Trump has no clear plan to reunite migrants. TRANSCRIPT: 06/21/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: June 21, 2018
Guest: Jason Rittereiser, Marsha Griffin
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, “ALL IN”: You bet.
MADDOW: This time last night, we broke a little bit of news, that the
Defense Department was detailing active duty JAGs, active duty military
lawyers, at the request of the Justice Department to go to the border to
start prosecuting the Justice Department`s immigration cases.
We broke that news last night. The Defense Department has confirmed it.
Tonight, we are going to break some more news that you have not heard
anywhere else. This is an exclusive story that we have learned and
confirmed today about the handling of the family separation policy by the
senior ranks of the Trump administration by one senior Trump administration
official in particular. I`m going to have that breaking news for you in
just one moment.
All right. Hurricane Katrina became a hurricane on a Friday. Friday,
August 25th in 2005. By the next day, by Saturday a bunch of coastal
parishes in Louisiana were under mandatory evacuation orders.
On that first Saturday, day after the storm first became a hurricane, New
Orleans was under an evacuation order as well but it was a voluntary order.
The city announced that people should get out. They announced that the
Superdome would be opened as a shelter of last resort for people who
couldn`t get out. That was – that was Saturday.
By the dawn of the following day, on Sunday, Katrina was not just any old
hurricane anymore. It was a category 5 hurricane. And at that point on
Sunday, the evacuation order for New Orleans became a mandatory evacuation
order. We now know that that, of course, was too late for many people
Early the next morning, on Monday, Katrina made landfall. And that day,
that Monday, the levees broke. And some places you could only see the
rooftops above the water. Some places the water was so deep you couldn`t
even see the rooftops anymore.
Again, the storm had become a hurricane on Friday. It hit land on Monday.
When the storm unleashed that hell on New Orleans and on the Gulf Coast on
Monday, it was clear that the evacuation orders, the transit plans, the
rescue plans were woefully, woefully inadequate when they were just – when
they were just non-existent. People just had no way out. By Tuesday, the
day after landfall, the coast guard had pulled hundreds of people off
rooftops. By Tuesday, there were 20,000 people at the Convention Center,
where there was no food, no water, no services. Another 20,000 people had
made their way to that shelter of last resort at the superdome.
By Tuesday, people were literally – Americans were literally dying in
plain view in New Orleans. By that point, by Tuesday, by the day after
landfall, watching the news was like watching the end of the world.
Thousands of people were feared dead at that point.
And then the following day, on Wednesday, Condoleezza Rice went on
vacation. She`d been doing a lot of international travel. She was tired.
She decided she would have a New York City luxury vacation where she would
stay at the Palace Hotel. She was secretary of state.
She wrote about it in her memoir years later. I flew to New York. That
evening, upon arriving at the Palace Hotel, I flipped on the television.
Indeed, the hurricane had hit New Orleans.
I called secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, inquiring if
there was anything I could do. It`s pretty bad, he said. We discussed the
question of foreign help briefly. Mike was clearly in a hurry. He said
he`d call me if he needed me. I hung up, got dressed, and went out to see
“Spamalot.” “Spamalot”, the Monty Python musical.
The Drudge Report was first to break the news that that is in fact what
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was doing at the apex of the death and
destruction in New Orleans. This was the original Drudge Report mention
from that day back in 2005.
Quote: Eyewitness, Secretary of State Condi Rice laughs it up at Spamalot
while Gulf Coast lays in tatters. Theatergoers on New York City`s great
white way were shocked to see the president`s former national security
adviser at the Monty Python farce last night. That was in the Drudge
“New York Daily News” added a little color of their own. Contributing to
the fiddling while Rome burns impression given by her boss during the
disaster, which may have claimed thousands of lives, Secretary Rice was
booed by some audience members at “Spamalot”, the Monty Python musical, at
Shubert Theater when the lights went up after performance.
It was kind of an astonishing thing, right? That “New York Daily News”
report was correct. People booed her for being here. You`d think that
would be a wake-up call, right? If what you were seeing on TV didn`t
indicate to you that maybe this wasn`t a good time for a vacation, getting
booed once you showed your face in public, you`d think it would be sort of
a wake up moment, given what was going on with the hurricane, which
everybody could see on TV and that she had been specifically briefed on as
secretary of state. She`d been told in person it`s very, very bad.
And again, you could watch it on television, which in fact she says she was
doing. She was watching it on television at the Palace Hotel as it
spiraled from bad to worse to deadly to even worse than deadly. So, that
must have been like a real come to Jesus moment, right? Like oh, maybe
I`ve been reading this wrong.
What did Condoleezza Rice do after she got booed at the musical farce in
the midst of all this? Let`s go back to her memoir. She says, quote: The
next morning, I went shopping at the Ferragamo shoe store down the block
from my hotel.
The website Gawker.com is dead now. It was killed off by Trump adviser
Peter Thiel, the billionaire founder of PayPal who is way more radical than
people think he is. He thinks women getting the right to vote is a
tragedy, I`m just saying.
But Peter Thiel didn`t like the way that Gawker covered him as a Silicon
Valley guy. And so, he killed Gawker as a news agency, as a news
organization. Before he did so, one of their many, many, many, many scoops
was that Gawker was first to report on the scene of Condoleezza Rice buying
thousands of dollars` worth of Italian shoes at the Ferragamo store in New
York City while New Orleans flooded and the administration she was a senior
member of basically didn`t respond at all.
This was the Gawker report from that day. Quote: Just moments ago at the
Ferragamo on Fifth Avenue, Condoleezza Rice was seen spending several
thousands of dollars on some nice new shoes. A fellow shopper, unable to
fathom the absurdity of Rice`s timing, went up to the secretary and
reportedly shouted, how dare you shop for shoes while thousands are dying?
Gawker continues: Never one to have her fashion choices questioned, Rice
had her security physically remove the woman.
Then, Gawker`s report finishes: Angry lady, whoever you are, we love you.
You are a true American and we`ll go shoe shopping with you anytime.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice later denied that anybody had actually
yelled that at her at the Ferragamo store. But she did confirm that that
is where she was and that is what she was doing on that morning in New York
City at the worst of the Hurricane Katrina crisis, while the federal
government still had basically done nothing to respond.
Condoleezza Rice shopping during Katrina was actually later cited as a
reason why she could never, ever run for president of this country even if
she wanted to. In her memoir, she confirmed the Ferragamo report from
Gawker. She confirmed the “Spamalot” report from the “Daily News” and “The
She also confirmed “The New York Post” celebrity spotting mention on their
gossip page which caught her hitting a few balls with Monica Seles at the
stadium at the U.S. Open. She confirmed all of that in her memoir.
But to her credit she also in her memoir explained how many she regretted
it all. Quote: I sat there kicking myself for having been so tone deaf.
Quote: What had I been thinking?
That was 2005. Now, it is 13 years later. We`re under the next Republican
presidency after George W. Bush.
And our current catastrophe now is not an act of god, like Katrina was.
This one is definitely an act of Donald Trump.
But our current national harrowing moral catastrophe that is driving people
to distraction is this new thing that the Trump administration started
doing weeks ago, which has resulted in the mass separation of little kids
and babies from their mothers and fathers.
The Trump administration apparently started pursuing this policy in April.
They have pursued it through yesterday. We still don`t have good numbers,
but the data we do have suggests the pace at which they were taking kids
away from their parents accelerated from just under 50 a day to just under
70 a day at least before they stopped yesterday.
Just as in the hurricane, though, where the disaster doesn`t end when the
wind and the rain stops, this catastrophe that we`ve got now of parents and
kids having been taken apart, forcibly separated by the U.S. government,
this is not over now either. By the government`s own admission, we`ve got
more than 2,000 kids that they have taken. And by all accounts, there
don`t seem to be any procedures in place for how they`re going to get those
kids back to their parents ever.
They`ve taken these kids. In many cases, there`s no paperwork following
them. They`ve moved these kids all over this country. And there appears
to be no plan for how to get them back to their mothers and fathers.
Now, one thing Condoleezza Rice always had going for her in her defense, in
the shopping during Katrina scandal, was that even though she was a very
highly visible member of the George W. Bush administration, her job title
was secretary of state at the time of Hurricane Katrina. And Hurricane
Katrina was a lot of things. It wasn`t a foreign policy crisis, though,
This catastrophe we`ve got now has a very, very specific roster of
responsibility. When it comes to these kids who`ve been taken away from
their parents, there is a guy in the government, there`s a senior Trump
administration official who`s in charge of the kids who the government has
taken. His name is Alex Azar. He`s the secretary of health and human
So, it`s the Justice Department and agencies of the Homeland Security
Department who arrest people at the border and charge and hold the parents.
But this new Trump administration policy has the government forcibly taking
the kids out of their parents` arms. Where the kids then go is to Alex
Azar. They give the kids to HHS, which is the agency that Alex Azar runs.
These thousands of kids who have been taken away from their mothers and
fathers, he`s the one who`s got them, Alex Azar.
We can now report exclusively tonight on what Alex Azar has been doing as
this crisis has spiked and as he has become responsible for thousands of
children who have been taken away from their parents. As the number of
kids taken away from their parents has reached critical mass, as the
country has started to realize the reality and the scale of this policy, as
his agency started to have to open their first new purpose-built facilities
that they constructed specifically to hold kids apart from their parents,
that first facility was opened by Alex Azar`s agency on Friday. That`s
that tent city they opened in Tornillo, Texas,. to hold kids. They opened
that on Friday.
You want to know what Alex Azar did the day after his agency opened that
new facility as this crisis got big enough that his agency had to start
opening new purpose-built facilities to hold all the kids because there
were that many as the nation started to absolutely freak out over this
policy, as the pace of taking kids away from their parents went from almost
50 to almost 70 a day and beyond? Do you want to know what he did after
he`d just opened up that first tent city for the kids?
Alex Azar spent the next day, Saturday, this past weekend, in New Hampshire
attending his 30th college reunion. Alex Azar was apparently class of 1988
at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.
Here`s the student newspaper at Dartmouth announcing when he was confirmed
as secretary of HHS. Here he is on the Dartmouth class of 1988 web page
confirming, RSVP-ing that he would be attending his reunion this weekend.
You might expect that even if he`d RSVP`ed in advance, once a crisis like
this broke out and you`re the guy in charge of all of the kids that have
been taken you might – I don`t know. Maybe you wouldn`t make good on that
RSVP. Maybe you would cancel.
No. We have spoken with multiple sources who have all told us that
Secretary Azar in fact spent Saturday, this past weekend, in New Hampshire
at his college reunion.
We contacted Secretary Azar`s office to ask where Mr. Azar was this weekend
as the crisis of kids taken away from their parents and held in custody of
his agency hit a boiling point as hundreds of kids were moved into
Secretary Azar`s brand new purpose-built facility to hold them. Secretary
Azar`s office would not comment to us on where he was this weekend.
Secretary Azar has been saying all along throughout this crisis that
basically everything`s fine here, nothing to worry about. He told the
“Washington Post” yesterday that yes, of course, he has personally visited
these facilities where the agency he runs is holding all these kids apart
from their parents.
He said, of course, he`s visited them. He wouldn`t say which facilities he
has visited or when. But he did tell “The Post” definitely he has been
there in person, he`s seen them. His office today would also not confirm
to us which shelters Secretary Azar has actually visited or when he was
Secretary Azar has also been insisting that there`s no reason to worry
about these kids being taken away from their parents. There`s no reason to
worry that they won`t end up back with their parents. There`s no reason to
think that there will be any problem getting these kids back to their
parents because his agency is on it. He`s keeping these kids and parents
Secretary Azar told “The Post” today, quote: We keep in touch with the
parents, under any circumstances to ensure placement with relatives or if
the parents are released.
Secretary Alex Azar may believe that`s what`s happening with the kids who
are being held in his agency`s custody, that for each kid held by his
agency, held by HHS, HHS is keeping in touch with that kid`s parents.
But he`s the only person who believes that`s what`s happening. Here`s
Jonathan Blitzer in the “New Yorker” today reporting on a facility in
Chaparral, New Mexico, where there are 50 mothers in one wing of that
facility who have been separated from their kids. Quote: Few of them even
know where their kids are. Mothers are going to be leaving this facility
with psychological problems.
None of the agents has explained to the mothers how they can locate their
children. So, there`s 50 women being held in New Mexico who have kids that
have been taken away from them. Alex Azar hasn`t been keeping in touch
with those parents in terms of them getting their kids back, let alone even
knowing where their kids are.
The 239 kids being held in New York City, that`s become a New York scandal
now because public officials here including the mayor of New York City and
the governor of New York say they weren`t notified, they had no idea that
239 kids separated from their parents were being brought to New York City.
They say they basically found out when everybody else did, when a local TV
station broke the news about all these girls being held in Harlem after
they got a tip that several of these girls were being moved in the middle
of the night.
The mayor saying now, quote: how is it possible that none of us knew there
were 239 kids right here in our own city? How is the federal government
holding back that information from the people of this city and holding back
the help these kids could need?
The head of Catholic Charities, which is trying to find ways to get these
kids back to their parents, tells “The New York Times” today, quote: There
is no system whatsoever to track these family separations. No effort
systematically to reunite these families. There`s no supervisor. There`s
no data base saying child here parent there, so they can come back
“The Washington Post” has now published this account from a federal public
defender who described a hearing with a mother whose child had been taken
away from her. Quote: One of my colleagues asked the federal agent on the
stand about the whereabouts of my client`s child. The Justice Department
prosecutor objected to the relevance of that question. The judge then
turned on the prosecutor, demanding to know why this was not relevant.
At one point, the judge slammed his hand on the desk, sending a pen flying.
This type of emotional display is unheard of in federal court. The judge
said, I cannot understand this. If someone at the jail takes your wallet
they give you a receipt. They take your kids and you get nothing, not even
a slip of paper?
No. Not even a slip of paper.
Is your kid old enough to have memorized any identifying information about
you that somebody somewhere might be able to elicit from them someday to
try to help them find their way back to you wherever you are if you don`t
know where they are, they don`t know where you are? Is your kid old enough
to talk? Not even a slip of paper.
That is how Alex Azar, the head of the Health and Human Services
Department, has thus far been handling the job of getting these 2,000-plus
kids who are in his care back to their parents. There isn`t a system.
There isn`t a data base. There`s nothing, no paperwork connecting the
parent from whom the kid was separated and the kid from whom the parent was
So just hope the kid can talk. Maybe hope the kid gets a lawyer. Hope the
kid knows mom`s detention facility location and her alien number and then
maybe they can sort it out on their own after getting somebody to change
I mean, that`s how HHS Secretary Alex Azar has thus far been handling the
kids that he is in charge of. In addition to that dramatic report from
that public defender today, the “Washington Post” also published this,
which they describe as a map and a list of facilities holding these kids
separated from their parents all over the country. “The Post” says they`ll
update this as they get more information.
And it`s interesting. They`re actually asking “Washington Post” readers to
help them crowd-source this story. Quote: “The Post” is continuing to
report on where migrant children were sent after they were separated from
their parents. Do you know of a facility where these children may be?
Submit a location. Click here to submit a location.
And they`re building this national map to try to keep track of where these
kids have been taken, these kids who have been taken away from their
parents. I mean, you`ve got to get it from people who might have been
eyewitnesses or who might have seen kids somewhere being held somewhere,
maybe when they dropped the mail off there. I don`t – I mean, this is how
we`re as a nation tracking information about where these kids are, hoping
that anonymous sources and eyewitnesses and people who are part of this big
secret system will tell the press and maybe if the press publicizes enough
of it, maybe that can result in lawyers getting to them and maybe the
lawyers can figure out some way to connect it with the parents.
Alex Azar says it`s fine, everybody`s in touch. Relax.
As we have been reporting, though, you take thousands of kids forcibly away
from their parents. No matter where you try to hide those kids, this is a
secret that is too big to be kept. Last night, a passenger on an American
Airlines flight from Texas to New York came to believe that she was on a
plane with a bunch of kids who were not traveling of their own accord and
who were definitely not traveling with their parents.
By time that flight landed, this was the scene at LaGuardia Airport.
Hundreds of people showing up to offer support, carrying signs written in
Spanish, singing songs, looking for the kids. It does seem like the
government did bring a bunch of unaccompanied boys into New York through
LaGuardia Airport in the very late hours last night.
And this is after – you`ll remember American Airlines said they wouldn`t
allow their flights to be used for kids who were being taken away from
their families. This is from the “New York Times.” Quote: Protesters held
signs at security gates that read “Beinvenidos a New York” and “Te amamos”
and they sang protest songs in English and Spanish outside terminal B not
long after a group of seven boys was spotted getting off American Airlines
Flight 2716 wearing dark hoodies and carrying labeled belongings. A circle
of about 200 protesters gathered along the taxi line to plan for how they
might lend support to other kids getting off other places.
An American Airlines spokesman said in an interview that it had delayed the
airline, had delayed the flight from Dallas-Fort Worth by 33 minutes until
the airline could get reassurance from government officials that these kids
were not among those who had been separated from their parents. Quote: But
a cluster of flight attendants who had been on board stood nearby after the
children deplaned, visibly distraught. One flight attendant saying, quote,
they lied to us.
One of the people who turned up to protest said she had been told that a
crew member on one of the flights tried to communicate with one of these
unaccompanied kids by writing on a piece of paper, quote: what are your
names? What are your parents` names?
Maybe the flight attendants will do it.
The local press is now starting to find kids all over the country because
they`re getting tips from all over the country from people who know
something about where these kids are. This is from the “Detroit Free
Quote: In the middle of the night, two baby boys arrived in Grand Rapids
after being separated from their immigrant parents at the southern border
weeks ago. One child is eight months old. The other is 11 months old.
Both children have become part of a bigger group of 50 immigrant kids who
have landed in foster care in Western Michigan under the Trump
administration`s zero tolerance border policy. The average age of these
kids is 8, a number that has alarmed foster care employees who are
struggling to comfort the growing group of kids who are turning up in
Michigan at nighttime. They`re younger than ever, they say, and the kids
These kids are arriving between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. Not only are they
being separated from their family, they`re being transported to a place
they don`t know in the middle of the night. We have found on many
occasions that no one has explained to these children where they are going.
These kids are hysterical. They`re screaming out for mom and dad. Many
have gone 30 or more days or more – excuse me – 30 or more days without
talking to their parents because their parents can`t be located.
But wait, I thought Alex Azar said they`re constantly in touch with the
parents. He`s got this part under control.
This was the “Baltimore Sun” today where they found more kids. Quote:
Immigration agents have sent dozens of children to Maryland. Some are
being held in dormitories in Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties according
to people involved in the process.
Many of the kids have come with little information. One is 18 months old.
Several are too young to speak to their new car givers or help social
workers track down relatives who might be able to take them in. Lawyers
are trying to figure out how to put together asylum claims for 6-year-olds
who don`t know why they fled their countries.
Regional director for a service organization that`s trying to care for
about 15 of these kids that turned up in Maryland tells the “Baltimore Sun”
that the children they are seeing are, quote, more traumatized than those
that this agency has helped before, because of the forced separation from
Also, tonight, we are getting the first reports about kids not just being
taken away from their parents and traumatized that way. We`re also getting
first reports about kids turning up at hospitals.
“The New York Daily News” reporting tonight that in New York two city
public hospitals have treated 12 young kids who were separated from their
parents at the border. The children were brought to two hospitals,
Bellevue and Manhattan and North Central Bronx Hospital in the Bronx. The
director of Pediatric Emergency Services at North Central Bronx telling the
paper tonight that she and her clinicians have felt helpless in treating
children who are generally arrived without any medical records.
And so, it`s Michigan and it`s Maryland and it`s New York and it`s Seattle
and Portland and Phoenix and Kansas City and Chicago and Pittsburgh and all
these other places on this map.
This map that the “Washington Post” is still building as we speak, based on
tips from the public, because that`s how we`re going to figure out where
these kids are. Because apparently it`s going to be like flight attendants
and people piecing it together to try to get them back to their parents.
There is a cabinet secretary who`s in charge of taking care of these kids
and getting them back to their parents. His name is Alex Azar. And I
don`t know if he was wearing Ferragamo shoes or if any of “Monty Python”
was involved, but as this crisis exploded over the past week, he spent the
weekend going to his college reunion in New Hampshire. Anybody who`s got a
picture of him there, I will plant a tree in your name if you send it to
us. I`m only sort of kidding.
MADDOW: We`ve seen in the family separation crisis the desire of a lot of
ordinary people to get involved, to go to an airport in the middle of the
night, to go to their local lawmaker`s office and ask that lawmaker to
intervene, then to sit there until the police come and get arrest, as these
moms did in Columbus, Ohio.
Just a few minutes ago, Senator Chris Murphy tweeted from a rally he
organized on short notice in Hartford, Connecticut. He says he got a crowd
on 24 hours` short notice. People are showing up in response to this
crisis. They are turning up. They`re also giving money, a lot of it.
We talked last night about a campaign started by a California couple who
set out to raise $1,500 which they thought might be enough to pay bail for
one parent arrested at the border. So that mom or dad could maybe get out
on bail and then try to go collect their kid who was being held apart from
them. That fund-raiser has now brought in not $1,500, which was the goal.
It`s now brought in more than $17 million and counting, for a non-profit
that provides free legal services to immigrants.
That service typically helps immigrants in Texas, but with this new shot in
the arm they got from so many Americans looking to help, they now say
they`re going to look to do this across the country. They`re going to very
specifically look for every family that has been separated in this crisis.
The Trump administration started doing this in April. They only stop doing
it at least they say yesterday.
From April until yesterday, when these families are being taken apart, they
say they want to find every family that got separated. They want to find
every family, every kid that got taken away. Their goal is to find all of
them and get them lawyers and then try to get them released so that the
kids and parents can get back together. That is the goal.
The government`s not trying to do that apparently. So this little non-
profit in Texas this California couple picked out of a hat is a place to
try – I mean, we`re just piecing it together here.
Now, they`ve got $17 million to help with that family by family by family
task, right? $17 million and counting given by 450,000 different people.
People are showing up. They`re giving money. They`re doing what they can.
Where they have specialized skills that might come in handy at a time like
this, people are offering their time and expertise and skills as well. We
also talked last night about a law firm in Washington state, a firm called
HKM Employment Attorneys, that has offered to provide consultation and
legal representation pro bono, no charge, to any immigration officer or
other government official who refuses to carry out any part of the Trump
administration`s family separation policy. That project is being led by
Jason Rittereiser who is an attorney at that firm.
I have to tell you, Jason Rittereiser is also making a bid for Congress in
eastern Washington state. He`s running against three other Democrats in an
August primary. That seat has been held by a Republican member of Congress
for more than a decade, Republican Dave Reichert. He`s stepping down.
But the idea here in terms of what Rittereiser`s firm is doing is that
they`re offering free legal help for anybody in the government who`s given
orders to carry out this zero tolerance policy and they don`t want to do
that as a matter of conscience. Jason Rittereiser announced this effort
two days ago on Tuesday. Today, his office tells us first off, more than a
dozen lawyers from different law firms around the country have called and
said they would like to be part of this, they will offer their services as
well, they also want to help.
And we can also break the news tonight that thus far, five government
employees have reached out to the firm to take them up on their offer. As
potential conscientious objectors to what the Trump administration is
Joining us now is Attorney Jason Rittereiser, Seattle-based attorney,
congressional candidate whose law firm is offering to represent government
employees who are refusing to enforce this policy.
Sir, thank you very much for being with us.
JASON RITTEREISER (D), CANDIDATE FOR CONGRESS FROM WASHINGTON: Rachel,
thank you so much. It`s a privilege to be on your show.
MADDOW: All right. Let me just ask you if – when I was explaining what
you and your firm are doing, did I get that right? Did I explain it
RITTEREISER: Yes, that was right on. I think we`re seeing an immoral
policy carried out by the Trump administration and we`re doing everything
we can to combat it with our expertise in employment law.
MADDOW: I know that your firm does have expertise working with federal
employees. How did this idea come about within the firm? Obviously, when
your – when the firm`s business is doing this work for pay and you`re
making a decision as an organization to make a national call that you`ll
represent people on this matter for free, I imagine that`s a serious
discussion among employees of the firm.
How did you arrive at this and what do you make of the response thus far?
RITTEREISER: It`s – yes, it`s a serious decision. But it was a quick
decision for us. We`ve built a firm at HKM Employment Attorneys based on
standing up for people who need a voice. And we can`t think of a better
calling than to do that for families who are being separated and those
employees who are being forced to enforce these immoral policies.
So, on Sunday night, we convened on the telephone, pulled together lawyers
Monday morning at 8:00 a.m. for a conference call, and rolled out this
nationwide pro bono effort by noon that day.
MADDOW: We understand from your office as I mentioned that there are a
handful already, there`s at least five federal employees who have reached
out to take you up on your offer already.
What can you tell us about why these federal employees have reached out to
you, what kind of federal employees are there, what are their reasons for
not wanting to essentially follow orders and enforce this policy?
RITTEREISER: You know, federal law protects employees from being forced to
engage in unlawful conduct. And we`re seeing employees who are concerned
about being forced to engage in policies that I think they know are immoral
and that violate the law.
Ultimately, we`ve seen an outpouring of support from the legal community
who are offering services as well. And we`ve seen a response from
concerned federal employees. They`ve been able to reach out to our firm at
hkm.com/child, and we`re taking intakes. We have an intake system in place
to make sure we`re able to respond to them as they come in.
MADDOW: Do you anticipate that the reasons for objecting and the personal
– I guess, the personal reasons for conscientiously objecting to these
rules and these orders, do you imagine that this will eventually become
public, that they`ll be public statements or statements to the press from
these employees in terms of why they`re doing what they`re doing?
RITTEREISER: You know, I do anticipate that at some point, especially if
we get to the level engaging in litigation on behalf of these concerned
employees. Certainly, there will be public filings in that scenario. The
important thing, though, is that we`re providing them free legal advice so
they can decide what the best path forward is at this point.
MADDOW: Jason Rittereiser, congressional candidate in Washington`s 8th
district, with his firm representing government officials who are opposing
Trump on this family separation policy – thanks for keeping us apprised.
Please do stay in touch with us. I imagine that you`re going to be hearing
from more people as this goes on longer. Thank you, sir.
RITTEREISER: Rachel, I appreciate that. Thank you so much.
MADDOW: Much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Last night, we reported here exclusively that the Defense
Department had decided to detail a number of active duty military lawyers,
judge advocate generals, JAG lawyers, at the request of the Justice
Department, to go down to the border, to go to Texas, Arizona, and New
Mexico to essentially be detailed to U.S. attorney`s offices there, to be
detailed to federal prosecutor`s offices there, to work, even though
they`re active military duty lawyers.
The Defense Department has agreed to send these military lawyers to those
U.S. attorney`s office basically to bolster the workforce that the Justice
Department has in terms of working prosecutors who can bring all of these
extra immigration cases, immigration prosecutions on the border. That`s a
very unusual use of active-duty military lawyers. We were first to report
last night that the defense department accepted that request from the
Justice Department and was in fact sending JAGs to those three state to go
help the Justice Department with immigration prosecutions.
Well, now, there has been a bipartisan response. United – from three
United States senators. Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat from New York,
Patrick Leahy, Democratic senator from Vermont, joined by Joni Ernst,
Republican senator from Iowa. The three of them have just sent a rare as
hen`s teeth bipartisan request to Secretary Mattis at the Defense
Department asking him to change his decision.
We are deeply troubled by the department`s decision to send active and
reserve JAGs to the border on temporary orders to prosecute immigration
They`re asking basically for the Defense Department to undo this decision
that they`ve made. Quote: pulling 21 trial counsels from military
courtrooms to prosecute immigration cases is an inappropriate
misapplication of military personnel. We urge you to maintain these
resources within the military justice system.
I`m singling out this response because there are so few bipartisan requests
in American lawmaking right now, let alone on something that has as red hot
a partisan lens on it as this story. But again, Kristen Gillibrand,
Patrick Leahy joined by Joni Ernst, Republican senator from Iowa tonight,
in asking the defense department to undo this decision to have military
lawyers prosecute these cases on the border for Jeff Sessions` Justice
We`ll let you know if anybody joins this effort or indeed if Secretary
Stay with us.
MADDOW: This Sunday, after weeks of prodding, Customs and Border
Protection finally allowed some members of the media to enter a border
processing center in McAllen, Texas. They allowed the reporters in but no
cameras. Instead, Customs and Border Protection released their own photos
from inside the center, as well as some footage.
They wouldn`t let the cameras in, but they`d provide government-created,
government-approved footage instead. That`s fine, right? Same difference.
It`s kind of like having a free press.
The day Customs and Border Protection released the tape and those images
from inside that processing center in McAllen, about 100 people showed up
outside that same center to protest the administration`s policy. One of
those protesters was someone who actually herself had been inside that
processing center many, many times before. She told the “L.A. Times” that,
quote: They were in cages, 10-year-old boys were screaming and sobbing and
trying to control themselves as they could see their mothers in other
The woman quoted there is Dr. Marsha Griffin. She`s a pediatrician who`s
worked in the Rio Grande Valley for a decade in the course of her work for
the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Griffin has invited pediatricians
from across the country to come to the border region so they can see what
conditions are like there for kids.
She tells the “Associated Press” this week, quote: The shelters aren`t the
problem. It`s taking kids from their parents that is the problem.
Joining us now is Dr. Marsha Griffin, long-time pediatrician working with
immigrant kids along the South Texas border. She`s also the co-chair of
the American Academy of Pediatrics Special Interest Group on Immigrant
Dr. Griffin, I`ve been really looking forward to talking with you. Thank
you for being with us tonight.
DR. MARSHA GRIFFIN, CO-FOUNDER, COMMUNITY FOR CHILDREN: I`ve been really
looking forward to talking with you too.
MADDOW: Thank you.
GRIFFIN: Thank you.
MADDOW: The reason I wanted to talk to you specifically is because I feel
like, like so many other Americans, our eyes are turning to the border
region and to the conditions in which immigrants and immigrant kids and
families are being held if not for the first time, then certainly for the
first long sustained look.
And I wanted to get perspective from you on how what we`re seeing and
hearing now, what the country is having such a revolted reaction to, how
different is it from how things have been in the past?
GRIFFIN: The difference, Rachel, is only that they`re separating the
children methodically and that it is planned. They`ve separated children
in the past from their parents. It`s been arbitrary. And the Women`s
Refugee Commission, KIND, and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services
reported that last year, in 2017.
In their report, “Betrayal of Family Values.” Horrifying stories of
children being separated. This is different because they`re planning it,
they were proud of it, and they told everybody they were going to.
MADDOW: In terms of how they have been carrying out this policy, obviously
now that the president has issued this executive order, we are told that
they have stopped as of yesterday separating any more kids. But it seems
like the scale was escalating. We think that they were separating almost
40 kids a day, or excuse me, almost 50 kids a day last month. The later
data showed that this month the pace had increased, it was almost 70 kids
Did you have any sense that they were continuing to scale up this
methodical process of taking kids away from their parents, they were
growing the program?
GRIFFIN: Yes. Certainly.
MADDOW: And how did that manifest? I mean, was it the same facilities
just having more and more kids crammed into them? It`s the opening of new
facilities? Adding more personnel to do it?
GRIFFIN: I think it was because they were adding all the tent cities.
They were adding beds, extra beds into the Office of Refugee Resettlement
shelters. They were having to add beds and get clearance for additional
children. That`s when we began to know this has gotten out of control.
MADDOW: What do you think will be the health consequences for these kids?
Even if they are now returned to their parents after having been separated
them – separated from them for a time during the duration of this policy,
how will these kids be hurt by what they`ve been through?
GRIFFIN: Well, this hurt is going to last for a long time. And it will be
manifested immediately when they`re with their parents, or while they`re
separated. And the immediate signs can be that a child who was potty-
trained will now be wetting the bed. A child who was eager to play with
other children or run around will be clingy and withdrawn and won`t go
They may have had a great speech. They may regress and not want to speak.
They will look withdrawn, they will have flat affects.
The long term, when children get this afraid, those stress hormones are
flooding and bathing their brain, their heart, every organ. And that
changes the brain structure, it changes the heart, it changes everything.
And if you had children who were separated for just 72 hours or less, if
that reaction is going on, children – that`s an eternity for a child,
eternity of – of terror. And so, it will have lasting effects.
They can have hypertension. They will have chronic heart disease. They
will have behavioral problems. They will have learning problems.
They will have obesity. They will have suicidality. They will have
substance abuse. They will have problems and it will be because of us.
MADDOW: And those problems we should expect even after relatively short
term separation. But I imagine that the longer the separation goes, the
more morbidities we`d see?
MADDOW: Dr. Marsha Griffin, pediatrician working on the South Texas border
for years now, co-chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Special
Interest Group on Immigrant Health – thank you for helping us understand
tonight. Thank you for your lifetime of work and thank you for being here
GRIFFIN: Thank you for yours.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: It happened with the president`s Muslim ban, it happened with the
president`s ban on transgender people serving in the military. It happened
with the president`s order to end the DACA program. And now, it`s
happening with the immigration disaster too.
Today, attorneys general for nearly a dozen states announced they are about
to file a new multi-state lawsuit against the Trump administration,
challenging the constitutionality of the family separation policy, and
President Trump`s new executive order that is meant to replace it.
The attorneys general are alleging that the administration is, quote,
violating constitutional due process rights of the parents and children by
separating them as a matter of course and without any findings that the
parent poses a threat to the children. The attorneys general also say the
president`s executive order is, quote, essentially meaningless and that it
does nothing to account to the 2,000-plus children who have already been
separated from their parents.
This lawsuit again today was announced by Bob Ferguson, who is the attorney
general from the great state of Washington.
Does that name Bob Ferguson of Washington state ring a bell for you
somewhere? Yes, it does because Bob Ferguson is the state A.G., you might
remember, who filed the first multi-state lawsuit against the Trump Muslim
ban back in the first two weeks of the Trump administration.
About a year and a half later, this will be the 27th lawsuit that Mr.
Ferguson has brought against the Trump administration on behalf of the
people of his state.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: One last thing before we go. “The Washington Post” is now
reporting that throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, the “National
Enquirer” tabloid and its parent company`s chief executive David Pecker
shared stories about Trump before publication with Trump`s lawyer Michael
Cohen for approval. “The Post” always reports that “The Enquirer” took
ideas from Trump for stories about his opponents.
Now, “The Enquirer” denied this today. An executive telling “The Post”
that if it did happen, it must have been rogues and renegades within the
company because the company would never stand for that.
This might not seem like the most important thing in the scandal swirling
around the president`s lawyer Michael Cohen, but, remember when federal
agents raided Michael Cohen`s office, they were seeking communications
between Michael Cohen and executives at the “National Enquirer”. And that
raid was carried out as part of a federal criminal investigation.
Today`s latest revelations are a very good reminder that we still do not
know exactly what federal prosecutors are after in the larger Russia
scandal or specifically when it comes to Michael Cohen. That`s kind of
intriguing, though, right?
That does it for us tonight. We will see you tomorrow.
Now, it`s time now for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Good evening, Lawrence.
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