Introduces Samantha Powers. TRANSCRIPT: 9/10/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Samantha Power

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. 

Much appreciated. 


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. 

All right.


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

president, right? 


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

admitted doing. 


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






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

the fact. 




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

few minutes. 


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. 

That`s tonight. 


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. 



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

in Mecklenburg. 


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 down. 


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

presidential campaign. 


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-

world decisions. 




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. 



Mr. President. 


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





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. 






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? 




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. 


POWER:  Right.


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 –


MADDOW:  Yes. 


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. 


MADDOW:  Uh-huh.


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



POWER:  Absolutely. 


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

Obama did. 


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. 


MADDOW:  Mm-hmm. 


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

tomorrow`s news. 


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. 




Good evening, Lawrence.







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