The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 4/24/2017

Guests:
Matt Apuzzo, Mitch Landrieu
Transcript:

Show: The Rachel Maddow Show
Date: April 24, 2017
Guest: Matt Apuzzo, Mitch Landrieu

CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: That is “ALL IN” for this evening.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.

HAYES: You bet.

MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

In 1997, a woman whose first name was Marie Caroline, she was running to
become a member of parliament in France. And something weird happened
right before the election that year.

The campaigning was hot and heavy. There was a lot of interest in her
parliamentary race in particular. And her dad showed up to help her
campaign. Her father showed up in her district to do campaigning for her
and with her.

And while he was in her district campaigning for his daughter while she was
running for parliament, he ended up on the streets of her district running
into the woman his daughter was running against. He ran into his
daughter`s opponent in the street and he took a punch at her.

He ran over to her. People were trying to hold him back. Look. Look at
this picture. He pushed his way through, he grabbed hold of her and hit
her. This was the woman who was running against his daughter for
parliament.

I had known this story, I don`t know, sort of peripherally. I had
definitely seen these sort of famous still images of that moment. Those
were in my head.

But today, we actually went into the archives and we found old French news
footage of that incident. And turns out there aren`t just those images,
there`s also video, including a slow-mo video which run on French news at
the time, where you can see him attack her, physically attack her.

That assault by the candidate`s father ultimately cost him his own job.
His daughter was running for parliament in France. He was a member of the
European Parliament, the parliament for the E.U., and they threw him out of
that seat because of the physical assault on that candidate in the street.

To add insult to injury, his daughter went on to lose the race. So, the
woman he punched out beat her and got the seat.

But the following year, another one of his daughters also ran for public
office in France, and she did not lose, and he did not punch anybody out
and she ended up winning. And that was her first election to public
office. And it started her ascent to the highest levels of French
politics.

Her sister`s name was Marie Caroline. Her name is Marine.

And when Marine Le Pen won office for the first time in 1998, that started
the process of handing over from father to daughter what for decades has
effectively been the fascist party in France, the Front National, National
Front.

Now, you will think I am showing you this picture of Jean-Marie Le Pen and
Marine Le Pen together, specifically – you will think I am showing this
specifically because it`s such an unflattering picture of the dad. But I
have to tell you, I did not single this photo out just for that reason.
This really is just what he looks like. This is what he looks like when
he`s happy. This is what it looks like when he`s proud of his daughter.

This I think is also his angry face. This is just him. This is what he
looks like.

And for decades, he really has been the face of fascism in France. And
also he likes to hit women.

So, his daughter, Marine Le Pen, who inherited the Front National, the
party from her father, who founded it in the `70s, Marine Le Pen is now one
of two candidates in the runoff to be the next president of France.

And whether any of us inherently care about elections in other countries or
the politics and stability of our allies around the world, whether or not
you care about that, for us, watching this from America, part of what is
very interesting about them having this election now in France is this is
just a story of incredible characters. I mean, Jean-Marie Le Pen is the
face of post-war European fascism. He really did get expelled from the
European Parliament for him slugging that woman in his daughter`s campaign.

Just a few years ago, Jean-Marie Len Pen was also expelled from his own
party, from the party that he founded. He was forced out of the National
Front by Marine Le Pen, by his daughter, after she took it over from him.

Then, today after she made the runoff for the presidential election,
interesting, Marine Le Pen also dropped out of the party. She runs the
National Front as a party. She dropped it. She dropped her own
affiliation with the party that her father founded and that she has helmed
ever since. She`s now trying to get elected president of France, and so,
she has dropped her political party entirely because it`s bad baggage.

But her making it to the runoff and potentially being the next president of
France, this isn`t totally untrod ground. Her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen,
he made it this far in national politics in that country once before. In
2002, in France`s first election after 9/11, in 2002, France scared itself
to death because Jean-Marie Le Pen unexpectedly defeated one of the
candidates from the two mainstream political parties that year and made it
into the presidential runoff himself.

And that was seen as the equivalent of like David Duke becoming one of the
two major candidates in a general election in our country. It absolutely
terrified France and unified people against him like you couldn`t believe.
He got absolutely destroyed in the general election.

He was one of the last two candidates running in that head to head runoff,
but he lost hugely. He ran against Jacques Chirac who was not particularly
popular, but Chirac got more than 82 percent of the vote because he was
running against Le Pen, who was monstrous and unimaginable as a president.

And now, his daughter is in the same position. And everybody sort of
assumes that that won`t happen again, that everybody will unify against
her, that the National Front cannot possibly take over the presidency of
France, whether or not they drop their formal affiliation with the party.
Everybody is betting that she will lose very badly and the centrist
candidate she`s running against will definitely become the next president.

Everybody assumes that will happen. But at this point it`s like, once
bitten, a thousand times shy, right? I mean, it seems implausible that
somebody like Le Pen could be president but weird things have happened.
Really close to here.

That final election in France, the run-off election will be two weeks. Two
weeks from yesterday. If Marine Le Pen wins, France honestly, again,
whether or not you care about France as a country, it is important to know
that if she wins, France in many ways will be leaping into a political
abyss. It will have big global consequences including for us.

If she`s elected, France probably will try to leave the European Union.
Since the U.K. is now pulling out. France leaving as well would be the end
of that whole experiment, right? A federated Europe with countries bound
to each other so intrinsically that the world could never get drawn into a
World War by European states going to war with each.

The big idea of the E.U. would probably be over. Marine Le Pen would
probably take France out of Europe which would basically end the European
experiment.

She would likely also take France out of NATO. We`re in NATO. France,
like us, is a founding member of NATO. The alliance was established in
1949 with 12 countries. It has since expanded to 28 countries. It`s one
of the fundamental institutions of the world order. No country that is a
member of NATO has ever left.

Although, I say, Charles de Gaulle back in the 1960s, he went to a period
where he pulled back French participation in NATO because he felt it was
too dominated by the U.S. and the Brits. At one point, de Gaulle ordered
all non-French NATO personnel to leave French soil. And the U.S. secretary
of state at the time had said to have asked in response whether that also
meant he wanted the bodies of American soldiers in French cemeteries packed
up and sent home as well.

France eventually gave up its toying with leaving NATO and they got back in
to NATO fully committed. But that`s as close as anybody`s ever come to
leaving it. And now, that`s at risk again much more acutely and a lot more
besides. If it is all going to go in France, it`s going to go fast, that
French runoff election is two weeks from yesterday.

Here at home, we are at day 90-something of the presidency that came into
being because of the biggest shock presidential election result in U.S.
political history. All week long, the American media, the American
political world, certainly the beltway press and partisan politics in
Washington will just be dominated by the discussions of the somewhat
artificial hundred day benchmark for this new administration – what
they`ve able get done, what promises were kept, what promises were broken.
There will be a lot of talk about the president`s approval ratings are.
And it`s all interesting.

In terms of what`s going to happen over this week, I think we should expect
some surprises domestically. We`ve had vague promises from the
administration that they`re going to unveil their new legislation to
overhaul the entire tax code some time this week. Although in fundraising
letters as late as tonight, they`re still asking people what they think the
priorities should be for that. How do you think we should approach it?
Overhauling the tax code is really big deal.

We`ve also had hints from them that they will repeal Obamacare this week,
but this time, they`ll do it for real. They also said they will have a
spending plan to fund federal government this week, a plan that will pass
both houses and be signed by the president, in time to avoid a government
shutdown on his 100 day in office at the end of this week, which will
happen if they don`t pass something.

As part of that measure when it comes to paying for the wall, the White
House line is that it`s no longer Mexico who`s going to pay for the wall,
it`s now the Democrats who are going to pay for the wall. Sure.

Honestly, it is hard to believe that any one of those things will happen
domestically this week, let alone all of them. I do think it`s fair to
expect some surprises this week because the White House itself appears to
be so focused on this hundred-day benchmark.

But meanwhile, the world doesn`t stop for artificially imposed media-
friendly round number political benchmarks that we invent to talk to each
other about how things are going in our country. And so, regardless of
what number day this is, or what number we`ll be at by the end of the week,
I think it`s worth keeping a very close eye right now on how this young
administration, not just how they`re handling the stresses, and how the
president is doing personally and whether his promises are being kept.
Look at the government he`s running. How is the administration dealing
with the responsibilities of being the world`s richest and most influential
country, at the time when the world in many ways is quaking at its
foundations?

I mean, even if you don`t care about France, this election in France is an
earthquake. It`s an earthquake even if Marine Le Pen does not win. I
mean, the two main political parties in that country, their equivalent of
Democrats and Republicans, those two parties have traded the French
presidency for more than 50 years. Neither of those parties even got a
candidate into the runoff this time.

They are also coping with Russia and Vladimir Putin playing very
aggressively in their politics. Putin is supporting Le Pen openly enough
that we have these images of Le Pen and Putin meeting in person at the
Kremlin just a couple of weeks ago. Russian banks have loaned Marine Le
Pen and her party millions of euros to conduct her campaign.

Tonight, “The Wall Street Journal” reports that Le Pen`s opponent, the
centrist she`s running against, Emmanuel Macron, he has been targeted by an
intensive, high-level hacking attack. A cybersecurity firm, according to
“The Wall Street Journal,” is due to publish a report tomorrow that will
attribute that major and ongoing attack on Macron to hackers from the
Kremlin.

So, Russia obviously wants to blow up NATO. They see NATO as their
military rival in the world. They want European broken apart and as weak
as possible by any means necessary.

There are clear reasons why and clear evidence that Russia and Vladimir
Putin are pulling very hard for Marine Le Pen. They know exactly how
disruptive it would be not just to France but the whole Western order of
the world.

And in terms of our own government, honestly, you would expect any
relatively normal American administration, either one to the right or one
to the left, any normal administration of the American government you would
expect to try to stand for centrism, stability, the strength of Europe,
certainly the strength of NATO if it was called into question in a major
ally of ours like this, right?

But that is not how this new president of ours in approaching it. Last
March, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the dad, the punchy one, he explicitly endorsed
Donald Trump during our presidential campaign. Last week, Donald Trump
implicitly endorsed Marine Le Pen, Jean-Marie Le Pen`s daughter. White
House said this technically was not an endorsement, but clearly it was an
endorsement.

So, take nothing for granted, right? Things can change in an instant.
Improbable is not impossible. Look, that`s the president.

The world is contested territory by all sorts of forces. Good forces, bad
forces, all in distinct competition. And we have only got one U.S.
government at a time. So, if the U.S. government needs to do stuff now,
we`ve got to count on this administration to do it, even if you prefer
another option.

And tonight, as we are once again on missile launch watch or potentially
even on nuclear test launch in North Korea again, because right now as I
speak, it`s already with the time change tomorrow in North Korea, and
tomorrow in North Korea is a holiday there. It`s the birthday of their
army which they sometimes like to celebrate with big military tests. As we
watch North Korea for another scary overnight in terms of seeing what
they`re going to do and what they`re going to display in terms of threats
to the United States and to our closest allies and to the world, tonight,
there are signs in our own government that there are things in motion,
especially on national security terms.

But they seem to be doing things that we don`t yet understand the
importance of. Presumably, it will be clear soon enough. For example,
here`s something very specific, Vice President Mike Pence was pulled home
from his Pacific trip a day early today. Why is that? This is a long
planned trip. He was supposed to be spending the day tomorrow in Hawaii
visiting the Pearl Harbor Memorial. Instead, they sent him home early
without saying why he was coming home.

The White House has also now announced there will be an all-senators
briefing on North Korea the day after tomorrow. Weird thing about that is
that they`re holding the all-senators briefing at the White House. There
isn`t a room at the White House that is configured for the discussion of
classified information that can hold 100 senators plus the people who are
briefing them. They don`t have a space like that.

Apparently, what they are doing is they are temporarily remodeling an
auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House
grounds to become a SCIF for a day, to become a Sensitive Compartmented
Information Facility for a day just for that meeting. They are going to
refit an auditorium so it`s OK to talk about classified information there
that day.

Why are they going through all that trouble rather than just having a
briefing at the Senate where there`s plenty of room and they do it all the
time? Why are they making all the senators come to the White House?

Nobody knows.

In this tense week, I know there`s going to be a lot of attention on the
president himself because the president and the hundred days thing is a
personal thing. But if you want to know more broadly how our government is
doing, particularly when it comes to our country in the world, I think
there are two things to watch this week, really to see not how the
president is doing, but to see if the government under this president is
finally starting to get its sea legs, particularly on national security and
international issues.

Two things to watch. Number one, watch the State Department. Under the
new secretary of state, the Exxon CEO, Rex Tillerson, the State Department
has become something between invisible and inadvertently funny. Today, for
example, the biggest news about the State Department is that they
apparently were not invited to the meeting the president hosted today at
the White House for all the ambassadors representing all the countries on
the U.N. Security Council. All of those ambassadors and their spouses were
all invited to the White House along with U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.

It was literally the president and 14 ambassadors from all these incredibly
important different countries. Ambassador, ambassador, ambassador,
ambassador, ambassador, and there`s Trump doing the photo-op and
everything. No secretary of state. No representation from the State
Department whatsoever.

So, that was the big news about the State Department today? Shouldn`t they
be there?

The big news out of the State Department today was their website was the
State Department getting embarrassed about the fact they put up a gushing
taxpayer funded website advertising Mar-a-Lago as the alternative White
House and talking about how beautiful it is.

The State Department may have those kinds of inappropriate feelings for
Mar-a-Lago, but it is also a for-profit Donald Trump business entity. So
there`s that whole illegal profiting off the presidency thing. They
eventually took down their “we love Mar-a-Lago website” after getting
teased about it all day long.

State Department also today announced their new spokesperson. It will be
one of the hosts from “Fox and Friends,” which is the president`s favorite
cable TV show. And who knows? Maybe she will be amazing. I hope she will
be amazing.

But watch the State Department this week. See if they put down roots at
all, to see if they start taking up space at all, to see if they restart
redoing – if they restart the process of doing daily State Department
briefings which we have done in this country since the `60s, but this
administration has stopped.

If you want a substantive window on this first hundred days thing, I
realized the temptation to focus personally on the president and his
campaign, and all that stuff. But in terms of America and the world, watch
the State Department.

Also, watch the U.S. military. This is my last point. It has been – I
think a source of comfort to a lot of people that the military doesn`t turn
over with each new administration, right? Trump said during the campaign
that when he became president, there would be all new generals. Remember
that?

That was a very satisfying fact check during the campaign. No, sir.
That`s not how it works. You do not get all new generals, nor do your
suits get epilates, nor should you appear in public in mirrored sunglasses.

Now, the military stays the military. Civil government turns over. The
military doesn`t.

But on important matters of national security and life and death issues
around the use of military force, I have to say, even though it`s the same
military it`s always been, during this young administration, during these
90-something days, there have been now a series of troubling incidents
where the military has made public statements on important matters that are
not true, under weird circumstances, right?

You`ll remember the president`s first major military decision was to order
that special operations raid into Yemen that went so disastrously wrong. A
Navy SEAL was killed. Four other Navy SEALs were injured. Multiple
civilian deaths. Even the destruction of a $75 million helicopter.

After that disastrous raid, you might remember that CentCom came out a few
days later and publicly released a video that they said proved how
important and valuable that mission was because it gathered this incredibly
important intelligence. They released this video that they said was
gathered during that raid.

It quickly emerged that that video they released had been around actually
for almost a decade. It wasn`t picked up in the Yemen raid. It wasn`t
new.

CentCom`s explanation for why they released it, this was crucial new
information obtained in the Yemen raid was this, quote, “We thought it was
new but now we know that it is not new.” That was weird. That was right
at the beginning of the administration.

After that, there was also strange situation in which the Defense Secretary
James Mattis bragged that the Tomahawk missile strike on the Syrian air
base had destroyed one-fifth of the Syrian air force. When he was
questioned to back up that information, he conceded it might not be true
but he said he made that statement because he had to get a statement out.
OK.

After that, we had the debacle of two weeks of miscommunication from the
administration, what appeared to be outright lies from the administration,
including the president himself, the White House spokesman, the national
security adviser, the defense secretary, all overtly misleading the public
on the location of an aircraft carrier. The location of the USS Carl
Vinson and its associated strike group, that – we still don`t have an
explanation for why the White House thought the aircraft carrier and its
carrier strike group was going somewhere it was not going.

And now, in addition to that, we`re now ten days into this strange story
out of CentCom once again where somebody who was not a CentCom spokesman
nevertheless talked to reporters, identified himself as a spokesman and
bragged about how President Trump was now bombing the bleep out of ISIS
just like he said he would. That`s not a very military spokesman kind of
statement. It was nevertheless published as the words of a CentCom
spokesman. CentCom later put out a mysterious press release retracting
that statement and saying that person was not authorized to speak for
CentCom.

Well, OK. Happy to clear that up, but I would also like to clear up how
CentCom got a fake spokesman for a day. How did that happen? And how we
are supposed to know in the future whether somebody is speaking on behalf
of the U.S. military as a real person as opposed to a pro-Trump swearing
imposter who we shouldn`t trust as far as we can throw?

We don`t usually have to ask these questions about the U.S. military.
We`re nearing the 100-day benchmark for this new presidency but in a very
sensitive, anything can happen time for the world, keep your eyes not just
on him as an official. Keep your eyes on this government that he is
running, because the very serious, important parts of it that wee need and
expect to be basically competent at placing America where we want to be in
the world – those parts of government are doing some weird stuff lately.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Grandstanding is not an unusual thing among politicians. It`s
actually one of the things you need to check off on the big, imaginary
checklist of things you need to be able to do if you want to be an elected
official. Kiss babies? Check. Raise money? Check. Grandstand? Check.

You have to be able to grandstand. Grandstanding is not rare in
Washington, but bipartisan grandstanding very much is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Mark and I work
hand in hand on this, and contrary to maybe popular belief, we`re partners
to see that this is completed, and we`ve got a product at the end of the
day that we can have bipartisanship in supporting.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE VICE CHAIRMAN: I have
confidence in Richard Burr that we together with the members of our
committee are going to get to the bottom of this. And that`s – if you get
nothing else from today, take that statement to the bank.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Take it to the bank. We`re going to get to the bottom of this.
Those are the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee and therefore
the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Russia investigation. Richard Burr
is the Republican chairman. Mark Warner is the Democratic ranking member.

Burr and Warner say their project in the Senate is totally different than
the messed up one in the House. At the time they made their big bipartisan
statement to the press, the House investigation you might recall was
falling apart, was losing its Republican leader. They were cancelling
their hearings in the House. They were basically stopping work altogether
on the investigation.

But in the Senate, no, no, no, things were different. Senators Burr and
Warner said they had 20 witnesses lined up and a bunch of staffers devoted
to the investigation. Everybody was getting along. They got all sorts of
glowing reviews about how much better the Senate investigation was going to
be. Ahem.

New reporting today indicates that the take it to the bank Senate
investigation may be in even more trouble than the House, in the sense that
it may not be actually doing anything. Of the seven Senate staffers who
are reported to be working on this investigation, these are the people who
actually have access to documents, turns out all seven of the staffers on
this investigation are working part time. Also, precisely, none of them
have any prosecutorial experience or investigative experience.

Quote, “Most of them lack a background in Russia expertise. Not one of the
seven is a lawyer.”

After Tim Mak of the “Daily Beast” published that story today, the
committee announced two new additional hires, although neither of the new
hires will be exclusively working on the Russia investigation either.
Meanwhile, investigative juggernaut Michael Isikoff at Yahoo News reports
that the Senate committee, quote, “has made little progress and is
increasingly stymied by partisan divisions, that`s according to multiple
sources involved in the problem.”

Quote, “The committee hasn`t requested potentially crucial evidence such as
the e-mails, memos and phone records of the Trump campaign in part because
the panel`s chairman, Richard Burr, has so far failed to respond to
requests from the panel`s Democrats to sign letters doing so.”

So, they haven`t even requested emails, memos, phone records. They haven`t
requested any documents, nor have they done any interviews. We`re three
months in.

If you are keeping track of these investigations into the Russian attack on
our election and the open question as to whether or not the Trump campaign
colluded with that attack, we have this Senate investigation which appears
to have done, more or less, nothing. We have the House investigation tying
to get started again after flaming out and after its Republican chairman
had to recuse himself. They say there will be another public hearing on
the House side, but who knows when?

There`s also one other major probe into Russian interference in the
election, and whether the Trump campaign was part of it. That
investigation has plenty of staff. Also has plenty of investigative
experience. But it has this other hurdle, which is the guy in charge.

Blockbuster, almost book-length incredible reporting on FBI Director James
Comey and the Russia investigation in the “New York Times” this weekend.
Incredible story, very worrying in terms of this investigation. The lead
author of that story, the guy who got that scoop joins us live, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Let`s wallow in hindsight for just a moment. Go back to
September. Presidential campaigns are rolling. Republicans all chant
“lock her up” at Hillary Clinton at every rally, every event, because she
used a private e-mail server for some of her work communications and that`s
being investigated by the FBI.

The Clinton campaign has to slog through the political fallout of that
unusually unprecedentedly public FBI investigation into those e-mails.

We now know in hindsight that the Republican campaign was also under FBI
investigation at the same time, not for a private e-mail server but the
possibility they helped the Russian military and intelligence services
interfere in the U.S. election to help their candidate. Well, in
September, we had two campaigns. We had two FBI investigations, and that`s
FBI investigation into each of the campaigns, each of the candidates.

But only one of those investigations was discussed and confirmed by the FBI
out loud before people went to vote in the election.

And, you know, when you look back at it, you can see that there were
Democrats who tired to get the FBI, who tried to get the FBI Director James
Comey to go on the record about the investigation into the Trump campaign,
too, but FBI Director James Comey would not budge. He would talk about
Hillary Clinton being under FBI investigation, happy to do that, but he
would not talk about Trump being under investigation, too. Wouldn`t
confirm that. Wouldn`t discuss it at all.

They were both under investigation. He`d only talk about one of them.
There were some Democrats who tried at the time before the election back in
September to make clear to him how nuts that was.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY), HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Is there a
different standard for Secretary Clinton and Donald Trump? If not, what is
the consistent standard?

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: No, our standard is not we do not confirm or
deny the existence of investigations. There`s an exception to that when
there is a need for the public to be reassured, when it`s apparent given
our activities, public activities that the investigation is ongoing. But
our overwhelming rule is we do not comment except in certain exceptional
circumstances.

NADLER: Aren`t there exceptional circumstances when close officials to a
candidate of a major political party for the United States says publicly
that he`s in communication with foreign officials and anticipates further
illegal activity?

COMEY: I don`t think so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: I don`t think so. Why should anybody worry about that? There`s
no public concern about that.

From hindsight, it is now obvious that we are living in and have lived
through some very exceptional times in politics. It wasn`t until March,
wasn`t until last month that the FBI director finally felt it was a good
time to, yes, confirm that there is an investigation involving the campaign
of the person who is now the president of the United States. It`s an
investigation, though, that had been going on since months before the
election last year, even though he wouldn`t say it at the time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COMEY: The FBI as part of our counterintelligence mission is investigating
the Russian government`s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential
election. And that includes investigating the nature of any links between
individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government
and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia`s
efforts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Why did FBI Director James Comey wait so long to do that?

The Clinton folks say they`re pulling shows that Comey`s public discussion
of the investigation into her before the election cost them the election.
Would it have affected the vote for Trump if James Comey had also publicly
discussed the investigation into Trump before the election? While his
agency was investigating both candidates, did his speech, his public speech
about one of those investigations before the election and his silence about
the other before the election, did that change the course of history?

If so, why did he do it? And what does that tell us about his handling the
Russia investigation now?

Joining us now is Matt Apuzzo of “The New York Times.” He`s a Pulitzer
Prize winning reporter. He`s part of the reporting team for this new
blockbuster story in “The Times” this weekend. Comey tried to shield the
FBI from politics, then he shaped an election.

Mr. Apuzzo, congratulations on this scoop. Thanks for being here.

MATT APUZZO, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: Thanks for having me, Rachel.

MADDOW: Let me ask about the way that I laid this out. You describe in
your report that people who are close to James Comey say he has no regrets
about the way he handled the Clinton investigation and the Trump
investigation. The two different paths he took on those two matters. Does
he believe his decisions had any influence on the election?

APUZZO: Yes, I don`t – you know, first off, Jim Comey has not sat for an
interview on this topic with us or anyone else, so, you know, we conducted,
you know, dozens of interviews with people, you know, sort of all walks of
life to try to, you know, get a sense of what the discussions were around
him. I think he feels like he made the least bad decisions that he could
have made given the bad circumstances he faced.

I mean, I think that`s, you know, that`s what he would say. And whether
that influenced an election or not, I`m not sure. They feel that`s a
knowable thing. I think they felt like they tried to make – not even the
best decision, just the least bad decision.

MADDOW: I think that the thing that consistently comes through, even if
you don`t see James Comey as a partisan actor here, is that he`s acutely
aware of partisan wins and the way his actions or words will be received in
various sides of the political spectrum. He seems very acutely tuned to
Republicans criticizing him for being helpful to Hillary Clinton in some
way, particularly with the expectation that Hillary Clinton would win that
election. I think the reason that is so resonant and so many people are
focusing on that aspect of the story is because it gives rise to concerns
about how he will, if he continues to be motivated by those things, that
that will shade the way he conducts the investigation into Trump and Russia
that continues now that Trump is president.

Do you think that is a fair reading of that part of your story?

APUZZO: I think it`s absolutely a fair reading that Jim Comey was – and
the FBI in general – was very acutely aware of what I`ll say – I`ll call
politics with a lower case “p.” Not partisan politics like I`m Jim Comey,
I`m historically Republican. I want to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary
Clinton because she`s Democrat.

But acutely aware of what the politics of the city was, especially in
October when he`s considering sending that letter to Congress announcing
essentially the Clinton investigation is open again, there was a deep
awareness that Hillary Clinton was likely to win, that, you know, the very
day they are debating whether to send this letter or not, Jason Chaffetz,
the Republican on the Hill, is saying he`s got years of hearings teed up in
anticipation of a Clinton presidency.

I think there was a real sentiment that if at the FBI, if they didn`t – if
they told the public the Clinton investigation was closed, they found there
were more e-mails who are relevant to the case, they started looking at
them. She got elected and then later they found something and then told
the public, oh, hey, by the way, we found these e-mails and knew about them
before the election. We didn`t tell you about it. Sorry. That they were
going to get destroyed as an agency.

Now is that`s a political consideration and one that, frankly, FBI
directors normally don`t take into consideration. You know, this is a just
the facts organization.

MADDOW: It`s just – I`m sorry to interrupt you. The thing that`s
remarkable about it is the – looking at it from the other – turning the
telescope around, right? If that`s the thing that you`re weighing, how
could you not then look at the Trump investigation and say, well, there`s a
chance he will be elected president and if it turns out that we were – we
had a months long counterintelligence investigation into him and whether he
coordinated with a foreign power to seize the presidency through the help
of a foreign intelligence operation, we will have to answer for that
letting people know that before the election. The same concern seems so
much greater with what they were investigating Trump for.

APUZZO: I think that`s right. And I think, you know, one of the ways to
think about it is, if wasn`t that he handled the Trump investigation
wrongly. He handled the Trump investigation absolutely by the book. It`s
just that, you know, he tossed the rule book out on several different
occasions when it came to Hillary Clinton`s investigation. And I think we
have a better understanding of why he did that. But, you know, whether
people draw the distinctions between the two cases really is going to
determine where you come down on Jim Comey`s decisions at the end of `16.

MADDOW: Yes, and your expectations for how he`ll handle stuff going
forward.

APUZZO: Yes, exactly.

MADDOW: Matt Apuzzo, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for “The New York
Times,” I know you have a lot of demands on you because of the high-profile
nature of this story – thank you for being here with us tonight, Matt.
Appreciate it.

APUZZO: Great to be with – great to be with you. Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right. Much more to come tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: At about 1:30 this morning, a team of construction works are
started in on a new project that had not been announced in advance. So,
this was next door to a parking garage in New Orleans. If you look
closely, you can see there are things about this that make clear it`s not
your typical construction project.

These workers obviously went to work after midnight. They wore military
style helmets and bulletproof vests. They hid their faces. They covered
their company`s logo with cardboard and plastic and tape on the side of the
truck. You see that?

And seriously here, they had a team of police snipers on rooftops overhead,
overseeing them while they worked. This construction crew needed this
extraordinary security because of what they were in the process of doing.
What they were in the process of undoing.

Nine years after the civil war ended in 1874, New Orleans was trying to
stabilize and stand up its new government, including the city standing up a
police force that included both white police officers and black police
officers. And they came up against armed resistance to that idea. In
September 1874, a paramilitary white supremacist militia mounted a military
effort to try to overthrow the local government.

They targeted the city`s police force in a bloody battle that ended with 13
police officers dead, six civilians dead, 16 of the white supremacists
involved in that battle were also killed. But the white supremacist
militia was able to seize control of the city government for three days
before federal troops came in and restored order and kicked them out.

A few years later, up popped a monument to commemorate the event, not to
memorialize the fallen officers, but to honor the militia, to honor the
white supremacist militia that started it. To honor the white supremacists
who died in that coup attempt.

And that monument has gone through many iterations since. It`s been edited
to honor the victims of both sides in that bloody value. It has been the
target of graffiti.

A few years ago, it was moved to a less visible location, but it has
remained more or less in the heart of this dynamic, beautiful American city
of New Orleans. And it`s been there for well over a century – until early
this morning.

The city of New Orleans had it removed under very difficult circumstances.
They had it hauled away in pieces on the back of a truck bed. The whole
process took about four hours. The workers who did the work were the
target of death threats ever since the city of New Orleans announced that
this monument would come down.

New Orleans now has three more removes planned, all commemorating
Confederate soldiers. The city has not said when the rest of the statues
will be removed, but New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu says it will happen
sooner rather than later.

He joins us next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: This was the great city of New Orleans very early this morning as
the first of four Confederate memorials was being removed in the middle of
the night. Even so, folks showed up, including some people who held a
candlelight vigil for the memorial that was being taken down. A memorial
to a white supremacist uprising in the 1870s that took dozens of lives.

Joining us now is Mitch Landrieu. He is the mayor of New Orleans.

Mr. Mayor, thank you very much for being with us tonight. I really
appreciate your time.

MAYOR MITCH LANDRIEU (D), NEW ORLEANS: Thank you, Rachel. Thanks for
having me.

MADDOW: Let me ask you how you perceive the range of reactions you`re
hearing from your constituents about this. What`s the reaction?

LANDRIEU: I think most people in New Orleans are pretty happy about it.
You know, after Katrina, when we just really got destroyed, 500,000 homes
hurt, 250,000 destroyed, we had to rebuild the city. And we`re thankful to
the rest of the nation for gasping at the possibility of losing what a lot
of people think is a city that is the soul of America.

As we began to rebuild our city and started to think about who we were and
what we were, these monuments popped right up and said, you know, why do we
have monuments that are revering the confederacy right in the heart of the
most prominent circles in the city in places of reverence? And we had two
years of discussion over this.

This wasn`t a secret. It didn`t happen overnight. We had hearings of
historic landmark commission, city councils, et cetera, et cetera. And
we`ve been through every court that you can go through.

The reason we did this thing in the middle of the night is the threats that
the contractors received. The first contractor we had had his car blown
up. And so, for the safety and security of the people, we decided to take
the monuments down at night. We have three others that we`re going to take
down. We`re not going to tell people when we`re going to do it, but it
will be in the future.

MADDOW: What do you know about the origin of the threats?

LANDRIEU: Well, it`s really hard to tell, because as you know on social
media and other things, it`s really hard to kind of capture it. But
they`re there. Anybody can go on social media and look at the kind of
vitriol that is coming from folks that want to preserve this.

But essentially what this is, it`s called the Cult of the Lost Cause that
wanted to promote white supremacy at a brief time in our history when the
confederacy tried to tear our nation apart. And these statues were put up,
as you said, at a very brief time of New Orleans` 300 history. So, one of
the things that people of New Orleans had decided to do was re-rebuild our
city and reclaim our past, we want to tell the whole history of our city,
not just a very small part of it. And we want to celebrate the thing that
makes New Orleans really wonderful and beautiful that everybody experiences
when you get there, which is our diversity.

That`s the gift that New Orleans has given to the rest of the country. And
these statutes are an aberration in terms of what New Orleans has been and
what New Orleans wants to be.

MADDOW: Briefly, Mr. Mayor, you said there are three more that you do
expect to come down. You want to give us a sense of the time frame in
which this is going to happen? Are you going to space this out or should
we expect this to happen soon?

LANDRIEU: You should expect to have it happen soon. Well got clearance
from the court the other day and we began last night. And in the near
future, we`re going to take Robert E. Lee down who never stepped in the
city of New Orleans.

That would be like putting King George where the Washington Monument is in
Washington, D.C. It just makes absolutely no sense because everybody now
remembers the point of the confederacy was to tear the nation apart, not to
support it. And so, I think those are going to come down. And we`re going
to put things there that reflect the history, the diversity, the beauty,
the culture and all of the history of New Orleans as time allows.

MADDOW: Mitch Landrieu, mayor of New Orleans, thank you, sir. Appreciate
you being here.

LANDRIEU: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

MADDOW: We have some breaking news to get to tonight that is just coming
in out of Arkansas, some disturbing news, actually. But we`ll have that
for you right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: In our last minute here on the air tonight, we have breaking news
from the state of Arkansas. They had a doubleheader execution scheduled
tonight in Arkansas, but based on how the first execution went, which is
not well, lawyers for the second prisoner have requested and now apparently
received a stay. So, the second prisoner who was due to be killed tonight
may apparently not be killed tonight. It`s a temporary stay.

His lawyers requested the stay because of what went wrong in the first
execution tonight. In their application for the stay, they say, quote, the
infirmary staff tried unsuccessfully to place a central line, which is a
form of I.V. in Mr. Jones` next for 45 minutes before placing one elsewhere
on his body. After they got the lethal injection drugs flowing into him,
they say for five or six minutes, he was moving his lips and gulping for
air.

The lawyer for the second prisoner tonight due to be killed say his
movements after the first of the drugs in the lethal injection cocktail was
administered to him was evidence of his continued consciousness.

So, again, we`ve had – there has been some sort of trouble in the first
execution that was carried out tonight in Arkansas. There has been a
temporary stay for the man who was due to be killed second as soon as that
first execution was done.

We will have more ahead for you on that story in coming days. I want to
tell you, though, that does it for us tonight. We will see you again
tomorrow.

Lawrence O`Donnell has a special tonight. It`s called “100 Days of
Conflicts”. And it starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

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