THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
September 29, 2014
Guest: Carol Leonnig, Dave Helling>
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Is normal life kind of a letdown? Where`s
my 65,000 peeps? It does something weird to your hand, right?
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: Can I just say, doing a hand signal and
have 60,000 people do it back to you is like really incredible, how
addictive I was like, wow, that gets -- this is what it`s like for Jay-Z
all the time.
MADDOW: It`s amazing and probably also very dangerous to your soul.
HAYES: Oh my goodness.
MADDOW: You did amazing work, man. Well done.
HAYES: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. We have a
correction to make.
A week ago tonight, at exactly this time one week ago, I led this show
with something that I now know to be wrong. Here is me being wrong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: He vaulted over the White House fence. He ran all the way
across the White House lawn. He got all the way to the north portico doors
of the White House. He then opened the doors and went inside the building
and was not apprehended until he was already inside the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Now, if you really want to parse it, technically you could
say what I said there was accurate, but honestly, what I just described
there is not at all what really happened in that incident in the news.
Late this afternoon, early this evening, there was just a stunning
development in what was already a pretty shocking story. I know the word
shocking is overused in the news business. But there is something shocking
about this, particularly what we learned about it today. I mean, it`s one
thing when you see the president of the United States out working a line or
doing an event in front of a large crowd. And you think, oh, the president
might be taking a little risk in terms of his safety in order to be out
among the people.
But it is another thing altogether to realize that when the president
is at home in what is supposedly the most secure building in the country,
he`s not actually being well-protected. Nor is his family.
The story is almost impossible to believe. It was hard to believe
before today. Tonight, it is almost impossible.
And the news that we got today, it starts with an incident this
summer, July 19th in Wythe County, Virginia. A 42-year-old man in an SUV
led police on a high speed chase, including along Interstate 81 and that
part of Virginia.
When police did finally catch the guy, and they pulled him over, he
had 11 guns in his SUV, five handguns, two shotguns. At least one of which
was sawed off, which is illegal, and also four rifles, some of which were
fitted with high powered scopes and two of which was fitted with two legs
of a tripod -- essentially a sniper setup.
The man in the SUV did have some advanced weapons training. He served
multiple combat tours in Iraq, manning a .50 caliber machine gun. He was
retired from the army. He had been dealing with mental health challenges
since returning home. Some of them may have been caused by or aggravated
by posttraumatic stress for which he`d been diagnosed.
Virginia state police arrested the man in Whyte County, Virginia. In
July, they charged him for the high-speed chase. They also charged for
having the sawed off shotgun because that`s an illegal weapon. They took
all of his 11 guns that were in that vehicle into custody for safe-keeping
and they did eventually release him on bond.
But when they did, they contacted the Secret Service up in Washington,
D.C. because in addition to the snipe-style, sniper-rigged rifle, with a
scoop and the bipod, and all the other rifles and the shotguns, including
the illegal shotgun and the five handguns, they also found in his SUV, a
map of Washington, D.C., with the location of the White House marked on
that map in pen.
Obviously possessing a map like that is not itself a crime, but when
you got a map like that and you got 11 guns and you aren`t all that far
from the White House, and you are being released on bond, it does seem like
if you are in law enforcement that might be worth a call to the Secret
So, the Virginia state police called. Virginia state police have
confirmed that they notified the Secret Service about this arrest of a 42-
year-old Omar Gonzalez and their arrest of him with all those weapons in
July. Virginia state police told them, apparently the Secret Service did
not much care.
We don`t have any telepathic insight into the mind-set in order to say
that, but you can tell by what they did. Five weeks later, on August 25th,
this same guy who they had been warned about by the Virginia state police.
The one with all the guns and the map of the White House, he turned up
armed at the White House. The Virginia state police had taken all of his
guns in his earlier arrest. But when he showed up august 25th, head an ax,
he had a hatchet stuffed into the waistband of his trousers.
It was noticeable enough that the Secret Service stopped him outside
of the White House and questioned him. They interacted with him long
enough to question him about the weapon. He was plainly carrying at the
White House. They also went with him to his vehicle, which was parked
nearby and secured his permission to search through his vehicle.
So, it wasn`t just like a, hey, buddy, get out of here kind of
interaction. They had a significant exchange with him over a significant
amount of time. But apparently, even with that, nothing popped for the
Secret Service about this guy they`d been warned about.
So, then the guy came back again two weeks later. And this time, he
had 800 rounds of ammunition in his vehicle. He had not one hatchet like
before but two hatchets. Also, he had a machete all in his vehicle, plus,
he had a knife in his pocket.
And this time he did not just walk back and forth in front of the
White House fence. This time, he jumped over the White House fence.
Now, it turns out a lot of people jump over the White House fence.
It`s weird and seems very dangerous, but it happens more often than you
might think. It seems like every couple of weeks somebody is jumping over
the White House fence these days.
But with 42-year-old Omar Gonzalez, it was different because he not
only got over the White House fence. When he landed on the South Lawn,
nobody tackled him.
You could see him here in this spot shadow. Watch this. See? There
Nobody tackled him. Nobody used a weapon on him. Nobody let a dog go
to chase after him. He hit the ground running on the South Lawn. He run
all the way across the South Lawn, he made it all the way to the north
portico of the White House, and then what we reported a week ago tonight
was that he made it just inside the doors of the north portico in the White
House before he was tackled by the Secret Service.
And before today, that`s what had been reported, right? As alarming
as it was this guy got inside the White House, he only just got inside the
White House. He was tackled as soon as he went inside those north portico
doors. That`s what we knew before tonight.
Now, it turns out, "The Washington Post" is first to report that the
man was not tackled as soon as he entered the north portico doors of the
White House. He made it quite a bit farther than that.
Now, if you aren`t an architect or used to looking at plans or if you
aren`t visually minded like me, it can be a little hard to visualize the
interior of somebody`s house particularly when it`s a big oversized
historic fancy house. So, I`m going to show this two ways.
This is an architectural cutaway of the first floor of the White
House. This is from the White House Historical Association. If you want
to look at on this map, these cut-off pillars those represent the north
portico where the guy entered the White House.
And in the initial version of the story, when Omar Gonzalez was
tackled just inside the doors of the north portico that would have meant he
ran inside that door there and was tackled just inside that door just
inside the White House, roughly right around where that circle is.
Well, today, we learn that is not at all where Omar Gonzalez was
tackled. Instead, he overpowered a Secret Service agent who was standing
there when he got there. The Secret Service agent was not able to take him
down. He then kept running. He ran this way to his left, down a short
hallway. He entered this large room here called the east room which runs
the full width of the White House, and then he was sprinting down the East
Room and sprinting toward and by some accounts trying to get into the next
room in the mansion which is called the Green Room.
When he was finally taken down, it was somewhere in the vicinity of
that circle there. So, that`s one way to see what happened there using
this architecturally accurate cut away of the White House Historical
Association. It`s actually a little easier to see if you use this map that
was mocked up by kind of an unofficial White House fan site. This is just
easier to see. We`ve linked to this at Maddowblog.com tonight. If you
want to see this unofficial but very clear map that shows you exactly what
So, in this case, get oriented a little bit. You see the north
portico at the top. This shows the whole first floor in a handy color
coated easy to see way. See the north portico entrance at the top of the
map, through which Omar Gonzales run into the White House. And again, the
initial story is he made it just inside the doors of the north portico,
before he was being take n down by the Secret Service just inside that
We have now learned today that did not happen. Instead, he
overpowered a Secret Service agent there and then ran through that short
hallway into the giant East Room, which is the whole one side of the White
House. He then ran the length of the building through the East Room and
then, finally, was tackled somewhere in the vicinity of being about to
enter the Green Room.
Now, what`s very helpful about this view is this. Remember that short
little hallway he ran through right after he went through the entrance
hall? Look at that.
In order to get there from that front entrance door into the East
Room, what is that he`s running through? You see, it`s marked with a
couple of tear away and it`s a couple of different colors. They are trying
to give the impression there that you are looking at two different floors
because what he was running through right there was the landing for the
staircase that goes up to the second floor of the White House.
He did not choose to run upstairs. He kept going. He could have
chosen instead to run upstairs to the second floor of the White House
instead of what he did, which is continue through to the East Room.
Had he run upstairs, this is where he would have been. This is the
second floor of that same building.
Do you see the labels? It says bedroom, bedroom, bedroom. Those are
the bedrooms and private quarters of President Obama and his family.
I have been to the White House for Christmas parties and stuff and
occasionally meetings with White House officials. You get to see all the
stuff on the first floor, the East Room, the Green Room, the Blue Room, all
that other stuff, depending on what you`re there for. Nobody gets to see
the upstairs part of it, because this is private. This is where the
president and his family live and Omar Gonzalez was right there on the
landing of their stairs.
As far as we know, he chose not to run upstairs. But the way
information has been trickling out with this very disturbing incident with
the armed man who made it that far into the White House, who knows what
we`ll find out in another few days.
Carol Leonnig is "The Washington Post" reporter who first broke this
news today about exactly how terrible the security breach was when Omar
Gonzalez and his knife were able to get that far into the White House.
This weekend, Carol Leonnig at "The Washington Post" had another scoop
about the Secret Service and White House which in some ways was even more
difficult to belief. I mean, which is worse -- being able to run all the
way inside the White House almost the entire way to the president`s private
residence with a knife on you? Or firing seven bullets into the walls and
windows of the Obama family`s private residence at the White House and the
Secret Service not noticing that you did it for days? Because the same
Secret Service had that problem, too.
November 11th, 2011, it was a Friday night. It was around 8:50 p.m.
We just saw some interior views of the White House.
Here`s the White House on a map. For reference, the place where the
fence jumper jumped over the fence and ran at the White House, Omar
Gonzalez who made it inside, he came from the Pennsylvania Avenue side, on
top of the White House there. That`s where the decorative fence is that so
many have jumped over.
This other incident in 2011 did not happen from the other side of the
White House. It happened from the other side of the White House, and from
much further away. So, you see Pennsylvania Avenue here. Then, below the
White House, you see, there is E Street. Then there`s something called the
On the far side of that is a big heavily trafficked road in
Washington, D.C. that`s called Constitution Avenue. And at about 8:50 p.m.
on the night of November 11th, 2011, a young man pulled his car over on
Constitution Avenue. From this distance, he was about six football fields
away, about 700 yards from the White House. He pulled over in a black
Honda sedan and he pulled out his Romanian made AK-47 knockoff and he fired
that gun multiple times at the White House.
After shooting into the White House, he sped off down Constitution
Avenue. He did not make it very far before he crashed his car. He left
the gun and 180 rounds of ammunition and all the spent shell casings in the
vehicle, he left the door open and headlights on and he took off running,
and they did not catch him for six days. And that`s in part because the
Secret Service took four days to realize that the dude had actually shot
the White House.
There were two Secret Service agents on the roof as the building was
being shot at and they reacted as if shots had been fired at the White
House. There were two more Secret Service agents in a vehicle right near
Constitution Avenue and the Ellipse, which is where the shooter fired from.
Reportedly, those officers not only heard the shots and thought they were
hearing gunfire, but they actually smelled the gunpowder in the air. They
were that nearby.
And yet another Secret Service officer was stationed right next to the
White House right under the Truman balcony. And she not only reacted to
hearing gunfire, but heard the shots hit the building and saw debris fall
from the building where it had been hit. But somehow, despite all of that
from their own people, the Secret Service`s initial conclusion from some
still as-yet unidentified supervisor was that no shots were fired. Those
weren`t gunshots. It must have been backfiring from a nearby construction
Then, the Secret Service revised that initial assessment and decided,
well, OK, gunshots have been fired, but it had nothing to do with the White
House. It must have been two people in random cars shooting at each other
somewhere in the neighborhood. Perhaps rival gangs?
This happened on a Friday night in November 2011. Friday. It was not
until the following Tuesday when a housekeeper at the White House found a
chunk of concrete and some broken glass inside the first family`s residence
on the second floor of the White House.
And other White House staff then started to find the bullet holes. It
was not until then that the Secret Service finally could be persuaded that,
hey, maybe it`s worth looking around here. Yes, somebody had not only shot
at the White House but somebody had hit the White House with high powered
rifle fire seven times.
And so, that is when the Secret Service began their investigation,
including for the first time four days after, included interviewing their
own officers who had been on duty that night who had thought and reported
that it was gunfire. It was only then that they decided that maybe it
would be a good idea to put out an APB for the man who abandoned that SUV
with the shell casings the night all those Secret Service officers heard
and smelled the gunfire.
They finally put out an APB for him in the middle of the following
week and it took them a day to pick him up. They charged him with trying
to assassinate President Obama. In April, he was sentenced to 25 years in
Without the housekeeper finding and reporting the damage, the dude
would presumably still be out there, maybe making another plan to try
again. In both of these incidences, neither of the guys appears to have
been a real genius. Neither of them appears to have been working with a
larger group of people or as part of some more complicated plot.
But one of them got away with for almost a week and the other one got
away with all the way through to the end of the East Room as he was trying
to get into the green room. What they got away with? In both cases,
neither of these things seemed that hard to pull off or that complicated to
arrange. Being able to do that much damage and get that close is not
supposed to happen.
What`s the matter with the Secret Service? Was something always wrong
with the Secret Service and we`re just hearing about it now from reporters
like Carol Leonnig who were able to find out about this stuff? Was this
stuff always happening before and we never knew about it? Or is something
wrong with the Secret Service now that was never wrong with them before?
Is this as bad as it seems because it seems terrible?
And regardless of whether or not this is new or whether this is an old
problem, how quickly can this be fixed?
Carol Leonnig, the reporter who broke these stories, joins us next.
MADDOW: This is a map of the second floor of the White House, the
private quarters where President Obama lives with his family. Today, we
learned a man with a knife who jumped over the White House fence two weeks
ago and made it into the White House, he was not tackled -- excuse me, a
week and a half ago. He was not tackled by the Secret Service just inside
the White House doors, which we had been told initially. He actually ran
all the way through the White House including crossing over the landing of
the stairs to the second floor of the White House where the president lives
with his family which is marked an that map with an oval.
The president and his daughters had just left the White House less
than five minutes before that intrusion happened.
Joining us is the reporter who broke that story, as well as another
long disturbing story about the Secret Service not noticing for days when
seven rifle shots were fired into the White House in 2011, Carol Leonnig of
"The Washington Post".
Thanks for being here tonight.
CAROL LEONNIG, THE WASHINGTON POST: Glad to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: Let me ask you first. I`ve obviously been absorbing your
reporting on this today and subsequent reporting by other reporters. Did I
screw anything up in my summary or my description about what you reported?
LEONNIG: No, I was quite impressed by your comparing and contrasting.
You are a good reader.
And I thought it was pretty genius to talk about the issue of the fact
that neither of these guys had a very sophisticated plan to pierce the
Secret Service`s, you know, security perimeter, but they did.
MADDOW: I have to tell you, on that point, I feel ughy talking about
this, because in part, I feel the myth that the Secret Service is
omnipotent and indeed omniscient, that they know you`re coming and they`re
definitely going to stop you and there`s no hope for anybody even trying to
take a shot at the president, I feel like, OK, maybe we`re learning that`s
a myth. But the myth itself is part of the protection, is it not, because
it deters people from even trying?
LEONNIG: You know, I agree about the icky part of this. We`re not
trying to remind enemies of our country and of our president that there`s
I think what motivates a lot of the sources that have talked to us at
"The Washington Post" is the idea that they know how great the service has
been in their lifetime. And they know what a sacred duty it is to protect
the president. And just as importantly the office. Not just the person,
but the office.
And they are really worried about the state of the Secret Service and
the leadership at this time. It`s not personal necessarily, one director
versus another. But they really feel strongly that morale is low, staffing
is -- is severely short. Budgeting is kind of crazy. And training is
And the service has basically gotten really complacent and reactive
instead of 21st century, you know, beating back the terrorists before they
get close to the border.
MADDOW: In terms of that change, that sounds like with that multi-
variant complaint, it sounds like that`s an allegation of a service
essentially gone soft, or not staying ahead of typical bureaucratic
conditions that can hamper performance in an agency that can`t afford to
have its performance hampered. Is it -- is it one thing? Is it the shift
from treasury to DHS? Is it any other change that`s happened that gets
more blame than anything else or a lot of things all at once?
LEONNIG: I think it`s a couple different things or several things.
You mentioned an important one. The idea of the agency becoming headed by
a political appointee rather than -- somebody who is confirmed by Congress
rather than somebody who is just appointed. That has made the directorship
more politically vulnerable.
And you`ll notice in a lot of the criticism of former agents who
talked to us, they say that this is a service that wants to make the White
And so, for example, if you remember the Salahi scandal where the
White House was trying to process a lot of people into an event very
quickly. The social secretary wasn`t really there. And these two people
who were pretenders got through. Mostly because, according to the Secret
Service sources, because the White House didn`t want people standing out in
the rain and they wanted them through faster.
So, that example is held out to me all the time as an indicator of a
service that just wants to make their political client happy. Instead of
the bad A, blank, blank, that says, "I`m sorry that`s not safe, sir. We`re
not going to do that." That is a big difference.
MADDOW: I have to ask you as we`ve had this unfolding of stories and
new details over incidents in the last few days, do you feel like we fully
know what happened in the Ortega case or in the case of the guy who got in
with the knife? We learned today these details about him getting much
further into the White House than we knew. It leaves me wondering if
there`s another shoe to drop or if we understand this fully yet.
LEONNIG: One thing I can tell you is that I`m pretty convinced we
don`t know everything. I mean, you know, when we reported a week ago this
breach of five different layers of security on the outside of the White
House, I thought that was a pretty worrisome series of details.
You know, the dog wasn`t released. The counter-surveillance guys
didn`t see him jumping to give early warning. The uniform division
officers didn`t collar him. The guy who is supposed to be on the door is
not on the door. The door isn`t locked, even though it`s protocol to lock
the door when an intruder is on the ground. I thought that was a lot.
Now, we learn what happened behind the door. That`s two or three more
layers that were pierced.
So, who knows what we will discover as the days go by.
MADDOW: Carol Leonnig, "Washington Post" national reporter, with a
couple of very scary and very important scoops on this -- thanks very much
for spending the time with us. I appreciate it.
LEONNIG: Glad to be here with good questions from you.
MADDOW: Oh, thank you very much. Nice of you to say.
Tomorrow, there`s going to be, I don`t know, good questions but
definitely going to be hard questions and a lot of them for the director of
the Secret Service who is the sole witness at a congressional hearing
that`s happening at a weird time.
Congress is out of session, right? Congress didn`t come back for a
new war starting, but they are coming back tomorrow for an oversight
hearing on the Secret Service. The Secret Service Director Julia Pierson
will be the sole witness at that hearing tomorrow. In addition to the open
session, they then are going to go into a closed classified session.
But after this scoop today from Carol and then followed up by others,
you can imagine there`s going to be serious fireworks tomorrow on this
subject. And there ought to be.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Tonight at the White House, President Obama is hosting the
man who is the newly elected democratic leader of 17 1/2 percent of the
Narendra Modi is India`s new prime minister. This is him speaking
this weekend before a crowd of 20,000 basically adoring Indian fans, in a
rock star speech and rally that he did at Madison Square Garden in New York
And any head of state having a long visit to the U.S. and a big rock
star-style gathering at Madison Square Garden, followed by a private dinner
with President Obama at the White House, that kind of thing is always a big
But when your country has 1.2 billion people in it, when you govern
the second largest nation on Earth, that`s something kind of at a different
level, because, yes, we may be the oldest democracy on earth, but India is
bigger, way bigger. They are the world`s largest democracy by a mile. The
only country larger than them at all is not a democracy, except in one very
important, bare knuckled tear gas way that we can show you tonight.
And that incredible footage is coming up later in the show tonight.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: When presidents sign bills that they`re really excited about,
one way you can tell they`re really excited is that they gather lots of
people around. And they also use a lot of pens, a lot of pens, which they
then later give away as souvenirs.
President Obama famously used 22 pens when he put his signature on
health reform. That averages out to a pair of pens for each letter of his
name. When President Obama was done signing that bill, it`s a little bit
like he had signed his name with an etch-a-sketch because he had to make
this tiny little strokes with each pen.
But then, again, it was his signature legislation. It was Obamacare.
At the state level, governors do the same thing. They also use lots
of pens when they want to make a point about a bill that they`re
particularly proud of. As part of his states budget last year, Ohio
Governor John Kasich, for example, he signed new cuts for family planning
and sweeping new restrictions on abortion rights in his state. He signed
those new limits on women`s health care, while surrounded by a whole big
group of men in his office.
That budget was a big deal for Governor Kasich. He was very proud of
it. He invited all of his buds to be there and he used 24 different pens
to put his name to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Each of these pens is a special pen, OK,
and so I have to make -- look, look how I`m doing this. So I`m going to
make an N right there, OK, but I`ve got to use every one of these pens.
So, I`ve go to make another N, and then another one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Twenty-four pens in Ohio last year. That was a big deal for
the Ohio governor.
In 2012, they set out I think 10 different pens for Kansas Governor
Sam Brownback when he signed a bill that blew up the tax code in Kansas.
The local press described those cuts as massive. And once Sam Brownback
signed them, he made the national rounds in the media to brag about what he
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. SAM BROWNBACK (R), KANSAS: On taxes, you need to get your
overall rates down. And you need to get your social manipulation out of
it, in my estimation, to create growth. And we`ll see how it works. We`ll
have a real live experiment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We`ll have a real live experiment in Kansas. Under the Sam
Brownback real live experiment, Kansas has gone from having a budget
surplus to a projected shortfall of a quarter billion dollars. The state
has made massive cuts to all sorts of services and schools. They had a
credit rating downgraded again in May. They got their credit rating
downgraded again last month.
The result to Sam Brownback experiment in Kansas so far is, number
one, that Kansas is broke. Number two, that Sam Brownback is losing his
re-election bid to a centrist Democrat who warned that Kansas couldn`t
afford those cuts. And, number three, the Sam Brownback campaign for
reelection does not want to talk about the Brownback experiment anymore.
Well, the great Jeff Greenfield just found that out on a reporting
trip to Kansas for the "NewsHour" on PBS. He got an interview with Sam
Brownback and watch what Sam Brown tells him here. This is just amazing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWNBACK: People, I don`t think they don`t like change, I don`t
think they trust change. So, I came in and said, look, we haven`t been
growing. We`ve got to get our tax rates down so we can grow.
JEFF GREENFIELD, NEWSHOUR, PBS: And about that experiment word?
BROWNBACK: Yes, I shouldn`t have used that word. But the good news
is, it`s working well. We`re growing. We`ve got record employment in
GREENFIELD: Then, after a brief discussion with an aide --
BROWNBACK: The things we`re doing are not anything new. Going to --
getting your income taxes, we`ve got nine states without an income tax.
That`s not new. So, nothing we`re doing is new. Now, it`s new that we`re
doing it, but nothing that we`re doing is typically what`s been done
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Nothing we`re doing is new. Now, it`s new that we`re doing
it. Nothing new here.
It`s not new. It`s new that -- we`re not doing anything new. What
we`re doing is new. It`s new that we`re doing it.
Did I say new? Did I say we`re doing an experiment? I meant would
you like some spearmint?
And beyond the Sam Brownback race for governor -- today, a Kansas
court heard a court case about the U.S. Senate race in which Republicans
are trying to force a Democratic nominee on to the ballot, even though the
Democratic candidate dropped out with no Democrat in that Senate race.
It`s a well-funded independent guy named Greg Orman has a pretty good
chance of winning that U.S. Senate seat that`s currently held by Republican
incumbent Pat Roberts.
If there are three candidates on the ballot, it is more likely that
Pat Roberts will survive. So, it`s been fascinating to watch this unfold
in Kansas. The latest eventuality here is that the father of a Sam
Brownback campaign staffer seems to have been drafted to file a citizen
lawsuit against the Kansas Democratic Party to try to force them to put a
Democratic candidate, a third candidate on the ballot.
And I say it appears that he was drafted for that task, because he
doesn`t seem to be all that in to his own lawsuit. The man did not bother
to show up at the court hearing today, for what is supposedly his own
Republicans never expected they would need to fight so hard in deep
red Kansas this year. Not for that governor seat they already hold. Did I
Not also for the Senate seat that has been Republican since the Great
Depression. But this is no ordinary year. And that comes with
implications for the whole rest of the country and for who is in control in
Joining us now is Dave Helling. He`s a political reporter with the
"Kansas City Star".
Mr. Helling, you have been having so much fun covering this election,
we can`t stop booking you. Thank you for being here.
DAVE HELLING, KANSAS CITY STAR: Who knew, right?
MADDOW: Let me ask you about the court case. How did the judges
react today when the guy who was supposedly suing over the Senate race
didn`t bother showing up for his own lawsuit?
HELLING: Well, three-judge panel, Rachel, and they were not happy.
None of the judges thought that the plaintiff in this case could probably
skip the court case without making his argument. The people who want to
keep the Democratic line open on the ballot wanted to examine David Orel.
He`s the plaintiff in the case. He wasn`t there.
So, there`s some thought the judges could throw out this lawsuit on
that basis, that the plaintiff didn`t even show up. We expect a ruling
tomorrow on Wednesday on that part of it.
They also said today they didn`t want Kris Kobach, the secretary of
state, to be a part of the lawsuit.
So, the general feeling out here is that this story is almost over,
that there will be no Democrat on the ballot when those ballots are printed
later this week.
MADDOW: If the court decides in a way that, as you say, would not be
expected, if there`s a surprise ruling, are the terms of this lawsuit such
that they could, in fact, order the Democratic Party to pick somebody right
away and get somebody on there and those -- that name could be on the
ballot by the time people turned up to vote on election day? Is that
HELLING: Well, as each hour passes, it`s less and less feasible.
But, remember, courts can order anything. I mean, courts can theoretically
order a delay in the election if they wanted to. That`s highly unlikely.
The Democrats have been saying, look, we can`t put somebody together,
a committee to pick a new nominee in the next 48 hours anyway. I mean, the
clock really is running out. He told the court last week he had to start
printing on Wednesday. Some suggestions today that it could slip to
But the ballots if you talk to election officials out here, they say,
look. Enough is enough. We need to know what the ballot is going to be.
We need to start sending out ballots for early voters, for people who want
to vote absentee. We do expect this thing one way or another to be settled
in the next 72 hours.
MADDOW: OK. Dave, also, I need to ask you also about Governor
Brownback. I sort of followed him from a distance for a long time. I
thought he was fascinating as a presidential candidate and as a senator.
And I`ve always thought of him as a smooth guy. He`s been a politician for
a long time. What he told PBS "NewsHour" is nothing we`re doing is new but
it`s new that we`re doing it.
MADDOW: I mean, is this -- is this Sam Brownback rattled and I`ve
just never seen it? Is this just a bad moment? What was going on there?
HELLING: Well, it may have been a combination of all those things.
Remember, Sam Brownback has never really been pushed in an election since
1996. He ran in the primary against the hand-picked successor to Bob Dole,
won that primary. He`s won very easily in every election since. So, he`s
not really used to Jeff Greenfield coming out to talk to him about the
closeness of his race in Kansas. Most Republicans are astonished that
either of these races is very close.
So, you can forgive him a little for being a little rusty on that part
of his game. Having said that, they have and continue to have and Pat
Roberts has this problem, a messaging problem. They have to figure out
what they are selling to the voters of Kansas. They are still stuck in the
high 30s, low 40s. Five weeks to go. You know, they need to pick up the
pace. You saw some of that nervous innocence the Jeff Greenfield story.
MADDOW: Dave Helling, political reporter for the "Kansas City Star",
working overtime -- Dave, thank you very much. Nice to see you. Thanks.
HELLING: You bet.
MADDOW: All right. There`s some really big news that is due to break
tomorrow. Actually with the time difference it`s probably going to break
late tonight. But for some reason, even though it`s a huge story it`s not
getting big headlines yet. We`ve got a heads-up on that big story next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWNBACK: So, nothing we`re doing is new. Now it`s new that we`re
doing it, but nothing that we`re doing is different than what`s been done
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Last year in the place called Chengdu, which is the capital
of Sichuan province in China, last year in may there were calls for a pro
democracy protest. Specifically, they called the protest for May 4th. May
4th last year was a Saturday.
The Chinese government really does not want there to be pro-democracy
protests in China at any time or anywhere. But they really don`t want them
in Chengdu. They`ve had big problems with protests there before.
Five years before that date exactly on May 4th, five years before,
they had a huge environmental protest that very much embarrassed the local
So, what`s an authoritarian government to do when they realize people
are going to commemorate their old May 4th demonstration with another May
4th demonstration that`s due to happen an a forthcoming weekend? Well, in
this case, what China did is they moved the weekend.
They moved the weekend so that Saturday, may 4th, was now a workday
and a school day and the weekend happened instead on Monday and Tuesday
Tah-dah! Protest effectively discombobulated by the Orwellian move of
changing when the weekend is.
When it comes to stopping peaceful protests, China is not messing
around. It turns out neither are its people. Part of the deal when
Britain returned Hong Kong to China was that Hong Kong and China would be
one country but two systems. Hong Kong for the most part is autonomous.
People in China mainland do not have freedom of speech or freedom to
assemble but people in Hong Kong do.
And part of that deal made in 1997 was that eventually, citizens of
Hong Kong would also get to vote for their own local officials.
Last month, the Chinese government in Beijing reneged on that and
said, yes, you can have elections in 2017 but we`re going to choose the
candidates for you. We`ll choose the candidates from which you will be
allowed to pick.
And now, behold what that decision hath wrought. This is drone video
taken along one of Hong Kong`s major highways. Look at that -- tens of
thousands of people, tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters flooding
the highway to protest this anti-democracy decision by the Chinese
And this is not a lark. These protesters have put themselves at real
risk by doing this. Last night in Hong Kong, riot police armed with batons
and pepper spray and tear gas charged at the protesters. They tried to
protect themselves with goggles and rain jackets and umbrellas. They`re
calling this the umbrella protests in some cases.
Dozens of arrests yesterday. The city of Hong Kong pleaded with
protesters to go home but the protesters are refusing. Some of protesters
were spotted this weekend making "the hands up, don`t shoot" gesture like
they did in Ferguson, Missouri, after Michael Brown was killed there last
Today, the riot police in Hong Kong took a bit of back seat. They
pulled back a little bit after the violence yesterday.
But the government in China, unsurprisingly, is doing everything they
possibly can to prevent anybody else in the mainland from finding out
what`s going on. They`ve been shutting don social media sites, including
Instagram. They`ve ordered Chinese media and Websites to delete any words
or phrases that might describe or relate to these protests and riots in
Hong Kong. There`s just been massive censorship.
Both the U.K. and U.S. governments came out today in support of these
protesters` right to protest, much to the chagrin of the People`s Republic
of China. But the protests don`t show any sign of stopping. It`s
important to note they were expected to be over today, over after the
weekend. They`re not only weren`t over today, they got bigger instead of
Watch this space.
MADDOW: Barack Obama was elected president of the United States
November 4th, 2008. But for two months and 16 days after that, even though
we all knew who the next president was going to be, the George W. Bush
administration was still in charge. It`s just kind of weird interregnum
period we have built into our system.
In 2008, two weeks into the lame duck period of the President Bush
administration. It was negotiated by the Bush administration. It was
agreed to by the Iraqi government. And on November 27th, so after our
elections but before we had a new president, on November 27th, the Iraqi
parliament ratified this deal, 24 pages long, had some complicated stuff in
it. But the bottom line was very, very clear.
Article 24, subsection one: All United States forces shall withdraw
from all Iraqi territory notice later than December 31st, 2011. Period,
At the very understand of the Bush administration, in the lame-duck
period, they negotiated with deal with Iraq that was a binding resolution
for all troops to be gone from Iraq by the end of 2011. And they did all
leave by the end of 2011. The deadline was December 31st. They were
actually all gone by December 18th, 13 days early. And that is how the
American part of the war that we started in Iraq came to a hard end, 8 1/2
years after we started it.
Just because we started that war didn`t mean we could end it, though.
After U.S. troops were gone, insurgencies of various kinds kept roiling
inside Iraq. In the same year that U.S. troops left, Iraq`s western
neighbor Syria also started to dissolve into a multi-front gruesome civil
And now, of course, U.S. troops are back in Iraq. Over 1,300 U.S.
troops back in Iraq as of right now. They`re there at the request of the
Iraqi government and on orders from President Obama. The U.S. Congress
hasn`t authorized the return of American troops to Iraq but they`re there
Meanwhile, there`s still the matter of our other war already in
progress. America`s longest ever war in Afghanistan now entering its 14th
year. Over 24,000 U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan tonight.
The U.S. war in Afghanistan is scheduled to come to an end at the end
of this year but in news that seems like it should have received bigger
headlines today, we have just learned that the Obama administration is not
ending the war in Afghanistan the same way the Bush administration planned
the end of the war in Iraq.
This is footage from Afghanistan today. Today was modern
Afghanistan`s first ever peaceful transition of power as their new
president was sworn in. President Ashraf Ghani was sworn in and took
Tomorrow, his new government will sign an agreement to keep U.S.
troops in Afghanistan for another decade, 10,000 American troops in
Afghanistan for a decade after the supposed end of our war. Apparently,
that`s the plan.
In Afghanistan, their government has been debating and negotiating
over this for months. Ours, not a peep so far from the U.S. Congress on
this matter. This agreement is due to be signed tomorrow. Actually, with
the time difference, it`s due to be signed late tonight.
So, the war in Afghanistan is not ending after all. Not for 10,000
American service members. Service members are going to keep deploying
there for 10 years. The next 10 years, 10,000 of them at a time.
We`re also told to expect that the U.S. military effort in Syria and
Iraq will also last for years basically indefinitely. So, that permanent
residual force that they couldn`t negotiate for at the end of the Iraq war,
now they`ve got that permanent force there now for all intents and
And apparently, we`ve got at least 10 more years of 10,000 troops in
Afghanistan now as well. It`s remarkable. This is treated in the news as
if this is something to notice. Something that`s being worked out behind
the scenes you might want to be aware. It`s not even treated as something
we as a country get to make a decision about.
Are we as a country making decisions about this stuff, or do we just
read about it in the paper as a done deal? Does Congress just read about
it in the papers as a done deal? I mean, this is a multi-year commitment
of thousands of Americans troops to two, maybe three incredibly volatile
war zones in the Middle East for 10 years minimum. And neither of these
decisions is being treated about something about which we have any American
political decision making to do at all.
Under its original schedule for the year, Congress was supposed to be
at work today. This was supposed to be one of their rare workweeks before
they called it off and decided they were going to extend their vacation
Before Congress sent itself home for a 54-day long break, we`ve been
maintaining an online whip count for members of Congress who thought
Congress should at least vote an whether or not to authorize the return of
U.S. troops to Iraq and the use of military force in both Iraq and Syria.
Despite over 100 members of Congress saying they favored a vote, they
nevertheless left town without voting.
Well, now, that they`ve left town and aren`t planning on coming back
until after the election, we started a new whip count of members of
Congress who say they`re embarrassed by what Congress has done and Congress
ought to come back in order to vote an the war in Syria and Iraq. It`s a
small list thus far, four senators and 10 members of Congress. It is
bipartisan but most of all it`s small. You do have to start somewhere.
But it is both members of the Congress and us the public who actually
have to decide if we make overt decisions as a country about what wars to
wage and where our troops should serve and whether these decisions are just
going to happen outside the political system and nobody answering for them
who debate, without hard wisdom about what we`re doing not only going
unanswered, but in most cases, going unasked. Amazing.
But tonight`s breaking news, breaking precisely nowhere is 10,000 U.S.
troops in Afghanistan for a decade. They are signing that deal tomorrow.
Not a peep in Washington.
That does it for us tonight.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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