Trump says he would accept info on opponents. TRANSCRIPT: 6/13/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is ALL IN for this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That was a super smart, super interesting
interview, and you asked him totally different things that he ever gets
asked and that was great.
HAYES: Well, I feel like we`re all trapped in my old dorm room
conversations of my nightmares about like capitalism versus socialism, with
no actual historical graphing of the literature of the central question of
political economy in last 20 years. So, it`s like to be able to do
something about that. So –
MADDOW: Because I know you, Chris. I know you have that exact phrase
tattooed on your back, so I know this a long ongoing nightmare for you.
But you`ve translated it well. It`s a nice interview.
HAYES: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Thanks, my friend.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
There`s a lot going on in the news right now. This is one of those days,
almost feels like a Friday.
So, after the president last night told ABC News that he would be happy to
accept assistance from a foreign country to win the next election and no,
he wouldn`t necessarily call the FBI if some foreign country offered him
that assistance, after that, after the president basically promised in that
interview last night he was basically looking for foreign help again in
2020, just like he got from the Russians in 2016, in the wake of that from
the president last night, there were a few adorable headlines out there
today that suggested that here on Earth where we live, Republicans in
Congress had finally found their breaking point. The president finally
said something or did something that the Republicans in Congress just could
not abide, they would not abide. They were going to stand up to him.
I mean, this was one of those headlines: Republicans lash Trump for being
open to foreign oppo. This one was also cute. Senate GOP races to break
with Trump over accepting foreign info. They`re racing to break with
It is an adorable idea, right, that the president inviting foreign
adversaries to help him in the next election would be a bridge too far for
Republicans in Congress. It`s cute. I mean, if had actually been a bridge
too far for Republicans in Congress, we wouldn`t know it because of
headlines like that. We would not know it from stern disappointed words
they had all for reporters if what the president told ABC last night in
that interview, welcoming foreign countries to help him in the next
election to help give him another term in the White House, if that actually
had been a real problem for Republicans in the United States Senate, you
would have been able to tell. Not from their words but from their actions.
Well, that got tested today. This afternoon, Democratic Senator Mark
Warner, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, today he moved to
pass a piece of legislation in the United States Senate by unanimous
consent. This is legislation that would do one simple thing. It would
require campaigns to call the FBI if they got an offer of assistance for an
election from a foreign country.
I mean, all of these Republicans today, especially the ones that have to
run for re-election next year, all of these Republicans were seeking out
the nearest reporter, trying to earn themselves one of these cute headlines
which says, you know, of course, they would call the FBI, of course, they
insist that anybody should call the FBI. Of course, foreign interference
in our elections is unconscionable and it`s illegal. And no, they just
don`t agree with the president here when he says he would welcome help from
foreign countries and he personally doesn`t think he would call the FBI.
I mean, they`re all saying that. They`re all trying to get attention for
that being their position. But saying it is one thing.
I mean, Mark Warner introduced this standalone bill today which literally
all it said was, hey, let`s commit to that. Let`s make that a thing. That
you got to call the FBI if you get contacted by a foreign government
offering you assistance in a U.S. election. If we are all in agreement on
that, let`s just say that`s the way it has to be.
Republicans in the Senate blocked that today. Senate GOP blocks bill to
require campaigns to report foreign election assistance. Senate GOP also
wants it to be known they`re really against it and they`re super mad at the
president for saying that he wouldn`t call the FBI.
But we`re not actually going to do anything about it. In fact, we`re going
to actively intervene to block the Democrats from doing anything about it.
While they nevertheless never get credit for being far less patriotic than
Trump on this subject. Just astonishing. It doesn`t even take 24 hours.
We`re going to be speaking with President Obama`s national security advisor
Susan Rice live here in just a moment about those remarks from the
president, about the president welcoming other countries to intervene in
this next election in order to help him.
Susan Rice, of course, was President Obama`s national security advisor
during the Russian interference effort in the 2016 election. She was a key
nexus between the intelligence community and the executive branch when it
came to assessing the dangerousness of what Russia was doing in our
election in 2016 and what the U.S. government should have tried to do in
response to try and stop it. I mean, that was a time when we had a federal
government that thought foreign interference in our election was a bad
thing and it should try to be stopped.
Susan Rice will be here live in just a moment. I`m very much looking
forward to talking with her about that. Also actually looking forward to
talking with her about this sort of surprise pronouncement today from the
Trump administration, from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Iran, all of
a sudden, is a dramatically more dangerous threat to the United States than
it has ever been before, and the United States is entering into some new
sort of heightened oppositional status when it comes to Iran, which has a
lot of people worried that Mike Pompeo is trying to lay the ground work for
the U.S. waging war on Iran.
Today, you may have seen the dramatic pictures of two oil tankers that were
some subject of some sort of attack in the Gulf of Oman.
Without presenting any evidence to back up the assertion, Secretary of
State Mike Pompeo rushed immediately to a sort of highly produced news
conference today at the State Department in which he pronounced that that
attack on those tankers in the Gulf of Oman was definitely the work of
Iran. The U.S. government has assessed that was definitely Iran who did
Now, again, he gave no evidence to back up assertion, and it`s totally
possible it was the work of Iran. But the U.S. government today jumping
out basically immediately upon reports of that attack on those tankers,
right, the U.S. government jumping out immediately and saying they`ve
completed their assessment, they`ve definitively concluded it`s definitely
Iran. That is what is making everybody have flashbacks to the run up to
the war in Iraq in 2003. What`s the evidence here?
I should also mention part of this that`s really sticking out for me.
While Secretary of State Pompeo was making this case against Iran today, I
should also mention that in addition to blaming Iran immediately for the
attack on those tankers today, he also tried to put that in context saying
this is part of an escalating series of events by Iran. We`re not just
looking at it as an isolation, we`re looking at a series of events in
And when he talked about that series of events, he`s rattled off a number
of recent violent incidents in Middle East and Central Asia, which he
blamed on Iran.
One of those was a rocket attack in Iraq last month in which a rocket
landed near the U.S. embassy. You might have heard about that when it
happened. It was May 19th, the reports of that here.
There has never, ever been a public State Department announcement or any
formal assessment that it was Iran who did that. But today, they just
listed that attack as something that Iran has to be held accountable for.
They`ve never actually said that Iran did it before today.
They put it on a list along with a whole bunch of other things they never
said were Iran before either, including a car bomb that went off in
Afghanistan on May 31st. Four Afghan civilians were killed, four U.S.
service members were wounded. And again, this was another thing on this
list today of all the terrible, provocative, escalating actions Iran has
recently taken the U.S. must respond to.
But as with that rocket attack in Iraq on May 19th, this May 31st car bomb
in Afghanistan they also put on the list, it also got a bunch of news
coverage at the time. You know, U.S. service members were wounded in that
attack. Well, when that happened, according to news coverage at the time,
the Taliban claimed responsibility for it, the Taliban.
Again, today, with no evidence, though, that was described as Iran`s
attack. It was described as one of the things that Iran has done, which
the secretary of state put in this list of, quote, unprovoked attacks that
present a clear threat to international peace and security.
Now, it may be that they have newly arrived at evidence that allows them to
attribute all these attacks to Iran, even though they`ve never done so
before, but prove it. I mean, in the midst of everything else going on,
the Trump administration does appear to be trying to create a public
justification for us moving toward a war footing with Iran. And it is
based on this assertion from the Trump administration that Iran is carrying
out this escalating series of violent attacks all over the Middle East
including targeting us.
And if they are trying to set that as the context, as the justification for
whatever it is they want to do to Iran, and presumably they will have to
actually show some of this evidence, right? They will have to show some of
their work as to how they are arriving at these assertions. Right now, all
the stuff they`re blaming Iran for is stuff that has either been ascribed
overtly to other actors or there`s been no public evidence whatsoever to
assert it being attributed to Iran.
I mean, it does clearly feel like they are trying to start something in
terms of a potential war with Iran. How they`re trying to do it I think is
setting off alarm bells left, right and center. And I think across the
partisan spectrum for reasons that aren`t just because of what happened in
2003 but because they`re even perhaps being more reckless in terms of the
way they`re presenting this public information, not even trying to prove
what it is they`re asserting.
So, as I said, we`ll talk with President Obama`s national security advisor
Susan Rice, about that live here in just a moment. But like I said, it`s
one of those days there`s a ton going on.
The Democratic National Committee as promised, they have now announced the
20 candidates who have made the cut for the first presidential primary
debate. That debate will be well under way exactly two weeks from right
this second. Eek.
There are I think 24 declared Democratic candidates. Twenty of the 24 of
them are going to get a podium of their own for one of the two nights that
that debate will span a couple of weeks from now. We`ll find out tomorrow
night when ten candidates are on which of each of the nights.
But the four candidates who didn`t qualify either by polling or fund
raising are former Alaska senator and a previous presidential candidate
named Mike Gravel. Also the mayor of a small Florida city named Wayne
Messam. He`s a mayor of Miramar, Florida. Also, Democratic congressman
and decorated Iraq war veteran Seth Moulton.
And also the two-term Democratic governor of red state Montana, Steve
bullock, who is – I mean, it`s – I mean, he`s one of the most popular
governors in the country. He`s running on the basis of his true claim he`s
the only candidate in the race who has won a Trump state nationwide.
Governor Bullock started his run quite late after overseeing the end of
Montana`s legislation this year, which included him signing into law some
long-thought legislation including Medicaid expansion in Montana which got
like 90,000 or 100,000 people in that state covered by health insurance.
So, Bullock has been vocally aggrieved about the fact that he has not made
it unto the stage for this first debate. I think none of these four are
happy about it. Bullock has been the most outspoken about how upset he is
he`s not going to be there on the stage. But neither Bullock nor Moulton
nor Wayne Messam or Mike Gravel are going to be there.
That said, it`s the first debate. I don`t think there`s any reason to
expect that any of the four of them is going to drop out of the race
because they`re not going to be there at the first debate, but we shall
see. We`ll have more on that coming up ahead.
We also learned today from the White House that White House spokeswoman
Sarah Huckabee Sanders is going to be leaving her position. Among other
things, she will go down in history as the White House spokesperson who
stopped doing White House press briefings. She just stopped those
eventually. That`s kind of all I have to say about that, which I think is
fair given, you know?
Over the last few days, we have been covering the snowballing corruption
accusations against a Trump cabinet secretary named Elaine Chao. Elaine
Chao is the wife of the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell.
She`s the head of the Department of Transportation.
Over the last couple of weeks, Elaine Chao has been the subject of just a
remarkable string of news reports about how efficiently the Department of
Transportation has been turned to the apparent financial advantage and
political advantage of Elaine Chao and her family since she`s been at the
helm of that large public agency.
Politico.com reporting she setup a special staff arrangement inside the
Transportation Department where a senior staffer was assigned specifically
to oversee requests for federally funded transportation projects from her
husband, requests that would benefit his state specifically and that his
Senate office specifically prioritized as the senator is running for re-
election next year.
That politico.com reporting follows reporting from “The New York Times”
that Elaine Chao had also tried to get the State Department to arrange
meetings for her family members with Chinese government officials. Elaine
Chao`s family owns a shipping company that does a ton of business with the
Chinese government. When she was about to visit China for the first time
as Trump`s transportation secretary she, according to “The New York Times,”
called the U.S. embassy in Beijing to try to get them to arrange for her
family members to sit in on meetings with Chinese government officials,
while her family is doing business with the Chinese government.
It was so wildly inappropriate as a request, it caused the embassy in
Beijing to contact state department headquarters in Washington to say –
what do we – seriously? I don`t think that`s exactly how they phrased it,
but you get the point.
Ethics officials were also reportedly alerted at both the Department of
Transportation and the State Department. Ultimately, after those ethics
officials were alerted to what she was trying to do, Elaine Chao called off
But that is not the first time since she has been Trump`s transportation
secretary that she`s reportedly tried to hook up her family members and
their business in politically sensitive ways. And that follows reporting
from “The Wall Street Journal” that although Elaine Chao was told by U.S.
ethics officials she had to divest from the country`s largest supplier of
road making materials, which is not hard to figure out, right, literally
she`s the secretary of transportation. She`s in charge of building roads,
so that person can`t be personally financially invested in the country`s
biggest road building company, because of that very obvious conflict of
interest she was told to divest from that company. She signed an ethics
agreement saying she would divest from that company, but then “The Wall
Street Journal” reported she did not. She did not.
And she continued to hold stock in that company as she has been serving as
the transportation secretary. Hundreds and thousands of dollars worth of
stock in that company while at the same time her every utterance about
infrastructure and road build [the potential priority of the Transportation
Department would goose the stock price of that company in which she holds
tons of stock.
The Elaine Chao growing ethics and corruption scandals would be amazing on
their own even if for the Trump cabinet, right, which is a very specific
level of – that`s a threshold. I mean Pruitt, Price, Zinke, anyway. It
would be a big deal those corruption scandals even just for the Trump
But because she`s also married to the Republican leader of the Senate and
because he`s implicated in some of this stuff, he has been given millions
of dollars by Elaine Chao`s father as Elaine Chao has used her position as
transportation secretary to boost her father`s business in China. Right,
he has personally benefitted from that to the tune of millions of dollars.
Because the Elaine Chao corruption scandals are not just a Trump campaign
scandal but have proven to be a direct financial benefit to the top
Republican in the Senate, this is – this is bad. This is – I mean, this
is bad in a few different ways.
So far, the containment effort by Elaine Chao and Mitch McConnell on this
has been to try to laugh it off, play it all down, assure everybody this is
no big deal and these allegations don`t bother them at all. Well, “The
Wall Street Journal” reports tonight that Elaine Chao has now finally
actually sold off her gigantic stake in the road building company from
which she has been profiting as recently as this month as secretary of
transportation. So, apparently, all this reporting did bug them a little,
made her finally sell-off that stock.
But this is just one of those amazing days where the news, A, won`t stop,
and B, it keeps sort of driving home the same point over and over again. I
mean, when it comes to using your public position for private gain, today,
“The Washington Post” was first to report that the president and his family
just pocketed a few million dollars from the sale of this property in
Beverly Hills, California. Now, it`s obviously a very nice place. It`s
apparently like 5,000 square feet. It`s in Beverly Hills, swimming pools
and movie stars.
And then this is an expensive property President Trump owned in Beverly
Hills. President Trump bought it 12 years ago, in 2007, for $7 million.
But you know what? Property is often a good investment. That property has
gone up in value.
Last year, it was assessed by Los Angeles County to have appreciated
significantly in value. It appreciated over a million dollars, right? It
was a $7 million purchase when President Trump bought it in 2007, $7
million. Last year, it was assessed at $8.3 million. It`s gone up.
Last year assessed at $8.3 million. It turns out he just sold it for $13.5
million. Hold on a second. That`s almost double what he paid for it and
it`s a 63 percent hike over its assessed value from just last year.
Why did somebody just radically overpay the president for that property in
“The Washington Post” even contacted local experts to find out if maybe
there was something going on here that made sense in real estate terms that
wouldn`t make sense to the rest of us just from looking at the basic math.
Turns out, nope, the chief executive of a luxury homes real estate agent
local to the area tells “The Post”, quote, seems a little rich to be
perfectly frank, unless there`s something else spectacular about this house
that I am missing.
I don`t think it`s anything about the house you`re missing here. I mean,
what may be missing in terms of understanding the very, very inextricably
generous price paid for this property, could be nothing about the house
itself. Could be who owns it and who`s buying.
The house is owned by the president. We now know it was bought by an
Indonesian politician, somebody who ran for vice president in 2014 in
Indonesia, and according to “The Post”, he is considering running for
president of Indonesia very soon.
What better – if you`re going to run for president of a foreign country,
right, what better way to cult evaluate the affections of a very important,
very influential international ally, what better way to cultivate the
interest, influence and favor of the leader of the free world than just by
stuffing several million dollars into his pocket.
“The Post” further reports that the sale was conducted off-market, which
means other people were not involved in bidding on this thing. And, of
course, you know, if it were involved in open market bidding, that would be
one way to tell whether or not this was actually a fair market value for
this property. But conducted off market, so it was a closed sale, one
And, of course, the money really does just go to the president because he
never divested himself from his businesses or business holdings, nor did he
ever setup anything like a bribe trust so he wouldn`t know who was bribing
him – I mean paying him for stuff.
So that just happened. I mean, it`s been that kind of day. The White
House today rejected advice from a federal ethics watchdog that Kellyanne
Conway should be fired, to be removed from federal service, for repeatedly
violating the law that says you cannot while you are a public servant
campaign for individual candidates to try to influence elections.
She repeatedly broken that law, according to this ethics watchdog, a
federal agency that oversees the implementation of the Hatch Act which bars
that sort of thing. She`s repeatedly broken in. They assessed her conduct
after they repeatedly warned about her previous illegal actions of this
kind. The White House is blowing it off and denouncing the agency for
having suggested she would be fired for breaking that law. What a stupid
I mean, this is – this is one of those days that just kind of reminds you
how far you can slide as a country over a short period of time when there
really aren`t breaks to stop a determined president from blowing up all
these norms we thought were permanent things.
Even though Susan Rice was national security advisor as recently as 2 1/2
years ago, because of how far we have slid in the meantime, Susan Rice
literally at this point feels like a visitor from another planet. But I`m
happy to put on my space suit and meet her here next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: This is was one of those striking moments that happens sometimes
in an interview. Not frequently. But every once in a while you`re doing
an interview where you think you know where it`s going, you think you
understand how the conversation, how the Q&A is going to proceed.
But then, all of a sudden, something happens and it`s like, pow, right in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Imagine, Rachel, that you had
one of the Democratic nominees for 2020 on your show. And that person
said, you know, the only other adversary of ours who`s anywhere near as
good as the Russians is China. So, why should Russia have all the fun?
And since Russia is clearly backing Republicans, why don`t we ask China to
MADDOW: I hereby tonight ask China –
CLINTON: That`s right. And not only that, China, if you`re listening, why
don`t you get Trump`s tax returns? I`m sure our media would richly reward
So if after this hypothetical Democratic candidate says this on your show,
within hours, all of a sudden, the IRS offices are bombarded with
incredibly sophisticated cyber tools looking for Trump`s tax returns and
then extracts them and then passes them to whatever the new WikiLeaks
happens to be, and they start being unraveled and disclosed – nothing
wrong with that.
I mean, if you`re going to let Russia get away with what they did and are
still doing, according to Christopher Wray, the current FBI director who
said that last week, they`re in our election systems. We`re worried about
2020, he said.
So, hey, let`s have a great power contest and let`s get the Chinese in on
the side of somebody else.
Just saying that shows how absurd the situation we find ourselves in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was former secretary of state, former Democratic presidential
nominee Hillary Clinton here on this show last month with a hypothetical.
A hypothetical meant to be so outrageous it could rhetorically dramatize
how bad it is that Republicans in the Senate are blocking the passage of
any legislation to secure our elections in 2020 given that the Russians
intervened in our last election to help their party`s candidate win.
I mean, this was a rhetorical device from Secretary Clinton last month.
You know, just imagine heading into 2020 if some candidate just flat out
openly started seeking the help of more foreign governments.
Well, last night, in fact, President Trump told ABC News that he is totally
open to taking political assistance from foreign governments for the next
election, sees no problem with it. Quote: They have information I think I
would take it.
I mean, until recently, it would – it would have been unthinkable that
someone in U.S. politics would try to get away with accepting foreign
assistance in a presidential election. Until very, very recently, it was
unthinkable that anybody would admit to doing that, even if they had tried
to get away with it secretly. But now, it`s even a promise for the future,
planning on it.
Joining us now for the interview I`m very pleased to say is Susan Rice.
Dr. Rice was national security advisor and U.S. ambassador to the United
Nations in the Obama administration. She`s also the author of “Tough
Love”, which is a new memoire about her life and career in public service
that is due out this fall.
Ambassador Rice, it`s really great to have you. Thank you so much for
making time tonight.
SUSAN RICE, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: It`s great to be
with you, Rachel. Nanu, nanu.
MADDOW: Not exactly. My space suit has a leak.
Let me – I mentioned that I felt like you were from another planet because
I do feel like talking to you about your time in the Obama administration
is like visiting a time when not only did a lot of norms in our politics
exist but we thought they were durable. And one of them was the idea that
it would verboten, embarrassing and potentially career ending to be caught
accepting foreign help in an election, let alone bragging that you`d want
to do in the future.
What was your reaction to hearing that from President Trump last night?
RICE: I mean, Rachel all of us have heard so many things over the last 2-
1/2 years that it takes a lot to shock one or shock me even. And yet
again, this was one of those crazy moments.
The thought that the president of the United States who`s sworn an oath to
the Constitution is essentially saying he is playing on the foreign team
rather than the American team is extraordinary. He invited yet again
interference in our electoral process. He admitted that he has no problem
with collusion and would happily do it again.
And worst of all, in my opinion, he seems to have no concern about the
consequences of an American president being beholden to a hostile foreign
power. Because any foreign power that offers the president of the United
States or his representatives information that helps him in his election
campaign knows that that president if elected is in their pocket, and they
can manipulate him, which may, in fact, be what we`ve been seeing for the
last 2 1/2 years.
So, it`s quite extraordinary, as you said, that it`s so out in the open.
It shows an extraordinary disregard for our democracy, for the integrity of
our elections, for our values as a nation. He aligns himself against our
institutions, our law enforcement, our FBI, our intelligence community, and
sets himself on the side of leaders like Putin and Kim Jong-un.
It`s a very, very distorted upside down world. And I hope very much that
the American people do not forget the difference between right from wrong,
normal and absolutely abnormal, which is what we`re experiencing in these
MADDOW: I think when we as Americans had conceptualized this time of
problem, a president being allied with a foreign entity, welcoming foreign
assistance to undermine his domestic political enemies, we thought about
that. Even when we conceptualized it for fiction and scary movies and
stuff, I think we had all assumed that the remedy for it would be exposure,
that the way that you would fix some sort of threat like that in our
country and respond to it would be to investigate it, prove it, draw to the
attention of the American public and then it`s over, right? We thought
that would be the way it ended.
What you`re describing here about somebody having benefitted from foreign
influence and then potentially being in the pocket of a foreign country
because having accepted that assistance, what is the remedy for that if
exposure doesn`t work?
RICE: Well, exposure is critical and the role of the free press in our
society, particularly in these times, cannot be overstated. But there`s
also something called separation of powers and checks and balances, and our
system is constructed on the premise that we have three coequal branches of
government. And that requires that each of the three branches uphold their
And I think that the greatest weakness in the system apart from, of course,
what we see in the White House and throughout the executive branch, is the
failure of the president`s party in Congress to uphold its obligations to
accountability, to oversight, to truth and decency. And in that context,
what we`re learning is that when one branch falls down on its
responsibilities and another branch doesn`t step up to do its job, our
system is in fact not as strong as we perhaps thought it was.
MADDOW: I`d like to ask you a process question here that I think there`s a
factual answer to it, and I think you can tell me. I don`t think it`s any
– I don`t think it`s a secret. And I think for me it helps me understand
how the lines of accountability should work here.
If, for example, in 2020, some country, some adversary somewhere or some
country that has interests in the United States and wants its way with us,
does decide they`re going to intervene in our election in a substantive
way, that they`re going to put their – they`re going to use their
intelligence capacity, they`re going to provide assistance, they`re going
to tap one candidate or the other and try to help them or use them in some
way for their own aims – if the intelligence community realizes that`s
happening, they figure that out through their own capacities, if the
element in the U.S. election system that is getting that help, that has had
those foreign contacts and that`s accepting it is the president`s campaign,
who should the intelligence community brief that information to?
I mean, you wouldn`t go to the perpetrator to say, hey, we`ve got important
information that you`re the perpetrator? Would you? I mean, would they go
to the Gang of Eight? Would they go to Congress and not directly to the
president if the president turns out to be the bad guy in something they
figured out was going on?
RICE: Well, fortunately, that`s a dilemma we haven`t encountered to date.
But it would be, in my estimation, the obligation of the intelligence
community to not only brief the appropriate executive branch officials,
including the president`s cabinet, the president and the vice president.
But it would also require that they do brief Congress – and as you said
the Gang of Eight, which as you know are the four leaders on either side
and the leaders of the intelligence committees. And that is the inner
sanctum, so to speak, of congressional oversight of the intelligence
community. And the intelligence community has a long established
relationship with that Gang of Eight, as well as with the intelligence
So, I would think it would need at a minimum to brief the Gang of Eight and
possibly more broadly the intelligence committees on both sides.
MADDOW: But if the president was the one who was working with a foreign
power in a way that was, you know, illegal under U.S. law and an
intelligence concern for intelligence committees, they would have to brief
it to the president?
RICE: It`s hard to see how they avoid that, unless they refer it through
law enforcement channels and, you know, the Justice Department – cough.
And, you know, the courts are able to do their duty. But it`s hard to
imagine how the executive branch is uninformed at the highest levels about
a finding of that sort by the intelligence community.
MADDOW: Wow, even when it implicates the head of the executive branch
itself. That`s amazing.
RICE: As I said, this is uncharted territory, thankfully. And, you know,
let`s all pray that we don`t get there. But if we did, I think the
intelligence community would have obligations to brief both Congress and
Madam Ambassador, I have another matter I`d love to ask you about,
something that we learned about in the news today. If you could stick
around with us, I`d love it.
RICE: Good to be with you. I will.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back with former national security,
former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Joining us once again is Susan Rice, former national security
ambassador and U.S. ambassador to the U.N. in the Obama administration.
Ambassador Rice, thank you for sticking around. Much appreciated.
One of the things I wanted to ask you about was from today`s news. Today,
two tankers, two ships were attacked in the Gulf of Oman. Almost
immediately, we got anonymous U.S. officials telling reporters that Iran
was to blame for the attack.
And then, right away, really quickly, this afternoon, we got Secretary of
State Mike Pompeo setting up a press conference in which he stood in front
of photos of the burning tankers and said the U.S. government`s official
assessment is done and it is unequivocal and he`s now on the record
publicly accusing Iran of that attacks and a whole bunch of other attacks.
The secretary of state didn`t present any evidence to support any of those
assertions, but he is accusing Iran of an escalating series of violent
attacks in a way that makes me feel very nervous.
And ones of the reasons I wanted to ask you about this is not because I
know you don`t have current knowledge about what`s going on with this exact
situation, but I wanted to ask if this looks to you like a normal process,
in terms of how our government is handling this and how responsible they`re
being in terms of what they`re telling the public in terms of evidence for
RICE: Well, Rachel, obviously, I don`t have the benefit of the latest
internal information. But I thought it was a very swift and very
unequivocal pinpointing of Iran as the perpetrator. I`m in no position to
say it`s misleading or false.
RICE: And in fact, Iran has threatened to take action that would impede
the free flow of shipping in the Strait of Hormuz as a result of the
extreme economic pressure that the administration has placed on Iran,
despite the fact that Iran was adhering to the nuclear deal.
But what we have now is a very dangerous situation. What happened today in
the gulf was – was illegal. It was dangerous, and it could have cost
lives. And it could lead to a very dangerous, escalatory spiral.
And I do think as you earlier in the show went through the litany of sins
that Secretary Pompeo ascribed to Iran, much of those – that litany of
sins has not been validated. Indeed, attribution for today`s attacks have
not been backed by any evidence.
And I think in the current environment, even if the – or even if – or
especially if the administration is confident in its evidence, it ought to
share it and share it not only behind closed doors in the United Nations
Security Council but with the American people and the world more broadly,
because for a variety of reasons, not least because we have a president who
according to “The Washington Post” has told more than 10,000 lies during
the course of his tenure, there are many who rightly are questioning the
veracity of what is said by senior members of this administration.
I hope that that is not the case in this instance. I hope that the
secretary of statewide not stand before the American people and tell a bald
face lie about something as important as this. I want to believe that when
he presents such evidence, that he does so in good faith and on the best
information. But there is, nonetheless, quite of a lot of reason why
people in this country and elsewhere would question it.
And therefore, disclosing the evidence, making it plain for everybody to
see and then to be very thoughtful and deliberate about how to respond to
that evidence is critical now.
MADDOW: Susan rice, former national security advisor, former U.S.
ambassador to the U.N. in the Obama administration, author of the new
forthcoming book which is called “Tough Love” about her life in public
service – Madam Ambassador, it is really excellent to have you here. I
hope you`ll come back sooner than it`s been since the last time I saw you.
It`s really nice to have you on the air.
RICE: Thank you. I look forward to coming back.
MADDOW: Thanks very much.
All right. Much more to get to tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: All right. Here`s something that I think is a sort of remarkable
update, a remarkable next chapter in a story we`ve covered from the very
beginning on this show. The Flint, Michigan, lead poisoning disaster.
You might remember the poisoning of the water supply in Flint wasn`t a
natural disaster. It was a manmade catastrophe. That poisoning happened
because of overt actions taken by that state`s government under Republican
Governor Rick Snyder.
Well, one of the things that has happened in the wake of the Flint
disaster, as Flynn has tried to take care of the people who are poisoned
and take cares of the damage in their city, which is still an ongoing
fight, one of the things that has happened since is that there have been
criminal prosecutions. As of last year, 15 state and local officials have
been charged with crimes for that disaster, crimes ranging from neglect of
duty to involuntary manslaughter.
But then this year, the state government in Michigan turned over a new
Democratic governor, new Democratic attorney general were elected by the
people of Michigan and once they took over at the start of this year, we
started to get the first inklings there might have been something wrong
there. That there might have been something going on under the surface
with those Flint criminal prosecutions, something that for some reason was
greeted with alarm by the incoming administration once they got in there
and figured out what was going on.
Well, it`s all been vague and there`s been a lot of hints but no real
specifics until today. We got the most dramatic possible announcement
about what`s going on here. Today, they announced they have dropped all
pending Flint water prosecutions.
They`ve dropped all eight of the pending cases, dropped without prejudice,
which means they are signaling they could bring them back. They could
bring new prosecutions in some other way, possibly on other charges,
possibly against the same people, possibly against new people. The fact
that they were dismissed without prejudice means that – this doesn`t mean
that charges won`t come back.
But why were they all dropped?
Leading up to this news, there had been reporting over the past several
weeks about an extraordinary amount of potential evidence that the new
prosecutor said had never been examined by law enforcement the way it
should have been. As part of that reporting, there was a little ripple of
shock that went through the Michigan press and a little bit through the
national press when it turned out one of the things prosecutors wanted to
see from scratch anew was Republican Governor Rick Snyder`s own phone and
his state-provided computers and devices. Governor Snyder`s devices are
now being looked at by the new prosecutors who have taken over these cases
with this change in Michigan government.
And that may be part of what`s going on here. But here to me is the most
interesting thing. The Michigan attorney general`s office made this
dramatic announcement about dropping all the pending Flint water
prosecutions and they told people yes, we know this is going to cause a lot
of questions. We understand we have a lot of explaining about what
happened here, about what we think was wrong and why we have taken this
dramatic step, and what we`re about to do next.
But they said today, we are not going to do any of that explaining until
June 28th. No questions till then. Well, what`s June 28th? Turns out
June 28th is when the lead prosecutors are going to do an event in Flint,
for the people of Flint, so the people of Flint can hear the explanation
first, in terms of what happened and what is next. And then after the
people of Flint have been briefed, then the rest of it can hear it after.
So, June 28th, whatever has gone on here, the people of Flint are going to
get the explanation first and they are going to be the first people who
have the opportunity to ask questions about it and the rest of us come
I mean, this is not like a surprise curveball, right? This is like a UFO
landing in the infield, incredible development in the story. I would
usually at this point say watch this space but honestly, watch Flint.
MADDOW: Today, you might have seen that Trump national security adviser
Mike Flynn received a subpoena to testify to the Intelligence Committee
about the Mueller investigation. He and Trump deputy national security
adviser Rick Gates were both subpoenaed today.
And it may be a little tricky because both of them are also simultaneously
awaiting sentences right now on federal felony charges related to stuff
that turned up in the Mueller investigation. But when it comes to Flynn,
this may be trickier still, something we`ve been watching develop all week
as Flynn heads what we expect to be the end of his own criminal case.
As you know, Flynn recently fired his long-time lawyers instead hired a new
lead lawyer, a regular on Fox News where she calls Robert Mueller the real
crook and the FBI the real crime family and says that Flynn never should
have pled guilty and the judge in this case doesn`t know what he`s doing.
Because of Flynn hiring that lawyer, there`s been a lot of speculation that
Flynn might have hired that new lawyer because he`s trying to persuade the
president to give him a pardon. This isn`t the kind of lawyer you would
hire to persuade that judge to give you a light sentence.
We`ve been watching this over the course of this week, for signs that any
sort of pardon effort might be coming from Flynn. Well, today, we got a
pretty good sign. The president`s first tweet of the day praising Flynn
for hiring this great new lawyer. A presidential thumbs up for Mike Flynn.
The president has so far not pardoned anybody in conjunction with the
Russia scandal but it does feel like those are the train tracks that are
being laid down in the Flynn case.
So, watch this space. Stay with us.
MADDOW: I told you this felt like a Friday, doesn`t it? The amount of
news that broke over the course of the day and into the night and no rest?
Well, that does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence, on this busy night.
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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