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Interview with Rep Ilhan Omar. TRANSCRIPT: 7/15/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Ilhan Omar, Lee Gelernt

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST:  I hate to wrap, but we are done.  Amy Allison and Christine Quinn, thank you very much for joining us.  We appreciate it.

And that is it for this evening.  Chris Hayes will be back in the anchor chair tomorrow night and, as always, you can find me on "A.M. JOY" this weekend at 10:00 a.m. 

Rachel Maddow starts right now.  Rachel, take it away.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  You are the greatest, Joy.  Thank you very much, my friend.  I really appreciate it.

REID:  Thank you.  See you.

MADDOW:  Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.  Happy Monday. 

So, it`s been sort of a remarkable day.  It has been a remarkable weekend in the news, but today everything that was remarkable got worse and darker and more complex.  Also more revelatory.  It has just been an incredible news cycle that hopefully we are coming to the end of and about to start something new. 

I think if we take the broad view, if we want to know where this current news cycle starts, it was actually just under two years ago, just under two years ago, when white supremacists and Neo-Nazis and other charming members of the American far right descended on Charlottesville, Virginia.  Crowds of young white men bearing torches, shouting things like Jews will not replace us. 

At a rally the day after the torch lit chanting about Jews march in Charlottesville, a rally by the neo-Nazis which was dwarfed by the throngs of counterprotesters, members of militant white supremacist groups attacked the counterprotesters violently.  Several of them were later charged with traveling to Charlottesville with the intention of inciting a riot. 

It was at that rally, the day after the torch-lit march that a Neo-Nazi drove his car deliberately into a crowd of counterprotesters.  A moment captured by a photojournalist in this harrowing photograph which was instantly became the defining image of that terrible moment in American history. 

When that neo-Nazi plowed his car into that crowd, he injured dozens of people.  He killed one young counter-protest, a young woman named Heather Heyer.  Immediately thereafter, President Trump came out and said that there were very fine people on both sides that day in Charlottesville.  He expressed sympathy with the far-right marchers support for the Confederacy and Confederate symbols.  He said the press had treated them very unfairly.

Well, today, the neo-Nazi guy who deliberately drove his car into those counterprotesters and injured dozens of people and killed Heather Heyer, today, he was sentenced to life in prison plus 419 years.  That was his sentence today handed down on state charges.  On federal charges, he already got an additional life sentence.

But that moment when Donald Trump refused to condemn the violent white supremacists in Charlottesville who had just killed someone -- I mean, talk about a defining image right, or a defining moment.  Those remarks from Trump after Charlottesville just rain like ass truck tuning fork that was just a moment of pure tonal clarity about our new president and about our country now with him as our political leader.

I mean, it was only two summers before that where there was President Barack Obama singing "Amazing Grace" at the memorial for nine mostly elderly African-American churchgoers who were killed by white supremacist.  It`s just two years later, he`s succeeded in office by a new president who responds to the murder in Charlottesville by a neo-Nazi by praising the very fine people on the neo-Nazi side?  Lamenting how they got a raw deal in the press.

When Barack Obama`s Vice President Joe Biden declared his run for the presidency this year, his announcement video centered on the moral collapse represented by Trump`s response to Charlottesville, calling it a threat to the nation, quote, unlike any I had seen in my lifetime.

Well, today, as the life plus 419-year sentence for that murderer in Charlottesville was handed down, President Trump today is walking that same tuning fork again as hard as he can, attacking minority members of Congress as vicious disgusting al Qaeda-loving America haters, this after hitting them with the old go back to your own country slur this weekend.  Last time around, after Charlottesville, some Republicans at least expressed some disgust at what the president had said. 

This time not so much, at least not as much.  A handful of backbench Republicans have worked up the gumption to say something but most have made clear that whatever else you might say about the president`s comments, they are definitely not racist, no siree, no racism here.

And the president, of course, is enjoying this as always.  I mean, the outrage in the press and among Democrats, he`s milking it for all it`s worth.  It`s not like this wasn`t on purpose. 

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota is going to be joining us live here tonight in just a moment as she continues to be one of these minority female congresswomen who is specifically being targeted by the president.  And now, following his lead, she`s also being targeted by his campaign, by his supporters.

There`s no easy antidote to a political leader who stakes his future on maximizing racial hatred and racial resentment and trying to stoke as much anger and division as possible because he thinks it redounds to his political benefit.  There`s no magic spell to unwind that tactic or to stop its harm.  But one thing that strategy does not easily countenance or control is the prospect of the targets of that racist invective speaking for themselves, speaking on their own terms about the things that they care about and who they really are and what they believe about our country.  I mean, demagogic racial vilification depends on distance, right, at least perceived distance.  It depends on us really not knowing each other, it depends on us being willing to fear and blame each other because we don`t know any better.

Congresswoman Omar is more than able to speak for herself on her own terms and she will be joining us live in just a moment.  She`s actually -- I think this is going to be her first television interview since the president started this whole go back to your country attack on her, an attack it appears he`s going to try to juice for as long as possible because he likes how it`s playing and apparently this is foundational to the way he`s running for reelection. 

I should mention we`ve also got a guest here tonight who`s going to help us understand what the administration just did today to try to stop people from applying for asylum in America.  I think everybody now realizes that it is no coincidence that the president is starting up these attacks on non-white members of Congress at the same time he is repeatedly announcing gigantic roundups of immigrants and their families and the same time that he`s up-scaling the horrendous detention conditions on the border, even now showing off the pens in which he`s holding immigrant men who`ve been held for weeks and not allowed to clean themselves.  He thinks that`s a good look for him.

The outrage over how the Trump administration is treating immigrants even the outrage over the foul treatment and the needless deaths of little kids in federal detention, to this president, it hits the same sweet note, right?  It hits the same sweet note as the outrage over him singling out and attacking the minority congresswoman.  It`s the same note it`s him praising the neo-Nazi fine people at Charlottesville. 

Oh, you`re mad about that?  That makes you mad?  How mad does that make you? 

What they just announced today in terms of changes to asylum law, bill -- I mean, it`s of a piece with all these other things going on.  But I think it`s also worth seeing it as maybe this president`s most radical effort to change laws along racial lines since the Muslim banned that he tried to implement as soon as he got into office.  So, the asylum changes tonight again part of a larger mosaic in terms of how the president is running and how he`s using a race to try to get himself reelected, but we`ll get some help understanding that proposed change tonight as well.  That`s all coming up.

And I do feel like though there is another sort of aspect of the landscape here that is worth seeing at the same time, because I don`t -- I don`t think it`s unrelated.  I don`t think there`s a total disconnect between how the president is running for reelection, the kind of outrage he`s stoking, and what else is going on that is stuff that`s happening to him that he can`t necessarily control, because all of the stuff that he`s doing in terms of racist vilification and stoking the hatred and dehumanization of immigrants and basking and bathing in the outrage over it, it`s all unfolding amid a whole bunch of other stuff, a whole bunch of other story lines that are not things that he can control, and that I think he`s banking on just being able to distract from. 

For example, today was the first day of what is only the second criminal trial to have resulted from the Mueller investigation and the Russia scandal.  I know, it didn`t make a lot of headlines, right?  There have been dozens of criminal indictments derived from Mueller`s probe.  There have been dozens of indictments.  There have been lots of guilty pleas, there`s been no acquittals. 

But before today, there had only been one trial in front of a jury.  The president`s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, convicted of eight felonies at that trial.  He`s now serving a seven-year federal prison sentence while he simultaneously awaits the start of his trial on state charges as well.  But so far, Paul Manafort, the president`s campaign chair, is the only person in the Mueller investigation and in the whole Russia investigation to actually go on trial. 

But the second criminal trial after Manafort started today, in the Eastern District of Virginia, and it is a trial of this man.  He`s a Trump transition official named Bijan Kian.  Kian appears to have been the number two Trump transition official on intelligence matters, which means he was involved in the Trump transition on things like, you know, little stuff, like picking new senior leadership at the CIA, little stuff. 

While he was doing that work, while he was the number two official in the Trump transition on intelligence, Kian is now charged with having been an unregistered agent who was secretly on the payroll of a foreign country.  Now, the drama of this trial starting apart from the inherent drama of a criminal trial, right, and the fact that yet another person in the Trump transition is being accused of working secretly for a foreign government, even beyond all of that drama, there`s also in this new trial that started today, the ongoing drama and big unanswered questions now about Mike Flynn, Trump`s national security adviser, Mike Flynn. 

He was one of the first people to be charged by Mueller, one of the first guilty pleas in the whole Russia scandal.  Flynn pled guilty to lying to investigators about his secret communications with the Russian government during the transition.  He became a cooperating witness at that time.  Flynn was apparently a good cooperator for at least a while. 

Now, the special counsel`s office recommended to Flynn`s sentencing judge that Mike Flynn should get zero time in prison, as recognition of how much help he was able to provide them as a cooperating witness.  But still, even with that recommendation from the special counsel, something about Flynn`s case clearly bugged at the sentencing judge and when Mike Flynn showed up in court in December, expecting to be sentenced, probably expecting to be sentenced to zero time served because of that recommendation from prosecutors, things took a turn. 

The judge ended up reaming Mike Flynn out in the courtroom, essentially calling him a traitor, suggesting that Flynn might want to delay his sentencing until he`d had more time to be even more cooperative to give the government even more help given how serious the judge thought Flynn`s crimes were.  Well, Flynn didn`t get sentenced that day.  He still doesn`t have a sentencing date. 

But since then, Mike Flynn dumped his legal team.  He hired a new legal team that are anti-Robert Mueller crusaders, because that`s a job now in the American right.  His new lead lawyer is the author of a book about the Justice Department being full of liars.  They`re all corrupt and they`re out to get conservatives and in particular, it`s about how terrible and corrupt and criminal Robert Mueller and his prosecutors are. 

His lead lawyer has been basically a full-time anti-Robert Mueller, anti- Russia investigation pundit on Fox News and in the conservative media world for months now.  That`s who`s leading Flynn`s new legal team.  And since Flynn got that new legal team, things have gone wobbly for him in court.

Flynn had been expected to be the star witness in the Bijan Kian case that started today.  He was expected to testify about the two of them business partners secretly working on behalf of a foreign government while also working on the Trump campaign, while Flynn now will not be called as a witness.  Prosecutors now say they`ve consider him to be a co-conspirator with Kian. 

They now tell the judge they`re going to wait -- the Flynn sentencing judge that they`re going to wait to see what happens at the key on trial before they decide if they`re going to change that recommendation that Mike Flynn shouldn`t get jail time and prosecutors are now saying they`re going to call Mike Flynn`s son, Mike Flynn Jr., as a witness in the Kian trial even though they`re not calling Mike Flynn Sr. anymore because they consider him to be a co-conspirator.

So, the Kian trial started today, only the second jury trial of the Mueller investigation and nobody really knows where that is going to go and the question of the resolution of the case against Trump`s national security adviser, this key figure in his campaign, Mike Flynn, is now suddenly absolutely wide open and we expect revelations in court.  Jury selection was today.  Opening arguments started today, this is going to be a drama over the next week.

And now on top of that tonight, CNN has just broken a remarkable news story that appears to fill in a key part of the plot that we had not previously had about what happened in the 2016 elections, and it has to do with -- 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  WikiLeaks.  WikiLeaks.  WikiLeaks.  WikiLeaks.  This just came out -- this just came out, WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks.

The Hillary Clinton documents released today by WikiLeaks.  Exposed by WikiLeaks.  We don`t talk about WikiLeaks.  They got it all down, folks, WikiLeaks.


MADDOW:  The president promoted WikiLeaks and their release of stolen Democratic and Clinton campaign documents more than a hundred and fifty times on the campaign trail in the run-up to his election.  Now, it became clear during the campaign that those materials that WikiLeaks was releasing is stuff that was hacked by Russia. 

But WikiLeaks always denied they had anything to do with Russia.  According to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, which are basically one in the same, according to him, he just -- he just plucked those stolen documents out of the ether somehow and anybody who says they`re from Russia is making stuff up.  So, there have been these clear assertions from the intelligence agencies and from Robert Mueller`s report, and there have been these definitive denials from WikiLeaks that they had anything to do with Russia.

But before tonight, we never really had any clear narrative detail about how Russia and WikiLeaks did it, how Russia funneled all this stuff to WikiLeaks to be released during the campaign to such important effect.  Well, tonight, CNN has obtained surveillance logs that appear to show exactly how WikiLeaks got all that stolen material from Russian intelligence during the 2016 campaign, and it is a fascinating story.

Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, you may know he`s currently in jail in the U.K.  He`s fighting extradition to the U.S. to face other unrelated charges.  But starting in 2012 and right through the 2016 campaign, Julian Assange was holed up inside Ecuador`s embassy in London, where he was trying to evade other criminal charges and extradition claims. 

According to CNN`s reporting tonight, the governor of Ecuador -- the government of Ecuador was happy enough, sort of, to keep hosting him in that embassy as the years dragged on while he was staying there.  But they did hire three separate security firms to do intensive surveillance on their own embassy while he was there, and it is the logs from one of those security firms that they`ve just published tonight, which appeared to show how Russia did it, how they transferred to WikiLeaks those reams of stolen material that Trump celebrated, right?  That WikiLeaks released during the campaign to try to cause maximum damage to Hillary Clinton and maximum benefit to Donald Trump.  That`s the stuff that Donald Trump spent every single day promoting during his campaign.

And we had known that the intelligence community had said that WikiLeaks was operating as a cutout for Russian intelligence.  We had never had any narrative before about how exactly they did it.  We just had WikiLeaks denials. 

But now, look, I mean, look at the timeline here.  June 14th -- that`s when the Democratic Party announces it has been hacked, it`s had its material stolen, DNC blames the Russian government for the crime.  June 19th, which is five days later, Julian Assange asks the Ecuadorian embassy to please beef up his Internet connection.  He also asked the embassy for, quote, technical support, quote, for data transmission, and for helping install some kind of new equipment.

Over the course of that month, June 2016, Assange, according to CNN, has a big spike in the number of people coming to visit him at the embassy, something like 75 people came to visit him that month alone.  That month, he also has at least seven in-person meetings at the Russian -- excuse me, at the embassy he`s living at with Russian nationals, at least seven meetings with different Russian nationals and people connected to the Kremlin, as well as that same month, he as has lots of online contact with fake personas set up by Russia.

Well, on July 6th, Julian Assange tells these online personas who claim to have all the hacks material that he wants them to send anything Hillary related as soon as possible, quote, because the Democratic National Convention is approaching and she will solidify Bernie`s supporters behind her after.  Eight days later, mid-July, July 14th, this is when the RNC is starting but the Democratic National Convention hasn`t yet started, on that day, July 14th, Julian Assange meets for more than four hours at the Ecuadorian embassy with two well-known high-end German hackers, one of whom is described in the Mueller report as someone who may have assisted with the transfer of the Russian stolen documents to WikiLeaks.

So, he meets for four hours with these high-end German hackers in person.  That same day, the Russians send Assange encrypted files that are labeled "big archive".  Four days after that, July 18th, quote, an embassy security guard broke protocol by abandoning his post to receive a package outside the embassy from a man in disguise, the man covered his face with a mask and sunglasses.  According to CNN tonight, quote, the security company saw this unfold on surveillance footage and recommended that the guard be replaced but the Ecuadorian government kept him on the job. 

That same day July 18th, 2016, WikiLeaks gets back in touch with the Russians and tells them: Thanks we got the files, thank you very much.

Four days after that, July 22nd, WikiLeaks releases more than 20,000 internal files from the Democratic Party which, of course, were timed and designed to cause maximum disruption to Clinton`s nomination and maximum division between Clinton supporters and people who supported Bernie Sanders after the primary.  They basically upended the whole Democratic National Convention with that first release in July. 

Skip ahead to September, September 15th, the Russians reach back out to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks to tell them, hey, we got more stuff.  We got more material that might hurt Clinton.  They tell Julian Assange, quote, you won`t be disappointed, I promise. 

Four days after that, the same high-end German hacker named in the Mueller report comes back to the embassy to once again meet with Julian Assange in person that day.  The security firm says that they have observed Julian Assange that day installing new computer cables in his room.  That date, September 19th, is singled out in the Mueller report as the day the Russian sent Assange the emails that they had hacked from Clinton`s campaign chairman John Podesta. 

Within a couple of weeks, October 7th, Julian Assange/WikiLeaks start releasing the John Podesta emails.  They start releasing them on the day of the "Access Hollywood" tape, which, of course, threatened to end the Trump campaign altogether.  That`s also the day the U.S. government publicly blamed Russia for the hack at the DNC and their messing with the election.

Now, within a week of that, the U.S. government apparently told Ecuador, hey, whatever is going on with Julian Assange and your embassy, it`s time to stop.  In response, this is October, 2016, right before the election.  In response, Ecuador cuts off Assange`s Internet access at the embassy.  Days later on October 18th, Julian Assange and WikiLeaks clear everything out.

Quote: By 1:00 a.m., two WikiLeaks personnel arrived at the embassy and started removing computer equipment, as well as a large box containing about 100 hard drives. 

We know this because CNN got the surveillance footage logs from one of the three security firms Ecuador hired to surveil its embassy while Julian Assange was living there, apparently running this pro-Russia propaganda campaign to try to elect Trump and to try to submarine Hillary Clinton`s chances. 

It`s just remarkable stuff.  It`s not clear if Robert Mueller and his team had access to this exact surveillance footage and these security logs from Julian Assange`s time at the embassy, the stuff that CNN is reporting on tonight.  In the WikiLeaks section of the Mueller`s report, there is a fair number of redactions.  You can see a lot of these redactions are described as being there because they would otherwise give away investigative methods. 

But, you know, on a day when the president is posting up his reelection campaign to run on the fuel of maximum racial division, right, it is just a remarkable thing to take the wide lens, right?  To have these be the other ambient things you need to know right now about his presidency on this day, right, on this day.  Yet another criminal trial starting for someone on his transition campaign who was allegedly a secret foreign agent working with his national security adviser at the time who has already pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his secret communications with the Russians. 

And on the same day, this new open source reporting puts in the missing pieces of not just that Russia trying to help elect Trump and not just why Russia tried to elect Trump.  But the actual nuts and bolts of how they did it from the clandestine meetings, to the data transfers, to the disguises and the surveillance footage.  In general in life, I think it`s a good idea to keep things in perspective as much as you can, right?

But how do you keep this all in perspective, right?  I mean, how high up do you need to get in elevation before you can look down at this circumstance, at this news cycle alone and say, yes, this is fine.  We can handle this.  It`s just a remarkable day in the news.

Just remarkable pivot point in this presidency today.  Congresswoman Ilhan Omar from Minnesota is here with us next. 

Stay with us.



REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY (D-MA):  He is if nothing else, predictable.  What we are focused on are the hateful policies. 

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D-MI):  We cannot allow these hateful actions by the president to distract us from the critical work to hold this administration accountable. 

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY):  Weak minds and leaders challenge loyalty to our country in order to avoid challenging and debating the policy. 

REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN):  It is time for us to stop allowing this president to make a mockery out of our Constitution.  It`s time for us to impeach this president. 


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  There is no playbook for how you are supposed to respond to a serving American president launching an explicitly racist "go back to where you came from" campaign of vitriol for his own political gain.  There`s nowhere you can go to look up what do in the event of this.  There is no manual that tells you what the right way is to respond to that. 

But there are four young members of Congress who are writing that book for all of us now.  Today, Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez held a joint four-way press conference to respond to the president`s attacks over the weekend and today`s follow-up performance on the White House South Lawn which was an extended diatribe by the president in which he accused these four specific members of Congress of hating the United States and loving al Qaeda. 

As we saw from the president`s notes, that would be al Qaeda spelled A-L-C- A-I-D-A because who does not need a phonetic reminder of how to say that organization? 

Of course, despite the president calling on the four members to return to their broken crime-infested countries, all four of the members targeted by the president`s racist attacks, of course, are Americans.  They are all U.S. citizens.  Only one of the four of them was not born in this country.  Ilhan Omar fled to the U.S. from war-torn Somalia when she was a little kid.  She became a U.S. citizen as a teenager.  She`s now a duly elected member of Congress from Minnesota. 

Over the weekend, Congresswoman Omar responded to the president on Twitter, calling him the most corrupt and inept president we have ever seen.  She accused him of stoking white nationalism because you are afraid -- angry that people like us are serving in Congress and fighting against your hate- filled agenda.  She quoted Bobby Kennedy saying: America`s answer to the intolerant man is diversity, the very diversity which our heritage of religious freedom has inspired. 

This afternoon, Congresswoman Omar added to her critique. 


OMAR:  This is the agenda of white nationalists.  Whether it is happening in chat rooms or it`s happening on national TV and now, it`s reached the White House garden.  He would love nothing more than to divide our country based on race, religion, gender, orientation, or immigration status, because this is the only way he knows he can prevent the solidarity of us working together across all of our differences. 


MADDOW:  Whether the president`s comments and most recent attacks are an attempt to distract from his policies or just provide a spine in which all the bones of the rest of his reelection campaign are due to hang, today, Democratic leaders in the House announced that they will soon vote on a resolution condemning the president`s racist attacks on those members of Congress.  That vote could come as soon as tomorrow. 

But Congresswoman Omar and her colleagues have been bearing the brunt of these attacks and they are trying to show the country the proper response.  I mean, what do you when the leader of your country starts an explicitly racist attack against you?  What do you show in terms of your own leadership as an elected political leader in this country in response to that to try to help the country not be as hurt by that as it could be?

They are working this out right now.  Speaking for themselves on their own terms and not seating an inch. 

Joining us now is Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.  She`s a Democrat of Minnesota.

Congresswoman, thank you very much for making time tonight.

I know there are a lot of demands on your time right now in the storm that you`re in.  Thanks for being here. 

OMAR:  Great to be here with you, Rachel.  Thank you for having me. 

MADDOW:  So, as I was just saying, there`s obviously no playbook for how to respond to racist attacks from a sitting president.  How have you gone about formulating your response, figuring out the right way for you to absorb these attacks from the president and to talk to the country in the way that you have ever since this started? 

OMAR:  Look, many of us as I said today when we are brown and black in this country have been subjected to the old racist trope of "go back to where you came from", whether it happens in a school playground or inside the hallway or someone shouting at you in the street.  And many of us have had our responses. 

And now, today and yesterday, we had to figure out how to respond to it coming from the president of the United States.  And we were reminded, something that my 7-year-old says, you know, does he know he is the president of the United States?  We had to make sure to let him know that here in this country, we see everyone, we welcome everyone, and we remind people that they are valued. 

And we`re not going to allow him to continue his throwing of the vile of garbage that constantly comes out of his mouth that allows for the media to be distracted truly from delivering the kind of inside investigation into the lawlessness that is of his administration, the constant human rights violations, the policies that are detrimental to our existence in this country, and the harm that he is causing on a daily basis to our Constitution and the existence of our country. 

MADDOW:  As the president has singled out you and your colleagues in the House, obviously that`s put an incredibly hot spotlight on you.  But as you are saying, that critique that this is an effort to distract by the president, this is an effort for him to create a narrative that he likes.  He`s doing this obviously on purpose and he knows how people will respond to the sorts of attacks. 

I wonder how you think that in terms of balance.  Obviously, you have a platform because you are looked to for a response to the attacks from the president that is of his making, but also you get to speak on your own terms once you get that.  How do you sort of avoid helping him do his work of distracting from the kinds of things that you just described? 

OMAR:  I mean, we get an opportunity to call him out and we get an opportunity to really talk about what the direction for this country should look like.  This is a president who believes it is OK for him to think that people who say something that will move this country forward should be deported.  He`s called on us to go back and fight corruption and fight these countries that have worse leaders and inept leaders. 

Well, we are living in one.  He is that president.  He is corrupt.  He is the worst president we`ve had.  He is inept and we are going to call him out for it, and we`re going to hold him accountable. 

We`re going to talk about the policies that he is creating that we think are setting our country back.  And we`re going to have -- make sure that not only do we resist him, but that we insist on furthering policies that are going to guarantee health care for people, that are going to provide the proper education that they need, that is going to make sure they are not forever shackled with student debt, is going to provide the kind of housing that is proper, that is going to take care of our veterans, our disabled and our most vulnerable, which is our children, and our elderly.  And we are going to make sure that we are moving the agenda we were sent to move here in Congress. 

MADDOW:  Today in your remarks with your colleagues, you and Congresswoman Tlaib, both specifically mentioned impeachment and called for impeachment proceedings to start against the president.  Is that for the conduct laid out in the Mueller report or for other scandal-ridden behavior, are you suggesting that he ought to be impeached in part for the kinds of attacks that he`s levied against you and your colleagues? 

OMAR:  No, we are suggesting that he`s committed high crimes and misdemeanors, and it`s about time that we start the process and impeach this president. 

As Ayanna says, he is an occupant and does not rise to the level of what we expect our president to and it`s time for us to make sure that the United States has a president that they can be proud of, someone who understands the responsibility of a president and someone who carries it out. 

Look, we have a president that truly believes that if you say something that he doesn`t agree with, that you should no longer have the opportunity to exercise your First Amendment rights.  This is a president who himself said our country and its leaders are dumb.  This is a president who said the state of New Hampshire is a drug infested den.  This is a president who constantly vulgarly speaks about how dirty our streets are, how inept we are as a nation, and doesn`t really offer any solution in dealing with that.  He abdicates his responsibility in trying to set the course on what makes our country live up to its ideals. 

And here we are as members of Congress doing the work that will get us the country we all deserve, one that is truly functioning for all of us, one that sees and values every single person in it and one that is making sure that our shiny and wonderful Constitution is fully intact and the protections is offered is enjoyed by all of us. 

MADDOW:  Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, thank you for your time this evening.  I`m sure these last few days have been incredibly stressful.  You taking time to talk us about it is an honor.  Thanks very much.

OMAR:  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  All right.  Much more ahead tonight.  Stay with us.


MADDOW:  It`s one of the things that gets asked all the time in presidential politics.  What would you do on day one in the Oval Office?  This answer, though, this felt novel. 


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I made an announcement yesterday and that is, did anyone out there who is working in this system understand, you abuse immigrants, you physically abuse immigrants, you sexually abuse immigrants, you fail to get the medical care that they need, you break the law of the United States of America and Donald Trump may be willing to look the other way, but President Elizabeth Warren will not.


WARREN:  On my first day, I will empower a commission in the Department of Justice to investigate crimes committed by the United States against immigrants. 


WARREN:  Know this now. 


MADDOW:  Know this now. 

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren this weekend in Netroots Nation promising to prosecute government official who have abused or denied medical care to immigrants in their custody.  You can hear from that clip the wave of applause in the room when she said it.  Reporters who were there for that speech said that Senator Warren got a standing ovation for making that day one promise, although we don`t have a shot of it. 

The president, of course, is running for reelection on his hard line immigration policies, the same policies that are creating the conditions Senator Warren is responding to there.  Immigrants being held indefinitely in overcrowded cages with nowhere to sleep or bathe, kids being taken away from their parents and family members to report that a 15-year-old girl was sexually assaulted by a U.S. border official and reported it and the Trump administration did nothing with that report until NBC News inquired with the administration about it. 

Today, the administration is taking it one step further.  They`ve announced that they are essentially cancelling asylum law in this country, essentially blocking people from requesting asylum in the United States.  The policy was announced and it`s slated to go into effect tomorrow.  Immigrant rights groups are already promising there is no way this will ever make it out of a courtroom. 

Joining us to help us understand is Lee Gelernt.  He`s the deputy director of the ACLU`s Immigrants Right Projects.  Lee, it`s nice to have you here.


MADDOW:  So, basically, can you explain to us in basic terms, what it is they are trying to do and how you were trying to stop it? 

GELERNT:  Right.  So, I think you nailed it.  They are cancelling asylum.  Now, this would effectively end asylum at the southern border. 

What they`re saying is, if you have come through any other country, any other country, you can`t apply for asylum.  So, that means that only Mexicans will be allowed to apply for asylum, and I`m sure he will do something to stop Mexicans for applying.  We will go to court and we will stop it. 

And what everyone should be clear about, this is not just a fight between immigrants and the administration, or the courts or the administration at the bottom.  This is a fight between Congress and the administration. 

Congress made it absolutely clear that it doesn`t matter whether you came through another country.  You have the right to receive asylum.  The administration is not happy about it, but Congress has not changed the law, so the administration is unilaterally rewriting the laws.  We will absolutely be in court the same way we got the asylum ban blocked.  This was more extreme and we hope to get this one blocked as well. 

MADDOW:  Is this the sort of thing where conservatives and anti-immigrant activists on the right have been trying to exploit some sort of wiggle room, or some sort of shadowing a law, or this I desire of theirs to shut down asylum in this way?  Or is this novel for the Trump administration? 

GELERNT:  Well, I think that there have been people who`ve tried to tweak asylum, but not in this way.  I mean, this would end asylum.  And I think people need to understand, it`s not just the illegality of it, it`s incompatible with our values.  After World War II, the nations of the world came together and said, never again are we not going to provide protection for those fleeing persecution.  Congress said, we want to enact domestic laws to comply with that. 

People need to remember the history.  Right now, it`s Central Americans who are desperate for a safe haven, but it`s been other groups in the past.  And I think it`s important that people not say, well, we don`t care about asylum because if they ask their grandparents or their great grandparents and go back into the history, they will see that other groups needed asylum.  If we eliminate asylum now for Central Americans, it`s eliminated for everyone. 

MADDOW:  The others I want to talk to you tonight is I know you were back in court on the family separation issue recently on Friday.  On Friday, were you and your colleagues attesting to the fact that the Trump administration is still taking kids away from their parents. 


MADDOW:  Still taking kids away from their parents now.

GELERNT:  Uh-huh.

MADDOW:  There`s been -- obviously, there is national concern about this and this is an open moral wound in the country.  I do think, though, that there is a lot of ambiguity or people don`t have a clear sense of whether or not this policy still exists. 

GELERNT:  You are absolutely right.  I think that people assume -- well, this is over.  That was a year ago. 


GELERNT:  But it`s not.  And I think the challenge for us is to make it clear it`s not over and tell people what`s going on so we have the moral outrage like last summer.  We now have found out there have been hundreds and hundreds of separations since the injunction on the pretext that the parent is a danger to the child. 

When we found out the reasons, we are looking at the lists.  Traffic violations, disorderly conduct.  I mean, most minor crimes, sometimes not even convictions.  And we have little babies and toddlers being taken away that your parent may be a danger because of the traffic violation that occurred. 

So, we`re going to go back in court.  We have said we`ll to the government one more time.  We got nowhere with them on this and we are going back to court and telling the judge what`s going on and they are doing an end run around the injunction and we need the public outcry like we had last summer  to say enough is enough again. 

MADDOW:  I feel like that public outcry is there.  I mean, I feel like at this point, the concern over the conditions in particular is driving it, but the fact that kids are being taken away, I think the outrage is palpable. 


MADDOW:  Lee Gelernt is the deputy director of the ACLU`s Immigrants Rights Project.  Keep us apprised. 

GELERNT:  Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW:  All right.  We`ll be right back.  Stay with us. 


MADDOW:  For the last few weeks now, we have been covering the Trump administration`s efforts to dismantle what is basically the science core for USDA, the Agriculture Department.  The science core there is part of the government where some of the most consequential and practical scientific research is done.  We have been covering this assault on the scientists at the USDA for weeks.  But right now, tonight, it`s coming to a head, because by midnight tonight, USDA scientists have to inform their bosses whether they will accept a forced transfer 1,000 miles away from their current homes in D.C. or if they don`t want to do that, they can take door number two, which is be fired. 

Up to 80, 90, even 100 percent of the scientists in the divisions that are up for relocation are expected to quit instead of going through with that transfer, meaning that the Trump administration as of midnight really is about to decimate the ranks of one of this country`s premier taxpayer- funded scientific institutions.  The crime the scientists committed, as far as we can tell, as far as they can tell, is that USDA research has routinely produced findings that the administration doesn`t like.  Like analysis showing that the Republican tax law doesn`t help average farmers and Trump`s trade policies are killing them. 

Ahead of tonight`s deadline, the administration responded to the demands of USDA employees essentially saying they`re moving an inch.  The scientists had asked, for example, that employees with hardship exemptions including disabilities and certain family circumstances -- they asked those employees in particular be allowed to plead their case as to why it`s necessary that they stay in D.C. 

This was the agency`s response.  Quote: the union`s proposal is an infringement on management rights to determine its organization and to assign work, period.  So, no.  You`ve got a disability, you`ve got a family member in extremis, you`ve got something else, we don`t want to hear it. 

We have been told by one USDA employee that the administration has not yet set a date to even start bargaining, to even start talking about this stuff.  So, that likely means that tonight at midnight, the Trump administration is prepared to fire hundreds of our nation`s most gifted scientists, tonight.  All in one fell swoop. 


MADDOW:  That`s going do it for us tonight.  Thanks for being with us on a Monday night. 

We`re going to see you again tomorrow.


Good evening, Lawrence.                                                                                                                 THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END