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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 3/9/2017

Guests: Daniel Fried

Show: The Rachel Maddow Show Date: March 9, 2017 Guest: Daniel Fried

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


MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. We`ve got a big show tonight. I`m glad you`re here for it. I want to tell you in terms of the way the show is going to go.

We`ve only got one guest booked for this evening. We feel very lucky to have him. He`s the longest-standing senior member of the U.S. Foreign Service.

He served under President Obama and under President George W. Bush before that and under President Clinton before that and under President George H.W. Bush before that and under Reagan before that and under Carter before that. He has been there a long time.

He is a pillar of the U.S. State Department. He`s part of its institutional memory. He has been in the room for basically every important negotiation, every standoff, every big development, particularly between the United States and Russia for decades.

And we`ve got him here tonight because he`s out now. He`s gone. The Trump folks chose not to keep him on. He was actually -- I said he was the most senior diplomat in the Foreign Service -- he was actually the third-most senior diplomat in the foreign service until a few weeks ago. Then the Trump administration got rid of the number one and number two most senior people ahead of him in the foreign service, so that did make him the most senior person still standing -- but now he`s out, too.

I mean, think about that for a second. After he was initially hired into the Foreign Service in 1977, five subsequent presidents of both parties thought it would be a good idea to keep him on, right? That his deep understanding, his knowledge of all the players and so many of the secrets it would make him an indispensable asset, particularly when it comes to dealing with Russia. Which makes sense, right?

I mean, you want to avoid getting rolled. You want to avoid getting outmaneuvered or tricked. Particularly when we are a country where leaders turn over every few years and -- I mean, in Russia, Vladimir Putin has been in charge for 17 years and counting, right? That`s a disadvantage for us in terms of knowing the players, having a long-term plan, right?

It makes sense in that environment that you would hold on in the U.S. government to the people who know their way around this particular block, right? That`s how you end up with a guy like him, you know, the most senior diplomat America has. That`s how you end up with a guy like Dan Fried, overseeing the U.S. sanctions against Russia for Russia did in Ukraine and Crimea.

Russia hates those sanctions more than they love life. They hate those sanctions. So, of course, you need your toughest and most experienced guy running those sanctions. Or you did. Like I said, he`s gone from the State Department now. Like every other person who had as much seniority as him at the State Department, all gone.

He`s going to be here on set tonight, in his personal capacity as a former ambassador. We are very, very lucky to have him. The new administration may not want the benefit of his expertise in terms of figuring out what Russia is up to with us right now but I do. I mean, we can all benefit from it as a country as we figure out what`s going on right now with this presidency and with Russia in particular.

Russia and Putin`s antipathy toward Hillary Clinton from her time as secretary of state, Russia`s antipathy and loathing and fear of the U.S. State Department in general, those two -- those things that we know about Russia they put a worrying cast over how successfully the new administration here has hollowed out and emptied out the U.S. State Department in just the few weeks since then been in charge. Given how we know Russia feels about the State Department, seeing what`s happening to the State Department under this current administration is worrying and raises all sorts of questions about the connections between this current administration and Russia.

So, we are going to hear from former Ambassador Dan Fried in person in just a few minutes tonight. He is our solo guest.

We led last night -- we led last night`s show with news about the Russia connections to the new administration and what we are continuing to learn about those connections. What`s getting to be, I think, particularly unsettling is that simultaneously we are right now what`s going on, I think, is that we are number one nailing down more direct connections between the Trump campaign and the Russian government at the time the Russian government was influencing our election. And number two, at the same time, we are starting to see what may be signs of continuing influence in our country. Not just during the campaign but during the administration, basically signs of what could be a continuing operation. And those two things together are worth paying attention to.

So, tonight, let`s start with the first one. Let`s start with evidence that we`re getting and evidence that we`ve got of direct Russian government connections with the Trump campaign, during the campaign, while the Russian government was interfering in our election to try to elect Trump.

For months, the Trump campaign denied full stop that anybody associated with their campaign had any ties with Russia or any contacts with Russia full stop. One of the revelations of the last few days is that a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, one of five people he named as his foreign policy advisers during the campaign not only traveled to Moscow last summer, in July, we now know that he got authorization from the Trump campaign at the time to take that trip to Moscow.

That trip was in July of last year, it was just before the Republican convention. A week later, Trump officials at the Republican convention pushed the Republican Party platform on one issue and one issue only -- they wanted language about Russia significantly softened in the Republican Party platform. There had been a proposed plank for the platform that said the Republican Party believed the United States should support Ukraine in any way that we could up to and including providing them weapons, so they could fight off Russian incursions into Ukraine.

That was the proposed plank in the Republican Party platform. The Trump folks didn`t care about anything else. They fought for nothing else in the platform but they fought that. They fought to change that to a softer more pro-Russian stance.

And this is worrying in part because this is what was described in that British dossier, right, of alleged Russian dirt on Donald Trump. This dynamic was described as what Russian wanted as a quid pro quo for its intervention on Trump`s behalf in the presidential election.

I mean, part of what the dossier says is this, quote, "The operation", meaning the effort to influence our election, "that has been conducted with the full knowledge and support of Trump and senior members of his campaign team. In return, in return, the Trump team has agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue."

So, that is from that dossier of alleged Russian dirt on Donald Trump, right? This dossier is still considered to be mostly uncorroborated but it`s overall allegation is that the Trump folks knew, the Trump folks knew about the Russian campaign to interfere in our election, they supported it, they cooperated with it, and in exchange, they made promises to the Russians. They promised specifically to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue.

Well, we don`t have evidence, we don`t have corroborating evidence of the first part of that, that the Trump folks were in on it, they were cooperating, they were corroborating, that they were colluding with this. We don`t have evidence of that part of it.

But we definitely do have evidence of the second part of it. We do have evidence the Trump campaign was working to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue. We have belated evidence of that, but we`ve now got it.

After Mr. Trump and his campaign manager both initially denied having anything to do with the platform change, a Trump campaign official now admits that the campaign pushed to soften the Russian language in the platform. It says it was done specifically at Trump`s request.

The other piece of it we learned last night in "Politico" is that a Russian citizen who worked for the Trump campaign manager in Ukraine, worked for Paul Manafort when Manafort was working in Ukraine, that Russian citizen visited the United States around the time of the Republican convention. He later claimed to have been responsible for getting the Trump campaign to get the Russia language softened in the Republican Party platform.

"Politico" reports that this Russian citizen, Konstantin Kilimnik, "Politico" reports that he`s now under scrutiny by U.S. authority, including the FBI. So, again, there`s two things we`re tracking here, right? The first one is direct links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign while the Russian attack on our election was under way.

And to that point, there is a second beat on this story that you need to know, in terms of this softening the Russian language and the Republican platform. There`s a second beat on this you should know. Back in August, there was some additional reporting on this particular Russian guy who used to work with Paul Manafort, used to work with Trump`s campaign manager in Ukraine. We now know he traveled to the U.S. ahead of the Republican convention.

He may have been involved. He says he was involved in making the Republican Party`s platform more pro-Russia. Well, that guy, that Russian guy back in August when there was a lot of attention to Paul Manafort, to Trump having a campaign manager with tons of Russian ties and lots of experience working in that part of the world. At that time, in August of last year, "Politico" profiled this Russian guy who was Paul Manafort`s right hand man in his previous work in Ukraine.

And one of the things they turned up about this Russian guy is that he very proudly admitted that he was Russian intelligence. He at one point had a job working at the International Republican Institute, their office in Moscow. When he applied for the job, he apparently told the IRI that he learned his language skills, that he built up his resume in the GRU, which is Russian military intelligence.

Quoting from "Politico", one of their sources, "It was like, oh, yeah, Kostya, the guy from the GRU." That`s how we talked about him.

Quote, "The institute was informed that he was GRU, but it didn`t matter because they weren`t doing anything sensitive."

They knew he was Russian military intelligence but that was OK, it was a Moscow office. They weren`t doing anything sensitive so it`s okay he was Russian military intelligence. But then he turns up in a U.S. presidential campaign at the Republican National Convention changing the Republican Party`s platform on Russia to make it more pro-Putin and he`s a GRU guy? He`s a Russian military intelligence guy?

So, this is what we`ve been piecing together in recent days as more and more parts of this story get corroborated, more connections between not just Trump and people with Russian connections, but connections between the Trump campaign and the actual Russian government and Russian intelligence during the time that the Russian government and Russian intelligence were mounting an operation against us, against our election to try to affect the outcome.

And the worry, right, is that that`s not a coincidence. If there were multiple contacts not just with random Russians but Russians connected to that government, and if those connections weren`t happening at a random time, they were happening while Russia was mounting a U.S. operation against the U.S., and it wasn`t happening behind a veil of ignorance, we had no idea.

It was happening while there were public news reports about the Russians trying to interfere in our election, then what were they talking about? Why were those contacts between the Trump campaign and all these Russians? What were those contacts about?

Why did Trump advisers need to go to Russia then? Why did the Russian ambassador need to meet with Jeff Sessions then? Why did the Russian intelligence guy have to go to Cleveland then?

And if the reason for all of those things is the worst-case scenario, right, if it`s -- you know, that the Trump folks whether or not blind to what the Russian government was doing, they are in on the Russian government`s scheme.

Well, if the worst-case scenario is true -- and we are building day by day a new piece of that everyday, well, that brings us to the second concern, that the Russians didn`t choose to effect our election, they didn`t interfere with our election, they didn`t mount this huge op against our election for kicks. They weren`t doing it for fun and they weren`t doing it for free. They expected payback, they expected a return on their investment.

And if so, who here thinks they`d be satisfied with a weakening of the Ukraine plank in the Republican Party platform as their payment, right? That`s not the sort of payback they`d be satisfied with, right? And that`s part of why we`ve been putting a spotlight on the drastic cuts and hollowing out of the U.S. State Department under President Trump.

When Vladimir Putin runs up against American power and American criticism and American leadership that reminds him of what Russia isn`t, when he runs up against people who he worries are funding his dissidents or supporting protests against him, when he runs up against criticism of the way he runs his own country, what he`s running up against is the State Department, right?

Silencing the U.S. State Department, putting a friend of Vladimir Putin`s in charge at the U.S. State Department, who stands by quietly while the State Department gets hollowed out, gets gutted, that`s a dream for the Russian government, right? That`s a dream for Putin.

But there`s one last point here to keep in mind and it is about the other part of the U.S. government besides the State Department that I think Putin and Russia probably most fantasize about hurting. Go back for a second to that Republican convention last summer. Remember, that platform fight over softening the Russia language and the Ukraine plank. That happened about a week after one of Trump`s foreign policy advisers took that campaign- authorized trip to Moscow.

Well, about a week after that platform fight, the day after the Republican convention ended, there was another political bomb that was dropped on the U.S. presidential election from Russia. The day after the Republican convention ended, right before the Democratic Convention began we got what U.S. intelligence agencies believed to be the next big Russian incursion into our election. We got the first WikiLeaks dump.

We got the first WikiLeaks publication of documents hacked and stolen by Russian government sources from the DNC, from the Democratic Party, and they started publishing those stolen documents from the DNC right before the Democrats started their convention. That`s how the Democrats got to start their nominating convention, with the chair of the party resigning and the party and campaign being blindsided by selectively curated and selectively released documents designed to make the Democratic Party look as terrible as possible.

Good timing, right? Good political timing if you`re trying to help Trump and hurt the Democrats. What was particularly impressive by the Trump campaign at the time is how they were so organized around the WikiLeaks stuff. They were able to jump right on those WikiLeaks releases and instantly dovetail their own message with the curated point of the WikiLeaks dump which was to highlight and deepen and aggravate the rift between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders wings of the Democratic Party.

The Trump campaign turned on a dime instantly as soon as those WikiLeaks dumps started. That was their new message. They were right on it.

And by the end of that month, by the end of August, what was weird on the Trump side, was that people close to Trump were apparently in the know on what was going to come next from WikiLeaks, on what the next batch of Russian hacks documents was going to be. This is from an informal campaign adviser of Donald Trump. A long time associate of Donald Trump.

See the date on that, August 21st? Eerily uncannily in the know, "Trust me, it will soon be Podesta`s time." Eerily in the know that John Podesta would be next somehow, trust me.

Well, then, a few weeks later, October 7th, indeed, WikiLeaks released its whole new dump. A whole new bunch of e-mails and documents, this time from Clinton campaign chief John Podesta, e-mails that U.S. intelligence say were hacked by Russia. Apparently, again, they were waiting for the best possible timing on the release.

The John Podesta WikiLeaks dump came just about one hour after the "Access Hollywood" tape was published. The "I like to grab them by the p-word" tape, one hour after that came out is when WikiLeaks dropped the first tranche of John Podesta e-mails hacked by the Russians. And then they went on to release more and more and more of the John Podesta e-mails almost everyday until the election.

And the Democratic Party likes to remind people that the Russian force around that was very strong, remarkably strong. Like that day in October when Russian state television was magically able to tweet about the next release of John Podesta e-mails. The sixth release of John Podesta e-mails even before WikiLeaks released them. What? Look at the time stamps on these two tweets.

There`s Russia Today on the left tweeting "The new e-mails, the sixth batch of Podesta e-mails is out". They`re tweeting at 8:09 a.m., and then at, oh, look, 8:38 a.m., the documents are actually out that really is breaking news. You broke the news the stuff had been released even before it was released. How did you know it was coming?

Russia Today, how did you know it was coming?

WikiLeaks is a lot of things. This past year, WikiLeaks was a tool of Russian intelligence and the Russian government and their interference operation against the American presidential election to benefit Donald Trump. There is also evidence that the people close -- that people close to the Trump campaign had advanced notice of WikiLeaks actions and may have had direct contact with WikiLeaks itself while they were releasing those documents from the Democratic Party, from the Clinton campaign.

And here`s where it comes home, because if you are worried about whether Russia is getting paid back now, if you are worried that Russia may be reaping its reward, maybe getting what it wants out of the United States government as payback for running the successful op that helped install the new head of the American government, that helped install this new American president -- well, I mean, if you look, for example, at the State Department and worry that Putin loves to see the state department wither on the vine while the new secretary of state doesn`t peep about it at all, well, consider what the other U.S. agency is besides the State Department that Putin most hates? That Putin most feels competitive with? That Putin most wants to beat?

It`s the CIA, right? Spy versus spy. Putin is ex-KGB. He`s an ex-FSB officer.

This week, WikiLeaks released what`s being described as a devastating dump of CIA cyber war tools. WikiLeaks described it as the entire cyber arsenal of the CIA. The CIA itself won`t put that fine a point on it, but smart observers say this is the largest dump of classified CIA material maybe ever, and it really could be a devastating blow to the CIA`s cyber war and flat-out spying capabilities, and that dump was released by WikiLeaks the day before yesterday, on Tuesday.

Today, at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has lived for almost five years hiding from rape charges in his native Sweden, today a man named Nigel Farage, not the guy in the foreground there, but the guy in the background, he was seen leaving the Ecuadorian embassy where Julian Assange lives. He later told BuzzFeed when they asked him what he`d been doing there that he couldn`t remember why he was at the building today. He just left the building. He couldn`t remember why he was there.

Nigel Farage, even if you don`t follow British politics, he`s a British politician but you may recognize him from his frequent visits to the United States, for example, his time at Trump Tower. You may recognize him from his time on the campaign trail with Donald Trump. Nigel Farage, you may also recognize from the recent sighting we had of him eating dinner with Donald Trump at his D.C. hotel and restaurant two weeks ago.

Well, that Nigel Farage was at WikiLeaks headquarters today in London right before WikiLeaks gave their big press conferences about destroying the cyber capabilities of the CIA.

Russian government attacked our election. Russian government was in contact with multiple Trump campaign sources while they were doing it. Russian nemesis in the American government, U.S. State Department, CIA, are not faring well since Donald Trump came to power.

Is the operation that Russia started during the campaign, is it over? Or are they still running it? Are we still in this now?

Stay with us.


MADDOW: This video was taken outside Senator Tom Cotton`s field office in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was taken at the end of January. I point out it was taken outside that office because the constituents of his who shot the video, they were never allowed inside the office.


SEN. TOM COTTON STAFFER: This is from our D.C. staff -- we are unable to have anyone in the office because of recent threats that we have had. I`ll be happy to pass anything over to the senator if you`d like to tell me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, we can`t meet with anybody from the senator`s office or the senator`s staff who are -- no?

SEN. TOM COTTON STAFFER: As of right now, we`ve been told by security that we can`t because of the threats (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m no threat to the senator or his staff.

SEN. TOM COTTON STAFFER: I understand that.


MADDOW: Here`s a thing you should know about Senator Tom Cotton. He`s seen as a real rising star in the Republican Party. He`s the youngest member of the United States Senate, routinely described as an up and comer.

He`s known for his efforts to scale back legal immigration. Legal. He wants to stop legal immigrants from coming to this country. That`s very popular in Republican politics right now.

And, of course, he has been an absolute champion of the idea of getting rid of Obamacare, scrapping the Affordable Care Act. But, you know, his constituent this is year have had some things to say about these matters to Senator Cotton. In January, his offices stopped answering their phones and, as we saw here, stopped letting anyone inside their offices. They also started cancelling meets with constituent groups.

And the senator got a ton of blowback. He became the star of fake missing person`s signs, encouraging folks to call if they saw him and also to call him and ask why he had been missing while his constituents were looking for him. Members of the local Ozark Indivisible group started showing up regularly in droves outside his local offices. One organizer told "The Arkansas Times", quote, "If they don`t hear us face to face, maybe they`ll hear us outside."

The pressure finally became a big enough deal at home in Arkansas that Senator Cotton said OK, OK, OK. He called the head of Ozark Indivisible, called her on her cell phone and said he would hold a town hall event within the coming weeks. And the logistical drama around that was a real thing. It was never quite clear if the event would really happen. His office kept changing the location and not just once or twice but a bunch of times.

In fact, because the logistics and venue moved so many times, a lot of people who wanted to go to the town hall worried that folks ultimately wouldn`t know where it was or when it was and nobody would show up. But it turns out, you know what? People found it, everybody got there just fine.

And when it came time for people to tell the senator what they had on their minds and ask him their questions, turns out there was kind of a theme.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`ve got a husband dying and we can`t afford -- let me tell you something, if you can get us better coverage than this, go for it. Let me tell you what we have, plus a lot of benefits that we need. We have $29 per month for my husband. Can you beat that? Can you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I unfortunately inherited an incurable genetic connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome or EDS. EDS weakens my heart and veins, it paralyzes my stomach, affects and weakens my immune system. Without the coverage for pre-existing conditions, I will die. That is not hyperbole. I will die. Without the protections against lifetime coverage caps, I will die.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What will you do to ensure that the protections inherent in the ACA aka Obamacare, will continue.

SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: Some of the regulations that we`ve been talking about will also be present in the future system as well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you guarantee that?

COTTON: That`s my support -- that`s what I`m voting for.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know you support that, Senator. But what I`m asking is how will you ensure it? You`ve pledged yourself to repeal, but you have not talked that much about replacement.

COTTON: We`ll go through the legislative process and I`m make it clear what I support, don`t support and what I think is good for Arkansas.


COTTON: We have a lot of folks -- we have a lot of folks that need to ask their questions and I`d like to get to them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, before you answer theirs -- ask theirs, I would appreciate it if you would answer mine.



MADDOW: So, that was last month, during the congressional recess. Tom Cotton at home in Arkansas. Since then, the Senate has come back into session. Senator Cotton and his fellow lawmakers are back in D.C. and Republicans are split, they are divided about what to do with the repeal to feel Affordable Care Act. That`s topic that Senator Cotton was really berated for at that town hall event that almost did not happen.

Last night, two committees in the house were up all night long trying to get a version of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act passed. House Republicans are just fighting tooth and nail to pass it in the House, to try to get it into the Senate, to try to make it then so that the Senate will get on board. But you know who one of the Republican senators is who`s not on board with this anymore? Senator Tom Cotton.

He started the day by tweeting this. "To my friends in the House, start over. Pause. Start over. Get it right. Don`t get it fast."

Senator Cotton has campaigned on wanting to kill Obamacare. He voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act back in January, but he now says, despite these marathon all-night sessions going on in the House, Republicans need to do better, they need to start over, they need to come up with something that the Senate says will actually reduce prices for insurance and keep it affordable.

And who knows what exactly changed Tom Cotton`s mind on this. I mean, maybe it was that woman who said her husband was dying and only alive thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Maybe it was the young woman on your right side of your screen who said that without the treatment she could only receive through the Affordable Care Act she herself would be dead.

Maybe it was them. Maybe it was not one moment in particular but as a general matter, there`s a reason people turn up to try to pressure their member of Congress. There`s a reason people pause their lives to engage in political activism and pressure their local political leaders. Because as a whole, even if you can`t identify any one instance, as a whole pressure works and sometimes it starts with something as simple as pushing the button on the intercom.

We`ll be --


MADDOW: So the foreign minister of Mexico is this man. He was in Washington, D.C. today. According to an official press release from his office, he held meetings today with three top people in the White House, with the economic adviser Gary Cohn, the former president of Goldman Sachs, with the national security adviser, General H.R. McMaster, and with Jared, with the president`s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.

Nowhere to be found with on that list, the Mexican foreign minister`s official counterpart in our government, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

So, this is a perfect example as to why the newly reinstated State Department press briefings are a useful thing. We haven`t had them for weeks now, but they`ve just come back. We didn`t have one in person today, we just had one by phone and on the phone one today, reporters made a point of asking, hey, what gives about this visit? Why isn`t U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meeting with his Mexican counterpart while all the other people in the administration are?


TRACY WILKINSON, LOS ANGELES TIMES: I see that the foreign minister of Mexico is in town, Luis Videgaray, meeting with, according to the Mexicans, Kushner, Gary Cohn and McMaster. Is there no State Department meeting with him? And if not, why not?

MARK TONER, ACTING STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: Tracy, good question. We`ll take that and get back to you. I was unaware that he was -- the foreign minister was in town. And I`m not sure -- I can`t speak to whether there`s going to be any meetings at the State Department at any level.



MADDOW: They had no idea. Really?

What was it? "I was unaware the foreign minister was in town." The foreign minister of our neighbor and close ally is in Washington? Today?

You know, we`re a little short staff, haven`t been picking up our messages, we suspended the in-house newsletter, the mimeo is broken, also bulletin board is being cleaned. I had no idea.

Hello, anybody home? Is anybody home?

Since his arrival, the new secretary of state has not held a single press conference. On his first big trip to Europe last month for the G20 summit, Rex Tillerson said less than 50 words in total in response to press questions, and while his silence and refusal to answer reporters` questions is one thing, the hallowing out of the State Department, the erasure of institutional memory in that agency on his brief watch, that`s something else entirely.

Right after Secretary Tillerson was sworn in, four of the top career diplomats at the department were told their services were no longer needed. These are career non-partisan apolitical staffers with a combined 150 years of experience at the State Department gone, just like that right off the top.

That was followed by more senior staff layoffs last month and so far, at least, the people being let go are not being replaced. Tillerson himself has no deputy, for example. Latest plans from the administration call for a 37 percent cut to the agency`s budget, 37 percent. So far, there has been no sign of any public pushback against that from the secretary of state.

When NBC`s Andrea Mitchell shouted a question to him about it a few days ago, he smiled and pretended he didn`t hear her asking but gave no answer. The primary agency responsible for rallying U.S.-led interests around the world appears to be having the air sucked out of it. If you are Russia and you are looking at that right now, do you love what you are seeing?

You might be happy, I`m not sure, but you might be happy to see this guy exiting stage left. Until very recently, he was the third-most senior diplomat in the Foreign Service. He`s America`s longest-serving diplomat. He served six presidents over a 40-year career dating back to the Carter administration. He`s the department`s foremost Russia expert and he, too, is now leaving at a time when arguably the State Department needs it most, the State Department will not have the benefit of his insight going forward.

We will, though, and that`s because he joins us here next. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Allow me to quote. "My 40 years in the foreign service and the careers of many of my friends became associated with the fall of the Soviet Empire and the putting in order of what came after -- the building of a Europe whole, free, and at peace. It`s hard to recall today how improbable victory in the Cold War appeared.

For two generations up through the mid-1980s, many thought we were losing the Cold War, even in early 1989, few believed that Poland`s solidarity movement could win, that the Iron Curtain would come down, that the Baltic states could be free, that the second of the 20th century`s great evils, communism, could be vanquished without war, but it happened and the West`s great institutions, NATO and the E.U., grew to embrace 100 million liberated Europeans.

It was my honor to have done what I could do to help. I learned to never underestimate the possibility of change, that values have power and that time and patience can pay off, especially if you`re serious about your objectives. Nothing can be taken for granted and this great achievement is now under assault by Russia. But what we did in my time is no less honorable. It is for the present generation to defend."

That is from the farewell speech of Ambassador Daniel Fried, former Ambassador Daniel Fried. He recently retired from the State Department after 40 years of service across the globe. He`s here in his personal capacity, not as a U.S. government official.

Ambassador Fried, thank you so much for being here tonight. I really appreciate it.


MADDOW: I`ve never read the parting speech of a former diplomat leaving the State Department before, but I read yours because it was recommended to me by so many people as a seminal view of where we are in the world. Do you feel like we are at a pivot point in world history in terms of the Western liberal order?

FRIED: We did really well for a generation after 1989 and the fall of communism. Our liberal values expanded in the world, our prosperity expanded. We did well. That`s under assault. But it`s also being questioned from within the West. People are questioning whether this is the way to go and that does worry me, sure.

MADDOW: Your pointed comments in your farewell address and elsewhere about Russia, notes just the questioning from within but the assault by Russia on this, that carries a lot of weight because of your expertise on Russia and your involvement in relations with Russia over the decades. Is this -- is what we`re seeing now, what we`re newly recognizing and focusing on now in America, is this just the latest iteration of what Russia has been involved with for a long time or are they involved in something new and newly aggressive?

FRIED: We Americans are focused on Russia`s attacks with our electoral system and we`re consumed with that. But Russia is pushing against the West generally. In my view, Putin despises the West in general and the United States in particular, both for who we are, our liberal values, and for what we`ve done, which is to take down the Soviet Empire.

And I think now, Russia is pushing against the West in general, not just the United States but the institutions of the West, the key governments in the West using a variety of tools, as well as military assault on Ukraine.

MADDOW: In terms of what Russia -- if Russia had a magic and with, what they would do to the United States if they could. What do you think they`re doing --

FRIED: Diminish US.

MADDOW: Diminish us?

FRIED: Diminish us across the board. They do not wish us well. They are the adversary, they -- we`re the adversary they love to hate. They want to bring us down to make them feel better about the failure of the Soviet Union. I don`t mean bring us down as in collapse, but bring us down a notch in a big way.

What they want to do is undermine the Western liberal order. The sense the great democracies of the world -- Europe, the United States, Japan, others -- are going to set the agenda for the world. They want to bring that down.

MADDOW: What`s the best way to do that if you`re Russia?

FRIED: Undermine the West and its institutions, create doubts about NATO, create doubts about the European Union, support nationalists on the right just as the Soviet communists supported communists on the left. Weaken the West in general and create an atmosphere in which we`re uncertain about ourselves.

MADDOW: On that point of nationalism, I feel like Americans have always studied nationalism as a foreign phenomenon. And now, we`ve got a nationalist movement in our country that has a very articulate spokesman in the senior counselor to the president, for example, and I don`t think we have thought of ourselves, at least in a modern iteration, as being a nationalist country or a country that has nationalist movements.

When you say that it helps Russia to undermine -- in its project of undermining the West to support nationalism, how does nationalism abroad and in the United States undermine the West and the liberal order in general?

FRIED: Well, think of Europe in the 20th century. Two World Wars generated by nationalism. France, Germany, Britain fighting with each other.

Now, the United States comes in in 1945 and we basically blow the whistle. Two World Wars are sufficient and we are the ones who supported this notion of a united Europe, so there would never be another set of civil wars in Europe again, ever. That was a fabulous success. It was so fabulous that people now take it for granted

And the European Union, OK, right, it has a bureaucracy, right. It`s sometimes difficult to deal with but so what? You hire a couple of people like me to work the European Union, and it can be done. It`s pretty good.

I mean, European Union, difficult compared to what? Say organizing D-Day? The West in its modern form since 1945 is a miracle, and that`s in our American interests. It`s its good that the West is strong and at peace, and we should want more of that, not less.

MADDOW: How worried are you that it is fundamentally at risk right now?

FRIED: Worried, I think the West is in a low point we haven`t seen since the 1930s. We`re a little bit low in the 1970s, right, post-Vietnam, Watergate era, malaise, all that, but this is more like the 1930s where the very notion of liberal democracy is being questioned, and that is disturbing.

MADDOW: Our guest is former Ambassador Daniel Fried. He`s very recently retired from the State Department after 40 years of service, a senior Foreign Service officer.

Ambassador Fried, I want to ask you about your beloved State Department if you don`t mind staying for one more segment.

FRIED: Sure, sure.

MADDOW: We`ll be right back with Dan Fried in just a moment.


MADDOW: We`re back with Ambassador Daniel Fried, who`s a very senior Foreign Service officer, very recently retired from the State Department after 40 years of service.

Mr. Ambassador, I just did want to ask you, did you -- had the Trump administration asked you to stay, would you have stayed? You stayed through six other presidents.

FRIED: Well, we`ll never know because they didn`t ask me. Now, they didn`t fire me. They didn`t ask me to stay and 40 years seemed like enough.

MADDOW: One of the things that I am worried about as a layman who has never been -- had any direct expertise in these matters at all is that I see you after 40 years and I see the handful of other people, maybe two other people who had a little more years in service than you, all of these people combined -- you know, well over a century experience, all of these people who have been there through all these presidents, all gone, all at once, are we right to see that this is at least unusual, that this many senior people leaving at the start of the administration is not par for the course?

FRIED: Well, the usual practice is that the people in their jobs keep their jobs until their successors are named. Now, that`s the way the Bush administration treated the Clinton people. And that`s the way the Obama administration treated the Bush people.

Same thing. Thank you for your service and please stick around until a successor is named. So, you have the A team. And both the Bush people and Obama people had no problem working with the holdovers. They weren`t out to get them.

And that was pretty smooth, because you don`t want something to go wrong when you have a whole senior level of actings. That`s not a position you want to be in.

MADDOW: But to be clear, what you`re saying is in the Trump administration, all the senior people were cleared out.

FRIED: Not all of them but a lot of them. And it`s OK to replace your team, but usually you want them to be in place until the new people are confirmed.

MADDOW: And in this case, that has not happened?

FRIED: And that just in terms of capacity, that`s of concern. I just hope they move quickly.

MADDOW: Ambassador Daniel Fried, thank you very much for taking this time tonight. It`s really good to have you. I hope you`ll come back.

FRIED: Thank you.

MADDOW: Thank you.

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


MADDOW: We have news tonight about a new legal challenge to the president`s Muslim ban, the second version of the Muslim ban that was introduced this week. We reported last night that the state of Hawaii had filed the first lawsuit in federal court yesterday challenging the new Muslim ban. Well, now, tonight, the attorney general of Washington state has announced that he will also be challenging it, along with the state of Massachusetts.

Now, the Washington state entry here is very interesting, because Attorney General Bob Ferguson, his last challenge to the first version of the ban is what stopped it in its track. He won that huge ruling against the first version of the Muslim ban that resulted in it being stopped dead in the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

Well, tonight, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson says he believes that same ruling that stopped the first version of the ban should still apply to the second version of the ban because it is basically the same ban. It is basically the same policy.

You can hear that argument from him in person right now because he`s about to be a guest on "THE LAST WORD" with Ari Melber.

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

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Ari Melber, sitting in for Lawrence tonight.

Good evening, Ari.


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