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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 2/20/17

Guests: Franco Ordonez

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: February 20, 2017 Guest: Franco Ordonez CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST:  Right.  Well, and also, I learned it from watching you.  Erin Gloria Ryan and Sabrina Tavernise, thanks for joining us.  I appreciate it. 

That is "ALL IN" for this evening. 

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. 

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris.  Thanks to you, my friend.

And thanks to you at home for joining us for the next hour. 

He had pet ostriches, it turns out.  People didn`t know that before, but it turned out he had ostriches and he didn`t have one ostrich or two ostriches.  He had a whole bunch of pet ostriches. 

In fact, he had a whole zoo, like a private zoo.  But a secret private zoo that nobody knew about that he kept just for himself.  Apparently, the ostriches were the real stars but he had a full zoo with all kinds of exotic animals.

He had also a replica of a Spanish galleon that he had built it for himself.  It`s not like they found a Spanish galleon somewhere and then, you know, he transported it to his house and restored it.  No, they built it from scratch for him. 

I don`t know if it actually sailed around the manmade lake that he had handmade for himself or it just kind of floated there impotently at the dock.  But either way, he apparently used this replica Spanish galleon as a floating restaurant for himself.

And when they finally chased him out of power, when he fled and reportedly left the gates open behind him in his haste to get out, the people of his country poured in to see how he had been living, to see what he had been doing with their money, with their country`s money since he had been in power. 

And that`s how we all found out about the zoo.  They found the zoo, they found the ostriches, they found the freaking Spanish galleon/restaurant on the lake that he made for himself.  They found his gold-plated golf clubs.  And they played around the golf in his private nine-hole golf course, complete with water hazards.

They took pictures in his bathrooms.  I mean, part of what`s funny is looking at the incongruity of normal-seeming people in this kind of setting which is ridiculously opulent to the point of stupid. 

But also, just look at the freaking bathroom.  Look at the gold feet.  Is that even a toilet?  I don`t even know.  I don`t know. 

It turns out, the dictator left so fast, he left behind personal stuff.  He left behind his family photos.  He also left behind his antique car museum. 

He apparently left behind lots of copies of his book.  There it is.  "Art of the Deal."  I`m sorry.  It`s called "Road to Success."

And when he fled and left all of that junk behind and the people of his country finally got in there to see what was behind the gates, how he had been living and what he had been doing with their money -- first of all, interestingly, they did not loot.  They did not loot his stuff, which is kind of amazing, the self control there, right?

But second of all, they have the presence of mind to go for the paperwork.  They started collecting all the documentation and files that they could salvage out of the place.  Those look like fish, they`re not fish.  Those are shreds of the burned documents that he had tried to destroy by tearing them up and setting them on fire.  They salvage those, try to put them back together. 

And then when they noticed some stray papers floating around in the lake, they started an organized effort to dive for those papers, to dive for and salvage all of the stuff, including reams and reams of documents that this fleeing dictator apparently dumped into his private manmade lake before he fled the country. 

In his party`s headquarter office, they found a room on the third floor that held two safes.  When they got the safes opened, they found that they were filled with $100 bills.  The same room also held a 400-page handwritten ledger of payments, what appeared to be off the books payments in and out of the hands of this kleptocratic dictator and the people who greased his skids along the way. 

These were not like, you know, campaign finance filings of legit payments.  This was a handwritten dossier which is how they apparently kept track of the cash, the untraceable cash payments.  And that`s how we learned in our country, this past August, that the campaign manager for the Donald Trump for president campaign was listed in that handwritten ledger.  He was on the books for $12.7 million.  $12.7 million in otherwise undisclosed cash payments from the private ostrich zoo gold toilet corrupt pro-Russian dictator of Ukraine. 

Now, Paul Manafort at the time, he was outraged by that reporting.  He denied ever receiving any of those millions of dollars.  He says he has no idea why this ledger apparently showed him to be the recipient of $12 million plus in otherwise untraceable cash. 

But that said, less than a week after "The New York Times" published whole handwritten pages of that ledger, Paul Manafort was gone.  He had resigned as Donald Trump`s campaign manager.  He quit as Trump`s campaign manager on August 19th. 

But now we know that that`s not actually where things sort of ended.  That`s where it started really getting juicy, because Paul Manafort had worked to build up and install in power this pro-Putin, pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.  Specifically, he was the political machine behind the dictator, behind this pro-Putin, pro-Russian massively corrupt, maniacally tacky gold toilet loving dictator. 

But then get this, Yanukovych, Viktor Yanukovych, the dictator, he gets ran off of office three years ago, in 2014.  Three weeks after that, three weeks after he fled in the middle of the night, left the ostriches to fend for themselves, and he ran off back to Moscow to be sheltered by Russia three weeks after that.  Three weeks after he got run out of Ukraine, there was a follow-up arrest of somebody very close to him and it was an arrest made at the request of the American FBI.  Hmm. 

A Russian-speaking oligarch, a billionaire who formed a partnership with Vladimir Putin in a natural gas deal, he was not only very rich, he was very politically influential in Ukraine, very well-connected.  Among his high-profile connections in Ukraine was Paul Manafort.  In 2008, this oligarch and Paul Manafort, they went in together on what supposed to be a $900 million New York real estate deal.  They were going to turn this hotel, which used to be the Drake Hotel on Park Avenue, into some big new luxury building that they were going to call the Bulgari Tower. 

And ultimately, that $900 million deal never happens.  It ultimately became part of the controversy around Paul Manafort in the Trump campaign when a lawsuit alleged that the whole reason for that deal was to give this oligarch a safe and ostensibly legal place to park his ill gotten billions that he siphoned out of Ukraine with help from Putin and the pro-Putin dictator who Paul Manafort not just worked for but installed in office. 

I mean, for visual reference here, the guy on the left, that is the pro- Putin ousted Ukrainian dictator guy.  That`s the guy with the ostriches and the manmade lake and the gold toilets and all the rest of it.  Three weeks after he, on the left side of his screen, three weeks after he was run out of the country, three weeks later, it was the dude on the right, the oligarch, who was arrested.  Now, interestingly, he was in Austria when he got arrested.  Austrian police arrested him at the request of the FBI. 

A federal grand jury in the United States had indicted the oligarch guy in conjunction with the giant, alleged bribery scheme involving a titanium deal in India.  I don`t know.  They indicted him. 

FBI asked Austrian authorities to arrest him.  Austrian authorities did.  This guy is a big deal in Ukraine, right?  Close to the Ukrainian dictator, three weeks after the dictator gets ousted, rich guy gets arrested in Austria.  And then U.S. prosecutors went over to Austria basically to go and pick him up, to arrange for Austrian authorities to extradite him back to the United States so he can face charges on this giant bribery charge. 

And the unexpected turn here, the wrench in the works is that the Austrians who had him in custody, who had arrested him at our FBI`s request, the Austrians said no.  They would not let the extradition go ahead, at least not yet. 

And so, OK, now this guy is like Paul Manafort`s loose thread, still dangling out there, right?  Paul Manafort lost his client dictator in Ukraine, the guy on the left, but the zillionaire oligarch, guy in the right, he`s like in limbo. 

It`s interesting.  They did arrest in Austria, but they don`t have in jail.  They let him out on bond.  He paid $174 million cash for his bond.  Open checkbook, swivel wrist. 

So, he`s out on bond.  He`s not exactly free.  I mean, Austria is not sending him back to the U.S. to face trial yet.  But if f he leaves Austria and goes to some other country, presumably the U.S. authorities would try to arrange to have him arrested in that other country and then put pressure on that other country to extradite him to the U.S. as well.  So, he sort of can`t really leave Austria.  He`s stuck. 

Three years, he`s been stuck.  Three years, he`s been stranded in Austria.  Super rich.  Wanted on federal bribery charges in the United States, unable to travel and presumably sitting on a whole pile of dirt about what went down in Ukraine, what went down in Russia, what went down specifically in his former business partner Paul Manafort`s circles.  Did I mention that he has a multibillion dollar gas partnership with Putin? 

He`s a weird, awkward loose thread out there and over these past three years, got arrested in 2014 -- over the past three years, U.S. prosecutors have made these repeated efforts to try to persuade the Austrians that they`ve got to let us have him.  They`ve got to extradite him back to the U.S. to face trial. 

And now, here`s the test -- because the next hearing on whether or not this guy`s going to be extradited to the U.S. to face trial is tomorrow.  Federal prosecutors have been trying to get this guy sent back to the U.S. since 2014.  But for the first time, tomorrow, federal prosecutors who are working on this case won`t be answering to someone like Eric Holder.  They won`t be answering to somebody like Loretta Lynch.  Tomorrow, for the first time, the federal prosecutors going after this guy will be prosecutors who answer ultimately to this guy, with his hand in the air.  Now the head of the Justice Department, the attorney general and fresh off the Trump campaign, which used to be run by Paul Manafort.  That oligarch`s business partner and Putin`s, too. 

So, this is a test.  Is the Justice Department -- are federal prosecutors in this federal department of justice, are they going to continue to go after this guy, this Russian-speaking oligarch they`ve been going after for years now, or does this slide?  And as the Justice Department is making that decision, Paul Manafort is sort of back in the news with this lurid story that broke in "The New York Times" and then in "The Washington Post" over the weekend. 

Paul Manafort before he ever ran Donald Trump`s presidential campaign, he ran the political campaign for the pro-Putin dictator.  He also built up this pro-Putin, pro-Russia political party even though the dictator is gone and has been chased back to Moscow. 

Last month, apparently, a member of that pro-Putin, pro-Russia political party in Ukraine, he came to New York and he took a meeting with Donald Trump`s personal lawyer, a lawyer by the name of Michael Cohen.  Michael Cohen and this pro-Putin, pro-Russia, Ukrainian lawmaker, they met in a hotel lobby in New York City.  The result of that meeting was, reportedly, a plan to give Vladimir Putin everything he could ever want from a birthday president, short of Rex Tillerson popping shirtless out of a cake. 

The plan had three parts. 

Number one, they would oust the new president of the Ukraine, the one who came in and replaced the pro-Putin kleptocratic dictator with the private zoo.  So, they`ll get rid of the new guy who replaced the pro-Putin guy. 

Number two, Russia would get to keep Crimea.  Russia would get to keep the parts of Ukraine that they took when Russia invaded parts of Ukraine, just took over their territory and started calling it Russia.  This new plan, part two of this new plan would legitimatize that.  OK, those parts of Ukraine that you took, they are now Russia. 

And then part three of the plan would be for the United States to drop our sanctions against Russia that we levied against them for invading Ukraine and taking over part of that country.  So, obviously, this is a very fair deal, right?  This is a great deal. 

Putin gets what he wants in Ukraine.  He gets to keep the parts of Ukraine that he took and we stop being mad at him about it.  It`s a great deal.  It`s a win, win, win for Putin, Putin, Putin. 

The details of this awesome deal were reportedly written up and put into a sealed envelope which President Trump`s personal lawyer then delivered by hand to the White House. 

Quoting from "The New York Times" here.  Quote, "A week before Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser, a sealed proposal was hand- delivered to his office outlining a way for president Trump to lift sanctions against Russia."  And then later in the article, quote, "When Mr. Cohen met with President Trump earlier this month, he said he left the proposal in a sealed envelope in General Flynn`s office.  Mr. Cohen said he was waiting for a response from the proposal when Flynn was forced out of his post." 

So, that was the front page of "The New York Times", breaking the story on Sunday.  After giving that account of the proposed deal and the sealed envelope and hand-delivering it to Michael Flynn`s office at the White House, after giving that whole very detailed account to "The New York Times," the president`s lawyer, Michael Cohen, then subsequently spoke to "The Washington Post" on the same subject.  But when he spoke to "The Washington Post" about it, he denied the part about giving the thing to Michael Flynn. 

Quote, "Michael Flynn speaking with `The Post` on Sunday acknowledged that the meeting took place and that he had left with the proposal in hand, but he says he did not take the envelope to the White House and he did not discuss it with anyone.  He called suggestions to the contrary fake news."  Quote, "I acknowledge that the meeting took place but I emphatically deny discussing this topic or delivering any documents to the White House and General Flynn." 

That`s weird in and of itself, right?  Either you did it or you didn`t.  You`re the one who said you did it. 

I mean, "The Times" says it`s standing by its story.  Quote, "Mr. Cohen told `The Times` in no uncertain terms that he delivered the Ukraine proposal to Michael Flynn`s office at the White House."

That said, right after that, he told "The Washington Post" in no uncertain things that he definitely did not deliver that proposal to Michael Flynn`s office at the White House. 

So, he either did or he did not.  This isn`t he said/she said.  It`s he said/he said.  He`s lying to one of those two papers.  He told "The Times" that he gave the thing to Flynn.  He told "The Washington Post", I did not give the thing to Flynn. 

The question is, really, what`s the president`s personal lawyer doing, meeting with a pro-Putin foreign politician cooking up plans like this to drop sanctions and oust Vladimir Putin`s political economies in other countries, all these other things that Putin wants?  What`s the president`s personal lawyer doing being involved in that? 

I should also tell you, there`s one other person who`s reported to have been at that meeting, hatching that plan.  He`s a Russian-born ex-con who served time in prison for, and I quote, "stabbing a man in the face with a stem of a margarita glass."  He was also convicted of a $40 million pump and dump stock fraud that he pulled off with the Genovese and Colombo crime families, as in the freaking mafia. 

In the past, he had office space in the Trump Tower.  He, in fact, had Trump organization business cards that listed him by name as, quote, "senior adviser to Donald Trump."  He says his job description was that he was in charge of all Trump organization business dealings in Russia in the mid-2000s.  He says up until 2015, he was involved in a project to try to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. 

When some of the more spectacularly criminal things about this guy`s past came up in a legal matter a few years back, President Trump claimed that he barely need this guy, would probably even recognize him if the guy was in the room right now -- despite the fact that the guy had Trump organization business cards that described him as senior adviser to Donald Trump.  Senior adviser to who now?  To me?  Senior what? 

Well, now that guy`s back.  And it was him and the pro-Putin lawmaker from Ukraine and Donald Trump`s personal lawyer who were all in on cooking up this plan to drop sanctions on Russia.  This plan that may or may not have landed on Mike Flynn`s desk the week before he was fired because of revelations about his contacts with the Russian government sanctions which he admits to lying about and which he reportedly also lied about to the FBI. 

You know, if Mike Flynn did lie about his contacts with the Russian government, when he spoke to the FBI about those contacts, if he did lie to the FBI, that would be a felony.  Of course, it`s a felony that would have to be prosecuted by the Justice Department which is run by Jeff Sessions. 

CNN is already reporting that there are no plans in Jeff Sessions` Justice Department to prosecute Mike Flynn for lying to the FBI.  Word is reported this weekend that there are three separate FBI investigations into contacts between the Trump campaign and Trump administration and the Russian government.  If any of those three separate FBI inquiries leads to findings of criminal behavior, again, the FBI doesn`t prosecute stuff.  They refer it to the Justice Department under Jeff Sessions who have to decide whether or not to prosecute. 

Because Jeff Sessions was part of the Trump campaign, under normal circumstances, that would -- you would expect that to lead to an attorney general appointing a special counsel so he himself would not be involved in decisions about bringing charges against a campaign that he was part of.  So far, Jeff Sessions is refusing to take that kind of a step, or recuse himself from any of these investigations, from overseeing any of these matters. 

And so, this is a test.  We are living through an American test right now.  I mean, the press, forgive me, but the press is doing its job.  Every day we learn more and more from the press about otherwise unexplained pro- Russian behavior and the myriad of Russian contacts of lots and lots of people who are connected to this president at very high levels. 

But watch what happens in Austria tomorrow.  Watch and see if this Putin connected, Paul Manafort connected super sketchy Russian/Ukrainian oligarch is going to still be in the crosshairs of American prosecutors or not. 

With each passing day, we get more of a sense of what is wrong here, right?  With each new news story, right?  We get more of a sense of what is really going on at the heart of this mishegoss between this president, this administration and Russia.  But diagnosing the problem and fixing the problem are not the same thing. 

And the question about whether it can be fixed and investigated and exposed and ultimately fixed, it depends in large part, I`m sorry to say it, I`m sorry to say it, it depends in large part on whether or not the United States Department of Justice is still a Department of Justice and will enforce this as a law enforcement matter. 

I mean, the question is whether this Justice Department is independent enough to stand up for the rule of law on matters this serious.  If it`s not, if under Jeff Sessions the Justice Department is just another part of this same scheme, the scheme that we`re seeing unspool every day with each strange new revelation in the press, if the Justice Department is just going to be part of it rather than part of fixing it, then we are going to need a different kind of remedy to fight back against what Russia has already done to our government, what Russia has already done to our election system, what Russia has already done to us and what apparently they are still working on doing. 

So, overall, this is a test of the rule of law in this country.  This is a test.  This is going to be an ongoing test.  But tomorrow in Vienna, pop quiz, man.  Pop quiz. 

Watch what happens to this low profile story about this oligarch tomorrow.  Watch this tomorrow in Vienna.  The guy`s name is Dmitry Firtash.  Dmitry Firtash.  Watch that story tomorrow.  This is a test. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  This is General Raymond T. Odierno.  General Odierno is a four- star general and he just retired as army chief of staff in 2015.  You recognize him, right?  You`ve seen him. 

Prior to being army chief of staff, he was head of joint forces command.  Before that, he was the commanding general for U.S. forces in Iraq.  When General David Petraeus left as commanding general in Iraq to go round CentCom, it was General Odierno who replaced him in Iraq.  That was a very high profile transition. 

General Odierno has served under both Democratic and Republican administrations.  He`s served a lot of time in a lot of war.  He`s one of the most recognizable military leaders of his generation, right?  Some of these guys just get famous, right?  Petraeus, McChrystal, Odierno.  There`s just a few of these top leaders, for good reason, become very well known. 

I`ll say it one more time, his name is General Ray Odierno. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Today, we have generals who go on television and say, well, you know, ISIS is very tough, it`s very -- believe me, we have the right people, we have the right minds, we have the great military.  It is seriously -- by the way, it is seriously depleted.  General Ordierno, when he left, again, he goes on television. 

People shouldn`t do this.  He goes on television and he says our military is the most depleted of any time that he`s ever seen or heard of and that might be like from the beginning.  Now, honestly, he`s a good man, but he shouldn`t say that. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Just go back say that one more time, sir?  Just say once more.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  General Ordierno, when he left -- 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  General Ordierno is not a person?  That`s one.  Two, we learned this weekend that General Odierno was being vetted to become the president`s national security adviser after Michael Flynn got fired in a giant scandal about Russia.  General Ordierno, oh-my-god-o, oh-boy-o, he was considered for the national security adviser job but he apparently said no.  No, thank you. 

General Odierno telling NBC News that he was aware that the administration was considering various candidates to be national security adviser but he wanted it to be know that he`s very happy with the work that he`s already doing not being Trump`s national security adviser.  He told NBC he had, quote, "no plans to make any significant changes at this point."  

So, General Odierno said no.  Same with former CIA director, General David Petraeus.  Multiple sources telling NBC News that General Petraeus made it clear that he would only the job if he could pick his own staff.  The White House was apparently not okay with that, apparently wanted to keep on the people who started with Mike Flynn.  So, effectively, that`s General Petraeus also saying no. 

Vice Admiral Bob Harward, same deal.  And Admiral Harward`s case, he was actually offered the post and then he overtly declined it, amid reports that he was not happy about what he would be inheriting from Flynn on the National Security Council.  And interestingly, amid reports that the admiral was not psyched by what he saw at the president`s strange first solo press conference last week. 

So, General Odierno, oh-boy-o, how do you say it, he said no.  So did General Petraeus.  So did Admiral Harward. 

But then today, the president finally did talk somebody to take the job.  We will have more on that in a moment.  But while we stick a pin in that for a moment, just look around for a second at what else is not happening or is falling apart in terms of staffing up the new administration.  CBS is now reporting that the president`s nominee to be navy secretary is on the verge of withdrawing his name, that`s according to two sources close to the situation, the White House is denying those reports, but if those reports prove true, that would mean that Trump would be losing his nominee to run the army and to run the navy in the space of a week. 

And it`s not like the place is filling up around them.  According to "The Washington Post" this morning, out of the 549 executive branch positions that require Senate confirmation, of the 549, 515 of them are still awaiting a nomination.  It`s not that, you know, like Senate Democrats are holding things up in these cases.  It means there are 549 people who need Senate confirmation and Trump has only offered names for 34 of them out of the 549. 

So, they have yet to get started on filling 94 percent of the confirmable jobs that they`ve got to fill.  They just haven`t even put forward names.  No problemo. 

But I do have a sliver of good news.  They have found someone to be reportedly at least ambassador to New Zealand.  So I`m going to read you this straight from the "New Zealand Herald", which is the paper with the highest circulation in New Zealand.  This is their headline on the subject. 

Quote, "Man tipped for U.S. ambassador role in New Zealand is a former nude model who supports waterboarding."  That`s how the Trump`s reporter pick is being reported in that country. 

Former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, of course, the former nude model who supports waterboarding, he has reportedly been tapped to be ambassador to New Zealand.  So, there`s that.  New Zealand is super psyched, or the opposite. 

We`ve got more on the new national security adviser coming up.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  So, Courtney Kube is our eyes and ears at the Pentagon when we got word today in the middle of the afternoon that General H.R. McMaster had been tapped to be the new national security adviser after the dramatic flameout of the first National Security Adviser Mike Flynn after only 24 days on the job. 

Courtney Kube, NBC News national security producer, was the first person I wanted to call to get her take on this appointment and what we should expect and what we know of General McMaster. 

Courtney, it`s really nice to see you.  Thanks for being here tonight. 

COURTNEY KUBE, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY PRODUCER:  Thanks for having me, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  So, General McMaster`s name has been in circulation for a couple of days, not for a long time around this job.  Of course, the departure of Mike Flynn was sudden and sort of a surprise and I think nothing that anybody was really planning on.  How much of a surprise is this choice and what`s his reputation in general? 

KUBE:  I mean, personally, I was very surprised to hear his name out there.  His reputation is for a highly decorated leader, someone of tremendous moral courage who believes genuinely in speaking truth to power.  He`s very well-respected.  He`s known as a brilliant man.  He`s well-respected across the aisle, frankly, both sides of the aisle. 

I mean, in his bio, you know, he served in Iraq.  He was General Petraeus` deputy during the surge.  He served in Afghanistan under General McChrystal.  He`s done about five years in combat just in the last several years, in the last 10 or 15 years.  So, he`s well-respected for that time. 

He`s a counter insurgency guy.  He`s someone who was -- he was one of the authors of it and he`s one of the real proponents of it during the 2006, 2007 time frame in Iraq and into Afghanistan.  He wrote a book when he was a young officer, as a captain.  It was part of his PhD studies that it turned into something called "Dereliction of Duty". 

When I first started covering the Pentagon more than a decade ago, it was known as must-read for young officers and it`s a fascinating study about Vietnam where he really questions the U.S. military leadership during that time and he`s very critical of them, frankly, and how they were with Robert McNamara, the secretary of defense at the time, and President Johnson.  He`s critical saying that they weren`t forceful enough in their feelings, that they weren`t honest enough and that, they, by extension, were derelict in their duty, because they didn`t stop President Johnson and Robert McNamara from making Vietnam more political, from letting the political cycle make decisions about how troops were deployed, how many were deployed.

And, you know -- so, think about it, this is it a man who came up just after Vietnam and he was critical of the very leaders he came up afterwards.  What`s remarkable about General McMaster, though, is that despite all of that, he still succeeded in the military.  He still rose to a three-star general. 

MADDOW:  And, Courtney, the one thing I know about him, somebody who has only ever lived a civilian life and only knows this stuff as a lay observer, I know about that book just from an academic point of view.  And the thing that seems remarkable to me about his choice, just because of that book, is because, as you say, that book is about military leadership needing to make its views known in a political environment, to tell civilian leadership, to tell political leaders, abruptly, bruskly and even very -- in difficult circumstances, what they don`t want to hear.

And that`s not the model that we`ve seen in terms of Trump hires, in terms of -- even just this weekend, the senior director at the National Security Council being fired, being reassigned, supposedly because he was not towing the Trump line and had been critical of the Trump administration decisions thus far. 

Is there any reason to -- is there anything we can extrapolate from it in General McMaster`s career thus far in terms of knowing he`ll handle the National Security Council?  It`s a pretty big bureaucracy. 

KUBE:  So, he -- I mean, he`s not only someone who wrote this book about dereliction of duty, but he`s actually lived it in his career and he`s actually taken hits for it.  When he was a colonel when I first met him, actually, he was very critical of army modernization efforts and it cost him a star initially.  He was passed over for a one-star general and there was -- we never really know what causes someone to be passed over because the boards, the promotion boards are all top secret.

But the rumor at the time was that part of it was his criticism of the army, part of it, frankly, was his book, where he was critical of U.S. military leadership and some of it was his overreliance on counter insurgency and some of the more wonky things that we pay attention to at the Pentagon.  But he stuck to his gun.  And it hurt his career but like I said, he`s been able to, despite all of that, he`s been able to make his way up to a three-star general. 

So, right now, he`s been serving in U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command out in Virginia.  It was pretty much expected that he was going to retire this summer.  He`s done about 2 1/2 years there and there wasn`t a four- star job available for him that -- at this point.  So, it was expected that he would probably retire. 

What`s fascinating about this pick, too, is that now, he`ll be able to stay in active duty, stay in the Army, but serve in a civilian suit at the National Security Council, but stay on active duty. 

MADDOW:  Courtney Kube, NBC News national security producer -- see, there`s the reason you`re the person who I wanted to call as soon as we heard about this today.  Courtney, thank you very much.  I really appreciate it. 

KUBE:  Thank you very much. 

MADDOW:  You know, and to that last point that Courtney made, I`ve seen a lot of alarm, people worrying about the fact that he`s going to stay on active duty.  Even though it is unusual that this president is relying so much on generals to fill jobs that are often civilian jobs, including the secretary of the defense, a recently retired general, General McMaster staying on active duty while being national security adviser is not an unprecedented thing and it`s not that unusual a thing.  Colin Powell did that and a couple of other national security advisers have done that in the past.  If you`re worried about there being a lot of people in military uniform or just out doing civilian jobs, there are reasons to worry about that with this administration, but him saying in active duty while serving as national security adviser is not one of those reasons. 

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Happy Presidents` Day.  Big travel day today.  It took me an extra hour to drive to New York from Massachusetts this morning. 

But on this big travel day today, at one of the biggest airports in the country, 11 people walked right through a TSA checkpoint without being screened by anyone.  Eleven people who should have been screened were not screened and three of the 11 actually set off the metal detectors when they went through.  But then they just walked on through because no one was there. 

For whatever reason, after this was discovered this morning, the TSA did not notify police until two hours after they discovered the problem.  Then when the airport police started looking for those 11 passengers, two hours after they had gone through the checkpoint unnoticed, the airport police couldn`t find them because, of course, those people had already boarded flights that had taken off and taken them to other places.  It happened about 6:00 this morning at JFK International Airport in New York City. 

Now, the TSA later released a statement saying they are confident that this incident presents no threat.  They say the three passengers who set off the metal detectors were found.  They were searched after they arrived at their destinations. 

This might be a good time to remember that the head of the TSA under the Obama administration who did that job from 2015, he left when the new administration came in and the new administration has yet to replace him.  They have yet to even name a nominee to replace him. 

This White House has hundreds of jobs left to fill, including security jobs.  That said, the boss of the boss of the TSA, the chief of homeland security, that person has been hired and confirmed by the Senate.  He`s been super busy and tomorrow he`s going to be the biggest news in the country.  And that story`s next.

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MADDOW:  The town of Yakima is in a part of Washington state that might politely and honorably be described as nowhere.  It`s in between -- it`s in the middle there.  It does -- it sits in the shadow of Mt. Rainier. 

If you`ve ever raised a glass of good old American IPA on a Saturday night, you`ve very likely owed that experience to Yakima, Washington.  The Yakima Valley grows a ton of the hops that we use to make good hoppy beers like IPAs in this country.  Yakima Valley also grows a ton of grapes and apples. 

Last night, this is what was going on in Yakima, Washington.  This is from "The Yakima Herald."  Look at that picture, look at that headline.  "Large crowd fearful of deportation files into Yakima meeting."  More than 200 people turned out for a three-hour meeting yesterday morning in Yakima, Washington, for what they called deportation defense training. 

We`ve been covering on this show what it looks like when people put themselves between their neighbors and deportation, when people cram into a meeting at a church on short notice, on a Friday night to learn how to be supportive of immigrants in their neighborhood who might get caught up in a raid or some kind of endorsement by the new administration.  We have seen neighborhoods stepping up to try to physically help their neighbors who may get targeted by the new administration.

And that is some of what this is in Yakima, Washington.  Quote, "Some of these folks are here to learn how to assist those who are undocumented."  But also, quote, "a significant number of folks are here because they themselves are undocumented and they are trying to figure out a way to protect themselves."  This is a local man, a citizen telling the local paper, quote, "We are all basically vey afraid."

And so, yes, people are coming out to help their neighbors, but they`re also teaching themselves deportation defense to the extent that there can be defense.  Teaching themselves what to do in response to a legal framework that`s still being hammered out and still changing day by day.  Before the president signed the refugee ban and the Muslim ban, you may remember, he signed a pair of executive orders that very much affect places like Yakima, Washington. 

He signed orders concerns immigrants who are already here who may have been here almost their entire lives.  Over the weekend, new draft memos signed by the new secretary of homeland security started circulating in the press.  What you can glimpse in those memos is the vast range of the people they consider them to be a priority of deportation and the speed at which they intend to carry out these mass deportations. 

They want 10,000 more immigration officers, 5,000 more border patrol agents.  New guidelines making more people a target for expedited removal.  Prosecutions for parents who try to arrange to have their children brought to them here prosecuting the parents.  Immigrant advocates describing these draft memos as, quote, "dramatically expanding the scope of enforcement operations."

If there`s been some mystery in how the administration would carry out these policies that have rattled communities around the country, there`s not so much mystery about the origins of these policies, themselves.  They come from a very specific place.

Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama wrote the president`s immigration plan, the plan he campaigned on when he was running for president. 

Last year, Senator Jeff Sessions called on the Justice Department to start prosecuting parents who arrange for their children to come here to be with them.  Jeff Sessions wrote Attorney General Loretta Lynch a letter last year asking why she wasn`t prosecuting parents already.  And now under this new president, Jeff Sessions is the attorney general, himself.  So, he doesn`t need to write those letters anymore. 

Joining us now is Franco Ordonez.  He`s a White House correspondent for McClatchy newspapers.  He first reported to break this story of the DHS memos this weekend.  He also helped connect the dots about Jeff Sessions and his role here. 

Mr. Ordonez, thanks very much for being here.  I appreciate your time. 

FRANCO ORDONEZ, MCCLATCHY, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Thanks for having me on. 

MADDOW:  So, we`re told tonight to expect these draft memos will be finalized tomorrow.  It`s one of the sort of strange things about this administration.  We often get draft policies that are more or less disavowed by the White House before we get a real policy. 

What are you actually expecting that we`re going to hear and on what timeline? 

ORDONEZ:  I mean, I think it is possible that we`ll get these tomorrow.  I mean, these drafts that I wrote about and that you`re mentioning, they were finalized by DHS.  They were signed by the DHS Secretary John Kelly.  They do need kind of that White House check-off but they even -- even the White House told me that these are the DHS` final cut.  They just had a couple questions that they were hoping to work out pretty soon. 

MADDOW:  How much -- if these are implemented the way that they look in these drafts, how radical a change will this be from immigration enforcement that we`ve come to understand over the past few years? 

ORDONEZ:  It would be a tremendous, tremendous change.  I mean, we`re talking about wiping away many of the protections that Barack Obama put in. 

You mentioned the parents of unaccompanied minors potentially being prosecuted.  They would also be deported.  Even some of those unaccompanied minors, the White House points out that about 60 percent of the unaccompanied minors fleeing poverty, fleeing violence in Central America, they came to the United States solo but once they got here, they were reunited with their parents.  And one of the proposals that Jeff Sessions recommended six months ago and is now in these draft orders is that once that reunification happens, that these two, or the child and the parent, could be removed and sent back to their home country. 

MADDOW:  A lot of the debate around the proposed immigration policies during the campaign was around their feasibility, around whether or not the kind of extreme measures that Trump was talking about actually could be enacted realistically.  How realistic are these proposals?  Is this a real blueprint for doing it or is it more threat than promise? 

ORDONEZ:  It`s a great question, and I think a lot of us journalists are really trying to figure that out.  I mean, many of these proposals -- I mean, the wall would be billions of dollars.  Detaining all of these people -- we`re talking about 400,000 people were apprehended just in the past year.  The administration is talking about detaining all of them. 

You can imagine the number of detention centers that would be need for that.  We`re talking about doubling if not tripling the billion dollar budget, in addition to the costs, alone, Trump`s talked about reducing the deficit in addition to that.  You got legal challenges, you got challenges you can only hold children for a certain amount of time.  Adults can only be held for a certain amount of time.  And these are all federal laws, court decisions, Supreme Court decisions, for example, that make it very hard to pull this off. 

MADDOW:  Franco Ordonez, McClatchy White House correspondent -- thank you for your reporting on this and thanks for helping us understand it tonight.  This is very dramatic stuff.  Thanks .  Appreciate it.

ORDONEZ:  Thanks for having me on. 

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

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MADDOW:  Ready to love South Carolina?  Are you ready?  You ready?  Go. 

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REP. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA:  Irregardless of where you are on that question -- 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Irregardless is not a word.

SANFORD:  Regardless.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Irregardless -- welcome home, Congressman. 

That`s Republican Congressman Mark Sanford from South Carolina getting a free grammar lesson in his district on Saturday.  Irregardless is not a word. 

He and his Senate colleague, Tim Scott, held a town hall for a packed room of a few hundred people, they then went outside to talk to the hundreds more people who could not get into the room.  Members of Congress are home this week for recess.  Usually they spend this time spending time with their constituents.  It turns out their constituents this year are particularly eager to catch up. 

Take Congressman Tom Reed from New York.  He usually gets a handful of people to show up at his town halls.  Usually.  Not anymore. 

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MADDOW:  Tom Reed held four town halls in a row this weekend in a deep red pocket of New York state that went for Donald Trump by 15 points.  Nevertheless, big crowds showed up to tell Congressman Reed that they do not support the new president and they said so loudly. 

Same thing happened today to Congressman Jim Jordan from Ohio.  He held kind of a makeshift town hall outside an event where he really wasn`t planning on talking to constituents.  Tensions were running high even before he got there.  It didn`t get much better once he arrived and started talking. 

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REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO:  Now -- now it`s time to change it and bring back insurance that actually empowers you. 

CROWD:  Give us your insurance!  Give us your insurance!

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MADDOW:  Give us your insurance.  All this week while Congress is home, there are more than 150 town halls and constituent events like this across the country. 

For a lot of people, D.C. is inaccessible, right? The phone lines in Congress have been jammed.  But right now, Congress is home.  People are getting a chance for the first time in a while to talk to their representatives face to face. 

This is day one of something that`s going to go on all week.  People apparently have a lot to say. 

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

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell, and I`m very happy to say that Lawrence O`Donnell, himself, is back. 

Lawrence, good evening.  Welcome back.

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