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Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, August 20, 2020

Guests: Jill Biden, Hillary Clinton

Summary

Stephen Bannon, President Trump's former adviser of his 2016 general election campaign was charged on Thursday with defrauding donors to a private fund-raising effort called We Build the Wall. Tonight, Joe Biden will officially accept the Democratic Party's nomination for president.

Transcript

ANNOUNCER: From MSNBC, Decision 2020, the Democratic National Convention, live from Studio 3A in Rockefeller Plaza.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thank you for being with us tonight. We are so happy to have you here. I'm Rachel Maddow in MSNBC headquarters here in New York sitting at a regulation six-foot distance from my beloved pals Joy Reid and Nicolle Wallace, a night for you guys, a good night. We're excited. Brian Williams will be along later this evening as well. Welcome to live coverage of night four, the final night of the 2020 Democratic National Convention where Joe Biden will officially accept the Democratic Party's nomination for president.

In a few minutes, we are going to be joined live right here by Joe Biden's wife, possibly the next First Lady of the United States. Dr. Jill Biden will be joining us in just a few moments. We will also be joined live tonight also this hour by former Secretary of State, former first lady, former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton fresh off her warning to Democrats at the convention last night to not let this become another, in her words "woulda, coulda, shoulda election".

Tonight at the convention, for the final night, we're going to hear from former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. He's going to be leading a whole bunch of Biden's former primary rivals in a unity message. You'll remember they did this with some of the other primary contenders on the first night of the convention. We will see many more of them this evening, including remarks from Andrew Yang, including a highly anticipated speech from Mike Bloomberg, who after all has pledged to spend in this election all the money he would have spent on his own candidacies had he won the primary. Democrats are eager to find out if that promised financial boost is in the mail, if that's coming.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Or not.

MADDOW: But of course, tonight's headliner is the candidate himself, as he formally accepts the nomination in what is likely to be the speech of Joe Biden's life. Last night, of course, history made when for the first time in U.S. history, a woman of color, Senator Kamala Harris, accepted her slot on the presidential ticket of a major party. That celebratory moment last night came against the backdrop of at least what I felt was a startling warning from former President Barack Obama, a warning bluntly that the re-election of the current president could mean the end of American democracy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's how a democracy withers until it's no democracy at all. And we cannot let that happen. Do not let them take away your power. Do not let them take away your democracy. This administration has shown it will tear our democracy down if that's what it takes for them to win.

Embrace your own responsibility as citizens to make sure that the basic tenets of our democracy endure, because that's what's at stake right now, our democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Without ringing in our ears from last night, we woke to the news this morning that the current President's campaign manager from 2016 Steve Bannon was just arrested and indicted on federal felony wire fraud and money laundering charges. He pled not guilty in federal court today in New York. If convicted on all counts, he faces potentially decades in prison.

For those keeping track at home, it can be confusing, but this is actually the third person who ran President Trump's campaign in 2016 who has faced criminal charges. And of course, this comes in the same week that his convicted felon campaign chairman Paul Manafort was revealed by the Senate Intelligence Committee to have worked secretly with a Russian intelligence officer throughout his time running the Trump campaign.

You know what they say, when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. What a bizarre backdrop for the culminating night of the Democratic National Convention, but it is what it is. Nicolle, we're going to be speaking with Dr. Jill Biden in just a moment, Hillary Clinton as well this hour. Obviously, tonight is the big -- tonight is the big enchilada for the Democrats. It is -- you can't divorce what's happening now from what's happening in the news, though.

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: And you know what, I don't think the Democrats would have us do that strategically speaking. And if you look at the strategic imperative for convention planning -- and before the pandemic broke out, they had a plan for this convention. Before there was even a nominee, there was a convention staff.

The way they adapted to who ended up being the nominee, to the fact that it ended up being the first-ever virtual convention, and the way that -- you know, convention program is supposed to click together like Legos, right? Each line clicks perfectly into the one above it. And that's how you judge success, do they line up and tell a story?

And I just think, and I always speak as sort of the former staffer, the way they executed, the lining up of all these messages has really been flawless. The way you know how good it is, I talked to a Trump ally today who said that if the race stays in its current structure, a referendum on Donald Trump, which is what they've made this week about, there's the introduction to Senator Harris and their storytelling about Joe Biden. But at its core, the punch lines, the gut punches have all been about Donald Trump's failures. His failure to protect the country from COVID, his failure to lead in the country in the world stage, if it remains in this format, a referendum on Donald Trump, he will face certain defeat. So --

MADDOW: This is from a Trump ally?

WALLACE: This is from a Trump ally, a Trump advisor. But I think what they view as an open question, admittedly, is whether Trump can do anything to turn this into a choice. So when you're the incumbent, that's your only chance of winning as if it's a choice between two things. But I think, you know, it's not just what we've witnessed, it's not just powerful emotional speeches, it's not just everything lining up and complementing each other, it's an acknowledgment from the other side that if it remains as it is now, referendum on Trump, he will lose.

MADDOW: Yes.

REID: And you know what's been amazing to me after watching in 2016, the way Donald Trump was able to sort of puppeteer the conversation about himself and always make himself the star, no matter what Hillary Clinton tried to do, it was always her e-mails, her e-mails, her e-mails, but oh, his rallies, right?

His complete, and to use the word you use yesterday, impotence to counter-program this, what's been counterprogramming, the other thing that's been in our rearview mirror, our sideview mirror had been the Senate Intel report, which is a damning condemnation of his last campaign, and now the indictment of his previous campaign manager for a really grubby fraud scheme. I mean, the grubbiest. I mean going to people.

And if you read the indictment, there are people saying I don't have a lot of money but I'm willing to give it for the wall. And they took it and then like bought a Range Rover, you know.

MADDOW: And a golf cart and some jewelry and some cosmetic surgery. And you saved up cosmetics -- you saved up the money you were selling for cosmetic surgery?

REID: Right, to be more beautiful. I mean, it's -- and a boat, you know, and just because ostentatious sort of militaristic name. I mean, the fact that the whole thing was just a scam, the idea of building the wall. Mexico's not going to pay for it, MAGA is going to pay for it. Well, I guess nobody told them that, but a lot of them I guess don't mind, right?

So, there's no counterprogramming, here. There's just what we're seeing, which has been a very well executed, all digital virtual convention that I think is going to change the way conventions are mounted, right? I think that is fundamentally successful. And there's been no counterprogramming except really bad news for Donald Trump's and you know, his team.

MADDOW: Well, do the Democrats feel frustrated or should they feel frustrated that it is turning out to be a referendum on Donald Trump. That even four days of discussion about Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, to a certain extent is still about the failures of the Trump administration. I mean, every reelection effort is always going to be that at least a little bit.

REID: Yes.

MADDOW: But they are -- I mean, Kamala Harris didn't do a speech about Trump. Joe Biden tonight, as far as we can tell, is not going to give a speech that's all about Trump. It's just that the fears and warnings about Trump are still stark, they tend to overshadow all the other positive messages.

WALLACE: But they don't have to give a speech about Donald Trump. I mean, I think that argument has been made. But in the eyes of the electorate, it's a referendum on Donald Trump's record, that benefits Vice President Biden and Senator Harris. That benefits them strategically and politically, and it lets them do what they did, which is -- I mean, and we talked about it last night. Senator Harris gave an historic speech and a historic moment, but she was only able to do that because the case had been made against Donald Trump.

I mean, that's where we're sort of the complementary messaging, not just night after night, but really within each hour has benefited them. And you know, if this turns -- listen, we know what's going to happen next week. I think Brian was the first one to say it on his programs this week, but it'll be in the gutter.

The more people know what Joe Biden's life was like, what his family is like, what his wife was like, the more people see and hear from Senator Harris and her stepdaughters or call her mama and her nieces, the more inoculated they are. So -- I'm not taking away from the importance of them and their messages, but just as a strategic frame, a referendum on an incumbent is a loser for the incumbent.

REID: Yes. And I'll say that, you know, to put it in the frame of the '04 campaign, right, a very small role on the press side, you know, with John Kerry versus George W. Bush, he needed to make a biographical case for himself and the convention tried to do that and really talked about his war service.

The other side needed to make him an unacceptable replacement for a wartime president. Like that was the whole point, right? You had to make Kerry just absolutely unacceptable to replace a president that most people supported because they had that conviction that were a country at war, and so that was the job. This is the reverse.

As long as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are acceptable replacements for the incumbent, then they've already won in a sense.

MADDOW: And Joe Biden can't be redefined.

REID: The country -- it's too late.

MADDOW: The country knows Joe Biden. I mean, he was -- he'd spent, I mean, how many decades in the Senate, plus his time as vice president, plus his time in current public life. It does feel like if their idea is that they want to redefine him and make him some sort of --

REID: And you know what this sort of shadow theme of the Biden campaign is, right? It's we know Joe. People keep saying we know Joe. And even if you don't really know him, you don't really know a lot of specifics about him, you feel like you know him. Jill Biden, I think came across to me. People really genuinely don't know, but you feel you know her. You feel like you know them. And that that that helps them a lot.

MADDOW: Let's give people more of a chance because joining us now live, I am pleased to say, is Dr. Jill Biden. She served as Second Lady while her husband was vice president. Democrats fervently hope that in a matter of months, she will be the next First Lady of the United States. Dr. Biden, you have every option in the world where to be right now. Thank you so much for making time to be here with us.

JILL BIDEN, WIFE OF JOE BIDEN: No, thank you for the invitation to be with you.

MADDOW: Well, you know, you have -- I was thinking about your political life as a non-politician, but as somebody who's been through all of it. You have been the sort of -- sort of the lesser iterations of this before. You have been at your husband's side as he ran for president before, with him through Barack Obama choosing him as his running mate, and that campaign and the re-election campaign, all the conventions that's brought you to over the years. How different is this now? I mean, now that he is the nominee, now that you may very well be First Lady, how different is this?

JILL BIDEN: You know, this is -- this is really different, and it's really exciting. And you're right, you know, it just wasn't the right time before but this time feels different. So many people kept coming up to me. I mean, I have to say we did not plan on running. But after this president was elected, so many people came up to me and kept saying, Jill you -- Joe has to run he has to run.

And then Charlottesville happened. And this president said, there were good people on both sides. And Joe just couldn't hear that. And so, we decided to run.

MADDOW: Do you agree with some of the starkness of the warnings that we have heard this week, for example, from both Michelle and Barack Obama during this convention, the former first lady warning it can and will get much worse than it is now, if he is reelected? The former president flat out warning that we're at risk of losing our democracy, depending on this. Is that the way that you -- that you think about it as well?

JILL BIDEN: Yes. You know, I think what Barack and Michelle said is right. I mean, things could get much worse. We can't take four more years. So, you know, Joe is going to lead us in a new direction and that's what people have to think about. His type of leadership, you know, he'll lead with empathy and he'll just be a much stronger president and kindness and compassion.

You know, Joe knows what it's like for -- I mean his father lost his job. Joe understands that. His parents couldn't pay for the college that he wanted to know -- to go to. Joe understands that. And you know the tragedy and the loss that Joe and our family has been through. And with so many people dealing with loss during this time of the pandemic, they will have a president in Joe Biden who knows what loss feels like and who will be empathetic.

REID: Dr. Biden, thank you so much for being here. I used to call my mom doc because she was also an educator and with a Ph.D. And so, I want to talk to you about the venue that you chose for the -- for your speech when you were speaking to the American people and introducing yourself.

You know, teachers and students and parents of students are very traumatized and scared right now. It's a really difficult time to decide what you're going to do with your kids because of COVID. How much do you think that former vice president Biden the needs to convey that sense? You know, is this going to be more about comforting the American people, inspiring the American people, or really speaking directly to those kinds of fears, especially, you know, the fears of teachers and school staff and parents?

JILL BIDEN: Well, you know, this -- Joe is going to be all of those because Joe will have a strategy to lead us forward, and he's already working on that strategy. And this pandemic has just pointed out so many inequities in education. That's why I chose to go back into -- that was my original classroom at Brandywine High School. And that's why I chose to go back there because so many educators and students are calling me and saying, what do we do, what do we do. People are feeling so anxious, but we have to listen to the experts and the doctors. And when they say it's safe to go back, we'll go back.

Listen, nobody wants to be in the classroom more than educators. I can tell you that, from my own experience. I can't wait to get back. But we have to be careful, we have to be safe. There's nothing more precious to us than America's children.

WALLACE: Dr. Biden, I know from working for President Bush that the attacks on a candidate or an officeholder are most acutely felt by the people who love the most and Donald Trump got impeached over his effort to take your husband and smear your family and weaken your husband politically. How are you going to protect your family and yourself next week?

JILL BIDEN: You know, we knew this was going to happen. These are all distractions. When we decided to run, we knew this was going to be part of the campaign. But I looked at Joe and I said, Joe, we've been through the worst thing that could ever happen to us. And so you know, we can -- we have strong shoulders and going forward, Joe's just going to talk about the future, and what he's going to do and his -- and his plans.

So, Donald Trump, he's trying to get -- you know, to distract the American public from the issues that Joe is going to put for forth.

MADDOW: Dr. Biden, I have one last question for you. And I'm not sure how I would answer it if somebody asked me this about my partner. But what's he like, on a big night like this? What's it like for between the two of you, what's it like for him personally, when he knows he's going to have a landmark moment tonight? This will be one of the nights of his life after so many decades in public service. What's he like under this kind of pressure and big events?

JILL BIDEN: You know, Joe, I just left him. He's at home. He's out on the porch with our grandkids. He's doing what he loves. He's relaxed. He's confident. You know, Joe knows who he is. He knows where -- he knows his vision. He knows where he wants to take the country. Joe will be a very confident president.

MADDOW: Dr. Jill Biden, the former Second Lady of the United States, potentially the next First Lady of the United States. Dr. Biden, thank you so much for taking time to us -- time to talk to us on such a big night. You could be anywhere, we're really glad that you're here and join us this evening. Thank you.

JILL BIDEN: Thanks. Enjoy Joe's speech. Thank you.

MADDOW: We will. Thank you. She's really good. She's really good at talking in public and on T.V. And she's been in public life adjacent to her husband's political career for so long, but you don't see a lot of her doing one on one interviews. You don't -- I mean, one on three interviews in this case. We should have wonder. She's got a really, really winning public facing person.

WALLACE: And she was really is prepared for what's about to come. I mean, they obviously as a family made this decision to do this together. They know -- I mean, the country had a preview. Donald Trump got impeached out of his fear of running against this candidate, this man that we're going to see tonight. At some cellular level, Donald Trump knew he represented an existential political threatens. So, they've obviously thought all that through.

And while we may be disturbed or shocked by how low the president, the current president is expected to go, you can just tell that they've had those conversations as a family.

MADDOW: And they're not going into this blind.

REID: Well, I mean, they're going to have to think about -- I mean, what kind of a person would attack a man's only living son, right? I mean, the attacks on Hunter Biden for getting a job or getting on a board, right, but they didn't just attack, Joe Biden, they attacked his remaining son. And so there isn't -- there's no bottom to where the Trump campaign I think we'll go with the family.

And you know, Hunter Biden is going to be out there tonight. He's going to speak. He's going to -- he's going to be on that stage. And I'm quite sure that the Biden family should probably not get on Twitter, you know, after that speech, because I'm quite sure that the right is going to erupt.

MADDOW: But they've -- they know it's coming; they've made considered decisions and deliberate decisions about how they're going to do it. It's going to be a remarkable night. All right, coming up next, I'm pleased to say, we are going to be joined live by former Secretary of State, former Democratic Presidential Nominee, former First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton. She will be with us live right after this break. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe the person the Republicans have nominated for president cannot do the job.

He is temperamentally unfit and totally unqualified to be commander in chief.

With prior Republican nominees for president, I disagreed with them on politics, policies, principles, but I never questioned their fitness to serve. Donald Trump is different.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Four years ago, Hillary Rodham Clinton did not just campaign against Donald Trump for the presidency, she repeatedly and starkly warned of the unique dangers to the country if he were elected. Last night, Hillary Clinton laid out some of the costs of the fact that we made that choice anyway.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: Remember, back in 2016, when Trump asked what do you have to lose? Well, now we know, our healthcare, our jobs, our loved ones, our leadership in the world, and even our Post Office. As Michelle Obama and Bernie Sanders warned us, if Trump is reelected, things will get even worse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Hillary Clinton speaking last night at the Democratic Convention. It's now our pleasure to welcome her, former Secretary of State, former First Lady, former Senator, 2016 Democratic Presidential Nominee. Madam Secretary, thank you so much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate you making the time

CLINTON: Happy to talk with you, Rachel.

MADDOW: I have heard you make the case -- when Joe Biden was considering getting into the presidential race, I have heard you make the case that at least from that distance, a long time ago now, at least with what we knew then, it seemed like he might have the best chance of all Democrats to make Trump a one-term president, and in fact that he might have a very good chance of making Trump a one-term president.

Now that we are this close, now that we're in the middle of the convention, candidly, what is your confidence level now? Will you tell us what you're expecting in the general election?

CLINTON: You know, Rachel, I really do think that Vice President Biden is very well positioned, and now with Kamala Harris on the ticket to win the overwhelming vote and the Electoral College. But I also fear and worry about all of the shenanigans that we are seeing from the Trump campaign and their allies, trying to, you know, mess with the Post Office, increasing their efforts to suppress votes, and then much more aggressive disinformation campaign that is underway.

So, if we had a totally free, open election, I believe that Joe and Kamala would be our next president and vice president. But I think we're going to have to work like crazy between now and November to make sure that everybody who wants to vote does vote and every vote is counted. And that's going to be the challenge for not only the Democratic Party and the ticket, but frankly, the public and the press so that we have an election that accurately reflects the will of the people.

MADDOW: Do you think that the Democratic Party has the right muscles, the right resources to bring to bear to that kind of a fight in these next 70-some odd days before the election actually happens? What do you think the public at large, the media, the Democratic Party should be trying to build up, shore up in order to get ready for that kind of fight if you think that's the most likely eventuality?

CLINTON: Well, obviously, I've been really concerned about this for some time, and I've been supporting groups and litigation to try to make sure that the vote is going to be protected and mail-in voting is going to be permitted to the extent that it should be. I think that the Biden campaign, the DNC, a lot of concerned citizen groups are looking hard at what more needs to be done.

I think the press has to really, absolutely zero in on what's going on with the Post Office. You know, when the crony that Trump installed as the Postmaster General did everything he could to undermine the vote, taking out sorting machines, cutting hours, taking out mailboxes, and then once he was told he had to appear before Congress saying, oh, that they would stop. But there's been no commitment to reverse the damaging changes that they've already put into place.

I think it's going to take a lot of lawyers. It's going to take a lot of poll workers. It's going to take a lot of people at the polls to counter what has already been publicly announced, which is a Republican National Committee intimidation force. They're recruiting people to show up at polling places to intimidate voters.

So, this is going to be a very important existential struggle, Rachel, to make sure that everything is in place to protect the vote, and also to be ready for whatever scenario may come about on Election Day. And I can think of, you know, a dozen that would be very challenging and we have to, you know, work them through and be prepared for anyone of them.

REID: Secretary Clinton, it's Joy Reid. Thank you so much for being here this evening.

CLINTON: Hi, Joy.

REID: Hey, how are you? So, you're speaking --

CLINTON: I'm OK.

REID: Excellent your speech in combination with former President Obama and Senator Harris, you know, really did put together sort of a package of dire warnings to the American people. But those same warnings really have been heard really since 2016 by your former colleagues in the United States Senate. And we knew that in 2016, Senator McConnell, Mitch McConnell refused to protect the election that you were a part of.

You serve with these people, you know, and you were very well known for working quite well across the aisle and having a lot of good allies on the other side of the aisle. Does it surprise you that there has been so little alarm raised? Yes, the Senate republicans did sign off on that damning Senate Intelligence Report about the 2016 election, but there's been no outcry really about what Russia did, no outcry about the bounties on American troops, no real outcry about any of it, including, you know, the interference of an adversary into the election. Does that surprise you or does it affirm something you learned about your former senate colleagues on the other side?

CLINTON: Joy, it does surprise me and it really saddens me. I served with a lot of the people who are still there, and I give a lot of credit to the bipartisan report from the Senate Intelligence Committee that just came out with the fifth volume that really goes chapter and verse about all of the interference in the 2016 election, but more importantly, that it continues today.

You know, you have the intelligence officials and even the Trump administration sounding the warnings. And you have a lot of good legislation that has come out of the house under Nancy Pelosi that goes to the Senate and is just basically buried by Mitch McConnell. I don't understand what has happened to other people that I served with, I worked with, I traveled with who literally seem to have had like a bottom knee or something.

They just have given up their principles, their values their backbone, to following Trump regardless of where he leads, which they know, and I believe they know is, you know, unconstitutional, often illegal, reckless, wrong, whatever adjective you want to use. So, I can't explain it, Joy. I give credit to people like Mitt Romney, who do stand up and speak out. But I wish that there had been more like Margaret Chase Smith, who was the first Republican senator who spoke out against Joe McCarthy back in the day 50s. You know, where is that kind of leadership? And it really saddens me that it seems to be absent.

WALLACE: Madam Secretary, it's Nicolle Wallace. Thank you for spending time with us.

CLINTON: Hi, Nicolle.

WALLACE: I want to pick up on Joy's line of questioning. Today, 73 former Republican national security advisors, many of whom I'm sure you worked with when you were Secretary of State and when you were in the Senate, Mike Hayden, John Negroponte, 71 others. Donald Trump's former Secretary of Defense has likened Donald Trump to the divisiveness of the Nazis. His former secretary of state called him a bleeping moron. Everyone that has been around Donald Trump commander in chief has left alarmed. Even John Bolton calls him what you called him four years ago, unfit?

How do you take that argument to the country that isn't used to making national security decisions that's maybe scraping through with the pandemic and with job and security and even food and security? How do you take those issues that you know are so vital, that anyone that worked in government just feels at a visceral level, but that both parties frankly have struggled to take to the electorate in the final days of a general election?

CLINTON: Well, I think, Nicolle, you're 100 percent right that we've got to try. It's often difficult to make national security and foreign policy arguments in the midst of a campaign. But I appreciate all of the national security experts from both sides of the aisle who are coming forward and putting their names to statements and giving interviews because they are trying to sound the alarm, and I think there needs to be linkages.

When you think about the national security implications of a foreign adversary interfering with our election, that should certainly catch the attention of voters regardless of party. And I think you have to make the case as the Senate Intelligence Committee has. When you see the constant sort of incoherence of the Trump foreign policy as applied to China, for example, you know, that goes right to the heart of not only our economy and prosperity, but also our security and our strategic advantage around the world.

I think you have to link it to what people are talking about and worrying about. And it isn't easy, but it will break through to some. You know, we don't need everybody to pay attention to the national security concerns if we can get enough people to do that. Because this election is going to turn on aggregating groups of people who are worried about what Trump represents.

And as I said last night, our hope paying attention to the positive agenda that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are putting forward because for example, Joe has a great plan about reshoring a lot of essential manufacturing so that we saw what happened with the pandemic and our dependence on pharmaceuticals and personal protective equipment and a lot of other essential items dependent upon China.

We need to bring that home. We need to use the defense production act to make sure that we can take care of not only our own national needs, but then be a contributor to global needs as well. That's just one example and there are many of them. So as the campaign really kicks off, I think that bringing to the forefront, having these people on your shows will really make a difference. It will break through to some people who will begin to draw the connections.

I mean, why is Michael Hayden so worried about, you know, Donald Trump? You know, he's identified as a Republican. He's identified as being on the kind of conservative side of now national security. Why is Colin Powell who yes, he's endorsed other Democrats, but he's never spoken at a convention before, and he's somebody who has been in the inner circle, why is he so concerned?

And I think if we can somehow get the message across that these men, and they're predominantly men, not exclusively, have served our country in peace and war. They've been in that situation room, they've been confronted with the kind of really difficult choices that a president or a national security advisor or Joint Chiefs of Staff or defense secretary has to understand and then decide about, and they're worried about Donald Trump.

Because as bad as Trump has been for the last three and a half years, I don't know what would happen to our country in terms of the danger to America, the danger to our economy, the danger to our interests around the world, if he had no accountability staring him in the face at all.

So, I think it's important. And Nicolle, I appreciate the way you often come back to that on your show and try to keep those national security issues front and center.

WALLACE: Thank you.

MADDOW: Madam Secretary, I've been told that we are out of time and I'm just going to risk my job and stay on with you here for a second because there's something I really feel like I need to ask you. And it's actually not an election question at all, at least not about our elections, but it's something I really want to hear from you about. And it is that late last night, we learned, we got the first reports that it appears that the most important, most charismatic, strongest opposition leader that Vladimir Putin has ever faced in Russia, Alexei Navalny, it appears that he has been poisoned.

He's not the first Putin opponent to be poisoned. Mr. Navalny is apparently in -- has been hospitalized, is in quite serious condition. We do not know if he will survive this. And of course, we don't know all the circumstances. The U.S. government has apparently had zero response to this thus far. The President had nothing to say about it when he was asked about it today.

I just want to Get your response and ask you what you think the U.S. government ought to be doing in light of this.

CLINTON: Well, the U.S. government should be not only speaking publicly about this incident and connecting it to so many more, because as you rightly say, Rachel, poisoning, people falling out a windows, having convenient heart attacks in the back seats of cars, has become business as usual in Putin's Russia. Navalny was on his way to support the protests against Putin in the far east of Russia.

There is no doubt in my mind that he has been poisoned. I couldn't obviously speculate as to how the people traveling with him think it was tea that he drank at the airport lounge. The last word I heard was that his wife was not being able to see him, that they would not permit him to be medivaced out of Russia to a hospital in another country.

This is the kind of regime that Donald Trump supports. And this is the kind of leadership from an autocrat like Putin that he aspires to. And to circle back to Nicolle's question, every American should ask him or herself, you know, do you want a country where your president admires someone who kills, literally kills his opposition.

Now -- and we have heard nothing. We have heard nothing from Pompeo. We've heard nothing from, you know, the White House. And it is a demonstration of the moral bankruptcy but also the clear and present danger that the Trump administration poses to our freedoms, to our values. And I am really concerned that more people in our country are not understanding what has happened elsewhere in the world that Trump seems to admire. And what would stop him from going even further than he has if given the chance?

MADDOW: Former Secretary of State, former First Lady, former Senator, 2016 Democratic Presidential Nominee, Hillary Clinton, Madam Secretary, thank you so much for taking this time with us tonight.

CLINTON: Thank you.

MADDOW: We really feel honored to have you here. Thank you. All right, the convention -- this is what I'm in trouble for, it starting early tonight. I will pay for all of the commercials. I'm sorry. We'll be right back. I'm sorry. Sorry, my fault.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: As I mentioned just before the break, we are expecting the Democratic National Convention to kick off early tonight before 9:00 just in the next couple of minutes, which means we illegally lengthen the Hillary Clinton interview. It has put us in a bit of a pickle in terms of all this stuff we were supposed to do. I'm sorry.

REID: No, but I mean, it was worth every minute of it. Hillary Clinton was as strong and as angry about what Russia is doing. Imagine the other piece of counterprogramming we weren't expecting from the Russians to -- for Vladimir Putin, allegedly, to poison his only real opponent. And for the United States government, the country that has supposedly been where the leader of the free world, were supposed to lead the world in the post-World War II era, and there's silence, silence. Shocking.

WALLACE: And look, I think it is the same sort of despair that I talked about last night from Obama. People who had the quiet work that really uncelebrated work of protecting this country's national security, they've debated how best to do that, but they agreed that that was the mission. We have in Donald Trump who does not agree it is the mission to protect our allies and punish our enemies.

REID: That's right.

WALLACE: As she just said, there has been no public condemnation of what happened. And there has been, as far as we know, no one picked up the phone. And listen, one of the tools that you have in diplomacy is the public shaming of this kind of behavior for what, six weeks now from this bounty story?

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW: (INAUDIBLE) of the unified free world against this.

WALLACE: Correct.

MADDOW: I mean, it's not just condemnation and tsk-tsking people about this, it's about responding to it in a way that punishes countries that do this. And we used to do that until five minutes ago, and it wasn't a partisan thing. And now it's -- I want to still believe it's not a partisan thing between Democrats and Republicans. It's definitely a partisan thing between Trumpists and everybody else.

WALLACE: Well, we don't have Republicans off the hook. When she was on the Senate Armed Services, she traveled to war zones and her closest friends with the Republicans on the committee. When I worked for John McCain in 2008, all of his stories about travels included Hillary Clinton.

REID: But didn't they also include Lindsey Graham?

WALLACE: Of course, they did. Of course, they did.

REID: I'm sorry, but Lindsey Graham --

WALLACE: She described it as a lobotomy. That is exactly what happened. I mean, my question for her is how do you take this quiet work of diplomacy and national security and make the case to the country, and she had a very good answer about it. But I think -- I think -- I'm just surprised to hear that come pouring out of her, to hear it spill out of Barack Obama last night. People who are in charge of protecting this country are scared of what Donald Trump has done to it.

REID: Well. And also, I mean, you think about the fact that we are the country that people used to turn to, you know, as the defenders of democracy. And what's happening in Russia right now is a democracy has already been obliterated by Vladimir Putin. He's turned it into, as he wrote in your book, it sort of -- it's an oil cartel, right, that pretends to be a state.

And we as the United States should be at the front of condemning that and of defending the idea of democracy. But our president is trying to break our democracy to make it more likely Putin's, to make us more like Russia. Instead of defending it, we're actually trying to replicate it. That's what Donald Trump is trying to do.

I mean, he can't get away with the sheer unadulterated violence against his opponents, but he does a mock violence. Lock her up. That's (INAUDIBLE). That if you run against me, in the old Congo, you go to prison. You get locked up. In the old Ukraine, you get locked out?

MADDOW: If I win, you'll be in jail.

REID: That's correct. And so, he's doing a proto violence that is similar to what Putin sort of vibe is, and he wants to be Putin's ally more than our former allies.

WALLACE: It's a lot worse than looking the other way. I mean, he has advanced futons cause.

REID: Yes.

WALLACE: He's had five phone calls. Greg Miller wrote about five calls for which there are no notes. John Bolton confirms that. He was never in the room with Vladimir Putin. And I mean, we're inching in that direction. I mean, federal troops on the streets of Portland are a move in that direction.

MADDOW: Well, tonight, part of what we are going to see is an overt effort by the Democrats to show that there is not only -- there are not only a lot of Republicans and people who consider themselves to be in the center who are on the side of the Biden and Harris ticket, but we're going to see a real show of total unanimity among the Democrats and no schisms among the Democrats.

One of the things I think was very effective politically in the first night was shots of a very well edited piece of tape from a lot of the other candidates who run in the primaries. We're going to see that again tonight. We're going to see remarks from Andrew Yang. We're going to see a speech from Mike Bloomberg, which should be interesting. I also just found out that we're going to see some Trump impersonation from Sarah Cooper.

WALLACE: I love her.

MADDOW: I know.

WALLACE: And Mayor Pete, and Mayor Pete.

MADDOW: And Mayor Pete, that's right. Pete Buttigieg is going to be taking lead on that too as well. All right, that's all starting apparently right now.

WALLACE: See, we're on time. We're still on time.

MADDOW: Oh yes. I'm a master of this. Watch this. Three, two, one, go. See?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM PEREZ, CHAIRMAN, DNC: Hi, I'm Tom Perez. This has been an incredible week. It hasn't been the kind of convention you might have been expecting. And be honest, it wasn't the kind of convention we had planned for. But in a way, what we've seen over the last three nights and what we'll see tonight is a more accurate reflection of where we -- where our country is than any traditional convention could have been.

Yes, we've talked a lot about our next President and Vice President, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. We've talked about how they'll tackle the challenges we face and lead our country to a brighter future. And we've seen that our party is ready to lead not just now, but into the next generation. But we've also heard a lot from people who aren't running for anything this year. People who might not even think of themselves as political, auto workers, and college students, farmers, and immigrants, teachers, nurses, and yes, the occasional calamari chef.

If the literal meaning of the word convention has to do with coming together, then what has brought us together this year isn't partisanship, it's pretty purpose. That's what has allowed us to bring both diehard progressives and conservative ex-Republicans under the same tent. That's what has allowed us to build a campaign where no state, no precinct, no vote is taken for granted.

That's how we build our movement. That's how we went up and down the ballot. That's how we make change. And when we can bring that kind of energy to the challenges our nation faces, well, there's nothing we can't accomplish. Just ask Joe Biden, who set his sights on a mission that could change the world forever, conquering cancer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Vice President Biden said that with a new moon shot, America can cure cancer. I'm putting Joe in charge of Mission Control.

Beau Biden, the son of Vice President Joe Biden, succumb to brain cancer Saturday at the age of 46.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's the one who wanted me to stay engaged.

He was worried that I would not continue to fight for the things I'm passionate about. And I'm trying to keep his promise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Obama signed to the 21st Century Cures Act, including the so-called Moonshot that could be a giant leap in the fight to cure cancer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Moonshot is the symbol of American ambition and achievement. Now, Vice President Joe Biden will lead a similar effort to cure cancer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will be led by Joe Biden and it's aimed at ending the disease that killed the vice president's son and 600,000 other Americans every year.

JOE BIDEN: I think of all the people have gone through what I've gone through without one-tenth the help that I've had. When you have a son or daughter, husband, wife, someone you adore, you become as educated as you can, as quickly as you can, particularly when you know that's a very serious form.

I learned a lot about the mechanics of cancer and the delivery systems, and there's so many changes that are just on the cusp. I have now met with over 200 oncologists and cancer research centers and I'm asking them, what is it you want me to clear the way for. Where are we an impediment?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is determined. He's not going to walk away until there is real change.

JOE BIDEN: This is a truly bipartisan issue. So, the leaders in this effort in the House and Senate are Republicans as well as Democrats.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): He's been pushed to the edge of what anyone could be expected to bear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Following correction, Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a man of substance. You have experienced tragedies in your life. And we are inspired by the way that you have responded to those.

JOE BIDEN: Every single family in America has been affected by cancer, and we are so close.

OBAMA: For the loved ones we've all lost, let's make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.

JOE BIDEN: I believe we need a moonshot in this country to cure cancer. It's personal, but I know we can do this. There are so many breakthroughs just on the horizon. We can make them real with an absolute national commitment. There are Democrats and Republicans on the Hill who share our passion to silence this deadly disease. If I could be anything, I would have wanted to be the president that ended cancer because it's possible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Amanda Litman. I'm the co-founder and executive director of Run for Something. In May 2017, I was invited to join a small meeting in D.C. with a handful of other organization leaders to give updates to the V.P. on our work. The V.P. came over and I tried to play it cool.

Well, my Grammy would be furious as she knows I was at a meeting with you and didn't get a photo. Grammy, the V.P. said, perking up as we posed for the photo, you can see here, let's call her. I called her. Someone wants to talk to you.

Hi Grammy, this is Joe Biden. She was overwhelmed. Grammy went on to tell him her second eldest, my aunt Michelle, was in the hospital, colon cancer, advanced, and she was really sick. The VP's posture changed immediately. I'm so sorry, Grammy. I'm so, so sorry.

You know, my son Beau died of cancer. As a parent, you should never have to even think of one day burying a child. It's a nightmare. He stepped away speaking personally with her about sitting in a hospital room with a sick child about pain. I could hear her choking up on the phone. I'm giving Amanda my personal home phone number. You need anything you call me. I'll come to the hospital and sit with you. Anything.

Grammy still talks about that call. He's a genuinely nice man, she says. He just gets it. Her grief and my family's grief mattered to him. Our entire country is grieving. We are all going through trauma. Our next president needs to be the one helping us heal. That's why I'm glad and excited to vote this fall not just against Trump, but genuinely for Joe Biden.

PEREZ: Before we continue with tonight's program, I want to thank everyone who has made this unprecedented convention possible from our delegates and speakers, to our party staff and our production team. Next week, it will be the Republican Party's turn to hold their convention. On behalf of their speakers and staff, I hope their organizers will take safety as seriously as we have.

And then it will be up to you, America. You'll have heard from two very different candidates for president. You'll be able to dig into the details of their respective plans for solving the challenges we face and decide which plan you think will work for you and your family.

But the choice this year is deeper than that. No matter what you think about Donald Trump or Joe Biden, no matter which party you belong to, or whether you belong to any party at all, your job in this election is to decide what kind of movement is capable of being the vehicle for the change we need.

Can a movement that demands absolute loyalty to one man and his personal agenda really ever make this country greater, or do we do better when we join together in a movement of shared values, one that amplifies our diverse voices? We've got one more night to show America what our path forward looks like. Not one man boasting that he alone can fix it, but everyday people coming together to face our challenges with unity and determination.

Now, we turn to one example, California's fight against the dangerous wildfires raging throughout the state. Please welcome Governor Gavin Newsom.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): I confess this is not where I expected to be speaking here tonight. I'm about a mile or so away from one of over 370 wildfires that we're battling here in the state of California. We are just coming off a record week, a heatwave that led to 130-degree temperatures, the highest temperature ever recorded in California, arguably the world's history here in our state.

The hots are getting hotter, the dries are getting drier, climate change is real. If you are in denial about climate change, come to California. 11,000 dry lightning strikes, we had over a 72 hour period leading to this unprecedented challenge with these wildfires. This is an extraordinary moment in our history. Mother Nature has now joined this conversation around climate change, and so we too need to advance that conversation anew.

Just today, the President of the United States threaten the state of California, 40 million Americans that happen to live here in the state of California, to defund our efforts on wildfire suppression because he said we hadn't raked enough leaves. You can't make that up, nor can you make up the fact we're involved in over 90 lawsuits with the Trump administration on clean air and clean water, on endangered species, on pesticides. There is so much at stake in this election, none more important than the work Joe Biden did with Barack Obama on the vehicle emissions standards, the fuel efficiency standards that will save billions and billions of dollars, taxpayers and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

There is so much at stake in this election. I couldn't help myself on my way to one of our relief centers, one of our evacuation centers, just jump out of the car and just express my deep reverence, my admiration to Joe Biden, to Kamala Harris, California's own, to their faith, their devotion, their constancy, to their commitment, not just to the environment, but to the Commonwealth, to our kids, our kids' kids, our grandkids, to our legacy.

There is so much at stake in this election and I just want to close by reminding each and every one of you. The future is on to something to experience, it's something to manifest, it's inside of us, not just in front of us. It's our decision, not our conditions that will determine our fate and future. So let us resolve that after this historic night, this incredible, incredible week, this remarkable convention, that we do everything in our power to get Joe Biden and Kamala Harris into the White House in January 2021.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

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