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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 4/24/2017

Guests: Matt Apuzzo, Mitch Landrieu

Show: The Rachel Maddow Show Date: April 24, 2017 Guest: Matt Apuzzo, Mitch Landrieu

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

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

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

HAYES: You bet.

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

In 1997, a woman whose first name was Marie Caroline, she was running to become a member of parliament in France. And something weird happened right before the election that year.

The campaigning was hot and heavy. There was a lot of interest in her parliamentary race in particular. And her dad showed up to help her campaign. Her father showed up in her district to do campaigning for her and with her.

And while he was in her district campaigning for his daughter while she was running for parliament, he ended up on the streets of her district running into the woman his daughter was running against. He ran into his daughter`s opponent in the street and he took a punch at her.

He ran over to her. People were trying to hold him back. Look. Look at this picture. He pushed his way through, he grabbed hold of her and hit her. This was the woman who was running against his daughter for parliament.

I had known this story, I don`t know, sort of peripherally. I had definitely seen these sort of famous still images of that moment. Those were in my head.

But today, we actually went into the archives and we found old French news footage of that incident. And turns out there aren`t just those images, there`s also video, including a slow-mo video which run on French news at the time, where you can see him attack her, physically attack her.

That assault by the candidate`s father ultimately cost him his own job. His daughter was running for parliament in France. He was a member of the European Parliament, the parliament for the E.U., and they threw him out of that seat because of the physical assault on that candidate in the street.

To add insult to injury, his daughter went on to lose the race. So, the woman he punched out beat her and got the seat.

But the following year, another one of his daughters also ran for public office in France, and she did not lose, and he did not punch anybody out and she ended up winning. And that was her first election to public office. And it started her ascent to the highest levels of French politics.

Her sister`s name was Marie Caroline. Her name is Marine.

And when Marine Le Pen won office for the first time in 1998, that started the process of handing over from father to daughter what for decades has effectively been the fascist party in France, the Front National, National Front.

Now, you will think I am showing you this picture of Jean-Marie Le Pen and Marine Le Pen together, specifically -- you will think I am showing this specifically because it`s such an unflattering picture of the dad. But I have to tell you, I did not single this photo out just for that reason. This really is just what he looks like. This is what he looks like when he`s happy. This is what it looks like when he`s proud of his daughter.

This I think is also his angry face. This is just him. This is what he looks like.

And for decades, he really has been the face of fascism in France. And also he likes to hit women.

So, his daughter, Marine Le Pen, who inherited the Front National, the party from her father, who founded it in the `70s, Marine Le Pen is now one of two candidates in the runoff to be the next president of France.

And whether any of us inherently care about elections in other countries or the politics and stability of our allies around the world, whether or not you care about that, for us, watching this from America, part of what is very interesting about them having this election now in France is this is just a story of incredible characters. I mean, Jean-Marie Le Pen is the face of post-war European fascism. He really did get expelled from the European Parliament for him slugging that woman in his daughter`s campaign.

Just a few years ago, Jean-Marie Len Pen was also expelled from his own party, from the party that he founded. He was forced out of the National Front by Marine Le Pen, by his daughter, after she took it over from him.

Then, today after she made the runoff for the presidential election, interesting, Marine Le Pen also dropped out of the party. She runs the National Front as a party. She dropped it. She dropped her own affiliation with the party that her father founded and that she has helmed ever since. She`s now trying to get elected president of France, and so, she has dropped her political party entirely because it`s bad baggage.

But her making it to the runoff and potentially being the next president of France, this isn`t totally untrod ground. Her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, he made it this far in national politics in that country once before. In 2002, in France`s first election after 9/11, in 2002, France scared itself to death because Jean-Marie Le Pen unexpectedly defeated one of the candidates from the two mainstream political parties that year and made it into the presidential runoff himself.

And that was seen as the equivalent of like David Duke becoming one of the two major candidates in a general election in our country. It absolutely terrified France and unified people against him like you couldn`t believe. He got absolutely destroyed in the general election.

He was one of the last two candidates running in that head to head runoff, but he lost hugely. He ran against Jacques Chirac who was not particularly popular, but Chirac got more than 82 percent of the vote because he was running against Le Pen, who was monstrous and unimaginable as a president.

And now, his daughter is in the same position. And everybody sort of assumes that that won`t happen again, that everybody will unify against her, that the National Front cannot possibly take over the presidency of France, whether or not they drop their formal affiliation with the party. Everybody is betting that she will lose very badly and the centrist candidate she`s running against will definitely become the next president.

Everybody assumes that will happen. But at this point it`s like, once bitten, a thousand times shy, right? I mean, it seems implausible that somebody like Le Pen could be president but weird things have happened. Really close to here.

That final election in France, the run-off election will be two weeks. Two weeks from yesterday. If Marine Le Pen wins, France honestly, again, whether or not you care about France as a country, it is important to know that if she wins, France in many ways will be leaping into a political abyss. It will have big global consequences including for us.

If she`s elected, France probably will try to leave the European Union. Since the U.K. is now pulling out. France leaving as well would be the end of that whole experiment, right? A federated Europe with countries bound to each other so intrinsically that the world could never get drawn into a World War by European states going to war with each.

The big idea of the E.U. would probably be over. Marine Le Pen would probably take France out of Europe which would basically end the European experiment.

She would likely also take France out of NATO. We`re in NATO. France, like us, is a founding member of NATO. The alliance was established in 1949 with 12 countries. It has since expanded to 28 countries. It`s one of the fundamental institutions of the world order. No country that is a member of NATO has ever left.

Although, I say, Charles de Gaulle back in the 1960s, he went to a period where he pulled back French participation in NATO because he felt it was too dominated by the U.S. and the Brits. At one point, de Gaulle ordered all non-French NATO personnel to leave French soil. And the U.S. secretary of state at the time had said to have asked in response whether that also meant he wanted the bodies of American soldiers in French cemeteries packed up and sent home as well.

France eventually gave up its toying with leaving NATO and they got back in to NATO fully committed. But that`s as close as anybody`s ever come to leaving it. And now, that`s at risk again much more acutely and a lot more besides. If it is all going to go in France, it`s going to go fast, that French runoff election is two weeks from yesterday.

Here at home, we are at day 90-something of the presidency that came into being because of the biggest shock presidential election result in U.S. political history. All week long, the American media, the American political world, certainly the beltway press and partisan politics in Washington will just be dominated by the discussions of the somewhat artificial hundred day benchmark for this new administration -- what they`ve able get done, what promises were kept, what promises were broken. There will be a lot of talk about the president`s approval ratings are. And it`s all interesting.

In terms of what`s going to happen over this week, I think we should expect some surprises domestically. We`ve had vague promises from the administration that they`re going to unveil their new legislation to overhaul the entire tax code some time this week. Although in fundraising letters as late as tonight, they`re still asking people what they think the priorities should be for that. How do you think we should approach it? Overhauling the tax code is really big deal.

We`ve also had hints from them that they will repeal Obamacare this week, but this time, they`ll do it for real. They also said they will have a spending plan to fund federal government this week, a plan that will pass both houses and be signed by the president, in time to avoid a government shutdown on his 100 day in office at the end of this week, which will happen if they don`t pass something.

As part of that measure when it comes to paying for the wall, the White House line is that it`s no longer Mexico who`s going to pay for the wall, it`s now the Democrats who are going to pay for the wall. Sure.

Honestly, it is hard to believe that any one of those things will happen domestically this week, let alone all of them. I do think it`s fair to expect some surprises this week because the White House itself appears to be so focused on this hundred-day benchmark.

But meanwhile, the world doesn`t stop for artificially imposed media- friendly round number political benchmarks that we invent to talk to each other about how things are going in our country. And so, regardless of what number day this is, or what number we`ll be at by the end of the week, I think it`s worth keeping a very close eye right now on how this young administration, not just how they`re handling the stresses, and how the president is doing personally and whether his promises are being kept. Look at the government he`s running. How is the administration dealing with the responsibilities of being the world`s richest and most influential country, at the time when the world in many ways is quaking at its foundations?

I mean, even if you don`t care about France, this election in France is an earthquake. It`s an earthquake even if Marine Le Pen does not win. I mean, the two main political parties in that country, their equivalent of Democrats and Republicans, those two parties have traded the French presidency for more than 50 years. Neither of those parties even got a candidate into the runoff this time.

They are also coping with Russia and Vladimir Putin playing very aggressively in their politics. Putin is supporting Le Pen openly enough that we have these images of Le Pen and Putin meeting in person at the Kremlin just a couple of weeks ago. Russian banks have loaned Marine Le Pen and her party millions of euros to conduct her campaign.

Tonight, "The Wall Street Journal" reports that Le Pen`s opponent, the centrist she`s running against, Emmanuel Macron, he has been targeted by an intensive, high-level hacking attack. A cybersecurity firm, according to "The Wall Street Journal," is due to publish a report tomorrow that will attribute that major and ongoing attack on Macron to hackers from the Kremlin.

So, Russia obviously wants to blow up NATO. They see NATO as their military rival in the world. They want European broken apart and as weak as possible by any means necessary.

There are clear reasons why and clear evidence that Russia and Vladimir Putin are pulling very hard for Marine Le Pen. They know exactly how disruptive it would be not just to France but the whole Western order of the world.

And in terms of our own government, honestly, you would expect any relatively normal American administration, either one to the right or one to the left, any normal administration of the American government you would expect to try to stand for centrism, stability, the strength of Europe, certainly the strength of NATO if it was called into question in a major ally of ours like this, right?

But that is not how this new president of ours in approaching it. Last March, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the dad, the punchy one, he explicitly endorsed Donald Trump during our presidential campaign. Last week, Donald Trump implicitly endorsed Marine Le Pen, Jean-Marie Le Pen`s daughter. White House said this technically was not an endorsement, but clearly it was an endorsement.

So, take nothing for granted, right? Things can change in an instant. Improbable is not impossible. Look, that`s the president.

The world is contested territory by all sorts of forces. Good forces, bad forces, all in distinct competition. And we have only got one U.S. government at a time. So, if the U.S. government needs to do stuff now, we`ve got to count on this administration to do it, even if you prefer another option.

And tonight, as we are once again on missile launch watch or potentially even on nuclear test launch in North Korea again, because right now as I speak, it`s already with the time change tomorrow in North Korea, and tomorrow in North Korea is a holiday there. It`s the birthday of their army which they sometimes like to celebrate with big military tests. As we watch North Korea for another scary overnight in terms of seeing what they`re going to do and what they`re going to display in terms of threats to the United States and to our closest allies and to the world, tonight, there are signs in our own government that there are things in motion, especially on national security terms.

But they seem to be doing things that we don`t yet understand the importance of. Presumably, it will be clear soon enough. For example, here`s something very specific, Vice President Mike Pence was pulled home from his Pacific trip a day early today. Why is that? This is a long planned trip. He was supposed to be spending the day tomorrow in Hawaii visiting the Pearl Harbor Memorial. Instead, they sent him home early without saying why he was coming home.

The White House has also now announced there will be an all-senators briefing on North Korea the day after tomorrow. Weird thing about that is that they`re holding the all-senators briefing at the White House. There isn`t a room at the White House that is configured for the discussion of classified information that can hold 100 senators plus the people who are briefing them. They don`t have a space like that.

Apparently, what they are doing is they are temporarily remodeling an auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds to become a SCIF for a day, to become a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility for a day just for that meeting. They are going to refit an auditorium so it`s OK to talk about classified information there that day.

Why are they going through all that trouble rather than just having a briefing at the Senate where there`s plenty of room and they do it all the time? Why are they making all the senators come to the White House?

Nobody knows.

In this tense week, I know there`s going to be a lot of attention on the president himself because the president and the hundred days thing is a personal thing. But if you want to know more broadly how our government is doing, particularly when it comes to our country in the world, I think there are two things to watch this week, really to see not how the president is doing, but to see if the government under this president is finally starting to get its sea legs, particularly on national security and international issues.

Two things to watch. Number one, watch the State Department. Under the new secretary of state, the Exxon CEO, Rex Tillerson, the State Department has become something between invisible and inadvertently funny. Today, for example, the biggest news about the State Department is that they apparently were not invited to the meeting the president hosted today at the White House for all the ambassadors representing all the countries on the U.N. Security Council. All of those ambassadors and their spouses were all invited to the White House along with U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.

It was literally the president and 14 ambassadors from all these incredibly important different countries. Ambassador, ambassador, ambassador, ambassador, ambassador, and there`s Trump doing the photo-op and everything. No secretary of state. No representation from the State Department whatsoever.

So, that was the big news about the State Department today? Shouldn`t they be there?

The big news out of the State Department today was their website was the State Department getting embarrassed about the fact they put up a gushing taxpayer funded website advertising Mar-a-Lago as the alternative White House and talking about how beautiful it is.

The State Department may have those kinds of inappropriate feelings for Mar-a-Lago, but it is also a for-profit Donald Trump business entity. So there`s that whole illegal profiting off the presidency thing. They eventually took down their "we love Mar-a-Lago website" after getting teased about it all day long.

State Department also today announced their new spokesperson. It will be one of the hosts from "Fox and Friends," which is the president`s favorite cable TV show. And who knows? Maybe she will be amazing. I hope she will be amazing.

But watch the State Department this week. See if they put down roots at all, to see if they start taking up space at all, to see if they restart redoing -- if they restart the process of doing daily State Department briefings which we have done in this country since the `60s, but this administration has stopped.

If you want a substantive window on this first hundred days thing, I realized the temptation to focus personally on the president and his campaign, and all that stuff. But in terms of America and the world, watch the State Department.

Also, watch the U.S. military. This is my last point. It has been -- I think a source of comfort to a lot of people that the military doesn`t turn over with each new administration, right? Trump said during the campaign that when he became president, there would be all new generals. Remember that?

That was a very satisfying fact check during the campaign. No, sir. That`s not how it works. You do not get all new generals, nor do your suits get epilates, nor should you appear in public in mirrored sunglasses.

Now, the military stays the military. Civil government turns over. The military doesn`t.

But on important matters of national security and life and death issues around the use of military force, I have to say, even though it`s the same military it`s always been, during this young administration, during these 90-something days, there have been now a series of troubling incidents where the military has made public statements on important matters that are not true, under weird circumstances, right?

You`ll remember the president`s first major military decision was to order that special operations raid into Yemen that went so disastrously wrong. A Navy SEAL was killed. Four other Navy SEALs were injured. Multiple civilian deaths. Even the destruction of a $75 million helicopter.

After that disastrous raid, you might remember that CentCom came out a few days later and publicly released a video that they said proved how important and valuable that mission was because it gathered this incredibly important intelligence. They released this video that they said was gathered during that raid.

It quickly emerged that that video they released had been around actually for almost a decade. It wasn`t picked up in the Yemen raid. It wasn`t new.

CentCom`s explanation for why they released it, this was crucial new information obtained in the Yemen raid was this, quote, "We thought it was new but now we know that it is not new." That was weird. That was right at the beginning of the administration.

After that, there was also strange situation in which the Defense Secretary James Mattis bragged that the Tomahawk missile strike on the Syrian air base had destroyed one-fifth of the Syrian air force. When he was questioned to back up that information, he conceded it might not be true but he said he made that statement because he had to get a statement out. OK.

After that, we had the debacle of two weeks of miscommunication from the administration, what appeared to be outright lies from the administration, including the president himself, the White House spokesman, the national security adviser, the defense secretary, all overtly misleading the public on the location of an aircraft carrier. The location of the USS Carl Vinson and its associated strike group, that -- we still don`t have an explanation for why the White House thought the aircraft carrier and its carrier strike group was going somewhere it was not going.

And now, in addition to that, we`re now ten days into this strange story out of CentCom once again where somebody who was not a CentCom spokesman nevertheless talked to reporters, identified himself as a spokesman and bragged about how President Trump was now bombing the bleep out of ISIS just like he said he would. That`s not a very military spokesman kind of statement. It was nevertheless published as the words of a CentCom spokesman. CentCom later put out a mysterious press release retracting that statement and saying that person was not authorized to speak for CentCom.

Well, OK. Happy to clear that up, but I would also like to clear up how CentCom got a fake spokesman for a day. How did that happen? And how we are supposed to know in the future whether somebody is speaking on behalf of the U.S. military as a real person as opposed to a pro-Trump swearing imposter who we shouldn`t trust as far as we can throw?

We don`t usually have to ask these questions about the U.S. military. We`re nearing the 100-day benchmark for this new presidency but in a very sensitive, anything can happen time for the world, keep your eyes not just on him as an official. Keep your eyes on this government that he is running, because the very serious, important parts of it that wee need and expect to be basically competent at placing America where we want to be in the world -- those parts of government are doing some weird stuff lately.


MADDOW: Grandstanding is not an unusual thing among politicians. It`s actually one of the things you need to check off on the big, imaginary checklist of things you need to be able to do if you want to be an elected official. Kiss babies? Check. Raise money? Check. Grandstand? Check.

You have to be able to grandstand. Grandstanding is not rare in Washington, but bipartisan grandstanding very much is.


SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Mark and I work hand in hand on this, and contrary to maybe popular belief, we`re partners to see that this is completed, and we`ve got a product at the end of the day that we can have bipartisanship in supporting.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE VICE CHAIRMAN: I have confidence in Richard Burr that we together with the members of our committee are going to get to the bottom of this. And that`s -- if you get nothing else from today, take that statement to the bank.


MADDOW: Take it to the bank. We`re going to get to the bottom of this. Those are the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee and therefore the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Russia investigation. Richard Burr is the Republican chairman. Mark Warner is the Democratic ranking member.

Burr and Warner say their project in the Senate is totally different than the messed up one in the House. At the time they made their big bipartisan statement to the press, the House investigation you might recall was falling apart, was losing its Republican leader. They were cancelling their hearings in the House. They were basically stopping work altogether on the investigation.

But in the Senate, no, no, no, things were different. Senators Burr and Warner said they had 20 witnesses lined up and a bunch of staffers devoted to the investigation. Everybody was getting along. They got all sorts of glowing reviews about how much better the Senate investigation was going to be. Ahem.

New reporting today indicates that the take it to the bank Senate investigation may be in even more trouble than the House, in the sense that it may not be actually doing anything. Of the seven Senate staffers who are reported to be working on this investigation, these are the people who actually have access to documents, turns out all seven of the staffers on this investigation are working part time. Also, precisely, none of them have any prosecutorial experience or investigative experience.

Quote, "Most of them lack a background in Russia expertise. Not one of the seven is a lawyer."

After Tim Mak of the "Daily Beast" published that story today, the committee announced two new additional hires, although neither of the new hires will be exclusively working on the Russia investigation either. Meanwhile, investigative juggernaut Michael Isikoff at Yahoo News reports that the Senate committee, quote, "has made little progress and is increasingly stymied by partisan divisions, that`s according to multiple sources involved in the problem."

Quote, "The committee hasn`t requested potentially crucial evidence such as the e-mails, memos and phone records of the Trump campaign in part because the panel`s chairman, Richard Burr, has so far failed to respond to requests from the panel`s Democrats to sign letters doing so."

So, they haven`t even requested emails, memos, phone records. They haven`t requested any documents, nor have they done any interviews. We`re three months in.

If you are keeping track of these investigations into the Russian attack on our election and the open question as to whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with that attack, we have this Senate investigation which appears to have done, more or less, nothing. We have the House investigation tying to get started again after flaming out and after its Republican chairman had to recuse himself. They say there will be another public hearing on the House side, but who knows when?

There`s also one other major probe into Russian interference in the election, and whether the Trump campaign was part of it. That investigation has plenty of staff. Also has plenty of investigative experience. But it has this other hurdle, which is the guy in charge.

Blockbuster, almost book-length incredible reporting on FBI Director James Comey and the Russia investigation in the "New York Times" this weekend. Incredible story, very worrying in terms of this investigation. The lead author of that story, the guy who got that scoop joins us live, next.


MADDOW: Let`s wallow in hindsight for just a moment. Go back to September. Presidential campaigns are rolling. Republicans all chant "lock her up" at Hillary Clinton at every rally, every event, because she used a private e-mail server for some of her work communications and that`s being investigated by the FBI.

The Clinton campaign has to slog through the political fallout of that unusually unprecedentedly public FBI investigation into those e-mails.

We now know in hindsight that the Republican campaign was also under FBI investigation at the same time, not for a private e-mail server but the possibility they helped the Russian military and intelligence services interfere in the U.S. election to help their candidate. Well, in September, we had two campaigns. We had two FBI investigations, and that`s FBI investigation into each of the campaigns, each of the candidates.

But only one of those investigations was discussed and confirmed by the FBI out loud before people went to vote in the election.

And, you know, when you look back at it, you can see that there were Democrats who tired to get the FBI, who tried to get the FBI Director James Comey to go on the record about the investigation into the Trump campaign, too, but FBI Director James Comey would not budge. He would talk about Hillary Clinton being under FBI investigation, happy to do that, but he would not talk about Trump being under investigation, too. Wouldn`t confirm that. Wouldn`t discuss it at all.

They were both under investigation. He`d only talk about one of them. There were some Democrats who tried at the time before the election back in September to make clear to him how nuts that was.


REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY), HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Is there a different standard for Secretary Clinton and Donald Trump? If not, what is the consistent standard?

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: No, our standard is not we do not confirm or deny the existence of investigations. There`s an exception to that when there is a need for the public to be reassured, when it`s apparent given our activities, public activities that the investigation is ongoing. But our overwhelming rule is we do not comment except in certain exceptional circumstances.

NADLER: Aren`t there exceptional circumstances when close officials to a candidate of a major political party for the United States says publicly that he`s in communication with foreign officials and anticipates further illegal activity?

COMEY: I don`t think so.


MADDOW: I don`t think so. Why should anybody worry about that? There`s no public concern about that.

From hindsight, it is now obvious that we are living in and have lived through some very exceptional times in politics. It wasn`t until March, wasn`t until last month that the FBI director finally felt it was a good time to, yes, confirm that there is an investigation involving the campaign of the person who is now the president of the United States. It`s an investigation, though, that had been going on since months before the election last year, even though he wouldn`t say it at the time.


COMEY: The FBI as part of our counterintelligence mission is investigating the Russian government`s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia`s efforts.


MADDOW: Why did FBI Director James Comey wait so long to do that?

The Clinton folks say they`re pulling shows that Comey`s public discussion of the investigation into her before the election cost them the election. Would it have affected the vote for Trump if James Comey had also publicly discussed the investigation into Trump before the election? While his agency was investigating both candidates, did his speech, his public speech about one of those investigations before the election and his silence about the other before the election, did that change the course of history?

If so, why did he do it? And what does that tell us about his handling the Russia investigation now?

Joining us now is Matt Apuzzo of "The New York Times." He`s a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter. He`s part of the reporting team for this new blockbuster story in "The Times" this weekend. Comey tried to shield the FBI from politics, then he shaped an election.

Mr. Apuzzo, congratulations on this scoop. Thanks for being here.

MATT APUZZO, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Thanks for having me, Rachel.

MADDOW: Let me ask about the way that I laid this out. You describe in your report that people who are close to James Comey say he has no regrets about the way he handled the Clinton investigation and the Trump investigation. The two different paths he took on those two matters. Does he believe his decisions had any influence on the election?

APUZZO: Yes, I don`t -- you know, first off, Jim Comey has not sat for an interview on this topic with us or anyone else, so, you know, we conducted, you know, dozens of interviews with people, you know, sort of all walks of life to try to, you know, get a sense of what the discussions were around him. I think he feels like he made the least bad decisions that he could have made given the bad circumstances he faced.

I mean, I think that`s, you know, that`s what he would say. And whether that influenced an election or not, I`m not sure. They feel that`s a knowable thing. I think they felt like they tried to make -- not even the best decision, just the least bad decision.

MADDOW: I think that the thing that consistently comes through, even if you don`t see James Comey as a partisan actor here, is that he`s acutely aware of partisan wins and the way his actions or words will be received in various sides of the political spectrum. He seems very acutely tuned to Republicans criticizing him for being helpful to Hillary Clinton in some way, particularly with the expectation that Hillary Clinton would win that election. I think the reason that is so resonant and so many people are focusing on that aspect of the story is because it gives rise to concerns about how he will, if he continues to be motivated by those things, that that will shade the way he conducts the investigation into Trump and Russia that continues now that Trump is president.

Do you think that is a fair reading of that part of your story?

APUZZO: I think it`s absolutely a fair reading that Jim Comey was -- and the FBI in general -- was very acutely aware of what I`ll say -- I`ll call politics with a lower case "p." Not partisan politics like I`m Jim Comey, I`m historically Republican. I want to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton because she`s Democrat.

But acutely aware of what the politics of the city was, especially in October when he`s considering sending that letter to Congress announcing essentially the Clinton investigation is open again, there was a deep awareness that Hillary Clinton was likely to win, that, you know, the very day they are debating whether to send this letter or not, Jason Chaffetz, the Republican on the Hill, is saying he`s got years of hearings teed up in anticipation of a Clinton presidency.

I think there was a real sentiment that if at the FBI, if they didn`t -- if they told the public the Clinton investigation was closed, they found there were more e-mails who are relevant to the case, they started looking at them. She got elected and then later they found something and then told the public, oh, hey, by the way, we found these e-mails and knew about them before the election. We didn`t tell you about it. Sorry. That they were going to get destroyed as an agency.

Now is that`s a political consideration and one that, frankly, FBI directors normally don`t take into consideration. You know, this is a just the facts organization.

MADDOW: It`s just -- I`m sorry to interrupt you. The thing that`s remarkable about it is the -- looking at it from the other -- turning the telescope around, right? If that`s the thing that you`re weighing, how could you not then look at the Trump investigation and say, well, there`s a chance he will be elected president and if it turns out that we were -- we had a months long counterintelligence investigation into him and whether he coordinated with a foreign power to seize the presidency through the help of a foreign intelligence operation, we will have to answer for that letting people know that before the election. The same concern seems so much greater with what they were investigating Trump for.

APUZZO: I think that`s right. And I think, you know, one of the ways to think about it is, if wasn`t that he handled the Trump investigation wrongly. He handled the Trump investigation absolutely by the book. It`s just that, you know, he tossed the rule book out on several different occasions when it came to Hillary Clinton`s investigation. And I think we have a better understanding of why he did that. But, you know, whether people draw the distinctions between the two cases really is going to determine where you come down on Jim Comey`s decisions at the end of `16.

MADDOW: Yes, and your expectations for how he`ll handle stuff going forward.

APUZZO: Yes, exactly.

MADDOW: Matt Apuzzo, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for "The New York Times," I know you have a lot of demands on you because of the high-profile nature of this story -- thank you for being here with us tonight, Matt. Appreciate it.

APUZZO: Great to be with -- great to be with you. Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right. Much more to come tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: At about 1:30 this morning, a team of construction works are started in on a new project that had not been announced in advance. So, this was next door to a parking garage in New Orleans. If you look closely, you can see there are things about this that make clear it`s not your typical construction project.

These workers obviously went to work after midnight. They wore military style helmets and bulletproof vests. They hid their faces. They covered their company`s logo with cardboard and plastic and tape on the side of the truck. You see that?

And seriously here, they had a team of police snipers on rooftops overhead, overseeing them while they worked. This construction crew needed this extraordinary security because of what they were in the process of doing. What they were in the process of undoing.

Nine years after the civil war ended in 1874, New Orleans was trying to stabilize and stand up its new government, including the city standing up a police force that included both white police officers and black police officers. And they came up against armed resistance to that idea. In September 1874, a paramilitary white supremacist militia mounted a military effort to try to overthrow the local government.

They targeted the city`s police force in a bloody battle that ended with 13 police officers dead, six civilians dead, 16 of the white supremacists involved in that battle were also killed. But the white supremacist militia was able to seize control of the city government for three days before federal troops came in and restored order and kicked them out.

A few years later, up popped a monument to commemorate the event, not to memorialize the fallen officers, but to honor the militia, to honor the white supremacist militia that started it. To honor the white supremacists who died in that coup attempt.

And that monument has gone through many iterations since. It`s been edited to honor the victims of both sides in that bloody value. It has been the target of graffiti.

A few years ago, it was moved to a less visible location, but it has remained more or less in the heart of this dynamic, beautiful American city of New Orleans. And it`s been there for well over a century -- until early this morning.

The city of New Orleans had it removed under very difficult circumstances. They had it hauled away in pieces on the back of a truck bed. The whole process took about four hours. The workers who did the work were the target of death threats ever since the city of New Orleans announced that this monument would come down.

New Orleans now has three more removes planned, all commemorating Confederate soldiers. The city has not said when the rest of the statues will be removed, but New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu says it will happen sooner rather than later.

He joins us next. Stay with us.


MADDOW: This was the great city of New Orleans very early this morning as the first of four Confederate memorials was being removed in the middle of the night. Even so, folks showed up, including some people who held a candlelight vigil for the memorial that was being taken down. A memorial to a white supremacist uprising in the 1870s that took dozens of lives.

Joining us now is Mitch Landrieu. He is the mayor of New Orleans.

Mr. Mayor, thank you very much for being with us tonight. I really appreciate your time.

MAYOR MITCH LANDRIEU (D), NEW ORLEANS: Thank you, Rachel. Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: Let me ask you how you perceive the range of reactions you`re hearing from your constituents about this. What`s the reaction?

LANDRIEU: I think most people in New Orleans are pretty happy about it. You know, after Katrina, when we just really got destroyed, 500,000 homes hurt, 250,000 destroyed, we had to rebuild the city. And we`re thankful to the rest of the nation for gasping at the possibility of losing what a lot of people think is a city that is the soul of America.

As we began to rebuild our city and started to think about who we were and what we were, these monuments popped right up and said, you know, why do we have monuments that are revering the confederacy right in the heart of the most prominent circles in the city in places of reverence? And we had two years of discussion over this.

This wasn`t a secret. It didn`t happen overnight. We had hearings of historic landmark commission, city councils, et cetera, et cetera. And we`ve been through every court that you can go through.

The reason we did this thing in the middle of the night is the threats that the contractors received. The first contractor we had had his car blown up. And so, for the safety and security of the people, we decided to take the monuments down at night. We have three others that we`re going to take down. We`re not going to tell people when we`re going to do it, but it will be in the future.

MADDOW: What do you know about the origin of the threats?

LANDRIEU: Well, it`s really hard to tell, because as you know on social media and other things, it`s really hard to kind of capture it. But they`re there. Anybody can go on social media and look at the kind of vitriol that is coming from folks that want to preserve this.

But essentially what this is, it`s called the Cult of the Lost Cause that wanted to promote white supremacy at a brief time in our history when the confederacy tried to tear our nation apart. And these statues were put up, as you said, at a very brief time of New Orleans` 300 history. So, one of the things that people of New Orleans had decided to do was re-rebuild our city and reclaim our past, we want to tell the whole history of our city, not just a very small part of it. And we want to celebrate the thing that makes New Orleans really wonderful and beautiful that everybody experiences when you get there, which is our diversity.

That`s the gift that New Orleans has given to the rest of the country. And these statutes are an aberration in terms of what New Orleans has been and what New Orleans wants to be.

MADDOW: Briefly, Mr. Mayor, you said there are three more that you do expect to come down. You want to give us a sense of the time frame in which this is going to happen? Are you going to space this out or should we expect this to happen soon?

LANDRIEU: You should expect to have it happen soon. Well got clearance from the court the other day and we began last night. And in the near future, we`re going to take Robert E. Lee down who never stepped in the city of New Orleans.

That would be like putting King George where the Washington Monument is in Washington, D.C. It just makes absolutely no sense because everybody now remembers the point of the confederacy was to tear the nation apart, not to support it. And so, I think those are going to come down. And we`re going to put things there that reflect the history, the diversity, the beauty, the culture and all of the history of New Orleans as time allows.

MADDOW: Mitch Landrieu, mayor of New Orleans, thank you, sir. Appreciate you being here.

LANDRIEU: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

MADDOW: We have some breaking news to get to tonight that is just coming in out of Arkansas, some disturbing news, actually. But we`ll have that for you right after this.


MADDOW: In our last minute here on the air tonight, we have breaking news from the state of Arkansas. They had a doubleheader execution scheduled tonight in Arkansas, but based on how the first execution went, which is not well, lawyers for the second prisoner have requested and now apparently received a stay. So, the second prisoner who was due to be killed tonight may apparently not be killed tonight. It`s a temporary stay.

His lawyers requested the stay because of what went wrong in the first execution tonight. In their application for the stay, they say, quote, the infirmary staff tried unsuccessfully to place a central line, which is a form of I.V. in Mr. Jones` next for 45 minutes before placing one elsewhere on his body. After they got the lethal injection drugs flowing into him, they say for five or six minutes, he was moving his lips and gulping for air.

The lawyer for the second prisoner tonight due to be killed say his movements after the first of the drugs in the lethal injection cocktail was administered to him was evidence of his continued consciousness.

So, again, we`ve had -- there has been some sort of trouble in the first execution that was carried out tonight in Arkansas. There has been a temporary stay for the man who was due to be killed second as soon as that first execution was done.

We will have more ahead for you on that story in coming days. I want to tell you, though, that does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.

Lawrence O`Donnell has a special tonight. It`s called "100 Days of Conflicts". And it starts right now.


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