THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW for September 8, 2016, MSNBC - Part 2



conspiracy theories propagated by the Info Wars web site and notes that the

site`s theories are now entertained at the highest level of American

politics thanks to credible treatment by Donald Trump and his acolytes. A

mistranslation led to incorrect reporting that Russian president Vladimir

Putin described Donald Trump as "brilliant" intellectually, and laments

that the state of politics is such that we even have to care about such a

detail. David Priess, former CIA daily intelligence briefer, talked with

Rachel Maddow about Donald Trump`s bizarre remarks about his intelligence

briefing and the even more bizarre reports of what took place in those

briefings. Breaking news that South Korean officials believe that a

detected seismic event does not have a natural cause but rather is the

result of an underground nuclear test by North Korea.>

Korea; Nuclear Weapons; World Affairs>

Joining us now is David Priess. He`s a former intelligence officer and briefer under former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. He wrote the book on presidential intelligence briefings. It`s called "The President`s Book of Secrets", and he`s been our sort of secret decoder ring for these stories this year.

David, it`s nice to see you again. Thank you for being here.


MADDOW: So I don`t have any inside information as a person who works at MSNBC as to the sourcing of this NBC story, about what happened inside the briefing. Have you ever heard of briefers leaking information from inside those briefings about what happened? Especially contemporaneously, like in the same news cycle.

PRIESS: No, certainly not contemporaneously. And, in fact, not much in terms of the long history of this, long after presidents are gone, the presidents themselves will talk about their briefings and the briefes will do that.

But there is a sense of the sanctity of these briefings where the briefer comes in, the briefer does her job or his job communicating the assessments, and that`s all. There is no policy recommendation. No talking after the briefing about what was discussed and had how it was discussed. That`s unusual.

MADDOW: See, the body language assertion stuck out for me. Because I don`t know what it means to be an intelligence officer giving a briefing like this, and also because it seems like Mr. Trump was reading a lot into what he described as the body language of the briefers.

This idea that he was able to discern from the -- from intelligence officials body language that they were unhappy -- that President Obama didn`t follow their advice and they were unhappy about it. Can I get your reaction to that, broadly speaking?

PRIESS: Yes. On two fronts, that strikes me as odd.

First of all, it`d be unusual for a briefing to be talking in any way, and I include non-verbal communication, in any way about the policy of the sitting president. That`s not the job of intelligence, number one. And it violates the ethic of responsibility of the intelligence officers, to call things like they see it about the foreign situation.

Secondly, as a former intel briefer myself, I can tell you, very few people are more self-aware of how they communicate information. About what they`re saying and what they`re not saying. Because our primary goal is to make sure the message we`re conveying about sensitive issues with big impact, that they`re not misunderstood in any way.

Trying to give some subtle body language to communicate that this isn`t really what I`m saying, but it`s not what I`m not saying, if you know what I`m saying, I don`t understand how one would do that. And, certainly, I don`t understand why one would do that.

MADDOW: David, one last logistical question. One of the things we`ve talked about the last couple times you`ve been here is the number of briefings. It seems like the intent was that each of these candidates would have a single briefing. We know that Trump has had a follow-up briefing.

Because he`s had a second, do you expect Hillary Clinton will also have a second one now?

PRIESS: I suspect she will. If nothing else politically, it gives her the chance to preempt a Trump comment that, well, I`m getting more briefings than she is. She doesn`t care about this.

It might be a good strategy for her to keep the intel briefings going as long as possible, because we keep talking about Donald Trump and the way he`s handling these briefings and what he`s saying about them. That`s pretty rich fodder in this election campaign.

MADDOW: David Priess, former election -- excuse me, former intelligence officer and briefer and author of "The President`s Book of Secrets" -- it`s pleasure to have you here as always, David. Thank you very much.

PRIESS: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more ahead. Lots of news. Presidential news and not presidential news. Stay with us.


MADDOW: If you`re just listening and you`re not looking at your TV, like if you`re washing the dishes or listening on the bus and you`re zoning out and just listening, you have to look at this. You have to look. Visual. Ready?

May I present the USS Zumwalt. Look at that, 610 feet of naval bad assery, seen here cruising out of the bath iron works in Maine. What a strange and amazing looking ship.

The Zumwalt is the most sophisticated destroyer ever built for the U.S. Navy. It`s also most expensive, $4.4 billion for that ship.

Yesterday, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump proposed a huge, huge military buildup for the United States of America, beyond even the most 1980s bellicose dreams of the Ronald Reagan era. As for how we would pay for this massive, massive, massive buildup, including more than 70 new ships for the Navy, more than 80 new planes for the Air Force, 13 new battalions for the Marine Corps, 50,000 new soldiers to the army. How we`d pay for it? Well, he just will. He just will. Zumwaltz for everyone.

We are in this moment where important and serious stuff in American policy is kind of evaporating like bubbles from soda into the politics of this election fight. But one of these important policy things has just been introduced into the presidential fight, and I think it seems likely to stick and I think it`s really important and Richard Engel is here to talk about it, next. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Last night for the first time ever, we got to see both candidates for president participate in a forum devoted to veterans issues, and foreign policy and war and peace. And, yes, it was short and it definitely didn`t get to all the things it could have gotten to. There was a lot of dancing around stuff that should have been straightened out. Yes, yes, yes.

But you know what? We did get something new on a key foreign policy issue that we`d never really got before. And that`s great, because campaigns are supposed to be about debate. And the new thing that got introduced into what ought to be our foreign policy debate is something that is an open and interesting question that people of good faith on both sides can reasonably disagree on.

It`s a real question as to whether or not this is the right way to do it. We`ve now got a concrete proposal. This is what we ought to do.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It is in our national security interest to defeat ISIS, and I intend to make that happen.

MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: Thank you very much for your question.

CLINTON: We`re going after Baghdadi, the leader, because it will help us focus our attention, just like going after bin Laden helped us focus our attention in the fight against al Qaeda.


MADDOW: Interesting. Even as Matt Lauer was trying to wrap her and move to the next question, Secretary Clinton pushing aside the interruption and bringing us this last point. She intends to go after ISIS, but you know what? She intends to go after the named head of ISIS. She names him.

She says, we need to go after Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the same way we went after Osama bin Laden when we were going after al Qaeda. She volunteered the information, she went out of her way to do it and circled back to it this morning in her press conference.


CLINTON: We should hunt down the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, and bring him to justice, just as we did with Osama bin Laden.

As with that operation, getting al Baghdadi will require a focused effort driven at the highest levels. But I believe it will send a resounding message that nobody directs or inspires attacks against the United States and gets away with it.


MADDDOW: Secretary Clinton talks a lot about is. But she is sticking a flag in this tactical, planned pursuit. She`s sticking a flag and going after this leader, right? Reminding everybody of what she said last night, circling back to it and saying it`s important we not only go after ISIS as an organization but that we personally go after the named head of that organization.

OK. Let`s talk about it. Is that a good idea? Substantively, is that a good idea, in terms of how we approach and make our priorities in counter terrorism and the fight against ISIS?

Joining us live from Istanbul, Turkey, is Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent.

Richard, thank you for staying us into the wee hours. I know you did it last night, too, to watch this forum.

Let me just start off by asking you about Hillary Clinton`s pronouncement, whether this is a big deal?

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: No, I don`t think it is a big deal. There is already a campaign to hunt down Baghdadi. I know people involved in the campaign, they very much want to find and kill or capture Baghdadi. I think it`s a way for Hillary Clinton to remind the voters that she was involved in the hunt for bin Laden and that al Qaeda was decimated once bin Laden was killed.

I`m not totally convinced, by the way, that al Qaeda was totally decimated. I think it is a narrative the intelligence community has put out. I`m not at all sure that it`s accurate.

When you see Syria right now, I think we`re in a situation where ISIS could very well be eliminated and what we`ll be left with is a very strong al Qaeda base in Syria.

So, I think she`s trying to remind people of that and put the flag down. Yes, I`m going to kill Baghdadi, just the way I was involved in the death for bin Laden.

But the fact remains, there are more numerically and more dangerous terrorists now in the world on the loose than there were a few years ago, than there were five or six years ago. Whether the death of bin Laden or whether the death of Baghdadi, there are still more and more dangerous terrorists out there now than there were before.

MADDOW: That`s why this seems like a substantively interesting point for her to have raised and kind of stuck this flag in, because there is this count terrorism debate. As to whether or not going after the named guy, going after, you know, the head of the snake, right, picking recognizable in the West targets, people like bin Laden, people like Baghdadi, and focusing resources on that makes sense in terms of counterterrorism strategy in terms of decimating the organizations or whether it`s something that works in the West that`s designed for American public, that it does make the most sense strategically.

ENGEL: Well, there`s both. There is the idea that, sure, you shouldn`t focus on the boogie man and believe that if you eliminate the leader that the problem will go away, the problem of terrorism and anger towards the United States didn`t go away with the death of bin Laden.

But leaders do matter. Some individuals are more skilled than others. If you look at the history of is when it used to be al Qaeda in Iraq. When you killed Zarqawi, when U.S. troops killed Zarqawi, it did set the organization back.

And then, he was replaced. There was another leader named Abu Ayyub al- Masri. You probably don`t remember him very much because he was a terrible leader. There are many in the counterterrorism world that wish he had been left in place because he was so efficient as a leader, and by killing him, this replacement to Zarqawi, we ushered in a new generation of more effective leaders.

So, yes, not all terrorist leaders are created equal and killing the most charismatic ones set the organization. It`s not a silver bullet. I think what she`s trying to do is remind people she was involved in that very symbolic and I think very important decision and very important mission that killed bin Laden. But, the fact remains, there are still ISIS now when there was not ISIS before.

MADDOW: And the symbolic value here is not -- I mean, symbolism is important, strategically and politically here. I hope there is a fight, a robust about this. I think there are lots of different ways to argue this. I feel there was this substantive nugget that came out of last night.

Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent, joining us from Istanbul, tonight, Richard, thank you. It`s great to see you, my friend.

ENGEL: Good to talk to you.

MADDOW: I do -- you know what, with -- in terms of national security issues and veterans` issues and getting those things spot let with this forum. I think it`s worked. I think the campaign turned towards those issues in anticipation of last night`s event.

The question is whether after last night`s events, they end up finding the substantive differences between themselves of the issues that they were asked about and whether or not they get better of tweezing out the differences between them on this stuff, and the issue whether we should be targeting Baghdadi personally is a way of going after ISIS, I would love to hear them fight about that. Please, fight about that. Try that.

All right. More ahead tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Two years ago, September 2014, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell was convicted on multiple felony corruption counts. The court found that the personally engraved Rolex and use of awesome white Ferrari and more than $100,000 in gifts, and cash and loans that were all accepted by Governor McDonnell, court found those were a quid pro quo, that after receiving those things he used the power of his office as governor to tried to help out the businessman who had given him the loot and loan him the car.

Governor McDonnell was convicted on 11 counts, sentenced to two years in prison. But he always maintained his innocence. He appealed his conviction and in June, the Supreme Court threw his conviction out. The court called the governor`s actions tawdry and distasteful, but in a unanimous decision, they said it had not been proven that those tawdry and distasteful actions counted as official corruption.

Since that ruling, it has been up to federal prosecutors to decide what to do next, they`ll decide whether they would try the case again or let it go. A week ago, "The Washington Post" reported that they were going to try it again, that the prosecutors who brought the charges against Governor McDonnell were raring to go. They wanted to charge him again. They want to get, essentially, a second conviction under the terms set out by the Supreme Court.

But that didn`t happen. Today, the Justice Department announced that, no, Governor McDonnell will not be retried. The charges against are dropped.

And with that, we get to the end of the Bob McDonnell saga. But we also lose any clear sense of what does constitute bribery of a public official anymore. If what Governor McDonnell took from this guy and did for this guy in return isn`t corruption, then how would anyone prove bribery by any public official from here on out?

So, watch the space, but particularly watch to see how many currently imprisoned public officials use this Bob McDonnell case now to get their own convictions overturned. I`m telling you, it was a happy today in a lot of minimum prison security blocks.


MADDOW: We`ve got some late breaking news tonight that`s just come to us. Since we`ve been on the air this hour, there are indications tonight that North Korea has conducted an underground nuclear test. South Korean officials say they detected a tremor emanating from North Korea but they described it as an artificially caused tremor, meaning it was not caused by an earthquake. Usually, that means a large explosion caused by a test, corroborating that, the U.S. U.S. Geological Survey said it registered a 5.3 magnitude seismic event out of North Korea.

But again, indications are that this is not a natural earthquake, this is a nuclear test. If confirmed, this will be North Korea`s fifth nuclear test in total, it will set off a whole new round of international recriminations and worries. Their last test was in January of this year. If this is a new one, this is going to be very big news over the next few days.

That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.


Good evening, Lawrence.



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