The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 04/01/15
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Ari, I`m canceling the razor of the month
club that I was planning on getting you.
ARI MELBER, “THE CYCLE” CO-HOST: Yes.
MADDOW: Yes, I didn`t know it would creep you out so much. I meant
it in the best possible way. Anyway, thanks, man.
MELBER: Thank you.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Did you know that there is a Bill and Hillary Clinton National
Airport? It is not an international airport. It is just a national
airport, so only domestic flights. But it already exists.
The Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport is right on the banks of
the Arkansas River, conveniently located in downtown Little Rock, which is
the state capital of Arkansas.
And Little Rock, Arkansas, is a nice place. It has the state capital.
It has the Bill Clinton Presidential Library, and presidential complex
thing, which is a big thing. It has that convenient little downtown
I was in downtown Little Rock the night the House of Representatives
first passed Obamacare. And I watched that vote on C-span in a Little Rock
bar while eating really excellent Arkansas barbecue.
I can attest, Little Rock is kind of awesome. Little Rock has a lot
to recommend in it.
But Little Rock is not done. What they want to do is they want to
create a Little Rock Technology Park. They want to capitalize on the fact
that they`ve got not just a state capital, but also the University of
Arkansas at Little Rock. They got good intellectual capital there. But
they want to make the city into more of a tech hub.
At the Little Rock Technology Park Web site, they explain that plan.
And they specifically explain how the issue of caffeine is an important
part of that plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: Proximity is everything. Workers want to be in urban
places that are walkable, bikable, hyper caffeinated, where they can bump
into other workers and share ideas. Innovation districts are this
century`s productive geography. They are both competitive places and cool
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is what Little Rock is looking for. They want to become
a cool space. They want a slice of that sweet, sweet tech economy. That
means they need to attract technology workers and technology firms and
technology entrepreneurs to come work in Little Rock, because Little Rock`s
a good place to do that kind of business.
Now, the state has been working on this as a strategy for a long time.
They passed their first enabling legislation to promote this as an economic
development plan for the state almost a decade ago. It is a state
priority. They`ve directed a lot of resources to it. It is an overt
project that is under way in that state.
But there is now officially a big lump in that gravy, because one of
the things that might get in the way of the free flowing exchange of, you
know, innovative tech ideas, this hipster entrepreneur, geographically
convenient bikable coffee shop environment they`re trying to promote, one
of the things that might sort of get in the way of that is if that is if
that coffee shop where everybody`s meeting up to develop their new apps or
whatever, if that coffee shop could decide that they were not going to
serve gay people anymore because of the religious beliefs of the coffee
And even some anti-local discrimination ordinance in town couldn`t
stop that, because the state took an overt, deliberate step in the year
2015 to make sure it was clearly legal to put up a “no gays allowed” sign
in a business in the state, even in a nice, economically progressive
ambitious place like Little Rock. That kind of thing just spoils the vibe
for what Little Rock is trying to do.
And it has been interesting to watch this firestorm erupt over the
discrimination bill that just passed, that Mike Pence just signed in
Indiana, right? The really leading edge of that backlash in Indiana is
some of the usual suspects, right? Democrats were against what Mike Pence
did. Gay rights groups were against what Mike Pence did.
But a big part of the immediate backlash, both in the state and
nationwide, was specifically in the tech industry.
You might remember there was that CEO from the tech firm Salesforce,
which is a global cloud computing company. They just bought an Indiana
tech company for $2.5 billion last year. So, they`ve got this really
strong new connection to Indiana that they just made. The Salesforce CEO
is one of the first people out of the gate nationwide to say that the Mike
Pence Indiana discrimination bill was such a problem for his company. He
said they were cutting off all company related travel to that state,
basically extracting themselves from the Indiana economy.
Soon thereafter, it was the most profitable company on earth. It was
Apple, whose CEO spoke out early and aggressively about what Indiana was
doing. And then said it would become an Apple priority to not only fight
what Indiana was doing, but to stop anything like that from happening in
any other state.
Fast-growing, high profile Web companies like Yelp, and Angie`s List,
they both came out and said what Indiana was doing with this Mike Pence
bill was abhorrent to them. It would make a difference in their business
dealings in that state, or what could now expected to be a lack thereof.
Angie`s List is actually based in Indiana, and their CEO is a big
Republican donor. So, that put even more power behind that punch.
And then there`s this. Indy Big Data, see, that`s the Twitter handle
there. Indy Big Data, a conference, a very large high-profile tech
conference, which is slated for Indianapolis at the Indiana convention
center next month on May 7th. As soon as Mike Pence signed that law, Indy
Big Data was one of the first places that felt the backlash and felt it
Look at this. This is from their Facebook page. Over the past 48
hours, we have seen seven national sponsors back out of the Indy Big Data
Conference 2015 as a direct result of the Religious Freedom Act. This law
is having an immediate and negative impact on technology in the state of
Indiana. The Indy Big Data Conference wants lawmakers from the state of
Indiana to know and acknowledge that this is a real case that is happening
now, not a conference to be impacted months or years from now. And we are
calling for an immediate correction to this law in order to prohibit
discrimination in Indiana on any grounds.
Seven national sponsors in 48 hours. And the companies involved here,
the companies that pulled out of this thing are a big deal, especially if
you know the cloud computing, big data universities, it will be a big deal
for you. It`s Oracle, it`s Amazon Web Services, it`s company called EMC,
Cloudera, Platfora, Pivotal, these companies all pulled out and said they
would not go to Indiana because of that bill that Mike Pence signed. Their
sponsorships cost them a lot of money. But they walked away rather than
having to show their faces in Indiana after what Mike Pence just did.
Since then, a new tech letter has been signed by some of the highest
profile CEOs in the whole industry, opposing what Indiana did, warning
other states not to do it. And, in fact, telling other states they ought
to proactively now put protections against discrimination on the basis of
sexual orientation and gender identity into state law as a matter of the
business climate in those states.
And look at the list of CEOs that just signed this letter. I mean,
it`s like Twitter, eBay, Airbnb, Yelp, Zillow, Evernote, Jawbone, Cisco,
PayPal. Even if you don`t know anything about big data cloud computing,
even if you are watching me right now on an abacus that you rigged up to a
sun dial or something, I mean, these are big enough firms now, this is a
big enough portion and such a dynamic portion of the American economy, this
is an attention-getting thing, even if you are total luddite.
And that huge and acute tech backlash that goes all the way to the
very top of the tech industry, that has happened on top of all the other
business backlash, and the growing list of cities and states around the
country that are doing things like blocking taxpayer funded travel for any
state employee to the state of Indiana in protest of what Mike Pence just
The Final Four in the NCAA championship is due to be played in
Indianapolis this weekend. The coach of the UConn men`s basketball team
canceled his plans and his whole coaching staff`s plans to be in
Indianapolis for the Final Four this weekend, because the University of
Connecticut is a state school and the Connecticut governor just issued a
travel ban for the state of Connecticut and their employees. And even the
basketball team during the Final Four is respecting that travel ban.
And so, yes, in the midst of that whirlwind, that he has just started
to reap, Mike Pence has, you know, had an interesting week. He`s been sort
of doing the backstroke, doing at least a little side stroke all week long,
trying to undo some of the damage that he has inflicted on his state.
And it`s still not exactly clear what`s going to happen in Indiana.
In part because Governor Pence himself, he seems regretful, he seems to
recognize he has done something that has done great harm to his state, but
he does not himself even now seem all that clear on the concept of what`s
wrong, and what should be done, if anything, to right this wrong.
I`ll give you a very specific example of how confused he is.
Yesterday morning, it seemed like Governor Mike Pence in Indiana agreed
that the law need to be fixed. That he would find a way to fix it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: Let me say I believe this is a
clarification. But it`s also a fix. We will fix this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Mike Pence yesterday morning, we will fix this. By yesterday
afternoon, Mike Pence no longer thought he needed to fix this. Watch.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
PENCE: I stand by this law. The law doesn`t need to be fixed.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: It doesn`t need to be fixed. We will fix it. It doesn`t –
that was on the same day. Out in a press conference in front of cameras,
you know, national coverage, we will fix this. It`s also a fix. We will
fix this. Then, on right wing talk radio later in the afternoon, this
doesn`t need a fix. I stand by this law.
So, yes, it seems clearer and clearer that Indiana – Indiana,
Hoosiers, right, the people of Indiana – want to fix the problem that
state government has made for the state. The state wants to fix it. But
if the state was hoping that Mike Pence could lead them out of this morass,
Mr. Let`s Fix This/Let`s Not Fix This, depending on who he`s talking to
within hours of each other, Mr. Pence is not proving to be a real clarion
voice on this issue.
If you want leadership to fix this problem here, he doesn`t even get
what the problem is.
So, in Indiana, things are confused from the very top on down right
now. Nobody really knows in Indiana how this is going to work out, or by
when it`s going to work out. Right now, the law in Indiana is what Mike
Pence signs. And maybe they`re going to pass something else, but.
Last word we had, there was no plan to try and make the law that Mike
Pence signed go away. There was maybe some language being circulated that
might try to cast the existing law in a different light without really
changing it. We also heard recently that Republican legislators in Indiana
have started meeting with gay rights groups.
OK. So, you know, under Mike Pence`s utterly confused, sort of
bewildered leadership, Indiana is currying around like a water bug in
choppy water. The story of Indiana is not over yet.
However, down home in Little Rock, Arkansas, what has happened in
Arkansas appears to be much more straightforward than the mess right now
under Mike Pence in Indiana. As you probably know, Arkansas passed the
exact same law that Indiana passed, just days after Indiana passed it.
And when Mike Pence signed the Indiana law, and there started to be
the huge national blowback against Indiana, that reportedly did not scare
Arkansas Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson. Asa Hutchinson said he had no
doubts. He said, like Mike Pence, he would sign that bill, just put it on
his desk. That was Friday.
Today, in Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson changed his mind. He said he will
not sign it after all. He wants the language in the Arkansas bill either
recalled all together or wants it amended to make the bill less like what
just happened in Indiana, and more like the garden variety,
noncontroversial religious freedom bills that have been passed federally
and around the country for decades, because anybody much caring because
they weren`t discrimination bills like the one that was just signed in
Asa Hutchinson explained his about-face today in part by citing a
personal communication from his own son.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R), ARKANSAS: My son, Seth, signed the petition
asking me, dad, the governor, to veto this bill. And he gave me permission
to make that reference. And it shows that families, and there`s a
generational difference of opinion on these issues.
(END VIDEOI CLIP)
MADDOW: Governor Asa Hutchinson was also, not incidentally, urged to
veto the bill, not just by his son, but by a little company you might have
heard of called Walmart, which is headquartered in Arkansas, and which is
so big, it could eat the state of Arkansas in one bite if it ever chose to.
He was also lobbied to make this decision that he made today by the
mayor of Arkansas`s largest city, the mayor of Little Rock, where the Mayor
Mark Stodola has been clear and loud on this issue, alongside groups like
the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, saying that Arkansas`s image cannot
stand a hit like this.
And maybe the Little Rock Technology Park, you know, will get their
hyper-caffeinated cool space after all. They`re working on it, which in
part meant working to stop this law happening in Arkansas, too.
Joining us now is the mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas, Mark Stodola.
Mayor Stodola, it`s really nice to have you here. Thanks for being
here this evening.
MAYOR MARK STODOLA (D), LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS: Well, thank you,
Rachel. I`m glad to be here with you.
MADDOW: What was the tipping point for you to decide to write this
letter to Governor Hutchinson, take an issue in the state legislation and
tell him it was important to Little Rock he said no to this?
STODOLA: Well, you know, this thing was really locked up in the
Senate judiciary on Friday, and all of a sudden the gates broke open and
unfortunately it looked like it had some legs. The governor said he was
going to sign it.
You know, I think the governor`s a very thoughtful man. I give him a
lot of credit for having the courage to say, I`ve changed my mind. And I`m
not going to sign 1228 as it is.
And, you know, we`ve got a state that has really had a sea change in
terms of its representation in the house. You would think that smaller
government would suggest that there be fewer of these kinds of bills. I
can tell you that as a mayor, you know, more and more the state is taking
over provinces typically that are left to local government, on a variety of
issues. This is just one of them.
I might mention in addition to the chamber that came out against this,
as well as all of these companies that you mentioned, that the Arkansas
Municipal League representing over 500 cities also came out opposing HB-
So, it was a tipping point. I felt it important to tell the governor
from my perspective as the mayor of the capital city, a city that is open,
and welcomes all people of all religions, of all diversity, of all faith
and of all love, that first of all, there`s no need for this. I guess
we`ve gone in Arkansas from 1993 when RFRA was first passed federally to 22
years until today, and all of a sudden someone thinks we need this law.
You know, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, the United States and
the country was founded on the issue of tolerance, religious tolerance and
tolerance against persecution.
So, you know, whether we need or not, I guess it`s in the province of
the legislature. The point that I think would have to be made was that it
obviously can be construed to discriminate against people based on a
variety of things, including sexual orientation and transgender identity,
which happens to be the issue that is the focus and fire point today.
So, I made the point to him that it really was not needed, number one.
Number two is, anything this divisive, anything that causes so much angst
and debate and anguish is not good for this state, certainly not good for
Indiana. You know, I think the governor took a strong look at what
Governor Pence was doing, and figured out that he didn`t need to go down
the same road, frankly. And I think he`s a very reasonable, thoughtful
And hopefully the legislature will be as reasonable and thoughtful as
the governor is, and come up with some language to make sure that we
memorialize that this type of a piece of legislation cannot be used to
discriminate against individuals.
MADDOW: Mayor Stodola –
STODOLA: And finally –
MADDOW: Sorry, let me ask you, on that point about the legislature,
do you – do you believe that they are going to do the right thing?
Obviously, Governor Hutchinson made it clear he wasn`t happy with the way
things were going in terms of his original plan to just sign this thing.
He did change his mind on this. Does it seem clear to you that they`re
going to end up with something everybody will be more comfortable with,
including yourself and the governor?
STODOLA: Well, I hope so. You know, it`s in debate right now. And
candidly, you know, I think the speaker of the house and president of the
Senate are both working with the governor to try to come up with some
As I pointed out today, this is not a Democratic issue, it`s not a
Republican issue, it`s an individual that should bring people together from
all perspectives. And so, I have encouraged that both the Democrats and
Republicans get together and make sure they come up with language, if
they`re going to go forward with this, that make sure it memorializes we`re
not going to be discriminating against people in this 21st century.
MADDOW: Mark Stodola –
STODOLA: As you mentioned clearly on the issue of technology, I mean,
I spend a lot of my time in the day trying to recruit businesses here. The
citizens of Little Rock in 2011 passed a sales tax, and dedicated $22
million to create a research technology corridor.
And for something like this to come down would absolutely cripple our
opportunities, and I`m simply not going to let that happen, in whatever
perspective that I can lend to this issue. You know, we are open for
business. We are an open, welcoming city that has great diversity.
It`s a fascinating issue, the focus is here. This is the 21st century
version of what we went through in 1957 as it relates to racial
integration. And we have come a long way, a very long way.
We still have obviously lots of footsteps to continue to follow. But
we`re making great progress as a very diverse, wonderful community here.
And we need to continue with that. I hear that from normal ordinary
citizens who can`t believe that this issue is taking the focus that it has
in the state legislature.
MADDOW: Mayor Mark Stodola of Little Rock, Arkansas, capital city of
Arkansas, has taken a leading role on this issue on that state – sir,
thank you for being here tonight. Really appreciate your time.
STODOLA: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you.
STODOLA: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. There`s a lot going on in today`s news, and
today`s show, including the matter of the indictment of a senator. That
almost never happens.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, beyond just Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson, and the
Arkansas discrimination bill much like the Indiana discrimination bill,
beyond that which we just talked about, there are some other really totally
unexpected news tonight about a red state legislature doing the kind of
thing that Republican legislatures do these days, and a red state governor
deciding to stand up to them and say, stop, no way, we`re not doing it.
Totally unexpected, fascinating – coming up.
MADDOW: This is beautiful Stockton, California. Stockton,
California, nice place. It`s basically due east from San Francisco, about
80 miles. Stockton is right on the San Joaquin River in California.
And a lovely Stockton, California, they have a weed problem. I don`t
mean it as a euphemism for marijuana. I have no idea how much pot they
smoke in Stockton, or whether it`s a problem. Where they have a weed
problem in Stockton is actually in their river, in the San Joaquin River.
The weeds are so bad in that river, in the shipping channels that lead
to the port in Stockton, they`re overgrowing the delta and the river
itself. There`s an important California aqueduct around there that the
weeds are clogging up, and the weeds are blocking not just the inflow and
outflow of the river, the weeds are so bad they`re literally blocking the
ship traffic in and out of that industrial port.
In October, a big ocean going international freighter carrying cement
from Japan had to phone in a delay for the people who were waiting for them
to drop that cargo at the port of Stockton. The delay they had to phone in
was a water hyacinth delay. There was this giant frickin` ship carrying
cement, that they couldn`t get around the hyacinth weeds chocking the port
in order to get that stuff dropped off.
Now, mechanically ripping the weeds out, used to be enough of a tactic
to manage this problem. But it`s just not anymore. The problem is getting
worse and worse. It`s too environmentally ruinous to dump herbicide in the
water to kill the weeds.
So, now, Stockton has come up with a genius new plan, and Stockton`s
genius new plan is hippos. I made Jackie laugh.
Hippos I should tell you was not their first idea. In November,
Stockton`s mayor had suggested bringing in manatees from Florida, to eat
the water hyacinths in the river. Apparently, it`s like manatees favorite
food. They can eat 100 pounds of those weeds a day or something. Alas,
manatees are impractical to be moved manatees from Florida to Stockton,
even though the Stockton mayor suggested that idea.
But now, without the manatees, they have come up with the next best
thing. And so behold, Stockton got hippos instead. This is a photo today
from the California Water Blog, which is an excellent blog. And the
California Water Blog, as you can see in this picture, it shows this pod of
hippos that the city of Stockton brought in to graze on the weeds around
Stockton`s big industrial port. They brought this herd of hippos from
They have radio tagged them so they don`t lose them. They have a
coast guard watch over them and the site where they`re eating, keep people
far away, because although the hippos are obviously adorable, they don`t
much like people.
Other than that, though, it is apparently working like it is supposed
to. Hippos love delicious water hyacinths. So, they`re having lovely
meals. They`re helping Stockton with their problem.
Stockton has also reportedly brought in a second slightly cuddlier
hyacinth eater. They`ve also reportedly released into the river and the
port and the surrounding delta these adorable see in the foreground there -
- these adorable little capybaras from Brazil. That`s little capybara
there in the foreground being coxed into the water at the San Joaquin Delta
Yacht Club by a bunch of UC-Davis water science students.
Capybaras are giant swimming rodents that can eat 40 pounds of weeds
per day. So, they negotiated with Brazil somehow, they got a bunch of
them, and alongside those hippos, keep them apart. They`re setting them
loose hoping they`re hungry, hoping the hippo and capybara plan will make a
dent in Stockton, California`s weed problem, freeing up some of that the
precious delta water for California`s parched water system.
And that is not true. I`m sorry.
The part about the weeds being a problem at the port of Stockton, and
the cement freighter getting stuck in the water hyacinths and all that
stuff being a problem in a state where they need the water, that is true.
There is a really bad weed problem.
Hippos and capybaras are more of an April Fool`s situation. But that
April Fool did run in the California Water Blog today. And I forgive them,
because this was a day that honestly in California they need some magical
lightness of imaginary Botswana hippos swimming around in the port of
You can forgive them for trying to find something funny in this
situation today, because things today got really, really real in California
on the issue of water.
Today, California did something that the state has never done before.
Today is the last day of California`s traditional snow season, April 1st,
every year, is the day they measure how much is in the California snow
pack. It has huge implications of how much water is available for
everything the state uses water for.
Today, every year, on April 1st, the day they measure, it turns out
this year was worse than anybody dreamed. Snow pack statewide came in this
year at 5 percent of normal. Not 5 percent below normal, but 5 percent of
normal. Like 95 percent off.
And that means that this is the fourth straight year of drought, and
the worst of those four years probably, and we`re likely heading into a
fifth year of epic, epic drought as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANK GEHRKE, CA CHIEF OF SNOW SURVEY`S: You`re at the Phillips snow
course for the April 1st, 2015, measurement. And as you can clearly see,
there`s no snow at this location. And this is the first year in its
measurements going back to 1942 where this snow course has been bare. No
snow at all.
And unfortunately, that`s what we`re finding more or less statewide,
where upwards of 60 percent to 70 percent of the 240 manual snow course
measurements that are being made on or about April 1st are showing bare
ground, no snow.
And I just wanted to show you, to give you some perspective, this was
the – the black is the 1977 measurement that in that area was the previous
driest on record. The yellow is last year`s measurement. Green is the
average snow depth at this location. And the very top of this pole is the
maximum, 150 inches of snow depth that we`ve recorded in all these past
This is bad news in terms of the state`s water picture.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That man is the chief of snow surveys for the California
state government. The bright side is that this year his job is much easier
than usual. Nothing to measure.
But it`s also much, much scarier. What he`s talking about there, with
the historical measurements he had it marked on the snow stick, he took
care to point out that bottom one there, what happened in 1977, which is a
legendary year, that has probably been the worst that anybody could imagine
The only thing California has been through in its history is a state
that is as bad as what we`re going through right now, at least approaching
it, that previous drought in 1976 and 1977. The governor of the state of
California during that 1976/1977 drought was the same guy who is governor
today – less hair, same guy. Left side of your screen, that`s Jerry
Brown, governor in 1977 during the last worst most terrible drought. On
the right, Governor Jerry Brown today, dealing with the only drought that
has been as bad as that old one. Same guy.
And back then, in the `70s, everybody thought it was extreme, when the
state policy for dealing with that huge drought was to tell every water
district in the state, you need to come up with your own water saving
measures for your district and every district tasked to do it. So, in
every district it was different across the state, every district had to
come up with some amount by which people need to mandatorily cut back their
water usage and everybody that was incredibly draconian.
This time around, California has decided that that approach they took
in the `70s would not be nearly enough for dealing with how bad it is this
time. And so, today, for the first time in the history of the state,
Governor Jerry Brown issued a statewide mandate, statewide mandate for
reductions in water use, by a lot.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA: One thing we know is we`re standing
on dry grass, and we should be standing in five feet of snow. That`s the
way it has been. We`re in an historic drought, and that demands
For that reason, I`m initiating an executive order mandating
substantial water reduction across our state. This executive order which
I`ve signed today – it`s long, it covers a number of different details.
In fact, I`ve never seen one quite like it before.
It`s going to save water by mandating real reductions in a number of
areas. It`s going to affect golf courses, people`s lawns, universities,
campuses, all sorts of institutions, vegetation on our roads and highways.
It affects all of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Nobody knows how well people are going to comply with this
new mandatory order from the state. Again, this has never been done
before. But they mean it when they say mandatory. There`s going to be
enforcement issues here.
And a lot of the low hanging fruit, honestly, is already picked in
terms of conservation. This drought is in its fourth year, likely heading
into its fifth year. And people have already been conserving water pretty
aggressively in California.
So, getting further big reductions is going to change people`s lives
in California, because it`s going to be hard. But more than 93 percent of
that state is now rated as being in severe drought, extreme drought, or
exceptional drought, more than 93 percent of the state. When the chair of
the state water resources control board saw the snow pack numbers start to
come in, earlier this month, her statement about the snow pack, I quote,
And so, California is pulling out all the stops, doing everything they
can think to do. To tell you, full disclosure, my dad works on California
water issues. He always has my whole life. I did not talk to him about
this story today as I was prepping for air.
I do have to admit that my dad was the one who sent me the thing about
the hippos, Because he`s my dad. He`s adorable on this April Fool`s Day.
Come on. You know your dad would do the same thing.
MADDOW: So, we recently reported on a bill moving at lightning speed
through the Republican controlled legislature in the great state of Ohio.
It was a provision stuffed into a transportation bill that appeared to be a
voting rights nightmare. It appeared to be crafted specifically to try to
prevent young people in the state from voting, specifically college kids.
It told every college kid in the state who`s legally allowed to vote
in Ohio they can no longer register to vote in Ohio unless they also
register their car in Ohio, and give a new Ohio driver`s license – two
things that happen to cost a ton of money.
Ohio Republicans stuck that into a transportation bill and sent it to
the Ohio Governor John Kasich`s desk where it appeared it would be signed
Democrats have been urging Governor Kasich to veto this de facto new
student poll tax, asking that he use his power to line item veto that
specific provision in the bill. It seems like a long shot when Democrats
were calling for it.
But, today, Republican Governor John Kasich said, OK. John Kasich
decided he would not go for the new student poll tax. He, in fact, used
his line item veto to take that provision out of the law. He wrote in a
signing message that striking that line from the bill was in the public
We talk a lot on this show about red states rolling back voting rights
across the country. This is a case where a red state legislature tried to
do that. But a red state governor stood in their way. I have to say, I
did not see that coming. Neat.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: In July, 2008, the longest serving Republican senator in the
history of the United States, Ted Stevens of Alaska, was hit with a seven-
count federal felony indictment on corruption charges. He was indicted in
July of 2008, in October 2008, he was convicted. That was on a Monday in
late October. Then the following Tuesday, eight days later, eight days
after his conviction, he lost his reelection bid.
But then, just as he was about to be sentenced on those corruption
charges, the Justice Department made a stunning announcement. This was
actually six years ago tonight. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: It`s a stunning reversal in such a high-profile case. The
Justice Department concluded that misconduct by prosecutors was serious
enough to justify a new trial for Ted Stevens, but that the government will
instead drop all the charges. Attorney General Eric Holder after assigning
a new team to examine the case concluded that prosecutors repeatedly
withheld key evidence from the Stevens defense team, which could have been
used to challenge government witnesses.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The Justice Department basically took it all back. They
vacated the conviction that they had won against Ted Stevens. They dropped
all charges against him. It was a disaster.
Justice Department`s public integrity section just botched it. They
concealed evidence during the trial which is a cardinal sin for a
prosecutor. That disaster led the Justice Department to take apart their
corruption unit. They re-staffed it, they re-vamped it.
Since then, they`ve had a much better department. That union
successfully oversaw the trial of Arizona Republican Congressman Rick
Renzi, who was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison for
corruption and money laundering.
They also successfully oversaw the case against Republican Governor
Bob McDonnell of Virginia. Governor McDonnell convicted of 11 felony
corruption charges this past September. He`s been sentenced to two years
And now, as of tonight, they`re prosecuting the latest politician to
fall under federal indictment. Tonight a grand jury in Newark, New Jersey,
has indicted a sitting Democratic senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, 14
charges of corruption, including bribery, conspiracy and making false
The federal indictment alleges that between January 2006 and January
2013, so a seven-year period, Senator Menendez accepted almost $1 million
in gifts and campaign contributions from a contributor who was also a
longtime friend in South Florida. The indictment says he took those gifts,
took that money in exchange for using his power in the Senate to help that
The indictment also alleges that Senator Menendez used his influence
to support visa applications for several of the donor`s girlfriends, and
one of the girlfriends` sisters. The Justice Department says Senator
Menendez, quote, “allegedly engaged in advocacy for this businessman, all
the way up to the highest levels of the U.S. government, including meeting
with the U.S. cabinet secretary, contacting a U.S. ambassador, meeting with
the heads of executive agencies and other senior executive officials, and
soliciting other U.S. senators, all in order to assist this businessman`s
personal and pecuniary interests.”
Justice Department today also indicted the Democratic donor and
businessman at the center of this alleged bribery scheme. He`s an eye
doctor named Salomon Melgen.
So, that`s actually kind of nice for a change. Just that the alleged
briber, and the alleged bribee have both been indicted. That is rare, but
nice to see, since it is a two-way street.
Senator Menendez has aggressively maintained his innocence as the
allegations have swirled around him for months. He said he`s done nothing
wrong. He says this doctor is just a longtime family friend.
Late tonight, Senator Menendez held a defiant, “I`m not going
anywhere” press conference in Newark. One of the odd things I have to tell
you about this press conference is he held it in front of a crowd of
supporters. But their cheering and applause for him mostly just seemed to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: I`m outraged that prosecutors
at the Justice Department were tricked into starting this investigation
three years ago, with false allegations by those who have a political
motive to silence me. But I will not be silenced. I`m confident –
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
I`m confident at the end of the day, I will be vindicated, and they
will be exposed.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
And I – this is a press conference, so I appreciate if you would just
withhold. I appreciate it. Thank you.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: They will not be silenced either. They will cheer for you.
Even though it creeps you out. It`s weird, right?
Senator Menendez in his statement today said he would ask people to
hold their judgment and he said, quote, “remember all the other times when
prosecutors got it wrong?” Senator Menendez said he won`t resign his
Senate seat, although it should be noted tonight that New Jersey`s largest
newspaper, “The Star Ledger”, has already called on him to step down
because of the indictment.
“The Star-Ledger” writing in an editorial tonight, quote, “Menendez:
resign and spare us the drama.”
If he did resign, that would, though, entail a whole new kind of drama
of a very interesting sort. And that story is next. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MENENDEZ: I`m angry because prosecutors at the Justice Department
don`t know the difference between friendship and corruption, and have
chosen to twist my duties as a senator, and my friendship, into something
that is improper. They are dead wrong. And I am confident that they will
be proven so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez a couple of hours ago tonight
insisting he`s innocent after the Justice Department dropped a 14-count
felony corruption indictment on his head earlier today.
Joining us is John Stanton, D.C. bureau chief for “BuzzFeed News”.
Mr. Stanton, it`s lovely to see you. Thank you for being here.
JOHN STANTON, BUZZFEED NEWS: It`s good to be here.
MADDOW: So, Bob Menendez tonight says he`s not going anywhere. He`s
been defiant about the prospect of these charges all along. Now, he`s
defiant about the charges.
Does he have a choice? Does he actually have to step down? Can the
Democrats, for example, make him step down if they want him to?
STANTON: No, they can`t make him step down. Theoretically he could
be maybe impeached. You know, Michael Grimm did the same thing a couple of
months ago, and he had things with the Justice Department and he stepped
down. I think that is certainly a potential option here for Senator
A bit of a difference here is that Senator Menendez generally is not
somebody who`s going to give up. He has been fighting this case now for
quite a while. I think he`s known for several years that the department is
So, the idea that he will step down immediately is unlikely. But I
could see it happening, you know, in the next few weeks, or months,
especially if DOJ is sort of able to marshal more evidence against him in
the next coming period.
MADDOW: Yes, think about the precedence on this. Michael Grimm
pleads guilty, and then he`s got to go. Previous New Jersey Democratic
senator named Harrison Williams, like in 1980, Abscam was it, he pled – he
ended up fighting, trying to stay in the Senate while they brought bribery
charges against him. He got convicted and then expelled from the Senate.
John Ensign seemed like he was maybe on the bubble in terms of what
was going to happen to him. He ended up resigning rather than face the
So, there`s no clear precedent on when they go. But if he stays,
there is the question of all the power that he`s got in the Senate. I
mean, he`s the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. He is
going to step down presumably from that position in the Foreign Relations
Committee himself at least?
STANTON: He has. Yes, he has already.
MADDOW: So, the Republicans have a rule about that. Republicans say
if you`re under indictment, I love that they have to have a rule, you can`t
be in leadership, and you can`t be – you can`t have certain high-ranking
committee positions. Democrats don`t have that rule, but he did that
STANTON: Right. You know, I think everyone expected him to step down
with this. I think also, the – Harry Reid and Amy Klobuchar are both
implicated as sort of people he attempted to manipulate as part of his –
this alleged corruption and these schemes to help this donor.
There`s absolutely no, you know, question that they did anything
wrong. The names ended up on the indictment of corruption charges.
Those are things in a place like the Senate that is really built on
personal relationships and people`s ability to trust one another, cut
deals, is really going to hurt him a lot. He`s going to have a lot of
trouble, frankly, finding a lot of friends when he shows up.
As my friend Jackie Kucinich sort of quipped, he`s the guy that`s
going to have to sit by himself at lunch, when they come back in a week and
a half because nobody`s going to want to be seen with him.
MADDOW: Are any Democrats supporting him since the indictment came
STANTON: Cory Booker has come out very strongly for him. You know,
Harry Reid is sort of big – is a little bit lukewarm. Dick Durbin, the
whip, has been very noncommittal and said it was good for him to step down
from his position.
I think most of the Democrats in the Senate are looking at this and
the amount of evidence in the indictment, and are very, very nervous about
what`s happening. They`re trying to keep a bit of a distance from him
MADDOW: John Stanton, D.C. bureau chief for “BuzzFeed News” – great
to see you, my friend. Thanks.
STANTON: Good to be here.
MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead, including some Debunktion.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: (AUDIO GAP) when the news has been really weird, just day
after day of stories that might be April Fool`s jokes, or just unbelievable
but true, we can only use a trip to the junction of Debunktion. That`s
MADDOW: Debunktion junction, what`s my function?
This is a really good one. It concerns Hillary Clinton and the
beltway fury/excitement over the content/existence of her e-mails while she
was secretary of state. You have probably heard that – this is sort of
the next chapter of that furor, Hillary Clinton has been summoned to answer
questions in front of the Republican-led House Benghazi panel, which you
have probably also heard she`s refusing to meet with them. She`s refusing
to answer their questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA PERINO, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: First of all,
Hillary Clinton is not answering any questions to anybody of any sort.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: She will not answer any questions.
So is that true or false? Hillary Clinton is being called to appear
in front of the Benghazi panel, but she`s refusing to answer their
questions. Is that true or is that false?
MADDOW: False. But not only false, it`s weird. Benghazi panel guys
have demanded a meeting with Hillary Clinton, yes. They have demanded a
private meeting behind closed doors with her. She told them she would be
happy to meet with them, she told them months ago. She said she would be
delighted to appear at a hearing open to the American public.
So, this is really weird, right? You would think it would be the
other way around. You would think they would want to pound the table and
score political points against Hillary Clinton in front of all the cameras
at an open hearing and she would want a private, behind closed doors thing.
It`s actually the opposite. She wants a public hearing. They want to
meet with her privately.
Keep in mind this is the same panel that kicked and screamed and
finally given access to a selection of Secretary Clinton`s e-mails in
February, emails which up until that point had remained been closely
guarded, even though a fairly wide swath of people had seen them, Clinton,
her team, her lawyers, the State Department.
But then 300 of those e-mails were given to the House Republicans
Benghazi panel. And as soon as they got them, look, they`re in “The New
York Times” – senior government officials offered descriptions of the e-
mails in exchange for anonymity.
Well, now that same panel wants a private, for our eyes only meeting
with Hillary Clinton – no public, no cameras. Very interesting.
Now, for the record, I`m not accusing that panel of leaking Hillary
Clinton`s e-mails the last time they got something from her. Of course,
that would be rude. I`m pointing out the timing with vigor, however.
And it would seem to me if this same panel was given a private meeting
with Hillary Clinton, according to established historical precedent,
there`s a chance some parts of that meeting, maybe even the selectively
edited, unflattering parts of that meeting with Hillary Clinton would
maybe, possibly be made public – in ways that made them look good but were
out of context, because there wasn`t cameras and public.
I`m just saying, I`m just pointing out the historical precedent here.
But the fact that they`re saying she won`t talk to them is deeply, deeply
And that does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Good evening, Lawrence.
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