The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 3/16/2016
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: March 16, 2016
Guest: Dahlia Lithwick, Nina Totenberg
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this
We knew this day would come. We did not know exactly when. As recently as
yesterday there are people paid to talk for a living who were assuring us
that this day would definitely not come today but it`s come today. The
time has, in fact, arrived.
And my friends, we must now gather together to poof Marco Rubio. We
started with 17, 17 – 17 people all got in over the course of last spring
Nobody got out until September 11th when the first one we got to poof was
Rick Perry. Ten days later, we got to poof Scott Walker. Then we went
almost another two months without being able to poof anyone until finally
bye-bye, Bobby Jindal. A month after that, right before Christmas, we got
to poof Lindsey Graham, poof.
And then between Christmas and New Year`s, we were supposed to poof George
Pataki but it was between Christmas and New Year`s, a lot of stuff going on
and it was George Pataki and honestly we kind of forgot to poof him.
Governor Pataki, we owe it to you. Poof. December 29th.
Then after Iowa, at the start of February, in quick succession we poofed
Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum. A week and a half after New
Hampshire, it was a conflagrations of poofing. We lost in quick
succession, Chris Christie, poof, Carly Fiorina, poof, and Jim Gilmore,
A week later after South Carolina, the Bush family`s long multigenerational
winning streak ended in that state and we got to poof Jeb Bush.
And now, we`ve arrived in the month of March and the first week of March,
we pulled a little bit of a Pataki on this show when I forgot to poof Ben
Carson. No real reason I forgot to poof Ben Carson. Every time I started
thinking about it and working on that segment, I just got distracted, my
mind wandered. It was totally on me. Earlier this month I forgot to poof
Ben Carson when he quit on March 4th. But he did quite, poof. And then we
were down to four.
So, the field of candidates that was so giant to begin with, we`ve had to
poof so many of these people over the past few months to get down to this
little group, we`ve got left. You think we`d be used to it and it wouldn`t
be a big deal anymore but it always feels like a big deal when somebody
drops out of the race and now in particular, when you`re down to this tiny
number of people still left in the race, it is kind of dramatic to lose
It`s also dramatic to lose people from the Republican race right now, to
keep poofing people off what started as a giant roster of candidates
because now we`re starting to think seriously about the prospect that maybe
the Republican Party will poof everybody off this list. That they will not
just get down to one, they will get down to none.
I mean, it is a fairly open discussion in some Republican Party circles
right now about whether the Republican Party will add a new potential
nominee to the mix at their convention in Cleveland, somebody who`s not
been running in the race already for the past year. It`s hard to believe
you can`t find one person you like out of 17 candidates, but they really
might try to find the one Republican who didn`t actually find time to run
for president this year and they might give the nomination to that person
instead because they don`t like any of the 17.
Today, former Republican House Speaker John Boehner said in Ohio that he
would be happy to go with that kind of a plan. John Boehner has just said
that if none of the remaining candidates in the race get a majority of
delegates on the first ballot at the convention this summer, he says none
of those candidates should get the nomination. And he also says none of
those candidates would get his vote. He says at that point after just one
ballot, he`d be happy to pick somebody altogether new and his pick would be
the current House speaker, Paul Ryan.
And if this line of reasoning sounds familiar, it`s because Paul Ryan got
the House speaker`s job not too long ago after a similar dynamic emerged in
the leadership of the Republican party not in terms of the presidential
candidate but in terms of who would be their leader in Congress. The
Republican Party needed a new speaker of the House after John Boehner
unexpectedly resigned last fall.
Dozens of possible candidates emerge from within the Republican Party,
literally there were tons of them. We tried to line them all up and pick
them out like an eye chart at one point and it was very hard to do. I
mean, even some potential House speaker candidates who weren`t actually
members of Congress, just random outside Republicans that they thought they
might tap for the job to come in and take over for John Boehner, even they
were among people discussed as possible House speakers.
And, yes, Paul Ryan is now saying, absolutely not, to the prospect that the
Republican National Convention might turn to him this summer. That they
might turn to somebody completely outside the presidential contest thus far
to save the party and step in, become a fresh new nominee unsullied by the
primary process. Yes, Paul Ryan is saying no to that now.
But remember, when the speaker`s job was open in the Republican Party, he
also said no to that job. He said no a thousand times in a thousand ways
that he liked his current job, he absolutely did not want to be speaker of
the House and would not be speaker of the House, but you know what, he`s
now speaker of the House. And so, who knows?
Donald Trump may end up being the Republican nominee. John Kasich or Ted
Cruz might end up being the Republican nominee. We may well end up poofing
Donald Trump and John Kasich and Ted Cruz off the list of candidates before
this process is done.
I mean, maybe the Republican Party really well have ended up considering
all 17 of their potential declared candidates this year and maybe they will
reject all of them. But we`re not there yet. And today, it really is a
big deal for this epic race on the Republican side that it has now gone
from four people to three people.
So, let`s do it. Are you ready? Say it with me now. Senator Rubio,
three, two, one – poof.
Senator Marco Rubio is used to getting absolutely fawning national press
coverage. Good for him. You know, people criticize him for getting this.
It`s a skill to get good press coverage. He`s really good at getting good
press coverage. I mean, his hometown press in Florida doesn`t treat him
with nearly the same suck-up-itude as the national press does.
But the national press has serious suck-up-itude for Marco Rubio. They
treat him so well, it almost creepy. The national press portrayed him
almost literally as a messiah figure for his party. He`s been the guy
whose concession speeches were treated like victory speeches.
In this campaign, he`s the guy who was lauded in the press as not just a
top-tier competitor but even the likely nominee of the Republican Party
this year even as real voters in state after state after state kept saying
no, they did not want him over and over and over again.
And then in his home state last night, Marco Rubio did not just lose by a
lot, last night in his home state, this is not a typo. This is not us
screwing up the graphic or somebody dropping their lipstick on the slide.
This is the result last night in Florida. Marco Rubio lost 66 out of 67
counties in the state. And so, then last night, he had to quit this
And so that brings us to today, which, of course, would end up being a very
different kind of day for Marco Rubio than he was used to from the press,
right? After a lifetime worth of positive national press crammed into
these few short years he`s had in national politics. Marco Rubio today had
to brace himself for the first full day of terrible press coverage he has
ever had in this life, right?
Today was Marco Rubio political obituary day, but unlike a real obituary
where people say nice things about you because you`re gone, in a political
obituary we`re not really gone, you`re just a failure. So, nobody tends to
hold back on saying every bad thing about you, listing every bad thing you
ever did wrong in your life, let alone this campaign.
This is one of the reasons you don`t want to go into politics statistically
speaking, right? This doesn`t happen in every industry but for politicians
they have what I`ve always thought of as salt in the wound day, day after
losing day, right? It`s the day after you have the worst public career
humiliation of your life.
If you`re a big enough deal as a politician, after you have that terrible
public humiliation and failure, you have to spend the next day reading all
about how terribly you blew it and how you deserved it and.
So, Marco Rubio had to brace for that today. After quitting last night,
that`s what Marco Rubio knew he was going to have to do today.
Until he didn`t have to do that at all, because apparently for Marco Rubio,
there is yet one more gift from the gods of the national political media.
Yes, yes, this happened today before lunchtime.
Yes, thank you, President Obama. Thank you, Supreme Court nomination
process. Thank you, gods and goddesses of limited news cycle attention
spans and fortuitous timing.
Today, the best day of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland`s life just
stepped on the tail of what was all set to be the worst day in the
political life of Marco Rubio.
I mean, guess what pushed the end of Marco Rubio`s political career
completely out of the news cycle today? Woo-hoo! Thank you.
And for that, surely, Judge Merrick Garland should be able to count on a
payback thank you vote from Marco Rubio in the United States Senate, right?
Maybe? I`m fairly certain that will actually not happen although the rules
of karma say that it should.
We`re in this interesting moment, though, now, because now we`ve got a
Supreme Court nominee, not just a Supreme Court vacancy, not just a Supreme
Court issue and a debate, now we`ve got a name. Now we`ve got a person.
We`ve got a record. We`ve got a resume.
And we`re going to be talking this hour with both Dahlia Lithwick and Nina
Totenberg about Judge Merrick Garland and his prospects of becoming Justice
Merrick Garland. We`re going to be talking about with this nomination
But this nomination happened today in the context of this red-hot political
campaign that we`re in right now, right? This unusually insane process
we`re having this year of trying to choose a successor to President Obama.
I mean, today, alone, we`ve got Senator Rubio dropping out of the race.
We`ve got the real prospect that Marco Rubio may go further than quitting
the presidential race. He may actually quit his U.S. Senate seat rather
than return to it.
Part of the way Senator Rubio campaigned for the presidency was by talking
openly about how much he hated the job of being a U.S. senator, bragging
about the fact that he basically never shows up for that job, trying to
turn his worst voting record in the Senate into some sort of political
advantage because he hates the Senate so much. He`s been open about that,
So there`s the prospect that he will also quit the Senate. That`s out
We`ve also got former Rubio supporters in the state of Pennsylvania tonight
dropping their legal challenges which could have potentially kept Ohio
Governor John Kasich off the presidential ballot in Pennsylvania. There`s
some question about the signatures that John Kasich`s campaign filed to get
Governor Kasich onto the Pennsylvania ballot, but those challenges to his
eligibility, those are challenges that came from Marco Rubio supporters and
those challenges have now been dropped in the wake of Senator Rubio
quitting the race.
I mean, everybody thinks Marco Rubio`s supporters and his donors and
campaign infrastructure are all going to go to Ted Cruz but maybe this is
little sign that John Kasich could be in the running for some of that, too.
I mean, John Kasich certainly seems like he`d be a bet than Ted Cruz when
it comes to running against Donald Trump in forthcoming states like
Pennsylvania and Maryland and Connecticut and maybe Wisconsin and New York
and New Jersey and Delaware. Maybe even Utah which votes next week.
Wouldn`t John Kasich potentially run better than Ted Cruz against Donald
Trump in those states?
Then simultaneously, there`s also the fate of the stop Donald Trump effort
within the Republican Party and the conservative movement. So, not just
the guys running against him, but the effort within the party to try to
stop him. Politico.com reports now that there will be yet another
conservative summit in Washington, D.C., tomorrow to, again, try to stop
Mr. Trump`s march to the nomination and who knows, maybe this one will do
But these efforts within the Republican Party and within the conservative
movement to try to stop Donald Trump, I mean, they did just get a big full-
scale road test in the great state of Florida where the $15 million spent
just against Donald Trump in that one state in advance of last night`s
vote, that $15 million anti-Trump dollars, $15 million, that positively
dwarfs anything spent against any other candidate or for any other
candidate in that state.
And the result, we now know, of that massive concentrated sustained anti-
Donald Trump onslaught in the state of Florida was that Donald Trump last
night won 66 out of the 67 counties in the state of Florida and he polished
off his earlier meal of the state`s former Republican governor with a tasty
dessert of the state`s messiah junior senator.
So, now, we`ve got this nominee, this Supreme Court nominee. Republicans
in the Senate say that Judge Merrick Garland will never get a hearing. Let
alone a vote. Let alone confirmed as long as Barack Obama is still
president of the United States.
And everybody`s entitled to say how they see things. Everybody`s entitled
to make their own threats in politics.
But for his part, President Obama seems to think that picking this
particular nominee is his best chance of getting around those political
threats. And that is in part because of who Judge Merrick Garland is, but
it is also in part because Judge Garland`s nomination is happening now.
Judge Garland`s nomination is happening this year in this political
environment with all this mishegoss as the background political noise in
the Republican Party.
President Obama seems to think in this time, in this place with the
national politics we`re having right now, Merrick Garland is the one key
that will turn in this particular lock. Is he right?
Joining us now is my friend, Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor at “Slate”.
Dahlia, I`m glad you could be with us tonight. Thank you so much for being
DAHLIA LITHWICK, SENIOR EDITOR, SLATE: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Is Merrick Garland a liberal or a moderate?
LITHWICK: He`s a liberal-moderate. He`s somewhere between the two. I
think that, you know, one thing we can say is he`s got a 19-year judicial
record, Rachel. So, whatever he is, he`s not a mystery and I think he`s
pretty much a Obama kind of reach-across-the aisle consensus building,
incremental, judicial humility moderate liberal guy.
MADDOW: One of the other criteria touted about some of the other people
said to be on the short list for this pick were they had been confirmed to
their most recent federal judgeship with zero votes against them. That`s
true of the few other people on the short lists that have been circulated
in the media.
That`s not actually true of Judge Garland. There were more than 20 votes
against him when he was confirmed to his current job as chief justice on
the D.C. Circuit Court.
What was that about and should that be seen as relevant to his political
LITHWICK: Well, I don`t think so. I mean, it was a very, very hotly
contested confirmation and nomination, and it lagged for months and months
and months. But I think probably the most useful number is there are eight
Republicans who are sitting Republicans now who did vote for him.
And I think not even the vote, Rachel, but the rhetoric around him
subsequently has been so interesting because no less a person than Orrin
Hatch said very recently, you know, if Obama wanted to be reasonable, he`d
give us a moderate candidate like Merrick Garland. And so, they talk about
him as though he is a centrist person that they can confirm very recently
talking about him that way, and then suddenly he`s named and they`re like,
Obama`s just fake reasonable.
So, you know, it`s – this is not just the vote, itself, but the language
around him which has been so supportive. He`s such a beloved figure across
the board, so many former solicitors general have come out and said, you
know, this is your guy across the aisle and, yet, it doesn`t matter what
the vote was, it doesn`t matter what they said about him, now that he`s the
pick, he is, you know, a pot smoking hippy liberal.
MADDOW: Well, the president`s strategy here, the way you`re laying that
out seems very clear, right? This is somebody who might be the hardest
person in the country for Republican senators to say no to, particularly
not Republican senators in the abstract, but the Republican senators
currently in the United States Senate and have to face this promise that
they`ve all made that he`s not going to get a hearing. That`s obviously
the take that – that`s the tact that the White House took with this
Do you agree that was the right strategy to take? There`s other ways to do
it. You can pick somebody who can really galvanize liberals to try to make
this a general election issue, to try to help the Democratic nominee by
effectively putting the Supreme Court nominee on the ticket with Hillary
Clinton or Bernie Sanders, you can approach it through some sort of bank
shot where you elevate somebody because you want to put somebody else in
their seat and you can campaign in either of them.
What do you think about the president`s strategic choice here?
LITHWICK: I was a person not a week ago saying put up Elizabeth Warren,
put Deval Patrick, put someone who`s going to galvanize the base, get out
the vote, who`s basically going to be Hillary`s mini me vice president who
just stumps for, you know, months saying give me a hearing, give me a
hearing and make it somebody that the base is excited about. And even I
think it`s fair to say, Sri Srinivasan, Jane Kelly, some of the people who
are on the list until the last second, even though they`d be called
moderate centrists, you know, left, but certainly I think people who
everybody could have lived with, they would have at least had this sort of
demographic appeal. You know, maybe he`d be putting up the first African-
American woman, maybe he`d be putting up the first Hindu.
All that falls away when he makes a decision to put up not just a white guy
from Harvard, like we haven`t had a million of those on this court, but a
white guy from Harvard who`s 63, right, who`s easily 12, 13 years older
than a lot of the other people on this short list.
I think the reason is exactly what you said. He just made the decision,
Rachel, that he was going to use this, I think, to box in Republicans, to
force them, particularly Republicans in contested races, in the Senate, to
go back and say, “I`m not voting for him, I`m not even meeting him, when he
walks down the hall, I`m going to hide under my desk. But I – no, no,
he`s not even real to me.”
I think it was an effort to do that, to sort of say, you live with the fact
that I put up, you know, an incredibly moderate reasonable white person who
you lauded only recently and you won`t even shake his hand.
MADDOW: Trying to push that resistance to the breaking point which will
set a weird precedent if and when it doesn`t break.
Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor at “Slate” – I was looking forward to
talking to you about this. Thanks for being here, Dahlia.
LITHWICK: Thank you for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: I will say that the – with this nominee, we don`t know exactly
what the president was thinking or what`s going to happen next. We`re
going to be talking with Nina Totenberg about this later in the hour.
It is my sense the White House can`t expect that Merrick Garland is going
to end up on the Supreme Court at the end of this process. Republicans in
the Senate say they`re not going to hear him. If a Republican wins a
presidential election, Republicans in the Senate then definitely aren`t
going to hear him. If a Democrat wins the presidential election, I think
that Democratic nominee will want his or her own nominee to put forward,
Maybe they`ll pick the same person that President Obama picked. More
likely they`d pick their own. I think the president does not expect that
Merrick Garland will end up on the court but the White House probably
calculates if something goes crazy in this most unpredictable political
seasons that we`re in, if Merrick Garland does get the vote, the country
would be in safe hands. I think that`s their calculation. That said, I`m
completely making that up.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Here`s what Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said
today when he was asked if there is a Republican convention this summer
that is contested and the result of that contested convention is that he
does not win the nomination.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (via telephone): I think we`ll
win before getting to the convention, but I can tell you if we didn`t and
if we`re 20 votes short or if we`re – if we`re, you know, 100 short and
we`re at 1,100 and somebody else is at 500 or 400 because we`re way ahead
of everybody, I don`t think you can say that we don`t get it automatically.
I think it would be – I think you`d have riots. I think you`d have riots.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It`s one thing for other people to predict violence or even riots
in a politician`s campaign, it`s another thing for the candidate, himself,
to promise/threaten that and then not condemn that as a possibility.
More on that next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: OK, this is a little bit of a doozy and will not see this
But before we have to start covering fistfights and soccer punches and kick
the protester scrums at Donald Trump political events, back before Donald
Trump made national presidential politics look like this in our country, it
used to be a rare thing to see a punch thrown in major party national
politics. It used to be really rare. It used to be newsworthy when there
was a small punch, a shove even within the context of presidential
But that is what happened last year when Marco Rubio`s deputy campaign
manager got into a little physical skirmish at a Republican conference in
Michigan. This happened in September. A bunch of the Republican
candidates and their campaign staffs were all hanging out on Mackinaw
Island in my favorite state of Michigan and something went wrong in a bar.
And you can see here on this tape that we`ve looped here that one of these
staffers landed a punch or shove or some kind a whack on or near the jaw
line of another guy who was attending that conference, so, you know, it`s
exciting. Bar fight or bar punch or bar shove, or not that much of
anything. But this happened.
And the reason anybody knew it happened is because punching and shoving
used to be rare in presidential politicking and because the two guys who
were involved in this little altercation were both working for presidential
campaigns. The puncher was the deputy campaign manager for Marco Rubio.
The punchee, the guy on the receiving end of that whatever it was, he
identified himself publicly after the incident as both the guy who got
punched in that bar and as a high-level staffer for the Rand Paul campaign,
which used to be a thing.
The punchee`s name is a very memorable name. His name is John Yob. John
Yob is a longtime Republican operative. He was national political
operative for John McCain in 2008.
He worked on my friend Rick Snyder`s gubernatorial campaign in Michigan.
He worked for “I am not a witch” Christine O`Donnell and her failed Senate
campaign in 2010. He also worked for the Sharron Angle failed Senate
campaign that same year.
But John Yob, if you want to know what he really is now, he`s tried to
carve out a niche for himself not just as a generic campaign guy but as a
delegate guy. When Rick Santorum came in second in the Republican
presidential primary in 2012, John Yob ran Rick Santorum`s delegate
operations and that`s really became his area of focus.
John Yob is an experienced political operative, here he is. Also,
specifically, he`s a delegate guy. He`s fashioned himself into being an
expert on delegates and specifically on political conventions.
Last month, he published this book, “Chaos: The Outsider`s Guide to a
Contested Republican National Convention.” Timely, right? The book makes
a prediction about the current Republican primary.
It says, quote, “The only thing that is certain is that there will be chaos
in Cleveland.” Chaos in Cleveland.
You know, even if none of the rest of us are experts on this stuff, we can
all do enough of the delegate math, ourselves, to know the only hope the
Republican Party has of stopping Donald Trump from becoming the nominee is
to try to maneuver these delegates he`s earning across country as he wins
state after state to somehow peel those delegates off Donald Trump and
cobble together a majority of those delegates to support somebody else at
Now, that`s not stealing. It`s not illegal. It`s not necessarily against
the rules unless they decide to break the rules.
But that sort of thing, that sort of process which I think is the only way
Donald Trump doesn`t end up the nominee, it`s kind of a dark art, right?
It requires a sorcerer`s knowledge of the rules and the rules for making
the rules. It requires tons of preparation and organizing. It requires a
real commitment to scheme effectively and efficiently out of the public
idea and behind the scenes.
And that is why we were very intrigued to see this former Rand Paul
staffer, the whacked in the face on Mackinaw Island chaos at the convention
delegate math master operative from Michigan, we were very intrigued to see
his name turn up at the top of this unexpected list. Because it turns out
that guy, John Yob, the guy from Michigan, he just got himself a gig as a
presidential delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands. What?
Yes, Republicans in the Virgin Islands held their caucus last week and I
remember reporting on it at the time seemed a little weird. We were like
the Virgin Islands had their caucus. So far the result is that uncommitted
one, how did that turn out?
We knew there was something wrong. Well, turns out what happened there is
that John Yob was the Virgin Island`s top vote getter as a delegate and
that`s kind of weird. I mean, this whole thing is weird. I mean, most
particularly just because a week before the caucus, election officials in
the Virgin Islands had declared John Yob and his wife to be ineligible to
even vote in the Virgin Islands.
Election officials in the Virgin Islands said he had not lived there long
enough to qualify to vote there. They accused him of sneaking around and
lying and telling two different stories to try to basically fraudulently
get himself onto the voting rolls there even though they thought he had not
lived there long enough to qualify.
Then at the last minute, literally the day of the caucus, a local judge
said that John Yob would be allowed to vote pending a court hearing later
this month. The effect of that ruling was that he could also in addition
to voting, he could also stand for election as a delegate, later that day,
the same day of the ruling.
He did stand for election as a presidential delegate and he won. He got
the most votes of anybody. And so now, he`s going to head to Cleveland as
a head of a slate of undeclared delegates from the Virgin Islands who can
now be wooed and courted and fought over by all the candidates at the
convention in Cleveland. Not to mention things like going to the rules
committee meetings and all the other stuff that needs to happen in order to
organize this plot if somebody other than Donald Trump is going to get the
Now, I should tell you, John Yob is very much qualified for the delegate
job. He says he finalized a deal on a house in the Virgin Islands back in
August. He says he spent time there on and off since 2009. He says his
kids are now going to school there.
But if you want a little taste of what we`ve got in store as a nation, as
operatives and guys with resumes like this, insinuate themselves into the
delegate process for that blessed convention, just look at this. Just look
at this, because dark political arts operative John Yob getting himself
from Michigan to the Virgin Islands and taking over that slate in the
Virgin Islands, it has opened a friendly little window into the most
unexpectedly vicious interparty warfare we`ve seen in quite some time.
And here`s what I mean. The vice chair of the Virgin Island Republicans,
we called him for comment on this. He told us this week that he voted for
John Yob. He said John Yob`s experience and expertise is needed at the
national convention. That`s the vice chair.
The chairman on the other hand, when we contacted him for a quote, he
volunteered to us his vice chairman is, I quote, “a convicted felon, a
moron, a compulsive liar” and, quote, “a Nazi sympathizer.”
Excuse me? Not like we asked him what do you think of your vice chair? He
volunteered this to us. Oh, really? Tell me more.
The chairman of the Republican Party in the Virgin Islands then told us
this. Quote, “I want nothing to do with that Nazi.” And to be clear by
“that Nazi”, he means the vice chairman of the Republican Party in the
Virgin Islands and he`s the chairman.
Virgin Island Republicans, I`m in love with you. All of you, I really am,
because it turns out there`s. Because at that point, once you heard this,
you got to call back the accused Nazi/moron/convict, right? Time for
So, we called him back and the vice chairman told us, OK, it is true that
he`s a felon on a count of federal fraud involving long-distance phone
service in the `90s? The vice chairman told us, quote, “The chairman`s
right. I am a convict.”
The Nazi part, he says that is, quote, “rubbish.” Rubbish, rubbish, total
Let me mention once again this is the chairman and vice chairman of the
Republican Party in that small place, in the place where the guy who
literally wrote the book on how to use the delegate process in chaos to
game the Republican National Convention this year to your own advantage, he
just moved to their little islands in the deep Caribbean and took over
their slate of delegates to Cleveland as an uncommitted delegate.
We know what chaos at political conventions looks like. It`s not like
we`ve never seen it before in our country. But this year, we are four
months out from Cleveland and front-runner Donald Trump today promised
riots at the Cleveland convention if he doesn`t get the nomination, and the
remaining candidates have all hired slates of these sorcerers who are
supposed to be skilled at delegate deceit and trickery and hiding as double
And at least one of those kind of operatives has taken over one territory
slate of delegates as that party, itself, melts down back at home amid
allegations of who`s a Nazi, and who`s a felon, and whether it`s OK to be
one but not both and still be running that party. I mean, we have seen
chaos at conventions before. This year`s chaos is well-planned, it turns
out, in advance.
MADDOW: Here`s something to watch for ahead of time. This is going to be
something you need to put on your calendar for tomorrow morning.
Here`s the context, though. Let`s say Republican Governor Rick Snyder of
Michigan quits, let`s say he resigns, or let`s say the recall effort
against Governor Snyder succeeds, either succeeds in November and he gets
turf out of office, or the recall effort spooks him enough he comes up with
some reason to quit before the end of his term.
Either way, let`s just say that in the wake of the Flint, Michigan, lead
poisoning crisis that his administration caused, let`s say Rick Snyder is
out. In that case, who becomes the governor once Rick Snyder is gone?
This case turns out to be an easy question. The answer is, the state`s
Not all states have lieutenant governors. But in states that do have one,
the main job of the lieutenant governor is to stand around and be ready to
take over if the governor`s got to go for some reason.
In Michigan, they do have that job. And so, the new governor if and when
Rick Snyder resigns will be this guy. If Rick Snyder is out in Michigan,
this guy will move up from lieutenant governor to governor. Got it.
Here`s the harder question, though. If that guy moves up from lieutenant
governor to governor, who`s the new lieutenant governor? That turns out to
be a good question and a hard one to answer, but it`s one that Michigan
started trying to answer today.
Today, two separate bills were filed in the Michigan legislature to try to
sort out that part of the state`s law in the event that that manmade
disaster in Flint means that Rick Snyder doesn`t make it to the end of his
term. The lieutenant governor would move into Rick Snyder`s job. But now,
Michigan legislators are looking to name a new lieutenant governor if that
comes to pass.
And listen, maybe Rick Snyder will never quit. And maybe the recall
against Governor Snyder won`t succeed and won`t rattle him. Maybe this is
all just a stunt by Michigan Democrats in the legislature today. Those
bills did get filed today.
Here`s the point for your calendar tomorrow, because tomorrow is the day
when Rick Snyder is going to be on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.,
testifying under oath about what he did to Flint. That testimony is due to
start tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. and, by the way, the lieutenant governor`s name
is Brian Calley, C-A-L-L-E-Y. Everybody`s learning to spell it now. C-A-
Watch this space.
MADDOW: I`m a crier. Movies. Music. Particularly live music. Good
commercials. Bad commercials. Well-crafted tweet. Doesn`t really matter.
If it works, it works. I have leaky waterworks. I cry all the time.
And so, as a crier, I`m more than sympathetic, I am empathetic about crying
in public. Even by elected officials, even by sports hero – by anyone,
particularly when it is tears of joy, right?
You know, years of hard work, hoping and planning, it all pays off.
There`s that release. There`s that rush of emotion. Today, we got one of
those moments in an unexpected context. And for criers everywhere, I think
I can say that that is a good thing in and of itself.
But that story is next. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MERRICK GARLAND: Thank you, Mr. President. This is the greatest honor of
my life. Other than Lynn agreeing to marry me 28 years ago.
It`s also the greatest gift I`ve ever received, except – and there`s
another caveat – the birth of our daughters, Jesse and Becky.
Fidelity to the Constitution and the law has been the cornerstone of my
professional life. And it is the hallmark of the kind of judge I have
tried to be for the past 18 years. If the Senate sees fit to confirm me to
the position for which I`ve been nominated today, I promise to continue on
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Judge Merrick Garland speaking this morning at the White
House not unafraid to show some emotion as he was nominated to the United
States Supreme Court by President Obama.
And this is usually the point where somebody yells, “go”, then we start
learning all sorts of things about judge Garland. Generally from members
of Congress who plan on opposing his appointment and outside interest
groups who are intent on opposing his appointment. This is when people
start not just digging through his history, reading this history of
decisions and public statements, favorite music and his sports teams,
everything in his life that could potentially be seen as objectionable by
anyone. And then everybody who plans on opposing him lines up behind
whatever oppo gets kicked up and is thought of as the most resonant at that
And as distasteful as that might be, there`s nothing inherently wrong with
that adversarial process, right? Sometimes there are disqualifying
occurrences in a judge`s background that might have been missed by the vet,
right? Or at least there are some questions that need answering.
Something that is raised by all these people who have opposed that judge,
that hasn`t come up among the people who support him. That`s why we have
hearings for a position like Supreme Court justice.
That`s not really the process that`s under way right now, though, in the
case of Judge Merrick Garland. And that`s because as of right now the
Republican-controlled Senate does not plan on even having a hearing on his
nomination no matter what they like or do not like about him. And that is
Joining us now to talk about Judge Garland and his prospects as a Supreme
Court nominee is Nina Totenberg. She`s legal affairs correspondent for
National Public Radio.
Ms. Totenberg, thank you very much for being here. It`s nice to see you
NINA TOTENBERG, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Nice to see you.
MADDOW: So, you reported earlier today that Republicans had essentially
suggested Judge Garland as a nominee to the White House by saying even
though they don`t hold hearings on him now, they might after the
presidential election in the lame duck session. Can you – can you explain
TOTENBERG: Well, I don`t think it was quite an overt suggestion. I was
told by Democrats and Republicans that this was a back channel to the White
House that said, look, if you make it Garland, we`re not going to give him
a hearing, either. But when in the lame duck session after the
presidential election, if your side wins, we`ll get him confirmed.
And, you know, that comports with everything we know about Merrick
Garland`s relationships. He has friends everywhere along the aisle, not
just across the aisle. I talked to nothing but conservative judges today
who disagree with him on many things but who love him and respect him and
say that he respects them, that as a chief judge, he is the model judge,
the person who makes sure that everybody`s view is heard and everybody`s
view is considered.
And so, there are a lot of people in this town who love him. Even people -
- and, you know, Orrin Hatch, the things that Orrin Hatch said in 1997 when
Merrick Garland`s nomination was on the floor of the Senate, you would hope
that anybody would say about your nominee, except for the very last thing,
which is, and he`s the best the Republicans are going to get.
MADDOW: Well on that – I guess on the politics of this, the part of it
that I don`t get, the part of it that I don`t understand or I feel like
maybe I`m just naive about these things, but I feel like if a Republican
wins the presidential election and that`s the kind of lame duck that we`re
in, then I`m assuming all bets are off.
TOTENBERG: All bets are off.
MADDOW: Yes, they`re going to wait until a Republican president comes in
to name the nominee. We expect the Obama White House to let the new
Democratic president-elect make her own selection at that point, I`m saying
her in case, it`s Secretary Clinton.
TOTENBERG: This president has very distinct views about the role of the
judiciary, which he wrote about in his book and it is not a super duper
liberal viewpoint, it`s defer to the legislation and defer to the executive
branch as much as you possibly can, that the courts are really the courts
of a last resort. I don`t think a nominee of President Obama`s would be
the same as the nominee of a President Clinton or Lord knows of a President
Sanders, and I think that he thinks this is his nomination.
Now, he`s a politician. He`s – some people may think he`s boxed in the
Republicans this way, but I also think it comports with who he is. You
know, Merrick Garland was the runner up twice before. He wasn`t down, way
down on the list. He was the runner up of the time of the Sotomayor and
the Kagan nominations.
MADDOW: Nina Totenberg, legal affairs correspondent for National Public
Radio, that is – if the Democratic nominee wins in November and President
Obama still has Merrick Garland hanging out there as a nominee , that`s
going to be such an unbelievable moment in Democratic politics. Thank you
for that reporting. Thanks for talking to us about here. I appreciate it.
All right. We`ve got have more ahead on a busy news night. Please stay
MADDOW: So, last night was an excellent night for Hillary Clinton. It
looks like she went five for five in last night`s primaries – I mean,
barring a recount in Missouri, which stranger things have happened. But
with that five state sweep last night that was the best night so far. That
said, the Sanders` campaign says they feel great right now and that story`s
MADDOW: Today, we got kind of a pause in the Democratic campaign for
president. Neither Hillary Clinton nor Bernie Sanders did any campaign
trail events. Senator Sanders huddled with his family in Arizona after a
bruising primary night where he appears to have lost all five states.
But even though there were no public events today for either candidate, it
doesn`t mean there wasn`t news, because today the Sanders` campaign
advisers tried to significantly recast the race. They explained to
reporters how they plan to erase a widening delegate gap, which now stands
at over 700 delegates if you count so-called super delegates. Super
delegates are the roughly 700 or so elected officials who can support
whoever they want regardless of how people vote in their state.
Senator Sanders and is allies have railed against the whole idea of the
super delegates. They say they subvert the well of the voters. Senator
Sanders is back by MoveOn.org on that. They`ve got a campaign to get rid
of super delegates that`s got close to 200,000 signatures.
But now, it turns out the Sanders` campaign may need those super delegates.
It turns out their plan to get the nomination may turn to play to try to
get the supers. Quote, “Sanders super delegate pitch will likely take the
shape of both direct lobbying and a more formal pitch to current Clinton
super delegates urging them to switch. And the reason Clinton super
delegates are supposed to think about switching to Senator Sanders, the
argument goes at least, is because Senator Sanders is about to start
As evidence, the Sanders campaign is pointing to six contests next week,
five of them caucuses where the Sanders campaign is tended to fare well.
There`s a primary in Arizona. There`ll also be caucuses in Idaho, Utah,
Alaska, Washington, and Hawaii over the next week. The Sanders campaign
believes they can win those six states. They say the terrain continues to
get more favorable after that.
They say next week`s contests will reshape the race and result in Clinton
super delegates having second thoughts.
Interestingly, the Clinton campaign is playing along with the first part of
that. A memo today says that Senator Sanders is poised to have a stretch
of favorable states, including five caucuses next week where he`s likely to
As to whether or not that winning streak will result in super delegate
switching, I doubt the Clinton campaign would concede that. As for the
Sanders campaign newfound interest in flipping super delegates, Team
Clinton says this, quote, “This seems like the tactics of a campaign that
has all but given up on winning the nomination through pledged delegates.”
Sanders` campaign, of course, has ample resources at their disposal.
Today, Sanders campaign top adviser said, quote, “That he says a lot of
daylight ahead, a lot of green pasture.” I don`t know if green pastures
lie ahead, or if this is very crafty spin designed to obscure what was a
very rough night for the Sanders campaign last night. But regardless, the
Sanders campaign has now cast a view of how they think they get to the
nomination that is very, very different than the way they were talking
about getting there before and that really, really, really raises
expectations of how they`re going to do in every single contest next week.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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