduct of lawmakers and
staff members in the House. But there was a closed door meeting of House
Republicans tonight and they voted that instead of maintaining the
independent Office of Congressional Ethics, they`re going to put it under a
congressional committee, under the House Ethics Committee.
It sounds like a bureaucratic change, but what that means is there`s no
independent ethics oversight of Congress. This means lawmakers themselves
now get to police themselves now for ethics. And this means no ethics
investigation information will have to be released to the public. They can
police themselves now.
Nancy Pelosi put out a statement on this tonight. Quote, “Republicans
claim they want to drain the swamp but the night before the new Congress
gets sworn in, the house GOP has eliminated the only independent ethics
oversight of their actions. Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of
the Republican Congress.” Again, that news breaking in the last half hour.
Joining us now is Ed O`Keefe, congressional reporter for “The Washington
Mr. O`Keefe, it`s really nice to see you. Thanks for your time tonight.
ED O`KEEFE, THE WASHINGTON POST: Happy New Year, Rachel. Good to see you.
MADDOW: Happy New Year and happy new Congress.
Let me ask you about this breaking news that we just got about the
independent ethics office in Congress. Where did that – where did that
come from and why is this an important change?
O`KEEFE: So, the office of congressional ethics was established back in
2008, essentially in the wake of the Abramoff scandal, the Mark Foley
scandal. There was a public outcry and they realized they had to set up an
independent watchdog to basically field complaints and concerns about
campaign improprieties, personal behavior, other things. It`s existed for
the last eight years, barely has a set of teeth, and has presented some
information over the past few years that has led to the removal or the
resignation of some lawmakers. But there`s a belief that they could have
done a lot more.
What Republicans have done – let`s be specific about this – have done
tonight, is they had a closed door meeting, after the sun went down – yes,
those things actually do happen, and decided amongst themselves that when
the new House convenes tomorrow afternoon, they`re going to present a rules
package that has to be voted on by Republicans and Democrats that will
include closing that office and putting it under the House Ethics
Committee. The reason is a majority of Republicans believe that the way
this office has worked in the last eight years is in essence unfair to them
because it doesn`t allow them a chance to appeal some of these complaints.
The new office won`t be allowed to field anonymous tips, which is what the
current one has been allowed to do.
One other important thing to point out here: we know that Paul Ryan and
Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy opposed closing this office, because they
don`t want you and I having this conversation, and they don`t want this to
become a PR nightmare for them, frankly, as the new Congress convenes
tomorrow. And this goes it seems against everything Donald Trump would
have campaigned about, right, draining the swamp and the desire to do
things in Washington to make it an ethical place?
Well, this seems to run counter to that. And it will be interesting to
watch Republican lawmakers tomorrow explain why they want to do this.
MADDOW: And, Ed, on that point, the substance of this change – will this
be – will there be a difference now in terms of us, the press, and we, the
public, getting information about ethics complaints, about ethics
investigations of lawmakers? Is there an issue in terms of just what we
have access to when these complaints are made, when lawmakers are looked
into in terms of ethical misdoings?
O`KEEFE: Absolutely. And it was already pretty bad to begin with, because
the process was so secretive that they couldn`t reveal information, you
couldn`t get information out of this office for fear that they would get
shut down the way they may tomorrow, frankly. But ultimately, we would get
reports that either tell us that somebody was indeed facing some ethical
questions or that they had been excused. But it was a months-long, very
secretive process. It probably will be even more so now, if it goes
MADDOW: And, Ed, in terms of the politics here, you mentioned that very
important point that House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin
McCarthy, they didn`t want to do this. They did not want this to be the
first headline of the new Congress, that they`ll be getting rid of the
ethics office. That implies that they`re having issues controlling their
I mean, this vote tonight didn`t involve any Democrats. This vote was
Republicans only. And they lost it by a lot. If their leadership was
telling them to vote no, the yes vote was 119-74.
MADDOW: That suggests some deep clefts in the Republican caucus, even
before they get fully under way.
O`KEEFE: Well, anyone who has been watching this television show known as
Congress for the last eight years knows that clefts have existed, frankly.
And I think this is just an example of the kinds of divisions we`ll see
over the next few months. Yes, Republicans starting tomorrow are going to
begin the process of trying to change Obamacare, revamp the tax code, undo
the Dodd/Frank financial reforms of the last few weeks, and a host of other
But they haven`t come to unanimous agreement on how exactly that should be
done. And you`ll see plenty of disagreements over the course of this,
between hard core conservatives who want to do it one way, mainstream
conservatives who want to do it another, and those that realize that if
they do too much of this, they could suffer some setbacks in two years in
the 2018 elections.
We`ve seen Democrats successfully run in the past against Republicans by
saying they want to undo your Medicaid, your Medicare, now they want to
undo your Obamacare, now they want to give it back to the big banks and let
them do whatever they want. Those kind of campaign messages can work in
Yet, they say, and it`s true, they have a mandate because they have total
control of Congress and they have the right to at least begin this process.
We`ll see how it goes.
MADDOW: Ed O`Keefe, congressional reporter for “The Washington Post” –
Ed, I had no idea there would be such substantive news about the new
Congress before it even starts. But I`m very glad you`re here talking to
O`KEEFE: It shows you what we`re in for. It shows what we`re in for.
MADDOW: Exactly. Time to pay attention. Thanks, Ed. Appreciate it.
O`KEEFE: Take care.
MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead tonight, including some breaking news
with some striking visuals about something that`s going on at airports
around the country right now.
Plus, an announcement about something that`s going to happen on this show
tomorrow which is a very big deal and for which I`m already nervous.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The
whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what`s going
on. We have speed. We have a lot of other things. But I`m not sure you
have the kind of security you need.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: To borrow a phrase from our president-elect, what I can show you
here tonight is the age of computer, when the computer is not working.
This is tonight. The computer system for U.S. Customs and Border Patrol
apparently crashed tonight at airports all around the country. The agency
says it`s a temporary outage. They say they`re working to fix it.
Customs officials say they`re using alternative procedures for clearing
passengers for their flights but meanwhile, thousands of people using U.S.
airports tonight, think of all the people coming home from the holiday
weekend right now, lots of people need to be back at work tomorrow morning,
right? Thousands of people have been stalled at airport counters all
around the country tonight.
People have posted pictures of epic lines in Atlanta and Boston and Fort
Lauderdale. Two people reportedly fainted tonight while they were trying
to wait out a giant line in Miami. More than 30 international flights were
affected at Miami.
If you`re wondering whether this computer outage is some sort of cyber
attack on U.S. Customs, so far we are not getting any word of that. We
don`t yet know what caused the customs computer system to crash. But
whatever caused it, this is turning out to be an especially not-nice night
at the airport all over the country.
We will let you know as we learn more. But if you are out in the middle of
this right now, I`m sorry. Hang in there.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Kennedy was assassinated, of course, in 1963. LBJ stood for
election on his own terms the following year, in `64. That`s when he very
easily beat Barry Goldwater.
But then, four years later, when it came time to run for reelection, 1968,
LBJ decided he didn`t want to run. He bowed out and his vice president
became the Democratic nominee that year to succeed him.
And heading into the 1968 election, things didn`t look great for the
Democrats. The party was not at all unified behind its candidate, Vice
President Hubert Humphrey. And after the civil rights legislation that LBJ
had signed, southern white Democrats who are against civil rights, they
peeled off to vote for George Wallace, the produced segregationist.
Not to mention the fact that the country was torn up over the Vietnam War,
and LBJ was our wartime president. And if you were against the war like
most Americans were at the time, you were maybe not excited to vote for
LBJ`s vice president to be his Democratic successor that year.
So, things were stacked against the Democrats in `68 anyway. But the
Republican candidate running in 1968 knew that very well. Richard Nixon
was the Republican candidate in `68. He was determined to take advantage
of anti-Vietnam War sentiment in the country.
It seems ironic now, but that`s how he ran in `68, right? He pledged to
get rid of the draft. He claimed to have a plan to end the Vietnam War. He
argued that if you wanted to end the war, you needed to elect him, you need
to vote the Democrats out of office.
One problem arose late in the election, though, when five nights before the
election was due to happen, the Democratic president, LBJ, he went on TV,
in a nationally televised address and he made a surprise announcement that
peace was at hand in Vietnam. The communist side, the North Vietnamese,
they were going to make major concessions at peace talks. The U.S. was
anticipating that the other side, the South Vietnamese, they were going to
agree to a deal based on those concessions. Peace was at hand.
In recognition of the fact that peace was about to be declared, he said the
United States would step back right away and stop all military operations
in Vietnam. LBJ made that announcement on the Thursday before the election
was due to happen on Tuesday. But in the interim, on Saturday morning, it
all fell apart because the South Vietnamese side backed out. They decided
that they didn`t want the deal. And in fact, they didn`t want to talk
about the deal. They pulled out of the peace talks and the war was back on
And one of the reasons we know why those very promising peace talks in 1968
failed is because of this incredible audiotape of LBJ, President Johnson,
in 1968, after the whole thing fell apart.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
PRES. LYNDON B. JOHNSON: Hello?
OPERATIOR: Go ahead, please, sir.
SEN. RICHARD RUSSELL: Good morning, Mr. President.
JOHNSON: How are you, my friend?
RUSSELL: Just fine.
JOHNSON: Well, we`ve got one this morning that`s pretty rough for you.
We have found that our, our friend, the Republican nominee, our California
friend, has been playing on the outskirts with our enemies and our friends
both, he has been doing it through rather subterranean sources here. And
he has been saying to the allies that you`re going to get sold out.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Johnson confiding in his longtime friend, Senator Richard Russell,
that the Republican nominee, Richard Nixon, had been interfering in the
peace talks to blow them up. Richard Nixon approached the South Vietnamese
side in the peace talks and told them, get out of these peace talks, don`t
agree to a deal, you`re getting suckered here. Just wait until after the
election when he, Richard Nixon, would be president and he`d give them a
much better deal.
Nixon`s intermediary was caught on tape actually telling South Vietnamese,
just hang on through the election, hang on. Basically, don`t end the war,
we need the war to keep going until the election. Hold on until you get
And those communications to the South Vietnamese worked. I mean, at least
the politics worked for Nixon. Nixon got elected. But he always denied
he`d done anything to prolong the war for his own political purposes. He
always denied he`d done anything to destroy that chance at peace in
Vietnam, always denied that to the end.
Now, we know his denials were total bullpucky. Author of a new Nixon
biography, historian John Farrell, has uncovered notes from Nixon`s closest
aide showing that Nixon directed his campaign to scuttle the peace talks.
October 22nd, 1968, notes taken by that staffer. H.R. Haldeman, show that
Nixon told him to monkey wrench these efforts to start the peace
Quote, “Any other way to monkey wrench it? Anything R.N., anything Richard
Nixon can do?”
Nixon also directed his vice presidential candidate Spiro Agnew to threaten
the CIA Director Richard Helms around these negotiations. The notes read
“Agnew, go see Helms, tell him we want the truth or he hasn`t got the job.”
Meaning he won`t stay on as director of the CIA once I`m president unless
he does what I want here.
Nothing like threatening the CIA director even before you take office,
right? I mean, that`s one way to get kind of paranoid that maybe your
intelligence agencies might turn on you or they`re after you, that they`re
a political actor that needs to be managed. That`s exactly what happened.
In the months before President-elect Nixon took office, he was so skeptical
of intelligence agencies in the United States government that he refused to
accept the intelligence briefings offered by the outgoing administration.
He didn`t take a single face-to-face meeting with the CIA staff that was in
place specifically to provide transition support to him.
Intelligence community sent Nixon`s transition, they sent them envelopes
containing the presidential daily briefs since he wouldn`t do a face-to-
face briefing. At the end of his transition period, his office returned
all the envelopes unopened. He was convinced that the intelligence
communities were all politically biased. They were political player.
They`ve been working behind the scene to get his opponent elected.
For nearly 50 years, Richard Nixon was the only president-elect to openly
distrust the intelligence community to that kind of degree – before now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: It seems like you have a tendency, just looking at it from the
outside, to doubt American intelligence when it comes to Russian hacking.
I`m trying to just better understand why it seems that way.
TRUMP: Well, I just want them to be sure because it`s a pretty serious
charge. And I want them to be sure. And if you look at the weapons of
mass destruction, that was a disaster and they were wrong. So, I want them
to be sure.
I think it`s unfair if they don`t know. And I know a lot of hacking and
hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So, it could be somebody else. And
I also know things that other people don`t know and so, they cannot be sure
of this situation.
REPORTER: Like what? What do you know that other people don`t know?
TRUMP: You`ll find out on Tuesday or Wednesday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: “I know a lot about hacking. I know things that other people
don`t know. They cannot be sure of the situation.”
So far, we don`t know what Mr. Trump knows that the rest of us do not know.
Maybe we will find out tomorrow or Wednesday. Although his campaign says,
don`t hold your breath.
We have seen this kind of strange relationship with the intelligence
community before. It was earned in very different ways then. It was weird
then. It`s weird now. But at least there is some precedent. Not a good
precedent. There is some precedent.
MADDOW: A few years ago, the great Steve Benin who writes the blog for our
show, he picked up a few years ago on something going mostly unnoticed in
beltway politics when it comes to the Sunday morning political shows
Republican, guests consistently outnumber the Democrats. We`re talking
about the five major political shows that air every Sunday morning.
Starting in 2013, Steve started compiling a list of every guess on every
Sunday show, and lo and behold, turns out Republicans took up 10 of the top
Leading the way was former House Intelligence Committee chairman,
Republican Congressman Mike Rogers. He made 27 appearances that first
year. He did the same list again in 2014. Once again, Mike Rogers came
out on top. In 2014, not a single Democrat featured in the top ten.
2015, Mike Rogers retired. Replacing him at the top of the Sunday show
rankings was Donald Trump.
But the pattern of Republican dominance continued. 2015, out of the top 20
guests on the Sunday shows, four of the 20 were Democrats. Four.
And that brings us to 2016. Steve has again gone through the process of
crunching the numbers so the rest of us can just relax and yell at the TV.
But again, it turns out Republicans were overrepresented on the shows.
They took up 12 of the top 16 spots in 2016.
But this time, we got a new leader and it was not a Republican. First time
it`s happened. Except, of course, it wasn`t a Democrat, either.
Number one spot, first time ever, Bernie Sanders. Independent senator from
Vermont. 2016, Bernie Sanders blew the competition out of the water. He
appeared on the Sunday shows 70 times almost doubling the president-elect
who came in second place.
Senator Sanders was supposed to be here with us live on this show tonight.
Due to weather-related issues, he could not get here in time. I`m sorry
But I think tomorrow night, I think we are going to be joined by two of the
biggest power brokers, power sources, power senators in the Democratic
Party. One of whom is well known but nobody knows exactly what kind of a
leader he`s going to be – Chuck Schumer. And one of whom is very well
known but nobody exactly knows how he`s going to fit into the new
Democratic Party – Bernie Sanders.
The new Democratic leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, will be with us
tomorrow night. I plan to ask him about what the Democratic Party is going
to do in the age of Trump.
We will also, I think, have the aforementioned Bernie Sanders who has
kindly agreed to come back even though old man winter kept him away
tonight. He`s juggling our schedule so he can try to join us tomorrow to
talk with me about my many questions about what he`s going to do now.
So, big night tomorrow night. Chuck Schumer and we think Bernie Sanders.
We`ll see you then.
That does it for us tonight. See you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence. Happy New Year.
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