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Trump says he would accept info on opponents. TRANSCRIPT: 6/13/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Susan Rice

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  That is ALL IN for this evening.

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. 

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  That was a super smart, super interesting interview, and you asked him totally different things that he ever gets asked and that was great.

HAYES:  Well, I feel like we`re all trapped in my old dorm room conversations of my nightmares about like capitalism versus socialism, with no actual historical graphing of the literature of the central question of political economy in last 20 years.  So, it`s like to be able to do something about that.  So --

MADDOW:  Because I know you, Chris.  I know you have that exact phrase tattooed on your back, so I know this a long ongoing nightmare for you.  But you`ve translated it well.  It`s a nice interview.

HAYES:  Thank you very much.

MADDOW:  Thanks, my friend.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. 

There`s a lot going on in the news right now.  This is one of those days, almost feels like a Friday. 

So, after the president last night told ABC News that he would be happy to accept assistance from a foreign country to win the next election and no, he wouldn`t necessarily call the FBI if some foreign country offered him that assistance, after that, after the president basically promised in that interview last night he was basically looking for foreign help again in 2020, just like he got from the Russians in 2016, in the wake of that from the president last night, there were a few adorable headlines out there today that suggested that here on Earth where we live, Republicans in Congress had finally found their breaking point.  The president finally said something or did something that the Republicans in Congress just could not abide, they would not abide.  They were going to stand up to him. 

I mean, this was one of those headlines: Republicans lash Trump for being open to foreign oppo.  This one was also cute.  Senate GOP races to break with Trump over accepting foreign info.  They`re racing to break with Trump. 

It is an adorable idea, right, that the president inviting foreign adversaries to help him in the next election would be a bridge too far for Republicans in Congress.  It`s cute.  I mean, if had actually been a bridge too far for Republicans in Congress, we wouldn`t know it because of headlines like that.  We would not know it from stern disappointed words they had all for reporters if what the president told ABC last night in that interview, welcoming foreign countries to help him in the next election to help give him another term in the White House, if that actually had been a real problem for Republicans in the United States Senate, you would have been able to tell.  Not from their words but from their actions. 

Well, that got tested today.  This afternoon, Democratic Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, today he moved to pass a piece of legislation in the United States Senate by unanimous consent.  This is legislation that would do one simple thing.  It would require campaigns to call the FBI if they got an offer of assistance for an election from a foreign country. 

I mean, all of these Republicans today, especially the ones that have to run for re-election next year, all of these Republicans were seeking out the nearest reporter, trying to earn themselves one of these cute headlines which says, you know, of course, they would call the FBI, of course, they insist that anybody should call the FBI.  Of course, foreign interference in our elections is unconscionable and it`s illegal.  And no, they just don`t agree with the president here when he says he would welcome help from foreign countries and he personally doesn`t think he would call the FBI.

I mean, they`re all saying that.  They`re all trying to get attention for that being their position.  But saying it is one thing. 

I mean, Mark Warner introduced this standalone bill today which literally all it said was, hey, let`s commit to that.  Let`s make that a thing.  That you got to call the FBI if you get contacted by a foreign government offering you assistance in a U.S. election.  If we are all in agreement on that, let`s just say that`s the way it has to be. 

Republicans in the Senate blocked that today.  Senate GOP blocks bill to require campaigns to report foreign election assistance.  Senate GOP also wants it to be known they`re really against it and they`re super mad at the president for saying that he wouldn`t call the FBI. 

But we`re not actually going to do anything about it.  In fact, we`re going to actively intervene to block the Democrats from doing anything about it.  While they nevertheless never get credit for being far less patriotic than Trump on this subject.  Just astonishing.  It doesn`t even take 24 hours.  Whoo.

We`re going to be speaking with President Obama`s national security advisor Susan Rice live here in just a moment about those remarks from the president, about the president welcoming other countries to intervene in this next election in order to help him. 

Susan Rice, of course, was President Obama`s national security advisor during the Russian interference effort in the 2016 election.  She was a key nexus between the intelligence community and the executive branch when it came to assessing the dangerousness of what Russia was doing in our election in 2016 and what the U.S. government should have tried to do in response to try and stop it.  I mean, that was a time when we had a federal government that thought foreign interference in our election was a bad thing and it should try to be stopped. 

Susan Rice will be here live in just a moment.  I`m very much looking forward to talking with her about that.  Also actually looking forward to talking with her about this sort of surprise pronouncement today from the Trump administration, from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Iran, all of a sudden, is a dramatically more dangerous threat to the United States than it has ever been before, and the United States is entering into some new sort of heightened oppositional status when it comes to Iran, which has a lot of people worried that Mike Pompeo is trying to lay the ground work for the U.S. waging war on Iran. 

Today, you may have seen the dramatic pictures of two oil tankers that were some subject of some sort of attack in the Gulf of Oman. 

Without presenting any evidence to back up the assertion, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rushed immediately to a sort of highly produced news conference today at the State Department in which he pronounced that that attack on those tankers in the Gulf of Oman was definitely the work of Iran.  The U.S. government has assessed that was definitely Iran who did it. 

Now, again, he gave no evidence to back up assertion, and it`s totally possible it was the work of Iran.  But the U.S. government today jumping out basically immediately upon reports of that attack on those tankers, right, the U.S. government jumping out immediately and saying they`ve completed their assessment, they`ve definitively concluded it`s definitely Iran.  That is what is making everybody have flashbacks to the run up to the war in Iraq in 2003.  What`s the evidence here?

I should also mention part of this that`s really sticking out for me.  While Secretary of State Pompeo was making this case against Iran today, I should also mention that in addition to blaming Iran immediately for the attack on those tankers today, he also tried to put that in context saying this is part of an escalating series of events by Iran.  We`re not just looking at it as an isolation, we`re looking at a series of events in total. 

And when he talked about that series of events, he`s rattled off a number of recent violent incidents in Middle East and Central Asia, which he blamed on Iran. 

One of those was a rocket attack in Iraq last month in which a rocket landed near the U.S. embassy.  You might have heard about that when it happened.  It was May 19th, the reports of that here. 

There has never, ever been a public State Department announcement or any formal assessment that it was Iran who did that.  But today, they just listed that attack as something that Iran has to be held accountable for.  They`ve never actually said that Iran did it before today. 

They put it on a list along with a whole bunch of other things they never said were Iran before either, including a car bomb that went off in Afghanistan on May 31st.  Four Afghan civilians were killed, four U.S. service members were wounded.  And again, this was another thing on this list today of all the terrible, provocative, escalating actions Iran has recently taken the U.S. must respond to. 

But as with that rocket attack in Iraq on May 19th, this May 31st car bomb in Afghanistan they also put on the list, it also got a bunch of news coverage at the time.  You know, U.S. service members were wounded in that attack.  Well, when that happened, according to news coverage at the time, the Taliban claimed responsibility for it, the Taliban. 

Again, today, with no evidence, though, that was described as Iran`s attack.  It was described as one of the things that Iran has done, which the secretary of state put in this list of, quote, unprovoked attacks that present a clear threat to international peace and security. 

Now, it may be that they have newly arrived at evidence that allows them to attribute all these attacks to Iran, even though they`ve never done so before, but prove it.  I mean, in the midst of everything else going on, the Trump administration does appear to be trying to create a public justification for us moving toward a war footing with Iran.  And it is based on this assertion from the Trump administration that Iran is carrying out this escalating series of violent attacks all over the Middle East including targeting us. 

And if they are trying to set that as the context, as the justification for whatever it is they want to do to Iran, and presumably they will have to actually show some of this evidence, right?  They will have to show some of their work as to how they are arriving at these assertions.  Right now, all the stuff they`re blaming Iran for is stuff that has either been ascribed overtly to other actors or there`s been no public evidence whatsoever to assert it being attributed to Iran. 

I mean, it does clearly feel like they are trying to start something in terms of a potential war with Iran.  How they`re trying to do it I think is setting off alarm bells left, right and center.  And I think across the partisan spectrum for reasons that aren`t just because of what happened in 2003 but because they`re even perhaps being more reckless in terms of the way they`re presenting this public information, not even trying to prove what it is they`re asserting. 

So, as I said, we`ll talk with President Obama`s national security advisor Susan Rice, about that live here in just a moment.  But like I said, it`s one of those days there`s a ton going on. 

The Democratic National Committee as promised, they have now announced the 20 candidates who have made the cut for the first presidential primary debate.  That debate will be well under way exactly two weeks from right this second.  Eek. 

There are I think 24 declared Democratic candidates.  Twenty of the 24 of them are going to get a podium of their own for one of the two nights that that debate will span a couple of weeks from now.  We`ll find out tomorrow night when ten candidates are on which of each of the nights. 

But the four candidates who didn`t qualify either by polling or fund raising are former Alaska senator and a previous presidential candidate named Mike Gravel.  Also the mayor of a small Florida city named Wayne Messam.  He`s a mayor of Miramar, Florida.  Also, Democratic congressman and decorated Iraq war veteran Seth Moulton.

And also the two-term Democratic governor of red state Montana, Steve bullock, who is -- I mean, it`s -- I mean, he`s one of the most popular governors in the country.  He`s running on the basis of his true claim he`s the only candidate in the race who has won a Trump state nationwide.  Governor Bullock started his run quite late after overseeing the end of Montana`s legislation this year, which included him signing into law some long-thought legislation including Medicaid expansion in Montana which got like 90,000 or 100,000 people in that state covered by health insurance. 

So, Bullock has been vocally aggrieved about the fact that he has not made it unto the stage for this first debate.  I think none of these four are happy about it.  Bullock has been the most outspoken about how upset he is he`s not going to be there on the stage.  But neither Bullock nor Moulton nor Wayne Messam or Mike Gravel are going to be there. 

That said, it`s the first debate.  I don`t think there`s any reason to expect that any of the four of them is going to drop out of the race because they`re not going to be there at the first debate, but we shall see.  We`ll have more on that coming up ahead. 

We also learned today from the White House that White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders is going to be leaving her position.  Among other things, she will go down in history as the White House spokesperson who stopped doing White House press briefings.  She just stopped those eventually.  That`s kind of all I have to say about that, which I think is fair given, you know? 

Over the last few days, we have been covering the snowballing corruption accusations against a Trump cabinet secretary named Elaine Chao.  Elaine Chao is the wife of the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell.  She`s the head of the Department of Transportation.

Over the last couple of weeks, Elaine Chao has been the subject of just a remarkable string of news reports about how efficiently the Department of Transportation has been turned to the apparent financial advantage and political advantage of Elaine Chao and her family since she`s been at the helm of that large public agency. reporting she setup a special staff arrangement inside the Transportation Department where a senior staffer was assigned specifically to oversee requests for federally funded transportation projects from her husband, requests that would benefit his state specifically and that his Senate office specifically prioritized as the senator is running for re- election next year. 

That reporting follows reporting from "The New York Times" that Elaine Chao had also tried to get the State Department to arrange meetings for her family members with Chinese government officials.  Elaine Chao`s family owns a shipping company that does a ton of business with the Chinese government.  When she was about to visit China for the first time as Trump`s transportation secretary she, according to "The New York Times," called the U.S. embassy in Beijing to try to get them to arrange for her family members to sit in on meetings with Chinese government officials, while her family is doing business with the Chinese government. 

It was so wildly inappropriate as a request, it caused the embassy in Beijing to contact state department headquarters in Washington to say -- what do we -- seriously?  I don`t think that`s exactly how they phrased it, but you get the point. 

Ethics officials were also reportedly alerted at both the Department of Transportation and the State Department.  Ultimately, after those ethics officials were alerted to what she was trying to do, Elaine Chao called off that trip. 

But that is not the first time since she has been Trump`s transportation secretary that she`s reportedly tried to hook up her family members and their business in politically sensitive ways.  And that follows reporting from "The Wall Street Journal" that although Elaine Chao was told by U.S. ethics officials she had to divest from the country`s largest supplier of road making materials, which is not hard to figure out, right, literally she`s the secretary of transportation.  She`s in charge of building roads, so that person can`t be personally financially invested in the country`s biggest road building company, because of that very obvious conflict of interest she was told to divest from that company.  She signed an ethics agreement saying she would divest from that company, but then "The Wall Street Journal" reported she did not.  She did not. 

And she continued to hold stock in that company as she has been serving as the transportation secretary.  Hundreds and thousands of dollars worth of stock in that company while at the same time her every utterance about infrastructure and road build [the potential priority of the Transportation Department would goose the stock price of that company in which she holds tons of stock. 

The Elaine Chao growing ethics and corruption scandals would be amazing on their own even if for the Trump cabinet, right, which is a very specific level of -- that`s a threshold.  I mean Pruitt, Price, Zinke, anyway.  It would be a big deal those corruption scandals even just for the Trump cabinet. 

But because she`s also married to the Republican leader of the Senate and because he`s implicated in some of this stuff, he has been given millions of dollars by Elaine Chao`s father as Elaine Chao has used her position as transportation secretary to boost her father`s business in China.  Right, he has personally benefitted from that to the tune of millions of dollars. 

Because the Elaine Chao corruption scandals are not just a Trump campaign scandal but have proven to be a direct financial benefit to the top Republican in the Senate, this is -- this is bad.  This is -- I mean, this is bad in a few different ways. 

So far, the containment effort by Elaine Chao and Mitch McConnell on this has been to try to laugh it off, play it all down, assure everybody this is no big deal and these allegations don`t bother them at all.  Well, "The Wall Street Journal" reports tonight that Elaine Chao has now finally actually sold off her gigantic stake in the road building company from which she has been profiting as recently as this month as secretary of transportation.  So, apparently, all this reporting did bug them a little, made her finally sell-off that stock. 

But this is just one of those amazing days where the news, A, won`t stop, and B, it keeps sort of driving home the same point over and over again.  I mean, when it comes to using your public position for private gain, today, "The Washington Post" was first to report that the president and his family just pocketed a few million dollars from the sale of this property in Beverly Hills, California.  Now, it`s obviously a very nice place.  It`s apparently like 5,000 square feet.  It`s in Beverly Hills, swimming pools and movie stars. 

And then this is an expensive property President Trump owned in Beverly Hills.  President Trump bought it 12 years ago, in 2007, for $7 million.  But you know what?  Property is often a good investment.  That property has gone up in value. 

Last year, it was assessed by Los Angeles County to have appreciated significantly in value.  It appreciated over a million dollars, right?  It was a $7 million purchase when President Trump bought it in 2007, $7 million.  Last year, it was assessed at $8.3 million.  It`s gone up. 

Last year assessed at $8.3 million.  It turns out he just sold it for $13.5 million.  Hold on a second.  That`s almost double what he paid for it and it`s a 63 percent hike over its assessed value from just last year. 

Why did somebody just radically overpay the president for that property in Los Angeles? 

"The Washington Post" even contacted local experts to find out if maybe there was something going on here that made sense in real estate terms that wouldn`t make sense to the rest of us just from looking at the basic math.  Turns out, nope, the chief executive of a luxury homes real estate agent local to the area tells "The Post", quote, seems a little rich to be perfectly frank, unless there`s something else spectacular about this house that I am missing. 

I don`t think it`s anything about the house you`re missing here.  I mean, what may be missing in terms of understanding the very, very inextricably generous price paid for this property, could be nothing about the house itself.  Could be who owns it and who`s buying. 

The house is owned by the president.  We now know it was bought by an Indonesian politician, somebody who ran for vice president in 2014 in Indonesia, and according to "The Post", he is considering running for president of Indonesia very soon. 

What better -- if you`re going to run for president of a foreign country, right, what better way to cult evaluate the affections of a very important, very influential international ally, what better way to cultivate the interest, influence and favor of the leader of the free world than just by stuffing several million dollars into his pocket. 

"The Post" further reports that the sale was conducted off-market, which means other people were not involved in bidding on this thing.  And, of course, you know, if it were involved in open market bidding, that would be one way to tell whether or not this was actually a fair market value for this property.  But conducted off market, so it was a closed sale, one bidder. 

And, of course, the money really does just go to the president because he never divested himself from his businesses or business holdings, nor did he ever setup anything like a bribe trust so he wouldn`t know who was bribing him -- I mean paying him for stuff. 

So that just happened.  I mean, it`s been that kind of day.  The White House today rejected advice from a federal ethics watchdog that Kellyanne Conway should be fired, to be removed from federal service, for repeatedly violating the law that says you cannot while you are a public servant campaign for individual candidates to try to influence elections. 

She repeatedly broken that law, according to this ethics watchdog, a federal agency that oversees the implementation of the Hatch Act which bars that sort of thing.  She`s repeatedly broken in.  They assessed her conduct after they repeatedly warned about her previous illegal actions of this kind.  The White House is blowing it off and denouncing the agency for having suggested she would be fired for breaking that law.  What a stupid law. 

I mean, this is -- this is one of those days that just kind of reminds you how far you can slide as a country over a short period of time when there really aren`t breaks to stop a determined president from blowing up all these norms we thought were permanent things. 

Even though Susan Rice was national security advisor as recently as 2 1/2 years ago, because of how far we have slid in the meantime, Susan Rice literally at this point feels like a visitor from another planet.  But I`m happy to put on my space suit and meet her here next. 

Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  This is was one of those striking moments that happens sometimes in an interview.  Not frequently.  But every once in a while you`re doing an interview where you think you know where it`s going, you think you understand how the conversation, how the Q&A is going to proceed. 

But then, all of a sudden, something happens and it`s like, pow, right in the kisser. 


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE:  Imagine, Rachel, that you had one of the Democratic nominees for 2020 on your show.  And that person said, you know, the only other adversary of ours who`s anywhere near as good as the Russians is China.  So, why should Russia have all the fun?  And since Russia is clearly backing Republicans, why don`t we ask China to back us? 

MADDOW:  I hereby tonight ask China --

CLINTON:  That`s right.  And not only that, China, if you`re listening, why don`t you get Trump`s tax returns?  I`m sure our media would richly reward you. 

So if after this hypothetical Democratic candidate says this on your show, within hours, all of a sudden, the IRS offices are bombarded with incredibly sophisticated cyber tools looking for Trump`s tax returns and then extracts them and then passes them to whatever the new WikiLeaks happens to be, and they start being unraveled and disclosed -- nothing wrong with that. 

I mean, if you`re going to let Russia get away with what they did and are still doing, according to Christopher Wray, the current FBI director who said that last week, they`re in our election systems.  We`re worried about 2020, he said. 

So, hey, let`s have a great power contest and let`s get the Chinese in on the side of somebody else. 

Just saying that shows how absurd the situation we find ourselves in. 


MADDOW:  That was former secretary of state, former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton here on this show last month with a hypothetical.  A hypothetical meant to be so outrageous it could rhetorically dramatize how bad it is that Republicans in the Senate are blocking the passage of any legislation to secure our elections in 2020 given that the Russians intervened in our last election to help their party`s candidate win. 

I mean, this was a rhetorical device from Secretary Clinton last month.  You know, just imagine heading into 2020 if some candidate just flat out openly started seeking the help of more foreign governments. 

Well, last night, in fact, President Trump told ABC News that he is totally open to taking political assistance from foreign governments for the next election, sees no problem with it.  Quote: They have information I think I would take it. 

I mean, until recently, it would -- it would have been unthinkable that someone in U.S. politics would try to get away with accepting foreign assistance in a presidential election.  Until very, very recently, it was unthinkable that anybody would admit to doing that, even if they had tried to get away with it secretly.  But now, it`s even a promise for the future, planning on it. 

Joining us now for the interview I`m very pleased to say is Susan Rice.  Dr. Rice was national security advisor and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the Obama administration.  She`s also the author of "Tough Love", which is a new memoire about her life and career in public service that is due out this fall. 

Ambassador Rice, it`s really great to have you.  Thank you so much for making time tonight. 

SUSAN RICE, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS:  It`s great to be with you, Rachel.  Nanu, nanu.

MADDOW:  Not exactly.  My space suit has a leak. 

Let me -- I mentioned that I felt like you were from another planet because I do feel like talking to you about your time in the Obama administration is like visiting a time when not only did a lot of norms in our politics exist but we thought they were durable.  And one of them was the idea that it would verboten, embarrassing and potentially career ending to be caught accepting foreign help in an election, let alone bragging that you`d want to do in the future. 

What was your reaction to hearing that from President Trump last night? 

RICE:  I mean, Rachel all of us have heard so many things over the last 2- 1/2 years that it takes a lot to shock one or shock me even.  And yet again, this was one of those crazy moments. 

The thought that the president of the United States who`s sworn an oath to the Constitution is essentially saying he is playing on the foreign team rather than the American team is extraordinary.  He invited yet again interference in our electoral process.  He admitted that he has no problem with collusion and would happily do it again. 

And worst of all, in my opinion, he seems to have no concern about the consequences of an American president being beholden to a hostile foreign power.  Because any foreign power that offers the president of the United States or his representatives information that helps him in his election campaign knows that that president if elected is in their pocket, and they can manipulate him, which may, in fact, be what we`ve been seeing for the last 2 1/2 years. 

So, it`s quite extraordinary, as you said, that it`s so out in the open.  It shows an extraordinary disregard for our democracy, for the integrity of our elections, for our values as a nation.  He aligns himself against our institutions, our law enforcement, our FBI, our intelligence community, and sets himself on the side of leaders like Putin and Kim Jong-un. 

It`s a very, very distorted upside down world.  And I hope very much that the American people do not forget the difference between right from wrong, normal and absolutely abnormal, which is what we`re experiencing in these times. 

MADDOW:  I think when we as Americans had conceptualized this time of problem, a president being allied with a foreign entity, welcoming foreign assistance to undermine his domestic political enemies, we thought about that.  Even when we conceptualized it for fiction and scary movies and stuff, I think we had all assumed that the remedy for it would be exposure, that the way that you would fix some sort of threat like that in our country and respond to it would be to investigate it, prove it, draw to the attention of the American public and then it`s over, right?  We thought that would be the way it ended. 

What you`re describing here about somebody having benefitted from foreign influence and then potentially being in the pocket of a foreign country because having accepted that assistance, what is the remedy for that if exposure doesn`t work? 

RICE:  Well, exposure is critical and the role of the free press in our society, particularly in these times, cannot be overstated.  But there`s also something called separation of powers and checks and balances, and our system is constructed on the premise that we have three coequal branches of government.  And that requires that each of the three branches uphold their constitutional responsibilities.

And I think that the greatest weakness in the system apart from, of course, what we see in the White House and throughout the executive branch, is the failure of the president`s party in Congress to uphold its obligations to accountability, to oversight, to truth and decency.  And in that context, what we`re learning is that when one branch falls down on its responsibilities and another branch doesn`t step up to do its job, our system is in fact not as strong as we perhaps thought it was. 

MADDOW:  I`d like to ask you a process question here that I think there`s a factual answer to it, and I think you can tell me.  I don`t think it`s any -- I don`t think it`s a secret.  And I think for me it helps me understand how the lines of accountability should work here. 

If, for example, in 2020, some country, some adversary somewhere or some country that has interests in the United States and wants its way with us, does decide they`re going to intervene in our election in a substantive way, that they`re going to put their -- they`re going to use their intelligence capacity, they`re going to provide assistance, they`re going to tap one candidate or the other and try to help them or use them in some way for their own aims -- if the intelligence community realizes that`s happening, they figure that out through their own capacities, if the element in the U.S. election system that is getting that help, that has had those foreign contacts and that`s accepting it is the president`s campaign, who should the intelligence community brief that information to? 

I mean, you wouldn`t go to the perpetrator to say, hey, we`ve got important information that you`re the perpetrator?  Would you?  I mean, would they go to the Gang of Eight?  Would they go to Congress and not directly to the president if the president turns out to be the bad guy in something they figured out was going on? 

RICE:  Well, fortunately, that`s a dilemma we haven`t encountered to date.  But it would be, in my estimation, the obligation of the intelligence community to not only brief the appropriate executive branch officials, including the president`s cabinet, the president and the vice president.

But it would also require that they do brief Congress -- and as you said the Gang of Eight, which as you know are the four leaders on either side and the leaders of the intelligence committees.  And that is the inner sanctum, so to speak, of congressional oversight of the intelligence community.  And the intelligence community has a long established relationship with that Gang of Eight, as well as with the intelligence committees themselves. 

So, I would think it would need at a minimum to brief the Gang of Eight and possibly more broadly the intelligence committees on both sides. 

MADDOW:  But if the president was the one who was working with a foreign power in a way that was, you know, illegal under U.S. law and an intelligence concern for intelligence committees, they would have to brief it to the president? 

RICE:  It`s hard to see how they avoid that, unless they refer it through law enforcement channels and, you know, the Justice Department -- cough.  And, you know, the courts are able to do their duty.  But it`s hard to imagine how the executive branch is uninformed at the highest levels about a finding of that sort by the intelligence community. 

MADDOW:  Wow, even when it implicates the head of the executive branch itself.  That`s amazing. 

RICE:  As I said, this is uncharted territory, thankfully.  And, you know, let`s all pray that we don`t get there.  But if we did, I think the intelligence community would have obligations to brief both Congress and the executive. 

MADDOW:  Wow. 

Madam Ambassador, I have another matter I`d love to ask you about, something that we learned about in the news today.  If you could stick around with us, I`d love it.

RICE:  Good to be with you.  I will.

MADDOW:  All right.  We`ll be right back with former national security, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice. 

Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  Joining us once again is Susan Rice, former national security ambassador and U.S. ambassador to the U.N. in the Obama administration.

Ambassador Rice, thank you for sticking around.  Much appreciated.

One of the things I wanted to ask you about was from today`s news.  Today, two tankers, two ships were attacked in the Gulf of Oman.  Almost immediately, we got anonymous U.S. officials telling reporters that Iran was to blame for the attack. 

And then, right away, really quickly, this afternoon, we got Secretary of State Mike Pompeo setting up a press conference in which he stood in front of photos of the burning tankers and said the U.S. government`s official assessment is done and it is unequivocal and he`s now on the record publicly accusing Iran of that attacks and a whole bunch of other attacks.  The secretary of state didn`t present any evidence to support any of those assertions, but he is accusing Iran of an escalating series of violent attacks in a way that makes me feel very nervous. 

And ones of the reasons I wanted to ask you about this is not because I know you don`t have current knowledge about what`s going on with this exact situation, but I wanted to ask if this looks to you like a normal process, in terms of how our government is handling this and how responsible they`re being in terms of what they`re telling the public in terms of evidence for these assertions. 

RICE:  Well, Rachel, obviously, I don`t have the benefit of the latest internal information.  But I thought it was a very swift and very unequivocal pinpointing of Iran as the perpetrator.  I`m in no position to say it`s misleading or false. 

MADDOW:  Uh-huh.

RICE:  And in fact, Iran has threatened to take action that would impede the free flow of shipping in the Strait of Hormuz as a result of the extreme economic pressure that the administration has placed on Iran, despite the fact that Iran was adhering to the nuclear deal. 

But what we have now is a very dangerous situation.  What happened today in the gulf was -- was illegal.  It was dangerous, and it could have cost lives.  And it could lead to a very dangerous, escalatory spiral. 

And I do think as you earlier in the show went through the litany of sins that Secretary Pompeo ascribed to Iran, much of those -- that litany of sins has not been validated.  Indeed, attribution for today`s attacks have not been backed by any evidence. 

And I think in the current environment, even if the -- or even if -- or especially if the administration is confident in its evidence, it ought to share it and share it not only behind closed doors in the United Nations Security Council but with the American people and the world more broadly, because for a variety of reasons, not least because we have a president who according to "The Washington Post" has told more than 10,000 lies during the course of his tenure, there are many who rightly are questioning the veracity of what is said by senior members of this administration. 

I hope that that is not the case in this instance.  I hope that the secretary of statewide not stand before the American people and tell a bald face lie about something as important as this.  I want to believe that when he presents such evidence, that he does so in good faith and on the best information.  But there is, nonetheless, quite of a lot of reason why people in this country and elsewhere would question it. 

And therefore, disclosing the evidence, making it plain for everybody to see and then to be very thoughtful and deliberate about how to respond to that evidence is critical now. 

MADDOW:  Susan rice, former national security advisor, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. in the Obama administration, author of the new forthcoming book which is called "Tough Love" about her life in public service -- Madam Ambassador, it is really excellent to have you here.  I hope you`ll come back sooner than it`s been since the last time I saw you.  It`s really nice to have you on the air.

RICE:  Thank you.  I look forward to coming back.

MADDOW:  Thanks very much.

All right.  Much more to get to tonight.  Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  All right.  Here`s something that I think is a sort of remarkable update, a remarkable next chapter in a story we`ve covered from the very beginning on this show.  The Flint, Michigan, lead poisoning disaster. 

You might remember the poisoning of the water supply in Flint wasn`t a natural disaster.  It was a manmade catastrophe.  That poisoning happened because of overt actions taken by that state`s government under Republican Governor Rick Snyder. 

Well, one of the things that has happened in the wake of the Flint disaster, as Flynn has tried to take care of the people who are poisoned and take cares of the damage in their city, which is still an ongoing fight, one of the things that has happened since is that there have been criminal prosecutions.  As of last year, 15 state and local officials have been charged with crimes for that disaster, crimes ranging from neglect of duty to involuntary manslaughter. 

But then this year, the state government in Michigan turned over a new Democratic governor, new Democratic attorney general were elected by the people of Michigan and once they took over at the start of this year, we started to get the first inklings there might have been something wrong there.  That there might have been something going on under the surface with those Flint criminal prosecutions, something that for some reason was greeted with alarm by the incoming administration once they got in there and figured out what was going on. 

Well, it`s all been vague and there`s been a lot of hints but no real specifics until today.  We got the most dramatic possible announcement about what`s going on here.  Today, they announced they have dropped all pending Flint water prosecutions. 

They`ve dropped all eight of the pending cases, dropped without prejudice, which means they are signaling they could bring them back.  They could bring new prosecutions in some other way, possibly on other charges, possibly against the same people, possibly against new people.  The fact that they were dismissed without prejudice means that -- this doesn`t mean that charges won`t come back. 

But why were they all dropped? 

Leading up to this news, there had been reporting over the past several weeks about an extraordinary amount of potential evidence that the new prosecutor said had never been examined by law enforcement the way it should have been.  As part of that reporting, there was a little ripple of shock that went through the Michigan press and a little bit through the national press when it turned out one of the things prosecutors wanted to see from scratch anew was Republican Governor Rick Snyder`s own phone and his state-provided computers and devices.  Governor Snyder`s devices are now being looked at by the new prosecutors who have taken over these cases with this change in Michigan government. 

And that may be part of what`s going on here.  But here to me is the most interesting thing.  The Michigan attorney general`s office made this dramatic announcement about dropping all the pending Flint water prosecutions and they told people yes, we know this is going to cause a lot of questions.  We understand we have a lot of explaining about what happened here, about what we think was wrong and why we have taken this dramatic step, and what we`re about to do next. 

But they said today, we are not going to do any of that explaining until June 28th.  No questions till then.  Well, what`s June 28th?  Turns out June 28th is when the lead prosecutors are going to do an event in Flint, for the people of Flint, so the people of Flint can hear the explanation first, in terms of what happened and what is next.  And then after the people of Flint have been briefed, then the rest of it can hear it after. 

So, June 28th, whatever has gone on here, the people of Flint are going to get the explanation first and they are going to be the first people who have the opportunity to ask questions about it and the rest of us come next. 

I mean, this is not like a surprise curveball, right?  This is like a UFO landing in the infield, incredible development in the story.  I would usually at this point say watch this space but honestly, watch Flint. 


MADDOW:  Today, you might have seen that Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn received a subpoena to testify to the Intelligence Committee about the Mueller investigation.  He and Trump deputy national security adviser Rick Gates were both subpoenaed today. 

And it may be a little tricky because both of them are also simultaneously awaiting sentences right now on federal felony charges related to stuff that turned up in the Mueller investigation.  But when it comes to Flynn, this may be trickier still, something we`ve been watching develop all week as Flynn heads what we expect to be the end of his own criminal case. 

As you know, Flynn recently fired his long-time lawyers instead hired a new lead lawyer, a regular on Fox News where she calls Robert Mueller the real crook and the FBI the real crime family and says that Flynn never should have pled guilty and the judge in this case doesn`t know what he`s doing. 

Because of Flynn hiring that lawyer, there`s been a lot of speculation that Flynn might have hired that new lawyer because he`s trying to persuade the president to give him a pardon.  This isn`t the kind of lawyer you would hire to persuade that judge to give you a light sentence. 

We`ve been watching this over the course of this week, for signs that any sort of pardon effort might be coming from Flynn.  Well, today, we got a pretty good sign.  The president`s first tweet of the day praising Flynn for hiring this great new lawyer.  A presidential thumbs up for Mike Flynn. 

The president has so far not pardoned anybody in conjunction with the Russia scandal but it does feel like those are the train tracks that are being laid down in the Flynn case. 

So, watch this space.  Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  I told you this felt like a Friday, doesn`t it?  The amount of news that broke over the course of the day and into the night and no rest? 

Well, that does it for us tonight.  We`ll see you again tomorrow. 


Good evening, Lawrence, on this busy night.

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