Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: April 3, 2018 Guest: Carol Leonnig, Cecile Richards
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. It`s great to be back. I had a couple of days off for which I`m very grateful, especially my friend, Joy Reid, who filled in so ably in this seat last night. Thank you, Joy.
But as I say, it`s great to be back. Lots of news today, including some breaking news tonight.
Of course, this afternoon, the shooting that took place at YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, California, that was the focus of a lot of news attention this afternoon. San Bruno is just south of San Francisco, close to the San Francisco International Airport. From all the information we`ve got at this point, it looks like this was the kind of shooting that would be classified as a workplace shooting, potentially a workplace shooting related to a domestic matter. Neither of those things are unusual at all in our country at this point.
However, in this case, it took place at a very, very high profile company. Also, the shooter was reportedly a woman. Both those things are rare in terms of American gun violence.
According to police, before shooting herself, the woman was able to shoot and injure at least three other people, one of whom is in critical condition tonight. But it appears that the only fatality from this shooting would be this woman killing herself after she shot and wounded these three other people. Police have not described any sort of terroristic affiliation or motive here other than, of course, the terroristic intent of bringing a gun and live ammunition into a business and then starting to shoot the place up. So, we`ll tell you more about the YouTube headquarter shooting tonight if we learn more over the course of this hour. But so far, that`s pretty much the extent of what we know.
I should also tell you looking ahead to the overnight, we are bracing ourselves for two expected news earthquakes -- one economic, one political.
The economic earthquake we are anticipating has to do with China. President Trump today unexpectedly announced another $50 billion in tariffs against Chinese products. China has already said they are adamantly opposed to what Trump has done and they say they will retaliate. So, everybody is watching the markets overnight and watching for Chinese government pronouncements over the next day or so. That`s the economic quake we`re expecting overnight.
The political quake we`re anticipating has to do with yet another Trump cabinet official. EPA Administer Scott Pruitt has had ethics troubles from the beginning. But in the last 24 hours, there has been a tidal wave of new allegations and new revelations about his behavior while in office and what appears to be misuse or at least a cavalier attitude toward taxpayer dollars. We`ll have more on that coming up in just a moment amid honestly increasing expectations that Scott Pruitt may be the next member of Trump`s cabinet who has to go.
Today was also, of course, a landmark day in the special counsel investigation looking into the Russia scandal. Today for the first time, a criminal case spun by the special counsel`s investigation has come to a close. We`ve seen a number of people charged by the special counsel`s office and we`ve seen a number of people pled guilty, but today was the first sentencing in the Mueller investigation for anybody who`s been charged in the case today was the first time that person was -- that any such person was sentenced, somewhat interestingly, the person who was sentenced to a prison term today is the son in law of a very prominent Russian oligarch, which seems to me like it should get more prominent that`s being given to this matter.
But we will talk a little bit more about that later on in the show, because as we were absorbing that information tonight about Alex van der Zwaan being sentenced to prison, we also got naturally, a very big breaking news story from "The Washington Post".
Do you remember James Comey`s pink slip, the short letter that Donald Trump sent via his bodyguard to FBI Director James Comey, the letter firing him in May last year? You might remember the way it was phrased because it had one very memorable line. It was memorable because that line was so out of place in a pink slip, in a termination letter.
In the middle of firing James Comey, Trump said, quote, I greatly appreciate you informing me on three separate occasions that I am not under investigation. Also you`re fired. Love Donald.
When James Comey testified before Congress the following month, he more or less confirmed that he had indeed told the president that he was not personally under investigation. But what we heard from Comey and from all the other government officials from whom Trump tried to pressure, what Trump wanted more than anything was for senior law enforcement and intelligence officials to publicly state that the president himself was not under investigation. He was never able to persuade anybody to make a blanket statement like that.
And ever since the firing of James Comey and the appointment of Robert Mueller`s special counsel, that has been an open question, the president personally under investigation. Is the president of the United States himself personally the subject of an ongoing criminal and counterintelligence investigation by federal law enforcement?
Well, as of this evening, we have a big new piece of information about that. "Washington Post" reporting tonight that in negotiations with the president`s lawyers last month, so in February, special counsel Robert Mueller described President Trump as, quote, a subject of his investigation into Russia`s interference in the 2016 election, a subject. The president is a subject of Mueller`s investigation. "The Post`s" Carol Leonnig and Robert Costa report, quote, special counsel Robert Mueller informed President Trump`s attorneys last month that he is continuing to investigate the president, but does not consider him a criminal target at this point.
In private negotiations in early March about a possible presidential interview, Mueller described Trump as a subject of the investigation in the 2016 election, prosecutors view someone as a subject when that person has engaged in conduct that is under investigation but there is not sufficient evidence to bring charges. The president, "The Post" reports tonight, has privately expressed relief at the description of his legal status, which has increased his determination to agree to a special counsel interview. The president has repeatedly told allies he is not a target of the probe and believes an interview will help him put the matter behind him.
However, legal experts say Mueller`s description of Trump as a subject of a grand jury probe doesn`t mean the president is in the clear. Quote: Under Justice Department guidelines, a subject of an investigation is a person whose conduct falls within the scope of a grand jury`s investigation. A target on the other hand is a person for which there is substantial evidence linking him or her to a crime. So, subject versus target as the president reportedly quite relieved he`s not a target even as Mueller confirms through his lawyers that he is a subject.
This reporting ends with this quote from a former deputy special counsel from an investigation with President Clinton, quote, there are plenty of instances where a guy walks into a grand jury as a subject. He gets out of that testimony and he`s told, guess what? You`re a target now.
Joining us now is Carol Leonnig, "Washington Post" national reporter who broke story tonight, along with Bob Costa.
Carol, thank you very much for being here. I know that we got you on very short notice. I really appreciate you making time.
CAROL LEONNIG, NATIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thank you, Rachel. It`s good to be here.
MADDOW: So, as of last month, I just want to make sure I get the basics here, the president`s lawyers were told by Robert Mueller and his prosecutors that the president is not, at least as of then, a target of the investigation but he is a subject of the investigation.
Was that -- was that news to the president`s lawyers? Did they suppose that or guess that? Was this an important advance for them and their understanding of the president`s legal jeopardy?
LEONNIG: Well, there is a lot to unpack in your great question, where, you know, soon, you can get a job in the Justice Department, Rachel. I would say first of all, it is not a surprise to most people monitoring this case, that the president is likely is a subject. His conduct is under review and under investigation by grand jury.
However, being told that you are not a target and you`re a subject while your attorneys are talking, you know, brass tacks with the leader of the special counsel`s team is a significant development. And it essentially means that if you`re not a target, they do not have the evidence that moment to prosecute you to bring charges. Now, keep in mind, there are many, many legal experts who believe with good reason that Mueller doesn`t have the power to charge a sitting president with a crime even if he had evidence.
So, this news is news and it`s certainly delighted and relieved the president of the United States when he learned it.
MADDOW: Is there now any sort of unanimity among the president and his legal team? There`s been some fluctuation in his legal, John Dowd leaving, there was apparently another lawyer or two who are going to come on board and representing the president and that didn`t work out. Do we know if the president has had a meeting of the minds with his current Russia legal team as to whether or not he should sit for an interview or is there still disagreements there?
LEONNIG: So, what we learned in our reporting and that is shared for the first time in this story tonight is that there was some fairly significant and sharp disagreement. John Dowd, according to close friends of the president, was counseling the president that he should absolutely not do the interview all caps. Do not do the interview with Bob Mueller`s team.
However, we`re told that White House attorney Ty Cobb and also co-counsel Jay Sekulow for the president`s personal legal team, believe that politically, the president should do this interview, and now, my understanding is that they are leaning in that direction. Dowd resigned as we reported a result of feeling the president was not listening to him.
MADDOW: And, of course, bringing those two elements of your reporting tonight together, there always is the possibility that even if somebody goes into testimony, not as a target of his investigation, just as a subject, somebody who`s being looked into, even though there`s no enough evidence to bring charges, there`s always the possibility that during that interview, a statement will be made, an assertion will be made of some kind, something materially will happen during that testimony that converts the subject of the investigation into a target.
LEONNIG: Absolutely. In fact, you know, I`ve talked to a lot of USA`s and former U.S. attorneys when I was doing reporting for this and asked them to keep this confidential until I posted it and said, so, what do you think? What`s important here? And they said, he can go -- from subject to target in a red hot minute and that is true of most witnesses.
The only question here is does Bob Mueller, the special counsel authorized by the Department of Justice, believe he can charge a president with a crime if he finds evidence of it? And that`s a big open question.
MADDOW: And that brings us to the other big piece of news that you and your colleague Robert Costa have broken tonight, which is about the special counsel`s plans whether or not they end up charging the president, you report tonight, quote, the special counsel also told Trump`s lawyers that he is preparing a report about the president`s actions while in office and potential obstruction of justice. Mueller`s investigators have indicated to the president`s legal team they are considering writing reports on their findings in stages with the first report focused on the obstruction issue under the special counsel`s regulations, Mueller is required to report conclusions confidentially to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein would then have the authority to decide whether to release this information public.
One person familiar with the discussion said of Mueller`s team, quote, they said they want to write a report on this, to answer the public`s questions.
This is something that we`ve always known was a possibility. Now, it sounds like you`re able to report that it`s in the works.
LEONNIG: So it`s been a little bit of fraught reporting target because we`ve been hearing snatches of this conversation for awhile. Various people who said they had some information that Mueller`s team planned to write a report. But now, we reached a sort of a crescendo of people with a real reason to know and real front seat to have information indicating that Mueller`s team has told them, look, we just want answers to these questions. We need this to write our report and this is our plan.
Now, keep in mind, Bob Mueller`s spokesperson declined to comment and always does decline to comment and so, they`re not giving us any great insight. But we`ve reached a point where now enough people have said, this is what they have heard from the special counsel`s team`s lips that we feel comfortable saying so.
MADDOW: Wow. Well, this is a big advance in our understanding tonight in a number of fronts. Carol Leonnig, "Washington Post" reporter with yet another big scoop on this subject, thank you for joining us on such short notice tonight, Carol.
LEONNIG: You bet, Rachel.
MADDOW: Again, recapping what we just learned from this breaking news story from "The Washington Post", the president`s lawyers have been informed by special counsel Robert Mueller that the president is a subject of Mueller`s investigation into Russia`s interference in 2016 election. The president is reportedly relieved to learn that he`s only the subject of the investigation and not yet a target of the investigation. The difference being whether or not Mueller`s investigators at the time of this advice to Trump`s legal team believed that they had enough information to bring criminal charges.
That, of course, is complicated by the legal fight over whether or not anybody can bring criminal charges against a serving president. To that end, Carol Leonnig and Robert Costa further report tonight that special counsel Robert Mueller is preparing a report about the president`s actions while in office and potential obstruction of justice. Noting just -- they just note late in the piece, quote, some of Trump`s advisors have warned White House aides they fear Mueller could issue a blistering report about the president`s actions, meaning don`t be psyched about this you, guys.
That`s important news. That`s just broken tonight from "The Washington Post". Again, the president is a subject of Mueller`s investigation.
I want to alert you to one other thing that happened today about a -- that we learned from a court filing. Late last night, after Joy Reid finished sitting in for me, in the middle of the night, we got a new court filing from Mueller`s prosecutors that related to the Paul Manafort case and you probably heard something about this today, big headline out of that filing today was that in addition to the publicly available document that set up the special counsel`s office, that hired Robert Mueller and laid out the scope of Mueller`s investigation, we learned from this new court filing that there was also, subsequent to that public statement, establishing the Mueller investigation, there was also another bit of instruction.
August 2nd last year, another basically sheet of instructions from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to Bob Mueller`s office explaining to him, confirming in writing, a whole list of specific stuff that Mueller was cleared to look into as part of his investigation. This is the document. It`s just been released as part of this filing and that`s it.
You see those big black boxes? What that shows you is that almost all of this memo from August 2nd is still redacted. Those big black boxes are places where presumably Rod Rosenstein wrote his instructions about Mueller being cleared to investigate specific people and to look at specific lines of criminal inquiry.
Now, the one part that they left unredacted and allowed to be seen in this court filing were the specific instructions from Rosenstein saying that Robert Mueller was cleared to look into Paul Manafort`s business interest in Ukraine. Paul Manafort`s business in Ukraine have, of course, led to dozens of criminal charges that are currently pending against him and presumably that`s why those specific instructions from Rosenstein were cleared as part of the court filing today.
And that`s very interesting. We didn`t know Rosenstein had given that kind of direct, very specific instruction to Mueller as to what he was allowed to look at. It`s also interesting because it probably torpedoes Paul Manafort`s already fairly hopeless argument that he should be sprung and have charges against him dropped because there was something wrong with Mueller being the special counsel. Manafort`s argument was basically that Mueller was running off on a wild goose chase and nobody was controlling him and he was an unaccountable prosecutor.
Well, in this case, now, we got a direct memo showing whatever you think about him, he`s a very accountable prosecutor. He`s answering to the deputy attorney general about exactly what he`s pursuing.
But here is the thing I want you to know, something else from this filing that looks to me like it`s something really important. It`s from deep in the filing, page 42. Mueller`s prosecutors give us a couple of new pieces of information here.
First of all, they tell us that the charges that were brought against Paul Manafort weren`t just brought by special counsel Robert Mueller`s office alone. The charges against Manafort were signed off on by main justice. National security division of the Justice Department signed off on some of the charges, tax division at the Justice Department signed off on some of those charges.
Really? That`s interesting. Robert Mueller is not acting alone in bringing these charges in the Russia investigation. He`s getting signoff from, in Manafort`s case, those other two divisions at the Justice Department for bringing these criminal charges.
And then, Mueller`s team also basically makes the case that if somehow, magically, Robert Mueller was disappeared and the special counsel`s office was no longer allowed to be involved in these investigations, nevertheless, these investigations would persist. This seems very important to me.
Page 42 of the filing, quote: the senior assistant special counsel in charge of this prosecution is a long-time career prosecutor with the internal authority to conduct this prosecution separate and aside from his role in the special counsel`s office. Now, it looks from this filing that the senior assistant special counsel is probably Andrew Weissmann, long- time Justice Department prosecutor now working with Mueller. But we actually checked with the special counsel`s office tonight and Carol Leonnig was right moments ago when she said that the spokesman never confirms anything, never gives a statement.
The special counsel spokesman did tell us tonight there are a number of people who are involved in the special counsel`s investigation who have that title. Senior assistant counsel, including Andrew Weissmann as one of them. If that`s true, what this means is that the special counsel`s office is effectively asserting there that if Robert Mueller goes away, if he gets raptured, if the whole special counsel`s office gets wrapped up and thrown away, these prosecutions will continue.
The senior assistant special counsel in charge of this prosecution is a long-time career prosecutor with the internal authority to conduct this prosecution separate and aside from his role in the special counsel`s office. We think that is about Weissmann, as it pertains to Manafort, but we think that could pertain to any of the senior attorneys who are working in Mueller`s office.
You make the special counsel`s office go away, those senior prosecutors still have authority. You poof Robert Mueller somehow, this investigation will continue.
Buried in this filing that came out late last night, there`s a blunt assertion here from the special counsel`s office that this investigation cannot be stopped if you stop Robert Mueller.
Now, I don`t know why Mueller`s prosecutors felt the need to publicly assert that today on page 42 of this filing. It doesn`t seem totally relevant to the argument specific to Paul Manafort and his trying to get the charges thrown out, but they have spelled this out now clear as a bell. I don`t know if that means they are expecting to be tested on this or if they`re just warning that they shouldn`t be but this is a clear statement that nobody can fire this investigation out of existence.
Take that in conjunction with "The Washington Post" reporting tonight that the president has been told he is a subject of the Mueller investigation, and make of it what you will.
We`ll post page 42 online tonight at maddowblog.com in case you haven`t seen it. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: So, we just got in this new "Washington Post" reporting tonight about the president and the special counsel investigation. The president`s lawyers were reportedly advised last month that at that point, although the president was not a target of the special counsel`s Russia investigation, he is a subject of that investigation and the Mueller team wants to interview him for that reason.
According to "The Washington Post" tonight, Mueller`s team also is reportedly preparing a report on its findings thus far, specifically pertaining to the president and the issue of obstruction of justice. We have never heard before that they are doing that, so that seems like big news. Again, at this point, "The Washington Post" is out ahead and alone on that story from reporters Carol Leonnig and Robert Costa. NBC News has not confirmed reporting, but, of course, everybody is now chasing that story.
And it`s not like today isn`t otherwise a busy day on the same front. Today was the first sentencing in the Mueller case. And remarkably, the first person who is definitely going to prison in this investigation is the son-in-law of a Russian oligarch, an oligarch who is fantastically wealthy and influential in Russian business and government. He is known to be personally close to Vladimir Putin.
And it`s interesting, that biographical fact about Alex van der Zwaan that got sentenced today to 30 days in prison, that fact about him is being treated in a lot of coverage as like a corky and interesting human interest story about this unusual defendant. Look at that guy in the nicely cut suit and fantastic British hairdo, British lawyer hairdo.
You know, weirdly enough he happens to be the son-in-law of a very influential Russian oligarch. Isn`t that weird?
Whether or not it is just a coincidence that Alex van der Zwaan happens to be the son-in-law of a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin, the fact that he is the first attorney go to prison in this investigation means it is probably worth considering whether the Russian government might have feelings about that. Once upon a time, about 15 years ago, the British oil company BP announced it would form a partnership in Russia to drill for oil in the Russian Far East. This joint venture was one of the biggest deals in modern Russia history.
And by my use of the past tense there, you can jump to the end in your mind because you can tell this story probably does not have a happy ending. It did not work out. It did not work out because three Russian oligarchs who were BP`s partners in that deal, decided that this 50/50 partnership they had going with BP was no longer to their liking.
They decided yes, yes, they signed this partnership but frankly they wanted either control or they wanted to be bought out at a handsome price. And those were the only choices. And they set about making life miserable for BP until that joint venture got broke and they got what they wanted. People close to BP at the time blamed the problems on one of the three Russian partners in that deal, a man named German Khan.
In 2011, WikiLeaks released some stolen U.S. State Department cables which included one particularly lurid rundown of what it was like to do business with German Khan. A top BP official basically briefed the U.S. embassy it seems from this WikiLeaks cable? It seems like this BP official briefed the U.S. embassy on what was going on with this Russian oligarch guy who was involved in this BP partnership. And it seems like he may have given the briefing to their embassy partially out of fear.
Quoting from that WikiLeaks cable, quote, TNK-BP, that was the joint venture, chief operating officer Tim Summers provides insight into BP and AAR`s negotiations. AAR would be the Russian oligarchs. BP is the other half of the joint venture. It gives insight into these negotiations, noting that BP CEO, Bob Dudley, is unlikely to return to Russia.
This is from the WikiLeaks cable. Summers also provides some colorful background on the AAR partners, in particular, German Khan. Quote: Summers said he had a complicated and difficult relationship with Khan. Khan was a very difficult person to work with. They had flown out to Khan`s hunting lodge which Summers said was like a Four Seasons Hotel in the middle of nowhere.
At dinner that evening, Khan told a stunned Summers that his favorite movie was "The Godfather" and he watched it every few months because he considered it to be a manual for life. Summers then said Khan also came to dinner armed with a chrome plated pistol. Summers said after the trip, he gotten a copy of "Godfather" and now watched it on a regular basis himself, so as to better understand German Khan and anticipate his business tactic.
He added that Khan`s aggressive but relatively simple business style was typically Russian, where multimillion dollar deals were made in smoke- filled rooms in a matter of hours, and only later were they turned over to accountants to see if they made sense.
It was not a style that meshed well with BP. Quote: Khan had never felt that BP treated him with sufficient respect and that apparently ends up being a dangerous thing.
BP employees who are part of this joint venture started getting harassed. More than 100 of them had their visas revoked.
The CEO of the enterprise who was managing things on the BP side, the aforementioned Bob Dudley, he just didn`t want to come back to Russia for no reason. He was followed. He was threatened. He was poisoned.
He had his visa revoked. He ended up sneaking out of the country in the dead of night fearing for his life.
When "The Telegraph" newspaper in Britain obtained these U.S. State Department cables, they wrote up this guy German Khan like he was a Bond villain. Quote, one BP executive contended he might be certifiably deranged.
That`s Alex van der Zwaan`s father in law. German Khan`s daughter married Mr. Van der Zwaan in what was apparently a very lovely ceremony last year. Mr. Khan`s granddaughter is now Alex van der Zwaan`s wife and she is expecting their first child at the end of this summer.
Before Alex van der Zwaan turned up as a surprise defendant in the Mueller investigation, his father-in-law German Khan had already turned up twice before in relation to the Russian attack on the U.S. election and all the intrigue surrounding it.
German Khan`s company Alfa was the subject of still mysterious reports about unexplained communications between a computer server in Moscow owned by Alfa and a computer server in Trump Tower owned by the Trump organization. Those mysterious communications between the two computer servers during the campaign, those remain unexplained. They may have been just a fluke. They maybe totally unrelated to everything else that was going on in between Russia and the Trump campaign.
But that was an early mention of German Khan and his business interest in the scandal. He then appeared in the Christopher Steele memos, in the dossier that was published by "BuzzFeed" in January. Mr. Khan`s name mentioned as an oligarch particularly close to Putin, one on good enough terms with Putin that, quote, favors continued to be done in both directions.
Well, now his son-in-law has just been sent to prison in this country as the first person imprisoned in conjunction with the special counsel investigation into interference in our election. I think one might expect that that could have political reverberations in Russia. Alex van der Zwaan is an unfamiliar figure to American audiences but he has a very specific gravity among very specific, very influential Russians.
I should tell you, we just got in just tonight the transcript from van der Zwaan`s sentencing today. I don`t know -- you might have heard about the sentencing today but I`m not sure anybody else has published what happened in the transcript of the hearing, what the judge actually said. It`s pretty dramatic.
At one point, the judge says to Alex van der Zwaan, quote: Lying would be wrong in any criminal investigation but this investigation also involves important questions of great national and international interest. It involves our country`s and probably other country`s national security and the prospect of potential foreign interference and the democratic processes that are fundamental to our freedoms.
So, there is not much good you can say about the nature and circumstance of the offense. And, quote, to be fair, the defense doesn`t talk about them much at all.
The defense has asked for a sentence that consists of a fine so that you, the defendant, can return to your wife and start visiting your mother again. Those facts that I`ve been asked to consider really don`t differentiate this defendant significantly from the people who stand before me every day. There are people who are forced to accept severe, sometimes mandatory consequences of non-violent criminal activity, activity that didn`t involve dishonesty, and they have been prompted by greater financial process or the lack of opportunities and upbringing that this man enjoyed.
I often find myself sentencing individuals with ailing parents, pregnant wives and needy children but few if any have the resources this family has to sustain itself. I`ve been told that this defendant has been punished enough because his life has been shattered, but this glass was dropped on a very thick carpet and it`s cushioned the blow.
Quote, I just can`t say pay your fine at the door and go, especially given the facts and the pre-sentence report concerning this defendant`s assets and assistance he`s being provided now. I`m not sure it would be felt.
The judge there says the assistance he`s provided now, we think the assistance that van der Zwaan has been getting since he got fired, he got arrested and all the rest of it, we think the assistance he`s getting is from his father in law, this multibillionaire Russian oligarch.
The judge continues, quote: Even if every dollar were you own, we`re not talking about a traffic ticket here. This was lying during the course of a criminal investigation. Being able to write a check and walk away would not fulfill the function of deterring others and it would send the exact wrong message.
To impose a fine or probation sentence alone would be contrary to the policies and principles that led to the creation of the sentencing guidelines in the first place, that people with your advantages were getting probation and others weren`t. This criminal justice system isn`t supposed to favor those with means and while it`s true that you did plead guilty and it would not be fair to treat this defendant more harshly because it`s a high profile investigation, the judge says, I have come to the conclusion the offense warrants a period of some incarceration.
First custodial sentence, that was the sentencing today of Alex van der Zwaan who may be totally incidentally is the son-in-law German Khan, a very well-known Russian oligarch. But if that`s going to end up being immaterial to the response to this imprisonment, I will be surprised.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: In 1982, the great state of Texas elected a woman as state treasurer, the first woman to win statewide office in Texas in 50 years. And eight years later, that`s same woman ran for Texas governor and she won. A woman Democrat, Texas governor. It was as much of a riot as you would expect.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANN RICHARDS (D), FORMER TEXAS GOVERNOR: I came over here because they said y`all were getting kind of rowdy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t know if you can see that bill but it says "a woman`s place is in the dome" referring to, of course, the dome at the state capital of Austin.
RICHARDS: I want to tell you how things look.
RICHARDS: It looks like as Barbara Jordan said, the people of Texas are back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If you look in the background of this shot, behind the great mighty Ann Richards, you will see somebody else who is now also a household name in American politics. Do you know who that is? Do you recognize that person?
Hold that thought. That`s next.
MADDOW: This was the state capital in Oklahoma today, second day of a huge teacher strike taking place across most of the state. Thousands of teachers swarmed the state capital this morning, so much that by 10:00 a.m., state troopers started turning people away. They couldn`t fit any more people inside the state house by 10:00 a.m.
Educators in Oklahoma walked off the job yesterday to protest their very low pay and cuts to education funding in Oklahoma. Last week, the legislature did rush through a bill to not do much for schools but to raise the teacher`s pay a bit. They hoped enough to get the teachers to stop their plans for this rebellion.
But the teachers were not appeased. They don`t just want their own raises, they want school support staff to get paid a living wage. They want more state funding for textbooks and fixing building infrastructure. They want Oklahoma to start actually funding education and so they are in the streets.
And it`s not just Oklahoma. State capital of Kentucky looked the same yesterday. Yesterday, thousands of Kentucky teachers and supporters showing up, so many they spilled out the doors of the state capital in Kentucky.
Teachers there are protesting changes to their pensions. They`re also protesting further, deeper budget cuts for schools. And you can see the kinds of turnout and the kinds of heartfelt stuff that comes up when you start talking about funding schools and teachers. My teacher walks for me. This teacher holding the sign that says my students are worth it. I walked in 1990, I walk today.
If these images look a little bit familiar, because these new protests come in Oklahoma and Kentucky this week, they come just a few weeks after the nine-day long statewide teacher strike in West Virginia. That one lasted until the teachers got the 5 percent raise they were looking for. It was the largest teacher strike in the history of that state. Teachers from all 55 counties in West Virginia refused to work until they were able to get what they came for.
The Trump era is not very old. It`s like 14 or 15 months, right? But one of the things that this era will be remembered for is something the president is not the author of. Big time American activism, we`re seeing play out right now in Kentucky and Oklahoma, with these teacher strikes, you know?
And they`re not just about teachers, parents and students also organizing and participating here. West Virginia last month, these were all kinds of school personnel who joined the cause, along side the teachers, bus drivers, cooks, maintenance workers. These protests are an emotional need of work but they are also really good organizing, hard work, well done. These are incredible organizing feats.
Teachers are a sliver of it. Consider also the massive marches last month against gun violence. Those marchers organized by kids, by high school kids. We watched since the very beginning, people coming together and protesting their member of Congress in the Trump era, calling on their local member of Congress to hold town halls, meet with their constituents, calling on their members Congress each and every day to meet with them.
Groups like Indivisible organizing weekly rallies to get the attention of local members of Congress at home in their district. Local Indivisible chapters throwing their local congressmen or congresswomen a retirement party and then celebrating with champagne when they do in fact retire.
As more African-Americans have died at the hands of police officers across this country, protests have continued to organize effectively against police violence, slowing down traffic, causing towns to come to complete standstills, stopping professional sports events, blocking people from attending normal events, protesters continuing to make people understand the reality of police violence in communities of color.
In this era, we`re also seeing the break down of what was long considered normal, right? People, particularly women, feeling less afraid and more empowered to make clear there will not be tolerance anymore for sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace, no matter how powerful the perpetrator may be.
We`re having a little golden age of American progressive activism and accountability. That`s one of the ways this first part of Trump era will be remembered. It`s happening right now in many different ways.
We saw it take full form on day two of the Trump era, right? Those women`s marches that took place across the country, 2.5 million people participating across the country and across the world the day after that inauguration. The biggest crowds we`ve ever seen in protest in this country. Grassroots efforts that begin right after the election became one of the largest single day protests in history.
One of the people, the organizer of the women`s march turned to in order to help them organize such a monumental undertaking was a very experienced activist and service group called Planned Parenthood. Powerhouse nonprofit dedicated to supporting reproductive health care across the country, Planned Parenthood was the biggest sponsor of the women`s march since the day after the inauguration.
And the person who helped make Planned Parenthood as powerful as it is today, whose organizational efforts have helped make this century old organization an absolute political stronghold in support of reproductive rights in the United States is Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards. She`s just written a book that is a little bit about what she is most famous for, for 12 years at the helm of Planned Parenthood.
But you should also know that more substantively and at a level of granular and almost instructive detail, she`s written a book about how to live your life as a political activist, especially how to live your life as a political activist who keeps clocking up wins all the time, in surprising circumstances, even when the odds are stacked against you. This is something Cecile Richards she knows a lot about.
Young organizers, she helped lead a campaign to unionize janitorial staff in L.A. She and her family launched a gigantic grassroots effort to help her mom Ann Richards become the first woman got elected governor of Texas for 15 years. In the Bush years, when progressives were searching for a powerful platform to combat the George W. Bush administration, Cecile Richards got 42 of the country`s largest progressive organizations to work together on a big voter registration effort.
As the president of Planned Parenthood, she`s fended off a real threat from Republicans and Democrats alike that very got close to banning all insurance coverage for abortion in the U.S. as part of the Affordable Care Act. That ban was going to be in Obamacare, but a big reason it`s not is because of Cecile Richards. When Republicans tried last year to kill the Affordable Care Act once and for all, Cecile Richards and the rest of Planned Parenthood helped make sure that did not happen, keeping Democrats and some Republican women, too, in line to ensure the ACA would survive.
Cecile Richards is famous because of Planned Parenthood but what you should know is that she`s kind of a living road map for how to do activism as your life`s work and win, way more than people think you can.
Joining us now is Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards. She`s the author of "Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out and Finding the Courage to Lead."
CECILE RICHARDS, AUTHOR, "MAKETROUBLE": Good to see you.
MADDOW: Nice to see you, too.
Am I right to see this as a model for how to live an activist life?
RICHARDS: Well, I think it`s a little bit of a call to action and it`s a book I wrote because so many people after the last election were saying, now, what do I do? And I got to -- and I think that the answer is do more than you ever thought you could.
But I hope it`s also, yes, a story about being an activist. You can make change. You can make people`s lives different. And you can also find a lot of joy and meet amazing people along the way.
I don`t know. I hope it inspires people to do something they never thought they would do before.
MADDOW: Well, that -- I mean, my feeling, I was an activist for a long time before I got into radio and TV and started doing a different thing. And my -- I felt like the one takeaway that I learned that isn`t just an axiom that everybody knows about these things is that it really helps to win, because winning helps. A, it attracts more people to do what you`re doing.
RICHARDS: That`s right.
MADDOW: B, it`s fun. And C, it creates an idea. Even if you only win a small thing, it creates an idea that another path is possible.
And I feel like you really spell that out in terms of like -- part of the way you win is by being good at strategy. Part of the way you also win is at surviving and enjoying yourself, having more fun than the other side and persistent.
RICHARD: And I think part of -- yes, never giving up. And, look, if you`re fighting for things that are hard, you`re going lose more than you`re going to win. But when you do win, you got to claim that victory and learn from it and move on. And I think that`s what we saw.
Look, I feel like I was here maybe a year ago, you know, after this election that chances that Planned Parenthood would be able to stay open under this Trump administration were -- I mean, no one thought we had a chance of winning. And it really was because people turned out in droves. I mean, folks who had never been to a town hall meeting, never called Congress were literally coming to Washington, D.C., and that to me -- winning that was everything. And I think it was instructive for all of news the resistance on so many issues that we could win.
MADDOW: That point about the threat, the perceived threat and the peril that Planned Parenthood has been in over the course of the past year raises important questions for me about why you are leaving Planned Parenthood right now. Will you hold on for a moment and I`ll ask you those questions when we come back?
MADDOW: Cecile Richards is our guest. Her new book is "Make Trouble."
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Back with us is Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards who is the author of "Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out and Finding the Courage to Lead", which is just out.
Cecile, thank you again for being here for this and congratulations on this.
You were just talking about the fact that Planned Parenthood -- a year ago, you might not have been able to say with confidence that Planned Parenthood would still be here, given the attacks on it from the political right in this country. Given the peril that Planned Parenthood is in an ongoing way, are you taking a big risk by leaving now? Is that part of the reason you`re leaving?
RICHARDS: Oh, god, no. And I feel like look, Planned Parenthood has been around 100 years. We`ll be around 100 more. And this administration will go away at some point.
I think the important thing is actually and ironically for some of the reasons that you were mentioning earlier, I think Planned Parenthood is stronger today than it has ever been. And in fact, we`ve added of course more than a million and a half new supporters since the Trump administration came in, many of them young people that have never been involved in politics or advocacy before.
So, I feel really strongly that the organization is in good shape. And that it`s important for folks like me. I`ve had this job for 12 years. It`s been the honor of a lifetime. I think it`s important that we make room for a new generation of leadership.
And so, I feel good about this. I will give you this one statistic, which I love, is that we are now have more than 11.5 million members, which is more than twice the size of the National Rifle Association. So I`m feeling good about that.
MADDOW: This book I think will broaden people`s understanding about your activist chops and your organizing chops. It makes me think that you would be -- this makes me think you`re going to run for office.
Are you going run for office?
RICHARDS: I don`t have any plans to run for office. But I learned early on never to say never. But I am completely focused on making sure that we elect every single progressive and woman that we can in November as we`re seeing record numbers of women running for office. And that is really exciting and inspiring to me. And I think they -- I think I can do a lot to help them.
MADDOW: Cecile Richards, good luck on this next chapter.
RICHARDS: So good to see you. Thank you, thank you.
MADDOW: All right. The book is called "Make Trouble: Standing up, Speaking out and Finding the Courage to Lead." Cecile Richards, it`s just -- Cecile Richards, it`s just out.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: A little bit of late-breaking, very late-breaking election news. This just happened. "The Associated Press" has just called a Supreme Court race in the great state of Wisconsin. It might sound like small potatoes for national news. But this is a race that had received a bunch of national attention.
Eric Holder and Barack Obama formed the National Democratic Redistricting Organization that had gotten involved in this case, pushing for a victory by Rebecca Dallet, who was the more liberal of the two candidates for this Wisconsin Supreme Court race. And Rebecca Dallet appears to have won that race that will tilt the balance, the liberal conservative balance of the Wisconsin state Supreme Court slightly more in a progressive direction. Somewhat of a surprise tonight in Wisconsin in that statewide race.
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.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
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