Interview with Beto O’Rourke. TRANSCRIPT: 5/13/19,The Rachel Maddow Show.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: All right. Franklin Foer, thank you for making
time. It`s a great piece.
FRANKLIN FOER, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Thank you.
HAYES: That is ALL IN for this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have
you here on an unseasonably chilly Monday night, at least it is on the East
Coast right now.
It snowed at my house in Massachusetts this weekend. Snow. Middle of May.
Are you freaking kidding me? I`m fine, though.
Former Texas Congressman Beto O`Rourke is here in studio with us tonight
for the interview. I have spoken with Congressman O`Rourke in the past
before he declared his run for presidency, including when he was mounting
his barn burner of a U.S. Senate campaign against Ted Cruz in Texas last
year, but since Beto O`Rourke declared his candidacy for president of the
United States, I have not yet had a chance to speak with him. But he will
be here in person tonight. I am very much looking forward to that.
Today was a roiling boil of a news day, though. It`s one of those days
when the financial news crossed out of the business pages and onto the
front pages, with the Dow Jones plunging more than 600 points. Some of
that nauseating drop today may have been just the inevitable market
reaction to the start of the president`s long-promised trade war with
China. I think it`s hard to know whether the markets would have sunk quite
so low if this seemed like a long-awaited trade war with China that the
United States was handling well or was approaching in a way that was well
Instead, the president`s series of confusing and at times even nonsensical
statements and tweets about this tariffs game that he is trying to play
with China and what he thinks it will do and what he thinks a tariff is and
who he thinks pays the money for a tariff and why U.S. farmers should be
willing to make these sacrifices for him as this tariff game hurts them
most quickly and most deeply, just the sheer hullabaloo and confusion and
apparent ignorance and misunderstanding on the part of the key policymakers
including the president himself who are driving these decisions, I think
that`s part of how this is likely to unfold domestically.
It`s also, of course, how this fight will be viewed internationally by
China and by all of our other trading partners. So again, the Dow down
over 600 points today. We will be keeping an eye of course on Asian
markets and the futures trading ahead of tomorrow`s opening to see if what
happened today is likely to continue.
But it`s interesting. Alongside that shudder that ran down America`s
economic spine today, we also today got some interesting and sort of
unexpected developments when it comes to the president`s finances and the
whole issue of whether his taxes and his financial history will ever be
shown to investigators. And this is one of those issues that`s interesting
both on its face in terms of what investigators will ever be able to see,
but I think it`s also an issue that shouldn`t be underestimated as an
ongoing source of White House freak-out and personal presidential freak-out
by President Trump himself. Because of course the president has thrown
everything he`s got at trying to stop his finances and his taxes from ever
being shown to anyone.
Just because he`s fighting this really hard, though, doesn`t mean he`s
going to win. And this is now proceeding on a number of fronts. On Friday
night, we got the news the IRS and the Treasury Department have received
subpoenas from the Ways and Means Committee, ordering them to hand over six
years of the president`s business and tax returns. That fight in the
courts about whether those agencies and the executive branch have to hand
over those tax returns despite the president ordering them not to, that`s
going to be a fascinating fight to watch.
I mean, there is a black letter law, statute that is effectively being
challenged by the IRS and the treasury here as they`re denying the Ways and
Means Committee the right to see these tax returns. That law that they are
defying by doing that, it`s a law that has never been tested in court
before. So, there`s no precedent, there`s no case law to predict the way
this is going to go. Nobody has ever bothered to break this particular law
This law that requires them to hand over these tax returns. Now that they
are breaking it, their defiance of that law, what we expect will be the
defiance of these subpoenas as well, this will lead to court proceedings
which will be fascinating to watch and which will definitely be
groundbreaking because again, this is – this will be brand new case law
that we`ve never seen.
On the substance of it, though, you should know that that fight, trying get
the tax returns from the IRS and the Treasury Department, that is one part
of this fight but it`s really starting to look like maybe sooner and not
later the president`s taxes and financial history may be forced out by
other means, separate and apart from what`s going on there with the IRS and
ways and means. Last month, you might remember the oversight committee,
led by Chairman Elijah Cummings in the House, they issued a subpoena to
Mazars, Donald Trump`s long-time accounting firm. Among other things,
Mazars has helped Donald Trump prepare his taxes, they`ve helped him apply
for bank loans, they helped him produce statements of financial condition
that he`s used for various business dealings.
The oversight committee subpoenaed Mazars to hand over ten years of their
dealings with Trump and his business. Now, on the eve of the deadline by
which Mazars was supposed to reply to the subpoena and hand over those
documents, President Trump and his kids and his business filed a lawsuit
against their own accounting firm, against Mazars, to stop the firm from
complying with that subpoena.
And you know, if you got subpoenaed in any legal proceeding and somebody
else sued you to stop you responding to that subpoena, you`d be like what
now? This is not about you. Again, I`m not a lawyer. So don`t take this
to the bank. But in legal circles, I`m not sure anybody expects that this
lawsuit by the president and his children is going to prevail in the long
That said, prevailing in the short run is still prevailing, right? And
every day the president`s finances and tax history aren`t handed over to
some congressional investigation is a victory in its own right, right? And
this lawsuit they filed against Mazars telling them not to comply with the
subpoena, it has already succeeded in delaying what would have otherwise
been the deadline for Mazars to hand everything over.
I don`t know who`s paying for the legal fees the president and his family
have hired to try to keep his taxes and financials a secret, but they are
definitely putting in their billable hours. You can wallpaper most of
Trump Tower already with their voluminous filings to various courts. Those
filings make clear baseline that what they`re trying to do is earn
themselves as much delay as they can get. Just to slow this thing down as
much as possible. They may not be able to stop the president`s financial
history and taxes from being exposed to investigators in the long run but
they are going to slow it down as much as they can for as long as they can.
So we have this interesting development in that case involving Mazars late
last week when the judge who`s hearing the Mazars case told both sides,
told Elijah Cummings and his oversight committee and told President Trump`s
lawyers that actually he, the judge, does not like the idea of this case
and his courtroom being used to buy time. The judge declared late last
week that there`s no need for unnecessary delay in this Mazars case.
The judge ruled that in fact this case turns just on one very simple legal
question, which is basically can these congressional committees subpoena
this accounting firm. He described that as a simple legal question, that
it`s basically fully briefed, he doesn`t need to hear more legal arguments
on that matter. Basically, he told both sides, OK, I`m ready to go.
And so, the judge late last week changed the schedule on which this case is
due to proceed. Instead of spending a day in court discussing a potential
preliminary injunction and then waiting some time and then having another
day in court to potentially discuss maybe a permanent injunction and then
waiting some time and then maybe having another day in court sometime later
to maybe discuss the merits of the case, instead of proceeding in that kind
of a poky fashion, the judge ruled late last week, you know what? I`m
actually ready to go. Let`s do it all in one day.
You want to talk about injunctions, temporary or permanent or what have
you? We can do that. We`re also going to talk about the merits. And we
can do all of that all in one hearing. And at the end of that court
hearing, I will rule from the bench right then and there. And I would like
to do that Tuesday. That`s as in tomorrow.
So, he`s basically saying listen, be here Tuesday, we will start with the
soup course, we will end with the nuts course, I am consolidating the
schedule, there will be after-dinner drinks. We`re going to do it all
right then, because the president`s strategy in this case and in everything
related to his taxes and his finances appears to be try to slow things down
as much as possible, that ruling from the judge that he was going to
proceed and do the whole case in one day and rule right then and there,
that was obviously an alarming prospect for the president and his new legal
team. So they argued to the judge in the Mazars case today that they
really don`t want it to go like this, they do not want the judge to
consolidate everything into one day. In fact, they don`t want that hearing
tomorrow to happen at all.
From today`s filing, quote: The president of the United States and the
other plaintiffs respectfully ask this court to limit tomorrow`s hearing to
the motion for a preliminary injunction or in the alternative cancel
tomorrow`s hearing altogether and set a schedule for trial on the merits
that will allow the record to be fully developed and the legal issues to be
adequately briefed and argued.
Now, on what grounds do they want the case to be slowed down? On what
basis are they telling this judge, we want that hearing tomorrow canceled
altogether? Well, the president`s lawyers in the Mazars case told the
judge today that frankly, they can`t go ahead with this hearing tomorrow
and they don`t want this expedited schedule because they`re very busy.
They are super swamped.
They made the case to the judge today that since the judge told them he
wanted to consolidate these proceedings and move ahead with everything
tomorrow, telling them that they should in fact expect a ruling from the
bench at the end of that hearing tomorrow, the president`s lawyers told the
judge in that case today that, quote, over that same period, meaning since
he told them that he wants to go ahead with this quicker hearing, over that
same period plaintiff`s counsel had to prepare for the preliminary
injunction hearing itself, draft these objections, attend to several other
active matters, and brief the legality of two other congressional subpoenas
in the southern district of New York, see docket 22 in Trump versus
I think they meant Deutsche Bank. But in this filing they have spelled it
Duetsche Bank. I`m not a lawyer. So I don`t know if it`s good form or not
to tell the judge, hey, we`re not ready, we have other things to do besides
this case, including one other case we haven`t even figured out how to
I don`t know if that`s good form or not. But that was their argument.
That was the argument today for President Trump`s lawyers as to why this
hearing on the Mazars thing shouldn`t go ahead tomorrow. Well, just before
we got on the air tonight, the judge in the Mazars case ruled in response
to that pleading from the president`s lawyers and the judge said no. The
judge is not having it.
Here`s the judge`s order tonight. Quote: The hearing will proceed tomorrow
as scheduled. So, the delay strategy is not working out.
In the Mazars case, again, where the president is suing his own accounting
firm to stop that firm from complying with a subpoena that requires them to
hand over his financial documents, his lawyers are trying to slow it down.
The judge says no, it is full steam ahead. We`re going to have the hearing
on the injunction question. We`re going to have the hearing on the merits.
We`re going to have the judge ruling tomorrow.
The president`s lawyers are not able to slow this thing down. See new
court tomorrow. But get this. I`m going to show you one other document
here that was filed late on Friday night. And I`m not sure anybody else
has noticed this. I certainly haven`t seen anybody writing about it or
talking about it in the news.
But this is from the Deutsche Bank case, or as the president`s lawyers call
it the Duetsche Bank case, because when it comes to the president`s taxes
and finances, yes, it`s the oversight committee that subpoenaed Trump`s
accounting firm. It`s the intelligence committee and the financial
services committee led by Chairman Adam Schiff and Chairwoman Maxine Waters
who issued these other subpoenas to two banks, to Deutsche Bank and to
Capital One bank, seeking ten years of information about those
institutions` financial dealings with the president.
And just like with the Mazars subpoena, in this case, the president and his
children have filed a lawsuit suing these banks to try to stop the banks
from complying with these subpoenas. It`s basically a twin lawsuit. The
same way he`s trying to stop his accounting firm Mazars from handing stuff
over, he`s also trying to stop the banks from handing stuff over too.
But in the Deutsche Bank one this is interesting. Now that the judge in
the Mazars case, in the accounting firm case, has decided that he`s going
to go fast and he`s going to combine all the procedural hearings with the
hearing on the merits, he`s going to rule from the bench right away, now
that that`s happening in the Mazars case, in this twin case involving the
banks the intelligence committee and the financial services committee are
now asking the judge in that case to do the same thing, to also go fast, to
consolidate the hearing schedule, to go right to a ruling on the merits, to
not allow this lawsuit basically to be used for unnecessary delay.
In making that argument to the judge in the Deutsche Bank case, though,
they also make – excuse me. They also make the substantive case for what
it is they are investigating. These congressional investigators who have
given these subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and Capital One, they substantively
explain why they have subpoenaed these banks, what it is exactly about the
president that they are investigating, and in fact as exhibits attached to
the filing they give us the subpoenas.
So, now, we the public can actually see with only a few minor redactions
exactly what the subpoenas say to these banks and what these banks are
being told to hand over when it comes to the president`s finances and those
of his family and those of his businesses. I mean, you can see it now.
It`s on the public record.
For a time period that starts January 1st, 2010 and continues through the
president – excuse me, through the president. Deutsche Bank is ordered to
hand over complete and unredacted copies of account information and loan
information related to all of these individuals and entities. A couple of
them are redacted there.
We don`t know who those are. This is just the one for Deutsche Bank. It
goes on for six straight pages. Single-spaced, small font in this
incredibly detailed demand for all the conceivable material the bank might
have that might show financial dealings between President Trump, his
family, his businesses and crucially foreign individuals, entities or
So we posted these subpoenas online tonight at maddowblog.com so you can
check them out yourself. But it`s fascinating. Again, six single-spaced
small type pages.
They`re asking for suspicious activity reports on the Trump bank accounts
and the Trump business bank accounts, term sheets for any loans or
financial interactions involving any foreign individuals, cash flow
statements, including any payments made to any foreign individuals or
entities or governments. They`re asking for, yes, the president`s tax
returns and the schedules that go with those tax returns to the extent that
the banks have obtained those as part of their regular dealings with Trump
and his family and his businesses.
That subpoena to Deutsche Bank has now been made public in this court
filing. That also explains what the subpoena is for, what the Intelligence
Committee and the Financial Services Committee are investigating and how
this subpoena fits into it. Quote: The Committee on Intelligence is
investigating among other time-sensitive threats to national security
foreign interference in the U.S. political process and financial or other
leverage that foreign powers may possess over Mr. Trump, his family, and
That investigation is squarely within the committee`s jurisdiction and
requires an understanding of Mr. Trump`s complex financial arrangements,
including how those arrangements intersect with Russia and other foreign
governments and entities. That inquiry is by definition not limited to Mr.
Trump`s time in office and given the closely held nature of the Trump
Organization, it must include his close family members. The Intelligence
Community has long recognized that foreign financial ties can create
potential conflicts of interest and a heightened risk of foreign influence,
exploitation, and coercion. Indeed, such ties are regularly examined as
part of the normal security clearance process.
Tell us again why you had to overrule the initial declaration from the
security career folks on Ivanka`s security clearance? When it comes to the
Financial Services Committee and what they`re investigating, quote, among
other issues, the committee is investigating whether existing policies and
programs at financial institutions are adequate to ensure the safety and
soundness of lending practices and the prevention of loan fraud. Over the
past two years, financial institutions have issued more than a trillion
dollars in large corporate loans called leveraged loans to heavily indebted
companies that may be unable to repay those loans. Relatedly, the
committee is investigating the lending practices of financial institutions
including Deutsche Bank for loans issued to the Trump family and companies
controlled by Mr. Trump. Over the years, Deutsche Bank has reportedly
provided more than $2 billion in loans to Mr. Trump despite concerns raised
by certain senior bank officials about some of the loans.
We may even get something specific on the Trump Tower Moscow deal. Which
has been – honestly, it`s been right at the front of my mind since the
Mueller report came out. Just because it`s one of these things that sticks
out as this big glaring unanswered question in Mueller`s investigation, in
Mueller`s report. The Mueller report explains all of the interactions that
went on secretly between the Trump organization and people connected to the
Kremlin when it came time to trying to organize this Trump Tower Moscow
deal during the campaign while the president was denying he had any Russia
The Mueller report details, you know, all of those contacts, all of those
communications in incredible factual specific detail. But then the Mueller
report says nothing about whether that`s important about whether there`s
any national security consequence or intelligence consequence or anything
to worry about when it comes to the fact that one of the two major party
presidential candidates had a pending secret side business deal being
negotiated with the Kremlin for potentially hundreds of millions of dollars
while he was lying about it to the American people. There`s just no
discussion in Mueller`s report as to whether or not that might be a bad
thing, whether or not that might be, you know, something un-ideal in terms
of American national security.
Well, for whatever reason, Mueller appears not to have looked at that. We
now know explicitly that the intelligence committee is looking right at
that specific question. They`re following the money in order to do it.
And in their explanation of that in this new court filing, they actually
give us something new we didn`t know they were looking at specifically when
it comes to Trump Tower Moscow.
Quote: The committee is examining whether Mr. Trump`s foreign business
deals and financial ties were part of the Russian government`s efforts to
entangle business and political leaders in corrupt activity or otherwise
obtain leverage over them.
Quote: Mr. Trump secretly pursued a lucrative licensing deal for Trump
Tower Moscow, a deal that would have required Kremlin approval, through at
least June 2016, including after Mr. Trump had effectively secured the
Republican presidential nomination. At the same time, Mr. Trump was
advocating policies favored by Russia and praising President Putin.
And then check out this last line. Quote: It is unclear whether the Trump
Tower Moscow deal remains latent.
So part of what they`re investigating is maybe that deal is still on or
maybe that deal could be back on in the future depending on what happens in
these crucial White House years? So, as I said, we`ll post that court
filing, including the subpoenas, which have now been made publicly
available. We`ll post that online tonight at Maddow Blog, if you want to
check that out yourself. I`m not sure if other folks noticed that filing
when it came out late on Friday night, but it`s revelatory as far as I`m
And, you know, just – there`s a lot going on. There`s a lot to wash right
now. Today was the day, for example, that Judge Amy Berman Jackson, the
federal judge in Washington, D.C., today she was given an unredacted copy
of the Mueller report. At least a less redacted copy of the Mueller
report, to review herself as a judge behind closed doors to see if what`s
behind those redactions is relevant to the Roger Stone case which she is
overseeing in her courtroom.
Today is the day that prosecutors and lawyers for Trump deputy campaign
chairman Rick Gates asked yet again for his sentencing to be delayed. If
this further delay is granted, this will be I think the sixth time that
Rick Gates has had his sentence delayed. And once again, for a sixth time
the reason the prosecutors and his defense counsel say they`re not ready to
move forward with sentencing him yet is because, quote, defendant Gates
continues to cooperate with the government.
This is as of tonight. They`re asking for yet another delay before they
sentence Gates. A long delay in this case before they even come back to
court to give another update on his status. Rick Gates`s lawyers and
prosecutors tell the court tonight that they`ll be ready for another status
update in his case by August 30th while meanwhile he continues his
cooperation with prosecutors.
And tomorrow in federal court in D.C., we are going to have the first big
test of this president`s bluster and his insistence that subpoenas don`t
matter anymore, that he can block them whenever he wants to. Tomorrow, we
expect a judge`s ruling on that in the Mazars case, which again, is for ten
years` worth of the president`s financial documents, from his long-time
accounting firm. That ruling if we do in fact get one tomorrow, that will
presumably have knock-on implications down the road for a lot of these
other subpoena fights as well.
And, of course, it will have direct – a direct impact on what appears to
be the president`s deepest and most animating fear, which is that his taxes
and his finances will start to see the light of day. So buckle up. Lots
Congressman Beto O`Rourke joins us live tonight in studio. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The first election on the Democratic primary calendar will, of
course, be the Iowa caucuses. Iowa is always first. This upcoming year,
it will be February 3rd. That will be followed by the New Hampshire
primary the week after and then Nevada the week after that and then South
Carolina the week after that on February 29th. Leap year.
This is how the calendar always goes now, early on in the primary, right?
You`ve got those four early states in that order. And they sort of get
cocooned and protected, with each of them having their own day really taped
off from the other early races. So, that`s going to be February. That`s
how it starts. Four weeks, four primaries, four buckets of electoral
But then look at the very next thing that happens. The next vote in the
Democratic primary will be cast three days later on March 3rd. Literally,
it`s three days after the South Carolina primary. And that`s Super
And on Super Tuesday, voters will head to the polls in Alabama, Arkansas,
California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma,
Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia. Also maybe Georgia. They
haven`t totally decided on a date yet, but could be them too.
Oh. Now, California has the biggest population in the country, which means
the delegate prize for winning California is massive, right? There`s been
lots of attention to the fact that California and its huge delegate haul
for the first time are so early on the calendar for the Democrats this
But it`s not exactly California or bust. There`s another potential game
changer on Super Tuesday this year if you look at that list. Can we put
that list up again? Right between Tennessee and Utah there, Texas. Also
massive, also super early. It`s on the same day as California, on the same
day as all of those other states on that huge, potentially definitive Super
And this year in particular, Texas is an unusual wild card for the
Democrats. Right now, Joe Biden is leading there in the polls like he`s
leading everywhere. But the only Latino candidate in the race, former
Obama Housing Secretary Julian Castro, is from Texas.
Julian Castro is mayor of San Antonio before he ran HUD. And that means
that he`s definitely got Texas cred, right? And San Antonio roots. But
he`s never run statewide in Texas.
Democrats generally don`t win statewide elections in Texas. The last time
a Democrat won statewide in Texas was a quarter of a century ago, in the
early `90s. Since then, Texas has been a reliable bastion of Republican
politics, just an electoral firewall, almost a political guarantee, until
it very nearly wasn`t very recently.
In the 2018 elections, in the midterms, a once low-profile Democratic
Congressman named Beto O`Rourke came within 2.6 percentage points of
unseating incumbent Republican Senator Ted Cruz. And, I mean, number one,
incumbents never lose.
Number two, Democrats aren`t supposed to win statewide in Texas, right?
They`re not even supposed to come anywhere near close. Republicans in
Texas are supposed to glide to victory. Democrats sometimes don`t even put
up a fight, right? But there`s Beto O`Rourke and his 2.6 percent behind
the incumbent Republican senator.
Well, now, Beto O`Rourke is running for president of the United States.
And it is a fascinating open question as to whether or not that phenomenon,
that 2.6 percent almost miracle in Texas is something that could happen
nationwide. He joins us next live.
MADDOW: Joining us now for “The Interview” is former Texas Congressman
Beto O`Rourke. This is the first time he has been here since announcing
his run for president in the Democratic primary.
Congressman, it`s a real pleasure to see you. Thanks for being here.
BETO O`ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Thanks for having
MADDOW: “The Associated Press” reported over the weekend that you are not
relaunching your campaign but you`re planning sort of a reintroduction to
shore up your standing at this point now with more than 20 people running.
Did you think that was a fair take?
O`ROURKE: We`ve been on the road now for eight weeks traveling to over 15
states, have held more than 150 town halls, running today the same way that
we started. But I recognize I can do a better job also of talking to a
national audience, beyond the town halls that we`re having in New Hampshire
and Iowa and Nevada and South Carolina, in Minnesota and Wisconsin and
Pennsylvania, I have an opportunity to answer your questions, Rachel, and
address those who may not have been able to attend them and make sure they
can hear what this campaign is about and how I answer the questions that
are put to me.
So I hope that I`m continuing to do better over time, but we`ve been
extraordinarily fortunate with the campaign that we`ve run so far, the
volunteers and grassroots supporters who comprise it and the kind of
conversations that I`ve learned from in all the communities that I`ve
visited. So I feel really good about it. Even better getting a chance to
be here with you tonight.
MADDOW: The sort of radical transparency approach that you took
specifically in your Senate campaign against Ted Cruz that was so
effective, you`ve carried some of that into the presidential campaign as
well, essentially sort of showing everything that you`re doing all the time
so people get to see you in every aspect of this campaign. It made me
wonder if that makes the whole town hall experience sort of different.
Like when you`re interacting with potential voters in these early states
and stuff, there are people who have seen you skateboarded around a
Whataburger parking lot, right?
MADDOW: People have seen you go to dentist and drive and do all these
other things. I wonder if that changes the kinds of questions that you get
asked or the way people think they know you.
O`ROURKE: It might. I mean, I think you`re seeing a super engaged, very
involved electorate. I think some feared with 21-plus candidates you`d
have folks tuning out. And instead, they`re tuning in.
They`re coming out to these town halls, asking really informed questions.
And sometimes, yes, they`re referring to – you know, I saw you in a town
hall in Iowa and you were asked about X. Here`s how it applies in New
Hampshire and I wonder if that changes your opinion of this issue.
So, I love that level of engagement. And it`s why we hold these town
halls. If I had all the answers, I wouldn`t need to show up and listen to
and learn from people.
And I think it also demands a higher level of accountability from me.
Everything that I`m saying is streamed to anyone who wants to watch it.
So, if you wonder whether I pull my punches in one community, a certain
demographic, say something different somewhere else, you can go on Facebook
and watch all those because they`re all archived. So –
MADDOW: Including a fund-raiser you that did.
O`ROURKE: We held our first fund-raiser in the eight weeks that we`ve been
in the campaign, and we live-streamed it. And it was a great chance for us
to thank those who made that transformational election in Texas possible.
Many of them were helpful there. And to also thank them for joining
hundreds of thousands of others who comprise what I hope will be the
largest grassroots campaign in American history.
And I wanted to make sure that was live-streamed so that you see, again,
exactly what I say to that audience and that group of people. I think we
need at a moment that our democracy is so badly damaged and under attack,
unlike any other time in our lifetimes, and from foreign powers, from the
president of the United States, but also from members of Congress who
choose their voters, from political action committees that purchase access
and influence and increasingly outcomes, you need accountability through
town halls. You need someone who`s willing to run without the help of PAC
money or lobbyists or corporations or special interests and need to put
people and their concerns and their solutions to those concerns front and
And that`s what we`re doing in this campaign.
MADDOW: In terms of democracy and its challenges right now, one of the
things that I actually found very moving about your Texas campaign is that
as somebody in the national media looking from the East Coast you running
against Ted Cruz in Texas, I was obviously looking at that through a
partisan lens, trying to see, you know, what the chances were for a blue
statewide candidate in red state Texas, and you consistently denied that
that was the right way to look at it. You talked about Texas not as a blue
state or a red state but a non-voting state.
And that – A, it`s true. And B, it`s also got national resonance too.
And I think that diagnosis to me was striking and moving.
I still don`t know how you fix it, though. And I know you would intend to
if you want to run the biggest grassroots campaign in history, you intend
to get a lot more people voting than otherwise intend to. But how do you
O`ROURKE: Yes. So, you`re right in terms of Texas being 50th in the
country in voter turnout, that`s not an accident of partisan affiliation.
It is by design. People based on the color of their skin, their country of
national origin drawn out of districts to diminish the power of their vote,
the likelihood that we would hear their voice.
And the answer to that was not just going to every one of the 254 counties
of Texas but going every community within those counties and bringing
everyone into the conversation. It doesn`t matter how blue, we`re not
going to take you for granted. Doesn`t matter how small, how red, how
rural, we`re not going to write you off. Everyone`s important. Everyone
And at the end of the day, more votes than any Democrat has ever received
in the history of the state of Texas, young voter turnout up 500 percent,
won independents for the first time in decades, and half a million
Republicans in Texas also joined that movement. So, a movement comprised
not just of an expanded Democratic electorate but a movement comprised of
Democrats, independents, and Republicans alike.
And now for the first time in at least my adult lifetime, maybe since 1976,
Texas and its 38 Electoral College votes have been unlocked. They are in
contention. And we will have a seat at the table.
So, I think this bodes well for our democracy if we can then, to answer
your question, institute this – same-day voter registration, automatic
voter registration, and end gerrymandering, getting big money out of our
politics so that members of Congress respond directly to their
constituents. And that`s what drives the conversation. That`s how you get
to universal health care, immigration reform, confronting climate change
before it is too late, and ensuring that we have a much more inclusive and
conscientious capitalism going forward to bring everybody in and to meet
these historic challenges that we face.
MADDOW: I wonder procedurally if you think about trying to run that kind
of campaign again, trying to scale that to a national level. Obviously,
when you ran in Texas, you raised $80 million freaking dollars which is
more money than anybody has ever raise for any Senate race ever in any
MADDOW: And part of that was, I mean, because of what you`re doing in
Texas. Part of that was also because you got a lot of national attention
for what you were doing in Texas and pulling off what a lot of people
thought was impossible. I wonder, though, I was just talking about that
calendar for the Democratic primary. It`s like Iowa, New Hampshire,
Nevada, South Carolina, and then it`s element whole rest of the country.
MADDOW: I mean, that right away three days after South Carolina, it`s
Texas, it`s California, it`s a dozen other states.
MADDOW: That makes it really hard to make sure you`re showing up in
Michigan, in Oregon, in Wisconsin, in every community like you`re talking
about, which was so much a key to how you ran in Texas.
O`ROURKE: Right. It`s hard but we`re doing it. So, 15 states in eight
weeks. Again, more than 150 town halls.
And showing up to those town halls is not just a means of introducing
myself. It`s a way to learn what`s most important to those that I want to
So, I`ll give you an example. We were in Pacific Junction, Iowa, not too
far from the Missouri River. That town in its entire history has never
flooded in any meaningful way.
That town after the Missouri River had the largest runoff through the
Missouri River basin since we`ve been keeping records. Every home in that
community was underwater. Every possession, those homeowners had bought or
created or held dear lost to them forever.
Climate change is happening to that community right now. And they want to
make sure that they have someone in an office of trust and power who will
deliver. We were able to talk about the most ambitious plan to confront
climate change that we have seen in the United States to guarantee net zero
greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, get there, at least halfway there by
2030, mobilize $5 billion of investment in communities like Pacific
Junction to ensure that we prepare them before the next disaster. But also
unleash the ingenuity, the innovation, the inventions necessary for us to
meet this challenge and to free ourselves from a dependence on fossil fuels
and fully embrace renewable energy.
So, having that conversation in not the most likely place for a Democrat to
be is a way to contend everywhere, just like we did in the 254 counties of
Texas. It`ll take a lot of time, a lot of miles, a lot of hours, but I`m
willing to put in the work. And so far, we have and I`m very pleased with
MADDOW: I have lots more to ask you. Former Congressman Beto O`Rourke is
our guest. We`ll be right back with him right after this.
MADDOW: Joining us again for “The Interview” is Beto O`Rourke. He`s a
candidate in the Democratic primary, former congressman from Texas.
Congressman, thank you for sticking with us.
O`ROURKE: Thank you.
MADDOW: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appears to my eye right now to be
popping like a skillet full of popcorn with the lid off. He keeps changing
his schedule. He keeps pinging different places around the world that he
didn`t say he was going to go to, keeps canceling other meetings.
He just canceled a meeting with Germany. Canceled a meeting with
Greenland. Went to – unexpectedly and crashed someone else`s meeting in
Brussels. He is planning on meeting with Vladimir Putin tomorrow.
I wonder if somebody with experience in the Armed Services Committee,
somebody who serves in congress, if you feel like there are reasons for
people to be worried right now about what`s going on with national security
adviser John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, with them appearing to be beating the
drums for war with Iran, with what appears to be something frenetic going
on with the secretary of state`s schedule, the president hosting
authoritarian leader Viktor Orban today at the White House.
A lot of people I think are looking at those different pieces moving around
and seeing there`s something worrying and new in Trump-era foreign policy.
How do you view it?
O`ROURKE: Trump`s foreign policy has been a complete disaster for the
United States and for the world and has made us less, not more safe. As a
candidate, he invited the participation of Russia in our election. They
dutifully responded the same day.
As president, he sought to cover up or obstruct justice and prevent us from
understanding the truth, and avoid the consequences that Russia needs to
feel in order to prevent them from involving themselves in our democracy.
Again, in fact, the Mueller report is released and one of the first phone
calls he makes is to Putin with whom he spends an hour on the phone.
If that`s not a green light for further intervention and involvement in our
democracy, I don`t know what is. His cozying up to strong men like Putin
or Duterte or Erdogan or Al Sisi, his signal to the world as there`s an
open question about whether the future is authoritarian or democratic, it
makes our way in the world that much harder, because at the same time he`s
turned his back on our allies, on our friends, on those connections that we
have forged in sacrifice that have made us so strong.
The only time Article 5 of the NATO Mutual Defense Treaty is invoked is
when we`re attacked on 9/11. He describes falling in love with Kim Jong-un
of North Korea and done nothing to diminish their capacity to harm our
service members in Seoul, our allies in the region or to deliver those
nuclear weapons to the United States of America.
You asked about Iran, as well. You know, I think during the Obama
administration, we had a guide to how we could resolve otherwise
intractable problems peacefully, without invading yet another country,
without firing another shot, without sacrificing another U.S. service
member. Negotiating directly with Iran, the permanent members of the U.N.
Security Council and Germany, we were able to halt that country`s progress
towards development of a nuclear weapon.
That kind of peaceful nonmilitary diplomatic-led foreign policy is what we
need more of if we`re going to confront climate change which will require
the entire world work on nuclear nonproliferation, get out of the wars that
we`re in 18 years and counting in Afghanistan, 28 years U.S. military
presences in Iraq.
And then also focus on those priorities that we have neglected like the
western hemisphere, those countries and people to whom we`re connected by
land and language and increasingly families, to the point that we`re
surprised when tens of thousands of kids literally showed up at the front
door at the Texas/Mexico border, this president, that secretary of state
want to cut all foreign aid to the Northern Triangle countries. Instead,
let`s double it. Let`s focus on violence reduction so fewer families have
to make that journey.
We don`t need to greet with cages for their kids or walls. We can have an
intelligent, diplomatic-led foreign policy. That`s what I`m able to do in
MADDOW: There has been a roiling crisis in Venezuela now for a very long
time which recently has had a form of intervention by our government that
I`m not sure we understand.
MADDOW: In part because of the difference in the way the president talks
about it from other people in his administration.
Do you know what the Trump administration`s policy is in Venezuela and what
would you do differently?
O`ROURKE: I don`t totally understand the administration`s policy. I know
that President Trump has threatened military intervention in Venezuela,
which is about the worst idea. I do think we need to recognize Juan Guaido
as the lawful interim president.
MADDOW: Which we have.
O`ROURKE: Which we have, as have 50 other countries. We need to help the
people of Venezuela as they face a crisis in food and in medication and
precipitate yet another humanitarian crisis in the hemisphere.
But if we haven`t learned from our overthrow of the democratically elected
government of Guatemala in 1954, the after effects we`re still feeling
today, or involvement in civil wars in El Salvador or Nicaragua, or this
war on drugs that we have foisted on the rest of this hemisphere which
produced so much of the misery that we see showing up at the U.S./Mexico
border today, then we`re doomed to repeat the same mistakes.
We needed to work collaboratively and cooperatively with the other nations
of the Americas to address these issues nonviolently to place at a premium
these humanitarian concerns and address them where people are before they
come to our country because they surely will again if history is any guide.
So, I don`t know what the president`s strategy is, but we would have a
strategy that addresses those problems there and works collaboratively with
the other regional partners.
MADDOW: Beto O`Rourke, Texas congressman – former Texas congressman,
candidate for president in a very crowded Democratic field, I hope you`ll
come back. It`s good to have you here, sir. Thank you.
O`ROURKE: I will. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Just before we came on the air tonight, we got a little bit of
news that could potentially have broad implications into the ongoing Russia
scandal. “The New York Times” is reporting tonight that Attorney General
Bill Barr has assigned the top federal prosecutor in Connecticut, U.S.
attorney John Durham, to examine the origins of the Russia investigation,
which is, of course, the kind of thing that President Trump has long been
This new inquiry again reported tonight for the first time by “The New York
Times” means that while we still have no idea what happened to the
counterintelligence investigation into possible ties between the Trump
campaign and Russia since none of that counterintelligence investigation
ended up in the Mueller report since we have no idea what happened to that
counterintelligence investigation in the first place, we know of three
investigations into the fact that that investigation was started in the
first place. So if we don`t know what happened in the investigation itself
but its existence is now being examined in at least three different ways.
John Durham, the U.S. attorney charged with leading this investigation, is
also the man who happens to be investigating James Baker who was our guest
Friday night here on the show for supposed unauthorized disclosures to the
media. But this new development again reported tonight by “The New York
Times” is what the president`s been asking for, the president increasingly
Republicans in Congress have been calling for investigations into the
people, the law enforcement officials and intelligence officials who
started the investigations into what Russia did. And now, we`re seeing
this bit by bit being parceled out just like you wanted it.
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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protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the