A report says that the medical license for Florida surgeon general for Dr. Ladapo was expedited. Former national security officials express "alarm at ongoing efforts to destabilize and subvert our elections."
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: One last note before we go, we have a really special new episode of my podcast out this week. Guest author Jay Caspian Kang, who just wrote a new book that`s part history, part memoir, all grappling with what we mean when we talk about the Asian-American experience, the fastest growing demographic in the country. I found it really persuasive and provocative. I hope you check it out.
That is "ALL IN" on this Wednesday night.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciate it.
And thanks at home for joining us this hour.
Today was sort of an intense news day. I think it was intense in part because so much of what has been driving the news today nationwide are various cases unfolding in courtrooms around the country.
The trial in Georgia of the three men accused of killing an African- American jogger in their neighborhood, running him down in their trucks and shooting him to death in January of last year.
The trial in Wisconsin of the man accused of killing two people and shooting and wounding a third during protests and unrest after a police shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August of last year.
There`s also simultaneously the ongoing trial in Charlottesville, where a who`s who of white nationalists and neo-Nazi groups are on trial in a civil suit that accuses them of planning and orchestrating the violent confrontations that killed one woman and injured more than a dozen other people after their white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.
I mean, add to all of those unfolding dramas in today`s news, in the news over the course of this week. I would also add another court proceeding that`s been underway in Kansas City, Missouri, a man named Kevin Strickland has been imprisoned in Missouri for 43 years for a murder in the 1970s that prosecutors now say he definitely did not commit. This is the prosecutor`s office who says they`ve discovered that in their words, this man is, quote, factually innocent of the crime for which he`s done more than 40 years in prison.
The only witness against him recanted her testimony and said it wasn`t him. Somebody else actually confessed to the crime he was convicted of, and the prosecutors, the people who prosecuted him and locked him up for it say he definitely didn`t do it. They have the exculpatory evidence, and they`re sure of that now.
Shockingly, Missouri`s Republican governor and Republican attorney general are nevertheless fighting the prosecutors in this case. The prosecutors say he needs to be released. The governor and the attorney general are fighting that. The court proceedings in his case have been underway this week as well in Kansas City, Missouri.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Certainly, your honor, truth was not found in this case by this attorneys general`s office because it was not solved.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m going to object.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Overruled.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Forty-one years they`ve had this case, 41 years, over four decades after defending 19 claims made by Mr. Strickland. That is how long it has taken this attorneys general`s office and those that came before them to talk to a single witness or victim.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is the Kevin Strickland case in Missouri. He has always maintained his innocence. He has been in prison for 43 years. The prosecutors now say he did not do it, the state`s attorney general nevertheless fighting to keep him in prison.
It`s another one of these incredible human dramas unfolding alongside all these other very high profile court cases this week.
That`s I think in part why the news has been pretty intense today. Some of the political news this week and today has also been based in the courtroom as expected after a federal judge ruled last night that President Trump`s White House record must be handed over to the January 6th investigation. Trump has now appealed that ruling from last night. It seems likely that this case may go all the way to the Supreme Court. One of the only matters of suspense here is how fast it will go.
Today, the Justice Department and the FBI secured their longest sentence yet for a person who participated in the January 6th attack on the Capitol. The FBI also released some really unsettling updates on who they`re still looking for and for what in terms of people who participated in the attacks that day, we`re going to have that for you ahead tonight including some stunning footage that`s been released now by the FBI.
We`ve also got a Veterans Day story tonight that will curl your hair. I actually think it`s a coincidence that this story broke today the night before Veterans Day, but it is a story about something really wrong and really gross that was done to U.S. veterans in the very recent past. It`s something that is apparently just now getting fixed.
So we`ve got that story for you ahead tonight.
Like I said, we`ve got lots to get to. It has been an intense day in the news, but I want to start tonight with a story that we`ve been on this week that we helped break this week, and it is now continuing to develop in ways that are really not good.
This is a story that is starting to get some national attention. I have a suspicion it is about to get more national attention. But I`ll set the stage here. This is April of last year, April 2020, it`s the big first wave of COVID cases were bearing down on this country, the state of Florida having a particularly bad time.
But the Republican governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, you know, loudly and proudly against basically all of the tools we had at the time to try to limit COVID`s spread. He was against stay-at-home measures and business closures. You`ll remember the footage of spring breakers partying in Florida with wild abandon while Florida had had basically no anti-COVID rules.
And the COVID numbers were bad, but started getting terrible there, and it was around that time that the state`s top public health official, the state`s surgeon general held what by right should have been a totally normal, you know, non-controversial press briefing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. SCOTT RIVKEES, FLORIDA SURGEON GENERAL: Wish to emphasize the importance of avoiding crowds, six foot spacing. If we are going to be in gatherings, should be less than ten individuals. We should all consider wearing a mask in public in the event that some of us are asymptomatic spreaders. Certainly, do not work when we are sick.
And again, for the elderly, these individuals need to avoid going out in public and certainly avoid contact with individuals who are ill. Until we get a vaccine, which is a while off, this is going to be our new normal and we need to adapt and protect ourselves. Thank you.
REPORTER: Surgeon general, you mentioned something that was important. You said until we get a vaccine, this is the new normal. What do you mean by this is the new normal?
RIVKEES: No, I mean, you know, so -- so when we have a vaccine against this, we`ll be able to stop the spread of COVID individual -- from COVID from person to person. We don`t have a vaccine at the present time, so our mitigation measure is the social distancing, six feet away from each other. I see some of you here wearing masks, have gatherings less than ten.
I see some of the measures that are happening in stores. They have Plexiglas sneeze shields. They are limiting individuals going into their establishments.
So as long as we`re going to have COVID in the environment -- and this is a tough virus -- we`re going to have to practice these measures so that we are all protected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Professional, right? Again, this is tape from April of last year, pre-vaccines. Those are the measures that were available. That`s Florida`s surgeon general saying these are the steps we`re going to have to take to protect ourselves until we get a vaccine.
He followed up by saying that the social distancing measures he was describing would probably have to be in effect for a year, if not more, because the virus wasn`t going anywhere.
Well, just moments after that they yanked him. They yanked him. They didn`t pull out one of those giant oversized stage hooks but just barely. They did physically remove him from that press briefing. Moments after the surgeon general talked about the need to adhere to social distancing measures, possibly for a year or more, the -- look, see what`s happening there in the foreground?
That`s the communications director for Governor Ron DeSantis, comes up to him, says something into his ear, and then 73 seconds later he`s gone, out of the room. Sir, time to go.
The press corps is still there, still asking questions wondering what just happened to him, but they pulled him out of the room. After that literal sidelining, he then continued to be sideline sidelined, not for a few days or a few weeks, even for a few months, but for well over a year. They just disappeared him.
Florida`s surgeon general wasn`t seen during public briefings or press conferences. He was notably silent on those things he had talked about at that press briefing before they took him away, things like masks and vaccine policies, especially stuff related to schools.
And he had to maintain that silence far silence for a very long time. That surgeon general`s last day was September 20th of this year. That footage that we showed you where he gets yanked out of the press briefing, that`s April of 2020. He stayed on as surgeon general for another year beyond that plus.
He stayed on until September 20th of this year. That date is important. September 20th this year. That`s when he leaves. The following day, September 21st this year, Florida`s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis appointed new surgeon general, a man by the name of Dr. Joseph Ladapo.
Right from the outset, Dr. Ladapo it was like night and day in terms of a change from the previous surgeon general.
He was very, very vocal on where he stood on COVID-19 measures and where he stood was where Governor Ron DeSantis stood. At the press conference on the 21st, his first day he was appointed, he made a point of saying, quote, there`s nothing special, end quote about vaccines. Nothing special about vaccines.
He said vaccines are no more special than, quote, eating more fruits and vegetables. Wow.
And perhaps in light of that it was no surprise by the following day his second day as the surgeon general appointee, he had signed a controversial new rule that took mask rules and quarantine decisions out of the hands of local school officials. Left it up to the sole discretion of families. It was an executive order that said that schools couldn`t put those COVID rules in place anymore.
Under that rule, if a student had been exposed to COVID, a parent or legal guardian could choose to keep their kids in school if they wanted to without restrictions or disparate treatment so long as the student remains asymptomatic. Where does that come from? What could possibly be the science behind that?
The same thing applied to masks, if a parent didn`t think their child should be wearing a mask to school, that was their prerogative, no mask needed, and schools couldn`t say otherwise.
Interesting timing, though, right? So the previous surgeon general who had said we`re going to need masks. We`re going to need social distancing, we`re going to need these kinds of rules until we get vaccines, vaccines are really important. He leaves office September 20th. The next day, the 21st, his successor is named.
The 22nd, the new surgeon general signs this anti-mask rule. We cannot have mask rules. That is not the only eyebrow raising bit of news about Governor Ron DeSantis`s new hand picked surgeon general.
Today we got this reporting from the "Tallahassee Democrat". Quote" Grave concerns, Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo`s medical license OK`d in two days.
Quote, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, the unorthodox surgeon general of Governor Ron DeSantis, whose employment was fast tracked with the help of powerful donor, a powerful DeSantis donor. Dr. Ladapo got his new Florida medical license application approved in record time. Records show it only took the Florida board of medicine two days to approve Ladapo`s ten-page online application.
That`s a process that normally takes two to six months according to the medical board`s own website and confirmed by medical and legal professionals familiar with the process. It should be noted that all 15 members of the board of medicine are appointed by governor Ron DeSantis. T
he report around that story spoke with a woman whose job it is to guide hospitals through the licensing process for doctors in Florida. She said in her 13 years of experience working with top institutions, she had never seen anything like that in Florida. Quote, I have not heard of a full license being issued in two days ever.
At the time that story went to print, the newspaper hadn`t received any response to their reporting from the Florida Department of Health as to why Dr. Ladapo`s license was fast tracked, but hours after publication, they did respond. They said during COVID applications submitted for critical need professions had been expedited. Applications must be reviewed within 30 days of submittal and the current average number of days for processing a medical doctor -- a medical doctor application is one to three days. The communications director for the Department of Health told the paper, quote, when a completed application is sent to the board office with no issues or missing information, board staff can approve the application and the physician can begin working in Florida.
The application is then ratified by the full board of medicine at their next meeting. Spokesman said, quote, since when is fast processing times for heroes and medical professionals a bad thing. Well, it might be a bad thing if that medical professional is overseeing the public health of 22 million Americans, and even more so if there are already questions about his resume. Just last month more than 350 Florida doctors sent a letter to lawmakers asking them to please closely scrutinize Dr. Ladapo`s record.
Those physicians were especially concerned with his ties to this group America`s Frontline Doctors. That`s an organization that has pushed fringe COVID beliefs. It`s now the subject of a congressional investigation given an apparently quite lucrative scam it`s been running where it markets and then tele-prescribes fake COVID cures like ivermectin while they take a hefty financial cut for themselves.
This is the group where one of its sort of star members has claimed that the women -- the reason women get ovarian cysts is because they have sex with demons. The actual leader of the group was criminally charged for her role in the January 6th attack on the U.S. capitol. This is the group that Dr. Ladapo held a press conference with in July of last year.
So a bit of scrutiny into that might not be a bad thing. That`s a weird group from which to choose the new surgeon general of Florida. But beyond belonging to that organization and espousing controversial views on COVID himself, one of the things that has newly emerged as problematic for him are claims that he made early on in the pandemic, which said that he had firsthand experience treating patients with COVID. He wrote an op-ed for "USA Today" in March of last year saying he had spent the last week taking care of COVID patients at UCLA`s flagship hospital.
Earlier this week, we had exclusive reporting that called all that into question. We were able to speak with multiple people who worked at UCLA at the same time as him. They said he misled the public about his supposed experience treating COVID patients at that hospital at that time.
One of our sources who was part of the UCLA COVID task force told us, quote, I was part of the team that was taking care of COVID patients in the beginning of the pandemic. Dr. Ladapo was not part of that team. It was a small group of people, a task force everyone knew everyone, quote, he wasn`t there.
We also reviewed scheduling documents spanning June 2019 to September 2021. According to those documents at no point was Dr. Ladapo scheduled to treat COVID patients.
The medical professionals who spoke with us said that Dr. Ladapo`s numerous opinion pieces where he spouts these unscientific anti-mask and anti- vaccine beliefs, they told us those were a, quote, source of embarrassment within the hospital.
We contacted Florida`s Department of Health seeking comment from Dr. Ladapo in response to this reporting, we`ve contacted them multiple times now. So far we`ve heard nothing back. We still hope that we will.
But for now, it looks like Governor Ron DeSantis went to this quack medical group to choose a doctor to be surgeon general who had literally stood with this group on the steps of the Supreme Court last year saying that COVID was no big deal and there was already a cure for it. He then fired the former -- the previous attorney general left, brought this new guy in and somehow managed to get him a medical license in Florida within two days in time for him to sign anti-mask rule -- anti-mask rules.
It has since emerged thanks to our reporting that it appears that he may have misrepresented his own clinical experience as somebody who was treating COVID patients. But nevertheless, Governor Ron DeSantis apparently keeping him on as surgeon general, even as hundreds of Florida doctors write to the state legislature saying please can we have more scrutiny of this guy as he`s been installed as the chief public health official in Florida, and as Ron DeSantis positions himself for I guess a run for president or something? At least a run for re-election on the basis of his strong record in protecting Floridians` public health and his response to COVID.
Questions really do keep piling up around here.
Joining us now is __. He`s the Capitol bureau reporter for "The USA Today" Florida network, which includes the Tallahassee Democrat.
Mr. Jeffrey Schweers, it`s nice of you to make time to be here tonight. Thanks for being here.
JEFFREY SCHWEERS, USA TODAY FLORIDA NETWORK CAPITAL BUREAU REPORTER: Thanks a lot. Thanks for inviting me to speak to you tonight.
MADDOW: So you broke this news this morning that Dr. Ladapo`s Florida license was expedited in two days, which seems very unusual. After you published your piece, the Florida department of health came back and basically insisted that it wasn`t unusual at all, that this was something that happens for all doctors now basically because of the -- because of the pandemic.
I have to make -- I have to ask what you make of that response from them and whether that does jibe with what you were able to report in the Democrat today.
SCHWEERS: Well, you know, they pointed to a particular part of their website that says -- they need to review all applications within 30 days. And then they had a little chart showing that for various applications it`s taking one to three days to process. Which was information that came to me after the story was published. And it`s a little bit contrary to what the experts that I spoke with told me, people who actually, you know, are on the ground helping people get their medical licenses through the state of Florida.
There are a couple of maybe exceptions to that. One of which is if they`re getting a telehealth license or a temporary certificate, you know, there`s an expedited process for that, or if they have all their credentials already lined up and filed with the application, it could be done in the shorter period of time. But the Florida medical board`s website said it generally takes two to six months.
And that was backed up by the experience of the experts that I spoke with for the story that ran today.
MADDOW: Well, I`m struck by the fact that there is preceding this reporting from you about the incredibly fast job of approving his Florida medical license and preceded the reporting from us about the serious questions that have been raised about whether or not he was honest about his experience treating COVID patients, preceding all of that reporting was this initiative by a large group of Florida doctors basically begging the state legislature to please give more scrutiny to his record before approving him for this job.
It seems like medical professionals in Florida, at least a significant group of them, have been -- saw red flags here and saw this as something to worry about. I wonder how that is playing in the state and whether or not that is -- that`s something that may be raising issues for the administration in terms of whether or not he`s ultimately going to be confirmed for this job which still hasn`t happened.
SCHWEERS: That`s an interesting question. And both what I found out through my reporting and what I`ve heard from people, you know, the feedback I`ve received is that there`s -- first of all, I think the DeSantis administration, it sound like they`re dismissive of this group of physicians because they characterize them as a Democratic group that has been promoting Medicaid expansion and other issues that I think are more in line with the Democratic Party than they are with the Republican Party, which is the party in control in the state of Florida, and that is also in control of the Florida Senate, which would have to confirm Dr. Ladapo`s nomination as surgeon general.
MADDOW: Jeffrey Schweers, capitol bureau reporter for the USA Florida Network -- which includes the Tallahassee Democrat Mr. Schweers -- thanks for helping us understand your reporting, I really appreciate it.
SCHWEERS: Thanks very much for having me, and I appreciate it.
MADDOW: We`ve got much more to come here tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: On January 6th during the attack on the capitol, somebody recorded this video and then uploaded it to the Internet. You`ll be able to see here why it subsequently become of acute interest to law enforcement. You see this man in the camouflage jacket, see the guy in camera there, screaming in the face of the Capitol police officer. He then shoves another officer really hard and then proceeds to punch the officer in the head.
Today, that man was sentenced to 41 months in prison, three and a half years in prison after pleading guilty to assaulting that police officer on January 6th. That`s the longest sentence received by any of the January 6th attackers so far. It`s been ten months since the Capitol attack, and since the justice department has been investigating and arresting and prosecuting those who participated in it, the justice department just put out a sort of progress report summarizing the charges that have been brought against people who took part in it.
In terms of the number of people who have been charged with illegally entering the capitol on January 6th, that number is over 600. The number of people who have been charged for assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers or employees at the Capitol that day, that number is over 200. The number of people who have been charged with using a deadly or deadly weapon or causing serious bodily injury to an officer, it`s more than 60 people charged with crimes like that.
With this interim report, the Justice Department also highlights that some of the people who committed some of the most violent assaults on police officers that day have still not been identified by law enforcement let alone charged. I wasn`t aware that there were so many people who had committed very visible, very acute, very serious attacks on law enforcement for which there is video evidence and the people still haven`t been apprehended, but the FBI has nutted up more than a dozen and a half videos showing those kinds of attacks for which they still don`t have a suspect in custody.
For example, this man seen here in this video posted by the FBI repeatedly hitting police officers with a stick or a baton. You can see it better from this second angle. He appears it to hit one officer right in the head as the officer tries to shield the blows with his bare arm. The Justice Department says as of today they have not been able to locate this man. They have not been able to locate him, arrest him, and start to prosecute him.
Same with this man, this is a different man seen here leaning over a police shield so he can spray some kind of chemical something right into crowd of officers` faces. When the can is empty, he then Chucks the can at them. This guy also has not been caught.
Here`s another guy who was wanted for violently lunging at this police officer and having this extended physical struggle with the officer as he tries to wrestle away his weapon. That man is yet to be apprehended.
This man also yet to be apprehended. The man in the yellow hat here, he`s seen here pulling this officer to the ground by his neck. That man in the yellow hat there who did that has not yet been found, has not yet been arrested. The FBI is still looking for him, and they`re circulating these photos to try and find him.
The Justice Department says they`re still looking for this man, too, this man here in the red hat sort of stripes on his sleeves. Here he appears to be wielding some kind of -- some kind of club that he`s using to hit officers there.
You see him spot shadowed there, an overhand swing at those officers. You can see it better actually from this angle in slow motion. If you look closely there, the club appears to have some kind of nail or sharp object sticking out the end of it. See that? As he is swinging it into the heads of those officers. That man has not yet been apprehended.
The Justice Department is highlighting 19 of these videos today. They released this progress report about all the people they`ve arrested and all the people they`ve charged and what they`ve charged them with, but they`re still looking for 19 people depicted in these 19 videos.
Altogether, they depict 20 people suspected of committing acts of violence on January 6th. These are people who haven`t been identified or apprehended yet by law enforcement. By highlighting these videos, DOJ is hoping these people -- hoping that the public will watch them, maybe see somebody that they know, see something that they recognize to help the FBI locate them and bring these people to justice. Again, this is some of the most violent behavior of that day for which people are still at large.
One of the things that we`re watching tonight is not only the aftermath of January 6th in terms of these criminal cases, but also the effect that it`s having on our democracy, a stark warning today from a team of -- bipartisan team of veteran national security officials warning about erosions to our democracy that have devolved both from what happened on January 6th and what led to that. We`ve got more on that ahead.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: This is the flyer for the event at the state capital in the great state of Georgia last week, quote, audit the vote rally. We the people demand a forensic audit. Got to get more of these forensic audits so the 2020 election to prove the election was stolen and Donald Trump is really still the president.
At that event here was what one Republican candidate for governor of Georgia had to say about why the audit is so important.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KANDISS TAYLOR, GOP GEORGIA GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: There`s three steps to fix 2020, it`s an audit. It`s a decertification, and it`s arrest.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: That`s right.
TAYLOR: We`re scared to say arrest, right? We`re scared because then they won`t do the audit. But it`s our government. And if you -- if you do treason against the Constitution, against the people of our country, you go to jail.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: That`s right.
TAYLOR: That`s what you do. You don`t just lose your seat.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Shoot em!
TAYLOR: You don`t just get primaried.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Right.
TAYLOR: You go to jail.
Or maybe you die by firing squad. I don`t know, I didn`t write it. I didn`t write it. Our Founding Fathers wrote it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: See somebody in the audience there yelling shoot em, as she`s kind of getting up to the crescendo there of her remarks.
First, you do the audit that shows you the election was stolen. Then you decertify the election results, which is a made up thing that election conspiracy theorists pretend will make Donald Trump president again, and then all the elected officials that you say stole the elections, as she said they don`t just lose their seats, they don`t just get primaried, they die by firing squad.
She said you don`t just get primaried. You don`t just lose your seat. You don`t just get primaried. Shoot `em. You go to jail or maybe you die by firing squad.
We reached out to that Georgia Republican gubernatorial candidate tonight. She told us that we were misconstruing her remarks, and she`s certainly not singling out current elected officials that she wants killed. She`s just talking about the Constitution.
But that`s the rhetoric on the right, right now, around the sham audits of the 2020 election results, which they are still doing and which they are trying to do more of all over the country. There`s, you know, this rally trying to gin up a forensic audit in Georgia.
In Michigan last month, a rally demanding an audit of the 2020 election results there featured several Republican candidates for the state`s top offices with at least one of them calling for one of their Democratic opponents to be put in jail because of the need for an audit or something. Just today the former Trump appointee and stop the steal activist running an election review in Wisconsin reportedly said he may need Republicans in the legislature to give him more taxpayer funds to keep funding his investigation because he hears rumors there may have been a lot of dead people who voted in Wisconsin last year, so he`s going to need more money for his investigation because he`s going to keep going.
Today, there was new pushback on these sham election reviews, these sham audits, and it frankly came from an unexpected corner. It`s a new open letter in which nearly 100 former high ranking U.S. national security officials, ones who have served both Democratic and Republican administrations, they`ve addressed Congress and told Congress among other things that they should put a stop to these so-called audits.
Quote: We write to express our alarm at ongoing efforts to destabilize and subvert our elections both through and related efforts to inject partisan interference into our professionally administered election process. Most concretely, partisan election reviews fueled by disinformation have increased the risk to election equipment and software by handing possibly sensitive election data and infrastructure over to inexperienced and unvetted third parties.
There`s also the risk of exposure, sensitive election or voter data, foreign or malicious actors might attempt to leverage this information through disinformation that calls into question the integrity of the election process and sows doubt about the results of future elections. Congress should push back on unwarranted and unsafe reviews of completed elections. These sham audits are just one symptom of the election disinformation campaigns that these dozens of national security officials say pose a national security threat.
They also point out the escalating threats to election workers at all levels as well as the possibility for further political violence like January 6th. They`re urging Congress to act to safeguard the integrity of our elections.
Joining us now is one of the signatories to that letter, Javed Ali, is a former senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council under President Trump.
Mr. Ali, thank you so much for being here. Really appreciate your time.
JAVED ALI, FORMER SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERTERRORISM, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Thank you for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Tell me about the nexus between national security and the sort of election disinformation and the sort of perverting of technocratic election expertise that you and your fellow signatories here are singling out.
ALI: Yeah, I think what we were trying to convey in the letter is that election security is not just an issue of domestic politics anymore, has an impact only on the domestic side of things. This is national security issue because now and for the last several years, what we saw with the 2016 elections and the 2020 elections is that there are various actors and forces on the foreign side adversaries who are actively trying to undermine democratic norms, systems, processes, some of which are election related, and this is a really troubling development.
So there needs to be a complete paradigm shift in how we think about restoring the balance on these things of traditionally our foundations of our democracy. Action by Congress is only one part of a much larger piece.
MADDOW: But action by Congress feels a million miles away. I have to say I`m struck by the distinction or just by the difference between seeing yourself and all these other national security professionals who served under different Democratic and Republican administrations, certainly I`d put a lot of the signatories here in disparate places along the ideological number line yourselves, and that sort of unanimity that you all are expressing in how this is a nonpartisan matter, this is a national security matter. This is something we need to do for the good of the country, not in any way that`s going to benefit any one partisan side.
That sort of civic equanimity about it is completely absent in Congress where this -- what you`re describing here is seen as a 100 percent partisan issue where Republicans are against doing anything and Democrats are for it. What to you explains that distinction?
ALI: Well, again, we are a highly polarized country politically, but that doesn`t mean there still aren`t options for us to take and pursue on the national security side led by career professionals or other folks who are just looking at this objectively, and I would put myself formally in that category, my government service.
So again, if Congress can`t deliver results or some of the solutions because they`re not going to be able to fix this on their own, the executive branch can come together and do different things without congressional action or support, but I also going back to my original -- one of my original points about sort of a whole of society approach, the non-profit sector needs to get involved.
The private sector clearly when it comes to social media and misinformation and disinformation, and then what can we all do as individual citizens to push back on this whether it`s through exercising our voting rights, whether it`s through educating ourselves more to not fall prey to the misinformation and disinformation that`s out there, to know what facts are and what is not the truth.
So these are all parts of, again, a much bigger effort that needs -- and there has to be leadership on this at the national level, and that is, I think, where President Biden and some of the folks in the administration are trying to get on this run.
MADDOW: Having served in the Trump administration and having lived like all of us have through the last six years or so in terms of how things have changed around this issue in the Republican Party, I wonder if you have any insight into how to try to address the accelerationist nature of this on the right?
I mean, we`re seeing what started off as complaints that elections must be fixed in some way to conspiracy theories that a small number of people tried to sell to others, but were rejected by the courts to now it being a not unusual thing in right wing politics.
For people who are capitalizing on these things, to call for the death, the imprisonment of their -- of people who resist them on this issue, people calling for civil war around these issues -- I mean, the radicalism around this issue is accelerating. It`s getting worse, and I feel like people who are against the politicization and the undermining of our elections are sort of increasingly exasperated, but people who are promoting this perversion of our elections, they`re getting emboldened, more radical, more extreme and louder.
ALI: Yeah, I would agree with that, and I just want to make clear I was not a political appointee in the Trump administration. I served in the Trump White House as a career professional from the FBI.
But going back to your point, yeah, that is one of the shifts in this issue is that what was sort of on the fringe of sort of the extreme right has now over the last four to six years become mainstream at a political level, and whether that`s due to the initial foreign influences that were promoting a lot of these beliefs and ideas in 2016 and have now become more mainstream in our political domestic political landscape, I mean, it`s a complex issue.
But that is a troubling aspect of what we`re seeing. And again, we have to figure out a way to get back to the center so we can come up with some solutions to make 2024 a much safer process for everyone involved.
MADDOW: Javed Ali, former senior director for counterterrorism, thank you for your public service and thanks for talking to us about this tonight. I really appreciate having you here.
ALI: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right, we`ve got much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Tomorrow is veteran`s day, which is when we honor and celebrate everybody who has served our country in the military. Just for disambiguation sake, Veteran`s Day is different than Memorial Day. Memorial Day is a somber and hot breaking day, when we remember and reflect on those who lost their lives in war time serving the United States. But that`s Memorial Day. That`s the day we mark in May.
The day we mark tomorrow, Veterans` Day is celebratory. It is buy somebody a beer day, it is cheer at a veterans` day parade. This year just in time for veterans day it looks like something pretty astonishing, something astonishingly gross and cruel to veterans is about to get undone.
It happened last year, January 2020. The U.S. had launched a drone strike that killed a very high profile, a very famous general in Iran`s Revolutionary Guards. Less than a week later Iran retaliated. Iran launched a missile attack on U.S. troops stationed at an air base in Iraq called Al Asad. It wasn`t like a few mortars haphazardly lobbed. It was a sustained, very large ballistic missile attack.
The chairman of the joint chiefs at the time described the missiles as large rockets with 1,000 pound, 2,000-pound warheads. Iran fired 13 of these missiles into that base housing hundreds of U.S. troops, and the good news about that attack, at least the mitigating news about the attack is there was enough good intelligence about that impending strike that the U.S. soldiers at Al Asad air base were able to get into bunkers before the missiles hit so nobody was killed, even though it was seen as a miracle at the time given how badly the base was damaged. Nobody was killed, that was the good news.
The bad news was that it was such an intense barrage by so many large rockets with such huge warheads that even in the bunkers, a large number of U.S. troops were still injured in this attack, dozens were injured.
Then after that attack the really astonishing, still-bewildering part came next. The president at the time, as you know, again, this was last January, it was president Donald Trump, he announced after the missile attack on Al Asad air base no Americans had been hurt in the attack.
Now, that was not true. Dozens of Americans had been hurt in the attack. But when that became undeniably clear that Americans were hurt, when literally, you know, the U.S. military started airlifting wounded troops out of that base, Trump nevertheless decided to stick with his initial assertion that no Americans were hurt in the attack. He decided he was going to stick with that lie.
You know, maybe that had been a knowing lie from the outset. Maybe it wasn`t a knowing lie at first. Maybe he was just mistaken at first, then when he learned he had been wrong and there actually were injuries, he decided he didn`t want to correct himself and so he would stick with it then. I don`t know. Who knows?
But he initially proclaimed nobody was hurt. When it emerged lots of Americans were hurt, he denied that and he made the series of just absolutely astonishing statements about, you know, how as far as he was concerned these U.S. troops weren`t really hurt. Their injuries from that Iranian missile attack weren`t real injuries -- at least he didn`t consider them to be real injuries. He thought wusses or something, wounded American troops.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: I don`t consider them very serious injuries. No, I do not consider that to be bad injuries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I know there`s a lot of competition for the title, but how is that like not one of the top ten things we remember about that man`s time in office? The time he said American troops wounded in an Iranian attack weren`t really wounded because he didn`t think their injuries were, you know, the sort of thing that should count. I don`t think they`re that badly hurt. I don`t consider that hurt.
Other people say they voted for Trump because he is so patriotic, because he loves the country so much. It just conveniently doesn`t apply to U.S. troops wounded in battle.
Anyway, what happened after the attack, after the American president bizarrely and repeatedly insisted that these injured soldiers weren`t really hurt, what happened after that is that the U.S. military actually awarded Purple Hearts to 29 of those U.S. soldiers who were injured, which is good that they got the honor they earned that day and the benefits it conveys, in earning a Purple Heart, among other things, earns you the right to be buried at Arlington Cemetery.
It is a big deal. Ninety-nine soldiers got those purple heart awards despite the fact that the commander in chief at the time was literally telling the country over and over again that he didn`t think their injuries should count.
The problem with this story now, for months now has been this. It appears that it wasn`t just those 29 soldiers who were seriously wounded that day. Dozens more American soldiers were also wounded that day.
"USA Today" has spoken to both survivors of the attack and a U.S. official who reviewed damage to the base immediately after the attack was over and they now have multiple sources corroborating that, quote, commanders discouraged wounded troops from filing paperwork for the Purple Heart.
If that "USA Today" reporting is true and NBC News has not independently verified it, but if that is true it is vile, right? Wounded soldiers hurt in an enemy attack told that they shouldn`t apply for the Purple Heart as the president at the time gave these repeated weird press conferences denigrating their injuries and playing them down. It is just vile, right. It is just astonishing as a thing that could have happened in our modern history.
But now that time in our history is apparently over because the soldiers who were hurt in that big deal missile attack under Trump, those soldiers are apparently no longer being told that they shouldn`t apply for the purple hearts that they earned.
"USA Today" is reporting as of today that the army has just received and has now started to process dozens more nominations for purple hearts from the soldiers who were hurt in that attack. Once those applications, those nominations are processed, it means the total number of purple hearts awarded to soldiers who survived that attack will likely more than double, and it will happen this time without a commander in chief denigrating them for their service and insulting them for being wounded in an enemy attack.
That news breaking today in "USA Today" on the eve of Veterans Day, just in time. I`ll tell you, we thought about calling the former president for comment on this story but we really didn`t want him to hurt himself in the bone spurs if he got up too quickly to take the call.
MADDOW: All right. That is going to do it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Good evening, Lawrence.