The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 2/21/2017
Show: The Rachel Maddow Show
Date: February 21, 2017
Guest: Edward Price, Ann Ravel
BEN JEALOUS, FORMER PRESIDENT & CEO, NAACP: – beautiful if you will, the
silver lining on this very dark cloud is that – it`s pushing people
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: yes.
JEALOUS: It`s getting folks to really see what they have in common and
unfortunately what they have in common is that the president is creating a
situation where all of us feel more persecuted?
HAYES: Yes, Jane Eisner, Ben Jealous, thanks for being here tonight.
JANE EISNER, FORWARD: Thank you.
HAYES: That is “ALL IN” for this evening, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
HAYES: You bet
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. On January
28, eight days after the inauguration this year, there was a fire at a
mosque in Victoria, Texas. You might remember, we covered it on the show
at the time.
Victoria, Texas, is not a huge place, has a population of about 60,000
people and there are enough Muslims who live in Victoria, Texas, to support
one Islamic center in that community. One mosque. But on January 28, this
year, somebody burned it down, gutted it, destroyed it completely.
One of the things that was very moving in the immediate aftermath of that
tragedy, that crime, was when the other religious congregations in
Victoria, Texas, came forward and offered the keys to their facilities, the
keys to their houses of worship, they offered the keys to the imam from
that mosque. So, his Muslim congregation could have somewhere else to meet
Victoria, Texas, is small enough that it only had enough Muslims in town to
support that one mosque. Victoria, Texas, only has enough Jews in town to
support one synagogue for the whole city. The leader of that synagogue
came forward to offer his keys to the local imam after the fire and he
explained to reporters that sharing the space of the synagogue, sharing the
synagogue with the membership of the mosque, he said, it just made sense,
even if you`re only talking mathematically.
He said, quote, “We have probably 25 to 30 Jewish people in all of
Victoria, they probably have 100 Muslims. We have a lot of building for a
small amount of Jews.”
So, they made the offer. You might remember again. We covered that at the
time. A lot of churches in town offered their keys to the imam. The local
synagogue, they offered their keys to the imam, meet here. Let your
community meet here.
It was interesting, though, in addition to that local support that the
mosque received in town, with all the other congregations coming forward to
say what can we do? Use our space. Our space is your space.
In addition to that what happened locally, what happened online was almost
as overwhelming. The mosque – they put up an online fund-raising page to
raise money to rebuild after their fire and in two days they received over
$900,000 in pledges. After they hit $1.1 million they knew they had enough
to rebuild, they stopped raising funds. But over 23,000 people came
forward and donated. They got hundreds of thousands of dollars more than
they had asked for.
And that mosque fire is still not solved. Local authorities have declared
it an arson. They have put out reward for information leading to an arrest
but there is no one in custody.
We spoke to the imam today. He told us they are making their plans to
rebuild and hoping there will someday be an arrest.
This weekend in St. Louis, Missouri, in the University City neighborhood of
St. Louis, a Jewish cemetery that dates to the 1800s was the subject of
another attack, nearly 200 headstones were thrown over, broken toppled in
the cemetery. Local press has been full of these heartbreaking pictures of
people turning up at the Jewish cemetery to find their grandparents`
headstones, finding them broken and thrown over. This comes on the heels
of Jewish community centers around the country facing several waves now of
bomb threats and vandalism. The most recent spate of bomb threats happened
In St. Louis, local police are investigating but there have been no
arrests. But, look, this was part of the response online after the word
got out today about what happened in that Jewish cemetery. See the
headline? Muslims unite to repair Jewish cemetery.
These folks set a goal of raising $20,000 by March 21st to contribute to
the repair and the replacement if need be of those broken headstones in
that Jewish cemetery. Again, their goal was $20,000 to be raised by March
21st. They raised over $20,000 today in three hours. In this case, they
say they`re going to continue to raise money, at least for a while longer,
quote, “Any additional funds raised in this campaign will assist vandalized
Jewish centers nationwide.”
But that $20,000 they raised today, that will go to the cemetery in St.
Louis to repair those headstones. They say, quote, “Muslim Americans stand
in solidarity with the Jewish community to condemn this act of
We are at an unusual time in our history, you might have noticed. National
politics has veered and keeps veering in unexpected directions. It`s hard
to know on any given day what is likely to happen next. That can sometimes
be exhilarating. It`s mostly exhausting.
But even in unpredictable times, some principles of human behavior, human
reaction, human decency, right, still hold and what we are learning in this
new era that we`re in, in this – in the Trump era, what we`re learning
already, four weeks into this is no matter how strange things get in
national politics, you can still count on Americans to do some predictable
things. You still can count on the principle that in our politics, when
there is an action, there will be a reaction.
And as radical as these changes feel in Washington, the radical changes in
Washington and the things they have made us worry about, they`re also
causing a strong and serious change all over the country outside of
Washington, in the cities and in the small towns, in red states and blue
states, everywhere. And it`s not as easy to track, because it`s not all
happening in one place with the national press corps there to look at it.
But if you start looking for it, it`s almost stunning.
In just a few minutes, we`ll talk in detail about the new mass deportation
plans that have been outlined by the new administration as of today and the
expectations for the new version of their Muslim ban and refugee ban
they`re expected to roll out before the end of the week. That`s what`s
happening in Washington.
Part of the reaction to those orders and to those plans, part of the
reaction we`ve seen in the courts. When the memos about the deportation
plan started circulating today, the ACLU said this, quote, “President Trump
does not have the last word on deportations, the courts and the public will
not allow this un-American dream to become a reality.”
So part of the response we`re seeing is legal and in the courts. Part is
out in public and sometimes in surprising places. Today, someone somehow
managed to unfurl a “Refugees Welcome” banner literally on the Statue of
Liberty. I have no idea how they got out to the statue of liberty and got
that banner on to it but that happened today.
You also see the response in these public protests that we have seen on
almost rolling basis, on an almost daily basis since the inauguration. We
saw large protests this weekend mostly focused on the travel ban and in
support of immigrants. We saw them in a lot of major cities over the last
few days, in New York City, in Atlanta, in Los Angeles, in Chicago, in
But you know what? It`s not just in the big cities where you are seeing
this stuff. It`s also happening in unexpected places. We got in some
footage today. Look at this, this is Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, of all
places. “No wall, no ban.” Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
Look at this one. This is from Ajo, Arizona. I think The name of the town
is Ajo, Arizona, about 40 miles from Mexico. The population of the whole
town of Ajo is like 3,700 people. Look how many people turned out for
their protest – 3,700 people in the whole town, look how many people are
“No ban, no wall.” This big anti-Trump protest in this little border town.
So, we all know what`s happening in Washington. It`s easy to follow if
sometimes hard to believe what`s happening in Washington. But the response
is everywhere and it`s happening daily in ways large and small and the more
you look, the more of it you see.
Yes, it`s in the courts. Yes, it`s in some dramatic protests, but it`s
also in the streets and not just where you might expect it to be in the
streets. It`s also started already to affect straight up American
Let me give you one solid example of that. One of the practical
consequences of these new deportation orders – and they don`t like to talk
about it much yet in Washington, but they will have to soon – one of the
practical consequences is that the new administration is going to
apparently go back to using private-for-profit prisons to lock people up in
federal facilities and immigration facilities.
In the Obama administration, the Justice Department official who wrote an
order, wrote the memo explaining that the federal government would no
longer use private for-profit prisons, who wrote the whole rationale
explaining why in the Obama administration, they were getting away from
that because of the problems with private prisons, the justice official who
wrote that directive in the Obama administration, who signed her name to
that in the last administration was the then deputy attorney general, Sally
Yates, right? OK.
Sally Yates is now a household name. Sally Yates is now famous for her 10
very consequential days as acting attorney general after the Obama
administration ended and the new administration started. Sally Yates is
the one who warned the White House that National Security Adviser Michael
Flynn was lying about his interactions with the Russian government.
A week after that, she warned the White House that their Muslim ban was
illegal, it was unconstitutional. She told them she would not direct the
Justice Department to defend it in court. The new president fired Sally
Yates for that. But, you know what, she`s been proven right and her
assessment of how the courts would see that Muslim ban, the Muslim ban very
quickly proved indefensible in court.
The Trump administration has now tacitly conceded her point by withdrawing
their Muslim ban and planning to draft a new one. So, I mean, you look at
somebody like Sally Yates. Before one month ago she had an interesting and
accomplished but low profile career as a prosecutor and as a Justice
Department official. Now, she`s a household name.
I mean, in moments like this, in moments of political transition you never
know who`s going to be called to rise to the occasion. You never know
who`s going to become an overnight hero because of the circumstances they
find themselves in or because of actions they feel by conscience they must
But now look at this. Sally Yates is from Georgia, she`s from Atlanta.
This is Sally Yates last week, see her in the foreground there? This is an
event at the Carter Center in Georgia. She walks into this room, this
event at the Carter Cnter. She`s with former Attorney General Eric Holder.
And, you can see, she`s embarrassed. She`s blushing there, but she`s sort
of overwhelmed by the unexpected standing ovation that greets her at the
Carter Center. Sally Yates was not even there to be in the event. She was
not there to be on stage or on a panel or anything. She was just there to
sit in the audience.
But she walks in the room, no introduction necessary. Everybody knows who
she is. She gets a sustained and overwhelming standing ovation. Eric
Holder backs up to let her soak in the applause, and even though she`s not
on the panel the audience questions ended up getting directed at her, Sally
United States, will you please run for Congress? Sally Yates, will you
please run for Senate? Sally Yates, we know who you are now. We`d love
you to run.
Georgia Democrats now say they are seriously lobbying Sally Yates to run
for Georgia governor when that seat opens up next year. That`s Georgia.
Look at Virginia. Virginia is a blue state now in many ways. Went for
Obama in `08, went for Obama in 2012, went for Hillary Clinton in November
by more than five points. That said, a lot of Virginia is still very deep
red. The legislature is still Republican by a little bit in the Senate and
by a lot in the House.
Virginia holds their elections in odd-numbered years so their legislature
is up in 2015. They`re up again this year, 2017. And, you know, Southern
Democratic parties, including Virginia, have become notorious in recent
years for not even bothering to run Democratic challengers in a lot of red
districts, not even bothering to try.
That apparently is no longer going to be the case. That is not going to be
a problem this year in Virginia. Virginia Democrats have identified 17
districts in the state this year where Hillary Clinton won the presidential
race but the local state legislator is a Republican.
Virginia Democrats tell us tonight they have recruited Democratic
challengers to run for the legislature in every single one of those 17
districts. In fact, they tell us they have already succeeded in recruiting
Democratic challengers against Republican incumbents in 45 districts.
They`re already – they`ve already got candidates to challenge 45
That`s way more Democratic challengers than they have ever run in recent
years. And it`s still a ways off from the deadline. Deadline for filling
for the primaries isn`t until March 30th. But they`ve already got
Democratic challengers to 45 Republican incumbents.
The Democratic caucus chair in the Virginia house tells us tonight
Democrats are seeing, quote, “unprecedented interest” from potential
candidates. She tells us, quote, “We have never felt so much energy so
early as we are feeling now.”
The House Democratic leader in Virginia told us tonight they believe
Virginia this year will be, quote, “The first referendum on the divisive
and chaotic presidency of Donald Trump.” And, obviously Virginia Democrats
think that that kind of referendum will go their way.
And apparently, it`s not just places like Georgia and Virginia where this
is happening. This appears to be the national phenomenon. The leadership
of the DCCC, which is the House campaign committee for the Democratic
Party, they did an issue about their recruitment efforts to find candidates
across the country. Again, this is for federal candidates for Congress.
They say their priorities are to find candidates in districts where right
now there is a Republican incumbent member of Congress but Hillary Clinton
won that district. Or Hillary Clinton only lost by a little, she lost by
four points or less. That`s their priority for finding Democratic
recruitment for Democratic candidates for Congress.
How are they doing at finding candidates? Well, the recruitment chair for
the DCCC tells the “National Journal” that actually being recruitment chair
is usually kind of hard. He says in years past, quote, “Getting somebody
to run was like pulling eyeteeth each and every time. It was very hard to
get people to say I see this as part of public service. I see this as a
part of my patriotic duty.”
Now though, quote, “It`s not hard to get people to see it that way at all.”
“Now,” says the recruitment chair for the Democratic Party trying to find
Democratic candidates for Congress, now he says, quote, “We are raining
This is an unpredictable time in our national life. I mean, what has
changed in Washington has changed the way people spend their time around
the country. These Indivisible groups that formed around this indivisible
guide for practical politics for influencing Congress and stopping the
Trump agenda, that Indivisible movement – there`s more than 7,000
Indivisible groups that have formed in all 50 states. More than 7,000 of
them. And that`s just the Indivisible groups.
What`s changed in Washington has caused individual people who never wanted
to run for Congress before, who never wanted to run for office before, it`s
caused individual people to change their lives, change their priorities to
volunteer to run. Districts in Virginia where they`ve never had a Democrat
run at all in recent years now have one, two, three, four Democrats
competing in the primary because they want to run.
What`s happened in Washington this year has changed the lives of people
already in politics as well people already in Congress, already in the
Senate. You know that this week, Congress is off for the Presidents` Day
holiday, they take a week-long recess and they`re expected to go home to
their districts and meet with constituents.
For Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis of Florida, this is what it looks
like outside of his district office back home. “Investigate Putin-gate.”
These are constituents telling him what they want to do in Florida. “It`s
called treason, Trump and Putin.”
This is outside the office of Republican Congressman Mike Kelly in
Pennsylvania, “Meet with us, Congressman Kelly.”
Republican Congressman John Katko, his constituents in Syracuse, New York,
have been demanding over and over he meet with them to hear their concerns
about the Trump administration. After all that pressure on him, the local
paper jumped on board today and – yesterday and published this editorial,
“Representative Katko should meet with his constituents.”
Congresswoman Kay Granger, Republican representing Fort Worth, Texas, she
went home for a Republican Lincoln Day dinner this week. This was a scene
that greeted her outside.
In Tennessee, this is the district office of Republican Congressman Scott
In New Jersey, this is what Republican Congressman Leonard Lance is having
to deal with in his home district. People, darn people singing outside his
office trying to meet with him all the time.
In Buffalo, New York, Trump supporting Congressman Chris Collins, look at
this. His district is dealing with boisterous crowds who do not appear to
agree with his support of Donald Trump. This is Chris Collins` district
office in Buffalo.
His down state colleague, Republican Congressman Dan Donovan, is dealing
with much the same thing. His constituents standing outside his local
district office yesterday yelling “Whose side are you on, Dan, who side are
It`s getting to the point where it`s embarrassing at the grocery store.
Look at the milk jugs there. Republican Congressman Paul Cook represents a
big rural district in California. These are the milk jugs at the – you
can get at the grocery stores in his district. They say “Where is Paul
cook? Pray for Paul. Congressman Paul is missing, he won`t meet with his
When members of Congress and senators meet with their constituents, we`re
getting a sense of what that looks like, no matter how red the state is.
Chuck Grassley of Iowa prides himself on being super available to his
constituents and holding meetings all over the state of Iowa. He`s been
doing that for a long time but they don`t usually go like they went today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why shouldn`t the Democrats filibuster, obstruct and
delay the current president`s nominee to the Supreme Court for a year or
even four years given that you set this precedent?
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R) IOWA: We will – you can clap all you want to. We
will get more questions answered and more discussion if I don`t stop to –
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don`t even know how we feel –
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do your job.
GRASSLEY: I`d like to go down the list here and the person that brought up
impeachment, tell me – I`ll listen to you and then answer if you ask a
question. Who brought up impeachment?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, I did.
GRASSLEY: Go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First of all, I want to apologize for being so
outspoken but I do – I am so unsettled. It feels like we`ve got a
juvenile running our country.
CROWD: Hear, hear!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa getting an earful from his
constituents today. He`s pretty polite, though, he got off easy compared
to his home state colleague Senator Joni Ernst who announced one public
forum for this whole recess week. It was announced as a veterans` forum.
Lots of veterans did show up, so did lots of other folks, lots of other
Iowans as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like we all took this oath to defend the nation
against enemies foreign and domestic and I wonder if you saw there was
overwhelming evidence that a foreign country was me meddling with our
elections and meddling with our democracy.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you would expect your senator to go to work
everyday and work vigilantly to get to the bottom of that.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have business cards up here so if anybody needs our
contact information they can come up and get those. That was our last
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And then she left.
That`s going to be our last question. No! . She leaves the room, they`re
screaming “shame on you.”
Very rough meeting of the minds in Iowa for Senator Joni Ernst today.
Here`s the thing to take away from that experience, from just seeing how
that went today. That happened in a place called Maquoketa, Iowa.
Maquoketa, Iowa, I`ve been practicing saying it all evening. Maquoketa.
Maquoketa, Iowa, is population 6,000 people. And that`s the reception that
Joni Ernst got in Maquoketa today from that mostly older, mostly white
crowd, right in the middle of Iowa. It is easy to get bowled over with
what`s going on in Washington with the scope of the changes in Washington,
the radical shift that`s happened in our national politics with this new
But I`m telling you, there is as radical a shift in the rest of the country
in the opposite direction. It`s an equal and opposition reaction. It`s
just everywhere. It`s in the courts, it`s in the streets, it`s in the
lives of our elected officials.
It`s everywhere to the point that even that dynamic is starting to feel
unpredictable and starting to feel a little overwhelming as well. But
watch this unfold over the course of this week. Watch what it`s going to
be like for these representatives and senators at home this week. This
whole week is going to be like this in the states. Keep your eyes open.
MADDOW: Our three branches of government – the courts, the executive, the
legislative branch – they are built as equal things, co-equal things.
They`re supposed to be separate and they`re supposed to balance each other
out. They`re supposed to check each other`s power when necessary.
But there are other checks on political power as well besides just the
balance between the three different branches. One of the most
uncomfortable checks on political power comes from inside the government,
comes from the people who work inside the government – the people with
precious knowledge and experience who are doing their jobs to make
government work, to make the country work.
And sometimes, in times of political crisis or political radicalism, one of
the most dramatic and uncomfortable checks we have on government is when
those people squawk. When those people emerge from the relative anonymity
of working inside the government and they blow the whistle or they quit so
they can speak their mind and that is starting to happen now.
Some of these valuable, crucial people are opting out, include from some
very high-profile jobs because they`ve decided the government they have
committed themselves to is no longer holding up its end of the bargain, not
in this administration.
Tonight, we`ve got a double header for the interview. We`ve got with us
two people who have just resigned from high profile important influential
jobs in the government. They have both resigned for similar reasons.
You`re going to want to hear their stories.
Those two interviews are straight ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The day after the inauguration, the new president paid a visit to
the CIA. The president stood in front of a memorial wall with 117 hand-
carved stars on it. Each of those stars commemorates a CIA officer killed
in the line of duty.
Standing in front of that wall, standing in front of all those stars, the
new president bragged about his big win in November, bragged about the size
of the crowd in his inauguration. He talked about how much he hates the
press. And, for one career official who worked at the CIA for over a
decade, a man named Ned Price, that presidential bragging in that
particular spot hit a nerve.
Ned Price says his mentor at the CIA was killed in the line of duty and is
one of the people memorialized with a star on that wall. Ned Price says he
thought he would spend his entire career working for the CIA but after all
his years of service, including rising to the spokesman for the National
Security Council, after living through just one month of this new
presidency, Ned Price decided he would not be a career CIA official because
he had to quit.
He`s written about in “The Washington Post,” he says, quote, “White House
advisers, not career professionals, reportedly now have final say over what
intelligence reaches the president`s desk. As intelligence professionals,
we`re taught to tune out politics but this administration has flipped that
dynamic on its head. The politicians are the ones tuning out the
intelligence professionals. Despite working proudly for Republican and
Democratic presidents, I reluctantly concluded I cannot in good faith serve
this administration as an intelligence professional.”
Joining us now is Ned Price. Until last week, he worked at the CIA as a
spokesman and senior analyst. He also served as a spokesman and senior
director at the National Security Council.
Mr. Price, thanks very much for being here. Really appreciate you making
the time for us tonight.
EDWARD PRICE, RESIGNED FROM CIA DUE TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thanks for having
MADDOW: Did you expect when you saw the election results on November 8
that you might be entering into a period where your tenure at the CIA would
be untenable? That you might come up with a decision like this or were you
truly surprised with the president`s behavior once he took office?
PRICE: Well, Rachel, my resignation which I tendered last week was the
culmination in a series of events that took place over the course of many
months. As you have reported, I was highly discouraged when as the
Republican nominee, the now president, called into question the high
competence assessment of all 17 intelligence agencies vis-a-vis Russia`s
meddling in our electoral process.
I saw him as a president-elect call the intelligence community, essentially
called them Nazis, not knowing that the predecessor of the CIA actually was
critical to the defeat of the Third Reich in the Second World War.
And then, as you mentioned, the visit to the CIA headquarters and seeing
this – our new president, the commander in chief stand before the most
solemn site in all of Langley, a site that their stars representing the 117
men and women who have fallen in the line of duty, that for me was
something I did not expect to see. It was hugely demoralizing and I know
that others at the agency felt similarly. But there were, there was
subsequent steps that unfortunately led me to the move I made last week.
MADDOW: You said earlier today that you think you maybe able to do more
good for your country outside of the CIA now, having quit, rather than if
you had stayed inside at your old job. Can you tell me a little bit about
how you`re thinking about that? What you might do now in terms of what
you`re going to do next and how hard the decision was that you had to go?
PRICE: Well, as you said, I aspired to be a CIA officer for all of my life
until I joined the CIA in 2006. It was an honor and I was humbled to get
that – to be called on board earlier that year.
But, you know, Rachel, I had two options as I watched these data points
over the proceeding weeks and months. One was to stay on board at the CIA
and to accrue a salary at the expense of taxpayers and to write
assessments, unbiased, unvarnished assessments for an administration that
in my estimation had shown little regard – has shown little regard for the
sort of outside opinion, outside information, the assessments that the CIA
and our colleagues throughout the intelligence community that form our
bread and butter essentially.
So, the question before me was, do I continue doing something that I
thought was futile and would have little impact on policy or should I leave
and do something where I thought I could fulfill the same mission that I
signed up for in 2006 and that`s to serve the American people? I don`t
exactly know what that entails. This is new to me and I certainly don`t
have anything I`m running off to, but I`m certainly going to attempt to do
my best to fulfill that charge, the same charge that I signed up for in
MADDOW: Ned, I know you can`t obviously speak to anything that you`re not
supposed to talk about publicly and I`m not asking you to go into stuff
that you shouldn`t be able to go into in a public forum. But we have had
some sort of weird leaks and some contested leaks concerning the CIA and
concerning the way that intelligence is handled by this new administration
and there was a disputed report in the “Wall Street Journal” last week,
disputed by the White House ultimately.
But what the “Wall Street Journal” reported on the basis of anonymous leaks
was that U.S. intelligence officials have been withholding sensitive
intelligence information from the White House, keeping stuff from the
president because they don`t trust him, because they`re concerned letting
him in on sources and methods might be leaked or compromised to other
Obviously, it`s leaked information. There`s no names associated with this
stuff. The White House is disputing it.
But can I ask your opinion about how we should view a leak like that?
Whether that`s even – whether that`s feasible, whether that`s hyperbole or
something that we should be concerned about?
PRICE: I sure hope it`s hyperbole. The president of the United States is
considered the first customer by the intelligence community. The morning
intelligence briefing, the president`s daily brief, contains the most
sensitive information available to the United States government. It`s
something that I had the great honor of helping to compile when I was at
And the president should be privy to everything in our disposal that will
help him make policy and make better policy to protect the American people.
I cannot imagine a scenario in which intelligence professionals would judge
that the commander in chief is not – it`s not safe to share information
with the commander in chief. I can`t speak to the accuracy of that report,
but as I said, I sure hope it`s not true.
MADDOW: Ned price, former spokesman and analyst at the CIA, former
spokesman and senior director at the National Security Council, recently
resigned from the CIA because of the direction of this administration –
Mr. Price, thank you very much for talking with us tonight, and good luck.
Stay in touch.
PRICE: Thanks very much.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
All right. As I mentioned tonight, we are doing a double header. We`re
doing sort of a feature on high-ranking influential officials who have
found that they can no longer continue to serve in our government because
of the direction of the new administration. Up next, our second guest, an
official who has just resigned from a very important and influential
government job. She joins us next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: When she was still in California, Ann Ravel led the first ever
investigation that specifically named the Koch brother`s network for the
way its members moved money around in the shadows. Over the ever lasting
protests of the Koch brothers, Ann Ravel, California regulator, she put in
the writing. She called out the, quote, “Koch brothers` dark money
network” and demanded one of the network members pay a million-dollar fine
for violating campaign finance rules.
And if that didn`t put enough of a target on her back, the week after she
announced that decision, Ann Ravel started her new job in Washington. She
started work as President Obama`s new appointee to the Federal Election
And the makeup of that organization is an important thing. It
traditionally has six members – three Democrats and three Republicans –
and you need four members on it to do anything. And even though the FEC is
in charge of a really important thing, they`re in charge of enforcing our
nation`s laws about money in politics.
In recent years, that makeup of that body, that half Democratic/half
Republican setup has meant the FEC doesn`t do much of anything. They don`t
do very much enforcing of our laws on politics and money because they`re
gridlocked. They`re locked in partisan stasis and Ann Ravel seemed
frustrated about that almost from the start.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
INTERVIEWER: Would you say the FEC is more or less useless than men`s
ANN RAVEL, FEC COMMISSIONER: I would say that the FEC and men`s nipples
are probably comparable. There are things that are done that have some
value, just like men`s nipples.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Ann Ravel gave that heroic “Daily Show” interview in 2015.
I should tell you, her term on the FEC goes through April 30th.
Conceivably, her time at the FEC could last well beyond that. It could
stay as a holdover when your time expires, until the president appoints
somebody new to replace you. All the other members of the FEC are
holdovers right now.
But instead of hanging around for more of the same, this week, Ann Ravel
filed a report on the commission`s dysfunction and deadlock – her words,
not mine – dysfunction and deadlock – and she quit. She submitted her
resignation to the new president. She tells the “New York Times” now,
quote, “I think I could be more effective on the outside.”
We have heard that more than once today. We`ve heard that more than once
in the last few minutes.
Joining us now is Ann Ravel. She`s the outgoing Democratic member of the
Federal Election Commission who has just resigned.
Commissioner Ravel, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really
appreciate you being here.
RAVEL: Thank you very much for inviting me.
MADDOW: I will not ask you about vestigial organs or anything about
RAVEL: I don`t have much more to say about them.
MADDOW: We`ve covered that material, very good.
MADDOW: You`re close to finishing your official term, as far as I could
tell it would wrap up at the end of April this year. Why quit now? Why
take this stand?
RAVEL: Well, it – as you indicated, it has been clear to me that the
agency is dysfunctional and that we`re unable to perform the functions that
Congress intended that we would do and really the FEC, while it`s a little-
known agency, it`s so important in establishing and maintaining the
fairness of our electoral process.
So, I feel really committed to the work and – that it needs to be done
fairly and rationally. Also I`ve been an elected official – not an
elected, an official in public service for most of my career, and one of
the things that is the hallmark of a public servant is that you are there
to do the public`s work and if you`re not able to, then you can`t continue
is my view.
And so, all of those things came together to make me realize that it made
no sense for me to continue and that as the previous guest said, I could be
more effective on the outside.
MADDOW: In making this exit, you have called on the new president to
prioritize the reform of money in politics. Prioritize the reform of
campaign finance to fix the political system that he described as broken.
Do you actually expect that from him? Do you think that this
administration, that in this president, could be part of the solution to
what you feel is so broken in this system that you`re quitting now?
RAVEL: Well, I wouldn`t say that I expect it. I always like to be
optimistic and hope that because he was so clear about the terrible state
of campaign finance when he was a candidate and how he wasn`t beholden to
anybody like all the other candidates were that maybe he will take that to
heart and do something about campaign finance. But, obviously, after my
time in Washington, I`m also cynical. And so, I think it will be unlikely,
especially given who he has surrounded himself with, for example, who his
general counsel is.
MADDOW: His general counsel is somebody who has a past on the FEC, who
served their under George W. Bush, Don McGahn. He`s obviously been one of
the more controversial members of the new administration in terms of what
he`s been involved with. He`s also somebody who sort of credited or blamed
with bringing about the kind of gridlock that you have named and shamed at
When you think about that past, when you look at the appointment this is
president has made, are you at all worried about who he`s going to replace
you with? I mean, by tradition, Senate Democrats would be picking somebody
to replace you because there would be another Democrat who would put on the
There`s no law that says the president has to give that deference to the
MADDOW: There`s no law that says he can`t just pick somebody else who he
wants to fill your seat, even somebody who would absolutely not be a choice
of any Democratic Party.
MADDOW: Do you worry at all that he`s going to go really off the
reservation with his choice to replace you?
RAVEL: Well, I think he may go off the reservation with regard to the
replacements at the commission, but I don`t think that my leaving makes any
difference in that. Because as you said, all of the commissioners are
holdovers. Many of them probably on the Republican side would like to go
into the administration.
So, the likelihood is that the president will replace, at least, four of
the members of the commission. So, my leaving makes no difference.
MADDOW: I will get back to you on that when we see who he picks for your
And, you know, he doesn`t even have to fill my seat. He could remove one
of the other commissioners and fill that seat.
MADDOW: Well, we`ll see. At this point, the only thing I know for sure is
that we shouldn`t expect that previous political norms will be followed.
That`s the one thing we`ve learned in the last –
RAVEL: I don`t disagree.
MADDOW: Ann Ravel, outgoing Democratic member of the Federal Election
Commission, resigned your seat one month into this administration –
appreciate your time tonight. Do please stay in touch. Interested to hear
what the next chapter is from you, ma`am.
RAVEL: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Programming note: tomorrow night on this network, we are doing a
thing. My show will be here tomorrow night at 9:00 Eastern.
But then right after the show tomorrow night, there`s a thing. It`s going
to be this, “Trump: The First Month.” I`m going to be co-hosting that
along with Brian Williams. We`re going to have Chris Matthews and all the
rest of our MSNBC colleagues.
It`s an in-depth. Expect a rollicking look at what has happening this
first month. And what it means for what`s going to happen next in our
country. Again, “Trump: The First Month”, that`s tomorrow night, 10:00
p.m. Eastern. We`ll go until midnight. Change your plans.
I`ll be right back.
MADDOW: So last night, we did a story about this Vladimir Putin-connected,
super sketchy, Russian-speaking Ukrainian oligarch who also has connections
to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.
This Oligarch has been stuck in legal limbo in Austria for three years now.
American prosecutors have been trying to get Austrians to – the Austrians
to extradite him to the United States. A grand jury in the United States
has indicted him on bribery charges and during the Obama administration,
federal prosecutors in the United States wanted to bring him to this
country to face bribery charges.
Well, today, was a test of whether or not the Trump Justice Department
would proceed with that legal effort. And today, an Austrian court said,
yes, he can be extradited to the United States. Austrian court said this
oligarch, his name is Dmitry Firtash, the court in Austria said he should
be extradited to the United States.
OK, interesting, right? No, we still don`t actually know what`s going to
happen here. This is where things get nutty, because there`s yet another
twist to this amazing story. After today`s ruling in this courtroom in
Vienna, he left with his lawyers and his supporters, headed to the
courthouse elevator, got in, took the elevator down to the first floor.
But when he got off, watch what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police! Police! Everybody, step back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: When he got off the elevate we are police officers were waiting
there to arrest him. What?
That was unexpected. Police took him away. And what they arrested him
for, has nothing to do with the American charges that he was just in a
hearing about on the other floor of that courthouse.
Turns out, Spain also made an extradition request for that same guy for a
different case. They want him to be extradited to Spain to face charges in
that country. And even though the Spanish made that request last year,
Austria decided that today, minutes after his American extradition hearing,
today that would be as good a time as any to arrest him on those other
So, frankly, right now, it`s anybody`s guess as to how this effects whether
or not this guy gets extradited to the U.S. Maybe he`ll get extradited to
We raised this last night, this is worth following from an American
perspective because of the open question as to whether the Justice
Department under the Trump administration is going to go after Putin`s
friends, whether the Trump administration Justice Department would go after
a Putin-linked oligarch. Would they bring him back to this country to face
charges or would they let it slide?
We still don`t know if he`s coming back to this country to face charges.
It got really weird today in that courthouse elevator. We`ll stay on it.
I don`t know. Watch this space.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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