Carmen Yulin Cruz Interview Trascnript 11/28/17 The Rachel Maddow Show
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: November 28, 2017
Guest: Carmen Yulin Cruz
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. Thank you, my friend.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
We`ve got the mayor of San Juan Puerto Rico here tonight, Mayor Carmen
Yulin Cruz. She`s going to be here with us live in studio tonight, as yet
another scandal broke today concerning the federal government`s disastrous
response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Again, Mayor Cruz is going to
be here with us in studio tonight. I`m very excited to be able to speak
We`ve also got our nuclear expert here tonight, Joe Cirincione, as North
Korea fires off a missile that appears to have been the longest range
weapon that country has ever tested, a missile apparently capable of
dropping a warhead on the White House or for that matter on anywhere else
within the Continental United States. Joe Cirincione will be joining us in
just a few minutes to give us some perspective on that.
We are exactly two weeks out as of tonight from the U.S. Senate race in
Alabama where beleaguered Republican Roy Moore faces Democrat Doug Jones.
The stress appears to be getting to the Roy Moore campaign a little bit.
His staffers have now taken to physically shoving news crews who are trying
to cover their candidate in Alabama, even when those news crews are
credentialed, even when they are news crews that have RSVP`d for official
Roy Moore campaign events because they were invited to cover them.
I`ve also got lots of eyes tonight on Democrat John Conyers where a third
former staffer of his has now come forward to allege that Congressman
Conyers sexually harassed her in the workplace.
Now, John Conyers is the longest-serving member of the House of
Representatives. He is a founding member of the Congressional Black
Caucus. He is the leading Democrat on the judiciary committee or at least
he was. He already announced yesterday that he would be stepping aside
from his leadership role as the top Democrat on judiciary.
But now in the light of yet another accuser coming forward this afternoon,
Congressman Conyers his position on Capitol Hill is starting to seem
precarious. One of his fellow Judiciary Committee Democrats called for his
“Wall Street Journal” has a report tonight on Trump national security
advisor Mike Flynn, yet a new – yet another new report on Mike Flynn that
loads yet more weight onto the pile of legal scrutiny that he appears to be
facing, citing people familiar with the matter, which is obvious the least
helpful hint to figure out who`s leaking people familiar with the matter.
“The Wall Street Journal” reports tonight that Mike Flynn, as Trump`s
national security adviser in his brief tenure in the White House, according
to “The Journal”, he aggressively pursued at least one project that he had
been paid to promote as a consultant, a controversial plan to build nuclear
power plants in the Middle East. According to “The Journal” sources even
after National Security Council staff pushed back on that advocacy for Mike
Flynn saying basically hey wait we can`t work on this if you`ve been paid
to promote this deal, even after that pushback from the National Security
Council staff, people hired by and loyal to Flynn inside the White House
reportedly continued to promote Flynn`s plan.
And that brings me to our nightly reminder that the president of the United
States now says he will not be providing any financial assistance to Mike
Flynn`s legal defense fund, not a dime.
“The Washington Post” tonight reports that the president has been telling
people for example at his golf club over the holiday break, he`s been
telling like random passers-by and friends that he is definitely sure the
Russia investigations and the Mueller inquiry itself will definitely be
done by the end of this year, quote, hanging out at Mar-a-Lago and at his
South Florida golf clubs, Trump told friends this investigation is going to
be over with pretty soon. That`s according to two people familiar with the
Quote: Some Trump aides and confidants worried about the president`s
optimistic assessment of the situation, which he has repeated in
conversations in recent weeks, waxing enthusiastically about how he`s eager
to be out from under the Russian cloud by 2018.
One outside adviser to Trump warned that the president would, quote, blow a
gasket if there was no statement of exoneration by year`s end. Blowing a
gasket – I wonder what that looks like.
There are days between now and the end of the year. The president`s going
to blow a gasket if he`s not exonerated and nothing everything`s not over
Well, Republicans have been in control of the House and the Senate and the
White House since January. They have passed no significant legislation of
any kind and you can`t blame all of that on the Russia investigations.
Yesterday, Republicans and Democrats all members of Congress and Senate
they came back from the holiday break with a head of steam because
Republicans think they`ve got one last chance to show that over the course
of a year in power, they can maybe pass one thing they haven`t passed
anything yet but they think they can do it by the end of the year.
The bill they are trying to pass though is wildly unpopular with the
general public. And so, as Congress has headed back to work to try to pass
this tax bill of theirs, their constituents have headed back to work as
well to try to block it.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: This is a polite middle of the road – literally middle of the
intersection – protest in Austin, Texas, outside Senator John Cornyn`s
office there. The way it worked is every time the light turned red, this
group of Senator Cornyn`s constituents would run out into the intersection
and do a choreographed dance routine with a fake Donald Trump stuffing
money into hats, to explain the effect of the tax bill. They call
themselves Tiny Jazz Hands as a tribute to the president.
And, you know, and then when the light turns green, people would honk then
they`d get out of the intersection. It is hard to think that Senator John
Cornyn of Texas will end up voting no on his party`s tax bill because of
his constituents entertaining people politely at red lights like this, but
at least they`re going to let them let him know what they think and what
they think of this bill. So, that was John Cornyn`s office.
This was outside Republican Congressman Tom Garrett`s office in
Charlottesville, Virginia. His constituents presented a giant billion
dollar check to a guy dressed as Mr. Moneybags from Monopoly to protest the
gigantic transfer of money that is represented by this tax bill, the
transfer of money to the wealthiest Americans. Mr. Moneybags and the $275
billion check then marched through the parking lot and into Congressman
Garrett`s office lobby.
Congressman Garrett`s staffer would not actually take the check. They
wanted to deliver it to him. He wouldn`t take the check but he did take a
picture of the check and said he would forward along that snapshot to his
boss. Check your inbox, Congressman Tom Garrett.
Rob Portman`s office in Columbus, Ohio, has had a hard time handling the
numbers of people who have been coming in to that office to tell Senator
Portman to vote no. His staff would only let in a few of his constituents
at a time, so they`ve patiently queued up outside his door.
More Rob Portman constituents were outside his Toledo office as well.
There they sang anti-tax bill Christmas carols. We wish you a better tax
They also parade it around a green Rob Portman Grinch, which kind of looks
like a cross between Vladimir Putin and Pepe the Frog to me, but they tell
me that is Rob Portman.
In Maine, Senator Susan Collins` constituents took a look at this picture,
the one with the treasury secretary and his wife posing seductively with a
sheet of money. They decided then to ape that shot at a Maine rally aimed
at persuading Senator Collins to vote no on the tax bill. They also then
rounded up a bunch of people to shove fistfuls of cash at the fake treasury
secretary and his wife in her opera gloves.
Protesters targeted Ted Cruz`s office in downtown Houston and Senator Marco
Rubio`s office in Palm Beach, Florida. They targeted Senator James
Lankford in his office in Oklahoma City, and Senator Cory Gardner at his
office in Durango, Colorado.
When your tax bill has rock-bottom poll numbers and most people in America
recognize that it will actually make their taxes go up, you really can find
protesters against it all over the country. To welcome Congress back from
the Thanksgiving break there have been more than a hundred demonstrations
already targeting Republican lawmakers around the country, asking lawmakers
to vote no on their tax bill, that would increase taxes for millions of
Americans. The poorer you are, the more likely it is that it will raise
The Congressional Budget Office report on this bill is absolutely brutal.
It will slam the poor harder than it hurts anyone else. The lower income
brackets will all pay more immediately as will most middle-class families,
and that will get worse over time. The bill is expected to add $1.4
trillion to the deficit, $1.4 trillion and for good measure, it will cause
thirteen million Americans who currently have health insurance to lose all
their health insurance coverage.
And I`m no mind reader, but it does not seem impossible to me that those
kind of bare line – baseline facts about this bill are part of the reason
why Republicans are trying to pass this thing with no hearings and
basically no debate.
And on paper, when you try to push something through that way, it`s very
neat and tidy, right? No debate, no amendments, no hearings, no time for
argument, just vote and get it over with. On paper, that is a very tidy
But in reality, when you`re trying to do that with something this big and
this radical that affects this many Americans this severely, on paper, it
might be tidy. In real life, it is not tidy at all.
Did you see the headlines today about the Republicans passing this tax
bill, this gigantic bill on a party line vote out of their committee,
right? This was – before they voted on the floor, they had to vote on it
in committee. Today was the vote in committee, and it happened today.
It was a party line vote, which means all the Republicans said yes and all
the Democrats said no, and that sounds like the easiest thing to understand
in the world, right? That sounds very tidy, very straightforward, very
Those headlines today made it seem like oh zip-zip got that done.
Look at what it was actually like though. I just – look at this tape.
I`m just going to let this roll, so you can see how it actually went.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thank the ranking member for his comments –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s a disturbance in hearing room. We`ll recess to
allow the Capitol police to restore order. Committee will recess subject
to the call of the chair.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ll call the meeting back to order.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s how it went.
You saw the headlines about that today it sounded like a neat and tidy
process, right? Well, that was the neat and tidy process by which the
Republicans got there no debate no hearing party line vote today what they
are trying to do with this really enormous bill will hurt the American poor
and hurt the American middle class quickly and significantly and for a long
time. And it will throw million Americans off their health insurance.
And so what they`re trying to do is very, very unpopular and that`s why
they`re trying to go fast. That`s why they`re trying to outrun the
resistance to what they`re doing. They`re also likely to get another
nonpartisan report on the cost of their bill, and who it hurts as soon as
tomorrow night, and so they`ve got to outrun that, too.
Their whole strategy is to get this through now, to get this through as
fast as they possibly can. When I say now, I mean like in the next two
days they want to get this done before more of this starts happening and
spreading, before too many people realize what they are doing and how fast
they`re doing it.
There`s a lot going on right now I know, but this is a huge thing they`re
trying to do and fast.
Watch this space.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP
MADDOW: This is going to be kind of a clip and save thing, just warn you
from the outset. It`s a little bit of a – it`s a public service
announcement, I sort of like it is a little trying to be a little bit of a
This is a list I used to be able to keep in my head but then today we got
another name to add to the list and I realized when I tried to rattle off
the list in my head of all the names, including the new guy, I was humbled.
I realized that actually this list has gotten way too long, to casually
keep track of it anymore we need to start keeping a public count of this
stuff. See if you agree.
Let`s start with the most obvious one. The Russian ambassador to the
United States. There`s nothing wrong with members of a presidential
campaign or even a presidential transition meeting with a foreign
ambassador but the Russian ambassador with this particular campaign he did
it a lot.
The Russian ambassador met several times with Jeff Sessions when he was a
top campaign official, also with Jared Kushner during the campaign, also
with Jared Kushner and Mike Flynn during the transition. That was the
meeting where intelligence intercepts afterward reportedly overheard the
ambassador, explaining how Jared Kushner had inquired about setting up a
secret communications channel between the Trump transition and the Kremlin.
So, that`s the first one. That`s the ambassador.
Then there was also the head of a Kremlin-controlled bank. A graduate of
what`s basically Russia`s spy school. That banker who graduated from spy
school also met with Jared Kushner during the transition. Then there was
the Russian born ex-con who was convicted of a million dollar mafia
connected pump-and-dump stock scheme. Him and also the Russian real estate
mogul and former member of parliament he was working with, they we`re all
quietly working during the campaign with the Trump organization to try to
get a Trump Tower built in Moscow. Candidate Trump signed a letter of
intent to pursue that project in Moscow, even as he insisted publicly that
he had no interests and no deals with Russia.
So, then there was the ambassador, the banker, the ex-con guy, the real
estate guy – then there was the longtime employee of Trump campaign
chairman Paul Manafort who was a Russian military intelligence veteran. He
was in contact all the time during the campaign with Manafort and he is the
one who flew to New York to deliver messages to Manafort from a Russian
oligarch who`s close to Vladimir Putin.
Then recently, we learned about the official from the Bank of Russia. He`s
been described by law enforcement as a godfather in the Russian mafia. He
contacted top Trump campaign officials to try to set up a meeting with
Donald Trump at an NRA conference during the campaign last year. He did
not get that meeting with Donald Trump`s senior but he did get dinner with
Donald Trump Jr.
Then, of course, in June of last year, there was the Kremlin-connected
Russian lawyer who met with Don Jr. and Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort at
Trump Tower. There was also a Russian-born lobbyist who was once a KGB
counterintelligence operative who was at that meeting.
And also, another Russian dude who was at the center of a congressional
investigation into Russian money laundering in the United States in the
1990s. He has since been in business with some of Putin`s favorite
oligarchs back home in Russia. Oh and there was also the son of the
Russian billionaire who arranged the Trump Tower meeting, and who spoke
about it multiple times with Don Jr.
Then, there was also the director of a Russian university who invited Trump
campaign foreign policy advisor quarter-page to speak in Moscow and then
all the folks who Carter Page spoke with during his trip – a Russian
deputy prime minister, a top official at Russia`s state oil company, and
according to one report that Carter Page denies, actually the head of that
Russian state oil company who is one of Vladimir Putin`s top lieutenants.
Then there was also the Kremlin-linked pseudo academic who seems to have
cultivated Trump campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos,
telling Papadopoulos that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton. He
introduced Papadopoulos to a guy with connections at the Russian foreign
ministry who wanted to set up a meeting between Trump and Putin.
Papadopoulos also met with a Russian woman who was introduced to him as
Vladimir Putin`s niece. Something he very excitedly emailed his superiors
about at the Trump campaign.
Vladimir Putin doesn`t have a niece, but if you`re trying to keep track of
what`s going on in the Mueller investigation say, what we have learned from
investigative journalism and the congressional investigations in terms of
the Trump campaign`s links to Russia, I mean, just try looking at it in
terms of the sheer number of Russians and people linked to the Russian
government who made contact with the Trump campaign and the Trump
That`s a lot of different Russians but all of those folks have had to make
room for one more today.
Back in April, “The Washington Post” reported that just before the
inauguration, Erik Prince, major Trump donor, the founder of the
controversial private security firm Blackwater and the brother of Education
Secretary Betsy DeVos, Erik Prince went to the Seychelles Islands for a
meeting with a Russian, who was a representative of Vladimir Putin`s
Erik Prince reportedly presented himself as an unofficial envoy for
President-elect Trump at that meeting. The purpose of that meeting was
reportedly to set up a secret backchannel communication between the Trump
camp and the Putin camp. Since that meeting was reported, Erik Prince has
said, yes, OK, I went to the Seychelles and met some Russian guy. I think
he was maybe a fund manager, but we just had a beer. He said he doesn`t
even remember the guy`s name. They didn`t talk about anything important,
and whatever they did talk about it, definitely, it had nothing to do with
Donald Trump and besides he can`t remember it – he can`t remember anyway.
Well, today, we have found out who that Russian guy was that Erik Prince so
unmemorable shared a beer with in the Seychelles a few days before Donald
Trump`s inauguration. This comes to us today from “The Intercept”, which
reports that according to flight records they obtained on the date that
this meeting with Erik Prince apparently occurred, a private plane flew a
man named Kirill Dmitriev to the Seychelles Islands.
Kirill Dmitriev is the CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which is
a $10 billion sovereign wealth fund that is created by and run by the
Erik Prince`s company confirmed to “The Intercept” that Prince and Dmitriev
crossed paths in the Seychelles, which means that today, one more Russian
gets added to this roster of contacts.
So, we`ve got Russian ambassador, Russian banker, Russian ex-con, Russian
real estate guy, Russian military intelligence guy, Russian oligarch,
another Russian banker, Russian lawyer, Russian lobbyists, Russian money-
laundering suspect, Russian billionaire son, Russian connected academic,
Russian deputy prime minister, Russian oil executive, Russian foreign
ministry official, Russian president`s fake niece, and now, new guy, head
of Russia`s sovereign wealth fund.
I mean that`s too big for a band. That`s too big for a marching band in
most towns. I mean but there`s one more thing to say about the Russian
sovereign wealth fund who met with Erik Prince during the transition. The
Russian Direct Investment Fund, that fund he runs is one of many Russian
government institutions that is under U.S. sanctions since Russia invaded
Crimea in 2014, which means that no American business person even Erik
Prince, should be doing business with that fund.
Erik Prince`s explanation about that meeting in the Seychelles has been
that it had nothing to do with the Trump transition. It was just business.
Well, it can`t have been business with that guy from the Russian sovereign
wealth fund, at least it can`t have been business if it was legal business.
Erik Prince scheduled to testify before the House Intelligence Committee
the day after tomorrow. So, maybe that will come up.
Meanwhile though, more than a year after our presidential election, more
than a like a year and a half since the FBI started its counterintelligence
investigation into the links between Russia and the Trump campaign, how is
it possible that even today, we are still adding to the list of Russian
government figures who got themselves involved with the Trump campaign in
the transition? Still, we`re still learning about more of them. How many
more can there be?
MADDOW: – week day of every month, the state of Hawaii conducts a test of
what they call the attention alert siren. It`s a steady tone, sixty-
second-long siren that blares from loudspeakers around the islands, and
it`s meant – when it`s used properly, it`s meant to signal an incoming
hurricane or tsunami or some other natural disaster. They test that once a
Well, now, Hawaii is rolling out a second siren and this is one they
haven`t used since the cold war, and that`s because North Korea has
conducted 15 missile tests this year alone as it develops a program for
nuclear weapons and Hawaii is about 4,600 miles from North Korea, and these
days sometimes that doesn`t feel like far enough.
So, Hawaii as of this week is taking new precautions. Because their Hawaii
though and because Hawaii is awesome, they are rolling out this new
precaution. They are reminding people about this old siren in the most
chill way possible.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VERN MIYAGI, HAWAII EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY: On the first business day
of every month, the state and the counties normally conduct a test of the
attention alert signal which is a steady tool. Starting December 1st, a
second film, the attack warning signal, a waiting phone, will be added.
The attack warning signal advises everyone to take immediate shelter, get
inside, stay inside, stay tuned.
To find out more info, go to readyhawaii.gov.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I would be less alarmed by that siren if it did come with soothing
music whenever it went off. Stay tuned, Hawaii. Officials today said that
in the event of a nuclear attack, the siren would give Hawaii`s 1.4 million
residents a little time, about 12 to 15 minutes to find shelter ahead of an
Well, today, on the day that Hawaii unveiled this new plan to dust off the
old attack warning signal, today, North Korea also decided to break from a
two-month hiatus to launch yet another missile into the atmosphere.
Pentagon officials believe this was an intercontinental ballistic missile,
an ICBM, that would make it the third one North Korea has tested thus far,
the first two were launched this summer.
North Korea has been launching these things with unusual trajectories.
Rather than sending them off like this way into the distance, they tend to
send them at a really steep angle. They tend to shoot them almost straight
up really, really high up so when the missiles finally do land they land
fairly close by even though they`ve gone a long way to get there.
Well, the ones that they shot off today reached a height of around 2,800
miles. It went almost 3,000 miles up before it landed in the Sea of Japan.
If it had been fired for distance, the Union of Concerned Scientists said
today, if the missile had flown on each standard trajectory designed to
maximize its reach, it would have – it would have a range of more than
I mentioned before that Hawaii is 4,000 something miles away from North
Korea don`t mean to be weird or alarmist but if it`s got an 8,100-mile
range, this missile, that means it could hit Washington, D.C. The
Concerned Scientists co-director today said it would have more than enough
range to travel from North Korea to Washington, D.C. It could hit New York
City or Tulsa or Iowa City or anywhere in the Continental U.S.
So, yes, it is remarkable to see the state of Hawaii out there in the
Pacific starting up its siren from the Cold War days and being admirably
calm and playing soothing music a long side the siren to explain that to
the people of Hawaii. But how close was North Korea to being a threat not
just to its Pacific neighbors, but to the rest of the United States? How
close was North Korea to being that kind of a global threat? How much
should we see that threat from them as changing with the kind of tests they
Joining us now is Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund. He`s
an NBC News and MSNBC nuclear security analyst.
Joe, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here tonight.
JOE CIRINCIONE, PLOUGHSHARES FUND, PRESIDENT: My pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, we have not seen – we`re corresponding about this today and
you mentioned that it`s rare to see North Korea do a big missile test like
this at this time of year. Why is this a weird time of year for them to be
doing this kind of test?
CIRINCIONE: They normally don`t test in the fourth quarter of the year.
Of the 85 tests that they`ve done since 2011, only five have been in the
last quarter. People think that this has to do with weather conditions.
Sometimes, the troops are moved from military duty to harvesting. For
whatever reason they don`t often test this year – at this time of year.
So, the pause that we`ve seen, the 74 days since the last missile test
partly is explained by the time of year and might not have been a gesture.
The U.S. had said that if North Korea had stopped testing for 60 days, that
would be seen as a positive sign, that we could open up negotiations. They
did stop testing, but we didn`t make any move to open negotiations.
MADDOW: And then what about the quality of this test today? Do you agree
with these assessments that we`ve seen today that this was potentially
their longest range missile test?
CIRINCIONE: Oh, there`s little doubt about that. This was a very serious
step forward. Their first ICBM was July 4th. It went a little over 4,000
miles. The second was the end of July, went around 6,000 miles.
This is an 8,000-mile missile. This is about the range of our missiles,
our Minutemen that are in North Dakota and Montana and other places.
The good news is we don`t know if it can actually carry a nuclear warhead
yet. It might have been a very light payload that was on this test. A
nuclear warhead weighs about a ton. Can it carry a ton all the way? Can
it withstand the stresses and strains of reentry?
These are still some of the unknown questions, but if you`re the U.S.
military, you have to assume the worst. You have to assume that North
Korea has a intercontinental nuclear-armed ballistic missile that can
deliver a warhead on Washington or Mar-a-Lago or any place in the United
MADDOW: And, Joe, this feels like what we`ve seen over the course of this
past year and I guess a little bit even in a broader time frame, is a
relentless march that they`ve been making significant, steady progress. Is
that a surprise or a disappointment to counter proliferation efforts,
people who are running counter-proliferation efforts in the United States?
Does – has the United States believed that we have done anything
substantive to slow them down, trip them up, mess them up, to put a cap on
how far they can go with their missile technology?
Is this kind of stuff a surprise or does the United States basically accept
that they`re going to keep testing, keep learning from their tests and keep
CIRINCIONE: This is where it gets serious. It`s not a surprise any longer
it was around last year that we realized how much more advanced they were
than some of us thought, and we`ve seen that demonstrated repeatedly.
Remember this is the third successful test. They haven`t had a failure of
So, these guys know what they`re doing. This is a sophisticated program.
Is it a disappointment? Absolutely. Only during the Clinton
administration and for some period of time in the George W. Bush
administration did we have real negotiations that really froze the program,
paused it for eight years, and caused a delay and we were very close to
reaching a deal to end the program altogether.
But the Obama administration kind of dropped the ball on this and the Trump
administration has done – well, it`s not just hard to know what they`ve
done. The policy is somewhat incoherent. A lot of bluster, a lot of
tweets, I`d expect more tweets tomorrow, but no negotiations, no real
strategy to try to stop them, and that gets us to the really bad news.
There`s an increasing chorus that you hear in Washington that we have to go
to war, that we have to take military action to stop the North Korean
threat. It`s starting to feel like 2002 when a consensus is growing that
the only thing we can do is go to war, even though we haven`t exhausted our
MADDOW: Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund – thank you
for that warning, my friend. I appreciate it, in every sense of the word.
CIRINCIONE: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, this is the 11th week of recovery from Hurricane Maria in
Puerto Rico. I used the word recovery loosely.
As night fell tonight, one and a half million American citizens are still,
still, living in darkness. For 10-plus weeks now, it`s been one step
forward two steps back. Puerto Rico went through two major blackouts in
the last two weeks, right?
Lines being fixed by Whitefish Energy, the unlikely winner of $300 million
contract to rebuild Puerto Rico`s power grid, a company that was two years
old with two employees. That giant, inexplicable contract became a
national symbol of this botched disaster response in Puerto Rico, quite
literally plunging Americans into darkness without end.
And now, we have another example. This time, it`s about those blue tarps
that you`d often see in situations like this, stretched over homes where
the roof once was before the storm ripped it off, those blue tarps don`t
seem like much I know. But when you`ve spent the last ten plus weeks in
darkness, struggling to find clean water, anything helps – helps to have a
roof over your head even if that roof is just a blue tarp.
And this is where the story feels like deja vu because “The Associated
Press” broke the news today that the company hired to deliver those blue
tarps for Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, it`s a, quote, newly created
Florida company with an unproven record, a company formed by two brothers
The company had never before won a government contract or delivered tarps
or plastic sheeting. Despite that fact, for some reason, this is the
company that got more than $3 million in contracts from FEMA to provide
emergency tarps and plastic sheeting for repairs in Puerto Rico. This
company, the address listed for the business is the single family home in a
residential subdivision in Saint Cloud, Florida, where presumably one or
both of the brothers lives.
Shockingly, it turns out, the company never delivered what were given these
$30 million worth of contracts to provide. They never turned up with the
tarps. It apparently took FEMA for weeks to notice that and start to sort
It`s Groundhog Day. Whether its millions of Americans living in the dark
or living without so much as a makeshift roof, the response to this
disaster in this part of America, in Puerto Rico, has been a national
embarrassment for a long time now. No one knows that more than our next
guest, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, who joins us here in studio,
MADDOW: The woman with the bullhorn here is Carmen Yulin Cruz. She is the
mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico. You see her here waiting door-to-door to
see her constituents. This is 48 hours after Hurricane Maria made
landfall. We are now starting the 11th week of the recovery, which has
been painful and slow for the people of Puerto Rico.
And Carmen Yulin Cruz, the mayor of San Juan joins us now.
Mayor Cruz, it`s really nice to have you here. Thank you for being here.
MAYOR CARMEN YULIN CRUZ (D), SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: You can call me Yulin.
MADDOW: OK, I will. It`s hard for me not to call you madam mayor, but
there you go.
CRUZ: No, no, no.
MADDOW: Let me just – I just want to ask, this is probably inappropriate.
But how are you personally? I know this has just been an unimaginable
time, this –
CRUZ: Well, it`s been very stressful. It`s been very difficult. But it`s
a lot more difficult for people that still don`t have water or have to boil
their water, but they don`t have anything to boil it with.
We have about 50 percent of generation. The generation does not mean that
people have power in their homes. And as you mentioned before, we keep
losing power line.
So, you still have the inability to have stability in our energy grid. And
that puts a lot of things in an unstable situation, medical services. You
may be operating and all of a sudden, you end up operating with your
cellular lamp, because the power went off and or the generator went out.
Generators are not made to withstand. You see, you count 11 weeks because
you`re counting Maria, but you have to count two, three weeks before that,
because Irma came before that.
CRUZ: My parents have been without electricity or water – running water
without, they running water but they haven`t had electricity for 72 days
MADDOW: And as this work is being done. We`ve talked over the course of
some of this recovery about work not being done. But as – you know, there
– as there are workers on the ground, as there are people trying to fix
the power lines, as there are people who are working on the issue of
running water, do you feel like that work to fix these things is being done
rationally and that the systems are being rebuilt in a resilient way?
CRUZ: No, they`re not.
CRUZ: They`re not.
That`s why what Bernie Sanders said today, it`s – it`s a very
comprehensive bill towards the transformation of USVI and Puerto Rico, and
it puts the transformation in the hands of people from Puerto Rico and the
And, of course, the Whitefish scandal didn`t help a lot of the credibility
of the Puerto Rican government. But that does not mean that we`re
incapable of doing what needs to be done.
MADDOW: And the bill that he put for today, it`s a – it`s a big bill,
over $100 billion dollars and the idea is to go for infrastructure in a way
that is sustainable, resilient and locally controlled.
CRUZ: Correct, because what happens is, with FEMA and the Staffer Act, you
have to build everything to the way it was. So, if you have a wooden house
with a zinc top, you have to rebuild it that way. That`s why I don`t like
talking about reconstruction, I like talking about transformation.
So, we need a waiver on that to ensure that we can build to this because we
are an island surrounded by water, lots and lots of lots and lots of water.
MADDOW: Big water.
CRUZ: We didn`t know before for this happened, and we need to build in
that resiliency. The power generation in Puerto Rico happens in the
southern part, and then the grid spreads out throughout the mountains. So,
if that generation gets off the grid, the entire island is blacked out just
as it has been.
So, it is actually on President Trump`s best interests if we have the power
to develop an economy that can plug in into the world economy, things like
the Jones Act that Congressman John McCain has talked about eliminating.
But our brothers and sisters from the maritime units also have to eat,
right, and they have to feed their families.
So, we need to develop a path so that at least humanitarian ships right now
can come in and be waived totally. And it`s interesting in Texas, this was
waived completely and, of course –
MADDOW: In the wake of the hurricane in Texas, yes.
CRUZ: And then just develop a path for the Jones Act to be completely
eliminated and now, we have this and I`m going to do this a national TV,
this reform –
MADDOW: The tax bill.
CRUZ: Tax reform, which not only as Senator Sanders was saying today, a
single mother of two children gets a $75 tax credit, and a family that
makes $500,000 with two children gets $4,000 tax credit. But it puts an
excise tax and import tax on products and services for Puerto Rico 20
MADDOW: Wait. So, products made like pharmaceuticals, big manufacturing
sector in Puerto Rico, products made in Puerto Rico and exported to the
United States –
CRUZ: Would get a 20 percent tax.
MADDOW: Tat`s not there – a tax that`s not there now.
CRUZ: It`s not there now.
MADDOW: So, that would cripple the Puerto Rican economy.
CRUZ: Well, it`s crippled already. It will obliterate it. This would be
a much more devastating blow to our economy than Irma and Maria put
And the Republican Congress has promised we`re going to change the
language, we`re going to change the language, but nothing happens. And
that hurts the credibility of the Trump administration if they have any
credibility at all at this point in terms of the Puerto Rican humanitarian
MADDOW: What do you think Puerto Rico needs now, right now the most, in
terms of national attention, federal attention and charitable health?
CRUZ: Well, we need three things. One, we need our debt to be eliminated.
We couldn`t pay it before. It was certainly not going to be able to pay
now. We need tools for economic development and in order to do that, we
But we need to move also from gift power right now then move to a more
sustainable and a more eco-friendly power –
MADDOW: That`s resilient and that`s sustainable in this time of –
CRUZ: – and also have our grid divided amongst different sites that can
help different sites and portions of the island. We have to provide our
communities with micro grids and solar communities, and we have to move
into that path.
And we also have to sit down and talk about what is it about the
relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States that keeps us from
getting the help that we need to get and just – you know, everybody in
Puerto Rico politics is about the national pastime, so we all have a
different way of thinking. Some like statehood, some like things to stay
the way they are, some like independence. I like free association.
But I think it`s more of what is the process that we`re going to follow to
ensure that everyone that comes to the table has a democratic way of
showing what they have and it`s based on the facts, not on what we want it
to be, but on what it`s actually going to be. And we started a foundation,
it`s called somebody help us, (INAUDIBLE) because the Trump administration
and I love the way you say botched effort in Puerto Rico, contrasts so much
with a big heart of the American people.
So, I started getting postcards with, I`m a retired grandmother from
Austin, Texas, here`s $10 for you. I`m a kid from Arizona, he`s $1 for
So, we`re putting this on this foundation, especially to help rebuild those
homes that at this point will have nothing but the help that we can give
MADDOW: In terms of what does happen next, what you were just saying there
about the political situation here. Obviously, politics is not the point,
but politics has to be part of the solution. It has been a process of
education for the American public to be reminded that all Puerto Ricans are
MADDOW: That Puerto Rico is part of the United States, that Puerto Rico
does not have another president to go to besides Donald Trump.
CRUZ: We`re a U.S. territory.
CRUZ: We`re a colony of the United States, because our – the power
resides in Congress completely. So, let`s change that.
CRUZ: And you`re right. It isn`t about politics, it`s about saving lives.
But politics gets in the middle of that and our relationship gets in the
middle of that.
I said very few weeks ago, some strong words we won`t be able to hide our
inequality and our poverty behind palm trees and pina coladas anymore. So,
we have to transform Puerto Rico and ensure that we have an economy and a
resilient structure that will help us move forward because about 100 –
this is what I don`t get, Rachel. I don`t think President Trump realizes
that many of the Puerto Ricans that are moving to the States, about 100,000
in the past few weeks are going to Florida. So, they`re going to change
the landscape of the election for 2018, and we`re going to make sure that
they vote and we`re going to make sure that they remember who didn`t help
when the time came.
MADDOW: Carmen Yulin Cruz is the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Mayor
Cruz, it`s really, really nice to have you here.
CRUZ: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Thank you for being in touch with us throughout this whole time
period. You`ve been –
CRUZ: Thank you for not forgetting us.
MADDOW: Well, we haven`t forgotten you, but you`ve been an incredible help
to us in terms of being able to track what`s going on and let`s let the
country know as best we can what`s happening. So, thank you for helping
CRUZ: And thank the American people for their heart.
MADDOW: That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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