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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 09/18/15

Guests: Paul Rieckhoff, Jason Smith

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: That is all for this evening. "The Rachel Maddow Show" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel. RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Happy Friday. HAYES: Happy Friday. MADDOW: And thanks you to you at home for joining us this hour. We`ve got a big show tonight. Paul Rieckhoff is here from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Paul is here live and in person. You may remember earlier this week here on this show we were first to report on the sketchiness of the supposed veterans fund-raiser that Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump did on that decommissioned battleship earlier this week. Specifically, we were first to report that the group Donald Trump was raising money for that night did not actually appear to be a group of veterans. Our initial reporting on that has now been followed up by the "Associated Press," by CNN, by local media where this veterans group is headquartered in South Dakota. And over the course of this week that story has gotten sort of deeper and deeper and worse and worse. It is starting to turn into what I think is a legitimate scandal for the fairly bulletproof campaign of the Republican presidential front-runner. But for the first time tonight we`ve actually obtained from the Trump campaign their explanation of what they thought they were doing on that battleship and who they thought they were raising money for and where the money went. They have not previously explained that all this week as the story has unfolded, but tonight they have given us their explanation. It is fairly amazing. And that is ahead. We`re going to be talking about that and other veterans` issues with Paul Rieckhoff. I`m very much looking forward to that. But before we get to that conversation, frankly the news has been breaking fast and weird all day long today. There`s a lot of it to get to just because I`m not sure you will have heard all of these stories and any one of them could end up being important in the long run. A lot of it is on the surface important. A lot of it mostly seems important to me right now because it`s just so strange. And we`re going to have to start way very strange story in politics that you have probably not heard today in part because it`s out of Vermont. Vermont, not exactly a swing state. It`s not really seen as part of battleground 2016. But, you know, every place in the country is starting to get polls now in the presidential race, in part because the presidential race is in such chaos. So since polls are being done everywhere, a new presidential poll has just been done in Vermont. The results are not at all what you would expect. First of all, Jeb Bush does pretty well. I mean, for Jeb Bush right now getting six percent is a pretty good result. Doing better than Jeb, though, is Scott Walker. And that must be really nice for the Scott Walker campaign because he could use some good news right now. He`s bottoming out everywhere now, including nationally, including in Iowa where he really needs to do well. In the great state of Vermont at least Scott Walker is doing better than Jeb Bush. He`s at eight percent in Vermont. Above Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, though, there is a three-way tie for first place among Republican voters in that state. So it`s Jeb in fifth place, Scott Walker in fourth place, and then three candidates are tied for first place for the Republican nomination for president and those three candidates are Ben Carson, Donald Trump, and Bernie Sanders. This is the Republican vote. I mean, among Democratic voters in his home state Bernie Sanders has a 51-point lead over Hillary Clinton. But he`s in first place on the Republican side too. He`s at least tied for first on the Republican side. And I know everybody`s a hero in his own hometown. But that is freaking -- that is a freaking transcendently weird poll result, right? Bernie Sanders tied for first place for the Republican nomination for president. Pinch me. But that is not even the weirdest political news today. I hereby submit that this is even weirder. And I swear this is a thing I did not make up. Rand Paul`s national political director now says he is pressing criminal charges against Marco Rubio`s deputy campaign manager because he says Marco Rubio`s deputy national campaign manager punched him in the face in a bar fight in Michigan last night. Yes, before you ask, there is surveillance camera video of the not very impressive punch. It`s not exactly "down goes Frazier" or anything. But the guy who got punched, Rand Paul`s national political director, who is also his chief strategist in the state of Michigan, he is not taking this lightly. After the punch was thrown he got on Facebook and wrote this. Quote "Marco Rubio`s national campaign manager," he meant deputy campaign manager, "literally physically assaulted me by punching me in the face." National journal now reports that same guy, the punchee, he also last night after the fight emailed Marco Rubio`s national campaign manager to tell him what had just happened. At 12:51 a.m., he sent this email to Marco Rubio`s campaign manager. Quote "hey, man, you`d better wake up. Beeson," who is Rich Beeson, Marco Rubio`s deputy campaign manager, the he says threw the punch. "Beeson punched me in the face. Cops involved." Six minutes later at 12:57 a.m., he got a response from Marco Rubio`s campaign manager. Quote "well, if you were talking bleep I`m glad he did. Besides, we need more space and we want to take over your townhouse when Rand is done." The following morning, this morning with Marco Rubio`s campaign manager apparently had second thoughts about that initial response. The "National Journal" reports that he sent another email to the same guy, to the punchee, saying quote "I assumed you were kidding when you sent this last night. Guess I was wrong. Sorry. I didn`t realize it was a real situation." Local police are apparently now investigating this bar fight. Rand Paul`s political director says he does want to press charges. But the local prosecutor will have to decide if criminal charges are going to be brought against Marco Rubio`s deputy miss campaign manager. But this is now a thing between the Marco Rubio for president campaign and the Rand Paul for president campaign. This guy who got punched from the Rand Paul campaign is publicly calling on Marco Rubio to fire his deputy campaign manager over this rather pitiful altercation. I told you today`s news was weird. The reason these two charming young men were in that bar in Michigan on Mackinaw Island last night is because this weekend is one of those Republican presidential candidate cattle calls where all the candidates are expected to show up and give speeches. Interestingly, although Marco Rubio apparently sent his deputy campaign manager up there and his deputy campaign manager was fired up enough to allegedly be throwing punches in a bar at political rivals, Marco Rubio himself is not due to speak at this Michigan event. Rand Paul is, though. Rand Paul has the plum closing keynote speaking spot tomorrow night. It has been reported that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker used to also have a really good plum speaking spot at this Michigan event this weekend but he moved it to an early morning breakfast speech tomorrow instead so he could make more time in his campaign schedule to be in Iowa. Scott Walker`s candidacy, as I mentioned earlier, really does seem to be falling off a cliff now after another forgettable debate performance by Governor Walker, after continued bad numbers in the polls. Governor Walker made a really interesting admission to MSNBC`s Kasie Hunt about how his campaign is having to change course now and what they see as their last lifeline for trying to keep his presidential hopes afloat. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KASIE HUNT, MSNBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you feel like you need to take any additional steps to get your campaign back where it needs to be? Do you need to shake up your staff? Do you need to make any changes in how your campaign`s being run? GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The biggest thing for us is getting back to the basics. Getting in Iowa, in the early states. But really, we announced the other day 99 county chairs. We`re going to be organized by the precinct. HUNT: So it`s Iowa or bust for you. WALKER: I think we`re putting all our eggs in the basket of Iowa. We`re committed to Iowa. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: We`re putting all our eggs in a basket of Iowa. I would love a basket of Iowa. Strategically, though, that`s the sort of thing that you really let other people say about you. You let sort of pundits say. Oh, Scott Walker better do well in Iowa or he`s toast. You don`t usually say it about yourself because then you really get yourself in a box, right? I mean, if for some reason you don`t do well in Iowa and you`ve just told the press my eggs are in that basket, well, then it`s going to be really hard to explain why you`re going to keep going at that point. I mean, if that is in fact where all your proverbial eggs are, then if Scott Walker does poorly in Iowa, he`s basically saying now publicly there won`t even be a New Hampshire for him, that`ll be it. That`s not the sort of situation you want to get yourself into strategically. But Scott Walker has not been the most disciplined talker on this campaign. Currently for the record regardless of where his eggs are Scott Walker is polling at an average of less than five percent in Iowa. And so, if he`s admitting that he has to win there or that`s it, that is not a good place for him to be and that is not a good strategy for him to be admitting. Scott Walker`s not the only one, though. A lot of people are struggling right now. It made for some more weird news right now. Rick Santorum right now is polling at less than two percent in Iowa even though he won Iowa in 2012. Rick Santorum is at the point, especially after he also made no hay at the kids` table debate Wednesday night. He`s at the point where he knows he needs to be reassuring people that he`s not dropping out of the race. Rick Santorum today to that end I think sent out a big splashy press announcement about some totally uninteresting non-notable campaign hires. This is basically Rick Santorum getting up on his tip toes and saying "not dead, not dead." Jeb Bush is supposed to be top of the heap at this point in the race but he is also struggling in his own way after mixed reviews on his debate performance Wednesday night. The Jeb Bush presidential campaign announced that their candidate would be holding a rally, a Jeb Bush for president rally. Not a town hall, not a speech, not a meet and greet but a rally for him in Las Vegas, Nevada. This was the turnout for his big rally. Which just has to be -- I mean, has to be demoralizing for the candidate if nothing else, right? Mr. Bush did try to put as much of a happy face as he could on it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I appreciate you coming out. At 3:00 in the afternoon, there`s other things that are going on. I saw that the schools are emptying out with the kids and that there`s a lot of activities here. You could be doing other things. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Most people were doing other things. But a handful of them did go out to see Jeb Bush. They shouldn`t have called it a rally. Republican candidates also did another big cattle call today in South Carolina. A six-hour-long marathon event put on by a conservative activist group called heritage action. Forgive the Donald Trump phrasing but it was a mostly low-energy affair. I think that was in part because the candidates were not allowed to be on stage with each other at the same time. They just had to go one after the other separately. For some candidates, though, that suits them. Ben Carson is one of the mellower candidates in any event in any format. He got a nice surprise today when the crowd at this event in South Carolina decided to sing to him. They sang very badly, but they meant well and it was very nice of them. And then looking happier than I think he ever has on the campaign trail, Ben Carson responded by making a funny. Ben Carson doesn`t usually do this. But today he was all lit up. Pew, pew, pew. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all, thank you for inviting me here on my birthday. And what a great birthday present. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) CARSON: Thank you. I guess -- I guess the best birthday present is I heard Donald Trump had dropped out. Oh, wait a minute. That was just for today. No, just kidding. Actually -- (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Donald Trump did drop out of the race today, just for today. He was supposed to speak at that same South Carolina event where Ben Carson was having the time of his life. But Donald Trump`s campaign said very close to the time he was supposed to be there that actually he wouldn`t be appearing. He had an unforeseen business transaction which was kind of a strange announcement. NBC`s Katy Tur notes today this is actually the third time this week that Donald Trump has canceled a previously planned something on the campaign trail. Mr. Trump also had a press availability, a Q&A with reporters that was scheduled in conjunction with his speech Monday night in Dallas. He canceled that. He had another press availability scheduled in conjunction with his ill-fated fake Veterans group fund-raiser on the decommissioned battleship on Tuesday night. He also ended up canceling that event with reporters. And now today this late announcement that he was canceling today`s appearance in South Carolina. And so there was a lot of speculation today that -- on what exactly is going on with Donald Trump and why he pulled out so late from the South Carolina event, which again wasn`t just a media event. This was supposed to be in front of an audience in the state that goes third in the country, South Carolina. So speculation today that the reason Donald Trump got yanked off the campaign trail today, the reason he decided not to show up, was because of the bad reaction to the incident at his New Hampshire town hall last night in which a questioner told Mr. Trump that President Obama is a Muslim and that President Obama was not born in America and that Mr. Trump in fielding that question did nothing to push back on those comments at all. Mr. Trump was criticized pretty aggressively for that all day today. He was criticized by all the democratic candidates for president. He was criticized by a couple of the Republican candidates for president, Chris Christie and Lindsey Graham both went after Donald Trump on how he handled that. Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, went after Mr. Trump from the White House press room podium at length today on that subject. So there`s all this criticism of how that went. That led to all these headlines today that maybe the reason Donald Trump was pulling back off the campaign trail and not showing up in South Carolina was that he was so stung by all this criticism. I tend to think that Donald Trump is more like one of those bacteria that eats radiation. You know what I mean? Like the idea that he`d be stung or hurt by criticism. Criticism is the thing that gives him his life energy. It`s what he lives for. I mean, getting scolded at length by the White House from the White House press room briefing. I mean, are you kidding? The White House spokesman talking about him for a long time? People saying that he`s a bad guy and giving all these reasons why. I mean, that`s like Christmas and Hanukkah and tooth fairy day all in one for a guy like Donald Trump. It`s hard for me to believe that he`s pulling back because he`s been stung by criticism. I hereby pause it that the reason Donald Trump might be pulling back today is because he`s pooped, he`s tired. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: What woman would you like to see on the $10 bill? Mr. Trump. TRUMP: Well, because she`s been sitting for three hours, I think my daughter Ivanka, who`s right here. UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: What have you learned after tonight? TRUMP: Well, I`ve learned that I have no trouble standing for three hours. And you know, that`s - I mean, literally, it must be a record. I hope that the audience is OK, because I actually think it`s a little bit too long. The one complaint would be it was a long debate. You know, to be three hours has got to be a record. So I would say the one thing is it was very, very long, three hours. It was a very long debate. Can you believe this? That debate was three hours. It felt like more than that. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I think he`s pooped. I think running for president is hard. I think maybe he just needed a day off. But the news did get just weird today. Trump and otherwise. Mr. Trump is due to appear, I kid you not, at a high school homecoming dance tomorrow in Urbandale, Iowa. We`ll see if his business transaction is completed in time for him to make it. This is in response to a twitter campaign run by the students of that high school under the #presidance as in president come to our dance. They`re getting Donald Trump to come speak to them tomorrow before they dance. Mr. Trump`s own high school, the military-themed prep school he went to in the 1960s which he says made him feel like he was in the military even though he wasn`t, that high school has just gone bankrupt and has been put up for sale. There was an ad for people who might want to buy it this week in the "New York Times." You can buy Donald Trump`s high school this week if you want to. Minimum bid, $9.5 million. OK. Want to get weirder? There was also that weird story earlier this summer where one of the super PACs supporting Ted Cruz inexplicably gave a half million dollars to a group supporting Carly Fiorina. We couldn`t understand at the time why one campaign would be funding another campaign. Well, now it turns out in that very strange story the FEC is investigating is that expenditure. You know, today, I didn`t think anything could be weirder than Bernie Sanders being tied for first place in the race for the Republican nomination for president in one state. But almost everything else that happened in politics today was as weird as that or even weirder which is kind of awesome. Today the news gods were a little drunk. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So we were first to report this week on the still unanswered fairly troubling questions about Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump related specifically to this fund-raiser he held on Tuesday night on a decommissioned battleship for what was described as a massive Veterans organization. Mr. Trump called the group he was raising money for a group with quote "hundreds of thousands of veterans" when really it appears that this group is just this one person, this guy from South Dakota. Since then reporters from other news outlets have had lots of questions for that one guy about his supposed group. But we have really wanted to know what the Republican presidential front-runner was doing on that battleship with that guy in the first place. What was that fund-raiser all about? Was Donald Trump really sure it was a group of hundreds of thousands of people even though it wasn`t? If he was misled, how was he misled? If he wasn`t misled, was he in on it? And what happened to all the money? Tonight we finally got the Trump campaign`s explanation of what happened there. And that`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson this week proposed abolishing the VA. And whatever you think of the VA and the troubles the VA has had in terms of wait times and other ways the VA has not served veterans the way it should, veterans it turns out do not want to abolish the VA. The leaders of the seven largest veterans organizations in the country just were to Ben Carson telling him that they quote "vehemently disagree" with his dangerous proposal to eliminate the department of veterans affairs health care system for America`s veterans. That seems like it`s worth talking about, right? I mean, I would love to hear the guy who is running second for the Republican nomination for president explain why the seven largest veterans` organizations in the country say they vehemently disagree with his dangerous ideas for what he wants to do to veterans. Alas, it did not come up at the debate. What also did not come up was a pretty momentous thing that just happened last month. Two women becoming the first female graduates ever to earn their taps at U.S. army rangers school, a feat that seems to be paving the way toward having the army, Navy, and air force open up all combat positions to women. Turns out what it has also done is clear the way for what`s turning out to be a conflict with the marine corps, between the Marine Corps and the other branches. Today, the Associated Press is reporting that despite what the other branches of the military are saying they`re going to do the Marine Corps is not planning on allowing women into combat roles. Talk about a political hot issue. I mean, among these socially conservative Republican candidates for president, almost none of whom have ever served in the military, it would be fascinating to hear what they think about that. But that also just didn`t come up. The debate`s moderator, CNN`s Jake Tapper, actually ended up apologizing semi-privately to some veterans and veterans` groups over twitter for not addressing any of these issues during the debate. He said on twitter this week, quote "veterans` issues were not discussed adequately last night and I regret that deeply." He said, "I will try to up my game in interview. It`s an important subject." He went so far as to call himself a very flawed moderator. "My deepest apologies." It should be noted that I think Jake Tapper was a very good moderator at that debate. And it should be noted that he`s got a lot of credibility on the issues that matter to veterans, on military issues. And he`s apologizing for not coming up in the debate. But the fact that veterans` groups and veterans themselves were willing to criticize him personally over that when he`s got so much credibility on the issue shows you how much anger there is about the way veterans` issues are being handled during this presidential campaign. And the Republican front-runner for the presidency is the guy who has the most to explain right now on an issue that`s sort of becoming an acute scandal. For the first time tonight we are getting an explanation from the Donald Trump campaign with about what Mr. Trump was doing on that decommissioned battleship earlier this week, not talking about foreign affairs, not talk about veterans` issues, but raising money for a group with what he called hundreds of thousands of veterans. Even though the group appears to be not a membership organization at all, the IRS has revoked their non-profit status because they have not filed tax returns in the past three years. And now not just us but a lot of other media organizations are asking why Donald Trump got himself and his presidential campaign hooked up with this group that was not what he said it was. And now that leaves this lingering question of what happened to the money? Well, we finally got a partial explanation tonight, the best explanation we`ve got so far from the Trump campaign as to what they thought was going on. Mr. Trump`s spokesperson, Hope Hicks, has written us this tonight. Quote "Mr. Trump was asked to speak as a guest at the veterans for a stronger America event and as an ardent supporter of veterans and veterans` causes he agreed to attend. Mr. Trump and the campaign had no knowledge of any issues associated with the group or their chairman, Joel Arends, nor does the campaign know what the group intends to do with the money raised that night." One quick note. They even got the name of the group wrong. The group is not veterans for a stronger America. It is apparently veterans for a strong America. Either way, Mr. Trump and his campaign say they had no knowledge of any issues associated with the group and no idea of where the money is going. In fact, we actually tried to really nail them down on this. We asked them specific questions about what they knew and didn`t know. We asked them specifically, did veterans for a strong America tell you which group exactly would benefit from the ticket sales? Was it Joel Arends`s non-profit or was it Joel Arends`s PAC? Did they tell you? The answer from the Trump campaign, no. We asked them further, how much money did the event raise? The answer from the Trump campaign, please ask veterans for a strong America. We asked them further, did they tell you what they would use the money to do? Answer, no. But the candidate went out there and did it anyway and said they had hundreds of thousands of members. The presidential campaign so far on the Republican side has provided 11 hours of nationally televised debate time. Obviously, that affords an opportunity to talk about lots of really big issues. But so far when it comes to America`s veterans and a lot of really acute and fascinating issues surrounding the U.S. military and America`s veterans, so far it`s been crickets. Joining us now is my friend Paul Rieckhoff founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans for America. It is great to see you, Paul. Thanks for being here. PAUL RIECKHOFF, FOUNDER/CEO, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS FOR AMERICA: Nice to see you. What a week. MADDOW: What a weird week. I have to ask you, the IAVA is obviously the largest organization of post-9/11 veterans. You`re a membership organization, you`re really non-partisan, you don`t endorse anybody. Have you ever heard of this group that Trump did the thing? RIECKHOFF: No. I never heard of it. None of the other VSOs heard of this group. They don`t testify. They don`t hold events. They don`t do any programmatic group (INAUDIBLE) to find out. And sounds like they are not even on any legitimate non-profit. So it is a fraud group. (INAUDIBLE). The Trump is not the only doing this. I mean, none of the candidates can pulled this. Eleven hours of debate and they can`t focus on veterans issues at all. And they`re not focusing on suicide where we are losing 22 people a day. They are not focusing on women in the military. They are not focusing on reforming the VA. If you want to show how you can be an effective conservative how are you going to fix the VA? And it`s not just throwing the whole thing in the trash like Ben Carson said, that crazy idea. We need real substantive policy. It`s ridiculous that it`s gone this far without anyone addressing it. MADDOW: Paul, we are having an unusual thing going on. Our audiovisual equipment is failing. RIECKHOFF: I know. I`m just keeping going. MADDOW: I know. But I think nobody can hear us. So we`re going to commercial and come right back and do the whole thing again. Live TV. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: It`s gremlin check. Talk. PAUL RIECKHOFF, IAVA: Hello. Can anyone hear me? MADDOW: Yes. RIECKHOFF: NSA, Donald Trump, can you hear me? MADDOW: I`m telling you it was the Bernie Sanders hacker army. RIECKHOFF: Any number of people could have been behind it. MADDOW: Joining us once again is Paul Rieckhoff the executive director and founder -- CEO and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. I`m sorry for whatever happened there. RIECKHOFF: It`s all right. It`s all right, man. Adapt, improvise and overcome. Keep going. Live TV. Let`s go. MADDOW: All right. What we were talking about. We have a lot to talk about. But the Donald Trump campaign apparently did this fund-raiser for a group which appears to have no members, which he said have hundreds of thousands of veterans. They`ve lost their non-profit status. You were saying before we got so rudely cut off by gremlins that you`ve never heard of this group. RIECKHOFF: No, nobody`s heard of these guys. I mean, they don`t work in Washington, they don`t have any programs that we can speak of. I`ve never met any of their members. I`ve never even seen a t-shirt. I mean, these folks don`t seem to be legitimate. They`re definitely not a member of the military coalition, which IAVA is a part of. Those are the top 50 groups in D.C. that really drive policy. Most of them don`t do endorsements and the ones that do, it`s a very hard earned endorsements and they take it very seriously don`t just frivolously throw it out in the middle of the day on a USS Iowa charade. So, I think it`s a real insult to veterans. I hope there`s accountability in the media but there hasn`t been much. MADDOW: Right. I mean, the debate the other night we had three hours and I like Jake. Jake knows our issues. But he blew it. And he said he blew it. But that doesn`t help us now. We lost three hours of important time where you could have got one question in about the 22 veterans dying each day to suicide. You could have talked about women in the military. You could have talked about V.A. reform, $170 billion at the V.A. and you`re a conservative. Well, talk about how you`re going to fix it. Are you going to -- MADDOW: They do mention complaints about the V.A. They just don`t -- RIECKHOFF: What they do now is say "I`m going to fix the V.A.", which is like saying "I`m going to fix Washington. It`s the new throwaway line in politics. And what we need people to do is hold them accountable the media to hold them accountable. The candidates are responsible, too. They blew an opportunity in two debates to talk about these issues which are actually populist issues. We`re not just talking about a small group of people, 22 million veterans in America and our members vote about 93 percent, 94 percent. They vote. They`re involved. And when you go to Iowa, you go to New Hampshire, you`re going through veterans` halls, you`re talking to veterans. So, you really need to bring some serious policies. Also, remember we`ve got folks in Iraq and Afghanistan right now. They couldn`t even talk about that. They want to be commander in chief. And this is both parties. Both parties are not addressing the issues. Most of them have never served themselves. If you go to our website IAVA.org, you can see our presidential tracker. Most of them don`t even mention it on their Website. They don`t have a veterans section on their Web sites. So, I think as activists they have to step up. You know, the Black Lives Matter is also ticked off after not being mentioned. And I understand where they`re coming from. As activists, we`ve got to step and make our politicians and make the media address the urgent issues of our day. It`s like the early days of the AIDS crisis when their friends were dying all around them and nobody seemed to care. That`s where we are as veterans and we need our presidential candidates to respond we need the media to respond. If they won`t, people watching take it to them in the town halls, take it to them in social media, stand with us in the other groups and hold them accountable. MADDOW: The thing about you guys that is unique, which is the perceived political capital around veterans` issues and around military issues. And so, you get all the lip service in the world and that not only gives people a chance to say they`re with you when they`re not, try to get credit for things they don`t deserve, but it also does open -- opens the door basically for fraud, for people to come in and say oh, yes, I`ll give you a veterans` endorsement, I`ll give you a seal of approval on this issue. You guys have to deal with that in a way nobody else does. RIECKHOFF: We`re going to be watchdogs. All the veterans groups are together. You saw that in the letter to Ben Carson. We`re going to stick together, we`re stronger when we`re united and I think we`re going to call on them to really define their policies. And if they won`t address it in the debates we`ll come to them in town halls, be outside in the debates, we`ll push them on social media and we need folks to offer concrete proposals. Also, there`s differences between Republicans and the Democrats. Let`s ask the question are you going to privatize the V.A.? Because there was a time there was no V.A. and that`s why we had a bonus march. There was a time veterans were left to suffer and they marched on Washington and some of them were killed protesting so that veterans would get taken care of. That`s not where we want to go back to. V.A. screwed up. They`re making some head ways. It`s a long way to go, but throwing the whole thing out is not the answer. MADDOW: Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and a brand new dad. RIECKHOFF: Thank you. MADDOW: It`s wearing well on you. You look great, man. Congratulations. RIECHOFF: He`s watching. Hi, Ryder. MADDOW: Hi, Ryder. I`ll come over and bring beer, in 21 years. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: There`s something about to happen in this country, and it has generated what`s being called the largest domestic security operation in the United States of America ever. It starts soon. It starts in the next few days. They say it`s going to be like nothing we have ever seen. And that`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, earlier this week we spoke with Richard Engel when he was in Hungary and Serbia right in the midst of this huge ongoing crisis of the migrants and refugees in Europe. These big groups of mostly Syrian families fleeing the war in their country trying to find shelter in Europe. While Richard was shooting footage in Serbia, an 8 1/2-month pregnant woman trying to make this journey collapsed right in front of him when he was doing a stand-up on camera. Richard is one of the people that ended up working to revive that woman. She`s OK. It has just been these incredibly difficult scenes to watch unfold in that part of the world. Richard told us just two nights ago on this show that it looked like Croatia was going to be the next path that might open to these thousands of families who were increasingly finding closed doors and barbed wire as they tried to get themselves across Europe. That was only Wednesday night. That was two days ago when Richard said Croatia was the new way forward for these folks. Well, now already Friday night, Croatia has changed their mind. They have pulled back the welcome mat and they too are now turning people away. It is starting to look like there are going to be no open paths for these people to move across Europe. And they`re starting now to get stuck in the thousands. And for us, it is not clear what role the United States is going to have in trying to fix this crisis. Within the last 24 hours, a group of former senior administration officials wrote to President Obama, and this is a very unusually diverse group. It`s everybody from Harold Koh, the famous human rights lawyer who President Obama put at the state department, to Paul Wolfowitz, who was the neocon Iraq war architect from the George W. Bush administration, and dozens of other high-ranking officials in between. This is very big, very far left to very far right high-level group of former officials who have written to President Obama and they`ve asked him to put an extra zero on the end of the number of Syrian refugees that the United States will take. President Obama`s already announced that the U.S. will take 10,000 people in the next year. These former officials including multiple ambassadors and senior military people, they`re all now asking that President Obama instead say that the U.S. will take 100,000 instead of 10,000. So, there`s a lot going on on that front right now as that crisis continues in Europe, and that crisis in Europe is getting worse right now, it is not getting better. There`s also a lot going on around the issue of the war that created this crisis in the first place. Russia is now sending significant military resources into Syria to fight on the side of the Syrian government forces. That has resulted in our government and the Russian government now talking to each other again for the first time in months. There`s been no contact at all because of Russia`s war in Ukraine for months now, but now those contacts, those high- level contacts have started again. So, the United States in the world is an extra complicated thing at the moment. There`s a lot of moving parts. All in advance of the pope coming to the U.S. for his big visit next week. They`re saying the pope`s visit to the U.S. next week will result in the largest domestic security operation ever mounted in this country ever. As the pope visits Philadelphia and Washington and New York and turns all of those cities upside down with the number of people who will want to see him and the security arrangements that will be put in place to protect him. And the pope`s visit is happening at the same time as the U.N. General Assembly will be convening with world leaders from all over the globe coming to New York City. Even if you put aside the fact that Donald Trump now says he`s maybe going to meet one on one with Putin next week when Vladimir Putin is here for that general assembly because, hey, what could possibly go wrong? Even if you put ridiculous things like that aside, there is a lot going on with international news and international security and America`s role in the world. But here`s the thing -- between me and you -- on top of all that other stuff there is one other story which is a much lower profile story, but it is worth putting on your own personal radar right now because it could end up being really, really important. Now, this is not something that is conclusively known. It`s being reported in a sort of woolly and anonymous way right now. But if this turns out to have happened the way it`s being reported right now, it`s going to be a big freaking deal and it`s going to be a big freaking deal for a long time. OK. This was first reported by Sky News this week in Britain. Sky News is not the world`s most reputable news source. But it sat out there basically, the story as a Sky News exclusive for a couple of days while other news outlets did not touch it. But now, today it has been picked up by the "Washington Post" and by "The New York Times." And the news is this -- some anonymous intelligence officials are now saying that five very high-ranking guys in al Qaeda have just been turned loose. This includes two guys that have $5 million U.S. bounties on their heads. It includes the person who took over and was running al Qaeda globally on an interim basis after Osama bin Laden was killed. It includes two people indicted for the for the Kenya and Tanzania U.S. embassy bombings. It involves the guy al Qaeda put in charge reportedly of Osama bin Laden`s wives and children after 9/11 to keep them safe from American reprisals and move them into what they considered to be safe havens. These are five very senior bin Laden-era al Qaeda guys who apparently have been held under some form of house arrest for years now in the nation of Iran. And if this reporting this week turns out to be true, that Iran has just released them in a deal they made with al Qaeda, this is going to be a big deal. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was apparently holding an Iranian diplomat hostage in Yemen. What`s being reported now is that Iran made a deal to get their diplomat back and the deal meant springing these al Qaeda guys who are some of the highest-ranking al Qaeda operatives known to be anywhere in the world since 9/11, some of the highest-ranking al Qaeda operatives since 9/11 who have not been killed or captured. They are the most well-known al Qaeda senior operatives other than Ayman al Zawahiri, who is now the head of the group. If it is true these guys have just been sprung, this is going to be a very big deal for a long time, both for al Qaeda and for Iran if they did this, and for the whole world if this turns out to be as scary as it might be. Reporting on matters like this is always a little bit woolly, and it`s always very anonymous when it comes to U.S. sources. Some of this may get walked back in the future. But if it doesn`t, this is worth setting a Google alert for. And it may ultimately be worth worrying about. Watch this space. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Hillary Clinton as secretary of state was once prevailed upon by America`s leading producers of gefilte fish that she should please intervene on their behalf in a naughty international gefilte fish dispute. As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton did so. And she prevailed. And it was a good day for American gefilte fish. And now you have to hold that thought. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: You hear something? I hear something. It`s getting closer. It`s getting closer. It`s a truck! Dropping off the "Friday Night News Dump." Nick Tuths, who`s tonight`s lucky Friday night news night player? NICK TUTHS, TRMS PRODUCER: Tonight, we`re joined by D. Jason Smith. He goes by Jason. MADDOW: OK. He`s a staffer in the University Music Library. He`s working on a masters and digital story telling and he`s a roller derby producer. He`s Muncie, Indiana. Rachel, meet Jason. MADDOW: Jason, very nice to meet you. D. JASON SMITH, CONTESTANT: Nice to meet you, Rachel. MADDOW: How does one produce roller derby? SMITH: Well, my job is basically to put on everything that goes on around the show. So, making sure the track is laid, the floor is set, the EMTS, the halftime act, everything that goes on around the game. The game itself, I have nothing to do with. MADDOW: OK, I think I love you. That`s so awesome, what a great gig. All right. You`re obviously a smart guy. This is a simple thing. You probably know how it works. Basically, you`re going to get three multiple choice questions. If you get two of them, you will win this piece of junk. Nick, please show us. TUTHS: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW drink mixer. SMITH: The highly coveted. MADDOW: Highly coveted and very cheap and not all that functional RACHEL MADDOW SHOW tiny cocktail shaker. If you get all three questions right and you need extra credit or you do very badly and you need a consolation prize, we also have something random for you that until tonight has been cluttering up our office. Nick, what are we ridding ourselves of tonight? TUTHS: A bit of a theme tonight. The first is shark jacks. Like jacks, but sharks. MADDOW: Like jacks but sharks, OK. TUTHS: The other thing is, as seen on TV, as seen on this show, gefilte fish. MADDOW: Two giant jars of gefilte fish. TUTHS: Two giant jars of gefilte fish from the Hillary Clinton story. MADDOW: Oh, about the carp. Right. OK, there you go. We`re also going to need to bring in Steve Benen from Maddow Blog. He will determine whether or not you got the right answer. Say hello, Steve. STEVE BENEN, MADDOW BLOG: Good evening to you both. MADDOW: Good evening, Steve. SMITH: Good evening. MADDOW: All right, Jason, ready for your first question? SMITH: Indeed. MADDOW: OK. It`s from Tuesday, Tuesday`s show. Tuesday was the anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers which started the whole financial system collapsing at the end of the George W. Bush presidency. On Tuesday`s show, we reported the names of the 2016 presidential contenders who worked for Lehman Brothers at the time of its collapse, who were they? Was it (A), Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina? Was it, (B), Lindsey Graham and Jim Gilmore? Was it (C), John Kasich and Jeb Bush? Or was it (D), Bernie Sanders? SMITH: That would be C. MADDOW: John Kasich and Jeb Bush. Steve, did Jason get that right? BENEN: Let`s check Tuesday`s segment. MADDOW: OK. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Republican presidential candidate John Kasich served as managing director of Lehman Brothers from 2001 right up until the company`s collapse seven years ago today. There`s Jeb Bush who served as a Lehman Brothers adviser for years before the bankruptcy, through the bankruptcy and on to Barclays Bank once Barclays inherited the smoking rubble of what Lehman used to be. (END VIDEO CLIP) BENEN: Correct answer is C. And Jason is 1-1. HAYES: Yay. Good start. All right. This next one is from Wednesday`s show. Wednesday`s show, we reported on the CIA releasing 2,500 previously secret documents from the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Now, these newly declassified documents included presidential daily briefs, but also another similar document, which has an acronym that sounds like a food. Was that other document A, the PIE, the President`s Intelligence Estimate? P-I-E, PIE. Was it B, the PICL, the President`s Intelligence Checklist, PICL. Was it C, the PEAR, the President`s Executive Action Report, P-E-A- R, PEAR. Or was it D, the PLOUT, the President`s List of Uh-Oh Trouble? P-L-U-O-T, PLOUT. What do you think, Jason? SMITH: That would be B, the PICL. MADDOW: The PICL. Steve, what`s the right answer here? BENEN: This is a tough one, but let`s check Wednesday`s segment. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: They called it a PICL. It stood for the president`s intelligence checklist, PICL. Pronounced pickle. And the PICL was a super secret intelligence document prepared specifically for the president of the United States. (END VIDEO CLIP) BENEN: The correct answer was PICL and Peter is right again. MADDOW: Jason you are -- BENEN: Jason is right again. MADDOW: It`s Peter and the pickled peppers. SMITH: Peter piper pickle -- MADDOW: All right. SMITH: It appears there`s something out of it. MADDOW: You`re obviously a ringer, Jason. No matter what we call you, we can`t get you off your game. You got one last question. On last night`s show, we finally found out who came up with the idea of splitting the Republican presidential candidate`s field into two different groups for the first Republican presidential debates. Who finally fessed up? Who finally admitted responsibility for that as we reported on last night`s show? Was it (A), the Republican National Committee, (B), C-Span, (C), the Presidential Debates Commission, or (D), that rascally Bernie Sanders? SMITH: It was the RNC. MADDOW: Steve, you have the answer for us? BENEN: Let`s check last night`s show. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Incidentally, I know not everyone in the world cares about how the debates are organized, but the Republican Party admitted today finally that they are the ones who insisted there be a kid`s table in the first place. (END VIDEO CLIP) BENEN: Yes, it was in fact, the RNC, and Jason is correct again. MADDOW: Nick, will you do that math? Does Jason win everything? TUTHS: He does! SMITH: Yay! MADDOW: So, Jason, now the question, do you want the shark jacks or do you want the two giant and fragile jars of gefilte fish? SMITH: Both. Now that you say fragile and shipping, I`m wondering. But - - for reasons that are personal, I`m going to have to go with the shark jacks. MADDOW: The shark jacks are a choking hazard, is that going to be an issue for you? SMITH: That is fine. I can be choked. It`s absolutely fine. MADDOW: Jason, it`s been great to have you here. Congratulations, we`ll send you your shark jacks. Really nice to meet you. Thank you. SMITH: Nice meeting you. Thank you. MADDOW: If you think you have what it takes to fly and now that you know the gefilte fish is still an option, e-mail us with rachel@MSNBC.com. Tell us a little something about you. Operators are standing by. Actually, they`re not. You know what happened to the operators? It`s terrible. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END