Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: June 12, 2018 Guest: Chris Murphy, Annie Karni
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": That is "ALL IN" for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. That was stunning with Congresswoman Jayapal. That`s -- I saw her reporting, I saw her talking about it, and I saw the video that she posted on Facebook about it, but her going into that kind of detail with you right now is --
MADDOW: -- just chilling. Unbelievable.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Glad to have you with us.
Lots of news going on. Here`s your pop quiz: North Korea. North Korea has borders with three other countries. What are the three other countries?
I will spot you the first two. Obviously, North Korea has a border with South Korea, one of the most famous borders on earth. It features a real live DMZ. It`s one of the most fraught conflict lines on the planet, and it has been for decades.
So, that`s one of the two I will spot you. Obviously, North Korea borders South Korea.
North Korea also borders China. North Korean border with China is way longer than its border with South Korea. The length of that border, the 23 different road crossings across that North Korea-China border, all those things make China acutely interested in North Korean affairs. Not just as a friendly neighbor but also because China quite desperately doesn`t want North Korea to suffer some sort of catastrophic collapse.
North Korea falling apart, war in North Korea, an unimaginable uprising of the people in North Korea, anything that might cause the collapse of that weird, isolated, repressed, poor place, that would produce potentially millions of North Korean refugees, which China believes would become their instant problem and one they do not want.
So, that worry, that balancing act with North Korea over that big, long, porous border they`ve got with North Korea, I think that explains a lot of China`s attitude toward them. Particularly as China`s economic rise has created such an increasing contrast between living standards in China and what people have to endure in North Korea. They`re very conscious of that border, big important international geopolitical thing.
So that`s two of the three, right? North Korea borders South Korea. North Korea borders China.
What is the third country with which North Korea has a border? It`s right up there on the sea coast in the northeastern corner of North Korea, where the Tumen River filters into a muddy delta and reaches the sea. It`s up there in the far north. It`s a wicked cold, wicked isolated gray little corner of the world. North Korea has a tiny little sniglet of a border way third country there.
There`s only one crossing over that border. It`s a bridge. It is a bridge you cannot walk across, nor can you drive across it. You can only take a train across it.
It`s the one crossing on that border between North Korea and that third country. If you take that train, which doesn`t come very often, if you take that train across that bridge from North Korea and they let you cross that border, where you end up in is Russia. That`s the third country that borders North Korea.
In 1860, Russia annexed, came in and annexed that little spit of land at the delta of the Tumen River. Previously, that territory had been China. But Russia came in while we were busy starting our own civil war in 1860, and they pushed the Chinese border back 11 miles inland.
And that had one very important consequence for China. It cut off China`s access to the sea anywhere north of the Korean peninsula. And Russia in taking that piece of land, they also bought themselves a weird little 11- mile-long border between Russia and the other weirdest country on earth.
Technically, North Korea is a communist country, one of the last few communist countries on earth. When the Soviet Union still existed, the USSR was the main outside entity that was propping up North Korea, more than any other ally or any other benefactor.
One of the great humanitarian catastrophes of the 20th century happened very late in the 20th century. It happened in the 1990s in North Korea, when widespread sustained famine in that country is estimated to have killed hundreds of thousands if not millions of people, in the `90s.
That famine and its astounding death toll were sort of hard for the rest of the world to see because North Korea is such a closed and secretive and isolated country. But that famine didn`t happen in isolation. Part of the reason that famine is believed to have happened and happened then is because of the collapse of the Soviet Union, at the, you know, end of the `80s, beginning of the `90s. They really had been North Korea`s main lifeline in terms of economic support.
When the Soviet Union collapsed at the start of the `90s, so did North Korea`s ability to feed its population. Its patron went into chaos. North Korea started to starve to death. Well, now of course, it`s China that is the ascendant economic superpower in that region and in the world. And now it is China that is keeping North Korea alive economically, accounting for more than 90 percent of North Korea`s trade.
But it`s both China and Russia who both have a big stake in that country. China and Russia both are literally neighbors with North Korea. They`re abutters. Even if Russia`s North Korea border just has that one train bridge and a bunch of miserable guards and nothing else.
When President Trump met with Kim Jong-un last night, it was easy to be caught up in the strange spectacle of that meeting. When things happen that have never happened before, when things happen for which there`s no parallel in American history, it can be hard to sort of get your bearings in terms of what you ought to expect and what should be seen as a shocking departure from what you expected. It can be hard to see what would count as a good outcome versus a bad outcome when something has never happened before and nothing like it has ever happened before.
The thing about unprecedented events is that they exist in a category of their own. You have nothing to stack up next to them to try to keep perspective, to know when something is right or when something is definitely off.
But even with those caveats about last night, I think it is safe to say that there is one thing, one very big thing that was definitely off about that meeting last night. And that is the baseline reality that we don`t know what it was for. Why did that happen? What was that for?
No U.S. president has ever agreed to meet with a North Korean dictator before. They`ve sought this for decades. Kim Jong-un has wanted this for years. His father wanted it before him. His grandfather wanted it before him.
All U.S. presidents have been asked. All U.S. presidents have considered it, at least to a certain degree. None of them have said yes.
Why did this U.S. president agree to this meeting? Why give North Korea a one-on-one in-person summit with the American president with all this pageantry and all the honorifics? After every other president said no, why did this president say yes? What was it for?
I mean, North Korea made no new promises in order to get this summit. No new promises about their weapons program or their own behavior toward their own people or anything else. The North Korean dictator did reassert what has been a long-time vague assurance from the North Korean government that they seek to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.
But you know what? North Korean dictators have been saying that to the United States in the context of various agreements and negotiations for more than 25 years now. That`s nothing new. They start pledging that they would denuclearize the Korean peninsula in the early `90s.
Since then, they have dropped out of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. They`ve mastered and completed multiple nuclear fuel cycles. They`ve successfully developed operational nuclear weapons.
They`ve manufactured what are believed to be dozens of operational nuclear bombs. They`ve advanced their missile program so they have reliable short, medium, and long-range missiles that they could use to fire those nuclear weapons as far away as Chicago if they so desire. And they got themselves even a hydrogen bomb as of 2017.
That`s what they`ve done since they first started promising in the early `90s that they`d be happy to denuclearize the Korean peninsula. That`s their vision of a denuclearized Korean peninsula and their role in it, them having dozens of nuclear weapons and vehicles to deliver them all over the globe. That`s what they mean by we want to denuclearize.
So, in order to get this summit last night with the American president, the North Korean dictator and the North Korean government appeared to have not promised change of any kind in their nuclear program or in any other policy. Literally, they gave up nothing. They promised nothing.
In exchange for that generous offer, President Trump gave North Korea this royal wedding-style summit in which North Korea was billed as a nation equal in stature to the United States and the North Korean dictator was billed as an international leader equal in stature to the president of the United States. As a bonus, the president also threw in literally hours of unwavering, over-the-top praise for the North Korean dictator and his repeated insistence that it was his honor as president of the United States to have the opportunity to meet with the dictator.
And then, surprise, President Trump announced when it was all over that he would end the joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea.
South Korea is supposed to be one of our closest allies, but apparently, they had no idea this was coming. Quote: South Korea appears to have been blindsided by Trump`s change of heart on war games. U.S. officials could not confirm that Trump had told counterparts in Seoul about the plan to suspend military exercises.
South Korea put out -- soon put out a statement saying they were trying to figure out the exact meaning and intentions in President Trump`s comments, because they had no idea this announcement was coming. In addition to blindsiding South Korea about ending joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korean militaries, President Trump also appears to have blindsided the U.S. military with his announcement.
Quote: The U.S. military -- excuse me -- the United States military in South Korea was also apparently blindsided by Mr. Trump`s remarks. U.S. Forces Korea said they had received no updated guidance on execution or cessation of training exercises.
So, big picture, what was this summit all about? They had the summit, right? They had the one on one meeting and then they have extended bilateral meeting with other aides, and then they put out the written statement. The written statement didn`t say anything about ending military exercises.
But after all that happens, the president sort of casually announces, after the wedding was over, that at some point during the festivities, he had told them that he`d be calling off U.S. and South Korean joint military exercises. We`ve been doing those every year since the 1950s.
U.S. Forces Korea, the U.S. military in Korea, had absolutely no idea this was coming. And that turns out to not just be strange. It`s materially consequential because right now U.S. Forces Korea are in the midst of preparing for their next big round of military exercises with South Korea. The ones they do every year.
If you look at the longer statement U.S. Forces Korea put out in response to the president`s remarks, it seemed to indicate that maybe the Defense Department, maybe the U.S. military might even be planning on going ahead with those next exercises with South Korea because they`re not sure if Trump actually meant what he so casually mentioned after the summit was over.
What the U.S. Forces Korea statement said was, quote, we have received no updated guidance on execution or cessation of training exercises to include this fall`s scheduled Ulchi Freedom Guardian. In coordination with our Republic of Korea partners, we will continue with our current military posture until we receive updated guidance from the Department of Defense.
Ulchi Freedom Guardian is a very large joint military exercise that`s scheduled to start in late August. I think it`s like 11 days long. It`s one of the biggest military exercises on earth, tens of thousands of South Korean troops, nearly 20,000 U.S. troops.
Apparently, the Defense Department is going to proceed as if they are still doing that because they haven`t received any official word and maybe this is like Trump announcing he wants Hillary Clinton investigated or like, maybe I`m going to pardon Martha Stewart. Like they have to wonder if this is just a thought he`s had and it`s not something he`s going to follow through on and so, it`s therefore not something they`re supposed to follow through on.
But if he did mean it, if he is actually ordering an end to these joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea, that is an absolute jackpot for the North Korean dictator. That is one of the things he wants most on earth that he and his father and grandfather have been trying to get for decades. And now, Trump has apparently just given it to them in exchange for nothing.
Do you remember last year when North Korea threatened to nuke Guam? Remember they said they were going to shoot nuclear missiles at Guam? They made very detailed threats about the four nuclear bombs they were going to drop on Guam and how exactly they were going to do that? Remember that?
They made that threat to protest last year`s Ulchi Freedom Guardian, last year`s big joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises in August. Remember before then, the flames and ashes threat?
Quote: If we push the buttons to annihilate the enemies even right now, all bases of provocations will be reduced to seas in flames and ashes in a moment.
That threat was in protest of U.S.-South Korea military exercises. When they threatened to turn the Sea of Japan into a nuclear sea of fire, that was in protest of U.S. -South Korea military exercises. When they freaking torpedoed a South Korean ship and killed more than 40 South Korean sailors in 2010, that was in response to U.S.-South Korean military exercises.
When North Korea announced that they considered themselves to no longer be bound by the ceasefire that ended the Korean War in the `50s, that was in protest of U.S.-South Korean military exercises. For years, for decades, North Korea has not just demanded, they have hysterically demanded and fired missiles and killed people and sunk ships and shelled inhabited South Korean islands to stop these joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises.
And now, Trump has just given them that for free, for nothing, apparently without talking to anybody else about it, including his own military or the South Koreans or anybody. The U.S. government, the Trump administration insisted there would be no concessions to North Korea unless they had complete verifiable irreversible denuclearization, right? They`d have to do that before the U.S. gave them anything.
They didn`t give any of that. They didn`t even promise to do it. And they got an end to U.S. joint military exercises with South Korea, one of the things they want most in the world, that they`ve been trying to get for decades? How`d -- why`d they get that? Why did Trump give that to them?
He didn`t apparently negotiate it with anyone else even in the U.S. government or U.S. military. He just himself gave it away. Why did he do that?
You know who else wants the U.S. to stop its joint military exercises with South Korea? The abutters. China naturally sees itself as the great power in the region and increasingly in the world. They definitely see North Korea as not just a troublesome neighbor, but a neighbor that is squarely within their sphere of exclusive influence.
From China`s perspective, if there are supposed to be foreign troops circulating in that part of the world, that would be Chinese troops and not anybody else`s. China for years has advocated that the U.S. stop these joint military exercises with South Korea. The other entity that really wants the U.S. to stop its joint military exercises with South Korea, the other country that has been increasingly insistent that those exercises are provocations and they must stop, the country who has been speaking out on that more and more in the last couple of years, specifically is North Korea`s other abutter.
Here`s Russia, March of 2016, expressing their opposition to South Korean- U.S. military exercises. Here`s Russia again, March of 2017 when those same U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises rolled around again the same time the next year because they`re annual exercises.
But Russia`s starting to get a little more bold in the past year or two in expressing their opposition to the U.S. participating in these joint military exercises. Here`s Russia in December 2017 getting even pushier about it, sending the head of the Russian armed forces to the Russian city that is nearest to that little sniglet of the North Korean border to personally proclaim his opposition to the U.S. forces -- to U.S. forces participating in these joint military operations with South Korea.
Russia has just this tiny little border, 11-mile-long border with North Korea, with one crossing on a train, and they`ve got a troubled and varied history over the decades with that country. But Russia is also increasingly straining at its borders right now and shoving back U.S. and Western influence, especially U.S. and Western military presence, anywhere near what it considers to be its own geopolitical interests.
And one of the things that they have started to loudly insist on is that the U.S. drop those joint military exercises with South Korea. The U.S. has kept those going as a pillar of U.S. national security strategy for, ooh, 70 years now, until last night, when Trump casually announced that that`s over now, he`s doing away with those, blindsided everybody involved and gave North Korea something they desperately want and would do almost anything for, except he gave it to them for free.
MADDOW: In the 2008 presidential election, one of the earliest primary debates of that election Barack Obama, then a candidate, was asked whether he`d be willing to meet without preconditions in the first year of his presidency with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, or North Korea. His answer caused an uproar.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Obama?
BARACK OBAMA, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would. And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them, which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration, is ridiculous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Clinton?
HILLARY CLINTON, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year. I don`t want to be used for propaganda purposes. Certainly, we`re not going to just have our president meet with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez and, you know, the president of North Korea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This was the "A.P." headline the next day: Obama debate comments set off firestorm. And that was true in the primary. It was true later on too.
Hillary Clinton went after Barack Obama on the campaign trail on that for months. She said that stance was irresponsible and frankly naive. National Republican Party went nuts over what he had said as well and when Obama became the general election nominee, Republicans hammered him on that as much as they hammered him on anything, saying he would meet with foreign leaders without preconditions that was as far as they were concerned pretty much the end of the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: What Senator Obama doesn`t seem to understand, that if without precondition, you sit down across the table from someone who has called Israel a stinking corpse and wants to destroy that country and wipe it off the map, you legitimize those comments. This is dangerous. It isn`t just naive. It`s dangerous.
The North Koreans have broken every agreement they`ve entered into. And we ought to go back to a little bit of Ronald Reagan`s trust but verify and certainly not sit down across the table from -- without precondition as Senator Obama said he did twice. I mean, it`s just dangerous.
OBAMA: Look, I --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Republicans then. This is Republicans now. The Republican National Committee boldly declaring today, Trump`s historic summit stands in contrast to Obama`s North Korea failures.
As a general rule you might have noticed that in this hour, on the show here on MSNBC I don`t go out of my way to play tape of the president speaking. Nor do I tend to spend too much time parsing whatever the latest quote is from him. That is not out of any animus on my part. It`s just that the president very frequently says things that aren`t true.
He admits he says things that aren`t true. He calls it, you know, like hyperbole. But he lies.
And I feel like on this show I`d like you to be able to trust me to give you true information, because I generally feel like I can`t trust what purports to be information from this president. I just try to do the news without words from him most of the time.
Even though that is the general rule around here I`m going to break that rule for a second, because just as people living through this time on earth, I think we all really do need to grapple with what the president`s political party is praising him for now. We have to grapple with what he just said as the sitting president of the United States about the most repressive dictator on earth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He really has been very open. And I think very honorable.
We`re getting along. You see the relationship. We`re getting along.
Great personality and very smart. Good combination. Very worthy, very smart negotiator. Absolutely.
He`s a very talented man.
Really he`s got a great personality. He`s a, you know, funny guy. He`s a very smart guy. He`s a great negotiator.
So, we got along very well. We got along from the beginning.
He`s very talented.
Very smart. Very good negotiator. Wants to do the right thing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You trust him?
TRUMP: I do trust him, yeah. He trusts me. I believe. I really do.
We got along very well. We have a great chemistry. I mean, I know people where there is no chemistry, no matter what you do you just don`t have it. We had it right from the beginning.
I would love to have him at the White House whatever it takes. I would love to have him at the White House. And I think he`d love to be there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The American president has a new best friend. And it is apparently unconditional love.
Senator Chris Murphy is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He put out this statement today in response to the president`s summit. Quote: The president`s disastrous treatment of our allies makes the syrupy photo op he just gave the brutal dictator Kim Jong-un so dangerous. I have no quarrel with an American president talking to our enemies. But how and when you talk to your enemies, that matters.
Senator Chris Murphy, thank you very much for joining us tonight, sir. It`s a pleasure to have you here.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT), SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So when you said how and when you talk to your enemies, that matters, what did you mean specifically in this context?
MURPHY: Well, what I mean is that the context here matters and coming on the heels of a G-7 meeting in which the president was absolutely brutalizing our closest allies, people who have historically had our back, those that literally responded to our call after September 11th. It makes his over-the-top generous praise of Kim even worse because it sends this very clear message that if you stand with us, you are going to get no credit for that. In fact, you might be humiliated and embarrassed in front of the entire world. And if you engage in the kind of atrocities that Kim has, you get praise from the president without any substantial reform up front.
And so, none of us should kill the president for talking to a country that is largely antithetical to the United States. But when you do it literally in the same 72-hour period that you just pushed aside some of the people who have been closest to the United States and then you go out of your way to praise a guy who literally runs gulags, who has locked up hundreds of thousands of political prisoners and still engages in the open public execution of his political opponents -- yes, the context and the way in which you engage really does matter. People notice.
MADDOW: Do you think that North Korea gave up anything, made any sort of meaningful concession or promise in order to get these declarations of love from the president?
MURPHY: No, clearly they didn`t. In fact, you could argue that they`ve backtracked on previous commitments. It`s all semantics because there`s really no there there to this document. But the language that you referenced having been included in previous agreements between the North Korean regime and the United States and other partners actually included stronger language.
This is the weakest that has been included in any recent document that has emerged from North Korea and the United States. And, you know, even President Obama, when he began the beginning negotiations with Iran, he said in the campaign he`d do it without preconditions. But those early stage agreements, the confidence-building measures involved give-and-take from both the United States and Iran.
There is simply no give from the North Koreans in this agreement. They get a wonderful photo op. They get to run the clock now for a period of months or years as these negotiations play out, and we`re no closer to actually nuclear disarmament.
MADDOW: The president didn`t include in the written statement that was released at the end of the negotiations, but did sort of casually mention when he talked to the press after that he also wants to call off joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises. And that struck me as interesting for several reasons.
One is that North Korea has wanted that so badly for decades and no U.S. president has previously seen fit to give that to them. The other thing is that it seems like it was the president`s sort of riffing in the moment. I don`t know if he -- that just occurred to him while he was talking to the press or if he actually offered that to the North Koreans in negotiations.
But even the U.S. military doesn`t seem to have known that was coming. As far as I can tell the other entities that really, really want that besides North Korea are Russia and China. Did you know this was coming? Do you think this is significant in terms of U.S. national security? Do you know where this came from?
MURPHY: Well, we certainly didn`t know it was coming. But it`s not shocking given that the president has open pined to withdraw the U.S. military commitment from the peninsula, which as you mention is something that the Russians and Chinese have been asking for for a long time.
There is this very interesting report from earlier today that suggests the Chinese may have announced this cancellation of the exercises before Trump did, suggesting that maybe this commitment was made before Trump announced it, the Chinese may have known about it. It is also very possible, Rachel, that he`s just a terrible negotiator and, in fact, if you look at the reason why he went bankrupt over and over again, it`s because he took a very tough stand ahead of his negotiation with business partners or creditors and then he gave them everything that they asked for once he sat down at the table.
So, if it really was just a last-minute throwaway concession, it would be in some ways completely consistent with the ways that he negotiated as a private citizen.
MADDOW: So, we have total consistency with his business bankruptcy record and total inconsistency and a complete break from all modern U.S. history and presidential negotiation before him.
That`s -- that`s a reorientation of my world.
Senator Chris Murphy, member of the Foreign Relations Committee, thank you for being with us tonight, sir. Appreciate it.
MURPHY: Thanks a lot.
MADDOW: All right. Lots more to come tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: If the person who spoke these words had had his way, you would never have been able to hear these words. Not now, not ever.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Don`t lie to them to the extent to say there is no involvement, but just say this is sort of a comedy of errors, bizarre, without getting into it, the president believes that it is going to open the whole Bay of Pigs thing up again. And, because these people are plugging for, for keeps and that they should call the FBI in and say that we wish for the country, don`t go any further into this case, period!
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: They should call in the FBI and say we wish for the country, don`t go any further into this case, period. That was President Richard Nixon on June 23rd, 1972, trying to shut down the Watergate investigation. That was him concocting a plot whereby the CIA would go to the FBI and tell the FBI they needed to back off of Watergate for some bogus, made up national security reason that wasn`t the real thing. That was the smoking gun tape.
Nixon fought tooth and nail to stop the public release of all the tapes he made in the Oval Office. The legacy of Nixon`s failed fight to block access to the tapes back then is now a law that applies to all presidents. It`s called the Presidential Records Act. It requires presidents to preserve their documentary materials, and that includes papers, pamphlets, videotapes, audiotapes, maybe even a single post-it note, depending on the circumstances.
Anything that the president touches, any recording of the president`s actions or behavior or notes. It all gets preserved. And the process for that is supposed to be orderly. It is supposed to be lawful. That is an apparently what has been happening in the Trump administration.
And it has led to two guys being fired under very, very mystery circumstances. They are now talking about the circumstances of their firing. And it is a story that will curl your hair. And that`s next.
MADDOW: One month after Donald Trump was sworn in as president, the White House counsel`s office sent this memo to the entire White House staff. Subject: Presidential Records Act obligation. Purpose: to remind all personnel of their obligation to preserve and maintain presidential records as required by the Presidential Records Act.
And the memo lays out quite specifically the broad and particular sweep of what must be kept for posterity by law, down to PowerPoint presentations and text messages and old-fashioned letters. Quote, you should preserve hard copy presidential records in organized files. To the extent practicably, you should categorize materials as presidential records when they are created or received. You should file presidential records separately from other material, and so on.
Quote: The willful destruction or concealment of federal records is a federal crime punishable by fines and imprisonment.
Imprisonment, by law. Documents that pertain to a sitting president must be collected and preserved. They get handed over to the National Archives. National Archives saves everything. It`s required by law.
And then after that president leaves office, those records, a lot of them, they eventually become public. That`s how we learn what happened inside a particular White House even if that particular administration didn`t tell us about it at the time.
History gets made every day in the White House. We as Americans eventually get to learn that history because of the Presidential Records Act. It`s how we get the history being made now, that we can`t yet see.
And that is why I have been unable to erase this headline from the back of my eyelids.
Meet the guys who tape Trump`s papers back together. Tape? What?
The president`s unofficial filing system involves tearing up documents into pieces, even when they are supposed to be preserved. Quote: White House aides realized early on that they were unable to stop Trump from ripping up paper after he was done with it and throwing it in the trash or, classy, on the floor. Instead they chose to clean it up for him in order to make sure that the president wasn`t violating the law.
Quote: Staffers had the fragments of paper collected from the Oval Office as well as the private residence. And then they sent those fragments of paper over to the Records Management Office across the street from the White House to be reassembled. Armed with rolls of clear scotch tape, staffers sift through large piles of shredded paper and put them back together like a jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes the papers would just be split down the middle, but other times they would be torn into pieces so small they looked like confetti. Torn by the president`s own enormous hands.
One career government official with close to 30 years under his belt and a top secret security clearance explained, quote, we got scotch tape, the clear kind. You found pieces and taped it back together and then you gave it back to the supervisor. Or at least that`s what they were doing.
This past spring, according to "Politico`s" new report, that department where they had the people from the archives taping together the president`s torn up documents, this past spring, they started firing people out of that department. "Politico" spoke to two of them. Two of them who had been taping the president`s documents back together. They were both stripped of their badges with no explanation and marched off of the White House grounds by Secret Service. They both then had their personal effects from their offices mailed to them at home.
A few questions here. Why were the career staffers from the National Archives fired from their jobs taping the president`s papers back together again, humpty-dumpty style? Is anybody on that same scotch tape duty now? And what assurances do we the public have that records are being kept as the law requires? What just happened here?
Joining us now is the woman who broke this story, Annie Karni, who`s White House reporter for politico.com.
Ms. Karni, congratulations on this super weird scoop, and thank you for joining us.
ANNIE KARNI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO.COM: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: First, let me ask you do we know if there are still people who are scotch-taping together the president`s torn-up documents, or did this end when the gentlemen who are the subject of your piece got fired?
KARNI: No, there are still people doing it, although the amount of torn-up paper they said had -- is less than it was at the beginning of the administration. Solomon Lardy, one of the men I talked to, said for the first five months, it was basically their entire department doing is what he told me. And when he was fired, he said there was still a woman doing it daily and a few other people.
So, it was still going on but the volume had decreased.
MADDOW: Do you have any sense since your piece came out after your discussions with these sources who had these jobs, do you have any sense why they were fired?
KARNI: I really don`t know. And I -- there could be a good reason why these two men were fired that we don`t know. I don`t know what their record was in 30 years of government, if something came out that was a fireable offense. I really have no idea.
The point is that they were given no explanation except that they serve at the pleasure of the president and escorted off the grounds by HR. I e- mailed the HR woman that fired them. They forwarded me e-mails with her.
I saw the back and forth they had with her. She never gave them any response. She never responded to me. The press office never responded to me at all on this story. The ripping part or the firing part, I never got any answer from the White House.
So I have no insight into why they were fired, and it remains a mystery to them too.
MADDOW: It is a interesting window into the personality and habits of a president to learn that as a matter of course, apparently the president according to your piece tears stuff in half or tears it into teeny tiny little pieces after he`s done looking at a document, he`s like a human shredder, which is a thing. I don`t know anybody else who does that.
But when you say the volume of torn-up materials that the national archive staff are trying to put back together with tape, the volume of paper they`re having to deal with has shrunk, is that because the president is doing this less, or is it because White House staff are collecting fewer of the shreds and sending them to the archives to be reassembled?
KARNI: My impression of it was that they have -- aides have tried to tell him, explain to him that these papers need to be saved, don`t tear them up. And it took a long time for an old dog to learn new tricks here. He`s been -- this is the way he`s been doing it forever.
I -- after the piece posted, I talked to people who`ve worked with Trump at various times in his career who said they -- you know, they remember him ripping, shredding paper. So, the message didn`t sink in. So they just cleaned up after him to make sure that he doesn`t violate the law, because they were scared. His aides were scared that he would.
Maybe that message has sunk in over the course of 1-1/2 years now that he`s been in office. And he could be, you know, changing his habits now. But at the beginning of the administration, it was just -- the volume was enough for the whole department to be working on this.
MADDOW: So it could be that he`s getting better. It could be conceivably that they`re not cleaning up as much after him.
KARNI: I mean, I don`t know. Maybe that will be one of the letters we find when this all becomes history and we get more insight into what is going on.
MADDOW: This is so insane. I mean, this is an incredible story. And you found these gentlemen who`ve been doing this incredibly weird thing. But wow, what a weird new window.
KARNI: It`s what a few people said to me is kind of like a metaphor for the whole presidency. He`s -- Donald Trump doesn`t have a lot of preservational instincts, a lot of sense of history, and might not even have known that there were many people who have pride in their work who were tasked with this menial duty in order to clean up after him.
MADDOW: Known or cared.
MADDOW: Yes. Annie Karni, "Politico`s" White House reporter -- again, congratulations. Thanks for being here tonight. Appreciate it.
KARNI: Thank you.
MADDOW: It`s election night tonight. And we might have an upset in the making. That`s next.
I can`t even mach myself throw this stuff on the ground as a joke, like it would be too much of a mess.
MADDOW: It is election night in six states tonight. We`ve got statewide primary elections going on in Virginia, Nevada, Maine, North Dakota, and South Carolina. Plus, two special elections for legislative seats in Wisconsin.
Tonight is election night. It`s been on the calendars for a long time. It`s been on the calendars for some time now. We`ve all known this was coming. Somebody arrived a little late to the party, though, this evening.
The president tonight tweeting from Air Force One, a presidential endorsement in the South Carolina first district congressional race. This is the seat held by Mark Sanford, former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford.
Today at about 4:15 in the afternoon, less than three hours before the polls closed in South Carolina, President Trump endorsed the primary opponent to Mark Sanford, saying that Congressman Sanford has been, quote, nothing but trouble.
Now, by the time Trump sent out that tweet, people in South Carolina had been voting for about nine hours already. So, it was sort of an interesting decision for the president to make this last-minute intrusion into the race when there is only a couple of hours of voting left.
Whatever the strategy, though, it does not look good for Mark Sanford tonight. Polls closed in South Carolina a little over two hours ago with about 50 percent of the vote in. Congressman Sanford is currently trailing behind his primary opponent, Katie Arrington, who is the one Trump endorsed in the tweet today.
These votes are still coming in. If Arrington gets more than 50 percent of the vote when all the vote is in, she will unseat Mark Sanford tonight. That would make Congressman Sanford the second Republican congressman primaried out of office this year. The first one was Robert Pittenger of North Carolina.
These results from North Carolina are coming in very, very slowly tonight. So we`ll be watching these over the course of the evening. If when all the vote comes in, neither Katie Arrington nor Mark Sanford gets 50 percent of the vote, their race will go to a runoff between the two of them, and that is one that Sanford would probably not be expected to survive either.
So, not looking good tonight for congressman and former Governor Mark Sanford.
Now in Virginia, one of the most vulnerable Republicans in Congress right now is Congresswoman Barbara Comstock. She won her Republican primary tonight, though for an incumbent she faced a pretty strong opponent in tonight`s primary. You see these are the results tonight in Barbara Comstock`s race.
Tonight, Democrats in Virginia`s tenth district nominated Barbara Comstock`s primary opponent. It will be State Senator Jennifer Wexton. This seat is one of four vulnerable congressional seats in West Virginia. Democrats tonight nominated female candidates in all four of those districts where they want to unseat a Republican.
Virginia Democrats ran a record number of women candidates in the House of Delegates last year. They appear to be continuing that streak with tonight`s congressional primary results. Democratic U.S. Senator Tim Kaine is up for reelection. He won his Democratic Senate primary tonight with nobody running against him.
Virginia Republicans were in an interesting fight, though, tonight, to nominate who they`re going to pick to run against him. It`s been a close race all night between a House delegate named Nick Freitas and a very controversial Prince William County supervisor named Corey Stewart who has struggled with his ties to white supremacists and anti-Semitic figures in Republican politics.
He has campaigned to conserve confederate statues and appeared alongside members of unite the white group that sparked the rally in Charlottesville last summer. Establishment Republicans had been pushing hard to try to stop Corey Stewart from winning this primary tonight. But look at those results. He appears to have won this primary.
Whether Republicans like it or not, this is the candidate they have chosen to face Democratic Senator Tim Kaine in the fall. Senate Republicans campaign arm, the NRSC right now is so far declining to comment on whether or not they`re going to support Corey Stewart in the general election race this fall.
Polls are still open tonight in North Dakota and Nevada for primary races there. It`s turning out to be an exciting night.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: It`s only Tuesday. Already, this week feels 10 days long. But you should know the rest of this week is going to be a little bit nuts in terms of the news.
Heads up tomorrow, the former security director, a senior staffer for the Intelligence Committee in the Senate is going to be arraigned in D.C. James Wolfe is expected to plead not guilty tomorrow for allegedly lying to the FBI about his contacts with reporters. He is supposed to have leaked information to reporters about Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
The following day, the Justice Department`s inspector general on Thursday is going to release his findings on the FBI`s investigation into Hillary Clinton and her e-mail server. Also that day, Justice Department and the FBI are going to brief congressional leaders on that FBI source who met with three Trump campaign aides, which should bring up that whole controversy again.
On Friday, Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort is going to be arraigned on a third felony indictment, this time for allegedly trying to tamper with witnesses. Manafort`s bail could be revised or revoked at that arraignment. That could land him in jail immediately on Friday.
It`s already Tuesday. Keep your vitamins close at hand. Stay hydrated. We can do this together.
That does it for us tonight. See you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Good evening, Lawrence.
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