Trump delays release of some JFK files Transcript 10/26/17 The Rachel Maddow Show
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: October 26, 2017.
Guest: Philip Shenon, Brigitte Amiri
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: On the nose, zero, zero, zero, zero! You`re my
idol on so many things, among them timing. Thank you very much, Joy.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST, A.M. JOY: Cheers.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
You know what? They blew it! We sort of knew they – at least, as an
abstract matter, we sort of knew they might blow it. Sort of expected
But then, you know what, I was lulled into a – the opposite of
complacency. I was lulled into a sense of excitement. Because they,
themselves seemed so excited about it.
And the White House kind of went out on a limb about how excited the
president was personally about it. So, even though I knew better, it
seemed for a second like, OK, maybe this thing is a priority for them.
Maybe this one means so much to them, that this one, on this one thing,
they will actually get it done.
They did not get it done. I should have known. The hype started last
Saturday morning when they announced they were going to go ahead with the
last remaining files from the JFK assassination. Then, on Wednesday,
yesterday, the president tweeted about it again. He clearly wants to keep
people focused on this. He seems personally excited about it.
And then there was this interesting spectacle yesterday afternoon, where
the day before the JFK assassination files are going to be released. All
right, these are not just JFK files. These are files about him being
killed in Dallas in 1963.
The day before the release of those files, the White House yesterday had
Trump fly into Dallas, like JFK had done on the day of his assassination.
They had Trump fly in specifically to Love Field, which is where JFK flew
in to Dallas on the day of his assassination. They had the president do a
reception rope line on the tarmac, which presidents do not often do these
days. But Trump did it yesterday in Dallas at Love Field, right where JFK
did it in Dallas at Love Field on the day that he was killed.
And that was either really bad staff work that they didn`t notice that
exact logistical parallel they were setting up for our current president
yesterday, or if it was on purpose, that they put him at a rope line at
Love Field in Dallas on the occasion of the release of these files. If
they did that on purpose, that was super creepy.
But the president himself has entertained his own conspiracy theories about
Kennedy`s assassination. Remember his idea was that Ted Cruz`s dad did it?
He`s also, of course, promoted lots of other conspiracy theories too,
including the idea that President Obama was a fake baby. He was just a
stunt baby in Hawaii, because the real baby, Barack Obama, was in Africa,
So, he – he`s a conspiracy theory-minded guy. But when the president was
tweeting about the JFK release yesterday, he not only made up a hashtag for
the event, #jfkfiles, he also said that the release of the #jfkfiles was
going to be so interesting!
And that characterization from the president made it seem like maybe the
president had even seen what is in these new files that are about to be
released. And so, maybe he`s making some characterization as to what is in
Well, we don`t know, because they blew it, because they blew it. In 1992,
Congress passed a law that requires the National Archives to release all of
the remaining documents in their possession related to the JFK
assassination and related to the investigation into the assassination.
They have to release all of the documents, including the several thousand
documents that had previously been held back by the government as too
sensitive for the public to see.
By law, by that law that was passed in 1992, they are supposed to release,
completely, every word. Now, what if there`s information in those files
that is still so sensitive for the public to see? Even more than a half
century down the road?
Well, on the odd chance that the national security elements of the federal
government really think that there`s something in those files that`s too
sensitive to be let out – well, that`s part of the gig of managing the
release of these documents from the federal government. I mean, to be
clear, under the letter of the law, if the president wants to just let all
of this stuff out with zero reductions, can do. That`s what the law says.
But if there is something in these files that the FBI or the CIA or some
other government agency really wants redacted, they really don`t want it
out there, they say it would be dangerous to let it out, then part of the
work of dealing with this release of document that is the administration
has to account for that. They have to arrange the redactions to happen
before the release date.
Remember, the release date is mandated by law. So, you have to arrange for
all the work around the redactions to get done. And this is not like an –
this is not an abstract concept about the law here. This is actually a
job, which requires people to do it. It takes time and effort. It takes
reading comprehension skills. Probably takes some office supplies. I
mean, it`s actual work that real humans need to do by a deadline.
And, of course, as we all know, work is hard. And the Trump administration
apparently forgot about the work part of their responsibilities here and
they just didn`t do it. I mean, this was supposed to be released today.
By law, this is release day. The president, the White House, they appear
to have really thought it was going to be release day, right? They did the
tweets. They sent Trump to do his “act like JFK” act on the rope line at
Love Field tarmac yesterday and everything. But when the clock struck
midnight last night and no documents were released.
And then this morning rolled around and nothing was released. And then
today rolled on and nothing us released, finally, NBC News this afternoon
got U.S. intelligence officials to admit to them that, yes, the work didn`t
– the documents spelling out what`s supposed to be redacted, that didn`t
get finished. Or maybe the dog ate it. But it wasn`t ready to go.
At 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the National Archives told the online archivist
Russ Kick from the Memory Hole Website said that the JFK document release
was not going to be canceled today, but they also said, quote, we currently
do not have a time frame. Again, that was close of business today. The
law says this has to happen today, all the documents.
And then later this evening, the Trump White House had to issue a new order
on this subject saying, OK, let`s shoot for April 2018 instead. Maybe
that`s a more realistic idea.
So, some documents, they did post tonight. This is not the release they
were supposed to be making tonight. We`re going to be talking with an
expert in just a few minutes about what went wrong here today and what we
did get. What subset of documents we did finally get after 7:30 p.m.
tonight, when they finally posted a subset of the documents.
I mean, what happened here big picture is that they – they blew it, right?
They just didn`t get the work done. Nothing surprising happened today
which resulted in this getting messed up. And it`s not like nobody
couldn`t – it`s nothing that nobody could see this deadline coming for 25
I mean, today`s date was set in law 25 years ago. But the Trump
administration had no idea. They thought you just make the announcement on
Twitter and then it`s done, right?
If you are not a fan of this president or of the goals of this
administration, you can sort of take your pick as to how to look at this
recurring dynamic in the administration. It is either terrible news to
you, or it`s great news to you, that the Trump administration really cannot
seem to get things done that they are trying to do. They set their mind to
stuff. They set their Twitter feed to stuff. They announce stuff.
You know, sometimes it`s serious stuff. Sometimes it`s stupid stuff. But
on everything, from, you know, repealing Obamacare to spelling the name of
the British prime minister, it just – it just – they can`t get it done.
So I feel like we have to kind of rewire our national media expectations a
little bit. We have to rewire at least political media. I think political
media, Beltway media, for good reason, is conditioned to cover policy and
politics in this country, in large part by figuring out what the
administration wants to do, what their intentions are, if there are splits
within this administration, who`s going to win the fight within the
There`s tons of – tons of shoe leather, tons of ink spilled in the
political press on what the goals are of the administration. What their
plans are. That`s what makes up a significant portion of American
political media, because in a normal administration, that tells you what`s
going to happen. In this administration, though, figuring out what they
want to do or even what they think they`re doing, that doesn`t necessarily
have any relation to what actually gets done.
We`re going to release all the JFK files! We have to do work to make that
happen? We`ll do it in April. I mean, that was the JFK thing tonight –
here`s another one from today`s news. You might remember in the aftermath
of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. It emerged that the oil
companies that were drilling gulf at that time, they were supposed to have
detailed emergency response plans in place in case anything went wrong with
one of these underwater drilling rigs.
But when a true disaster, in fact, happened at one of those rigs, it turns
out their emergency response plans were ridiculous. Their plans
specifically for the Gulf of Mexico, for example, went into great detail
about how people on scene should call this one scientist in particular for
advice on one important point about the response to an oil spill. That
scientist listed in the emergency response plan was years dead.
The oil companies also suggested detailed protocols in their emergency
response plans for how local walruses should be protected from any spilled
oil. Now, walruses are, of course, adorable, and everybody wants walruses
to be safe in the event of an oil spill. But walruses live in the Arctic!
It`s like in the garanimal set, it`s polar bears and walruses together.
That`s why they have those cute little beards. They get cold, right?
Walruses don`t live in all of the Gulf of Mexico. So what are they doing
in all of the oil companies` Gulf of Mexico emergency plans? No, really,
what are they doing there, CEO of Exxon?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Mr. Tillerson, like the “p” on page 11-
6 of your plan, ExxonMobil`s Gulf of Mexico`s oil spill response plan lists
walruses under sensitive biological and human resources. As I`m sure you
know, there aren`t any walruses in the Gulf of Mexico and there have not
been for 3 million years. How can ExxonMobil have walruses in their
response plan for the Gulf of Mexico?
REX TILLERSON, EXXONMOBIL CEO: Congressman Markey, those response plans
incorporate a number of broad-based studies, marine mammal studies.
MARKEY: These are regional –
TILLERSON: I understand.
MARKEY: – oil spill response plans. How can walruses be in a response
plan for the Gulf of Mexico? This is a regional response plan that each of
you had to put together.
TILLERSON: I understand the question. And it`s unfortunate that walruses
were included. And it`s an embarrassment that they were included.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Before Rex Tillerson was Donald Trump`s secretary of state, he was
an Exxon CEO embarrassed about his walruses. Part of that terrible
disaster in the gulf was the fact that the industry was completely
unprepared to deal with the harm that they could cause. When the company`s
plans for dealing with that type of disaster were dug up, it showed how
much they did not care, and how much they actually weren`t ready for that
kind of disaster. Because that stupid plan, even if they had followed it,
might have saved the walruses, had there been any there, but it wasn`t a
real plan for dealing with this kind of catastrophe.
Well, right now – that was 2010. Right now, we have a different kind of
ongoing, long-running disaster in our country. And this time it`s not a
company that has explaining to do about a response, it`s the federal
government that has explaining to do. “ProPublica” has an important scoop
today about FEMA and the hurricane response plan for Puerto Rico that was
prepared by FEMA.
Now, the good news is that FEMA, reportedly, had a detailed, long, granular
hurricane response plan for a large storm hitting Puerto Rico. That`s
fascinating news, because if FEMA did have a detailed, more than 100-page
long granular plan on how to defend Puerto Rico after getting hit by a
major hurricane, it`s hard to believe that what FEMA`s actually done in
response to this actual hurricane wasn`t according to that or any plan,
right? Six weeks without electricity or running waters, 3.5 million
Americans put back into the Stone Ages for going on two months now. I
mean, that seems like something you wouldn`t plan to do in the wake of a
storm of any size.
So, assuming this did not go according to plan, what was FEMA`s plan for
how they were supposed to handle a catastrophe like this?
“ProPublica” has just today discovered that that`s a secret. FEMA
initially said, oh, sure, we`ll send you our Puerto Rico hurricane response
plan. They later decided that their hurricane response plan for Puerto
Rico is, quote, potentially sensitive. And so, therefore, they will not
Other FEMA hurricane response plans for other parts of the country, like
Hawaii, those you can get. But Puerto Rico? No, now secret.
As Puerto Rico stretches into its sixth week of disaster, with only one in
ten schools reopening, with power and water still knocked out, with a
suspect death toll that nobody trusts, who knows if they`re following
FEMA`s plan. So good on “ProPublica” for trying to pry whatever the plan
was supposed to be out of FEMA. But apparently, they are just not going to
let that out under the Freedom of Information Act. It`s going to take
other kinds of fighting to get access to that information. Watch that
We saw the same kind of management skills on display on another incredibly
serious ongoing national disaster in our country today. The opioid crisis.
You might have had a little deja vu about the D.C. news today about
opioids. If you felt like, haven`t I seen these headlines before? Haven`t
I heard this before?
It`s because on August 10th, President Trump kind of offhandedly, casually
surprised everybody by declaring the opioid crisis to be a national
emergency. He surprised everybody by saying it, but he did take care to
say that it was an official proclamation when he made that statement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The opioid crisis is an
emergency and I`m saying officially, right now, it is an emergency. It`s a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Trump said that on August 10th. But you know what? He
never signed anything to actually make it official. When people followed
up with the president and the White House to find out what it meant, what
were the consequences of him declaring, officially, this national
emergency, because that`s a technical thing that means something in U.S.
government. When people tried to follow up and get the written
declaration, the written version of the statement from the president, to
get the documentation from the White House as to how this declared national
emergency would be effectuated and handled by the federal government – the
answer from the White House was that the White House staff was working on
The president made his supposedly official declaration August 10th. Turns
out White House staff were not working on the paperwork. Nothing ever
happened in response to the president randomly making what he called an
official declaration of a national emergency. That was just apparently
something he liked the sound of, so he said it. But they didn`t follow up
and do the work.
And we got all the way through the end of August with no news on what was
supposed to come of that national emergency. We got all the way through
September. We got this far through October. Nothing.
In recent days, the White House said the president would again, this time
for real, declare a national emergency around opioids. He did not.
National emergency is a specific official act by the president and by the
federal government that results, among other things, in an allocation of
funds from the agency in our government that deals with national
emergencies, which is the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA. The
same folks who I`m sure had a beautiful printed plan for how to help Puerto
The president had previously said he was declaring a national emergency.
That means, among other things, money. He said that`s what he was doing in
August. He apparently didn`t mean it. And he said something else today.
And they said it was going to be a national emergency, but that isn`t what
Today, he did not declare a national emergency. He instead declared a
public health emergency, which sounds similar, but that one comes with no
funding, to do anything about this emergency, that the president has now
twice proclaimed, without doing anything to back it up.
Whether you like what the Trump administration is trying to do or not, this
is a new dynamic at work. And I think that the press corps isn`t wired to
handle it. And it`s not their fault, because it`s not the way things
usually work. We`ve never really seen that before in a presidency where
the president and the White House take kind of a wishing and hoping ruby
slippers approach to the major responsibilities of the federal government.
Just because you say you`re going to do something or you say that something
will be done, it doesn`t just magically happen by you clicking your heels
together and putting it on Twitter. There`s actual tangible human labor
that has to go into making things happen in government. And it`s important
for the credibility of the United States of America that when a president
says something is done or something is going to be done, that means the
work will actually be done to make that true.
But that`s not true. It`s regularly not true, in this administration. And
that`s – it`s a serious thing for a president to proclaim something as a
done deal, even when the president is speaking offhandedly at a press
briefing, or randomly tweeting something before dawn, right? That`s –
it`s still important, if it`s the words of a president.
But it`s particularly important when the way a president says something is
going to be done is that he signs a law declaring that that thing will be
done and requiring him, under U.S. law, to do that thing. It`s one thing
if he tweets sympathetic or makes an offhand comment and then doesn`t
follow through. If he signs a law that says he`s doing something and then
doesn`t do it? That`s the case with the only significant piece of
legislation that Trump has signed since he has become president. It`s a
And I think sort of an undercovered thing. And again, it may give you
pleasure if you`re a person who doesn`t like this president or his agenda.
But with unified Republican control of government for 10 months now, they
really have passed zero major legislation, of any kind. The most
substantive legislation, in some counts, the only substantive legislation
that has been passed is sanctions legislation, which passed by a veto-proof
margin, even though the president didn`t favor the bill.
He didn`t have a choice, basically, to veto it, because the overwhelming
number of votes that the bill got. But it was sanctions legislation to
punish Russia for having muddled in our presidential election last year.
It imposed new sanctions on Russia for that. And that`s not just something
the government said it wanted to do, that`s something the president didn`t
just say he wanted to do, he signed a law that said that he was required to
But the deadline for starting those new sanctions was October 1st. October
1st, 2017. October 1st, as in 25 days ago. And the administration just
tonight, 3 1/2 weeks later, got around to making their first list of parts
of the Russian government that might end up being on that sanctions list.
Yes, no rush. It`s just the law. You`re almost a month late.
So – and that`s all just stuff that happened today. There`s an
underappreciated element in this administration. And you can really see it
on a day like today. And I mean, the best – the best fake word I can come
up with to describe it is nonperformance. They say they`re going to do
stuff, they say they are doing stuff, and then they just don`t follow
through. They don`t do it.
Even when the president has personally put himself out on a limb to express
his enthusiasm for this thing, he then does not get done, even when it`s a
serious, mortal disaster for millions of Americans, even when it`s
something he declares he has officially done when he done nothing and plans
to do nothing, and even when it`s something that`s required by law. And
sometimes I think their blatant nonperformance is because their required to
do stuff they really don`t want to do.
But honestly, I think some of it is just because they can`t get it
together. They can`t get it together to do the human work necessary to
accomplish the things they say they are doing. But in light of that
widespread, recurrent, even constant problem across this administration, it
makes it all the more remarkable when it turns out there is something they
are doing in government, that they are doing with diligence and efficiency,
almost ruthless effectiveness.
And we have that story ahead tonight. It`s actually something the
administration doesn`t much want to talk about, but they were forced to
today in part because of a 17-year-old girl who beat them in court. And
that story is coming up.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: The deadline for the National Archives to release its final batch
of secret records related to the Kennedy assassination is a date that has
been on the calendar for 25 years. Didn`t sneak up on anyone. After the
president said publicly that, in fact, that release would happen. That on
October 26th, 2017, they would release all of those records, the
anticipation really started building for the last few weeks now, from the
media, from the president of the United States himself, hyping it on
But then, today is the 26th, and all day long, nothing happened. Nothing
was released. And then well past the close of business, the White House
released a new statement saying the new deadline for everything is next
April, 2018. And just past 7:30 tonight, they did release a portion of the
documents that were expected to be released today.
So, two questions. Anything interesting in what did get released? And
what went wrong here?
I mean, we thought it might be a fiasco of the order like, they`re crashing
the Website, there`s so much interest. We did not expect to have nothing
until 7:30 and then a weird proportion of the documents which was not what
was supposed to be released. How did they blow this? And why?
Joining us now is Philip Shenon, former “New York Times” reporter and
author of “A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy
Mr. Shenon, welcome back. Great to have you back with us again.
PHILIP SHENON, AUTHOR, “A CRUEL AND SHOCKING ACT”: Thank you.
MADDOW: I felt like you spoke with unusual clarity last night in terms of
telling us what to expect about what might go wrong today. I still did not
anticipate that what might go wrong today is that we wouldn`t get anything
until 7:30 and then it would be only a little portion of the documents.
Do you have any sense of what went wrong today?
SHENON: What a mess. This is the worst possible scenario.
Apparently, there really has been a mess at the White House for the last
couple of weeks. Even as President Trump was tweeting out these assurances
to the American people that he was going to open up this vast library of
secret documents, there was these wild negotiations going on within the
administration, the CIA and the FBI and apparently the State Department,
going to the White House saying, no, no, no, you can`t release these
documents. It appears nobody told that to the president, however.
MADDOW: In terms of the FBI and the CIA and the State Department, do we
know, I guess two questions about that. Do we know the character of their
objections, in terms of what they wanted held back? And do we know why
that process of them expressing those objections and those things being
litigated somehow, why that wasn`t handled in advance?
Again, this deadline has been there for 25 years. Everybody knew it was
SHENON: Well, the second part of your question – I mean, this has been
under discussion within government agencies for years and years and years.
They knew this was coming. I mean, there have been people assigned to this
task for a very long time.
What seems to have happened is that most of those agencies decided months
ago what documents they wanted held back and I guess that was communicated
to the White House, to some extent. But apparently, there was no effort
within the White House to actually organize those appeals. So, this really
was handled at the last minute today, apparently, these appeals documents
were landing on the president`s desk just this afternoon.
MADDOW: Wow. Do we know anything about what the – what the – how the
contention works there? Like, let`s say the CIA wants something left out
of the released documents. Who argues on the other side of it? Is it an
adversarial process? Or do the agencies just get what they want?
SHENON: Well, I`ve got to say, your guess is as good as mine. But I think
probably the White House general counsel`s office was involved. President
Trump had said he wanted to be a champion of transparency here in releasing
these documents. There may have been the assumption that these documents
would be released.
But again, nobody seems to have focused on it. It just seems to have been
a mishmash of mismanagement over there the last several of weeks on a very
MADDOW: In terms of what was released, have you found anything that you
find to be of interest?
SHENON: Well, nobody`s had any time yet. I mean, I know reporters and
citizens all across this country are now trying to pore through these
I will tell you something that`s very important that I can just see from
the spreadsheet of what documents have been released. We have some idea of
what`s out there.
So, there were two big piles of documents. There were something like
30,000 documents we`d seen before, that had been released in part. We`ve
seen portions of those documents before. And then there were 3,100 sort of
And I`ll tell you very, very few of the super-secret documents are out
there tonight. Though, they remain, tonight, super secret.
MADDOW: So the stuff people were really hoping for hasn`t come out and now
it may be April.
SHENON: Well, and will it come out at all? We now know that these
agencies feel very strongly that it must not come out. So, I think there`s
a good possibility we`re never going to see some of this material.
MADDOW: Philip Shenon, former “New York Times” reporter, the author of “A
Cruel and Shocking Act: Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination” – I
have to tell you, it`s hard to find someone to talk to about this who is
both clear in speaking but also super level-headed about it. As you know,
this is an excitable topic. Thank you for being a voice of sanity for us
on this. I really appreciate it.
SHENON: My pleasure.
MADDOW: All right. We have a lot to get to tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Have you ever had friends who have been together for a while, but
even then late in their relationship, they start having issues. And you
know, you`re friends with them, so you try to be supportive and listen to
A political version of that played out on Capitol Hill today between the
chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley, and the top
Democrat on that committee, Dianne Feinstein, after it was reported that
the two have decided to go their separate ways when it comes to their
committee`s Russia investigation.
So, Senator Grassley, tell us what went wrong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I`m doing what I
do. She wants to do what she wants to do. And then we`re doing a lot of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: She wants to do what she wants to do.
But you know, there are two sides to every story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I think
he has interests in proceeding in a different way. I think you need to
talk to him about it. I am disappointed and I hope that as some time goes
by, we`ll be able to work things out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Even when you`re both octogenarians, breaking up is hard to do.
So why are Grassley and Feinstein taking a break? There is a weird
possibility that it involves another woman. I`m not kidding. That story
is coming up.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: It`s the kind of story that almost sounds made-up. An 81-year-old
political operative confesses to a national reporter. He says he tried to
collude with the Russians in order to help Republicans win the White House.
He went on a mad hunt for what he believed were thousands of Hillary
Clinton e-mails that had been hacked and stolen, maybe, by the Russians.
He believed those e-mails would be political gold if he could get his hands
on them. The operative told people that he was working closely with key
Trump supporters and the Trump campaign, including Trump national security
adviser, Michael Flynn.
That 81-year-old operative, Peter Smith, confesses all of this to a
newspaper reporter for the “Wall Street Journal” and then Peter Smith dies.
Ten days later, an apparent suicide. Crazy story. A real story, but,
admittedly, crazy sounding.
Last week, we learned that the special counsel investigation led by Robert
Mueller has interviewed somebody who Peter Smith reached out to for help in
his crazy-seeming quest. So has the House Intelligence Committee. And
now, the Senate Intelligence Committee has asked for and has begun to
receive documents from the estate of the late Peter Smith.
So, yes, it is a crazy-sounding story, but it is now an active part of the
investigation, both at the special counsel level and in the intelligence
Now, here`s the twist. You see here, Barbara Ledeen, long-time well-known
conservative activist. She`s married, incidentally, to Michael Ledeen, who
last year wrote a book with Trump national security adviser, Mike Flynn,
who, of course is now the subject of many of the similar parallel criminal
investigations as to what went on with the Trump campaign in Russia.
Turns out that during the lead up to the 2016 presidential campaign,
Barbara Ledeen, like old Peter Smith, Barbara Ledeen, she, too, launched
her own private investigation into trying to get Hillary Clinton`s e-mails.
And the reason we know that is because her quest ended up in redacted FBI
files. And this month, a source told “The Guardian” newspaper that, yes,
the person behind that private investigation described in these FBI files,
that private investigation into the Clinton e-mail server, that person is
And that`s newsworthy and that`s the part that somebody in Congress really
ought to explain, because in addition to the special counsel`s Trump/Russia
investigation, we`ve got these three committees on Capitol Hill that have
their own Russia investigations going on now for months, right, House
Intelligence, Senate Intelligence, Senate Judiciary.
Barbara Ledeen works for the Senate Judiciary Committee. She works for the
chair of that committee, for Republican Senator Chuck Grassley. Barbara
Ledeen was a Senate judiciary staffer, not just while her husband was
writing a book with Mike Flynn, who`s at the center of this investigation,
but also while she was mounting her own private investigation into Hillary
She remains a Senate Judiciary staffer now. Her efforts to track down
foreign hackers getting into Hillary Clinton`s e-mails, that may very well
have been the same effort that the late Peter Smith was involved in, or it
may have been her own separate investigation that just followed along the
But either way, that is a strange situation for Senator Grassley and his
Senate Judiciary Committee to be in, right? Now that the Senate
Intelligence Committee down the hall and the House Intelligence Committee
and the special counsel`s office are all showing interest in these
conservative activists seeking out foreign hackers to try to find Hillary
Clinton`s e-mails, in all of those other committees and in the special
counsel`s office, they`re interviewing people with firsthand knowledge of
those efforts. They`re going so far to as obtain documents from a dead
man`s estates about those efforts.
And the Senate Judiciary Committee has a staff member onboard, who is also
involved in that same kind of effort herself? While everybody else is
We did hear back from Senator Grassley`s press secretary today, confirming
again that it was Barbara Ledeen who works for the Senate Judiciary
Committee. She is works in the judicial nominations unit. Senator
Grassley`s spokesperson told us, quote, she has not had access to any of
the committee`s investigative materials, other than through public records.
The spokesperson also told us, quote, she was instructed not to do any
further follow up on this project of hers once the committee learned of her
They have not yet told us when they learned of this private investigation
that she was running or why they asked her to cut it out. But all of this
comes to light as the Senate Judiciary Committee`s Russia investigation
really does appear to have blown up. As we reported last night and heard a
bit more about moments ago, Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein have agreed
that they`ll stop working together on the Trump/Russia investigation,
reportedly because Senator Grassley wants to investigate the Clintons and
the Obama administration and Senator Feinstein wants to focus on Trump and
The Trump/Russia investigations on Capitol Hill have been fraught and
contentious from the beginning. But now, one of them does appear to be
over. Senator Feinstein saying the Democrats have, quote, made the
decision to go and carry it ourselves. They can go ahead and do whatever
it is they wanted to do.
Senator Grassley today insists that this is not over. That there will
still be cooperation between the two sides. When reporters asked Senator
Feinstein what she intends to do differently, she told reporters today,
quote, you will find out. You will find out.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: It`s hard to get an abortion in the state of Texas, even if you`re
an adult and a U.S. citizen, even though it`s your constitutional right to
get one. But if you`re a 17-year-old teenager and you`re undocumented and
you`re in Texas in the Trump administration, in a child refugee shelter –
well, in that case, it ends up being national news if you want to get an
Health and Human Services is the agency that Tom Price used to run before
he was forced to resign under a cloud of corruption. The Office of Refugee
Resettlement is part of HHS and that`s the department that runs the refugee
shelter in Texas where the young woman was being held. They call her Jane
Doe in the case. We don`t know her real name.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement is run by a guy called E. Scott Lloyd.
He was appointed to his position by President Trump in March. No Senate
confirmation needed. Mr. Lloyd is a long time anti-abortion and anti-
contraception activist. And he was a strange choice to pick to run the
Office of Refugee Resettlements, since he has zero experience with refugee
Mr. Lloyd also does not have any sort of background in medicine or
counseling, but we now know that at your expense, at taxpayer expense, he
apparently flew himself down to Texas from Washington, D.C., so he could
personally intervene with a pregnant, undocumented teenager in a shelter
run by the federal government to pressure her into not having an abortion.
He was questioned about his use of time and federal resources at a hearing
in the House today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Lloyd, do you have medical training of any kind?
E. SCOTT LLOYD, OFFICE OF REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT: I, I – if I need advice
regarding any medical situation, regarding any of the populations I serve,
I consult the medical team.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, the answer is, no, you don`t have any medical of
LLOYD: No, I don`t.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you trained to give counseling services to young
people, Mr. Lloyd?
LLOYD: Again, if counseling services are called for, then I rely on the
team of counseling professionals to advise me in my role.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Mr. Lloyd explaining that he has no medical background, no
counseling background. Nevertheless, as the head of this federal agency,
he personally decided that he would intervene to go counsel a pregnant
teenager in a facility run by his agency.
When Jane Doe first asked shelter staff for help obtaining an abortion in
September, shelter staff did not take her to a clinic where she could have
the procedure. They instead took her to a Christian crisis pregnancy
center. The sole stated purpose of crisis pregnancy centers is to try to
talk women out of having abortions. That`s it. That`s all they do.
“Vice News” to their credit got an interview with Jane Doe recently and
here`s how she described that experience.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: They brought me to the clinic and they prayed for me. At what she
thought was the clinic, it all ended with them praying over her because
when she was trying to obtain an abortion, that`s what they told her was
the clinic. That`s where they took her from the federal government
It took a team of lawyers fighting for this young woman, Jane Doe, took
three separate court decisions, all the way up to a panel of judges at the
federal appeals court before this girl, the federal government, in this
girl`s case, the federal government could be stopped basically. I mean, I
don`t know if they were going to physically keep her in custody and prevent
her from getting a clinic until she gave birth against her will. But
honestly, they gave every indication that that was their plan.
Jane Doe`s case is now over. She was able to get an abortion finally
yesterday. But it`s not just her case. It turns out.
By the official HHS count, they tell us there were 38 pregnant girls being
held by the Office of Refugee Resettlement as of March. Seven months ago.
We don`t how many girls on the list currently. We don`t know how many of
the original 38 may have been forced by the federal government to keep
pregnancies they did not want.
Joining us is Brigitte Amiri. She`s a senior staff attorney at the ACLU.
She`s the attorney who represented Jane Doe in the case.
Ms. Amiri, thanks very much for your time tonight.
BRIGITTE AMIRI, ACLU SENIOR STAFF ATTORNEY: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: First, let me ask you, if it is – in our coverage of this case,
we have focused on the Office of Refugee Resettlement in this new
leadership at the agency, because it feels like they have taken a new
personally motivated crusading attitude toward this issue. And that seems
like a fresh turn in federal policy. Is that accurate? Is that your
AMIRI: That`s absolutely accurate. Starting in March 2017 when Scott
Lloyd took office he made it his personal mission to obstruct, interfere
with access to abortion for unaccompanied immigrant minors based on his
personal background, having nothing to do with the rule of law or the best
interest of these minors.
MADDOW: Now, is it clear that this woman in this situation, 16-year-old,
17-year-old girl finds out she`s pregnant in custody, is it clear that she
has a legal right to get this procedure done?
AMIRI: Absolutely. Since 1973, the Supreme Court has made crystal clear
that the government cannot ban abortion and that`s exactly what they did
for Jane Doe. They prohibited the shelter where she was staying
transporting her for any abortion-related appointments. They were
literally holding her hostage, blocking the door, preventing her from
obtaining an abortion.
The government wouldn`t transport her. They wouldn`t let the shelter
transport her. She had a court-appointed guardian willing to take her to
the procedure and they also prohibited her from taking her, as well.
MADDOW: Is this a matter of paying for it? Is this an argument of the
whether or not the federal government should be expending resources to
facilitate or pay for her abortion?
AMIRI: It is not. She had raised private funds to pay for the procedure
itself and the guardian was willing to transport her. So, literally, this
is about the government stepping aside and allowing this young woman to
access the abortion she decided that she wanted to have.
MADDOW: Because if they didn`t step aside, they`re physically forcing her
to bring a pregnancy to term she doesn`t want to have.
AMIRI: Correct, and I do believe that that was their goal, to hold her
hostage until she carried the pregnancy to term against her will. If we
had not intervened, that would have happened.
MADDOW: Is the – for young women, for girl who is are in this similar
situation right now, we have no way of knowing from HHS, how many girls are
in this situation, is the case that you were able to win here, which
resulted in her finally get the abortion yesterday, is it binding
precedent? Will this guide what happens to other girls?
AMIRI: Well, the case keeps going. We have a class action request pending
with the district court and we`re also seeking a preliminary injunction as
to the class. So, we`re trying to strike down the policy to make sure that
this doesn`t happen to anyone ever again.
MADDOW: If this is happening – in her case got a lot of national
attention I think because of – because the details of it I think were so
clear and easy to understand in terms of the stakes were here. Is this
something that is happening in a lot of different facilities, in a lot of
different places? This is a Texas specific problem?
AMIRI: It is not. This is a national policy. There are shelters all
across the country that contract with a federal government to take care of
unaccompanied immigrant minors. They have a legal obligation to ensure
that these minors receive medical care, routine medical care, access to
But nevertheless, the federal government instituted a policy that gives
Scott Lloyd the ability to veto any minor`s abortion decision and also
forces any minor that requests access to abortion to visit a crisis
pregnancy center, which as you mentioned, are anti-abortion by their very
definition. There`s also forced parental notification to the minor`s
family about her pregnancy and her abortion decision.
MADDOW: One last question for you. How`s your client? How she is doing?
AMIRI: She`s doing well. I think everyone is relieved. But it`s not that
– it`s just about Jane. It`s about all of the minors in custody and also
what the Trump administration wants to do for reproductive rights for
everyone. We know that they want to roll back reproductive rights for
everyone and not just unaccompanied immigrant minors.
MADDOW: Yes, talk about starting with the most vulnerable.
Brigitte Amiri is a senior staff attorney for the ACLU`s Reproductive
Freedom Project – thank you for helping us understand this work.
AMIRI: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Stay with us. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: One last quick story tonight. Yesterday, the news broke,
yesterday? Day before? The news broke that we had finally figured out who
the Democratic funder was who had funded the Christopher Steele dossier
through the opposition research firm Fusion GPS in Washington, D.C., right?
So, we had long known that research funded by a Republican donor who was
against Trump in the primary. And then after Trump had locked up the
nomination, it had been funded by Democratic funders who were sympathetic
to Hillary Clinton.
We now know that that sours of funding was a law firm linked to the DNC and
Clinton campaign. There still remains the question of who`s the original
funder? Who`s the Republican who started doing the work in the first
We thought we might be getting that tomorrow morning because of a
congressional subpoena for the bank records of Fusion GPS. Tomorrow
morning had been the deadline for when that information had to be handed
over. A judge just ruled that that would be handed over on Monday instead
of tomorrow. So, in case that was keeping you up.
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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