Interview with Julian Castro. TRANSCRIPT: 1/2/20, The Rachel Maddow Show.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Welcome back, my friend.
How was your break?
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, “ALL IN”: Yes, it was – it was great. It was
really great. It`s going to be quite a year.
I`m processing the news right now. I`m a little stunned by what appears to
have been this airstrike of Qassem Soleimani, which if true is just an
enormously consequential deal.
MADDOW: We are – exactly. And I have to say, watching those ongoing
reports as they are rolling in tonight trying to assess whether this really
happened and what the sources of information are in here and everything,
it`s – at this point it feels very like potentially huge, also very
HAYES: Very unsettled, yes.
MADDOW: – on the factual basis of what we`re getting.
MADDOW: So, but what we are obviously monitoring that.
HAYES: I just – I just – this year is going to be enormously
consequential in so many ways, and I just am like – starting this way is
making me wonder what is coming.
MADDOW: You know what? Chin up.
MADDOW: I`m with you, my friend. Thanks, Chris.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
It was nice to be away for a few days. It`s also nice to be back. It
turns out when you take off at New Year`s in 2019 and you come back to work
right after New Year`s in 2019, it turns out it is then 2020. I know that
mathematically this should not be a shock, but I – it does feel like a
shock. It does feel 2020 has been looming so large for so long. It does
feel sort of shocking it is here now.
We are now officially among other things in a presidential election year.
Iowa is a month away. I was up in New Hampshire for part of the break
visiting with family members in New Hampshire. We`re already playing that,
you know, count the yard signs game in New Hampshire ahead of the New
Hampshire primary. We`re also starting to block off the weekends on the
calendar in forthcoming weeks when there`s important primaries and caucuses
on the weekends. Those are going to be workdays for those of us covering
the campaign even though those are Saturdays and Sundays.
It is all here. It is upon us. But for now, at least, it just means there
is that much more to keep track of all at once. We`ve sort of have to find
a way to keep everything all in frame all at the same time.
Tonight, for example, we have got the Democratic presidential candidates
one by one all reporting their fund-raising totals for the last quarter,
which is a key demonstration of strength at this point in the campaign.
And in terms of, you know, thinking about the year ahead, there`s
definitely a story in those numbers, at least the ones that we`ve got thus
This, for example, is the lead headline right now at politico.com.
Democrats rocket into 2020 with huge donor windfall. Party veterans once
worried about Democratic fund-raising are now convinced the eventual
nominee can compete with Trump.
Quote: Democrats are riding a massive surge of presidential campaign cash
into 2020, boosting the party`s hopes of taking back the White House.
Their leading candidates for president faced criticism last year from party
veterans alarmed by tepid early fund-raising totals. But the candidates
finished up 2019 raking in cash from fired up donors. The current
Democratic presidential contenders and the DNC combined raised over $450
million in the last year, more than President Trump`s re-election machine
brought in during that same time.
Democrats are encouraged by the money pouring in from both the progressive
and moderate wings of the party as well as from Democrats writing big
checks and from small dollar donors. The millions of contributions to
Democrats in $10 or $20 increments signal massive enthusiasm from the party
grassroots heading into the election year.
Again, that`s the lead at politico.com tonight, showing that, you know,
Democrats, you know, have good reason to be fired up about those numbers in
terms of the overall prospects for their party in 2020.
But in terms of the presidential race, of course, they`ve got to figure out
who their nominee is going to be. And within the fund-raising numbers, the
biggest news is from Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. He`s announced a
huge haul of over $34 million in just the last quarter, which not only puts
him $10 million ahead of his nearest financial competitor, Mayor Pete
Buttigieg of Indiana, it also somewhat incredibly puts him in the same
ballpark as the sitting president of the United States.
I know that Trump has raised more money than Democratic candidates at this
point, but he is not competing with anybody else in his own party. He is
the sitting president and he has the resources of the entire Republican
Party behind him. A sitting president should be way, way further out ahead
of the field at this point in the race.
I mean, as of tonight even without Elizabeth Warren even announcing her
totals yet, the leading Democratic candidates combined are dwarfing what
President Trump raised in the last quarter. And I mean more than doubling
what Trump has done in the last quarter. Again, without Elizabeth Warren
And, you know, Bernie Sanders alone is not far off what President Trump has
raised. I mean, Trump brought in $46 million in the last quarter. Sanders
alone is at $34.5 million, which is nuts when you`re talking about one U.S.
senator in a gigantic filled compared to the sitting president. I mean,
that kind of ratio between an out of power contender and an incumbent
president, that`s very unusual at this point in the race, especially while
the opposing party is still fielding a gajillion candidates in their
That Buttigieg number, over $24 million for the quarter, that`s also big
particularly for a candidate who had zero national name recognition until
just months ago.
The front-runner in national polling is, of course, Vice President Biden.
He has announced a $23 million fund-raising quarter. And while that puts
him in third place after Sanders and Buttigieg on the Democratic field,
this is also the best fund-raising quarter Joe Biden has had since he`s
been running, which is the direction you want to be going, right? It shows
while he`s been able to maintain his national polling advantage, he`s
simultaneously upping his campaign operation and his donor base to give
himself further room to run.
And at the same time we`re getting this specific measure of the competitive
strength of the Democratic field, there`s also less quantifiable sort of X-
factor about the strength of the Republican field, the strength of the
president`s re-election effort. And I say that`s a black box, that`s a
sort of unknowable, unquantifiable thing, and not just because it`s not
just about money, but because never in the history of our country before
has a president ever run for re-election after just being impeached. So,
we have no – how do you factor that in?
We don`t know what that`s going to do to the strength of the Donald Trump
re-election effort, especially since the impeachment scandal, the
impeachment process is still absolutely alive. I mean, the U.S. Senate
will be back in session as of tomorrow. Presumably then we will get some
kind of word or some kind of hint at least about how they intend to proceed
with the impeachment trial of President Trump, which will decide, of
course, whether he`ll be removed from office.
If you sort of checked out of the news over the holiday break, you should
know that, yes, it happened, it was not the dream. Donald Trump was
impeached right before Christmas in the House of Representatives, and you
should note that the House still has not conveyed those articles of
impeachment over to the Senate, so they can start the impeachment trial in
the Senate on those charges.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she will convey the articles of
impeachment. She will convey those articles. She will announce who the
prosecutors will be for that impeachment trial. She says she`ll do that
once the Senate announces the rules under which they`re going to conduct
Trump`s trial, including crucial decisions about hearing from witnesses and
subpoenaing documents and how much each time they`ll have to present their
case and how they`ll do so.
Ahead of the holiday, I had been one of the naive Pollyanna observers who
assumed that over the Christmas and New Year`s break, there would be some
sort of progress toward some sort of Senate trial, that they would at least
fight openly or start to work something out about the rules, that there
would be some plan or at least some fight that would be starting to emerge.
And we do expect to find out more tomorrow when the Senate is back in
session, but at this point I was naive. At this point, there does not seem
to have been any substantive progress, and so that question of how
President Trump`s impeachment trial will be conducted is still totally
live, still a totally open question.
And it has no time frame that any of us can discern from the outside in
terms of when the rules of his trial will get resolved and when the trial
will ultimately take place and how long it will take place. And that
timing all matters not only because the start of the presidential primary
calendar is upon us and we`ve got this impending election in the fall and
we don`t know how the impeachment process may affect the president`s re-
election efforts, but it`s also important – I mean, the timing here and
how long it`s going to take for the Senate to get their act together and
figure out how they`re going to deal with this, the timing is also
important not just because it starts to but up against the political
calendar this year, but also just because with each passing day, more
freaking stuff comes out in this scandal.
I mean, even though the House has already impeached President Trump for
what he did in Ukraine and that is done. And even though, you know, the
White House and the entire Trump administration continued to defy subpoenas
and refuse witness testimony in conjunction with that whole impeachment
inquiry, even as the Senate tonight appears to still be at this odd impasse
slash interregnum where we don`t even know how they`re going to put the
president on trial, still while all of that has happened and still
unfolding, still enterprising reporters and the courts have continued to
pry loose new information and documentation that go right to the heart of
the scandal. Stuff that in some cases is just as dramatic as any of the
previous big reveals in other impeachments including Watergate.
Over the holiday break, for example, the Center for Public Integrity
obtained about 150 pages of documents from the Trump administration. These
are documents that had been sought by the impeachment investigators. They
tried to get this stuff by subpoena. The administration defied those
Nevertheless a federal judge has ordered those documents released under the
Freedom of Information Act, and these documents released over the holiday
break were sort of shocking enough on their face. Even with tons redacted
out of them, I mean you still got in these documents a Trump appointee in
the White House writing to the Pentagon within two hours of President Trump
making his call to Ukraine where he told the Ukrainian president he wanted
him to launch an investigation into Joe Biden, less than two hours after
that call was over, a Trump appointee to the White House writes to the
Pentagon and they need to hold up military aid to Ukraine and by the way
don`t tell anybody about it because it`s super sensitive.
That was from the redacted version of the documents that came out over the
holiday break. And then today at Just Security, reporter Kate Brannen
essentially pulls the redactions. She pulls those extensive, extensive
redactions off those documents. Brannen says she has been able to see the
original unredacted versions of those documents that were released a few
And, you know, in the annals of presidential scandal, if Kate Brannen`s
reporting here bears out, if she has actually accurately reported on the
unredacted version of those documents, well, what`s in those documents is
going to go down as hall of fame stuff in terms of presidential scandal.
For example, August 30th as the Pentagon is repeatedly pressing the White
House about the military aid and the fact that holding it up is illegal,
and, of course, we now know that the White House would later try to say
that holding up the military aid at this point was because of some sort of
policy review process or widespread concerns in the administration about
corruption in Ukraine or some such other nonsense, we ultimately know
they`d try to cook up some sort of cover story here.
But now, we can see from Brennan`s reporting that on August 30th, here`s
this dude at Office of Management and Budget, Trump appointee at OMB,
telling the person at the Pentagon whose job it was to release this
military aid, that the reason she couldn`t release the funding, the reason
she couldn`t release this military aid was because the president said don`t
do it. Quote: Clear direction from POTUS to hold.
In other words, don`t worry, there`s no ambiguity. Everybody has
communicated through official channels that the person who done it is the
president, and it`s him personally who did it and is insisting on it even
when people in his own administration are telling him it`s illegal.
So, it`s like, you know, it`s a big sign-on the front lawn. Hey,
historians, this is going to be an easy one. The documentation proves the
president did it and did it alone, despite being told it was illegal.
The reporter who obtained the unredacted versions of these documents, Kate
Brannen, is going to be joining us tonight. I`m very much looking forward
to speaking with her.
Also tonight, just as we were getting on the air, a huge new pile of
documents was released again by federal court order, again, under the
Freedom of Information Act. This time it`s new documentation from the
special counsel investigation. And I tell you, this is still live now,
too, including in the context of impeachment.
Tomorrow morning in federal court in Washington, there`s going to be two
big oral arguments at the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. This
is a court one level below the U.S. Supreme Court. One of the arguments is
about whether or not Congress will be able to receive all of the grand jury
testimony from witnesses who testified to the Mueller investigation.
The other argument that the D.C. circuit court is going to hear tomorrow is
whether or not former White House counsel Don McGahn can be compelled to
testify despite the Trump White House telling him not to.
Over the holiday break, the top lawyer for the House of Representatives
basically warned that federal appeals court in D.C., that there might be
another impeachment of President Trump in the works, another one. And
that`s part of why they need McGahn`s testimony because they may want to
impeach him in addition to what they`ve already impeached him for. They
may want to bring additional articles of impeachment against the president
for obstruction of justice.
You will remember that in the Mueller report, Don McGahn describes many,
many instances of President Trump trying to divert or thwart the Russia
investigation. Well, the House says they want Don McGahn to testify about
that evidence in part because they might want to impeach Trump on
obstruction of justice based on what McGahn saw and witnessed. And this is
literally going to be litigated in the federal appeals court in D.C.
tomorrow morning, while tonight, we the public for the very first time are
getting access to all of these new FBI interviews with Mueller report
witnesses, including Paul Manafort and Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Michael
Cohen and K.T. McFarland and Rob Porter.
You may remember Rob Porter, right? He was fired from the Trump White
House in a scandal of his very own. After he had been White House staff
secretary, he spoke to the FBI for the Mueller investigation.
Here`s just a sample of what we got tonight. We the public are seeing this
for the first time. This is from Rob Porter`s FBI interview as part of the
Quote: The president told Rob Porter to tell White House counsel Don McGahn
that he should write a letter. The letter should make clear that he, Don
McGahn, had never been directed to fire special counsel Robert Mueller.
Rob Porter thought the White House communications shop should handle the
press response rather than a letter from McGahn, but President Trump wanted
a letter, a letter to the file. The letter referred to McGahn as, quote, a
lying bastard and said that he wanted a letter from him. The president
said something to the effect of, quote, if he doesn`t write a letter, then
maybe I will have to get rid of him.
He will fire McGahn if he doesn`t write the letter. Threatening to fire
him if he won`t write this letter? I mean, if the top lawyer at the House,
if Douglas Letter, the counsel for the House of Representatives, is correct
when he tells federal appeals court in Washington that they may also try to
impeach President Trump on obstruction of justice, one of the marquee
instances of obstruction of justice described in the Mueller report and in
Don McGahn testimony specifically is President Trump telling Don McGahn
that he needed to go fire special counsel Robert Mueller. McGahn refused
to do so.
When news of that directive from the president was publicly reported, the
president responded by telling McGahn to write a letter denying that
President Trump had ever told him to fire the special counsel. The way
McGahn tells it, Trump told him to fire the special counsel, McGahn said
no, and then when word came out about that, Trump said, I will fire you
unless you write a letter denying I ever told you to fire special counsel.
Well, we had descriptions of that in the Mueller report. We`re now seeing
for the first time FBI 302s that corroborate that and lay it out.
In terms of, you know, the importance of this and what this might mean for
the president in his re-election year, I mean not only trying to shutdown a
Justice Department investigation but then directing a White House official
to create a false paper trail to obscure the fact that you tried to
shutdown the investigation – I mean, that`s like the version of
obstruction of justice that you can still understand even if you`re only
looking at the pictures only waffle house menu version of the penal code,
right? That`s obstruction of justice, right? And that is all very, very
You know, new news breaking over the holiday break in terms of White House
communications about holding up that military aid. Those White House
communications being broken further opened this morning by a reporter who`s
able to get access to the unredacted version of those documents. Then we
get new documents being forced out by federal court order tonight that
might relate to additional articles of impeachment against the president
and new litigation tomorrow, potentially hugely consequential litigation
tomorrow at the highest court in the land below the U.S. Supreme Court.
We`ve never had a president run for re-election after he`s been impeached,
the live issue of the president`s impeachment is still totally up in the
air. The prospect of a second impeachment is weirdly more alive than ever.
And did I mention that Iowa is in a month? We have to figure out a way to
keep it all in frame, right, to pay attention to it all at once.
There will be one more Democratic candidates debate between now and the
Iowa caucuses next month. That debate is scheduled January 14th at Drake
University in Des Moines, Iowa.
Based on the polling and fundraising criteria set forth by the DNC, so far,
there are five Democratic candidates who have qualified for that next
debate, which again is just ahead of the Iowa caucuses.
Here are those five candidates who are qualified as of right now. Notice
It is possible that other candidates may qualify for that next debate
between now and then. But as of now it is just these five, this rainbow
There were seven candidates in the last Democratic debate, these five plus
Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang. Andrew Yang, the lone candidate of color in
the last debate. As of right now, there`s none going to be in the next
I should tell you Andrew Yang just announced a very healthy $17 million
fund-raising quarter for the last quarter of 2019. But so far, he doesn`t
have the polling to put him on stage in Iowa next month.
And what that means big picture is that this field of presidential
candidates for 2020 which started off as the most diverse racial
presidential candidate field ever in any presidential election by either
party, it may have started off quite racially diverse but it is not ending
up that way.
And today, that dynamic became all the more stark with an announcement by
former Housing Secretary Julian Castro that he is leaving the presidential
And one way to look at this is that it`s, you know, yet another weird
twist, you know, a winnowing of the big Democratic field that hasn`t really
followed any of the obvious rules of political science, right? I mean, the
field early on shedding charismatic, successful, multi-term popular
governors like Jay Inslee in Washington state, hugely successful politician
of the Pacific Northwest, national leader on climate change. Also, Steve
Bullock, who`s won statewide twice in a red state that elected Trump by a
The field has also shed one of the best known senators in the country with
a huge national profile, Senator Kamala Harris. As of today, it has shed
Obama`s housing secretary, Julian Castro, who was the mayor of one of the
largest cities of America before he was cabinet secretary in the Obama
Julian Castro out of the race today, while meanwhile still in contention is
a small town mayor from Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and a few different
types of business tycoons and entrepreneurs. Some of whom have held public
office before, some of whom have not.
But when it comes to Secretary Castro leaving the race specifically, the
only Latino candidate in the race now dropping out, it feels palpably
different that he`s dropping out. Not just for him in terms of his
prospects but also for the Democratic field and for this contest against
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let`s be very clear the reason
that they`re separating these little children from their families is
they`re using Section 1325 of that act which criminalizes coming across the
border to incarcerate the parents and then separate them. Some of us on
this stage have called to end that section, to terminate it. Some like
Congressman O`Rourke have not, and I want to challenge all of the
candidates to do that.
I just think it`s a mistake. I thought – I think it`s a mistake, and I
think if you truly want to change the system, then we`ve got to repeal that
section. If not, it might as well be the same –
BETO O`ROURKE (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me respond to this
very briefly. As a member of Congress, I helped to introduce legislation
that would ensure we don`t criminalize those who are seeking asylum and
refuge in this country. If you`re fleeing, if you`re fleeing desperation
and then I want to make sure –
CASTRO: I`m still talking about everybody else.
O`ROURKE: But you`re look at just one small part of this. I`m talking
about a comprehensive rewrite of our immigration laws.
CASTRO: But that`s not true.
CASTRO: I`m talking about millions of folks – a lot of folks coming are
not seeking asylum. A lot of them are undocumented immigrants, right?
And you said recently that the reason you didn`t want to repeal Section
1325 was because you were concerned about human trafficking and drug
trafficking. But let me tell you what Section 18 – Title 18 of the U.S.
code, Title 21 and Title 22, already covered –
CASTRO: – if you did your homework on this issue, if you did your
homework on this issue, you should know we should repeal this section.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It just spooled out from there, it just kept going. And the
history of the Democratic presidential primary in 2020 will show that it
was Julian Castro who drew first blood in the Democratic primary on the
Democratic debate stage.
Beto O`Rourke would not last long in the presidential campaign after that
first conflict on that debate stage. Tonight, Julian Castro has announced
he too is leaving the presidential race after having changed it profoundly
by his presence.
Secretary Castro joins us live on set, next.
MADDOW: Joining us now here on set for “The Interview” is Julian Castro,
former mayor of San Antonio, Texas, former housing secretary under
President Obama, and as of today, a former candidate for president in the
Secretary Castro, thank you so much for being here.
CASTRO: Good to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: You have the choice to not talk to anybody on the day that you
drop out of the race. I appreciate you being here. How are you doing?
CASTRO: I`m doing well.
CASTRO: I`m doing well. I`ve had better days, obviously.
CASTRO: But, you know, all things considered, I`m doing well. I`m very
proud of the effort of the campaign that we put together.
I said it many times during the campaign but I felt it in my heart and I
believe it today that, you know, we helped shape the debate. I said things
that a lot of other candidates – in some cases, all of the other
candidates – weren`t willing to say.
I took on issues that I believed in and I think that our country has to
confront, whether that`s boldly putting forward a positive vision on
immigration to go against Trump`s dark, cruel vision on immigration, or
tackling the fact that we see video after video of, especially, young black
men and women being mistreated by police across our country.
And most politicians want to run away from that as if it`s not a problem.
I didn`t do that. We didn`t that in my campaign.
The fact that you have more people sleeping on the street at night in
America and that it`s been 40 years really since we invested enough
resources in making sure that people have a safe, decent and affordable
place to live not only in cities like New York but in smaller towns across
I ran a bold campaign. I didn`t compromise on what I believed in. And so,
I can hold my head high.
MADDOW: Tell me about the decision that now is the time to get out.
CASTRO: Well, you know, we`ve got about a month until the Iowa caucus, and
it just became clear we didn`t have the resources, didn`t have the
organization because of the lack of resources.
And I lost the mayor`s race in 2005 when I was 30 years old. And it always
– you know, it never feels good to lose. But one of the things I remember
very clearly from back then was understanding that it`s about timing as
much as anything else, and this wasn`t my time, it wasn`t our time.
I think that, certainly, there are things that we could have done better in
the campaign and we`re going to have a lot of time to think through that,
but it also is about timing and the mood of the Democratic Party. And I
just think it wasn`t my time.
MADDOW: You have been critical about the process by which the Democratic
Party is choosing its nominee. I`d just highlighted, a minute ago, the
fact that as of right now, the next debate has five candidates qualified.
They`re all white.
The initial long roster of candidates that was running was the most
racially diverse candidate field the Democrats or either party has ever put
forward. But yet, as it is winnowing down, it seems to be getting whiter
You said when Senator Kamala Harris dropped out of the race that she was
held basically to an unattainable double standard.
Can – can you talk a little bit about that – that critique about what you
meant that – when it comes to Senator Harris and whether you think that
also applies to you?
CASTRO: I do. I remember reading about Senator Harris for instance that
she – that some members of the Congressional Black Caucus were not
supporting her, as if she would be expected to get the entire Congressional
CASTRO: You know, in my campaign, we heard a lot, especially at the
beginning of the campaign, about the fact that I`m not completely fluent in
Spanish as though all Latinos were analyzing my candidacy only through
whether I`m completely fluent in Spanish. You know, first of all, more
than 80 percent of Latinos in the United States speak English.
And so, there`s just this disconnect there I think in the way some of these
campaigns are covered.
But the other thing I brought up was the way that we do this nominating
process of starting with Iowa and New Hampshire.
And, you know, putting the race or ethnicity of candidates aside for a
second, if I told people out there – if you didn`t know anything about the
Iowa caucus and I said to you, OK, look, this is how we`re going to start
the process. You know, you can only vote on one day at 7:00 in the
evening, there`s no early voting, there`s no secret ballot, so you can`t –
you know, you can`t have a secret ballot on how you`re voting. You have to
declare in front of everybody how you`re voting. People would think that
Republicans designed the Iowa caucus.
So I very much see this as in keeping with our push in the Democratic Party
for greater ballot access and voting rights, that we change the way that we
do our presidential nominating process. I don`t believe that we should
have these caucuses. And I also know that our country has changed a lot
since 1972 –
MADDOW: You say –
CASTRO: – when the Iowa caucus was started.
MADDOW: Are you saying that the caucus process itself is inherently sort
of small C conservative or that it is – the caucus process is inherently
unfair to specific types of candidates or types of campaigns?
CASTRO: I think all of the above.
CASTRO: For instance, people with disabilities have complained for a while
about the lack of accessibility at the Iowa caucuses. Shift workers,
somebody who has to work at 7:00 at night and can`t just take off that day.
I mean, they have said, how about early voting or some way to vote by mail?
That doesn`t exist.
In addition to that, the fact that you start your nominating process in two
states that are – that are some of the whitest states that lack people of
I mean, it is very ironic that we keep telling black women, you`re our
saviors, you helped us win Alabama, you helped the governor win reelection
in Louisiana, you`re our key to 2020, and we see what happened in 2016 that
Trump won because African-American turnout fell from 66 percent four years
earlier to 59.5 percent, including in places like Philadelphia, in Detroit,
in Milwaukee, which are important in those three states, those states that
we always obsess about.
And at the same time, you start your nominating process of two states that
hardly have any black women, any black people at all. It doesn`t make any
And it was so weird because voicing that opinion was almost considered more
radical in the Democratic Party, saying maybe Iowa and New Hampshire
shouldn`t go first than to say we should have single-payer health care or
something. It doesn`t make any sense.
It`s time for us to grow up as Democrats and to be willing to look at our
own house. We have to complain and take action and file suit when
Republicans trample on voting rights, but we can`t stop there. We actually
have to improve how we do things as well, or else there`s a little bit of
I was willing to call that. And you know what? Just because this
presidential campaign is over doesn`t mean that I`m not going to continue
to call that out.
MADDOW: What else do you think that the Democratic Party should be doing
to put together the best shot at beating President Trump?
You have a critique in terms of 2016, in terms of voters of color not being
enthused, and that voter turnout dropping off from the Obama years to the
Clinton election. Other than the Iowa and New Hampshire factor that you`re
talking about here – I mean, it`s been dramatic to see 20 candidates on
the stage at the early debates. Now, it`s winnowed down to five.
Obviously, you can`t have 20 candidates indefinitely.
But – I mean, is the size – is the angle of the funnel too steep? Are
there other things that the candidates – the party should be doing to
treat the candidates more fairly?
CASTRO: Well, and I think it`s not only about the presidential process.
It`s also about recruiting candidates up and down the ballot.
And I think to the Democratic Party`s credit, and one of the reasons that
I`m proudly a Democrat, is because we are a bigger tent party. We do
reflect more of the diversity out there in our country, and we do embrace
people of different backgrounds. We need to keep doing that, investing and
recruiting for people running for, you know, state assembly, state Senate,
for Congress and so forth, all across the board at every state in our
But, yes, it also counts in the presidential nominating process how we
handle this. The DNC is going to have to go back and look at these
thresholds they put in place because I think, clearly, there`s been a
misfire on some of this. And we have an opportunity in the future to
correct that. There`s nothing sacrosanct about the process that was put in
place. In fact, in some very concrete ways, it has failed and we need to
MADDOW: One last question for you, Secretary – what`s next for you? What
do you want? I mean, I imagine you want to sleep.
MADDOW: And I bet you have a bunch of people to go see and thank and talk
to. But what`s next for you?
CASTRO: Yes, and my son just turned 5.
MADDOW: Oh, (INAUDIBLE).
CASTRO: I am looking forward to spending more time with him and my
CASTRO: I`m going to find a way to make sure that, number one, we replace
Donald Trump with a good president in 2021. I`m going to do everything
that I can to support the Democratic nominee, to make sure that the
Democrat wins in November of 2020 and to encourage others to run. So,
we`ll figure that out.
MADDOW: Housing Secretary Julian Castro, as until today, a candidate for
the Democratic nomination in 2020 – you had a huge impact on this race.
You made the candidates talk about different issues they wouldn`t otherwise
talk about and you made them talk about it in ways that were more precise,
I think more aggressive and more grounded.
You were a very, very, very substantive member of this field and I think
the country is better off for it.
Thanks for (INAUDIBLE) – thanks for being here.
CASTRO: Thanks a lot, Rachel.
CASTRO: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So I want to bring you up-to-date on some news that have continued
developing over the course of the last hour and as we`ve been on the air
tonight. We`ve been monitoring these incredibly provocative but still
vague reports that a very important senior commander in the Iranian
Revolutionary Guard, the head of the Quds Force in the IRG, Qassem
Soleimani, there are reports that`s been killed in Baghdad in either an
airstrike or a drone strike or a rocket attack, depending on what report
It`s very confused reporting at this point, which is at this point why
we`ve been monitoring these reports and trying to develop our own NBC News
The reason this is so important is that Qassem Soleimani is the leader of a
powerful elite branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard that is called the
Quds Force. Dexter Filkins memorably described the Quds Force as a
combined CIA and Special Forces. Soleimani is the long time leader of the
Quds Force while the Quds have been involved, deeply involved for example
propping up Syria`s dictator in that country`s civil war and mounting
militia-led attacks on U.S. forces during the long Iraq war.
Soleimani is Iran`s most powerful and prominent military leader, one of the
most influential, individual persons in the whole complex tinderbox of the
geopolitics of the Middle East. Now, it is Iraqi state TV that`s been
reporting tonight that Soleimani was killed in an airstrike at Baghdad`s
airport. Other outlets as I mentioned are characterizing the attack
The press office of the coalition of Iran-backed militias in Iraq is also
now saying Soleimani was killed. NBC News has not confirmed any of these
reports. But needless to say, if Qassem Soleimani has been killed and if
the United States had something to do with it, that would be consequential
in its own right, it would also potentially be a pretty massive escalation
of tensions between the Iran and the U.S. whose ripple effects are hard to
predict and very sobering.
Again, these are unconfirmed reports at this point, but among those chasing
this very hard tonight is Courtney Kube, NBC News correspondent covering
national security and the Pentagon.
Courtney, thanks for being with us on short notice tonight.
I know that you are chasing this story hard right now. First of all,
correct me if I got anything wrong there, and tell me if there`s anything
else that we know at this point?
COURTNEY KUBE, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No, that was
perfect. And your description of Qassem Soleimani and the Quds Force is
So, Soleimani is the head of the Iranian force and the way you described it
is perfect. It`s sort of this intelligence unit and they do irregular
warfare. One of the things that the Quds Force is known for, though, is
supporting these militia groups like Hezbollah, like Hamas. They tie into
these militia groups that operate in the region and act in many ways on
behalf of the Iranian regime.
The Quds Force also ties directly back to the Iranian supreme leader,
What we do know now, as you mentioned, the Iranian – I`m sorry, Iraqi
state TV, the Iraqi PMF, Popular Mobilization Force, spokesperson, they are
also saying that, in fact, Qassem Soleimani was killed in the strike near
the Baghdad airport. We can now say Iranian state TV is also saying that.
And I now can say a U.S. official is confirming that in fact the U.S. took
a strike in Baghdad tonight and that Soleimani was the target. But they
are not yet – the U.S. officials are not saying that, in fact, he was
killed. They are saying he was targeted in this, but they want 100 percent
certainty that, in fact, he was killed.
There are also reports out of the region also killed along with him was Abu
Mahdi al-Mohandes, who`s a very senior Popular Mobilization Force commander
with strong ties with Iran and ties with Kataib Hezbollah, who is, of
course, is the Iranian-backed Shia militia group who the U.S. is blaming
for many recent rocket attacks and who the U.S. targeted in a number of air
strikes over the weekend, Rachel.
MADDOW: And, Courtney, in terms of this official saying the U.S. did take
a strike in Baghdad tonight and that Soleimani was the target, I don`t know
if you know or you can tell us that sounds like that`s an – anonymous
confirmation of a CIA strike, or would this be a U.S. military strike. If
it was the CIA versus the U.S. military, would that have different
implications in terms of what we the public are ever going to know about
this or have confirmed by our own government?
KUBE: Yes to all of that. So, yes, if it was a military versus a CIA
strike, we hear very little about CIA strikes versus military strikes.
There`s a little bit more transparency.
But I think we need to take a step back and see – and factor two things
into this particular strike. Number one is the fact that President Trump
is the commander in chief right now, so I think there`s a higher likelihood
we will hear more detail about this, or some kind of confirmation if it was
CIA versus a conventional military strike.
The other thing is just the magnitude of what we are seeing here if, in
fact, Qassem Soleimani was targeted by a U.S. strike tonight and killed.
This is a – this is very significant step. This is an extremely
significant escalation in the tensions between the U.S. and Iran.
Qassem Soleimani, he has – the U.S. – U.S. officials I spoke with very
clearly say that he has blood on his hands, that he has ordered attacks on
Americans and coalitions and Iraqis for years now. So, there`s certainly
no doubt he has been an enemy of the United States, that he is the head of
an organization that is an enemy of the United States.
But to take him out, someone who if in fact this was a targeted
assassination against him, that was a very significant step for the United
States to take, something like this would tend to require presidential
approval. So this is – if, in fact, you know, these reports are coming in
very quickly and so we don`t want to get ahead of anything here.
As of now, again, we`re still just hearing from the Iraqi and the Iranian
state TV. The U.S. is not yet confirming this, but if, in fact, he was
killed in this attack, this situation is sure to escalate in the coming
MADDOW: And let me just – let me just talk about that a little bit from a
layman`s perspective of someone who observers this from a desk here with no
special expertise in the area. I mean, what you were talking about in
terms of Soleimani and what the Quds Force has done, there really is no
parallel for us to understand in the United States or indeed in the Western
world in terms of the kind of figure he is and kind of role he has in Iran,
and specifically in the projection of irregular Iranian power around the
world. I mean, part of the reason that Iran is seen as such a fearsome and
important adversary in the world is not just because of what they can mount
in terms of their own military force but because through the Quds Force,
through Soleimani`s sort of military genius, as has been described, they`ve
been supporting pro-Iranian militias outside of Iran all over the world in
some very effective and very murderous ways, including against U.S. forces
fighting in the Iraq war for years and years.
MADDOW: So, there`s no – if in fact he is dead and if a U.S. strike has
caused his death, again there`s no analog in terms of us understanding the
kind of figure he`d been seen as if he were an American. But what can you
tell us how Iran will see his death and how Iran might respond to his death
given the power that he`s had and the kind of resources he`s been able to
command well outside Iran`s borders?
KUBE: Right. So, I mean, the closest parallel that we would have – and,
again, it`s not really even a direct parallel, is the head of the JSOC, the
Joint Special Operations Command in the United States. It is a group that
does irregular warfare, and they`re the most elite of the special operators
in the United States military.
But that is – you know, most Americans couldn`t tell you who the head of
JSOC is right now, whereas Iranians know Qassem Soleimani. He has a direct
link to the supreme leader of Iran. He`s an extremely powerful figurehead
in Iran and beyond that.
He can – we know that he has been directing attacks against others,
whether it`s in Yemen, in Iraq, in Syria – against Americans in Iraq and
Syria. So, he has a – he wields a tremendous amount of power.
As far as how this is going to be received in Iran, it`s probably too early
to say. I think it`s fair to guess that this could have the affect of
coalescing the Iranian people more around the ayatollah and around the
regime and against America.
What`s so fascinating about what`s happened over the last several days –
you know, when I was in Baghdad just a few weeks ago, there were these
anti-Iranian protests. There was very little anti-American sentiment going
at the time. It was against Iran. They tried to torch the Iranian
consulate in Karbala.
This is – the strikes over the weekend, the U.S. strikes against Kataib
Hezbollah has had the impact of starting to coalesce the people there more
against America and more back in the camp with Iran. So, it`s fair to say
that taking – if in fact again, I want to be very careful because the
United States has not yet confirmed any of this, certainly not on the
record, but if in fact Soleimani was killed here, this will certainly have
an impact on the Iranian people, making them coalesce and rally around the
flag. It`s a matter of how strong is that impact and what are the next
MADDOW: Courtney Kube, NBC national security correspondent, thank you,
Courtney. I know you are chasing this. If you`re able to confirm more of
this or the story develops, through your own work, just get right back on
the air with us. We will stay with you as soon as we can.
KUBE: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. I want to bring now into the conversation, Ali Arouzi,
who is NBC News Tehran bureau chief and correspondent.
Ali, thank you so much for making time for us on very short notice tonight.
I just want to ask you if you can update our understanding at all as we
continue to follow these developing reports about – again, unconfirmed
reports that the head of the Quds Force has been killed in Baghdad.
ALI AROUZI, NBC NEWS TEHRAN BUREAU CHIEF (via telephone): Hey, Rachel.
Great to be with you.
I`m just getting reports from Tehran right now that state media in Iran and
the IRGC, the Revolutionary Guard, are confirming the death of Qassem
Soleimani. State TV has now cut all broadcasting off. They are playing
photographs of Qassem Soleimani on a loop with prayers being given.
AROUZI: This is official confirmation from Iran and this is going to
seriously ratchet up the stakes between Washington and Tehran.
Qassem Soleimani is a revered figure amongst ruling establishment in Iran.
He`s a cult figure amongst the militias that operate in that region, and it
would probably be fair to say that he is the second most powerful man in
Iran after Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader.
MADDOW: Ali, let me just interrupt you just for one moment. We just – as
you`ve been saying that and to that point, we just, just now, got a
statement from the Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Defense, and
I`m going to read to you, because this is clearly the U.S. official
confirmation as well.
Here`s the statement.
At the direction of the president, the U.S. military has taken decisive
defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qassem
Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps` Quds Force, a
U.S. designated foreign terrorist organization. General Soleimani was
actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members
in Iraq and throughout the region.
General Soleimani and his Quds Force was responsible for the deaths of
hundreds of Americans and coalition service member and the wounding of
thousands more. He had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq
over the last several months, including the attack on December 27,
culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi
personnel. General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the U.S. embassy
in Baghdad that took place this week.
The strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans. The United
States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and
our interests wherever they are around the world.
But again, the bottom line in this news statement from the Defense
Department is that the U.S. military has taken decisive, defensive action
by killing Qassem Soleimani the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard,
Ali Arouzi is joining us, NBC News Tehran bureau chief.
Ali, as we were getting that statement, you were describing him as the
second most powerful man in Iran after the supreme leader. Now that we`ve
got as you described the Iranian government confirming this, Iranian state
TV confirming it, and the U.S. government confirming this, what do you
think will be the implications of this killing?
AROUZI: I would be very surprised if there isn`t some sort of a very
serious reprisal from Iran over this. They`re going to want to show that
they haven`t been weakened by the deaths of Soleimani, they want to show
that the IRGC is still very strong and operational. So, they will probably
strike back. I don`t think this acted as a deterrence. I think this is
just going to aggravate the situation much further.
As I mentioned to you, Rachel, he is a cult figure in Iran amongst the
ruling establishment. They rely very, very heavily on him. He controls
all the militias in that region that have made Iran so powerful in that
region. So they are going to take this extraordinarily seriously.
I`m not sure what kind of reprisal they are going to unleash, but, you
know, as you well know, they have multiple, multiple groups of proxies
spread across the entire region ready for a moment like this. So this has
ratcheted up the stakes hugely, and this is probably one of the most
significant I`ve seen happen in Iran over the last couple of decades.
MADDOW: And, Ali, in term of this being a sort of decapitation strike
because of the power and the really centralized power of Soleimani, as far
as we understand the structure of the Quds Force, and how he has – how he
has orchestrated all these powerful militias behind Iran`s borders. Do you
expect there will be disorder within the Quds Force, within the
Revolutionary Guard Corps, or do you think he would have in place some sort
of chain of command, a second in command, a line of succession that would
allow for an organized response here?
AROUZI: Well, they are very organized units of the IRGC, very organized
fighting units. But to say there`s an obvious replacement for Soleimani,
there isn`t. There isn`t anybody comes to mind you`d think has that power
to his name, his face is known as well. So, I don`t think we`re going to
see any obvious person step into the role. But I don`t think we`re going
to see any disarray either amongst IRGC. They`re going to close ranks very
quickly and plan their next move.
They are a very, very well-organized force. They are very disciplined, so
this isn`t going to break them. I think they are now going to want to show
especially the United States that they are a force still to be reckoned
with, without Qassem Soleimani.
MADDOW: Ali Arouzi, NBC News Tehran bureau chief – Ali, thank you. It`s
going to be a long night tonight. I appreciate you being here.
AROUZI: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: I want to bring into the conversation now Senator Chris Murphy of
Connecticut. He serves on the Foreign Relations Committee.
Sir, thank you for joining us on short notice.
I just have to get your reaction to this news now confirmed by the Defense
Department that the U.S. military has taken action and killed the head of
the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps` Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT) (via telephone): Well, there`s no doubt that
Qassem Soleimani was an enemy of the United States. He ordered the killing
of hundreds of Americans. The question tonight is whether Qassem Soleimani
is a greater threat to the United States as a functional head of the Quds
Force or as a martyr. The danger here, of course, is that we are going to
get into a conflict in the region that will ultimately accrue to the
detriment of the U.S. national security interests no matter how good we may
feel about the fact that Soleimani is dead this evening.
They have capability to launch assassination attempts right back at U.S.
political leaders and, of course, their proxy forces can threaten U.S.
forces, Israel itself throughout the region. And, of course, there are
potentially grave complications for our relations with Iraq, were they
notified of this? If not, how on earth will they continue to allow
thousands of U.S. troops to operate inside their borders, a place where
ISIS is regrouping as we speak?
So this is a very, very dangerous moment. This could be the most
significant foreign political leader that the United States has ever
assassinated, and we are very careful about these kinds of things because
they often end up and can end up spilling into a set of consequences that
ultimately do much more damage to U.S. national security interests in the
assassination itself and we will be watching closely. And of course
there`s a question of what the authorization is for this, if this is indeed
an act of war against Iran. Unless it was done to prevent an imminent
attack against the United States, you can`t do this without congressional
MADDOW: As far as you know, Senator, has there been any notification to
the Senate, to the Congress or to the Group of 8, if you would know, about
any of this? Or is this something you and your Senate colleagues are
learning about along with the rest of us via the media?
MURPHY: I would be surprised if there wasn`t some notification to the Gang
of 8. I`m not a member of that group, but this would obviously be the kind
of attack, if it was premeditated and planned, it would at least be noticed
to those eight congressional leaders.
MADDOW: Senator Chris Murphy of Foreign Relations Committee, joining on
very short notice tonight to respond to this breaking news – sir, thank
you very much for making time for us. I really appreciate it.
MADDOW: Again, the breaking news we`re following tonight that started with
reports from Iraqi state television that Qassem Soleimani, the feared head
of the Quds Force, which is a division of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard
Corps, had been killed in some sort of strike in Baghdad. We`re watching
and monitoring Iraqi state TV reports on that. That eventually escalated
tonight to there being Iranian confirmation of this.
And now, just within the past couple of minutes, the U.S. Defense
Department confirming that it was a U.S. military strike that has killed
Qassem Soleimani as described by our NBC News Tehran bureau chief, Ali
Arouzi, here just moments ago, Soleimani is not only a very well-known
figure in the Middle East and in Middle Eastern geopolitics, in Ali
Arouzi`s telling, he`s essentially the second most powerful man in Iran
after the supreme leader.
What the consequences will be of his assassination tonight, which again is
being confirmed by the Defense Department in the last few minutes, remains
to be seen. And it`s potentially profound.
That`s going to do it for us at least right now.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Rachel.
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