Anti-nuke group wins Nobel Peace Prize Transcript 10/9/17 The Rachel Maddow Show
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: October 9, 2017
Guest: Elizabeth Dwoskin, Beatrice Fihn
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: 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: Thanks to you at home for joining us.
You know, these fires that are burning in California tonight, they are for
real. There are already at least ten deaths related to this outbreak of
Overall in California right now, there are more than a dozen fires burning
in eight counties. But what we are watching and what we are frankly agape
at tonight is the fires that are burning north of San Francisco. So, this
is Napa Valley, Sonoma County.
If you`re not from that part of the world or if you can`t picture these
places in more normal times, you have definitely heard of these places
anyway. This is the most famous wine growing region in the country. It`s
a really big tourist region because of that.
But despite the fact that it is famous for wine, this is not just
agricultural land. This is very populated territory. The city of Santa
Rosa is the largest city that is affected by these fires. Also Calistoga
is right there in the danger zone.
And what has happened over the course of this incredibly fast-moving fire
today and tonight is that whole neighborhoods are gone. This is a before
picture, an aerial view. This is a neighborhood called Coffee Park, in
Santa Rosa, California.
This is before. Now, look at the same picture after. That`s after this
fire roared through there today. Every single one of those homes
This fire was only about 200 acres as of last night, but it exploded over
the last 24 hours. It was 200 acres last night. By this afternoon, it was
25,000 acres. And it is burning totally out of control. There are
certainly hundreds of homes burned already. It looks like in the end we
may be talking about thousands of homes that have been reduced to ash.
One of the remarkable things about these shots of these neighborhoods is
not just that homes are burned and so many homes are burned, but that they
are completely, completely gone. Whole hospitals had to be evacuated this
afternoon and this evening, as smoke and flames bore down on these
hospitals with incredible speed. These are some places where they had
thought that patients would be safe and where they would be OK to stay
But the hospitals were evaluated – excuse me, were evacuated quickly and
at the last moment. There`s some reports that at the Kaiser Hospital in
Santa Rosa, California, hospital staff may have had to evacuate patients
from that hospital in their own personal vehicles. Hospital staff using
their own cars to evacuate patients in some cases because this thing just
came down on them so fast. There were no other options.
So again, the top line news here is that there are a bunch of fires in
California. There`s also a very serious one burning in southern
California, in Anaheim, but this northern California fire, just north of
San Francisco, really is destroying whole neighborhoods in very populated
areas, and it`s happened very fast today.
So, we`re watching that story tonight with some considerable urgency as
they try to get at least portions of those fires under control.
Over the course of this hour tonight, we will also have updates for you on
the ongoing crisis in Puerto Rico where we are closing in on three weeks of
a federal response to the hurricane there that itself is turning out to be
a disaster. We had a report here on this show on Friday night about our
producers being able to freely drive right into at least one town in Puerto
Rico that FEMA insisted it couldn`t get into. We had a very unexpected
response from FEMA to that story. We`ll have that update for you ahead
The president today spent the day golfing. So, there`s that.
But in today`s news, we have also been introduced to these guys.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. It`s (INAUDIBLE). Today is going to be one of the
worst elections in America. We have one of the worst candidates and the
candidate is Hillary Clinton. Most of the black people in America thinks
that Hillary is the one who`s going to protect them and Hillary is the one
who`s going to fight for them.
Well, hell, no. Hillary Clinton is one of the biggest liars. All she
wants is power.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, guys. I know what I`m going to talk about what
many people like will like it and people will dislike it. But I don`t care
because I`m telling the truth.
Who am I talking to? I`m talking about the old Hillary (AUDIO DELETED)
Clinton. No matter how she pretends to be nice to black people, no matter
how she pretend to be nice, but I know that she`s a (AUDIO CLIP) racist and
this woman is a witch, you know? She`s tried to pretend like an angel, but
she`s an angel doer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let our vote go for Trump because this man is a
businessman. He`s not a politician. You know, we can have deal with him
because I didn`t see him as a racist because any businessman cannot be a
racist because when you are a racist, then business is going down. Yes,
like for me, my vote go for Trump because he`s going to stick up for the
promise land because we are going to vote for changing. Trump is the next
best candidate for this community and relation I vote for him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Do you believe him? Do you believe that he is voting for Trump?
“The Daily Beast” reports today that those guys, Williams and Kalvin, got
their content yanked off Facebook in August, quote, after it was identified
as a Russian government-backed propaganda account.
How did Facebook determine that these guys, Williams and Kalvin, were not
who they say they are and they were actually Russian government-backed
propaganda? I don`t know. Facebook isn`t explaining these kinds of
things. But they did yank them off Facebook in August. Reportedly,
Twitter also yanked them in August.
You can still get their stuff on YouTube, but if you find them on YouTube,
you`ll see there`s only a very small number of views for these videos on
YouTube. The place where they got tons of traffic, thousands of hits, tens
of thousands of views, tens of thousands of views was apparently on
So, these guys promoted the fact they said they were going to vote for
Trump. They made the case that no black people should vote for Hillary
Clinton, that Hillary Clinton is a terrible, terrible racist, and Trump is
great for black people. They also spent one entire YouTube video
advertising that Steve Bannon produced anti-Hillary film “Clinton Cash”. I
don`t know why they are particularly interested in Mr. Breitbart`s work.
But these guys purport to be from Atlanta. There is some very surface
stuff about them online that is designed to make it seem like they are in
Atlanta. And in one case, one of these guys reportedly named a famous
Instagram model as his little brother in Atlanta and the Instagram model is
like, I`ve never heard of you.
But according to “The Daily Beast” reporting, none of these guys, Facebook
friends, none of their links to any other real active humans appear to be
in Atlanta or have anything to do with Atlanta. And in fact, both of them
say other places online that where they actually live is Nigeria.
So, maybe these guys will turn out to be real Donald Trump-supporting
Atlantans. But maybe they live in Nigeria and were being paid by Russia.
Something about them made Facebook and Twitter shut them down online for
being bought and paid for by the Russian government.
We learned that today at “Daily Beast”. And this is – this is just the
latest in what`s been a solid month now of treasure trove reporting from
American journalists about what Russia did online during our election to
try to help Donald Trump and to try to hurt Hillary Clinton. Thursday
night at the “Wall Street Journal”, we learned that Facebook was aware as
far back as April about the Russian government pushing content on Facebook
to try and influence the 2016 election. Facebook had apparently initially
planned to include specific mention of what Russia was doing when Facebook
put out its company statement about how Facebook was used during the
election back in April.
But for some reason, after the initial statement was drafted, including all
the information about what Russia was doing on Facebook, for some reason,
Facebook decided to second draft that statement and specifically cut out
all mentions of Russia. Any mention that Russia had been involved in
creating fake content at Facebook for the election. So, that was the
headline at the “Wall Street Journal.” Facebook cut Russia out of April
report on election influence.
We don`t know why Facebook decided to keep quiet about what Russia was
doing on their platform, but we do know that after they put out that
statement in April, Facebook again and again and again denied that there
was any evidence they`d seen that there was any Russian money or any
Russian government activity using Facebook ads to try and influence
American voters during the election.
Facebook denied that to “Time Magazine” on May the 18th. They denied it to
Wired.com on July 13th. They denied it to CNN.com on July the 20th. But
then miraculously in September, Facebook finally admitted actually despite
all those previous denials, yes, it turns out Russia has been buying ads on
Facebook to influence the election.
Why did they deny it for so long? Were they denying without having ever
checked? Or were they denying it knowing that actually, yes, there was a
lot of Russian activity on Facebook targeting our election?
Because if they did know about Russia being active on Facebook trying to
affect the outcome of our election in time for that April statement, then
they could have told us a lot earlier than they did. Had Facebook admitted
what they knew about Russia using their platform to try to affect the
election, had they told us about that six months ago when they apparently
knew it, maybe all this reporting that we`re getting now would be six
months further along. But for whatever reason, Facebook decided they
wouldn`t admit anything about Russia using their platform until September.
And so, we`ve had this long delay to in terms of as a country coming to any
understanding about what Russia was really doing to try to influence our
Facebook finally admitted that Russia was active on their platform buying
ads as of early September. Since then, we have had a month of really good
reporting that has finally opened the flood gates so that we regular
people, you know, not congressional investigators, not Mueller`s
prosecutors, not people who work inside these tech companies, but regular
Americans, can, through the virtues of good journalism, now see what
exactly Russia did.
All right. “Daily Beast” was first, less than a week after Facebook had
its initial admission in early September. “Daily Beast” found this group
Secured Borders which purports to be an American group. It is not an
American group. It was operated by Russian agents.
“Daily Beast” had the first report on them back on September 11th that this
was one of these fake identity Russian-run Facebook groups that appeared to
be American but it wasn`t. And what it was trying to do online during the
election was ginned up fear of immigrants. That Secured Borders tried to
get Americans to go anti-immigrant and anti-Hillary Clinton rallies in
places like Idaho.
Then two days later “Business Insider” who turned up another Facebook
entity secretly run out of Russia. This one was called Heart of Texas.
Not operated from Texas, it`s operated from Russia.
And some of that is evident in their hilarious effort to sound Texan or to
even sound vaguely English speaking. This one`s great and memorable. In
love with Texas shape.
Close. You guys are close but not quite there.
And this Heart of Texas group was an “I love Texas” group, and a pro-Texas
secession group. But mostly, they appear to have been anti-Hillary
Clinton. Some of it idiomatically correct and some of it not.
This one I don`t know what it means literally, but I get the point anyway.
No hypoclintos in the God-blessed Texas. Again, literally, I don`t know
what they mean. Figuratively I get it.
They also promoted Hillary for prison. This was them too. Hillary, stay
away from Texas, with the photo shopped image of her with Osama bin Laden.
Ultimately, this Russian group on Facebook started to promote an idea that
must have seemed like a very satisfying prospect to Moscow if they could
ever pull this off, right? Right before the election, this Russian-run
Texas Facebook group switched over to this as their theme. Secede if
Hillary, meaning if Hillary wins the election, Texas should break off from
the United States.
So, then, a week after that reporting on the Texas group, then it was
“Daily Beast” again uncovering another one of these fake Russian-run
outlets operating on Facebook as if it was an American group.
This one was called “Being Patriotic.” It was naturally run by Russian
agents, and they promoted pro-Donald Trump protests in Florida. Florida
goes Trump. They promoted pro-Trump rallies in Pennsylvania, including
“Miners for Trump” demonstrations, in at least two Pennsylvania cities.
They promoted down with Hillary Clinton protests at Clinton campaign
headquarters in New York. Then, a few days after that reporting from the
“Daily Beast”, it was politico.com, finding Russian-backed Facebook ads
that were pro-Trump, also pro-Bernie Sanders, even after Bernie Sanders had
dropped out of the race and endorsed Hillary Clinton.
And right to the bitter end, they were able to find Facebook ads that were
promoting the candidacy of Jill Stein. Quote, vote for Jill Stein. Trust
me, it`s not a wasted vote. #growaspinevotejillstein.
A day after that “Politico” story, it was ABC News finding more Russian
content on that secretly Russian run Facebook group Secured Borders, that
one that was trying to gin up the anti-immigrant, anti-Clinton stuff in
Idaho, that same group was promoting this image on Facebook ahead of the
election. Donald Trump as Santa. Like if you agree. We are going to say
merry Christmas again.
These are Russian agents promoting this. The same Russian agents also
pitching Dora the Explorer as an illegal immigrant. Once again, the
English is not awesome here. If you get caught, they`d just send you back
in your country so you can try again. It`s almost English, but you get the
Then, the day after that report, it was CNN who was able to track
geographical targeting for fake Black Lives Matter Facebook content that
was actually created by Russian government. It was CNN was able to track
that those messages Black Lives Matter messages were targeted specifically
to Baltimore and to Ferguson, Missouri, trying to, you know, pour maximum
fuel on the fire. “The Daily Beast” and “New York Times” have also both
now tracked how Russian agents were running various Facebook groups called
United Muslims of America and another one called LGBT United and another
one called Defend the Second as in the Second Amendment, and another group
These are Facebook and Twitter groups all run by Russian agents all
designed to cause anxiety and division. And not incidentally, all designed
to portray Hillary Clinton as not just liberal but dangerously radical.
And so, all of that reporting has happened over the past month or so since
Facebook finally was dragged kicking and screaming into admitting that yes,
there was Russian-paid content on Facebook trying to affect the election.
So, in a rush, in this past month, we`ve had all this good, in-depth
concrete reporting to actually make it nuts and bolts, right, to give us
something to look at, give us something to see so we can understand how
Russia operated within our election. Just over the past month, we`ve had
this rush of reporting that makes it not so much an esoteric thing anymore.
It means we can see it, right? Now we know, this is what is Russia did
during the election. This was Russian.
They`re calling themselves Heart of Texas, but they got on Facebook and
said, this pure evil, right, visual, with this unflattering picture of
Hillary Clinton. And the caption there you can see at the top in small
print, Hillary is no doubt pure evil. All the patriots must immediately
stand up with arms in hands against Washington in the event that Clinton,
quote, wins, end quote, the election. Like and share if you agree with me.
Anybody who saw that Hillary Clinton unflattering picture, pure evil of the
phrased caption was looking at the work not of some Trump supporter or of
the Trump campaign or even some radical Texas secessionist who likes Shape
of Texas. If you saw that – anybody who saw that online, that was from
Moscow, or St. Petersburg. That was from a Russian government info
operation targeting you as an American voter. That`s what they did.
And the only reason we know that is because journalists have been able to
sort of reverse engineer this stuff and figure it out and find stuff that
hasn`t been deleted. I mean, Facebook hasn`t made any of this stuff
public. Twitter announced that it took down a couple hundred fake accounts
that were definitely run out of Russia, but it won`t say what those
Today, Google announced its platform was also used by Russian agents to run
ads targeting American voters during the American presidential election.
These ads ran on Google search results or on Websites that use Google ads
in the margins, which is like every Website. It`s also possible that these
Russians appeared as ads on Gmail where people have their email accounts,
or on YouTube, which is owned by Google.
And this admission from Google today follows the exact same pattern that we
have seen from Twitter and Facebook thus far. These companies, these big,
rich, capable American companies whose bread and butter is data and data
specificity, right, more than a year down the road, these American
companies have to be dragged kicking and screaming to admit that they were
ever used illegally by a foreign government to influence our election and
now, they are admitting it in the smallest possible way, it would be
impossible to play it down any further than they are.
Google today, like Facebook before them and Twitter since, is admitting to
a few thousand dollars that may have been spent on their platform by people
who may be – yes, they were Russian government agents, but it was a few
thousand dollars. Drop in the bucket. Nothing to worry about. Couldn`t
conceivably have had any effect.
But you know what? Almost nothing that we know about what the Russians
did, about this influence campaign and what they did online, almost nothing
that we know about it comes from these companies themselves, these
companies that maintain these platforms where the Russians operated.
The companies have told us basically nothing. They`ve told Congress
basically nothing. Almost everything we know we know from American
journalists figuring this stuff out for themselves. And working backwards
from what they can still find evidence of online.
None of this is from what the companies have disclosed. What do we
understand about how big this Russian campaign was? How influential it
might have been on American voters?
There`s a digital journalism center at Columbia University in New York that
has started to look at the reach of this Russian active measures campaign
that they ran against American voters online. And again, we don`t have
anything from the companies. So this is just what we know from open
journalistic sources about what the Russians were doing online.
Professor Jonathan Albright is associated with both Columbia University and
Harvard University. Last week, he published research looking at the online
reach of just six, he just picked six of these fake online entities that
were created by Russian agents to influence our election, just six of them
that have been ferreted out by U.S. journalists. He looked at Heart of
Texas, Being Patriotic, United Muslims of America, Blacktivists, Secured
Borders and LGBT United. Just looked at the content produced by those six
groups which were run by Russian agents.
And again, this is – this is the sample of what they were producing during
the election. It turns out just those six groups produced material that
was shared 340 million times in the lead-up to the election, 340 million
times. And that was just six of the groups that journalists have been able
to identify, six.
Facebook alone admits to taking down 470 different accounts that it says
were operated by Russian agents. If just six of those had more than 300
million shares, think about the reach that we`re talking about if there
were 500 of those groups operating at that level.
The question is, why has it taken this long to get this information about
what the Russians were doing in our election? Why are we only getting it
from journalists who were having to piece it together themselves, Facebook
page by Facebook page, Twitter account by Twitter account?
These were American companies that were used as the scene of a fairly
significant crime. What explains their lack of urgency to even figure this
stuff out, let alone make any kind of public disclosure that would help us
see what Russia did?
And now that Google is admitting this much of it, too, is that likely to
change any of those dynamics?
Joining us is Elizabeth Dwoskin. She`s a Silicon Valley correspondent for
“The Washington Post.” She broke the story today on Google, admitting that
Russian agents bought ads on Google platforms during the election.
Ms. Dwoskin, thanks very much for being here. Appreciate your time.
ELIZABETH DWOSKIN, SILICON VALLEY CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST:
Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So, let me ask you if Google changes the game. I feel like I`m
seeing the same pattern from Facebook, Twitter and Google to admit this
stuff belatedly, to not be doing particularly deep analysis of what
actually happened and to be playing it down.
DWOSKIN: Yes. So, first, I have to correct you. Google actually didn`t
admit it. We found that out from our own sources. And they`ve actually
declined to comment and the comment they`ve given us have been quite vague.
So, they haven`t admitted it actually.
And, you know, the question of why have they been like this, why have they
had their heads in the sand. I think that we`re only starting to chip away
at kind of the tip of the iceberg of what we`re seeing. One way of looking
at it is that they knew well in advance. We knew that Facebook actually
started first seeing signs of this back in June of 2016. So, a while back.
And then Obama himself warned Mark Zuckerberg to look into it.
And the question is, were they just trying to wrap their heads around a new
kind of attack that they had not seen before, or is it that there some
incentive, there`s little incentive that they have to really get to the
bottom of what what`s going on?
I think it`s both. But look at these platforms. They`re massive automated
systems. And the fact of the matter is, they can be easily exploited. And
this, what we`re seeing today with Russia is really just a logical
extension of massive exploitation in online advertising to begin with.
And so, this is the most nefarious version of it. But the truth is, is
that they were really to get to the bottom of it, even though they have the
impulse to do so, they probably see that – they`d have to show the world
how exploitable the platforms are and that doesn`t really serve them or
their ad businesses.
MADDOW: If they did want to figure it out, I mean, I guess the reason I`ve
now started to care more and more that they do more of an investigation, is
now that journalists have been able to piece it together and show some of
the content, show some of what, you know, the product, what Americans
actually saw, I feel like that helps me just as an observer, as a news
consumer understand much more about how these things might have been
effective. And then, you can go one step further and start to talk about
how far they reached and how many people they touched, how many people they
may have influenced during the election.
DWOSKIN: Right. If they –
MADDOW: I`m sorry, go ahead.
DWOSKIN: No, no, it`s just, yes, you really – you really start to see
these were ads, hundreds of millions of people. It`s got to be more than
210 million people log in to – Americans log into Facebook each month.
So, something shared hundreds of millions of time can have a massive
effect, especially in a close election. You only need to influence a small
number of people in a small number of undecided people actually to have an
And what they haven`t really done as well is look at the connections
between sites. So, the groups you mentioned, Secured Borders, for example,
or Blacktivists, they didn`t just have a Facebook account. They had an
Instagram account. They had a Twitter account.
And if you clicked on Twitter, it would take you to a web page where you
would be tracked by tracking software. That tracking software could then
be fed into Facebook where you were receiving turbocharged targeted ads.
So, there`s really a lot of connections between these platforms as well,
and that is what we`re just starting to uncover.
MADDOW: If these companies, Facebook, in particular, were – either had a
change of heart or got very brave about what they might find if they look
at this stuff or if they were compelled by subpoena or search warrant to
actually really find as many of these things as are findable out there,
what`s your level of confidence that they really could produce a lot of
content, that they really could find most of what was done by Russia?
DWOSKIN: Oh my God, it`s a great question. I don`t think they can find
everything. I think that a lot of – I think that genuinely people who
work in security, these companies, are trying to wrap their heads around
this. But I think they can produce a lot more.
You know, look at what they`ve done. Essentially, Google – essentially
Facebook tied their ads to one Russian troll farm called the Internet
Research Agency, 470 ads and only $100,000. That`s nothing compared to
these businesses. Google today, we have tens of thousands of dollars.
But, you know, think about how much Trump – the Trump campaign spent on
Facebook. The Trump campaign spent $70 million on Facebook. So, we know
that if this was a massive influence campaign, a lot more was spent. And
right now, it seems like they`re only looking at single sources.
One question will be whether the intelligence community helped them.
Because a lot of what we`ve heard is that in previous situations where tech
was involved in a national crisis, for example, during ISIS, you know, the
intelligence community was actually sharing information with the tech
companies. That helped them get to the bottom of things more quickly. But
we haven`t seen that this time. So, they`re also crying for help.
MADDOW: Elizabeth Dwoskin, Silicon Valley correspondent for “The
Washington Post”, this is – I`m getting increasingly obsessed with this
story. And you have been very clarifying. Thanks for being here tonight.
I appreciate it.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more to come tonight. Stay with us.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: Our strategy for surviving politics these days, at least on this
show is that more or less when it comes to the White House, we cover it
like a silent movie. Whatever they`re saying, it`s not helpful to
understanding what`s important about what`s going on in the world.
We have taken it as a mantra to watch what they do, not what they say.
Silent movie. It`s been our watch word on the show for several months now.
And yet every so often, there`s a voice. A voice that sort of feels like
maybe that – maybe that – maybe we`ll regret not listening to them.
Like for example, the voice of Republican Senator Bob Corker. Bob Corker
is a two-term Republican from Tennessee. He`s conservative. He happens to
be the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
And now, here`s Bob Corker speaking, telling “The New York Times” that in
his view, President Trump is putting this country, quote, on the path to
World War III.
This came as part of a back and forth between Senator Corker and the
president where Senator Corker said the president is treating his job like
a reality show. He said the White House has become an adult day care
center where, quote, somebody obviously missed their shift this morning.
That was in response to the president saying Senator Corker is retiring
because he didn`t have the guts to run again.
In the silent movie, you know, this is the part where the president picks
another school yard fight and runs around screaming I`m rubber, you`re
glue, and you don`t really need to hear it because he always does that and
everybody rolls their eyes and waits for him to get bored to start a new
fight with somebody else, probably somebody even smaller.
On the other hand though, Bob Corker really is the head of the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee. And he is going out of his way to say not
just that he believes the president is unfit for office, but his quote was
that the president is, quote, putting us on the path to World War III.
The silent movie rule still applies because I still believe in that rule.
But if we should be taking this as a real warning from Bob Corker because
among other things he`s in a position to know, then we do have some news
tonight right here on what some people are doing about that threat. That`s
We`ve got a big deal guest here tonight for the interview. Stay with us.
MADDOW: North Korea, Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, it`s 12 hours
and 30 minutes ahead of U.S. East Coast Time in terms of time zone. So
it`s just after 10:00 in the morning there tomorrow. It`s October 10th
October 10th is a relevant date for us and for the world because it happens
to be the anniversary of the founding of the Communist Workers Party in
North Korea. Who cares in the abstract, right? Except the way the North
Korean regime tends to commemorate major political anniversary or, you
know, the birthdays of the dear leader or whatever, is by throwing big
military parades or by testing or firing off new weapons.
So, with this Communist Workers Party anniversary tomorrow, the world is a
little bit on edge. Russia warned a few days ago for what it`s worth they
believe North Korea is about to test fire another long range missile that`s
capable of reaching the mainland United States.
Since Donald Trump has been president, North Korea has not only tested an
ICBM. They`ve also tested what appears to be a hydrogen bomb. And then
there`s that one mysterious report from the Defense Intelligence Agency
that leaked to the “Washington Post” in August. That report reportedly
concluded that North Korea has miniaturized a nuclear warhead that could
sit on top of a missile. That report basically said North Korea was making
missile-ready nuclear weapons, so it could project nuclear force around the
During the transition, January 2nd of this year, President-elect Trump
tweeted about the possibility of North Korea having that kind of weapon.
He tweeted, quote, it won`t happen.
Well, at least the Defense Intelligence Agency says it has happened. But
now, we`re in this period where there are these ominous and vague
pronouncements coming out of this White House and coming specifically from
the president in person. And we don`t know what these things mean.
Last week, you may recall that the president posed for a photo with some
senior military staff and families and he said, this is, quote, the calm
before the storm. He then wouldn`t explain what he meant.
Last week, he also publicly cautioned Rex Tillerson, the secretary of
state, against diplomacy with North Korea – basically told him to stop
This weekend he said diplomacy in the past hasn`t worked with North Korea.
He said, quote: Only one thing will work in North Korea. When he was asked
by reporters what that one thing is, he told reporters, quote: You`ll
figure that out pretty soon.
We really don`t know what he`s talking about. We really don`t know.
The Nobel Peace Prize was announced on Friday. When announcing the prize,
the chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee said the risk that some country
somewhere will use nuclear weapons is now, quote, greater than it has been
for a long time.
The group that was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize is the International
Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. They formerly existed for only about
a decade. They now operate in about 100 countries, until a couple of days
ago, they were a pretty low profile organization but now, they`re freaking
Nobel Peace Prize winners. Just in time.
Joining us for the interview is Beatrice Fihn. She`s the executive
director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, ICAN for
short. Just awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.
BEATRICE FIHN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN TO ABOLISH
NUCLEAR WEAPONS: Thank you so much.
MADDOW: Did you have any idea?
FIHN: No. I mean, there had been some speculation. But I didn`t want to
get ourselves, you know, set up for failure and feeling disappointed. So,
there`s no way. No way. So, complete shock really.
MADDOW: Can you tell us, as I mentioned, you`ve been – for people who are
not involved in nuclear weapons and politics and anti-proliferation stuff,
you`ve been a fairly although profile organization at least in terms of the
American public. Can you just describe what you do?
FIHN: So, ICAN is a coalition of NGOs from all over the world. We have
about 460 organizations that have gathered together to focus on one goal:
prohibiting and eliminating nuclear weapons.
We`re kind of modeled after another Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the
International Campaign to Ban Landmines, that had great success in the
`90s, trying to figure out how NGOs that have different interests and
different grounds and resources can work together on one issue and make a
So, we have really worked this kind of decade on trying to figure out what
do we need to do to get rid of nuclear weapons because a lot of the efforts
we`ve done in the past have not worked.
MADDOW: Clearly. Yes.
FIHN: Yes. So what we really did is try to reframe the issue. We see it
as a security issue. We see it as one of those sort of very technical
elite thinking things. It`s all about balance and how many do you have,
how many do we have? We start talking about what do nuclear weapons do
when we use them? What would happen in warfare if these threats to use
nuclear weapons were actually carried out?
You know, we have to sign all these Geneva Conventions, the laws of war
that tells us we are not supposed to cause unnecessary harm to civilians in
warfare. Nuclear weapons are meant to do that. They are meant to level
entire cities, indiscriminately slaughter civilians, massive amounts of
And they`ve kind of been an exception to all norms and rules. We`re
prohibited biological weapons, chemical weapons, land mines, (INAUDIBLE),
because of their discriminate impact on civilians. Yet, somehow, nuclear
weapons have been having exceptions.
MADDOW: Let me ask you there – I mean, mentioning chemical weapons. I`ve
been thinking about whether or not – obviously, anti-proliferation efforts
have been remarkably unsuccessful. South Africa is the only country to
ever voluntarily give up its nuclear weapons. And more countries are
trying to get them. This North Korean crisis is driven by their drive
above all other national needs, that they need nuclear weapons.
We used to have a very different idea about chemical weapons in this world,
both in the West and around the world. And I feel like we`ve come to a
place where chemical weapons are now seen as pariah and are seen as a
danger to the regimes that possess them. Is that a model for how you think
about how we could approach nuclear weapons differently in the future?
FIHN: Absolutely. I think that once upon a time, chemical weapons were
the sort of aspirational weapon of choice, a modern weapon.
FIHN: And then we saw what they really were, what they did on the
battlefield, what they did to soldiers and people around that got exposed
to them. The military advantages of that kind of weapon, weapons of mass
destruction aren`t actually that great. Warfare is changing today and
causing the maximum amount of destruction doesn`t get us the job done, for
example, things like that.
So, I think it`s – nuclear weapons have been surrounded in prestige and
power. So, it`s inevitable that other countries want a part of that as
well. For how long can we say that we need nuclear weapons? That`s our
ultimate security guarantee. But try to stop everyone else from having
that same thing?
So we think in our campaign that we cannot make any progress on nuclear
disarmament unless we actually reject the weapon. And say this kind of
weapon, we should not have that. Of course, we`re not being naive. We
know that the elimination of nuclear weapons will take a long time and it
will have to go in phases with verified dismantlement. But you have to
start with prohibition and the way we prohibit biological weapons and land
mines, cluster ammunitions, chemical weapons, and that`s how you facilitate
MADDOW: Beatrice Fihn is the executive director of the International
Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the world`s latest Nobel Prize-winning
organization. Again, congratulations. Thank you for talking to us.
FIHN: Thank you very much. Thanks.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, on Friday night, we showed you footage that our producers had
shot of a journey from San Juan, Puerto Rico, into Aibonito. And that
footage, it`s remarkable because actually, it`s kind of a nice break from
the footage we`ve been seeing of total devastation in Puerto Rico, right?
I mean, these roads are clear. They`re able to get footage like this,
moving fast because the roads are open.
Our producers were able to drive right in. This is a town about an hour
and a half from the capital city of San Juan. Despite all the reports
about towns not getting aid in Puerto Rico because the roads are blocked,
these roads clearly were clear, which is what we reported on Friday night.
Roads were clear. And yet nearly three weeks after Hurricane Maria, FEMA
still has not delivered food or water there. When our producers showed up
last week, residents celebrated because they thought our producers were
from FEMA. They were not from FEMA.
Now, FEMA told us that they have been to this town. They have been to
Aibonito three times but they told us they did not turn up there to deliver
food or water or any supplies. FEMA went to this town three times to help
residents fill out paperwork so they could apply for federal aid. This
town has received no aid.
Now, we got several calls from FEMA after our report on Friday night. They
told us that they went back to Aibonito over the weekend, on Saturday. But
again, not to deliver food or water or any assistance, but instead to meet
with the mayor so they could, quote, identify the town`s needs and file a
We asked them what the mayor`s top three needs are. FEMA did not get back
to us on that. They told us it`s not their job to distribute food and
water. They say it`s the mayor`s job.
According to FEMA, quote: Relief supplies are being delivered to regional
staging areas and mayors are largely responsible for arranging pickup and
distribution. How are mayors of towns like Aibonito supposed to do this on
their own without vehicles or working phones or fuel?
Good question. Paperwork`s in.
It`s been nearly three weeks since Hurricane Maria hit. Less than 60
percent of the American citizens in Puerto Rico have clean water, 85
percent of the American citizens in Puerto Rico have no electricity and
now, the death toll in Puerto Rico has gone up to 39 and it continues to
rise because this is day 19 and things are worse, not better.
Day 19. Still no relief effort, even in the accessible towns outside
Puerto Rico`s capital city.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Coming into this week, 15 public officials have been criminally
charged in the Flint water crisis. The charges include manslaughter, five
public officials before this week were charged with involuntary
manslaughter for what happened in Flint. And that`s not because of the
lead poisoning part of the crisis, it`s because of an outbreak of
Legionnaires disease that`s believed to be related to the same switch in
water supply that created the lead problem.
One of the public officials charged with manslaughter over that
Legionnaires outbreak is the head of the state health department. His
manslaughter case was in court last week for a pretrial hearing. And as
part of that, a top staffer to Michigan`s Republican Governor Rick Snyder
testified that he personally told the governor about that deadly
Legionnaires outbreak well before the governor has said he learned about
At that hearing on Friday, the prosecutor asked the governor`s staffer if
he was sure about that timeline. The staffer said, quote, I took an oath.
The governor gave that timeline of when he says he learned about the
Legionnaires outbreak. He gave that timeline in testimony to Congress.
Now, the top Democrat on that committee, the committee that Rick Snyder
gave that timeline to, that top Democrat says he is, quote, deeply
concerned the governor may have misled Congress about that outbreak, not to
mention the people of Flint.
Congressman Elijah Cummings is asking the Republican chair of the committee
for help to figure out what to do if, in fact, the Michigan governor lied
to Congress about what he knew and when he knew it. It appears that either
the governor lied about that under oath to Congress or one of his top
staffers lied about it this past week under oath in court in a manslaughter
Well, now, today, we got something else. Check this out.
Michigan`s top chief medical officer during the crisis was Dr. Eden Wells.
She`s already been charged with felony obstruction of justice for her role
in the Flint water crisis. Her pretrial hearing was supposed the start
today, but prosecutors called it off at the last minute because they say
they have now decided that she, too, will be charged with involuntarily
manslaughter. That will make her the sixth public official facing
manslaughter charges for what happened in Flint. She`s also facing a new
charge of misconduct in office.
State`s prosecutor told the press that the manslaughter charge is based on
new documents and testimony coming out last week. Prosecutor told
reporters, quote, I think we`d be derelict if we didn`t charge her.
It`s been more than three years since the city of Flint was poisoned by the
actions of the state government which took over the administration of that
town from its local officials. And more than three years later,
prosecutors are still uncovering more evidence and filing more felony
charges, even as the people of Flint are still trying to fix their town.
At last count, the mayor of Flint said they`ve replaced the pipes in more
than 4,400 homes. Their goal is 6,000 this year.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: So, we started the hour tonight with the urgent situation out
west, this fire situation up and down the California coast. More than a
dozen fires burning in eight counties. At least ten people have already
lost their lives in California today. The governor of the state says this
is not under control by any means. North of San Francisco, at least 1,500
buildings have burned today, including whole residential neighborhoods.
In the city of Santa Rosa, California, firefighters are saying the pace of
this fire has taken them by surprise. The fire chewing through Santa Rosa
started off as a 200-acre fire last night, but then it burned through
20,000 acres in 12 hours, 68-mile-a-hour winds were a big part of why this
thing got so out of control so fast.
But it`s not just northern California. These are live – these are live
shots right now of flames in Anaheim, California, right, this second. So,
this is going to be a very difficult night for a lot of firefighters and
for a lot of families in California.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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