Susan Rice TRANSCRIPT: 6/29/20, The Rachel Maddow Show
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, “ALL IN”: Exactly. Right. That`s the bar for
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
(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
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
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
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
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
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?
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
(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.
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,
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
Ambassador Rice, it`s nice to see you. Thanks very much for making time to
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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.
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
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
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
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
ANDERSON: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
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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protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the