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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 4/17/2017

Guests: Tom Perez, Cristina Jiminez, David Sanger

Show: The Rachel Maddow Show  Date: April 17, 2017 Guest: Tom Perez, Cristina Jiminez, David Sanger

CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: That is "ALL IN" for this evening.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts in with the one and only, Joy Reid, in for Rachel.

Thank you, Joy, for your excellent work last week. I appreciate it.

JOY REID, MSNBC GUEST HOST: And good luck with the -- I mean good luck with -- congratulations on the big launch to the book, man. That`s really terrific. You don`t even need luck because you got skills.

HAYES: Thank you.

REID: Thank you. Appreciate it. All right. Thank you, Chris.

And thanks to you at home for at home for tuning in this hour. I`m Joy Reid, in for Rachel tonight. Rachel will be back tomorrow.

So, happy almost Tax Day. Tax Day, of course, is tomorrow, the 18th. It`s usually April 15th, but this year, the date fell on a Saturday.

This year, the occasion was marched by large gatherings in multiple cities nationwide to protest the president`s refusal to release his tax returns. Thousands turned out in marches in cities including Chicago, Sacramento, Atlanta, D.C., New York, and West Palm Beach, near the president`s Mar-a- Lago private club, as well as many other cities.

They were for the most part peaceful. Violence did break out at the Tax Day protest in Berkeley, California, where 21 people were arrested as protesters clashed with hundreds of Trump is not. But on the whole they were peaceful.

They were also well-attended. Maybe not the largest marches ever, not on the scale of what we saw right after the inauguration, but a clear demonstration that this movement has real staying power and that the issue of Trump`s taxes is not going away.

Protesters were determined to make sure the tax issue remains part of the political conversation. Saturday`s showing did just that.

What we saw over the weekend ensured the issue remains a live political issue in the nation`s capital right now, an issue putting the White House press secretary on the defensive.


REPORTER: Is the president going to release his 2016 tax returns?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think people understand how successful the president has been and how much he`s paid in taxes. So, it`s the same -- we`re in the same audit that existed so nothing has changed.

REPORTER: Will the president authorize the IRS to confirm --

SPICER: I think the president`s view has been very clear from the campaign, and the American people understood it when they elected him in November.

REPORTER: Is it time to say, once and for all, the president is never going to release his tax returns?

SPICER: We`ll have to get back to you on that.

REPORTER: I mean, really?

SPICER: Really.

REPORTER: So he may?

SPICER: I said I`d have to get back to you on that. He`s still under audit and the statement still stands.


REID: Those hoping the president will release his tax returns anytime soon are likely to be disappointed by today`s briefing, and in all likelihood, he`s never going to release them.

But the political heat that the White House is facing over the issue also seems unlikely to dissipate anytime soon either. That political heat will keep coming as a direct result of activism on the ground. It`s just the latest example of Democratic grassroots enthusiasm that we have continued to see following the election -- following the election. And immediately after the inauguration, we saw those enormous record-setting crowds at women`s marches all over the country.

There were also the spontaneous gatherings that broke out as a show of defiance in response to the president`s Muslim ban. The enthusiasm has been most visible at town hall meetings across the country where constituents have showed up demanding answers from their senators and members of Congress. Many members of Congress, particularly Republican members of Congress, have begun avoiding meeting constituents all together face to face. While those who do, like Senators Tom Cotton in Arkansas and Dean Heller in Nevada are getting an earful.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m wondering if you will take the initiative to have him release those returns so we can see what kind of connections he has with different countries around the world and what --


And what tax proposals would personally benefit him and his business.

SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: As far as I`m aware, the president says he is still under audit.



REID: Democratic enthusiasm on the ground is giving Republican members of Congress heartburn and opposition to the president is translating into real money. As "Politico" noted, the president has essentially become rocket fuel for Democratic fundraising with small donors angered by what they see they`ve seen plowing -- what they`ve seen plowing huge money into campaigns.

In the first three months of the year, Act Blue has seen million dollars in contributions, more than four times the amount it`s on the same period last year. Despite a daunting Senate map in 2018, several Senate Democrats up for reelection in red or purple states like Virginia, Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota are also posting strong fundraising numbers in the first quarter.

And while Democratic enthusiasm has manifested itself in many, many forms, it seems largely put in one direction Donald Trump. Trump has had a hard time convincing many Americans that his first few months in office have been anything other than a failure. He stays setback after setback, from Obamacare repeal and replace, to the Muslim ban to the wall that Mexico is never going to pay for, and he`s yet to achieve a single legislative win. Even Neil Gorsuch had to be forced onto the Supreme Court by Mitch McConnell.

A new Gallup poll out today finds it only forty-five percent of Americans thinks he think that he keeps his promises, down from sixty-two percent in February, a 17 points slide.

Meanwhile, "The Times" reports that many Trump voters in Pennsylvania, in a swing district, are wondering when the winning is going to start. "Just like any other damn president", sighed Theresa Remington, 44, a home care worker and the mother of two active duty Marines, she had voted for Donald Trump because she expected him to improve conditions for veterans and to overhaul the health care system.

But now, political bluster, Remington said, she wondered aloud how Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont might have fared on the job instead.

So, tonight in Portland, Maine, Sanders and the new head of the DNC, Tom Perez, are making the first stop on what will be a nine-state tour of red and purple states in order to drum up support and they hope unity. The tour will also take them to Kentucky, Florida, Texas, Nebraska, Utah, Arizona, Nevada and Montana.

Democrats clearly have the enthusiasm. They`ve also clearly seen to be in a better emotional place than they were post-election. The question is, can they turn these games into something tangible that can translate into winning? And can they pick up new supporters along the way?

Election results, thus far, have been encouraging. Last week in Illinois, Democrats picked up a whole bunch of seats in small local races. Meanwhile, the first congressional special election in Kansas last week, Democrats fell short, but they were encouraged by a huge swing in their direction. There, the Democratic candidate only lost by seven points in a redder than red district that Donald Trump carried by 27 points.

And, yes, part of it is at midterm off-year elections are always hard on the party in the White House, but no question momentum is on the Democrat side. One of the good signs for Democrats in Kansas is that they appear to be enticing new or infrequent voters to the polls. Prior to the Kansas race, two Republican strategists familiar with the polling data in two of the special election races told McClatchy, quote, "the main problem is not the independents and moderate voters have swung en masse to Democrats. The problem they say is the Democratic base is so energized that even voters who rarely pay attention to politics are suddenly engaged. One GOP operator familiar with the special election said the GOP realized there might be a problem when polling found that even low propensity Democratic voters were interested in the race."

Democrats will look to make games in two special election in the coming months, in South Carolina and Montana. But the biggest one is tomorrow. It`s there in Georgia sixth congressional district that Democrat Jon Ossoff is hoping to get fifty percent of the vote in a crowded field and avoid a runoff for the seat previously held by HHS Secretary Tom Price and before that, Newt Gingrich. This in a district that has not been represented by a Democrat in 37 years.

And thanks to huge support and national interest Ossoff appears likely to finish in one of the top two spots to make the runoff. But whether he can secure enough votes to earn a pure majority and win the seat out rights is in question. If Ossoff also failed to win outright tomorrow and with Republicans likely uniting behind a single candidate, a FiveThirtyEight analysis predicts that his chances look more like a 50/50 coin flip.

So, a lot is on the line tomorrow. The question is, can Democrats win in Georgia and what would it mean going forward in the dozens of districts that should be easier to flip from red to blue than Georgia sixth? How do Democrats turn enthusiasm and better vibes, along with real anger at Donald Trump, into the only thing that counts? Winning elections.

Joining us now is Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee, and just a short time ago he kicked off a Democratic unity tour with independent Senator Bernie Sanders.

Chairman Perez, great to have you with us tonight. Thanks for joining me.

TOM PEREZ, DNC CHAIRMAN: Good to be with you, Joy. From Portland, Maine.

REID: Yes, absolutely. So, you are on a tour with Bernie Sanders, which begs a couple of questions. The first one is the fact that he is out on the road with you, does that portend shift into formally into the Democratic Party for Senator Sanders and we talked to him about that?

PEREZ: Well, I mean where were united and you look everywhere we go, you see the unity in action whether it was opposing the Affordable Care Act repealed, you see action out in the field. About a month ago, there was a special election in Delaware four years earlier. That had been a jump ball. This time, we won it by 16 points.

You saw Kansas where we should have lost by 30, we lost by seven. And we`ve got the opportunity down in congressional sixth that you just talked about in Georgia, that`s been in Republican hands for 37 years, including Newt Gingrich, and notwithstanding that back you know we`ve got a fighting chance. And so, we`re swinging a bat everywhere, Joy, whether it`s a bit - -

REID: But I get your swing the bat, but you`re swinging, look, with two people right now. So, it`s you and Senator Sanders.

The reason I asked about the shift, whether or not you think it`s important that he actually formally joined the party in order to boost the party is because one of the important things in joining the party would do would give you access to his very valuable email list. Hillary Clinton has turned over her email list to the DNC, but the party still does not have when it considers to be the crown Jewel of the campaign, which is Bernie Sanders list, on those fairly valuable list.

Is Sanders going to turn over the list to you? Do you think he`ll do that have? And have you talked about to him about it?

PEREZ: Well, yes, and that`s a question for him. I didn`t ask either Secretary Clinton or Senator Sanders about what they were going to do with their list, simply because that`s a decision for them to make, and we do have the list from Secretary Clinton.

And what we`re doing with secretary -- with Senator Sanders is we`ve been going around the country and today`s our first visit together will be in eight states the six days, and I think what`s most important for us to be doing right now is translating, Joy, this incredible energy out there into action.

I think the three things we have going for us -- three of the things we have gone for us, our unity, our energy, this grassroots energy out there, and our values You hear tonight, we`re talking about -- you know, healthcare is a right, it`s not a privilege. Talking about how if you work a full-time job, you shouldn`t have to live in poverty. Talking about the importance of affordable higher education and in the state of Maine, the Democrats have introduced a bill that mirrors the Republican platform.

And so, I think when we are doing this, I know there were a lot of folks here tonight who, you know, were strong supporters and continue to be strong supporters of Senator Sanders, and they`re also I think realizing that, you know our values are aligned on just about everything and so that`s what we got to keep doing.

REID: Well, reason that I`m source ticking on this is that part of, you know, a party`s job is to build itself and make itself larger. So, are you and it`s Senator Sanders out there registering Democratic voters? Because isn`t the point to actually create Democrats or is the point to just corral independence?

PEREZ: Sure. Well, I think what we have to do is lead with our values. And I don`t think it`s necessarily the best strategy right now, Joy, to walk into a room with a clipboard in hand and say, "Hi, I`m Tom Perez", and before I can talk to you, you know, sign up to be a Democrat.

I think what we have found to be very effective is when we are out there on issues of important together, whether it was leading the opposition to the Affordable Care Act, the Muslim ban, and I was a number of airports across the country -- there`s so many issues -- climate change.

There`s so many issues where our values and our positions are totally aligned and I think that is a more effective strategy because we`re trying -- we`re working together with folks in, you know, in legacy organizations in organizations that have only been around a year or less and I think when we work together and we talk about what we`re doing and when we coordinate activities and when folks see that the Democratic Party is adding value, helping move the ball down the field, I think that`s the best way to make sure we attract Democrats for the long haul, earning that trust, and that`s exactly what we`re doing.

REID: And are you guys going to win tomorrow? You want to hazard a prediction? Is Ossoff going to win that race and get 50 percent?

PEREZ: Well, I`ll tell you one thing I learned, Joy, from 2016 is that the folks who think they`re -- the pundits who know everything and can predict everything have been proven to need a little bit of help.

Here`s what I do know -- you know, we haven`t controlled that seat in 37 years and the Republicans in Georgia gerrymandered the heck out of it, and what I do know is that we have a tremendous amount of energy in not just among Democrats but among independents and among Republicans.

I noticed that Donald Trump sent a robocall out and he said, "If you elect Jon Ossoff to the Congress, it will result in the destruction of health care." I found that to be rather humorous --

REID: Yeah.

PEREZ: -- and ironic to say the least.

REID: Yeah.

PEREZ: And so, you know, I think we`re the underdog in this and -- but we`ve got some real wind at our back in very real levels and I`ll tell you -- you know, we`re swinging the bat in the DNC, and we`re swinging the bat elsewhere and not just in federal races, but, you know, Omaha mayor`s race, we`ve already invested there.

And we`re going to continue to invest because the mission of the Democratic Party, Joy, is no longer simply to elect the president United States. It is to help elect good Democrats up and down the ticket from the school board to the Senate.

REID: OK, well, good luck tomorrow. Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee --

PEREZ: Thank you.

REID: -- thank you very much. Appreciate you being here.

PEREZ: Always a pleasure, Joy.

REID: Thank you.

A big show tonight, ahead. So, stay with us.


REID: This morning, when Donald Trump appeared on the balcony at the White House Easter egg roll, flanked by his wife and son -- look, they`re D.C., and, of course, the Easter bunny -- nice glasses, sir.

One of the highlights of the event was attorney general -- one of the highlights of the event was Attorney General Jeff Sessions reading to children. Jeff Sessions` book of choice was called "It`s Not Easy Being a Bunny".

And after the president delivered some remark from the balcony, he was able to finish the story. It`s the story of P.J.`s funny bunny, a bunny who decides that he doesn`t want to be a bunny anymore. So, he leaves home to live somewhere else, to try and be a different kind of animal.

He tried being a bear and a bird and all kinds of other animals, but he discovered he doesn`t like being things other than a bunny and, well, you can guess the moral of the story.


JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: So, P.J. said, "I don`t want to be a bear, I don`t want to be a bird, or beaver or a pig or a moose or a possum or a skunk. All I really want to be is -- a bunny.


They decided he got straight on that. So, P.J. hurried home. The funny bunnies who are very happy to see him, P.J. was very happy to come back home to bunny land.


REID: Funny bunny. And you know what? It is a nice story, just what about home and family being happy with who you are.

But Jeff Sessions is just back from the Mexican border where he was touring and was touting the Trump administration`s get tough approach to immigration. So, when he reads a story about this buddy who decides he does not want to live somewhere else with those who are not like him, with the moral being that it`s better to go back home to bunny land, I know, I know, it`s just a story about a bunny, but it takes on a darker feel when it`s in Jefferson Sessions reading it.

Because here was Attorney General Jefferson Sessions just a few days ago at the border describing the people he thinks are leaving home to come here.


SESSIONS: International criminal organizations that turn cities and suburbs into war zones, that rape and kill innocent civilians, and who profit by smuggling poison and other human beings across our borders. Depravity and violence are their calling cards, including brutal machete attacks, even beheadings. They threaten the very integrity of our nation`s, and our hemisphere.

It is here on this sliver of land on this border where the first -- we first take our stand.


REID: Now, Sessions prepared remarks actually read as you know by now, quote, "where we first take our stand against this filth," but he left that pungent description out of his delivery.

"The Washington Post" reported this weekend that immigration arrests are up sharply in the first week for the Trump administration and in particular arrest of undocumented immigrants with no criminal record. Those have more than doubled compared to last year.

Even though Donald Trump has said since the election that they would not be targeted and even though Trump`s homeland security secretary said just this -- just yesterday --


JOHN KELLY, HOMELAND SECURITY SECREATARY: Just because you`re in the United States illegally doesn`t necessarily get you targeted. It`s got to be something else, and we`re operating more or less at the other end of the spectrum, and that is criminals, multiple convictions.


REID: So, only criminals will be targeted, with multiple convictions. And yet somehow, more than 5,400 undocumented immigrants with no criminal records were arrested from January through mid-March.

Today, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case brought by detained undocumented Central American mothers and children who were seeking court review of their asylum claims. That means the Trump administration can move forward with expedited deportation proceedings.

Sessions said he`s quickly hiring more immigration judges for the border, so the detainees can be deported even faster. But however you feel about Sessions apocalyptic warnings about who`s coming over the border, or about whether the U.S. should be expediting the deportation of mothers and children seeking asylum, it`s difficult to understand what purpose is served by the arrest of Maribel Trujillo, the Ohio mother of four children, all American citizens.

She has lived in the country for -- in the U.S. for 15 years. She came here after her father and brother were kidnapped by drug cartels in Mexico. She was arrested on the street two weeks ago and she`s scheduled for deportation on Wednesday. She has no criminal record.

Maribel Trujillo has a three-year-old daughter with special needs and her family and supporters have been trying to get her daughter to her in detention so that if and when she`s deported, her daughter who needs her can be with her.

In Colorado, another mother of four is slated for deportation. She also has no criminal record. She`s lived here for 15 years. But because she crossed the border illegally twice before that ICE says that she is, quote, "an egregious immigration violator".

A lot of immigrants in the Trump administration`s crosshairs are people you think would be at the bottom of anyone`s priority list unless the Trump administration`s priorities are not what they seem.

Joining us now is Cristina Jimenez, executive director of United We Dream.

Cristina, nice to see you. Thank you for being here.


REID: So, one of the sort of features of all of these stories of deportations of people with no criminal record moms, people on their way to take kids to baseball practice, dad, is that they all happen to be from Latin America, from Central America, even though we know that not all undocumented immigrants in this country are brown people. Why do you suppose that is?

JIMENEZ: Well, you know, let`s -- I think that the report that you mentioned Joy clearly show well we in immigrant communities and families like mine have been experiencing. My parents are undocumented. My brother is a doctor recipient and 11 million people who are undocumented are fearful that they`re going to be targeted. Why? Because the executive orders a truant fine earlier this year makes us all threats to national security, which means that all of us, all immigrants, are a priority for deportation.

So, the administration wants us to believe that they are targeting the so- called criminals, we can get caught up in that trap. The reality here is that they are criminalizing immigrant communities and communities of color, generally, what -- by what Sessions is doing not only against immigrants but broadly also black communities and other communities of color, it is showing you the strategy that this administration has, which is turning the Department of Justice and other laws against communities of color, against immigrant communities, and that is the fear that we`re seeing.

No one is safe in our communities and we cannot fall in the trap that they`re targeting criminals. The reality is that the executive orders criminalize all of us and that makes us all vulnerable to deportations.

REID: And I think what a lot of people, you know, what sort of alarming when you when you hear about these stories is that American-born children are also getting caught up in it. Is it the case that if an undocumented migrant with a minor child, with a toddler who`s born in United States, who`s an American citizen, is deported, does that mean that the child has to also go to the country of origin?

JIMENEZ: We have -- right now, the way that immigration officers are operating, with no accountability, out of control, is that we`re having millions of families that are being separated. Children are staying here.

We`re having to do sessions across the schools in the country to talk to parents and family members for how to prepare for when you`re not going to be with your child. I mean, there`s there was a story also the father in California who dropped off his daughters in school and then was detained, and his daughters have not seen him since then. That`s over a month ago.

So, those are the stories that we`re seeing, which is why at United We Dream, we are mobilizing people that are watching your show and immigrant communities to say, we can`t allow this to happen, in addition to now you see that Trump is asking for more money on his budget to build more camps, more detention camps, to have more ICE officers on the streets targeting our people.

And this is a time for us to be very clear with members of Congress and our senators that we cannot allow this to happen. Not a dime for the wall. Not a dime for more detention camps, not a dime for more ICE officers that are executing this mass deportation machine on behalf of the Trump administration.

REID: And what -- if people want to support you, what should people be doing? You know, there`s been talk -- you know, I`ve had friends that if it should we be thinking about, you know, taking the idea of shelter even to the individual personal home level, to churches, what are -- what are people doing to help you?

JIMENEZ: Thanks for asking that question, Joy. Very easy -- you can text "here to stay" to 877877. That is SMS or text message system that we`re using to mobilize all communities so that you can help us to stop deportations of communities, help communities when they`re facing officers at their doors or in schools, or even in raids that are happening all across the country.

And that is one way in which to get involved. There is another way in which to get involved, which is right now in all of the during the recess and talking to your member of Congress because we have to follow the dots here, Joy. There is also money behind us.

Just last week, it was reported that the Geo Group got a $100 million contract to build the first detention camp under the Trump administration in Texas, and just today, I heard from American Bridge that it was Geo Group that donated half a million dollars to the Trump campaign and to the transition committee.

So, there are also people profiting from the incarceration and the detention of immigrants.

And we can get engaged by joining our network to protect people from deportation but also holding your members of Congress accountable.

REID: Yes. I think we one of the things we learned in Ferguson is that human beings can become dollar signs when governments wish them to.

Thank you very much, Cristina Jimenez, executive director of United We Dream -- thank you so much for being here.

JIMENEZ: Thanks for having me.

REID: Thank you.

And coming up, of course, we want the president to get along with other world leaders. However, some relationships are more creepy than comforting. That`s next.


REID: It was the middle of the summer, most of the world`s media was focused on the U.S. election. When news broke out that a coup was underway in Turkey, tanks had rolled into the capital city Ankara. The Turkish government had essentially instituted a media blackout, making it difficult to get a handle on what was happening.

And then in the midst of it all, the midst of all of that, the president of Turkey addressed the nation via Facetime. President Tayyip Erdogan told the world that he did not plan on backing down and within hours, just as quickly as it began, Turkish intelligence was reporting that the coup was over. Nearly 300 people had been killed, another fifteen hundred or so injured, and in the coming months, thousands would be arrested for alleged connections to those trying to unseat Erdogan and wrest control the country, including people that the Erdogan government views is sympathetic to a U.S. -based Turkish businessman, preacher and purveyor of charter schools named Fethullah Gulen, who Erdogan accuses of fomenting the coup.

Since then, Erdogan has called for and extended a state of emergency in Turkey, granting him expanded powers and marginalizing the parliament that is technically supposed to be the center of governmental power. Critics say he has used those powers to crack down on rivals and arrest political opponents, including members of the press and even cartoonists who publish the satirical pieces the government doesn`t like.

The crackdown has included the imprisonment of at least a hundred and twenty journalists who face charges of propaganda and supporting terrorism.

Today, Turkey`s national security council voted to extend the state of emergency for yet another three months. This decision comes after the passing of a referendum that will give the president full control over Turkey`s government. The vote was closed, a far slimmer margin than many observers expected an opponent of the resolutions are crying foul, pointing to instances of alleged voter fraud they say we`re caught on camera, like this one where we allegedly see a man casting multiple ballots.

The new system of government eliminates the role of the prime minister, transfers executive power to the president, allows the newly appointed president to issue decrees appoint judges, launch inquiries into any of Turkey civil servants and limits the tenure of the president to only 10 years only 10. And who knows, after that, maybe there`ll be options to extend it.

If you`re wondering where the White House is coming down on all of this, about an hour ago, we got a readout of President Trump`s call with President Erdogan. Quote, "President Donald J. Trump spoke today with President Erdogan of Turkey to congratulate him on his recent referendum victory."

He congratulated a president who currently has more than 130 journalists in prison in his ignoring what appears to be video evidence of ballot stuffing, on what appears to be the culmination of an authoritarian crackdown. Excellent job, Donald. Excellent job.

Now, it`s a given that Turkey and the U.S. have a complicated relationship. The U.S. has a military partnership with Turkey and they`re both members of NATO, and they`re both important players in that vein in the global effort to solve the Syrian refugee crisis. So, anything that happened in Turkey affects the U.S., and we know the White House already has its share of conflicts in the region, including a tower in Istanbul that bears the Trump family name, business partnerships he reportedly name-dropped to Erdogan, and a former national security adviser Michael Flynn who was being paid by Turkey during Donald Trump`s campaign to stump for Turkeys interest, who was allegedly a part of a meeting where he discussed whisking Fethullah Gulen away from the U.S. in the dead of night to send him back to Turkey, right into the arms of President Erdogan. And now, our president is calling (INAUDIBLE) to say congrats on his recent acquisition of near totalitarian power.

So, as you watch the political situation in Turkey unfold, remember, the president and his administration are invested in Turkey in every sense of the word.


REID: In 1969, the nuclear threat to the United States was seen as not just coming from the Soviet Union, but also from communist China. The worry was that those countries had the capability to launch nuclear missiles that could reach the continental United States. To counter that threat, the U.S. government invested billions of dollars on building anti- ballistic missile systems to protect the U.S. We developed a missile defense system called Sentinel. Take a look at how it worked.


REPORTER: If any of the enemy missiles do get through, the smaller sprint missiles are fired. The Sprint should intercept the enemy missiles at a range of 25 miles and an altitude of between 50,000 and 100,000 feet. It explodes within a half mile of the incoming missile, which again is supposed to be rendered harmless.

Fallout from a Sprint explosion at 50,000 feet would not be a problem, but the area immediately below would receive fire blast. But if Sprint made its intercept just above the ground, the number of casualties from blast fire and radiation would be great.

And even if Sentinel works perfectly, the Pentagon concedes the Chinese nuclear attack would leave 1 million Americans dead. On the other hand, says the Pentagon, without Sentinel, 15 million would die.


REID: So that was a missile system that the Pentagon developed to protect the U.S. from a nuclear attacks from China or the Soviet Union. Note the old-timey, amazing drawings used in that package to illustrate how the defense system worked.

Now, over the years, much has changed and how we do graphics on TV, but when it comes to actually protecting the country, the antiballistic missile defense system, the system that we based our defense on for all these years really hasn`t changed all that much. America`s interest in missile systems which reach the peak with "Star Wars" when the Reagan administration was obsessed with upping the ante with making things bigger and better by having a defense system in space.

That kind of fizzled out when the Berlin Wall came down as they`re no longer seem to be much of a reason to build "Star Wars". But there were other countries who had joined the nuclear arms race.

Decades after signing the armistice that paused the Korean War in the 1953, the government of North Korea began to build its own nuclear deterrent likely flush with memories of the U.S. nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki less than 650 miles away in Japan in 1945, and the threat by the government of President Dwight Eisenhower to do the same thing to North Korea and China if they didn`t stand down and stop fighting to annex South Korea.

And as they started to make progress toward their nuclear goal, there soon emerged a kind of backdoor arms race where we were not just worried about China or the spin Soviets, but now, North Korea, too. In 2014, the Obama administration realized that since the Eisenhower era, the U.S. has spent more than three hundred billion dollars on anti-ballistic defense system and we continue to spend on systems that were compared to hitting, quote, "a bullet with a bullet".

But we had not really made great strides in protecting the U.S. against including from a threat from unstable and erratic North Korea. In 2014, the Obama administration reportedly started investing resources in stepping up the Pentagon`s cyber and electronic capabilities against North Korea`s missile program, to invest in sabotaging their tests.

This weekend, in the middle of North Korea`s birthday celebrations for their founder Kim Il-sung, they attempted to launch a ballistic missile. The lunch failed within seconds.

And even though all signs pointed to North Korea taking a sixth stab at a nuclear test this weekend, they didn`t do it. And why?

Well, we don`t exactly know, but since President Obama reportedly ordered this shift in strategy to begin investing in cyber and electronic strikes to scuttle North Korean missile launches, one particular North Korean inter intermediate-range missile have had a failure rate of eighty-eight percent, eighty-eight percent this past year, which raises the question: did the U.S. have anything to do with this weekend`s failed missile launch? Did the American cyber electronic program have anything to do with North Korea`s decisions not to try another nuclear test? And does this new strategic shift ensure a safer United States or does it carry its own risk?

Joining us now is David Sanger, national security correspondent for "The New York Times".

David, great to see you. Thank you for being here.


REID: So what can you tell us about the sort of status of the U.S. attempt to use cyber technology to scuttle North Korean missile. Is it enough to have maybe sabotage this test that they tried?

SANGER: Well, it may have been used to sabotage the test. It`s very hard to tell, Joy, for any individual test because there are so many things that can go wrong with a test you could have American sabotage. You could have bad welding. You could have bad manufacturing.

You know, the North Koreans don`t exactly follow OSHA rules and they don`t have the greatest quality control in the world. So, for any individual tests, it`s very hard to know.

But as we spent the eight months investigating that led up to that story that you showed up on the screen which ran last month in "The New York Times", we did find these highly increased failure rates after President Obama ordered this increase in attacks. The statistics are hard to come by in part because the program itself is so classified, but there`s an unclassified part of the effort because the whole program is under a fairly public Pentagon effort called left of launch. If you consider to left of launch, anything that happens running up to the launch and right of launch happening after, and those wonderful old pictures that you showed and drawings -- and, boy, those are real classics -- those were classical right of launch. In other words, after it`s launched, you try to go intercept it.

And we have spent three hundred billion dollars since the Eisenhower era and at least for the long-range missiles, it just doesn`t work very well, which is why the president ordered this effort for left of launch, trying to sabotage the missiles prior to their liftoff.

REID: And in the piece that we showed under he wrote about this whole program, you cited that it could be simple incompetence, that maybe the North Koreans are just not that good at creating the technology that they boast about. Do we put too much stock in the potential for them to attack California and not enough focus on what they can do right on the Korean peninsula, specifically that they really could attack Seoul.

SANGER: Right. So, they can attack Seoul with both nuclear and non- nuclear assets, and this is the reason this problem hasn`t been solved in the past 20 years. The distance between the northern end of the demilitarized zone where you saw Mike Pence visiting earlier today, and downtown Seoul, one of the most prosperous cities in Asia, is about the distance between Baltimore and Washington.

REID: Wow.

SANGER: So, it wouldn`t take much for the North Koreans just with conventional artillery to completely destroy Seoul. And it`s gotten worse because Seoul like every other major city that you know has had urban sprawl and when you land and Seoul these days, you notice that there are suburban houses now being built right up near the North Korean border, which is made it even easier for the North Koreans to --

REID: Wow.

SANGER: -- to get into it hit some of this.

REID: And how smart is it in your view? It seems that the Trump administration is outsourcing much of the solving of this problem to China. Is that going to work?

SANGER: I suspect it probably won`t. They`re not the first administration that believes that the Chinese are the key to it.

It depends on whether the Chinese are truly willing to cut off the two things that keep North Korea alive. One is the financial transfers, and the second and more important is an oil pipeline that runs from China into North Korea that provides so much of their energy.

So, the Chinese interest here is in maintaining the status quo, Joy, it`s not actually in solving the problem because they don`t want a collapsed North Korea in which South Korea and its forces allied with us and maybe our forces go right up to the border, they are not interested in seeing the United States right up on the Chinese border and they`re not interested in seeing North Korean refugees pour into the country.

REID: Yes.

SANGER: And that`s what would happen.

REID: The unsolvable problem of North Korea. David Sanger, national security correspondent for "The New York Times" -- thank you for your time tonight, sir.

SANGER: Thank you.

REID: Thank you.

And more to come tonight. Stay with us.


REID: This is Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. It`s about 650 miles north of Anchorage, right on the northern edge of the state. They`ve got a pretty big oil field up there, about 25 million gallons. It`s a big hub for oil and gas exploration.

And this is a government inbox in Washington, D.C., where you can find public comments. Those comments come from industries, oil and gas companies, steel manufacturers, chemical corporations is alike and they`re all writing the federal government to tell them about regulation that they do not like, that they say makes their job harder.

They`re doing this at the invitation of the president of the United States. Right at the start of his term, Donald Trump asked, "Tell us what you don`t like about the federal government. Specifically, what rules don`t you like, and we may be what will change them."

The president opened up that suggestion box and this weekend, "The Washington Post" cracked the lid open. And what sitting in that box right now is interesting and potentially really revealing about what the Trump administration has planned.

"The Washington Post" reports that the administration got a flood of recommendations on what federal rules should be tossed into the shredder. Everything from nixing paid sick leave for government contractors, to getting rid of electronic injury and illness records. Most of these friendly tips target EPA regulation. They make up almost half the blips sitting in that comment box right now.

"The Washington Post" flags one comment in particular from oil and gas giant BP. BP, they of the infamous Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster of 2010, is politely asking the federal government one shiny letterhead to make it easier for them to drill for oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico. They want their government issued drilling leases to be longer so they don`t have to renew them as frequently and fill out as much paperwork please and thank you.

So, that`s the view from the government`s suggestion box in Washington. Meanwhile, up in Alaska, BP, the same company that wants government assistance to make it easier to drill for oil spent the weekend frantically trying to plug a leak that had been spewing crude oil and natural gas at their Prudhoe Bay drilling sites since Friday. How`s that for timing?

It took them more than two days to plug up that leak we still don`t know how much spilled out or what caused the leak. BP has said. Nevertheless, with one of their wells going haywire in Alaska, here`s BP asking the government to make it easier for them to drill, baby, drill.

These industries -- these for-profit outside stakeholders, they have the president`s ear our way of these public comments. The question is: will the president give them what they want?


REID: OK. Fair warning: we wore out our bleep, bleep, bleepity bleep machine making this next clip for you. It is close to family friendly, but it still does have what your mother might call language. And it has so many bleeps.


ALEX JONES, INFO WARS: I want to tell Congressman Schiff and all the rest of them, hey, listen (EXPLETIVE DELETED), quit saying Roger and I -- and I`ll never use cussing in 22 years, but the gloves are off.

Listen you son of a (EXPLETIVE DELETED), what`s your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) problem? You want to sit here and say I`m a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Russian?

You get in my face, I`ll beat (EXPLETIVE DELETED), you (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

You piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED). You (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Listen, (EXPLETIVE DELETED), kid, you (EXPLETIVE DELETED) crossed the line. Get that through your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) (EXPLETIVE DELETED) head.


REID: So, when Alex Jones unleashed that tirade of bleepity, bleep, bleep, bleep directed at Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff last month, the first challenge was how to make it playable on basic cable. There was some talk at the time that Jones might have broken the law with threatening members of Congress with that rant. While it can be a challenge to take Alex Jones seriously, in the Trump era, you almost kind of have to. After all, he does have at least some access to the White House.

The same rather loud, often seemingly hysterically conspiracy theorists who has said the Sandy Hook massacre was staged with actors playing the victims, the same right wing bomb thrower who pushed the phony pizza-gate story that led to a real gunman shooting up pizza place in Washington, that Alex Jones scored a coveted interview with the president-elect back in December.

And while it`s still hard to take him seriously, we at least have to take seriously the fact that someone who is basically an internet troll has access to the White House. And now there is this -- jury selection began today in Travis County, Texas, to decide a child custody suit being brought by the ex-wife of Alex Jones. She says, quote, "I`m concerned that he is engaged in felonious behavior, threatening a member of Congress. He broadcasts from home. The children are there watching him broadcast."

The defense put up by Alex Jones` attorneys, the same one Jones himself has made on air. Quote, "He is a playing a character. He is a performance artist."

And maybe it is just the political equivalent of pro-wrestling where performers put on the leotards, ramp up the over the top characters and pretend to break each other`s bones. But is that really what Americans want from their president? Really?

The Alex Jones trial is expected to last a couple of weeks in Austin, Texas. I wonder if the president will weigh in. Watch his Twitter.

Well, that does it for us tonight. Rachel will be back tomorrow.

And I will see you next weekend on my show "A.M. Joy."

And now, it is time for "THE LAST WORD" with the one and only Lawrence O`Donnell.

Good evening, Lawrence.



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