The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 2/16/2017

Guests:
Bob Ferguson, David Nir
Transcript:

Show: The Rachel Maddow Show
Date: February 16, 2017
Guest: Bob Ferguson, David Nir

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this
hour.

All right. It was April 29th, 2014. And he tried to get up off the gurney
in the middle of it. His name was Clayton Lockett. They were trying to
kill him, but they really just could not figure it out. They couldn`t get
it done.

They made more than a dozen tries inserting IV lines into him, more than a
dozen tries, including into his arms, into his legs, into his groin. And
the whole time, he was supposed to be knocked out. He was supposed to be
unconscious.

But he was not unconscious. He was awake. He was writhing, arching his
back, talking about how much everything hurt. And it just went on and on
and on. It went on for ten minutes, and then 20 minutes, and then 30
minutes and then 40 minutes. He, actually, at one point, ended up try to
help them, trying to help them kill him.

He tried to help them get the needles into himself because they made these
more than a dozen tries and nothing was working to knock him out. Finally,
it went on for so long prison officials who are overseeing the execution,
they pulled the curtain so the witnesses couldn`t see anymore of what was
going on. And soon after that, they actually decided they couldn`t go
ahead with it.

Not that they felt bad and they didn`t want to keep trying to do it, but
they literally believed that they could not do it. They had messed up
their chance. It wasn`t working. They couldn`t figure it out.

They called the governor. She was at a basketball game at the time, but
she heard them out from the prison and told them, OK, if they felt like
they couldn`t complete the execution, they should call it off. The state
would stop the execution in the middle of it. They would stop trying to
kill him. So, they started to make preparations to bring Clayton Lockett
back. They started making preparations to try to revive him after spending
all this time trying to kill him, but by then he was groaning and then he
was convulsing and then he was in and out of consciousness.

And then, finally, after 43 minutes, including them trying to call it off
in the middle of it, and trying to bring him back, after 43 minutes he
finally died of a heart attack. That was April, 2014. Just botched,
right?

The idea basically, I mean, whatever you think about the death penalty,
this is not the way it`s supposed to go. I mean, you`re supposed to be
rendered unconscious and then they kill you in our sleep. This was the
opposite of that. Oklahoma just absolutely blew it.

And the drug they were using to try to kill him is a drug that Oklahoma had
never tried to use before and we learned the execution team, the people who
are actually sticking him with the needles, the medical people and
corrections people, people on the team trying to carry out this execution,
they didn`t know anything about this new drug. They`d never used it before
obviously. They didn`t know anything about how it was supposed to work,
how it might be different than other drugs. They`d never trained on it,
been briefed on it.

And that Clayton Lockett execution ended up making national headlines
because of how brutal and botched and bloody it was because it went on for
so long, because the witnesses saw so much of what happened and it was so
disturbing. But it wasn`t until months after it happened that we found out
what went wrong there. And we found out specifically how Oklahoma ended up
getting that drug and why they got that drug.

It turns out in part it was because of this guy. Recognize him?

This little bloody chapter in modern American history is not what this man
is famous for but it`s part of his record. Let me explain. Back in 2014,
after the – this execution went so wrong, investigative reporters at “The
Tulsa World” newspaper, they were able to figure out mostly through court
documents but also through their own digging that the state in that
execution, they hadn`t followed their own laws and protocols about how an
execution like that is supposed to work.

I mean, what happened in that particular execution is the state apparently
realized sort of belatedly, oops, that they didn`t have drugs on hand for
this next execution that they wanted to do and when they figured that out,
rather than stopping the process, raising it up the chain of command, maybe
delaying the executions a little longer in order to figure out how they
were going to handle that serious roadblock to what they wanted to do.
Instead of that, they decided, no, we have to do these executions. Now,
we`re not going to delay them. We`ve been under a lot of scrutiny. We`re
going for them and they scrambled. We`ll figure out the drugs.

And specifically, it was lawyers from the general counsel`s office and the
corrections department and lawyers from the attorney`s general office.
Scott Pruitt, the attorney general of that state, his office and the top
lawyer at the Corrections Department, they decided with this execution date
bearing down on them, they decided that they were basically going to
freelance. They`re going to figure it out. Never mind the protocol, never
mind the rules. They tried to figure it out themselves.

Lawyers from Scott Pruitt`s office and the general counsel`s office and the
corrections department, they personally got online and they said they just
started browsing around. The general counsel later explained in a court
filing that he and Scott Pruitt`s office, they started basically, randomly
looking around online to see if they could figure out how long it takes for
various drugs to kill people.

Now, remember, these are lawyers. These are not medical professionals of
any kind who have any expertise on this matter. And when the lawyers were
asked where they got the information that they found about how long various
drugs take to kill people, I want to read you literally the actual quote in
the deposition and the answer to that question was this, quote, “On
WikiLeaks or whatever. I did my own research, I looked online. You know,
what passed the key, WikiLeaks, WikiLeaks or whatever it is.”

That`s where they say they found the information that led them to pick the
drugs that they picked, that were then used for the first time in that
state on Clayton Lockett. They found it on WikiLeaks or whatever. They
looked around online.

The attorney general of the state is not supposed to be involved in a
process like that. Picking the actual drugs, that is not the attorney
general`s purview. Nobody in the attorney general`s office is even
expected to have any expertise for doing anything like that and the rules
and protocols in the state don`t say that the attorney general should do
anything like that.

And the attorney general, Scott Pruitt, he denied up and down for a long
time that he or his office had anything to do with that process. No, we
didn`t have anything to do with picking those drugs. Why would anybody
even say that? Obviously, that`s not in the rules, why would we do it?

But you know what? There was an investigation. Multiple sources, multiple
other actors, multiple other state officials involved in that terribly
botched process of killing that guy in 2014, multiple people said despite
your denials, Scott Pruitt, yes, you were involved in this. The Department
of Public Safety in Oklahoma did an investigation into the botched
execution.

And the director of the corrections department confirmed that a lethal drug
in that execution were not chosen, according to the protocol designed by
the state. They weren`t. They`re picked by the lawyers.

He said, quote, “The previous general counsel and the attorney general`s
office that`s who chose the drugs. That general counsel who was himself
involved in searching the WikiLeaks or whatever, for the drug information,
along with Scott Pruitt`s office. He later explained how it was that he
and these other lawyers ended up in that weird position which they were
never supposed to be in.

He told investigators that basically was political. He told investigators
that the state was under pressure to carry out that execution that night,
particularly because it was supposed to be a very exciting double header.
That night, it was going to be Clayton Lockett then they had another guy
standing by who they were going to kill with the same drugs right after
Clayton Lockett. They were going to do two in one night.

A lot of attention for something like that. Quote, “The attorney general`s
office being an elected office was under a lot of pressure. The staff over
there was under a lot of pressure to say get it done, you know? And so,
yeah, yeah, I think it was a joint decision but there was. I`ve got to say
there was a push to make the decision, get it done, hurry up about it.”

Get it done, hurry up about it. That was from the attorney general`s
office, because it`s an elected office. He`s an ambitious guy in that
office, and they wanted to get those guys killed, get this thing over with.
Right?

Who cares what the drug is? Who cares if we`ve never used that drug
before, I looked something up on the WikiLeaks or whatever. You got
yourself a smartphone, right?

We`ll use something we have never tried before, who cares, get it done.

And that is how Scott Pruitt apparently ended up making the decision about
a brand new experiment method that Oklahoma was going to try out on its
prisoners that led to 43 minutes of Clayton Lockett writhing and talking
and trying to get the needle in himself and them trying to call off the
execution in the middle of it and him trying to get off the gurney before
finally three quarters of an hour into it, it was finally a heart attack
that killed him.

Publicly, Scott Pruitt denied up and down that he had anything to do with
that, that his office worked on that in any way. The state investigation
proved that he was lying when he issued those denials.

It was around that time that that investigation became publicly known Scott
Pruitt got famous for something else. He in fact made the front page of
the “New York Times,” it was an investigative piece by Eric Lipton at the
“New York Times” that won Lipton the Pulitzer Prize for investigative
reporting in 2014.

Eric Lipton discovered that what Scott Pruitt was doing on environmental
issues in Oklahoma is that he was taking letters and documents written by
oil and gas companies that were big campaign contributors to him and he was
literally copying and pasting the full text of the documents that they
wrote, the letters that they wrote. He was copying and pasting those
things from oil and gas companies on to his own letterhead intact as if
they were his own work, and then he was sending those things to Washington
as if they were the views of the state of Oklahoma. And mostly those
letters were, like berating the EPA about something or another.

Well, now, Scott Pruitt is who the Trump administration has chosen to run
the EPA for the country. And the vote on his nomination is supposed to be
tomorrow.

But despite all of that stuff, which is known about Scott Pruitt and a lot
else besides, his vote is scheduled tomorrow and it looks like the wrench
in the works on Scott Pruitt, if there is going to be one, is a wrench in
the works that a judge in Oklahoma threw tonight. Tonight, a judge in
Oklahoma threw a wrench in the works for the Scott Pruitt nomination
because there`s actually something else that Scott Pruitt was starting to
get famous for in Oklahoma.

For the last two years, he has been refusing to answer public records
requests sent to his office in Oklahoma. He`s the attorney general of the
state. He`s subject to the same transparency rules and freedom of
information rules as every other part of the state government. But for the
last two years Scott Pruitt has inexplicably been rejecting public records
requests for documents and correspondents between his office and oil and
gas companies.

There`s no legal basis for him resisting or rejecting these records
requests. He`s just been saying no. And tonight, a federal judge in
Oklahoma proclaimed, quote, “There really is no reasonable explanation why
his office hasn`t complied with public records requests.” She described
his actions as a, quote, “abject failure to follow the law.” And this
judge in Oklahoma tonight ordered him – he`s finally got to do it, he`s
got to hand over what`s expected to be about 3,000 pages of e-mails and
other types of communications and correspondence between his office and the
oil and gas companies that have been taking such good care of him all of
these years in Oklahoma. Wow. Right?

So, we`re finally, finally going to see that stuff from Scott Pruitt`s
office from his time as attorney general which is his current job. The
judge says he has to produce this stuff, make it publicly available by
Tuesday. Oh, but wait. His vote to be the head of the EPA is tomorrow.
Hmm.

Democrats were not psyched about the Scott Pruitt EPA nomination anyway, at
least most Democrats. But now it would seem that both Democrats and
Republicans might have good reason to just wait a few more days before they
vote on him since some time between now and Tuesday, we`re going to get
3,000 pages of his communications with oil and gas companies, 3,000 pages
of communications with oil and gas companies that he has been illegally
withholding from public view for the last two years.

That kind of seems like stuff you might want to see before you vote on this
guy to be in charge of great swathes of public policy that affect oil and
gas companies, right? I mean, whether you`re a Democrat or Republican, you
would at least want to see this stuff before you vote, wouldn`t you?
Especially if you only have to wait a few days, wouldn`t, wouldn`t?

When the new president picked Michael Flynn to be his national security
advisor, he also announced one of the deputy national security advisors he
wanted, that would be a woman named Monica Crowley. She was a FOX News
personality. Not long after her name was announced it emerged her last
book was substantially plagiarized and then her publisher yanked the book
and it was reported a bunch of her newspaper columns were also plagiarized,
then it was reported that, ooh, her PhD thesis is also substantially
plagiarized.

And at that point, Monica Crowley got yanked as a deputy national security
advisor. They had to pull her name.

The first person who the new president picked to be secretary of the army
was a billionaire finance guy who had been a Trump donor. Shortly after
his nomination was announced to lead the Army, it emerged he has been
written up in a police report for punching a guy out. Not all that long
ago at a fancy horse auction in New York state.

And then he, too, Vincent viola, got his name yanked as secretary of the
army.

Earlier this week, the shortest national security advisor tenure in
American history came to an end at a record 24 days after Michael Flynn was
fired, resigned, fired, resigned in the midst of an ongoing and now
increasingly serious scandal about his prolific contacts with the Russian
government before he became national security advisor and even before the
election during the campaign.

The beltway story about Michael Flynn`s firing has mostly focused on the
fact that he lied about his contacts with the Russian government to people
in the White House. But, you know what? Maybe that`s not the biggest deal
here. “The Washington Post” reports tonight that he may have lied about
those contacts with the Russian government to the FBI. And that`s a very
serious thing, indeed, because that`s a felony.

I mean, remember the back story here is that there are transcripts and
recordings of Michael Flynn`s contacts with Russian officials because the
U.S. government monitors the communications of Russian officials and it is
reportedly clear in those recordings that Michael Flynn was talking to the
Russian government about the sanctions the Obama administration had levied
against Russia as punishment for them interfering in our presidential
election. Again, “The Washington Post” reporting tonight that even though
it`s clear in the recordings and the transcripts that that subject, the
sanctions subject was discussed in those calls, “The Washington Post”
reports tonight that Flynn nevertheless denied to the FBI that he had ever
discussed those matters with the Russians. They`ve got him on the
transcripts talking about it and then he told them in person he didn`t.

If he lied to the FBI, that would be a felony. If it were prosecuted, he
could be looking at serious jail time. That said, the decision about
whether or not to prosecute him would be made by the Justice Department
which, of course, is now headed up by the man who is chairman of our
National Security Advisory Committee on the Trump campaign, Jeff Sessions.
He`s now under increasing scrutiny over the fact that he refuses to recuse
himself from many investigations of the campaign that he was a part of.

Raise your hand if you think Jeff Sessions is going to prosecute mike Flynn
for lying to the FBI? No, raise your hand. I can`t –

The day after the Michael Flynn resignation this week, the Trump
administration also had to pull its labor secretary nominee Andy Puzder.
And now, tonight, we`ve learned that the man who the White House wanted to
replace Michael Flynn as national security advisor, he has told the White
House, no, he won`t take the job. “The Financial Times” quotes a person
with firsthand knowledge of the discussions between President Trump and
Admiral Robert Harward as saying, quote, “Harward is conflicted between the
call of duty and the obvious dysfunctionality.”

Let`s keep going. Tonight, Senate Democrats are planning to hold the floor
all night long in opposition to the vote tomorrow on Scott Pruitt to head
up the EPA. Not because of just their objections to him but now the fact
that within a matter of five days, 3,000 pages of documentation that his
office was illegally withholding about communications between him and oil
and gas companies, those are about to be released. How can the Republicans
possibly defend voting on him tomorrow when some time in the next five
days, we`re getting a 3,000 page document dump on him on exactly the
subject he`s now being elevated to the federal government to oversee.

So, the president today held a press conference in which he proclaimed that
he`s just mystified anybody thinks anything`s going wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I turn on the TV, open the
newspapers and I see stories of chaos. Chaos. Yet it is the exact
opposite. This administration is running like a fine tuned machine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: The personnel debacles and the serious scandals that already
attend to this less than one-month-old presidency are really – without
hyperbole, they are unlike anything we have ever seen at the start of a
presidential term and that`s completely leaving aside the issue of policy.
I mean, there has been no significant legislation passed since this
president has been in office. He has signed into law zero major policies,
the only exception to that is his Muslim ban and refugee ban which he
signed as an executive order at the end of January.

Well, today as the president proclaimed how finely tune his machine is, as
he crowed about how perfectly everything has rolled out thus far, including
that Muslim ban, today that, too, his first policy initiative, that today
completely fell apart. Administration lawyers as he was wrapping up that
press conference they were writing to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of
Appeals asking that court to please vacate its previous ruling striking
down the ban as unconstitutional or at least, forgive me, upholding a stay
on it on those grounds.

The reason the administration asked the court to vacate their previous
ruling is because, quote, “the president intends in the near future to
rescind the order and replace it with a new substantially revised executive
order.” This is the one substantial policy they have tried to enact in
this first disastrous four weeks of his administration. This is the one
policy they have tried to enact. And today, he was forced to take it back
and try to start over.

I mean, nobody wants to see the United States of America fail. But if you
want to know what it looks like when a president fails in every conceivable
way, in every conceivable measure, this is what it looks like when a
president fails in every way.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: You know even as a non-lawyer, you might have a chance of
explaining it when the ruling from the court fits on one page and it`s
double spaced and there`s still room at the bottom.

We have some breaking news. We have new news about the president`s Muslim
ban and refugee ban. I mentioned at the top of the shower, lawyers for the
president today told the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that the president
intends to take back his travel ban and try again.

Well, we now have the court`s response. Again, this is breaking news.
This just came in just a moment ago. And as far as I read it this amounts
to the court saying “fine by us.” The ruling says the administration will
inform the court of any new developments, but I think this means there is
will be no new hearing at the ninth circuit, no en banc full court hearing
because the administration is rescinding its travel ban.

They are basically conceding they lost on this. At least that`s how I read
it but not a lawyer.

Let`s ask somebody who is better positioned to understand this. Joining us
now is Bob Ferguson. He`s Washington state attorney general. He brought
this case in the first place.

Mr. Attorney General, thank you for your time tonight.

BOB FERGUSON, WASHINGTON STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL: Thanks for having me on,
Rachel. I really appreciate it.

MADDOW: So, they`ve pulled the ban, they`ve rescinded it, they say they`re
going to try again. To me, as a sort of lay observer of this, this looks
to me like you won here. Like you`ve beat them and you`ve made them
concede they lost. Is that how you see it?

FERGUSON: Without any question. The administration, the president is
conceding. They filed that brief today as you read, saying the president
was going to rescind the executive order. They did not want to seek review
from the Ninth Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court because they knew what`s
become increasing obvious. It would just be one more defeat on top of
multiple defeats they`ve already – they`ve already suffered.

MADDOW: So they could – when the president responded to the Ninth
Circuit, those three judges, their decision a few days ago, when the
president said, “See you in court”, everybody read that bluster from the
president as seeing he would appeal to a wider panel of the Ninth Circuit,
he wanted a bigger group of judges to be hearing it, or that he would go
straight to the Supreme Court.

In essence, the administration has decided – no, neither, we`re going to
go back to the drawing board entirely. This law is dead now.

FERGUSON: I would agree. Once it`s rescinded, it`s going to be rescinded.
By the way, the president had a third option after his “see you in court”
tweet. Back before the trial court judge, there was a hearing in which we
said, we`re ready to move forward on the merits and the administration
said, no, no, we don`t want to move forward on the merits, either.

So, frankly, immediately after the tweet, we`ll see you in court, the
Department of Justice and the administration and everything they could to
avoid seeing frankly anybody in court, because they knew they would lose.

MADDOW: They do say that they`re going to rewrite this thing. That
they`re going to try again. They`re going to come up with a new one.

What do you expect from them on that? And do you feel like there is a way
for them to more constitutionally craft the same kind of intention that was
evident in the first try at this?

FERGUSON: Well, frankly I`m glad they`re going to take another shot at
this. We`ve been saying from day one they should tear up the original
executive order and try again. It`s hard to pre-judge what that`s going to
look like without seeing it, Rachel, obviously. But what I can`t say is
that it is still our belief, of course, that no one is above the law or
above the Constitution. That includes the president and my team will
carefully scrutinize line by line, word by word any new executive order
that this administration puts forward.

MADDOW: Mr. Attorney General, let me ask you one last question. We`ve
talked about this a number of times since you filed this challenge. I
never asked you about the politics of this.

Obviously, you represent Washington state. You`re the attorney general in
that state. It is a legal decision but to a certain degree a political
decision, a statement of values for the state to do this.

Has this been a controversial decision in your state? Do you feel like
you`ve felt sort of political blowback of any kind or, contrarily,
political support for doing this? Ultimately, you and Minnesota bringing
there case is what seems to have stopped it in its track. What`s the
reaction about that from your constituents?

FERGUSON: You know, it`s interesting. I proposed recently repealing the
death penalty in our state and banning the sale of assault weapons. On
issues like that, I received an amount of blowback, as you might imagine,
even in a blue state like Washington.

But to be candid, Rachel, on this issue it`s been frankly nothing but
positive feedback as we walk down the street with my solicitor general,
Noah Purcell. We can`t get more than a block without people rolling down
their car windows saying, “Hey, way to go, keep it up” or stopping us on
the street.

So, frankly, it`s been really affirming that people believe in the rule of
law, that no one is above the law, even the president, and we`re going to
hold them to the Constitution. And so, it`s really been a positive
experience. I`m very proud of my team who`s worked literally around the
clock, Rachel, to get to this really fantastic result.

MADDOW: Bob Ferguson, Washington state attorney general, celebrating a
very big win against the Trump administration tonight.

Mr. Attorney General, thank you again. Appreciate it.

FERGUSON: Thanks, Rachel. Appreciate it.

MADDOW: You know, we all – we knew one of the things that we knew was
going to happen was that blue states were going to fight legal battles
against this administration. We didn`t necessarily know who was going to
be tip of the spear and who is going to have the most success. But this
case brought by Washington state and Minnesota, this absolutely cut the
Trump administration off at their knees. The first and only policy of any
significant size they have tried is this travel ban and those states just
stopped them. It`s dead.

Much more ahead. Busy night. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: We`ve got some sort of heartening news for Democrats coming up in
the show tonight. News that`s been a little bit under the radar so far but
it`s about to break open. That`s our next story.

But we also have a cliffhanger story last night right here on this show at
the very end of the show. It ended as a mystery. We got lots of feedback
about it last night because it was a what`s going to happen story? Now, it
has found a very surprising ending, and that means – I`m going to need
music, it`s a dramatic story, it has a sound track, it has a dramatic
ending. Our cliffhanger will be revolved.

Coming up. Stay right there. I`m terrible at this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: In 2004, George W. Bush was reelected and things looked really
gloomy for the Democrats. But then things turned around fast. 2004, Bush
was reelected, 2006, Democrats took the House and Senate. 2008, which you
remember most for Barack Obama winning the presidency, that year, Democrats
also piled up more wins in Congress on top of what they had already won in
2006. That `06/`08 double whammy was huge for the Democrats.

But then it turned around on them really fast. Barely a month into the
Obama presidency, the Tea Party movement started springing up around the
country. The initial anti-Obama anti-Democrat Tea Party rallies were
actually held in February, 2009, literally the month after Obama was
inaugurated.

Then, there were anti-Obama, anti-Democrat Tea Party rallies nationwide on
Tax Day, April 15th, 2009, and on through the summer and into the hall of
that year. And at the time, Barack Obama was a really popular president.
He won that election in `08 convincingly. He had huge majorities in
Washington, his polling numbers were pretty good.

But that protest movement, that bottled up frustrated conservative energy,
that was soon put to very specific electoral use. They got their first big
chance of turning their new protest movement into really political results
– ironically, in the most stereo typically blue state in the country,
Massachusetts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT BROWN (R-MA), THEN-U.S. SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: My name is Scott Brown
and I`m running for the United States Senate. This is my truck. I put a
lot of miles on it during this campaign. Wherever I go people tell me
they`re concerned about the path our country is on. Spending is out of
control, the government keeps getting bigger and bigger. It`s time for a
new direction.

I love this old truck. It`s brought me closer to the people of this state.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Scott Brown and his truck. Scott Brown, a previously obscure
state senator with no major accomplishments of any kind. Really, he had
never done anything of note, even though he was very handsome and he had
been a model and he got a lot of press for that.

But after Senator Ted Kennedy died, Scott Brown, this very unlikely
candidate, he ran as the Republican candidate in the special election for
that Senate seat. No Republican had won a Senate seat in Massachusetts for
almost 40 years.

But that was 2010, not a normal year in politics. It was the year that
wave of Tea Party energy and Scott Brown of all people, he won in
Massachusetts and that shock upset victory was the first indicator of what
was on the way for Republicans and Democrats. Scott Brown was first, he
won that forever blue Senate seat in January, 2010.

And later that year in November, 2010, that was the wipeout for Democrats.
Democrats lost 63 seats in the House. They lost six seats in the Senate,
canceled out all the gains of the previous four years. President Obama
called it a shellacking.

Well, now we`re on the same kind of spot on the political timeline. Now,
there`s another brand new president. But this time, President Trump is far
less popular than President Obama was at this time. He`s also facing an
unprecedented level of serious scandal early in his administration and he`s
also facing a grassroots protest movement against him just like President
Obama did with the Tea Party folks, but already the on-the-ground movement
against Trump is larger than the Tea Party ever was, even at its height.

Anti-Trump protests started the day of his inauguration. They got huge one
day after the inauguration, possibly the biggest protest day in U.S.
history. And now almost four weeks into his time in office, the protests
are not just continuing, they are spreading.

Hello Providence, Rhode Island town hall meeting with members of Congress
this week. Eight hundred people in Rhode Island yelling “just say no.” as
in just say no to everything from this president.

This was a crowded scene inside the office of Congressman Eric Paulson of
Minnesota. This is his home district office in Minnesota, he`s a
Republican congressman, look at the people who want to talk to his
staffers.

In Orlando this week, this was Marco Rubio`s constituent office, people
demanding that he stand up to President Trump on something, anything.

Wilmington, North Carolina, a similar crowd with a similar message gathered
outside the office of North Carolina Republican Senator Richard Burr.

In Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, last weekend, so many people showed up for
a grassroots meeting to oppose Trump and his agenda that half of the 250
people who showed up had to sit outside and have a parallel meeting. They
had to meet inside and outside at the same time.

This is inside Ohio Congressman Pat Teabury`s office in Columbus, Ohio.
This guy on the right is inviting the congressman to a town hall on the
Affordable Care Act. His constituents have set up a time and a location.
All they need is their congressman. Look at the staffer, how he`s scowling
at the guy. “He is not coming to that town hall.”

Here`s a picture of an organizing group in New Jersey. They say this was
their first meeting one month ago. You can see there, it`s already pretty
big. They just this week posted same meeting room, same group, what it
looks like this week. They`re growing.

Last night, over 400 people turned out for the first Indivisible organizing
meeting in Yolo County, California, in all places. That`s Yolo County.
This movement, this protest movement against Trump is showing signs that it
is not just big, it`s sustainable, it`s growing.

The question is whether Democrats – well, one question about it is whether
Democrats can turn that energy, can turn that movement into nuts and bolts
political gains, whether they can turn it into electoral gains the way
Republicans did starting with the Tea Party wave and old Scott Brown in
2010.

The first big test of that is about to happen like next week. It`s a
fascinating story. That`s next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Democrats lost an election this week in Minnesota and they`re
super excited about it. It was a special election to fill an open state
rep seat in a Minnesota House district, 32B. It was a seat that was
previously held by a Republican and a Republican again won the seat this
week.

Here`s why Democrats are psyched about losing that race, though. When
Minnesota`s House district 32B voted in November, Donald Trump won by
nearly 30 points in that district. This week, they voted for their
Republican candidate for state rep there. She didn`t win by 30 points like
Donald Trump did, she only won by six.

If you`re a Democrat, that`s called hope. That`s called progress. And
now`s the time the Democrats are starting to wonder around the country, can
they close the gap? Does this terrible public view of the new president
and these protests in the streets and this organizing energy on the center
and left, can they bottle it to boost chances of electing Democrats across
the country?

Take Delaware, for example. Current makeup of Delaware Senate is 10
Republicans, 10 Democrats and one to be determined. Democrats have
controlled the Delaware Senate for, like, 40 years, but now, the future of
the control of that body rests on the shoulders of this woman, her name is
Stephanie Hanson. She`s the Democrat running in the special election for
that one open seat in the Delaware Senate. The voting is a week from
Saturday.

Look who showed up to support her this week. Oh, Joe Biden. Oh, yes,
pride of Delaware, former vice president showed up to this little state
Senate campaign event Monday night this week to help her, to try to save
his party`s majority in that state`s Senate. That`s next Saturday that
race.

And three days after that, voters in Connecticut will get to decide who
controls their state`s legislature. The Connecticut state Senate has two
open seats right now. Republicans are making a very, very, very hard play.
Democrats are going to have to play hard, too, if they want to win that one
or beat back the Republicans.

So, Democrats have got opportunities here. They also have got to play hard
if they`re going to gain or even retain control in these states. For more
on that, see Georgia. Tuesday night, we reported on the special election
for a congressional seat coming up in Georgia. It`s the race to replace
Republican Tom Price who has left to be part of the cabinet, to go be house
secretary.

Republicans have held the Tom Price congressional seat forever but that
district only went for Donald Trump by 1 1/2 points in November and I
should mention there are 18 candidates running in that race as of the
filing deadline yesterday. That thing is at least a little bit up for
grabs, which is why, I thought it was weird, why I pointed out on Tuesday
night that the Democratic Party, the Democratic Congressional Campaign
Committee hasn`t yet sent any full time staffers to that district to work
on that race. They hadn`t announced any plans to invest or make a, you
know, good try in that race. Maybe that`s a pickup opportunity. Trump
barely won in that district.

I should tell you that the DCCC was super mad at us for that segment, for
pointing that out. They reached out firmly to say they have been helping
that race, but in less obvious ways. Now, that the field is set, though,
look fund-raising e-mail from the DCCC specifically from that Georgia sixth
district race with all some caps bold urgency, “Breaking news, Georgia
special election spells trouble for Trump and Republicans.”

I can also tell you tonight, I can report exclusively that the DCCC is
investing in a team of field organizers for the Georgia Democrats starting
next week. They`re going to split the cost of district specific research
for that race as well. So, the Democrats are jumping in. And, boy, were
they mad when I said they weren`t. So, that`s something. I`m looking for
signs of life where I can see them.

But this race on the Democratic side, it has been taking shape for a while.
Even before the field was set last night, and the DCCC made this big jump,
one of the Democrats in this race, 29-year-old John Ossoff, he`s already
received a ton of grassroots and monetary support, particularly organized
by the folks at the liberal blog Daily Kos, sort of the mother of all
liberal blogs.

In 2012, Kos backed Elizabeth Warren`s Senate campaign. They raised a half
million dollars for her to take back that U.S. Senate seat from Scott Brown
in Massachusetts. When it came time to fill Tom Price`s open seat in
Georgia, Daily Kos was Johnny on the spot on this race and on this
candidate. They threw their support behind Ossoff very early on, right
after Congressman John Lewis endorsed him. So far, they`ve raised over
three quarters of a million dollars for Ossoff, which the Ossoff campaign
tells us has gone right to their bank accounts.

Will this kind of thing work to flip that reliably Republican district to a
Democrat? Can the Democratic Party capitalize on the efforts that have
already been put forward by progressive groups, progressive blogs? Can
they battle sort of magic that`s out there in terms of the public dislike
of this president and this big protest movement, can they battle out to eke
out a win here?

Joining us now is David Nir. He`s political director for Daily Kos. He`s
a publisher of Daily Kos elections.

David, it`s nice to see you. Thanks for being here.

DAVID NIR, DAILY KOS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Thank you so much for having me.

MADDOW: The way I laid that out. Is that sort of how you see it? Or did
I miss anything important?

NIR: I think that was a very good read, Rachel.

MADDOW: Why did you pick Ossoff?

NIR: We picked Ossoff because as you mentioned, John Lewis endorsed him.
And that was a very big signal for us. You know, when John Lewis said he
wasn`t going to attend inauguration, we in the progressive community said
we`re going to support that. And so, when John Lewis says this is the guy
you want to be supporting in this winnable race, we felt that was very
important.

MADDOW: Do you think it is a winnable race? I mean, obviously, Tom Price
won by huge margin when he was getting reelected there multiple times and
it has been Republican for a long time. The thing that I think piqued
everybody`s interest is how poorly Donald Trump did in that district.

NIR: That`s exactly right. It`s definitely winnable precisely because
that this sort of suburban, well-educated district really did rebel against
Trump. You showed that figure of him just winning by one point.

And if Democrats can pull off a win here, it will send shock waves through
the Republican Party because it will show Trump is really doing tremendous
damage to the GOP, and if Republicans maintain their suicide pact with
Trump, it means the House could be in play in 2018.

MADDOW: Do you feel like there is a split, or a difference of opinion, or
a fight going on between the Democratic Party proper and progressive
groups, progressive energy, on something like this, or is it a push-
me/pull-you situation? Or you think you`re generally oriented in the same
direction that may just be tactical differences?

NIR: I feel we`re all playing in the same direction. This is an all hands
on deck race. You know, we have a huge community online at Daily Kos and
we get reports on the ground from people in the district. And they are
telling us the grassroots, the Democratic Party, that everyone is really
pulling together on this one.

So, I feel we`re going to be incredibly unified going forward to Election
Day.

MADDOW: David Nir, political director for Daily Kos, publisher of Daily
Kos Elections – I have been reading your stuff for a long time. I find
you to be incredibly incisive in the way that you take apart elections day
to day. It`s nice to have you here.

NIR: Thank you so much, Rachel.

MADDOW: I appreciate it.

All right. I promised you a cliffhanger tonight. I`m about to deliver
what`s at the bottom of the cliff. It`s resolved way faster than I
expected. That`s next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some jobs offer just a paycheck. Teaching offers a
lot more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Become a teacher. It will give you the power to lead
one kid at a time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Hmm. The more you know, excellent long running public service ad
campaign. Love it.

We have our own knockoff version. For us, it`s not the more you know. For
us, it`s, you know more now.

It is also intended to be a public service. Thank you, Nick.

We know more now when we have a story that we left as a bit of a
cliffhanger. But when you go to check on the story, it`s been resolved.
Tonight, we`ve got one that resolved faster than expected.

Right at the end of last night`s show, right at the buzzer, we reported on
a politics story involving the Miami Marlins baseball team. The team is
apparently up for sale. And the people who want to buy them are the
Kushner family. That Kushner family.

The efforts being led by the younger brother of Jared Kushner, who is
working as a senior adviser to the president. Jared Kushner is married to
the president`s daughter. He`s also advising the president now. Everybody
thought that kind of thing was illegal because of federal nepotism rules
but hey, apparently those rules don`t count anymore.

Anyway, the Kushner family has been thinking about buying the Miami Marlins
and we`ve known that for a while. But last night, the “Miami Herald”
reported that the current owner of he Miami Marlins, the guy who`s
considering selling the team to the White House-connected Kushner family,
last night, “The Herald” reported he`s also being considered for a sweet
diplomatic posting from the White House.

“The Herald” reported last night he`s the leading candidate for the best
ambassador job of all. He`s in line to become the American ambassador to
France, which is hilarious, right? It`s like an all caps exclamation point
corruption story. Do you think the Kushner family might possibly get a
better deal in buying the marlins if they can throw in the ambassadorship
to France as a sweetener?

Would you also like part of the old executive office building named for
you, sir? Maybe you`d like to be on the $50 bill? Is there anything else
we can throw in? Jared`s family would really like to make this deal.

So, that was the news last night as we finished the show. Bingo, moments
after we reported that story, moments later, the Kushner family released a
new statement on this subject. They said, quote, “Although the Kushners
have made substantial progress in discussions for us to purchase the
Marlins, recent reports, recent reports, suggest that Mr. Loria will soon
be nominated by the president to be ambassador to France. If that is true,
we do not want this unrelated transaction to complicate that process and
will not pursue it.”

Here`s the kicker, here`s the kicker, the best part, the kicker. Quote,
“The Kushners remain interested in purchasing a team and would love to buy
the Marlins at another time.” So, pencil it into your calendar. Buy Miami
Marlins later. And in the meantime, enjoy your ambassadorship. Au revoir.

There you have it. If you were worried that the Kushner family might get a
sweetheart deal for the Marlins because the current owner wants to be the
ambassador to France, and they can hook them up with that – don`t fret.
Don`t fret. That`s not going to happen. Instead, they`ve decided to put
the team on layaway.

He can have the ambassadorship now. They`ll get the team later, once this
whole thing has blown over. I`m sure the deal will be totally up and up
when it goes through.

But now, you know more now.

Thanks, Nick.

That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.

Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD.” Ari Melber sitting in for Lawrence
tonight.

Good evening, Ari.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
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