The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 3/9/2017
Show: The Rachel Maddow Show
Date: March 9, 2017
Guest: Daniel Fried
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. We`ve got a
big show tonight. I`m glad you`re here for it. I want to tell you in
terms of the way the show is going to go.
We`ve only got one guest booked for this evening. We feel very lucky to
have him. He`s the longest-standing senior member of the U.S. Foreign
He served under President Obama and under President George W. Bush before
that and under President Clinton before that and under President George
H.W. Bush before that and under Reagan before that and under Carter before
that. He has been there a long time.
He is a pillar of the U.S. State Department. He`s part of its
institutional memory. He has been in the room for basically every
important negotiation, every standoff, every big development, particularly
between the United States and Russia for decades.
And we`ve got him here tonight because he`s out now. He`s gone. The Trump
folks chose not to keep him on. He was actually – I said he was the most
senior diplomat in the Foreign Service – he was actually the third-most
senior diplomat in the foreign service until a few weeks ago. Then the
Trump administration got rid of the number one and number two most senior
people ahead of him in the foreign service, so that did make him the most
senior person still standing – but now he`s out, too.
I mean, think about that for a second. After he was initially hired into
the Foreign Service in 1977, five subsequent presidents of both parties
thought it would be a good idea to keep him on, right? That his deep
understanding, his knowledge of all the players and so many of the secrets
it would make him an indispensable asset, particularly when it comes to
dealing with Russia. Which makes sense, right?
I mean, you want to avoid getting rolled. You want to avoid getting
outmaneuvered or tricked. Particularly when we are a country where leaders
turn over every few years and – I mean, in Russia, Vladimir Putin has been
in charge for 17 years and counting, right? That`s a disadvantage for us
in terms of knowing the players, having a long-term plan, right?
It makes sense in that environment that you would hold on in the U.S.
government to the people who know their way around this particular block,
right? That`s how you end up with a guy like him, you know, the most
senior diplomat America has. That`s how you end up with a guy like Dan
Fried, overseeing the U.S. sanctions against Russia for Russia did in
Ukraine and Crimea.
Russia hates those sanctions more than they love life. They hate those
sanctions. So, of course, you need your toughest and most experienced guy
running those sanctions. Or you did. Like I said, he`s gone from the
State Department now. Like every other person who had as much seniority as
him at the State Department, all gone.
He`s going to be here on set tonight, in his personal capacity as a former
ambassador. We are very, very lucky to have him. The new administration
may not want the benefit of his expertise in terms of figuring out what
Russia is up to with us right now but I do. I mean, we can all benefit
from it as a country as we figure out what`s going on right now with this
presidency and with Russia in particular.
Russia and Putin`s antipathy toward Hillary Clinton from her time as
secretary of state, Russia`s antipathy and loathing and fear of the U.S.
State Department in general, those two – those things that we know about
Russia they put a worrying cast over how successfully the new
administration here has hollowed out and emptied out the U.S. State
Department in just the few weeks since then been in charge. Given how we
know Russia feels about the State Department, seeing what`s happening to
the State Department under this current administration is worrying and
raises all sorts of questions about the connections between this current
administration and Russia.
So, we are going to hear from former Ambassador Dan Fried in person in just
a few minutes tonight. He is our solo guest.
We led last night – we led last night`s show with news about the Russia
connections to the new administration and what we are continuing to learn
about those connections. What`s getting to be, I think, particularly
unsettling is that simultaneously we are right now what`s going on, I
think, is that we are number one nailing down more direct connections
between the Trump campaign and the Russian government at the time the
Russian government was influencing our election. And number two, at the
same time, we are starting to see what may be signs of continuing influence
in our country. Not just during the campaign but during the
administration, basically signs of what could be a continuing operation.
And those two things together are worth paying attention to.
So, tonight, let`s start with the first one. Let`s start with evidence
that we`re getting and evidence that we`ve got of direct Russian government
connections with the Trump campaign, during the campaign, while the Russian
government was interfering in our election to try to elect Trump.
For months, the Trump campaign denied full stop that anybody associated
with their campaign had any ties with Russia or any contacts with Russia
full stop. One of the revelations of the last few days is that a foreign
policy adviser to the Trump campaign, one of five people he named as his
foreign policy advisers during the campaign not only traveled to Moscow
last summer, in July, we now know that he got authorization from the Trump
campaign at the time to take that trip to Moscow.
That trip was in July of last year, it was just before the Republican
convention. A week later, Trump officials at the Republican convention
pushed the Republican Party platform on one issue and one issue only –
they wanted language about Russia significantly softened in the Republican
Party platform. There had been a proposed plank for the platform that said
the Republican Party believed the United States should support Ukraine in
any way that we could up to and including providing them weapons, so they
could fight off Russian incursions into Ukraine.
That was the proposed plank in the Republican Party platform. The Trump
folks didn`t care about anything else. They fought for nothing else in the
platform but they fought that. They fought to change that to a softer more
And this is worrying in part because this is what was described in that
British dossier, right, of alleged Russian dirt on Donald Trump. This
dynamic was described as what Russian wanted as a quid pro quo for its
intervention on Trump`s behalf in the presidential election.
I mean, part of what the dossier says is this, quote, “The operation”,
meaning the effort to influence our election, “that has been conducted with
the full knowledge and support of Trump and senior members of his campaign
team. In return, in return, the Trump team has agreed to sideline Russian
intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue.”
So, that is from that dossier of alleged Russian dirt on Donald Trump,
right? This dossier is still considered to be mostly uncorroborated but
it`s overall allegation is that the Trump folks knew, the Trump folks knew
about the Russian campaign to interfere in our election, they supported it,
they cooperated with it, and in exchange, they made promises to the
Russians. They promised specifically to sideline Russian intervention in
Ukraine as a campaign issue.
Well, we don`t have evidence, we don`t have corroborating evidence of the
first part of that, that the Trump folks were in on it, they were
cooperating, they were corroborating, that they were colluding with this.
We don`t have evidence of that part of it.
But we definitely do have evidence of the second part of it. We do have
evidence the Trump campaign was working to sideline Russian intervention in
Ukraine as a campaign issue. We have belated evidence of that, but we`ve
now got it.
After Mr. Trump and his campaign manager both initially denied having
anything to do with the platform change, a Trump campaign official now
admits that the campaign pushed to soften the Russian language in the
platform. It says it was done specifically at Trump`s request.
The other piece of it we learned last night in “Politico” is that a Russian
citizen who worked for the Trump campaign manager in Ukraine, worked for
Paul Manafort when Manafort was working in Ukraine, that Russian citizen
visited the United States around the time of the Republican convention. He
later claimed to have been responsible for getting the Trump campaign to
get the Russia language softened in the Republican Party platform.
“Politico” reports that this Russian citizen, Konstantin Kilimnik,
“Politico” reports that he`s now under scrutiny by U.S. authority,
including the FBI. So, again, there`s two things we`re tracking here,
right? The first one is direct links between the Russian government and
the Trump campaign while the Russian attack on our election was under way.
And to that point, there is a second beat on this story that you need to
know, in terms of this softening the Russian language and the Republican
platform. There`s a second beat on this you should know. Back in August,
there was some additional reporting on this particular Russian guy who used
to work with Paul Manafort, used to work with Trump`s campaign manager in
Ukraine. We now know he traveled to the U.S. ahead of the Republican
He may have been involved. He says he was involved in making the
Republican Party`s platform more pro-Russia. Well, that guy, that Russian
guy back in August when there was a lot of attention to Paul Manafort, to
Trump having a campaign manager with tons of Russian ties and lots of
experience working in that part of the world. At that time, in August of
last year, “Politico” profiled this Russian guy who was Paul Manafort`s
right hand man in his previous work in Ukraine.
And one of the things they turned up about this Russian guy is that he very
proudly admitted that he was Russian intelligence. He at one point had a
job working at the International Republican Institute, their office in
Moscow. When he applied for the job, he apparently told the IRI that he
learned his language skills, that he built up his resume in the GRU, which
is Russian military intelligence.
Quoting from “Politico”, one of their sources, “It was like, oh, yeah,
Kostya, the guy from the GRU.” That`s how we talked about him.
Quote, “The institute was informed that he was GRU, but it didn`t matter
because they weren`t doing anything sensitive.”
They knew he was Russian military intelligence but that was OK, it was a
Moscow office. They weren`t doing anything sensitive so it`s okay he was
Russian military intelligence. But then he turns up in a U.S. presidential
campaign at the Republican National Convention changing the Republican
Party`s platform on Russia to make it more pro-Putin and he`s a GRU guy?
He`s a Russian military intelligence guy?
So, this is what we`ve been piecing together in recent days as more and
more parts of this story get corroborated, more connections between not
just Trump and people with Russian connections, but connections between the
Trump campaign and the actual Russian government and Russian intelligence
during the time that the Russian government and Russian intelligence were
mounting an operation against us, against our election to try to affect the
And the worry, right, is that that`s not a coincidence. If there were
multiple contacts not just with random Russians but Russians connected to
that government, and if those connections weren`t happening at a random
time, they were happening while Russia was mounting a U.S. operation
against the U.S., and it wasn`t happening behind a veil of ignorance, we
had no idea.
It was happening while there were public news reports about the Russians
trying to interfere in our election, then what were they talking about?
Why were those contacts between the Trump campaign and all these Russians?
What were those contacts about?
Why did Trump advisers need to go to Russia then? Why did the Russian
ambassador need to meet with Jeff Sessions then? Why did the Russian
intelligence guy have to go to Cleveland then?
And if the reason for all of those things is the worst-case scenario,
right, if it`s – you know, that the Trump folks whether or not blind to
what the Russian government was doing, they are in on the Russian
Well, if the worst-case scenario is true – and we are building day by day
a new piece of that everyday, well, that brings us to the second concern,
that the Russians didn`t choose to effect our election, they didn`t
interfere with our election, they didn`t mount this huge op against our
election for kicks. They weren`t doing it for fun and they weren`t doing
it for free. They expected payback, they expected a return on their
And if so, who here thinks they`d be satisfied with a weakening of the
Ukraine plank in the Republican Party platform as their payment, right?
That`s not the sort of payback they`d be satisfied with, right? And that`s
part of why we`ve been putting a spotlight on the drastic cuts and
hollowing out of the U.S. State Department under President Trump.
When Vladimir Putin runs up against American power and American criticism
and American leadership that reminds him of what Russia isn`t, when he runs
up against people who he worries are funding his dissidents or supporting
protests against him, when he runs up against criticism of the way he runs
his own country, what he`s running up against is the State Department,
Silencing the U.S. State Department, putting a friend of Vladimir Putin`s
in charge at the U.S. State Department, who stands by quietly while the
State Department gets hollowed out, gets gutted, that`s a dream for the
Russian government, right? That`s a dream for Putin.
But there`s one last point here to keep in mind and it is about the other
part of the U.S. government besides the State Department that I think Putin
and Russia probably most fantasize about hurting. Go back for a second to
that Republican convention last summer. Remember, that platform fight over
softening the Russia language and the Ukraine plank. That happened about a
week after one of Trump`s foreign policy advisers took that campaign-
authorized trip to Moscow.
Well, about a week after that platform fight, the day after the Republican
convention ended, there was another political bomb that was dropped on the
U.S. presidential election from Russia. The day after the Republican
convention ended, right before the Democratic Convention began we got what
U.S. intelligence agencies believed to be the next big Russian incursion
into our election. We got the first WikiLeaks dump.
We got the first WikiLeaks publication of documents hacked and stolen by
Russian government sources from the DNC, from the Democratic Party, and
they started publishing those stolen documents from the DNC right before
the Democrats started their convention. That`s how the Democrats got to
start their nominating convention, with the chair of the party resigning
and the party and campaign being blindsided by selectively curated and
selectively released documents designed to make the Democratic Party look
as terrible as possible.
Good timing, right? Good political timing if you`re trying to help Trump
and hurt the Democrats. What was particularly impressive by the Trump
campaign at the time is how they were so organized around the WikiLeaks
stuff. They were able to jump right on those WikiLeaks releases and
instantly dovetail their own message with the curated point of the
WikiLeaks dump which was to highlight and deepen and aggravate the rift
between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders wings of the Democratic Party.
The Trump campaign turned on a dime instantly as soon as those WikiLeaks
dumps started. That was their new message. They were right on it.
And by the end of that month, by the end of August, what was weird on the
Trump side, was that people close to Trump were apparently in the know on
what was going to come next from WikiLeaks, on what the next batch of
Russian hacks documents was going to be. This is from an informal campaign
adviser of Donald Trump. A long time associate of Donald Trump.
See the date on that, August 21st? Eerily uncannily in the know, “Trust
me, it will soon be Podesta`s time.” Eerily in the know that John Podesta
would be next somehow, trust me.
Well, then, a few weeks later, October 7th, indeed, WikiLeaks released its
whole new dump. A whole new bunch of e-mails and documents, this time from
Clinton campaign chief John Podesta, e-mails that U.S. intelligence say
were hacked by Russia. Apparently, again, they were waiting for the best
possible timing on the release.
The John Podesta WikiLeaks dump came just about one hour after the “Access
Hollywood” tape was published. The “I like to grab them by the p-word”
tape, one hour after that came out is when WikiLeaks dropped the first
tranche of John Podesta e-mails hacked by the Russians. And then they went
on to release more and more and more of the John Podesta e-mails almost
everyday until the election.
And the Democratic Party likes to remind people that the Russian force
around that was very strong, remarkably strong. Like that day in October
when Russian state television was magically able to tweet about the next
release of John Podesta e-mails. The sixth release of John Podesta e-mails
even before WikiLeaks released them. What? Look at the time stamps on
these two tweets.
There`s Russia Today on the left tweeting “The new e-mails, the sixth batch
of Podesta e-mails is out”. They`re tweeting at 8:09 a.m., and then at,
oh, look, 8:38 a.m., the documents are actually out that really is breaking
news. You broke the news the stuff had been released even before it was
released. How did you know it was coming?
Russia Today, how did you know it was coming?
WikiLeaks is a lot of things. This past year, WikiLeaks was a tool of
Russian intelligence and the Russian government and their interference
operation against the American presidential election to benefit Donald
Trump. There is also evidence that the people close – that people close
to the Trump campaign had advanced notice of WikiLeaks actions and may have
had direct contact with WikiLeaks itself while they were releasing those
documents from the Democratic Party, from the Clinton campaign.
And here`s where it comes home, because if you are worried about whether
Russia is getting paid back now, if you are worried that Russia may be
reaping its reward, maybe getting what it wants out of the United States
government as payback for running the successful op that helped install the
new head of the American government, that helped install this new American
president – well, I mean, if you look, for example, at the State
Department and worry that Putin loves to see the state department wither on
the vine while the new secretary of state doesn`t peep about it at all,
well, consider what the other U.S. agency is besides the State Department
that Putin most hates? That Putin most feels competitive with? That Putin
most wants to beat?
It`s the CIA, right? Spy versus spy. Putin is ex-KGB. He`s an ex-FSB
This week, WikiLeaks released what`s being described as a devastating dump
of CIA cyber war tools. WikiLeaks described it as the entire cyber arsenal
of the CIA. The CIA itself won`t put that fine a point on it, but smart
observers say this is the largest dump of classified CIA material maybe
ever, and it really could be a devastating blow to the CIA`s cyber war and
flat-out spying capabilities, and that dump was released by WikiLeaks the
day before yesterday, on Tuesday.
Today, at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian
Assange has lived for almost five years hiding from rape charges in his
native Sweden, today a man named Nigel Farage, not the guy in the
foreground there, but the guy in the background, he was seen leaving the
Ecuadorian embassy where Julian Assange lives. He later told BuzzFeed when
they asked him what he`d been doing there that he couldn`t remember why he
was at the building today. He just left the building. He couldn`t
remember why he was there.
Nigel Farage, even if you don`t follow British politics, he`s a British
politician but you may recognize him from his frequent visits to the United
States, for example, his time at Trump Tower. You may recognize him from
his time on the campaign trail with Donald Trump. Nigel Farage, you may
also recognize from the recent sighting we had of him eating dinner with
Donald Trump at his D.C. hotel and restaurant two weeks ago.
Well, that Nigel Farage was at WikiLeaks headquarters today in London right
before WikiLeaks gave their big press conferences about destroying the
cyber capabilities of the CIA.
Russian government attacked our election. Russian government was in
contact with multiple Trump campaign sources while they were doing it.
Russian nemesis in the American government, U.S. State Department, CIA, are
not faring well since Donald Trump came to power.
Is the operation that Russia started during the campaign, is it over? Or
are they still running it? Are we still in this now?
Stay with us.
MADDOW: This video was taken outside Senator Tom Cotton`s field office in
Little Rock, Arkansas. It was taken at the end of January. I point out it
was taken outside that office because the constituents of his who shot the
video, they were never allowed inside the office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TOM COTTON STAFFER: This is from our D.C. staff – we are unable to
have anyone in the office because of recent threats that we have had. I`ll
be happy to pass anything over to the senator if you`d like to tell me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, we can`t meet with anybody from the senator`s
office or the senator`s staff who are – no?
SEN. TOM COTTON STAFFER: As of right now, we`ve been told by security that
we can`t because of the threats (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m no threat to the senator or his staff.
SEN. TOM COTTON STAFFER: I understand that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Here`s a thing you should know about Senator Tom Cotton. He`s
seen as a real rising star in the Republican Party. He`s the youngest
member of the United States Senate, routinely described as an up and comer.
He`s known for his efforts to scale back legal immigration. Legal. He
wants to stop legal immigrants from coming to this country. That`s very
popular in Republican politics right now.
And, of course, he has been an absolute champion of the idea of getting rid
of Obamacare, scrapping the Affordable Care Act. But, you know, his
constituent this is year have had some things to say about these matters to
Senator Cotton. In January, his offices stopped answering their phones
and, as we saw here, stopped letting anyone inside their offices. They
also started cancelling meets with constituent groups.
And the senator got a ton of blowback. He became the star of fake missing
person`s signs, encouraging folks to call if they saw him and also to call
him and ask why he had been missing while his constituents were looking for
him. Members of the local Ozark Indivisible group started showing up
regularly in droves outside his local offices. One organizer told “The
Arkansas Times”, quote, “If they don`t hear us face to face, maybe they`ll
hear us outside.”
The pressure finally became a big enough deal at home in Arkansas that
Senator Cotton said OK, OK, OK. He called the head of Ozark Indivisible,
called her on her cell phone and said he would hold a town hall event
within the coming weeks. And the logistical drama around that was a real
thing. It was never quite clear if the event would really happen. His
office kept changing the location and not just once or twice but a bunch of
In fact, because the logistics and venue moved so many times, a lot of
people who wanted to go to the town hall worried that folks ultimately
wouldn`t know where it was or when it was and nobody would show up. But it
turns out, you know what? People found it, everybody got there just fine.
And when it came time for people to tell the senator what they had on their
minds and ask him their questions, turns out there was kind of a theme.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`ve got a husband dying and we can`t afford – let
me tell you something, if you can get us better coverage than this, go for
it. Let me tell you what we have, plus a lot of benefits that we need. We
have $29 per month for my husband. Can you beat that? Can you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I unfortunately inherited an incurable genetic
connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome or EDS. EDS
weakens my heart and veins, it paralyzes my stomach, affects and weakens my
immune system. Without the coverage for pre-existing conditions, I will
die. That is not hyperbole. I will die. Without the protections against
lifetime coverage caps, I will die.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What will you do to ensure that the protections
inherent in the ACA aka Obamacare, will continue.
SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: Some of the regulations that we`ve been
talking about will also be present in the future system as well.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you guarantee that?
COTTON: That`s my support – that`s what I`m voting for.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know you support that, Senator. But what I`m
asking is how will you ensure it? You`ve pledged yourself to repeal, but
you have not talked that much about replacement.
COTTON: We`ll go through the legislative process and I`m make it clear
what I support, don`t support and what I think is good for Arkansas.
COTTON: We have a lot of folks – we have a lot of folks that need to ask
their questions and I`d like to get to them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, before you answer theirs – ask theirs, I would
appreciate it if you would answer mine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, that was last month, during the congressional recess. Tom
Cotton at home in Arkansas. Since then, the Senate has come back into
session. Senator Cotton and his fellow lawmakers are back in D.C. and
Republicans are split, they are divided about what to do with the repeal to
feel Affordable Care Act. That`s topic that Senator Cotton was really
berated for at that town hall event that almost did not happen.
Last night, two committees in the house were up all night long trying to
get a version of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act passed. House
Republicans are just fighting tooth and nail to pass it in the House, to
try to get it into the Senate, to try to make it then so that the Senate
will get on board. But you know who one of the Republican senators is
who`s not on board with this anymore? Senator Tom Cotton.
He started the day by tweeting this. “To my friends in the House, start
over. Pause. Start over. Get it right. Don`t get it fast.”
Senator Cotton has campaigned on wanting to kill Obamacare. He voted to
repeal the Affordable Care Act back in January, but he now says, despite
these marathon all-night sessions going on in the House, Republicans need
to do better, they need to start over, they need to come up with something
that the Senate says will actually reduce prices for insurance and keep it
And who knows what exactly changed Tom Cotton`s mind on this. I mean,
maybe it was that woman who said her husband was dying and only alive
thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Maybe it was the young woman on your
right side of your screen who said that without the treatment she could
only receive through the Affordable Care Act she herself would be dead.
Maybe it was them. Maybe it was not one moment in particular but as a
general matter, there`s a reason people turn up to try to pressure their
member of Congress. There`s a reason people pause their lives to engage in
political activism and pressure their local political leaders. Because as
a whole, even if you can`t identify any one instance, as a whole pressure
works and sometimes it starts with something as simple as pushing the
button on the intercom.
We`ll be –
MADDOW: So the foreign minister of Mexico is this man. He was in
Washington, D.C. today. According to an official press release from his
office, he held meetings today with three top people in the White House,
with the economic adviser Gary Cohn, the former president of Goldman Sachs,
with the national security adviser, General H.R. McMaster, and with Jared,
with the president`s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.
Nowhere to be found with on that list, the Mexican foreign minister`s
official counterpart in our government, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
So, this is a perfect example as to why the newly reinstated State
Department press briefings are a useful thing. We haven`t had them for
weeks now, but they`ve just come back. We didn`t have one in person today,
we just had one by phone and on the phone one today, reporters made a point
of asking, hey, what gives about this visit? Why isn`t U.S. Secretary of
State Rex Tillerson meeting with his Mexican counterpart while all the
other people in the administration are?
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TRACY WILKINSON, LOS ANGELES TIMES: I see that the foreign minister of
Mexico is in town, Luis Videgaray, meeting with, according to the Mexicans,
Kushner, Gary Cohn and McMaster. Is there no State Department meeting with
him? And if not, why not?
MARK TONER, ACTING STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: Tracy, good question. We`ll
take that and get back to you. I was unaware that he was – the foreign
minister was in town. And I`m not sure – I can`t speak to whether there`s
going to be any meetings at the State Department at any level.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: They had no idea. Really?
What was it? “I was unaware the foreign minister was in town.” The
foreign minister of our neighbor and close ally is in Washington? Today?
You know, we`re a little short staff, haven`t been picking up our messages,
we suspended the in-house newsletter, the mimeo is broken, also bulletin
board is being cleaned. I had no idea.
Hello, anybody home? Is anybody home?
Since his arrival, the new secretary of state has not held a single press
conference. On his first big trip to Europe last month for the G20 summit,
Rex Tillerson said less than 50 words in total in response to press
questions, and while his silence and refusal to answer reporters` questions
is one thing, the hallowing out of the State Department, the erasure of
institutional memory in that agency on his brief watch, that`s something
Right after Secretary Tillerson was sworn in, four of the top career
diplomats at the department were told their services were no longer needed.
These are career non-partisan apolitical staffers with a combined 150 years
of experience at the State Department gone, just like that right off the
That was followed by more senior staff layoffs last month and so far, at
least, the people being let go are not being replaced. Tillerson himself
has no deputy, for example. Latest plans from the administration call for
a 37 percent cut to the agency`s budget, 37 percent. So far, there has
been no sign of any public pushback against that from the secretary of
When NBC`s Andrea Mitchell shouted a question to him about it a few days
ago, he smiled and pretended he didn`t hear her asking but gave no answer.
The primary agency responsible for rallying U.S.-led interests around the
world appears to be having the air sucked out of it. If you are Russia and
you are looking at that right now, do you love what you are seeing?
You might be happy, I`m not sure, but you might be happy to see this guy
exiting stage left. Until very recently, he was the third-most senior
diplomat in the Foreign Service. He`s America`s longest-serving diplomat.
He served six presidents over a 40-year career dating back to the Carter
administration. He`s the department`s foremost Russia expert and he, too,
is now leaving at a time when arguably the State Department needs it most,
the State Department will not have the benefit of his insight going
We will, though, and that`s because he joins us here next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Allow me to quote. “My 40 years in the foreign service and the
careers of many of my friends became associated with the fall of the Soviet
Empire and the putting in order of what came after – the building of a
Europe whole, free, and at peace. It`s hard to recall today how improbable
victory in the Cold War appeared.
For two generations up through the mid-1980s, many thought we were losing
the Cold War, even in early 1989, few believed that Poland`s solidarity
movement could win, that the Iron Curtain would come down, that the Baltic
states could be free, that the second of the 20th century`s great evils,
communism, could be vanquished without war, but it happened and the West`s
great institutions, NATO and the E.U., grew to embrace 100 million
It was my honor to have done what I could do to help. I learned to never
underestimate the possibility of change, that values have power and that
time and patience can pay off, especially if you`re serious about your
objectives. Nothing can be taken for granted and this great achievement is
now under assault by Russia. But what we did in my time is no less
honorable. It is for the present generation to defend.”
That is from the farewell speech of Ambassador Daniel Fried, former
Ambassador Daniel Fried. He recently retired from the State Department
after 40 years of service across the globe. He`s here in his personal
capacity, not as a U.S. government official.
Ambassador Fried, thank you so much for being here tonight. I really
DANIEL FRIED, U.S. FOREIGN SERVICE OFFICER FOR 40 YEARS: Thanks for having
MADDOW: I`ve never read the parting speech of a former diplomat leaving
the State Department before, but I read yours because it was recommended to
me by so many people as a seminal view of where we are in the world. Do
you feel like we are at a pivot point in world history in terms of the
Western liberal order?
FRIED: We did really well for a generation after 1989 and the fall of
communism. Our liberal values expanded in the world, our prosperity
expanded. We did well. That`s under assault. But it`s also being
questioned from within the West. People are questioning whether this is
the way to go and that does worry me, sure.
MADDOW: Your pointed comments in your farewell address and elsewhere about
Russia, notes just the questioning from within but the assault by Russia on
this, that carries a lot of weight because of your expertise on Russia and
your involvement in relations with Russia over the decades. Is this – is
what we`re seeing now, what we`re newly recognizing and focusing on now in
America, is this just the latest iteration of what Russia has been involved
with for a long time or are they involved in something new and newly
FRIED: We Americans are focused on Russia`s attacks with our electoral
system and we`re consumed with that. But Russia is pushing against the
West generally. In my view, Putin despises the West in general and the
United States in particular, both for who we are, our liberal values, and
for what we`ve done, which is to take down the Soviet Empire.
And I think now, Russia is pushing against the West in general, not just
the United States but the institutions of the West, the key governments in
the West using a variety of tools, as well as military assault on Ukraine.
MADDOW: In terms of what Russia – if Russia had a magic and with, what
they would do to the United States if they could. What do you think
they`re doing –
FRIED: Diminish US.
MADDOW: Diminish us?
FRIED: Diminish us across the board. They do not wish us well. They are
the adversary, they – we`re the adversary they love to hate. They want to
bring us down to make them feel better about the failure of the Soviet
Union. I don`t mean bring us down as in collapse, but bring us down a
notch in a big way.
What they want to do is undermine the Western liberal order. The sense the
great democracies of the world – Europe, the United States, Japan, others
– are going to set the agenda for the world. They want to bring that
MADDOW: What`s the best way to do that if you`re Russia?
FRIED: Undermine the West and its institutions, create doubts about NATO,
create doubts about the European Union, support nationalists on the right
just as the Soviet communists supported communists on the left. Weaken the
West in general and create an atmosphere in which we`re uncertain about
MADDOW: On that point of nationalism, I feel like Americans have always
studied nationalism as a foreign phenomenon. And now, we`ve got a
nationalist movement in our country that has a very articulate spokesman in
the senior counselor to the president, for example, and I don`t think we
have thought of ourselves, at least in a modern iteration, as being a
nationalist country or a country that has nationalist movements.
When you say that it helps Russia to undermine – in its project of
undermining the West to support nationalism, how does nationalism abroad
and in the United States undermine the West and the liberal order in
FRIED: Well, think of Europe in the 20th century. Two World Wars
generated by nationalism. France, Germany, Britain fighting with each
Now, the United States comes in in 1945 and we basically blow the whistle.
Two World Wars are sufficient and we are the ones who supported this notion
of a united Europe, so there would never be another set of civil wars in
Europe again, ever. That was a fabulous success. It was so fabulous that
people now take it for granted
And the European Union, OK, right, it has a bureaucracy, right. It`s
sometimes difficult to deal with but so what? You hire a couple of people
like me to work the European Union, and it can be done. It`s pretty good.
I mean, European Union, difficult compared to what? Say organizing D-Day?
The West in its modern form since 1945 is a miracle, and that`s in our
American interests. It`s its good that the West is strong and at peace,
and we should want more of that, not less.
MADDOW: How worried are you that it is fundamentally at risk right now?
FRIED: Worried, I think the West is in a low point we haven`t seen since
the 1930s. We`re a little bit low in the 1970s, right, post-Vietnam,
Watergate era, malaise, all that, but this is more like the 1930s where the
very notion of liberal democracy is being questioned, and that is
MADDOW: Our guest is former Ambassador Daniel Fried. He`s very recently
retired from the State Department after 40 years of service, a senior
Foreign Service officer.
Ambassador Fried, I want to ask you about your beloved State Department if
you don`t mind staying for one more segment.
FRIED: Sure, sure.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back with Dan Fried in just a moment.
MADDOW: We`re back with Ambassador Daniel Fried, who`s a very senior
Foreign Service officer, very recently retired from the State Department
after 40 years of service.
Mr. Ambassador, I just did want to ask you, did you – had the Trump
administration asked you to stay, would you have stayed? You stayed
through six other presidents.
FRIED: Well, we`ll never know because they didn`t ask me. Now, they
didn`t fire me. They didn`t ask me to stay and 40 years seemed like
MADDOW: One of the things that I am worried about as a layman who has
never been – had any direct expertise in these matters at all is that I
see you after 40 years and I see the handful of other people, maybe two
other people who had a little more years in service than you, all of these
people combined – you know, well over a century experience, all of these
people who have been there through all these presidents, all gone, all at
once, are we right to see that this is at least unusual, that this many
senior people leaving at the start of the administration is not par for the
FRIED: Well, the usual practice is that the people in their jobs keep
their jobs until their successors are named. Now, that`s the way the Bush
administration treated the Clinton people. And that`s the way the Obama
administration treated the Bush people.
Same thing. Thank you for your service and please stick around until a
successor is named. So, you have the A team. And both the Bush people and
Obama people had no problem working with the holdovers. They weren`t out
to get them.
And that was pretty smooth, because you don`t want something to go wrong
when you have a whole senior level of actings. That`s not a position you
want to be in.
MADDOW: But to be clear, what you`re saying is in the Trump
administration, all the senior people were cleared out.
FRIED: Not all of them but a lot of them. And it`s OK to replace your
team, but usually you want them to be in place until the new people are
MADDOW: And in this case, that has not happened?
FRIED: And that just in terms of capacity, that`s of concern. I just hope
they move quickly.
MADDOW: Ambassador Daniel Fried, thank you very much for taking this time
tonight. It`s really good to have you. I hope you`ll come back.
FRIED: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: We have news tonight about a new legal challenge to the
president`s Muslim ban, the second version of the Muslim ban that was
introduced this week. We reported last night that the state of Hawaii had
filed the first lawsuit in federal court yesterday challenging the new
Muslim ban. Well, now, tonight, the attorney general of Washington state
has announced that he will also be challenging it, along with the state of
Now, the Washington state entry here is very interesting, because Attorney
General Bob Ferguson, his last challenge to the first version of the ban is
what stopped it in its track. He won that huge ruling against the first
version of the Muslim ban that resulted in it being stopped dead in the
Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
Well, tonight, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson says he believes
that same ruling that stopped the first version of the ban should still
apply to the second version of the ban because it is basically the same
ban. It is basically the same policy.
You can hear that argument from him in person right now because he`s about
to be a guest on “THE LAST WORD” with Ari Melber.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” with Ari Melber, sitting in for Lawrence
Good evening, Ari.
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