The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 06/01/15
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us for this hour.
We`ve got a lot – a lot – coming up tonight.
We`ve got a cops-and-robbers style caper that is under way in at
least one state, maybe a couple of states.
We`ve got a surprising development in the already really surprising
former Speaker of the House Denny Hastert criminal case. We`re going to
have that story for you in just a moment.
We`ve also got some historic cultural and civil rights news to talk
about tonight. We`ve got some astonishing news about Bernie Sanders
blowing everyone`s minds in a good way.
So, there`s a lot going on. A lot coming up on the show tonight.
But we start tonight with what I like to think of as our little
organizational management problem – the known universe of 19 major
candidates or potential candidates for the Republican nomination for
president. This is our working – this is not even a list. It`s our
working thing we put up on the wall during the day to keep these people
The red squares show folks who have already announced officially that
they are running, dotted lines around some other people. Those are folks
who have told us they will make an announcement some time soon.
But even with those delineations, obviously, still the problem here
is crowded. The problem at least in terms of organizing this as
But, finally, today, we did get news of some impending breathing
room. We got big news from one Republican would-be contender who said
today that he will not run.
Wow. Finally, there`s a Republican who thinks there`s a reason not
to run for president this year. Someone we can remove from our list,
simplify things at least just a little. It happened earlier tonight on a
TV network you might have heard of that is called the FOX News Channel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We could have 18, 24 when all is said and done.
Why not you?
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NYC MAYOR: Because I believe I can`t get
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really?
GIULIANI: Because of my views on gay marriage. I`m in favor of gay
rights. I`m in favor of gay marriage. I see it as an issue of equality.
I`m pro-choice. I`m anti-abortion personally, but I`m pro-choice.
And I am pro-immigrant and haven`t backed down from it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The one Republican in America not running for president.
Today, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani giving that firm
declaration that at least this time he will not run for president because
he cannot be nominated.
And, honestly, this is great organizational news for those of us
hoping to unclutter the field a little bit, but for me and for those of us
who work on this show it is sort of sad news or disappointing news because
it turns out we never actually had Rudy Giuliani on our list in the first
So, we can`t even cross him out, we can`t even poof hip off the list
– poof, poof – like we did to Mike Pence and those other two guys who
So, Rudy Giuliani, yes, he is out, but he wasn`t on the list in the
first place so that doesn`t give us any more breathing room in this very,
very crowded field.
What we got instead today was another Republican officially getting
in. Today, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham made his big announcement in his
hometown of Central, South Carolina. I don`t mean the region Central South
Carolina, I mean the town, Central.
Good for him. Lindsey Graham is the ninth Republican to officially
enter the 2016 race on the Republican side. That means they are roughly
the size of Ozomatli or Arcade Fire at their peak now, but with nine people
in on the Republican side, it`s still not enough to feel the full five on
five basketball scrimmage demonstration squad.
That will be fixed soon enough. Keep an eye out next for former
Texas Governor Rick Perry. He is scheduled to make his, quote, “major
announcement” on Thursday in Dallas. Even though he will likely be the
tenth Republican to officially enter the race for president, he will be the
first ever candidate from either major party to announce a campaign for the
presidency while he is simultaneously under criminal indictment on
corruption charges in his home state.
So, Rick Perry will be making a little bit of history on Thursday.
After Governor Perry undoubtedly declares on Thursday, the next
Republican expected to make his announcement, don`t be mad, I`m not
kidding, is this person. His name is Donald Trump. He`s a real estate
developer and noted conspiracy theorist about President Obama`s place of
birth. He`s known for his reality TV show career, which is a thing that
Mr. Trump is scheduled to make his own major announcement on June
16th. So, he`s the next on the calendar at least for now after Rick Perry.
After his June 16th announcement, Mr. Trump is scheduled to take a trip to
New Hampshire the following day.
So, with this huge field of Republican contenders and likely
contenders even though we keep trying to take people off it, we can`t. One
of the really nice things that the state of Iowa specifically is doing,
basically as a favor to the whole country right now, is that Iowa is
conducting some excellent polling of likely voters in Iowa but as a way of
helping us all to sort of narrow down the viable field or at least better
organize our thinking about this giant field.
The “Des Moines Register”/Bloomberg Politics poll has not just been
asking people who they like for president. They are also – and this is
crucial – they`re also asking people who they would never support for
president. And in that part of the Iowa polling, Donald Trump is doing
really great right now.
In the new poll out today, likely Republican caucus goers in Iowa
were asked if they could ever support a particular candidate or never
support a particular candidate. The candidate who most Republicans would
never support is Donald Trump, the 58 percent of Iowa Republican likely
caucusgoers saying they could never support Donald Trump.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie does well on that metric, 45
percent of Iowa Republicans who say they`re going to go to caucuses say
they could never ever support him, but on this one Donald Trump wins.
On the other side of the ledger, the candidate Iowa Republican voters
most like as their number one choice for president right now is Wisconsin
Governor Scott Walker. He comes in at 17 percent in this poll that`s out
today. Tied for second at 10 percent, Ben Carson and Rand Paul. But, you
see, they`re way back there, seven points behind Scott Walker. Scott
Walker 17, Ben Carson and Rand Paul each at 10 percent.
But with the field that flat, right, with Scott Walker`s commanding
lead still putting him at less than a fifth of the vote, it is getting
increasingly, desperately consequential not just for the Republican Party
but potentially for the country. The aforementioned FOX News Channel still
apparently plans to cut off access to the first national Republican primary
debate by picking only the candidates who place in the top 10 nationally
regardless of how they`re doing specifically in early states like Iowa and
regardless of how poorly national polling predicts your chances overall in
a Republican presidential primary.
The former Iowa Republican party chair – one former Iowa Republican
Party chair telling the “Des Moines Register” today, quote, now we have put
network executives in charge of winnowing the field instead of actual
So, that remains the big problem on the Republican side and for the
Republicans` giant field. On the one hand, you know, deep bench, something
to be proud of. On the other hand, practical problems here, something has
to give. I mean, you can`t have this as your field and only ten people,
ten of them, in the debates, regardless of how they`re doing in the early
states, regardless of how they are likely to do in the early states.
So, that`s still a problem on the Republican side and I have to
imagine that the folks at FOX News are starting to feel maybe some second
thoughts about that criteria as the way they`re going to set up that first
debate. I mean, they are becoming the point of focus in terms of the
procedural matters of the Republican Party, right?
People are talking about the number of debates or about whether or
not the structure of the debates and the party is set up in a way that`s
unfair to any particular candidate or any group of candidates. People are
talking about how FOX News is skewing the field. You can`t be a part of
the process if you`re going to help voters make their decisions, right?
You have to be an arbiter. You can`t be the decider yourself. Anyway.
That is not a problem, however, on the Democratic side, right? On
the Democratic side, all the candidates who are running could still fit in
a Nissan Sentra with room for an intern to be driving. There`s only three
declared Democratic candidates so far.
But on the Democratic side, even though there`s only three declared
candidates, it is getting a bit more kinetic and more interesting to watch.
Former Maryland Governor Martin O`Malley was ahead of everybody else in
saying that he would likely run for president in 2016. He`s been saying it
forever and ever and ever. It hasn`t been a secret.
This weekend on Saturday, he made it official. He spoke before a
crowd of a few hundred people in Baltimore`s Federal Hill. Martin O`Malley
has been pretty obviously preparing for longer than almost anybody else in
the race to launch this big campaign for the White House.
But when he finally did it, just before he hit the stage for his big
rally, his big announcement, he had a bad audio visual snafu.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ladies and gentlemen, we now have a very
special video presentation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: We`d like to make an announcement. We will not stick our
finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing. We will take
stands, important ones.
MARTIN O`MALLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe we are
standing at the threshold of a new era of American opportunity if only we
have the gut and the appetite and the courage –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Oh, I`ve been there. I mean, I haven`t been there like
running for president been there, but I`ve been there.
Martin O`Malley`s big campaign kickoff was on Saturday. It was in
addition to that little snafu was hot as in temperature hot. A lot of his
supporters showed up late due to the heat and then they had the snafu.
Former governor, you know, ended up making his announcement, though,
despite all of that. He flew from his hot snafu in Maryland, flew right to
Iowa for the first leg of his campaign.
Meanwhile, former Rhode Island governor and former Republican,
Lincoln Chafee, is expected to announce his candidacy for president for the
Democratic nomination for president. He`s due to announce the day after
tomorrow. He`ll be announcing on Wednesday at a speech at George Mason
But the big winner this week on the Democratic side or on any side
has inarguably got to be Bernie Sanders. Just days after he had his big
campaign rally kickoff in Burlington, Vermont, Bernie Sanders ended up in
Iowa speaking to a packed house in Davenport, Iowa. The organizers had to
open a wall to make room for the crowd.
“The New York Times” is describing that crowd in Davenport as the
largest crowd attracted by any candidate from either party in the Iowa all
year. Bernie Sanders.
Then on Saturday, folks at a local brewery in Ames, Iowa, were
clamoring to get a seat to see him speak. People who couldn`t get into the
brewery were still hanging out, trying to peek through the windows, trying
to be a part of it, even though they couldn`t fit in the room.
Yesterday, again, Bernie Sanders spoke to a crowd of almost 3,000
people in Minneapolis. The room got so crowded that the overflow crowd
spilled into the plaza outside. Everybody turning out to see Bernie.
Now, obviously, it`s still very, very early in the race. It`s so
early you can`t even call it a race. So, it is still very early to
extrapolate from all this.
But honestly, ever since Bernie Sanders has gotten in, it has been
good news for Bernie Sanders after good news for him after good news for
him in terms of the big crowd. In his campaign launch last Monday, the
very positive media coverage his campaign has been getting along the
campaign trail, the millions of dollars his campaign has raise since he
launched, outpacing all of the Republican campaigns in terms of the fund-
raising and days after he launched.
For whatever reason, the Bernie Sanders boomlet, this boomlet that
Bernie Sanders is enjoying is not one that Martin O`Malley has been able to
enjoy not since his big campaign kickoff on Saturday. He hasn`t been
drawing in nearly as big a crowd, as Bernie Sanders did this weekend. For
whatever reason that big campaign kickoff Martin O`Malley did didn`t work
out for him in the same way. But the campaign kickoff does seem to have
worked for Senator Sanders.
I mean, the beltway media has been thinking of Bernie Sanders as an
asterisk in this campaign, right? As kind of Dennis Kucinich character
this year, but he has not been functioning that way at all.
In the meantime, there is the inevitable Democratic nominee, right,
Hillary Clinton. You may have heard that Hillary Clinton has already
launched her campaign. That is formally true.
However today, her campaign announced she is having her first major
campaign rally on June 13th, a week from Saturday. It will be held at the
Four Freedoms Park which is on Roosevelt Island in New York City. This
rally is going to be open to the public. You can register for tickets
already at the Hillary Clinton Web site. That event it at the four that
event at the Four Freedoms Park will be followed by an organizing meeting
in Iowa before Hillary Clinton begins a quick tour through the four
earliest states in the primary season.
So, for Hillary Clinton supporters, there is that to look forward to.
But what about this Bernie Sanders dynamic and the way it`s playing out
right now? Bernie Sanders has been experiencing this incredibly positive
launch and really at this point nobody is giving him a shot at actually
winning the nomination.
But given the shape of the field, given the huge prohibitive lead
that Hillary Clinton has in terms of locking up the nomination on the
Democratic side, what does it mean if Bernie Sanders continues to do as
well as he has been doing? How does that affect the primary contest for
the Democratic nomination, but also the race overall and the state of
Joining us now is Kurt Meyer. He`s chair of the Tri-County Iowa
Democrats, which includes Worth County where Bernie Sanders held a rally
Saturday. Three hundred people turning out to see him in a town Kensett,
which I believe is a town that has a population of less than 300.
Mr. Meyer, thanks very much for being here. It`s nice to have you
KURT MEYER, TRI-COUNTY IOWA DEMOCRATS: Thank you. It`s my pleasure.
MADDOW: Is it fair to say that the town, the size of the crowd that
turned out to see Bernie Sanders this weekend is larger than the population
of the town in which he was speaking?
MEYER: Yes. That is a fair statement. There are about 240 people
that live in beautiful Kensett. And there were a little over 300 people
that came to hear Bernie on Saturday.
MADDOW: And when you cover an event like that, when you see people
turn out for an event like that, is it familiar faces to you as a
Democratic activist and organizer? Is it all people you know and who have
been involved in the past? Who are you seeing turn out?
MEYER: There were a number of familiar faces and certainly the tried
and true were there. Some of them are Bernie supporters. Some of them are
interested in hearing what Bernie has to say.
But there were also people that hadn`t been involved before, people
that were new to me, people that I had the pleasure to introduce myself to.
They arrived in some cases early enough that I could exchange pleasantries,
hear about who they were.
And it will be interesting if these people are committed Bernie
Sanders soldiers because obviously they were lit up on Friday or Saturday
MADDOW: I`ve got to say, because if I put myself in the shoes or the
mindset of an Iowa Democrat, somebody who is interested in politics and
comes at it from a left center or left point of view in Iowa, you`ve got to
feel your conservative friends, people who are Republican-minded in Iowa
are sort of getting super served by their candidates, by the fact that
Republicans have been camped out for so long.
Is some of this just pent up debate to hear Democratic talk, to see
any Democratic candidates turn out?
MEYER: I think that may explain some of it. I think there are
naturally people that are going to come to Kensett because Kensett has
waited a long time between presidents or presidential candidates coming.
There`s a story that FDR perhaps came through on the whistle stop in 1936,
but only came through town, didn`t stop and talk in town.
So, you know, that`s a long way to wait. And so, you can imagine
some people would come just because a presidential candidate is a rare
occurrence in Kensett.
At the same time, people came because they wanted to hear Bernie`s
message. They wanted to interact with him. They wanted to get the flavor
of this campaign. I think there was a lot of energy and enthusiasm in the
room that evening.
MADDOW: What is that energy and enthusiasm in those numbers? What
do you think the message of that is for the Hillary Clinton folks?
MEYER: Well, I think – you know, I think they`re capable of drawing
their own messages. But I think that if you have a candidate who is
drawing large, enthusiastic, committed crowds, I think that that bears
watching. And I think they`re very smart people and I think they`re
probably going to be attentive to it. I think they have been all along.
MADDOW: Kurt Meyer, chair of the Tri-County Iowa Democrats – thanks
very much for letting us know what it`s like there. I`d love to keep
checking in with you as the season gets riper and riper.
MEYER: My pleasure. Great to talk with you.
MADDOW: Thanks. You too.
All right. We got lots more ahead on this very busy news day,
including the latest strange new element of a very strange story involving
former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.
Lots ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, there was yet another strange and unexpected turn today
in what has been one of the stranger and more unexpected political scandals
that we have seen in some time. It has to do with the former Republican
House speaker, who was just criminally indicted, and it has to do with the
federal judge who is now set to hear his case. We`ve got new details on
this already very odd story coming up.
MADDOW: This is Jim Durkin in the very blue state of Illinois. Jim
Durkin is the top Republican in the state legislature there.
His brother happens to be a federal judge who was appointed by
President Obama but confirmed by the Senate in 2012. And on Thursday, Jim
Durkin`s brother, the judge, Thomas Durkin, is about to become a very, very
high profile federal judge and it has nothing to do with his brother. It`s
related to former House Speaker Dennis Hastert.
While Judge Thomas Durkin was in private practice before he became a
judge, a federal election filing showed at least twice he made campaign
donations to Dennis Hastert`s congressional campaigns. That was first
reported today by politico.com.
In addition to those campaign donations to Dennis Hastert, Dennis
Hastert`s son is also now a partner at the law firm where Judge Durkin used
to work before he became a judge. Despite those connections, Judge Durkin
is the person to whom Dennis Hastert`s case has been assigned in federal
court after Dennis Hastert was indicted late last week on federal judges.
Those charges stem from some kind of private arrangement that Denny
Hastert allegedly made to pay more than $3 million in cash to a man who at
the allegedly had inappropriate sexual contact with when Denny Hastert he
was a high school teacher and wrestling coach before he ever got involved
in politics or became speaker of the House.
Well, today, we learned that former Speaker of the House Dennis
Hastert will be arraigned on Thursday morning in person at the federal
courthouse in Chicago. Even though the indictment has already come down,
this arraignment on Thursday is going to be more closely watched than it
might otherwise be in a case like this because there`s still so much
mystery and so much surprise surrounding his criminal charges.
Since Speaker Hastert was indicted Thursday, since we found out about
these incredibly surprising charges against him, Denny Hastert has not been
seen anywhere. He has resigned from his law firm. His name was removed
from the school that used to bear his name at Wheaton College. The law
firm and the school both made statements to that effect.
But Speaker Hastert personally has not been seen in public anywhere.
He has made no public statements either in his defense or otherwise, and
very unusually nobody else has made any statements on his behalf either.
I mean, whenever there`s a criminal case against a high-profile
person, whenever a criminal indictment, is unveiled against somebody who
has by big public profile, especially when that person is a politician it
follows like clockwork, right? You get the indictment, and then you get
the attorney`s statement saying their client is innocent or at least that
their client is looking for their day in court, or something, sometimes you
get the defendant themselves saying I`m innocent or I`m looking forward to
But with Dennis Hastert, we have had nothing. We haven`t seen hide
nor hair of him. We don`t even know who is representing him if anyone. We
know which lawyer will be representing the prosecution in the case against
Dennis Hastert. We do not know who, if anyone, will be standing in his
And so, even for a remarkable case like this involving a man who
fairly recently was third in line to the presidency after the vice
president, even for this remarkable case involving the former speaker of
the House, there will be an unusual amount of attention focused on that
arraignment scheduled for Thursday, 10:00 a.m. Central Time before Judge
With the added suspenseful possibility that Judge Thomas Durkin may
have to recuse himself from the case because of his multiple ties to Denny
Hastert and Denny Hastert`s political career and Denny Hastert`s family,
including his own multiple donations to Denny Hastert`s campaigns when Mr.
Hastert was still in Congress.
This started off as such a strange. But now, even days into it now,
it is still basically a black box.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: Americans take as part of our birthright freedom and
privacy. We think of them as not quite twins, right, but if you have
freedom you have privacy and without privacy there`s definitely no freedom.
It works for us something like that.
But there are times and stories when freedom and privacy are not so
neatly twinned. And a story like that happened today. It was a very big
deal. It was historic and it played out in the most public way possible.
And that story is ahead.
MADDOW: So, you know that the state of Nebraska voted to abolish the
death penalty last week, super contentious vote down to the wire. The
governor vetoed the repeal. The legislature overrode the veto.
The death penalty has been seen as a liberal issue. But Nebraska`s a
conservative state. It was Republican legislators who provided the vote to
actually get rid of the death penalty. Fascinating story, right?
This is not a dog bites man story, this is a man bites dog story.
It`s led of all sorts of think PC national coverage like this story in
“Time” magazine, “The Last Execution”.
It`s a big national story and not just that Nebraska did this, but
what it means for the country that they did it. Why conservatives are
shunning the death penalty. Death penalty activists say Nebraska is the
“The Washington Post” today, the death penalty abolition movement is
not limited to Nebraska.
So, yes, this super-unexpected, super interesting turn in that one
legislature has put a big national spotlight on Nebraska and what they did
and what it means for the death penalty overall in this country which is
But here`s the thing – this fascinating thing that`s just happened
in Nebraska, it`s still happening in Nebraska. And it`s turning into a
whole different kind of story.
So, while the Nebraska legislature was repealing the death penalty,
the governor of the state, Pete Ricketts, said if f anyone was going to
vote to abolish the death penalty because it seemed like the process was
too broken in the state, the state just didn`t have an easy way to carry
out lethal injections anymore – he said don`t worry about that part of it,
I have solved that problem.
Nebraska`s method of execution is supposed to be lethal injection.
Even though a lot of states can`t get the right drugs to do that anymore,
Governor Ricketts said he had solved the problem. He put in an order for
lethal injection drugs to be shipped to Nebraska from India.
Turns out, though, that the drug the governor ordered from India is
actually illegal to import into the United States. It`s illegal to import
it into the United States from India or from anywhere, which we first
reported last week and which John Oliver turned into pure TV poetry on his
show this weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN OLIVER, TV HOST: Interestingly, one of the reasons lawmakers
voted to repeal the death penalty was practical as it`s increasingly
difficult to obtain the necessary drugs for execution. And watch how
Ricketts tried to overcome that objection.
TV ANCHOR: Yesterday, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts announced the
state has successfully purchased drugs to administer the death penalty.
OLIVER: So, he`s essentially saying, hey, guys, great news, I found
the murder drugs I`ve been looking for.
How is that good news you unpeel hard boiled egg with teeth? It
turned out anyway, his plan was a little flawed. First, the drugs he
located were located in India and cost nearly $55,000 in taxpayer money and
that`s expensive. We are talking Adderall in the Yale Library finals week
And secondly, there was this.
MADDOW: The FDA tells us, quote, “With very limited exceptions which
do not apply here, it is unlawful to import this drug and FDA would refuse
its admission into the United States.”
OLIVER: And that is pathetic because saying you`ve got high quality
to drugs from India and not being able to deliver is embarrassing enough
when you`re a high school junior trying to get into prom date`s pants. It
is downright humiliating when you are the adult governor of a state trying
to desperately kill people, you (INAUDIBLE) Lex Luthor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: John Oliver.
So at the end of last week after the legislature abolished the death
penalty, the governor of Nebraska vowed that the last ten guys on death row
in Nebraska would still be killed by Nebraska anyway. He said he would get
that lethal injection drug that he ordered. He would get that drug into
his state even though the FDA says importing that drug into his state would
be against the law.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. PETE RICKETTS (R), NEBRASKA: Certainly, we would hope the drugs
arrive as soon as possible but again, these things take time. As we have
more information, we`ll share with you. We have no plans to return the
drugs. Our plan is to proceed with the executions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We`re proceeding with the executions.
I know there is drama here and a lot to discuss about the death
penalty and the morality of the death penalty, the fragile legality of
capital punishment as a concept and lethal injection in particular. But
aside from all of that in the specific, this is a whole different thing.
I mean, the fed say, you can`t import this drug, it`s illegal. The
state of Nebraska says, why do you say it`s illegal? We can`t hear you.
What? We haven`t heard that it`s illegal. La-la-la-la. And so, we`re
going to get the drugs and we`re going to use those drugs to kill these ten
So, now, here`s this kind of cop show thriller, right? Because the
FDA says the drugs would be seized at the border if somebody attempts to
bring these drugs into the United States. Documents from the guy in India
trying to illegally ship these drugs said on April 14th said those drugs
would be here in 60 days. OK, then, tick-tock, nobody knows where they
Nobody knows if Nebraska is getting the drugs shipped legally and
aboveboard. Or at least overtly and above board in which case the FDA says
they will find them and seize them. Or maybe Nebraska has arranged some
sort of stealth smuggling operation with taxpayer money to hide the drugs
from the FDA and sneak the drugs in illegally. Nebraska, have you hired a
And the guy shipping them says he`s shipping them to two other states
besides Nebraska which would be illegal for each of those states.
So, the clock is ticking. This guy says he shipped this stuff within
60 days. And what`s going to happen to that batch of illegal death penalty
drugs that they are trying to get into the United States that the governor
is pledging to get while pledging ignorance of the law that makes them
illegal? Will the FDA find the shipment and stop the drugs before they get
to the Nebraska?
If FDA doesn`t stop drugs, then drugs do get to Nebraska, can
Nebraska use those illegal drugs from India to carry out their first lethal
injection ever? Right after their state just abolished the death penalty?
And what are the legal ramifications for Nebraska officials if they do that
with these illegal drugs like they say they want to?
And, by the way, who are the other two states that are also trying to
illegally smuggle these drugs into the states? Is that your governor? Is
that your state government trying to do that with your taxpayer money? How
do we find out? It`s a caper that`s under way right now.
Joining us right now is Jennifer Moreno. She`s a staff attorney with
the Berkeley Law Death Penalty Clinic at UC-Berkeley. Ms. Moreno and her
colleagues at Berkeley are trying to find the other states that might be
trying to import these death penalty drugs into the country, trying to
solve this mystery, racing against the clock to do it.
Jennifer Moreno, thanks very much for being with us.
JEN MORENO, DEATH PENALTY CLINIC STAFF ATTORNEY: Thank you for
MADDOW: How are you going about trying to figure out who might be
trying to import this drug besides Nebraska?
MORENO: Well, I think the first thing to remember this is not the
first time that states have take this action, that they`ve sought to import
drugs from out of the country. It happened several years ago. A number of
states were able to bring in drugs into the country, including Nebraska.
But I think that we`re faced with a bit of a different situation now.
And that is, over the course of the last few years, a number of states have
passed really strict legislation specifically aimed at preventing the
public, prisoners, attorneys, the media, from having access to where
they`re getting drugs.
And so, it makes it more difficult this time around to figure this
problem out. You know, first and foremost, we need to look at the states
that are actively carrying out executions or states where there`s a will to
carry out executions, and then look at those regulations or protocols and
see which of those states either call for or would permit the use of that
drug, and that`s where we start.
And from there, working with attorneys on the ground in those states,
it becomes sort of a massive public records project of seeking records from
those states from agencies perhaps through discovery if there`s ongoing
litigation in those states.
So, really, right now we`re just mining for information.
MADDOW: So, if the FDA says, as they told us, unequivocally, that
importing this specific drug into the U.S. for lethal injection is against
the law, and that if the FDA is aware of somebody trying to do it, they
will seize that drug, should we expect that states will essentially try to
smuggle it, that they`ll try to do it in some way that the FDA won`t be
alerted, they`ll try to sneak it across the boarder without the feds
MORENO: Certainly, we`ve seen that before. The statement by the FDA
and the hope that they would be able to see these drugs as they`re trying
to enter the country – I mean, that would really show that the system put
in place to prevent drugs from entering the country is working.
But certainly, we`ve seen states try and go to extra measures to
bring drugs in. We know several years ago, Georgia had them sort of
overnighted by a common carrier to avoid Customs and Border Patrol. We
know that Arizona broke up payments for foreign drugs into small payment
sort of amounts to avoid triggering disclosure requirements under state
MORENO: So, we know that states are seeking ways around or have in
the past sought ways around these federal regulations.
MADDOW: If Nebraska does get these drugs by hook or crook even
though they`re illegal to import them to the United States and they use
them to kill somebody, does – are there legal requirements? Would there
be legal ramifications for the officials who did that?
MORENO: Well, we`d have to look and see the specific circumstances.
Certainly, we know that Arizona and Georgia were able in the past to use
drugs that were found later to be brought in illegally to carry out a
couple of executions. And so, we`d have to see, you know, the
circumstances under which the state brought the drugs in and if we were
able to identify, you know, that before they were used.
MADDOW: Jennifer Moreno, staff attorney with the Berkeley Law Death
Penalty Clinic, intimately involved in this, including trying to figure out
kind of whodunit in terms of these illegal drugs – thanks very much for
being with us tonight. Appreciate you being here.
MORENO: Thanks so much.
MADDOW: It`s fascinating, like states not only would have to be drug
smugglers – Nebraska, you would have to be an illegal drug smuggler to do
this. And the reason I can feel safe in warning you about that is because
drugs have been illegally smuggled by state governments in the past in
order to pull off these surreptitious and arguably illegal executions. The
All right. Lots more ahead with us. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Take a look at this photo. This was taken at a Wilmington,
Delaware, hospital in January 1973.
If the man with his hand raised in the background looks familiar,
that`s because he is now the vice president of the United States. That`s
Joe Biden being sworn in in 1973 for the first time as a U.S. senator.
What you see in the foreground of that picture is Joe Biden`s oldest
son, Beau, on a hospital bed there. That swearing in ceremony took place
in that hospital at Beau`s bedside in that hospital in Delaware because of
a terrible car wreck that Beau had survived but that claimed the life of
his sister and his mother, Joe Biden`s wife and daughter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All but one of the newly elected members of the
U.S. Senate were sworn in on Wednesday in Washington. The one exception is
30-year-old Joseph Biden, Democrat of Delaware. Biden`s wife and daughter
were killed in an automobile accident on December 18th and both of his sons
Biden himself was not involved in the accident but since the
accident, he`s been living at a hospital in Wilmington, Delaware, taking
care of his sons.
Today, the Senate sent an official to the hospital to swear him in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, THEN-U.S. SENATOR: I felt that I should be sworn this
with my children.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you solemnly swear that you will support and
defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign
and domestic, that you will bear true faith and allegiance to the same,
that you take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or
purpose of evasion and that you are well and faithfully discharged the
duties of office which you are about to enter so help you God?
BIDEN: I do.
I make this one promise that if in six months or so, there`s a
conflict between my being a good father and being a good senator, which I
hope will not occur, I thought would but I hope it won`t, I promise you
that I will contact Governor-elect Tribbitt as I have earlier and tell him
that we can always get another senator but they can`t get another father.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That image, the image that much 3-year-old boy lying on a
hospital bed as his father was sworn in to the Senate under the most
unimaginable circumstances, that is how the country first met Beau Biden.
That was 1973.
This past weekend, Beau Biden passed away from brain cancer at the
age of 46.
Because he was put into the national spotlight at such a young age, I
think there`s a reflex to identify him as just the son of Vice President
Joe Biden. But Beau Biden had a long and distinguished career of his own.
He was a decorated Iraq war veteran, served as a captain in the Delaware
National Guard. He was awarded the Bronze Star.
At the age of 37, he was elected attorney general of the state of
Delaware, one of the youngest people ever. When his father became vice
president, a lot of people expected Beau to run for his dad`s vacated
Senate seat. He obviously would have been a strong contender just on name
recognition alone, considering that a Biden had held that seat for the
previous 36 years.
Instead of running for that seat, though, Beau Biden chose to stay on
as attorney general. He said that he had, quote, “a duty to fulfill as
attorney general and the immediate need to focus on a case of great
And that was not just a political line. There was a case, a case
that was of vital importance to many families in Delaware that he was right
in the middle of. Beau Biden went on to prosecute in that case one of the
worst pedophiles in American history, a man who had assaulted dozens,
possibly hundreds of young kids. Beau Biden instead of running for his
dad`s Senate seat, which he would have won it in a walk, instead he stayed
on and saw that case through.
As that state`s attorney general, he also became an advocate for
reforming gun laws in his state. That`s something he talked about on this
He also came on to talk about his work against bad actor banks and
the mortgage industry that preyed on people as part of the financial
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEAU BIDEN (D), DELAWARE ATTORNEY GENERAL: Deceiving consumers and
in this case homeowners about whether or not and who owns their note in the
mortgage is the most basic consumer protection right they have. And that`s
what I am. I`m a prosecutor and a consumer protector. That`s what I get
paid to do and that`s why I`m on this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s why I am on this.
Before cancer took him this weekend, Beau Biden was a leading
candidate to become Delaware`s next governor in 2016. Today, Delaware`s
current governor said that Beau Biden had he made it to that election, he
would have won the governor`s race easily.
Beau Biden was first diagnosed with brain cancer in 2013. His family
announced on Saturday that he had died. Beau Biden leaves behind a wife
and two small kids. He was 46 years old.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN: My dad used to have an expression, he would say, a father
knows he`s a success when he turns and looks at his son or daughter and
know that they turned out better than he did. I`m a success. I`m a hell
of a success.
Bowie, I love you. I`m so proud of you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: He was born in Kentucky, raised in Mississippi, went to West
Point in New York. He then served on the western frontier which was then
back in the Midwest. He then moved back to Mississippi. Then, he went to
D.C. as a member of Congress from Mississippi.
The end of the civil war saw him in prison in Virginia. When he got
out of prison, he fled to Canada and Cuba and Europe. Eventually, he came
back to the U.S. and moved to Tennessee. Then he retired in Mississippi
and that`s where he died. Guy moved around.
But the one state in the nation that celebrates him today with a
state holiday, the only place in the country that does that is the state of
Alabama. Jefferson Davis was the first president of the Confederacy, but
as far as Alabama goes specifically, he really has no connection to Alabama
at all. I mean, yes, it`s true, the first White House of the Confederacy
was in Alabama. But honestly, it was only there for three months before
they moved it out of state.
I mean, it would make sense maybe if Alabama was the one state that
honored Jefferson Davis because Jefferson Davis was born in Alabama or
because he represented Alabama in some way, or because maybe died there or
conceivably even because he was in prison there or something.
But no, Alabama has none of those connections to Jefferson Davis.
They just love them some Jefferson Davis.
Alabama also honors the old Confederacy with Confederate Memorial Day
in April, and they go out of their way to make sure they celebrate Robert
E. Lee Day on the same day everyone else honors Martin Luther King.
When it comes to a whole official state day to honor the president of
the confederacy, it`s just Alabama for no logistical reason whatsoever.
Just unparalled love for the side that lost in the civil war, and the man
who wasn`t from Alabama who led them to that will loss before he retired
somewhere else that wasn`t Alabama either.
And so, happy inexplicable and extraneous confederate state holiday
today, Alabama. Nobody else in the country understands why you do this.
MADDOW: You know you`re getting old when photos from news that
happened in your lifetime is in black and white.
The run up to the 1976 Olympics, for instance, look for the pictures
from 1975, right? Even though, of course, they had color back then.
You`ll find a lot of black and white photos.
At the Olympics in 1976 in Montreal, the following year, again, black
and white photos. Looks historic. It was historic. They set a record in
the decathlon that year.
And then the winner appeared in glorious technicolor on breakfast
tables everywhere. World`s greatest athlete.
And decades later, still in full color, but no longer flying, on
plain old fairly trashy reality TV. That could have been a life – the
move from hero in black and white to celebrity, known still life of an
American action hero.
We all have moments in life when we have decisions to make. And
sometimes we decide we need to pick up and move in a big way. It could be
as benign as telling your parents you don`t want to be a lawyer after all.
It could be as scary as loading everything you own on to a raft and shoving
off for another country.
We all have moments in life, somewhere along that scale, where we`ve
got to move, for reasons that seem particular to us but are likely shared
by a lot of other people. We reach that moment when the choice is moving
from where we are or staying for no kind of life at all.
And we move because of courage or desperation or good sense.
Whatever moves us, we move. And most of us make that kind of a walk, that
kind of move in relative private but sometimes it happens in public.
Sometimes it is the hero who ran and jumped and vaulted and threw and
really was a real live superhero.
Sometimes the fastest star just walks slowly toward the life where
she is supposed to be.
Today, the athletic super hero born as Bruce Jenner greeted the
public as Caitlyn for the first time. Caitlyn Jenner telling “Vanity
Fair”, quote, “If I was lying on my deathbed and I`ve kept this secret and
never did anything about it, I`d be lying there saying, you just blew your
entire life. You never dealt with yourself. And I don`t want to happen.”
Instead, she posted this to Twitter, “Welcome to the world, Caitlyn,”
and fittingly for an Olympic hero, Ms. Jenner then set a new record for
fastest time to a million followers on Twitter, took her four hours and
Wherever you are about gender and identity and sexual orientation,
any and all of it, you will remember this day and this news. For trans
kids and for trans adults, wherever they are today, they got a hero.
I mean, already it was their mostly nameless bravery that made this
more public journey possible. Being trans is still one of the tougher
roads to walk in this country. And we are still going to lose trans people
to the prejudice and pressure along the way.
But more people will make it through because Caitlyn Jenner made it
through, and is making it through and because Caitlyn Jenner made this
historic leap out loud and in public.
This is absolutely history in the finest living sense today.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD”. Ari Melber sitting in for
Good evening, Ari.
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