The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/18/14
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this
There`s a lot going on in the news tonight, including some new
reporting on the Chris Christie bridge lane scandal in New Jersey. A new
document has been uncovered. And some new figures are potentially being
hauled into court in conjunction with the scandal. We`ll get to that news
Also, there were another several dozen earthquakes in Oklahoma today.
Several dozen. Still with no official explanation.
Also, an 84-year-old woman just got a shockingly long prison sentence
because of a peace protest that she was part of.
There`s a lot going on tonight in the news. We`re going it get to all
of that and more throughout the course of the next hour.
But we start here in 1989, in Berlin. Those iconic moments when the
Berlin Wall was taken down, physically, by protesters wielding
sledgehammers and just tearing the wall apart by hand. That was 1989 when
the Berlin Wall came down. It took until 1991, two years later, before the
Iron Curtain had truly fallen completely, when the USSR, the Soviet Union,
spun apart into its pieces.
The largest physical portion of what had been the Soviet Union, of
course, survived more or less intact as Russia, but former Soviet socialist
republics like this one here, this big one, Ukraine, they became their own
nations in 1991 and in Ukraine they did it without a war. Yes, there were
a lot of protests including some protests that ended in violence at the
time but they did it without a war.
Well, today in the streets of Ukraine, in the streets of Ukraine`s
capital city, it very much looked like war. We have – have you seen this
today? We have had footage like this pouring in all day today for more
than 12 hours it has looked like this, and it is still going on now
Molotov cocktails, random explosions, fires raging, including some
very large fires raging in very close proximity to a lot of people, live
ammunition, percussion grenades, hand to hand combat. There have been
images in the press of protesters on fire, including this one run by “The
New York Times” today. Photos of grievously injured protesters and troops
and police, including some doctors on the scene saying they`re treating
live ammunition gunshot wounds.
The latest death toll that we have for what is going on in Kiev right
now is at least 18 people dead. But that number has been rising throughout
the day and it`s not clear whose official body count should necessarily be
This is an ongoing situation. These images that you`re looking at,
these are not cold and combined images from a long time ago or a bunch of
different protests. This is a live feed. We`re showing you live pictures
of what`s happening right now tonight in Kiev.
If the setting looks at all familiar for these images, it`s because
the large-scale protests didn`t just start now. The large-scale protests
in Kiev started in November. If you look at the map of Ukraine, just in
terms of where they are situated geographically in relation to other
countries and other regions, obviously they are part of the former USSR.
They have a long border with Russia. They`re not all that far from Moscow.
But much of Ukraine, geographically and ethnically and to a growing
extent politically, they orient themselves to the left of this map, to the
West, toward Europe as much as they do toward Moscow.
And these protests started, these mass protests started in November
when Ukraine`s president had the opportunity to sign a huge trade deal with
Europe that would have knitted Ukraine`s economy much more into Europe`s
economy. He had the opportunity to do that and he turned it down. He
would not sign that deal and instead he essentially re-upped with Putin,
re-upped with Moscow. He signed instead a $15 million loan arrangement,
and an arrangement to get lots of new cheap natural gas from Vladimir Putin
as a replacement for that deal with Europe that Putin really did not want
him to take.
And that is when the mass protests started, and the opposition
movement in Ukraine is big. It`s diverse, both in terms of its class and
age and its range of ideologies and everything else. They, for a protest
movement, for an opposition movement in a fairly repressive country,
they`re pretty good at articulating what they stand for, what they stand
against and have been really good at maintaining a huge presence visibly in
public in the public square.
And, yes, there have been moments of violence, but there have been
longer stretches honestly it felt like a celebration, even at times an
ongoing concert in the streets of Kiev. And recently, really recently,
like within the last few days, there had been hope that the standoff might
have been, or might have politically negotiated ending, because the
government floated the possibility of all the protesters who had been
arrested, they floated the possibility that those protesters might get some
sort of amnesty.
The amnesty deal was supposed to deescalate everything, reduce the
threat of violence between the two sides, calm the situation down. The
protesters who had been occupying city hall in Kiev, in the capital city,
they left two days ago after months of occupying that building because of
the amnesty deal.
But then today, it all just went off like a rocket. The government
closed a new economic deal with Russia yesterday. The protesters after
only two days of being gone were back inside Kiev city hall. They were
back in huge numbers in Independence Square.
And today, defying an order from the government that the protesters
must leave and go home – they stayed. And Ukrainian paramilitary police
units drove armored personnel vehicles into the barricades. The barricades
were very well-fortified. The protesters have been there a long time. And
those armored personnel carriers got stuck on the barricades. Then, they
got set on fire.
The protesters besieged the troops in the personnel carriers. Other
troops came out to rescue their colleagues who were stuck. The personnel
carriers fires were set alight, amid just – not just tear gas but
fragmentation grenades and Molotov cocktails and what appears to be live
“The New York Times” reporters on the scene today described, quote,
“elderly women clustered on the sidewalk, heedless of the gunshots and
explosions, heckling the police, shouting “killers”, shouting at the
police, “shoot us, just shoot us, kill us, kills us, you bastards.”
The headquarters of the ruling party in Ukraine were set on fire
today. Grenades and gunshots and fires as you can see raged all day today.
They are still raging right now. The U.S. embassy tonight put out this
statement to American citizens who may find themselves in Ukraine, telling
all Americans to stay indoors, telling any U.S. citizens who are in hotels
or buildings near the protests that they should leave if they can, and if
they can`t, they should be prepared to stay inside for several days, if
large-scale clashes do continue to occur.
Meanwhile, the protesters are calling for more and more people, as
many people as possible to find ways to head down to Independence Square
and join them tonight in central Kiev, to try to avoid police barricades by
using side streets and alleys. The Ukrainian government has released its
own statement today issuing a deadline – a deadline I should tell you has
passed as of earlier tonight, saying that if the excesses of the protesters
do not stop, quote, “we will be required to restore order by all means
provided by law. We will be forced to resort to harsh actions.”
Nobody knows exactly what that means, but it looks like war already.
And protesters have said they fear an escalation even beyond what we`ve
seen today and tonight.
Vice President Biden, tonight, has had a phone call with the president
of Ukraine. According to the White House readout from that call, Mr. Biden
expressed grave concern regarding the crisis on the street there. He said
the United States condemns the violence, calling on the Ukrainian president
to exercise restraint and pull back government forces.
But looking at these pictures tonight – I mean, this is what it has
been like all day, just watching this feed today in my office today, it`s
just been incredible. Looking at these pictures tonight, looking at this
ongoing battle, honestly, while the Olympics are under way not that far
away next door in Russia – I mean, it`s clear Russia, and geographically,
Russia a major player of what`s going.
It was the orientation of Ukraine`s president toward Russia, instead
of toward Europe, that started this whole thing in the first place. And it
is this latest move by Russia toward Ukraine`s government in the last 24
hours that seems to have set off the violence and the fires that are raging
tonight. However much the Ukrainians do or don`t want it, it`s clear that
this is Russia`s corner of the world and they are key to what happens here,
and to the safety of Ukrainians who are out on the streets.
But if that`s so, if this is Russia`s corner of the world, what, if
anything, do we have to do with it? Is there a way for any other country -
- is there an international way to be constructive in this situation with
what looks like a civil war breaking out in the streets of a major nation?
Is there an international way to be constructive? Is there an American way
to be constructive in this situation or is this the sort of thing that we
just need to monitor and watch and do nothing else?
And is the Obama administration inclined to try to find some sort of
American way to resolve this situation? What is the Obama presidency like
when it comes to dealing with crises like this abroad in other people`s
necks of the woods?
Joining us now is Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign affairs
correspondent and host of “ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS.”
Andrea, thanks very much for being with us.
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: You bet.
MADDOW: So, we got this readout tonight of Vice President Biden
calling the Ukrainian president in the midst of the street battles going on
right there in the capital city in Kiev.
Why, why is it that it`s Vice President Biden calling and not
President Obama? Is this something you would expect to happen at a higher
level or a lower level? Why him?
MITCHELL: It`s a high level but not the highest level, and in fact,
the very fact that Putin has said, stay out of my backyard, would mean it
would be almost to much of an out front for President Obama himself to get
One of the issues here has been this tug-of-war between Putin saying
this is my territory and the United States saying that we and the E.U. have
a vested interest in this. Just look at what`s happening in the streets.
Look at what the pictures you have shown. I mean, these paintings – they
look like paints. They look like (INAUDIBLE) or something. These look
like battles, classic battles.
It doesn`t look real what we`re seeing in the streets of Kiev. Yet,
it is all too real. And the deaths are real. And the stakes are very,
And think back to what happened just 24 hours ago. That`s when Putin
upped the ante. He said he would guarantee these $2 billion in loans even
as the rebel leaders were in Berlin visiting with Angela Merkel and the
Germans and the E.U., and you know the frustration that America has
expressed through Victoria Nuland, the top official for Europe, at the
slowness of the European Union to respond with money, to try to balance it
and not have Yanukovych, the president of Ukraine, be completely under the
thrall of Putin.
But clearly, the students, the others, the protesters and rebel
leaders saw Russia offering this loan guarantee as the final blow to them
that Yanukovych was indeed going to be in line with Russia and they would
be completely frustrated in their efforts to align themselves with the
MADDOW: Andrea, these images that we`re showing right now are live.
It`s just – it`s incredible. It`s about 4:00 a.m., as you can see with
the time stamp there, local time. But this is happening right now.
In terms of looking at the dynamics under way, does the opposition in
Ukraine, either the organized opposition in terms of people who are in
parliament and so forth, or the opposition leaders in the street, do they
want and expect international help? Do they see the United States as
having a range of potential influence here? What are they asking for?
MITCHELL: Well, the rebel leaders have been very much in touch with
American and European Union leaders, but the people in streets are not
necessarily all connected.
You mentioned the fact that there has been some violence. The rebel
leaders have lost control of some of the people in the streets. This is
not a completely unified situation, as these things never are. But they
have been remarkably consistent given that this has been happening since
December, as you pointed out.
So, the rebel leaders want help from us. They want some force to pull
them back from Putin`s grasp. But Putin is not going to negotiate on this.
Lavrov, his foreign minister, made it very clear in the last couple days
with the West that they consider this their territory, and it would be as
though they were mucking around in Latin America, and you know how we feel
about our territory. They feel that this is not a part of Western Europe.
They think that this is part of the former Soviet Union.
MADDOW: Andrea, in terms of how these decisions are being made here
in the United States, obviously that leaked phone conversation between
Victoria Nuland and the ambassador to Ukraine was fascinating just in terms
of a window as to way our diplomats are working on this. But in the bigger
picture, we`ve had two very high profile secretaries of state under
President Obama – Hillary Clinton first and now John Kerry.
When you look at a situation like Ukraine or challenge of North Korea
with this report on their human rights that came out this week from the
U.N. that was so harrowing, Syria, these other challenges, foreign policy
issues that are very vexing that the administration`s dealing with – is
the new State Department noticeably different under John Kerry since the
departure of Hillary Clinton?
MITCHELL: Oh, yes.
MADDOW: Either in terms of their effectiveness or the way they
approach this war?
MITCHELL: We don`t know about the effectiveness but they`re less risk
averse. John Kerry has run for president. He`s not going to run for
Hillary Clinton very likely may. And it`s very clear the White House
has controlled the foreign policy for both of these secretaries of state,
but Kerry has pushed back more and has been more aggressive in more cases.
Clinton chose the battles, but she was, first of all, very cautious
about not picking a fight overtly with Barack Obama, this was the team of
rivals – and the fact she had run against him and they had been such
political enemies, if you will, made it even more difficult for her to
challenge him publicly, at least, on foreign policy.
And then the National Security Council did not give her very much
running room, so she chose things that were possible for her. Women`s
issues and other issues of restoring respect for American foreign policy
after the wars in Iraq and others that were very unpopular in Europe. The
tension policies of those, of course, have still continued in Guantanamo,
but trying to change some of the Bush policies. That made the American
foreign policy more popular initially, at least, under Barack Obama.
But she didn`t have that much leverage, as high profile as she was.
She was greeted as a head of state in, you know, traveling with her in
those first couple of years because she was Hillary Clinton. So, she has a
higher profile than John Kerry.
Kerry is more willing to do, you know, the very tough slog of going
back and forth between Israel and Palestine and what many people say is not
going to be a productive mission, but he is taking some really big chances
But in both their cases, and specifically with Kerry, I think the most
important thing that he`s doing is Iran, and that will be jeopardized by
challenging Russia. But he last night joined other officials in the White
House by really slapping at Vladimir Putin over his policy in Syria.
So, they`re all connected and it`s hard to understand how he can make
progress in Iran while ignoring Putin`s role in Syria, which they`re no
longer willing to do, and then you`ve got Putin doing this in Ukraine. It
is very, very big crisis on a lot of fronts.
MADDOW: It`s a big crisis. It`s one that`s literally on fire right
MADDOW: And as you`re pointing out, incredibly interwoven with these
Andrea Mitchell, I miss talking to you. We haven`t had you here in
too long. Thank you for being here tonight.
MITCHELL: Thank you. You bet.
Andrea is NBC`s chief foreign correspondent and she is the host of
“ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS.” And this is important, “ANDREA MITCHELL REPORT”
is moving to a new time. It`s moving to noon Eastern starting on Monday,
which means you need to change your whole day to accommodate that change in
All right. Some new reporting on the George Washington Bridge
investigation in New Jersey is coming up next.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: Behold redactions. These black lines were not added by me.
I`m more of a highlighter kind of gal, rather than a black magic marker
When you get official redactions like in a publication, like in this
book, Ali Soufan`s book, “The Black Banners”, about interrogating al Qaeda
suspects, in a book like that, publications, the redactions are nice and
tidy because they do them with a machine. But when it`s some guy crossing
out things by hand, it admittedly looks a little more sketchy.
And in 908 pages of documents and e-mails and text messages that were
handed over by Chris Christie ally David Wildstein when the bridge lane
scandal broke open in New Jersey, either Mr. Wildstein or his lawyer just
marked up by hand about 45 pages of the 908 pages. What`s underneath the
Well, today, somebody appears to have finally found out. The “Star-
Ledger” and “Bergen Record” reporting today the special counsel for the
committee investigating the bridge scandal met with David Wildstein`s
lawyer in private and looked at the un-redacted documents. At what was
under the black magic marker.
So, the special counsel apparently has seen what has been blacked out
in these documents. It`s not clear that anyone else has seen them, except
him. But apparently he has, in private. Nobody else has seen them. And
certainly none of them have been made public, except for one. One line.
This is a really strange development. The “Newark Star-Ledger”
newspaper is reporting that it has obtained what appears to be one of these
text messages that was crossed out in the public documents. Now, oddly,
the “Star-Ledger” is reporting that its editorial board specifically has
this new text message, not one of its beat reporters who`s been working the
story, but somebody on their editorial board.
And according to the “Star-Ledger” they say the text message they have
obtained concerns this man. He`s Republican state senator in New Jersey.
And there`s an interesting story about who he is. New Jersey Governor
Chris Christie`s first mentor in politics was a man named Tom Kean. His
name looks like Kean but it`s pronounced Cane.
Tom Kean was the assemblyman who represented Chris Christie`s
neighborhood when Chris Christie was a kid, and the “New Republic” reported
when Chris Christie was 14 years old, he was bold enough to walk up to his
assemblyman`s front door, to Tom Kean`s doorbell, and ring his doorbell
land asked him for advice, how he, Chris Christie, 14-years-old, could some
day get elected to public office. He was 14.
Tom Kean was his first mentor in politics. Chris Christie`s first
involvement in grown-up electoral politics was working on the Tom Kean for
governor program and Tom Kean went on from the assembly to become a popular
two-term governor of New Jersey. When he left office, he was one of the
most popular political figures in New Jersey ever. Tom Kean was nationally
respected enough that he was asked to co-chair the 9/11 Commission after
Tom Kean and Chris Christie were long seen as inextricable in New
Jersey politics. That`s why it was so notable and so unexpected when Chris
Christie moved against Tom Kean. As soon as Chris Christie was reelected
to start his own second term as governor, one of the first moves he made
after his re-election was to try to force the Republicans in the
legislature to drop their leadership in the Senate, to drop their
Republican Senate leader and pick somebody else instead.
The guy who Chris Christie was trying to force out as Republican
leader in the state senate is named Tom Kean. Tom Kean Jr., the former
governor`s son. And what`s worse, it didn`t work.
As soon as Governor Christie was re-elected he took a huge shot at the
son of his former mentor, the son of the most respected Republican in the
state of New Jersey, and it didn`t work. Tom Kean Jr. survived and held on
to his leadership position, but it was such a bizarre and unexpected move
from Chris Christie to try to overthrow him.
And here`s the thing, here`s the thing, here`s the newly relevant
thing. The guy who Chris Christie wanted to replace Tom Kean Jr. with was
this guy, Kevin O`Toole. Chris Christie wanted him, this guy, in place so
badly as the top Republican in the Senate that he burned the strongest and
oldest bridge he had in politics. He wanted Kevin O`Toole in there so bad
he was willing to betray Tom Kean like that.
And you want to know what happened to Kevin O`Toole? Turns out he`s
the one Senate Republican who has been assigned to the committee
investigating the bridge scandal. Oh.
And now, the “Newark Star-Ledger” reports that it has obtained a text
message that no one else has seen, in which David Wildstein texts Bill
Baroni something about an O`Toole statement being ready right after Bill
Baroni finished up his statement to the legislature. This was the Bill
Baroni testimony where he tried to sell the cover story, that what happened
with those bridge lanes back in September was nothing political, it was
nothing untoward, it was just a traffic study.
We know Bill Baroni gave that misleading testimony on November 25th,
false testimony with the cover story about a traffic study that wasn`t a
real thing. That was November 25th.
We also know right after that testimony was over, at noon that day,
Bill Baroni texted David Wildstein three question marks. This is as soon
as he was done with the testimony.
Mr. Wildstein`s first response was, “Port Authority Police Department
said all was fine.” Then Bill Baroni asks for Trenton feedback
specifically, and Mr. Wildstein texts back, “Good. Trenton feedback,
“Good.” Then there`s a line that`s redacted.
Then Mr. Baroni asks, “Just good?” Then he swears. Then, Mr.
Wildstein goes on to assure him other Trenton people who appear to be
staffers in Governor Christie`s office thought he did just great with his
The “Star-Ledger” appears to be reporting that is where Mr. Wildstein
texts this statement, “O`Toole statement ready,” to Bill Baroni, “O`Toole
He sent that message right after Bill Baroni finished his testimony.
And sure enough, on that same day, Senator Kevin O`Toole released a
statement that totally took the Bill Baroni line, repeated the story from
his testimony, repeated the whole cover story about the supposed traffic
study. In the next day, he published a similar version of the statement as
an op-ed in the newspaper, in the “Bergen Record.”
So, think about this for a second. In the legislature, the highest
profile person advancing the cover-up, advancing the false cover story
about the fake traffic study in a statement he released from his office
then an op-ed he released the next day, which apparently was ready to go as
soon as the testimony was over, ready to go already, really? Within just a
minute of the testimony on concluding?
The guy who had that statement echoing the cover up, ready to go, was
Kevin O`Toole. A very close ally of Governor Chris Christie. Somebody who
Governor Chris Christie had taken huge political risks for just a few weeks
More importantly, though, that state senator is now a member of the
committee that`s investigating the scandal. The committee that`s
investigating the cover-up which he, himself, knowingly or unknowingly,
personally advanced. He personally advanced the cover-up, whether or not
he knew it was a cover-up.
And now, he`s investigating the cover-up? Awkward, right?
One of the committee co-chairs today floated the possibility that
Senator Kevin O`Toole, a member of their own committee, might get a
subpoena from the committee. Very awkward.
Loretta Weinberg telling the “Star-Ledger” tonight, quote, “I could
see such a scenario unless he comes forward with whatever information we
has that we don`t know.”
And meanwhile, it looks like Chris Christie`s former campaign manager
and his former deputy chief of staff may be brought to court. They may
have a court try to force them to comply with orders to hand over documents
to the investigation. They are both refusing. Today was the deadline.
And now this is coming to a head.
Hold on. There`s more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE REP. JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY: A point of frustration
for the committee is there are numerous documents that are redacted and for
those listening, there`s marker or black pen taken to obscure some of the
language in some of the documents.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The redactions occurred either because the
material redacted was from a date outside of the realm of dates sought by
the subpoena of this committee, or did not deal with the subject matter of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: David Wildstein`s lawyer trying to explain to the New Jersey
legislature why either he or his client took a black marker to a sizable
chunk of the paperwork that they submitted under subpoena regarding the
George Washington bridge lane closures last year.
We learned today the attorney for the joint investigating committee
has since met with David Wildstein`s lawyer and has apparently seen what
lies beneath all those black magic marker lines.
Also, a New Jersey newspaper is also now reporting that they`ve
obtained a text message that was not part of the unredacted stuff that was
Joining us now to talk about this and more is the co-chairman of the
New Jersey Legislative Select Committee Investigation, Assemblyman John
Mr. Chairman, thanks for being here.
WISNIEWSKI: Rachel, good to be here.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about the redactions first. This was my
favorite page. The page that was entirely redacted. That must have been
WISNIEWSKI: One of several. One of several.
MADDOW: Reid Schar, the special counsel, has reportedly now seen
what`s beneath these redactions. Why has he seen them and what does that
mean about whether you`re going to see them and whether or not the public
WISNIEWSKI: It`s a process that counsel worked out with one another.
We wanted to see them from that day. You showed the clip where he was
first at the committee meeting and we wanted to see them. So, Mr. Zegas,
the attorney for Mr. Wildstein, has agreed to provide them to our council
who`s going to review them and they`re going to come to an agreement on
what can be included.
What we`re told preliminarily is the statement that Mr. Zegas made
that they were outside the timeframe or outside the subject matter, it`s
pretty much on the mark. There are a couple of pages that our counsel says
that probably should be included. So, we`re hoping to work that out and
have them included with the record and I hope to have more to say about
that in the near future.
But it looks like, you know, there`s a very small subset, 40-some
pages I think out of the 900, that really probably should be included but
others seem to be just outside the date range or talking about things that
have nothing to do with the bridge.
MADDOW: OK. When you say in a very near future, what kind of
timeframe do you think?
WISNIEWSKI: I`m hoping within the next week to 10 days that we`d have
some resolution on that. I think it would be important for the committee
to have an understanding that our council looked at them, concurs with in
some respects what Mr. Zegas represented.
I think the frustration that we had was just seeing them without any
explanation raised suspicions.
WISNIEWSKI: Why are they redacted, who redacted them, what was the
basis for the redactions? I think we`re closer to having answers to that
MADDOW: The “Star-Ledger” is now reporting on a text message that
they say was not in the unredacted material that was announced publicly.
It seems to me, the way they`re describing it, it must be one of the lines
that was redacted from the series of text messages we saw between David
Wildstein and Bill Baroni right after he gave his cover-up testimony to the
According to the “Star-Ledger`s” reporting, they haven`t published a
primary document of any kind –
MADDOW: – they say that text message they`ve seen refers to State
Senator Kevin O`Toole who is on your committee that`s investigating these
issues, about him having a statement ready to go as soon as that testimony
was over concerning the traffic study cover-up.
How are you going to deal with that as a committee?
WISNIEWSKI: Well, two things. The members of the committee are
appointed by the presiding officers, so Senator Weinberg and I, we serve on
the committee at the appointment of the presiding officers. It`s not our
call. I mean, I think they`re aware of this issue and going to have to
deal with it.
Let me tell you about the frustrations sitting there in that committee
meeting. Bill Baroni provided testimony, facts and figures, data, about
every member`s districts, how many cars go through the E-ZPass lanes. We
asked, can we have that data? No, no, we have to consult with counsel
Well, within three hours, all the data as I chair and the committee
members were denied was in an article that appeared online and the next day
in the newspaper. So, there`s a certain amount of frustration we couldn`t
get that data. We were denied that data, and then it appeared online and
in a newspaper story.
MADDOW: And now the investigation into what was really going on there
involves the person who got the data when you couldn`t get it.
WISNIEWSKI: Yes. And, certainly, we`re hoping that Senator O`Toole
will provide all of the relevant material to the committee so that the
committee can make a determination about what facts are relevant.
MADDOW: “Star-Ledger” also reporting tonight that Bill Stepien, Chris
Christie`s former campaign manager and Bridget Anne Kelly who sent the
infamous e-mail, may end getting – brought to court over their refusal to
hand over documents to your committee. Can you comment on that report to
WISNIEWSKI: Well, we listen to their – we read their objections.
They had lengthy objections to the subpoenas. That they weren`t relevant,
that they weren`t part of the subject matter. They didn`t seek to obtain
information that was crucial to the investigation.
We considered all of that. They made some legal arguments about the
Fifth Amendment. And we looked at those and said, look, this is not about
testifying against yourself. This is about providing information need for
There`s still a disagreement. That`s what lawyers do. We`re going to
continue to pursue our rights and we`re confident that ultimately the
committee will prevail and we`ll get the material we need. It`s not going
to happen as quickly as we like, but I think we`re on good, solid legal
MADDOW: Assemblyman John Wisniewski, co-chair of the New Jersey
Legislative Select Committee investigating the bridge scandal – thank you
for your time tonight. Lots happening all at once. I keep thinking this
is going to slow down, but it doesn`t.
Not yet. Thank you, sir.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: If you look at pretty good sized earthquakes, magnitude 2.5
or more, the state of Oklahoma is used to having, I don`t know, say between
40 and 100 of those per year for the last few years. Last year, they got a
huge spike in that size quake in Oklahoma, more than 200 quakes of 2.5 or
But now, not even two months into this year, Oklahoma has already
recorded 94 good sized quakes as of yesterday. And it turns out to show
you what the pace is for this year, we`re going to need a bigger chart,
because in Oklahoma, today, they have counted up another 39 earthquakes
just today. And some of these are really small, but some of them cross
that 2.5 magnitude threshold and a couple of them were magnitude 3.0 or
So, we had to remake our chart of significant earthquakes in Oklahoma.
So far this year, they hit 94 yesterday. Today, it`s 103. If things keep
going at this pace in Oklahoma, Oklahoma will experience more than 780
significant earthquakes this year, and that`s not counting all the teeny
Now, Oklahoma is not in denial about its earthquake spike. Even
before the quite amped up rattling of the past few days and the past few
weeks, Oklahoma had hired a state seismologist to start looking into why
this is happening.
The swarm of earthquakes has lasted long enough now in Oklahoma that
the Red Cross has begun offering a “what to do in an earthquake app” to
Oklahoma residents. Knowing to get yourself under a desk or into a door
frame is one thing, but knowing what is causing this huge spike in quakes
is a whole other deal. The Oklahoma state seismologist says it may have
something to do with injection wells. Where fracking companies inject the
wastewater used in fracturing shale and breaking up that rock to get at the
natural gas that`s trapped inside.
The wastewater from that very water-intensive process has to go
somewhere and a lot of times they inject that wastewater into injection
well sites. The state of Oklahoma has more than 4,000 injection wells.
The state seismologists told “The New York Times” in December that
injection wells can sometimes cause earthquakes. Quote, “Could we be
looking at some cumulative tipping point? Yes. That`s absolutely
Or it could be something else. The point is that it`s hard to be sure
in Oklahoma, even as they`re having this huge swarm of earthquakes right
now. It`s hard to draw a conclusion one way or the other about this
particular side effect of this very lucrative oil and gas industry that`s
so important to the local economy.
A few weeks ago on this show, we reported on little Azle, Texas, which
is a suburb of Ft. Worth. Neighbors there traced a swarm of quakes in
their town and Azle, a pair of local injection wells. When the people of
Azle could not get answers about those wells, they got in the bus and
traveled 200 miles to the state capitol in Austin to plead their case with
Azle, Texas, is not the only part of the state where oil and gas
companies are fracking. In southern Texas, toward Laredo, and San Antonio
and Corpus Christi, you`ll find another huge region where oil and gas
companies are fracking and also dealing with the wastewater from fracking
and shipping fossil fuels to the market. It`s called the Eagle Ford Shale.
The Eagle Ford Shale play.
You can see here the wells in just one county in the Eagle Ford Shale.
In this part of southern Texas, people who live next to the stuff say they
are concerned about most is not necessarily earthquakes or, say, fears that
their tap water might turn flammable as we`ve seen in other states with
lots of fracking, what people in that part of Texas are now saying is the
entire enterprise of getting this stuff out of the ground and ready for
sale may be creating air pollution that they have not seen before.
Texas energy executives say their industry follows the rules. Texas
regulators say they say, quote, “Overall, shale play activity does not
significantly impact air quality or pose a threat to human health.”
But people in that part of Texas have filed nearly 300 complaints
about oil and gas drilling since January 2010, and it`s not just one aspect
of fracking or one byproduct that maybe affecting the air quality. It`s
the fracking, itself, and also the equipment used in drilling and the
generators that power the equipment and the flares that burn off excess
gasses and the process of separating the stuff you can sell from the stuff
you don`t sell, and then compressing it for shipment down the pipeline.
It`s the whole enterprise tip to tail.
But don`t take my word for it. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: Chemicals released during oil and gas extraction include
some of the most damaging volatile organic compounds or VOCs, including
benzene and toluene. These chemicals have been linked to cancer,
neurological problems and other serious illnesses. VOCs are released at
every phase of oil and gas development – drilling, fracking, production
and processing. They`re part of the fluid that`s used to fracture the
shale and they`re released from the earth when the rock is cracked open.
VOCs seep from wellbores, storage tanks, flares and even pipelines.
But oil fields in this part of Texas have an added danger, hydrogen
sulfide. It`s a naturally occurring gas you`ll find in some shale areas of
the country but is especially abundant here. In low concentrations, it
makes people sick. In high concentrations, it can kill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Over the past eight months, a Web site called “Inside Climate
News” and Center for Public Integrity and our sister network, the Weather
Channel, have been reporting out this story in south Texas. Well, today,
they released a long awaited report on the subject.
It`s called “Fracking the Eagle Ford Shale: Big Oil and Bad Air on the
Texas prairie.” They followed families who lived within a couple miles of
50 wells. Families who have for their daily horizon wide open Texas and
the full throttle machinery of oil and gas. What they found is truly
amazing and it`s never been reported like this before.
You`re going to want to hear some of this. Hold onto that thought.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: What`s going on in the Eagle Ford Shale is more subtle than
a refinery explosion or an oil spill. A toxic soup of chemicals is being
released into the air day in and day out. We won`t know the effects of
these emissions for a very long time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The chemical is in the air. We can`t get away
from them because we live here. We`re here 24/7. We cannot get away from
it. We don`t have another home to go to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was a clip from the new report “Fracking the Eagle Ford
Shale: Big Oil and Bad Air on the Texas Prairie”.
I should note for the record that the oil and gas industry in Texas is
disputing the contention in this new report that emissions in that area are
a threat to public health.
But joining us now is Jim Morris. He`s the senior reporter and editor
at the Center for Public Integrity, took part in this project.
Mr. Morris, thank you very much for being with us tonight. Appreciate
JIM MORRIS, CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: So, why did you pick the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas.
Why focus on that region when you`re look into this issue?
MORRIS: We picked the Eagle Ford because it`s one of the biggest oil
and gas boom in the world, and yet for some reason, it hasn`t become part
of the national conversation. People hadn`t been paying much attention to
it beyond south Texas. So, that`s why we looked at it.
MADDOW: There`s been a lot of concerns about fracking having
potential effect on ground water. We`ve been reporting just recently on
quakes – spike of quakes in areas that don`t usually have them, that maybe
associated in particular with the injection of waste water from the
How did you know that air pollution was potentially linked, or at
least was worthy of trying to make the case about that being potentially
linked in that region of the country? Why air pollution?
MORRIS: We started to hear in the last year or two out of places like
Pennsylvania, complaints from people about bad air and about illnesses they
blame on the bad air. But if you start looking through nearly 300
complaints that people in Eagle Ford had filed with the state of Texas, a
lot of people had to do with air. Rotten egg odors, people who were
nausea, nosebleeds, severe asthma attacks. It was clear to us early on,
that was – you know, those were air problems. Those were all air related.
I think that sort of helped steer us in that direction.
MADDOW: Your report today has landed with a big splash. Texas state
regulators pushed back immediately and hard today. They say overall
fracking has no significant effect on air quality and they know that.
How do you – how do you respond to that given your own reporting on
MORRIS: Well, they don`t know that. You know, that was kind of one
of the points. One of the main things we wanted to point out was there`s
not enough permanent monitoring, there aren`t permanent air monitors in
large portions of the Eagle Ford, you know, whether it`s coincidence or
not. Areas of heaviest drilling, areas of the heaviest drilling like
Karnes County, Texas, where we did a lot of our work don`t have permanent
air monitors. They do spot monitoring, which has some value, but it`s very
much hit or miss.
So if they – you know, for them to say they know there`s not a
problem, I think that`s disingenuous.
MADDOW: Is there – in terms of thinking about what might possibly
make the situation better and what might be a way out of it, if that`s your
view at how state regulators have dealt with it, is there a role for
federal regulators? Is in a role for EPA or somebody with jurisdiction to
make a difference here?
MORRIS: There is a role for the EPA. But I think one thing a lot of
people don`t know is that when you`re talking about the federal Clean Air
Act, enforcement of that act is delegated to the states. And so in this
case, Texas is sort of the first line of defense, or the last line of
defense against air pollution. And yes, the EPA in theory can step in.
But the basic enforcement is left to the states. And for people in Texas,
that hasn`t been a really good situation.
MADDOW: Jim Morris, senior reporter and editor at the Center for
Public Integrity, part of this major reporting project – this year-long
reporting project that`s produced a very fascinating and very controversial
report. Thank you for your work on this and thanks for being here.
MORRIS: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Two summers ago on July 28, two summers ago, at around 4:00
in the morning, three people infiltrated the Y-12 National Security
Complex, which is where the U.S. government stores all of our uranium for
our nuclear warheads. They call it the Fort Knox of uranium.
The three people hiked through the woods on the outskirts of the Y-12
facility. Once they got to the facility itself, they used bolt cutters to
cut through three different perimeter fences. And then they walked right
up to the interior storage facilities where the uranium is held. This is
supposedly a secure facility and their getting into it did set off alarms
but nobody quickly responded to those alarms. They were able to stay
inside the facility for about an hour before anybody came to check on what
was going on there.
While they were waiting for someone, anyone to respond to the alarms
they set off, they spray painted anti-war slogans on the uranium storage
facility. They splashed the uranium storage container with blood, human
blood they had brought to the protest for that purpose.
But they did not try to get away. They just waited to be found. They
brought snacks with them. They ate snacks, they prayed, they sang songs.
They were just waiting for somebody to notice them in the “shoot to
kill” zone they had infiltrated an hour before to try to raise awareness
against nuclear weapons. And when somebody finally did find them, they did
This past May, the three protesters, all senior citizens, two men and
one woman, they were convicted. They were convicted of sabotage and of
destruction of government property. Their sentencing came down late this
The two men, male activists, they were sentenced to just over five
years in prison for doing this. And the most senior of the three
convicted, Sister Megan Rice, an 84-year-old Catholic nun from the order of
the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, Sister Megan Rice, 84 years old, was
sentenced to one month shy of three years in prison, which might not sound
like much time in prison unless you`re already 84 years old when you`re
starting your three-year prison sentence, whereupon this might be the rest
of your life.
Three nonviolent offenders, peace protesters, senior citizens,
convicted, sentenced and now incarcerated for gaining entry into what`s
supposed to be the Fort Knox of uranium, the place that is supposed to be
one of the most secure places on the planet is not. And we know that now
because these three, including an octogenarian nun, were able to infiltrate
it with bolt cutters and literally a handful of prayers.
The worst harm they did was paint and exposing serious security flaws
at that facility. And if you care about security at that facility, you now
have them to thank for exposing the flaws in it. But now, they`re going to
prison. Was justice really served here?
Watch this space.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow night.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Have a great night.
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