Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: September 4, 2018 Guest: Dahlia Lithwick, John Kerry
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Very happy to have you with us.
Hope you had a good Labor Day weekend. I hope you had the day off. I hope you are tanned, rested and ready, because back at school. Today`s day one. Here we go.
Former secretary of state, former senator, former Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry is here tonight on this show for the interview. He`s going to be here live on set with me. I`m very excited about that.
It`s always exciting. It`s always and almost intimidating privilege to have the opportunity to ask questions of somebody who has been a presidential nominee from a major party, let alone somebody like Secretary Kerry who was also an immediate past secretary of state, let alone one with 28 years of experience in the U.S. Senate. So, it`s always exciting to have the chance to talk with, to ask questions of somebody who has that kind of experience.
But after a day in the news like today, man, take your pick of the number of things you would like to talk to somebody like John Kerry about. He`ll be joining us in a moment.
But even if you start with the small stuff today, today ended up -- today, what would usually be like relatively small bore news, right? That an indicted sitting congressman and his wife had to appear in federal court today in California to face a federal judge. The judge is going to be hearing a massive corruption case against that sitting congressman. Today was a hearing ahead of that trial.
So, we`ve seen members of Congress indicted before in this country. Part of the reason this Duncan Hunter in court today story ends up being a big national news story with ongoing ramifications is because we`ve never before had a president react to an indictment of a sitting member of Congress the way this president is reacting right now. President Trump this weekend saying publicly that the attorney general was wrong to have allowed the prosecution of that congressman and another one who was also recently indicted specifically because both those indicted members of Congress are Republicans. The president making the argument that the Republican Party might lose those two seats in the upcoming mid-term elections, and therefore, the attorney general shouldn`t have allowed the prosecutions to go forward.
There`s all sorts of norms and policies and supposed third rails, right? In politics and law enforcement that are all designed to avoid even the appearance that the criminal law and the courts have become a tool of one party or the other or they`re being used by the administrations in power to go after their political enemies. There are all these norms and rules and policies about avoiding the appearance, avoiding creating even a minor suspicion that law enforcement might be unfairly inflected in that way. This president is just flat out advocating that, yes, that`s the way it should be, which sort of renders quaint any other comparatively delicate Nixonian shadings like that in the past. This president just overtly argues that law enforcement ought to be used to punish his political enemies and reward his political supporters.
Today also brought news of a new Bob Woodward book about the current president and his White House. And Bob Woodward has written long revealing books on eight modern presidents. And so, you might think we`ve sort of gotten used to what it means -- what it means to a presidency to have the next Bob Woodward come out -- the next Bob Woodward book about the serving president. But if today`s advance reports on the content of this latest Woodward book are to be believed, it seems like this latest Bob Woodward book is going to be weighed different than all the others.
This sort of seems like this is maybe the kind of science fiction Bob Woodward book, or at least the other worldly Bob Woodward book in which there aren`t normal things going wrong in the White House. No, in this White House, the U.S. military is bluntly ignoring and disobeying orders from the U.S. president. No, in this White House, senior advisers to the president steal documents off the president`s desk to prevent him seeing those documents or God forbid signing them.
In this White House, the president is quoted saying to a high level meeting about the war in Afghanistan, quote, you should be killing guys. You don`t need a strategy to kill people.
In this White House, this president has said by his defense secretary to be, quote, acting like and having the understanding of a fifth or sixth grader.
In this president, the president`s chief of staff is reported to have said about the president, quote, he is an idiot. It`s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He has gone off the rails. We are in crazytown. I do not even know why any of us are here.
In this White House, the president`s potential testimony to the special counsel investigating whether he was elected in part because of his collusion with a foreign influence operation run by Russian military intelligence, that apparently produced a January practice session in which the president and his lawyers on the Russia scandal gamed out how the president might answer questions posed by the special counsel`s office in an interview.
This is from the "Washington Post" which obtained an advance copy of Woodward`s book and published an article about it today. Quote, John Dowd was convinced that President Trump would commit perjury if he talked on -- to special counsel Robert S. Mueller. On January 27th, the president`s then personal attorney staged a practice session to try to make his point. In the White House residents, Dowd peppered Trump with questions about the Russia investigation, provoking stumbles, contradictions and lies until the president eventually lost his cool.
Now, fast forward six weeks or so, and according to Bob Woodward, at least according to the "Washington Post`s" account of Woodward`s new book, quote, on March 5th, John Dowd and Jay Sekulow met with the special counsel himself and with Mueller`s deputy James Quarles. Thereupon Dowd and Sekulow reenacted Trump`s January practice session.
Dowd then explained to Mueller and Quarles why he was trying on keep the president from testifying. Quote: I`m not going to sit there and let him look like an idiot. And you publish that transcript because everything leaks in Washington and the guys overseas, I think the implication is leaders overseas, are going to say, I told you he was an idiot. I told you he was a GD dumbbell. What are we dealing with this idiot for?
According to Woodward, Robert Mueller then replied, quote, John, I understand.
Later that month, the president`s lawyer, John Dowd, reportedly told the president, quote, do not testify. It is either that or an orange jumpsuit.
It`s hard to imagine the president in an orange jump suit, for a lot of different reasons, some aesthetic, some more substantive. But if you want to understand what happened today with the utter chaos in Washington, brought about in that Senate committee room by both protesters and Senate Democrats trying to delay or stop this particular president from making a nomination to the Supreme Court right now, it`s worth being cognizant of the fact this president is in a legal situation unlike any other president who was in the position to be nominating somebody to the Supreme Court.
The orange jump suit concern is real. I mean, the president`s own legal jeopardy is barreling toward a finale that will almost assuredly rocket through the federal courts and thereby almost assuredly get to the Supreme Court. This president is an unindicted co-conspirator in a federal case that has been brought against his personal lawyer and has already resulted in eight guilty felony pleas. That same long time personal lawyer swore in open court under oath that it was the president himself who ordered him to commit multiple felonies during the course of the presidential campaign.
The president`s first national security adviser, his deputy campaign chair, a campaign foreign policy adviser, have all pled guilty already to federal felony charges in conjunction with this investigation. We`re awaiting a sentencing at the end of this week for the campaign foreign policy advisor who has pled guilty. The jury selection process started literally today for a second federal jury that will hear additional felony charges against president`s campaign chair who was already just found guilty on eight felony counts and who is about to go on trial for another seven felony counts.
The president`s White House counsel has reportedly given over 30 hours of interviews to the special counsel, and he`s just announced that he is leaving the administration. The CFO of the president`s business, an executive who has been with the president for decades and who worked for the president`s father before him, the executive who has apparently authorized every single payment that ever went through president`s business or charitable foundation, the executive who reportedly filled out at least some of the president`s tax returns, he has now been granted immunity by federal prosecutors, in exchange for his cooperation in their inquiries. As has the head of the "National Enquirer"" supermarket tabloid which prosecutors say participated in the president`s illegal hush money schemes which have now been charged as federal campaign finance felonies in the southern district of New York.
Also granted immunity, this convicted pedophile who most recently was the business partner of a major Trump donor and a high ranking Republican Party official who is now reportedly under the investigation by the Public Integrity Section at the U.S. Justice Department for influence peddling. A federal grand jury in Washington this week is continuing to hear testimony that appears to be connected to the president`s long time political consultant Roger Stone, who is now pleading publicly for help paying his legal bills because he says he`s quite sure that he`s the next one to be indicted and soon.
Yes, so, it`s not like the president has anything to worry about legally, right? I mean, no chance anything related to this president will end up in the courts any time soon, right?
"The New York Times" reports tonight that the special counsel`s office is now negotiating in writing with the president`s current legal team about the manner in which they expect to be taking testimony from the president himself in this scandal. And so, yes. You might expect a little controversy. A little turbulence when a president personally facing this amount of legal jeopardy tries to install in this context a new justice on the Supreme Court.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I believe you`ve repeatedly and enthusiastically embraced an interpretation of presidential power so expansive it could result in a dangerously unaccountable precedent at the very time when we are most in need of checks and balances.
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: You are the nominee of President Donald John Trump. This is a president who has shown us consistently that he is contemptuous of the rule of law, and it`s that president who has decided you are his man.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: You`ve taken the unorthodox position that presidents should not be burdened with a criminal or civil investigation while in office. This is for a -- now we have a president who has declared in the last 24 hours that the Department of Justice shouldn`t prosecute Republicans. It`s Alice in Wonderland.
And I find it difficult to imagine that your views on this subject escaped the attention of President Trump who seems increasingly fixated on his own ballooning legal jeopardy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What Senator Leahy is talking about there when he says the unorthodox positions of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, that presidents shouldn`t be burdened with a criminal or civil investigation while in office, what he`s saying there is true about Brett Kavanaugh.
I mean, Republicans in the Senate have the tried to create an image of Judge Kavanaugh as a sort of, generic, normal conservative pick for the Supreme Court. But Brett Kavanaugh does swing really, really wide on, of course, the purely hypothetical issue of a president someday, who knows, maybe, somehow, finding himself or herself in legal jeopardy. He swings really wide on that issue.
He does not come across as a cookie cutter conservative Republican nominee, on that issue in particular. On that one, he`s an outlier, even among conservatives. Brett Kavanaugh writing in 2009, quote: We should not burden a sitting president with civil suits, criminal investigations or criminal prosecutions. The president`s job is difficult enough as it is.
The country loses when the president`s focus is distracted by the burdens of civil litigation or criminal investigation and possible prosecution. Quote, even the lesser burdens of a criminal investigation, including preparing for questioning by criminal investigators are time consuming and distracting. Like civil suits, criminal investigations take the president`s focus away from his or her responsibilities to the people and a president who is concerned about an ongoing criminal investigation is almost inevitably going to do a worse job as president.
Quote, the indictment and trial of a sitting president would cripple the federal government. Such an outcome would ill-serve the public interest.
President Trump`s Supreme Court nominee, yes, is expected to be a decisive vote to make abortion illegal, at least in large swathes of the country by overturning Roe versus Wade. Brett Kavanaugh is expected to remove limits on secret money in political campaigns. He`s expected to be a potentially decisive vote on a number of issues of racial justice, including his enthusiastic hostility to affirmative action and the Voting Rights Act and I could keep going.
But, you know, the basic idea is clear and Republicans see all of those as the plus side for Brett Kavanaugh. That`s why they want to confirm him. But you know what? There`s a million judges like that they could he have picked. A million judges who have all those same positions on those issues who would actually be more confirmable than Brett Kavanaugh for this seat on the Supreme Court. There`s a million conservative judges out there who don`t have gazillions of pages of documents from their five years serving in the George W. Bush White House dealing with the most controversial issues of that administration. Documents which Republicans will have to bend over backwards to conceal from scrutiny, thus breaking all their own precedents how Supreme Court nominees are reviewed.
The top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, is said to have warned the White House specifically against picking Kavanaugh because he might be difficult to confirm specifically because of his super long paper trail that Republicans didn`t know how they would contend with. Kavanaugh is not the easiest pick for them. He was first nominated to a federal judgeship in 2003. It took the George Bush White House three freaking years to get him confirmed because he was seen as so controversial and so partisan. And then when he was finally confirmed, there is strong evidence that he misled the Senate at his confirmation hearings and told them something that was not true when they were trying to confirm him for that last job.
Republicans could have chosen a gazillion different Brett Kavanaugh type judges when it comes to policy issues on which we are quite sure that Brett Kavanaugh will vote as a hard line uncompromising right wing justice. But out of all the judges this president could have picked, this president picked the one, the only judge we know of to have been on the president`s supposed list of contenders who, for example, had gone out of his way in a public setting to say that the Supreme Court`s unanimous ruling in U.S. v. Nixon might have been wrongly decided, the only nominee who has sketched out a truly unique even to the point of being strange view of a president`s susceptibility to serious criminal investigations.
Brett Kavanaugh is the only one out there that we know of that says a president shouldn`t even be questioned, let alone indicted or prosecuted. And so, yes, it is a little on the nose that this particular nominee was chosen by a president who is himself the subject of serious criminal investigation right now while Kavanaugh`s confirmation proceedings are under way. And now, the president`s -- excuse me, now, the senators from the president`s party appear ready to pull out all the stops to get this nominee confirmed before the midterm elections in November that will decide the control of Congress.
The president signaled in an interview with Bloomberg News last week that as soon as the midterm elections are over, he will move to fire the Attorney General Jeff Sessions. After the mid-term election, we also know from a tape we obtained of Congressman Devin Nunes from the Intelligence Committee, and Cathy McMorris-Rogers, who is in the House Republican leadership, we know from the tape we obtained of them speaking at a Republican fund-raiser that the House Republican plan after the midterm elections is also to impeach and try to remove from office the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who oversees the Mueller investigation and he will continue to oversee that investigation unless and until Attorney General Jeff Sessions is replaced in office, which the president says will happen right after the midterms.
In order to rush through Kavanaugh`s confirmation before the midterm elections, before the midterm elections take place and the White House and Republicans in Congress thereafter make those promised moves to try to throttle the Russia investigation, Republicans in the Senate are trying to ram through this confirmation as quickly as possible. And part of the reason, part of the way they`re doing that is by not allowing a review of Kavanaugh`s record.
If you saw any of the hearing today, you saw Democrats complaining about not having the paperwork, right? How Brett Kavanaugh`s records are being withheld from the committee, from being withheld from the public. It`s an unprecedented way to proceed with the Supreme Court nomination, to not have documents from the nominee`s time in public service, reviewed by the National Archives and made available to the committee and the public so they can vet the nomination.
I mean, rather than allow the National Archives to review and release Brett Kavanaugh`s records on the occasion of his confirmation hearings, Republicans instead -- they`re really trying to get away with this brand- new system they have MacGyvered up for considering Brett Kavanaugh`s paper trail as fast as possible but definitely before the election. This thing that they have invented, this system they have invented for reviewing Kavanaugh`s record, the Republican plan which is why Democrats went so nuts today. The Republican plan does seem to be that Kavanaugh`s records will just be reviewed by an old friend of his, fellow Republican activist lawyer from the Bush administration, a man named Bill Burck, who also at the same time is representing Steve Bannon, former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and outgoing White House counsel Don McGahn in the Russia investigation.
So, Bill Burck is representing three crucial Trump related witnesses in the Russia investigation and simultaneously, he personally is serving as the gatekeeper on what documents from Brett Kavanaugh`s past will be allowed to be seen by the committee and by the Senate before Kavanaugh is put on the Supreme Court.
And so, no. Things did not look normal today at this committee hearing in Washington. And 70 people were arrested at this hearing today.
And they couldn`t get 30 seconds into this hearing today before it all started to fall part and it was hours delayed and we`ve never seen a confirmation hearing quite like this. But there`s a reason for that. There`s a reason for that.
We`ve never had a nominee like this. It`s clear they went out of their way to find this particular nominee and he`s trying -- and the president is attempting to put him on the court at a time when the president`s own legal jeopardy sets this nomination from any other one in U.S. history. So, there`s a reason why things are going a little nuts today.
We got more ahead tonight, including my interview with John Kerry. Stay with us.
MADDOW: A little bit of breaking news to bring you tonight. It`s primary night in the great state of Massachusetts which is where I live. And there has been another upset and a serving member of Congress is going to lose his seat.
We have seen a number of upsets in Democratic primaries this year. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of course, unseating a very senior House Democrat in New York. Andrew Gillum winning an upset in the Florida Democratic gubernatorial primary.
But tonight, Ayanna Pressley has defeated incumbent Democratic Congressman Michael Capuano in the 7th congressional district in Massachusetts. This is a big upset.
Michael Capuano is a ten-term incumbent. He has been in Congress since 1998. He outraised Ayanna Pressley 2-1. Ayanna Pressley has impressive track record of her own. First woman of color elected to the Boston City Council. She secured support in this challenge from Massachusetts leading Democrats including Maura Healy, who`s the state attorney general who is seen as a real rising star.
But she has pulled this off tonight. And as you can see, there`s only 13 percent in, but her lead is big enough with just those early precincts reporting that Michael Capuano has just conceded in this race.
I think we`ve got a little clip from his concession here. This is just moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHAEL CAPUANO (D), MASSACHUSETTS: -- this over the time that you guys have been supportive of us, and obviously, this is not the side we wanted to be on. Clearly, the district wanted a lot of change. Jeff Sanchez lost tonight. Bryon Rushing lost tonight. And apparently the district just is very upset with lots of things that are going on.
I don`t blame them. I`m just as upset as they are, but so be it. This is the way life goes.
I will tell you that I have been honored all my life to be your friends. To have you supporting us and for all the work you`ve done. I will tell you that in this campaign, like every campaign, we`ve done everything we could do to get this thing done. Today was no exception.
The last eight months, most of you who have been working hard for us, and I will tell you that I`m sorry it didn`t work out. But this is life. And this is OK. America is going to be OK.
Ayanna Pressley is going to be a good congresswoman and I will tell you that Massachusetts will be well served. With that, I`m simply going to say thank you all, to all of you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is the sound of a 10-term incumbent member of Congress conceding after a shocking win tonight in the Democratic primary by Boston City Counselor Ayanna Pressley. If she wins the seat in November, she will be the first African-American from Massachusetts to ever serve in the House of Representatives. Primary night, you never know when it`s going to be very exciting and take unexpected turns.
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-RI), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Finally, you come before us nominated by a president named in open court as directing criminal activity and a subject of ongoing criminal investigation. You displayed expansive views on executive immunity from the law. If you are in that seat, sir, because the White House has big expectations that you will protect the president from the due process of law, that should give every senator pause.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now is Dahlia Lithwick, senior -- excuse me, legal correspondent and senior editor from slate.com.
Dahlia, thank you very much for being with us.
DAHLIA LITHWICK, LEGAL CORRESPONDENT AND SENIOR EDITOR, SLATE.COM: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: Democrats opened these hearings with an unexpected show of force. They did everything they could to try to get these hearings delayed, to get them knocked off course. Things did get delayed by a couple of hours.
What do you make of how things went today?
LITHWICK: It was -- I`ve seen six of these now, Supreme Court confirmation hearings. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. Both the protesters, every 10 seconds, somebody being dragged out of the chamber. Chuck Grassley really seemingly discomfited and discombobulated by the rudeness.
And then as you said, watching the Dems work together in a very concerted, we are not going to stand for this, after which they stood for it and to be clear, but a very concerted effort to say, you can`t dump 42,000 pages of documents on us at 5:00 the night before and expect us to be prepared. So, it was really different from anything, including Gorsuch.
MADDOW: Is there anything Democrats could be doing that they`re not yet doing to try to stop the nomination?
LITHWICK: I mean, there was some talk this morning of now you get up and walk out of the room. Now is a good time to make this be over. I think they`re a little caught on the seam of, we don`t want to be here and we`re furious, but since we`re here, we`re going to litigate this thing to the end. And so, I think they sent a little bit of a complicated mixed message.
But it seemed this focus, this relentless focus on these documents that we cannot know from seeing only 10 percent of these documents what this man is all about, how do you expect us to do this, is either going to be salient with the American public or it`s not. It was certainly not with the protesters who were shouting about.
LITHWICK: They were not upset about the documents. They`re upset about abortion. They`re upset about the Affordable Care Act.
So, it`s a little risk to focus on this process problem, but I will say they worked together and that was really pretty new.
MADDOW: Well, they`re not necessarily trying to persuade the American public on the documents issue. They`re trying to persuade a Republican or two to have a little crisis of confidence, maybe a little crisis of conscience about trying to confirm this nominee in a way that no other nominee has been confirmed. I mean, the Republicans` own precedent on what sort of documents you get from a nominee is the thing they`re violating with this.
And it seems to me like the Democrats are just trying to pry off one Republican, two Republicans who feel like they shouldn`t -- they shouldn`t do this. This is the wrong way forward.
LITHWICK: I think that and in tandem with that, Rachel, it was so important that they`re trying to make the point you made earlier, which is this is just not normal. This president is not normal. This president should not get to pick the person who will be the arbiter of the future of the, you know, Comey dismissal or the future of whether he violated campaign finance rules.
And I think trying to make the point over and over again. This is not happening in a vacuum. This president is picking the person who will determine whether this president stays in office. I think in a weird sense, the funny turns were senators like Ben Sasse and Jeff Flake and John Kennedy from Louisiana who have all said I feel a little hinky about the president`s tweets from yesterday but I`m still going to pretends that`s not happening. So, I think in a sense, the other conversation that was happening, are we going to talk about Trump or are w going to not talk about Trump?
Because if we`re going to talk about Trump, we would like Senator Flake and Senator Sasse to step of telling us that they sure wish the Senate could do something.
MADDOW: And talking about the importance of bravery in the face of challenges to the constitutional order and all of those things. Tomorrow is going to be fascinating. Questioning starts at 9:30.
Dahlia Lithwick, legal correspondent, senior editor for Slate.com -- thank you, my friend.
LITHWICK: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you.
A lot to get to this very busy night. John Kerry joins us for the interview next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: OK, this was February, 1988. Ronald Reagan was president. His Vice President George H.W. Bush would become the Republican nominee to try to succeed Reagan later that year in the `88 elections.
But there was a scandal that was dragging around the Reagan White House at the time. It was the first big presidential scandal after Watergate that raised the prospect of potential impeachment of the president. It was the biggest presidential scandal since Watergate. But it was also nothing like Watergate.
At least in Watergate, nobody ever had to testify with a bag over his head -- literally, a bag over his head. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Narcotics proceeds were used to shore up the Contra effort.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Did you personally play a role in some of the transfer of that money?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I did.
REPORTER: The revelations gushed out of Rodriguez that he made Panama`s General Noriega more than $320 million to help drug smugglers, that Noriega and other Central American officials supplied Rodriguez with the names of undercover American narcotics agents. The big name banks in New York and elsewhere quoted Rodriguez and even picked him up in limousines in hopes of landing the accounts for laundering drug money.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The New York banks are no fools. That gives you a tremendous insight into how sophisticated they are. I`m doing 43 years in jail. They pay fines when they get caught.
REPORTER: Rodriguez testified under oath without immunity, without cutting any deals with the feds. But some observers wonder, as a convicted felon, can he be trusted? They also wonder about the credibility of other witnesses. This witness was Noriega`s personal pilot but he was also a drug smuggler and a gun runner. This witness is serving 30 years for drug peddling.
Senator Kerry said he finds the witnesses credible and doubts that they have perjured themselves.
KERRY: Witness after witness has corroborated the money laundering, corroborated the network, corroborated the names.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator John Kerry in 1988, before he ran for president, before he became secretary of state. We saw him there leading the investigation, part of which became the Iran Contra scandal. Specifically in that subcommittee there, he is following the money behind that scandal through the drug proceeds and the money laundering, right up to the banks that made the whole thing happen.
And because nothing and no one in politics and our history ever really goes away, here`s how that worked out. The bank doing the money laundering was a super well connected bank called BCCI. John Kerry and his investigation figured that out. But then what? Who will do anything about this crooked bank?
Well, here`s how Kerry explains it in his new book which is called "Every Day is Extra", which is just out today. He says, quote: It was impossible, let alone wrong, to sweep what we discovered under the rug. The Department of Justice didn`t care. So, we brought our evidence to New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau.
This is why you always hear about New York prosecutors when it comes to financial crimes and banking crimes, right, New York prosecutors have jurisdiction on national cases, even international cases when there`s a bank involved, because banks all have to run some part of their business through New York and Wall Street.
So, here`s Kerry again, the New York district attorney Robert Morgenthau shared our alarm and succeeded in convincing the grand jury to indict the bank on fraud and bribery charges. Thankfully, the Department of Justice soon had a new head of its criminal division, my St. Paul`s high school classmate, a Vietnam veteran and a diligent law enforcement professional named Robert Mueller. Our sub committee`s two staffers had exposed the perfidy of BCCI and I felt vindicated when Mueller assigned 37 prosecutors to the case. By July 1991, regulators had seized the bank. BCCI was dead.
John Kerry killed off the world`s sleaziest bank with help from Robert Mueller and New York prosecutors. That came out of him starting the investigation that led to the Iran Contra scandal. That came out of his decades of service on the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate where he served for 28 years.
John Kerry is a combat veteran who was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts for his time in Vietnam. Medals and injuries for which he was impugned and mocked by the Republican Party when he ran for president in 2004 as the Democratic nominee against George W. Bush.
In 2008, he declined to run again himself. He endorsed Barack Obama for president in 2008. And then in Obama`s second term, John Kerry became secretary of state. The Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal, the destruction of Syria`s chemical weapons, the normalizing of relations with Cuba, John Kerry had a busy, busy time as secretary of state.
And now, he`s facing questions with his new book out about whether he might run again himself to try to unseat this new president who among other things, apparently sees John Kerry`s list of accomplishments as his most urgent to-do list for things he wants to not just undo but destroy.
Joining us now is John Kerry. He was the longtime senator from Massachusetts, secretary of state under President Obama. The new book is called "Every Day is Extra" is out now.
Senator, Mr. Secretary, thank you for being here.
KERRY: I`m happy to be here, Rachel. Thank you. Thank you for your diligent prosecution of the truth.
MADDOW: That`s nice of you to say.
I want to talk to you about the book. I have to ask you about a little bit of breaking news that we just had moments ago here on the show. Ayanna Pressley just unseated ten-term Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Michael Capuano in a Democratic primary tonight. Michael Capuano, ten- terms, been there 20 years.
Did Ayanna Pressley at one point work for you?
KERRY: She worked for me for a long time. I was her entry level job and she worked me until she left to run and become city councilor.
MADDOW: What`s your reaction to this news tonight?
KERRY: Well, you know -- well, I`m excited for her. She is -- I am really feeling enormous sense of pride for what she`s accomplished. I personally told her that I could not get involved in the campaign simply because Michael Capuano was deeply supportive of me and when I ran for president, and we worked very closely together in the Congress.
But I have huge respect for what she has achieved. An enormous sense of pride and I`m very happy for her. I`m happy for Massachusetts.
And I think Michael Capuano gave a very gracious, very honorable, grown up concession speech. He will be all right. Massachusetts will be, the country will be. You know, we`ll come out of this mess and it will be because of the Ayanna Pressleys and others around the country who are going to help create a new era of accountability. I`m really convinced of that.
I write about that in the book, by the way. This is part of my optimism. It`s part of why I say every day is extra because we have the ability, we now have the responsibility, not just the ability, to remake and reaffirm our own democracy.
Our democracy is deeply troubled right now, deeply troubled. And all over the world, as a result of what this president is doing, people are questioning the direction of the United States, the commitment of the United States, the credibility of the United States. And it was before Donald Trump, by the way, came into office that we still were troubled. That there is an avoidance of response for climate change, for health care, for making the work place fair, for trade deals that make sense for people.
I mean, run the list. And people on the right and people on the left all know that the system is broken and it needs to be restored.
So, this is a critical election. Nobody should be saying anything or focused at all on 2020. Everybody should be putting their energy into 2018 when we can have a course correction and begin to remedy a serious array of challenges to our democracy.
MADDOW: The -- what you`re talking about there in terms of threat of optimism in the book, I`m struck by that and I felt like you made -- you sort of said you were more optimistic than you showed.
MADDOW: And what I mean by that is when you talk about the difficulties of what it took get the Paris climate accord and to get the Iran nuclear deal in particular, normalizing relations with Cuba, what you had to go through in terms of setting up the back channels of secret negotiations before any of it could be in public. You write about the painstaking process and all the things that had to come together and all of the hard work and all of the intellectual heavy lifting that had to happen to make those things happen.
And then this president has come in and seen everything that the Obama administration accomplished, and particularly your diplomatic achievement as a stuff he wants undone immediately.
KERRY: OK, here`s -- here`s the optimistic rationale and here is why I think Donald Trump is on the losing end of this.
The Iran deal -- it is the single strongest, most accountable, most intrusive nuclear agreement on the planet today. Donald Trump simply doesn`t, as usual, know what he`s talking about when he condemns it as the worst deal ever.
We eliminated Iran`s capacity to actually make a nuclear weapon, certainly over the next 15 years and probably forever. But we know if they weren`t. I can`t vouch for what Iran will choose to do, but I can vouch for the fact that if they chose to try to break it, we`d know. That I can say. And our intelligence community said it.
But here, even after Donald Trump said, I`m going to get out of this deal, Russia is in it, China is in it, Germany is in it, France is in it, Britain is in it and Iran is in it. Iran just two days ago was said to be living by the agreement.
So, Donald Trump has pulled out. But the rest of the world is trying to hold on to this reality that Iran has such a level of scrutiny on its current program, it can`t make a nuclear weapon and nobody wants to lose that.
On Paris -- same thing. Donald Trump says I`m pulling out of Paris. Well, first of all, legally, we are not formally out of the Paris agreement until one day after the 2020 election. There`s motivation for 2020.
But leaving that aside, most of the states of our country, about 80 percent of the population of America lives in 38 states. Those 38 states all have, most of them, 29 of them, an alternative renewable portfolio law, and eight or nine of them have a voluntary one. So, most of America is living under a legal structure with respect to the environment and emissions which will keep America marching toward compliance with Paris.
And mayors, thousands of mayors across America are committed to living up to the Paris agreement. So, you know, I`ve been able to say to people in Europe and elsewhere -- Donald Trump may have pulled out but the American people are staying in it.
And it`s a remarkable repudiation of his ignorant decision. Not based on science. Not based on any facts. His simple, sort of, campaign promise that he made and he`s fulfilling on an ideological and base-oriented approach.
MADDOW: The way that he has made those decisions, though, whether they are effective or not at a policy level, and the way that he has conducted himself as U.S. president, the way you talk about the strain on our democracy, do you think that America post-Trump goes back and rebuilds the things that he`s torn down or do you think that this episode, this era in our politics has changed the way that countries will view us forever?
MADDOW: We`ll always be the country that elected Trump.
KERRY: We`ll always be the country that elected Trump, but we have an opportunity in two months to be the country that did a course correction, and in two years, we can be the country that repudiated Trump and sent him on his way.
And I am really confident when you look at the real choices before our country -- I mean, look, you know, I`m not -- I`m not just responding to President Trump because he`s the opposite party and because it`s a new way of governing and so forth. What is happening is dangerous. And people around the world know it. And after the revelations today in the new book by Bob Woodward and so forth, people even have a greater sense of the chaos of this administration, of the inability of the president to do the job.
And so, what`s also happening is the Republicans in the United States Senate and in the House, but in the Senate particularly, where there`s a greater expectation and capacity to make a difference, they are -- they have shown an immorality. They have shown an abuse of responsibility in their jobs.
They take an oath as a senator to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and in so doing certainly to uphold the rule of law. They are consciously, except for two or three of them, one of them passed away now, turning their backs. They are -- they are more interested in protecting their power, their chairmanships, and they are not defending the Constitution or defending the Senate. They are defending their party and their president.
This is dangerous in our democracy, where we lose a baseline of truth and we lose a baseline of facts. You can`t govern in a democracy if you can`t legitimately have an agreed-upon set of facts where you then can fight over an ideological approach or opinions. When I disagreed with President Obama, it wasn`t about the ideology or the person (ph) -- it was about, you know, we agreed on the facts. We may have had a different opinion about how you implement something.
KERRY: But now, there`s a complete disagreement on facts. Rudy Giuliani goes out and says the truth isn`t the truth. Or you have Trump with alternative facts.
There are no alternative facts to real facts. Two and two is four. Four and four is eight. And those are facts.
And it`s not a truth that has to be proven by you or me arguing about it. It`s a truth that`s proven by algorithm, by mathematics, by science. And that truth is being ignored again and again. It`s costing America deeply in terms of jobs, contracts, long-term interests.
We`ve ceded to China in Asia -- I mean, China`s building -- spending a trillion dollars, Rachel, on the one belt, one road program, touching 68 nations. They`re putting $500 billion into new science and research laboratories in those countries. They built railroads that are now connecting from China to nine European countries, 49 different routes. It`s cheaper to send goods by rail from China to Europe than it is to fly them or take by sea.
Things are happening, and we`re not in it. Cyber. You can -- cyber`s as dangerous as nuclear weapons were initially and they are today. But particularly when we were gaining control over them without the treaties until we got the treaties in place.
We don`t have a treaty on cyber. The president of the United States ought to be convening the major countries of the world and forcing people to create a new arms control agreement that deals with cyber.
So, my book is I think optimistic and realistic because it shows how over a lifetime things have worked and we are able to get the outcomes that we want. It speaks -- and John McCain and I coming together. There`s a chapter in there on John McCain.
It`s not a policy tone. It`s a series of stories and anecdotes that talk about how America can work and how we now, you, me, citizens, have a responsibility to make it work.
MADDOW: And for me for the first time, it had me thinking about what might have actually happened had there been a Kerry-McCain ticket, which we now know --
KERRY: Yes, we talked about it very seriously.
MADDOW: John Kerry has a new book out as of today. It`s called "Every Day is Extra". Mr. Secretary, thank you.
KERRY: Thank you. My pleasure to be with you. Thank you so much.
MADDOW: Thank you very much. I really appreciate it.
KERRY: By the way, I have a suggestion for you.
KERRY: You should do a book club just like Oprah did. You should call it Rachel`s recommendations. This can be your first book.
MADDOW: Well, that is very self-serving.
KERRY: I like it.
MADDOW: Thank you, sir. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: A ten-term incumbent Democratic member of Congress from Massachusetts has lost his seat tonight in an upset win in a Democratic primary.
We turn to the great Steve Kornacki for more.
Steve, what has happened here?
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is -- ten terms. It`s stunning. Michael Capuano losing to Ayanna Pressley.
A couple of things to draw your attention to. Number one, Michael Capuano, you say ten terms. Think of it this way, in 1998 when he was elected, he won a ten-way Democratic primary with 22 percent of the vote. Never faced a serious challenge after that.
And then this year lo and behold, city councilor from Boston, Ayanna Pressley runs against him. There were not huge ideological differences in this race. This was about the idea that she did certainly positioned herself as being more aggressively anti-Trump than Capuano, but a lot of this too had to do with the changing demographic character, the changing political character of this district.
How about this? The history of this seat, this is a historic seat in Congress that Capuano has held. Here is the lineage. James Michael Curley, John F. Kennedy, Tip O`Neill, Joe Kennedy II, Michael Capuano, and now, this will be the first African-American woman ever to represent Massachusetts in Congress, Ayanna Pressley.
This is an overwhelmingly Democratic district. By winning this primary, she is as good as elected in November. From Tip O`Neill and James Michael Curley, the Democratic Party now embracing Ayanna Pressley as its new face in this district.
MADDOW: And, Steve, in terms of Ayanna Pressley`s victory tonight, we know she was endorsed by Maura Healey, the state A.G., seen as a real rising star in Democratic politics and a big deal in Massachusetts Democratic politics, which, of course, has a Republican governor, right? Massachusetts is a blue state with a very popular Republican governor, Charlie Baker.
You say this is a sure thing. Does this reflect any other trends in terms of Massachusetts Democrats and endorsements and who she`s associated with?
KORNACKI: Yes, it`s interesting because most of sort of the establishment in Massachusetts, the Democrats, they did rally around Capuano in this race. Maura Healey, the A.G., in going with Pressley, she was more going on her own in that.
There were some other incumbents who were challenged in Massachusetts. It looks like they survived. Richard Neal, the congressman from Western Mass, Steve Lynch, a more moderate, even conservative Democrat from South Boston, it looks like they`ve survived.
But this one, wow. Mike Capuano, 20 years in Congress, never a serious challenge, all of a sudden loses by double digits at this point.
MADDOW: Steve Kornacki, thank you very much, my friend. Much appreciated.
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.
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