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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 10/29/21

Guests: Bill McKibben


Experts insist Trump and Alfa Bank connections were real, suspicious. President Biden met with Pope Francis for about 90 minutes.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Have a fantastic weekend, my friend. Thank you.


MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Really happy to have you here on this fine Friday evening. We got a lot to get tonight. We`re going to be talking about President Biden and his remarkable meeting with Pope Francis today at the Vatican.

We`re going to be talking about the pressure that is coming now from all sides, including some very unexpected places in terms of getting something done on climate. It`s a sort of tailwind for the president as he heads from the G20 towards the big climate summit. It`s actually I think the goods new story in terms of what is looking like it`s about to happen in Washington. We`re going to talk about that.

We`re going to talk about the huge, huge Supreme Court case that`s going to be argued on Monday. We should be able to get oral arguments of that court case, here the arguments before the court, when that happens on Monday. We`re going to talk about how you can listen in on it and what the stakes are there.

We`ve got a lot to get to tonight. It`s been a really big week in the news. A big day in the news. But it`s also Friday. So, are you ready for a story?

I want to start with something that promise you haven`t heard anywhere else. For which I have no competition elsewhere in the news media tonight. This is absolutely fascinating to me. It`s a Friday night story, if ever there was one.

All right. Here we go. Do you know what the Streisand effect is? Or Barbra Streisand`s, really, nothing against her at all. But Barbra Streisand`s name will be associated with this phenomenon until the end of time. And I`m sure it makes her crazy but it`s unavoidable at this point.

It was almost 20 years ago now when she brought a lawsuit -- there was a collection of photographs that had been taken of the California coast, thousands of pictures along the coastline of California. The idea was to document coastal erosion.

But Barbra Streisand had a big house on the California coast. And it was in one of the photographs that was included in this collection. And she filed a lawsuit claiming the photograph was an invasion of privacy. She sued to have that photo taken out of this publicly available collection.

And thus was born what we now call the Streisand effect, because nobody had seen that picture as part of the coastal erosion documentation project. But once it became news that she had filed a lawsuit to keep the photograph private, while then the photo immediately became of intense interest to everyone. And everyone wanted to see the photo.

There was an incredible demand to see that photo that had never existed before. Not only did she not win the lawsuit, but thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of people sort out and ultimately looked at that photo, people who otherwise would have had no interest in it.

When all she was trying to do was make sure that nobody would ever see it. Quite the opposite effect. It`s called the Streisand effect and it`s largely about how, particularly on the Internet, where things are infinitely relatable and everything is on a click away, humans interest in things can be squashed a can only be spurred.

So, choose your battles. It`s become an Internet specific thing. Specific thing but there is a news corollary to that. In our news room, for the show, we call it a boomerang.

And in this case, it`s related but it`s specific to the news context. What a boomerang is, is when somebody is trying to kill a story, somebody is trying to stigmatize a story or delegitimize a story, maybe trying to punish people who are part of the story, maybe trying to punish or threaten or mock people who have reported on a story.

But in so doing, they, hoops, managed to get the story confirmed and backed up and rarefied and they bring new attention to it and they bring it back to life. They actually advance the story further and put it back on the front page in their efforts to try to disprove it and make it go away. Those efforts come back at them like a boomerang. They want the story gone. They want the story to seem like bad news, wrong news, and disproven. It gets proven, it gets back in the news, and more people see it and believe it than ever before. That`s a boomerang.

And that is what has just happened with a story that started in 2016. It`s no actually more of a problem for Attorney General Merrick Garland at the Justice Department under President Biden. But it started in 2016 and part of the week that it has become a boomerang is that right before Bill Barr, William Barr resign as one of the this gazillion attorney general who served under Trump, right before Barr resigned, he appointed a special counsel at the Justice Department to investigate the Russia investigation, because how dare anyone ever wanted to investigate that.


I mean, big picture here, as you know, Russia hacked the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign during the 2016 election. Then they leaked those hacked documents strategically during the campaign to try to help Trump and beat the Clinton. Russia also deployed armies of paid trolls and social media full-time propagandist, working covertly from Russia, to promote content in the United States that they thought would help Trump and hurt Clinton.

We all agree. We know this is what happened, right? This is the part we can at least agree all happened.

After those actions by Russia started to come to light, it was soon emerge that contemporaneously, with those actions by the Russian government, the Trump campaign was having all sorts of communications and contacts with people connected to the Russian government -- communications and contacts between the Trump campaign, the Trump orbit, and the Kremlin, things that they were trying to keep secret. And worse, things that they lied about when they were ultimately asked about it.

Everybody from Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn, to Trump`s first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to Trump`s campaign chairman, and Jared, his son Donald Jr. They all had these communications and contacts with people connected to the Russian government, and they all try to keep them secret. Then they all lied about them when asked.

It`s also emerged that during the campaign, the Trump organization was trying to develop a major building project in Moscow. That would`ve been the biggest building project of Donald Trump`s life. Publicly, he lied about. That he said he had no dealings related to Russia, whatsoever.

But literally, the night of one of the Republican primary debates he signed legal documents about pursuing his Trump tower in Moscow. So, Russia`s doing all this stuff to help Trump and hurt Clinton. It turns out that Trump has all these connections to Russia that he`s trying to secret than line about, him and all the people around him. So, you know, that`s a natural of what happened there.

And yes, you put those two things together and de, of course. An investigation was opened into that. And thus speak visitor through struck. We all know what happened thereafter. We have been living with and through the consequences of that for the past five years now.

But as that scandal was first coming into focus in 2016, a separate piece of it broke as almost a side bar to the main article. In 2016, several news organizations published stories describing provocative but unexplained computer pings, connections between servers associated with the Trump Organization and servers associated with a Kremlin connected Russian bank. American researchers were experts and foreign hacking`s, exploits who had access to the kind of core technical data about Internet traffic that sometimes use for that kind of security were.

They`ve actually gone during the 2016 campaign to look to try to see if when Russia was hacking the Democrats and Hillary Clinton`s campaign, might Russia have also hacked the Republican Party and the Trump campaign? That`s what they initially went looking for.

They didn`t find any evidence that Russia had hacked and targeted the Republicans and Trump the way they had targeted the Democrats and Clinton. But what they did find, much to their surprise, was that evidence that computer servers associated with a big Putin-connected Russian bank, Alfa Bank, and services associated with the Trump Organization, were in some kind of communication, frequent intense levels of communication that were inexplicable. Nobody could tell why.

You know, and it might be innocuous, might be some coincidental, random connection between the servers, might conceivably, you know, be something commercial between that bank and the Trump Organization, marketing or spam, or something going on in terms of business stuff that had nothing to do with the coincidental politics of the moment. Maybe? I don`t know?

My have also been another conceal, covert communication between Trump`s orbit and the Kremlin orbit. At a time, Trump world was trying to cover up a lot of things like that during the campaign. Nobody knew what it was.

But again, the evidence that there was some kind of inexplicable communications between this Russian bank and Trump`s organization, this surface briefly in 2016, but then it pretty quickly faded away, right? Maybe it`s ringing a distinct bell for you when I`m discriminate right now, but probably not and never even really got that much public attention because again, nobody could ever approves what these connections were.

The researchers had effectively metadata showing that there was communication. They didn`t have anything about whether content of the communication was.


So, nobody could say what this man and there was a lot of other stuff going on. Pretty quickly it slid out of the news. When it came time for Robert Mueller`s report, the Mueller report didn`t mentioned the Alfa Bank thing at all.

The Senate Intelligence Committee report on what Russia did in 2016, they actually did look into it, but they didn`t come to a conclusion about it either. Quote, the committee could not positively determine an intent or purpose that would explain the unusual activity. Okay. So, it sort of petered out. The story just kind of drifted off into the wind years ago. Until now, because it`s a boomerang.

Because, it is apparently an ongoing concerted, Republican and pro-Trump project to try to turn the investigation of the Russia scandal into some kind of scandal itself. Okay. Knock yourself out, you guys. But be careful what you throw into the wind. Might come back at you sometime.

As I said, Trump and William Barr left behind at the Justice Department this special counsel, his name is John Durham, to investigate the people who had the temerity to investigate what Russia did in the 2016 election, as if the investigation of the Russia scandal is itself the scandal. And last month, that special counsel who is still in place, even though the Biden administration is there now and the Justice Department has changed leadership, John Durham still there doing his work.

And last month, he brought an indictment against a lawyer, a lawyer who brought the allegations about these computer contacts between the Trump Organization and the Russian bank, he brought allegations and data about those unexplained contacts between those servers. He brought it to the FBI. The same data, the researchers had uncovered showing those thousands unexplained contact between the Trump organization and the Russian bank, the same data that led to the new stories from 2016. This guy brought that information to the FBI.

And it makes sense that he brought it to the FBI. He himself was a former national security lawyer at the Justice Department. He had worked on lots of high and national security criminal cases in his time in government service. He knew this information was going to the press. She decided to bring it to the FBI. So they wouldn`t be blindsided by press coverage. And frankly, because the matter did have all these national security implications that the FBI should know about, if the worse implications of that data were ultimately borne out.

Last month, Special Counsel John Durham brought a criminal charge against that lawyer who brought the data to the FBI, saying the lawyer did not consistently explain whether he was acting on behalf of a client when he brought the FBI that data, or if he was acting on his own.

Now, why that would matter materially at all is -- it really would matter to the FBI if the guy was like, I`m here on behalf of my neighbor. I`m here on behalf of Hillary Clinton. And here on behalf of, I just brought it myself, I`m here on behalf of tech research. Is it going to make a difference?

He`s a former national security lawyer from the Justice Department, with security clearance and everything, has worked on serious national security cases in the past. He goes back to his colleague, the FBI, saying this is going to end up in the press, and this has implications, you guys ought to look it. Do they care on whose behalf or any once he brought it in? I don`t know.

But that`s the charge John Durham made against this guy and that will ultimately before a jury to decide. But here`s the rub -- in their tireless efforts to try to make the Russia investigation itself a scandal, in trying to bring this prosecution, this guy John Durham, Barr special prosecutor he wrote this whole along 27-page indictment against this lawyer. And the indictment spells out this kind of inexplicable charge against the lawyer about whether he consistently described who his client was, whatever.

But that 27-page indictment, I`m in, that doesn`t take that long to see that, right? The reason this is 27-page is because it also spins out this tale. This allegation that the Trump, Alfa Bank communications, the data the guy brought to the FBI about the connections between those computer servers, Durham spells out this conspiracy theory in the allegation that that whole story was a deliberately concocted false allegation that was made up out of whole cloth, on purpose, just to try to hurt Trump. And that people who came up with this allegation, they knew it was false but he pushed it anyway.

Now, John Durham didn`t actually charge any of that alleged behavior. But he wrote it all into the indictment anyway, along with very thinly veiled references to all of the researchers and the tech people involved in doing through research in the first place, all the people who discovered these communications between the Trump Organization and the Russian bank.


None of these people were technically identified by name in the indictment, but they were all described by Durham with such specificity that it took about five minutes for people to figure out who these researchers were. And it took fewer minutes than that for all of their names and very specific personal information to be all over the Internet. And it took even less time than that for all the threats to start, right? This naturally made their lives a living hell, because now they`ve got a Kremlin-connected bank, run by billionaire Putin aligned Russian oligarchs coming after them for this. And they`ve got all the Trump patrols in the royal world coming after them as well, since Durham basically accuse them imprint of having made up this terrible thing to make Trump look bad, which they knew was false but they pushed it anyway.

Well, here comes that effort boomerang right back at them. Because it turns out you can`t drag these folks into it. You can ruin their lives. You can smear the with allegations tonight never intend to prove, that they were somehow bad faith actors who are doing bad things to Donald Trump and the Russians.

But these people can defend themselves, to. They can only speak for themselves. And it turns out the no, what they know, what they found, what they are now willing to say out loud, is that not only was it absolutely the right thing to do, to hand over that stuff to the FBI when they discovered it back in 2016. But also, this is kind of a real story. The connections between the Trump servers and the Alfa Bank servers were real. They were covert communications that someone was trying to hide, that the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank appear to have been trying to hide.

They see this was not made up. And these are the people who figured it out in the first place. So, they are the ones who have the receipts.

So, we`re starting to see their push back a couple of weeks ago. This is from "The New York Times" several wreaks ago. Quote, lawyers for one of the researchers, who the indictment discuss, said the Alfa Bank results quote, have been validated and our reproducible.

The findings of the researchers were true then and remain true today. Reports that least findings were innocuous or a hoax are simply wrong.

A lawyer for another of the data expert see in the indictment said his client had a duty to share this information with the FBI.

Well, now tonight, we have reviewed a letter, I have reviewed a letter, written to John Durham, the special counsel, and CC to Attorney General Merrick Garland and that`s a good thing, it`s from the lawyer of one of the technical experts who is very -- who is described as the indictment. He`s not one of the people charge. He`s described in the indictment, not by name but they describe him in such detail that he was instantly doxed as soon as the indictment came out. This is one of the people who Durham says basically in his statement made up this whole thing about Trump and Alfa Bank, and chopped it to the FBI knowing it is made up.

Look at this boomerang. Look at this boomerang. Look at what they`ve just sent to the justice department. Again, to John Durham himself and to Merrick Garland. The computer scientists who review this data starting in the late spring and early summer of 2016 quote, thoughtfully and the really performed the research necessary to assess the nature of the alleged Trump, Alfa Bank, Spectrum Health, connection. And they collaboratively shared their views about what their data shoe ordained that show.

In the end, the researchers unanimously concluded that the data reflected the existence of a covert communication channel between the Trump Organization, Alfa Bank, and Spectrum Health, and that this channel warranted further investigation. Again, the unanimous conclusion of all of the researchers.

Remember, that Durham said that the researchers concluded the stuff was false and pushed it anyway. No, they unanimously concluded these allegations were true. Moreover, quote, to this day, the researchers who perform the analysis, as well as other leading experts in the field, remain maintain that this conclusion is supported by the data. And no credible expert has refuted a.

The researchers ultimately concluded that the data in fact support the conclusion that there was a convert covert communications channel between Alfa, the Trump Organization and Spectrum Health.

This letter to Durham then quotes emails among the researchers at the time they were looking at this data. These are emails that Durham apparently had for his investigation that he ignored in writing of this indictment, because he wanted the indictment to make it look like this was all a hoax and the researchers knew it.

Well, the researchers also still have access to their emails from the time. They know it wasn`t a hoax. They know they never believed it was a hoax. And they know they discussed it in those terms amongst themselves, contemporaneously while they were reviewing the data.

For example, quote, if the white paper intends to say that there are communications between at least Alfa and Trump, which are being intentionally hidden by Alfa and Trump, I absolutely believe that is the case.


And from another researchers. Quote, facts, it`s clear there`s hitting communications between Trump and Alfa Bank.

Quote, these contemporaneous communications, if it`s the researchers` good faith belief, number one, there was a covert communications channel between Alfa, Trump Organization and Spectrum Health. And number two, the existence of such a channel was predication for and relevant to an investigation of potential criminal law violations.

And so, yes, therefore, they brought it to the FBI as they should have.

Again, this is from a letter sent to the Justice Department. Sent to special counsel John Durham and to Attorney General Merrick Garland that we review today. I personally reviewed it. This is a letter from a lawyer from one of these technical experts who`s basically outed by the special counsel, John Durham. He`s a computer researcher who is now being hounded and threatened constantly, because Durham cast these public aspersions against him and his colleagues. That this part of the Russia investigation was somehow something that they made up, they concocted this hoax because they`re bad actors who knew it was false but pushed against Trump anyway.

That doesn`t appear to be at all what happened. But those people`s lives are being destroyed by those allegations, by the threats and the targeting of them by people who are essentially sicced on them by what Durham did. This is also folks those who can speak for themselves and they are doing so now. And in so doing, Trump and Barr `s special counsel, John Durham, and all the people trying to make this part of the Russia investigation some kind of liability for the people who figured it out, some kind of scandal that they discovered what they did -- all of those folks are now catching this boomerang right in the teeth. Because boy, howdy, is this story revive now, right?

When is the last time you had heard about this story at all? I hadn`t thought about it in years. But it turns out we now know that the Trump, Alfa Bank story is isn`t disproven. It isn`t a hoax.

That people who founded out in the first place to this day think that what they found was conclusive evidence that a covert communication channel was opened during the campaign between the Trump Organization and a Russian bank connected to the Kremlin. It was a covert communication channel that existed during the campaign and that both sides deliberately covered up.

Really? Tell me more. Hadn`t thought about this in years. But now I want to know a lot more about it because now it seems like we more a lot of questions that before you try to ruin these peoples lives as a way to trying to make this story go we forever. Boomerang.

We contacted John Durham`s office today at the Justice Department for comment on this matter, we have not heard back, but I live and hope.

Watch this space.



MADDOW: This cartoon was published in 1960. It shows a man sitting on a throne. He looks almost like a king, given the ropes and the head thing.

On his lap is what appears to be a little boy who he`s putting on the head. As you can see the caption reads, big John and little John. Be sure to do what your papa tells you.

That was published in 1960 at the height of the U.S. presidential campaign that year. The big John depicting and that cartoon is not a king. It was the pope at the time, Pope XXIII. The little John, the one who is getting a pat on the head there, that was supposed to be John F. Kennedy.

The implication of course was that JFK made it to the White House, the U.S. would be under foreign control. Because JFK would be taking his order from big John, the pope at that can. He`d be so compromised by his Catholicism, there was no way he`d be able to govern with the interest of the American people at the fore. He`d be beholden to the pope for everything.

And by today`s standards, it does seem kind of ridiculous to think that a solid chunk of the American electorate might ever think that the Vatican would be secretly pulling the strings when it comes to U.S. policymaking, right? That you couldn`t trust a Catholic with public office essentially.

But at the time, JFK was incredibly concerned about how voters would perceive his fate. Both in the lead up to the election and when he eventually took office, it had only been a few decades since the last Catholic candidate, Al Smith, had been absolutely flattened by Herbert Hoover, back in 1928. Al Smith was the first Catholic presidential candidate in U.S. history. He lost the 20th election by an Electoral College vote of 444 to 87.

And that walloping was driven in no small part by rampant anti-Catholicism that was pushed by a parade of lovelies including the Ku Klux Klan.

So when JFK managed to win, barely, in 1960, he remained weary about the optics surrounding his fate and specifically surrounded his relationship with the pope. And a new time was that more evident than it was in 1963, when he was set to visit the Vatican. The trip actually came shortly after the new pope was coordinated, Pope Paul VI.

Given that it was his first visit to the Vatican, the express at the time was infatuated, was obsessed with the question of whether or not Kennedy wouldn`t here to the traditional practice of kneeling in front of the pope, kissing the popes ring. Much to the chagrin of JFK`s critics, he did no such thing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That Vatican City is one of the last stops for President Kennedy on his European visit, and he is received with pomp and ceremony. The papal majordomo and the master of the chamber accompany Mr. Kennedy to the Vatican Palace to Pope Paul`s library where they hold a 40- minute private conversation.

Mr. Kennedy is the third president of the United States to be received an audience by a pope.


The other two were President Roosevelt and President Eisenhower.

Mr. Kennedy sister is in the presidential party. The pontiff spoke English, one of his seven languages during the audience. When the visit is ended, the president`s sister kisses the fisherman`s ring. But Mr. Kennedy, as a visiting head of state, does not.


MADDOW: He does not. We checked. He does not.

News reports were fixated on the fact that it was a simple handshake between President Kennedy and the pope.

But what`s even more striking is that contemporaneous print reports even speculated that yes, it looked like a handshake but, we`re sure secretly, JFK did kiss the ring. He probably did it behind closed doors.

This is what one of the news wires reported about that visit. Quote, the president did not kneel or kiss the pontiff`s ring when they first met, in the presence of the cortege that led him into the pope`s private library. He bowed slightly and shook hands. However, it is possible that Mr. Kennedy later kissed the pope`s ring in the privacy of the library.

That was mainstream newspapers. That was being printed in the mainstream press around the country. When all the cameras were out of the room, must have been when Kennedy knelt down and kiss the ring. We can`t be sure, but it totally could`ve happened. Must of mean it could`ve happened, right?

A lot has been made of the fact now that President Joe Biden is only the second Catholic president, after JFK and, therefore he`s just the second Catholic president to have an audience with the pope. Of course that, is true.

But it also simplifies it too much and feels to capture how much the world has changed since Kennedy visited the that can six decades ago. And a great many ways, President Biden`s Catholicism is much less of a front political issue than when Kennedy was in office. Yes, they`re definitely so those on the far right who question Biden`s faith, who think he`s not really a Catholic where there is something they should be questioning about his Catholicism. But nobody is really even debating anymore whether or not the pope is secretly pulling the strings when it comes to how the U.S. is covered.

For his part, President Biden has not had to tiptoe around the fact that he`s Catholic. He regularly attends mass. He`s met with three different popes over the course of his political career. In fact, he`s apparently felt so comfortable with all the various pontiffs that he famously told Pope Francis predecessor, Pope Benedict to his face, that who`s been quote, entirely too hard on the American nuns, after the Vatican under Pope Benedict criticize various female religious orders for their activism when it came to issues like poverty.

You have to be comfortable enough for the pope to tell him hey, Mr. Infallible, I`ve got a bone to pick with you.

So today`s visit was not particularly fraught for President Biden, particularly because he is met with Pope Francis numerous times in the past. He even keeps a picture of one of their past meetings in the Oval Office. It`s probably there for no surprise that by all accounts, today`s visit went well. The two held a private meeting for close to 90 minutes. That`s triple the length of the meeting that President Trump held with Pope Francis when he visited back in 2017.

Aside from just looking genuinely happy to be there, you could tell that President Biden had been looking forward to this visit for sometime. I know this is true, not just because of how warmly they hit it off, but also because of the gift that he brought for the pope. If you, like me, make a habit of following the visits that world leaders meet to Vatican, you know they all bring gifts. Most of the time they`re not all that memorable. But if they are memorable, is usually because of a really bad.

LBJ famously gave Pope Paul VI a bust of one of the American presidents. And you`re probably thinking, oh, maybe it was a bust of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, or FDR. They theoretically could`ve also given the pope a bust of John F. Kennedy, who had had the important visit to the Vatican shortly before he was assassinated.

But no, LBJ gave the pope a bust of himself. He gave the pope a bust of LBJ.

Like I said, the memorable gifts are usually just exceptionally bad and that`s how you remember them. But President Biden today basically dropped the mic on future people gives. He`s going to make it hard from everybody from here on out. He presented the pope with basically the literature cool vests months that priests were when they`re seeing mass. This was not just any set of those, it was one designed nearly 100 years ago by one of the most famous people tailors in the world.

It was hand-woven in 1930. It was worn during a visit to United States by cardinal who would later go on to become Pope Pius the 12th. In the year since, those vestments have been looked after and taken care of by the Jesuit order here in the United States. I mean, since 1930.

Not to belabor the point here, but this is like essentially giving a really big Yankees fan the Babe Ruth jersey from the World Series games where he hit three home runs. Future world leaders should forgo people`s gifts. This was a good one. Don`t try.

President Biden also gave the pope something that is called a challenge coin.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m not sure, this is appropriate but this is a tradition in America. That the president has what is called a command coin. That he gives to warriors and leaders. And you are the most significant warrior for peace I have ever met.

And with your permission, I would like to be able to give you a coin. I know my son would want me to give this to you because on the back of it, they have the state of Delaware, the 261st, the unit my son served.

Now the tradition is, and I`m only kidding about this, if I next time I see you, and if you don`t have a, you have to buy the drinks.


MADDOW: President Biden said there right at the end of that, you have to buy the drinks at. And then he said quote, I`m the only Irishman you`ve ever met who has never had a drink.

I`m going to go out on a limb here and say JFK did not make jokes like that with Pope Paul back in 1963. The presidency and politics around religion and Catholicism in particular have changed a lot since Kennedy met with Pope Paul in `63. We have proof to that in President Biden sit down today with Pope Francis.

But for all the ways that that relationship has changed, the one between a Catholic leader and the leader of the world`s Catholics, so have the challenges facing our globe. And the readouts of the meeting today we learned that President Biden and Pope Francis spoke a lot about the things you might expect -- advocating for the world`s poor, people suffering from persecution.

But something else took center stage during their meetings, something that would have been a focus 60 years ago, and it`s now very much top-of-the- line. The two apparently devoted much of the conversation today to the climate crisis, the need and the moral responsibility that they both believe in, in terms of tackling that issue head on. That became very practical in the very serious way today. We`ll have more on that.

Stay with us.



MADDOW: After President Biden leaves Rome this weekend, he`s going to head next to Scotland for the big international climate summit. These summits only have it in every six years. As they left Washington for this overseas trip, these are the headlines that trailed Biden towards that summit -- new budget deal marks the biggest climate investment in U.S. history, the White House build back better unveiled Thursday represents the biggest clean energy investment in U.S. history, with a $555 billion package of tax credits, grants, and other policies aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions that are fueling climate change.

I mean, on one hand, it must feel good for the White House to be walking in this big climate summit having just proposed the largest single investment in clean energy in the U.S. history, on the other hand that proposal is still a proposal. The pressure to make it happen is becoming sort of excruciating, though, and all sorts of ways.

Today was day ten of a hunger strike in Washington, D.C. Five young climate activists from the Sunrise Movement have been describing themselves of food to urge Congress to pass bold climate change legislation, they are on ten days without food now. Tonight, we heard from one of those activists, that she and another person on hunger strike were taken to the emergency room today as a consequence of what is now like the and dangerous hunger strike. And this Sunrise Movement activists, the hunger strike for climate justice.

Today, there are big climate actions around the world, New York, San Francisco, Israel, Germany. Protesters in Great Britain held a big climate change demonstration at the series of London banks, demanding that they stop investing false fuel companies and other industries that contribute to climate change. This week, veteran climate change activists Bill McKibben who has joined us periodically here on the show over the course of the last year, he wrote about the incredible success that he divestment strategy has actually had in recent years, even if it hasn`t always been well sung as a climate change success story.

McKibben said, quote, on Tuesday, activists announced that the fossil fuel divestment campaign has reached new heights, in endowments, portfolios, and pension funds, just of $40 trillion have now committed to full or partial abstinence from coal, gas, or oil stocks. For comparison`s sake, that`s larger than the gross domestic product of the United States and China combined. Divestment has helped rubbed much of the shine off what was once the planet`s dominant industry. If money talks, $40 trillion makes a lot of noise.

For a long time, climate has loomed as those big and seemingly insurmountable problem. But sustained and relentless activism around this issue is also yielded major results in the past few years and now, it seems like the U.S. is on the precipice of something big.

Joining us now is Bill McKibben, climate expert. He`s one of the founders of the grassroots group, He`s heading to Glasgow tomorrow for the G20 climate summit.

Mr. McKibben, it`s nice to see you. Thanks for making time the night before your trip.

BILL MCKIBBEN, CLIMATE EXPERT: Well, it`s a great pleasure to be with you.

MADDOW: Are we on the precipice of something important in terms of American policy on this issue?

MCKIBBEN: Well, look, partly the bar is super low. Congress has never done anything. And so, whatever they do will be bigger than what they have done before. And there`s a lot in this bill, if it ever gets passed, that will be really important.


Joe Manchin, Prime Minister Manchin, has taken his pound of flesh. There`s many of the most important parts of it were gutted along the way. Basically they took out all the sticks and left the carrots, a series of tax credits and subsidies.

But there`s so much money there that it will jumpstart in important ways the move towards renewable energy. It`s not a home run, but it`s probably enough to keep the game alive and send us into extra innings and maybe enough to salvage at least something out of this Glasgow conference.

MADDOW: Bill, that dynamic you`re talking about in terms of all the sticks, all the punitive or required actions are taken out and all the incentives are put in, mostly in the form of tax incentives, it did make me wonder if those initiatives, such as they are, might ultimately be more sustainable than more restrictive or punitive measures. Even if -- obviously, you`d want both. You`d want them to go further, but the kinds of things they did choose, because they are incentives to people who are designed to economically provoke more renewable energy and related technologies, those might be the sort of things that will be hard for Congress to get rid of or let lapse after a few years.

MCKIBBEN: Well, I think what you`re saying in a way is since our political system is run in a lot of ways by money, once solar power and wind power guys have enough money to buy their own congressmen, the process will be somewhat different than it is at the moment. We watched yesterday as Ro Khanna and his oversight committee tried to hold the CEOs of the oil industry to account. They were slippery and they dodged, but Katie Porter and AOC and people got in some good shots.

And what they`re seeing sort of in action is a re-jiggering of the balance of power here. Movements have grown strong enough that they have begun to challenge the previously unchallengeable political power of the fossil fuel industry and that`s getting stronger. The important thing today were these demonstrations around the world aimed at banks.

I was in Boston today with a bunch of colleagues from Third Act, this progressive organizing outfit for people over the age of 60. We were backing up the young people outside of Chase Bank, the biggest fossil fuel lender on Earth.

I think that message is starting to get through. The problem is time is extraordinarily short. The scientists have told us we have to cut emissions in half by 2030, which is eight years and a little loose change away.

This is the last probably push we`re going to get out of the Congress, if history is any guide. And so now we`re also going to have to take this fight not just to Washington but to Wall Street in a really serious way.

MADDOW: Bill McKibben, climate expert, one of the founders of grassroots environmental group,, Bill, safe travels, thank you for joining us tonight and good luck.

MCKIBBEN: Thank you very much.

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



MADDOW: So Halloween is on Sunday. I decided to wear my costume tonight as a preview as you can see, going as a -- as a middle-aged childless lesbian wearing a $12 blazer. Spooky, right? Nailed it. Nailed it.

I love Halloween. I love my eternal costume. Baboom.

But because I am in addition to being lazy about Halloween also a nerd, I also like to think of this time of year as oral argument season. October is the start of the Supreme Court`s new term each year. And on Monday morning we are going to get arguments at the United States Supreme Court on the Texas abortion ban which went into effect at the start of last month.

One challenge to the Texas abortion ban has been brought by a clinic in Texas called Whole Women`s Health and another challenge brought by the Biden administration, by the Justice Department. But the Supreme Court is going to hear arguments back-to-back Monday morning one at 10:00 a.m. eastern and the other at 11:00 a.m. Eastern.

Now, this is a really big deal, right? When the Supreme Court let the Texas abortion ban go into effect, it was the first time any state has been able to effectively ban any abortion since Roe versus Wade supposedly established a precedent that wouldn`t allow that back in 1973. These Monday arguments are going to be a really big deal.

And there are no cameras allowed inside the United States Supreme Court, but they do stream the audio of the hearings live on the Supreme Court website, which is very cool. So, on Monday morning, I`m just saying, it will be possible to plug in a pair of headphones and curl up with those oral arguments starting at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.

There`s two thing you should know if you`re going to do that on Monday morning. First the Texas abortion ban being challenged here quite directly violates a woman`s right to get an abortion as established by Roe versus Wade and subsequent Supreme Court decisions. That is not likely to be the direct legal question the Supreme Court grapples with on Monday. Instead they`re going to deal with the really unique and novel parts of the Texas abortion ban, specifically the vigilante part.

They wrote this law in such a way that the state of Texas is not directly in charge of enforcing it. Instead, individual private citizens are empowered to bring lawsuits against anybody who provides a woman with an abortion in Texas or helps her get one in any way. Texas says that because their state officials aren`t the ones enforcing the law that the state of Texas can`t be sued over it either, and in fact maybe no one can.

So that`s the legal question that judges are going to be considering Monday. The other thing to know ahead of the oral arguments is just how quickly we got here. The Supreme Court is not a fast moving entity. It is the slow loris of the judicial world.


It`s like it`s a horse and buggy but the horse is super old and has to keep stopping and taking notes. I mean from start to finish, it very often takes years before the Supreme Court, you know, takes up a case, hears oral arguments, gets anywhere near to making a ruling.

But in this case of the Biden administration suing over the Texas abortion ban, it took the Supreme Court ten days -- ten days to schedule oral arguments once they agreed to take up the case. That is unheard of. The legal scholars we have talked to about that say they have heard of almost zero cases in the modern world in which the Supreme Court has moved that quickly to prioritize a case. The last time anybody remembers the court moving this fast on a case was for Bush v. Gore in 2000.

But nevertheless, oral arguments on the Texas ban are going to start 10:00 a.m. Monday. Each side will get a half-hour to argue their case. If you`ve never listened to a Supreme Court case before you`ll be amazed how much everybody interrupts. The Texas clinic challenging the law will be up first. The Justice Department will go second at 11:00 a.m. I was going to say watch this space, but listen to this space live at the Supreme Court website Monday morning.

We`ll be right back.


MADDOW: Just one last thing before we go this fine Friday night. We`re doing something a little bit different tonight here on MSNBC. Usually after me is "THE LAST WORD." But tonight, we`re doing something different. We`re airing this new super thought provoking acclaimed documentary which is called "Civil War or Who Do We Think We Are."

It`s really well-done. The executive producer is Brad Pitt, which is the Brad Pitt, which I think is a first for an MSNBC production. It`s called "Civil War, or Who Do We Think We are" and it starts right now. Have a great night.