The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 1/18/2017
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: January 18, 2017
Guest: Shawn Brimley, Ed Markey
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: And thanks to you at home for staying with us
for the next hour.
It`s called the Economic Community of Western African states, which is
really hard to remember. But the Economic Community of Western African
States. Luckily, it has a snappy acronym that`s easy to remember, ECOWAS.
Economic Community of Western African States, ECOWAS.
ECOWAS was formed in 1975. It`s sometimes 16 countries, sometimes 15
countries, but it`s this regional group and they do some kind of fun stuff.
They have ECOWAS Games, which is like, there`s track and field and they do
volleyball, they do handball. It`s basically like a sub-Olympic regional
multinational sports contest for these West African countries who are in
this alliance together.
They also have an ECOWAS beauty pageant where the lovely ladies of the
member states, all those West African countries, they all compete in this
international pageant to try to win the regional title. ECOWAS has done a
bunch of stuff in West Africa that doesn`t necessarily make international
news but it`s important.
They hold those kind of community-building contests of various kinds.
They`ve built highways. At one point, they developed regional travelers
checks that you could use in all of the member countries in West Africa.
They also have an army and they don`t use it all that much. But the
contributing nations, these 15 countries in this little alliance, they have
a peacekeeping force that they maintain. So, this little West African
regional grouping of countries, in addition to managing trade and cultural
issues and infrastructure issues in their corner of the world, they can if
they need to, they can also handle worse stuff. They can handle stuff that
requires military force or the threat of military force when those things
One of those things appears to be arising right now, tonight. And it`s an
interesting thing for that part of the world and people who live in that
part of the world. Also it turns out to be kind of an alarming thing about
our part of the world and what is happening right now in our own country.
We, of course, are about to go through a presidential transition here. By
tradition going all the way back to George Washington, our presidents serve
up to two consecutive four-year terms.
There was an exception to that. FDR pushed it, right? FDR was there for
four terms but once FDR pushed the envelope on that tradition, we shoved
the envelope right back and that will never happen again. Now, it`s clear,
it`s not just tradition, it`s clear. American presidents get a maximum of
two four-year terms.
But if you want to talk about pushing the envelope on that particular
constraint on executive power, the guy who pushes it better than everybody
has to be this guy. This guy took power 22 years ago in the nation of
Gambia, the Gambia. Nobody quite new how long he was going to stay on as
president in that country once he took over 22 years ago in a coup, but he
was not on the job all that long before he proclaimed that in partnership
with god, his plan was that he would be the president of Gambia for one
billion years. That`s how long he said he would be president. Take that,
Well, early last month on December 1st, his time in power was ended.
Roughly one billion years early if we`re rounding to the nearest billion
because on December 1st, last month, he lost the presidential election in
his country after 22 years in power. Part of the reason we know he lost
that election is that he conceded defeat on live national television the
night of the election, called his challenger and said, “You won, it was all
on TV.” Very quickly.
A few days later, though, he changed his mind and said despite the election
results which he previously accepted, now, he`s decided he`s going to stay
on as president. He made a public statement that actually, it turns out he
remembered only god can deny him victory. God did him deny victory and so,
he`s not going to go.
And so, this is now a bit of a crisis. There`s been a developing crisis
over the last few weeks. Yesterday, he declared a state of emergency.
Police in Gambia started arresting opposition figures. They started
closing down radio stations.
Western reporters who have gone into Gambia right now to see how this is
going to unfold, report today that the streets of what have is normally the
very bustling capital city in Gambia, the streets tonight are empty, every
shop, every public place, every private home, every door in the city is
reportedly shut and nobody is out on the street.
Yesterday, before state of emergency was formally declared, tens of
thousands of people had fled the country. In fear, at least fled the
cities and moved themselves and their families into the countryside.
Senior officials in the government there have been quitting in protest
because the president won`t leave office despite the election. A bunch of
senior officials have themselves fled the country with their families.
Gambia`s ambassador to the United States was one of the senior officials in
that government who told his president needed to respect the election
results and step down from power. That ambassador, the ambassador to the
U.S., he was fired, called back to Gambia in response.
The thing has been brewing for a few weeks, since the president changed his
mind and said he wouldn`t step down but now as of tonight it really is a
crisis. And there are only a few ways of resolving a crisis like this,
right? I mean, obviously what you want is a political resolution. This
can no locker be resolved politically, though, because the political
process is how we got here.
There was an election, the election results are in, there`s no real
question that the results were free and fair. The president initially
accepted the results of the election but now he`s just decided to not honor
it. OK, there goes the political solution.
Well, next step, theoretically, this is the kind of crisis that could be
resolved legally in the court system. Well, in that case, that`s not going
to work either. The president of Gambia is a little bit of a nut – more
on that later – one of the ways he has screwed up his country is that he
recently fired all of the Supreme Court justices, all of them except for
one. And then when he had all those empty seats on the court, he wouldn`t
allow any new justices to be appointed to fill those seats.
So, there`s no court. There`s no political settlement, there`s not going
to be any legal settlement. And time is of the essence here. The
inauguration of the new president in that country is scheduled for
tomorrow, for Thursday. And nobody knows what`s going to happen.
But here`s the thing. Gambia is part of this regional organization, the
one that holds the beauty pageants and the track-and-field competitions and
all that stuff. And that regional organization, it does have an army.
They have a regional stand-by military force in case things go wrong in
their part of the world.
And according to “The Associated Press”, troops from that ECOWAS stand by
military force have been seen moving toward Gambia`s borders. That was
The commander of the ECOWAS troops broadcast a clear warning on the radio
today. He declared on a regional radio station on behalf of the ECOWAS
military force, he said, quote, “We are waiting so that all political means
have been exhausted but the mandate of the president is finished at
midnight. The outgoing president should start leaving at that time.”
Again, that`s a military commander in charge of troops who are advancing on
that nation`s borders, giving the president a midnight deadline to get out.
Well, midnight in Gambia was 7:00 p.m. on the East Coast tonight, in the
United States. They`re five hours ahead of us so in Gambia right now we`re
passed midnight, the deadline has passed.
Those troops were marched toward and massing on the border of that country.
They said midnight was the deadline. This is happening right now as I
And this president who won`t leave office to make way for his predecessor
at tomorrow`s inauguration, this supposed to be outgoing president, as I
said, he is a nut. Anybody who says he`s going to rule for a billion years
is a nut.
A few years ago, this is the guy who declared all HIV-positive people in
his country should stop taking their antiretroviral medications and instead
use the cure for AIDS he came up with, because he says he came up with a
cure for AIDS using an herbal body rub and a banana and everybody should
use that instead of their meds. He`s a nut. He`s a nut.
Some countries, unfortunately, are being saddled with being run by crazy
people. This is one of them.
But this is not just Gambia`s problem anymore because right now, a
multinational force from Ghana, from Senegal, apparently from Nigeria as
well, they appear to be poised to fix this by force. They appeared to be
poised to potentially invade Gambia and remove this guy by force and the
military in Gambia – there is one, it`s not a big one – but there is a
military in Gambia, they`re said to be loyal to this nutty president.
So, this is not good. This is happening tonight. It could also be sort of
a multi-front war.
Gambia is a strange-shaped country. You see it`s that little sort of
noodle there in the middle of Senegal. It just follows the Gambian River.
Gambia as a nation is surrounded on three sides by Senegal. The only other
border it has is its coastline and the Nigerian military has reportedly
sent a warship to sit on that slice of coastline tonight.
So, it could potentially be a land war. It`s also got a naval component.
There`s a lot of countries involved here, it`s hard to see any other way
out other than this being decided by force. This could be a little mini
regional war broking out over this presidential inauguration in that
country which is supposed to be tomorrow – one day before our own
And so, here`s a question for us: who`s on top of this sort of thing in our
own government? I mean, obviously this is not World War III, but it might
be a small new regional war in a part of the world where we have some very
important allies. This is the sort of thing that, you know, the United
States government would generally be up on.
That`s why a job like this exists – special assistant to the president and
senior director for African affairs. Yeah, that`s who you`d call, right?
That would be the point person in the U.S. government on an issue like we
are seeing unfold tonight in that small West African country.
That is a job at the National Security Council, special assistant to the
president and senior director for African affairs. We have that job in our
government. We have somebody in that job – at least we usually have
somebody in that job.
The incoming administration apparently has not picked somebody for that
job. Again, this is the National Security Council. They haven`t picked
anybody to be director of African affairs on the National Security Council.
According to the public pronouncement from the incoming administration,
they also haven`t picked anybody to be the director at the national
security council for Western hemisphere affairs, or for Europe, or for
Russia and Central Asia, or for South Asia – excuse me, South Asia, or for
Israel, Egypt, and the Levant, or for Iran, Iraq, Syria and the Gulf
National Security Council has directors for all of these regions of the
globe. They also have directors for weapons of mass destruction and
nuclear nonproliferation and strategic planning and counterterrorism and
human rights. The National Security Council has director jobs who are the
point people on national security in our own government for all of those
regions and all of those issues.
And the incoming administration hasn`t picked any one for any of those
jobs. And that`s unusual. They haven`t picked any directors for any of
the National Security Council jobs. These are not jobs than have to go
through Senate confirmation. This is not something that`s being held up in
Congress. They just need to pick people and put them place. They have not
bothered to pick people for these jobs.
“The New York Times” today had a harrowing report on how little has
happened to stand up anybody to take over basically all of the key national
security positions in the new incoming administration. I mean, the old
National Security Council at the director level, point people for all of
these regions and issues in the world, those people don`t stay on. Those
people go away the day after tomorrow. They pack up and leave, but there
is nobody in place to take any of those jobs unless they`re keeping them
all up their sleeve and they`re all announced all at once tomorrow, and
then they`ll have one day to make a transition with their predecessors?
Apparently, the first contact from the incoming administration, the Trump
transition team and the current National Security Council didn`t happen
until a couple of weeks after the election, which is unusually late. The
Clinton campaign had a plan to have its national security staff on site
within two days of the election had they won. It took the Trump folks more
like two weeks.
When they did appoint somebody to run the transition from the National
Security Council, again, weeks after the election, that person, quote,
“arrived in the West Wing with six people, only two of whom had security
clearances.” They didn`t even start, those people, even the ones without
security clearances, they didn`t even start meeting with the current
National Security Council folks until after Thanksgiving.
But even then, because four of the six people they brought in to do the
work didn`t have security clearances, the Obama administration folks had to
rewrite their briefing materials to make them unclassified because the
Trump folks had never bothered to get people with clearances in place and
they`re not allowed to read anything classified if they don`t have security
clearances. And then, in mid-December, the Trump folks replaced the person
they had running their National Security Council transition, replaced him
with somebody new, they replaced him in mid-December but that person didn`t
start meeting anybody from the Obama administration until January. Well,
you know, it`s the holidays.
And so, now, the National Security Council at the director level, you know,
point people for these issues and all these places in the world, they`re
poised to empty out and they`re does not appear to be anybody in place to
step in and take over those jobs. Any of them. And maybe you`re thinking,
“Oh, National Security Council isn`t everything, it`s not all that
important, not everything has to be down in the White House, presumably the
State Department and Defense Department can handle this stuff on their
own.” Well, it should also be noted the Trump folks have also not
announced any appointments to the State Department or the Pentagon below
the cabinet-level person they have picked to run both of those agencies
There`s one full day left of the Obama administration. One day.
One of the background worries about the election result and about this
incoming administration has been whether they were going to be able to do
this, whether they were going to be prepared, whether they had the skills
to line up the needed personnel for a new administration, whether they were
capable of doing the basic vetting and sheer leg work it takes to get
qualified people in place in time for the transition to a new
administration to be seamless and safe when it comes to national security.
Now, with one full day left of the Obama administration, it is clear that
those worries about the incoming administration were warranted and we`ve
got some harrowing new detail on that next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: You expect stuff like police reports and arrest records and
allegations of crimes and violence. You expect that lurid stuff to come up
early in the process, right? Actually, mostly what you expect is for that
stuff to leak to the press as the reason why somebody wasn`t picked for a
big job in government even though somebody initially might have wanted to
give them a job in government until they were actually vetted and you found
all the police reports.
That`s how this stuff usually comes up. But when there`s no vetting, when
there isn`t any preparation to name people to major jobs in government, who
knows when you get the police reports on these guys? Who knows when these
kinds of things are going to pop up?
Today, we got a police report from not all that long ago. We got a police
report from August of this past year which describes the police being
called to respond to a highfalutin` really expensive horse auction in New
York state. The reason there was a police report of this incident at this
horse auction is because the billionaire who Donald Trump has now nominated
to be secretary of the army apparently punched a guy out at that horse
The secretary of the army is a position that has to be confirmed by the
United States Senate, so maybe we will learn more about this police report
and about that incident at his confirmation hearing. But we`ll see. We
just found out about it today.
For the nominee to be secretary of labor, we don`t have police reports or
any kind of arrest records, but we have sworn statements from his ex-wife
from their divorce filings making serious allegations of domestic violence.
Since then, the labor secretary nominee`s ex-wife has renounced those
allegations as something she did and didn`t mean as part of a child custody
argument. But that`s the labor secretary.
For the nominee to head up the Office of Management and Budget, today, we
learned he didn`t pay taxes for years on one of his household employees.
That particular sin, not paying taxes for one of your employees, that has
been enough to sink the nomination of many, many cabinet nominees in
That`s also true from what we learned about the commerce secretary today.
Today, the commerce secretary nominee discussed with senators at his
confirmation hearing that he had for years employed an undocumented
immigrant at his home, one of his homes. He`s also a billionaire.
He told senators today he only fired this person within the last month but
he employed that person for years. Again, that`s the sort of thing that
has sunk many other cabinet nominations in years past. It`s the sort of
thing that a vetting process is supposed to look for very aggressively now,
because of how many previous nominations have been sunk by something like
But with the Trump folks, who knows what they did in terms of vetting? And
basically, we learned this stuff like the day of the hearing.
With the nominee for health secretary for the new administration what might
have popped in the vetting process for him – had there been a vetting
process for him – is his hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of stock
trades in health-related companies while he was heading up a health
subcommittee in the House of Representatives and introducing legislation
that could and did impact the price of stocks that he held and was actively
trading while he was affecting their stock price.
And that would be one thing if we were talking about one stock or one
transaction but the “Wall Street Journal” and CNN and Kaiser Health News
and “Time” magazine keep rolling out new stories basically everyday now on
other stock trades that Congressman Tom Price made while he was in a
position to affect the price of those stocks that he was trading.
And, of course, he insists it`s all proper. But for him – for all that
stuff coming out about him now when he`s this far into the process, this
stuff is supposed to pop in the vetting and keep somebody from being
nominated, but he has been nominated and it`s breathtaking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), WASHINGTON: Do you believe it is appropriate for a
senior member of dong actively involved in policy making in the health
sector to repeatedly personally invest in a drug company that could benefit
from those actions? Yes or no?
REP. TOM PRICE (R), DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES NOMINEE: Well,
that`s not what happened.
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: These sound like sweetheart deals and I
think that our job in this body and in Congress and in government is to
avoid the appearance of conflict and, boy, you have not done this.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: That cries out for an
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICS REPORTER: By the House Ethics Committee?
SCHUMER: By the House Ethics Committee or who knows? If he knew about it,
it could very well be a violation of the law. I think there`s a very good
chance he will not be confirmed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I don`t know if tom price will or will not be confirmed as health
secretary with these corruption allegations swirling around him, new ones
being published everyday.
But the story of the confirmation process so far for the new administration
is that whatever vetting they did or tried to do for these nominees,
whatever background checks they did or tried to do for these nominees,
whatever they did to prepare these folks for this process, they haven`t
done a good job. This is not good. And this is them trying to staff up
the highest levels of this station where.
These are the Senate-confirmable jobs. It`s not going well. And that`s
only talking about the people who have to go through Senate confirmation.
Even for the people who they can just name without them having to go
through the confirmation process, it has not been good. I mean, talking
about the National Security Council, right? They have only named two
people to be staffed at the national security advisor so far. They`ve only
named two people and one of them had to withdraw, had to lose the job
because of the multiple substantial plagiarism allegations against her,
some of which had been known and publicly reported for years.
But apparently, the Trump folks had no idea about those allegations, the
substantive the allegations against her. It took them completely by
surprise. And now, they`ve had to withdraw her name from the National
Security Council which, as we were discussing earlier, otherwise basically
has no staff at this point.
And the National Security Council thing is a big deal. I mean, there`s a
few different ways you can look at this whole thing, right? I mean,
there`s the kind of personality driven way of looking at this.
Politico.com had this headline on it today, look, “Trump set to take office
without most of his cabinet.” Yes. Yes. Exactly, because they did not
prepare to have a confirmable cabinet, so he doesn`t get one. He is going
to take office without his cabinet in place.
But the other way to look at this is not just in terms of whether he`s
getting what he wants. I mean, it`s the granular stuff that starts
immediately. That starts this week.
I mean, if there is going to be a small regional war starting over the
Gambian president not stepping down in West Africa tonight, who`s answering
the phone on this Gambia stuff tonight? If war is starting in this little
country tonight, right, is the U.S. on it?
I mean, the Obama National Security Council is in place for one more day.
If what might be a new regional war, starting tonight, if it doesn`t get
resolved in one day does the incoming administration have somebody in place
to start working on this on Friday? Not unless they`re going to announce
On the very, very basic stuff, on staffing up, on preparing nominees, on
getting people in place, even in key national security positions if nowhere
else, the new administration didn`t get it done. And time is now up.
MADDOW: This is how we worried it might go and now we know. This is how
it`s going. Quote, “Days before President Obama turns the keys to the
White House and the nuclear codes over the president-elect, Mr. Trump`s
transition staff has barely engaged with the National Security Council.”
That sounds bad. Is that – is that bad? Is that bad? It sounds bad.
Joining us now is Shawn Brimley, who worked at the National Security
Council. He`s former White House director for strategic planning on the
National Security Council. He`s now executive vice president at the Center
for a New American Security.
Mr. Brimley, thank you for being here. I really appreciate your time.
SHAWN BRIMLEY, FORMER OBAMA NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBER: Honor to be
MADDOW: I am a layman when it comes to these issues. I only know what is
reported. It seems to me worrying that there aren`t staff people in place
who are point people for various regions of the world or for various issues
or strategic planning like your job was at the National Security Council.
Are you also worried about that?
BRIMLEY: I am worried, Rachel. But a few things, you`re no layperson when
it comes to this having written a book and an expert in your own right.
So, don`t sell yourself short.
It`s not as bad as I think you suggest. Contrary to popular belief,
there`s right now about 200 people in the National Security Council. Maybe
about 40 to 50 of them are political appointees that will disappear at
12:00 noon on Friday, when President-elect Trump takes the oath of office.
But the rest of them, you know, there`s 100-plus people there that are
career civil servants, intelligence professionals, diplomats and military
officers who are there on loan from the State Department, the Defense
agencies and the intelligence agencies.
So, it`s true that Trump administration is far, far behind where it needs
to be, but there will be people there. It will be a good skeleton crew
there ready to support General Flynn and those few other people as you
allude to who will show up at about 12:30 on Friday.
MADDOW: Shawn, in terms of just having a sense of context here, what would
be a normal timeline for filling key positions on the National Security
Council? What was your experience, what was the Obama administration`s
approach to this? What would be normal?
BRIMLEY: Well, to give you my personal example, I was a very junior
political appointee going into the Pentagon, actually. And by this time, I
knew where I was going, I knew what day I was to show up, it was February
4th of 2009, I had my interim security clearance done and my paperwork
So, even at the sort of very lowest political rung of the Pentagon, I knew
exactly where I was supposed to be and when, and I believe in 2009, the
vast majority of all the senior folks at the National Security Council not
only knew where they were going but they were announced as early as late
November early December.
And importantly, Rachel, that`s critical time to norm and form a national
security team, to get to know one another, their personalities, even engage
in some exercises of how they`ll make decisions together. And the fact
that the Trump team hasn`t made much progress down this road I think is
pretty worrisome to all of us in Washington as national security
professionals who really wish them well in terms of keeping the country
MADDOW: In terms of the way people talk about presidential transitions,
one of the things people all say on the national security front is that
transition is a dangerous time because there`s always going to be a
learning curve even in a well-run transition, even in when people are in
place, the vetting has been done, the security clearances have been done,
the confirmations are proceeding smoothly.
It`s dangerous in particular because other countries know that about us and
will use it as a time to test us and see what they can get away with.
Is that – is that a hypothetical that we should just be prepared for the
worst-case scenario or do you think we should be worried that other
countries who see themselves as rivals or enemies will use this time to
probe for weakness?
BRIMLEY: One of the most predictable things in the unpredictable world of
national security is during this time, America`s adversaries will, indeed,
test us. They tested us during the Clinton/Bush transition and the
Bush/Obama transition. Your example on Gambia just now is a good one.
Right now, at the White House, there`s a senior director of political
appointee who`s writing down talking points, liaising with the White House
Situation Room and intel professionals trying to put together the
situation, to be able to brief both the president and the president-elect
But come Friday at 12:00, that person is no longer going to be there.
That`s the unpredictable situation.
The very predictable situations are things like North Korea test firing a
ballistic missile, Iran testing us, whether it`s in the Persian gulf or the
battlefields of Syria, and Russia for that matter.
Even though President-elect Trump seems to think he has this relationship
with Putin – make no mistake: he will test us shortly after the president
MADDOW: Shawn Brimley, former White House director for strategic planning
on the National Security Council, now executive vice president at Center
for a New American Security – Shawn, I really appreciate you being here
tonight, invaluable insight. Thanks for being here.
BRIMLEY: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Much more to come tonight. Not all of it that scary.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Every incoming president has a past. They`re not all salacious,
but if nothing else, you`re required to be 35 years old to be president,
can`t be a kid. So, you at least have to have all those years behind you,
and therefore because every new president is a full grown person who has
lived an adult life, you just expect that every new president will have a
few loose ends from his or her past that need tying up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, BUSINESSMAN: At Trump University, we teach success. That`s
what it`s all about – success. It`s going to happen to you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It`s probably not actually going to happen to you. At least not
through the benefits you`ll accrue at Trump University.
One of the loose ends our incoming president had to tidy up before getting
into the White House this week is the giant lawsuit filed against him by
people who said his Trump University business venture was a scam.
When he was running for president, he answered questions about that lawsuit
by saying he would not settle it, quote, “out of principle.” He would
fight it to the bitter end and he would win. No settling.
As president-elect, though, he has not only settled that case, now as of
tonight, he has reportedly forked over the actual money, the settlement.
Politico.com reporting tonight that the incoming president has actually
moved the money now. He has moved over the $25 millions in cash that he
agreed to pay to settle allegations that his Trump University thing was a
fraud. He spent that money with two days to spare before becoming
president whereupon he will commence draining the swamp – or whatever.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: We all OD`ed on political ads during election season, but here`s a
new one – most effective one we`ve seen since the election ended running
in Iowa, Nevada, and Arizona and on national media. I think it`s really
(BEGIN VDIEO CLIP)
LISA FRASER: We had lived in our house 25 years, John got sick with
cancer, then the bank foreclosed on us. We did everything the bank asked.
They lied to us and took our house anyway. John spent his last days
terrified “I`d be homeless”, and then they kicked me out after the funeral.
Steve Mnuchin ran the bank that committed fraud and took our home and now,
Donald Trump has nominated him to run our economy as treasury secretary.
We can`t let that happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is a powerful ad against Steve Mnuchin. He has his
confirmation hearing tomorrow for the position of U.S. treasury secretary.
We can expect that hearing to be tough for all the reasons explained in
that ad. It will be dramatic. It`s also the first cabinet nomination, one
of them, at least, that we`ve seen both the Washington strategy and also
seeing that paired with an effort to build public opposition to the
But there were also fireworks today on Capitol Hill about a different
choice. I mean, Steve Mnuchin is an incredibly controversial guy, his
history in the financial crisis speaks for itself.
But that`s a different kind of controversial choice from the pick that led
to the fireworks today concerning the EPA. Unlike so many other choices by
this new administration, the nominee to head the EPA is not somebody who
has zero government experience or a particularly scandalous private sector
record that`s going to be impossible to defend in a confirmation hearing.
Now, Scott Pruitt, who currently serves as Oklahoma`s attorney general,
that`s the guy who the president-elect has picked for the EPA. He`s
controversial because he does have a government record and in his time in
government service, he turned himself into a human-shaped battering ram
that was designed to destroy the federal agency he has now been tapped to
I mean, the one time Scott Pruitt ever got responsibility for running
anything remotely like the EPA, he destroyed it. He closed it down. He`s
had one dress rehearsal for this and it did not end well for Oklahoma`s
environmental protection unit which is the closest thing to an EPA that
Oklahoma had. It was in his office when he got control of that office. He
shut that down.
I mean, it`s remarkable to have this particular hearing for this particular
guy to run this particular part of the government on the day that we
learned we just had the third straight hottest year in human history. It`s
also remarkable that when they were looking for somebody to fill the
environment job in the new administration, they went to the one state in
the country famous above all others now for manufacturing its own man-made
earthquakes, because of that state`s refusal to regulate oil and gas and
the way it deals with its waste water.
I mean, the big picture view of the EPA nomination is Kafkaesque that they
would find this particular guy, but in the granular details that were aired
out in today`s hearing, it showed up just as tension and combativeness.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: Did you even file one lawsuit, one
lawsuit on behalf of those kids to reduce the air pollution in your state?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Why is the climate changing? I`m asking
your personal opinion.
SCOTT PRUITT, EPA ADMINISTRATOR NOMINEE: My personal is immaterial.
PRUITT: To the job of –
SANDERS: You are going to be the head of the agency to protect the
environment and your personal feelings about whether climate change is
caused by human activity and carbon emissions is immaterial?
SEN. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The EPA is for all of the people of the
United States, not just the fossil fuel industry of Oklahoma. What the
American people are expecting here is that EPA doesn`t turn into every
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now is Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts who you just
saw there questioning Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as he tries to
be confirmed to head the EPA. Senator Markey is opposed to this
Senator, I really appreciate your time tonight. Thank you for being here.
MARKEY: Thank you for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: What concerns you most about Mr. Pruitt`s nomination? Why are you
MARKEY: Well, so many things. Amongst other things, as the attorney
general of Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt sued the EPA 19 times on clean air, clean
water, on soot, on mercury, right down the whole line. Eight of those
cases are still pending before the EPA.
So, I asked Scott Pruitt today, would he recuse himself from any actions on
any of those pending cases and he said that he would not. I said that as
long as those cases are pending, he`s in a fundamental conflict of
interest, he`s the plaintiff, he`s the defendant, he`s the judge, and he`s
the jury. He has to promise the American people that he`ll recuse himself
as long as those cases are pending. He said that he would not.
And so, we have a case here where GOP is turning into the gas and oil
party, where they send the attorney general from Oklahoma who sued the EPA
19 times, to now take other the agency which is responsible for protecting
the health and the environment of the people in the United States.
MADDOW: Do you think that this nomination is just a stocking horse for
getting rid of the EPA? Do you think they`re going to try to abolish this
PRUITT: I think that what we have in the nomination of Scott Pruitt is a
situation where it will be ultimately not just the fox guarding the
henhouse but the fox sent to destroy the henhouse. This is pretty much the
fulfillment of the promise that is made to the Koch brothers and to all
those big oil and big gas and big coal interests all across the country who
were trying desperately to make sure that there was no continuation of a
very strong environmental agenda that Barack Obama had put on the books.
MADDOW: In terms of what`s going to happen next year, obviously, this was
a very contentious hearing today. You and your fellow Democrats came out
guns blazing, proverbially speaking, on this nomination.
Do you have the sense he`s going to get any Democratic votes? Is it likely
to be a party-line vote on this nomination?
MARKEY: Well, I don`t know. I mean, it`s pretty clear that the Republican
Party is no longer the party of Teddy Roosevelt. It`s no longer even the
party of Richard Nixon who actually signed the law creating the
Environmental Protection Agency.
We`re in a brand new era where Republicans question climate science, where
they are committed to undermining the increase in the fuel economy
standards of the vehicles which we drive, the pollution that comes out of
smokestacks. They ridicule the international agreement that was reached in
Paris where every single national academy of sciences in the world agreed
that the planet is dangerously warming and something had to be done in
order to deal with it.
And so as a party, the Republicans during that whole presidential run, we
didn`t find one of them who agreed that climate science was an issue that
had to be dealt with and I`m afraid that that`s going to be reflected in
the votes for confirmation for Scott Pruitt. That is what the Republican
Party has become.
MADDOW: Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, my senator as a Massachusetts
voter – Senator, it`s really nice to have you here tonight. Thanks for
MARKEY: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Tomorrow`s the Rick Perry confirmation hearing for him to be
energy secretary. Here is “The New York Times” tonight. This is the
headline, quote, “Learning curve as Rick Perry pursues a job he initially
Here is the lead, quote, “When President-elect Donald J. Trump offered Rick
Perry the job of energy secretary five weeks ago, Mr. Perry gladly
accepted, believing he was taking on a role as a global ambassador for the
American oil and gas industry.” That`s not the job.
“In the days after, Mr. Perry discovered he would be no such thing. That,
in fact, if confirmed he would become the steward of a vast national
security complex that he knew almost nothing about, caring for the most
fearsome items on the planet, the United States nuclear arsenal.”
He had no idea when he said yes.
Governor Perry, you`re not going to be the ambassador, but consolation
prize, you will be in charge of the biggest nuclear weapons arsenal on
earth. Are you disappointed? Should we be?
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: We just got something in our show e-mail inbox that we have been
waiting for days. Producers on our staff have been watching and hoping and
refreshing and waiting for this thing to show up. We had started worrying
it wouldn`t get here in time. We`ve sort of given up hope that it would
But we just got it. Moments ago, we got our tickets, yes. I will show
them to you next.
MADDOW: Meet the TwirlTasTix. The TwirlTasTix are a girls baton twirling
group from Bel Air, Maryland. They`re awesome. The TwirlTasTix have taken
part in multiple state and national competitions. They`re also regular
performers at the Minor League Baseball games of the Aberdeen IronBirds.
May I also introduce you to the pride of Madawaska, the Pride of Madawaska
Marching Band from Madawaska, Maine, which is the northernmost town in New
I would like to introduce you to this handsome devil.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
The guy in the light-up Tron suit is named DJ Ravidrums. DJ Ravidrums used
to be Hugh Hefner`s personal deejay. What do DJ Ravidrums and the Pride of
Madawaska and the TwirlTasTix all have in common?
They`ll all featured performers at the inauguration. They were all be
performing at the Lincoln Memorial tomorrow at a special inauguration
celebration at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. tomorrow.
On Friday, on inauguration day, there will be more marching bands and color
guards and lots of members of each branch of the military in the inaugural
parade. The list of participants was announced by the presidential
inaugural committee this week, a list which apparently includes the First
Calvary Division, Horse Calvary Detachment, and the First Troupe
Philadelphia City Calvary. I don`t think Calvary was the word they meant
to use but they used it three times.
Amid worries that the inauguration turnout maybe smaller than the record
crowds that the incoming president has repeatedly promised, the inaugural
committee is now sponsoring paid Facebook posts to try to persuade people,
random people on Facebook that they should come to D.C. to attend the
The ads look like this. See? Sponsored. President-elect Trump wants to
personally invite you to the inaugural welcome concert and the inaugural
swearing in ceremony. Click here to register for your tickets. Reserve
your free tickets.
Does it all sound a little dodgy to you? It`s because it`s a little dodgy.
When you do try to reserve your free tickets by clicking here now. Instead
of getting a confirmation page and a printout of your ticket, they try to
sell you a commemorative of a license plate and tell you that your
commemorative tickets are on the way, even though technically, you don`t
need a ticket or a commemorative license plate in order to go watch the
swearing in. You can just go.
That said, when you finally do get your commemorative ticket, the Trump
folks remind you that, well, actually, you don`t need it. So, it`s a
little weird. But the Trump folks have churned up this fake frenzy that
tickets are going fast and you need to reserve one now in order to get to
None of that is true. And it is a bizarre and sketchy way to start a first
term as president. But that`s what they`re paying to advertise, to try to
persuade you to go while they promise it`s going to be the biggest crowds
ever. Now we`ll wait and see if it actually works.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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