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Porter worked on interim clearance for 1 year. TRANSCRIPT: 2/19/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Cameron Kasky

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: February 19, 2018 Guest: Cameron Kasky

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: You know, I for one welcome this sort of time in human development where we can say overtly, like me.


MADDOW: Like me.

HAYES: I know. Like me, don`t forget to like me.

MADDOW: Don`t forget to like me.

HAYES: I`m on television every night because I desperately need your attention.

MADDOW: It`s, you know, it`s an all too transparent window.

HAYES: Exactly. No subtext.

MADDOW: Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. It`s Presidents` Day. It`s a long weekend for some people and -- this is one of those -- this is one of those sort of holidays that some people get and some people don`t get that can in normal interruptions in the news cycle. We never ever get an get interruptions in the news cycle anymore. But that`s OK. That`s why Chris and I have jobs like this.

All right. In 1984, at his last State of the Union Address before he ran for reelection as president, January 1984, Ronald Reagan at that State of the Union made a very sober promise to the country on a very serious issue.


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT: This year, we will intensify our drive against these and other horrible crimes like sexual abuse and family violence.


MADDOW: That was January 1984. Ronald Reagan telling Congress the government will intensify our drive against sexual abuse and family violence. This was one line in a sort of dark part of Reagan`s State of the Union Address that year. That was part of the speech where he also talked about kidnapping and about child pornography.

But when he got to the line about intensifying our drive against family violence, one American woman, this woman, her name is Charlotte Fedders (ph), when she heard that part of Ronald Reagan`s State of the Union Address that year, it caused her to write a letter to President Reagan, and because of who she was, she had reason to believe her letter would get through.

She wrote to the president, quote: I`m a victim of wife abuse. For over 16 years of marriage, my husband periodically beat me. I`ve had a broken eardrum, wrenched neck, several black eyes, many, many bruises.

Once he even beat me around the abdomen while I was pregnant with my first baby.

Now, the reason Charlotte Fedders wrote that letter to President Reagan is because her violent, abusive husband worked for Ronald Reagan at a very senior job. His name was John Fedders. He was Ronald Reagan`s enforcement director at the Securities and Exchange Commission. That`s an intimidating job. He was an intimidating guy. He was 6`10".

But Ronald Reagan made that mention about intensifying the drive against family violence in the State of the Union that year, John Fedders` wife Charlotte then wrote the president a letter documenting that very phenomenon in the marriage of one of his own high-ranking appointees.

Her letter made it into the White House. That letter that she wrote was given to Reagan`s White House counsel.

But after reading that letter, the White House decided to do nothing. John Fedders kept his job at the SEC. When that letter had zero effect despite the fact it got to the White House counsel, Charlotte Fedders` sister decided to push it even further. She picked up the phone and got the White House counsel on the phone to raise the issue with him again. Charlotte Fedders` sister explained what the White House counsel told her in that conversation when she informed him that a powerful government official who`s been appointed by President Reagan was violently abusive toward his wife, who was her sister.

She said, quote: he said the president would never knowingly keep a spouse abuser in a top administration job. But at this point he said, it was a private dispute. He did ask me, have you ever seen him hit her, and I said no but I`ve seen the black eyes, I`ve seen the bruises, I`ve seen the broken eyeglasses.

Even after that phone call from Charlotte Fedders sister, the White House still did nothing with that information. They stayed quiet. John Fedders stayed on at his high-profile job at the SEC. But a year down the road, by February of 1985, that story, which the White House was trying to push aside and not pay attention to, that story made it to the front pages of the "Wall Street Journal".

Quote, Mrs. Fedders said the beatings, excuse me, Mrs. Fedders says the beatings began practically from the start of their marriage. She testified that he broke one of her eardrums with a blow to the side of her head in October of 1968, barely two years after they were married. She said, quote, John attacked me with his fists and hands. I remember he was yelling that he didn`t care if he killed me or killed the baby. She said he beat her in the abdomen.

Quote: He blew up for an $80 bill from a marriage counselor and attacked her as she was bathing one of their sons. Quote: He came in and just started hitting me. He said I don`t care if I kill you. At that time, she fled with the children to the home of a neighbor who testified that Mrs. Fedders appeared at her door in tears and showed her bruises.

Mr. Fedders still suffers severe pain occasionally from an injury caused in November 1981 when he yanked her around by the hair after trying to throw her over a banister in their home. Two of their sons witnessed that incident.

First he tried to throw her over the banister. The oldest son Luke recalls in an interview. She dropped down to the ground. He tried to pick her up by the hair and he just shook her.

Luke says he no longer speaks to his father. He adds that his mother wears an orthopedic collar around her neck when it`s really bothering her.

That was February 25th, 1985, front page, A1, of "The Wall Street Journal." That apparently did the trick. Page one in "The Wall Street Journal", that was the third time the Reagan administration had seen these allegations against this high-ranking official who Reagan had installed at the SEC.

First two times didn`t result in them doing anything about it. It was only this third time when it ended up in the newspaper that they decided to act. They didn`t do nothing once it was in the paper. They leapt into action to defend John Fedders. The White House put out statements that said he was doing an outstanding job at the SEC. He was not being asked to resign.

Next day, though, John Fedders was gone.


TV ANCHOR: Until today, John Fedders was one of the top law enforcement officials of the U.S. government. He was the enforcement chief of the Securities and Exchange Commission. But Fedders had personal problems and today personal problems and today he resigned after revelations he beat his wife.

REPORTER: The resignation came after two days of news stories in which Fedders admitted that he had physically abused his wife but claimed he was not a wife beater. The stories came after his wife Charlotte described the beatings during their divorce trial in the suburban Maryland courthouse. In one incident, she said he slapped her across the face and broke her eardrum, and another, he beat her up while she was three months pregnant.

CHARLOTTE FEDDERS: John attacked me with his fists and his hands and he was hitting me around the abdomen and he was yelling at me, he didn`t care if he killed me or the baby.

REPORTER: Charlotte Fedders said there were other incidents where she was left with a black eye and bruises and she says she has a permanent neck injury from a time her husband tried to throw her over a banister.

In court, John Fedders admitted he was violent but claimed he never meant to hurt his wife.


MADDOW: That was 1985. White House had been alerted multiple times about the abuse happening at the hands of this high-ranking official Reagan had installed at the SEC, but repeatedly, they took no action. They sat on those allegations for months. They even defended him.

But John Fedders had to resign under pressure because of his history of spousal abuse ended up on the front of a national newspaper. So, that was 1985.

You recognize this pattern, right? We saw something similar play out last year. After Donald Trump was elected, he nominated a man named Andy Puzder to be his labor secretary. Soon after that, broke the news that Andy Puzder`s ex-wife had once made serious allegations of domestic violence against him, specifically on an episode of the Oprah Winfrey talk show in the 1990s.

Now, we knew that tape existed. The incoming White House knew it too, but Oprah`s production company said they couldn`t locate that tape. There was fierce interest for it after that "Politico" reporting. The tape for whatever reason was missing. Nobody could get it from the original source. And Andy Puzder stayed on track to become the next labor secretary.

But then about a month down the road, the tape turned up.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He vowed revenge. He said, I will see you in the gutter. This will never be over. You will pay for this.


MADDOW: Andy Puzder`s wife wearing a disguise appearing on the Oprah Winfrey show. But it`s interesting, it was not the Oprah Winfrey show that found that tape from that old show.

You know where that tape came from? Charlotte Fedders, the woman whose Reagan administration husband tried to throw her over the banister in front of their sons. The reason Charlotte Fedders had the tape of that particular show is because she also appeared on that same episode, which is about domestic violence in upper class families. We`re pretty sure that is her all the way over on the left hand side there, in the purple dress with the pearls.

Last year, when Charlotte Fedders saw the news about Andy Puzder, potentially becoming the next labor secretary and these allegations of how he had abused his wife, she remembered that she had that tape. She took her personal copy of that tape. She gave it to "Politico". And the day that tape came out, Andy Puzder withdrew his nomination to be secretary of labor.

Charlotte Fedders, remarkable story, right? Starting in terrible, violent threatening circumstances, nevertheless, she put her name to her own story about domestic violence by putting it in black and white in the national news. She took down a powerful government official in the Reagan administration, despite the resistance from the Reagan administration to doing anything about it.

Then, a generation later, in the early days of the Trump administration, she does it again, this time with a decades-old VHS tape. "Washington Post" has a stomach-churning story up on the front page its website right now. This is the actual headline. For the weary White House, Florida shooting offered a reprieve from scandals.

Reprieve is in quotes because a White House official actually said that word, saying it was a reprieve, expressing great relief that the Trump White House felt upon hearing the news about the massacre of school kids at a Florida high school last week.

Here is how the story starts, quote, the White House was under siege. Domestic abuse allegations a senior aide were ignored, pointing to a potential high-level cover-up. Two cabinet secretaries were caught charging taxpayers for luxury travel. A Playboy centerfold alleged an extramarital affair with the president and the special counsel`s Russia investigation was intensifying. The tumult was so intense that there was proven speculation the president might fire his chief of staff.

But a gun massacre at a Florida high school last Wednesday which left 17 dead seemed to shift the media glare away from the Trump scandals and gave embattled aides an opportunity to refocus. Some aides privately acknowledged that the tragedy offered a breather from the political storm. There had been a tentative plan for White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to address the news media from the briefing room on Wednesday, where he would have faced intense scrutiny over his role in the mishandling of domestic abuse allegations against former staff secretary Rob Porter. After the shooting in Florida, though, that plan was scuttled.

For everyone, it was a distraction or a reprieve, said a White House official. A lot of people here felt like it was a reprieve from seven or eight days of just getting pummeled. But the official said, as we all know, sadly, when the coverage dies down a little bit, we`ll be back through the chaos.

Sadly, eventually the coverage will die down a little bit, the White House will be sad about that because for them, it`s been an awesome relief to have these massacre in the news. Look at that headline there again. That`s a direct quote. The White House sees the massacre as a reprieve, a bit of a breather.

Outside the White House, people see that massacre differently. In just a few days, it has led to a kids` movement, a teenagers movement of articulate, angry, organized, connected young people who are balancing all the funerals they have to go to with a lightning national campaign that is already under way to get gun laws changed.

This is something new under the sun what these teenagers are doing. We`re going to be talking with one of the young people who`s helping to lead this uprising a little later on this hour.

The other thing, of course, that broke in the last few days that changed that conversation, all that tumult around the White House scandals was on the special counsel investigating the Russia scandal handed down that big indictment on Friday. That indictment apparently initially made President Trump excited and happy, which is amazing but who knows how people talk to him about these things.

By this weekend, the president changed his attitude and seemed to be very worked up about the indictment, to the point where his Twitter traffic was rattled and upset seeming than normal. Special counsel Robert Mueller is now signaling new charges against Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and there are now multiple reports that his deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates is about to change his plea to guilty in an arrangement that will see Gates reportedly starting to cooperate with prosecutors.

That is potentially a big turn in the case. We`re going to have more on that story coming up this hour, too.

There really have been a lot of big news stories that have broken over the last few days that may or may not feel like a reprieve for White House officials depending on how things are being explained to the president on any given day. But in the next few days, this week, this White House scandal that started as the Rob Porter domestic violence story, the modern day iteration of the John Fedders story from the Reagan administration, which led interestingly to a "USA Today" profile of Charlotte Fedders in that paper today, the Rob Porter domestic violence story is about to come roaring back, alongside all of these other things that are happening in the news right now. And it`s going to go off like a stink bomb in the Oval Office for a specific reason.

As you know, the Rob Porter White House domestic violence story has as an added complication the fact that the violence allegations against him from his ex-wives resulted in Rob Porter never getting cleared by the White House to hold a permanent security clearance. That exposed the fact that the Trump White House kept Rob Porter in his job for more than a year literally controlling the flow of sensitive and secretive documents that cross the president`s desk even though he wasn`t able to get the kind of clearance that you need in order to be allowed to see those documents.

That being exposed at the White House is now a serious problem for the White House in general, for John Kelly, for the White House counsel, but very specifically for the president`s son-in-law who is a senior advisor to the president and who famously has also able to obtain a permanent security clearance. Last month at the "New Yorker," Adam Entous and Evan Osnos reported that Kushner`s difficulty in obtaining a permanent security clearance has become a subject of fascination among national security specialists, with people trying to figure out why it is he can`t get a clearance.

That Osnos and Entous report was also where we learned that despite the fact that he can`t get a permanent clearance, Jared Kushner nevertheless gets access every day to the president`s daily brief from the intelligence community, which is a very highly classified document. "Washington Post" has since reported that despite Kushner`s inability to clear the background check to get a false security clearance, quote, apart from the staff on the National Security Council, Kushner issues more requests for information to the intelligence community than any other White House employee.

Now, we don`t -- we don`t know why Jared Kushner can`t get a permanent security clearance, but there is a lot of sort of feverish speculation as to why at a might be. At "The New Yorker", Adam Entous and Evan Osnos report that Kushner made the unusual and risky decision to meet alone one on one with the Chinese ambassador, even though that leaves him open to China making any characterization that it wants about what Kushner said or did in those meetings.

They also report that U.S. intelligence intercepts have caught the Chinese ambassador reporting home to Beijing saying that Jared Kushner discussed his own business interests alongside government policy when he was supposed to do things like plan the Chinese president`s Mar-a-Lago visit with the Chinese ambassador.

Last year, "The New York Times" reported eight days after the election, Jared Kushner met with an insurance company tied to the Chinese government that was reportedly considering pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into a struggling property owned by Kushner`s family business, a property for which they have to make a $1.2 billion mortgage payment this time next year despite the fact there are no clear signs they will be able to actually make that payment.

Last March, "The Times" was first to report that one of the foreign meetings Jared Kushner failed to initially report on his clearance application was a meeting with a large sanctioned state-run Russian bank, a meeting that happened during the transition. The banker put out a statement at the time saying he took that meeting with Jared Kushner and Kushner`s capacity as the chief executive of Kushner companies.

Now, tonight, CNN reports that Robert Mueller special counsel investigation is looking into Kushner`s efforts to secure financing for his company from foreign investors during the presidential transition. So, there is all of this worrying stuff that has been reported about Jared Kushner in terms of his suitability for a security clearance and his suitability for handling secret information given his ties to foreign governments and foreign business interests.

Lots of reporting. We don`t know the reason why the president`s son-in-law can`t get a security clearance, nor do we know why the White House nevertheless has been letting him read the daily brief every day and to make more requests for intelligence than any other White House official. But this has been an ongoing situation with Jared Kushner and there is now a gigantic spotlight on that problem because of the Rob Porter domestic violence scandal.

And now into the maelstrom of news that the White House is either enjoying or suffered through in the past few days depending who you ask, on Friday night, the White House Chief of Staff John Kelly just flung this into the fray. Quote, effective one week from today, discontinue any top secret or compartmented level interim clearances for individuals whose background check investigations or adjudications have been pending since June 1st, 2017, or before.

Effective one week from today. Discontinue interim clearances for people whose background check investigations have been pending since June?

Jared`s has been pending since January, at least. He`s not able to get a permanent security clearance for lots of reasons we can speculate about but none that we actually know. Well, the White House chief of staff Friday night in the middle of the news breaking, you might not have seen it, but John Kelly recommended that the new White House policy will be to yank interim clearances, to yank access to classified material for people who can`t get a permanent clearance, and he wants that done by when? One week from today.

He put that out on Friday, which means on this Friday, barring some change in course or some special dispensation for presidential family members, Jared Kushner is going to be out at the White House or they`re going to have to move him to a job in the cafeteria or something, where he doesn`t have to have access to anything sensitive. You`re not going to be the Mideast peace envoy if you`re not allowed to see secret information.

According to this document from John Kelly, Jared should be out by the end of this week. I have no idea what a crisis like that involving the president`s family might shake loose in this chaotic White House. But if this guidance from the chief of staff is about to go into effect, there is the Jared Kushner factor. We could also be looking at a really big tidal wave of resignations or firings from the White House by the end of this week.

Remember, NBC News broke the news just a few days ago that more than 130 people with top jobs at the White House had only interim security clearances as recently as November, unless those numbers have radically turned around since November, if this policy is in fact about to go into effect, that means dozens of high-ranking people inside the White House are about to get kicked out. They are about to get jettisoned from their jobs or at least moved into other jobs. Low-ranking gigs where they don`t see anything sensitive. And according to Kelly`s timeline, this is due to happen now, by the end of this week, by Friday -- including members of the president`s family.

I think this week is going to be insane. Buckle up.


MADDOW: I don`t know what the normal thing is to do when you get fired from running a presidential campaign? What do you do the day you step down from a job like that? I think I`d probably go to a bar or stand in a river and pretend to know how to catch fish. I mean, depending on the circumstances that you`re living, maybe you can imagine yourself going for a feel sorry for yourself long drive. I don`t know. You`ve just been fired for running a presidential campaign.

I don`t know what the right thing is to do but when Paul Manafort was fired from the Donald Trump for president campaign in August 2016, he did something unexpected that day. The day of his resignation, he created a shell company called Summer Breeze LLC. That same day that he quit the campaign.

Within a few weeks, Summer Breeze received a $3.5 million loan from a New York financial firm with Ukrainian connections called Spruce Capital. Then in November, a couple of months later, the month of the election, Summer Breeze got another really big loan, $9.5 million, this time it was from a small bank in Chicago called the Federal Savings Bank.

Then two months later in January, he got another really big loan, $6.6 million from that same bank in Chicago. Now, those big loans from that little bank in Chicago, they are strange for a couple reasons apart from the timing. The first sort of strange thing to know about those loans is that that was really small bank that was run by a Trump economic adviser and that bank specifically caters to military veterans. Paul Manafort is not a military veteran. That was one weird thing about those loans.

Secondly, though, I mentioned it`s a small bank. Those $16 million in loans from that small bank to Paul Manafort, those $16 million in loans made up almost a quarter of the bank`s total $67 million in reserves. Why were they loaning a quarter of their reserves to one guy? Especially a guy who`s not a veteran when they are a financial institution and set up to lend to veterans.

Those loans subsequently drew the attention of prosecutors in New York who subpoenaed the bank looking for money laundering and fraud. That was last summer before special counsel Robert Mueller indicted Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates on multiple felony accounts, including money laundering, conspiracy, failing to register as a foreign agent, et cetera.

Now, bank fraud was mentioned several times in the indictment, but didn`t actually show up in any of the charges, which was a little puzzling at the time, but now we may be about to figure some of that out.

Friday night`s news was, of course, dominated by Robert Mueller`s indictments of 13 Russians for attacking the election in 2016, but there was another big development from the special counsel`s office right as we went to air on Friday night that understandably received less attention, but it`s turning out to be really, really interesting. It was a filing from the special counsel. It was about the terms that Paul Manafort and lawyers have negotiated to keep him free on bail and out of jail while he awaits trail.

This was the headline about it in on Friday night. Quote, Mueller levels new claim of bank fraud against Manafort. This is what it said in the filing on Friday night. Quote: The proposed package is deficient in the government`s view, meaning the bail package, in light of additional criminal conduct that we`ve learned since the court`s initial bail determination. That criminal conduct includes a series of bank frauds and bank fraud conspiracies, including criminal conduct relating to the mortgage on Paul Manafort`s property in Fairfax, Virginia.

The government has secured substantial evidence that Paul Manafort secured this mortgage from the Federal Savings Bank through a series of false and fraudulent representations to the Federal Savings Bank. It goes on to say that Manafort obtained those loans by providing the bank with doctored profit and loss statements from his company to the tunes of millions of dollars. So, the special counsel`s office is telling the court now that they have substantial new evidence of additional criminal conduct by campaign manager Paul Manafort.

The way they are describing it appears to be related to those loans, those big oddly timed loans that he took right after he left the Trump campaign. Why are we learning this now? Why is this special counsel getting new information about Paul Manafort? What is their new source of information about his alleged bank fraud?

Well, NBC News has not confirmed this, but over the weekend, the "L.A. Times" reported that Manafort`s deputy and business and his deputy on the Trump campaign Rick Gates is going to change his not guilty plea and his criminal trial to guilty and "The Times" is further reporting that Rick Gates has agreed to testify against Paul Manafort. Possibility was first reported by CNN. The "L.A. Times" report put meat on the bones this weekend. That has been subsequently matched by CBS News.

If that`s about to happen, does it make sense that Rick Gates flipping and becoming a cooperating witness explains why we`re seeing allegations of new criminal conduct against Paul Manafort? If that`s happening, what should we expect to see? And if there is a new list of alleged criminal conduct against Paul Manafort, why is it the special counsel`s just describing these allegations in a filing like this? Does this actually mean there are new charges that are pending against him? If so, how serious are these new charges? How do we tell?

Joining us is Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney in Michigan.

Barb, thank you for being so patient with me and explaining these things that I`m sure are very obvious to you.

BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Oh, no. I`m happy to be here.

MADDOW: Great. This filing is not new charges being brought against Paul Manafort but it`s a filing about his bail conditions and it says that the Mueller investigation, special counsel`s office has substantial new evidence of additional criminal conduct.

Why would you say that you have that without bringing new charges?

MCQUADE: Yes. So, they haven`t brought new charges yet. It doesn`t mean they won`t. It appears that they had to file this document taking a position with respect to the bail, and they wanted the judge to know that they have this additional information because it could be that Manafort may face additional time. It could be that he has demonstrated that he can`t comply with a court order because here he is on bond and continuing to commit crimes and it could be that this collateral, the security he`s pledged, is property that he doesn`t own rightfully anyway and might be foreclosed upon later.

So, I think their hand was sort of forced here to share this information at this time. It may be that they plan to file it later, but they wanted the court to have this information making its bond decision.

MADDOW: Does it make sense this new information and the special counsel`s office describes this as being substantial new evidence implying that they had this now and didn`t have it before? Does that make sense to you that they might be getting this information, this -- whatever is backing up these allegations because of potentially having a new cooperating witness or some other access to new information?

MCQUADE: It does. It says right in the document this is information that the government has only learned about since the initial bail hearing several months ago. So, somehow they got this information. Now, it could be because they have sat down with Rick Gates and had some cooperation and received information, could be other sources. I know I read reports that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been investigating Paul Manafort. They may have shared that information with him.

And certainly, even though someone is indicted, that doesn`t preclude the prosecute from continuing to look into other criminal activity by that defendant for a possible superseding indictment. So, it may indicate information on Gates but that may not be the only possible source here.

MADDOW: There is reporting about Gates changing his legal representation, which we`ve seen evidence of in terms of activity around the court. There`s been a few different tiers of reporting now that Gates is planning to cooperate, that there was reporting last week that he`s done, what is it, the queen of a -- queen for a day interview last week. Or it was reported last week sometime in the last month he`s done at a kind of interview.

All of this reporting hasn`t been confirmed by NBC News. We see no direct evidence of it in terms of court filings. If he is becoming a cooperating witness, it seems to be an important development. How will we, the public, know that that has happened? Is that the sort of thing that could actually be kept secret for a very long time in this case?

MCQUADE: It is something that could be for some period of time. He could enter the guilty plea under seal as we saw with George Papadopoulos and find out about it later. But my guess is what`s going on right now is the cooperation portion of it because before the prosecutor offers the plea deal, they want to be able to evaluate and assess the value of the cooperation.

So, the first part that would be -- that would happen is this queen for a day arrangement where they sit down and talk and that could take several sessions to listen to all that he has to say and eventually and then make a plea offer and only then would a court date be set to enter that plea on the record, so that maybe a public hearing, maybe a secret hearing that gets unveiled later. But at some point, we`ll know whether it`s happened or not.

MADDOW: Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney in Michigan, thank you very, very much for being with us tonight. Barb, nice to see you.

MCQUADE: Thanks, Rachel. You too.

MADDOW: All right. Lots ahead tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: -- Richard Nixon at a ceremonial signing from July 1971, July 1971. This is well before the Watergate break-in.

As you can see from the footage, the White House is packed with young people, very young people, teenagers. These young people at this moment had just achieved the lowering of the national voting age from 21 to 18, and listen how President Nixon describes them. Describes them as filled with moral courage providing what the nation needs.


RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT: As I speak with this group today, I sense that we can have confidence America`s new voters, America`s young generation will provide what America needs as we approach our 200th birthday. Not just strength and not just wealth but the spirit of `76, a spirit of moral courage, a spirit of high idealism in which we believe in the American dream, but in which we realize that the American dream can never be fulfilled until every American has an equal chance to fulfill it in his own light.


MADDOW: A spirit of moral courage of high idealism. That changed the voting age was brought about in the form of the 26th Amendment to the Constitution. It passed like a lightning bolt from the time they started the constitutional amendment process until it passed, it was just over three months, which is incredibly fast.

Once those young people put their minds to it, it just -- it was a remarkable feat, a big change almost overnight. Moral courage, high idealism, strength and moral suasion applied by young people speaking out, marching, organizing and winning something that should have been really hard to win and made it look easy. Sometimes it works. It`s possible. Hold that thought.


MADDOW: Today is Presidents` Day. Most public schools across the country were closed. Most students got to stay home today.

Then there were these kids who decided instead to lie in the street outside the White House in protest.

This is what five days after a mass school shooting that took the lives of 17 people now looks like in our country.

Students` response to last week`s mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, is angry, but also determined and very quickly, it`s becoming very well- organized. The group that organized today`s protest was formed two days after last week`s mass shooting. It was founded by two 16-year-olds.

Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have not been back to school since the shooting last Wednesday. They probably won`t return until next week. In the meantime, though, they are very busy. They are organizing.

The day after tomorrow, a group of students from the school will leave for Tallahassee to meet with state legislators and the attorney general. They are scheduled to start the seven-hour trip to the state capitol right after the funeral of one of their classmates, 16-year-old Carmen Schentrup.

If you have missed the articulate furry these young people have been pouring on to this issue, you should know this is happening.


CAMERON KASKY, STUDENT AT MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: My message for the people in office is you`re either with us or against us. We are losing our lives while the adults are playing around.

ALEX WIND, STUDENT AT MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: There are funerals going on today, tomorrow, this entire weekend, and President Donald Trump right now is golfing. He`ll be listening on Wednesday. Does anyone know where? Does anyone know what time? Has anyone been invited to this listening session?

DAVID HOGG, STUDENT AT MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: President Trump, you control the House of Representatives. You control the Senate and you control the executive. You haven`t taken a single bill for mental health care or gun control and passed it and that`s pathetic. We`ve seen a government shutdown, tax reform, but nothing to save our children`s lives.

Are you kidding me? You think now is the time to focus on the past and not the future to prevent the death of thousands of other children? You sicken me.

EMMA GONZALEZ, STUDENT AT MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: We know they`re claiming there are mental health issues and I`m not a psychologist, but we need to pay attention to the fact that this isn`t just a mental health issue. He wouldn`t have murdered that many students with a knife.



MADDOW: Everything about these kids` lives changed on Wednesday afternoon at 2:20 in the afternoon. That last student you heard there, 17-year-old Emma Gonzalez, she says she wrote the speech she gave this weekend on the back of her A.P. government notes because she`s still in A.P. government class. Despite the pressure these kids are under and the pressure of having gone through a huge trauma themselves.

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school have emerged as the most eloquent advocates out there on gun safety, on gun control. They are actively working within a week of this happening to them, to create a whole new wave of pressure on public officials. They formed a group called never again.

They have taken charge of momentum on this. They are already moving things forward in a way that didn`t seem possible a week ago. It`s a tall order. It`s also very brave.

Joining us is Cameron Kasky. He is a student at the Stoneman Douglas High School in parkland. He`s one of the founders of the Never Again Movement and organizer for upcoming March for Our Lives Event, which is going to having across the country next month on March 24th.

Mr. Kasky, thank you very much for joining us. It` really nice of you to be here tonight.

KASKY: Well, thank you for having me.

MADDOW: I`ve been trying to describe the organizing efforts made by you and your students. It`s moving you guys have tried to not just tried to, that you`ve done so much so constructively so quickly after going through this trauma. Can I ask about your own thought process, why you decided to pursue it this way and work in this organizing effort?

KASKY: Absolutely. We -- our voices were being heard. We were speaking out, and as more people were listening to us, we decided we needed a name. We needed something people could follow. We needed a lynch pin for everybody who`s hurt, everybody who`s speaking out, everybody who`s demanding change, and I was sitting down in my Ghostbusters pajamas and thinking and I thought of never again MSD as just for everyone who`s hearing us to come together and grieve and demand action as one movement.

And since then, we`ve gotten support from people we never thought we would get support from. Everybody`s listening and it`s been amazing, and that`s why we`ve been able to organize the March For Our Lives.

MADDOW: What do you want to happen at the March For Our Lives? What`s the tactics for what you want people to do and what are you hoping it will accomplish?

KASKY: Well, we want everybody to come out and I was -- I came here from a gun rally today where we had hundreds of people in Delray Beach. Everybody was showing their support and we`re just going to see more of that. People have been saying to us now is not the time to talk about gun control. Now is the time to grieve and think about our community.

And while I don`t necessarily agree and while I think not only is it not too early, it`s way too late. We`re listening and we`re understanding, we`re respecting people`s needs to think about this. The time we`re going to talk about gun control is March 24th. We have marches in every major city, every minor city. We`ve been seeing people on Facebook organizing groups to have their March For Our Lives events in their cities without reaching out to us.

People are listening. People are caring and the support we`ve gotten from everybody, every age and every generation, every political party is what`s keeping us going.

MADDOW: Do you expect to be doing this down the road? I mean, obviously channeling this, the grief and the trauma that you guys have just been through personally over these last few days, it`s been -- I have to tell you, it`s a remarkable thing to watch what you guys have been able to do in terms of being so articulate, so clear, so unified so quickly -- do you feel like this is something that you want to keep doing indefinitely, that this is going to be a sustained movement for you and your classmates?

KASKY: Well, I have to tell you, a week ago if you had asked me this, the answer would have been completely different. A week ago I was a student at Stoneman Douglas High School. I was proud to be an eagle.

I was in three musicals trying to keep my lines together for all of them but after this, after seeing all of this, after my community took 17 shots to the heart and instead of falling down, we`ve rose up and we`re leading the rest of the nation, I can`t even begin to tell you what is happening in the future. All I know, the people part of my team will be leading in the future and we will be making the difference.

The fact I`ve been able to be with David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez, Jackie Curen (ph) and Alex Wind everybody else is great. We were all speaking out. We were all being heard and the fact we`ve been able to come together is proof that Stoneman Douglas, the future voters, the future lawmakers, they are coming from here. They are coming from people that have been afraid to go to school and this is going to be the last time a school shooting is going to have to be covered like this.

This is the last time a school shooting is going to look like a terrorist attack. That`s a promise.

MADDOW: Cameron Kasky, student at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, one of the founders of this Never Again Movement -- congratulations on what you`ve been able to do turnover last few days and good luck. Thanks for talking to us tonight.

KASKY: Thank you so much.

MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back.


MADDOW: -- Mike Pompeo was speaking at a public event when he was asked if he could say with certainty that the results of our last presidential election weren`t skewed as a result of Russian interference.

Here`s how he responded to that question.


MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: We conducted an election that had integrity. Yes, the intelligence community`s assessment is that the Russian meddling that took place did not affect the outcome of the election.


MADDOW: Nope. That response is not true. It`s completely false. And as CIA director, he should know better. He`s not some jibber jabber on TV, like we`ve got this print. This is the intelligence community`s January report, quote, we did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome on the 2016 election. We did not make an assessment of that.

So, CIA director Mike Pompeo totally misstated that. The CIA then had to put out a statement walking back his remarks, quote: The intelligence assessment with regard to Russian election meddling has not changed and the director did not intend to suggest that it had. That was the Mike Pompeo treatment of that issue in October.

Then a few days ago it happened again.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First thing we all agree on is that irrespective of efforts that were made in 2016 by foreign powers, it is the universal conclusion of our intelligence communities that none of those efforts had any effect on the outcome of the 2016 election. This is the accepted view.


MADDOW: Nope. That is not the accepted view. That`s not the conclusion of intelligence communities. Nope.

What the vice president said there is not true, wasn`t true when Mike Pompeo said it, still isn`t true when the vice president said it. But at least Pompeo had to clean it up.

When the vice president said that false thing last week, we reached out to his office on the phone and on email. We reached out again today, to see if the vice president misspoke and wants two correct the record or if he knows something we don`t and he`s standing by this assessment, we can`t get a call back.

But this weekend, when the foreign minister of Russia, Sergey Lavrov, was asked about Russia`s meddling in our election, he went out of his way to point out that Vice President Mike Pence as recently stated that Russia didn`t influence the outcome of the election. It`s true, he said that. It was a lie.

The vice president should correct this.


MADDOW: I have to tell you, usually I really don`t care. I`m like, I`m not the only person in the news business but I`m probably one of the only people in the news business who when the White House briefing comes on I take that as my cue to go get a sandwich.

Like I just don`t -- I just make -- you have to make choices as to what sort of information you take in and what you don`t bother. And with the White House briefing, I don`t bother. That said, tomorrow I`m going to bother, because tomorrow will be the first White House briefing in a week.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is expected to brief at 2:00 tomorrow. They cancelled the briefing last Wednesday on a day they expected to put out White House chief of staff John Kelly, they cancelled it in the wake of the shooting. Kelly had been expected to face, basically, a furious press corps, who`s been trying to get to the bottom of White House conflicting statements about the White House staff secretary Rob Porter and the domestic violence allegations against him, the security clearance scandal that followed the Rob Porter revelations.

His briefing was cancelled on Wednesday. They didn`t hold one Thursday or Friday. They did not hold one today. Tomorrow, they`ll be back in the briefing room and I`ll get takeout.

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


Good evening, Lawrence.