The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 1/11/2017
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: January 11, 2017
Guest: David Cole, Cory Booker
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC`S “ALL IN” HOST: That is “ALL IN” for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I don`t take it personal at all.
MADDOW: Not at all.
HAYES: It was an impression. It was the voice of a certain hyperbolic
MADDOW: No, I don`t mind, doesn`t bother me at all, which I`m sure you can
Thanks, my friend. Thanks, Michael.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
OK. Here`s the story: in March of this past year there was an explosion in
Pasadena, Texas. Pasadena, Texas, is about 11 miles outside of Houston.
There was a big explosion followed by a fire. Smoke and flames could be
seen for miles around. Look at that.
The whole neighborhood around this fire and this explosion had to be
evacuated. Even the Houston ship channel, which is basically the freeway
onramp for all American oil, it had to be shut down, the whole ship
It was not exactly national news when this happened in Pasadena, Texas,
back in March. But it was a big deal. Locally, it was a really big deal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: A plume of smoke and fire at the PRSI refinery, serious enough
to shut down the Washburn Tunnel and ship traffic on the channel for a
time. Serious enough to recommend a neighborhood nearby evacuate. From
sky eye`s perspective, the area of the refinery where the explosion and
then fire happened, an operator in the area was injured.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, that was coverage from the local ABC station in Houston at the
time of this refinery explosion back in March. And, thankfully, it was
only one person who was hurt in this blast but it was big enough, scary
enough, you can see it from this local coverage. It was scary enough that
it really put a spotlight on that plant and not in a good way.
Part of what turned up in the local coverage of the aftermath of that
explosion and fire was the bad record at that plant. They had a really bad
safety record. In 2015, 17 plants in and around Pasadena, Texas, reported
on their workplace injuries for the year, almost a third of all the
workplace injuries for that year came from that one plant, out of 17 plants
who were reporting.
After that explosion and that fire in March, the “Houston Chronicle”
further dug in. They found that on the day that explosion happened, that
plant was not legally operating. It was – its permit to operate under the
Clean Air Act had expired. They were running the plant anyway on the day
the plant blew up.
And all of that bad press, all of that, I`m sure, very unwelcome scrutiny,
it came amidst an even larger overarching scandal, actually an
international scandal involving that plant and the company that owns it.
You heard that local news clip there. You heard it described as the PRSI
refinery. It`s actually run, its parent company, is a company called
Petrobras, Petrobras bought that refinery from another oil company back in
And the interesting thing about them buying it, the scandal about them
buying it, is that when they bought it, they really, really overpaid. They
obviously overpaid. They paid $1.2 billion for that refinery when nobody
thought it was worth $1.2 billion.
Now, why would a company radically overpay for anything? Why would an oil
company radically overpay for this troubled little refinery plant in
We`ll take one guess, right? The company in question here, Petrobras, it`s
a state-run company. The government of Brazil owns Petrobras. And that
has very practical implications, right?
I mean, for one, you have to get a good gig at Petrobras. The CEO of
Petrobras isn`t some random CEO who worked his way up through the company
or something. No, the president of Brazil gets to decide who runs
Petrobras because it`s a government-run company. That`s a nice plum to
give out if you`re the president of a country, right? The president gets
to hand pick whoever he or she wants to run this giant, giant oil firm.
And what Petrobras, this giant company, is accused of doing in Texas is
basically an old-school mafia-style corruption scam. They`re accused –
they`re a government-run company. They`re accused of coming up with a plan
to really, really overpay when they bought that refinery. But then the
company that they paid that money to, they had to give some of that money
back under the table to individual corrupt Brazilian officials who were the
ones who greased the deal.
So, it`s a tidy little arrangement, right? You have a state-run oil
company that does pay an otherwise inexplicably giant price for that
refinery, but the money, that money that the company paid, it gets kicked
back to individual officials, to individuals who get to put it in their
pocket. It`s a sweet deal, right? It`s a sweet deal if you can get in on
And in a government-run oil company, guess who can get in on it?
So, poor old Pasadena, Texas, and their air quality and the shutdown of the
Houston ship channel and the shutdown of the tunnel in that neighborhood
and the evacuation of that neighborhood and the workers getting hurt and
the one worker who was seriously burned and all of the rest of it, I mean,
they all paid the brunt for dealing with this corrupt company but what are
you going to do? It`s kind of what the business is like.
I mean, Petrobras, they`re a really big company. They are the single-
biggest company of any kind in all of Latin America.
And the second biggest company of any kind in Latin America is also an oil
company and it`s also a state-run oil company. The second-biggest company
in Latin America is called Pemex. It`s the Mexican state oil company.
Same deal as in Brazil. The president of Mexico gets to appoint the CEO of
that oil company. It`s government-run.
And again, those are the two largest companies on that continent. Two of
the biggest companies in the world, two of the biggest oil companies in the
But when you`re talking about big oil companies, it turns out that`s kind
of the tune they`re all humming. They`re all pretty much like that. I
mean, the granddaddy of all of them is Saudi Aramco. Saudi Aramco is the
biggest oil company in the world. It`s the biggest company in the world.
It`s owned by the Saudi government. It`s state controlled.
The guy in charge of Saudi Aramco, again, not – it`s not just some
industry CEO. He`s the state oil minister of Saudi Arabia. His government
job is running Saudi Aramco.
Same deal with the national Iranian oil company. The guy in charge there
is the state oil minister.
You`ll find the same thing at all of these giant state-run government-run
oil companies in almost all the big oil-producing countries all around the
world. It`s the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation and the Abu Dhabi National
Oil Company and Petro China.
In Russia, it`s Rosneft. Rosneft is the state-run, government-run oil
company of Russia. It`s not run by some random CEO who worked his way up
through the company, right? It`s controlled by the Kremlin. It`s
controlled by Vladimir Putin. And so, he put his former deputy prime
minister in charge of it.
Somebody he goes way back with. He and Vladimir Putin served in the KGB
together. So, yeah, Putin put him in charge of the state oil company.
I mean, here in the United States, we tend to think of oil companies
differently. I mean, in part, we just think about our everyday lives like
where we get our gas from. We think of the big oil companies as, like,
Shell and BP, Chevron.
But, globally, if you look globally, all of the biggest oil companies
aren`t companies like that. They`re government-controlled companies.
It`s, you know, Saudi Aramco. It`s Petrobras. It`s Pemex, right?
They are the state-run oil company of some country or another. And, of
course, that comes in very handy for those companies. It`s particularly
handy for corruption – I mean, efficiency.
I mean, think about it, you need policy decision made to clear the way for
you to, I don`t know, buy an asset somewhere or get a particular kind of
permit, or make some sort of deal? You don`t have to bother lobbying for
it. If you are the oil company and you are also the government, what are
you going to do, lobby yourself? Don`t bother. You are one in the same,
just do it.
They all pull in the same direction. Having a government-run oil company
is also a great way for particular politicians and particular governments
to stay in power.
That government-run oil company in Mexico, again, second-largest company of
any kind on that continent, they`ve been accused of funneling hundreds of
millions of dollars back to the ruling party, the governing party back in
Mexico. And why not? Governing party is controlling the oil company, why
wouldn`t they arrange for the oil company to fund them? It`s a nice system
if you can get in on it.
I mean, oil companies, particularly big oil companies, they mint money. If
you`re in charge of a government that has one of those – I mean, that`s a
great way to enrich yourself. That`s a great way to pay off and reward
people for doing what you want. Sometimes you can even do it legally with
your government-owned oil company.
I mean, if you have something as big and rich as Rosneft at your disposal,
where you get to control who`s in charge of it and who gets what pieces of
it and what that company does, frankly, you could make everybody you know
as rich as you want to make them. Rosneft becoming a massive cash machine
at Vladimir Putin`s disposal, that explains as much as anything how he has
held on to power for these past 17 years.
Right, you can see why governments, particularly corrupt or kleptocratic
governments, you can see why they might find it handy to have a state-run
oil company. You can also see why state-run oil companies are such a
source of corrupt power and since state-run oil companies tend to get
something approaching monopoly control over oil in these big countries,
it`s easy to see how all the biggest oil companies on the face of the earth
end up being this kind of oil company, end up being these companies that
are attached to a government. Oil company that is state run.
All of the biggest oil companies are earth are state-run companies. All of
them. Except for one.
The biggest non-government owned oil company in the world, the biggest oil
company on earth that`s not part of one country`s government – well, today
their CEO took a giant step toward becoming the secretary of state of our
government in the United States. Maybe. Probably. But maybe.
And here`s one thing I think it`s worth appreciating about why this is
happening. ExxonMobil is based in Texas but obviously and famously they
drill for oil all around the world. “Wall Street Journal” did a very
useful profile on Exxon a couple days ago that laid this out really nicely.
It laid out Exxon`s global reach, where they are already invested, where
they have spent a lot of Exxon money in the hopes those investments will
pay off because they`ll be able to get oil out of the ground in those
And Exxon`s interests span the globe. So, for example, Papua New Guinea,
which is like as far away from here as you can get, right? Papua New
Guinea is in the vicinity of Australia and Indonesia. A very remote
country, very inaccessible country in terms of its infrastructure. Exxon
has the rights to drill about 1.1 million acres of land in Papua New
Exxon has rights to drill another 1.1 million acres in Nigeria. They also
have a bunch of rights now in places you might not expect. You wouldn`t
think of as oil-producing companies, but in the Netherlands, Exxon has the
rights to drill about 1.5 million acres.
They have a right to drill another million and a half acres in Australia.
In Germany, of all places, they have the rights to drill on just under five
million acres in Germany. In Canada, they`ve got a bunch. Canada just
under seven million acres.
They`ve got rights to drill tons of acreage here in the United States.
Look at this. This is according to the “Wall Street Journal” this week.
Exxon has rights to drill on roughly 14 million acres in the United States.
That`s a lot. That`s, like, two Marylands, almost two Marylands. It`s
more than two vermonts, though, I did the math.
That`s a lot of acreage Exxon has a right to drill in the United States and
look at how much it outpaces all of Exxon`s other worldwide holdings right
now. Interesting, right? Huge, right? Until you see this.
Yes. It`s kind of an ah-ha moment, right? That line at the top there?
That`s Exxon`s holdings in Russia compared to their other holdings all over
the world. That`s the number of acres they have right to drill in Russia.
And here`s the really, really important part: do you want to know where
Exxon is not able to drill? They are not able to drill, despite those
holdings, they are not able to drill in Russia. This is also from the
“Wall Street Journal.” This is the number of wells Exxon was actually able
to drill in 2015 in all the places where they`ve got these international
I mean, mostly, as you can see, the big dot there, they were able to drill
in the United States, they were able to drill lots of wells in Canada as
well. That`s the next-biggest dot there.
But look at Russia. Can you not see it? Put on your glasses. It`s red
and to the left of the United States. Look at the number of wells they
were actually able to drill in Russia in 2015 compared to their drilling
rights in that country.
And you want to know why they can`t drill in Russia despite all the rights
they have purchased to drill in Russia? The reason they can`t freaking
drill them, the reason they can`t get their money out of their huge
investment that they`ve made in that country is because in our country, the
government is not the same thing as the biggest oil company in our country.
In the United States, we do not have an integrated oil company and federal
government the way they do in Brazil and Mexico and Saudi Arabia and
Kuwait, and the way we got all the other biggest oil companies in the
And Exxon can`t get its return on its investment. They can`t get their
money out of Russia, right? They can`t cash in on what they`ve invested in
Russia because the U.S. government made a determination that it was in the
national interest, the national security interest of our country to put
sanctions on Russia that preclude doing that kind of business.
When our government made the decision to sanction Russia, that really,
really cramp the style of Exxon. That really threw a huge wrench in their
works, because look at their investment in Russia compared to other
countries around the world in terms of where they have rights to drill.
I mean, this is how they set themselves up under their CEO, Rex Tillerson.
Under CEO Rex Tillerson, they made a half trillion dollar deal in Russia to
drill the Arctic. It was going to be a partnership with the Russian state-
owned, Kremlin-controlled oil company Rosneft, half trillion dollar deal.
That was going to make Exxon and Russia and Vladimir Putin specifically
hundreds of millions of dollars, perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars.
They signed that deal in 2011. They actually struck oil in the Arctic in
2014, just in time for the U.S. government to say, “Nope, you`re out.
We`re kyboshing the deal, we`re putting a halt to all of it because we`re
putting these sanctions on Russia for their behavior.”
Russia loves Exxon. Exxon partnering with Russia`s state-run oil company,
that`s what brought their state-run oil company into the 21st century.
That`s what made Russia`s state-run oil company technologically capable.
Exxon is who taught them how to drill oil in hard-to-reach places because
Russia`s oil is in hard-to-reach places.
Exxon partnering with Russia`s state-run oil company made that state-run
oil company very effective and very rich. So, Russia loves Exxon. Exxon
loves Russia back because Exxon bet on Russia in a huge way under Rex
Tillerson in terms of where they are planning on drilling their oil for the
What they did under Tillerson a few years ago was the biggest oil deal in
the history of the world. And it got stopped by a policy decision made by
the United States government. Exxon needs the United States government to
change that policy decision. Exxon needs the United States government to
change America`s position overall about Russia, simply, so Exxon can
freaking drill over there. So they can recoup their giant investment in
that country which outweighs what they are doing anywhere else in the
They made a huge bet and they`re going to lose it unless they get this
change from the U.S. government. This is trillion-dollar math that all
depends on the U.S. government getting in line with what Exxon needs to do.
And so, Exxon is now on the verge of installing its CEO as the head of
foreign policy in the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE: So, I think you can probably
understand, Mr. Tillerson, why some of us are very concerned about the
president-elect`s statements, praising Vladimir Putin`s leadership, his
intelligence, including after being reminded of his ruthless persecution of
political enemies and after receiving compelling information that Russia
has interfered with our elections. So, do you think now is the right time
to lift sanctions against Russia?
REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE NOMINEE: I think it`s important that we
keep the status quo until we are able to develop what our approach is going
to be. That it will be all part of the approach.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What do you think the approach is going to be?
Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson facing questioning today from New Hampshire
Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen.
The big political news out of this hearing today was not necessarily the
tough questioning that Rex Tillerson got from Democrats. The big political
news out of the hearing was the contentious back-and-forth that happened
between Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson and a Republican senator by the name of
I mean, the Democrats gave Tillerson tons of hard questions today, but the
reason it`s so important that he also fought today with Republican Senator
Marco Rubio is that if a Republican decides to vote against Tillerson, that
conceivably would be enough to stop his nomination. That`s the math on the
committee, as long as all the other Democrats, as long as all the Democrats
voted no as well, one Republican no vote could stop him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Have you decided how you`re going to vote? Did he answer your
questions adequately about Russia in particular?
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Many of his answers were concerning to me.
But there`s a chance now to submit some questions in writing which we`ll do
as well. I`ll go back and I`ll start consider everything and read through
it and I`ll make a decision here very soon.
REPORTER: Are you leaning one way or another?
RUBIO: I wouldn`t characterize it that way quite yet. It`s clear I`m
concerned about some of his answers and I recognize the partisan split on
the committee, and what it would mean. So I have to make sure that I`m 100
percent behind whatever decision I make, because once I make it –
REPORTER: Because if you make the decision and vote against him, you could
stall this nomination. Are you prepared to be the one Republican to vote
RUBIO: Well, I`m prepared to do what`s right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If Marco Rubio does vote no on putting the CEO of Exxon in charge
of the State Department, and if all the Democrats on that committee voted
no as well, Rex Tillerson`s nomination presumably would be over. And that
would be a very dramatic development. It would not be quite as dramatic as
the U.S. government merging in a large way with our nation`s largest oil
company, but it would be pretty dramatic on its own terms.
So, we`ve got eyes on that tonight. Imagine the lobbying that Marco Rubio
is being subjected to right now as we speak. There were incredibly
dramatic developments in that story today.
There were dramatic developments today on ethics as well, including the
Office of Government Ethics coming out on his own terms and making a
pronouncement about the president-elect that nobody saw coming.
We also got a health scare in the Capitol tonight. One member of Congress
reportedly collapsing and being taken out of the Capitol on a stretcher and
being hospitalized. We`ve got the latest details on that.
There`s a lot to come tonight. This is not a time to stop paying
Stay with us.
MADDOW: We`ve got some breaking news tonight from Capitol Hill and it`s
not good news. A congressman collapsed tonight in the capital.
Now, this is probably not a congressman you have heard of. He`s a first
term congressman named John Rutherford. He`s from Florida. He was just
sworn in last week to start his first term in Congress.
You see him on the left with the mustache and red tie. Apparently what
happened is that he was in the Republican cloak room, that`s kind of the
lounge and meeting area for Republicans off the House floor. He was in the
cloak room tonight and he collapsed.
Somebody called the authorities. Congressman John Rutherford was taken out
of the capitol on a stretcher and taken to a nearby hospital. His campaign
manager has been trying to keep people appraised. The campaign manager
says that Congressman Rutherford is in stable condition.
As of about an hour ago, we had word he was being evaluated in the
emergency room. But we have not had further updates since then. We will
let you know more as we learn more.
Obviously, everybody in the country is wishing John Rutherford of Florida a
full recovery tonight.
Much more to come tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Today was day two of the confirmation hearings for Senator Jeff
Sessions to be attorney general of the United States and today at round two
a couple of important people were notably not in attendance.
The first important missing person was Senator Dianne Feinstein. She`s the
top Democrat on this committee that`s considering the Sessions nomination.
At the first day of his hearings, yesterday, she was very tough. She
denounced Senator Sessions for his record on discrimination broadly, on gay
rights in particular. She told senators on the committee they should
consider those positions when deciding on his confirmation.
That was yesterday but today she wasn`t there. Her office said she had to
go have a pacemaker installed. Now, the senator`s office says this
procedure, this operation was routine and voluntary. She had the procedure
out of an abundance of caution. They say she`ll be back to work soon.
But that`s important development, I mean, in general, for Senator
Feinstein. Just personally, we wish her all the best as she prepares to
come back to work, having gone through this surgery. But it also happens
at a crucial time.
The other person behind Senator Feinstein who was notably absent from the
second day of the Jeff Sessions confirmation hearing was Jeff Sessions
himself. Little known fact, nominees are not actually required to be
present at their confirmation hearings, and today was maybe a good day for
Senator Sessions to rearrange the paper clips on his desk instead of being
there in the hearing room while this testimony was presented today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: We were beaten, tear gassed, left bloody,
some of us unconscious. Some of us had concussions. Some of us almost
died on that bridge.
It doesn`t matter how Senator Sessions may smile, how friendly he may be,
how he may speak to you. Those two are committed to equal justice and our
society wonders whether Senator Sessions calls for law and order will mean
today what it meant in Alabama when I was coming up back then.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Congressman John Lewis today. He grew up in Alabama not far from
where Jeff Sessions is from. He was nearly beaten to death in Alabama for
marching for voting rights. Congressman Lewis today advocated for a no
vote for Senator Sessions to be attorney general on the basis of what he
said was Senator Session`s hostility to voting rights in general and in the
South in particular.
Also testifying today was the national legal director of the American Civil
Liberties Union, David Cole. This is interesting, the ACLU wouldn`t
usually testify in a confirmation hearing like this. But today, Mr. Coal,
in addition to taking issue with Jeff Sessions` record on civil rights, he
brought up another thing. He brought up a little known decades old case
that is now starting to follow Senator Sessions around like a string with a
can on it tied to his bumper.
In that case, from when Senator Sessions was the attorney general of
Alabama, he charged a local company with defrauding its customers and its
suppliers. His office indicted the company on 222 counts. His office as
the time touted the case as being, quote, “of the most magnitude that the
attorney general`s office has undertaken in the last 25 years.”
Case turned out to be a dud, though. The court not only through the case
out, the judge in the case raised sharp questions about Senator Sessions –
now Senator Sessions and how he handled that case at the time. Questions
about whether he took the case as a favor to one of his campaign donors,
whether he was misusing his office to basically help his campaign donors
attack their business competitors, using his attorney general`s office as
The judge in that case accused the Alabama attorney general`s office of,
quote, “serious and wholesale prosecutorial misconduct”, while Jeff
Sessions was in charge. Quote, “The court finds even having been given
every benefit of the doubt, the misconduct of the attorney general, Jeff
Sessions, in this case far surpasses in both extensiveness and measure the
totality of any prosecutorial misconduct ever previously presented to or
witness by this court.
Never really seen anything like that. I would not have known about that
before David Cole testified about it today from the ACLU.
Joining us is David Cole, national legal director of the ACLU.
Mr. Cole, thank you very much for being with us. I appreciate your time
DAVID COLE, ACLU NATIONAL LEGAL DIRECTOR: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Am I right in saying that the ACLU, certainly legal director of
ACLU, wouldn`t normally as a matter of course testify at a confirmation
hearing for a nominee like this?
COLE: That`s right. It`s actually been decades since we have. We have a
longstanding policy of neither supporting nor opposing nominees for office
and we didn`t actually support or oppose Senator Sessions. We presented
our concerns and our concerns are wide ranging and deep and our position is
the Senate should not confirm him until it gets satisfactory answers to
MADDOW: So many of the objections that have been raised to Senator
Sessions` nomination and the concerns that have been raised in terms of
what have the vetting process for him should be like have been about his
record on civil rights. You talked about a lot of that today but you did
also bring up this case that – I realize it`s been discussed and it`s been
hashed through a little bit since he`s been nominated, but it`s not as
I wonder if you brought that up because you`re worried that his previous
experience as an attorney general at the state level, if that sort of
alleged misconduct at the state level was extrapolated to the national
level that that could be a particular kind of crisis that we might not be
expecting from Jeff Sessions even as we do look at his civil rights stuff?
COLE: Well, absolutely. I think, you know, you`ve got two things to look
at with Senator Sessions. One is, he was a prosecutor for a fairly
extensive period of time and how did he exercise that power? And we find
that he exercised it in a very, very disturbing way.
This case was seen by the judge as the worst case of prosecutorial
misconduct he`d ever seen in his life on the bench. Stephen Gillers, a
professor of legal ethics at NYU, who`s been doing this business for 40
years, says it`s the worst case he`s seen in 40 years.
So, are we now going to give to a person who abused his office in this way
on behalf of campaign contributors a case that was completely baseless –
and all 222 counts were thrown out on prosecutorial misconduct grounds –
are we going to give him the most powerful prosecutorial post in the
nation? I think that raises serious questions and they don`t just go to
his ideology, they go to his exercise of this incredible power.
MADDOW: David Cole, ACLU national legal director, I appreciate both the
magnitude of this decision to make that testimony today but also appreciate
you sort of making it a national story. I think a lot of people wouldn`t
know about this had you not front paged it.
Thanks for being with us tonight.
COLE: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead. A very busy news day, busy news
night. Stay with us.
MADDOW: If you`re going to run a marathon, you generally do not sprint the
whole darn thing. But a marathon getting started at a sprinter`s pace,
that is basically the story right now in D.C. All day hearings on cabinet
nominees yesterday and today and tomorrow, in addition to that, the Senate
at this hour, even right now, is engaged in an extended series of lightning
votes on what honestly are generally grandstanding and meaningless
amendments but what might also over the course of this evening include the
first votes to try to repeal Obamacare.
They`re doing this series of a zillion votes. They call it a vote-a-rama,
I`m not kidding. This vote-a-rama started three hours ago, it`s still
going right now. That`s a live shot. This thing is due to keep going
until 4:00 a.m. is our latest advice?
But somewhere in this combination marathon and sprint is a guest of ours
tonight. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey is due to join us tonight live,
just as soon as he breaks free from the vote-a-rama. Senator Cory Booker
coming up. I hope.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: I know that some of my many colleagues
aren`t happy that I am breaking with Senate tradition – to testify on the
nomination of one of my colleagues. But I believe like perhaps all of my
colleagues in the Senate, that in the choice between standing with Senate
norms or standing up for what my conscience tells me is best for our
country, I will always choose conscience and country.
I pray that my colleagues will join me in opposing his nomination.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That today was the first time a sitting U.S. senator has ever
testified against another sitting U.S. senator in a confirmation hearing.
That decision by Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey today to testify against
Senator Jeff Sessions` nomination to be attorney general, that was a lot of
things today, but one of the things it was, was history.
Joining us now for the interview is Senator Booker.
Senator, I know this is an incredibly busy night. Thank you for your time
BOOKER: Thank you, Rachel. It`s good to be back on.
MADDOW: How hard a decision was this? You knew this was unprecedented.
You knew it would put you in the history books and it would probably
attract the ire of a lot of your colleagues. How hard a call was this for
BOOKER: It wasn`t that hard of a call. These are issues that have been at
a core of my work since I`ve first gotten to public life, issues of civil
rights, issues of equal rights, protecting vulnerable people. I`m here
because of strident lawyers who stood up and fought for my rights even when
it wasn`t comfortable or convenient.
So, this was a case with – especially with the extreme views where Jeff
Sessions doesn`t even line up with the majority of his Republican
colleagues on things like criminal justice reform, this was a case where I
thought there was a clear threat to many people in our country. And
silence in that case is unacceptable. I had to speak up at every
opportunity I had.
MADDOW: You mentioned criminal justice reform there. You also said today,
“If confirmed, Senator Sessions will be required to pursue justice for
women, but his record indicates he won`t. He`ll be expected to defend the
equal rights of gay and lesbian Americans, but his record indicates that he
won`t. He`ll be expected to defend voting rights, but his record indicates
that he won`t. He`ll be expected to defend the rights of immigrants and
affirm their human dignity, but his record indicates he won`t.”
I feel like that`s a powerful argument. I feel like the entire
confirmation process thus far has been him trying to rebut that, trying to
say, “I am not who you think I am. You have concerns about me on civil
rights and equal protection and discrimination, don`t have them, I don`t
deserve that nomination.”
Have you been at all persuaded by the arguments that he has made,
portraying himself very differently than he`s behaved in the Senate all
BOOKER: No, because he has a 40-year career of serving and many levels of
law enforcement and as a United States senator. He has openly criticized
the Department of Justice for doing the very things I talked about,
criticized them for holding cities accountable for police treatment of
citizens, criticized the Department of Justice – guidance that was give on
the stop bullying against gay and lesbian kids, criticized the Department
of Justice for getting involved as a party to cases taking on states for
So, here`s somebody who has told us, shown us who he is. His whole career
from his days of using his office to try to stop a group of LGBT young
people from meeting on a college campus, this has been a consistent person.
And given – you have to give him this, for consistency in the things he`s
been doing and saying for all these years. And you can`t just somehow
declare that you`re going to be doing things differently suddenly now that
you`re up for this position.
MADDOW: The unspoken rule that you violated today is one of these long-
standing traditions of the Senate in terms of the way that senators defer
to one another and treat one other, the collegiality of that body. One of
the consequences of those traditions is that everybody thinks that – well,
not everybody – a lot of people believe that Jeff Sessions, despite all of
these concerns, that he will be confirmed, that he has almost an
unbreachable advantage simply by being a United States senator who is being
confirmed with the U.S. Senate.
If he is confirmed, if the odds are with him here, are you at all worried
about retaliation? About him getting his revenge on you, on your
constituents or on the Democratic conference?
BOOKER: Well, look, that`s a profoundly powerful position and my concern
is not the well-being of me or other electeds. This is a person that is in
a position where he can defend or not or even make the lives more difficult
of some of the most vulnerable people in America. And so, this isn`t about
what could happen in the realm of politics or even in the realm of my life.
This is a real threat to those folks that I got into politics to try to do
something for and with and try to make this America real for everybody.
So, I am – I am – I have a heaviness, a sadness from the day that Donald
Trump announced this appointment, this has been weighing on me and my heart
and I think most people don`t understand the power of the Justice
Department, nor do they appreciate how the Obama administration through the
Justice Department has been doing extraordinary things on mandatory
minimums, on mass incarceration. This has been a great Justice Department
that has been affirming the rights of the marginalized in our country and I
think that`s about to come to a horrible end and an about-face, and it`s
going to necessitate more people speaking up, standing up, resisting and
MADDOW: Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, joining us on a very, very busy
night in the Senate after what was a really remarkable day – Senator,
thank you. We`ll look forward to having you back soon.
BOOKER: Thank you very much, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you.
Senator Cory Booker joining us. You saw him there, he was in the U.S.
capitol. That explains some of the statuary behind him, as some of the
people behind them. That`s because as I mentioned, the United States
Senate is involved in a series of lightning votes on amendments important
and not important tonight, but those are – but those are expected to go
until 4:00 in the morning. We`ll be keeping an eye on what happens in
Washington throughout the evening.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: The incoming president today unveiled his big plan for dealing
with his business interests while he is supposed to be occupied by the
national interests of our country. Turns out, it`s the same plan he`s been
talking about all along. He`s not going to divest himself from his
business, not going to separate himself from his business, he`s just going
to have his sons run it and we should trust him.
After the Watergate scandal in the 1970s, Congress created something called
the Office of Government Ethics. It`s an independent non-partisan office
that tries to stop conflicts of interest among high-ranking public
officials. The head of that agency is a political appointee but the terms
of the director of that office are staggered. So, incoming presidents
don`t get to replace the head of that office the way they replace the heads
of other offices.
The current director of the Government Ethics Office started working there
under President George W. Bush. He became director under President Obama.
He will be the head of that office until midway through this next
presidential term. His name is Walter Shaub. Walter Shaub has no reason
to fear being thrown out of office by Donald Trump.
Well, today, after the incoming president announced that he would not
really be divesting from his business interests, Walter Shaub made a
remarkable public statement. He gave his blunt and passionate and
patriotic assessment of what Trump is offering.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER SHAUB, OFFICE OF GOVERNMENT ETHICS DIRECTOR: It`s important to
understand that the president is now entering a world of public service.
He is going to be asking his own appointees to make sacrifices. He is
going to be asking our men and women in uniform to risk their lives in
conflicts around the world. So, no, I don`t think divestiture is too high
a price to pay to be the president of the United States America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You can see the lines being drawn now in D.C., you know, with
Donald Trump on one side and Democrats on the other. But this fight over
ethics, this fight is something else. This fight is the incoming president
versus ethics. And that fight has only just started apparently.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are the problem. You are the problem.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Can I ask you something?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no.
CRUZ: Out of all of the candidates, name one who had a million dollar
judgment against him for hiring immigrants?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Name one.
CRUZ: Donald Trump did.
So, you like rich people who buy politicians.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is your Goldman Sachs jacket at?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Where is your Goldman Sachs jacket at? You`re losing an argument
or don`t want to have an argument, never a bad idea to yell out Goldman
Sachs as an epithet.
Those pro-Trump protesters in Indiana during the Republican primary, they
threw Goldman Sachs as an epithet at Ted Cruz because that`s what Donald
Trump had been doing to Ted Cruz. Look, Goldman Sachs owns him. He will
do anything they demand. He is in bed with Wall Street. He is funded by
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He talks about how he is
going to get, well, Goldman Sachs – I know the guys at Goldman Sachs.
They have total, total, total control over him. Just like they have total
control over Hillary Clinton. They have total.
But they have no control – they have no control over Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Today, the Trump administration announced its fifth straight high
profile hire from Goldman Sachs.
Just keeping track. The senior strategist at the White House, Goldman
Sachs. The nominee to be treasury secretary, Goldman Sachs. The head of
the National Economic Council, the president of Goldman Sachs. The head of
the SEC, which is the top cop that polices Wall Street firms like Goldman
Sachs. That will be a former lawyer for Goldman Sachs.
And now, today, some new adviser job they created at the White House will
be going to another partner at Goldman Sachs.
Anybody who told you definitely shouldn`t vote for Hillary Clinton because,
look, Goldman Sachs – yes, you got suckered.
Today, the incoming administration made one other big personnel
announcement. They announced finally who they have chosen to run the
Veterans Administration. To the surprise of a lot of people, including
apparently the man who was chosen himself, he had no idea it was coming.
The nominee who was picked for the job is this guy. His name is David
He is currently the undersecretary for health at the V.A. He is there now.
He is an Obama appointee who is already running health at the V.A.
During the campaign, the incoming president, of course, trashed the V.A.
every chance he got, particularly its health care. He called V.A. and V.A.
health a fraudulent enterprise. He said it was the most corrupt agency in
the United States. He would rail about how illegal immigrants got better
health care and better care than the vets.
But now, apparently, he is going to keep the guy in charge of V.A. health,
and he is not only going to keep him on, he is going to put him in charge
of the whole V.A.
Now, veterans organizations had feared that the Trump administration would
put somebody in the top of the V.A. who was bent on privatizing it and
dismantling the whole agency. Some of those groups sound a little bit
relieved by this choice. Group AMVETS announced that they were pleasantly
surprised with this choice. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America said
they were optimistic about David Shulkin, called him, quote, “our best hope
among the candidates reported in the media.”
That said, the pick is not without controversy. Not only is he an Obama
appointee and currently there, he is not a veteran himself. If confirmed,
the V.A. would be led by a nonveteran for the first time in its history.
Still, David Shulkin was confirmed unanimously for his current job at the
V.A. He is very much involved in running the V.A. right now.
And for all those reasons and many others, he is expected to sail to
confirmation. We`ll, of course, keep you posted.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Fifteen years ago today, twenty of them arrived that first day in
total. In the years since that strange, expensive, quasi-legal offshore
prison has held 780 different prisoners.
By the time President Obama signed an order one day into his presidency to
close that prison, there were 242 prisoners still being held there. Now,
as President Obama leaves office, the number of prisoner there`s is down to
55. Last week, the Pentagon announced the transfer of four more men to
Saudi Arabia. That brings the total number of people held at Guantanamo to
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said it`s unlikely any more prisoners will
be transferred out before the end of the Obama administration. But despite
that, today, 40 Democratic legislators wrote to President Obama saying
this, quote, “As President-elect Trump prepares to take office, we write to
you to express concern over his public declarations in support of torture.”
Quote, “He also vowed to keep Guantanamo Bay detention camp open and load
it up with some bad dudes. For this reason, we encourage you to engage in
a bold, renewed push to shut down the Guantanamo facility.” Quote, “Mr.
Trump must be deprived of the use of Guantanamo Bay.”
It remains to be seen if and how the Obama administration plans to respond.
Trump takes office in nine days. Tick-tock.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Good evening, Lawrence.
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