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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 7/23/21

Guests: Aaron Payment, Joyce Vance, Ben Rhodes


Former Wall Street trader Michael Milken indicted. Former Trump lawyer previously defended an investor who was sentenced to prison. Hong Kong Police Present Children`s Books As Evidence In "Sedition" Case. Five Hong Kong Speech Therapists Arrested Over Children`s Books Deemed `Seditious`.


AARON PAYMENT, VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL CONGRESS OF AMERICAN INDIANS: Because that would be inappropriate. But for those who don`t understand it, if they could ask them that basic question, why are we the only racial ethnic population worthy of this honor.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Aaron Payment and Kavitha Davidson, thank you for making time tonight. Enjoyed that.

PAYMENT: Thank you.

HAYES: That is all in for this week. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now. Happy Friday. Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Happy Friday. Good evening, Chris. Have a fantastic weekend. Much appreciated. And thanks everyone for joining us this hour. The New York Times called it, the largest criminal action against a Wall Street figure ever. Washington Post called it, the culmination of quote, the most spectacular securities fraud investigation in history.

This was 1989, I remember when this happened. I was in high school at the time. Federal prosecutors in New York, in Manhattan, indicted one of the richest and best-known Wall Street figures in America. His name was Michael Milken. And Michael Milken was famous for figuring out a new and ingenious - and it turns out illegal way for Wall Street traders to get even more fantastically rich using something called junk bonds to stage corporate takeovers, and you don`t need to understand the financial intricacies of this whole junk bond scam, to know the kind of character Michael Milken was.

Do you remember the movie Wall Street? Michael Douglas, the lead character in Wall Street, greed is good. That was based on Michael Milken. This was how The Post described to him on the day, he was finally indicted.

Milken, a Wharton School graduate who lives in Clark Gable`s former home in Encino, California, and is driven to work in a Mercedes Benz has been praised by some as a brilliant visionary and assailed by others for triggering a wave of hostile takeovers that piled up corporate debt while generating huge fees for young and aggressive traders. Yes, he did that. And then the law showed up.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The king of junk bonds Michael Milken was indicted today on charges of fraud and racketeering charged with him and the 98-count indictment was Brother Hall and another former trader for Drexel Burnham Lambert.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Grand Jury charged that the defendants must pay the United States approximately $1.8 billion, constituting the proceeds of their unlawful schemes in their interest and the racketeering enterprise charge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The indictment of Michael Milken follows one of the longest and most highly publicized investigations ever in a crime on Wall Street. It is an astonishing turn of events for a man who was acclaimed a financial wizard. He was called America`s junk bond king, operating out of this office in Beverly Hills, Milken made hundreds of millions of dollars for himself and his co-workers. He put together takeover deals, financed them and profited from them.

Today`s indictment linked Milken with convicted stock swindler Ivan Boesky. It said, Milken, in effect hid securities with Boesky, put them in Boesky`s account while Milken actually retained control.


MADDOW: That`s illegal. And again, you don`t have to understand the financial intricacies of how this all worked. But there was just an astonishing amount of money involved. You heard there in that report that prosecutors wanted Michael Milken to fork over $1.8 billion, billion with a B, $1.8 billion is what they alleged, he personally made off these illegal schemes.

But with numbers that big right off the bat, prosecutors have a dilemma, right? Once you indict one of the richest people on the planet, how do you make sure that he doesn`t run away to avoid prosecution? I mean, this guy in one year in 1987, earned more than McDonald`s.

Not Michael Milken`s company, not Michael Milken`s firm, Michael Milken personally out earned McDonald`s that year. So, if you are somebody with infinite resources, but you`re also staring down a 98 count felony indictment, how do prosecutors make it worth your while to not flee, to not run off to some other place on the earth, where you`d be out of the reach of American courts.

When prosecutors got Michael Milken before a judge, they asked the judge for serious bail, unheard of bail. They asked for record setting bail. They asked Michael Milken`s bail to be set at a quarter billion dollars, $250 million, far and away the highest bail request anybody in America had ever faced. But he`s one of the richest people in the world, right? Even $250 million was kind of couch cushion money to him, maybe just maybe it would be enough to make him think twice about making a break for it, if fleeing would cost him $250 million, maybe.

In the end, the judge did not grant that record setting bail, and Michael Milken did not skip town. He ultimately plead guilty to multiple felonies. He did pay hundreds of millions of dollars in fines, and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He served two years of that 10. But that $250 million bail request from prosecutors. Again, they didn`t get it, but that was the highest bail.


Prosecutors had ever asked for in history up until that point. And in the years that followed, I can tell you that, because everything was bigger in Texas, a couple of Texas judges tried setting bail for a couple of murder suspects in the billions of dollars. Texas judges tried it. But those numbers were lowered or overturned by other courts.

The record for the highest bail that actually stuck. That record was set exactly two decades after Michael Milken`s indictment, in the case of a hedge fund billionaire charged in a massive insider trading case. His name was Raj Rajaratnam, and he posted $100 million bail after he was indicted in 2009. That was what prosecutors, just what they asked for. That`s actually what he had to put up $100 million. It was the highest bail amount ever in American history.

And you`re going to have to forgive me here, but just indulge me for a second because it`s Friday. And I just - I need to give you a little side note here. Do you remember the name John Dowd? John Dowd was one of the lawyers who then President Trump hired to defend him during the Mueller investigation. A few years before joining the Donald Trump legal team, John Dowd was the defense lawyer for Raj Rajaratnam in this giant insider trading case. And that did not go well.

I mean, Mr. Rajaratnam was convicted on 14 felony counts. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison. That`s the longest prison term ever for an insider trading case. He had to put up $100 million bond. But on the day, he was convicted, a CNBC camera crew caught up with his lawyer with John Dowd.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: CNBC caught up with Mr. Dowd just a short time ago.




DOWD: That`s what I`ve got for CNBC.


MADDOW: Wow. OK. That`s what I`ve got for CNBC. I never get tired of that tape. I never get tired of that tape. That guy lost that case so spectacularly, and then he got hired by Donald Trump. But I guess that`s what I got for CNBC. Anyway, so that billionaire hedge fund manager with a huge insider trading case, he got the record sentence. We also believe he got the record for the highest bail ever set in American history. And that record stood until today, when the chairman of Donald Trump`s Inaugural Committee was released from custody after posting a $250 million bond.

Prosecutors asked for that but couldn`t get it for Michael Milken back in 1989. But today, they actually got it. For Tom Barrack $250 million, he had to put up. And again, why do you have to put up so much money because they think you have that big of an incentive to flee to a place where the U.S. courts can`t get you. In Tom Barrack`s case, it`s not just his vast wealth, his basically unlimited resources that make them a flight risk, as was the case with Michael Milken.

Tom Barrack is charged with being an agent of a foreign power, working to influence the Trump campaign and the Trump Administration and U.S. government policy on behalf of the Government of United Arab Emirates. While United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia were pumping a billion and a half dollars into Tom Barrack`s company.

Prosecutors actually didn`t want any bond arrangement for Tom Barrack. They pointed out that Barrack has these connections to very senior leaders in both the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia and that neither Emirates, nor Saudi Arabia have extradition treaties with the United States. So, there`s the potential that if Barrack was able to get himself to one of those countries, via, say, his private aircraft, those countries leaders could take him in and protect him and he`d never faced the music.

So, prosecutors wanted no bond. That said, Tom Barrack did get released from custody today on a $250 million bond that he posted, which was the highest bond ever posted in U.S. history as far as we can tell. And that was a bit of a compromise. We also had to give up his passports. He`s wearing a GPS monitoring bracelet. He`s going to be back in court for arraignment in Brooklyn on Monday. This bail hearing today was in California. This means that he can get to New York on his own steam rather than getting flown there on Con Air by U.S. Marshals.

CNN reports that Tom Barrack`s legal team really, really wanted to get him out of custody before he has that Monday court date in New York. According to people familiar with the matter, in discussions in the days following Barrack`s arrest and detention, his legal team focused on trying to keep their 74-year-old billionaire client off of Con Air, the famed U.S. Marshals service plane for transporting certain defendants who are in U.S. government custody.

So yes, he doesn`t have to.


Take Con Air. He`s not going to be shackled in a Marshals plane. Now, he can take one of his private planes. From California, where he`s been in custody to the New York court appearance parents on Monday. And they think because he had to put up $250 million, and because he`s got a bracelet on and because, everybody in his life is guaranteed that he`ll be there. They think he won`t find a way to United Arab Emirates, he will find a way to Riyadh or Abu Dhabi, in the meantime, so as to avoid the reach of the U.S. courts.

But as we await that Monday court hearing in his case, here`s something else to watch for when it comes to this prosecution of President Trump`s inaugural chairman. You may remember that the day after Barrack was arrested, CNN reported that the federal prosecutors who brought these seven felony charges against Barrack. For some reason, according to CNN, prosecutors sat on those charges for a very long time before this week`s indictment finally went ahead.

According to CNN`s reporting, the prosecutors had enough evidence to bring charges against Tom Barrack last year, but they held off until Trump was out of office and a new administration was in place. Two sources tell CNN, the U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn at the time Richard Donahue, expressed misgivings about the case. It`s unclear if he delayed the case outright or if prosecutors chose not to move forward at the time, knowing the U.S. Attorney Mr. Donohue would not support it.

Mr. Donahue, of course, was then subsequently promoted by then Attorney General Bill Barr, to a top job at the Justice Department. Job well done. How do we reward this guy? Only after Trump was gone and a new president took over and the Trump appointees were out of these leadership roles, only then could the case against Tom Barrack go ahead. What is that all about?

And, I mean, it`s interesting about the prosecution of Tom Barrack, but it`s worrying about the U.S. Justice Department. I mean, was that a favor to the former president, was that a political favor to the former president being done by law enforcement officials? If the Justice Department has been used in that way, doesn`t that have to be fixed? Or at least ferreted out? Shouldn`t there be some accountability for that?

To Democratic members of Congress who are asking exactly that question today, and I think this is provocative and interesting. It`s Democratic congressman, Congressman Ted Lieu of California and Congressman Kathleen Rice of New York. And the two of them have just written to the inspector general of the U.S. Justice Department asking for an investigation. They say, as former prosecutors, we`re concerned about reporting that suggests federal prosecutors had enough evidence to indict Mr. Barrack well before 2021, but were discouraged from doing so.

As members of Congress, we request that you conduct an investigation into whether Barrack or any other friends of the former president were given special treatment by the U.S. Justice Department during the last administration, and whether Barrack`s case was inappropriately suppressed.

I mean, it is one thing to have this actually quite scandalous reporting about the Barrack case, right? There`s serious national security implications of this foreign agent prosecution being delayed for more than a year. This is a serious case about another country, having high placed agents inside and adjacent to the U.S. government in a way that is affecting U.S. policy in a surreptitious way. Right? That`s a serious national security matter in its own right to delay the prosecution and essentially allow that scheme to continue for a year while you try not to offend anybody by bringing the case like it`s a serious thing.

But these members of Congress, I think are right to look beyond just this one case. I mean, there is a pattern here. That kind of keeps me up at night, if I`m honest. The New York Times reported earlier this year that Trump`s Justice Department blocked federal prosecutors in New York from moving ahead with an investigation of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

Trump`s Justice Department overruled the line prosecutors in their own department to recommend a much lighter sentence for Trump friend Roger Stone, who was convicted of obstructing Congress and witness tampering. Trump`s Justice Department dropped its case against Trump National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, despite Flynn having plead guilty twice, to lying to the FBI.

And don`t forget, we`re just talking about this, just this week, not one, not two, not three, not four, but five different Trump Cabinet Secretaries were referred to the Justice Department for potential federal criminal prosecution while Trump was in office. And in all five cases, in the case of all five of those cabinet secretaries, Trump`s Justice Department said, no, it seems fine, we`ll pass.

I mean, that`s just like off the top of my head. That`s just a handful of the cases, where the Trump Justice Department appeared to intervene in or shut down cases involving Trump`s friends and allies. Those are just the ones that - that`s not even all the ones we know about. That`s literally the ones I can just riff on. How many cases were slow walked or delayed or quashed? Right? Are we going to learn about those?


How many cases were shut down, not prosecuted at all? How many were slowed down like Barrack`s? Are we ever going to learn about those? You know what, to be honest though there is one silver lining to the as yet unexplained delay in actually bringing the charges against Tom Barrack. And it is actually illustrated by the final chapter in the junk bond king Michael Milken story.

So, Michael Milken plead guilty. He paid all that money. He did serve time in federal prison. But then just last year 2020, Michael Milken got a presidential pardon from Donald Trump. Trump pardoned Michael Milken for those massive, massive financial crimes decades ago. The White House actually put out a list of all the rich people and Trump donors who had advocated for Milken`s pardon, including wouldn`t you know, Tom Barrack.

And on his way out the door, Trump, of course, pardoned pretty much all his friends and allies and supporters who had been charged with anything during his presidency. He pardoned Mike Flynn and Steve Bannon and Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, right down to George Papadopoulos and Alex van der Zwaan from the Russia investigation. The list goes on and on and on, but he only pardoned people who were charged or convicted while he was president.

Tom Barrack`s case got delayed. Right. So, he`s out of luck, no presidential pardon coming for him. His indictment came after Trump was out of office, which itself is probably a scandal if the indictment couldn`t be brought while Trump was in office, because Trump appointees wouldn`t let it happen. But the fact that it was delayed means that he doesn`t get out of jail free with a pardon card from Trump.

One of the open questions of the Trump presidency, and its corruption is how many legal cases didn`t go forward to charges, just were not brought because they were squashed or delayed by Trump appointees of the Justice Department. I don`t know if we`ll ever get an answer to that. Kathleen Rice and Ted Lieu are trying to make sure the Justice Department at least investigates it.

But the one silver lining in terms of accountability for any and all cases that were delayed, and yet still could be brought now is that, well, now Trump isn`t around to pardon those folks. And so, today, Tom Barrack put up that much money, a record, previously unprecedented $250 million bond, just in order to stay free until he`s on trial.

Joining us now is our friend Joyce Vance, former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama. She`s professor at the University of Alabama School of Law. Joyce, it`s great to see you here on a Friday night. Thank you so much for being here.

JOYCE VANCE FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Good to be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW: I have gotten very shy about the word unprecedented. But I was surprised when we started poking around and realized that this might be the largest bond ever put up in a U.S. criminal case ever. What do you make of the size of that bond and the fact that Barrack, in fact was released?

VANCE: I was surprised that Barrack was released as a prosecutor, I think I would have gone to the mat to try to keep him in custody, just because he is such a flight risk. And that`s one of the two bases federal prosecutors have for keeping a defendant in custody until trial, either that they`re a flight risk or a danger to the community. Barrack is pretty much the poster child for a flight risk, dual citizenship, access to a lot of money and private travel.

So, he`s really someone that it`s difficult to believe that even a large sum of money could be sufficient to secure his presence. He`s 74. He undoubtedly doesn`t want to spend the up to 10 years in prison that this statute 18 U.S.C. 951 that he`s indicted under could ultimately result in, probably the sentence would be a lot smaller. But nonetheless, the risk is considerable for him.

MADDOW: Now, in terms of the potential delay of his case. I mean, we have not matched CNN`s reporting that prosecutors and EDNY had this case a year ago and basically sat on it because Trump appointees, they believe wouldn`t allow it to go forward.

But it`s very interesting reporting from CNN, the prospect of that is disturbing on lots of levels. What do you make of Representatives Ted Lieu and Kathleen Rice now asking the Justice Department`s inspector general to investigate that public reporting? And to investigate whether it`s part of a pardon? There`s obviously a lot of public facing actions by the Trump Justice Department that seemed to intervene or otherwise make things - make bad things go away for people who are connected to the former president. Do you think an inspector general investigation is warranted here? Do you think there will be one?

VANCE: DOJ can only be successful if the public has confidence that it`s conducting its work with integrity. And so, we`ve lived through - I`m sorry, but I`m going to use the word you don`t like and say, we`ve lived through an unprecedented four years for the Justice Department.


And people have a lot of concerns. So, there are good reasons that if you`re Merrick Garland, the Attorney General, you would support an IG investigation, because it could do a lot to return confidence to DOJ simply by exposing the truth about the past four years. We can`t really tell from this case, it`s possible that it was slowed down, because prosecutors didn`t want to want to run the risk that if they indicted there would be a pardoned by the former president on the way out the door.

It`s equally possible this reporting from CNN, that there was discouragement to bring the case from folks who were running the offices, maybe even folks in Washington. And it`s also possible this case had a lot of moving pieces, a lot of evidence, perhaps involving some foreign evidence that had to be obtained. And that can be difficult and time consuming. So, we don`t know what went on here. And that`s a problem for DOJ. DOJ works best when people can have confidence in its work. So, anything that promotes transparency, plays well, for this current Justice Department.

MADDOW: Is it the just the inspector general`s own decision as to whether or not that investigation happens? Or can the attorney general direct the inspector general to do it?

VANCE: Well, the inspector general has the ability to go ahead and open the investigation on his own. There is consultation, he`s not entirely independent of working with the attorney general who typically sees and has the ability to review his reports before they`re released. But Rachel, it`s interesting, there are a couple of different mechanisms here for accountability.

DOJ also has the Office of Professional Responsibility, which reviews whether prosecutors and career employees have done anything that might violate their ethical obligations. And so, it`s possible that if anyone inside of DOJ or outside for that matter has information that something happened here to tamp down on these cases that was improper, they could report that to OPR, which would then conduct an investigation. There are a lot of routes with or without the attorney general`s blessing that could lead to disclosure of what actually happened here.

MADDOW: That is a very, very important point and one that is often overlooked. Joyce Vance, former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, currently professor at the University of Alabama School of Law. Joyce, it is great to have you here. Thank you so much for your time tonight.

VANCE: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. We got a lot of news to get to this Friday night. Stay with us.



MADDOW: Yesterday, the U.S. Justice Department announced the indictment of nine people for illegally acting as agents of a foreign power in the United States. Now, the pleasant surprise here was that none of them appeared to have been high ranking members of the Trump Administration, which is a nice change. What these nine were indicted for yesterday that was truly ugly. This is a note written in Chinese obviously, that was stuck to the front door of a house in New Jersey, after two of the defendants in this case, reportedly, or allegedly tried and failed to force the door open.

They banged on the door, tried to force it open and failed. But then they slapped this note up on the door. I can`t read Chinese, but the indictment spells out that it says, if you are willing to go back to the mainland and spend 10 years in prison, your wife and children will be all right. That`s the end of this matter.

Again, that`s the translation from the indictment. And the threat there is all but explicit, right? If you agree to go back to China, your wife and kids will be OK. But if you don`t agree, you get the point.

Prosecutors say that before the threatening note on the door, the same guy in New Jersey was targeted with an even more ominous threat. The victim here is described in the indictment as John Doe. The indictment says, a centerpiece of this criminal scheme was an April 2017 effort directed by Chinese officials to transport the elderly father of John Doe, from China to the United States in order to convey a threat to John Doe, that his family in China would be harmed if he didn`t return to China.

It`s like that scene in The Godfather where the guy is about to testify at the congressional hearing on organized crime. And they bring in his brother from the old country to just sit there and look at him. Right. So, the threat is visible and clear. You do what we want, or your family back home gets it. Right.

In this case, the guy in New Jersey, they brought his elderly dad from China to New Jersey, to let him know that this guy`s family in China was going to get it, including his elderly relatives, unless the guy in New Jersey did what they wanted, which is that they wanted him to go back to China, so China could get their paws on him.

This indictment was unsealed yesterday in the Eastern District of New York, the acting U.S. attorney there said, as alleged the defendants acting as agents of China carried out an illegal and clandestine campaign to harass and threaten targeted U.S. residents in order to force them to return to China. unregistered roving agents of a foreign power are not permitted to engage in secret surveillance of U.S. residents on American soil and their illegal conduct will be met with the full force of U.S. law.

We`ll see what happens here. It appears that of the nine people charged in this indictment yesterday, eight of them I think are Chinese. One of them is an American ex-NYPD detective sergeant, who prosecutors say was working as a private investigator helping these Chinese agents track down U.S. residents in the United States. People who the Chinese government wanted to menace and threatened and try to force to go back to China. The ex-NYPD cops lawyer says his client had no idea he was actually working for the Chinese government. The lawyer says that the cop thought he was working for a construction company.


OK, we`ll see who among us doesn`t expect random construction companies to try to knock down people`s doors and demand that they go back to China. All right. That`s a normal thing for a construction company to do. The ex-NYPD detective is under arrest tonight, as are some of the other defendants, some of the others are still at large.

But if you want to get to the really weird stuff on this same front, consider not something happening in U.S. law enforcement, but something happening over there. Consider these images specifically from The Associated Press yesterday. This is a Hong Kong police press conference where they are showing off the evidence that they`ve got in a sedition case. And sedition is like a serious thing, right? Sedition is trying to overthrow the government. What is the evidence they`re showing off for that? What were those things they were showing off at the press conference? Those look like kid`s books? Yes, they are kid`s books. Again, I don`t speak or read Chinese. But I know enough from kid`s books to know that these are children`s books that appear to be about sheep.

Yesterday, Hong Kong police arrested five members of the General Association of Hong Kong Speech Therapists because of the sheep books. "The association published three children`s books that a senior superintendent in the National Security Department of the Hong Kong police said have seditious intent", meaning the children`s books are seditious. The books feature stories that revolve around a village of sheep that has to deal with wolves from a different village.

The senior superintendent in the National Security Department of the Hong Kong police, specifically, at this press conference, singled out one subplot in one of the sheep books that seemed particularly seditious to him. Li said "there was a story about wolves who are `cruel and tried to occupy the area` where the sheep live, and try to kill them".

Yes, children stories about wolves and sheep are often about the wolves wanting to eat the sheep, same with adult stories about wolves and sheep, same with nature documentaries about wolves and sheep. Right? I mean, the wolves want to eat the sheep. That`s the point about wolves and sheep.

But in Hong Kong yesterday, that - the fact that the wolves wanted to kill the sheep in the children`s book, that was a sign of a seditious plot to overthrow the government. And so in Hong Kong yesterday, which not that long - until not that long ago, was a free city, not only are these sheep- related kid`s books by the speech therapists the cause for sedition charges against five Hong Kong speech therapists. Look, they marched this suspect handcuffed and in a hood into the speech therapists` office, to go seize more evidence. They seized what appeared to be just more kid`s books, with the help of the hooded handcuffed suspect who they perp-walked in front of the building.

The AP reports police also froze the assets of these Speech Therapists Association, again because of the books about sheep. At the same time, they were showing off their contraband seized kid`s books about sheep and wolves, literally walking people through the plot of the sheep books to show that they were sedition against the government, at the same time they were doing that. Yesterday, a Hong Kong court was denying bail for a number of prominent Hong Kong journalists.

Now, this is a story that we covered last month here on the show. We had a huge response from our viewers when we did it. You might remember these pictures from that coverage. These are pictures from the final night that Hong Kong had one last independent pro-democracy newspaper. The newspaper was called Apple Daily. They had their offices raided by hundreds of Hong Kong police officers. Police officers took their computers and their hard drives and the documents they had. The newspaper then had their assets frozen so they could no longer pay for any operations or pay any of their employees. And after all of that, has their executives and journalists started getting arrested one by one and they shut themselves down.

As the staff of Apple Daily prepared the last edition of that newspaper last month, the Hong Kong residents gathered outside in the rain. They turned on the flashlights on their cell phones. The journalists inside the offices would see that they were out there would know that they were there for support. The journalists turned on the flashlights on their phones to signal back to the readers in the rain outside.

On a normal day, Apple Daily`s print run was about 80,000. For that final issue, they printed one million copies. People lined up for hours to get one, and they were sold out entirely by 8 a.m. That was last month, that was the last day. Apple Daily doesn`t exist anymore.

President Biden put out a statement in support when they were shut down.


It said in part "independent media play an invaluable role in a resilient - in resilient and prosperous societies". Journalists are truth tellers who hold leaders accountable and keep information flowing freely. That is needed now more than ever in Hong Kong, and in all places around the world where democracy is under threat. He said "Beijing must stop targeting the independent press and release the journalists and media executives who have been detained". The act of journalism, he said, is not a crime. That was last month from President Biden, when the last independent newspaper in Hong Kong, Apple Daily, was shut down.

I just want to show you one thing from some of those pictures that we just showed from the night when they were preparing their final edition of that last free newspaper. There is a guy in a striped shirt, black and white striped shirt in a lot of those photos, it kind of seemed like he was the in the center of the action in a lot of the photos that were taken that day. That`s because he was the editor-in-chief of Apple Daily. And so these photos show him leading his staff and finalizing the edit on the last print edition that night. Again, that was last month when they published their last edition. This week, he was arrested.

Even though the last remaining independent newspaper in Hong Kong is shut down and has been so for a month, they`re still arresting the journalists who worked there. While they were showing off the kid`s book about - kid`s books about sheep and charging the speech therapists with sedition, a Hong Kong court simultaneously yesterday was refusing bail for the editor-in- chief of the now-defunct Apple Daily. He and another editor and two editorial writers from that paper were all put in jail yesterday and the day before. The court revoked or refused their bail, and then the court adjourned until at least September 30. So those four journalists are looking at least two plus months in jail until their cases even get heard, all for the crime of being journalists.

The U.S. State Department put out a statement in response saying "We strongly condemn the arrest of Apple Daily`s former editor-in-chief and others, and call for their immediate release. The U.S. is deeply concerned by the Hong Kong authorities` selective use of the National Security Law to target journalists and independent media organizations. The charges of `conspiring to collude with foreign forces to endanger national security` appear to be politically motivated. The U.S. is concerned by increased efforts by Beijing and Hong Kong authorities to wield that National Security Law as a tool to suppress independent media, to silence dissenting views, to stifle freedom of speech. We call on the authorities to stop targeting the independent press. Efforts to stifle media freedom and the free flow of information not only undermine Hong Kong`s democratic institutions, it also hurt Hong Kong`s viability as an international business hub".

And that international business hub point sticks out a little bit, I know, but it`s important in terms of the way the Biden Administration is approaching this. Last week, the administration put out a warning to U.S. companies advising American companies that if they are doing business in Hong Kong, the political climate is changing there, to make it basically unsafe for commerce, and also sort of unsafe period. That warning went out from the Biden Administration to U.S. businesses last week.

China retaliated against that warning today by putting sanctions, Chinese sanctions on individual Americans. Specifically they sanctioned, wait, what, they sanctioned Wilbur Ross? I think maybe they don`t know that Wilbur Ross isn`t Commerce Secretary anymore. He was Commerce Secretary under Trump, but he is gone since Trump. Maybe Hong Kong authorities can`t get good news anymore. They can`t get any quality journalism anymore. So they don`t know that Wilbur Ross has been gone since January, sure though. Why not target your sanctions at him?

With statements like we`ve seen from President Biden and Secretary of State Tony Blinken, the U.S. government is obviously no longer calling the press, the enemy of the people, which is a nice change. The U.S. government is now trying to both insist on the rights of journalists around the world, and to a certain extent, they`re trying to model that behavior within the U.S. government itself.

The Justice Department this week putting out new rules that limit the ability of U.S. law enforcement to go after journalists and their communications and their sources, that new rule put out by Attorney General Merrick Garland this week, and that is welcome. But if we are once again trying to lead the world and standing up for these kinds of freedoms, it`s not working. What else can we do?

Hong Kong democracy activists are now asking for the United States to once again offer them asylum in the United States, to offer Hong Kong democracy activists asylum in the United States, which is not an unprecedented thing.


The U.S. did that after the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1990 under President George H. W. Bush.

Now, as democracy activists and the free press and civil society in Hong Kong is being hunted and picked off one by one, could the U.S. offer asylum, the way that we have in the past? Who would be against that here, right? But if we are going to lead here and the Biden Administration seems like they want to and they`re not afraid to. What else can they do? What else should they do? And what kind of fight should they expect to have over those measures? We`ve got more heads. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Joining us now is Ben Rhodes. He was Deputy National Security Advisor to President Obama. He is also the author most recently of "After the Fall: Being American in the World We`ve Made". It`s a close look at the world tilting away from democracy and the people around the world who are fighting against that, and the haunting question of what the U.S. can do not only to try to save our own democracy here at home, but to help shore it up everywhere it is in danger.


Ben, it`s really nice for you to be here on a Friday night. Thanks for making time.

BEN RHODES, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR, OBAMA ADMIN: Thanks Rachel for covering this Hong Kong story. It`s so important.

MADDOW: Well, so I`m a little bit haunted by your book. You might remember when we talked about it when it first came out that I was - I sort of emoted to you that I was very troubled by the dynamics that you talked about.

And following this Hong Kong story, I`m so moved by the efforts of the free press there and the efforts of civil society there and the efforts of the democracy activists to try to stand up against what`s - what really feels like a line of tanks, it really feels like a bulldozer that is going through them without any help. And I just - I wanted to get your take on how bad things seem right now in Hong Kong and what the Biden administration is trying to do to help?

RHODES: It`s the worst-case scenario, Rachel. For the book, I talked to a lot of young people including people who were involved in the protest. They describe this kind of whole-of-society approach that you alluded to in your reporting, in which the Chinese Communist Party has taken over the media. They`ve taken over the curriculum in schools. They`ve created incentives in the society where if you want a good job, if you want to get ahead, no, you had to be silent about certain political matters.

And the protest movement was a reaction against that. And a lot of those young people used to tell me things like, the only independent source of information we have is Apple Daily. Right? And so what they`ve done since these National Security Laws were passed, is they`ve extinguished the embers of democracy in Hong Kong. They`ve shut down any remaining free media. They`ve jailed the political opposition. And frankly, a lot of those young people I`ve talked to, have left the country and are now in the UK.

I think for the Biden administration, obviously, you can provide asylum and we should, to anybody from Hong Kong who has legitimate fear of persecution, which is a lot of people, unfortunately. You can sanction Chinese officials. You can review Hong Kong status. Hong Kong has different rules in terms of financial transactions when Mainland China was carved out, because it was a free society. It clearly isn`t anymore. So, you can review what that status should remain.

But Rachel, the key thing I say in my book is we have to acknowledge, as Americans, that we have not prioritized human rights in our relationship with China. We`ve prioritized profit in open markets, for the last 30 years since Chinamen (ph), and the Chinese Communist Party is taking that signal. And when I say we, I don`t just mean the U.S. government, I mean U.S. companies that have swallowed some pretty difficult things in order to be in that Chinese market. I mean, the U.S. entertainment industry. You had John Cena apologizing to the Chinese government to keep Fast and Furious movies on the movie screens there because he`d said something about Taiwan.

You had the NBA games pulled off of CCTV because Daryl Morey, the general manager of The Rockets tweeted in support of the people of Hong Kong. We have to decide as Americans whether our top priority in our relationship with China across the board, informing our diplomacy, our sanctions, our economic policy, is going to be our values. Because thus far, if we`re honest, we have gone to the mat with China, on trade irritants (ph), about how many soybeans they buy from the United States, more than we have on issues like what you reported on tonight.

MADDOW: And then, if the Biden Administration wanted to be brave and bold on this issue, if they wanted to back up the kind of, I think farsighted and eloquent statements that they`ve put out in response to some of the repression that we`ve seen recently. Domestically, do you think they would have a fight on their hands? Do you think that that would become either a partisan split or would become some sort of one of these impasses in Washington? Or is this the sort of thing where, for example, if they wanted to offer Hong Kong dissidents asylum in this country if they have a credible field of prosecution, do you think that that the Congress could actually do it?

RHODES: Well, look, being tough on China, standing up to China, whatever we want to call it, is the one bipartisan issue in our politics. I think it`s a good test for the Republican Party`s rhetoric on that, if you put into the system things like political asylum, which they are usually against in every case.

I also think, though, importantly, Rachel, there is a difference between a kind of militarized cold war with China, and a values-based competition with what you described is happening in Hong Kong, because the most important thing that we have to do in the United States is get our democratic example, in line. That`s what I heard from a lot of people in Hong Kong and around the world.

And North America is setting a better example for what democracy is and what it means the value of free press. It`s much harder for us to have the credibility to sustain an effort in which we`re defending those values abroad in a place like Hong Kong. And so I think the Biden team needs to connect what it`s trying to do in the United States to defend democracy, to extend voting rights, to clean up our democracy, with what it`s doing abroad.

I think another important thing that they`re doing is multilateralism this. So it`s not just the United States, but it`s all like-minded democracies speaking out against this. One of the things I found in the book though, Rachel, and I described, being woken up in my hotel room in Shanghai in the middle of the night, 2017, in being kind of warned that Barack Obama who was traveling with, as former president, should not meet with the Dalai Lama.


That`s something that the Chinese have been doing, Chinese Communist Party, not the Chinese people for decades, relentless advocacy for their view of how the rest of the world should stay out of their affairs.

And the point is it, in the United States, we have a Democrat example, through our open door in asylum policy for Hong Kong refugees, through our multilateral diplomacy and raising this issue in multilateral forums at the United Nations. And through our policies, we need to be similarly relentless in our defense of democracy, not for one month, not for one year and not for two years, not just when the camera is on these issues. But for the long haul. Because what we`re seeing in Hong Kong is a free society.

Two years ago, you could go there and feel the characteristics in open society. You would not feel that there today. It is not safe for people to express themselves there today. Young people there told me there is such total control with technology, the surveillance that they have. They - not only they are trying to control what you can say, they`re trying to control what you can think. This is the kind of future that we have to push back on, and there has to be a multi-faceted effort across government working with allies and has to be sustained for years to come.

MADDOW: Ben Rhodes, former Deputy National Security Advisor to President Obama. Ben, thank you. You`re exactly who I wanted to let talk to you about this tonight. Thank you so much.

RHODES: Thanks so much, Rachel.

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




MADDOW: This just in tonight from the desk of President Joe Biden. "By the authority vested in me as President, I hereby determine that it is important to furnish assistance in an amount of up to $100 million from the U.S. Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund for unexpected urgent refugee and migration needs, including for applicants for Special Immigrant Visas.

That sounds like a lot of government ease but in plain English, what that means is that President Biden tonight just authorized a whopping $100 million to go toward evacuating Afghan translators who helped U.S. troops during our 20-year war there, along with their families. We expect that 2,500 of them will be evacuated to a U.S. military base in Virginia next week.

Last night, the Wall Street Journal reported that as many as 35,000 of them will be housed at U.S. military bases in Kuwait and Qatar. Those preparations are underway now. And as those preparations are underway today, the administration announced that Secretary of State Blinken will travel to Kuwait next week to deal with that matter, among other things.

Again, none of the evacuation flights have left yet but it does seem like things are finally starting to fall into place. Watch this space.