Guest: Bob Herbert, Bill Richardson
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
After two New York City police officers were ambushed and killed in an
unprovoked shooting, as they sat on their patrol car on Saturday, the
funeral arrangements for one of the officers have now been set.
Officer Rafael Ramos was in his third year on the force when he was
killed on Saturday. His family says there will be a viewing for him on
Friday, this upcoming Friday, the day after Christmas. And then, on
Saturday, at 10:00 a.m., in Queens New York, there`s going to be a funeral
for Officer Ramos.
Now, whether every a police officer is killed in the line of duty in
the United States, the funeral is a big deal. Line of duty funerals, you
will often see not just local law enforcement, but police officers from all
over the country. In this instance, that may be doubly true because of the
nature of this killing in particular.
The other officer who`s killed on Saturday was a seven-year veteran
named Wenjian Liu. As of tonight, funeral details have not been scheduled
for Officer Liu, in part because part of his family is in China, and
authorities are trying to expedite the visa process, so his family members
can be here in New York for the funeral.
So, we know when Officer Ramos` funeral is going to be. That`s going
to be Saturday.
We do not know when the funeral is going to be for Officer Liu, but
when we get that second day for Officer Liu, both of those are going to be
very important dates to watch now, in terms of how the country continues to
respond to these officers being killed. And, also, the broader context of
the anti-police brutality protests that have been happening all over the
country for weeks now. Protests the killer referenced in his online
postings the day he shot those officers in New York.
Today, New York City`s mayor, Bill de Blasio, asked for a pause if
those ongoing protests until after the two officers can be laid to rest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK: I`m asking everyone, and this is
across the spectrum, to put aside protests, put aside demonstrations.
Until these funerals are passed, let`s focus just on these families and
what they have lost. I think that`s the right way to try and build towards
a more unified and decent city.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Nobody knows if the protests are going to stop, but Mayor
Bill de Blasio and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and even the Brooklyn
Borough president, Eric Adams, who himself is a retired captain in the
NYPD, who`s been very outspoken on issues of race and policing, they all --
all of those local leaders made the same call today that protests about
police use of force should not necessarily stop all together, but they
should stop for a few days. They`re basically calling for a cooling off
period to keep the focus on the officers who just lost their lives, rather
than the loss of those officers` lives turning into a proxy for more
But as we look ahead to the officers` funerals, and as officials try
to cool down some of the very hot political reaction to these killings this
weekend, the shooting itself remains an open investigation with police
saying there are a number of elements of what happened here that they do
not yet fully understand. Obviously, they know who did it. They know the
bottom line of what happened and that these two officers lost their lives
and that the man who killed them and killed himself there after, but there
are important elements of the shooting that they say they still not yet
Here`s what we do know in terms of the very compressed, very dramatic
timeline of what happened on Saturday: 5:51 a.m. on Saturday morning,
police in Owings Mills, Maryland, which is Baltimore County, Maryland, they
got a call from an apartment building with a report of a shooting. A 29-
year-old woman had been shot in the abdomen. She was seriously hurt but
Her name is Shaneka Thompson. And she was able to tell officers what
had happened to her. She said that she was shot by her ex-boyfriend, by
this man, Ismaaiyl Brinsley. And that he had pled the apartment after
shooing her and that he had taken her cell phone with him when he left. He
left his own cell phone behind in her apartment, and he took her phone with
And it ended up being crucial that he had her cell phone and that
police knew that he had her cell phone, because within 40 minutes of
Baltimore County police first responding to that early morning shooting,
they were able to track the victim`s phone and, thereby, follow Ismaaiyl
Brinsley`s whereabouts as he fled the scene.
By 7:46 a.m. on Saturday morning, they had signals from that cell
phone indicating that he was traveling northbound on Interstate 95.
Apparently, he was taking a bus from the Baltimore area toward New York
From 8:30 a.m. until after 10 a.m. that morning, Saturday morning,
they were able to track the location of the cell phone, northbound on I-95
into New Jersey.
At 10:24 a.m., Baltimore County police tracking that cell phone were
able to see that the man had entered the Lincoln Tunnel, to cross from New
Jersey, into New York City. Just before 11:00 a.m., he got off the bus in
midtown Manhattan. He then got on a subway, at the Times Square Subway
Station, and he took the subway to Brooklyn.
Just past noon, 12:07 p.m. on Saturday, having arrived in Brooklyn,
Ismaaiyl Brinsley ditched the ex-girlfriend`s phone. And then the next two
hours are somewhat mysterious and critical to this case and, ultimately,
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATRCIK CONRY, CHIEF OF BROOKLYN DETECTIVES: We`re seeking the
community`s assistance with this very important investigation. We`ve been
able to establish the whereabouts of Ismaaiyl Brinsley from the early
morning hours of Saturday, the 20th, when he`s in Maryland, through his
travel up to New York from Manhattan and, indeed, into Brooklyn. What we
do have is a gap in his movements for about two hours and 30 minutes,
between 12:00 and 2:30 p.m., when we believe he`s in the Ft. Green section
of Brooklyn, Ft. Green or Bed-Stuy.
ROBERT BOYCE, NYPD CHIEF OF DETECTIVES: What you see over here is
some images. We have a tape of Atlantic Center Mall where he is, where
he`s walking around -- and if we can play that tape. We`re asking the
public`s assistance if they`ve seen him because they don`t know where he
was for two hours.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, what`s happening between noon and 2:30 is that this guy
is wanted for the shooting in Maryland. Baltimore County Police have been
able to track him as he left the state of Maryland and headed north into
New York City. They could track him that far, they could track him from
Maryland all the way north I-95, into New Jersey, into New York, into
Manhattan, and then into Brooklyn. They could track him that far, but then
he ditched the phone they were using to track.
What also happens in this 2, 2 1/2-hour period, is that friends and
family of Shaneka Thompson, friends and family of the woman who he shot
that morning came forward and told the Baltimore County police, hey, look
what this guy has been posting online all day.
He had posted on Instagram about the fact that he had shot his ex-
girlfriend that morning. He had also posted explicitly a picture of a gun
and a threat that he planned to kill police officers that day. And they
knew that he had gone to New York.
So, that information happened at about 1:30 p.m. -- 1:30 p.m. is when
Baltimore County police learned about this threat that this guy was making
online. By 1:45, the Baltimore County police had prepared a wanted flyer
with the man`s picture on it, and this very explicit warning: suspect is
armed with a .9mm handgun and has posted pictures on his Instagram saying
he will shoot a police officer today.
By just passed 2:00, by 2:10 p.m., the Baltimore police are on the
phone with police in Brooklyn, warning the Brooklyn police that they
believe this guy has a gun, they believe he`s already shot somebody today,
they believe he has arrived in New York City and that he is saying he`s
going to kill police officers today.
At 2:46 p.m., the Baltimore County police send the NYPD that wanted
poster they had prepared so the NYPD can start to distribute it, so police
officers can be in the lookout. They send that from Maryland to New York
City at 2:46 p.m.
Two minutes later, at 2:48 p.m., it is too late. On Tompkins Avenue,
in Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, Officer Liu and Officer Ramos never had
a chance, never had a warning. Ismaaiyl Brinsley apparently walked up to
their patrol car from behind and just without warning and without saying
anything started shooting into the vehicle. Both officers were killed at
After shooting the officers, Ismaaiyl Brinsley ran one long block down
Myrtle Avenue, went into a subway station, two utility workers apparently
saw him and told police where he had gone, police chased him down into the
subway station whereupon Ismaaiyl Brinsley used the same gun that he had
just used to shoot the two officers, which he had used that morning to
shoot his ex-girlfriend. And standing on the subway platform, he put the
gun to his own head and he killed himself.
Between the time when he ditched the cell phone, at 12:07 p.m. and
when those police officers were shot and killed at 2:48 p.m., that time
period, police say they are intensely interested in finding out anything
they can about what happened in that time period, where he was, what he did
and if he spoke to anyone. And, if he did, what he said.
The police commissioner announced today that the working theory here
is that he acted alone. But they cannot rule anything out until they`ve
actually ruled it out. And so, now, they need to make sure that this was,
as it seems, an isolated incident of a man acting alone and, that there`s
not an ongoing threat to officers either in New York or anywhere else.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BRATTON, NYPD COMMISSIONER: Investigation that we have
conducted so far leads us to believe that he acted alone. Early on, there
was concern that was he, in fact, a lone player. Nothing in the
investigation, up until this point, would lead us to believe that he was
anything but a solo operator, if you will.
However, since the incident, we received a number of, one I would
describe as a copycat types of threats, and we have been investigating
those with incredible care.
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK: The point that I think here,
again, the commissioner said, there had been copycat threats. Anything
like that needs to be taken very seriously, I just want to emphasize. It`s
the simplest thing any New Yorker can do is call 911. I want to make sure
-- I`m asking all of our colleagues in the media to please get this message
But if you hear someone make a physical threat against the police
officer, if you see something on social media that is a threat against the
police officer, call 911 immediately. We would much rather get too much
information than too little.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: After these two police officers were killed on Saturday,
police say there`s in reason to believe that the killer was working with
anybody else, or that it was part of some larger ongoing plot, even as they
continue to track down every last thing they can about what happened.
Police are taking every precaution to make sure, including trying to find
out where he went and who he talked to in New York City, and that lost 2
1/2 hours between when he ditched the phone they were using to track him
and when he killed the police officers and then killed himself.
Although this man referenced the police killings of Michael Brown in
Missouri and Eric Garner in Staten Island in his Instagram threat to kill
police officers before he went ahead and did so, police say the only link
they can find so far between him in the protest movement around those
deaths was that he appears to have taken a cell phone video of one protest,
as a bystander, in New York City earlier this month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOYCE: We have recovered his cell phone from Baltimore and it has
over several thousand images, we`re tearing down that as well, one the cell
phone images that we have is a video of Union Square Park where he is a
spectator watching one of the protests. We date that at around December
1st. Again, he`s just a spectator it seems. As people walking by, he`s
recording it on his cell phone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The threat to kill these officers was couched online in
reference to the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. That said,
according to police, at this point in their investigation, it seems that
the suspect did not have meaningful ties to that protest movement. In
fact, what seems striking about him is that he had little ties to anyone or
anything at all. Ismaaiyl Brinsley had been arrested at least 19 times in
the past decade since he turned 18. He had been arrested for misdemeanor
assault, for shoplifting, grand larceny, gun possession, a lot of other
He apparently dropped out of school in the 10th grade, law enforcement
officials have said they have not been able to even locate any current
address for him. He doesn`t seem to have any employment history of any note
In 2010, he reportedly threatened to kill a woman after getting into
an argument with her at a Waffle House in Atlanta. He threw a drink at the
woman, said he would return with a knife.
Mr. Brinsley`s mother has told law enforcement officers that she was
afraid of him, she was scared of her own son. His siblings have denied
having any contact with him for years. Mr. Brinsley`s mothers has told
authorities that he suffered from some form of mental illness. She told
police he had tried to commit suicide in the past, including trying to hang
himself last year. She said he had been institutionalized at some point.
The ex-girlfriend who he shot and wounded on Saturday morning told
police that he held his gun to his own head during that confrontation in
her apartment, threatening to kill himself with the gun before he shot her
So, aside from the issue of whether he acted alone, and if he did act
alone, whether he was guided by some ideology, whether these murders were
connected to some ultimate goal in his mind, this is someone who seems to
have very little connection with others in his day-to-day life, unless it
was to threaten people. He seems to have been very alone and very
troubled, and very repeatedly violent.
This is the make shift memorial that`s been set up on the street where
those two officers died on Saturday afternoon. This is a time of
incredible tension, not just in New York City, but around the country.
There was a renewed effort today to keep the focus on the officers who
was just killed so that they do not represent something larger without us
remembering who they were as men. Calls from several New York City
officials today, the head of the police union and the mayor included, to
keep the political debate turned off until these two officers can be laid
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DE BLASIO: I`m asking everyone, across the spectrum, to put aside
protests, put aside demonstrations until these funerals are passed. Let`s
focus just on these families and what they have lost. I think that`s the
right way to try and build towards a more unified and decent city.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio today calling for a pause
in the protest over police brutality as the city and country mourn two New
York City police officers who were ambushed and killed while they were on
duty on Saturday.
Joining us now is Bob Herbert, distinguished senior fellow at Demos,
formerly an op-ed columnist with "The New York Times", the author of
"Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America."
Bob, thank you for being here.
BOB HERBERT, DEMOS: Great to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: Do you think it is possible for everybody to take a breather
for a minute? Is there a way to pause and be more constructive than the
initial response here?
HERBERT: Sure. You can take a breather. The question is, how long
is that breather going to be?
What we witnessed is an atrocity, a terrible tragedy. These officers
were murdered in cold blood. There is no defense for it all. I don`t know
anyone on either side of this issue, whether they`re police officers or
protesters, or just ordinary members of the New York City community who
would condone this kind of atrocity.
MADDOW: No, right.
HERBERT: At the same time, I think that it`s important not to let
this terrible tragedy obscure the very important issue of an epidemic of
police violence against primarily African Americans and often, African-
American children. That`s an important issue. And people who care about
justice need to continue that issue.
Now, the mayor has asked that there not be any protests between now
and when the funerals occur out of respect for the family. I think that`s
a reasonable request. If I had something to do with the protest, I would
honor that request.
But at some point, the campaign against police violence -- unnecessary
police violence, sometimes fatal police violence, must continue. And I
think it must grow, because justice has to be served, at some point.
MADDOW: The initial reaction, particularly on the political right to
these killings, was not what I expected honestly. When Rudy Giuliani came
out and said, there`s been four months of hate the police propaganda from
MADDOW: When the former New York Governor George Pataki came out and
full on blamed Eric Holder for this having happened, when even the police
commissioner said that these killings are essentially an offshoot of the
protests, that they`re directly related to the protests, despite the facts
of what it seems to be this man`s criminal and troubled and isolated life,
that is the way the country is seeing this because those voices on the
right and so sure that this was political.
HERBERT: Yes. I`m not at all surprised. I`ve been covering this
stuff for decades. I was in Harlem when Rudy Giuliani because of protests,
locked down Harlem, prevented elderly women from getting to their homes,
buzzed the protesters with police helicopters and stuff like that. He has
a Manichean view of the world. And I just haven`t been surprised by any of
And this is why it`s so difficult to overcome, the problems connected
with policing, why the police violence continues. Why -- you can go back
to the 1970s, `80s and then right up to the present day where you can get
these atrocities occurring at the hands of some police officers.
When Rudy says that this is a campaign of hatred against the police,
well, that`s just flat out not true. It`s a campaign for justice to
prevent the understand e unnecessary killing of innocent people. No one
wants to restrain the police from going after criminals. I think the
police take some credit, a great deal of credit for the tremendous drop in
crime, I don`t think they get all the credit. But they take, you know --
but it`s important not to stereotype people on either side, whether it`s
the police officers, whether it`s the protesters.
MADDOW: Bob Herbert, distinguished senior fellow at Demos, it`s good
to see you, Bob. Thanks for being here.
HERBERT: You, too. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: I should tell you that Bob`s latest book is called "Losing
Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America".
All right. We`ve got lots ahead tonight, including some artificial
insemination news for the first time-ever on this show. Don`t be weird.
This story involves the State Department.
Please stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Protesters blocked both lanes this afternoon
causing a major traffic block in downtown Milwaukee. They abandoned their
cars in the north and southbound lanes and then formed a human chain across
the entire freeway.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Friday in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Seventy-four
protesters arrested after carrying out a coordinated plan to block the
interstate and bring downtown Milwaukee traffic to a halt. Those protests
on Friday were in the name of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, black men
killed by police officers -- officers who were not then charged in this
death. There, of course, have been nationwide protests over the Garner and
But in Milwaukee, the protests have also been about the case of Dontre
Hamilton. In April, Dontre Hamilton was shot fatally more than a dozen
times by a Milwaukee police officer in broad daylight, in a downtown
Milwaukee park that`s called the Red Arrow Park.
Mr. Hamilton was unarmed. His family says he suffered from paranoid
schizophrenia and from hallucinations.
The Milwaukee police department says an officer approached Dontre
Hamilton while he was asleep on the ground in that park downtown. The
officer says he attempted to pat down Mr. Hamilton, who then became
resistant. He then tried to sue Mr. Hamilton using his baton. Police day
Dontre Hamilton then took the police officer`s baton and struck the officer
with it and then the officer shot Dontre Hamilton multiple times, 14 times.
That officer was later fired by the Milwaukee Police Department, not
for anything related to his use of force in that shooting, but for not
following department protocol during the encounter that led up to the
shooting. The officer has contested his firing.
Another high profile cases, where it stops by police officers, ended
with the deaths of unarmed citizens. Local prosecutors have brought those
cases to local grand juries and then those local grand juries have decided
not to charge the police officers. That`s what happened in the Michael
Brown case in St. Louis. That`s what happened with the Eric Garner case in
In Wisconsin, though, they have a different way of dealing with this
kind of thing, at least a different way of dealing with part of it. A week
before Dontre Hamilton was killed by that police officer in that downtown
Milwaukee Park, just a week ahead of that, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker
signed into law an unprecedented bipartisan bill that changed the way
Wisconsin handles the investigation when a police officer kills someone.
The new law requires that investigation into any police shooting must
involve at least two investigators from outside the police department. The
idea is to keep police officers from being in the position of investigating
their fellow officers from the same police force.
Wisconsin is the first state to do something like this statewide. But
it`s that state`s effort, basically, to mitigate the conflict of interest
that can be inherent in the way we investigate most of those cases now.
And because that law was signed just a week before Dontre Hamilton was
killed by that Milwaukee police officer, Dontre Hamilton`s case was the
first case to be handled under the rules of this new law. It wasn`t just
the Milwaukee Police Department investigating itself. They structured it
differently. Two special agents from the state, from the Wisconsin
Department of Justice were picked to lead the investigation.
Then, instead of going to a grand jury, the district attorney in
Milwaukee looked at their work and made the decision himself whether the
officer would face charges. Now, Dontre Hamilton`s family has questioned
all along whether these agents were actually independent. They alleged
that the people who were doing these investigations weren`t actually
outside. They were working too closely with police in Milwaukee, despite
the change in the law.
Well, for more than six months, the family has been waiting for
announcement from the district attorney to hear the results of this inside-
Protests continue throughout this time. Last week, Governor Scott
Walker announced that the National Guard would be ready when the D.A.`s
decision came out just in case. On Friday, we saw the interstate blocked.
On Saturday, the National Guard began calling up reserve officers.
Finally, this morning, nearly eight months after Dontre Hamilton`s
death, the Milwaukee County district attorney announced that he would not
seek state criminal charges against the officer involved in this shooting.
The district attorney said that because Dontre Hamilton was attacking the
officer with a deadly weapon, with the officer`s baton, the officer had
justification to shoot in, quote, "justified self defense."
After that decision this morning to not press chargers, protesters
marched again to the park where Dontre Williams died. They went to a
downtown church. They marched at the federal courthouse.
The attorney for Dontre Hamilton`s family appealed to the Department
of Justice, the federal Department of Justice to open a federal
investigation into Dontre Hamilton`s death.
Well, tonight, the U.S. Department of Justice has announced that it
will undertake a federal review in this case in Milwaukee, the same way the
department has opened investigations into the deaths of Michael Brown in
Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, and Trayvon Martin in Florida.
These have been difficult days and difficult weeks and difficult
months in a long, national conversation about policing and race and civil
rights in this country. And it is nowhere near finished yet.
MADDOW: If you travel due west from Los Angeles, if you leave L.A.
and head straight west across the Pacific Ocean, you will eventually land
at this ocean right here. It`s right on the coast of South Korea, and it
sort of looks like a big, industrial farm of some sort.
Those four dome-like structures that you see lining the coast, and the
two smaller ones from the top of the screen, those are nuclear reactors.
South Korea has 23 different nuclear reactors spread across the country.
And today, the company that operates all of those nuclear reactors got
hacked. The company and the South Korean government both said there was no
immediate risk to the public. They said the breach seemed to be aimed at
stealing information from the nuclear reactor company rather than damaging
the reactor or doing anything more nefarious.
But the headlines about this today, and they had a sort of on-edge
quality to them -- mostly, I think, because of who South Korea`s neighbor
to the north is.
There`s no indication that North Korea was behind the hacking of the
company that controls all the South Korean nuclear reactors today. Early
signs reportedly point to anti-nuclear groups.
But this is a moment in time where it seems like anything is possible,
particularly when it comes to that part of the world and shady computer
Right before leaving town on Friday, in his end-of-the-year press
conference, President Obama said that the U.S. government has concluded
that North Korea was behind the hacking attack on Sony Pictures. And the
president said that the United States government would respond, quote, "in
a place and time and manner that we choose."
Beyond those oblique comments at the press conference, here`s what
President Obama told CNN in comments that CNN first aired yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t think it was an
act of war. I think it was an act of cyber vandalism that very costly,
very expensive. We take it very seriously. We will respond
proportionately, as I said.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We will respond proportionately.
President Obama made those remarks in an interview that was taped on
Friday. But then, almost immediately after, something unusual started
happening inside North Korea.
What you`re looking at here is a chart that shows Internet
connectivity inside North Korea. This is from a company called Dyn
Research that analyzes performance issues on the Internet. Each of those
purple bars you see on that chart there indicates an outage in North
Korea`s Internet connection.
As you can see, there`s sporadic outages before yesterday. And then
basically, it gets more frequent, kind of avalanche of purple bars,
widespread Internet outages heading into today.
"The New York Times" reporting today that, quote, "North Korean
Internet access first became unstable late on Friday. The situation
worsened over the weekend and by today, by Monday, North Korea`s Internet
was completely offline."
One San Francisco-based tech company told "The New York Times" today
that North Korea`s Internet access was, to use a technical term, toast.
They called it toast. Quote, "The North Korean Internet network has gone
So, it`s kind of interesting timing, right? President Obama says on
Friday that the U.S. will respond to North Korea at a time and manner of
our choosing. And then, starting that day, North Korea`s entire Internet
connection starts to poof.
North Korea, as you can imagine, is not exactly a super connected
country in the first place. The Internet there is not really accessible to
average North Koreans. The physical structure for it is mostly routed
through China. And while outages can be commonplace in North Korea`s
network, people who watch this stuff for a living say this is not your run-
of-the-mill North Korean Internet outage. It seems to be something bigger
and more comprehensive than that.
In terms of possible involvement in this, two U.S. government
officials have told NBC News tonight that the U.S. government is not
involved in causing these outages in North Korea.
But this was the reaction today when the U.S. State Department was
asked that same thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: If you could comment on reports that they have lost
Internet access and maybe under attack?
MARIE HARF, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: As the president said, we
are considering a range of options in response. We aren`t going to
discuss, you know, publicly, operational details about possible response
options, or comments on those kinds of reports in any way, except to say
that as we implement our responses, some will be seen, some may not be
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Some many not be seen. Again, it`s not at all clear that the
United States is behind whatever has just happened to North Korea`s
But the U.S. has promised that there will be some sort of response
from the United States toward North Korea, now that the U.S. government has
determined that they are responsible for that hack of Sony Pictures and the
Do we have anymore clarity on what the range of potential responses by
our country might be? And why does our government keep stressing that
whatever we`re going to do as retaliation, it might be something that`s
done in secret.
Joining us now is Bill Richardson, former U.N. ambassador, former
governor of New Mexico. Governor Richardson has led several humanitarian
missions to North Korea over the last couple of decades. Just last year,
he visited North Korea with Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and got a look at
the country`s computer infrastructure.
Governor Richardson, it`s nice to see you. Thanks for being here.
BILL RICHARDSON (D), FORMER NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, you have had unusual and high level access to the North
Korean regime over the years, because you`ve done these missions over there
on essentially humanitarian missions, trying to get Americans freed, who`ve
been held by that regime. Earlier this month, you were quoted as saying
you would be surprised if the North Korean government was behind the Sony
hack. The FBI now says it was them.
Does that surprise you and why?
RICHARDSON: Well, I believe the FBI at the time when the initial
information was coming out, I didn`t think they had the capability. But,
now, as if evidence piled out, they obviously do.
And one of the reasons, Rachel, that I didn`t think they had the
capability, when Eric Schmidt and I, from Google, visited North Korea,
their Internet access is limited to just the elite, the computer system was
out of RadioShack. I didn`t believe that they had this capability.
But now as we learned more, in other words, China contains a lot of
the telecommunications expertise that North Korea uses in hacking, you
know, anything can happen. So, I was surprised because, additionally,
North Korea had said to me they wanted to do some digital cooperation with
movie studios of the United States. Now, that`s not a good way to do it as
they did with Sony.
MADDOW: What do you think the range of options is? If the FBI is
right, and they did do it, they have the capability to do it. And they`ve
somehow seen it as being in their strategic interest to do it and they`ve
What do you think is the range of options that the U.S. can consider
RICHARDSON: Well, I don`t think this shutting down of the Internet
today is a proportional response. So, I take at face value is that the
U.S. government says there is no involvement.
The proportional response would be, one, putting North Korea on the
terrorism list, which denies them access to a lot of landing rights and
another economic cost. The second would be something that we`ve done
before, and that is through Chinese banks, limit the cash they can get
through some Chinese institutions, through Macau and some Chinese
So, those I think are the more proportional responses. My
speculating, Rachel, is that either the Chinese shut down the North Korean
internet, although that`s doubtful. Although China is quiet mad at North
Korea. The other is that North Korea, on its own, shut it down. You know,
regimes, when they go through tense moments, like Syria, occasionally hit
shut it down.
The third would be some foreign hacker. I don`t think the U.S. is
doing it, but I have no information. So, again, it`s a mystery.
Everything with North Korea is unpredictable and a total mystery.
MADDOW: I mean, to that point, I feel like now that the -- the United
States has seen North Korea, essentially, as a conundrum and a problem and
human rights disaster for decades now. But it seems like every time it
comes time for our government to make a strategic decision about them,
there`s this fundamental problem which is that you can`t really assume
their rationality in terms of how they`re acting.
I mean, do you see them as basically inscrutable in terms of their
motives, in terms of what motivates them, in terms of how they might react
to stuff? Or is there any reason to their rant (ph)?
RICHARDSON: There`s never a pattern of consistency with the North
Koreans. They`re unpredictable. They don`t think like we do. We think in
terms of quid pro quos. There`s going to be a response. They believe in
the deity of their leaders.
So, you never know what they`re going to do. Just a month ago,
Rachel, they released three Americans without any hardly conditions as
humanitarian gestures. Many of us thought those were messages to the
international community, to the U.S., OK, we`re ready to start talking
about reducing our nuclear weapons.
But with this attack that they done, and one of the things that North
Koreans do is they`re very personal. They felt that this is a personal
affront to their leader, this movie. Although, by the way, I think Sony
has taken too many hits. Sony is a good company.
But, at the same time, I remember years ago when President Bush called
the North Korean leader, the Kim Jong-il, the father, a tyrant, they
reacted the same way. They didn`t cyber attack any company, but these
personal affronts to a deity like the North Korean leadership is very
offensive to them.
MADDOW: Phil Richardson, former U.N. ambassador, former governor of
New Mexico, he`s done a dealings with the North Korean regime over the
years -- Governor, it`s great to see you. Thanks very much for being here.
It`s nice to have you here.
RICHARDSON: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more ahead on this unexpectedly
busy news night. Please stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUBTITLE: Today at the TRMS production meeting, a story gets a slot on
the white board.
MADDOW: Cuban prisoner sperm happiness.
Everybody in agreement? Good.
SUBTITLE: That story is next.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If and when Texas Governor Rick Perry decides to run for
president in this upcoming year, that will put us in uncharted territory as
a nation, because never before has someone mounted a major campaign for a
major party`s nomination while being under felony indictment.
But Rick Perry is going to give it a go. Governor Perry was charged
with two felonies back in August. This is his delighted to be here Texas
mug shot. Governor Perry and his lawyers are vigorously contesting the
felony charges. But if he does run while the charges are still pending or
while he has to interrupt his campaign trail trip in order to go on trial,
that will be a rather amazing spectacle and something we have never done
before as a country.
And now, in addition to that prospect, consider the case of
Congressman Michael Grimm. Congressman Michael Grimm has himself been
under felony indictment. He was indicted for 20 felonies last April. That
did not stop him from winning reelection to his House seat this fall.
But now, "The New York Daily News" reports that Michael Grimm is due
to plead guilty to at least win of those felonies the day after tomorrow.
Congressman Grimm himself is not commenting so far, neither is the
U.S. attorney`s office that charged him. But if he does plead guilty,
that`s going to create a really interesting dilemma for House Speaker John
Boehner. I mean, it is one thing to have someone with felony charges
pending against them serving Congress, it`s another thing for Congress to
include a confessed convicted felon among its members.
So far, Speaker Boehner is not saying what he`s going to do, Michael
Grimm, one of his members, pleads guilty to a felony the day after
tomorrow. But is there really a chance they`re going to let him stay after
he pleads guilty? Is, I have to serve my jail time an acceptable excuse
for missing committee meetings?
We may be about to find out. Watch this space.
MADDOW: OK. This I did not expect. This is a very unusual post
script to what happened last week about Cuba and the United States
normalizing reasons and freeing prisoners and swapping spies.
As part of the surprise deal announced last week, Cuba, you may
remember, agreed to free from prison and send to the United States, a man
who had been caught spying for the U.S. inside Cuba. In return, the U.S.
government agreed to send back to Cuba, three guys who had been caught
spying here for Cuba.
So, they had been caught in the United States spying for Cuba, those
three guys got sent back. One of our guys who had been caught there spying
for us got sent back in return.
Well, one of the convicted Cuban spies friend by the United States
last week is this guy who we spot shadowed here, the bald guy. And as
people watched this prisoner swap unfold, as they watched him reunite with
his family in Cuba, one thing seemed to stick out about his wife.
Now, I`m no expert. But she appears to be extremely pregnant, like
really, very, fully pregnant.
And her husband, who has been locked away in a U.S. prison, serving a
double life sentence and not able to see her for more than a decade now, he
is noticeably elated, delighted with her very prominent pregnancy.
And he had that reaction because against all odds and some of the
well-understood laws of biology and the no conjugal restrictions of the
U.S. federal prison system, that bald guy, that just-released prisoner, is
the father of -- yes, he`s the father. Yes, I know.
Here`s how it happened: in February 2013, when the effort to improve
U.S./Cuba diplomacy was still in its gestational period, Vermont Senator
Pat Leahy took a trip to Cuba with his wife, in part to advocate for the
case of Alan Gross, Alan Gross, the American USAID contractor, who`ve been
in a Cuba prison since 2009.
While Senator Pat Leahy was visiting Cuba, though, the wife of the
Cuban spy who the U.S. was holding in federal prison back in the U.S., the
one we just showed you, she found out that Senator Leahy was visiting Cuba.
And while he was there, she set up a meeting to plead her case, and the
case she pled was a very human one. She was in her early 40s. Her husband
was serving consecutive life sentences in an American prison and she was
desperate to have a child.
Senator Leahy was moved by her story. He also saw a way to negotiate
with Cuba for better conditions for Alan Gross, maybe if the United States
could do something for this Cuban prisoner and his family, Cuba might
reciprocate with a gesture to help Alan Gross.
Senator Leahy`s office reached out to the U.S. State Department to see
if he might be able to broke or something to help out the spy and his wife
with their pregnancy dilemma. He confirmed that visits of a conjugal
nature were out of question in that particular federal prison where that
spy was being held.
The senator`s office, though, had a backup plan in mind. Senator
Leahy`s office brokered a deal, for the Cuban spy`s sperm.
Whole thing happened in secret. We still do not know exactly who
transferred goods from husband to wife. At the time, neither country was
even acknowledging that any kind of talks were happening, let alone talks
about this spy guy`s sperm.
But we can do a little bit of basic math here to figure out what
happened or at least when. We know that negotiators for the U.S. and Cuba
spent 18 months making the deal. We know that the just-released spy`s wife
is eight and a half months pregnant. She`s due in two weeks.
So, if you sort of add the months, carry the two, what we can suss out
here is that the handoff of the spy`s sperm happened at basically the
halfway mark of the negotiations between the U.S. and Cuban governments,
the halfway mark of the negotiations towards this massive breakthrough on
Cuba that was 50 years in the making.
And a portion of this goodwill, a portion of the success of the
negotiations is due, specifically, to a well-meaning transfer of bodily
fluids, arranged by a Vermont senator`s office, bringing a whole new
meaning to the term diplomatic relations. I`m very sorry, I said that.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow. Now,
it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
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Guest: Bob Herbert, Bill Richardson