The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 4/13/2017
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST, “A.M. JOY”: Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Joy. Thank you, my friend.
REID: Thank you very much. Have a great show and let`s pray for peace.
MADDOW: Pray for peace, as always, as we do, even when it`s not Holy
Thursday. Thank you, my friend.
REID: Yes. Have a good one.
MADDOW: And thanks to at home as well for joining us this hour.
There is a lot going on tonight, we got a big show tonight.
We`ve got a story out of Arkansas that you may think you have heard about,
but you really haven`t heard about it. It will curl your hair tonight.
We`ve got the attorney general of the United States making news for all the
wrong reasons, making news that he is not intending to make.
We`ve got those stories and more coming up tonight.
But we`re going to start with British spy stuff. If you are into British
spy stuff, even just in terms of like British spy novels and like BBC
serials and that kind of stuff, you will know that there is a convenient
mnemonic device for us Americans about British spy stuff, a convenient
device to help us remember what the different British spy agencies are,
They have one domestic intelligence agency that`s called MI5. That`s the
rough equivalent of our FBI. They have another intelligence agency called
MI6. That`s the rough equivalent of our CIA. And there`s this handy
mnemonic device for remembering which one is which, which is that MI5, five
is the FBI, and MI6 is the CIA. It`s very handy, it`s very handy.
That said, it all falls apart when you get to their third intelligence
agency which is called GCHQ, because that does not sound like anything.
There is no neat, easy to remember device to remind us all to give a sub-
mnemonic cue that the British intelligence agency called GCHQ is pretty
much the equivalent of our NSC, our national security adviser. There`s no
easy way to remember. You just have to memorize it.
But that`s what the GCHQ is over there. That`s their headquarters, kind of
an amazing looking building, right? And the shape of that building at
least reminds you that what GCHQ is it`s basically a global vacuum for
GCHQ stands for Government Communications Headquarters. That`s a
deliberately obscure name that`s supposed to not attract attention. GCHQ
started out fairly small, started as a cryptography outfit in the early
20th century in Britain. In World War II, it became very, very important.
In World War, the Nazis used a machine enigma to encrypt their sensitive
communications. Enigma was widely thought to be unbreakable. In fact, it
was important that the Germans believed in the enigma was unbreakable.
Because they believed that it was unbreakable, nobody had broken it, it was
impenetrable as a coding device, the Nazi sent all of their most important
communications using these enigma machines. They had complete confidence
that nobody would know what they were saying.
One of the great British intelligence secrets of World War II is that
secretly during the war, the GCHQ had hacked, had cracked the Enigma. The
Germans had no idea, but the Brits were able to read the Germans most
secret communications and that`s part of why World War II ended the way it
That part of the British intelligence apparatus responsible for cracking
Enigma, the geniuses who cracked the Nazi code, right, that agency is now
GCHQ. Now, they are much more high-profile. They are much more gigantic.
They have thousands of employees.
But big part of what they do is they still deal with encryptions. They
still do cryptography at a very high level.
And what they do overall as an agency is called signals intelligence. GCHQ
vacuums up surveillance data from all over the globe, just as our NSA does.
At the beginning of March, “The New York Times” reported that the British
government and the Dutch government had turned over to the U.S. during our
presidential campaign last year, they had turned over evidence that people
associated with Donald Trump, people associated with the Trump for
president campaign had attended, quote, “meetings in European cities with
Russian officials and others close to Russia`s President Vladimir Putin.
“The New York Times” reported that on March 1st. And that`s a provocative
statement, right? They attributed this information to three former
American officials who requested anonymity in discussing classified
But that has always been a sort of really interesting dangling thread in
this scandal and in this investigation, right? Not just the idea that
Trump campaign people physically met with Vladimir Putin`s associates in
in-person meetings in European cities, not just that. The other part of
this that was very intriguing from that “New York Times” report back in
early March was where they say that information went, right?
They said that not only did these meetings happen in European cities, but
European intelligence agencies cut them, saw them doing it, surveilled the
meetings basically, and then reported that surveillance data to the United
States. Well, that piece of it as of today we`ve now got more on, because
this morning, a new scoop from “The Guardian” newspaper in Britain advances
Now, “The Guardian” is not reporting more on these alleged in-person
meetings in European cities but they are reporting a lot more about
European intelligence agencies, about European intelligence agencies
cottoning into what was going on, basically catching these alleged
communications and contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian
individuals, documenting those contacts and giving that documentation over
to the United States.
“The Guardian” reports today that is far back as 2015, GCHQ which is the
British equivalent of the NSA, GCHQ picked up signals intelligence of,
quote, “members of Donald Trump`s campaign team having contact with Russian
According to this “Guardian” report today, Britain was first on this.
Britain`s surveillance agency, GCHQ, was first. But then according to “The
Guardian”, lots of other European spy agencies ended up reporting the same
basic thing thereafter. Quote, “GCHQ first became aware in late 2015 of
suspicious interactions between figures connected to Trump and known or
suspected Russian agents. This intelligence was passed to the U.S. as part
of a routine exchange of information.
Over the next six months until the summer of 2016, a number of Western
agencies shared further information on contacts between Trump`s inner
circle and Russians. The European countries that passed on electronic
intelligence included Germany, Estonia and Poland. Australia also relayed
material. Quote, “It is understood that GCHQ was at no point carrying out
a targeted operation against Trump or his game or proactively seeking
information. These alleged conversations were picked up rather by chance
as part of routine surveillance of Russian intelligence assets.
Over several months, different agencies targeting the same people,
presumably targeting the same Russians. They began to see a pattern of
connections that were flagged to intelligence officials in the United
Again, this is a British paper with this scoop today. This is “The
Guardian” newspaper. And they definitely have a British perspective on
this or at least this story comes from a British place.
And by that I mean, if he`s out of read between the lines, it seems like
part of the motivation of their intelligence sources who are telling them
this new information is that they sort of want to brag about the fact that
the British and these other intelligence services overseas, they were first
to pick up on these dodgy contacts between the Trump campaign and the
Russians. They`re sort of dragging about the fact that they were on it.
But they`re also complaining about how slow America was to pick up on this
stuff compared to everybody else in the world. I mean, after all, this is
intelligence that would be of most importance to the United States. Why
were American intelligence agencies not first to pick it up? And once it
was picked up by these other friendly intelligence agencies, why did
America not act on it with more alacrity?
One source speaking with “The Guardian” today is quoted saying this, quote,
“It looks like the U.S. intelligence agencies were asleep. The European
agencies were saying there are contacts going on between people close to
Mr. Trump and people we believe our Russian intelligence agents. You
should be wary of this. The message was: watch out, there`s something not
And – I mean, who knows if this is just these other foreign intelligence
agencies pounding their chests about how great they are, right? Who knows
if this is just hindsight is twenty-twenty? Ah, now we see how serious it
was, you should have believed us.
I mean, maybe it was truly weird that American agencies weren`t more
Johnny-on-the-spot about this information. It`s hard for us lay observers
of this stuff to tell from here. But this is new information in terms of
other intelligence agencies having a handle on this stuff.
And there`s one more piece of this “Guardian” report today that makes
another piece of this story finally makes sense. Last week, last Thursday,
on the night that the new administration decided to shoot those Tomahawk
missiles at that Syrian air base so all the other news get sort of shut off
for the night, that evening, “The New York Times” reported late but it was
not just the FBI that was looking into the Russian attack on our election
last year, and the question of whether or not the Trump campaign might have
been involved in that attack.
On Thursday night, last week, “The New York Times” reported that the CIA
Director John Brennan, late last summer, he did individual one-on-one
briefings. He personally did them as director of the CIA with the top
leadership in Congress, with the heads of the intelligence committees and
the heads of both parties in both houses of Congress.
And according to “The New York Times”, John Brennan, CIA director at the
time, he briefed these members of Congress late last summer, A, that Russia
was interfering in our election, B, that Russia appeared to be interfering
in our election specifically to try to help Trump win, and, C, that the CIA
was quote seeing signs of possible connections between the Russian attack
and the Trump campaign.
So, that was reported last week. Hey, this wasn`t just the FBI. The CIA
was sounding the alarm for some reason late last summer. The director of
the CIA was personally sounding the alarm lately summer. That was sort of
floating out there untethered last week from “The New York Times”, and
almost nobody followed that because it was swamped by all the other news.
Well, according to “The Guardian” today, we now at least have their
reporting which suggests what might have freaked out John Brennan enough to
go do those one-on-one in person briefings.
This from “The Guardian” today, quote, “GCHQ`s then head, Robert Hannigan,
past material in the summer of to the CIA chief John Brennan. The matter
was deemed so sensitive, it was handled at the director level.” Meaning,
it was – this information was handed from their director of their NSA,
basically, the director of their GCHQ, to the director of our CIA. It
wasn`t like agency to agency. It wasn`t staff or assistance, it was head
of the agency to head of the agency, personally handing off this
And according to “The New York Times”, our top at the CIA, once he got that
information, he then personally went right to the oversight committees and
right to the top leadership in Congress with it himself alone.
Did he take those actions? Did he mount those one-on-one in-person
briefings because of what the British intelligence services and these other
intelligence services had collected?
It is what alarmed him enough to do those one-on-one briefings, was it what
the European agencies-western agencies collected in terms of surveilling
Trump campaign people talking with Russian intelligence operatives? Is
that how he learned what was going on?
Did he believe that information was credible and corroborated? Did the CIA
director believe as reported in “The New York Times” that what he had was
evidence not just that the Russians were attacking our elections, but that
the Trump campaign was helping with the Russian attacks somehow?
I mean, this would be an excellent time to hear John Brennan answer
questions like that, especially because I`m not basing this on any
classified information, all I have access to his open source information
and all of this stuff has now been reported in newspapers and he can now be
asked about it in a non-classified context in an open hearing based on this
open source reporting that we all can read. He could answer these
questions for us. If he were asked about it in a public hearing which
maybe has something to do with the fact that the House Intelligence
Committee cancelled the public hearing where they were due to question John
This afternoon, CNN added their own corroboration to this story, citing
U.S. congressional and law enforcement and U.S. and European intelligence
sources, that`s what they phrase they`re sourcing. Their report as of this
afternoon is that the GCHQ and the other European intelligence services,
quote, “intercepted communications between associates of Donald Trump and
Russian officials and other Russian individuals during the campaign and
passed on those communications to their U.S. counterparts.
So, they are corroborating the guardians reporting that European
intelligence agencies including GCHQ collected documentation, collected
information on those meetings and passed them on to the U.S. In terms of
the scope of what we`re talking about here, CNN describes, quote, “multiple
communications over several months between the Trump associates and Russian
individuals”. And, of course, that was during the campaign while Russia
was mounting its operation to hack documents and run their foreign
intelligence operation to help Trump win the election.
In terms of how these investigations are proceeding if it feels like new
stuff is coming out every day now, it`s because new stuff is coming out
every day now. Obviously, there`s a lot of investigative journalism going
on in the press both here and abroad on the subject.
Clearly, there`s an active FBI inquiry or two or three or five or six or
seven. There is the stalled – apparently stalled House Intelligence
Committee investigation that hasn`t rescheduled that public hearing with
There`s also what appears to be an active Senate Intelligence Committee
investigation. The Senate Intelligence Committee right now is reportedly
conducting witness interviews with U.S. intelligence analysts who produced
that consensus report back in January, which said the U.S. intelligence
community had concluded that Russia attacked our election with the aim of
trying to help Trump win the election.
So, they`re reportedly interviewing those intelligence agents now. We
really don`t know what`s happening in a closed doors parts of these
investigations, but we are in open source material seeing evidence of some
stuff going on, right?
As we reported last night, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, he
says he is now retroactively registering as an agent of a foreign power,
after conversations with, quote, “federal authorities” about his previous
work with pro-Putin forces in Ukraine. And whatever you think about his
work with foreign governments and whether or not Paul Manafort ought to be
registered as a foreign agent, either now or in the past, this statement
from him that after conversations with foreign authorities, he has decided
to make this registration, this statement from Manafort is direct evidence
that the Trump campaign chair is now having serious conversations with
federal authorities about his contacts with foreign governments and his
work on their behalf and the legal requirements that devolved therefrom.
I mean, from the outside looking in, just being an observer, right? Just
being a citizen trying to figure this out, trying to figure out this
important question, trying to figure out this president is in place because
of, you know, the normal domestic course of political events or rather
because of a foreign intelligence operation that he collaborated with, just
as a person trying to keep track of that important basic question, trying
to track, trying to notice track and understand all the different shoes
that keep dropping every day, it`s hard to know right now the status of any
one of these investigations, right? It`s hard to predict the time frame on
which we`re finally going to get to the bottom this and get a definitive
answer as to what happened here to our country.
But it seems clear right now, that there`s something different going on at
least in the part of this investigation that`s going on in open source
materials, the part of this investigation that`s happening in the press.
What`s different about what`s happening in the press right now is that
you`re starting to get individual sources, usually anonymous sources,
saying things like this to “The Guardian”.
This is how “The Guardian” ends their piece today, quote, “One source
suggested the official investigation was making progress”, quote, “They now
have specific concrete and corroborating evidence of collusion between
people in the Trump campaign and agents of Russian influence relating to
the use of hacked material.”
Oh, really? Who is this source? What is this specific concrete and
corroborating evidence of collusion?
Who knows? And there is no way we can assess the validity of that
explosive claim without knowing what it`s based on or whether or not that
source is in a position to know these things.
But increasingly, you are now seeing in the serious press looking into this
scandal, you are increasingly seeing these anonymous sources – usually
anonymous government sources – starting to make very blunt declarative
statements like that and increasingly like this reporting with all these
British sources bragging about how early they were on this story, even
before the dumb slow Americans cotton to what was happening. Increasingly,
you were starting to see people basically trying to claim credit, for
knowing this all along, for being first to realize where this was all going
even when nobody else thought it was important.
We still do not know if this possible crime was committed. We do not know
if this alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians will
be proven. But we are at the part of the story, I think it`s fair to
notice, where people are starting to expect that that`s going to happen,
and they`re trying to claim credit for themselves for having been right
about it from the beginning.
I mean, you`re seeing it now with the CIA in the United States, trying to
say, hey, hey, hey, it wasn`t just the FBI. We were trying to sound the
alarm on this too, don`t forget. We were even earlier than them. We had
good detail on this. We tried to tell people.
You`re seeing it with the CIA, with that reporting about the CIA. You are
seeing it with foreign intelligence services trying to say, oh, we have
this one, we were first on this one, we are the ones who came up with a
good dirt on this.
You were also seeing it with anonymous sources who are cultivating
reporters on this story, even before they`re ready to give their names. I
saw this coming. We knew this was going to happen. I`m going to be proven
The press – the open source investigation into this scandal has taken a
turn. As to whether or not we will ever find out whether that`s justified?
We`ll stay on it. Watch this space.
MADDOW: What do you call it when somebody plans to get up and pound their
chests and say something super-confrontational, super-controversial, super-
tough, but then when it comes time to actually do it, they didn`t chicken
out? What do you call that? I mean, what do you call that other than
I`m sure there is a nicer term for that. I`m hoping there`s at least a
more official term for that, because it seems inappropriate to use a
barnyard taunt like chickening out when it comes to the behavior of the top
law enforcement official in the United States.
But this phenomenon, whatever we choose to call it, it is now becoming sort
of a hallmark for him. First time we noticed, it was a couple of weeks ago
when he went to St. Louis, Missouri. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had
just made a decision on paper that the Justice Department was basically
going to pull out of its agreements with local police departments around
the country to try to reform troubled local departments.
His department had put out a memo announcing that change and then they
arranged for the attorney general to go to St. Louis to talk about it. And
in his prepared remarks on the subject were like, whoa. His prepared
remarks on the subject were like the attorney general equivalent of ripping
off your shirt and crawling up under the top turnbuckle and body slamming
the ref in the middle of the ring. It was like, wow, I can`t believe the
attorney general`s going to – really?
I mean, this was – this was from his prepared remarks: “Unfortunately,
many law enforcement leaders say this kind of policing has become more
difficult in an age of viral videos and targeted killings of police.”
So, they circulated this speech. They circulated this text. This is what
Jeff Sessions was going to say in his speech in Missouri. A lot of people
looking at that speech at the time were like, wow, holy cow, we`re in an
age of targeted killings of police and viral videos of those targeted
And then, he actually gave the speech. Here`s how it went.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Unfortunately, many law enforcement
leaders say this kind of policing is becoming more difficult today for a
lot of reasons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: When it came time to say the really provocative “punch him in the
teeth” part of his remarks, “this kind of policing has become more
difficult than age of viral videos and targeted killings of police”, when
he got to that part of his remarks, he kind of decided to abbreviate it as
instead of saying “in age of viral videos and targeted killings of police”,
he said, “for a lot of reasons”, basically. Reasons – reasons I won`t go
into here, didn`t say the thing about targeted killings of police.
So, that was a couple weeks ago. Then, it happened again this week. A day
before yesterday, he went to Nogales, Arizona. You may remember us
reporting a couple years ago on the striking, striking scenes.
Those amazing holy week visuals of the American cardinal going to Nogales,
Arizona, and conducting that cross-border mass, remember that? With a
Catholic clergy, they said this mass that people could hear on both sides
of the border, they offered communion to people through the wall, literally
through the border fence.
So, Jeff Sessions went to that same spot this year, went there this week.
And instead of doing anything like that, obviously, what he planned to do
was denounced the filth coming across the border from Mexico into the
You might have seen headlines this week about Jeff Sessions planning on
giving what some people were calling a full-blown white nationalist scary
speech on the border. Part of the reason people thought it was a scary
speech is because of the use of the word filth.
Here was part of his prepared remarks, quote, “It is here on this sliver of
land where we first take our stand against this filth.” That was his
Here`s what happened when he came to that part of the speech in real life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SESSIONS: It is here on this sliver of land, on this border, where the
first – we first take our stand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Jeff Sessions right to speech and crafts policies around the idea
that people crossing the border are seen by the United States as filth but
then he chickens out when it comes time to actually say it in front of real
We need a better term than chickening out to explain what he`s doing here
but he keeps doing it, and although he is afraid to look anybody in the eye
and say it in person, particularly in places where it might have a real
life effect, doesn`t mean that he`s not acting on these ideas.
This is Daniela Trujillo (ph). She`s three years old. She has three older
siblings who are aged 10, 12 and 14. So, Daniela is the baby in the
family. And Daniela had some health problems. She has recurring seizures.
And that`s a serious thing for anybody at any age, but when you`re three,
that creates really serious issues in terms of your care. Luckily in
Daniela`s family, her mom has been specially trained to recognize signs
when Daniela might be about to have a seizure how to take care of right
anticipate that and then take care of her in those instances.
So, some more than even a usual mother-daughter bond, that medical
necessity means that Daniela and her mom are just inseparable or they were.
Last week, Daniela`s mom Maribel (ph) was snatched off the street near her
family`s home outside Cincinnati, Ohio. She grabbed off the street. She
was put in a local jail then moved to another jail near Columbus, and now,
they have flown her to a detention facility in Louisiana.
At each step of the way at each place where she has been held since she was
grabbed last week, there have been rallies in support of Maribel. The
archdiocese of Cincinnati has rallied to support her in part because she`s
a devout member of her local church. She volunteers at the church.
Maribel Trujillo, the mom in this case, she has no criminal record, never
been charged or convicted – charged with or convicted of anything. She
has four kids. All of her four kids are U.S. citizens, including her
youngest daughter who has these special needs.
Like many people who are in her situations who may have come here years ago
without documentation but who have no significant criminal charges of any
kind laid against them, Maribel Trujillo has been regularly showing up for
her me with ICE, with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She checks in.
She goes to every appointment. She has never missed. She`s never not done
something that they said.
She had her most recent check an appointment with ICE a week and a half
ago, went fine as normal. And then two days later, they grabbed her off
the street, and they are now taking steps to deport her. They put her in
jail and moved her to another jail, flown her down to a detention center in
And despite the rallies of support for her in Cincinnati, they had rallies
in support of her in Cincinnati. They had more rallies when they moved her
to Columbus. They had rallies outside the courthouse that hurt her appeal
She didn`t win the appeal though and they have now moved her down South.
They`re planning to send her to Mexico on Wednesday.
She has lived in the United States for 15 years. She`s raised all of her
kids here. All of her kids are U.S. citizens. She has no criminal record.
The reason she came from Mexico in the first place is her brother and her
father were both kidnapped by drug cartels and she wanted to avoid that
fate herself. But now, ICE under the new Trump administration which, you
know, is embarrassed to pronounce the fact that they view people who have
crossed the border as filth they`ve decided that Maribel Trujillo is a
It`s actually been reported that part of the delay between now and
Wednesday, which is the new date they have to deport her, part of that
delay may be explained by efforts to try and figure out a way to send her
three-year-old disabled U.S. citizen daughter with her when she gets
deported, even though her daughter is a citizen, because they`re trying to
figure out maybe it`s better to split up the family that way then to split
up the family involving splitting the mother from the three-year-old?
Republican Governor John Kasich of Ohio, Republican Senator Rob Portman,
Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, they have all weighed in on this case.
They`ve all weighed on Maribel Trujillo`s behalf, asking for mercy in this
case as has the archdiocese.
I mean, you see all these headlines today about how the Trump
administration is going soft all their most controversial policy proposals
out there. They`re flip-flopping now and abandoning all the hard-line
things the Trump campaign done.
They are not – not at least when it comes to real people, real regular
families, who they don`t have to stand in front of and make speeches to.
When you`re willing to do this stuff as policy but you`re unwilling to look
people in the eye and admit out loud that this is what you are doing, I
know “chickening out” is the wrong term, but I`m not sure exactly what the
right term is.
MADDOW: The Women`s March had just ended. Millions of people all over the
world who turned out the protest the brand new president. It`s one of the
biggest days of simultaneous protest ever on any subject.
When it was all over, one American law professor had a though, let`s plan
another, except this time let`s peg it to the president`s refusal to
release his tax returns.
And it started as a like, hey, let`s do this thing kind of pie in the sky
suggestion on Twitter. But it took off like a rocket.
Technically, this year, your taxes are not due until the beginning of next
week that`s what happens when tax day falls on a weekend. But the day we
think of as Tax Day, April 15th, is this weekend, it`s Saturday, and this
year, Tax Day, Saturday, will be marked by what are expected to be pretty
big tax day protests targeted at the new president.
About 10,000 people are expected to hit the streets in Washington, D.C.
Democratic members of Congress like Senator Ron Wyden, House Democrats
Maxine Waters, Jamie Reskin have all said they`re going to be there at that
The Women`s March in D.C. was, of course, one of the largest protests in
that city ever. Nobody`s expecting these Tax Day protest to be anywhere
near that size. But part of the impact, part of the sort of secret sauce
for the effect of that that Women`s March was how many there were these
marches cropped up everywhere, all over the country and all over the world.
Expect a little taste of that again this weekend, too. Tax Day protests
are expected on Saturday in more than states, hundreds of cities from Boise
to Birmingham to freaking Juneau, Alaska. There are even going to be Trump
release your tax returns protests planned for other countries that do not
have a Tax Day this weekend, including Germany and Japan and New Zealand
and the U.K.
The Trump era in U.S. politics is also turning out to be an era of
invigorated U.S. protests against this new president. The next round comes
on Saturday. Happy Tax Day.
MADDOW: Oklahoma and Arkansas share a long border just shy of 200 miles.
Oklahoma to the west obviously, Arkansas to the east. And the truth is as
you move along the border in that part of the country, there are parts of
Oklahoma and Arkansas that kind of blend together, whether you are in
Westville or Somers or Remy or Dora or Octavia or Hatfield.
As you hop across the border from one side to the other, it`s not
necessarily easy to tell where one state begins and the next state ends.
They share that border. They share the Arkansas River. They share the
Ouachita National Forest.
They even share a fair. It`s the Arkansas-Oklahoma State Fair. Should be
Arkansas-Oklahoma states` fair. Runs about a week, rides, hog races,
there`s a talent show, there`s an alligator show, there`s a milking
Oklahoma and Arkansas, big long border, joined at the hip.
Few years ago, Oklahoma issued some official advice. Oklahoma had just
emerged from an especially grisly botched execution and after that ordeal
which was a terrible ordeal and got them a lot of national attention
because it went so terribly wrong, the state did a review they looked into
what had gone wrong and they came out with a couple of recommended fixes.
For example, the state said it would be better to have a system of
communication established among the staff during the execution since the
one they`ve sort of MacGyvered during the botched execution literally
involved a code where staff would push different colored pencils through
holes in a wall in order to signal different medical information to each
other. That didn`t work so great. We should have our real communication
They also advised that in the future, everybody involved in the execution
should in advance agree to use the same terms throughout the period of the
execution. They should decide what they meant like the words like stop or
stay or a halt. The state said everybody should know in advance exactly
what`s expected to happen when a command like that is given. Basic stuff
but that`s how basically things went wrong.
And then there was their big recommendation. Quote, “Executions should not
be scheduled within seven calendar days of each other.” That execution
that went so badly in Oklahoma that led to this review that led to all
these new recommendations, that botched execution was actually supposed to
be the first in a doubleheader execution that night, but they lost control
the first one, first one went so terribly wrong and they were forced to
call off the second one.
And that after action review in Oklahoma turned up evidence that the stress
and the pressure of planning to kill two people back to back on that same
night, that may very well have contributed to the medical staff getting
things so wrong in that first one and the whole thing falling apart.
So, even though Oklahoma is largely fine with the death penalty, Oklahoma
is in fact so thirsty for executing its prisoners that voters have added
the death penalty explicitly to the state constitution and they say they`re
willing to consider bringing back the gas chamber of all things even in
Oklahoma which is not squeamish about these things, even there they agreed
what they never want to do again is two of these things in a row. Never
try that ever again.
Quote, “Executions should not be scheduled within seven calendar days of
It`s only about 330 highway miles between the death row in Oklahoma and the
death row in Arkansas. And Oklahoma and Arkansas, they share a lot.
But it`s possible that nobody in Arkansas read that report out of Oklahoma,
about what happened in Oklahoma with their execution problem. We don`t
know, but right now, the state of Arkansas has scheduled not just one night
of back-to-back executions, not two, not three, Arkansas has scheduled four
sets of back-to-back doubleheader executions over a period of days starting
Monday. It`s a mass execution.
No state has executed this many people this fast since the country
reinstated the death penalty in 1970s. One of the biggest questions has
been whether the judicial system in that state can even absorb this many
hearings, right? The last minute appeals for clemency and stays, can you
do that when you get all of these people who you`re going to kill in this
close proximity over the last two weeks? Already, the courts have blocked
one of the executions saying his clemency case deserves further
consideration and so, he should not be part of this rush of doubleheaders.
The scheduling, the rush in this case appears to be driven by the fact that
one of the drugs that Arkansas wants to use to kill all these guys is a
drug that is set to expire at the end of this month, rushing to get an
unheard of amount of executions off because your stash of drugs is about to
expire. By itself, that is a little chilling.
But consider a couple other things here Arkansas has never used this
particular drug before to kill somebody, they`ve never used this drug
before. This will be their first time using it and they`re trying to use
it in for double headers and ten days.
They haven`t done any executions at all in Arkansas in more than 12 years.
The director of corrections in the state who`s going to be overseeing this
mass execution, that person has never overseen an execution at all, and
they apparently have no contingency plan on file in case any of this goes
I should also mention that the expiring drug that they want to use that
they`ve never used before, it`s the same drug that went so wrong in that
Oklahoma execution that caused that statewide freak-out and a revision of
all of their protocols.
But Arkansas does not plan on heating Oklahoma`s warning. They are going
forward with this spree, this execution spree, and there is still time,
there are still challenges being argued in state and federal courts. As of
right now, the first two executions are slated for Monday, but tonight the
drug companies who are implicated in this story against their will are
trying to put their feet down to stop it too.
That`s a super interesting development in this and we`ve got more on that
ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: On Monday, Arkansas is planning to try to kill two people, two
prisoners with a drug they have never used to kill people before. It`s the
first of four scheduled doubleheader, two a night executions that the state
is trying to pull off, all with the drug they`ve never used before, even
though they`ve never killed anybody in more than the past 12 years.
The courts, so far, have blocked one of the planned killing. So, now
Arkansas is down to three planned doubleheaders and one solo execution
night, all in the course of ten days.
But, tonight, interesting development. Two drug companies that make drugs
that are apparently going to be used in these executions, two companies
have asked a federal judge to step in and stop all of the executions. The
companies both say they have put strict controls on their supplies to
ensure that their drugs aren`t used in capital punishment. They say that
their supply indications are that no sales of these drugs have been
authorized through their distributors to the state`s prison system.
A spokesman for one of the company says in a statement tonight, quote, “So
we can only conclude Arkansas may have acquired this product from an
unauthorized seller. Pharmaceuticals obtained in this manner are at risk
of adulteration or chemical change.”
Again, they are asking – these drug companies are saying, you`re planning
on using our drugs, you did not get them legally. You did not get them in
a way that can be guaranteed that these drugs are what you say they are,
you should not be allowed to use them to kill anyone, let alone eight
people in 10 days.
Joining us now is an attorney for the Death Penalty Clinic at U.C.
Berkeley`s Law School, Megan McCracken. She`s one of the country`s leading
experts on lethal injection and the death penalty.
Ms. McCracken, thanks very much for joining us tonight. I appreciate your
MEGAN MCCRACKEN, U.C. BERKELEY SCHOOL OF LAW, DEATH PENALTY CLINIC: Hi,
Rachel. Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So, I want to ask you about this latest development. There`s been
a lot of legal wrangling around this remarkable plan in Arkansas. What
does it mean to you? How do you assess this intervention by the drug
MCCRACKEN: Well, it happened just a little while ago this evening. And
so, it was unexpected. And these are you know to pharmaceutical companies
I think they`re related, it might just be one, acting in their own
interests. They have financial interests. They have PR interest, and they
don`t want their products used in executions.
And so, you know, it`s valuable to see yet another voice saying that
Midazolam is an inappropriate drug to use in this way. But for the sake of
the prisoners, the bottom line is just that, that this drug is not
appropriate for this purpose.
MADDOW: One of the things that strikes me about this plan by Arkansas,
obviously, trying to kill a lot of people all at once raises all sorts of
practical and logistical questions, let alone the sort of ethical morass
that it`s hard to think through on something like this. But the company
that makes this drug says it shouldn`t be used for this purpose.
Other states, including Oklahoma, which I highlighted earlier has had a lot
of problems, have had a lot of problems with this drug, with Midazolam, but
the Supreme Court has weighed in specifically on the use of this drug and
said it`s OK to use my dazzle em as part of a lethal injection protocol.
Because of the Supreme Court`s ruling there, is that – is that a settled
matter, is that part of this case essentially no longer litigatable?
MCCRACKEN: No. That Supreme Court case Glossip, that you`re referring to
that was a very limited case with a highly deferential legal review. So,
what the court is doing there is looking at the determinations made by the
trial court and reviewing them under this highly deferential standard to
determine whether or not the findings that the trial court made based on
the evidence before it, whether those findings were reasonable.
So, another court with a different set of evidence, different facts could
reach different conclusions, and that`s exactly what we just saw happened
in Ohio. With a more complete record, the court there said Midazolam does
present a substantial risk of serious harm and Ohio is enjoined from moving
forward with those executions using the drug.
MADDOW: Megan, last point on this, there has become a sort of increasing
national attention to this because they`re going to try to kill so many
people in such short order. They haven`t killed anybody in the prison
system there in more than 12 years. Is there – is there a practical legal
difference in trying to kill two people in the same night or eight people
in days as compared to just trying to kill one prisoner? Is it just
surprising for us to slay observers or is there a legal difference here?
MCCRACKEN: There is a difference and I think you alluded to it before. I
mean, the last time that we saw this attempt – you know, an attempt to do
this was in Oklahoma and there, the execution team had extraordinary
difficulties. They had trouble setting an IV in Clayton Lockett`s vein and
afterwards when they were being invested – you know, investigated,
questioned by state officials, the team members spoke about the stress and
they said that it was harder on them to get the job done because they knew
they had to get it done quickly, to move on to the next execution.
And so, that led to the official recommendation of not scheduling
executions closer than seven days apart. It wasn`t just for the sake of
the team members but rather for the sake of carrying out the executions
properly. So, I think that there is a real issue there. It`s a practical
issue but it`s a real one.
MADDOW: Megan McCracken from the U.C. Berkeley Law School, death penalty
clinic on the – on the precipice of this remarkable decision in Arkansas -
- thanks very much helping us understand it. Appreciate it.
MCCRACKEN: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Tonight, the president went back to his golf club thingy in
Florida. It will be his seventh trip there as president. Because of that,
you`ve seen a bunch of reporting about how much more we the taxpayers are
spending to send him golfing at his Florida club every weekend, compared to
all the vacation and travel expenses of his predecessors.
But whether or not that bugs you, consider this: Mar-a-Lago is surrounded
by water on two sides, the Atlantic Ocean on one side, the intercostal
waterway on the other. Today in what is now their usual pattern, today,
the Coast Guard established three big security zones around the property.
It will protect the president and protect these zones 24/7, using patrol
boats and helicopters until the president departs.
And that`s fine, except the Coast Guard is getting no extra funding to do
this. Coast Guard`s already responsible for protecting a hundred thousand
miles of U.S. coastline and inland – coastline and inland waterways, in
addition to its mission of saving American lives an average of ten a day,
you know, it does this very well with very little fanfare. But the
administration`s draft budget has called for cutting the Coast Guard budget
by tens of billions of dollars.
They called for a $54 billion increase in military spending. None of that
is going to the Coast Guard. They`re cutting the Coast Guard by fourteen
percent. The Coast Guard is going to see its budget cut, even as it is now
spending every weekend taking on the extra job of securing the president`s
golf club. Whether or not you are upset about the president`s travel cost,
one thing you might be upset about is the lack of respect for the Coast
Guard, even as they are busy saving his bacon day in and day out – all of
our bacon, frankly, including the president`s while he golfs.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the