Interview with Presidential Candidate Steve Bullock. TRANSCRIPT: 5/15/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: And we
need to be focused as much on that as trying to stick to Donald Trump,
understanding that he is a symptom of something bigger than just himself.
And that we need to get rid of him, sure, but this is about the democracy,
it`s about our Constitution. That`s why they need to act.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Aisha Moodie-Mills and Rick Wilson, thank you for
That is ALL IN for this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: The one thing that is as close to exciting as
swearing on TV is narrowly averted swearing on TV. It`s almost as good.
HAYES: Did you see my reaction? Did you see how happy I was that I was
MADDOW: I think you might have put an exclamation point on your reaction.
Well done, my friend.
HAYES: That was swearing with my face.
MADDOW: Thank you, my dear.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Montana Governor Steve Bullock is our guest tonight. He has just joined
the Democratic race for president. You have never seen him on cable news
in this context, although you have seen him on this show before. I`m very
excited to have him here tonight.
Today was the deadline on the subpoena for the Justice Department to hand
over any of the counterintelligence information that was turned up by the
Robert Mueller investigation. The Justice Department as of today appears
to be defying that subpoena, or at least they`re not handing anything over.
Congressman Adam Schiff, the head of the Intelligence Committee, did a sort
of bombshell interview with “The Washington Post” today in which he
suggested that the counterintelligence investigation that was announced by
James Comey in the spring of 2017, that counterintelligence investigation
into potential links between the Russian government and their interference
effort and people associated with the Trump campaign, Schiff suggesting in
this interview today that that counterintelligence investigation appears to
have disappeared, and he and the rest of the intelligence committee at
least have not been able to get any information out of the Justice
Department or the FBI as to whatever happened to that investigation,
whether it continued, whether it was cut off, or what any of its findings
In defying that subpoena to hand over any counterintelligence information
turned up by Mueller, the Justice Department today also appears to be
defying that subpoena by that same committee to hand over the unredacted
version of Mueller`s report and to hand over its underlying evidence. And
it`s one thing to refuse a request. It`s another thing to refuse a
We will see what the result of that is, but this appears to be the Justice
Department again standing in defiance of a lawful congressional subpoena.
So, we`ll see how that resolves. In the short-term puts an even hotter
spotlight on the question of whether or not Robert Mueller himself will
testify to Congress about his findings and his investigation. There
continues to be this strange ambiguity around this seemingly simple
question of whether or not Mueller is going to testify.
The continuing ambiguity around that question has led some observers to
question whether the ultimate aim here might not be just to get Robert
Mueller alone testifying to Congress, but instead to get Robert Mueller and
his team from the special counsel`s office testifying together as a unit as
to what they discovered in their investigation and what they did and what
they turned up, and what they didn`t investigate, which is now becoming an
even more interesting question.
Both Jerry Nadler, chairman of the Judiciary, and Adam Schiff, chairman of
Intelligence, both as of today making sort of increasingly urgent public
claims about that expected testimony from Mueller and/or his team, but
still no apparent movement from the Justice Department on allowing that to
happen. So that is still pending, still out there.
On top of all that today, the White House counsel sent this remarkable
letter to Congress making clear that the Trump White House position is that
they really are planning just to defy all subpoenas. One year of Watergate
is enough. You must stop investigating.
No witnesses will be made available. No testimony will be provided. No
documents will be handed over, nothing. This is their official stance in
writing now from the White House counsel.
We saw them – we saw the president`s private lawyers, counsel for the
president that have been hired to try to keep his taxes and his finances
secret, we saw those lawyers make basically that same argument yesterday in
court in the oral arguments in the Mazars case, that`s where the
president`s lawyers are arguing that the oversight committee can`t
rightfully subpoena financial evidence about the president from his
accounting firm. There was that, you know, sort of strange hearing in
court yesterday when to the judge`s astonishment, the president`s lawyers
argued bluntly that across the board, Congress has no right to investigate
a president for alleged corruption or any alleged crimes.
The judge appeared to be plainly astonished by that claim from the
president`s lawyers yesterday in the Mazars case, but they apparently are
going with that as their argument. Both in court and as their political
argument including from the White House counsel today. It`s the same
grounds on which the White House counsel today said he would refuse to hand
over any witnesses or any testimony at all in any congressional
I mean, this – stepping back from this a second, this does mean that we
are now already at the point in the Trump presidency where between him and
William Barr and his White House counsel, Trump really could shoot somebody
on Fifth Avenue, like he said during the campaign, and not only get away
with it, but nobody could even investigate it. I mean, remember when Trump
said that during the campaign? I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue
and shoot somebody and nobody would – I would get away with it.
I mean, think about that. The attorney general now asserts bluntly that
the president cannot be criminally charged. The attorney general also
asserts that if the president can`t be criminally charged, then he can`t be
criminally investigated either. The attorney general also says that if the
Justice Department is investigating the president and the president
believes that`s bad, the president believe that`s wrong, that he`s been
wrongly accused, he definitely didn`t do anything wrong, nobody should be
looking at me, that`s grounds enough for the president to end that
investigation and fire the investigator.
And now, both the president`s private lawyers and the White House counsel
and the Justice Department in defying the subpoenas, they are all arguing
one way or another that Congress has no right to investigate the president
for corruption or other crimes at all. So, if you can`t be charged, you
can`t be investigated. Anybody who does start investigating you, you can
fire. And oh by the way, Congress can`t investigate you either.
I mean, you really could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot
someone. I mean, I don`t – I don`t know what we the rest of the country
are supposed to do with this new revelation about this view of the
presidency. I guess stay off Fifth Avenue.
But also, you know, look on the bright side. If you have ever, ever
personally had truly epic, truly wicked criminal ambitions for yourself,
now you know what the job is for you. I mean, if you were so lucky as to
get elected president, you could not only by definition not commit any
crimes, you could not be charged. You could not be investigated. You`d be
the freest criminal on earth if you were lucky enough to be elected
president of the United States and if you had Attorney General William Barr
working for you.
So, I mean, clearly that`s not the way America is set up, right? That`s
what they`re trying to argue now. Clearly, that`s untenable. But it just
means that we are in an untenable situation right now, which means there
will be change.
We`ve got these assertions from the White House. We`ve got these subpoenas
from Congress. We`ve got the judiciary now getting involved in the first
time, trying to handle these remarkable claims from the White House about
how they are immune from all scrutiny.
But that`s where we are. Mark this moment in history. That`s where we
So there is a lot going on in the news. As I mentioned, we are going to
have the first live interview in just a moment with the latest Democrat to
announce he is running for president, Montana Governor Steve Bullock. That
is coming up.
But there is one other story that I want to make sure that we get to
tonight at the top, along with some expert help. I want to start with this
map. This is where Republicans have full party control of state
government, 22 red states, 22 Republican-controlled states across the
country the Republicans have control of the House and the state senate and
the governor`s mansion, 22 of those.
By comparison, Democrats have control over just 14 state governments. It`s
true that Republicans did get pummeled in the 2018 midterms, but on the
state level, it`s a different picture. Republicans have really kept a very
stable foothold in a large part of the country.
And in practical terms, that level of state domination by the Republican
Party is starting to have consequences for your rights. For example, a
brand-new total abortion ban in the state of Alabama. This new law that
has now been signed by the state`s governor bans all abortions statewide.
A doctor who performs an abortion in Alabama would face up to 99 years in
There was a big fight before it passed as to whether there would be any
exceptions for women who became pregnant by virtue of rape or incest. The
answer from Alabama legislature was no. Total ban, except I should say the
Republican sponsor of the ban during last night`s debate and vote on the
bill, he did still seem to think there was one exception. But I`ll have to
let him try to explain to you what he thinks it was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE SEN. RODGER SMITHERMAN (R-AL): Does the deal make exception for
patients who are victim of rape? And, of course, I kind of know the
answer. Can you tell me why it doesn`t?
STATE SEN. CLYDE CHAMBLISS (R-AL): It allows for anything that`s available
today is still available up until that woman knows she`s pregnant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Up until the woman knows she`s pregnant – hold on. What? Maybe
this is one of these things that is easy to misunderstand. I mean, what it
sounds like the Republican sponsor of the Alabama abortion ban is saying
here is that a woman will still be allowed to get an abortion in Alabama as
long as she doesn`t know she`s pregnant. I think that`s what he`s saying
here, but that is incomprehensible. Just roll that part of the debate
again. Say it again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SMITHERMAN: Does the bill make exception for patients who are victim of
rape? And of course I kind of know the answer. Can you tell me why it
CHAMBLISS: It allows for anything that`s available today is still
available up until that woman knows she`s pregnant. So there is a window
of time, some say seven day, some say ten. There is a window of time that
every option that`s on the table now is still available.
So she has to take a pregnancy test, she has to do something to know
whether she is pregnant or not. You can`t know that immediately. It takes
some time for all those chromosomes and all that that you mentioned. It
doesn`t happen immediately.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: All those chromosomes and all that, it takes some time for that
voodoo that you do that happens in there. I don`t sweat the details, but
what I`m saying is that you guys are overreacting because any woman in
Alabama will be free to get an abortion as long as she doesn`t know she`s
pregnant yet. So you just go get yourself an abortion every day just in
case, and it`s legal until the moment that you find out you`re pregnant,
and then what you just did is going to put your doctor in prison for 99
I mean, honestly, sponsor of the bill, that`s what they`re arguing here.
You can get abortions, as many as you want, until you know you`re pregnant,
and then you can`t have any more abortions. I mean, I don`t – but if you
want to see the Republican Party`s gobsmacking approach to this, and if you
want to see it get sort of scary fast, he will tell you that later when
that same Republican lawmaker was asked how under his total ban on
abortion, a woman who had a miscarriage could prove that she`d had a
miscarriage and not a criminal felony abortion, his reply was, quote, the
burden of proof would be on the prosecution, not on the female.
The prosecution would have to prove that. So don`t worry. Alabama woman
who has just had a miscarriage with all of the attendant grief and terror
and upset this has caused you in your life, don`t worry if you`ve had a
miscarriage, you`ll be fine, as long as the prosecutor can prove that you
had a miscarriage.
Guess how the prosecutor is going to prove it? Yes, guess. The voodoo in
the chromosomes, who knows?
That total ban on abortion in Alabama passed the Senate last night.
Tonight, the state`s Republican governor signed it into law. This is the
strictest abortion ban to pass the legislature.
But it`s not just happening in Alabama. It is happening all over the
country in all the states where Republicans have full control. This is
what Republicans are doing with their control of state government, right,
including Alabama. We`ve got radical restrictive abortion bans passing at
least one chamber of the state legislature.
So far in already half, already 11 of the 22 states under Republican
control, plus one more in Montana where Republicans control the
legislature, but there the Democratic governor, that Democratic governor,
Steve Bullock, who vetoed one of these anti-abortion bills in his state
last week, he is going to be here in just a moment to talk about his
The Guttmacher Institute tracks abortion legislation. They say they have
never seen anything like what we are seeing this year in 2019. Quote: The
extreme nature of this year`s bills is unprecedented.
But that`s what Republicans, that`s what the Republican Party is doing,
where they have control in the states. They`re not moving anymore to limit
abortion. They`re moving to ban it all together, full stop. It`s
happening all at once in a new radical Republican Party-wide draconian
effort that we have never seen before.
And that sounds unconstitutional, right? Because you`re not supposed to be
able to ban abortion. That would be against the law. That`s, of course,
the entire point here, though. With Republicans being very pleased with
their position on the Supreme Court right now with the Merrick Garland`s
nomination from President Obama having been denied as improper by Mitch
McConnell as the Republican leader in the Senate, and Mitch McConnell
calling that one of his proudest moments in the Senate since the current
president put Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court.
For the first time, conservatives think they`ve got a solid right wing
majority on the high court that will overturn Roe v. Wade as long as they
get the chance. They have to get a law up to the Supreme Court that they
believe will provoke the Supreme Court fight that will go to those five
conservative justices in the way they want to receive that fight so they
can overturn Roe and declare that abortion can be banned in states that are
Republican controlled or that anybody wants to do it across the country.
All these Republican-controlled states this year are tripping over
themselves to try to make it happen. But Alabama so far is in a class by
itself. Lots of other states are trying to ban abortion at six weeks,
which is before women – 90 percent of women wouldn`t even know they were
pregnant. Alabama isn`t even bothering with exceptions for pregnancies
that took place because of rape or incest.
This guy who wrote Alabama`s total and complete abortion ban says bringing
one of those laws was the exception to the Supreme Court right now. He
said that would be a wasted opportunity. He said, quote, why not go all
In response to this Alabama ban, the “New York Times” editorial board
interestingly sort of pulled the ripcord today. I read this as them
“breaking glass in case of emergency”. What “The Times” editorial
published today was essentially a primer for Americans to get ready and
start preparing to live in a post Roe versus Wade America.
They literally published a guide for how to organize with your local
reproductive rights organization, how to become a clinic escort to protect
women who are to go – women going in for what are still available abortion
procedures. How to learn about acquiring abortion pills on your own as you
anticipate your access to a possible abortion being cut off where you live.
Quote: Don`t let abortion rights fade from consciousness as these extreme
laws become America`s new normal.
Joining us now is Dahlia Lithwick. She`s senior editor and legal
correspondent at “Slate”.
Dahlia, thank you for being here.
DAHLIA LITHWICK, SENIOR EDITOR AND LEGAL CORRESPONDENT, SLATE: Thank you.
MADDOW: The theory of the case here is that the Republicans wherever they
have control, they are unleashed because they believe the real competition
here is a beauty contest for the prettiest anti-abortion law that those
five male justices will like the most that will lure them into overturning
Roe. And it`s just a matter of who gets there with just the right pitch,
but it`s going to happen this year.
LITHWICH: Yes, I guess if that were the theory, Alabama is probably not
winning, because what Alabama did was just bonkers. This is not attractive
to John Roberts. This is not attractive to Brett Kavanaugh. This is an
all-out ban, no exceptions for rape or incest. This is a cruel and
heartless deliberate vehicle, but it doesn`t look like anything that the
court would bless, particularly thinking about going into an election year.
The court has a long game, I think. John Roberts has a long game. We know
how he feels. We know I think how the five conservative justices feel
about Roe v. Wade, and we know largely because of how they voted just three
years ago in the Texas abortion case.
But you can do away with Roe with a chip, chip, chip, slow erosion of
rights. You can do it as I think the court had planned to do by just
simply taking tiny incremental steps saying this too is not an undue
burden. You know, we`ll close more clinics. We`ll do what has been
happening in red states for years, right?
Just say nothing is an undue burden. You have to pave the halls with gold,
and that`s OK. And that was a strategy that I think was going to work
eventually at the Supreme Court when Kavanaugh comes on the court.
When Alabama kind of jams the court like it did today and said here`s this
completely crazy ban that doesn`t care at all about the welfare of women,
that forces the court into a position that I don`t think this court wants
to be in.
MADDOW: But you`ve got Ohio, and you`ve got these other states that are
pursuing the next best thing to what Alabama did, which is the six-week
bans. That`s essentially a 90- percent abortion ban because women don`t
know they`re pregnant 90 percent of the time at six weeks. All those
states I think are operating under that same sort of theory of the case
that I was just laying out.
They`re all pushing, as Guttmacher says, it`s not that we haven`t been
seeing lots of abortion restrictions lately. We haven`t seen abortion bans
this complete. Presumably that`s because they think the Kavanaugh court
wants a complete ban. No longer wants to chip away, no longer wants to
make it impossible to access.
They want a ruling that a fetus is a voting adult who you can murder by
exercising your right to choose.
LITHWICK: I think that`s right. And I think that that is – look, there
has been a real split in the pro-life – I`m hesitant to call it that after
MADDOW: Anti-abortion rights.
LITHWICK: Into the anti-abortion community. And the split has been do we
do this fast door we do this slow? And I think there has been a general
consensus for a long time. We`ll do it slow and not force the issue and
not test the court into giving us an adverse ruling that will set us back.
Now, there seems to be some kind of foot race to be the ones to get there
first and to do it in a way that completely disregards I think the fact
that there are already two cases teed up at the court. The court has to
think right now there is a Louisiana case that has functionally the same
admitting requirements that Texas had the court upheld three years ago.
The court is dancing around taking that.
There is an Indiana case before the court that would, again, jam the court
up, but not in a way that is embarrassing, that would allow the court to
continue to essentially say drip, drip, drip, we can make this go away.
MADDOW: So you think these states are wrong? You think they`ve
miscalculated how this court is going to handle these outright bans?
LITHWICK: I think that John Roberts, everything you and I have ever said
about John Roberts, institutionalist, incrementalist, incredibly aware of
public opinion. I think the idea that you`re going to force John Roberts
to do something bonkers in an election year that will motivate women in
ways that we haven`t seen before, I think John Roberts is aware that he can
get exactly the same outcomes by just waiting until Louisiana and Indiana,
those other states do functionally the same thing as a ban.
MADDOW: I don`t know. I – I know you know more things about this than I
do, and I know you understand this better than I do. I don`t know.
I feel like these guys all coordinate. I feel like the pro-life movement
gets these judges elected. I feel like they socialize, they strategize
together at the same events.
I mean, we`ll see. We`ll see. We`ll see. I`m not going to bet you, not
even a beer.
OK. Dahlia Lithwick, great to have you here, Dahlia, Slate.com.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: In 2006, the minimum wage in the state of Montana was $5.15 an
hour – $5.15. That meant if you were working 9:00 to 5:00, eight hours a
day, Monday to Friday, 40 hours a week, you never took a day off, you never
took a sick day, you never took a vacation, you worked five days a week for
52 straight weeks every single week of the year. Cumulatively, you would
make for the year $10,712 as your annual salary, before taxes.
In that state that year, 2006, they decided they would put a measure on the
ballot to raise that state`s minimum wage, raise it from $5.15 an hour to
$6.15 an hour, and then importantly, they would tie the minimum wage to
prices so when prices went up the minimum wage would automatically keep
pace. It would tick up every year. I mean, $6.15 an hour still sucks, but
that ballot measure that year would mean a dollar an hour raise right away
for the lowest paid people in that state, and it would mean the minimum
wage would never fall that far again behind the cost of living.
So, it was 2006, that measure was on the ballot. It won in that state by a
46-point margin. Margin. Seventy-three percent of the state voted for it.
Only 27 percent voted against it. That was a landslide and an avalanche
and a tsunami and all the other metaphors for bigness all piled up on top
of each other.
When a Democrat named Jon Tester that same night took a U.S. Senate seat
away from an incumbent Republican senator that year in Montana, that
surprise victory that night was credited in part to the huge support for
that sorely needed minimum wage increase that was on the same ballot. And
the big turnout boost that came from people who wanted to go to the polls
to vote for it who may also have decided to vote for Jon Tester while they
Well, this was the voter information pamphlet in Montana that year, showing
the argument for that minimum wage hike. It`s $5.15 now. Let`s boost it
to $6.15 and let`s tie to it price hikes.
And you can see down there at the bottom of the page who was behind it, the
director of Raise Montana, the private citizen who that year led that
hugely successful effort to give people a raise in that state was a man
named Steve Bullock who in 2006 was the director of Raise Montana. That`s
what Steve Bullock did for his state in 2006.
Two years later in 2008, he ran for attorney general in Montana. Not easy
for a Democrat to win statewide in a red state in a presidential election
year. Again, that was 2008. John McCain was at the top of the ticket.
The Republican Party carried that state in the presidential race over
Barack Obama, but Steve bullock won his race for attorney general that
year, even as the state went red for the presidency.
Then four years later in 2012, Steve Bullock ran for governor – again, not
easy for a Democrat to win statewide in a red state, again in a
presidential election year. This time the Republican nominee was Mitt
Romney, and Mitt Romney that year carried Montana, won Montana over Barack
Obama by solid double-digits. Nevertheless, that same year, that same
night in 2012, Democrat Steve Bullock won the governorship, even as the
state went red for the presidency again that same night.
Then four years later, 2016, he ran for reelection as governor – again,
not easy for a Democrat to win statewide in a red state, this time again in
a presidential election year. This time it was Republican Donald Trump who
that same election night trounced Hillary Clinton by 20 points in Montana.
But even as the state went that red that night in November 2016, Democrat
Steve Bullock was re-elected governor that same night.
And it`s not like he`s just squeaking by. By some measure, Steve Bullock
is the most popular Democratic governor in the country, and he`s governing
as definitely a Democrat. I will note for the record that now that he is
governor, he now gets the privilege of announcing to the state when the
minimum wage goes up every year because of that battle he led and won with
such a huge margin back in 2006. This was the announcement this year about
Montana`s minimum wage going up again because it is yoked to price
increases. So it keeps pace with inflation.
As a Democratic governor with a very Republican legislature, Steve Bullock
has also figured out a bipartisan way to expand Medicaid in his state.
That got about 100,000 people in his state on to health insurance who
hadn`t previously had it.
And that`s – 100,000? That`s a lot, right, just hearing that as a number.
But considering the fact that that`s 100,000 people in Montana finally
getting health insurance in a state that only has about a million people.
So, that`s – I mean 10 percent of the state gets health insurance through
Medicaid expansion? I mean, that`s a transformation in that state, and he
did it with a Republican legislature.
Bullock also figured out a way to raise spending on public schools. He
figured out a way to freeze college tuition in the state. He figured out a
way to stop ruining people`s lives at the stupid and petty point of the
criminal justice system by no longer letting them seize your driver`s
license if you were late paying a fee or paying a fine.
After Citizens United gutted the no corporate money rule for its elections,
Steve Bullock fought that all the way to the Supreme Court as attorney
general. He then as governor worked with the Republican legislature to
ultimately enact some of the most progressive new campaign finance
protection laws in the country. I mean, that said, it is a red state, and
it`s a really Republican legislature that he`s got.
Steve Bullock is pro-choice. That means he has vetoed approximately one
gazillion efforts at abortion bans and abortion restrictions in the state,
including one as recently as this month. He vetoed Republican efforts to
end same-day voter registration in his state.
After Trump`s FCC repealed Net Neutrality nationwide, Bullock was the first
governor in the country to sign an executive order requiring net neutrality
in his state. He was the first governor to do that, but then other
So, there is this Democrat who keeps finding concrete ways to make progress
in what is nevertheless this really, really red state. That Democratic
governor is as of yesterday now running for president. He is the only
Democratic candidate running who has won a state that Trump won in 2016,
but he has won statewide in that state three times, including on the night
when Trump took his state by 20 nights that night, the election night 2016,
20 to 30 percent of the voters in the state who voted for Trump
nevertheless that same night on that same ticket crossed over and voted for
Democratic Governor Steve Bullock as well.
Now, is that what Democrats are looking for in a presidential candidate
this year? I don`t know. Democrats have every choice imaginable and some
that are unimaginable. At this point, it`s easier to list the Democrats
not running than the ones who are.
But this is what it would look like for them to run Steve Bullock. I mean,
day one of the Republican Congress after the Trump election, as soon as the
Republican Congress came in to start the new Congress at the beginning of
2017, day one they passed a rules package that would make it easier to give
away public lands.
And then they literally put up this bill right off the bat. Look at the
title of it. “Disposal of Excess Federal Lands.”
Disposal, really? They`re excess, public land that`s extra that nobody
needs. It`s just junk. Let`s give it away. Let`s dispose of it.
A huge chunk of the land that congressional Republicans decided in 2017,
decided was excess and should be disposed of, should be given away to
private interest, a huge chunk of that public land they wanted to get rid
of was land in Montana. Here`s what Steve Bullock in Montana had to say
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. STEVE BULLOCK (D-MT): It`s time that we send a message to that floor
of the building that proposes the transfer of our public lands or starting
(ph) to transfer of public lands have no place in this building and no
place in Montana.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
And the beauty is with a crowd like this, not only do we need them to hear
us up here, we need them to hear us all the way to Washington, D.C.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Look, this ain`t about politics, whether you`re Democrat or Republican, a
libertarian, a vegetarian, these lands belong to you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That bright idea right at the start of the Republican Congress in
2017, that bright idea in Washington the take away 3 million acres of
public land in Montana and sell it off, that did not fly. Republicans
thought better of it, shelved it, backed off. You can see why from these
But that was how the Trump era started in 2017 in Montana. Now, Montana
Governor Steve Bullock wants to run against Trump to get him out of the
White House in 2020. Governor Bullock joins us live here next.
MADDOW: Joining us now here for the interview is Steve Bullock. He is the
governor of Montana. He is the newest contender in the very large
Democratic presidential primary.
Governor, thank you so much for making the trip. Good to have you here.
BULLOCK: Rachel, it`s good to be here, for sure.
MADDOW: So you are joining the race as either number 22 or number 23.
MADDOW: Thirty-seven or 40.
BULLOCK: At this point. Yes.
MADDOW: And people are looking differently at the 22nd candidate –
BULLOCK: Yes, yes.
MADDOW: – than they might have been at the second candidate. And why did
you wait this long to get in?
BULLOCK: Yes, because fundamentally, I would have loved to get in earlier,
but I have a job to do. I have a 6 percent Republican legislature. I had
medication expansion reauthorization, 100,000 Montanans lives were at stake
for me to get that through. Had freezing college tuition. Had a foreign
dark money ban that few other states have passed.
I signed my last bill just Monday.
BULLOCK: And now, it`s Tuesday and here I am with you. So I really
couldn`t have – if I was going to do my job, I think it would have been
that much more difficult to get some real difficult things through this
time if I was here with you instead of with people in Montana. So I get
that I`m late into it. But thing is a lot of room for me to do some things
MADDOW: Am I right that the legislature meets like 90 days every two
years? Like it`s a pretty tight time frame.
BULLOCK: Ninety days or – yes, 90 legislative days every two years.
MADDOW: Why has the Democratic Party never, ever, ever elected –
nominated a westerner president? I mean, LBJ, Texas, yes. But that`s as
close as you get.
BULLOCK: You bet, yes. You know, I don`t know if it`s in part population,
in part, there is a bias towards the coasts. But when we talk about public
lands, when we talk about sort of the importance of winning in the places
like I am, we really need to have sort of the Western values I think on the
ticket. I think it contributes significantly for sure.
MADDOW: When you had that remarkable night in November 2016 when you won
reelection while Donald Trump took your state by 20 points, you set out
thereafter and tried to kind of start a conversation with national
Democrats about the Democratic Party speaking to rural voters and speaking
to people who they night not expect to support them, speaking to people who
might have crossed over to vote for Trump.
How do you assess the success of that overture that you made? Do you think
that the Democratic Party is taking that seriously or getting any better at
BULLOCK: Well, I think they need to, because fundamentally, two things.
One of which if we don`t win back some of the places that we lost in 2016,
we`re not going to win this presidency. And second of which, even if you
win, it`s not just about cobbling together 270 electoral votes. I mean,
you showed your map earlier, 22 states completely Republican controlled.
You`re never going to get anything done in Congress if there is a whole lot
of the country that says well this Democratic Party just doesn`t identify
or fight for me or work for me. So, I think that hopefully, you know,
since even 2016, I`ve traveled quite a bit talking about what we need to be
doing to win back places that we ought to have never lost in the first
place, and this next step is going to be part of that, for sure.
MADDOW: The common wisdom about that divide has been that the Republican
Party has been really good about picking cultural divisive social
conservative issues to make rural Democrats and working class Democrats and
potential crossover voters feel like the Democratic Party is elite and
cosmopolitan and against them on these sort of values-based issues. I
think that was a long-standing diagnosis here.
But now we`re in sort of a different place. I mean, we`re – Roe versus
Wade very well may get overturned this year.
BULLOCK: You bet (ph).
MADDOW: Places where Republicans are in control really are looking at
banning abortion, and they`re starting right now tonight in Alabama.
You yourself have been through a transformation on gun policy in recent
Those issues aren`t just symbols. They`re real policy issues that have
real implications. I`m not sure the Democratic Party is going to go back
in terms of being anti-abortion or being pro-gun in the way that they were.
Is that the right diagnosis about what`s wrong with the Democrats in
talking to rural voter, or is it a totally different conversation?
BULLOCK: Well, thing is a couple of different things. One of which, like,
in Montana, I can`t win just by going to patches of blue, right? I have to
travel over the 147,000 square miles state. We`re not even showing up,
we`re not ultimately going to win.
Second of which, if you look over the last decade or so, a third of the
counties in the country actually had business gains, 150,000 new businesses
were in a third of the counties of the country. Two-thirds of the counties
actually lost businesses. You take that map and line it up where Donald
Trump won, and it`s dang near the exact same thing.
So, fundamentally, I think that there are parts of it that certainly your
cultural issues. But if you don`t feel like your life is getting better,
that you have a fair shot at success – when I was growing up, 90 percent
of 30-year-olds are doing better than their parents. Today, it`s only
half. The average worker hasn`t gotten a wage increase in 40 years in real
terms. If you don`t feel like you`re life is getting better and the
Democrats aren`t even giving you a path along that way, we`re not giving
them a reason to vote for us.
MADDOW: Uh-huh. I wonder how that maps for you on to the issue of
climate. Climate is a foreground issue for everybody who is running this
BULLOCK: You bet.
MADDOW: I think the Republicans are even starting to think that they may
have to talk about climate.
BULLOCK: It`s about time.
MADDOW: Yes, I do think they`re having – I think they`re doing their own
assessment of how they`re going to deal with that.
Montana is a coal state.
Governor Jay Inslee from Washington, also another popular Democratic
governor, he is running this year. He is running on a climate change
platform. He`s called for an end to coal-fired power plants by 2030. He
said yesterday about you, that the two of you fundamentally disagree on
what the science demands right now in terms of climate.
How do you compete for a Democratic electorate and for a country that
really wants climate to be tackled head-on?
BULLOCK: Well, as I do. Look, we`re outdoors people. I had any second
worst fire season two years ago, 1.3 million acres burned. Come to Glacier
Park soon because the glaciers will be gone.
I mean, I`ve doubled our wind generation just in my six years, quadrupled
our solar, and I know that we need to do things.
Scientist says ultimately we`ve got to get carbon neutral by 2050. I think
we can do it before that. I think we can do it by 2040. And there are
steps we can take.
You know, we have to be getting rid of a billion tons of CO2 globally a
year. We need to rejoin Paris. We are the – we emit about 5 billion tons
a year. China is actually twice as much.
We cannot do this alone. We need to regain our leadership in the world.
We need – we could actually then get back in the CAFE standards.
You also need to say, let`s actually figure out short-term and long-term
how we get to 2040. But there has been more coal plants closed in two
years, two and a half years of Trump than in eight years of Obama. By and
large, these were older plants. Price makes a difference and consumer
preference makes a difference.
MADDOW: And do you think that needs to accelerate? Do you think need the
coal-fired power plants need to be phased out?
BULLOCK: I think that by – you know, the scientists say right by 2050 –
MADDOW: Some scientist says by 1950 would have been a better idea if you
look at Glacier Park melting right now.
BULLOCK: No – and I think you either have to – I mean, you have not –
you get more technological changes in your phone in the last five years
than how we`ve ever generated energy from coal in the last 40 or 50. So,
there has been some efficiencies. But a lot of these old plants are just
going away anyway.
And think about from the perspective of George H.W. Bush, the first Bush 30
years ago, right? He said we`re going to address the greenhouse effect
from the White House effect. Meaning we will lead from the very top.
Republicans don`t even acknowledge the climate change exists because of the
outside influences, the Koch brothers and others that turn around, finance
their elections and they can`t even have a meaningful discussion. I think
we are at a really exciting time where we`re talking about the steps we
need to take, and we`ll be taking those steps and I`ll be taking those
MADDOW: You have been a target of the Koch brothers in recent elections.
That`s one of the things I want to talk with you about.
I will be right back with Montana Governor Steve Bullock right after this.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: We`re back now with Montana Governor Steve Bullock, newly
announced Democrat in the race for the presidency.
Governor, thank you for sticking with me.
BULLOCK: It`s great to be there.
MADDOW: You have had a weird series of headlines that most people haven`t
had to the deal with – just a few people in your category here. But there
are Democrats who are speaking anonymously to the press saying they wish
you were running for Senate instead. There`s a Republican senator in your
state who is up next year who everybody thinks is vulnerable and everybody
thinks you would beat.
MADDOW: You don`t want to be a senator. You`re worried about that race?
BULLOCK: Yes –
MADDOW: How are you thinking?
BULLOCK: You know, Rachel, this wasn`t an either/or. Like I was never
going to run for the Senate.
BULLOCK: And I do think that I have both the skills and abilities as an
executive to bridge some divides. That`s the kind of work I`ve always
MADDOW: Never been a legislator.
BULLOCK: Never been a legislator. And I have great respect for the
senators, but this is something that never really got me excited.
MADDOW: One of the hurdles that I see for you is that the Democratic
electorate nationwide and in a whole bunch of important early states has a
really key constituency in African-American voters and African-American
women in particular. Montana is less than 1 percent African-American. You
don`t have experience talking with the black community in order to earn
their votes and earn their trust and get them to vote for you.
How do you anticipate meeting that challenge?
BULLOCK: No, and I think I`ll do it the same way I`ve been attorney
general and governor in Montana, certainly both trying to represent
everyone but also recognizing that there are unique challenges. I mean,
we`re 7 percent Native American. We`ve had significant challenges there,
things that I`ve done for the LGBTQ community in a state like Montana from
repealing it hateful laws to executive orders protecting gender identity,
things that I`ve done on equal pay for equal work.
Now, I will approach this and the rest of sort of historically
disadvantaged communities, I`ll show up, I`ll listen, hopefully more than I
talk, and I`ll recognize that this notion of fair shot at the American
Dream hasn`t been available for everyone. There`s no reason why an
African-American woman is four times more likely to die in childbirth than
not, or in Montana, why an American-Indian has on average a life span 20
years less than a non-native.
In each of these areas, we`ll certainly come in and say, I need to learn.
But I`ve been successful I think in both listening and trying to bring
everybody up and recognizing there are different challenges in different
communities, and I think now right now, better than perhaps ever before,
not only does the Democratic Party recognize that, but the country
MADDOW: Tell me about your evolution on guns. I know that you have
changed your mind over time, both about whether or not certain assault
rifles should be banned but also on universal background checks, which
surprised me. As recently as just a few years ago –
MADDOW: – you were not in favor of universal background checks. And I
can understand some of the other policy distinctions even among Democrats
on guns issues, but the background check issue to me –
MADDOW: – feels very black and white.
How as recently as a few years ago could you have believed that you
shouldn`t have to get a background check to get a gun?
BULLOCK: Yes. And a couple of things, I`ve signed bills, I`ve vetoed a
lot of bills relating to guns –
BULLOCK: – in my six years as well.
I`ve been asked to lower the flags by both presidents, Trump and Obama, 53
times in total. Over a quarter of those were for mass shootings.
When I drop off my sixth grader this year when he started school, he
learned his first week where to go if an active shooter comes. No sixth
grader should have to deal with this.
So, I started looking at it as a public health issue more than even a
political issue. Public health issue – gun owners don`t want guns to get
in the wrong hands. Universal background checks now make sense to me. And
ultimately, they make sense to the majority of Americans, gun owner and
It was actually going to a March for Our Lives rally where I was asked to
speak that I said, I don`t want to speak. I`m just going to listen. When
I went with my kids, that`s when I said, listen, assault weapon, it`s not
used for self-protection. It`s rarely used for hunting. Stores and chains
like Dick`s and Walmart, they`ve banned them. It`s time to have this
I think we can have a conversation because everybody wants to keep their
family safe. Everybody wants to keep guns out of the wrong hands. But
even think post-Vegas. It took a year plus to ban bump stocks.
At some point, we`ve got recognized and this again goes to the influences
aren`t necessarily in the buildings. It`s the outside dollars. If the
NRA, which was a hunting and a gun safety organization when I was a kid,
now it`s a political organization, not allowing any compromise. If we
looked at this as a public health issue more, we would take steps like
MADDOW: Steve Bullock, Democratic governor of the great state of Montana,
who with a Republican legislature has managed over your two terms as
governor to get a lot of stuff done that a lot of Democrats would feel
envious of even in non-totally red states – sir, I am intrigued by your
candidacy and I`m happy to have you here talking about it. Thank you.
BULLOCK: Great to be here, for sure. Thanks.
MADDOW: Good luck.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: That does it for us tonight. Very happy to have you with us.
I`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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Copyright 2019 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the