Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: March 3, 2015
Guest: Anne Gearan, Michael Schmidt
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris.
That`s our plan, that we sort of got one eye on that watching in terms
of when that`s going to happen. We think it`s probably going to be within
the next few minutes. Definitely within this hour, but we`ll have it.
Thanks, man. Appreciate it.
HAYES: All right.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
As I was explaining to Chris there, what we`re keeping an eye on is
this Emily`s List 30th anniversary gala in Washington tonight.
And people who are supporters of Emily`s List, that itself I`m sure is
newsworthy enough that you would want it covered live on cable news. The
reason this event is at least partially going to be covered live on cable
news tonight is because Hillary Clinton is expected to speak this hour at
that event. And that, at this point, is a rare occasion.
This is a rare public speech for Hillary Clinton at all at this point.
She`s not giving very many public speeches, even though everybody expects
her to be candidate for president very soon. So, that`s one point. It
will only be her second public speech of the year.
Also, as Chris was just mentioning earlier on last hour, this will be
Hillary Clinton`s first speech since these very pointed questions were
raised last night by "The New York Times" about her use of a private e-mail
address while she was secretary of state.
We do not know if Secretary Clinton will specifically be addressing
that story, about the e-mails tonight, but we are going to keep an eye on
her speech and this event, depending on when it gets started. We will try
to bring it to you live, so definitely stay tuned for that. It`s part of
what`s going on in the world.
But we begin tonight in the middle of the country. We begin tonight
in Kansas City. Kansas City spans two states, right? There`s Kansas City,
Kansas, and there`s Kansas City, Missouri. The state line between those
two states runs right through K.C.
And in a suburb of the Kansas side of Kansas City, in a suburb called
Overland Park last April, this guy, this neo-Nazi, anti-Semite, founder of
branches of the Ku Klux Klan and something called the White Patriot Party,
this older man who thought he was probably dying of emphysema and decided
that before he left God`s green earth, he thought it would be his patriotic
duty to go kill some Jews.
This older guy in the Kansas City area went to the Jewish community
center in this Kansas City suburb and he open fire. There he is. At that
shooting, he ended up killing two people at the Jewish community center and
he killed one person at a nearby Jewish retirement home.
Yesterday, in a preliminary hearing, you can see that same guy there,
his name is Frazier Glenn Cross. As he was being wheeled in for his
capital murder case, he did his best, as you can see there, with his hand,
to try to give the Hitler Nazi salute while he was wearing his handcuffs
and they wheeled him into the courtroom.
Police officers who responded to those shootings last April testified
in court yesterday in this case that cross screamed "Heil Hitler" as they
were taking him into custody after those shootings. The officers said in
court yesterday, that he asked them once they were in the process of
apprehending him, he asked the police officers how many Jews he had
succeeded in killing.
One officer says Frazier Glenn Cross tried to recruit him right then
and there on the scene of those murders, tried to recruit him to the white
power anti-Semitic cause. He asked the cop who was there to arrest him if
by any chance the cop was German, because he wanted to make a Nazi case to
him, to recruit him.
Frazier Glenn Cross is an ex-con. He`s a known neo-Nazi. He`s been
active in the neo-Nazi and white power movement for decades. Frazier Glenn
Cross is charged now with capital murder, he is facing the death penalty if
he is convicted.
Frazier Glenn Cross also ran for office in the great state of
Missouri. In 2006 and in 2010, he ran for Congress and then he ran for
U.S. Senate on a platform of white power and hating the Jews. And, I`m
happy to say, nobody voted for him, right? He got less than 50 votes in
both elections combined. He was just this perennial candidate, anti-
Semitic, crank protest candidate.
But then within four years of his last crank U.S. Senate run, he had
killed all those people in Kansas City. Heil Hitler, how many Jews did I
When Missouri Republican candidate for governor, Tom Schweich, killed
himself last week, it was shock enough to learn that Tom Schweich had died.
Tom Schweich had just announced a few weeks ago that he was running for
governor in Missouri in 2016. Tom Schweich was just re-elected in November
with more than 70 percent of the vote as Missouri state auditor. Missouri
state auditor is a pretty high profile job in that state. That`s the job
that U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill had before she got elected to the United
So, it was shocking enough to learn last week that Tom Schweich had
killed himself, troubling and strange enough, right? A candidate for
governor, just re-elected. It was strange enough to learn that he died in
But then the shock of that was compounded when two reporters who Tom
Schweich called just minutes before he took his own life. Those two
reporters both went public about what he had been talking to them about,
about what was on his mind. What he told them was troubling him. What he
asked to speak to them about on the day he died, before he took his own
On the left side of the screen here is the other top tier Republican
candidate for governor in Missouri, who is running in the primary against
Tom Schweich, her name Catherine Hanaway. On the right side is the newly
elected chairman of the Republican Party in Missouri, his name is John
Hancock, believe it or not. And John Hancock was working as a political
consultant for Catherine Hanaway before he became chair of the party.
That`s what Tom Schweich was up against in this primary, right? Chair
of the party used to work for his chief rival for the nomination? It`s
going to be uphill climb, right?
Well, what Tom Schweich called to talk to those reporters about last
week, just minutes before he killed himself was the fact that John Hancock,
the chairman of the Republican Party of Missouri, had been telling
Republican donors and Republican Party activists in Missouri that Tom
Schweich was a Jew.
Tom Schweich was not a Jew. One of his grandfathers was Jewish, but
he was -- Tom Schweich was an Episcopalian.
But he believed that the Republican Party of Missouri institutionally
and in support of his campaign for governor, Tom Schweich believed that the
chair of the party was spreading this false rumor that he was Jewish as a
way of trying to hurt Tom Schweich`s chances of becoming governor, or
becoming the Republican Party`s nominee for governor in Missouri.
And as those incredible headlines started to bloom in the wake of Tom
Schweich`s death, these incredible headlines that it was about an anti-
Semitic whisper campaign, the Missouri Republican Party chairman e-mailed
out a statement to members of the party saying that yes, he might have told
people that Schweich was Jewish.
He emailed out a statement, quote, "I would like to set the record
straight once and for all. Until recently, I mistakenly believed that Tom
Schweich was Jewish. But it was simply what I believed to be his
biography. It is possible that I mentioned Tom`s faith, which was not his
faith, in passing during one of the many conversations I have each day.
There was absolutely nothing malicious about my intent."
The chairman of the Missouri Republican Party later told reporters
that if he told people in Missouri Republican politics that Tom Schweich
was a Jew, he didn`t mean it in a bad way. He just meant it as, a
description, quote, "similar to saying, I`m Presbyterian and somebody else
When Tom Schweich killed himself and it emerged that the back story of
his suicide was his upset over this false rumor being spread in Missouri
Republican politics that he was Jewish when he was not, and his belief that
that might affect his ability to win the Republican nomination for
governor, when that emerged, the reporter who received that last phone
message from Tom Schweich, he got a phone message about seven minutes
before Tom Schweich killed himself last Thursday.
That reporter wrote at "The St. Louis Post-Dispatch" that he, Tony
Messenger, the reporter, he didn`t know why Tom Schweich killed himself,
but that Mr. Schweich was about to go public with his accusation that the
head of the Missouri Republican Party had led this whispering campaign
about Tom Schweich being secretly Jewish. And when he told that story, he
evoked in his first article for "The St. Louis Post-Dispatch" the recent
history of Frazier Glenn Miller -- Frazier Glenn Cross, right? The raging
racist who last year killed three people at a Jewish community center in
He was saying, listen, it`s not completely nuts to think that anti-
Semitism could have a politically salient effect here.
So, this was already just a stunning and super intense story out of
Missouri, right, and its Republican politics. It was already stunning and
super intense before today`s funeral for Tom Schweich which attracted over
1,000 people in Missouri, and at which the man who`s widely viewed as elder
statesman of Missouri politics, a man who Tom Schweich worked for as his
chief of staff, former Republican Senator Jack Danforth -- John Danforth
who also an Episcopal priest, John Danforth delivered the eulogy for Tom
Schweich today and it scorched the political earth of that state.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN DANFORTH, FORMER SENATOR: And I spoke with Tom this past Tuesday
afternoon, and he was indignant. He told me he was upset about two things.
A radio commercial and a whispering campaign he said were being run against
him. He said the commercial made fun of his physical appearance and
wondered if he should respond with his own ad.
But while the commercial hurt his feelings, his great complaint was
about a whispering campaign that he was Jewish. And that subject took up
90 percent of a long phone call. This was more than an expression of
personal hurt from the radio ad. This was righteous indignation against
what he saw as a terrible wrong. And what he saw was wrong was anti-
Semitism. Tom called this anti-Semitism, and, of course, it was.
The only reason for going around saying that someone is Jewish is to
make political profit from religious bigotry. Someone said there is no
difference than saying the person is Presbyterian. Here`s to the test the
credibility of that. When is the last time someone cycled up to you and
whispered into your ear that such and such a person is a Presbyterian?
The message for the rest of us reflects my own emotion after learning
of Tom`s death, which has been overwhelming anger that politics has gone so
hideously wrong. And that the death of Tom Schweich is the natural
consequence of what politics has become.
Since Thursday some good people have said, well, that`s just politics.
And Tom should have been less sensitive. He should have been tougher. He
should have been able to take it. Well, that is accepting politics in its
present state. And that we cannot do. It amounts to blaming the victim
and it creates a new normal where politics is only for the tough and the
crude and the calloused.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Former Missouri Senator Jack Danforth today speaking in front
of the governor of the state and both of the state`s U.S. senators and the
rest of the political great and good in the state of Missouri. But he was
not speaking, I should say, in front of the chairman of the state`s
Republican Party who Senator Danforth basically there called out as an
anti-Semitic bigot in this scorching eulogy and condemnation of Missouri
politics and Missouri Republican politics, specifically.
John Hancocks, the guy who Jack Danforth called out there in the
eulogy. He didn`t show up for the funeral today for Tom Schweich. Just
remarkable days in Missouri right now, after the suicide of this
gubernatorial candidate, Tom Schweich, remarkable days in that state and it
seems like there will be more news to come because after a day like this,
the fallout from this cannot be over yet.
MADDOW: So, this is the live scene right now in Washington where
Hillary Clinton is expected to speak very soon for the first time since
"The New York Times" reported last night that there was no systematic
archiving of her e-mails in her entire tenure as secretary of state. So,
we`ve got an eye on that live event under way right now in Washington.
We`re expecting her remarks in not too long.
Plus, we`ve good much more ahead.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: Today, Jeb Bush was in Las Vegas giving a speech for money,
to the American Council of Life Insurers. This is what political
celebrities and not yet candidates do, right? They give paid speeches to
usually obscure groups for lots of money.
Hillary Clinton has been doing these as well. At the end of January,
Secretary Clinton spoke twice in Canada, first in Winnipeg and then in
Saskatoon. She spoke at events paid for by a Canadian bank.
What Secretary Clinton has not been doing a lot of this year, even as
she has continued a pretty robust schedule of paid speeches to make money,
what she has not been doing a lot of this year is campaigning for president
-- and this is one of the really big differences between the Republicans
and the Democrats right now, at the top tier of national politics.
All of the Republican 2016 hopefuls, they have been de facto
campaigning at events like, you know, CPAC, where they all gave speeches or
did Q&A with conservative media celebrities. They`ve all been appearing at
events like Steve King`s anti-immigration-palooza in Iowa a few weeks.
They`ve been all turning up at Koch brothers meetings, speaking to all of
the richest of all Republican donors. They`ve been making unfortunate
foreign policy flubs at media events in London and screwing up how to
pronounce Boko Haram at foreign policy speech in Chicago.
They have been everywhere, right? The Republican candidates for
president, there are a lot of them right now and they are frequently, every
day, multiple times a day, fighting it out in public amongst themselves.
They are campaigning for president out loud, in a way we can all see.
On the Democratic side, not so much. On the Democratic side, it`s not
the same kind of thing at all. That`s mostly because it`s really not the
same kind of field.
Right now, the Democratic field in terms of presidential candidates
for 2016, well, there is this guy campaigning from inside of handsome shoe
box somewhere in a spare room in the Jim Webb house in Virginia. Also,
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is being all that is Bernie Sanders out
in his own righteous wing of the Democratic Party.
It`s also Martin O`Malley, the former governor of Maryland, who says
he will not run for Barbara Mikulski`s Senate seat when she retires. He`ll
instead stay in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination
opposite Hillary Clinton, even though she is polling in the 40 percent to
50 percent range, and he is ranging at 40 to 50 points less than that.
So, on the Republican side, it`s like the Brady Bunch squared, right?
I mean, it`s lots and lots of candidates fighting it out every day, lots of
public events, lots of campaign speeches, lots of politicking in public.
On the Democratic side, it`s Hillary Clinton -- who is very capable of
getting into a political fight when she wants to. But right now, there is
no one for her to punch.
We haven`t really seen anything like this before in modern politics,
so nobody really knows what`s going to happen. Nobody really knows how do
you this, right, when you have the whole field to yourself, when you don`t
really have primary opponents, how do you campaign for the presidential
Well, it turns out we are learning the answer to that question is
mostly you just don`t bother, other than the speeches she`s been giving to
earn a living, these paid speeches that, by and large, are not open to the
public or the press, Hillary Clinton has done a grand total of two public
speeches in the entire year of 2015 so far.
The first was a week ago at a women and tech event in Silicon Valley.
The second one is tonight, which is why we`re paying so much attention,
which is why this is a live feed of what`s going on at that event right
there. You see Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, the astronaut Mark
The fact that Hillary Clinton is due to give this speech tonight at
the Emily`s List 30th gala in Washington is notable and newsworthy by sheer
dent of the fact that Secretary Clinton has not been doing political
speeches. She hasn`t been doing political events. She hasn`t had to,
But her giving a speech tonight effectively is the Democratic
equivalent to all of the public campaigning that is happening among those
candidates on the Republican side. Right now, if Hillary Clinton is
speaking at a public political event in the United States, that is the
Democratic presidential primary. That`s the way Democrats are campaigning
for the presidency in 2016. That`s it. It`s very different from what`s
going on on the Republican side.
The other reason this expected speech tonight is a big deal is because
in the absence of any formidable primary opponents, the way Hillary Clinton
is being tested as a candidate right now, the way her record and her
statements and her past are being probed for potential political fodder is
not by primary rivals for the nomination but by the press, both the
conservative press and the mainstream press.
And last night, on the eve of what you saw there, getting ready for a
rare political speech in Washington for Emily`s List, last night on the eve
of this public appearance, last night, "The New York Times" broke this
potentially difficult story for Secretary Clinton and her campaign.
Now, it has been previously reported that Hillary Clinton used a
personal e-mail account as secretary of state, a nongovernmental email
account, to conduct at least some of the business she conducted as
secretary of state during the Obama administration`s first term when she
held that office. That has previously been reported.
What was not reported before last night was that Secretary Clinton
never had a government e-mail address at all while she served as secretary
of state. She exclusively only used this personal address.
And why we care is that decision effectively puts her in control of
what is retained and archived and researchable for her time in office
instead of that being the purview of the people who are in charge of public
records, right? She`s got the choice of what gets released rather than the
folks in charge of public records having those e-mails and being in charge
of what gets released from them and who gets to make those decisions.
And honestly, getting real here -- there`s two real things here
besides all of the spin and Clinton media hysteria around this, right?
There`s two real things. The first real thing to know here is that, say it
with me now -- everybody does it. Everybody does it. Lots of public
officials including governors and other cabinet officials, previous
secretaries of state, Democratic and Republican, everybody does it.
Lots of other public officials in similar situations have used their
personal e-mail accounts to do official business. It happens. Everybody
So, when you see somebody like Jeb Bush jumping into the story with
self-righteous concern trolling about how Hillary Clinton must release all
of her e-mails, I mean, this is what Jeb Bush tweeted today about this
story: "Transparency matters. Unclassified Hillary Clinton e-mails should
be released. You can you see mine here, link."
Honestly, just being real, that is freaking ridiculous. Everybody
does it, right? Everybody does what she has done, including Jeb Bush. Jeb
Bush bragged when he was Florida governor that he received 2.5 million e-
mails on his government address. He also said he received another half
million e-mails on his private personal Jeb Bush address while he was
So, that`s 3 million e-mails from when he was governor. What he`s
bragging about here in terms of his transparency is that of those 3 million
e-mails when he was governor, he hand-picked 250,000 of them to release.
So, OK. He`s now demanding that she release all this stuff that he never
So, at one level, the real politic here is stupid. It`s like
hypocritical if hypocritical couldn`t even be spelled right because we
couldn`t think that way to that many vowels. Stupid.
The one level at which this is not stupid is the question of the rules
and the law. The question of what the rules were, what the law was, at the
time that this decision was made about Secretary Clinton`s e-mail addresses
and how she would do her business as secretary of state. The question of
whether as secretary of state e-mails to her personal account, which she
used in the conducting of the business of that office, whether those e-
mails should have been preserved officially in some way that they were not.
I mean, there are biting allegations about that today from "The New
York Times." There are vehement denials of that of any wrongdoing from the
Clinton side of things. As a matter of the law and what rules applied to
her and when and what exactly it takes to comply with those rules in terms
of servers and who gets to make the decision on what gets hand over and who
gets the call -- at this point, I`ve been spending -- I`ve spent most of
the day today trying to figure out a clear way to explain it. The clearest
thing I could say to you is that it`s not at all clear and it does need
But that`s the other reason why this speech tonight is such an
important thing. Hillary Clinton giving a public speech tonight, second
time this year. This is effectively Hillary Clinton`s campaign for the
presidency. She`s doing it at her own pace. Not pressured by anything
going on and anything looking like a Democratic presidential primary.
These rare political speeches she`s giving, only the second one this
year, this one tonight comes the day after "The New York Times" land a blow
to the chin on the personal e-mail story. So, does she address the
controversy? Does she take a swipe at the reporting? Does she mount a
defense? Does she make fun of Jeb Bush the way I did?
I don`t know. I can`t wait to see though.
Joining us now is Anne Gearan, national politics correspondent for
"The Washington Post", who is covering Hillary Clinton.
Anne, it`s great to see you. Thanks for joining us.
ANNE GEARAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thank you. Happy to be here.
MADDOW: You`re at a loud and happy event that is celebrating 30 years
of Emily`s List. Obviously, the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidential
nomination, sort of a holy grail for this group -- I have to believe that
means that the room there is hostile if anything about this story about
Hillary Clinton`s e-mails at the State Department.
GEARAN: Yes, I mean, this whole event has the feeling of a Hillary
Clinton for president pep rally. It`s kind of the kickoff political event
of what everyone expects will very soon be her political campaign.
Around the edges of it, there are people here talking about a little
bit of consternation about this e-mail story and what it says and means
about the future of Hillary Clinton as a candidate. No one really thinks
that this story has really long legs and will hang around for a long time.
But a lot will depend on how Hillary handles it. She hasn`t directly
addressed it yet.
She may do so in sort of a joking way tonight, and if she is able to
kind of tackle it head on and talk about what she was really obligated to
do and maybe even turn over some of the e-mails, the expectation of
Democrats here tonight is that the whole thing goes away fairly soon.
MADDOW: Anne, one thing that is remarkable here is the contrast
between what is happening on the Republican side in terms of their
primaries -- their primary, the way their candidates are already fighting
it out in public, and Hillary Clinton out is there alone with no real
credible contenders for the nomination angling against her. She
essentially gets to set her own pace. She`s doing very few public
engagements, where we could see here in terms of gearing up for this
Have you seen her speak publicly enough or do you know enough of about
her strategy that we should have an expectation of the kind of stump speech
she gives or the way she makes her case publicly?
GEARAN: Yes, I mean, this kind of event tonight, she`s very good at.
And I fully anticipate that she`ll give a good speech. She`s surrounded by
people who want to hear her talk. That`s a pretty good venue.
What she is really encountering now, though, is exactly what you
identify -- the lack of a primary, the lack of any kind of a -- sort of,
you know, contest that forces her to really think ahead and to kind of have
to compare herself to any other Democrat, anyone else on her side of the
fence. It allows her to call all of the shots which if you`re a candidate
might be where you want to be. It might not necessarily make you a better
And I`m hearing some of that from Democrats. They`re a little
concerned about -- did you see the Republicans squaring off against one
another and positioning themselves against one another and trying to figure
out how to best present themselves. No one is doing that with and for
Hillary Clinton. She has to do it herself.
She gets hit by upside the head by a mini-scandal like the one
involving the e-mails. And really, there`s no other recourse except for
her to figure out herself how to answer it. That she`s going to get
criticized almost no matter what she does.
MADDOW: Right. Anne Gearan, national politics correspondent for "The
Washington Post", live at this event we`re expecting Hillary Clinton`s
Anne, thanks very much. I really appreciate it.
I`ve got to say, to Ann Gearan`s last point there, if you think about
Hillary Clinton`s political trajectory, she has had to invent a new future,
a new way of moving through the political ether. Every step of the way,
Nobody else had ever been the kind of first lady that she was. Nobody
else had ever been the kind of first lady to the United States Senate.
Very few people had gone from being a single term senator to being a top
tier presidential candidate.
Becoming -- going from a top tier presidential candidate to the
secretary of state in the administration of the guy who beat you, that`s
also unique political future that she built for herself. And now, she is
the effectively, inevitable Democratic nominee for president -- the first
ever, likely, female major party nominee for president in either party,
She`s had to invent a future that nobody else has ever tried, let
alone achieve, over and over and over again over the course of her
political career. So, yes, I think it`s a disadvantage on paper that you
try to get a nomination without ever having a primary, without ever having
other contenders, plausible contenders for the throne, challenging for you
But if anybody can make up a history where you get the nomination and
go strong into a general even though you never had a primary to test you,
she`s probably the one who could invent it, if only because she`s invented
every other thing about her political life.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: This week marks four months -- four months -- since President
Obama nominated Loretta Lynch to be the next U.S. attorney general. We
still have no idea when she`s going to get a vote.
In the meantime, though, Eric Holder is still the attorney general and
he`s been busy clearing off his desk, checking off the last items on his
to-do list. One of the big things on that list was to finish the civil
rights investigation into the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael
Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, last year. In September, the Justice
Department opened a broad investigation into not only that specific
shooting but also the patterns of the entire Ferguson PD.
We have been hearing that the Justice Department is close to being
done with that review. Well, today, Justice Department officials went to
Ferguson to meet with city officials there. Those officials are now saying
that the Justice Department has shared the findings of their review with
And while we do not yet know all of the details, NBC News has learned
that the DOJ review of the Ferguson Police Department has found a striking
pattern of racial bias in policing in Ferguson -- a pattern that the
Justice Department says routinely violates the Constitution and federal
From what we can tell, the Justice Department`s review is damning.
The official report is due out tomorrow afternoon. We`ll know
significantly more when we see it.
There`s lots more to come. Stay with us.
MADDOW: If today had not been such a bonkers news day, if Congress
wasn`t busy narrowly averting shutting down the Department of Homeland
Security, if the prime minister of Israel and U.S. president weren`t busy
dueling with each other from either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, if the
Democratic Party`s likely 2016 presidential nominee wasn`t getting busy
getting mired in one of her bigger scandals of her not-yet campaign -- if
today hadn`t been such an absolutely bonkers news day, I think this would
have been the story in the entire country tonight, the lead paragraph about
it in "The New York Times" today.
Quote, "David H. Petraeus, the best-known military commander of his
generation, has reached a plea deal with the Justice Department and
admitted providing his highly classified journals to a mistress when he was
director of the CIA."
Sometimes all you have to do is write the words down and they jump off
the page themselves.
Former CIA Director David Petraeus, probably the most well-known and
highly regarded American general in the last 30 years, he has agreed to
plead guilty in federal court and now faces the possibility of prison time.
What he`s pleading to carries a maximum sentence of a year in prison and
$100,000 fine. Before becoming the head of the CIA but after his time
running the war in Iraq, while he was the top U.S. military commander in
Afghanistan, General Petraeus maintained what federal prosecutors described
as eight separate bound five by eight inch notebooks which contained his
daily schedule and classified and unclassified notes.
In terms of the classified stuff, the books contained some really,
really classified materials. Among other things, quote, "The identities of
covert officers, war strategy, intelligence capabilities and mechanisms, as
well the details of David Petraeus` personal discussions with President
Obama and the National Security Council."
So the information this those black books is really highly classified
information which David Petraeus had access to in his role as the top
general in Afghanistan. But General Petraeus ultimately handed that
information over to his biographer, who I should say he was also shtupping.
After leaving the military in 2011, David Petraeus became director at
the CIA. While he was at the CIA, he also carried on an extramarital
affair with the woman who was writing a book about him. According to the
stipulation of facts in this plea deal, General Petraeus` biographer in
2011 asked him if she could see what was in the black books that he had
been keeping all that time.
David Petraeus initially said no, he told her they contained some very
highly classified information, but then he gave them to her. Quoting from
the federal court filing, "On or about August 27, 2011, defendant David
Howell Petraeus sent an e-mail to his biographer in which he agreed to
provide the black books to his biographer."
The next day, David Petraeus, quote, "delivered the black books to a
private residence in Washington, D.C. where his biographer was staying."
Again, those books contained really classified information, including
the names of covert agents and code words. He let her keep them for
apparently four days, from August 28th to September 1st.
What David Petraeus has agreed to plead guilty to is unauthorized
removal and retention of classified material. It`s a misdemeanor charge
that carries a potential sentence of up to a year in prison. But federal
prosecutors will reportedly recommend two years probation for him and
$40,000 fine and no time in prison. The judge does not have to follow that
recommendation but that`s what the prosecutors are asking for in this plea
"The New York Times" describes this plea deal today as the completion
of, quote, "a spectacular fall for Mr. Petraeus. General David Petraeus
was once thought of as a potential presidential candidate from either
party. He`s now as of this news tonight facing the actual prospect of
federal prison time, depending on what that judge decides.
Joining us now is "New York Times" reporter Michael Schmidt, who has
been covering this story for months.
Mr. Schmidt, thank you for your time tonight.
MICHAEL SCHMIDT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: One factual thing that I`m not clear on, is it possible that
Paula Broadwell, the biographer, the woman to whom he delivered this
information, that she is potentially also in legal jeopardy for having
received this information improperly?
SCHMIDT: I don`t know. That`s a good question. Was she operating as
a journalist in this fashion? And if so, would they prosecute a
I don`t think that Eric Holder would want to go out on that note. But
I think on Ms. Broadwell`s case, she was actually cooperating with the
government and they came in and said, look, we`re not going to prosecute
but we need you to cooperate.
Without Ms. Broadwell, there wouldn`t have been much of a case here.
MADDOW: In terms of what General Petraeus did, is this the sort of
thing that frankly other CIA directors and other top national security
officers have been caught for in the past, which is the sense they
mishandled classified information in a way that was potentially very
dangerous and sort of had to be punished, but there wasn`t a real risk of
serious home in the moment?
Or is this is something where they think that this information was
potentially dangerous, even just going as far as he let it get?
SCHMIDT: Well, is this Sandy Berger and the documents in his socks
that no one else saw besides him? Or is this something where, you know,
stuff we deal with in the media, where we get information about a
classified program and we write about it and the government says we really
jeopardized national security?
I think it`s probably more Sandy Berger than that. But at the same
time, the things described in these documents today are very sensitive.
And there are some critics out there who say, man, this Justice Department
has really cracked down on a lot of leakers and a lot of people for
mishandling similar information and a lot of those people are a lot lower
level than Mr. Petraeus, but they are facing far more time than prison.
So, is it a double standard? That`s the question.
MADDOW: Well, you reported back in January that the FBI and Justice
Department were pushing for felony charges against General Petraeus. This
is for a misdemeanor, not a felony. Do you have any insight into what
changed there and how they arrived at this agreement?
SCHMIDT: Well, what we do know is Mr. Petraeus was represented by
Williams & Connolly, which is the top law firm in Washington.
And what was going to happen is that if this thing went to trial, it
was going to be really ugly. There was going to be a lot of motions filed
against the government. It was going to be a really tough fight for them.
It was going to play out in public. There probably going to be some people
sympathetic to Mr. Petraeus in this because he was a general, because he
was a war hero.
And I think what happened was that the Justice Department kind of
looked at this and said, well, we can get a conviction here and we can say
that we enforced the law and we, more or less, didn`t have a double
standard. We held this person to account and we don`t have to go through
with a trial. We can get a guaranteed plea here.
So, I think that`s why we ended up where we did on this.
MADDOW: Michael submitted, reporter for "The New York Times," a very
busy man. Thanks for joining us tonight. I appreciate your help with
SCHMIDT: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: All right. We got much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
Including, keeping an eye on the expected live speech from Hillary
Clinton from Washington, only her second public speech this year as she
mounts an anticipated run for the presidency. Al Franken is at the podium
right now. We`re keeping an eye for the start of Secretary Clinton`s
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Reince Priebus has a deal for you.
Dear friend, by nature America is a nation of leaders, pioneers, and
trailblazers. We`re not a nation that leads from behind. Blurs the lines
or backs down from our principles. Quote, "That`s why we are bringing back
the official Cheney cowboy hat."
Friend, that`s right. For a donation of $72 to the National
Republican Party, you can get the exclusive Vice President Dick Cheney
cowboy hat, especially engraved with his signature and lined with the
Order now. It sold out when they first put it out in December, but
now it`s back. If you`re still trying to decide whether you want the
official Republican Party Dick Cheney cowboy hat, you could see the real
thing in action in fashion this week. Dick Cheney was at the U.S. Capitol
yesterday wearing the aforementioned hat prepping Republicans for Israeli
Just in case you forgot what it was like to live in an era of
Republican cowboy foreign policy, Dick Cheney brought the prop to the
Capitol to make the remainder all more explicit.
That story is next. Yee-haw!
MADDOW: This was September 2nd, 2002. So, it was a year and a day
after the 9/11 attacks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Answered, with no
question whatsoever that Saddam is seeking and is working and is advancing
towards the development of nuclear weapons. No question whatsoever.
Saddam is hell-bent on achieving atomic bombs -- atomic capabilities as
soon as he can. I believe that even free and unfettered inspections will
not uncover these portable manufacturing sites of mass death.
REP. DAN BURTON (R), INDIANA: Your statement, which is very eloquent,
boils down to one thing, and that is, do we react to another attack on
America after hundreds of thousands or millions of lives have been lost, or
do we preempt that kind of action from happening in the first place?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Spoiler alert -- we preempt it. We invaded Iraq. And none
of the nonsense you just heard that about Saddam Hussein turned out to be
In 2002, when House Republicans invited Israel`s Benjamin Netanyahu to
testify as an expert witness about Iraq, he was a former Israeli prime
minister at the time. He was just there speaking as a private citizen.
They just asked him there to give his expert opinion, an expert on why the
U.S. had to start a preemptive war of choice against Saddam Hussein and
Iraq, or as he explained, it would be the end of the world. That was 2002.
Today, House Republicans asked him back to make the case again about
the end of the world. This time, though, he sees it coming from Iran.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NETANYAHU: That deal will not Iran from developing nuclear weapons,
it would all but guarantee that Iran gets those weapons, lots of them.
Iran could have the means to deliver that nuclear arsenal to the far
reach corners of the earth, including to every part of the United States.
The Middle East would soon be crisscrossed by nuclear trip wires. A region
where small skirmishes contribute to big wars would turn into a nuclear
We`ll face a much more dangerous Iran, a Middle East littered with
nuclear bombs, and a countdown to a potential nuclear nightmare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, this time, he`s in the United States as a serving Israeli
prime minister. So, this time, he got to speak at the podium alone instead
of at the witness table.
Because Prime Minister Netanyahu is running for reelection in two
weeks, President Obama did not meet with him in this trip to Washington.
There`s a long-standing White House policy not to meet with political
leaders right before those leaders face an election at home.
But the sheer political spectacle of this speech in Congress today, of
House Republicans inviting a foreign head of state to speak at the U.S.
Capitol for the express purpose of undermining the president`s ability to
carry out his foreign policy, the sheer spectacle of this unprecedented
pledge of allegiance to a foreign head of state as a means of insulting and
undermining our own president -- that has really never happened before.
So, that made today a very big day in terms of Washington news. That
also made today a great day in Washington to bury other news about
Congress, news that on any other day would be screaming from its own
headlines. But today, look at the teeny tiny little "AP" story is that
crossed the wires just shortly before the big Netanyahu speech. Quote,
"GOP says House to vote Tuesday on yearlong bill to fund homeland security
additions." Oh, that happened.
House Republicans threw a months-long tantrum saying they would force
President Obama to bend to their will by holding hostage the Homeland
Security Department. They would never agree to fund homeland security.
President Obama would be forced to capitulate. That`s been going on for
That collapsed today. And once again they had to turn to the
Democrats to bail them out. Republicans are in chaos. Republicans are now
running attack ads in each other`s districts over this. They`re
threatening to unseat Speaker Boehner over this, the conservative media is
apoplectic about this.
But their own strategy collapsed. And Democrats had to come rescue
John Boehner once again. And the Homeland Security Department, it turns
out, is going to be fine because the Republicans in Congress really did
collapse on this thing they`ve been raging about for months.
But it happened on our once every 13 years what we need it or not
Netanyahu/end-of-the-world speech day. So, the headlines ran for 30
seconds and then they got swallowed by this much bigger news cycle.
John Boehner is having terrible trouble with his own Republicans in
Congress. Today was a terrible failure for him in Congress. But his
failure, at least, had great timing. And that can never be underestimated
MADDOW: Scheduling note. This is a big one. Tomorrow morning, the
United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case that could
dismantle all of health reform in one fell swoop. Depending on how the
court eventually rules on this case, 6 million Americans could lose their
health insurance in this case for which the oral arguments are tomorrow.
The big case a couple years ago about the health reform law where John
Roberts surprised everybody by upholding Obamacare`s constitutionality, the
same litigants, the same oral arguers, the same lawyers will be there in
the courtroom tomorrow arguing this part of the law.
Those oral arguments start at 10:00 a.m. We`re going to be doing this
show live tomorrow from the nation`s capital on what is going to be a very
high stakes for the country -- very high stakes day for the country and for
the biggest policy legacy of this president and his presidency, tomorrow a
very high stakes day.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Good evening, Lawrence.
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