Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: October 9, 2017 Guest: Elizabeth Dwoskin, Beatrice Fihn
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: 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. Appreciate it.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us.
You know, these fires that are burning in California tonight, they are for real. There are already at least ten deaths related to this outbreak of fires today.
Overall in California right now, there are more than a dozen fires burning in eight counties. But what we are watching and what we are frankly agape at tonight is the fires that are burning north of San Francisco. So, this is Napa Valley, Sonoma County.
If you`re not from that part of the world or if you can`t picture these places in more normal times, you have definitely heard of these places anyway. This is the most famous wine growing region in the country. It`s a really big tourist region because of that.
But despite the fact that it is famous for wine, this is not just agricultural land. This is very populated territory. The city of Santa Rosa is the largest city that is affected by these fires. Also Calistoga is right there in the danger zone.
And what has happened over the course of this incredibly fast-moving fire today and tonight is that whole neighborhoods are gone. This is a before picture, an aerial view. This is a neighborhood called Coffee Park, in Santa Rosa, California.
This is before. Now, look at the same picture after. That`s after this fire roared through there today. Every single one of those homes incinerated.
This fire was only about 200 acres as of last night, but it exploded over the last 24 hours. It was 200 acres last night. By this afternoon, it was 25,000 acres. And it is burning totally out of control. There are certainly hundreds of homes burned already. It looks like in the end we may be talking about thousands of homes that have been reduced to ash.
One of the remarkable things about these shots of these neighborhoods is not just that homes are burned and so many homes are burned, but that they are completely, completely gone. Whole hospitals had to be evacuated this afternoon and this evening, as smoke and flames bore down on these hospitals with incredible speed. These are some places where they had thought that patients would be safe and where they would be OK to stay operating.
But the hospitals were evaluated -- excuse me, were evacuated quickly and at the last moment. There`s some reports that at the Kaiser Hospital in Santa Rosa, California, hospital staff may have had to evacuate patients from that hospital in their own personal vehicles. Hospital staff using their own cars to evacuate patients in some cases because this thing just came down on them so fast. There were no other options.
So again, the top line news here is that there are a bunch of fires in California. There`s also a very serious one burning in southern California, in Anaheim, but this northern California fire, just north of San Francisco, really is destroying whole neighborhoods in very populated areas, and it`s happened very fast today.
So, we`re watching that story tonight with some considerable urgency as they try to get at least portions of those fires under control.
Over the course of this hour tonight, we will also have updates for you on the ongoing crisis in Puerto Rico where we are closing in on three weeks of a federal response to the hurricane there that itself is turning out to be a disaster. We had a report here on this show on Friday night about our producers being able to freely drive right into at least one town in Puerto Rico that FEMA insisted it couldn`t get into. We had a very unexpected response from FEMA to that story. We`ll have that update for you ahead this hour.
The president today spent the day golfing. So, there`s that.
But in today`s news, we have also been introduced to these guys.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. It`s (INAUDIBLE). Today is going to be one of the worst elections in America. We have one of the worst candidates and the candidate is Hillary Clinton. Most of the black people in America thinks that Hillary is the one who`s going to protect them and Hillary is the one who`s going to fight for them.
Well, hell, no. Hillary Clinton is one of the biggest liars. All she wants is power.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, guys. I know what I`m going to talk about what many people like will like it and people will dislike it. But I don`t care because I`m telling the truth.
Who am I talking to? I`m talking about the old Hillary (AUDIO DELETED) Clinton. No matter how she pretends to be nice to black people, no matter how she pretend to be nice, but I know that she`s a (AUDIO CLIP) racist and this woman is a witch, you know? She`s tried to pretend like an angel, but she`s an angel doer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let our vote go for Trump because this man is a businessman. He`s not a politician. You know, we can have deal with him because I didn`t see him as a racist because any businessman cannot be a racist because when you are a racist, then business is going down. Yes, like for me, my vote go for Trump because he`s going to stick up for the promise land because we are going to vote for changing. Trump is the next best candidate for this community and relation I vote for him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Do you believe him? Do you believe that he is voting for Trump?
"The Daily Beast" reports today that those guys, Williams and Kalvin, got their content yanked off Facebook in August, quote, after it was identified as a Russian government-backed propaganda account.
How did Facebook determine that these guys, Williams and Kalvin, were not who they say they are and they were actually Russian government-backed propaganda? I don`t know. Facebook isn`t explaining these kinds of things. But they did yank them off Facebook in August. Reportedly, Twitter also yanked them in August.
You can still get their stuff on YouTube, but if you find them on YouTube, you`ll see there`s only a very small number of views for these videos on YouTube. The place where they got tons of traffic, thousands of hits, tens of thousands of views, tens of thousands of views was apparently on Facebook.
So, these guys promoted the fact they said they were going to vote for Trump. They made the case that no black people should vote for Hillary Clinton, that Hillary Clinton is a terrible, terrible racist, and Trump is great for black people. They also spent one entire YouTube video advertising that Steve Bannon produced anti-Hillary film "Clinton Cash". I don`t know why they are particularly interested in Mr. Breitbart`s work.
But these guys purport to be from Atlanta. There is some very surface stuff about them online that is designed to make it seem like they are in Atlanta. And in one case, one of these guys reportedly named a famous Instagram model as his little brother in Atlanta and the Instagram model is like, I`ve never heard of you.
But according to "The Daily Beast" reporting, none of these guys, Facebook friends, none of their links to any other real active humans appear to be in Atlanta or have anything to do with Atlanta. And in fact, both of them say other places online that where they actually live is Nigeria.
So, maybe these guys will turn out to be real Donald Trump-supporting Atlantans. But maybe they live in Nigeria and were being paid by Russia. Something about them made Facebook and Twitter shut them down online for being bought and paid for by the Russian government.
We learned that today at "Daily Beast". And this is -- this is just the latest in what`s been a solid month now of treasure trove reporting from American journalists about what Russia did online during our election to try to help Donald Trump and to try to hurt Hillary Clinton. Thursday night at the "Wall Street Journal", we learned that Facebook was aware as far back as April about the Russian government pushing content on Facebook to try and influence the 2016 election. Facebook had apparently initially planned to include specific mention of what Russia was doing when Facebook put out its company statement about how Facebook was used during the election back in April.
But for some reason, after the initial statement was drafted, including all the information about what Russia was doing on Facebook, for some reason, Facebook decided to second draft that statement and specifically cut out all mentions of Russia. Any mention that Russia had been involved in creating fake content at Facebook for the election. So, that was the headline at the "Wall Street Journal." Facebook cut Russia out of April report on election influence.
We don`t know why Facebook decided to keep quiet about what Russia was doing on their platform, but we do know that after they put out that statement in April, Facebook again and again and again denied that there was any evidence they`d seen that there was any Russian money or any Russian government activity using Facebook ads to try and influence American voters during the election.
Facebook denied that to "Time Magazine" on May the 18th. They denied it to Wired.com on July 13th. They denied it to CNN.com on July the 20th. But then miraculously in September, Facebook finally admitted actually despite all those previous denials, yes, it turns out Russia has been buying ads on Facebook to influence the election.
Why did they deny it for so long? Were they denying without having ever checked? Or were they denying it knowing that actually, yes, there was a lot of Russian activity on Facebook targeting our election?
Because if they did know about Russia being active on Facebook trying to affect the outcome of our election in time for that April statement, then they could have told us a lot earlier than they did. Had Facebook admitted what they knew about Russia using their platform to try to affect the election, had they told us about that six months ago when they apparently knew it, maybe all this reporting that we`re getting now would be six months further along. But for whatever reason, Facebook decided they wouldn`t admit anything about Russia using their platform until September. And so, we`ve had this long delay to in terms of as a country coming to any understanding about what Russia was really doing to try to influence our election.
Facebook finally admitted that Russia was active on their platform buying ads as of early September. Since then, we have had a month of really good reporting that has finally opened the flood gates so that we regular people, you know, not congressional investigators, not Mueller`s prosecutors, not people who work inside these tech companies, but regular Americans, can, through the virtues of good journalism, now see what exactly Russia did.
All right. "Daily Beast" was first, less than a week after Facebook had its initial admission in early September. "Daily Beast" found this group Secured Borders which purports to be an American group. It is not an American group. It was operated by Russian agents.
"Daily Beast" had the first report on them back on September 11th that this was one of these fake identity Russian-run Facebook groups that appeared to be American but it wasn`t. And what it was trying to do online during the election was ginned up fear of immigrants. That Secured Borders tried to get Americans to go anti-immigrant and anti-Hillary Clinton rallies in places like Idaho.
Then two days later "Business Insider" who turned up another Facebook entity secretly run out of Russia. This one was called Heart of Texas. Not operated from Texas, it`s operated from Russia.
And some of that is evident in their hilarious effort to sound Texan or to even sound vaguely English speaking. This one`s great and memorable. In love with Texas shape.
Close. You guys are close but not quite there.
And this Heart of Texas group was an "I love Texas" group, and a pro-Texas secession group. But mostly, they appear to have been anti-Hillary Clinton. Some of it idiomatically correct and some of it not.
This one I don`t know what it means literally, but I get the point anyway. No hypoclintos in the God-blessed Texas. Again, literally, I don`t know what they mean. Figuratively I get it.
They also promoted Hillary for prison. This was them too. Hillary, stay away from Texas, with the photo shopped image of her with Osama bin Laden.
Ultimately, this Russian group on Facebook started to promote an idea that must have seemed like a very satisfying prospect to Moscow if they could ever pull this off, right? Right before the election, this Russian-run Texas Facebook group switched over to this as their theme. Secede if Hillary, meaning if Hillary wins the election, Texas should break off from the United States.
So, then, a week after that reporting on the Texas group, then it was "Daily Beast" again uncovering another one of these fake Russian-run outlets operating on Facebook as if it was an American group.
This one was called "Being Patriotic." It was naturally run by Russian agents, and they promoted pro-Donald Trump protests in Florida. Florida goes Trump. They promoted pro-Trump rallies in Pennsylvania, including "Miners for Trump" demonstrations, in at least two Pennsylvania cities.
They promoted down with Hillary Clinton protests at Clinton campaign headquarters in New York. Then, a few days after that reporting from the "Daily Beast", it was politico.com, finding Russian-backed Facebook ads that were pro-Trump, also pro-Bernie Sanders, even after Bernie Sanders had dropped out of the race and endorsed Hillary Clinton.
And right to the bitter end, they were able to find Facebook ads that were promoting the candidacy of Jill Stein. Quote, vote for Jill Stein. Trust me, it`s not a wasted vote. #growaspinevotejillstein.
A day after that "Politico" story, it was ABC News finding more Russian content on that secretly Russian run Facebook group Secured Borders, that one that was trying to gin up the anti-immigrant, anti-Clinton stuff in Idaho, that same group was promoting this image on Facebook ahead of the election. Donald Trump as Santa. Like if you agree. We are going to say merry Christmas again.
These are Russian agents promoting this. The same Russian agents also pitching Dora the Explorer as an illegal immigrant. Once again, the English is not awesome here. If you get caught, they`d just send you back in your country so you can try again. It`s almost English, but you get the idea.
Then, the day after that report, it was CNN who was able to track geographical targeting for fake Black Lives Matter Facebook content that was actually created by Russian government. It was CNN was able to track that those messages Black Lives Matter messages were targeted specifically to Baltimore and to Ferguson, Missouri, trying to, you know, pour maximum fuel on the fire. "The Daily Beast" and "New York Times" have also both now tracked how Russian agents were running various Facebook groups called United Muslims of America and another one called LGBT United and another one called Defend the Second as in the Second Amendment, and another group called Blacktivist.
These are Facebook and Twitter groups all run by Russian agents all designed to cause anxiety and division. And not incidentally, all designed to portray Hillary Clinton as not just liberal but dangerously radical. And so, all of that reporting has happened over the past month or so since Facebook finally was dragged kicking and screaming into admitting that yes, there was Russian-paid content on Facebook trying to affect the election.
So, in a rush, in this past month, we`ve had all this good, in-depth concrete reporting to actually make it nuts and bolts, right, to give us something to look at, give us something to see so we can understand how Russia operated within our election. Just over the past month, we`ve had this rush of reporting that makes it not so much an esoteric thing anymore. It means we can see it, right? Now we know, this is what is Russia did during the election. This was Russian.
They`re calling themselves Heart of Texas, but they got on Facebook and said, this pure evil, right, visual, with this unflattering picture of Hillary Clinton. And the caption there you can see at the top in small print, Hillary is no doubt pure evil. All the patriots must immediately stand up with arms in hands against Washington in the event that Clinton, quote, wins, end quote, the election. Like and share if you agree with me.
Anybody who saw that Hillary Clinton unflattering picture, pure evil of the phrased caption was looking at the work not of some Trump supporter or of the Trump campaign or even some radical Texas secessionist who likes Shape of Texas. If you saw that -- anybody who saw that online, that was from Moscow, or St. Petersburg. That was from a Russian government info operation targeting you as an American voter. That`s what they did.
And the only reason we know that is because journalists have been able to sort of reverse engineer this stuff and figure it out and find stuff that hasn`t been deleted. I mean, Facebook hasn`t made any of this stuff public. Twitter announced that it took down a couple hundred fake accounts that were definitely run out of Russia, but it won`t say what those accounts were.
Today, Google announced its platform was also used by Russian agents to run ads targeting American voters during the American presidential election. These ads ran on Google search results or on Websites that use Google ads in the margins, which is like every Website. It`s also possible that these Russians appeared as ads on Gmail where people have their email accounts, or on YouTube, which is owned by Google.
And this admission from Google today follows the exact same pattern that we have seen from Twitter and Facebook thus far. These companies, these big, rich, capable American companies whose bread and butter is data and data specificity, right, more than a year down the road, these American companies have to be dragged kicking and screaming to admit that they were ever used illegally by a foreign government to influence our election and now, they are admitting it in the smallest possible way, it would be impossible to play it down any further than they are.
Google today, like Facebook before them and Twitter since, is admitting to a few thousand dollars that may have been spent on their platform by people who may be -- yes, they were Russian government agents, but it was a few thousand dollars. Drop in the bucket. Nothing to worry about. Couldn`t conceivably have had any effect.
But you know what? Almost nothing that we know about what the Russians did, about this influence campaign and what they did online, almost nothing that we know about it comes from these companies themselves, these companies that maintain these platforms where the Russians operated.
The companies have told us basically nothing. They`ve told Congress basically nothing. Almost everything we know we know from American journalists figuring this stuff out for themselves. And working backwards from what they can still find evidence of online.
None of this is from what the companies have disclosed. What do we understand about how big this Russian campaign was? How influential it might have been on American voters?
There`s a digital journalism center at Columbia University in New York that has started to look at the reach of this Russian active measures campaign that they ran against American voters online. And again, we don`t have anything from the companies. So this is just what we know from open journalistic sources about what the Russians were doing online.
Professor Jonathan Albright is associated with both Columbia University and Harvard University. Last week, he published research looking at the online reach of just six, he just picked six of these fake online entities that were created by Russian agents to influence our election, just six of them that have been ferreted out by U.S. journalists. He looked at Heart of Texas, Being Patriotic, United Muslims of America, Blacktivists, Secured Borders and LGBT United. Just looked at the content produced by those six groups which were run by Russian agents.
And again, this is -- this is the sample of what they were producing during the election. It turns out just those six groups produced material that was shared 340 million times in the lead-up to the election, 340 million times. And that was just six of the groups that journalists have been able to identify, six.
Facebook alone admits to taking down 470 different accounts that it says were operated by Russian agents. If just six of those had more than 300 million shares, think about the reach that we`re talking about if there were 500 of those groups operating at that level.
The question is, why has it taken this long to get this information about what the Russians were doing in our election? Why are we only getting it from journalists who were having to piece it together themselves, Facebook page by Facebook page, Twitter account by Twitter account?
These were American companies that were used as the scene of a fairly significant crime. What explains their lack of urgency to even figure this stuff out, let alone make any kind of public disclosure that would help us see what Russia did?
And now that Google is admitting this much of it, too, is that likely to change any of those dynamics?
Joining us is Elizabeth Dwoskin. She`s a Silicon Valley correspondent for "The Washington Post." She broke the story today on Google, admitting that Russian agents bought ads on Google platforms during the election.
Ms. Dwoskin, thanks very much for being here. Appreciate your time.
ELIZABETH DWOSKIN, SILICON VALLEY CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So, let me ask you if Google changes the game. I feel like I`m seeing the same pattern from Facebook, Twitter and Google to admit this stuff belatedly, to not be doing particularly deep analysis of what actually happened and to be playing it down.
DWOSKIN: Yes. So, first, I have to correct you. Google actually didn`t admit it. We found that out from our own sources. And they`ve actually declined to comment and the comment they`ve given us have been quite vague. So, they haven`t admitted it actually.
And, you know, the question of why have they been like this, why have they had their heads in the sand. I think that we`re only starting to chip away at kind of the tip of the iceberg of what we`re seeing. One way of looking at it is that they knew well in advance. We knew that Facebook actually started first seeing signs of this back in June of 2016. So, a while back. And then Obama himself warned Mark Zuckerberg to look into it.
And the question is, were they just trying to wrap their heads around a new kind of attack that they had not seen before, or is it that there some incentive, there`s little incentive that they have to really get to the bottom of what what`s going on?
I think it`s both. But look at these platforms. They`re massive automated systems. And the fact of the matter is, they can be easily exploited. And this, what we`re seeing today with Russia is really just a logical extension of massive exploitation in online advertising to begin with.
And so, this is the most nefarious version of it. But the truth is, is that they were really to get to the bottom of it, even though they have the impulse to do so, they probably see that -- they`d have to show the world how exploitable the platforms are and that doesn`t really serve them or their ad businesses.
MADDOW: If they did want to figure it out, I mean, I guess the reason I`ve now started to care more and more that they do more of an investigation, is now that journalists have been able to piece it together and show some of the content, show some of what, you know, the product, what Americans actually saw, I feel like that helps me just as an observer, as a news consumer understand much more about how these things might have been effective. And then, you can go one step further and start to talk about how far they reached and how many people they touched, how many people they may have influenced during the election.
DWOSKIN: Right. If they --
MADDOW: I`m sorry, go ahead.
DWOSKIN: No, no, it`s just, yes, you really -- you really start to see these were ads, hundreds of millions of people. It`s got to be more than 210 million people log in to -- Americans log into Facebook each month. So, something shared hundreds of millions of time can have a massive effect, especially in a close election. You only need to influence a small number of people in a small number of undecided people actually to have an influence.
And what they haven`t really done as well is look at the connections between sites. So, the groups you mentioned, Secured Borders, for example, or Blacktivists, they didn`t just have a Facebook account. They had an Instagram account. They had a Twitter account.
And if you clicked on Twitter, it would take you to a web page where you would be tracked by tracking software. That tracking software could then be fed into Facebook where you were receiving turbocharged targeted ads. So, there`s really a lot of connections between these platforms as well, and that is what we`re just starting to uncover.
MADDOW: If these companies, Facebook, in particular, were -- either had a change of heart or got very brave about what they might find if they look at this stuff or if they were compelled by subpoena or search warrant to actually really find as many of these things as are findable out there, what`s your level of confidence that they really could produce a lot of content, that they really could find most of what was done by Russia?
DWOSKIN: Oh my God, it`s a great question. I don`t think they can find everything. I think that a lot of -- I think that genuinely people who work in security, these companies, are trying to wrap their heads around this. But I think they can produce a lot more.
You know, look at what they`ve done. Essentially, Google -- essentially Facebook tied their ads to one Russian troll farm called the Internet Research Agency, 470 ads and only $100,000. That`s nothing compared to these businesses. Google today, we have tens of thousands of dollars.
But, you know, think about how much Trump -- the Trump campaign spent on Facebook. The Trump campaign spent $70 million on Facebook. So, we know that if this was a massive influence campaign, a lot more was spent. And right now, it seems like they`re only looking at single sources.
One question will be whether the intelligence community helped them. Because a lot of what we`ve heard is that in previous situations where tech was involved in a national crisis, for example, during ISIS, you know, the intelligence community was actually sharing information with the tech companies. That helped them get to the bottom of things more quickly. But we haven`t seen that this time. So, they`re also crying for help.
MADDOW: Elizabeth Dwoskin, Silicon Valley correspondent for "The Washington Post", this is -- I`m getting increasingly obsessed with this story. And you have been very clarifying. Thanks for being here tonight. I appreciate it.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more to come tonight. Stay with us.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: Our strategy for surviving politics these days, at least on this show is that more or less when it comes to the White House, we cover it like a silent movie. Whatever they`re saying, it`s not helpful to understanding what`s important about what`s going on in the world.
We have taken it as a mantra to watch what they do, not what they say. Silent movie. It`s been our watch word on the show for several months now.
And yet every so often, there`s a voice. A voice that sort of feels like maybe that -- maybe that -- maybe we`ll regret not listening to them.
Like for example, the voice of Republican Senator Bob Corker. Bob Corker is a two-term Republican from Tennessee. He`s conservative. He happens to be the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
And now, here`s Bob Corker speaking, telling "The New York Times" that in his view, President Trump is putting this country, quote, on the path to World War III.
This came as part of a back and forth between Senator Corker and the president where Senator Corker said the president is treating his job like a reality show. He said the White House has become an adult day care center where, quote, somebody obviously missed their shift this morning. That was in response to the president saying Senator Corker is retiring because he didn`t have the guts to run again.
In the silent movie, you know, this is the part where the president picks another school yard fight and runs around screaming I`m rubber, you`re glue, and you don`t really need to hear it because he always does that and everybody rolls their eyes and waits for him to get bored to start a new fight with somebody else, probably somebody even smaller.
On the other hand though, Bob Corker really is the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And he is going out of his way to say not just that he believes the president is unfit for office, but his quote was that the president is, quote, putting us on the path to World War III.
The silent movie rule still applies because I still believe in that rule. But if we should be taking this as a real warning from Bob Corker because among other things he`s in a position to know, then we do have some news tonight right here on what some people are doing about that threat. That`s next.
We`ve got a big deal guest here tonight for the interview. Stay with us. That`s next.
MADDOW: North Korea, Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, it`s 12 hours and 30 minutes ahead of U.S. East Coast Time in terms of time zone. So it`s just after 10:00 in the morning there tomorrow. It`s October 10th there.
October 10th is a relevant date for us and for the world because it happens to be the anniversary of the founding of the Communist Workers Party in North Korea. Who cares in the abstract, right? Except the way the North Korean regime tends to commemorate major political anniversary or, you know, the birthdays of the dear leader or whatever, is by throwing big military parades or by testing or firing off new weapons.
So, with this Communist Workers Party anniversary tomorrow, the world is a little bit on edge. Russia warned a few days ago for what it`s worth they believe North Korea is about to test fire another long range missile that`s capable of reaching the mainland United States.
Since Donald Trump has been president, North Korea has not only tested an ICBM. They`ve also tested what appears to be a hydrogen bomb. And then there`s that one mysterious report from the Defense Intelligence Agency that leaked to the "Washington Post" in August. That report reportedly concluded that North Korea has miniaturized a nuclear warhead that could sit on top of a missile. That report basically said North Korea was making missile-ready nuclear weapons, so it could project nuclear force around the globe.
During the transition, January 2nd of this year, President-elect Trump tweeted about the possibility of North Korea having that kind of weapon. He tweeted, quote, it won`t happen.
Well, at least the Defense Intelligence Agency says it has happened. But now, we`re in this period where there are these ominous and vague pronouncements coming out of this White House and coming specifically from the president in person. And we don`t know what these things mean.
Last week, you may recall that the president posed for a photo with some senior military staff and families and he said, this is, quote, the calm before the storm. He then wouldn`t explain what he meant.
Last week, he also publicly cautioned Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, against diplomacy with North Korea -- basically told him to stop trying diplomacy.
This weekend he said diplomacy in the past hasn`t worked with North Korea. He said, quote: Only one thing will work in North Korea. When he was asked by reporters what that one thing is, he told reporters, quote: You`ll figure that out pretty soon.
We really don`t know what he`s talking about. We really don`t know.
The Nobel Peace Prize was announced on Friday. When announcing the prize, the chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee said the risk that some country somewhere will use nuclear weapons is now, quote, greater than it has been for a long time.
The group that was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize is the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. They formerly existed for only about a decade. They now operate in about 100 countries, until a couple of days ago, they were a pretty low profile organization but now, they`re freaking Nobel Peace Prize winners. Just in time.
Joining us for the interview is Beatrice Fihn. She`s the executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, ICAN for short. Just awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.
BEATRICE FIHN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN TO ABOLISH NUCLEAR WEAPONS: Thank you so much.
MADDOW: Did you have any idea?
FIHN: No. I mean, there had been some speculation. But I didn`t want to get ourselves, you know, set up for failure and feeling disappointed. So, there`s no way. No way. So, complete shock really.
MADDOW: Can you tell us, as I mentioned, you`ve been -- for people who are not involved in nuclear weapons and politics and anti-proliferation stuff, you`ve been a fairly although profile organization at least in terms of the American public. Can you just describe what you do?
FIHN: So, ICAN is a coalition of NGOs from all over the world. We have about 460 organizations that have gathered together to focus on one goal: prohibiting and eliminating nuclear weapons.
We`re kind of modeled after another Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, that had great success in the `90s, trying to figure out how NGOs that have different interests and different grounds and resources can work together on one issue and make a huge push.
So, we have really worked this kind of decade on trying to figure out what do we need to do to get rid of nuclear weapons because a lot of the efforts we`ve done in the past have not worked.
MADDOW: Clearly. Yes.
FIHN: Yes. So what we really did is try to reframe the issue. We see it as a security issue. We see it as one of those sort of very technical elite thinking things. It`s all about balance and how many do you have, how many do we have? We start talking about what do nuclear weapons do when we use them? What would happen in warfare if these threats to use nuclear weapons were actually carried out?
You know, we have to sign all these Geneva Conventions, the laws of war that tells us we are not supposed to cause unnecessary harm to civilians in warfare. Nuclear weapons are meant to do that. They are meant to level entire cities, indiscriminately slaughter civilians, massive amounts of civilians.
And they`ve kind of been an exception to all norms and rules. We`re prohibited biological weapons, chemical weapons, land mines, (INAUDIBLE), because of their discriminate impact on civilians. Yet, somehow, nuclear weapons have been having exceptions.
MADDOW: Let me ask you there -- I mean, mentioning chemical weapons. I`ve been thinking about whether or not -- obviously, anti-proliferation efforts have been remarkably unsuccessful. South Africa is the only country to ever voluntarily give up its nuclear weapons. And more countries are trying to get them. This North Korean crisis is driven by their drive above all other national needs, that they need nuclear weapons.
We used to have a very different idea about chemical weapons in this world, both in the West and around the world. And I feel like we`ve come to a place where chemical weapons are now seen as pariah and are seen as a danger to the regimes that possess them. Is that a model for how you think about how we could approach nuclear weapons differently in the future?
FIHN: Absolutely. I think that once upon a time, chemical weapons were the sort of aspirational weapon of choice, a modern weapon.
FIHN: And then we saw what they really were, what they did on the battlefield, what they did to soldiers and people around that got exposed to them. The military advantages of that kind of weapon, weapons of mass destruction aren`t actually that great. Warfare is changing today and causing the maximum amount of destruction doesn`t get us the job done, for example, things like that.
So, I think it`s -- nuclear weapons have been surrounded in prestige and power. So, it`s inevitable that other countries want a part of that as well. For how long can we say that we need nuclear weapons? That`s our ultimate security guarantee. But try to stop everyone else from having that same thing?
So we think in our campaign that we cannot make any progress on nuclear disarmament unless we actually reject the weapon. And say this kind of weapon, we should not have that. Of course, we`re not being naive. We know that the elimination of nuclear weapons will take a long time and it will have to go in phases with verified dismantlement. But you have to start with prohibition and the way we prohibit biological weapons and land mines, cluster ammunitions, chemical weapons, and that`s how you facilitate the elimination.
MADDOW: Beatrice Fihn is the executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the world`s latest Nobel Prize-winning organization. Again, congratulations. Thank you for talking to us.
FIHN: Thank you very much. Thanks.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, on Friday night, we showed you footage that our producers had shot of a journey from San Juan, Puerto Rico, into Aibonito. And that footage, it`s remarkable because actually, it`s kind of a nice break from the footage we`ve been seeing of total devastation in Puerto Rico, right? I mean, these roads are clear. They`re able to get footage like this, moving fast because the roads are open.
Our producers were able to drive right in. This is a town about an hour and a half from the capital city of San Juan. Despite all the reports about towns not getting aid in Puerto Rico because the roads are blocked, these roads clearly were clear, which is what we reported on Friday night.
Roads were clear. And yet nearly three weeks after Hurricane Maria, FEMA still has not delivered food or water there. When our producers showed up last week, residents celebrated because they thought our producers were from FEMA. They were not from FEMA.
Now, FEMA told us that they have been to this town. They have been to Aibonito three times but they told us they did not turn up there to deliver food or water or any supplies. FEMA went to this town three times to help residents fill out paperwork so they could apply for federal aid. This town has received no aid.
Now, we got several calls from FEMA after our report on Friday night. They told us that they went back to Aibonito over the weekend, on Saturday. But again, not to deliver food or water or any assistance, but instead to meet with the mayor so they could, quote, identify the town`s needs and file a report.
We asked them what the mayor`s top three needs are. FEMA did not get back to us on that. They told us it`s not their job to distribute food and water. They say it`s the mayor`s job.
According to FEMA, quote: Relief supplies are being delivered to regional staging areas and mayors are largely responsible for arranging pickup and distribution. How are mayors of towns like Aibonito supposed to do this on their own without vehicles or working phones or fuel?
Good question. Paperwork`s in.
It`s been nearly three weeks since Hurricane Maria hit. Less than 60 percent of the American citizens in Puerto Rico have clean water, 85 percent of the American citizens in Puerto Rico have no electricity and now, the death toll in Puerto Rico has gone up to 39 and it continues to rise because this is day 19 and things are worse, not better.
Day 19. Still no relief effort, even in the accessible towns outside Puerto Rico`s capital city.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Coming into this week, 15 public officials have been criminally charged in the Flint water crisis. The charges include manslaughter, five public officials before this week were charged with involuntary manslaughter for what happened in Flint. And that`s not because of the lead poisoning part of the crisis, it`s because of an outbreak of Legionnaires disease that`s believed to be related to the same switch in water supply that created the lead problem.
One of the public officials charged with manslaughter over that Legionnaires outbreak is the head of the state health department. His manslaughter case was in court last week for a pretrial hearing. And as part of that, a top staffer to Michigan`s Republican Governor Rick Snyder testified that he personally told the governor about that deadly Legionnaires outbreak well before the governor has said he learned about it.
At that hearing on Friday, the prosecutor asked the governor`s staffer if he was sure about that timeline. The staffer said, quote, I took an oath.
The governor gave that timeline of when he says he learned about the Legionnaires outbreak. He gave that timeline in testimony to Congress. Now, the top Democrat on that committee, the committee that Rick Snyder gave that timeline to, that top Democrat says he is, quote, deeply concerned the governor may have misled Congress about that outbreak, not to mention the people of Flint.
Congressman Elijah Cummings is asking the Republican chair of the committee for help to figure out what to do if, in fact, the Michigan governor lied to Congress about what he knew and when he knew it. It appears that either the governor lied about that under oath to Congress or one of his top staffers lied about it this past week under oath in court in a manslaughter trial.
Well, now, today, we got something else. Check this out.
Michigan`s top chief medical officer during the crisis was Dr. Eden Wells. She`s already been charged with felony obstruction of justice for her role in the Flint water crisis. Her pretrial hearing was supposed the start today, but prosecutors called it off at the last minute because they say they have now decided that she, too, will be charged with involuntarily manslaughter. That will make her the sixth public official facing manslaughter charges for what happened in Flint. She`s also facing a new charge of misconduct in office.
State`s prosecutor told the press that the manslaughter charge is based on new documents and testimony coming out last week. Prosecutor told reporters, quote, I think we`d be derelict if we didn`t charge her.
It`s been more than three years since the city of Flint was poisoned by the actions of the state government which took over the administration of that town from its local officials. And more than three years later, prosecutors are still uncovering more evidence and filing more felony charges, even as the people of Flint are still trying to fix their town.
At last count, the mayor of Flint said they`ve replaced the pipes in more than 4,400 homes. Their goal is 6,000 this year.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: So, we started the hour tonight with the urgent situation out west, this fire situation up and down the California coast. More than a dozen fires burning in eight counties. At least ten people have already lost their lives in California today. The governor of the state says this is not under control by any means. North of San Francisco, at least 1,500 buildings have burned today, including whole residential neighborhoods.
In the city of Santa Rosa, California, firefighters are saying the pace of this fire has taken them by surprise. The fire chewing through Santa Rosa started off as a 200-acre fire last night, but then it burned through 20,000 acres in 12 hours, 68-mile-a-hour winds were a big part of why this thing got so out of control so fast.
But it`s not just northern California. These are live -- these are live shots right now of flames in Anaheim, California, right, this second. So, this is going to be a very difficult night for a lot of firefighters and for a lot of families in California.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
END THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2017 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2017 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.