Democratic debate kicks off tomorrow. TRANSCRIPT: 9/11/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
MEGAN TWOHEY, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, The NEW YORK TIMES: We certainly had
no idea what the impact would be. At “The New York Times”, all we know in
2017 is that we were committed to reporting on sexual harassment across a
variety of industries, from the restaurant industry, to Silicon Valley, to
Hollywood, to auto plants.
And our hope, obviously, was they would help bring about change.
ALI VELSH, MSNBC HOST: Yes.
TWOHEY: But we couldn`t be sure what was going to have what impact.
VELSHI: It was the tip of the spear.
Thank you for not only your remarkable reporting, but for this book that
tells us about how it all went down. Megan Twohey, Jodi Kantor.
And that`s it for ALL IN this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Ali. Thanks very much. Much
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour, on this, the 18th
anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
It has been sort of an unsettling day in the news. Not necessarily in
terms of the anniversary, but just in terms of our own current national
security and U.S. politics news.
It is unsettling that it is on this anniversary that we`re reporting on the
consequences of there being no national security advisor again. No
president has ever had to fire hire four different national security
advisors in less than three years.
But after President Trump fired his third one yesterday, or he resigned, or
something, today what I guess has been the John Bolton wing of the Trump
White House started emptying out in the wake of Bolton`s departure himself.
Bolton`s assistant at the National Security Council was fired or left
today. The two senior directors for strategic communication at the
National Security Council were also fired or left today.
We are also following some emerging reports that some other national
security staff may be out, either fired or just leaving now that President
Trump has shed his third national security advisor.
There is certainly no sign yet of who else might come in as Trump`s next
national security advisor. Amid speculation now that maybe President Trump
will decide he doesn`t want anyone in that job. I mean, the national
security advisor`s job is to coordinate the whole policy process in the
White House when it comes to national security and foreign policy. They
coordinate the whole policy process in the various parts of the White House
and the Security Council among various government agencies.
The whole idea is that somebody is running that deliberative process to
give the president the best most comprehensive information, right, to make
sure that the deliberative process about policy in any presidential
administration is very well-informed and very responsible and is full of,
you know, subject matter expertise that you`re getting from the most –
that is not exactly the tune this presidency has danced to thus far.
That`s not exactly how they work.
And if you think about it – I mean, honestly, if you don`t have a policy
process anymore, if the policy process is president want, president get, I
mean, if that`s it why bother having someone nominally in charge of the
policy process? Why bother?
Also, it`s the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Meanwhile, today the Trump administration tried to push through one of the
most controversial judicial nominee`s of Trump`s time in office. They
literally nominated him to the job two days ago and then, boom, held his
confirmation hearing today. Get it done quick, get it don e before people
know it`s happening.
That strategy may not be working.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVEN MENASHI, JUDICIAL NOMINEE: After having a dispute with the partners
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: As evidenced by the fact that it was actually hard to hear some of
that nominee`s opening statement today because people found out that
hearing was happening and there were loud protesters against him just
outside the hearing room door.
When the White House first signaled they were going to nominate Steven
Menashi to a federal appeals court job, to a lifetime appointment to a
court just one level below the Supreme Court, everybody knew it was going
to be controversial. This is somebody who is reportedly part of the
immigration working group in the Trump White House that`s led by Stephen
Miller. He has been coming up with their immigration policies.
People started immediately turning up his lifetime of writing about, you
know, the inferiority of Islam and how offensive it was to him that Matthew
– the Matthew Shepard murder got so much attention, and the disgusting
gynocentrists. These offensive women who advocate for sexual assault
victims, and how there is nothing racist about white people holding a
ghetto party and turning up in afro wigs and everybody carries fake guns.
He is a peach.
We had reported earlier on this show, on this law review article by Steven
Menashi, which is entitled “Ethnonationalism and Liberal Democracy”. The
reason we put that on the show when it first became apparent that the White
House was going to try to nominate him to a judgeship, is that – to be
clear, this isn`t an argument about ethnonationalism and liberal democracy.
It`s for ethnonationalism, espousing its benefits.
Quote: The Solidarity underlying democratic polities rests in large part on
ethnic identification. Ethnic ties provide the groundwork for social trust
and political solidarity, greater ethnic heterogeneity, meaning diversity,
is associated with lower social trust. Ethnically heterogeneous societies
exhibit less political and civic engagement and less effective governing
institutions. The solidarity underlying democratic polities rests in large
part on ethnic identification, he says. Surely, it does not serve the
cause of liberal democracy to ignore this reality.
That`s me quoting him directly. But to put it in other words, what this
means is President Trump is trying to put somebody on a federal appeals
court for life who is arguing that it`s a downside for democracy if you
have too much ethnic diversity, ethnically heterogeneous democracies
function less well. And, surely, it does us no good to ignore that
reality. And so, ethnonationalism.
I mean, it is hard to imagine somebody like that being a federal appeals
court judge, let alone him being a federal appeals court judge who`s being
appointed hold the seat that was once held by Thurgood Marshall. They are
trying to give that guy Thurgood Marshall`s seat, the ethnonationalism guy.
Don`t worry, though. The Judiciary Committee chairman gave that nominee a
hard time on this issue today. Watch this. This is how Republican
Chairman Lindsey Graham asked this nominee about that controversy today
from this nominee`s background.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Your writing, you`re a prolific writer. Tell
me about this ethnonationalism stuff. What does that mean?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What does that mean? So, tell me about your whole
ethnonationalism thing. What`s that like?
Probing questions from the Judiciary Committee chairman today. That`s
literally what he said. What`s that mean? This ethnonationalism stuff.
We`ll have more on that coming up later on this hour. But for all that`s
going on in today`s weird day of news, you should know that part of why
things are a little bit weird today is that tomorrow is the day when
impeachment starts. Tomorrow is the day when the Judiciary Committee in
the House is going to vote on these rules and procedures they are setting
up to govern their formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump.
The committee`s chairman, Jerry Nadler, says that if they are going to draw
up impeachment articles against president, they intend to do so by the end
of this year. And the process that will lead to that point is going to
start tomorrow morning when they vote on the rules for that impeachment
investigation and the hearings that will go along with it.
So, as I said, there is a lot going on. Some of it unsettling,
particularly given today`s anniversary.
But here is something that you should definitely see that happened in
Washington today. This happened in a hearing today in Congress. This is
not the usual reaction that any member of Congress has to a witness`
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will at this point call for five minutes on
Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Before I ask my questions, since it has not yet been done, I think it`s
important to really make sure that the jingoistic, bigoted testimony of Mr.
Homan is called out as nearly completely untrue as being an outrage and as
a former official directing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency,
he should know better. So –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman – Mr. Chairman –
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: No, this is my five minutes.
TOM HOMAN, FORMER ICE DIRECTOR: What did I say was inaccurate?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Excuse me. I am not asking a question.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, the gentle lady is recognized for five minutes.
She made her point. I will try to resolve any other issues at the end of
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you. So, I just think it`s important that it`s
not accepted as accurate testimony.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It`s not accepted as accurate because it`s jingoistic and bigoted
in her words. That was Florida Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz on an
unannounced but very controversial new Trump administration policy change
that we have been covering quite a bit.
It`s a new policy that targets people with serious medical conditions for
deportation, including specifically in instances where it is known to the
government that the medical care that is keeping that person alive is not
available in the country to which the Trump administration wants to deport
that person, which means this new policy from the Trump administration in
some cases will deliberately and knowingly kill individual identifiable
people one by one. People whose lives are only continuing because of
medical treatment they are getting here. The Trump administration has
ordered them to cease that medical treatment and leave for other countries
where that treatment is non-available.
So, we have been covering this the past few weeks. It started last month
with no warning. The administration sent letters to the families of
critically ill patients, many of them kids, who are receiving life-saving
medical care in this country.
And those letters from the Trump administration offered no way to appeal,
nobody to call to try to sort this out. There was no indication that there
was any – this was anything other than a bottom line.
But what those letters said was that those patients and their families had
33 days to stop their treatment in this country and get out.
Now, in the hearing on this policy change today from the Trump
administration, what got Debbie Wasserman Schultz so fired up was that the
Republican members of the committee chose, as their witness on this
subject, a Fox News regular and a former ICE official who said at the start
of this hearing today as far as he was concerned, the real problem, not
this fake problem with these sick kids that the Democrats were talking
about. According to him, the real problem was the illegal aliens raping
and murdering all the people and where is the hearing on that instead of
this fake news about these supposed sick kids. That was his testimony
Now, the problem with having a witness like that, saying today`s hearing
was conjured out of thin air and this isn`t a real issue and where is the
hearings on the real issue, the problem with that is that the people
actually affected by what the Trump administration is doing here were
sitting right there at that same table, at that same hearing, also ready to
testify. And it turns out they are very real.
This former ICE official apparently thought the title of the hearing, the
Administration`s Apparent Revocation of Medical Deferred Action for
Critically Ill Children, he called that title of the hearing inaccurate and
misleading. But, hey, wouldn`t you know, it turned out that there were
there in person, at that hearing critically ill children, sworn in and
describing under oath exactly how the administration apparently revoked
their medical deferred action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ISABEL BUESO, IMMIGRANT WITH RARE DISEASE: My name is Maria Isabel Bueso.
I`m 24 years old. I came to the U.S. from Guatemala when I was only 7 to
participate in a clinical trial to save my life, and life of those like me.
I came here legally and have been a legal resident in this country for over
But on August 13th, the U.S. CIS, in a letter, given to me and my family
just 33 days to leave the country. This is not a partisan issue. It`s a
humanitarian issue and our life depends on it.
JONATHAN SANCEZ, RECIPIENT OF MEDICAL DEFERRED ACTION: My name is Jonathan
Eduardo Sanchez, and I`m a 16 years boy that has cystic fibrosis, a disease
that affects primarily the lungs. It`s incredibly unfair to kick kids in
hospitals or at home getting treatments to save their lives.
The day our lawyers told us that the Medical Deferred Action program was
canceled, I started crying telling my mom, I don`t want to die. I don`t
want to die. If I go back to Honduras, I will die. After this, I feel so
tired both emotionally and mentally. I could not even sleep properly.
I feel disappointed with the USA government that they canceled this
Sorry for that.
On my point of view, thinking that deporting sick kids like me, it will be
a legal homicide because in our country doesn`t exist any type of
Thank you for your time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, despite that granular, detailed personal testimony from these
young patients about personally getting letters from the government,
telling them they would have to leave this country, stop their medical
treatment and go to a place where they would die, Republicans today, their
argument, their approach to the hearing was don`t worry, this isn`t really
This is a show trial. This is a show hearing. None of this is real. Kids
like Isabel and Jonathan don`t have anything to worry about.
Republicans today argued that whatever the government did in sending the
kids and families letters, it was a mistake. Of course, it will be dealt
with promptly. The U.S. would never deport critically ill people,
especially not to places where they couldn`t continue to get the treatment
keeping them alive. That`s crazy. You are just trying to make the Trump
administration look bad.
That might have been comforting had it not been for the testimony from a
current official from U.S. CIS, U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services,
which is the agency that really did send these patients and their families
real letters saying they had to give up their medical care and leave the
country in 33 days.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the motivation behind the new policy? What`s
the rationale for the new policy? Why did all of this happen? Can either
of you answer that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unfortunately, we are not going to be able to answer
that because of the ongoing litigation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can`t tell me why there is a new policy. You can`t
tell me what motivated the new policy. You can`t tell me what the new
policy is. I mean, is that a correct assessment of the situation?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is my testimony, sir, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What office or internal department of U.S. CIS did
this policy change directive come from? Where did it come from?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Again, I`m not sure I can answer that question on the
advice of counsel.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What role did the acting director play in the decision?
What role did the acting –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Again, that, sir, is essentially the same question that
I`m not able to answer.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For the questions you have not answered based on
pending litigation, do you actually know the answers to those questions?
Do you know the answers and you are not sharing them? Or you don`t know?
Do you know the answers to the questions that I have asked that you
declined to answer?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand your question.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was trying to decide if I knew – I do not know the
answers to all of your questions, no.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To any of them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m sorry?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To any of them? To any of the questions that I asked
regarding the genesis of this policy, was it ordered by a political
appointee? What office did this come from? How many cases have been
processed? Do you know the answers to any of those questions?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I certainly think that without a pending lawsuit, I
would be able to provide additional information.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So that Trump administration official could not, would not, might
not, maybe can`t, doesn`t – won`t answer any questions about where this
policy came from, whether it was ordered by a political appointee, how many
cases have been processed, whether the process – whether the policy has
been rescinded now that they have tried it and had this blowback and said
it would be rescinded. I mean, people whose lives depend on what the Trump
administration is doing here, people have been sent letters saying you need
to stop your medical treatment and go to a place where you will die without
I mean, whether that`s you or your kid and you just got this letter, you
are just supposed to trust like that guy is going to get it straightened
out and you will be fine. I mean, in Isabel Bueso`s case, the deadline
that Trump administration gave her for her and her family, that she needed
to get out of this country, is Saturday. She and her family, as far as we
understand it, have not been told definitively whether or not that deadline
Her doctors say she has serious surgery scheduled next month. And yet,
according to the Trump administration, which will not explain itself
whatsoever, they will not explain what the policy is, where the policy
change came from, how they have handled it, how many people it applies – I
mean, she faces the risk of being deported to her home country where she
will have to give up the treatment that gives her – that keeps her alive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: What scares you the most about the idea of returning to
BUESO: Well, first of all, the treatment because I need the treatment.
And then all of my medical care that I need that has been, you know, with
me in California for so long, so it`s really terrifying to think about it,
you know. But I`m in pain a lot. So I`m hoping that something can come of
this, because it`s overwhelming, devastating, and just thinking about you
are going to die when you have still so many dreams and hopes for your
life. It`s really devastating.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was the hearing today on this issue on Capitol Hill. Isabel
Bueso joins us live here next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Maria Isabel Bueso went to Washington today for testimony on
Capitol Hill. She came to this country legally. She`s always been here
illegally. She came to this at the age of 7 when she was recruited to come
here. She was invited to come here by American medical researchers who
needed her help in their efforts to try to develop a life-saving treatment
for the rare illness that she was born with.
Isabel came here when she was 7. Because she was able to come, a clinical
trial to treat the disease that she has was able to go forward. The
treatment ended up becoming FDA approved in part on the basis of that
clinical trial that she made possible. What she did made it possible for
patients everywhere with her disease to have a shot at treatment, too.
And in Isabel`s case, it`s keeping her alive. She needs to receive
treatment intravenously once a week. Her life expectancy had been maybe 10
years old. She is now 24 years because of that treatment. She graduated
summa cum laude from college recently.
Last month, the Trump administration began sending patients, including her,
a letter, giving her 33 days to stop whatever treatment they are getting in
this country and get out of this country. Get out and never mind the
medical care that is keeping you alive. In Isabel`s case, that you helped
So, Ms. Bueso testified today before the House Oversight Committee trying
to help them get to the bottom of this decision by the Trump administration
that has overtly threatened her life.
After her long day in Washington, Maria Isabel Bueso joins us now live.
Ms. Bueso, we have been following your case for a couple of weeks here on
the show. It`s really great to meet you and have you here. Thank you.
BUESO: Hi, Rachel. Nice to meet you.
MADDOW: So –
BUESO: And thank you so much for all your support that has been given to
this very difficult timing.
MADDOW: Well, thank you for saying so. We have been trying to keep up
with the news and we know about it in part because you have been willing to
talk about your case.
I was struck by seeing you with all of those congressional leaders today
from both parties, from both houses. It sounds like in addition to that
testimony today, you were able to talk about your case to a lot of people
on both sides of the aisle. It must have been a long and stressful day.
BUESO: Yes. So, as you mentioned, today was the hearing, and it was a
great opportunity to hear my story of the situation that was going on. And
I hope that after today, you know, both parties can really take action on
this nightmare. I don`t think any human being should go through – should
go through this because it has been overwhelming, just devastating news.
MADDOW: One thing that surprised me at the hearing today as I watched the
testimony and I sort of watched it unfold over the course of the day, was
the argument from some, obviously not all, that this isn`t a real threat,
that there isn`t any real danger for you or for the young man, Mr. Sanchez,
who testified today that this is somehow being magnified and this isn`t a
As far as I understand from your case, you still don`t necessarily have
clarity about what that letter meant that you received that advised you
that you needed to be out of the country by this weekend. Is it clear to
you that you are sort of out of the woods and that you`re going to be
safely staying here?
BUESO: I still feel that there many questions that have not been answered.
I feel like I am still in limbo with not really clear, Rachel, where this
is going. It`s been – I`m really overwhelmed. I don`t feel 100 percent
safe that, you know, I`m stable.
But I hope that soon, we can get a solution because in my, you know,
situation, I, as you mentioned, mentioned before, I depend on the medical
treatment that I have been receiving for 16 years, and has helped me, you
know, keep alive, and also me doing so many clinical trials to many years,
I have been helping other people, which I feel really honored and
privileged to do so. But at this point, with that letter, it is uncertain
what the situation really is.
MADDOW: When you had those conversations with members of Congress, I saw
you talking with Kevin McCarthy, who`s the top Republican in the House. I
was very glad you were able to see him. I saw you talking with senators of
both parties. I was so happy to see those pictures today.
And it made me curious as to whether you felt like apart from the hearing,
in those individual conversations, when you were able to look people in the
eye and tell them what was going on, if you felt like they got it. If you
felt like you made any progress in terms of them understanding the gravity
of what happened here and your need to have some clarity?
BUESO: Yes. I feel today was a really big step just to share my story
with all of them, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Dianne
Feinstein, Minority Leader McCarthy and Senator Graham. Because this is
not about, you know, this is coming together to really say this is a
serious situation because we are talking about a life-or-death situation,
you know, for someone.
And I do hope that it actually will come. I really think they are
concerned about the issue and they are going to try to figure out this
thing because, like I said, you know, with the letter of 33 days, without
notification or not any explanation, it`s kind of like out of the blue,
like a dire (ph) situation.
MADDOW: Yes. Isabel Bueso, 24 years old, one of the witnesses at today`s
hearing on the medical deferred action program where we do not know either
why the Trump administration tried to do this, what exactly they are trying
to do, or how much they have rescinded it. To the extent that we`re going
to get that clarity and we`re going to get answers for what`s happening
here, it`s going to be in large part because of the way that you have been
willing to talk to the American people about your situation.
So, Isabel, thanks for being with us tonight. And please stay in touch.
We`ll have you back any time you want to come back.
BUESO: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Thank you.
Much more to get to tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, as you know, as of today, it has been 18 years since the 9/11
attacks. Off the top of your head, without looking it up, do you know how
many members of al Qaeda have been convicted in the U.S. in connection with
9/11? How many? The answer is one. One guy.
He is in prison in Colorado and he will be there until the end of his life.
But he is the one guy who they ever convicted in this country for 9/11.
And it`s not that the U.S. doesn`t know who committed the attack or even
that they didn`t catch the suspects.
I mean, the actual physical perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, the 19
hijackers who boarded those four planes that crashed into two Manhattan
skyscrapers and the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, those hijackers
are all, obviously, dead and in hell, if you believe in that.
But there were other members of al Qaeda who allegedly helped orchestrate
and plan those attacks, and some of those suspects were arrested. And to
this day 18 years after the attacks, other than that one guy who was
convicted and is in prison in Colorado, other than him all of the rest of
them are still in U.S. detention now, still awaiting their day in court.
Only last week did they even try to set a military court date for five of
these guys, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who is described by the 9/11
Commission as the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks.
The best case scenario, the military trial of these five defendants might
start in 2021, which would be 20 years after the 9/11 attacks, and nearly
20 years after most of them were first arrested. And the idea of a 2021
trial date for them is still only a maybe. Even if that happens, best case
scenario, that`s two decades without a trial for the defendants, also two
decades for the families of 9/11 victims who will have to – have waited to
20 years to see if justice might be served for those suspects, even after
the U.S. says they got the guy who they think orchestrated the whole thing.
I mean, it didn`t have to go this way, right? They didn`t have to do all
of this on a 20-year delay. In normal civilian courts in the U.S.,
hundreds of terrorism suspects have been tried and convicted without
incident. They go into the prison system and they disappear into the
federal prison system and they stop being famous.
The Obama administration tried to take that course with these five 9/11
defendants, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. They tried to actually put
these guys on trial for terrorism when Obama first took office in 2009, but
you may remember Congress freaked out and decided that no way would the
Obama administration be allowed to do that. That would be terrible. And
so, instead, we are heading into the 19th year since 9/11 with none of
those five 9/11 defendants being tried, let alone convicted, including the
guy who is accused of setting up the whole thing.
But there is that one other guy though in Colorado who is now like the
counter factual example of how it might have been. How it might have gone.
His name is Zacharias Moussaoui. He is often erroneously referred as the
20th hijacker, even though he was actually arrested before the 9/11
After 9/11 happened, while he was in custody, he was charged in part for
his connection to the attack. Moussaoui to this day remains the only
member of al Qaeda charged and convicted in the United States in connection
The reason he is the only one is that they dealt with his case like a
normal terrorism case. He was charged in civilian court, convicted, sent
to prison for the rest of his life. This was an extraordinarily complex
terrorism case with Zacarias Moussaoui, but he was convicted in 2006 over
13 years ago now. Moussaoui is now multiple life sentences into his stay
at our nation`s highest security supermax prison in Florence, Colorado,
while all the other 9/11 defendants languish still today, still untried,
still not convicted, still not sentenced with no closure for their cases,
no closure for the victims, all because of this political fantasy that the
U.S. shouldn`t possibly use real courts to try these crimes. It shouldn`t
use real courts to get accountability of the perpetrators of that terrorist
Instead, the bright idea we had as a country was that we should invent a
whole new tribunal system just for defendants like this, and that would
magically be more effective somehow than real courts. Well, that system
has now proved itself over 18 years to not work at the basic job of putting
these guys on trial. And it has cost billions of dollars in the meantime
while none of them have gone on trial.
The prosecutor who was the U.S. attorney in the appropriate jurisdiction at
the time of the Zacarias Moussaoui conviction is a man whose face maybe
familiar to many of you. His name is Chuck Rosenberg. Chuck discusses
that sole successful 9/11 prosecution of an al Qaeda member on the latest
episode of his MSNBC podcast, which is excellent and it`s called “The
And because of that, we`ve asked Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney for
the Eastern District of Virginia, former senior Justice Department to be
Chuck, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here.
CHUCK ROSENBERG, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Wonderful to see you, Rachel.
MADDOW: First of all, tell me if I got any of that wrong.
ROSENBERG: No, you`re right. You got it right.
MADDOW: Zacarias Moussaoui was picked up before 9/11. 9/11 happened while
he was in custody. He was charged in part for his connection to those
ROSENBERG: That`s right.
MADDOW: And it took years to convict him.
ROSENBERG: It did. So, the Eastern District of Virginia, known as the
Rocket Docket, things move quickly. His moved relatively slowly. He was
first indicted in December of 2001 and ultimately sentenced to life in
prison in May of 2006. Still 13 years ago.
MADDOW: Yes. And that`s the thing. That`s described for the Eastern
District of Virginia as an incredibly slow, complex trial. And, boy, did
that take a long time to wind through.
I mean, you compare that to what happened to the other 9/11 defendants and
he is the only – I mean, if you consider that to be a success, he is the
only person whose case came to any sort of completion.
ROSENBERG: It was a success, because we proved a couple of things. Not
just his guilt, but that terrorists, serious terrorists in complicated
criminal trials with classified information can be tried successfully in
federal criminal court.
You know, you said that these terrorists have been tried without incident.
I shall add one other word, they have been tried without fail. We haven`t
lost a terrorism case in the United States.
And so, whatever the worry is about the five in Guantanamo Bay should be
put aside in light of all the counterfactual evidence.
MADDOW: Do you believe that the perception of this has changed in the 18
years that we`ve been looking at this in terms of how our country should
deal with it? I remember the congressional freak-out in 2009. It was a
bipartisan congressional freak-out.
ROSENBERG: I do, too.
MADDOW: And I felt like the arguments against the idea of a real trial for
those defendants didn`t make sense to me then. They still don`t make sense
to me now. But do you feel like if that was proposed again, that you`d
have so the same bipartisan opposition to it? Or do you feel like people
have come around to the idea that real trials work?
ROSENBERG: Huge maybe. It`s hard to know how the politicians react to
this stuff. I can tell you how agents and lawyers and prosecutors react to
this stuff. We grew up in the Article 3 system, Article 3 of the
Constitution, which created our federal courts.
We trust them. We know them. We have experience in them. And so, we`ve
seen that they work even with the most difficult cases.
You know, this didn`t just happen. We had extraordinary FBI agents and
extraordinary federal prosecutors. I just happened to be the U.S. attorney
for the tail end of it.
But folks who worked really hard on this for many years and brought it
successfully to justice. And, by the way, justice is not just for the
United States and its citizens, but, frankly, for the victims and the
defendant. That may sound crazy, but everyone is entitled to a fair and
MADDOW: In terms of what is likely to happen to those remaining 9/11
defendants who have been waiting two decades, apparently, for their trial
and still wait, when I look at the proceedings, which have been chronicled
heroically by Carol Rosenberg, a reporter from “The Miami Herald”, now “The
New York Times,” has been basically the only reporter from the beginnings
who`ve been able to follow it all the way through.
ROSENBERG: No relations, but she`s done a great job.
MADDOW: She`s incredible. But she is a national institution and national
treasure because nobody else besides her has been able to follow that
process from the beginning because it`s so long and weird and serpentine.
Do you think there will be a trial of those guys in 2021?
ROSENBERG: I`m skeptical.
ROSENBERG: So, look, the military does a lot of things really well. Thank
goodness for them. But not this.
I mean, they have shown time and time again that this is sort of outside of
their grasp. And I don`t think there is any fault in saying we can`t do
it. We`re not built this way. It`s not designed this way and moving it
back to a federal civilian court.
I think that`s where it belongs. Again I`m biased. That`s the system I
know and trust, but it`s also, and I think this is important, Rachel, a
system that offers transparency.
It`s not easy for anybody to go down to Guantanamo Bay, in fact, it`s
prohibited, and watch the trial. Whereas, you can walk into any federal
courthouse in the United States, sit yourself down and stay as long as you
MADDOW: And it will come to an end.
ROSENBERG: And it will be finite. But that has to count for something
when you can watch the process.
MADDOW: Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of
Virginia, along with a lot of other impressive things on his resume. I
will tell you, the latest episode of Chuck`s new podcast, “The Oath,” he
talks to the lead prosecutor in the Moussaoui trial, which I`m telling you,
really is like a visit to another world in which this really is the way it
could have gone.
It`s great to having you here, my friend. Thanks, Chuck.
ROSENBERG: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): I understand that there`s been a media
coverage about a law review article Mr. Menashi wrote entitled
“Ethnonationalism and Liberal Democracy”. I understand the article also
claims that ethnically homogenous societies perform better on a number of
measures, including political and civic engagement and social trust than do
more diverse societies. That`s somewhat controversial.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes. Yes, it is.
That was how today`s hearing on Donald Trump`s latest and most
controversial federal judicial nominee kicked off with the top Democrat on
the Judiciary Committee bringing up this piece of writing by the nominee,
Steven Menashi, quote: The solidarity underlying democratic polities rests
in large part on ethnic identification. Surely, it does not serve the
cause of liberal democracy to ignore this reality.
Surely, you can disagree. The ethnonationalism thing is only the most
hair-raising of the whole children`s treasury of scary writings from Mr.
Menashi about Muslims, about gays and lesbians, about women or as he likes
to call them when he is mad at them, gynocentrists.
There was also the article he wrote citing that totally made up apocryphal
story about how the way he used to get rid of terrorism is that we dip all
the bullets in pigs blood or pig fat and wrap the Muslim dead bodies in
pigskins and that`s what really worked.
Now we`re just too wussy to do that. If that sounds family it`s because
candidate Donald Trump liked to tell that totally untrue story on the
campaign trail in 2016 before ultimately winning the presidency and hiring
Steven Menashi to come work in the Trump White House, including
specifically on the Trump administration`s immigration policies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-RI): Did General John Pershing execute Muslim
prisoners in the Philippines with bullets dip in pigs` fat?
MENASHI: Yes, Senator, I think – I`m happy to – I would like to clarify
that particular writing because it has come up.
WHITEHOUSE: Could you start by answering the question I asked?
MENASHI: I think it`s important to provide context.
WHITEHOUSE: You can but ask – answer the question that I asked first.
Did it or did it not happen?
MENASHI: Senator, at the time that I had written that essay, I had read
that anecdote in a number of sources and believed it to have been
substantiated. After 20 years, it does seem –
WHITEHOUSE: You learned that it`s not true and it wasn`t true then?
MENASHI: And on a fact basis, I regret having repeated it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I would like to provide some context – no. It wasn`t. It
actually got worse from there.
Stay with us. That`s next.
MADDOW: Everybody thought today`s hearing for Trump`s latest doozy of a
nominee for a federal judgeship, a lawyer who works in the Trump White
House, reportedly works on Stephen Miller`s immigration policy group. I
think a lot of people thought the focus for this particular nominee would
be about his lifetime of wackadoo writings on subjects including the
inferiority of Islam and gays and women and how democracy works best with,
with, with ethnic homogeneity. No other to say it, right?
But Steven Menashi`s hearing today went bad fast on a bunch of different
levels that I`m not sure we all saw coming. First of all, there were
protests in the hallway outside his hearing that resulted in five arrests.
The protests were so loud at one point, it was hard to hear Menashi`s
Also inside the hearing room, senators of both parties seemed unhappy with
the nominee for not answering their questions, period.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): Counselor, you`re a really smart guy, but I wish
you`d be more forthcoming. This isn`t supposed to be a game. You`re
supposed to try to understand not how you`re going to rule, but how you`re
going to think.
MENASHI: Well, Senator, I had been more forthcoming if you had a follow
up, I`m trying to be –
KENNEDY: I`m out of time. You took a lot of it, but not answering my
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-LA): Did you work on the administration`s decision to
end deferred deportation for undocumented migrants receiving treatment for
MENASHI: Senator, again, consistent with my duties of confidentiality to
the client, if the committee –
DURBIN: I`m not asking for what advice you gave. I`m not asking you to
disclose any confidence. I`m asking if you worked on the issue to denying
DACA status to those who are receiving treatment for life-threatening
MENASHI: Senator, again, I want to be as transparent as possible. For
this hearing –
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): If I could, that`s not an unfair question.
Did you work on the subject matter?
MENASHI: Senator, I worked on immigration issues –
GRAHAM: No. A specific question. Did you give legal advice on the
MENASHI: Um –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Um. Is there a lifeline provision here? Is there a thing when I
can call a person?
You can see there that while President Trump`s judicial nominee came
prepared to deflect questions from Democratic senators, he really doesn`t
know what to do when the Republican members of the committee, including the
Republican chairman starts agreeing with them. I mean, very occasionally,
Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell in their mad dash to pack the federal
courts with as many young, right wing ideologues as possible, very
occasionally, they have put forward someone who is too out there, too
obviously unfit, too nutty for even this Republican Senate to confirm that
There had been a handful of Trump judicial picks that have had to withdraw
because they couldn`t get enough votes even from the Republican-led Senate
because they were too out there.
This one is Steven Menashi. He is nominated for Thurgood Marshall seat on
the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which is one step below the Supreme
Watching today`s hearing, I would say it does not seem like he has this
locked up yet. But watch this space.
MADDOW: The next Democratic presidential debate kicks off tomorrow night
in Houston, and it`s only one night. Weird, right?
On the eve of that next Democratic debate, “ProPublica” has just reported
that the National Republican Party is doing something new that can`t be new
for their party`s candidates all around the country sharing the ballot with
Donald Trump next year. According to “ProPublica”, the RNC is refusing to
provide Republican candidates with data about how voters feel about
President Trump. They have always collected and sent out that data about
whatever president is in office. It helps people put together good local
But with President Trump for some reason, they`re withholding that data and
not sending it out.
Quote: Critical voter scores, sophisticated polling based analytics that
the RNC provides to party committees and candidates are now conspicuously
omitting an essential detail for any down ballot race, how voters in
specific states and congressional districts feel about President Trump.
Republican insiders believe these analytics are being withheld to try to
prevent Republican candidates from publicly distancing themselves from the
president, or leaking unfavorable results that embarrass Trump.
So, in the midst of everything else going on, right, tomorrow night, we`re
going to have the Democratic candidates again taking to the stage, try to
convince voters why they are the best to, you know, run against and bet
Meanwhile, on the other side, the Republican Party is cancelling their own
presidential primaries all over the country, so no one can run against
Trump or if they do, no Republican primary voters will have a chance to
vote for anyone other than Trump. And now, on top of that, we know that
the national party is overtly hiding the data, keeping secret the data that
they have that would let any of their own candidates around the country
decide rationally whether they, too, might want to run a little bit against
Trump in order to save their own skin because their own voters don`t like
This means the Republican Party would rather disadvantage their own
candidates, their own senators, their own members of Congress than risk any
Republican taking any kind of stand against Trump, or risking anybody
leaking that information in a way that might embarrass the president.
That, of course, is a capital offense in the Republican Party right now.
That`s going to do it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, It`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the