The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 03/02/15
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: That is “ALL IN” for this evening.
Rachel Maddow show starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Wonderful to have you back, Chris. Nice
to see you, man.
HAYES: It`s great to have you back.
Thanks to you at home as well for staying with us for the next hour.
So, there is a lot going on in the world. A, Chris Hayes is back.
B, the incredibly controversial address to Congress by the Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. That address is tomorrow. Washington
is in a full-scale tizzy over that right now. We`ll have more on that
After Congress threw themselves a week-long lifeline late on Friday
night, we are back again in a situation where the Homeland Security
Department may run out of funding at the end of the week. That`s still
2016 politics just got slightly scrambled on both sides of the aisle
with foreign policy proving to be very confusing to some of the upper tiers
of the Republican field, and a surprise, brand new development screwing
with the prevailing dynamics on the Democratic side. That was a surprise
Also tonight for the interview, we`ve got here in the studio, a
legitimate political genius. Unless, you are this man`s friend or family
member, or somebody who works with him, odds are you have never heard of
him. But he is my nominee for the single most consequential partisan actor
in American politics in the last five years. Nobody`s ever heard of him.
But he is here tonight for the interview. I`m really excited about that.
There is a lot going on in the world and a lot of going in this
But we start tonight with what maybe a silver lining to this very,
very dark cloud. You will remember that this video was posted online late
on Thursday, last week, showing ISIS fighters laying siege to the main
museum in Iraq`s second largest city of Mosul, using sledgehammers and saws
and drills and anything they could get their hands on shows ISIS fighters
and ISIS supporters destroying statues and icons and frescos, just this
priceless cultural heritage of some of the earliest human civilizations on
earth, dating back thousands of years.
Honestly, this footage, I have seen this, I don`t know, 10, or 11, or
12 times, in prepping the segments we have done about this, it is still
very difficult for me to watch this, especially with the voiceover and
these ISIS guys on camera bragging about what it is destroying, knowing how
valuable it is and talking with glee about how happy they are to be
destroying it all.
Well, I said there is a silver lining. The silver lining here maybe
that some experts who have watched this footage since it came out, they now
say that they believe much of what you can see being destroyed in the video
is not real. It`s not the original artifacts. The giveaway appears in
some stills like this one.
You see some sort of odd straightish lines there? You can see a
dark, sort of a spine inside the statue they have toppled over? What that
appears to be, the straight lines in that picture, that appears to be
rebar, you know, like the bars you see on construction sites when they are
working with concrete.
Rebar is a modern construction material, not an ancient one. And
that rebar that seems to be evident on those photos, coupled with the way
that some of the statues basically pulverize when they`re hit by a hammer
or knocked over, those factors imply that many of these objects that ISIS
is seen destroying in this video are not the original artifacts. They are
actually reproductions of these priceless Mesopotamian objects. It`s rebar
and plaster instead of the original stone carvings.
Now, yes, sadly some of what they are seen destroying in the video
does appear to be real. Experts have singled out these shots which were
taken not inside the museum in Mosul but outdoors showing what appears to
be ISIS fighters, one guy with a hammer and another guy with maybe a
reciprocating saw, hacking off pieces of a very large statue. That does
appear to be real.
What this is they are destroying appears to be an ancient pre-Islamic
Assyrian statue of a sort of hybrid between a bull and a man. A giant
hybrid winged deity. That statue is not at the Mosul museum. It is
thought to be in the ancient city of Nineveh, which is right across the
Tigris River from Mosul. And that one which we can see them destroying
here, that appears to be real.
But as I said, small mercies. Many of the other things they are seen
blown apart and hitting with these hammers appear to be models.
Now, in many cases, the reason the Mosul museum would have a model of
an artifact, a reproduction of an artifact, instead of the original, is
because the original would have been shipped off to the Iraqi national
museum, which is in Baghdad. So, some of these plaster casts that we saw
ISIS destroying, the original statue, the original object that those
plaster casts were made from is not in Mosul, which is occupied by ISIS and
where they destroyed the stuff in the local museum. It`s not there. It`s
in the capital city of Iraq, it`s in the national museum in Baghdad for
And it`s hard for us, as Americans, to think of the national museum
in Baghdad as the place anything would be kept for safekeeping, right,
because of what the Iraqi national museum in Baghdad is famous, shamefully,
in the West. The museum is most famous here because of the still
inexplicable decision by the George W. Bush administration to leave that
museum unguarded and open to looters after the U.S. military invaded Iraq
in 2003 and overthrew the Iraqi government.
I mean, the fact the U.S. was going to invade wasn`t a secret, right?
The George W. Bush administration telegraphed it and threatened and
promised it months and months before they did. The Iraq war, the Iraq
invasion in 2003 was a war of American choice. It started on an announced
American timetable. They could go whenever they wanted to.
And because of that, because they telegraphed the war was going to
start, archaeologists and curators around the world warned the George W.
Bush administration, warned the Pentagon specifically about how important
that museum was if Baghdad was going to get invaded.
At the time, they thought they had convinced the Bush administration
and the military that that Baghdad museum was an important site to protect
when the invasion happened. They expected it to be protected. They were
shocked when no such protection was offered. The site was left abandoned
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA LEWIS, NBC NEWS: Some of the losses are priceless. Staff at
Baghdad`s antiquities museum blamed U.S. troops for not protecting
treasures. Nabhal Amim (ph) wept and claimed that antiquities dating back
thousands of years worth billions of dollars had been destroyed.
U.S. forces continue to watch looters waving white flags and making
Dana Lewis, NBC News, Baghdad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was April 2003. That was just a couple of weeks after
the U.S. invasion.
Not only did the U.S. not take any steps to protect the Iraqi
national museum in Baghdad. Once it was predictably looted, the U.S.
response to that looting was, eh, no big deal. Why does everybody care so
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: The images you are seeing
on television you are seeing over and over and over. It`s the same picture
of some person walking out of some building with a vase. And you see it 20
times. You think, my goodness, were there that many vases? Is it possible
that there were that many vases in the whole country?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It really is hilarious.
Donald Rumsfeld, defense secretary to George W. Bush.
In fact, in the end, more than 15,000 items were looted from the
Iraqi national museum. Although Donald Rumsfeld thought it was all
U.S. war planners had never bothered to protect it, despite all the
warnings that they have.
Now, over time, since then, the Iraqi government says they`ve been
able to recover about a third of the 15,000 items that were looted 12 years
ago during the invasion. They have been patiently restoring both those
items and the museum itself. And after being shut for 12 years the Iraqi
national museum in Baghdad was due to reopen soon.
But then this weekend, after ISIS posted this video of their
destruction inside of the museum in Mosul, in Iraq`s second largest city,
this partly real, partly famed destruction of Iraq`s cultural heritage,
that the group reveled in showing everyone, after ISIS posted this on
Thursday, the Iraqi government made a very interesting decision. They
decided this weekend they were going to move up the reopening of the Iraqi
national museum in Baghdad. It wasn`t due to open but now it is open.
If ISIS was trying to provoke, get a rise out of people by taking
sledgehammers to these museum pieces they succeed in getting a rise out of
Iraq, because look at what happened all in one day yesterday. Look at
this. This is yesterday, Sunday in Iraq.
The new prime minister of Iraq announcing the surprise early
reopening of the Iraqi national museum – first time it has been open in 12
years. He showed up personally to cut the ribbon and allow the public in
for the first time since the invasion of Iraq. He said at the opening the
reason the museum was reopening is because of ISIS, was because of what
those savages did to the museum in Mosul and Iraq`s cultural heritage
He then did part two. Yes, this is all yesterday. He goes to the
reopening of the museum. Announces it`s because of ISIS. He then cuts the
ribbon and leaves the museum in Baghdad. Drives an hour and a half north
to the city of Samarra, in Salahuddin province, and then personally with
all of his commanders launches a brand new war on ISIS.
We do not know if the timing of this ground operation was also moved
up in response to the anger about this video from Mosul, but the prime
minister of Iraq yesterday personally launched a very, very large Iraqi
military offensive against the city of Tikrit.
Last summer, you`ll remember, when ISIS fighters took over big, huge
swaths of Iraq in this rapid advance across big portions of the country,
Tikrit was one of the cities they grabbed, and one of the most important
cities. They have occupied Tikrit for eight months now.
But now, as we speak, an estimated force of around 20,000 Iraqi
soldiers, supported also by Sunni tribes and Shiite militias, are fighting
to take Tikrit from ISIS.
This is the first Iraqi military ground operation of its size since
those humiliating days last summer when the Iraqi military visibly
collapsed and its soldiers turned and ran in the face of ISIS, abandoned
their uniforms on the street, abandoned their weapons, abandoned their
vehicles, and let ISIS take over big swaths of their country.
This is the first big ground operation since then, at least the
biggest ground operation since then. And so, of course, this is a very are
high-stakes operation. Iraq obviously believes by its actions that its
military is now strong enough to beat ISIS, at least in Tikrit. But this
is a full-on battle for Tikrit now.
If ISIS ends up winning, if ISIS ends up beating the Iraqi military
again, that would be devastating, right, to the perceived legitimacy of the
Iraqi government and the Iraqi armed forces. It`s a very delicate thing.
They really have to win here now they have gone in on their own terms.
What adds to those stakes for the U.S. and what adds to those stakes
in all honesty to the political awkwardness to this fight for the U.S. is
that the force trying to invade Tikrit, to take Tikrit back from ISIS, that
force is made up of the Iraqi military, and Sunni tribes and Shiite
militias, like I said. But those Shiite militias are being commanded by
The general who heads up the revolutionary guard in Iran is
personally in Iraq working with the Iraqi military to coordinate this giant
ground offensive that just started in Tikrit. So, that`s the war against
ISIS right now.
There`s this huge controversy in Washington tonight over the Israeli
prime minister addressing Congress tomorrow. Basically he is here to try
to undermine President Obama`s policy and strategy toward Iran. And Prime
Minister Netanyahu is doing that, trying to undermine President Obama on
U.S. soil at the U.S. Capitol because he`s here at the invitation of
So, if that was not fraught enough, meanwhile, the fight against
ISIS, literally, the physical flesh and blood bullets flying fight against
ISIS that is being waged right now tonight is being fought to a significant
extent by Iran. Iran, who is supposedly our great enemy, but who in this
case is if not an ally, at least they are a friend of a friend.
And there are other things going on right now with ISIS in the fight
against them. Supporters of the group this weekend apparently declared war
on Twitter, not that declared war on somebody else using Twitter, but they
declared war against Twitter. They asked ISIS supporters worldwide to
attack Twitter employees and Twitter interests. They specifically singled
out one of the company`s cofounders because they said ISIS fighters are so
mad about having their Twitter accounts deactivated and taken down by the
country. That`s weird, worrying.
There`s also some slightly hopeful news out of Syria about the fate
of those Assyrian Christians taken hostage by Iraq last week. This is the
group that`s thought to be about 200, 220 Syrian Christians taken by ISIS.
These Christians are not fighters. This is women, and kids, old people,
and families who have been taken hostage.
This weekend, to a lot of people`s surprise, ISIS decided to free
some of those Christian captives, 19 of them specifically, and we don`t
know why or if that means more of the Christians will be freed anytime
soon, but at least that happened.
So there`s a lot going on about is and the fight against them. There
a lot of inexplicable stuff going on and also stuff that we really don`t
know how it`s gong to work out.
One big question tonight is whether Washington being worked in to a
frenzy over this visit by Prime Minister Netanyahu and America`s
negotiations with Iran, whether this all encompassing upset in the Beltway
with makes Washington more able or less able to press American interests
both in this very troubled region and around the world.
Joining us now is NBC foreign correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin.
Ayman, it`s great to have you here. Thanks for being here.
AYMAN MOHYELDIN, NBC NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Pleasure to be
MADDOW: First of all, can we talk about the importance of this
offensive in Tikrit. I said this appears to be the largest ground
offensive since those devastating gains by ISIS last summer. Is that fair
to say that this is that big?
MOHYELDIN: Yes, absolutely. I mean, by far, this is 20,000 Iraqi
troops as you mentioned backed by the Shia militias, backed by Sunni
tribesman. It is a coordinated effort to try and take one of the largest
cities that sits in the predominantly Sunni part of the country and that
goes to the point of why this is such an important test for the Iraqi
government. One, it`s a test to see if they can clear it out, meaning they
can actually push ISIS fighters out, regain control of the city.
But, two, it`s going to be a test of the Iraqi government`s ability
to assert its sovereignty once it has actually cleared the city out. Those
are two very big if questions. You have to remember that over the past
several years, there`s been tremendous marginalization and a lot of
isolation of the Sunni community in Iraq. They had a major problem with
the central government of Baghdad. That partly led to the rise of ISIS in
that part of the country.
If the Iraqi government returns, they get police back up and running,
they get schools up and running, hospitals, they have to show that they are
winning the hearts and minds of the Sunni Iraqis, just as much as the
battle to clear out ISIS. That`s going to be a real test when it comes
time to retake Mosul, which is a city several times larger than Tikrit,
millions of more people and Iraq`s second largest city.
MADDOW: In terms of the Iraqi government strategy it seems important
that it is not just the Iraqi military, which is very Shia at this point,
and it`s not just the Iranian-led Shia militia, but it`s also those Sunni
tribes that are participating in it. If they are able to do this in a way
that is integrated with a Sunni and Shia force, that presumably will be at
least be seen as a gesture of good faith by the Sunni communities.
MOHYELDIN: Absolutely. And Prime Minister Hadi addressed this in
that visit that you highlighted, when he left Baghdad and went to the front
line so to speak. He did called on all of the Sunni fighters who had
joined ISIS, effectively saying to them, if you have been tricked by
joining ISIS, we are going to pardon you. This is your last chance. Put
down your weapons. Come back into the fold.
The people of Tikrit have been deceived. He used the language to
bring back the Iraqi people of Tikrit in to the fold of the central
government. He knows that he has to do that politically and has to start
rebuilding that part of the government that has for years been marginalized
from the central government that has, as you mentioned, the politics and
military been dominated by sectarian rife.
MADDOW: In terms of the military operation here – and I take your
point that the ultimate answer here, the bottom line here, happens much
further down the line. It`s political. It is about whether or not they
can function as a government in a way that wins over their people.
In the short term, this military offensive, how important is it, how
politically unsettling is it, to have Iran involved – not just as support
or not just sort of cheering from the sidelines or maybe sending Iranian
fighters, Iranian trainers over, how important is it for them to be
operationally involved in this? Obviously, that`s very unsetting to the
American political context in the way that we`re involved.
MOHYELDIN: Yes, well, Iraq is in a unique position. Its two closest
allies are actually enemies. On one hand, it is backed by the United
States, but it also for the past several years has had tremendous Iranian
influence, politically, economically, militarily, and above all,
religiously. There`s a very close religious connection between Iraq and
Iran, given the fact they are predominantly Shia.
Iraq has to have walked that fine line, but as you mentioned, there
have been growing concerns about the Shia militias and some of the behavior
of these militias, once they have been in areas that have been
predominantly Sunni. The past several years have taught us the rise of
Shia militias have brought a lot of sectarian rife with them as well. That
is going to be a major cause of concern for the United States. And the
Western countries that are involved in this coalition campaign, if you
will, against ISIS-held areas.
Are they inadvertently strengthening Iran and its influence in Iraq?
In the long term, what has emerged without a doubt is Iran has become a
major player in Iraqi politics. That`s a fact. That cannot be denied.
The question is going to be, how does this new Iraqi prime minister
maintain that balance between his close association with the United States
and the close affiliation with Iran?
MADDOW: It`s amazing. Especially if the next big ground offensive,
if this one is successful, the next big round offensive is Mosul, and then
both the U.S. and Iraqi government are going to be in a position of
thinking, well, how much do we want the Iranians involved in the next one?
Because the idea of Iranian troops and American troops being involved
simultaneously in something like that is enough to make my head stop
Ayman Mohyeldin, NBC foreign correspondent, thanks for being here.
MOHYELDIN: My pleasure. Always a pleasure.
MADDOW: All right. We got lots more ahead tonight, including a big
announcement today that may have something to do with which Democrats might
run for president in 2016.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: OK. Coming up next, the unexpected story of how this woman,
this receptionist in Washington, D.C., might be about to fundamentally
change the dynamic as to whether or not Hillary Clinton is going to have
anyone to run against in a Democratic primary when she makes her inevitable
run for the presidency. Why that woman is key to all of it. That story is
MADDOW: Sometimes looks can be deceiving. This is a bill signing
that was held this past November inside the Oval Office. As you see,
President Obama seated at his desk right there, standing next to him at
roughly the same height while she stands and he sits – is Democratic
Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland.
Barbara Mikulski may be slight in appearance. Barbara Mikulski might
not quite be five feet tall. Barbara Mikulski might seem small at a
But looks can be deceiving.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEN. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D), MARYLAND: I`ll tell you what I`m tired of
hearing that somehow or another, we`re too emotional when we talk. You
know, when we raise an issue, we`re too emotional. Well, I am emotional.
It brings tears to my eyes to know how women every single day are working
so hard and are getting paid less. It makes me emotional to hear that.
I`m going to be blunt and it should be no surprise to you, sir. But
I have been on this committee for more than 10 years. And with the
exception of Mr. Panetta, I feel like I have been jerked around by every
CIA director. Can I have your word that you`re going to be very
forthcoming with this committee to speak to power, to speak truth about
One of the most important tools we women have is mammograms. But in
the midst of the health care debate, they want to take our mammograms away
from us. Well, hey. Not while I`m here.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Barbara Mikulski, the long time Democratic senator from
Maryland, announced she is retiring from the Senate. She won`t seek
reelection in 2016.
Barbara Mikulski is the longest serving woman in the history of
Congress. She was first elected to the House in 1976. Then to the Senate
in 1986. He has been a pit bull on women`s issues, intelligence issues,
children`s health care, a leader on science issues and the appropriations
She got a super nova named after her.
In 1993, she and Senator Carol Moseley Braun broke the dress code in
the Senate by refusing to wear a skirt or a dress. It was the pantsuit
rebellion and it worked. In 1993, women were still not allowed to wear
pants in the U.S. Senate until they said screw that and wore pants.
President Obama described Senator Mikulski today as a, quote,
“legendary” senator. When she said today that she will retire rather than
run again in 2016, she said it`s in part because she doesn`t want to spend
the next two years raising money for reelection, she said should would
rather spend that time, quote, “raising hell”. If past is prologue, do not
get her in way while she does that.
Senator Mikulski stepping away from the Senate, though, there is also
the question of who might run for her seat? Republicans did just win the
governorship in Maryland this past November. So, the GOP is bullish on
their chances of a state-wide race there.
But Maryland is still pretty blue. She`s never won reelection by
less than 60 percent. And in a presidential election year, 2016, honestly,
the Democrats have a great chance of keeping Senator Mikulski`s seat blue,
if they run the right person.
Former Maryland governor, former Baltimore Mayor Martin O`Malley has
been not so secretly running for president since he left the statehouse in
Mr. O`Malley and Bernie Sanders are basically the only two Democrats
who actually seem like they are running for the Democratic nomination for
president against the inevitable candidacy of Hillary Clinton. In the last
few polls of the Democratic contenders, it will not surprise you to learn
that Secretary Clinton leads all possible candidates by somewhere between
38 point and 47 points. That`s the margin by which she is leading.
Martin O`Malley has not polled above 2 percent in those polls. And
in the most recent national poll released last week, he was at 1 percent.
So, yes, it`s early days.
But if the whole Martin O`Malley versus Hillary Clinton match up is
not going his way by several dozen points – well, the retirement of
legendary Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski might offer Martin O`Malley a
much more plausible ticket to ride when it comes to him holding federal
office. And – this is the best part – I think that if Governor O`Malley
is interested in making a go for Senator Mikulski`s seat after she retires,
if he is interested in that, I think he will have an in when it comes to
making an appointment to talk to her about it, because Barbara Mikulski`s
long time receptionist, the woman who has been Senator Mikulski`s
receptionist for 27 years is Martin O`Malley`s mom, his mother.
Apparently, she too is kind of a force of nature. Everybody in the
Senate knows her and loves her and fears her.
Senator Mikulski will very much be missed in the Senate, if only as a
character. She is one of the female pioneers in the Senate. But her
retirement and its timing may also significantly change the dynamics on
what is likely to be the Democratic Party`s pioneering nomination of the
first ever female major party nominee for president of the United States.
MADDOW: Politics isn`t everything, but in politics, let`s say you
had a magic wand that could erase the work of one person. This magic wand
could make the political world exist, as if one specific person never did.
I think in terms of our current politics, Republicans would probably
wield their magic wand against President Obama, right? This two-term
president who they still can`t believe beat them twice.
But who would Democrats erase with their magic wand, if they could?
Hear from the interview tonight is my nominee for who the Democratic
Party would flak with that magic wand if they could. The man whose work
the Democratic Party would choose to erase if they could pick only one
person on earth. That guy is here for the interview tonight and I`m so
looking forward to this conversation.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: Here`s one kind of genius, the grade school kid kind of
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: That is 9-year-old percussion prodigy Malaki Samdi (ph).
Malaki lives in New Jersey. He says he`s been, quote, “banging on stuff”
since he was 18 months old. Even though he is now only 9 years old, he
plays with adults now who sometimes forget that they have a 9-year-old kid
playing drums in their band.
He is a legit musical prodigy. He is a genius. He`s a very adorable
And sometimes geniuses like that, it shows, right? It`s easy to
identify, sort of impossible to miss. Sometimes genius become household
names, grand chess masters become household names, or physicists or other
Sometimes even people working in relatively arcane, non-populist
fields can become known worldwide because of out sized their brains are and
how big their contributions are.
And then, sometimes even people working in not at all arcane fields
display a form of genius that operates totally under the radar. People
that have a genius idea that changes the course of history, but by
happenstance or destiny they have a name you have never heard. That`s our
So, MSNBC is doing this seven days of genius thing. When I found out
we were doing this, this was the guy I picked. He`s here for the interview
I picked him as my nominee for the unsung political genius of our
time and there`s a specific reason I picked him for that. This is it –
before the Obama`s presidency, the bench mark in modern American politics
for a huge landslide congressional election in 1994, right, when the
Republicans and Newt Gingrich just slayed the Democrats in the first
midterm of the Bill Clinton presidency.
The Republicans beat the Democrats so badly in 1994 that the
metaphors started failing. Republicans picked up 54 House seats in that
election, just astonishing. Best they have done in 50 years.
But in 2010, they even beat that. The 1994 midterm had been a pick
up of 54 seats. In 2010, first midterm of the Obama presidency,
Republicans picked up 63 seats in the House. That`s how John Boehner
became speaker. They just had a huge year in terms of winning seats in
Congress. But that was nowhere near their biggest victory that year.
Leading up to the 2010 election, a group called the Republican State
Leadership Committee had started a project that they called the
Redistricting Majority Project or Red Map for short. For this Red Map
project, they started to raise a bunch of money.
Red Map was not formally affiliated with the Republican Party. It
wasn`t like they were strangers. But they were a little bit at arms length
And so, Red Map, separate from everything else the party was doing
publicly to do well in those 2010 elections, separate from that it was the
job of red map to try to specifically try to win in the states. And to get
even more specific than that, their plan, what they were designed to do was
to flip as many state legislatures as possible from Democratic control to
Republican control, from blue to red – state legislatures, state houses,
After the census is done every ten years, state legislatures get to
redraw election districts, both for themselves, like for state Senate
seats, state legislative districts, but also for congressional districts.
Anybody with good voter data and free reign to redraw the maps can redraw
the maps to see if the elect person who get elected from that district will
be a Democrat or Republican. So, 2010 census year was a key year to try to
take control of state legislatures, because if you could do that you not
only control policy in those states, which is a nice thing, you would also
control how many Democrats and Republicans, each of those states sent to
Congress for a decade.
So, the first genius moment was recognizing the opportunity here,
right? I mean, first midterm elections after you get a new president,
barring something strange happening, those first midterms when you get a
new president are always good for the other party, the party that doesn`t
control the White House. Republicans knew they were going to do well in
Recognizing that, recognizing that with the right strategy they could
turn that in to a much bigger victory in the states that would basically
guarantee they would control Congress for a decade. That was a genius
moment of recognizing the political leverage there. But then there was
transforming that genius idea in to an actual plan to do it.
So, there`s this little group that very few people have heard of, the
Republican state leadership committee and they go to work with this red map
idea and they raise money nationally from deep pocketed but fairly typical
Republican donors. They raise a little over $30 million for the sort of
But instead of applying that money to the big high profile senate
races and congressional races and even governors races around the country,
the kind of races that get all the attention and they get donors, partisan
blood pumping, instead of those high-profile races that everybody was
talking about, what they did at Red Map is political genius. Just as a
pure political move it was a visionary thing, because they put that big
money, from big ticket Republican donors who honestly only had big national
ambitions for what their money could do. They took the big national money
and spent it in the most unimaginably obscure races all over the country in
very specific strategic ways.
The operational genius of the plan was at Red Map they identified the
states that gave their legislatures the most control over the redistricting
process. So, they found the places where they would get the most bang for
their buck if they were able to be successful in flipping those legislative
chambers from Democrat to Republican. And within those specific states,
they identified the specific down ballot races that they could win if they
tried. You know, little state rep states and state senator seats that
could be flipped from Democratic to Republican with just the right amount
of well-timed cash infusions.
And so, they targeted those big ticket dollars to these very, very
small ticket races. So, for example, like they funneled $1.5 million into
four state Senate seats in New York. They flipped two of the four.
Congratulations. You just won control of the New York State Senate for
They spent $1 million on Michigan House races. That was enough to
pick up 20 seats. Twenty seats in the Michigan House.
They funneled $1.5 million to the Alabama Republican Party, $1.5
million in total, which when properly targeted was enough spending to flip
enough seats that both the state house and state senate flipped from
Democratic to Republican control for the first time since the
Reconstruction Era after the Civil War. Not bad for $1.5 million total for
the whole state.
I mean, on an average fund-raising day right now, Jeb Bush literally
raises that much money before lunchtime in one day. That was enough to get
the whole state.
One of the biggest coups for red map in 2010 was Wisconsin where they
thought it was worth the investment to topple the Senate majority leader,
he was a Democrat named Russ Decker. Russ Decker was a fixture in
Wisconsin. I mean, even in a red year, it did not seem like a guy like
Russ Decker could lose.
But then again, Russ Decker had never run in a race when a group like
Red Map for its own national strategic reasons was going to come in and
spend $500,000 on that race in the last two weeks before the election. So,
yes, Russ Decker lost and that seat became a Republican seat.
I don`t know if you know this, but I`m a liberal. And I think the
Republican takeover in the states has been terrible. Basically across the
board in terms of policy consequences because I don`t tend to like
I`m also a civics dork who thinks that districting shouldn`t be drawn
for political reasons for safe seats for Democrats or safe seats for
Republicans, right? So on the merits the story – as a matter of practice,
though, the thought, planning, execution of a political plan to have the
biggest and most longstanding impact without a huge outlay of resources and
without your opponents ever caught to what you were doing until you had
done it and they woke up the next morning to the realization that you would
screw them for not one day, or one year or for a decade at least.
When it comes to political genius, I hereby maintain that there is
nothing comparable in the last five years in American electoral politics at
least, probably considerably longer, than that is anything like this. I
mean, if Democrats would wave a magic wand and undo the political work of
one person in the past five years, it would be the Red Map guy, right? It
would be our next guest.
And if I were a Republican, I`d be lobbying to put this guy`s face on
Joining us now for “The Interview” is Chris Jankowski, former
president of the Republican State Leadership Committee, also former
executive director of Red Map.
Mr. Jankowski, thank you so much for being here.
CHRIS JANKOWSKI, FORMER REPUB. STATE LEADERSHIP CMTE. PRESIDENT:
Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: I have a feeling you are embarrassed by the compliment. I
could see –
JANKOWSKI: Incredibly. At least my kids now know what I do for a
living. I think you explained it perfectly.
MADDOW: Good. Put this in a time capsule, in case you ever do
anything bad in the future.
MADDOW: At least you have been this guy.
Other than complimenting you in a way that makes you uncomfortable,
did I do any of that wrong in terms of explaining what you guys did?
JANKOWSKI: Well, that`s it. You got it. We don`t have – we`re not
legally allowed to have any affiliation with the RNC, but there were groups
on the ground and that was the key. I mean, there are a lot of great ideas
in politics but the ability to execute is what makes the difference. We
had at the RSLC, the Republican State Leadership Committee, the
relationships with the state parties and the groups on the ground and we
would give them money. If they were good parties, we`d just give them
MADDOW: Because they knew which seats would have the leverage.
JANKOWSKI: Right. So, the trick here was trying to go to the
national donors and the national folks and say, hey, look, here`s an
opportunity in the state legislature to – what we thought set it up in
2012 to take the U.S. Congress. But by the summer of 2010, we realized,
well, we are going to get the House, so what we`re going to do is lock that
MADDOW: For a decade.
JANKOWSKI: Well, I will say there is a is shelf life to these lines.
JANKOWSKI: But we don`t know how long they are. But eventually they
do wear off. Just a little bit of perspective.
MADDOW: Sure. Fair enough.
JANKOWSKI: Sure. I mean, some of the districts in the legislative
chambers we won in 2010 were won by the Democrats in 2006 under lines drawn
by Republicans in 2000. So, political environment trends can overcome
MADDOW: Big enough waves, big enough years kind –
JANKOWSKI: Yes, demographic growth. Sure.
MADDOW: But you do change the structure of the field on which
politics is played.
JANKOWSKI: I`d rather be us than them.
MADDOW: Yes, got it.
So, when you went to national donors about this plan, saying we can
leverage your national money to do something that you can`t imagine with
it. Did you actually spell out for national donors the whole plan and the
way it would work, or did you just go to donors with whom you had the kind
of relationship where you could say trust us. We have a plan, you don`t
want to know the nitty-gritty but your money will be well spent?
JANKOWSKI: Well, those donors don`t exist anymore in the Republican
JANKOWSKI: They asked questions, they asked question then. We had
Chairman Ed Gillespie who is an established national figure, and he can be
in the donor pitches, and yes, I walked through targets and I explained how
we were going to do it, I explained how we were going to take the five
first $5 million to $10 million, and what states those would go into, and
that was the Great Lakes state and where the next $5 million and the next
And we ended up bringing in about 20 million in about 90 days, and
amazingly get it out – getting it out back the door. In the Ohio House,
we had ten targets we narrowed down to six. So, we have 10 different mail
plans, cable ads, polling. And every other state, we did. And we targeted
primarily 12 to 15 states that would have the most impact on congressional
redistricting and we got the money spent.
MADDOW: How – in terms of doing that targeting, is high-level
political math or was it pretty easy for you to figure out which of the
states – which of the seats in which of the states were going to be the
place that was going to be most worth it to spend your money.
JANKOWSKI: Well, the same swing areas if you are running for
president that you are looking at in Ohio are the same places where the
swing seats are in the legislative and congressional to some extent. So,
it was – to me, it was obvious. We did research we did polling. We
worked with our partners on the ground.
Russ Decker, you mentioned him in Wisconsin, Senator Decker, one
would touch him. We did a poll, we thought he was beatable. So, we
dropped a half million in the last two weeks.
MADDOW: What was the best bang for your buck out of all the states
you targeted in terms of it being cheap to get a really big political
return? Looking at your data I felt like it was Pennsylvania.
JANKOWSKI: Pennsylvania, you are absolutely right. What folks don`t
realize is every state chamber has a different number of seats in it.
Pennsylvania has one of the biggest houses. It has over 203 seats. Little
Arizona, which has 6 million to 7 million people, half the size of
Pennsylvania, has 60 House seats. So, on a per capita basis the seats in
Pennsylvania have relatively few people which means the cost are relatively
MADDOW: You spend 50 bucks and it shows up.
JANKOWSKI: Yes, 13 million people. Working with the House
leadership in Pennsylvania, we spent almost a million dollars. Some we
gave cash directly and took on their stretch goals. We thought it would be
a good year and we took on Democratic incumbents in western Pennsylvania
who had never lost, ever. And we had some extra cash and so we tried and
It was a great year, but I feel like we looked at the map, readjusted
our targets and maximized the dollars.
MADDOW: And blindsided Democrats not just in those individual races,
but Democrats nationwide who just now are trying to come up with a Red Map
answer for 2020 because they were doing nothing like this in 2010.
JANKOWSKI: Right. Well, they will be ready next time. It will be a
MADDOW: Do you mind if I love you in an airless vault before we
leave here tonight and never let you out?
JANKOWSKI: I`m grateful to work with a great team at the Republican
State Leadership Committee, great partners in the state, and have a great
chairman like Ed Gillespie. It was very much a team effort.
MADDOW: All right. So, I have to lock you up.
If you can call them all and tell them to meet you somewhere –
MADDOW: Chris Jankowski, thank you for being willing to talk about
this. I really do think you did something brand new in politics and you
are a humble guy, but I don`t feel humble about what you did. It`s really
an impressive story. Thanks.
JANKOWSKI: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, MSNBC is doing this “Seven Days of Genius” thing and it
makes it worth it because did you know that story? I know. It`s amazing,
OK. We got breaking news ahead I`m just told. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: As I mentioned, some breaking news has just crossed its
political news. We`re going to take one minute here to just nail down the
sourcing and the story, because this just happened. But we`re going to be
back with it in a second. Please stand by.
MADDOW: So, a new report has just crossed tonight concerning former
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. According to “The New York Times,”
Hillary Clinton has used her personal e-mail account exclusively to conduct
official business while she was secretary of state. Now that apparent
practice of hers is becoming a question, because her time of secretary of
state is over, and her records from secretary of state are supposed to be
retained and to some extent made available both to Congress and the public.
“The New York Times” reporting that Mrs. Clinton`s use of her
personal e-mail might have led to violations of federal requirements that
official correspondence be saved in perpetuity. “The Times” says tonight
that Secretary of State Clinton never had a government e-mail dress during
the four years she served as head of the State Department.
Now, a former top lawyer for the National Archives tell “The Times”,
it`s quote, difficult – excuse me, it`s quote, “difficult to conceive of a
scenario, short of a nuclear winter where an agency would be justified in
allowing its cabinet-level-head officer to solely use a private email
communications channel for the conduct of government business.”
A spokesman for Hillary Clinton tonight is defending her use of a
personal email account. He says the former secretary has been complying
with, quote, “both the letter and the spirit of the rules.” Mrs. Clinton,
of course, stepped down from the State Department two years ago. Her
advisers now have reportedly begun a process of reviewing her papers as
secretary of state to decide what they`re going to release publicly.
They`ve turned over 55,000 pages of e-mail to the State Department.
Mrs. Clinton is now widely expected to run for president and win the
Democratic nomination for president if she runs for it, in which, of
course, those e-mails would take on new significance.
In February, a leading Republican hopeful, Jeb Bush released many,
many thousands of his e-mails from his time as governor, including in a lot
of cases e-mails that revealed personal details, and Social Security
numbers about people who never expected that information to become so
But again, the new news tonight is that former Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton is facing questions about why she never had a government e-
mail when she was secretary of state and her use of her personal e-mail
account for State Department business. Again, her spokesperson saying that
she felt that the spirit and the letter of the rules, but there is a real
question about who is making the decision about what records from her time
as secretary of state will be released to Congress and the public.
This being, you know, politics and a presidential campaign, you can
bet there will be a lot more about this story. And Lawrence O`Donnell is
gong to have significantly more about it in the next hour.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Thursday night, we reported here exclusively that the Senate
was ready to hold a floor vote on Loretta Lynch as the nominee to be the
new attorney general. We were told by sources in the Senate that Ms.
Lynch`s nomination would finally be scheduled for a floor vote this week.
So much for that. “Politico” reports this afternoon that there will
be no vote on the new attorney general this week. Senate Republicans are
not talking about when that vote might happen. Maybe she`ll get a vote
sometime, or some other time, some time when the Senate has room for little
chores like hiring a chief law enforcement officer for the nation to whom
no one has any substantive objection.
Meanwhile, the current occupant of that job says he will happily stay
until his replacement is confirmed, which you think would make Republicans
crazy because they hate Eric Holder so much. But apparently, in this
Senate, the crazy is less powerful than the lazy or whatever it is that`s
keeping them from voting on Loretta Lynch. Tick tock.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>