Video appears to show plane being hit over Iran. TRANSCRIPT: 1/9/20, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests:
James LaPorta, Chris Murphy
Transcript:

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is “ALL IN” for this evening.

 

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

 

Good evening, Rachel.

 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.

 

HAYES: You bet.

 

MADDOW: Much appreciated.

 

Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you here.

 

The vote was 224-194 in the House tonight. The House of Representatives

voting to invoke the War Powers Act to block President Trump from waging

war on Iran without Congress` explicit say-so.

 

The War Powers Act and resolutions under the War Powers Act asserting

Congress` ability to constrain a president from waging war on his own say-

so. This is hard-fought, very contested constitutional territory, going

back to the waning days of the Vietnam War and Congress passing the War

Powers Resolution and Nixon vetoing it and Congress then overriding his

veto, and all the successive efforts we have had to assert Congress` role

to prevent the president from waging war.

 

Since then, this is contested territory I know, and fascinating territory

in terms of modern American history. I wrote a book about it in 2012 called

“Drift” which explains my thoughts on the subject and what I think is the

relevant history, in case you are interested in a deeper dive on the

subject. I doubt you are, but just in case.

 

This hour, we`re going to be talking with Democratic Senator Chris Murphy

about that vote in the House, and the House passing that resolution

tonight. We`re also going to talk with Senator Murphy about what`s expected

on his side of the Capitol now that the House has passed that resolution. I

mean, in the House tonight, this was a mildly bipartisan vote. Some

Democrats voted against the resolution, some Republicans crossed party

lines to vote for it.

 

In terms of the other side of the Capitol, if and when there is a similar

War Powers vote in the Senate, I think we expect something similar in terms

of crossing party lines. We expect at least some Republican votes in the

Senate in support of a war powers resolution to constrain President Trump`s

ability to make war with Iran without permission from this Congress.

 

That said, because the Senate is controlled by Republican Senator Mitch

McConnell, even though we know that resolution is coming in the Senate and

even though we know it will have some bipartisan support in the Senate,

it`s hard to know when that Senate vote might happen or how Mitch McConnell

might try to turn it into some sort of bobby trapped trip wire both for the

Democrats in the Senate and for any Republicans on his own side who might

stray from the party line on this and try to constrain President Trump.

 

Those prospects of course are especially heightened because the Senate is

also right now gearing up to do whatever it is they`re going to do for an

impeachment trial for President Trump.

 

So, we`re going to be speaking with Senator Chris Murphy live in just a

moment, as the Senate continues to get ready, get set, never quite get

going on putting President Trump on trial, while simultaneously, this

crisis he started with Iran continues to unspool. The president, of course,

launched that military strike on Iran that killed a senior Iranian

official. He launched that military strike last week in the middle of his

impeachment after the House had passed impeachment articles against him

while he was waiting for his Senate impeachment trial to start.

 

The multiple and conflicting explanations rolled out by the Trump

administration thus far to explain why he launched that strike and why he

did it then, an evolving set of explanations that today included the

president saying that he ordered that air strike because Iran was about to,

in his words, blow up our embassy. Huh? A brand-new claim nobody else has

made, seven days after the fact, after the administration has already sent

military and intelligence officials in to brief Congress behind closed

doors on why this strike was so important and they said nothing like that?

 

I mean, this dog`s breakfast mess of conflicting, evolving, internally

contradictory, vague, and frankly, unbelievable assertions from the

president and the administration as to why exactly he launched this strike

in the middle of his impeachment. I mean, if you can`t explain why you did

it, everybody`s going to think you did it for the reason that seems

obvious. The inability of the administration, even a week later, to come up

with any coherent, plausible explanation, any single explanation, for why

the president did this and why he did it when he did, that will be part of

the history of this presidential impeachment, forever. That will always be

part of this history.

 

It is also driven interest in both the House and the Senate in invoking the

war powers act, to not let him wage a war on these grounds, given the lack

of clarity as to why he started this thing in the first place. But today,

tragically, we learned that whatever the reason was why he did it, whatever

the reason was why he launched that strike on Iran when he did so, the

resulting military confrontation between our country and Iran has now

produced what appears to have been a catastrophic accident, a civilian

passenger airline shoot down with nearly 200 innocent civilian casualties

as its bottom line.

 

Eleven Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, some citizens of Afghanistan, some Germans,

reportedly some British citizens, dozens of Iranian citizens, all

civilians. A full third of the passengers on that plane, 63 souls, were

people from the nation of Canada.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: There have been important

developments regarding the potential causes of this deadly crash,

developments of which Canadians should be made aware. The news will

undoubtedly come as a further shock to the families who are already

grieving in the face of this unspeakable tragedy. We have intelligence from

multiple sources, including our allies and our own intelligence.

 

The evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-

to-air missile. This may well have been un-intentioned. In light of this

new information, it is now more important than ever that we know exactly

how such a tragedy could have happened.

 

The families of the victims and all Canadians want answers. I want answers.

That means closure, transparency, accountability, and justice. This

government will not rest until we get that.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today addressing his country

for the second time since yesterday. The plane crashed just outside the

Tehran airport, which killed 176 people including 63 Canadian citizens.

 

The flight took off from Tehran just before dawn yesterday. It was bound

for the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. I should tell you that in Kyiv, almost

all the passengers on board that flight from Tehran were booked to a

connecting flight to Toronto, that`s why there were so many Canadians on

board.

 

The intelligence Justin Trudeau cited in his report today has also been

described in detail by anonymous U.S. officials to various American

reporters. The reporter who had the scoop, first though, was James LaPorta,

from “Newsweek” magazine, who along with his colleagues were the first to

report the conclusion of U.S. officials that the plane did not crash

because of mechanical failures as was initially and suspiciously quickly

asserted by the Iranian government. This “Newsweek” reporting team was

first to report it was believed to have been an accidental shoot-down by an

Iranian surface to air missile. They cited a senior U.S. intelligence

official, a U.S. Defense Department official and an Iraqi intelligence

official to publish that scoop.

 

That story at “Newsweek” was soon picked up to all over the country leading

among other things to breaking news special reports by multiple news

networks today including by NBC News, as in “we now interrupt this

programming to bring you this special report.”

 

At “The New York Times”, they published detailed reporting today and last

night, not just on claims about what happened from U.S. intelligence and

defense officials, but also interesting, enterprising reporting about the

circumstances of the crash itself. Last night, “The Times” cited remarkable

analysis that they had done themselves saying that it appeared to reporters

at “The New York Times” based on video of the crash, photos of debris,

structural damage, and blood spatter, viewing images of those things, “New

York Times” reporters said last night that it appeared that the flight had

changed direction, that this Ukrainian airlines flight had taken off from

the Tehran airport as expected, but then it had changed course after it

started its takeoff from Tehran airport, it mysteriously lost

communications and stopped transponding information back to the tower and

then it changed course before it crashed.

 

Now, that initially puzzling reporting from “The New York Times” last night

started to make more sense and was borne out today with further information

about, among other things, the location of the debris field. You can see

here how the plane appears to have taken off from Tehran airport and flown

in a linear direction as you would expect, until the moment when it stopped

transmitting data, flight data ends, you see that point there.

 

We know that the plane crashed shortly after that point. But look at where

the debris field is, right? Based on where the debris field was, it doesn`t

appear that the plane continued traveling in that same pretty much straight

line after it lost data and communications. It appears to have turned

pretty significantly to the right and back toward the airport before it

ultimately broke up and crashed. That is at least what it looks like from

the basic geometry of the information we`ve got about the direction that

plane was flying and where the pieces of it were ultimately found on the

ground.

 

So we`ve been putting together this intelligence, these reports from

defense and intelligence officials, all anonymous, the detail that we`ve

got from the ground in these very early stages.

 

After the initial reporting from “The Times,” that sort of puzzling initial

reporting about the change of course before the crash, “The Times” was also

first to publish this afternoon new video which lends significant open

source credence to that reported conclusion from U.S. officials that the

plane was shot down, because in this video, again, first publish today by

“The New York Times,” you can see in the air an explosion in the sky. And

that`s, we believe, near where the plane stopped transponding data. The

plane, as far as we know, kept flying a little while on fire before it

ultimately crashed.

 

And so everybody`s been piecing it together from this information and from

these reports from U.S. officials. Logically, this is not a shocking news

development. I mean, we covered this last night here on the show with the

longtime NTSB and FAA accident investigator, because of the fear that this

was not a typical aviation disaster. Modern passenger aircraft crash so

infrequently, there really is no typical aviation disaster anymore. But the

prospect of an accidental shootdown for this air crash, it just seems

circumstance possible because this flight took off from Tehran`s airport

within a few hours of the Iran launching ballistic missiles at U.S. targets

inside Iraq, at a time when Iran and the United States and the world were

all watching to see what additional military exchange might happen between

Iran and the United States or between proxy forces on either side in the

region.

 

I mean, it would make sense that they would be on alert for incoming

aircraft. A case of mistaken identity seemed not impossible, right? And it

seemed more possible than a more normal cause for the crash.

 

This was an almost brand-new plane. It was purchased new from Boeing in

2016. It was not one of the Boeing jets that`s had those problems that have

led to all these difficulties with the company and led to several air

crashes in recent months.

 

It`s a different type of jet, considered to be a very safe, very widely-

used jet. It had undergone a regular maintenance as recently as a few days

ago. There was nothing to be suspicious about in terms of the crew`s

experience or any of the maintenance records involving the plane.

 

There was all those reasons to be circumstantially suspicious as to whether

or not this could be an accidental shoot-down given the military

circumstances around Tehran airport in the hours before that plane took

off. And now, those suspicions are borne out as fairly technically specific

evidence.

 

From “The Times,” quote, American satellites designed to track missile

launches detected the firing of the Iranian short range defense system, the

SA15. U.S. intelligence agencies later intercepted Iranian communications

confirming that the SA15 system brought down the Ukrainian airliner.

 

The SA15 launch was detected by the American military`s space-based

infrared system which relies on satellites in various orbits to track the

launch and flight path of ballistic missiles. While American missile

defense sensors are primarily meant to defend against long range launches,

the military has upgraded the infrared satellite network to track shorter

range missile launches as well that can often detect launches of air

defense systems including missile defense settlements designed to work at

low altitudes, like for example the SA15 that`s being blamed in this crash.

 

Now, Iran is denying that they shot down this passenger plane. And they`re

denying it for obvious reasons, right? But the U.S. government has

apparently come to this conclusion with, quote, high confidence, and they

are showing their work a little bit in terms of how they came to this

conclusion.

 

In terms of picturing what happened here, this is a file photo of what the

SA15 antiaircraft system looks like. As James LaPorta and his colleagues at

“Newsweek” note today, in NATO, this is known as a gauntlet antiaircraft

system, more broadly known as an SA15.

 

As you can tell from this photo, it kind of looks like a tank, right? This

is designed to be a mobile unit. This is not the sort of thing that lives

inside a building. It`s mounted on something that basically is a tank,

which means in terms of piecing together what happened here and assessing

culpability here, it`s possible that this system, this mobile system was

rolled out just in the past couple of days, just a couple of nights ago, to

try to defend the Tehran airport or to defend other sites near the airport

in Tehran specifically because of the fact that Iran was about to launch

ballistic missiles at American targets inside Iraq.

 

I mean, in the middle of a military confrontation with the United States,

President Trump, having launched an air strike against an Iranian general,

killing an Iranian government official on Iraqi soil, Iran threatening

revenge, Iran planning to send ballistic missiles into Iraq to go hit U.S.

targets in response, in the middle of that exchange of lethal or would-be

lethal force, in the middle of that military confrontation, it`s not hard

to understand why Iran might roll out its mobile antiaircraft systems to

defend the Tehran airport or sites nearby in case America was going to fly

jets into Iran as part of this military confrontation.

 

And logically, of course, what this also means is that there`s no reason to

think this would have happened were it not for this military confrontation

between the United States and Iran. The flight that was shot down, that was

a normal passenger aircraft flight between Tehran and Kyiv. That flight

goes five times a week direct from Kyiv to Tehran and back, a Ukrainian

airlines flight.

 

The major European carrier Lufthansa also regularly flies in and out of the

Tehran Airport. Today, they had a passenger aircraft on its way into Tehran

from Frankfurt, in Germany, when these news stories popped, that actually,

it had been an antiaircraft missile fire from the near the Tehran airport

that took down that passenger jet and killed 176 people yesterday. That

Lufthansa flight was already in the air on its way to the Tehran airport

when those reports broke. That Lufthansa flight turned around midair and

went back to Frankfurt rather than land in Tehran in these circumstances.

 

But passenger travel, passenger air travel in and out of Tehran is a normal

thing. Flights don`t get shot down. This flight got shot down because of

what was happening between Iran and the U.S. military this week. At least

that is what it appears. And that is why it says on the front page of “The

New York Times” right now, quote: The new intelligence suggests that the

loss of lives from the downing of a civilian passenger plane was a direct

result of heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

 

And so, yes, moment in history here, right? Big picture here, we are in the

middle of the impeachment of the president of the United States for only

the third time in U.S. history. In the middle of that impeachment, as he is

awaiting the start of his Senate impeachment trial, this president, for

reasons that remain unexplained, decided to launch this military strike

against Iran, which set off inevitable retaliatory measures from Iran,

military confrontation between our two countries.

 

And now, there is a robust fight in Congress trying to get the White House,

trying to get the administration to come up with some coherent explanation

for why he launched that strike, what was that for, whether or not it was

legal. That`s why you`re seeing this war powers vote tonight in the House

and soon in the Senate.

 

But to the core human question of whether or not launching that strike on

Iran a few days ago made us safer or made us less safe, whether it was

risky and reckless or whether it was something that was for the good of

mankind – well, the body count for what was just set off here appears to

now include 176 civilians from Sweden and Germany and Britain and

Afghanistan and Iran and Ukraine and Canadian.

 

And obviously there is no reason to believe that Iran did this on purpose.

There were tons of Iranian civilians on board that plane. It appears to

have been an accidental shoot-down made possible by the fact of these

military confrontations that were under way.

 

Just as obviously, it`s clear that, you know, Iran doesn`t want to be

blamed for this. Even if they did in fact do it. And it seems like they

did. Their officials are being quoted already calling it ridiculous to

think that this might have been an accidental shoot-down.

 

But it looks like it was an accidental shoot-down. And what looms large in

recent memory here of course is the shoot-down of another civilian airliner

five years ago in Ukraine. Russian military unit and Russian-backed

irregular military forces were fighting against the Ukrainian government in

eastern Ukraine. They shot down a passenger aircraft full of innocent

civilians, Malaysia Air Flight 17, had 298 people on board. All of those

people were killed.

 

It was later determined that that passenger aircraft was shot down with a

Russian surface to air missile. That`s very similar to the SA15 system

that`s being blamed today for what happened in Tehran. In that case in

Ukraine five years ago, it turned out that surface to air missile system

was a Russian military unit brought over the border from Russia into

Ukraine by Russian military personnel, was fired by a Russian military

unit. That`s how that passenger plane came down.

 

Did they know it was a passenger aircraft? Nobody believes that they did.

It was an accident. Because of the military hostilities they were involved

in.

 

But they did it. Russia denies it to this day, but they did it.

 

That catastrophe in 2014, the shoot-down of that passenger aircraft,

appears to have been one of the earliest major operations by the Internet

Research Agency, the Russian troll farm that would go on in 2015 and 2016

to try to influence our presidential election in 2016. Back in 2014, in the

wake of that airliner being shot down over Eastern Ukraine by Russian

military units, it was the Russian Internet Research Agency, that troll

farm, that jumped into action in terms of propaganda, to try to make it

seem like Russia didn`t do it, to muddy the water, to put forward alternate

theories and blame the victim theories in terms of what happened there.

 

Internet Research Agency sent out 65,000 tweets in the first 24 hours after

that crash five years ago, blaming Ukraine or blaming mysterious third

parties for the shoot-down of that have airliner, anybody except Russia.

Russian state media would go on to concoct elaborate plots about the plane

having been stuffed with already dead bodies to make it look like a

passenger aircraft disaster when it wasn`t really. They run documentaries

on Russia today about how secretly it was the Ukrainian air force that shot

down that plane and hit it again with cannon fire thereafter and it

definitely wasn`t a Russian antiaircraft missile.

 

It was a Russian at this aircraft missile. It was a definitive

international conclusive investigation that proved that. Russia has

nevertheless spent the last five years denying responsibility for it and

trying to muddy up public perceptions of what happened there. And that

experience with MH-17 in Ukraine, in Russia`s propaganda and denials of

responsibility for that, that looms large right now at a time when the

evidence today seems to point to accidental Iranian antiaircraft fire

taking out this passenger plane in Tehran yesterday. And we`ve got the

Iranian government denying it.

 

But I will tell you, there`s also reasons to think this might end more

honestly or at least differently. It is a positive sign, a normalizing sign

that even as they are denying it, Iran almost instantly invited both Canada

and Sweden, whose citizens died in this crash, invited Canada and Sweden to

participate in the investigation of this crash.

 

CNN and “The New York Times” are both now reporting that Iran has also

asked the NTSB, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, which is a

gold standard or aviation investigators, they have also asked the NTSB to

be part of this investigation as well. The Trump administration will have

to pull some strings and pull some levers in order to make that possible

because of sanctions on Iran but the NSTB being invited to be part of this

investigation is positive.

 

As disgusting and terrible as this is in terms of the loss of life, this is

little kids, babies, students, like random – dentists and florists, people

absolutely innocent, 176 people killed here. As disgusting and terrible as

this is, as unimaginable as this body count is, I mean, when it comes to

what Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today about transparency

and accountability and justice, signs that there might be an actually

investigation of this thing for real is a good sign. That, for all of the

horror of this, is at least constructive. That`s at least real.

 

Joining us now is one of the reporters who broke the story today at

“Newsweek” magazine, James LaPorta, senior correspondent for “Newsweek”. I

should also mention, Mr. LaPorta is a marine, a veteran of the war in

Afghanistan, a member of the reporting team that broke this story today.

 

James, thank you for being with us here tonight. I appreciate you making

the time.

 

JAMES LAPORTA, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, NEWSWEEK: Thank you very much for

having me.

 

MADDOW: So, let me ask you if I got any of that wrong as you understand it,

or if events have overtaken what I just laid out there in terms of the

story.

 

LAPORTA: No, everything is accurate.

 

You know, what we`ve seen with the downing of this Ukrainian airline is how

war escalates. And usually it`s innocent people who die in war, who have

nothing to do with the war at all. And they usually are caught when the

shooting starts.

 

And so, that`s what we`re seeing. And I didn`t hear anything that was not

in line with reporting that we`ve heard over the last 24 hours.

 

MADDOW: In terms of this SA15 antiaircraft system that you described, you

noted in your report, which I didn`t otherwise know, that this is called a

gauntlet system in NATO terminology. How sophisticated a system is this?

How plausible is it that the Iranian forces who are operating this system

might reasonably have fired this in the honest belief that they were

deterring a military attack on the city of Tehran?

 

LAPORTA: Sure. So the weapons system itself, it`s got many names. It`s the

SA15, as you mentioned. It`s also called the gauntlet as a nickname. It`s

also known as the M1-Tor. So, it goes by several different names.

 

It was developed back in the 1970s. It has been developed into different

versions and different variants over the years. It has capabilities on it

to where what we call IFF which is identification friend or foe.

 

And so, Pentagon officials I was talking to today and sources we were

talking to in regards to the story, you know, there`s a couple of leading

theories. One is human error, which obviously, you know, is not out of the

realm of possibility, because, you know, when you`re launching strikes on

another nation, the first thing you`re going to expect is a counterstrike.

And so, it does seem to reason that that is one of the reasons why these

were rolled out, as you said.

 

So, one is human error. The other thing is possibly the IFF system on the

weapons system itself malfunctioned in some way. We just don`t know.

 

But, you know, accidentally sort of shooting down a civilian aircraft

carrier is not unprecedented. During the, you know, Iran/Iraq war, between

1980 and 1988, the United States actually accidentally shot down an Iranian

civilian aircraft, killed 290 people. They thought that it was an attacking

aircraft.

 

And so they accidentally shot it down. Actually that incident has been used

as Iranian propaganda for years. So, you know, as tensions rise and as war

goes on, it`s not uncommon to see these accidents occur and to see

civilians die.

 

MADDOW: “Newsweek” senior correspondent James LaPorta, congratulations to

you and your team for breaking this news today. Thanks for helping us

understand it tonight.

 

LAPORTA: Thank you.

 

MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW: OK, this is a big story, a literally large story. It takes up a lot

of space to tell it. I think I`ve figured out a way to do it.

 

So the Iowa caucuses are less than a month today, first contest in the

Democratic presidential primary. You`re not going to believe this on a lot

of different levels, but I want to show you a very specific snapshot of how

that`s going. This is data from NBC News. It`s NBC`s up to date tally as of

this week of what the candidates are spending on ads so far in the race now

that we`re less than a month out from Iowa, this is TV and radio ads.

 

Check it out. For scale, we`re going to start with President Trump. His

reelection campaign is trying to play ahead of the general election while

the Democrats are competing. Trump`s reelection campaign has spent close to

$6 million so far on ads on TV and radio.

 

By contrast, the national frontrunner in the Democratic race, former Vice

President Joe Biden, has not spent even half of that. He has spent under $3

million on ads so far.

 

That spending from Biden is roughly in line-ish with a few other Democrats

in the field. Senator Elizabeth Warren spending a little more than Biden.

Senator Amy Klobuchar spending a little bit less.

 

But even those three are pretty close together – Warren, Biden, and

Klobuchar. They`re also pretty comfortably ahead of Congresswoman Tulsi

Gabbard and Senator Michael Bennet who have spent a million dollars each on

TV ads thus far. We`re mapping candidates who spent a million dollars or

more on their ads thus far.

 

Now, in terms of the rest of the field, that`s when you start to need a

little more room, physical room to tell the story. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang

has spent more than Trump, more than double Biden, $6.6 million on ads so

far. It`s actually more than Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren combined.

 

If you zoom out even more you get to Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator

Bernie Sanders, who are practically off the charts, spending $10 million

apiece. Those numbers are huge, right? On the outer edges of the atmosphere

of presidential ad spending.

 

But this is not everyone spending money on presidential primary ads. This

is not the full picture. For the full picture, you actually have to change

the scale to fit everybody else on the board. Ready? Whoop! Bye, you guys.

 

The reason we have to make the bars so small is because in order to get an

accurate to scale picture of what Tom Steyer has spent, you have to shrink

everybody else down that much. Tom Steyer has spent an unfathomable $67

million on TV ads to boost his chances in the Democratic primary thus far.

All the other Democratic candidates have spent pennies by comparison.

 

I mean, interesting divisions between them, until you see how much more

Steyer has spent. Everybody else is little bar graph slivers compared to

him.

 

And that seems sort of unbelievable, right, the scale? It almost seems kind

of impossible to get your head around quantitatively. It might seem like

the most money any single human being has ever spent on TV ads at this

point in the presidential race, and it is. Until you factor in this. Ta-da!

 

Tom Steyer would have the record, but for former New York City Mayor

Michael Bloomberg, the other Democratic billionaire running for president

who has to this point spent $142 million on TV and radio ads already, more

than every single person running for president has spent on TV ads and

radio ads combined, and that is including the other billionaire. I mean,

Tom Steyer has outspent every other candidate combined except for

Bloomberg. And Bloomberg has more than doubled what Steyer has spent.

 

And so, sure, it is interesting to look at the action sort of down there,

at what some of the frontrunners are spending on this race and how it

relates to the Trump campaign. It`s interesting that the incumbent

president is already spending more than double what the national

frontrunner is spending on ads.

 

But those two peeks at the top of the mountain, I mean, that`s just

astounding, right? Mayor Bloomberg will never qualify for a debate in the

Democratic primary. He`s not taking donations for his campaign from anybody

not named Michael Bloomberg.

 

The DNC has said this year one of the things you have to do to qualify at

the debates is show that you can raise money from a certain number of

people. He won`t raise money from anybody other than himself so he`s not

going to be in any of the Democratic debates.

 

Tom Steyer is raising money into other people, he`s made it into some of

the debates. Just tonight, Steyer appears to have qualified for next week`s

Democratic debate on the strength of new polling from a couple of early

states. He did quite well, actually polling third in Nevada and second in

South Carolina? New Fox News polls out tonight.

 

Tomorrow is the deadline to make it into that debate, unless we get a

sudden avalanche of brand-new polls tomorrow, it seems pretty likely this

is going to be the Democratic lineup at the debate next week.

 

But that just brings us back to this bizarro world element to the

Democratic race right now. I mean, at least in terms of the metrics, right?

Only one of the two candidates blowing everybody out of the water in terms

of their spending is even going to be debating, right? The other huge

spender, Bloomberg, is not even trying to debate. And he`s not even going

to try to compete in the first four early states. He`s not even trying to

get on the ballot in Iowa or New Hampshire or South Carolina or Nevada.

 

And maybe the billionaires are each working a genius strategy and they`re

both going to be top contenders to get the nomination. Maybe, right? I

mean, weirder things have happened. I know Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg

are spending these astonishing amounts of money because they each think

they should be the nominee and they`re spending money hand over fist to

make it so.

 

But if during this process it becomes clear that neither of them is going

to win the nomination, here`s the question. Will they leave their money in

the race? I mean, if neither of those billionaires is going to personally

be the nominee, will they still keep their money in the race to try to beat

Trump and elect a Democratic nominee if it`s a nominee other than

themselves?

 

Because if you want to extrapolate from this astonishing snapshot at this

point in the race, if they keep their money – if they keep their money

here, I mean, that`s shaping up to be hundreds of millions of dollars,

certainly, in Bloomberg`s case it shapes up to be potentially billions of

dollars in anti-Trump, pro-Democratic ad spending alone, that`s if either

of them becomes the nominee. But conceivably it`s if their money stays in

regardless of whether or not they do as candidates.

 

What would that chart look like for the general election? We`re going to

need to move into a bigger studio.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): As members of this body, we have a

constitutional responsibility to authorize the use of force.

 

REP. SETH MOULTON (D-MA): I fought in a war started by a president with

false and trumped-up intelligence. We cannot let this president do the

same.

 

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Our concerns were not addressed by the

president`s insufficient war powers authorization.

 

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX): The American people have been unwillingly taken

to the brink of war at the direction of this administration.

 

REP. TOM MALINOWSKI (D-NJ): Passing it with protect us against going to war

with a tweet.

 

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD): This resolution is the law.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW: War Powers Act was passed overwhelmingly by the House and Senate in

1973. It overrode a veto from President Nixon. The act asserts congress`

right under the constitution to block presidents from launching military

action without congressional consent.

 

Well, today, the House of Representatives used that authority to pass a war

powers resolution limiting President Trump from engaging further military

action against Iran without explicit congressional approval. The vote was

224-194.

 

Now the Senate is set to take up a similar resolution, we think, by next

week.

 

Joining us now is Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy. He`s a member of the

Foreign Relations Committee.

 

Sir, thanks for making time for us tonight.

 

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Yes, thanks for having me.

 

MADDOW: So, obviously, this is contested constitutional ground. It has been

ever since Nixon vetoed the law back in 1973 and Congress overrode him and

it`s been contested constitutional ground every time Congress has tried to

invoke it since. How important is it for the House and potentially the

Senate to invoke that law, to invoke this constitutional authority and to

assert its right to make war and peace here without the president?

 

MURPHY: What is not contested is the basic premise behind the War Powers

Act, and that is that the constitution purposely vests the power to make

war in only one branch of government and that is the legislative branch.

And the reason is that when the consequences are so grave, when you`re

talking about perhaps thousands of Americans losing their lives and

enormous ripple consequences to American national security, you have to

have a full debate that involves the American public.

 

And given what has happened to our nation`s security just in the last seven

days, you can understand why the Founding Fathers didn`t want one person

making the decision about war. The president took a provocative act that

was likely not necessary, the execution of Qassem Soleimani, and in just

one week, what we have seen is absolutely extraordinary. The United States

is being thrown out of Iraq. ISIS will be gifted with the ability to bounce

back in that country. Iran has restarted its nuclear weapons program. The

people of Iran who were just protesting against their government two weeks

ago are now rallying around their radical leadership.

 

The consequences even to one major military action can be enormous. And

that`s what we`ve seen.

 

So I am hopeful that we will take this up. And whether or not it`s

ultimately successful in the Senate, simply making it clear to the American

public that this is not a power one person possesses, I think it`s an

important precedent.

 

MADDOW: We`ve seen some party line crossing in the House today. There were

some Democrats who voted against. There were some Republicans, including

some strong supporters of President Trump, who voted yes for this

resolution.

 

In the Senate, we expect some party line crossing as well. We at least

expect a couple of Republican senators to side with most Democrats on this.

 

Do you think that some Democrats will side against it? Is there Democratic

unanimity? Are you expecting a potential majority vote in favor of the War

Powers Resolution like this in the Senate if and when it does get to the

floor?

 

MURPHY: We have precedent for this, as you know. Senator Sanders and I

wrote a resolution last year that used the War Powers Act to command the

president to pull our forces out of the Yemen war. And in that case, a

number of Republicans, I think over half a dozen, joined us and we got

close to 60 votes, not enough to override the president`s veto but enough

to send a message that actually shook some of our Middle Eastern allies

into pulling their forces out of that conflict.

 

So I think we will see some Republicans. And I hope the Democrats won`t be

bullied into voting against this resolution. Republicans in the House

trotted out this tired argument that if you`re voting against a military

engagement overseas, then you are somehow unpatriotic or you`re voting

against the troops.

 

That`s absolute nonsense. It`s why we got ourselves into a war of choice in

2003 and Democrats should not be cowed or bullied by Republicans who make

those ridiculous arguments.

 

MADDOW: Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, sir, thanks for your time

tonight, I appreciate your being here.

 

MURPHY: Thanks.

 

MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW: “Washington Post” is out tonight with a scoop. You can see the

headline there. My god. Pop this one in the time capsule, why don`t you?

How is this little moment for – a moment for our times?

 

Justice Department winds down Clinton-related inquiry championed by Trump.

It found nothing of consequence. Oh, really? Tell me more.

 

Yes, this is where the whole lock her up campaign has ended up at the end

of it. Look at this. Quote: A Justice Department inquiry launched more than

two years ago to mollify conservatives clamoring for more investigations of

Hillary Clinton has effectively ended with no tangible results.

 

John Huber, the U.S. attorney in Utah, was tapped in November 2017 by then

Attorney General Jeff Sessions to look into concerns raised by President

Trump and his allies in Congress. But the FBI hadn`t fully pursued cases of

possible corruption at the Clinton Foundation and during her time as

secretary of state when the U.S. government decided not to block the sale

of a company called uranium one.

 

Attorney General Sessions sent a letter to U.S. Attorney John Huber telling

him to review a wide array of issues related to Clinton. They included the

Clinton Foundation and Uranium One matters, along with the FBI`s handling

of the investigation into Clinton`s use of a private email server when she

was secretary of state. Also alleged leaks by former FBI Director James

Comey.

 

At the time, the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, was facing persistent

private and public criticism from President Trump, who was upset over

Sessions` recusal from the Russia probe. Everybody is asking, says Trump,

why the Justice Department and FBI isn`t looking into all of the dishonesty

going on with crooked Hillary and the Democrats? That`s what the president

tweeted at the time.

 

In addition to the president, Attorney General William Barr has been among

the conservative voices in Washington who had suggested there was possible

criminal wrongdoing in the Uranium One matter especially.

 

So, Jeff Sessions getting all this pressure to have somebody look into it.

Now, doo wop, two years later, it turns out John Huber has done this work

as assigned. And what did he find?

 

Quote: Current and former officials say that Huber has largely finished his

work and found nothing worth pursuing. Quote: The effective conclusion of

his investigation, with no criminal charges or other known impacts, is

likely to roil some in the Republican Party who had hoped the prosecutor

would vindicate their long-held suspicions. You think?

 

That`s “Washington Post” reporters Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky with

the scoop tonight.

 

Lock her up.

 

Be right back.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW: Last night, just minutes before we got on the air, a watchdog group

called American Oversight announced they used the Freedom of Information

Act to pry loose more documents from the Trump administration on the

impeachment scandal. Now, based on their FOIA lawsuit, they were expecting

several documents about Rudy Giuliani`s conversations with the State

Department about Ukraine.

 

What they got were 42 pages that barely even mentioned Giuliani, which is a

little bit odd. When Giuliani spoke with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in

March, the documentation of that call almost reads like ticktack breakdown

of how it happened. There is an e-mail showing the State Department`s

correspondence with Giuliani`s assistant to set up the call, an e-mail

noting that Giuliani called the office to confirm the call, a calendar on

the day of the call showing the call, an email alerting everybody that the

call is happening, another showing that it ended.

 

So the lack of further documentation in terms of what they were expecting

at this point doesn`t make much sense in terms of what was happening at the

State Department. That said, American Oversight says they are expecting

more documents tomorrow from the State Department about the former U.S.

envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker. We`ll be watching for those and trying to

make sense of those as well.

 

Stay with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW: That is pretty much going to do it for us tonight. I just want to

leave you with one last thing about this historic vote tonight in the House

on the War Powers Resolution, limiting the president`s power to engage in

further military hostilities against Iran.

 

As I mentioned, this was not a party line vote. I mean, lots of things in

Congress, you can just assume they will be a party line vote. This was not.

There were eight Democrats from swing districts or conservative districts

who voted against this War Powers Resolution.

 

But there were also three Republicans who crossed the aisle to support it,

including some of the president`s most vociferous supporters in Congress,

including Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, who made sure to say that while

he supports the president in general and he believes the military strike to

kill Qassem Soleimani, Iranian government and military officials was the

right decision, he said he believes Congress should have a say in these

matters.

 

The issue of congressional War Powers is something that in my lifetime has

not been all that partisan of a thing. It`s a little bit of break in the

partisan straitjacket that we`re used to seeing on these things in

Washington tonight and this vote as well.

 

All right. That does it for us. We`re going to see you again tomorrow.

 

Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.

 

Good evening, Lawrence.

 

                                                                                                               

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