The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 05/04/15
CHRIS HAYES, ALL IN: That is a very good point. There is a little
bit of that probably going on.
Michael Steele, Josh Barro, Sam Seder – well, the race continues.
That is “ALL IN” for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
We`ve got a big show coming up.
Senator Bernie Sanders, now presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, is
here tonight for the interview. I have to tell you, though, Bernie Sanders
is not the only Sanders who is running for a big high profile political
office right now.
Bernie Sanders` big brother, Larry, that`s him on the right, is also
this week running for a seat in the British parliament. Yes, he lives in
England. He`s lived there since the `60s and he`s running as a Green Party
candidate for parliament from Oxford.
Britain`s having their parliamentary elections this week, in which
the country will decide whether or not they`re keeping David Cameron as
prime minister. They`re going to be electing, you know – every seat in
parliament is up. Those elections are going to happen on Thursday.
But Bernie Sanders` older brother Larry is running for the first time
as a Green Party candidate in the in the area near Oxford.
Until recently, this was the candidate in a district called Dudley
North which is sort of smack dab in the middle of England. His name is
Afzal Amin. He was running as a conservative, running as a Tory for a
parliamentary seat in that the Dudley District.
He`s no longer running for that seat because the Conservative Party
yanked him off their roster. After he`d already started running for
parliament, they would not allow him to stand. And the reason they yanked
him off the roster it turned out was a very strange political scandal that
started off as a very weird political scheme.
This is the symbol for a far right anti-Muslim group in England
called the English Defence League. They`re known for targeting majority
Muslim British neighborhoods with big sometimes violent rallies, where they
flood the streets and scream about how much they hate the Muslims, and how
much they hate Muslim immigration to the U.K. That`s what the English
Defence League does.
It used to be something called the British National Party back in the
`70s, `80s, `90s. The English Defense force has sort of taken up that line
in British politics.
It turns out, according to the British media, this conservative
British politician who was standing for parliament this week, he saw a
great electoral opportunity for himself in that weird pseudo-racist dynamic
on the far right fringe of British politics. And this candidate allegedly
schemed to get the English Defence League, this anti-Muslim group, to say
they were going to organize a terrible big provocative rally somewhere in
his district. And then when the local community would freak out because
they didn`t want the racist violent guys marching through their
neighborhood screaming about how much they hated Muslims, that guy as a
candidate was going to swoop in and convince the racist violent guys that
they should stop their march. And if the racist violent guys agreed to
this plan, to fake announce this march and then let this guy be the hero by
supposedly talking them out of it, he would then once he got to parliament
argue on their behalf. He would be their greatest ally in British
So, this guy got caught scheming with the English Defence League to
set up a fake racist march in his own district that he would then become
the hero of and then he would help the racist group out once he got into
parliament. Weird, right? I mean, this is a real scandal in the election
this year. That`s how they lost that the parliamentary capped for that
district in central England.
And we ended up having the bizarre undercover tape to prove that it
happened because the head of the English Defence League, the head of this
big racist group that does these marches ended up secretly recording the
politician as he was trying to hatch this plan.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
AFZAL AMIN: If you were to announce the second march, say early May,
that you going to come back and do another march about the mosque, about
the planning permission whatever else et cetera. And then we`d have two
meetings with the chief of police, members of the Muslim community, we play
our roles. They say, no, no, don`t march today. We have a second meeting
where things are a bit calmer.
Then, the third one, we have a press conference where we say you say
we were going to do a march. The chief of police, Afzal Amin, former army
officer, members of the Muslim community, have sat together and we`ve had
some discussions and we realized that we all want to campaign against these
things and we`re going to work closer together in addressing these evils in
our society, and we want the rest of the country to pay attention to this
model of working to avoid conflict and bloodshed and tension and so on.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, let`s fake this scheme. You pretend like you`re going
to do your scary thing in my district. I will swoop in and stop you.
We`ll all play our roles and – this actually happened, how this guy got
yanked from running for parliament from that seat.
And you know you have an ethics issue when the head of the anti-
Muslim racist group secretly records you because he alleges you were trying
to make him do thing something that he felt was unethical. It`s crazy.
So, that`s what it looks like across the pond when people try to take
anti-Muslim, anti-Islam bigotry and turn it into their own personal profit.
That`s what it looks like over there.
Our American version of that dynamic looks a little bit different.
This is a Florida pastor named Terry Jones who does not hold any impressive
position in any church or organization. He`s never achieved anything or
been elected to anything which would give him a national profile. The
reason, though, that you have seen before and heard his name is because he
is the guy in 2010 who decided to declare “International Burn a Koran Day”.
Him doing so earned him a personal phone call from the secretary of
defense asking him to please not go through with that because him burning
Korans would endanger U.S. military personnel around the world in terms of
the backlash. President Obama condemned the plan when the man first
announced it. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the plan.
The commander of the U.S. war in Afghanistan at the time, General David
Petraeus, personally and repeatedly warned this random pastor in Florida,
that he should not do this, that it was important that he rethink that
That Florida pastor did go ahead with his burn the Koran plan. He
went ahead with it in 2011 and in 2012. There were protests in multiple
countries around the globe that ended up killing dozens of people.
In 2013, he decided he still had not had the desired effect with
burning Korans in 2011 and 2012. So, in 2013, he decided to up his game
and decided he would not burn a Koran or two. He planned to burn 3,000
Korans all at once.
That one ended up not happening though. As you might imagine this
pastor is not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed. And in 2013, when he
decided he was going to burn these 3,000 Korans, the he would pile them
into a barbecue smoker, soak them in kerosene, put the smoker on a trailer
without a license plate that he was dragging behind his pickup truck in
Mulberry, Florida, and he got pulled over.
Quote, “Deputies seized the 1998 Chevrolet pickup, the smoker and the
The local sheriff later explained he could not allow that particular
vehicle to continue down the road because basically, quote, “He was driving
a bomb around if he had gotten into a crash.” I don`t know what you expect
it to look like when a guy plans to burn 3,000 books, but this is basically
what you would invent if you were Bart Simpson trying to plot this as a
course, right? Look, there`s the truck. There`s the loud speakers there.
So, he could entertain everybody in this rally while he did it, and it`s
towing on a trailer the barbecue smoker full of Korans.
And obviously, those are books made of paper and he`s already soaked
them in fuel and is speeding down the highway in the metal smoke with the
kerosene soaked paper on the no license play the trailer bouncing around
behind the truck. What could possibly go wrong?
So, Pastor Terry Jones of Florida, he`s like the low rent simple one
guy in a pickup truck version of this phenomenon in politics. It has made
him a phenomenon, though. Terry Jones ran for president on the “I`m the
crazy Florida pastor who burns Koran” ticket in 2012. “Politico” reported
last year that he`s filed the paperwork to run again in 2016 because why
He`s just one variety of that kind of guy, though. If Terry Jones is
not your style, the more upscale model of Terry Jones is this guy who runs
an anti-Muslim think tank with the anodyne name the Center for Security
He`s the person who made Hillary Clinton`s top staffer Huma Abedin
famous for being something other than Congressman Anthony Weiner`s wife and
Hillary Clinton`s top aide. Frank Gaffney cooked up a conspiracy theory on
the right which Michele Bachmann and others ran with for years, which
claims that Huma Abedin is secretly the vanguard of an undercover Muslim
Brotherhood plot to the take over the federal government. That`s Frank
Gaffney. He came up with that.
You know, Grover Norquist, the anti-tax guy, the small government guy
who famously said he wanted to make government small enough to drown it in
a bathtub, Frank Gaffney has also crusaded against Grover Norquist, saying
that Grover Norquist is also part of the secret Muslim Brotherhood plot to
take over the government because his wife is a Muslim and therefore, Grover
Norquist cannot be trusted, and therefore, the NRA and American
Conservative Union, and all these other organizations that Grover Norquist
is part of or is in the board of, they also can`t be trusted. They are
also part of the Muslim Brotherhood plot to take over America – which you
wouldn`t expect from the NRA. But that`s how big the plot is.
The year that Frank Gaffney and his Center for Security Policy
started this bizarre campaign against Huma Abedin and Grover Norquist and
all of rest of it, the liberal think thank Center for American Progress did
a report trying to figure out where this conspiracy theory was coming from,
who was pushing it, why it`s seemed – for such a crackpot idea, why it
seemed like a well-funded, kind of well-orchestrated attack.
And in their report, they found that that year alone it, 2013, Frank
Gaffney`s organization took in more than $3 million in revenue. Frank
Gaffney that year was paid nearly $300,000 to be president of this random
anti-Muslim group making wild accusations about Huma Abedin and Grover
And that is in keeping with this mysteriously well-funded, really
fringe but really rich mini-industry of anti-Muslim activism and conspiracy
theories. It turns out it is a multi-million funded slice of right wing
activism in this country, funded by a small number of mostly family
foundations that fund this stuff to the tune of millions of dollars and in
some cases tens of millions of dollars per year.
It is a weird line of business, but it is a business in American
conservative politics. And probably the biggest brand name in that
business in the United States is this person. Her name is Pamela Geller.
She`s a conservative blogger who writes for “World Net Daily” and the
consecutive website called Breitbart.
She and a man named Robert Spencer run a whole bunch of anti-Muslim
organizations that operate under various names. They run something called
the American Freedom Defense Initiative and Jihad Watch and Stop
Islamization of America. They tried to make that one international. They
made one also into Stop Islamization of Nations. That was their effort to
take their message international by advocating that all countries around
the world should ban Muslims from immigrating into any country that is not
already majority Muslim.
Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer were actually banned from traveling
to the U.K. last year where they were going to address a rally held by the
English Defence League. The guys who were part of the crazy conspiracy I
talked about at the top of the segment.
I mean, the Brits do have some respect for free speech rights, but
they will also issue an exclusion order to ban you from their country if
they believe that you`re coming into their country to incite racial or
religious hatred. So, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, not allowed in
Britain. But, of course, they are allowed here.
They`re the folks who said that building a Muslim community center at
a former Burlington coat factory in Lower Manhattan was more than that. It
was actual radical Muslim triumphalism over 9/11. They were the ones who
called that project the Ground Zero Mosque, and rallied right wing
opposition to it around the country.
They`ve also had legal fights in lots of different big cities all
around the country, about putting up inflammatory ads like this one on city
buses and in subway systems. Cities like Philadelphia and New York City
have unsuccessfully fought to keep these ads off their subways and buses.
They fought it because they thought these ads would provoke violence.
The ads have mostly been upheld and been ordered to be put up on free
speech grounds, although last week, the New York Transit System announced
that rather than put up these ads from this Pamela Geller group, they would
rather ban all political advertising of all kind in New York City subways.
Because we are a country that reveres the First Amendment, there can
sometimes feel like there`s a sort of inherent dignity in being a free
speech case study, right, with wanting to engage in speech that is so
outrageous people want to ban it – sort of makes you seem noble in the
abstract because we love the First Amendment in this country. But in terms
of understanding where they`re coming from, these are also the folks who
have advanced in all seriousness their deeply researched, totally not
kidding claim that President Obama is the secret love child of Malcolm X.
President Obama`s secret dad is Malcolm X. Maybe. Isn`t it obvious?
They`ve also advanced the Donald Trump for president platform that
President Obama`s birth certificate is a forgery to disguise his true
foreignness and his Muslim-ness. They claim not only is President Obama is
secretly foreign and secretly Muslim, but they exposed President Obama`s
secret Muslim gang salute.
This is Pamela Geller writing a few weeks, the press took in this
photo of African dignitaries joined Obama in a State Department auditorium
for a group photograph. Look at the picture.
The one finger display is the distinctive Muslim gang sign. When
believers stick their index finger in the air, they demonstrate they are
partisans of Muhammad`s God concept with his fourth finger in the air,
Obama affirmed his membership in this tribe.
Have you ever done this? Pamela Geller believes that you are
therefore in the secret Muslim gang. So, obviously, Ronald Reagan, secret
Muslim, Bill Clinton, secret Muslim. That`s who these folks are.
In January of this year, these folks organized a protest outside a
Muslim conference that was being held in Garland, Texas, at a nice
conference center building actually owned by the school district. It was
essentially an “it`s OK to be Muslim” conference.
And because that Muslim conference had been held at that the
conference center in Garland, Texas, the Pamela Geller group decided after
protesting the pro-Muslim conference there in January that when they wanted
to hold their most recent anti-Muslim conference, they should also hold it
at that same venue. So, that venue in Garland, Texas, is wherever
yesterday, two men opened fire outside that anti-Muslim conference being
held by Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer and their group.
The two gunmen injured one Garland school district security officer.
He was shot in the ankle. He was treated in the hospital and is released.
He`s not considered to have any injuries that are life-threatening.
That shooting obviously could have been a lot worse. The two
suspects were not just armed. They were apparently wearing body armor but
they were shot and killed by police.
One of those two, one of those two suspects, Elton Simpson, had been
known to the FBI since 2006. He was convicted of lying to federal agents
about his plans to travel overseas to engage in violent jihad in Somalia.
Two suspects were apparently roommates. They share an apartment in
It`s unclear at this time how they planned the shooting. It`s now up
to law enforcement officials to figure out if they were operationally
linked to any larger group or organization, or if this was just their own
idea and they engaged in this violence on their own.
But meanwhile, in the background of this terrible attack on this
conference in which these guys opened fire and were shot themselves,
meanwhile, in the background of that understanding what was happening there
is Pamela Geller, the organizer of this conference who basically is in
business as a professional provocateur and who since the shooting, has been
on television all day long arguing how valuable her activism has been,
arguing that it shows the true nature of Muslims which she`s been trying to
awake America to with her all her anti-Muslim activism over these past
What happened in Garland, Texas, was a terrible incident on its own
terms. That it happened at an event hosted by one of the highest profile
players in a highly organized, well-funded industry designed to maximize
fear of Muslims in this country gives this a political resonance that it
would never have had otherwise beyond its tragedy, beyond its outrage,
beyond its existence as a crime and act an of terror.
It remains to be seen how exactly the Pamela Gellers of the world
will try to capitalize on that political resonance. But it is complicated
to imagine now that the provocation of hating Muslims is a business in the
American – in our American system of politics that is well-funded, well-
organized and that has been waiting for something like this to happen to
MADDOW: So, we`ve got lots ahead tonight, including the latest from
Baltimore now that the curfew is lifted there and the National Guard is
Also, we`ve got some unexpected news tonight about guns and gun
policy. It`s the kind of news you really never hear about guns and gun
policy, but it has happened somewhat unexpectedly tonight.
And we`ve got Vermont senator and presidential candidate Bernie
Sanders here tonight for the interview.
Lots ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Today`s most entertaining presidential announcement kicked
off at the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts in Detroit, Michigan.
Ticket holders stood in line for a long time to get into the big event.
Once inside, they were entertained by a musical rendition of “This Land is
Then the National Anthem featuring the candidate`s wife, playing
along on the violin, which was great.
After that, the man himself the main attraction emerged stepped out
from behind a red curtain with a spotlight on him, got a bunch applause and
then, he sat down. He sat right back down, took a seat in the front row
presumably to watch his own presidential announcement.
The curtain rose. There was a presentation of colors by the American
Legion, a five-man singing group from Nashville, Tennessee, performed.
They were very impressive and very sharp suits, but they were not the only
Detroit`s Great Selected of God Choir did their signature song, which
is a gospel version of Eminem`s “Lose Yourself.”
And honestly, that was the best musical anything that has been at a
political event in a very long time.
But for this most excellent of all campaign announcements, we have to
thank Dr. Ben Carson. He`s a super conservative retired neurosurgeon. He
did attend and enjoy and he did eventually speak at his declaration of had
his candidacy today.
But for today, for all the excitement around that very well
orchestrated announcement, today was not just Ben Carson`s big day.
Today was also the announcement day for the one-time CEO of Hewlett-
Packard, who also declared that she`s jumping on the race. Her name is
Carly Fiorina. She`s never held public office before. She did run for
Senate in the California against Barbara Boxer in the big Republican wave
year of 2010 but she still lost to Barbara Boxer by double digits.
Carly Fiorina had also been a high profile surrogate for the
McCain/Palin presidential ticket in 2008, until she told one interviewer
that, yes, she was supporting McCain and Sarah Palin for president and vice
president but didn`t believe either one of them would be capable of running
a good sized company. She said that publicly about the ticket she was
supporting. And then she said it again.
And then, a top McCain/Palin staffer told CNN, quote, “Carly will now
disappear,” and she did.
But now, she`s back, on her own terms. This time, she is running for
president herself. When asked today by ABC`s George Stephanopoulos what
makes her a good candidate, she said, quote, “I understand technology,
which is a tool to both reimagine government and to reengage citizens in
the process of government.”
Anybody intrigued enough by that assertion to try to find out more
about this tech-savvy Carly Fiorina person might reasonably have gone
online today to check out, what would you guess CarlyFiorina.org?
Today, CarlyFiorina.org looked like this, Carly Fiorina failed to
register this domain so I`m using it to tell you how many people she laid
off at Hewlett-Packard. It was this many. And then, see those little
sideways unhappy faces? There are 30,000 unhappy faces as you scroll down
because she laid off 30,000 people at Hewlett-Packard.
It has been said once before in her political career, it will be said
again, Carly will now disappear.
In addition to Carly Fiorina and Dr. Ben Carson announcing today,
former Arkansas governor, former FOX News personality, former weight loss
self help guru Mike Huckabee will also announce his candidacy for president
We also learned today that former Texas Governor Rick Perry is likely
to declare his candidacy on June 1st. Rick Perry was widely anticipated to
be a formidable candidate in 2012 until he actually started running. It
didn`t go that well. That said, this time, Rick Perry is running while
he`s also under criminal indictment back home in Texas. So, that could add
a whole layer of excitement to a Rick Perry second chance campaign.
But if you add it all up on the Republican side, we`ve now got Ted
Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, all in. Then, today, we got Carly Fiorina
and Ben Carson, that brings us up to five. It will be six when Mike
Huckabee gets in tomorrow. It will be seven with Rick Perry next month.
All in all, we`re expecting somewhere along the lines of 20
Republican candidates to get in. That`s not counting, you know, crazy
protest candidates and stuff. Those are the theoretically at least the
contenders, 20 of them or maybe even more.
On the Democratic side, there are two. Former Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton was first OK. And then Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders,
independent from Vermont, jumped in last week. And honestly, nobody is
giving Senator Sanders great odds of winning the Democratic nomination but
he is the only declared candidate for that nomination other than Secretary
And in the first 24 hours after he announced, Vermont Senator Bernie
Sanders surprised everybody by raising more than $1.5 million in the first
24 hours after he announces. He raised more than $1.5 million from small
donors giving him an average donation of about 40 bucks. Bernie Sanders
raised more money for his first presidential campaign in his first 24 hours
than Rand Paul did or Marco Rubio did or Ted Cruz did.
When he jumped in last week, he told reporters, quote, “Don`t
underestimate me.” We don`t. We do not. And nobody should.
Joining us tonight for the interview is Senator Bernie Sanders from
Vermont. He`s a declared candidate for the Democratic nomination for
Senator Sanders, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My pleasure.
MADDOW: I have a feeling things have gone in this past week, in
these last few days since you`ve announced, I have a feeling they have gone
better than you expected, or did you see – did you see that it would go
SANDERS: Well, I had the feeling, Rachel, there was a strong
undercurrent of support. And when we announced on Thursday, we sent out an
e-mail on our Web site, BernieSanders.com. We got 35,000 responses in
terms of contributions and 100,000 people indicated on the first day alone
that they wanted to sign up and work on the campaign. And those numbers
have gone up in the last few days. I feel really good about that.
MADDOW: You have 100,000 people who pledged to volunteer on the
SANDERS: No, actually we have 175,000.
MADDOW: What`s your plan for how to put all those people to work?
That sounds like you`ll be the head of a pretty big organization.
SANDERS: That`s exactly what we are struggling with right now. But
I think the main thing, Rachel, is I think we have a message that is
resonating across this country. And that is the level of income and wealth
inequality in this country is grotesque. Ninety-nine percent of all new
income goes to the top. One percent – the top 1/10 of 1 percent owns
almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, and meanwhile the middle
class of this country continues to disappear.
I think people want a candidate who is prepared to take on the
billionaire class and say, you know what? This country belongs to all of
us, and not to a handful of billionaire families.
MADDOW: The debate season is still a ways off. Obviously, whoever`s
a declared candidate on the Democratic side, especially because it`s not
probably going to be a gigantic field, is going to be their end of the
debates, depending on how many they had. You have started the informal
debate process by getting in and declaring and putting yourself out there
and declaring what it is that you`re interested in.
Are there specific policies that are under consideration federally
right now that you think Secretary Clinton ought to be talking about in
order to address those kind of concerns? Are there specific things you`d
like her to commit to or commit to being against that would make you feel
better about her candidacy?
SANDERS: Well, it`s not a question of feeling better about her
candidacy. But there are huge issues facing this country. We have six
major Wall Street financial institutions that have assets of some $10
trillion, write half the mortgages and two-thirds of the credit cards in
In my view, if a bank is too big to fail, it`s too big to exist. I
am bringing forth legislation which would break up these large financial
institutions. That will be a very good thing for our economy. I would
appreciate Secretary Clinton`s views on that issue.
We have on the floor of the Senate probably later this week the Trans
Pacific Partnership. I happen to believe and have voted against all of
these trade agreements, NAFTA, CAFTA, permanent normal trade relations with
China, which have resulted in the loss of millions of good paying jobs here
as corporations have gone to China and other low wage countries. I`m not
quite sure that the American people know what the secretary`s position is
The USA Patriots Act is coming up for reauthorization. I have voted
against it in the past and voted against reauthorization. Obviously, we
have to be strong in protecting our people from terrorism but I don`t think
we have to undermine the Constitution and deny our people basic
constitutional rights. That`s an important position.
So, you know, in terms of Iraq, I was one of the leaders against
going into Iraq. The secretary supported that the war.
So, I think there are some strong differences of opinion.
MADDOW: Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, declared
candidate for the Democratic nomination for president – Senator, it`s
always great to have you here. Thanks for being with us.
SANDERS: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: It`s interesting, 175,000 people he says signed up and said
they wanted to work on the campaign.
Running a campaign for president is running a very big organization
if you`re a viable candidate, right? It is itself a test of political
talent in a way that I think people don`t necessarily get credit for as
we`re talking about all these people who are outside the political system
potentially running this year. I think Bernie Sanders` candidacy is going
to be fascinating watch potentially logistically, but as well as what it
means to have somebody pushing hard from the real left on both sides of
Stay with us. Lots still to come.
MADDOW: So, imagine that you are Preet Bharara. Imagine you`re the
U.S. attorney in Manhattan. You particularly enjoy indicting and
convicting New York politicians. You have done a lot of that as a
prosecutor. Just four months ago, you indicted and arrested the speaker of
the House in New York state legislature.
Well, now, imagine you`re on the trail of the president of the State
Senate. You, Preet Bharara, are reading transcripts of the wiretaps that
have been put in place in this investigation as you look into whether or
not the Senate president and his son have been running a scheme where
companies pay the son cold hard cash and in exchange, they get political
favors from dad, the leader of the State Senate.
So, you`re Preet Bharara, you`re the prosecutor, you`re reading
through the transcripts of phone calls between father and son, and then you
get to this. It`s the son, quote, “You can`t talk normally because it`s
like F-ing Preet Bharara is listening to every F-ing phone call. It`s just
F-ing frustrating.” To which the Senate president responds to his son,
quote, “It is.”
Yes, son, yes, it is frustrating that we cannot openly discuss what
we`re doing on the phone because the federal prosecutor might overhear us.
It is frustrating.
The criminal complaint says the Senate president`s son got a second
cell phone that he called his burner phone or his safe phone to try to
avoid getting caught talking about something he should not be talking about
on the phone. The Senate president and his son openly mused whether they
were being wiretapped by the federal prosecutor.
The son told one staffer that it was, quote, “F-ing frustrating” to
not be able to talk to his dad openly on the phone. What was he supposed
to do? Quote, “Send smoke signals or a little pigeon with an F-ing note
tied to its foot,” end quote.
But the pigeon plan and burner phone plan did not help and prosecutor
Preet Bharara really was listening and those calls really were being
transcribed. And so, now, Preet Bharara has been able to announce the
indictment and arrest of both of New York`s legislative leaders in a span
of four months.
The Senate president arrested today is a Republican. The House
speaker arrested a few months ago is a Democrat. New York state corruption
is nonpartisan at least. And it is profane and it is often dumb. But it
is just unbelievably relentless.
New York state politics are a sewer. I was going to even saying
they`re making New Jersey look good in comparison, but that would be a
bridge too far, it turns. That`s next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: This scene has become a pretty familiar scene in the news in
recent weeks, specifically this scene. This is a bank of microphones
sitting outside the federal courthouse in Newark, New Jersey, in
anticipation of a press conference. That spot right there last month was
the exact same spot where sitting New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez
emerged from the courthouse and announced that he was totally innocent
after he pled guilty to a 14-count federal corruption indictment.
Bob Menendez came out of the courthouse, walked down those stairs and
addressed the media that was gathered outside. Today, the media gathered
at that same exact spot.
They might, as well just leave the microphones there. The media
gathered at the same location to see today if there would be any reaction
from today`s visitors to the federal courthouse. Today, it was a pair of
former Chris Christie administration officials who are now facing federal
charges themselves for their role in creating an intentional and apparently
criminal traffic jam at the world`s busiest bridge.
On Friday, we got the news that the U.S. attorney in New Jersey was
charging three former Christie-administration officials with conspiring to
shut down local access lanes onto the world`s busiest bridge in order to
punish a Democratic mayor in New Jersey who wouldn`t endorse Governor
Christie`s reelection bid that year.
One of those former Christie administration officials, David
Wildstein, you see on the right there, he pled guilty in federal court to
his role in that alleged scheme and he`s now working with federal
prosecutors. But the other two officials have maintained their innocence.
They say they`ve done nothing wrong. And today, Bridget Kelly, Chris
Christie`s former deputy chief of staff, and Bill Baroni, who is a top
Chris Christie appointee at the agency that runs the bridge, today they
both appeared at federal court in New Jersey and they both pled not guilty
to a nine-count federal indictment that was unsealed against the two of
them on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL BARONI, FORMER CHRISTIE PORT AUTHORITY OFFICIAL: I would never
risk my career, my job, my reputation for something like this. I am an
innocent man. And that is why I turned over thousands and thousands of
pages of my own documents to both the prosecutors and the legislature. And
that is why I will testify on my own behalf as soon the trial begins.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I will testify, as soon as the trial begins.
There has been this interesting political question in recent months,
right, about the effect of this scandal. Whether this bridge scandal would
just result in a few low level guilty pleas and it was just quietly go
away, maybe it would cease to have political resonance.
Turns out this thing is not quietly going away. With these not
guilty pleas today, we are going to trial. The federal judge presiding
over this case today set a trial date of July 7th, change your vacation
plans. Bill Baroni says he looks forward to testifying at that trial
telling his side of the story about the lane closures.
David Wildstein, who pled guilty on Friday, says he is eager to
testify, as well. His lawyer has also said publicly on more than one
occasion that he has evidence that Governor Christie himself was aware of
the lane closures while they were happening, even though he has not
publicly produced any of that evidence to date.
Also, Bridget Kelly, Chris Christie`s former deputy chief of staff
says she`s looking forward to testifying at trial, as well. Bridget
Kelly`s attorney said in her defense, he`s willing to subpoena any number
of her former colleagues in the governor`s office in order to prove Bridget
And that statement today from the lawyer led to this eye popping
exchange outside the courthouse. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Would you have to subpoena Governor Christie as you
mentioned just now?
MICHAEL CRITCHLEY, BRIDGET KELLY`S ATTORNEY: I am going to subpoena
anybody who I feel necessary to establish my client`s innocence.
REPORTER: And that could include the governor?
CRITCHLEY: That could include anybody. If I find information about
you, I`m subpoenaing you. That includes anyone.
REPORTER: David Wildstein said there`s evidence that the governor
knew about the lane closures before they happened. Ms. Kelly said that
other people in the office knew. Did the governor know while the lane
closures took place?
CRITCHLEY: We`ll find out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We`ll find out.
The question was, did Governor Christie know of the lane closures
while they were under way? The answer, we`ll find out.
At trial presumably?
Governor Christie has adamantly denied he had any knowledge of these
closures before or during. The U.S. attorney says he does not intend to
bring any additional charges in this case with the evidence that he has
before him now. But now, two former officials in the Christie
administration are threatening to drag Governor Christie into this.
The trial is now officially set for July 7th. Perhaps we will just
plan to leave the microphones there all summer.
MADDOW: The man who literally personally found the smoking gun e-
mail that broke open the whole bridgegate scandal is our guest next.
And we`ve got some very surprising and late breaking news tonight on
guns. It`s the kind of story about guns we almost never get to do but it
has happened tonight. That`s ahead.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARONI: I am an innocent man, and that is why I turned over
thousands and thousands of pages of my own documents to both the
prosecutors and the legislature. And that is why I will testify on my own
behalf as soon as the trial begins.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Former Chris Christie administration official Bill Baroni
today after he pled not guilty to a nine count federal indictment for his
alleged role in orchestrating a traffic jam on the George Washington bridge
in order to punish a political enemy of Governor Chris Christie.
You heard Mr. Baroni say he had turned over thousands of documents to
prosecutors and the state legislature. Well, that legislative inquiry is
really what crack this had case open. That inquiry led in part by
Democratic State Assemblyman John Wisniewski uncovered the smoking gun e-
mail that showed that this traffic jam was apparently orchestrated on
purpose by members of the Christie administration.
Remember the e-mail, quote, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort
Lee”. That is what eventually set the groundwork for the three federal
indictments that were announced this past Friday by the U.S. attorney in
Joining us now is New Jersey Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the New
Jersey state assemblyman who has headed up much of the legislative inquiry
Mr. Wisniewski, thanks for being here.
JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY STATE ASSEMBLYMAN: Rachel, good to
be with you again.
MADDOW: The plea agreement was apparently agreed to by David
Wildstein in January. He actually entered his plea, pled guilty and we got
the unsealing of other indictments yesterday.
Do you understand why the timing has gone this way?
WISNIEWSKI: No, that`s certainly a mystery to us because the U.S.
attorney`s office has been very diligent in keeping a lid on what they`re
doing. So, clearly, they had discussions with him before January, probably
in November, December to come to that ingredient that he signed in January.
But for some reason, they had to wait until now to have the actual plea
entered in court. That`s something we`ll learn as the process goes
forward. But right now, we don`t have an answer why it took that long.
MADDOW: We have a guilty plea from Wildstein. We have not guilty
pleas from Mr. Baroni and from Bridget Kelly.
MADDOW: If there is a trial, if July 7th does end up being a trial
date, do you expect that we will actually learn more about the factual
basis of these claims at the trial?
WISNIEWSKI: Well, I hope so. I mean, so far, each time we think
we`re going to get closure, we seem to have more questions. So, we were
all wondering exactly why this happened.
It turned out in the plea that Mr. Wildstein entered that it was for
political payback. We all kind of doubted that because it seemed like the
consequence of not endorsing was so out of proportion to what they hoped to
gain. But it turned at least from Mr. Wildstein`s perspective to be true.
But we also have competing narratives now of Bridge Kelly saying on
the day that the indictment was announced, that she`s going to talk about
other people in the governor`s office that knew about this. Mr.
Wildstein`s attorney saying the governor knew contemporaneously and, of
course, Bill Baroni is now still sticking to the story that it was a
So, we have four at different versions of what happened. Hopefully,
a trial or trials will help resolve that.
MADDOW: In the indictments that were unsealed on Friday, in the sort
of narrative that they told, key to that narrative was Bill Baroni lying to
Again, we don`t – it`s not been adjudicated. Bill Baroni says he
didn`t lie and innocent of all charges. If it is proven he did knowingly
lie to your committee about what was going on, will there be some sort of
consequence for that, the prosecutor says it`s not a federal matter?
WISNIEWSKI: Well, it`s not a federal matter. When he testified in
front of the committee, the tradition in New Jersey has long been when you
testify in front of a committee, you`re not automatically put under oath.
That`s being re-examined now because clearly this has shown us maybe
there`s a value in having people under oath. But when he testify, he did
not swear to tell the truth. He just started testifying.
And that`s been the tradition in the New Jersey legislature. But his
story was unbelievable when he told it and then literally two weeks later,
Pat Foye, the executive director of the agency, testified and said there
was no traffic study.
MADDOW: Will you keep investigating and what happens with the course
of the case versus the course of your inquiry in the legislature?
WISNIEWSKI: Well, we have to be very careful. We don`t want to
impact whatever proceedings will happen in court on both indictments.
But there are unanswered questions. Remember, what we`re trying to
do is very different than what the U.S. attorney is trying to do. They`re
prosecuting violations of law. We`re trying to get the facts so we can fix
the rules and the Port Authority and the governor`s office so this kind of
abuse can`t happen again.
We have different missions. The facts overlap with one another. But
we need to make sure we don`t unfairly hurt the trial and the ability of
the defendants to present their defense and Mr. Fishman to present his
prosecution. But we still have a job to do to learn the truth and to make
sure we change the rules so it can`t happen again.
MADDOW: Right, especially if the basic narrative of what happened is
still contested by people who are literally on trial for those.
WISNIEWSKI: The facts are still up in the air.
MADDOW: Yes, John Wisniewski, New Jersey state assemblyman, New
Jersey legislative investigation co-chair – thank you, sir. This is both
exciting and perplexing time in this case. Thanks for being here.
WISNIEWSKI: You`re welcome. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We got lots still ahead including that story on
gun news that I never expected to be able to break on this show.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: So recently on the show, we`ve been talking about Oregon a
lot, like a lot a lot. Part of that was the alleged corruption scandal
involving the former Governor John Kitzhaber and his fiancee, which
ultimately caused Governor Kitzhaber to resign.
Part of it was our effort to offer a more viscerally alarming owl
attack warning sign in Oregon parks to protect local Oregonians from owls
that were attacking joggers in one Salem Park.
We`ve also been talking about Oregon because the new governor who
took over when John Kitzhaber left has been making the most of it. She is
Governor Kate Brown. She demanded ethics reform and got it moving in the
state house. She bucked the national trend and signed the nation`s first
election law that automatically registers people to vote. If the state
knows you exist, they pro-actively register you. You have to opt out of
voter registration if you don`t want to be registered.
And now, Governor Kate Brown has yet another chance to sign major
legislation into law. Today, the state legislature passed a bill that
would make background checks mandatory for almost all private transfers of
guns between unrelated owners. A first time violation would be a
misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, a second violation would be
a felony with a maximum penalty of a quarter million dollars and 10 years
Every Republican in the legislature voted against the bill. Every
single one, but Oregon is a blue state. Democrats control the House and
Senate and governorship. And so, there`s about to be background checks for
private gun sales in Oregon.
“The Oregonian” says Kate Brown is expected to sign the bill. In
today`s climate it is almost impossible to pass any kind of gun safety
reform, but Oregon and Kate Brown are bucking the national trend on that
and other issues. It appears to be well on its way tonight. Surprise,
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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