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Iceland holds memorial for extinct glacier. TRANSCRIPT: 8/19/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests: Alexis McGill Johnson, Michael Gordon

CAROL ANDERSON, PROFESSOR, EMORY UNIVERSITY:  Without figuring out, OK, so what happened in Oakland?  What happened in Chicago? 


ANDERSON:  What happened in New York? 

And by not having that kind history, then we have so many Americans walking through wanting this very, believing in this very kind of nice pat sanitized narrative that then doesn`t get at the kind of structural issues. 

HAYES:  Yes.  And people just don`t know a lot of it.  Just at the basic factual level, it`s amazing to me how little people know about this. 

Nikole Hannah-Jones, Carol Anderson, thank you both. 

That is ALL IN this evening. 

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. 

Good evening, Rachel.  I`m sorry, I`m 30 seconds late. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  It`s OK.  I`m not going to keep you longer, because I don`t need to ask you whether or not you had a good vacation.  I can tell you did. 

HAYES:  Because of my Instagram photos and my wife sporting the Rachel Maddow hat? 

MADDOW:  Well, that obviously just means that you are a very nice family. 

HAYES:  We`re always promoting everywhere we go. 

MADDOW:  That was very nice, Kate.  Thank you very much.

I can tell you had a great vacation, I can tell are you firing at all your cylinders.  But I have to ask you about this live show thing that you`re going to do. 

HAYES:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  I mean, are you -- like you`re going to do live audience. 

HAYES:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  Live taping.  No. 

HAYES:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  Are you nervous?  Are you psych? 

HAYES:  I`m mostly psych.  Yes, I think it will be fun.  I like theater.  I like crowds, I like people.  I like warm rooms, you know, human bodies there, their heart beats.  You can hear them.  You can hear when they laugh.  I like all that. 

MADDOW:  It takes all kind to do this work.  I want you to figure out what you are like, your Pontiac keys are under the seat, Oprah moment is going to be, like there has, if you will do this as a regular thing, I will donate swag, I`m just saying. 

HAYES:  Well, you are invited. 

MADDOW:  All right.  Thank you, my friend.  Thanks a lot.

  And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.  Happy to have you here.  Happy Monday. 

The Department of Defense has just released this slow motion video showing the launching of a cruise missile.  A tomahawk missile from a portable launching platform. 

See how it`s on a trailer?  You can actually see the wheels on the trailer from the thing it`s being launched from.  This was a missile that was shot off by the U.S. military yesterday at 2:30 p.m. local time off the coast in California.  From an island called San Nicolas Island. 

San Nicolas Island is the most far flung of all the channel islands.  I think it`s about 60 miles off the coast down by Long Beach, California.  We do not know exactly where this tomahawk missile was aimed, I mean, west presumably, right, out into the Pacific. 

But we do have a written assurance today from the Defense Department that the missile, quote, accurately impacted its target after more than 500 kilometers of flight.  And that more than 500 kilometers bit, that specification in the Defense Department announcement about this missile, that is very, very news worthy, because until about like five minutes ago, a missile going just over 500 kilometers was not allowed, a cruise missile capable of hitting a target just over 500 kilometers away until very recently, that is a missile that was banned in this country and the United States said we did not have and would not use. 

The reason for that is because of this moment.  Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 signing a treaty that banned both them and us from having missiles that are what they call intermediate range.  The treaty was signed in 1987 and, thereafter, the U.S. and the Soviet Union together took off line more than 2,500 missiles with this intermediate range, missiles designed to fly between 500 kilometers and 5,500 kilometers, more than 2500 of them were taken offline. 

Well, that treaty had been in effect since Reagan and Gorbachev signed it in 1987, back when the Soviet Union still existed.  It was President Donald Trump who decided to pull the U.S. out of that treaty this month on August 2nd and us pulling out of that treaty is how we got this missile launch yesterday, 60 miles off the coast of Long Beach, California.

Just two-and-a-half weeks after we pulled out of that treaty, we are already showing off that we`ve got these missiles back online and they are ready to go.  Never mind we haven`t supposed to, we haven`t had them in our arsenal, we haven`t supposed to have had them since 1987.  We got them and they`re working perfectly.  Thanks. 

I mean, if you had one space on your bingo card for 2019 that you think you could be pretty confident wouldn`t get filled in this year, right, that might be the bingo card space that says no new nuclear arms race with former Soviet Union, right?  Who would have thought that`s what we will be doing in 2019, but that is apparently what we are doing in 2019.  That`s a part what the U.S. military is doing is showing off this tomahawk missile launch yesterday afternoon.

Whatever is going on with this new arms race appears to be the backdrop to what happened in Russia a week and a half ago, with this mysterious nuclear accident on the White Sea in the northwest corner of Russia.  We still really do not know exactly what happened there and the Russian government`s explanations and misdirections and complicated obscuring phrases about this thing have made things worse fought better. 

"The Wall Street Journal" has now just reported what seems like an important if you development in this story, which is that it would appear that the Russian government shut down monitoring stations nearby the blast site that are monitoring stations that test for radiation.  "Wall Street Journal" reporter Michael Gordon, long-time national security reporter, he had this scoop this weekend that the two monitoring stations nearest to the blast site went dark and stopped transmitting radiation shortly after that mysterious blast.  That was the initial scoop by Michael Gordon this weekend. 

Then, today, Michael Gordon has new reporting that a few days later, a few days after the two monitoring stations closest to the blast site were shut down mysteriously, the Russian government appears to have shut down another two monitoring stations that were further away a few days later, which suggests they thought they had successfully covered up the problem when they stopped reporting radiation data close to the site of the nuclear accident.  Within a few days, though, if they realize they had to shut down further radiation monitoring sites further away from the blast site, hundreds of kilometers away from where they thought they were sort of safe -- well, that suggests maybe the problem is proving too large for their initial cover-up.  So the cover-up, itself, is having to expand its geographical reach as well. 

We are also getting the first models of the potential radiation plume from the site of the blast, which is not comforting.  We will talk with "Wall Street Journal" reporter Michael Gordon about that and more coming up in just a few minutes.  But as you can feel in your gut right now, that is not awesome. 

That said, there is a lot to get to tonight.  There is a lot going on.  This was actually an awesome site to behold this weekend in Hong Kong, awesome in the sense of large and awe inspiring.  Look at that. 

Drop that -- can you guys drop that lower third chyron there, thank you very much.  The overall population of Hong Kong is just under 7.5 million people.  What you are looking at here is nearly one-quart the entire population of Hong Kong turning out in the streets this weekend for pro- democracy protests.  And they were doing so in the face of absolutely torrential rain storms. 

I mean, on a per capita basis, this would be like if over 4.5 million New Yorkers turned out for a single protest.  If you compare the New York metropolitan area with its population and the population of Hong Kong, can you imagine 4.5 million workers at a single protest?  I mean, it`s just absolutely massive numbers of people.  Again, almost a quarter of the population of the city. 

And it`s interesting -- well, while protesters have used umbrellas to great effect for all sorts of reasons and their earlier rallies and marches, this time, it was just really helpful for everybody to have an umbrella because of the rain.  Protesters also used their umbrellas not only to keep themselves dry, but also, look, just to help out random reporters who they happened upon on scene while they were doing live shots of the demonstrations.  Those are people hang by these reporters that needed some help. 

If organizers are all right that there was 1.7 million people in the streets of Hong Kong yesterday, that would make this the largest protest in Hong Kong since the initial huge protest in June that resulted in the dropping of a new law that would have basically brought Hong Kong under Chinese control when it comes to the criminal law.  That`s the extradition bill that started all of these protests in Hong Kong.  But even though that bill is dead, as you can see, the protests are not stopping and not shrinking. 

And as of this weekend, China is still doing big show-offy, intimidating military exercises, just immediately over the border from Hong Kong -- hint, hint.  But this weekend at least, it appears they did not try to club and tear gas their way through this absolute sea of humanity that turned out to protest for democratic freedom.  So, if this is a turning point.  We shall see. 

There were also protests this weekend in all 50 U.S. states.  This is a shock from St. Louis, Missouri.  Gun reform groups met at state capitals and local landmarks and town squares all over the country this weekend to try to press for new federal policies regulating guns and ammunition and gun accessories.  And they really were all over the country, all 50 states. 

Just -- these shots here, Baltimore, Maryland, Columbus, Ohio, San Francisco, California, Boston, Massachusetts.  They were everywhere. 

In terms of the prospects for reform in Washington, the Democratic- controlled House has already passed legislation that would very simply require a background check for all gun purchases in the United States, something that huge majorities of the public, including huge majorities of Democrats and Republicans and gun owners all say they want.  Democrats are coming back early from their summer recess to work on yet more gun reform legislation. 

But that background check thing has already passed.  And that is one of the most popular policies on any subject in this country and it has already passed the House.  It`s done.  It could be taken up by the Senate at any moment if Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell deigned it to allow it to come up. 

Now, in terms of the practical politics here, there had been some I think mild-tempered hopes that if the White House strongly supported this universal background checks thing, if there were strong support for such a measure from President Trump and he actually put his shoulder into it a little bit, that might be enough to persuade Mitch McConnell to actually bring that thing up for a vote.  That might be enough to persuade enough Republicans to say yes to it given how popular that policy is. 

Well, President Trump did initially come out and say he was strongly in support of universal back checks and now he has already flip-flopped on that.  Now he has taken aback and signaling that he might not support that at all, despite what he said just a couple weeks ago. 

Looking around at all these rallies around the country, looking at the polling on this issue, even among Republican voters.  I mean, Democrats continue to believe that Democrats at all levels can and should run on this issue.  Democrats running for president, for Senate, for Congress, everything else, all over the country.  Democrats continue to believe that Republican intransigence on this issue, even specifically on background checks to buy a gun, Democrats think the Republicans are so out of step with public opinion that they will pay an electoral cost for it if they stick with this position. 

Republicans apparently do not share that view.  They are apparently as dug in as ever.  And now, we know whoever is whispering in the president`s ear about this turned him around on this back check issue so hard and so fast, it was like he was on a three-inch leash.  I mean, literally, two weeks ago, he was talking about how much he`s in favor of intelligent, strong, universal background checks.  It will be the best background checks ever. 

Now, he`s not for background checks.  So again, we shall see.  But the people matter on this, right?  The public sentiment and public pressure on this are not going anywhere.  And thus far, Republicans are refusing to engage with even the most moderate, the most popular reforms, eventually, this is going to break. 

Like I said, lots going on tonight.  But here`s a story that just broke this afternoon that I think is likely to have pretty profound consequences all over the country.  And one of the reasons we know that or at least we have reason to suspect that is because we`ve already seen a few little case studies about how exactly this is going to go wrong.  Because there are a few states that sort of beat the rest of the country to the punch line on this one.  I will show what you I mean. 

Here is a deeply, deeply, unhappy press release that was set out by the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services in January, 2017.  You see the headline there, a press release.  New Hampshire is experiencing an outbreak of gonorrhea.  Oh. 

Dateline: Concord, New Hampshire.  New Hampshire is experiencing an outbreak of gonorrhea.  Gonorrhea is a reportable sexual disease, and a number of cases in New Hampshire has been increasing over the last year.  Between 2007 and 2013, the number of cases per year of gonorrhea reported in New Hampshire was approximately 130.  However, the state has received report of 465 cases of gonorrhea just in the year 2016, which represents a more than 250 percent increase over the previous baseline. 

So like if you work for state government in New Hampshire, that`s not like red letter day.  That`s not banner day, right?  The day you have to send out the press release about the state experiencing a horrific outbreak of gonorrhea. 

It turns out the gonorrhea press release was good practice, because within five months, New Hampshire had to put out another press release with the same cherry tone, just a little bit of a difference in the details.  Dateline: Concord, New Hampshire. 

New Hampshire is also experiencing an outbreak of syphilis as the number of reported cases New Hampshire for 2017 is about double that of previous years.  So again, these are not happy press releases, right?  This is not something the state relishes having happened or I`m sure they do not relish having to announce this. 

But putting out these press releases about the state having an outbreak of syphilis and outbreak of gonorrhea, those press releases did the trick.  Lots of local coverage of the various STD outbreaks spiking in the state of New Hampshire.  State medical associations were on it in terms of helping out, and raising awareness and trying to promote best practices for identifying and treating these cases. 

But as the state of New Hampshire has been coping with this difficult problem, with this spike in sexually transmitted diseases, there has been a major complication that is believed to have worsened this outbreak.  Here`s the "Concord Monitor Newspaper" from just a few days ago. 

Quote: The trend lines are clear.  A 17 percent increase in Chlamydia rates in New Hampshire, 103 percent surge in syphilis rate, a 352 percent explosion of gonorrhea.  New Hampshire has had a disconcerting swell, swell, of STDs in recent years. 

As these infections remain prevalent, New Hampshire health care providers say the absence of a budget this summer is hurting their ability to combat them.  Quote: A decision by the Trump administration to add new restrictions to federal funding for healthcare clinics that provide abortions, most notably Planned Parenthood, has taken a bite out of other services. 

An attempt by New Hampshire lawmakers to alleviate that lost of funds via state money has also been put on ice after a budget veto by Republican Governor Chris Sununu.  Without federal funding or state backup money, Planned Parenthood has seen a 25 percent hit to its operating budget.  One casualty of that funding crunch providers say, has been STD testing.  Efforts to help Granite Staters diagnose these conditions and treat them are facing significant reductions. 

Yes, nothing like cutting all the funding for STD testing in the state that is having a huge outbreak of multiple STDs.  I wonder what the outcome of that will be? 

The Trump administration knew funding restriction referenced here by the paper in Concord, it`s sort of kicking New Hampshire where it hurts at exactly the wrong time.  This is a new federal policy from the Trump administration that is set to go into effect tonight.  It`s effectively a gag order for clinics that do STD screening, and cancer screening and contraception services. 

There is a longstanding federal program that spends about $260 million a year.  It pushes about $260 million a year to health clinics all over the country, supports specifically those kind of services.  Under this new plan that goes into effect today, thanks, to President Trump, any clinic anywhere in the country that gets that money is banned from ever mentioning to its patients the existence of abortion services. 

The new gag rules that are you not allowed to refer a patient to a place where they could get an abortion if they wanted one.  There are no federal funds that are expended right now on abortion services at all.  That`s not what this is.  This is about speech.  You`re not allowed to describe that abortions are legal and available and tell somebody where they can get one.  Healthcare providers are ban from saying that if they take any of this federal funding from this particular program that supports STD screenings, contraception services, cancer screenings, et cetera. 

It appears to be a calculated way, I think in particular, to try to put Planned Parenthood clinics out of business, let alone any other service provider that does abortions or has links to other entities that do. 

Now a bunch of states have decided they`re not going to go along with there change in policy.  Bunch of clinics, including clinics in New Hampshire have already opted out of taking these particular federal funds while this rule change has been pending, so as to avoid potentially running afoul of this rule change and letting that put a bulls eye on those clinics so the Trump administration can try to come shut them down.  I mean, there is, of course, active consideration to try to block this gag rule. 

But now, as of today, as the rule nevertheless is slated to go into effect tonight, Planned Parenthood has announced nationwide that all of its clinics will withdraw from that federal funding program, which again is $260 million that goes to health clinics every year. 

Now, Planned Parenthood is not closing its doors.  But they are no longer going to have access to this major, long standing stream of funding for STD screenings, cancer screenings, family planning, contraception, education services, which is stuff they provide all over the country, which is stuff a lot of places need.  Ahem, New Hampshire, ahem. 

I mean, there are more than 100 counties across the country where planned parenthood is the only provider of comprehensive contraceptive services.  And the federal funding that supports those things for millions of American women is now being essentially cut off from Planned Parenthood as a way to try to box them in on abortion politics. 

Now, obviously, Planned Parenthood and other providers want to beat this thing in court.  They want the policy to go away.  But policy does go into effect tonight.  What is this decision by Planned Parenthood in this confrontation with the Trump administration likely to do in those communities where Planned Parenthood is really the only provider?  What is this likely to do nationwide as this new rule goes into effect tonight? 

Joining us now is Alexis McGill Johnson.  She`s the acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood.

Thanks very much for joining us.  It`s nice to have you here. 


MADDOW:  So I know this is a complex policy and it`s effects, particularly the effect of what Planned Parenthood has decided today will likely be heterogeneous and different all over the country, but did I basically correctly sum up the overall problem here? 

JOHNSON:  No, you nailed it.  I mean, essentially what happened today is that Trump forced us out of Title X, which is a program as you know and your listeners know is a program that helps Americans, low income Americans gain access to affordable birth control, to affordable STD testing and treatment, to cancer screenings.  And by imposing this unethical gag rule on our providers by saying they had to withhold information about abortion care, they put us in an untenable situation and forced us out of a program because we just refuse to be bullied into providing substandard care. 

MADDOW:  I know that the degree to which individual clinics, individual Planned Parenthood facilities depend on this stream of federal funding, it varies state to state and facility to facility.  Without this particular federal funding stream, are you actually expecting to have to close any clinics? 

JOHNSON:  Look, you`re right, it will vary state by state and our doors are committed to staying open.  We`ve been working with our affiliates across the country to, you know, to help to support with some emergency affiliate funds, but, you know, and while some states are able to offer some backfill, you know, the reality is, you know, funding health care should not be, you know, on the backs of a -- of a nonprofit organization.  You shouldn`t have your health care dictated by your zip code. 

And in some areas, ironically the areas where Title X was intended to fill gaps, like rural areas, it may be possible that we see some health centers close and we`re incredibly concerned about that because we`ve seen exactly what happens, not just in the STI rise and the spike that you talked about in states like New Hampshire, but we`ve also seen it in access to other reproductive health care services like abortion.  When women have to travel hundreds of miles just to gain access to reproductive health care, they may delay, they may not make it into -- into a clinic, into a center. 

So, you know, all of this is going to have the kind of intended chaos that the Trump administration is really putting -- putting on us. 

MADDOW:  Obviously this -- where this comes from in the Trump administration is out of a deep-seated hostility to abortion rights in particular.  It seems to family planning and even contraceptive planning possibly as well.  And certainly, there`s been active hostility and threats against Planned Parenthood, specifically from the president and from other people in the administration. 

I mean, to see them actually take this bite out of your hide, to see them actually effectively deny this funding to Planned Parenthood clinics and to other health clinics around the country in a way that it doesn`t seem like there is an easy off-ramp from feels like a real escalation, feels like this is more real than any of their previous threats. 

I wonder if you guys had anticipated this, if you`ve done long-term planning to try to work around the hostility of this administration and their efforts to shut you down? 

JOHNSON:  Look, I mean, we have been obviously planning, scenario planning around any number of things because we are very concerned about this administration, the Trump administration, again, has focused on targeting not just Title X but also the number of anti-choice judges going all the way up to the Supreme Court.  So, you know, there`s long-term planning that has to happen in a number of areas. 

You know, with respect to Title X, you know, we`re hoping that people, that our supporters, that people who depend on Title X will call their Congress members.  There is a House bill out that has passed spending to restore it.  We`re hoping that the Senate will be able to do the same thing and that we will be able to come to some conversation or at least come to some conversation in conference that helps protect it. 

But we really need Congress to act at this point because you`re right.  It is a complete all-out assault on reproductive health care. 

MADDOW:  And, of course, it starts with a program that particularly serves low-income women, because that`s always the softest target at this point.

JOHNSON:  Absolutely.  Low income women, yes, and women of color, right?  Yes, I`m sorry.  Low-income women and women of color -- let`s be clear, they`re absolutely targeting, you know, who their targets are here. 

MADDOW:  Let me ask you one last question about Planned Parenthood itself.  We`ve seen leadership changes and some upheaval at the -- at Planned Parenthood after Cecile Richards` departure.  There was another president, Lena Wen, who was a guest on our show several times.  She left after what seemed like difficult circumstances after a short term in leadership. 

You`re now the acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood.  Can I ask if that means you`re going to be the president of Planned Parenthood here on out?  Do you know what your long-term plans or the organization`s long- term plans are in terms of your leadership? 

JOHNSON:  I`m committed to stay until December 2020.  I`ve been a long-term board member, almost a decade I`ve spent supporting this organization and working with the staff and the team.  And so, I consider this an extension of my service.  I believe in the mission of the organization.  I believe in the people and the patients that we serve, and so I will be, you know, fighting this fight along -- right alongside them on the front lines until 2020 and I`m looking forward to, you know, supporting the organization through this leadership transition. 

MADDOW:  Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, thank you for helping us understand.  I really appreciate you being here tonight. 

JOHNSON:  Thanks for having me. 

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


MADDOW:  This is Okjokull.  Forgive me if I am pronouncing it wrong.  I have been working on it all day.  But come one now. 

Okjokull, I think.  Ok is the name of an Icelandic volcano.  Jokull means glacier, so Okjokull means Ok`s glacier. 

And this is what Ok`s glacier looked like in 1986.  This is a big slate of ice stretched over more than a square mile. 

This is what it looks like today.  About five years ago, an Icelandic geologist declared it`s no longer a glacier, declaring that it no longer has the scientific qualities of a glacier.  It had essentially gone extinct. 

So, that meant the area could no longer be called Ok`s glacier.  It couldn`t be Okjokull anymore.  Now, it`s just Ok. 

Climate change looks different all over the world.  But in Iceland, this is how it is showing up.  It`s the first lost glacier. 

Iceland is called the land of fire and ice because of its volcanoes and its glaciers.  Glaciers cover about 11 percent of the country but as global temperatures keep rising, scientists say that the country`s glaciers are going to keep going the way that Ok did over the next few decades and within a few hundred years, Iceland will have precisely zero glacier. 

It`s not Iceland`s fault at all.  Nearly 100 percent of Iceland`s electricity comes from renewable sources.  But the rest of the world isn`t going that way, and so, Iceland will be one of the places that quite acutely pays the costs. 

This weekend, 100 people including Iceland`s prime minister hiked up to the top of what used to be Ok`s glacier to hold what was basically a funeral for the glacier, a memorial.  The geologist who had declared the glacier extinct even brought a death certificate. 

The final act of remembrance was the placement of a plaque on the stone at the top of this used to be glacier.  It has the months and year.

Here`s what it says.  It says at the top: A letter to the future.  Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as a glacier.  In the next 200 years, all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. 

This monument is to acknowledge we know what is happening and what needs to be done.  Only you know if we did it. 

And it signs off with a date August 2019 and the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere as of the last three days 415 parts per million. 

The two-party American political system has somehow produced one major political party where nearly every single elected member of one of our two parties has decided that this is something that is just not happening.  Or if it is, who cares? 

How we will explain that in the future as the richest and most powerful country on earth at the time this was happening, how we explain that in the future will probably not fit on a plaque. 


MADDOW:  OK.  So, 19 years ago, August the year 2000, just a few months after his inauguration as his country`s brand-new president and this young man, Vladimir Putin, experienced his first serious political crisis at home.  It was the Kursk nuclear submarine disaster. 


REPORTER:  The pride of Russia`s nuclear submarine fleet, the massive 14,000 ton Kursk is dead in the water tonight.  Its crew running short on air and time.  Sunday, part of a Russian northern fleet exercise designed to counter American warships, the Kursk radios for permission to fair torpedoes, then silence.

The Kursk fails to report in.  Since then, a massive search and rescue operation, including a dozen ships, the sub is located an estimated 480- feet deep on the sea floor.  According to Russian naval spokesman, its crew videotaped in port this May could still be alive.  The head of the Russian navy tonight saying oxygen will run out Friday, situation critical. 


MADDOW:  Vladimir Putin`s government waited a full day-and-a-half before publicly acknowledging that anything at all had happened to that Russian nuclear submarine or 180 sailors who are sure to suffocate on board.  Putin refused all offers of foreign help, and there were many.  He actually spent the first few days overseeing the response of that disaster from his vacation, which he did not return from, from a few days. 

Russian people very quickly directed their anger over that horrifying disaster right at him. 


REPORTER:  The Russians are furious, public criticism of the Navy and a president on vacation this week unprecedented.  Newspaper headlines, the Kursk has sunk, and so has people`s fate that government can protect them from danger.  Today, the navy finally releases a list of the sailors aboard the Kursk.

Anger inside Russia at a boiling point, an unsuccessful rescue, a four-day delay in calling if outside help, a president who until today was on vacation. 

REPORTER:  Today, more relatives of the sailors arrived here, only to hear at the end of a long journey that hope is all but gone. 

Authorities try to consol them the anger is clear.  Many relatives don`t accept the explanation for the accident and have little faith in a rescue effort.  They hoped a new generation of Russian leaders would be more opened than the communists.  They especially expected more from President Putin. 

It`s a shame for the whole nation, he says.  I think people will stop trusting him. 

REPORTER:  I`m still holding out hope my husband will come back alive, she says.  If the government had asked for help the first say, they would all have been saved. 

Today, Russia`s president criticized for doing nothing, made his most impassioned remarks yet about the disaster saying he has pain in his heart and tears in his eyes. 


MADDOW:  August of the year 2000, Vladimir Putin`s first year as Russian president.  A horrifying tragedy in human terms, right. 

In political terms, an early and important lesson for how their new leader would govern in the face of a crisis he did not want to talk about.  Well, now, almost 20 years on, Vladimir Putin is still president and there seems to be no plan for Russia ever having another one after him. 

But now, this summer something quite reminiscent of that Kursk disaster appears to have happened again, twice.  The first time was last month, another nuclear submarine disaster, 14 Russian sailors killed and deja vu, that accident was not announced until 24 hours after it occurred.  It took three whole days for Vladimir Putin to admit that a fire had taken place on board a nuclear powered sub. 

Still, next to no information has been released about the condition of the nuclear reactor on board that sub.  That was in July.  That was just last month. 

Then a week and a half ago, we learned of another incident, this time some sort of an explosion at a missile test site.  Russia`s military initially said nothing about it being an incident with any nuclear implications.  They just described the thing that blew up as a liquid fueled rocket.  They said, there was no release of anything toxic or any elevated radiation levels. 

That was not true.  Officials later admitted that radiation levels had risen to 16 times their normal level in one nearby city and the state nuclear energy agency, excuse me, the state nuclear agency would ultimately admit that five of its nuclear scientists were killed in the blast. 

Today at a joint press conference alongside the French president, Vladimir Putin told reporters there was no risk of increased radiation levels after the blast.  Radiation didn`t go up at all.  Nobody should worry, everything is up to date control. 

Which would be great, it would be easier to believe after worrying reports from the "Wall Street Journal" about nuclear monitoring stations, literally radiation detecting monitoring stations in Russia that appeared to have been shut off right after the explosion. 

That story and the reporter who broke it joins us next. 


MADDOW:  So, first, we got news of a mysterious blast, some sort of an explosion a week and a half ago in this corner of northwest Russia.  We now know the explosion involved something nuclear.  We know the official response to it in Russia has been marked locally by local and at the national level, national secrecy. 

The Russian government has not been forthcoming about what exactly happened at that missile testing site that killed, first, they said two people, then they made it seven people. 

Over the weekend, national security correspondent Michael Gordon at the "Wall Street Journal" reported that two Russian monitoring stakes that measure radiation, the two of those stations closest to the blast site shut down mysteriously 48 hours after that explosion.  These are monitoring stations that are designed to detect nuclear radiation, radioactivity in the atmosphere and for some reason, they went silent at exactly the moment you might want to ping them to find out if they were detecting radiation in the air after this nuclear accident. 

Because this story gets creepier by the hour, today, Michael Gordon updated that report, because it turns out, after those initial two monitoring stations nearest the blast site went dark, a few days later, three days later, two more monitors went silent.  The first pair went dark 48 hours after the explosion.  The next pair went dark three days later.  That next pair a little farther away than the first two that went dark. 

Now, who knows why?  Maybe they are really having some technical difficulties, which is what the Russian government says.  Based on what we can see from other monitors around the world, analysts project the radioactive plume from that explosion might have billowed out like this, moving west and south and east day-by-day sprawling out of the Russia and environs. 

As Michael Gordon reports today, it`s possible that Russia is trying to minimize publicity about the plume and the radioactive elements it contains.  But does Russia get to hide all of what happened?  How much does the world get to know?  And what is in that plume? 

Joining us now is Michael Gordon, national security correspondent with "The Wall Street Journal".

Sir, thank you very much for your time tonight.  I appreciate you being here.


MADDOW:  Let me ask a little bit of meta question first.  I have been covering this the best I can over the last few days since we learned about it.  I feel like it`s been very, very hard to get information, let alone information you can cross check and get different sources on. 

Has this been difficult to report? 

GORDON:  Well, the actual episode is still a little bit of a mystery.  I mean, President Trump has said the system that was being tested was a nuclear powered cruise missile and that seems to be the case.  But the Russian government has not been transparent and most of what`s known about this is really in U.S. intelligence channels.  So, it hasn`t been easy to get in all of this. 

MADDOW:  In terms of these monitoring stations that you`ve got the scoop about, that they -- two of them went dark right away, another couple of them went dark soon thereafter.  I wonder if the types of monitoring that`s done at these stations, could they, could that data, if those monitoring stations were still live and still reporting the kind of data they usually do, could that shed light on exactly what it was that blew up, on exactly what it was that went wrong and the type of device that seems to have caused this disaster? 

GORDON:  Well, the Russian government seems to think so.  Rachel, what there are, there are hundreds of monitoring stations around the world to monitor a treaty, a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty that`s been negotiated, signed by a lot of countries but never taken effect legally, but monitoring exists and a good number of them are in Russia. 

And so, what happened was just two days after this accident, this explosion, the two sites that monitor radioactive particles in the air that were the closest to the accident site mysteriously stopped reporting to the organization that collates all this data, which was a very weird coincidence and the Russians haven`t provided a good explanation for it and then just a couple days later, two more went offline. 

MADDOW:  Is it possible that more than four are offline?  Do we understand the full universe of data here? 

GORDON:  Well, the American government has its own intelligence information about this.  But this data is fed into an organization which is supposed to monitor and support this nuclear test ban treaty and they`re located in Vienna.  So, they get these continuous streams of information and then all of a sudden, poof, there is an incident report, that two stations are offline and then another two.

And I`ve interacted with the head of that organization and they`ve gotten to the Russians for an explanation object what`s going on when these stations are going to come back online and the Russians haven`t provided one.  Nor did they provide one to the "Wall Street Journal" when they asked? 

MADDOW:  And in terms of the importance of this data, if these monitoring stations do go down, I mean, who knows if they`re still operating as normal and they just are not being allowed to report their data to Vienna, who knows if the stations themselves have been shut down.  If the stations have been shut down for a period of days or weeks, when they`re finally back up and running, will that time lapse make it impossible to get accurate -- accurate I guess retrospective readings?  If there is a delay while these stations aren`t reporting, will we ever be able to use them as sources of information to try to figure out what just happened? 

GORDON:  Well, I think the U.S. government has other sources other than -- these are Russian stations in Russia. 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

GORDON:  Manned by Russians. 

But I think what`s really going on here is, first, this is a high-profile program.  President Putin himself touted this program in a state of the nation address he gave in March of 2018.  And he -- it was a nuclear nuclear-powered cruise missile that was going to circumvent national ballistic missile defense that the U.S. doesn`t actually have.  So, it was a high-prestige program.  Scientists were present. 

So, one, I think there is a natural Russian tendency to try to cover up embarrassing episodes, but also as you pointed out, he`s assured his country there aren`t any radioactive elements floating around.  What his own monitoring stations are likely to show is that to some extent, this material and the plume from this accident is spreading around Russia -- first, western Russia, then southern Russia then moving east. 

That`s, you know, his posture is nothing to see here.  He doesn`t want that information out. 

MADDOW:  Michael Gordon, national security correspondent with "The Wall Street Journal" -- thank you for making time for us tonight.  Please keep us apprise.  I`d love to you have back as you continue to report this up. 

GORDON:  All right.  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  Thanks very much. 

All right.  Stay with us.  More ahead tonight.


MADDOW:  Gregory Craig, President Obama`s first White House counsel, was back in court today for his federal trial in D.C.  He`s the only person from a Democratic administration to be indicted as a result of the Mueller investigation for work he did alongside Trump`s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. 

The Craig trial continues apace.  Josh Gerstein reports at tonight that the judge at one point lit into Flynn`s defense -- into Gregory Craig`s defense team for talking about stuff she had told them to leave alone in court.  According to Gerstein`s reporting tonight, there was much huffing and puffing in the courtroom, even throwing around stacks of paper.  Very exciting.  The Greg Craig trial will continue to unfold over the course of this week. 

But elsewhere and continuing Mueller-related proceedings, we`re still awaiting sentencing for Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn.  General Flynn has already pled guilty to lying about his contacts with the Russian government.  While he has been awaiting sentencing for that, Flynn last week asked permission to go to this conference, to go to a conference in Atlanta in early September.  Something called the Digital Soldiers Conference. 

At that event, his lawyer said he would be fund-raising for his legal defense fund alongside another convicted Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, also convicted in a prosecution that derived from the Mueller investigation.  Nice group of guys. 

On Friday, the judge in Mike Flynn`s case, District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan said, yes, gave Mike Flynn permission to go to that event.  But meanwhile, reporters at "Mother Jones" pointed out that isn`t, sort of, a typical fund-raiser, even for multiple Mueller investigation felons.  It`s a fund-raiser organized by a prominent supporter of the QAnon conspiracy theory, which is a far right, very engaging conspiracy theory based on the belief that there is a global ring of satanic pedophile that Donald Trump and Robert Mueller are working together take down.  Uh-huh.

So, Dan Friedman and Ali Breland at "Mother Jones" noticed that the main sponsor of this Michael Flynn Digital Soldiers fundraiser thing was big promoter of the QAnon conspiracy.  And, in fact, the logo for the conference is an American flag with a big Q on it.  So, it wasn`t that subtle. 

The organizer for the record denied that the Q on the flag had anything to do with the Q conspiracy theory.  But he also said he totally believes that theory which he believes is, quote, good for America. 

So, we got Flynn asking permission.  We got the reporting on what exactly he`s asking permission to go do.  We got the judge saying he could go, but by Saturday morning, Mike Flynn was out of the lineup for the Digital Soldier conspiracy theory fund-raiser.  Flynn`s lawyer announced the change of plans on Twitter condemning what the conspiracy organizer said to "Mother Jones", and also condemning the "Mother Jones" reporters who reported on it.  There`s a status conference next week in Flynn`s case where we will find out whether prosecutors are finally ready to try to sentence him one more time.  But it`s getting weird in the meantime. 

Watch this space. 


MADDOW:  That`s going to do it for us tonight.  See you again tomorrow.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with the great Lawrence O`Donnell.

Good evening, Lawrence. 

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