Pompeo blames Iran for May attack. TRANSCRIPT: 6/17/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Yes, that`s very apparent. Tony Schwartz, thank
you so much for your insights.
TONY SCHWARTZ, CO-AUTHOR, “TRUMP: THE ART OF THE DEAL”: Thank you.
HAYES: That is ALL IN in for this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: Thanks at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you here.
This is one of those news day where it feels like there is a lot of
tectonic shifts going on, both in far flung corners of the world and here
For example, you may have seen some of these remarkable images from over
the weekend. What you are looking at here is a significant proportion of
the entire population of Hong Kong out in the streets, peacefully
protesting against a proposed change. The local government was considering
there that would have put residents of the relatively free city of Hong
Kong under Chinese criminal law.
Local authorities in Hong Kong were considering a change that would have
allowed for people in Hong Kong to be extradited to China to face the
famously opaque Chinese legal system. There`s about 7 million people who
live in Hong Kong. If you get 1 million or more people out in the streets
protesting something like that, out of 7 million people who live in the
whole city? That is a pretty statistically significant sample of the
entire population of that territory.
So I just can`t get over these images. We`re going to have more on these
remarkable scenes out of Hong Kong coming up later on this hour.
But the basic bottom line here is that this huge display, huge display of
people power over the past weekend culminating in weekend with these huge
numbers of people in the streets – the basic bottom line here about what
we have seen out of Hong Kong is that what they`re doing in these images,
it worked. It is working. These people are changing the course of history
and changing the course of their own lives. That`s what they have done in
the streets. Again, we`ll have more on that remarkable story coming up.
But for sheer fatal drama today, though, there was this shocking news.
That this man, the former president of Egypt, he dropped dead today in an
Egyptian courtroom where he was being tried on espionage charges. His name
is Mohamed Morsi. He was leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.
He was briefly elected president of Egypt in 2012 after the Arab spring
uprising in Egypt, threw out Hosni Mubarak, that country`s long-time
dictatorial leader. Morsi was elected in 2012. The year after, he was
elected he too was overthrown and removed from office by force this time in
a military coup, which promptly locked Morsi up and subjected him to this
long series of trials, the culmination of which had him in court today.
The leader of the military coup that seized power back in 2013,
incidentally he still holds power in Egypt to this day. Here he is making
happy chitchat with a beaming president Trump at the White House earlier
this year. This was the headline that day in “The New York Times.”
Egypt`s president basks in Trump`s embrace. Egypt`s president hoping to be
allowed to stay in office until 2034 basks in Trump`s embrace. And Trump,
of course, bestows it upon him.
Mohamed Morsi, the former elected president who was ousted by that military
coup, he was known to suffer from a bunch of different health problems,
including diabetes and liver disease. Outside observers had warned he was
not getting medical care in prison under the Egyptian military regime.
Well, today, he dropped dead in a Cairo military courtroom, age 67.
Today, we are also seeing rapid escalation of whatever it is that is going
on inside the Trump administration with regard to Iran. We got this
announcement from the president last month that he was going to dispatch an
additional 1,500 U.S. troops to the Middle East to somehow vaguely counter
some vague new threat from Iran. Well, now, the acting defense secretary
has just announced 1,000 more U.S. troops are going to the Middle East,
again, somehow in response to something going on with Iran.
This latest announcement about 1,000 U.S. troops heading over there, this
follows a series of increasingly dramatic accusations from the Trump
administration that seem to be intended to put us on a war footing with
Iran. Now, we talked on the show late last week about the list of violent
acts the Trump administration is now attributing to Iran, including at
least one attack in Afghanistan in which four U.S. service members were
wounded. That`s an attack for which someone else entirely, the Taliban,
claimed responsibility. The Trump administration is nevertheless saying,
no, we think that was Iran too.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was questioned sharply about that this
weekend by Margaret Brennan on CBS News. She pointed out to him that the
Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack and there`s been no evidence
put forward by the administration to back up their new assertion that
secretly it was really Iran who did that and that`s one of the reasons we
need to be on this newly aggressive footing toward Iran.
Secretary of state insisted that he can`t share the evidence, he can`t
share any intelligence that gives him such confidence that Iran is
actually, really responsible for that attack. Not to mention all the other
attacks they put on this list to bolster public perception that we`re on
some escalating march to war with Iran that they`re starting.
But the prospect of war with Iran became a much more concretely advanced
prospect today with the U.S. military dispatching a thousand more troops.
Iran today also considerably upping the stakes of whatever`s going on here
with their announcement that they`re going back to enriching nuclear fuel,
the way they were before they entered into the nuclear deal they signed in
2015 with the major European powers and the U.S. government under Barack
Now Trump, of course, and all the Republican presidential candidates in
2016, they all campaigned for president against Obama`s Iran nuclear deal.
They all promised they would end it. Well, now we`re seeing what that
Now, perhaps inevitably following the Trump administration actually pulling
out of that deal with Iran, Iran today has announced, OK, then, they`ll
stop abiding by the terms of that deal. Why should they continue to abide
by that deal if the U.S. has pulled out of it and if there`s still – if
they`re now facing all of this – the sanctions opprobrium that they were
otherwise in a deal with the United States about before the Trump
administration pulled out.
So, I mean, big picture here, chest pounding about Iran is a full-blown,
semi pro sports in Washington, and it has been for a long time. But
whatever is going on with the Trump administration toward Iran right now,
their combination of chest-pounding and taking action to make sure the
confrontation is as acute and as heated as possible here and as high stakes
as possible, that is getting us closer now by the day to all hell breaking
loose. I mean, it will not go unnoticed in Iran or around the world or
here at home that the, you know, cool, calm, rational actors who are
managing this rapid high-stakes nuclear escalation with Iran are these
calming figures like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo and the always even-keeled
rational Donald Trump. They`re the ones who are deciding to ride this
bronco this way.
So, we`re going to get some advice on this in a moment from somebody who is
in a better position to understand the stains here than I am, but I think
there is a reason that people are rattled about whatever it is the Trump
administration is trying to do here, whatever it is exactly that they are
But there`s one other thing in today`s news that I think – well, that I
also want to get some expert help about. But this one is one where I`m not
sure if it should all make us feel more rattled or more calm. And this is
something that we have covered on and off over the past couple of years,
really, on this show.
The basic story here is one that we started to hear about back during the
start of the 2016 presidential campaign. In December of 2015, right before
Christmas that year, there was a huge power blackout in the nation of
Ukraine. It was Christmas time. It was freezing cold in Ukraine.
Hundreds of thousands of people lost power entirely without any warning.
U.S. government investigators soon assessed that that power outage in
Ukraine, quote, may well have been the first power blackout triggered by a
cyber attack. Ukrainian officials were already claiming at that time and
the U.S. government`s assessment would soon back them up that it was
actually a Russian cyber attack that cause that blackout. Russia hacked
into control systems for the Ukrainian power grid and shut the lights off
in that country, at will, right before Christmas, 2015, basically as a way
to punish that country and scare its leaders.
In December of 2016, senior Obama administration officials raised the alarm
that Russian government hackers were also targeting critical infrastructure
including power grid infrastructure in the United States, just as they had
done when they shut off the lights in Ukraine the year before. By the
following summer, in July of 2017, “The New York Times” had obtained a copy
of an urgent joint report that had just been issued by the FBI and the
Department of Homeland Security, warning that, quote, hackers have been
penetrating the computer networks of companies that operate nuclear power
stations and other energy facilities as well as manufacturing plants in the
The urgent joint report issued by Homeland Security and the FBI carried an
urgent amber warning, the second highest rating for the sensitivity of the
threat. Then it was a few months later, in March 2018, the Homeland
Security Department and the FBI issued publicly a joint technical alert.
Quote: This alert provides information on Russian government actions
targeting U.S. government entities as well as organizations in the energy,
nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation and critical manufacturing
sectors. Quote: Contact DHS or law enforcement immediately to report an
intrusion and to request incident response resources or technical
The first warning from DHS and the FBI that had been reported on by “The
New York Times” was not a public warning. That second one, that technical
bulletin was effectively a public warning, although it was full of
technical information, including specific malware, specific computer code
lines that they wanted operators of those critical elements of U.S.
infrastructure to look for in their computer systems.
So, I mean, so by that point – by March of last year, the threat and the
warnings from the U.S. government were getting more specific, both in terms
of the potential damage that could be caused by these type of cyber attacks
and the specificity with which the U.S. government was identifying the
Quote: Cyber attacks put Russian fingers on the switch at power plants,
U.S. says. That was the headline, March 15th last year in “The New York
Times.” Quote: The administration accused Russia this week of engineering
a series of cyber attacks that targeted U.S. and European nuclear power
plants and water and electric systems, and could have sabotaged or shut
power plants off at will. That was March of last year.
Within a few months, by last summer, July of last year, the threats and the
description of the intrusions were getting and more concrete. This is from
“The Wall Street Journal.” “Russian hackers reach U.S. utility control
rooms, say U.S. Homeland Security officials. Hackers working for Russia
claimed hundreds of victims last year in a giant and long-running campaign
that put them inside the control rooms of U.S. electric utilities where
they could have caused blackouts, according to federal officials.
Those officials say, quote: The campaign likely is continuing. That was as
of last summer, July 2018. By this year, by January 2019, the office of
the director of national intelligence released its unclassified public-
facing document which it puts out every year called the “Worldwide Threat
The Worldwide Threat Assessment this year, January of this year, included
this short public-facing warning that Russia`s government wasn`t just
looking to, you know, build this kind of capacity to shut the lights off
here or threatening to amass that kind of power inside our country, the
warning from DNI as of January of this year is that Russia now has that
This was the exact quote released by the DNI in January. Quote: Russia has
the ability to execute cyber attacks in the United States that generate
localized, temporary disruptive effects on critical infrastructure, such as
disrupting an electrical distribution network for at least a few hours. So
that was the public warning as of January this year from the director of
Russia – you know, we`ve seen all these warnings coming. Russia now has
the ability to turn off the lights in the United States if they want to,
right? That statement from the DNI in January, I mean, if you see it in
context, that`s the culmination of a few years of open-source reporting and
leaks of official government documents to reporters and increasingly urgent
and specific warnings from homeland security and law enforcement and
intelligence about Russia developing this capacity to target us in that
Now, when you stack up all those reports over the past few years, you know,
given the crescendo of that public reporting and the piling up of that
evidence and the increasing urgency of that story, even as it was just told
by the U.S. government, starting, you know, Christmas 2015 into 2016, 2017,
2018 and into this year. If you look at the increasing urgency and
specificity of those warnings that we`ve had over the past few years –
well, now, today, at the end of that long string of news stories and
warnings, it probably should not have come as a surprise to get this
report, that the U.S. is doing the same thing back, that the U.S. has
developed the same capacity.
Quote: U.S. escalates online attacks on Russia`s power grid. In what David
Sanger and Nicole Perlroth describe as a previously unreported deployment
of American computer code inside Russia`s grid, “The New York Times” is now
citing multiple U.S. officials who are describing, quote, the placement of
potentially crippling malware inside the Russian systems at a depth and
with an aggressiveness that has never been tried before. It is intended,
quote, partly as a warning and partly to be poised to conduct cyber strikes
if a major conflict broke out between the U.S. and Moscow.
This initiative has been carried out by U.S. cyber command, which is part
of the U.S. military, and this is interesting. Recent changes to U.S. law,
thanks to both a presidential directive and thanks to a little-noticed new
legal authority that was slipped into the military authorization bill last
year. Those new legal authorities allowed these kinds of actions that are
described in this “Times” piece. They allow these kinds of actions
apparently to be carried out by cyber command, on their own say so, without
having to get specific permission from the president to do it, and also
without having to get specific permission from Congress.
According to “The Times,” quote, “So far there is no evidence that the U.S.
has actually turned off the power inside Russia, just as the Russians have
not turned off power inside the United States, but the placement of
malicious code inside both systems revives the question of whether a
nation`s power grid or other critical infrastructure that keeps homes,
factories and hospitals running constitutes a legitimate target for online
So, there`s a couple – first of all, I think this is important. I think
that`s a super interesting and sort of rattling question in terms of what
capacity we have toward other countries and what capacity they have toward
us that would absolutely target civilian infrastructure in a way that we
might not previously understand as the way wars might be conducted. But
there`s a couple of things that are weird about – well, I guess first I
should say I think it`s not weird that the U.S. has developed this
I mean, given how acutely focused we know the U.S. government has been on
Russia developing this capacity over the last few years, this revelation
that the U.S. has decided to develop the same capacity back at them. So
we`ve got sort of mutually assured destruction here. It`s sort of not that
surprising. The revelation that the U.S. has developed this capacity is
not what is weird here, even though that does sort of rattle me.
The weird things here are two things about the way this story has broken,
and both of them have to do with President Trump. The first really strange
thing about the reaction to this “New York Times” reporting is president
Trump`s response to it online, because this story apparently sort of made
him flip out.
This is what he posted online in response: Do you believe that the failing
“New York Times” just did a story stating that the U.S. is substantially
increasing cyber attacks on Russia? This is a virtual act of treason by a
once great paper so desperate for a story, any story, even if bad for our
Bad for our country?
Next tweet: Also not true. Wait, is it bad if it`s not true that – “Also
not true. Anything goes with our corrupt news media today. They will do
or say whatever it takes with not even the slightest thought of
consequence. These are true cowards and without doubt the enemy of the
And I realize, you know, president types thing, right? President says
thing. But why is the president so freaked out by this news article? I
mean, first of all, if “The Times” is reporting something that isn`t true,
if the U.S. hasn`t developed this capacity then why would it be treason for
the U.S. – for “The New York Times” to report that the U.S. has done this?
It would be treason, really?
Betraying the – also, why are you so flipped out about the potential
consequence? They will do or say whatever it takes with not even the
slightest thought of consequence. What do you think the consequence might
be of Russia thinking that we have upped our cyber capacity against them?
What`s the scary consequence of that for you?
I mean, the president is reacting to this like this is the worst thing in
the world for the U.S. to be reported to have a new offensive capacity
toward Russia. Why is that so scary to you that that`s in the paper? It`s
a weird response from the president.
What`s he worried is going to happen now that that`s public news? I mean,
what do you think the consequence is going to be of Russia learning that we
have done this? Why does that bother you so much?
The other weird part about this story is that apparently the president
might have freaked out about this news in part because he might have first
learned it from “The New York Times.” Cyber command may have been doing
this, they may have been developing this offensive capacity in Russia
without ever telling him that is what they were doing.
Quoting from “The Times.” Quote: Two administration officials said they
believed Mr. Trump had not been briefed in any detail about the steps to
place these implants, software code that can be used for surveillance or
attack, inside the Russian grid. Pentagon and intelligence officials
described broad hesitation to go into detail with Mr. Trump about
operations against Russia for concern over his reaction and the possibility
that he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials. As he
did in 2017 when he mentioned a sensitive operation in Syria to the Russian
So, there`s a lot going on in the world. What we have just learned from
“The New York Times” is that the U.S. government has developed a new
offensive capacity against Russia in the cyber field. The president is
publicly freaking out that that has been publicly reporting. He`s both
denying that it`s happening and saying that it`s terrible that it`s being
reported and we should worry about the consequences of this.
Also, U.S. officials are willing to tell “The New York Times” that they do
stuff, particularly when it comes to Russia, without telling the president
about it all the time. Because they think he might countermand those
actions. He might tell them not to do it, or he might tell the Russians
what we`re doing in a way that would hurt the U.S. government`s efforts,
and the U.S. military`s efforts.
So I think it`s worth getting some expert help to understand what`s going
on here and the importance of this story, and some of the other stories
that I just talked about.
But let me just tell you one thing about the person we`ve got here tonight
on deck to help us understand some of this stuff. In June 2017, so the
first summer that Trump was in office, June 1st, 2017, investigative
reporter Michael Isikoff at Yahoo News reported this remarkable and still
largely unheralded but really, really important story about what happened
as soon as Trump got in office. And Isikoff broke this story June 1st.
NBC News was able to confirm to later on that day.
But what Isikoff figured out that day was that in the very first few days
of the Trump administration, top Trump administration officials were
dispatched to the State Department to immediately tell state department
employees that Trump wanted to unilaterally drop U.S. sanctions against
Russia. He wanted to get rid of U.S. sanctions on Russia on his own say so
alone. And so, he dispatched top officials to the State Department his
first days in office to tell State Department staffers they needed to help
put together whatever plans would be necessary for him to get that done,
for him to unilaterally give Putin the thing he most wanted.
Veteran State Department officials decided that this was alarming enough
behavior that they sounded the alarm to other veteran and recently retired
State Department officials and they set in plan a motion to let Congress
know this was happen, because these new Trump administration officials were
trying to do it without telling anyone. Senior officials at the State
Department, including Dan Fried, who was a top sanctions official, and Tom
Malinowski who just stepped down as secretary of state, those senior
officials and former officials did go ahead and tell Congress, they alerted
Democratic and Republican members of Congress as to what the Trump
administration was very quietly trying to do on the president`s own say so
with nobody knowing that they were doing it.
And that ultimately led to this remarkable and under appreciated thing that
happened just in the first few weeks, just if the first few months of the
Trump administration, which is that based on those warnings from those
national security professionals who were alerted to what Trump was trying
to get away with secretly inside the State Department as soon as he got in
office, thanks to those alerts, both houses of Congress, both the Senate
and the House in hugely overwhelming and bipartisan votes passed
legislation to affirm the sanctions on Russia and to block Trump from
dropping them unilaterally without anybody else`s say so.
I say it was an overwhelming vote. It was 98-2 in the Senate. It was 419-
3 in the House. Trump did not want to sign that law. He wanted to get rid
of the sanctions on Russia, right?
But with majorities that overwhelming, well over veto-proof majorities,
right? He had no choice. And so, he squawked and he said he didn`t want
to do it. He issued a signing statement saying he disagreed with it, but
he had to sign it.
And that`s how these sanctions on Russia got upheld, so Trump couldn`t get
rid of them himself. And that was the first reported instance we had of
all sorts of people inside the U.S. government, Republicans and Democrats
both, conservatives, liberals, career non-ideological, nonpartisan people,
all of them coming together to the belief that this president could not be
trusted to handle a national security matter like that on his own say so.
Not specifically when it comes to Russia.
We now know that started the first few days he was in office. It`s the
whole reason there are still sanctions on Russia today. And now, this week
we learned that this far into the Trump administration it`s still
Pentagon and intelligence officials are willing to tell “The New York
Times” now that they are literally not even telling him about new offensive
capacities that cyber command have just developed to enable the U.S.
military to shut off Russia`s lights if we want to. They didn`t tell
Trump. They let him read about it “The Times” whereupon he freaked out!
Can`t be true.
I mean, this idea of saving the country from the commander-in-chief,
protecting national security interests from a president who is believed to
pose a threat to them, I mean, that`s – that gets talked about a lot of
the time as if it`s still an abstract or like a future risk question. It
turns out we are living in that era right now. That is happening right now
and that is not supposed to be the way it goes, but how do we responsibly
as Americans under this Constitution grapple with the fact that that`s
Former Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski, who I mentioned was
part of that effort at the State Department, with that initial sanctions
freak out right after Trump was sworn into office, Tom Malinowski is no
longer at the State Department. He`s no longer assistant secretary of
state. He is now a Democratic member of Congress who among other things
sits on the foreign relations committee and Congressman Malinowski joins us
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Joining us now is Congressman Tom Malinowski. He`s a Democrat
from New Jersey. He`s a member of the House Foreign Relations Committee.
Before running for Congress, Mr. Malinowski served in the State Department
as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor.
Sir, it`s really nice to have you here on the show tonight. Thanks for
making time to be here.
REP. TOM MALINOWSKI (D-NJ): Thank you.
MADDOW: So, let me first get your reaction to the news tonight that the
Pentagon is deploying an additional 1,000 U.S. troops to the Middle East.
The acting defense secretary is describing this as a response to increased
Iranian threats to U.S. personnel and interests in the region.
What`s your reaction to that?
MALINOWSKI: Well, there are increased threats. It is a very dangerous
But think about this from the standpoint of the last three years. Three
years ago, Iran`s nuclear program was under control, Iran was not attacking
shipping in the Persian Gulf and our allies were 100 percent with us in
holding Iran accountable.
Now, they are breaking flee of the constraints of the nuclear deal. They
apparently are attacking oil tankers in the gulf, and we are completely
alone. Our allies are not with us because we tore up the deal.
This is not – we`re not better off. We are not safer. And, you know, the
administration keeps thumping its chest and saying we`ve somehow restored
deterrence against Iran. We`re so tough.
Well, it doesn`t seem like Iran is deterred. They are doing more dangerous
things today than they were under the Obama administration.
MADDOW: Do you feel like the Trump administration is sort of hell-bent on
escalation here? I mean, they have been making a public case that Iran has
become dramatically more threatening, specifically in recent weeks.
I mean, we in the public don`t really have a way to assess the case that
they`re making. We don`t have a great way to assess the quality of the
evidence that they`re presenting. They`re obviously telling a story that
Iran is basically trying to start a war with us and we`re only reluctantly
being drawn into this sort of conflict.
I mean, do you in Congress have access to better information? Have you
seen anything that either supports or rebuts what the administration has
been claiming about Iran recently?
MALINOWSKI: They did brief us before this latest alleged attack on the oil
tankers, and I got to tell you, what going into details, in that briefing
we were not presented with any convincing evidence that Iran is
significantly escalating. Look, I mean, Iran has been engaged in
threatening activities for years. They`re responsible for hundreds of and
thousands of innocent civilians being killed in Syria.
But we were not presented with any evidence of significant escalation. The
attack on the tanker, if that`s Iran, and it probably is, that`s a serious
But, again, we are – we have our share of responsibility in bringing the
region to this point. There is no real justification for tearing up the
deal, for imposing these crippling sanctions when Iran was abiding by its
terms of the agreement and turning our backs on offers from our allies in
Europe to help us to deal with Iran`s actual threatening activities. The
Europeans offered to work with us, to sanction Iran over support for
terrorism, its missile developments. We said no and we set off on our own
on this course which the administration itself now admits has produced far
more dangerous behavior.
And what do they want? I have no idea. I don`t think Trump wants a war.
I don`t think he knows what he wants. He wanted to sound tough.
And now, we`re in this situation where, you know, I worry about what Iran
might do. The United States does not have a monopoly on making stupid
mistakes in the Middle East. The Iranians could make a stupid mistake here
as well, which we would then have to respond to.
MADDOW: On this idea that the president and his administration may be not
necessarily on the same page, that the president himself may be somewhat
divorced from this prospect or at least may be sort of an inscrutable part
of it, I also want to ask about this reporting that we`ve got from “The New
York Times” as of this weekend that the U.S. cyber command has developed
sort of remarkable new offensive capacity against Russia, but I was very
struck by a couple of paragraphs deep into that story in which Pentagon and
intelligence officials tell “The Times” that the president probably wasn`t
briefed on that. In part because it`s about Russia and senior national
security officials, including military officials, don`t trust the president
to be – to have sensitive information, particularly when it comes to
Russia, because they`re worried that he would either countermand it or he
would talk to foreign officials about it.
That just strikes me as both, like sort of half comforting that they`re
trying to protect our national security from that prospect, but also
deeply, deeply wrong in terms of the way our constitutional chain of
command and constitutional authority is supposed to work here.
MALINOWSKI: It`s – it`s really not good, and, you know, as you reported,
this was probably a deliberate leak to “The New York Times” by national
security officials. They wanted Russia to know that we have this
capability. So, the message is if you hit us, if you hit our civilian
population, we have the capability to do the same thing to do.
And then the next day because the president is peeved over something in the
article, he tweets out that none of this is true. He`s telling the
Russians, no, we don`t have this capability.
MALINOWSKI: And you can`t have – you can`t have this mixed messaging on
an issue as serious as the issue that you laid out in your earlier report.
This is complicated. As you said, you know, this would be an attack on
civilian infrastructure, on hospitals, on transportation. We should
probably, as in the Cold War, having established deterrence, we should
probably start thinking about arms control, about forging some sorts of
agreements about not using this kind of weapon first.
But all of that is undermined when the president is not with the program,
when his ego is wounded by a story and then he comes out and tells our
adversary that, well, maybe we don`t have this capability. What are they
supposed to think?
MADDOW: Congressman Tom Malinowski, member of the House Foreign Relations
Committee, former assistant secretary of state, thank you for your service
as a public servant, particularly this new chapter that you`re in in
Congress. I really appreciate you making time for us tonight.
MALINOWSKI: Thank you so much, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Thanks.
All right. We`ve got much more to get to. Busy night. Stay with us.
MADDOW: We`ve had a lot of presidential candidates come through these
parts this year. It`s one of the most humbling aspects of this job. I
think I`m OK at candidate interviews, like sometimes. I`m never great, but
I`m always trying to get better.
Part of the way I try to get better is by studying beneath the Mount
Rushmore of presidential candidate interviews. Studying the user`s manual
on how to grill human beings who are running for president of the United
States. And that user`s manual looks like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST, “HARDBALL” Should the woman be punished for
having an abortion?
DONALD TRUMP (R), THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look –
MATTHEWS: This is not something you can dodge. If you say abortion is a
crime or abortion is murder, you have to deal with it under the law.
Should abortion be punished?
TRUMP: Well, people in certain parts of the Republican Party and
conservative Republicans would say, yes, they should be punished.
MATTHEWS: How about you?
TRUMP: I would say that it`s a very serious problem and it`s a problem
that we have to decide on.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe in – do you believe in punishment for abortion,
yes or no as a principle?
TRUMP: The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.
MATTHEWS: For the woman?
TRUMP: Yes, there has to be some form.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: My MSNBC colleague Chris Matthews grilling then candidate Donald
Trump in 2016 over whether women who seek abortions should be punished. He
admits that he believes yes and then, hamana, hamana, hamana, spends the
rest of his life trying to get out of it.
But that interview was a freaking master class, and you are in luck because
tonight, Chris Matthews is unleashing his formidable superpowers on the
good people of Dayton, Ohio. This is super interesting. It`s “The
Deciders,” right? It`s the voters in the most crucial precincts and the
swing precincts in the country who are ultimately going to be key deciders
in the presidential election.
Dayton is in Montgomery County, Ohio. Montgomery County, Ohio, voted for
Obama twice before voting for Trump in 2016. Trump – excuse me, Chris
Matthews is going to be there tonight.
This is the second one of those “Deciders” events they`ve done. The first
one was in northeastern Pennsylvania, another key place. That was
fascinating. But this next one is tonight, 10:00 p.m. tonight, Eastern
Time, which means right after this show. That is your quick programming
note as you are thinking of your night ahead.
Pace yourself. You have to watch Chris Matthews in Dayton, Ohio, right
after I am done at 10:00 p.m. OK?
All right. We`ve got much more coming up here, though, including Joy Ann
Reid fresh off her day with a whole bunch of the 2020 Democrats including
her time with Joe Biden. Much more ahead, including Joy Reid joining us.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was inspired by the words of a
rapper in Atlanta about me on the campaign. He said, I don`t know who
Andrew Yang is, but he wants to give me $1,000 a month.
So if you get that word out to people where they think that`s a reality,
then we can get folks who do not think politics applies to them because
they`re just putting one foot in front of the other. It`s most of us.,
putting one foot in front of the other. Just fighting for the next month.
And then you say, hey, vote, whatever, it`s not going to matter to me. Yo,
he actually wants to put cash money into everybody`s hands, he wants to
humanize the economy. They`ll still think it`s too good to be true until
they turn on the TV and see me standing next to Joe Biden on June 27th
they`ll say, wow, the Asian man`s for real.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang, earlier today
talking about his proposal to give all Americans over the age of 18 a
guaranteed basic income of $1,000 a month.
Even though Mr. Yang is currently polling generously at 1 percent, clearly
he is feeling his oats. In part like he says because he really is about to
appear on a debate stage alongside former Vice President Joe Biden. That
might make anybody take themselves seriously as a presidential candidate,
even if they hadn`t been before.
I mean, you know, it makes sense for lesser-known candidates to want to
share the debate stage with a big name like Joe Biden, but if you are for
former Vice President Joe Biden yourself, you might not expect that feeling
to be mutual. Since launching his campaign in April, Vice President Biden
hasn`t appeared at a single event alongside his fellow 2020 Democratic
candidates. He`s been doing lots of campaign events but always by himself.
Today was the first time he did an event with his fellow candidates. Today
at a presidential forum in D.C. hosted by the Poor People`s Campaign, Vice
President Biden was asked by the great Joy Reid, among other things, about
his repeated hope against hope insistence that he`ll be able to get
Republicans to come along and do some bipartisan stuff should he get
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOY REID, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: How would you get past either a
majority Republican Senate in which Mitch McConnell was determined to kill
all of these ideas or even a Mitch McConnell in the minority who repeated
the consistent filibustering that happened when you were vice president in
anything that came from the Obama/Biden administration, Mitch McConnell
considered dead on arrival?
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Joy, I know you`re one of ones who
thinks it`s naive that we have to work together. The fact of the matter is
if we can`t get a consensus, nothing happens except the abuse of power by
the executive. Zero.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The vice president later said, quote, you cannot shame people to
do things the right way.
That appears to be a big point of contention between the former vice
president and lots of the other Democrats who are all running behind him in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let`s be clear. If
we`re in the majority and Mitch McConnell wants to block us on the kinds of
things our country needs and the kinds of things they elected me and other
people to enact, then I`m all for getting rid of the filibuster. We cannot
let him block things the way he did during the Obama administration.
SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The real issue here
is, can you build a coalition for change in this country? And can we be as
strategic as Mitch McConnell? I wouldn`t want any of us to be as
malevolent or cynical as Mitch McConnell, but could we please just be as
strategic as he is?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Could we please just be as strategic as him?
Senator Michael Bennet does not have as much faith in a Republican epiphany
on bipartisanship as Vice President Biden does. But we`re seeing that sort
of face to face on the same stage for the first time now that Vice
President Biden, the clear leader in the polls, is starting to do events
alongside his fellow candidates. Again, that started for the first time
today. How fun is it going to be when they`re actually all on the same
stage at the same time simultaneously?
Joy Reid joins us next. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Joy, I know you`re one of the ones who thinks it`s naive we have to
work together. The fact of the matter is if we can`t get a consensus,
nothing happens except the abuse of power by the executive. Zero. Number
Number two, it takes a brass knuckle fight. You have to go out and beat
these folks if they don`t agree with you by making a case. That`s what a
presidential candidate is supposed to do, persuade the public. Move people
as to what`s going on.
So, you go out and beat them, you make the case. You make an explicit case
just like we did for the House. I think we can do the same thing for the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now is the great Joy Ann Reid, host of “A.M. JOY”,
weekend mornings here on MSNBC. Joy is one of the moderators at today`s
presidential forum hosted by the Poor People`s Campaign.
Joy, thanks so much for being here. Congratulations on this event.
REID: Thank you so much, Rachel. Always good to be here.
MADDOW: So it is striking to see Vice President Biden not doing a campaign
event, he`s been doing those. I think this is the first time he`s done a
campaign event where other candidates were also on the same stage doing the
same kinds of questions in the same format. This is the first time he`s
been alongside any of the candidates running behind him in the polls,
REID: It was interesting – yes, it was fascinating for that reason. We
haven`t seen Joe Biden in the context of other people yet. He was the
first to go so he was kind of setting the tone for how the rest of the day
And, yes, you got the sense that he senses the presence of these other
candidates and he senses the way he has to position himself versus them,
and he has firmly planted his flag in being the guy who in his mind, and I
think he genuinely thinks he can find some way to break down the
partisanship on the other side of the aisle in the United States senate.
He seems to really think it can happen.
MADDOW: So when he responded to you so personally and physically walked
over next to you and gave you the Joe Biden eye contact in response to
that, to you than conveyed sincerity and the idea that he was not trying
to, you know, skate around this one. He was going directly to it because
he really believes it?
REID: Yes, you know, I`ve never met Joe Biden. I covered as you did the
Obama/Biden administration but I hadn`t met Joe Biden before. So it was
strange to be that up close and personal literally with the vice president.
And I got the sense let`s say he`s extremely determined to make the point
that anyone who believes that it cannot be done, that Mitch McConnell
cannot be reasoned with or Republicans – maybe not McConnell himself, but
that Republicans cannot be reasoned with and we can`t draw the country
together around some shared set of principles is just dead wrong. I think
he genuinely believes what he called my cynicism that you can get around
that kind of partisanship is wrong, and he was pretty darn determined to
make that point.
MADDOW: Yes, it was an intense moment watching it.
MADDOW: He`s an intense communicator, right?
MADDOW: That`s part of it. Well, let me ask you, in terms of the – how
this all played in the room. Obviously, you had a wide swath of candidates
from the former vice president to, you know, Wayne Messam, to Andrew Yang,
we played a clip of him. Elizabeth Warren, lots of candidates talking
about issues, talking about poverty.
Who got the best reception? Who did a great job?
REID: You know, it was interesting, the way Bishop Barber who set it up,
he really enjoined the audience not to cheer, not to boo, not to indicate
any support for any candidate. The audience was pretty sedate most of the
There were people who broke it. Look, this was a very Bernie Sanders-
friendly audience. I think that was obvious.
Andrew Yang I think resonated in the room. I`ve interviewed him before.
He`s really good at using his moments. Whatever moment you give him, he
really uses it to the best of his advantage.
People like Wayne Messam needed that oxygen and he tried his best to get
There are certain candidates who seem very natural. You know, Elizabeth
Warren is a very natural speaker. She`s just a natural person and I think
she and Kamala Harris were clearly comfortable and at home in that space
and you could feel that.
So I think everyone used it differently. I thought Eric Swalwell,
actually, had a really good moment with the crowd because he was able to
draw on his personal biography of having grown up poor himself, and I think
he used that opportunity to make that point that he`s not just sort of
generic white guy running, he`s a guy who has been poor or at least his
family has struggled. So, everyone used it differently.
MADDOW: That`s fascinating.
And in credit to Bishop Barber and to you as moderator today for being able
to get so many of these Democratic candidates so early in the race talking
about issues of poverty, I would loved to –
REID: Yes, nine people.
MADDOW: I would love to see the Republicans do it as well, but I can`t
imagine Donald Trump taking on the issue. We`ll see.
REID: He was invited. By the way, they invited the other side as well.
And, by the way, you know, Rachel, I thought the points that was made, two
points really shocking for me, 140 people who were either poor or low
income or struggling. That`s a lot of people. That`s 48 percent of the
The other one was that none of the debates we`ve had in the last several
presidential cycles has had even one issue of poverty come up. And so, I
think it`s important that we talk about something that`s not just a niche
issue. We`re talking about nearly half the country that`s financially
struggling. So I`m hoping, hoping, hoping that it comes up at the debate
that NBC is holding.
It`s important. It`s really important that they did this today.
MADDOW: And that the candidates should have to compete on the good ideas.
Joy Reid, you`re amazing. Thank you for making time for us. Thanks, my
REID: Thank you. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: My regularly scheduled handoff to the great Lawrence O`Donnell
will not be seen tonight because we`ve got something special. Chris
Matthews is in Dayton, Ohio, tonight for a town hall with “The Deciders,”
with swing district voters whose votes as a whole are absolutely up for
grabs in 2020.
“The Deciders” with Chris Matthews in Dayton, Ohio, starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are 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 content.>
Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
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