Trump downplays cost of July 4th event. TRANSCRIPT: 7/3/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is ALL IN for this evening on the eve of our
commemoration of this country`s independence.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: It`s Fourth eve. It`s July 4th eve.
HAYES: It`s Fourth eve.
MADDOW: Thank you, my friend.
HAYES: Enjoy your weekend.
MADDOW: Will do.
HAYES: Thank you at home as well for joining us this hour.
It is July Fourth eve. It is July 3rd. And you would usually expect it
this to be a sleepy news day.
But what have we learned about the eve of things in this Trump
administration? What have we learned about, for example, like your typical
Friday night in the Trump administration?
Well, holiday eve works the same way it turns out. This is another one of
those days where is we had to take the show we were planning and ball it up
and put it in the circular file, which is actually a file that we just save
for other days because these things do keep coming around.
Breaking news has one again blown up our show planning, with something just
sort of incredible that just happened in federal court with no warning, out
of the blue. It just blew up something that everybody thought was quite
settled. And it is coming from this remarkable and dramatic soap opera of
a thing that has to do with this administration and with something that the
president feels more strongly about than anything else in his presidency.
You might have seen a few days ago that Chuck Todd from “Meet the Press”
had an interview with President Trump right before the Democratic debates
last week. And there is bunch of news in that interview. There`s always
news when somebody outside the conservative media sphere gets to actually
ask the president questions that involve follow-ups and not just him like,
you know, screaming over helicopter noise and all that stuff. We knew
there was going to be news in that interview.
And in fact one of the things that made news was that Chuck Todd asked
President Trump what his biggest mistake was. What was his biggest regret
from his presidency thus far? The president`s answer to Chuck Todd was
that his biggest mistake, the one thing he has done wrong as president is
Think about everything that has happen and gone wrong over two and a half
years, really the biggest problem is Jeff Sessions? As far as the
president is concerned that, is his one mistake. The only thing he
Now, we know from huge, big chunks of the Robert Mueller report that the
president`s anger towards Jeff Sessions, his feelings about Jeff Sessions
are not lightly arrived at. This is not a personal thing or a passing
fancy. We know from Mueller`s report that Trump expressed vehement
resentment and anger towards sessions over a long period of time.
And he ultimately fired sessions for a very specific reason, because the
president believed that as attorney general of the United States, Jeff
Sessions should have done much more to use the Justice Department and to
use the U.S. legal system to serve Donald Trump, to serve the wishes and to
serve the personal interests of Trump.
Trump was mad at Jeff Sessions for not locking up Hillary Clinton. He was
mad at Jeff Sessions for not firing the special counsel. He was mad at
Jeff Sessions for not shutting down the investigation into Russia attacking
The president thought the Justice Department should just be ordered to do
those things for him, because he wanted those things. And Jeff Sessions
didn`t give him those things. I mean, Jeff Sessions to a certain extent
this thwarted the president`s expressed desires in terms of what he wanted
from the Justice Department. And so, he now believes Jeff Sessions was his
Well, part of the reason Robert Mueller`s report had so many direct quotes
and so much color about the interaction between Trump and Sessions and what
Trump was demanding of Jeff Sessions as attorney general, part of the
reason Mueller had so much detail in that is because Jeff Session`s chief
of staff, a man by the name of Jody Hunt, he gave testimony to Mueller`s
And Jody Hunt, for the entire duration of Jeff Sessions` time as attorney
general, he basically had a front row seat to this bizarre dynamic between
the president and his attorney general, to all the wild demands that Trump
was making of the attorney general. Jody Hunt was there to see and hear
and witness all of the crazy bleep that Trump demanded from his attorney
general and expected from his Justice Department. Jody Hunt was chief of
staff to Sessions. So, he was there for all of it. He saw it all happen
when Trump made those demands, when Trump implored and berated Sessions for
not agreeing to those demands.
I mean, Jody Hunt was there front row seat when Trump ultimately fired
Sessions for the crime of not doing what the president wanted. Now, Jeff
Sessions, of course, is gone as attorney general. Incidentally, Trump says
he`s much happier with his new guy, he`s getting much more of what he wants
from his new guy.
But even after Jeff Sessions was fired as attorney general, Jody Hunt
stayed on at the Justice Department and, in fact, he`s had a big promotion
at the Justice Department. Jody Hunt is now assistant attorney general of
the United States. And in that role, he runs the whole civil division of
the Justice Department, which is a huge part of – it`s like the big part
of the Justice Department.
And in that job, Jody Hunt today showed what he has learned over these past
couple of years from that front row seat he had to the whole Jeff Sessions
dynamic. He showed what he has learned over the past couple of years about
how President Trump expects the Justice Department to do what he wants and
to do what serves his interest, no matter what, no matter how crazy it is,
no matter how contrary it might be to the normal processes of the Justice
Department and a basic understanding of the rule of law.
I mean, Jody Hunt, maybe more than anybody still in government, has seen up
close how even the highest-ranking person, the most powerful person at the
Justice Department, can be not just fired, but attacked and demeaned and
publicly blamed, if that official has the temerity to not employ the
Justice Department to give the president things that he wants.
And he saw that happen to his boss, Jeff Sessions. And now Jeff Sessions
is gone, but Jody Hunt is still there and he is now a senior Justice
Department official himself and today Mr. Hunt showed, I think, again, what
In what was just a remarkable turn of events in a federal court today, on
July 4th eve, in a hastily-called court conference, in which the judge
summoned both sides on very short notice to try to figure out what the heck
was going on, because what had been maintained to the court was apparently
not happening in the real world and federal judges tend not to like that.
What this is about is the Supreme Court case of the Trump administration
lost last week. You might remember, late last week, the Supreme Court
turned back the Trump administration`s efforts to tack something new onto
the census, to change the census in a way that was expected to result in an
undercount of Latinos and an overcount of white people and Republicans,
specifically. They have been trying to change the census that way for the
past couple of years and multiple federal judges in three different
jurisdictions have ruled against the Trump administration, they`ve ruled
that the Trump administration basically had made up their proposed reasons
for changing the census in that way, and so it wasn`t proper for them to
change the census.
Last week, it went to the Supreme Court and in a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme
Court told the Trump administration, basically, that the lower courts were
right. And their purported reasons for why they said they wanted to change
the census, those reasons, plainly, weren`t true. And so, the Supreme
Court told the Trump administration late last week they couldn`t go ahead
with it. At least not under the terms they had been trying to go ahead
with it under.
So, this last time night on this show, we reported that the Justice
Department had conceded, basically, that they lost that case. That it`s
over. They had told the court already over the course of the litigation on
this issue that they were up against a hard deadline. That they needed to
start actually printing the census by July 1st, which was Monday of this
And so, even though they might have tried to, they might have wanted to go
back to the court again and come up with some new justification for adding
this question some other way, frankly, they`re out of time. And so, they
notified the court that they were giving up on trying to do this for the
2020 census. They were starting to print the census already without
tacking on that extra question.
They didn`t just say it in a press release. The reason we were able to
report it last night on the show is because they formally put it in writing
to the court.
Quote: Counsel, we can confirm that the decision has been made to print the
2020 decennial questionnaire without a citizenship question and the printer
has been instructed to begin the printing process. Signed, specific trial
attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division.
Civil Division at the Justice Department, again, is now run by Jody Hunt,
Jeff Sessions` former chief of staff. And so, as of last night, this is
how the Justice Department, this is how the Civil Division of the Justice
Department had left it. They`re telling the court, OK, we`re out, it`s
But then today, on Twitter, President Trump expressed his displeasure with
this eventuality. He insisted on Twitter that no, this is not what his
Justice Department is doing. This is not what his government is doing.
You heard that we`re not putting on that census question – we certainly
And Jody Hunt, who has seen this movie before, Jody Hunt, who has been
fried by this particular proverbial electric fence in his recent past, he
rears up and basically panics today in public on a hastily called court
hearing on the phone with a federal judge. We have the transcript of it.
And I have never seen or heard anything like this before.
But – I mean, presumably, in the mind of the head of the civil division at
the Justice Department, presumably, you know, he was reliving President
Trump beating the ghost of Jeff Sessions all over again, for Sessions
refusing to do what he wanted the Justice Department to do. And this is
how it all came out at this hearing today. Just remarkable.
So, the judge starts off and says good afternoon. And he asks the
attorneys of the plaintiffs to introduce themselves. They do so. Then he
said, for the government?
And the lawyer for the Justice Department says, for the government, your
honor, Josh Gardner and Jody Hunt, assistant attorney general for the civil
The judge says, Mr. Gardner, I know you`re on vacation, so I hated to
That`s the way they start. Right away, it`s a sign that something is
unusual here, right? Josh Gardner is the Justice Department lawyer, career
lawyer who has been handling this case for the Justice Department,
defending what the Trump administration was trying to do with the census.
He just lost that case at the Supreme Court last week.
I mean, the Justice Department has conceded, as of last night, that it`s
over, that the Trump administration won`t be adding this new question to
the census. They`ve notified the court of that fact. That – it`s done,
right? The guy has been handling the case for the Justice Department lost
the case and told the court they are conceding and it`s done. So now that
it`s done, that dude has gone on vacation.
So, why is he back in this hearing today, phoning into this emergency
hearing? Well, he has to call in from vacation because apparently this
isn`t done. And if you want to know why he has to call in from vacation
because this isn`t done, it`s because of the other guy from the Justice
Department who has always phoned in with him. The big boss, the head of
the civil division, the guy who was recently Jeff Sessions` chief of staff
and who has therefore seen what happens to senior Justice Department
officials in the Trump administration when they don`t give Trump what he
wants, no matter what it is.
So, you`ve got the trial attorney phoning in from vacation and the head of
the civil division phoning into this hearing himself. Because that guy
knows what you are supposed to do, right, because the president has yelled
jump, and that guy, of all people, knows that the answer when the president
says jump is how high, sir? How high?
So, the judge says – starts things off. Quote: I guess the reason I
wanted to have this call, obviously we had our call I guess yesterday. It
feels like awhile ago, but I think it was yesterday.
And then this morning I saw a tweet that got my attention. I don`t know
how many federal judges have Twitter accounts, but I happen to be one of
them and I follow the president.
And so, I saw a tweet that directly contradicted the position that Mr.
Gardner has shared with me yesterday. I think I even indicated yesterday
and I`ll indicate again today that Mr. Gardner and every government
attorney who has appeared in this case has been nothing but professional
and candid with the court. But then the tweet that I saw, which I suspect
we all know the tweet I`m referring to, then caused me to think I hadn`t
gone far enough in terms of pinning the government down on where things
So, now, we have a court reporter here. I`m going to ask the same question
I asked yesterday to Mr. Gardner. Is the government going to continue
efforts to place a citizenship question on the 2020 census?
Josh Gardner: Your honor, this is Mr. Gardner. I want to back up just a
step and say I`ve been with the United States Department of Justice for 16
years through multiple administrations and I have also endeavored to be as
candid as possible with the court. What I told the court yesterday was
absolutely my best understanding of the state of affairs.
The president`s position on this issue like the plaintiffs – excuse me.
My best understanding of the state of affairs. I do not have a deeper
understanding of what that means at this juncture other than what the
president has tweeted. But obviously, as you can imagine, I am doing my
absolute best to figure out what`s going on.
I can tell you that I have confirmed that the Census Bureau is continuing
with the process of printing the questionnaire without a citizenship
question and that process has not stopped.
The judge says, all right. Well, I`ll hear from plaintiff`s counsel. And
the lawyer for the plaintiff speaks.
Your honor, I think this underscores, obviously, the need for a stipulated
order, as we talked about yesterday, that makes clear not only that the
government is printing the questionnaire for the 2020 census without a
citizenship question, but that there will be no further effort to inquire
about citizenship status as part of the 2020 census in any manner. I think
it also suggests that we may need a further provision of that order that
makes clear the defendants won`t communicate to the public anything to the
contrary, suggesting that the 2020 census is inquiring about citizenship
status. And further, that they will counter, public counter any such
misinformation that comes from government officials.
The misinformation from government officials here, as described by the
plaintiff`s lawyer, would be misinformation from the president. The
president saying, we`re putting that on the census, even though they`re not
and they`ve maintained to the court that they`re not.
So, at this point, they have sort of a long back-and-forth discussion
between the plaintiff`s lawyers and the judge about whether the judge
actually can block the president from publicly saying untrue things about
what the government is doing on an issue like this.
At one point, the judge says, quote, I assume the parties aren`t suggesting
I can enjoin the president of the United States from tweeting things? Your
honor, don`t assume anything at this point.
But there remains this basic question here, which is that the Trump
administration tried to do a thing. They lost in court. As of yesterday,
they conceded that they would therefore no longer try to do that thing.
But then the president went online today and said, yes, I`ll still going to
do that thing.
So, what`s the remedy for that? What`s going to happen here? Well, queue
the poor guy who was supposed to be on vacation as of today, who has spent
16 years at the Justice Department and perhaps under the impression that
this was still a normal government and that`s how he should behave.
He says – this is Josh Gardner. Quote: Your honor, to back up, this is a
very fluid situation, which we are trying to get our arms around, and
obviously once we get more information, we will communicate that
immediately to the court and the parties. I do want to address a
preliminary issue, though, and that is that the current status quo is that
plaintiffs are fully protected. Meaning the new question is not going to
be tacked on to the census, as far as he knows, regardless of what the
president said on Twitter today.
Quote: I recognize this is a fluid situation and perhaps that might change,
but we`re just not there yet, and I can`t possibly predict at this juncture
what exactly is going to happen. But as of now, the basis for the
citizenship question is firmly enjoined, vacated and does not exist. I
think the current fluidity of the state of play suggests the status quo is
– we need to see how these things develop. And at that juncture, your
honor, if you have additional questions, I can turn it over to the
assistant attorney general, Mr. Hunt.
Now we get to find out why Jody Hunt is there. Why the boss is there, why
Jeff Sessions` old chief of staff has also inserted himself into this case.
Mr. Hunt: Your Honor, this is Joseph Hunt, assistant attorney general for
the Civil Division. We at the Department of Justice have been instructed
to examine whether there is a path forward, consistent with the Supreme
Court decision, that would allow us to include the citizenship question on
the census. We think there may be a legally available path under the
decision. We are examining that, looking at near term options to see
whether that is viable and possible.
Viable and possible, both kinds. We have been instructed to – presumably
from the president`s Twitter feed – we have been instructed to not do what
we told the court what we would do yesterday and we have no idea what that
means we should do, but here I am telling you what Donald Trump`s Twitter
feed told me to do, regardless of what it means and regardless of what it
means for the Justice Department. Regardless of what it means for the
lawyers, including the career lawyers whose reputations in federal court
depend, in part, on whether or not the court can believe them when they say
And here`s how the judge decides to end this. It`s just brutal. The judge
says, OK. Here`s where we are. And then if either side has a different
view, I`ll hear that. But here`s where we are.
By Friday at 2:00 p.m., I want one of two things. I either want a
stipulation as we`ve been discussing, indicating that the citizenship
question will not appear on the census. Or, I want a proposed scheduling
order for how we`re going to go forward on the equal protection claim
that`s been remanded to this court. I want one of those two things by
Friday at 2:00. Any questions as to that?
Josh Gardner: Your Honor, this is Mr. Gardner. The one thing I would
request, given that tomorrow is the Fourth of July and the difficulty in
assembling people from all over the place, is it possible that we could do
this on Monday? The judge: No.
Mr. Gardner: And again – oh, OK. The judge: No, because timing is an
issue. Timing is an issue and we lost at week at this point. And this
isn`t anything against anybody on this call. I have been told different
things and it`s becoming increasingly frustrating.
If you were Facebook and an attorney for Facebook told me one thing and I
read a press release from Mark Zuckerberg telling me something else, I
would be demanding Mark Zuckerberg appear in court with you the next time,
because I would be saying, I don`t think you speak for your client anymore.
I think I`m being really reasonable – excuse me, I think I`m actually
being really reasonable here and just saying I need a final answer by
Friday at 2:00 p.m. or we are going forward. That is where we are.
Oh, that is where we are. Does the Justice Department speak for the U.S.
government? Who is the client? Does your client know that you speak for
the U.S. government? Or do you not?
I mean, this is a bunch of things, all of which are astonishing, right? I
mean, this is, at base level, this is the Trump administration trying to
change the census to systematically undercount Latinos and Democrats, A.
It`s them being blocked from doing that by the courts. It`s the Justice
Departments conceding they`ve been blocked from doing that.
And then it`s the president himself telling the Justice Department to do it
anyway because he says so. And it`s the Trump appointee who runs that part
of the Justice Department who is literally himself personally an important
fact witness to the president`s potentially criminal obstruction of justice
and threatening the last attorney general and ordering the last attorney
general to do things he could not do.
It`s that fact witness, that guy is now in power himself with the Justice
Department who is jumping into this case saying, yes, sir, I am here for
you, sir. I am jumping in with both feet and will tell the court to forget
everything the Justice Department has previously said and done and averted
to the court as recently as last night because instead of everything that
has gone before us in this case, now, the president has tweeted and – I
know what happens if I don`t obey the tweet. I`ve seen it happen.
So, forget everything. The president has tweeted. That`s what we`re going
I mean, a policy dispute is not a constitutional crisis. A bad actor
holding public office is not a constitutional crisis. A constitutional
crisis would be like, for example, a president choosing to defy a lawful
court order. That is what we are edging at here.
All this obstruction of justice stuff about the Mueller report and how the
president was pressuring the Justice Department, ordering them to do things
to serve his own interests, and the Justice Department was moderately
resisting to the extent that they could, all of that stuff laid out in the
Mueller report as potential obstruction of justice by the president, it
wasn`t only laid out so we could decide whether or not the president maybe
committed those crimes. It was also laid out so that we could see the type
of constitutional pressure the president was using to try to pull apart
these threads that make us the country that we are.
The president defies a lawful court order and instructs the Justice
Department to do so. That`s no longer a normal dispute. That`s
constitutional crisis territory. That`s where he`s pointing.
Can you count on people at the Justice Department being the right people
and the upstanding people to stop it from happening? I mean, you can`t say
you didn`t see this coming, right?
More ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: First it was on, and then it was off, and now, it`s apparently on
again, but it depends on who you ask.
The Justice Department, at a very high level, making a stunning reversal in
a court hearing today to try to add a citizenship question to the census,
despite being blocked by the Supreme Court from doing so and despite the
fact that they conceded just last night to the court that they would no
longer try to do that.
Joining us now is Andrea Senteno. She`s regional counsel at the Mexican
American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which is the firm that`s
representing several of the plaintiffs in the case where the Justice
Department just has started doing these remarkable back flips today.
Ms. Senteno, thank you very much for joining us. I appreciate you being
ANDREA SENTENO, MEXICAN AMERICAN LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATIONAL FUND: Thank
you for having me.
MADDOW: So, I have seen the transcript of this call today which I found
almost like science fiction. I know you were on this call trade today with
Judge Hazel. The way I read it, as somebody who is just reading it and not
hearing it and somebody who is not a lawyer, the two Justice Department
lawyers on the call were really contradicting each other. One of them was
saying the census is already being printed without the citizenship
question. The other is saying he had been instructed to find a way to add
that question back in and he was trying to do so.
Do you – do you think the judge in this case has any clarity as to what is
logistically happening right now with the census?
SENTENO: I don`t. And I think that`s why he made the deadline that he
did, the force the Justice Department to come back on Friday, by 2:00 p.m.,
and make that clear not only to the court, but to the public. Is the
government going to move forward by trying to add the citizenship question
back on the census or not?
MADDOW: In terms of what happens here next and forgive me, this is a very
elementary question. But part of what seems really important to me about
this in terms of the way it`s going to evolve is that the courts have
already said that the president and the administration can`t add the
citizenship question to the census without coming back with a new reason
for it. What happens if they try to do it anyway? What happens if they
try to add that question anyway and just assert that it`s their prerogative
and never mind what the courts say? What would the enforcement mechanism
be here from stopping them from doing that?
SENTENO: Well, you`re right. The Supreme Court was very clear. You can`t
lie to the court about why you`re taking the action you`re taking. So, you
can`t lie to the court about why you wanted to add the citizenship question
to the 2020 census.
The fact is, we know why they wanted to add the question to the 2020
census. They wanted to discriminate against Latinos and immigrant
communities of color and if the government is not willing to come back on
Friday and say that it`s going to abandon this effort, this unwise, illegal
effort, we will move forward in court to prove that the addition of the
question was intentionally discriminatory.
M ADDOW: And if you are able to do that, if you were able to prove that
it`s intentionally discriminatory and the court sides with you on that, the
reason I`m sort of pressing this and I know this is an elementary school
level question, forgive me. But I`m concerned that the president is
showing small C contempt here for the idea that he`s bound by the courts in
terms of what he`s able to do with this policy. And if the courts continue
to try to intervene and he directs the Justice Department and, in fact, the
census department, to not follow the court`s direction, what are additional
remedies, I guess?
SENTENO: So, the government deciding to defy a court order certainly would
be a constitutional crisis.
SENTENO: However, at least even on the record today, and you see it in the
transcript, the government, while it said it was reviewing the Supreme
Court`s decision and whether or not there was a path forward, it did make
clear that at least at present, the Census Bureau is moving forward with
the process to print the forms and to conduct the 2020 census without the
citizenship question. So, at least at present, we haven`t had an
indication that there is going to be an attempt to violate court orders
MADDOW: This is remarkable – I mean, as a matter of substance, this is a
remarkably dramatic thing the Trump administration is trying to do, but the
way it`s playing out in the courts is just head-snapping. Just
Andrea Senteno, regional counsel of Mexican American Legal Defense and
Educational Fund – I really appreciate you helping us understand. I know
this Friday hearing is going to be very important. Please keep us
apprised. We would love to have you back.
SENTENO: We certainly will. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Thanks very much. Much more to get to this busy,
unexpectedly busy July 4th eve. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, like I said, had a whole show planned for tonight, but once
again, best laid plans, you know, steamrollered when the president, you
know, ends up upending something that everybody thought was settled. But
you know, this is kind of the dynamic that we`ve been living with from the
very beginning – from the very, very beginning. Like from swearing in
day, from the Trump inauguration.
But that was – there was a lot of strange things about the Trump
inauguration. The inauguration of President Trump somehow managed to be
one of the smallest and least ambitious inaugurals ever, while
simultaneously costing more than both of the Obama inaugurations combined,
blowing the record for most money spent on an inaugural out of the water.
There was the, like, you know, not totally top flight entertainment that
still inexplicably cost millions and millions and millions of dollars.
There were the empty bleachers along the parade route. There was the weird
fight over the factually much smaller crowd size of Trump`s inaugural
versus President Obama`s inaugural and the president ordering various
people within the federal government that they should tell lies about that.
The whole thing had a lot weird about it, from day one. And the finances
of the inaugural committee continue to be shrouded in quite a lot of
mystery. I mean, how did they spend over $100 million on that?
There are reportedly not one or two but three different U.S. attorneys that
are investigating elements of the inaugural, including subpoenas that went
to the inaugural committee from the southern district of New York. Plus,
attorneys general in at least two states looking at other aspects of the
We`ve already had the president`s deputy campaign chair say in court that
it`s possible maybe he siphoned inaugural funds off for himself, maybe.
He`s not sure. We have another guy admit in court that he illegally
funneled foreign money from a pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarch into the Trump
inaugural using a straw donor.
I mean, all of this stuff is still out there, presumably, there`s still
more to know. There is more we will find out from the mysterious depths of
the strange Trump inaugural in January of 2017.
But here is one live wire left over from that inauguration, which is now
sparking anew for this Fourth of July we`re about to have in 2019. The
night before Trump`s inauguration, there was an interesting report in “The
Huffington Post.” “The Huffington Post” spoke with sources who described
as involved in the Trump inaugural preparations. And what those sources
said was that the Trump administration had started making inquiries at the
Pentagon about having military equipment at Trump`s inaugural, about
rolling tanks into Washington, D.C. as part of the inaugural parade.
They inquired, you know, tanks, missile launchers, what else you got?
Quote: During the preparation for Friday`s transfer of power, a member of
Trump`s transition team floated the idea of including tanks and missile
launchers in the inaugural parade. The source said, quote, they were legit
thinking Red Square/North Korea-style parade. That quote from a Trump
I mean, this is a source involved in the inaugural planning, like, sounding
the alarm. You have to know this is happening. They want freaking missile
launchers and tanks, you guys. They are seriously trying to do that.
When “The Huffington Post” asked the White House about these plans they had
learned of to use military equipment during Trump`s inaugural, quote, a
Trump aide refused to address the matter on the record but offered a have
he off the record denial. Oh, no, don`t be crazy, we were never
Well, that “Huffington Post” reporter stuck with that story, that reporter,
Jessica Schulberg, stuck with the story. She filed a Freedom of
Information Act request, smartly, not with the White House because you
can`t FOIA the White House, she filed the request with the military because
her reporting had been that these requests had been floated to the
military. Well, the military is susceptible to FOIA requests and thanks to
her FOIA requests, we learned that, in fact, yes, the Trump folks, the
Trump inaugural planners, had, quote, been seriously considering adding
military vehicles to the inaugural parade.
Quote: The conversation startled as, can`t you send us some pictures of
military vehicles we could add to the parade? The Defense Department
official said to his or her colleague, quote, I explained that such support
would be out of guidelines. Quote: I`m extremely reluctant to produce an
improvised list of military vehicles that we might be held to.
So the Trump inaugural`s attempt to roll freaking tanks and missile
launchers down Pennsylvania Avenue behind the piano guys and the baton
twirlers, right, they – they denied they asked for those things, but they
did ask for those things. And we know, from open source reporting, that
that caused a Pentagon freak-out, which probably explains why, in, that
never happened for the Trump inauguration.
But the president really liked this idea of parading big military equipment
in his own honor. So, they tried again last year. The president last year
ordered the Pentagon to start planning a grand military parade, a show of
American military might, for the Fourth of July. Or, maybe for Memorial
Day or for Veterans Day or any day that ends in Y when Trump can be in
town. Just get me tanks.
Ultimately, that 2018 plan fell through when the Pentagon estimated it
would cost $92 million to do this for the president. They decided that was
too expensive. The president announced he wouldn`t do it.
Well, now they`ve learned their lesson and their lesson is, well, the
president still wants it, and based on how it didn`t work out the last
couple of years, maybe this time there shouldn`t be any cost estimates at
all. This time, third time`s a charm, President Trump is going to get his
military flyover and his display tanks and this time, the strategy is just
to not say what it`s going to cost. Other than the $2.5 million that the
Park Service has had to admit it is diverting from taking care of the
National Parks to instead do this for the president.
Partly, the Trump administration is keeping the cost secret by just not
answering questions about it. Partly, they`ve kept it secret by just
waiting until the last minute to plan this event. Quote: They started this
too late, even Trump officials and allies anxious about July 4th fest. The
White House called the Pentagon less than a month ago to tell them to start
drawing up a plan to get the president his tanks. No time to draw up a
cost estimate, just do it.
And so, yes, this military display the president has ordered up for
tomorrow, it is causing anxiety for lots of Americans, for reasons beyond
its cost to the taxpayers, right? CNN had this headline today. Military
chiefs have concerns about politicization of Trump`s July 4th event.
This is the headline in “The New York Times” today, quote: Leave thanks for
Red Square. Trump`s July 4th celebration unsettles military. Quote: Some
retired and active duty military officers and some Defense Department
personnel said the participation of the military in president Trump`s
salute to America appears to politicize the armed forces on a day when the
nation traditionally toasts its independence in a nonpartisan environment.
Quote: Put troops out there so we can thank them. Leave tanks for Red
Square, said General Anthony Zinni, a retired four star marine general and
the former head of U.S. Central Command.
And it is inarguably true that taking over the country`s national July 4th
celebration, making himself the centerpiece with a big speech and ordering
tanks to roll into the Capitol for him at his insistence, right, that`s –
that`s a nice pencil sketch of the president`s affinities and tendencies.
And, of course, he loves how much anxiety and outrage this is causing,
right? He lives for this.
But there is also this very basic and fundamental quell about the money,
right? It was the money, it was the cost to taxpayers that stopped this
whole plan the last time. Apparently, the strategy this time is to just
keep the money thing quiet. Not say anything about it.
There`s one key member of the U.S. Senate, though, who is trying to make
sure that part of it is not kept quiet, and he joins us next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Yesterday, “The Washington Post” got a scoop about the president`s
planned Fourth of July event. The headline was, Park Service diverts $2.5
million in fees for Trump`s Fourth of July extravaganza. Fees that the
National Park Service were supposed to go for improving the national parks,
but instead, they are diverting them to give them to this Trump event.
That news was not well received in many corners. Here, for example,
Senator Tom Udall`s reaction. Quote: This is beyond the pale. The
American people pay fees to make improvements at the National Parks and not
to boost President Trump`s campaign. The National Mall is not the place to
hold a de facto political rally.
And joining us now is Senator Udall of New Mexico. He has a key role on
the appropriations committee in oversees things like the National Parks
Service and the Department of the Interior.
Senator, sir, thanks very much for being here. I really appreciate your
SEN. TOM UDALL (D-NM): Thank you. Thank you, Rachel. Great to be with
you this evening.
MADDOW: So, the president talked about having military equipment, for
example, be part of his inaugural parade. Last year, he wanted the big
extravaganza involving military equipment and lots of troops for the Fourth
of July or maybe Veterans Day or maybe Memorial Day celebration.
But when he was told it came with a price tag of over $90 million, he
backed off. This year, I`m struck by the fact that as he is getting this
thing he`s asked for for so long, we`ve seen no estimates at all of how
much it will cost.
Has your committee been able to get any clear view how many taxpayer
dollars this will entail?
UDALL: We haven`t at all. And actually what has happened here, the top
Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, Senator Leahy, myself, the top
Democrat on the Interior Subcommittee of Appropriations, several weeks ago
asked for all the details, a very extensive letter on where the money was
coming from, how much was going to be spent. Very detailed letter.
We have been absolutely stonewalled. We haven`t gotten any information
from Secretary Bernhardt, from the Department of Defense, from the White
House. It`s really disturbing and an extraordinary situation, really.
MADDOW: Presumably those numbers will eventually come out. I can
understand why the White House might be interested in keeping those numbers
from you and from the public ahead of this event happening. I can even
understand them pressuring the military or pressuring other elements of the
administration to slow down any of those responses, but ultimately, given
the oversight responsibilities of your committee, you will, in the end, be
able to guess those numbers, won`t you?
UDALL: Yes, we will be able to get those numbers. I mean, we have a good
idea of roughly what was in the budget to be spent. And so, when the final
numbers come in, we`ll have an idea as to where they`ve got that money
from. As you suggested earlier, they are going to take money from the
National Parks infrastructure in order to put on what looks like a
political rally. We`re going to have to see how that turns out.
But I am going to ask for a GAO investigation into if there were laws
broken and we`ll find out how much money will be spent. And believe me,
officials that appear before the appropriations committee in both the House
and the Senate will be asked about these numbers and we will get those
MADDOW: You mentioned that there are appearances of what is planned makes
the crossover to political rally territory, and you`re expressing some
concern about that. Obviously, it`s illegal for public funds, for any
taxpayer money to be spent on the president`s re-election campaign, any
partisan political activity whatsoever.
We have seen reports that the White House has given tickets to this event
to the Republican National Committee to distribute to their donors. The
president`s campaign has hyped this event, and talked about it essentially
as a campaign event. How does that sort of thing get policed? Who
enforces that as a matter of law or policy if, in fact, taxpayer money is
being spent on something that effectively is designed to boost the
UDALL: Well, after you have a GAO investigation and there has been a
determination that there is a violation of the law and money shouldn`t be
spent, then it will have to come from the political sector of his campaign
or the Republican committee, which it basically have been merged together
at this point, but they`ll have to pay that money back.
As you know, there`s a real tradition on presidential trips, if it`s an
official trip and he`s doing something political on the trip, then there`s
an allocation as to what the taxpayers pay and there`s an allocation of
what you pay politically. That`s the tradition, that`s the way it`s been
followed. We expect the law to be followed here.
MADDOW: Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico, thanks for joining us, sir. I
know it`s a busy time. I really appreciate you being here.
UDALL: Thank you.
More to come tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: As we head into the holiday, here`s something to keep an eye on.
The Trump White House is now promising that right after the Fourth, right
after tomorrow`s holiday, so, some time this holiday weekend, they say they
are going to launch nationwide dragnet-style raids targeting immigrant
families in large numbers across the country.
If that rings a bell, it`s because massive predawn raids targeting
immigrant families, something that was originally announced and promised by
the president a couple of weeks ago. He then announced he would delay them
for a little while, but now the Trump White House is saying it`s right
after July 4th. And who knows if they mean it anymore this time than they
meant it the last time, but of course, these are real people`s lives in the
“The Daily Beast” now reporting that over these past two weeks, advocates
have been frantically coaching immigrant families around the country about
how to brace themselves and prepare for the possibility of these raids by
ICE. They describe it as being like natural disaster planning except the
disaster here is a predawn roundup by armed federal agents and your
disaster plan is that you need to know who might be able to look after your
kids when ICE takes you away.
Last night on this program, we reported on a new creative Trump
administration plan to inflict pain and suffering on immigrant families.
They floated the prospect of deporting the family members of active duty
serving U.S. troops.
We got a big reaction to our mentioning that proposal from the White House
on our show here last night. I do need to tell you that this is just one
in a series. They seem to be rolling these out, seeing what kind of
outrage they can stoke.
The Trump administration has today floated another little shop of horrors-
style plan designed to stoke outrage and inflict maximum fear, starting in
the next couple of weeks, starting mid-July, the Trump administration now
says they plan to do away with interpreters for immigrants at their court
hearings. So, when the judge is explaining their rights and when the next
hearing is and what steps they need to take in the interim and, you know,
generally making sure the immigrants understand what`s happening and do you
have any questions, the Trump administration is now saying there will be no
interpreters for those hearing.
Now, instead of an interpreter, all of that life and death stuff will be
explained in a video recorded in multiple languages that plays before the
hearing that explains basic rights. And if the immigrant or the immigrant
family has any questions or the judge just wants to make sure everybody
understands, no interpreters, everybody is out of luck.
Now, the backup plan for when this inevitably causes disaster in multiple
courtrooms across the country is for the judge to rely on any interpreter
who happens to be in the building for other purposes, or to call a
telephone service for on-demand translation. Judges should start calling
1-800 translator on-demand and see if there`s somebody there to help with
their hearing. But otherwise, there won`t be translators anymore for
immigrant hearings. That`s the new plan from the Trump administration.
And the family members of active duty service members and the punctuation
of the Fourth of July fireworks with nationwide roundups of families.
None of this is happening by accident. This is what they want him to run
for re-election on.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: I have three favorite holidays.
New Year`s Day, because I love the numerological simplicity there. It`s
like when you car ticks over to 10,000 miles. I love all the zeros. I
like 1-1. I like that.
Also, I like Susan`s birthday because in our family, Susan`s birthday lasts
a month. It`s awesome.
And I love the Fourth of July. I love every single freaking thing about it
and there is nothing that we can ever do as a country that would make me
not love our birthday. Because our birthday is one of the single best
things we ever did, celebrating independence, celebrating the Declaration
of Independence is something that is for absolutely, everybody. I hope you
have an excellent Fourth.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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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