Trump admin denying deportation deferrals. TRANSCRIPT: 8/28/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Mahsa Khanbabai, Kristen Clarke


won`t be too surprising –




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. 





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. 




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

sick kids. 


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

with cancer. 


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, 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. 



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

vulnerable people. 


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

being targeted. 


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

Bill Waller. 


This wasn`t high profile race.  At least not of a national level, not until

this happened. 






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. 




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

been well-documented. 


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

counted them.


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. 



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. 


MADDOW:  Thanks.


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.




Good evening, Lawrence.







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