The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 2/22/2017
Show: The Rachel Maddow Show
Date: February 22, 2017
Guest: Steve Bullock, Ed Gonzalez
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: That is “ALL IN” for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now, right on time.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Not like I ever hold you to it, man. You can
have my seconds any time you need them.
HAYES: He`s taking notes, Michael Moore is. So, I hit the post there.
MADDOW: Thanks, my dear.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
I`d like to introduce you to a man named Mike Fellows. Mike Fellows was
the chair of the Libertarian Party in the state of Montana. In every
single election held in Montana over the span of the last 20 years, Mike
Fellows ran for something.
He ran for Supreme Court. He ran for secretary of state. He ran for state
legislature, he ran for Congress. He`s run for everything.
He`s run in every single election in the last 20 years and he never won
anything ever, but he`s committed political activist and he put his money
where his mouth was and he did the work and he made sure that his party,
the Libertarian Party, had somebody on the ballot in all of those races.
The last election in which Mike Fellows ran was this last one we held in
November. Montana is one of seven states in the country that has only one
member of Congress for the whole state. Every state has two U.S. senators,
but there are seven states in the country that have such small populations
they only have one representative in the House, and Montana is one of those
states. Their current member of Congress is Republican Congressman Ryan
This past November, Mike Fellows ran as the libertarian candidate against
Ryan Zinke for Congress, and nobody thinks that Mike Fellows had a shot at
unseating this incumbent congressman, but it still had a really big
political impact on the state of Montana, when Mike Fellows unexpectedly
died in the lead-up to the election.
He`s only 59 years old. He was driving home from a campaign event on a
Monday night in September. He got into a head-on car crash, and Mike
Fellows died, led to a lot of kind tributes to him in Montana from people
across the state, people across the ideological spectrum.
But one of the practical nuts and bolts and indeed financial consequences
of Mike Fellows dying right before that election, after he had qualified
for the libertarian line on the ballot in that congressional election is
that it cost counties across Montana a lot of money for that election.
There`s a law in Montana that`s very strict about ballots for every
election having to be absolutely correct.
So when Mike Fellows died just a few weeks before the election, every
single county in the state had to shred all of their ballots that they had
printed already and they had to reprint all new ballots for the November
election. And that, among other things, made the 2016 November election in
Montana the most expensive election that state has ever had.
I mean, added to that factor about that guy passing away, it was also a
very high turnout election. It was an unusually long ballot in Montana
this year, because they had a bunch of stuff to vote on in the state, but
all in all, usually the statewide cost of running a statewide election in
Montana is about $2 million. This past November, it was about $3 million.
And the counties in Montana were really not happy about that extra expense.
I mean, there`s no magic pile of money that comes in from the federal
government or even from the state government that pays for the cost of
administering elections in Montana. It`s the counties, local taxpayers,
local budgets have to foot the bill, no matter what they cost, and this
last election, they just had, you know, through nobody`s fault, just
through a series of circumstances it was 50 percent more expensive than any
election they`d had before.
And a lot of counties didn`t have money in the budget to pay for the extra
expense. And that was already a real cause of financial consternation in
that state before Montana`s one congressman, Ryan Zinke, got nominated by
the new administration to leave Congress and instead go join the
Ryan Zinke, Montana`s only member of Congress, he`s also the new nominee to
be secretary of the interior. Now, he hasn`t been confirmed yet, Democrats
have managed to slow down most of the cabinet confirmation process,
although we`re going to report later on tonight that one of the cabinet
nominees Republicans were able to rush through they may be having second
thoughts about him, some buyers remorse on one they were able to get done.
But Ryan Zinke is still on ice. There`s been some concern over him getting
disciplined during his Navy career for falsifying travel records so he`d
get reimbursed for travel he shouldn`t have been reimbursed for. There`s
been some controversy around that.
Aside from that though, it is still broadly expected that he`s going to get
confirmed. He is going to get the job. Maybe it will happen sometime in
March they`ll confirm him?
Whenever they confirm him, at that point, that will start the process of
Montana holding a special election to replace him. Montana will need to
elect a new member of Congress to replace Ryan Zinke. And in terms of how
that`s going to go, well, you know at first glance Montana is a very red
state. Trump won there in November by a lot, by like 20 points.
Republicans have won every presidential election in Montana all the way
back to 1992. But the state is more complicated than that, even just when
it comes to statewide races. Montana has a Democratic U.S. senator, Jon
Tester. They`ve got a Democratic governor, Steve Bullock.
And Montana is one of those places where, in political terms, it sort of
looks like somebody hit that state with jumper cables since the election
results came in. This, for example, is what it looked like – look at this
– January 30th at the state capitol in Helena, Montana. Look at this,
there have been more than a handful of instances since the election where
the Republicans in Washington tried to go ahead with something, but then
they had to change their mind and take it back when the public blowback was
so strong they couldn`t handle it, right?
One of those things was the first day of the first Congress when the
Republicans tried to gut the Congressional Ethics Office, remember they had
to take that one pack because of the blowback? And then, remember them
demanding the names of all the scientists who had ever worked on climate
change at the Energy Department. But they had to reverse those things.
They`ve this to face blowback and take those things back.
Another big one, big flat-out reversal from the Republicans in Washington
was a plan to sell off more than 3 million makers of public land, tens of
thousands of the acres they wanted to sell off were in Montana, and this
was the reaction in Montana to Republicans trying to sell that land off.
It was a pretty big reaction, and when Republicans in the House saw this
big reaction in Montana, and in other states like that, they did back off.
They changed their mind. They dropped that bill to sell off public lands.
But for a taste what have it was like in Montana when that was still
pending, this is Montana`s Democratic Governor Steve Bullock speaking at
that demonstration at the state capitol January 30th. Watch how it goes
here. You`ll see why Republicans didn`t want to be up against this,
particularly in states all over the Mountain West.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. STEVE BULLOCK (D), MONTANA: Thank you for coming out from all corners
of our state today. Thanks for what you`re doing today, and every day to
keep our public lands in public hands.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
I see folks from Sanders County. I see sportsmen and sportswomen. I see
ranchers. I see veterans. I see big fishers and fly fishers.
I see grandparents. I see the next generation. I even see some of my
former high school teachers here.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
And you know what`s great? Every one of us own these public lands.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
The 30 million acres in Montana, and the beauty is, we don`t need
permission to go on them, do we?
BULLOCK: These lands are our heritage. These lands are our birthright.
These lands are one of our great equalizers the size of our checkbook
doesn`t matter to access our blue ribbon streams, our rivers, and hunt in
some of the finest places around the world, because we all own them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Montana Governor Steve Bullock. That day, more than 1,000 people
piled into the Montana state capitol to protest the Republican plan to sell
off over 3 million acres of public land, including tens of thousands of
acres in Montana.
And Republicans backed off. They changed their minds about that in
Washington. But that footage from Montana, I remember seeing that the day
that that happened January 30th and being like oh, whoa, Montana, wow.
And it turns out it wasn`t just that one issue. The day after the
presidential inauguration, we all know that was that huge women`s march in
Washington. We know there were protests around the country, even around
the world that day, sister marches, right?
Even knowing that, I was still taken aback to learn that the number of
people who turned out that day in Montana for the Montana women`s march at
their state capitol, the number of people who turned out was 10,000. What?
There are only a million people in the whole state, 10,000 people came out
and protested at their state capitol that day.
I mentioned that Montana has a Democratic U.S. senator in Jon Tester. They
also have a Republican U.S. Senator Steve Daines. Since the election,
Steve Daines has been finding that when he comes home, his airport
greetings from his constituents are not what they used to be.
Do we have that footage?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: You work for us! You work for us! You work for us! You work for
us! You work for us! You work for us! You work for us!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator Steve Daines not being greeted the way he was used to
being greeted when he came home to the airport in Montana.
Like many members of Congress and senators around the country, Senator
Daines has been facing calls to do a town hall, to meet with his
constituents. Like many, especially Republican senators and
representatives, he has refused to do that, and that has included lots of
protesters turning up at Steve Daines` constituents offices at home in
Montana, his constituents wanting to meet with him, he is so far saying no.
Yesterday, he was due to speak to state legislators at the capitol, when
his constituents found out he was going to do that, they turned up in great
numbers. Several hundred people were waiting outside the capitol to try to
engage with him, when he turned up.
Seeing that, Steve Daines canceled his appearance at the legislature. He
postponed it. He did turn up at the state capitol a day late, he turned up
He still would not meet with any of his constituents who wanted to meet
with him. He still would not agree to a town hall. He did speak at a
press conference, sponsored by a conservative interest group but even as he
did so, his constituents would not leave him alone.
They were holding up signs, they were saying “you work for us”. They were
asking him for a meeting, this one woman over the course – you see there
on the right side there, one woman holding up a sign that quotes Adele,
that says, “hello from the other side, I must have called a thousand
Randomly, you see the guy in yellow there, a guy in a chicken suit now who
follows Steve Daines around everywhere he goes. We only have this little
bit of footage. He`s not even wearing the chicken head, standing there
flapping his chicken arms no matter where Steve Daines goes anymore because
Steve Daines won`t meet with his constituents.
Montana is one of these places where civic life is just different now than
it used to be, because of the outcome of this election, because of the way
people are reacting around the country to this president and here`s one
super interesting, super practical consequence of that, that may have
national implications and it has just come to pass today in Montana.
One of the consequences around the country of this huge reaction that we`re
seeing to the Trump presidency, this reinvigoration of civil engagement and
protests and demonstrations around the country and political organizing,
one of the consequences of that is there`s a lot of attention being paid to
the individual elections here and there, that are what otherwise look like
one-offs, strays, in terms of electoral politics around the country. So,
for example, this Saturday, this weekend, there`s a state Senate race in
Delaware that wouldn`t usually make national news but that state Senate
race will determine which party controls the Delaware state Senate. So,
the Democratic candidate in that race has been getting support from like
former Vice President Joe Biden and Democratic leaning groups around the
Another Republican incumbent congressman who is leaving the House to join
the Trump cabinet is Tom Price in Georgia. His district only went for
Donald Trump by 1.5 points. There`s a huge amount of Democratic interest
nationwide in trying to make that seat a Democratic pickup when they`ve got
that special election for that seat in April.
We profiled the other night, the efforts of the liberal Daily Kos website
to support a Democratic candidate named John Ossoff in that Tom Price race.
Daily Kos announced today that they`ve raised nearly $1 million on behalf
of John Ossoff in that race. The first polling we`ve seen in that Georgia
race puts John Ossoff not just ahead of the Democrats in the race, but
ahead of a whole giant field, including the multitude-ness of Republicans
who are running in, running for that seat as well.
Well, in Montana, there`s going to be another one of those special
elections. Like I said Montana only has one member of congress, a
congressional district special election in Montana is a statewide election,
because that`s the congressional district. Depending on when Ryan Zinke
gets confirmed to the cabinet, it`s likely that the race to replace him in
Congress will be, I don`t know, May? June? Early June? I don`t know.
Here`s the thing though. Across that state, the county clerks and
elections administrators, the people who actually run elections county by
county across that state, those clerks have started squawking. They have
started raising the alarm about the cost of that election, because
remember, Montana just had the most expensive statewide election they have
ever had this past November. Counties hadn`t budgeted extra money for it.
It was 50 percent more expensive than they thought it was going to be.
It`s 50 percent more expensive than they had ever paid for any election
ever before. There wasn`t extra money to pay for that, they are way in the
hole in terms of what they spent on elections and now, unexpectedly, they
have got to run another statewide special election to fill this
Where is the money coming from to do that? The counties have to cough up
that money. They don`t have that money.
Well, the county clerks have an idea, they`ve been lobbying for it
statewide and writing op-eds and testifying is at the legislature. Their
idea is this: in Montana already, when there are local elections, when
there are school board elections, often times, those elections are run
without the expense of opening up the polling places, right? They run
instead by mail.
Montana is a huge state with not that many people in it. Running an
election by mail just makes economic sense in a state where the people are
that spread out. And Montana elections administrators, they have a lot of
experience of running elections by mail because of it. Why not do the
congressional election tht way as well? Just mail everybody a ballot.
Here`s the Teton County clerk and recorder making the case in her local
paper, quote, “As Representative Zinke`s pending appointment looms over
Montana, election administrators across the state see mounting costs for an
unbudgeted election. Election administrators have a solution to save the
taxpayers money.” Quote, “We are proposing a bill to conduct the
congressional special election by mail. Conducting the election by mail
would conservatively save taxpayers statewide between half a million and
three-quarters of a million dollars.”
Here`s another county clerk making the case in her local paper, quote,
“Mail ballot elections are safe, secure, and cost effective. In an effort
to minimize costs for Ryan Zinke`s congressional seat, election
administrators across the state see holding a mail ballot election as a
This is a technocratic thing, right? This is a practical noncontroversial
thing. It`s a solution that is only designed to save money. It`s being
put forward as a good government option by the people who actually have to
run that part of the government, trying to save taxpayers money.
Until today, because of that, this proposal had bipartisan support, and
then that bipartisan support clams collapsed today because the chair of the
Republican Party in Montana sent out this, “The emergency chairman`s report
on the negative impact on Republican candidates due to mail ballot
Even though this was a Republican bill that was sponsored by a Republican
in the House and a Republican in the Senate, the Republican Party chairman
has now come out in an emergency action come out against it and told
Montana Republicans they have to stand against this, because if Montana
votes by mail, too many people might vote.
Quote, “All mail ballots give the Democrats an inherent advantage. Vote-
by-mail is designed to increase participation rates of lower propensity
voters. Democrats in Montana perform better than Republican candidates
among lower propensity voters. I know my position will not be popular with
many fiscally conservative Republicans or the sponsors of this bill. They
may be well intended but this bill could be the death of our effort to make
Montana a reliably Republican state.”
If it`s too easy to vote, the Democrats might win.
There are not that many of these special election, these one-off elections
this year. But each one of them is going to be interesting, both in terms
of their consequences as, you know, consequences clock consequences. But
they`re also going to be interesting, each of them as a potential sort of
check of the country`s temperature, right? We`re going through these very
strong changes in Washington, and in response to what`s going on in
There`s a very strong movement in this country that is responding
negatively to this new president, and Montana is one of those states in the
country right now where, if we take the temperature we might find it is at
a fever pitch, at least it looks like the temperature may have changed a
lot in response to what happened in the presidential election. You know,
after Donald Trump won the presidency in Montana by 20 points, Republicans
in that state shouldn`t have to worry about the exact logistics of how the
next congressional election would be administered in their state, right?
They shouldn`t be lobbying to purposely waste hundreds of thousands of
dollars in taxpayer money to try to tilt the playing field against
Democrats and make it harder to vote.
I mean, even the initial Republican sponsor of the vote-by-mail bill, she`s
a Republican. She says she doesn`t get it. Quote, “Personally, I would
rather get beat in an election with a good turnout than win in an election
with low turnout.”
But apparently, her party is not with her on that, even in red state
Montana. Her party appears to be scared about holding onto Ryan Zinke`s
congressional seat, scared to the point they`re trying to make it harder to
vote on purpose when it comes time for that next election.
MADDOW: When Montana Republican Senator Steve Daines arrived at the
Montana state house today to give a little prepared speech about his
support for the Donald Trump Supreme Court nominee, he was greeted by a
whole lot of his constituents who would really like him to meet with them,
would really like him to hold a town hall meeting with his constituents.
These folks have intercepted him at the airport, but he wouldn`t answer
their questions. They held their own town hall outside the state house
yesterday when Senator Daines was originally scheduled to visit the
statehouse, except when he heard about his constituents waiting for him
there at the last minute he canceled his visit. They held a town hall
meeting without him.
But his constituents did find him at this conservative press conference,
including the listless guy in the yellow chicken suit.
This is the climate in Montana right now, as a brand new strange
controversy has sprung up around the election they`re going to need to hold
in that state to fill the seat of Montana`s lone member of Congress, Ryan
Zinke is expected to soon join Donald Trump`s cabinet, two Republicans in
the state legislature sponsored a bill that would make the special election
to replace Ryan Zinke a mail in your ballot election. It`s much cheaper
The elections administrators in the state were begging to do it that way
and Republicans put forward a bill to do the election that way, everybody
vote by mail.
Now, today – U-turn. The chair of the Montana Republican Party has put
out an emergency report saying that bill must be blocked. The election
can`t be by mail because if the election is run by mail-in ballot, too many
people will vote, and then Republicans will lose that seat.
And now that bill, even though it`s sponsored by Republicans now, it is in
jeopardy. What`s going to happen here? And what does this mean about
Montana and what does this mean about the country?
Joining us now is Montana`s Democratic Governor Steve Bullock.
Governor, thank you very much for being here. It`s really nice to have you
GOV. STEVE BULLOCK (D), MONTANA: It`s great to be with you tonight,
Rachel, for sure.
MADDOW: So, have I summarized what`s going on right with this bill? Am I
right that this was a Republican-sponsored bill in the House and the
Senate, but right now, we don`t know what`s going to happen?
BULLOCK: Well, that`s what`s fairly shocking, to have the Republican Party
chair, who is also a sitting legislator, brazenly acknowledge that he wants
to spend more taxpayer dollars with the hope of getting fewer voters? I
mean, that`s not only wrong for Montana, it`s wrong for the country. We
need to be figuring out ways to encourage people to vote, certainly not
take away their voting franchise.
MADDOW: From what – I was trying to follow the history of this proposal
and I read all these op-eds and looked at the testimony from the county
clerks and administrators, people who run these elections around the state.
And it doesn`t seem like it was offered as a partisan thing. It doesn`t
seem like it was offered as even a proposal to try to increase voter
turnout in the state.
Seems like the counties were like, hey, we`re out of Monday. The November
election was really expensive. We`d like to do this, it`s cheaper. It`s a
safe, easy, cheap way to do this, and we`ve got experience with it.
It feels like it became partisan when it just started as kind of a
technocratic, fiscally conservative thing.
BULLOCK: Well, and that`s right, because at the end of the day, I mean,
it`s Republicans carrying it, clerks and recorders who are on the front
lines each and every day are saying we ought to do it this way, our county
organizations are saying, let`s save $750,000, and let`s try to do
everything we can to get more people voting.
So, that`s – from the perspective of, you know, my job as a governor, is
to represent Democrats, Republicans, all Montanans, and I don`t care where
your stay is on that as long as we can get more people voting it`s good for
democracy, good for our elections and it will save taxpayers dollars.
MADDOW: Governor, obviously, if Ryan Zinke is confirmed to the Senate,
that will be a landmark moment for Montana. The first Montanan in a
cabinet position, at least as far as I know. It will create a statewide
opening because he`s the lone congressional representative for your state.
MADDOW: When you take the temperature of where people are at in your
state, I saw that tape of you speaking before more than 1,000 Montanans
crammed into the state capitol to try to save public lands in your state.
I saw the footage of 10,000 people turning out for the women`s march at the
state capitol. I`ve seen the way people are hounding Senator Steve Daines
and trying to get him to talk to them.
What`s your assessment where the state is right now and how Montana is
reacting to this president? Obviously, Donald Trump did very well on
November 8th in Montana.
BULLOCK: Yes, recognizing what Donald Trump took Montana by about 20
points, even though there are more television ads run in the state of
Montana than any other state for a governor`s race. I won by 4 1/2.
So I think Montanans look at where are the values of folks and who is going
to take our state and represent our state the best in Washington, D.C. You
know, you played that clip.
I truly believe public lands are one of our great equalizers. I think
public education is one of our great equalizers and the neat thing on
Election Day, every Montanan is exactly equal.
So, the right to vote and access to the polls is one of those great
equalizers, too, and we sure shouldn`t be spending more money to try to get
fewer people voting.
MADDOW: Montana Governor Steve Bullock, you have a way with a turn of
phrase, Governor. It`s good to have you here.
Keep us apprised on how this goes. It`s taken some weird, sharp turns in
the last couple of days. We`ll be interested to see how this turns out,
BULLOCK: Sure will do so, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right. We`ve got much more ahead tonight. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: For more than one month now, I have wallowed in shame over a
mistake I made on inauguration day. It had to do with this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Crime and the gangs and the
drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much
unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: “This American carnage”. For many Americans, that`s an
understandably terrifying phrase, right, coming from the leader of the free
world. But for a very specific group of awesome Americans, the phrase
“American carnage” means something else. It means metal!
The 2010 American Carnage Tour headlined by Megadeth and Testament and
Anthrax and Slayer, and on inauguration day when I told the history of the
American carnage tour and how weird it was to have that metal tour echoed
in a presidential inaugural address, at one point, I called the bass player
and lead singer of slayer Tim Araya.
His name is Tom Araya. Actually in the segment I called him both Tom and
Tim, because I miss, like, typed it in my notes. That`s almost worse,
right? I mean, there`s nothing less metal than slipping and falling on a
typo and thereby inventing a new diminutive Timmy nickname for a metal god
like Tom Araya. I felt so bad, I have felt bad for more than a month.
But tonight, perhaps an opportunity for a reprieve, because tonight, right
after the show at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, we are going back to American
carnage. Tonight is our special on “Trump: The First Month.” I`m co-
hosting with Brian Williams and Chris Matthews and all the other members
from MSNBC. It`s right after our show here.
But tonight, I`m going to get American carnage right. I`ve got my American
carnage tour t-shirt. I`ve got Slayer lyrics tattooed on the inside of my
eyeballs. Tonight, I get a second chance to get at least the metal part of
Stay with us. I`m seriously going to wear this shirt during the coverage.
MADDOW: On Saturday, June 11th, about 1,000 people turned out in the
streets of Houston, Texas. They wore orange shirts and chanting. They
marched from the convention center to the Harris County Jail. They had
signs reading, “Time is running out, end 287(g).” See that down in the
lower right hand corner by the MSNBC? 287(g).
Also this one, “Tell Ron Hickman”, that`s the yellow sign there, “Tell Ron
Hickman that 287(g) tears families apart.”
Ron Hickman was the sheriff of Harris County. Harris County is huge.
Harris County is Houston. It`s 4.5 million people.
We`re talking about Montana earlier in the show. Harris County alone has
four times the population of all of Montana.
The decision facing Sheriff Hickman last June with those protests in the
streets was whether his department would renew or end an agreement that he
had made with the federal government, under that oddly named 287(g). The
idea behind 287(g) is that counties can sign a contract with the feds that
allows the federal government to basically deputize local law enforcement,
to turn local police, local sheriffs into federal immigration enforcement
The policy has evolved over time, but the lasting criticism of it is that
it hurts local law enforcement efforts. It makes immigrant communities
afraid to call the police, even when they need help. If you`re the victim
of a crime, you need to be able to call police, even if you are
If the police are going to deport you for calling up and reporting that you
got mugged, that`s a problem for your local community. I mean, it`s great
for muggers, but it`s bad for everybody else.
And so, a thousand people came out from across the county to show support
at that march in Houston to be part of that call for reform, to tell
Sheriff Hickman in Harris County that they didn`t want him to renew that
program that had local cops deputized to basically be immigration agents.
In part because of that 287(g) program, Harris County has been responsible
for more deportations than any other county in the entire country.
Now, about a week after those protests last June, Sheriff Hickman made his
decision. He decided he was going to renew that agreement with the federal
government. His local officers would keep doing that federal immigration
But then you know, as it happens, Sheriff Hickman came up for re-election
in November. And in addition to organizing those street protests, those
same activists behind those protests had been very busy working on, among
other things, registering Latino voters in Harris County. Conveniently for
those efforts, there was a nice stark dividing line between the incumbent
Sheriff Hickman and his opponent, a man named Ed Gonzalez.
Sheriff Hickman was for that federal agreement that turned local cops into
immigration enforcers. Ed Gonzalez said if he wanted to end that
agreement. He was said if he was elected, he would end it.
There are 254 counties in the great state of Texas, out of those 254 only
27 went blue on election night, but Harris County, the big one, Harris
County was one of those blue counties and Harris County didn`t just vote
top of the ticket for Hillary Clinton, Harris County also elected a new
sheriff, ousted the incumbent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our Decision 2016 coverage with some surprising results
in the race for Harris County sheriff. As we showed you right before the
break, the latest numbers have Democratic challenger Ed Gonzalez still
ahead of Republican sheriff incumbent Ron Hickman with 52 percent, with 53
percent of the vote now.
Bill Spencer joining us live at Gonzalez campaign headquarters in The
Heights – Bill
BILL SPENCER, REPORTER: Yes, Bill, and the candidate just took the stage a
few minutes ago along with his lovely wife Melissa and he did accept
winning the sheriff`s race. He acknowledged himself as the new sheriff –
the new sheriff in town, in fact.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: A new sheriff in town, in fact. That thing we always say applies
Elections do have consequences. Sheriff Hickman lost and Harris County Ed
Gonzalez became the new sheriff in town.
Interestingly, that didn`t stop the local activists. They continued to
rally and march and organize even after Ed Gonzalez was elected. Almost
every week, people would march to the city council, march to the county
jail to put pressure on the new sheriff to keep his campaign promise, to
get rid of 287(g).
And today, he kept his promise. Today, Sheriff Gonzalez in Harris County
announced that he would scrap that program.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ED GONZALEZ, HARRIS COUNTY SHERIFF: I decided to opt out of the voluntary
287(g). The department will no longer be serving as front line immigration
officers as they`ve been deputized to do under this program.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The new sheriff reviewed the program. He decided to opt out a day
after the Trump administration released new Homeland Security memos
outlining plans for aggressively implementing anti-immigrant policies in
the Trump era, including plans to revive that 287(g) program.
Sheriff Gonzalez`s decision may not have been a political one but it
definitely sends a message around the country at a time when the Trump
administration is saying they want to put rocket boosters on 287(g), the
top law enforcement agent in one of the most populous counties in America,
a county that was responsible for more deportations than any other county
in the country they saying, no, we`re out, we`re not going to do it.
Joining us now is Harris County sheriff, Ed Gonzalez.
Sheriff Gonzalez, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really
appreciate your time, sir.
GONZALEZ: Hi, Rachel. Honor to be with you.
MADDOW: So, I was expressing a moment ago there that some of the concerns
about this program making local law enforcement into federal immigration
enforcement authorities, effectively, it is a problem for local law
enforcement. It made people in immigrant communities reluctant
understandably to call 911, to call when they needed help.
Was that, in fact, happening in Harris County? Was that part of your
GONZALEZ: It was part of the decision-making process. Over the course of
last year, through the election and here in my first month and a half, I`ve
noticed that there`s been a lot of fear and concern in the community. I
could feel that. I could see that.
And obviously, with everything that`s going on at the national level, it
really concerns me to see that kind of fear happening in communities. To
me, it leads to more mistrust of police at a time when we need to be
growing more trust, more collaboration with communities to solve local
MADDOW: I`ve read the way that you addressed this in the past. I hear the
way you`re speaking about it now. It`s clear that you don`t – you don`t
see this as a political crusade of any kind. This is a question of
resources and priorities and practicalities.
It does have political resonance though nationwide. Are you worried about
losing funding as a result? Are you worried about Texas state government
coming after you in some way? Are you worried about the federal government
coming after you in some way and trying to reduce your resources or make
life hard for you in other ways because of this decision?
GONZALEZ: I`m not worried about that. In my mind, this has been the
correct decision to do at the end of the day. I`m going to focus on what`s
best for the men and women of the Harris County Sheriff`s Office, as well
as what I can do each day to make sure the resident of Harris County are
This is the right decision to do. It`s under my purview. Considering that
this a voluntary program and, frankly, up until recently, we`ve been an
outlier. We were the only county sheriff`s office to be under this program
for many, many years and even now, out of 254 counties, 251 have been able
to operate out it. So, I think it was time to end this program.
MADDOW: Sheriff, since you made this announcement today. Obviously, this
was part of your campaign in November and people may have known this is
coming. What`s the reaction today, now that you`ve made the announcement?
GONZALEZ: I think overall, we`ve received very positive comments and I
think people understand the need for us to focus on local priorities. I
basically run what`s considered the largest mental state hospital, if you
will, by the number of inmates that I have. I have a huge jail over
crowding issue, our jail is understaffed. We need more patrol cars for our
These are issues that we need to be focusing on to make sure we`re keeping
our local communities safe and that`s my priority each and every day. So,
to me this say common sense approach, smart on crime, making sure we can
redirect the costs we were investing into this program, this voluntary
program where we were spending over $675,000 staffing it. We can now
redeploy those resources to fight local public safety issues.
MADDOW: Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez of Texas, thank you very much
for your time tonight, sir. Keep us apprised, stay in touch with us as
this change happens in your county and in your state. We`d be interested
to see how this works out for you, sir. Thank you.
GONZALEZ: Sure will, thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: We have news tonight from this new administration`s continued
whiplash pattern of radical changes in course. Tonight, the Justice
Department, which is now led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, announced
that they are reversing the Obama administration policy on the rights of
transgender students in American schools.
We have known that the White House intended to roll back LGBT rights. We
thought they might first take aim at kids. We`ve been waiting all day for
the official notice and here it is.
The Justice Department tonight notifying the U.S. Supreme Court that
they`re withdrawing the transgender protections that had been issued by
President Obama. But they`re also telling schools, quote, “This withdrawal
of these guidance documents does not leave students without protections
from discrimination, bullying or harassment. The Department of Education`s
Office for Civil Rights will continue its duty under law to hear claims of
discrimination and will explore every appropriate opportunity to protect
all students to encourage civility in our classrooms.”
How exactly the new administration intends to secure safety and a stability
by uprooting the policy that protects transgender kids` rights – that`s
for history to say. But as of tonight, everybody who told you that the
Trump administration wouldn`t be terrible on LGBT issues, at least they`ll
be OK on that – as of tonight, now you know those people were all full of
MADDOW: This was the line at Senator Tom Cotton`s town hall tonight in
Arkansas. People still lining up to ask a question an hour and 15 minutes
after he started. And that`s after he moved the venue of this thing I
think five separate times. Obviously, people were still able to find him
at the end of the day.
We also just got in this video tonight from Branchburg, New Jersey.
Hundreds of people apparently not able to get inside a packed town hall
meeting with Republican Congressman Leonard Lance in New Jersey tonight.
This week for Congress presents kind of a devil`s choice for lawmakers. Do
you show up and face your constituents who are lining up with really hard
questions and unfriendly feedback, or do you run?
Republican Senator Deb Fisher of Nebraska, do you run?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here she comes.
DEMONSTRATORS: Deb, when are you going to hold a town hall? Hey, Deb,
meet with us! Hey, Deb, meet with us! Hey, Deb, meet with us! Hey, Deb,
meet with us! Hey, Deb, meet with us! Hey, Deb, meet with us! Hey, Deb,
meet with us!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator Deb Fisher of Nebraska doing her best to slip out of a
closed door meeting that she held with a local business group in her
district or her state last night. I like how the security guard is no, not
that car. This car over here, turn around. Smile and wave. Do not meet
with your constituents, whatever you do.
People have been trying every which way to track down their member of
Congress and their senators. This is like a lost puppy ad that ran today
in the “Palm Beach Post” newspaper. Quote, “Lost, United States senator.
He may respond to the title Senator Marco Rubio, though his constituents
have been unable to verify whether this is still the case as they have been
unable to contact him in recent weeks.”
In Huntington Beach, California, Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher`s
constituents say they`ve been trying for weeks to get ahold of him or
anyone at his office. They have tried lobbying his staff through tint come
outside his office. They have tried pushing letters under the door that
they will not open.
One lone Vietnam War veteran tried to walk into the office alone to please
schedule a meeting. He was run out of the place by two uniformed police
officers who kicked him out.
Yesterday, Dana Rohrabacher`s constituents tried again to get his
attention. They`re sort of down to the bottom of the barrel in tactics.
This time they just spelled out his name on the beach with their bodies.
“Where`s Dana?” Maybe that one will work.
In Pennsylvania, Senator Pat Toomey`s constituents decided to hold a town
hall without him since he wouldn`t agree to meet with them. They did hold
a place for him, though. They asked their questions to an empty suit they
put on stage just hanging from a hanger.
Here is another interesting one out of New Jersey, though, one that may
have just made some news. In New Jersey, constituents of Congressman
Rodney Frelinghuysen, they`ve been asking for a town hall with him for
ages. He`s got an important job now though. He`s the brand new chair of
the Appropriations Committee. Every Friday, his constituents have been
showing up at his district offices to please meet with them. His answer
consistently has been no, no, no, I won`t meet with you.
That`s why it was surprising to see the congressman tweet this, quote,
“Great questions and comments during my telephone town hall meeting last
night. Thousands of constituents on the line. I`m listening.”
People were like, what telephone town hall? As far as we can tell, there
was no warning, no advanced notice that the congressman would be holding a
town hall by telephone or otherwise. Apparently, it was an invitation-only
The whole thing was so low-key, it didn`t even register in the local New
Jersey press except for one reporter who found out about it at the last
minute and managed to listen, in and good thing too. Because when Congress
members do have to listen to people in their district, even under duress,
even then sometimes they say something important.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
NANCY SOLOMON, MANAGING EDITOR, NEW JERSEY PUBLIC RADIO: I think actually
the congressman made have made some news with some of the things he said in
his response to constituents.
BRIAN LEHRER, WNYC: Like what?
SOLOMON: Like that he – that any funding for a wall on the Mexican border
would be stopped by his committee. He has no intention of funding that.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: House Appropriations Committee chairman reportedly telling
constituents last night at his telephone town hall that he has no intention
of funding a wall on the Mexican border.
That`s one thing if you`re an average Schmoe. That`s national news if
you`re head of the Appropriations Committee. I mean, if the head of the
Appropriations Committee won`t fund the wall, that means the wall won`t be
funded, not unless you believe that bullpucky about Mexico paying for it.
Nobody fell for that, right?
We reached out to the Congressman Frelinghuysen`s office tonight for
clarification on this point. Also to see if we can get audio of this
telephone town hall or transcript. We haven`t yet gotten our hands on
audio or a transcript, but we did get a statement from the congressman
denying that reporting and saying any request for funds from the
administration will be reviewed in due course by his committee. OK. But
we`d still like to know what you said to your constituents last night.
If anybody else out there was on the line for the last-minute telephone
town hall last night with Congressman Frelinghuysen, anybody has the audio,
or hey, no matter where you are, if you have shareable stuff from town
halls in your town, please send to it me, www.sendittorachel.com. E-mail
it to me firstname.lastname@example.org. Let`s find out who else is very quietly making
That does it for us this hour, but we have much more to come tonight. I`m
about to run to another studio and join Brian Williams and Chris Matthews
and our MSNBC colleagues for an in-depth look at the first month of this
new presidency of ours.
This is going to be fun.
“Trump: The First Month” starts right now.
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