The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 3/23/2016

Guests:
John Archibald, Rukmini Callimachi
Transcript:

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: March 23, 2016
Guest: John Archibald, Rukmini Callimachi


CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: All right. Senator Chris Murphy, thank you
for your time tonight. I really appreciate it. That is “ALL IN” for this
evening.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

There`s a lot going on in the world right now, so this is going to be a
packed hour. There is news still breaking tonight about the manhunt for
one of the missing attackers from the Brussels terrorist bombing. There`s
also news tonight that one of the bombers who was killed in the Brussels
attack may have been a crucial participant in the Paris terrorist attacks
last November. We`re going to have details on that ahead, including
talking with one of the best reporters in the country whose full-time beat
is covering ISIS, the group that claimed responsibility both for Brussels
and Paris.

There`s also news tonight about the presidential candidates and President
Obama, himself, continuing to respond to what happened in Brussels.

There`s news tonight as well about this most recent round of election
results and, frankly, some of the bullpucky that`s being spewed in the
beltway about what the results from last night mean.

There`s also some really interesting and frustrating news about why voters
in Arizona last night ended up waiting in mile-long lines for five hours at
a time after polls closed just to vote in an election that likely didn`t
even have record turnout in that state. So, as I said, there`s a lot going
on, there`s lots to come on this show this hour tonight. But we`re going
to start tonight with none of these stories.

We`re going to start tonight with a story I did not expect to be covering
tonight until this happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLP)

SPENCER COLLIER, FMR. ALABAMA LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY CHIEF: During this
trip, I made a statement to Governor Bentley, I`ll repeat it to you, I told
Governor Bentley that I loved him like a father. There was nothing I
wouldn`t do for him except lie to a grand jury.

I made Governor Bentley aware of the recording that I heard, I told
Governor Bentley there was no need to try and explain it for anything other
than it was. It was very obvious that it was sexual in nature. Governor
Bentley simply hung his head and asked for advice in how to get out of it.

At that point, I explained to Governor Bentley, it would be a crime if he
is to use state resources to facilitate a relationship or if he used
campaign funds to facilitate the relationship. Governor Bentley assured me
that he had done neither.

At that point, Governor Bentley gave me his word that he would terminate
the relationship immediately. I left Governor Bentley at Greenville with
uniformed troopers at that point, return home. At 6:30 the next morning,
and phone records should be able to validate this, Governor Bentley called
me on my cell phone and stated that he could not go through with it and end
the relationship with Ms. Mason.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: It`s happening again. At least it seems like it`s happening
again. It looks like the United States of America may be about to lose yet
another governor. Not because the governor has been primaried or voted out
or recalled from office, but rather looks like we may be about to lose yet
another one in a way that sort of this time feels like a cross between Mark
Sanford not really hiking the Appalachian trail but instead spending time
with his Argentinian girlfriend, a cross between that and John Kitzhaber
resigning as governor in Oregon after a collective Oregonian freak-out
about the influence of his girlfriend over not only the governor, himself,
but the state`s whole government.

This time, though, it`s happening in the great state of Alabama, and then
this one is like one of those fireworks displays where the finale goes on
for so long, you`re actually kind of begging for it to be over even if you
like fireworks, because you`re not sure you can take one more part of this
blowing up so spectacularly.

Yes, I have to tell you as a little bit of a warning, this story tonight
does end with a gubernatorial sex tape which we`ve got ahold of tonight and
we will get there, and I will give you another warning before we get there.

That`s where it ends. Here`s where it starts. University of South
Alabama, their sports teams are called the Jaguars.

I don`t think this is true of most mascots at most colleges. But at South
Alabama, they have gone out of the way to have two versions of their
mascot. They`ve got a boy Jaguar and a girl Jaguar. Why do they need two?
Are male and female Jaguars really that different? I don`t know.

But their male mascot is called South Paw and their female mascot is called
Miss Pawla. P-A-W-L-A, Pawla. Miss Pawla is the girl Jaguar. She`s kind
of a strange sexy kitten going on with a skirt outfit and the hair bow and
eyelashes – yes, there you have it.

Anyway, these mascots get people fired up at football games and sports
events in South Alabama, but then they also have to do sports event photo
ops, including photo to ops with the governor. Every year, the Alabama
governor and his family invite all the college mascots from all of
Alabama`s public schools. They invite all the people who wear these big
headed furry costumes to come to the governor`s mansion to promote Alabama
higher education, and this was this past year`s big mascot event.

There`s the governor of Alabama, Robert Bentley. There`s his wife of 50
years, Diane. This is them sandwiched between the two stuffed Jaguars
between the Jaguar boy and Jaguar girl. South Paw and Miss Pawla. He`s
with South Paw. She`s with Miss Pawla.

We now know that one reason neither the governor nor his wife looked
particularly psyched to be there, is because 36 minutes before that photo
was taken, 36 minutes before, Diane Bentley had filed for divorce. She
filed these divorce papers claiming an irretrievable breakdown in her
marriage to the governor. And then after filing those papers, 36 minutes
later she went through with the mascots photo including posing with her
husband next to sexy Jaguar mascot, Miss Pawla, and all the other Alabama
college mascots.

I mean, after 50 years of marriage, the first hour of filing divorce
papers, there`s the soon-to-be ex-couple spending quality time, forcing
smiles for the camera with the Jacksonville State University Gamecock, and
a giant dragon called Blaze, and the sad University of Alabama elephant who
has this droopy unstuffed trunk.

We don`t need to dwell on this aspect of it, but following that very
eventful morning where they got divorce papers filed and then they had to
pose with all the people in the mascot suits, after that, once the divorce
papers were filed, the Alabama press was filled with rumors that the cause
of the sitting governor`s divorce was an affair. It was an affair between
Governor Bentley and his senior political adviser, a woman who had been his
campaign press secretary.

The governor has not commented on those – had not at the time commented on
those allegations either to confirm them or deny them. You know, and
obviously at root, this is a sad story for anyone. The end of a 50-year
marriage is always a sad story.

If the marriage did end because the governor broke up his marriage by
cheating, that sad story will have the additional dimension of the
governor`s hypocrisy as a politician because this isn`t just a personal
story, Governor Bentley ran for this office that he holds on the grounds
that he was a family-values candidate, right, a God-fearing family man
whose campaign ads featured him talking about the bible while posing with
his wife and all of his grandkids.

He ran as a man who so believes in the sanctity of traditional marriage
that he`d fight same-sex marriage with every fiber of his being. His
administration filed a Supreme Court brief saying marriage between same-sex
couples should not even be thought of as marriages, they should be seen as
social experiments.

Nobody`s love life is a political matter unless you, as a politician, make
your love life and your personal life a political matter. And Robert
Bentley, the governor of Alabama, has done that. He has been a crusading
family-values politician who has campaigned on the superior morality of his
own marriage, his own family, and his own family values and how he`s going
to save Alabama from other people`s terrible, immoral family choices
because his values and his family are superior.

And so now, for Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, this is not just a
personal story or sex scandal, it`s a political hypocrisy story and
unfortunately for him it has also turned out to be something much more
serious than that which ultimately could result in him no longer being the
governor of Alabama even if he wants to continue to be and that`s because
what it has now turned into is an abuse of the office scandal. And it`s
becoming potentially an issue in Alabama state politics much wider than
him.

The woman who Governor Bentley was allegedly shtooping outside his
marriage, she`s also a semipublic figure. She`s the senior political
adviser to Governor Bentley. That is a paid job.

One point of interest here is that even though that`s a paid job, she`s not
on the state payroll. Instead, one of the things that`s been tearing up
the Alabama press on this issue is the realization that although this
person is being paid to advise the governor at the most senior level,
nobody knows where the money is coming from that pays her.

And if she is the governor`s mistress or she has been the governor`s
mistress, figuring out who`s been paying her all that time has now become a
matter of some ethical urgency in the state of Alabama and that brings us
to today. In Alabama, the secretary of Alabama law enforcement is a
cabinet-level position. Under Governor Robert Bentley, a man named Spencer
Collier was promoted from Alabama`s secretary of homeland security to that
cabinet-level position of being the state secretary of law enforcement.

Governor Bentley yesterday fired Spencer Collier, fired that cabinet
official. And Spencer Collier responded by calling a press conference at
his lawyer`s office, at which he let loose a fuselage of bombshells about
the governor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLLIER: Everything that I`m about to tell you I`m willing to say under
oath. I am willing to say in front of a grand jury with my hand on a
bible. And I challenge the others to be willing to do the same.

My relationship with Governor Bentley was positive for the better part of
almost 15 years. As I mentioned earlier, I considered him both a close
personal friend and, in fact, at times, I even looked at him as a father
figure. I saw the first sign of change in Governor Robert Bentley in
August of 2014.

I became aware of a text message that was sent from Miss Rebecca Mason to
Governor Bentley. The text message was accidentally intercepted by
Governor Bentley`s body man, his personal security. That man was Sergeant
Stan Stabler. Sergeant Stabler accidentally picked up Governor Bentley`s
cell phone as he left it in the suburban and on the cell phone there was a
text that was sexual in nature.

On August 5th, Chief Lewis came into my office and played me parts of an
audio recording in which Governor Bentley and Rebecca Mason were
participating in an inappropriate sexual conversation. The tape was
brought to my attention by Chief Lewis who received it from a Bentley
family member – a member of Governor Bentley`s family was on the phone
with Chief Lewis while the tape was being played in my presence.

At that point, I explained to Governor Bentley, it would be a crime if he
has used state resources to facilitate a relationship or if he used
campaign funds to facilitate the relationship.

From August of 2014 until the present, it`s become apparent to me that
Rebecca Mason has willed to the level of influence over both the governor
and state government that I have never seen in all my years of public
service. The people of this state deserve better. Governor Bentley was
elected by overwhelming majority by the people of this state but Rebecca
Mason was not elected by anyone. And the level of influence that she is
yielding makes her the de facto governor.

I`ll finish by saying this, I mentioned that Ms. Mason is not elected. I
don`t even think we know who even pays Ms. Mason. I don`t think anyone
knows where he pay comes from.

But I do know this: Governor Robert Bentley is not the same man I knew and
served in the legislature with and considered one of the best friends that
I ever had. And for that, I am saddened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: So, that`s the man who was just yesterday fired as the top law
enforcement official in the state of Alabama. The allegation that this all
started with the governor`s body man, the governor`s, effectively his
bodyguard accidentally seeing a sexually explicit text message to the
governor on the governor`s cell phone when the governor left his phone in
his state car, that allegation was denied today by the man who was the
governor`s bodyguard at the time, who I should mention has now incidentally
been promoted to take the job that the guy making the allegation was just
fired from.

But that denial, that was just the first part of a Mark Sanford-esque press
conference from the governor, himself, today. At which the governor
apologized but anyone he would not say what he was apologizing for. Except
that if you were thinking he was apologizing for the thing that you`re
thinking, he says he definitely didn`t do that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ROBERT BENTLEY (R), ALABAMA: Today, I want to apologize to the people
of the state of Alabama. And once again, I want to apologize to my family.
I am truly sorry, and I accept full responsibility. I want everyone to
know, though, that I have never had a physical affair with Mrs. Mason. I
can assure the people of Alabama that as their governor, I have never done
anything illegal.

REPORTER: You said you had no physical relationship with Ms. Mason.
Describe your relationship with Ms. Mason beyond the fact that she is your,
clearly your closest aide and confidant.

BENTLEY: Well, I think that`s what she is. She is my closest aide or one
of my aides that is part of my leadership team and she does an outstanding
job. She has worked for me in various capacities. In fact, she has been
with me the entire time before I was elected governor.

I have several members of my leadership team right now that have been with
me that length of time. Zach Lee and Wesley Helton as well as, and Will
Edwards has also to a certain extent.

REPORTER: Governor, you don`t make sexually explicit comments to them, I
take it, and you did with her.

BENTLEY: I made a mistake. Two years ago, I made a mistake. I have
rectified that. I have dealt with that and we have moved on.

REPORTER: Did you only make the mistake when people were recording you?

BENTLEY: No.

REPORTER: Governor, what specifically are you apologizing for if you did
not have a physical relationship? What is –

BENTLEY: I`m apologizing – I`m apologizing for the things that I said.

REPORTER: Sir –

REPORTER: Why would you make those statements if you were not involved in
a physical relationship?

BENTLEY: Well, that does not lead to – that is not a physical
relationship, making those statements.

REPORTER: Governor –

REPORTER: If not`s a physical relationship, is it a romantic relationship?
Is that romantic relationship still ongoing?

BENTLEY: What do you mean a romantic relationship?

REPORTER: Do you love Mrs. Mason?

BENTLEY: I love many members of my staff. In fact, all the members of my
staff. Do I love more than I do others than I do – you know, some more
than others, absolutely.

REPORTER: Spencer Collier said today you, quote, “admitted to him you were
madly in love.”

BENTLEY: Well, I don`t think I`ve ever said that to Mr. Collier.

REPORTER: Sir, you`ve trusted collier for years since day one of your
administration. Why shouldn`t people believe what he`s saying now? Who is
there magically a different standard for him?

BENTLEY: Well, what Mr. Collier is saying today is just not accurate and
is just not true.

REPORTER: Governor, did the mistake that you say you made contribute to
your divorce?

BENTLEY: I don`t have any comment on that.

REPORTER: Has Rebecca Mason influenced any decisions in your
administration, sir?

BENTLEY: Kim?

REPORTER: Governor, you said you apologized to your family and Ms. Mason`s
family. I assume that was prior to today, that was in the past?

BENTLEY: I have apologized to my children and I`m apologizing again.

REPORTER: Why have you not until today voiced apology publicly until
today?

BENTLEY: Well, first, let me say – I have stated emphatically today that
I have not had a physical relationship with Mrs. Mason, and at times in the
past, have I said things that I should not have said? Absolutely. That`s
what I`m saying today.

REPORTER: Governor, these comments, were they an isolated incident or did
they take place over a longer period of time? How long was this
inappropriate communication lasting for?

BENTLEY: I really – it was a period of time. I really can`t say exactly
the length of time, but it was over – you know, I don`t want to say a
period of months. I`m not going to say that because I`m just – I`m just
saying that it was a period of time in my life that I have made
inappropriate comments and –

REPORTER: Did she ask you to stop? Did Ms. Mason ask you to stop?

BENTLEY: No.

REPORTER: Governor, there`s a portion of that recording in which you are
heard saying, “I`d like to walk up behind you and touch you and put my hand
on your breast.” How would you say that if you were not involved in a
physical relationship?

BENTLEY: Well, what I`m saying is there was no sexual activity.

REPORTER: Have you entertained the idea of stepping down?

BENTLEY: No, I have not.

REPORTER: Thank you, Governor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Governor Robert Bentley of Alabama saying today he wouldn`t step
down. And that, forgive me, also saying he did not have sexual relations
with that woman, no matter what`s on the tape, which Alabama reporters
clearly didn`t buy today, right? You could tell from their questions.

But that is why Alabama reporters then made the decision to release the
tape, the audiotape that they were describing there. Governor Bentley`s
sex tape has now been released.

Hold on. The reporter who broke the story and who helped make the call to
release that tape publicly tonight is here in just a moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Do you subscribe to your local paper? You should subscribe to
your local paper. You should give gift subscriptions to your local paper
to people who live in your neighborhood whenever you need to give gifts.

This is the time when it`s good to send positive vibes to your local paper.
The efforts of reporters and editors at the local level, they really often
go unappreciated. Even when their job is to shed light on what is going on
in your neighborhood, in your town, in your state in a way that directly
affects you. But sometimes what happens at local press level ends up being
huge national news. And the case in point for us tonight is from Alabama.
In breaking a huge story on their governor today, the Birmingham news today
in Birmingham, Alabama, got hold of and published tonight some of the most
politically damning tape in recent memory.

Because of their efforts, we`re able to play some of that tape for you
next. It`s the kind of thing you will not forget once you hear it. That`s
next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Attention to anyone watching with your kids right now, or watching
with anyone who is easily embarrassed by things of a sexual nature. I`m
hereby letting you know you got a few seconds to be really distracting
before something of a more sexual nature than we would usually play on this
show is about to be played on this show.

And the reason we don`t take a decision like this lightly, we don`t do this
just for prurient entertainment. The reason we are going to play this in
just a second is because it is legitimately newsworthy.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley was one of the huge wave of Republican
governors that was elected in the bright red year of 2010. He is a family
values/sanctity of marriage social conservative governor who has long faced
rumors but who is now facing overt allegations of having an extramarital
affair while he was in office with a top staffer, top staffer who has
raised eyebrows in Alabama politics, anyway, about her degree of influence
over the governor and over state government, also over questions about how
her salary as the government`s top political adviser is being paid for.
That`s something nobody really seems to know.

Well, today, in Alabama Governor Bentley apologized to the people of that
state to something related to the relationship with the top staffer but he
wouldn`t spell out what exactly he was apologizing for other than to say he
had not had a physical affair with that woman.

And it quickly became clear at today`s press conference that at least some
Alabama reporters who had been covering this scandal didn`t seem to buy the
governor`s denial that he never had a physical affair or at least it seems
like they thought they might have evidence to the contrary.

And that has now led to a remarkable decision by “The Birmingham News”, and
Alabamalive.com to publish, post online tonight what they say is a portion
of an audiotape in question in this case. It`s an audiotape which
reportedly captures Governor Bentley speaking in explicit terms with the
staffer in question.

So, now, it`s time to cover the kids` ears. OK? OK.

(SALACIOUS AUDIO OF ALABAMA GOV. & FORMER ADVISER)

MADDOW: That tape was published tonight by “The Birmingham News,” at
Alabamalive.com after Governor Robert Bentley of Alabama today spent the
afternoon making statements like this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENTLEY: Today, I want to apologize to the people of the state of Alabama,
and once again, I want to apologize to my family. I am truly sorry. And I
accept full responsibility. I want everyone to know, though, that I have
never had a physical affair with Mrs. Mason.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: When “The Birmingham News” made a decision to post the sex tape
today, they were basically making an implicit journalistic judgment call
for their readers, right? Decide for yourself if you believe him, listen
to this, and then decide for yourself if you believe him when he says he
never had an affair.

Joining us now is the reporter who broke this part of the story, John
Archibald is the columnist for “The Birmingham News.”

Mr. Archibald, I imagine you`re in the middle of quite a lot of this right
now.

Thank you for taking the time to talk to us.

JOHN ARCHIBALD, BIRMINGHAM NEWS COLUMNIST: Thanks for having me, Rachel.

MADDOW: Let me ask if I explained the basics here. There are twists and
turns and intersections with other Alabama scandals and stuff. But did I
get the basics right of what`s happened here?

ARCHIBALD: You absolutely did. You got about as much as people can digest
in one meal here. It`s quite a bit.

MADDOW: Why did you decide, you and your editors decide today to post the
audiotape of the governor basically having phone sex? What was – what was
your decision about the newsworthiness of that?

ARCHIBALD: Well, there was a lot of discussion, frankly, and until the
governor decided to have a press conference that he made specifically about
that recording, I don`t think it ever would have seen the light of day.
But basically, he stood up and said, I`m going to apologize for everything
I think you can prove, but then I`m going to deny everything I think you
can`t prove. Which came across as disingenuous and having heard the tapes,
we believed that it was in the public interest for people to know exactly
what was going on and what he was telling them.

And a lot of our view, he was not telling the whole truth.

MADDOW: It`s been reported elsewhere that the tape was made, and forgive
me, you may have reported this in “The Birmingham News” as well but I`ve
seen it reported that the tape we just played was made by the governor`s
wife, his ex-wife. She made it with her own cell phone after she became
suspicious, that her husband might have been carrying on an affair. I`m
not going to ask you to disclose anything about your sources. I wouldn`t
do that.

But I do have to ask if you have absolute confidence in the authenticity of
the recording, if you have absolute confidence that is the governor and
that you know who the person is who he`s having phone sex with in that
recording?

ARCHIBALD: I have absolute – I have 100 percent belief that it is the
accurate recording. The governor confirmed that today. The fired head of
Alabama`s law enforcement agency, Spencer Collier, had it investigated and
confirmed it, and the governor did not argue that point today.

In fact, he had the press conference for this specific purpose of
addressing that tape. And so, I think your understanding of the history is
pretty close to right, whether it was the governor`s wife or another family
member, it was certainly produced while trying to determine if the governor
was having an inappropriate relationship.

MADDOW: Do you think that the governor is going to resign?

ARCHIBALD: I think he is – I don`t think he`s going to resign now but he
cannot last. He is done. There`s no way he can survive. If he`s not
indicted, if he`s not forced to resign, then he will end his career as a
really an incredible political joke. I mean, his term as a useful governor
is over.

MADDOW: Is it a live issue – you mentioned indicted there, this prospect
he may have used state funds or campaign funds to facilitate this affair or
cover it up. When you talk about an indictment, is that what you mean?

ARCHIBALD: Sure. There are all sorts of things that – I mean, whether it
could be state charges, federal charges, there are a lot of discussion
about potential investigations. They`re very early on so we don`t know
where they lead, but I think there`s a great deal of concern about that
among people who are close to them.

MADDOW: John Archibald, columnist with “The Birmingham News” – today is
national exhibit “A” why everybody should subscribe to their local paper
and support their local papers and editors. Thank you. Congratulations on
this scoop.

ARCHIBALD: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thank you.

Much more ahead tonight. Very, very busy and strange news night. Stay
with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I hear somebody saying
we should carpet bomb Iraq or Syria, not only is that inhumane, not only is
that contrary to our values but that would likely be an extraordinary
mechanism for ISIL to recruit more people willing to die and explode bombs
in an airport or in a metro station. That`s not a smart strategy.

As far as the notion of having surveillance of neighborhoods where Muslims
are present, I just left a country that engages in that kind of
neighborhood surveillance which, by the way, the father of Senator Cruz
escaped for America, the land of the free. The notion that we would start
down that slippery slope makes absolutely no sense. It`s contrary to who
we are. And it`s not going to help us defeat ISIL.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It would also be a serious
mistake to begin carpet bombing populated areas into oblivion. Proposing
that doesn`t make you sound tough. It makes you sound like you`re in over
your head. Slogans aren`t a strategy. Loose cannons tend to misfire.
What America needs is strong, smart, steady leadership to wage and win this
struggle.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: President Obama and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton going
out of their way today to specifically rebut Republican presidential
candidates on their reactions to the Brussels terror attack.

In Europe, they`re having the same kind of political fight that we are in
some ways but there`s also very practical and immediate consternation in
Europe about how people directly connected to the Paris attack from
November could not only still be at large four months later, but four
months later, four months after Paris, they could still be free and
unpressured enough to be planning and ultimately carrying out another
spectacular attack inside the heart of Europe.

One of the very best reporters on this beat joins us live next. Stay with
us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: We do have some big new developments out of Brussels tonight in
the wake of the terrorist attacks. Authorities are still trying to find
the man on the right side of your screen here wearing white. They say they
believe he was part of the attack on the Brussels airport yesterday, but
that he may have survived that attack and escaped. There`s still a manhunt
under way for him.

Authorities also say tonight, though, that the man on the left in this
image who they believe was killed in the airport attack, authorities also
say tonight that he may have been the bomb maker who made all of those
suicide vests that were used in the Paris attacks in November. And
whatever we know about various terrorist organizations, we`re not used to
the idea of that their master bombmakers might be used, themselves, as a
suicide attacker, right?

Wouldn`t someone with those kinds of skills be too valuable to the
organization to risk their own individual life in a single suicide attack?
One question.

Here`s another. Whatever we know about law enforcement and intelligence
operations, how is it that someone so integral to the Paris attacks,
someone known by name to authorities as the suspected Paris master
bombmaker, how is it that that person could stay at large in Europe in
Belgium, operationally working toward another plot, apparently, while
presumably being one of the most-wanted members of ISIS in the entire
world?

Joining us now is Rukmini Callimachi. She`s a foreign correspondent for
“The New York Times,” her beat is covering Islamic extremist, including al
Qaeda and ISIS.

Rukmini Callimachi, it`s nice to have you here. Thank you.

RUKMINI CALLIMACHI, THE NEW YORK TIMES FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: It`s so nice
to be here, Rachel.

MADDOW: Are those the right questions to be asking? Let`s start with this
first question about the prospect that somebody who appears to be kind of a
master bombmaker for is may have been personally involved as an attacker
here.

CALLIMACHI: You know, I disagree with the analysis that he`s the only bomb
maker.

MADDOW: OK.

CALLIMACHI: The reason I disagree with that is I`ve been looking at court
records from Europe of people that we know with were is and the very first
attacker that is linked to ISIS who comes back to Europe leaves Syria in
December of 2013 and is arrested – so, we`re talking two years ago. And
he`s arrested in France with three TATP bombs, OK?

So, as of three years ago, a man who was not yet part of this network, yet
was part of ISIS was able to pull off making his dangerous explosive. It`s
clear they`re training them to make this explosive. It`s not that easy to
make.

So, I believe there are a number of people being trained in this particular
skill set. And just like you said, I don`t think it makes sense that
somebody that has this knowledge would be – that if he`s the only one,
that he would be sacrificed in this operation.

MADDOW: TATP has been around for a long time. We`ve seen a lot of
successful bombing plots from different terrorist groups over the years
with TATP. We`ve also seen a lot of unsuccessful plots with TATP.

It`s thought as being up of these things that is essentially over-the-
counter. You don`t need specialist military equipment or something to make
it. The downside of it is supposed to be that it`s hard.

CALLIMACHI: Right.

MADDOW: Are you suggesting at least what ISIS has done is work out the
kinks and make it so that everybody can make TATP bombs?

CALLIMACHI: I think what we`ve seen is an evolution. For instance, when
this guy, Ibrahim Bodina (ph) is arrested in 2014, they found in the
apartment where he was staying, three TATP bombs that were inside a Red
Bull soda cans and properly mixed the properties. So, it was mixed, it was
ready to go. On his computer, they found he was doing Google searches for
terms like how to detonate, detonation at a distance.

MADDOW: So, he got some of the distance there but he still needed a little
help.

CALLIMACHI: He didn`t quite know how to detonate them I think.

We now see that in Paris, they had suicide belts which we believe have
around one pound, maybe a little bit more, of TATP. Now, suddenly at the
airport, Jimmy Oxley, who I believe is one of the leading academics
studying this compound, she looked at the images of the damage and based on
the preliminary damage, 30 to 100 pounds of TATP that were used.

I went to her lab incidentally a couple weeks ago and she took essentially
a spoonful of TATP and put it inside a mailbox. We had to stand many of
yards back and showed us what a teaspoon does. It`s an unbelievable
explosion. I almost hit the deck even though I knew, there was a
countdown, I knew it was going to go off. The explosion from one teaspoon
is so powerful you really – you almost feel it knocking the win out of
you.

MADDOW: If they`re creating bombs with up to 100 pounds of TATP, is that
an additional degree of difficulty or just scaling up –

CALLIMACHI: Yes, yes, because what happens the more of it you have, it`s
very volatile. As Jimmy Oxley puts it, it`s very likely to be insulted.
Anything that you do, friction, heat, electricity can set it off. And the
more you have, the more explosive it is.

In the West Bank, TATP has been used by Palestinian groups and it earned
the nickname the “mother of Satan” because so many bombers lost their arms.
You know –

MADDOW: Oh, not for it being successfully used but for the people gets
hurt trying to make it.

CALLIMACHI: For the bomb makers actually getting hurt.

In Paris, they successfully set off TATP bombs in three locations. Three
at the Stade de France, one in the bistro, two inside the Bataclan, one by
Abaaoud who was the master planner in the location where he died.

Seven different places they all went off. There wasn`t a single case of
the bombs not doing off. There wasn`t a single case of not having the
detonator, not having the parts. Now, in Brussels we`re seeing two
devastating bombs at the airport.

MADDOW: Huge bombs.

CALLIMACHI: Huge bombs, 30 to 100. Then equally large, I mean, maybe not
equally large, let me take that back, but still large inside the subway
car. Three.

And so, to me, it shows that they figured out the supply chain, they
figured out how to make it without killing themselves. Unbelievably,
they`ve managed to do this – this is a peroxide-based bomb, so it does
give off an odor. And so, did neighbors not notice that there was
essentially the smell of bleach, you know, coming from the next apartment?

So, to me, it really shows the arc of what we`re calling the external
operations arm of ISIS, from a group that wanted to do this two years ago
but didn`t quite know how to do it to the devastation that we`re seeing
this week in Brussels.

MADDOW: And the more we understand about their operational capabilities
the more chilling it is to see how much they`ve been able to operate.

CALLIMACHI: Yes.

MADDOW: Even while being the most wanted men in Western Europe.

CALLIMACHI: Yes.

MADDOW: Rukmini Callimachi, this is illuminating and absolutely
terrifying. Thank you for helping us understand it.

CALLIMACHI: Thank you, Rachel. Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: That`s your work now. Appreciate it.

Rukmini Callimachi is a “New York Times” foreign correspondent who
specializes in this.

We`ll be right back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: It was an absolutely beautiful day in Denver yesterday. Sunny,
temperatures in the 70s. That was yesterday.

This is today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: It`s incredible how powerful this storm is. We are actually
driving on Jewel Avenue trying to get to walk ins and unfortunately we hit
a snow bank. Look how deep this is here, Kyle. Several feet deep, we`re
stuck right now.

Someone`s going to come to help us. We`re fine, no problems. We`re here
nice and warm inside of the live truck, but the reason we can`t see
anything on the road, look at this visibility. I mean, a couple of feet
back as I step here you can barely see me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That`s today. Denver airport is closed until further notice.
Hundreds of flights cancelled. Parts of two enter states in Colorado also
closed. The National Guard deployed to rescue stranded drivers. Some
parts of Colorado have gotten over 20 inches of snow today after 70 degrees
yesterday.

And that storm is moving through the plains into the Upper Midwest tonight,
16 million people under winter weather alerts in the country right now.
Happy spring.

Much more to come tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: The big story out of last night`s elections was in Arizona where
people waited up to five hours even after the polls closed to cast their
votes. And long lines to vote aren`t necessarily huge news anymore in our
country, but today, we learned some very surprising news about what exactly
caused these specific lines in Arizona last night. Today, we learned
basically who done it and it`s not who you think. And that really
surprising story is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sky 12 flew over the lines after the polls had closed.
If you were in line at 7:00 you were not turned away. Meaning there were
still some Arizonans voting right now, but not everyone got to exercise
their right to vote.

ROSS OLIVER: It`s absolutely deplorable in the fact that you have to wait
out on the street to get into the parking lot and then you walk in here and
you take a look around and you`ve got maybe 500, 600 people standing out
here in the sun.

JACKSON FISHER: If you`re the number of people, it`s the fact that there
are a limited number of places to vote. And when you only have three or
four choices in the East Valley, everybody has to go somewhere. I figure
two hours from the time of getting in the line and getting out of here and
then you have to get out of the parking lot.

WILL GORDON: I`m supposed to shut this line down at 7:00.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re the last man, okay?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s legally the line back there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think everybody should have a vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seven o`clock.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know. But the polls should stay open for everybody
to vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were in line.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were in line. What about all these cars in line
waiting to get in line to vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead and call them up, please.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, we will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)(

MADDOW: Oh, we will. We will call.

When we were covering the Arizona primary last night we were getting
reports of really long lines of people trying to vote. And you cover
enough elections, you get reports of long lines on election night. It
happens every election night somewhere.

What was weird in Arizona last night, though, was that we kept getting
these reports of long lines for hours and hours and hours, for hours after
the polls supposedly closed, and for hours even after the races were called
in both the Democratic and Republican primaries.

And now we know why. It`s because of the Supreme Court of the United
States. The conservative majority of the Supreme Court gutted the Voting
Rights Act of 2013, and that means states that have a history of repressing
the vote and discrimination against minority voters, they no longer need to
get permission from the Justice Department if they want to change the
voting rules.

States like Arizona can do what they want now because of the Supreme Court
and what Arizona decided to do last night in Maricopa in this 40 percent
minority county, in the biggest population center in the state, they
decided to cut the number of polling places in the county from more than
200 in 2012 to 60 last night. One polling place per 21,000 voters.

They cut polling place numbers by 75 percent. They thought it might save
them some money. Maybe it did. This is what it also did.

And Donald Trump won Arizona by 22 points and Hillary Clinton won Arizona
by 18 points and maybe those margins were so big that this disgusting
display of incompetence or deliberate voter suppression in Maricopa County
didn`t effect that overall outcome, but if the Supreme Court and Antonin
Scalia and the vacancy on the court and the president being able to appoint
a new justice, that ever seen like an esoteric concept, Arizona`s blessed
Maricopa County made it very concrete last night – miles and miles and
miles and hours and hours and hours of concrete. It`s disgusting.

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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