Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: December 19, 2016 Guest: Paul Farhi
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: And thanks to you at home for joining us at this hour.
There is a very nice hotel in Santa Barbara, California. It`s called the Biltmore. It`s been owned by a few different companies over the years, I think.
But it was built in the 1920s and it`s one of these grand California beach front resorts, and one of the cool 1920s things about it is that in addition to the main hotel building, I think it`s like a two-story main building for the hotel, in addition to that, you can rent individual bungalows, these little bungalows. They have gardens, there`s outdoor seating. There`s essentially these little houses that you can rent at this hotel.
And in January 1973, a man rented one of those bungalows at this very nice hotel in Santa Barbara and he arranged a meeting there with two men who he had never met before from the Turkish consulate. It was the consul general and another diplomat from Turkey and they were basically lured out to this bungalow at this nice hotel on the beach in Santa Barbara because this distinguished older gentleman had contacted the consul, contacted the consulate, and told him that he had a gift for the government of Turkey. He had come into possession of some priceless artifacts that had been stolen from the palace of the sultan of Turkey in the 1800s and he wanted to repatriate these items back to the people of Turkey.
So, the consul general and this other diplomat, they drove out to have lunch with this man at the hotel. They were going to collect the artifacts on behalf of their government and when they sat down to lunch with him at this beautiful bungalow, at this swanky hotel, he shot them both in the head.
This was the assassin. He did not know either of the diplomats personally. It was a political assassination.
And then two years later, it happened again. Except this time, it wasn`t in California. This time it was in Austria. It was the Turkish ambassador to Austria. He was at work at the Turkish embassy in Vienna. He was at his study at the embassy. Three men stormed with automatic weapons stormed into the embassy and killed him.
And just like what happened two years earlier in Santa Barbara, there`s no indication at all that there was any personal connection between the gunmen and ambassador. It was an assassination.
And then three days later, it happened again in Paris. This time, it was the Turkish ambassador to France. He was with his driver and his official car marked with diplomatic plates. They were outside the embassy in Paris. They were ambushed by multiple gunmen, both men were killed.
So, at that point, that was two Turkish ambassadors in two different countries killed over three days, and that was two years after the guys in Santa Barbara had been killed. But it just -- it kept happening through the `70s, through `80s.
In 1977, it was the Turkish ambassador to the Vatican. He was ambushed and shot to death on the street outside his house in Rome.
Then, in 1979, it happened again, the Turkish ambassador to the Netherlands. This was a particularly terrible attack because they didn`t actually kill the ambassador. They killed his son. His son was a grad student who was driving to college in The Hague, in the Netherlands. He was in his VW Bug. Stopped at a traffic light and a gunman shot him through the passenger side window and killed him.
In 1982, it happened in southern California again. It was the Turkish consul general. He sat in his car in the red light in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. He was shot and killed.
Later that same year, it happened in America again. This time in Somerville, Massachusetts. It was the Turkish honorary consul. It was the exact same M.O. He was stuck in rush hour traffic, a guy in a jogging suit ran upholding two high-powered pistols, shot the honorary consul through the window of his car and killed him.
Later that same year, it happened in Canada. It was the Turkish military attache to Canada, same strategy. He was driving to work on August 27th, 1982, stopped for a red light, car near him also came to a stop, gunman got out of the stopped car, walked over to the vehicle and shot him through the window.
That monument we were showing there for a second, just in a few years ago in Ottawa, they erected a monument to that Turkish diplomat right next to where he was killed in the street of Ottawa. It was beautiful. It was wood and metal sculpture. It includes more than a thousand handcrafted silver plates that were made in Turkey specifically for the memorial.
That one in Ottawa, that wasn`t the last one. I could keep going with the list. The pattern of Turkish diplomats and their family members being tar get and assassinated, that pattern kept going well into the 1990s all over the world, right. All over the world.
And, you know what, all over the world for all sorts of different reasons, diplomacy can be dangerous work for a lot of different country`s diplomats. But for Turkey, Turkish diplomats for a period of about 20 years, they were in a very special and very heightened kind of danger compared to diplomats from everywhere else, because there really was a worldwide terrifying campaign of targeted assassinations that was directed at Turkish ambassadors, at Turkish diplomats all over the world.
It was Armenian extremists. Armenian militants made a strategic decision in the early 1970, starting with those killings in Santa Barbara. They made a decision that they would try to get their revenge for the genocide of Armenians during World War I and their form of revenge would be that they would kill diplomats from the nation of Turkey all over the world. Even in places where you think they would be safe, even in Canada, even in the United States.
And this was -- this was not personal revenge. None of the diplomats who were targeted over these 20 years, none of them were even born when the Armenian genocide began. But again, this wasn`t a personal beef against any of them. This was terrorism, right? This was a politically motivated strategic serial homicide campaign against Turkish diplomats in particular.
And because of that very recent history, having a diplomat, having an ambassador assassinated in Turkey, which happened today, that is a special kind of national shock in the nation of Turkey. Because Turkey, more than any other nation in the modern era, they know the pain of having their diplomats targeted for assassination because of some larger political point.
I mean, even if there weren`t that history, even in the absence of that history that Turkey has with this issue, the circumstance of this killing today in Ankara were enough to shock the world. The Russian ambassador to Turkey, he had been in Turkey since 2013. Before that, had he spent decades in a place you would think of as much more dangerous. He spent decades in North Korea for decades before this as Russia`s ambassador to Pyongyang.
But today, by chance, there happened to be a very talented "A.P." photographer on site at this event today where the Russian ambassador was speaking. It was not the world`s most high-profile event. It was a photo exhibit at a gallery in Ankara. But the murder was caught on tape and the images of the assassin after the shooting, these images are scary and indelible.
Just looking at this footage, it`s almost impossible to believe that this was a real thing, that this was a real thing. But this is a real thing.
The gunman that you see there was eventually killed by the police at the scene. He`s described as an off-duty police officer, 22 years old. He may have used his police credentials to get inside this venue with the Russian ambassador. But the killing of the Russian ambassador in Turkey comes after days of large-scale protests in Turkey about the civil war in Syria, about Russia`s involvement in the siege of the city of Aleppo.
But an assassination is not a continuation of protests, right? An assassination is something of a different order. And part of what this -- part of the consequence of this is that it will be seen as a massive security failure on the part of Turkey, that this happened on Turkish soil. But it happened on a day that was just a remarkable string of events.
This news about this assassination, it broke midday here on the East Coast of the United States. The shooting happened at 7:00 local time in Ankara, which is about 11:00 a.m. So we started got that news breaking around daytime -- midday here but right after that news of that assassination started to break here, we also got this incredibly, incredibly news out of Berlin.
Over the past year or so, if you`ve been watching this show, you`ve seen us a few times on and off, we`ve covered the fact that the terrorist group is, they have a magazine they call "Dabiq." Dabiq is a place. It`s a geographic place, it`s a town in Syria. And in ISIS` twisted death cult theology, the little town of Dabiq in Syria is where the final apocalyptic battle between themselves and all of the infidels.
And ISIS, when they took over Dabiq, one of the things they did was named their magazine "Dabiq" and we wondered and talked about on the air what might happen to ISIS promoting that apocalyptic myth about that town in Syria once ISIS started losing its territory in Syria and it no longer became clear that they`d be able to hold on to that city.
Well, now we know. ISIS has changed the name of it is magazine. No longer sure of its hold on a place like Dabiq, wanting presumably not to be embarrassed for losing hold of a place they made central to their international propaganda. They no longer call their magazine Dabiq. They`re playing that whole thing down now.
Instead, they`ve named it "Rumiyah," which is the classical word for Rome, as in Rome, Italy. Why they are now calling their magazine Rome, I do not know. But they have two issues of it out now and the current one, the one that most recently came out last month, it includes yet another article calling on ISIS supporters to mount large-scale attacks in the West using vehicles, using big trucks.
This is something that al Qaeda had very ham-handedly in their magazine "Inspire" years ago, and then ISIS started doing its magazine and old issues of "Dabiq", the first iteration of the ISIS magazine, they also promoted attacks with vehicles. Now, the latest magazine from ISIS, they are claiming credit for previous attacks on civilians made by ISIS supporters, using vehicles, using cars and trucks. They are continuing to promote vehicle attacks as a very low-tech terrorist tactic that`s very hard to defend against in open societies.
The worst vehicle-born attack, of course, is the one that happened in Nice and France in July, 86 people killed. That`s the most high-profile one and it was the deadliest one. And there have been a lot of smaller scale attacks with vehicles as well, particularly since ISIS called for them explicitly. And the one that happened today in Berlin involving this large panel truck, semitrailer, it is not on the scale that happened in Nice but it is still one of the worst.
At this hour, this has just risen recently, the death toll in the Berlin attack is now 12 people killed and 48 people are injured and in the hospital. Now, in terms of the motivation and the perpetrators of this attack on this Christmas market in Berlin, we have very little information at this point. The ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein, describes what happened in Berlin today as having all the hallmarks of a terrorist attack and we can see that for ourselves as well.
But we know nothing thus far about the killer or killers or their motivation or their affiliations. There`s reportedly one person in custody. There`s one person whose body was reportedly found in the passenger compartment of this large-scale black panel truck that plowed into this Christmas market in downtown West Berlin, but we don`t know more than that. I expect over the course of this evening that we`ll know more, maybe even by the end of this hour.
But it`s interesting. This assassination in Ankara, this terrible assassination of this Russian diplomat in Turkey and this carnage in Berlin with this vehicle-born attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, both of those two very terrible, very dramatic things come right on the heels of two other really big attacks that happened yesterday that didn`t gets much attention in part because they happened on Sunday, not Monday, but in large part because they happened outside of the West.
They are both a really big deal, though. Yemen yesterday, the port city of Aiden, in Yemen, a suicide bomber disguised himself as a disabled man. He got himself into a crowd (AUDIO GAP) officers and soldiers who have reportedly gathered at the end of their workweek to collect their salaries, and he blew himself up and killed 49 other people in the process. Most, if not all of whom, were police officers and soldiers.
So, that was yesterday in Yemen. Also yesterday, there was a deadly and complex attack by multiple attackers in the nation of Jordan. This one reportedly started with an explosion at an apartment building. Police responded to the explosion, they got shot at in the process, the gunman then got away and they drove to a tourist site about 30 miles away from where the explosion had been at the apartment.
When they got to the tourist site, they attacked a police station that was adjacent to the terrorist site and then they attacked the tourist site itself. In the end, they ended up killing seven security officers. They killed two Jordanian civilians and they killed one Canadian tourist, a retired teacher from Newfoundland who`s traveling with her son. Her son was also wounded.
The further worrying detail about that last attack I just described in Jordan is that when they went back to the site of the initial explosion, they found more guns on site there. They also found more explosives there and fully-rigged suicide vests. So, they say they killed or captured four of the attackers from this attack in Jordan. What we don`t know if there were more people than that involved and what was a big and complex, multisite attack.
But it looks like, given what they found at the site of the explosion, it could have been an even bigger and more complex attack than it was. So, all of that has just happened within the past day -- Yemen, Jordan, Ankara, Berlin.
There was also a shooting at a mosque in Zurich, Switzerland, today, although we have very few details about that. We do know that three people were shot and injured. We absolutely -- we know nothing at this point about the assailant in that case including whether or not the assailant is alive or dead or in custody or at large. So, it has -- frankly, I`m sorry to say it, but it`s been a hell of a day.
Here at home at 5:30 Eastern Time, we officially got a winner in our presidential election, the president-elect won the election today officially when he got the necessary 270 electoral votes. That was the big domestic news here today. We`ll talk later on this hour about the Electoral College vote and about some of the strange things that happened in the Electoral College vote today. That did not go the way it was expected to go.
In terms of the transition effort, though, "The Guardian" newspaper today reports on an aspect of the transition that might give you a little pause if you`re a national security voter or maybe if on a day like today, you`re starting to think about becoming a national security voter. "The Guardian" reports today that the staff of the National Security Council is emptying out ahead of the Trump administration arriving in Washington.
Now, to be clear, these aren`t political appointees. These are not people who are expected to resign as Obama leaves office so they can be replaced by the people who Trump appoints. These are the people who are supposed to stay. These are the staffers. These are national security, nonpolitical professionals. They are not supposed to flip over when a new administration comes in.
But, apparently, there`s something about this new administration, particularly the new national security team. We`ve got announcements thus far, right, of the national security adviser and two of his deputies, something about the folks who are on their way in to run the National Security Council has the career national security professionals who work there running for the exits.
Quote, excuse me, this from "The Guardian", quote, "The White House is struggling to prevent a crippling exodus of foreign policy staffers eager to leave before the arrival of the Trump administration. Top level officials of the National Security Council are political appointees who have to submit resignations and leave in a normal transition. The rest of the 400 national security council staff are career civil servants. An unusual number of these more junior officials are now looking to depart."
One source telling "The Guardian", quote, "I have seen and met with a lot of these people and there does seem to be an unusual level of worry and concern and fear." Another official telling "The Guardian," quote, "There`s concern there will be a half empty National Security Council by the time the new administration arrives."
When this terrible assassination happened today in front of all of those people in Turkey, and when that truck went smashing into the Christmas market today, just hours later in Berlin, the statements of condemnation and condolence were issued by the spokesman for the National Security Council, for the current iteration of the National Security Council.
The plan right now is that in the new administration, the national security spokesperson will be a FOX News commentator who has in the past maintained that President Obama is not really black, he`s faking it. She`s also suggested that President Obama faked his birth certificate.
The national security adviser to whom she will report was found by the Army to have, quote, "inappropriately shared information with foreign military officers." During the presidential campaign, he publicly accused Hillary Clinton of being a child rapist, and he was on the payroll of the government of Turkey while serving as a top adviser to the Trump campaign without ever publicly disclosing that fact.
And the gong show/"Star Wars" bar scene quality of the Trump transition, particularly on national security issues, honestly, to me, most days, it is usually something approaching funny, but it is national security and it is hard and dangerous and fraught with peril even in good times. But right now, what they are inheriting, these are not good times. On national security, I am literally praying that the transition gets better than what it is right now.
MADDOW: We have a big show tonight, including a surprise sighting of the next first lady in a place you would not expect to see her. Also, a surprise record, a record from the Electoral College today, and we`ve also got chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel joining us life in just a moment.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Vladimir Putin goes to the theater. That`s a thing I learned today. Tonight in Moscow, Vladimir Putin had tickets to go see a play called "Woe from Wit". It`s an old Russian play. It was written by Alexander Griboyedov.
Alexander Griboyedov is famous in Russia because he was a Russian diplomat who was murdered. He was killed in Tehran in 1829 when a mob of angry Iranians who were mad at Russia about something, they over ran the embassy in Tehran and they killed him.
And that made him a national hero in Russia. There`s a big monument to him in Moscow, nearly 200 years after he was killed. The works of Alexander Griboyedov are still taught to Russian school kids. Heck, the Russian president goes to see his play, or he would have tonight except for the fact that since Alexander Griboyedov, there`s never been a Russian ambassador assassinated in his post until that happened today. The last time was Alexander Griboyedov in 1829. The next time was today in Turkey.
Joining us now from Istanbul in Turkey is Richard Engel, NBC`s chief foreign correspondent.
Richard, thanks so much for being with us. I appreciate you staying up for us.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. As you said, it has been an incredible day. And it is still developing. There`s still new reports coming out, an incident at the U.S. embassy in Ankara that is developing right now as well. So, it has been a very long day.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about that. We`ve -- this is something -- we don`t have confirmation of this. What we`ve got is local reports that somebody with a gun tried to get into the U.S. embassy in Ankara, in the capital city of Turkey.
Do we know if those local reports are true? Do we have any corroboration on that?
ENGEL: There are now multiple local reports. They have just put out a photograph and it is of a fairly elderly gentleman who was apparently carrying a shotgun, he fired several rounds into the air. Five, six, seven rounds into the air and then was taken into custody by police. It does not seem like this was an organized terrorist attack based on his age, the weapon that he was carrying, the fact that the embassy was closed at the time.
Frankly, it sounds more like an angry reaction. There`s been a lot of reporting in this country online, on Twitter, also on some of the state television blaming the killing of the Russian ambassador on the CIA, blaming it on the media. There has been a lot of anti-Western sentiment that`s been whipped up really since the failed coup attempt in this country and that every time there is an incident, and like there was an incident today, you hear more of these conspiracy theories and more of this rhetoric.
So, from what it appears like, it was some angry person who grabbed his shotgun, fired some rounds off into the air. We contacted the State Department. The State Department official just said that they are aware of an incident and referred us to the Turkish authorities. But that said, it does not seem to be like an organized terrorist attack or an assassination like the one that we saw earlier today against the Russians.
MADDOW: And, Richard, I mean, it`s actually fascinating and helpful to hear about the sort of conspiracy theories circulating, blaming the West, blaming the media, blaming the CIA for what happened to the Russian ambassador in Ankara. I mean, it`s good to know, but do we have -- do we have any more information in terms of the assailant and what motivated him and whether he was linked to anyone and why he wanted to kill the ambassador?
ENGEL: We know quite a bit because he was talking throughout this incident and there were cameras there, as you mentioned earlier -- this extraordinary "A.P." photographer. This was a normal diplomatic event that happens all over the world, that embassies host. This was an art exhibit to highlight Russian culture. Relations have been poor between Turkey and Russia, so these kind of events are meant to improve things.
The ambassador was there, a few journalists showed up because it`s an opportunity to mingle with diplomats, mingle with the Russian ambassador. As soon as he started to give his opening remarks, a man dressed as a security guard standing behind him quietly behind him pulled this pistol out and opened fire. He shot the ambassador in the back.
Then he started shouting, first in Arabic, "Allahu Akbar" and identifying himself as those who are those who have pledged allegiance to Muhammad and the jihad. He was holding up one finger, you mentioned Dabiq, pretty much every single in that magazine is seen holding that up finger. It is a jihadi symbol, meaning the oneness of god, one religion, one path.
And then he -- as the ambassador was lying dead on the ground, he started to smash some of the photographs on the wall. It was a photography exhibit. He came back and shot the ambassador again with the Croix de Guerre in the head and was talking about Syria. He was saying that those who are responsible for the crimes in Syria will pay a heavy price, saying that, remember Aleppo, remember the suffering in Syria.
And is well known and as many U.S. officials have been talking about recently, Russia has been deeply involved in a brutal assault against the city of Aleppo and other cities in that country and there`s been a lot of anger here in this country.
We also know he was a police officer. He did use, according to a security official, his police badge to get into the facility. Then, once he was inside, even though he wasn`t supposed to be there, he wasn`t on duty, he blended in with the crowd.
He looked the part. He was the part. He just wasn`t supposed to be there at the time.
The Russian ambassador didn`t have his own personal security detail and it`s very possible the ambassador thought that he was just standing behind him because he was assigned to do that until obviously he pulled out his gun and opened fire, only shooting at the ambassador but three other people were injured as the shots were being fired in this quite small gallery space.
MADDOW: Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent for us tonight in Istanbul, Richard, thank you. I appreciate you being with us tonight.
MADDOW: Again, as we are following these multiple incidents, there have been a number of attacks of various kinds over the last few days, large- scale attacks in Yemen, yesterday a significant and complex attack yesterday in Jordan and now, a shooting at a mosque in Zurich and Switzerland, in which three people were injured, the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey which we were just discussing with Richard and this large-scale attack in Germany. Again, the death toll tonight over the course of the evening has gone from 9 people killed in that attack on a Christmas market to now 12 people killed, 48 injured and in hospital. It`s possible that the death toll may rise. Of course, we pray that it won`t.
Lots going on. Stay with us tonight.
MADDOW: If you are ever so lucky as to become a president-elect of the United States, you should know that one of the things you get along with that title is free office space in this building. The General Services Administration handles the logistical needs of the next president, including office space. Every president-elect gets a transition office in the GSA building.
So, our president-elect now, he`s got office space in D.C. You and I are paying for it. But he`s not really using it. Instead, he has been conducting from his house, from his apartment building in midtown Manhattan and for a number of reasons, but particularly for people who are trying to cover the presidential transition, that has posed some challenges.
I want you to watch this tape. This is reporters trying to cover some protesters who had just come to the president-elect`s transition offices to plead their case. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Who are these people? Are these people? What`s going on?
REPORTER: They`re protesters.
REPORTER: Hi, do you want to come talk to us?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure. Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we are here --
REPORTER: Hold on. This is the microphone. Hold on. Everybody get --
UNIDENTIFEID FEMALE: One second.
REPORTER: There you go.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we are here to deliver over --
REPORTER: That`s our mike.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Over 400,000 signatures.
SECURITY: Sorry, ma`am. You have to move over.
REPORTER: What happened? They won`t let them stop?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If you`re trying to cover the goings on of the highest profile public office in the world, let alone this country, when the hub of all of that activity happens not at taxpayer funded offices but in public, instead, inside the incoming president`s house, it turns out that comes with some confusing and hard to predict restrictions on what kind of news coverage, if any, is allowed in that space.
And that`s the least of it. The really spook of it is next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: This is a man named Webster Griffin Tarpley, which is a great name. Webster Griffin Tarpley is an academic. He has written several book, none of which I hereby endorse. There`s " 9/11 Synthetic Terror" which says the 9/11 attacks were made up. They were fake. They were an inside job.
In 2012, he branched out to "Just Too Weird: Bishop Romney and the Mormon Takeover of America". In that one, he says Mormonism isn`t actually a religion. It`s a synthetic ideology sponsored by British intelligence as part of a covert warfare campaign against the United States. OK.
There`s also this one, which says President Obama is actually the puppet of Jimmy Carter`s national security adviser who installed Obama in order to -- anyway, who cares, right? You get the idea. But it will arrive before Christmas if you order now.
If you want to get truly weird with this guy, though, there`s also Webster Griffin Tarpley`s truly wacky conspiracy theory that the incoming first lady of the United States is out to get them. She`s sending high-priced, high-powered lawyers after him for defamation, in what sure looks like an effort to intimidate journalists and bloggers and bankrupt him.
Actually, the last one is true. In September, the next first lady, Melania Trump, she filed a defamation lawsuit against old wacky Mr. Tarpley, over one of his blog posts. He had blogged that it was, quote, "widely known that Melania Trump was not working as a model when she first came to the United States but as a high-end escort." In fact, that`s not widely known and there`s no evidence of that.
He also claimed, though, that the future first lady was having a nervous breakdown after the plagiarism scandal surrounding her speech at the Republican convention. There is also no evidence and no reporting to suggest that either.
But again, this is the guy who says Mormonism is a British intelligence plot and President Obama is a secret Jimmy Carter puppet. So who cares, right?
Rather than let this nut bird stuff just dissipate on its own, which is does, the future first lady decided to sue Webster Griffin Tarpley. She also sued "The Daily Mail", which is a not particularly well-regarded tabloid in the U.K. "Daily Mail" published similar allegations.
Mrs. Trump`s lawyer said in a statement that the blog posts from Mr. Tarpley and what "The Daily Mail" posted, they were actions, quote, "so egregious, malicious and harmful to Mrs. Trump that her damages are estimated at $150 million."
But you know what? That was September. That was the heat of the presidential campaign. Both the conspiracy theory guy and "The Daily Mail" removed the posts in question. They both issued apologizes. They both issued retractions. And now that Melania Trump is going to be first lady of the United States, you might expect that the first lady wouldn`t be suing every conspiracy website and lower than usual tabloid that prints up anything made up about her. You`d expect that.
But now, not only is the lawsuit going forward, the soon-to-be first lady, Melania Trump, last week, she went all the way to Maryland to be in the courtroom in person for this case. And this was not for critical testimony or anything. This was a routine scheduling conference. This is like the lawyers and judge just working out future court dates.
Hardly any plaintiff ever shows up to these things. But there was the incoming first lady in person in that Maryland courtroom last week. She showed up. And her attorneys said about that, quote, "Mrs. Trump was not required to attend the court conference but chose to do so to meet the judge, meet opposing counsel and show her commitment to this case." He said, "She looks forward to seeing the case through to a successful conclusion."
Here`s the really interesting part. That lawyer`s name is Charles Harder. His history here is very important. He has proved himself on a case like this before. Charles Harder was the lawyer in the Hulk Hogan case when Hulk Hogan sued the website Gawker for posting that sex tape of him.
Charles Harder, lawyer, and Hulk Hogan, they prevailed in that lawsuit against Gawker. They won a $140 million judgment against Gawker, a judgment that bankrupted that entire media company and shut down gawker.com.
And you may remember, what we learned at the end of that case, which is where that case came from. Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel secretly financed the Hulk Hogan lawsuit with the expressed purpose of destroying Gawker and put it out of business because Peter Thiel had a personal grudge against Gawker. He didn`t like the way they covered him and he`s a billionaire, so he used his limitless financial resources to drive them out of existence.
And Peter Thiel is now a member of Donald Trump`s presidential transition team. He`s the guy who convened the -- his new bosses round table of tech executives a few days ago where the president-elect thanked him for doing such a good job picking and choosing which companies got to come to that meeting.
The incoming first lady of the United States is using the same lawyer to destroy a media company to pursue her own defamation suits against websites who say unkind things about her. The president-elect point person on technology is the man who forced a media company out of business because he didn`t like the way he covered them and he tried to do it secretly, and they are each in the near orbit of the president-elect who still daily denounces the American news media as dishonest and has spent part of last week attacking a magazine that ran a bad review of one of his restaurants. That`s what he`s concerning himself with a month before he becomes freaking president of the United States.
You don`t have to be in the news business to be a little worried about the news business right now. Hold that thought. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: They are saying as president he shouldn`t be doing rallies, but I think we should, right?
We`ve done everything else the opposite. Well, no, this is the way you get an honest word out because you can`t give it to them because they are so dishonest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And by they, the dishonest ones, he means the reporters who cover his events and soon to be his presidency.
Joining us now is Paul Farhi. He covers media for "The Washington Post".
Mr. Farhi, it`s really nice to have you here. Thanks for joining us tonight.
PAUL FARHI, WASHINGTON POST MEDIA REPORTER: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: I take it as an article of faith that all presidents hate the press, or at least say they hate the press. Is there anything in terms of what`s going on with the Trump transition or the Trump White House, is there anything that`s any different than usual?
FARHI: Yes. He hates us a lot.
There`s been no candidate, no president-elect, no president who has vilified us, criticized us and demonized us the way Donald Trump has. I think he`s created a real climate of hatred. There`s no other word for it but hatred, against the press and against the mainstream media.
He`s cast a lot of doubt on what we do. He`s implicated the very nature of fact. You know, what we publish is up for grabs from a lot of the people who support him and he`s been -- he`s been inflaming that.
MADDOW: Other presidents who have attacked the press and politicians at all levels who have attacked the press have done it because the press is a convenient foil. The press isn`t particularly well-liked by the American people. It`s not a particularly strong industry in terms of the business of doing media, the business of doing news, particularly in local media. Things are tough for reporters and editors and local reporters and local news anchors and stuff.
When you take it to the further degree that you`re describing, is there an additional political benefit that you get other than just picking a political foil? Why is he doing this?
FARHI: Well, it enhances his power. "Don`t listen to those guys in the press. Don`t listen to the naysayers, the critics, the opinion mongers. Listen to me. I`m the president of the United States. Or soon to be the president of the United States and what I say is the truth.
What they`re saying, the criticism that for the history of this country, the press has always been inveighing against people in power, ignore it. It means nothing. It`s a lie."
And that`s the climate he`s created and creating. That`s the whole climate of criticizing us constantly.
MADDOW: There`s something that`s sort of going on in the sidelines of the transition, which feels like more than just criticism, more than the sort of two minutes of hate that he directs at the press at his rallies, and that is the future first lady. His wife showed up in person last week in a Maryland courtroom, where he`s suing a sort of low-level blogger conspiracy theorist guy, for $150 million. And her lawyer in that case is the lawyer that was used by Silicon Valley billionaire, Trump transition official, Peter Thiel, to put gawker.com out of business.
Where do you see that going and what do you make of that?
FARHI: Well, first of all, you can`t justify what this guy published. This was rumor, this was innuendo. On the other hand, he retracted it.
But really, this is kind of a message, a message to the rest of the press, which is if you dare, you`ll face some very, very serious consequences.
And, you know, this is part of a larger, a larger scheme in some sense. Trump demonizes us. It gets juries very much inflamed against us. Then you have things like the Gawker verdict in which it`s overwhelming to Gawker and puts them out of business.
So, you know, what he`s doing here with this low-level blogger is to send a message to the rest of the press, you publish at your peril and you`ll face consequences that could be ruinous to you.
MADDOW: Paul Farhi, reporter for "The Washington Post", whose beat in terms of covering the media and politics just got way pricklier than usual is -- Paul, thank you. I appreciate your time tonight.
FARHI: Thank you.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: California`s a little different. For one thing, California has a Governor Moonbeam.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA: Some people say that they`re going to turn off the satellites that are monitoring the climate, low earth phenomenon, the Landsat, and all the various measuring satellites we have. Well, I remember back in 1978 I proposed a Landsat satellite for California. They called me Governor Moonbeam because of that. I didn`t get that moniker for nothing.
And if Trump turns off the satellites, California will launch its own damn satellite. We`re going to collect that data.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: California Governor Jerry Brown can crow about launching his own satellite, with perfect confidence, because California is big enough, and frankly blue enough, to back that up. And by blue enough, look at this. California has officially as of today certified its vote and Hillary Clinton won California by a larger than 30-point margin.
She got the biggest Democratic margin in that state since FDR beat Alf Landon.
So, yes, California, you can launch her own climate satellite. You can stand up Governor Moonbeam against the Trump agenda. You can promise blue dot Americans in the rest of the country that California will have their backs, posting the biggest win by a Democrat since 1936, in a country where the Democrats lost. That gets you something other than bragging rights. In this case, it probably gets you room to move politically.
And one of the most interesting things to watch in politics this next year will be, how California intends to use that advantage. I`m telling you.
Watch this space.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: We have the laws. We have the tools of enforcement and we have the political will. And we will set the stage, we`ll set the example. And whatever Washington thinks they`re doing, California is the future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Hundreds of people protested at the Michigan state capital in Lansing today despite temperatures in the teens. There were similar scenes in state capitals in North Carolina, and Arizona, California, and Texas, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. All these protests were aimed at the Electoral College which voted today to officially make Donald Trump the winner of the presidential election, even though Hillary Clinton won nearly 3 million more votes.
The protesters were out there to try to persuade Trump electors to flip their votes. In fact, we did see a historic number of electors defect today. Seven electors voted for somebody other than the person they were supposed to vote for. That`s the most ever.
Two Trump electors from Texas switched their vote. They instead cast ballots for Ron Paul or John Kasich.
But most of the electors who defected were actually electors who were supposed to vote for Hillary Clinton. Four of Hillary Clinton`s Washington state electors voted for somebody else. Three voted for Colin Powell of all people. OK. And one additional elector in Washington state voted for Faith Spotted Eagle, who`s a native-American leader and opponent of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
But wait, there`s more. Just a short time ago, one of the Democratic electors in Hawaii who was supposed to vote for Hillary Clinton, he also broke ranks and voted for Bernie Sanders. So that`s part of the scorecard forever.
Today`s results will be counted by Congress on January 6th. But today, the Electoral College made it official. Those people all get votes. Hillary Clinton gets some votes, but Donald Trump will be the 45th president of the United States.
That does it for us. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END