CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: You know, you are very kind to me, Rachel Maddow. I will note that they were free.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: So, yes, sold out.
HAYES: Yes, it`s nice of you to say sold out, but yes, they were free and people went to the website very quickly and they snatched them all up.
MADDOW: So, what`s going to happen in terms of -- I mean, you`re going to do three of these live shows. When are you going to put tickets on sale for the second one?
HAYES: I don`t know. You`ll have to stay tuned. You watch every second of our show.
MADDOW: Will you tell me offline secretly?
HAYES: I will.
MADDOW: OK. Thank you. Thanks, my friend.
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. You know, sometimes there are signs early on that something is not just -- it`s just, like, it`s fated to not go well.
In the second term of the George W. Bush administration, one of the many international cul-de-sacs that administration, the U.S. government found itself to have sped down to the end of what was a complicated and bad and quickly worsening relationship with the largest country on earth by population, the country with the fastest growing economy on earth and the country that was fast emerging even then as our most important strategic counterpart on the globe.
The George W. Bush administration had a tough second term in a lot of ways. But one of the ways in which they had a tough second term is that they had a super rocky relationship with China, including a lot of unforced errors on the part of the United States. So, in 2005, they were trying to kind of recast that important relationship with China. They were trying to work out some of our worst disagreements with China and the George W. Bush White House invited the Chinese president at the time, Hu Jintao, to come visit the White House.
And again, this is just one of those times in life when it was clear this might not work. I mean, it was at least clear it was going to be very tense from the beginning. I think it was maybe even clear from the beginning that it was going to go badly.
I mean, in the first instance the Chinese wanted Hu Jintao to be given the full state visit treatment. If he was going to come to the White House, he should get a state visit. George W. Bush administration said, no, it won`t be a state visit. It will just be an official visit, which is one big wrung down the ladder in terms of protocol and pomp and circumstance.
The Chinese wanted Hu Jintao to have a state dinner at the White House. George W. Bush White House said, nope, we want you to come, but we`re not willing to give you dinner. How about lunch?
Then an even bigger problem. Hurricane Katrina blew ashore in the gulf coast and devastated the great American city of New Orleans and the Bush administration, of course, disastrously botched the response to that hurricane. Hu Jintao`s visit had originally been scheduled for the week after New Orleans had almost been wiped off the map. So, that, of course, would not be an auspicious time for that delicate and important and complex visit. The whole thing had to be called off very last-minute because of Katrina. It got postpone until months later.
It was finally April of 2006 when they were at least able to do this difficult thing. It did turn out to be a nice day at the White House. Hu Jintao got his 21-gun salute on the White House South Lawn. They brought out the colonial Fife and Drum Corps which is always a cool thing to see in the colonial Fife and Drum Corps outfits.
But quickly thereafter, things started to go off the rails a little bit. You can tell that in part because even today, the archive "A.P." video footage summing up how that visit went at the White House that day in 2006 is slugged with this title: Announcer misnames China, protester ejected, Bush pulls Hu`s jacket." That`s not me naming it. That`s, like, how it`s named in the "A.P." archives.
And it is true. In very quick secession all in that one day, all in that one ceremony, all of those bad things happened. Start with the first little point of light there. Start with announcer misnames China.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, the national anthem of the Republic of China followed by the national anthem of the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: National anthem of the Republic of China. Sounds like he`s almost right, right? But he`s missing a very important word. He should have been introducing the People`s Republic of China, which is the official name for what we shorthand as China. If you drop the People`s and you just say Republic of China, technically what that means you are introducing is the national anthem of Taiwan.
So, on this very fraught, very delicate, very sensitive occasion, the White House announcer is announcing that the president of China would stand there while we played the national anthem of Taiwan because that`s what the Republic of China is if you don`t say People`s Republic of China.
And, you know, that may not have been a seemingly important point for the George W. Bush White House, but that`s a really sensitive subject for China, so that was a, you know, tough way to start. Here he is, the president of Taiwan. Oh, god, not Taiwan.
Also, what was the other strange thing the "A.P." put in the headline? Oh, yes, Bush pulls Hu`s jacket. That actually happened, too. That was this moment. The two shake hands. They stand there for a brief moment side by side.
Hu Jintao moves to perambulate off the stage. It`s less of a pull, it`s more like a yank, but George W. Bush actually reaches out and pinches the arm of his jacket and yanks him back. Can we play that one more time? And Hu Jintao looks at him like, really, you`re pulling me back by my -- OK.
I mean, again, this was already a kind of fraught occasion. A lot of protocol concerns, right? The Chinese were asking for a lot more visual displays of respect than they were getting. A lot of focus on the Chinese side in particular on getting the visuals just right. Making sure that everybody knew that appropriate respect was being paid to their president.
So that`s not awesome to have the U.S. president reaching out and yanking back the Chinese president by his jacket elbow, even if Hu was about to walk off the stage in the wrong direction in that moment.
But the real problem that day turned out to be this other thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
INTERPRETER: Enhance dialogues, expand common ground, deepen mutual trust and cooperation, and to promote the overall growth of constructive and cooperative U.S./China relations in the 21st century.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So that`s the Chinese president speaking Chinese. He pauses after every few lines so the English language translator can repeat what he said in English, right? It`s a very formal occasion. Very serious.
This woman then starts screaming her guts out in the middle of Hu Jintao`s speech. She`s actually really quite close to Hu Jintao when she`s doing it. She`s on an elevated press podium from where Bush and Hu are making their remarks.
One of the things I always find quite amazing about this footage is this very famous footage, is how the photojournalists who were up there on the platform with her, they`ve all got their long lenses to try to get close-up shots of Hu and Bush as they`re speaking at the White House. Once this woman interrupts the whole proceeding and starts screaming, and he goes on and on, she doesn`t stop and she`s screaming in Chinese and English and it`s not ending and it`s sort of taking over this event, and Hu at one point stops speaking. Bush says to him, go on, you`re OK, urges him to go.
One of the things that happens on the press platform is that the photographers all realize they`re facing the wrong direction. The news event they`re there to cover is suddenly no longer taking place at the podium, it`s on the platform where they`re all standing so they all turn in place to try to start photographing this woman who has really taken over the event.
They`ve got these big telephoto lenses on this cameras. It`s hard to photograph somebody who is an inch and a half away from when you`ve got an 8 1/2-inch telephoto lens on your camera that`s designed to shoot the dais from far away.
But it was just this crazy moment. I mean, this woman`s interruption of that fraught, super serious, super tense White House event, it was really something. And part of what made it so memorable is that very high tone of her voice which is kind of piercing. That made it I think harder to understand exactly what she was saying. A combination of her high voice and the fact that she was really hollering and the fact that she was speaking in a couple of different languages and the fact that Hu was speaking in Chinese and there is an English translation over him.
NBC News later quoted her as saying in English, screaming out, President Bush, stop him from killing. President Bush, stop him from persecuting the Falun Gong.
NBC also quoted a mandarin-speaking cameraman who said what she screamed in mandarin was: Falun Gong is good. Stop persecuting Falun Gong, Hu Jintao. Your time is over. Evil people will die early.
"NBC Nightly News" also led with the story of her disruption of that event that night on the network news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: This was considered to the president a major embarrassment. It came on a day that was tightly scripted down to the last detail.
The atmosphere was formal for Hu Jintao`s first visit to the White House. The setting tightly secure. Yet, when President Hu began to make his remarks, there was a rare interruption.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President bush, stop him from killing!
REPORTER: The protester was latest identified as Wang Wenyi, a reporter working for a newspaper linked to the spiritual group Falun Gong which is banned in China. Mr. Bush encouraged Hu to keep speaking, saying you`re OK.
But the outburst was a major irritant to the Chinese leader since the White House gave her a day pass to attend the event. She was arrested and later charged with disorderly conduct and attempting to intimidate a foreign official.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Again, this happened back in April 2006.
We actually were able to obtain the criminal complaint that in fact was brought against this woman in D.C. federal court when she was charged. The affidavit that accompanied the complaint tells you how seriously U.S. authorities took this as a potential criminal matter.
Quote: On April 20th, 2006, at 9:57 a.m., on the grounds of the White House located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest, Washington, D.C., the defendant Wenyi Wang willfully intimidated, coerced, threatened, and harassed a foreign official, Hu Jintao, the president of the People`s Republic of China as President Hu acting in his official capacity was giving an official speech and or statement at the White House to members of the media and invited guests of the U.S. government. Ms. Wang began to yell at President Hu in a loud voice, in excess of two minutes.
At the time Ms. Wang was yelling at President Hu, she was standing on a press platform directly across from President Hu. President Hu was standing next to the president of the United States as Ms. Wang began to yell. The words that Ms. Wang yelled at Hu in Chinese have been translated by a certified interpreter. It goes on and on in that vein.
Secret Service affidavit for bringing charges against her for not just disorderly conduct, but specifically attempting to intimidate a foreign official while he is acting in his official capacity, right? So, serious charges brought against this woman who was arrested at the White House that day, right? She went on and on and on yelling for, like, three minutes. But they finally got her out of there. She reportedly spent the night in jail after they hauled her out.
That said, ultimately within a couple of months prosecutors did a deal with her. Those charges did get dropped. This was a really consequential thing that happened. I mean, the first visit of the Chinese president to the George W. Bush White House, and it was considered to be a huge bust.
There was no agreement on any kind. China didn`t budge on any of the things the Bush White House and the president himself asked them to move on. In fact, it was the source of great embarrassment and consternation between the two sides. President Bush himself ended up apologizing to the Chinese president personally for President Hu having gotten screamed at while he tried to give remarks on the White House lawn.
The woman who was arrested for protesting that day, interestingly, she ultimately brought a FOIA lawsuit to try to support her allegation that the cameraman who had actually ended her disruption by grabbing her around the neck and shoulder and ultimately covering up her mouth, she says he was applying pressure points to her before he covered her mouth to close her mouth. She says that cameraman who grabbed her while she was yelling to stop her protest was an employee of China state television. She filed a FOIA lawsuit to the White House to find out if that`s true, if that`s who he was. And ultimately, that FOIA lawsuit was not successful.
But the allegation itself added more fuel to the Chinese fury over this incident, right? The perceived insult by the Chinese government here because of the prospect that it had basically been a Chinese state cameraman, it had been the Chinese government acting itself, using its own people who ultimately controlled that protest and quieted this woman in order to prevent the Chinese president from continuing to be yelled at for minutes on end at a formal speech on the South Lawn of the White House, right? So it was all bad.
It actually got worse when the White House explained defensively that there is no way they could have seen this coming. They said the woman who was arrested for disruption was just a reporter. She`d covered other White House events. There was no way they could have known there was any red flag about where whatsoever.
Actually, it turns out that that same woman had gotten herself into a similar event featuring Hu Jintao`s predecessor as president where she screamed at him and heckled him, too. Same woman five years earlier, screaming at a different Chinese president at a different event just like this. The White House apparently did not know that when they gave her a one-day pass to come cover this Chinese president`s visit as well.
It`s just a remarkable moment in the George W. Bush presidency, remarkable moment between the U.S. and Chinese governments, remarkable moment between White House security and protocol. Now, the woman was credentialed to be there by the George W. Bush White House because she was affiliated with a news outlet. She was affiliated with a little known newspaper called "The Epoch Times".
What their press pass to that woman had been screaming at the Chinese president about was the Chinese government`s prosecution of people who are practitioners of something called Falun Gong, which is a Chinese religious movement that has been engaged for years in a very loud, very big brawl with the Chinese government. Falun Gong was outlawed by the Chinese government in 1999. Their members claim to have suffered brutal repression at the hands of China, including allegations of murder and torture of their members.
The Chinese government, for their part, they have relentlessly denounced this group as if it`s some very dangerous cult that must be suppressed. And whatever you think of this fight between that religious sect and the Chinese government, the cult part of the Chinese government`s allegation has been helped along in the world press by the founder of that religious group repeatedly telling reporters about how he believes he possesses the ability to fly. He also says he can levitate through walls.
He says that he needs people to know that the earth is slowly being infiltrated by extraterrestrials and also naturally that the end times are near.
So, the year after the Chinese government banned Falun Gong in China, again, which led to remarkable and very scary allegations of serious -- serious persecution by the Chinese government. A year after they outlawed it, practitioners of that religious movement founded an English language newspaper in the United States basically to support that religious movement. It`s a newspaper called "The Epoch Times."
And you might have seen it over the years. You`ll often see it in free newspaper newsstands in major cities. You`ve definitely seen pro-Falun Gong protesters at lots of Chinese government events anywhere in the western world.
This is a protest movement against the Chinese government that has popped its head up in the United States, sometimes to great and nearly catastrophic effect, including that fateful day in 2006 on the White House South Lawn. But this religious movement in its conflict with the Chinese government and that newspaper promoting the interests of this dissident Chinese religious sect, it`s been a China story, right, much more than it has ever been a U.S. story.
I mean, occasionally, like on the White House lawn that day, it`s right there in Americans` faces and occasionally they have these big loud protests, but it is a story that has not been seen about our own government, it has been a thing having to do with China and this dispute.
Well, NBC News has a scoop out today about that group, about how that paper, the "Epoch Times" has transformed itself a lot in the Trump era. It`s a real revelation, this reporting from NBC News. I mean, "Epoch Times" and its media group, they`ve made themselves into a whole new thing entirely and in a very big way. Over the last six months, the single largest organization that has spent more money on Facebook ads promoting Donald Trump and Donald Trump`s re-election is as you might expect the Donald Trump re-election campaign.
The organization that is second on that list, though, is this Falun Gong newspaper, the "Epoch Times." Quote, by the numbers, there is no bigger advocate of President Donald Trump on Facebook than "The Epoch Times." The small New York-based nonprofit news outlet has spent more than $1.5 million in the last six months on about 11,000 pro-Trump advertisements according to data from Facebook`s advertising archive. More than any organization outside the Trump campaign itself and more than most Democratic presidential candidates have spent on their own campaigns.
So, why is this little special interest newspaper becoming the biggest online booster of Donald Trump`s re-election other than Donald Trump`s re- election campaign itself?
Well, it`s apparently their new business model. Here, for example, is their list of special offers showing what you get when you subscribe to "The Epoch Times." You get two special gifts valued at $30. One is a special report from "The Epoch Times" titled "American revival: about 70 ways Donald Trump has changed the nation" and you better believe they`re all for the good.
So, you get this big, glossy, centerfold, love note thing about how wonderful Donald Trump is. That`s one of the presents you get if you subscribe to this newspaper. The other thing you get is a large spygate infographic poster. So you can put it on your wall and track the conspiracy at home. The conspiracy in this case being something about Donald Trump saving America from satanic Democratic pedophiles.
Also something something Sally Yates, something something John McCain, something something Donna Brazile?
Anyway, that`s part of your $34 value gift if you just subscribe to the paper. They`re also quite desperate to make sure you subscribe to their various social media channels.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Click on that button below and try "The Epoch Times" newspaper for a month for just $1. Now, you can get real news delivered to your doorstep and experience the wonder of pure American journalism that`s based in traditional values. Just click on that button below.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: As NBC puts it, this whole shift toward Trump and specifically Trump conspiracy theory stuff has been a financial transformation for this, you know, little corner of the "We are mad at China" niche protest news outlet.
But it is really paying off for them. Quote: Before 2016, "The Epoch Times" generally stayed out of U.S. politics unless they dovetailed with Chinese politics. The publication`s recent ad strategy, coupled with a broader campaign to embrace social media and conservative U.S. politics and Trump in particular has doubled "The Epoch Times`" revenue, according to the organization`s tax filings.
And when it comes to their revenue, what seems to be really driving things are parts of the Epoch Media Group that are producing online-only content under an entity called the New Tang Dynasty.
Their YouTube channel is all stuff like this. You know, QAnon, why it`s not a conspiracy theory. Handsome picture of Donald Trump.
Also, tentacles of the deep state exposed. Also, why drug epidemic was engineered by deep state. Also, how the deep state funds caravan and chaos in the United States.
This is a good one. Deep state, 13 blood lines and their diabolical endgame. Tentacles of the deep state.
So the newspaper until just recently promoted the interests of the dissident Chinese religious movement is now whole hog on board, both in its newspaper and its related media entities, with all of the completely around the bend pro-Trump, intergalactic conspiracy theory stuff. Literally about, you know, drinking the blood of sacrificed children and the illuminati and their persistent terrifying blood lines. Alongside all the explicitly pro-Trump stuff and this kind of stuff, there is also just, like, traditional grade "A" American paranoia brain rot stuff like how Ted Bundy the serial killer was groomed by the deep state for politics, but he branched off into being a serial killer?
Also, how the deep state is hiding the true science of astrology, and as you might expect, naturally, there is the 9/11 stuff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people did not die in 9/11 in the planes, OK? They landed and then they were resuscitated and then at that point, you get brought into these underground bases and you spend the rest of your life working. You`re never going to see above ground again. That`s where most likely these people from 9/11 went.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Now, granted you might think that sounds crazy, but if so, it`s only because the lizard people are blocking your third eye vision so the deep state can tap your microchip in ways that can make you control the caravan, and Mike Flynn, the Clintons, deep state climate change agenda, et cetera. You know what I mean.
It`s easy -- it`s sometimes fun to, like, trace American conspiracy stuff around the, you know, ragged edges of right-wing media. But this media entity from which I just showed y`all that stuff, this media entity is right now the largest source of paid pro-Trump content on Facebook other than the Trump re-election campaign. And their pro-Trump effort on Facebook at this point is larger than any Facebook effort made by any Democratic presidential candidate at all.
The Epoch Media Group is doing all this stuff. They`re also being given interviews with Trump daughter-in-law Lara Trump and Trump cabinet officials and pro-Trump Republican members of Congress like Matt Gaetz and Mark Meadows. They`re all doing "Epoch Times" stuff to promote them since they`re getting the kind of promotion that they want, too.
I mean, this is as big as it gets in pro-Trump media right now, where the people from 9/11 are still to this day living in secret underground cities toiling as slaves to Hillary Clinton or something, something, something, illuminati.
NBC`s scoop today is titled "Trump, QAnon an impending judgment day behind the Facebook-fueled rise behind the Epoch Times." The subject of this report appeared to be quite furious about it. But one of the reporters who got to the bottom of this very weird story is going to join us in just a few minutes.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: NBC News has a new scoop about the biggest online booster of President Trump`s re-election campaign right now, the entity running more pro-Trump ads on Facebook than any other entity that is not the Trump campaign itself. "The Epoch Times" has been a fairly invisible niche paper promoting the interest of a breakaway Chinese religious sect until about five minutes ago.
Now, all of a sudden, their media group is a multimillion dollar juggernaut promoting Trump more than almost any other non-Trump entity online, alongside the wildest conspiracies you can possibly imagine, including literally the Illuminati and drinking the blood of sacrificed children and everyone you think died on 9/11 actually secretly lives as slaves in underground cities. Ask me about Mike Flynn.
How did that transformation happen and why has the Trump White House embraced it so enthusiastically?
Joining us now is the NBC News reporter Brandy Zadrozny who broke this story.
Ms. Zadrozny, thanks very much for being here tonight. I can barely keep up with this.
BRANDY ZADROZNY, NBC NEWS REPORTER: Same. I`ve been looking at it for four months and it just keeps going and going and going.
MADDOW: So I know as much as anybody knows about "The Epoch Times" before this era. I know about them and their association with this persecuted religious sect in China. I know that they had this very strange cameo role in this White House protest in 2006 that I remember. I remember covering it at the time.
But I was not aware at all about this wholesale transformation they`ve gone through. Do you know what started it?
ZADROZNY: Yes, well, it`s not your fault. It just happened. They`ve been doing it, you know, for about a couple of years since -- in 2016, they decided to hire a bunch of American journalists that weren`t associated with Falun Gong. That`s really the beginning of it.
And they brought them into their offices in Manhattan and put them in a little room and said, make our website, do our news. You`re going to do sports. You`re going to do crime. Like a real website.
MADDOW: They hired real people with journalism training? And, yes?
ZADROZNY: Basic journalism. They were all very new, right? And they required them to do lots of articles.
So, one of the people told us it was like a troll farm, right? They started to have a very specific point of view. Now, they`re an ultra conservative religious movement, right?
Like it`s anti-homosexual. It`s anti-pop music. It`s a lot of antis, right?
MADDOW: And they`ve always been that.
ZADROZNY: They`ve always been that. So it makes sense, right, that this moment in which we`re very polarized and evangelicals are very close to Trump why this group, which shares a lot with evangelicals, in terms of their worldview, why they would align themselves with Trump in that way.
So, they hitched their wagon to Trump`s star and it really paid off. So when Trump was elected, they said, whoa, we`ve got a person in the White House, he`s talking tough on China. Let`s go ahead and go for this.
I just found out today and it`s not in the story, but I just found out today that they hired a Republican strategist and said, we want to be closer to the administration. We want to be closer to government in general. And we want to be closer to conservative media.
And that Republican strategist brought them to CPAC for the first time. Got them interviews. Started wrangling people like Candace Owens, and Diamond and Silk, and, you know, Mark Meadows. And said, come and sit, and have an interview, and they did, and that sort of put them on the stage, you know, the conservative stage as well.
MADDOW: So, it`s the Trump era specifically they decided, you know what, let`s not be the newspaper that is only associated with the Falun Gong religious movement anymore. Let`s now be a player in pro-Trump conservative politics.
ZADROZNY: Well, they really are looking for a savior and they`re looking for a western savior to align themselves and help take down China. Trump is the closest one that we`ve had that is talking tough on China. So, really, they think that he might be the savior that they have been looking for.
So, they really do see him as a key component in whatever battle is to come against communist China.
MADDOW: And the battle to come against communist China is a sort of apocalyptic end of the world, everybody dies thing, right?
ZADROZNY: There is fire, brimstone, stuff you see in a lot of religions, yes, you`ll see here.
MADDOW: OK. One other part of this that I know has gotten -- has inspired a lot of very angry reaction from the subject of your reporting today is that a lot of the online only content, the YouTube content specifically produced by the Epoch Media Group --
MADDOW: -- is -- I mean, I have a lot of experience looking at conspiratorial crazy stuff on the right online. They`re really, like, they`re over the edge and back around and they come back and lap themselves.
MADDOW: So that stuff is the same media group as the "Epoch Times."
ZADROZNY: Yes. So, "The Epoch Times" is a Falun Gong-linked paper, right? That`s one arm of their outrage. One is in NTD TV like you said, and one is Shen Yun, the dance performance troupe that we see everywhere, right?
MADDOW: Different part of the story.
ZADROZNY: So, NTD TV is the one making the videos. So, you might see newsy articles and then that spygate sort of conspiracy waiting stuff.
MADDOW: QAnon is not a conspiracy theory, yes.
ZADROZNY: Right, and get QAnon. That`s where the NTD TV has really pushed it forward, because they can do YouTube videos, right?
And they say, you talk to them, they say, we`re not associated with New Tang Dynasty, with NTD TV. We are separate. We are different.
Epoch Media Group, Google it, you`ll see, those are both of their properties. So they are linked. They are together.
We know that people volunteer for both groups. They switch. They move over. They --
MADDOW: And we experience this culturally as well, that the Trump-era conservative politics and the conspiracy theory stuff including, you know, the illuminati and the QAnon stuff like this, the stuff that can get very dark very quickly.
MADDOW: Those things are being sold as sort of two sides of the same thing.
ZADROZNY: Yes, and in public, right, you disassociate yourself from that. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said we do not agree with QAnon or anything like that, but then they come to rallies. So, the same thing.
Like, yes, I`m sure that all those Republicans that sat down for "The Epoch Times" don`t want to be associated wit that crazy edge of wonder thing, but you know what? They`ll take the eyeballs that it brings.
MADDOW: Yes, that`s right. That`s remarkable reporting.
Brandy Zadrozny who broke this story on "The Epoch Times" -- thank you very much for helping us understand it. I have a feeling you`re going to shake loose a whole bunch of new stuff.
ZADROZNY: Thanks so much.
MADDOW: Great to have you here. Thanks.
All right. We`ll be right. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The 2020 Democratic presidential field is big. Over the summer, the Democratic Party had two debates and each debate needed two separate nights to give each of the 20 qualifying candidates a place on the stage. It was a very, very big rodeo.
Well, for the next debate, which is next month, the Democratic Party raised the stakes for qualifying. They made it harder to get into the next debate. They upped the polling threshold. They also upped the fund- raising threshold. They also required candidates to qualify on both counts, on polling and fund-raising, instead of making it either/or like it was for the first two debates.
Well, as of today, there is a week and a day left to qualify for that next debate in September. One more candidate has made it as of today.
Julian Castro, the former housing and urban development secretary, had already met the fundraising threshold. Today, he met the polling requirement. A new CNN poll showing him at 2 percent.
Secretary Castro is the last qualifier for the last debate. That means there will be ten candidates on stage. These ten you see on your screen right here.
If it`s just those ten, that means we`ll have a single night of debate. Unlike two nights for the first two debates that already happened. But I got to tell you, with eight days left to qualify for the first debate, there are a few other candidates who are still close to making it.
Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer has hit the fund-raising numbers already. He only needs one more poll to put him at 2 percent or more and he`s into the debate.
Tulsi Gabbard, the Hawaii congresswoman, she needs two more polls to get into the debate.
Again, the deadline to qualify is Wednesday of next week, a week from tomorrow. We asked the Democratic Party today for any information into how they were planning to structure a two-part debate if they need to do another one of those, if more than ten people qualify, if they get 11 or 12 or 13, they`re not saying yet what their plans are for that.
But, again, Julian Castro is in as of today, and meanwhile, this rollicking giant Democratic field rolls on in an election season that took some surprising turns today. And that news is next.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: How badly do you want to be president?
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it`s really, really, really important that Donald Trump not be re-elected. There are a lot of really good people, qualified people.
But the things -- I don`t know anybody that knows almost every other world leader, I don`t know anybody that has negotiated internationally like I have. I don`t know. They may be -- and they may rise to the occasion. I`m not suggesting they`re not. They`re really good people.
But I think at this moment in time, I`m the most qualified person to do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic front-runner in the polls, that`s him today in Iowa, making what is now his central case for the presidency, for the Democratic nomination, that he is the best qualified candidate in the race and that he is therefore the surest bet the Democrats have for beating Donald Trump and making him a one-term president. Team Biden just launched their first ad of the presidential campaign in Iowa specifically. This makes him the second top-tier candidate to go up on TV in Iowa after Kamala Harris did.
Harris and Biden joining some other lower polling candidates who are already running paid ads in the state, including Kirsten Gillibrand and Julian Castro. But as the front-runner, a lot of attention is being paid to every move of Biden`s at this point. And here`s him up today on the airwaves for the first time in the great state of Iowa.
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BIDEN CAMPAIGN AD ANNOUNCER: We know in our bones this election is different. The stakes are higher, the threat more serious. We have to beat Donald Trump.
And all the polls agree Joe Biden is the strongest Democrat to do the job. No one is more qualified. For eight years, President Obama and Vice President Biden were an administration America could be proud of. Our allies could trust and our kids could look up to.
Together, they worked to save the American economy, passed the historic Affordable Care Act, protecting over 100 million Americans with pre- existing conditions.
Now, Joe Biden is running for president with a plan for America`s future, to build on Obamacare not scrap it, to make a record investment in America`s schools, to lead the world on climate, to rebuild our alliances. Most of all, he`ll restore the soul of the nation battered by an erratic, vicious, bullying president.
Strong, steady, stable leadership. Biden, president.
BIDEN: I`m Joe Biden and I approve this message.
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MADDOW: Joe Biden`s first Iowa TV ad is as you see there, a general election message in a 20-way primary fight. But here is why I think it`s worth knowing that that`s up on the Iowa airwaves right now, because this, of course, is a fight to win the nomination of the Democratic Party. This is a fight among Democrats about what Democratic voters want.
And it`s fascinating already and it`s going to be fascinating through the whole end of the year and all through next year. But also, while the 2020 candidates continue to fight that out amongst themselves in terms of who should be the standard bearer for the party and what the Democratic Party should stand for right now in this time in this place, the fight among Democratic voters has a lot of different contours.
And one of the things that`s happening now is we`re seeing not just a fight inside the Democratic Party among Democratic candidates for president, we`re also seeing down ticket versions of that fight that are really interesting and in some cases really controversial, including a super hard- hitting aggressive ad by a progressive group that`s just out today. You might not have seen it yet but you should. And that`s next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Democratic primary fights are not general elections, right? Democratic primary fights are about Democratic voters making their own decisions amongst themselves about what they want from their party and who they want to represent them.
This fight in America is joined right now with all sorts of interesting cross currents among the Democratic electorate. Not only at the top of the ticket but all the way down the ballot, and sometimes in controversial ways. In New Jersey, one feisty progressive group that we`ve talked about a lot here on this show, the group Indivisible, is targeting an incumbent Democratic congressman, a newly elected House Democrat, for siding with Republicans on a recent immigration bill.
We`re used to seeing stuff like this from conservative groups against Republicans who conservatives see as not conservative enough. We`re not as used to seeing it from liberal groups.
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AD ANNOUNCER: Josh Gottheimer and other conservative Democrats call themselves the problem solvers` caucus, but the only problem they solved was how to write Donald Trump another blank check to continue terrorizing immigrant families. It was Gottheimer who led the charge in the House to pass Mitch McConnell`s border bill which gave Trump billions more to expand detention camps, children`s jails and even to hire more ICE agents.
A bill that immigration groups working at the border say would hurt more than it helps, with no guardrails, with no oversights, with no protections for children, a bill that passed with mostly Republican votes. With his back room maneuvering, Josh Gottheimer gave Donald Trump billions more to continue his racist agenda instead of fighting for the safety and wellbeing of immigrant children. Josh fought to further endanger their lives.
Josh Gottheimer isn`t a problem solver, he`s the problem.
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MADDOW: See what I mean? About how we`re used to seeing ads that aggressive and hard-hitting by conservative groups against Republicans who are seen as insufficiently hard line and insufficiently conservative. We`re not as used to seeing that from liberal groups.
So, that`s a digital ad that`s being run by the grassroots group Indivisible. Their stated mission is to defeat the Trump agenda. It now includes running ads against incumbent Democrats who aren`t doing enough to increase that agenda or indeed furthering it.
This is a real fight. This is real stakes. And this fight, of course, comes at a time when the Democratic presidential candidates, all of them, are both fighting amongst themselves to try to win the nomination and in some cases, they`re trying to basically start the general election against Trump right now simultaneously.
Joining us now is Karine Jean-Pierre, chief public affairs officer from moveon.org, one of the largest and most influential progressive groups in the country. Karine is also, I think, one of the most incisive thinkers in the progressive movement on electoral strategy.
Karine, thank you so much for being here.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, MOVEON.ORG: Thanks, Rachel. It`s very kind. Thank you.
MADDOW: Well, I would say it if I didn`t know.
Let me ask you -- I mean, I want to show you that Biden ad where he`s running sort of a general election I can win ad. Alongside that ad from Indivisible saying, hey, here is a Democratic congressman who`s enabling Trump and we`re going to take him on from the left -- I wonder how you see these different currents in conservative politics, progressive publics kind of running alongside each other.
JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, it`s such a great point, Rachel. I mean, we`re seeing two different -- like you said, two different things happening.
You see the front-runner on the presidential Democratic side who is essentially running a general election campaign because he is a known quantity, right? Because he is -- he is saying, hey, you know me. I stood with Obama. I can`t call him Barack Obama -- President Obama, for eight years and I can beat Donald Trump.
And let`s be very clear. There is a Pew poll that came out on the 16th of this month that said one of the most important factors that voters want to see from their candidate is somebody who can beat Donald Trump. And so, that`s what Biden is doing. I mean, that ad wasn`t even a bio ad, right? Usually the first ad is a bio ad, it`s like, hey, let me remind you who I stood next to for eight years and then I can beat Donald Trump, which is -- it really encapsulated his campaign in a nutshell.
I mean, so that is very different and it shows that Democrats are really going with their head and not their heart, which is unusual --
JEAN-PIERRE: -- for a Democratic presidential kind of primary.
And so, this is just where we are because we`re not living in normal times. And we see that playing out with the front-runner.
And I think what`s happening with Indivisible and what they`re doing is actually really critical and important. You have to hold folks accountable, even Democrats. In this instance, it`s a moderate Democrat.
And we have to remember, like you just showed, he is -- you know, Gottheimer is in the crosshairs because, because they blew up a deal -- they blew up a -- sorry, they grew up --
MADDOW: They blew up a deal.
JEAN-PIERRE: Somebody`s talking in my ear. I`m so sorry, Rachel.
MADDOW: Whoever it is, if they work for me, I`m going to be very angry at tomorrow`s news meeting.
JEAN-PIERRE: I cannot hear you.
MADDOW: Aha. We`ve got a crossed audio channel. That`s what`s happened. You can`t hear me, can you?
This is an audio problem that I swear we will fix. We`ll be right back. Stay with us. Sorry.
MADDOW: Karine Jean-Pierre from moveon.org was waxing poetic, waxing eloquent, and a gremlin took over our control room and got between us and cut off the audio feed between us.
Karine, I am so sorry.
JEAN-PIERRE: That`s OK.
MADDOW: I don`t know what happened. It`s apparently fixed. You`re back now. Everything`s OK?
JEAN-PIERRE: I am back. I am back, Rachel.
MADDOW: I am very sorry. I owe you.
What you were talking about when I so rudely interrupted you with that was the interaction of these two cross currents in Democratic politics.
MADDOW: As you were saying, there is this sort of general election politicking that is happening on the general election side, people campaigning as the best candidate to beast Trump because that`s very important to the voters. At the same time, the Democrats are having real policy fights amongst themselves whether progressive policies should lead. Moderates should be held to account for things they do cooperatively with Republicans.
How do you think these two currents are interacting with each other?
JEAN-PIERRE: You know, it`s interesting, Rachel, because this is I think the problem of a big tent party, if you even want to call that a problem, which is you don`t have one strategy. There is no one Democratic strategy because like you said you have progressives, you have people in the middle, and they are kind of bumping heads right now.
And here`s the thing. I think at the end of the day, and I say this to people all the time, which is, you know, when it comes to Democrats, yes, you know, we can talk about health care, you can talk about Medicare for All and expanding ACA, but at the end of the day, they actually all want the same thing, right? They all want to beat Donald Trump and they all want to -- you know, when it comes to health care, expand health care and make it more affordable.
So it`s kind of -- it`s kind of interesting in a way as well because they`re not that far apart from each other. We were talking about the ad, and the point that I was trying to make with Indivisible, which I think really, really important because it`s a big tent party you also have to not just, you know, fight on the issues but also hold people accountable. You have to.
And that`s what Indivisible is trying to do with the New Jersey five, you know, Josh Gottmier (ph), what he`s doing with the Republican problem solving caucus and what they did with that important deal and blew it up. So now there is no humanitarian kind of process after what we`re seeing at the border.
And so, I think that`s what they`re doing, is holding these folks accountable. And, you know, the progressive side has the power now to do that. It`s important to do that. We can`t -- we can`t let that go, especially in the time that we are in, in such an abnormal time, with this president.
MADDOW: Yes, and the Democratic Party is now showing that they can sort of -- at least trying to show they can do both of these things at once.
MADDOW: They can have the general election discussion and the inside the party discussion about what the party ought to stand for.
Karine Jean-Pierre, chief public officer for moveon.org, I owe you. I`m very sorry about that --
JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you for being here.
All right. That is going to do it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
If it`s a gremlin sitting here on screen when it`s time for my show to start tomorrow, you will know that the gremlins won and I lost. But it`s going to be a tough fight.
"THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL" starts right now.
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END