The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 01/23/14
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Uncle Sugar. Thank you very
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home –
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: Well-played!
MADDOW: Thank you very much.
I have been stilling myself for an hour without laughing. I laughed
in the middle.
Anyway, thank you at home for joining us this hour, whether or not you
are my uncle or offering sugar.
Listen, there`s a lot going on in the news, including stuff breaking
late this evening. So, my only advice to for this show is buckle up. It`s
going to be an interesting and fast-moving hour. There is a lot going on
right now, that was not going on at this time yesterday.
OK. When it comes time for a presidential candidate to pick a running
mate, up pops one of these shortest lived and most specific niches in the
book publishing industry. It`s the really well-timed, mostly positive book
about the guy who might get picked for vice president.
This particular publishing niche is not where you look for great
literature. But it is where at least a small reliable audience of
political junkies will be looking to figure out how to handicap the vice
presidential prospects of whoever it is that`s going to be the presidential
nominee that year.
And, of course, if you`re the author of one of these mini-vice
presidential prospect books, if the subject of your book gets actually
picked for a Vice President, well, then, you might end up having a mega
bestseller on your hands, even if your book is not very good. So, you see
this happen every four years, every time a presidential nominee is about to
pick a VP.
In 2012, Mitt Romney is the nominee. Who is Mitt Romney going to
pick? Well, maybe he will pick Marco Rubio. And so, out comes “The Rise
of Marco Rubio”. That gets published June 19th, 2012.
Or maybe Mitt Romney will pick Chris Christie. And so, “The Inside
Story of Chris Christie`s Rise to Power” gets published at almost the same
time as the Rubio book. That one came out June 5th, 2012.
Then, in August, when Mitt Romney surprised everyone and picked Paul
Ryan instead, quick, rush out a book about Paul Ryan. So, you get straight
to e-books stuff like this one, published two weeks after Mitt Romney
picked him, or this one published a few days later. The might-be a vice
presidential candidate or has-just-been picked as a vice presidential
candidate book shelf. It`s kind of a strange book shelf.
But it is not a short book shelf. There`s a lot of these books.
If those books survive beyond what is expected to be the micro-short
self life in politics, after the fact, they can be pretty great evidence
for what was supposed to be the appeal of those guys, while some
presidential candidate was betting them, doing their due diligence,
deciding who they were going to pick to be VP.
In the case of Chris Christie, who was not picked to be vice
president, the shining star on his resume is now very clear when you look
back at that stuff. The thing that got him into the governor`s office the
thing that everybody always thought would be his greatest political asset
was Chris Christie`s time as U.S. attorney.
Quote, “When Chris Christie got the U.S. attorney post, he had no
sympathy for the poor old Pauls who were flying their crooked trade at
taxpayer expense. Chris Christie cut a far more public figure than
previous U.S. attorneys. Every week seemed to bring a few development, a
perk walk or a leaked word from Christie`s office of an official being
subpoenaed. After he had been in office as U.S. attorney for a year, the
media and people on the street were already suggesting that Chris Christie
should run for governor.”
Chris Christie was appointed U.S. attorney for the state of New Jersey
in 2001. He was appointed by President George W. Bush. Mr. Christie had
no prior experience if law enforcement at the time. He certainly had no
prior experience as a prosecutor. He was a lobbyist in his previous job.
But he had also been a pioneer for the George W. Bush for president
campaign if 2000. Mr. Christie bundled more than half a billion dollars in
campaign contributions for Bush-Cheney in 2000. That was apparently enough
to get him at least considered for the U.S. attorney job.
He served as U.S. attorney in New Jersey from 2002 until 2008. And he
used that job in as high profile a way as possible. The U.S. attorney`s
office under Chris Christie was known not only for its conviction rate but
for its PR, headline grabbing press releases, press events, lots of
documents and information leaked to the press, particularly in public
corruption cases of which Mr. Christie and his office prosecuted many.
Chris Christie was one of the highest profiled federal prosecutors in
the country, in his time in that office in Newark, New Jersey.
And, frankly, nobody in the state was surprised when his next big job
after U.S. attorney was governor of that state.
When he did run for governor, look at the way he ran.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AD NARRATOR: Newark Mayor Sharpe James, through a government salary,
threw the rolls. County Executive Jim Treffinger took thousands in illegal
As U.S. attorney, Chris Christie led the war on public corruption,
brought corrupt public officials to justice, 130 jailed. Democrats,
Republicans, tens of millions saved in tax dollars. Today, New Jersey is
broken and Chris Christie will fix it, just as he did as U.S. attorney with
leadership, independence, determination.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Chris Christie ran for New Jersey governor in the first place
as that high profile federal prosecutor you`ve heard so much about, that
high profile U.S. attorney. He ran the U.S. attorney`s office in such a
way as to give himself the biggest and best possible platform for his next
job in politics.
And there is nothing inherently wrong with that. It`s just what he
did with that job. That was his first law enforcement job ever, and he
used it to make a big political splash, and then he parlayed that big
political splash into his next big political office.
But the man who was appointed to that job after Chris Christie, the
guy who is in that job now, his reputation is roughly the opposite of that.
Have you ever heard of Paul Fishman? No. You are not alone.
Appointed U.S. attorney for the state of New Jersey in 2009 by
President Barack Obama, Paul Fishman is – has as small a public profile as
Chris Christie`s was large. But Paul Fishman is now right in this thing
that is going on in New Jersey with no end in sight.
And the speed at which this is unfolding in New Jersey right now is
almost breath taking.
It was Saturday when MSNBC`s Steve Kornacki broke this story with new
allegations from the mayor of Hoboken that Governor Chris Christie had
communicated to that Hoboken mayor that relief funds for Hurricane Sandy
might flow for freely to her city if she approved a private development
project that the governor favored and that some of his top appointees had a
professional stake in. Those are allegations that the governor`s office
and those top officials have denied absolutely. But that story broke here
on MSNBC tomorrow on Saturday morning.
By Sunday, by the very next day, that Hoboken mayor said she spent
more than two hours with the U.S. attorney`s office at their request,
answering their questions about her charges and handing over documents
related to her charges. That was Sunday.
By the very next day, by Monday, NBC News reports that FBI agents and
federal prosecutors from Paul Fishman`s office were in Hoboken,
interviewing at least five people, including people who have said they can
corroborate the Hoboken mayor`s charges.
Saturday, Sunday, Monday – all that happening against the backdrop of
the shutdown of lanes on the George Washington Bridge in September, which
were seemingly ordered by Chris Christie`s deputy chief of staff as a way
of inflicting traffic problems purposely on the city of Fort Lee for some
as yet unexplained reason.
Two weeks ago today, on the day that Governor Christie issued his
first apology for the scandal, after months of ridiculing anyone who asked
about it. Two weeks ago today, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman`s office was
first reported to have opened an inquiry into the bridge lane`s shutdown.
Well, today, two weeks later, we now know that the U.S. attorney in
New Jersey, Paul Fishman`s office, has sent its first federal grand jury
subpoenas in this inquiry. “The Newark Star Ledger” first to report today
the subpoenas had gone out. The subpoenas went to the re-election campaign
for Governor Christie and to the offices of the Republican Party of the
state of New Jersey.
Interestingly, though. The news of these subpoenas didn`t come from
the U.S. attorney`s office, didn`t come from Paul Fishman from the federal
prosecutor who issued the subpoenas. As recently as tonight, the office of
U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman told our staff that they would neither confirm
nor deny that they had subpoenaed anyone in conjunction with this inquiry.
The only reason we know for sure that these subpoenas went out is because
the people who got them, the people who received the subpoenas, they are
the ones who confirmed that they got them in this public statement.
Quote, “We can confirm that the Christie for governor re-election
campaign and the New Jersey Republican State Committee received subpoenas
for documents from the U.S. attorney`s office, in addition to the subpoena
that campaign previously received from the state legislative committee.”
That statement was released today from the general council for the New
Jersey Republican Party that Christie re-election campaign has also hired
him to help them in this matter.
In addition, though, they`ve also hired Bob Luskin who`s probably the
most famous for representing Karl Rove when Karl Rove was accused of
purposely leaking the identity of an undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame
Wilson. He also is famous for representing Lance Armstrong when Lance
Armstrong was denying that he took performance enhancing drugs.
So, that`s who is representing the New Jersey Republican Party and
Chris Christie`s re-election campaign in this inquiry now as they confirm
that they`ve received federal grand jury subpoenas.
But that`s not all. At least “The New York Times” is reporting that
that`s not all. Alone among all the newspapers reporting on this story
tonight, “The New York Times” is citing one person briefed on the matter as
saying that these federal subpoenas have not only gone out to the
Republican Party of New Jersey and the Chris Christie re-election campaign,
but also, quote, “To a number of the 20 people and entities that received
subpoenas last week from a New Jersey legislative committee.”
The 20 people and entities include including both potential witnesses
and people under scrutiny in the inquiry.
If that “New York Times” reporting is correct, then some of these
people and these entities who are already subpoenaed last week by the
legislature could be getting additional federal grand jury subpoenas from
the U.S. attorney. They may have gotten them already. We don`t know.
And, frankly, the U.S. attorney`s officer is so tight-lipped about
these matters that we will probably never hear it from them if they
subpoenaed any of these other people. If they did it, we will have to wait
to hear from the subpoenaed folks, themselves, or from their attorneys.
Meanwhile, though, the fact that federal subpoenas have been issued
today by this prosecutor has to be seen as a sign of a new degree of
seriousness or at least any serious phase in this federal inquiry into why
that bridge got shut down and who did it and whether it was criminal. We
will know more about the direction of that federal criminal inquiry when we
see more of the subpoena list.
Already, it seems notable the Republican Party of the state of New
Jersey has been ordered to hand over documents to the U.S. attorney, the
state Republican Party wasn`t subpoenaed before by the legislature.
Getting the state Republican Party to hand over documents is something the
legislature never tried to do.
And, meanwhile, those subpoenas that didn`t go out from the
legislature, they are still in effect. They still have the force of law
and the responses to those subpoenas that demanded documents and diary
entries and call logs and cell phones and BlackBerries. Those are all due
to be submitted to the legislature on February 3rd, which is the Monday
after the Super Bowl, which, of course, this year will be held conveniently
in New Jersey.
Joining us now is Shawn Broberg, reporter for “The Bergen Record”, who
has been on this story from the very beginning.
Mr. Broberg, thanks very much for being here.
SHAWN BROBERG, THE BERGEN RECORD: Thank you.
MADDOW: What are the implications of their being federal subpoenas
now for Governor Christie`s re-election campaign and the state Republican
Party and maybe others?
BROBERG: Well, we heard a lot about subpoenas in this series
unfolding investigations thus far. Until now, we have not seen subpoenas
from a law enforcement agency. They have been legislative subpoenas. So,
from that very fact, it`s more serious.
The other issue here is when Paul Fishman announced his office would
be reviewing this, it was an initial – it was a preliminary review to see
if there were any laws broken, any federal laws broken, any number of law
enforcement agencies down to a local prosecutor could look more deeply into
The fact that subpoenas had gone out by the U.S. attorney`s office
indicates that they have identified some federal laws. Let`s remember,
these are allegedly vindictive lane closures. There is not a federal
statute that matches up for lane closures. This is not your garden
MADDOW: There is no federal law that says toll lane 23 must be opened
to people from Fort Lee, right, exactly.
BROBERG: Fair to say.
MADDOW: That means, in other words, what you are saying is for them
to have taken this act of furtherance, to actually issue binding subpoenas
to people means that they, in order to get that far, they have to think
that some federal law is implicated. That`s sort of a threshold issue for
a serious federal inquiry.
BROBERG: Exactly. To be clear, though, there is a long road ahead,
and this is not to say that there is any allegation that a law has been
broken at this point. But to carry an investigation to say indictment, for
example, or someone is held criminally responsible, there are a lot of
steps that need to take place before that happens.
But certainly, issuing subpoenas is a serious development. It shows a
widening investigation, that federal authorities are taking this seriously.
MADDOW: Forgive my layman`s ignorance on this subject. And tell me
if you don`t know, but as far as I can tell, the fact that these are called
federal grand jury subpoenas, that doesn`t necessarily mean that a federal
grand jury has been convened specifically to look into this matter, right?
We shouldn`t read that into the type of subpoenas these are?
BROBERG: Yes, I`m not clear. As you pointed out the U.S. attorney`s
officer has been very tight lipped about this.
BROBERG: I anticipate that will continue. We may not know what`s
going on in the U.S. attorney`s office in terms of the direction of this
investigation for some time.
MADDOW: Shawn, let me also ask you, what you think the significance
is of the FBI and federal prosecutors interviewing people who say they may
be able to corroborate the mayor`s charges against Chris Christie?
BROBERG: Sure. To some degree, it`s routine. When someone comes
forward with an allegation of using political carrots to get beneficial
treatment for a private development, I think in such a public way, the FBI
has to take steps the federal authorities have to take steps to show they
are taking it seriously to investigate.
Part of what would go to the heart of whether Mayor Dawn Zimmer is
credible on this case is when she was allegedly approached, did she tell
anyone else? Did she tell her aides?
I think that`s what the FBI is looking at now. She`s obviously got
her journal entry. But the more people who can corroborate what she says,
I think the more credible she becomes.
MADDOW: The fact that FBI acts and federal prosecutors are doing
those inquiries. It doesn`t necessarily mean they have found that
But it at least means that they`re looking for it.
Shawn Broberg, reporter for “The Bergen Record” – thank you for
helping us chart these steps forward here. Your reporting has been
invaluable from the beginning. Thank you, Shawn.
BROBERG: Thank you.
All right. So it turns out the feds had a very, very busy day in New
Jersey, but not just with Hoboken and the Fort Lee traffic jam scandal.
Tis the season, corruption investigation season apparently.
We`ve got some late breaking news tonight about some political actors
apparently in hot water, including potentially a United States senator.
Yes, new story.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Also in New Jersey investigatory news tonight, this one
concerns senior Democrat U.S. Senator Bob Menendez. This is a late
breaking story tonight.
Senator Menendez has been under investigation for his relationship
with a Florida eye doctor and major donor on his behalf. The senator
advocated in a port security contract in the Dominican Republic.
Also for advocating for that same doctor in a dispute with the federal
Medicare program over $8 million in alleged overbilling. Now, the doctor
denies the charge and is suing Medicare. NBC New York, Channel 4 here in
the New York area, has now learned that this ongoing federal investigation
into New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez is bigger than originally known.
Tonight, it`s being reported the New Jersey senator is under criminal
investigation by the Department of Justice for his dealings with two
fugitive Ecuadoran bankers. It`s alleged that Senator Menendez attempted
to influence their status to help them gain permanent residency by writing
letters and making calls to the Department of Homeland Security and State
Department on their banker`s behalf.
What the feds want to know is if Senator Menendez made those calls and
did that advocacy in return for campaign contributions.
These two banker brothers left Ecuador more than a decade ago after
allegedly embezzling millions of dollars from the bank they ran there
during the economically devastating banking collapse in Ecuador in the
1990s. They have been living in the U.S. and have run businesses here.
They have not been charged with crimes in the United States. They
deny the charges in Ecuador. They are appealing tear case.
Late today, Senator Menendez said he was not aware of federal inquiry
and claimed the brothers are being politically persecuted by the government
in Ecuador. It should also be noted, importantly here, that Senator Bob
Menendez of New Jersey is the chairman of the foreign relations committee
in the United States Senate.
Also in late breaking news tonight, the conservative pundit and author
and film-maker Dinesh D`Souza has been indicted by a federal grand jury for
allegedly using straw donors to make illegal third party donations to a
candidate for Senate in 2012. Federal prosecutors say in the indictment
that Dinesh D`Souza, in order to get around election contribution limits,
had other people give a total of $20,000 to a particular Senate campaign.
And then he personally reimbursed them for those donations. You are not
supposed to do that.
The senate candidate in question was not listed in the indictment.
According to publicly available data, the only federal candidate who Mr.
D`Souza donated to in 2012 was New York Republican Wendy Long, giving her
the maximum $5,000 to her campaign for Senate that year. She lost that
campaign to Kirsten Gillibrand.
Mr. D`Souza`s lawyer has released statement that says that Mr. D`Souza
did not act with any corrupt or criminal intent whatsoever.
One was declared federal investigation week and why did nobody tell me
in advance so I could get more sleep?
Joining us now is Jonathan Dienst. He`s WNBC`s chief investigative
reporter and he broke some of these news tonight.
Jonathan, thanks very much for being here.
JONATHAN DIENST, WNBC: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: On the Menendez investigation, I should tell you we have a
statement from Senator Menendez, I will read that in a moment. If I
summarize that right, what`s important in the investigation?
DIENST: What is important on the investigation is the timing. At the
time the senator was writing letters and making phone calls and these were
repeated efforts as explained to us, there were campaign donations that
went into about the senator`s campaign and the Democratic Party coffers,
$100,000 to the Democratic Party, from relatives who are here legally on
behalf of Democrats and Senator Menendez specific campaign.
So, it was the timing of this. There were concerns about it. There
has been continuing concerns about money laundering, allegations involving
these brothers. They allegedly smuggled over $100 million out of that bank
into the U.S.
The brothers vehemently deny it. Say they did to the do anything
wrong. They never toll a penny. We were rich before, we didn`t need to
steal that money to come here.
But there was a lot of concern, if you reach inside the State
Department and Homeland Security, there was a lot of concern about the
nature of the calls and letters done on their behalf because there was
concern, both on a foreign policy stance and also in terms of who these
guys are and the charges against them.
That being said, it is extremely important to note the problems in
Ecuador, both in its justice system, the politics, the current regime there
that has been extremely aggressive in this case and also in terms of
attempting to seize their assets, television stations, other matters. So,
it`s a mess down there in terms of some of the politics and the judicial
questions, but the question remains, why was the senior senator from New
Jersey the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, taking a
special interest into alleged criminal bankers from Ecuador who are living
the high life.
We have statements from one former ambassador on the record who says
the issue of them being in Florida remains a real concern, a major concern
between both countries and there is a lot of questions about what`s been
done on, why haven`t they been extradited? Why haven`t they been kicked
out of the country?
According to State Department officials we spoke to, evidence was
lost. How that evidence got lost, that is a big question about what went
on down in Ecuador.
Again, the brothers insist they have done nothing wrong and that their
only crime was being rich and victims of an economic collapse. I think
Dick Fold, if you will, here in the U.S. and that he did no crime and yet
his bank collapsed – if that analogy kind of works, that sort of paints
the picture of their defense. And that they insist they did nothing wrong
and they are being smeared.
MADDOW: Let me get to the statement just released tonight from the
spokeswoman for Senator Menendez. “A year after a false smear campaign was
launched against the senator, once again, we see anonymous sources making
outlandish allegations, our office works each year with literally hundreds
of individuals and families who are seeking help with the immigration
process. We review each and every request we receive. And if we feel any
inquiries appropriate, we make it.
In this particular case, Senator Menendez believes this family had
been politically persecuted in Ecuador, including through the confiscation
of media outlets they own, which were critical of the government, we are
not aware of any inquiry into the senator`s actions on this matter.
Is this consistent with the way that they have held themselves in,
throughout these – as these questions have been raised in the past? Or is
DIENST: In terms of – this is their first statement on this matter.
They have denied and offered explanations in each case that the senator
acted appropriately in each of the questions when a major campaign donor
came up. They tried for the make calls on a security deal. He says his
only interest was to stop the flow of drugs into the U.S.
He called in connection with a Medicaid investigation. He said it`s
just the rules were written terribly and they were unclear and they need to
be reformed. You will see in the end, that is true.
We will see in the end because it`s our understanding that in the next
few weeks, there will be a decision made out of the public corruption
division and the Department of Justice as to how to proceed in the criminal
investigation involving Senator Menendez on this and some other matters
that we believe they reviewed.
MADDOW: Jonathan Dienst, WNBC chief investigative reporter, thank you
for helping us sort through this tonight. When this came through tonight,
we thought, oh, we should call Jonathan and get him to explain this to us.
Thank you for being here. I really appreciate it.
DIENST: My pleasure.
MADDOW: All right.
We`ll be right back. Lots going on tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Today, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell finally announced who
is going to do the Republican response to the State of the Union next week?
It is Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, the highest
ranking in the House of Representatives.
Now, Cathy McMorris Rodgers will be the first woman to be a part of
the Republican State of the Union response since Susan Collins did it 14
years ago. And Cathy McMorris Rodgers will be the first Republican woman
to be trusted to do it alone without a man sitting next to her since 1995,
when that honor went to then New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman.
Now, for the past four years, the Republican Party has also made the
strategically puzzling decision to give not one but two responses to
President Obama`s State of the Union addresses. For the past four years,
there has been the official Republican Party response and also a competing
Republican Tea Party response that`s true against this year as well. It
will be Cathy McMorris Rodgers doing the Republican response and Republican
Senator Mike Lee doing the Republican Tea Party response.
Wait, there is more. “Politico” now reports that for Rand Paul is
also going to give a Republican State of the Union response this year. So
for those of you keeping score at home, we are up to three Republican
responses by actual elected Republican officials currently serving in
Washington to Tuesday`s State of the Union address by the president.
McMorris Rodgers will speak for Republicans, Mike Lee will speak for Tea
Party Republicans and Rand Paul as always will speak for Rand Paul.
If Republicanism was a religion, this would be the part called
sectarian warfare. Until then, though, we`re just going to be calling it
MADDOW: This is the Schuylkill River. It`s more than 100 miles long.
And it runs through the heart of the great city of Philadelphia. The
Delaware River to its east is the one I think most people tend to think of
when they think about Philly. The Delaware is larger and happens to be the
border between Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
But the Schuylkill River is inextricably tied to the identity of
Philly. In part because the surest way to tell a Philly local from an
outsider is if they can look at the name of this river, which looks like it
should be pronounced sure kill or maybe sweet kill. And if you can say it
right, if you can look at that and say the Schuylkill, boom, you`re from
Well, right now, dangling perilously over the Schuylkill River in the
middle of Philadelphia is a crude oil tanker. This is one of several
tankers that brings tens of thousands barrels of crude from oil-rich North
Dakota to a refinery in south Philadelphia every week. Early Monday
morning, this week, a train that had six cars loaded the highly volatile
crude oil went off the tracks crossing the river, leading to this, rather
terrifying sight of the train car full of oil dangling over the river.
Thus far, no oil has been spilled and nobody has been hurt. This
remains an ongoing situation in Philadelphia.
And this, of course, is the latest in a string of real accidents
involving crude oil. There was the derailment in Quebec in July that
killed 47 people, nearly destroyed an entire town, spilled a million and a
half gallons of crude. There was the oil tanker derailment in Alabama in
November, a train carrying about 3 million gallons of crude oil, that fire
burned for days.
There was also the derailment and explosion that happened a few weeks
ago outside Fargo, North Dakota. That derailment led to the release of
about 400,000 gallons of crude oil. If it seems like these sorts of the
accidents are happening with more frequency, it`s because these sorts of
accidents are happening with way more frequency, way more.
There has been a huge spike in oil railcar accidents over the past
year, accidents involving railcars that transport crude oil. According to
really remarkable new data just released by the feds, more crude oil was
spilled from railcars in the last year than was spilled in the previously
37 years combined. If you add up all the oil spilled in railcar accidents
starting in 1975, you take it up to 2012, that amount combined is less than
the amount of oil spilled just in the past year.
The alarming frequency with which these sorts of accidents have been
happening led the NTSB today to take the unprecedented step of joining with
their counterpart agency in Canada to call for an overhaul in the way crude
oil is delivered by train. The two agencies issued a series of
recommendations aimed at making crude oil rail shipments safer.
And it`s pretty clear that it needs to be made safer, just ask the
Poor Schuylkill River with this looming ahead right now.
The alternative, of course, to transporting truly large bulk huge
amounts of oil by train is to transport it instead through pipelines and
proponents of pipelines, specifically, of course the Keystone XL oil
They right now are using these high profile recent oil train accidents
to say, look, hey, pipelines are safer, trains are blowing up everywhere.
Give pipelines the green light. Go Keystone.
Undercutting that argument is, of course, the mine numbing number of
pipeline spills that have also soiled big swaths of the country recently
like the pipeline explosion in Mayflower, Arkansas, in March, that made the
entire neighborhood essentially uninhabitable. Or the pipeline spill that
fouled the once pristine Yellowstone River in Montana in 2011, or the
pipeline spill underneath the Kalamazoo River in Michigan a year earlier.
That cleanup has taken years and it is still ongoing in Michigan.
Sort of a pick your poison, right? I mean, do you want the exploding
railcar behind door number one or the potentially exploding pipeline behind
door number two.
Well, in the great state of Texas right now, what they are getting is
an extra dose of number two. Yesterday, the oil company TransCanada
started shipping crude oil through the southern leg of the Keystone oil
pipeline. The proposed stretch of the Keystone pipeline that`s awaiting
approval from President Obama is the northern leg, which would stretch from
Nebraska into Canada.
But yesterday, it was the southern leg of that pipeline that opened
for business. That pipeline carries crude oil from Cushing, Oklahoma,
through the state of Texas, all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. A number of
land owners have been fighting that pipeline for months. As of yesterday,
it`s up and running.
In response to it up and running, those land owners announced
yesterday that they have launched a new group called Texas Pipeline Watch
to insure that any leaks along that pipeline are detected as soon as
possible. This is some video the group sent us today of their initial
inspections along the newly pumping pipeline. They tell us they are
checking temperature gauges along the pipeline, as well as visiting local
pump stations along the route. They are calling their Texas pipeline
watch, Texas`s Biggest Neighborhood Watch Program.
And you might not expect that kind of thing in an oil and gas state
like Texas, right? But it turns out, Texas pipeline watch isn`t an
anomalous thing. There are things going on in Texas and Texas politics
right now that might surprise you.
This is the city of Azle, Texas. Azle is a city of about 10,000
people, located in north Texas just outside Ft. Worth. Over the last few
months, something has been happening in Azle that has never happened
On November 5th at around 9:30 p.m. local time, the ground started to
shake beneath Azle, Texas. A 2.6 magnitude earthquake. Now, earthquakes
are not a common feature in that part of the country. So, that 2.6
magnitude quake took everybody by surprise.
Then the next day, it happened again, this time, it was a 2.7
magnitude earthquake which hit around 11:00 in the morning.
That same night two, more earthquakes. What?
Something was going on in Azle that had never happened before.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you feel it? Another earthquake rumbled
through North Texas. Hello, everyone. I`m Gloria Campos.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m John McKay.
Some homeowners are reporting minor damage after that quake struck.
It was around 6:40 near Azle. It measured 3.6. That`s the 12th earthquake
this month alone. It is also the strongest in five years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The 12th earthquake if two-and-a-half weeks?
That was in November. Then it started getting worse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: It seems like every single day now, we are reporting on yet
another earthquake at the Parker County line. Now we know that where I am
standing right now along Boyd Road, this is the epicenter of many of those
earthquakes. There have been 30 quakes since November 1st in this area.
The two this week were magnitude 3.3.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Thirty earthquakes in a span of two months in an area that
does not typically experience earthquakes at all? What is going on?
Well, most of the earthquakes that have struck that area around Azle
Texas since November 1st have been clustered around a pair of injection
well sites, for fracking. Residents of the city of Azle have pointed to
those injection wells as what they believe toe be the cause of the
earthquakes or at least a possible cause of the quakes.
Earlier this month, about 800 residents of Azle packed into a town
hall meeting where they called on state officials to give them some answers
about what is happening in their city.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It feels like a semi truck hitting your house with
a bomb going off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We shut down an injection well and see if the
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are not going to have any clean water.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since we are on such a tight time frame, we`re
trying to keep it to comments only. So we want to hear, no, we`re here to
REPORTER: After only an hour, residents began leaving the meeting.
Most grumbling the same frustration as Kevin Wilson.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I truly believe this is (INAUDIBLE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The Texas state officials who came to that meeting did refuse
to answer any of the questions from the residents. They said they were
just there to listen. They sat there while the residents talked, but they
didn`t talk themselves.
After that meeting was over, a group of residents decided instead of
the state coming to them and refusing to answer their questions, they were
going to go to the state. And so, this week, a group of residents of Azle,
Texas, loaded themselves on to a bus, traveled 200 miles to the state
capital in Austin to go plea with the state`s railroad commission, which
oversees drilling in that state, to help them figure out what is causing
these earthquakes in their town.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you like to have it where you can`t have
your grandkids come over to play in their yard, because if they fall in a
sinkhole, they`ll break their leg.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: While you are doing your studies, I would like
to ask you to shut these wells down.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you think is behind the large amount of
earthquakes in a short period of time?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s what we are going to try to find out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: After hearing the residents` concerns for more than three
hours, quote, “the three-member commission remained non-committal about a
response to the tremors.”
So what happens next? How does a tiny city like Azle take care of
itself there, when the very ground on which it is built is starting to
betray them? And they are saying they need help from their state and so
far, they are not getting it.
Joining us now for the interview is the mayor of Azle, Texas, Alan
Mayor Brundrett, thank you very much for being with us. I really
appreciate your time tonight.
MAYOR ALAN BRUNDRETT, AZLE, TEXAS: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: Let me just ask you first, knowing what the magnitude is,
isn`t the best way to understand how bad these earthquakes are? Have you
felt them, yourself? How bad are they in town?
BRUNDRETT: They`re fairly bad. It depends on what kind of structure
you are in as to how much you feel it. But the first earthquake I felt was
actually during a city council meeting. We had a meeting and that one it
knelt like somebody kicked the back of your chair.
MADDOW: I know that we heard a resident there talk about sinkholes
and worries about their own personal property, of having the grandkids play
in the yard. Has there been structural damage or visual damage caused by
BRUNDRETT: There has been reports of people saying they had cracks in
their bricks and things like that. But the hard part is being able to
prove it was caused by the earthquake, you know, for a fact. That`s been
the difficult part for it, especially with the settling ground that we have
here in Texas.
MADDOW: I know that you helped set up that meeting in Azle, where
state officials came, people trying to get some answers to this new problem
of earthquakes. It sounds like, at least from the local news reports that
I watched, that it didn`t help matters, that people were more frustrated
than anything else.
What happened there? What were up hoping for? How did you feel about
BRUNDRETT: We really didn`t have much information, they said, I sent
some letters to the railroad commission requesting a formal investigation
into the earthquakes. They actually responded fairly quickly. Within a
week, they called me and scheduled the town hall meeting.
So, you know, logically thinking is the question and answer-type
meeting, give some people some information, what they plan to do with it.
Things like that. But it was none of that. They had the meeting. They
came out and just to the comments and it frankly frustrated people. It did
more harm than good in my opinion.
MADDOW: Some folks in the energy industry arrange you that, it`s
maybe coincidence, that there is no what I to know for sure if fracking and
techniques like these injection well sites and everything, if those are the
things that are leading to the earthquakes. Is there anything that you
think could be done or should be done to prove the cause of the quakes?
BRUNDRETT: Well, I would say a coincidence first of all if we had one
earthquake. Not that we had 30 earthquakes in a matter of months. We
definitely need to get the wells shut down. Any common sense person that
looks at the research dating back to 1960s can see that injection wells can
So, they need to be shut down and that would be the easy thing, see if
the earthquakes stop. That will tell you if it caused it or not.
MADDOW: What is next for you and for your town and those frustrated
residents who formed the earthquake express, with that trip down to Austin?
What`s next for to you try to get this fixed?
BRUNDRETT: Well, I have some plans in place. Right now, I`m trying
to get some data. You know, they don`t want to do anything without data,
without scientific proof. So, you know, the USGS, they have been doing
some studies in Azle already. They have been for, for over a month now.
So, as soon as they get some data together, then we`ll basically have
some ammunition to go get them shut down, because the wells are outside of
our city limits. So we don`t have any kind of authority to do anything.
But once we get some evidence and make some noise. Basically, I won`t stop
until it`s done.
MADDOW: Well, the noise you are making already has national
resonance, I can tell you that from here in New York. Mayor of Alan
Brundrett of Azle, thank you for being willing to explain this to us
tonight. I hope you stay in touch as you keep up this fight. Thank you.
BRUNDRETT: Definitely. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Lots of news tonight, including a surprising turn
in Virginia politics and corruption investigations. Still lots to come
tonight. I told you, it`s a busy day.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Programming note, I will be on the David letterman show
tonight wearing this exact same jacket but a different shirt and glasses.
I will be talking about Chris Christie, and Bob McDonnell and how to annoy
Vladimir Putin and why I might go to jail and all sorts of other stuff.
“The Late Show with David Letterman” tonight.
OK. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: One of the things that has been fascinating all along
balanced budget amendment the former Governor Bob McDonnell corruption case
in Virginia has been the timing. “The Washington Post” reported in
December that the U.S. attorney in Virginia was not only ready to bring
criminal corruption charge against Bob McDonnell and his wife, he had told
their lawyers that he was about to bring those charges in December. And
that`s, of course, while Bob McDonnell was still governor of Virginia.
The McDonnells` lawyers responded by taking their case straight to the
Department of Justice. They got a high level meeting with a deputy U.S.
attorney general, and they pled their case to please not make Bob McDonnell
the first sitting Virginia governor to ever be criminally indicted while
still in August.
This guy, Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole reportedly agreed
with the McDonnells` lawyer request. He agreed to change the timing. He
overrode the local prosecutor, the U.S. attorney in Virginia, and made that
U.S. attorney wait to bring the charges until after Governor McDonnell was
out of office.
That was the first thing that was weird about the timing of this case,
and that part of it is still unexplained by the U.S. Justice Department.
We`ve asked them repeatedly, they will not talk to us about it.
But the second weird thing about the timing is what happened next,
because even after they worked so hard to get the indictment pushed back,
Bob McDonnell defense team apparently still didn`t know when the indictment
against him was going to come down. And the reason we know they didn`t
know about the timing is because when the indictment did happen this week,
one of Bob McDonnell`s key lawyers was not only on vacation, he was
apparently on vacation somewhere that would require a boat ride and three
airplane trips to return from. He was totally off the grid.
When the indictment happened, this lawyer, who was a key part of the
Bob McDonnell defense team, he was not around and couldn`t be around
easily. And when they announced that arraignment, when they announced the
arraignment in which Bob McDonnell and his wife are going to have to show
up in court to face the 14 felony counts that are spelled out in their 43-
page indictment, when they announced that the arraignment was going to
happen on Friday, as in tomorrow, the McDonnell defense team asked to
please delay that arraignment because their lawyer is somewhere presumably
far away from the polar vortex where only boats can go and he will not be
able to get back in time.
So, the defense team asked to delay the arraignment. The prosecutors
did not object. They said that`s fine. Let`s give the lawyer time to get
back here, we don`t mind if you want to push back the arraignment.
So the defense asked the judge, and the prosecution said we`re OK with
it and everybody expected the arraignment to be pushed off for a week.
But it turns out no. One of the judges presiding in the case
apparently does not care about that request from the defense. He does not
even care that the prosecution doesn`t mind.
The judge is insisting that the arraignment go ahead as originally
scheduled, and so tomorrow morning, Bob McDonnell and his wife are going to
be in federal court, minus this guy who is apparently still on his way back
into the country from somewhere I`m sure really nice.
Why did this one judge decide to push this hard line and not move the
arraignment? We have no idea.
One thing we do know about this judge is that he – before he was on
the bench, he`s best known for having prosecuted Zacharias Moussaoui, the
only person to date to be charged in connection to the 9/11 attacks.
Another interesting detail about the McDonnell case came to light
tonight. Mr. McDonnell was reportedly offered a plea deal several months
into the investigation. He was basically told if you plead guilty to one
felony bank fraud charge, just that one charge that has nothing to do with
corruption while you`re in office, a charge that would allow you to avoid a
very public trial, if you plead guilty to just that one case, that one
charge, we will let Mrs. McDonnell get away scot-free and we will not
charge you with anything else.
Governor McDonnell apparently said no thanks, turned down the plea
deal. That is according to new reporting on “The Washington Post”.
So if he did turn down that plea deal, as “The Washington Post”
reports, that is why Bob McDonnell and his wife have had their previously
private correspondent made embarrassingly public. That`s why they will
face 14 felony charges related to corruption, conspiracy, fraud and much
more, and they will face those charges tomorrow in federal court in
Stay with us.
MADDOW: One last note before we go tonight. Also out of Virginia,
where the attorney general used to be Ken Cuccinelli, a man famous for
devoting a whole section of his campaign Web site to explaining his
affection for Virginia`s sodomy law. Now, of course, Ken Cuccinelli is
gone. And today, the new attorney general of Virginia, Democrat Mark
Herring just announced his office would no longer defend Virginia`s ban on
Elections have consequences. Sometimes really, really blunt
Now it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Have a great night.
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