The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 05/26/15
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks at you at home for joining us this
Houston, Texas, may be on higher ground in all sorts of metaphorical
or even spiritual ways, but in a purely geographic sense, I mean to cast no
aspersions on Houston – in order to say that Houston is a low-lying city.
Houston is technically about 50 feet above sea level. It is very flat
– really, really flat. One of the things that is unusual about Houston as
a large city is that it is crisscrossed by basically a network of small
rivers. And we`re sort of used to big cities in America being built around
one big body of water, right, like Chicago on the shores of Lake Michigan
or New York City along the mighty, mighty Hudson, or San Francisco the city
on the bay, St. Louis and Minneapolis on the mighty Mississippi.
But we`re used to a body of water being a figural point, a figural
focal point for large cities and the way they`re laid out. But in Houston,
that very, very large American city is instead crisscrossed with a series
of small rivers that in Houston they call bayous. And it`s a reminder that
even though Houston is in Texas, Houston is about as close to New Orleans
as it is to Dallas-Ft. Worth and one of the many Houston nicknames is bayou
Houston was founded in the 1930s along the banks of what`s called
Buffalo Bayou. There`s a whole interconnected series of bayous that run
through the city in all different directions – Buffalo Bayou, and White
Oak Bayou, and Brays Bayou, and Sims Bayou.
And it`s important to understand that about Houston in terms of
understanding, you know, how Houston`s basic infrastructural commerce works
and shipping, right, the utility of the whole incredibly important Houston
ship channel. Understanding the bayous is important for understanding the
overall layout of the city and the way it works geographically.
But those rivers, those bayous in Houston are also incredibly
important in terms of climate because Houston is on low-lying ground. When
there is an influx of rain, when Houston needs to drain out, it is those
bayous that do that work. The bayous take on the extra water and they
funnel it out into groundwater and Galveston Bay and into the Gulf of
Mexico. The bayous do that heavy lifting for the low-lying city of
Now, in recent years, Texas and big parts of the whole southwest have
had the opposite problem. They`ve been way too dry. Texas has been coping
with an extreme drought for the past few years. In the year 2011, 97
percent of the state of Texas was rated as being under extreme drought or
even worse ratings than that.
But over the past few weeks, somebody somewhere in the universe
decided to flip a switch, rather more like turn on a faucet, and
specifically in Houston that led to some pretty significant flooding just a
couple of weeks ago. There`s been just some torrential rains over the last
But then over this Memorial Day weekend, this past weekend, yesterday
and overnight, and into this morning, Houston and Austin and whole swaths
of Texas and Oklahoma, that whole part of the country started getting not
just torrential rains like they`ve had for the past couple weeks, they
started getting multiple inches of rain per hour – hour after hour after
In Wimberley, Texas, which is about three hours west of Houston, it`s
in Hays County between Austin and San Antonio, in Wimberley, the incredible
devastation was wrought mostly by the Blanco River, the worst of it this
weekend rose 26 feet in one hour, almost impossible to imagine. More than
60 homes along the Blanco River were knocked clean off their foundations.
Hundreds of homes were destroyed in Hays County, Texas, alone. At least a
dozen people are still missing in Hays County, alone.
Up near Austin, at the Lake Travis Reservoir, that reservoir has risen
21 feet. In Bastrop County, which is between Houston and Dallas, they`re
watching and worrying now over the possibility of major Colorado River
But in Houston, in the nation`s fourth largest city, when the bayous
in Houston fill up, the city of Houston tends to fill up, too. That has
led to these just remarkable and scary scenes of a big, modern, urban
center, one of biggest urban centers in our country, fourth largest city in
the nation, being up to its knees or some cases up to its neck, or some
cases worse in this urban street flooding.
Some of the most dramatic and most dangerous scenes out of Houston
have actually been from the interstates. I-10 and I-45 converge in
Houston, and with flooding like this, instead of those interstates serving
as evacuation routes and arteries for people to leave, to escape the
flooding, the interstates, themselves, have become places from which people
have had to be rescued.
Five people are confirmed dead in Houston, alone, so far, most of them
found dead in submerged cars. A total of 19 people are believed to have
been killed all together so far in Texas and Oklahoma combined. A number
of people are still missing. So, the human toll of the disaster is yet to
be fully known.
The mayor of Houston, Annise Parker, says the city has impounded
thousands of abandoned cars already. More than 750 at last count. They
believe the number of properties destroyed in Houston, alone, stands at
more than 4,000 destroyed properties.
Beyond the five people confirmed dead in the city limits, there are,
again, more people still missing. The weather forecast in Houston is for
scattered thundershowers tonight and through the end of this week and then
another storm system heading in next weekend.
Joining us now is the mayor of Houston, Annise Parker.
Mayor Parker, I know this is a very, very challenging time. Thanks
very much for being with us tonight.
MAYOR ANNISE PARKER (D), HOUSTON: Glad to talk to you.
MADDOW: Let me just ask you the latest on how things are in your city
right now, and what your biggest concern is immediately this evening.
PARKER: We are very quickly returning back to normal. The – as you
mentioned in your intro, we are defined by ten small shallow rivers that go
west to east across the city, and they were all out of their banks earlier
this morning. They`ve been receding fairly rapidly, and water drains out
of Houston quickly once it stops raining.
The biggest problem now is going house by house, making sure that
those that are in the floodway have been searched and that we make sure
that all Houstonians are accounted for. As you mentioned, we believe –
and that is very much a pure swag, it`s kind of a guess, but right now
based on where we saw flooding from overflights, we think we have about
The challenge for us was that – and it`s hard to parse this for the
public. Large segments of the city were perfectly fine. But the areas
that were hit were hit very, very hard.
We`ve had two weeks of heavy rain. The ground is saturated. Our
bayou systems were full. And then last night over a few-hour period, some
places we had 11 inches of rain. Any city is going to have problems with
Because of the nature of Houston, our street grid system is part of
our drainage system. It is designed to hold water. It`s not designed to
hold 6 feet of water in an intersection, however.
That happened late at night. Cars kept driving into the water. We
put messages out. We placed police cars to keep people from driving into
flooded underpasses. We have flood gages on many of our underpasses
because it`s not an unusual occurrence.
But then something else happened this morning. It became a different
type of crisis. And that is the bayous all of a sudden just started rising
and that`s s what inundated structures.
MADDOW: I see.
In terms of that – in terms of that last inundation that you`re
talking about there and in terms of the scale of the flooding, it`s
interesting to hear you say you`re designed for this in a way, the street
grid is the way that Houston is designed to drain out. Was this big enough
you think you`re going to have considerable infrastructure damage?
I mean, looking at the major roadways and interstates and everything
that we`re seeing flooding, is a lot of that stuff that will dry out and be
fine or do you think you`re going to have large-scale rebuilding to have to
PARKER: Most of what you saw across the world in the media today was
the interstate system, and that – most of it is completely drivable right
now. We have – the first thing we did, more than 750 cars, getting them
off and getting the roads open, getting mud off the roads and it`s fine.
We will do a critical infrastructure assessment tomorrow morning, you
know, bridge by bridge, overpass by overpass, to make sure that nothing was
Our – it is unusual, however, for there to be structure flooding, and
particularly structure floodings of this magnitude. The area, particularly
Brays Bayou, where we had a lot of the overflow, the Army Corps of
Engineers and our flood control district did a major overhaul of that bayou
after tropical storm Allison. It`s wider, it`s deeper, it moves water
better. It holds water better.
And yet I hate to think what would have happened had we not done the
billion dollars of infrastructure across the city we`ve done over the last
MADDOW: Do you, Mayor Parker, do you feel like you have the resources
that you need in terms of doing that critical infrastructure assessment
during the ongoing – the still rescue operations you may need to do and
recovery operations? Does Houston have what it needs heading forward?
PARKER: We have what we need. We are a big city. We have a fairly
well-honed emergency preparedness crew. Our emergency operations command
kicked in middle of the night last night and has been operating at a very
Governor flew in today and met with me. We believe we`ll have full
cooperation with FEMA and the federal agencies as we go through this
We`re fixing the problem, and we`ll worry about the invoices later.
But we`re moving forward very rapidly.
We obviously are concerned to have lost five people. Four confirmed
now from drowning. One had a heart attack as he was trying to move his car
out of a flooded roadway. But there are two people still missing.
MADDOW: Annise Parker, mayor of Houston, Texas, dealing with a big
challenge tonight, ma`am. Thank you so much for your time. Continued good
luck to you as you try to handle this disaster. Thanks very much.
PARKER: Thank you.
MADDOW: Interesting to – you know, you think about the design of
cities, geographic design of cities and Houston being on that low-lying
plain that it`s on, knowing it`s got those waterways, the way they`ve
overtly designed themselves to try to be able to handle flooding up to a
certain point, but at some point, the problems like this one are so big
that it becomes a life-threatening situation. Obviously, with people still
missing, still a very serious situation tonight in Houston and throughout
large parts of Texas and Oklahoma.
All right. We got lots more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Welcome back. Hope you had a great holiday weekend however
you spent it.
I got poison ivy right here. I`m sure that`s not going to be the only
place it ends up, but right now, it`s right there and it`s all I can think
about. Hope you had a good holiday weekend.
In Seattle, this person spent her holiday weekend attached to the
anchor chain of a giant Shell Oil ship. She attached herself to the giant
anchor chain to protest Shell`s arctic drilling plans. The activist`s name
is Keara DeAngelo (ph). She climbed up there onto the anchor chain on
Friday and then she just stayed up there. She just stayed up there all
Friday night and all day Saturday and all Saturday night and all day Sunday
and all Sunday night, until 9:30 yesterday morning when she kindly asked
the coast guard for a little help in please coming down. Three nights
spent clinging to the anchor chain of that giant boat in protest.
Now, Shell, for its part, said on Sunday that this stunt with the
activist being chained to their boat would not delay their plans to conduct
Arctic oil drilling this summer. In part using that rig that that activist
was chained to all weekend. That anchor chain protest was not a lone wolf
kind of thing. Since Shell announced plans to park its Arctic oil drilling
fleet at Seattle, there have been myriad protests in the streets of Seattle
and at the port where all the Shell stuff is docked.
Earlier this month, there was that flotilla of hundreds of kayakers
swarming the water near one of Shell`s drilling rigs. The company keeps
saying sort of with increasing evident annoyance that none of this stuff is
going to slow them down. None of it is going to change their plans at all.
They have to be wondering at this point, what`s going to happen next?
MADDOW: Last summer, last July, the “Washington Post`s” Tehran bureau
chief Jason Rezaian published this story about the small but dedicated
group of baseball players who call Iran home. It turns out Iran`s national
baseball team is not that bad. They`re tied with Chile, Nepal, and Palau
for 48th in the world in terms of national baseball teams, 48th in the
world out of 124 countries that field teams. Even though virtually nobody
inside Iran has ever heard of the game of baseball, the team`s not bad.
On Iran`s national baseball team, they make their own bats. They try
to conserve baseballs which are in very short supply. They say they hope
one day, they might be able to play an exhibition game against an American
amateur team somewhere, somehow.
And that sort of article about Iran`s personality and its people was
Jason Rezaian`s specialty. He spent the first 30-plus years of his life in
the United States but in 2008, he moved to Iran which is where his father
was from. He obtained dual citizenship and he spoke openly about his hope
that Iranians and Americans could understand each other better just as
That baseball story turned out to be Jason Rezaian`s last feature for
the “Washington Post,” at least so far. Five days after the baseball story
was published, Jason Rezaian was arrested and imprisoned, along with his
Iranian wife and two photojournalists.
Now, Iran has done this before. Iran has arrested a lot of their own
journalists and a lot of western journalists. Most famously and
horrifyingly in 2003, a Canadian-Iranian photographer named Zahra Kazemi
was beaten to death in an Iranian prison. She was arrested taking pictures
outside Evin Prison, which is the notorious prison where they hold
prisoners in Iran. It`s where Jason Rezaian is now being held. Nineteen
days after she was arrested, she was dead.
And even after Iran faced enormous international condemnation for her
death, there were still other journalists imprisoned in Iran. In 2009, the
American-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi was arrested and tried and
convicted of espionage. She was then suddenly released after 100 days in
the Evin Prison.
Later that same year, the Iranian-Canadian “Newsweek” correspondent
Maziar Bahari was arrested and charged with espionage after he appeared in
a skit on “The Daily Show.” He was released after 118 days in which he was
very badly treated. Jon Stewart depicted Maziar Bahari`s ordeal, the
physical and psychological struggle he endured in custody in the film he
made last year “Rosewater.”
Now, it`s the “Washington Post” Tehran bureau chief. The information
we get on the outside, about these cases – it`s scant, it`s hard to trust.
They`re not trying him in public. Jason Rezaian`s wife and the two
photojournalist arrested with him were released on bail.
He was not charged with anything for the first nine months he was
held, but then we learn from his court-appointed lawyer last month that he
had been charged with four counts of espionage and propaganda. But it
wasn`t clear that the lawyer had all the information or even that she was
permitted to share what she did know.
Today, Jason Rezaian`s trial began in Iran but Iran is keeping the
courtroom closed to the public. His wife and his mother were both in
Tehran both at the site of the trial asking to be let in to see him or to
see some of the proceedings. They were not allowed in. They were not
allowed to even see him even from afar.
We hear that Jason Rezaian today was led into the courtroom by a back
door and that the judge simply read out his four-count indictment and did
nothing else. They adjourned and set no date for further proceedings or
notice when this is going to reconvene. That is what we hear. Ha through
family members who are hearing it from Iranian officials. None of it is
official. None of it firsthand.
The Rezaian family says they kept the courtroom closed because the
lack of evidence against Jason would be embarrassing if the world were able
to see it. We hear from Jason Rezaian`s brother, Ali, that the Iranian
government is presenting two pieces of evidence against Jason in terms of
these espionage charges.
The first reportedly is an American visa application for Jason`s wife.
He was trying to get his wife a visa to visit the U.S. he apparently met
with some American consular officials about that and maybe Iran finds that
The second piece of evidence against him reportedly is a form letter
sent by Jason Rezaian to President Obama`s White House transition team in
2008 when President Obama had been elected but not yet sworn in and the
transition team put a form letter up on their website that people could
fill in to offer any help they may be able to suggest to the transition
team – and Jason Rezaian reportedly offered, use that form to help improve
relations between Iran and the United States. And maybe Iran finds that
incredibly suspect, too. But we don`t know because the trial will be held
behind closed doors.
Supporters of press freedom in general and Jason Rezaian in particular
have been clambering for the American government to do something to somehow
get him freed but the Canadians cannot do anything for Zahra Kazemi or for
Maziar Bahari. The U.S. could not really do anything for Roxana Saberi.
So far, nothing has worked for this “Washington Post” journalist, either.
The ordeal here is almost as impressive as the courage it takes to report
We`ll continue to follow this case, of course. Many days there`s
nothing new to hear about the case of Jason Rezaian but as we do learn
more, we will let you know.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For nine months, Jason
has been imprisoned in Tehran for nothing more than writing about the hopes
and fears of the Iranian people, carrying their stories to the readers of
“The Washington Post” in an effort to bridge our common humanity. As was
already mentioned, Jason`s brother, Ali, is here tonight. I have told him
personally we will not rest until we bring him home to his family safe and
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Famously, presidents do not drive themselves, anywhere. But
President George W. Bush found a way around it. He drove. He drove the
Japanese prime minister. He drove the German chancellor. He drove the
Colombian president. He drove anybody he could load into his white pickup
truck on the ranch that he bought as part of the process of running for
As long as the cameras were running, George W. Bush cut brush with a
chainsaw and he walked around in dry grass and he talked about his love for
the land. The time that he spent where he supposedly lived out there in
Waco, President Bush set modern records for vacationing, as commander in
chief. That ranch was not his favorite prop, exactly, but if Juliette had
her balcony, George W. Bush had Crawford, Texas.
And then, three weeks after Barack Obama was elected to succeed him in
the Oval Office, before he actually even left the White House. George W.
Bush instead of going home to Crawford bought a house in Dallas, so he
wouldn`t actually have to live in that place out in Crawford once he was no
It`s not that the whole Crawford, Texas, thing was a stunt exactly,
but we might have known something was up with that when George W. Bush
somehow found time to buy and build that house in Crawford, Texas, while he
was running for president for the first time.
Well, today, we learn that his younger brother, Jeb, has just done
exactly the same thing. And his “I`m running for president stunt house”
isn`t in Texas. Where it is and why, that story`s coming up.
MADDOW: It was 10:30 at night, November 29th, 2012. An officer with
the Cleveland police department pulled over this couple. Timothy Russell
was at the wheel. Malissa Williams in the passenger seat the couple pulled
And then, for whatever reason, before the officer could approach their
car for the traffic stop, they took off, they sped away. They happened to
speed past Cleveland police headquarters and just as they did that, their
It happens. It was an older car. It was a 1979 Chevy Malibu. It
apparently backfired. Officers mistook that car backfiring for a gunshot.
And what happened next, all hell broke loose, a high-speed chase
ensued, 62 police cars chased those two suspects in that one car through
the streets, 62 police cars. More than 100 Cleveland police officers
involved in that one police chase.
This is how the police officers involved recalled what happened that
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: After a 22-minute chase, pursuing officers told
investigators they arrived on scene with the idea one or both suspects were
armed, pointed weapons during the chase, and fired a gun to start it.
Officer Wilfredo Diaz told investigators the passenger reached toward
something, produced what he perceived was a gun.
Officer Scott Sistek feared he would be struck by the suspect`s
Detective William Salupo heard gunfire and saw Sistek go to the ground
believing he`d been run over.
Officer Cynthia Moore believing the subjects were firing at her,
returned fire through the windshield of her cruiser.
Partner officer Michael Brelo said, “I`ve never been so afraid in my
life.” He climbed on top of cruiser CPD-38 and fired downward through the
Officer Brian Sabolik thought he was in the suspects` line of fire.
He shot two rounds.
Officer Michael Farley described the scene as the scariest thing I`ve
seen in my whole life.
Officer Randy Patrick was taking fire. He got up and let some rounds
Office Paul Box said it was a major shootout. Something shot Officer
Box in the vest. He thought it might be a ricochet.
Detective Michael Rinkus believed he saw an officer fall.
Detective Michael Demchak believed the suspects were wearing
Partner detective Erin O`Donnell thought the driver was shooting and
And Detective Christopher Ereg said someone was on the radio saying
they`re shooting at us, or shooting at officer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Nobody was shooting at those officers. Nobody was shooting
except the other officers. There were so many police officers there, so
jacked up, and so many of them were shooting.
Police did turn it into a huge firefight, an incredible shooting
gallery. They were the only ones.
Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams were unarmed. They were not
wearing bulletproof vests. They fired zero shots because they had zero
weapons. All 137 shots fired that night were fired by Cleveland police
officers. More than a dozen officers fired their weapons that night.
Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, again, unarmed were each shot
more than 20 times. One of the officers who fired shots that night did so
from the top of a squad car.
Officer Michael Brelo got up on top of a squad car, stood on top of a
car, and then shot 15 rounds down at the suspects through their windshield.
He was up on a police car firing down at them. He`d already emptied a
previous clip. He`d reloaded in order to do that.
Officer Brelo was the only officer charged with a crime following that
completely, completely bizarre incident. The officer was charged with
voluntary manslaughter. And this past weekend, Officer Brelo, the one who
climbed up on top of the car to shoot down into the windshield, he was
found not guilty.
A hundred thirty-seven shots fired into the car. Two unarmed people
both shot more than 20 times. Only one officer charged and that officer
acquitted of everything.
The verdict was announced on Saturday. The resulting demonstrations
in Cleveland were mostly peaceful. Although there were some skirmishes.
Ultimately, 71 people were arrested for things like blocking streets or not
obeying police orders.
Today, religious leaders and faith leaders in Cleveland led another
demonstration on the same issues.
And this has all been happening over these last few days. Leading up
to what was expecting today to be a major announcements by the U.S.
Department of Justice about how broken policing is in the major city of
Cleveland and maybe how to try to fix it.
That massive police chase, those 137 shots fired at the unarmed
suspects back in 2012, more than 60 police cars. That was one of the use
of force cases that led to the Justice Department – led the Justice
Department to come into the city of Cleveland to review that department`s
standards and practices.
Well, today, the Justice Department announced their recommendations
and reforms. This is not the first time the Justice Department has tried
to step in and reform the Cleveland Police Department. They tried to do it
a decade ago as well.
But this is the first time that Cleveland legally has to abide by the
Justice Department`s prescribed fixes. This is a legal settlement. It is
not voluntary. This time, a federal judge will be in charge of making sure
Cleveland actually does what Justice Department has recommended that they
do. The recommendations are legally binding.
And some of the recommendations announced in the more than 100-page
long report, they sound promising. The Cleveland Police Department, for
example, will have to hire somebody who`s never worked for the police
department before, who`s not an insider, but who will have the authority to
investigate the department, including any wrongdoing within the department
and the person will be empowered to make the results of his or her
investigations available to the public. They`re calling that person an
There will also be a federally appointed monitor separate from the
inspector general role who will not only go to the judge about whether
Cleveland abiding by this decree, that federal monitor will also have
access to all of the department`s data, who they`re stopping and searching,
who they`re using force against. Their internal reports about use of force
incidents, that monitor will be reporting straight to the judge on whether
Cleveland is making enough progress in a timely way.
So, there are some recommendations mostly in the oversight department
that do seem promising. If nothing else, we`ll get more information about
what new horrible things they`re doing in terms of policing in Cleveland.
There are, however, some recommendations in this report that I,
reading them, found surprising and a little bit alarming. Surprising
because it was not self-evident to me that in a year like 2015 a major city
police depart like the Cleveland P.D. would need to be told to do things
like this in the first place.
For one thing, Cleveland police as of today must stop frequently
pistol whipping people. Pistol whipping, or as “The Cleveland Plain
Dealer” helpfully spelled it out in their headline, pistol whipping is
hitting people on the head with guns. That must now be considered deadly
force in Cleveland. In the past, Cleveland police have apparently not
really considered pistol whipping to be a super dangerous thing. They
filed pistol whipping under the lesser lethal force category on a – that`s
what they called it, less lethal force – even though a gun obviously can
quite easily and accidentally go off when it is used to whack somebody in
the head, and accidental discharging of an officer`s gun while the officer
was using the gun as a baton, that has happened in Cleveland several times.
Another reform, officers in Cleveland will now be retrained to give
suspects first aid. If they see that the person is hurt and needs first
aid. Again, why is that not already the standard protocol?
Cleveland police will also no longer be allowed to shoot at moving
cars unless the car is about to cause lethal damage. That`s apparently not
the rule already. Even though don`t shoot at moving cars has been standard
at, say, the NYPD since 1972.
Perhaps the top of the list in the obvious reforms category is this
one. The Cleveland Police Department now pledges that they will read the
personnel files of their new police recruits before they hire them. Check
the file of the person you`re about to hire.
This is something that Cleveland is being ordered to start doing
because they have not been doing that, which is, itself, amazing but it
also specifically gets to one major unknown still hanging over the city of
Cleveland, and that police department and in a sense the country as a whole
when it comes to policing, because it was in Cleveland last November that
12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed in a police encounter with the
Cleveland P.D. that lasted a couple of seconds start to finish, start to
death, because 12-year-old Tamir Rice was hanging out at a playground
playing with a pellet gun and there`s grainy surveillance footage that I`m
about to show you, shot from far away, but it is disturbing.
Officers approach 12-year-old Tamir Rice and shoot and kill him almost
instantly. The entire interaction lasts less than three seconds. When the
name of the officer who shot and killed Tamir Rice in that interaction was
made public, it was revealed that officer had a, quote, “dismal performance
record” with the previous suburban police department in which he had
served. That officer`s previous boss had basically recommended that guy be
forced to leave policing, that no amount of training could help him.
That was in his personnel file from his previous police job but
Cleveland police didn`t care because they never bothered to read that guy`s
personnel file and they hired him anyway. And that guy ended up shooting
and killing 12-year-old Tamir Rice less than three seconds after first
laying eyes on him at that Cleveland Park last November.
So, yes, new rule, read personnel files from their old job before you
hire somebody to be a Cleveland police officer and hand them a gun. That
one seems doable. That one maybe will help.
No officers have yet been charged in the shooting death of Tamir Rice.
That investigation is still ongoing. But the results of that investigation
whether anybody involved, any of the officers will be ultimately charged,
that is a big unknown still hanging over Cleveland right now. Even with
that big announcement today about reforming the police department and, of
course, it hangs over the protests, the peaceful protests in the streets of
And in the meantime, while we wait to learn what will happen in the
Tamir Rice case, the Cleveland Police Department and Department of Justice
say they will get to work implementing these changes right away, these
fixes for what is broken at the Cleveland P.D. They will get to work on it
right away, and yet, soon enough, not even close.
Joining us now is Pastor Richard Gibson from the Elizabeth Baptist
Church in Cleveland. He`s one of the co-chairs of the greatest Cleveland
congregations which organized a march today in response to the acquittal of
Officer Michael Brelo.
Pastor Gibson, thank you for being with us tonight.
PASTOR RICHARD GIBSON, ELIZABETH BAPTIST CHURCH: Thank you for having
me on the show.
MADDOW: I had to narrow it down today when I was thinking about ways
to talk about Cleveland policing gone horribly wrong. I feel like every
city has its challenges when it comes to the relationship between the
police and the community, but the horror stories in Cleveland would be the
worst thing that had ever happened in any other city, and there are about
six or seven of them just in recent years that are as bad as anything that
you hear anywhere else in country.
Do you have a basic understanding of what`s been so wrong in
GIBSON: So certainly we have, as the consent decree shows, a pattern
in practice of excessive use of force. Certainly, there`s also a culture
where the police department has not really been connected with the
community. So, we`ve arrived here today with that problem, certainly
hoping to move forward. It`s our time to really bring about change.
MADDOW: Greater Cleveland congregations, congregations like yours,
churches and faith communities have made themselves very visible in terms
of this issue in an ongoing way and also trying to channel peaceful
response when people are angry about these things happening.
What do you see as your role in trying to be constructive moving
forward in Cleveland?
GIBSON: So, greater Cleveland congregations came together after the
Tamir Rice incident and we were resolved really to be involved with this
issue for the long term, because we know that the problems that exist now
did not come to this community in the short term, so it real requires a
long-term solution. Greater Cleveland congregations is a part of the
industrial areas foundation which is a national group that organizes
So, we didn`t protest today, but we had an action with specific
solutions. We`ve also worked with the mayor and the U.S. attorney to bring
them specific solutions for the consent decree.
MADDOW: In the consent decree today, it is striking the breadth of
the suggestions, or the recommendations that will now be binding
recommendations on the city. Some of them, as I said, I find shocking
because they identify things that it`s very surprising to learn the
Cleveland P.D. was already not doing. Things like training their officers
in basic de-escalation techniques, giving them basic mental health
training, telling them not to use their guns as batons. Some of that stuff
is very surprising.
There`s also a lot of very wide-ranging recommendations in terms of
community accountability and sort of re-knitting the police department into
the community. That sounds like that`s one of your major concerns.
Do you feel like the consent decree really gets at the heart of the
GIBSON: So, I`ve only had a chance to glance at the consent decree.
There were four areas that we were particularly concerned about. So, we`ve
advocated for bias-free policing. So, if one is in Cleveland, it doesn`t
matter what one`s race is or what one`s zip code is. The policing should
be the same for all of us.
There should also be accountability. There`s not been accountability.
There`s been a dual system of justice for some time now.
We also need transparency. With the accountability, there has to be a
panel that looks at these cases going forward, and that panel has to be
adequately staffed and funded. And so, we`re looking at that closely.
We also think that there needs to be community engagement so this is
an opportunity even though we`ve had some horrific tragedies in our
community, this is a time for government to come together with the business
community, with the philanthropic community, with the faith community, and
civic leaders to really bring about change.
And then, the last area that we`ve talked about that we`ve advocated
on is financial sustainability. Whatever changes are implemented have to
be implemented for the long term. Otherwise, we`ll revert back to the
conditions that exist today.
MADDOW: Pastor Richard Gibson, one of the co-chairs of the greater
Cleveland congregations, pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church – thank you
for helping us understand what`s going on in your city. Appreciate it.
GIBSON: Thank you.
MADDOW: It will be interesting to see in Cleveland what the pastor
was talking about there in terms of financial sustainability. These are
binding recommendation on Cleveland to radically change the way they police
and train people.
The mayor has been explaining to the local media that he has
absolutely no idea where any of the funding will come to do any of that
training, any of that new equipment, any of the things they are now legally
bound to do. They have no plans for how they`re going to pay for it even
though they legally must do it. So, that`s not exactly step one, but it`s
All right. Much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: There`s only one 2016 story in the country right now which
involves free ice cream for everyone. But the free ice cream for everyone
story happened today and it was glorious and delicious and that story is
Plus, Jeb Bush`s new house.
All ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: In international news, dictators are known for putting up
extravagant statues on themselves, right? It`s a dictator thing.
Dictators in Turkmenistan do it better than most. The last leader of
Turkmenistan built thousands of statues of himself all over the country,
most of them covered in gold leaf. In this one, he`s wearing a fancy super
This one is a giant monument of a book that he wrote which he thinks
is a very good book. The covers of this book swing open every night at
8:00 p.m. and sing out a passage from the book.
But he was most famous for this. A rocket shaped tower with a golden
statue on himself mounted on top. No self-esteem problems here, buddy.
This one even resolves slowly throughout the day so the great leader`s face
would show to the sun.
Well, yesterday, even with that for context, Turkmenistan got a new
dictator statue that makes all the older ones that went before it looked
like hemmels. The new one is 69 feet tall. It shows the country`s current
dictator carrying a dove and riding a horse. It`s covered in 24 karat gold
leaf and perched on top of a giant cliff of white marble. It`s very
This is a guy who is most famous internationally for having very
publicly falling off a horse in 2013 – most famous for falling off a
horse. But now, there he is, 70 feet tall – him on a horse with a dove on
him and him and a horse on a dove all on a giant marble mountain. Ta-da!
Dictatorship has its privileges.
MADDOW: In 2002, a Republican state legislature from Connecticut
decided she wanted her state to pay tribute to the new president of the
United States, George W. Bush. She wanted Connecticut to put up signs
along the interstate leading into New Haven, Connecticut, that read, quote,
“Welcome to New Haven, birthplace of George W. Bush, 43rd president of the
Although George W. Push is most often thought of and affiliated with
the great state of Texas, where he was governor, President George W. Bush
was actually born in New Haven, Connecticut. But those signs that called
attention to him being from there turned out to be kind of an awkward grand
gesture on Connecticut`s part.
They weren`t actually welcomed. George W. Bush didn`t really want to
be known as being the president from New Haven who was born at the Yale
Hospital. His official White House bio at the time made no mention of
where he was born. No mention of New Haven, no mention of Yale, no mention
of Connecticut. It just raised that he was raised in Midland, Texas.
The “he`s from Texas” line turned out to be one of the more
interesting psychological sidebars of the George W. Bush presidential era.
Just before he started running for president in 1999, they decided they
ought to build him his very own Texas ranch palace on a 1,500-acre parcel a
few miles outside of Waco.
He didn`t even move in until he became president, but that ranch, at
least while it was under construction, helped him sort of define himself as
super duper Texan and kind of outdoorsy during the campaign. That was part
of the George W. Bush presidential rollout, building the ranch in Texas
especially for his run for president. He didn`t even move into it until
after he started being president. And then, once he was no longer going to
be president, he didn`t move back in, he just moved to Dallas.
But now, 16 years later, his younger brother, Jeb, has decided to do
his own version of that. He has decided to build his very own second home
on the occasion of him running for president, although in his case he is
not building it in Texas. Nor is he building it in Florida where he spent
eight years as governor.
No, Jeb has decided that he is going back to mom and dad`s. “Boston
Globe” first reported over the weekend that Jeb Bush is having a house
build for him at the family compound on Walker`s point in Maine,
Kennebunkport. The wrap around porch, expansive views of the Atlantic
George W. Bush tried to run as a different kind of Bush from his dad.
Jeb Bush is running as a different kind of Bush from his brother who is the
exact same Bush as his dad, at least if you want to read psychology into
Who has time to build a house while they`re running for president?
Maybe it`s part of running for president.
Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, the next 2016 contender is going to
formally enter the race, the former Governor Martin O`Malley made it
obvious before anybody else on either the Republican or Democratic side,
that he was very interested in running for president. On Saturday, he will
make it official.
Today, though, today belongs to Bernie Sanders, the independent
senator from Vermont. Bernie Sanders has technically already announced
that he was running but today was his first big campaign event and it was
big. Beltway media has been treating Bernie Sanders as almost a gadfly,
somebody who exists only to fester Hillary Clinton to move to the left
during the primaries.
But Bernie Sanders, you know what? Has been bucking that, both with
his arguments now and also the description of how he has campaigned in the
past. He`s running an aggressive campaign now. He`s launching a full
court media press, bigger than almost any other media, Republican or
He`s already raised $4 million so far in just the first few weeks
since he officially launched, which is a lot more than some of the top tier
Republican candidates raised in their first weeks.
And then, today, his big campaign kick off in his home state of
Vermont, aggressive, spirited, he spoke for about 45 minutes straight. He
used paper notes, no teleprompter for him and the crowd was very amped to
hear from him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today, we stand
here and say loudly and clearly – enough is enough. This great nation and
its government belong to all of the people and not to a handful of
This type of rigged economy is not what America is supposed to be
about. This has got to change, and as your president, together, we are
going to change it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Bernie Sanders, Democratic candidate for president
of the United States giving a big campaign kickoff address today in
In a speech sure to quell any fears that this will be a boring
Democratic primary, also because it`s Vermont, there was free ice cream.
Yes, it was Ben & Jerry`s.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll show again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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