The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 4/20/2016
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: April 20, 2016
Guest: Tad Devine, Curt Guyette
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Thanks to you at home for joining us this
We`ve got a big show tonight. There`s a lot going on today in the news.
There`s a lot going on in politics.
As you probably know, the first criminal charges were brought in the Flint,
Michigan lead point poisoning disaster. Today, we`ve got a big report on
that coming up later on in tonight`s show.
We`ve also got an interview tonight with someone who one of the people
charged today basically confessed to on camera and we`ve got that what
amounts to a confession on tape and we`ve got that interview coming up.
It`s just a remarkable thing to see. These criminal charges being filed is
a landmark thing for the Flint story that we`ve been covering for so many
months now, and that story is ahead.
Also tonight, we`ve got the top strategist for the Bernie Sanders for
president campaign. Hillary Clinton, of course, won an unexpectedly
resounding victory last night in New York state. That has led to a lot of
really difficult discussions today on the Democratic side as to whether or
not Bernie Sanders is still really competing for the nomination at this
point. The Sanders campaign is really being more pressured on that issue
today than they have been at any other time in the entire campaign.
And so, tonight, here on this show live we`ve got the top guy in the
Sanders campaign. We`ve got the senior strategist for Bernie Sanders here
tonight for an extensive interview. That`s coming up in just a moment.
But I want to start tonight with something that I`ll tell you off of the
bat I cannot explain it. It`s legitimately weird, maybe you can explain
it, but I can`t. And it concerns this guy – concerns this handsome
gentleman. His name is Eliot Engel. He`s one of the more recognizable
members of Congress. In any setting, in any picture, if people are holding
still or moving really fast, you can tell if he`s somewhere in the frame
because Eliot Engel, as you can see, he has a truly heroic giant mustache.
It`s a completely different size than the whole rest of him. Clown shoes
are to clowns what Eliot Engle`s mustache is to Eliot Engel. I say that
with total affection. My dad had a mustache for most of my life that
looked exactly like Eliot Engel`s mustache. He has since shaved it, but I
still think of him as kind of looking like Eliot Engel at least between the
nose and top lip.
Anyway, because he reminds me of my dad before my dad shaved, because he
has inarguably the best Democratic mustache in American politics,
Congressman Eliot Engel of New York was easy to spot on stage last night as
a whole giant crowd of New York state Democrats crowded on stage with
Hillary Clinton, as she finished up her victory speech in Manhattan.
So, amid former Mayor David Dinkins, and current mayor, Bill de Blasio, and
the attorney general for New York, Eric Schneiderman, all these other New
York officials, all these people up there, there unmistakably, right, is
Eliot Engel right behind Hillary Clinton there. See, there`s the mustache?
Eliot Engel and his mustache represent a district just north of New York in
Westchester County. It`s a very heavily Democratic district. It also
turned out last night to be a very pro-Clinton district. Hillary Clinton
won that congressional district last night by a 38-point margin.
But the weird thing that happened in Eliot Engel`s congressional district
last night that legitimately cannot explain is something that happened on
the Republican side and yes, it`s true that there aren`t that many
Republicans in Eliot Engel`s district. Yesterday, for example, the number
of Democrats who voted – the number of Democrats who voted in that
district tripled the number of Republicans who voted in that district.
But it doesn`t mean that the Republican votes there are unimportant, right?
Every congressional district had three delegates to give out on the
Republican side. Be even if there were only a handful of Republicans
voting in one particular district, they still got three delegates to give
out. So, therefore, even in this district where there aren`t that many
Republicans, it still really matters who wins.
And in Eliot Engel`s district last night, Donald Trump won. He won with
more than 50 percent of the vote. He got all three of the congressional
delegates from that district, convention delegates from that district. But
a strange thing also happened in that district on the Republican side in
addition to Donald Trump winning there, because when we started producing
this show today, looking at the results from that district, there were 82
percent of precincts reporting in that congressional district and at the
top, it was as you would expect, Donald Trump was winning by a lot, John
Kasich was coming in second, OK.
But with 82 percent of precincts reporting, this is as of this afternoon,
look at the other people getting votes in the Republican race. Ted Cruz
had 1,757 votes. Ben Carson, who dropped out of the race in the first week
of March, Ben Carson had significantly more votes than Ted Cruz. He was up
over 2,000 votes. This was with 82 percent of precincts reporting.
Ted Cruz on track in that one congressional district of the New York
suburbs did not only lose to Donald Trump and lose to John Kasich, but also
to lose to a guy who has not been in the race for six weeks. And everybody
knows it. It`s not like this a leftover thing where a whole bunch of
people early voted for Ben Carson. There`s no early voting in New York.
So, that result is nuts.
But then at some point today, Eliot Engel`s congressional district got in
the rest of the vote. So those results you were looking at were 82 percent
of precincts reporting. Then we flipped over at some point today from 82
percent reporting to 100 percent reporting and, oh, boy, with that last
little bit of that district was that good for Ted Cruz because when those
final 18 percent of precincts came in Ted Cruz went from 1,757 votes up to
2,100 votes even. He gained 343 votes when those final precincts were
And Ben Carson went from 2,056 votes to 162 votes. So when those final
precincts came in, Ben Carson got a minus 1,894 votes from the last 18
percent of precincts. The negative voting for Ben Carson in those last 18
percent of precincts, that`s really something. He lost 1,800 votes. That
saved Ted Cruz from a fourth place finish to a guy who is no longer running
and hasn`t been for weeks.
What happened there?
New York is a cosmopolitan, fairly well off state that just had
presidential primaries in both parties that were unusually consequential
and exciting. Millions of dollars were spent by the candidates to inspire
voter turnout. Dozens if not hundreds of candidate events were held in New
York City, and in New York state. Palpable enthusiasm across New York for
this presidential contest this year and still, New York is so screwed up.
New York makes it so difficult to vote in this state that New York`s voter
turnout was worst voter turnout than ever other state that has held a
primary so far this year other than Louisiana, which is also a disaster,
but everybody expects that from Louisiana.
New York has archaic, arcane, terribly run, non-transparent, super sketchy
elections and they have forever thanks to the fact that the elections in
this state are organized and administered by the state of government of New
York which proudly features what I think is inarguably, the most
inconsistently and flagrantly corrupt state legislator in the entire
nation, at least as measured by indictments and convictions, right?
I mean, there`s a lot of competition for most corrupt state legislature.
But New York.
Even so, even with Ted Cruz appearing to benefit from a last minute surge
of minus 1,800 votes for Ben Carson in one congressional district, Ben
Carson who was apparently beating him in that district, huh, nevertheless
the results were stark enough in New York that even the disaster that is
the election system in this state, it cannot disguise the overall story of
what happened here.
Obviously, the top line story, the victory story is that both front-runners
won in New York. They both won by a lot. Hillary Clinton`s margin was
about 16 points in the end, Donald Trump`s margin was 35 points, which is
And the only thing as impressive as the size of those victories for Hillary
Clinton and Donald Trump last night, the only thing that equivalent in
terms of its magnitude last night was the truly epic and complete nature of
the Ted Cruz wipeout in the state of New York. Not only did Ted Cruz lose
to Donald Trump and lose to John Kasich, he almost lost to John Kasich –
he did lose by double digits.
Not only did Ted Cruz not win a single delegate in all of New York state,
Ted Cruz didn`t even win a single congressional district. He didn`t win a
single county in all of New York. He was just destroyed here.
And maybe that`s fine for your campaign if you`re one of 17 candidates
running in a giant field and maybe in a state where nobody knows your name
and you`re not trying. But this is – but this is Ted Cruz at the point
where the Republican field is down to three people and he wants you to
think it`s actually down to him and Donald Trump because he wants you to
think of John Kasich as not really being in the running anymore.
What Ted Cruz and his campaign are trying to sell the Republican Party and
its voters right now is that Ted Cruz is obviously the guy who should be
seen as the alternative to Donald Trump, particularly the electable
alternative to Donald Trump. Well, in this big diverse state of 20 million
people, the answer to that last night was, ha, and to add injury to that
insult by winning precisely zero delegates out of the 95 that were at stake
last night on the Republican side in New York. Ted Cruz officially last
night according to “The Associated Press”, was mathematically excluded from
the possibility of winning the Republican presidential nomination through
some means other than talking the delegates into it at a contested
convention in July.
Now, NBC News says it slightly different. NBC News, in terms of the
delegate count, which is an inexact science, says that he is, you know,
within a micron of being excluded. “The A.P.” says he flat out is
mathematically excluded. From “The A.P.`s” math, there are 674 delegates
still at stake in the remaining Republican races, 674 still at stake. Ted
Cruz needs 678 to get the nomination. So, he`s not going to get there.
Obviously neither is John Kasich.
But now, John Kasich and Ted Cruz are in exactly the same boat. They are
both guys who can`t win ahead of the convention, whose only hope at winning
the nomination is some prayer that Donald Trump won`t be able to clench
before the convention either and then those two guys, having also not won
will be hanging around when the convention starts, hoping that things go
You know, we knew this day would eventually come. NBC`s “First Read”
actually saw this coming I think in early March was when they ran their
first analysis piece, pointing out that it was already clear at that point
that the only Republican candidate who could conceivably clench the
nomination would be Donald Trump. Everybody else could only even hope to
get it at the convention. That has been clear for a long time, that this
is where the race was going.
But now that this mathematical truth has arrived, it does sort of feel like
a different day in the Republican race. Math makes a difference.
On the Democratic side of the race, the math is also becoming an
increasingly tough topic of discussion. For the Bernie Sanders campaign,
the scale of Hillary Clinton`s 16 point victory in New York, well, it seems
to have taken both the campaigns by surprise. Again, delegate math is not
an exact science, but our best guess at this point is that Secretary
Clinton will add something like 31 delegates to her lead over Bernie
Sanders, thanks to New York`s results.
In the states voting next week, where there is public polling, Secretary
Clinton is ahead in all of those states as well. And the combination of
her lead in the delegates and the nature of the next part of the Democratic
calendar, it just made it very difficult for the Sanders campaign to
explain exactly how they see themselves really competing for the nomination
at this point, really having any chance to win.
And the Sanders campaign, when they talked to the press, the Sanders
campaign when you hear it from the candidate himself, the Sanders campaign
when they put out on their fundraising e-mails, they do keep saying overtly
that, of course, they can win, that, of course, they`re in real competition
for the nomination. Of course, they have a path to victory, but there was
this I think really important moment last night on our election night
broadcast here in studio when Bernie Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver,
he was asked here in person on our set to explain that path, to show the
math, to show us and our viewers how Senator Sanders would win.
And this is what he said to explain it and this is why the two words “Jeff”
and “Weaver” were trending all night last night on Twitter because of this
public case that they`re now making for how Bernie Sanders would win.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: Let manage ask you this, is this a fair
statement? The popular vote and the pledged delegate count, if you are not
leading at least one of those counts when June 7th finishes up, when we
finish this primary process, you don`t have a claim to get those super
delegates to flip. Are you still trying to flip super delegates without
winning one of these?
JEFF WEAVER, BERNIE SANDERS CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I don`t think that that`s
the case. Look, we`re going to go to the convention. It`s extremely
unlikely that either candidate will have the requisite number of pledged
delegates to get to this number, right? So, it`s going to be an election
determined by the super delegates.
KORNACKI: You know as well as I do if June 7th comes and goes and Hillary
Clinton has won the pledged delegate count in the primaries and she`s won
the popular vote, there are going to be calls from her campaign and calls
from a lot of influential delegates in this country, for you the Sanders
campaign to make a decision to unite around her, you`re saying instead of
that, you will spend those months, those weeks in the summer trying to flip
super delegates to Bernie Sanders before the convention.
WEAVER: At this point, yes, absolutely.
KORNACKI: OK. Jeff Weaver, campaign manager for Bernie Sanders, thanks
for the time. Appreciate it.
WEAVER: Glad to be here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Jeff Weaver last night speaking for the Sanders campaign here in
our studio with Steve Kornacki. He left a trail of dropped jaws in his
wake as he left the studio having explained that the Sanders campaign would
take that path.
That if it comes to it, they will take a candidate who is behind in the
vote, who is behind in the delegates who has therefore effectively been
beaten in the primary process in a two person head to head competition they
would take that campaign to the Democratic nominating convention in
Philadelphia and continue their fight at the convention in Philadelphia to
try to defeat the effective winner of the primary contest, to try to turn
the super delegates against Secretary Clinton right through the Democratic
nominating convention in July.
And so, now, there arises a really interesting empirical question, which is
it`s an empirical question, it is an answerable question, and I`m hoping
we`re going to get an answer for it tonight. And the question is this, is
that Jeff Weaver or is the whole Sanders campaign in agreement on that? Is
that the plan?
Is Senator Sanders in agreement with that? Is the other top strategists
for the Sanders campaign in agreement with that? His name is Tad Devine
and I`m going to ask him that next. He`s here live for the interview right
MADDOW: Today, for the first time, criminal charges were filed in the
Flint, Michigan lead poisoning disaster. We`re going to be talking about
that story, including a person who played an absolutely key role in that,
an unsung but absolutely key role in what lead to those criminal charges
today. That`s coming up.
But here next for the interview is the senior adviser to the Bernie Sanders
for president campaign, Tad Devine.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: I`m very pleased to say that joining us now for the interview is
Tad Devine. He`s the senior adviser for the Bernie Sanders for president
Mr. Devine it`s really nice to have you on the show. You`ve never been my
guest here with me one-on-one on 9:00. I really appreciate you being here.
TAD DEVINE, BERNIE SANDERS CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISOR: It`s great to be with
MADDOW: Last night, it felt going into New York that you guys thought you
were going to do better than you did. I know that anticipation and
expectations, it`s a little bit spin, it`s a little bit science. Did you
do less well than you thought you would last night?
DEVINE: We did. I thought we were going to do better. I thought – I
thought we`re going to get into the mid-40s, you know, maybe 46 or so. So,
yes, we fell short and we won fewer delegates than I thought we would too,
and we`re in a race for delegates right now. So, that was a setback.
MADDOW: After that loss, there`s been a lot of discussion in Democratic
politics, both observers and people who are partisans about whether or not
Senator Sanders still really has a realistic shot at winning the Democratic
nomination. I know that your campaign believes that you do.
Do you believe you`ve got a realistic shot at winning the nomination ahead
of the convention or is your only path, one that flips super delegates once
the convention starts?
DEVINE: Well, I think we can win the nomination before the convention. I
think the party can coalesce around Bernie Sanders. But, you know, it`s
going to be – you know, it`s going to be a difficult task. I mean, to do
that, Rachel, I think we`re going to have win most of the events between
now and the end, and most of the delegates.
Right now, we`re in our count we`re about 236 delegates behind – pledged
delegates behind Hillary Clinton in the delegate count. So, we`re going to
have to make up that difference between now and the end of the voting in
the middle of June.
I think we can do that. We can do it through a combination of victories in
a number of states, and also, by continuing to win delegates in the caucus
process. We`ve done very well in caucus states, and, you know, the living
delegate calendar of the caucus states is as backloaded as the delegate
allocation calendar of the primaries is frontloaded.
It gives us an opportunity in tier to tier in a caucus process to pick up
more delegates. We`ve been doing it in places like Colorado, Nevada and
elsewhere, and I think we`ll do it in all those states where we`ve done
MADDOW: So, to be clear, in terms of that delegate process that you`re
describing there, you`re saying that we should sort of expect to see a
little bit from you guys what we`ve seen from Ted Cruz on the Republican
side, that even in states where Hillary Clinton may have done better in
what we think as the contest in that state when it comes to picking
delegates there, you`re thinking you`re going to get more delegates out of
that states than she will.
DEVINE: Yes, I think we`re proving that and I`ll use Nevada as an example.
The first stage of the caucus process in Nevada when they counted up the
results, Hillary Clinton had 20 delegates, in national delegate
equivalencies and Bernie Sanders had 15. When we had the county
conventions, we had an enormous turnout at the county conventions. And
now, our delegate county is Bernie Sanders 19, Hillary Clinton 16.
So, we turned – and that`s a really good amount of progress and I think
when we get to the state convention in Nevada, we`ll pick up some more. So,
that process is going to repeat it itself from tier to tier in the caucus
process, and I think we`ll pick up a lot of delegates along the way.
MADDOW: Is there a point of friction between the case that Senator Sanders
has made for people power basically, for this not being decided by the
establishment for the Democratic Party insiders not doing this and it being
the will of the voters and it should be something that gets decided in
backrooms, gets decided in public. Is there a point of friction between
that strategy that you`re describing state by state, also the super
delegate strategy that you guys have talked about and the way he`s talked
about how he wants to win?
DEVINE: I don`t think there is. I mean, these are the rules. Unlike the
Republicans, Trump in particular, you know, we`re not going around saying
everything`s rigged and running against the rules. The rules are as they
are. We may not, you know, like the way the rules are set up in some
places, but we`ve agreed to play by them.
So, you know, we`ll work hard under the rules of caucus states. We`ll work
hard in other places. The super delegates are there. We`re going to work
hard to earn their support. I think we`ll be able to do that.
If we succeed, listen, the key test is succeeding with voters. In 2008, I
wrote a piece that they published in “The New York Times” right after Super
Tuesday, and I argued that super delegates should wait and look and listen
to what the voters do and follow the will of the voters and I can tell you,
I got a lot of pushback from the Clinton campaign at the time. You know,
when I publish that piece.
But I believe that today, that our super delegates, that our party leaders
should let the voters speak first. And I think if they do that, all the
way through the end of the voting, that will strengthen, and certainly
strengthen our hand if we succeed with voters between now and June.
MADDOW: To that point, directly to that point, if at the end of the
nominating contest, the last one is the Democratic contest in Washington,
D.C., which I think is June 14th?
MADDOW: I have to check my tattoo, which I`ve now put on the inside of my
hand, if at that point the voters have spoken and Hillary Clinton has more
votes and she`s earned more pledged delegates by earning more votes, at
that point, Jeff Weaver suggested last night that even at that point, the
Sanders campaign strategy will still be to get super delegates to do
exactly the opposite of what you described, to get them to flip and even
though she`s got more votes, persuade them to go for Sanders anyway. Does
that mean that you and Jeff have a difference of opinion on this?
DEVINE: No, no, I think Jeff and I are in the same place. Let me take a
minute to talk about those two things, votes and delegates, OK? I think
it`s really important and we`re trying and we believe we can win more
pledged delegates to the national convention than Hillary Clinton when the
voting ends. It`s going to be a tough process, a hard process, but I think
we can get there.
You know, hopefully, we`ll get all the way there, but if we come four or
five delegates short, you know, and we go from being 326 delegates behind
on the 15th of March to two, well, technically, she has more delegates.
But I think if we get very close or we`re a few ahead, you know, I think
that will be impressive.
Now, as to votes, that`s another category. I hear the Clinton campaign all
the time, quoting, you know, they`ve got a few weeks ago, it was 2.5
million, and it`s 2.4 million, then there`s 2.3 million after Wisconsin,
you know, they`ll have a couple thousand more after New York, you know?
And if every state were a primary and every state voted the way primaries
vote, you know, I think the number of votes that counted would be a fair
and objective measure.
But the truth is that many of the states that we use in this process are
not primaries. So, if you`re not going to count a lot of primary states in
the count of votes and one candidate, Bernie Sanders in this case, wins a
lot of caucuses as opposed to primaries, you know, is it really fair to say
we should use votes as a measure when I believe one big – caucuses –
Washington state is a caucus, Minnesota, Colorado, you know, and we win a
lot of small states that have caucuses, too.
Is that really a fair measure? I think the fair measure is pledged
delegates and I think we should look at states, too. That`s how you elect
a president, by winning states. So, let`s see who has won the states,
let`s see who`s won the delegates, let`s see where we are in June. And I
think then we`ll know what to do.
MADDOW: Tad, is there any circumstance under which it would be
inappropriate for a candidate who is behind to try to get the super
delegates to flip? I mean, is there any circumstance in which you as a
senior adviser to the Sanders campaign to say, you know what, let`s stop
lobbying the super delegates, and let`s fold it up and unify the party – I
mean, the way you`re describing this and the different variable you`re
saying it work, it seems to me like a recipe for saying we`re never, ever,
ever going to stop this campaign no matter what happens.
DEVINE: Well, no, listen, I think – you know, we want to see where we are
when the process ends. First of all, Bernie has made a commitment to go
through the end and I`ll tell you why – because millions of people are
part of this campaign, they`ve contributed to it, literally millions.
They`ve participated in as volunteers making phone calls on behalf of the
campaign, more than 1 million people have come to events that we had around
So, all of those people that have been a big part of this campaign, he
wants to give them an opportunity to vote for him and we`re going to stay
in to make sure they have that opportunity.
Now, when all that`s done, I think we have to step back and look at where
we are and he has to make a decision about whether or not we then have a
path to victory. Right now, we think we can get there. We think we can
win more pledged delegates. We think we can win more states. We think we
can prove to the Democratic Party leadership when this process is over that
he will by far be the strongest candidate in the general election. And if
we can make that case and win it, then we would hope the party would
MADDOW: Tad Devine, senior adviser for Sanders for president, a man about
who many people speak, but it is an honor to have a chance to talk to you
about what you`re thinking rather than surmising it. Thanks for your time
tonight, sir. I know it`s a busy time for you. Appreciate it.
DEVINE: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead tonight. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: Personal note: they say that news is anything that happens near an
editor. Well, tonight, a little bit of news happened near me, you`re nice
9:00 lady on the cable TV and the $19 blazer. Tonight, we learned that a
giant gas pipeline, which was proposed for the part of Massachusetts where
I live, the rural western part of the state, a hugely controversial
project, it has galvanized western New England and western Massachusetts in
particular like nothing I have ever seen in the nearly 20 years I have
lived there – tonight, we learned, all of a sudden, unexpectedly, that
that pipeline is not going to get built.
The pipeline company, a huge company called Kinder Morgan announced tonight
unexpectedly that they are suspending their plans to build this $3 billion
pipeline after years of fighting over it with the people who live in that
part of the country.
And I say this as personal news because this is going to make a lot of my
neighbors very, very, very happy. Especially the guy who turned out for
the last protest march in my town holding a giant blue dragonfly, thus
proving news happens where you live and also proving a new thing I didn`t
know before today, which sometimes, news comes from giant dragon flies.
MADDOW: Today, for the first time, criminal charges were filed in
conjunction with the lead poisoning disaster in Flint, Michigan, led all
three network newscasts nationwide tonight. And these criminal charges for
Flint, they come at an interesting time.
On Monday, it`s going to be exactly two years since the state made that
decision to switch off Flint`s old water supply and switch on a new water
supply in a way that it destroyed the city`s water structure and poisoned
the town. The two-year anniversary of that decision is coming on up on
Heading up toward that anniversary, the governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder,
he`s made a big public relations splash in the last few days by promising
that he himself will spend the next 30 days drinking water drawn from a
faucet in this nice lady`s house in Flint, Michigan. She has a filter on
her faucet, and like all these faucet filters you can get anywhere in the
country, and they`re supposed to be on every single faucet in every home in
Flint, these filters are rated to filter out lead up to 150 parts per
Well, we have lead testing results from that specific house in Flint from
which Rick Snyder brought him his jugs full of water the other day. Since
January, most of the tests in that home have been safe and the federal
action level for doing anything about lead in the water is 15 parts per
billion, and in January, and in February and beginning in March, that house
was way under that danger zone.
But there was one day last month when they tested the water in that
specific house and it was way over the limit. It was not only over the
federal action alert level of 15 parts per billion, it was over 150 parts
per billion, which is what that faucet filter is rated to be able to
The problem in Flint is not that lead filled water was sent into the city`s
water system. The problem in Flint is that the state government by making
this terrible decision, they ruined the pipes in Flint. And so, the pipes
unpredictably here and there, some days on, some days off, they
episodically spit out big amounts of lead, dangerous amounts of lead.
Most days in that house where Rick Snyder took his glass of water the other
day, most days, the lead levels in that house are fine. Every once in a
while, not so much. Every once in a while, way more lead comes out of that
tap than that filter is rated to handle.
So, I don`t what the lead was like on that day when Rick Snyder filled up
all those jugs and took home all that water that he says he`s going to
drink all month long. I don`t know if that was a good lead day or bad lead
day in that house.
So, these criminal charges today for Flint, they come at an interesting
time. They come at a time when the governor is still trying to manage his
image around this stuff. They come at a time when Flint is still an active
crime scene, right?
The city is still being lead poisoned. You still cannot drink from the tap
in Flint. There is no door-to-door delivery of clean water in Flint. All
over the city, there are still houses still testing way above what is safe,
there are still houses with lead testing with lead levels in the thousands.
The pipes that the state ruined in Flint, they`re still there. They`re
still the water pipes in that city. The mayor is trying to replace the
lead pipes in the city one by one, house by house, trying to scrunch up
money to get it done. But though the state ruined the pipes, there`s no
state run effort to replace the pipes.
And so, now, while that crime is still happening and the people of Flint
are still in terrible distress, now, in the midst of that, we do have the
first criminal charges and they`ve been brought by the state attorney
general. It was not self-evident that that`s where the first criminal
charges would come from.
In January, we learned that the federal Justice Department was
investigating what happened in Flint. The U.S. Attorney`s Office confirmed
they opened a criminal investigation working with the FBI and also the U.S.
postal inspection service. That part of it I don`t get.
The criminal division of the federal EPA has also been investigating what
happened in Flint. The county prosecutor has been investigating what
happened in Flint.
But today, these first charges turned out they were brought by the state
attorney general in a big, splashy press conference, with tons of media
there, the state attorney general himself making the announcement, giving a
big speech. He`s widely known to have higher political aspirations in the
state of Michigan.
If today`s press conference about these criminal charges felt like kind of
a well-staged political event, that probably was not by accident. The
three people who were charged today, they were as you probably expected,
they were fairly low-level folks, one engineer and one supervisor from a
state agency and one guy from Flint who worked at the water treatment
But in addition to being low-level government officials, there`s also a
sense in which these guys were the low hanging fruit in terms of criminal
Attorney General Bill Schuette today went out of his way to praise and
thank and talk up the skills ands credentials of his crack investigating
team that he formed on this matter, and this is not to take anything away
from them, but all three of these people who were charged today, the things
they were charged for are all things that have been basically reported out
in great detail in public by journalists in Michigan.
The allegations against these three low level public officials they`re now
spelled out in a criminal indictment from the attorney general, but they
were first spelled out in great detail in the public domain.
Here`s an example. The e-mails obtained by activists and reporters in
December showed that Stephen Busch told the state environment agency, he
told the EPA that Flint was doing corrosion control to prevent lead from
getting into the water, when that wasn`t true. They weren`t doing
corrosion control. He told the EPA that they were. Today, he was charged
with a felony for that. He`s pleaded not guilty.
The second state employee who was charged today, Michael Prysby, he signed
off on using the Flint water plant to treat the city`s new water sources.
And then in an e-mail that`s been notorious for months now in Michigan, he
got this desperate message from the water quality supervisor at the Flint
water plant that said this, quote, “If water is distributed from this plant
in the next couple of weeks, it will be against my direction. I need time
to adequately train additional staff and update our monitoring plans before
I feel we are ready.”
Mike Prysby today was charged with a felony for permitting the water plant
to operate despite warnings like that one. He`s pled not guilty to that.
And the person who wrote that warning e-mail, the guy who worked at the
Flint water treatment plant who warned in that e-mail that the switch
should not happen, that Flint was not ready, they did not have adequate
preparation do it safely, that guy who wrote that email, his name is Mike
Glasgow, it turns out he`s the third person who was charged today. He`s
not yet entered a plea in court.
And the reason he was charged today is because however heroic his warning
was about the switch, we shouldn`t do the switch, we`re not ready, it`s
against my wishes, however horrific that warning was, once the water switch
happened, Mike Glasgow later basically confessed to doing the lead tests
after the switch wrong. He confessed to saying the lead tests showed one
thing when he knew they did not show that. And he not only confessed that
to a reporter, he confessed that to a reporter on the record and on camera.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CURT GUYETTE, ACLU: How were you able to determine that every single
housed a lead service line?
MIKE GLASGOW, FLINT`S LABORATORY AND WATER QUALITY SUPERVISOR: We`re not
really. We threw bottles out everywhere to collect as many as we can to
try to hit a number and that`s why we just turn in every result that we get
GUYETTE: You indicated on those reports that all those lines were lead
service lines –
GLASGOW: To the best of our knowledge.
GUYETTE: When you didn`t have actual documentation for each house where
you put that down.
GLASGOW: Yes, we`re still looking through the records.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, yes, that is one of the things for which this low level city
of Flint public employee has been charged today in this first round of
criminal charges in this still ongoing scandal.
And maybe the attorney general meant it when he said this is just the
start, there will many more charges to come, presumably of people much
higher up the food chain. But for know, what the attorney general has done
is charged people, low level government employees, whose crimes have been
thoroughly documented by reporters in the state of Michigan, including the
man who standing opposite Mike Glasgow in that tape, asking him those
questions and getting him basically to confess to what Mike Glasgow was
today criminally charged with.
That reporter`s name is Curt Guyette. He`s a veteran investigative
reporter. He has been working this story as an investigative reporter for
the Michigan`s chapter of the ACLU. In a lot of important ways, Curt
Guyette broke the story of what happened in Flint, Michigan, and he joins
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you feel you did anything criminally wrong here.
GOV. RICK SNYDER (R), MICHIGAN: Again, I don`t want to get into that kind
of speculation. I don`t believe so.
REPORTER: Governor, were you questioned as part of this investigation?
And if so, by whom?
SNYDER: With respect to this investigation, I have not been questioned or
been interviewed at this point in time. Our office has been cooperating,
as I mentioned earlier, with this investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan today answering questions after
three officials, three relatively low ranking officials were criminally
charged in the Flint water lead poisoning disaster.
Joining us now is Curt Guyette. He`s an investigative reporter. He`s been
working the story for the Michigan chapter of the ACLU. Today, Mr. Guyette
received a prestigious prize, journalism prize called the Hillman Prize for
his just invaluable and groundbreaking coverage of this story.
Curt, congratulations on that award –
CURT GUYETTE, ACLU OF MICHIGAN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Thanks.
MADDOW: – and thanks for being here.
Did you know that criminal charges were coming? Did you expect that these
would be the first round of them?
GUYETTE: I had been told that it was likely criminal charges were going to
be filed and I expected it would be the low level people that they would be
starting off with, yes.
MADDOW: In terms of the low-level nature of these people`s jobs, right, in
the sense that they`re not necessarily high ranking public officials, are
they also people who were down the decision making tree, sort of down the
line of accountability in terms of where the decisions were made that were
so disastrous in Flint? Are they mid-level people, low level people?
GUYETTE: Well, Mike Glasgow, the Flint official, he was the person on the
front lines and in charge of conducting the tests that were not just
flawed, but rigged, and the people from the Michigan Department of
Environmental Quality were in charge of overseeing and that making some of
the decisions. They were involved in the decision to use the water plant
when it was not ready. They were involved in the decision not to use the
mandatory corrosion control that caused all the damage and resulted in the
So, but what we haven`t seen or at least I haven`t seen yet is the whole
decision making process and were orders coming down. You know, I think
that`s probably things that are still going to come out in the
MADDOW: There are a number of concurrent investigations. We have the U.S.
attorney, the criminal division of the EPA, we had the state attorney
general investigation. Is there also a county prosecutor investigation?
MADDOW: So all of these investigations going on simultaneously. Do you
have as has investigated this from the get-go, as a reporter, do you have
more confidence or less confidence in any of those?
GUYETTE: Well, I don`t know. The state attorney general`s was the most
controversial, because it took so long for them to launch it. The attorney
general there is a Republican and it`s a Republican administration, so
there was a question on how hard they would or how thorough they would be.
But the people he brought in to really conduct the investigations
independently have really, really good reputations. And when they were
announced, that gave a lot of confidence.
And then, actually, I talked to some of the investigators early on, and
actually all these investigations I was one of the person they talked to
because of the work that we had done. And they were very thorough. I
really got a good opinion of what they were doing as far as the state
attorney general`s office.
All of them really I think are being very thorough. I was pretty surprised
to, in that clip where they just talked about the governor hasn`t been
GUYETTE: Here`s something. I`ve been asking, did the governor`s office
play a role in making a decision to switch in the first place. When I
asked thinks former spokeswoman, Sara Wurfel, that, she gave me an answer
that was not an honest answer. She made – threw out a red herring, saying
the city of Detroit forced Flint off their system, which forced them to use
MADDOW: And we know that`s not true.
GUYETTE: We know that`s not because of the documents that I obtained
through Freedom of Information Act, we know that`s not true. But when
asked a direct question that was the answer she gave. We could not have
made that decision. That decision was forced on us.
So, certainly, if someone is telling manage that`s not true and were to
defend a position, then it raises a lot of questions. I wish every
reporter would start asking the governor that question, so we could finally
get a straight answer.
MADDOW: Because we still don`t know the answer to that basic question of
whose idea was it to make that switch?
MADDOW: And you know basically everything about this story. And so, if
you don`t know that, that means nobody has figured out yet.
GUYETTE: All I know is when I asked the governor`s office, I was told
something that was not true.
MADDOW: Curt Guyette, investigative reporter working for the Michigan
chapter of the ACLU, again, congratulations on the Hillman Prize for your
groundbreaking work on this. Please come back and keep us apprised.
GUYETTE: Thanks for everything you`ve been doing to draw attention to
this. It`s very, very important.
MADDOW: Thank you.
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: As you probably know, the Republican National Committee is meeting
this week in Hollywood, Florida, to set some of the stuff in motion that`s
going to come to fruition at their contested, likely to be contested
convention this summer in Cleveland. Lots of worry and lots of discussion
about whether or not they`re going to be changing some of the rules that
might affect who they nominate as president at that convention.
But one of the rules they are thinking about changing would not affect
Donald Trump or Ted Cruz or John Kasich or anyone else they may nominate.
It would affect gravely our ability to show you what happens at that
convention. And that change, which is being debated, is our next story.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Right now, the RNC is meeting down in Florida. Today, they threw
a new wrinkle into the mix in terms of their convention this summer – the
prospect of electronic voting on the convention floor. The idea if adopted
would be for all 2,400-something Republican delegates to register their
votes on the convention floor, not by yelling them out or speaking them
into a microphone, but somehow doing something electronic. The RNC says
electronic voting wouldn`t necessarily be used for the nominating votes for
president, but for procedural votes, though like everything else, that too
could theoretically by changed.
In 2012, there was a bunch of procedural voice votes that were hotly
debated like this one when it came to a full floor vote on the convention
rules. Listen to the vote on this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOEHNER (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: Without objection, the previous
question is ordered. The question is on the adoption of the resolution.
All those in favor signify by saying aye. All those opposed no?
Being the chair, the ayes have it. The resolution is adopted without
objection, the motion is laid on the table.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Are you sure the ayes had it there? Are you sure?
How about this one, Reince Priebus putting the credentials committee report
to a full vote. This is great.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: All those in favor will signify by saying
Those opposed no.
In the opinion of the chair, the ayes have it and the motion is agreed to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You get the picture.
But maybe electronic voting will clear some of that up this year, but if
you like that sort of thing and the floor color and ruckuses and the public
nature of it all, and the booing, then, electronic voting of some kind of
would probably take away some of that excitement and some of what we can
Donald Trump recently said this year`s convention should have more showbiz.
He said the last one was the single most boring convention I`ve ever seen.
Electronic voting probably won`t help with the showbiz matters of it, but
there`s also the question of make it`s screwing things up. Maybe it
crashes in the middle of proceedings, right? Nothing like a technology
fail to rile up 2,473 frustrated souls in Cleveland, not to mention the
suspicion created by some centralize electronic new voting process
controlled by the RNC – so even more doubt about the process.
So, we`ll see. One more thing to debate. Should we e-vote? Eighty-nine
days to Cleveland.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Lawrence, I`m sorry to be 44 seconds late going to you.
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