One-on-one with Susan Rice. TRANSCRIPT: 10/4/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this
I have to say, I`m sorry I took last night off. Honestly, given everything
that is going on in the news right now, it was a crazy night to be away.
I will tell you, though, last night was the only night I`m going to take
off from the show for my book tour which has now started. The first night
of the book tour was last night. That`s why I took yesterday`s show off,
but I`m here tonight live. I will be here next week even as I`m doing
these other book store events.
Thank you to Nicolle Wallace for filling in last night, and, of course, the
news gods have rewarded me for coming back to work by making today just as
nuts as yesterday was and perhaps even beyond as nuts as yesterday was, in
terms of what`s going on with this impeachment inquiry in particular.
So, I have to tell you, the former national security advisor Susan Rice is
going to be here tonight. It is an excellent night to have her here.
Susan Rice, of course, was the U.N. ambassador for President Obama`s first
She was national security advisor for President Obama`s second term. Given
the way the national security infrastructure of the United States is
rattling right now like a two-wheel-drive pickup truck with no shocks left
going fast on a corduroy road, there is almost no one I would rather talk
to right now about what`s going on in our country than Susan Rice. So, I`m
very, very glad that she`s going to be here. She`s going to be here live
in studio with me.
You might remember recently we had former Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton here on the show. She reminded me about something she said here
about six months ago, which created a little bit of consternation
particularly among her critics on right because Hillary Clinton in an
interview with me said something, like laid something out as a hypothetical
that she was laying out as something that was so crazy, it was so insane,
that they criticized her for even raising that prospect. She was raising
it as a hypothetical. She wasn`t saying this is something that`s going to
turn out. This wasn`t a prediction.
But that thing that she raised on this show which the right criticized her
for being outlandish, it has now turned out to have actually been a
prophecy. It was not just an insane hypothetical. In the end, it turns
out to be what we`re living through.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Imagine Rachel that you had
one of the Democratic nominees for 2020 on your show, and that person said,
you know, the only other adversary of ours who`s anywhere near as good as
the Russians is China. So, why should Russia have all the fun and since
Russia is clearly backing Republicans, why don`t we ask China to back us?
MADDOW: I hereby tonight ask China.
CLINTON: That`s right.
And not only that, China, if you`re listening, why don`t you get Trump`s
tax returns? I`m sure our media would richly reward you.
So, if after this hypothetical Democratic candidate says this on your show,
within hours, all of a sudden, the IRS offices are bombarded with
incredibly sophisticated cyber tools looking for Trump`s tax returns, and
then extracts them and then passes them to whatever the new WikiLeaks
happens to be, and they start being unraveled and disclosed, nothing wrong
I mean, if you`re going to let Russia get away with what they did and are
still doing according to Christopher Wray, the current FBI director who
said that last week, they`re in our election systems, we`re worried about
2020, he said. So, hey, let`s have a great power contest and let`s get the
Chinese in on the side of somebody else. Just saying that shows how absurd
the situation we find ourselves in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Hillary Clinton on this show about six months ago, right? Laying
out that crazy hypothetical to show how absurd it is for us to be, as a
country, denying the importance of what Russia did in or not punishing
Russia for what they did or not prosecuting anyone in the United States who
helped Russia with what they did or who knew about it and didn`t report it
to the FBI. I mean, she`s saying, you know look how absurd that is imagine
if it was China being asked to get involved in our next election, if it was
China being asked to get involved to help the Democrats this time win the
I mean, to be clear, when Hillary Clinton laid that out here, that was a
hypothetical. And, in fact, no Democratic candidate is trying to enlist
China`s assistance for the 2020 campaign.
Now, however, we know that President Trump is. He apparently decided that
absurd hypothetical is nowhere near too absurd for him and so, he had
proclaimed on the White House South Lawn yesterday that he would like the
Chinese government to give him some help in his re-election effort by
taking unspecified action against Democratic candidate Joe Biden. That was
followed by CNN reporting last night that the president wasn`t just idly
wishing that out loud on the South Lawn or fantasizing about that. But, in
fact, one of the presidential call records that has been secreted away into
the code word protected super high security stand-alone computer server in
the White House, along with the initial notes from the president`s call to
the president of Ukraine and reportedly the notes from his calls with
Vladimir Putin and his call with Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia,
another one of those calls secreted that super high security server is
reportedly the record of President Trump, in fact, calling the president of
China and asking the Chinese government to help him out versus Joe Biden
and the Democrats for 2020, explicitly asking for some sort of
investigation into Biden, right, one that he could use in his reelection
Now, to their credit I guess, China today said “no” out loud in response to
that request. We don`t know how the Chinese president responded on that
call. Again, the records from that call have been secreted away in a code
word protected server that nobody can look at. But at least out loud, the
Chinese government is saying no. The Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said
publicly today in response to questions about this new reporting, quote,
China will not interfere in the internal affairs of the U.S. and we trust
the American people will be able to sort out their own problems.
Oh, would that that were so. Little trouble sorting out our own problems.
Even so, the last thing we need is any other country`s help, particularly
So, President Trump has made Hillary Clinton`s hyperbolic prediction/absurd
story come true. He has asked China for help against the Democrats and Joe
Biden for his re-election effort in 2020. China at least out loud is
saying no. On top of that, we know that President Trump has also asked a
different foreign country, Ukraine, for help against the Democrats and Joe
Biden for his re-election effort in 2020.
Well, even though China out loud today said no to what the president is
asking for, Ukraine today appears to have said yes. The Ukrainian
government today announcing that under President Zelensky, they are about
to launch a new audit of previous investigations including the one that
Trump insisted the Ukrainians look into this accusation that they want to
use to slime Joe Biden.
Now, it is possible this is not as bad as it looks. It`s possible this
isn`t really the Ukrainian government delivering the trumped-up
investigation that Trump wanted so he could use it against Biden in his
reelection campaign. I mean, maybe it isn`t as bad as it looks. I think
we should all be humble about how we interpret, you know, nuance and
intention and the integrity of various figures in Ukrainian politics and
Ukrainian law enforcement.
I mean, I think we should all be humble about that. It used to be we
didn`t need to be experts on that kind of stuff in order to figure out
which crimes our own government officials were committing. But the way
this is going, in terms of the president making these demands on Ukraine
and Ukraine appearing today to accede to those demands, I mean, this story
is not getting better. This story is getting worse, both in terms of what
the president has done, what he has apparently ordered the rest of the U.S.
government to do for him, but also its impact.
And I say that not to bum you out, but because I know that the news is
moving really fast right now, we`ve had like 10 straight days of almost
insane news days in terms of the pace and in terms of the magnitude of the
importance of these stories, right? It can be easy to get overwhelmed in
At its heart though, this is still very simple. That may be why it`s
moving so fast. I mean, there is at the center of this story, this un-
rebuttable central claim here, for which the president of the United States
is going to be impeached. It remains very simply that the president asked
a foreign country and now it seems foreign countries, plural, for help
against the Democrats for his reelection. That`s it.
That is potentially a crime. No American can solicit something of value
for use in a federal election from a foreign source, whether or not the
president himself can or can`t be prosecuted for such a crime, anybody else
who participates in such a scheme can absolutely be prosecuted for such a
crime, ask Michael Cohen.
But the president`s involvement in this scheme, his direction of this
scheme, that`s what the House is going to impeach him for. And there isn`t
any mystery there. I mean, it started with press reports about there being
a whistleblower claim, and then we got the whistleblower claim, and then we
got documents released by the White House, and then ultimately, we got the
president`s own admission, and then we got the president doing it again on
camera in front of everybody.
I mean, the factual basis of this accusation against the president that
he`s asking foreign powers to intervene against his political rivals to
help him in his reelection effort, it`s proven nine ways to Sunday, it is
not in dispute. I mean, the White House and the president himself admit it
they`ve done it out loud. I mean, that is done, right? That`s the top
line. That`s impeachment. That`s the most important thing to understand.
But still, there`s so much movement and there`s so many developing stories
below that, right? One level sort of below that top line is where we`re
just having the tsunami of news, which is made every day for this past ten
days start since the impeachment inquiry started, it`s just made them all
so packed and frenetic.
So, let`s talk a little bit now about what happened today with this news
and where we`re at. I think in the history books if this all goes where it
looks like it`s going, today will go down in the history of the Trump
impeachment as the day the core impeachment inquiry, the central issue of
this impeachment inquiry and those proceedings against the president
shifted to include not just the president himself but also Vice President
And I think we knew this was probably inevitable once “The Washington Post”
reported a couple of days ago that sources close to the vice president
basically conceded that Vice President Pence had, in fact, been briefed on
the fact that President Trump was pressing Ukraine to investigate his
political rival Joe Biden. Vice President Pence received those briefing
materials before he himself went to meet with the president of Ukraine
whereupon Vice President Pence told the Ukrainians that their military aid
was going to be held up until that investigation happened.
And that`s not good for the vice president, right? That`s exactly what the
president`s being impeached for. It really looks like he did it too, and
worse if he was the one who made it explicit but they wouldn`t get their
military aid unless they did it.
Well, the three chairs of the committees who are handling the bulk of the
impeachment proceedings have confirmed in this letter now that they are now
investigating Vice President Mike Pence in conjunction with this matter.
And again, this is the core issue of the impeachment – approaching a
foreign government for dirt on a political rival in order to help in the
next election in this country. In Vice President Pence`s case, he appears
to be the one who has made explicit the quid pro quo, they won`t get their
military aid unless they do it.
So, they announced in this letter that they are investigating the vice
president as part of their impeachment proceedings. This afternoon, those
same chairmen followed up with an extensive document request to the vice
president`s office. Now, the vice president`s office responded with the
sort of brave face, a snarky scuffing at this demand for materials. I`m
sure that plays well in the White House in the short run, but Vice
President Pence and his advisers know that as a legal matter, there`s no
reason to expect that he as a vice president is going to have all the same
nooks and crannies to hide in in the law which a president can use when
trying to evade congressional scrutiny and/or criminal prosecution.
I mean, vice presidents have a little bit of that immunity, but asks Spiro
Agnew, it doesn`t work out the same way when they try to shield themselves
essentially with White House immunity from the kind of scrutiny that Pence
is now going to come under.
So, that`s part of what we know is going on. The core impeachment
proceedings over the undisputed allegations against the president, those
proceedings have now expanded to include the vice president as well. The
other thing that has really exploded over the past 24 hours is the amount
of evidence that we`ve got about how this effort to enlist foreign
countries against the president`s political opponents, it wasn`t just a
whim of the president. It was not just a wish that he was stating out loud
or something he was saying to be deliberately outrageous and punk the
It wasn`t even just another harebrained criminal campaign finance scheme
being carried out by his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani because his other
personal lawyer Michael Cohen who used to do this kind of stuff for him,
he`s unavailable for this next scheme because he`s still in prison for the
last one. I mean, it is that.
But we`ve also now got tons of evidence that this isn`t just something the
president tried to do on his own or just with a personal lawyer as an
unofficial emissary. The thing that has led to this explosion of news over
the past 24 hours is the fact that this was an order that the president
gave out that was in fact carried out by multiple people inside the U.S.
government, including a number of people at very high levels of the U.S.
So, I know you`ve heard about these texts that were released late last
night. I`m not going to go through them one by one in part because I don`t
think we need to. You can file all of this under government personnel
carrying out Trump`s orders to do things for which he will – do the thing
for which he will be impeached.
Also, I should tell you part of the reason that I`m not super in the weeds
on those text messages right now is because the committees that released
those text messages have made clear that they haven`t released all of them
and there`s going to be more of them even out down the road. So, there`s
no reason I think to focus on them as kind of the whole universe of what we
have so far. We`re going to get more in the future.
But even so, let me just pull out a couple of key things that I think
explain part of why things are moving as fast as they are right now. For
starters, there`s the thing that is going to be very uncomfortable for
Republicans in Congress and for a bunch of the conservative media. There`s
this Republican talking point and this conservative media talking point in
this White House talking point that whatever the president did here, it
might be unseemly or troubling, but it`s definitely not that bad, it`s
definitely not impeachable or a crime because there was no quid pro quo,
right? That`s the talking point you`ve heard all week.
In the first instance, that doesn`t matter. It doesn`t matter if there`s a
quid pro quo. If you ask a foreign country for help in your reelection
campaign, it doesn`t matter if you`re also offering them something in
exchange. It doesn`t matter.
It`s just you asking them for help in your election that is if you`re
president, what you`re going to be impeached for and if you`re not the
president what you`re going to be prosecuted for. I mean, trading
something doesn`t matter. It`s just you asking for it. That`s all that
But still, if you are concerned about whether there was a quid pro quo, we
now know from these text messages among Trump administration officials that
there was in fact a quid pro quo. I mean, that phrase quid pro quo means
I`ll give you something if you give me something, right? It`s a trade.
Well, Trump`s offer to Ukraine in this case is clear in these text
messages. Quote: Heard from White House – assuming President Zelensky
convinces Trump he will investigate, we will nail down date for a visit to
I mean, that`s the definition of a quid pro quo. Yes, I mean, you know, you
can almost do this is like a Johnnie Cochran courtroom sing-song thing.
You want a date, you got to investigate, right? Like, you don`t get a date
unless you agree to investigate, provided President Zelensky convinces
President Trump he`s going to investigate, then we can nail down the date.
It`s right there.
And for bonus points, we`ve also got the Ukrainian side confirming that,
yes, in fact they understand that that is the trade, that is the quid pro
quo that is being agreed to. I mean, here`s the Ukrainian side, OK, once
we have a date we will announce that we are investigating, including among
other things, Burisma, which is specifically the thing they`re trying to
slime Joe Biden with.
So, the quid pro quo thing is beside the point. But if that`s going to be
your sticking point, if that`s going to be the Republican and conservative
media talking point, we now do have the verbatim back and forth between the
Trump administration and Ukraine agreeing explicitly between the two sides,
this is a quid pro quo. Hey, you know this is a quid pro quo, right? Yes,
we understand it`s a good problem.
I mean – it is also worth pointing out that that text from the Trump
administration to Ukraine saying, hey, if you want a date, you got to
investigate. Hey, you`re only getting that meeting if you investigate, the
time stamp on that text shows that it immediately preceded Trump actually
personally getting on the phone with the president of Ukraine and making
that same ask out of his own personal presidential mouth.
When it comes to not just trading a meeting with the United States as part
of this quid pro quo, when it comes to getting military assistance from the
United States that part of the trade, that part of the quid pro quo really
does seem specifically tied to Vice President Mike Pence and his trip over
to Europe to go meet in person with the president of Ukraine. I mean, part
of the reason Vice President Pence is now being investigated in these
impeachment proceedings is because of this reporting that we`ve just
recently had that he went over there. He didn`t just ask Ukraine for help
with these investigations that would benefit him and President Trump in
2020, he specifically did threaten their military aid if they didn`t cough
up those investigations.
Well, now, we know that just after Vice President Pence had his meeting
with Zelensky where he reportedly gave him that message, it was right after
that, within hours, that Bill Taylor, the top U.S. official in Ukraine,
sort of, incredulously sent this text back home to Washington. Quote: Are
we now saying that security assistance and White House meeting are
conditioned on investigations? The Trump donor novice State Department
official to whom Bill Taylor sent that text responded by saying, call me.
Within a week, Bill Taylor was still pressing the point. Quote: as I said
on the phone, I think it is crazy to withhold security assistance for help
with a political campaign.
Now, that Trump donor, State Department official whom he sent that text
message responded hours later with a very officious sort of lawyerly
statement about how President Trump had been crystal clear, no quid pro
quos of any kind. Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President
President Trump himself today seized on that particular text message in his
remarks to reporters when he was talking about his impeachment woes. He
said that text from Gordon Sondland, his donor guy at the State Department,
totally exonerated him. The president has been crystal clear, nope, no
quid pro quos.
Well, that shortly came to a crashing end very soon thereafter when
Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson went to “The Wall Street Journal”
with the story that I`m sure he thought was helping, in which the senator
told “The Wall Street Journal” that that same guy at the State Department,
that Trump donor guy Gordon Sondland actually told him he was a little
worried because it seemed like there was a quid pro quo being demanded by
President Trump when it came to Ukraine and military aid.
Quote: Senator Ron Johnson said that Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador
to the European Union, had described to him a quid pro quo that the release
of U.S. aid to Ukraine was contingent on an investigation desired by
President Trump and his allies. Senator Johnson told “The Wall Street
Journal” in detail that the conversation happened on the phone. It was
definitely with Gordon Sondland, it was on a specific day that he`s willing
to name, and it was specifically about only releasing military aid to
Ukraine if Trump got the investigations that he wanted from the Ukrainian
Again, I think Ron Johnson thinks this is helping. The guy he says told
him explicitly about the quid pro quo is Trump`s best defense that there
wasn`t a quid pro quo. Senator Johnson issued another statement tonight
completely disavowing everything he said earlier today to “The Wall Street
I mean, but again, while it is sort of entertaining to see that stuff, I
don`t think you need to get too lost in the sauce here. I mean, the
importance of all of this stuff is just that there were other people, there
were a whole bunch of other people in the Trump administration who were
involved in carrying out this scheme by President Trump to involve this
other country, to help him against the Democrats in Joe Biden, up to and
including Vice President Mike Pence, also including Energy Secretary Rick
Perry, who was apparently now resigning his post as a Trump cabinet
I will mention that in the document request sent to Vice President Pence`s
office by the impeachment committees tonight, one of the things they`re
demanding records about are two meetings on the – two meetings at the
White House, one in May, one in July, that both involved Energy Secretary
One was on May 23rd, that included Kurt Volker, the Ukraine envoy, who
testified to the impeachment committees yesterday. Also, the quid pro quo
ambassador guy, Gordon Sondland, who is testifying with the impeachment
committees on Tuesday. The only other two people in that meeting according
to this document request were President Trump and Rick Perry.
Then in July, another meeting involving those same two guys from the State
Department and Rick Perry and some Ukrainian government officials. I
should mention that Rick Perry is reportedly now resigning his post, just
as he turns up right in the middle of all the stuff when we learn about all
the meetings that he was involved in, including lots of meetings with
people who have turned out to be key witnesses in the impeachment
proceedings against the president.
Now, Rick Perry has said that his department, the Department of Energy,
will comply with requests for information from the impeachment inquiry.
The Department of Defense earlier this week announced that its top lawyer
is collecting and preserving documents related to military aid to Ukraine
because it`s now involved in the impeachment inquiry.
And so – I mean, witnesses, documents, records of what happened, nobody`s
going to have as much protection under the law as the president himself.
But the number of other people who were involved in this, at least raises
the prospect of lots and lots of witnesses and lots of documents and
materials laying out and proving exactly what happened.
We expect that flow of information and documents to continue unabated. I
mean, Volker, the envoy to Ukraine testified yesterday. Today, it was the
inspector general of the intelligence committee. He testified for seven
hours, largely about the handling of the initial whistleblower complaint
that led to these impeachment proceedings. On Tuesday, it`s going to be
the quid pro quo guy, the European Union ambassador, that Trump donor. He
will be testifying on Tuesday morning.
A week from today, it`ll be Marie Yanukovych, who was the U.S. ambassador
to Ukraine, who “The Wall Street Journal” now reports was in fact fired by
the Trump administration because she was perceived to be in the way of the
administration`s efforts to extort Ukraine, to force Ukraine to give them
assistance for 2020 against the Democrats.
So, again, there`s these core impeachment allegations, very simple.
There`s who else was involved in carrying it out. Are they going to be
witnesses now for the impeachment proceedings? What will they hand over in
terms of materials?
Beyond that, there`s also the investigation into the cover-up, the
attempted cover-up of what happened here. That may end up being a whole
separate article of impeachment in terms of obstruction of justice. To
that end, NBC News reporting tonight that was yet another criminal referral
to the Justice Department about the president`s behavior toward Ukraine.
NBC News reporting that just as the formal whistleblower complaint was
being filed with the intelligence community`s inspector general, the top
lawyer at the CIA herself made a criminal referral of President Trump`s
behavior to the Justice Department which of course the justice department
under Bill Barr did nothing about and this may be CYA by the CIA, forgive
me, trying to make it seem like they did the right thing here.
But regardless, if there was yet another criminal referral over the
president`s behavior to the justice department, it puts an even hotter
spotlight on the fact that Bill Barr`s Justice Department, despite multiple
criminal referrals about the president`s behavior in this matter, the
Justice Department not only declined to pursue charges against anybody
involved here, they flat-out refused to eat it to even open an
Late tonight, the news continues to break. The impeachment committees have
now subpoenaed the White House directly. We learned that earlier this
And this is new, this is actually just in the last few minutes as I sat
down to start the show from “The New York Times”. If you have this – as a
full screen, do we have it built? Yes, thank you.
Second official is weighing whether to blow the whistle on Trump`s Ukraine
dealings. This is by Michael Schmidt and Adam Goldman at “The New York
Quote: A second intelligence official who was alarmed by President Trump`s
dealings with Ukraine is weighing whether to file his own formal
whistleblower complaint and testified to Congress. The official has more
direct information about the events than the first whistleblower whose
complaint that Mr. Trump was using his power to get Ukraine to investigate
his political rivals touched off an impeachment inquiry. This second
official is among those interviewed by the intelligence community`s
inspector general to corroborate the allegations of the original
The inspector general briefed lawmakers today about how he substantiated
the initial whistleblowers account. It`s not clear whether he told
lawmakers that the second official is also considering now filing a
complaint. Because the second official has met with Atkinson`s office, the
inspector general`s office, it`s unclear whether he needs to file a
complaint to gain the legal protections offered to intelligence community
whistleblowers. The ICIG, Michael Atkinson, did briefed lawmakers again
behind closed doors today.
So, this again is just breaking tonight. I expect that as this story
continues to develop, honestly, this weekend should be nuts. Republican
senators are basically volunteering to put themselves under general
anesthetic now, at least until the Sunday shows are over.
Senator Marco Rubio was cornered about his thoughts on the matter today, at
a press availability in Florida. His response was to say that as far as he
could tell, none of this is real. It`s all an elaborate joke.
This is not really happening. You press are falling right into it. This
I`ve been trying that trick for years now. This isn`t happening, this
isn`t happening. It feels awesome in the moment if you can convince
yourself, but then you open your eyes and you`re still here and this stuff
is still unfolding.
Former national security adviser, former U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice, is
here to join us for the interview. That`s next.
MADDOW: Very few people on earth could describe something like this for
you from firsthand experience, but this person can. And I quote: There is
no such thing as a short phone call with Vladimir Putin. In the almost
three years following Russia`s illegal annexation of Crimea in March 2014,
and it`s invasion of Eastern Ukraine, President Obama and the Russian
president spoke over a dozen times by secure phone. A typical phone call
lasted 90 minutes, prolonged by Putin`s tedious monologues, and the
necessity of translation. The conversations typically began with a comical
game of chicken in which each side`s communications staff tried to ensure
that their leader was the last one to get on the line to start the call.
Quote: It was a game that Obama found ironic but not important and he would
simply busy himself with desk work or scrabble on his iPad if Putin was
slow to come to the phone.
Hello, Vladimir, Obama began. Putin responded: Hello, Barack. How are
Their conversations while sometimes pointed and often unsatisfactory in
substance were always civil and mostly respectful. Quote: Despite the
number of times the two engaged, they were unable to resolve our stark
differences over Ukraine.
That fly-on-the-wall perspective comes from a new book called “Tough Love”
by Susan Rice. She served as national security adviser to President Obama,
before that, U.N. ambassador. In her role as national security advisor,
she was on those calls, and in addition to this being an legitimately
inspiring and fascinating new book, there`s nobody in the world I would
rather talk to about what`s going on in our world right now than her.
Joining us now for the interview is Susan Rice.
Ambassador Rice, thank you so much for being here.
SUSAN RICE, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: It`s
great to be with you, Rachel. Thanks.
MADDOW: I want to talk to you about a million things. I do want to tell
you at the outset that I found your book unexpectedly moving and inspiring,
and it made me think harder about the way I work.
RICE: Thank you.
RICE: I really appreciate that.
MADDOW: I mean, you`ve done a lot of –
RICE: Coming from you.
MADDOW: Well –
RICE: Congratulations on your book.
MADDOW: Thank you very much. Mine is darker. Yours is more optimistic.
RICE: Well, that`s an interesting contrast given our respective roles.
MADDOW: Well, and our respective experience.
I want to ask you about some of that experience given what we are going
through right now, because I think it`s important for people to hear from
you as a sort of grounding in normal governance, in terms of how these
things are supposed to be going. I know that you`ve said that you believe
these impeachment proceedings are warranted given the gravity of the
accusations against the president. I also want to ask if you felt any
differently about that over these past couple of days as the president has
started openly confessing to doing this, has openly confessed that he`s
doing it not only with Ukraine but with China, and he`s essentially daring
people to hold him to account for it by saying that there`s nothing wrong
with what he`s doing?
RICE: Well, personally, Rachel, I was not swift to come to the conclusion
that an impeachment inquiry was justified. I had various reservations.
But as more and more information has come to light, and in particular what
we learned in the last couple of weeks about Ukraine and now China, I don`t
see any alternative but to follow the inquiry and the facts where they go,
and then make a judgment.
What we learned yesterday when the president stood on the South Lawn and
said to the Chinese government that he wants them to give him dirt on Joe
Biden, which, by the way, to my knowledge doesn`t exist, it was even more
extraordinary than what we witnessed with respect to Ukraine in my
judgment, because China is our most formidable and committed adversary.
And we are in the middle of a hot trade war and a very fraught security
relationship where we`re competing over the cyber realm in the South China
Sea over things like Huawei and the future of technology.
And what President Trump in effect said before the whole world was, China,
if you give me bogus dirt on Joe Biden, then by implication, I`m prepared
to consider what kind of deal we can cut that you might be satisfied with,
with respect to the trade war and our security concerns. He juxtaposed
And the Chinese aren`t stupid. You know, yes, Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign
minister, said piously today, we wouldn`t interfere in the American
political process and you poor people go sort yourself out.
RICE: The codicil to that is you better not say a damn about Hong Kong,
because we consider that our internal matter. So there`s some leverage
already, or Taiwan, which they in opposition to U.S. policy view is theirs
But the real concern in my judgment is that the Chinese understand two
things. One, we`ve got a president who is incredibly unstable,
unpredictable, and not on his game if he ever was, and that this might be a
moment from their point of view to try to steal second base from us,
whether that`s again in one of these conflict zones where our forces are
potentially arrayed against each other or in the economic realm or this or
the cyber realm. But it is also the case that the Chinese might conclude
that here`s an opportunity to give Trump what he wants provided we end this
trade war on terms favorable to China.
And so, essentially, what the president is doing is proposing not very
subtly to sell out our farmers sell out our manufacturing sectors sell out
the American taxpayers who`ve been paying for this stupid trade war with
higher tariffs and do it for his own personal political benefit.
MADDOW: When China said today as you say, sort of piously, oh no, you need
to sort this out amongst yourselves, of course, we`ve never do that. I saw
that`s skeptically as well. It made me wonder though about whether or not
essentially, there is already operative, not hypothetically, but out there
an open invitation from the president that any government around the world
that wants something in terms of U.S. policy or wants to take a bite out of
America`s hide in some way may see that a way to get that is by freelancing
this, is by offering something to the president that he can use against his
political opponents whoever they are, whether it`s made up whether it`s
based in reality that he`s essentially opened a market for this stuff and
has said that U.S. policy is on the line.
Will other countries respond to that?
RICE: It`s exactly what he`s doing. He`s putting out a “open for
business” sign on the Oval Office, and he`s in the business of China
traffic in bogus dirt on his opponents, at the expense of our national
security and our national interest.
MADDOW: So, if he is going to be impeached by that, very few people
believe that he will be removed from office for that. So, which means that
he`ll essentially be censured and helping one of only three American
presidents who`s ever been impeached. But if he continues to do it and if
Republicans in the Senate continue to believe that he should stay in office
while he does that sort of thing, what I want to know is – is there a way
that we the public, we the people can harden ourselves as a target so that
whatever the president is willing to do to our democracy and do to our
country, inviting other countries to do what he`s inviting them to do, is
there a way that we can be resilient against that?
RICE: Yes. I mean, first of all, we have to vote. We have to participate
in this process with all of our energy and all of our conviction, because
it`s not just an election that`s at stake. I deeply truly believe that the
future and stability of our democracy is at stake.
If we have four more years of a president that`s basically putting us on
the auction block for the highest bidder, you know, who`s prepared to do
what he wants for his personal political or financial gain, then that`s not
a country we`re going to recognize.
MADDOW: Well, voting out elected officials, you don`t hold them to account
is a good idea. I`m worried, given the electoral map of the country, that
it won`t work, that the Republican-controlled Senate will still be the
Republican-controlled Senate. I think I`m worried about the way that we
the public were targeted in 2016, you know?
Like I worry about what our government did or didn`t do. But I worry about
the way that we the people were targeted and we`re soft targets and we`re
RICE: Well, we`re absolutely soft targets, and one of the very important
messages I`m trying to convey in “Tough Love” is that our domestic
political divisions are, in fact, at the moment our greatest national
security vulnerability. The Russians figure that out. They figured out
that if they can pit people against each other on both sides of every
divisive issue, whether it`s race or immigration or guns or gay rights, if
they can exploit those fissures which already exists and exacerbate them
and cause us to question one another`s loyalty and decency as Americans,
then they don`t have to fire a bullet to take us down. That`s the risk we
And so, when you ask about resiliency, it`s not just about voting. It`s
about being informed and educated. It`s first and foremost about the
American people understanding that our adversaries are trying to exploit
these divisions, and that we – because we created these divisions amongst
ourselves – have the ability to rectify them.
The only good news about this is it`s a problem of our own making, and
therefore, it`s a problem we can solve, if we`re willing to listen to one
another, to understand one another, and to change our system in ways that
that isolates the extremes and empowers the more moderates among us.
MADDOW: We`re willing to grow up a little bit as a democracy. I mean –
RICE: Well, grow up as not just as a democracy but as consumers of our
political process. So, right now, it`s very easy if you want to just get
your news off of Breitbart or you want to just get your news off of
“BuzzFeed” to not listen to anything else, and not talk to anybody who may
have a different perspective, and not question the veracity of the
information that you`re consuming. We`ve got to teach ourselves as voters,
but even as young people and students, how to evaluate the truth of
information, how to argue and debate and be open to alternative opinions.
I mean, this is deep, and the remedies aren`t going to be swift.
And I even proposed some pretty dramatic steps, like mandatory national
service for Americans between the ages of 18 and 21, spend six months or a
year, every single one of us working on something that serves the country,
but that requires us to know and work alongside with and cooperate with
people who come from vastly different backgrounds than we do. That`s the
kind of thing we need to be thinking about if we recognize that these
divisions which we are suffering from, which our adversaries are
exploiting, are our potential death knell if we don`t get it together.
But, Rachel, after having said all that which some people may find
depressing, I do think it`s worth recalling that as dark as this moment may
seem to some people and including to you and me I imagine, we`re old enough
and we`ve studied enough history to recall that we`ve been through a whole
lot worse than that in this country. We`ve been through a civil war.
We`ve been through reconstruction.
We`ve been through the McCarthy era. We`ve been through Vietnam and the
civil rights era where our cities were literally burning down, and students
were being shot on campuses. We`ve been through much worse and come out
arguably stronger, and that`s what this moment calls for.
MADDOW: Susan Rice is our guest. Her new book is called “Tough Love: My
Story of the Things Worth Fighting For”. We`ll be right back with her
right after this.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: The chapter title here has a curse word in it, so I`m not going to
give you the chapter title, but it`s 22.
It begins, quote: Like most in the Obama administration, I was hopeful that
Secretary Clinton would win the election. I just wasn`t as sure as some
that she would. I first ventured this argument in August 2015 during a
small dinner with President Obama and a couple of his senior political
aides in his hotel room during a visit to Alaska. This discussion preceded
any primaries but came after Trump had declared his candidacy.
As we bantered about the coming primary season, I said that I could see a
way for Trump to gain the Republican nomination. No way, all caps. No
way, the others said. That will never happen.
For a short while I persisted, saying, there`s a lot of hate out there.
You know, some people just can`t get over where we are now. I was
sufficiently ridiculed that I dropped the argument, comforted that the
political experts thought I was crazy.
Back with us now is Susan Rice. She was national security adviser and U.S.
ambassador to the United Nations in the Obama administration. She`s just
out with this new book which is called “Tough Love”, about her time working
in public service.
So, you weren`t crazy.
RICE: I wish I was. Wish I was.
MADDOW: You saw that coming.
But when you said that there`s a lot of hate out there, you know, some
people just can`t get over where we are now, what you mean by where we are
RICE: I meant that there are some – I hope a relatively small minority of
us – who never really could reconcile themselves to having a second term
successful African-American president who basically ran a scandal-free
administration, who was happily married, a good father. You know, all of
those things that are very normal and very uncomfortable for some.
RICE: So that`s what I meant, and I didn`t have to be more explicit than
that in that setting. But I think it`s more than that. Obviously, there
are many aspects to what resulted in the 2016 election, but – and I – and
I say in the book. I mean, I really don`t think we can afford to discount
or disparage the perspectives of our fellow Americans with whom we differ.
I talk about how I have to deal with that challenge in my own household,
with my 22-year-old son who is a traditional conservative, in contrast to
his parents, and even more in contrast to his leftist sister.
So, you know, in my household, we have a microcosm of our national
political spectrum, with my husband and I in the middle trying to, you
know, keep the dinner table from becoming a food fight.
MADDOW: And that microcosmic empathy sort of gives you a clearer view in
terms of where we`re going.
You know, I do feel like one of the things that is coming home to us now in
a way that – I don`t think we necessarily appreciate at the time so one
story line among many at the time, but now, given these impeachment
proceedings against President Trump and now seems like it`s really coming
home, is the effort that was waged under your tenure in the Obama
administration to try to help other democracies fledgling democracies,
nascent democracy stand up to try to help other countries stop corruption,
to try to help other countries stand up against aggression from Russia.
I mean, President Biden`s interventions in Ukraine to try to stand them up
as a democracy and stand them up against corruption have now been
weaponized and boomeranged against him as if he was the corrupt one, and he
was the problem there.
I wonder having lived through that and seeing how it`s being put in a
funhouse mirror now, how that feels to you and what do you think the
American people should understand about that time.
RICE: Well, look, we can talk about the time but let`s for a second talk
about the tactic. What President Trump is doing, we`ve seen him do time
and time again, and it`s actually a brilliant if really devious tactic.
And that is he takes whatever is his greatest weakness, his greatest
weakness being that all America views him practically as corrupt. They see
him as dealing financially to his own benefit and using the presidency for
that. They see his kids running around getting sweetheart deals for the
Trump empire, or their clothing line or whatever it is from countries like
China issuing licenses for Ivanka`s, you know, latest line of whatever.
And he tries to turn that weakness into his perceived opponents` weakness.
Nobody ever in the many years Joe Biden has worked in Washington tried to
label him corrupt. He`s anything but. You know, he was one of the poorest
members of the Senate throughout his tenure.
But this is Trump`s effort to jujitsu and to deny, deflect, lie, and what
he has now is the backing of a Republican Party that seems to have lost its
way completely. You said, what was it, comatose and that`s the tides (ph)
MADDOW: They were volunteered for general anesthesia until after the
RICE: Well, I`m afraid it`s going to be long after the Sunday shows.
RICE: But with respect to Ukraine, this was a case where the vice
president United States was acting on behalf of U.S. government policy
transparently articulated at the request of the president, consistent with
bipartisan policy emanating from Congress, consistent with the agreements
we had with our European partners in the IMF that were together with us in
trying to root out corruption in Ukraine, at the same time as we were
trying to provide the new Ukrainian government with the economic support it
needed to stabilize, so we`re given them this money, we, the Europeans, the
United States through the international financial institutions. And we
want to be sure that it`s not going down a rat hole, that`s U.S. government
policy, that`s what Joe Biden was pursuing.
In contrast to Donald Trump, who was pursuing his own personal political
interests and trying to leverage our military assistance almost $400
million, and a White House visit to a brand-new president of Ukraine who`s
got Russian troops on his territory five years in and a hot shooting war,
and we`re using that to undermine this guy unless he manufactures some
bogus dirt on Joe Biden. There`s a huge difference there and this is
another effort by Trump to try to create some absolutely false equivalency.
You know, Trump hides the records of his conversations. Biden`s were out
in the open and he talked about him publicly, and they were part of U.S.
government policy. There`s absolutely nothing similar here and what we
need to be worried about is that we have frighteningly, a president of the
United States who is not pursuing America`s national security interest, in
fact, taking steps contrary to our interests in order to benefit himself
and his reelection.
And he`s inviting countries like Ukraine but adversaries like China, as he
did Russia in 2016, to get involved on his side in our election campaign.
And then he`s sending folks like Bill Barr around the world to our closest
MADDOW: To try to exonerate Russia for what they did in 2016.
RICE: Well, to try to exonerate Russia, but more importantly, to convey to
them that they have to play ball with Donald Trump`s effort to extort
information for his political purposes if they want to remain in our good
graces. So, we`re extorting both our adversary – excuse me – our allies
and, you know, we`re getting or soliciting help from our adversaries. It`s
crazy and it`s dangerous.
MADDOW: Susan Rice is the author of “Tough Love: My Story of Things Worth
Fighting”, she`s former U.N. ambassador, former national security adviser -
- it`s real honor to have you here.
RICE: Great to be with you.
MADDOW: Thank you very much.
RICE: Thank you so much.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
RICE: Madam –
MADDOW: Madam Ambassador.
MADDOW: There`s some good news tonight about Democratic presidential
candidate Bernie Sanders. At a campaign event in Nevada on Tuesday, he
experienced chest pain, went to a local hospital, was treated for a blocked
coronary artery. His campaign said he had two stents put in at that
hospital to open the clogged artery.
Senator Sanders had been in the hospital since then. But today, he
emerged, smiling and waving. The campaign says he was diagnosed with a
myocardial infarction, which is more commonly known as a heart attack.
But he`s out. He`s doing well. He put out a video message today thanking
his well-wishers for their support and their prayers. It is good to see
Senator Sanders back on his feet, heading out of the hospital today. The
senator`s campaign say that he will be back out on the campaign trail soon,
we think, later on this week.
Godspeed, Senator Sanders. Get well soon.
That`s going to do it for us tonight. I will see you live – I will see
you again on Monday, but I`m going to be live from Los Angeles, which is
one of the stops on my book tour.
I will also tell you that weirdly, on Sunday night, there is a new TV show
on the CW called “Batwoman” and I have a voice role in the new Batwoman TV
show, isn`t that crazy? I know. Anyway, it`s very fun.
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
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 content.>
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