The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 06/02/15
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Vermont senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders
is here for the interview tonight. He`s going to be here with us live in
just a moment. I`m very excited about that. We`ve got a big show tonight.
Tonight, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination,
the woman who is such a front-runner in many people`s eyes, she is the
party`s presumptive nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, she
is on her way to Texas for a two-day Texas trip that starts tomorrow.
Yes, I said Texas. Texas is not – you know, changing their rules to
vote early this year along with Iowa and New Hampshire and those other
early states. Texas isn`t an early state. Texas is still as yet a very
red state. So even if Texas does matter towards the nomination this year
on the Republican side, there`s really no reason that Texas will be an
important state to win on the Democratic side.
Hillary Clinton, though, going two days to Texas this week. And the
reason Secretary Clinton is visiting Texas of all places, at a time when
there are all these other – you know, really high pressured demands on her
time, when she is otherwise trying to spend every available minute in the
early primary and caucus states at this important time in her campaign, the
reason Hillary Clinton is leaving the well beaten campaign trail instead of
spending two days in Texas this week is, I think, money.
No matter the electoral calendar, big time candidates who are trying
to raise big time money, they must find time on the campaign to follow the
rich people home to wherever the rich people live. And so, sometimes in
places like Texas, that means you find an occasional Democratic front
running presidential nominee.
And so, the secretary of state – former Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton is going to Texas tomorrow for a fund-raising trip. That trip,
though, does have one happy political side effect which is that her two-day
swing through Texas will also put her in Texas for Rick Perry`s big
Former Texas Governor Rick Perry has scheduled his major announcement
for the day after tomorrow in Dallas. If, as expected, he announces that
he is in the race, he will be the first candidate in any major party to
declare a run for the presidency while he is also under criminal indictment
on corruption charges. He will become, in addition to that history-making
glass ceiling breaker, he will also become the 10th candidate to formally
enter the presidential race on the Republican side this year so far. He
will be number ten.
And presumably, there`s lots more still to go. Once Governor Perry
gets in on Thursday, while Hillary Clinton awkwardly enough is in Texas on
a fund-raising trip at the same time. While he gets in on Thursday, we
will still be waiting on inevitable announcement from guys like Jeb Bush
and Scott Walker, Chris Christie and Bobby Jindal. John Kasich, the
governor of Ohio says he may yet get in. Peter King, congressman from New
York, we`re waiting on him.
Two of my favorites, former Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich and former
Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, because of where they are on our candidates
chart, I sort of think of them as twins now. I`m kind of hoping they will
announce together or at least on the same day.
And then, of course, there is this guy on the right-hand side there,
who is next up in terms of a scheduled announcement after Rick Perry goes
on Thursday this week. That guy on the right side of your screen, third
row down, he is due to be in New Hampshire the day after his planned
announcement on June 16th. He`s due to make two appearances in Iowa this
And in advance of that Iowa visit this week, that could be Republican
presidential candidate shared some pearls of would-be presidential wisdom
with the “Des Moines Register.”
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, BUSINESSMAN: Nobody has ever been more successful than
me. I`m the most successful person ever to run.
The American Dream is dead. It`s dead. Dead as a door nail. But I`m
going to bring it back stronger than ever before.
The problem with politics, if I tell you right now, everyone else is
going to say, “What a great idea.” You are going to have 10 candidates
going, who are going to forget where it came from, which is me.
But, no, I have an absolute way of defeating ISIS, and it would be
decisive and quick and very, very – it`d be very beautiful.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: It would be very – it would be very beautiful. I can see
it. It would be beautiful.
I mentioned just a moment ago that we`ve got Senator Bernie Sanders
here tonight for the interview.
Senator Bernie Sanders has just made a formal request to the chair of
the Democratic Party, that might actually offer the Republican Party a way
out of the mess they have gotten themselves into in terms of how to handle
issues like Donald Trump and how to handle the managerial consequences of
their own historically unprecedented ginormous Republican presidential
I mean, the field is not set yet on either side. There`s going to be
a new formal entry into the Democratic race tomorrow, Lincoln Chafee,
former Republican senator, former independent Rhode Island governor, he`ll
announce that he is now going to seek the 2016 Democratic Party nomination
for the presidency. That`s going to happen tomorrow.
And even with Linc Chafee getting in though, tomorrow, in contrast
with the Republicans, the Democratic field will still be really small.
Even with Linc Chafee getting in tomorrow, the Democratic field will still
be small enough to fit inside a midsized sedan, with room left over for
someone else to drive provided somebody will sit in the middle seat in the
That`s the Democratic field, even with Linc Chafee getting in
tomorrow. On the Republican side, the field is so big that we are now
starting to get a look at the strategically perverse decisions that the
Republican Party has set itself up to make in terms of their debate.
Specifically, I mean, if they are still planning to only let in the
top 10 contenders as measured in national polls, which is what they say the
criteria will be for their first big Republican primary debate, well, the
new national ABC News/”Washington Post” poll described today would exclude
not only Rick Perry, but it would also exclude the other prominent
Republican who announced this week, Senator Lindsey Graham of South
The latest CNN national poll that`s out today would, again, exclude
Lindsey Graham. It would even exclude Rick Santorum who came in second to
Mitt Romney for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.
Both of those polls, even as they exclude the other guys, both of
those polls would include Donald Trump. They would both include Donald
Trump on the debate stage because sure, why not? I mean, honestly, if you
ran Ted Nugent in a national poll or if you ran a Chick-fil-A sandwich,
they would stand a chance of cracking to the top 10, too.
In the national poll of Republican voters this far out from the
election, with two dozen names to choose from, you`re talking about
cracking the top 10, Chick-fil-A sandwich could do it. Donald Trump has
done it. Why not put all of them in the debate?
But that`s a problem for the Republican Party in terms of actually
presenting your voters, actually presenting the early voting states in
particular with a conceivably viable slate of candidates, and making sure
that everybody who is conceivably viable gets a shot at making their case
to the voters. It`s – whether or not you`re a Republican, whether or not
you want a Republican to ultimately win, that is a strategic conundrum for
the Republican Party there in trouble.
But Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has a way to fix this. He has now
written a formal request to the Democratic Party chair, Debbie Wasserman
Schultz. And in this formal request, he asks for more debates to be
scheduled in the primary process.
And yes, that makes sense. In a candidacy like his running against a
strong front-runner, you want a lot of debates, right? Debates are
probably your best shot for making the biggest national splash with your
campaign. So, that`s one. He wants more debates.
He also asks for the debates to start basically now. Start them
sooner. And there`s a reasonable case to be made for that request, as
well. The last time Democrats were competing for an open seat in the White
House was the 2008 election, so the campaign started in 2007 heading into
2008. At this point in the campaign process, that year, the first debate
had already happened more than a month ago. The first debate was in April
2007 for the 2008 election.
So, Bernie Sanders is saying, listen, look at what we`ve done in the
past. That worked pretty well for us. Let`s get started. Let`s get these
He also makes the case that the debate should be all over the country,
including in states that don`t traditionally get a lot of Democrat
attention. He says holds debates in places like Texas, hold debates in
places like Mississippi or Utah and Wyoming, places that aren`t used to
seeing Democrats to those places can hear what the Democratic Party has to
All interesting. None of it is that crazy, right? But all
interesting. None of it is that far off the field in terms of what other
people have proposed from time to time.
But then there`s the big great idea. Then, there`s the big great idea
that could make it all so much more fun for all of us, honestly. But that
could also essentially rescue the Republican Party from their huge mess
that they`ve got with their huge field f candidates this year.
Because in addition to that other stuff about the debate, Senator
Sanders is now proposing that we throw the overall debate scheme out the
window for the 2016 election. The overall plan, right, where Republicans
all debate amongst themselves a handful of times – however they`re going
to do that with 30 million candidates, right? And the Democrats all debate
amongst themselves a handful of times, too. And then after those two-party
processes are done inside the party where the nominees or potential
nominees from each party debate amongst themselves, then, only then, they
debate somebody from the other party.
That`s the basic scheme under which we operate, right? Bernie Sanders
proposes, instead, why not, during the primary process, have Democrats and
Republicans mix it up? Have Democrats and Republicans in some combination
start debating each other. Not as the official nominees of their party,
but as people who want to be the nominees of their party and who want to
make the case that they ought to be that nominee in part by showing off
what they can do to guys on the other side of the aisle.
All right? Pick me, Democratic Party. Pick me to be your nominee
because this is what you`ll get if you put me up against the Republicans.
Watch me debate the Republicans if you like what I see. If you like what
you see in me, consider me for your nominee.
Same goes on the Republican side. Hey, Republican Party, pick me as
the nominee. Watch how I take apart these Democrats in the debate.
It makes sense, right? I mean, it makes sense if you`re running to
win the nomination and win the presidency. It also really makes sense if
you`re running to win the argument. If you`re run to go win the argument
for the long run in part of the whole country, and in the process get
people to care about politics in a way they manifestly do not right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: One of the other things you`ve just done
is written a letter suggesting the Democratic National Party have
bipartisan debates as early as July, which brings to mind, just how would
you decide who among these Republicans would be in such a debate? How
would you have a big enough stage for everybody?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDNETIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I think it
can be done in an ad hoc way and it`s something we have to work up.
But here is the point, Andrea – there is no secret that millions of
Americans are giving up on our political system. And that is a sad state
of affair. Yes, I want Republican toes be involved early on, because I
think once we can get into the room with Republicans, we can expose their
reactionary agenda of huge tax breaks for millionaires, throwing millions
of people off of health insurance, cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, education,
environmental protection, education.
I do not believe that`s the agenda that the American people support,
and I think when we get them in a room together and have those debates, we
can expose them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: When we get them in a room together and have those debates.
Democrats and Republicans together, we can suppose that.
Senator Bernie Sanders is not just running a different kind of
presidential campaign. He`s exposing that the whole process of the
presidential campaign be done in a different way and for a different
purpose, to not just win the fight, but to win the argument, too, and to
start that part of the substantive debate by the politics of this country,
to start it now. That would be fun.
Vermont senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders
joins us live, next.
MADDOW: “Late Night with Seth Meyers” last night. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SETH MEYERS, LAST NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS: You describe yourself as a
Democratic socialist. And that is, some would say, a dangerous thing
politically to describe yourself as. We have a president right now who
does not consider himself as a socialist but people call him a socialist as
So, are you worried about framing yourself as this that so many people
have a negative connotation?
SANDERS: Not if we have an opportunity to describe what Democratic
socialism means. That means you have countries like Denmark, Sweden,
Norway, other European countries who have social democratic governments and
And the result of that is, in those countries, health care is a right
of all people. I don`t see that as a great problem.
At a time when so many of our young people can`t afford to go to
college, tuition is free in many of those countries.
Excellent – they have excellent child care, strong retirement
benefits, they are often strongly pro-environment, taking on climate
So, I think when people understand that in those countries governments
are working for the middle class rather than the billionaire class, I think
we can get our message across.
MEYERS: I agree. And I –
And as someone who just came back from Sweden, I can also tell you
they speak Swedish there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now for “The Interview” is that self-proclaimed
Democratic socialist, independent Vermont senator, and Democratic
presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, who right now is on something of a
Senator, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here.
SANDERS: Good to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: How is it going now versus how you thought it would be going
by now? I will preface this by saying it seems to me that things are going
very well for you right now in your campaign.
SANDERS: They are going very well. We had a wonderful kick off in
Burlington, Vermont, with over 5,000 people, tremendous turnout in New
Hampshire, great overflow crowds in Iowa. Then we were in Minneapolis on
Sunday morning, and we put this meeting together only with a few days
advanced notice. We have 4,000 people coming out.
So, I think the message is resonating. People are tired of
establishment politics and economics. They want to be part of the movement
which stands up to the billionaire class and says, enough is enough. Our
country, our government belong to all of us, in just a few.
So, I think things are going well so far.
MADDOW: You had, as you mentioned, that very large turnouts in
Minneapolis on very short notice, thousands of people turning out to see
you. More people that can fit – than could fit in the venue.
“The New York Times” also described your event last Thursday in
Davenport, Iowa, as the largest turnout any candidate from either party has
been able to turn out in Iowa so far this year.
When you first declared, one of the things that we talked about was
whether or not you felt like you were able to upscale the infrastructure of
your campaign to take advantage of all that enthusiasm. Is that – is that
SANDERS: It is, Rachel. It`s tough stuff. We are going to be very
clearly be outspent by our opponents. I don`t have the super PAC.
Millionaires are not going to contribute to my campaign.
But as of now, we have had contributions at BernieSanders.com from
130,000 Americans with an average contribution of about $40. We have had a
lot more people sign up and want to help out in the campaign.
So, what we`re trying to do now is build the infrastructure, put more
people on the ground in Iowa and in New Hampshire and elsewhere and we`re
scaling up literally as we speak.
MADDOW: You`ve also made a dramatic and creative proposal, I think in
terms of how the debate schedule ought to be changed. And you`ve made a
bunch of suggestions to the Democratic Party in terms of the things you`d
like, ways you think could be done differently and more creatively.
But why specifically are you proposing that Democrats and Republicans
should start debating each other now before the two parties have their
SANDERS: I will tell you why, Rachel. In a sense, the Republicans
get away with murder. They have an absolutely reactionary agenda. You
know, they may vary a little bit from this candidate to the other. But
basically, what these guys are about are huge tax breaks for billionaires,
massive cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, education, nutrition, environmental
programs. And also clearly, some of the Republican candidates like Jeb
Bush and Chris Christie have talked about, they want to cut Social
Now, they get away with that stuff because a lot of people don`t know
what they are talking about. And I think we – if we can confront them,
honestly, and say to their face when so many seniors are struggling right
now, how in God`s name are you talking about cutting Social Security when
we should expand it? When kids can`t afford to go to college now, why are
you talking about cutting Pell grants by $90 billion? Why are you on the
payroll of the Koch brothers and other billionaires rather than addressing
the needs of other working families?
If we can confront them and debate issues rather than allow the media
to get into political gossip and polling and fund-raising, but talk about
the issues, I think their agenda does not reflect more than 15 percent or
20 percent of the American people.
MADDOW: When I think about the Republican candidates and their
motivations, what they might want to be do, it`s hard for me to imagine
strategically that a lot of them would want to start debating with the
Democratic side for I think some of the reasons that you just described.
But in a smaller sense, a lot of them are really up against it in terms of
not making it into their party`s formal debates. Because of that, because
there may be some desperation among credible Republican candidates, are you
thinking about going outside the system and trying to ad hoc organize these
things with the Republican candidates?
SANDERS: I think – look, Rachel, in the last elections, 63 percent
of the American people didn`t vote, 80 percent of young people didn`t vote.
It is no great secret that political consciousness in this country is not
terribly high, which is not an accident. That`s what the big money people
So, I think in any way we can – that we can create serious debates on
serious issues. How can the Republican Party ignore science in terms of
climate change? With so much massive income and wealth inequality, why do
they want to raise taxes on working families?
So, I think the more we have that clash of ideas, I think we win. I
think people become more engaged in the political process. I think it`s a
good thing for progressives. I think it`s a good thing for American
MADDOW: Senator Bernie Sanders, candidate for the Democratic
nomination for president of the United States – sir, it`s always great to
see you. Thank you very much for being with us.
SANDERS: Thank you, Rachel.
You know, I will say, I know that neither party would want that to
happen, and I know that both parties think they made their most strategic
decision about organize the debate. If some of the candidates decided to
go rogue – forgive the phrase – and organize this outside the party
structure because the party structure doesn`t serve them, I would at least
attend that debate. In fact, I`d probably get there several hours early so
I could be up front.
I hope this whole debate system they have planned this year blows up.
It`s not serving either party. And the idea that Bernie Sanders is a
better one than anyone else has put forward.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Inside the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., there
is a portrait that looks like there. And as you can see, there`s a
portrait on the left-hand side, it bears a striking resemblance – right
there under the tie to the gentleman in the middle between Nancy Pelosi and
John Boehner. That is Republican House Speaker Denny Hastert.
This photo is from 2009 when Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner held a
grand unveiling of the Denny Hastert portrait at the U.S. capitol. That`s
the kind of day in Washington that nobody feels weird about at all until
the guy in the portrait gets indicted.
House Republicans say the fate of that Denny Hastert portrait has not
yet been decided. Denny Hastert has just been indicted. He`s not stood
trial yet. They`re not taking down his portrait at the capitol just yet.
But the story of the indictment of the former speaker of the House,
and what led to that indictment took another strange return today. And the
reporter who broke the latest strange piece of it is going to join us
Stay with us.
MADDOW: January 6th, 1959, Richard Loving and his wife, Mildred, were
sentenced to a year in prison after they pled guilty to committing a felony
in the state of Virginia. Their crime was that they were married to each
other. They had gotten married in Washington, D.C. and driven back home to
Virginia and state law in Virginia said not only could a mixed race couple
not get married in Virginia, but if a mixed race couple got married
anywhere else and then tried to come live in Virginia as a mixed race
married couple, that couple would have to go to prison. One to five years
in prison for the felony of a mixed race marriage in Virginia.
And on January 6th, 1959, Mildred and Richard pled guilty. They were
each sentenced to a year in prison. The judge told them they would not
actually have to serve that sentence, they would not actually have to go to
prison, the sentence would be suspended if they agreed to leave the state
and get out of Virginia. And they did.
The Virginia trial judge who sentenced them said this in his ruling.
He said, “Almighty God created the races, white, black, yellow, malay and
red, and he placed them on separate continents and but for the interference
with his arrangement, there would be no cause for such marriage. The fact
that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to
That was in the judge`s ruling and that is how Mildred and Richard
Loving faced either prison or banishment from the state.
In all of the political arguing and kitchen table debating, even the
courtroom litigation around the issue of same-sex marriage, the case of
Richard and Mildred loving and the legality of their marriage comes up over
and over and over again. People use it as a civil rights analogy to
explain how the laws around marriage haven`t been static for all time in
the relatively recent past, certain kinds of marriage that we now accept as
totally legitimate were banned by law in some parts of this country.
The Supreme Court case in Loving versus Virginia which overturned that
state law, which banned their marriage, that Supreme Court case and the
eloquent ruling in that case written by Chief Justice Earl Warren for a
unanimous Supreme Court, that ruling has been cited over and over again as
both an analogy and as precedent for the courts now striking down state
laws that ban same-sex couples from getting married, just in the same way
that Mildred and Richard were banned from getting married because of their
But tonight in the state of North Carolina, Republicans in the state
legislature there are about to pass an anti-gay marriage law that does not
just remind people of the Loving versus Virginia case, it doesn`t just
invoke Richard and Mildred Loving as an analogy, as a reminder of when
Southern states would not marry mixed race couples, either – what North
Carolina is about to do would not just remind about banning interracial
marriage, it would actually allow for that again.
This North Carolina bill also passed the legislature, was actually
vetoed by the state`s governor, but the Republican-led legislature in North
Carolina is in the process of overriding that veto and putting this thing
into law anyway. The Senate has overridden the veto. The House looks like
it`s about to override the veto, and that will make it law.
This bill was written as an anti-gay bill. Federal courts have ruled
that same-sex marriage is legal in North Carolina. The state has to
recognize the marriages of same-sex couples. But this bill would allow the
state of North Carolina to refuse to grant those marriage licenses, anyway.
So, the idea is sure, technically, same-sex marriage is legal here.
The federal court is telling North Carolina what it has to do in terms of
the Constitution, but this legislation would let individual public
employees who are the gatekeepers to letting people actually access that
right, it would let those public employees opt out of doing so. It would
let those public employees opt out of allowing people to access their
constitutional rights in North Carolina if that public employee as an
individual just didn`t want to do it.
Under this new law in North Carolina, public employees in charge of
handing out marriage licenses could refuse to do so to any would-be married
couple that the employee objected to on the basis of their own personal
religious or moral beliefs. So, in other states what Republicans have
pushed legislation like this, there has been at least been some nod in the
legislation towards the state still having to uphold the law and meet its
But in North Carolina, this new law is a blanket change. It puts no
restrictions on what a person is allowed to express their religious
So, depending on where you live in North Carolina, your local
magistrate may only agree to give marriage licenses to straight couples.
Next county over, the magistrate may believe it`s her moral duty to
only give marriage licenses to couples who are the same religion. A Jew
and a Catholic? Are you kidding me? I`m not going to allow you to do
that. That`s against my religious or moral beliefs. Sure, it`s
constitutionally protected, but my religious and moral beliefs trump that.
Under this new law that the North Carolina legislature is about to
enact over the Republican governor`s veto, any county magistrate may turn
away any couple who applies for a marriage license on any grounds, as long
as the magistrate says the reason they`re objecting is in some way related
to their religious faith. And I don`t know if there are county magistrates
in North Carolina who agree with that Virginia judge, and the Richard and
Mildred Loving case, right, that God put the races on different continents
for a reason, and if we hadn`t screwed it up, we`d never have a need for
these anti-race mixing laws.
Who knows if there`s a county magistrate somewhere in North Carolina
who believes that interracial marriage is sinful and not what God intended
and it`s against their religion?
But North Carolina Republicans are about to pass a law that would tell
such a county magistrate that that is an acceptable basis on which a
marriage license can be denied in North Carolina. Constitution and Supreme
Court be damned. They were aiming at gay people, they hit everybody.
Again, that bill passed the House and the Senate already in North
Carolina. It was vetoed by the state`s Republican governor, Pat McCrory.
The House last night overrode the governor`s veto and the House in North
Carolina is poised to do the same which will make this thing law. And
North Carolina, once again, will be way out on a limb in terms of the arc
of history bending one way and North Carolina banging at that arc with an
iron bar hoping it breaks off. Amazing.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: What you`re looking at right here is what people in the news
business, somewhat melodramatically call a stake out, like we`re all cops
or private eyes or something. But this is a media stakeout. This is a
shot at the media stakeout and it is in Plano, Illinois, just outside of
This video was shot yesterday as NBC News and a few other news outlets
were at a stakeout, trying to get a glimpse of the inhabitants of that home
in Plano, Illinois, because this is the home of former House Speaker Denny
Hastert who was indicted a few days ago and who has not been seen since he
News organizations staked out his home all day yesterday to see if he
was there, to see if we can see him. What we can tell you on the basis of
that all-day stake out is that it was a sunny day in Plano. It looks like
there was a slight breeze, some birds chirping. In fact, the most
excitement on this all-day stakeout feed comes at this point. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAMERA CREW: Dog.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s exactly how I would react if I was that dog.
You call that a stakeout? There`s no steak.
So, we`ve seen a dog that could be connected to former Speaker of the
House Denny Hastert. We have not seen Mr. Hastert himself, though, since
he was indicted last week. Nobody has seen him. Nobody has seen him
Since this indictment was unsealed last week, it alleges that he
agreed to pay an individual more than $3 million in order to compensate for
and conceal – it was described in the indictment as Mr. Hastert`s prior
misconduct towards that individual. Now, not according to indictment, but
according to law enforcement sources, that prior misconduct stems from
Denny Hastert`s time as a high school teacher and a coach in Yorkville,
Illinois, before he ever went to Congress.
Since the indictment was unsealed, federal officials have told NBC
News that the alleged misconduct was sexual in nature and that it involved
a student at the high school where Denny Hastert taught and coached.
Again, these are all just allegations at this point.
But if all of this is true, if the indictment is true, how about the
payments, if the underlying misconduct, specifically sexual misconduct is
true, it then raises hard to answer questions about not just Denny Hastert
and his behavior, and that will be litigated soon fluff, but also about
everybody around him, right? Because of the position that he was at in
American politics, how did nobody know, considering that he became speaker
of the House at a time when sexual misconduct was essentially everywhere in
It was like a bad flu season. Everybody seemed to be coming down with
the case of it. I mean, from President Bill Clinton and his extramarital
affair while he was in office, to Newt Gingrich leading the impeachment
effort against Bill Clinton for his extramarital while he, too, was
secretly carrying on one of his own.
Then there was the other congressman who was supposed to replace Newt
Gingrich as speaker during the impeachment, but he couldn`t because it
turned out that he, too, had been having extramarital affairs. I mean,
given is how Denny Hastert got tapped in obscurity to become speaker of the
House, to become the most powerful man in Congress, it seems inconceivable
that nobody at the time in Congress, nobody around him in his eight years
as speaker, would have heard anything about this alleged scandal in his
Well, today, “The Huffington Post” dropped a big – and it should be
noted – totally anonymous bombshell that perhaps somebody in Congress did
know. Sam Stein of “The Huffington Post” reports today that, quote, “At
least one member in Congress was likely aware that former House Speaker
Dennis Hastert allegedly sexually molested a former male student prior to
his time in Congress.”
A single unanimous source telling Sam Stein at “The Huffington Post”
that then Congressman Mel Watts, a Democrats from North Carolina, was
approached with news about the alleged abuse, relatively early on in Denny
Hastert`s time as speaker of the House. Quote, “According to the source,
the person who approached Mel Watt was an intermediary for the family of
the abuse victim and knew the North Carolina congressman informally.”
Now, we should make clear that NBC News has not independently
confirmed this reporting. It is, as Sam says, a single source speaking
anonymously with Sam Stein at “Huffington Post”.
Mel Watt is still around. He`s no longer serving in Congress. He now
heads up a federal agency called the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
This is how Sam at “The Huffington Post” says it went when “The Post”
first reached out to Mel Watt for comment. Quote, when reached on the
phone and told what the specific issue was, Watt`s spokeswoman responded
that she had anticipated that that was the subject of the inquiry. Hmmm.
Officially, though, Mr. Watt`s office is offering no comment on the
story. At least they were offering no comment at first. We contacted Mel
Watt today about that reporting in “The Huffington Post” and he provided us
with the following statement, which he then subsequently gave to other news
Quote, “Over 15 years ago, I heard an unseemly rumor from someone who,
contrary to what has been report, was not an intermediary or advocate for
the alleged victim`s family. It would not be the first nor last time that
I as a member of Congress would hear rumors or innuendos about colleagues.
I had no direct knowledge of any abuse by former Speaker Hastert and,
therefore, I took no action.”
So, former Congressman Mel Watt, absolutely unlikely personage in this
story, right? Former Congressman Mel Watt confirming tonight that he did
hear something about Denny Hastert more than 15 years ago but that he
believed it to be, quote, “an unseemly rumor”, an unseemly rumor shop to
him by somebody that he says was not an intermediary for the alleged
victim`s family, contrary to that reporting today by “The Huffington Post”.
This makes me want to ask Sam Stein about that reporting in “The
Joining us now is Sam Stein, MSNBC contributor, senior political
editor at “Huffington”, who first reported that Representative Watt had
been made aware of these allegations against Dennis Hastert.
Sam, thanks very much for being here. It`s great to have you.
SAM STEIN, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Thanks, Rachel. Appreciate it.
MADDOW: So in the way that I summarized that and now what Mel Watt
has said, now that your reporting has come – is that pretty much the lay
of the land? Did I explain what you`ve got?
STEIN: Perfectly, yes.
MADDOW: OK. What can you tell us if anything about if person who you
say told Congressman Watt about these allegations about Denny Hastert?
Obviously, Congressman Watt says it wasn`t an intermediary and it was
somebody who he believes was shopping him a scurrilous rumor. What can you
tell us about that?
STEIN: Well, my source stands by the description of the conversation
as an intermediary, someone who knew the victim of the alleged abuse,
having then gone to Speaker Hastert with an account of what had happened –
to Mr. Watt, obviously.
Now, I don`t know if the Watt office is quibbling with the word
“intermediary,” but it seems to me like anyone who had have knowledge of
this alleged abuse would have to be relatively close to the alleged victim.
So, maybe they are quibbling with the definition of word “intermediary.”
But I have reached out to the Watt office again for clarification on who it
was that approached him and they once again have been fairly cagey with me
and have not responded.
MADDOW: Sam, I`m sensitive here that you have a source here that you
need to protect and I don`t want you to pressure in any regard in that way.
MADDOW: So, just tell me if you can`t answer.
But is it your impression that this was an attempted – an attempt to
blow the whistle? An attempt to get Denny Hastert in trouble, an effort to
start some sort of investigation or at least the make it publicly known?
STEIN: I`m going to do something rare. I`m going to say I just don`t
know. I don`t know at this point and I need to do more digging on that
The person who came to me was sort of echoing a conversation that took
place a long time ago. And so, to say that I have any direct understanding
of why the first outreach was made would be to essentially lie to you. So,
I can`t answer that question.
MADDOW: Do we know of any direct connection between Denny Hastert and
Mel Watt at the aside from the fact that they were both in congress?
STEIN: No. What I`ve been told is that the reason Mel Watt was
chosen was not because of any connection to Dennis Hastert, but because the
person who approached him had an informal connection. It was someone who
knew him sort of ether tangentially or not as a close associate, but
happened to have a connection with him and had no one else to reach out to.
So, that was why the outreach was made.
MADDOW: Sam, the one thing that we know logistically in terms of
what`s going to happen next is that the arraignment for Denny Hastert is
moved to next week. It was expected to be on Thursday of this week. It`s
now going to by next week.
Nobody has seen him. There`s been no statement released on his
behalf. There`s not any direct information about who might be representing
MADDOW: As you`re reporting this out, do you have any sense that
anyone else is going to happen before that arraignment, that anybody else
is going to come forward or that there might be any other flushing out of
the story until that court date?
STEIN: Well, part of the reason I got into this is because I was
surprised genuinely that no one had says that they had an inkling of this.
I mean, maybe there were some rumors going around, but every reaction to
the story after it broke was one of surprise.
STEIN: And that seemed very odd to me.
STEIN: And so the fact that we now know that at least one member of
Congress knew about this 15 years ago suggests that perhaps maybe more
people will now come forward and say yes, they heard things or they were
told things. But the one defining feature of this story you`ve noted in
your broadcast has been how quiet everything has been, which is very rare,
it seems like, for these types of things.
So I don`t anticipate necessarily all that much happening between now
and the arraignment.
MADDOW: Sam Stein, MSNBC contributor, political reporter for “The
Huffington Post”, with this group tonight, Sam, thanks for helping us
understand. I appreciate it.
STEIN: Thanks, Rachel. I appreciate it.
MADDOW: You know, it will be interesting. Obviously, Mel Watt, I
should reiterate, is saying that he has no knowledge of any misbehavior by
Denny Hastert. He thought this was a rumor. He was being shot. He`s
saying now in retrospect there`s nothing he believed at the time. That is
why he took no action.
It is possible conceivably that other members of Congress heard
something similar and didn`t believe for all the same reasons,
corroborating information that more than one person knew. Even if neither
of them believed it would give us a better understanding about what was
going on at the time, because at this point, this is such a black box for
someone that powerful and connected in American politics, it honestly makes
All right. Much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Hillary Clinton going to Texas tomorrow. Rick Perry
announcing his run for the presidency in Texas the day after that. Bernie
Sanders tonight proposing Democratic national debates or maybe bipartisan
presidential debates in Texas.
And now to complete the theme, we`ve got a message from Texas today.
We`ve got a message from the government of the great state of Texas to us.
And it is a message that solves a mystery we have been working on for
months now. And that story is next.
MADDOW: The state of Texas plans to execute another prisoner
tomorrow, barring a last-minute surprise. That man appears to have
exhausted his appeals. If Texas kills him tomorrow, then after him, the
state has scheduled four more prisoners to be killed.
If those executions all go as planned, they`ll join seven prisoners
killed already in Texas this year, making it 12 people in all for this year
– 12 people is a lot of people to kill in any circumstances.
It is a particularly large number, though, when you are killing those
people with lethal injections and the drugs for lethal injections have
become almost impossible to get.
Because those drugs are impossible to get, states that want to kill
their prisoners this way have started turning to special compounding
pharmacies to make up, to hand make small batches of drugs that they can`t
buy from drug companies.
In March, though, two different pharmaceutical groups in the U.S. told
their members to stop compounding drugs for prisons. Compounding
pharmacies should not do that any more.
We`ve reported on this show that Texas in particular was nearly out of
drugs despite all the people they want to kill in their prisoner. This
spring, a local paper reported that the state had just two doses on hand.
As recently as April 27th, a local press reported that Texas was confirming
that they were nearly out of their death penalty drug, they had one more
execution planned and then the state would be down to its last dose.
Right, poor Texas, they`re running out of drugs.
The state reportedly said that on April 27th. We`ve now learned what
happened the very next day. Texas prison system told us tonight, quote,
“The Texas Department of Criminal Justice obtained a supply of
pentobarbital on April 28th which will allow the agency to carry out all
the executions that are currently scheduled,” meaning at least five more
So, we`ve asked whether Texas is buying the drugs from a U.S. company,
going against the advice of all the pharmaceutical associations to stop
selling those drugs. We`ve asked whether Texas is shopping around overseas
the way Nebraska has tried to do.
Texas tells us on that issue, quote, “The drugs were purchased from a
licensed pharmacy that has the ability to compound. We continue to explore
all options, including the continued use of pentobarbital or alternate
drugs to use in the lethal injection process. We have no additional
comments beyond this statement.”
So, Texas – Texas has enough drugs on hand to last them through the
killings they have planned through at least October and maybe longer. We
don`t know. They won`t say where they are getting these drugs or even what
country they are buying these drugs from.
And Texas says they`re exploring all options for this public business.
They just don`t want to talk about it and I think they expect us to stop
MADDOW: Today, we learned about the memorial services that would be
held for Vice President Joe Biden`s late son. Beau Biden died on Saturday
at the age of 46 from brain cancer. He was a major in the Delaware
National Guard who spent two terms as attorney general of Delaware.
Services for him will be in his home state of Delaware on Thursday.
Beau Biden will lie in honor at the state capital on Friday afternoon.
There will be a viewing at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church in
Wilmington, Delaware. Then, there`s going to be a funeral mass on Saturday
All these events from Thursday afternoon to Saturday morning, they`re
all going to be open to the public, even as the Biden family continues to
mourn in private. One of the things that Beau Biden`s father, the vice
president, has been known for over the years is his ability to give very
moving, memorable eulogies at memorials for colleagues and friends.
Today, the vice president`s office announced that the person who will
perform that service for Beau Biden will be President Barack Obama.
Again, the mass for Beau Biden will take place at 10:30 a.m. Saturday
in Wilmington, Delaware. The funeral will be open to the public and the
eulogy will be given by the president of the United States.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence. Welcome back.
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