The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 05/15/13
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
So, today happened. Today, the president of the United States fired
the head of the IRS, or announced that his resignation had been accepted.
Also, the whole Benghazi scandal, the months-long scandal kind of went
The attorney general got grilled in a congressional hearing that went
on for four solid hours today.
And today, at Grand Central Station in New York City, Iran and America
wrestled. And it was not a metaphor. There was actual physical wrestling
in the train station.
Also, there was a mystery toddler today in Washington. Watch this.
Watch for the toddler.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We`ll do that, and given the
relationship you and I have Mr. Former Chairman, we`ll try to get back to
you in a more timely fashion than we did on that first one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Than a year. That will be appreciated. Thank
you, Mr. Attorney General.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentleman`s time has expired.
The gentleman from North Carolina, Mr. Watt.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Attorney General, I`m going to just ask you a
couple questions –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Hey, who`s the toddler?
North Carolina Congressman Mel Watt, who did have questions for the
attorney general, but who most of all will be remembered as the guy who
brought the adorable toddler who`s apparently named Nico into the middle of
the Washington maelstrom today.
Hi, Nico. God bless him.
All right. So, that was my favorite moment of the day in what was an
unbelievably packed news day.
But as noted, the president fired the head of the IRS today in a
surprise, blunt late afternoon announcement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good afternoon,
I just finished speaking with Secretary Lew and senior officials at
the Treasury Department to discuss the investigation into IRS personnel who
improperly screened conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
And I look forward to taking some questions at tomorrow`s press conference,
but today, I want to make sure to get out to all of you some information
about what we`re doing about this and where we go from here.
I`ve reviewed the Treasury Department watchdog`s report and the
misconduct that it uncovered is inexcusable. It`s inexcusable and
Americans are right to be angry about it, and I am angry about it. I will
not tolerate this kind of behavior in any agency, but especially in the
IRS, given the power that it has and the reach that it has in all of our
And as I said earlier, it should not matter what political stripe
you`re from, the fact of the matter is, is that the IRS has to operate with
absolute integrity. The government generally has to conduct itself in a
way that is true to the public trust. That`s especially true for the IRS.
So, here`s what we`re going to do. First, we`re going to hold the
responsible parties accountable. Yesterday, I directed Secretary Lew to
follow up on the I.G. audit to see how this happened and who is responsible
and to make sure that we understand all the facts.
Today, Secretary Lew took the first step by requesting and accepting
the resignation of the acting commissioner of the IRS, because given the
controversy surrounding this audit, it`s important to institute new
leadership that can help restore confidence going forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, the president fired or rather accepted the resignation of
the acting commissioner of the IRS tonight.
President went on to say that the recommendations of the inspector
general to make sure nothing like this can ever happen again at the IRS,
those recommendations will be implemented. He said this problem, in his
words, is fixable.
And he said the administration will work with Congress to do the
President`s statement tonight coming after that four-hour-plus hearing
in which the attorney general, Eric Holder, got grilled on the IRS issue
and a lot more. The attorney general today explaining beyond the action
being taken within the executive branch, beyond the multiple investigations
being conducted in the House and the Senate, now, in addition, the criminal
investigation into whether any laws were broken at the IRS when
conservative groups were singled out for extra scrutiny in their IRS
applications, that criminal investigation was announced today will be a
nationally one. It will not focus narrowly on that one office in
Cincinnati that`s been singled out thus far. It is going to be a
And beyond all of those investigations, the inspector general, the
executive branch, the congressional investigations, and the criminal
investigation, beyond all of those, some of the real investigation of this
matter continues also in the press. Two important salient new details on
this IRS scandal turned up today by “Bloomberg News” in one instance and by
In terms of the “USA Today” story, it was a, quote, “USA Today review
of IRS data that found that liberal groups, groups that at least sounded
liberal, groups with names that included words like `progress` or
`progressive`, those liberal groups applications for the same kind of tax-
exempt status as conservative groups, those liberal groups` applications
reportedly sailed through the IRS much more quickly than the conservative
groups` applications did.”
That said, what the Bloomberg report said today, is that even if
conservative groups were being singled out for extra scrutiny, it`s not
like all liberal groups were getting a free pass. A number of liberal
applicants got the same detailed questionnaires about political activity
that the Tea Party groups did, and unlike any of the conservative groups,
at least one of the liberal groups got its tax status denied.
In his testimony today, though, the attorney general went out of his
way to point out and President Obama in his statement today went out of his
way to point out, that there`s nothing in this scandal that means that the
IRS should not be asking tax-exempt groups about their activity. That is a
legitimate part of how we protect our elections. That`s a legitimate part
of how tax-exempt groups are supposed to be evaluated.
The point is, that it can`t be done in an ideologically slanted way,
where conservative groups or liberal groups have an easier time of things
just because they are conservative or liberal, and if everybody agrees on
that and if even Republicans and Democrats in Congress agree on that and if
the IRS commissioner just got fired for that and if the president is
expressing how angry he is about that, then the two important questions
about the scandal remain, does this have a larger political impact on the
president or the Congress?
And as this works out politically, does this mean that the IRS is
hereby forever neutered from doing what is, after all, the important work
of making sure political fundraising groups are not making a laughingstock
of the rules that are supposed to limit what they do? Will we ever have an
IRS doing that important work again, given how badly they screwed up trying
to do it over these past couple of years?
Joining us now is Sam Stein, White House correspondent at “Huffington
Sam, thanks very much for being with us tonight on this very, very
SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTON POST: Thanks, Rachel. I know I`m not Nico the
toddler, but I hope I suffice as a guest.
MADDOW: Actually, if you kind of slicked your hair back and gurgled a
little bit, I could, you know, you could play it.
STEIN: You`re going to have to pay more a little more money for that.
MADDOW: Or any.
All right. The acting commissioner of the IRS got fired. He`s asked
to resign. He was not in charge of the IRS when all of this happened. The
guy who was in charge when all of this happened was, of course, the Bush
appointee who served until November 2012. Why did the new guy`s head have
STEIN: Because someone`s head had to roll, right? We`re in a
political climate where there was a premium accountability and there was
very few people beyond this guy who we could hold accountable, that the
president could hold accountable.
In addition to that, this man, Steven Miller, the acting commissioner
of the IRS, did go in front of Congress on several occasions to testify
that this targeting, the filtering of conservative groups was not taking
place. Now we know because of the I.G. report that was happening.
So, he had lost some credibility. But beyond that, I think the
administration determined that they had to have some form of accountability
if they just wanted to get through the week so we had was Secretary Lew
asking for the resignation and getting it, aka, he was fired.
MADDOW: In terms of the political climate and, as you say, sort of
premium on accountability right now –
MADDOW: – the president`s due to take questions tomorrow at his news
conference where he`ll be standing there with the prime minister of Turkey,
poor guy is going to have to stand through all of this American politics
that`s not going to make much sense in a Turkish contest, but you never
STEIN: You`ll never know.
MADDOW: With everything going on in Washington right now and the fact
he`s going to be standing next to the Turkish guy, what do you think the
president is likely to get the most heat about? I mean, we`ve got Benghazi
ongoing. We`ve got the IRS scandal ongoing. We`ve got “The A.P.” scandal
ongoing. Plus, all the normal stuff.
What do you think he`s likely to get the most heat about?
STEIN: Oh, God, great question. You know, I think “The A.P.” scandal
in particular still resonates in part because members of the media who are
asking the questions are directly affected by this policy. And so, it
matters to them. I think we can`t ignore that fact.
But it`s a pertinent scandal, relatively new, and unlike with respect
to the IRS where we saw someone fired and Benghazi scandal where we saw e-
mails this afternoon, there really hasn`t been as much movement from the
administration on that one. So, my guess is you`ll see that. He`ll get a
couple questions on that. In addition, I think there will be some follow-
up questions on disclosure of Benghazi e-mails that came out tonight.
MADDOW: Sam Stein, White House correspondent for “The Huffington
Post” – Sam, thanks for being with us. I really appreciate it.
STEIN: Thanks, Rachel. Take care.
And, and, and, in the midst of all this going on, did I mention the
president released his own financial disclosure forms today? His personal
ones. Sure, why not? What the heck? Nothing else is going on. In the
midst of this supposed scandal on Benghazi falling apart, we will still get
to that. And the firing of the head of the IRS and, oh, hey, here comes
the prime minister of Turkey.
And all these other things going , there`s also the ongoing actual big
controversy that is not about the IRS and is not about Benghazi and this
one is actually harder to call a scandal because the White House is not
embarrassed about it, and is not apologizing for it, and is not denying it,
which is what you expect when you call something a scandal.
It, of course, is the bombshell revelation from “The Associated Press”
this week that the Justice Department has been monitoring the phone lines
of the D.C. bureau of “The Associated Press”, and the Hartford bureau, and
the New York City bureau, and the bureau they have in Congress, those lines
altogether served about 100 reporters, the individual office phone lines,
the personal phone lines, and the cell phone lines of six specific
reporters and one “A.P.” editor.
I mean, it`s not like the Justice Department has never looked at
reporters` phone records before, but they have never lightning this before,
at least not that we found out about. They supposedly to see who in the
government leaked classified information about an al Qaeda bomb plot in
Yemen for an “A.P.” article that was published around this time last year.
The Justice Department says it followed all of its own internal guidelines,
its own regulations that are supposed to control how they handle reporters
when they are chasing down a leak like this.
But “The A.P.”, despite the Justice Department`s explanations, “The
A.P.” is apoplectic. They say they do not buy the Justice Department`s
assertions that they absolutely had to do it this way, that they couldn`t
have done it in a more narrow way, or a more targeted way, a way that might
be less damaging to “The Associated Press” as a news organization.
“The A.P.” says had they been notified in advance, which the Justice
Department regulations say should happen in most cases, had they`ve been
told in advance, that would have given them a chance to take this matter to
a court and they would have. They would have taken this to a judge had
they known to try to block the Justice Department from doing this, to try
to keep those phone records private so the press can do its job.
But they never found out about it in advance, and so, they didn`t get
a chance to try to head it off. They never got to take this case before a
judge. And the fact the Justice Department was able to do this on their
own, make the decision to take the reporters` phone records, they made that
decision on their own, without ever going to a judge, that fact is the
product of one very simple thing in our law, have you ever heard of a
In many states in the country, there is a shield law that says
reporters need to have room to do their jobs and reporters` jobs include
talking to people secretly. So, if the government wants to spy on
reporters for some sort of investigation, it has to have a really good
reason and it has to prove that good reason to a judge. The government
can`t just do that on their own because we have to protect the freedom of
Even though that law exists in a lot of states, it does not exist
federally and that`s why the Justice Department was able to go after “The
A.P.” wholesale in this giant dragnet.
While he was running for president in 2008, President Obama went and
spoke to “The Associated Press” and he told them, in effect, yes, reporters
ought to have this kind of protection that they`ve got in more than 40
states. If the government wants to spy on a reporter, the government ought
to have to prove that to a judge. When he was asked this question about it
in front of “The A.P.” in 2008, he was very blunt about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Obama, do you believe that a sitting
administration or a federal judge should decide if a confidential source
should be protected?
OBAMA: I think that that is an issue that should be determined by the
courts. The essence of our constitutional principles is that not only do
we have these civil liberties enshrined in the bill of rights, but that we
also have mechanisms in place to make sure that there are checks and
balances between the branches.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is what he said when he was running for president. He
was a cosponsor of legislation to provide this kind of protection to
reporters before he became president. When that law went up before the
Senate when he was still a candidate for president, when he was still in
the senate, it died in the face of a Republican filibuster. Republicans
filibustered it before it become law – before it could become law before
he was president.
But once Barack Obama became president, he sort of changed his mind on
this issue. He decided that there should be a carve-out on the issue of
national security. When it came to national security, yes, generally
reporters should have protection from the government spying on them, but in
cases of national security, maybe not. Those protections that he said
reporters should have before he became president, once he was president, he
decided they shouldn`t have on issues of national security.
And the only subsequent effort to bring forth any type of shield law
since he has been president really went nowhere. His only intervention in
that was to say that he wanted that national security exemption, and now,
in response to this furor of what the Obama Justice Department has done to
“The A.P.”, and there`s a reason there`s a furor over it. I mean, who
knows what kind of irrevocable harm this has caused?
Think about it, if you were a confidential source for an “A.P.”
reporter, would you ever call them again? Now that you know your phone
number is in the hands of the Justice Department, if anybody from “The
A.P.” who you`ve been talking to ever called you from their office or maybe
from their personal phone or maybe from their cell phone and the Justice
Department has your number now and knows that you`re the source, would you
ever call them again? Think about the harm done to “The A.P.” here.
In the resulting furor over what the Justice Department has done and
what damage they have caused here, the White House today has contacted its
allies in Congress and asked for the federal shield law to please be
Yes, right, that is a good start. Keep going.
MADDOW: This weekend in Egypt, an al Qaeda-linked militant cell was
arrested for allegedly planning to carry out a series of suicide attacks.
The three men who were arrested were found to be in possession of 22 pounds
of explosive materials. Today, we learned with a bit more certainty than
we had over the weekend that the planned targets of their attack were two
foreign embassies in Cairo, the French embassy and the American embassy.
There`s a long terrible history and in many parts of the world,
there`s a terrible risk of violent attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities
abroad. The really famous ones, like the Beirut bombings in 1983, the
bombings of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania, and Kenya that happened in
1998, just during the George W. Bush administration, there was attacks on
U.S. diplomatic facilities in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and Uzbekistan,
and Syria, Greece.
There are about a dozen attacks in total on U.S. diplomatic facilities
abroad during the Bush years. This sort of thing happens a lot.
Then, of course, it was not the embassy, it was a diplomatic facility,
sort of diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, in Libya, that was attacked last
September, which our ambassador and three other Americans were killed.
“McClatchy” today published an account saying that the general in
charge of the Africa Command, Africom, twice offered extra U.S. military
security resources specifically for Benghazi, offered extra military
security resources to Ambassador Stevens. He offered security specifically
to protect that outpost in Benghazi that got attacked and the offer came
about a month before the attack there.
Twice the ambassador himself, the one who was killed in September,
turned down those offers of extra facility from the U.S. military. That`s
according to this report today from “McClatchy.”
We don`t know why he turned down the offers of extra security. We
don`t know much – we don`t know how much of a risk at that facility is
clear only in hindsight, but we do know that that is actually the real
issue of the whole Benghazi scandal. Could the attack have been prevented,
why wasn`t it prevented, why wasn`t there better security there, why did
those four Americans die?
That remains the big issue. That was the conclusion that was the main
issue of the official government report into what happened in Benghazi that
was completed in December. All of its recommendations have been accepted
by the government and are currently being implemented now.
Instead of that being the issue, though, Republicans have decided to
make Benghazi a scandal of some sort of White House directed conspiracy.
The White House was covering up the attack to use it for some domestic
political purpose. Some purpose that remains mostly unclear but definitely
has to do with Hillary Clinton shouldn`t be president.
Republicans have been pushing these Benghazi conspiracy theories in
various guises for months now, including during the presidential election.
And, as you know, they have not really gotten anywhere with these theories.
I mean, they have been prevailing winds in the FOX-verse for a long time
now. But in the real news world, they`ve really not been able to get any
What the Republicans hope to be their big coming out party on this
issue, their big crossover moment, their grand entrance into mainstream
news on this issue was going to be their blockbuster congressional hearing
on Benghazi last week where they would expose the capital “T” truth on
And that hearing did get some news coverage on that day, but it ended
up being a dud. It didn`t really produce any new information, other than
one gentleman from the State Department saying he thought he might have
been demoted for improper reasons after the attack. That has not yet been
proven. He`s asserted it. The State Department has denied it. So,
Also, the Republicans were outraged that the main government
investigator of the attacks refused to testify. That was undercut by the
fact that he said he would be delighted to testify.
Please, allow me to testify. How dare you not testify? But I`d like
to testify. What are we fighting about? It was kind of a mess.
So, that hearing really didn`t go anywhere. It made a splash that
day, but then it was kind of over. That was supposed to be their big deal.
That was going to be their big coming out party for their Benghazi scandal,
but they haven`t been able to get any traction on. But still in the wake
of that hearing, really no traction.
Until Friday – it finally hit for them on Friday, and it finally hit
for them on Friday because of ABC News. This headline: Exclusive, Benghazi
talking points underwent 12 revisions, scrubbed of terror reference.
ABC News reporting that it was the State Department that wanted
references to terrorism taken out of the talking points and the White House
weighed in on their side. The big smoking gun was a White House e-mail
that ABC said they reviewed. They gave the time and date stamps, September
14th, 2012, at 9:24.
Here`s how ABC quoted that e-mail. Quoted, “We must make sure that
the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the
State Department and we don`t want to undermine the FBI investigation.
We`ll go through the talking points tomorrow morning at the deputy`s
committee meeting,” closed quote.
So, you`d think that this was quoting from the e-mail, right? Smoking
gun is smoking. We, the White House, will work through the talking points
to address the State Department`s concerns about references to terror.
According to ABC News, the White House, in that e-mail that they
quoted, clearly planned to massage the story about Benghazi at the
direction of the State Department. The White House had been saying that
the talking points came primarily from the intelligence community. ABC
News said, no, no, we`ve got the smoking gun. Evidence it was not true,
was not from the intelligence community, it was the White House that quoted
this White House e-mail.
And so, that`s what happened on Friday. That was what finally caused
the Benghazi story to take off in the real news after months of living only
on the conspiratorial right.
It turns out that ABC News that finally blew this story open for them
and made it a mainstream story, that ABC article turns out was totally
wrong. ABC blew it. It turns out they weren`t actually quoting White
House e-mails at all.
Yesterday, CNN was first to publish what looked like a very different
account of what ABC said happened with the talking points. CNN posted the
same White House emails stamped at the same time, same date, same White
House adviser quoted as the author, but what they showed to be that email
looked really different than what ABC published.
Here`s what they said it said. Quote, “We need to resolve this in a
way that respects all of the relevant equities, particularly the
So, no mention of the State Department, like ABC News reported. No
mention of the White House working through the talking points like ABC News
reported. It`s almost like ABC news didn`t actually review that e-mail at
Oh, wait, it turns out they didn`t. Yesterday, ABC News posted this
headline, more details on Benghazi talking points emerge. Among those
emerging details is everything they previously said was wrong.
ABC News now reveals when they supposedly quoted that White House e-
mail, actually they were not quoting the White House e-mail, even though
they put it in quotes, what they were quoting was a source who viewed the
original documents and shared detailed notes.
So, they reported as if they were quoting the White House and they
were not. They were not quoting the actual e-mail. They were quoting
notes from an anonymous somebody.
ABC`s response for being pushed into this revelation was to demand
that the White House release the full e-mail exchanges.
Hey, new details emerged about an e-mail we had never seen even though
we reported that we`d seen it. And it turns out you didn`t actually say
things we said it said. It`s your fault.
This afternoon, the White House did, in fact, release the full e-mail
exchanges, nearly 100 pages, including the White House e-mail that started
this whole new round of Benghazi gate that ABC News got wrong.
Joining us now is Michael Isikoff, NBC News investigative
correspondent. He has been going through these newly released e-mails
since they came out tonight.
Mike, thanks for being with us again. I feel I have to pay you a
premium for so much of your time this week.
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NBC NEWS INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: All gratis.
MADDOW: What did you learn from these e-mails that might further
explain the scandal or at least the politicization of this scandal?
ISIKOFF: Well, I learned that there actually is a scandal and I think
the scandal is all these relatively high level national security officials
spent hours on end exchanging e-mails in order to produce what turned out
to be complete bureaucratic mush. I mean, why these talking points were
even being written in the first place and why a committee was doing it
seems inexplicable when you actually look through it.
In fact, my favorite e-mail was from Jacob Sullivan, who`s head of
policy planning at the State Department, who in the middle of this writes,
“I do not understand the nature of this exercise.” I think that kind of
reflects anybody reading this.
Look, there is no smoking gun, to say the least. In fact, there`s
almost an antismoking gun, which is the e-mail from the general counsel of
the CIA, who at one point explicitly writes, “I know there`s a hurry to get
this, but we need to hold it long enough to ascertain whether providing
it,” this is the original talking points which did have information about
al Qaeda, which did talk about Libya being a wash in weapons and that this
being likely an attack by extremists, but whether providing it conflicts
with the expressed instructions from national security staff, DOJ, FBI,
that in light of the criminal investigation, we are not to generate
statements with assessments as to who did this.
So, that`s coming from the original counsel of the CIA. And that sort
of sets the ball in motion in terms of scrubbing out all relevant details
about who was behind the attack from the talking points.
Then you put on top of that, that very revealing sort of bureaucratic
knife fight between the State Department and the CIA in which State
Department officials are taking umbrage at the idea that there were CIA
warnings about the threat of a terrorist attack. Now, clearly, the CIA was
trying to push that out there because they wanted to protect themselves by
showing, hey, we told you that this might happen. We even told you on
September 10th that this might happen.
Victoria Nuland, as has been quoted before, took a great exception
that and said that would just give members of Congress material in which to
Another top state official weighs in, and says at one point, this is
David Adam, head of legislative affairs, “The last bullet will read to
members like we had been repeatedly warned,” we being the State Department,
they didn`t want that in there.
At the end of the day, it all gets taken out, we`re left with the mush
where Susan Rice says almost nothing and then sort of piece of resistance,
which is David Petraeus` e-mail, reading it, seeing all the stuff about the
CIA warnings and then writing, “No mention of the cable to Cairo either?
Frankly, I just as soon not use this” – this is about the talking points.
And then, “No, but it`s NSS` call, that`s National Security Staff to be
sure – you know, regardless, thanks for the great work.” I`m not quite
sure what the great work was there.
But bottom line is there`s no indication of partisan political motive
for scrubbing this because of the election. There is plenty of evidence of
this bureaucratic tussle between the state department and the CIA, and
that`s, at the end of the day, what we`re left with.
MADDOW: What I realized is all of my fantasies built up from all of
my years of watching spy movies and reading spy novels about how exciting
it must be working as a top-level spy, actually, I don`t want that at all.
It sounds like bureaucratic nonsense.
ISIKOFF: You don`t want to be a part of this e-mail chain.
MADDOW: Well, I don`t understand the nature of this exercise exactly,
how I felt reading it.
Michael Isikoff, NBC News investigative correspondent – Mike, thanks
very much. Really appreciate your take on this.
ISIKOFF: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: When the president came out saying there`s no there, there,
you`ve been through all of these e-mails, why is this all of a sudden a
political scandal? The reaction, obviously, this was a political scandal,
didn`t you read the quote from ABC what they said happened in the White
The President was right and ABC was wrong and ABC should apologize. I
don`t say that lightly.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We`re going to have to, you know, not just step up our game,
we have to exponentially step up our game to go at this thing hard.
And for those who are in uniform who have experienced sexual assault,
I want them to hear directly from their commander-in-chief that I`ve got
their backs. I will support them, and we`re not going to tolerate this
And there will be accountability. If people have engaged in this
behavior, they should be prosecuted.
Bottom line is, I have no tolerance for this. I have communicated
this to the secretary of defense. We`re going to communicate this again to
folks up and down the chain in areas of authority, and I expect
So, I don`t want just more speeches or, you know, awareness programs
or training, but ultimately, folks look the other way.
If we find out somebody`s engaging in this stuff, they got to be held
accountable, prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court marshaled,
fired, dishonorably discharged, period. It`s not acceptable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was how President Obama reacted last week when it became
known that the man that the Air Force had put in charge of combating sexual
assault had, himself, been arrested on charges of sexual assault. That was
Now, it has happened again. This time, it`s the Army, where a
sergeant first class who was in charge of combating and responding to
sexual assault cases for an 800-person battalion in Ft. Hood in Texas is,
himself, now also under investigation for sexual assault and other charges.
Defense sources telling NBC News that the investigation is into
allegations that the sergeant forced one female subordinate into
prostitution and that he sexually assaulted two other female service
Again, this is an investigation, no charges have yet been filed,
that`s why we don`t have the identity yet of that sergeant first class.
If you are having difficulties keeping straight exactly which sexual
assault prevention guy has been charged with sexual assault, it would
suggest that the sexual assault prevention plan is may be something that is
not working across the military.
The Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said today he has discussed this
issue with President Obama, including the new investigation of the guy at
Ft. Hood. He also said that he has ordered a retraining and rescreening of
all the people working in sexual assault prevention throughout the military
– although you have to wonder, weren`t these guys trained in some way for
the sexual assault prevention positions that they did have when this stuff
When Senator Claire McCaskill was on our show a week or so ago talking
about this subject, she said, this is not a problem the military can train
its way out of.
Right. There was no magic military-specific answer here. Sexual
assault is a crime, but apparently, in the military, it is a crime that not
enough people are afraid of getting caught for.
The military`s own efforts here, so far, are a terrible failure. Can
they fix it? Can Congress make them fix it, since apparently military thus
far at least has not been able to do it themselves?
Joining us now for the interview tonight is Democratic Senator Barbara
Boxer of California. Senator Boxer is cosponsoring a bill in the Senate
that would change the way sexual assault cases are adjudicated in the
military. She introduces that bill in the senate tomorrow.
Senator Boxer, thank you so much for being with us tonight.
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: I`m very happy to be with you on
this very difficult topic.
MADDOW: Yes, this bill you`re cosponsoring with Senator Kirsten
Gillibrand of New York, I understand you`re proposing that sexual assault
cases be, essentially, taken out of the chain of command in the way they
What would that mean in practical terms?
BOXER: Well, let me just make it very simple for folks.
Every year in the military there are about 25,000, 26,000 events,
cases where people have been assaulted, sexually assaulted. Out of that,
only 3,000 a year report this. And out of that, there are only 300
This is a nightmare. Literally, you have thousands and thousands of
felons walking around the military, perhaps they get out, they are walking
around our streets. They`ve never paid a price for their crime.
So what we want to do is make sure that a woman or a man, 50 percent
of these are men, OK, can either go to a commander, someone in the chain of
command and report it. We change the laws so that that commander must
report it to the military police, to the prosecution, or they can go to the
victims` assistance we have set up under Leon Panetta, this victim
assistance organization. They can go there. That advocate can report it.
They all have to report it immediately. And that`s really horrific
situation when you have at the front end of this people too scared to
report it because they fear nothing will ever come of it.
Listen, you`ve got all these people walking around free, and I`m sure
they are bragging about it, a lot of them. And so, there`s a culture
there. We have to change the culture.
MADDOW: President Obama, when he remarked on this last week and then,
Senator McCaskill, your colleague, when she was on this show that same day,
they both expressed frustration that the military`s essentially seen this
as a training problem, military has treated this as sort of an awareness
sensitivity and training issue.
President Obama being very blunt. He doesn`t think the military can
train its way out of this problem.
Do you – do you agree with that assessment?
BOXER: Absolutely. They have been training and training and
training. Every time something happens, they train more.
But I got to tell you, when you have the vast majority, thousands of
these felons walking around nothing ever happens to them and if you ever
report this, you get harassed, you get harangued, may be the end of your
career, you know, that wonderful documentary that was done, “The Invisible
War” shows, puts a face on this. And people explain what happens to them
when they have the courage to come forward.
Look, we have to change this. Enough with the talk. We need
legislation. We`re having a press conference tomorrow.
I`m proud to say we have Republicans and Democrats behind this
legislation. It is absolutely necessary. And, you know, anyone who
doesn`t agree with it, I just don`t feel – this is my opinion – I don`t
think they`ve studied the issue enough. It`s clear the path we have to
MADDOW: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is expressing resistance to
the basic idea of this kind of reform. He`s saying that he wants to keep
the chain of command intact, including for dealing with issues like this,
that he thinks it has to be handled within the existing structures, even
though he takes the problem very seriously.
What`s your counterargument to him on that?
BOXER: It`s pretty simple, right now it`s in the chain of command and
we have 20,000 felons a year walking around and harming people, hurting
people, injuring them.
Do you know, Rachel, we got a new report? The V.A. has stated that
right now there are 50,000 men being treated by the V.A. who have
experienced some kind of sexual assault in the military.
This is an epidemic. This has to stop, and, you know, Chuck Hagel and
I are friends. I supported him and he wrote me a beautiful letter saying
we`d work together. We need to talk about this, because you go to your
commander, the commander many times just says never mind, we don`t think
your case is worth anything.
They are judge and jury. That`s wrong. We need to change it. If you
choose to go to the command structure in our bill, the commander must
report it immediately. You can also go to that victims` assistance program
that was set up and get one of those advocates to report it. And that`s
what`s going to work here.
This has to stop, and I intend to call Chuck Hagel, my friend, and
tell him, you know, you need to be bolder on this one.
MADDOW: Senator Boxer, if you do get that conversation with Secretary
Hagel, we`d love to hear how it goes. Let us know.
Thank you very much, Senator Barbara Boxer of California. Pleasure to
have you here tonight. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right, coming up, wrestling – the real kind and the
metaphorical kind, but most importantly, the real kind, including the tape.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: 2009, there was a corruption bust in New Jersey`s second
largest city. It took the deputy mayor, three city council members who ran
on the mayor`s slate, the housing commissioner, two senior officials in the
city`s health department, the building inspector, utilities commissioner,
essentially the Feds just walked in to city hall in Jersey City, New
Jersey, and said, hey, everybody, let`s go, time to go to jail.
Jersey City City Hall still contains the desk of the guy who was mayor
of that city for 30 years until 1947. See, it is handy to keep Mayor Frank
Hague`s desk around at that city hall because the desk has a rigged-top
drawer. The drawer, the lap drawer when you sit down, it doesn`t just pull
in toward whoever is sitting at the desk, it also pushes out to whoever is
sitting across the desk. So if you`re sitting across from the mayor, you
can handedly deposit your envelope full of cash into his desk drawer
without the mayor having to touch the money in front of you.
That rigged desk is reportedly still at city hall, but you will never
guess what happened there yesterday. Hold on. It`s coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VUK JERMIC, U.N. GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT: If we are unable to do
anything to stop this tragedy, then how can we sustain the moral
credibility of this organization? I believe that it is high time to say,
enough is enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: There was a dramatic day at the U.N., the news from war in
Syria is so terrible, “The New York Times” front paging a story on an
almost unbelievable door to door massacre of hundreds of civilians in Syria
by government forces – women, kids, babies, all the men and boys of all
ages and whole families killed systematically in a massacre that unfolded
over three days. Hundreds of people killed.
And the U.N. today voting that Syria should go through political
transition, that the government must go. A nonbinding resolution
condemning killings, human rights violations, the vote today on it was 107-
But a whole bunch of countries abstained, and Russia, a strong ally of
Syria, was strongly in opposition to the resolution. If you want to know
why there has not been meaningful international action, it`s largely
because Russia supports the Syrian government, and they keep putting
themselves in the way of anybody else doing anything there.
Between the U.S. and Russia right now, in general, things are not very
good. After all, Russia did this week just arrest a U.S. embassy employee
who they said was spying, but who kind of look like maybe he was just on
his way to a James Traficant impersonator convention instead.
Regardless of that, things between us and Russia aren`t great right
now, which makes it remarkable that at the U.N., America did a big joint
event with Russia. And it was us and Russia in a country less likely to do
anything with us, the nation of Iran. The United States, Russia and Iran
have come together, including at this press conference at the U.N., they
joined forces to try to save wrestling.
Earlier this year, the executive board of the International Olympic
Committee recommended that wrestling be dropped as one of 26 core sports
for the 2020 Olympic Games. Wrestling, the original Olympic sport, IOC has
decided that it`s got to go. And the determination to save wrestling has
now brought together three countries that never come together really on
anything, but apparently love men in tiny, stretchy suits, grabbing each
other around the leg pits.
Putting politics aside, wrestlers from the wrestling powers of Iran,
Russia and United States gathered at Grand Central Station in New York City
for a friendly wrestle off, men in singlets.
Well, today`s event was meant to be friend, they did keep score. And
it turns out, Iran kicked their butts – 6 to 1, Iran beat the U.S. That
said, we did beat Russia ourselves, 8 to 1. So, all in all, it was not a
bad day in diplomacy even if the competition wasn`t that tight.
The Olympic committee`s final vote on wrestling is scheduled in
September. Hopefully, that means more unexpected bedfellows in all kinds
of diplomacy and more wrestling and train stations between now and then.
MADDOW: Now the story of the naked mayor. The way the naked mayor
first became the naked mayor was winning a special election in 2004. Just
a couple months before that election he was running as a candidate for
mayor, he turned up naked in public – naked and seemingly drunk on the
front steps of his front porch at 3:00 in the morning.
A photo exists of him naked on his front porch. I will mercifully
direct you to Google to – actually, no, just forget it, we blurred out the
terrifying part. There he is, naked mayor on his front porch.
Anyway, when the candidate for mayor was asked why he was naked on the
front porch, how that ended up happening, he told reporters at the time,
quote, “I wish I recall, I wish I recall how I got back out there, but I
Here`s a hint, though. He did also admit to those same reporters that
he had drunk between six and eight beers that night. So, six to eight
beers, naked on the front porch, photograph, no idea how he got there, it
turns out that`s good enough for Jersey City. He won that election, and he
has been the naked mayor of New Jersey`s second largest city since.
But this year, his re-election fight for mayor has been so tough, so
excruciating that it caused the naked mayor to suddenly remember whole new
things he never remembered about his naked night on the porch in 2004.
In last few days before the election, the naked mayor told a columnist
for the “New Jersey Star-Ledger” newly remembered details, rather than not
remembering how he got out there, says he was lured outside at 3:00 a.m.
by, quote, “three Hispanic girls, young kids,” he said. “So I go out on
the porch, they pulled the towel off me. I start laughing, they started
doing other stuff. I said I was old enough to be your grandfather. It was
filthy,” he said. “I chased them away and then I just sat down.”
And that he says when a political enemy snapped that photograph. A
few days later, the mayor explained why he was now coming out with a new
story about being naked on the porch. He explained to the “Jersey Journal”
that he, quote, “wasn`t thinking well” when he got the question about being
naked on the porch in 2004. “The question came out of the blue,” he said,
“foolishly, I commented on it.”
In any case, that`s the naked mayor story that has led more people
than you would expect all over America to care about the municipal
elections that took place last night in the second largest city in New
Jersey, Jersey City. It is because of the evolution of the naked on the
porch photo and the naked on the porch explanation is just one chapter in
the epic tale of how Jersey City Mayor Jeremiah Healy, the once naked
mayor, lost his re-election bid last night. He conceded to fellow
Democrat, Councilman Steve Fulop, who beat him by 15 points.
It`s kind of tempting to send the mayor-elect a pair of briefs to
stash in his mailbox or something, in case he ever finds himself in the
same predicament. But in the meantime, probably just a simple
congratulation is in order. But I thought you should know about it because
this is why New Jersey is used as an adjective, not just as a proper noun.
This is very, very New Jersey.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Have a great night.
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