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Transcript: The Brooklyn Boys

The full episode transcript for Rachel Maddow Presents: Ultra | Episode 2: The Brooklyn Boys


Rachel Maddow Presents: Ultra

Episode 2: The Brooklyn Boys

The most prominent media figure in America calls for the creation of a militia, armed Americans willing to use violence to get their way. What they want is to overthrow the U.S. government and to end democracy in this country – by force. Their plot raised alarming indications that the federal government is not up to the task of dealing with that kind of homegrown threat.


Rachel Maddow: It started with a photo. A photo of guns on the front page of an old newspaper clipping from the year 1940. That’s where it started. But things really got cooking with the kind of phone call that makes your stomach flip over.

Charles Gallagher: I got a phone call from the declassification unit. It's always a little bit chilling to show up to your apartment and have a voicemail from the FBI on the other end of the line.

Maddow: That’s Charles Gallagher. Back when he was a sophomore in college, years before he got that stomach-flipping call from the FBI, he was struggling with a research paper that was coming due for a class he was taking on national security.

He didn't have a topic for his paper. He couldn’t figure out what he wanted to write about. So he just started flipping through old newspapers, looking for inspiration. And what he found, it just leapt off the page for him.

Gallagher: One of the front pages in January of 1940 was of young men carrying, what seemed to me, to be huge rifles, and it indicated that they tried to overthrow the government of the United States. And when I looked more closely at the headline, it said that they were followers of a Catholic priest from Detroit.

Maddow: A group of armed, American men led by a Catholic Priest with a plot to overthrow the government of the United States, forgotten about and filed away in a stack of old newspapers.

To a young, undergraduate, Charles Gallagher, this sounded serious. I mean, it sounded weird, but it seemed like maybe a serious threat to the country. Until he read past the headline.

Gallagher: And as I kept reading about the case, it seemed that the journalists at the time downplayed it. Particularly magazine journalists, in writing stories about it, seemed to disregard these folks as being, kind of crackpots, was the main term used. Just kind of crazies who really didn't have any real intent towards either lethality, or toward any kind of systematic overthrow of the U.S. government. As one journalist, put it a, a playful plot.

Maddow: A playful plot. Those young men in the photo, accused of trying to violently overthrow the U.S. government, they were all holding these big rifles in that front page newspaper photo. And it was those guns that were what caught Gallagher’s attention in the first place.

Because more-so than your average college sophomore, Charles Gallagher knew what he was looking at in that photo. While he was going to college at the time, he was also a working police officer.

Gallagher: I was being trained on semi-automatic weaponry. I was being trained on the use of single-pump shotgun. I knew what they were holding. Like, I knew that the .30-06 shell is about a three-inch-long bullet, full metal jacket. And one of those bullets can go through a brick wall. These folks were armed for war.

Maddow: Charles Gallagher showed his professor what he’d found. His professor told him that this story was not worth his time.

Gallagher: He thought it wasn't worth writing about because he said nothing happened, no bombs went off. And so, consequently, they had minimal impact on history.

Maddow: Charles Gallagher disagreed with his professor on that. But he moved on. He graduated from college. He left the police department. He got a master’s degree. He eventually got a PhD. These days, Charles Gallagher is a history professor at Boston College.

Charles Gallagher also became Father Charles Gallagher. In his mid-30s, he became a Jesuit priest. But all that time— through his studies, and his career changes, and his travels, and taking the vows of the priesthood— that photo of those men who plotted to overthrow the government, the guys with the rifles in that photo, it just nagged at him.

Gallagher: I always had them in the back of my mind because my big question was what motivates religious people to take up arms. Against kind of, you know, against a lot of dissuasion, I just kind of kept digging.

Maddow: In 2010, Charles Gallagher set out to figure out, once and for all, what those guys with guns on the front pages of the newspaper had been up to, and how big of a threat they really did pose. He decided to request the FBI file on the case.

Now, you’re never exactly sure what to expect when you request an FBI file, but you do expect something. In this case he was told there was nothing.

Gallagher: I was told by the National Archives that the FBI file did not exist. I told them that there was a case that was adjudicated through the spring and summer of 1940 and that it was one of the largest cases. It was on the front pages of all the newspapers on the east and west coast during that period. It was a well known case and there had to be an FBI file. The national archives insisted there was not a file.

Maddow: Those guys with the guns were pictured in the newspaper in January 1940 because something had happened. They had been arrested. They were getting put on trial in federal court. It really had been front-page news across the country. How could there not be an FBI file?

Charles Gallagher wasn’t buying it.

Gallagher: So I got on a website called Reddit. Someone on Reddit had, input a case number from what they said was the case from 1940. And it, frankly, it looked like what an FBI case number ordinarily would look like. So, I copied it down. I went back to Washington, went to the National Archives, and they went through their database with that case number and, miraculously, they actually found it.

Maddow: They found the file. It did exist. And it was at this point in Gallagher’s pursuit to pry-loose that file, that he got the call from the FBI.

Gallagher: So I called them back and then we had to negotiate three times to get the file released because they told me it was the third-largest case file in their inventory.

Maddow: The file was, in fact, just massive. It was more than 2500 pages long. That’s as big as the FBI file on the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. And what was in all those pages, it confirmed Gallagher’s suspicions that those men with guns, they weren't kidding around. This was not a playful plot.

That F-B-I file Charles Gallagher got declassified, it described in vivid, granular detail: the types of military-grade weapons these guys stockpiled, the bombs these guys had made, their detailed planning to mount an armed assault to overthrow the U.S. government, and also, just how close these guys came to pulling it off.

This is Rachel Maddow Presents: Ultra.


Father Charles E. Coughlin: We will fight you shoulder to shoulder and cheek to jowl!

Gallagher: If you look at how they were constructing the bombs and what they were using to construct the bombs, what they were planning was quite lethal in nature.

Coughlin: Rest assured, we’ll fight you! And we’ll win!

Gallagher: I seem to think that we came kind of like a hair’s breadth away from the triggers being pulled and the buttons being pushed on those bombs.


Maddow: Episode 2: The Brooklyn Boys.

It was 1940 when Senator Ernest Lundeen died in a mysterious plane crash, with two FBI employees and a Justice Department prosecutor on board that plane with him. In the wake of the crash, there were these explosive reports that the senator had been engaged in a scheme with an agent of the Hitler government to distribute Nazi propaganda in the United States, through congress and the U.S. Senate.

A speech written for him by a Nazi agent was found by the FBI along with the senator’s remains in the field where his plane went down outside D.C. The Justice Department would soon reveal in court, that the Nazi propaganda scheme the Senator was involved in was the subject of a big, ongoing, indeed widening, federal criminal investigation.

The Justice Department had a tiger by the tail with that investigation. Powerful elected officials in Washington helping the Hitler government operate inside the United States, targeting the American people with this information, taking money to do it. This was really something.

But the exact nature of the threat, just how dangerous the situation was for the United States, and how well equipped the government was to contend with the threat, that had started coming into sharper focus before Lundeen’s plane crash.

It had started coming into focus for the FBI and the Justice Department over the whole course of the year 1940, in the months leading up to Senator Lundeen’s death. And particularly, thanks to those young men on the cover of that newspaper holding .30-06 rifles.

It was January 1940 when newspapers all across the country ran that photo of those young men with those guns. And as strange as it was that the Ernest Lundeen scandal broke into the open because of a plane crash in Virginia, this one started somewhere even more unexpected.


Radio Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, once more it is my privilege to present to you Father Charles E. Coughlin from the Shrine of the Little Flower at Royal Oak, Michigan.

Maddow: It’s the late 1930s. And what you’re listening to is the most popular radio show in the entire country– by a mile.

Radio Announcer: The Little Flower choristers with Mr. Cyril Guthrill at the organ before me will sing for you the advent hymn, “Come O Come Emmanuel.” Immediately following, Father Coughlin will come to the microphone.


Maddow: Father Charles E. Coughlin. A Catholic priest, a radio preacher based out of Royal Oak, Michigan at the Shrine of the Little Flower.

In the late 1930s, Father Coughlin commanded a radio audience as eye-popping today as it was back then. Coughlin had tens of millions of Americans listening to him at the height of his popularity— and this is at a time when there were fewer than 130 million people in the whole country. And he had tens of millions of people in his weekly audience. He had the largest radio audience in the world.

Coughlin: Several years ago, it was customary to say that America was at the crossroads. Today, we’re not at the crossroads! To my mind, we’ve gone beyond that point.

Maddow: Father Coughlin's broadcasts were part theology— they had a church service element to them, with organ music and lots of references to scripture— but the religiosity in his broadcasts was also mixed with politics; with increasingly strident politics.

Coughlin: Show me a man whose policies completely ostracize God from our public institutions and I will show you a person who indirectly is working hand in glove with the Bela Kuns, the Trotskys, the Stalins, and the Lenins.

Maddow: As Coughlin grew in popularity and his views turned more and more hardline over time, he could increasingly be counted on to share with his gigantic radio audience some new bit of information that he had just discovered about the threat to America from, more often than not, Jews.

Gallagher: The grievance claims that he manufactures are gonna be blamed more and more on Jews. He was blasting Jewish bankers, told his audiences that both Marx and Lenin were Jews, and that Jews created communism.

Coughlin: This official paper prints the names of the Jewish bankers who helped to finance the Russian Revolution and Communism. Perhaps these financial overtures were made in innocence. Perhaps not.

Maddow: Today, Father Coughlin sometimes gets referenced like there's a direct throughline from him to modern, ultra-conservative radio and TV personalities in the United States. And there is a way to make that case, sure. But it shouldn't be attempted without really contending with how extreme Father Coughlin was.

Coughlin wrote fan mail to Benito Mussolini. Coughlin reprinted a speech by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels about how Jews are the real aggressors, and Gentiles everywhere are just victims of the evil Jews. Coughlin translated that Goebbels speech from German into English, then published it word-for-word in his newsletter under his own name. Coughlin organized boycotts of Jewish businesses under the slogan "Buy Christian.”

In 1938, just a few days after Kristallnacht, Coughlin got on the radio to assure his American listeners that they shouldn't be too worried about what they might be hearing out of Germany about Jews being persecuted and Jews being murdered. They shouldn’t be too worried about that because Americans, he explained, should understand that the Jews had it coming.

Gallagher: He kind of gave a whole hour-long speech where he talks about kind of the Jews in Germany deserving Kristallnacht. The entire speech is rather ghastly in terms of Father Coughlin coming on the air as a Catholic priest with 30 million listeners, kind of blaming the Jews for their own persecution.

Maddow: Father Coughlin told his followers that democracy was "doomed.” He said "We are at the crossroads. I take the road to fascism."

Father Coughlin spent every Sunday on the radio encouraging his listeners to feel attacked and put-upon by unseen forces; to admire fascism and fascist leaders, to see democracy as a failure, to hate and fear the supposed worldwide menace of the Jews.

But he went beyond just preaching about it. He also told his audience of millions to turn that talk into action.

Coughlin: We will fight you shoulder to shoulder and cheek to jowl! Rest assured, we’ll fight you and we’ll win!

Maddow: By 1938, Father Charles Coughlin— the most listened-to media figure in the whole country— called for the creation of a militia to pursue his aims. He called it “The Christian Front.”

Coughlin: The Christian Front is no longer a dream. It is a reality in America. A reality that grows stronger, more courageous, and more determined under the threat of your ideological invasion! Call it inflammatory, if you will. It is inflammatory! Every group, in every city, in every state must be marshaled. The Christian Front organization is not a debating society, it is an action society!

Maddow: Coughlin told his listeners, “Units of the Christian Front have formed and are forming in New York City and elsewhere.” And it wasn’t just bluster. Father Coughlin's Christian Front militia did soon have chapters in New York City and in cities all across the country.

In Boston, they were particularly strong. The Christian Front was led there by a man named Francis Moran.

Gallagher: Francis Moran is a Boston, Irish Catholic. He and his mother listened to Father Coughlin every Sunday. And in 1936, Father Coughlin came through Boston and Moran met with him. Coughlin commissioned Francis Moran to become his Lieutenant in Boston.

Maddow: Francis Moran was a trained salesman. By all accounts, he was kind of a charismatic guy. He was definitely a fervent, true believer. He quickly got to work organizing Christian Front rallies across the city. Massive ones. Father Coughlin already had a huge radio audience to tap into, particularly in Boston. Thousands of people would turn out for these events.

Gallagher: He was able to get over 10,000 people, at least on two occasions, in the Boston Arena for Christian Front meetings. And these were gala events with kind of high school bands, and giant American flags, and a huge stage presence.

Maddow: One Boston minister who was in the crowd at one of these rallies reported later to the FBI that he was concerned by what he had seen. He was concerned by “the loyalty of the audience” towards Father Coughlin, as well as what he described as “their emotional intensity” toward him.

Gallagher: He is so deeply disturbed by what he sees. He sees high school kids chanting anti-Communist chants. He sees crowds kind of geared up into a frenzy for Father Coughlin. And he writes about a 15-page memorandum to the local FBI office. And he talks about how tonight in Boston Father Coughlin set fire to a city and that no one knows that the fire is burning.

Maddow: That proverbial fire that Father Coughlin had set in the city of Boston, through Francis Moran, it was spreading uncontrolled all across the city. And that’s because Francis Moran was also furthering the mission of Father Coughlin’s Christian Front by bombarding that city with loads and loads of antisemitic propaganda. And it was propaganda with a remarkable pedigree.

Francis Moran, in Boston, as leader of the Christian Front, he’d managed to get his hands on thousands and thousands of copies of propaganda literature that had been produced and paid for by the Hitler government in Berlin.

Gallagher: Through his kind of sales wizardry, he gets all of the members of the Christian Front to basically go out and push Nazi propaganda into the streets of Boston. He's very creative. He starts a raffle system about, you know, if you buy so many books, you can be entered into a raffle and then the winner of the raffle wins more Nazi books.

Maddow: Francis Moran was also at the time meeting regularly with the German consul— with the Hitler government's representative in Boston— and with the Nazi official in charge of paying Germany's agents in the United States. Charles Gallagher's own scholarship unearthed evidence that the Christian Front's finances were bolstered by the Hitler government.

Francis Moran called publicly for the confiscation of Jewish property in the United States. He told Christian Front rallies that President Roosevelt was a secret Jew— he called him “Mr. Rosenfelt” instead of Mr. Roosevelt. He called for FDR to be "removed from office by force and violence." And that wasn’t just Francis Moran freelancing.

Coughlin: Since the time of Christ, Jewish prosecution only followed— only followed!— after Christians were first persecuted.

Maddow: The message of revolution, of the need to overthrow the government by force, that was in keeping with what Coughlin's Christian Front units were being told all over the country, by their leader, on his radio show.

Gallagher: Coughlin insinuates President Roosevelt is Jewish. He now starts to call President Roosevelt a tyrant. That tyrannical language is not just, kind of, metaphor. It's got theological grounding where if, if the leader is deemed tyrannical, then physical activity can be taken to remove the tyrant. And so this is where he takes the concept to the Christian Front, we can take up guns against tyrants.

Maddow: Father Coughlin’s Christian Front militia was a nationwide operation. It was huge in Boston under Francis Moran. It was also booming in cities like Minneapolis, and Philadelphia, and St. Louis. But what ultimately made the Christian Front famous nationwide, is what they did in the city of New York.

Gallagher: There are paramilitarized cells who will now be outfitted with military grade weaponry. They receive special training on how to make pipe bombs. By late 1939, early 1940, the Christian Front decide to overthrow the government of the United States.

Maddow: That’s next.


Maddow: In the fall of 1939, a dozen cans of cordite— military grade explosives— went missing from the 165th infantry division of the New York National Guard.

A dozen cans of cordite. About 1500 rounds of ammunition, as well. Those explosives and that ammo went missing because the commander of a New York National Guard machine gun company took the stuff and gave it to the Christian Front.

The Christian Front, by then, had started to prioritize the recruitment of new members who had military training. They had decided to escalate their own military training and their own arsenal of weapons.

By then, Father Coughlin's Christian Front militia had decided it was time to move beyond rallies and protests and pickets and beating up Jews in the streets. By then, they had decided it was time for them to move, as an organization, in a big way.

Gallagher: By late 1939, early 1940, the Christian Front decide to overthrow the government of the United States.

Maddow: The Christian Front's plan to overthrow the government— later revealed in federal court— included the simultaneous assassination of a dozen sitting members of Congress, simultaneous bombings of government targets, and sensitive targets designed to cause outrage; panic; violent reprisals; the military being called in, invoking emergency powers. Ultimately, the toppling of the democratic government, replacing it with an authoritarian one, with the Christian Front in the lead. Taking power by violence, holding power by force.

Gallagher: There are a couple of members of the Christian Front who are adept at bomb making and give rather chilling, very disturbing workshops on how to make homemade pipe bombs with powder that they are able to gather from many armories in the U.S. If you look at, at how they were constructing the bombs and what they were using to construct the bombs, what they were planning was quite lethal in nature.

Maddow: In Narrowsburg, New York, on the New York-Pennsylvania border, the Christian Front set up a paramilitary training center.

Gallagher: They're doing stationary target practice, but they're also doing military rushes where they take their weapons and they advance anywhere from 12 to 15 yards at a time, drop down on the ground, fire the weapons from the prone position, then up again, reload, rush about 10 to 15 yards further, drop quickly to the ground, fire it to prone position, and then kind of repeat after that.

Maddow: Charles Gallagher's scholarship on the Christian Front also turned up evidence that around the same time the group managed to get access to U.S. military-issue machine guns. The rifles that the Christian Front guys held in that picture that made the front page of all the newspapers, that was one thing. Them having stolen, U.S. military, heavy machine guns, that was just a whole different level of threat.

Gallagher: What seems to have taken place, from the declassified FBI file, is that in the fall of 1939, Browning Automatic Rifles were stolen from an armory in Waltham, Massachusetts. The Browning Automatic Rifle was one of the most lethal weapons of World War II. It shot .30-06 rounds at 20 rounds on full auto and was, could actually blast through a building. It was a large weapon, but it could be carried by a, by a strong soldier. You could rapid fire walk it and it would just mainly just obliterate anything in its, in its path. It was one of the most lethal weapons on the battlefield. The civilian police had no counter weapon to a BAR.

Maddow: Weapons like that, stolen from the U-S military, to be used by an armed group plotting a attack on the U.S. government, the same group manufacturing bombs in quantity, stockpiling them.

The FBI had been watching what the Christian Front was doing. Watching. Collecting evidence. They finally decided the threat was too great. The planned attack, they believed, was imminent. The FBI believed the Christian Front was due to launch their attack on the US government on January 20th. One week ahead of that planned attack on January 13th, the FBI moved.

Gallagher: I seem to think that, that we came kind of, like, a hair's breadth away from the triggers being pulled and the buttons being pushed on those bombs. The FBI decides to move on the Christian Front before they can, before they can explode their bombs. That's what they were worried about.

Maddow: In January 1940, it really was front page news all across the country when the head of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, personally announced this round-up, the mass arrest of the Christian Front in New York.

Radio Announcer: In New York, the alleged ringleaders of a fantastic Christian Front plot to overthrow the United States government by force are now behind federal bars. J. Edgar Hoover charges that they had plotted widespread terroristic activities, bombings, and antisemitic outbursts.

Maddow: Seventeen members of the Christian Front in New York were arrested. The majority of those arrested were either actively serving in the New York National Guard or they’d served in other branches of the military. All of them were charged with sedition, with a plot to overthrow the U.S. government by force.

This is from some of the newspaper coverage from that day:

"A plot to overthrow the United States government with bombs and other arms— some looted from the arsenals of the Army itself— was charged tonight against [individuals] who were arrested and accused of conspiracy to create a revolution.

"The plot, [Hoover] said, was aimed against Jews generally and involved seizure of key government agencies such as Federal Reserve banks, post offices, and Public Utilities.”

Hoover said, quote, "The government they proposed setting up, they referred to as a 'dictatorship similar to Hitler's."

Father Coughlin had created the Christian Front. He had recruited, deputized, personally met with the leaders of Christian Front groups in big cities including the leader of the New York chapter, who was among those arrested, a man named John Cassidy.

But in the immediate aftermath of the arrests, Father Coughlin claimed that he had no idea who these people were. Never heard of 'em. He literally tried to argue that they might be a Christian Front, but they were not his Christian Front.

As their fearless leader backpedaled and played dumb, the defendants themselves were entirely unrepentant about their actions. They mounted a defense in court that said they weren't plotting against the country, they were the most patriotic Americans imaginable. They weren’t out to destroy the United States, they were out to save it.

Gallagher: They devise this scenario to indicate to the court that the Christian Front is nothing more than a group of patriotic, young American boys who are anti-communist in nature and truly American. They feel that they are doing the country a favor of purging the U.S. government from these bad actors.

Maddow: The trial of the Christian Front defendants began in the spring of 1940. The prosecution was led by the U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, which is where the case was being tried. But the Justice Department also brought in for the trial the head of the criminal division from Main Justice in Washington D.C. His presence on the Brooklyn prosecution team indicated just how important this case was to the federal government, how big a priority this was.

And they did have a blockbuster pile of evidence. The FBI had put an informant inside the Christian Front. They had these stockpiles of weapons that they had seized from these guys during the arrests. They had information about the group's specific plans, all the military training they’d been undergoing to prepare for it. But when the case finally went to trial, things fell apart. And pretty quickly.

Prosecutors were blamed for not appreciating— not factoring in to their jury presentation— just how favorably the Christian Front was viewed in the community where the trial was held. The local press affectionately nicknamed them “The Brooklyn Boys.” The local Catholic Church supported them loudly. Nobody who was Jewish was allowed to sit on the jury. There was a local Catholic priest who was advising the Christian Front, who had been leading rallies to support them, who was close to Coughlin. His first cousin was picked as the foreman of the jury.

Gallagher: The Christian Front had its own fan clubs that would gather both inside and outside the court. There would be cheering during the trial when points were made in favor of the Christian Front.

Maddow: The local environment of enthusiastic support for the defendants, that was not the only challenge to prosecutors in trying to convince the jury that these defendants were bad guys. The other challenge was just the extreme nature of what they were accused of. The plot that prosecutors laid out was increasingly seen by the public— and presumably the jury— as just too much, too much to believe. These guys in Brooklyn were really going to kill all these members of Congress, and blow up all these buildings, and start some kind of revolution? Were they really capable of violence on that scale?

In June 1940, after nearly three months at trial, most of the Christian Front defendants were acquitted. And then the rest were let-off in a mistrial. All of them got off. The government failed on every count.

Gallagher: There was much jubilation and cheering when the acquittal was announced. And as the courtroom was cheering the acquittal of the boys from Brooklyn, John F. Cassidy rushed up to the judge and asked for his guns back, which the judge immediately had to give him, in line with the Second Amendment. And Cassidy and others walked out of the courthouse to the awaiting cheers.

Maddow: The New York Times reported at the time that 2,000 people turned out in Brooklyn for a rally to celebrate the Christian Front defendants after the prosecution fell apart. It was as much a humiliation for the government as it was a cause for celebration for the defendants.

In the wake of that failed trial, supporters of the Brooklyn Boys demanded to the Attorney General that FBI and Justice Department personnel themselves should be investigated for why the group had been indicted in the first place.

Father Coughlin, who had initially tried to distance himself from the Christian Front when they were charged, he proclaimed himself vindicated and victorious. He said the whole prosecution was all ginned up just to try and make him look bad. He said, in his words, that it was “a hoax.”

It was a lot of things. It was not a hoax.

The Christian Front in New York really did make bombs and stockpiled a huge amount of weaponry, including military-issue guns and explosives. And they did train for and plan for the violent overthrow of the U.S. government, the installation of the kind of fascist dictatorship that Father Coughlin so admired overseas.

The good news is that the arrests of the New York Christian Fronters in 1940, that may have stopped them from going ahead with their attack plan. But the prosecution itself really was an abject failure. After the Christian Fronter defendants all walked, the federal government, in the wake of that trial, they were facing this brand new reality:

The threat of actual violence from ultra-right groups, some getting support from the Hitler government abroad, the rise of an anti-democratic, violent movement on the right, here, that was well-organized, well-supported, well-armed. It was a real thing. And it wasn’t just coming from this group of guys in Brooklyn, the ex-salesman in Boston, the radio priest in Detroit. What the U.S. government knew by then was that the Hitler government in Berlin was also running some kind of significant operation from the very center of American democracy itself.

Radio Announcer: Senator Ernest Lundeen reported killed today in the crash of a Pennsylvania Central Airlines plane.

Maddow: It was just a few weeks after that failed prosecution of the Christian Front that Minnesota Senator Ernest Lundeen died in that mysterious plane crash.

So at that point, the government had just failed to put a group of guys behind bars, who were plotting to violently overthrow our democratic system. Immediately in the wake of that failed trial are the now-public revelations that a serving U.S. Senator was also tied-up with the Hitler government in a different plot to undermine our democracy.

How many plots like this were out there? And were they connected?

By the time the government— the Justice Department— had started asking those crucial questions, it was too late.

Radio Announcer: At least nine powder houses blew up this afternoon. The rapid series of explosions started fires which are still burning, but no one yet knows how many victims there are.

Maddow: Real violence. Real attacks. And a federal government that cannot figure out what to do about it. Not yet.

That’s next time.

“Rachel Maddow Presents: Ultra” is a production of MSNBC and NBC News. This episode was written by myself, Mike Yarvitz, and Kelsey Desiderio.

The series is executive produced by myself and Mike Yarvitz, and it's produced by Kelsey Desiderio. Our Associate Producer is Janmaris Perez. Archival support from Holly Klopchin. Sound design by Tarek Fouda. Our Technical Director is Bryson Barnes. Our Senior Executive Producers are Cory Gnazzo and Laura Conaway. Our Web Producer is Will Femia. Madeleine Haeringer is our Head of Editorial. Archival radio material is from NBC News, via the estimable Library of Congress, with additional sound from CBS News.

Special thanks to Father Charles Gallagher. You should read his book. It's incredible. It's called “Nazis of Copley Square: The Forgotten Story of the Christian Front.”

You can find much more about this series— you can even see the photo of the guys with guns that so freaked out college sophomore Charles Gallagher— at our website:


Gallagher: In fact, I gotta say it, it really hit me when I, I went to a Catholic retreat at a retreat house in Manhasset, Long Island, just after, 9/11. And I was driving back in a taxi to get to the train station and the taxi driver and I looked out and saw the skyline of New York and, and the two twin towers were, were missing. And he started making derogatory comments about religion being kind of the effective kind of motivator for terrorism that allowed those, those buildings to be, to be attacked. And I, I got kind of angry sitting in the back of that taxi and I blurted out, I said, “You're wrong. Did you know that the first military or the first religiously motivated terrorist attack in the United States was put forward by Christians who armed themselves in 1940 to overthrow the government of the United States and created bombs and trying to, try to, foment a, a revolution, in the United States?” I was a little agitated.