THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
June 7, 2013
Guests: Jeff Merkley
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
There`s a lot coming up on the show today. It`s just one of those
kind of days.
In the summer of 2002, less than a year after the 9/11 attacks, in the
summer of 2002, a guy named Mark Klein was working at AT&T in San
Francisco. He worked for AT&T for about 20 years at that point.
He worked in New York City and White Plains, New York. He transferred
to California. He worked for AT&T there, and a couple of different cities.
But by summer of 2002, he was in San Francisco for AT&T. He was a
lifer at AT&T. He was a trusted long time employee.
Then, one day, while he was at work, he got a message. Watch this.
This is from "Frontline" on PBS.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK KLEIN, FORMER AT&T EMPLOYEE: In 2002, I was sitting at my work
station one day. And some e-mail came in saying that somebody from the
National Security Agency, NSA, was going to come visit for some business.
And an NSA representative showed up at the door, I happened to be the one
who opened the door. I let him in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was doing background check for security
clearance for one of our field engineers. He was going to be working at
the Folsom Street office and they were building a secure building there.
KLEIN: I heard from our manager, Don, that he is working on some new
room that`s being built. So people started speculating, oh, what`s this
new room being built?
REPORTER: Mark Klein got suspicious when the workmen constructing the
room treated it as hush-hush.
So, how do you know that it wasn`t just some kind of newfangled AT&T
thing that was going beyond it already been established for its security
KLEIN: They wouldn`t need the NSA for that purpose. The odd thing
about the whole room, of course, was that only this one guy who had
clearance from NSA could get in there. So that changed the whole context
of what this is about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: OK. When that guy, Mark Klein, long time employee of AT&T,
when he got the message about this newfangled room that was being built, he
working in San Francisco, a few blocks away from where that mysterious new
room was going to be constructed. If you know San Francisco at all, the
office that was getting the secret new room was here. That`s what we`ve
marked on the map. South of market on Folsom Street, 611.
This is 2002. Mark Klein did not initially work at that office. But
the following year, 2003, it so happened that he actually got transferred
to that office. So, now, this thing that he`d been so curious about, he
was now working in the same building where that secret room was in
The room was about 24 feet long by 48 feet wide. And it was labeled
as room 641A.
Mark Klein and his coworkers at that Folsom Street office, they had
keys to all of the rooms in that whole AT&T complex on Folsom Street, but
they not have the key to room 641A. Only one guy in the whole building,
that guy who had the NSA clearance, only that one guy had a key to that
room and only he was allowed in there.
Mark Klein later testified that at a certain point, the air
conditioner in 641A started dripping, started dripping so much that water
from the secret room started leaking through the floor on to some expensive
company equipment that was on the next floor down. But that one guy, one
guy with the NSA clearance who was allowed to go in room 641A, he wasn`t
So, there was nobody to go in and fix the problem. And so, they just
left the air conditioner dripping for days until that guy came back.
Mark Klein worked on the Internet side of the AT&T, not on the phone
side. He was high-tech guy for AT&T. And it turned out that even though
he was not allowed into that secret room in the building with the leaky air
conditioner, right. It turns out that secret room had something to do with
the kind of work he did for AT&T.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Klein`s job was to maintain AT&T`s Internet service for 7
million customers, domestic and international all mixed together.
KLEIN: We have billions and billions of bits of data going across
every second, right?
REPORTER: A coworker showed Klein how their Internet room was
directly connected to the secret NSA room, by a special device called a
KLEIN: So, what they do with the splinter is they intercept that data
stream and make copies of all of the data and those copies go down on the
cable to the secret room.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What this thing was be a very school full device
to take all communication, voice and data, and send it both wherever it was
supposed to go, but also send it off to a little listening room.
REPORTER: So what exactly was going on in that listening room? Klein
found clues at work one day.
KLEIN: I came across these three documents. I brought back to my
desk. And when I started looking at it, I looked at it more and finally
going, it dawned at me all at once and I almost fell out of my chair.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Those documents were wiring document. Wiring diagrams. Mark
Klein would later tell "The Washington Post," this was sweeping up
everything, vacuum cleaner style. NSA is getting everything.
These are major pipes that carry not just AT&T`s customers, but
everybody`s. He told "The Post", "That was my `aha` moment. They are
sending the entire Internet to the secret room."
And Mark Klein the whistle when he figured out that they were sending
the entire Internet to the secret room. He sued, he joined a lawsuit in an
effort to try to make AT&T stop what it was doing in room 641A and that
office on Fulsome Street. That was 2006.
And, meanwhile, a bunch of other stuff like this started to be
exposed. "The New York Times" had reported on warrantless wiretapping and
in late 2005. The Brave Windsor, Connecticut, librarians have come forward
about the national security letters that they got, ordering them to hand
over information about how people were using the library.
"USA Today" published a really important piece in 2006 about
widespread, indiscriminate vacuuming up of mass amounts of Internet
communication. Piece by piece, it was all starting to come out.
But people getting upset about it, did not make it go away. The
result of people getting upset about it is that it was codified into law.
So, it become no longer illegal spying on people, it was the exact same
spying on people, but now legalized. That was change happened once get got
upset. They kept doing it, they just made it legal.
So, if you care about lawlessness, some progress was made there, in
that the law was changed to now a law for what allow for what was
previously illegal behavior, if you only care about lawlessness, maybe
that`s progress. But if you care about the substance of the law breaking,
if you care about spying itself, really no progress was made. None of that
stuff was ever dialed back after it was exposed, ever.
The guy who saw them setting up the room in 2002 to secretly copy the
whole Internet, he`s right, that`s what they were doing and nothing stopped
them from do doing that, since, as far as we know.
It seems to be illegal when the government was doing that in room 641A
starting a decade ago. That kind of thing got less illegal over time when
Congress passed and President Bush signed legislation to bring all this
stuff above board. One of the most contentious issues in that whole
process was would happen to these companies who illegally help the
government do this illegal spying.
Could the companies get sued for that? Could the companies get in
trouble for having done that, when the government acted illegally?
Well, after much lobbying from the White House, Congress voted in 2008
to retroactively grant immunity to all the telecom companies. All the
Internet companies, all the phone companies, all those companies who had
acted illegally in helping the administration do what was now being
declared a legal thing. It appears that they had done something illegal
but Congress made it to the companies couldn`t be sued for it for
prosecuted for it.
So, now, here we are. 2013 with yet more details expose about them
secretly copying the whole Internet, every day. And this time, not just a
secret room at AT&T on Folsom Street in San Francisco.
From "The Guardian" on Wednesday night, it`s Verizon. "The Wall
Street Journal" today says it`s also AT&T and Sprint and unnamed Internet
service providers and credit card companies.
Then, from "The Guardian" and "The Washington Post", we got details of
the PRISM program, sweeping up vast amounts of Internet everything, your
emails, your videos, your photos, your chats. For the most of the big,
famous Internet companies, Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Facebook, AOL, Skype,
Here is the thing though, this is -- this is the question of the day.
The companies are all basically denying it. I mean, back in the day, that
AT&T story, AT&T just no commented, everybody. "We do not comment on
matters of national security."
And this week, too, when the initial leak this week was just Verizon,
they started off as just no comment.
But take that with a grain of salt, right, because we also know from
the leaked court ruling about Verizon that was the source of that whole
story, we know from that court ruling that Verizon is not allowed to tell
anybody they are doing this thing that the government is already them to
do. They`re sworn to secrecy.
So, no, Verizon isn`t confirming it. But maybe they couldn`t confirm
it even if they wanted to. That`s Verizon so far.
But for the other leak, for the Internet companies, this PRISM program
thing, for the Internet companies, it`s not "no comment". It`s not "we
don`t want to talk about this". It`s not "we can neither confirm nor deny
For Internet companies, it is a flat-out "no, we are not doing this".
It`s weird, right? And statements from the Internet companies are weird.
"The Guardian" covered it today, following up on their own reporting,
within the tech companies and talking on and off the record executives say
they never heard of PRISM until contacted by "The Guardian" for comment on
Senior officials with knowledge of the situation within the tech
giants admitted to being confused by the NSA revelations and said if such
data collection was taking place, it was without their company`s knowledge.
Without their knowledge?
Yahoo! says, "We do not provide the government with direct access to
our servers, systems or network". Apple says, "We have never heard of
PRISM. We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our
Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook put out this statement tonight, "I want
to respond personally to the outrageous press reports about PRISM.
Facebook is not and never has been part of any program to give the U.S. or
any other government direct access to our servers. We have never received
a blanket request or court order from any government agency asking for
information or metadata ion bulk, like the one Verizon reportedly
"And if we did," he says, "we would fight it aggressively. We hadn`t
even heard of PRISM before yesterday."
Microsoft is the company that is described by the NSA in these
documents as having been first into this program. And the Microsoft denial
is really, really specific. Maybe they thought they had to be specific
since their whole ad campaign right now is all about how much they love
But check out, whatever they said, check out the way and with the
specificity of which Microsoft denied it. Microsoft says, "We provide
customer data only when we receive a legally binding order or subpoena to
do so, and never on a voluntarily basis."
OK. So they are saying we all need to do it when we are forced to.
All right. Fine, if that forcing you, who really cares?
But wait, there`s more. They also say, quote, "In addition, we only
ever comply for orders with respect about specific account or identifiers.
If the government has a broader voluntary national security program to
gather customer data, we don`t participate in it."
We don`t participate in it. We`re not doing that. So companies are
responding to this leak this week by saying, not us, we`re not doing it.
Effectively, they`re saying, if it is happening, it is happening against
our will. We would never given a chance to say no, would have said no.
And here is the problem with understanding how that could be so. Why
is Twitter not on the list of companies? Why is Twitter not on the list of
companies that the NSA says it`s gotten this thing?
This is the slide that leaked right? This April 2013 slide, which
shows supposedly all of the companies that the NSA says are in this
program. You know, Yahoo and Google, Facebook and all the rest of them.
Twitter is just as big a company as all those companies. Twitter handled
just as much as private information, just as much potentially identifying
information, including geolocating information as any of those companies.
NSA and FBI want all of those other companies but not Twitter data?
Are they not interested with Twitter data? Or did they ask Twitter for
access to their users data and Twitter said no. They would not let them
have it, so they`re not the on the list but all of the other companies are.
Apple held on and apparently didn`t get into the system until five
years after Microsoft got into the system. Had Apple been resisting, had
Apple been saying no before and they stop saying no and they finally got
brought in? Did the NSA figure out a way to go around their saying now and
get their data without them?
The NSA presentation reportedly bragged that Dropbox was next.
Dropbox is going to have its data in the program soon. Is that because NSA
figure out how to wrangle Dropbox`s data against Dropbox`s will? Or is it
because they convince Dropbox to say yes?
Are the companies going along with this or not? Are they legally
aloud to say if they are? Are they lying? Are they immune from any legal
liability from lying about it? Are they immune from legal liability in
terms of how they treated their customers, how they behave as a business
because of that blanket immunity that Congress gave the whole industry back
You know, we know a lot more today than we did at the beginning of the
week. But some of what has been told to us about this program and the
businesses for which this government is getting all of our private
information that we thought was private, some of this story still does not
make sense even at the most basic level.
I mean, if you`re -- let`s say have you a Google comment and you use
Gmail, right? If you are feeling mad this week about the fact that you
just found out all of your Gmail is in a military computer somewhere, your
government is holding your Gmail in a military computer somewhere, and you
want to know. You`re mad about that.
And you want to know if Google is one of the people you should be mad
at about that -- I can`t tell you. Kind of seems like Google must have
gone along with this in order for them to get that data.
But Google is saying, not it. Not our fault. We never say OK to
And, objectively, I have to tell you, it is just not clear.
Also not clear, or at least still contested this point is whether or
not Congress really did sign off on all of this. Some members of Congress
since this has all come out have been saying, ah, this is no big deal,
we`ve known about this forever. This program has been going on for years.
We all know about it. It`s totally authorized. Nothing to see here.
The president today took that line as well. This has been authorized
by Congress multiple times by big bipartisan majorities. Every members of
Congress knew about this, the president said today. But some of the people
who supposedly knew about this, who supposedly were briefed on it and who
authorized it and all the rest, some of those people are contesting that
Joining us now is a member of the United States Senate who has been
spoken on this issue, he`s Democrat Jeff Merkley of Oregon.
Senator Merkley, thank you so much for being with us tonight. It`s a
pleasure to have you here.
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: You`re so welcome. It`s great to be
with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, the White House and some members of Congress and the
Senate have been saying, everybody in Congress knew about all of this
Internet surveillance. Everybody had been briefed on it.
Were you ever briefed on this PRISM program?
MERKLEY: No, I never heard of the PRISM program. I don`t -- I doubt
that very many people outside the Intelligence Committee know anything
MADDOW: Is it the only thing that should be briefed to the
Intelligence Committee? Or is it a sort of thing that other senators, even
not on that committee, should be told about?
MERKLEY: Well, it is deeply troubling. I can draw a parallel to the
cell phone side and that`s a different section of the law under records,
and section 215. I had heard stories like you had mention, that were there
some shenanigans going on.
So, I asked for a briefing on that program because we were talking
about the extension of the Patriot Act, the extension of the FISA
authorization. And so, I went and got a briefing. And the briefing
suggested to me much what has been revealed through this document, that
there was a large vacuum cleaner at work.
Now I couldn`t say that because I was now in a classified realm, but
what I could do is introduce legislation to say essentially there appears
to be some secret law and let`s make that law public.
Let me explain more of what I mean. You have in the law, it has a
provision that says that the government can collect a tangible things
related to an investigation and it says facts have to be shown and
reasonable cause and so forth. Very consistent with what you would see in
the Fourth Amendment.
But how is it possible? How is it possible that the barriers get
translated into not specific searches but into a vast dragnet? So, that`s
what I wanted to understand. And when what I found out, I said, you know,
OK, there appears to be a court interpretation, changing the common meaning
of these words into something entirely different, let`s get that court
interpretation into the common realm.
So, I proposed the secret court law amendment that said these
interpretations by secret court will be declassified so we could have a
debate here in America about privacy and security.
MADDOW: How much support did you get for that proposal?
MERKLEY: We had 30-plus members vote for the amendment but we also
had the chair of the committee say that she supported the idea I was
presenting and she would join me in lobbying for these secret opinions to
be classified. And that was Senator Feinstein.
And so, she joined with me and Senator Wyden, Senator Mark Udall as
well, and we wrote a letter in this case to the FISA court asking for
declassification. And we didn`t get back a yes.
MADDOW: I imagine that some of those proposals may be revisited now
with public outcry over these leaks this week. You may get more support
from those proposals from fellow members in the Senate. I don`t know.
I have to ask, though, about the big picture here, which is about
whether or not there can be effective oversight of secret programs. I
mean, how can you make the case for legislation when you can`t explain the
need for it, because the need for it is classified?
MERKLEY: Absolutely. That was the problem I was trying to tackle by
saying these opinions need to be classified.
I mean, I can`t imagine how it is that there is -- that my cell phone
information or your cell phone information is related to an investigation,
a specific authorized investigation. I can`t imagine how that is the case.
And but how can we contest it if we can`t discuss publicly or know that
it`s going on.
And, certainly, what the president today stretched several things. He
said that Congress had approved this program. Well, if Congress approved
something with very specific standard and those standards were secretly
eviscerated, that guts were torn out of them so they were meaningless, then
Congress really hasn`t approved the program at all.
And so, I disagree with the president on that. And when he said that
members have been briefed, well, I was one -- I think a few who saw a
briefing on the cell phone side because of what I`d heard in the public
press, but I don`t think many others outside of the intelligence committee
got that briefing.
So, if the president believes a hundred members of Congress knew the
details of that program under section 215, I think he`s wrong. I think
very few outside the Intelligence Committee, and in terms of the PRISM
program which I don`t -- I think very few ever heard of, I certainly never
heard of it, I doubt that the more than the intelligence committee would
have known about that.
MADDOW: Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon -- thank you for explaining
that to us tonight. You have you been more clear about that than anybody
else commenting on this thus far. I think you made news here tonight by
being so clear about it. Thank you for being with us, sir.
MERKLEY: Rachel, you`re very welcome. Thank you.
All right. Earlier this week, on this show, John Stanton from
BuzzFeed, the guy with big eyebrows and a goatee, bald guy, you know him,
skull rings, he said one member of the United States Senate was playing a
Jedi mind trick on the whole country. The evidence for that hypothesis is
MADDOW: The sending angry letters stuffed with ricin community in
America is apparently falling on hard times. A couple of days ago, we had
the indictment of a martial art instructor in Tupelo, Mississippi. He was
charged with sending ricin-filled letters to President Obama, to
Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker and to a state court judge.
He was the guy who is inexplicably bitter online rival was the Elvis
impersonator -- the Elvis impersonator who was originally suspected to be
the letter sender. In fact, it kind of seemed like the Elvis impersonator
guy was set up to seem like he was the ricin letter sender, but it wasn`t
him and he ultimately ended up just giving a very highly entertaining press
conference where he offered to rub lady`s feet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL KEVIN CURTIS, RELEASED ON RICIN CHARGES: I am a licensed,
certified, reflexologist, and I`m going to start with foot massage therapy
with Christie. She`s going to be my first client and I`m going to donate
100,000 hours to community service to northeast Mississippi to all you
ladies who need foot massage therapy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So the Elvis impersonator foot masseuse did not send the
first round of ricin stuffed letters to President Obama and other
politicians. He was set up, allegedly, by his bitter online rival, the
martial artist. The one who says he`s in Mensa.
The martial artist has been charged, arrested, and charged and he has
pled not guilty to sending the ricin-laced letters. That was yesterday.
But now, today, the second round of ricin letters. This one again
sent to President Obama, also to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and to
the office of his group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns. The letters were
postmarked from Shreveport, Louisiana.
Today, an arrest was made in connection with the second round of ricin
letters, but it is pretty much almost as weird as Elvis impersonator foot
massage, martial artist, Internet rival one -- maybe even weirder. The
person arrested is Shannon Rogers Guess Richardson of New Boston, Texas.
She`s being held right now at the federal court house in Texarkana, Texas.
Here`s the weird part though, the woman arrested today originally
called the FBI about those ricin letters. She called the FBI to blame her
husband for them. She said she found something suspicious in her fridge
and she found ricin related searches on their shared home computer and so,
he called the FBI to nark out her husband when she heard about the ricin-
Now, the FBI says actually it was her. Yes, if you must know, the
woman arrested and charged in the case is an actress whose most prominent
in role was her turn in the "Walking Dead", in which as you see here, she
played a brains-eating, blood-thirsty zombie.
So the bit actor with zombie on her resume, who allegedly tried to
blame her husband is under arrest. The Elvis impersonator is free. The
martial artist who says he`s in Mensa who allegedly tried to blame the
Elvis impersonator is also under arrest, but he`s pleading not guilty. And
hey, you know what, it turns out that stories about people who send to the
president angry letters stuffed with poison tend to be a little -- yes, who
MADDOW: The `08 presidential campaign, Barack Obama, and Hillary
Clinton, and John McCain, Sarah Palin, one of the most compelling story of
politics, even if just told through the personalities involved. We will
probably never see the likes of that again, except that one of the most
unexpected, most incredible stories from within that campaign has just come
to light now. I think most awkward possible moment in the course of the
Obama presidency. It is from the campaign, we are learning about it
tonight. You will not believe it.
That`s coming up. Stay tuned.
MADDOW: Whether or not you live in the great state of New Jersey, the
weather in New Jersey is suddenly national political news. Here is the New
Jersey weather forecast for this coming weekend -- rain, rain, rain, rain.
At this point, it is expected to rain a bunch. Good for the Garden State.
And unless we are talking about some huge weather disaster, which this
isn`t, a rainy local weather forecast for the weekend usually doesn`t carry
any political consequences with it. But right now, New Jersey`s rainy
weather forecast for this weekend matters, because this weekend is the last
opportunity that New Jersey residents have to get themselves on the ballot
to become the state`s next U.S. senator.
Monday`s the deadline. Monday`s the filing deadline in New Jersey to
get on the ballot for the state`s open Senate seat. Each potential
candidate has to submit a petition by Monday containing a thousand
signatures in order to qualify for the ballot. So, everybody wants to be
on the ballot will be out there collecting signatures in the rain.
The Senate seat is open because earlier this week, long time New
Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg passed away at age 89. Two of the state`s
Democratic Congressman Rush Holt and Frank Pallone have already announced
that they intend to run for that seat. And now, NBC News has confirmed
that Newark`s popular mayor, Cory Booker, he will also make his
announcement that he`s getting in tomorrow.
But for anybody else planning to run, you better hurry. Signatures
are due on Monday, please bring an umbrella.
In terms of what is happening with that Senate seat, in the meantime,
yesterday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie picked his long time friend
and state`s current Attorney General Jeff Chiesa, to replace Senator
If you will forgive me for saying so, I think Governor Christie did a
respectful thing here. He found a guy that will just be a placeholder.
Mr. Chiesa says he will not run for that Senate seat in the election this
fall. He won`t run. He`s a placeholder to keep it safe until the
residents of New Jersey can elect somebody new.
The governor of Massachusetts did a similar thing earlier this year
when he replaced John Kerry in the Senate with somebody who said he
wouldn`t run for the seat. Same thing happened in Delaware, governor of
Delaware picking a placeholder in 2009 when Joe Biden left the Senate to
become vice president. They picked placeholder candidates who did not
intend to hold on to the seat long term. It is a decent thing to do
So, good for Chris Christie for doing the same thing here. He did not
have to do it that way but he did.
That said, that quite honorable decision stands along side the
embarrassing and profligate decision that governor made here overall, when
he decided it order New Jersey tax payers to fork over $12 million they
didn`t have to spend to hold a special election for that seat this coming
October. There is already an election that`s scheduled it happen a few
Chris Christie is on that one. He`s on the ballot for reelection as
governor on November 5th. But rather than just having the Senate election
the same day, saving the 12 million bucks it cost to hold an election,
rather than putting them both on the same day on the same ballot, Chris
Christie decided to hold the Senate election three weeks earlier. On
Wednesday, October 16 instead.
Why on a Wednesday when you`re about to do one three weeks later in
November? Because -- Governor Christie advisors conceding that adding that
Senate contest to his November 5th election would risked energizing
Democrats. Putting a really popular Democrat like say Cory Booker on the
ballot potentially bring lots and lots of Democrats to the polls which
could hurt Chris Christie`s chances of being re-elected p.
So, you know, let`s let the taxpayers spend 12 million bucks to not do
that. It is a surprisingly chicken move by the supposed tough guy, Chris
Christie. It`s one that people probably won`t forget in New Jersey in the
short term or in 2016 in the long-term.
Until New Jersey resident have a chance to vote in the random
Wednesday in October special election though. This will be New Jersey`s
new senator, and while he won`t be in D.C. long-term, he will be there to
vote for tough stuff.
Por ejemplo, this morning, just a few days before he arrives at
Senate, Senate today started debating immigration reform. Frank
Lautenberg, the Democratic, was a sure vote in favor of immigration reform.
New Jersey`s brand new placeholder Republican senator on the other hand,
for him he says the jury is still out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF CHIESA (R-NJ), SENATOR-DESIGNATE: I think the first thing we
have to do is make sure borders are secured. I think that`s probably
because I come from a background of law enforcement. From there, these are
new to me, and the details are new to me. And I`ll get down there and meet
with colleagues and discuss with them so I could make the most sense of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator-designate Chiesa, as you just heard there, says he is
eager to speak to his new colleagues about immigration reform. Someone
should tell him before he gets down there, that those colleagues, if they
care about immigration reform, might be busy. They might be busy trying to
save it from completely falling apart because it seems like it`s completely
Republicans have all sort of agreed in the months after the
presidential election that they really, really need to do immigration
reform. There is a pretty clear reason why they all feel that way. You
are looking at it. Republicans lost the Latino vote in 2012 by 44 points.
So, yes, they need to do something. Something -- at least take a
first step to win back vote and maybe immigration is going to be the
ticket. The guy who took the lead on that for the Republicans in the
Senate was the ambitious Florida Senator Marco Rubio. It was essentially
his job to help craft an immigration bill that could be sold to his fellow
Republicans, as well as to the conservative media types across that country
that like to make hay over issues like this.
And now, just as immigration reform is finally hitting the Senate
floor, Marco Rubio is saying that not only does he think he doesn`t have
the Republican votes that he needs to order to pass it in the Senate, oh,
by the way, he is saying maybe he won`t even vote for it now. His own
Senator Rubio has since backed off from that stance just a little bit,
but today, in the Senate, his Republican colleagues got the first chance to
stop immigration reform from happening. Over in the House this week on the
issue of immigration, Republicans were busy voting en masse, voting as a
block yesterday to deny young undocumented immigrants the opportunity to
live and work in this country. The architect of that legislation that
almost got universal Republican support is the guy who`s been working for
months to derail immigration in the Senate over all.
Republicans all sort of agreed, at least most of them sort of agreed
that immigration reform was something they needed to do if only for their
own electoral survival. But now, what happened?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: This is the bill as printed, front
and back, page of each page, it was reported there would be a thousand
pages and colleagues are proud, they said it was 800. But more has been
added to it. So, it`s now back over a thousand pages again.
SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: We need to face the fact that thousand-page
bureaucratic overall simply do not achieve their goals and they create far
more problems than they tend to solve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It`s so long. It`s too many pages. Also let`s ban the
Oxford English Dictionary.
Ulysses, also, let`s ban that. It`s too long.
Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah, Republican Jeff Sessions of
Alabama, arguing that their colleagues should kill the immigration reform
bill because it is too many pages. There`s got to be more to the objection
Joining us now is NBC News political reporter and producer, Kasie
Hunt, who`s been covering the immigration debate.
Kasie, thanks very much for being with us.
KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, immigration reforms is one thing that everybody thought
could move because Republicans believed they needed to move it, if for no
other reason, than their electoral survival. Has that calculation changed?
Did the people who disagreed with that calculus start winning the argument
in the Republican caucus?
HUNT: Well, it seems like the last week, the immigration bill has run
into the House of Representatives where there are those voting their
districts and this is one of the consequences of gerrymandering all those
districts. You know, they have constituency where they are straight up
opposed to this and this is at odds with where the national party wants to
I was talking to Lindsey Graham earlier this week and he`s still
articulating exactly what you just laid out and he told me that the
Republican Party is going to be, quote, "toast" in 2016 if they don`t pass
MADDOW: Well, in terms of those objections, though, I feel like the
calculation was always that the Steve Kings of the world and that the very
anti-immigration stalwart would be allowed to say their piece. But then,
essentially, the party would make a calculation that some combination of
all of the Democrats and a handful of Republicans who could safely vote
that way would get it done.
Is this still a possible outcome or are there more people objecting
them were expected?
HUNT: You`re seeing that act thing play out in the Senate right now.
I mean, what you saw today on the floor with the Senate with Sessions
objecting was a concession to Jeff Sessions, who is leading the charge
against many gracing in the Senate. Democrats agree to give him the floor
for a few hours today, in exchange for being able to vote early next week
to start the debate on the legislation itself.
But what you`re going to see next is a turn to the House of
Representatives where all eyes are going to be on Speaker John Boehner, who
is going to have to decide that very question. He has a lot of control
over what happens on the floor of the House, more so than in the Senate for
the leadership over there. And he`s going to have to way, does he want to
prior advertise what national Republican leaders think is best for the
future of the party or does he need to prioritize his own survival as
speaker of the House, which could potentially be in jeopardy if he has a
revolt from all of these Tea Party and right wing conservatives that have
been elected over the last two election cycles.
MADDOW: Kasie, since the last election, we`ve seen more than a
handful of cases where things have been essentially allowed by the
Republicans, allowed by John Boehner to pass out of the House with all of
the Democrats and some minority of Republicans.
There was a -- an informal rule against the Republicans letting
anything like that happen for a long time. Now they seem to have slipped.
And they sometimes let those things pass. Is John Boehner getting backlash
against that as a tactic? Are hardliners in his party telling him to stop
doing things like that any more?
HUNT: He is absolutely seeing backlash. And "The Washington Post"
reported earlier this week that, in fact, several of the conservative House
Republicans have proposed resolution to essentially limit Boehner`s power
to do that. It would say that, you know, as part of the Republican
conference, he would he have to have a majority of the majority in order to
put a bill on the floor.
And that`s what, you know, he`s made those decisions himself and
that`s something that could potentially have repercussions beyond the
immigration debate, with budget and fiscal grand bargain and variety of
MADDOW: Yes, debt ceiling and student loans and everything.
Well, on the issue of the Senate, obviously, Marco Rubio has been tip
of the spear here for Republicans in trying to come up with a bill that
Republicans can support. Early on, that meant him going on conservative
media and lobbying conservative media host, that they should also support
this, essentially that they should not whip this vote from the conservative
side against Republicans and hold it against the Republicans.
We have since seen Marco Rubio doing conservative media hits, where
he`s talking the bill down, saying that it`s a bad bill, floating the idea
he would vote against it himself. John Stanton from "BuzzFeed" was here
earlier this week and told us that we should see what Marco Rubio is doing
here as some sort of Jedi mind trick and that he still supports immigration
reform. Can you shed light on that, do you know what`s going on there?
HUNT: Look, Marco Rubio has hung his entire political future on the
success of immigration reform. So, the question is, what is going to be in
the bill. But no matter what that is, you`re going to see Marco Rubio
pushing as hard as he can to get a bill passed, that`s exactly what he told
reporters on hill earlier this week.
He said, look, like I signed up to be the person who was going to sell
this to Republicans. I still plan to do that. But I need this bill to be
what they need it to be.
And they`re focused particularly right now on border security
provisions and exactly how the trigger would work. Right now, under the
bill that passed out of committee, DHS, the Department of Homeland Security
simply has to write a plan that says this is how we`re going to secure the
border. And that`s not good enough for some Republicans who want to see
either action taken, not just a plan written, or they want Congress to be
able to certify the border has been secured before people are able to
obtain legal status that would eventually allow them to apply for a green
MADDOW: This is one of the things there`s so much punditry expended
over the months and over the years on this subject, to actually see the
rubber hit the road on this in Congress and on Capitol Hill next week is
going to be fascinating.
NBC News political reporter and producer Kasie Hunt -- Kasie, thanks
very much for being here. It`s nice to have you here.
HUNT: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: The unbelievable story of the 2008 presidential election that
you have not heard before is coming up next. This is a crazy story. Stick
MADDOW: This is a crazy story.
In the middle of the presidential campaign in 2008, so McCain versus
Obama, that summer, the McCain campaign was contacted by a senior Chinese
diplomat, top John McCain policy adviser who`s working on the campaign, got
a call from a senior Chinese diplomat in Washington.
The diplomat was calling to complain about a letter John McCain had
written to the newly elected president of Taiwan. So Taiwan and China are
like this. And John McCain, presidential candidate, had written a friendly
letter to the newly elected president of Taiwan. China apparently thought
the tone of the letter was way too friendly. So, they called the McCain
campaign to complain.
Here`s the problem. The letter hadn`t been sent yet! The letter
existed only in draft form on one of the McCain campaign`s computers. So
how did China know what the letter said?
NBC News has obtained the letter. This is what it looks like. But
who cares what`s in the letter? The question is, how did the official in
the Chinese government get any internal, unsent document from the McCain
And it turns out it wasn`t just the McCain campaign. It was the Obama
campaign, too. David Plouffe, the Obama campaign manager in 2008, he got a
phone call from the White House that summer telling him that something bad
was going on, watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID PLOUFFE, OBAMA 2008 CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Josh Bolden calls, I
assume to talk about transition matters. He says we have reason to believe
your campaign systems have been penetrated we think by a foreign entity.
He did not name countries at that time, if I recall, and said we need to
get the FBI and law enforcement officials involved in investigating this.
He did say it`s not just your campaign, we have reason to believe and we`ll
tell the McCain campaign the same thing, they tried to penetrate their
systems as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The story of the Obama campaign and McCain campaigns being
hacked into during the campaign in 2008. That overall story was known
before, but we didn`t know the extent of it nor did we know who did the
hacking. Now, we do.
Now, U.S. officials tell NBC`s Michael Isikoff it was definitely the
Chinese government. Michael Isikoff getting this news from a U.S. official
last night on the eve of the new leader of China visiting the United States
today, to meet one on one with President Obama.
This is going to be their first meeting since the new Chinese
president got that job back in March. The one-on-one meetings are
scheduled for five hours over the course of two days. It`s happening at a
giant California desert estate near Palm Springs. It`s called Sunnylands.
Sunnylands estate has hosted seven previous presidents, including
Richard Nixon who visited Sunnylands shortly after he resigned the
presidency because of Watergate scandal. He signed the Sunnylands guest
book, "When you`re down, you find out who your real friends are."
But in terms of friendship, imagine the trust level between President
Obama and the head of the government that hacked into his campaign
computers even before he was president. Maybe because of that, President
Obama will be spending the night at the Sunnylands estate tonight, but the
Chinese president will not. The Chinese president will be staying at a
nearby hotel, maybe less buggy there, you know what I mean?
So, here in the United States, U.S. government officials timed their
tip to Michael Isikoff that it was the Chinese government that hacked
campaigns in 2008, they timed that tip to coincide with the first meeting
of the new Chinese president with President Obama.
Meanwhile, in China, the marvelously coincidental timing there was for
something different. The Chinese government on the occasion of this visit
to the U.S., they decided to give passports to the family members of this
high profile Chinese dissident who took refuge in our country from Chinese
persecution. And his mother and brother can visit him here, all of a
sudden because of this, because of this meeting.
This was the scene in Palm Springs, just about 90 minutes ago.
President Obama greeting the Chinese president and they sat down for the
first of their big, important meetings.
And this is kind of how these things are supposed to go on the
sidelines of meetings, right? On the occasion of a high profile meeting
with the president of the United States, on that occasion, you know what,
kindnesses towards dissidents should suddenly become possible. Other
countries should think we expect that. Contact with us, desire to have
good relations with us is supposed to drive other countries for better
human rights policies and better civil rights policies, because that`s what
we are supposed to stand for.
So, the timing is tough right now, right? We like to think of
ourselves as the good guys, where the international cost of doing business
with United States of America is that you have to be less evil. It would
be a lot easier for the United States to pull off this attempted
embarrassment of the Chinese government over them hacking our politicians,
were it not for the coincide revelations flooding our media this week,
about our own government mercilessly hacking us.
That does it for us. We will see you again on Monday night. But I
actually have some great news before we go.
It turns out you do not have to go to prison tonight. Tonight you`re
out on parole!
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