The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 04/21/15
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So it is one of the things where it can be self-
fulfilling prophesies as opposed to 80 percent of the television that goes
up it fails within the first two years.
CHRIS HAYES, ALL IN: That`s right. Most stuff fails. That`s the
fact about culture. That`s the fact about restaurants, the fact about
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) makes my life.
HAYES: John Remick (ph), great to have you, man. Always a pleasure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
HAYES: All right. That is ALL IN for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, man.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining with us this hour.
And now, may I present the newest player in high-end American
presidential politics. Behold.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: In case it`s not working on you the way it is working on me,
it`s supposed to make you want to buy high end outfits for when you your
friends, your sexiest friends, get together and play polo, I looked it up,
it is like hockey but on horses.
Some, obviously, maybe looks for fancy clothes after the polo match.
I`m not exactly sure how much clothing you wear while you`re playing polo.
But this ad is for a real store called Elegante Polo. They`re located in
West Palm Beach, Florida.
And that is their accent on the name of the store. Not mine. It`s
not elegant polo, which is what I thought it was for a long time today.
It`s not elegant polo. It`s Elegante Polo, because polo.
Elegante Polo specializes in luxury polo apparel. And as of today,
we know that the good folks behind Elegante Polo have just filed paperwork
to set up a brand new super PAC to support their favorite potential
presidential hopeful for 2016.
One guess as to which presidential candidate Elegante Polo has
decided to throw their luxury polo apparel fortune behind. One guess.
Ding, ding, ding.
Yes, “The Washington Post” reporting today that a new super PAC was
set up last week to support Donald Trump`s potential run for president,
because if he needs something, it`s definitely other people`s money. The
official name of the super PAC supporting Donald Trump for president –
it`s kind of sounds like the rest of them. It`s like Citizens for
something good USA or something.
But the e-mail address of the guy who filed the paperwork to register
the pro-Donald Trump for president super PAC is the guy`s name
EquestriansforTrump.com. There it is on the filing.
These are the equestrians. The guys who started the equestrians for
Donald Trump super PAC is the guy who also owns the Elegante Polo store.
Incidentally, he also personally districted this music video. So, he`s a
That`s one quite remarkable bit of presidential hopeful super PAC
news in the last 24 hours. The last day of reporting, right?
The other big piece of presidential contending news today is about
Jeb Bush. Jeb Bush officially has not declared his candidacy for
president, but he obviously is seriously campaigning for the nomination and
he has been for months. Jeb Bush is reportedly – reportedly going to
outsource a lot of duties of a traditional presidential campaign to the
super PAC that is supporting him. The official Jeb Bush campaign, once
it`s officially declared, will, of course, have limits on how much money
they can raise from donors. They`ll be forced to disclose publicly who the
donors are. That`s the campaign.
The super PAC, however, they can raise as much money as they want
from whoever, literally as much as they want, no limits. And the donors to
the super PAC have the advantage of being largely secret. So that`s
obviously a very enticing way of shifting the responsibilities in your
campaign. The more the super PAC does, the less the campaign does, the
more you can run without constraint.
Now, of course, technically, and by technically, I mean, according to
the laws of the United States, Jeb Bush is not supposed to coordinate any
kind of campaigning activity at all with his super PAC, but according to
new reporting today, the Bush campaign is apparently going to trust the
super PAC with running his campaign, really running almost all of it.
The “A.P.” reports today that Jeb Bush`s super PAC, which already
raised tens of millions of unlimited and undisclosed dollars, it will be
the super PAC that runs the TV advertising, the direct mail advertising for
the campaign, the data gathering for the campaign, the phone banking, even
the get-out-the-vote effort on election day for a potential Jeb Bush for
candidate presidential campaign.
So, that`s all apparently going to be done by the super PAC. All
apparently done without any direct coordination whatsoever between the
official Bush campaign and the Bush super PAC, which will do all that
stuff. Any coordination, of course, would be against the law. So I`m sure
The other bit of news involving millions or potentially billions of
dollars and our presidential nominating process is the reporting over the
last 24 hours that the two most watched guys whose endorsements are perhaps
the most coveted thing in Republican politics, those two guys may have
started to express a preference in the nominating process for a certain
governor from Wisconsin named Scott Walker, Charles and David Koch appeared
to have a favorite.
We talked about this as breaking news late last night. More today
from “The New York Times”, quote, “On Monday, at a fundraising event in
Manhattan, for the New York state Republican Party, David Koch told donors
that he and his brother who oversee one of the biggest private political
organizations in the country believe that Scott Walker will be the
Quote, “When the primaries are over and Scott Walker gets the
nomination,” Mr. Koch told the crowd, the audience and fellow donors
laughed and applauded.
So, the Republican primary campaign for president of the United
States, it has been underway for months already. We have many months to
go. But we are getting a better and better look, a more and more acute
look at what the primary process is going to be like on the Republican
For the Republican would-be candidates, the race so far – you know,
is about the guy who runs the polo apparel store and the unlimited money
super PAC taking over the Jeb Bush campaign, which puts the Jeb Bush
campaign in the position of being vestigial rump organization. The
billionaire Koch brothers giving a nod to Scott Walker at a donor party,
and that being potentially determinative in terms of the nomination at
least from a Republican perspective.
So, that is the tenor of the Republican presidential nominating race.
That`s what it`s like on the Republican side right now. It`s a public
unapologetic race toward not just money but toward unlimited money in the
most prominent billionaires picking the candidate and then running their
campaign. That`s what`s going on on the Republican side.
On the Democratic side, the tone and the public face of the
frontrunner candidate for President Hillary Clinton couldn`t be more
different right now. That`s not to say that Hillary Clinton doesn`t also
have lots of wealthy donors behind her or that she`s not wealthy herself,
but the message her campaign is trying to send – the steps that they have
taken so far with her as a candidate are not signaling that she`s trying to
support the luxury polo barons of America. She`s publicly and
ostentatiously positioning her campaign in an opposite way.
Take, for example, the news of her hiring a well-known former
financial regulator, a well-known thorn in the side of Wall Street. A guy
named Gary Gensler to be the chief financial officer for her campaign.
Gary Gensler, just for context here, Gary Gensler and Elizabeth Warren were
two key players in creating the post-financial crisis regulations that Wall
Street absolutely hates.
So, picking Gary Gensler, Hillary Clinton picking Gary Gensler. I
mean, this is someone who you might expect a hypothetical Elizabeth Warren
campaign to hire, but it`s Hillary Clinton who is making news for having
just hired him at the highest levels of her campaign.
Also, “Time” magazine recently decided to name Elizabeth Warren as
one of the most influential person in the country in that big stump thing
they do every year where they name all the influential people in the world.
More interesting than picking her is the person they got to write about
Elizabeth Warren and what a progressive champion she was Hillary Clinton.
Hillary Clinton wrote a testament to Elizabeth Warren, calling her a
“champion of working families and a scourge of special interests.
Elizabeth Warren never lets us forget that the work of taming Wall Street`s
irresponsible risk taking and reforming our financial system is far from
As a side note, sort of proves the point, I think, the person “Time”
magazine got to write about how create the Koch brothers are in the same
issue of the same magazine? Writing about Elizabeth Warren is Hillary
Clinton. Writing about the Koch brothers is presidential candidate Rand
So, in presidential politics, the two parties right now are running
as fast as they can in opposite directions. The Republican Party right now
is all about openly courting the billionaires. The Democrats, specifically
the person who is most likely to become the Democratic nominee for
president, Democrats are doing everything they can to send an anti-big
money, populist, anti-wall street message to appeal to middle class voters,
to be essentially more like the hypothetical Elizabeth Warren presidential
campaign that doesn`t seem like it`s happening.
Democrats in the absence of Elizabeth Warren actually running for
president are trying to sate that need among a Democratic electorate by
making themselves into the Elizabeth Warren Party right now.
And that is why it was so striking to see President Obama say this
today about Senator Elizabeth Warren.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I love Elizabeth.
We`re allies on a whole host of issues, but she`s wrong on this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama today at a round table discussion moderated
by our own Chris Matthews, the president there making the case that
Elizabeth Warren specifically, along with other Democrats who have been
criticizing the big trade deal that the White House has been negotiating
for months. President Obama making the case today that Elizabeth Warren
and those Democrats who criticized the deal, are, in his words, “wrong”.
The White House is facing stiff opposition from the progressive wing
of the Democratic Party on this issue. They say this trade deal will
further damage the manufacturing sector in the U.S. It will definitely
hurt union and the working classes more broadly. The White House has been
aggressively mounting a full court press against those criticisms, trying
to get those Democratic dissenters on their side on this issue.
Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who is widely thought of one of the more,
if not the most progressive members of President Obama`s cabinet, he has
come out very vocally in support of this trade deal and the White House.
They`ve rolled out Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on this.
Secretary of defense handles war and stuff. He has come out publicly
to say the trade deal, what they call the TPP, this trade deal, according
to Ash Carter, is a top priority for him at the Defense Department.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASHTON CARTER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The TPP makes strong strategic
sense, and it`s probably one of the most important parts of the rebalance.
That`s why it is won such bipartisan support. In fact, you may not expect
to hear this from the secretary of defense, but in terms of rebalancing its
broadest sense, TPP is as important to me as another aircraft carrier.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Right. I wouldn`t expect you to say that.
Secretary of defense coming out to say this trade deal is as
important to him as another aircraft carrier. That`s a striking thing to
say. I mean, he`s the defense secretary, and right now specifically, he is
getting a ton of use out of his aircraft carriers.
This is the USS Carl Vinson. The USS Carl Vinson is a U.S. Navy
super carrier. Until last week, Carl Vinson was deployed in the Persian
Gulf in support of the military operation against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Carl Vinson had a six-month development. It`s now heading back to the
The Carl Vinson was to be relieved by this guy, the USS Theodore
Roosevelt, which was deployed to the Persian Gulf to join that fight
against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, but as of this week, the Theodore Roosevelt
is being rerouted, pulled out of that fight, effectively, and instead
taking the 6,000 sailors and the its 60-something war planes and it`s
heading toward Yemen.
And we talked about this on the show last night. There it is right
now a huge contingent of U.S. military power being dispatched to the body
of water surrounding Yemen. In that part of the world, there are currently
two U.S. mine sweepers, three amphibious ships with more than 2,000 U.S.
marines on them, two destroyers, and now, a guided missile cruiser is being
added to the fleet as well as the aircraft carrier, the USS Theodore
Roosevelt, nine vessels in more than 9,000 American military personnel all
stacked up in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Yemen, right now.
And why are they all there? According to lots of unnamed sources and
lots of media reports over the last few days, all of those ships and the
huge number of American personnel are there because – Iran. Because Iran
may be planning to ship weapons into Yemen to the rebels in Yemen that Iran
is supporting. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia don`t want those Iranian weapons
shipments to go through. That`s what we know unofficially. And that`s how
they explain unofficially why there has been a huge U.S. military build up
off the coast of that country that is in the middle of a bloody civil war.
That`s the unofficial explanation. If you ask American officials on
the record, though, why that huge contingent of the U.S. military power is
there right now, they have a much different and much more complicated
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The principle purpose of
this military deployment is to protect the freedom of navigation and the
free flow of commerce. There`s a U.S. military presence in the Gulf of
Aden to ensure the frequent navigation and the free flow of commerce.
REPORTER: What is it that threatens the freedom of commerce in the
Red Sea and the Gulf?
EARNEST: I wouldn`t go beyond, you know, what we`ve said about the
need to protect the freedom of navigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Freedom of – so, we`re not there for anything you might
have heard about trying to stop those Iranian ships full of weapons. We`re
not there for any war-related purposes whatsoever. Those 9,000 plus U.S.
troops and the two destroyers and the two mine sweepers and the amphibious
ships just full of marines and the guided missile cruiser and the aircraft
carrier, they`re there to protect the free flow of commerce and navigation.
Nothing having – I don`t know what you`re talking about with the
Iran stuff in this – I don`t know. Navigation and commerce.
The Defense Department declined to speculate today on what would
happen if during the course of assuring the free flow of navigation and
commerce, U.S. personnel ended up intercepting Iranian weapons on board
those Iranian ships that are steaming right for them in the Gulf of Aden.
Would U.S. personnel on board any of the nine U.S. warships that are parked
at the Gulf of Aden right now, would they board those Iranian vessels if
they thought they were Iranian weapons on board and they wanted to stop
those Iranian weapons from getting to Yemen? Would U.S. troops board
Iranian ships? What if it starts a shooting war between the U.S. and Iran?
My colleague Chris Matthews in his interview with President Obama
today got the president to weigh in specifically on that, and on his
current fight with his own party. It was great. That`s next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: My friend Chris Matthews had the exclusive interview of the
day today with President Obama. Chris started by asking the president
what`s going on with this fast, big new deployment of U.S. troops and U.S.
ships to Yemen. Are U.S. forces about to get into some kind of
confrontation with ships from Iran off the coast of Yemen?
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Mr. President, we`re all watching what
is going on with the Iranian navy. How do we avoid – it seems like the
old Cuban missile crisis where we try to send signals back and forth. What
signal are you sending as commander-in-chief to the Iranians?
OBAMA: Well, we`ve been actually straightforward to them. Right
now, their ships are in international waters. There`s a reason why we keep
some of our ships in Persian Gulf region. That is to make sure we maintain
freedom of navigation.
And what we`ve said to them is, is that if there are weapons
delivered to factions within Yemen that could threaten navigation, that`s a
problem. And we`re not sending them obscure messages. We send them very
direct messages about it.
My hope is generally that we can settle down the situation in Yemen.
That`s always been a fractious country with at lot of problems. It`s very
poor. And right now, there are a lot of people inside of Yemen suffering.
What we need to do is bring all the parties together and find a
political arrangement. It is not solved by having another proxy war fought
inside of Yemen and, you know, we`ve indicated to the Iranians that they
need to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
MATTHEWS: How do you keep a coordination with the Egyptians and
Saudi navies? They also are in the area. They might engage with the
Iranians. How do you avoid a confrontation there?
OBAMA: You know, ultimately, when it comes to the seas, we are
obviously the dominant force, and we`re coordinating closely with all of
our allies in the region, sending a message that, you know, rather than
another conflict in the region, we need to settle this now.
MATTHEWS: What about the Iranians and the Russians? They just
conducted this – they`re going to buy the S-300s. They`re going to use
surface-to-air missiles. Doesn`t that put us the situation and the
Israelis in the situation where if they do go ahead and weaponize their
nuclear program, they will have a fantastic defense system against any
attack on their nuclear facilities?
OBAMA: Well, you know, this is a sale that`s been pending for six
years. In fact, the Russians stopped it at my request as we were putting
together the sanctions that ultimately brought the Iranians to the table.
You know, it`s of concern. We object to it, particularly because
right now, we`re still negotiating to make sure that they don`t get a
nuclear weapon. But as I said before, Chris, we have to keep this in
perspective. Our defense budget`s just a little under $600 billion.
Theirs is a little over $17 billion. Even if they`ve got some air defense
systems, you know, if we had to, we could penetrate them.
Now my goal is not to resolve conflict and tensions in the region
through more war; my goal is to make sure that we are able to negotiate a
deal that we can verify, that ensures that Israel is safe and ensures that
their – our – neighbors like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries are safe
and that there`s not a nuclear arms race in the region.
But ultimately it`s going to be up to the Iranians to make sure that
they – that they come to the table, prepared to memorialize what has
already been agreed to. There are details of that to be worked out. They
could walk away over these next three months. But if, in fact, we get a
deal that the world community can verify and trust, then that`s the best
It`s not going to eliminate all the other conflicts that we may have
with Iran, including what we`re seeing with respect to Yemen or what`s
happening in Syria. But what it does do is create a climate and an
atmosphere in which potentially we can start lessening some of the tensions
MATTHEWS: Another area I know you care about, I certainly do, is
Africa and on your feelings about watching those refugees, 950 people
drowning, just trying to find a life. And then also Kenya, a country we
all care about, very moderate country, pro-Western, getting terrorized as
college kids, who are the hope of their families, getting killed because
Are you going to still go to Kenya?
OBAMA: I am going to still go to Kenya.
Look, it`s a heartbreaking situation. There`s a lot of tumult and
chaos around the world right now. And part of our goal, as the world`s
leading superpower, is to work with partner countries, to try to resolve
conflicts, to be ruthless in going after terrorism, but we`re not going to
do that by ourselves and we`re not going to do it just by deploying more
Marines in every country that has these problems. We`ve got to build up
their capacity in these areas so that they`re not recruiting centers and
safe havens for terrorist activity.
We`re seeing some success; in other areas, we`re still having
problems. Somalia is actually improving from where it was 20 years ago.
But it`s still not where it needs to be and it still has these hotbeds of
terrorist activity that spill over into Kenya.
When it comes to the refugee problem from Libya, again, that results
from the fact that you have tribal conflicts and, in some cases, factions
or religious differences inside of Libya that are creating chaos.
But Libya actually has a lot of oil, has a lot of gas, a relatively
small population. They could be a successful country. So what we`re
seeing in a lot of these areas is failures of governance, governments that
have no civil society; they`re not creating the kinds of economic policies
that work for people. And our solutions are going to be ones that we have
to shape with the world community, with the region and some of it`s going
to take time.
But I always tell people we have to maintain some perspective on
this. The Middle East and North Africa are going through changes that we
haven`t seen in our generation. I think the Islamic world is going through
a process where they have to isolate and push out the kind of extremism
that we`ve seen expressed by ISIL. And that`s a generational project.
What our job is in the meantime is to make sure that we are
protecting Americans, we`re protecting our interests, that we`re
maintaining things like freedom of navigation and that we`re partnering
with the best elements of those communities in order to be successful.
It`s going to take some time, but I remind people that you know,
there actually is probably less war and less violence around the world
today than there might have been 30-40 years ago. It doesn`t make it any
less painful. But things can get better. We just have to be vigilant and
we have to have strong partners.
MADDOW: It`s all about freedom of navigation off the coast of Yemen,
apparently. Chris Matthews today in the interview with President Obama.
It was at the same event today where President Obama also specifically
addressed a big fight coming up in Congress over an international trade
And it turns out politically to be a big fight between the president
and his own party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I love Elizabeth. We`re allies on a host of issues, but
she`s wrong on this.
Now understandably, folks in labor and some progressives are
suspicious generally because of the experiences they saw in the past, but
my point is, don`t fight the last war. Wait and see what we actually have
in this deal before you make those judgments.
I would not be doing this trade deal if I did not think it was good
for the middle class, and when you hear folks make a lot of suggestions
about how bad this trade deal is, and when you dig into the facts, they are
wrong. I am happy to debate this and I`m sure Jerry and others are based
on the actual facts.
This is the most progressive framework for trade we have ever had.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Great interview round table today hosted by colleague Chris
Matthews today with President Obama.
On that trade bill tomorrow, the house is going to vote on that bill
that has put the president at odds with the progressive wing, the Elizabeth
Warren wing of the Democratic Party. The expectations is that bill will
pass the House. Unless something unexpected happens, it will likely pass
the Senate as well. That will not OK the trade deal, but it will allow the
administration go ahead negotiating it in a way that will not stop the
This is going to be very interesting policy fight as it keeps
unfolding both tomorrow and beyond. It is a policy fight. It is also a
political fight within the Democratic Party, and the Democrats are a party
that isn`t really used to having internal fights anymore. Nobody really
even knows if Democrats are any good at internal fights anymore. We`re
about to see it on the trade deal and more – Democratic presidential
primary or not.
All right. We`ve got lots more to come tonight. Please stay with
MADDOW: NBC News made an announcement about something that will
benefit you directly, particularly during the news week due to happen next
week. As we`ve got that announcement, that news ahead, which we`re very
excited about in the building.
Plus, we`ve got our exclusive report tonight still ahead on a new
policy that has just been invented in Oklahoma. Bu it is something poised
to spread across the country. It is truly out of nowhere. It is truly
brand new and has never been done before.
It is a fascinating story. It`s exclusive to us and that`s ahead.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: You know what`s a bad day at work? A bad at work it`s when
you are attorney general of the United States, and you have to send out a
memo like this one because it`s necessary. This is an actual DOJ memo.
Quoting from it, “I want to reiterate to all department personnel,
including attorneys and law enforcement officers that they are prohibited
from soliciting, procuring, or accepting commercial sex.”
So just in case it was unclear, Justice Department personnel, no
hookers. No hookers for you, despite how you might have been comporting
yourself in the past. Yes!
That reminder was necessary especially at a Justice Department agency
called the DEA. The drug enforcement administration. Since at least 2001
we now know, and the DOJ now admits, DEA agents had been engaging in what
the justice department`s inspector general artfully termed sex parties.
According to an inspector general report released late last month,
DEA agents stationed in the nation of Columbia made a habit of attending
sex parties that were arranged for them at their U.S. government leased
But the really nice thing these sex parties was that the prostitutes
making the sex parties possible didn`t cost them a thing, because the
prostitutes were paid for by local drug cartels, usually.
In one instance, a DEA official allegedly solicited prostitutes for
his goodbye party. And he did pay for them. He paid them with U.S.
government money because come on! It was the guy`s goodbye party.
The report also found that three DEA supervisors accepted money,
gifts and weapons from drug cartel members.
There was also the issue that during the sex parties the agents, U.S.
government issued laptops and blackberries were left just sort of lying
around in the open.
None of these things with, not the prostitutes nor the friendliness
with the cartel bosses, nor the gifts, nor the security risk with the
laptops and the blackberries, none of those things were reported up the
chain to DEA supervisors in D.C.
Well, after the sex party`s I.G. report came out last month, the head
of the DEA, Michelle Leonhart, was hauled before Congress and asked to
One thing that proved hard to explain was the fact that even after
the facts were known about what these agents had been doing, none of the
agents involved in the sex parties thing had received anything worse than a
Director Michelle Leonhart told Congress that there was nothing she
could do about that. After the hearing, more than half the oversight
committee, Democrats and Republicans, called for Michelle Leonhart to step
down. Today, they got their wish.
Michelle Leonhart has been at the DEA in high ranking position since
2004, as best as we can tell. But now, she`s gone. Or she`s at least
going. The Justice Department says that DEA Director Michelle Leonhart
will retire in mid-May, which means that one of Eric Holder`s last jobs as
attorney general of the United States, in addition to sending out memos
reminding people not to solicit prostitutes, one of his last jobs will be
suggesting somebody to lead the agency that made the “no hookers” memo a
Happy trails. Thanks for dealing with the hooker problem on your way
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PROF. MICHAEL COPELAND, EAST CENTRAL UNIVERSITY: It started from my
experience scuba diving. I just remember that is a way of accidental –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Accidental death is what he says there.
It turns out there`s an undotted line between scuba diving and a
state that is trying something so unsettling. It really ought to be front
page news everywhere, as far as I can tell. And it might end up being
front page news as soon as next week for the whole country. It`s a very
strange story out of one specific state. And that story is next.
Please stay right there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have breaking news in the FOX News Channel.
The individual mandate has been ruled unconstitutional.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said the individual mandate cannot be
sustained under Congress`s power to regulation commerce. That means the
mandate is gone. Chief Justice John Roberts writing this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was a fun day. That was the day when CNN and the FOX
News Channel both reported that the Supreme Court had struck down
Obamacare. Obamacare is dead.
They were wrong. The Supreme Court had done no such thing. Which
made for very exciting, confusing, awkward TV over the course of that
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, Shannon, we`re looking at this and
trying – we talked about the fog of law. To our viewers at home, be
patient with us as we work through this. Megyn, you`re seeing something
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wait, we`re getting conflicting information.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re getting conflicting information. We`re
getting conflicting information. If you follow the SCOTUSBlog.com, which
is, it covers the high court blog, they say despite what Shannon just read,
that the individual mandate is surviving.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Oh. Good times. That was the day SCOTUSblog.com saved FOX
When the good folks at FOX finally read what SCOTUS Blog was
reporting about the Supreme Court decision, instead of listening to their
own incorrect on-air reports. Those were good times.
That was June 2012. Well, now, three years later, we`re about to get
another couple of blockbuster cases at the Supreme Court next week. It is,
therefore, exciting for us in this building that in addition to the
excellent no one`s better justice reporting from NBC`s chief justice
correspondent Pete Williams, NBC has also just signed on Tom Goldstein from
SCOTUS Blog as NBC`s Supreme Court analyst.
So, that is very, very exciting to have that kind of reporting fire
power focus right here in this building as the Supreme Court heads toward
two more huge cases that have the potential to hugely change some
controversial policy matters in the country.
Next week on Tuesday, the court will hear the big national case on
same-sex marriage, which potentially could legalize same-sex marriage
nationwide, or do the opposite. Then the day after that, the court is
going to hear the lethal injection case. They`re ruling in that case has
the potential to change the death penalty nationwide.
But the specific case they have taken up on the death penalty is one
from Oklahoma. Oklahoma made itself very famous in the past year for a
badly screwed up execution in which the prisoner they were trying to kill
regained consciousness in the middle of the execution. He personally ended
up trying to help the execution team get into his veins.
The thing went on for so long that Oklahoma actually called off the
execution in the middle of it and considered trying to revive the guy.
They pulled the curtain so the witnesses wouldn`t see what was happening
anymore. Ultimately, after 3/4 of an hour, the man finally died of a heart
That screwed up case in Oklahoma has lead to lethal injection being
put on trial next week at the United States Supreme Court.
Even without that case, lethal injection has been on hard time
because states can`t get the drugs they want to use for the injections.
The drug companies won`t sell to prisons anymore. States were having
compounding pharmacies make the drugs by hand. But now, increasingly,
compounding pharmacies won`t do that either.
Last night on this show, we reported that in Mississippi, Mississippi
appears to have stockpiled not injectable drugs, but rather the raw
ingredients to try to make them. They have stockpiled these ingredients at
the prison where they kill their prisoners, thus raising the disturbing
prospect that Mississippi prison officials may be trying to cook this up
themselves, like they`re making their own liquor in a prison toilet or
something. Home brew injectable pharmaceuticals made by corrections
officers. What could possibly go wrong?
So that`s Mississippi. In Oklahoma, the state attorney general
actually urged the state legislature last year to consider creating its own
pharmacy – a pharmacy run by the state government specifically so the
state itself with government employees could cook up execution drugs to use
to kill Oklahoma prisoners. The Oklahoma state legislature decided they
didn`t want to run their own pharmacy. They came up with something else,
And Oklahoma has a track record of invention when it comes to killing
people. In 1977, it was an Oklahoma state senator named Bill Wiseman who
asked the state medical examiner to come up with a new way to kill
prisoners that would be more human than the firing squad. Bill Wiseman
ultimately said he regretted ever being involved in the process. But he
did ask the state medical examiner and the state medical examiner came up
with a three-drug protocol for injected pharmaceuticals which became the
national template for lethal injections across the country. They called it
“Chapman`s protocol” because the state medical examiner who came up with is
was named Jay Chapman.
Dr. Chapman was asked by “Time” magazine last year if he wishes he
hadn`t come up with the protocol given it became the model for the country.
He said, quote, “Well, I can`t undo history. Would I do it differently if
I had to do it over again? I don`t know.”
Quote, “I had absolutely no concept at the time. I was very young.
I was not educated in the ways of legislators at the time when I suggested
it, I had no idea, not in my wildest flight of fancy would I ever thought
it would have mushroomed into what it did.
He also says now that he probably would have been smarter to make the
protocol just one single drug rather than a combination of three drugs.
But at the time, he did suggest a combination of three drugs. And
so, basically by happenstance, because this guy in Oklahoma decided to go
that way, that became America`s national means of killing people coast to
coast. Dr. Chapman said, quote, the states just blindly followed it.
So, that was 1977 they were the last state to come up with a new way
of killing people. Now Oklahoma is doing it again. They have just
invented a whole another new way for the state government to kill people.
It has never been done before. But they have already signed on to it.
And our exclusive report on what they signed on to and how they
decided to do it, is just ahead. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COPELAND: It started from my experience scuba diving. I just
remember that is a way of accidental death. Through my training in scuba
diving, I learned that you could accidentally die if you`re using a
rebreather and never know it because the way rebreather works. It`s kind
But if your oxygen supply gets stuck and they scrub out your carbon
dioxide, you could start breathing a continuous loop of nitrogen. It
doesn`t take long. You just pass out and die. So, that`s got – I mean,
that`s painless because you don`t know it`s going on. Nitrogen is
inexpensive. It`s all around us. You don`t need a doctor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You don`t need a doctor.
That is professor Michael Copeland. He`s not a doctor or scientist.
He`s a criminal justice professor at East Central University in Ada,
Oklahoma. He`s also had a lot of other jobs. Long career in law and
criminal justice, including one stint as assistant attorney general in
Most importantly, though, for how it is he came to invent the
nation`s newest legal form of execution, professor Michael Copeland was
also a high school friend of Oklahoma Republican State Representative Mike
Mike Christian, his high school friend, is a pro-death penalty state
legislator. He once filed articles of impeachment against Oklahoma judges
who issued a stay of execution for one state prisoner.
When the Clayton Lockett exclusion went off the rails last year in
Oklahoma, Representative Mike Christian decided he should get involved in
Oklahoma rethinking its whole approach to how it kills people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE REP. MIKE CHRISTIAN (R), OKLAHOMA: And then the execution was
carried out. The execution became problematic. There were some issues
with that. Again, we got world attention after that, I reached out to a
good friend of mine, I`ve known for years, that I grew up with, very
intelligent college professor, said, can you help me find a solution to a
problem that exists not only in Oklahoma but across the country? And
that`s when we came up with the concept of nitrogen hypoxia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Nitrogen hypoxia.
What these two high school friends came up with, what they`re calling
nitrogen hypoxia is a way basically to go back to killing prisoners with
gas. But instead of killing prisoners with cyanide gas, like multiple
states did with gas chambers in this country, until Arizona did the last
one in 1999, instead of cyanide gas, they now want to use nitrogen gas.
Our producer Kate Osborn went to Oklahoma to ask how this would work
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATE OSBORN, TRMS PRODUCER: So the process from here would be that
the Department of Correction would have to figure out facilities. They
would need to acquire nitrogen and create a chamber? What –
CHRISTIAN: They would be able to use the same place we`re using now,
it wouldn`t away chamber. It would be a simple mask. This is not a gas
chamber. This is – it`s not a poison gas. It`s an inert gas. Again,
it`s 78 percent of what we breathe. You could actually use helium.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You could actually use helium.
That idea that killing somebody with nitrogen is akin to killing –
to people breathing in helium, that became key to the way they sold the
Oklahoma legislature on this idea of how to kill people. There has never
been an execution carried by nitrogen anywhere in the world. Oklahoma is
inventing it anew. But this criminal justice professor Michael Copeland
demonstrated to the Oklahoma legislature just how painless and easy this
process would be to use for execution in part by showing Oklahoma
legislators the YouTube videos that he found of people accidentally
breathing in too much helium when they were trying to be funny.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COPELAND: I think the legislature actually want to see that. So
this is a teenager that is breathing helium to make their voice sound
funny. But they`re not really thinking of it, when they`re breathing
helium, they`re not breathing oxygen.
So, she`s trying to get as big a breath as she can. And here a
second, she becomes hypoxic.
So then they get back up and they`re giggling and laughing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It shows the YouTube videos of kids passing out by breathing
too much helium, but it all working out OK.
They also showed the state legislature`s evidence of pilots passing
out when pilots accidentally didn`t get enough oxygen as part of flying.
It was all part of a way to show this is going to be a no problem, brand
new, easy, simple, painless way to kill people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OSBORN: Did you feel confident that this is humane?
COPELAND: I do. Definitely.
OSBORN: Have you ever personally seen an execution?
How confident are you that this will work?
CHRISTIAN: I`m a100 positive it will work. I`m 100 percent positive
that if all the protocols are done properly, it will work.
OSBORN: I`m wondering, have you ever been to an execution?
CHRISTIAN: Never have and I don`t wish to.
OSBORN: Why is that?
CHRISTIAN: It`s not my – it`s something I probably should, but I
have no desire to witness one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And so, thanks to Representative Christian`s bill and
professor Copeland`s research and Governor Mary Fallin signing that bill
last week, Oklahoma has officially legally invented the nation`s newest
form of execution, nitrogen.
Representative Copeland told us just like the rest of the country
followed Oklahoma when Oklahoma invented lethal injections in the late
`70s, he says he knows of 19 others states that are now looking into
following Oklahoma again with Oklahoma`s next new big idea.
No doctors or scientists were involved in coming up with plan in
Oklahoma. No doctors or scientists testified about it in front of the
legislature. But based on the hilarious helium videos, based on examples
of people inadvertently and unknowingly breathing too much nitrogen, like
pilots or people in industrial accidents, based also on people choosing
voluntarily to breathe too much nitrogen as a way of trying to kill
themselves, Oklahoma is confident that this will work.
One political science professor involved in researching the matter
for the legislature, though, raised one issue that did not seem to give
them any pause when they voted on this thing in Oklahoma. The state Senate
vote for nitrogen as a new form of execution was a unanimous vote in
But political science professor Christina Pappas who helped with the
legal research about whether this new method might pass constitutional
muster, she raised some worries to us about whether we really have any idea
what it would mean to kill people against their will with this method of
execution that has never been tried before.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PROF. CHRISTINE PAPPAS, EAST CENTRAL UNIVERSITY: The anecdotal data
we have shows what happened when someone is exposed to nitrogen, but none
of the cases are ever people who are fighting for their life. Do they
gasp? Do they struggle? Is it different? Is it painful in that instance?
Because, you know, people who are being led to the death chamber,
they`re not going to just lay there and breathe nicely through a mask.
They`re going to struggle. They`re going to be moving around a lot. Do
they need to be sedated?
Yes, I have a lot of questions about that. Absolutely nothing that
we have has to do with something struggling for their life. We talked
about that in our committee, is the delivery system, is it a mask? Is it a
suit? Is it a chamber? Is it a tent? What is it?
If someone is thrashing around, it might be hard to keep that mask on
their face, which would prolong their death. So, it could be like a long-
time struggle. And yes, that troubles me greatly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: But we`ll see. It`s law now in Oklahoma. If their lethal
injection protocol is struck down next week at the Supreme Court, this is
what they`re going for instead, somehow. And maybe even if the Supreme
Court doesn`t strike down their lethal injection law, their lethal
injection protocols might not work anymore anyway because they just can`t
get the drugs, like lots of states can`t get the drugs.
In which case, Oklahoma law now says this nitrogen thing is going to
be what they`ll do instead. Firing squads, hanging, electric chair, gas
chamber, lethal injection, now, this is the new one. If they can only sort
out how to keep the prisoner from ripping off the gas mask, it will
probably work out fine. It might work. We`ll see. Who is going to be
first to try it?
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