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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 12/16/14

Guests: Jane Mayer

ARI MELBER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Thank you for watching, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening Rachel. RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening Ari. If you are buttering me, up with the Air America references. It worked. Flattery will get you everywhere. MELBER: It was all Senator Franken. MADDOW: Yes. Well done. Thanks to you. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. We have only ever had male presidents in this country. That may change. And that may change sometime soon. Of that, because we only ever had men be presidents of the United States. It is kind of funny that in the modern era every presidency at a certain point has hit what you might call a sort of menopause, a sort of presidential menopause. These guys, you might say, are putting the men in menopause. It happens in the last two years of their presidency. And it happens like clockwork. They`re still president. They still have all the powers to become the presidency. But in the modern era, all of this last five presidents, back to the 80s, have all had to spend their last two years in office with a Congress in which both the House and the Senate are held by the opposite party. So Reagan and his Iran country years, Poppy Bush, for the gulf war, Bill Clinton and his impeachment years, George W. with the surge in Iraq and with the financial catastrophe. Since Reagan, the last two years of every presidency have been in what man, one man might call the legislative menopause. You know, and on the one hand for all these presidents it must be a pain and annoying and a whole new setup, tension headaches to deal with the Congress that`s going to give you nothing but grief. On the other hand, there must a kind of nice freedom for not actually having to worry about the burden of legislating anymore. Because no legislation as going to come out of Washington with that sharp a partisan divide between the White House and the Congress, at least not in this Washington. But that is what President Obama is about to embark upon. It is about to start. As he starts this home stretch of this presidency, particularly because everybody knows there`s not going to be anymore legislation. There`s not going to be anymore policy passed into Congress and signed into law. This president`s overall legacy starting to come in to sharper focus. And nobody knows exactly what is going to happen over the next two years, the last two years of his presidency. The worlds is unpredictable place, even politics can be very unpredictable thing. But no matter what else happens from here and out, this is one of the largest impacts that President Obama, his whole presidency will have on the United States of America. President Obama has, thus far, been able to name two justices to the United States Supreme Court. And they will both, obviously, serve for life terms. Beyond Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan know, President Obama has also appointed dozens, many dozens more Federal Judges whom you`ve never heard of. But who will also serve on the federal bench for life. And in the very last minutes of the Senate still being under Democratic control right now, this issue is basically what they`re working on. This is what they`re doing. Senate Democrats have 12 more open seats on the Federal Courts that they`re trying to fill with Obama nominees before they recess for the rest of the year. If they succeed in confirming those 12 more judges, that will bring the total number of judges that the Senate has confirmed this year to 88. And according to the AP and the Berquinson (ph) Institution, who counts these things, that would make this year a really good year for confirming judges. If they get through all 12 that they`ve got on the docket, that will be the most judges confirmed in a single year since 1994. And if they`re able to get those 12 judges confirmed, that means this big year for confirming judges will put President Obama`s legacy in pretty good shape, at least this part of it. Will put it in really good shape in terms of how many judges he has been able to nominate over the course of his presidency and how he will shape the judiciary for decades to come. At this point in the George W. Bush presidency, he had confirmed 253 Federal Judges. At this point in the Bill Clinton presidency, he had confirmed 298 judges. By the end of this week, if all goes as planned, President Obama will have confirmed 303 judges over the entire course of his presidency thus far. Because that`s Federal Appeals Court Judges and District Court Judges and those folks, they are not household names. And you do not recognize them if you pass them on the street. But those folks are really important part of any president`s legacy. These are lifetime appointments. And, no, judges don`t, you know, pledge fealty to the president who appointed them for the whole time they`re going to be on the bench. But, for the most part, these judges are the ongoing way that a president has forgoing influence, right? Influence moving forward in time. This is the ongoing way that a president`s values get reflected in a governing structure for years, even after the president, himself, has left office. And for President Obama in particular, his legacy in terms of Federal Judges is important not just in terms of the number of judges he has been able to get on the bench. But in terms of who they are. He has appointed more diverse judges. And in particular, more female judges than any other president by a mile. Forty two percent of President Obama judicial nominees have been women, 19 percent have been African- American, 11 percent have been Hispanic. And in particularly, in terms of women and Hispanic nominees, President Obama`s nominations are just way more diverse than either of the presidents who preceded him. And, so, even as President Obama moves in to this last part of his presidency, this part of his presidency that will be, shall we say, less fertile in terms of expectations for legislation. This part of his legacy is mostly overlooked but really impressive, really solid. And the reason he`s been able to do that, the reason he has been able to have such a big impact on the judiciary now and for decades to come, the reason he`s been able to get so many judges confirmed is because of what happened in November of last year. The United States Senate was able to very rapidly pick up the pace in terms of how many judges they were confirming after what happened in November of last year. They didn`t just pick up the pace last year because Democrats knew they`re going to lose the Senate and they have stuff to get done before that happen. They pick up the pace because of what happened in November of last year, which allowed them to pick up the pace. In November of last year, the Senate Democrats changed the rules about the -- how people get confirmed. Last November, Democrats changed the rules so President Obama`s nominees, both Federal Judges and nominees for the administration, they could no longer be filibustered by a minority of Republican Senators anymore. Republicans had basically set it up so you didn`t get confirmed with 50 votes anymore. You needed 60 votes to get confirm and they were thereby blocking all of President Obama`s nominees. But the rules changed. Anybody who can get a majority vote, fifty one votes in the Senate can be confirmed. And since the Democrats made that change, that is how they have been able to fill so many judicial vacancies. That is how they`ve been able to secure this really big, really important, will be very long standing part of President Obama`s legacy. When the Senate Democrats changed that rule last November, Republicans lost their minds. They didn`t just complain because something was happened they didn`t like, they didn`t just complain because they thought this was a bad idea or ill timed. They said that this procedural rules changed in the Senate was the end of the Republic as we know it. Senator Orrin Hatch called it a crisis. "Today we face a real crisis in the confirmation process." Senator Ted Cruz said the Senate was forever poisoned. The rules changed poison to the Senate and the Senate is now dead. Senator Mitch McConnell said, quote, "It`s a sad day in the history of the Senate." At the time, Republicans said this rules changed by the Democrats had broken the Senate. It was a crisis to do Senate business this way when Democrats controlled the Senate. Well, now that Republicans control the Senate, they sound a little different on this matter. One day after the election, in which the Republicans won control of the Senate, that same Senator Orrin Hatch, who said that the Democrats changing that rule was a constitutional crisis. One day after Republicans won controlled of the Senate, Orrin Hatch went public with this case the Republicans should actually keep their democratically (ph) changed. He said it would damage the Senate to change the rules back. Senator Ted Cruz argued that we definitely should not go back to the old rule. That would be terrible. Senator Mitch McConnell has not been talking about these things publicly but we`re told off the record, in sort of behind the scene that he is not exactly urging his fellow Republicans to flip back that rule, which he said was such a disaster on the Democrats today. So now, that Republicans are taking control, and they have this chance to redress these terrible wrong that the Democrats did. Undo this horrific nuclear explosion but the Democrats set of the middle of the constitution. The Republicans have decided that actually, they don`t think the idea so bad anymore. And they`re not going to change it back. And what this means for American politics in the big picture sets, is that over the next couple years, over these last two years of the Obama presidency that are about to start, nothing is going to get done that has to happen through the Congress. I mean, the Republicans are not taking a principled stand of what the rules is going to be here, right. I mean, the Republicans because of their own internal Republican politics are not going to allow their own members to support an advanced legislation that President Obama might agree with them on. They`re not going to be passing bills that President Obama signs. Republicans Party does not work that way anymore. I mean, in terms of substantive legislation, they`re going to only pass things that they expect President Obama to veto. And so we can expect President Obama to start veto in a lot more legislation. In terms of the Democrats in Congress, their role was simply be, to make sure that President Obama`s vetoes are sustained and not overturned. So that`s what`s going to happen. You know, it`s going to be fun to cover. It will be dramatic, kinetic activity in Washington. But it will just sort of be kinetic activity for the sake of kinetic activity. It will be politics as equal and opposite reaction, lots of noise that produces nothing, lots of activity and upsets that basically, substantively cancel itself out. The last opportunity for anything- substantive happening in American politics, anything substantive, any substantial events of any kind to happen in international politics, the last chance for that is not going to happen in the next two years. The last chance for it is tonight. It`s right now. As I speak, this second. And however much longer, the Senate decided to say in session before they turn out the lights and hand over the keys to the Republicans for this next two years, this is it. I mean, with the Senate in session yesterday, we finally got a Surgeon General. With the Senate still in session today, we`ve got a new head of the Immigration and Custom Enforcement Agency, the first ever Latina to hold that job. Congratulation Sarah Salda¤a of Texas. Today also with the Senate still in session, we got a top-ranking state department official confirmed, the Assistant Secretary of State who John McCain super hate. Congratulation, Tony Blinken. And over the next 24-ish hours if the Senate stays in business, we are likely going to get another dozen Federal Judges with life time appointments to the federal bench. Now, that said, according to the up-to-date tally that they keep posted, UScourts.gov, they are more than 12 pending nominees for open seats on the Federal Courts right now. Apparently they are 23 pending nominees for the courts right now. Democrats only have plans to vote on 12 of them. Why is that? Why not do them all? It was announced by both Senator Reed`s office and Senator McConnell`s office today that the Senate is planning on leaving tomorrow, wrapping up business tonight and tomorrow and then going home. The Democrats could say they want to stay longer. But, apparently, they are not planning on it. And the plan is to leave tomorrow. Now, think about this just teaser quick for a second. If you are a Republican, I mean I don`t understand why the Republicans want to leave Washington right now as soon as they can. Let`s close up the Senate for this year. I mean, not only does everyone want to go home early for Christmas, right? But the sooner this session is over, the less stuff Democrats can do with control of the Senate that they are about to lose. You know the fewer people they can confirm the less influence they can have over politics and the courts. I understand why Republicans are like, yes, we`re done. We are ready to go. Let`s come back with a new Congress next year. I get why Republicans all leaving vote, why are Democrats ready to go. If you were the Democrats and you right now held your last distance from power on Capitol Hill and it`s your choice when you`re going to hand over. Handed it over before the Republicans gets sworn it on January 6th. Would you really leave town on December 17th? I mean, I know everybody likes Christmas and stuff? And senators really, really, really like having time-off and they`re used to having a lot of it off. If they are 23 pending federal judicial nominees right now, who know, if I were a Democratic Senator I think I`d probably lobby for cancelling Christmas, sticking around until I got all 23 pending judicial nominees through, at least all the ones who could go through. Why are the Democrats leaving? This is their last chance to do anything. And they get to leave on their own time table. Why they are leaving now? And it`s not just the nominees. There`s also a bunch of policy that`s still hanging around out there not yet done. There`s terrorism in insurance bill, there has massive bipartisan support votes both the House and the Senate is being held up by Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn. There`s an energy efficiency bill that has bid bipartisan support and both chambers. It also being held up by Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn. There`s the veteran`s suicide bill which we`ve been talking about for the last couple of weeks, which has basically unanimous support in both the House and the Senate except for Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, who personally is individually blocking it. So, yes, Democrats could decide to recess, go home, chop wood, sleep late, whatever it is you guys do. Take some more time off and let one Republican Senator block all that stuff. And just hope that the Republicans want to get all of that stuff done when they come back in January and they`re in charge. Sure. I`m sure there`s a lot of overlap in your priorities. Or the Democrats could take advantage of the last bit of power that they have, ends at least in the case of Tom Coburn and stuff that`s being held out. Could you just wait the dude out? Like when is Tom Coburn and his family in Christmas plan for? When does dinner starts at Tom Coburn`s Christmas? About a half an hour after that dinner starts, might be a time for a good vote. And all this stuff he`s holding up don`t you think? I mean, just on the veteran`s suicide bill, just take out one piece of legislation. In the grand scheme of things in Congress, it cost basically nothing. It has support from everyone except Tom Coburn. Him blocking it, is enough to kill the veteran`s suicide bill, if the Senate goes home. But if they don`t go home, if they decide they rather get this work done while they can instead of going home and starting their Christmas vacation early, if they decide they instead want to do the work while they can do the work, it would takes staying in session a couple more days, 30 hours floor time to defeat the procedural objection that Tom Coburn has made that stopping the bill and its tracks. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans of America told us today that they are now looking for a senator who would be willing to basically watch the door to see when Tom Coburn and leaves since it`s his objection and his objection alone. If he leaves, they`re looking for a senator, any senator who would bring the suicide bill up again, knowing that Tom Coburn wouldn`t be there to keep objecting. It`s kind of a cut throat way to go about it. Wait until the dude out of the building and then run them through. But you know what, Tom Coburn has been pretty cut throat himself in stopping this thing for the veterans even as everybody else in Congress supports it, everybody else. Now if Tom Coburn doesn`t leave because he knows that might happen, I mean, it would be 30 hours of floor time that the bill would need to pass, 30 hours of floor time. And 30 hours of floor time sound like a huge drag, doesn`t it? And the house has already gone home. The president is like about to be on his way to Hawaii. Hanukkah starts tonight. Everyone wants to get their Christmas shopping done, right. And start celebrating, whatever they celebrate, right? I`m sure another 30 hours of floor time sounds like a drag. But if they take it, that will be the last 30 hours that they get to do anything substantive with for years to come. This is your last chance to do anything constructive, and for anything substantive to come out of Washington in terms of a Democratic priority for the next two years. Over the next two years we`re about to start a pointless veto dance which is going to be the last two legislative years of this presidency and this congress. Are you eager to get that started? I know why Republicans want to go home right now. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why Democrats want to go home. Not when there is still stuff, they can do. I know it`s a drag. But, you guys, cancel Christmas. Get stuff done. This is your last chance to get anything done for two years at least, if you care to try. Tick-tack. It`s not a biological clock, but it is ticking. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: At the end of the summer, 2004, Republicans gather in New York City for the Republican National Convention, "NBC Nightly News" anchor Tom Brokaw was in New York reporting from the convention. And on the third night of the convention, the big news of the night, was supposed to be that President Bush had just accepted his party`s nomination to run for a second term. And on that night, Vice President Dick Cheney was going to address the crowd in New York. That was supposed to be the big news that night. But, instead, the breaking lead story on "Nightly News" and around the world that night, came from Russia, came from a school in Russia. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TOM BROKAW, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS ANCHOR: As many as 400 people, including at least a hundred children, are being held hostage by terrorist wearing suicide bomb bills. It`s in a southern province, North Ossetia right on the border of Chechnya, at the Islamic area in a long-running war with Moscow. NBC`s Donna Prison is on Moscow tonight. DONNA PRISON, NBC: All day, parents watched, wept and waited. It was the morning of the first day back at school when militants stormed the building. A few managed to escape as Russian police and troops circled the building. Inside, more than a dozen heavily armed men and women some said to be strapped with explosives. At first, I thought it was a joke does this boy who escaped but then they started shooting. For the parents, each gunshot added to the agony. They could do nothing but that didn`t stop some in trying. This man doing all he could to rescue the children and four troops stopped him. Kill any of us, the militants have warned and we will kill 50 children. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That standoff at the school at Beslan went on for three days. Chechen rebels took over a thousand parents and teachers and children hostage in the school. Almost 800 of the hostages were school kids. That siege went onto a full day and into the night and then into next day and then into that night and then it was on day three when the Russian military stormed the school. Ultimately more than 330 people lost their lives in that school in Beslan, 186 children killed. That unimaginable attack in Beslan in Russia, was ten years ago now. And today 1,500 miles south and east, another version of Beslan happen again. It was in Peshawar in Pakistan. The exact reports of how it happened differ slightly depending on the account. But it`s the best that we tell it started in about 10:00 a.m. local time with a car bomb that apparently was set off as a diversion. After the car bomb, somewhere between six and nine gunmen from the Pakistani Taliban scaled the walls of the school and started killing everyone they could see. It was in the school called the Army Public School and Degree College. Most of the students at the school are kids Pakistani military. Pakistani military personnel send their kids there. Wives of male Pakistani soldiers service teachers there. The Pakistani-Taliban spokesman later claimed credit for this attack at the school said they`ve targeted the school and the specifically the kids at that school because they were the children of member of the military. Using guns and report of the also grenades and explosives and suicide vests, the attackers basically methodically moved through the school killing as many children as possible today. They were not trying to take hostages. They were not trying to hold ground for any length of time. They were trying to kill as many kids as they could kill. The attack lasted more than eight hours before authorities were able to control the scene and kill the last of the attackers. In the end, 132 kids were killed today. As well as ten adults staff members of the school. Some of the people who were killed were not just shot but also purposely burned. Some of the kids who survived may result to explain afterwards that they have not just seen their classmates and their teachers shot to death. They`d also seen their teachers and school staff member set on fire by the attackers. In addition to the more 140 deaths at the school today, nearly as many kids were wounded in the assaults, shot and wounded but survived, more than 120 of them. Now Pakistan and Afghanistan share a long and forest border. The Pakistani military and intelligence service has a long history of building up and supporting the Afghan Taliban which is part of why our nation`s relationship with Pakistan has been so frond since 9/11. But the Pakistani Taliban, they carried out this attack today, this is the same group that should be noted to launch the attack in 2012 on Pakistan new Nobel peace prize winner, Malala Yousafzai shooting her in the head for the crime of going to school and supporting girls education. The Pakistani Taliban did both of this attacks. Pakistani Taliban is not supported by the Pakistani military and Intelligence Service in the same way that the Afghan Taliban was for all those years. The Pakistani military and the Pakistani Taliban are more or less at war with each other right now. A civil war inside Pakistan that the military has stepped up in tribal regions and some of the border regions particularly over the past six months. This unimaginable school attack today, this was the Pakistani Taliban`s revenge on the Pakistani military, revenge taken out on their kids. Deliberately targeting and massacring kids by the dozens. Tonight, in response to the attacks on the school, the Pakistani military says it has launched massive airstrikes against Pakistani Taliban targets. Joining us now, Anna Nawaz. She`s an editor in "NBC News," Anna for years is "NBC" correspondent and bureau chief in Pakistan`s capital city of Islamabad. Anna, thanks for joining us tonight. ANNA NAWAZ, NBC CORRESPONDENT AND BUREAU CHIEF: Thank for having me. MADDOW: This is the kind of the news that feels like the end of the world, honestly. It`s very difficult. In terms of trying to make sense of it though, is what I said their basically your understanding in terms of why the school was targeted? At least why they say it was targeted? NAWAZ: Yes. Look, we know this was one of several army run school across the country. The army run about a 150 schools as part of their school systems so when their soldiers get transferred around the country for whatever reasons. They always have a place to send their kids without waiting for a slot somewhere. So a lot of people heard army run, they think it`s like four knocks(ph), there`s post and security guards, it`s not like that, it`s on a very busy public road, it`s like any other school, it`s publicly accessible, it`s just means that the army holds places there for their kids to attend. But a lot of the students are civilians, the teachers are civilian. They just know also that the kids of the military attend this school and the Taliban could have attack any school. I mean the Taliban have attacks schools across the country. MADDOW: Attack their crack. NAWAZ: Hundreds of school. They could have easily attack somewhere up the tribal areas where they are headquartering, where they have their logistical lines of supply. They didn`t do that. They went to Peshawar. They went to a bustling city center, miles away from where they are operating and targeted this specific school. And this specific school is where the kids of the soldiers who are headquarter there. The eleven core go. The eleven core of the once who actually leading the fight against the Taliban in the North West. (CROSSTALK) MADDOW: It`s a specific part of the Pakistani military who`s kids would be there and that is the specific part that have been fighting them for this last six months. NAWAZ: That it. MADDOW: In terms of the timing of this, should we see that military offensive that started six months ago should we see that as basically when the Taliban started I guess when their clock started ticking, in terms of when they are going to do this? Is this about the timing too? NAWAZ: At some, you know two former senior military officials say that the timing is interesting in some ways but look, in the last six months, since the military launched the defensive in North Waziristan in particular. Remember this is the last place that they had yet to launch an offence. If they launch offense across the entire tribal area, they`ve kind and region by region clearing out the militants. And some places they`ve been clearing out the entire population, launching an offensive, clearing secure in the area and then moving everyone back in. And the reason liberate about the way they`re going about this, North Waziristan was sort of the last bastion, it was the baddest of the badlands, the next is of the activities since they launched that attack finally after years of pressure, the Taliban are kind a gone of silent. They have a fuse sort of failed attempts at spectacularly unsuccessful hard targets. They hit a number of soft targets, busses of pilgrims and the southwestern part of the country. They hit at the Wagah border, which is the area between Pakistan and India, which is way away -- far away from their area of logistical -- MADDOW: But they hit because they could. NAWAZ: They hit it because they could. They sort of have been failing at the soft target. And one former military official said it`s sort of like the aging tiger, just kind of flailing and striking at whatever weak prey they can. But this was a deliberate attempt. This was something different from those. MADDOW: Over 130 kids killed. Something like this happened in this United States, we would see as a second 9/11. This would change us as a country. Is this? I mean, obviously, Pakistan has dealt with so much tragedy and thousands of people killed. Is this the kind of tragedy that`s going to change Pakistan? NAWAZ: I think we`ll have to wait and see. I mean, the trouble is, that they have been fighting for so long, they have such trouble getting the rest of the country to support them in this way. There`s never really been real national consensus between the military and the civilian leadership about this is the way we should be fighting and these are the people we should be going after. And when the leadership can`t agree, how do you get the rest of the country behind you, too? This might with the thing that finally swings public sentiment for everyone to say, we`re behind you. We need to do this and now is the time. MADDOW: Amna Nawaz, editor at NBC Asian America now, former correspondent and bureau chief in Islamabad, invaluable to have you here, Amna. Great to see you. NAWAZ: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: All right. We`ve got lots more still to come. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SUBTITLE: Today at the TRMS news meeting: MADDOW: So, dogs go to heaven under Paul. Dogs don`t go to heaven under John Paul I. Dogs go to heaven under John Paul II. Dogs don`t go to help under Benedict. Dogs might go to heaven under Francis, but we haven`t heard yet. EXEC. PRODUCER CORY GNAZZO: Yes, but do we really know if John Paul I, was he in there long enough? SR. PRODUCER TRICIA MCKINNEY: Thirty-four days. GNAZZO: To make a decision about dogs going to heaven? (LAUGHTER) (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Nine years ago today, December 16th, 2005, the CIA was preparing a top-secret intelligence briefing for the president, for President George W. Bush. Every day, the president gets something called the presidential daily brief. It`s essentially a round up of the most important American intelligence information on that particular day. And nine years ago today, in December 2005, the CIA was preparing its presidential daily briefing for President Bush, and the substance of that day`s briefing caused a bit of a backlash inside the agency. We did not know this before now. So, at the time, the CIA had recently captured what they believed to be a high value al Qaeda operative. He was being held at a CIA black site. He was, we now know, being tortured by his interrogators. But the torture wasn`t working. The interrogation was coming up dry. And the presidential daily brief that day basically reflected the lack of information that the CIA was getting from this guy. A draft of the briefing that day said that the prisoner who was being subjected to these aggressive interrogations, provided, quote, "almost no information that could be used to locate former colleagues or disrupt attack plots." So we`ve been torturing this guy and torturing this guy, but we`ve got nothing from him. When that draft started making the rounds inside the CIA, one of the interrogators who was involved in that interrogation started arguing that that`s section of the presidential daily brief needed to be changed immediately. He fired off an email that said, quote, "If we allow the director to give this PDB, as it`s written, to the President, I would imagine the President would say, `Hey, you asked me to risk my presidency on your interrogations, and now you give me this that implies the interrogations aren`t working. Why do we bother?` We think the tone of the PDB should be tweaked. Some of the conclusions, based on our experts` observations, should be amended. The glass is half full, not half empty, and is getting more full every day." Ultimately, that line of the presidential daily briefing was taken out. The entire reference to the fact that torture wasn`t working and was eliciting no useful information whatsoever, that whole line was deleted from the draft that was being prepared for the president that day. We know about that little bit of behind-the-scenes deception because it was included in U.S. Senate`s report on the torture program that was just released this past week. And that report also tells us exactly what sorts of methods were being used to try to extract information out of that specific CIA prisoner. Quote, "He was subject to nudity, dietary manipulation, insults, slaps, abdominal slaps, attention grasps, facial holes, walling, stress positions, water dousing with 44 degrees Fahrenheit water for 18 minutes. He was shackled in the standing position for 54 hours as part of sleep deprivation. He experienced swelling in his lower legs, requiring blood thinner and spiral bandages. He was moved to a sitting position. His sleep deprivation was then extended to 72 hours. After the swelling subsided, he was provided with more blood thinner and was returned to the standing position. The sleep deprivation was then extended to 102 hours. After four hours of sleep, he was subjected to an additional 52 hours of sleep deprivation. In addition to the swelling, he also experienced an edema on his head due to walling, abrasions on his neck, and blisters on his ankles from shackles." And all of that yielded precisely nothing in terms of actionable intelligence. That interrogation was being conducted in late 2005. We know from the Senate report that by that time, most of the CIA`s harsh interrogations were being outsourced to a pair of contractors, a pair of psychologists who had basically reversed engineered a military training program that`s supposed to help members of the military survive torture. They turned the survive torture program into an inflict torture program. And they inflicted it and directed others how to do that. And right around the time that he was involved in the torture that was being inflicted upon the detainee who wouldn`t talk in 2005, the one who was requiring blood thinner to stand him back up again. While he was heading up the CIA`s torture program, this guy, one of those contractors, James Mitchell, got a phone call from a reporter -- reporter at the "New Yorker" named Jane Mayer. Jane Mayer had discovered James Mitchell and his role in devising the CIA`s torture program, reverse-engineering the U.S. military`s survival tactics to be used against prisoners. She figured out who James Mitchell was. She got his phone number and she called him and asked him questions about what he was doing. Quote, "In an interview, he said that he is now a private contractor and does not currently work with the Defense Department. Asked if he has worked with the CIA conducting interrogations, he said, quote, `If that was true, I couldn`t say anything about it.`" Not only was it true, but we now know that James Mitchell, when he spoke to Jane Mayer, was just preparing to advise the CIA about the interrogation of the prisoner who would go on to need blood thinner just to stand, the one whose entirely worthless interrogation was later hidden from the president in that daily brief, so the president wouldn`t lose confidence in these kinds of interrogation practices that some people at the CIA were apparently deeply invested in maintaining, even though they were not working. James Mitchell is now essentially on a media tour, bragging about his role in the torture program. The man is basically unavoidable for comment at the moment. He`s done interviews just in the last week, with everyone from "Reuters" to the "A.P." to Vice News. And now, the FOX News Channel is giving him a four-night stand of back-to-back interviews, four straight nights on FOX for him bragging about how torture really works and he`s one of the good guys. But it was Jane Mayer who tracked him down nearly a decade ago when he was tight-lipped, in part, because he was still right in between the middle of his interrogation schedule. Joining us now is Jane Mayer, staff writer of "The New Yorker." She broke some of the first stories on abuse and torture, and conducted what we think is the first interview with James Mitchell nine years ago. Jane, thanks very much for being with us. Appreciate it. JANE MAYER, THE NEW YORKER: Glad to be with you. MADDOW: Can I ask you? And I know you`re not going to give up any sources and I`m not asking you to, but can I ask you if you can tell us what led you to James Mitchell in the first place back then? He was not on everybody`s radar at that point. It seems like you were the first to find him. MAYER: Well, it was just really curiosity about what was going on in the dark side at that point. What I could see was that all over the world, there seem to be similar kinds of abuse taking place where the American government was holding detainees. And at that point, the government was telling us that there was no program, and that if there was abuse in places like Abu Ghraib, it was just a few rotten apples who had inflicted this. But yet, the same kinds of abuse were popping up. They were people -- there were detainees in hoods and being subjected to loud music and strange sort of psychological torment, when you could get a little glimpse of it. It didn`t make sense that there was no program and that would be a spontaneous combustion all around the world if these same techniques. So, I started with my editor, Dan Zalewski, at "The New Yorker", trying to figure out what was going on. And I went and interviewed lots of people and got to the Pentagon where somebody said to me, one of the top people at the Pentagon, and said, oh, there`s a program. It`s run by psychologists and it has something to do with survival and evasion. And I went back and I Googled and up popped this program that`s run for the Special Forces out of Fort Bragg called SERE, Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape, which is kind of a curriculum of torture that America has put together over the years to learn about the most illegal and immoral kinds of torture that could be inflicted on U.S. soldiers. There are people who are experts in this, kind of curators of torture, just so that it will never happen to our people. Those experts included a psychologist who the CIA turned to for advice on what we should be doing after 9/11 to detainees. And that was James Mitchell. So, I -- one thing led to another and I just remember them calling him out of the blue, and it`s funny hearing your introduction because what I remember him saying is, I have nothing to hide. When you see what`s in this report, you realize how much there was to hide and how much was going on right then, and how much is still going out there about what this program contained. MADDOW: Jane, one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you now that the report has come out, is because you broke so many of the details about the torture program over the years. I wondered as I was reading it if there were things in the Senate report that came as news to you, or if you felt like this was essentially, a different angle write-up on what you and others had already been able to report. MAYER: Well, I think the narrative remains the same. And I`m glad that we were able to tell the American public what was going on years before the government finally got around to being able to do it. But there`s so much more detail here because of the ability to see the CIA talking to itself in this report. I mean, I think it is a first-rate report with amazing reporting and any American who`s interested in this should just go take a look at it. You are eavesdropping, basically, on the CIA when you look at this report. And the details are still shocking to me nine years later, I have to say. There`s always something new and something terrible to learn. For me, one of the most interesting new angles, really, was just to see the level of deception that the agency practiced in the way that it didn`t really tell officials at the Justice Department, the White House, and certainly not in Congress, how grizzly and horrible this program really was. They would just whitewash it and say, oh, it`s just what we do to our own people in training. Well, it wasn`t just what we do to our own people in training. It was far worse. And these weren`t volunteers. These were people who were our prisoners in America where we didn`t before 9/11 do this kind of thing to people. MADDOW: Jane Mayer, staff writer for "The New Yorker" magazine, thank you for helping us understand this. And retroactive congratulations on having nailed so much of this and we now know, correctly, years in advance, Jane. Thank you. MAYER: Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: Thanks. All right. Still ahead, we have to go to department of corrections. Stay with us. (COMMERIAL BREAK) MADDDOW: We`re now going to give you a picture that may help you with the next segment. This is an aspirational dog. This dog is dressed up like the pope. Please hold that thought. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Department of Corrections: A few weeks ago, November 26th, Pope Francis made a public appearance that caused a big stir, particularly among dogs and the people who love dogs and the people who worry about their everlasting dog souls. As the story went, Pope Francis in Rome met a little boy who was distraught because his beloved dog had died. The pope reportedly consoled the little guy by telling him, "One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God`s creatures." So, news flash -- dogs go to heaven! Of course you go to heaven, good boy. Of course. So, naturally, it made the front page of "The New York Times". Here`s their page one headline. "Dogs in heaven? Pope Francis leaves pearly gates open." "The Daily News" says, "Pope says dogs go to heaven." Here`s "Time Magazine", "Pope Francis says there`s a place for pets in paradise." The story had a huge impact, it was picked up everywhere. Seriously, lots of headlines. As a nation, we are dog people. And whether or not you`re Catholic, there is something satisfying about hearing the pope say your dead dog is doing great in the afterlife. Also the one you`ve got now is definitely northward bound at the end of his life with you. It`s a very appealing story, but there`s only a slight problem with this very appealing news flash. A slight problem which forced "The New York Times" to issue one of its longest corrections in recent memory. It`s a four-paragraph long correction. Turns out about the "dogs go to heaven" thing, the pope was not consoling a little boy whose dog had died. The pope also did not say, "One day, we`ll see our animals again, paradise is open to all creatures." It turns out the source of that quote was a different pope, a long gone pope, Paul VI who died in 1978. The mix-up happen because an Italian newspaper compared what Pope Francis actually did say with what Pope Paul VI said back in the day, and everybody conflated the two quotes when everyone translated the current article. What the current pope, Pope Francis, actually said was apparently more like this, "The Holy Scripture teaches us that the fulfillment of this wonderful design also affects everything around us." Which is a nice thing to say. It`s just not you`ll see your dog in heaven. And dogs might go to heaven, but that is not what the man said. So, a Department of Corrections papal edition, it was just wishful thinking on the front page of "The New York Times". Wishful thinking in all our minds. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: First thing you need to know about this story is this -- mazel tov. Mazel tov is Hebrew for congratulations. So, like you get a job promotion or birthday. Mazel tov can also mean good luck. So, it`s mazel tov 101. A few days ago, a letter surfaced that was written by Wisconsin`s Republican Governor Scott Walker, back when he was a county executive. It was a letter he wrote in response to a request that the county host a Menorah lighting ceremony outside the Milwaukee courthouse for Hanukkah. And Scott Walker wrote in reply in this letter, "Thank you for your letter regarding the menorah display. Yes, we would be happy to display the Menorah celebrating the eight days of Hanukkah here at the courthouse." And then he went in to the details, told the guy who he should contact to organize the lighting of the Menorah. So, yay! It`s going to be a happy and festive Hanukkah in Milwaukee. Then, Scott Walker politely signed the letter, "Thank you again and Molotov." Molotov? Maybe it was just his computer machine autocorrecting a friendly mazel tov to an improvised explosive device. That might have been it. But let it be noted on this night of all nights that even if Governor Scott Walker did mean mazel tov, this particular situation of him granting the request to have the Hanukkah celebration, is it`s not really a mazel tov kind of situation. I have it on good authority that it`s more of a "gut yontev" situation, a sort of happy holidays thing, not mazel tov. But still, nice try. And tonight is the first night of the Festival of Lights. So, Molotov to you and your whole family. Happy Hanukkah. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". Good evening, Lawrence. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END