CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is ALL IN for this evening on the eve of our commemoration of this country`s independence.
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: It`s Fourth eve. It`s July 4th eve.
HAYES: It`s Fourth eve.
MADDOW: Thank you, my friend.
HAYES: Enjoy your weekend.
MADDOW: Will do.
HAYES: Thank you at home as well for joining us this hour.
It is July Fourth eve. It is July 3rd. And you would usually expect it this to be a sleepy news day.
But what have we learned about the eve of things in this Trump administration? What have we learned about, for example, like your typical Friday night in the Trump administration?
Well, holiday eve works the same way it turns out. This is another one of those days where is we had to take the show we were planning and ball it up and put it in the circular file, which is actually a file that we just save for other days because these things do keep coming around.
Breaking news has one again blown up our show planning, with something just sort of incredible that just happened in federal court with no warning, out of the blue. It just blew up something that everybody thought was quite settled. And it is coming from this remarkable and dramatic soap opera of a thing that has to do with this administration and with something that the president feels more strongly about than anything else in his presidency.
You might have seen a few days ago that Chuck Todd from "Meet the Press" had an interview with President Trump right before the Democratic debates last week. And there is bunch of news in that interview. There`s always news when somebody outside the conservative media sphere gets to actually ask the president questions that involve follow-ups and not just him like, you know, screaming over helicopter noise and all that stuff. We knew there was going to be news in that interview.
And in fact one of the things that made news was that Chuck Todd asked President Trump what his biggest mistake was. What was his biggest regret from his presidency thus far? The president`s answer to Chuck Todd was that his biggest mistake, the one thing he has done wrong as president is Jeff Sessions.
Think about everything that has happen and gone wrong over two and a half years, really the biggest problem is Jeff Sessions? As far as the president is concerned that, is his one mistake. The only thing he regrets.
Now, we know from huge, big chunks of the Robert Mueller report that the president`s anger towards Jeff Sessions, his feelings about Jeff Sessions are not lightly arrived at. This is not a personal thing or a passing fancy. We know from Mueller`s report that Trump expressed vehement resentment and anger towards sessions over a long period of time.
And he ultimately fired sessions for a very specific reason, because the president believed that as attorney general of the United States, Jeff Sessions should have done much more to use the Justice Department and to use the U.S. legal system to serve Donald Trump, to serve the wishes and to serve the personal interests of Trump.
Trump was mad at Jeff Sessions for not locking up Hillary Clinton. He was mad at Jeff Sessions for not firing the special counsel. He was mad at Jeff Sessions for not shutting down the investigation into Russia attacking our elections.
The president thought the Justice Department should just be ordered to do those things for him, because he wanted those things. And Jeff Sessions didn`t give him those things. I mean, Jeff Sessions to a certain extent this thwarted the president`s expressed desires in terms of what he wanted from the Justice Department. And so, he now believes Jeff Sessions was his biggest mistake.
Well, part of the reason Robert Mueller`s report had so many direct quotes and so much color about the interaction between Trump and Sessions and what Trump was demanding of Jeff Sessions as attorney general, part of the reason Mueller had so much detail in that is because Jeff Session`s chief of staff, a man by the name of Jody Hunt, he gave testimony to Mueller`s inquiry.
And Jody Hunt, for the entire duration of Jeff Sessions` time as attorney general, he basically had a front row seat to this bizarre dynamic between the president and his attorney general, to all the wild demands that Trump was making of the attorney general. Jody Hunt was there to see and hear and witness all of the crazy bleep that Trump demanded from his attorney general and expected from his Justice Department. Jody Hunt was chief of staff to Sessions. So, he was there for all of it. He saw it all happen when Trump made those demands, when Trump implored and berated Sessions for not agreeing to those demands.
I mean, Jody Hunt was there front row seat when Trump ultimately fired Sessions for the crime of not doing what the president wanted. Now, Jeff Sessions, of course, is gone as attorney general. Incidentally, Trump says he`s much happier with his new guy, he`s getting much more of what he wants from his new guy.
But even after Jeff Sessions was fired as attorney general, Jody Hunt stayed on at the Justice Department and, in fact, he`s had a big promotion at the Justice Department. Jody Hunt is now assistant attorney general of the United States. And in that role, he runs the whole civil division of the Justice Department, which is a huge part of -- it`s like the big part of the Justice Department.
And in that job, Jody Hunt today showed what he has learned over these past couple of years from that front row seat he had to the whole Jeff Sessions dynamic. He showed what he has learned over the past couple of years about how President Trump expects the Justice Department to do what he wants and to do what serves his interest, no matter what, no matter how crazy it is, no matter how contrary it might be to the normal processes of the Justice Department and a basic understanding of the rule of law.
I mean, Jody Hunt, maybe more than anybody still in government, has seen up close how even the highest-ranking person, the most powerful person at the Justice Department, can be not just fired, but attacked and demeaned and publicly blamed, if that official has the temerity to not employ the Justice Department to give the president things that he wants.
And he saw that happen to his boss, Jeff Sessions. And now Jeff Sessions is gone, but Jody Hunt is still there and he is now a senior Justice Department official himself and today Mr. Hunt showed, I think, again, what he learned.
In what was just a remarkable turn of events in a federal court today, on July 4th eve, in a hastily-called court conference, in which the judge summoned both sides on very short notice to try to figure out what the heck was going on, because what had been maintained to the court was apparently not happening in the real world and federal judges tend not to like that.
What this is about is the Supreme Court case of the Trump administration lost last week. You might remember, late last week, the Supreme Court turned back the Trump administration`s efforts to tack something new onto the census, to change the census in a way that was expected to result in an undercount of Latinos and an overcount of white people and Republicans, specifically. They have been trying to change the census that way for the past couple of years and multiple federal judges in three different jurisdictions have ruled against the Trump administration, they`ve ruled that the Trump administration basically had made up their proposed reasons for changing the census in that way, and so it wasn`t proper for them to change the census.
Last week, it went to the Supreme Court and in a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court told the Trump administration, basically, that the lower courts were right. And their purported reasons for why they said they wanted to change the census, those reasons, plainly, weren`t true. And so, the Supreme Court told the Trump administration late last week they couldn`t go ahead with it. At least not under the terms they had been trying to go ahead with it under.
So, this last time night on this show, we reported that the Justice Department had conceded, basically, that they lost that case. That it`s over. They had told the court already over the course of the litigation on this issue that they were up against a hard deadline. That they needed to start actually printing the census by July 1st, which was Monday of this week.
And so, even though they might have tried to, they might have wanted to go back to the court again and come up with some new justification for adding this question some other way, frankly, they`re out of time. And so, they notified the court that they were giving up on trying to do this for the 2020 census. They were starting to print the census already without tacking on that extra question.
They didn`t just say it in a press release. The reason we were able to report it last night on the show is because they formally put it in writing to the court.
Quote: Counsel, we can confirm that the decision has been made to print the 2020 decennial questionnaire without a citizenship question and the printer has been instructed to begin the printing process. Signed, specific trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division.
Civil Division at the Justice Department, again, is now run by Jody Hunt, Jeff Sessions` former chief of staff. And so, as of last night, this is how the Justice Department, this is how the Civil Division of the Justice Department had left it. They`re telling the court, OK, we`re out, it`s over.
But then today, on Twitter, President Trump expressed his displeasure with this eventuality. He insisted on Twitter that no, this is not what his Justice Department is doing. This is not what his government is doing. You heard that we`re not putting on that census question -- we certainly are.
And Jody Hunt, who has seen this movie before, Jody Hunt, who has been fried by this particular proverbial electric fence in his recent past, he rears up and basically panics today in public on a hastily called court hearing on the phone with a federal judge. We have the transcript of it. And I have never seen or heard anything like this before.
But -- I mean, presumably, in the mind of the head of the civil division at the Justice Department, presumably, you know, he was reliving President Trump beating the ghost of Jeff Sessions all over again, for Sessions refusing to do what he wanted the Justice Department to do. And this is how it all came out at this hearing today. Just remarkable.
So, the judge starts off and says good afternoon. And he asks the attorneys of the plaintiffs to introduce themselves. They do so. Then he said, for the government?
And the lawyer for the Justice Department says, for the government, your honor, Josh Gardner and Jody Hunt, assistant attorney general for the civil division.
The judge says, Mr. Gardner, I know you`re on vacation, so I hated to interrupt that.
That`s the way they start. Right away, it`s a sign that something is unusual here, right? Josh Gardner is the Justice Department lawyer, career lawyer who has been handling this case for the Justice Department, defending what the Trump administration was trying to do with the census. He just lost that case at the Supreme Court last week.
I mean, the Justice Department has conceded, as of last night, that it`s over, that the Trump administration won`t be adding this new question to the census. They`ve notified the court of that fact. That -- it`s done, right? The guy has been handling the case for the Justice Department lost the case and told the court they are conceding and it`s done. So now that it`s done, that dude has gone on vacation.
So, why is he back in this hearing today, phoning into this emergency hearing? Well, he has to call in from vacation because apparently this isn`t done. And if you want to know why he has to call in from vacation because this isn`t done, it`s because of the other guy from the Justice Department who has always phoned in with him. The big boss, the head of the civil division, the guy who was recently Jeff Sessions` chief of staff and who has therefore seen what happens to senior Justice Department officials in the Trump administration when they don`t give Trump what he wants, no matter what it is.
So, you`ve got the trial attorney phoning in from vacation and the head of the civil division phoning into this hearing himself. Because that guy knows what you are supposed to do, right, because the president has yelled jump, and that guy, of all people, knows that the answer when the president says jump is how high, sir? How high?
So, the judge says -- starts things off. Quote: I guess the reason I wanted to have this call, obviously we had our call I guess yesterday. It feels like awhile ago, but I think it was yesterday.
And then this morning I saw a tweet that got my attention. I don`t know how many federal judges have Twitter accounts, but I happen to be one of them and I follow the president.
And so, I saw a tweet that directly contradicted the position that Mr. Gardner has shared with me yesterday. I think I even indicated yesterday and I`ll indicate again today that Mr. Gardner and every government attorney who has appeared in this case has been nothing but professional and candid with the court. But then the tweet that I saw, which I suspect we all know the tweet I`m referring to, then caused me to think I hadn`t gone far enough in terms of pinning the government down on where things stand.
So, now, we have a court reporter here. I`m going to ask the same question I asked yesterday to Mr. Gardner. Is the government going to continue efforts to place a citizenship question on the 2020 census?
Josh Gardner: Your honor, this is Mr. Gardner. I want to back up just a step and say I`ve been with the United States Department of Justice for 16 years through multiple administrations and I have also endeavored to be as candid as possible with the court. What I told the court yesterday was absolutely my best understanding of the state of affairs.
The president`s position on this issue like the plaintiffs -- excuse me. My best understanding of the state of affairs. I do not have a deeper understanding of what that means at this juncture other than what the president has tweeted. But obviously, as you can imagine, I am doing my absolute best to figure out what`s going on.
I can tell you that I have confirmed that the Census Bureau is continuing with the process of printing the questionnaire without a citizenship question and that process has not stopped.
The judge says, all right. Well, I`ll hear from plaintiff`s counsel. And the lawyer for the plaintiff speaks.
Your honor, I think this underscores, obviously, the need for a stipulated order, as we talked about yesterday, that makes clear not only that the government is printing the questionnaire for the 2020 census without a citizenship question, but that there will be no further effort to inquire about citizenship status as part of the 2020 census in any manner. I think it also suggests that we may need a further provision of that order that makes clear the defendants won`t communicate to the public anything to the contrary, suggesting that the 2020 census is inquiring about citizenship status. And further, that they will counter, public counter any such misinformation that comes from government officials.
The misinformation from government officials here, as described by the plaintiff`s lawyer, would be misinformation from the president. The president saying, we`re putting that on the census, even though they`re not and they`ve maintained to the court that they`re not.
So, at this point, they have sort of a long back-and-forth discussion between the plaintiff`s lawyers and the judge about whether the judge actually can block the president from publicly saying untrue things about what the government is doing on an issue like this.
At one point, the judge says, quote, I assume the parties aren`t suggesting I can enjoin the president of the United States from tweeting things? Your honor, don`t assume anything at this point.
But there remains this basic question here, which is that the Trump administration tried to do a thing. They lost in court. As of yesterday, they conceded that they would therefore no longer try to do that thing. But then the president went online today and said, yes, I`ll still going to do that thing.
So, what`s the remedy for that? What`s going to happen here? Well, queue the poor guy who was supposed to be on vacation as of today, who has spent 16 years at the Justice Department and perhaps under the impression that this was still a normal government and that`s how he should behave.
He says -- this is Josh Gardner. Quote: Your honor, to back up, this is a very fluid situation, which we are trying to get our arms around, and obviously once we get more information, we will communicate that immediately to the court and the parties. I do want to address a preliminary issue, though, and that is that the current status quo is that plaintiffs are fully protected. Meaning the new question is not going to be tacked on to the census, as far as he knows, regardless of what the president said on Twitter today.
Quote: I recognize this is a fluid situation and perhaps that might change, but we`re just not there yet, and I can`t possibly predict at this juncture what exactly is going to happen. But as of now, the basis for the citizenship question is firmly enjoined, vacated and does not exist. I think the current fluidity of the state of play suggests the status quo is -- we need to see how these things develop. And at that juncture, your honor, if you have additional questions, I can turn it over to the assistant attorney general, Mr. Hunt.
Now we get to find out why Jody Hunt is there. Why the boss is there, why Jeff Sessions` old chief of staff has also inserted himself into this case.
Mr. Hunt: Your Honor, this is Joseph Hunt, assistant attorney general for the Civil Division. We at the Department of Justice have been instructed to examine whether there is a path forward, consistent with the Supreme Court decision, that would allow us to include the citizenship question on the census. We think there may be a legally available path under the decision. We are examining that, looking at near term options to see whether that is viable and possible.
Viable and possible, both kinds. We have been instructed to -- presumably from the president`s Twitter feed -- we have been instructed to not do what we told the court what we would do yesterday and we have no idea what that means we should do, but here I am telling you what Donald Trump`s Twitter feed told me to do, regardless of what it means and regardless of what it means for the Justice Department. Regardless of what it means for the lawyers, including the career lawyers whose reputations in federal court depend, in part, on whether or not the court can believe them when they say things.
And here`s how the judge decides to end this. It`s just brutal. The judge says, OK. Here`s where we are. And then if either side has a different view, I`ll hear that. But here`s where we are.
By Friday at 2:00 p.m., I want one of two things. I either want a stipulation as we`ve been discussing, indicating that the citizenship question will not appear on the census. Or, I want a proposed scheduling order for how we`re going to go forward on the equal protection claim that`s been remanded to this court. I want one of those two things by Friday at 2:00. Any questions as to that?
Josh Gardner: Your Honor, this is Mr. Gardner. The one thing I would request, given that tomorrow is the Fourth of July and the difficulty in assembling people from all over the place, is it possible that we could do this on Monday? The judge: No.
Mr. Gardner: And again -- oh, OK. The judge: No, because timing is an issue. Timing is an issue and we lost at week at this point. And this isn`t anything against anybody on this call. I have been told different things and it`s becoming increasingly frustrating.
If you were Facebook and an attorney for Facebook told me one thing and I read a press release from Mark Zuckerberg telling me something else, I would be demanding Mark Zuckerberg appear in court with you the next time, because I would be saying, I don`t think you speak for your client anymore. I think I`m being really reasonable -- excuse me, I think I`m actually being really reasonable here and just saying I need a final answer by Friday at 2:00 p.m. or we are going forward. That is where we are.
Oh, that is where we are. Does the Justice Department speak for the U.S. government? Who is the client? Does your client know that you speak for the U.S. government? Or do you not?
I mean, this is a bunch of things, all of which are astonishing, right? I mean, this is, at base level, this is the Trump administration trying to change the census to systematically undercount Latinos and Democrats, A. It`s them being blocked from doing that by the courts. It`s the Justice Departments conceding they`ve been blocked from doing that.
And then it`s the president himself telling the Justice Department to do it anyway because he says so. And it`s the Trump appointee who runs that part of the Justice Department who is literally himself personally an important fact witness to the president`s potentially criminal obstruction of justice and threatening the last attorney general and ordering the last attorney general to do things he could not do.
It`s that fact witness, that guy is now in power himself with the Justice Department who is jumping into this case saying, yes, sir, I am here for you, sir. I am jumping in with both feet and will tell the court to forget everything the Justice Department has previously said and done and averted to the court as recently as last night because instead of everything that has gone before us in this case, now, the president has tweeted and -- I know what happens if I don`t obey the tweet. I`ve seen it happen.
So, forget everything. The president has tweeted. That`s what we`re going with.
I mean, a policy dispute is not a constitutional crisis. A bad actor holding public office is not a constitutional crisis. A constitutional crisis would be like, for example, a president choosing to defy a lawful court order. That is what we are edging at here.
All this obstruction of justice stuff about the Mueller report and how the president was pressuring the Justice Department, ordering them to do things to serve his own interests, and the Justice Department was moderately resisting to the extent that they could, all of that stuff laid out in the Mueller report as potential obstruction of justice by the president, it wasn`t only laid out so we could decide whether or not the president maybe committed those crimes. It was also laid out so that we could see the type of constitutional pressure the president was using to try to pull apart these threads that make us the country that we are.
The president defies a lawful court order and instructs the Justice Department to do so. That`s no longer a normal dispute. That`s constitutional crisis territory. That`s where he`s pointing.
Can you count on people at the Justice Department being the right people and the upstanding people to stop it from happening? I mean, you can`t say you didn`t see this coming, right?
More ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: First it was on, and then it was off, and now, it`s apparently on again, but it depends on who you ask.
The Justice Department, at a very high level, making a stunning reversal in a court hearing today to try to add a citizenship question to the census, despite being blocked by the Supreme Court from doing so and despite the fact that they conceded just last night to the court that they would no longer try to do that.
Joining us now is Andrea Senteno. She`s regional counsel at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which is the firm that`s representing several of the plaintiffs in the case where the Justice Department just has started doing these remarkable back flips today.
Ms. Senteno, thank you very much for joining us. I appreciate you being here.
ANDREA SENTENO, MEXICAN AMERICAN LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATIONAL FUND: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: So, I have seen the transcript of this call today which I found almost like science fiction. I know you were on this call trade today with Judge Hazel. The way I read it, as somebody who is just reading it and not hearing it and somebody who is not a lawyer, the two Justice Department lawyers on the call were really contradicting each other. One of them was saying the census is already being printed without the citizenship question. The other is saying he had been instructed to find a way to add that question back in and he was trying to do so.
Do you -- do you think the judge in this case has any clarity as to what is logistically happening right now with the census?
SENTENO: I don`t. And I think that`s why he made the deadline that he did, the force the Justice Department to come back on Friday, by 2:00 p.m., and make that clear not only to the court, but to the public. Is the government going to move forward by trying to add the citizenship question back on the census or not?
MADDOW: In terms of what happens here next and forgive me, this is a very elementary question. But part of what seems really important to me about this in terms of the way it`s going to evolve is that the courts have already said that the president and the administration can`t add the citizenship question to the census without coming back with a new reason for it. What happens if they try to do it anyway? What happens if they try to add that question anyway and just assert that it`s their prerogative and never mind what the courts say? What would the enforcement mechanism be here from stopping them from doing that?
SENTENO: Well, you`re right. The Supreme Court was very clear. You can`t lie to the court about why you`re taking the action you`re taking. So, you can`t lie to the court about why you wanted to add the citizenship question to the 2020 census.
The fact is, we know why they wanted to add the question to the 2020 census. They wanted to discriminate against Latinos and immigrant communities of color and if the government is not willing to come back on Friday and say that it`s going to abandon this effort, this unwise, illegal effort, we will move forward in court to prove that the addition of the question was intentionally discriminatory.
M ADDOW: And if you are able to do that, if you were able to prove that it`s intentionally discriminatory and the court sides with you on that, the reason I`m sort of pressing this and I know this is an elementary school level question, forgive me. But I`m concerned that the president is showing small C contempt here for the idea that he`s bound by the courts in terms of what he`s able to do with this policy. And if the courts continue to try to intervene and he directs the Justice Department and, in fact, the census department, to not follow the court`s direction, what are additional remedies, I guess?
SENTENO: So, the government deciding to defy a court order certainly would be a constitutional crisis.
SENTENO: However, at least even on the record today, and you see it in the transcript, the government, while it said it was reviewing the Supreme Court`s decision and whether or not there was a path forward, it did make clear that at least at present, the Census Bureau is moving forward with the process to print the forms and to conduct the 2020 census without the citizenship question. So, at least at present, we haven`t had an indication that there is going to be an attempt to violate court orders here.
MADDOW: This is remarkable -- I mean, as a matter of substance, this is a remarkably dramatic thing the Trump administration is trying to do, but the way it`s playing out in the courts is just head-snapping. Just unbelievable.
Andrea Senteno, regional counsel of Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund -- I really appreciate you helping us understand. I know this Friday hearing is going to be very important. Please keep us apprised. We would love to have you back.
SENTENO: We certainly will. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Thanks very much. Much more to get to this busy, unexpectedly busy July 4th eve. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, like I said, had a whole show planned for tonight, but once again, best laid plans, you know, steamrollered when the president, you know, ends up upending something that everybody thought was settled. But you know, this is kind of the dynamic that we`ve been living with from the very beginning -- from the very, very beginning. Like from swearing in day, from the Trump inauguration.
But that was -- there was a lot of strange things about the Trump inauguration. The inauguration of President Trump somehow managed to be one of the smallest and least ambitious inaugurals ever, while simultaneously costing more than both of the Obama inaugurations combined, blowing the record for most money spent on an inaugural out of the water.
There was the, like, you know, not totally top flight entertainment that still inexplicably cost millions and millions and millions of dollars. There were the empty bleachers along the parade route. There was the weird fight over the factually much smaller crowd size of Trump`s inaugural versus President Obama`s inaugural and the president ordering various people within the federal government that they should tell lies about that.
The whole thing had a lot weird about it, from day one. And the finances of the inaugural committee continue to be shrouded in quite a lot of mystery. I mean, how did they spend over $100 million on that?
There are reportedly not one or two but three different U.S. attorneys that are investigating elements of the inaugural, including subpoenas that went to the inaugural committee from the southern district of New York. Plus, attorneys general in at least two states looking at other aspects of the inaugural.
We`ve already had the president`s deputy campaign chair say in court that it`s possible maybe he siphoned inaugural funds off for himself, maybe. He`s not sure. We have another guy admit in court that he illegally funneled foreign money from a pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarch into the Trump inaugural using a straw donor.
I mean, all of this stuff is still out there, presumably, there`s still more to know. There is more we will find out from the mysterious depths of the strange Trump inaugural in January of 2017.
But here is one live wire left over from that inauguration, which is now sparking anew for this Fourth of July we`re about to have in 2019. The night before Trump`s inauguration, there was an interesting report in "The Huffington Post." "The Huffington Post" spoke with sources who described as involved in the Trump inaugural preparations. And what those sources said was that the Trump administration had started making inquiries at the Pentagon about having military equipment at Trump`s inaugural, about rolling tanks into Washington, D.C. as part of the inaugural parade.
They inquired, you know, tanks, missile launchers, what else you got? Quote: During the preparation for Friday`s transfer of power, a member of Trump`s transition team floated the idea of including tanks and missile launchers in the inaugural parade. The source said, quote, they were legit thinking Red Square/North Korea-style parade. That quote from a Trump transition source.
I mean, this is a source involved in the inaugural planning, like, sounding the alarm. You have to know this is happening. They want freaking missile launchers and tanks, you guys. They are seriously trying to do that.
When "The Huffington Post" asked the White House about these plans they had learned of to use military equipment during Trump`s inaugural, quote, a Trump aide refused to address the matter on the record but offered a have he off the record denial. Oh, no, don`t be crazy, we were never considering that.
Well, that "Huffington Post" reporter stuck with that story, that reporter, Jessica Schulberg, stuck with the story. She filed a Freedom of Information Act request, smartly, not with the White House because you can`t FOIA the White House, she filed the request with the military because her reporting had been that these requests had been floated to the military. Well, the military is susceptible to FOIA requests and thanks to her FOIA requests, we learned that, in fact, yes, the Trump folks, the Trump inaugural planners, had, quote, been seriously considering adding military vehicles to the inaugural parade.
Quote: The conversation startled as, can`t you send us some pictures of military vehicles we could add to the parade? The Defense Department official said to his or her colleague, quote, I explained that such support would be out of guidelines. Quote: I`m extremely reluctant to produce an improvised list of military vehicles that we might be held to.
So the Trump inaugural`s attempt to roll freaking tanks and missile launchers down Pennsylvania Avenue behind the piano guys and the baton twirlers, right, they -- they denied they asked for those things, but they did ask for those things. And we know, from open source reporting, that that caused a Pentagon freak-out, which probably explains why, in, that never happened for the Trump inauguration.
But the president really liked this idea of parading big military equipment in his own honor. So, they tried again last year. The president last year ordered the Pentagon to start planning a grand military parade, a show of American military might, for the Fourth of July. Or, maybe for Memorial Day or for Veterans Day or any day that ends in Y when Trump can be in town. Just get me tanks.
Ultimately, that 2018 plan fell through when the Pentagon estimated it would cost $92 million to do this for the president. They decided that was too expensive. The president announced he wouldn`t do it.
Well, now they`ve learned their lesson and their lesson is, well, the president still wants it, and based on how it didn`t work out the last couple of years, maybe this time there shouldn`t be any cost estimates at all. This time, third time`s a charm, President Trump is going to get his military flyover and his display tanks and this time, the strategy is just to not say what it`s going to cost. Other than the $2.5 million that the Park Service has had to admit it is diverting from taking care of the National Parks to instead do this for the president.
Partly, the Trump administration is keeping the cost secret by just not answering questions about it. Partly, they`ve kept it secret by just waiting until the last minute to plan this event. Quote: They started this too late, even Trump officials and allies anxious about July 4th fest. The White House called the Pentagon less than a month ago to tell them to start drawing up a plan to get the president his tanks. No time to draw up a cost estimate, just do it.
And so, yes, this military display the president has ordered up for tomorrow, it is causing anxiety for lots of Americans, for reasons beyond its cost to the taxpayers, right? CNN had this headline today. Military chiefs have concerns about politicization of Trump`s July 4th event.
This is the headline in "The New York Times" today, quote: Leave thanks for Red Square. Trump`s July 4th celebration unsettles military. Quote: Some retired and active duty military officers and some Defense Department personnel said the participation of the military in president Trump`s salute to America appears to politicize the armed forces on a day when the nation traditionally toasts its independence in a nonpartisan environment.
Quote: Put troops out there so we can thank them. Leave tanks for Red Square, said General Anthony Zinni, a retired four star marine general and the former head of U.S. Central Command.
And it is inarguably true that taking over the country`s national July 4th celebration, making himself the centerpiece with a big speech and ordering tanks to roll into the Capitol for him at his insistence, right, that`s -- that`s a nice pencil sketch of the president`s affinities and tendencies. And, of course, he loves how much anxiety and outrage this is causing, right? He lives for this.
But there is also this very basic and fundamental quell about the money, right? It was the money, it was the cost to taxpayers that stopped this whole plan the last time. Apparently, the strategy this time is to just keep the money thing quiet. Not say anything about it.
There`s one key member of the U.S. Senate, though, who is trying to make sure that part of it is not kept quiet, and he joins us next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Yesterday, "The Washington Post" got a scoop about the president`s planned Fourth of July event. The headline was, Park Service diverts $2.5 million in fees for Trump`s Fourth of July extravaganza. Fees that the National Park Service were supposed to go for improving the national parks, but instead, they are diverting them to give them to this Trump event.
That news was not well received in many corners. Here, for example, Senator Tom Udall`s reaction. Quote: This is beyond the pale. The American people pay fees to make improvements at the National Parks and not to boost President Trump`s campaign. The National Mall is not the place to hold a de facto political rally.
And joining us now is Senator Udall of New Mexico. He has a key role on the appropriations committee in oversees things like the National Parks Service and the Department of the Interior.
Senator, sir, thanks very much for being here. I really appreciate your time.
SEN. TOM UDALL (D-NM): Thank you. Thank you, Rachel. Great to be with you this evening.
MADDOW: So, the president talked about having military equipment, for example, be part of his inaugural parade. Last year, he wanted the big extravaganza involving military equipment and lots of troops for the Fourth of July or maybe Veterans Day or maybe Memorial Day celebration.
But when he was told it came with a price tag of over $90 million, he backed off. This year, I`m struck by the fact that as he is getting this thing he`s asked for for so long, we`ve seen no estimates at all of how much it will cost.
Has your committee been able to get any clear view how many taxpayer dollars this will entail?
UDALL: We haven`t at all. And actually what has happened here, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, Senator Leahy, myself, the top Democrat on the Interior Subcommittee of Appropriations, several weeks ago asked for all the details, a very extensive letter on where the money was coming from, how much was going to be spent. Very detailed letter.
We have been absolutely stonewalled. We haven`t gotten any information from Secretary Bernhardt, from the Department of Defense, from the White House. It`s really disturbing and an extraordinary situation, really.
MADDOW: Presumably those numbers will eventually come out. I can understand why the White House might be interested in keeping those numbers from you and from the public ahead of this event happening. I can even understand them pressuring the military or pressuring other elements of the administration to slow down any of those responses, but ultimately, given the oversight responsibilities of your committee, you will, in the end, be able to guess those numbers, won`t you?
UDALL: Yes, we will be able to get those numbers. I mean, we have a good idea of roughly what was in the budget to be spent. And so, when the final numbers come in, we`ll have an idea as to where they`ve got that money from. As you suggested earlier, they are going to take money from the National Parks infrastructure in order to put on what looks like a political rally. We`re going to have to see how that turns out.
But I am going to ask for a GAO investigation into if there were laws broken and we`ll find out how much money will be spent. And believe me, officials that appear before the appropriations committee in both the House and the Senate will be asked about these numbers and we will get those numbers.
MADDOW: You mentioned that there are appearances of what is planned makes the crossover to political rally territory, and you`re expressing some concern about that. Obviously, it`s illegal for public funds, for any taxpayer money to be spent on the president`s re-election campaign, any partisan political activity whatsoever.
We have seen reports that the White House has given tickets to this event to the Republican National Committee to distribute to their donors. The president`s campaign has hyped this event, and talked about it essentially as a campaign event. How does that sort of thing get policed? Who enforces that as a matter of law or policy if, in fact, taxpayer money is being spent on something that effectively is designed to boost the president?
UDALL: Well, after you have a GAO investigation and there has been a determination that there is a violation of the law and money shouldn`t be spent, then it will have to come from the political sector of his campaign or the Republican committee, which it basically have been merged together at this point, but they`ll have to pay that money back.
As you know, there`s a real tradition on presidential trips, if it`s an official trip and he`s doing something political on the trip, then there`s an allocation as to what the taxpayers pay and there`s an allocation of what you pay politically. That`s the tradition, that`s the way it`s been followed. We expect the law to be followed here.
MADDOW: Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico, thanks for joining us, sir. I know it`s a busy time. I really appreciate you being here.
UDALL: Thank you.
More to come tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: As we head into the holiday, here`s something to keep an eye on. The Trump White House is now promising that right after the Fourth, right after tomorrow`s holiday, so, some time this holiday weekend, they say they are going to launch nationwide dragnet-style raids targeting immigrant families in large numbers across the country.
If that rings a bell, it`s because massive predawn raids targeting immigrant families, something that was originally announced and promised by the president a couple of weeks ago. He then announced he would delay them for a little while, but now the Trump White House is saying it`s right after July 4th. And who knows if they mean it anymore this time than they meant it the last time, but of course, these are real people`s lives in the balance.
"The Daily Beast" now reporting that over these past two weeks, advocates have been frantically coaching immigrant families around the country about how to brace themselves and prepare for the possibility of these raids by ICE. They describe it as being like natural disaster planning except the disaster here is a predawn roundup by armed federal agents and your disaster plan is that you need to know who might be able to look after your kids when ICE takes you away.
Last night on this program, we reported on a new creative Trump administration plan to inflict pain and suffering on immigrant families. They floated the prospect of deporting the family members of active duty serving U.S. troops.
We got a big reaction to our mentioning that proposal from the White House on our show here last night. I do need to tell you that this is just one in a series. They seem to be rolling these out, seeing what kind of outrage they can stoke.
The Trump administration has today floated another little shop of horrors- style plan designed to stoke outrage and inflict maximum fear, starting in the next couple of weeks, starting mid-July, the Trump administration now says they plan to do away with interpreters for immigrants at their court hearings. So, when the judge is explaining their rights and when the next hearing is and what steps they need to take in the interim and, you know, generally making sure the immigrants understand what`s happening and do you have any questions, the Trump administration is now saying there will be no interpreters for those hearing.
Now, instead of an interpreter, all of that life and death stuff will be explained in a video recorded in multiple languages that plays before the hearing that explains basic rights. And if the immigrant or the immigrant family has any questions or the judge just wants to make sure everybody understands, no interpreters, everybody is out of luck.
Now, the backup plan for when this inevitably causes disaster in multiple courtrooms across the country is for the judge to rely on any interpreter who happens to be in the building for other purposes, or to call a telephone service for on-demand translation. Judges should start calling 1-800 translator on-demand and see if there`s somebody there to help with their hearing. But otherwise, there won`t be translators anymore for immigrant hearings. That`s the new plan from the Trump administration.
And the family members of active duty service members and the punctuation of the Fourth of July fireworks with nationwide roundups of families.
None of this is happening by accident. This is what they want him to run for re-election on.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: I have three favorite holidays.
New Year`s Day, because I love the numerological simplicity there. It`s like when you car ticks over to 10,000 miles. I love all the zeros. I like 1-1. I like that.
Also, I like Susan`s birthday because in our family, Susan`s birthday lasts a month. It`s awesome.
And I love the Fourth of July. I love every single freaking thing about it and there is nothing that we can ever do as a country that would make me not love our birthday. Because our birthday is one of the single best things we ever did, celebrating independence, celebrating the Declaration of Independence is something that is for absolutely, everybody. I hope you have an excellent Fourth.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
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