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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 04/17/13

Guests: Patricia Maisch, Chris Murphy

CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: That is "ALL IN" this evening. THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel. RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, thank you very much. MADDOW: Thank you. MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour on a day when honestly any one in about five different big, national, leave-the-news stories would have every network newscast to itself were it not for all the other big national lead-the-news stories that are also breaking today, that are also vying for that top of the news position. The national Republican Party today abandoned Mark Sanford, who used to be the governor of South Carolina and was a presidential hopeful at one point. Today, his party abandoned his effort to get back into office in Congress. Now, on a typical news today, that kind of politics story might very well lead the national news, but not on a day like today. Today, we got arrests and a confession and at least an implicit explanation in the murder of those two prosecutors in Kaufman County, Texas. The assistant D.A. killed in January, the D.A. himself, and his wife killed in March, as of today, finally, we know who did it. Or at least who has confessed, and it is not what people expected to hear in this case. On a normal news day, that kind of thing might lead the national news. But also today, the White House announced that it, too, has received a letter in the mail that`s tested positive for the poison ricin. This comes one day after a Republican senator from Mississippi received a letter yesterday. The late breaking news is a Mississippi man is under arrest for sending both of those letters. We know what the letter said, we know who is in custody, we are now just waiting for the final lab results on what exactly was in those letters. In the midst of that worry over letters like that today, there were several other suspicious letter or package incidents reported in a number of other places in the country, including one letter that shut down Carl Levin`s home state office in Saginaw, Michigan. Another incident involving white powder in an envelope in Wisconsin, that has been cleared now, but at one point in the afternoon that led to a quarantine order at that health center with dozens of people being quarantined on site. And again, any of those stories might be front-page news and beyond on any normal news day. Today`s anything but a normal news day. Today`s also, of course, the day we have been waiting for, for 124 days now. Today is the day that the U.S. Senate decided on the appropriate national response to the elementary school massacre of 20 first graders at Newtown, Connecticut. Today, the U.S. Senate decided that the appropriate national response to that massacre should be nothing. They want to do nothing in response to that, and so they filibustered. This is huge news. The president speaking on the matter from the White House not long after the vote, one of the most powerful and angry speeches that Barack Obama has ever given as president of the United States. Newtown families and Tucson survivors standing with the president at the White House when he made those remarks. Many of them today were looking on in the Senate as the background checks bill was filibustered. There`s a lot to explain what happened there in that story and what happens next. This is, clearly, the biggest policy story in this president`s second term thus far, by far it is. But also in the midst of all of this, still today, the country is riveted to the continuing news out of Boston, after the bombing of the Boston marathon two days ago. The first thing you need to know what happened today in the news about Boston is some of what you may have heard today out of Boston was flat-out wrong. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JOHN KING, CNN: And again, I have a Boston source, Fran Townsend, our national security contributor, has a second source, saying, in fact, an arrest has been made in this investigation that we`re speaking on the early afternoon hours on Wednesday. Here`s what Fran`s source said, federal law enforcement source said, arrest has been made based on two different videos showing images of the suspect. I was told the video enhancement showed a dark-skinned male placing the package at the second explosion site and backing away. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: An arrest has been made, a dark-skinned male placing the package and backing away. Everybody freak out, and, of course, everybody did kind of freak out much of the afternoon with that information. FOX News reported a suspect is in custody in the Boston marathon bombing. "Associated Press" reporting that a suspect is in custody. The hometown "Boston Globe" breaking the news on Twitter, quote, "Breaking, arrest in Boston marathon bombing" and the link, you can see the link there, see the way the link spells out, it says, "refresh equals true." In this case, untrue. We at the show have been glued to the "Boston Globe`s" Web site this week. They are doing stupendous work, but when the big headline says "marathon bomb suspect in custody" and it`s next to the little headline saying there is no bombing suspect in custody, what you have is not an evolving story, what you have is a mess. You have faulty reporting on a really important matter driving a frenetic news cycle all day today, and the pushback from law enforcement was plain and a little bit pointed. From the Boston Police Department, "Despite reports to the contrary, there has not been an arrest in the marathon attack." The FBI went a step further. Quote, "Over the past day and a half, there have been a number of press reports based on information from unofficial sources that have been inaccurate. Since these sources, excuse me, since these stories often have unintended consequences, we ask media, particularly at this early stage of the investigation, to exercise caution and attempt to verify information through appropriate official channels before reporting. So, no suspect in custody today in the Boston marathon bombing. There was no arrest. That did not happen. That doesn`t mean there wasn`t real news from the investigation today. We do know the investigators have been carefully going through a large amount of visual evidence from the scene, pictures and video, right? They say they are looking for people who might have been carrying large black nylon backpacks or duffel bags. NBC news confirmed investigators are seeking at least one person who was seen on security video from a department store near the finish line. NBC reporting tonight that the man was seen leaving the bag that he was carrying near the site of the second explosion. Among the evidence they are considering is this photo from NBC`s Boston affiliate WHDH. You can see the spot shadow there. The photo appears to show a bag sitting on the curb, this is an hour or so before the explosions. And after the explosions, the bag is gone. Now, any number of things could explain why the bag is gone. Is this a clue? Is this a signal, or is this noise? We do not yet know. Investigators are beginning to piece together crucial information about the bombs themselves. Metal containers and in one instance a pressure cooker stuffed with bits of metal intended to become flying shrapnel. Today, investigators say they found a lid of a pressure cooker on the roof that was near the blast. This evening, NBC`s Michael Isikoff and Carl Sears report that new information is available about what was used to ignite the bomb. They say it was the kind of battery that you typically find in little remote- controlled cars made in China and sold by the many thousands. Investigators have also recovered a circuit board used to wire the explosives. NBC is being told by investigators in Boston now they do have solid leads in terms of trying to find out who did this. So, it seems like there was real progress in the investigation today, including some very specific information about some physical evidence that, of course, will be tracked down as best as possible. But overall, if you were following the news out of Boston today, it was really quite chaotic. Reporters gathered at a federal courthouse in Boston for an FBI briefing and it was confusing, was a suspect in custody and being brought to the courthouse for some reason? When it became clear that nobody was in custody but those reports were still out there lingering and people were wondering -- well, if there`s smoke is there fire here, maybe did law enforcement have some other information to share, in the middle of that scrum and reporters and people just collected at the courthouse, the courthouse ended up getting cleared itself and it was not apparent for awhile why they did that. Authorities later said it was a bomb threat that caused the evacuation of the courthouse and the surrounding area and a bomb threat is always scary, perhaps more so right now. But while that was going on today at the federal courthouse in Boston, while all the media was gathered there wondering if these inaccurate reports were going to turn out to maybe be accurate, while this was happening today, it added to the media-generated chaos. Joining us now is NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams, who I should tell you, is in the same building I am in but is at another camera because he needs to be close to his desk phone. It truly is that kind of day in the news, Pete. Thank you very much for being here. PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: You bet. MADDOW: What do we know about what authorities have been able to find from combing through the pictures and videos in the two days since the bombing? WILLIAMS: Well, I think you`ve summarized it well. The Holy Grail for them was to see someone setting down a heavy backpack or duffel bag, a black nylon bag, that they believe this relatively heavy bomb was carried in. They think it weighed about 20 pounds, setting it down at the scene of one or the other of the bombings, and then getting away. And they believe they have found a picture like that, first from the store surveillance camera that you noted, but they since have been able to triangulate that or get other views of it from other pictures and recordings that people who are in the area have sent them. People who have sent them pictures not knowing what exactly was to be found on them. So, they see a face, they just don`t know who that face is. They are trying to figure out that person. They want to find that person and talk to them and find out what their story is. Another possible lead here is the fact that the person was in the pictures talking on a cell phone. So, that gives them a second avenue to pursue here. They can get all the cell phone records for the hundreds and hundreds of people who are in the area at the time using their cell phones and see if that can give them an additional source of information to find out who this person was. So, that`s their most promising avenue right now. MADDOW: Pete, in terms of the physical forensics of the explosives themselves, are we yet able to say whether it was definitively one pressure cooker bomb, whether both bombs were of the same type, are we able to be any more definitive in the way we describe those explosives? WILLIAMS: You know, they still are not saying for sure, the latest bulletin I saw is they are holding back on saying the second one was a pressure cooker bomb. It seems like they`ll get that answer pretty quickly. And the interesting thing is you see these pictures here is that the bomb pieces were not blown to bits. They were seriously deformed, but the pieces are quite large. And this is another indicator that the explosive was probably smokeless powder or gun powder, which is in the order of explosives, a relatively low energy one. If it had been a higher explosive like plastic explosive, or what the terrorists like to use overseas, TATP or dynamite, you`d have seen the pieces blown into smaller pieces. So, that`s another plus for investigators in that they can see these relatively large pieces, chase down exactly the kind of pressure cooker, batteries, wires, and see where that leads. Now, you know, some -- these things may be easier said than done. The battery, for example, is made by a Chinese company, but as you noted earlier, they are common. They are all over the United States. The wire you can see the name on there is made in China, too. You put all these things together, though, they point in another direction. Now, these circuits on the ground, they are trying to decide what they were, were they pieces of an electronic timer or were they pieces of some kind of remote receiver, and I think that`s what they are trying to find out. MADDOW: Pete, do we know yet why there may have been such confusion today whether there had been an arrest and somebody in custody, it, obviously, turned not to be true. But for a long time this afternoon it wasn`t just news outlets seeming to make it up, they were at least saying, they were citing law enforcement sources telling them that an arrest had been made. Do we have any insight into why that happened or whether it was just total miscommunication? WILLIAMS: I don`t know. I`m sure these people -- you know, they are good journalists. I`m sure they were told this by sources, I just can`t say how heavily vetted it was. My guess is, and this is strictly a guess, probably, this is an educated guess, I should say, maybe they initially thought they knew who these people in the pictures were, maybe they were checking out more than one person. Maybe they did go talk to somebody or a witness and that was misinterpreted as, oh, they are about to arrest someone, oh, they`ve arrested someone. That`s just a guess, though. MADDOW: The FBI`s statement refuting those inaccurate reports today, this is part of the reason I asked, warned wrong information like this often has unintended consequences. The way they worded it meant they think this has unintended consequences that could be disruptive to the investigation. Are you hearing from any sources that this sort of misinformation and the kind of scrum and confusion that happened today actually is any sort of impediment to law enforcement getting their work done? WILLIAMS: Well, it`s something of a -- several of them told me today is something of a disruption, because they sort of have to stop and drop everything and try to figure out what`s going on. You know, it doesn`t disrupt everybody. Somebody out there looking for small pieces of something probably doesn`t have to stop to worry about it, but it is something that people have to stop and attend to and try to figure out what`s going on. So, my guess is that`s probably what they are talking about. MADDOW: NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams. Pete, thank you for your valuable time tonight. WILLIAMS: You bet. MADDOW: And thank you for not jumping on the bandwagon today when everybody else did. It was very helpful to have you here. Thank you. All right. I can also tell you tomorrow in Boston President Obama is going to be in Boston, and we now know that he`s going to be there with the first lady, both President Obama and Michelle Obama are going to be together at an interfaith service for victims of the Boston marathon attack. It`s at the Cathedral of Holy Cross in Boston starting at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow. We can confirm they are going to be there, the both of them. We will be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, much more news tonight from Boston and from Washington on the bombing case, and on the possibly ricin-loaded envelope sent to government officials, including President Obama. There was also the vote on new gun regulations today, an extraordinary vote today in the Senate and an extra extraordinary response from the president of the United States. If you have not yet heard how the president reacted to that vote today in the Senate, you will want to stay tuned. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: On last night`s show we reported on a letter sent to Republican Senator Roger Wicker. It was a letter that tested positive in preliminary tests for the poison that`s called ricin. After testing positive in a field test on site, that letter has now been sent to a military lab in Maryland. Field tests for ricin are, apparently, somewhat notorious for false positives, which is why the more advanced lab testing is now needed. In addition to that letter to Senator Wicker yesterday, we now know a basically identical letter was also sent to the White House, to President Obama. It also has tested positive for ricin and is awaiting confirming tests from the lab. Now, both letters appear to be written by the same person, both postmarked April 8th, both sent from Memphis, Tennessee, both said, "To see a wrong and not expose it is to become a silent partner to its continuance. I am KC and I approve this message." Well, tonight, we can report that officials have arrested who is accused of mailing these letters and part of his initials are, in fact, KC. His name apparently is Paul Kevin Curtis, and he is from Corinth, Mississippi, just north of Tupelo, Mississippi. We do not know anything about him yet or the evidence against him other than the fact he has been arrested. In terms of what was in the letters, what substance was in the letters, federal officials tell NBC news tonight that initial lab tests of the letters -- so this is the lab test, not the field test -- the initial follow lab test of the letters were inclusive. There apparently was some level of ricin measured in the lab tests, but the exact potency is as yet unclear, they say that more tests are needed. Joining us now to help us understand what this means is Michael Leiter. He`s the former director of the National Counterterrorism Center. He`s an NBC news national security analyst. Mr. Leiter, thank you for joining us again tonight. Nice to have you back. MICHAEL LEITER, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Good to be here, Rachel. So, we know that the letters to President Obama and Senator Wicker, at least we`re told, contained some amount of ricin. They say they do not know the potency of it. How significant does that seem to you? LEITER: Honestly, until we get the final results probably tomorrow morning, I would still not read much into it. These were tested twice in the field, first the automatic detector was set off, the field test, that was set off. And all those show is if there`s an element of castor beans and anybody can get castor beans and they can be matched up. The lab test shows whether those castor beams in the mesh have been processed so it is actually the protein, the toxic protein, of ricin. And you have to figure out how much ricin there is, how potent it is. That is still inconclusive. So, until we get to tomorrow morning, we really still can`t say whether or not there`s ricin there, versus just elements of castor beans. MADDOW: I know from reading enough about it, they are what you make ricin out of. I know it`s something considered to be one of the poisons that you can do without a large-scale lab, that you can make on your own. But to make ricin that could do somebody some harm, is it pretty hard to do? LEITER: It`s a lot easier than most things. It`s certainly a lot easier than anthrax, which actually takes having to get the toxic form of anthrax and process that and get it down to a very granular level so it can be inhaled. Ricin`s easier, but again, easy to take a castor bean, mash it up, get some remnants of it. It`s a lot -- it`s at least a bit harder to really grind it up, get an element that would either be ingested or inhaled and then actually be toxic. So, people with no training can do it. It`s just not clear whether this individual who apparently had no training was successful in doing it. MADDOW: OK, we will be watching for more details out of Mississippi, obviously, on what this guy was like, what he was trying to do, and also what he gets charged with, if anything. In the Boston investigation, given today`s developments, we`re hearing from Pete Williams that investigators have been able to identify somebody who they think left a parcel which may have been the bomb on site at the parade -- at the grounds of the end of the marathon near the finish line there, they`ve identified what they think is that person doing that thing from a couple different angles. What does that make you think in terms of where we`re at in the life span of an investigation like this? Is this a crucial development? LEITER: I think, actually, every step up to today has been crucial. Each previous step is required to get to the next step. So, the first piece was, obviously, identifying the bomb sites, getting those small remnants, so then you know what to look for on the video. Then we had what appears to be a very successful collection of that video, and then you know what to look for, because you know you had the black bags or backpacks. And from that you now have the ability to identify a suspect. And as Pete also mentioned, now you can go back in time, effectively, and see potentially where that suspect came from, how did he get there, was there more than one suspect. So, this is a really crucial step. There are lots of previous crucial steps, and I think going forward, and I think the reason why lots of officials today really put the brakes on the media speculating was there can still be a lot of steps here, and identifying one person doesn`t mean you`ve identified the cell. And you could have a misidentification, there are still many things that have to go on before this is brought to a successful conclusion. MADDOW: Michael Leiter, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, NBC News national security analyst -- thank you again for your time tonight. It is really helpful to have you here. LEITER: Thanks very much. MADDOW: The FBI had been planning to do a press briefing at roughly 5:00 this afternoon, and they pushed it back to say it was going to be roughly 8:00 this evening, and then they pushed it back and now said it`s going to be some time tomorrow. We will see if it happens then. But today it was bated breath waiting to see if we were going to get more concrete details from Boston law enforcement. At this point, it is a smarter idea to follow the news than it is to anticipate it. All right, it is rare to see any president, any public figure, really, just let themselves be seen as openly disgusted. The country today saw that from President Obama earlier this evening in the Rose Garden. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: There was a striking sight today in Washington as the vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, did something that vice presidents have every right to do, but vice presidents almost never do it. Vice president today decided that he would preside over the U.S. Senate. He decided to be there physically in person to preside over the Senate as the Senate voted on gun reform legislation. This is something that Vice President Biden has worked on very closely. He has spent the last four months pushing for gun reform legislation. And today, he watched those efforts fall in the face of Republican-led filibuster. Republicans and a handful of red-state Democrats filibustered all proposed gun reforms today. They even filibustered the expansion of background checks that had been proposed by a bipartisan pair of senators that both have A-ratings from the NRA. After the vice president announced the defeat of that background check bill, I want you to watch what happens next on the Senate floor. We`ve got the tape. Watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On this vote, the ayes are 54, the nays are 46. Under the previous order requiring 60 votes to the adoption of this amendment, the amendment is not agreed to. Who yields? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President -- SPECTATOR: Shame on you! BIDEN: There will be order in the Senate. The gallery will refrain from any demonstration or comments. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The person who yelled "shame on you" from the Senate viewing gallery today was this woman, Patricia Maisch. The name Patricia Maisch sounds familiar to you, or face looks familiar to you is because Patricia Maisch helped stop the shooter in Tucson, Arizona, the one that wounded Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and killed six others. It was Patricia Maisch who grabbed the magazine out of the shooter`s hand as he was trying to reload the weapon and that prevented him from inflicting any more carnage and he was subdued. That same Patricia Maisch was inside the Senate chamber today registering her vocal disappointment as the gun reform legislation was filibustered into defeat, at least into defeat for now. Patricia Maisch, thank you very much for being here. Appreciate your coming back. PATRICIA MAISCH, TUCSON SHOOTING SURVIVOR: Thank you. It`s an honor to be here. MADDOW: Did you know you were going to exclaim like that? MAISCH: I actually hoped I wouldn`t have reacted in that way. I was just so angry after working Monday and Tuesday and part of today talking to senators about our experiences and how the Second Amendment can be preserved, as well as have this public health and safety issue taken care of, or attempted to stem the tide of violence with guns. MADDOW: I know that you were part of meetings with senators and their staffs. You`ve been here all week long doing that. When you were in those meetings, and I guess now reflecting back on what happened today with the filibuster, could you tell if you were having an impact? What did it feel like in terms of getting a reaction from these folks you were meeting with? MAISCH: We didn`t actually meet with senators except that we did encounter Jeff Flake in the hallway and I stopped to talk to him. MADDOW: Your senator. MAISCH: Senator Kelly (INAUDIBLE) from New Hampshire, I can`t remember how to say her last name. We did speak with them -- MADDOW: Kelly Ayotte. MAISCH: Ayotte, I`m sorry. MADDOW: That`s OK. MAISCH: I didn`t get a good feeling from Jeff Flake, but I hoped we had changed his heart, but, obviously, we didn`t. The other senators we spoke with, they are pretty noncommittal, the verbiage is -- well, we don`t know how the senator is going to vote. So, we didn`t know where it was going to go today. We were hopeful that we would get a successful bill, but, obviously, we didn`t. And it just made me really angry. I feel like those senators that voted no have no soul after the shootings in Newtown and Aurora and Tucson, at the Sikh temple, at Columbine, at Virginia Tech. This should have been a problem taken care of years ago. MADDOW: We`re going to play in just a moment some of the response from President Obama in the Rose Garden today. It`s an unusual thing, the president deciding to respond to that filibuster right after it happened in that very emotional way that he responded with a lot of survivors at the mass shootings standing with him as he did it. We`re going to play that sound in just a moment, but I want to ask you about what he said substantively. He said this is round one, that we are eventually going to get this right, it may not happen today, but this is going to happen. I heard that today from a lot of people who have been very active in this fight. Do you feel that way? MAISCH: I really feel that way, and here`s how I put it. I don`t think we lost today. I think we were denied justice in a way. The majority of Americans feel that sensible gun laws are important and background checks are their number one result also. Our senators need to look for, work for, and a-plus rating from their constituents and stop pandering to get an A-plus rating from the NRA, the gun lobby, and the gun manufacturers and their money. MADDOW: Patricia Maisch, I will tell you I only knew you were here in Washington this week because of you yelling in the Senate gallery today, whether or not you intended to do it, I`m glad you were able to come over here today. I know you spent a couple hours being detained. And it must not have been a great day. Thank you. MAISCH: They were kind and gentle. MADDOW: Oh, good. I`m glad to hear you. Thank you for being here and thank you for grabbing the damn magazine from the kid that day. MAISCH: Thank you for having me. It was my pleasure. MADDOW: We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On this vote, the ayes are 54, the nays are 46. Under the previous order requiring 60 votes to the adoption of this amendment, the amendment is not agreed to. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: After the United States Senate today decided that the national response to the massacre of first graders in Newtown, Connecticut, should be nothing, after they voted to filibuster even the bipartisan background check measure that`s supported by 90 percent of Americans, after that happened today, President Obama did something new. The president almost never responds to specific legislation that`s getting voted down, much less responding right after that legislation is voted down, much less making that response in the Rose Garden of the White House in a formal set of remarks. But today, the president responded in the Rose Garden even while other votes for still happening on subsequent measures on gun reform. The president was joined at the podium by family members of kids who were killed at Newtown and other survivors of gun massacres. It was a remarkable sight. It was a remarkable sight in particular to see the father of one of the little boys who was killed at Newtown standing himself at the presidential podium with the presidential seal on it and everything making his case, making his family`s case to the nation before the president got to make his. Watch this. I`ve never really seen anything like this. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MARK BARDEN, FATHER OF SANDY HOOK ELEMENTARY VICTIM: Two weeks ago, 12 of us from Newtown came to meet with U.S. senators and have a conversation about how to bring commonsense solutions to the issues of gun violence. We came with a sense of hope, optimistic that real conversation could begin that would ultimately save the lives of so many Americans. We will return home now disappointed, but not defeated. We return home with a determination that change will happen, maybe not today, but it will happen. It will happen soon. We have always known this would be a long road, and we don`t have the luxury of turning back. We will not be defeated. We are not defeated, and we will not be defeated. We are here now. We will always be here, because we have no other choice. We are not going away. And every day, as more people are killed in this country because of gun violence, our determination grows stronger. I`d like to end by repeating the words with which the Sandy Hook Promise begins: Our hearts are broken. Our spirit is not. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m going to speak plainly and honestly about what happened here, because the American people are trying to figure out how can something have 90 percent support and not happen? Who are we here to represent? I`ve heard folks say that having the families of victims lobby for this legislation was somehow misplaced. "A prop," somebody called them. "Emotional blackmail," some outlets said. Are they serious? Do we really think thousands of families whose lives have been shattered by gun violence don`t have a right to weigh in on this issue? Do we think their emotions, their loss is not relevant to this debate? So all in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington. But this effort is not over. And I see this as just round one. When Newtown happened, I met with these families and I spoke to the community, and I said, something must be different right now. We`re going to have to change. And that`s what the whole country said. Everybody talked about how we were going to change something, to make sure this didn`t happen, again. Just like everybody talked about how we needed to do something after Aurora. Everybody talked about we need to change something after Tucson. Now, and I`m assuming that the emotions that we`ve all felt since Newtown, the emotions that we`ve all felt since Tucson and Aurora and Chicago, the pain we share with these families and families all across the country who have lost a loved one to gun violence, I`m assuming that`s not a temporary thing. I`m assuming our expressions of grief and our commitment to do something different to prevent these things from happening are not empty words. I believe we`re going to be able to get this done. Sooner or later, we are going to get this right. The memories of these children demand it. And so do the American people. (END VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: Joining us now is United States Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who`s been consumed with this issue for obvious reasons. Senator Murphy, thanks for being here. SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: Hearing the president say sooner or later we`re going to get this right, the president saying this is round one, do you feel that way? MURPHY: I absolutely feel that way. You know, one of the mothers at the funeral of her daughter said that she can`t be hurt any more, because she`s felt the deepest hurt that any mother ever could, so as bad a day as this is, these families are not going away. I mean, their lives have been transformed, my life has been transformed, and I could feel in the last couple weeks the balance tipping. I thought we were going to get this thing passed today. I`m angry that we didn`t. But something happened in these last three months. The capital in the last two weeks was flooded with the families from the victims of Newtown and Tucson and Aurora, and the NRA had their folks up there, but for the first time they felt they were outmanned. And after this vote, something different`s going to happen, there`s a political infrastructure now built around gun reform that never existed before. The NRA raised a lot of money. But you know what? Gabby Giffords group raised twice as much as the NRA. Things have changed here and I think the president`s right, this is round up and a lot of these family members told me they were coming back tomorrow. MADDOW: Wow. MURPHY: They were going back to their hotel room and they were coming back tomorrow. This thing is not done for them. MADDOW: What do you think gets worked on next? What do you want to work on next? MURPHY: Well, I mean, there`s two ways to go here. One, the senators that voted the wrong way are going to hear the fury of their constituents. Like there`s never been a bigger disconnect than we have today. Ninety percent of the American public wants something and the rules of the Senate don`t allow that. There`s going to be a tempest out there in certain states. The second thing we`ll do is continue to try to work with some of these senators. I mean, I hope some of these people are sincere, they want to get to yes. And if they do, we`ll continue to work with them to try to get there. This thing is sitting on the calendar. The third option is one I don`t want to get to, the third is another shooting happens and another 10 or 20 or 30 people die and then we`ll come back and do something. I just hope that`s not the way we get to yes. MADDOW: Is there a way to take portions -- even if you only talk about background checks, we just narrow it down to that -- is there a way to more narrowly target that to try to do it a la carte instead of on the menu? Is there a way to do it that way? MURPHY: This was a narrow compromise to begin with. I mean, you were exempting under this compromise any gun show that sold under 75 guns. And what happened today it wasn`t just the background checks bill that failed, the ban on gun trafficking, illegal gun trafficking, somebody walks into a store, buys a mess load of guns legally and goes out on the streets and sells them illegally, that failed by a filibuster vote today. So, you know, listen, I guess I appreciate the honesty of the Republican caucus. They`ve just made it clear they are just kind of gun control Darwinists at this point. They just think that we should give a bunch of guns to the good guys and the bad guys and let them shoot it out and hope the good guys win. That`s their agenda and a lot of that was made plain today. MADDOW: In terms of the Washington connection to what happened in your state, you talk about the political infrastructure having changed, the families` commitment to staying in this, I can see when I talk to them and hear it from you when you`ve been working with them. What do you think is the most effective thing that can be built in terms of infrastructure or has it already been built and does it just need to be employed? MURPHY: Well, the families are going to keep on coming down. I don`t know how you look the Bardens in the face and tell them you are going to vote against them. I don`t know how you listen to the story of that sweet young boy and the 19 others. But hopefully that emotion over time will begin to have some ripple effects. Ultimately, I think it`s the political infrastructure that`s being built because I`ve got to assume a bunch of these votes today were people who knew what the right thing to do was but still believe in this mythology around the NRA, which is not true, right? The NRA loses more races than they win. But if we build a parallel infrastructure, if we build on what Gabby Giffords has done, and Mike Bloomberg, and we bring that to the 2014 elections, then maybe we change the calculus here. MADDOW: Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, you and I have talked about this a few times now since this process started. I don`t know if this helps you here at all, but your ability to communicate about these issues in a layman`s terms in a way that moves people has been on a curve that looks exponential since the start of this progress. You are very effective advocate for these causes. I`m sorry that you lost today, I know it was so important to you. MURPHY: Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: Thanks, sir. MURPHY: All right. MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: A remarkably busy news day getting busier this hour. I have breaking news to report. The reports of what is described as a major explosion at a burning fertilizer plant just north of Waco, Texas. This appears to have happened about an hour ago. It seems that the plant was already on fire when the explosion happened. A number of injuries have been reported and several buildings are said to be on fire and may be damaged or destroyed. There were also reports that people were trapped at a nearby nursing home and apartment building that may have been damaged by the explosion. So, a developing situation. Again, this is a fertilizer plant near Waco, Texas. At this hour. We`re keeping a close eye on it. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: There has been an arrest and a confession today in the murders of those two prosecutors in Kaufman County, Texas. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LT. JUSTIN LEWIS, KAUFMAN COUNTY SHERIFF`S DEPT.: We`ve announced an arrest has been made in connection with the shooting deaths of Mike McClelland, Cynthia McClelland and Mark Hasse. Kim Lene Williams, 46, of Kaufman, has been arrested and charged with the offense of capital murder for her part in the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. McClelland and Mr. Hasse. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Kaufman County district attorney Mike McClelland and his wife Cynthia were shot to death in their home, March 30th. This murders coming roughly eight weeks after the assistant district attorney for the same county, Mark Hasse, was shot multiple times and killed in the parking lot of the county courthouse. The woman arrested in the case today is being held on $10 million bond, which means she`s not going anywhere. She`s reportedly confessed to a role in all three murders, although she says it was not her, her husband who actually pulled the trigger. Her husband is this man, Eric Williams. He is a former justice of the peace from the same county of the murdered prosecutors. His name surfaced immediately in connection to the murders but it is connections to the prosecutors who were killed. They both played a role in prosecuting him, costing him his job as a public official when he was convicted of stealing computer equipment from the county`s IT department. Within hours of the D.A. and his wife being found dead, police went to visit Eric Williams. They decided then not arrest him but they reportedly swabbed his hands for gunpowder residue and they looked at his cell phone. We know that happened or at least we`re told that that happened because Eric Williams told us so in a bizarre interview he did with the NBC affiliate in Dallas, Ft. Worth. This interview happened April 2nd. It`s the only news outlet we know that he has spoken with. He would only let the news crew interview him with the cell phone camera and not the camera and crew that they had on scene. But he did talk to our Dallas affiliate. He said he was cooperating with police and that he did not do it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ERIC WILLIAMS: I`ve cooperated with law enforcement. I certainly wish them the best in bringing justice for this just incredibly egregious act. REPORTER: Anything you`d like to tell the community or somebody who might think, you know, this Eric Williams guy, you know, has an ax grid and this Eric Williams guy might have done this? What would you say? WILLIAMS: I would say, ask someone who actually knows me from the past and they`ll tell you that that`s not me. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That interview was conducted April 2nd by NBC Channel 5 in Dallas, Ft. Worth. That man`s wife was arrested today in the Kaufman County prosecutors after a confession in which she implicated herself and her husband in the murders. Her husband, the former justice of the peace, is also now in custody. He`s charged thus far with making terroristic threats -- but police say we will learn more at a press conference early tomorrow afternoon. The second murder of a prosecutor and his wife in Kaufman County happened just days after the prison`s chief from the state of Colorado was also shot to death in his home. A man believed to have committed that Colorado murder was killed in Texas two days after that killing. He was fleeing police. He was only about 100 miles from Kaufman County when he was killed. That suspect was linked to white supremacist prison gangs in Colorado. The Kaufman County D.A.`s office was linked to white supremacist prison gangs in Texas. The D.A.`s office had played a role in prosecuting those members of those gangs. Those connections led to speculation and investigation as to whether the Colorado killing and Kaufman County killings were connected. Were they connected to the prison gangs? Were they connected to each other, or both? Now, as I say, we will know more tomorrow after that press conference. But today`s arrests make it seem like what happened in Kaufman County had no connection to gangs, no connection to prisons, and no connection to Colorado. It was essentially revenge by a disgraced former public official. We will know more at that press conference tomorrow and you should watch this space. I do just want to tell you, I have a moment left but I want to tell you about something that just crossed, which is that in "The New York Times" tomorrow, Gabby Giffords has an op-ed about the vote that happened today in the United States Senate that is blistering. "Senators say they fear the NRA and the gun lobby, but I think that fear must be nothing compared to the fear the first graders in Sandy Hook Elementary School felt as their life ended in a hail of bullets. The fear that those children must feel every time they remember their teachers stacking them into closets and bathrooms, whispering that they loved them so that that love would be the last thing they heard if the gunman found them. Some of the senators who voted against the background checks have met with grieving parents whose children were murdered at Sandy Hook in Newtown. Some of the senators who voted no have also looked into my eyes as I talked about my experience being shot in the head at point blank range in suburban Tucson two years ago and expressed sympathy for the 18 other people shot besides, six of who died. These senators have heard from their constituents who polls show overwhelmingly favor expanding background checks and still these senators decided to do nothing." "Speaking is physically difficult for me," Gabby Giffords says, "but my feelings are clear, I`m furious. I will not rest until we have righted the wrong the senators have done and until we have changed our laws." She goes on to say, "I am asking every reasonable American to help me tell the truth that the cowardice these senators demonstrated. I`m asking for more mothers to stop these lawmakers at the grocery store and tell them you`ve lost my vote. I`m asking for activists to unsubscribing from these senators` e-mail lists and stop giving them money. I`m asking citizens to go to their offices and say, you have disappointed me and there will be consequences." And it goes on from there. Tomorrow`s "New York Times", Gabby Giffords. Wow. Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL," reporting tonight from Boston. Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END