Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: December 20, 2016 Guest: Bryn Mickle, Rukmini Callimachi
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Welcome to the longest night of the year. You`re right. The nights have been getting longer and longer and longer recently.
That is about to change. Tomorrow, the nights will finally stop getting longer and the days will finally start to catch up. Things will literally get brighter starting tomorrow. But in the meantime, there`s tonight, I`m sorry.
And in totally unrelated news, this is Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and wine making and some other things I don`t feel like talking about on television because my mom`s watching. In Greek mythology, one of the less lurid, less scandalous things that ever happened around Dionysus, god of wine, was that one day, he came home after a trip abroad with some of his friends. One of the friends he`d been traveling with was his very, very good friend, sometimes described as his mentor, sometimes described as his father figure, sometime just described as his right-hand guy or his best friend. But his name was Silenus.
Silenus was a satyr, half man, half goat. And because Silenus the satyr had been out traveling with Dionysus, the god of wine, naturally by the time Silenus came home, he was hammered, falling down drunk. And, in fact, Silenus passed out. He passed out on the king`s lawn or in the king`s rose garden or in the king`s vineyard, again, depending on which version of the myth you are reading.
But, regardless, Silenus the satyr, he passed out. And the king`s minion, the king`s staffers, found him. They found this half man/half goat lying drunk, insensate, on the king`s property somewhere, they were very alarmed. So, they tied him up, tied his little goat feet together and they brought him to the king and the king recognized him.
The king did not think this was just some average, run-of-the-mill half man/half goat off the streets, who was rampaging through his property. The king recognized him as Silenus, best friend, right-hand man, right-hand goat man of Dionysus, the almighty god of wine. He recognized him.
As such, he got Silenus untied, he treated him kindly. And in return, Dionysus, got of wine, he told the king, he told King Midas that he would grant him whatever he wanted and King Midas came up with a genius idea. He was already a king, but he wanted to be really rich. So, the wish that he asked to be granted in return for his kindness to the half man/half goat friend of the god of wine, what he asked for in return was that everything he touched, he wanted everything he touched to turn to gold.
And at first, it seems like a genius idea, right? I mean, you can make anything turn to gold. It also means you can`t touch anything without it turning to gold. I mean, I`m sure it`s great to like turn an apple into a solid gold apple, unless are you really hungry and you wanted to eat that apple. How can you eat something without touching it?
In the myth of King Midas, there is also a very tragic story of him embracing his daughter after he had been granted this new power, and he loved his daughter. He loved her a lot more before he accidentally turned her into a solid chunk of gold.
But that`s the myth of Midas. It`s often I think misrembered. It`s like an awesome thing. Turn everything to gold. You want the Midas.
The Midas story is not a good story. It`s a cautionary tale. If you want money, you may fantasize about being able to turn everything into money, but in reality, turning everything into money is deadly. So, that`s Midas.
MIDAS is also the name of a computer that the state of Michigan brought online in the fall of 2013. Michigan elected a new governor. He had been a computer executive in his previous life. He campaigned under the slogan, "one tough nerd." OK?
And one of the things Michigan`s top nerd governor decided to do in 2013 was to bring on board MIDAS. MIDAS stands for the Michigan Integrated Data Automation System. Michigan integrated automated system. Yes.
If that sounds like a nonsense title, it`s a totally nonsense tile. I think they really just wanted to spell Midas.
What MIDAS did was it kicked all of the human beings out of one particular government process. It kicked all the human beings out of the process of evaluating people`s applications for unemployment.
So, if you get laid off at Michigan, you go down to the unemployment office. You fill out an application, to start receiving unemployment benefits. But instead of a human being processing your application, MIDAS would do it.
And MIDAS had a way of turning the problem of unemployed people in Michigan, it had a way of turning that into money, because once MIDAS was put in charge of processing everybody`s application for unemployment, all of a sudden, everybody who applied for unemployment started getting treated like a criminal.
MIDAS, when it took in makes, it flagged 93 percent of them as fraudulent applications. So, 93 percent of the time, people applying for unemployment not only wouldn`t get their unemployment check, but they`d have their applications kicked back to them flagged as a fraudulent application. The system was all automated. It didn`t make it clear that people could appeal this finding. People who did sort of fight the system and figure out that they could appeal, nine times out of ten, their appeals would succeed because these applications weren`t fraudulent.
But most people didn`t know they could appeal. And it`s an intimidating system. They are being told that they made a fraudulent application and they might go to jail. They are being threatened with fines. People got threatened with fines up to $100,000.
And not only did most people not appeal and not get their unemployment, but a lot of people were scared and just started paying the fines. People who didn`t pay the fine, they`d get their taxes garnished. Their state taxes and their federal taxes be garnished by this MIDAS system. You`d be expecting a tax return? No, we took it. MIDAS says you were a fraud.
MIDAS was supposed to be handling their unemployment application, but instead, it was doing this very different thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Anybody that`s lost a job knows what these folks were going through, there is so much anxiety. What am I going to do for income? How am I going to feed my family?
Now, imagine that you are in those straights and then the unemployment insurance system that is supposed to support you in your time of need tells you, you have been defrauding the state, starts garnishing your tax refunds, your wages, and basically making your life miserable.
Carolyn Hayes was among the 27,000 Michigan unemployed accused of fraud based on this automated system.
CAROLYN HAYES: It has put me through like just so much. They`ve taken all of my income tax. I can`t file for unemployment.
REPORTER: When the computer system started, the number of fraud cases quintupled.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The workers from the beginning told management that there were problems with the system.
REPORTER: Carolyn won her two appeals. In fact, a state auditor`s generals shows of those who did appeal their cases, nine out of ten won. That`s right, only 10 percent were found to be actually cheating the system.
HAYES: Me and my daughter are living together. We`re struggling.
REPORTER: Because they`re holding on to your money?
HAYES: Because they`re holding on to my money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: And this system held on to a lot of people`s money. I mean, you wouldn`t think you could squeeze that much money out of mostly poor people within they lost their jobs. But you know, it adds up, when you accuse 93 percent of them of committing fraud, and you start demanding that they pay fines to avoid going to jail. People find a way to get you money when you threaten them with that.
Before Michigan Governor Rick Snyder put this Midas thing in place, the pot of money in state government that was made up of people paid in these kinds of fines, before Midas was put in place, that pot of money was about $3 million. Then MIDAS was put in place three years ago, that $3 million pot of money has now grown to $155 million. All money that was taken in from people who have just been laid off and need help but instead they`re paying these bullpucky fines for something they didn`t do.
But that`s MIDAS, right? It turns everything into money. Don`t hug your daughter.
Congressman Sander Levin, you saw him in that earlier news clip there, he has been all over this. The state auditor in Michigan got involved in this. There are at least two major lawsuits that have been filed in the state of Michigan over this thing and all the attention to this Midas disaster that Rick Snyder caused in Michigan, it has resulted in a limited review thus far of what that computer system did to people.
Of the $155 million they took from people, they managed to pile up in this pot of money, in state government using this insane scheme, out of the $155 million they took. So far, they paid back about $5 million to the people from whom they basically stole it, because it`s Michigan, though.
And because Michigan Republicans, I believe, they continue to be among the least appreciated and most radical Republicans in the whole country, because it`s Michigan, yes, they passed a bill this past week to allow themselves to take $10 million out of that pot of money, that that pot of money MIDAS stole from all poor people, they`re going to -- even while these investigations are going on, they`re taking $10 million to balance the state budget. My guess is they want to spend it pass before the lawsuits go through and they`ll actually have to give it back to the poor people they took it from. See, if it`s gone, you can`t get it back, right?
Michigan, the Midas touch. At the exact same time that Michigan`s tough nerd was installing this genius computer system that systematically ripped off and threatened people who are in the process of losing their jobs in that state, at the exact same time, the fall of 2013, that same Michigan government also appointed a new emergency manager, in one of Michigan`s toughest cities.
And the emergency manager doesn`t have a stupid acronym like Midas. But it`s also basically a way of replacing the work of humans with a machine. Emergency management is a democracy replacement machine. A few states around the country have lighter, saner versions of this.
But in Michigan, they take their poor towns and cities, very often, majority black, poor town and cities, and what the governor does with these emergency managers is he abolishes democracy in those cities and towns. I mean, people can go through the motions of pretending to elect their city council or their mayor or their city manager or whatever, but those votes don`t matter. Under the emergency management system, whoever people in local communities elect, those elected officials aren`t allowed to have any power.
Instead, the governor just designates a city or town as broke enough to need his benevolent help. He then abolishes their local, elected official, takes all of their power away, and instead by his own vote of one, he just picks one person who will then be in charge of that city. And that one person answers only to him, only to the governor.
Town residents have no say. Local elected officials have no say. Local elections have no function, and that`s sort of -- I mean, forgive me, that`s sort of dictatorial government, right, that sort of government by fiat. That sort of government on the order of the governor alone, that`s supposed to be magic in fixing the problems of these poor towns and poor cities in Michigan.
But in the city of Flint, Michigan, this is how it works in most cities that get targeted for this in the state, but in the city of Flint, you know, the city was in financial distress when Rick Snyder`s emergency manager got there. It was still in financial distress when he left there. In fact, when he left there, he was just replaced by another emergency manager who was also appointed by the state`s governor.
So, this is just what Michigan does. This is the magic. They override democracy for the sake of efficiency. When that doesn`t work, they just keep overriding democracy, anyway. That`s what we do.
By now, you know the story of what happened in Flint, Michigan. When its local democracy was taken away, instead the city was run by fiat one orders from the governor through one emergency manager, who he put in place, who answered to nobody else except the governor. I mean, Flint for all of it problems, they`ve previously gotten their drinking water from Lake Huron, one of the greatest sources of clean, fresh drinking water on the face of the earth, nearby Lake Huron.
In what appears to have been an effort to save money, Flint, under its emergency manager, they made a decision or he made a decision that Flint, instead, would get its water from the local Flint River and they made the switch improperly. River water is more corrosive than lake water, even in the best of circumstances. But they didn`t treat the water before they pumped it into the city and the corrosive water basically destroyed the pipes in the city`s water system, and that created a number of disgusting consequences for the people of that city. None the least of which was a legionnaire`s diseases outbreak, which is thought to have been caused by the water switch, that outbreak killed at least 12 people.
And, of course, famously, there was the mass lead poisoning of the entire city of Flint, including thousands of kids who will live for the rest of their lives with the consequences of having been poisoned by lead, having lead exposure in their drink water when they are kids. It is something you don`t grow out of. It is something for which there is no magic anecdote.
Even before they knew about the lead poisoning, the people of the city of Flint could tell instantly there was something wrong with the water. As soon as it was switched, they besieged their local officials to the extent they had local officials. They confronted the people who they thought ought to be in charge of these things, immediately, as soon as the switch was made. All right?
But that`s the beauty of being an emergency manager, right? Nobody answers for you. You don`t have to answer to anybody in that town.
It`s not a democracy. You are appointed by one man, the governor. You answer to one man, the governor. Let the peasants squawk about whatever it is that`s bothering them. It doesn`t matter to you if you`re the emergency manager. You can afford to be utterly impervious to their needs.
And so, it went on for a year-and-a-half, the people of that city being poisoned every day before, finally, the activists and the angry moms and the pediatricians and the outside researchers blew the lid off and Flint went into a state of emergency. Before today, nine people have been indicted on criminal charges in conjunction with the mass poisoning of the people of Flint by the state of Michigan. That was before today, nine indictments.
Today, the first charges were filed by -- against, the first charges were filed against anybody who is even remotely up the food chain. That emergency manager who Rick Snyder found for Flint, at the same he was installing MIDAS in the unemployment office, that emergency manager today was charged with four felony counts. As was the other emergency manager who came after him, along with two of their appointees at the Department of Public Works, the emergency managers are charged with felony false pretences, false pretenses and conspiracy around those charges. The combination of those charges can put them in jail for 40 years.
In addition, one of the emergency managers, the one on the right there, he is charged with felony misconduct in office for making misleading statements to the public the water in Flint was safe to drink. He is accused of the Flint water plant to produce water for the city, even though we knew the plant wasn`t ready for use. The other emergency manager is charged with obstructing the health care investigation into the Legionnaires` disease outbreak that killed 12 people.
Both of those emergency managers were not voted into office. They were not elected officials. They were appointed by and were answerable to only one person, Michigan`s governor. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder was the only person they answered to while they were committing these acts that now could put them in jail for decades.
One of the other people charged today is named Howard Croft. He worked at the Department of Public Works. He may end up having a very interesting role to play on the witness stand in this case because of the trial. Because he`s on record, he`s on tape telling the ACLU of Michigan last year that the decisions about Flint`s water, those decisions weren`t just made by those emergency managers operating independently and making up this stuff on their own, he says he was the director of public work and he was on the position to know and he says he knows that those decisions about Flint`s water were made even higher up, way higher up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWARD CROFT, FLINT DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC UTILITIES: I think the valuation has gone up all the way up to the state level, on what would the best course of action would be for the city of Flint, and that was the determination.
REPORTER: All the way to the governor`s office?
CROFT: All the way to the governor`s office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That man is now facing 40 years in prison for what happened to Flint`s water. He says decision about Flint`s water came from the governor`s office. Is the governor going to get criminally charged in this case? We do not know.
In announcing these new charges today, there was no indication that the investigation is done.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDY ARENA, CHIEF INVESTIGATOR: I think today, you see once again the investigation has continued to go up and to go out. As the attorney general said, this is -- we are much closer to the end than the beginning, but we`re not at the end. There is an investigation still continuing today.
There are some people out there right now who know that they done wrong and they know we`re coming after them. They`re not going to have a very merry Christmas. I don`t feel bad about that.
But we will continue to follow the evidence. We will continue to investigate this. We owe it to the people of Michigan and we owe particularly to the people of Flint.
BILL SCHUETTE (R), MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL: We take them as we find them t. Fact is this is a higher level of responsibility. These are governor- appointed emergency managers that we are charging today with 20-year felonies and it`s serious. And as Andy Arena said, it`s -- we are going up and we are going broader.
And again, I said this before, nobody is off the table. Nobody is off the table. We are not out to nail anybody. Remind you, if you have done something wrong, then you ought to be worried.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The people who answer directly and personally to the governor of Michigan for what they did in the city of Flint, they have now been charged with multiple felonies for what they did in the city of Flint. We do not know if the governor is going to be charged. We do not know the answer to that him.
But we are living in an era of crazy governance, right? I mean, what`s going on right now at the presidential transition at the federal level, it`s mind blowing on a day-to-day basis.
Even just what happened today with the president-elect`s sons, Chris Hayes spoke about in the last hour. We`re going to get to that a little later on this hour. Even just that today is impossible to believe.
At the state level, beyond Michigan, you know, we have all been watching places like North Carolina. The outgoing Republican governor who just lost the election, he just signed a bill that will attempt to make the incoming governor keep a thousand people in state government who the Republican governor gave jobs to. The new Democratic governor coming in will not be allowed to fire a thousand people in state government who were hired as political appointees by the previous guy who is a Republican.
What? I`m forcing to you keep a thousand of my appointees? Hmm, we`ll see.
I mean, we are in a moment where governance has gotten really radical and really creative and craven. But even in that environment, still, I believe Michigan is special.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHUETTE: It`s very evident during the course of this investigation has been a fixation on finances and balance sheets. This fixation has cost lives. This fixation came at the expense of protecting the health and safety of Flint. It`s all about numbers over people, money over health.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Whatever this particular state government thought it was doing, two and a half years into this American disaster, the Americans who live in Flint still cannot drink their water. Thirteen people have now been criminally charged. The state still has its unbelievable meteorologist management law, and the two people who directly reported to the governor, under that law, are each looking at 46 years in prison tonight for what they did, the longest night of the year.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: I know it`s right before Christmas and everybody is supposedly going on vacation. But there is lots going on in the news right now and including tonight.
Today and into tonight, we got our drone back from the Chinese government. We don`t know the condition that it`s in, but we did get it back.
Also, ISIS claimed responsible for two of the major terrorist attacks that happened yesterday and Sunday. One of those claims is a surprise for a specific reason. We`ll be talking about that later on this hour.
In terms of American politics, the transition just tried to pull off an amazing, "oops, we didn`t really mean that", involving two of the president-elect`s adult children. That`s an incredible story.
And here on this show at this hour, we`ve got two really, really great journalists. Both of them are going to be here tonight. Both of them were on two very different beats. But the first one of those interviews is next.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAREN WEAVER (D), MAYOR OF FLINT, MI: Those were names we`ve been waiting to hear because one of the things people have complained about was they started at low and got low hanging fruit. But they said they were going to continue. And those are some of the names people have been waiting to hear because we know they played major roles in what happened here.
REPORTER: Do you think it`s going to go higher?
WEAVER: Yes, yes.
REPORTER: Is it going to go to the governor`s office?
WEAVER: Well, I think it`s going to go higher. I think they`re going to do just what they said they`re going to do, they are going to continue to investigate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is the mayor in Flint, Michigan, today, responding to the multiple felony charges that were filed against two of the emergency managers were put in charge of her city by Michigan`s Republican Governor Rick Snyder. It was under their watch when the city`s water was poisoned.
One of the big looming questions in Michigan and in the country is whether or not there may be criminal charges ahead for the governor, himself, those two persons they reported to, while they committed these acts, for which they have been charged with multiple felonies.
Joining us now is Bryn Mickle. He`s editor of the Flint Journal" and he`s joined a few times here on the show to talk about this story.
Mr. Mickle, thanks for being with us tonight. It`s good to have you here.
BRYN MICKLE, THE FLINT JOURNAL EDITOR: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: So, obviously, I`m looking at this from the outside, and there is a big looming political question as to whether or not this is going to eventually go to the governor. Before we get to that, though, can you just tell me about your reaction? What do you think about this additional four people being charged today? This brings to 13 the number of people who have been charged.
MICKLE: I mean, it`s amazing. I mean, the fact that we`re even here talking about this that, you know, when the state puts dollars in front of people and we see what happens -- I mean, an entire city poisoned, I don`t think anyone is taking glee in this. But I do think that this is encouraging, that we are seeing this finally start moving up the chain and start getting into the people that rally had the power in the state to make these decisions.
MADDOW: When you look at the charging document, when you look at the remarks made today by the attorney general and the other people involved in this, explaining why they brought the charges they did against the people who they are charging, do you get any sense of the kind of theory of the case that they are pursuing and whether or not we should expect it to ultimately knock on the door of statewide elected officials up to and including the governor?
MICKLE: Well, again, I think today`s actions brings it right to the governor`s door. Now, with what the attorney general has said as far as pursuing this, you would hope to see this open that door and we can finally get some answers. You know, just today, you had Elijah Cummings was lamenting the fact the governor has responded the subpoenas. You know, in the state of Michigan, the government is exempt from FOIA.
We need answers to these questions. And I hope the attorney general continues this pursuit all the way up to the top, so that we can get the answers the people of Flint deserve.
MADDOW: On the grounds in Flint, we have been following the progress in terms of replacing lead service lines that go into people`s homes. We follow the progress in Congress of the $170 million bill, which may have relief for Flint in terms of trying to heal, trying to fix itself, trying to get safe water to people now more than two years after this crisis started.
What`s the status of the door-to-door bottle of water delivery in the city and what proportion of the city is able drink their water safely at this point?
MICKLE: Well, I don`t think any proportion of the city by any standard can drink it safely, because you have to have a filler. And the idea that you are putting the onus on the residents to make sure that that filter is installed correctly is just incredible to me.
The state has fought efforts to deliver that water, that they just went to court to try to get out of that responsibility. And yet you have these charges today where the state is effectively being told that they were putting money in front of people`s lives and yet they`re still fighting tooth and nail to avoid doing even the most basic responsibility.
MADDOW: It is stunning just over this amount of time to know that people still aren`t getting water delivered to them in Flint. Just that one basic fact is almost impossible to absorb from outside city limits.
Bryn Mickle, the editor of "The Flint Journal", really appreciate your time. Stay in touch with us as this goes forward, Bryn. Thanks to be being here.
MICKLE: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. A lot more to get to. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Rukmini Callimachi is a correspondent for "The New York Times". She`s an expert on terrorism and specifically on ISIS.
Whenever there is a story that breaks on that beat, if you are a Twitter user, you should look at Rukmini Callimachi`s Twitter feed. In our newsroom here, Rukmini is famous for these bursts of information that she publishes in real time as news stories are breaking related to her beat. They`re basically step-by-step, real time, contextual guides for understanding what we know about breaking news stories as they`re developing.
And it`s one thing to be able do that if you are a business reporter or a local politics reporter or a crime reporter, right? But she`s able to do this real time, super accessible, understandable breakdown of breaking news on her beat, where it`s almost impossible to do that, because her beat is ISIS and al Qaeda. But Rukmini Callimachi honestly makes more sense out of this area in the news and this quandary in the world. She makes more sense out of it than any other reporter that I know.
And she`s here with us in studio next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: This is a place called Kerak Castle. They started building it in the 1140s. It took them about 20 years to build it. And from the 1160s until World War I, this castle was in continuous use.
Now, it`s a big tourist attraction. It`s in Jordan. It`s in the city of al-Karak, which is about 90 miles south of the capital of Jordan. This castle was also the site of a big complex terrorist attack that happened on Sunday. Four gunmen attacked the police station in Karak and then they fled into Kerak Castle, which is full of tourists.
And it turned into a firefight with police. Ten people ended up getting killed, including the head of Jordan`s military Special Forces, six other Jordanian security officers, two civilians and a Canadian tourist. Four attackers were also killed in that shootout.
After the assault on the castle, it was interesting, authorities were worried maybe they had stumbled on a plot that was bigger than the one unfolded on Sunday. They found more explosives and more weapons and suicide vests in a house nearby where attack started.
Today, ISIS claimed responsible for that attack on Sunday in Jordan. But then a couple of hours after ISIS took responsible for the Sunday attack, it all started up again. Jordanian security forces got into another big shootout. This is footage from that. It was like a war.
Jordanian security forces, they raided a house in Karak, where they said they thought that more gunmen were hiding people who were linked to the attackers who launched the attack on Sunday that ISIS claims. The men in this house that they attacked barricaded themselves. Ultimately, there was a heavy exchange of fire between them and the Jordanian authorities.
Four Jordanian policemen got killed in this huge firefight today and tonight. At least one of the gunmen was also killed. Local papers are reporting today that the raid resulted in the arrests of two men.
OK. So, that`s Jordan. Sunday big attack, thought it was over, ISIS claims responsibility and then it starts up again. Not such a big deal.
Then today, ISIS also claimed responsibility for the Christmas market attack that happened in Berlin yesterday. That attack left 12 people dead, 48 people injured. This big black semi truck carrying a load of steel plowed into a crowded Christmas market in West Berlin.
Here`s an interesting though. We reported last night that there had been an arrest in this case. German authorities say that the guy who they arrested they think was the wrong guy. ISIS today took responsible for this attack on the Berlin Christmas market. But there is nobody in custody in conjunction with that attack. Again, the guy they arrested, they let go.
Is it significant? Is it strange? Is it important that ISIS has claimed responsibility for this attack in Berlin before we know who the attacker is, before we know he is dead or in custody or escaped? How do we make sense of that?
Joining us now is Rukmini Callimachi. She`s a reporter for "The New York Times" who covers ISIS, and al Qaeda and terrorism more broadly.
Rukmini, thank you for being here.
RUKMINI CALLIMACHI, THE NEW YORK TIMES: My pleasure.
MADDOW: So, ISIS did not immediately claim Berlin. Now, they have.
CALLIMACHI: Right. It`s taken them about 24 hours, which is starting to be on the long end of ISIS. They usually take a couple of hours to 12 to claim an attack. So, 24 hours, especially when the news cycle is so heavy with news of this event seems like a really long time.
MADDOW: Why is it taking longer? Do we know why it`s taking longer?
CALLIMACHI: We don`t know for sure. But in general, ISIS tends to take credit for attacks where the attacker has already been killed, right, or has been identified in some way.
It`s somewhat unusual they`ve taken credit for an attack who we don`t know who the attacker is. There is one example of this. Before it was a Hamburg attack also in Germany earlier this year, where the attacker remains at large. But in general, if the attacker has been taken alive and is in custody, they don`t claim it. And if he`s at large as well, then they also don`t claim it.
MADDOW: I mean, I guess in terms of understanding why they would do that if the attacker is in custody, they don`t want to -- I`m speculating here, right? But they don`t want to claim it as ISIS, because then, presumably, that gives law enforcement a thread to pull in terms of tracing any links back to ISIS through that person they`ve got in custody.
CALLIMACHI: Again, we don`t know for sure. But that`s certainly one hypothesis.
And the Paris attack is a perfect example of that. So, you had -- ISIS took credit for that obviously in the most grandiose fashion. They released even a video. They identified all of the attackers, including the video clips of them, except for one, Saleh Abdeslam, who was the one and only one who was not killed during the Paris attack who got away and who end up getting caught, you know, weeks later and is still in custody, in custody, my sources say he has said absolutely nothing.
So, he has maintained complete silence and with ISIS not claiming him as an attacker, even though, of course, we know he is there, CCTV footage puts him at the scene, it makes it a little bit muddier. You know, he can -- if ISIS claimed him in Dabiq, then it adds one more piece of information for the police to go after him.
MADDOW: In terms of the multiple attacks that we have seen, this has been a terrible few days. We have this attack in Yemen, which killed 50 people. We had the attack in Jordan, which happened on Sunday and then appears to have started back up with this fight. Today with security forces, we`ve also had this attack in Berlin. We had the assassination in Ankara.
The assassination of the Russian ambassador in Ankara is something I think people are immediately looking for an affiliation for that assassin. Do you expect that that will be claimed? Is there a discussion about that attack in ISIS channels now?
CALLIMACHI: I actually think that`s not ISIS, and the reason for that is it`s the number one sources I am speaking to. But secondly, if you look at the speech that the shooter made right after -- right after he pulled the trigger, he said he is doing this for Aleppo. He pledged allegiance to the Prophet Muhammad. That`s not the language that ISIS uses.
ISIS recruits always pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. Secondly, Aleppo, although it`s obviously extremely important in the news and a symbol of Muslim suffering, that`s a place where al Qaeda has a foothold, not so much ISIS.
MADDOW: As we head into the holiday season, one of the things that was striking about the Berlin attack, is that it seems like this is maybe the third in a series of attacks in Germany that were mostly thwarted attacks. But yesterday, it happened, specifically happened on Christmas market.
MADDOW: A couple of other attacks that have apparently been targeting Christmas markets were caught by authorities. Is that the sort of thing where that`s just happenstance or those are targets of opportunity picked by locally radicalized folks, or is that the same sort of thing that indicated some sort of direction from above?
CALLIMACHI: When you see three back-to-back, you start to pose the question, is there some planning? So, the first one was the Strasburg cell, which was dismantled a couple of weeks ago. That was seven men in the cities of Strasburg and Marseilles who are planning according to the French prosecutor an imminent attack.
And that was ISIS central. Those people were getting weapons and training, et cetera from -- directly from ISIS.
MADDOW: And they were going to attack a major Christmas market in Strasburg?
CALLIMACHI: That`s the speculation. We don`t know for sure. But Strasburg has a major Christmas market there that draws millions of people. And so, that seemed like a logical conclusion.
In Germany, you have just a couple weeks ago in November a 12-year-old boy was taken into custody and was arrested for having placed a bomb at a Christmas market in his small town, and according to German media, he was being coached by an ISIS handler through message at Telegram. And through that messaging app, they taught him how to make this explosive. Pretty incredibility. Again, a 12-year-old, again thwarted.
And now, have you what happened in Berlin this week.
So, three attacks on this particular kind of target. You start to wonder, is there some larger plan?
MADDOW: Right. You don`t -- you can`t connect the dots without a reason to check them. But there`s no reasoning to be ignoring about the fact that they are there.
MADDOW: Rukmini Callimachi, reporter for "The New York Times", as always, uncommonly clear on a very scary subject. Thanks, Rukmini.
CALLIMACHI: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right. Quick programming note, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is going to be here tomorrow night. He`s doing an exclusive interview with us here in studio tomorrow, who is another person who is uncommonly clear on this subject, which is kind of a remarkable thing given his job.
Jeh Johnson here tomorrow night. Stay with us.
MADDOW: OK. Schrodinger`s cat. It`s a hypothetical cat used to explain things. In the rarified world of quantum mechanics, Schrodinger`s cat is somehow both alive and dead at the same time. It`s complicated. It`s quantum mechanics.
But that`s Schrodinger`s cat. There`s also the Schrodinger`s crossword puzzle. In a Schrodinger crossword puzzle like the alive and dead cat, alive and death at the same time, in the Schrodinger crossword puzzle, there are two correct answers for the same clue in the puzzle. Whichever answer you pick, it will fit in the puzzle just fine.
Schrodinger puzzles are very rare. "New York Times" has published only ten of them ever, including the most recent one this summer. But the most famous one they ever did was on Election Day in 1996.
People were heading out to vote for either Bill Clinton or Bob Dole. And this was the clue for 39 Across on Election Day. Lead story in tomorrow`s newspaper. Now, obviously the lead story in every paper was going to be the results of the election. That wouldn`t be known for hours so how can anybody possibly -- ah, this is the genius thing.
Regardless of which name you filled in there, Clinton elected or Bob Dole elected, they both worked. With either answer, you could successfully finish the puzzle. It`s genius. A Schrodinger`s puzzle, having two opposite answers and both of them are right.
Well, tonight that`s happening in politics because tonight, the presidential transition team is trying to feed us two opposite sides of the same argument at the same time. It would be genius if it worked for them, it`s not genius and it`s not working but it is really funny. And that story is straight ahead.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: On a Tuesday, the president-elect picked this hedge fund mortgage mogul guy to run the United States Treasury. The hedge fund guy got announced for treasury secretary on a Tuesday, that was November 29th. The very next day, Wednesday, November 30th, that same hedge fund guy went on TV and said what he thought should happen with a really big portion of the American economy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
INTERVIEWER: Would you move to change Fannie and Freddie at this point? Would you move to have these privatized?
STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY NOMINEE: Absolutely, we`ve got to get Fannie and Freddie out of government ownership. It makes no sense that these are owned by the government and had been controlled by the government for as long as they have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: OK. So, Tuesday, that guy gets picked for treasury secretary. Wednesday, he goes on TV and says the government should privatize Fannie and Freddie. The government should release those two government-run mortgage companies back into the wild.
And then look what happened after he said that. Boing. One of the big jest jumps in stock prices those companies have seen since the crash, since the government took them over in the crash of 2008. Look at that.
You know, when you`re the nominee to be treasury secretary, though, your words can have an effect like that. It`s a remarkable thing. One person says something, and the stock just takes off like a rocket.
You know, if you can imagine, right? If you`re president or president- elect, you could make a lot of money if you sent your people out to make pronouncements like that while you held investments that could benefit from the impact of their words. You could make a ton of money. You see where this is going?
Because we don`t have the president-elect`s tax returns but he did file a financial disclosure while he was running for president. In that disclosure, he said he had between $3 million and $15 million invested in a hedge fund that has bet heavily on the expected privatization of Fannie and Freddie, on the expected privatization of those two companies whose stocks just took a giant leap.
And remarkably, now that we know he may be got a huge personal boost from what his treasury nominee said about those companies, now that we know that, the president-elect is not commenting on whether or not he still holds that investment. "The New York Times" asked transition about it. The spokesman just said in response, quote, "We`re not sharing any additional information at this time."
Maybe the president-elect sold all that stuff months ago. Or maybe he made a ton of money when his treasury nominee said that. Maybe we are in a situation where the president-elect`s appointee is making announcements, proclamations that are massively boosting the president-elect`s personal financial portfolio. We don`t know. We`re not allowed to know.
This isn`t theoretical. This isn`t a potential conflict of interest. There is what is already happening.
MADDOW: Until last week, the daughter of the president-elect had been auctioning off the opportunity to have coffee with her. Hmm. Just a casual get together, a little face time with the daughter. Bidding was up to nearly $60,000 before they called it off. Sometime between launching that thing and people finding out about it, it apparently became embarrassing to be literally selling access to an influential member of the president`s family and his inner circle of advisors.
Maybe got embarrassing. Maybe. Maybe. Because also last week, six days ago, somebody created a new non-profit in the state of Texas. It listed the president-elect`s sons as members of the board for this new non-profit.
Then this invitation started circulating. "Opening day is your opportunity to play a significant role as our family commemorates the inauguration of our father and friend, President Donald J. Trump." It`s advertising a hunting and fishing Trump extravaganza, starting the day after the inauguration.
For a million bucks you can get did the bald eagle package. That one comes with access to a VIP lounge and private reception and a photo-op with the president of the United States for you and 15 of your friends on the day after the new president is inaugurated. Or there`s the elite hunter`s package, a four-day hunting and/or fishing trip with at least one or maybe both of the adult presidential sons. Access to the president or his sons for a million bucks.
Today, after that news starred making the rounds, the Trump transition released a statement saying these prizes listed on there invitation were just, quote, "initial concepts." They also said the Trump brothers are, quote, "not involved in any capacity."
But this is the registration for the non-profit. Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, they`re there registered. How is that not involved in any capacity?
The transition says that was a mistake. They`re going to try to get the Trump sons` names taken off the application that was already filed in Texas just last week.
Raise your hand if you think this stuff is going to stop once Trump is inaugurated. Anybody think this is going to stop? Anybody?
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