The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 04/25/14

Evan Ratliff, Elizabeth Birnbaum

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks, Chris. Have a great weekend, man.


MADDOW: Thanks to you at home as well for joining us this hour.
There`s a lot going on.

OK. There are 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. And
yes, sure, some of them have been there a long time and they`re famous.
But honestly, there`s more than 400 of them. Most of them you couldn`t
pick out of the lineup, right?

This guy, you could pick out of the lineup. You remember this guy.


MICHAEL SCOTTO, NY1 REPORTER: So, Congressman Michael Grimm does not
want to talk about some of the allegations concerning his campaign
finances, we wanted to get him on camera on that. But he, as you saw,
refused to talk about.

Back to you.

SCOTTO: What? I just wanted to ask you –

REP. MICHAEL GRIMM, (R) NEW YORK: Let me be clear to you. You ever
do that to me again, I`ll throw you off this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) balcony.

SCOTTO: Why? I just wanted to ask you.

GRIMM: If you ever do that to me again –

SCOTTO: Why? Why? It`s a valid question.


GRIMM: No, no. You`re not man enough. You`re not man enough. I`ll
break you in half like a boy.


MADDOW: I`ll break you in half like a boy. I never understood the
“like a boy” part. But that was Congressman Michael Grimm of Staten
Island, New York, ready to break that young reporter in half like a boy.

Whether the breaking like a boy was supposed to happen before or after
the congressman threw him off the bleeping balcony, which he also
threatened, that also is not that clear.

But Congressman Grimm made those threats on camera and he noticed the
camera, you saw him look at the big camera, right, in the middle of making
those threats.

Congressman Grimm made those threats in front of a big camera back in
January, on the night of President Obama`s 2014 State of the Union Address.

At first, Congressman Grimm defended his behavior, basically said the
reporter from New York 1 had it coming. Then about 12 hours later, he
belatedly apologized to the reporter who he had threatened to break in half
and threw off the bleeping balcony.

Congressman Grimm after that kind of fell out of the headlines for a
while. But then today, late this afternoon, news broke that Congressman
Michael Grimm, Republican of New York, is about to be indicted on federal
felony criminal charges.

We have known for almost two years now that Congresswoman Grimm has
been under federal criminal investigation for potentially illegal campaign
donations. In the 2010 race in which he first won his seat in Congress.
But even though that investigation has resulted in the arrest of two of his
fundraisers, a guilty plea by one of them to visa fraud charges, even
though those two arrests have happened and that one guilty plea has already
happened, it`s not at all clear tonight that the campaign finance
allegations that have been swirling around him for years are related to
what he`s about to be indicted on.

A lawyer for Mr. Grimm today said the charges are a product of a,
quote, “politically driven vendetta.” The lawyer said Mr. Grimm is
innocent, that he will be vindicated. He said, “Mr. Grimm will continue to
serve his constituents until he is vindicated.” There was no talk of him
resigning from Congress, despite the pending indictment.

And the news today of the congressman`s pending indictment on, the one
hand, honestly, it feels like not that big of a deal because after all, he
is a New York politician, and New York politicians are always getting
indicted. Usually, though, that is New York politicians in Albany, in the
state capitol, who are usually the ones getting indicted.

Michael Grimm is an actual member of Congress. He works in
Washington. And members of Congress don`t end up getting indicted and
going to prison all that often.

To be fair, actually, maybe that depends on the meaning of the phrase
“all that often.” Former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. is in prison right
now. The Illinois Democrat is serving 2 1/2 years for using campaign money
to buy himself awesome stuff like, for example, one of Michael Jackson`s
old fedoras.

Also, former Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson, also a Democrat,
he`s serving 13 years for accepting nearly half a million dollars in
bribes. They found some of that money in the back of his freezer wrapped
in aluminum foil.

Republican Rick Renzi of Arizona, he got sentenced to three years for
corruption. He`s currently out on appeal. At least he filed his campaign
finance report this month. That was awkward.

Bob Ney, Ohio Republican, he got two years and change for conspiracy
and false statements in the Jack Abramoff Indian casino lobbying scandal.

James Traficant, Ohio Democrat, he of the most amazing hair in the
last 100 years in Congress. James Traficant, seven years for faked tax
returns and taking bribes and racketeering and using his staffs for chores
on his family farm and a whole bunch of other stuff. James Traficant was
the first member of Congress sent to the big house in the 21st century.
But, really, he was only carrying on a very long and not-proud family

Before the old great “Washington Independent” went out of business,
they left behind a list of criminal members of Congress, God bless their
defunct souls for doing it. You drop into the 1990s, you`ve got 10
congressional convicts, starting with Democrat Mel Reynolds, for some
really ughy stuff.

In the 1980s, they just couldn`t keep out of jail. The Democrats,
Republicans, bribe takers, drunk drivers, influence peddlers, the `80s were
a mess in terms of members of Congress going to jail.

The 1970s were not that much better. Meet George Hanson, Idaho
Republican convicted in 1975 in violating campaign finance laws. Or Frank
Brasco, New York Democrat, convicted the year before for conspiring to
receive bribes.

If you`re looking for people who have gone from Capitol Hill to the
hoosegow, it is kind of a take-your-pick situation. If you want to go
World War II, past World War II, let`s do that. Old Harry Rowbottom, let`s
pick Harry Rowbottom out of the list just because he`s got an amazing name.
He was the congressman from Indiana convicted of taking bribes in 1931,
sentenced to a year and a day.

Yet not every congressman who gets indicted, of course, ultimately
gets convicted. There is news of a pending indictment of Congressman
Michael Grimm. But being indicted doesn`t necessarily mean that you`re
guilty or that you`re going to go prison. A lot of members of Congress
have been indicted or pursued, but ultimately acquitted.

Tom DeLay of Texas, aka “The Hammer”, he got convicted for money
laundering in 2010. But last year on appeal, he got acquitted.

Joseph McDade of Florida, he stood trial for bribery and racketeering
in 1996. He was acquitted.

So was Harold Ford Sr. of Tennessee, in 1993. Not guilty on 18 counts
of conspiracy, bank fraud, and mail fraud. He was indicted, he was tried,
he was acquitted.

Being indicted, being charged does not mean you did it. Does not mean
you will be convicted by any means.

Congressman Michael Grimm today looks to be joining a long line of
lawmakers who have been brought up on all kinds of charges with all kinds
of outcomes. And it is not clear yet exactly what it is he is going to be
indicted for.

He first won his seat in Congress back in 2010. Part of why he pulled
that off was because he raised way more money than anyone expected. A
federal grand jury was convened in the summer of 2012 to consider
allegations that maybe he raised some of that money illegally.

The FBI`s public corruption unit interviewed several Grimm campaign
workers. This past January, the FBI arrested a former Grimm fundraiser on
charges that he illegally funneled thousands of dollars into that campaign.
Another key figure in the Michael Grimm fundraising world pled guilty, as I
said last year, to visa fraud.

One of the things that federal investigations reportedly has looked
into is whether or not Michael Grimm or his campaign donors illegally got
money for Michael Grimm`s campaign from people who are not legally allowed
to donate to a campaign because they are not U.S. citizens, because they
are foreign citizens.

But the news of his pending indictment tonight comes with conflicting
reports about the possible charges. broke the story
originally. They reported that Mr. Grimm would be brought up on alleged
campaign finance violations with expected charges for mail and wire fraud.

“The New York Times” followed the “Politico” reporting, also
describing expected charges of mail and wire fraud. But “The Times” say
they had nothing to do with his campaign finance, they have to do with a
health food restaurant the congressman owned on the Upper East Side called
health-alicious – a restaurant he owned after he ended his career as an
FBI agent and before he ever ran for Congress.

NBC News tonight also says the charges are connected to his private
dealings, private business dealings and not to campaign fundraising. But
even before Michael Grimm threatened to throw that reporter off the balcony
earlier this year, he really was his own particular brand of outstanding.
Another local reporter came forward after that to say that he, too, had
been threatened by Congressman Grimm after an interview in December.

The news brought back this account from “The New Yorker” magazine a
couple of years before about Michael Grimm`s time as an FBI agent.
According to that story, a furious then-FBI agent Michael Grimm allegedly
told a man at a Caribbean nightclub in New York City, quote, “I`ll make him
bleeping disappear where nobody will find him.”

Writer Evan Ratliff talked to someone that night who says Mr. Grimm
left but later came back holding his gun and making threats. Mr. Grimm
denied the accusations, he said he`d been jumped at the club and returned
with the police for help.

He said he`d been cleared of any wrongdoing that night, quote, “I was
100 percent by the book and fully exonerated.”

A decade later, he became the New York congressman from Staten Island,
that is the apparently soon-to-be indicted congressman from this fair city.

Joining us now is Evan Ratliff. He`s a contributing writer for “The
New Yorker Magazine.” He`s been following Congressman Grimm`s career for a
long time.

Mr. Ratliff, thanks for being here.


MADDOW: Based on what you have learned covering Congressman Grimm
over the years, is this indictment the expected next step, or is this a
real mystery to you in terms of what happened here?

RATLIFF: No, I think the indictment has been expected for a while
now. And people that I`ve talked to sort of expected it to come down. But
the question is what charges are involved and is it related to campaign
finance, as you said, or is it related to some of his other business
dealings. The truth is that since he`s left the FBI and even since he`s
gone to Congress, he has been sort of adjacent to so many accusations that
you almost don`t know which ones will be in the indictment.

MADDOW: One of the things that has made him the kind of member of
Congress who you can pick out of a lineup, a guy who is memorable is,
because of this volcanic temper. Both the stories about his volcanic
temper but also the on-camera evidence it.

Is that aspect of his personality key to the sorts of things that he
has been associated with during all these different investigations and all
these other – both journalistic investigations and also legal ones?

RATLIFF: Well, I would say a lot of the accusations are not strictly
related to him having a serious temper which undoubtedly he does. I mean,
that arose in my story. Obviously arose with the New York 1 reporter,
accusation that`s he threatened people.

But I think the idea that he was a bit untouchable is probably what
crosses all of those, that the idea that you could threaten a New York 1
reporter and as a United States congressman and not get in trouble for it
is the kind of thing that`s connected it going into business with someone
who, as he did in Texas, who was convicted of fraud, another former FBI
agent convicted of fraud of being involved with this restaurant which has
violations for not carrying workman`s comp insurance – like all of these
things, the connective tissue is that when the accusations come out, Grimm
or his lawyers say this is a Democratic plot. This is people out to get
me. I`ll be vindicated in the end.

And so far, you know, he`s been sort of like the Teflon congressman.
He hasn`t, you know, hasn`t been indicted for anything. But obviously now,
that`s finally coming to a head.

MADDOW: And to that point, his lawyer`s response today was that he
will be vindicated, that this is a plot. That there`s no chance he`s going
to resign. He`s going to stay in Congress.

There seems – that`s legal strategy in part. But he does have a
pretty good record of having incredibly salacious allegations made against
him in a number of venues and surviving and skating. Is that because the
allegations have been proven to be spurious? Why does he keep getting

RATLIFF: Well, in all these cases – I mean, in most of the cases,
they haven`t actually been brought to trial. I mean, there is a lawsuit
against them related to the health food restaurant in New York. And there
have been accusation like, for instance, in my story, the guy that was
threatened in the nightclub who was an NYPD officer, he told me later that
he had dropped the accusations because he`d been told it was bad for his
career to pursue them.

So, you know, oftentimes they`re either – one person away from him as
in these campaign finance allegations, they don`t quite get to him, or in
other cases, somehow it unravels before it get to, you know, a true

MADDOW: Can I just ask you to – obviously reporting on Congressman
Grimm`s career is about to sort of get a lot more national attention once
this indictment comes down. It`s a high-profile thing to happen to a
sitting congressman.

As somebody who has covered him, is it a scary or difficult thing to
cover him compared to covering other people in public life or politics?
He`s obviously – we`ve seen him threaten other reporters in real time. Is
it something that people should know about?

RATLIFF: I would say my experience covering him was not that it was
frightening. I mean, when I did try to interview him at his congressional
office at a certain point, he did get angry and he did escort me out. But
he didn`t physically threaten me anyway.

So, I almost feel slighted that I didn`t agitate him enough that he
would physically threaten me. But he does have a certain confidence, let`s
say, a certainly physical presence. He was in the marines. He was in the

And that`s what got him into office. I mean, the fact that he carries
himself that way and has that history. It`s part of his appeal to his
constituents, as well. So, you know, the fact that that tips over into
anger is – that`s where the problem arises. But I never personally
witnessed that myself.

MADDOW: Evan Ratliff, contributing writer for “The New Yorker” –
thank you for spending your birthday with us tonight. This is – this is a
sad birthday party. I appreciate you before here.

RATLIFF: You`re welcome.

MADDOW: Thanks.

All right. We`ve got a lot coming up tonight. If there were a Mt.
Rushmore of political scandals, would have to make room for something newly
important in tonight`s news. That story is ahead. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Do you want a big, fancy wedding in Denver, Colorado? One of
the options is the Grant-Humphreys Mansion. Pretty, right? It`s in the
National Registrar of Historic Places, it is an official Denver landmark,
you can see pictures of it and learn all about planning your wedding there,
you can get the history of the mansion at History.Colorado – Or if you don`t want to go to,
you can go to because the Grant-Humphreys Mansion on
Capitol Hill in Denver is considered to be a haunted house.

It was built in 1902 by the Grant in Grant-Humphreys. But the guy who
died there, which is why everybody thinks it`s haunted now, is the
Humphreys in Grant-Humphreys, Albert Edmund Humphreys, and he was a very
rich oil man.

In the 1920s, A.E. Humphreys made the oil deal of a lifetime. He sold
more than 300 million barrels of oil to a company that didn`t really exist.
And by using that fake company and this huge oil deal, he started the ball
rolling on what was and remains one of the greatest American political
scandals of all time.

Those 300 million barrels of oil, he sold them to a whole bunch of oil
executives, executives of other oil companies, for $1.50 a barrel. Those
oil executives then turned around and sold the same oil to their respective
companies at $1.75 a barrel. And they kept the difference. They needed
the fake companies, the middleman, in order to disguise that they were
keeping the markup.

And that markup was a huge deal. In the 1920s, that deal produced an
$8.3 million slush fund for these guys. And what did they do with their
huge slush fund? They paid off the campaign debt of President Warren G.
Harding. Yes.

You know how people say Warren Harding was a terrible president? This
is part of why Warren G. Harding was so terrible.

In the early 1900s, the U.S. Navy started to switch over from having
its ships powered by coal to having its ships powered by oil. And the Navy
made a decision at that time that they would, therefore, buy up a bunch of
oil fields around the United States in order to make sure that U.S. Navy
ships always had a secure supply of oil.

So if there was some emergency with will oil supply affecting the rest
of the world or there was some supply shortage for some reason, at least
the Navy would be able to get oil to its own ships because they had their
own oil. They had six sites around the United States that they considered
to be naval petroleum reserves.

Over time, though, it just became too tempting, right? The government
couldn`t bear to just be sitting on all of that oil without making any
money off of it. So, they started leasing out these oil fields. And in
1915, they transferred one of these oil fields from the Navy to the
Department of the Interior. So, the Interior Department could lease that
field out. Lease it out to oil companies and finally start making money
off of that property.

The terrible interior secretary for terrible President Warren G.
Harding, he got responsibility for giving out those leases to oil companies
to pump the oil off of that oil field. And he gave them out as no-bid
contracts, and he gave them out super cheap, super sweet deals to these oil
companies. And it turns out, surprise, he had taken huge bribes from those
oil companies in order to give them those sweet deals.

The oil men had paid off the campaign debt for President Harding.
They had bribed his interior secretary to get those oil leases. They had
bribed newspaper publishers to not cover the scandal. When reporters and
editors started realizing what was going on.

Nevertheless, the big bribery story you got out. This is the “Wall
Street Journal” breaking the story on Good Friday, 1922. And that led
Congress to start an investigation into what was going on there.

When Humphreys, the guy with the big mansion in Denver, when he found
out he was going to have to testify to Congress, to the congressional
committee investigating the scandal, he killed himself in the mansion –
hence the mansion being haunted.

The head of Sinclair Oil did testify to Congress. He ended up going
to prison in the scandal.

The head of one of the other oil companies that was implicated in the
same scandal, his son ended up dead less than a year later in a mysterious
murder/suicide that`s still never totally been explained.

Warren G. Harding`s interior secretary, Albert Fall, the guy who took
the bribes to get the cheap oil leases, he got convicted of taking hundreds
of thousands of dollars in bribes. It would have been millions in bribes
in today`s money. One of the lasting historical impacts of the scandal is
that Albert Fall, interior secretary, became the first former U.S. cabinet
official to get sentenced to prison for something he did while he was in

Even before Albert Fall went to prison, less than a year and a half
after “The Wall Street Journal” break the story, President Harding himself
dropped dead on a trip to California that people thought he had taken to
distract from the ongoing scandal in Washington.

So, Warren G. Harding never even served a full term as president, but
he is considered to be one of the worst presidents in American history.
And we`ve had a lot of bad presidents.

The Supreme Court ruling that came out of the scandal is the one that
established that when congressional committees are investigating something,
they can compel people to testify. That was never clear in the law before
this scandal. But the Supreme Court had to say it was.

This scandal was hugely consequential. It destroyed presidency. It
established hugely important political precedents that still stand. People
ended up dead and in prison and haunting spooky mansions. All the way up
to some of the most powerful politicians and some of the richest
businessmen in the country.

I mean, there have been a lot of scandals in American political
history. But before Watergate, this is considered to have been the
greatest and most salacious American political scandal of all time.

And it all started here. This is the naval petroleum reserve that
they decided to lease out to those private companies where they took all
the bribes and all the rest. It started the whole scandal. The rock
formation on top of the oil reserve is what gave both the site in Wyoming
and the scandal its name. It`s called the Teapot Dome.

Sadly, in 1962, a big windstorm blew the spout off the teapot, off
what had been the teapot. Doesn`t look like a Teapot Dome anymore, looks
like a little castle or lump or something.

But after the scandal happened in the 1920s, this huge scandal, the
Navy, not surprisingly, decided that when they transferred their rights to
that oil field into this den of thieves, right, when they gave it to the
Interior Department and then it turned into this huge bribery-laden
scandal, the navy decided that had actually been a fraudulent transaction.

After the whole scandal blew open, the Navy took back the teapot
oilfield in Wyoming. They said, never mind, Warren G. Harding, never mind,
Interior Department, never mind, oil companies, we`re taking this back.
It`s ours once again.

And they have held on to it ever since, ever since this terrible
scandal. Over the years, all the other oil fields, all the other naval
petroleum reserves that we got back in the 1900s or 1910s, all the others
got leased to private industry or sold off to private industry. You could
understand they were a little sensitive to not do that with the Teapot
Dome. It`s the only one of those petroleum reserves they held on to.

First of all, because the first time they tried to sell it off, it
created the greatest U.S. scandal until Watergate. But the other reason
they held on to that one location and didn`t sell it off even when they
sold off all the other ones is because as an oil field, the Teapot Dome
kind of sucks.

They`ve pumped about 30 million barrels of oil out of there over time.
They think there`s about ten times that much oil still there, but it is the
kind of oil that`s really hard and expensive to get out of the ground. And
on those grounds, on those economic grounds, the government decided good a
decade ago that finally they were going to sell this thing off.

And now this week, that plan has finally gone into motion. The
government has hired a Denver-based energy consulting firm to arrange the
sale of the Teapot Dome oil field to the highest bidder, really this time.
They`re being very up-front.

They say it`s going to be a competitive process with sealed bids.
We`re going to do this properly this time. Hopefully this time nobody will
die or go to jail or end up haunting anything.

Part of the reason the deal is going to go through now is because I
think the Teapot Dome scandal is so long ago that even if you heard the
name, nobody really remembers that it was about oil, right. Nobody really
remembers that it was about a specific oil field that the government owned.
Honestly, the Teapot Dome scandal was so long ago that the Teapot Dome
thing doesn`t even look like a teapot anymore.

But the other reason this deal is going through now – other reason
this deal is potentially economically significant now is because what used
to be considered inaccessible oil, oil that was too expensive to drill, too
technologically infeasible to get out of the ground with any hope of making
a profit, oil like that is now considered to be fair game. Nobody knows
exactly how the oil industry is going to get those 300 million barrels out
of the Teapot Dome, those 300 million barrels that previously nobody`s been
able to get at.

But nobody has any doubt that the oil industry will figure out a way
because now, unlike we used to, now we drill absolutely everywhere. And it
turns out that has really big political consequences. And that other part
of the story is next.


MADDOW: On New Year`s Day last year, January 1st, 2013, this was the
sight that residents in the great state of Alaska woke up to that day.
Huh, Happy New Year. Enjoy that giant drilling rig that has just crashed
into your shore. That was a Shell Oil drilling rig called the Kulluk which
had been drilling Alaska`s Arctic Ocean before it ended up capsized off the
Alaskan coast.

That incident on New Year`s Day of sort of a fitting end to what was a
truly disastrous year for Shell Oil in the arctic. They started off bay
predicting that drilling in the Arctic was going to be, quote, “relatively
easy” for them.

But Shell spent 2012 crashing the Kulluk drilling rig into that
Alaskan island. They nearly ran another rig aground in Alaska`s Aleutian
Islands. They suffered a catastrophic fire in that rig`s engine room.
They had new equipment designed to respond to an oil spill there, but they
totally screwed up while they were testing it, and it ended up, quote,
“crushed like a beer can.”

They also had a rig detained in port by the coast guard because it was
such a mess. It eventually got referred to the Justice Department for
potential criminal violations.

Shell sent two drilling rigs to the Arctic in 2012. And both of them
wound up under federal criminal investigation. After all that, as you
might expect, Shell announced that they were pulling out of the Arctic.
Yes, you think? After a year like that?

Shell`s experience in the Arctic was a big deal because they were the
first oil company that was given permission to start drilling up there.
And they totally blew it.

I mean, for decades oil companies had begged for access to drill the
Arctic. Now they were finally getting their chance, and – Shell just
totally blew it. They failed after they failed after they failed and
failed again.

And while nobody is happy when drilling rigs crash, it turns out that
Shell`s disastrous misadventures in the Arctic may have been sort of a
blessing in disguise because this week, two years after the U.S. government
gave Shell the go-ahead to start the process of drilling the Arctic, we
have just learned that we as a country have absolutely no idea what to do
if something up there goes wrong.

This week, a report that was commissioned by the U.S. government and
the oil industry concluded that even though technically we have decided to
move forward with drilling in the Arctic, even though the oil industry has
gotten its wish to be cleared politically to go drill up there, quote, “It
is unlikely that responders could quickly react to an Arctic oil spill.”

We sort of have known that the oil companies themselves don`t have the
best oil spill response capability. But now, we know that neither do we as
a country. Quote, “The report finds that current personnel, equipment,
transportation, communication, navigation, and safety resources for
overseeing a spill response in the Arctic are not adequate.”

This is not like a Greenpeace report or something. This is the
leading experts in government and the oil industry itself and oceanography
and disaster response. All saying we are not ready to drill the Arctic.
We have no way of dealing with it anything goes wrong.

This is the amazing part – because the policy decision that we should
drill in the Arctic has already been made, this report recommends that what
we ought to do now to essentially retroactively get ready for something
that`s already been approved, what we ought to do now is cause an oil spill
in the Arctic on purpose. So, we can figure out how to try to respond on
the fly.

We are horrendous at cleaning up and containing oil spills when they
happen in the Gulf of Mexico, right, the BP oil spill that happened this
week four years ago, that confirmed how bad we are at cleaning it up. But
we at least have lots of experience in dealing with oil spills in
relatively warm water like that. We have practically no idea how spilled
oil will react in cold water environments like the Arctic or what happens
when oil interacts with things like Arctic sea ice.

And so in order to figure it out, the report calls for planned and
controlled field releases of oil in the Arctic to help us understand how
oil will behave in that environment. What could possibly go wrong?

We are drilling places in this country that we never used to drill
before. Oil that used to be considered too hard to get, we now think we
are totally capable of going to get it. We are now at least willing to go
get it. From the scandal-famous Teapot Dome in Wyoming, to a mile under
the sea off Louisiana, to right through the ice at the Arctic Ocean, we`ll
go anywhere there is oil now, even though we don`t know what to do once
we`re there.

The official word from the experts as of this week is that even though
oil drilling in the Arctic has been approved politically, technologically
we don`t know how to clean up oil spills up there if and when they happen.
The plan to deal with that, as of now, is to cause some intentional oil
spills in the arctic just to see how it goes. That`s the plan. That`s how
we`re handling this as a nation, seriously.

Joining us is Elizabeth Birnbaum. She was director of the U.S.
Minerals Management Service at the time of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Ms. Birnbaum, I really appreciate your time tonight. Thanks for being

Thank you.

MADDOW: Have we gotten any better at cleaning up oil spills,
particularly after the Deepwater Horizon disaster? Have we had any
technological breakthroughs in cleanup?

BIRNBAUM: There haven`t been any technological breakthroughs, and
really the technology for cleaning up oil spills hasn`t improved much over
decades. When we were cleaning up the BP spill, we were using much of the
same technology that was used in 1969 to clean up the Santa Barbara
blowout. It only removed a small percentage of the oil from the ocean.

When you talk about the arctic, it`s much more complicated to clean up
because you`re dealing with an environment where there is ice in the water
much of the year. There`s only a small period in the summer when they have
clear water. And that makes cleanup much more difficult, and nobody knows
how to do that.

MADDOW: There was – raising the issue of the Santa Barbara spill,
for example, that was such a remarkable comparison to see the similar
techniques, because the Santa Barbara spill happened in such shallow water.
Obviously, we had taught ourselves how to drill in such deep water for the
Deepwater Horizon without ever upgrading our response capabilities in case
anything went wrong.

My surprise talking to you about this four years later is that that
didn`t goose something either in the regulatory environment or in the
industry itself that they would have to start proving better response
technologies in order to be allowed to keep pushing the extremes of where
they drill.

BIRNBAUM: We`ve been investing a little bit more money into oil spill
cleanup technology since then. There haven`t been any major breakthroughs,
and we really need to invest a lot more if we want to find breakthrough
technologies for that. The booms are a little better at holding oil in
than they maybe were for Santa Barbara. But maybe we`ve got slightly more
absorbent materials.

But basically, it`s mostly the same technology. And again, if you do
that in an environment where half of the sea is covered with ice, nobody
quite knows how any of those technologies work in that environment.

MADDOW: Looking at Shell`s experience in 2012 and early 2013 of
trying – trying to set up drilling practices in the Arctic, they – as far
as I could tell – were considered to be sort of the best at the industry
for trying to do something like that. My – when I look at their record
just as a layman, I see a sort of comedy of errors or at least comedy of
unfortunate incidents for Shell where things kept going wrong after wrong
after wrong after wrong.

And they weren`t dealing with spills. Should we see the industry as
being able to offer – operate safely in an Arctic environment even if
they`re not spilling?

BIRNBAUM: I was stunned, I have to say, when they ran aground. I
mean, this was a situation where Shell had invested over $1 billion in
ships, equipment, the permitting process, but had truly invested to make
this a model drilling operation in the Arctic. They were going to prove it
could be done and prove that it could be done safely. And then they ran

I – it was just unbelievable. I haven`t read the reports on it, I
understand maybe they were pushing to get out of Alaska waters to avoid
some fees or something. But it really does make you wonder whether they
can even operate.

MADDOW: Elizabeth Birnbaum, former director of the U.S. Minerals
Management Service – we cover the energy industry a lot on this show in
part because I`m always standing up at my desk and slapping myself in the
face trying to believe the news that`s coming out of this industry. It`s a
real asset for us to be able to call on you to help us understand it.
Thank you for being here tonight. I appreciate it.

BIRNBAUM: Thank you.

MADDOW: Thanks.

All right. We`ll be right back. Lots to come.


MADDOW: OK, quick, Google Squeaky Fromme. The first word squeaky,
spelled like the adjective, squeaky. The second, F-R-O-M-M-E.

Google that, then meet me back here in a minute. I`ll be right back.


MADDOW: OK. The first seconds of this tape is black, it`s audio.
The visual pops on screen just a few seconds into it. So watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well then, Mr. President, will you please stand?
Do you promise that all of the testimony that you will give in this matter
will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, you may commence your questioning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Your Honor.

Mr. President, I would like to direct your attention to Friday,
September the 5th, 1975, in Sacramento, California. Where were you just
prior to the incident in Capitol Park?

FORD: I had been in the Senator Hotel which is on L Street, as I
recollect, across from the state capitol.


MADDOW: That was the first time a sitting U.S. president ever
testified as a witness in a criminal trial. President Gerald Ford, in
1975, gave his testimony on videotape while he sat in the old executive
office building which is right next to the White House in Washington, D.C.

But the trial that his testimony was used in was not conducted in D.C.
That trial was in California. And the person who was on trial in that
criminal case was on trial for attempting to kill the president.


FORD: I noticed this lady in a brightly colored dress who wanted to
apparently move closer toward me, and I assumed to shake hands. And so, I
hesitated, instead of keeping moving as I normally do.

And as I stopped, I saw a hand come through the crowd in the first
row, and that was the only active gesture that I saw. But in the hand was
a weapon. The weapon was large. It covered all or most of her hand as far
as I could see.

And I only saw it instantaneously because almost automatically one of
the Secret Service agents lunged, grabbed the hand and the weapon, and then
I was pushed off by the other members of the Secret Service detail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How close did the weapon come to you, to your

FORD: I would estimate two feet.


MADDOW: President Gerald Ford gave that testimony in 1975. There was
no indication at the time that that would ever become public.

Testimony was recorded in Washington. It was then brought to
California so it could be played for the jurors who were hearing the case
of Lynette Fromme, who was on trial for trying to kill President Ford.

But that was supposed to be its only use. Eventually, the tape of the
president testifying was released because of advocacy by something called
the Eastern District Historical Society, which tries to preserve the
history of the court where the trial was held, the federal district court
that sits in Sacramento.

It`s kind of weird, right? But that Historical Society wanted the
tape released because it`s kind of weird, right? That historical society
wanted the tape released because it`s part of a history of that court. The
only time at that point that a president had ever been a witness in a
criminal trial, right?

Eventually, the “Sacramento Bee” newspaper joined the Historical
Society`s request as well, a federal judge ordered that the Ford testimony
should be digitized and released in August.

Now, that same court, the judge who released the Ford tape agreed to
release the other incredible tape from that trial and from that
assassination attempt. It is the tape of Lynette Fromme, of Squeaky
Fromme, the defendant in the trial talking about what she did.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you charged with, Lynette?

LYNETTE FROMME: Attempted assassination of the president of the
United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you were to be found guilty of this offense,
what penalties do you face?

FROMME: From a number of years to life in prison.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. So that`s a pretty heavy offense that you`re
charged with.



MADDOW: The new tapes are just over two hours of audio, 20 minutes
have been released so far of her talking to a psychiatrist about why she
thought she should be allowed to represent herself at the trial.

She was 26 years old at the time of this mental exam, which is on the
tape. About two weeks after she had, she put on a print dress and then she
put on a big flowing red robe over the dress. All of the better to conceal
the huge pistol that she had strapped to her thigh with a belt.

She was only about 105 pound at the time she did this. The gun she
pulled on the president as he crossed from the hotel to the state capitol,
was a huge gun. It was a Colt 45. She never actually fired the weapon,
whether that was intentional or whether she just screwed up was never
conclusively determined.

The assassination attempt in Sacramento, outside the state capital.
Squeaky Fromme was living in Sacramento at the time in part because Charles
Manson was imprisoned nearby at Folsom Prison.

Her assassination attempt on President Ford was in 1975. That was six
years after the gruesome 1969 Manson family cult murders in Los Angeles.
And Manson was in prison for those murders.

Squeaky Fromme was a devoted member of the Manson family colt. She
was visiting Manson frequently. She had attended his trial. She had
carved an X into her forehead to show her devotion to Charles Manson.

But she wanted to be seen as sane for her trial because she wanted to
represent herself.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How have you been feeling generally?

FROMME: I feel pretty good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you bothered to any significant degree by
anxiety, nervousness, tension?

FROMME: No, never have been.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even under these circumstances?

FROMME: No. I make the best of any situation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What would you estimate to be your percentage
chance at this point of being found not guilty?

FROMME: I have already decided exactly what I intend to ask the jury


FROMME: And I don`t know if I should answer that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Uh-huh. Well, most of us when we enter into a
situation of difficulty have some kind of estimate going into the back of
our mind how likely we are to be successful.

FROMME: Oh, I feel – I feel, definitely I have probably a 70 percent

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of being found not guilty?

FROMME: On the percentage scale.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. The press has the made a number of comments
to the effect that you are a – a rather daft broad wandering about in this
world, following ill-begotten causes and so forth. How do you feel about

FROMME: I`m working through it the best way I can. I feel this trial
conducted with a little bit of dignity could help tremendously.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Umhm. So you would look for your image to go up?

FROMME: Well, no. Wait a minute.

The judge has already stated this is not a forum for me to express my
views or for me to do anything for my image. In other word, I am saying
incidentally that –

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think you your image would improve by how you
would conduct yourself in a court of law.

FROMME: That`s right.


MADDOWE: Actually, when she was in the courtroom, at one point, she
threatened the judge and told him she knew where he lived and described his
living room to him. He increased his security.

She also at one point pulled out an apple and tried to beam the judge
in the head with it. But she missed. She hit the prosecutor instead
during his closing argument. She hit him in the head and knocked off his
glasses. The judge responded by asking if she had any more apples. She
said she didn`t.

And she was convicted and she got life in prison.

At one point, Squeaky Fromme escaped from prison but they recaptured
her two days after she escaped.

But the new release of all tapes from that bizarre incident in our
recent history is a really palpable reminder of just how bizarre those
times were in the mid-`70s. I mean, a known member of the Manson family,
six years after the Manson family murders in L.A. really did get within two
feet of the sitting U.S. president and pointed a loaded Colt 45 at him.
That happened on September 5th, 1975.

And by November 1st, 1975, by the time the president got around to
recording the first-ever testimony by a sitting president in a criminal
trial, in the case of his would-be assassin, by the time President Ford was
patiently answering the questions as a witness to this Manson family member
who fried to kill him, by that time, somebody else had already tried to
kill him again.

Seventeen days after Squeaky Fromme pulled a gun on President Gerald
Ford in Sacramento, Sarah Jane Moore not only pulled a gun on him in San
Francisco, she actually fired her gun. She missed. But she did shoot at
President Ford.

And it was the second assassination attempt against the president of
the United States in less than three weeks. And both of those attempts had
just happened when the president sat down calmly to give this testimony.

The Squeaky Fromme tape and Gerald Ford tape do not cover history that
we didn`t know about before we knew these things happened but never had the
words and moving images from the almost unbelievable time before this week.
And “The Sacramento Bee” is a big part of the reason that we do have it

And for that, the history geeks and journalism geeks among us owe “The
Sacramento Bee” some thanks. We`ve got links to that newspaper`s footage
and to these original tapes up at right now.

We`ll be right back.


MADDOW: Although tonight is Friday night, I am not sending you to
prison, because right now, the president of the United States is in South
Korea. He`s in Seoul. It`s actually Saturday morning in Seoul, already.

President Obama right now is about to address some of the 28,000 U.S.
troops who are currently stationed in South Korea.

So, we`re going to start MSNBC special coverage right now of the
president`s live address to U.S. troops in Seoul.

the house.


The U.S. Naval Forces Korea.


U.S. Marine Forces Korea.


Special Operations Command.


We`ve got our outstanding DOD civilians.


And we have our wonderful U.S. embassy staff here as well.


Yes! Good job, V.A., in the house!

And I know, and I know, you know, we`ve got some outstanding spouses.


And, family members, kids, in the house and I want to – and I want to
thank you as well because you bear the burdens of service as well, whether
it`s separation from a loved one or transitioning to a new country. I just
want you to know that America is grateful for your sacrifice and your

Now, President Park and I just attended a briefing, led by General
Scaparrotti with combined forces command. And I signed the guest book that
sits on top of a table where the Korean War armistice was signed.

And both of those moments drove home the truth that after more than 60
years, our alliance is as strong as it has ever been and as effective as it
has ever been. And nowhere is that more evident than in the
professionalism and interoperability of our militaries.

Even when Scap had to travel to Washington to testify before Congress
last month, he was never more than a phone call or teleconference away
Admiral Choi. That`s because our forces on duty here, American and Korean,
are highly trained closely coordinated, fit to fight tonight and every
other night.


But, obviously, in addition to dealing with the threat from North
Korea – this is also an alliance that represents the incredible bond
between peoples. So, I know you provided quick support in response to last
week`s terrible ferry tragedy because we understood when our friend are in
trouble, America helps. And our hearts are broken for our Korean friends,
especially the loss of so many wonderful young people.

But we`re inspired by the tales of heroism and selflessness. The
young woman who tried to make sure everyone else had a life jacket, even if
it meant her own death. The man whose last words were, “I`m on my way to
save the kids.”

That`s why America will continue to support every rescue and recovery
effort. And it that spirit that allows this alliance to endure.

Katchi kapshida! “We go together.” That`s what we`re about.


That`s what we`re about. That`s been our common commitment for more
than 60 years, in good times and in bad.

It was 1950, just five years after the end of World War II, when
communist armies first crossed the 38th Parallel. And at the time, many
Americans couldn`t place Korea on a map, but we knew as much as we had
already given as wary as we were of war, that we had a stake in what
happened here in the Korean Peninsula. And we had to roll back the tide of
communism. That as Americans we had to stand with our South Korean

And then in September, the Americans arrived. The alliance we led
with Korean troops landed in a surprise attack. All told nearly 1.8
million Americans would join the fight those next few years.

The conditions were terribly difficult. The combat was brutal. The
danger was close. By the end, nearly 37,000 Americans would give their
last full measure of devotion on this faraway soil. But not without
pushing the invading armies back across the line they had dared to cross.

If you want to know what that hard-earned, long-defended victory looks
like, you look around this country, the Republic of Korea – this country
has risen from occupation, and ruin, and become one of the most vibrant and
open democracies in the world.

Seoul, the city that has sprung up around this garrison, leads one of
the most advanced and dynamic economies in the world.

When our veterans witness this nation`s progress, when our veterans
come here and see this great and modern country for themselves, they can
say with pride, their efforts and their sacrifice was worth it. They see
the real results of what they have done – a South Korea that is a world
leader and a true partner in Asian security and stability. They see a
country like ours where children cannot only have dreams but those dreams
are encouraged and he or she can grow up to become secretary-general of the
United Nations, or president of the World Bank, or even ambassador from the
U.S. to the country he was born in.

None of this was an accident. Freedom is not an accident. Progress
is not an accident. Democracy is not an accident. These are thing that
have to be fought for.

And you are part of that legacy. They must be won. They`ve got to be
tended to constantly and defended without fail.

And here on freedom`s frontier, they are, by every man and woman who
has served and stood sentinel on this divided peninsula.

The 38th parallel now exists as much as a contrast between worlds as
it does a border between nations, between a society that`s open and one
that is closed. Between a democracy that is growing and a pariah state
that would rather starve its people than feed their hopes and dreams.

That`s not the result of a war. That`s the result of the path that
North Korea has taken, a path of confrontation and provocation and pursuing
the world`s most dangerous weapons.

And I want to be clear: the commitment the United States of America
has made to the security of the Republic of Korea only grows stronger in
the face of aggression. Our alliance does not waver with each bout of
their attention-seeking. It just gains the support of the rest of the

North Korea`s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons is a path that
leads only to more isolation. It`s not a sign of strength. Anybody can
make threats. Anyone can move an army. Anyone can show off a missile,
that doesn`t make you strong. It does not lead to security or opportunity
or respect.

Those things don`t come through force. They have to be earned. And
real strength is allowing an open and participatory democracy where people
can choose their own leaders and choose their own destiny. And real
strength is allowing a vibrant society where people can think and pray and
speak their minds as they please even if it is against their leaders,
especially if it is against their leaders. Real strength is allowing free
and open markets that have built growing thriving middle classes and lifted
millions of people out of poverty.

We don`t use our military might to impose these things on others but
we will not hesitate to use our military might to defend our allies and our
way of life.


So, like all nations on Earth, North Korea and its people have a
choice. They can choose to continue down a lonely road of isolation, or
they can choose to join the rest of the world – seek a future of greater
opportunity, and greater security, and greater respect – a future that
already exists for the citizens on the southern end of the Korean
Peninsula. And if they choose this path, America and the Republic of Korea
and the world will help them build that future.

But if they do not, they should know that the commitment the United
States of America to the security and defense of the Republic of Korea has
not wavered once in more than 60 years, it never has, and it never will.
This alliance is special, forged on the battlefield. It has been fortified
by the common values and mutual interests and mutual respect of our

The United States and Korea are more than allies, we are friend. This
foundation of trust, security, stability that allows both of our nations to
thrive economically and socially is made possible by the service and
sacrifice of every one of you – our soldiers, sailors, airmen, diplomats.

You are the tip of the spear on freedom`s frontier. You carry high
the legacy left by all those who fought and served here and to the family
members both here and in South Korea and awaiting your return back home. I
thank you for your service as well.

Because of that service and the service of generations of
servicemembers and diplomats, our country still stands, and our founding
principles still shine. And nations around the world that once knew
nothing but bitter tastes of fear, now know the blessings of freedom.
That`s because of you. I could not be prouder to be your commander-in-


Now I am going to come down and shake some hands and thank you in
person. God bless you. God bless the Republic of Korea. God bless the
United States of America. And God bless our alliance. Thank you.


CRAIG MELVIN, MSNBC ANCHOR: And there you have it, President Obama in
Seoul, South Korea, it is already Saturday morning there. Just after 11:00
on Saturday morning, President Obama speaking for about 10 minutes there,
addressing the thousands of troops who are stationed at the Yongsan, the
military garrison, the army garrison. President Obama working the crowd as
you can see now.

Peter Alexander, NBC News White House correspondent, has been
traveling with President Obama.

And Peter, we expected the president to talk about North Korea. And,
Mr. Obama, wasted no time talking about North Korea saying, at one point
that any country can make threats, or show off an army, but that is not a
sign of strength.

that`s exactly right. I think the president wanted to reaffirm in this
region the commitment to the security of South Korea and some of the other
allies here, especially given a series of territorial disputes taking place
with China.

But the effort to pivot as the White House has described it, to
rebalance as they have put it in the past has been challenged really by a
cascade of crises around the world. The latest one of which is what is
taking place right now, on the border of eastern Ukraine and Russia.

And just moments before the president took to the stage at the Yongsan
garrison, we did see a news statement from the White House that was
speaking on behalf of the G-7 leaders, saying, specifically that they would
move swiftly with additional sanctions on Russia.

We are told by a senior administration official that we spoke to
within the last several minutes, or so, that those new sanctions on Russia
will likely go into place as early as this coming Monday. This follows
really what had been new tensions in that region, within the last 24 hours
or so.

We heard from the Ukrainian prime minister who warned that Russia was
trying to start World War III. Russian troops have been getting even
closer to the border. They have been pulsing that border by some accounts
coming within 1,100 yards of the border with eastern Ukraine. Jets have
been flying across the border as it has been described.

And then late yesterday, Pentagon, the Pentagon Secretary Chuck Hagel
tried to reach out to his counterpart in Russia, did not get a call back.
There have been reports that Vladimir Putin has cut off talks with high
level officials in Washington.

So that is the backdrop for the president`s visit to this region. New
concerns across the globe about exactly what Russia`s intentions are, what
they will do next, having already annexed Crimea, and these latest tensions
indicating they may have future plans.

To be very clear, the understanding that we have now from senior
administration officials, many of whom I spoke to late last evening here,
Friday night here, Friday day for where you are, they said, that these will
not be the sectoral sanctions at this time, these will likely be sanctions
directed toward more of Vladimir Putin`s cronies. Not to Putin himself,
but some of the high level leaders he surround himself with. They will be
the one whose are affected by this. The sectoral sanctions could have an
impact on things liken energy, on arms, on banking.

But at this point, it appears clear that President Obama, who had
conversations just last night with Prime Minister Renzi of Italy, with
President Hollande of France, and with Chancellor Merkel of Germany, that
there is not within Europe at this time, that shared desire, perhaps, to go
even further. It`s really Europe, Craig, as you`re aware that would bear
the brunt in some ways of some of the sanctions because they`re so closely
connected to the Russian economy.

MELVIN: Pete, want to go back to the president`s speech and we`ll
come back to Crimea in just a moment.

We should note here, Colonel Jack Jacobs, Medal of Honor recipient, is
standing by, and so is Congressman Patrick Murphy, former Congressman
Patrick Murphy.

Pete, we did not hear President Obama during the 10, 12 minutes, to
the troops, talk about China at all. We know right now in that part of the
world, in addition to the concerns that you just mention regarding North
Korea, that country, threatening its fourth nuclear test. China, a rising
superpower, they continue to spend more on their military than they have in
years and decades past.

Why no mention of China at all during that speech?

ALEXANDER: I think, clearly, the speech was intended as much as
anything to just show his appreciation and support for the troops here and
sort of praise the commitment that the U.S. has the made over the years to
South Korea, to show that difference between South Korea and its neighbor
to the north. Just yesterday, we heard from President Obama who referred
to, I guess two days ago, who referred to the North Korean regime led by
Kim Jung-un, a man such an enigma that even his age is not entirely known
here. President Obama referred to that regime as being dangerous.

There have been reports from South Korean officials that even in the
course of the president`s visit to this country, which frankly will be
wrapping up in the matter of hours now. He heads to Malaysia momentarily.
But there could be a fourth nuclear test, which the blessing is, at least
to this point, we haven`t seen that.

But on China, specifically, the White House says, our policy is not
about containment. Our policy is about finding a good balance in here
where everybody`s interests are satisfied.

MELVIN: Let`s turn to retired U.S. Army Colonel Jack Jacobs, again, a
Medal of Honor recipient.

Colonel, let`s pick up with the news just been made here – the
increased sanctions now on Russia, on Vladimir Putin. Do we think at this
point that additional sanctions are going to make a great deal of
difference with regard to the conflict in eastern Ukraine specifically?

COL. JACK JACOBS (RET), U.S. ARMY: I think most people would be
surprised if it does have an impact. They`re already getting squeezed a
bit. The economy in Russia is on a slide. I think further sanctions on
friends of Putin are not necessarily going to have any positive impact on
the outcome.

There is very little doubt in anybody`s mind that Putin`s objection is
to take over as much of eastern Ukraine as it can possibly get away with.
He also understands that except for the economic instrument of power, there
is not much else the United States is going to do, and that indeed to use
the economic instrument of power we will have to have concurrence of the
European Union who is, Peter mentioned, is a little bit reluctant to get
involved because their economies are inextricably intertwined with that of
Russia, particularly in terms of energy.

So, just a limited amount of stuff we can do even economically.
That`s the first thing. Second, Putin already knows that we`re not going
to use the military instrument of power at all. And so, he feels pretty
good about being as bold as he can possibly get away with.

MELVIN: Peter, really quickly here, his stop in South Korea on this
Saturday morning there.

Oh, Peter is gone. Peter Alexander just left.

Colonel, really quickly, help us wrap this thing up. Let`s talk about
how – what we are seeing in Crimea may play out. Just general thoughts on
how that situation may unfold.

JACOBS: Well, there are sort of dueling military exercises taking
place at the moment with the United States demonstrating in Western Europe
with ships, in the Mediterranean in literal waters, and with about 40,000
Russian troops on the border, there is a significant number of special
operations troops, Russian special operations troops in, in Ukraine. And
that`s really what Putin is doing that will make it difficult if not
impossible for the West to respond to it when you have got Russian troops
with masks on, trained special operations troops, working the crowd, in
eastern Ukraine. There is not much, militarily that anybody else is going
to do.

MELVIN: All right. Colonel Jack Jacobs, always appreciate your time,
on a Friday night. Thank you, sir.

And thanks to our White House correspondent, Peter Alexander, who is
traveling with President Obama in South Korea.

That South Korean stop, President Obama`s second stop on a four-
country swing through Asia. He has Malaysia left. He also has the
Philippines as well.

I`ll join you this afternoon here. We will have much more on
President Obama`s Asian tour. We`ll also talk a little bit more, little
bit more of the news that was broken here a few moments ago – increased
sanctions on Putin, on Russia.

Lots more to get to a little bit later here on MSNBC. For now,
though, we`re going to take a quick break and we`ll join “LOCKUP” already
in progress.


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