THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
April 15, 2014
Guest: Michael Leiter
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Thanks for you at home joining us this hour.
September 7th, 1986, the city of Spokane, Washington was hosting something
called the Spokane Interstate Fair. And several government witnesses later
testified that on the afternoon of that fair in 1986, a man wearing
camouflage pants and army boots walked up to the cotton candy booth at the
fair, along with his wife, they also had their baby with them and a diaper
The young man in camouflage attempted to buy some cotton candy with a $20
bill. Whoever was manning that cotton candy booth at the fair that day
realized something was wrong and somebody called the police. Turns out the
$20 bill was both counterfeit and a bad enough counterfeit that whoever was
working at the cotton candy booth could tell that it was a fake.
The sheriff`s deputy turned up, arrested the guy with the fake $20 bill,
and it turns out that inside the diaper bag, he had another 59 counterfeit
$20 bills. Turns out that couple arrested at that fair that day back in
1986, they were members of the Aryan Nations, they are members of a Neo-
Nazi group that was very active in the Pacific Northwest at the time. The
group was trying to create an all-white homeland for white people in that
northwest corner of the country.
When the other Aryan Nations guys heard about their friend and their
comrade being arrested at the cotton candy stand at the fair trying to pass
that fake $20 bill, federal prosecutors say two of the other Aryan Nations
guys, when they heard their friend got arrested, they went to the guy`s
house. They went to the couple`s home and once they were there, they
flushed down the toilet a bunch of leftover green printer`s ink that they
had used to make those counterfeit $20 bills.
They also took the scraps of counterfeit paper that had been left over
after they`d cut the bills and they took the paper cutter itself.
But one of those two Aryan Nations guys then freaked out and he turned
himself into the FBI and he said, he wanted protection. The next day, the
FBI raided the home of the other guy, with whom he had flushed the
printer`s ink and cleared out the paper cutter and all the rest. In the
other guy`s home, the FBI found not only more counterfeit 20s, stacks and
stacks of counterfeit $20 bill, they also found whole uncut sheets of
counterfeit $20 bills. Tens of thousands of dollars worth had the
counterfeits been any good.
According to the FBI, they also found a sheet of steel that matched
shrapnel from a bombing that had happened just two weeks earlier in
northern Idaho. On September 15th, 1986, so about a week after the cotton
candy incident, a bomb had gone off at the home of a local pastor in Coeur
d`Alene, Idaho. He had been helping lead opposition to the Aryan Nations
and their -- against their efforts to try to take over that part of Idaho
and the northwest.
The Reverend Bill Wassmuth of Coeur d`Alene, Idaho, he was not hurt in the
bombing of his home but the forensic evidence taken from the bomb that went
off at his house, that forensic evidence did tie back to those counterfeit
$20 bills. And they did tie them back to the Aryan Nations and to this
whole network of white supremacists operating a complex ring of crimes
aimed at attacking people who they hated and getting publicity for the
white supremacist cause, and stealing or even manufacturing money in order
to help them do more of the same.
The Neo-Nazi group of that time called The Order, they`re best known for
having murdered this man, Jewish talk show host named Alan Berg in Denver.
But The Order was also known at the time for counterfeiting and also for a
series of bank robberies, bank robberies and armored car robberies that are
thought to have netted the group more $4 million over the span of just a
few years in the mid 1980s.
The Order used that money from those armed robberies to finance itself as a
Neo-Nazi organization, but also to funnel that money to other white
supremacist groups. They were hoping they were building what would
eventually be an Aryan white power movement strong enough to overthrow the
entire U.S. government. And they handed out this booty, basically, stolen
money, in hundreds of thousands of dollar chunks to other white supremacist
And there had been some effective law enforcement tactics against these
Neo-Nazi and far-right groups operating in the Pacific Northwest at the
time. I mean, the details about the cotton candy counterfeiter and the
bombing in Coeur d`Alene, those came out during a successful federal
prosecution that the FBI brought against The Order and the Aryan Nations in
1985. They brought them up on racketeering charges and whole big chunks of
those groups all went to jail, all at once.
1985, that was a successful prosecution that was brought in Seattle. But
two years later, in 1987, the FBI tried to go for something much bigger
with these Neo-Nazi groups. They convinced a federal grand jury in
Arkansas, an all-white jury in Arkansas, in trial, once it got to trial,
they convinced this federal grand jury to indict 15 different leaders of
white supremacists and Neo-Nazi groups for sedition.
Not for racketeering or counterfeiting or armed robbery, any of those
little things, for sedition, for trying to overthrow the United States
government. It was a really, really, really big deal case at the time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: A three-year federal investigation of white
supremacy groups in this country today resulted in indictments against 15
key members. Some were charged in connection with the murder of Jewish
talk show host, Alan Berg, three years ago in Denver. Other charges
included planning to murder a judge and plotting to overthrow the
NBC`s Roger O`Neil has more.
ROGER O`NEIL, NBC NEWS: Called Operation Clean Sweep by some, the Justice
Department says today`s arrest wipe out the white supremacist group known
as the Aryan Nations with all of its leaders either in jail or headed that
way. The U.S. attorney in Denver said today`s actions sends a message.
ROBERT MULLER, U.S. ATTORNEY: The message is that any radical group that
uses violence to achieve their ends will be dealt with by the Department of
O`NEIL: The government says the violence included murder, bank and armored
car robberies, plotting to kill this man, Federal Judge Franklin Waters of
Arkansas, and the ultimate overthrow of the U.S. government. The white
supremacists belong to different groups, the Aryan Nations, The Order, the
Ku Klux Klan, and were, according to officials, anti-black, anti-Jewish,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So that was in 1987, really ambitious prosecution brought against
all of those different white supremacist leaders, they`re going after them
for trying to overthrow the U.S. government. It`s a sedition trial. Those
charges brought in April 1987 and that`s when that "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS"
report was from, April 1987. By April 1988, it had all fallen apart.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROKAW: If Portsmouth, Arkansas, today, an all-white jury acquitted 13
members of a white supremacist group charged with conspiring to overthrow
the government and to kill two federal officials.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The FBI and federal prosecutors tried to bring down basically the
whole Neo-Nazi and white supremacist movement in one fell swoop. They put
15 men on trial all at once for the most serious charges you can levee
against American citizens. Right? Sedition, plotting to overthrow the
The feds went for it and they missed. And that had to be a huge
disappointment, right? At least an embarrassing failure, for the
prosecutors and for the FBI agents who were involved in that big landmark
But imagine if you were the informant in that case. Imagine if you were
the rat. Imagine if you were the guy inside the white supremacist movement
who the FBI flipped and convinced to testify against your old Neo-Nazi pals
for the big federal case, and then your old Neo-Nazi pals you just ratted
out won the case. And that happened to guy. That happened in that
prosecution back in 1987 and 1988.
When The Order was robbing banks and robbing armored cars to raise money
for the Neo-Nazi movement, they gave some of that money to groups like the
Aryan Nations, to the cotton candy counterfeiters, right? They also gave
some of that money to a group called the White Patriot Party. The guy who
founded the White Patriot Party got flipped by the FBI, and in exchange for
a more lenient sentence for himself, he testified against everybody else in
He explained how he had been given $200,000 in stolen money from the guy
who founded The Order. And he testified that -- about what he knew about
other white supremacist groups getting money from The Order as well.
And when the case collapsed and all these guys were acquitted, here`s this
guy, who had testified against everybody else in the Neo-Nazi movement in
open court. He had founded the White Patriots Party in North Carolina, he
had founded the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
But after that trial and after him turning state`s evidence and ratting on
all of his colleagues in the Neo-Nazi movement, he left North Carolina, he
fled the state, he moved to Missouri, and he changed his name. He changed
his name from Fraser Glen Miller Jr. to Frazier Glenn Cross. And this,
this weekend, was Frazier Glenn Cross.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Panic and fear ripped through the parking lot of
the Jewish Community Center this afternoon at 115th and Knoll.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s a guy with a rifle here, shooting at people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should we leave?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would leave.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is he still here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t know.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Three are dead and a 14-year-old boy is in critical
condition after police confirmed to 41 Action News a gunman opened fire in
two different locations. Just after 1:00, a man with a rifle shot at
people in the parking lot, forcing the center into a lockdown. Dozens of
people, including teens and children, scrambled to safety. Moments later,
gunfire was also reported at Village Shalom, an assisted living facility a
few blocks away at 123rd and Knoll.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Now our cameras were there as that person was
placed inside a police unit. Now listen to what the suspect had to say.
FRAZIER GLENN CROSS, SUSPECTED GUNMAN: Heil Hitler.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The three people who were killed this weekend in that shooting in
the Kansas City suburbs were 69-year-old grandfather named William Corporon
and his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Underwood, as well as a 53-year-old
woman named Terry Lamano.
Even though the suspect in these shootings was taken into custody almost
immediately after the shootings happened, that was him in the back of the
car, shouting "Heil Hitler," right? There was still some confusion as to
his identity immediately after the shootings, I think in part because of
his multiple aliases. And we know that those multiple aliases spring in
part from the fact that he had to move across the country and pretend he
was somebody else after he turned state`s evidence against other Neo-Nazis
in that big failed sedition trial back in the late 1980s.
Even so, though, he wasn`t exactly hiding his white supremacist light under
a bushel all these years. He did numerous press interviews over years.
And the "Idaho Spokesman Review" newspaper reports today that over the past
10 years, he has posted well over 10,000 messages to racist Web sites and
message boards online. And these online message boards are an important
part of how the Neo-Nazi and white supremacist movements promulgate
themselves still to this day and how they organize and hold themselves
You might remember that the racist Web site storm front was the online home
for this guy, who opened fire inside a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin,
two years ago, killing six people before he killed himself. Storm Front
was also the homebased online for this guy, who ambushed and killed three
police officers with his AK-47 in Pittsburgh in 2009.
The favorite online home for a man who called himself Online Rounder, who
offline was sometimes known as Frazier Glen Miller, or sometimes known as
Frazier Glenn Cross, his online home is a place called Vanguard News
If you don`t tend to keep Nazi networking hubs in your head, the reason
this Vanguard group might sound familiar is because of this news story you
might remember. This was the Martin Luther King Day Parade in Spokane,
Washington, in 2011. A 36-year-old white supremacist packed fishing
weights and other shrapnel dipped into rat poison into a backpack bomb and
he left it on the scene of the Martin Luther King Day Parade in Spokane in
2011. He pled guilty later that year. He was sentenced to 32 years in
Part of what prosecutors used to try to influence the judge in his case to
lengthen his sentence is that after he was arrested in Spokane, once he was
in jail on suspicion of having been the bomber of the Martin Luther King
Day Parade, that confessed bomber from jail exchanged letters with the guy
who shot up the two Jewish facilities and killed those three people this
weekend in Kansas City.
Frazier Glenn Cross wrote to the MLK Day bomber and offered to be a
character witness for him after the bombing. He offered to set up a legal
defense fund for him. He did media interviews about the MLK Day bomber`s
case, telling "Talking Points Memo" at the time, quote, "I have been
conversing with him on the Internet for years. He contributed to my
Internet project. He sent me hundreds of dollars to help with that."
"I had a very strong opinion of his intellect," he said, "And most of the
other people did too on our Vanguard News Network forum."
So the guy doing 32 years in prison for bombing the MLK Day Parade in
Spokane three years ago and the guy who yelled "Heil Hitler" after
allegedly shooting up those two Jewish facilities in Kansas City this
weekend, they apparently were old friends who had been corresponding online
for years at a Neo-Nazi online hub.
And it`s not just them. The "Spokesman Review" also reports today that on
Saturday, on the day before the Kansas City shootings this weekend, Frazier
Glenn Miller, AKA, Frazier Glenn Cross, he was online, again this time,
posting a public notice that he had just spoken with this guy.
Over the past few months, you`ve probably seen one of the many inflammatory
news stories that have been done about tiny, beleaguered Leith, North
Dakota. This is this little town in North Dakota of 15 people where a
small group of white supremacists moved in. They attempted to basically
set up homesteads and take over the town. The town of Leith, at one point,
considered disbanding itself so as to stop these Nazis from having anything
to take over.
Well, the leader of that pitiful white supremacist band in Leith, North
Dakota, his name Craig Cobb. He`s currently in jail facing seven charges
including terrorizing the town officials in Leith. But from jail, he
reportedly had contact on Saturday with the guy who on Sunday went on to do
those Kansas City shootings.
In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security prepared a draft report on the
national security threat of homegrown right-wing extremists in the United
States. After a draft of the report was leaked, there was a huge backlash
on the political right and on the FOX News Channel in particular. A huge
backlash against the Department of Homeland Security, even studying the
possibility that there might be a threat of violence from right-wing
extremists in this country.
That final report was never released. The lead author of the report later
said that in response to the uproar the Department of Homeland Security not
only didn`t release the report, they also diverted resources away from even
studying the problem of homegrown right-wing extremists is and their threat
Today is the one-year anniversary of the bombing at the finish line of the
Boston marathon. One of the two suspects in that bombing, of course, is
dead. The other one is in custody, still awaiting trial. From what`s been
made public about that case so far, it appears clear that the bombing, at
least, seems to have been motivated in part by religious extremism. There
are reports that the surviving suspect told people from the hospital when
he was recovering from his wounds that he hoped to inspire other people to
But there also seemed to have been some other things going on here as well.
"The Wall Street Journal" reporting several months ago that one of their
reporters went into the apartment of the older suspect and among the items
found in the older suspect`s apartment was a stack of right-wing conspiracy
The "American Free Press," which promises to tell you the truth that the
mainstream media will not tell you about, black mob violence continuing
unabated in America, the IRS scandal reveals that there`s Jewish control at
the White House, the sovereign, which calls itself the newspaper of the
resistance, reporting on how 9/11 was an inside job, Israeli lobbyists
control the U.S. government.
But this one, this is called the First Freedom, equal rights for whites,
which, until recently, was advertising events for Storm Front. The same
Nazi message board frequented by the Sikh temple shooter and the Pittsburgh
Police ambush shooter with the AK-47, Storm Front, of course, the online
cousin to the Vanguard News Network, home of the Martin Luther King Day
bomber from Spokane and the alleged Kansas City, Kansas, shooter this
And you know, with the Boston bombing guy, how weird is it to have Chechen-
speaking Russian immigrant Muslim guys reading 9/11 truther conspiracies
and ads for Nazi message boards while also espousing violent jihad and
allegedly setting off bombs that killed Americans? How weird is that
combination of conspiratorial nihilism?
Good question. But that is as much a part of the story of the Boston
bombings as anything else that we have absorbed about the threat posed by
those kinds of perpetrators in this past year.
The New America Foundation tracks deadly, ideologically motivated attacks
in the United States since 9/11. Following the Kansas City attacks this
weekend, their totals stand at 21 for the total number of people killed by
attacks motivated by Islamic extremism, and that includes the Boston
Marathon bombing, with four people killed a year ago today. Also includes
the Fort Hood shooting in 2009, with 13 people killed.
But after the Kansas City shootings this weekend, the total number of
people killed in what appear to be ideologically motivated attacks not by
jihadists, but by right-wingers in this country, that`s a higher number,
that`s 34. Not 21, 34. And we have decided that combating terrorist
attacks motivated by Islamic extremism is not only a matter of national
significance, it`s something that should drive the entire international
order of things.
But when it comes to the proven and interconnected threat of the armed
American extreme right wing, we`re still treating every attack by them like
a surprise. We`re still treating every one of those attackers like a lone
wolf. Regardless of how many letters we find between them, each of them,
while they`re in jail. Regardless of the places where we find them talking
to each other online. Regardless of the connections that they say exist
between them. Regardless of the tide of evidence that these networks exist
and are operational.
Why are we so willing to not be afraid of the threat of right-wing
extremism in this country? Why is that? Should that change? Hold that
MADDOW: In 2011, a white supremacist couple named David Peterson and Holly
Grigsby, they were arrested fog a 10-day killing spree in Washington,
Oregon, and California. The federal indictment accused them of carjacking,
kidnapping and killing four people as part of a campaign to, quote, "purify
and preserve the white race." In 2010, a man in Texas set his home on fire
and then flew his small plane into the IRS building in Austin, Texas,
killing himself and an IRS supervisor.
In 2009, three people, including one linked to the Aryan Nations broke into
a home in Pima County, Arizona, looking to commit a robbery. They
reportedly intended to use the proceeds of the robbery to finance their
anti-immigrant white supremacist Minuteman Militia. They killed a 29-year-
old man and his daughter inside the house. She was a third grader.
In 2008, a man stormed into the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist
Church looking to kill liberals. He said he hated liberals and Democrats
and blacks and gay people. He killed two people inside the church with a
shotgun. In 2009, abortion provider George Tiller was killed in Kansas,
also inside his church at the time. He was killed by a man with long-
standing ties to the extreme right wing, including both the Sovereign
Citizens Movement and the anti-abortion fringe group, Operation Rescue.
There were the other Sovereign Citizens who ambushed and killed two police
officers in Louisiana as well in 2012. There was also the white
supremacist who ambushed and killed three police officers in Pittsburgh in
2009. He was a regular at the same anti-Semitic Neo-Nazi message board as
the man who killed six people at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin,
And that one is not to be confused with the anti-Semitic Neo-Nazi message
board frequented instead by the confessed bomber of the Martin Luther King
Day Parade in Spokane in 2011 and by the suspect arrested this weekend in
conjunction with the triple murder in Kansas City.
Before he ever sat in the back of that police car and screamed "Heil
Hitler" at the cameras, he was organizing online for years, praising other
right-wing terrorists, corresponding with them in jail, trying to inspire
other people to follow in their footsteps.
At CNN.com today, the CNN Web site, Peter Bergen said we should do a
thought experiment in this country, in which instead of shouting "Heil
Hitler" after he was arrested, that suspect in Kansas City had instead
shouted "Allahu Akbar."
How would we be reacting to it then? Why are right-wing American terrorist
attacks treated as the acts of one-off whackos that are a surprise every
time and indicative of nothing larger than the individual threat posed by
an individual kook, when other forms of terrorism, engender not just a
bigger reaction from us as a nation, but a more radical and systemic
response as well?
Joining us now is a man who knows of these thing, Michael Leiter is the
former director of the National Counterterrorism Center which is
established in 2003 as the terrorist threat integration center is one of
the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.
Mr. Leiter, thank you for being here.
MICHAEL LEITER, FORMER NATIONAL COUNTERTERRORISM DIRECTOR: Good to be
MADDOW: So you were at the Counterterrorism Center when this report in
2009 from Homeland Security on right-wing extremism, it was -- it was
produced and then leaked and never finally reported. Do you remember what
was going on around that report at the time?
LEITER: I do, very well. The fact is that people in the U.S. government
and the counterterrorism community really were worried about right-wing
extremism. And the report talked about some of those factors. Frankly,
the report also used what I would consider really bad, sloppy language and
some bad analysis about some other things, like the potential for returning
vets to become right-wing extremists.
And that raised the ire of many in Congress, especially in the right,
stating that the Department of Homeland Security shouldn`t be in the
business of looking at people like veterans and anyone else for purely
political views and why those weren`t terrorists, those were patriotic
MADDOW: In terms of recognizing the threat from right-wing extremist
groups, though, did the backlash to that report, the fact that it was never
even released in any other form, should we read that as essentially the
government getting shy about identifying this as a real threat? Because
they were worried about that backlash?
LEITER: And there is no doubt that when Congress reacts very, very badly
to something the executive branch does, it makes people gun shy. And I
don`t want to say that people stop looking at right-wing extremism. I
think Aryan Nations and other associated groups, a lot of the ones you`ve
mentioned, the intelligence community, the Department of Homeland Security,
the FBI, still did focus on them.
But there is no doubt in my mind that that sort of reaction to the paper
itself absolutely made people a little more risk averse than, frankly, they
should have been, given some of the history that we saw.
MADDOW: And the Counterterrorism Center, forgive me if I`ve got this
wrong, but I understood that the National Counterterrorism Center by law
focuses only on international terrorism. Is that true?
LEITER: That`s true.
MADDOW: And is that -- is that right? Do you think it should be that way?
LEITER: I think it`s probably a mistake. I think it`s largely a response
to 9/11 and al Qaeda and international terrorism. But the fact is that
extremism and terrorists and people who turn to violence are all going
through a very similar radicalization process. They`re motivated by
different causes. It could be a skewed -- Islamic ideology or it could be
right-wing extremism, but almost always, there are people who have gone
through some sort of crisis or looking for a higher meaning, create a sense
of us versus them.
And in that sense, it`s actually really important for organizations like
the National Counterterrorism Center and foreign intelligence organizations
to at least talk to their domestic counterparts, so that expertise of
understanding what makes people turn to violence, regardless of the
motivation for that violence, is fully understood.
MADDOW: And do you -- there is this issue with the Boston bombing, and of
course today is the one-year anniversary, it`s a very painful anniversary.
There is this sort of -- almost feels like an outlier detail in terms of
the way we think of it, that in the older suspect`s apartment, there was
this stack of, you know, right-wing, anti-Semitic, very Aryan Nation style
literature, while at the same time, we`ve seen very well documented and
seem as very central as to our understanding the case is Islamic
Is that sort of a mixture of different forms of extremism, an unheard of
LEITER: No, it really isn`t. We all know -- we think of America as a
melting pot. And we used to say in the counterterrorism community, it`s a
slightly bizarre melting pot of extremist violence as well. You would have
people who are associated with al Qaeda also sort of living what you might
think of as a traditional gangster lifestyle. But the two are totally in
conflict. Or reading white supremacist literature. So it`s not totally
I think in the case of Tsarnaev, it`s pretty clear what motivated the
Boston bombing. But what can`t be lost and what you`ve raised is there are
also other systemic threats. There are other ideologically motivated
violent threats in the U.S. that we have to focus on. And sometimes there
is cross-over, no matter how nonsensical it is, spotting that is simply
another indicator of identifying the people who aren`t just extreme in
their thoughts, but are actually turning to violence.
MADDOW: Yes. And to see that, for me, what is frustrating is to watch the
sort of news response and the man on the street response, which is that
there`s no larger story to tell about all these continued acts of extremism
if they come from the American right, but there is a larger story to tell
about other forms of extremism I think. It`s just a frustrating disconnect
for me but thank you for helping me understand it. Appreciate it.
LEITER: My pleasure.
MADDOW: Michael Leiter is the former director of the National
Counterterrorism Center. We`re lucky to have him here at NBC and MSNBC.
We got much more ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Troops, tanks, airfields, and the next 24 hours, which could be
the difference between peace and war.
Richard Engel is going to join us live in just a moment. At the kind of
moment in international tensions when you really want to hear what`s
happening from Richard Engel. Hold on. He`s with us in just a second.
MADDOW: This is James Simpson. James Simpson is a State Transportation
commissioner, which is not one of the glamour jobs of government in any
state. But what James Simpson is showing us here, what he`s pointing out
in this picture is kind of a marquee government thing that lots of people
tend to care about.
What James Simpson is pointing out is these pictures is the rapidly rusting
out underbelly of a great big important bridge. This particular bridge is
about 80 years old. It`s called the Pulaski Skyway. It connects a couple
of good sized cities. It connects Newark, Jersey City, and Jersey City,
New Jersey, on the way into New York City from New Jersey. The Pulaski
Skyway carries something like 70,000 cars every day, give or take.
But that major, major piece of infrastructure is just flat falling apart.
And so this state transportation commissioner, James Simpson, he`s been out
there explaining to the public why his department needs to close down this
major bridge coming into New York and they need to shut it down for two
Commissioner Simpson has set up a Web site explaining how this is going to
work for commuters. They`ve started a Twitter account with the latest
options for getting to work. They`ve made PSAs, right? They`re trying to
be very friendly and they`re going to explain this to everyone, so this
major two-year-long shutdown of this major bridge goes as smoothly as
possible, especially for the people of Newark and Jersey City, who
especially depend on this bridge because that`s where the bridge goes.
Well, last summer, Commissioner James Simpson scheduled a meeting with the
mayor of Jersey City. The mayor of Jersey City is a Democrat, his name is
Steven Fullop. And you`ll remember that Mayor Fullop is the guy who had
all those meetings set up with officials from the New Jersey Governor`s
Office but then all those meetings got canceled one after another, most of
them in the space of an hour after the mayor told the governor`s office
that he wasn`t going to endorse Governor Chris Christie for re-election in
The transportation guy, Commissioner James Simpson, he was one of the
people who was scheduled for one of those meetings with the Jersey City
mayor. But like everybody else, his meeting with the Jersey City mayor got
canceled because Governor Christie didn`t get his endorsement.
Now the Chris Christie staffers who canceled all those meetings with the
Jersey City mayor, they may or may not have been playing politics when they
canceled those meetings. They were playing politics when they canceled
those meetings. But the transportation commissioner says he actually did
just want to talk about the falling down bridge. And he wanted to talk,
specifically about how poor old Jersey City, where the bridge is. He
wanted to talk with them about how Jersey City was going to manage the
traffic that would be created when they closed this bridge down for two
whole years so they could repair it.
After his meeting got canceled along with everybody else`s meetings,
Commissioner Simpson called Governor Christie`s staff, called specifically
Governor Christie`s deputy chief of staff, and asked if she could please
reschedule that Jersey City meeting, since it wasn`t just a political
favor, it was actually on a really important topic. He told Chris
Christie`s deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, he told her it, quote,
"was an important meeting regarding the upcoming temporary closing of the
He called Bridget Kelly repeatedly, asking if he could please meet with the
Jersey City mayor. And apparently the answer was no. Jersey City may need
to plan for traffic Armageddon, sure, and the state transportation
commissioner may want to help them do that planning, sure, but you know
what, Chris Christie had an election to win, and the mayor wasn`t playing
along with that reelection effort and Chris Christie`s New Jersey,
priorities are priorities in Chris Christie`s -- in Chris Christie`s New
Jersey and so no meeting, not at least before the election.
Finally in December, after the election, after Governor Christie was re-
elected, the transportation commissioner asked again, and this time he
asked somebody else in the administration, and then finally, in January,
Mr. James Simpson did finally get his meeting, so he could finally start
talking to Jersey City about how they were going to handle this two-year
shutdown of the bridge. And then, yesterday, they finally shut down the
bridge and they started working on it.
And I, for one, do not know what Governor Christie needs in order to revive
his national political career. I don`t particularly care. But I am
willing to guess that what he needs in order to revive his national
political career is not more manmade traffic problems. Especially in a
situation where the transportation commissioner was begging a Chris
Christie staffer named Bridget Kelly to please let him meet with the local
mayor to avert the traffic crisis. Especially not when that same Christie
staffer that the transportation commissioner was begging is the same Chris
Christie staffer who ordered traffic problems for the town of Fort Lee.
The extent to which Chris Christie staffers also served as an election
machine, and the way the Chris Christie administration governed New Jersey
as an election machine, that has been one of the startling revelations of
the past few weeks. We began to see some of this in the report issued last
month by Randy Mastro, whose law firm was hired by the governor`s office to
conduct an internal review of the governor.
Yesterday, as Steve Kornacki covered here on the show while I was away
yesterday, that law firm released notes from 75 interviews they did for
that internal report on the governor`s office. Those notes have more and
in some ways more unsettling detail that we didn`t know before. For
example, they interviewed a Sandy regional director in the governor`s
office. This person served as a conduit between mayors and municipalities
in the office of the governor, regarding issues related to Hurricane Sandy,
recovery from Hurricane Sandy.
That staffer in charge of that issue recalled, according to these notes,
that on issues related to Hurricane Sandy, Bridge Kelly needed to check
with the Chris Christie re-election campaign, quote, "before approving
certain things." He says he was told, for instance, not to bend over
backwards to help Hoboken Mayor Don Zimmer, who also was not endorsing
Chris Christie for re-election.
That official says he treated the Hoboken mayor just the same, but do these
new documents from the investigation show that the Christie administration
conditioned Sandy relief aid on politics? I mean, if the re-election
campaign was involved in clearing decisions about Sandy relief, and if the
mayor of New Jersey -- of Jersey City, was boxed out of planning for the
closing of the Pulaski Skyway because of political relief, because of
political reasons, these both seem like very damning revelations from a
report that supposedly clears the governor.
MADDOW: NBC`s Richard Engel joins us next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: This is one of those days when the international section of the
news gets really dramatic in its language and it is not melodrama. This is
earned. It`s that things really are this tense. Check this out from "The
Washington Post" today. Defiant militants have pushed this country to the
brink of war or disillusion. In a nation of 44 million people, it became
clear that a few hundred men with guns and unmarked uniforms operating on
the eastern fringes of the country have brought Ukraine to a deeply
That was "The Washington Post," from "The New York Times" today, just as
ominous. Quote, "The looming threat of war sent the Russian stock market
down by 3 percent." In a sign of the heightened tension, the Ukraine
seemed to teeter toward a run on bank deposits. Quote, "The Ukrainian
troops were not yet moving on the town as of early Tuesday night, but ahead
of them, scores of armed men maintained their hold on the city hall. They
have barricaded the roads and locals say placed snipers on rooftops."
What`s happening is that today became what everyone fears is going to be
the first day of a new war. Vladimir Putin may have taken a part of
Ukraine called Crimea without firing a shot, but in their determination to
not let him take any more of their country. The government in the Ukraine
today started to use force to push back pro-Russian forces that had started
to, effectively, take over parts of eastern Ukraine.
And if it feels like this is a fraught decision and this is a fraught
moment, it`s because this is a fraught decision and this is a fraught
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM MACEDA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Today, very carefully, Ukraine`s
military fought back. It mobilized helicopters, tanks, armored personnel
carriers, and Ukrainian special forces and they re-took a small airfield at
Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine, which had been seized last week by pro-
It was a risk. Russian President Vladimir Putin had warned Ukraine`s new
government not to use force against the protesters, raising fears Russia
will invade if violence does break out. But with protesters seizing one
government building after another in as many as a dozen towns in eastern
Ukraine, some say with plenty of Russian help, Ukraine`s acting president
felt he had to act.
Responsibly and cautiously, he said, to protect citizens, stop terror, and
stop attempts to tear the country apart.
Ukrainian forces have been mobilized, but so far they have not retaken any
of those occupied buildings. And angry protesters make it clear they
aren`t leaving. Here in Donetsk, the barricades grow larger, the
protesters more defiant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s NBC`s Jim Maceda in eastern Ukraine today.
NBC`s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel has long warned that what
Russia was looking for here was anything that they could call a
provocation, anything that Russia could cite as a justification for
invading Ukraine proper.
Has that now happened in the last 24 hours?
Joining us now is NBC`s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel.
Richard, thank you for being here.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: It`s absolutely a
pleasure. It`s good to see you in person.
MADDOW: Thank you. You too. And welcome back from Afghanistan.
ENGEL: Thank you. And for that Ukraine and Crimea, and looks like I`m
going to be heading --
MADDOW: Back there again?
MADDOW: Well, you had talked while you were there before, we`re trying to
sort of figure out where the edge of the envelope was in terms of what
Putin was going to push toward a new --
ENGEL: I`m not sure if Putin knows where the edge of the --
MADDOW: OK. Well, is this the kind of provocation he`s looking for?
ENGEL: Not yet.
ENGEL: Not yet. People keep talking about will Russia invade, will the
zero hour come? I`m not sure that`s the way we should frame the argument.
ENGEL: I think it has already begun. I think this is Russia`s way of
taking over eastern Ukraine. It is a step by step approach. He sends in
these militias. He activates sympathetic militias. A lot of these
militias by the way aren`t just Russian troops in uniforms. They`re local
Ukrainians who also have Russian nationality, Russian citizenship, who live
right in that border area. And you mobilize these people. That is stage
one of a -- effective takeover.
MADDOW: Well, that`s what Crimea looked like in stage one as well in some
ways. I mean there were Russian troops on the border, but a lot of what
happened inside Crimea was Russians speaking and Russian -- allied
ENGEL: Crimea was much easier because you had Russian bases in Crimea.
And the Russian troops on their bases simply went outside and deputized all
the people around them who were sympathetic to them and they just took
Here in Eastern Ukraine, first of all it`s a much bigger area. And you
have -- don`t have the Russian bases there. So they`re doing it just with
the militias. Unions. Sometimes motorcycle gangs. Whoever is sympathetic
to Russia is now being mobilized. They`re taking buildings. And the
Ukrainian government has a tough, tough call to make.
MADDOW: Well, now that they have moved Ukrainian troops into these areas.
And this is -- these last 24 hours has been very dramatic in terms of these
ENGEL: They`ve moved them in.
MADDOW: They`ve moved them in.
ENGEL: They took a tiny airfield.
ENGEL: But if you listen to that report, that was just on.
MADDOW: They`re not taking the buildings.
ENGEL: They haven`t taken the buildings yet. You go. Start clearing out
buildings. Start killing people. Then you could have a different
situation. Don`t forget the narrative. Vladimir Putin has said, very
clearly, the government in Kiev is controlled by Nazis. These are from his
point of view, which is being spread in the Russian media, Nazis, who are
controlling the government who are backed by Europe and Washington.
That`s who he is telling the Russian people and the people of Ukraine he`s
fighting. And he is saying that the Nazis have taken over. The Nazis
killed a lot of Jews, they also killed a lot of Russians, so it has a deep
residence in the local, you know, history and the local sentiment. The
Nazis have come back, they`ve come back to power in Ukraine. This is the
scenario anyway. And we can`t allow these Nazis to go kill lots of good
We have to go in and protect those people who are begging for our
assistance. That`s the scenario he`s presenting. So if suddenly this
government, this Nazi, CIA-backed, pro-Washington --
MADDOW: That wantonly kill Russians.
ENGEL: That wants to wantonly kill Russians starts actually killing
Russians then I could see coming up in the next few days, Vladimir Putin
saying, well, we had no choice, this is a humanitarian act. We had to send
in peacekeepers, otherwise the Nazis would take over.
MADDOW: So what is the Ukrainian government`s range of options then? I
mean, that narrative, I believe that Vladimir Putin is a little bit of a
kook. I don`t believe he --
ENGEL: I don`t think he`s a kook.
MADDOW: I believe that he is using that in a very smart way. Not sure
that he totally believes that it is true whether or not he`s talked himself
into it. But he must realize that that boxes the Ukrainian government into
not being able to act to protect their own territory.
ENGEL: Well, that`s the whole point.
MADDOW: So how do they get out of that box?
ENGEL: I think he -- the Ukrainian government is in a very difficult box
because -- and look where they`re reaching out to. The Ukrainian
government is asking for help from Washington, from the EU, from the United
Nations. And so far the help hasn`t really been coming. They lost Crimea,
which was a blow, but I think even the government in Kiev kind of accepted
that. This part of eastern Ukraine is half the country. They can`t lose
half the country. Otherwise they`re a failed state.
MADDOW: Does Ukraine have the sort of tactical infrastructure to fight to
hold on to this part of their country if they decide to do it by fighting?
ENGEL: No, not really.
ENGEL: If they -- if they fight against just the militias, maybe they`ll
win against the militias or maybe they`ll lose. If they fight against
Russia, they`ll be -- they`ll be done in an hour. They don`t have the kind
MADDOW: NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, this is very -
- this is -- I know you`re -- when you see a story like this you think oh,
I better get there, better closer to it. This is the sort of story that
makes me want to, like, hide under a pillow for a moment.
ENGEL: Well, it`s just the idea that --
MADDOW: It`s terrifying.
ENGEL: It`s happening. It`s not --
ENGEL: We always -- are the Russians going to go in? I think it`s
MADDOW: They`re already there.
ENGEL: This is the phase one of a maybe four or five-phase plan.
MADDOW: NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, thank you for
being here, my friend.
MADDOW: Try to stay safe as always. I know you are on your way to some
where dangerous. You always are. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: There are some news happening right now in Boston on the night of
the one-year anniversary of the bombings at the Boston marathon. Law
enforcement have been on the scene and the scene is the area that is the
finish line of the Boston marathon every year and that of course has some
pretty terrible resonance on this anniversary because of last year`s
bombing. But at around 7:00 p.m. Eastern tonight in Boston, this is the
strange scenario that has been reported.
A man who was reportedly barefoot and wearing a large black veil over his
head was reportedly walking down the street near the finish line for the
marathon and he was carrying two large backpacks underneath the veil.
Reportedly he was yelling "Boston Strong" as he made his way down the
street. The man dropped both backpacks near the finish line along Boylston
Street and at that point, unsurprisingly, the man was apprehended and taken
into custody by the Boston Police.
Now the police have cleared out the area around the finish line tonight.
They`ve created a perimeter around the two backpack as they have
investigated their contents. That investigation continues and the bomb
squad has been on the scene but get this, less than an hour ago, the bomb
squad issued a one-minute warning to people in the area. An officer called
fire in the hole. That was followed by a loud boom and an explosion.
Reportedly that was one of the backpacks being blown up by the bomb squad.
Then just moments ago, another fire in the hole call was issued, followed
by another warning and another loud boom. The bomb squad apparently
detonated the second of the two of bags.
And that is the breaking news out of Boston tonight. Strange and obviously
weirdly resonant news out of Boston tonight on the anniversary of the
Boston bombings. And just six days from when runners will be streaming
through that area for the next running of the Boston marathon.
That does it for us tonight. Thank you for being with us. We`ll see you
again tomorrow night. Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD."
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>
ATCH 'THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW' WEEKDAYS AT 9:00 P.M. ON MSNBC.