The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 2/20/17
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: February 20, 2017
Guest: Franco Ordonez
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: Right. Well, and also, I learned it from
watching you. Erin Gloria Ryan and Sabrina Tavernise, thanks for joining
us. I appreciate it.
That is “ALL IN” for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks to you, my friend.
And thanks to you at home for joining us for the next hour.
He had pet ostriches, it turns out. People didn`t know that before, but it
turned out he had ostriches and he didn`t have one ostrich or two
ostriches. He had a whole bunch of pet ostriches.
In fact, he had a whole zoo, like a private zoo. But a secret private zoo
that nobody knew about that he kept just for himself. Apparently, the
ostriches were the real stars but he had a full zoo with all kinds of
He had also a replica of a Spanish galleon that he had built it for
himself. It`s not like they found a Spanish galleon somewhere and then,
you know, he transported it to his house and restored it. No, they built
it from scratch for him.
I don`t know if it actually sailed around the manmade lake that he had
handmade for himself or it just kind of floated there impotently at the
dock. But either way, he apparently used this replica Spanish galleon as a
floating restaurant for himself.
And when they finally chased him out of power, when he fled and reportedly
left the gates open behind him in his haste to get out, the people of his
country poured in to see how he had been living, to see what he had been
doing with their money, with their country`s money since he had been in
And that`s how we all found out about the zoo. They found the zoo, they
found the ostriches, they found the freaking Spanish galleon/restaurant on
the lake that he made for himself. They found his gold-plated golf clubs.
And they played around the golf in his private nine-hole golf course,
complete with water hazards.
They took pictures in his bathrooms. I mean, part of what`s funny is
looking at the incongruity of normal-seeming people in this kind of setting
which is ridiculously opulent to the point of stupid.
But also, just look at the freaking bathroom. Look at the gold feet. Is
that even a toilet? I don`t even know. I don`t know.
It turns out, the dictator left so fast, he left behind personal stuff. He
left behind his family photos. He also left behind his antique car museum.
He apparently left behind lots of copies of his book. There it is. “Art
of the Deal.” I`m sorry. It`s called “Road to Success.”
And when he fled and left all of that junk behind and the people of his
country finally got in there to see what was behind the gates, how he had
been living and what he had been doing with their money – first of all,
interestingly, they did not loot. They did not loot his stuff, which is
kind of amazing, the self control there, right?
But second of all, they have the presence of mind to go for the paperwork.
They started collecting all the documentation and files that they could
salvage out of the place. Those look like fish, they`re not fish. Those
are shreds of the burned documents that he had tried to destroy by tearing
them up and setting them on fire. They salvage those, try to put them back
And then when they noticed some stray papers floating around in the lake,
they started an organized effort to dive for those papers, to dive for and
salvage all of the stuff, including reams and reams of documents that this
fleeing dictator apparently dumped into his private manmade lake before he
fled the country.
In his party`s headquarter office, they found a room on the third floor
that held two safes. When they got the safes opened, they found that they
were filled with $100 bills. The same room also held a 400-page
handwritten ledger of payments, what appeared to be off the books payments
in and out of the hands of this kleptocratic dictator and the people who
greased his skids along the way.
These were not like, you know, campaign finance filings of legit payments.
This was a handwritten dossier which is how they apparently kept track of
the cash, the untraceable cash payments. And that`s how we learned in our
country, this past August, that the campaign manager for the Donald Trump
for president campaign was listed in that handwritten ledger. He was on
the books for $12.7 million. $12.7 million in otherwise undisclosed cash
payments from the private ostrich zoo gold toilet corrupt pro-Russian
dictator of Ukraine.
Now, Paul Manafort at the time, he was outraged by that reporting. He
denied ever receiving any of those millions of dollars. He says he has no
idea why this ledger apparently showed him to be the recipient of $12
million plus in otherwise untraceable cash.
But that said, less than a week after “The New York Times” published whole
handwritten pages of that ledger, Paul Manafort was gone. He had resigned
as Donald Trump`s campaign manager. He quit as Trump`s campaign manager on
But now we know that that`s not actually where things sort of ended.
That`s where it started really getting juicy, because Paul Manafort had
worked to build up and install in power this pro-Putin, pro-Russian
political party in Ukraine. Specifically, he was the political machine
behind the dictator, behind this pro-Putin, pro-Russian massively corrupt,
maniacally tacky gold toilet loving dictator.
But then get this, Yanukovych, Viktor Yanukovych, the dictator, he gets ran
off of office three years ago, in 2014. Three weeks after that, three
weeks after he fled in the middle of the night, left the ostriches to fend
for themselves, and he ran off back to Moscow to be sheltered by Russia
three weeks after that. Three weeks after he got run out of Ukraine, there
was a follow-up arrest of somebody very close to him and it was an arrest
made at the request of the American FBI. Hmm.
A Russian-speaking oligarch, a billionaire who formed a partnership with
Vladimir Putin in a natural gas deal, he was not only very rich, he was
very politically influential in Ukraine, very well-connected. Among his
high-profile connections in Ukraine was Paul Manafort. In 2008, this
oligarch and Paul Manafort, they went in together on what supposed to be a
$900 million New York real estate deal. They were going to turn this
hotel, which used to be the Drake Hotel on Park Avenue, into some big new
luxury building that they were going to call the Bulgari Tower.
And ultimately, that $900 million deal never happens. It ultimately became
part of the controversy around Paul Manafort in the Trump campaign when a
lawsuit alleged that the whole reason for that deal was to give this
oligarch a safe and ostensibly legal place to park his ill gotten billions
that he siphoned out of Ukraine with help from Putin and the pro-Putin
dictator who Paul Manafort not just worked for but installed in office.
I mean, for visual reference here, the guy on the left, that is the pro-
Putin ousted Ukrainian dictator guy. That`s the guy with the ostriches and
the manmade lake and the gold toilets and all the rest of it. Three weeks
after he, on the left side of his screen, three weeks after he was run out
of the country, three weeks later, it was the dude on the right, the
oligarch, who was arrested. Now, interestingly, he was in Austria when he
got arrested. Austrian police arrested him at the request of the FBI.
A federal grand jury in the United States had indicted the oligarch guy in
conjunction with the giant, alleged bribery scheme involving a titanium
deal in India. I don`t know. They indicted him.
FBI asked Austrian authorities to arrest him. Austrian authorities did.
This guy is a big deal in Ukraine, right? Close to the Ukrainian dictator,
three weeks after the dictator gets ousted, rich guy gets arrested in
Austria. And then U.S. prosecutors went over to Austria basically to go
and pick him up, to arrange for Austrian authorities to extradite him back
to the United States so he can face charges on this giant bribery charge.
And the unexpected turn here, the wrench in the works is that the Austrians
who had him in custody, who had arrested him at our FBI`s request, the
Austrians said no. They would not let the extradition go ahead, at least
And so, OK, now this guy is like Paul Manafort`s loose thread, still
dangling out there, right? Paul Manafort lost his client dictator in
Ukraine, the guy on the left, but the zillionaire oligarch, guy in the
right, he`s like in limbo.
It`s interesting. They did arrest in Austria, but they don`t have in jail.
They let him out on bond. He paid $174 million cash for his bond. Open
checkbook, swivel wrist.
So, he`s out on bond. He`s not exactly free. I mean, Austria is not
sending him back to the U.S. to face trial yet. But if f he leaves Austria
and goes to some other country, presumably the U.S. authorities would try
to arrange to have him arrested in that other country and then put pressure
on that other country to extradite him to the U.S. as well. So, he sort of
can`t really leave Austria. He`s stuck.
Three years, he`s been stuck. Three years, he`s been stranded in Austria.
Super rich. Wanted on federal bribery charges in the United States, unable
to travel and presumably sitting on a whole pile of dirt about what went
down in Ukraine, what went down in Russia, what went down specifically in
his former business partner Paul Manafort`s circles. Did I mention that he
has a multibillion dollar gas partnership with Putin?
He`s a weird, awkward loose thread out there and over these past three
years, got arrested in 2014 – over the past three years, U.S. prosecutors
have made these repeated efforts to try to persuade the Austrians that
they`ve got to let us have him. They`ve got to extradite him back to the
U.S. to face trial.
And now, here`s the test – because the next hearing on whether or not this
guy`s going to be extradited to the U.S. to face trial is tomorrow.
Federal prosecutors have been trying to get this guy sent back to the U.S.
since 2014. But for the first time, tomorrow, federal prosecutors who are
working on this case won`t be answering to someone like Eric Holder. They
won`t be answering to somebody like Loretta Lynch. Tomorrow, for the first
time, the federal prosecutors going after this guy will be prosecutors who
answer ultimately to this guy, with his hand in the air. Now the head of
the Justice Department, the attorney general and fresh off the Trump
campaign, which used to be run by Paul Manafort. That oligarch`s business
partner and Putin`s, too.
So, this is a test. Is the Justice Department – are federal prosecutors
in this federal department of justice, are they going to continue to go
after this guy, this Russian-speaking oligarch they`ve been going after for
years now, or does this slide? And as the Justice Department is making
that decision, Paul Manafort is sort of back in the news with this lurid
story that broke in “The New York Times” and then in “The Washington Post”
over the weekend.
Paul Manafort before he ever ran Donald Trump`s presidential campaign, he
ran the political campaign for the pro-Putin dictator. He also built up
this pro-Putin, pro-Russia political party even though the dictator is gone
and has been chased back to Moscow.
Last month, apparently, a member of that pro-Putin, pro-Russia political
party in Ukraine, he came to New York and he took a meeting with Donald
Trump`s personal lawyer, a lawyer by the name of Michael Cohen. Michael
Cohen and this pro-Putin, pro-Russia, Ukrainian lawmaker, they met in a
hotel lobby in New York City. The result of that meeting was, reportedly,
a plan to give Vladimir Putin everything he could ever want from a birthday
president, short of Rex Tillerson popping shirtless out of a cake.
The plan had three parts.
Number one, they would oust the new president of the Ukraine, the one who
came in and replaced the pro-Putin kleptocratic dictator with the private
zoo. So, they`ll get rid of the new guy who replaced the pro-Putin guy.
Number two, Russia would get to keep Crimea. Russia would get to keep the
parts of Ukraine that they took when Russia invaded parts of Ukraine, just
took over their territory and started calling it Russia. This new plan,
part two of this new plan would legitimatize that. OK, those parts of
Ukraine that you took, they are now Russia.
And then part three of the plan would be for the United States to drop our
sanctions against Russia that we levied against them for invading Ukraine
and taking over part of that country. So, obviously, this is a very fair
deal, right? This is a great deal.
Putin gets what he wants in Ukraine. He gets to keep the parts of Ukraine
that he took and we stop being mad at him about it. It`s a great deal.
It`s a win, win, win for Putin, Putin, Putin.
The details of this awesome deal were reportedly written up and put into a
sealed envelope which President Trump`s personal lawyer then delivered by
hand to the White House.
Quoting from “The New York Times” here. Quote, “A week before Michael
Flynn resigned as national security adviser, a sealed proposal was hand-
delivered to his office outlining a way for president Trump to lift
sanctions against Russia.” And then later in the article, quote, “When Mr.
Cohen met with President Trump earlier this month, he said he left the
proposal in a sealed envelope in General Flynn`s office. Mr. Cohen said he
was waiting for a response from the proposal when Flynn was forced out of
So, that was the front page of “The New York Times”, breaking the story on
Sunday. After giving that account of the proposed deal and the sealed
envelope and hand-delivering it to Michael Flynn`s office at the White
House, after giving that whole very detailed account to “The New York
Times,” the president`s lawyer, Michael Cohen, then subsequently spoke to
“The Washington Post” on the same subject. But when he spoke to “The
Washington Post” about it, he denied the part about giving the thing to
Quote, “Michael Flynn speaking with `The Post` on Sunday acknowledged that
the meeting took place and that he had left with the proposal in hand, but
he says he did not take the envelope to the White House and he did not
discuss it with anyone. He called suggestions to the contrary fake news.”
Quote, “I acknowledge that the meeting took place but I emphatically deny
discussing this topic or delivering any documents to the White House and
That`s weird in and of itself, right? Either you did it or you didn`t.
You`re the one who said you did it.
I mean, “The Times” says it`s standing by its story. Quote, “Mr. Cohen
told `The Times` in no uncertain terms that he delivered the Ukraine
proposal to Michael Flynn`s office at the White House.”
That said, right after that, he told “The Washington Post” in no uncertain
things that he definitely did not deliver that proposal to Michael Flynn`s
office at the White House.
So, he either did or he did not. This isn`t he said/she said. It`s he
said/he said. He`s lying to one of those two papers. He told “The Times”
that he gave the thing to Flynn. He told “The Washington Post”, I did not
give the thing to Flynn.
The question is, really, what`s the president`s personal lawyer doing,
meeting with a pro-Putin foreign politician cooking up plans like this to
drop sanctions and oust Vladimir Putin`s political economies in other
countries, all these other things that Putin wants? What`s the president`s
personal lawyer doing being involved in that?
I should also tell you, there`s one other person who`s reported to have
been at that meeting, hatching that plan. He`s a Russian-born ex-con who
served time in prison for, and I quote, “stabbing a man in the face with a
stem of a margarita glass.” He was also convicted of a $40 million pump
and dump stock fraud that he pulled off with the Genovese and Colombo crime
families, as in the freaking mafia.
In the past, he had office space in the Trump Tower. He, in fact, had
Trump organization business cards that listed him by name as, quote,
“senior adviser to Donald Trump.” He says his job description was that he
was in charge of all Trump organization business dealings in Russia in the
mid-2000s. He says up until 2015, he was involved in a project to try to
build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
When some of the more spectacularly criminal things about this guy`s past
came up in a legal matter a few years back, President Trump claimed that he
barely need this guy, would probably even recognize him if the guy was in
the room right now – despite the fact that the guy had Trump organization
business cards that described him as senior adviser to Donald Trump.
Senior adviser to who now? To me? Senior what?
Well, now that guy`s back. And it was him and the pro-Putin lawmaker from
Ukraine and Donald Trump`s personal lawyer who were all in on cooking up
this plan to drop sanctions on Russia. This plan that may or may not have
landed on Mike Flynn`s desk the week before he was fired because of
revelations about his contacts with the Russian government sanctions which
he admits to lying about and which he reportedly also lied about to the
You know, if Mike Flynn did lie about his contacts with the Russian
government, when he spoke to the FBI about those contacts, if he did lie to
the FBI, that would be a felony. Of course, it`s a felony that would have
to be prosecuted by the Justice Department which is run by Jeff Sessions.
CNN is already reporting that there are no plans in Jeff Sessions` Justice
Department to prosecute Mike Flynn for lying to the FBI. Word is reported
this weekend that there are three separate FBI investigations into contacts
between the Trump campaign and Trump administration and the Russian
government. If any of those three separate FBI inquiries leads to findings
of criminal behavior, again, the FBI doesn`t prosecute stuff. They refer
it to the Justice Department under Jeff Sessions who have to decide whether
or not to prosecute.
Because Jeff Sessions was part of the Trump campaign, under normal
circumstances, that would – you would expect that to lead to an attorney
general appointing a special counsel so he himself would not be involved in
decisions about bringing charges against a campaign that he was part of.
So far, Jeff Sessions is refusing to take that kind of a step, or recuse
himself from any of these investigations, from overseeing any of these
And so, this is a test. We are living through an American test right now.
I mean, the press, forgive me, but the press is doing its job. Every day
we learn more and more from the press about otherwise unexplained pro-
Russian behavior and the myriad of Russian contacts of lots and lots of
people who are connected to this president at very high levels.
But watch what happens in Austria tomorrow. Watch and see if this Putin
connected, Paul Manafort connected super sketchy Russian/Ukrainian oligarch
is going to still be in the crosshairs of American prosecutors or not.
With each passing day, we get more of a sense of what is wrong here, right?
With each new news story, right? We get more of a sense of what is really
going on at the heart of this mishegoss between this president, this
administration and Russia. But diagnosing the problem and fixing the
problem are not the same thing.
And the question about whether it can be fixed and investigated and exposed
and ultimately fixed, it depends in large part, I`m sorry to say it, I`m
sorry to say it, it depends in large part on whether or not the United
States Department of Justice is still a Department of Justice and will
enforce this as a law enforcement matter.
I mean, the question is whether this Justice Department is independent
enough to stand up for the rule of law on matters this serious. If it`s
not, if under Jeff Sessions the Justice Department is just another part of
this same scheme, the scheme that we`re seeing unspool every day with each
strange new revelation in the press, if the Justice Department is just
going to be part of it rather than part of fixing it, then we are going to
need a different kind of remedy to fight back against what Russia has
already done to our government, what Russia has already done to our
election system, what Russia has already done to us and what apparently
they are still working on doing.
So, overall, this is a test of the rule of law in this country. This is a
test. This is going to be an ongoing test. But tomorrow in Vienna, pop
quiz, man. Pop quiz.
Watch what happens to this low profile story about this oligarch tomorrow.
Watch this tomorrow in Vienna. The guy`s name is Dmitry Firtash. Dmitry
Firtash. Watch that story tomorrow. This is a test.
MADDOW: This is General Raymond T. Odierno. General Odierno is a four-
star general and he just retired as army chief of staff in 2015. You
recognize him, right? You`ve seen him.
Prior to being army chief of staff, he was head of joint forces command.
Before that, he was the commanding general for U.S. forces in Iraq. When
General David Petraeus left as commanding general in Iraq to go round
CentCom, it was General Odierno who replaced him in Iraq. That was a very
high profile transition.
General Odierno has served under both Democratic and Republican
administrations. He`s served a lot of time in a lot of war. He`s one of
the most recognizable military leaders of his generation, right? Some of
these guys just get famous, right? Petraeus, McChrystal, Odierno. There`s
just a few of these top leaders, for good reason, become very well known.
I`ll say it one more time, his name is General Ray Odierno.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, we have generals who
go on television and say, well, you know, ISIS is very tough, it`s very –
believe me, we have the right people, we have the right minds, we have the
great military. It is seriously – by the way, it is seriously depleted.
General Ordierno, when he left, again, he goes on television.
People shouldn`t do this. He goes on television and he says our military
is the most depleted of any time that he`s ever seen or heard of and that
might be like from the beginning. Now, honestly, he`s a good man, but he
shouldn`t say that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Just go back say that one more time, sir? Just say once more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: General Ordierno, when he left –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: General Ordierno is not a person? That`s one. Two, we learned
this weekend that General Odierno was being vetted to become the
president`s national security adviser after Michael Flynn got fired in a
giant scandal about Russia. General Ordierno, oh-my-god-o, oh-boy-o, he
was considered for the national security adviser job but he apparently said
no. No, thank you.
General Odierno telling NBC News that he was aware that the administration
was considering various candidates to be national security adviser but he
wanted it to be know that he`s very happy with the work that he`s already
doing not being Trump`s national security adviser. He told NBC he had,
quote, “no plans to make any significant changes at this point.”
So, General Odierno said no. Same with former CIA director, General David
Petraeus. Multiple sources telling NBC News that General Petraeus made it
clear that he would only the job if he could pick his own staff. The White
House was apparently not okay with that, apparently wanted to keep on the
people who started with Mike Flynn. So, effectively, that`s General
Petraeus also saying no.
Vice Admiral Bob Harward, same deal. And Admiral Harward`s case, he was
actually offered the post and then he overtly declined it, amid reports
that he was not happy about what he would be inheriting from Flynn on the
National Security Council. And interestingly, amid reports that the
admiral was not psyched by what he saw at the president`s strange first
solo press conference last week.
So, General Odierno, oh-boy-o, how do you say it, he said no. So did
General Petraeus. So did Admiral Harward.
But then today, the president finally did talk somebody to take the job.
We will have more on that in a moment. But while we stick a pin in that
for a moment, just look around for a second at what else is not happening
or is falling apart in terms of staffing up the new administration. CBS is
now reporting that the president`s nominee to be navy secretary is on the
verge of withdrawing his name, that`s according to two sources close to the
situation, the White House is denying those reports, but if those reports
prove true, that would mean that Trump would be losing his nominee to run
the army and to run the navy in the space of a week.
And it`s not like the place is filling up around them. According to “The
Washington Post” this morning, out of the 549 executive branch positions
that require Senate confirmation, of the 549, 515 of them are still
awaiting a nomination. It`s not that, you know, like Senate Democrats are
holding things up in these cases. It means there are 549 people who need
Senate confirmation and Trump has only offered names for 34 of them out of
So, they have yet to get started on filling 94 percent of the confirmable
jobs that they`ve got to fill. They just haven`t even put forward names.
But I do have a sliver of good news. They have found someone to be
reportedly at least ambassador to New Zealand. So I`m going to read you
this straight from the “New Zealand Herald”, which is the paper with the
highest circulation in New Zealand. This is their headline on the subject.
Quote, “Man tipped for U.S. ambassador role in New Zealand is a former nude
model who supports waterboarding.” That`s how the Trump`s reporter pick is
being reported in that country.
Former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, of course, the former nude model
who supports waterboarding, he has reportedly been tapped to be ambassador
to New Zealand. So, there`s that. New Zealand is super psyched, or the
We`ve got more on the new national security adviser coming up. Stay with
MADDOW: So, Courtney Kube is our eyes and ears at the Pentagon when we got
word today in the middle of the afternoon that General H.R. McMaster had
been tapped to be the new national security adviser after the dramatic
flameout of the first National Security Adviser Mike Flynn after only 24
days on the job.
Courtney Kube, NBC News national security producer, was the first person I
wanted to call to get her take on this appointment and what we should
expect and what we know of General McMaster.
Courtney, it`s really nice to see you. Thanks for being here tonight.
COURTNEY KUBE, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY PRODUCER: Thanks for having me,
MADDOW: So, General McMaster`s name has been in circulation for a couple
of days, not for a long time around this job. Of course, the departure of
Mike Flynn was sudden and sort of a surprise and I think nothing that
anybody was really planning on. How much of a surprise is this choice and
what`s his reputation in general?
KUBE: I mean, personally, I was very surprised to hear his name out there.
His reputation is for a highly decorated leader, someone of tremendous
moral courage who believes genuinely in speaking truth to power. He`s very
well-respected. He`s known as a brilliant man. He`s well-respected across
the aisle, frankly, both sides of the aisle.
I mean, in his bio, you know, he served in Iraq. He was General Petraeus`
deputy during the surge. He served in Afghanistan under General
McChrystal. He`s done about five years in combat just in the last several
years, in the last 10 or 15 years. So, he`s well-respected for that time.
He`s a counter insurgency guy. He`s someone who was – he was one of the
authors of it and he`s one of the real proponents of it during the 2006,
2007 time frame in Iraq and into Afghanistan. He wrote a book when he was
a young officer, as a captain. It was part of his PhD studies that it
turned into something called “Dereliction of Duty”.
When I first started covering the Pentagon more than a decade ago, it was
known as must-read for young officers and it`s a fascinating study about
Vietnam where he really questions the U.S. military leadership during that
time and he`s very critical of them, frankly, and how they were with Robert
McNamara, the secretary of defense at the time, and President Johnson.
He`s critical saying that they weren`t forceful enough in their feelings,
that they weren`t honest enough and that, they, by extension, were derelict
in their duty, because they didn`t stop President Johnson and Robert
McNamara from making Vietnam more political, from letting the political
cycle make decisions about how troops were deployed, how many were
And, you know – so, think about it, this is it a man who came up just
after Vietnam and he was critical of the very leaders he came up
afterwards. What`s remarkable about General McMaster, though, is that
despite all of that, he still succeeded in the military. He still rose to
a three-star general.
MADDOW: And, Courtney, the one thing I know about him, somebody who has
only ever lived a civilian life and only knows this stuff as a lay
observer, I know about that book just from an academic point of view. And
the thing that seems remarkable to me about his choice, just because of
that book, is because, as you say, that book is about military leadership
needing to make its views known in a political environment, to tell
civilian leadership, to tell political leaders, abruptly, bruskly and even
very – in difficult circumstances, what they don`t want to hear.
And that`s not the model that we`ve seen in terms of Trump hires, in terms
of – even just this weekend, the senior director at the National Security
Council being fired, being reassigned, supposedly because he was not towing
the Trump line and had been critical of the Trump administration decisions
Is there any reason to – is there anything we can extrapolate from it in
General McMaster`s career thus far in terms of knowing he`ll handle the
National Security Council? It`s a pretty big bureaucracy.
KUBE: So, he – I mean, he`s not only someone who wrote this book about
dereliction of duty, but he`s actually lived it in his career and he`s
actually taken hits for it. When he was a colonel when I first met him,
actually, he was very critical of army modernization efforts and it cost
him a star initially. He was passed over for a one-star general and there
was – we never really know what causes someone to be passed over because
the boards, the promotion boards are all top secret.
But the rumor at the time was that part of it was his criticism of the
army, part of it, frankly, was his book, where he was critical of U.S.
military leadership and some of it was his overreliance on counter
insurgency and some of the more wonky things that we pay attention to at
the Pentagon. But he stuck to his gun. And it hurt his career but like I
said, he`s been able to, despite all of that, he`s been able to make his
way up to a three-star general.
So, right now, he`s been serving in U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command
out in Virginia. It was pretty much expected that he was going to retire
this summer. He`s done about 2 1/2 years there and there wasn`t a four-
star job available for him that – at this point. So, it was expected that
he would probably retire.
What`s fascinating about this pick, too, is that now, he`ll be able to stay
in active duty, stay in the Army, but serve in a civilian suit at the
National Security Council, but stay on active duty.
MADDOW: Courtney Kube, NBC News national security producer – see, there`s
the reason you`re the person who I wanted to call as soon as we heard about
this today. Courtney, thank you very much. I really appreciate it.
KUBE: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: You know, and to that last point that Courtney made, I`ve seen a
lot of alarm, people worrying about the fact that he`s going to stay on
active duty. Even though it is unusual that this president is relying so
much on generals to fill jobs that are often civilian jobs, including the
secretary of the defense, a recently retired general, General McMaster
staying on active duty while being national security adviser is not an
unprecedented thing and it`s not that unusual a thing. Colin Powell did
that and a couple of other national security advisers have done that in the
past. If you`re worried about there being a lot of people in military
uniform or just out doing civilian jobs, there are reasons to worry about
that with this administration, but him saying in active duty while serving
as national security adviser is not one of those reasons.
All right. We`ll be back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Happy Presidents` Day. Big travel day today. It took me an extra
hour to drive to New York from Massachusetts this morning.
But on this big travel day today, at one of the biggest airports in the
country, 11 people walked right through a TSA checkpoint without being
screened by anyone. Eleven people who should have been screened were not
screened and three of the 11 actually set off the metal detectors when they
went through. But then they just walked on through because no one was
For whatever reason, after this was discovered this morning, the TSA did
not notify police until two hours after they discovered the problem. Then
when the airport police started looking for those 11 passengers, two hours
after they had gone through the checkpoint unnoticed, the airport police
couldn`t find them because, of course, those people had already boarded
flights that had taken off and taken them to other places. It happened
about 6:00 this morning at JFK International Airport in New York City.
Now, the TSA later released a statement saying they are confident that this
incident presents no threat. They say the three passengers who set off the
metal detectors were found. They were searched after they arrived at their
This might be a good time to remember that the head of the TSA under the
Obama administration who did that job from 2015, he left when the new
administration came in and the new administration has yet to replace him.
They have yet to even name a nominee to replace him.
This White House has hundreds of jobs left to fill, including security
jobs. That said, the boss of the boss of the TSA, the chief of homeland
security, that person has been hired and confirmed by the Senate. He`s
been super busy and tomorrow he`s going to be the biggest news in the
country. And that story`s next.
MADDOW: The town of Yakima is in a part of Washington state that might
politely and honorably be described as nowhere. It`s in between – it`s in
the middle there. It does – it sits in the shadow of Mt. Rainier.
If you`ve ever raised a glass of good old American IPA on a Saturday night,
you`ve very likely owed that experience to Yakima, Washington. The Yakima
Valley grows a ton of the hops that we use to make good hoppy beers like
IPAs in this country. Yakima Valley also grows a ton of grapes and apples.
Last night, this is what was going on in Yakima, Washington. This is from
“The Yakima Herald.” Look at that picture, look at that headline. “Large
crowd fearful of deportation files into Yakima meeting.” More than 200
people turned out for a three-hour meeting yesterday morning in Yakima,
Washington, for what they called deportation defense training.
We`ve been covering on this show what it looks like when people put
themselves between their neighbors and deportation, when people cram into a
meeting at a church on short notice, on a Friday night to learn how to be
supportive of immigrants in their neighborhood who might get caught up in a
raid or some kind of endorsement by the new administration. We have seen
neighborhoods stepping up to try to physically help their neighbors who may
get targeted by the new administration.
And that is some of what this is in Yakima, Washington. Quote, “Some of
these folks are here to learn how to assist those who are undocumented.”
But also, quote, “a significant number of folks are here because they
themselves are undocumented and they are trying to figure out a way to
protect themselves.” This is a local man, a citizen telling the local
paper, quote, “We are all basically vey afraid.”
And so, yes, people are coming out to help their neighbors, but they`re
also teaching themselves deportation defense to the extent that there can
be defense. Teaching themselves what to do in response to a legal
framework that`s still being hammered out and still changing day by day.
Before the president signed the refugee ban and the Muslim ban, you may
remember, he signed a pair of executive orders that very much affect places
like Yakima, Washington.
He signed orders concerns immigrants who are already here who may have been
here almost their entire lives. Over the weekend, new draft memos signed
by the new secretary of homeland security started circulating in the press.
What you can glimpse in those memos is the vast range of the people they
consider them to be a priority of deportation and the speed at which they
intend to carry out these mass deportations.
They want 10,000 more immigration officers, 5,000 more border patrol
agents. New guidelines making more people a target for expedited removal.
Prosecutions for parents who try to arrange to have their children brought
to them here prosecuting the parents. Immigrant advocates describing these
draft memos as, quote, “dramatically expanding the scope of enforcement
If there`s been some mystery in how the administration would carry out
these policies that have rattled communities around the country, there`s
not so much mystery about the origins of these policies, themselves. They
come from a very specific place.
Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama wrote the president`s immigration plan,
the plan he campaigned on when he was running for president.
Last year, Senator Jeff Sessions called on the Justice Department to start
prosecuting parents who arrange for their children to come here to be with
them. Jeff Sessions wrote Attorney General Loretta Lynch a letter last
year asking why she wasn`t prosecuting parents already. And now under this
new president, Jeff Sessions is the attorney general, himself. So, he
doesn`t need to write those letters anymore.
Joining us now is Franco Ordonez. He`s a White House correspondent for
McClatchy newspapers. He first reported to break this story of the DHS
memos this weekend. He also helped connect the dots about Jeff Sessions
and his role here.
Mr. Ordonez, thanks very much for being here. I appreciate your time.
FRANCO ORDONEZ, MCCLATCHY, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Thanks for having me
MADDOW: So, we`re told tonight to expect these draft memos will be
finalized tomorrow. It`s one of the sort of strange things about this
administration. We often get draft policies that are more or less
disavowed by the White House before we get a real policy.
What are you actually expecting that we`re going to hear and on what
ORDONEZ: I mean, I think it is possible that we`ll get these tomorrow. I
mean, these drafts that I wrote about and that you`re mentioning, they were
finalized by DHS. They were signed by the DHS Secretary John Kelly. They
do need kind of that White House check-off but they even – even the White
House told me that these are the DHS` final cut. They just had a couple
questions that they were hoping to work out pretty soon.
MADDOW: How much – if these are implemented the way that they look in
these drafts, how radical a change will this be from immigration
enforcement that we`ve come to understand over the past few years?
ORDONEZ: It would be a tremendous, tremendous change. I mean, we`re
talking about wiping away many of the protections that Barack Obama put in.
You mentioned the parents of unaccompanied minors potentially being
prosecuted. They would also be deported. Even some of those unaccompanied
minors, the White House points out that about 60 percent of the
unaccompanied minors fleeing poverty, fleeing violence in Central America,
they came to the United States solo but once they got here, they were
reunited with their parents. And one of the proposals that Jeff Sessions
recommended six months ago and is now in these draft orders is that once
that reunification happens, that these two, or the child and the parent,
could be removed and sent back to their home country.
MADDOW: A lot of the debate around the proposed immigration policies
during the campaign was around their feasibility, around whether or not the
kind of extreme measures that Trump was talking about actually could be
enacted realistically. How realistic are these proposals? Is this a real
blueprint for doing it or is it more threat than promise?
ORDONEZ: It`s a great question, and I think a lot of us journalists are
really trying to figure that out. I mean, many of these proposals – I
mean, the wall would be billions of dollars. Detaining all of these people
– we`re talking about 400,000 people were apprehended just in the past
year. The administration is talking about detaining all of them.
You can imagine the number of detention centers that would be need for
that. We`re talking about doubling if not tripling the billion dollar
budget, in addition to the costs, alone, Trump`s talked about reducing the
deficit in addition to that. You got legal challenges, you got challenges
you can only hold children for a certain amount of time. Adults can only
be held for a certain amount of time. And these are all federal laws,
court decisions, Supreme Court decisions, for example, that make it very
hard to pull this off.
MADDOW: Franco Ordonez, McClatchy White House correspondent – thank you
for your reporting on this and thanks for helping us understand it tonight.
This is very dramatic stuff. Thanks . Appreciate it.
ORDONEZ: Thanks for having me on.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Ready to love South Carolina? Are you ready? You ready? Go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Irregardless of where you are on
that question –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Irregardless is not a word.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Irregardless – welcome home, Congressman.
That`s Republican Congressman Mark Sanford from South Carolina getting a
free grammar lesson in his district on Saturday. Irregardless is not a
He and his Senate colleague, Tim Scott, held a town hall for a packed room
of a few hundred people, they then went outside to talk to the hundreds
more people who could not get into the room. Members of Congress are home
this week for recess. Usually they spend this time spending time with
their constituents. It turns out their constituents this year are
particularly eager to catch up.
Take Congressman Tom Reed from New York. He usually gets a handful of
people to show up at his town halls. Usually. Not anymore.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: Tom Reed held four town halls in a row this weekend in a deep red
pocket of New York state that went for Donald Trump by 15 points.
Nevertheless, big crowds showed up to tell Congressman Reed that they do
not support the new president and they said so loudly.
Same thing happened today to Congressman Jim Jordan from Ohio. He held
kind of a makeshift town hall outside an event where he really wasn`t
planning on talking to constituents. Tensions were running high even
before he got there. It didn`t get much better once he arrived and started
(BEGEIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: Now – now it`s time to change it and bring
back insurance that actually empowers you.
CROWD: Give us your insurance! Give us your insurance!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Give us your insurance. All this week while Congress is home,
there are more than 150 town halls and constituent events like this across
For a lot of people, D.C. is inaccessible, right? The phone lines in
Congress have been jammed. But right now, Congress is home. People are
getting a chance for the first time in a while to talk to their
representatives face to face.
This is day one of something that`s going to go on all week. People
apparently have a lot to say.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O`Donnell, and I`m very
happy to say that Lawrence O`Donnell, himself, is back.
Lawrence, good evening. Welcome back.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
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