The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 1/4/2016
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: January 4, 2016
Guest: Bryn Mickle, Jen Rokala
MATT WELCH, REASON MAGAZINE: And that`s what happened in this case.
And the local judge was overturned. We should be reducing mandatory
minimums in all cases.
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: All right. Matt Welch, Ben Jealous –
BEN JEALOUS, FORMER NAACP PRESIDENT: That`s where frankly liberal
and libertarian tend to agree. Somebody who`s been out there for 20 years,
it`s been great to see Rand Paul get out there on this issue, in the last
HAYES: All right. Matt Welch, Ben Jealous, thanks for joining me.
That is “ALL IN” for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. I have missed you,
HAYES: I missed you too. Happy New Year. It`s going to be a good
MADDOW: I`m planning on it.
HAYES: All right.
MADDOW: Thanks to you as well for joining us this hour.
It is really good to be back. I had a great break. Great break. I
caught this fish. Then my hands – see I`m wearing two hats. After I
caught that fish and held it so I could take a picture and put it back in
the water, by holding the fish and getting my hands wet my hands were then
so cold for the rest of the day they were like stone. I couldn`t do
anything at all the entire rest of the day except curl into a ball while
wearing mittens trying to warm my hands up.
And then I came back to work today and mittens were on my mind
anyway, because of Mitt Romney and the 2012 presidential race. And a part
of that presidential race, which is all of a sudden very important again in
terms of understanding what`s going on right now in today`s news and
And yes, in 2012, the 2012 Republican presidential primary ultimately
produced nickname mittens, Mitt Romney, as that party`s presidential
But at the very beginning of the presidential cycle in 2012, when
they first started polling Republican voters in 2012 on who they wanted to
be their nominee, you know who was at the top of the list? You know who
was at the top of the heap for Republican candidates or potential
candidates when they first started polling at the very beginning of that
You want to know who was polling in first place? Donald Trump. And
I`m not talking about this presidential cycle for 2016. I`m talking about
the last one.
This is the representative headline. This was about a national CNN
poll of Republican voters taken in April 2011. “Donald Trump tied for
first place.” And Donald Trump ended up at the top of a lot of polls at
that time in that race.
He made the decision that year ultimately to not run. But while he
was flirting with, it while he was saying he might run, while he was
talking about himself as the potential next president of the United States
and doing campaign-style things, he had one very specific basis for his
campaign. This was the basis not only of his campaign but apparently his
considerable popularity among Republican voters who thought he was going to
run on this at the time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “TODAY”/NBC)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Three weeks ago when I
started, I thought he was probably born in this country. And now, I really
have a much bigger doubt than I did before.
INTERVIEWER: But based on what?
TRUMP: His grandmother in Kenya said he was born in Kenya and she
was there and witnessed the birth. OK? He doesn`t have a birth
certificate, or he hasn`t shown it. He has what`s called a certificate of
live birth. That is something that`s easy to get. When you want a birth
certificate, it`s very hard to get –
INTERVIEWER: But it`s considered the equivalent in the –
TRUMP: It`s not the equivalent.
INTERVIEWER: In the state of Hawaii, they said they have seen the
TRUMP: Meredith, it`s not the equivalent.
INTERVIEWER: It is evident he was born in the United States. That`s
good enough for them. Scholars –
TRUMP: A birth certificate is not even close. A certificate of live
birth is not even signed by anybody. I saw his. I read it very carefully.
Doesn`t have a serial number. Doesn`t have a signature. There`s not even
INTERVIEWER: Do you believe he`s lying?
TRUMP: I`m starting to think that he was not born here.
INTERVIEWER: Do you believe he`s lying, Donald? Come on, just –
TRUMP: Meredith, he spent $2 million in legal fees trying to get
away from this issue. And if he weren`t lying, why wouldn`t he just solve
it? And I wish he would because if he doesn`t it`s one of the greatest
scams in the history of politics and in the history, period.
You are not allowed to be a president if you`re not born in this
country. He may not have been born in this country. And I`ll tell you
what, three weeks ago I though he was born in this country. Right now, I
have some real doubts.
I have people that actually have been studying it and they cannot
believe what they`re finding.
INTERVIEWER: You have people now down there searching, I mean, in
TRUMP: Absolutely. And they cannot believe what they`re finding.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was how Donald Trump ran for president in the 2012
He did not run for very long. He was out by May of 2011. But when
he was running, he was polling right at the top of the heap in multiple
polls, tied for first or in first place in a whole bunch of polls that were
taken around that time.
And the basis of his campaign at the time when he was doing so well
was that he believed that President Obama was not really the president
because President Obama, or this guy pretending to be the president named
Barack Obama, was secretly foreign and had faked his birth as part of an
elaborate conspiracy to put foreign powers in – that`s what he ran on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: There`s a real question about the birth certificate. There`s
a real question about his own citizenship.
INTERVIEWER: There is no question. He`s got a certificate of live
TRUMP: George, I know exactly what you`re getting at.
INTERVIEWER: The facts.
TRUMP: For some reason – no, they`re not the facts. He doesn`t
have a birth certificate or he hasn`t provided – he`s given a certificate
of live birth. It`s a much different –
INTERVIEWER: Certificate of live birth meets the standard in the
INTERVIEWER: There were contemporaneous reports in two Hawaiian
TRUMP: George, they`ve co-opted you.
INTERVIEWER: Who`s they?
TRUMP: Obviously Obama and his minions.
INTERVIEWER: You sent investigators to Hawaii and you said, quote,
“They cannot believe what they`re finding.”
TRUMP: We`re going to see what happens.
INTERVIEWER: What have they found?
TRUMP: It`s none of your business right now. We`re going to see
INTERVIEWER: Have they found anything?
TRUMP: We`re going to see what happens.
INTERVIEWER: What have they done?
TRUMP: We are going to see what happens.
TRUMP: George. Next question, George.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Next question, George. His minions have got.
This is only 4 1/2 years ago. It`s kind of weird that it`s already
been forgotten now that Donald Trump really is running this time around and
he really is the Republican presidential front-runner. But it`s true, when
he very briefly tried out running for president in the last presidential
campaign in the 2012 cycle, his platform, his very narrow platform was that
President Obama was secretly foreign and had a forged birth certificate.
He was an agent of a foreign power.
And Donald Trump sent his investigators to Hawaii. And you wouldn`t
believe what they were finding and they were going to reveal the explosive
truth that our Kenyan overlords had wrested control of the U.S. government
so we`d all be – I don`t know, put in camps or given tinfoil teeth covers
or something. I don`t know.
It was, A, a very short-lived campaign. B, it was a very popular
campaign among Republican voters. People forget how well he polled for the
few weeks that he was in the race. And C, his campaign was totally based
on this birtherism claim by Donald Trump.
And since then in the ensuing 4, 4 1/2 years, birtherism, this idea
that President Obama is a secret foreign agent, it has mostly fallen out of
favor in most Republican circles. The few journalists who have asked Mr.
Trump this time around if he still believes that President Obama is
secretly foreign, if he still believes in the fake birth certificate, the
few journalists who have asked him about that this time around have mostly
been brushed off by Donald Trump. He doesn`t want to talk about it this
But just the fact that he doesn`t want to talk about it anymore and
the fact that it is mostly out of favor doesn`t mean that there aren`t
still corners of the conspiratorial media world where President Obama`s
birth certificate is still definitely a forgery and his status as a secret
alien is still a very compelling contemporary issue.
The headquarters of that basically is, of course, our friends at
World Net Daily. And World Net Daily was always kind of the headquarters
for the Obama birth certificate conspiracy theory.
But still today, still at World Net Daily you can buy your “where is
the real birth certificate” yard and rally sign. You can get your “where
is the birth certificate” bumper sticker. It`s magnetic. Easy on, easy
off. You can get your question of eligibility Obama birth certificate
forgery DVD. You can also get your autographed hardcover copy of the where
is the birth certificate World Net Daily book.
World Net Daily is able to get I think an inside line on those
autographs for that book because the author of “Where`s The Birth
Certificate” is a senior staff writer at World Net Daily. He has not only
advanced his theory and sold all his books and merchandise about President
Obama`s faked birth certificate at World Net Daily, he`s also used World
Net Daily to advance his deeply compelling theory that President Obama is
not only secretly foreign, he`s also secretly Muslim and he`s secretly gay
and he`s secretly gay married to another Muslim. Yes. You didn`t know,
Specifically the theory from this guy is that President Obama is
secretly gay and Muslim married to his Pakistani roommate from college, and
that that ring that the president wears might look like a wedding ring but
it`s actually his secret Muslim gay wedding ring to a Pakistani guy which
is also evidence of his own foreignness if you know how to read the secret
inscription on the ring correctly. Got it?
So, this is the senior staff writer for World Net Daily who pushes
this stuff. His name is Jerome Corsi.
The guy who runs world net daily overall is named Joseph Farah. He`s
known primarily, as you can see, for having the world`s most luxurious
mustache. But in addition to that world champion facial hair, he is also
running world net daily and still now as of a week before Christmas, Joseph
Farah is still writing columns at World Net Daily about President Obama`s
fake birth certificate and how he was secretly born in Kenya.
This is from the week before Christmas. Quote, “Even if Obama`s fake
birth certificate were real, which it clearly is not, it would still not
prove his eligibility to be president.”
Well, now, over the holiday break, World Net Daily has proclaimed
that its man of the year for 2015 was Donald J. Trump. Mr. Trump
Facebooked an announcement of his World Net Daily man of the year status.
He wrote, quote, “Thank you for this amazing honor, to be named man of the
year.” He was also quoted by World Net Daily in their man of the year
article about him saying, quote, “It is my great honor to be named man of
the year by your publication. I very much appreciate your informative
polls and coverage.”
And now, people for the American Way bring to our attention this
event in March which will be honoring Joseph Farah, the World Net Daily
mustache guy. He`s going to be getting a hero of freedom award from some
conservative group. It`s an awards dinner to honor the World Net Daily
guy. And the keynote speaker at that awards dinner will be Donald Trump –
Sometimes it takes having a few days away, you know, but a few days
with cold hands and fish to come back to something with fresh eyes and see
just how crazy it is. That said, with this celebration of his World Net
Daily man of the year status Republican presidential front-runner Donald
Trump is also just flat out reminding us that he really is that guy. He
really is the guy who ran for president, albeit briefly, on the basis of a
conspiracy theory about President Obama`s birth certificate in the 2012
cycle. He is the same guy.
And when he ran on that platform in 2011 for the 2012 presidential
race, that platform,`, that belief of his, his association with the whole
birther conspiracy theory movement, that was crazy to the point of
journalists laughing in his face about it in 2011. Now, though, he`s the
prohibitive front-runner to be the Republican presidential candidate this
year. Even though nothing about him has changed.
When Mitt Romney ultimately won the nomination back in 2012, you
might remember it ended up being kind of a big embarrassment for the Romney
campaign that summer when Mr. Romney and his wife flew out to Las Vegas to
get Donald Trump`s endorsement. Mr. Romney landed on the tarmac and he
parked his plane next to Donald Trump`s plane and they did their big event
together, and then that same day Donald Trump went on CNN and told Wolf
Blitzer about – that same day about all the problems with President
Obama`s birth certificate. That same day that he gave Romney his
It was this terrific embarrassment at the time to the Republican
Party and to their nominee when he brought up this birth certificate stuff
and they were trying to get away from seeming that crazy.
Now, though, this is the guy who very well could be their nominee.
And the birth certificate stuff is apparently not at all embarrassing to
him. Nor are the extravagantly mustachioed conspiracy theorists who have
been making a living all these years off of selling this birther craziness.
In this presidential race, there have been a lot of unusual things.
There have been a lot of things that have sort of broken the mold in terms
of the way things usually go. One of the unusual things about the race so
far this year is that Mr. Trump has been able to completely dominate the
rest of the Republican field for half a year now if not longer, without
raising any significant money and without running any TV ads.
It was not until early October that Mr. Trump and his campaign even
started talking about the possibility that they might run ads. Mr. Trump
and his campaign manager told Robert Costa at “The Washington Post” in
early October that eventually they would run TV ads and they had some ideas
about what they would be. They had some plans. The campaign manager said
the ads would be, quote, “non-traditional.”
Mr. Trump and his campaign manager explained that Mr. Trump himself
was coming up with the concept for these ads. They both explained that
they were going to hire a firm to make Donald Trump`s TV ads, a firm that
had never done political advertising before. It was going to be something
totally different than anybody had ever seen. That was the promise from
the Trump campaign in early October.
Well, today, we finally got the first Donald Trump TV ad that`s going
to start running in Iowa and New Hampshire this week. First time he`s
running an ad at all.
This is the ad. They posted it online today. It`s going to start
running on TV. I think they`re going to spend I think they said $2 million
a week between now and the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.
And it`s these visuals and there`s a guy saying that Donald Trump is going
to stop ISIS and Donald Trump`s going to stop Muslims from entering the
United States and he`s going to build a wall on the Mexican border.
All right. So, this is supposed to be the big non-traditional like
nothing you`ve ever seen before Donald Trump ad. This is the Donald Trump
ad – what I`m showing here actually, I should mention, I should explain,
this is the Donald Trump ad in the context of other ads that are exactly
This is Trump in the upper left-hand corner. That`s Jeb Bush upper
right-hand corner. Chris Christie lower left-hand corner. Lindsey Graham
lower right-hand corner.
I put them all here simultaneously together because they`re all
exactly the same ad. Scary terrorism footage, then your campaign man
speaking at a rally or town hall saying Islamic terrorism as if those magic
words will make ISIS go away. It`s all the same thing. It`s an absolutely
totally normal Republican mainstream political ad that Donald Trump has
rolled out, indistinguishable from almost all the other candidates.
They`re all running ads like this.
So much for it being something like you`ve never seen before – it`s
exactly like everything you`ve ever seen before. It`s totally not
newsworthy. It`s exactly like every other ad that mentions terrorism.
And so, welcome back. Happy 2016.
What`s scarier? That the Republicans are about to nominate for
president, a World Net Daily where`s the birth certificate conspiracy
theory guy or the fact that a World Net Daily “where`s the birth
certificate” conspiracy theory guy is running a winning campaign for
president that now makes him seem like just an average every-day run-of-
the-mill Republican candidate?
Happy 2016. Is it scarier that this seems so nuts or that it now
looks so normal?
MADDOW: This is a question I legitimately have no answer for. I
cannot explain this. Perhaps you can.
We are 28 days away from the Iowa caucuses. We are 36 days away from
the New Hampshire primary. Can you spot what is weird about this video of
folks waiting outside in the cold tonight for a Donald Trump rally?
What`s weird about them is that they are in neither of those two
states I just mentioned. These folks waiting in the cold tonight, this
huge long line outside the Donald Trump rally, are in deep blue
This is a line to get into a Donald Trump rally in Lowell,
Massachusetts. Lowell, Massachusetts. Yes. And this is the third major
campaign event that Donald Trump has mounted in the state of Massachusetts
And if that is not weird enough, later this week, Mr. Trump is going
to be making a big campaign stop in Burlington, Vermont, as in the city
where Bernie Sanders was mayor.
Donald Trump now campaigning regularly in Massachusetts and starting
to campaign in Vermont. Why is he doing that? I have no idea.
MADDOW: This first weekend of 2016, the state of Michigan, it was
cold. But in lots of places this year, the winter didn`t start off feeling
like winter but now it feels like winter. And in that cold and freezing
temperatures and high cold winds in Michigan, Saturday, this weekend the
day after new year`s dozens of people bundled up and set out across the
city of Flint, Michigan as volunteers to hand out free bottled water to
people who live in that town.
We`ve been covering this story recently, the story of how the Rick
Snyder administration in Michigan ended up giving lead poisoning to kids in
the town of Flint, Michigan, when emergency managers working for the
governor decided they would save money by switching Flint over to a new
drinking water source. And the state okayed them going ahead with the
switch without treating that water to make it safe.
The Rick Snyder administration then compounded the problem and the
poisoning of Flint`s kids by ignoring the warning signs of rising lead
levels first in the city`s water and then inevitably in the bloodstream of
the children of that city.
Last week, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced the resignations
of the head of the state environmental agency that failed to protect
Flint`s water and also the spokesperson for that agency the man who told
the public that they should literally, quote, “relax about Flint`s water.”
Also last week, the governor himself finally apologized. He said on
Thursday, on New Year`s Eve, quote, “I want the Flint community to know how
very sorry I am that this has happened.” Which is nice, as far as nice
But the people of Flint still do not have safe water. And so that is
why Lanice Lawson was out in the freezing cold on Saturday with about 30
volunteers and four U-Hauls full of donated bottled water.
You might remember, just before Christmas, we just mentioned on the
air right before Christmas, we didn`t make a plea or anything, we just
mentioned on the air that Lanice Lawson had set up an online fund-raising
campaign to distribute bottled water locally for free by volunteers to
people in flint. That online fundraising campaign got a spike in donations
because apparently the world is filled with good people after all.
And part of the result of that spike in donations to her Go Fund Me
site was that Lanice Lawson had over 50,000 bottles of water to give away
in Flint for free this past Saturday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LANICE LAWSON, BOTTLES FOR BABIES: We are here to service the
community and to do our part, to do what we can to get clean water to these
babies who`ve been poisoned. You can`t say it any nicer than that.
Water is a basic necessity that everyone, everyone has to have. And
not to be able to – when you don`t have access to clean water, you feel
like you`re in a third world country. We`re in America.
MILDRED LARKIN, FLINT RESIDENT: It`s hard for me to take a bath
because I cannot put heated bottled water into a tub to be able to take a
bath. I`m scared to wash my hair. You know, because it`s going to fall
out. I know it is.
So, you know, personal hygiene is a problem, as well as being able to
cook with the water, clean with the water, drink with the – do you know
how much water that takes? And for these people out here to be giving it
away I consider it a blessing. I thank God for these people.
NAKIA WILEY, FLINT RESIDENT: I have four children. Two young
children. And I just – you know, it`s a rough time right now. I mean,
it`s devastating and it`s scary, you know, that the children are faced
with, you know, such terrible devastation as far as not being able to drink
– that`s a necessity. You know, we need water, you know, to live.
ERIC MAYERS, FLINT CITY COUNCILMAN: I take my hat off to the
sponsors, but it`s a drop in the bucket. The city of Flint goes through
about 14 million gallons of water a day. I proposed to the city council
that the giveaways is fine but we need to spend about a million or 2
million and the city needs to supply it. But in the meantime, you know,
let`s see what the governor do with this declaration of a state of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was this Saturday in Flint, Michigan. One of the four
water distribution sites set up just by one local woman making her best
effort on her own with other volunteers. Lanice Lawson and her Bottles for
the Babies project.
After a couple hours, all four U-Haul trucks were empty, 50,000
bottles of water begin out to just regular everyday people in flint who
were very grateful for it because they till cannot use the water from their
That is part of why Flint and their new mayor are seeking an
emergency declaration from the government, which you just heard that city
councilman talk about there, because the work of fixing the damage in Flint
is just starting. A year and a half after the Snyder administration made
this decision that caused the poisoning of the kids in that town we got an
apology on the last day of the year from the governor.
What`s going to happen, though, to fix this situation in Flint now
that an apology has been issued?
Well, that request for a declaration of emergency from the city and
now from the county, it`s on its way to Governor Snyder`s desk as of today.
An emergency declaration would open the possibility of federal help,
federal emergency funds to help alleviate this manmade disaster in
But that will only happen if the governor chooses to sign it. And it
may or may not surprise you to hear that it is not at all clear that
Governor Snyder is going to sign it.
Amazing. I know. But true. And that story`s ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARKIN: I`m here to get free water because the water in flint is
poisoned with lead and all kind of chemicals in it. You know, and it`s
just a disgrace, you know, for somebody to do actually a mass poisoning. I
mean, this is a whole community. We`re talking about, what, 50,000 to
100,000 people. And you wouldn`t tell them that the water was no good?
Even when they showed it to you, you kept telling us we could drink
this water. I have COPD. I`m a diabetic, high blood pressure, all these
things. I`m just as vulnerable as a baby.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: When she says they kept telling us that we could drink this
water, she means it literally.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BRAD WURFEL, MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY: Let me
start here. Anyone who is concerned about lead in the drinking water in
Flint can – can relax. There is no broad problem right now that we`ve
seen with lead in the drinking water in Flint.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Relax. There`s no problem. That really was what the
administration of Michigan Republican Governor Rick Snyder told the public,
told the people of Flint, Michigan, as they were considering whether it was
safe to drink this stuff and cook with it and bathe their kids in it and
shower in it.
The state was absolutely wrong about that. And folks were still
lining up this weekend for bottles water handouts, in Flint, Michigan,
organized by volunteers. Because you still cannot get on getting safe
water from your kitchen faucet there. Because of what the state did. I
t was April 2014 when the state appointed emergency manager said
Flint should stop getting water from Detroit in order to save money,
instead take its water from the Flint River. And the state OK`d the
emergency manager doing that without treating that water. And so now in
Flint when you turn on the faucet that water might come to you through
pipes that are corroded and leaching toxic lead.
And even though Governor Snyder`s administration told everyone to
literally relax about the situation in Flint, even though they said there
was no broad problem with lead in the water in Flint, the rate of elevated
lead levels in the blood streams of little kids and babies in Flint doubled
and tripled because of what the Snyder administration did.
And that is horrifying news because lead is a neurotoxin. In kids,
it causes lifelong irreversible emotional and behavioral problems. It
causes lowered IQs.
The kids of Flint, Michigan, ended up drinking lead because their
town was poisoned on Governor Snyder`s watch. And this crisis in Flint is
a real one. It sounds like a horror movie, but it`s real. And it is not
Flint officials say that fixing the pipes and saving the town
basically could cost $50 million or more. This morning the county
commission in the county where Flint is, they signed off on a declaration
of emergency for Flint.
Quoting the “Flint Journal,” “Last week, Governor Snyder said he was
sorry for Flint`s lead in water crisis. Now he must decide whether the
situation amounts to a manmade disaster created while the city was being
run by emergency managers who he appointed.”
So, how about it, Governor Snyder? Are you ready to call this a
manmade disaster when your people are the men who made it?
We spent a long time today trying to get an answer from Governor
Snyder`s office about whether he`s going to sign this emergency
declaration. The governor`s office says they`re working this week to get
the information that they need. They say they recognize this is an
emergency but they will not say whether the governor intends to sign on in
a way that formally will open the door for federal help.
It`s also unclear at this point how involved in or aware of this
crisis the governor has personally been and at what point he knew what he
We do know that Governor Snyder took action in public in October.
That`s when he finally acknowledged that there was a problem with Flint`s
water. Because of this switch that they made and how they made it.
But the Michigan press has dug up evidence that the governor very
quietly helped some pastors in Flint get water filters to distribute back
in August. That`s interesting, right? August, he gets water filters
quietly on the sly, doesn`t admit anything publicly until October?
Documents from the state health department in September suggest the
governor got some sort of information on childhood lead poisoning before
meeting with the pastors, right? Something that led him to quietly try to
do something to help.
At the same time, though, we also know his spokesperson kept
strategizing ways to downplay the crisis in public. So, that looks
embarrassing for the governor now. But what is so frustrating for the
public is that the written record has so many holes in it, especially when
it comes to the governor`s own dealings specifically and personally.
Michigan is nearly alone in the nation in shielding the governor from
Freedom of Information Act requests. You can use FOIA to get official
documents and correspondence from almost every governor in the country but
not the governor in the state of Michigan, which ends up being very
interesting in this case, because we know from Governor Snyder`s public
apology last week that he is very sorry this happened in flint.
We learned from his public statement he`s accepted the resignation
from the person he appointed to head up the state environmental agency and
the spokesperson who told everybody to relax.
Beyond that, though, we do not know much at all about Rick Snyder
himself in this crisis except for this intriguing reporting that he was
trying to help in a small way privately while publicly maintaining that
nothing was wrong.
If you want to know what the governor knew and when he knew it, I
will cut to the chase for you. His office won`t say. His records are off
limits. It`s executive privilege.
But I do want to say one thing here about this mind-boggling story
out of Michigan, which is that the local Michigan press should get credit
here for being tireless and fearless and creative and clear about this
story even in the face of their state government saying nothing to see
here, relax, and by the way, you can`t have access to any documents.
Michigan Public Radio, the Detroit Free Press, even the Michigan
chapter of the ACLU had a journalist/researcher working on this. The local
press in Michigan has not let this go, and they are still pushing.
Look at this. This is from the editors of the “Flint Journal” on New
Year`s Eve. Quote, “Governor Snyder needs to do more than just apologize
for the Flint water crisis.” “The Flint Journal” lists steps he ought to
take. Very specific stuff.
For example, replacing all the pipes that are now dangerous to
people`s health for getting water in Flint. And compensating families
whose children have elevated levels of lead in their blood, who are going
to have to be dealing with this disaster for the rest of their lives.
But look at this too. This is intriguing. “The Flint Journal” says
Governor Snyder should, quote, “Drop executive privilege and release all of
his communications on Flint water.”
“The Flint Journal” also says that the state should request an
investigation from the U.S. attorney`s office so subpoenas can be issued in
this matter, the U.S. attorney`s office. Federal prosecutors should be
called in. That`s what “The Flint Journal” says they want to see next.
Tell me more.
Joining us now is Bryn Mickle. He`s editor of “The Flint Journal”.
And, Mr. Mickle, thank you so much for being with us this evening.
It`s a pleasure to have you here.
BRYN MICKLE, FLINT JOURNAL/MLIVE EDITOR: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, your paper is calling for a federal investigation
including subpoena power on this instance. Why are you calling for that?
MICKLE: I think the people of Flint, rightfully so, have lost trust
in their government. They were told something was safe when clearly it
wasn`t. And I don`t think it`s enough just to be continued to be given
promises that there will be an open and transparent process. We need an
independent party to come in here and take a look at everything and tell us
what exactly transpired, how did this happen.
And I don`t think that the people of Flint have faith that they`re
going to get that from their state government.
MADDOW: On this issue of the governor`s correspondence and
documentation from the governor`s office being basically shielded from
public view and even from Freedom of Information Act requests, have you had
any response from the governor`s office to this specific proposal you`ve
made that they should drop executive privilege, they should release all the
governor`s communications about this crisis?
MICKLE: No, we have not.
MADDOW: Do you expect that you will?
MICKLE: Nothing has been shown to me at this point that we will be
given that. We`ve been told that they`re looking into the issue, that
they`re weighing options.
I mean, it took three months to get an apology for this. And I`m
sorry. That`s just way too long. I mean, the people of Flint need action.
They deserve action. Something needs to happen more than just, you know,
we`re going to continue to look at the problem.
There are things that can be done right now that would act on this
that the governor could honestly do right now that he doesn`t need to sign
a declaration. He could release all those e-mails. He could request an
investigation. And so far, we have not seen that.
MADDOW: One thing that has amazed me about this story, and it may
have been just sort of why I had my eye on Michigan anyway when this story
came up and why it caught my attention, is that the state of Michigan
basically took over governance in Flint because they say Flint couldn`t run
its own affairs, that`s why it`s all these guys who were appointed
basically to the government as emergency managers who are implicated in
making these decisions. That`s why it`s a state issue and not a Flint
issue in terms of accountability here in a lot of ways.
But even with the state saying the town can`t run its own affairs,
the state ends up poisoning the town. From a distance, that just seems
like a Shakespearean level of tragedy but it`s also infuriating. I wonder,
from closer up to that situation, how does that issue sit with your readers
MICKLE: Again, they`re angry. Flint was stripped of its democracy.
Make no mistake. The people that Flint citizens voted to put into office
had no real power.
And for the state to turn around and try to put this back onto the
mayor and city council and say that these were decisions they made – I
mean, there was an emergency manager in place. Those people had no real
power. And it`s insulting I think to the people of Flint to be told that
your elected leaders can`t lead and then to have something like this
happen. People have lost faith, and understandably so.
MADDOW: Bryn Mickle, editor of “The Flint Journal,” which has done
very aggressive work on this story – thank you for your work on it and
good luck. Please stay in touch with us.
MICKLE: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Behold. The great horned owl. If you`ve never seen one up
close before, this is what they look like.
The great horned owl is nocturnal. They`ve got a wingspan of four to
five feet. Ah! They`ve been known to take down animals considerably
larger than themselves, the great horned owl.
How about a warbling verio? That`s a warbling verio.
This right here is an osprey with a delicious meal of carp in its
This guy is a yellow-headed blackbird. Very cute.
And yes, these all may just look like beautiful winged creatures in
the wild, but these are in fact the face of tyrannical federal government
The national wildlife refuge that is normally home to these and other
pretty winged animals is now home to a days-long armed occupation by anti-
Oh, God, here we go again.
The latest in this ongoing standoff and where it came from just
ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Something to keep an eye on for tomorrow. For weeks now,
the White House has been putting out word that President Obama`s going to
use some form of executive authority to take action on guns without
Well, tonight we now know the broad strokes of what he`s planning to
do. He met with Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI Director James
Comey and other law enforcement officials today. And then after that the
White House had a conference call with reporters in which they explained
that the president basically has plans to shrink but not eliminate the
loophole in the law that lets some people buy guns without ever going
through a federal background check.
We`re expecting more details on that plan from the president himself
tomorrow at the White House plus whatever else he might be planning on
doing. So, if you were waiting to set your alarm clock for Washington`s
first major conservative freak-out of the year, that will be happening
tomorrow at 11:40 a.m. Eastern at the White House in response to the
president`s gun announcement.
Eleven-forty. Set your watch. And then everybody freak out!
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD MACK, FMR. GRAHAM COUNTY, AZ SHERIFF: We were actually
strategizing to put all the women up at the front. If they`re going to
start shooting, it`s going to be women that are going to be televised all
across the world getting shot by these rogue federal officers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That charmer is named Richard Mack. He was once a county
sheriff in Arizona. His hat shows that he belongs to a group called the
Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, which is a group
that explains on their website that they are convinced that, quote, “power-
hungry government officials backed by people with hidden agendas have
convinced us to sacrifice our freedoms bit by bit.” They say they are
determined to be, quote, “the army to set our nation free.”
In 2014, that constitutional sheriffs group was one of the supporters
of a Nevada rancher named Cliven Bundy, who got into a bizarre armed
standoff with federal officials after Mr. Bundy refused to pay fees for
grazing his livestock on federal land that wasn`t his.
Another anti-government group involved in that little pageant was the
3 Percent Movement. The 3 percenters then turned up shortly thereafter in
another land dispute at a gold mine in southwestern Oregon, a place called
the Sugar Pine Mine. The owners of the Sugar Pine Mine said they wouldn`t
follow federal regulations and their guns and their militia friends were
how they would prove it.
The Sugar Pine Mine standoff and the Cliven Bundy standoff were also
backed by members of a group called the Oath Keepers, a group of mainly
former military and law enforcement officers who vow to protect the
Constitution by force if necessary. That group also converged to another
gold mine in Montana this August when the owners of that mine sent a letter
to the Forest Service warning that that Forest Service should stay off the
So, these folks are around, right? They do this thing. They`re
itching for a fight. They keep picking one somewhere here and there.
And now, in their latest manifestation, for the third straight day, a
group of armed anti-government protesters are occupying a tiny, technically
federally controlled building at an Oregon wildlife refuge. The siege is
reportedly motivated by the arson convictions of two local ranchers who set
fires that burned federal land.
At its heart, though, what the self proclaimed militia members want
is basically to take federally controlled land away from the federal
government and make it private property instead.
What`s interesting, though, is that this time, many of the usual
suspects, many of the groups and individuals who backed the Cliven Bundy
standoff in 2014, for example, they now say they`re against what`s
happening right now in Oregon.
Sheriff Mack, the guy who wanted to use women in Nevada as human
shields, he says his group, quote, “does not support or condone the
occupation by those individuals who have taken over the federal wildlife
building outside of Burns, Oregon.”
Same with the 3 percenters, their leader said today that what`s
happening could be a false flag operation.
The Oath Keepers said today that the efforts in Oregon were, quote,
“manufactured by pot heads.”
So, is this a standoff in Oregon that is a departure from the string
of armed anti-government right wing militant provocations that we`ve seen
over the past couple of years, or is this in line, both with those previous
protests and also with a whole ongoing movement that`s going to produce the
kind of scary standoffs over the interior west?
Joining us now is Jennifer Rokala. She`s the executive director for
the Center of Western Priorities, which is a public land and energy
Jennifer, thanks for you time tonight. I appreciate you being here.
JEN ROKALA, CENTER FOR WESTERN PRIORITIES EXEC. DIRECTOR: Rachel,
thank you for having me on.
MADDOW: So, should we understand this display in Oregon as a one-off
thing particularly as a sort of usual suspects groups on these things seem
to have some infighting around it, or is this in keeping, is this the
latest in a string of things that is probably going to keep happening?
ROKALA: Look, this is not an isolated incident. I believe that this
is an example of after incident that will continue to happen. And, you
know, even though some of these groups have disavowed what has happened up
in Oregon this time, you can`t unring a bell. They`ve supported Cliven
Bundy. They`ve supported some of these other incidents throughout the
West. So, I think it`s not an isolated incident.
MADDOW: Your group has put out a report this past year, in August,
called, “Going to extremes, the anti-government extremism behind the
growing movement to seize America`s public lands.”
And public land use is the sort of thing that feels esoteric except
concerns about that seem to be what`s driving the armed very provocative
standoffs. What`s the connection between that as an issue of concern and
the militancy of these groups?
ROKALA: Well, I think the issue of concern is that there are some
politicians in the West who are associated with the militant groups. One
in particular is State Representative Ken Ivory from Utah.
Ken Ivory has been the leader in the movement. He`s active with some
of these extremist organizations. At the same time he`s traveling
throughout the West working with county commissions and state legislators
to support the seizure of public lands or some of the legislation around
And so, Ken Ivory is really the bridge from the extreme to the
MADDOW: In terms of this standoff that`s happening in Oregon and the
way you see this as part of a larger movement, authorities are obviously
taking a sort of go slow, hands-off approach.
Do you think that`s the right approach? Do you have any expectation
for how this is going to end in Oregon?
ROKALA: Certainly, my hope is that this ends peacefully and that the
people who are taking over this wildlife refuge will serve the consequences
for doing so.
MADDOW: Jennifer Rokala, executive director at the Center for
Western Priorities, which works on these issues in a holistic way, talking
about the whole spectrum of this area of concern – thanks for joining us.
Appreciate you being here.
ROKALA: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more ahead including, we talk a
lot about local press and media on this show, and supporting your local
newspaper – one town in America has to do that in a very specific and
weird way as of this weekend and we`ve got that story ahead with some
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Support your local media. Support local reporting. You
should scribe to your local paper even if you hate your local paper because
trust me, you will hate it more when you no longer have a local paper. Or
when you still have a local paper but for some reason you can`t get it.
Such is the case in Boston right now where thousands of subscribers
to “The Boston Globe” have not been getting their newspapers since “The
Globe” switched over to a new distribution company last week, a company
that can`t actually distribute the paper. Incredibly, one result of the
snafu is that this weekend, the people who write and edit the paper, like
reporters and editors, more than 100 newsroom and business side employees
personally stuffed “The Boston Globe” into plastic bags and wet out into
the streets of Boston to hand-deliver the newspaper to subscribers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The call went out this afternoon for this need to
get journalists who write the paper to help deliver it because of the
problems we`re having with the current distribution. It`s a really
worrisome thing in a world where newspapers are fighting to survive.
HIAWATHA BRAY, BOSTON GLOBE: There`s in question that more and more
the news is migrating to the web. But there are still many loyal
subscribers who are important to us. Actually, they`re some of our longest
and most loyal readers. We`re trying to make sure that the people who
still want to read it and get it on their doorsteps can get it on their
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the Sunday editor of “The Boston Globe”.
This is the man who decides –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: David is one of our best reporters. We`ve been
out there delivering the papers this morning.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, guys. Happy New Year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Reporters and editors doing the paper routes. The new
distributor says it will be four to six months before the delivery issues
Tonight, “The Globe” says it`s considering bring in a second
distribution company to help with the deliveries.
Be grateful for your local paper. Be happy you have access to it,
and if it shows up on your doorstep, you pay to subscribe tight and you
read it, maybe give a bigger tip than you were planning on giving this
year. More often than not, if a story is here on this show before it is
anywhere else, really, it is in your local paper. Support your local
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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