JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Today, we spend the hour looking at the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump, a candidate who ran on a platform of open bigotry, threats against immigrants and Muslims and blatant misogyny. Over the weekend, Trump held meetings with finalists for high-level Cabinet positions at his golf resort clubhouse in New Jersey. Reporters questioned Trump as retired Marine General James Mattis, who is considered a strong contender for defense secretary, left the facility.
DONALD TRUMP: Really efficiently, very good, tremendous talent. We’re seeing tremendous talent, people that—as I say, we will make America great again. These are really great people. These are really, really talented people.
REPORTER 1: Do you see the Cabinet being shaped by [inaudible]?
DONALD TRUMP: Yes, partially.
REPORTER 1: Will you be announcing any—
DONALD TRUMP: We’re doing this again tomorrow.
REPORTER 2: Is General Mattis going to be secretary of defense?
DONALD TRUMP: Well, we think he’s a great guy. I mean, he’s some—he is some great man.
DONALD TRUMP: You will hear some things tomorrow, I think.
REPORTER 3: Governor Pence, what are your thoughts, Governor Pence?
VICE PRESIDENT–ELECT MIKE PENCE: Great day.
REPORTER 4: Does Bridgegate disqualify Governor Christie from being in your Cabinet, sir?
DONALD TRUMP: We like Chris a lot.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Retired Marine General James Mattis is a former commander of United States Central Command and one of several names being floated for secretary of defense. Other possible nominees include Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, who saw combat in Iraq and Afghanistan as an infantry officer, and national security adviser under George W. Bush, Stephen Hadley.
Later in the broadcast, we’ll examine other potential members of Trump’s Cabinet, but first we turn to his incoming vice president, Mike Pence, who is often portrayed as a counterbalance to Trump and called a, quote, “bridge to the establishment.” But our guest today says there’s every reason to consider him even more terrifying than President-elect Trump. The Intercept‘s Jeremy Scahill writes that Pence’s ascendance to the second most powerful position in the U.S. government is a, quote, “tremendous coup for the radical religious right. Pence—and his fellow Christian supremacist militants—would not have been able to win the White House on their own. For them, Donald Trump was a godsend.”
On Friday, Pence attended a performance of the Broadway hit Hamilton in New York City. At the end of the show, actor Brandon Victor Dixon, who plays Aaron Burr in the rap musical about America’s Founding Fathers, had a message for Pence.
BRANDON VICTOR DIXON: You know, we had a guest in the audience this evening. And, Vice President-elect Pence, I see you walking out, but I hope you will hear us just a few more moments. There’s nothing to boo here, ladies and gentlemen. There’s nothing to boo here. We’re all here sharing a story of love. We have a—we have a message for you, sir, and we hope that you will hear us out. And I encourage everybody to pull out your phones and tweet and post, because this message needs to be spread far and wide, OK?
Vice President-elect Pence, we welcome you, and we truly thank you for joining us here at Hamilton: An American Musical. We really do. We, sir, we, are of the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us. All of us. Again, we truly thank you for sharing this show, this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds and orientations.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Donald Trump later took to Twitter to demand an apology from the cast of Hamilton, saying, quote, “Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!”
In Pence’s first round of Sunday show interviews since the election, he said he wasn’t offended by the remarks and that Trump would be a president, quote, “for all Americans.” Later, in an interview on CBS’s Face the Nation, Pence was asked whether Trump would reinstate waterboarding as an interrogation technique during his administration. This was his response.
VICE PRESIDENT–ELECT MIKE PENCE: We’re going to have a president again who will never say what we’ll never do. I think, in President-elect Donald Trump, you have someone who believes that we shouldn’t be telling the enemy what our tactics or our strategies are. And I know that in conversations with some leading Americans about—about playing roles in our administration, we’re very excited about Congressman Pompeo’s role at the CIA, we’re very excited to see General Mike Flynn stepping into his leadership position. The team that we assemble, the president-elect assembles at the Department of Defense will all advise him, but the American people should know that this is a—this is a president who, on day one, January 20th, is going to focus on defeating and destroying ISIS at its source and confronting radical Islamic terrorism so it can no longer threaten our people or inspire violence here in the homeland.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Vice President-elect Mike Pence speaking Sunday on Face the Nation.
Well, for more, we’re joined by Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of The Intercept, where his most recent article is headlined “Mike Pence Will Be the Most Powerful Christian Supremacist in U.S. History.” His latest book is The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Jeremy.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Good to be with you, Juan.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: All right, let’s start with Mike Pence now, extensive articles you’ve been doing on him, particularly your main concern about him as the new vice president.
JEREMY SCAHILL: I’ve been covering Mike Pence for almost a decade, and my initial gateway into covering Pence is because he was one of the candidates that received the most funding from Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, who during the Bush-Cheney years operated what amounted to a Christian supremacist neo-Crusader militia. And Pence was actually the member of Congress that invited and welcomed and threw a party for Erik Prince in the aftermath of the Nisoor Square massacre in Baghdad in 2007, when Blackwater operatives killed a dozen and a half Iraqi civilians, including small children. So, Pence sort of was on my radar because of looking at who Erik Prince and his family were funding.
You look at Pence’s evolution as a political figure, and in many ways it is the story of how the radical religious right gained such prominence and now is in an unprecedented position to wield power. Some may say, “Oh, well, wasn’t George W. Bush the same mentality?” These guys are more extreme than George Bush on issues of religion, on issues of women’s right to choose, on immigrant rights, on gay marriage—a slew of issues. I mean, they really make Dick Cheney look like a reasonable guy on some of these policies. And, in fact, Mike Pence says that Cheney is one of his mentors and examples and whose footsteps he wants to follow in as vice president, combined, though, with a really radical Christian agenda. Mike Pence—
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well—
JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: When you say Christian supremacist, as opposed Christian fundamentalist, what’s the—
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, part of what I write—well, so, part of what I was doing with this article was playing with the way that so many people have used these terms to describe people that are perverting the religion of Islam in the name of ISIS or al-Qaeda, etc., and I sort of did it as a social experiment, and I got inundated with people demanding that I retract these labels. And some of those people, in their emails to me, actually use these same terms to describe the religion of Islam.
So, but what I’m getting at is that Mike Pence is not just against gay people being together in a relationship; he wants to legislate a ban on those issues. He wants to repeal Roe v. Wade. As he said, he wants to put it in the ash heap of history. Their primary agenda, on a social level, is basically taking us back to medieval times when it comes to the rights of women, the rights of immigrants, the rights of the poor, the humanhood of all of these sort of vulnerable, targeted groups.
And, you know, Mike Pence, his personal history is interesting. He was raised in an Irish Catholic, Kennedy Democrat household, and then he was converted, on the spot, at a Christian music festival in Kentucky while he was in college. And he sort of now describes himself as an evangelical Catholic. But his sort of intellectual role models within this, what I call a Christian supremacist world, are people like the famed radical right-wing Catholic priest Richard Neuhaus, who was an evangelical and converted to being a Catholic, Gary Bauer and James Dobson, you know, ferocious right-wing, anti-woman activists. These are the people that sort of populate the world that Mike Pence comes out of. And Pence has always been viewed as one of the prized warriors of the radical religious right.
In Indiana, his state was one of the most—had one of the most restrictive, draconian rules on abortion, in the criminalizing of abortion. He actually tried to ram through a law that would have required fetal tissue or fetuses that were aborted to receive a proper burial. And, you know, a judge intervened, a federal judge intervened, the day before this was to take hold, and said this is quite likely unconstitutional. He denied—he held up HIV medication and treatment funding, trying to put on it a requirement that it come with a therapy that would preach against the evils of gay sex. He has said that he believes that the only safe sex is no sex, and he chided former Secretary of State Colin Powell for suggesting that people should use condoms when having sex.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I want to turn to—Indiana Governor Mike Pence cut funding to Planned Parenthood, resulting in the closing of clinics. Pence has also called for ending all federal funding to the organization. This is him speaking in 2011.
REP. MIKE PENCE: The time has come to deny all federal funding to Planned Parenthood of America. I’ve authored the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, which would deny Title X funds to Planned Parenthood or any other abortion provider. And Congress must act, and act now, to move this important legislation. Pro-life Americans and all Americans should not be forced to subsidize America’s largest abortion provider or to continue to provide federal taxpayer dollars to Title X clinics that engage in this abhorrent behavior.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Mike Pence in 2011. Plan Parenthood has called Vice President-elect Mike Pence, quote, “the anti-women’s health crusader,” noting that Pence has already passed extreme anti-abortion, anti-Planned Parenthood, anti-LGBTQ laws. Since the election, the group says it has received 20,000 donations made from its supporters in the name of Mike Pence. This is Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards speaking to MSNBC after the election.
CECILE RICHARDS: Our doors stay open, and they will. And it has been kind of extraordinary, as you said. We have supporters—thousands of supporters from around the country took to social media last night immediately. Folks have been dropping off baked goods at our health centers. But also, one of the most interesting things has been the number of women who have called and made appointments for birth control, IUDs, things that are covered now by the Affordable Care Act at no cost, because they are, of course, concerned that Donald Trump will follow through on his pledge to overturn the Affordable Care Act. So we are seeing lots of new patients coming in to our—in to our health centers.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood, responding to some of the positions of Pence. But, Jeremy, very little of this made its way into the public discussion during the campaign season of Pence’s stance on a lot of these issues. He was portrayed sort of as the more reasonable, more establishment figure compared to Trump. Your—
JEREMY SCAHILL: Oh, yeah, even like liberal pundits and major newspapers have sort of referred to him as like the adult in the room, and this is going to be the reasonable guy who will be able to have a conversation with the Democrats. I mean, Mike Pence is anything but reasonable. I mean, this is a guy who has a militant agenda against women, against the poor, against immigrants. But also, remember, he is going to be running both domestic and foreign policy, according to Donald Trump Jr. Now, the Trump campaign walks that back and says, “Oh, we didn’t say that.” I think it’s very likely they did say that. And that becomes extremely important when you look at the composition of the Supreme Court right now. You know, the Republicans have effectively stopped Obama from putting Merrick Garland in as a Supreme Court justice. We have the potential for these guys to be putting in two, maybe more, Supreme Court justices. The court will tilt as sharp to the right as it’s been certainly in our lifetime and could actually raise the prospect of a full attempt to criminalize abortion.
Just quickly, also, on foreign policy, you know, Mike Pence is an extremely hawkish neocon when it comes to redrawing maps in the Middle East. He is now coming to terms with the fact that he loves torture. He was one of those Republicans who was sort of saying John McCain is right on this; now he’s walking that back. The strategy that they’ve said they’ll employ against ISIS is just like bomb the blank out of them, as Donald Trump put it.
Mike Pence, though, is an interesting guy. The few areas where I actually think he has decent policy ideas, he’s now slowly backing away from them. One is, Mike Pence was one of the only members of Congress to support a shield law for journalists to protect confidential sources. And Mike Pence actually had a very strong position on that. The language of the bill that they ended up putting forward, that of course did not pass, was weak in its exceptions for national security, which is what they use against, well, The Intercept and other places to conduct surveillance on journalists. But it was there. He also has walked back his opposition to warrantless wiretapping. In the state of Indiana, he tried to require probable cause in order for local law enforcement to use Stingray surveillance devices against people. But he wants a permanent PATRIOT Act, and he doesn’t want federal law enforcement to have a warrant. So, on these issues where he may have had some logical, sane policy ideas, Trump has all but destroyed that. And Pence is now a foot soldier in this lunatic agenda, that joins his own lunatic agenda. So, it’s kind of like the worst of both worlds from the right.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And quickly, on Israel-Palestine? Because Trump, at least in the debates, seemed to be offering a more balanced approach to Israel-Palestine. Your sense?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah, no, I mean, Mike Pence has suggested that the United States should pass a law, or pass a resolution, rather, supporting an Israeli attack on Iran, should they decide to do that.
You know, Pence, also, on climate change, I call him sort of climate change curious. He once said it was a fraud and wrote that, and that was part of his political campaign, was to say climate change is a total myth, and it’s a fraud. Now he’s sort of saying, “Well, yeah, I guess that human actions and pollution contribute to this, but I don’t want us to do anything about it, because jobs.” You know, there’s this whole thing about Trump restarting coal. First of all, they’re lying to those workers, you know, that they’re going to be reopening this booming coal industry. You know, for reasons that have nothing to do with the environment, they’re going to lose that. But to have a—to have two people running this country who have either dog-whistled or blatantly said that climate change is a hoax bodes very, very dim for the prospects of our environment and the world that we’re going to leave our children and our grandchildren.
It’s a frightening administration on a number of levels, because it combines the buffoonery of Trump’s public persona with nuclear weapons and being the most powerful economic force in the world right now, second maybe to China, with this radical right-wing Christian supremacist agenda. They want to wipe out Muslims. That’s the clearest definition of a religious supremacy: You want to wipe out another people because of their religion. ANd Pence is in good company in the emerging Cabinet in terms of viewing Islam as an ideology that needs to be exterminated, along with its followers.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Juan González, in for Amy Goodman. Amy is on assignment. We turn now to look at the rest of the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump. Last week, Trump made three key announcements to his Cabinet. He offered Lieutenant General Michael Flynn the position of national security adviser. Flynn is well known for his anti-Muslim worldview, having called Islam a “cancer” and saying, quote, “fear of Muslims is rational,” unquote. The position of national security adviser does not require Senate confirmation. Flynn served as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency under President Obama, during which time some of his subordinates invented the term “Flynn facts” to refer to the false claims Flynn frequently made, including claiming Sharia law was spreading in the United States.
On Friday, Kansas Congressmember Mike Pompeo was named as CIA director. Pompeo has opposed closing Guantánamo Bay prison. In 2013, he visited the notorious U.S. prison and said of the prisoners who were on hunger strike, quote, “It looked to me like a lot of them had put on weight.” He’s also a vocal opponent of the Iran nuclear deal.
And in one of his first appointments, Trump selected Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions to be attorney general. Sessions is a former prosecutor who was elected to the Senate in 1996. As a senator, he’s consistently supported anti-immigration legislation. In 2010, he was a leading proponent of the efforts to repeal the 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to everyone born in the United States. Sessions has also been a vocal opponent of the Voting Rights Act. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan nominated Sessions for a federal judgeship, but he was denied confirmation because of his history of racist comments, including reportedly saying he thought the Ku Klux Klan, quote, “was OK until I found out they smoked pot,” unquote.
Well, for more, we’re still joined by Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of The Intercept.
Jeremy, welcome back. Talk to us about these appointments from Friday, the three key security—defense and security appointments.
JEREMY SCAHILL: I mean, first of all, one thing that’s, I think, really interesting is that Trump is putting together his own version of a “team of rivals.” They’re rivals of President Obama when it comes to some of these military people. You have General Flynn. You have General Mattis, who—a former Marine Corps general who very well may be the secretary of defense. And then you have Admiral Mike Rogers, current head of the NSA, that may end up being the director of national intelligence. All of these people ended up in direct conflict with President Obama over key issues that Trump and Pence have sort of touted. And we’ll get to that in a moment.
With the issue of—starting with General Mike Flynn, I’ve followed Flynn’s career for a very long time. Flynn is actually a very fascinating character. You know, his social media presence, I think, gives the impression that he’s just kind of a hateful buffoon. Flynn actually is a very important figure in the evolution of dirty wars post-9/11. Flynn was the intelligence chief for General Stanley McChrystal when McChrystal was the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, which effectively operated as a kind of Praetorian Guard for the most sensitive operations being ordered by the White House under Bush and Cheney. You know, they killed their way through Iraq. They had set up a notorious prison called Camp Nama in Baghdad. Later, when Flynn and McChrystal really were rolling their sleeves up, they moved it the Balad Air Base. And Flynn and McChrystal were really credited with taking the strategy that in order to fight a force like al-Qaeda, you have to think like them. And so they started doing a lot more house raids, this intelligence leads to that intelligence, pre-emptive strikes. Flynn, himself, would personally sit in on the interrogations that were being conducted of prisoners, and there were wide allegations of abuse and torture at Camp Nama in Baghdad and then later at Balad, where Flynn was. He then went on to—with McChrystal, to Afghanistan, under President Obama, where they did their surge there and then implemented the same kind of sort of systematic, mathematical kill operation that they had built up in Iraq.
And then, you know, Flynn, at the Defense Intelligence Agency, ended up sort of being a nightmare of a footnote for Flynn’s career, in his own eyes. And you did have this business about him, you know, looking with a radical anti-Islam ideology at intelligence, which defeats the whole purpose of having people head an intelligence agency. And just so listeners understand, the DIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, is the military’s equivalent of the CIA. And Under Donald Rumsfeld, when he was defense secretary, Rumsfeld really started encroaching on the areas that were typically the sovereign realm of the CIA. And that started this battle that we still see to this day where the CIA and the Pentagon are diving into each other’s—dipping into each other’s territory.
What I think we’re going to see with someone like Mike Pompeo, if he ends up being the CIA director, first of all, just on a side note that relates to the work we do at The Intercept, Pompeo basically has said that he thinks Edward Snowden should be killed and that he is a treasonous traitor and that he supports domestic surveillance operations, including against American citizens. He has a very strong anti-civil liberties background. And that’s why he’s getting praise from people like General Michael Hayden and others. Democrats also are speaking positively about him. He’s another adult in the room, Juan, like we were talking about Mike Pence.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Right.
JEREMY SCAHILL: “Mike Pompeo, OK, he’s an acceptable guy. He’s one of us. We know that we can do business with him.” But the business these guys are going to do is bringing back a full-blown torture operations. It’s not that under Obama the CIA wasn’t engaged in horrifyingly—horrifying activities of questionable legality. It’s that with Bush and Cheney it was like they wore it on their sleeves, and it was sort of the—you know, Cheney’s obsession with we have to use forces on the dark side, that’s all coming back into power right now.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you—Kansas Congressmember Mike Pompeo has opposed closing Guantánamo Bay. In 2013, he visited the notorious U.S. prison and said of the prisoners who were on hunger strike, quote, “It looked to me like a lot of them had put on weight.” He’s also a vocal opponent of the Iran nuclear deal. This whole issue of Guantánamo, which Obama has been trying to close, and at least whittling down to a small number, but still not closing it.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah, and, I mean, it’s one of the great failures of the Obama presidency. The Republicans outplayed Obama on the issue of Guantánamo. And I think their game plan was as long as there’s like at least one prisoner there by the time the Maoist, socialist, you know, black Kenyan gets out, then we can go back to game on. There are several of Trump’s either appointees or people that he’s considering that have said the only problem with Guantánamo is that there aren’t enough bodies there. And, you know, what’s interesting about Flynn, Pompeo and Guantánamo, Flynn actually has been an interesting critic of the president’s drone strike program. Now, it’s not that Flynn isn’t in love with killing people around the world. He definitely believes in pre-emptive strikes and targeted killings, you know, assassinations. But Flynn has said, by killing these people, we’re losing an opportunity to get valuable intelligence; what we need to do is ship them to black sites again, what we need to do is bring them to Guantánamo—big supporters of the military tribunal system.
So, I think what we’re going to see is that Obama has blessed these men—and it’s all men right now—with the gift of legitimizing drone strikes and making a legal argument as to why it’s OK to assassinate American citizens, combined with his failure to close Guantánamo, means that these guys are going to combine the worst aspects of what Obama has done, and using his credibility to legitimize it with liberals, and the worst aspects of the Bush-Cheney doctrine. It really is kind of unprecedented that this kind of a cabal has this much power, controlling both houses of Congress, the White House and an ability to run the deck in making a Supreme Court that is extraordinarily, almost unprecedented in its right-wing nature.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, on Saturday, former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney reportedly met with Donald Trump, as well, to discuss foreign policy amidst speculation that Trump is considering him as a possible pick for secretary of state. Trump is reportedly also considering former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton as his secretary of state.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That’s quite a trio there. Can you talk about these three and the possibility of one of them being secretary of state?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, you know things are bad when you’re rooting for Mitt Romney to be named as secretary of state. I mean, I don’t even know which of these people would be a worse disaster. I mean, you have Rudy Giuliani. First of all, Giuliani has a lot of questions to answer, and going in front of a Senate and having to talk about money his firm took from Qatar, talking about the fact that he gave paid speeches in front of a State Department-designated terror organization, the MEK, which, also Howard Dean and others are connected to—it’s a bipartisan love fest with this particular cult. You know, Giuliani’s record in New York, he’s sort of thought of as America’s mayor because of 9/11. You know, you and I remember what it was like in New York. I mean, this was a guy who developed a very close relationship with the FBI and the CIA targeting Muslim communities. His police force was empowered to shoot at will against black people on the streets of New York. I don’t know how else to say it. I mean, you look at what happened to Amadou Diallo, who was shot at 41 times by special units of the police force. You had the torture of Abner Louima in—you know, I remember you were there and interviewed Abner Louima. I mean, people have to understand that the tone Giuliani set in New York City is not about, “Oh, America’s mayor.” This was a guy who believed that police forces should be agents of war, of urban war. And for all of the bragging he’ll do about how he cleaned up New York, you look at the tactics that Giuliani used and think of those in the emerging landscape we see with the paramilitarization of law enforcement, Giuliani as either as a secretary of state or as a homeland security director is a terrifying prospect.
John Bolton, who, you know, sort of cut his teeth as an assistant attorney general under Reagan, was most known for trying to stifle the Iran-Contra investigation into Oliver North, arms for hostages, the funding of the Contra death squads in Nicaragua. And so, you look at that, and you say, “How bad could Mitt Romney be?”
So, we’ll see what happens, Mike Pence is indicating that Mitt Romney is the leading candidate. But, you know, Trump is running this basically like The Apprentice. And, you know, remember Obama, he met Hillary Clinton in secret in the firehouse annex at the airport in Washington, D.C. They kept the whole thing down low. And Trump is putting—he’s telegraphing all of this stuff and picking the most—I think he’s floating a balloon, too, naming some people he knows will never pass Senate confirmation. But it’s sort of like messaging that he does with the Ku Klux Klan and the white supremacists, white nationalist groups. It’s sort of like, “These are the kind of people I like. Oh, we’ll have Romney here, but Bolton really is our kind of guy.” And I think that there’s some of that happening, too, with the way Trump is running this.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But the—if he did name Romney as his secretary of state, there’d be real issues as to whether they could be on the same—on the same game plan, isn’t it?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah, I mean, I think that when it comes to the military figures, Trump is sort of in awe of the generals, and I think that he’s going to be a very malleable figure when it comes to people like General Flynn, General Mattis, Admiral Rogers. You know, he’s sort of, “All praise the wise military men.” When it comes to secretary of state, if it is Romney—he basically is doing it almost as a throwaway ambassadorship of sorts. And I think it’s meant to be a kind of chit thrown to, you know, the Republican establishment. But if you have a disempowered secretary of state and, basically, you’re just running everything by fiat, which it seems like Trump will do, then it really is just a token appointment, if it’s Romney. It’ll be interesting. If he puts a Giuliani or a Bolton there, then you’re going to have someone who, A, is a loose cannon, but, B, really knows how to effectively be a bad person globally and in their cities.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, we haven’t talked about Mattis—
JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —and the potential of Mattis for secretary of defense.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, remember, Mattis, there was this move to draft Mattis—”Mad Dog” Mattis, as he’s called—whose most recent post, he was the commander of U.S. Central Command and was fired by President Obama for speaking openly or critically about the Iran deal and questioning some of the Obama administration’s motives.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But he also played a key role in the initial invasion of Iraq.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah. Oh, yeah.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And then in the battle of Fallujah, right?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Right, so, Mattis—Mattis was the commander who encircled Fallujah in the—in advance of the first siege of Fallujah in March of 2004. That was then—it was sparked by the killing of these Blackwater—Blackwater somehow manages to seep into everything—but the killing of four Blackwater guys in Fallujah. And, you know, Mattis, though, has said, speaking about his time commanding forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, that sometimes it’s fun to shoot people, and talking specifically about people that were resisting U.S. occupations. But he has a very sort of golden reputation within the hawkish militarist world. And there was a move to draft him to actually run for president. I think, as defense secretary, he would be—I think he’s less of a neocon than some of these other people, but he definitely believes in the iron fist of U.S. militarism. He definitely would be one of the more sophisticated military figures that Trump is speaking to.
Also, Mattis, it should be noted, he intervened and was able to get clemency or free a variety of people that were involved with the Haditha massacre in Iraq, where 20-something Iraqis were massacred, and other war crimes. He actually intervened and got some of the soldiers out or got them actually cleared in the aftermath, including in the aftermath of their convictions. So, you know, Mattis, everyone says, “Oh, he’s a general’s general.” That was the thing that Trump said about him. What do they mean by that? Well, part of what people in the military would mean is, there is no real crime when you kill civilians in war. There’s just sort of mistakes in the moment, fog of war. And, you know, that’s kind of disturbing, given that the defense secretary is going to be responsible for overseeing all of the armed forces in a world that Trump is committing to unleashing U.S. power with no regard for international law or even some U.S. laws.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, we’re talking with Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of The Intercept, and his most recent article is headlined “Mike Pence Will Be the Most Powerful Christian Supremacist in U.S. History.” His latest book is The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program. We’re going to take a short break, and then we’re going to come back and talk further with Jeremy about what the Trump administration holds for the future, or what we can at least judge from these initial appointments.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Juan González, in for Amy Goodman. Amy is on assignment.
In North Dakota, more than 100 Native Americans and allies fighting the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline have been injured by police who attacked them with rubber bullets, tear gas, mace canisters and water cannons in freezing temperatures Sunday night. The attack began after the water protectors attempted to clear access to a public bridge, which has been blocked by authorities using military equipment chained to concrete barriers. Legal observers with the National Lawyers Guild said multiple people temporarily lost consciousness after being shot. Witnesses say one elder also went into cardiac arrest and was revived on the scene by medics. Many people were treated for hypothermia after being hit by water cannons in freezing temperatures. Water protectors say the police also fired rubber bullets at journalists, shot down drones being used to document the attack. Both the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe sent medical first aid responders. This is Angela Bibens, a lawyer with the Red Owl Legal Collective, speaking in a telephone interview recorded by Dallas Goldtooth Sunday.
ANGELA BIBENS: Right now we’ve seen people who have been maced. They deployed 20 mace canisters in a small area in less than five minutes, to the point where people have lost bowel function. At least one seizure has been witnessed at the front lines by our legal observation team. There have been people vomiting from the exposure to the mace. The water cannon has been mixed with the mace, and so even our legal observers have been exposed and are trying to deal with that while they’re doing up their notes. And canisters were shot at the medic area at the front line. There is at least one woman who has a broken kneecap. At least one elder went into cardiac arrest and was revived through CPR at the front line by medics.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Sunday’s attack comes as water protectors face an increasingly militarized crackdown against the movement to stop the Dakota Access pipeline over concerns the construction will destroy sacred tribal burial sites and that a pipeline spill could contaminate the Missouri River. The state of North Dakota has approved $10 million to police the ongoing resistance. North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple has activated the National Guard. Over 400 people have been arrested during the ongoing protests, and many report being subjected to strip searches while in the Morton County jail in North Dakota.
The water protectors have also faced attacks and surveillance from private security companies working for the Dakota Access pipeline company. On September 3rd, unlicensed private security guards unleashed attack dogs on Native Americans trying to protect a tribal burial site from destruction. The private security firm TigerSwan security is in charge of coordinating intelligence for the Dakota Access pipeline company. TigerSwan has links to the now-defunct mercenary firm Blackwater.
For more, we’re joined by Intercept reporter Jeremy Scahill, who has spent years reporting on private security contractors, including TigerSwan.
Welcome back, Jeremy. What about the situation in North Dakota?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, I mean—well, first of all, let’s remember that we’re speaking a week when there’s the big American holiday, Thanksgiving, and I always think of the slaughter of the indigenous people in this country around this time of year and people like Leonard Peltier, the political prisoner who—unfortunately, it seems like yet another president is going to leave office without pardoning Leonard Peltier. But to watch what we’re seeing come out of the protesters on this—the protectors on this indigenous land, facing down against environmental-destroying companies, you know, really brings home the kind of utter hypocrisy of the narrative about the United States of America. But also, if you look at the way that these indigenous people and their supporters are being treated versus the Bundy ranchers, you know, who didn’t occupy their native land—they went and they took over federal land with weapons and ended up getting acquitted, including of the charges that they were very clearly guilty of, which is all these weapons possession charges—and it makes you wonder, if this is the state of affairs under President Obama, who actually has visited Native reservations and Native territories, what’s going to happen under Trump?
And this firm, TigerSwan, was founded by a Delta Force operative named James Reese and has done voluminous amounts of covert and overt work for the U.S. military in Iraq, in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world. And, you know, you realize that you have this convergence of all that has been so wrong in the post-9/11 world, with these big environment-destroying companies, the stripping even further of indigenous rights, private security forces, the brutality against protesters, the paramilitarization of law enforcement. And now our incoming president—I still feel strange saying that—Donald Trump also has business connections to the pipeline project? Is he going to divest? Is he going to—I mean, like, this is going to go from the level of Obama just being, you know, really bad on these policies to Trump actively trying to make it worse for the environment.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, in a recent interview, the head of the company behind the Dakota Access pipeline, Kelcy Warren of Energy Transfer Partners, said he’s 100 percent confident that Trump will support the completion of the Dakota Access pipeline. Kelcy Warren has donated more than $100,000 to Trump’s campaign, while Trump himself gas between $500,000 and a million dollars invested in Energy Transfer Partners, according to his own disclosures.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Oh, no, and I remember, you know, you and I were talking about this back when—you know, when Cheney was coming in, and then we were talking about Enron, and we were talking about the people that they put on their commission about energy. You know, Trump’s choice of who he’s going to put in as energy secretary or secretary of the interior—they’re even talking about potentially Sarah Palin being the interior secretary. But, you know, I don’t know, was like, you know, Ronald McDonald not available? I mean, it’s really sick, some of the people. You know, putting Mike Huckabee in charge of health and human services, a guy who said that abortion is like worse than the Holocaust? And, I mean, it really feels like we’re watching a not-so-slowly moving train wreck in this country right now.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Or even floating the idea that Joe Arpaio, who’s just been voted out as Maricopa County sheriff, would become head of homeland security.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Right.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Although at 82 years old, I doubt that he wants to come to Washington.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah. It would be an amusing, you know, Senate confirmation hearing. I mean, what’s potentially more likely, but in the same category, is Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee County, who has, you know, said—called Black Lives Matter—he’s African-American himself, but has called Black Lives Matter subhuman, has said that there is no such thing as police brutality, who led the chants of “Blue lives matter” at the Republican National Convention and is a regular on Bill O’Reilly’s show and others on—and Hannity on Fox News.
Juan, one thing I forgot to mention when we were talking about the Cabinet that Trump is putting together on the national security level, we should remember that national security adviser is not Senate-confirmed. And it’s an extraordinarily powerful position that is—has definitions going back to 1947, but basically is like a parallel, unaccountable national security apparatus, and it’s very secretive how it operates, and it’s up to the whims of a particular administration. But also, Flynn and Mattis, if Mattis is to be defense secretary, would require waivers to be issued for them, because you’re not allowed to go from uniform within the last seven years to a civilian position without a waiver from Congress. Why is that? It’s because there has to be chain of command where civilians are directing the military; otherwise, you start to veer into territory of a military dictatorship or a military state. And it seems like that’s part of what Trump actually wants. It could be coincidence that these guys were just recent military people. But you do have to, because it’s Trump, take into account the possibility that he really does want what amounts to a dictatorship of the executive branch, where these policies actually are dictated by the military and not necessarily the civilian chain of command, outside of him and Pence.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I think we have about a minute left, but, Jeremy, I wanted to ask you, in terms of the—you reached out to the Morton County Sheriff’s Office to try to get some information on the private security firms. What happened?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, the Morton County sheriffs, they released documents, internal documents, about their investigation into the dog handlers. And what they inadvertently revealed was that this company, TigerSwan, run by these Delta Force guys, was actually in charge of coordinating the intelligence operations against the protesters.
One word of advice to all the protesters there: Do not believe that your cellphones or your computers are clean and uncompromised. I guarantee you that they’re using the entire suite of surveillance devices. I know that people have been complaining that their cellphones have been down, their internet has been down. That can be caused by surveillance weaponry targeting their devices. It could be because there are so many people using them. But my guess would be that they are using people’s devices, meaning law enforcement and private security, as geo-tracking devices. And people should be very aware that the full CIA/NSA-developed suite of tools that now have made it into the hands of local law enforcement in this country are most certainly trained on those activists and their supporters.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: OK, well, I want to thank you for being with us.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Thanks, Juan.