The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/27/15
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Ari. Thank you, my friend. Have
a great evening.
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. There is a lot going on
right now. There`s a lot going on in the world. I know it`s late on a
Friday night, but lots of things are happening right now that I swear will
be different in the world by the time we get off the air with this show.
There is a ton going on. It`s a very busy night. We`ve got a busy show
planned. But the first live and as yet unresolved story we`ve got to cover
tonight is what`s happening in Washington tonight, where Congress really
does appears to have gone off the rails.
We knew tonight is when funding would run out for the Homeland Security
Department unless they figured out a way to keep homeland security funded.
For much of the day, the House Republicans appeared to believe that they
knew how to do that. They apparently were mistaken in that belief and they
did not know how to do it. And so, it hasn`t happened.
And now, unless something happens very, very soon, in less than three
hours, at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Time, the Department of Homeland Security will
be shutting down in the United States of America.
This is the front page at Politico.com right now, huge headline, “Boehner
fails again.” This is the front page at “The Hill” tonight, “Chaos in the
House, shut down nears.” At “Talking Points Memo”, I don`t think they have
ever turned their top headline to red. But look, this is their front page
right now, “Stunner, House GOP votes down own bill to avert shutdown.”
Apparently, they thought they had a plan. The Republicans thought they had
a plan, they thought they had this under control.
On the Senate side, they actually did get this done today. In the Senate
side, they passed a bill to keep Homeland Security open and funded all the
way through September. They did it in the Senate.
In the House, they decided they didn`t want to fund it through September.
They decided they would only try to fund Homeland Security for the next
three weeks. So, yes, we could still be in this situation. We`d be back
to shut down again three weeks from now, at least something change. But at
least there wouldn`t be a shut down tonight.
House Republicans decided they wanted to just fund Homeland Security for
three weeks. That was their plan. That was their bill.
So, the House Republicans called a recess to give themselves time to round
up the votes, for their three-week plan. They delayed the vote this
afternoon to make sure they have the votes. They voiced optimism to
reporters that they were going to be able to pass their big idea, their
bill, their three-week extension.
You might remember, John Boehner, just hired, right, just got to work with
them as the new whip in the Republican House, right? This new vote
counter, Steve Scalise of Louisiana. And the great appeal of Steve Scalise
fore the Republicans is that he was supposed to be able to count votes and
round up votes specifically from the conservatives, who so often go rough
on John Boehner. Steve Scalise is supposed to be able to handle situations
So, they recessed, they delayed, they counted votes, they had Steve Scalise
whipped the votes, they did the math, they did the counting, and then,
finally, they were ready. Voila! They put their own bill up there for a
vote – and it failed. Fifty-two Republicans gave a one finger salute to
their own Republican leadership who they were about to pass this thing.
But 52 defections on their own side, the Republicans` own bill did not
pass. They cannot pass their own thing even after they spent all day today
putting it together.
Politico.com tonight calling it a stunning blow to House Republican
leaders. Quote, “The latest and perhaps most stinging repudiation of
Speaker John Boehner and his leadership team.”
In “The Washington Post” tonight, quote, “The outcome is a major defeat for
House Speaker John Boehner who has struggled to govern even as Republicans
hold unified control of Congress.”
In “The New York Times” tonight, quote, “a stunning and humiliating set
back for Speaker John Boehner and his leadership team.” Quote,
“Republicans vowing to govern effectively as a congressional majority
failed a fundamental test.”
And politically, that`s amazing, right? Substantively though, that means
the Department of Homeland Security is going to be shutting down in less
than three hours, right? We are told that the president, President Obama,
is convening meetings in the Oval Office tonight. He is personally working
the phones to try to get Congress to snap out of it somehow and not do
But as of now, it is unclear as to whether or not they`re going to be able
to do it. Just within the last hour, the Senate – sort of without warning
– the Senate went back to work, even though they already did their part
today, right? They`ve already funded Homeland Security. The Senate went
back, sort of without warning tonight, just in the last hour, and passed a
one week extension for funding for the Homeland Security Department. One
They just did that in the Senate. And then they went home, they adjourned
and went home and said, House, you get it together. And so, now, tonight,
urgently, after the House Republicans own idea, their three-week extension
failed because they couldn`t get their own votes for it.
Now tonight, what`s on the table is a one-week extension that`s passed the
Senate and has gone to the House. The Senate has gone home. Now, will
John Boehner and the House get it together? Open question.
Joining us now live from the Capitol is NBC News Capitol Hill producer
Frank, thanks for being with us.
FRANK THORP, NBC NEWS CAPITOL HILL PRODUCER: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: What is the latest? I feel like every time I read something, it`s
out of date. What`s going on right now?
THORP: Well, so, as you said, the Senate passed that one-week stopgap
measure. That goes the House. It`s a kind of either pass it or funding
expires. So, the House is going to pass it, or they`re going to consider
it later today, or they`re going to consider it under a procedure where
they can fast track it to the – fast track it to a final vote, which is
going to require two-thirds majority. But House Minority Leader Nancy
Pelosi just sent a letter to Democratic colleagues encouraging them to vote
yes on this measure. They had – she had encouraged all of her Democrats
to vote no against the three-week stopgap measure because she didn`t think
that that strategy was working and she got this – so, now, she is now
encouraging Democrats to pass this one week measure.
But what I`m told is that, you know, Reid and McConnell spoke with Boehner
and Pelosi, and that the plan now is that Boehner has agreed to go ahead
with the vote on the clean bill next week. So, next week, what we have is
the Senate will end up taking up this motion that the House has already
passed that`s encouraging this House or Senate to conference between the
two bills. That motion will go down because Democrats said they don`t want
to negotiate between the House and Senate bills, and then Boehner will have
to bring up the clean full year DHS funding bill sometime next week.
MADDOW: So, OK, the Democrats in the House under Nancy Pelosi did not help
John Boehner today, and John Boehner could not get his enough votes on the
Republican side to pass his own bill, which was a three-week extension.
That seems to be why that fell apart.
Nancy Pelosi, however, is willing to let Democrats help John Boehner pass
this one week extension sometime in the next, you know, few minutes,
sometime over the next couple of hours. She will say that Democrats will
help pass the one-week bill. That`s because next week, this is all over.
The shut down threat is gone, they`re going to pass a clear bill, and this
whole shenanigan is going to be done. That`s basically the deal?
THORP: Basically, yes. So, Pelosi sent a letter to her Democratic
colleagues saying, we need you to vote for this because this is part of the
plan. They wanted to back Republicans into a corner. This whole situation
completely sideswipe Republican leadership. They were truly expecting this
three week CR to pass, and when it went down, you know, they had to
And this is what Pelosi had been trying to do the whole time. She wanted
to prove that Democrats were going to be needed to pass anything. Just has
been the case on the Senate side. I mean, this has really kind of worked
into Democrats hands, and this CR vote that ended up going down earlier,
this three-week CR vote, is going to be almost another shiny example of an
issue with House Republican leadership in the House conference not being
able to pass a bill it needs to pass.
MADDOW: And not being able to pass their own bill. We had, as soon as
this session started, we had the House leadership put forward their own
bill on restricting abortion rights and then they yanked it, because of
problems on their own side. They put forward a border security bill, their
own bill, yanked it, because of problems on their own side. Now, they`ve
just on it again with this three-week bill, it`s own their bill, they
couldn`t pass it because of problems on their own side.
It feels like Nancy Pelosi has more power than she has had at anytime since
she was actually speaker, and it doesn`t much feel like John Boehner is the
speaker. I mean, is anybody on the Republican side, or enough people on
the Republican side, listening to John Boehner, that he effectively has
control of what happens in the House.
THORP: Well, and they also had an education bill this week that they were
planning on voting on today, that they ended up having to poll as well.
They argued that that was because of the consideration of the CR, but it
was actually because they didn`t have enough votes to pass it themselves.
This is – I mean, it is a growing issue, and I think there is an argument
to be made that if there is any indication or any expectation that tax
reform or any of these bigger reforms were going to be passed during this
Congress, it`s kind of going away this is. I mean, this is – but the
other reality here is that, you know, if you look at Boehner`s leadership
here, it`s not necessarily a reflection of leadership, it`s so much just a
reflection of the conference, because if you look at – I mean, who could
possibly take his place that would right this ship, that would change this
so that this strategy would have worked – that this Republican strategy
would have worked. And it`s really kind of hard to find one specific
person that could actually have gone down this road and actually been
So, I think it`s a reflection more of the conference, the Republican
conference as a whole and less on actually the leadership structure.
MADDOW: Frank Thorp, NBC News Capitol Hill producer, working late with a
long night yet ahead of you – Frank, thanks for being with us. We maybe
checking in with you later on tonight. Thank you.
MADDOW: I want to bring in now, Chuck Todd, political director for NBC
News, moderator of “Meet the Press”.
Chuck, it`s a very exciting night in American politics.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR (via telephone): I guess, but I
feel like we have seen this story over and over again. I mean, it`s the
same story, and, you know, Boehner can`t pass anything, and McConnell has
to come up and jam them again, to give them an out. And they`ve got the
What is amazing here is look, and I agree with Frank on this, is that
Speaker Boehner actually did that everything that was politically rational.
The problem is they`re irrational –
MADDOW: Chuck, I`m going to interrupt you just for a second. I`m sorry,
Nancy Pelosi just came to the microphone. If you could just hold on one
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: – on the vote earlier today,
or unity, the notes says, was a strong statement that the Department of
Homeland Security must be fully funded. We are asking our member, it says,
to help again advance passage of the Senate bill, long term funding of the
Department of Homeland Security by voting for a seven-day patch that will
be on suspension in the House tonight. That is coming over from the
Senate. It`s already passed the Senate. It`s coming from the Senate.
I say to them, further, your vote tonight will assure that we will vote for
full funding of the Homeland Security next week, thank you for your
I`m very proud of our members, the unity that we had, to show their
commitment to full funding. We certainly want to protect the American
people every minute of every day, 24/7, that includes today. And we
believe that within the next seven days, hopefully five, we will have a
bill that takes us to the end of the year, end of the fiscal year.
PELOSI: No questions.
We`re not taking questions.
MADDOW: Chuck, I`m sorry to interrupt you. Nancy Pelosi explaining that
Democrats in the House will vote for what she called the seven-day patch
because that will mean that there will be full funding next week.
TODD: Right. I mean, that is the case where – you know, Boehner can now
go to these conservatives and say, OK, now they`re saying you`re stuck with
full funding and, oh, by the way, you may be stuck with full funding before
you find out whether the – whether there`s going to be a state in the
Fifth Circuit, having to do with the president – whether the president can
go on and begin implementing his executive action on immigration.
The whole point – what Boehner was doing was politically rational.
Getting three weeks, buying time, so he could find out what the result of
the lawsuit is and then see what, you know, how hard it would be to corral
his conservatives that did not want to fund homeland security. This is
what he is dealing with. He had – this was a very, like I said, a
rational political move he made, and yet, he still could not corral these
50 plus members. There is, I mean, as Frank, I think, goodbye tax reform,
goodbye all of this stuff, none of this is getting done.
MADDOW: Chuck, I`m just looking at John Boehner standing there with Steve
Scalise. And, obviously, when Steve Scalise moved up in their leadership
after the departure of Eric Cantor, there was a controversy about his past
in Louisiana and having spoken to a white supremacist group, a long time in
the past. And that become sort of the noise around Steve Scalise, and I
think that`s what people mostly in the national level think of when they
But strategically, didn`t they hope in Republican politics, in the
Republican leadership that Steve Scalise might be close enough to the sort
of rabble-rousing, rebel conservatives in the House Republican conference
that he`d be able to at least count them if he couldn`t corral them.
Wasn`t that was he was supposed to be able to do?
TODD: Exactly, he was the red state Republican. Remember before, when you
had McCarthy, Boehner, and Cantor, they all actually came from blue states.
A lot of concern that, hey, there`s no real southerner in the leadership,
there`s no real red state conservative. So, that was supposed to be his
But it is – you know, look, I think on the issue of immigration, it is one
of these issues that is just not – you can`t have compromise on it. There
is no such thing. When everything you do they just say, the a-word,
amnesty. So I think that`s the problem that the House Republicans have, is
they have this – there is just no compromising on the issue itself, so
therefore, they can`t even do something as simple like a three-week
MADDOW: Yes, and they can`t even execute on their own best strategies, let
TODD: Which would have been politically smart for them. That`s what`s
amazing her. I mean, they had actually had the law – the lawsuit was an
asset to them and they could not figure out how to use the lawsuit. They
could have written a full funding measure that says it would have
automatically suspended things if there was no stay.
I mean, it could have gotten a lot more creative. They had something out
there and they didn`t know how to use it. To me, that is a failure of
leadership. Letting Boehner, McCarthy, they could have come up with a way
to use the result of the halting of the executive order to their political
benefit to get DHS funded. And they couldn`t even do that. So, there was
a lack of creative thinking now on this.
MADDOW: Chuck Todd, NBC News political director, moderator of “Meet of
Press”, Sunday mornings is going to be more fun than usual, Chuck.
TODD: I was just going to say. I love Friday, that`s the best part of
MADDOW: Thanks, Chuck. Good luck, man.
All right. We are keeping an eye on Capitol Hill all night. I will say,
to the point where we just had Chuck Todd here from “Meet the Press”,
thinking ahead to this Sunday, one thing that has been sort of – people
have been mulling tonight as the House Republicans have just absolutely
collapsed, can`t pass their own thing, having Nancy Pelosi decide what does
pass because they can`t figure out themselves – they were so confident
that they had this together they have booked the entire house Republican
leadership team on all of the Sunday shows this weekend, because they were
ready to brag about what they did and how they were confronting Barack
Obama and how they were winning in the Congress. They booked their whole
leadership team on all of the Sunday shows. It`s going to be a very
different conversation than they expected when they made this bookings.
All right. We got a lot ahead. Stay with us tonight.
MADDOW: OK, we have just gotten some new advice about what to expect for
tonight. Again, the headline tonight, is that at 12:01 a.m. Eastern, the
entire Department of Homeland Security shuts down because it loses funding
unless the House can act to keep it open between now and then. So, they`ve
got between like two-and-a-half hours, they got to get it done.
What we`re told now is that the House is going to reconvene at 9:30
Eastern. They`re going to reconvene in about 11 minutes. They`re going to
come back into session and what they`re going to try to pass is a one-week
extension. They`re calling it a seven-day patch to basically give
themselves time to come back next week and – according to the Democrats –
pass a clean bill to keep Homeland Security funded until September, as of
next week. They`re going to come back into session at 9:30. They want
that vote by 9:40. So, this is all going to happen, they say, within the
next 20 to 30 minutes.
This should be very exciting. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: Yesterday, in between a slew of official meetings at the White
House, President Obama sat down with some local news fro local media
markets in four different states. President Obama is not the first
president to do this, but he has done it a lot. And, frankly, in terms of
media strategy for president, it is a pretty smart thing to do, right?
It`s a huge deal for those local media markets to get a presidential
interview. It also gets the president sort of outside of the beltway ruts
in the road, wherever every story gets channeled into the same away beltway
In talking with local reporters directly to local media markets, the
president not only reaches people in a different way, he also gets asked
stuff that doesn`t necessarily matter to the Beltway press, but it does
matter out in the world. So, it`s an interesting two-way street.
And, you know, sometimes, what the president gets asked in these local
interviews is something very local. Some special, local or regional
concern that just isn`t going to resonate in other parts of the country,
and that`s why it hasn`t surfaced in the national media.
But every once in awhile, there is something more than that going on, and
that`s what happened yesterday. President Obama did this four different
local TV interviews yesterday. He did interviews with reporters from four
different parts of the country. And weirdly, three of the four
interviewers, three of the four reporters he talked to asked him the exact
same really specific thing that never gets talked about in the beltway.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: You know how beautiful the Northwest is. You`ve been there. We
love our scenery. The Columbia River Gorge is one of our gems. But we
have seen our trains coming to our region, increase like 250 percent.
After what we saw happened in West Virginia, a lot of people are worried
that could happen in our region.
How concerned are you about the danger that oil trains pose? And is there
any way to speed up the process to strengthen those safeguards to protect
our communities and our environment?
REPORTER: You recently vetoed the Keystone pipeline, safety, environmental
concerns. A lot of people in the state of Washington are really nervous
and concerned about the oil trains. That this will mean more oil trains,
that we can`t guarantee the safety. We had a near disaster in Seattle with
the derailed train.
Can you give some reassurance to the people who watch those trains rolling
through their communities every single day?
REPORTER: Rail safety is a huge issue in our area. We had an oil train
derail and explode just to the west of Fargo and in other parts of the
country as well. Is that high on your agenda?
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Oil trains. The president did four interviews with local
reporters, and three of the four asked about oil trains. I mean, these
local reporters, they only got five minutes each with the president. They
only had time for a couple of questions to ask the president. This is
president is not a fast talker. Five minutes is not a long time.
But even with those constraints, three of the four raised concerns about
bomb trains that had been going off around the country. Interesting,
right? Attention Beltway press, this is a thing people are concerned
And President Obama did make some news about this in his answers to these
repeated questions from these different reporters. He said, strengthening
regulations around oil trains is a top priority for his administration. He
said this is something that needs to be improved. He said the
Transportation Department, quote, “feels great urgency about this.”
And the president making those sorts of comments about this issue, that is
one way that oil disasters can become national politics. The way that oil
disasters usually become national politics is usually more like this: New
Jersey Governor Chris Christie is in California today. He was at the big
CPAC conference in D.C. yesterday. Chris Christie is very obviously
campaigning for president.
But while Governor Christie is away on the not campaign trail, back home,
“The New York Times” today broke a story about his administration and
ExxonMobil, which is both a shocking story and a really strange story.
It`s a story that races one really big as yet unanswered question.
This is the Bayway Oil Refinery in Northern New Jersey. Pretty, right?
For a long time, this refinery was owned and operated by the giant oil
Eleven years ago, when Jim McGreevy was governor of New Jersey, the state
filed a lawsuit against Exxon over this site because of contamination that
has occurred over decades on this, the 1,300 acres in the refinery and
another 300 acres nearby.
For all of that pollution and contamination, at that site, New Jersey sued
Exxon, seeking $8.9 billion in damages. New Jersey filed the suit in 2004.
It has been in the courts ever since. Four different governors have worked
And while that 11-year timeline might seem slow for lawsuits, it`s also
pretty clear what has been happening over the course of this litigation.
The courts have described the scale of the contamination in very stark
terms. Look at this – it was estimated in 1977 that at least some 7
million gallons of oil, ranging in thickness from 7 feet to 17 feet is
contained in the soil and ground water underlying a portion of the refinery
– 17 feet of oil packed into the soil there. Wow.
The court notes that, quote, “The documented level of contamination in the
waters and sediment of the one of the canals nearby is so high that Exxon
has recommended just permanently closing the canal and filling it in with
an impermeable barrier. That is how bad the contamination is.
And the courts have decided already that ExxonMobil did it, that Exxon is
liable for having caused all these disgusting damage in New Jersey. When
this case went to trial this past year before this judge in New Jersey, in
Mount Holly, New Jersey, the only issue that was still to be settled was
not whether or not Exxon did it, whether they were liable, there was not
even a question about what Exxon did.
When it went to trial last year, the only remaining question was, how much
Exxon was going to have to pay for it, the dollar amount, that is what
remained to be decided, that`s what this judge was due to decade.
And, again, the state of New Jersey for the last 11 years has been seeking
$8.9 billion in damages from Exxon. They wanted $2.5 billion to
essentially repair damage of those sites, clean them up, and then they
wanted another $6 billion to compensate the state for what Exxon had done
to this huge swath of land.
So, that trial to determine what Exxon owed, that trial lasted from January
to September of last year. The last filings happened in November. And
after the last filings came in, that judge had been expected to rule at any
But, “The New York Times” reports in a bit of a bombshell that the Chris
Christie administration just settled the case. Remember, the state
officially had been seeking $8.9 billion, $8.9 billion.
How much did they settle for? Not bad. Not even $1 billion. They settled
for $250 million.
How did New Jersey go from wanting $9 billion to being happy taking a
quarter of $1 billion? The judge has been due to rule in this case in any
day, but the attorney general`s office from the Chris Christie
administration reportedly email and judge and said, wait, don`t issue your
ruling, we`re in talks with Exxon, and then they e-mailed again two weeks
later and emailed the judge again and said, no, no, please don`t rule,
we`re still in talks with Exxon.
And then, according to “The Times”, last Friday, they wrote to the judge
and said you don`t have to rule, we`re done. We worked out amongst
And the reported settlement that they worked out is roughly 3 percent of
what the state had originally been demanding from Exxon. What`s that
Why did this get settled right before that judge was about to rule? What
was the judge going to decide? How much would the judge tell Exxon to pay?
Did Exxon just get the deal of the century from the state of New Jersey?
Is that an unusually small amount to settle for, for the people of New
Jersey, given what the state had been asking for, for more than a decade?
We`re trying to do some additional reporting to figure this out. This
would seem to be an answerable question, right? As to whether or not the
people of New Jersey got completely screwed or if they somehow got a square
deal that we just can`t tell from here. I mean, the answer to that
question has real life implications for people of New Jersey and also
potential has big political implications for Chris Christie, if this turns
out to be a scandal rather than just a story.
We did reach out to the governor`s office today, and to the New Jersey
state attorney general`s office and to ExxonMobil. So far, nobody is
willing to answer any of our questions about this. This is an answerable
question, and if the people of New Jersey just got screwed so Exxon could
away without paying anything, this is not just a story, this is a scandal,
with really big implications and we`re working on trying to figure it out.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: What? What are you looking at? I stand sometimes. It happens.
MADDOW: The current governor of Missouri is a Democrat named Jay Nixon.
Governor Nixon is in his second term, his final term. He can`t run again.
With Jay Nixon leaving, Republicans see a real chance for a possible pick
up of that governorship in Missouri. And so, the Republicans had been very
excited of having a wide open and rambunctious primary for that seat
already. Three declared candidates so far, maybe more on the way.
One of the leading Republican candidates who jumped into that race for
Missouri governor was the Missouri state auditor. His name is Tom
Schweich. He just won reelection as auditor in November. He won with 73
percent of the vote to get a second term as Missouri state auditor.
Right after he got reelected, this last month, Tom Schweich announced that
he would be running for governor in 2016. Now, the primary is not until
August of next year, but Republicans in Missouri are excited about this.
It has already become a tough race.
Last week, a group called Citizens for Fairness put out this rather brutal
radio ad against Tom Schweich.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “CITIZENS FOR FAIRNESS” POLITICAL AD)
ANNOUNCER: Elections have consequences. Tom Schweich, like him? No. Is
he a weak candidate for governor? Absolutely, just look at him. He could
be easily confused for the deputy sheriff of Mayberry. But, more
importantly, he can be manipulated.
Schweich is an obviously weaker opponent against Democrat Chris Koster.
Once Schweich obtains the Republican nomination, we will quickly squash him
like the little bug that he is, and put our candidate Chris Koster in the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, “House of Cards”-theme rather vicious ad, in what is already a
rather vicious Republican primary for Missouri governor in 2016.
Well, last weekend, the state Republican Party in Missouri held their
annual confab. They called it Reagan Lincoln Days, Republican convention
in the state. Tom Schweich came in second when they did a poll of party
leaders for the governor`s race.
At the Reagan Lincoln Days thing, they also tried to poll not just the
leadership, but all of the attendees, the hundreds of party members who
attended the event. They wanted to do sort of a straw poll for the
Weirdly, for the straw poll, somebody stole the ballot box. Party leaders
say the ballot box for the straw poll went missing overnight. When they
found it the next day, it had been stuffed for one of the candidates, for a
Yes, so rough and tumble, strain times in Missouri Republican politics
right now. That was already the case. And then yesterday, strange turned
very, very tragic.
Yesterday morning, 9:41 local time, the editorial page editor for “The St.
Louis Dispatch” saw his phone light up. He`d been getting calls and text
messages from Tom Schweich for days. Mr. Schweich was calling once again
yesterday morning. The editor, it turns out, was busy at a speaking
engagement. So, he let the call go to voice mail.
This was the voicemail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, TOM SCHWEICH VOICEMAIL)
TOM SCHWEICH (R), MISSOURI STATE AUDITOR: Tony, it`s Tom Schweich calling.
If you could have a reporter here at my house at 2:30, I`m willing to speak
to both the Post-Dispatch and to the AP only about this matter. I will
give a brief prepared statement, which we would videotape, and then I can
answer questions from your reporter. This is only for your two and I hope
you`ll not make it known that I`m doing this. But give me a call and let
know if you can have somebody here at 2:30. To me, this is more of a
religion story than a politics story, but it`s y8our choice on who the
reporter is. Thanks, bye.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, Tom Schweich leaves that message on the phone of a local
reporter who he knows and he trusts, saying, send a reporter to my house,
I`ll see you 2:30 this afternoon, keep this to yourself right now, but I`m
ready to talk, 2:30 this afternoon, be at my house. He left that message,
at 9:41 a.m.
And then, at 9:48, a 911 call was placed from Tom Schweich house, because
right after leaving that voice mail message, apparently seven minutes after
leaving that voicemail message, Tom Schweich took his own life. He died of
a single gunshot wound to the head, to what police are describing as an
Why do you tell people you want to set up a meeting and then minutes later
kill yourself? Why do you set something for the afternoon and then minutes
later kill yourself? Why did he kill himself? What did he mean to say?
The two reporters he reached out to that morning say that Tom Schweich had
been talking to them about a rather intense allegation, specifically
against the Missouri Republican Party chairman. They say that what Mr.
Schweich was alleging was that the Missouri Republican Party chairman was
basically engaged in a whisper campaign designed, allegedly, to undercut
Mr. Schweich`s run for governor, by letting it be known that he had Jewish
Now, the idea of that kind of a whisper campaign is a serious and troubling
charge, especially given what happened. The charge was answered this
morning by the Missouri Republican Party chairman. He wrote an e-mail to
members of the Republican state committee. He said, quote, “I would like
to set the record straight once and for all. Until recently, I mistakenly
believed that Tom Schweich was Jewish. While I do not recall doing so, it
is possible that I mentioned Tom`s faith in passing during one of the many
conversations I have each day. There was absolutely nothing malicious
about my intent, and I certainly was not attempting to `inject religion`
into the governor`s race, as some have suggested.”
Tom Schweich was not Jewish. He was an Episcopalian. He did have some
Jewish ancestry in terms of one grandfather being Jewish. But what he
alleges is that there was a whisper campaign against him in the state to
hurt his chances of being the nomine of the Republican Party of Missouri
governor or getting elected governor in that state with what he describes
as a derogatory whisper campaign that he was a Jew.
Meanwhile, what happened in this case with this apparent suicide has been
so shocking and so unexpected and so mysterious, that the “St. Louis Post-
Dispatch” editor who got that voicemail not only made the decision that he
would release that recording publicly, that`s why we could play it for you
tonight, but he also published a summary last night of what had been off
the record conversations he had with Tom Schweich over the course of this
The editor writes, quote, “I have no idea why Tom Schweich killed himself,”
but he says, Mr. Schweich, quote, “made it clear that he wanted those
allegations about the whisper campaign against him, he wanted those
allegations made public.”
Joining us now is Tony Messenger. He is the editorial page editor of “The
Post-Dispatch”. He received that voicemail from Missouri auditor Tom
Schweich, before Mr. Schweich apparently killed himself.
Mr. Messenger, thank you very much for your time. I know this has been a
very difficult 24 hours for you.
TONY MESSENGER, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: Thanks,
Rachel. Good to be here.
MADDOW: Did I in summing up what`s happened, I know I didn`t touch every
piece of it, but the parts that I did describe that I get them, did I get
it right? Was I accurate at all?
MESSENGER: No, you were very accurate.
MESSENGER: You described the events as I know them and how they have taken
place since Thursday morning.
MADDOW: You described Mr. Schweich as being, and other people as well, as
being an intense person, a highly strong person. A person who had a
personality that seemed, I`m paraphrasing – was a guy who seemed amped and
intense a lot of the time. If that was his baseline, hid he seem
materially different over the course of this week? Did you see signs that
he was really agitated?
MESSENGE: He was definitely agitated. He was deeply offended by what he
thought was the intent behind what the political consultant was doing, the
chairman of the Republican Party, but not in a way that was out of
character for Tom. I mean, he was a guy who opposed corruption, and I
think that was one of the reasons why we bonded. Our – his job as auditor
and my job as editorial page editor found themselves frequently on the same
page in terms of the types of things that we saw in Missouri government
that we wanted to fix.
So, he was angry and he was agitated, but not so much that it was out of
character. I have listened today that voice mail probably 20 or 30 times
now. And the first time I listened to it and most of the politicians in
Missouri that I know have listened to it tell me it sounds like Tom
MADDOW: You described how he told you – about how he talked to you about
his concerns. He was concerned that the chairman of the Republican Party
was telling people he was Jewish and that this was intended to hurt him
politically, to prevent him from mounting an effective campaign for
With respect, was that – in your view, was that a paranoid or I guess
irrational fear? Or is there something to it? Is that a well-founded
suspicion of his in terms of what the effect of that kind of information
MESSENGER: I believe that it wasn`t irrational, that there was a history
of that sort of thing in Missouri politics. That if you look at the
history of the Republican Party recently in Missouri, that it is not a
party that is – that has a very big tent.
And Mr. Schweich operated in that party at the highest levels over the last
six years. And he knew what he was talking about. He was quite confident
that what was happening was intended to damage him in a Republican primary
where a very specific tight of voter tends to be the most active voter as
compared to a general election.
MADDOW: Tony Messenger, the editorial page editor of “The Post-Dispatch”,
I mean, you have – you took on a lot of public responsibility to right by
this story and right by Mr. Schweich and bringing out this information that
would have off the record. I`m sure that wasn`t an easy decision and this
is an intense for you.
Thanks for being with us to explain. I appreciate it.
MESSENGER: No problem, thanks, Rachel.
I should tell you, right now, live, the House of Representatives is voting.
They`re voting on a Homeland Security funding bill. What is going on right
now is that this is just a seven-day patch to keep the Homeland Security
Department from shutting down at midnight. The idea is if they get this
seven-day patch, they will then pass a real extension that lasts until
September for the Homeland Security Department next week.
In terms of the numbers here, this is passing under a rule that means you
can`t just pass it with a majority. Usually, the 252 votes there on the
right, 157 yeses, 24 nos, 252 no votes, usually, you only need to get up to
217 votes, a majority to get this thing passed. They`re going to need to
get a two thirds vote. They`re going to need to get up to 280 votes
tonight in order to keep Homeland Security from shutting down.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARACTER: Hello, I`m Leonard Nimoy. The following tale of alien
encounters is true, and by true, I mean false.
LEONARD NIMOY: Science Officer Spock. Reporting as ordered, Captain.
Our minds are merging. Our minds are one.
Logical. Flawlessly logical.
I have been, and always shall be your friend.
One of the greatest things that happened to me and it happened to me more
often than I probably deserve is people come and say these wonderful things
like you have given us a lot of pleasure. Thank you, you know? That kind
of thing and I am very touched by it. I feel a great honor to be given
that opportunity to touch people`s lives in sort of positive way that they
want to pour back.
CHARACTER: My work is done here.
CHARACTER: What do you mean your work is done, you didn`t do anything.
CHARACTER: Didn`t I?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: OK. It`s a very exciting Friday night in American politics. We
have some breaking news to report on what has been our top story all this
hour, and all tonight, which is that the house is now voting right this
very second on a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security for one
week, for seven days.
House Republicans failed earlier tonight to pass a longer extension, an
extension of three weeks and they`re now take thing vote for just a one-
week extension to avert a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security
at midnight tonight.
This vote has been underway for about ten minutes now. They need more than
a majority. They need a 2/3 majority to pass this, not just 50 percent
plus one. This is the Republican controlled House, so anything could
happen. They`re getting close to the threshold now.
Joining us now live from the Capitol Hill is NBC News Capitol Hill producer
Frank, so it looks like this thing is about to pass and it looks like lots
of Democrats and Republicans are voting for it.
THORP: Yes, I think both sides are ready to get this over with. They
don`t want to go into the weekend with a shutdown, especially since the
Senate has decided to leave. So, it looks like this is going to pass and
we`ll go back to this next week. And just because nothing is ever easy in
Congress, while Democratic leadership is saying they`ve been given
assurances they`re going to get a vote on the clean full-year DHS funding
bill next week, Boehner`s office is saying that Boehner has given no such
MADDOW: Oh, wow.
THORP: I mean, it`s a little bit of a back and forth. There`s probably a
little bit – you know, Boehner can`t say he`s going to cave, but at the
same time, I mean, it`s a likely scenario we`ll see a vote on the clean
bill next week.
MADDOW: So, let me ask you about that, though, Frank. I mean, when Nancy
Pelosi came out and distributed this letter, she seemed to be indicating to
her members, without saying explicitly, that if they voted for this one-
week patch, it was because they were assured that they were going to get
this whole nonsense put aside next week, that they were going to get a
funding bill that would take Homeland Security all the way to September.
What you`re hearing from the speaker`s office tonight, does that mean that
Nancy Pelosi might have been misled, that there might be two
misunderstandings about what`s happening?
THORP: Maybe not necessarily. I think what Pelosi was hinting at is the
same thing that Democratic leadership aides were telling us on both sides
of the Capitol. So, I think there was probably a conversation that leaned
in that direction. I mean, I think they can`t necessarily go into next
week knowing the whole playbook.
We`ll probably see a couple of iterations of some votes. We have to see
the Senate vote where Democrats will vote down the motion to go to
conference due to negotiate the two bills. And it wouldn`t be surprising
if conservatives tried to push another vote in the House. But in the end,
I think that both sides agree, especially in leadership, that in the end,
they`re going to have to pass this one year clean DHS bill.
MADDOW: And so, it is – I mean, the big picture here, we`re looking at
the numbers here, and it very clearly has passed clearly, time has run out
on bill and it`s got 325 yes votes right now. What we`re looking at, 173
Republicans, 154 Democrats. It`s – they`ve clearly got the number they
But there is, in this big picture sense, a real question as to when –
whether or not moving forward happens in any way that could meaningfully be
described as Republican, right? So, this got passed because all the
Democrats say, OK, John Boehner, we`ll help you out. That`s the Democrat`s
decision whether or not to do that.
If John Boehner can`t do anything without Democrats, really anything, is
his position as leader in danger? I mean, are Republicans going to revolt
against him in a way that`s overt in terms of him being the speaker?
THORP: There have been a number of conservatives that have raised
questions about whether or not a different leadership structure may be able
to get different results. But I think that there is just kind of a general
consensus that Speaker Boehner is probably the right man for this specific
job, considering that you have – I mean, you have the group on the left –
on the far right, and then you have the moderates, that he kind of sits in
that middle ground and is able to wade in the middle there. And there`s
not very many people that can do that.
So, while I think he probably will have some questions raised about his
leadership tactics by conservatives if they end up passing this clean DHS
bill, as we`re expecting them to do, at the same time, there`s not enough
of a groundswell of dissatisfaction within the conference to be able to up-
end the leadership structure that`s in place right now.
MADDOW: NBC News Capitol Hill producer Frank Thorp – Frank, thank you.
This has been a wild ride. It`s been nice to have you here. Thanks again.
THORP: Thanks, again.
MADDOW: All right. Let`s bring in NBC Capitol Hill correspondent Kelly
O`Donnell, who has been live watching this unfold tonight.
Kelly, obviously, this has just passed, with the 2/3 threshold it needed in
the house. That means that the Department of Homeland Security has a
seven-week – a seven-day patch to keep it from shutting down for the next
KELLY O`DONNELL, NBC NEWS CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: It was wishful
MADDOW: Yes, exactly. What do you make of how this came together tonight?
Who was really calling the shots in terms of deciding what happened
O`DONNELL: Well, we`re still waiting for the official gavel, so the
numbers could shift a bit. But they are overwhelming in support of this.
I think this is a case where you try what you think can pass and when it
fails, there was a mad scramble to see what can be done to prevent the
worst case scenario, which was shutting down the department. There were
some critics who said even shutting down the department would not be as
cataclysmic as some feared, because so many of the employees are required
to show up at work and their paychecks would come at a future date. Not
So, I think the sense that the governing that is required does mean they
must keep the department opened. But as we talked about on many occasions,
Congress has very few levers of power when trying to compel the president
to do something or not do something. It almost always comes back to using
the power of the purse, how to fund something or not fund something to
And so, for conservatives who have been very upset with the president`s
actions on immigration, they believe it`s a constitutional breach and
overreach. This was their best case at trying to stop that. And they did
not have enough support among enough of the Congress to see that happen.
It was the political will for that s not here when it comes to threatening
this department and the times that we live in, when every other headline
outside of the conversation we`re having is about concerns about ISIS other
O`DONNELL: And to put all of this drama and real political ideological
debate in a real world context made this a very difficult case for
conservatives to make.
MADDOW: Kelly –
O`DONNELL: We have another path with the courts which you`ve talked about
as well. But tonight, it was about getting something done and saving face.
MADDOW: Kelly, is it clear to you when this comes back up this next week,
that we won`t be here until all hours of the night wondering whether or not
there`s going to be another shutdown? Is it clear to you that they`ve got
clear path next week?
O`DONNELL: No, I think there`s an exhaustion factor tonight. I think
there`s a deadline factor, and one week became the agreeable piece where
Democrats were willing to let their members vote for this so that they
could take some ownership as well.
If Nancy Pelosi had not sort of released her Democrats and said, please
vote for this, they would have shared some responsibility for a shutdown,
too. They can blame the Republicans, but in the end, they needed to step
up and they did that tonight. More Republicans voted for this tonight than
we saw earlier in the day.
So, I don`t think there`s a clear path. I think we will revisit a lot of
these same issues, but people have had a chance to maybe measure how it
played at home, maybe get a little rest, maybe give a little distance to
sort of the discomfort of this day and try to figure it out. But there is
no obvious next couple of steps that will resolve this. And that`s
MADDOW: NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent Kelly O`Donnell, thank you so
much for your time tonight, Kelly.
O`DONNELL: Good to be with you.
MADDOW: All right. To recap, the House has passed a one-week extension,
so Homeland Security isn`t shutting down in two hours. But we`ll be back
at this next week.
In the meantime, you`ll be in the crowbar hotel.
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