The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 03/24/15
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thank you very much, Chris. Thank you. Great
to see Marc there as well, my old colleague from Air America Radio.
Thanks to you as well at home for joining us this hour.
The last time the Republican Party won a presidential election without
somebody named Bush being on the ticket was 1972, when Nixon and Agnew won.
It sounds crazy, right? It sounds like that can`t possibly be true.
But look at every election since then. These are all of the Republican
presidential election victories since 1972, and every single one of them,
there has been someone named Bush on the ballot as either president or vice
It is not foolproof. Poppy Bush did not win reelection against Bill
Clinton in 1992, even though his name was Bush and he was on the ballot,
but you really have to go back to Nixon/Agnew `72 to find a winning
Republican presidential ticket that did not have somebody from that one
family running for either the number one spot or the number two spot.
And on the one hand, that bodes very well for the Republican Party
deciding to put Jeb Bush on the ballot again for this next presidential
election. On the other hand, Governor Bush himself has acknowledged that
it might be a little creepy, it might feel a little creepy to the American
public to vote for somebody for president when not only was that guy`s
father already the president but his brother was too, and not that long
So, it was sort of the unofficial Jeb Bush for president campaign
launch when he announced last month that he is going to be possibly
thinking about, considering, maybe possibly running for president. But if
he does run for president, he will do so as his own man.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I have also been fortunate to
have a father and a brother who have helped shape America`s foreign policy
from the Oval Office. I recognize that as a result, my views will often be
held in comparison to theirs.
I love my brother, I love my dad, actually, my mother as well, I hope
that`s OK, and I admire their service to the nation and the difficult
decisions they had to make. But I`m my own man and my views are shaped by
my own thinking and my own experiences.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I am my own man, that was last month.
Since then, Jeb Bush has put himself on pace to raise more money more
quickly than anybody who has ever run for president ever, and he`s done so
almost entirely by tapping the network of donors and contacts that his
father and his brother built up during their own efforts to win the White
House and stay in the White House.
Shortly after the “I`m my own man” speech, Jeb Bush also tapped his
mom to raise funds for his super PAC. She sent out a fundraising effort on
his behalf and set up a fund for her son and his presidential campaign and
its super PAC.
Now, tomorrow, “The Dallas Morning News” reports that former
president, George W. Bush, Jeb`s brother, will be headlining a $100,000 per
couple fund-raiser for Jeb Bush`s super PAC in Texas.
And it is interesting in a couple of levels, first of all, there is
Ted Cruz, right, who has shaken up the presidential race a little bit by
skipping the exploratory, supposedly self-reflective navel gazing, I`m
thinking about running for president time and just jumping right in, right?
What`s there to think about? He`s jumping right in first, way earlier than
anybody else and saying just directly that he is running.
If there was any illusions that early leap might help Ted Cruz lock up
the lucrative Texas donor base where he was so popular among Republicans as
a first term senator, Governor Bush hauling out his brother, the former
president, and former first lady, Laura Bush, to raise what will likely be
millions of dollars tomorrow in a single night tomorrow night in Dallas for
Jeb, that should put those Ted Cruz Texas illusions to rest.
Wall Street was supposed to be the domain of Chris Christie. Texas
was supposed to be the domain of Ted Cruz and Rick Perry. Even Jeb Bush`s
home state of Florida, he was supposed to at least be competing for major
donors with Marco Rubio. But in all of those places, Jeb Bush is just
cleaning up in terms of the big money donors. He is all but monopolizing
the big money in the Republican race for the presidency so far. He is
stealing everybody`s lunch money, even in their hometowns.
Because of that, even if Republican voters hate Jeb Bush, simply by
virtue of the magnitude of his money, we may be irretrievably on the path
of the Republican Party once again putting somebody named Bush on the
presidential ballot. It worked well so far. It is the only thing that has
worked for the Republican Party for the last 43 years, so why not?
But former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura headlining this
fundraiser for Jeb Bush tomorrow in Texas, it`s also interesting at another
level, which is that up until now, the big Beltway question about Jeb Bush
making his run for the presidency is going to be how he would distance
himself not just from the dynasty concerns about being both the son and
brother of very recently former presidents, but specifically how he would
distance himself from the deeply, deeply unpopular presidency of his
We now know the answer, he just won`t. He will not be hiding that
light under any bushel. They are going to apparently just run Jeb as our
nation`s opportunity for a fourth term of the Bush family presidency. No
I mean, we probably should have known when Jeb Bush released a list of
21 gray beards, right, policy sages who`d be advising him particularly on
matters of foreign policy. Of the 21 people that Jeb Bush named, 19 of the
21 worked in the administration of either his father, or his brother, or
both, 19 of the 21. We should have known.
But if we did not know then, we know now, now that he is trotting his
brother out openly on the campaign trail.
And tonight in Washington, D.C., as we speak, I think, former Vice
President Dick Cheney is out there, too. He is the keynote speaker tonight
at the National Republican Party`s biggest fundraiser of the year for their
congressional candidates. The NRCC annual March dinner raises millions of
dollars for Republican congressional candidates. It`s the Republican
Party`s biggest such gig of the year.
No cameras were allowed. No video recording is allowed. No press is
invited to cover it. But the man they chose to give their keynote this
year, tonight, is Vice President Dick Cheney. And this follows multiple
recent high profile meetings of Vice President Dick Cheney with
congressional Republicans. They keep inviting Dick Cheney back to Capitol
Hill to meet over and over and over again over the past few months.
Sometimes, they led him in wearing a cowboy hat.
Dick Cheney is also having a big round of press in the conservative
media. You might have heard about Dick Cheney doing that giantly long new
interview with “Playboy” magazine. That was not conducted by a “Playboy”
magazine political correspondent – does that magazine have correspondents?
I don`t know. I don`t read it for the articles.
But that interview was done actually by a FOX News reporter for
“Playboy”. And actually, this coverage, what you`re seeing right here,
this is a FOX – that FOX News reporter`s interview with Dick Cheney being
discussed on FOX News by another FOX News reporter, and after they discuss
the content of that interview conducted by another FOX News reporter, they
turn for analysis of that interview to Karl Rove who was, of course, the
top political strategist for the Bush-Cheney administration.
You know, for a long time in life, I looked forward to missing Dick
Cheney and George W. Bush. Maybe some day I still will, maybe someday we
will all miss them. But you know, we cannot miss you if you refused to
And the fact that they`re back and being sort of normalized in
Republican politics and conservative media right now, it is salient and a
little spooky as the Republican Party starts their new round of
presidential politicking. I mean, most of the party looks back on the
Bush/Cheney years like this.
But in national Republican politics, they are mainstream again. They
are back. And that is good to know in terms of understanding our national
politics. It is also hard to avoid thinking about in terms of policy,
especially on days like today when it gets so painfully clear that on
policy, neither of the wars that they started in the Bush-Cheney
administration are over even now, and both of them acutely right now are
not only not over, they`re both getting pretty weird and a little bit hard
Today in Iraq, for example, the “Associated Press” reports that U.S.
airpower, U.S. pilots have started participating directly in the fight
against ISIS in Tikrit. That fight on the ground has been a relatively
small number of Iraqi troops, and a large number commanded by a general
from Iran`s revolutionary guard.
So, think about that for a second. On the ground, it is Iran. In the
air, it`s us. American pilots flying surveillance flights to help Iran in
its battle against ISIS on the ground. Us and Iran, you got your peanut
butter and my chocolate, you got your chocolate and my peanut butter – us
and Iran, really?
So, is the Iraq war, this great strategic gift to Iran, has now
resulted in the United States and Iran fighting on the same side in Saddam
Hussein`s hometown. The only war that we`re fighting that Congress likes
to talk about less than that very confusing one that we are fighting in
Iraq and Syria is the one that we are fighting still in Afghanistan, but we
basically refuse to talk about as a political matter, and that war took a
really, really dramatic turn today. That is also – it is also a big deal
and also a little bit inexplicable.
And this dramatic turn in the U.S. war in Afghanistan happened today
on the occasion of what turned out to be a really remarkable, and at times
a very moving visit by the new president of Afghanistan to the United
This today was President Ashraf Ghani, along with the Afghan official
who`s sort of the equivalent of his vice president. It`s the two of them,
and our vice president, Joe Biden, along with our defense secretary, Ash
Carter, the four of them laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown at
Arlington National Cemetery today.
Just a very somber, very moving ceremony, including the playing of
“Taps” to honor the more than 2,200 American troops who have been killed so
far in the Afghanistan war.
And honoring American service in Afghanistan has basically been the
theme of President Ghani`s visit to the United States this week.
Ashraf Ghani lived in the U.S. for many years, something like 20
years. He got a PhD at Columbia. He worked as a U.S. college professor.
He worked as a World Bank official in Washington. He had a home in
Bethesda for a lot of years.
So, he`s very familiar with the United States. He speaks very good
This is his first visit as president of Afghanistan. But what he has
come back to over and over again since he has been here this week is
striking – he just keeps coming back to how thankful he is, how
appreciative he is for the sacrifice of American troops and their families
over these 13-plus years of war that Americans have fought in his country.
I think his remarks have been moving in part because of the way he has
gone out of his way to not just say it in platitudes, and talk about it as
a country to country relationship, but the way he addressed it directly to
troops, and the way he said thank you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASHRAF GHANI, AFGHAN PRESIDENT: My fondest hope and to the veterans
is that we hope to welcome you in Afghanistan as tourists, as civilians,
revisiting with your loved ones, the peaks, the deserts, the valleys, the
homes of people that your loved ones touched so dearly. Come back to us in
some years and at that moment, Afghans, millions of us will be able to say
thank you to each one of you personally. Shake your hands, and invite you
to our homes.
I would like to take the opportunity to pay tribute to those common
sacrifices and simultaneously take the opportunity to pay tribute to 2,215
American servicemen and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice. More than
22,000 American soldiers have been wounded in action, civilians, numerous
contractors and others. You stood shoulder to shoulder with us, and I
would like to stay thank you.
I would also like to thank the American taxpayer for his and her hard-
earned dollars that have enabled us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The taxpayers.
When is the last time that you, as a taxpayer, were thanked for paying
for the war in Afghanistan?
We do not talk about that as a country. I mean, it`s remarkable to
see a national leader thank the people of the United States for sacrificing
over a trillion dollars in addition to what service members and their
families have sacrificed from their own lives. Honestly, we never talk
about the war at all in this country. Let alone the in fact it is being
fought in our name and with our money.
I mean, to the point where the Republican budgets that were unveiled
on Capitol Hill this week propose going back to the Bush-Cheney accounting
system where the money for the war is listed as an emergency expense, a
surprise every year, that therefore does not factor into the budget at all.
It`s free money.
But there`s the Afghan president in Washington, thanking us as a
nation, thanking American service members and their families for 13 1/2
years of fighting in Afghanistan, and thanking every American taxpayer for
the more than trillion tax dollars that had been spent there.
You can almost hear everybody in Washington on both sides of aisle
going, you know, ixnay, ixnay on the axpayertay alkingtay – like we don`t
talk about the fact this actually cost anything.
But here he is, saying thank you, and being so publicly appreciative
for what the United States has done in Afghanistan. And the reason he is
doing that is because he wants more of it.
And today, President Obama said yes. Today, at this joint press
conference, this remarkable press conference today, President Obama
announced a dramatic change in U.S. policy.
This had previously been the plan for the end of the U.S. troop
presence in Afghanistan after more than 13 1/2 years. As you see, we got
2015, 2016, 2017. Here`s where we are, that blue dot is where we are now,
roughly 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
What the president previously said was going to happen was a plan to
go down by the end of this year to about half that number, to about 5,500,
on the way toward going down to a residual force of about 1,000 troops left
in Afghanistan, just to protect the embassy and be based on the country`s
capital by the time President Obama leaves office in the end of 2016, by
the time a new president is sworn in to start 2017. That had been the
Today, President Obama announced that he plans on keeping that end
date and state the same, but we`re not going to make that said gradual
decline in troop numbers over the next two years, we withdraw by half in a
year, and the other half thereafter. We instead are going to keep 10,000
troops, which is what we have there now, we`re going to keep them there for
the rest of the year.
That means that the decline to that end state will be a much more
rapid descent, a much more rapid withdrawal over the course of the final
And so, this is a little bit inexplicably, right? I mean, it is clear
that the Afghan president wants more American troops there for longer. The
U.S. now says we`re going to do that. But the end game now makes less
If you`re worried about what happens in Afghanistan as the number of
foreign troops declines, that decline will be more severe, more drastic,
faster, more shocking to the system because it`s going to happen now over a
shorter period of time in 2016. Instead of going from 10,000 to 5,000, and
then 5,000 to 1,000, it is going from 10,000 to 1,000 over the course of
one year. That`s a much more dramatic decline in the number of troops. If
you are worried that that withdrawal of troops is going to shock
Afghanistan and Afghanistan is not going to be able to handle it, well,
that decline has just gotten much more shocking.
Are they really going to stick to that? I mean, President Obama still
says, we`re going down to that same end point. We`re going down to 1,000
troops by the end of December 2016.
But you know what will happen in 2016? In December 2016, he`s going
to be a lame duck president. Someone new will be elected, and that
somebody will either be a Republican president, Jeb Bush, with all the
Bush/Cheney advisers you can fit into one clown car, or it will be Hillary
I mean, either way, you think they`re going to be happy with this
withdrawal plan? This dramatic withdrawal plan for the last year down to
1,000? You think they`re going to let that stand if the Obama
The Afghanistan war is already 13 1/2 years long. It is nice to
finally see some discussion in Washington about what that sacrifice has
meant for members of our military and for our country more broadly, even if
it had to come from a foreign leader who was saying it in part because he
was asking for more.
If you ever had suspicions that a war only got to be this long, only
got to be 13 1/2 years long because Washington didn`t know how to end it –
today, those suspicions became policy. It is already America`s longest
war, and anybody who is being honest about how Washington will deal with it
will tell you right now that today, more than ever, there is no end in
MADDOW: We try really hard on this show to have guests from all
perspectives, particularly guests from both political parties, whenever we
can. You may have noticed we`re really bad at it. We have much better
luck booking members of one party and sometimes independents. But there is
another party that doesn`t like to talk to me for any reason.
Tonight, a small antidote to that ongoing problem. We have one of the
members of the other party, a real live elected Republican official who
happens to be at the center of making sure that something of really vital
national importance gets fixed. He`s right at the center of this story and
he joins us live, next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Yesterday during the White House science fair, one of the
journalists on hand to cover that event and cover all President Obama`s
interaction with all the science fair kids, a journalist named Manku Singh,
who works for TV Asia, which is the largest South Asian cable network in
the United States. Yesterday, during the science fair, he suddenly
collapsed at the White House. He had a heart attack while he was covering
the president at this event and the science fair.
Because that heart attack happened inside the White House, the first
responders were actually uniformed Secret Service agents. Secret Service
agents are trained in advanced life saving techniques. Those agents were
the first on hand to help him. They started CPR, White House medics were
then on hand to help, and they called in D.C. fire and ambulance.
It was very scary and very serious. They ended up using defibrillator
paddles on him right there. They started an IV line, they did ultimately
get the journalist into an ambulance. He was taken to a hospital and he
remains hospitalized tonight.
No one wants obviously anything like that to happen to them under any
circumstances. If it does happen to you, you could do worse than to have
it happen right in front of highly trained Secret Service agents who
immediately leapt to your aid.
Also yesterday, the Secret Service was called for help after the
University of Maryland got a threatening phone call regarding President
Obama`s niece. She is a student at Princeton University. She`s a student
athlete who is also a forward on the Princeton women`s varsity basketball
team, which was playing last night in the NCAA tournament against Maryland.
The University of Maryland police notified the Secret Service that
they have received a threat concerning the president`s niece in that game.
Security was upped at the game.
I should also mention that there were also two Supreme Court justices
at that game. Both Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan are Princeton alums,
both of them were there at the same game last night at which the
president`s niece was the subject of this threat.
Everything ended up going OK, except that Princeton lost. But imagine
if you`re the Secret Service, and that was all just in a day`s work
The Secret Service has responsibilities that are hard to overstate in
terms of the high stakes and the main guy they protect, but also the
complicated and multivariate threats that they are expected to handle on
any given day. All of which makes it all more worrying when they get
This is footage from three weeks ago, March 4th. This footage shows a
person dropping off a suspicious package outside of the security gate of
the White House.
After that happened, Secret Service agents put a temporary barricade
to block off the area around the suspicious package while they investigate.
And then, this is the part that has made news, recently. Two senior Secret
Service agents drive up to the scene, they turn on their flashing lights,
and then they bump into the barricade that was set up.
Uniformed agents on the scene reportedly believe that two agents
behind the wheel of that car had been drinking. It`s been reported that
they wanted to arrest the agents on the scene and administer sobriety
tests, but their watch commander on duty told them to just let the Secret
Service senior agents go home instead.
The bomb threat, the suspicion package on the evening of March 4th,
that ended up not being a bomb. It ended up being nothing.
But members of the House Oversight Committee today cited that threat,
paired with the senior agents attempting to drive right through the crime
scene as evidence of this agency`s inability to properly protect the
president and his family.
That D.C. police videotape was released today by the Oversight
Committee as they questioned Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy on his
agency`s handling of the March 4th incident. This was an utterly
nonpartisan thing today and it was very heated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: I believe that when the chain of
command is broken, when a chain of command is broken, there is no command.
It is like a body without a head. And when there is no command, there is
vulnerability. Again, that vulnerability goes to the safety of the
president of the United States of America.
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R-UT), OVERSIGHT CMTE. CHAIRMAN: It takes 27
minutes to secure the scene, 27 minutes. What if that was a real bomb?
What if it was a real bomb?
JOSEPH CLANCY, U.S. SECRET SERVICE DIRECTOR: Yes. Mr. Chairman, I
have been at the White House complex when we cordoned areas, when we have
secured zones, and it happens very rapidly from my –
CHAFFETZ: But this didn`t, and this is the most recent example. Why
didn`t it happen?
CLANCY: I don`t know.
CHAFFETZ: Who are you holding accountable?
CLANCY: We`re going to wait –
CHAFFETZ: You`re going to wait. That`s the problem.
CLANCY: We`re going to wait.
CHAFFETZ: That`s the problem. “We`re going to wait.” That`s the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The chairman of that committee, Republican Jason Chaffetz,
joins us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHAFFETZ: It takes 27 minutes to secure the scene, 27 minutes. What
if it was a real bomb? What if it was a real bomb?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now is Congressman Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. That was him speaking
today at a very heated hearing along with the director of the Secret
Congressman Chaffetz, thanks very much for your time tonight.
CHAFFETZ: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So, I have been watching the Secret Service story unfold.
The congressional oversight part of it is interesting both because it seems
very bipartisan and passionate, but because it seems like it might be the
way we actually find out what`s going on with the Secret Service.
Do you feel like there is something going on with that agency that we
are yet to understand?
CHAFFETZ: Yes, we have had too many incidents. We have great men and
women out there who serve, but there has been a lack of leadership. When
you`re not doing the very basics, you have a duty and responsibility.
Elijah Cummings and I are very united in this. It`s not a partisan issue.
I made no secret about the fact that I was a Mitt Romney supporter,
but guess what? Barack Obama is our president. He is the president of the
United States and I don`t want anything to happen, not on my watch, not on
Elijah Cummings` watch.
MADDOW: In terms of the Secret Service and the leadership concerns
that you were expressing there, do you feel like Director Clancy is himself
the problem? Obviously, these incidents preceded him. He was brought in
in part to try to clean up the agency and get it back on track. Do you
feel like he was the wrong guy to pick and somebody else might be able to
clean the place up? What`s your perspective on him?
CHAFFETZ: They have a deep-seated cultural problem. They brought in
an independent panel, four independent people. They unanimously came back
and said, we need a transformative figure from the outside.
The president chose not to follow their recommendation. I happen to
think the recommendation was the right one. Nevertheless, President Obama
selected Director Clancy. I can`t blame everything to him.
But this is a pivotal moment. How is he going to deal with this
crisis when they`re not able to detain somebody who drops off a would-be
bomb? When you have two very senior people drive through a crime scene,
two crime scenes, the assault on the officer and within a couple of feet of
a bomb. When they`re not able to secure that area for 27 minutes, when
they don`t even call the metro police department for 11 minutes.
But they don`t send out a BOLO, a be on a lookout for this would-be
bomber for 30 minutes, then it goes to the senior leadership, and how they
deal with it. That`s the concern.
MADDOW: What do you imagine is going to be the solution here?
Obviously, you`re indicating you may have concern with the top-level
leadership, that you may want a change in the top-level leadership. That
can`t – presumably that can`t be all if the problems have been this deep,
and this widespread, particularly when there is a few senior leadership
ranks among themselves.
What do you imagine might be the type of fix this agency would need?
CHAFFETZ: We have thousands of Secret Service officers and agents in
the uniform division and as agents, they have got to gain the confidence
that they`re going to get a workable schedule. They`re overworked.
They`re under-trained. We don`t have enough agents and officers.
And they`ve got to know that senior leadership has got their back and
is going to treat senior management the way they rank-and-file. Until they
gain that confidence, I think we`re going to continue to have these
MADDOW: Particularly, with the mention of the uniform division, and
the way that the difference between them and the agents, and some of the
morale issues around there, one of the things that it seems like this
narrative keeps coming around to is staffing levels, how much they`re
working, how well they`re trained, how well they`re equipped.
If part of the solution here is going to be significantly more money,
significantly more resources, do you think that the fiscal conservatives in
the House, yourself among them, would be willing to steer more resources to
that agency if it`s got to be part of the solution?
CHAFFETZ: Oh, absolutely. The average, average training time over
the course of the year is 25 minutes, 25 minutes! They train girl scouts
how to sell cookies longer than that. And it`s just not acceptable.
I support the idea they need to build a mock White House that`s going
to be $8 million expenditure. Right now, they`re going on a ball field
with spray paint and trying to teach the officers. Hey, this is how you
protect the White House in a ball field filled with spray paint. That is
We have to spend money to do this. It`s going to take resources. We
can figure out where to cut somewhere else, but protecting the president of
the United States and his family, we can never, ever, ever let anything
happen to them.
MADDOW: Congressman Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight
and Government Reform Committee, it is really hard for me to get
Republicans to come on this show to talk to me even about totally
nonpartisan things – so an extra special thank you for being willing to do
CHAFFETZ: Invite me back. You have always been good to me. You`ve
always been good to me. Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you, sir. Great to see you. Thank you.
It`s good to get that perspective, and I got to tell you, when I see
Elijah Cummings, ranking Democrat, and Jason Chaffetz, both yelling with
the same veins bulging on their necks about this issue and basically
getting so hot under the collar about it, it is a nice bipartisan to see
that the outrage around the Secret Service and the need to fix the Secret
Service is a technocratic good government thing that knows no partisan
It is a scary situation, but the solution is going to be heartening, I
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: A quick note to our dear friends at the FOX News Channel: no
means no. Seriously.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS: Would you entertain the party coming to you
and saying, governor, we`re at a draw here?
MITT ROMNEY: First, that`s not going to happen. Two, I`m not an
CAVUTO: You`re saying never, never, never, never, never?
ROMNEY: It`s just not going to happen, I`m sorry, Neil.
CAVUTO: So, that`s never, never, never?
ROMNEY: It`s not going to happen.
ROMNEY: There`s no realistic scenario in which that would happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Never, never, never, never, never? Like never, never, never,
never, never, never? Never?
Republicans are yearning for another Mitt Romney candidacy to the
point of begging for one. Is that just Mitt Romney love? Does it indicate
some dissatisfaction with the bumper crop of non-Mitt Romney candidates
that they already have this year? I don`t know.
But for one of the candidates that found himself in the top tier of
Republican contenders this year, life in the spotlight has just gotten
considerably harder, thanks to a bombshell new report. And we`ve got the
details next with the reporter who broke that story.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: If you live anywhere in the Upper Midwest, and you have
turned on a television, you know this very short song. It`s earworm. You
will not be able to get it out of your head.
MADDOW: It sets my teeth on edge even now. That will be in your head
all night. Save good.
Menards is a giant home improvement store chain. Its founder, John
Menard Jr., is a billionaire several times over. “Forbes” says he`s the
142nd richest man in the world. Save big money.
He is also the richest man in the state of Wisconsin. And he is well
known not just being the richest man in the state, and not just for his
chain of hardware stores with their inescapable jingle, but also for his
many and long-running battles with the state`s environmental cops.
Ten years ago, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said they
had more problems with John Menard and his company than with any other
Wisconsin company. They cited John Menard and his company, Menards, at
least 13 times over three decades for ignoring or violating state pollution
and hazardous waste regulations.
At one point, the state caught Mr. Menard himself on video and this is
true, personally dumping arsenic-laden hazardous waste ashes from one of
his lumber plants into a state landfill. Personally. Instead of paying
for the stuff to go to a hazardous materials facility, apparently, John
Menard would just bag up the waste, bring it home to his house and put it
in his personal trash at home. So, instead of going to the hazardous
facility, it would just go to the landfill.
John Menard ended up paying a $1.7 million fine for that, which at the
time was a record for Wisconsin.
So, that`s John Menard, Jr. Save big money.
Here is what Michael Isikoff has just reported about John Menard and
his brand new starring role in American national politics.
In 2012, when Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was engaged in a bitter
recall election that he ultimately won, John Menard Jr. donated more than
$1.5 million – $1.5 million – to a pro-Scott Walker group that promised
that it would keep its donors anonymous. They accepted unlimited donations
of any size, from anyone, even from corporations, and they said they would
keep those secret forever.
John Menard Jr. reportedly gave $1.5 million to that group to support
Scott Walker, but to support Scott Walker secretly.
Since then, since Scott Walker won that recall election, things have
gone pretty well for John Menard, Jr. in his dealings with Wisconsin state
government. His company has been awarded up to $1.8 million in tax breaks
from the state. That alone recoups the donation.
The Walker administration has sharply scaled back the kind of
environmental enforcement actions that have plagued John Menard and his
company more than any other company in the state for years.
Now, to be clear, there was no bribery investigation here. Scott
Walker is not being investigated for any sort of quid pro quo. Governor
Walker`s spoke American gave us a detailed explanation, making the case
that everything about the way John Menard Jr. was treated by the Scott
Walker administration can be explained by just normal politics, nothing
scandalous about this at all.
But the fact remains that John Menard Jr. tried to secretly give $1.5
million to elect Scott Walker, and subsequently he received very favorable
treatment from Scott Walker in Wisconsin state government. And yes, those
things may not be connected at all in any way that is criminal and even
stinky. But we were never supposed to know about the donations in the
And part of the reason we may know about them now is because of the
trailing ends of an ongoing criminal investigation in Wisconsin, into Scott
Walker`s campaign donations. That investigation has been working its way
through the courts in Wisconsin. The case is going to be heard before the
Wisconsin state Supreme Court next month.
And Governor Walker and his campaign team have successfully argued,
thus far, to the press corps that this investigation, the other hometown
investigations trailing behind Scott Walker, they should just be seen as
parochial Wisconsin issues that will be of no interest to the nation,
certainly of no interest to the national press corps because this is just,
you know, hometown stuff, usual hometown enemies going after local
politicians for the usual partisan stuff.
And that works when you`re just the governor of Wisconsin, and the
national process only mildly interested in you at a distance.
But when you are a top-tier presidential contender, investigative
reporters with serious national chops start looking at everything trailing
behind you as you try to become president, and because these investigations
are still trailing him in Wisconsin, the story of Scott Walker is going to
be end up being way more interesting in future months than it has been
recently, particularly if he stays at the top of the pack.
Joining us is Michael Isikoff, chief investigative correspondent for
Yahoo News. His reporting appears in Yahoo`s new digital political
magazine, which launched today.
Mike, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here.
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, YAHOO NEWS: Great to be back on the show, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, let me ask you first if I summarized that in a way that -
- if I miss anything important, or are those were the right basics?
ISIKOFF: No, I think you got it, just a couple points worth
One of the things that has been uncovered in the course of this John
Doe 2 probe into the Walker fund-raising was that Scott Walker was
personally involved in raising money for the Wisconsin Club for Growth.
There are e-mails in which this is – his aides refer to this, to the
governor as a Wisconsin Club for Growth, as your 501(c)(4), that we should
steer donations through this group in order to insure correct messaging to
defend the governor`s record in advertisements.
So, this is something Scott Walker was directly involved in, in
raising money for this group. And there has been a lot of attention in
Wisconsin in the last year, especially in Wisconsin, about some of the huge
donations that Walker himself had raised from the likes of Donald Trump or
other hedge fund, Paul Singer, the hedge fund billionaire.
But what stands out in this matter is this is a guy, Menard, who is
the richest man in Wisconsin who has extensive business before the state
ISIKOFF: He was making what appears to be the largest single donation
to the group that Scott Walker was trying to raise money for and the public
knew nothing about it.
And I think that`s the part of the story that is getting a lot of
attention, which is why didn`t – wasn`t this disclosed? What did – would
Scott – had the public known about these donations, would Scott Walker
have been forced to answer questions when he ran for reelection? Would the
Wisconsin press have been pressing him for information about his meetings,
whatever meetings he might have had with John Menard? Whatever he knew
about these donations? Whether he solicited them.
But none of those questions have been put to him. I think that`s why
this story, if nothing else, may prod Walker to have to answer some of
MADDOW: As this investigation continues, this case continues to work
its way through the courts in Wisconsin, it`s had a wild ride through the
courts already. Is it likely, if that case continues, that there will be
more made known that will get more public information about who were those
donors to Scott Walker back in those days who thought they were going to be
able to make those donations under the cover of anonymity offered by this
Are we going to learn more?
ISIKOFF: Well, presumably, if the investigation is allowed to
continue and charges are brought – then yes, we could learn lots more.
You know, the question that this story raises is, what else is there in the
files? What else have prosecutors obtained about who was funneling
donations to this group and what role Walker himself played in raising that
It`s unclear whether the investigation is going to go forward. I
should say. The Wisconsin Supreme Court is going to be hearing arguments
on this next month. Some of its members have received support from some of
the same people who were backing Scott Walker.
ISIKOFF: There`s – so, we`ll see. But I think if nothing else,
there will be a lot more attention on those oral arguments next month
before the court.
MADDOW: Michael Isikoff, chief investigative correspondent for Yahoo
News, it is great to see you, Mike. I got to say. We`ll miss you here in
the building, but you`re doing great work for Yahoo. I`m glad you`re on
this. Thanks, man.
ISIKOFF: Thank you.
All right. Much more ahead tonight. Please do stay with us.
MADDOW: It is 2:53 a.m. in France right now. This is the sight of
the question of the Germanwings Airbus A320 that was flying this morning
from Barcelona to Dusseldorf with 144 passengers and six crew members on
That plane crashed in the remote hard to reach high altitude site in
the French Alps. All 150 people onboard are presumed to be dead.
Amazingly, given the remote location of the crash, authorities have
already been able to locate one of the black boxes, the cockpit voice
recorder, which is going to be key to what happens next in terms of finding
out what happened to cause this crash.
Perhaps the most unusual thing being reported about this crash thus
far is the circumstances of its descent. The plane took off about 10:00
a.m. local time. Twenty-seven minutes after takeoff, it reached a cruising
altitude of 38,000 feet.
At 10:31, it then started an eight-minute long descent. At about
10:40 a.m., that plane lost control with French radar and French air
traffic control. Now, it is unclear why the plane started that descent.
Air traffic control had not authorized the plane to descent.
But what makes this even weirder is that while the plane was
descending, it didn`t deviate from its course at all, even as it lost
altitude. And that is unusual for a plane that`s in distress. It
basically kept on its planned trajectory while inexplicably dropping 4,000
feet per minute for eight straight minutes.
Plane crashes themselves are rare. Plane crashes like this from a
cruising altitude without explanation – this type of plane crash is almost
unheard of. The latest we know of is that the black box was found today in
this debris was flown to Paris tonight.
France`s flight safety agency is leading the investigation. They say
they`re going to be analyzing the contents of the box tomorrow. But this
is a strange, strange story. Plane crashes are rare, but this is a very
rare type of plane crash.
We`re going to bring you more as we learn more, and Lawrence O`Donnell
will have a lot more at the top of the hour. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: This is not the best new thing in the world, but it does have
a happy ending.
Early this morning in London, in the southeast section of London
that`s called Suffolk, residents woke up to an informational flyer telling
them that a 1,000-pound World War II era bomb had been found in the
neighborhood and, quote, “If the bomb explodes, buildings in the 200-meter
zone will be significantly damaged and those close to the bomb will be
destroyed. Remaining in your home is placing your life at significant
risk.” Also, good morning.
By 8:00 a.m., 1,200 homes and businesses were emptied out, 1,200 – so
officials could secure the construction site where this bomb had been
found. This five-foot-long bomb had been found lying on its side,
seemingly untouched since the Nazis dropped it there about 70 years ago,
A military bomb squad from the defense was called in. They put in a
big igloo of sandbags to absorb the impact in the event that the bomb went
off when they were trying to dig it out. Happily, it did not go off and
they were able to dig it out. Military experts extracted it and safely
trucked it out of London for detonation.
Early this evening, local residents were able to return to their homes
and they received an apology from the police. The cops have officially
apologized that their warning flyer was, quote, “a bit blunt.”
Considering that there was an undetonated 1,000-pound five-foot-long
Nazi bomb in the neighborhood, I hereby declare that the cops can be
excused for bluntness.
Old Nazi bomb trumps charming British understatement. New rule.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Good evening, Lawrence.
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