Introduces Samantha Powers. TRANSCRIPT: 9/10/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Steve Kornacki, thank you so much for your time.
We`re going to keep monitoring throughout the night.
That is ALL IN for this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Samantha Power is here tonight with us in studio for the interview.
Samantha Power, of course, was President Obama`s ambassador to the United
Nations. Before that, she spent four years in Obama`s National Security
Council. She`s a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. She has a new book out.
We`re very, very happy to have Samantha Power here tonight for the
interview. I`ve been looking forward to that ever since I got the galley
of her book. Very excited.
What I didn`t know when I got the galley of Samantha Power`s book and when
we persuaded her to come on the show is that, boy, would this be a good day
to have Samantha Power on the show, because today turns out to be like the
feast of the Trump national security advisers on your secular advent
calendar of presidential scandals. This is a good day to have a former
high-level national security official to give you some perspective.
President Trump has only been in office, like, two and a half years. He`s
now looking for his fourth national security adviser, who I think if he
finds that person will actually be the fifth person to whom he has offered
the job. But today was, like, a banner day for all of them all at once.
Start with the first one. President Trump`s first national security
adviser Mike Flynn, he spent today in federal court where he learned of his
new probable sentencing date. The date on which he will find out if he`s
going to jail after he pled guilty to a felony for lying to federal
investigators about his secret contacts with the Russian government.
Now, today was sort of a good news/bad news day for Mike Flynn. Starting
with the bad news, it just – maybe this is just me, it does seem to me
kind of ominous that the likely sentencing date he got today in court is
December 18th. If that, if fact, happens, if that`s the day Mike Flynn is
finally going to be sentenced, that will mean that Mike Flynn will be back
in court exactly one year later, one year to the day, since the last time
he also almost got sentenced for his felony conviction.
You might remember, we all thought that Mike Flynn was going to get
sentenced for his crimes last year right before Christmas, December 18th.
But the whole thing fell apart, went spectacularly wrong in the courtroom
for him to the point where the judge basically invoked the Mercy Rule to
give Mike Flynn a chance to go out in the world to go do some good works or
something to try to redeem himself in some way that might influence the
judge`s perception because the judge was basically signaling at Mike
Flynn`s first sentencing, December 18th last year, that what he was going
to do was throw the book at Mike Flynn. He gave Mike Flynn a chance to go
out, go do some more cooperating with prosecutors, see if you can change my
You might remember that the transcript of Mike Flynn`s first attempt at
sentencing that day. It still glows red hot, right, the judge to Mike
Quote: I`m going to be very frank with you, this crime is very serious. As
I stated, it involved false statements to FBI agents on the premises of the
White House, in the White House, in the West Wing, by a high-ranking
security officer. That`s a very serious offense.
You lied to the FBI about three different topics and you made those false
statements while you were serving as national security adviser, the
president of the United States states` most senior national security aide.
I can`t minimize that. Two months later, you again made false statements
in multiple documents. All along, you were an unregistered agent of a
foreign country while serving as the national security adviser to the
president of the United States.
I mean, arguably – and the judge turns to point at the American flag in
the courtroom – arguably that undermines everything this flag over here
stands for. Arguably, the judge says, you sold your country out.
The judge then turned to the prosecutor in the Flynn case, that prosecutor
just filed a brief with that judge suggesting that Flynn had been an
awesome cooperator, he`d been super helpful to them. The prosecutors did
not want Flynn to get any jail time at all.
In that moment, what was supposed to be Flynn`s sentencing hearing, the
judge turned to that prosecutor, who, again, wanted nothing but lenience
for Mike Flynn, and the judge says this to the prosecutor: Given the fact
of the then-president of the United States imposed sanctions against Russia
for interfering with federal elections in this country, is there an opinion
about the conduct of the defendant in the days following that that rises to
the level of treasonous activity on this part? Hypothetically, the judge
says, hypothetically, could he have been charged with treason?
I mean, the prosecutors at that point in Mike Flynn`s case were asking for
him to be set free with nothing more than a stern talking to. The judge,
looking at the evidence against Flynn, was literally saying back to them,
are you sure we shouldn`t be looking at the death penalty for him? He`s
asking about treason.
That`s how it went for Trump`s first national security adviser at what was
supposed to be his sentencing date, December 18th last year. Now, as of
today, he`s just learned he`s likely going to be back in court for his
second try at getting sentenced and it`s once again scheduled for December
18th in the same courtroom – in the same courthouse, in the same
courtroom, with the same judge.
I mean, just numerologically speaking, that doesn`t seem like an auspicious
gift from the news gods. So, I would file that under bad news for Trump
national security adviser number one.
You should also know, though, that Flynn`s legal case has taken like a
crazy straw kind of series of turns since then. He`s fired his old lawyers
and has hired a new lawyer who`s a Fox News commentator who literally sells
anti-Robert Mueller t-shirts on her Website. Creeps on a mission. She
basically says the FBI is a crime syndicate, itself.
And with that lawyering powering his case now, Flynn`s representation in
court has taken odd turn, instead of Flynn and his lawyers trying to
convince that same judge who raised the prospect of treason looking at
Flynn less than a year ago, instead of just trying to convince that judge
that Flynn, in fact, has been a good cooperator, prosecutors were right
when they suggested no jail time for him, instead of that strategy, Flynn`s
case has taken this big series of turns and now in court, including today,
Flynn and his lawyers are arguing it`s all a deep state conspiracy that
must be exposed and the prosecutors and FBI agents who worked on the
investigation into him and the Russia investigation, it`s those prosecutors
and those FBI agents who are the real criminals and they`re the ones who
should all be arrested.
And I know this is a plot line that totally makes sense at night and in the
early morning on the Fox News Channel, but in court, I mean, in actual
court, like today with Mike Flynn in a suit sitting there in front of a
real judge, it doesn`t come out sounding like it does on TV. We just got
in the transcript from today`s Flynn hearing today.
Flynn`s defense counsel says to the judge, quote: I think the point is
going to be that there is egregious government misconduct. There`s one
thing after the other that we could document that exonerates Mr. Flynn in
any number of ways.
The judge say: When you say exonerates him, but you`re suggesting that a
basis exists to file a motion to withdraw his guilty plea? Is that where
this is headed toward?
Remember, Flynn has pled guilty. He has admitted guilt.
The judge is saying, whoa, whoa, whoa, he`s exonerated. You no longer
think he`s guilty? Are you withdrawing his plea?
Flynn`s lawyer says, quote, I can`t say right now exactly where it`s headed
but I don`t think it`s going to be a motion to withdraw his guilty plea.
The judge says, all right. But exonerates, though, that`s – Flynn lawyers
interjects, yes, your honor, exonerate.
The judge says, to show what? That he`s innocent of this charge? Flynn`s
lawyer, to show that the entire prosecution should be dismissed for
egregious government misconduct. Which the judge says, ah, I follow you.
A few minutes later, the judge is trying to kind of wrap up this part of
the court hearing today where Flynn is making these allegations against the
prosecutors, including that they`re hiding secret classified information
that they know exists but they can`t say why and the government isn`t
handing it over even though it definitely exists but they can`t say why,
and they keep saying that the government has tons of exculpatory
information that shows Flynn is innocent and the government is committing
crimes by not handing over that information. They`re willfully hiding it.
And the judge is kind of trying to wrap up this argument so the judge says
today, quote, I want both sides to focus on next steps. I mean, I`m going
to – I`m making an assumption. I think an informed assumption that the
government is going to say there`s no classified information that we
haven`t handed over and we`ve complied with our Brady obligations, meaning
we`ve handed over all exculpatory information. The judge says, that`s an
assumption, and – Flynn`s lawyer interrupts the judge and says, oh, yes,
that`s what they always say.
So, again, it sounds awesome on TV, but in court, it sounds a little
different and that`s how things are going for President Trump`s first
national security adviser. That was him in court today playing Russia hoax
bingo in the courtroom hearing that was – in the court hearing on his case
at this point.
It does, though, seem like with Flynn, we`re pretty clearly teeing up two
things that are going to happen next. For the one hand, the whole
recommendation that Flynn doesn`t go to jail, that may change. Prosecutors
were asked by the judge today if they still believe that Mike Flynn should
get no jail time, if they still belief he`s been an excellent cooperator
and should get maximum lenience.
Prosecutors responded in a way that suggests that it`s no longer their view
of this matter. The judge says, quote, I have to ask you – talking to the
prosecutors – does the government stand by its sentence sentencing
recommendation or is that something the court should wait to receive in
writing? The prosecutor responds, in terms of the government`s position at
sentencing, that is something that the government intends to refile. We`ll
refile the appropriate paper work at that time.
So, when Flynn does get sentenced, which looks like it`s going to be
December 18th, it looks like he`s no longer going to benefit from
prosecutors saying, hey, let him go, he`s been awesome. Looks like Flynn`s
legal strategy may have turned their heads on that matter a little bit.
It also seems clearer than ever that Flynn`s case is not really designed
anymore to try to get him a reduced sentence from this judge, to try to
keep the judge from sentencing him to jail. Reading through the way that
Flynn and his lawyers are now approaching this, it seems to me just as a
layman watching this as drama that they don`t mind now what the judge is
going to sentence Mike Flynn to. They`re in there to throw as many bombs
as possible, to get as much crazy sounding stuff on the record, to make
sure that what`s happening in that courtroom lines up as much as possible
with what happens on the Fox News Channel because it seems clear that what
they`re going for is not lenience from the judge but a pardon from the
This deep state conspiracy theory, lock up all the FBI, lock up the
prosecutor stuff, is probably not going to move a normal judge, but it will
definitely move Fox News` evening and early morning programming which
presumably is designed to move the one person who can give Mike Flynn a
get-out-of-jail-free card no matter what he did, no matter what he already
So that was the day that Trump`s first national security adviser had today.
And you might remember after Mike Flynn had to leave the White House, had
to resign or be fired as Trump`s first national security adviser, ahead of
his soon-to-be forthcoming felony charges, the president picked a new guy
to be his national security adviser following up Flynn. He picked a navy
admiral named Robert Harward as his next choice for national security
adviser. It is almost forgotten now because there`s been so many of these
guys. But Admiral Harward actually turned down Trump`s request to serve in
that capacity which was very embarrassing for the Trump administration.
After that embarrassment with Admiral Harward, President Trump turned to
his third choice, General H.R. McMaster who did take the job. He lasted in
that job for about a year despite the fact that for a significant amount of
the time that he was serving as national security adviser, the president
was happy to openly complain about McMaster and let it be known that he
hated being in his company, to the point where he would to longer allow
H.R. McMaster to give him national security briefings even though,
technically, McMaster was the president`s national security adviser.
That history between Trump and McMaster is what made this potentially the
weirdest headline of them all today. NBC News reporting that despite the
fact that Trump fired McMaster, despite the fact that he went out of his
way to humiliate McMaster for months both before firing him and after, NBC
News reporting today that recently, President Trump has been calling H.R.
McMaster again, saying how much he misses him.
That`s not me making fun. That`s the reporting. Quote: According to two
people familiar with the conversations in phone calls to McMaster, Trump
told his second national security adviser that he missed him.
The reason we would seem to be learning this now, the reason this would
seem to be reported now, is because however Trump feels about any of his
past national security advisers, regardless of how much he misses and loves
his exes, as of today, he`s got a new ex. As of today, he`s fired another
And this relationship ended as raggedly and chaotically as all the rest of
them. National security adviser John Bolton reportedly chairing a
principals meeting at the White House as recently as this morning. The
White House press office putting out a statement at 10:56 a.m. today
announcing John Bolton would be briefing the press from the White House
briefing room today at 10:30 p.m.
John Bolton, however, did not make it until 1:30 p.m. because one hour and
two minutes after this press release from the press secretary about his
forthcoming briefing, the president tweeted that John Bolton had been fired
and, in fact, he had been fired last night.
Which makes no sense, right? The White House was still having Bolton chair
meetings at the White House and they were still announcing his forthcoming
briefings to the press today. President says he was fired last night.
And, you know, at this point, that isn`t even, like, the story here. We
just assume at this point that anything the president says, even about his
own behavior, has to be rounded up to the nearest fact. So nobody much
minds that he has clearly told a false story today about the firing of John
Bolton, something that plainly cannot be true. We just let that go.
I mentioned at the top o the show that we got Samantha Power here tonight
for the interview. As I said, she was President Obama`s U.N. ambassador in
his second term.
One of the things I think is worth remembering about John Bolton today as
he is fired as Trump`s third national security adviser is that before the
Trump administration was ever born, John Bolton was already one of the most
polarizing, controversial, and alienating federal government hires ever
when the George W. Bush administration sought to install him as U.N.
ambassador, despite Bolton`s record of saying things like this about the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOLTON, THEN-U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: The point that I
want to leave with you in this very brief presentation is where I started
is there is no United Nations. There is an international community that
occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world, and
that`s the United States, when it suits our interests and when we can get
others to go along.
Secretariat Building in New York has 38 stories. If you lost 10 stories
today, it wouldn`t make a bit of difference. United States makes the U.N.
work when it wants it to work and that is exactly the way it should be
because the only question, the only question to the United States is what`s
in our national interest. If you don`t like that, I`m sorry, but that is
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And the George W. Bush administration, they looked at that and
they decided, diplomatic temperament we`re looking for.
Even the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate would not confirm that person,
somebody that controversial to become ambassador to the U.N. President
Bush had to temporarily appoint John Bolton to the job during a
congressional recess because that`s the only way they could get him
So, when President Trump hired John Bolton, it`s not like he knew he was
getting somebody who was going to make things work smoothly and bring
people together. Neither Mr. Bolton`s tenure in the bush administration
nor his time as Trump`s third national security adviser will be remembered
for any single accomplishments.
The hawkish editorial board at the “Washington Post”, which is much more
conservative than the newspaper as a whole, just lambasted Bolton today on
the occasion of his firing in terms that surprised even me.
Quote: Bolton was picked because Mr. Trump had enjoyed watching him on
television. The result was to compound the chaos which has characterized
this administration`s foreign policy. The national security adviser`s
principal responsibility is to oversee a disciplined policymaking process
that includes the State Department, Pentagon and intelligence agencies and
to tee up big decisions for the president.
Mr. Bolton did not do that. Instead, he sniped at initiatives undertaken
by others, like North Korea talks and Afghan negotiations, and pursued
longstanding pet causes of his own such as his pointless crusade against
the International Criminal Court. He championed an attempted coup against
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro which fell flat. This dysfunction was,
of course, enabled and even encouraged by Mr. Trump.
That “Washington Post” editorial tonight concluding with the prospect that
President Trump might not even be able to find someone to say yes to this
job a fourth time. Mr. Trump`s fourth national security adviser, if he can
find one, given how disastrously wrong it has gone with all the other
national security advisers he has had, including Mr. Bolton who`s out as of
tonight, I think it`s a fair observation.
That said, that said, look on the sunny side. I mean, something about this
breakup with John Bolton today has already shined a little love light on
H.R. McMaster, right? The president reportedly calling him now telling him
how much he misses him.
Terrible how that all worked out between us, what are you doing now? Are
you busy? No, like, send me a picture from where you are. Right now, just
snap it, send it over.
And if you`re trying to be glass half full here, it should also be noted
that Mike Flynn may soon be available, right? I mean, he knows the ropes.
Flynn might be available soon depending on how his sentencing goes in just
a few short weeks. He will either be back on the job market.
He may or may not have, like, community service responsibilities which
might be a little bit of a crunch with that kind of a job, but you never
know. Potentially it could be a work release job if he`s in minimum
security prison somewhere or Trump could just pardon him in which case he`d
totally be free. It might be weird to appoint a national security adviser
after you had to pardon him for felony charges for things he did when he
was your national security adviser before, but honestly would that be any
weirder than the distance that we have traveled thus far?
There`s a lot going on right now, stuff that would be front-page news for
months on end in any other administration. Just today, for example,
current and former FEMA officials were charged with felony fraud in
conjunction with the disastrous Trump administration disaster response to
Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Ten felony federal charges against FEMA
officials for having ripped off the taxpayers, effectively, in the
Hurricane Maria recovery.
Tomorrow, there`s going to be a hearing on the Trump administration policy
to target sick and dying children for deportation, a policy they have
partially reversed in the face of public outcry but not entirely. So, we
expect fireworks at that hearing tomorrow. We`re going to have extensive
coverage on that tomorrow night on this show.
There`s also going to be a hearing tomorrow, a surprise and sudden hearing
on one of the most controversial judicial nominees of the entire Trump
And tonight, there`s also a bombshell congressional race in North Carolina.
Steve Kornacki will be joining us for an update on that coming up in just a
But as I mentioned, we`ve got Samantha Power here tonight for the
We got a lot to get to. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So the last election of the 2018 midterms is happening tonight.
Those midterm elections were ten months ago, so it`s weird that they`re not
done yet, but the election tonight in North Carolina is a do-over election.
It`s a do-over because cartoon villain level crime was exposed in the
original Republican candidate`s campaign back during the actual midterms.
On election night back in November, it looked like the Republican
candidate, Mark Harris, had eked out a narrow victory over Democrat Dan
McCready. Harris won that race by a razor-thin margin by 905 votes, but it
did seem like a done deal. After the election, Harris tweeted this photo
from the Capitol: The incoming congressional freshman class. You can
actually see him towards the back, all smiles, happy to be there, and newly
When it came time for the North Carolina state board of elections to
certify the results of his race, though, the board refused to do so, saying
that serious irregularities had turned up in that election. Took a long
time to figure out what they were talking about, but eventually, evidence
surfaced that Republican Mark Harris` campaign seemed to have funded a
pretty blatant, illegal, ballot-tampering scheme, that they hired a
political operative, who, frankly, was known for this sort of thing, and
that that operative assembled a crew of people to illegally forge absentee
And this did not look like a subtle thing. I mean, this looked like full
on wholesale ripping off an election, like stuffed ballot box, old-school-
style fraud. Seven people have already been criminally charged. In light
of all of that, the North Carolina board of elections voted unanimously
they would throw out the results of that initial election, hold a new one.
Mark Harris, himself, poofed in the meantime, he went away. Republicans
are running a new candidate this time around. A North Carolina state
senator named Dan Bishop, best known for sponsoring the anti-trans bathroom
bill legislation in that state.
The Democrat in the race is still Dan McCready. He`s now been on the
campaign trail for 27 straight months. By all accounts, by the numbers,
this ought to be a really easy race for Republicans. This district hasn`t
been represented by a Democrat in Congress since the `60s. Trump won it by
nearly 12 points over Hillary Clinton.
Frankly, the White House was showing confidence that Republican Dan Bishop
would run away with this. They sent President Trump there yesterday to
campaign, presumably so they could take credit for having pushed Bishop
over the finish line when he ultimately wins this. But if the original
election results, the initial stuff coming in tonight, is any indication,
there`s no reason for anybody to be confident in terms of how this is going
to work out.
Joining us now with the very, very, very latest on this race is Steve
Steve, please let us know how this is proceeding.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, literally votes are
coming in. We just got another update right before you threw it to me.
So, I`m looking at them right here.
You can see Dan Bishop, the Republican has moved into the lead in this
race. This has all happened in the last couple minutes, about a little
less than a point right now is the lead for Bishop over McCready, the
Why this has happened? Why Bishop who started out when we counted the
early vote, to start the night, he was nine points behind, how has he come
back? What`s happened is basically this eastern part of the district here.
This is less populated, rural areas here.
He`s over-performed especially in the Election Day vote. In the eastern
part of the district, he`s doing better in the places than Mark Harris, the
Republican did, in the invalidated election last year. So, that combined
with the strength that Bishop has, this is a gigantic county, Union County.
It`s a Republican county. It`s a Republican bastion. He needed to get at
least 60 percent here. There`s still vote coming in.
So, all of this now in terms of the Election Day vote has been good news
for Dan Bishop. It`s been good enough, as you can see, to put him in the
lead. It`s just changed again. Now, it`s down to six-tenths of a point.
What we will wait, we get all the vote to counting those rural areas, but
what the Democrats now have – that is not what was supposed to happen
there. What the Democrats have to hope for right here, see if we can get
this back up. I set the drama up and this went nuts on me.
Let`s go – there we go, district 9, what the Democrats have to hope for
right here, it`s a small sliver geographically. But this is huge
population-wise. And this is why McCready, if you notice, he just got
closer while we were talking district wide. It`s because more vote came in
This is the largest component of the county in the district. It`s about a
third of the population in this district. This is the charlotte suburbs.
You see McCready leading it 59-40. What he needs – he got 54 percent here
total in the 2018 election.
What he needs here is all Election Day vote that`s going to come in, it
tends historically to favor the Republicans but some of early precincts
have been encouraging for McCready. He needs to overperform in the
Election Day vote in this giant suburban part of the county to offset
what`s happening in the rural.
This the largest single outstanding source of vote in this district right
now. I`m just checking to see if it changed again. It looks like it might
have by a little bit there. But 800 vote, 750 vote difference right now
between McCready and Bishop.
Bishop is going to get more out of the union. Looks like more from the
rural areas. And then the question is, all of those suburbs in Mecklenburg
County, what do they do for McCready? He`s going to need a giant number
This one has been a barn burner, though.
MADDOW: Steve, in terms of when the vote is likely to come in, do we know
anything about historical trends? Are they a fast counting district? Is
this – is there any of this that`s likely to come in before the rest of
KORNACKI: Yes, no, it all – generally in North Carolina, we can expect –
now, the question is, if it`s real close, this could be something that goes
overnight, down to provisional ballots, something like that.
Accepting that possibility here, if you go outside of that, then probably
by 11:00, 11:30, something like that, they count quickly in North Carolina.
There was a glitch earlier tonight, a gas leak at a polling station in
Mecklenburg. It delayed things a bit, but I don`t thing that`s going to
significantly delay it.
They count pretty fast in North Carolina as you can see.
MADDOW: Steve Kornacki, thank you very much, my friend. This is going to
be exciting to watch over the course of the evening.
We`re going to go back to Steve if there are any other big updates. But as
I said, it`s a busy night. We have Samantha Power here shortly.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Long before President Obama became President Obama, long before it
even seemed possible that he`d be in contention to become president one
day, at a time when I was a random unranked radio host and I had very
little idea who this Barack Obama was and what he might have to offer as a
potential national leader, the very first thing that ever impressed me
about this guy, Barack Obama, was when I learned that he had apparently
impressed a person named Samantha Power, because at the time, I knew a lot
about her and I knew nothing about him, and she just didn`t seem like a
person who would be easily impressed. Her liking him made me more
interested in him.
In 2002, Samantha Power had published a big 600-page-long book on a dark
topic, a book that would have been way too intimidating to approach, let
alone read and finish, had it not been for the power of her argument and
for how well it was written. But that book, which is called “A Problem
from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide,” would end up becoming one of
the most influential books of this century when it comes to American power
and American responsibility and opportunity in a complex and dangerous
And like I said, that was an intimidating topic, that was an intimidating
book. For me, I find as somebody who`s got a book that`s about to come out
that I`m nervous about, I find it somehow heartening to know that Random
House had initially been the publisher for that book. When it came time to
actually pull the trigger and publish Power`s book, Random House backed
out, decided they didn`t want to publish it.
Then, Houghton Mifflin also said, no, we don`t want to publish it. And
Picador said, no, we don`t want to publish. Farrar Straus said no, not
interested. Simon and Schuster said, nope. Random House then briefly
considered maybe publishing it, maybe considered again, we were wrong the
first time, looked at it again, actually, no, we are right when we turned
It was only because Samantha Power called in not so much a favor, kind of a
Hail Mary, that she persuaded New Republic Books, Basic Books, to publish
that book, which, again, is called “A Problem from Hell”. And the reason
we`ve heard of that book is because it would go on that next year to win
the Pulitzer Prize, and as I said, to become more of the century`s landmark
moral arguments about America`s way in the world. It almost didn`t get
Samantha Power had immigrated to this country from Ireland at the age of 9.
She and her family moved to Pittsburgh where she became a Pittsburgh
Pirates fan and she forced herself to lose her Irish accent as quickly as
By the time she was just a year out of college, she had published sort of
indispensable timeline of the then-ongoing con conflagration in Yugoslavia,
and the ethnic and sectarian warfare that was being stoked by the war
criminals there who would ultimately orchestrate the worst massacres in
Europe since World War II. Relentlessly and rigorously critical of the
tendency of American politicians to assert never again, that America would
never again allow a genocide like the Nazis perpetrated in World War II,
while at the same time American politicians and decision-makers excused our
own country`s indifference now to genocidal campaigns around the world,
even when very limited U.S. action could make all the difference as to
whether hundreds of thousands of people lived or died.
Samantha Power sort of gut-checked and changed our country`s self-
conception about what we could do in the world and why. Her career since
is part of the reason you know about Ratko Mladic, and Srebrenica and
Rwanda and Darfur. She ultimately started working with then-senator Barack
Obama when he first came to Washington. She then became part of his
When President Obama brought her into his presidential administration as a
top national security aide, she was thought of as Dexter Filkins says in
the new piece today in “The New Yorker”, she was thought of as, quote, an
in-house conscience for the White House on matters of foreign policy.
And while it is impressive, literally, I was impressed that this Barack
Obama would bring on someone as clarion and uncompromising on these issues
as Samantha Power, it must have also been a little bit daunting to say,
yes, come with me, you the person who`s been telling us what we`ve been
doing wrong on genocide for generations, you come help me make these real-
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAM, FORMER PRESIDENT: Samantha first came to work for me in 2005
shortly after I became a United States senator. As one of our country`s
leading journalists, I think she won the Pulitzer Prize at the age of 15 or
16. One of our foremost thinkers on foreign policy, she showed us that the
international community has a moral responsibility and profound interest in
resolving conflicts and defending human dignity.
SAMANTHA POWER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Thank you,
From the day I met you and you told me that you had spent a chunk of your
vacation reading a long, dark, book on genocide, I knew you were a
different kind of leader and I knew I wanted to work for you.
I moved to the United States from Ireland when I – with my parents who are
here when I was 9 years old. I remember very little about landing in
Pittsburgh except that I was sure I was at the largest airport in the
history of the world. I do remember what I was wearing. A red, white, and
blue stars and stripes t-shirt. It was a t-shirt I always wore in Ireland
on special occasions.
Even as a little girl with a thick Dublin accent who`d never been to
America, I knew that the American flag was a symbol of fortune and of
freedom. But I quickly came to learn that to find opportunity in this
country, one didn`t actually need to wear the flag. One just needed to try
to live up to it.
For the next three months, I came home from school every day as my mother
can attest, my dad can attest, and I sat in front of the mirrors for hours
straining to drop my brog so that I, too, could quickly speak and be
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Samantha Power worked in the Obama administration for all eight
years of the administration. First at the National Security Council, and
then as U.N. ambassador. She was always going to be a high-profile member
of the administration given her expertise and her background and her own
capabilities. As U.N. ambassador, she took that to something of a higher
She joins us next. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POWER: To the Assad regime, Russia and Iran, your forces and proxies are
carrying out these crimes. Your barrel bombs and mortars and air strikes
have allowed the militia in Aleppo to encircle tens of thousands of
civilians in your ever-tightening noose.
It should shame you. Instead, by all appearances, it is emboldening you.
You are plotting your next assault.
Are you truly incapable of shame? Is there literally nothing that can
shame you? Is there no act of barbarism against civilians, no execution of
a child, that gets under your skin, that just creeps you out a little bit?
Is there nothing you will not lie about or justify?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Samantha Power has just written this new book, it`s called “The
Education of An Idealist.” It`s out as of right now.
Joining us for “The Interview” is former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power.
It`s great to have you here. Congratulations.
POWER: Glad to be here. Thank you.
MADDOW: So you`re a very good writer which makes it more fun and honestly
truly engrossing to read a memoir about a former U.S. official.
POWER: Well, thank you.
MADDOW: Which is an unusual thing.
POWER: Thank you.
MADDOW: So, thank you for writing a book that`s a pleasure to read.
POWER: Not sure about the genre, the bar, like the bar is, the former –
MADDOW: The former official memoir is not usually a great book.
MADDOW: This is a good book.
Let me ask you about that footage that I just played there of you. That`s
December 2016. So, that`s after the November 2016 election. Obviously,
that is a confrontation over things that are going on with Syria. You are
directing those remarks to the Russian counterpart at the U.N.
When you said no execution of a child that gets under your skin, that just
creeps you out a little bit, you were not reading your prepared remarks.
POWER: Those were not cleared by 45,000 people in the bowels of the State
Department, no. But that was a great privilege that I had, in the role
that I had, and I had a long leash as President Obama liked to say. And,
you know, part of what went on in those jobs and could be a little bit
terrifying at times but was to have to play out those confrontations with
Russia on live television, feeling like you`re back in the cold war.
That wasn`t the job I thought I was taking. I was taking a job where we
had moved into the reset. We were going to try to figure out how to solve
problems like we did on the Iran nuclear file together, but then not long
after I arrived, they invaded Ukraine and then do what they do in Syria.
I will say that that video, I think, which went viral, as they say, at the
time may have gone viral a little bit because of the barbarism of what they
were doing in Aleppo and what the Syrian regime was doing, but I do think
to your point about the timing, it was a lot about people feeling –
desperately longing for people to still retain the ability to feel shame
including in our own politics. And, of course, the revelations about
Russia`s interference in the election which had been known in advance of
November up to a point but then really, you know, burst onto the public
stage. So I think that`s what people were longing to say to Putin in the
wake of the result, there`s nothing you won`t do –
POWER: Are there no accountability, are there no standards in this world?
MADDOW: I mean, looking – the way you`re putting that, looking back at
that time, you know, trying for a reset, trying for a reorganization and
renewal of trust with Russia in so many issues, to see them take so many
dark turns so quickly with what looks very much like a stolen election, in
terms of what happened in 2011 and 2012, and Putin engineering himself back
into another term, and then the annexation of Crimea, and the occupation
and the war they started in Ukraine, and then what they did to us and what
they did in Syria and all of those things.
I mean, when you were in there in the fight, were you constantly surprised
that Russia was taking these dark turns? Did you feel like this idea that
there could have been a reset, there could have been a more constructive
relationship was naive? Did they do things you expected them to do?
POWER: They exceeded my worst expectations, put it that way, certainly
culminating in the – just the scope of the election interference, the
multifaceted nature of it. Some of that, we really got more and more of
the details of that as time unfolded. We knew, you know, what they were
doing and tried to raise the flag about what they were doing ahead of time
but nowhere near the scale of it.
But, you know, the Russian system, like many around the world was also
comprised of people with very different sensibilities. So, my counterpart
was trying to kind of pull water from a stone, try to forge some form of
cooperation at the same time publicly, he`s spewing Putin`s lines, knowing
that if he doesn`t, you know, he`ll lose his job or God knows what else.
And so, it really was, I think there was a moment, I`m not sure exactly –
I don`t know how I would pinpoint it but where Putin just decided that the
international order that was coming to be with its aging population and its
sort of stagnant economy, that this was not an order that benefited him
politically. Like our current president, Putin cares about Putin.
POWER: Putin doesn`t care about the Russian people. So for Putin, the
ticket to self-sustainment was demagoguery, nationalism, you know, you
know, bringing Russia from its knees. And I think there is a lesson for us
which we did not see sufficiently. We, the Obama administration, but I
think across the board, the sort of dignity deficit for Russia in the wake
of the Cold War, we were thumping our chests about the victory in the Cold
War, you know, this was a proud nation with an amazing history, with an
amazing traditions and just feeling look passed, as we`re moving on, I
think about our relationship with China, how the European Union is going to
be the new partner.
So, you know, I think all of us have to look back at the missed moments,
maybe there was some initiative, something we could have tried that would
have met them where they are. But I think Putin`s own objective in
enhancing his own power led him to basically tear up the envelope to the
MADDOW: And to decide that nothing that that Western-led order could
deliver to him in terms of consequences of anything he was going to care
MADDOW: I have to ask you about today`s news that the president is going
to be looking for a fourth national security adviser which is an –
POWER: So far.
MADDOW: – unprecedented pace.
Exactly. So far, he`s going for number four. He`s already broken his own
record in terms of the number of national security advisers he`s blown
I wonder, just having been part of the National Security Council process,
having spent all those years with President Obama, who obviously had a very
different approach to these matters, is it dangerous, is it things that we
as regular citizens should worry about to have that kind of turnover in
that kind of job?
POWER: No question. And when you compound the vacancy there now with who
just held the job, right? Because having John Bolton as national security
adviser had its own perils associated with it as we saw in nearly launching
a military strike against Iran. But if you combine that with not having a
secretary of homeland security, a deputy secretary of homeland security, 20
senior vacancies at the Pentagon, multiple ambassadorial posts without
ambassadors in really important places and no director of national
intelligence, no deputy director of national intelligence – I mean, these
jobs exist for a reason.
Yes, there can be too much bureaucracy. But to have senior people around
the room who tell – I mean, I hope this happens in some room somewhere in
the Trump administration. It`s not evident that it does, but where you
have people with different viewpoints who challenge propositions that are
at the table, bringing their different life experiences, their different
so-called equities. That`s just – I mean, there was no process under John
Bolton. There has been no process really from the beginning.
MADDOW: You chafe at some of the process. I mean, in the book you talk
about being amazed how many cook that were in the kitchen and how many
people signed on –
POWER: It`s spinach. It`s spinach, right? Initially, I chafed so much
because all the clearances and, you know, just the bureaucratese and, you
know, I`m doer and wanting to try to think about how we want to promote
human rights, or how we curtail assistance to an abuser, how we do this or
that, and there are 15 people I have to check with before I even meet with
a dissident in the White House. It made me crazy.
But at the same time, I want a human rights voice in the room when we`re
talking about the drone program or when we`re talking about resuming
military assistance to an abusive regime, I want to be that voice in the
room. And so, process protects you, especially when you have a leader
who`s capable of being challenged, who invites challenge, as President
I mean, if I was quiet, I tell these stories in the book, if I was quiet in
a meeting but I have sort of not the best poker face in the history of the
world and Obama would be like, what`s wrong with Sam? You know, is she
sick? Are you sick? Like what`s on your mind? You`re frowning.
You know, he wanted –
MADDOW: Called you out.
POWER: Yes, and then he may not like what I heard. He may regret that he
called on me.
But it`s the complete opposite. I mean, here why did Bolton lose his job?
Because he actually disagreed.
POWER: So, you know, you don`t know what to fear most, Bolton agreeing
with the president or Bolton disagreeing and – you know, but any dissent,
anything that isn`t aligned with the mercurial instincts of this person who
rules by fiat and not through a deliberative process, you know, is not only
frowned upon but they get the ax.
MADDOW: I have one last question I want to ask you about this book. Can
you stay for just a second?
POWER: Yes, please?
MADDOW: Samantha Power is our guest. The new book is called “The
Education of an Idealist.”
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: One day, having again forgotten an appointment, I called the
doctor at the last minute to see if he could hold the session by telephone
and he agreed. I sat on my couch as I talked through my latest relapse
with an ex-boyfriend who was separated from his wife but making no move to
break permanently free.
As I spoke, I suddenly heard a beep, beep, beep in the background. I
thought I recognized the noise but I couldn`t quite believe it until I
heard it again. What`s that sound?, I asked. The therapist didn`t answer.
Are you at an F-ing ATM, I asked, indignantly.
From the moment he admitted that he was, in fact, multitasking at the bank,
I renounced therapy and resolved that I would figure myself out after I
finished my book.
Samantha Power, you tell an intensely personal story here about learning to
cope with anxiety and with your own demons while doing incredibly difficult
Was that hard to decide to commit that to paper?
POWER: Yes, definitely. But when I see young people who are so motivated
by the ills of the world but themselves have doubts very similar to those
that I had, I thought maybe if I leave it out there, this will be a
relatable story, not the U.N. ambassador or former cabinet official, but a
human who`s doing the best she can to the best of her ability, with all the
bats in the bat cave, you know, occasionally creeping up. And you can
neutralize them if you have the right friends and family, I think,
MADDOW: You need support but you need to work at it.
POWER: With a lot of support, sometimes (ph).
MADDOW: “The Education of an Idealist”, new memoir by Samantha Power –
thank you so much.
POWER: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Great to have you here. Congratulations.
POWER: Great to be here. Thank you.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Tomorrow, of course, is the anniversary of the September 11th
attacks. There`s also going to be a couple things to watch for in
Washington that`ll probably be overshadowed by the 9/11 anniversary. But
they`re big consequential things that you might want to watch for in
One is that there`s going to be a hearing tomorrow in Congress on this
unannounced new policy by the Trump administration where they seem to
target dying children and their families specifically for deportation.
Congress is holding its first hearing on that tomorrow, and it ought to be
a blockbuster. We`ll have full coverage on that for you tomorrow night.
Tomorrow, also, we`re expecting a confirmation hearing for one of the most
controversial Trump judicial of his entire tenure. A nominee named Steven
Menashi who was nominated to a federal appeals court. There were dozen of
people arrested today on Capitol Hill in various senators` offices, in
offices of senators both in the Democratic and Republican Party, all
protesting against Menashi`s nomination.
Watch for that confirmation hearing tomorrow. They`re trying to make that
go quickly and quietly but I think that it won`t.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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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