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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 05/13/13

Guests: Adam Schiff, John Feinblatt

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thanks to you at home, as well, for staying with us for the next hour. On one of those news days where a lot of very big news broke only to be stepped on by the next big thing breaking a few minutes later. Today, for example, a man was taken into custody in Detroit after a pressure cooker was found in his luggage at the Detroit airport. He reportedly gave authorities a jumble of different stories explaining why he had this pressure cooker. Pressure cookers, of course, were used to make the two bombs that blew up at the Boston marathon less than a month, so you could understand why authorities might be asking. The man detained in Detroit was traveling under a Saudi passport, which reportedly had a page ripped out of it. He`s expected to be charged tomorrow with knowingly using an altered passport and making false statements to the authorities about the aforementioned pressure cooker. We will have more on that story if and when we learn anything more about that. In Philadelphia today, a jury found Dr. Kermit Gosnell guilty of three counts of first degree murder. All the charges, of course, related to his squalid and illegal medical practice in West Philly. The revulsion of what went on in the clinic is universal, but the media coverage of his trial was polarizing. Anti-abortion activists tried to make Gosnell symbolized the legal practice of abortion more broadly, while the abortion rights world has described him as a kind of back alley butcher that they are trying to keep women safe from by protecting the right to access safe and legal abortion services. In Pakistan today, election results there indicate that the new prime minister will be the old prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, who is the man in charge when Pakistan became a nuclear power in the first place. He also tried to establish Sharia law the last time he was in power. He was so hated the last time he was prime minister there that the military coupe that overthrew him was kind of seen as a relief even though it was a military coupe. But what difference 14 years makes? Now, Nawaz Sharif is back in Pakistan. At the White House today, President Obama spoke at a joint appearance with British Prime Minister David Cameron, they each only took one question, but for each of them, it was one big long compound question with lots of dependent subparts. President Obama did expound at some length at some exasperated length on how excited he sees Republicans as being about the Benghazi attack and the subsequent investigations. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If this was some effort on our part to try to down play what had happened or tamp it down, that would be a pretty odd thing that three days later, we end up putting out all the information that, in fact, has served as the basis for everybody recognizing this was a terrorist attack and that it may have included elements that were planned by extremists inside of Libya, who executes some sort of cover-up or effort to tamp things down for three days. So the whole thing defies logic. And the fact that this keeps on getting churned out, frankly, has a lot to do with political motivations. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President Obama also is saying today that the-mails leaked on Friday that showed the revision process for the administration`s original talking points on Benghazi, those revisions, those e-mails, that information had been released to Congress months ago. Congressional committees, he said reviewed them several months ago, concluded that in fact there was nothing afoul in terms of the process we used, but then suddenly, three days ago, this gets spun up as if there`s something new to the story. The president concluded by saying there`s no there there. We`ll have more to come this hour on the president`s press secretary with David Cameron, and the other story, the IRS story that the president also reacted to very strongly and with very sharp language. That is all ahead this hour. But as I say, this is one of those news days when the news was breaking like waves in the ocean, just one thing after the other. The largest late breaking wave of news today was about "The Associated Press". It is a story that both broken by "The Associated Press," and it is a story about them, as well. In what seems to be an unprecedented action, the Department of Justice has written to "The Associated Press" informing them that the Justice Department has been spying on their reporters. In a big, widespread, open- ended way that "The A.P." got no notice about until receiving the Justice Department`s letter, specifically the Justice Department says it secretly obtained two months worth of phone records for more than 20 "A.P." phone lines. It includes the main "A.P." numbers in New York, in Washington, D.C., and Hartford, Connecticut, as well as the "A.P." office for reporters who cover the House of Representatives. And it covers the work phone numbers and the personal phone numbers for five "A.P." reporters and their editor. Now, there`s no indication that the Justice Department has the recorded content of those phone calls. But what they`ve got, apparently, at least, is the incoming call numbers, the outgoing call numbers, and the duration of each call. Now, in response to this notification from the Justice Department today, the "A.P." sent a scathing letter to Attorney General Eric Holder. Quote, "There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of `The A.P.` and its reporters. These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the news gathering activities undertaken by `The A.P.` during a two-month period, provide a road map to `A.P.`s` news gathering operations and disclose information about `A.P.`s` activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know." "The A.P." demands, quote, "that you immediately return to the records the department subpoenaed and destroy all copies. We also ask for an immediate explanation as to why this extraordinary action was taken and a description of the steps the Justice Department will take to mitigate its impact on "A.P." and its reporters. Now, in its letter to "The A.P." that started this, that provoked that response, the Justice Department did not explain why it sought the news organization`s records. It did not give details or justifications for targeting the "A.P." let alone in such a broad way. But we do know these were the reporters and the editor whose records were seized by the Justice Department. And connecting the dots, we know that these five reporters and that one editor all contributed to an "A.P." blockbuster report last year, that the CIA had infiltrated an al Qaeda plot to blow up an airliner. The bomb was reportedly more advanced diversion of the one so-called underwear bomber attempted to use on Christmas Day in 2009. Here was one of the NBC News reporting on that at the time. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: But all accounts, this is a remarkable success for the intelligence agencies of the United States and its allies. And here`s why -- they managed to insert a critical informant into the very heart of the terror group that`s considered the number one threat to the United States, al Qaeda`s offshoot in Yemen. Administration and intelligence officials say by the time this most recent plot was in its final planning stages, the U.S. and its allies were able to follow it in detail. What the terrorists in Yemen did not know at the time these officials say is that the person they chose to be the suicide bomber was actually an informant, someone who had agreed to cooperate with an ally intelligence service. Members of Congress declined to be specific but praised the CIA and its overseas counterparts. REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: This was incredibly good intelligence work. I mean, this is intelligence at its best. WILLIAMS: After the al Qaeda operatives turned over the finished bomb, the informant than drove it safely out of Yemen, where it was eventually turned over to the United States. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was part of the "NBC Nightly News" broadcast on this subject about a year ago. That was one day after the "A.P." published its big scoop. Now, "The A.P." did not report that specific point that the CIA apparently had an infiltrator inside al Qaeda. They what? Right? But "The A.P." was first to report that the CIA had disrupted this bomb plot. That would seem like good P.R. for the administration, right? Except that the al Qaeda bomb plot that was foiled was supposed to go down on the one-year anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden. Eight days before that anniversary, the White House Press Secretary Jay Carney had been very reassuring that there was nothing to worry about concerning that anniversary. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: At this time, we have no credible information that terrorist organizations including al Qaeda are plotting attacks in the U.S. to coincide with the anniversary of bin Laden`s death. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: And then 10 days later, the "A.P." reports, actually, quote, "The CIA thwarted an ambitious plot by al Qaeda`s affiliate in Yemen to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner using a bomb with a sophisticated new design around the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden. And now, "The A.P." reporters and editor who broke that story as well as the whole generic headquarters of news gathering operations of "The A.P." in New York and Washington and Hartford, Connecticut, have all been subject to an unprecedented, broad, weeks-long spying effort by the Justice Department that they were not told about until after the fact and we`ve never really heard of anything like this before. Within the last hour, the White House denied prior knowledge of the Justice Department`s investigation saying, quote, "Other than press reports, we have no knowledge of any attempt by the Justice Department to seek phone records of `The A.P.` We are not involved in decisions made in connection with criminal investigations as those matters are handled independently by justice, any questions about an ongoing criminal investigation should be directed to the Department of Justice." Is this legal? Can you say in an uncomplicated way this is legal? Is it unprecedented? When do we get an explanation and from whom should we expect it? And what happens next? Joining us now is Michael Isikoff, NBC News investigative correspondent. Mr. Isikoff, thank you very much for being with us. MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NBC NEWS INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Good to be with you, Rachel. MADDOW: So, what are you able to report? What are Justice Department officials telling you about why they didn`t tell the "A.P." about these phone records about them spying on "A.P." reporters and editors and news headquarters until after the fact? Until after they`d already done it? ISIKOFF: Well, what they are doing is pointing to Justice Department guidelines or at least select portions of Justice Department guidelines saying that they will not notify news organizations if doing so would pose a clear and substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation. In other words, tipping off the "A.P." to this probe would allow them to tip off their sources and jeopardize the probe. Now, that can be interpreted in a number of different ways, but the most ominous for at least the sources of "The A.P." or suspected sources here would be that they`re close to bringing a criminal case. But what`s really remarkable about this -- this disclosure today is it is not unprecedented for the Justice Department to secretly get the phone records of reporters. We`ve seen it in a number of cases over the last few years, a number of criminal cases, James Risen, "The New York Times" reporter had his phone records and credit card records and bank records all secretly subpoenaed. What`s remarkable here is the sweeping nature of this, the dragnet approach. It`s not a select subpoena for a particular journalist who they suspect got information from a particular source. This was a subpoena for more than 20 phone lines over two months, a two-month period, multiple "A.P." offices, New York, Washington, "The A.P." office on Capitol Hill, home records, cell phone records. It`s a dragnet, and that`s why you have some press watchdog groups tonight and freedom of the press groups saying this is positively Nixonian. They have not seen a precedent for this in decades. MADDOW: Well, on that issue of how widespread this dragnet was, as you put it, doesn`t that affect whether or not this is legal? I mean, don`t Justice Department rules upon this sort of thing say that things have to be targeted as narrowly as possible in order to protect the freedom of the press? That`s why I`m wondering whether or not we`ve crossed over from bad taste in political intimidation into illegality. ISIKOFF: Well, there are Justice Department regulations on this who - - which do state these subpoenas for news organizations should be crafted as narrowly as possible for a limited period of time. And that`s what the "A.P." in that extraordinary letter it wrote to Attorney General Holder today saying seems to be flouted here. But they`re regulations, they`re not laws. And this is a criminal investigation and they do have the absolute legal authority to do this any way they want. But they would have to explain why they`re not following their own guidelines and regulations. MADDOW: Who do you expect that explanation to come from? Obviously, the White House statement tonight makes it seem like everyone should direct their questions to Eric Holder. Is that who you expect is going to have to explain this? Who do you think should come out first? ISIKOFF: Well, it is very interesting because there`s a lot of confusion about who answers this. Holder appointed last June two U.S. attorneys to conduct two high-profile leak investigations. This being one of them, Ronald Machen, the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., and there`s another one involving the Iranian Stuxnet computer virus being handled by the U.S. attorney in Maryland, Rod Rosenstein. What`s not clear is Holder`s own role, because Holder testified shortly thereafter that he himself had been interviewed for this investigation, as that FBI Director Bob Muller and as we`ve since learned, CIA Director John Brennan, because they all had prior knowledge of this -- of the matter that was -- the information that had been leaked. So it would be highly unusual for the attorney general to have been interviewed in investigation and then play an active role. Earlier tonight, I had -- earlier today, I had a Justice Department official tell me that Holder had been recused in this investigation -- recused himself. I`ve been trying to confirm that all night with the Justice Department and have not gotten a clear answer. I was told I would get one by the tile the show has aired. I have not gotten it yet. So, it`s very unclear who exactly approved this. If Holder was recused, the U.S. attorney could have approved this subpoena without consulting the attorney general, or could have been another high-level official, the acting deputy attorney general, head of the criminal division. We don`t know yet who exactly approved it and we haven`t gotten clear answers from the Justice Department tonight. MADDOW: And if it turns out it is a clear flouting of Justice Department, as you say regulations on how broad these kind of subpoenas can be, then it`ll be all the more important to find out who gave the OK. Michael Isikoff, NBC News investigative correspondent -- thank you for helping us figure this out. I appreciate it. ISIKOFF: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: Thank you. All right. We`ve got lots more to come, including what President Obama today called outrageous. He called it outrageous and he called it outrageous twice. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Let me take the IRS situation first. I first learned about it from the same news reports that I think most people learned about this. I think it was on Friday. And, you know, this is pretty straightforward. If, in fact, IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that had been reported on and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that`s outrageous. There`s no place for it. And they have to be held fully accountable because the IRS as an independent agency requires absolute integrity and people have to have confidence that they`re applying it in a nonpartisan way, applying the laws in a nonpartisan way. And, you should feel that way regardless of party. I don`t care whether you`re a Democrat, independent or a Republican. At some point, they`re going to be Republican administrations. At some point, there are going to be Democratic ones. Either way, you don`t want the IRS ever being perceived to be biased and anything less than neutral in terms of how they operate. So this is something that I think people are properly concerned about. The I.G. is conducting its investigation and, you know, I am not going to comment on their specific findings prematurely. But I can tell you that if you`ve got the IRS operating in anything less than a neutral and nonpartisan way, then that is outrageous, it is contrary to our traditions and people have to be held accountable and it`s got to be fixed. So, we`ll wait and see what exactly all the details and the facts are. But I`ve got no patience for it, I will not tolerate it and we`ll make sure we find out exactly what happened on this. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President Obama speaking today at a press conference with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron. In 2010, it was the Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court that said that people and even corporations can make unlimited donations to influence our American elections. And if you wanted to make your unlimited donation anonymously, you should make your big, fat, unlimited anonymous donation to a category of political organizations that is widely considered to be considered a joke. The rule for making your donation anonymously is that the group you`re donating to can`t be too terribly political. It has to be a social welfare organization, which sounds really commie, right? I mean, both welfare and social. In reality, these supposedly social welfare groups are mostly not trying to intervene in elections at all, just trying to promote the social welfare, right? That`s the rule about them. They`re not supposed to mostly be political groups. They`re just about social welfare. But in reality, those groups ended up throughout the campaign season putting on ads like this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AD NARRATOR: To protect America`s patient-centered care, we must replace President Obama. Americans for Prosperity is responsible for the content of this advertising. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Yes, Americans for Prosperity, incidentally referencing the election there, right? Mostly, they`re just concerned with social welfare. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AD NARRATOR: Obama`s solution is to spend even more and raise taxes? Really? We`ve got to take away President Obama`s blank check. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Hasn`t your social welfare been improved by seeing that? Nothing to do with the election, right? When President George W. Bush was in office, the type of political organizations that exploded on the left to oppose him, those were called 527s. Under President Barack Obama, the type on the right that exploded to oppose him, those are called 501(c)(4) organizations. Now, there are some Democratic leaning 501(c)(4)s, as well. Their, quote, "social welfare promotion" tends to look something like this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AD NARRATOR: Cheering on our colleges and their students. It`s something we`re all in favor of. But Republicans want to take away that support. But President Obama has a plan to help. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: It`s a joke, right? It`s a joke that these groups are not set up to be political actors, but tax law says that intervening in elections can`t be most of what these groups are about. And it is an absolute farce. But that is the tax code and after Citizens United cleared the way for unlimited donations, the number of these types of groups in American politics went from something like 1,500 for the 2010 elections to something like 3,400 for the 2012 elections. And the IRS scandal that broke on Friday, this IRS scandal that President Obama discussed today while standing next to David Cameron in the White House, the scandal is about how the IRS handled that huge influx of new organizations applying for tax-exempt status while also engaged in some degree of political activity under this farcical part of the tax code. Starting Friday, reports have surfaced that the IRS in handling these types of claims singled out groups that had the word "Tea Party" or the word "patriots" in their name. And while that might reasonably be a way to find groups that were actually mostly interested in political activity rather than social welfare, it is not fair to apply extra IRS scrutiny and questioning to those groups who are obviously engaged in political activity on the right if you are not also applying that scrutiny to groups who are engaged in political activity on the left. It is the imbalance, right? And thus far, we have no evidence that they were applying equal scrutiny to groups on the left side of the ideological spectrum. The IRS official who on Friday apologized for this targeting of conservative groups documents released since that initial apology on Friday have shown that she actually took some action to stop the targeting of conservative groups as soon as she heard about it. She apparently was briefed on the fact that IRS workers were doing this targeting of Tea Party groups. She was briefed about it on June 29th, 2011. Within a week on July 5th, 2011, she already insisted that they revise the criteria that the IRS was using to make it more ideologically neutral. Six months later, in January of this past year, the IRS revised the criteria that it was using to decide on what level of scrutiny these different levels would get. And this we learned today was the new criteria they started using as of January of last year. I`m going to put it up on the screen so you can see it for yourself in terms of the actual language that we`ve got about it. This is being widely described today in the reporting on the scandal as being a set of criteria that obviously still targeted conservatives. I don`t actually read it that way at all. I mean, if you`re going after groups that are talking about either limiting or expanding government, kind of seems to me that is ideologically neutral and therefore proper. Groups engaging in political activity should get more scrutiny from the IRS than they have gotten in the past. It just can`t be that the only ones getting that additional scrutiny are on the right or on the left. It has to be balanced, right? It has to be ideologically neutral in its application. We will know more when the inspector general report comes out. That should be, if not tomorrow, then sometime in the next couple of days. We`re already getting leaks from what is in that report. The reason, though, this whole scandal has landed like a depth charge, and it`s upset everybody from the president to his most vituperative critics on the right, to everybody in between, the reason this has landed this way is because this doesn`t just resonate for the conservatives who feared apparently correctly that they are being singled out for extra scrutiny by the IRS under Barack Obama because they were conservatives. This kind of thing also resonates for everyone else too because there is a reasonable fear by all of us, by any of us that the kind of power the IRS has could be misused, that the IRS is an agency that the federal government could be used by the federal government to retaliate against political enemies and to try to shape political outcomes in some way. It`s been done before. We`re all reasonably worried that it will happen again. And that fear is being felt right now by conservatives. You can go way back with this stuff, but there are recent examples, even just in recent history of people feeling it on the other side of the spectrum. Just in 2004, that was the election year between John Kerry and George W. Bush. The NAACP released a letter they`d been sent by the IRS. The quote from it singled out by "Politico" who remembered the story and connected it to what`s going on now. Quote, "We have received information that during your `04 convention in Philadelphia, your organization distributed statements in opposition of George W. Bush for the office of presidency." Whether or not that IRS letter was properly sent to the NAACP, the impression that the IRS would in an election year go after the president`s critics, that is a powerful impression. That same year, the IRS also wrote to a liberal church in southern California whose pastor invited a guest to give an anti-war sermon, an anti-Iraq war sermon before the election. The IRS heard about that and responded by threatening to take away the church`s tax-exempt status on the basis of the content of the sermon. The church`s local congressman, Democrat Adam Schiff, ended up meeting directly with the commissioner of the IRS to express his concerns about that when that happened back after the `04 election. So, the inspector general`s report on what`s going on with the IRS and whether or not they were targeting groups on the right without targeting groups on the left, whether that was a mistake that was found and fixed and it`s over, whether it`s been an ongoing problem or wider problem, whether it was a policy decision made by somebody higher up who ought to be fired or whether God forbid it could have been a political decision made for strategic reasons, we`re going to get more information about all of that when the inspector general`s report comes out, which is going to be soon. But if you want to know why everybody has their hair on fire on this, left, right and center all the way up to the president, why the Republicans and the president himself are furious and nobody is defending what happened here at all, the history of worry and well-founded worry about the IRS being used for political reasons, that is why everybody`s so upset. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: This is pretty straightforward. If, in fact, IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that have been reported on and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that`s outrageous. And there`s no place for it. And they have to be held fully accountable. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Joining us now is Congressman Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, who`s calling for an investigation into the IRS, to encompass both the Obama administration and the previous administration. Congressman Schiff, thank you very much for being with us tonight. REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Good to be with you, Rachel. MADDOW: So, one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you tonight was not just because what you`re calling for in response to this current scandal, but also the way you`ve responded when a liberal church in your district where an antiwar sermon had been given around the time of the `04 election, they got what they perceived to be a harassing letter from the IRS. How did you view that at the time? And what happened when you contacted the IRS on their behalf? SCHIFF: Well, the concern I had at the time was here was a progressive church that invited a former pastor in to give a sermon on war issues and got more than a letter from the IRS, that got a full audit, very expensive lengthy audit by the IRS. And this was at the same time, Rachel, when other prominent churches were denying communion to the Democratic candidates close to the election in a way to me telegraphed much more who they thought ought to be the winners of the vote of their congregation much more than anything was said in this progressive Pasadena congregation. So, it made me wonder whether the IRS was selectively enforcing and auditing churches based on the message during the Bush administration. I raise this issue along with one of my Republican and libertarian colleagues with the IRS. I sat down with the commissioner, we wrote to the GAO to look at this to figure out were they being even handed? Were they targeting just the progressive churches? And basically, Rachel, I got nowhere. The IRS wasn`t willing to divulge any information. Even in very generic form, how many churches were they auditing? What were the results of those audits? Even that things that wouldn`t give away information about particular taxpayers, but they weren`t willing to be forthcoming. And it makes me wonder whether this is a more systemic problem that was in the past administration and also in the present administration. MADDOW: How do you think that we should go about funding -- how do you intend to go about finding, as a member of Congress, finding out if the IRS is just screwing up or if they are grinding a political ax? What thread do you pull to find that out? SCHIFF: Well, it looks like the inspector general has done pretty good work and may be we`ll want to ask the inspector general to broaden the investigation that they`re doing. And certainly when the House Oversight Committees look at the inspector general report, I think it may be worthwhile for them to look more broadly at just the current allegations. But I think you`re absolutely right. You know, this is a flawed system to begin with. Many of the social welfare organizations are a sham, but to the degree that this is the current law, we have to make sure we have an IRS that administers that law very even handedly in a politically neutral way. At the same time, I`d love for us to see Congress take action in doing away with this anonymous capability to donate to these organizations. I think that would diminish the problem very considerably. MADDOW: In terms of the social welfare groups and the even-handed application of this sham part of the tax code, which is an awkward thing, isn`t there a possibility that at the end of the day here, what we`re going to end up with is an IRS that has been embarrassed by either screwing up or making a very bad judgment call here? And they`re going to be more shy than they already are from rightfully investigating groups that are abusing the 501(c)(4) status? Should that just be changed? I mean, if Congress can or by some other means so that there isn`t such a temptation with that part of the tax code? SCHIFF: Rachel, you`re absolutely right. The downside of all of this is going to be that the IRS is going to be that much more reluctant to wade into this to investigate any group for fear of claim of bias. But we really need the IRS to be aggressive here because these provisions are being distorted beyond any recognition of what they used to be about. I mean, social welfare organizations used to actually be about social welfare and not just for people in swing states or swing districts around election time. So, we`ve gotten very far afield of the original purpose of this code section, and I think Congress ought to move to either repeal it or at least require disclosure to take away the incentive for these massive organizations to be funneling anonymous contributions. The worst thing that would come out of this, though, I think is exactly what you`re saying. And that is even more freedom for abuse for these 501(c)(4)s. MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, thank you for helping us through this tonight, sir. Appreciate you being here. SCHIFF: You bet. Thank you. MADDOW: The congressman was saying about the difficulty of investigating these things I think is going to end up being very important here. What`s happened in previous either IRS scandals or attempted IRS scandals, a lot of the things you`ve seen ended up boiling down to the fact that the IRS is either constrained by or can hide behind laws that are designed to protect the privacy of tax-related information. And so, investigations of them don`t get very far. A lot is hanging on this inspector general report that`s due out tomorrow or in the next couple of days. It`s going to be really important to see both what they conclude and the scope of what they were able to investigate. And my guess is there`s going to be high-level leadership in order to make sure that the investigation here is thorough and conclusive and that it gets fixed. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, I`m sitting there on the fishing boat out in the middle of the lake, it`s very cold, not catching anything and a very, very important thought crosses my mind out of nowhere. We have not had a good and proper moment of geek on this show in way too long. Tonight, we will fix that. No, I didn`t catch anything. But we`ve got a moment of geek straight ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MAYOR MITCH LANDRIEU (D), NEW ORLEANS: It`s important for us that I have said to change, you know, the culture of death on the streets of New Orleans to a culture of life and it`s going to take an all hands on deck approach. The only way to do is it everybody find out who they are and to stop them from doing it, you know, and as a community to basically say we`re not tolerating this anymore. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu explaining to a shocked city what happened at a broad daylight multiple gunmen mass shooting at the epitome of a family event, a Mother`s Day celebration in his city. As of now, there have been no arrests in the case. There were 19 people wounded, including two kids. "The A.P." just announced moments ago that a suspect has been identified in the shooting but nobody has yet -- nobody has been apprehended yet. Just terrible news out of New Orleans yesterday. And New Orleans is not getting used to this terrible news that they keep getting. The state of Louisiana has the second highest rate of gun homicides in the country. It is a problem in New Orleans and Louisiana that is not getting better, it is getting worse. But if the state`s leadership wants to do anything as matter of policy to try to stop the gun violence on the streets of New Orleans, in one important respect they are hamstrung from being able to do anything. Last year, Republican Governor Bobby Jindal stumped hard for an NRA supported constitutional amendment in his state, establishing a brand new level of strict scrutiny for any laws related to guns in the whole state of Louisiana. The new law essentially privileges the Second Amendment in that state in such a way that even the kind of gun laws that everybody has, even the most basic gun laws like if you`re a convicted felon you can`t buy a gun, even those laws that everybody has, those are in jeopardy in Louisiana and are, in fact, being overturned by lower courts who feel like they have to overturn those laws because of that NRA supported change in the state constitution. Since the elementary school massacre at Newtown, Connecticut, in December, the only changes that we have had in policy have been at the state level. But honestly, the only states that have enacted stricter laws on guns, who have taken action reduce gun violence are basically blue states -- New York, Colorado, California, Maryland, Connecticut, blue states are acting. Red states are not. Or if they are in states like Louisiana where you might think the case for reform would be the strongest, those states are actually running in the opposite direction. Joining us now is John Feinblatt. He`s chairman of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. He`s chief policy adviser to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Mr. Feinblatt, thank you very much for being here. JOHN FEINBLATT, MAYOR AGAINST ILLEGAL GUNS: Thank you. MADDOW: Why is it that many red states are getting worse gun laws even after Newtown, not better? FEINBLATT: You know, it is tragic, in yesterday`s Mother`s Day`s events just drive home the problem that 33 people are murdered a day by guns in this country and too many people are just shrugging and not doing anything about it. The good news is that after Newtown, five states have put in background checks laws, some supported by Republicans, some supported by Democrats, some with the support of A-rated NRA officials. And we`ve got now four states that are considering them, including Nevada. So with states like Nevada and Colorado, we are seeing more than just states in New England. We are seeing more than just -- MADDOW: Getting into purple states -- FEINBLATT: We`re getting into purple states. We may not be in red states. But here`s the tragedy of it. There are 14 states in this country that have actually closed the background check loopholes so that background checks are required at gun shows or on the internet and those states are safer. In the states that have closed those loopholes, 38 percent less murders of domestic partners with a gun. In states that have closed those loopholes, 49 percent less suicides with a gun. In states that have closed those loopholes, 17 percent less aggravated assaults with a gun, including attempted murder. And we have examples of states when they`ve done just the opposite like Missouri that used to be an all permit state. When they rescinded it, murders with guns went up 25 percent. And so, for those people who sort of say laws don`t matter, in fact, we`ve got proof that laws do matter and they keep people safer. And why would any elected official in this country not want to keep its constituents safer? MADDOW: With that experience in which some states who have reformed their gun laws having positive outcomes and the opposite being true for states that have gone the opposite direction, does that actually give you the toehold that you need to try to move senators and members of Congress from various states toward your chosen policy outcomes of the federal level? FEINBLATT: Look, I think more states that pass these laws, the better we`re going to be on the federal level and you see some real profiles and courage in state legislators, because I think state legislators often are like mayors. They see this issue up close and personal. It`s not abstract to them. Like mayors, they`re the people that have to deal with the violence in their neighborhoods and in their streets and so, I think that`s why you`re seeing some states with legislators really compelled. And so those are really courageous stories. Unfortunately, we`re not seeing that courage always on the national level. And I think, you know, Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire is a perfect example of it -- the only senator in New England, including Sue Collins who voted against the Manchin/Toomey background check first. Ayotte tried to rationalize it. It was too much of a burden on gun owners. And then there was data that showed that, in fact, 99 percent of gun owners live within 10 miles of a licensed dealer where they would get the background check that only takes 90 seconds. Then, the senator said well the problem was it would create a registry, but as you know in the Toomey/Manchin bill -- MADDOW: It bans -- FEINBLATT: It bans registries and it makes it a felony punishable by something like 15 years in jail. So it was very disappointing she voted against it. But what was shocking was that now she`s saying that by voting for the Grassley-Cruz amendment, she actually voted to fix background checks, now the NRA is running ads, as Senator Rubio`s PAC running ads in New Hampshire saying that she actually fixed it. Well, it did nothing to fix it. MADDOW: That`s like telling somebody -- that`s like telling the Nielsen company that you`re watching THE RACHEL MADDOW SHIOW and trying to get credit for watching Sean Hannity. It`s actually at totally different ball of wax. Yes. FEINBLATT: So, nobody is buying it I think in New Hampshire. I mean, within the past couple days, there have been editorials in the Keene paper, in the Concord paper, in the Nashville paper, all seeing through this, and saying she didn`t try to fix background checks. She in fact did the opposite. I don`t think 89 percent of people in New Hampshire want background checks so that people who are felons and people are dangerously mentally ill can`t buy guns, I don`t think they`re going to buy it any more than editorial boards of those papers do. MADDOW: John Feinblatt of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, chairman -- chief policy adviser to Mayor Bloomberg here in New York, thank you for being here, Mr. Feinblatt. Nice to have you here. FEINBLATT: Thank you very much. MADDOW: Thank you. All right. In space, no one can hear you sing mostly. Hold on. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Moment of geek. This is a Soyuz capsule undocking from the International Space Station a couple hours ago, carrying three of the six members of Expedition 35 back to Earth. But now, you have probably heard of the Expedition 35 commander, a mustachioed, teen, little hunk named Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. You may have only started from him yesterday when this video of him was singing David Bowie song "Space Oddity" rather won the Internet. But ever since he arrived a couple of hundred miles our heads, Commander Hadfield has been doing everything possible to keep people interested on what`s going on in space. He talked to William Shatner from "Star Trek". The conversation started on Twitter and spoke in real time with one of them here and one of them in space. And then there was the first ask me anything on Reddit from space. Then, there was the first puck drop from space at a Toronto Maple Leafs game. First sing along with Ed Robertson from Barenaked Ladies, and choir leading school children across Canada in song. And there are all the YouTube videos Commander Hadfield he posted from space, showing what it looks like when you ring out a wet washcloth in micro gravity, or what happens when you open a can of mixed nuts in space, which I find mesmerizing. He also reported on why there`s no crying in space, nowhere for tears to go. Commander Hatfield`s Twitter feed jumped from 20,000 followers when he launched to 800,000 as he heads back to Earth. And the video your mom will tell you to watch before the week is out, this video of him doing David Bowie. This has been seen by 2 million earthlings already. (VIDEO CLIP PLAYS) MADDOW: This is not karaoke, dude is singing. This is earnest, this unabashed excitement, serenading the stars without a trace of irony, and understand why this is not embarrassing. Let`s turn to a fake astronaut. Let us turn to actor Wil Wheaton who played on Wesley Crusher on "Star Trek: The Next Generation". Recently, a fan at a convention asked Wil Wheaton to record a message to her infant daughter, explaining to her infant daughter why being a nerd is actually a cool thing. This is his message. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WIL WHEATON, ACTOR: It`s not about what you love. It`s about how you love it. So there`s going to be a thing in your life you love, and I don`t know what it is going to be. It might be sports. It might be science. It might be reading. It might be fashion design. It might be building things. It might be telling stories by taking pictures. It doesn`t matter what it is. The way you love that and the way that you find other people who love it the way you do is what makes awesome. The defining characteristic of us, the people in this room -- I am going to ask your mom to turn this camera around, go ahead. (CHEERS) WHEATON: The common characteristic that ties us all together is that we love things. Don`t ever let anyone tell you that that thing that you love is a thing you can`t love. Don`t ever let anyone tell you, you can`t love that, that`s for boys. You have to love this because you`re a girl. You find the things that you love and you love them the most that you can. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The nerd anthem. You find the things that you love and love them the most that you can. The thing that has been so cool about Commander Chris Hadfield on this space station mission is that the thing he obviously loves most in the world is space and his earnestness about it is the coolest thing in the world. For the rest of us here is hoping we all find something to geek out about. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END