Trump admin denying deportation deferrals. TRANSCRIPT: 8/28/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
ALEX SEITZ-WALD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER: And I`m guessing the names
won`t be too surprising –
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Yes.
SEITZ-WALD: – if you look at who is up there now.
HAYES: All right. Olivia Nuzzi, Dave Weigel, and Alex Seitz-Wald, thank
you all for being with me.
That is ALL IN for this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you
with us this fine Wednesday night.
First things first. We must poof. One of the record-breaking things about
the Democratic presidential field this year is that there are more women
running for president in this field than have ever run for president in any
one field before. It`s been a landmark thing. It`s been kind of inspiring
to see six women up on the stage among the Democratic contenders at the
first two presidential Democratic debates. Six women running, and they are
a diverse bunch.
They run the gamut in terms of their places on the ideological number line,
their political style, their experience, the platforms they are running on.
Honestly, they run the gamut in terms of their ultimate chances of winning
this thing as far as we can predict that at this point.
But, you know, I mean, from Marianne Williamson to Congresswoman Tulsi
Gabbard, to Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar, and Elizabeth
Warren and Kamala Harris, I mean, this has been a history making six-woman
tableau in terms of women`s political power and political aspirations in
this country. The last presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, who
after all did win the popular vote by several million votes, was a woman
named Hillary Clinton.
The most powerful Democrat in Washington right now, the most powerful woman
ever elected in the history of the U.S. government is the current
Democratic speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. And these six Democratic
women all running for president in the same field, similarly, that is a way
of melting down the glass ceiling in top tier American politics, but
contending at that level also inevitably entails some off ramps.
And so, now, tonight, for the first time, we have a woman candidate
dropping out of the Democratic race for president. Of the six women who
made the first two Democratic debates, only three of the six are going to
make it on stage for the next debate, the third debate. Those three are
Senators Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren.
Of the three other female candidates who made the first two debates but
they`re not going to meet the criteria to get on the third debate stage –
well, among them it looks like Marianne Williamson and Congresswoman Tulsi
Gabbard are staying in the race. They are keeping their campaigns going
forward. Presumably, they are hoping to make it on stage in debate four
with actually – it might be easier to get into than three for a variety of
reasons that are too boring to discuss right now, but we will get to them
in great detail at some point.
But that leaves the sixth female contender in this pioneering field,
Democratic New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Today, Senator Gillibrand
announced that she is taking herself out of the running for the
presidential nomination of her party. She made the announcement with this
tweet and this campaign video and also with a missive from her campaign
manager summarizing what they saw is the successes of their campaign.
Kirsten Gillibrand remains a popular U.S. senator from the state of New
York. She was just re-elected by overwhelming margins to the Senate last
year. Among other things, that means she`s not up for re-election again
for her Senate seat in New York until 2024, should she choose to run for
re-election as a senator again, which presumably she will.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in other words, in her political career, will be
absolutely just fine. But she`s the first female candidate to close her
campaign. And so, we must poof.
First to go, of course, was Eric Swalwell. Poof. And then it was John
Hickenlooper. Poof. Then it was Jay Inslee, governor of Washington.
Go on. There you go. Right after Jay Inslee, it was – ready? Ready?
Set go and poof. And now, three, two, one, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand,
poof. Thank you, Senator.
Unless someone miraculously invents and conducts and releases the results
of a brand new qualifying poll basically right now as I speak at this
second, we now know the final field of candidates qualifying for the debate
that will be hosted by ABC News next month in Texas is these ten folks.
It`s interesting. I didn`t think about this in these terms before we got
to today`s deadline and got this confirmation about who is in and who is
not for that debate. But the Democrats did end up with this round number
of ten candidates qualifying for the Houston debates. And we know that if
more than 10 candidates had qualified, the plan would once again have been
to split up the field into two successive nights for debate, like we had in
Detroit, like we had in Miami.
Now that we know though that only ten candidates qualified, that means they
are going to do the whole thing on one night. Apart from the separate and
individual consequences for all the individual candidates and their
campaigns, what that means for us the public planning to watch that next
debate, right, looking forward it that debate, helping us understand the
differences between the candidates and who might make the strongest
Democratic nominee to go up against Trump, for all of us in the country who
are going to watch that third Democratic debate, the fact that a nice round
number of ten Democratic candidates has qualified for that night means that
once again, just like the first two debates, they`re going to have ten
freaking podiums up there all at once.
I have not been thinking about it in these terms, but yes, there`s going to
be ten candidates on stage at once again, all fighting to be heard. Which
means take it from me, no matter how many moderators ABC puts up there to
try to handle the 10 candidates, all at once field, all of those moderators
will have 20 years added to their non-chronological age by the end of the
night. Trust me. They will have new ailments and new gray hair.
I mean, numerically, it`s weird and coincidental that the qualifying
criteria made the field go from exactly 20 candidates for the first two
debates to exactly 10 candidates for the next debate. By happenstance,
that is how it worked out. And that means, by happenstance, once again,
it`s going to be ten freaking podiums up there all at once.
The ten podium standard for the 2020 Democratic debates, which honestly is
just logistically a terrible thing. I mean, nobody planned it that way.
But, yes. And that is essentially now settled.
That debate is in two weeks. It`s two weeks from tomorrow night in
Houston, Texas. It will be just one night, all ten podiums there all at
So, I wanted to get that out there. Democratic presidential field saying
good-bye to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
But the lead story I want to focus on tonight is something different. It`s
something that we started covering here on last night`s show. This is
something that, other than our coverage last night and now tonight, this is
not something that`s really had a lot of national press coverage other than
what we have done here, as far as I can tell.
But I do think this is a big deal. And today, it took a big unexpected
turn. What this is is a new and importantly unannounced program from the
Trump administration. I say unannounced because they never put out some
statement saying this is what they were going to do. The only way we
learned about this new thing the Trump administration is doing is because
individual families around the country started getting letters from the
Trump administration, letters from the federal government.
And the letters were so shocking in their implication and so surprising and
so out of the blue – again, they did not comport with anything the Trump
administration said they were going to. These letters were so shocking and
upsetting that some of these families who got these letters, as best as we
can tell, they took the letters to lawyers and advocacy groups, to local
public figures to try to get help and understanding what exactly these
letters meant and whether the U.S. government could really be trying to do
what these letters said to their families, and particularly to their kids.
The panic and upset of these individual families who got these letters
started to come to the attention of local press where these families live.
That is how we became aware of this at all. This has been particularly
focused thus far in Massachusetts. The public radio station WBUR in Boston
and the “Boston Globe” first picked up the story over the last couple of
“The Globe” story, as you can see here, carry this very stark headline.
Quote: I feel like I`m signing my son`s death warrant. Children at Boston
Hospitals face deportation.
Now, the inset photo there, on that photo is a 5-year-old boy named Samuel
Costa who has a rare condition that inhibits his body – his body`s ability
to absorb nutrients from food. And so, he is a 5-year-old kid. He has a
feeding tube into his torso, because he can`t take food by mouth. But he
gets regular expert, very delicate medical care for this rare and dangerous
condition that he`s got. He gets that care at Boston Children`s Hospital.
Boston Children`s Hospital by some measures is the number one pediatric
hospital in this country. Here is the lead of “The Globe” story. Quote:
Severely ill immigrants, including children with cancer, cystic fibrosis
and other grave conditions are facing deportation under a change in Trump
administration policy that immigration advocates are calling cruel and
Beginning last week, Citizenship and Immigration Services, USCIS, started
sending out boilerplate letters to these families with sick kids, quote,
telling the families that if they didn`t leave the United States in 33
days, they would become undocumented and face deportation.
So, we covered this story last night. And the response that we got to our
reporting was frankly – was overwhelming. To be honest, pretty enraged.
Up in Boston, “The Boston Globe`s” editorial board was clearly outraged by
their own news divisions reporting on this story. You can see “The
Globe`s” editorial on this subject. There`s this headline. Can the Trump
administration sink any lower than threatening to deport sick kids?
Here is the lead in that editorial. Step by malicious step, the Trump
administration is turning the immigration system into an apparatus of
appalling intentional cruelty. The latest case in point is a relatively
small program known as medical deferred action in which immigrants without
legal status who are suffering from serious medical conditions are granted
a reprieve from deportation so they can have access to much needed medical
treatment in the United States.
Trump halted the program this month, threatening to deport these patients,
including children with leukemia, children with muscular dystrophy,
children with cystic fibrosis. The program`s termination means suspending
or interrupting the children`s medical care, which in some cases is
virtually a death sentence.
Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts attended a press conference
with a number of these families who have just been told to take their kids
out of medical treatment and get out of the country.
Senator Markey`s take on this last night as we highlighted on last night`s
show is this. Quote: It is unconscionable, it`s just wrong. We have now
reached the most inhumane of all of Donald Trump`s policies. He said,
quote: The Trump administration is literally deporting kids with cancer.
Now, again, there are few things that are at least at this point unusual or
sort of unknown about this story. Without a lot more reporting on this
nationwide, I think it`s going to take us time to get to the bottom of
this. But as we are trying to figure out what`s going on here, it`s
particularly interesting that this is a policy change that hasn`t been
announced, which I think ultimately starts to become important in terms of
how well the Trump administration is coping with what they`re trying to do
to these kids.
I mean, they started sending letters to parents whose kids are receiving
life saving medical care that they can`t get anywhere else, they started
sending letters to those kids` parents, telling them that they need to get
out now, right now. You`ve got 33 days. Yes, we know your kid is
receiving ongoing, life-saving medical treatment. We don`t care. Stop the
treatment and leave.
Now, it`s possible – as I said, the news that we have been getting this
for the first few days has been out of Massachusetts. And I don`t know why
that is. I mean, it`s conceivable that Massachusetts has been targeted
here because they have got Boston Children`s Hospital, right? They`ve got
arguably the best children`s hospital in the country.
So, Boston Children`s Hospital is a place where a lot of kids who have
life-threatening illnesses and super advanced delicate medical needs, a lot
of kids are getting treated at that hospital. So, maybe that`s why this
policy is surfacing there in this concentrated way. We don`t know exactly.
But these initial reports do come from the Boston area and Massachusetts.
In Massachusetts, there`s organization called the Irish International
Immigrant Center that doesn`t just serve Irish immigrants. It serves
everybody. They happened to have a whole bunch of clients who have sick
kids, who have kids who are getting advanced life-saving medical care.
Clients who have received these letters now ordering them out of the
Well, here`s what their legal director told us last night here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY MARINO, IRISH INTERNATIONAL IMMIGRANT CENTER IMMIGRATION LEGAL
SERVICES DIRECTOR: They are saying that they have the power to just
eliminate it all together, which is what they`ve done, and that there is no
appeal. I don`t know why they came up with 33 days. But, yes, they are
telling these people they need to leave on their own. I don`t know how
they expect parents to pull their children from hospital beds, disconnect
them from lifesaving treatment and go somewhere where they know the child
is going to die. But that`s what they are telling them to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, that was here on this show last night. This emerging news
that the Trump administration has quietly, without announcing it
implemented a new policy that specifically targets kids with cancer, and
other terminal and life-threatening illnesses, and is now telling their
parents they must stop medical treatment for their kids, and get out
immediately within 33 days with no right to appeal.
You can see why, imagine, that this is kind of the story that ultimately
will get a lot of national news coverage, even if it hasn`t yet. As of our
coverage here last night, most of what we were able to learn about what`s
going on is out of Massachusetts, out of the Boston area, specifically.
But now, today, “The Miami Herald” has the story. “The Miami Herald” has
the story because they say they, too, are seeing some of the same things
happening to families in South Florida.
Quote: The Trump administration is ending a federal program that removed
the threat of deportation at least temporarily for immigrant families
facing serious illnesses such as cancer. “The Herald” says they have
obtained several of these letters that have been sent to families where
somebody in the family is receiving lifesaving medical care. Quote: “The
Herald” reviewed the case of a Miami man whose child was diagnosed with
metastatic stage four neuroblastoma, the type of cancer that develops in
nerve tissue. The man received a rejection letter for his application to
the medical deferred action program on August 13th. The man tells “The
Miami Herald” he is desperate to stay in the country and to remain with his
Now, as I said, we are just seeing these initial news reports that these
cases – news stories are emerging locally, right, where families are
telling the local press, they are telling public officials that they have
received these letters from the Trump administration, essentially demanding
the deaths of their children, right? Demanding that their children stop
receiving medical treatment that`s saving their lives, stop treatment and
get out of this country.
We are seeing these cases emerge so far in Massachusetts over the last
couple of days in Florida today. We have ever reason to believe that this
is happening all over the country. As we have been trying to further
report this story today, what emerged over the course of this afternoon was
no further clarity on why the Trump administration has decided to
prioritize, you know, kids with cancer in terms of who they are going after
To my surprise, we also got no further clarity today on where else in the
country this may be happening. Still, these reports that we have got are
from Massachusetts and Florida. We`re not seeing news reports from other
places, at least that we could find today. We are looking for that local
coverage, because I think that`s going to be how we figure out what the
scope is of what the Trump administration is trying to do.
What did emerge today though is that as this new policy targeting sick kids
has started to receive just the first little bit of scrutiny, it`s
essentially already blowing up what the Trump administration is trying to
do. Honestly, there has not been a lot of national pressure on the story
yet. I think we are the first national outlet to be covering this at all.
But as the Trump administration has just tried to answer basic questions
about what they`re doing there, about why they are sending these letters
and what this means and why they have brought about this change in policy
that`s going to have such dire and specific humanitarian consequences and
potentially fatal consequences for kids in this country, as local radio
stations and the first newspapers start to call the administration to
figure out what is going on here just to get comment for their stories, the
Trump administration is already completely flailing on this.
They have not idea what to say about it. And apparently, they didn`t
understand what it was they were launching when they started this program
attacking these kids and when people finally started to ask them to answer
for it. And I will show you what I mean.
After WBUR, the public radio station in Boston, posted their
groundbreaking, terrifying initial story about these kids in Boston being
targeted, kids being treated at the children`s hospital in Boston, kids
with rare genetic disorders, kids with cystic fibrosis, kids with seizure
disorders, after WBUR published their first story, they apparently hours
after publication, they received a whoa, whoa, whoa kind of comment from
the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service that sent out these letters to
these families, right, these death sentence letters to these families with
Customs and Immigration told WBUR after they published their first story
that they wanted it to know this medical deferred program that had been
allowing the kids to stay alive, despite what you might have seen in these
letters, that program isn`t ending, per se. It`s just being shifted to a
different part of the Trump administration.
Quote: Medical deferred action requests are now submitted to ICE, different
agency, for consideration.
Oh, OK. That is their first explanation when they get their first hard
question. Yes, family in the Boston area, you have been told you have to
get out of the country and stop providing life saving treatment to your ill
child. But what we didn`t mention some other part of the administration
might be able to help you out so you can keep staying. Did nobody mention
That was their first explanation, right? Now it turns out, the other
agency that is supposed by picking up this program, the other agency inside
the Trump administration that supposedly is going to process these requests
for dying children to stay here in order to receive medical care that`s
keeping them alive, now we find out that agency actually is not doing this.
They have no intention of handling these kinds of requests for kids in this
kind of circumstance. They have no program like this.
And they say today they have no idea why some other agency in the Trump
administration has been telling reporters now that they do. Great.
Here is how this played today in “Miami Herald.” You can see it play out.
Quote: Three officials with ICE who asked not to be named due to fears of
speaking outside official channels tell the “Miami Herald” today that the
agency was blindsided by the move.
Quote: High level sources said that management at the agency had no idea
U.S. Customs and Immigration was transferring over deferred action
responsibilities, noting that ranking officials were scrambling to respond
to the unexpected move. That`s how it played at “The Herald”.
Here`s how it played at the WBUR, in their follow-up story. Quote: An ICE
official told WBUR that the agency was not informed by U.S. Customs and
Immigration, that that agency would stop processing the deferral requests.
Quote: There`s no program at ICE that`s going to take over that program.
ICE is not going to implement any sort of a program or procedure or policy
to take over that function. We`d like U.S. Customs and Immigration to
clarify what they mean. That`s how it played at WBUR.
Here`s how it played today At NBC News. Quote: An ICE official speaking on
the condition of anonymity said ICE was blindsided by the U.S. Customs and
Immigration decision to refer all immigrants applying for deferred action
to them. ICE currently has no plans in place to review these applications.
Quote: ICE does not have a program for this. Nor do we plan to.
At “Commonwealth Magazine” in Massachusetts, which has great reporting on
this, their reporter got this. Quote, ICE and U.S. Customs and Immigration
Service officials allegedly had a meeting for the first time about this
policy this morning. Meaning this morning, Wednesday morning. ICE is 100
percent punting this back to Customs and Immigration.
Just take a step back from this for a second. We`re going to talk to a
lawyer in the middle of the fight, who`s trying to represent some of these
families and keep some of these kids alive. We`re going to talk about that
in just a second.
But just take a step back from this for a second. Imagine being in charge
of the federal government, of the richest and most powerful nation on earth
and deciding what that government ought to work on is figuring out, you
know, where are all the really good pediatric hospitals in this country and
trying to figure out if there might be kids in those hospitals who are
currently receiving ongoing treatment that is saving their lives so you
could somehow figure out a way to force a stop to that treatment and kick
those kids and their families out of this country so that they can no
longer get the care that`s keeping them alive – kids with cystic fibrosis,
kids with cancer, kids with rare diseases.
Imagine being in charge of the U.S. federal government and choosing to use
it for that purpose, to target the power of the U.S. government at children
Then imagine that once you have decided to do this, you what, hoped nobody
would care or nobody would notice because, heck, it`s just immigrants? You
are not planning on announcing it. So, therefore, you figure you are never
going to have to answer for it. So, you come up with no plan for how to
explain this. When local officials, local reporters, local news outlets,
local advocacy organizations, people inevitably come to you asking
questions about what the heck you are doing in the name of the American
And so, having come up with no way to explain this, your makeshift response
is to say it`s no big deal. Some other agency will take care of it. Yes,
we`re not doing this anymore, but we`re sure somebody else is. God, it
sounds terrible when you say that we`re going to be sending kids with
cancer to their deaths. We`re sure somebody else is taking care of it,
right? Some other agency. You guys – they`re doing it.
And the Trump administration has no idea what it is doing, or how to handle
the inevitable reaction to this from the American people. They have no
idea what they are doing here except for the fact that they have decided to
tell parents that they must withhold lifesaving ongoing medical treatment
from their seriously ill kids on orders from the U.S. government so they
can get out of this country because President Trump wants them out.
Imagine being a U.S. official who has been doing that kind of work. And
now imagine being the parent of a sick kid who is holding on to a letter
sent to you by those U.S. officials and realizing that this is what you are
up against and this is the exact way your child`s life is being put at
stake, in the very short term over the next 30 days by this president, by
this president – by this administration and the people who work for him
and their priorities. Imagine.
MADDOW: Here is local coverage from Massachusetts, from MassLive.com, on
how the families of kids receiving life saving medical treatment have been
told over the last few days that they would have to pick up and return to
their home countries and stop this crucial medical treatment for their
Quote: Attorneys and doctors started hearing from clients last week that
they received the notices in the mail. There was no announcement other
than the letters giving patients 33 days to leave the country. Many of
those letters arrived in patients` mailboxes halfway through that grace
One attorney representing some of the families telling “Mass Live”, quote:
Our government should focus its limited resources or truly dangerous
people, not on most vulnerable.
Joining us is that attorney I just quoted. Her name is Mahsa Khanbabai.
She`s the head of the New England chapter of the American Immigration
Lawyers Association. Ms. Khanbabai is representing some families who may
be forced out of the country due to this unannounced change in policy from
the Trump administration.
Ms. Khanbabai, thank you very much for giving us some of your time tonight.
Appreciate you being here.
MAHSA KHANBABAI, AMERICAN IMMIGRATION LAWYERS NEW ENGLAND CHAPTER CHAIR:
Yes, thank you, Rachel. It`s a pleasure to be here.
MADDOW: Let me ask you if I have explained this right. I have been trying
to piece this together from local news coverage in a couple of locations
now. Have I basically got this right in terms of what your clients are up
against right now?
KHANBABAI: Absolutely. Yes, you have described it perfectly.
MADDOW: Today, this story got a little bit strange when U.S. Citizenship
and Immigration started saying that some other agency in the Trump
administration is going to keep running the medical deferral program. And
then that other agency, ICE, said, oh, no, we`re not. We don`t know what
you`re talking about.
Do you have any clarity on this? Have your clients been able to figure out
what that might be about? The Trump administration seems to not know what
it`s talking about on this anymore.
KHANBABAI: Yes. No, sadly, there`s been no explanation of what we can
expect as attorneys or what our clients can expect in terms of what they
should be doing. There`s been no guidance. It`s been totally silent from
the government. And, frankly, like you said, I think they really didn`t
care to even put a plan in place to try to help these really desperate and
MADDOW: Or to explain to the public what they`re doing. I mean, the part
of it that is surprising to me is there`s no announcement. There`s been no
plan to explain this. I mean, obviously, this is such an inflammatory
thing. There are going to be hard questions. People are going to want an
explanation and a justification for what they`re doing. And it`s just a
gaping maw over there from the administration.
I`m sorry, I don`t mean to put that on you.
Let me ask you in terms of your clients and what you are learning about
this, what can you advise your clients to do at this point?
KHANBABAI: Yes. I mean, sadly, I think we`re really just trying to figure
out the best way to move forward for our clients and whether or not
applying to ICE is a valid option or not. I mean, ICE obviously is really
not known in being a friendly, humanitarian type of agency that would be
willing to take these really sensitive cases seriously. So I think it`s
really frightening for a lot of people.
And that`s part of what the administration has been trying to do over these
last two years is to sow a lot of fear and panic among immigrants and hope
they will go away and not apply and not make a fuss about this, because
they are scared and really – I mean, not only worried about their safety
here but about their child`s life.
MADDOW: Are you, in fact, facing cases in terms of your own clients in
which this is a potentially life-threatening situation for children in
these families, for family members where they get treatment here they can`t
get other places, that if they are forced out of the country, that their
lives will be in danger?
KHANBABAI: Yes. I have a couple of clients that just got denial notices
over this past one week. I have one young man, a really nice young man who
sadly has mental health issues. He came here on a visitor visa to get some
And sadly, his condition deteriorated significantly. He has been
hospitalized now. But he is getting the best care that he can get for his
condition. The government has told him, no, sorry, you need to leave in 33
I mean, there`s no way this young man is going to be able to leave a
hospital. He is committed there because of this seriousness of his
And my other client is this young girl, 14 years old, who has a very
serious heart condition. She had heart surgery. She`s recovering now but
is going to need follow-up surgery and constant monitoring and care.
And, again, she came on a visitor visa. She came here legally, applied for
this. And sadly has been sold, no, sorry, you need to leave in 33 days.
MADDOW: She`s literally between heart operations? She`s had one? She`s
recovering? She has another ahead of her and they`re trying to force her
out of the country?
KHANBABAI: That`s right.
And honestly, Rachel, I`m not shocked. This administration has tried to
dismantle legal immigration over the last two years on a number of
different fronts. When you look at the travel ban, I mean, that`s a
perfect example of against inhumanity of the administration and not caring
that there are people that need urgent lifesaving care to come here for
that or to come here to see a family member that may be dying, to other
avenues like the H1B program being targeted, or international students
And the morale at the State Department, for example, is terrible because of
the conditions that these political appointees have created in these
MADDOW: Mahsa Khanbabai, who`s chair of the New England Chapter of the
American Immigration Lawyers Association, who is representing some of these
families who are up against this unannounced change in policy from the
Trump administration, Ms. Khanbabai, thank you for helping us with this.
As I said, there`s not a lot of national coverage on this yet. Please do
stay in touch. We would love to keep us apprised as this continues to
KHANBABAI: Thank you. I`d love to.
MADDOW: All right. Much more to get to tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: It was election night in Mississippi last night. A runoff
election to pick the Republican nominee to run in this year`s governor`s
race. The current Mississippi Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves won the
election last night. He beat a former state Supreme Court justice named
This wasn`t high profile race. At least not of a national level, not until
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How would that happen?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t know. It`s the machine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is not letting me vote for who I want to vote for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This was posted to Facebook yesterday, appearing to show someone
trying to vote in that Mississippi runoff for Bill Waller. One of the two
Republicans in the runoff. But the machine will not let him cast that
vote. Every time he pushes the screen to vote for Waller, it ticks the box
for the other guy.
Now, we did not know exactly what caused that one machine in that video to
seemingly malfunction. But what is interesting about this video out of
this video out of Mississippi yesterday is that we know for sure this was
not a one-off problem. Local election officials in Mississippi told “The
Clarion Ledger” newspaper today that that vote-switching glitch happened on
at least three different machines spread across two different counties.
One official telling “The Clarion Ledger”, quote, we are doing what we can
to rectify the situation.
How do you rectify that? I mean, particularly when the election has just
been called. When the state is admitting this is happening in multiple
locations, how do they make voters feel confident the next time they touch
their finger to a voting machine? Well, we don`t know exactly.
But in Mississippi`s not quite neighboring state of Georgia, in Georgia,
they are still trying to figure out what happened in their last statewide
election in 2018. Last year, November 2018, while the country was electing
a new House of Representatives and a whole bunch of new U.S. senators, in
the great state of Georgia last November, they were electing a new
This was a marquee national attention race you remember. The Democrat,
Stacey Abrams, ultimately refused to concede to Republican Brian Kemp.
Brian Kemp both ran the election for the state of Georgia and he ran in it
himself as the Republican candidate for governor.
Stacey Abrams didn`t concede. And a lot of Democrats don`t concede that
she lost that race because of widespread reports about voter suppression
and anomalies in the election that disproportionally affected minority
Democratic voters. That overall controversy about that Georgia race has
What generated way fewer headlines though was a truly weird phenomenon that
happened one notch down the ballot in Georgia. And as people are starting
to think ahead about the election integrity of 2020, we just got details on
what happened one notch down the ballot in Georgia last November, which is
an absolutely bonkers story. And if you have not heard it yet, you will
want to. We`ve got it here, next.
MADDOW: The same night, election night last year when Georgia had its big
marquee governor`s race and Stacey Abrams narrowly lost to Brian Kemp and
they refused to concede and there`s all that attention on what was going on
in Georgia. That same night in Georgia, there was a lower profile race
that hasn`t ever been a matter of national focus the way that Stacey
Abram`s governor`s race was.
But it has turned into a mystery ever since that`s getting weirder and more
difficult with each passing month. It was the lieutenant governor race
that night in Georgia last November. In the lieutenant governor`s race
last election night, the Republican candidate won that race, too.
But when people started sifting through the results from the lieutenant
governor`s race, the numbers did paint an odd picture. This is a sample
ballot from Georgia last year. Typically, in statewide elections, there`s
a drop-off in the number of votes that are cast as people make their way
down the ticket.
So, if you`re using this ballot as a guide, in state wide races, what I
mean is the most people tend to vote in the governor`s race. More people
vote in the governor`s race than vote in the lieutenant governor`s race.
More people tend to vote for lieutenant governor`s race than vote in the
secretary of state race. More people to tend to vote for the secretary of
state than vote for the state attorney general.
And this trend usually happens all the way down the ballot in statewide
elections. It`s like the opposite of a trickle-down effect, or maybe it`s
a trickle-down effect. A kind of decay in turnout as you make your way
down the ticket. More people vote for top of the ticket stuff than vote
down the bottom. People sort of run out of steam and stop filling out the
bubbles as they go down their ballot.
That`s almost always how it goes. But that`s not what happened in Georgia
last year. Of all the statewide races on the Georgia ticket last year,
fewer people voted for lieutenant governor, second race on the ballot than
any other race, and by a lot. What was going on?
Around 80,000 fewer people voted in the lieutenant governor`s race than in
other races even further down the ballot like votes for labor commissioner.
More people voted for labor commissioner than voted for lieutenant
governor, the state`s number two elected official? That`s weird. That
drop-off in the lieutenant governor race vote has been a mystery since
November 2018. It led reporters to try to figure out why and how that
happened in Georgia.
Today, we got this from the “Atlanta Journal Constitution.” The paper took
a look at one crucial precinct in Georgia, a precinct that had seven voting
machines. In that precinct, the Democrat won every single race on every
single machine except for one machine. Quote: To find out a clue – excuse
me, to find a clue about what might have gone wrong with Georgia`s election
last fall, look no further than voting machine number three at the
Winterville train depot outside Athens, Georgia. On machine number three,
Republicans won every race. But on each of the other six machines in that
precinct, Democrats won every race.
The odds an anomaly that large are less than one in a million. But there
might be a simple explanation for it. If you took that one outlier
machine, machine number three, and you switched the vote tallies, you
awarded all its Democratic votes to Republican, and all Republican votes to
Democrats, that anomaly would disappear and those results on machine three
would statistically fall right in line with the other six machines in that
So, one machine had literally exactly opposite results than you would
expect in terms of party line voting. Except the results just got reversed
in terms of the parties on that one machine. It would be like if you took
all the votes from that one machine and help them up to a mirror before you
The scoop from “The Atlanta Journal Constitution” was borne out of
documents that were unearthed by a public records request. The paper says
those same documents have been given to the oversight committee in the
House of Representatives which is investigating what happened in Georgia`s
election last year. More than 15,000 pages of records have been turned
over to that committee.
If what`s in those 15,000 pages were evidence like from that one precinct
with the one phantom voting machine which seems to have taken ever vote
backwards, what`s the oversight committee going to about that? What should
they do about it?
Joining us now is Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the
Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Ms. Clarke, thank you very much for being with us tonight.
KRISTEN CLARKE, LAWYERS COMMITTEE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS UNDER LAW PRESIDENT &
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So, there`s always a low level of – a sort of low level rumble of
worry in this country about whether our elections are running right.
There`s also a well-founded concern that people might be discouraged from
turning out to vote at all if they don`t have confidence that it will
matter, that their vote will be cast and properly counted.
Given that sort of – that balance, that concern on both sides, what is
your take on these problems that we saw yesterday in Mississippi and that
we saw last year in Georgia?
CLARKE: That these are red flags of a democracy that is broken and
screaming out for repair. These are not conspiracy theories that we`re
talking about, Rachel. These are real issues that voters have been facing
with intensifying degree over the last several years.
And Georgia is kind of the – in the belly of the beast, if you will, when
it comes to all things that are broken in our democracy. We see widespread
voter suppression. But we actually just sued the state of Georgia in
federal court over these very issues. The fact that across the state of
Georgia, they are using outdated, vulnerable machines that are hackable.
And in the course of our trial, we talked about that drop-off that you just
highlighted, Rachel. A federal contractor actually looked at that drop-off
and said, there`s a one in 10,000 chance that you would see a drop-off for
the lieutenant governor race that spikes back up when you go down to those
races at the lower end of the ballot. In our case, there was evidence
presented by the state`s own expert. When you put this evidence before any
reasonable person, they come up with the same conclusion.
Georgia`s own expert, Dr. Seamus (ph), agreed that Georgia`s equipment is
outdated and antiquated and hackable. That they failed to conduct audits,
and they actually use a version of Microsoft for their software that hasn`t
been updated in ten years. Microsoft actually no longer updates or creates
security patches for this software.
And so, from Georgia`s expert, this is a broken system. The judge in our
case issued a ruling about two weeks ago declaring Georgia`s system null
and void. Georgia has go back to the drawing board and put a new system in
place, at all deliberate speed. This is the first time a federal court has
actually struck down an entire state`s voting system, because they are
violating the fundamental right to vote.
But it`s time for states like Mississippi, and South Carolina and Texas and
Florida, that are using these paperless antiquated systems that can`t be
audited, it`s time for them to modernize these systems and we`ve got to do
it before 2020.
MADDOW: Is it feasible logistically to get the systems? Just folks in
Georgia for a second, is it logistically feasible to have that whole system
not only installed but tested and audited and running up to snuff in time
for an election that`s coming around the bend in November 2020?
CLARKE: They don`t have any choice. I mean, they`ve cried about the
expense involved and the time involved, but at the end of the day, we`re
talking about the most sacred right in our democracy, the right to vote.
And at every turn in Georgia, for two decades, we`ve seen a system that is
broken and we`ve seen problems that are intensifying.
So, you know, it`s time that they step up. There are supposed to put a new
system in place in 2020. But what that means is that for voters right now
who are going to the polls in Georgia for municipal elections, they have
every reason to have grave concerns about the integrity of their ballot.
So this is a moment that requires vigilance. We know that these problems
are nationwide. We know that we are up against threats both domestic and
foreign when it comes to the hacking of our systems in our country. So,
you know, our plan now is to take this victory in Georgia in federal court
and to hold other states accountable that are failing to update and
modernize their systems, and give voters the confidence that they deserve
when they go to the polls and cast a ballot.
MADDOW: Kristen Clarke, president and executive director for the Lawyers
Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – Ms. Clarke, I really appreciate you
being here with us tonight. Thanks and come back soon.
CLARKE: Thanks for having me.
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, we`ve been following Hurricane Dorian all over the course of
today and into tonight. As you can see from these images, the U.S. Virgin
Islands, St. John and St. Thomas in U.S. Virgin Islands took the brunt
already. Dorian hit the U.S. Virgin Islands as a category 1 hurricane. As
of right now, thousands of people in the U.S. Virgin Islands are without
power because of the strength of this storm and what it was able to take
Just two years after the disaster of Hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico that
killed nearly 3,000 Americans, there was real concern about what this storm
might do if it hit Puerto Rico full on. But Puerto Rico has taken a more
glancing blow, avoided a direct hit. The storm is now on its way toward
Florida. It`s on track to make landfall along the eastern coast of Florida
sometime over this weekend.
The thing to keep an eye on is how quickly Dorian powers up as it closes in
on the Florida coast. Meteorologists say this one has been a hard one to
forecast, but Dorian could become a major hurricane. It could become a
category 3 storm by time it`s bearing down on Florida.
In anticipation of that, a state of emergency has been declared across the
state. But as you`d imagine in Florida tonight, they are bracing for what
looks like it could be a super serious hurricane this holiday weekend.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: That is going to do it for me tonight. I do have one correction
to make. Earlier in the show, for a reason that I don`t understand that is
buried somewhere in my deep and aging brain, I kept referring to U.S.
Customs and Immigration services, when the correct name for that agency is
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. I was just conflating two
different things and saying the name of that agency wrong because of what
its name used to be back in the day. I apologize for having said that
wrong. I will try to never do it again.
I`ll see you again tomorrow.
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