The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 05/12/15
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Recruited live on TV, Chris.
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: That`s right, you know?
MADDOW: We always get ahold –
HAYES: Always be closing for God.
MADDOW: Well done. And well done for her. Well done.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s right.
MADDOW: All right. Thanks to you.
And thanks to you at home for joining this hour. It is a busy night
tonight. It has been a very busy news day today.
We`re keeping an eye on the streets of Madison, Wisconsin, where the
local prosecutor announce today that a Madison police officer will not face
any charges after shooting a mixed race unarmed 19-year-old named Tony
Robinson. That young man was killed in Madison back on March 6th. There
have already been substantial protests in Madison about his killing even
before we got this announcement from the prosecutor.
So, we`re keeping eyes on that. We`ve got more on that story coming
up little later on this hour. There`s also political news today of a very
rare variety. The White House has been lobbying hard for a piece of
legislation the Republicans were happy to approve but Democrats today told
the White House, no.
So, it`s the Obama White House getting support from Republicans but
losing the issue today in Congress because they lost Democrats. This, of
course, is the trade deal. It is an ongoing political story. But that
kind of a big Democratic split is a rare and precious thing in our politics
these days. We`ve got eyes on that.
Also news tonight from Nepal. Nepal coping with a huge aftershock
earthquake today. Six U.S. Marines among those missing in that quake
There`s also an American hostage whose period of captivity hit 1,000
days today. We`ve got reporting from Nepal and reporting on that American
hostage story coming up tonight as well
Today, o feature story on the show is the result of an investigation
that we have been working on for some time now. It`s an exclusive story.
TRMS investigates. And that story is coming up in just a moment. I will
warn you it is both a story that you will not hear anywhere else. It is
also a slightly scary story. But we`ve got that coming up in just a
We start tonight, though, with unexpected news in the presidential
race. If you know one thing about the race for the presidency in the
United States, you know that it starts in Iowa, right? But the perceived
front-runner for the nomination for president this year has just today
decided that he will not start in Iowa.
“The Des Moines Register” first to report tonight that former Florida
governor and Republican presidential front-runner Jeb Bush will skip the
kickoff to the Iowa caucuses this year. He will skip the Iowa straw poll.
Now, there are a few reasons this is not a huge shock. The first of
which is that everybody hates the Iowa straw poll. The Iowa straw poll is
basically a forced fund-raiser for that state`s Republican Party. They
charge candidates something like $35,000 each for the privilege of having a
presence at the straw poll, for the privilege of erecting a tent. They let
candidates basically buy votes at the straw poll by bussing people in and
paying for their tickets to the event and buying them food and
So, to do well at this straw poll, the candidates have to come in,
they have to spend a ton of money that all goes to the Iowa state
Republican Party. They have to make a super hard right pitch to the most
conservative elements of the already conservative Iowa Republican Party,
which might be fine in Iowa but doesn`t necessarily help a top tier
candidate as he or she gets ready to move on next to a less conservative
state like New Hampshire.
And then overall, what`s the point of it anyway? It doesn`t even
predict anymore who`s likely to win. I mean, yes, Mitt Romney did win the
straw poll that one year, but that wasn`t the year he won the nomination.
That wasn`t even the year he went on to win the Iowa caucuses. Yes, he won
the straw poll in 2007 but then, so what?
The next election cycle, the Iowa straw poll winner was Michele
Bachmann. And that year, Mitt Romney went on to get the nomination. So,
it`s not even like it picks a winner anymore if it ever did. It is a non-
predictive very expensive scam of a corrupt contest. Everybody hates it.
Still, though, there`s a couple reasons why this decision by Jeb Bush
today is potentially a big deal and why getting this news today from the
Jeb Bush folks was a surprise. The first reason it`s a big deal is that
the Iowa Republican Party realizes this year that they have really screwed
things up. They have screwed up so badly in Iowa in recent years that they
have actually put the concept of Iowa being first in the nation at risk. A
lot of other states, a lot of people involved with the political process
are fed up with Iowa getting to go first, given how Iowa handles that
responsibility in recent years.
In the last election cycle in 2012, the Republican caucuses
themselves were so screwed up that nobody even knew who had won the Iowa
caucuses for weeks. Not the straw poll. I`m talking about the actual
Even now, it`s not crystal clear who won the Iowa caucuses in 2012.
At one point in 2012, they said that Mitt Romney had won them. At one
point, they said Rick Santorum had won them. At one point, they said it
was a tie between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, and they just hoped
everybody would leave them alone about them saying it was a tie.
And when it came time to award Iowa`s delegates towards the actual
Republican nomination for president, they didn`t give them to either of
those guys. They gave the delegates to Ron Paul. Sure, why not?
In the wake of that debacle, Iowa Republicans realize that had they
looked very bad and that it was hard for them to justify getting all this
attention and all this money and everything else that they get for being
first in the nation. And so, Iowa Republicans have recently realized that
in order to hold on to their first in the nation status, they`re going to
have to get their act together. They`re going to have to get themselves
together, run a less terrible, less chaotic, less obviously corrupt
So, in the last couple of years, we have seen them try to shape up.
We`ve got one Republican state senator from Iowa going to prison for taking
bribes during the Iowa Republican caucus process in 2012. They`ve kicked
the Ron Paul people out of the state party leadership. Whether or not you
think that`s a good thing, that means that Iowa Republicans feel like
they`ve got some semblance of the party establishment back in charge
instead of the Ron Paul folks they felt not only didn`t do a good idea but
were unpredictable and at times working at cross purposes to the rest of
the party. They have promised that the caucuses this year will be less
thunderously corrupt and chaotic and that there might be a winner people
believe really won it.
And also, they want to take a straw poll seriously again. They moved
the straw poll for this year out of Ames, Iowa. They moved it to a
different called Boone, Iowa. They did that so that it would be cheaper.
They also stopped charging campaigns something like $35,000 for a
tent at the straw poll as of this year. The new party chairman wrote an
op-ed in “Politico” saying it would no longer be a pay-to-play event.
They`re getting their act together at this straw poll as the kickoff of
Iowa being first in the nation for 2016. They expected all the major
candidates to take the straw poll seriously even if they didn`t before.
So, Jeb Bush, being first out of the gate unexpectedly today to say -
- no, Iowa, no, forget it, I`m not even going, saying he has another
commitment that he`s going to keep in Atlanta instead, something called the
RedState gathering in Atlanta. That news today from Jeb Bush, that
unsolicited announcement from Jeb Bush, that was a big one finger salute to
the Republicans of Iowa and they are taking it that way.
The chairman of the state party telling the “Des Moines Register”
today, quote, “We hope Governor Bush rethinks his decision and realizes the
grassroots will only grow in Iowa if he waters them. The RedState
gathering is a four-day event and other candidates have already indicated
that they`ll be attending both RedState and the Iowa straw poll. We don`t
buy this excuse from governor Bush and neither will Iowans.”
Other candidates have backhanded Iowa in the past. Mitt Romney, John
McCain, some others have chosen to skip the straw poll some years.
But Jeb Bush is going out of his way three months in advance to make
the Republican Party of Iowa mad at him. I mean, nobody else in the field
has even bothered to publicly commit one way or another to going or not
going, but he has publicly committed to not going and he does so not from a
position of strength in which he can afford to insult Iowa and throw Iowa
Republicans under the bus and maybe get points for doing that somewhere
else. He does so at a time when he is polling at, oh, say, seventh place
in Iowa. The latest Iowa poll from Quinnipiac has Jeb Bush at 5 percent,
behind Ben Carson in the polls.
And Jeb Bush makes this decision today also, frankly, at a time when
everyone left, right and center is killing him over the issue of the Iraq
war of all things. These are all headlines from the last 24 hours. First,
Governor Bush went on FOX News and said even knowing what he knows now,
even with 20/20 hindsight he still would have invaded Iraq in 2003. Then,
he went on the radio with another FOX News host today and said, actually,
he`s not really sure if he would have done that or not.
At one point today, he apparently e-mailed a former staffer of his
who works at CNN to say he must have misheard the question he was asked
about the Iraq war. Maybe that was it, he misheard it. That led Paul
Begala, the Democratic strategist, to say he did not know Jeb Bush had a
hearing impairment and everyone should pray for his speedy recovery.
Then, Jeb Bush said it wasn`t so much that he misheard but maybe
misunderstood the question, this question about Iraq. This is what the
headlines look like about Iraq and Jeb Bush today.
And amidst all that mess today, him getting destroyed not just by the
mainstream press or by liberals, but by conservatives, too – in the middle
of that today, Jeb Bush surprised everybody by deciding to go out of his
way to tell Iowa that he has better things to do than to go to their
precious little straw poll, which doesn`t take place until three month from
Jeb Bush by all accounts is supposed to be the front-runner for the
Republican presidential nomination for 2016. Jeb Bush not only has
terrible numbers with likely Republican voters, Jeb Bush is surprisingly
running a terrible campaign so far. He is running a campaign so terrible
that even his would-be friends in the conservative media seem unable to
save him from himself at this point. I did not see this coming.
MADDOW: For two months, Madison, Wisconsin, has been the site of
peaceful protests as that city waited to hear whether charges would be
brought against a white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed
biracial teenager back in March. Today, the local prosecutor in Madison
announced his decision and Madison residents returned to the streets. That
is happening right now, tonight.
And we`ve got live coverage just ahead. Stay with us.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MADDOW: There`s news to watch tonight in Madison, Wisconsin, where
people are marching in the streets again in protest over the police
shooting of a young man named Tony Robinson.
Tony Robinson was 19 years old and unarmed when he was shot by a
Madison police officer and killed. It was March 6, Friday night. Police
responded to a call about somebody behaving erratically, somebody jumping
out in front of cars in the street. A suspect was acting crazy, that he
was maybe high on something, that he had hit someone and then run inside an
The Madison police officer who responded to those calls was an
officer named Matt Kenny. He got to the house in question. He forced his
way inside. He says once he was inside that apartment, 19-year-old Tony
Robinson hit him, struck him in the head.
Officer Kenny ended up, for whatever reason, firing off seven rounds
in two bursts at close range. He shot seven times. He hit Tony Robinson
with all seven bullets and that`s how 19-year-old Tony Robinson died.
Officer Kenny is a 12-year veteran of the Madison Police Department,
who is white. Tony Robinson is biracial.
In the two months since that shooting, Madison has seen large and
peaceful protests in Tony Robinson`s name. The demonstrations started soon
after his funeral. Madison, as you know, is the state capital in
Wisconsin. Tony Robinson protesters of these last couple of months have
filled not only the streets of Madison but also the state capitol rotunda.
When the state started its investigation into the shooting, Tony
Robinson`s family said that they did have faith in the process. His uncle
telling reporters, quote, “We want them to act strictly as fact-finders,
and that`s what they`ve assured us. We believe that and we have confidence
Well, the Wisconsin Department of Justice carried out the
investigation into the shooting. Then they handed over their findings to
the prosecutor, to the district attorney in Madison, in Dane County,
Over this past weekend, specifically on Mother`s Day, on Sunday, that
prosecutor announced that he had reached a decision in this case about
whether or not he was going to charge the officer, but he wasn`t announcing
it then. He wanted to give the community 48 hours` notice of his decision.
He said he would announce today if there would be charges.
Well, today that D.A., Ismael Ozanne, stepped up to the podium. He
wiped his brow, talked about his heritage as a biracial man and as the
first African-American D.A in Wisconsin. He told the family of Tony
Robinson that he was sorry for their loss, and then he announced his
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ISMAEL OZANNE, DANE COUNTY, WISCONSIN DISTRICT ATTORNEY: My decision
will not bring Tony Robinson Jr. back. My decision will not end the racial
disparities that exist in the justice system, in our justice system. I
conclude that this tragic and unfortunate death was the result of a lawful
use of deadly police force, and that no charges should be brought against
Officer Kenny in the death of Tony Robinson Jr.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: No charges should be brought. That was the decision today
in Madison, Wisconsin, in the police killing of Tony Robinson.
We are in the midst of a long, ongoing, very difficult national
conversation about policing and violence in this country. And every case
is different. Every place is different. The reaction in each place to
each case is different.
Today in Madison, the African-American community announced this
afternoon that they had 100 community peacekeepers ready to work the
neighborhoods in time for the D.A.`s announcement this afternoon. Tony
Robinson`s family made a call for peace and his parents joined a march in
their son`s name.
And the reaction tonight has been notably peaceful in Madison.
There`s going to be another march in Madison tomorrow morning to the house
where Tony Robinson died.
Eyes on Madison tonight and early tomorrow. We`ll let you know more
as we learn more.
MADDOW: The earthquake that killed over 8,000 people in Nepal hit on
April 25th. Today, Nepal got hit again. It was technically an aftershock.
It was not quite as large as the initial quake that has been so devastating
to that country, but it was terrifying today to the survivors of the
initial quake. It was disruptive to the ongoing and still desperate relief
efforts that are under way to respond to the April 25th quake.
And today`s quake was also deadly in its own right. At least 50
deaths caused by today`s 7.3 magnitude quake, more than 1,000 people
injured today. This quake today was centered pretty near to where the
initial quake hit. It was 50 miles from the epicenter of the other quake.
But it was strong enough today that it was felt as far away as India
and Tibet and Bangladesh.
After the initial huge earthquake in Nepal on April 25th, the U.S.
deployed about 300 personnel to help out, mostly military personnel. And
one crucial part of the American rescue package after the Nepal earthquake
were these three helicopters. Today, one of these three helicopters, we
don`t know exactly which one of the three, because we don`t have the tail
number, one of these exact choppers that was photographed and highlighted
by the U.S. military to show us the American taxpayer what we sent as our
mission to help those in need in Nepal – one of these three choppers has
now gone missing today in Nepal.
We learned earlier today that the chopper went missing in Nepal in a
rugged mountainous area some time around 10:00 p.m. local time. There are
six U.S. Marines that were onboard this chopper. Two Nepalese soldiers as
well. They had just delivered a load of tarps and rice into one of the
hardest hit villages from the initial earthquake. They were on their way
to deliver more but they lost communication and now nobody knows what has
happened to that aircraft.
Army Colonel Steve Warren, Pentagon spokesman, said today that one
reason potentially for hope is that there has been no sign of a crash for
that chopper. He said the crew didn`t set off any emergency beacons as far
as they can tell. They say there`s no signs of smoke or flames on the
ground. There was reportedly no mayday call over the radio.
We do know that this helicopter that`s gone missing belongs to a
marine light attack helicopter squadron, part of a the Marine air wing
that`s based at Camp Pendleton in California. A defense official telling
NBC News today that marines onboard that chopper are equipped with GPS
devices and radio and emergency beacons, but because that helicopter was
flying over such difficult terrain, that terrain is such it might make that
equipment ineffective. They might be hard to find even if they had used
any of those alert signals.
So, the search continues for that U.S. chopper and those U.S.
But that was not the only U.S. military aircraft in trouble today. A
U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet like this one also crashed today into the
Persian Gulf. It crashed shortly after taking off from the aircraft
carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. The crash was reportedly not the result of
any hostile activity.
The Navy says the two pilots onboard ejected from the aircraft. They
survived the crash. They were recovered by search and rescue personnel
from the ship, from the aircraft carrier. The crew of this plane is not
said to be seriously injured. They have been rescued.
But their F/A-18 and the others F/A-18 onboard the Roosevelt, the
other aircraft onboard that aircraft carrier, they`re there because they`ve
been conducting air strikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria for months now.
This is one of the scariest incidents that`s happened so far during that
air campaign since the U.S. started it eight or nine months.
And that war against ISIS, as risky as it is for U.S. military
personnel, now involves thousands of U.S. military personnel.
It also had a very sad benchmark today for one U.S. journalist.
We`re now at 1,000 days since American journalist Austin Tice was taken
hostage by kidnappers of some stripe, we don`t know who, inside Syria.
Austin Tice was reporting from a suburb of Damascus. That reporting on the
Syrian civil war when somebody abducted him in August 2013.
A video was released showing him – excuse me, August 2012. A video
is release showing him in captivity about five weeks after he was taken.
The U.S. government said a couple of months ago that they had been in
contact with the Syrian government specifically about Austin Tice, trying
to get him released. But today marks 1,000 days for Austin Tice. He has
been gone since 2012.
Today, the National Security Council released a statement marking the
day, saying that the U.S. government will continue to work tirelessly to
bring Austin home to his parents.
Today, the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, started off his
White House briefing today on the issue of American journalist Austin Tice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I want to commend to your
attention a statement that was issued earlier today by Bernadette Meehan,
who`s the spokesperson for the National Security Council. She issued a
statement today that it`s with a heavy heart that earlier this week, we
marked American journalist Austin Tice`s 1,000th day in captivity. The
United States government working closely with our Czech protecting power in
Syria is trying to bring him home. And that is an effort that is ongoing
and has been for some time and certainly is something we are very focused
on every day but today we`re particularly mindful this day being his
1,000th day in captivity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Josh Earnest adding today that the U.S. continues to
coordinate with the Syrian government on Austin Tice`s case, trying to get
Following the death of a series of American hostages and journalists
taken in Iraq and Syria, journalists from James Foley to Steven Sotloff, to
just last month when a drone killed an American hostage, USAID worker
Warren Weinstein, there have been calls to create inside the U.S.
government something that you`d call a hostage czar – somebody in the
federal government to better coordinate and try to find Americans being
held overseas and to communicate with their families here.
Beginning of this month, Mr. Weinstein`s congressman, John Delaney,
Democrat of Maryland, introduced legislation that would create a hostage
czar in the federal government. It would be a high level position at the
National Security Council that would try to centralize efforts to find and
Could that sort of thing help? A thousand days into Austin Tice
being held, could that make things better for his family, and for the other
families who have dealt with this sort of thing?
Joining is now is Lesley Clark. She`s a White House correspondent
for “McClatchy” newspapers. Austin Tice was working as a freelancer for
“McClatchy” when he was taken hostage in Syria.
Ms. Clark, thanks very much for joining us tonight. Appreciate
having you here.
LESLEY CLARK, MCCLATCHY: Thanks very much for having me here,
MADDOW: At this – at this benchmark, obviously, a thousand days,
it`s a terrible mark to hit in Austin Tice`s case. Has there been a
response tonight from Mr. Tice`s family? What have you`ve been hearing at
CLARK: Yes, I think they were very – or not very, but they were
encouraged by today`s events, by the NSA statement and then by Josh Earnest
starting the White House briefing mentioning Austin Tice. One of the
biggest complaints of many of the families has been that they don`t think
that the administration has been as active as they should be in trying to
get their loved ones home.
MADDOW: And families of hostages have expressed that dissatisfaction
with the way they`ve been communicated with or what they felt the
government was able to do on their loved ones` behalf. It`s been expressed
in lots of different cases unfortunately and it`s been expressed in lots of
Is it your assessment or do you feel like it`s the family`s
assessment that something like the Warren Weinstein Hostage Rescue Act,
that restructuring the way the government handles cases like this might
provide at least satisfaction to the families that the government was
taking this seriously and trying to get better at it?
CLARK: Yes, I think they`d really like to see one central person, a
point person, to be in charge of it. Deborah Tice told us she called it
mind-blowing the fact there`s no one single person, no one single agency,
nobody that they can really pick up the phone for and find out what`s
happening. They get frustrated.
Mark Tice told us it`s been essentially a one-way street. The
government will ask them about what`s happening, what they`re hearing,
because obviously they hear a lot of things. The Tices have been over, you
know, over to the Middle East, hoping to get some clues about what happened
to their son. But they don`t get what they want back from the government
in terms of information.
MADDOW: The White House press secretary today noted that the U.S. is
working with the Czech government on this. That was an unfamiliar
assertion to me. How is the Czech government involved in this?
CLARK: Yes, they are the U.S. protector in Syria. So, they`re able
to help the United States talk to the Syrian government since we`re sort of
at war. This is the first time involved in the conflict in Syria. This is
the first time that an actual White House administration person had put a
face and name on saying that the administration has been in contact with
the Syrian government on Tice`s behalf.
MADDOW: Lesley Clark, White House correspondent for “McClatchy”
newspapers, tough miles, I mean, for “McClatchy” and for everybody worried
about MR. Tice.
MADDOW: Thanks for helping us understand.
CLARK: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks. Appreciate it.
CLARK: Thanks for the time.
MADDOW: All right. Ahead, we`ve got an exclusive investigation that
we`ve been working on very hard around here, and I will tell you its
results are both surprising and a little spooky, but to cure that, we will
then have a best new in the world.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, the high plains in this country are a quiet place
mostly. They have long been a strategic place in terms of our national
defense. But something has turned up that complicates both of those
What we`re about to do on this program is present you with the
findings of an investigation that we have been working on for some time
now. It`s next on the show and the fair warning I have to give you it is
not a sleep well at night kind of thing. That story is next. Stay with
MADDOW: So imagine, if you will, if we were going to nuke Russia, if
we were going to launch a missile armed with a nuclear warhead from here in
the United States intending it to land in Russia, where would it be best to
launch that missile from? Where in the U.S.?
How about right in the smack dab middle of the United States? How
about, say, North Dakota? It isn`t necessarily the most obvious choice,
until you realize that the most efficient way to fling a nuclear missile at
Russia is not to fling it east over the Atlantic and Europe or West over
the Pacific but rather North.
If you`re throwing something directly at Russia do it over the North
Pole. We don`t often look at the globe from the perspective. But if we
are talking about delivering a nuclear armed missile, the fastest route to
Russia is over the north.
And for that reason, during the Cold War, the United States military
stockpiled hundreds and hundreds of nuclear missiles in the open fields of
places like North Dakota and Nebraska and Wyoming, in the northern Great
Geographically isolated from attacks themselves, from anyone coming
in from the East or from the West, also well-positioned to shot missiles
north over Canada, in case the Cold War became a hot nuclear war, it seems
like a good spot to plant them. During the Cold War, the U.S. government
built hundreds of hardened underground silos in those open fields in places
like North Dakota. These huge silos where we would house our nuclear armed
missiles, and we could launch from those silos at the moments notice.
One of the other really useful things about the Northern Plains as a
sight for those missiles was not only that it gave great northern route
access to Russia, it was also a relatively easy place for the U.S.
government to stash all of these missile sites, to build all this stuff.
No offense to places like North Dakota, but one of its advantages, if
you wanted to stuff a whole bunch of missile silos there is that there
wasn`t a lot going on there in competition, right? It`s flag. Nothing
built up. Nothing around for miles and miles and miles and miles. It was
unpopulated, undeveloped land where the military could build hundreds of
joined underground nuclear missile silos essentially undisturbed.
Well, the Cold War is now over, but still, today, have 150 Minuteman
III armed nuclear missiles planted in the ground in the state of North
Dakota ready to go.
But there`s something very different about their surroundings now
than when we first put the missiles there back in the 1960s. Even though
it seemed like the middle nowhere back then, it is not a middle of nowhere
anymore, because that part of North Dakota where we stuck all those nuclear
missiles is also where we have since struck black gold. It`s the same
Bakken region of North Dakota that`s become ground zero for the new oil and
gas exploration boom in this country.
And so now, where you used to just have an underground nuclear
missile in the middle of nowhere in North Dakota like this, you see all the
little asterisks that you can see on this map for nuclear facilities?
Well, it used to look like this, missile nothing, missile nothing, missile
nothing. Now what has grown up around those missile sites is, ah, a huge
amount of heavy industrial oil and gas drilling infrastructure. All those
little brown dots you see there are active oil and gas wells. You can
barely even see the nuclear missile facilities in some of those areas but
they`re still there right in the middle of all that other stuff now.
And what that means for individual live nuclear missiles can be
freaky when you look at the details. I mean, really, it used to be like
this, nuclear missile, cow, nuclear missile, farm, nuclear missile, pond.
Now, it`s oil well, oil well, oil well, nuclear missile, oil well, oil
well, oil well.
Those missiles now have company, close company, lots of it. And
that, as you might imagine, has caused some concerns. All of those nuclear
missiles buried in the ground in North Dakota are under the control of
Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. The 91st Missile Wing at Minot is
the unit that the military task with maintaining and, if it need be,
launching those nuclear missiles anywhere in the world, they are live
Here`s what one of those missile launch facilities looks like. It`s
a big underground silo with a huge minute man 3 ballistic missile loaded
into it and, yes, that missile is not a vestigial thing. It has a nuclear
warhead mounted on top of it.
There are 150 of these underground missile launch facilities spread
across western North Dakota, and a missile alert facility nearby has
control of those nuclear weapons. It can fire them if those missileers are
given the order from the commander in chief.
It turns out when you combine these two different things that we`re
doing in this part of this state, it turns there is some logistical
awkwardness between all these active nuclear weapons sites which used to be
out in the middle of nowhere but which now are mixed in with the gas and
Take a look at this. This is a document we`ve obtained that has laid
out some of the concerns that the U.S. military has expressed about the two
overlapping things we`ve got in western North Dakota. For example, oil pad
with pumping derrick oil tanks gas burner and control building is within
the 1,200-foot restricted area around this one particular missile launch
We`re talking about one particular missile silo in western North
Dakota. And Minot Air Force Base says that particular oil well and the
hazardous materials that come out of the well pose a potential safety
threat to that missile launch of facility.
Here`s another one, worries about seismic exploration for oil and gas
resources in the area around these live nuclear missiles. They say, this
is the military says that sort of activity, that seismic exploration has
the potential to set off missile launch facility vibration detection
The issue of all these nuclear missiles being in such close proximity
to all these brand new oil wells, that issue has received a little bit of
news attention. “The Bismarck Tribune” for example, which is a great local
paper, they covered that specific issue a couple of years ago. The
closeness of the missiles and the oil wells did get good local coverage.
But here`s something new. This is something that we have uncovered
that would seem to be the cause of some legitimate concern and not just on
a local scale but a much broader scale.
One of the things that has changed the geography of North Dakota,
especially the part of North Dakota where all the missiles are, is all of
these oil wells. But the other thing that has changed because of the oil
wells is how they move that oil around, and some of that is pipelines,
large and small, which the military has expressed concern about, but most
of it is oil trains – oil trains that depart from western North Dakota
where all this new oil fields are. They depart from western North Dakota,
stuffed full of very flammable Bakken crude oil, and then they crisscross
the country, occasionally derailing and blowing up in the process.
And just take a look at this. We have obtained these maps showing
all of these nuclear missile silos spread out across western North Dakota.
All of the green, yellow, or red dots that you see on this map are nuclear
missile facilities. But look at where they now nudge up against.
Those black lines that you see spread across that map are railroad
lines. Those are the rail road lines that carry all that crude oil across
the country. Much of that oil is coming from places like Tioga, which is
over there on the left. And once those oil trains leave Tiago, look at
what`s right along their route, a nuclear missile facility in Ross, North
Dakota, located right along rails. Another nuclear missile facility in
Berthold, North Dakota, located right along the rails. Another one in
Balfour, North Dakota, right along the rails.
All of these sensitive, live nuclear missile complexes right on the
route of these oil trains, these oil trains that have a well-documented
history of derailing and then blowing up.
Here`s a specific example. The oil train that derailed and blew up
in Mt. Carbon, West Virginia, earlier this year, the one that caused this
fireball, the one that caused the evacuation of hundreds of residents in
that area, that specific oil train, that one departed from western North
Dakota, and then it traveled in really, really close proximity to five
nuclear missile facilities on its route, the five that you see highlighted
on this map.
And it was not just in the vicinity of those facilities, it was this
close. Look. Remember the size of that fireball?
That is a missile launch facility located in Balfour, North Dakota,
and that other arrow pointing to that specific railway line. That oil
train that blew up in Mt. Carbon, West Virginia, traveled along on the
route where it ultimately blew up. Imagine that area right there being
engulfed in a fireball that looks like this like it did further down the
We often talk about these oil train fireballs being apocalyptic
looking. With something like this happening essentially on top of a live
nuclear missile silo, that`s starting to make the word apocalyptic feel
One of the features of these oil train derailments when they happen,
these oil train derailments when they happen, these oil train derailments
and explosions, is that you can`t usually put these fires out. They burn
so big and so hot and so explosively that the strategy for dealing with
them is to let them burn for days.
What happens if an oil train derails and blows up next to one of
these manned nuclear missile alert facilities that has command and control
of ten Minuteman III live nuclear missiles? What happens if it rails and
blows up next to the silos themselves? Those missile silos are generally
sealed. They are designed to be fairly impenetrable to outside elements
and all sorts of adverse events. But, you know, if they`re work places.
If they are being worked on, as they often are or if something else is
happening actively at those silos, in that event, if there`s a real risk of
a fireball from that sort of oil derailment engulfing that silo, the risk
is that such an explosion could ignite the solid booster fuel within the
silo, right, within that Minuteman rocket, potentially exposing the nuclear
warhead to the fire that can`t be put out for days.
We talked to a nuclear expert today who told us in that scenario,
quote, “you have a potential disaster on your hands with not just
casualties in the immediate area but radioactive contamination and fallout
And if all that have sounds like a terrifying scenario, you should
know that the United States Air Force is worried about it, too. The Air
Force, this is not nationally known, but the Air Force has laid out in a
series of documents that we have obtained, the Air Force has laid out the
threat that is posed by the proximity of these oil trains and our nation`s
Quote, “Rail oil cars in close proximity to our missile launch
facilities and missile alert facilities pose a manmade disaster concern.”
Quote, “Train derailment poses a safety and security threat to missile
alert facilities and missile launch facilities.”
Here is an existing rail facility that Minot Air Force has raised
specific concerns about, and this facility is located within 1,200 feet of
one of their missile launch facilities, and they say that poses a potential
security concern. It, quote, “increases the threat from derailment
adjacent to missile launch facility. Hazardous contents of rail cars
present safety concerns.”
So, this is the United States military laying out these concerns in
really stark and specific detail about individual sites where they can see
that this might happen. And they`re laying out these concerns at the local
level. These documents come from a local planning effort essentially where
the military and local communities are trying to figure out how to share
the land together.
And when you look at the sites in question, you can understand why
the military is concerned. We went out to North Dakota today and we shot
some video that shows just how close the rail lines are to these nuclear
missile silos with these live weapons. In some cases, there`s not more
than a few hundred yards that separate them and you have seen the size of
the fireballs when these oil trains blow up.
This is what it looks like as we showed you earlier in Balfour, North
Dakota, a nuclear missile silo right up against the rail. Here`s what it
looks like just outside Stanley, North Dakota, a nuclear missile silo, a
two-lane road, and then the rail line. This is what it looks like just
outside Ross, North Dakota.
All of these nuclear missile facility necessary close proximity to
rail lines, that regularly now carries these oil trains that have a
tendency to derail and explode and burn out of control for days.
It is clear that the military is concerned about this because we have
found these documents in which they have expressed their concerns locally,
almost missile by missile and town by town and these little towns where
they`re responsible for these nuclear weapons all over North Dakota.
We`ve reached out to Minot Air Force Base. They say they are willing
to talk to us about this, but they have not yet made anyone available.
But this is – I mean, forgive me for saying – but this is the
definition of not a local issue. It has surfaced so far only in these
local documents that we have reviewed, that have a local purpose. But this
is not just a North Dakota issue. There is a national discussion under way
right now about these oil trains because they don`t just blow up in North
Dakota even if what they`re full of is North Dakota oil. They travel the
country and blow up all over the place.
Even if the problem, though, were only confined to North Dakota, I
think maybe that is a national problem now, given this sort of terrifying
sight. We keep using the term apocalyptic to talk about the types of fires
when these things go bad. It almost becomes not a metaphor anymore when
you talk about the prospect of it happening at a site of a live nuclear
And it is now a statistical matter of just predicting when that might
happen, given how many nuclear missiles there are right in that area where
the oil trains are coming from and how close those nuclear missile res to
the rails that are being used to ship that oil out of North Dakota at a
rate that we have never seen before in this country and that was never
anticipated and we thought we were safely tucking those missiles there in
the middle of nowhere decades ago for a war that would never happen.
We reached out today to a few of the major railroads that ship this
oil and through North Dakota. A spokesman of CSX told us this particular
portion of the oil train route doesn`t apply to their shipments, that the
safety of every carload they move is their top priority.
A spokeswoman for BNSF whose oil train derailed and exploded in
Heimdal, North Dakota, just last week told us, quote, “BNSF relies on the
U.S. military to advise us if there is a concern. We`re not aware of any
issues between the railroads and the missile system. To our knowledge, the
railroad does not present any meaningful risk.”
We also reached out to the Federal Railroad Administration who told
us, quote, “Keeping people and communities safe is a multi-departmental
effort across the federal government. The Department of Transportation is
working with Homeland Security and other agencies to make sure risks are
identified and mitigated.”
They say the new oil train rule they unveiled earlier this month is
to ensure oil is shipped on the safest and most secure route possible. But
that does not always appear to be the case.
We`re going to keep you posted as this story develops. We`ve been
working on it for a while. We will continue to work for it – work on it.
I think we are honestly just starting to scratch the surface on this issue.
Please watch this space.
MADDOW: I swear this has nothing to do with the terrifying story we
just did on oil trains in proximity to nuclear missiles. But legitimately
breaking news right now. We are getting late breaking news that an Amtrak
train just crashed near Philadelphia tonight. We are just getting word
This is a live chopper shot from the scene. We`ll have a live report
from somebody who was on this train when it derailed in just a moment.
We`re just getting that together.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: So, we have breaking news tonight about an Amtrak passenger
train crash near Philadelphia. This is one the north train heading towards
New York City. This is just happening. We`re just getting this video live
out of Philadelphia. This is one the line between D.C. and New York,
northbound train. Officials are saying eight to ten cars derailed.
Again, this is a passenger train. You can see first responders
attending to the accident right now. These are live shots.
We don`t have any solid reports yet on any injuries. Amazingly, we
did learn first of this crash from a former Pennsylvania congressman and
MSNBC host who was on the train. Congressman Pat Murphy, Iraq War veteran,
took these pictures on the right side of your screen from what looks like
the dining car on the train.
Joining us live now on the phone is Janelle Richards. She`s a
producer for NBC “Nightly News” who was also on the train.
Janelle, thank you for calling in. What happened tonight?
JANELLE RICHARDS, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS (via telephone): Yes. We were
riding on the train from Washington, D.C. to New York and when we were
about in Philly, probably an hour or less away from New York, very
suddenly, the train just felt like it crashed.
People went up in their seats. Smoke started filling the train and
the next thing you know, it was over. We were shaking back and forth and
then it all stopped.
And I think that everybody was shocked, surprised, and some people
were screaming. I looked to my left and there was a woman in the aisle
with blood down her face and the first question people started asking was
how do we get off the train? How do we get off the train? How do we get
off this train?
So the people that could get up started getting up out of their
seats, walking towards whatever exit they could find and someone was able
to push or press one of those doors so it slid open just enough to start
getting people off the train.
MADDOW: Janelle, you did see people who were injured. Do you expect
there will be any fatalities from this crash? Were the injuries you saw
RICHARDS: That I`m not sure. The people I saw looked like they were
OK, just very badly injured. But in terms of fatalities, I`m not sure.
MADDOW: Janelle Richards, “Nightly News” producer who`s on that
plane tonight, please stay in touch with us over the course of the night.
We`re going to stay on this story as we learn about it. Janelle, thank you
for phoning in.
RICHARDS: Thank you.
MADDOW: That does it for us for right now. But Lawrence O`Donnell
has more on this breaking story.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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