Susan Rice TRANSCRIPT: 6/29/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests:
Susan Rice, Jeramey Anderson
Transcript:

 

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, “ALL IN”:  Exactly. Right. That`s the bar for

everyone.

 

Dahlia Lithwick, it`s always so illuminating to talk you about the court,

even in the darkest of time. But today was not the darkest of days on the

court.

 

Thank you very much.

 

DAHLIA LITHWICK, SLATE.COM:  Thanks, Chris.

 

HAYES:  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.

 

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

this fine Monday evening.

 

It`s a super busy news day today. We`ve got a lot planned for this hour.

 

President Obama`s national security adviser Susan Rice is going to be

joining us here in just a moment.

 

We reported on Friday night on what was then “The New York Times” scoop

that U.S. intelligence briefed President Trump back in March that the

Russian government had started paying bounties. They had started paying

cash rewards to the Taliban and other fighters in Afghanistan, specifically

for killing American soldiers.

 

After that Friday night reporting from “The Times” was matched by “The Wall

Street Journal,” and then “The Washington Post” and then CNN and then NBC

and then the “A.P.”, after we started getting the further reporting about

not just the Russian government offering these bounties for American

soldiers` scalps, but actually paying those bounties out, after we started

getting reporting first from the “A.P.” about specific attacks and specific

deaths of American troops in Afghanistan, now being investigated as

potentially having been instigated by that Russian reward money.

 

We got – after we got that further reporting following “The New York

Times” Friday night scoop, we contacted Ambassador Susan Rice to see if she

could come on and talk about this tonight. Because, I mean, it`s one level

of bad to realize that Russia is doing this, right? That the U.S.

intelligence has concluded that Russia is paying cash money to people for

killing U.S. troops. That is very, very bad.

 

But it`s a whole another level of bad to know that the U.S. president has

known that Russia was doing that for four months. And during that time,

he`s chosen to do nothing about it. That is a whole other level of crisis.

 

In fact, during the time that the president has had this information, he`s

had at least a half dozen, apparently, super chummy phone calls with the

Russian president. After those phone calls, he has made a bunch of

unilateral offers to Russia, policy stuff that Russia might want, for free,

asking nothing in return. The president during this time has advocated that

Russia get back in the G-7, when other members of the G-7 said, no, over

our dead bodies, he canceled the G-7.

 

He also moved to take thousands of U.S. troops out of Germany, which is a

longtime Russian priority to get that many U.S. and NATO forces out of

Germany. That, apparently, he didn`t even talk to the Pentagon or the State

Department about in advance. The president just announced that he would be

granting that Russian wish in exchange for, again, nothing.

 

And he has done these things, he has had this half-dozen conversations with

Putin and made those unilateral offers to Russia to give them things they

want after he reportedly was briefed, after the White House had started

convening high-level meetings to discuss the fact that the Russian

president is paying cash, literally, cash, dollars for the murder of

Americans in Afghanistan.

 

So, Ambassador Susan Rice will be here to talk about that in just a moment.

I want to try to get an understanding from somebody who has operated at the

highest levels of American national security as to just how radical this

news is, and how bizarre it is, in terms of the president`s behavior.

 

Since this story started to come out into the open Friday night and into

this weekend, the president has basically been sort of swinging wildly in

response, with defenses ranging everywhere from, you know, Obama`s bad, to

“I didn`t get briefed” to maybe it`s not true to, “I`m just learning about

this now”.

 

But, you know, a half dozen major news organizations have now confirmed the

underlying intelligence assessment that Russia has been doing this in

Afghanistan. And the British government has confirmed it, too, because

apparently, their troops were targeted in the same way.

 

So, regardless of however the president is going to try to explain away the

fact that he has done nothing about this before now, there`s also the issue

now of what he`s going to do about it now. Now that he definitely knows and

all the rest of us do, too.

 

I mean, honestly, Vladimir Putin is paying for the murders of American

soldiers. Does the president of the United States consent to that?

 

Sure, Vlad! You know, pay bounties for the death of Americans. I`m the

president. I don`t mind. That`s cool. Is there anything else you might want

or need from me?

 

I`ve covered national security stuff for a long time, I wrote a book about

civil military relations, I`m fascinated by international politics of this

kind. I have never, ever, ever come across a story that has the

implications that this one has. Of all the things, the terrible things that

American presidents have done when it comes to national security to serve

their own interests instead, I mean, up to and including Nixon, arguably,

extending the war in Vietnam because he thought it would be better for his

election efforts.

 

I – I mean, up to and including that, the implications of the president`s

loyalties and what he has done here have never been more stark or serious

than this story about the president knowing about and ignoring the Russian

government paying for American deaths. It`s astonishing.

 

So, we`re going to have much more on this to come tonight, including Obama

national security adviser, Susan Rice, as I said, who you should know is

reportedly under consideration as a potential running mate for Democratic

presidential candidate Joe Biden.

 

Now, as for vice presidents and their work, let`s say you`re the vice

president right now. Let`s say you are at least nominally in charge of this

White House`s task force for responding to this catastrophe, say you are

Mike Pence and you`re at least nominally in charge of the federal

government`s catastrophic response to the coronavirus epidemic. If that

were your job right now, you would know that maybe one thing you should not

do right now is go to the state of Texas, on the day that stay announced

its 16th straight day of record hospitalizations for coronavirus.

 

Maybe you would know the one thing you might not do if you were supposed to

be helping things get better around coronavirus in this country is that you

would not go to that state at that time in order to do an indoor event with

3,000 people crammed inside where the entertainment was a huge choir of

mostly older people, more than a hundred of them, all singing their hearts

out, all singing their guts out, all singing at the top, middle, and bottom

of their lungs, for the whole, long duration of the service, without masks

on. That`s what Pence did this week.

 

I mean, that`s like treating everybody in that church to a fire hose of

viral shedding. Setting up an event like that, with 3,000 people inside and

the hundred plus-person choir all singing with the no masks and – I mean,

when Texas is where it`s at right now in terms of the virus right now, that

is messing with Texas. I mean, that is among the most irresponsible things

any leader could do, let alone one who`s supposed to be helming the

response to the coronavirus epidemic.

 

I just showed the daily case curve for Texas a moment ago, for how bad

things are in Texas and how quickly they`re getting worse. These are the

daily case curves right now for Arizona on the left and Florida on the

right. I`m putting those up after talking about Texas, because Arizona and

Florida are the next two places Vice President Pence is scheduled to visit

on his magic coronavirus for everyone tour.

 

He went to Texas this weekend, is supposed to go to Arizona tomorrow and

Florida later this week. Now, both the Arizona trip and the Florida trip

this week had initially planned to include another one of those events.

Another rally-type campaign/religious event like the one he just did in

Dallas, with all of those big open mouths singing their guts out, right?

 

Tonight, the vice president`s office has canceled the rally parts of his

upcoming visits to Arizona and Florida. So, he will still visit both of

these states this week. But he is not going to do this rally type thing

again, like he did this weekend in Texas. Small mercies.

 

Arizona`s governor tonight announced that that state will activate a crisis

standard of care statewide, which means among other things, non-emergency,

non-essential surgeries will be canceled statewide in Arizona to try to

preserve hospital capacity. Arizona`s governor also tonight just ordered

the shutdown of bars, nightclubs, gyms, movie theaters, water parks.

They`re all ordered shut down as of tonight.

 

Governor Doug Ducey had reopened the state of Arizona precipitously earlier

even than he had said he would. The state`s epidemic took off like a

rocket, and so now Arizona is having to re-close. Re-closing is also

happening now in Texas and in parts of California and in Florida, where

case numbers quintupled over the past two weeks.

 

These are all places now where previously open businesses and events are

being shut down again, because of the disastrous consequences of early

reopening.

 

But I think we should start keeping in mind the idea of re-closing. I mean,

we`ve all learned that predictions are folly at any point in this thing,

but even so, I think it`s sort of a safe bet that we are going to see more

reclosings in coming days. Again, we`re seeing them already. Parts of

California, Arizona, Florida, Texas, but we`re starting to look at similar

situations in multiple other states.

 

Tonight, for example, Oregon`s governor warned that cases there are

increasing so rapidly right now that the state of Oregon is in danger of

its hospitals being overwhelmed within the next month. In Los Angeles

County, county health officials there just gave what the “L.A. Times” is

headlining as a, quote, dire warning.

 

This is from the “L.A. Times” tonight. Quote, L.A. County`s health chief

says, quote, we are seeing an increase in transmission. We are seeing more

people get sick and go into the hospital. This is very much a change in the

trajectory of the epidemic over the past several days. It is a change for

the worse and a cause concern.

 

This is from the director of the COVID demand modeling unit for L.A.

County, who says if the rate of transmission in L.A. county stays where it

is right now, quote, we are at risk of running out of hospital beds within

the next two to three weeks. Again, that`s the biostatistician who runs the

modeling unit for L.A. County. He also chairs the emergency department at

Harvard UCLA Medical Center, so he knows what he`s talking about.

 

L.A. County, two to three weeks away from running out of hospital beds? I

mean, L.A. County is the most populous county in the entire country. As a

county, they just announced nearly 3,000 new infections in 24 hours. Just

for one county.

 

Health officials in L.A. are basically freaking out right now about how

badly things are getting so much worse.

 

So we`re going to take a closer look tonight at some of the places that are

ratcheting back down, that are re-closing tonight after having reopened too

early when the epidemic was too big and too uncontrolled.

 

We`re also keeping an eye tonight on the consequences on the abortion

rights decision at the Supreme Court today, where a 5-4 majority of the

court struck down a Louisiana law that would have closed down all but one

last abortion clinic in the whole state of Louisiana. One of the things

we`re watching in the wake of that ruling today, this hasn`t received a lot

of attention, but today, we`ve been watching the state of Missouri. If

you`re a longtime viewer of this show, you will know that the Republican

governor and the Republican-led state government in Missouri has been

trying for a very long time to close down what is already the last

remaining abortion clinic in the whole state of Missouri.

 

We`ve covered that effort by the Republican governor and Republican

government in Missouri to try to close down that clinic. We`ve covered that

pretty intensively over the past year or so.

 

But today, breakthrough. This afternoon, after the Supreme Court`s surprise

abortion rights ruling this morning, today, Missouri`s governor signaled

that he will abandon his long-standing, months-long efforts to shut down

Missouri`s one last clinic. So at least – that`s how it looks on the

surface right now, but we are watching that closely in Missouri, because

that has been a tricky, tricky situation where they have used all sorts of

different elements of state power to try to shut down that last clinic and

to make abortion illegal in that state.

 

But I also want to show you something that I`ve been thinking about all

day, something that was big enough to make some national news, at least,

when it happened. Specifically, it made page 14 in the flagship newspaper

of New York City, which is a thousand miles away from where this news event

happened back in 1988. This was February 2nd, 1988.

 

On that day, 14 black lawmakers, 14 African-American state legislatures

from the great state of Alabama, were arrested at the great – at the

Alabama state capital. They were arrested for trespassing.

 

Those black lawmakers were arrested when they demonstrated at the state

capital to try to get the state of Alabama to remove the Confederate battle

flag that was still flying up there on top of the Alabama state capitol

more than a century after the end of the civil war. While those black

Alabama lawmakers were making the case to take down that flag and showing

they were willing to get arrested in the effort, “The Times” reported back

in 1988 that across the street from where those black lawmakers were

protesting, several hundred supporters of the Confederate flag gathered to

sing “Dixie,” to counterprotest, while the black lawmakers got arrested.

 

And again, this was a long way back. I am hold, I am 47 and showing every

day of it, I know. But this thing I`m talking about here in Alabama, it

happened just before I turned 15. I mean, it was for me, almost literally a

lifetime ago.

 

But I`m thinking about it today, because over the course – over the course

of my life, over all of the years of my life, and over all the intervening

years since those black Alabama state legislatures all got arrested, got

handcuffed and hauled off from the state capitol, over all of the years of

my life, Americans all across the South have repeatedly and creatively and

persistently worked to try to get Confederate symbols off the tops of state

capitols and off the face of state flags.

 

Look at this footage here. In the middle there, behind this burning Georgia

state flag, is a woman named Stacey Abrams. Years later, she would go on to

become the leader of the Democratic Party in the Georgia state legislature.

She would then become a candidate for Georgia governor. She`s now a

nationally recognized voting rights leader.

 

But at the time this image was taken, the Georgia state flag had been more

or less consumed by the battle flag of the Confederacy. And it took a

decade of work and organizing and demonstrations and arguments and even

very dramatic moments like this, everything you can think of, but Stacey

Abrams and the activists of Georgia and the NAACP managed to put enough

pressure on Georgia officials that they did change that flag.

 

And it was a herky-jerky effort. For the first couple of years, Georgia

sort of tried out a flag that was unusual enough to warrant a caption. Look

at that. You can see there, they basically pieced together a whole bunch of

different flags that had all flown over Georgia at one time or another,

made it into like a view master strip, including the flag that was

dominated by the confederate symbol that had given rise to all of these

efforts to take down and change that flag in the first place.

 

Georgia tried this, right? They put that collection of old flags at the

bottom of the new Georgia flag, along with a caption, right? Georgia`s

history. It works as a film strip. It was not really going to work as a

flag. They tried that for a couple of years.

 

But then soon enough, in 2003, the people of Georgia decided they would

like to be done with that Fisher Price flag and lawmakers voted in this new

flag, without the confederate symbol at all. And voters in the state of

Georgia approved it three-to-one.

 

Georgia was ready. Georgia changed. Georgia changed their flag – after all

of that activism, after all of that drama, after all of that organizing.

 

And we, of course, now live in a time when lots of Confederate monuments

and symbols are coming down. The fight to do that has been an active part

of our politics for decades. And it took on new life after the racially

motivated murders of nine African-American churchgoers five years ago at

Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina. And in the immediate

aftermath of that massacre in that church, South Carolina lawmakers voted

to take down the confederate flag that had been flying on statehouse

grounds.

 

They had already removed the stars and bars from flying over the capitol

dome, but they then took it off of the capitol grounds, too. Now it would

be gone for good.

 

Likewise in Alabama, where those black lawmakers had been arrested

protesting on capitol grounds. After the Charleston massacre, in Alabama,

by then the Confederate flag was gone from the capitol dome, but it was

still flying on Confederate monuments, on capitol grounds, but after the

Charleston massacre in Alabama, they took down the Confederate flag on the

capitol grounds, too.

 

One by one, the flags and the monuments to the Confederacy have come down,

but there was one place where the confederate flag very stubbornly

remained. And that was Mississippi. The heart of the old Confederacy,

raising the Confederate battle symbol to the heavens. Day after day, year

after year, everywhere the state flag flew.

 

The man you see here is named Aaron Henry. He was the president of the

NAACP in Mississippi. Aaron Henry was part of a national civil rights

movement. He worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

By 1982, he had won a seat in the Mississippi state legislature, in the

legislature, he worked insistently on trying to change the state flag.

Aaron Henry introduced a bill to change the flag in 1988. That never got a

vote. Neither did the bills he tried in 1990 or 1992 or 1993. They wouldn`t

even hear him.

 

Not long before he died, Representative Aaron Henry talked about that

struggle.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

AARON HENRY, CIVL RIGHTS LEADER, FORMER NAACP MISSISSIPPI PRESIDENT:  You

see, we have the – the residue of the Confederate flag in the coffin

corner of our state flag. And that Confederate flag is the banner under

which white males marched under to keep my grandma and my grandpa in

slavery.

 

I will keep on trying to get that residue out of the state flag, as long as

I can have a voice in trying to do it. I just think it`s absurd. It`s –

anybody who reads the history of the Confederate flag know why it`s there,

know how it came about.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  Aaron Henry died in 1997. The Confederacy outlived his best

efforts to remove its symbol from the flag of the state that he called

home.

 

A few years after Mr. Henry`s death in 2001, Mississippi held a statewide

referendum. The state at that time was feeling some of that repeated

pressure that had resulted in the flag change in Georgia, for example. But

in Mississippi when the results from that referendum came back, the results

were that Mississippi voters wanted to keep the flag, 2-to-1, leave it like

it is.

 

And the Confederate flag stayed that way, hitching a ride on a modern-day

state flag all of these years. It stayed up there after Georgia changed its

flag, after South Carolina took it down from the capitol. After Alabama

took it down from the capitol, Mississippi would not change. Mississippi

would not change. Mississippi would not change.

 

Until it did. It just did. It happened. Following the police killing of

George Floyd, where people turned out all across America, people also

turned out all across Mississippi in little towns and big towns, they

turned out by the thousands in the state capitol in Jackson.

 

And they were calling for the same kinds of changes that protesters wanted

all around the country. But in Mississippi, people wanted something more

very specific to their state, they wanted that flag gone. Finally, once and

for all.

 

And they found this time that they had support. The SEC said there

shouldn`t be any post-season play in Mississippi until the flag changed.

The NAACP followed suit. The Southern Baptist Convention said the flag

should come down. Walmart said it would no longer fly the state flag with

that emblem on it.

 

And the polling flipped. Eighteen months ago, 54 percent of Mississippi

voters said the flag should stay – 54 percent, 18 months ago.

 

This month, 55 percent said change it. Change it now. A direct flip.

 

Well, over the weekend, the Republican-controlled Mississippi legislature

listened. They extended legislative session to vote on changing the flag,

as they went through the process, support for changing the flag grew. It

grew in the House, it grew in the Senate, and it passed with a veto-proof

majority.

 

Mississippi free press calls it a glorious day for Mississippi. And you

could hear that assessment from the crowd in the gallery at the capitol

when they took the vote. Minutes after the final vote, they lowered the old

Mississippi state flag while they waited for a new design.

 

At the site of the flag coming down, the wife of the late Medgar Evers, a

great colleague of Aaron Henry`s, and, of course, a civil rights martyr,

Myrlie Ever Williams said, quote, I can`t believe that I`m so emotional.

Medgar`s wings must be clapping.

 

So, you know, you can see what happened in Mississippi as either

astonishing and amazing after all of this time, or as totally predictable,

of course, because of all of this time, right? This is a big change in the

place that seemed absolutely hardest to change, even when other places that

were hard to change were willing to go there, Mississippi wouldn`t.

 

But then they flipped the polling in less than two years. All of that work

over all of those years and decades. All of that effort, the lawsuits, the

marches, the people who got arrested, the people who brought bills to the

floor of the legislature and were told, no, we`re not going to hear it let

alone vote on it. And they brought it back year after year after year, give

up, forget it.

 

This will not change. We`ll never change this. It didn`t change for all of

those years until finally yesterday, it did.

 

We are living in a time that feels very grim. I know it can feel hopeless,

but if that big a change turns out was ready to happen in Mississippi, what

else could change right now? What else is possible?

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  If you`ve been wondering whether this burgeoning scandal over

Russia paying bounties to the Taliban to kill American troops in

Afghanistan, President Trump reportedly being briefed on that and taking no

action at all against Russia for doing this, if you`re wondering whether

this still-emerging scandal might have any political impact in this

election year – well, here`s one way to try to game that out. Watch.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD/THE LINCOLN PROJECT)

 

AD ANNOUNCER:  In the last year, flag-draped coffins have returned from

Afghanistan. Now we know Vladimir Putin pays a bounty for the murder of

American soldiers. Donald Trump knows, too, and does nothing.

 

Putin pays the Taliban cash to slaughter our men and women in uniform. And

Trump is silent. Weak, controlled.

 

Instead of condemnation, he insists Russia be treated as our equal. Instead

of retaliation, he invites Putin to America. When Trump tells you he stands

by the troops, he`s right. Just not our troops.

 

The Lincoln Project is responsible for the content of this advertising.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  That ad – that ad is from the Lincoln Project, which is a group

of anti-Trump Republicans, big-name Republicans working to defeat President

Trump in November.

 

And if you think that ad is maybe a little over the top, you think that`s

like edgy in terms of how tough it`s being on President Trump, wait until

you see this one from the veterans organization, Vote Vets.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, POLITICAL AD/VOTE VETS)

 

AD ANNOUNCER:  He shakes his hand, an American dies. They pal around,

another roadside attack. Putin pays bounties to Taliban enemies, to kill

American soldiers and not a word from Donald Trump.

 

Intelligence reports on his desk. He says nothing to his Russian master.

Takes no action to protect us.

 

Who is the enemy?

 

If you`re going to act like a traitor, you don`t get to thank us for our

service.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW:  That ad is from Vote Vets. A veterans group that has hundreds of

thousands of members calling the president of the United States a traitor.

 

That`s where we are in terms of the political ramifications of this, after

just one weekend of this story that is still playing out and still growing.

So, we`ll see what happens in terms of the political ramifications here and

as – as more members of Congress and senators get access to the underlying

intelligence about Russia`s behavior that gave rise to all of this

reporting that has created this scandal.

 

But there`s also now the question of what should happen here? If this were

a normal government with a normal president, what would you expect to

happen after this intelligence comes up the chain? Why would Russia be

doing this? What ought to be happening in the White House right now? What

could conceivably explain the way the president has behaved instead?

 

President Obama`s national security adviser Susan Rice joins us live here

next for the interview. Stay with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  It showed up first in “The New York Times” late on Friday night.

Russia secretly offered Afghan militants bounties to kill U.S. troops,

intelligence says.

 

Then within a few hours, “The Wall Street Journal” confirmed the same

story, followed by CNN and NBC News. There was a “New York Times” follow-up

with additional information.

 

There was also a follow-up in “The Washington Post” just yesterday. Quote,

Russian bounties to Taliban-linked militants resulted in deaths of U.S.

troops, according to intelligence assessments.

 

That`s “The Post” reporting that Russia`s plot was apparently successful.

Americans did die because of this – while the president did nothing about

it. While he ignored the menu of responses prepared for him by his advisers

and decided instead that he would just do nothing. He would just let Russia

go ahead and do it.

 

What on earth are we supposed to do with news this dire, right? With news

that has these worst-case scenarios implications about the president.

 

Joining us now for the interview is Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the

United Nations and national security advisor in the Obama administration.

She`s the author most recently of “Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth

Fighting For”.

 

Ambassador Rice, it`s nice to see you. Thanks very much for making time to

be here.

 

SUSAN RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADSIVOR IN THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION:  Good to

be back with you, Rachel.

 

MADDOW:  First, let me just ask you, your take on the reporting here,

right? Russian military intelligence paid bounties to Taliban fighters to

kill American soldiers in Afghanistan. “Washington Post” saying that

intelligence assessments concluded that those bounties did result – they

were paid. They did result in the deaths of multiple American service

members.

 

I mean, does this – after – with all of your experience in national

security, does this seem plausible to you?

 

RICE:  It seems plausible, Rachel. It`s mind-blowing that it`s come to

this. It`s a major escalation of Russian aggression against the United

States.

 

And what`s most extraordinary, as you laid out very ably in your

introduction, is that the president of the United States presumably has had

access to this information for months and has done absolutely nothing about

it.

 

And, Rachel, even if you were to believe the White House, which honestly, I

don`t, that he wasn`t informed, and we can come back to that, because that,

trust me, is national security adviser makes no sense to me.

 

But even if he weren`t informed, then why hasn`t he, in the days since he

allegedly learned about this, expressed his concern, his condemnation of

any Russian attempts to kill American military personnel? Why hasn`t he

ordered his staff to bring him options for action? Why is he not acting

like a normal American president in expressing solidarity with our troops

and determination to punish our arch adversary for these types of

behaviors?

 

MADDOW:  Why do you say that it makes no sense to you that he wouldn`t have

been informed? The president`s denials on this, I should say, have been

sort of all over the map. I think the way – where he`s landed as of right

now is that he only heard about this yesterday or something, even though,

you know, we all at least read it in “The New York Times” on Friday.

 

But the intelligence – the reporting from a half dozen major news sources

all citing major sources is that the intelligence has been kicking around

for months and that it has resulted in high-level meetings being convened

on the National Security Council and the White House to talk about these

things. If that – if that reporting is solid, and it seems quite solid,

why does it make no sense that the president himself never would have heard

about it?

 

RICE:  OK. So, let me explain this. Intelligence comes in. If it`s put in

the president`s daily briefing, which is a short but important summary of

the most important information, it`s provided to the president, the vice

president, the national security adviser, secretary of state, secretary of

defense, on down – everybody in the senior national security team gets

this briefing six out of seven days a week.

 

So, even if the president doesn`t read his PDB, as it`s known, which

apparently he doesn`t often do, then surely someone around him would come

in with this information and make sure that he was aware.

 

If I had been national security adviser and we received this kind of report

of an arch adversary trying to kill U.S. forces, the first thing I would do

is walk into the Oval Office and say, Mr. President, we have extremely

troubling information that the Russians are trying to slaughter American

forces by paying bounties to the Taliban. I will work with the intelligence

community to chase this down and try to ensure that our information is

solid. I will convene the National Security Council principals to work up

options for you to respond. But please understand how serious this is.

 

And then, Rachel, if down the road, he decides he wants to call Vladimir

Putin at least six times over the next few weeks, which apparently he did,

and invite him to the G-7 over the objections of all of our allies, I would

have gone right back in there and said, Mr. President, what are you doing?

We warned you that we believe that Russia is up to this effort to kill

Americans and still you`re going through these ridiculous efforts to hand

Putin an olive branch. Please stop and please be prepared not to reach out,

but to punish, if necessary.

 

You know, the job of the national security adviser, not to mention the

director of national intelligence, secretary of defense, any number of

other officials, is to tell the president the hard truths that he may not

want to hear and produce a plan to address them. That`s the job.

 

If those people are not doing it, then they all should be run out of the

White House and the rest of the agencies. And if they did do it, which is

what I believe is more likely the case, then again, we have evidence of a

president utterly unwilling to stand up for American interests and rather

serving Vladimir Putin`s interests.

 

MADDOW:  Let me ask a question that I admit to knowing at the outset is a

little bit naive. But I`m trying to think about being Mark Esper today or

being the director of national intelligence now, Mr. Ratcliffe, being

somebody in a position of significant authority in terms of the powers of

the U.S. government, who is in the loop on this, because this intelligence

was briefed.

 

Whatever is going on with the president in the Oval Office, we know that it

was briefed up the chain to the point where it was, you know, the subject

of National Security Council meetings, the subject of high-level meetings

in the White House. And so, those people had to know.

 

If you`re Mark Esper right now, and you`re the head of the Defense

Department and you`re responsible for force protection efforts in theater,

in places like Afghanistan, and you find out that this has happened, do you

necessarily have to wait for instruction from the president to act on this

information? Is it possible that our government has done some of the right

things that should have happened in response to information this scary,

even if the president himself were either unavailable for comment or

otherwise compromised in some way and not doing the right thing?

 

RICE:  Well, Rachel, certainly, the secretary of defense should have

immediately taken all possible precautions to enhance the forced protection

of our personnel in Afghanistan, and to harden us against any such

potential Taliban attacks sponsored by Russia.

 

But in order for us to act against Russia in retaliation, or in response,

whether those responses turn out to be on the low end diplomatic or maybe

economic in the middle end or military ultimately, whether they are overt

or covert, that has to be decided by the president of the United States.

 

So there are limits to the authority of a secretary of state or defense to

initiate an action against a foreign government without the approval of the

president.

 

MADDOW:  This is – I have to say, we have covered a lot of sort of

flabbergasting things over the course of the Donald Trump candidacy and

presidency. I honestly, just as a human being, don`t know how to process

the implications of the president`s behavior here. Like, I find myself kind

of reading White House statements, reading quotes from the president,

hoping that they`re true. That he was somehow, inexplicably out of the loop

or didn`t understand it or it was somebody else`s fault.

 

I mean, I – I don`t know how to put in context the idea that the president

would know about an adversary paying money for the scalps of American

troops in theater and decide that it was okay with him, that there was –

no reason for any American rebuke and that adversary should be rewarded. I

just don`t – I don`t know if you can help, but I don`t – I don`t know

what to do with this information. I don`t know how to sleep with this in my

head.

 

RICE:  It`s very hard to digest.

 

Either President Trump acted in a fashion that is profoundly disloyal to

the United States of America and our men and women in uniform, or he has

abdicated his responsibility as commander-in-chief and is presiding over

the most dysfunctional and ineffective national security apparatus in

American history that leaves American troops vulnerable to Russian attack.

 

Because any way you slice it, the message that Putin has had to receive

from all of this is that he can go after Americans in Afghanistan or

anywhere else on the – on the planet with utter impunity.

 

So this is, Rachel, one of those jaw-dropping moments, as many as we`ve had

in the course of this administration, that calls into question not just the

competence, but the loyalty of this president.

 

MADDOW:  I have one last question for you that I know you`re not going to

answer. Your name has been talked about as a serious contender for the

running mate spot, vice presidential spot on the ticket with Joe Biden. Are

you in talks with the Biden campaign and would you tell me if you were?

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

RICE:  Rachel, you`re right, I`m not going to go there precisely.

 

Here`s what I`ll say. I – to the extent that it is reported that I am

under consideration in a serious way for the vice president slot, let me

just say that I`m extremely humbled and honored to be talked about in the

context of so many extraordinary women.

 

And all I care about is getting Joe Biden elected president of the United

States so that we again have competent, compassionate, loyal, effective

leadership in the White House, and flipping the Senate so that the

Democrats control the Senate so we can pursue an agenda of healing for this

country, one that tries to address the extraordinary racial and

socioeconomic disparities that have, you know, been plain for all to see

and that can restore our global leadership.

 

And I will do everything I can, whether it`s the modern-day equivalent of

licking envelopes or raising money to serve in a capacity that he thinks is

appropriate. I`ll do anything I can to affect this change for our nation,

because I don`t think there`s any higher imperative.

 

MADDOW:  Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and national

security adviser under President Obama, the author most recently of “Tough

Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For” – Ambassador Rice, it is

great to see you. Thanks for making time to be here tonight.

 

RICE:  Thanks for having me, Rachel.

 

MADDOW:  All right. Much more ahead tonight this Monday night.

 

Stay with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  In one sense, the decision in the great state of Mississippi this

weekend to finally bring down the state flag with the Confederate emblem on

it, in one sense that decision felt sudden and surprising, but in another

sense, it was, of course, the hard result of decades of work.

 

One state lawmaker put it like this this weekend. He said, quote: I thank

my colleagues, constituents and the activists who fought so hard to bring

about this historic moment. I thank those who came before us who with

courage and resolve nurtured the civil rights movement that helped bring us

to this day. What a beautiful moment of unity, he said.

 

Joining us now live is that Mississippi lawmaker. His name is Jeramey

Anderson. He`s a Democratic member of the Mississippi statehouse.

 

Representative Anderson, I really appreciate you making time to be here.

Thank you so much.

 

STATE REP. JERAMEY ANDERSON (D), MISSISSIPPI:  Thank you, Rachel.

 

MADDOW:  So I have been talking tonight a little bit about how this seems

sudden but also this took so long. There`s been a decades-long push to try

to make this happen in Mississippi.

 

Why do you think Mississippi was the last hold-out, even as we saw other

states remove confederate flags from their capitals? Why did Mississippi

end up being last here?

 

ANDERSON:  Absolutely, Rachel. And that`s a great question.

 

You know, Mississippi tends to lag behind the rest of the nation in several

things. This, unfortunately, is like those many things. One thing that, you

know, I have constantly heard is about protecting heritage and protecting

history. As I`m sure you have also heard, bringing down the flag is about

unifying the great state of Mississippi, everybody in the state of

Mississippi.

 

And it`s not to erase history or eradicate history. It is simply what I

deem actually is an opportunity to learn from history and to not repeat the

past. So, bringing down the flag in a sense to me pushing us in a more

promising direction of hope, and that`s exactly what this past weekend was

all about.

 

MADDOW:  How do you think that it did come together? Obviously there has

been so much activism and so many efforts to do this, including from

members of the chamber where you sit right now. What was it that made this

the right moment?

 

ANDERSON:  Yeah, absolutely. And, so, you know, we get the – we get the

credit here in the legislature for pushing the button. But as you

mentioned, there were hundreds of thousands of people who went into this

very weekend that we call this historic weekend where the legislature voted

overwhelmingly to bring down the Mississippi state flag.

 

So we had young activists marching down the streets of the capital city in

protests around the state to bring down our state flag. We had businesses

calling for the flag to come down. And then, you know, I also like to give

credit to those folks who came before us. In the introduction you talked

about Representative Henry. That`s exactly the type of credit we need to

give to those folks who marched long before us, who sat in these seats long

before us, because they led us to this very historic moment that we find

ourselves in today.

 

MADDOW:  You said this weekend that taking that Confederate emblem off the

state flag is now an opportunity that shouldn`t be squandered by the state.

Part of the reason why I wanted to talk to you tonight is I wanted to ask

you what opportunity you see – you see here in terms of where the state

goes next and what to do with this moment.

 

ANDERSON:  Let`s not make any misunderstanding that our work is done. It`s

not by a long shot. Mississippi, we still see many of our constituents and

black and brown communities with the lack of health care where we have

failed to expand Medicaid here in the state of Mississippi. So that`s an

issue we need to continue to push to bring to the forefront of our

conversations, where we have – we don`t have equitable education in black

and brown communities where our incarceration rate is one of the highest in

the nation when it comes to black and brown citizens, voter suppression,

the lack thereof of opportunity for upper mobility in our communities.

 

So when I say we take this opportunity as a time to really grow as a state,

what I mean by that is very simple. It`s that we don`t squander the

opportunity by sitting and thinking that we have done our part.

 

As a community, as a black and brown community, nor as a state as a whole,

we have so much more to do if we really want to talk about unifying the

state of Mississippi. And we have the perfect opportunity. This is just a

first step towards reuniting and moving the state of Mississippi into the

future.

 

MADDOW:  Mississippi State Representative Jeramey Anderson, I really

appreciate you taking time here. I know this has been a long haul and this

weekend was a lot of drama, a lot of emotion. Thanks for helping us

understand it.

 

ANDERSON:  Thank you, Rachel.

 

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

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW:  Thanks for being with us this Monday night. I will see you again

this time tomorrow.

 

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

 

Good evening, Lawrence.

 

                                                                                                               

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