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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 09/03/14

Guests: Michael McFaul

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. Thanks for joining us this hour. Happy Wednesday. We begin with some breaking news, with some late breaking political news about the United States Senate, and what has just happened to the national Republican hopes for winning control of the United States Senate in the November elections, what happened tonight was very unexpected news. OK. The context is that Republicans need a net gain of six seats in order to win control of the U.S. Senate. And move Mitch McConnell up the ladder from minority leader to majority leader. Republicans control of the House is not in jeopardy in these elections barring some act of God, and Republicans, of course, cannot dislodge President Obama from the White House in this election. But they really can try to win the Senate. And that is the big enchilada at stake this year. And of course, it will have huge consequences, not just for the country, but specifically in political terms, for the rest of the Obama presidency. So Republicans have been focused on the Senate singularly. And they have potential ways to gain the six seats they would need in order to take over the Senate. Republicans do appear -- at least the odds look like they will. Republicans do appear to be on the way to flipping Senate seats from blue to red, from Democratic to Republican, in the three states that are marked on this map right here -- West Virginia, South Dakota and Montana. And nothing`s set in spoken. That`s the way the odds look right now. Depending at how those races play out, Republicans would then need to win only three of these other seven states marked on the map right now that are all considered tossup races in the Senate. Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan and North Carolina. So that`s not the only scenario for Republicans taking control of the Senate, but it is among the most obvious. And so, because they have that wide of a pathway in which they can take over, Republicans have been really optimistic about their prospects of getting the Senate this year. On paper it looks good, but that optimism, that confidence, what they see as their rosie odds for controlling the Senate, those odds depend on Republicans, of course, not just winning seats they don`t already have, and winning the tossup races. They obviously depend as a baseline on Republicans keeping hold of the seats they already have. Especially seats they believe to be safe because they`re in bright red states where they don`t expect to ever find themselves in competitive races. And that is what has just happened in this surprise move tonight and what has just happened broadly to Republicans in this next national election. Three term Republican incumbent Senator Pat Roberts has been leading in the Kansas Senate race. Running for reelection, right? Before a veteran Senator, Kansas`s Pat Roberts has not been doing all that well. All through the primary season he had to fight off these allegations that he doesn`t really live in Kansas anymore. That he has become a citizen of Washington, D.C., instead. And in fact it turns out that pat Roberts does not own a home in Kansas anymore. He instead rents a room and uses that as his voting address. Not a good look to an entire incumbent environment when you have been in Washington for more than 30 years. That was a very damaging revelation against Kansas Senator Pat Roberts in the primary. In the Republican primary where he`s trying to hold on to his seat. Now fortunately for Pat Roberts in that primary, his opponent was kind of a freak show. His opponent, his claimed to fame is that he was a distant cousin of Barack Obama, which is funny and, you know, gets you booked on news max or whatever. But his profession, is that he was a doctor, and it turned out not very far into the campaign, February of this year, that the Topeka capital journal reported that as a doctor, Milton Wolf, this primary opponent to Pat Roberts had made a habit of posting x- rays of gunshot victims and other victims of violence on his facebook page along with comments usually mocking the victims. When the Topeka Journal confronted him about those images, he said, yes, they served to show that evil lurked in the world. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: What about this. Do you think there was permission given about this? MILTON WOLF, PAT ROBERTS` PRIMARY OPPONENT: Now, this -- if you don`t identify a person, then you don`t need their permission. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to understand what the thinking is. We don`t know -- I don`t know exactly how to handle material like this. I`m asking you professionally, is this material professional? WOLF: This is the kind of material you see in medical education -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: This is facebook. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: This is facebook. Having that guy for an opponent in the Republican primary was a real gift to Pat Roberts. Who against a theoretically competent tea party style opponent might have had a really bad time. Luckily, he had that guy instead. He did get banged up statewide over the question of his residency. That`s the kind of charge that tends to stick with Kansas voters. And honestly, Pat Roberts not really been popular in Kansas. It should be note that even with the x-ray freak show guy as his opponent, Pat Roberts still only beat that guy in the primary 48 to 41 points. He did beat him, though, and now in the general election, Senator Roberts has had the double blessing of running in a three-way race in the general election. He`s been polling in this PPP poll at 32 percent. He`s the incumbent, right? Thirty two percent, that`s not good. That`s almost a synonym for vulnerable. But luckily for him, it`s a three-way race, right? And because the Democrat and independent in the race, really split the remainder of the vote evenly, Pat Roberts by virtue of that was still in this thing. It was looking like he was a winner because that Democrat and independent running against him were really screwing up anybody else`s chances. That was the lay of the land until today. Until late today, until a few minutes before close of business today, which was the deadline for this thing to happen. After today, because of what just happened, this is not a three-way race any more. Because the Democrat has now announced he`s dropping out of the race to give somebody else a better chance of unseating Pat Roberts. Chad Taylor was the Democrat in this case, about 45 minutes before the close of business in Kansas today, on the day of the deadline, he asked the Kansas Secretary of State to take his name off the ballot. He is done. He had initially said he was suspending his campaign. He then crossed it out by hand and wrote, his campaign is terminated. The Democrats have decided to try to win this race against Pat Roberts by quitting this race against Pat Roberts. The statement was kind of amazing, I should tell you about that cross out. The AP posted a picture of it so you can see the actual change there. Chad Taylor saying quote, "after much consideration with my supporters, I`ve decided to end my campaign for the U.S. Senate. I have a great love for the state of Kansas and the people that live here, I will continue to work in their best interest every day. But effective today, my campaign is terminated." You can see the statement first said suspended then it got changed to terminated. Kansas democrat Chad Taylor tonight has terminated his campaign for the Senate. Thus giving Democrats the biggest leap forward they have had this entire year toward holding control of the United States Senate for the last two years of the Barack Obama presidency. I mean, what this leaves is a two-way race between Pat Roberts who has not been polling all that great and who had a very damaging primary campaign against the freak show x-ray guy, against the guy in the right side of your screen here. His name is Greg Orman. And in polling, he had a head to head matched up against Pat Roberts. He looks comparatively fantastic. I mean, look at the polling, check this out. Here, we have Pat Roberts eking his way to victory with the Democrats still in the race. But with the Democrat gone, the race just between Republican Pat Roberts and independent Greg Orman. Pat Roberts loses that race by ten points. You can bet that Pat Roberts is not happy about this news today. Par Roberts campaign tonight released a blistering statement about this decision. The headline says Taylor`s withdraw corrupt bargain with Democrats. Orman choice of liberals. Today`s bombshell news out of Kansas marks the second time this week and it`s been a short week, marks the second time this week that we have seen Democrats decide that the best way to win a race against the Republicans was to quit and try to get there a different way. I mean, in Alaska yesterday, we were able to report that the democratic candidate for governor of Alaska had announced he would instead run for lieutenant governor and essentially the fusion candidate. The independent candidate for governor has a better chance of defeating the Republican incumbent. So the Democratic candidate jumped out of the race to become his running mate instead. They formed an unusual but not unprecedented fusion ticket. Democrats made that decision in Alaska this week because the polling shows it`s their best chance in Alaska to unseat the Republican governor, Sean Parnell, the exact same way that the polling shows right now that having the Democratic dropped out in the Senate race in Kansas is Democrats best hope, not just inside Kansas of unseating Pat Roberts, but in this overall national fight of control of the United States Senate. We talked in the show last week about the polling by Sam Wong. He works out of the Princeton election consortium. In the 2012 election, just so you understand who we`re talking about here, Sam Wong correctly predicted all 33 U.S. Senate races. He got zero states wrong in terms of predicting the outcome for Senate races in 2012. And Sam Wong has been tracking this race in Kansas, as people has been talking about. What seemed like this pie in the sky chance that the Democrat would drop out and clear the way for an independent who is likely to beat Pat Roberts. With the Democrats still in the Kansas race, Sam Wong put the Democrats overall chances of keeping control of the Senate for the whole country at 55 percent. The Democrats plus the independents who already caucused with them have a 55 percent chance of remaining in charge according to this prediction. But with what just happened tonight, with the Democrat dropping out in Kansas, according to Sam Wong`s calculations, the odds of the Democrats holding on to the Senate nationwide for the whole country, those odds move to 85 percent. Eighty five percent chance of a Democrat/independent majority in the Senate. The Republicans are going to be so mad about this when they finally take a minute to understand what just happened here. As Sam Wong wrote last week, the Democrat dropping off on this race could be quote "total game changer," a game changer on the national level. And now, that is exactly what has happened. The Senate race in Kansas doesn`t have a Democrat in it any more. The Republican who had been limping to a probable victory is suddenly in a very competitive race as independent Greg Orman has clearly been a strong candidate. Before the news broke today, he already got the endorsement of a group of Moderate Kansas Republicans. A lot of Kansas of the same Kansas Republicans who had endorsed the democratic challenger for governor over the deeply unpopular Republican governor there, Sam Brownback. Greg Orman got that endorsement today from all those Kansas Republican leaders even though he`s still not told anyone whether he would align himself with Republicans or Democrats in the event that he actually won this Senate race. Our own Steve Kornacki here on MSNBC got a chance to ask Orman about it just last month. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST, UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI: Even if you are an independent, if you were elected you could have the deciding vote after this fall`s election, which side would you vote for? GREG ORMAN, KANSAS SENATE CANDIDATE: Well, you know, I think that`s a great point, Steve, and ultimately if I get elected, there`s a reasonable chance that neither party will have a majority in Washington, and if that`s the case, what I`ve said is I`m going to caucus with whichever party is willing to actually go to Washington and start trying to solve problems as opposed to just pleasing the extremists and their own base. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Of course it was Steve Kornacki who got that interview. As seen as always, Steve Kornacki having last month he did that interview with the man on whom the prospects for control of the United States Senate now turn. Greg Orman, as you heard him there, sounding like a legit moderate in that interview, he really did just become one of the biggest wild cards in the whole 2014 elections. Game on for control of the United States Senate in a way that it was not before a few hours ago. Game on as of tonight. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ORMAN: Ultimately if I get elected there`s a reasonable chance that neither party will have a majority in Washington. And if that`s the case, what I`ve said is I`m going to caucus with whatever party is willing to go to Washington and start trying to solve problems as opposed to pleasing the extremists in their own base. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Just absorbing the breaking news out of Kansas with profound implications from the overall control of the U.S. Senate after this year`s midterm election. That candidate is the independent candidate running in Kansas. His name is Greg Orman. If before tonight was a three-way race between Mr. Orman who has a lot of money and a lot of support and a Democrat named Chad Taylor and the incumbent Pat Roberts. But tonight, about 45 minutes before the close of business, before the deadline in Kansas for people to get their name in the ballot, the Democrat in the race has dropped out. Chad Taylor insisted -- says now that he is terminating his campaign. That means it`s a one man versus one man race. Greg Orman versus Pat Roberts. And that means the prospects for that Kansas Senate seat and for the overall control of the U.S. Senate are radically different than they were a few hours ago. Joining us now Kasie Hunt, as of today, an MSNBC political correspondent. Kasie, thanks for being here and congratulations on your new gig. KASIE HUNT, MSNBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Rachel. It`s great to see you. MADDOW: Is it a fair interpretation of this news to see this as really pretty radically altering the prospects of Pat Roberts holding on to this seat? And everything, that means for the national chances of the Republicans taking the Senate. HUNT: Look, this race still has to settle a little bit, but it`s clear that, you know, Democrats at least view this as a place where they really could take a step forward, excuse me. And it`s also clear that they maneuvered behind the scenes to make this happened while the Republicans are already tagging Harry Reid as responsible for this. I`m hearing from my sources that Senator Claire McCaskill played a key role in getting Chad Taylor to drop out of this race. And you know, with the razor thin margin that we`re looking at here with the Senate any one of these races could potentially turn the map. And if Greg Orman is ending up as that person who decides the majority, not only would that put him in a unique position and give him a lot of power potentially, but you could see as you say, a tipping of the national balance. MADDOW: Two questions for you, and I`ll try to ask them one at a time, although I still feel like I`m trying to wrap my head around this, for everything comes out at once. The first question is about that sort of bombshell you just dropped about Claire McCaskill. Claire McCaskill is the Senator from Missouri. I`ve been the only person in the pundit class who`s been saying that she`s a likely democratic candidate for president and should be seen as a national figure. I have been saying this for a long time. This is a national figure kind of move to go into Kansas and say, you know what, we have to do something strategic here that you may not want to do, but I`m going to talk you into it. Why Claire McCaskill? What explains (INAUDIBLE) here? HUNT: Well, I think national Democrats give her a lot of credit for being a really smart and aggressive political thinker. And she clearly wants to play that kind of a role in her party. Now, whether that means she runs for president, runs for governor, you know. It`s still yet to be seen what her plans are. But seeing that this was a neighboring state, my understanding is, this was on her radar screen. And she made clear to national Democrats that this could be in play. Beyond that, we`re still sorting out exactly what role Senate majority Harry Reid may have played in this, and exactly what role she played, but we do know she was involved. MADDOW: Fascinating. Let me also ask you about Mr. Orman himself. We saw that incredibly pressing interview a month ago with our Steve Kornacki, really pressing Greg Orman to find out who are you going to caucus with, what are your ideological leanings, who are you going to vote for in the Kansas governor`s race this year, you know, please tell me something to let me know what kind of Senator you would be and what would you mean in terms of tipping the ballots between the parties. He was absolutely very skilled at evading all of those questions and not answering. I know he has told other press he voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and then Mitt Romney in 2012. Do we have any sense of whether he would make his decision about who to caucus with before the majority decision was made in the Senate? Do we have and sense of which way he would lean? HUNT: It doesn`t sound like at this point that Democrats are confident that they know which way he would go, but they know he`s more likely to caucus with them than Pat Roberts would have or would rather if he were to win. And it`s also a question of, you know, if Democrats do hold the majority in the Senate or they have a one seat advantage, and you know, this could tip it back to 50/50. They would have a lot of ways to convince him to caucus with him. You this a little bit with Angus Kane in Maine. You know, if you`re an independent Senator who has to make this kind of decision you have a lot more cards than somebody who comes in with a party labor, because you can say, hey, I want that plumb committee post I care about. And he would be able to say something like that. But that also gives Reid and the Democrats potentially some power. Because they can say hey, we can give you that post, whereas Senator McConnell doesn`t have that power right now. MADDOW: Right. Whoever`s in the imagine order has the plums to offer in a way. HUNT: Yes. MADDOW: I always thought in American politics, there`s no greater deflation period that after someone gets elected to be a U.S. Senator which is this huge accomplishment and then they become one in 100 in terms of the seniority body in the nation. HUNT: Just ask Cory Booker about that one. MADDOW: Exactly. You thought you were the big man on campus. Prepare to be taking out everyone`s trash for the next several years. But being an independent who wants to essentially sell your allegiance and gives you the one way you have in the U.S. Senate that you have to leap frog that system. Just a fascinating story. Kasie Hunt, thank you so much for being with us. HUNT: Thanks, Rachel. Appreciate it for having me. MADDOW: As of today, an MSNBC political correspondent. You can send her your congratulations as you wish. All right, lots more ahead. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will not be intimidated. Their horrific acts only unite us as a country and stiffen our resolve to take the fight against these terrorists. And those who makes the mistake of harming the Americans will learn that we will not forget and that our reach is long and that justice will be served. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Talking about fighting is not the same thing as fighting. Words are not the same as warfare, but today the language of the U.S. government at the highest level, the language of the U.S. government toward the terrorist group toward ISIS got as close as you could get to war without actually declaring it or waging it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: We have taken the fight to this kind of savagery and evil before. And believe me, we will take it again. We`re doing it today and when terrorists anywhere around the world who have murdered our citizens, the United States held them accountable, no matter how long it took. And those who have murdered James Foley and Steven Sotloff in Syria need to know the United States will hold them accountable too, no matter how long it takes. CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: It makes you sick to your stomach, but again it reminds us of the kind of brutality and the barbarism that is afoot in some of these areas of the world. And it is our responsibility, the president, vice president, mine, all of us, to do everything we can to stop this now, it won`t just recede into the gray recesses of history until we stop it. JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When people harm Americans, we don`t retreat. We don`t forget. We take care of those who are grieving. And when that`s finished, they should know we will follow them to the gates of hell until they are brought to justice. Because hell is where they will reside. OBAMA: The bottom line is this, our objective is clear and that is to degrade and destroy ISIL so it`s no longer a threat, not just to Iraq, but also to the region and the United States. The United States will continue to lead a regional and international effort against the kind of barbaric and ultimately empty vision that ISIL represents, that`s going to take some time, but we`re going to get it done, I`m very confident of it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: All over the course of one news cycle today. Secretary of state John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, vice president Joe Biden and of course, President Obama, all today basically saying the same thing in different tones of voice and in their own and in mythical ways, but they`re talking about how the United States is planning to get and its is going to get the group that used to be called Al Qaeda in Iraq and then now calls itself the Islamic state or ISIS. This is Lisa Monaco. Lisa Monaco is the chief counterterrorism adviser to President Obama. And this week, the president is purportedly dispatching Lisa Monaco, his top counterterrorism adviser, and Defense Secretary Hagel and Secretary of State Kerry to all personally go to the Middle East to try to put together a regional strategy in the Middle East for acting against ISIS. ISIS is of course, a Sunni militia group, and it`s seen as particularly important that Sunni governments and governments in Sunni majority states are not just part of an effort that we are leading or tacitly supporting something we`re doing. But it`s seen as strategically important that Sunni governments and Sunni states are seen as part of leading the fight against ISIS themselves. This is going to be really hard to organize, but it`s expected to be key to the likely success of an effort against ISIS. That`s why he`s sending these people all at once, personally to the Middle East to try to organize that effort. The president also said today that international strategies against ISIS will be proposed by the United States and discuss at the NATO summit that begins tomorrow morning in Wales, where the president and those senior cabinet officers are all going to be personally in attendance. For almost all the countries in NATO, part of their strategizing against ISIS has to include not only thinking about how that group is operating in Iraq and Syria, and what kind of threats might emanate from their home base in Iraq and Syria, but also the prospect of these country`s own citizens who have Western passports traveling to Iraq and Syria to fight with that group and traveling back home to mount attacks in the West. That threat is thought to be particularly acute in France, most of all, and also in Britain. Each of those countries have seen hundreds of their own citizens travel abroad to go fight with ISIS. But the extent to which that also is a threat to the United States, that extent was brought home today in this exclusive interview. This interview was just released by NBC News just tonight. It`s a remarkable piece of footage. This is thought to be the first on camera interview ever conducted with a radicalized American who left this country to go fight with ISIS. This is NBC News footage, this interview was done in Lebanon. It`s remarkable. You haven`t seen anything else like this. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): ISIS militants are brutal killers whose victims include Americans. Yet there are Americans, an unknown number who are ISIS recruits, including Donald Morgan (ph). DONALD MORGAN, ISIS RECRUIT: My Islamic name is Nassir Abdul Rahim (ph). ENGEL: What attracted him to ISIS? MORGAN: Someone has to defend Islam, and someone has to defend innocent Muslims. ENGEL: NBC News interviewed Morgan in Beirut through a freelance journalist. He didn`t hide his intention to join ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State. MORGAN: (INAUDIBLE) with the intent of entering to Syria, joining up with medical or food aid convoys or directly with the Islamic State. ENGEL: Don Morgan was educated at a military academy. He was a member of the National Guard, a deputy sheriff, a bodybuilder, raised Catholic in Salisbury, North Carolina. Morgan had been in trouble with the law, and served time on gun charges. Colleagues and law enforcement officials describe an angry man struggling to fit in, and finding a cause in radical Islam. MORGAN: This is it, this is the path, and this is the way you`re going to go. ENGEL: Morgan says, the change came two years ago, spending hours on the Internet, following the wars in the Middle East. He got sucked in, and started tweeting radical messages under an Arabic pseudonym. MORGAN: A push came from being mistreated by people around me who didn`t share the views I had. ENGEL: He decided to join ISIS last June and began to make his way from Beirut to Syria, but he was stopped on the way by authorities in Turkey and sent back. Soon after our interview, running low on money, Morgan returned to the U.S., knowing the risk. MORGAN: I think there`s a strong possibility that they`ll charge me with supporting terrorist organizations and participating in terrorist activities. ENGEL: But does he think he`s participating in terrorist activities? MORGAN: Based on the definition, yes. (END VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: Again, that is the first on camera interview that`s ever been done as far as we know with an American who`s gone to the Middle East to try to fight with ISIS, that man did come back to the United States. He was arrested. He`s now in federal detention in North Carolina. ISIS has had enough success in its international recruiting efforts that almost every country in the world is considering the threats posed by fighters coming back to commit terrorist attacks at home after fighting with ISIS or being radicalized by ISIS. But in terms of fighting ISIS, where they are massed right now, those international negotiations are explicitly underway at a high level with a lot of urgency. "The Wall Street Journal" reports today that the prospect of more U.S. military action against ISIS in Iraq is the one thing, the one thing that has united the parliament in Iraq. Since Saddam Hussein was deposed, the Iraqi parliament has never agreed on a single thing, except this. Even Iraqi lawmakers who fought against the U.S. military during our war in Iraq, even Iraqi lawmakers who were imprisoned by Americans in Iraq for fighting against the U.S. military. Those Iraqi lawmakers now say they want the U.S. military back in Iraq, as long as they`re there to fight ISIS. So, the Iraqi parliament agrees as to whether our parliament agrees, our Congress -- nobody knows. Our Congress is still on vacation, fifth week now. But if you want to keep track of which members of our Congress agree that they at least ought to debate, they at least ought to vote about U.S. military action against ISIS in Iraq and potentially in Syria, we do have our rolling whip count of members of Congress who agree that they ought to at least vote. It`s posted online right now, at We`ve updated it every day since we put it up. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: It`s been a big news day today, and we actually have some further breaking news to report at this hour. It involves the shooting death of Michael Brown, the unarmed teenager shot to death last month in Ferguson, Missouri. That fatal shooting by a member of the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department, of course, set off weeks of protests and unrest. It also drew the attention of the federal government. One of the landmark moments in the aftermath of that shooting was when Attorney General Eric Holder travelled to Ferguson after days of protest and unrest there. Attorney General Holder promised that the U.S. Justice Department would conduct a fair and thorough and independent federal investigation into the death of Michael Brown. Well, the Justice Department did dispatch a team to Missouri from its civil rights division to investigate that shooting. But that investigation was specifically about that one shooting of Michael Brown. What has been an open question since then is whether the Justice Department would launch also some sort of broader investigation into the Ferguson Missouri police, and its policing practices. Well, tonight, we have an answer to that question. NBC News has confirmed late tonight that the Justice Department will launch a federal civil rights investigation of the entire Ferguson, Missouri Police Department. This is new. The federal government has the power to investigate local police departments if there`s a suspicion of widespread civil rights abuses in their policing practices, and we have learned that the Justice Department now intends to launch that sort of investigation in Ferguson. An announcement of that investigation is expected tomorrow, but NBC has confirmed rights abuses of their policing practices, we have learned that the Justice Department plans to launch that sort of investigation in Ferguson. An announcement of that investigation is expected tomorrow, but NBC has confirmed it tonight. I should also tell you that tomorrow night on this show, we`re going to be joined live by Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri. Senator McCaskill has been front and center among national politicians on the situation in Ferguson. She is convening hearings on the militarization of police, in light of what happened with policing protests in Ferguson. Also, I should say as of tonight, MSNBC has learned just earlier this hour, that Senator McCaskill may have played a key role in engineering this bombshell Democratic decision in the U.S. Senate race in Kansas tonight. So, we`ll have lots to talk to Senator Claire McCaskill about. But that interview will be live here tomorrow night. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, last night, I had this whole little whiff at the very end of the show about George W. Bush visiting Albania, in which I applied that in which I implied that President Obama`s visit to Estonia today is also a visit to a Balkan country. Of course, it`s not. It`s a visit to a Baltic country. Not a Balkan country. And while that is hysterical, it`s not nearly as hysterical as the time we labeled the large body of water off the coast of Florida as the Indian Ocean. Yes, we once did that. Yes, I -- I once did that. Life is amazing and then you die. (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: But the president of the United States today was in the Baltic nation of Estonia, and he spoke with some passion about what is inspiring to him about that part of the world. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Exactly 25 years ago, people across the Baltics came together in one of the greatest displays of freedom and nonviolent resistance that the world has ever seen. On that August evening, perhaps 2 million people stepped out of their homes and joined hands, a human chain of freedom, the Baltic way. And they stretched down highways and across farmlands, from Tallinn to Riga to Vilnius. They lit candles and they sang anthems. Old men and women brought out their flags of independence. Young parents brought their children to teach them that when ordinary people stand together, great change is possible. Here in Estonia, when people joined the line, the password was freedom. As one man said, "The Berlin Wall is made of brick and concrete. Our wall is stronger." And it was. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President Obama speaking in Estonia today about this, about the Baltic way, one day on the 23rd of August 25 years ago, in 1989, when the people of Estonia and also Latvia and also Lithuania, they did this simple and staggering protest, in which they just lined up down the middle of the road and became a single file line holding hands all the way across their countries. Millions of people in one human line to say that they wanted their independence from what was then dying as the Soviet Union, and they got it. President Obama paying tribute to that today. And then, getting a big response from the same audience when he turned to the issue of Russia, when he used some of the most aggressive language he has used yet about what he described as the threat that post-Soviet Russia poses right now to its neighbors, including its more skittish neighbors that border Russia directly, countries like Estonia. President Obama today naming that threat, emanating from Russia, and saying that the United States and NATO would stop that threat. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: It`s not the government of Kiev that destabilized Eastern Ukraine. It`s been the pro-Russian separatists who are encouraged by Russia, financed by Russia, trained by Russia, supplied by Russia and armed by Russia. And the Russian forces that have now moved into Ukraine are not on a humanitarian or peacekeeping mission. They are Russian combat forces with Russian weapons in Russian tanks. Now, these are the facts. They`re provable. They`re not subject to dispute. During the long Soviet occupation, the great Estonian poet, Marie Under, wrote a poem in which she cried to the world, who will come to help? Right here, at present, now? And I say to the people of Estonia and to the people of Baltics: we are bound by our treaty alliance. We have a solemn duty to each other. Article V is crystal clear -- an attack on one is an attack on all. So, if in such a moment you ever ask again who will come to help, you`ll know the answer. The NATO alliance, including the Armed Forces of the United States of America, right here, present now. (APPLAUSE) We`ll be here for Estonia. We will be here for Latvia. We will be here for Lithuania. You lost your independence once before with NATO. You will never lose it again. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: With NATO, you will never lose your independence again. President Obama today in the nation of Estonia, which borders right now on Russia, those words actually today coming within an hour of Russian President Vladimir Putin, going through a sort of bizarre ritual in which he said that he had come up with a Ukrainian/Russian peace plan. He said he came up with it and wrote it in a notebook while he was on a flight to Mongolia. In the middle of giving remarks in another subject, he asked if someone could please fetch his notebook, so he could remember what his idea was for his peace plan. What looks like a war is on in Eastern Ukraine, although Russia tries not to talk about it in those terms. President Obama said today that U.S. troops will be participating in military exercises in the coming weeks inside Ukraine. How is President Obama`s speech today and that troop announcement today? How are those things going to land in Moscow? And given the recent behavior of President Putin, including what was a pretty weird display, what should we expect to happen next here? Joining us now is Michael McFaul. He`s a former U.S. ambassador to Russia, currently a professor of political science at Stanford University. Professor McFaul, it`s great to have you here, thanks for joining us. MICHAEL MCFAUL, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: Yes, thanks for having me. MADDOW: What do you think is going on right now in terms of President Putin`s strategic considerations? Am I right to think his display today in which he unveiled a peace plan that he says he wrote on the plane and then asked for the notebook was kind of an odd display? MCFAUL: Yes, it was bizarre, without question it was bizarre, and I don`t know if it was theater or spontaneity. The substance of the plan itself was pretty thin, it basically said, the government of Kiev needs to surrender and start peace negotiations. There was no discussion whatsoever of what Russia needed to do in order to create the conditions for a cease- fire. But to your bigger question about what he`s thinking about, it`s actually been a pretty good week for his surrogates. They have opened a new offensive. They have rolled back some of the gains that the Ukrainian military made a couple weeks ago, and so, I think he`s feeling rather confident today, even despite the rhetoric of the president`s speech in Estonia. MADDOW: From a distance, and I`m absolutely a layman in these terms and I am totally prepared to be corrected, but it seems to me just watching this like the Russians had propped up pro-Russian separatists inside Ukraine, including supplying some of them. The separatists in trying to become more Ukrainian, fell apart, weren`t able to hold themselves against -- to hold their territory against the Ukrainian military. Now, that these so-called separatists waging a so-called proxy war, sort of falling apart, Putin is bolstering them by sending in Russian regular forces and making this something that looks more like a traditional war. That`s what it looks like to me. Is that how you see it? MCFAUL: Yes, more or less, I think that was an excellent summary of the last several months. I would just add a few details. That he sent them in because the rebels were on the verge of losing. And that`s important. MADDOW: Right. MCFAUL: And there was a moment there when we weren`t quite sure what Putin was going to do. He`s now decided to double down and not let them lose. You know, with respect to whether it`s a conventional war or not, the Russians are playing this very strange game of trying to disguise what is happening. But the results on the ground I think make it pretty clear that he has brought in reinforcements and new armaments to roll back those Ukrainian gains of just a couple weeks ago. MADDOW: How important is it that President Obama walls so direct about that today? The Russian forces that have now moved into Ukraine are not on a humanitarian or peacekeeping mission. They`re Russian combat forces with Russian weapons and Russian tanks. These are the facts. They`re provable. They`re not subject to dispute. Why is it important or is it important for President Obama to speak in terms that blunt? MCFAUL: Well, I`ve got to tell you, I liked the speech a lot. He was fired up and ready to go today, in a way he hasn`t been for a while in terms of these foreign policy speeches. And I worked for the president for three years at the White House, and then represented him in Moscow for two years. He does not say things like that unless they are facts. And I think he wanted to make that crystal clear to the people of Ukraine, the people in Eastern Ukraine, and to Moscow that we know exactly what is going on. Now, with respect to what can be done, that`s a harder question. He hinted at a few things. I think we`ll hear more out of the NATO summit tomorrow. But to define things in the empirical way he did, and ideological way that he did. He also talked about this as a fight between democracy and dictatorship, in essence. That`s a new way of framing this conflict that we hadn`t heard before. MADDOW: And to say it in a Baltic nation bordering Russia gives it that much more resonance. Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia -- Professor McFaul, thank you so much for being here. It`s nice to see you. MCFAUL: Yes, thanks for having me. MADDOW: Thank you. All right. Still ahead, an update on how the man who once thought he really was going to be the nominee for vice president of the Republican Party, how he spent his day in court today. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Update for you on Virginia, where the corruption trial continues for that state`s first-ever governor to be criminally indicted for actions taken while in office. Not that long ago, Bob McDonnell waited anxiously to find out if Mitt Romney was going to be picking him to be his vice presidential running mate. Today, at a federal court house in Richmond, Governor McDonnell waited instead for the jury to complete its second day of deliberations on the fate of his wife and himself while they are facing 14 felony counts. The jury started deliberating yesterday. Today was their second day, their first full day I guess. But still no word from the jury in terms of a verdict. Interestingly, even though the judge in this case gave the jury 90 separate jury instructions, instructing the jury took over two hours, the jury, so far, still has not asked the judge for any help. At least in open court, the jury has not yet asked any questions of the judge about the case or about the instructions to them or about how they ought to decide the case despite those very, very extensive instructions. In any case, the jury will pick up tomorrow morning to start their 14th hour of deliberations in this case. We`ll all still be waiting for the verdict. When Governor McDonnell left the courthouse today in Richmond after waiting all day for the verdict that did not come, there was one small bit of drama that was reported by Jeff Shapiro, columnist for the Richmond Times- Dispatch". According to Mr. Shapiro, quote, "Flanked by his kids and lawyers, ex- Governor Bob McDonnell joking balks at crossing against the light, quote, `I`m trying to become a law-abiding citizen`." The jury was released tonight shortly before 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time. They will be back at it tomorrow morning at 9:45 a.m. for their third day of deliberations. All right. That does it for us tonight. We`re going to see you again tomorrow. But I have to tell you, we`re having this weird technical difficulty thing happening in the building right now, which means there`s going to be a commercial before Lawrence comes on, but I swear on my life, Lawrence is going to be with you and live in just a second. You are not allowed to leave. You have to stay right there. Promise me. I can see you during the commercial. Don`t move. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END