IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 12/22/14

Guests: Bob Herbert, Bill Richardson

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. HAYES: You bet. MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. After two New York City police officers were ambushed and killed in an unprovoked shooting, as they sat on their patrol car on Saturday, the funeral arrangements for one of the officers have now been set. Officer Rafael Ramos was in his third year on the force when he was killed on Saturday. His family says there will be a viewing for him on Friday, this upcoming Friday, the day after Christmas. And then, on Saturday, at 10:00 a.m., in Queens New York, there`s going to be a funeral for Officer Ramos. Now, whether every a police officer is killed in the line of duty in the United States, the funeral is a big deal. Line of duty funerals, you will often see not just local law enforcement, but police officers from all over the country. In this instance, that may be doubly true because of the nature of this killing in particular. The other officer who`s killed on Saturday was a seven-year veteran named Wenjian Liu. As of tonight, funeral details have not been scheduled for Officer Liu, in part because part of his family is in China, and authorities are trying to expedite the visa process, so his family members can be here in New York for the funeral. So, we know when Officer Ramos` funeral is going to be. That`s going to be Saturday. We do not know when the funeral is going to be for Officer Liu, but when we get that second day for Officer Liu, both of those are going to be very important dates to watch now, in terms of how the country continues to respond to these officers being killed. And, also, the broader context of the anti-police brutality protests that have been happening all over the country for weeks now. Protests the killer referenced in his online postings the day he shot those officers in New York. Today, New York City`s mayor, Bill de Blasio, asked for a pause if those ongoing protests until after the two officers can be laid to rest. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK: I`m asking everyone, and this is across the spectrum, to put aside protests, put aside demonstrations. Until these funerals are passed, let`s focus just on these families and what they have lost. I think that`s the right way to try and build towards a more unified and decent city. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Nobody knows if the protests are going to stop, but Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and even the Brooklyn Borough president, Eric Adams, who himself is a retired captain in the NYPD, who`s been very outspoken on issues of race and policing, they all -- all of those local leaders made the same call today that protests about police use of force should not necessarily stop all together, but they should stop for a few days. They`re basically calling for a cooling off period to keep the focus on the officers who just lost their lives, rather than the loss of those officers` lives turning into a proxy for more political fighting. But as we look ahead to the officers` funerals, and as officials try to cool down some of the very hot political reaction to these killings this weekend, the shooting itself remains an open investigation with police saying there are a number of elements of what happened here that they do not yet fully understand. Obviously, they know who did it. They know the bottom line of what happened and that these two officers lost their lives and that the man who killed them and killed himself there after, but there are important elements of the shooting that they say they still not yet figured out. Here`s what we do know in terms of the very compressed, very dramatic timeline of what happened on Saturday: 5:51 a.m. on Saturday morning, police in Owings Mills, Maryland, which is Baltimore County, Maryland, they got a call from an apartment building with a report of a shooting. A 29- year-old woman had been shot in the abdomen. She was seriously hurt but alive. Her name is Shaneka Thompson. And she was able to tell officers what had happened to her. She said that she was shot by her ex-boyfriend, by this man, Ismaaiyl Brinsley. And that he had pled the apartment after shooing her and that he had taken her cell phone with him when he left. He left his own cell phone behind in her apartment, and he took her phone with him. And it ended up being crucial that he had her cell phone and that police knew that he had her cell phone, because within 40 minutes of Baltimore County police first responding to that early morning shooting, they were able to track the victim`s phone and, thereby, follow Ismaaiyl Brinsley`s whereabouts as he fled the scene. By 7:46 a.m. on Saturday morning, they had signals from that cell phone indicating that he was traveling northbound on Interstate 95. Apparently, he was taking a bus from the Baltimore area toward New York City. From 8:30 a.m. until after 10 a.m. that morning, Saturday morning, they were able to track the location of the cell phone, northbound on I-95 into New Jersey. At 10:24 a.m., Baltimore County police tracking that cell phone were able to see that the man had entered the Lincoln Tunnel, to cross from New Jersey, into New York City. Just before 11:00 a.m., he got off the bus in midtown Manhattan. He then got on a subway, at the Times Square Subway Station, and he took the subway to Brooklyn. Just past noon, 12:07 p.m. on Saturday, having arrived in Brooklyn, Ismaaiyl Brinsley ditched the ex-girlfriend`s phone. And then the next two hours are somewhat mysterious and critical to this case and, ultimately, very scary. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PATRCIK CONRY, CHIEF OF BROOKLYN DETECTIVES: We`re seeking the community`s assistance with this very important investigation. We`ve been able to establish the whereabouts of Ismaaiyl Brinsley from the early morning hours of Saturday, the 20th, when he`s in Maryland, through his travel up to New York from Manhattan and, indeed, into Brooklyn. What we do have is a gap in his movements for about two hours and 30 minutes, between 12:00 and 2:30 p.m., when we believe he`s in the Ft. Green section of Brooklyn, Ft. Green or Bed-Stuy. ROBERT BOYCE, NYPD CHIEF OF DETECTIVES: What you see over here is some images. We have a tape of Atlantic Center Mall where he is, where he`s walking around -- and if we can play that tape. We`re asking the public`s assistance if they`ve seen him because they don`t know where he was for two hours. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So, what`s happening between noon and 2:30 is that this guy is wanted for the shooting in Maryland. Baltimore County Police have been able to track him as he left the state of Maryland and headed north into New York City. They could track him that far, they could track him from Maryland all the way north I-95, into New Jersey, into New York, into Manhattan, and then into Brooklyn. They could track him that far, but then he ditched the phone they were using to track. What also happens in this 2, 2 1/2-hour period, is that friends and family of Shaneka Thompson, friends and family of the woman who he shot that morning came forward and told the Baltimore County police, hey, look what this guy has been posting online all day. He had posted on Instagram about the fact that he had shot his ex- girlfriend that morning. He had also posted explicitly a picture of a gun and a threat that he planned to kill police officers that day. And they knew that he had gone to New York. So, that information happened at about 1:30 p.m. -- 1:30 p.m. is when Baltimore County police learned about this threat that this guy was making online. By 1:45, the Baltimore County police had prepared a wanted flyer with the man`s picture on it, and this very explicit warning: suspect is armed with a .9mm handgun and has posted pictures on his Instagram saying he will shoot a police officer today. By just passed 2:00, by 2:10 p.m., the Baltimore police are on the phone with police in Brooklyn, warning the Brooklyn police that they believe this guy has a gun, they believe he`s already shot somebody today, they believe he has arrived in New York City and that he is saying he`s going to kill police officers today. At 2:46 p.m., the Baltimore County police send the NYPD that wanted poster they had prepared so the NYPD can start to distribute it, so police officers can be in the lookout. They send that from Maryland to New York City at 2:46 p.m. Two minutes later, at 2:48 p.m., it is too late. On Tompkins Avenue, in Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, Officer Liu and Officer Ramos never had a chance, never had a warning. Ismaaiyl Brinsley apparently walked up to their patrol car from behind and just without warning and without saying anything started shooting into the vehicle. Both officers were killed at the same. After shooting the officers, Ismaaiyl Brinsley ran one long block down Myrtle Avenue, went into a subway station, two utility workers apparently saw him and told police where he had gone, police chased him down into the subway station whereupon Ismaaiyl Brinsley used the same gun that he had just used to shoot the two officers, which he had used that morning to shoot his ex-girlfriend. And standing on the subway platform, he put the gun to his own head and he killed himself. Between the time when he ditched the cell phone, at 12:07 p.m. and when those police officers were shot and killed at 2:48 p.m., that time period, police say they are intensely interested in finding out anything they can about what happened in that time period, where he was, what he did and if he spoke to anyone. And, if he did, what he said. The police commissioner announced today that the working theory here is that he acted alone. But they cannot rule anything out until they`ve actually ruled it out. And so, now, they need to make sure that this was, as it seems, an isolated incident of a man acting alone and, that there`s not an ongoing threat to officers either in New York or anywhere else. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WILLIAM BRATTON, NYPD COMMISSIONER: Investigation that we have conducted so far leads us to believe that he acted alone. Early on, there was concern that was he, in fact, a lone player. Nothing in the investigation, up until this point, would lead us to believe that he was anything but a solo operator, if you will. However, since the incident, we received a number of, one I would describe as a copycat types of threats, and we have been investigating those with incredible care. MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK: The point that I think here, again, the commissioner said, there had been copycat threats. Anything like that needs to be taken very seriously, I just want to emphasize. It`s the simplest thing any New Yorker can do is call 911. I want to make sure -- I`m asking all of our colleagues in the media to please get this message out. But if you hear someone make a physical threat against the police officer, if you see something on social media that is a threat against the police officer, call 911 immediately. We would much rather get too much information than too little. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: After these two police officers were killed on Saturday, police say there`s in reason to believe that the killer was working with anybody else, or that it was part of some larger ongoing plot, even as they continue to track down every last thing they can about what happened. Police are taking every precaution to make sure, including trying to find out where he went and who he talked to in New York City, and that lost 2 1/2 hours between when he ditched the phone they were using to track him and when he killed the police officers and then killed himself. Although this man referenced the police killings of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in Staten Island in his Instagram threat to kill police officers before he went ahead and did so, police say the only link they can find so far between him in the protest movement around those deaths was that he appears to have taken a cell phone video of one protest, as a bystander, in New York City earlier this month. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BOYCE: We have recovered his cell phone from Baltimore and it has over several thousand images, we`re tearing down that as well, one the cell phone images that we have is a video of Union Square Park where he is a spectator watching one of the protests. We date that at around December 1st. Again, he`s just a spectator it seems. As people walking by, he`s recording it on his cell phone. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The threat to kill these officers was couched online in reference to the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. That said, according to police, at this point in their investigation, it seems that the suspect did not have meaningful ties to that protest movement. In fact, what seems striking about him is that he had little ties to anyone or anything at all. Ismaaiyl Brinsley had been arrested at least 19 times in the past decade since he turned 18. He had been arrested for misdemeanor assault, for shoplifting, grand larceny, gun possession, a lot of other offenses. He apparently dropped out of school in the 10th grade, law enforcement officials have said they have not been able to even locate any current address for him. He doesn`t seem to have any employment history of any note as well. In 2010, he reportedly threatened to kill a woman after getting into an argument with her at a Waffle House in Atlanta. He threw a drink at the woman, said he would return with a knife. Mr. Brinsley`s mother has told law enforcement officers that she was afraid of him, she was scared of her own son. His siblings have denied having any contact with him for years. Mr. Brinsley`s mothers has told authorities that he suffered from some form of mental illness. She told police he had tried to commit suicide in the past, including trying to hang himself last year. She said he had been institutionalized at some point. The ex-girlfriend who he shot and wounded on Saturday morning told police that he held his gun to his own head during that confrontation in her apartment, threatening to kill himself with the gun before he shot her instead. So, aside from the issue of whether he acted alone, and if he did act alone, whether he was guided by some ideology, whether these murders were connected to some ultimate goal in his mind, this is someone who seems to have very little connection with others in his day-to-day life, unless it was to threaten people. He seems to have been very alone and very troubled, and very repeatedly violent. This is the make shift memorial that`s been set up on the street where those two officers died on Saturday afternoon. This is a time of incredible tension, not just in New York City, but around the country. There was a renewed effort today to keep the focus on the officers who was just killed so that they do not represent something larger without us remembering who they were as men. Calls from several New York City officials today, the head of the police union and the mayor included, to keep the political debate turned off until these two officers can be laid to rest. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (VIDEO CLIP PLAYS) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DE BLASIO: I`m asking everyone, across the spectrum, to put aside protests, put aside demonstrations until these funerals are passed. Let`s focus just on these families and what they have lost. I think that`s the right way to try and build towards a more unified and decent city. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio today calling for a pause in the protest over police brutality as the city and country mourn two New York City police officers who were ambushed and killed while they were on duty on Saturday. Joining us now is Bob Herbert, distinguished senior fellow at Demos, formerly an op-ed columnist with "The New York Times", the author of "Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America." Bob, thank you for being here. BOB HERBERT, DEMOS: Great to be here, Rachel. MADDOW: Do you think it is possible for everybody to take a breather for a minute? Is there a way to pause and be more constructive than the initial response here? HERBERT: Sure. You can take a breather. The question is, how long is that breather going to be? What we witnessed is an atrocity, a terrible tragedy. These officers were murdered in cold blood. There is no defense for it all. I don`t know anyone on either side of this issue, whether they`re police officers or protesters, or just ordinary members of the New York City community who would condone this kind of atrocity. MADDOW: No, right. HERBERT: At the same time, I think that it`s important not to let this terrible tragedy obscure the very important issue of an epidemic of police violence against primarily African Americans and often, African- American children. That`s an important issue. And people who care about justice need to continue that issue. Now, the mayor has asked that there not be any protests between now and when the funerals occur out of respect for the family. I think that`s a reasonable request. If I had something to do with the protest, I would honor that request. But at some point, the campaign against police violence -- unnecessary police violence, sometimes fatal police violence, must continue. And I think it must grow, because justice has to be served, at some point. MADDOW: The initial reaction, particularly on the political right to these killings, was not what I expected honestly. When Rudy Giuliani came out and said, there`s been four months of hate the police propaganda from this president. HERBERT: Right. MADDOW: When the former New York Governor George Pataki came out and full on blamed Eric Holder for this having happened, when even the police commissioner said that these killings are essentially an offshoot of the protests, that they`re directly related to the protests, despite the facts of what it seems to be this man`s criminal and troubled and isolated life, that is the way the country is seeing this because those voices on the right and so sure that this was political. HERBERT: Yes. I`m not at all surprised. I`ve been covering this stuff for decades. I was in Harlem when Rudy Giuliani because of protests, locked down Harlem, prevented elderly women from getting to their homes, buzzed the protesters with police helicopters and stuff like that. He has a Manichean view of the world. And I just haven`t been surprised by any of this. And this is why it`s so difficult to overcome, the problems connected with policing, why the police violence continues. Why -- you can go back to the 1970s, `80s and then right up to the present day where you can get these atrocities occurring at the hands of some police officers. When Rudy says that this is a campaign of hatred against the police, well, that`s just flat out not true. It`s a campaign for justice to prevent the understand e unnecessary killing of innocent people. No one wants to restrain the police from going after criminals. I think the police take some credit, a great deal of credit for the tremendous drop in crime, I don`t think they get all the credit. But they take, you know -- but it`s important not to stereotype people on either side, whether it`s the police officers, whether it`s the protesters. MADDOW: Bob Herbert, distinguished senior fellow at Demos, it`s good to see you, Bob. Thanks for being here. HERBERT: You, too. Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: I should tell you that Bob`s latest book is called "Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America". All right. We`ve got lots ahead tonight, including some artificial insemination news for the first time-ever on this show. Don`t be weird. This story involves the State Department. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Protesters blocked both lanes this afternoon causing a major traffic block in downtown Milwaukee. They abandoned their cars in the north and southbound lanes and then formed a human chain across the entire freeway. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was Friday in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Seventy-four protesters arrested after carrying out a coordinated plan to block the interstate and bring downtown Milwaukee traffic to a halt. Those protests on Friday were in the name of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, black men killed by police officers -- officers who were not then charged in this death. There, of course, have been nationwide protests over the Garner and Brown killings. But in Milwaukee, the protests have also been about the case of Dontre Hamilton. In April, Dontre Hamilton was shot fatally more than a dozen times by a Milwaukee police officer in broad daylight, in a downtown Milwaukee park that`s called the Red Arrow Park. Mr. Hamilton was unarmed. His family says he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and from hallucinations. The Milwaukee police department says an officer approached Dontre Hamilton while he was asleep on the ground in that park downtown. The officer says he attempted to pat down Mr. Hamilton, who then became resistant. He then tried to sue Mr. Hamilton using his baton. Police day Dontre Hamilton then took the police officer`s baton and struck the officer with it and then the officer shot Dontre Hamilton multiple times, 14 times. That officer was later fired by the Milwaukee Police Department, not for anything related to his use of force in that shooting, but for not following department protocol during the encounter that led up to the shooting. The officer has contested his firing. Another high profile cases, where it stops by police officers, ended with the deaths of unarmed citizens. Local prosecutors have brought those cases to local grand juries and then those local grand juries have decided not to charge the police officers. That`s what happened in the Michael Brown case in St. Louis. That`s what happened with the Eric Garner case in Staten Island. In Wisconsin, though, they have a different way of dealing with this kind of thing, at least a different way of dealing with part of it. A week before Dontre Hamilton was killed by that police officer in that downtown Milwaukee Park, just a week ahead of that, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed into law an unprecedented bipartisan bill that changed the way Wisconsin handles the investigation when a police officer kills someone. The new law requires that investigation into any police shooting must involve at least two investigators from outside the police department. The idea is to keep police officers from being in the position of investigating their fellow officers from the same police force. Wisconsin is the first state to do something like this statewide. But it`s that state`s effort, basically, to mitigate the conflict of interest that can be inherent in the way we investigate most of those cases now. And because that law was signed just a week before Dontre Hamilton was killed by that Milwaukee police officer, Dontre Hamilton`s case was the first case to be handled under the rules of this new law. It wasn`t just the Milwaukee Police Department investigating itself. They structured it differently. Two special agents from the state, from the Wisconsin Department of Justice were picked to lead the investigation. Then, instead of going to a grand jury, the district attorney in Milwaukee looked at their work and made the decision himself whether the officer would face charges. Now, Dontre Hamilton`s family has questioned all along whether these agents were actually independent. They alleged that the people who were doing these investigations weren`t actually outside. They were working too closely with police in Milwaukee, despite the change in the law. Well, for more than six months, the family has been waiting for announcement from the district attorney to hear the results of this inside- outside investigation. Protests continue throughout this time. Last week, Governor Scott Walker announced that the National Guard would be ready when the D.A.`s decision came out just in case. On Friday, we saw the interstate blocked. On Saturday, the National Guard began calling up reserve officers. Finally, this morning, nearly eight months after Dontre Hamilton`s death, the Milwaukee County district attorney announced that he would not seek state criminal charges against the officer involved in this shooting. The district attorney said that because Dontre Hamilton was attacking the officer with a deadly weapon, with the officer`s baton, the officer had justification to shoot in, quote, "justified self defense." After that decision this morning to not press chargers, protesters marched again to the park where Dontre Williams died. They went to a downtown church. They marched at the federal courthouse. The attorney for Dontre Hamilton`s family appealed to the Department of Justice, the federal Department of Justice to open a federal investigation into Dontre Hamilton`s death. Well, tonight, the U.S. Department of Justice has announced that it will undertake a federal review in this case in Milwaukee, the same way the department has opened investigations into the deaths of Michael Brown in Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, and Trayvon Martin in Florida. These have been difficult days and difficult weeks and difficult months in a long, national conversation about policing and race and civil rights in this country. And it is nowhere near finished yet. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: If you travel due west from Los Angeles, if you leave L.A. and head straight west across the Pacific Ocean, you will eventually land at this ocean right here. It`s right on the coast of South Korea, and it sort of looks like a big, industrial farm of some sort. Those four dome-like structures that you see lining the coast, and the two smaller ones from the top of the screen, those are nuclear reactors. South Korea has 23 different nuclear reactors spread across the country. And today, the company that operates all of those nuclear reactors got hacked. The company and the South Korean government both said there was no immediate risk to the public. They said the breach seemed to be aimed at stealing information from the nuclear reactor company rather than damaging the reactor or doing anything more nefarious. But the headlines about this today, and they had a sort of on-edge quality to them -- mostly, I think, because of who South Korea`s neighbor to the north is. There`s no indication that North Korea was behind the hacking of the company that controls all the South Korean nuclear reactors today. Early signs reportedly point to anti-nuclear groups. But this is a moment in time where it seems like anything is possible, particularly when it comes to that part of the world and shady computer attacks. Right before leaving town on Friday, in his end-of-the-year press conference, President Obama said that the U.S. government has concluded that North Korea was behind the hacking attack on Sony Pictures. And the president said that the United States government would respond, quote, "in a place and time and manner that we choose." Beyond those oblique comments at the press conference, here`s what President Obama told CNN in comments that CNN first aired yesterday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t think it was an act of war. I think it was an act of cyber vandalism that very costly, very expensive. We take it very seriously. We will respond proportionately, as I said. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: We will respond proportionately. President Obama made those remarks in an interview that was taped on Friday. But then, almost immediately after, something unusual started happening inside North Korea. What you`re looking at here is a chart that shows Internet connectivity inside North Korea. This is from a company called Dyn Research that analyzes performance issues on the Internet. Each of those purple bars you see on that chart there indicates an outage in North Korea`s Internet connection. As you can see, there`s sporadic outages before yesterday. And then basically, it gets more frequent, kind of avalanche of purple bars, widespread Internet outages heading into today. "The New York Times" reporting today that, quote, "North Korean Internet access first became unstable late on Friday. The situation worsened over the weekend and by today, by Monday, North Korea`s Internet was completely offline." One San Francisco-based tech company told "The New York Times" today that North Korea`s Internet access was, to use a technical term, toast. They called it toast. Quote, "The North Korean Internet network has gone away." So, it`s kind of interesting timing, right? President Obama says on Friday that the U.S. will respond to North Korea at a time and manner of our choosing. And then, starting that day, North Korea`s entire Internet connection starts to poof. North Korea, as you can imagine, is not exactly a super connected country in the first place. The Internet there is not really accessible to average North Koreans. The physical structure for it is mostly routed through China. And while outages can be commonplace in North Korea`s network, people who watch this stuff for a living say this is not your run- of-the-mill North Korean Internet outage. It seems to be something bigger and more comprehensive than that. In terms of possible involvement in this, two U.S. government officials have told NBC News tonight that the U.S. government is not involved in causing these outages in North Korea. But this was the reaction today when the U.S. State Department was asked that same thing. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: If you could comment on reports that they have lost Internet access and maybe under attack? MARIE HARF, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: As the president said, we are considering a range of options in response. We aren`t going to discuss, you know, publicly, operational details about possible response options, or comments on those kinds of reports in any way, except to say that as we implement our responses, some will be seen, some may not be seen. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Some many not be seen. Again, it`s not at all clear that the United States is behind whatever has just happened to North Korea`s Internet. But the U.S. has promised that there will be some sort of response from the United States toward North Korea, now that the U.S. government has determined that they are responsible for that hack of Sony Pictures and the "Associated Press". Do we have anymore clarity on what the range of potential responses by our country might be? And why does our government keep stressing that whatever we`re going to do as retaliation, it might be something that`s done in secret. Joining us now is Bill Richardson, former U.N. ambassador, former governor of New Mexico. Governor Richardson has led several humanitarian missions to North Korea over the last couple of decades. Just last year, he visited North Korea with Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and got a look at the country`s computer infrastructure. Governor Richardson, it`s nice to see you. Thanks for being here. BILL RICHARDSON (D), FORMER NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: So, you have had unusual and high level access to the North Korean regime over the years, because you`ve done these missions over there on essentially humanitarian missions, trying to get Americans freed, who`ve been held by that regime. Earlier this month, you were quoted as saying you would be surprised if the North Korean government was behind the Sony hack. The FBI now says it was them. Does that surprise you and why? RICHARDSON: Well, I believe the FBI at the time when the initial information was coming out, I didn`t think they had the capability. But, now, as if evidence piled out, they obviously do. And one of the reasons, Rachel, that I didn`t think they had the capability, when Eric Schmidt and I, from Google, visited North Korea, their Internet access is limited to just the elite, the computer system was out of RadioShack. I didn`t believe that they had this capability. But now as we learned more, in other words, China contains a lot of the telecommunications expertise that North Korea uses in hacking, you know, anything can happen. So, I was surprised because, additionally, North Korea had said to me they wanted to do some digital cooperation with movie studios of the United States. Now, that`s not a good way to do it as they did with Sony. MADDOW: What do you think the range of options is? If the FBI is right, and they did do it, they have the capability to do it. And they`ve somehow seen it as being in their strategic interest to do it and they`ve been caught. What do you think is the range of options that the U.S. can consider in response. RICHARDSON: Well, I don`t think this shutting down of the Internet today is a proportional response. So, I take at face value is that the U.S. government says there is no involvement. The proportional response would be, one, putting North Korea on the terrorism list, which denies them access to a lot of landing rights and another economic cost. The second would be something that we`ve done before, and that is through Chinese banks, limit the cash they can get through some Chinese institutions, through Macau and some Chinese institutions. So, those I think are the more proportional responses. My speculating, Rachel, is that either the Chinese shut down the North Korean internet, although that`s doubtful. Although China is quiet mad at North Korea. The other is that North Korea, on its own, shut it down. You know, regimes, when they go through tense moments, like Syria, occasionally hit shut it down. The third would be some foreign hacker. I don`t think the U.S. is doing it, but I have no information. So, again, it`s a mystery. Everything with North Korea is unpredictable and a total mystery. MADDOW: I mean, to that point, I feel like now that the -- the United States has seen North Korea, essentially, as a conundrum and a problem and human rights disaster for decades now. But it seems like every time it comes time for our government to make a strategic decision about them, there`s this fundamental problem which is that you can`t really assume their rationality in terms of how they`re acting. I mean, do you see them as basically inscrutable in terms of their motives, in terms of what motivates them, in terms of how they might react to stuff? Or is there any reason to their rant (ph)? RICHARDSON: There`s never a pattern of consistency with the North Koreans. They`re unpredictable. They don`t think like we do. We think in terms of quid pro quos. There`s going to be a response. They believe in the deity of their leaders. So, you never know what they`re going to do. Just a month ago, Rachel, they released three Americans without any hardly conditions as humanitarian gestures. Many of us thought those were messages to the international community, to the U.S., OK, we`re ready to start talking about reducing our nuclear weapons. But with this attack that they done, and one of the things that North Koreans do is they`re very personal. They felt that this is a personal affront to their leader, this movie. Although, by the way, I think Sony has taken too many hits. Sony is a good company. But, at the same time, I remember years ago when President Bush called the North Korean leader, the Kim Jong-il, the father, a tyrant, they reacted the same way. They didn`t cyber attack any company, but these personal affronts to a deity like the North Korean leadership is very offensive to them. MADDOW: Phil Richardson, former U.N. ambassador, former governor of New Mexico, he`s done a dealings with the North Korean regime over the years -- Governor, it`s great to see you. Thanks very much for being here. It`s nice to have you here. RICHARDSON: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more ahead on this unexpectedly busy news night. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SUBTITLE: Today at the TRMS production meeting, a story gets a slot on the white board. MADDOW: Cuban prisoner sperm happiness. Everybody in agreement? Good. SUBTITLE: That story is next. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: If and when Texas Governor Rick Perry decides to run for president in this upcoming year, that will put us in uncharted territory as a nation, because never before has someone mounted a major campaign for a major party`s nomination while being under felony indictment. But Rick Perry is going to give it a go. Governor Perry was charged with two felonies back in August. This is his delighted to be here Texas mug shot. Governor Perry and his lawyers are vigorously contesting the felony charges. But if he does run while the charges are still pending or while he has to interrupt his campaign trail trip in order to go on trial, that will be a rather amazing spectacle and something we have never done before as a country. And now, in addition to that prospect, consider the case of Congressman Michael Grimm. Congressman Michael Grimm has himself been under felony indictment. He was indicted for 20 felonies last April. That did not stop him from winning reelection to his House seat this fall. But now, "The New York Daily News" reports that Michael Grimm is due to plead guilty to at least win of those felonies the day after tomorrow. Congressman Grimm himself is not commenting so far, neither is the U.S. attorney`s office that charged him. But if he does plead guilty, that`s going to create a really interesting dilemma for House Speaker John Boehner. I mean, it is one thing to have someone with felony charges pending against them serving Congress, it`s another thing for Congress to include a confessed convicted felon among its members. So far, Speaker Boehner is not saying what he`s going to do, Michael Grimm, one of his members, pleads guilty to a felony the day after tomorrow. But is there really a chance they`re going to let him stay after he pleads guilty? Is, I have to serve my jail time an acceptable excuse for missing committee meetings? We may be about to find out. Watch this space. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK. This I did not expect. This is a very unusual post script to what happened last week about Cuba and the United States normalizing reasons and freeing prisoners and swapping spies. As part of the surprise deal announced last week, Cuba, you may remember, agreed to free from prison and send to the United States, a man who had been caught spying for the U.S. inside Cuba. In return, the U.S. government agreed to send back to Cuba, three guys who had been caught spying here for Cuba. So, they had been caught in the United States spying for Cuba, those three guys got sent back. One of our guys who had been caught there spying for us got sent back in return. Well, one of the convicted Cuban spies friend by the United States last week is this guy who we spot shadowed here, the bald guy. And as people watched this prisoner swap unfold, as they watched him reunite with his family in Cuba, one thing seemed to stick out about his wife. Now, I`m no expert. But she appears to be extremely pregnant, like really, very, fully pregnant. And her husband, who has been locked away in a U.S. prison, serving a double life sentence and not able to see her for more than a decade now, he is noticeably elated, delighted with her very prominent pregnancy. And he had that reaction because against all odds and some of the well-understood laws of biology and the no conjugal restrictions of the U.S. federal prison system, that bald guy, that just-released prisoner, is the father of -- yes, he`s the father. Yes, I know. Here`s how it happened: in February 2013, when the effort to improve U.S./Cuba diplomacy was still in its gestational period, Vermont Senator Pat Leahy took a trip to Cuba with his wife, in part to advocate for the case of Alan Gross, Alan Gross, the American USAID contractor, who`ve been in a Cuba prison since 2009. While Senator Pat Leahy was visiting Cuba, though, the wife of the Cuban spy who the U.S. was holding in federal prison back in the U.S., the one we just showed you, she found out that Senator Leahy was visiting Cuba. And while he was there, she set up a meeting to plead her case, and the case she pled was a very human one. She was in her early 40s. Her husband was serving consecutive life sentences in an American prison and she was desperate to have a child. Senator Leahy was moved by her story. He also saw a way to negotiate with Cuba for better conditions for Alan Gross, maybe if the United States could do something for this Cuban prisoner and his family, Cuba might reciprocate with a gesture to help Alan Gross. Senator Leahy`s office reached out to the U.S. State Department to see if he might be able to broke or something to help out the spy and his wife with their pregnancy dilemma. He confirmed that visits of a conjugal nature were out of question in that particular federal prison where that spy was being held. The senator`s office, though, had a backup plan in mind. Senator Leahy`s office brokered a deal, for the Cuban spy`s sperm. Whole thing happened in secret. We still do not know exactly who transferred goods from husband to wife. At the time, neither country was even acknowledging that any kind of talks were happening, let alone talks about this spy guy`s sperm. But we can do a little bit of basic math here to figure out what happened or at least when. We know that negotiators for the U.S. and Cuba spent 18 months making the deal. We know that the just-released spy`s wife is eight and a half months pregnant. She`s due in two weeks. So, if you sort of add the months, carry the two, what we can suss out here is that the handoff of the spy`s sperm happened at basically the halfway mark of the negotiations between the U.S. and Cuban governments, the halfway mark of the negotiations towards this massive breakthrough on Cuba that was 50 years in the making. And a portion of this goodwill, a portion of the success of the negotiations is due, specifically, to a well-meaning transfer of bodily fluids, arranged by a Vermont senator`s office, bringing a whole new meaning to the term diplomatic relations. I`m very sorry, I said that. That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END