The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 07/23/14
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: We`ve got some breaking news tonight. Thanks for
joining us this hour.
It has happened again, and apparently it`s just going to keep happening as
long as the courts in this country keep letting these things go forward as
if what we are doing in this country with our execution process right now
is something other than what it really plainly is, which is human medical
experimentation on live prisoners.
There has been tonight another dramatically botched execution in the United
States. The most botched one yet by some measures. This time it`s
happened in the state of Arizona. An experimental combination of drugs
that the state had never used before. The state would not say where they
got the drugs before tonight`s attempt on an execution. The state fought
legally until the very last minute to keep that secret, and then they
injected those drugs with the secret source.
They injected those drugs into a man at the state prison tonight in
Arizona, again, the first time Arizona had ever tried this exact procedure,
they`re making it up as they go along now, the man did not die as planned.
He gasps and made noises and stayed alive for nearly two hours.
We`re about to speak with a witness who was there in person to see that
State prisons in the United States have been engaged in these experiments
about ways to kill people for the last several years since 2011 and 2012
when manufacturers of the drugs that prisons had typically used for lethal
injections began to cut off the supply initially to U.S. prison execution
teams and ultimately to the entire United States because they figured that
was the only way they could keep them out of prisons. They objected to
their drugs being deliberately misused to kill people in this country and
the drug manufacturers decided to block their use for that purpose.
That started in 2011 and 2012. And what`s happened since then has been an
escalating series of experiments, basically. It`s chaos.
The state of Arizona at one point resorted to illegally importing some of
the last remaining stocks of the old drugs from a dodgy black market drug
supplier that they found operating out of a back of a driving school in
west London, in England. As states got caught for trying to get drugs
illegally, and as the legal supply dried up, the experimentation on live
prisoners started all over the country.
In 2012, the state of South Dakota became the first state in the country to
try to kill someone not with drugs purchased from the manufacturer, but
with drugs made especially for them at a compounding pharmacy. Compounding
pharmacies are much less regulated than other manufacturers. They are not
factories who produce drugs for the manufacturers. They just make small
batches of drugs on order, usually one pill at a time.
And so it was a controversial thing for South Dakota to resort to that kind
of less regulated source for their drugs that they wanted to use to kill
people. The results from that first execution with compounded drugs,
surprised. Quote, at the – excuse me. “As the drug was administered, the
clean shaven prisoner wearing orange inmate pants with a white blanket
wrapped around his body began clearing his throat and then gasping heavily.
He then snored for about 30 seconds but his eyes remained opened
throughout. His skin turned pale. It eventually gained a purplish hue.”
So the guy turned blue and he gasped loudly throughout. His eyes stayed
open during the entire process. This is not what anybody was expecting to
happen. That was in 2012 in South Dakota. Since then states have come up
with new experiments about ways to try to kill people, state after state
after state has taken measures to hide where they`re getting their drugs
It`s widely believed that many if not most states now are getting drugs
from compounding pharmacies the way that South Dakota did. But they`re now
keeping that information secret from the public. All the states that are
doing this, all across the country, are trying to prevent the public from
knowing where they`re getting their drugs from.
And as states have been running out of drugs or they have found that the
drugs don`t work all that well, and they turn people blue and they make
them gasp and stare for a long while, while they`re supposed to be
peacefully dying, the system over this last two years without much debate
has just logistically become more chaotic and more experimental over time.
And this year, in the year 2014, it has started to fall completely apart.
In January in Oklahoma, drugs from a compounding pharmacy were used, the
prisoner they were trying to kill in Oklahoma, he gave what he thought
would be his last words. He said, “I love everybody, I love the world,
love my daughters for me, I`m going to miss you always.” He thought those
would be his last words on earth. But then they injected him. It did not
go the way it was supposed to. And it turns out that his real final words
were, “I feel my whole body burning.”
That was January in Oklahoma. “I feel my whole body burning.” Then one
week later – that was Oklahoma. One week after that in Ohio, another
botched experiment made national headlines when the man that Ohio was
trying to kill with a new experimental combination of drugs, he spent more
than 25 minutes writhing and gasping in front of horrified witnesses.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: An execution at this Ohio state prison appears to
go horribly wrong. The execution was done with a new two-drug lethal
injection method which was used for the first time in the United States.
Witnesses say this man, Dennis McGuire, convicted of rape and murder,
convulsed and appeared to struggle for breath during his execution.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say anywhere from 10 to 13 minutes, Mr. McGuire
appeared to be gasping for air. I don`t know if it was air hunger or
exactly what it was. But all I got to tell you is the description, he
gasped deeply. It`s kind of a rattling, guttural sound. There was a –
sort of a snorting through his nose. A couple of times he definitely
appeared to be choking.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: McGuire received a combination of a set of the
midazolam and the pain killer hydromorphone. A mixed Ohio created as a
substitute option. The producer for Ohio`s preferred drug had objected to
its use in executions. A prison spokeswoman declined to comment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was in January. The midazolam there was a new experiment by
Ohio. The prisoner gasping and choking for more than 20 minutes. They
described that execution as going horribly wrong. But the experiments must
go on. Apparently, and in April – that was just January. In April,
Oklahoma decided that they would try again. Remember, Oklahoma`s last
execution had been the “I feel my whole body burning” guy? So this time,
Oklahoma switched up their drug experiment. They decided that they would
give midazolam a try.
They`d give the same drug a try that had led to that execution going so
horribly wrong in Ohio just a few months before in January. So Oklahoma in
April went ahead with the same drug as the botched experiment used in Ohio
in January. And Oklahoma`s experiment, yes, it turns out that was the
worst botch yet, at least before today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Shortly after the state began pumping a lethal
combination of drugs into the arm of Clayton Lockett, convicted of shooting
a woman and burying her alive, something went wrong. Reporter Graham Lee
Brewer of the “Oklahoman” was one of the official witnesses.
GRAHAM LEE BREWER, REPORTER, THE OKLAHOMAN: He began kicking his feet,
lifting his head and his chest off the gurney, grimacing. Clinching his
teeth and a couple of moments he actually mumbled.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And that horror show in Oklahoma, the man they were trying to
kill, gasped and writhed for more than 43 minutes. The authorities on the
scene in Oklahoma actually tried to stop that killing once it was already
underway. They tried to halt the execution, they pulled the blinds so the
witnesses couldn`t see. They called the execution off after they had
already started it. We don`t know if they tried to revive him, we do know.
We do know that he did eventually died. They say he died of a heart
And after that one in Oklahoma in April, for a while, the country stopped
the experiments. Stopped trying out new ways to kill prisoners with
deliberately misused drugs. But apparently the experiments must go on.
And tonight in Arizona, they took another stab at it, they used the same
drug that botched the execution in April in Oklahoma, which was the same
drug that botched the execution in Ohio in January, they used midazolam
again, and this time it went on and on and on, not for 23 minutes, not for
Tonight it went on and on and on for nearly two hours. It took so long,
that during the execution, the prisoner`s lawyers had time to run out of
the execution chamber and file a new application for a stay of execution
while it was underway.
Look at this. This is the brief they filed during the execution after it
had already been injected. The Arizona Department of Corrections began the
execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood III at 1:52 p.m., five minutes later at
1:57 p.m. the Corrections Department reported that Mr. Wood was sedated but
five minutes later at 2:02 he began to breathe. A minute later at 2:03 his
Mr. Wood has continued to breathe since that time. He has been gasping and
snorting for more than an hour. At 3:02 p.m., at that time, staff
rechecked for sedation. He is still alive.
“This execution has violated Mr. Wood`s Eight Amendment right to be
executed in the absence of cruel and unusual punishment. We respectfully
request that this court stop the execution and require that the Corrections
Department use the life-saving provisions required in its execution
He was still alive more than an hour into it when his lawyers left the
chamber where they were watching him trying to kill him, and they tried to
stop it. They tried to get him revived. They tried to say this isn`t
working more than an hour into it. And eventually he did finally die.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL KIEFER, ARIZONA REPUBLIC: I`m Michael Kiefer from the Arizona
Republic. This is the fifth execution I`ve witnessed. I`ve seen them done
with thiopental or pentobarbital. It usually takes about 10 minutes, the
person goes to sleep. This was not that. This – it looked like that at
the beginning for maybe the first seven minutes. He closed his eyes, he
went to sleep, then he started gasping, and he did. He gasped for more
than an hour and a half.
And when the doctor would come in to check his consciousness he would turn
the mike on, you could hear a deep snoring, sucking air sound. And this
went on for more than an hour and a half. The whole process took – well,
you know, about two hours from start to finish. He was, you know, clearly
struggling for breath. And that`s atypical because, as I said, usually an
execution takes 10, 11 minutes, and you see virtually nothing.
One wondered if someone was going to come in and stop the procedure
because, you know, we – you know, Troy and I were looking at each other
saying, he`s not dying. The process all started at about 1:30. And by
1:40, they had the first line in. By 1:50, he was saying his – the
curtain opened, he said his last words, then the – by 1:53 the procedure
started, by – let`s see, 1:57 he was unconscious, and then at about 2:05
or 2:03 he started gasping, and that continued constantly.
I counted more than 640 – I counted like 660 times, and that finally
started to peter out at 3:33. By 3:36 it stopped. And then he called –
Director Ryan called the death at 3:48.
MAURICIO MARIN, KOLD-TV: This is the first time I`ve seen an execution,
and yes, it was an excruciating sort of experience to go through. It took,
as I mentioned, about two hours to go through the whole process. I counted
about 660 times he started to gasp, kind of looked like as if he was trying
to breathe or catch air in his lungs.
TROY HAYDEN, FOX 10 NEWS PHOENIX: It was very disturbing to watch. You
know, Joe Wood is dead, but it took him two hours to die. And to watch a
man lay there for an hour and 40 minutes gulping air, I can liken it to –
if you catch a fish and throw it on the shore, and when the fish opens and
closes its mouth.
So the two drugs worked, he eventually died. But I can`t imagine, this is
what the criminal justice system had hoped for when they came up with this
new drug protocol. And it was tough for everybody in that room. And at a
certain point you wondered if he was ever going to die. It was serious.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was tonight in Arizona. The governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer,
has now ordered a review of the matter. This week the Ninth Circuit Court
of Appeals federal court had intervened in this case unusually to try to
get the state to disclose the source of these drugs they wanted to be used,
and the qualifications of the medical team that killed him. They tried to
get that, the Supreme Court overruled the Circuit Court but then this is
what happened when the state of Arizona did go ahead. The experiments must
Joining us now is Mauricio Marin. He`s reporter for CBS`s Tucson affiliate
which is KOLD-TV. He witnessed the execution today, he was there in
Mar. Marin, thanks very much for joining us tonight. I appreciate you
being with us.
MARIN: Of course.
MADDOW: I understand that this was the first execution you`ve witnessed.
What can you tell us about what you saw today and how different it was from
what you might have been expecting?
MARIN: Honestly, I was trying to prepare myself for this execution, trying
to talk to reporters who have dealt with this in the past. They typically
told me a lethal injection would take anywhere between 10 minutes or so.
To be in the execution room, to see him laying down for nearly two hours
was just – just to watch it was – just to watch it was just incredible.
I couldn`t believe the execution took two hours by lethal injection.
MADDOW: Was any attempt made to stop the execution or revive him? Could
you tell anything in terms of the way the medical team was attending him?
MARIN: Looking around in the witness room, you could see some concern on
the faces of the people in charge there, looking on the other side of the
glass where he was laying. We saw at least four times that there was
medical staff to check in on him. They checked his vitals. It appeared
that they`re looking for his heart rate, looking at his eyes, if he was
still sedated or not. Those four times when they checked him, they did say
that he was sedated and finally 4:00, the order came in and said that Wood
MADDOW: Mauricio Marin, reporter for CBS Tucson, KOLD-TV. I imagine this
is a very difficult day for you. Thanks for joining us.
MARIN: Thank you, good night.
MADDOW: Thank you, good night.
We`ve got lots more ahead. On this and a number of other stories tonight.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: We`re covering breaking news out of this botched execution tonight
in Arizona, in which the prisoner that they were trying to kill took nearly
two hours to die. We just this moment received word from federal court in
Arizona that says, District Court in Arizona, a judge in response to a
request from the man`s lawyers has just ordered the state of Arizona, just
ordered the Arizona Department of Corrections, to preserve this man`s body
and to draw blood from it immediately.
It`s an emergency motion for preservation of evidence that has been granted
by federal court in Arizona. They`re ordering the Pima County Examiner`s
Office and the Arizona Department of Corrections. And I quote, “to
immediately preserve all physical evidence related to the body of Joseph
Rudolph Wood III. Specifically the Medical Examiner`s Office is directed
to make an immediate draw of blood before 8:00 p.m. local time tonight,”
which is 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time. From the following locations, they want
blood from his left and right femoral veins, his left and right subclavian
veins and his left and right ventricles in his heart.
The Medical Examiner`s Office is also being ordered by federal court to
preserve tissues from his brain, liver and a muscle from a location other
than from the leg or arm where the IV was set. Obviously the man`s lawyers
– he`s dead, but the man`s lawyers are looking to preserve evidence here
because they see this case, at least between them and the state of Arizona
as not over in terms of what happened here.
Again, Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona has ordered an immediate
investigation into what happened and what went so terribly wrong here. One
of the lawyers for this prisoner joins us next. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAYDEN: It was very disturbing to watch. You know, Joe Wood is dead, but
it took him two hours to die, and to watch a man lay there for an hour and
40 minutes gulping air. I can liken it to if you catch a fish and throw it
on the shore, the way the fish opens and closes its mouth. So the two
drugs worked he eventually died. But I can`t imagine this is what the
criminal justice system had hoped for when they came up with this new drug
protocol. And it was tough for everybody in that room. At a certain point
you wondered if he was ever going to die. It was serious.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Troy Hayden who`s a FOX reporter out of Phoenix, Arizona.
He witnessed the execution of Joseph Wood tonight in Arizona. That
execution is the latest in a series of botched lethal injections in a
number of states. Again, as he said, it took nearly two hours for this man
to die tonight.
Mr. Wood`s execution follows a dramatic legal battle in which the United
States Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of Arizona were both ruling on
whether this execution could go forward right up until the very last
minute, including the issue of the source of the drugs that were used to
try to kill him being kept secret by the state of Arizona and the state of
Arizona also keeping secret the medical qualifications if any of the team
who carried out what seems to have been a horribly botched effort to kill
Joining us now is Dale Baich. He is one of Joseph Wood`s attorneys. He
was also there to witness this tonight in Arizona.
Mr. Baich, I`m sure this has been a very challenging day. Thank you for
DALE BAICH, ATTORNEY FOR JOSEPH WOOD: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Tonight you said after this happened, I have never witnessed an
execution that took that long. The state of Arizona today conducted a
Why do you say that and what did you see?
BAICH: This was the 11th lethal injection that I witnessed, and I had
never – I have never seen a lethal injection procedure take this long. It
was an experiment because the state of Arizona decided to follow the lead
of the state of Ohio and use the mixture of hydromorphone and midazolam to
carry out this execution, when they were fully aware of the problems that
had occurred in Ohio.
MADDOW: We`ve just had word from the district court in Arizona, federal
court in Arizona, that they have granted an emergency motion for the
preservation of evidence in Mr. Wood`s case, obviously he has died after
this long, long process. Tonight they`re ordering an immediate blood draw
before 8:00 p.m. local time tonight from six different positions in the
man`s body. They`re also asking or actually ordering the medical examiner
of Pima County to take tissues from his brain, his liver and his muscles.
What is this preservation of evidence about and what will this information
be used for?
BAICH: Well, we will have experts review the results of those tests. But,
you know, we hope that the Pima County medical examiner complies with the
court order. We`re getting word that the medical examiner says he doesn`t
have time to get it done.
BAICH: And he`s not going to comply with the court order, so that`s
something that we`ll be working on as the night goes on.
MADDOW: How do you work on that, if the court has made the order and the
medical examiner is going to flout it? What`s your recourse?
BAICH: We will go back to the judge and ask him to issue an order to show
cause as to why the medical examiner is not complying with the order of the
MADDOW: Midway through this execution, which again you know was the
longest one you`ve ever seen. It`s certainly the longest one I`ve ever
heard of, and I just have a layman`s understanding of this stuff. You
file, you and your team filed papers asking the federal court to intervene
in the middle of the execution. He had already been injected with these
drugs, something was clearly wrong, it was taking a very long time.
That emergency stay request basically asked for the execution to be stopped
and for the state of Arizona to try to bring him back. To try to induce –
I guess, to reverse the process, life saving measures at that point. Is
there a protocol in place wherein Arizona has agreed to do that? Is that
what you were hoping or expecting the corrections department to do?
BAICH: Well, under the protocol, there is a procedure for resuscitating
the prisoner if he is in distress during the process. And about an hour
into the proceeding, I asked two of the lawyers, who were in the room with
me to go out and contact our office. And we filed papers with the Federal
District court, the Ninth Circuit, and the Arizona Supreme Court. The
Arizona Supreme Court issued an order that the labels of the drugs be
preserved as well as any residual drug that exists. So there`s a lot of
work to do. There`s evidence there and we need to collect it now.
MADDOW: Bill Baich, one of Mr. Joseph Wood`s attorneys, a man who was
killed tonight in Arizona, an execution that took nearly two hours. Mr.
Baich was a witness to that execution.
Thank you for helping us understand what happened. Please stay in touch
with us as this ongoing legal fight takes place, particularly as you try to
get the Arizona officials there to agree – to comply with those court
orders. I appreciate your time.
BAICH: OK. Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you.
It will be fascinating to see in Arizona as the governor of Arizona has
ordered a review after this process. It will be fascinating to see if
Arizona officials who are part of the chain of custody here of this body,
including the medical examiner`s office, whether they comply with this
direct order from a federal judge that this man`s blood and tissues are to
be preserved so there can be some inquiry into what happened here.
The lethal injection process in this country, whether or not you are in
favor of the death penalty or against it, the logistical process of killing
people by means of injecting them with deliberately wrong quantities of
pharmaceuticals that are designed for a different purpose – this process
is officially and totally in chaos right now. It is a mess.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: It is a major news day today. And there`s an important update on
the Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 case. That`s of course the plane that`s
believed to have been shot down by a missile when it crashed in eastern
Ukraine on Thursday. A key part of the investigation into that crash will
concern the plane`s two black boxes. Cockpit voice recorder and the Flight
The Dutch Safety Board is the agency that`s heading up the investigation
now. And the Dutch took custody of those two recorders yesterday. They
sent them to the U.K. for expert testing. Now there was some concern that
because it took so long to recover them because of where they were, there
were some concern that those black boxes might have been tampered with
while they were in the hands of the pro-Russian separatists who control
that ground, who recovered the black boxes, but who are also the people
accused of culpability for possibly having shot down the plane.
The important update today is that the investigators looking at those boxes
today, they have said that so far they no reason to believe that any
tampering has happened. After examining the first of those black boxes,
the investigators say there is no evidence that it was tampered with in
anyway. They say they were able to successfully download the information
on that black box recorder. Investigators say they will begin examining
the other black box tomorrow.
A full analysis of both of them may take weeks, but at least they have
started and they say so far it`s working. And that is good news. A very
small piece of it on a day when there isn`t much. More ahead, stay with
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HERMAN CAIN, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A poet once said, life can
be a challenge, life can seem impossible, but it`s never easy when there`s
so much on the line.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Herman Cain is a person who ran for president in 2012. At one
point Herman Cain was the Republican frontrunner for president, and in that
presidential candidate`s debate in August 2011, what Herman Cain came cited
as the words of a poet were actually the words from the lyrics to the theme
song of the Pokemon movie. Mr. Cain later said they were the closing song
of the 2000 Olympics. But no, actually they really were from the Pokemon
And who can blame him? Who doesn`t love Pokemon?
At least Mr. Cain did not preened the lyrics were his own work. They were
Pokemon`s work. Anyway, that was the mistake made, the claiming the words
were his own. That was the mistake made by now vice president then
presidential candidate, Joe Biden, when he ran for president in 1988. His
1988 presidential effort was derailed largely by the revelations that he
had plagiarized a campaign speech from a British politician.
Mr. Biden at the time said it was an honest mistake, but that plagiarism
revelation basically killed that 1988 campaign for him.
And then there were last year`s revelations about Kentucky Senator Rand
Paul. Remember that? We first broke the news on this show that Senator
Rand Paul had given a speech in Virginia in support of Ken Cuccinelli`s run
for governor there. In that speech Rand Paul read out loud whole
paragraphs long sections of the Wikipedia entry for the sci-fi movie,
“Gattaca.” Rand Paul just copied and pasted the Wikipedia page and then
delivered it as a speech.
It soon emerged that Rand Paul had also given a different speech where he
just read out loud the Wikipedia page from a different movie. From the
movie “Stand and Deliver.” People didn`t realize that Rand Paul had a real
plagiarism problem. He had plagiarized a right-wing think tank in a speech
at Howard University. He had plagiarized part of his State of the Union
response from the Associated Press.
Whole huge sections of his most recent book had just been lifted verbatim,
directly copied from other people`s work.
Rand Paul is a serial habitual playing plagiarist. He has been stealing
people`s stuff in every conceivable context for years. All the time. Even
since he`s been a senator. See, nobody realized that when he said he was a
free market guy, he actually just meant that he`s a thief.
At least when it comes to other people`s words.
But now there is a new one. A new plagiarism scandal, and this time it`s a
Democrat in the Senate and one who is up for a very tough re-election
campaign this year. It`s Montana Senator John Walsh, he`s the Democratic
junior senator from Montana. He was appointed to the seat in February when
Senator Max Baucus stepped up to become ambassador to China.
But John Walsh has to run for the seat now for the first time in purple
state Montana against a very well funded Republican challenger named
Congressman Steve Danes. Danes is pretty conservative for a statewide
elected in Montana but Senator Walsh has been trailing him in both
fundraising so far and in polling so far.
Senator John Walsh is the only Iraq or Afghanistan combat veteran in the
United States Senate. He was a general of the Montana National Guard. He
led combat operations in Iraq in 2004 and 2005. The “New York Times” broke
the news today, that after he returned from Iraq, when he was pursuing a
graduate degree at the U.S. Army War College in 2007, the general turned in
his final paper for his master`s degree at the War College. Turns out
whole sections of that master`s thesis were lifted without attribution from
think tank reports published by Harvard and by the Carnegie Endowment.
The “New York Times” confronted Senator Walsh with the evidence of the
copied material yesterday on Capitol Hill. He told the paper yesterday
that he didn`t believe he had plagiarized. If he did it wasn`t
intentional. Today the senator`s campaign gave us a statement about it.
They said this was unintentional and it was a mistake. There were areas
that should have been cited differently. But it was completely
Senator Walsh released every single evaluation that he received during his
33-year military career, which shows an honorable and stellar record of
service to protecting Montana and serving his country in Iraq.
Admitting that it was a mistake, admitting that it happened and saying it
was unintentional is obviously the right way to try to find a path out of
this. Right? But the evidence that he did it is very clear. And it`s
extensive. This wasn`t an incidental sight here and there, it`s throughout
The War College may now face the question of whether or not they end up
rescinding his degree. Since plagiarism is obviously against the rules of
the school. And of course the people of Montana will have to decide if
this will affect who they want to be their junior senator come November,
when they get their first chance at voting on the man who is now serving as
their senator, John Walsh.
Apparently nobody minded when Rand Paul did it over and over and over and
over and over and over and over again. Will people mind about Senator John
Walsh having once done it, too? We`ll find out.
And if ethics scandals are your field of interest today, Senator John Walsh
plagiarizing his master`s thesis turns out that`s just one of a list today.
The even bigger story is not just an ethics scandal in today`s news, it`s
an ethics scandal about ethics and that big weird story is next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Aside from Hillary mania and Rudy Giuliani`s ill-fated run for
office in 2008, when he genius decided to skip all of the early states.
Aside from the disastrous run of Rudy and the ongoing saga of Hillary
Clinton, the last time the country took a New York politician seriously as
a presidential contender was 30 years ago. It was Mario Cuomo. Mario
Cuomo was the beloved governor of New York for 12 years in the `80s and
And in 1984, the year after he took office, he delivered the keynote speech
at the tail of two city speech at the Democratic National Convention in San
Francisco. He delivered a speech directly taking on the president at the
time, Ronald Reagan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MARIO CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: There is despair, Mr. President. In the
faces that you don`t see. In the places that you don`t visit, in your
Mr. President, you ought to know that this nation is more a tale of two
cities than it is just a shining city on a hill.
Maybe, Mr. President, if you stopped in at a shelter in Chicago, and spoke
to the homeless there. Maybe, Mr. President, if you asked a woman who had
been denied the help she needed to feed her children because you said you
needed the money for a tax break for a millionaire or for a missile we
couldn`t afford to use.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That speech more than anything else probably elevated New York
Governor Mario Cuomo to presidential contender status. He did not end up
running for president, this was very early on in his governor days and he
ended up just becoming a long serving governor of New York state instead.
But everybody thought he was going to be a Democratic president. And to
the extent that New York has a political family dynasty, it is Mario
Cuomo`s family. It`s the Cuomo family.
The young fellow you see there standing next to the former governor, Mario
Cuomo, is Mario Cuomo`s son, Andrew Cuomo, who is the current governor of
New York state. Andrew Cuomo is a Democrat, obviously. He was elected in
a landslide in 2010. He`s now running for reelection to a second term and
he is leading by a mile.
But hanging over Governor Andrew Cuomo`s entire first term has been a slew
of government corruption cases in New York state. One after another.
You remember, Andrew Cuomo took over – this about what else has happened
in New York state politics in recent years. Andrew Cuomo took over for the
guy who had to take over for the guy who resigned in the hooker scandal.
Right, that`s how he got there. Right? The Eliot Spitzer guy.
So that was the environment Andrew Cuomo was coming into at the executive
branch of New York state politics. The state legislature was a different
style of utterly corrupt, within a two-day span last year, the U.S.
attorney for the southern district of New York announced that his office
was bringing federal corruption charges against a New York state senator, a
New York city councilmember, two party leaders for trying to sell the New
York City mayoral race. And then he said he was also bringing bribery
charges against a state assemblyman for trying to sell legislation.
All in the space of 48 hours. That was accompanied by all this news
footage of New York state elected officials doing perp walks. It`s not the
kind of thing that engenders confidence in government. And so newly
elected governor of New York, maybe with presidential aspirations, Andrew
Cuomo, was going to clean up his state. The corrupt state of New York
politics. He was going to reform the disgusting mess that is New York
state politics and its ethics.
That would be part of his political legacy, right? He tried to get good
government reforms passed in the state legislature, but that legislation
failed. And then Andrew Cuomo decided that he would create a commission
tasked with rooting out public corruption at every level and then making
recommendations about what New York state needed to do differently to avoid
having half the state legislature getting arrested every couple of years.
The commission was called the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public
Corruption. It was made up of district attorneys, former prosecutors,
former police commissioners and others in state government. They had a
year and a half remit for doing their work and importantly they had
subpoena power, that could commission – the commission could compel anyone
they wanted to, to turn over documents.
And no one was supposed to be above the mandate of this commission. When
the governor announced that he was creating it, he said that their mandate
was broad, the state attorney general explained that everybody was fair
game from top to bottom in New York state government.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN (D), NY ATTORNEY GENERAL: The governor in this executive
order has the – the governor has this power to direct me to investigate
and inquire into any matter relating to the public peace, public safety and
public justice of the state. That covers everything. There`s jurisdiction
to look at any aspect of the state government.
It is not specifically directed at the legislature by any means. The
commission is empowered to investigate any and every aspect of the state
government that relates to the issues the governor has pointed to in his
executive order. But this is going to be a commission uniquely empowered
to take a full top to bottom review and identify wrongdoing and make
recommendations for reform.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: A full top-to-bottom review, the commission is empowered to
investigate any and every aspect of the state government. A fully top-to-
bottom review. This is clearly something the governor thought would help
his re-election bid. Two weeks after he announced the creation of the
commission, his campaign began running these ads about how Governor Cuomo
was going to restore trust between New Yorkers and their elected officials.
Well, today the “New York Times” published a massive, multipage story, the
result of a three-month investigation that found that Governor Cuomo`s
office stopped that ethics commission from doing its work, when its work
got even close to touching the governor. Quote, “The governor`s office
deeply compromised the panel`s work, objecting whenever the commission
focused on groups with ties to Mr. Cuomo or on issues that might reflect
poorly on him.”
As the “Times” describes, when the investigators were looking into a media
buying firm, that counted Governor Cuomo as one of its clients, according
to the “Times,” when the governor`s office heard about that subpoena, a
senior aide called the commission and, quote, “issued a simple directive,
pull it back.” And the subpoena was swiftly withdrawn.
There was also the time that the commission sought to subpoena the Real
Estate Board of New York, whose members happen to be one of Governor
Cuomo`s most generous supporters. According to the “Times” again the
governor`s office again stepped in to shut that subpoena down.
It was a long time story today is a stunning litany, documenting how,
according to the “Times,” Governor Cuomo`s office stopped the state`s own
commission from doing the work that he was telling the public was going to
restore faith in their government. Nine months after Governor Andrew Cuomo
created that commission, he unceremoniously shut it down way early. Half
way through its supposed remit. And that left a lot of people with
One of those people happens to be the U.S. attorney for the southern
district of New York, Preet Bharara, the same guy whose office brought
those public corruption cases last year against that huge list of New York
state lawmakers. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced in April of this
year that he was going to be looking into the work of this ethics
commission. His office had taken possession of all of the commission`s
records. He says he`s looking into why the commission`s work was cut short
just nine months into its tenure.
Governor Cuomo`s office gave the “Times” a 13-page statement in response to
the “Times`” reporting today, they called the “Times`” premise for their
story legally, ethically, and practically false. They told the “Times”
that it was incorrect to presume that the commission was legally
independent of the governor`s office. Quote, “We could not interfere with
the commission that we creation, staffed and controlled, and that reported
to us. Can`t be independent of us. It is us.”
It is rarely a great day to be a governor of New York who has aspirations
for higher office. But today was a particularly bad day to be a governor
of New York with aspirations for higher office.
And joining us is Thomas Kaplan. He`s one of the reporters on this story
for “The New York Times.”
Mr. Kaplan, thank you for joining us.
THOMAS KAPLAN, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Congratulations on persuading anybody in any publishing business
to let you publish that many words on any one subject.
KAPLAN: Thank you.
MADDOW: Let me ask about the Governor Cuomo`s response. He says that the
premise is wrong. This was his own commission. He therefore wasn`t
interfering in its work, he was simply preventing it from doing something
which would have been inappropriate.
KAPLAN: Well, legally, he`s right in some ways. He established this
commission with an executive order. But when he described it when he
created it, it was a different story. You showed the commercial. He
called it independent. He went on a barn storming tour of the state to
promote it. He called it totally independent. He said it could
investigate whatever it wanted to investigate. At one point he even said
it could investigate him. Explicitly. He named himself. So that is a
very different portrayal compared to the way he describes it now.
MADDOW: Why didn`t – do you know, why didn`t members of the ethics
commission squawk publicly about these calls they were getting from the
governor`s office steering them away from people close – people at
entities close to the governor?
KAPLAN: There was a lot of discussion about this internally. A lot of
members of this panel were elected district attorneys. They were not used
to this kind of sort of political crusher and some talked about even sort
of forming a group and resigning in protest. But Governor Cuomo is very
powerful. It would have been picking a fight with the most powerful
elected official in New York.
And I think ultimately a lot of these commission members felt their best
approach was to try to push back internally but publicly to kind of keep a
steely face. Otherwise, they would have sort of lost credibility and the
whole purpose of this would have gone up in smoke.
MADDOW: We have known for a few months that the U.S. attorney has taken in
records on this case, has been pursuing an investigation. We know it`s a
very aggressive U.S. attorney in this jurisdiction. In terms of your
reporting and what you were able to document at the “Times,” there do seem
to be ethical questions raised about the governor`s behavior here. Does
there appear to be anything plainly illegal in what he did?
KAPLAN: That`s the big question right now. It`s clear that the U.S.
Attorney Preet Bharara is very interested in this. It was highly unusual,
he went on the radio a few months ago and sharply criticized the governor.
I mean, when do you ever see a U.S. attorney do that? So he`s clearly
looking at this. His office has issued subpoenas. They are calling in a
staff member from this commission to testify in front of a grand jury. So
they`re clearly looking at this. But what their investigation will find.
I think we just don`t know yet.
MADDOW: Did the commission accomplish anything before it was cut off at
KAPLAN: Well, lawmakers did agree to pass some new ethics laws. Nothing
major. Some tougher bribery penalties, better enforcement of state
election law. And they did begin some investigations, which now have been
turned over to the U.S. attorney`s office and some other prosecutors. And
it`s possible that those cases will turn into something. So we`ll see.
But it certainly did not accomplish anything to match the way it was
described with such fanfare when it was started.
MADDOW: Thomas Kaplan, reporter for the “New York Times” in this ethics –
epic ethics piece today on Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York. Thanks for
helping us to understand it. Appreciate it.
KAPLAN: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right.
A most incredible thing happened today at the New York Stock Exchange that
has absolutely nothing to do with stocks or politics but it`s incredible
and it happened on tape. And that`s sort of a “Moment of Zen” we`ve got
coming up in just a moment. Stay with us.
MADDOW: You know how Jon Stewart at the “Daily Show” ends his show with
the “Moment of Zen”? This is my plagiarism, my affectionate plagiarism of
Mr. Stewart, my shameless rip-off nominee for today`s “Moment of Zen” in
It took place at the New York Stock Exchange today. One of the things that
happened at the stock exchange is that they used the closing of the
exchange as an honor. Basically the stock exchange arrives at its closing
time and they ring the closing bell, which goes on for a long time. It
rings and rings and rings. And then the guest of honor who they`ve invited
to the exchange bangs the gavel to formally close the trading day.
Well, today the guest of honor was Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Pith, who was
just award the nation`s highest military award. He was just given the
Medal of Honor for his extraordinary valor and heroism fighting in
Afghanistan. But here is what happened when this Medal of Honor recipient
gaveled the session shut today.
Watch what happened. Watch.
And then a second big round of applause comes from the crowd. The man does
not know his own strength. Nor could he be expected to. I realize it`s
not quite zen. But it was a moment of something. And it was all good. It
was all good and we needed that today.
That does it for us tonight, we`ll see you again tomorrow.
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