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Susan Rice TRANSCRIPT: 6/29/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Susan Rice, Jeramey Anderson

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN":  Exactly. Right. That`s the bar for everyone.

Dahlia Lithwick, it`s always so illuminating to talk you about the court, even in the darkest of time. But today was not the darkest of days on the court.

Thank you very much.


HAYES:  That is "ALL IN" for this evening.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.

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

It`s a super busy news day today. We`ve got a lot planned for this hour.

President Obama`s national security adviser Susan Rice is going to be joining us here in just a moment.

We reported on Friday night on what was then "The New York Times" scoop that U.S. intelligence briefed President Trump back in March that the Russian government had started paying bounties. They had started paying cash rewards to the Taliban and other fighters in Afghanistan, specifically for killing American soldiers.

After that Friday night reporting from "The Times" was matched by "The Wall Street Journal," and then "The Washington Post" and then CNN and then NBC and then the "A.P.", after we started getting the further reporting about not just the Russian government offering these bounties for American soldiers` scalps, but actually paying those bounties out, after we started getting reporting first from the "A.P." about specific attacks and specific deaths of American troops in Afghanistan, now being investigated as potentially having been instigated by that Russian reward money.

We got -- after we got that further reporting following "The New York Times" Friday night scoop, we contacted Ambassador Susan Rice to see if she could come on and talk about this tonight. Because, I mean, it`s one level of bad to realize that Russia is doing this, right? That the U.S. intelligence has concluded that Russia is paying cash money to people for killing U.S. troops. That is very, very bad.

But it`s a whole another level of bad to know that the U.S. president has known that Russia was doing that for four months. And during that time, he`s chosen to do nothing about it. That is a whole other level of crisis.

In fact, during the time that the president has had this information, he`s had at least a half dozen, apparently, super chummy phone calls with the Russian president. After those phone calls, he has made a bunch of unilateral offers to Russia, policy stuff that Russia might want, for free, asking nothing in return. The president during this time has advocated that Russia get back in the G-7, when other members of the G-7 said, no, over our dead bodies, he canceled the G-7.

He also moved to take thousands of U.S. troops out of Germany, which is a longtime Russian priority to get that many U.S. and NATO forces out of Germany. That, apparently, he didn`t even talk to the Pentagon or the State Department about in advance. The president just announced that he would be granting that Russian wish in exchange for, again, nothing.

And he has done these things, he has had this half-dozen conversations with Putin and made those unilateral offers to Russia to give them things they want after he reportedly was briefed, after the White House had started convening high-level meetings to discuss the fact that the Russian president is paying cash, literally, cash, dollars for the murder of Americans in Afghanistan.

So, Ambassador Susan Rice will be here to talk about that in just a moment. I want to try to get an understanding from somebody who has operated at the highest levels of American national security as to just how radical this news is, and how bizarre it is, in terms of the president`s behavior.

Since this story started to come out into the open Friday night and into this weekend, the president has basically been sort of swinging wildly in response, with defenses ranging everywhere from, you know, Obama`s bad, to "I didn`t get briefed" to maybe it`s not true to, "I`m just learning about this now".

But, you know, a half dozen major news organizations have now confirmed the underlying intelligence assessment that Russia has been doing this in Afghanistan. And the British government has confirmed it, too, because apparently, their troops were targeted in the same way.

So, regardless of however the president is going to try to explain away the fact that he has done nothing about this before now, there`s also the issue now of what he`s going to do about it now. Now that he definitely knows and all the rest of us do, too.

I mean, honestly, Vladimir Putin is paying for the murders of American soldiers. Does the president of the United States consent to that?

Sure, Vlad! You know, pay bounties for the death of Americans. I`m the president. I don`t mind. That`s cool. Is there anything else you might want or need from me?

I`ve covered national security stuff for a long time, I wrote a book about civil military relations, I`m fascinated by international politics of this kind. I have never, ever, ever come across a story that has the implications that this one has. Of all the things, the terrible things that American presidents have done when it comes to national security to serve their own interests instead, I mean, up to and including Nixon, arguably, extending the war in Vietnam because he thought it would be better for his election efforts.

I -- I mean, up to and including that, the implications of the president`s loyalties and what he has done here have never been more stark or serious than this story about the president knowing about and ignoring the Russian government paying for American deaths. It`s astonishing.

So, we`re going to have much more on this to come tonight, including Obama national security adviser, Susan Rice, as I said, who you should know is reportedly under consideration as a potential running mate for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Now, as for vice presidents and their work, let`s say you`re the vice president right now. Let`s say you are at least nominally in charge of this White House`s task force for responding to this catastrophe, say you are Mike Pence and you`re at least nominally in charge of the federal government`s catastrophic response to the coronavirus epidemic. If that were your job right now, you would know that maybe one thing you should not do right now is go to the state of Texas, on the day that stay announced its 16th straight day of record hospitalizations for coronavirus.

Maybe you would know the one thing you might not do if you were supposed to be helping things get better around coronavirus in this country is that you would not go to that state at that time in order to do an indoor event with 3,000 people crammed inside where the entertainment was a huge choir of mostly older people, more than a hundred of them, all singing their hearts out, all singing their guts out, all singing at the top, middle, and bottom of their lungs, for the whole, long duration of the service, without masks on. That`s what Pence did this week.

I mean, that`s like treating everybody in that church to a fire hose of viral shedding. Setting up an event like that, with 3,000 people inside and the hundred plus-person choir all singing with the no masks and -- I mean, when Texas is where it`s at right now in terms of the virus right now, that is messing with Texas. I mean, that is among the most irresponsible things any leader could do, let alone one who`s supposed to be helming the response to the coronavirus epidemic.

I just showed the daily case curve for Texas a moment ago, for how bad things are in Texas and how quickly they`re getting worse. These are the daily case curves right now for Arizona on the left and Florida on the right. I`m putting those up after talking about Texas, because Arizona and Florida are the next two places Vice President Pence is scheduled to visit on his magic coronavirus for everyone tour.

He went to Texas this weekend, is supposed to go to Arizona tomorrow and Florida later this week. Now, both the Arizona trip and the Florida trip this week had initially planned to include another one of those events. Another rally-type campaign/religious event like the one he just did in Dallas, with all of those big open mouths singing their guts out, right?

Tonight, the vice president`s office has canceled the rally parts of his upcoming visits to Arizona and Florida. So, he will still visit both of these states this week. But he is not going to do this rally type thing again, like he did this weekend in Texas. Small mercies.

Arizona`s governor tonight announced that that state will activate a crisis standard of care statewide, which means among other things, non-emergency, non-essential surgeries will be canceled statewide in Arizona to try to preserve hospital capacity. Arizona`s governor also tonight just ordered the shutdown of bars, nightclubs, gyms, movie theaters, water parks. They`re all ordered shut down as of tonight.

Governor Doug Ducey had reopened the state of Arizona precipitously earlier even than he had said he would. The state`s epidemic took off like a rocket, and so now Arizona is having to re-close. Re-closing is also happening now in Texas and in parts of California and in Florida, where case numbers quintupled over the past two weeks.

These are all places now where previously open businesses and events are being shut down again, because of the disastrous consequences of early reopening.

But I think we should start keeping in mind the idea of re-closing. I mean, we`ve all learned that predictions are folly at any point in this thing, but even so, I think it`s sort of a safe bet that we are going to see more reclosings in coming days. Again, we`re seeing them already. Parts of California, Arizona, Florida, Texas, but we`re starting to look at similar situations in multiple other states.

Tonight, for example, Oregon`s governor warned that cases there are increasing so rapidly right now that the state of Oregon is in danger of its hospitals being overwhelmed within the next month. In Los Angeles County, county health officials there just gave what the "L.A. Times" is headlining as a, quote, dire warning.

This is from the "L.A. Times" tonight. Quote, L.A. County`s health chief says, quote, we are seeing an increase in transmission. We are seeing more people get sick and go into the hospital. This is very much a change in the trajectory of the epidemic over the past several days. It is a change for the worse and a cause concern.

This is from the director of the COVID demand modeling unit for L.A. County, who says if the rate of transmission in L.A. county stays where it is right now, quote, we are at risk of running out of hospital beds within the next two to three weeks. Again, that`s the biostatistician who runs the modeling unit for L.A. County. He also chairs the emergency department at Harvard UCLA Medical Center, so he knows what he`s talking about.

L.A. County, two to three weeks away from running out of hospital beds? I mean, L.A. County is the most populous county in the entire country. As a county, they just announced nearly 3,000 new infections in 24 hours. Just for one county.

Health officials in L.A. are basically freaking out right now about how badly things are getting so much worse.

So we`re going to take a closer look tonight at some of the places that are ratcheting back down, that are re-closing tonight after having reopened too early when the epidemic was too big and too uncontrolled.

We`re also keeping an eye tonight on the consequences on the abortion rights decision at the Supreme Court today, where a 5-4 majority of the court struck down a Louisiana law that would have closed down all but one last abortion clinic in the whole state of Louisiana. One of the things we`re watching in the wake of that ruling today, this hasn`t received a lot of attention, but today, we`ve been watching the state of Missouri. If you`re a longtime viewer of this show, you will know that the Republican governor and the Republican-led state government in Missouri has been trying for a very long time to close down what is already the last remaining abortion clinic in the whole state of Missouri.

We`ve covered that effort by the Republican governor and Republican government in Missouri to try to close down that clinic. We`ve covered that pretty intensively over the past year or so.

But today, breakthrough. This afternoon, after the Supreme Court`s surprise abortion rights ruling this morning, today, Missouri`s governor signaled that he will abandon his long-standing, months-long efforts to shut down Missouri`s one last clinic. So at least -- that`s how it looks on the surface right now, but we are watching that closely in Missouri, because that has been a tricky, tricky situation where they have used all sorts of different elements of state power to try to shut down that last clinic and to make abortion illegal in that state.

But I also want to show you something that I`ve been thinking about all day, something that was big enough to make some national news, at least, when it happened. Specifically, it made page 14 in the flagship newspaper of New York City, which is a thousand miles away from where this news event happened back in 1988. This was February 2nd, 1988.

On that day, 14 black lawmakers, 14 African-American state legislatures from the great state of Alabama, were arrested at the great -- at the Alabama state capital. They were arrested for trespassing.

Those black lawmakers were arrested when they demonstrated at the state capital to try to get the state of Alabama to remove the Confederate battle flag that was still flying up there on top of the Alabama state capitol more than a century after the end of the civil war. While those black Alabama lawmakers were making the case to take down that flag and showing they were willing to get arrested in the effort, "The Times" reported back in 1988 that across the street from where those black lawmakers were protesting, several hundred supporters of the Confederate flag gathered to sing "Dixie," to counterprotest, while the black lawmakers got arrested.

And again, this was a long way back. I am hold, I am 47 and showing every day of it, I know. But this thing I`m talking about here in Alabama, it happened just before I turned 15. I mean, it was for me, almost literally a lifetime ago.

But I`m thinking about it today, because over the course -- over the course of my life, over all of the years of my life, and over all the intervening years since those black Alabama state legislatures all got arrested, got handcuffed and hauled off from the state capitol, over all of the years of my life, Americans all across the South have repeatedly and creatively and persistently worked to try to get Confederate symbols off the tops of state capitols and off the face of state flags.

Look at this footage here. In the middle there, behind this burning Georgia state flag, is a woman named Stacey Abrams. Years later, she would go on to become the leader of the Democratic Party in the Georgia state legislature. She would then become a candidate for Georgia governor. She`s now a nationally recognized voting rights leader.

But at the time this image was taken, the Georgia state flag had been more or less consumed by the battle flag of the Confederacy. And it took a decade of work and organizing and demonstrations and arguments and even very dramatic moments like this, everything you can think of, but Stacey Abrams and the activists of Georgia and the NAACP managed to put enough pressure on Georgia officials that they did change that flag.

And it was a herky-jerky effort. For the first couple of years, Georgia sort of tried out a flag that was unusual enough to warrant a caption. Look at that. You can see there, they basically pieced together a whole bunch of different flags that had all flown over Georgia at one time or another, made it into like a view master strip, including the flag that was dominated by the confederate symbol that had given rise to all of these efforts to take down and change that flag in the first place.

Georgia tried this, right? They put that collection of old flags at the bottom of the new Georgia flag, along with a caption, right? Georgia`s history. It works as a film strip. It was not really going to work as a flag. They tried that for a couple of years.

But then soon enough, in 2003, the people of Georgia decided they would like to be done with that Fisher Price flag and lawmakers voted in this new flag, without the confederate symbol at all. And voters in the state of Georgia approved it three-to-one.

Georgia was ready. Georgia changed. Georgia changed their flag -- after all of that activism, after all of that drama, after all of that organizing.

And we, of course, now live in a time when lots of Confederate monuments and symbols are coming down. The fight to do that has been an active part of our politics for decades. And it took on new life after the racially motivated murders of nine African-American churchgoers five years ago at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina. And in the immediate aftermath of that massacre in that church, South Carolina lawmakers voted to take down the confederate flag that had been flying on statehouse grounds.

They had already removed the stars and bars from flying over the capitol dome, but they then took it off of the capitol grounds, too. Now it would be gone for good.

Likewise in Alabama, where those black lawmakers had been arrested protesting on capitol grounds. After the Charleston massacre, in Alabama, by then the Confederate flag was gone from the capitol dome, but it was still flying on Confederate monuments, on capitol grounds, but after the Charleston massacre in Alabama, they took down the Confederate flag on the capitol grounds, too.

One by one, the flags and the monuments to the Confederacy have come down, but there was one place where the confederate flag very stubbornly remained. And that was Mississippi. The heart of the old Confederacy, raising the Confederate battle symbol to the heavens. Day after day, year after year, everywhere the state flag flew.

The man you see here is named Aaron Henry. He was the president of the NAACP in Mississippi. Aaron Henry was part of a national civil rights movement. He worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

By 1982, he had won a seat in the Mississippi state legislature, in the legislature, he worked insistently on trying to change the state flag. Aaron Henry introduced a bill to change the flag in 1988. That never got a vote. Neither did the bills he tried in 1990 or 1992 or 1993. They wouldn`t even hear him.

Not long before he died, Representative Aaron Henry talked about that struggle.


AARON HENRY, CIVL RIGHTS LEADER, FORMER NAACP MISSISSIPPI PRESIDENT:  You see, we have the -- the residue of the Confederate flag in the coffin corner of our state flag. And that Confederate flag is the banner under which white males marched under to keep my grandma and my grandpa in slavery.

I will keep on trying to get that residue out of the state flag, as long as I can have a voice in trying to do it. I just think it`s absurd. It`s -- anybody who reads the history of the Confederate flag know why it`s there, know how it came about.


MADDOW:  Aaron Henry died in 1997. The Confederacy outlived his best efforts to remove its symbol from the flag of the state that he called home.

A few years after Mr. Henry`s death in 2001, Mississippi held a statewide referendum. The state at that time was feeling some of that repeated pressure that had resulted in the flag change in Georgia, for example. But in Mississippi when the results from that referendum came back, the results were that Mississippi voters wanted to keep the flag, 2-to-1, leave it like it is.

And the Confederate flag stayed that way, hitching a ride on a modern-day state flag all of these years. It stayed up there after Georgia changed its flag, after South Carolina took it down from the capitol. After Alabama took it down from the capitol, Mississippi would not change. Mississippi would not change. Mississippi would not change.

Until it did. It just did. It happened. Following the police killing of George Floyd, where people turned out all across America, people also turned out all across Mississippi in little towns and big towns, they turned out by the thousands in the state capitol in Jackson.

And they were calling for the same kinds of changes that protesters wanted all around the country. But in Mississippi, people wanted something more very specific to their state, they wanted that flag gone. Finally, once and for all.

And they found this time that they had support. The SEC said there shouldn`t be any post-season play in Mississippi until the flag changed. The NAACP followed suit. The Southern Baptist Convention said the flag should come down. Walmart said it would no longer fly the state flag with that emblem on it.

And the polling flipped. Eighteen months ago, 54 percent of Mississippi voters said the flag should stay -- 54 percent, 18 months ago.

This month, 55 percent said change it. Change it now. A direct flip.

Well, over the weekend, the Republican-controlled Mississippi legislature listened. They extended legislative session to vote on changing the flag, as they went through the process, support for changing the flag grew. It grew in the House, it grew in the Senate, and it passed with a veto-proof majority.

Mississippi free press calls it a glorious day for Mississippi. And you could hear that assessment from the crowd in the gallery at the capitol when they took the vote. Minutes after the final vote, they lowered the old Mississippi state flag while they waited for a new design.

At the site of the flag coming down, the wife of the late Medgar Evers, a great colleague of Aaron Henry`s, and, of course, a civil rights martyr, Myrlie Ever Williams said, quote, I can`t believe that I`m so emotional. Medgar`s wings must be clapping.

So, you know, you can see what happened in Mississippi as either astonishing and amazing after all of this time, or as totally predictable, of course, because of all of this time, right? This is a big change in the place that seemed absolutely hardest to change, even when other places that were hard to change were willing to go there, Mississippi wouldn`t.

But then they flipped the polling in less than two years. All of that work over all of those years and decades. All of that effort, the lawsuits, the marches, the people who got arrested, the people who brought bills to the floor of the legislature and were told, no, we`re not going to hear it let alone vote on it. And they brought it back year after year after year, give up, forget it.

This will not change. We`ll never change this. It didn`t change for all of those years until finally yesterday, it did.

We are living in a time that feels very grim. I know it can feel hopeless, but if that big a change turns out was ready to happen in Mississippi, what else could change right now? What else is possible?


MADDOW:  If you`ve been wondering whether this burgeoning scandal over Russia paying bounties to the Taliban to kill American troops in Afghanistan, President Trump reportedly being briefed on that and taking no action at all against Russia for doing this, if you`re wondering whether this still-emerging scandal might have any political impact in this election year -- well, here`s one way to try to game that out. Watch.


AD ANNOUNCER:  In the last year, flag-draped coffins have returned from Afghanistan. Now we know Vladimir Putin pays a bounty for the murder of American soldiers. Donald Trump knows, too, and does nothing.

Putin pays the Taliban cash to slaughter our men and women in uniform. And Trump is silent. Weak, controlled.

Instead of condemnation, he insists Russia be treated as our equal. Instead of retaliation, he invites Putin to America. When Trump tells you he stands by the troops, he`s right. Just not our troops.

The Lincoln Project is responsible for the content of this advertising.


MADDOW:  That ad -- that ad is from the Lincoln Project, which is a group of anti-Trump Republicans, big-name Republicans working to defeat President Trump in November.

And if you think that ad is maybe a little over the top, you think that`s like edgy in terms of how tough it`s being on President Trump, wait until you see this one from the veterans organization, Vote Vets.


AD ANNOUNCER:  He shakes his hand, an American dies. They pal around, another roadside attack. Putin pays bounties to Taliban enemies, to kill American soldiers and not a word from Donald Trump.

Intelligence reports on his desk. He says nothing to his Russian master. Takes no action to protect us.

Who is the enemy?

If you`re going to act like a traitor, you don`t get to thank us for our service.


MADDOW:  That ad is from Vote Vets. A veterans group that has hundreds of thousands of members calling the president of the United States a traitor.

That`s where we are in terms of the political ramifications of this, after just one weekend of this story that is still playing out and still growing. So, we`ll see what happens in terms of the political ramifications here and as -- as more members of Congress and senators get access to the underlying intelligence about Russia`s behavior that gave rise to all of this reporting that has created this scandal.

But there`s also now the question of what should happen here? If this were a normal government with a normal president, what would you expect to happen after this intelligence comes up the chain? Why would Russia be doing this? What ought to be happening in the White House right now? What could conceivably explain the way the president has behaved instead?

President Obama`s national security adviser Susan Rice joins us live here next for the interview. Stay with us.


MADDOW:  It showed up first in "The New York Times" late on Friday night. Russia secretly offered Afghan militants bounties to kill U.S. troops, intelligence says.

Then within a few hours, "The Wall Street Journal" confirmed the same story, followed by CNN and NBC News. There was a "New York Times" follow-up with additional information.

There was also a follow-up in "The Washington Post" just yesterday. Quote, Russian bounties to Taliban-linked militants resulted in deaths of U.S. troops, according to intelligence assessments.

That`s "The Post" reporting that Russia`s plot was apparently successful. Americans did die because of this -- while the president did nothing about it. While he ignored the menu of responses prepared for him by his advisers and decided instead that he would just do nothing. He would just let Russia go ahead and do it.

What on earth are we supposed to do with news this dire, right? With news that has these worst-case scenarios implications about the president.

Joining us now for the interview is Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and national security advisor in the Obama administration. She`s the author most recently of "Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For".

Ambassador Rice, it`s nice to see you. Thanks very much for making time to be here.


MADDOW:  First, let me just ask you, your take on the reporting here, right? Russian military intelligence paid bounties to Taliban fighters to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan. "Washington Post" saying that intelligence assessments concluded that those bounties did result -- they were paid. They did result in the deaths of multiple American service members.

I mean, does this -- after -- with all of your experience in national security, does this seem plausible to you?

RICE:  It seems plausible, Rachel. It`s mind-blowing that it`s come to this. It`s a major escalation of Russian aggression against the United States.

And what`s most extraordinary, as you laid out very ably in your introduction, is that the president of the United States presumably has had access to this information for months and has done absolutely nothing about it.

And, Rachel, even if you were to believe the White House, which honestly, I don`t, that he wasn`t informed, and we can come back to that, because that, trust me, is national security adviser makes no sense to me.

But even if he weren`t informed, then why hasn`t he, in the days since he allegedly learned about this, expressed his concern, his condemnation of any Russian attempts to kill American military personnel? Why hasn`t he ordered his staff to bring him options for action? Why is he not acting like a normal American president in expressing solidarity with our troops and determination to punish our arch adversary for these types of behaviors?

MADDOW:  Why do you say that it makes no sense to you that he wouldn`t have been informed? The president`s denials on this, I should say, have been sort of all over the map. I think the way -- where he`s landed as of right now is that he only heard about this yesterday or something, even though, you know, we all at least read it in "The New York Times" on Friday.

But the intelligence -- the reporting from a half dozen major news sources all citing major sources is that the intelligence has been kicking around for months and that it has resulted in high-level meetings being convened on the National Security Council and the White House to talk about these things. If that -- if that reporting is solid, and it seems quite solid, why does it make no sense that the president himself never would have heard about it?

RICE:  OK. So, let me explain this. Intelligence comes in. If it`s put in the president`s daily briefing, which is a short but important summary of the most important information, it`s provided to the president, the vice president, the national security adviser, secretary of state, secretary of defense, on down -- everybody in the senior national security team gets this briefing six out of seven days a week.

So, even if the president doesn`t read his PDB, as it`s known, which apparently he doesn`t often do, then surely someone around him would come in with this information and make sure that he was aware.

If I had been national security adviser and we received this kind of report of an arch adversary trying to kill U.S. forces, the first thing I would do is walk into the Oval Office and say, Mr. President, we have extremely troubling information that the Russians are trying to slaughter American forces by paying bounties to the Taliban. I will work with the intelligence community to chase this down and try to ensure that our information is solid. I will convene the National Security Council principals to work up options for you to respond. But please understand how serious this is.

And then, Rachel, if down the road, he decides he wants to call Vladimir Putin at least six times over the next few weeks, which apparently he did, and invite him to the G-7 over the objections of all of our allies, I would have gone right back in there and said, Mr. President, what are you doing? We warned you that we believe that Russia is up to this effort to kill Americans and still you`re going through these ridiculous efforts to hand Putin an olive branch. Please stop and please be prepared not to reach out, but to punish, if necessary.

You know, the job of the national security adviser, not to mention the director of national intelligence, secretary of defense, any number of other officials, is to tell the president the hard truths that he may not want to hear and produce a plan to address them. That`s the job.

If those people are not doing it, then they all should be run out of the White House and the rest of the agencies. And if they did do it, which is what I believe is more likely the case, then again, we have evidence of a president utterly unwilling to stand up for American interests and rather serving Vladimir Putin`s interests.

MADDOW:  Let me ask a question that I admit to knowing at the outset is a little bit naive. But I`m trying to think about being Mark Esper today or being the director of national intelligence now, Mr. Ratcliffe, being somebody in a position of significant authority in terms of the powers of the U.S. government, who is in the loop on this, because this intelligence was briefed.

Whatever is going on with the president in the Oval Office, we know that it was briefed up the chain to the point where it was, you know, the subject of National Security Council meetings, the subject of high-level meetings in the White House. And so, those people had to know.

If you`re Mark Esper right now, and you`re the head of the Defense Department and you`re responsible for force protection efforts in theater, in places like Afghanistan, and you find out that this has happened, do you necessarily have to wait for instruction from the president to act on this information? Is it possible that our government has done some of the right things that should have happened in response to information this scary, even if the president himself were either unavailable for comment or otherwise compromised in some way and not doing the right thing?

RICE:  Well, Rachel, certainly, the secretary of defense should have immediately taken all possible precautions to enhance the forced protection of our personnel in Afghanistan, and to harden us against any such potential Taliban attacks sponsored by Russia.

But in order for us to act against Russia in retaliation, or in response, whether those responses turn out to be on the low end diplomatic or maybe economic in the middle end or military ultimately, whether they are overt or covert, that has to be decided by the president of the United States.

So there are limits to the authority of a secretary of state or defense to initiate an action against a foreign government without the approval of the president.

MADDOW:  This is -- I have to say, we have covered a lot of sort of flabbergasting things over the course of the Donald Trump candidacy and presidency. I honestly, just as a human being, don`t know how to process the implications of the president`s behavior here. Like, I find myself kind of reading White House statements, reading quotes from the president, hoping that they`re true. That he was somehow, inexplicably out of the loop or didn`t understand it or it was somebody else`s fault.

I mean, I -- I don`t know how to put in context the idea that the president would know about an adversary paying money for the scalps of American troops in theater and decide that it was okay with him, that there was -- no reason for any American rebuke and that adversary should be rewarded. I just don`t -- I don`t know if you can help, but I don`t -- I don`t know what to do with this information. I don`t know how to sleep with this in my head.

RICE:  It`s very hard to digest.

Either President Trump acted in a fashion that is profoundly disloyal to the United States of America and our men and women in uniform, or he has abdicated his responsibility as commander-in-chief and is presiding over the most dysfunctional and ineffective national security apparatus in American history that leaves American troops vulnerable to Russian attack.

Because any way you slice it, the message that Putin has had to receive from all of this is that he can go after Americans in Afghanistan or anywhere else on the -- on the planet with utter impunity.

So this is, Rachel, one of those jaw-dropping moments, as many as we`ve had in the course of this administration, that calls into question not just the competence, but the loyalty of this president.

MADDOW:  I have one last question for you that I know you`re not going to answer. Your name has been talked about as a serious contender for the running mate spot, vice presidential spot on the ticket with Joe Biden. Are you in talks with the Biden campaign and would you tell me if you were?


RICE:  Rachel, you`re right, I`m not going to go there precisely.

Here`s what I`ll say. I -- to the extent that it is reported that I am under consideration in a serious way for the vice president slot, let me just say that I`m extremely humbled and honored to be talked about in the context of so many extraordinary women.

And all I care about is getting Joe Biden elected president of the United States so that we again have competent, compassionate, loyal, effective leadership in the White House, and flipping the Senate so that the Democrats control the Senate so we can pursue an agenda of healing for this country, one that tries to address the extraordinary racial and socioeconomic disparities that have, you know, been plain for all to see and that can restore our global leadership.

And I will do everything I can, whether it`s the modern-day equivalent of licking envelopes or raising money to serve in a capacity that he thinks is appropriate. I`ll do anything I can to affect this change for our nation, because I don`t think there`s any higher imperative.

MADDOW:  Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and national security adviser under President Obama, the author most recently of "Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For" -- Ambassador Rice, it is great to see you. Thanks for making time to be here tonight.

RICE:  Thanks for having me, Rachel.

MADDOW:  All right. Much more ahead tonight this Monday night.

Stay with us.


MADDOW:  In one sense, the decision in the great state of Mississippi this weekend to finally bring down the state flag with the Confederate emblem on it, in one sense that decision felt sudden and surprising, but in another sense, it was, of course, the hard result of decades of work.

One state lawmaker put it like this this weekend. He said, quote: I thank my colleagues, constituents and the activists who fought so hard to bring about this historic moment. I thank those who came before us who with courage and resolve nurtured the civil rights movement that helped bring us to this day. What a beautiful moment of unity, he said.

Joining us now live is that Mississippi lawmaker. His name is Jeramey Anderson. He`s a Democratic member of the Mississippi statehouse.

Representative Anderson, I really appreciate you making time to be here. Thank you so much.


MADDOW:  So I have been talking tonight a little bit about how this seems sudden but also this took so long. There`s been a decades-long push to try to make this happen in Mississippi.

Why do you think Mississippi was the last hold-out, even as we saw other states remove confederate flags from their capitals? Why did Mississippi end up being last here?

ANDERSON:  Absolutely, Rachel. And that`s a great question.

You know, Mississippi tends to lag behind the rest of the nation in several things. This, unfortunately, is like those many things. One thing that, you know, I have constantly heard is about protecting heritage and protecting history. As I`m sure you have also heard, bringing down the flag is about unifying the great state of Mississippi, everybody in the state of Mississippi.

And it`s not to erase history or eradicate history. It is simply what I deem actually is an opportunity to learn from history and to not repeat the past. So, bringing down the flag in a sense to me pushing us in a more promising direction of hope, and that`s exactly what this past weekend was all about.

MADDOW:  How do you think that it did come together? Obviously there has been so much activism and so many efforts to do this, including from members of the chamber where you sit right now. What was it that made this the right moment?

ANDERSON:  Yeah, absolutely. And, so, you know, we get the -- we get the credit here in the legislature for pushing the button. But as you mentioned, there were hundreds of thousands of people who went into this very weekend that we call this historic weekend where the legislature voted overwhelmingly to bring down the Mississippi state flag.

So we had young activists marching down the streets of the capital city in protests around the state to bring down our state flag. We had businesses calling for the flag to come down. And then, you know, I also like to give credit to those folks who came before us. In the introduction you talked about Representative Henry. That`s exactly the type of credit we need to give to those folks who marched long before us, who sat in these seats long before us, because they led us to this very historic moment that we find ourselves in today.

MADDOW:  You said this weekend that taking that Confederate emblem off the state flag is now an opportunity that shouldn`t be squandered by the state. Part of the reason why I wanted to talk to you tonight is I wanted to ask you what opportunity you see -- you see here in terms of where the state goes next and what to do with this moment.

ANDERSON:  Let`s not make any misunderstanding that our work is done. It`s not by a long shot. Mississippi, we still see many of our constituents and black and brown communities with the lack of health care where we have failed to expand Medicaid here in the state of Mississippi. So that`s an issue we need to continue to push to bring to the forefront of our conversations, where we have -- we don`t have equitable education in black and brown communities where our incarceration rate is one of the highest in the nation when it comes to black and brown citizens, voter suppression, the lack thereof of opportunity for upper mobility in our communities.

So when I say we take this opportunity as a time to really grow as a state, what I mean by that is very simple. It`s that we don`t squander the opportunity by sitting and thinking that we have done our part.

As a community, as a black and brown community, nor as a state as a whole, we have so much more to do if we really want to talk about unifying the state of Mississippi. And we have the perfect opportunity. This is just a first step towards reuniting and moving the state of Mississippi into the future.

MADDOW:  Mississippi State Representative Jeramey Anderson, I really appreciate you taking time here. I know this has been a long haul and this weekend was a lot of drama, a lot of emotion. Thanks for helping us understand it.

ANDERSON:  Thank you, Rachel.

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


MADDOW:  Thanks for being with us this Monday night. I will see you again this time tomorrow.


Good evening, Lawrence.

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