The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 1/19/2017
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: January 19, 2017
Guest: Christopher Lu
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: He happens to be – oh, there he is,
look at that man. Sonny Purdue.
He came go into my office two months ago. Since then, I saw 10 people that
everybody liked, politically correct and I kept thinking back to Sonny
Perdue, a great, great farmer. He loves the farms, knows everything about
farming, knows everything about agriculture.
He`s been successful in farming. He knows the good stuff and the bad
stuff, but people came into my office and they said, “I`m really wanting
the job.” I said, “Let me ask you a question, do you have any experience
with farms or agriculture?” “No, sir, I don`t.” I said, “Have you ever
seen a farm?”
The one gentleman who`s a great guy, we`ll find something else, OK? But I
can`t make him secretary of agriculture. But we just named Sonny Purdue so
I want to congratulate you, secretary of agriculture.
When I was leaving I just saw General Kelly. And when I was leaving he`s -
- just to put in the most basic terms, he`s in charge of our borders and
they had on all of the stations that lots of things are happening along the
borders, like there`s tremendous security all of a sudden and there are
guards – even before he gets there they`re say, wow, what a difference.
What a difference.
You know, I was very honored to get border security, all of the border
patrol agents, they endorsed Trump. We had 16,500. ICE endorsed Trump.
And they know what`s happening or they`ve already started because General
Kelly is going to do an unbelievable job in keeping us all safe.
And speaking of safety, we have General Mattis. Now, I don`t know if he
likes being called “Mad Dog” Mattis. So, I have will not call him Mad Dog
Mattis. I`ll just call him General Mattis but he`s here someplace. He is
going to keep us safe.
In fact, it was the shortest senatorial interview I`ve ever seen. I think
they`re afraid of him, actually. But just in case you have any question,
don`t worry, he`s going to pass.
But the cabinet members are doing really fantastically. I`ve watched most
of it. I`ve heard most of it. They have really, really done a good job
and I was very proud of them.
I`m very, very proud of my picks. There`s not a pick that I don`t love and
if there was I`d tell you right now. Probably would, actually.
I want to thank the cabinet for being here. I want to thank all of the
senators that I see. I want to thank all of our donors, the big donors,
small donors, there are no donors that got really, really generous the day
after the election was won.
I had a couple that got so generous. “Hi, Don, I want to tell you, I just
sent a big check.” Ooh, great, should have sent it a week before. That`s
okay. We love you, too. They are now officially a member of our party.
You know, we`ve picked up hundreds of thousands and millions of
Republicans. Not only did we do great in the election, you remember, we
cannot get to 270. They were right, we got to 306. You cannot get.
I know CNN, I was watching – I was watching all of them, in all fairness,
all of them, the main networks, the cable networks – although FOX has
treated us very well, I have to say. Very well, very well. Very well.
Very well. And when I say “well,” by “well” I mean fairly. But they were
saying you cannot get to 270. I went to Maine four times for one vote and
I got it, but I didn`t need it.
But this was a victory for all of us. A victory for all of us and in the
audience, by the way, I see my great brother and I see Ann Marie, thank you
for being here. I see my sister Maryanne and David. Where is – they`re
right there. Who happens to be a court of appeals judge. She is tough.
She is tough. But highly, highly respected.
I see my sister Elizabeth which is great. I`m so happy you`re here. So
We actually have a very, very good family. We have a family – we have a
family that gets along.
My sons – look at them standing there. Today – I say why aren`t you
campaigning today? Eric and Don and Tiffany who was incredible, and Baron
is home. We had a great group of people right? We worked hard.
In the audience ,we have somebody that`s no pressure whatsoever, he`s got a
great quarterback named Tom Brady, and a great coach, and a great coach
named Belichick, Bob Kraft. So good luck, Bob.
Your friend Tom just called, he feels good. He called to congratulate us.
Hi feels good. Good luck. You`re going to do great. Thanks.
So I just want to thank everybody. We`re going to have four incredible
years. It`s going to be something special.
We have in the audience a special person who`s worked very hard who are
married very well, it`s my daughter Ivanka. Where is she?
I sort of stole her husband. He is so great. If you can`t produce peace
in the Middle East, nobody can. OK? All my life, I`ve been hearing,
“That`s the toughest deal in the world to make.” And I`ve seen it. But I
have a feeling that Jared is going to do a great job. I have a feeling
he`s going to do a great job.
So – you`ll work with him.
And one other person I have to thank. So we had actually 18. People said
17 people running. It`s 18 including Gilmore. Now, I like Gilmore because
he endorsed me right away. OK, that`s good.
But he was the governor of Virginia, in all fairness. Is he here? Yes,
he`s here. So, we had 18 people running and we had Reince and I said
before, nobody knew how to pronounce his name. It`s a crazy name. They
called him Rance. Steve Wynn just called him – he`s still not pronouncing
it right, Steve.
But Reince Priebus, now everybody pronounces his name right. He`s a star
and I knew that a long time ago. And he had a problem because he sort of
like me. He didn`t like me because of my personality. He thought I could
win. He thought I could win.
Phyllis Schlafly, the great Phyllis Schlafly, you know who that is. So,
she`s a great woman, was a great woman, passed away six months ago. I went
to her funeral in St. Louis.
And she came out against all of her fellow conservatives and she said “I am
not endorsing anybody else but Donald Trump. I don`t care what exactly he
is. He`s like an unknown quantity but he`s going to win.”
And Reince sort of had the same thing and Reince was taking tremendous
abuse. And I want to thank, by the way, Phyllis, because she went through
hell. I`m telling you, Phyllis went through hell in that last period of a
year and she turned out to be right.
But Reince had the same thing. And Reince sort of – I always felt he
favored me. It`s like a coach who has a player and you sort of favor?
But Reince is fantastic. Reince has been an unbelievable leader. Now, he
had to win, because if he didn`t win it was over. He would have fired, we
would have said, Reince, you`re fired, get the hell out of here.
But he`s an unbelievable leader. He`s an unbelievable talent and he`s been
my friend and he`s been with me from the beginning. So I want to thank
And just in finishing up, Tom Barrack called me. Tom Barrack is a very –
where`s Tom? He`s got to be around here someplace?
Tom Barrack, he`s a very, very successful guy, Colony Capital. And he
became my party planner. In fact, every time I have a party – are you
available? I`m having one in about two months, Tom.
He and all of his friends they came to me and they said, “We`d like to run
it.” I said what the hell do you know about running it? Well, between
Stephanie – where`s Stephanie? There she is.
Stephanie, what a job, what a job you did. Thank you. Did he finally come
through for you, Stephanie?
Tom, thank you. Stephanie, thank you. Your entire group, thank you. So
far, it`s been perfect.
Now, the big one is tomorrow around 12:00. OK? Because we had a thing
today. We had a couple things. Arlington National Cemetery. I don`t know
if anyone saw it. It was so beautiful. So many people. So many people.
It was incredible.
So we went there and we laid the wreath with Mike and it was beautiful and
then we went to the Lincoln Memorial and had a concert and we thought it
would be a small concert and tens of thousands of people with there. It
went all the way to the back.
They never had so many people and very few people ever had a concert at
Lincoln Memorial but what they pulled off was incredible. It was an
unbelievable period of time. But tomorrow seems to be the big one and I
made a speech tonight at the Lincoln Memorial, in front of all of those
people and all of those live television cameras, I can`t stand them, but
actually a couple of them are starting to get honest.
But I thought it was a very good speech. And so instead of saying it was a
good speech, they`re saying, “Doesn`t matter tonight, how will he do
tomorrow?” They never give you credit. But tomorrow we have a speech,
probably around 12:00. It may rain, it may not rain. I don`t care. It
I mean, the truth is, if it really pours, that`s OK because people will
realize it`s my real hair and that`s OK. It`s OK.
Might be a mess but they`re going see that it`s my real hair.
But we have a speech that I wrote and worked with Stephen Miller who`s
around here someplace and Stephen is great. He`s been with us from the
beginning. Stephen and Hope and Corey and so many people have been so
And I see my Kellyanne. Oh, Kellyanne. Come here. Come here. Come here,
Kellyanne. Get up here. Come here, Kellyanne.
She`s been so great. Wow.
So, there is no den she will not go into. When my men are petrified to go
on a certain network, I say, Kellyanne, would you do it? “Absolutely. No
problem.” Then she gets on and she just destroys them.
So, anyway, thank you, baby. Thank you. Thank you, honey. Be careful.
So this is a celebration of victory. You`re my friends. We needed this
Three weeks before we won, as you know, it was going to be the single
greatest defeat in the history of politics. They predicted that this would
be the greatest loss in political history. Not even modern political
history. They said in political history.
And I`ll tell you one thing. I outworked everybody. I think I outworked
anybody who ever ran for office. I learned that from Belichick, right?
But we out worked them and three, four, five speeches a day all over the
place and that last two weeks and the last week especially, there was
something that was happening. I told a group today, they canceled their
fireworks two weeks out and there was a little story that they – they
spent $7 million on fireworks and they canceled it and that`s because
history has proven that if you`re going to lose you don`t want fireworks,
And that was a good sign and there were other good signs, but what we did
on those last two weeks and especially that last week it was fun and we saw
what was going to happen. We were pretty sure we were going to win.
But, again, thank you all very much. We`ll see you, we have an election
coming up in two years. We`re going to get a lot of senators and a lot of
congressmen elected. A lot. We`re going to get a lot of them elected.
Mitch McConnell is here. He`s smiling so big, he loves those words.
And we are going to make America great again. Greater than ever before.
Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: That`s the incoming president of the United
States on the eve of his inauguration. You see him greeting majority
leader Kevin McCarthy there and his wife. This is at Union Station, which
is the glorious central train station in downtown New York City. They`re
holding a gala event to celebrate the start of the inaugural festivities.
The president-elect there talking about what I think everybody would agree
is his favorite subject – which is his election victory. You see him
there with Paul Ryan and I believe that`s Paul Ryan`s wife, although I
cannot tell from his this angle. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan there.
The president-elect also thanking his supporters, thanking his donors,
teasing people who became his donors after he won and started donating to
the inaugural committee. One of the unusual things about this inauguration
is that while it is expected to be one of the smallest inaugural
celebrations in recent years, everything from the number of inaugural balls
to the number of people expected in Washington, D.C. for the festivities,
the Trump inaugural committee has raised tons more money than anybody has
ever raised for an inauguration before, basically doubling the amount that
was the previous record from the Obama administration. And they had the
largest inauguration in U.S. history.
So this will be a small one but it`s got way more money. We`re not sure
what they`ll do either to spend all the money or what they deal with the
leftover money if they don`t spend it all but he`s chiding some of his
donors there – people who gave money after he had won the election.
He was talking up some of his cabinet nominees. He said he`s thrilled
with, he loves all of his nominees thus far. And then he told the crowd if
there were any of his picks who he didn`t like, who he wasn`t enthralled
with, he would tell that crowd about it right then, right there. Then he
paused and said, “I would, I would tell you. I probably would.” Sort of
an unusual moment confessing that he would tell this group of donors which
of his nominees he doesn`t really like. I don`t know.
He also – I should clear up something that he said that was untrue. He
described the welcome concert that happened today at the Lincoln Memorial.
Mr. Trump`s inaugural committee did hold a welcome concert today at the
He said today, he said in these remarks tonight that there`s never been an
event like that. There`s been very few events like that at the Lincoln
Memorial, described it as a unique event and a historically huge event in
terms of the number of people that turned out. That`s not true.
At the Obama inauguration in 2009, the first Obama inauguration, they held
a very famous very large concert at the Lincoln Memorial called the “We Are
One” concert. Big enough deal that there`s been, like, a documentary made
about it. I mean it was a very big deal.
And 400,000 people turned out in very, very cold temperatures to go to that
event. Nothing like 400,000 people turned out today to see the marching
bands and country duos who turned out for Mr. Trump`s version of that event
today at the Lincoln Memorial. So when he said that was an unprecedented
event and they`ve never seen crowds like that, that was not true.
Also an interesting moment when he called Kellyanne Conway up on stage with
him there, his spokesperson during the campaign effectively, she was his
campaign manager but his most prolific spokesperson. He asked her to come
up on stage with him and praised her in terms of her willingness to speak
when he said even some of his male surrogates, his male staffers would be
afraid to go to certain networks but Kellyanne Conway would be happy to do
And then the president-elect said, “Once she got there, she`d destroy
them.” Nice moment, I`m sure for Kellyanne Conway. I should also note
that the president-elect made a self-deprecating – well, self-aggrandizing
– he made a joke about his hair.
I was going to describe it as a self-deprecating joke but now that I think
about it, it`s not. He said would be OK if it rains tomorrow because then
at least everybody could tell it was his real hair. It would be very messy
but you could tell it was real.
I don`t think he understands that the concern or consternation about his
hair is not its reality. It`s a different kind of concern.
But there he is with the soon to be first lady, his wife, Melania. The
president-elect again greeting well-heeled donors at D.C. Union Station.
We`re going to take a quick break and come back and start this show
tonight. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: They left Puerto Rico in World War II. He had not served in the
war because he had a serious heart condition, and that meant he was not
eligible to be in the service during the war. She did serve in the war,
though, she joined the Women`s Army Corps.
They stationed her in Georgia. Her name was Selena. She spoke English.
Her husband was named Juan, he did not speak English. He also only had a
third grade education.
But together as a young couple, a very handsome young couple, I think
they`re adorable in these pictures, I have to say, they moved to New York.
They moved to New York during World War II. They found an apartment in the
housing project in the east Bronx.
Then in 1954, five weeks after Brown v. Board of education was decided,
five weeks after the Supreme Court struck down the racial segregation of
American schools and that landmark decision, five weeks after that, June
1954 when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, they had their first child.
They had a baby girl. 1954.
Three years later, they had baby number two, they had a little boy who they
also named Juan after his father. And the family spoke Spanish at home
because dad only spoke Spanish, he didn`t speak English. Dad worked at a
tool and die shop in the Bronx. Salena, she worked as a phone operator in
And when their oldest child, their little girl, was eight years old, she
was diagnosed with diabetes. They learned she would need life long insulin
injection to manage diabetes. And the following year when their little
girl was nine years old and their boy was six years old, their father died.
Juan was only 42 years old when he died. He left Selena widowed with these
two small kids to raise in the Bronx.
And she started working six days a week. She redoubled her efforts to get
her kids fully fluent in English, even though they had grown up in a
Spanish-speaking home with a monolingual dad. She had been working as a
phone operator in the Bronx but she put herself through school. She got
her licensed practical nurse certification and moved up to a better job
that paid better. She got a job as a nurse in a methadone clinic the Bronx
and she raised her kids.
She saved enough and finagled enough to get her kids into good Catholic
schools. She saved enough for the extravagant purchase of a complete set
of encyclopedias which they kept in their apartment. People who grew up
with them in that housing project in the Bronx say Selena and her kids were
famous for those encyclopedias and she`d help the kids do their home work
with her every night sitting at the kitchen table all together.
And their dad didn`t live to see it because he died when they were just
little kids but that little boy went on to be a big success. He became a
doctor, a successful doctor.
And their little girl, she did OK, too. She went to this big Catholic high
school in the Bronx, 2,000 kids, she was valedictorian. She ended up going
from that high school to Princeton University. She said she was
intimidated when she first got there, took her a while to get her bearings
but that wore off.
While she was there, she did volunteer work, too. She travelled from
Princeton to Trenton, New Jersey, to help the Spanish-speaking patients who
were at the state psychiatric hospital at Trenton. She did that on top of
her school work.
Maybe because that initial nervousness at Princeton, her grades started off
a little shaky in her first year but she soon got her bearings and her
grades took off like a rocket. By senior year she was Phi Beta Kappa and
she won the school`s highest academic award.
She went from Princeton to Yale law school. Passed the bar, became a
federal prosecutor. She then became a rather fearsome litigator in private
practice. And she told people that when she`d been a little kid growing up
with a single mom in that housing project in the Bronx, she had gotten
herself addicted to the Nancy Drew – to the Nancy Drew books. She read
all of the Nancy Drew books and they made her want to be a police
Later, though, she said that evolved because after reading Nancy Drew she
stumbled on to Perry Mason on TV and watching terry mason on TV made her
not want to be a police detective anymore, it made her want to be a judge
because even though Perry Mason was the star she was tell clearly the judge
was the most important person on the show in terms who got to make
And ultimately that is what happened to her. After being raised in the
Bronx by a single widowed mother speaking English as a second language,
working her tail off and making the absolute most of every opportunity she
ever got and every institution she ever had any access to, she got there.
And in May, 2009, a brand new president chose her to be his first nominee
to the United States Supreme Court. And she bore some insults and some
sneering about her perceived intelligence from people in conservative media
and from some Republicans in the Senate. She bore some insult along the
way. But ultimately, they confirmed her nomination 68-31.
And in August, 2009, Sonia Sotomayor was sworn in and became the first
Hispanic person to ever serve on the United States Supreme Court.
President Barack Obama should have been able to make three Supreme Court
appointments during his time in office because three Supreme Court
vacancies arose during his term. But Republicans blocked him from making
his final appointment. He was only able to name two justices to the
highest court in the land while he was president. He named Elena Kagan and
he named Sonia Sotomayor, and they are the third and fourth women to ever
serve as Supreme Court justices in our country and Sonia Sotomayor is the
In President Obama`s two terms in office, he also named the most diverse
cabinet that has ever served the United States government. Today, on the
last full day of the Obama administration we learned the cabinet
nominations for the incoming administration are now complete with at
announcement that former Georgia Governor Sonny Purdue will be the choice
to be the new agriculture secretary.
With that announcement, we know we are about to get the first cabinet since
the 1980s that doesn`t have a single person in it who is Latino. They have
not announced a single Latino for any cabinet positions. They have not
announced a single Latino for any subcabinet jobs they`ve announced,
Under President Obama, the high school graduation rate in this country hit
83 percent. That`s the highest it has ever been in the history of this
country. When President Obama took office in 2009, the country was in an
economic freefall, plunging into an economic abyss, unemployment hit 10
percent. Unemployment is now at 4.7 percent.
Under President Obama, we have had 82 straight months of private-sector job
growth. That`s the longest streak ever in the history of our country of
consecutive months in which there have been job growth and not job losses.
Under President Obama, we put a rover on Mars. Under President Obama, we
have had the first drop in the federal prison population in decades. Under
President Obama, after a concerted effort by his administration,
homelessness among American veterans dropped by half.
Under President Obama, 16 countries around the globe gave up every last
ounce of their highly enriched uranium, taking away the risk that it could
be stolen or misused to assemble the core of a nuclear weapon or to make a
dirty bomb. President Obama convened biannual nuclear security summits for
the first time in our country to convince other nations to get rid of their
loose nuclear material and 16 of them did that completely.
Under President Obama, your credit card company is no longer allowed to
raise your interest rates without notifying you. Under President Obama, if
you work for a federal contractor, that company that you work for can no
longer fire you just because you`re gay or trans.
Under President Obama, our country`s dependence on foreign oil plummeted.
Today, on the last day of the Obama administration, the CIA published the
final update to its online document file that it calls “Bin Laden`s
Bookshelf,” images and translations and all the documents that they took
out of Bin Laden`s compound in Pakistan, when Navy SEALs were able to go
through it all in 2011. We all now public access to the complete contents
of bin Laden`s bookshelf because President Obama in 2011 ordered the Navy
SEALs into Pakistan on that mission that killed bin Laden.
Under President Obama, we got our nation`s first chief technology officer.
Under a deal engineered by President Obama, Syria got rid of its chemical
weapons. For everything else wrong in Syria, Bashar al Assad had a huge
chemical weapons arsenal. Under Barack Obama, it was handed over and
destroyed, certified destroyed by international observers.
Under President Obama, the U.S. government banned torture by U.S. personnel
in all circumstances. Under President Obama, a U.S. embassy opened in
Cuba. He started to normalize relations between our two countries after a
half century of the frozen failed Cold War standoff.
President Obama overturned the ban on scientific research using stem cells.
President Obama upped by billions of dollars the resources available for
mental health care in the V.A. The Obama administration was the first
administration ever to voluntarily release the lists of people who visited
the White House, first presidency to ever do that.
On marriage equality, President Obama did a miraculous thing among
politicians, he changed his mind and under this president, gay couples
finally got all the same options as straight couples. You can date, you
can get married, you can get divorced, you can live in sin. No more
excuses, you guys.
Under this president, the FDA started regulating tobacco, which means that
cigarette companies for the first time have to tell you what they put in
When President Obama took office, the deficit was about 10 percent of our
GDP. It`s now 3 percent of our GDP. Under President Obama, banks have to
face stress tests so they can no longer take the whole economy down with
them when they collapse because of their own risky practices. Under
President Obama banks can no longer use your money that you deposit in that
bank to make risky bets for their own profits.
After 9/11, the previous administration built a government registry that
targeted Muslim men. Under President Obama, that registry was scrapped
amid fears that the next administration might re-up it.
President Obama cracked down on the scam for-profit colleges that happily
took the money you borrowed with your student loans, but then didn`t give
you an education in exchange for that money. The Obama administration shut
down the bullpucky accreditor that said those colleges were real colleges
when they were not.
Under President Obama, solitary confinement was banned for juveniles
serving time in federal prison. Under President Obama, our secret overseas
prisons got shut down. Under the previous administration, when the remains
of U.S. service members were flown home in flag-draped caskets to the air
base at Dover, that was a secret and there were no cameras allowed. Under
President Obama, that secrecy order was undone. And now, under President
Obama the government will pay travel expenses for the families of fallen
soldiers to be there when their loved one`s remains arrive on that tarmac.
Under President Obama, the “don`t ask, don`t tell” ban was repealed in the
military, as was the ban on transgender soldiers serving openly and all
combat positions were open to women.
President Obama, arguably, saved Medicare. He made Medicare solvent for
years to come because he slowed down the growth of health care costs, that
is what was eating that program.
President Obama also inarguably saved the U.S. auto industry. He saved the
U.S. auto industry, reorganized GM that paid back their bailout money and
American automakers are now among the largest most profitable car companies
in the world and millions of American jobs tell that tale.
Tens of billions of dollars that used to get paid to the banks for writing
student loan programs instead now go to Pell grants to help people go to
college who otherwise wouldn`t afford it.
Oh, and you can`t be denied health insurance because of a pre-existing
condition and you can`t be charged more for your health insurance because
you`re a woman and your health insurance can`t put a lifetime cap on what
you`re allowed to need because of your health care. And 20 million
Americans got health insurance because of President Obama. And for the
first time ever, the number of uninsured people in our country is in single
digits, more than 90 percent of the country has health insurance now.
And quietly along the way, yes, he did appoint the most diverse cabinet
ever and he a appointed a record number of women judges and minority
judges, and they will stay there after he is gone – including the first
Latina Supreme Court justice, daughter of Selena and Juan who came from
And so, this is the last day of President Obama`s two terms in office.
He`s being replaced by someone who said that President Obama was secretly
foreign, not really American, fake, unqualified to be president. The
incoming president called President Obama “stupid”, called him a disaster.
He also fought to have a federal judge removed from a fraud case against
him on the here is sheer basis of the fact that the judge was Latino. He`s
a Mexican, he said. He`s a Mexican, as that is the sole reason why that
judge should not be allowed to hear his case.
Everybody who supported the things that President Obama was able to
accomplish during his two terms in office now overnight moves into a
different position as American citizens, and in this part of your life. If
you like what President Obama was able to do in his eight years in office,
all those things I just mentioned, this is the part of your life now where
you will become somebody who doesn`t support those things, you will become
someone who defends those things, because the incoming president and what
we`re about to experience tomorrow, that does reflect the continuous
peaceful transfer of power in our country as we have had for more than two
centuries, right, but also at almost every level it indicates a reversal
and ultimately an attack on everything that the outgoing president has
stood for and has embodied over theselast eight years and they will try to
undo everything they can.
But they can`t undo everything. The judges, for example? The judges stay
and the record stays and the supporters of our nation`s first African-
American president, the people who give him a 60 percent approval rating in
this country as he leaves office, supporters of Barack Obama, they also
stay. They also continue to be among us. That is still our country. That
is still the people of this country.
But if you appreciate what I think the extraordinary record of President
Obama as he leaves office tomorrow, you do now have a new job as citizen.
It`s called defense.
MADDOW: OK. His name is Brett McGuirk. He spent many years in Iraq as a
diplomat. When the “Washington Post” journalist Jason Rezaian was held
hostage/prisoner in Iran, it was Brett McGuirk who negotiated the release
of Jason Rezaian and other American prisoners from Iran.
Now, Brett McGuirk is the point man in the U.S. government on ISIS. ISIS
is actually in his job title. He`s the special presidential envoy for the
global coalition to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant. You
know, they call it ISIL instead of ISIS. It`s in his job title. He`s
handpicked by President Obama to be the ISIS point guy for the U.S.
And so, if you`re the incoming president, Donald Trump, presumably you
can`t wait to get that guy out of the White House, right?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: ISIS is honoring President Obama. He is the founder of ISIS. He`s
the founder of ISIS, OK? He`s the founder. He founded ISIS.
HUGH HEWITT, RADIO HOST: Last night, you said the president was the
founder of is. I know what you meant. You meant he created the vacuum, he
lost the peace.
TRUMP: No, I meant he`s the founder of ISIS. I do. He`s the most
valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her,
too, by the way.
HEWITT: But he`s not sympathetic to them. He hates them. He`s trying to
TRUMP: I don`t care. He was the founder.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, right, if President Obama founded ISIS and he hired his
handpicked guy to run his so-called war on ISIS which, of course is not
really a war on ISIS because he founded it and he`s all in favor of it,
boy, once you got a chance you would want to get that guy out of there
really fast, right? That guy`s got to go, right?
Unless you don`t have anybody else in mind to do that job. Unless you
don`t have anybody lined up – actually, you don`t have anybody lined up
for most of the national security positions in the new administration all
together and that new administration starts tomorrow.
Today, we learned – this is unbelievable. We learned that the president-
elect at the very last minute, hours before his inauguration, the
president-elect asked Brett McGuirk to please stay. To stay on at his job
as being the point person against ISIS, please stay on for a while yet,
indefinitely, I guess, until they can get their bleep together because they
don`t have anybody for that job yet. The job of defeating ISIS.
And it`s not just him. The transition team today asked something like 50
high level Obama appointees to please stay on until the new administration
gets on to finding replacements for all of those jobs. They`ve asked all
these high-ranking Obama officials to stay now. I mean, they literally
asked them today as far as we can tell.
The president-elect has asked the top officials at the State Department to
stay on. The national – the director of the National Counterterrorism
Center, the head of the Drug Enforcement Agency, the guy who runs the
Treasury Department office that fights terrorist financing, that guy,
they`ve asked him to run the whole Treasury Department for a while because
the Trump folks didn`t pick anybody else to start working there.
Hope you guys didn`t have any plans. You guys don`t mind staying on
indefinitely while the Trump administration gets its act together, do you?
You`re just going to stay, right?
“The Washington Post” is keeping a tally of nominations for the incoming
administration. Of the 690 key positions in the new administration that
require Senate confirmation, of those 690 positions, the president-elect
has so far nominated 30. Thirty out of 690, and those are just the ones
that are important enough to need Senate confirmation.
Even the positions the president-elect can just appoint, including
basically the entire director level staff of the National Security Council,
those jobs are all empty. And then there are the key national security
roles where we just don`t know what`s going to happen as of tomorrow at
Here`s one that`s been keeping me up a little bit. A couple of weeks ago,
it was reported that the top officials at the National Nuclear Safety
Administration, the agency that keeps our nuclear stockpiles safe, that
collects loose nuclear material from around the world, the people who
prevent there from being a dirty bomb or a rogue nuclear explosion on
earth? Yes, a couple weeks ago, it was reported the top officials of that
agency had been told by the Trump transition that they`re out. They need
to pack and leave 12:01 p.m. on inauguration day.
And, of course, nobody has been named to take their places. Now,
understand that this is unusual. When President Obama started he kept on
the people who were in those jobs under the George W. Bush administration.
He kept them on for a while until his own nominees were ready. That`s not
the kind of job where you want there to be, you know, interregnum, where
nobody`s running things.
He knew who he wanted to appoint but he wanted to make sure it was
seamless. The Trump folks are not planning on that as far as we know.
Whether the people who run the National Nuclear Safety Agency will still be
there at 12:01 tomorrow afternoon or whether they`ll be off to Tahiti, we
don`t know. But the way they`re piecing this together instead of asking
existing administration folks to stay on, it doesn`t appear to be a planned
thing. It appears to be a last-minute operation that they`re mounting on
the last day of the transition before the inauguration.
We don`t even have a full list of the Obama officials the transition has
formally asked to stay on. And we don`t know if those people will say yes.
Reuters reported tonight that three officials they asked at the last minute
to stay on said no, including a top official in the Office of the Director
of National Intelligence.
They told the Trump transition, you`re asking us to stay on at the last
minute? No. No. We`re leaving. They were asked today to stay in their
jobs. At least three of them have said no.
How abnormal is this? How worried should we be? They are apparently
asking a lot of top ranking officials including national security officials
to stay at their jobs and they`re only asking them the day before the
How weird is this? How dangerous this? I have the exact right person to
ask and he`s here next.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARTIN HEINRICH (D), NEW MEXICOI: I have been deeply concerned about
press reports which indicate that this key leadership post literally the
steward of our stockpile might be vacant during the presidential
transition. Has a question of interim leadership at NSA been resolved?
RICK PERRY, ENERGY SECRETARY NOMINEE: It would certainly be my desire to
have that continuity. It is in the president-elect`s office now, and
hopefully, we will see that type of continuity in those very important
HEINRICH: I want to thank you for your efforts on that. I think it would
serve the new administration well. We have about 25 hours and 20 minutes
to figure this thing out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Even less time now.
When asked today whether the people who oversee our national nuclear
security, whether they are being pushed out the door at 12:01 tomorrow
afternoon as they were told a couple of weeks ago, the energy secretary
nominee, Rick Perry, basically said today, “I hope not. Fingers crossed, I
really don`t want that to happen.” He said, “It is in the president
elect`s office now.”
It is noon tomorrow. Those are a couple of key security posts for which
the president-elect has yet to appoint or nominate people and we don`t
actually know if come noon tomorrow, anybody will be in those jobs at all.
Joining us now is Christopher Lu. He`s deputy labor secretary. He also,
importantly for this discussion, served as the executive director of the
Obama-Biden transition when the Obama-Biden team first arrived in
Mr. Lu, it`s really good to have you with us here tonight. Thank you for
CHRISTOPHER LU, FORMER OBAMA-BIDEN TRANSITION DIRECTOR: Rachel, thanks for
MADDOW: I have been trying to understand what is normal in a transition
period and whether some of the things we are hearing on the surface level
are a little bit disturbing or worrying, especially in national security
whether they are unusual. So, let me ask you given your experience here,
are there – is it an unusually large number of national security positions
and other high-profile positions where we don`t have nominees and people in
place right now?
LU: Look, Rachel, it`s not unusual to keep a certain number of people in
holdovers. You normally do that with a plan. You have made the decision
at the outset that these are critical position. You can`t get them filled
immediately. These are people that know how to do them and you notify
people well in advance.
I would say it`s highly unusual to tell people within 24 hour of
inauguration day that we need to keep you on. And as you`ve pointed out,
that`s only the 50 that we know about in the national security space. I
don`t frankly know what is happening in the domestic agencies, whether they
have given thoughts to that or if they are scrambling around right now.
MADDOW: One of the things I have been waiting for, and now, that have been
waiting so long, have been wondering about, is below cabinet level
announcements. We`ve heard – we`ve obviously got a complete roster of
cabinet level nominations within the last announcement of the agriculture
secretary nominee today.
But as far as I have been able to tell, we have had almost no announcements
of anybody below the cabinet secretary level. Is – compared to, for
example, what happened in 2009 with Obama and Biden coming in, is that a
particular hole in the schedule here?
LU: You know, it is a particular hole in the schedule. If you go back and
look at 2009, at this point, just one example, is, we had already nominated
or announced our intent to nominate both the deputy secretaries of state.
And so, you know, Rachel, that it is not just 30 people at the top of these
agencies but all of the other deputy secretaries, under secretaries,
assistant secretaries that make this place run. And given where they are
right now – what appears to be where they are in the vetting process, it
will be months before they get these folks on board. It really calls in to
question their overall preparedness.
MADDOW: Are you worried? Do you think this is potentially dangerous?
LU: Well, look, if you believe in good government, particularly in a post-
9/11 world, of course, you are worried. But, you know, I always tell
people, the measure of a good transition is not the day before the
inauguration day or the day after inauguration day, it is 100 days out. It
is six months out. There is certainly time to catch up. But if the next
two months is anything like the last two months, that doesn`t give you
MADDOW: One last question, just thinking about those – the nuclear
secretary agency, there were some alarmed reports a couple of week ago when
we learn the top two people at that agency had been told they need to be
out tomorrow at noon, especially because we know when President Obama came
in he kept on the George W. Bush folks for a while until he got his own
people in place. That is something planned as part of your transition. It
was no surprise to anybody.
If there still isn`t clarity about what`s supposed to happen at that agency
or other agencies like that and the standing order from the transition is
that the people in charge should leave, do they just get up and walk away?
If you are in a key national security job, and there`s nobody to take it,
do you just leave, even if there is nobody to hand your keys to?
LU: Rachel, let me just say this. At the Department of Labor, we are
effectively done with business right now. We are closed tomorrow. It`s a
federal holiday for us.
If the word has not come down to us and other agencies, people have just
left. As you pointed out, there are several people who have been asked to
stay and they said, look, I don`t want to do this. I`ve got other plans or
I don`t want to serve in this administration.
These are decisions that should have been made weeks or months ago.
MADDOW: Incredible that we are having this conversation tonight.
Christopher Lu, deputy labor secretary, executive director of the Obama-
Biden transition, just unique insight here in what`s starting to freak me
out. Thank you for being here tonight.
LU: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
All right. “The New York Times” published some breaking news about new
details concerning the investigation in to possible connections between
Russia and associates of the Trump campaign. This is an explosive subject.
This is particularly explosive development on the eve of the inauguration.
We have that breaking news for you, next.
MADDOW: OK, “The New York Times” just published a story titled intercepted
Russian communications partner inquiry in to Trump associates. This is
obviously an inflammatory, very hot story. These new details coming out
the eve of the inauguration is a bombshell, in part because it`s in “The
New York Times”, in part because of what they are alleging.
I will read you the lead. “American law enforcement and intelligence
agencies are examining intercepted communications and financial
transactions as part of a broad investigation into possible links between
Russian officials and associates of President-elect Trump, including his
former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
It`s not clear whether the intercepted communications had anything to do
with Trump`s campaign or with Trump himself. Manafort is among three
advisers that possible links to Russia are under scrutiny, two others are
Carter Page, a businessman and former foreign policy adviser to the
campaign, and Roger Stone, a long-time Republican operative.
According to “The Times”, the FBI is leading the investigation aided by the
NSA, the CIA, Treasury Department`s financial crimes unit. “The Times”
says they have accelerated their effort in recent weeks. This is
interesting. It`s all anonymous sources.
Here`s how “The Times” explains why. “Representatives of the agencies
involved decline to comment on this story. Of the half dozen current and
former officials who confirmed the existence of the investigation – get
this – some said they were providing information because they feared the
new administration would obstruct their efforts. All spoke on condition of
anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case.”
But, again, this is – there`s been multiple reports there`s a multiagency
inquiry into the Trump campaign, people associated with the president-elect
and the Russian government, 17 U.S. intelligence agencies have, of course,
concluded that the Russian government actively intervened to try to get
Donald Trump elected president of the United States.
This inquiry, again, involving intercepted communications and financial
transactions. This is new detail, also these new names in terms of who
exactly is being investigated. This, of course, will be a real challenge,
a real test for the incoming administration, particularly the new head of
the Justice Department, likely to be Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Will
he recuse himself from overseeing something like this or at least the FBI`s
part of it? It`s a dramatic time.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you tomorrow morning at 10:00
a.m. for the start of inauguration coverage.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Good evening, Lawrence.
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