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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 4/14/2017

Guests: Sue Mi Terry, Scott Braden, Dan Rather

Show: The Rachel Maddow Show  Date: April 14, 2017 Guest: Sue Mi Terry, Scott Braden, Dan Rather

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: That is "ALL IN" for this evening, and, of course, you can catch me again tomorrow morning on my show, "A.M. JOY" at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel. And, you know, it used to be that I could look forward to a Friday of you making cocktail. That used to be the thing we could --


REID: Now, it`s nuclear war.

MADDOW: Now, it`s like nuclear war and me trying to persuade people don`t drink. Take care of yourself, take vitamins, exercise, your country needs you.

REID: I love you but I`m gonna go get a cocktail.

MADDOW: I understand.

Thank you, my dear. Thank you, Joy. Have a great weekend.

REID: You too.

MADDOW: And thanks to at home for joining us this hour.

You know, even though the weekend is coming up, Joy`s is starting right now. Even though the weekend is coming up, even though it is a holiday weekend for many people because of Easter, it is still likely to be a bit of a very busy few days in the news coming up even through the weekend and into the beginning of next week. This sort of an unusually forward-looking Friday night, usually at a time like this would be looking back at what happened over the past week.

Right now, we sort of on the precipice of a whole bunch of news that`s about to happen. Tomorrow in Washington, D.C., as Joy and other people have been reporting tonight, in D.C. and in dozens of cities around the country, there are going to be tax marches tomorrow Tax Day protests, April 15th protests basically against to the new president, Donald Trump. The tax marches specifically will be demanding that he should release his tax returns. He, of course, remains the only president in the modern era who has refused to do that.

Now, in terms of expectations we don`t expect those marches tomorrow to be as big as the marches that took place right after the inauguration, the women`s marches. I don`t know that any American protests will ever be fed big ever again. But still, what happens tomorrow might be the biggest anti-Trump protests that have happened since the women`s marches.

So, we shall see keep an eye out for that tomorrow in D.C. and in cities across the country. Also, expect over the course of this weekend, an increasing pace of legal pressure and media attention and political pressure maybe protests as well focusing on the state of Arkansas, because on Monday night, Arkansas is due to start this remarkable series of doubleheader executions, right? We talked about this last night. You`ve probably heard about this in the news.

Arkansas has scheduled eight executions. They plan to kill eight prisoners over the course of 10 days. Their plan is to kill two men a night on four different nights over a ten-day period starting on Monday. So far, the courts have blocked two of the eight planned killings, including one of the executions that was planned to be on Monday night.

This is a very unusual plan from Arkansas. No state has done a mass execution like this since capital punishment was reinstated in the 1970s. Arkansas has not executed anybody at all in 12 years. Arkansas has never executed anybody ever with one of the drugs that they are trying to rush to kill all these guys with.

I mean, the idea of a doubleheader execution even just one doubleheader execution, let alone four of them in a week and a half, that is something that other states with more experience of capital punishment, they have warned against doing that. They say trying to do two in one night makes it much, much harder on the execution staff and on the medical teams particularly if they are inexperienced. But again, that execution spree in Arkansas is supposed to start on Monday night. You will likely see a bunch of headlines about it late tonight, tomorrow and through the weekend.

Just tonight, just as I was coming down to the makeup room and then into the studio, just within the last few minutes, a court put in place a temporary restraining order that blocks the use of one of the three drugs the state was planning to use for these lethal injections and the court or that the court has just blocked this drug, that is not even the most controversial of the three drugs that they were planning on using.

So, that ruling was just tonight -- just happened within the last hour, the state says they are apparently going to appeal that ruling so we`ll see right now it`s a temporary restraining order that says the state can`t use for any of those executions, one of the drugs it was planning on. Expect the legal wrangling and the appeals and the political pressure and the media attention to stay heavy and to increase over the course of the weekend.

Again, Arkansas wanted to start killing those guys on Monday. Right now, it`s not clear they`ll be allowed to kill any of them.

On top of all that, there`s also gonna be a lot of electoral politics news over the next few days, because on Tuesday of next week, there`s that big congressional election in Georgia where Democrats are trying their darndest to take a congressional seat that has been red for decades. This is Health Secretary Tom Price`s old seat. Democrats have coalesced around a young Georgia Democrat named Jon Ossoff. They`re trying to turn the 6th district in Georgia into a blue seat.

Democrats think they`ve got a shot at winning this seat. Republicans say the Democrats have no chance. We will find out soon though. Early voting in that race ended today an election day itself will be on Tuesday. We should expect a lot of attention toward that over the weekend.

So, this has already been a very busy week in the news. Early next week is stacked up with a bunch of really big things in the news.

But before we even get to that stuff early next week, we do have to make it through tonight and this weekend, and part of the new uncertainty around that, the reason lots of people in the news business canceled plans for this weekend and everybody`s on call at least is because this weekend is the birthday of Kim Il-sung who`s the founding president of North Korea and, of course, it`s a birthday it happens every year. But this year, it is happening while we too in our country have a new president and our new president has just had a particularly bomby week, bomby as in bombs away, not balmy as in nice weather in Mar-a-Lago this weekend.

Last week, Thursday night, the new president abandoned his long-held public emphatic insistence that the United States should not launch attacks on Syria, even if Syria use chemical weapons. Last week, he threw that long- standing public throughout that long-standing public position what we believed to be the policy of the United States of America since he had campaigned on it and he`s commander-in-chief, he threw that policy on the window changed tack 180 degrees and a week ago last night launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base.

Now, this did not represent apparently some sort of deliberate change in U.S. policy towards Syria. It now seems clear that that missile strike was -- if anything -- an abandonment of what had been stated us policy in Syria. Part of the way you can tell that is that that missile strike has been followed by a week of confused, contradictory, all over the map statements from the administration about what that missile strike was for, why the United States did it, what it means about what we`re trying to get done in Syria in the larger sense that we now have started shooting missiles at their air bases.

I will say from a White House perspective, it seems that they are less concerned about the criticism of their incoherence on this matter and more just excited about how that missile strike got the president the first good round of press he has had in his entire presidency.

I mean, they do remain these niggling questions like what was that for? What is the United States trying to do in Syria? What are a thousand U.S. service members risking their lives for tonight in Syria? What is the U.S. mission in Syria? And does that missile strike help or hurt that mission? Those questions remain.

There also remains an interesting question of how the decision was made to launch that strike. The administration released, of course, this makeshift Situation Room photo from the night the strike was launched for a big change in course military decision, there are some unexpected staffers in the Situation Room who are apparently participating in that decision.

I mean, there`s the chief economic advisor to the president. There`s the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Goldman Sachs guy, what`s he doing there. There`s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross sitting right next to the president. The president`s 36-year-old son-in-law was there.

Also, Spicy`s they`re back in the corner, White House spokesman, why is he there? The guy from Breitbart is there, yes.

We do not see in this photo the Director of National Intelligence or the CIA director or any military personnel other than the one uniform gentlemen who is standing at the door.

Tonight, a former CIA official tells us that the reason the Director of Central Intelligence Mike Pompeo was not there in that room, in fact, he wasn`t in on the decision to launch that missile strike Syria is because he was giving a speech that night to a private equity group so he didn`t participate in the decision. So, the Central Intelligence Agency director wasn`t in on this, didn`t participate in it, but meanwhile don`t worry, Steve Mnuchin was there helping make the decision to bomb Syria. So, the banking world got to have its cake and eat it too.

That was the start of this literally explosive week for this young presidency. Then yesterday, it was bombs away again. The new president has yet to talk about Afghanistan since he has been president. He has yet to articulate any policy or even general inclination toward that 15-year- old war.

The basic idea at least in terms of what most Americans think we`re doing there is that thousands of U.S. troops are still in Afghanistan because the U.S. military is trying to create a security environment in which the Afghan government can stand up their U.S. troops are there in support of the Afghan government and Afghan security forces so that country doesn`t fall again to the Taliban like they did before 9/11.

I mean, I think that`s the basic idea we all have as Americans as to what we are doing in Afghanistan, but into the middle of that fight yesterday, the new administration decided to roll out a gigantic super bomb that had never been used before in combat. The United States has had these mega bomb GBU-43Bs. They`ve had these bombs, the mother of all bombs. They`ve had them for about 14 years. They cost about $16 million each.

No other commander-in-chief has ever seen the need to use one before now, but yesterday, they decided to roll one out and Afghanistan. Why not?

For context here, the United States does not have an ambassador in Afghanistan. The president has not spoken on Afghanistan. He has not said what he wants to do in that country, but militarily, he`s just done something that`s never been done before there or anywhere. For some reason, he just used the most unimaginably giant bomb the United States military has got short of a nuclear weapon, and he is it to kill reportedly about 36 ISIS affiliated fighters, about a half million dollars per guy.

Here`s a very strange development on that story that has just broken tonight. Last night, on that story, "The Hill" newspaper published a story about that bomb, the use of that bomb, the decision to use that bomb and in their story, "The Hill" published a number of quotes from somebody who they described as a CentCom spokesman. And the quotes were attributed to an unnamed but apparently official CentCom spokesman. CentCom, of course, is the military Central Command, which means it`s the part of the U.S. military for which their area of responsibility is the Middle East. And so, they`re quoting this CentCom, spokesman military spokesman but the quotes are a little weird for a military spokesman.

I`ll show you what I mean. I`m asked by "The Hill" about what else was in the area that was hit by that giant bomb other than these ISIS fighters, the spokesman has told "The Hill" this, quote, "I can guarantee there`s nothing in the area. It`s pure enemy."

It`s pure enemy. Military spokesman in the United States don`t talk like this. But then there`s this, asked about why they use this giant bomb that the U.S. has never used before, the spokesman said this, quote, "We mean business." President Trump said prior that once he gets in, he`s going to kick that beep out of the enemy, that was his promise and that`s exactly what we`re doing.

This is a mil -- this is a U.S. military spokesman, seriously? Actually, no. It turns out not. CentCom just tonight put out a follow-up press release. Look at this. This is actually from CentCom and it`s got a named person on it.

For immediate release, U.S. Central Command media advisory.

Subject: statements attributed to unauthorized CentCom spokesman.

Statements published on April 13th attributed to a U.S. CentCom were made by an individual unauthorized to speak on behalf of the United States Central Command and those statements do not reflect the professionalism of CentCom, said Major Josh Jacques here today.

These statements fail to portray the values more than 80,000 service members of the U.S. military currently serving in the CentCom area of responsibility, says Major Jacques CentCom media division chief. Quote, "Our media engagement mission is to provide accurate impartial information to the public and their media representatives worldwide. Those inappropriate statements do not reflect the official views of CentCom or its leadership."

The name spokesman added that the unofficial statements undermine the confidence of the public who expect more responsible and thoughtful insight.

Wow. Who`s the fake spokesman? Who was telling "The Hill" newspaper that they were CentCom spokesman and they spoke on behalf of CentCom and they gave all these quotes, and it wasn`t actually a CentCom spokesman?

How -- is this -- is this something we have to worry about now, fake spokesman?

So, I mean, in terms of real take it to the bank information here, we really don`t know much about why they use that giant bomb in Afghanistan. But when a supposed it military spokesman says it was because Donald Trump wants to kick the bleep out of the enemy turns out that was it a military spokesman and CentCom has now apologized.

That itself is very strange. There`s that. So, no one`s quite sure how or why the call to use that particular weapon was made. We`re not sure who to trust when we get an explanation about it.

But regardless of all that, one thing -- the use of that bomb definitely did here at home was it produced another day of very excited slightly confused but nevertheless overwhelmingly positive good press for only the second time in this young presidency. First time was the missile strike. Second time was the mother of all bombs.

So, he`s had two full days of good press and both of them were for this young president, this new president deciding unilaterally to blow some stuff up, arguably without much consideration for how doing that would strategically fit into any larger American interest or any larger American military project.

So, that is the week that we are just coming out of, and now, we have a weekend.

Today, Air China cancelled their regularly scheduled three times a week round-trip flights between Beijing and Pyongyang in North Korea. Air China has been a little vague as to why they canceled these flights, but it`s not the first time they have called those flights off. Whether this was done for commercial reasons or political reasons or security reasons, we cannot say for sure.

But what it means in practical terms is that the Beijing to Pyongyang air route as of tonight is now only served by one air carrier. It is served only by Air Koryo. And among other things, Air Koryo is internationally famous for its food. There`s one foodstuff you are served as a passenger on Air Koryo. Famously, you only have one choice. Your choice is do you want it or don`t you?

But the only thing they offer you is their burger. It arrives at your seat wrapped up in a little cartoony wrapper. It says hamburg on it. A little character sliding something very small into something that looks like Nilla wafers, I don`t know.

Now, it`s kind of cute. It arrives in a little wrapper. It turns out it is not served in that wrapper to keep it warm. The burger is reportedly served ice cold, and when you unfold it`s a little cartoony wrapper, what you find is -- tada! Behold, that is the burger.

We have a number of pictures of the burger because it seems like anybody who has ever flown on Air Koryo, anybody who has ever been able to evade the no pictures rule and sneak a picture of the food, it seems like everybody has managed to take a picture of the burger and post this picture online. Feast your eyes on that. That is the food. That`s the -- that`s the burger. That`s Air Koryo.

Air Koryo is the official government-run and only airline of North Korea. They fly from Pyongyang to a few different places inside North Korea, I think it`s a little hard to tell. This is their website, it`s been down today so I haven`t been able to check it.

They are the reported to have a handful of international routes. They fly to Beijing and to two other cities in China. They also fly to Vladivostok in Russia.

Oh, right, communism. North Korea remains one of the last communist countries on Earth. They were an ally in good standing of the old communist Soviet Union and follow the through line, Air Koryo flies Soviet- made planes. I don`t mean former Soviet Union now Russian-made planes. I mean they fly Soviet-made planes, made by the Soviet Union when it was still the Soviet Union. That`s their air fleet.

And it`s interesting, North Korea is now trying at least a little bit to attract international airplane geek tourism from people who want to fly the friendly North Korean skies in planes that have cockpits that look like this, where they serve you ice cold mystery beige burgers that leak thin red watery sauce that doesn`t seem like blood, but nobody can quite place it.

Incidentally, my favorite detail about Air Koryo is that when they where they chill the burgers where they keep them so cold is in refrigerators that look like this, that they tuck into the galley on these old Soviet planes.

North Korea is the preserved in amber in a lot of ways. They`re economically and ideologically constrained to by their government in a way that makes them unlike any other place on Earth.

We`ve all seen the pictures of the Korean peninsula from space, where north of demilitarized zone, North Korea looks like it might just be the sea. It looks like it`s the ocean because there`s there are no lights. They have so little electricity.

But North Korea, they do have Air Koryo. They do have an internationally well-regarded core of military hackers. Remember the Sony hack by the North Koreans. North Korea may not have done much for its people, but they do have nuclear weapons and they do have a million-man army and they do have an increasingly full range of ballistic missiles, and they do have a huge amount of powerful conventional artillery that they have put along their southern border, pointing at South Korea, pointing in the direction of Seoul we`re about million people live.

And this weekend is Kim Il-sung birthday, which is often occasion for the North Korean government to show off new weapons technology. This year, first of all, what`s that likely to be and when will we know? But also, do we expect our own new president to make excellent, well-thought out decisions for all the right reasons, working from all the best information, with a full appreciation of the delicate strategic sensibilities surrounding this paranoid, slightly insane armed to the teeth country?

Whether or not it makes you feel better or worse about that prospect, I should tell you our new president spent today at his resort in South Florida apparently golfing, meanwhile what appears to be a massive North Korean military parade appears to be taking shape.

I`ll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: It is evening on the East Coast of the United States. It is morning now on the Korean peninsula and specifically in North Korea, it is the morning of the birthday of Kim Il-sung, who is the founding president of North Korea and that means Pyongyang looks like this right now. These are live images actually. These are the first images we are getting in of what appears to be a very large commemoration. We`re expecting this probably to be a large military parade that they will hold in Pyongyang to celebrate that birthday.

They do something along these lines, at least something big every year on Kim Il-sung`s birthday. But this year, North Korea is also reportedly been on the brink of possibly testing some new weapon, maybe a new nuclear device, may be a new long-range missile that could conceivably transport a nuclear device far around the globe.

The United States has sent what the president described as a, quote, "armada" to the waters off the Korean peninsula. I`m not sure that`s the word he meant, but there is an aircraft carrier group there, and this is a new American president who has been getting a lot of good press for shooting bombs and missiles places with not much notice over the last week or so. It could be quite a weekend.

Joining us now is Sue Mi Terry. She`s a former senior analyst on Korean issues at the CIA.

Dr. Terry, it`s really good to have you here. Thank you.


MADDOW: Those images that we just saw from Pyongyang is that sort of typical in terms of the way this holiday this is commemorated every year.

TERRY: And they would have a big parade um and we see me there was showcase all their missiles and whatever they want to showcase this holiday.

MADDOW: Is that an important -- in terms of those parades? Obviously, they`re putting on display what they want to put on display. Are they conveying implicit threats with those phrases? Did they roll out new things that we didn`t know they had at those parades?

TERRY: Sure. So, for example, they can roll out an ICBM to show us show the world that it has an intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach United States.

MADDOW: In terms of their missile capacity already, they have two and three stage ICBMs as they say already developed.

TERRY: Right.

MADDOW: What`s the state of the sort of us view of that missile capacity? Do we believe they`ve got actually operational ICBM capacity?

TERRY: Because they have not tested the ICBM that could reach the mainland United States successively tested, so we don`t know that. But I think they are very close to testing it.

Already, our territories in the Pacific, including Guam and Hawaii -- Guam -- or in Japan and South Korea or under threat. But they have not yet tested ICBM that could reach mainland United States.

MADDOW: In terms of this weekend this holiday this parade which seems to be taking shape right now in Pyongyang, and the previous reporting that we`ve had that there was unusual activity viewed by satellite around some of their launch test facilities, as somebody who worked at the CIA on these issues, what do you think they are planning on doing? How much of an escalation if any do you expect from them?

TERRY: Well, they are preparing for sixth nuclear test, although because the whole world is now expecting sixth nuclear test, they might not decide to test it this weekend. North Korea likes to appease -- it be the one that surprises the rest of the world and so, they were -- and they said they were test when they want to test. And there are other holidays coming up like Korean people`s army anniversary late this month on the twenty- eighth.

So, they don`t have to test the sixth nuclear weapon this particular weekend. But there are other things they can do. They can do normal missile tests they`ve been doing before. They can showcase an ICBM. There are other things they can do.

MADDOW: There is an aircraft carrier that has been directed, U.S. aircraft carrier that has been directed there. We have seen we have a new president who we don`t fully understand either. He has gotten, I mean it`s weird to bring this up, but I think it`s a factor here he`s gotten the first sort of two days of good press of his new presidency by doing military -- taking military action against the Syrian government for the first time, taking military action in Afghanistan using a weapon that has never been used before.

If this president is weighing for whatever reason some type of novel newly aggressive military action toward North Korea, what are the options and what are the likely consequences?

TERRY: He could weigh an option of intercepting a missile or he could be weighing an option of striking a nuclear test site. But I honestly don`t think he`s going to follow through with this.

And this is a problem with the brinkmanship policy, because you`re you putting yourself in a bind either, you have to back down or you have to sort of lose your credibility, or you have to now you`re stuck on a ledge in risk a military option which is very, very risky.

North Korea is not Syria. It`s not Afghanistan. It`s going to have devastating consequences. North Korea will retaliate to any kind of military option.

MADDOW: And they`ll retaliate against South Korea.

TERRY: Absolutely retaliate against South Korea. North Korea has some seventy percent of its ground forces and some fifty percent of his air and naval forces are deployed within 100 kilometers from the DMZ, demilitarized zone, that are separating the two Koreas. That`s miles, and you said there`s 20 million people in Seoul. There`s 20,500 American soldiers in Korea. There`s some 150,000 U.S. expats in Seoul.

This is us -- this is this is why I just don`t think this kind of brinksmanship policy is -- it`s not a smart idea. It`s gross miscalculation.

MADDOW: Even without a novel missile capacity, even without nuclear weapons, there are millions of people who are soft targets, who are in within easy reach of the North Korean military if they choose to take that action.

Sue Mi Terry, who`s a former senior analyst on Korean issues at the CIA -- Dr. Terry, it`s very good to have you here. Thank you.

TERRY: Pleasure. Thank you.

MADDOW: Appreciate it.

All right. Up next, I mentioned a little bit about this at the top but we do have another breaking news story that we are covering tonight. It seems like Friday night stuff happens late into the evening. God doesn`t want anybody to have Fridays off this year.

We`ll have more on that breaking news story straight ahead. Stay with us.


MADDOW: So late this evening, just as we are getting on the air, we got this breaking news. An Arkansas judge tonight has blocked the state of Arkansas from using one of the lethal injection drugs that the state was planning to use in its record execution spree that was due to start on Monday night. This is the Arkansas situation where that state wants to kill two men a night on four separate nights for a total of eight executions in the span of days. Nothing like that has happened since capital punishment was reinstated by the Supreme Court in the 1970s. We`re not used to mass executions in this country.

Well, that was controversial enough but then as of this afternoon two of the eight executions had already gotten themselves blocked by the courts, and now tonight, a judge has just issued a temporary restraining order that apparently will block Arkansas from using one of the three drugs they were planning on using to kill these men, will block them from using a drug that`s called vecuronium bromide.

The company that makes vecuronium bromide has asked the court to step in. The company is basically not consenting to the use of their drug for this purpose, for these executions. The company said when they realized what the state was planning to do with their drug, they objected, they asked for their drug back. They say the state told them they would get the drug back. The drug would be returned to the company, but then apparently they reneged, and Arkansas still planned on using their vecuronium bromide.

And so, the company has gone to the courts and tonight the court has issued a restraining order in their favor. It remains to be seen what will happen in Arkansas that execution spree Arkansas was supposed to start Monday night. Tonight, those killings remain in question given this last-minute ruling tonight from this Arkansas judge and the two prisoners cases that have been ruled on separately and blocked as executions in separate cases.

Joining us now over the phone is Scott Braden. He`s the attorney for one of the eight men in Arkansas who was slated for execution over the next two weeks. His client was actually granted a stay by the courts tonight.

Mr. Braden, thanks very much for joining us. I know it`s a short notice booking for you thanks for being here.

SCOTT BRADEN, ATTORNEY (via telephone): Thank you.

MADDOW: So, let me just make sure I`ve got this right to court rulings tonight there`s this restraining order apparently blocking all the executions by blocking the use of one of the drugs. But before that, tonight, there was a separate order that blocked the execution of your client Bruce Ward.

Do I have that right in terms of the separate cases here?

BRADEN: Yes, that`s correct the Arkansas Supreme Court granted an emergency stay of execution tonight so that we can -- so that they can ensure that there`s full briefing and the full consideration by the court of the important constitutional issue in Mr. Ward`s case, and that is whether he`s competent to be executed under the Eighth Amendment.

MADDOW: So, that emergency stay of execution, what sort of time does that buy you in terms of litigating that issue of concern for your client? How long do you expect this stay to be in effect?

BRADEN: Well, I expect the Arkansas Supreme Court will consider this matter with the gravity that they do and these issues, and that they`ve always done. And I suspect that the stay that they`ve entered here is to allow full consideration this issue, which would contemplate days worth of briefing at least and probably an oral argument.

So, I think it`s a meant to do otherwise they would have set a schedule out in the open in the order they issued this afternoon.

MADDOW: OK, can I also ask you what your understanding is of the legal fight right now over the use of these specific drugs the state is planning on using a three-drug protocol. One of those drugs, Midazolam, seems to have been the thing that led to this rushed scheduled by the state. They apparently wanted to line up all these executions so quickly because their Midazolam was due to expire.

But as far as I understand it, the drug that was the subject of this restraining orders tonight was actually not that the Midazolam. It was another one of these drugs. The drug company is essentially saying that they do not consent to it being used in this way. They wanted it back from the state.

Can you give us any of your understanding in terms of the legal fight over the drugs themselves?

BRADEN: Well, honestly, I don`t know much more about it than you do. I don`t represent any the parties in that action and we`re not involved in that. But I think that`s right. I think that the arguments that they`ve made.

But I do know that we spent four days in federal court this week putting on a case showing that Midazolam is certainly going to cause a problematic and painful execution and will violate the Eighth Amendment.

MADDOW: Scott Braden, attorney for one of the eight men in Arkansas, Bruce Ward, who was slated for execution on Monday. Mr. Braden was able to get his client an emergency stay of execution tonight in the Arkansas state Supreme Court.

Mr. Braden, I know this is an incredibly intense time for you and for your client. Thanks for letting us know what`s going on. Please stay in touch with us over the course the weekend as this continues unfold.

BRADEN: Thank you for your interest in this.

MADDOW: Thank you. Appreciate it.

Again, Arkansas has made a remarkable decision to try to do what is in effect a mass execution. They want to kill eight men in days. We now know that two of those executions are off because of the individual circumstances of those cases. But it looks like because of this ruling tonight that all of those executions may be off, at least temporarily, if the state is not able to successfully appeal this restraining order on the use of one of these drugs that they`re planning to use to kill all of these men.

Fascinating and bizarre story out of Arkansas.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: Do you worry? Do you have anxiety about the world maybe late at night? Do the words Syria, Russia, North or Korea keep you up at night?

My friends, it`s time to stop being afraid.


TRUMP: Whatever you look at it`s got problems so many problems and ultimately I believe that we are going to get rid of most of those problems, and there won`t be fear of anybody.


MADDOW: We`re gonna get rid of the problems, OK?

The president was inaugurated with the speech about American carnage, you will remember. But now, not only will most of the problems be gotten rid of, they`re also, quote, "won`t be fear of anybody any more".

After promising multiple times during the campaign that he would label China a currency manipulator on day one, this week, the new president told "The Wall Street Journal", quote, "They`re not currency manipulators."

After saying during the campaign that he did not think the Import-Export Bank was necessary, this week he told "The Wall Street Journal", quote, "Actually. it`s a very good thing."

During the campaign, the president said, quote, "The problem with NATO: it`s obsolete." This week, the president said, "NATO is no longer obsolete".

After the health care debacle last month, the president said he was moving on, leaving health reform behind moving on to tax reform. He said tax reform, quote, "that will be next." Then this week, nope, we`re going to have a phenomenal tax reform, but I have to do health care first.

Also this week, it became time to bomb Syria because they used chemical weapons, despite the president insisting for years that under no circumstances should the U.S. bomb Syria, particularly if they used chemical weapons.

Inside the beltway, these many reversals are being read I think hopefully is some kind of reboot. But in the words of the great Dan Rather today, quote, "There is a big difference between evolution and confusion." And Dan Rather joins us on that next.

Stay with us


MADDOW: Joining us now for the interview tonight is Dan Rather. He`s the host of "The Big Interview with Dan Rather" on AXS TV.

Mr. Rather, it`s great to have you here. Thank you for --

DAN RATHER, AXS TV: Always good to be with you.

MADDOW: It`s really good to see you.

I want to talk to you about Donald Trump and the new presidency and these sort of abandonments of previous policies but everybody`s sort of calling flip flops and U-turns here.

But I also actually want to talk to a little bit about some of this news that we`ve -- that`s been breaking tonight since we`ve been on the air.

RATHER: Right.

MADDOW: This remarkable story out of Arkansas. They`re planning on executing eight men in for double header executions over the course of ten days. It seems to be falling apart now. Two of the eight have now had stays, and maybe all of them have been stayed by this court blocking the use of one of these drugs.

I have to ask -- I`m out of all the years you spent covering capital punishment. All the politics around this is and everything, have you ever seen anything like this?

RATHER: No, had never seen anything quite like this. But I think it speaks to his -- my understanding, Arkansas has not had an execution in a very long time.

MADDOW: Not 12 years.

RATHER: So, they had nobody who`s experienced with this. And remember, I come from Texas where they have a lot of electrocutions, other death penalties, probably lead the nation you not only they still do probably do. But in Texas, there are a lot of people who`ve been associated with it a lot of people actually done a deeds, either been on the phone this putter.

But in a place like Arkansas where they haven`t done it a long time, it`s a very interesting story. I`ll be interested to see how many if any of these death penalty situations actually result in it being done.

MADDOW: And if it does get blocked or if some of them do go through the legal basis on which that will happen -- I mean, they`re fighting about the technocratic parts of it. You know, whether this drug can be used, whether the drug company gets a say in whether or not it`s used, whether the protocols for having a contingency planner in place and everything. It`s a fascinating story.

But the main thing I wanted to talk to you about tonight, Dan, is what we`re seeing from the new administration in terms of them abandoning previously held policies. You describe that as the there being a big difference between evolution and confusion. Do you feel like people are misreading these flip-flops as evolution?

RATHER: Well, I think some people maybe misreading it. But, look, Donald Trump sold himself one reason got elected was he presenting himself as a person. He doesn`t back down. He doesn`t back up he doesn`t turn around.

Well, since he`s been in office, that`s practically the main thing he has done. Back up, back down, turnaround everything from Chinese money manipulation to his opinion of NATO and the Federal Reserve -- I mean, you read part of the list but the list is longer than my arm, OK? You know he`s jumping around like grease on a hot skillet.

Now, unpredictability can be an important part of leadership but being erratic and coming across as confused and not knowing not only what you believe, but where you want to go. For example, it`s one thing to drop all these Tomahawks -- 59 Tomahawks on Syria.

Well, to what purpose? What is the strategy? What is the overarching strategy in Syria?

MADDOW: And does that missile launch make achieving the strategic goals easier or harder, (INAUDIBLE) ourselves or help ourselves there.

RATHER: What exactly in North Korea which I think the last time, we talked, we talked about the danger North Korea. This is a powder keg with a short fuse and the fuse is burning. I think it`s just now beginning to sink into the American people as a whole. We`re already talking about the possibility of war.

Now, there`s a only a slight difference between brinksmanship and appeasement, and as I understand it, Donald Trump is trying to go that line with North Korea. But the North Korean regime is unstable. Their leader is unstable and feeling vulnerable, and we know the history of what happens when you have that kind of situation, leaders sometimes wants to engage a foreign power in a showdown, maybe even a war in order to keep himself in power.

But one can only pray that Donald Trump is reading up quickly on the Korean war of the 1950s, maybe David Halberstam`s book, "The Coldest Winter" would be good reading for him, because many of us are the steps that were going to now of brinkmanship, getting right up close and saying, OK, we`re going to engage and we`re going to engage in strength has echoes of what happened in Korea in the 1950s.

Let me bring those two strands of thought together too because, obviously, the most influential nation on North Korea is China. You know, the third of their economy is -- third of their cash comes from selling coal to China. They`re their biggest trading partner, a cultural partner by far.

And so, whatever happened to North Korea is going to have to go through China in some way. Then you look at the way that China is viewing Donald Trump right now. They did just have this visit by President Xi.

But in terms of Trump stance on China, he said he`s going to label him a currency manipulator on day one. Not only did he not do that, now, he`s not going to do that at all.

He also said the One China policy, "Well, I don`t think we should abide by that unless we get trade concessions from them", and then a few weeks later, OK, we`re going to abide by that One China policy, and I don`t need anything for it.

The Chinese headlines about Donald Trump are humiliating. They`re talking about him being a paper tiger. Him being a laughingstock -- I mean, and, you know, with the Chinese government controlled press when those headlines come out, you know, that`s what the Chinese government thinks of him.

How do those things play together with China seeing him as somebody they don`t need too much worried about and also us needing China on North Korea?

RATHER: Well, this -- there are no good solution to our U.S. position in North Korea. And this is one of the reasons that the Chinese -- they could end the situation in North Korea, I wouldn`t say overnight but very shortly if they chose to do so. They haven`t chosen to do so. They didn`t do it with President Bush. They didn`t do it with the President Obama. We`ll see where they do with President Trump.

But here`s the situation, you know, Putin loves this, what`s happened with us in North Korea. I mean, he is smiling like a deacon with four aces. This is exactly what we would like us -- overstretched, possibility of land war an Asia, possibility of a land war in Asia?

MADDOW: Impossible brinkmanship, where there`s no way out that was not look good, let alone safe.

RATHER: And the Chinese have to like where they are, because President Trump himself is saying I need you so badly I`ll give you something with a trade side --


RATHER: You think there`s some help, and the Chinese said, well, we`ll be in touch it about that. And they`ve made a couple of moves with.

But here, you know, what concerns me and I think concerns a lot of people, Rachel, is that by these two bombings, the Syria of Tomahawks and the Afghanistan bombings, let me make clear, as one off military operations I have no argument with that.

But with those, you -- they -- what I`ll call the beltway class at Washington, and some other people on the country are cheering the president`s military posturing, you might want to call it positioning. Now, we know that it`s a fact that President Trump, more than some residents at least -- he bask in adoration. That raises the question, since these meetings in pretty good press about dropping these bombs in various places.

And a concern that he obeys his decision to war and peace decisions about North Korean other places on the fact that you know what I`ve been getting pretty good press the last week attending.

MADDOW: That`s the first time in my presidency.

Dan Rather, thank you so much for being here. Dan is the anchor and managing editor of "Dan Rather Reports" on AXS TV. It`s great to see you.

RATHER: Rachel, it`s always great to see you.

MADDOW: It`s always an honor to have you here, my friend. Thank you.

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


MADDOW: Your taxes are not due tomorrow because Tax Day calls on -- falls on a weekend this year, your taxes are due at the beginning of next week, Monday or Tuesday, depending on what state you live in. But Tax Day, April 15th is still tomorrow.

And tomorrow here on MSNBC, we will be covering the Tax Day marches that are going to be happening in Washington, D.C. and around the country, and indeed around the globe at least a little bit. Marches to try to convince the new president of the United States that he should release his tax returns.

Those are going to happen tomorrow again, D.C. and around the country.

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

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

Good evening, Ari.



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