Show: The Rachel Maddow Show Date: February 21, 2017 Guest: Edward Price, Ann Ravel
BEN JEALOUS, FORMER PRESIDENT & CEO, NAACP: -- beautiful if you will, the silver lining on this very dark cloud is that -- it`s pushing people together.
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: yes.
JEALOUS: It`s getting folks to really see what they have in common and unfortunately what they have in common is that the president is creating a situation where all of us feel more persecuted?
HAYES: Yes, Jane Eisner, Ben Jealous, thanks for being here tonight. Appreciate it.
JANE EISNER, FORWARD: Thank you.
HAYES: 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, my friend.
HAYES: You bet
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. On January 28, eight days after the inauguration this year, there was a fire at a mosque in Victoria, Texas. You might remember, we covered it on the show at the time.
Victoria, Texas, is not a huge place, has a population of about 60,000 people and there are enough Muslims who live in Victoria, Texas, to support one Islamic center in that community. One mosque. But on January 28, this year, somebody burned it down, gutted it, destroyed it completely.
One of the things that was very moving in the immediate aftermath of that tragedy, that crime, was when the other religious congregations in Victoria, Texas, came forward and offered the keys to their facilities, the keys to their houses of worship, they offered the keys to the imam from that mosque. So, his Muslim congregation could have somewhere else to meet and pray.
Victoria, Texas, is small enough that it only had enough Muslims in town to support that one mosque. Victoria, Texas, only has enough Jews in town to support one synagogue for the whole city. The leader of that synagogue came forward to offer his keys to the local imam after the fire and he explained to reporters that sharing the space of the synagogue, sharing the synagogue with the membership of the mosque, he said, it just made sense, even if you`re only talking mathematically.
He said, quote, "We have probably 25 to 30 Jewish people in all of Victoria, they probably have 100 Muslims. We have a lot of building for a small amount of Jews."
So, they made the offer. You might remember again. We covered that at the time. A lot of churches in town offered their keys to the imam. The local synagogue, they offered their keys to the imam, meet here. Let your community meet here.
It was interesting, though, in addition to that local support that the mosque received in town, with all the other congregations coming forward to say what can we do? Use our space. Our space is your space.
In addition to that what happened locally, what happened online was almost as overwhelming. The mosque -- they put up an online fund-raising page to raise money to rebuild after their fire and in two days they received over $900,000 in pledges. After they hit $1.1 million they knew they had enough to rebuild, they stopped raising funds. But over 23,000 people came forward and donated. They got hundreds of thousands of dollars more than they had asked for.
And that mosque fire is still not solved. Local authorities have declared it an arson. They have put out reward for information leading to an arrest but there is no one in custody.
We spoke to the imam today. He told us they are making their plans to rebuild and hoping there will someday be an arrest.
This weekend in St. Louis, Missouri, in the University City neighborhood of St. Louis, a Jewish cemetery that dates to the 1800s was the subject of another attack, nearly 200 headstones were thrown over, broken toppled in the cemetery. Local press has been full of these heartbreaking pictures of people turning up at the Jewish cemetery to find their grandparents` headstones, finding them broken and thrown over. This comes on the heels of Jewish community centers around the country facing several waves now of bomb threats and vandalism. The most recent spate of bomb threats happened just yesterday.
In St. Louis, local police are investigating but there have been no arrests. But, look, this was part of the response online after the word got out today about what happened in that Jewish cemetery. See the headline? Muslims unite to repair Jewish cemetery.
These folks set a goal of raising $20,000 by March 21st to contribute to the repair and the replacement if need be of those broken headstones in that Jewish cemetery. Again, their goal was $20,000 to be raised by March 21st. They raised over $20,000 today in three hours. In this case, they say they`re going to continue to raise money, at least for a while longer, quote, "Any additional funds raised in this campaign will assist vandalized Jewish centers nationwide."
But that $20,000 they raised today, that will go to the cemetery in St. Louis to repair those headstones. They say, quote, "Muslim Americans stand in solidarity with the Jewish community to condemn this act of desecration."
We are at an unusual time in our history, you might have noticed. National politics has veered and keeps veering in unexpected directions. It`s hard to know on any given day what is likely to happen next. That can sometimes be exhilarating. It`s mostly exhausting.
But even in unpredictable times, some principles of human behavior, human reaction, human decency, right, still hold and what we are learning in this new era that we`re in, in this -- in the Trump era, what we`re learning already, four weeks into this is no matter how strange things get in national politics, you can still count on Americans to do some predictable things. You still can count on the principle that in our politics, when there is an action, there will be a reaction.
And as radical as these changes feel in Washington, the radical changes in Washington and the things they have made us worry about, they`re also causing a strong and serious change all over the country outside of Washington, in the cities and in the small towns, in red states and blue states, everywhere. And it`s not as easy to track, because it`s not all happening in one place with the national press corps there to look at it. But if you start looking for it, it`s almost stunning.
In just a few minutes, we`ll talk in detail about the new mass deportation plans that have been outlined by the new administration as of today and the expectations for the new version of their Muslim ban and refugee ban they`re expected to roll out before the end of the week. That`s what`s happening in Washington.
Part of the reaction to those orders and to those plans, part of the reaction we`ve seen in the courts. When the memos about the deportation plan started circulating today, the ACLU said this, quote, "President Trump does not have the last word on deportations, the courts and the public will not allow this un-American dream to become a reality."
So part of the response we`re seeing is legal and in the courts. Part is out in public and sometimes in surprising places. Today, someone somehow managed to unfurl a "Refugees Welcome" banner literally on the Statue of Liberty. I have no idea how they got out to the statue of liberty and got that banner on to it but that happened today.
You also see the response in these public protests that we have seen on almost rolling basis, on an almost daily basis since the inauguration. We saw large protests this weekend mostly focused on the travel ban and in support of immigrants. We saw them in a lot of major cities over the last few days, in New York City, in Atlanta, in Los Angeles, in Chicago, in Washington, D.C.
But you know what? It`s not just in the big cities where you are seeing this stuff. It`s also happening in unexpected places. We got in some footage today. Look at this, this is Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, of all places. "No wall, no ban." Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
Look at this one. This is from Ajo, Arizona. I think The name of the town is Ajo, Arizona, about 40 miles from Mexico. The population of the whole town of Ajo is like 3,700 people. Look how many people turned out for their protest -- 3,700 people in the whole town, look how many people are protesting.
"No ban, no wall." This big anti-Trump protest in this little border town. So, we all know what`s happening in Washington. It`s easy to follow if sometimes hard to believe what`s happening in Washington. But the response is everywhere and it`s happening daily in ways large and small and the more you look, the more of it you see.
Yes, it`s in the courts. Yes, it`s in some dramatic protests, but it`s also in the streets and not just where you might expect it to be in the streets. It`s also started already to affect straight up American politics.
Let me give you one solid example of that. One of the practical consequences of these new deportation orders -- and they don`t like to talk about it much yet in Washington, but they will have to soon -- one of the practical consequences is that the new administration is going to apparently go back to using private-for-profit prisons to lock people up in federal facilities and immigration facilities.
In the Obama administration, the Justice Department official who wrote an order, wrote the memo explaining that the federal government would no longer use private for-profit prisons, who wrote the whole rationale explaining why in the Obama administration, they were getting away from that because of the problems with private prisons, the justice official who wrote that directive in the Obama administration, who signed her name to that in the last administration was the then deputy attorney general, Sally Yates, right? OK.
Sally Yates is now a household name. Sally Yates is now famous for her 10 very consequential days as acting attorney general after the Obama administration ended and the new administration started. Sally Yates is the one who warned the White House that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was lying about his interactions with the Russian government.
A week after that, she warned the White House that their Muslim ban was illegal, it was unconstitutional. She told them she would not direct the Justice Department to defend it in court. The new president fired Sally Yates for that. But, you know what, she`s been proven right and her assessment of how the courts would see that Muslim ban, the Muslim ban very quickly proved indefensible in court.
The Trump administration has now tacitly conceded her point by withdrawing their Muslim ban and planning to draft a new one. So, I mean, you look at somebody like Sally Yates. Before one month ago she had an interesting and accomplished but low profile career as a prosecutor and as a Justice Department official. Now, she`s a household name.
I mean, in moments like this, in moments of political transition you never know who`s going to be called to rise to the occasion. You never know who`s going to become an overnight hero because of the circumstances they find themselves in or because of actions they feel by conscience they must take.
But now look at this. Sally Yates is from Georgia, she`s from Atlanta. This is Sally Yates last week, see her in the foreground there? This is an event at the Carter Center in Georgia. She walks into this room, this event at the Carter Cnter. She`s with former Attorney General Eric Holder.
And, you can see, she`s embarrassed. She`s blushing there, but she`s sort of overwhelmed by the unexpected standing ovation that greets her at the Carter Center. Sally Yates was not even there to be in the event. She was not there to be on stage or on a panel or anything. She was just there to sit in the audience.
But she walks in the room, no introduction necessary. Everybody knows who she is. She gets a sustained and overwhelming standing ovation. Eric Holder backs up to let her soak in the applause, and even though she`s not on the panel the audience questions ended up getting directed at her, Sally United States, will you please run for Congress? Sally Yates, will you please run for Senate? Sally Yates, we know who you are now. We`d love you to run.
Georgia Democrats now say they are seriously lobbying Sally Yates to run for Georgia governor when that seat opens up next year. That`s Georgia.
Look at Virginia. Virginia is a blue state now in many ways. Went for Obama in `08, went for Obama in 2012, went for Hillary Clinton in November by more than five points. That said, a lot of Virginia is still very deep red. The legislature is still Republican by a little bit in the Senate and by a lot in the House.
Virginia holds their elections in odd-numbered years so their legislature is up in 2015. They`re up again this year, 2017. And, you know, Southern Democratic parties, including Virginia, have become notorious in recent years for not even bothering to run Democratic challengers in a lot of red districts, not even bothering to try.
That apparently is no longer going to be the case. That is not going to be a problem this year in Virginia. Virginia Democrats have identified 17 districts in the state this year where Hillary Clinton won the presidential race but the local state legislator is a Republican.
Virginia Democrats tell us tonight they have recruited Democratic challengers to run for the legislature in every single one of those 17 districts. In fact, they tell us they have already succeeded in recruiting Democratic challengers against Republican incumbents in 45 districts. They`re already -- they`ve already got candidates to challenge 45 Republican incumbents.
That`s way more Democratic challengers than they have ever run in recent years. And it`s still a ways off from the deadline. Deadline for filling for the primaries isn`t until March 30th. But they`ve already got Democratic challengers to 45 Republican incumbents.
The Democratic caucus chair in the Virginia house tells us tonight Democrats are seeing, quote, "unprecedented interest" from potential candidates. She tells us, quote, "We have never felt so much energy so early as we are feeling now."
The House Democratic leader in Virginia told us tonight they believe Virginia this year will be, quote, "The first referendum on the divisive and chaotic presidency of Donald Trump." And, obviously Virginia Democrats think that that kind of referendum will go their way.
And apparently, it`s not just places like Georgia and Virginia where this is happening. This appears to be the national phenomenon. The leadership of the DCCC, which is the House campaign committee for the Democratic Party, they did an issue about their recruitment efforts to find candidates across the country. Again, this is for federal candidates for Congress.
They say their priorities are to find candidates in districts where right now there is a Republican incumbent member of Congress but Hillary Clinton won that district. Or Hillary Clinton only lost by a little, she lost by four points or less. That`s their priority for finding Democratic recruitment for Democratic candidates for Congress.
How are they doing at finding candidates? Well, the recruitment chair for the DCCC tells the "National Journal" that actually being recruitment chair is usually kind of hard. He says in years past, quote, "Getting somebody to run was like pulling eyeteeth each and every time. It was very hard to get people to say I see this as part of public service. I see this as a part of my patriotic duty."
Now though, quote, "It`s not hard to get people to see it that way at all." "Now," says the recruitment chair for the Democratic Party trying to find Democratic candidates for Congress, now he says, quote, "We are raining candidates."
This is an unpredictable time in our national life. I mean, what has changed in Washington has changed the way people spend their time around the country. These Indivisible groups that formed around this indivisible guide for practical politics for influencing Congress and stopping the Trump agenda, that Indivisible movement -- there`s more than 7,000 Indivisible groups that have formed in all 50 states. More than 7,000 of them. And that`s just the Indivisible groups.
What`s changed in Washington has caused individual people who never wanted to run for Congress before, who never wanted to run for office before, it`s caused individual people to change their lives, change their priorities to volunteer to run. Districts in Virginia where they`ve never had a Democrat run at all in recent years now have one, two, three, four Democrats competing in the primary because they want to run.
What`s happened in Washington this year has changed the lives of people already in politics as well people already in Congress, already in the Senate. You know that this week, Congress is off for the Presidents` Day holiday, they take a week-long recess and they`re expected to go home to their districts and meet with constituents.
For Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis of Florida, this is what it looks like outside of his district office back home. "Investigate Putin-gate." These are constituents telling him what they want to do in Florida. "It`s called treason, Trump and Putin."
This is outside the office of Republican Congressman Mike Kelly in Pennsylvania, "Meet with us, Congressman Kelly."
Republican Congressman John Katko, his constituents in Syracuse, New York, have been demanding over and over he meet with them to hear their concerns about the Trump administration. After all that pressure on him, the local paper jumped on board today and -- yesterday and published this editorial, "Representative Katko should meet with his constituents."
Congresswoman Kay Granger, Republican representing Fort Worth, Texas, she went home for a Republican Lincoln Day dinner this week. This was a scene that greeted her outside.
In Tennessee, this is the district office of Republican Congressman Scott DesJarlais.
In New Jersey, this is what Republican Congressman Leonard Lance is having to deal with in his home district. People, darn people singing outside his office trying to meet with him all the time.
In Buffalo, New York, Trump supporting Congressman Chris Collins, look at this. His district is dealing with boisterous crowds who do not appear to agree with his support of Donald Trump. This is Chris Collins` district office in Buffalo.
His down state colleague, Republican Congressman Dan Donovan, is dealing with much the same thing. His constituents standing outside his local district office yesterday yelling "Whose side are you on, Dan, who side are you on?"
It`s getting to the point where it`s embarrassing at the grocery store. Look at the milk jugs there. Republican Congressman Paul Cook represents a big rural district in California. These are the milk jugs at the -- you can get at the grocery stores in his district. They say "Where is Paul cook? Pray for Paul. Congressman Paul is missing, he won`t meet with his constituents."
When members of Congress and senators meet with their constituents, we`re getting a sense of what that looks like, no matter how red the state is. Chuck Grassley of Iowa prides himself on being super available to his constituents and holding meetings all over the state of Iowa. He`s been doing that for a long time but they don`t usually go like they went today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why shouldn`t the Democrats filibuster, obstruct and delay the current president`s nominee to the Supreme Court for a year or even four years given that you set this precedent?
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R) IOWA: We will -- you can clap all you want to. We will get more questions answered and more discussion if I don`t stop to --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don`t even know how we feel --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do your job.
GRASSLEY: I`d like to go down the list here and the person that brought up impeachment, tell me -- I`ll listen to you and then answer if you ask a question. Who brought up impeachment?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, I did.
GRASSLEY: Go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First of all, I want to apologize for being so outspoken but I do -- I am so unsettled. It feels like we`ve got a juvenile running our country.
CROWD: Hear, hear!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa getting an earful from his constituents today. He`s pretty polite, though, he got off easy compared to his home state colleague Senator Joni Ernst who announced one public forum for this whole recess week. It was announced as a veterans` forum. Lots of veterans did show up, so did lots of other folks, lots of other Iowans as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like we all took this oath to defend the nation against enemies foreign and domestic and I wonder if you saw there was overwhelming evidence that a foreign country was me meddling with our elections and meddling with our democracy.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you would expect your senator to go to work everyday and work vigilantly to get to the bottom of that.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have business cards up here so if anybody needs our contact information they can come up and get those. That was our last question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And then she left.
That`s going to be our last question. No! . She leaves the room, they`re screaming "shame on you."
Very rough meeting of the minds in Iowa for Senator Joni Ernst today.
Here`s the thing to take away from that experience, from just seeing how that went today. That happened in a place called Maquoketa, Iowa. Maquoketa, Iowa, I`ve been practicing saying it all evening. Maquoketa.
Maquoketa, Iowa, is population 6,000 people. And that`s the reception that Joni Ernst got in Maquoketa today from that mostly older, mostly white crowd, right in the middle of Iowa. It is easy to get bowled over with what`s going on in Washington with the scope of the changes in Washington, the radical shift that`s happened in our national politics with this new presidency.
But I`m telling you, there is as radical a shift in the rest of the country in the opposite direction. It`s an equal and opposition reaction. It`s just everywhere. It`s in the courts, it`s in the streets, it`s in the lives of our elected officials.
It`s everywhere to the point that even that dynamic is starting to feel unpredictable and starting to feel a little overwhelming as well. But watch this unfold over the course of this week. Watch what it`s going to be like for these representatives and senators at home this week. This whole week is going to be like this in the states. Keep your eyes open.
MADDOW: Our three branches of government -- the courts, the executive, the legislative branch -- they are built as equal things, co-equal things. They`re supposed to be separate and they`re supposed to balance each other out. They`re supposed to check each other`s power when necessary.
But there are other checks on political power as well besides just the balance between the three different branches. One of the most uncomfortable checks on political power comes from inside the government, comes from the people who work inside the government -- the people with precious knowledge and experience who are doing their jobs to make government work, to make the country work.
And sometimes, in times of political crisis or political radicalism, one of the most dramatic and uncomfortable checks we have on government is when those people squawk. When those people emerge from the relative anonymity of working inside the government and they blow the whistle or they quit so they can speak their mind and that is starting to happen now.
Some of these valuable, crucial people are opting out, include from some very high-profile jobs because they`ve decided the government they have committed themselves to is no longer holding up its end of the bargain, not in this administration.
Tonight, we`ve got a double header for the interview. We`ve got with us two people who have just resigned from high profile important influential jobs in the government. They have both resigned for similar reasons. You`re going to want to hear their stories.
Those two interviews are straight ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The day after the inauguration, the new president paid a visit to the CIA. The president stood in front of a memorial wall with 117 hand- carved stars on it. Each of those stars commemorates a CIA officer killed in the line of duty.
Standing in front of that wall, standing in front of all those stars, the new president bragged about his big win in November, bragged about the size of the crowd in his inauguration. He talked about how much he hates the press. And, for one career official who worked at the CIA for over a decade, a man named Ned Price, that presidential bragging in that particular spot hit a nerve.
Ned Price says his mentor at the CIA was killed in the line of duty and is one of the people memorialized with a star on that wall. Ned Price says he thought he would spend his entire career working for the CIA but after all his years of service, including rising to the spokesman for the National Security Council, after living through just one month of this new presidency, Ned Price decided he would not be a career CIA official because he had to quit.
He`s written about in "The Washington Post," he says, quote, "White House advisers, not career professionals, reportedly now have final say over what intelligence reaches the president`s desk. As intelligence professionals, we`re taught to tune out politics but this administration has flipped that dynamic on its head. The politicians are the ones tuning out the intelligence professionals. Despite working proudly for Republican and Democratic presidents, I reluctantly concluded I cannot in good faith serve this administration as an intelligence professional."
Joining us now is Ned Price. Until last week, he worked at the CIA as a spokesman and senior analyst. He also served as a spokesman and senior director at the National Security Council.
Mr. Price, thanks very much for being here. Really appreciate you making the time for us tonight.
EDWARD PRICE, RESIGNED FROM CIA DUE TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Did you expect when you saw the election results on November 8 that you might be entering into a period where your tenure at the CIA would be untenable? That you might come up with a decision like this or were you truly surprised with the president`s behavior once he took office?
PRICE: Well, Rachel, my resignation which I tendered last week was the culmination in a series of events that took place over the course of many months. As you have reported, I was highly discouraged when as the Republican nominee, the now president, called into question the high competence assessment of all 17 intelligence agencies vis-a-vis Russia`s meddling in our electoral process.
I saw him as a president-elect call the intelligence community, essentially called them Nazis, not knowing that the predecessor of the CIA actually was critical to the defeat of the Third Reich in the Second World War.
And then, as you mentioned, the visit to the CIA headquarters and seeing this -- our new president, the commander in chief stand before the most solemn site in all of Langley, a site that their stars representing the 117 men and women who have fallen in the line of duty, that for me was something I did not expect to see. It was hugely demoralizing and I know that others at the agency felt similarly. But there were, there was subsequent steps that unfortunately led me to the move I made last week.
MADDOW: You said earlier today that you think you maybe able to do more good for your country outside of the CIA now, having quit, rather than if you had stayed inside at your old job. Can you tell me a little bit about how you`re thinking about that? What you might do now in terms of what you`re going to do next and how hard the decision was that you had to go?
PRICE: Well, as you said, I aspired to be a CIA officer for all of my life until I joined the CIA in 2006. It was an honor and I was humbled to get that -- to be called on board earlier that year.
But, you know, Rachel, I had two options as I watched these data points over the proceeding weeks and months. One was to stay on board at the CIA and to accrue a salary at the expense of taxpayers and to write assessments, unbiased, unvarnished assessments for an administration that in my estimation had shown little regard -- has shown little regard for the sort of outside opinion, outside information, the assessments that the CIA and our colleagues throughout the intelligence community that form our bread and butter essentially.
So, the question before me was, do I continue doing something that I thought was futile and would have little impact on policy or should I leave and do something where I thought I could fulfill the same mission that I signed up for in 2006 and that`s to serve the American people? I don`t exactly know what that entails. This is new to me and I certainly don`t have anything I`m running off to, but I`m certainly going to attempt to do my best to fulfill that charge, the same charge that I signed up for in 2006.
MADDOW: Ned, I know you can`t obviously speak to anything that you`re not supposed to talk about publicly and I`m not asking you to go into stuff that you shouldn`t be able to go into in a public forum. But we have had some sort of weird leaks and some contested leaks concerning the CIA and concerning the way that intelligence is handled by this new administration and there was a disputed report in the "Wall Street Journal" last week, disputed by the White House ultimately.
But what the "Wall Street Journal" reported on the basis of anonymous leaks was that U.S. intelligence officials have been withholding sensitive intelligence information from the White House, keeping stuff from the president because they don`t trust him, because they`re concerned letting him in on sources and methods might be leaked or compromised to other countries.
Obviously, it`s leaked information. There`s no names associated with this stuff. The White House is disputing it.
But can I ask your opinion about how we should view a leak like that? Whether that`s even -- whether that`s feasible, whether that`s hyperbole or something that we should be concerned about?
PRICE: I sure hope it`s hyperbole. The president of the United States is considered the first customer by the intelligence community. The morning intelligence briefing, the president`s daily brief, contains the most sensitive information available to the United States government. It`s something that I had the great honor of helping to compile when I was at CIA.
And the president should be privy to everything in our disposal that will help him make policy and make better policy to protect the American people. I cannot imagine a scenario in which intelligence professionals would judge that the commander in chief is not -- it`s not safe to share information with the commander in chief. I can`t speak to the accuracy of that report, but as I said, I sure hope it`s not true.
MADDOW: Ned price, former spokesman and analyst at the CIA, former spokesman and senior director at the National Security Council, recently resigned from the CIA because of the direction of this administration -- Mr. Price, thank you very much for talking with us tonight, and good luck. Stay in touch.
PRICE: Thanks very much.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
All right. As I mentioned tonight, we are doing a double header. We`re doing sort of a feature on high-ranking influential officials who have found that they can no longer continue to serve in our government because of the direction of the new administration. Up next, our second guest, an official who has just resigned from a very important and influential government job. She joins us next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: When she was still in California, Ann Ravel led the first ever investigation that specifically named the Koch brother`s network for the way its members moved money around in the shadows. Over the ever lasting protests of the Koch brothers, Ann Ravel, California regulator, she put in the writing. She called out the, quote, "Koch brothers` dark money network" and demanded one of the network members pay a million-dollar fine for violating campaign finance rules.
And if that didn`t put enough of a target on her back, the week after she announced that decision, Ann Ravel started her new job in Washington. She started work as President Obama`s new appointee to the Federal Election Commission.
And the makeup of that organization is an important thing. It traditionally has six members -- three Democrats and three Republicans -- and you need four members on it to do anything. And even though the FEC is in charge of a really important thing, they`re in charge of enforcing our nation`s laws about money in politics.
In recent years, that makeup of that body, that half Democratic/half Republican setup has meant the FEC doesn`t do much of anything. They don`t do very much enforcing of our laws on politics and money because they`re gridlocked. They`re locked in partisan stasis and Ann Ravel seemed frustrated about that almost from the start.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
INTERVIEWER: Would you say the FEC is more or less useless than men`s nipples?
ANN RAVEL, FEC COMMISSIONER: I would say that the FEC and men`s nipples are probably comparable. There are things that are done that have some value, just like men`s nipples.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Ann Ravel gave that heroic "Daily Show" interview in 2015.
I should tell you, her term on the FEC goes through April 30th. Conceivably, her time at the FEC could last well beyond that. It could stay as a holdover when your time expires, until the president appoints somebody new to replace you. All the other members of the FEC are holdovers right now.
But instead of hanging around for more of the same, this week, Ann Ravel filed a report on the commission`s dysfunction and deadlock -- her words, not mine -- dysfunction and deadlock -- and she quit. She submitted her resignation to the new president. She tells the "New York Times" now, quote, "I think I could be more effective on the outside."
We have heard that more than once today. We`ve heard that more than once in the last few minutes.
Joining us now is Ann Ravel. She`s the outgoing Democratic member of the Federal Election Commission who has just resigned.
Commissioner Ravel, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate you being here.
RAVEL: Thank you very much for inviting me.
MADDOW: I will not ask you about vestigial organs or anything about nipples.
RAVEL: I don`t have much more to say about them.
MADDOW: We`ve covered that material, very good.
MADDOW: You`re close to finishing your official term, as far as I could tell it would wrap up at the end of April this year. Why quit now? Why take this stand?
RAVEL: Well, it -- as you indicated, it has been clear to me that the agency is dysfunctional and that we`re unable to perform the functions that Congress intended that we would do and really the FEC, while it`s a little- known agency, it`s so important in establishing and maintaining the fairness of our electoral process.
So, I feel really committed to the work and -- that it needs to be done fairly and rationally. Also I`ve been an elected official -- not an elected, an official in public service for most of my career, and one of the things that is the hallmark of a public servant is that you are there to do the public`s work and if you`re not able to, then you can`t continue is my view.
And so, all of those things came together to make me realize that it made no sense for me to continue and that as the previous guest said, I could be more effective on the outside.
MADDOW: In making this exit, you have called on the new president to prioritize the reform of money in politics. Prioritize the reform of campaign finance to fix the political system that he described as broken.
Do you actually expect that from him? Do you think that this administration, that in this president, could be part of the solution to what you feel is so broken in this system that you`re quitting now?
RAVEL: Well, I wouldn`t say that I expect it. I always like to be optimistic and hope that because he was so clear about the terrible state of campaign finance when he was a candidate and how he wasn`t beholden to anybody like all the other candidates were that maybe he will take that to heart and do something about campaign finance. But, obviously, after my time in Washington, I`m also cynical. And so, I think it will be unlikely, especially given who he has surrounded himself with, for example, who his general counsel is.
MADDOW: His general counsel is somebody who has a past on the FEC, who served their under George W. Bush, Don McGahn. He`s obviously been one of the more controversial members of the new administration in terms of what he`s been involved with. He`s also somebody who sort of credited or blamed with bringing about the kind of gridlock that you have named and shamed at that commission.
When you think about that past, when you look at the appointment this is president has made, are you at all worried about who he`s going to replace you with? I mean, by tradition, Senate Democrats would be picking somebody to replace you because there would be another Democrat who would put on the commission.
There`s no law that says the president has to give that deference to the Democratic Party.
MADDOW: There`s no law that says he can`t just pick somebody else who he wants to fill your seat, even somebody who would absolutely not be a choice of any Democratic Party.
MADDOW: Do you worry at all that he`s going to go really off the reservation with his choice to replace you?
RAVEL: Well, I think he may go off the reservation with regard to the replacements at the commission, but I don`t think that my leaving makes any difference in that. Because as you said, all of the commissioners are holdovers. Many of them probably on the Republican side would like to go into the administration.
So, the likelihood is that the president will replace, at least, four of the members of the commission. So, my leaving makes no difference.
MADDOW: I will get back to you on that when we see who he picks for your seat.
And, you know, he doesn`t even have to fill my seat. He could remove one of the other commissioners and fill that seat.
MADDOW: Well, we`ll see. At this point, the only thing I know for sure is that we shouldn`t expect that previous political norms will be followed. That`s the one thing we`ve learned in the last --
RAVEL: I don`t disagree.
MADDOW: Ann Ravel, outgoing Democratic member of the Federal Election Commission, resigned your seat one month into this administration -- appreciate your time tonight. Do please stay in touch. Interested to hear what the next chapter is from you, ma`am.
RAVEL: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Programming note: tomorrow night on this network, we are doing a thing. My show will be here tomorrow night at 9:00 Eastern.
But then right after the show tomorrow night, there`s a thing. It`s going to be this, "Trump: The First Month." I`m going to be co-hosting that along with Brian Williams. We`re going to have Chris Matthews and all the rest of our MSNBC colleagues.
It`s an in-depth. Expect a rollicking look at what has happening this first month. And what it means for what`s going to happen next in our country. Again, "Trump: The First Month", that`s tomorrow night, 10:00 p.m. Eastern. We`ll go until midnight. Change your plans.
I`ll be right back.
MADDOW: So last night, we did a story about this Vladimir Putin-connected, super sketchy, Russian-speaking Ukrainian oligarch who also has connections to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.
This Oligarch has been stuck in legal limbo in Austria for three years now. American prosecutors have been trying to get Austrians to -- the Austrians to extradite him to the United States. A grand jury in the United States has indicted him on bribery charges and during the Obama administration, federal prosecutors in the United States wanted to bring him to this country to face bribery charges.
Well, today, was a test of whether or not the Trump Justice Department would proceed with that legal effort. And today, an Austrian court said, yes, he can be extradited to the United States. Austrian court said this oligarch, his name is Dmitry Firtash, the court in Austria said he should be extradited to the United States.
OK, interesting, right? No, we still don`t actually know what`s going to happen here. This is where things get nutty, because there`s yet another twist to this amazing story. After today`s ruling in this courtroom in Vienna, he left with his lawyers and his supporters, headed to the courthouse elevator, got in, took the elevator down to the first floor. But when he got off, watch what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police! Police! Everybody, step back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: When he got off the elevate we are police officers were waiting there to arrest him. What?
That was unexpected. Police took him away. And what they arrested him for, has nothing to do with the American charges that he was just in a hearing about on the other floor of that courthouse.
Turns out, Spain also made an extradition request for that same guy for a different case. They want him to be extradited to Spain to face charges in that country. And even though the Spanish made that request last year, Austria decided that today, minutes after his American extradition hearing, today that would be as good a time as any to arrest him on those other European charges.
So, frankly, right now, it`s anybody`s guess as to how this effects whether or not this guy gets extradited to the U.S. Maybe he`ll get extradited to Spain instead.
We raised this last night, this is worth following from an American perspective because of the open question as to whether the Justice Department under the Trump administration is going to go after Putin`s friends, whether the Trump administration Justice Department would go after a Putin-linked oligarch. Would they bring him back to this country to face charges or would they let it slide?
We still don`t know if he`s coming back to this country to face charges. It got really weird today in that courthouse elevator. We`ll stay on it. I don`t know. Watch this space.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll 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
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