The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 12/6/2016

Guests: Ryan Knutson, Bradley Olson

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: December 6, 2016 Guest: Ryan Knutson, Bradley Olson

CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN` HOST: Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I`m sure that Kenosha is very, very psyched.

HAYES: Kenosha has been a Democratic stronghold. Trump won it by not very many votes but for the first time in a while. There`s a lot to learn from the folks there about what happened in this election.

MADDOW: I`m psyched that you`re doing that. That`s going to be awesome.

HAYES: Yes. Thanks.

MADDOW: Well done.

And thanks to you at home for joining us.

OK. Forgive me, but the `60s were kind of a lousy time to be alive. And by the `60s I meant the 1660s. The 1660s just sucked, particularly if you lived in England at the time.

In 1665 in England, they had the Great Plague of London. The next year, 1666, they had the Great Fire of London. The next year, 1667, the Dutch sailed all the way up the River Thames and sunk almost the entire British fleet. It was humiliating.

They actually took one ship, the flagship, the ship that was named for the king, the Royal Charles, that one they purposefully didn`t sink it so they could steal it. They took it home to the Netherlands just as a neener- neener we`ve got your royal Charles, we`ve got your flagship, then they sunk all the rest of them.

1660s were just a terrible time in Britain. But by the end of the 1660s, in 1670, the king himself, the aforementioned Charles, he found himself a little bit of a way out. He was a little bit at the end of his rope. He was demoralized, he`s suffering defeat and disaster on multiple fronts, both his kingdom and personal life were really freaking chaotic at the time.

I should mention at the time, he was busy producing 12 different offspring by 7 different mistresses. So at least we know what he liked to do for fun.

But things in general were a mess. And personally, it`s interesting -- even though he was the king of England, he was kind of broke. Seven mistresses? Hmm.

So, 1670, he came up with a rescue plan for himself. In 1670, he made a secret deal with his first cousin, who conveniently was also a king. His first cousin was the king of France. And in this deal in 1670, the king of France agreed to secretly pay the king of England a ton of money every year for the rest of his life. In return, Charles, the king of England, said that he agreed that he would someday before he died convert to Catholicism. That was the deal.

And apparently, both kings, the king of England and the king of France thought this was a great deal, although understandably they both realized it was maybe a deal that should be kept secret from their subjects. But they made this deal in 1670, and after this deal was made for the duration of his time on the throne, King Charles II of England, he really was secretly on the payroll of another country.

And in terms of the deal, regardless of how the agreed-upon religious conversion thing worked out, not actually sure if it did, history is a little fuzzy on the issue. But regardless of the converting to being a Catholic issue, even if you remove from the equation what the king of England offered France for his side of the deal, even if you just take that whole thing out of it about him converting and you only look at France`s side of the deal, even if you only look at what they gave, that was still a good deal. Because think about it, they had the king of another country on a tether. The king of freaking England was their paid agent.

I mean, even at the exorbitant rate that he was charging them and he was charging them a lot, frankly, it`s cheaper than a war. You just pay for the guy. And that`s what Charles II did. Charles II was kind of a lousy king. And, ultimately, his fantastical secret corruption became a failure in history`s lessons of how to run a country or rather how not to run a country. That`s what happened in 1670.

And in the 1700s, when it came time for the founders of our country to set the rules for how we would run this country, that historical example, which was only a couple of generations old at the time, that historical example of Charles II, that arguably is what the Founders of our country had in mind when they put into our Constitution an explicit rule that says federal officials can`t take things of value from foreign governments. You can`t be involved in running our country at any level while some other country is giving you stuff because, obviously, that basically makes you a paid foreign agent. I mean, even if the upkeep of your seven mistresses is very expensive, you just -- you can`t do it.

And our Constitution is weirdly, even arcanely specific about that. And that explicit constitutional prohibition on that specific kind of foreign entanglement on taking gifts or taking money from foreign countries, that ban and the very clear reasoning behind it, they`re part of the reason why the ongoing international business affairs of our president-elect, they continue to be a real concern. And it`s not out of any personal concern about him or whether you think he`s a good guy or bad guy, it`s a constitutional concern and it`s a constitutional concern that comes from a real -- rooted in the real world corruption experience.

And these concerns with his international business entanglements, these concerns are getting bigger not smaller with each passing day in the news as we get closer to him being sworn in, because this stuff keeps coming up, when it comes up, the more you look at it, the worse it is.

I mean, for example, we now know that the daughter of the president-elect, she apparently got a big business deal green-lighted by a government- controlled Bank in Japan right after that bizarre and otherwise inexplicable spectacle where the president-elect invited his daughter to sit in on his in-person meeting with the Japanese prime minister. If that deal in fact only got green-lit because of the new political position of the Trump family, well, then that action by that government-controlled Bank in Japan, that`s pretty clearly a foreign government`s gift to the president`s family. That`s just one.

With each passing day there`s another one of these now. And they are getting bigger and worse over time. They`re not -- none of them are getting cleared up.

I mean, at the end of last week when the president-elect threw more than three decades of diplomacy out the window by making direct presidential level contact with Taiwan, despite our country`s hard fought, very fragile deal with China that we do not do that, was that related at all to the business of the president-elect sending executives over to Taiwan as recently as last month to look at possible sites for new Trump hotels near the big new expanded airport in Taipei?

I mean, the Taiwanese government we know from the news, right, the Taiwanese government has just gotten something from the president-elect of the United States that they`ve been trying to get from the United States for more than 30 years. Will they now say yes to whatever his business is asking for in terms of permits or leases or loans or permissions or anything else the government in Taiwan can give now that they are apparently being asked for those things by Trump`s business?

If the family business effectively gets paid by Taiwan as personal compensation to the president in return for this radical policy shift that the president-elect just made toward Taiwan, then that would be a gift from a foreign government to the president-elect through the mechanism of his family-run business.

There are a number of these things in the news, and not just -- these aren`t the first ones, right? More and more of these each passing day.

Honestly, if any one of those things end up getting, you know, prosecuted as such, it would be the biggest raw corruption scandal that we`ve seen in American presidential politics in a very, very long time. I mean, we`ve had other kinds of scandals. We`ve had presidents lying and president presidents conducting secret or illegal foreign policy, or president spying on and taking retribution on their political enemies, but just flat-out using the office of the presidency for naked political personal -- excuse me, naked not political but personal gain? Taking foreign money, right? This Charles II stuff that we`re seeing right now?

This is the kind of thing for which we criticize kleptocratic countries on other continents. This is never something that we`ve had to confront in our own government before. So, the Charles II stuff that we got already, that we continue to get with each passing news cycle, we get more of these problems, that`s a really big deal. And then, in today`s news, we went a step beyond our Charles II problem, which we definitely have with the new president-elect. We`ve got that problem.

Today, we got a whole new and maybe worse problem, because getting paid effectively by foreign governments is not the only way we can get into trouble as a country because our leader has stopped acting in the interests of our country and instead is being used for another country`s purposes. Paying the leader is one way we get into that kind of trouble as a country. But today`s new wrinkle is this, today we started to hear from the people who are overtly claiming credit for what the president-elect is doing with other countries.

Today, we started to hear from the people who are overtly claiming credit for what just happened, for example, with Taiwan. Alston & Bird, a big D.C. law firm and lobbying firm, since May, we now know that Alston & Bird has been getting paid $20,000 a month by what would be the Taiwan embassy in the United States if we had diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which we don`t, on purpose.

Former presidential candidate and Republican leader, Bob Dole, he may be 93 years old now, but that does not mean he`s retired. He`s still at it at Alston & Bird. And today, he told "The Wall Street Journal", quote, "It`s fair to say we may have had some influence" in setting up that diplomatic bombast of a phone call between the president-elect and the leader of Taiwan.

So, think about that for a second. I mean, it is -- it is one thing to be directly on the payroll of a foreign country, King Charles. It is another thing to effectively be on the payroll but to collect your fee through your family business.

But it is a third and co-equal thing to be like an empty set on foreign policy, to be ignorant or naive or agnostic or cynical enough about policy about America`s interests that you`re happy to be an instrument of a foreign government. You`re happy to be an instrument of a foreign government or anyone who pays the right people to get next to you to tell you what to say.

Even on super, supersensitive, super high level foreign policy issues that you may think you understand. But it`s one thing to think of your president as radical. It`s another to have people bragging openly that your president is someone who does what he`s told, because he doesn`t know any better. Which is worse?

And in terms of who is telling him what to do, while he`s doing what he`s told, in terms of who is controlling who gets in his ear and whether or not these people are being paid by foreign governments to tell him what to do, in terms of all those questions, this comes at a really delicate moment right now in terms of this transition, in terms of specifically national security and this new incoming president and his administration.

Tonight in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the president-elect held this second mass rally that he`s done since the election. As far as we know, mass rallies may be a permanent feature of his presidency. At the first one of these mass rallies last week, it was mostly just a campaign-style event as if he were still running against Hillary Clinton. They chanted lock her up and all the rest of it.

He didn`t make one bit of news at the first one of these last week when he said he was telling the assembled crowd a secret, that they should not tell anybody, but he said that this week on Monday of this week, he`d be announcing his choice for defense secretary, former Marine General James Mattis.

The Mattis announcement it was itself a little chaotic. Mattis announcement was leaked on Thursday, then it was denied by the Trump transition later on Thursday, then Thursday night the president-elect went to this mass rally and said he wasn`t officially making the announcement yet, nobody should tell anybody, that he was going to make it on Monday. And then Monday came and they didn`t make the announcement. And then tonight on Tuesday, they did roll out their secretary of defense choice, General Mattis.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis will be subject to Senate confirmation.

But the other major announcement that this incoming administration has made on security is a pick who will not be subject to Senate confirmation. He`s a done deal just by being designated by the president-elect. And he remains probably the most controversial personnel choice announced by the new administration, at least other than the chief strategist, Steve Bannon.

The other most controversial announcement, personnel announcement made so far by the incoming administration is retired General Mike Flynn, who is designated to be the national security adviser. He has raised eyebrows since he was first brought on to the Trump campaign, let alone announced his national security advisory, because he has this reputation for being a nut -- sorry -- for trafficking in truly insane conspiracy theories.

For his apparent willingness to suspend disbelief in order to absorb and pass on totally fake made-up news stories that no serious person would take seriously, but he does because they apparently fit his ideological inclinations. So, he was raising eyebrows just as a campaign surrogate, let alone as national security adviser. But now, he`s going to be national security adviser.

And, I mean, today, at the moment when President Obama was making his final major national security address of his presidency, literally at that same moment, the vice president-elect was on cable news amid all these snowballing concerns about the incoming administration on national security and whether their radicalism is intentional or not, whether they know what they`re doing, who is telling them what to say and who they`re being paid by -- well, amid all these snowballing concerns about national security and whether or not they`re shaky on those most important issues, while President Obama was at CentCom giving his national security address, there on CNN was the vice president-elect, supposedly the sober, experienced one of the Trump team, having to explain why or if the transition sought security clearance and gave a formal government transition role to the son of Mike Flynn.

The son of Mike Flynn, the national security adviser designate, the son of General Flynn is a stated fan of Alex Jones and Info Wars. He has served as his dad`s chief of staff while trafficking publicly in truly insane conspiracy theories, including that Hillary Clinton was secretly running a child sex slave operation out of the back of a D.C. pizza restaurant.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: You must be aware that the transition team put in for security clearance for Michael G. Flynn, the son of retired General Flynn?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: Well, I`m aware in talking to General Flynn that his son was helping ask scheduling, Jake.

TAPPER: No, but you put in for security clearance for him.

PENCE: He`s helping his dad arrange for meetings and provide meetings, but that`s no longer the case.

TAPPER: Were you aware that the transition had put in for security clearance for Michael Flynn Jr.?

PENCE: I worked very closely with General Flynn. I`ve worked on many occasions. If I`ve never seen his son present for any of those meetings.

TAPPER: But you`re head of the transition team. You know who was given security clearances for.

PENCE: Well, General Flynn did inform that his son was helping on administrative matters.

TAPPER: This is a young man who had a social media profile that had all sorts of crazy conspiracy theories, that had all sort of links and retweets of with white supremacists. Were you aware that the transition team put in for a security clearance for him?

PENCE: Well, what I can tell you in talking to General Flynn today, he made me aware that his son was assisting him in scheduling.

TAPPER: And that you put in for a security clearance?

PENCE: Well, whatever the appropriate paperwork was to assist him in that regard, Jake. We`re bringing together with General Mike Flynn, with K.T. McFarland, with the team that will surround them and advise this president. People that are going to set into motion, I`m confident, the policies that will make America safe again and at home and abroad.

TAPPER: And it was two days ago that we saw somebody with a gun go to Comet Pizza because of this crazy conspiracy theory that Michael G. Flynn had been putting out there, defended afterwards and you guys put in for a security clearance. But I will move on.


MADDOW: If you`re a national security voter or if you`re not a national security voter primarily but just a person who cares about national security, what`s happening with the president-elect with the incoming administration on this issue -- I mean, it`s not the Great Plague of London, I mean, it`s not the Great Fire of London, it`s not the Dutch sailing up the River Thames and sinking the whole fleet, but it`s bad. It`s bad.

It`s a mix of audacious, flagrant, scandalous conflicts of interest and a particularly radical form of incompetence and disorganization that outside paid interests are already bragging that they`ve been able to take advantage of.

And if you think we are the unchallenged most powerful country in the world and nobody can touch us, then, you know, then maybe it doesn`t matter. Maybe there`s a huge margin of stuff you can screw up here and ways you can be incompetent or corrupt here and it won`t matter.

But if you don`t think that we are the unchallenged ruler of the world, if you don`t think that we can do anything and nothing`s too big a screw-up, if you think we`ve got competitors, if you think we`ve got challengers, if you think we`ve even got enemies in the world, then them being this bad on this issue, it`s bad.


MADDOW: Donald Trump tonight announced his nominee for secretary of defense, General James Mattis. General Mattis has been out of the military for only three years. So, by law, he can`t technically accept the job.

It`s a civilian job to be secretary of defense. In order to take that job, somebody so recently out of the military will have to get a waiver from the United States Congress. Well, tonight, they started the process of getting him that waiver, even before Trump gets sworn in. It`s a provision tucked into a draft spending bill for the overall funding of the government right there on page 27.

Look, "Exception to limitation against appointment of persons as secretary of defense within seven years of relief from active duty." That`s on page 27. Then on page 28, quote, "Limited exception. This section applies only to the first person appointed as secretary of defense after the date of the enactment of this act and to no other person."

So, in other words, Congress intends this exception in the law for General Mattis and for General Mattis only, provided he`s the first person Donald Trump names as his nominee for secretary of defense. This thing is written almost in disappearing ink. It`s supposed to be just for Jim Mattis and to go away and glide by in a hurry again before Trump is even sworn in as president.

Now, it`s true that some Democrats may balk at this. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York was the first out of the gate to say she will not go along with this kind of a waiver. She says civilian control of the military is too important to have a waiver on this. President Obama, of course, will also need to sign this when it goes through.

What we don`t know yet is how many Democrats are likely to join this fight, whether it will be enough of them if any. But that`s still ahead. The process has begun.

Watch this space.


MADDOW: Today, for first time since reporters have been camped out at the president-elect`s apartment building, wondering how to cover the transition when it doesn`t work out of the transition offices, today for the first time, the president-elect himself decided to speak to those camped-out reporters in the lobby of his building, and when he did, at first, at least, nobody knew what he was talking about.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Ladies and gentlemen, this is Masa of Softbank of Japan and he`s just agreed to invest $50 billion in the United States and 50,000 jobs.


TRUMP: And he`s one of the great men of industry. I just wanted to thank you.


TRUMP: Thank you very much.

And if you`d like to speak to him, you can, but one of the truly great men. Thank you.

SON: Thank you.

TRUMP: You may want to say hello. I`ll see you soon, OK?


MADDOW: That was it. Then he was gone.

And to figure out exactly what had just been announced, the press and the American people were reduced to performing cryptographical analysis on this PowerPoint slide that they held up and showed to the cameras. For real.

As far as we can tell, they sealed the deal, such as it is, by signing a print-out of a PowerPoint slide. This is how we figure out what our incoming administration is doing. And if it`s not this exactly trick with the zooming in on the photographed unexplainable scribble, then it`s something else, like the president-elect`s one in-person meeting with a foreign leader.

In that case, we weren`t looking at a PowerPoint slide in someone`s hand. We were reviewing images released by the Trump campaign and by the Japanese government because they wouldn`t let reporters in to take their own pictures. They had handout photos curated by the transition team and the Japanese government. That`s all we had to go by to determine what happened in that meeting, what happened in that room.

That`s how we learn that the president-elect had invited a top executive from his company to sit in on that meeting with the Japanese prime minister. He invited his daughter, who works at his company, to sit in on that meeting.

Now we learn from "The New York Times" that while Ivanka Trump was sitting in on that meeting with the Japanese prime minister, her own Ivanka Trump clothing company was in the process of closing a big licensing deal with a Japanese clothing company whose primary ownership is the Development Bank of Japan which is wholly owned by the Japanese government. The deal is reportedly in the process of being sealed right now, all apparently coming together right after she was invited by her dad to sit in on a meeting with Japan`s prime minister.

Did I mention that sealing the deal is a government-owned bank? Did this deal with Ivanka Trump come up explicitly in the meeting that she was invited into with the Japanese prime minister because her dad`s now president?

We have no idea. We do not get to know. Just as today, we got virtually nothing from the president-elect about this new dramatic pledge from the CEO of the Japanese bank Softbank to invest $50 billion in the United States. We don`t know where or how this money is going to be invested or how they arrived at 50,000 as the number of jobs they will create.

Softbank CEO says the money will come from an investment fund he created whose leader investor is actually the government of Saudi Arabia. So, does it mean that most of the dollars coming our way is actually from Saudi Arabia? And what do they want in return for this investment?

Here`s another wrinkle. Softbank already owns the American telecom company Sprint. Sprint recently has wanted to take over a rival carrier T-Mobile. Nobody thought the Obama administration would let them do the takeover, so they dropped that bid. The new Trump administration is expected to be much friendlier to that idea of Sprint taking over T-Mobile. And now, we`ve got this, and this PowerPoint slide and the scribbles on it.

And, you know, Sprint`s stock shot right up after that meeting. So, we really don`t know what this is all about. But the word you`re probably looking for is ka-ching.

Joining us now is Ryan Knutson and he`s a reporter for "The Wall Street Journal" who has known Softbank`s CEO for several years. He was able to interview him on the street today after he left Trump Tower.

Mr. Knutson, thanks for being here. Thank you.


MADDOW: What do we know about this investment? We read the PowerPoint slide off his hand.

KNUTSON: Well, this is a really crafty PR by Masayoshi Son. He`s actually very well known in Japan. It`s sort of funny to see him come to the United States where nobody knows who he is.

MADDOW: Isn`t he like the second richest man in Japan?

KNUTSON: I think he`s the richest man in Japan.


KNUTSON: He`s very well known. He`s very outspoken and he has a reputation for taking very public, very bold moves when he wants to get something accomplished in the political realm. He very famously threatened to light himself on fire when he wanted to get something passed in Japan many years ago.

And this was sort of his exact same playbook that he rolled out when he was trying to buy T-Mobile in 2014, he made this big public pitch in Washington, saying that America`s broadband networks were terrible, he compared them to the air quality in Beijing, so that he could come in and say that it`s very sort of Donald Trumpesque in terms of how he interacts with the public and what his strategies are. This fits exactly in line with that.

This fund he`s actually been putting together for several months. They announced its creation in October. So, $100 billion fund, $25 billion of that is coming from Softbank, $45 billion is coming from the Saudi Arabian government.

So, just by its nature it`s wanting to invest in start-up companies. A lot of those companies aren`t just in the United States. This money would have most likely been coming to the United States anyway, but he saw an opportunity to score a big publicity win by telling Donald Trump this is something that he would bring to the United States now.

MADDOW: To be clear on that, I mean, I went back and read some of the October coverage -- what was announced in October, what they said they were creating in October in terms of the Saudi partnership and what they wanted to invest in, that was all pre-election.

KNUTSON: Pre-election.

MADDOW: This $50 billion that they are talking about, is it -- do we know how much of this, the $50 billion that they`re talking about today, would be Saudi and how much of it would be Softbank?

KNUTSON: No, there`s no clear breakdown. There`s an involvement of Foxconn, which is the manufacturing company that makes most of the iPhones.

MADDOW: Lots of controversy around them in terms of their labor practice.

KNUTSON: Right. They`re on a slide. There`s a number that`s next to their company`s name also. It`s not clear if that`s an addition or how this sort of breakdown of this fee is.

I mean, Masa has -- his nickname is Masa -- he has big visions about what the future is. He`s very passionate about artificial intelligence. He wants to have a lot of his money going towards companies that are going to create what he actually calls the next phase in human evolution.

So, he`s talking about big picture stuff. There are some people think it`s not very realistic. But, you know, he wants to make big investments. He wants to be buying companies that are in the $10 billion, $20 billion, $30 billion range.

MADDOW: So being part of an excellent PR stunt that otherwise makes no sense with the new president of the United States might put you in a good position at least to make some noise.

Ryan Knutson, reporter for "The Wall Street Journal" -- it`s really nice of you to come in and help us.

KNUTSON: Thanks.

MADDOW: Thanks a lot.

All right. Lots more to come tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: So, they got trouble on the taking off, they`ve also got trouble on the landing. Russia only has one aircraft carrier. It`s fairly ancient. It`s called the Admiral Kuznetsov.

It`s currently -- see how it kind of belches black smoke there? They say that`s a feature not a bug, but it`s hard to -- yes. It is currently taking part in Russia`s military campaign in Syria.

The Kuznetsov does belch black smoke. It has a tendency to break down a lot. In particular, it likes to catch fire.

But you see how it`s kind of bucktooth in the front? That`s because it uses a low-tech baby ski jump to get its planes into the air.

American aircraft carriers, modern aircraft carriers they basically slingshot jets off the flight deck, but on the Russian carrier they don`t have any way to do that, so they just use that little ski ramp so the takeoff is a little hinky.

It turns out so are the landings. Yesterday, the Russian defense ministry announced that a second jet fighter crashed while trying to land on this hoopty old aircraft carrier. The second time it happened in the last few weeks. I mean, they don`t have a slingshot, as I said, to launch planes off the deck, but they do have an arresting wire to stop jets when they try to land on the flight deck.

In both the instances where these two jets have crashed, apparently, the arresting wire snapped. And yesterday, that sent this jet skidding off the flight deck and into the ocean. Luckily, in both of these crashes, the pilots in the planes were able to eject and they were both able to survive.

But if you`re keeping track, since joining the fight in Syria, the Kuznetsov has now lost two of its 15 jets, which has to be little nerve- racking for the pilots of the remaining 13.

There`s more ahead tonight from Russia with something other than love. The person who is said to know Russian President Vladimir Putin better than any other living American is really apparently being considered for a very, very high profile role, the last remaining super high profile role in the new administration. That`s ahead.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: Russia is gigantic. It shares a border with 14 countries. Its total land border runs over 12,000 miles. It`s the biggest country on earth.

But if you go all the way across that massive country to the eastern coast of Russia, you will see the Kamchatka Peninsula. And off the coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula on August 4th, 2005, this 45-foot mini submarine, Russian submarine, it got stuck in some fishing nets on the floor of the Pacific Ocean. It could not free itself.

That little mini submarine had seven Russian sailors on board. They were stuck 620 feet below the surface with no way to come up. And their oxygen supplies were running out. That seven-man crew needed to be rescued. Time was absolutely of the essence.

U.S. Air Force Major Patrick Kuhn (ph) was based in Japan at the time. He and his crew got the call about the trapped Russian sub. In a hot minute, he was on a plane heading to the Kamchatka Peninsula to head up the rescue effort.

U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Steve Smith also got the urgent call. In a hot minute he made his way to the needing to be rescued sub from his naval base in California.

Both U.S. servicemen and their units joined in this frantic rescue effort and that little Russian sub was raised to the surface with apparently just a few hours of oxygen left to spare.

And so, the following year, in 2006, Russia awarded those two American military officers the highest honor that they give to non-Russian citizens. They earned the Russian Order of Friendship. You can see it right there on Major Patrick Kuhn and Steve Smith. It`s a star with a wreath and a globe. Has a stripy ribbon.

That`s one way, that`s a really hard way to get the highest honor that the nation of Russia affords to non-Russian citizens. You can rescue seven Russian sailors stuck under water with no way out other than by your help while their oxygen supplies are running out. That`s one way to do it.

Here`s another way. This is Russian President Vladimir Putin on the right standing next to a man who is the CEO of ExxonMobil. This was taken August 30th, 2011. On that day, a giant Russian oil company called Rosneft, they signed a huge contract with Exxon, that would allow the two companies to drill the Arctic together as well as the Gulf of Mexico.

Now, Rosneft, that`s a big political deal because the biggest stockholder is the Russian government. The government owns 70 percent of Rosneft. So, this is the Russian government going into a partnership with Exxon.

And it was personal to Putin as well. When that huge deal was signed, you see from the byline there they signed it in the city of Sochi, where the Olympics were held in Russia. See the byline on the article?

But it wasn`t just in Sochi. They signed that deal at Putin`s house, at Vladimir Putin`s Black Sea vacation house. That`s literally with the CEO of ExxonMobil went to sign this ginormous deal, Putin`s vacation deal.

Two years later in 2013, Rosneft acquired a big stake in 20 of Exxon`s deep water exploration blocks here in the Gulf of Mexico. Those 20 blocks gave Russia state-owned Rosneft, gives them access to 100,000 acres in the Gulf of Mexico. And then after that part of the deal was secured, it was time to say thank you.

And so, the CEO of ExxonMobil took a trip to St. Petersburg and, again, his friend, Vladimir Putin, personally awarded him the Order of Friendship medal, that same medal that the officers got for Exxon`s, quote, "big contribution to developing cooperation in the energy sector." So, you can see the same medal, right, on his suit lapel, the highest honor that Russia awards non-Russian citizens.

And that CEO, that is who Donald Trump is considering for secretary of state. His name is Rex Tillerson. He`s the CEO of ExxonMobil. And today, he made his way to Trump Tower to go meet with President-elect Trump.

He has been working closely on oil deals in Russia since Boris Yeltsin was president in the 1990s. He`s made more than $200 billion in profit at Exxon since he became CEO in 2006. He himself personally owns more than $150 million worth of Exxon shares.

I should tell you, Mr. Tillerson has not been able to drill the Arctic with his buddy, with Vladimir Putin. That plan was screwed up when the U.S. imposed sanctions on Russia in 2014.

Who is to say a policy like that couldn`t change, though, right? You get the right people in the right jobs, get the right person as secretary of state.

Joining us now is Bradley Olson. He`s our second "Wall Street Journal" reporter of this evening. He covers energy for "The Journal". He`s reporting on Mr. Tillerson`s ties today.

Mr. Olson, it`s really nice to have you with us tonight. Thanks for being here.

BRADLEY OLSON, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Thanks so much for having me. I appreciate it.

MADDOW: So, obviously, international oil companies especially one as big as ExxonMobil, they`re seen as entities that are almost big enough to have their own foreign policy. But Tillerson in particular is seen as being maybe the American, the living American who is closer to Vladimir Putin than any other American alive today. Is that a fair reputation? Are they that close?

OLSON: I think it`s fair to say that he has had dealings with Russia for almost two decades. And, you know, the deal that you mention before would have been a transformative deal for Exxon. He has done deals there before. He has also part of the big project that Exxon did, one of the most complex in the world at the time in a place called Sakhalin, where they drilled and reached an oil reservoir seven miles away from where they drilled the initial well.

And he did those negotiations there well. So, as he pointed out. He has close ties to Putin and he has negotiated with him and with people in Russia for many, many years. One of the people that we spoke with actually compared his relations or his dealings with Putin to those of Henry Kissinger.

MADDOW: In terms the way that he has dealt with Putin, having a familiarity with world leaders or with one world leader in particular, obviously isn`t a bad thing for being secretary of state. But in these negotiations that he has helmed between Russia and Exxon, between Exxon and Putin, have they been characterized by him driving a hard bargain, by having him being willing to have Exxon take a hit when Exxon`s interests confront interests of the United States government, for example? Is there anything of that in that history?

OLSON: Sure, there`s a couple things that I would point out. One of the things that was pretty interesting, that project that I described earlier, the Sakhalin project, ha was done that was done in the last decade. Exxon had a lot of negotiations before that went through.

And Tillerson, believe it or not, before he stopped giving extensive interviews when he became CEO, he talked at length about those negotiations and said he approached them with a soft touch and he was really mindful of not wanting to seem like, hey, we`re the big Americans, and we`ve won the Cold War and we`re kind of here to take over your resources. And so, he said he was particularly concerned about kind of giving off that sort of impression to any of the people that he was negotiating with.

He even said in an interview that as a Russian individual that they were negotiating with kind of banged his fist on the table, that he had visions of Nikita Khrushchev banging his shoe on the table in 1960, which was kind of a famous scene of Khrushchev`s. So, there was that example. I think it`s just pretty well known that that was sort of his approach and the way he looked at doing it.

MADDOW: Bradley Olson, national energy correspondent for "The Wall Street Journal" --thanks for helping us with this story tonight. It`s good to have you here.

OLSON: Sure. Thanks for your time.

MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: You may have heard the team "faithless electors", which sounds like a `80s band, but it`s a real thing. It`s a term to describe members of the Electoral College who don`t vote for the candidate they`re pledged to vote for because of how their state voted. It is rare to be a faithless electors, but they`re faithless electors, it does happen.

And this year, there`s more than the usual amount of chatter, about how many faithless electors there will be, about how many defections there will be when the 538 electors get together on December 19th to actually pick the new president.

One Texas elector came out and said he will not vote for Donald Trump, and I`m here to tell you right now that that very intriguing person is going to be the special guest next hour, live, with Lawrence O`Donnell, which means you should stick around and watch it.

Much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: If you live in Bismarck, North Dakota, lucky you, and you subscribe to your local paper because you`re a good citizen, you might have sill awakened to empty mailboxes this morning because this is North Dakota today. Big portions of that state had been under a blizzard warning and been suffering blizzard conditions all day. Roads blocked by drifting snow, visibility basically zero. Wind chill in some places down do negative 15.

And I know it`s North Dakota and it`s December. But the weather is so bad that even for North Dakota right now that "The Bismarck Tribune" pulled its delivery trucks off the road. They said they couldn`t get the paper out, at least in terms of home delivery today. Today`s newspaper will be sent out with tomorrow`s delivery. Even if the weather`s bad enough to stop the newspapers, though, it doesn`t stop the news.

Just an hour south of Bismarck, in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, pipeline protesters were out standing their ground at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation today. They are continuing their protests of the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline. Blizzard or not, a lot of them are not budging.

Now, you`ve heard that the protesters celebrated this weekend when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that they were denying the pipeline company a permit for that route. This is a huge victory for the protesters, even if it might be a temporary one. Once the new president is sworn in next month, fears are that he will be able to unilaterally reverse the Army Corps`s decision.

The inauguration is still weeks away, though, and the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux told protesters basically this weekend to go home. That this decision has been made by the Army Corps, but also, it`s too dangerous to protest through the North Dakota winter.

A lot of those protesters so far are saying no to that. A lot of them are staying put, saying they will stay there until the end. Hundreds have taken shelter from the storm in a nearby casino and in a local community center and gym.

For now, their strategy is not to move until a final decision is reached. But that strategy is quickly turning into a real safety concern as long as this extreme weather keeps up. The find word, of course, on this could be months away, and at least for the time being, it`s only going to get colder.

Watch this space.


MADDOW: This past weekend, Republicans sent the vice president-elect down to Louisiana to campaign for the last Senate race in the country. The runoff to decide the country`s last senator and the balance of power in the U.S. Senate between the Democrats and the Republicans, that runoff will be this Saturday in Louisiana.

And even though the Republicans are putting a bunch of national pressure on that race, they are marshaling national resources, trying to do everything they can to try to win that seat for the Republican Party, the Democrats do not seem to feel the same urgency about that race or that seat. And now, the Republicans are upping the ante even further, because now, tonight, they have announced that the president-elect himself will also go to Louisiana this week to campaign in that Senate race.

The election is on Saturday. The president-elect will be there the day before on Friday.

Honestly, high-level Democrats are nowhere to be seen on this Senate race. Grassroots Democrats are phone banking and trying to raise money and doing stuff online, but high-level, national profile Democrats, where are you?

I mean, the Republicans are all in. The Republicans are all in to the point where it`s put the Democrat in that Senate race in this awkward position of trying to leverage the Republicans` interest in his race to his own favor, even though he`s a Democrat.

The Democrat in the race put out this statement tonight, quote, "I`m glad the president-elect is bringing attention to Louisiana and bringing attention to things he agrees with me on, things like term limits and rebuilding roads, bridges and ports." That`s the Democrat in the Senate race trying to leverage the fact that the Republicans are campaigning so hard to win -- try to win that Senate race, even though Democrats don`t seem to be lifting a finger to help him.

Never give up, though, right? Even now, with Pence just there and Trump on the way, even now, Democrat Foster Campbell is trying his best to win that Senate seat for the Democrats, he may be trying alone, but he`s trying.

That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.


Good evening, Lawrence.