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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 06/11/13

Guests: Cecile Richards, Jeff Merkley

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. This is Belzoni, Mississippi, and this picture was taken in 1939. It`s an African-American man, apparently going to the movies. You can see him there in the hat, right? See him sort of in silhouette. Below him, written on the side of the stairs outside the theater, it says colored admission, 10 cents. Because this man is black in Belzoni, Mississippi, in 1939, he has to use a separate door and he has to sit way up in the balcony. In Mississippi now, of course, and everywhere in the country, theaters are integrated and today, this man could sit anywhere he wants. But this particular theater is gone. There is no regular place to go see a movie in Belzoni, Mississippi, anymore. This is an attempt to buy lunch at a Woolworth`s lunch counter in 1960 in Greensboro, North Carolina. This was the first of the 1960s lunch counter sit-ins. Today, in our more integrated country, Americans of any race could sit down and order, even take their time going over the menu in a place like this. Except for the fact that that store where those particular protesters wanted to eat back in 1960, that store closed a long time ago. Finally, a few years ago, civil rights museum able to open in what had been the long vacant old storefront from that Woolworth`s. And here we have another attempt to buy lunch. This time at the Woolworth`s in Jackson, Mississippi, the state capital. This was in 1963. This time, the group included white people and African-Americans sitting down together at that lunch counter in violation of both the unofficial social code and the official law, and bringing upon themselves the outrage and ridicule and abuse of the mob that gathered around them. Today, that same mix-raced group could eat in that same Woolworth`s without fearing for their safety because that place, like all American restaurants, would be an integrated restaurant now. They put a historic marker at that site just the other day, 50 years of the sit-in at that Woolworth`s in Jackson, Mississippi. But I says they put a marker at the site, instead at that store, because as you can see from this picture, the store is gone -- in its place is a bunch of redeveloped stuff including a parking garage. That place with all the restaurants crowded around in that neighborhood, not just the Woolworth`s, that place is gone. The Southern part of the United States did get forced to abolish its segregation laws, but it was a bloody, bloody fight. Throughout the old confederacy, white people were asked first as a matter of conscience, and then finally they were ordered as a matter of justice to integrate on racial lines. And when the white people who had control of the laws and the government and the schools and the businesses, when the fight to hold on to segregation laws was a lost fight and they knew they had no choice but to integrate the society they lived in, in many cases, instead of going through with that and living through that kind of change, a lot of them just decided to quit that society. They gave up public pools and public schools and in some cases movie theaters. They gave up whole cities and moved away. They called it white flight, right? The census from 1960, for instance, records a Jackson, Mississippi, that was majority white. Almost two to one. By 1990, Jackson`s population had made the turn toward getting smaller and it was getting much blacker. By 2010, Jackson, Mississippi, had become the second most African-American city in the nation. White people in the previously legally segregated South, and really across the nation, abandoned places rather than see them change. But white people were not the only ones who moved away. From roughly the First World War through the 1970s, our country experienced what they call the "Great Migration". That`s a term that refers specifically in this country to a great migration of people whose parents and grandparents and great-grandparents were slaves in the South, because even though slavery had technically ended as a lawful practice in this country, it was replaced in the South with sharecropping and Jim Crow segregation enforced by violence and by disenfranchisement. So, all of those many descendants of slaves picked up and moved, moved to the North for the relative, if imperfect freedom to be found in places like Chicago and Oakland and Detroit and D.C. and New York. People who could leave left, by the millions, 6 million African-Americans emigrated out of the South in the Great Migration, from the 19-teens through the 1970s, 6 million. And Isabel Wilkerson`s history of the "Great Migration", it`s called "The Warmth of Other Suns", she writes about how so many African-Americans were leaving the South during that migration that white farmers and business owners in the South in some cases tried to pass laws to get black people to stay put because where else were they going to get cheap labor if they lost disenfranchised discriminated against African-American population who had no choice but to work for next to nothing? We know from historical records that the African-Americans who left the South over the course of the "Great Migration", they came from a whole range of socioeconomic backgrounds. But as it got on toward the 1950s, as we were several decades into that migration, the people who by then were leaving tended to be those who were at the higher end of the spectrum, tended to be those who had the benefit of education, who had the means to seek out and have a hope of getting new jobs in new states that they were going to move to. An education offered a way out, and a lot of Americans who had that, who were well-educated and who knew they would have reasonably good prospects if they could get themselves to elsewhere in this country, with less discrimination, a lot of those people left because they could, but some of the stayed. And one of those people who definitely had the means to leave, the means to leave and the prospects to leave, but who stayed instead was this man, Mr. Medgar Evers, who was born in Mississippi in 1925. Medgar Evers served in World War II. After the war, right around the time he turned 30, Mr. Evers tried to attend the law school at the University of Mississippi at Ole Miss. But Ole Miss was not yet integrated and the school turned him town on the basis of his race. He then became the first field secretary in his state for the NAACP. And at that time that was a job that was not some kind of metaphor for bravery, it was the soul of bravery. Right at the outset of Mr. Evers` work in Mississippi, a 14-year-old boy was kidnapped off the porch of a store in a town called Money, Mississippi. He was taken in retaliation for him whistling or flirting or maybe just speaking to a woman who was white. The kid, Emmett Till, was black, and he was 14 years old. He was tortured, and shot, and his body was dumped into the Tallahassee River. One local law enforcement hesitated to prosecute anybody for the murder, it was Medgar Evers who took it upon himself to investigate that crime personally. The woman whom Medgar Evers married said her husband dressed in disguise when he was doing that investigation. He dressed as a field hand on his trips to collect evidence for that crime. He was known to drive 100 miles an hour to get safely out of town and to try to shake anybody who was following him. That`s what it took to be the field secretary for the NCAAP in Mississippi in 1955. Medgar Evers was brave like that. He worked for voting rights in Mississippi before there was a Voting Rights Act. When registering to vote or trying to vote meant risking your life and it particularly meant risking your life if you were trying to persuade others that they should register, that they should vote. Mr. Evers led boycotts of businesses that would not hire black workers or treat black customers equally. When Mississippians decided to try to integrate their lunch counters by just sitting down at one, no matter what, just taking what was rained down on them for doing it, Medgar Evers made that protest possible in some major ways. He organized that sit-in at the Woolworth`s lunch counter in 1963. Medgar Evers is just one of those key American who at a key time in our country was willing to upset the way things had been so he could get everybody to the way things ought to be. He saw that as possible in the very difficult place where he lived in his very difficult own time. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MEDGAR EVERS, CIVIL RIGHTS ICON: Now for many of us who`ve gone overseas and fought for this country, and fought for Mississippi, we fought for Alabama, we fought for North Carolina, we fought for Illinois, and we fought for every state in this Union. Now, we`re going to stay here and see that the things that the mayor has said become a reality. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Medgar Evers stayed in Jim Crow Mississippi, although he would have left. It`s not that it was wrong to leave, but he felt for him it would be wrong to leave. And so, that is where he was. He was in Mississippi 50 years ago today, 50 years ago tonight. Fifty years ago was the day that Alabama`s governor stood in the door at the University of Alabama and blocked the door with his body so that African-American students could not come in. It was the day that President Kennedy pleaded with the nation for a Civil Rights Act 50 years ago today. And 50 years ago tonight, just after midnight, with the Woolworth`s mob still fresh in the headlines and the reports of the Alabama governor in the schoolhouse door and President Kennedy making that speech on civil rights, with those reports not yet published in the morning papers, after midnight, 50 years ago, Medgar Evers was killed. Mr. Evers was gunned down in his driveway in Jackson, Mississippi, when he pulled up to his house after an NAACP meeting had run late. The Evers had taught their kids to drop to the floor at the sound of gunfire. And after they heard the shots that night, hit the floor, they got up and opened the door, there was Medgar Evers, husband, father, dying. His car keys were still in his hand along with a stack of t-shirts that said "Jim Crow must go." There was no conviction in his murder for another 30 years. Medgar Evers was never as famous as Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks or Malcolm X. They did make the Evers home into a museum not long ago. And if you want, you can go there, you can stand in the driveway. You can see it for yourself. The locals ask you be respectful. You`re visiting a place where a family lived. A few months ago in Mississippi, Woolworth lunch, now Myrlie Evers Williams, she talked about her husband`s decision to stay in Mississippi knowing at the time what could happen to him. She said, quote, "He always said Mississippi is my home. I love the place where I was born and I will do whatever I have to do to make it the best place in the United States of America." "He would say to me, Mississippi is going to be the best place in the country. And I told hill him, you have to be out of your mind. There`s no way Mississippi can become anything better than it is, and quite honestly I do not want any part of it and I do not know how you can do what you do. He said because it is the state of my birth and I believe in it. And he gave his life not wanting to die, but he gave it gladly to help lift this state to where it is today", end quote. For Medgar Evers, he decided that Mississippi was worth staying in when people were leaving, staying in and dying in. And I think it was harder for his family to accept his decision after what happened to him. After his death, they left Mississippi. They joined the great migration in a sense and stayed away from the state for a long, long time. But last year, Medgar Evers` widow returned to Jackson after decades away. She returned to Jackson not just for a visit, but to live and to run the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Institute in Jackson, Mississippi. This week for the 50th anniversary of his death, they unveiled new portraits of the two of them, the young Medgar Evers, who is, of course, outlived by his ideas, in the present day, Myrlie Evers Williams, who`s trying to carry those ideas forward, including in the place where her late husband was most determined to see them take hold. Sometimes history feels very far away, but sometimes history comes back close enough to touch. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Fifteen Republican senators voted against immigration reform today. Specifically, they voted against voting on immigration reform. They voted to support their party`s filibuster so all these Republicans on your screen today, 15 of them, they were against today. But they were not enough. The Senate needed 60 votes to bet the Republican Party`s filibuster. They needed 60, but they got 82. So, the vote to vote, the vote to move ahead on debating immigration reform, despite these 15, it was a giant success today. Despite all that Republican opposition and the Republican filibuster, it was a success, 82 votes to 15. And so now, they move forward. President Obama today saying that although the bill is not perfect, blocking the bill would mean that nothing gets done and everybody knows that is not an option. He says Congress should be able to get immigration reform done this summer. That big 82-15 vote in the Senate today suggests at least some early signs that he may be right. Republican Senator Ted Cruz today not only voted for the doomed filibuster, he also warned darkly that there was no chance that this will ever pass the House. He said it will crash and burn. It will not pass. But, of course, Senator Ted Cruz is not in the House, and he never s been in the house, and his side lost their argument against the bill today the Senate. So, what does he know? The man who does know, House Speaker John Boehner, he made noises today suggesting that the bill might actually have a chance with House Republicans. So who knows? It might happen. And the reason it might happen is, of course, self-interest. Remember, the very first thing the House Republicans did after their party got beat so badly in the House elections and the Senate elections and the presidential elections in November was that they held that retreat in Virginia, right? Which focused substantially on how the Republican Party could try to come back from the electoral dead after that shellacking they just took. And as you see from the headline there, they decided that they really needed to go with the obvious, with their problem with minorities and women. I mean, you cannot lose women, 55-44. You cannot lose black people 93-6. You cannot lose Latinos, 71-27. You cannot lose Asians, 73-26. And still expect to ever win a national election in this country. Republicans have to up their game with minorities and with women. Their first retreat after the election in Virginia, they`re getting trained, right? Successful communications with minorities and women. That particular e event was held in a room named for the plantation of a slave- owning Virginia family. So, yes, even when they`re trying, this stuff does come easy to the Republicans, but they are trying, because they know they need to. And this big vote in the Senate today, 82-15 for immigration reform, that vote, today, and the promise that it might be possible among Republicans in the House to get something passed, too, that will help with what the Republicans need to do. At least it is designed to help the Republican Party`s standing with Latino voters in particular. Now, as for women, the Republican Party`s efforts to seem different to women than they seemed before, that is going a whole different direction, to say the least. When a federal appeals court a few weeks ago struck down Arizona`s law banning abortion at 20 weeks, said that ban was unconstitutional, House Republicans responded by proposing a ban like that for the whole country. Arizona Congressman Trent Franks would ban abortion nationwide at 20 weeks, no exemption for pregnancies that resulted from rape or from incest. The bill even specifically establishes a nationwide ban on having an abortion in the event you find out your fetus is nonviable, it cannot live. A determination of that sad circumstance is often not made until 20 weeks into the pregnancy, but if you find out tragically that the fetus has no brain or no skull or its lungs are not going to be developed and it cannot survive, Trent Franks, his nationwide abortion ban would apply to those cases specifically as well. So, if your doctor tells you your pregnancy cannot produce a baby that will live, Republican Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona will nevertheless force you to carry the nonviable fetus to term and go through childbirth because he says, nationwide, no exceptions. A woman can not make that decision, herself. She cannot make that decision with her family or with her doctor, Trent Franks will decide that for you. That passed out of the Frank subcommittee on a party line vote with all the Republicans voting in favor. It`s expected now to pass the full Judiciary Committee tomorrow with, again, all of the Republicans voting in favor. And then Eric Cantor says he will put it on the House floor next week for a full House vote which will, undoubtedly pass, because Republicans have the majority in the House and they want to vote for this. It will not become law because Democrats will not let that happen either in the Senate or in the White House, but still, this is what Republicans are doing with the power that they`ve got in the House of Representatives. With their power that they`ve got in the states, actually they`re even being more aggressive. Republican governance in Wisconsin has already closed half the clinics in that state that provide abortion because they defunded Planned Parenthood and it had that effect. Now, antiabortion activist Republican Governor Scott Walker says he looks forward to signing a bill soon that will take the same Trap Law strategy as Mississippi and North Dakota have taken recently to try to close as many more of the remaining clinics in Wisconsin as he can. The bill he says he will sign would also force Wisconsin women to undergo a mandatory state-ordered medically unnecessary ultrasound as a sort of penalty or punishment for seeking an abortion, whether your doctor thinks you need one or not, whether you want one or not. Scott walker and Wisconsin Republicans will force you to undergo that medical procedure by order of the state government. That bill in Wisconsin passed committee on a party line vote. It`s headed for the full senate where Republicans are in the majority and so it`s expected to pass. Same deal happening in Ohio where the Republicans just passed budget that not only defunds planned parenthood, it also just directly tries to shut down Ohio clinics, too, with another one of these Trap Laws with which Republicans are now shutting down clinics all across the country. The Republican-controlled Ohio senate passed this thing. It now goes to the Republican controlled Ohio house as of tomorrow. And then when they presumably pass it, it will go to the Ohio Republican governor. So, I don`t mean to presume here, but say good-bye to access abortion in Ohio, as well as Wisconsin. Anywhere that Republicans are in control, really. But Iowa, actually Iowa is really the most amazing one of all of them right now. Meet Terry Branstad. I like to show a picture of Terry Branstad whenever we talk about him and Iowa politics, because something about the way looks is more memorable for some reason than just the sound of his name which nobody seems to be able to remember. I think it`s probably the memorability of his mustache that I`m fixating on. But regardless, this is the governor of Iowa. This is what he looks like. He looks a lot like a famous children TV character from the 1970s named Captain Kangaroo. But he is Bob Keeshan playing Captain Kangaroo. He is Terry Branstad playing governor of Iowa, playing doctor. In his capacity as governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad reserves for himself, personally, the right to decide whether or not you get an abortion. He says he will sign legislation just passed by the Iowa legislature that gives a personal role in deciding on a case-by-case basis whether he will allow Medicaid to cover your abortion, if that is your health insurance in the state of Iowa. The provision in which Governor Terry decides what happens to you is part of an overall Republican crackdown on access to abortion in Iowa, but the specific decision on Medicaid covering abortion because you have been raped or because you were the victim of incest or because the pregnancy might kill you or the fetus is nonviable and will not live, those decisions -- those decisions will not be made by you in Iowa. They will not be made by your doctor. They will not be made even by state law. Those decisions, henceforth, once he signs this thing he says he wants to sign, those decisions will be made personally by him. Individually. He says he will sign that bill this week. He told reporters on Friday that he promises to be very thoughtful in making that decision on your abortion -- as he handles those decisions one by one, personally. If the Republicans` devotion to this cause right now is insufficiently clear, consider also the next national bill they`re moving on on this subject, one that would ban women who are detained on an immigration violation, from having access to an abortion while they are detained. Now, there are exceptions to this. Employees who work at immigration detention facilities, even if they had no medical training, would be left to decide if it seemed to them like not having this abortion might kill you, so maybe they might let you have one in that case. But even then, maybe not. What do they know if they don`t have any medical training? Republicans passed that in committee on Friday, nationally. And it is steaming forward as part of the overall bill funding homeland security for the whole country, because that is essentially what they are working on. They are winning back the women of America by focusing like a laser on the most aggressive and ambitious and relentless anti-abortion agenda that we have seen in this country since Roe v. Wade. They are focused like a laser on jobs, jobs, job-bortion. Every, every day, coast to coast. Joining us now is Cecile Richards. She`s president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Ms. Richards, thanks very much for being here. CECILE RICHARDS, PLANNED PARENTHOOD FEDERATION OF AMERICA: Yes. Good to see you. MADDOW: Are things actually getting worse right now in 2013? Are we just hearing less about it because we`re more sort of inured to the aggressive of this agenda? RICHARDS: We`re seeing a record number of bills introduced, and passed and signed. And just looking at your sort of list here of terribles, one of the most extraordinary things, of course, is every single one of the people you mentioned forwarding the bills and signing them, none of them will ever be pregnant. MADDOW: Yes. RICHARDS: And the thought these men are going to make decisions for women about their pregnancies is incredible. In particularly after we went through an election, in which the American people spoke loud and clear, women and men in this country, which they believe these decisions should be made by women and their families. Not by politicians. MADDOW: Some of the -- one of the things we have seen is that bills and approaches to policy that have been effective at curbing access to safe and legal abortion in some states, like Trap Laws in Mississippi, for example. RICHARDS: Right. MADDOW: Shutting down clinics in that state. We`re seeing other states copy those. But we`re also seeing some innovation. I mean, I`ve never, ever seen anything before where a male governor decides that he will personally make the decision about whether or not people have abortions in this state. RICHARDS: We`ve never seen anything like this either. I think the creativity and the insidious nature of the kind of things that are being introduced and passed and signed, that`s what`s extraordinary to me. MADDOW: Yes. RICHARDS: And signed, is like nothing we`ve ever seen. And, you know, the incredible thing is, and you mentioned the state of Wisconsin where we`ve had health centers shut down -- health centers that provide nothing but family planning. The risk is not only that women are losing access to safe and legal abortion in states, they`re losing access to health care across the board. In Ohio, again, the budget that they are, you know, debating on signing would actually end women`s access to family planning, would end access to Planned Parenthood for a whole host of preventative care as well. And that, again, I think is the most insidious thing about all of this. The same folks trying to restrict women`s access to safe and legal abortion also want to restrict their access to birth control. It doesn`t make any sense. MADDOW: The math does not work in that case. Well, thinking about Planned Parenthood as an institution, obviously you`ve attracted a lot of attention from Republicans both in the states and federally trying to both defund the organization, try to block any sources of funding for Planned Parenthood health centers, but also just attacking the organization institutionally as some sort of symbol of evil. How is Planned Parenthood doing organizationally? How are you weathering this? RICHARDS: The incredible thing is every time they go after us, we get stronger. I mean, in the last couple years, we`ve gained 2 million new supporters, most -- hundreds of thousands of young people. Young men and women who have now joined Planned Parenthood, are activists for Planned Parenthood. I actually think at the end of the day some of these folks in office are going to pay the price at election time. Folks do not want to go back in this country to days before Roe, to days before birth control was legal and available and affordable. So, I actually feel like this is -- this is not a long-term strategy, but it is very discouraging to see, particularly when there are so many Republicans who support Planned Parenthood, who are patients of Planned Parenthood, employees of Planned Parenthood, donors of Planned Parenthood, to see politicians go after women`s health care access. It`s crazy. MADDOW: The only place I differ with you there is it doesn`t feel like this is a narrow group. It feels like this has now become the way Republican governance works. This is become the new normal in the states. It was crazy when Mississippi decided to come up with this variation on a Trap Law that was going to close down the last clinic in the state. RICHARDS: Right. MADDOW: And now that`s the new normal for how Republicans govern everywhere they`ve got power. RICHARDS: I do think, look, I have to agree with you that I think it`s a real danger. An extreme part of the Republican Party is holding the rest of the party hostage. That is -- look, I was speaking to a bunch of women today at Yale who want to run for office. A lot of them are Republican women. They don`t support these issues. They don`t support the kind of politics that they see their party, you know, driving. So, again, and what I do -- I have found is that people are coming out of the woodwork to support Planned Parenthood and we`re fighting back in the states. We just filed suit today in Alabama against one of these bills with the ACLU. So, you know, it`s strengthening the organization, but unfortunately, there are a lot of women who are going to pay the price in the short term. MADDOW: I feel like the big picture here is we saw 2010 was a shock. 2011 was like, oh, wow, they`re keeping it up. 2012, I wonder how this is going to fair in the election. 2013, it is all bets are off and they`re actually going more extreme than they have in the last four years. It`s been an extreme four years. RICHARDS: Unfortunately, I agree. MADDOW: Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood president, thank you very much for being with us. Good to see you. Thanks. RICHARDS: Good to see you, Rachel. MADDOW: All right. For once everybody in Washington is kind of freaking out about the same thing which makes this a good time to see if they`re freaking out in a useful way. That story is coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Two weeks from today is the special election for the U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts. The Democratic candidate is Congressman Ed Markey. Republican candidate is a private equity guy and first time candidate named Gabriel Gomez, who`s also an ex-Navy SEAL. This year`s footage from the seconds of their three debates which took place tonight in western Mass, no particular knockout blow landed by either side, but that is bad news for one side. That is bad news for the Republican candidate since he appears to be seven points back in the polls. And because First Lady Michelle Obama campaigned for Ed Markey two weeks ago and Vice President Biden campaigned for Ed Markey tonight. And President Obama, himself, will be campaigning with Ed Markey tomorrow in Roxbury in Boston. The Senate election in Massachusetts is in two weeks and Democrat Ed Markey, again, in the latest polls ahead by seven. Meanwhile, the election in Virginia is kind of going off the rails. That story`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This was the scene early yesterday morning in a place called Ellicott City, Maryland, which is just outside of Baltimore. Hello. Hello. Anybody home? We`re here from the government and we`d like to talk. That house in Ellicott City is listed as previous residence of a man named Edward Snowden, who is the former government contractor who says that he is the one leaked secret NSA documents to "The Guardian" and "Washington Post." After a couple of different attempts to find out if anybody was home at that house, these gentlemen in the nice ties eventually turned around and left empty-handed. This was a scene later in the day, about 150 miles to the north in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Gentleman you see here being rather stalked by the press in the pouring rain is an FBI agent. He was at this location because he had just paid a visit to this house, which is owned by the father of alleged NSA leaker Edward Snowden. Mr. Snowden the senior reportedly pre-apologized to his neighbors if their previously quiet little neighborhood suddenly started getting lots and lots of press attention. The leaking of classified documents to the media, documents that showed widespread government surveillance of phone calls and e-mails and other Internet activity, that act of leaking has kicked off what is now a fairly predictable sequence of events. Those responsible for investigating the leak, like the FBI guys in the nice ties, they are now fanning out across the country to find and talk to anybody who knew or who came into contact with the self-confessed leaker. And since we haven`t found him yet, Washington is finding it very convenient to make him into a punching bag. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: He`s a traitor. The disclosure of this information puts Americans at risk. It shows our adversaries what our capabilities are. And it`s a giant violation of the law. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: House Speaker John Boehner toy a articulating one of the two main responses we`ve gotten from Congress thus far when it comes to this leak. One wing of Congress which includes folks like John Boehner and Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, for example, they`re saying the leaker is a traitor, his leak constitutes treasonous activity. The problem here is the leak, itself. That has become a sort of bipartisan outcry from one wing of Congress. Get the leaker. String him up. And it seems like honestly that is the majority view from Congress, but it is not the only view. A smaller but vocal contingent in Congress is now starting to say more aggressively, you know, hey, how about we take a look at the program, itself? Not just the fact of the leaking and the guy who leaked it, but what was leaked. When President Obama came out to publicly defend these surveillance programs last week, he said everything was on the up and up because members of Congress were consistently informed about what exactly was going on with this kind of surveillance. Actual members of Congress beg to differ. And you can tell because of the furious pace of briefings that have now been taking place after the fact. Last Thursday, just after the story broke, intelligence officials briefed 27 senators on just the telephone portion of the surveillance program. Later this week, all 100 members of the Senate will get a classified briefing in the Senate Intelligence Committee. Earlier today, all the 15 members of that intelligence committee got themselves a closed-door briefing from the NSA director, himself. Also, today, the entire House of Representatives, all 435 of them, got offered a giant briefing as a group on these surveillance programs, which is an awful lot of briefings on something that Congress was supposedly very well-briefed on to start with. If they all knew about it, then the leak shouldn`t have piqued their curiosity. As Congress continues to push back on this notion that they fully knew about and fully consented to these sorts of surveillance programs, three of the companies at the center of the leaks started waging an offensive of their own today. Today, Google and Microsoft and Facebook publicly asked the U.S. government to please allow them to be more transparent with their customers about the kinds of requests for data they`ve been getting from government agencies. Under current laws these companies are forbidden from disclosing publicly the number of requests and the nature of requests that they get from the government. The companies are now saying, hey, we would like to be able to fell our customers that, we would like to be able do disclose that information publicly. That attempt to bring some more transparency to this whole realm of the law has now translated into real live legislation in Congress. Today, a bipartisan group of eight senators led by Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, they introduced legislation to do away with the whole part of this thing that is essentially secret law. Secret law dynamic that has been established on these surveillance issues. The way it works now is that a secret court hears secret arguments from the government about how far they want to stretch their domestic spying capabilities, and then that court in secret issues secret opinions that the American public never gets to know about. This legislation would essentially scrap this system. It would require the attorney general to declassify parts of that process. The program, itself, can still operate secretly, but the law under which it operates cannot, itself, be secret. This change in the law would add a little bit sunlight, up to this point, has been a very, very dark corner of law and policy. Joining us for the interview is Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. He is the lead sponsor of that legislation. Senator, thank you very much for being back with us tonight. I appreciate your time. SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: You bet, Rachel. Good to be with you. MADDOW: Did I essentially explain that right, that this is not about the secrecy of the operation of the program, it`s about the secrecy of the law that says what the program can do? MERKLEY: Yes, because the plain language of the law is public, and it sets standards. It says there has to be tangible things, there has to be a statement of facts. There has to be information relevant to an authorized investigation. Those are standards. But what we`re seeing in practice is a program that is all phones, all hours of the night and day, all parts of the country. In other words: a blanket dragnet sucking up all cell phone data in America. That doesn`t seem to fit with the standard. So what`s in between? What`s in between is the interpretation of a secret court. You don`t have any idea who advocated for the government`s position or was anyone advocating on the other side to say, wait, your interpretation is way off balance. Does it match the letter of the law? So this secret interpretation becomes the operating law and the public has no chance to examine it and, therefore, no chance to say to Congress, we don`t like it, or maybe we do like it. And that`s what should change. The standards of the law should be public. MADDOW: We have seen one of the previously secret FISA court rulings on one of these programs because it was leaked last week, on the phone program. Looking at that leaked document, and knowing what you know, as a senator, with the kind of access that you do, to what kinds of rulings these are, are you at all sympathetic to argument from the other side that the rulings, themselves, showing you what the law is might, itself, compromise the effectiveness of those programs? MERKLEY: Well, I`m not at all sympathetic, especially now. It`s widely acknowledged by the White House that that was an accurate document. Therefore, the public now knows that our government is picking up all this information. That might have been obvious from the interpretation of the law. It certainly wouldn`t have been what an ordinary person would think reading the law. But now that it`s there, what are the standards? Why aren`t the standards that are in the plain language applied in some way? This -- and so, this would give us a chance. Really, you mentioned the two sides of this: those who are focused on the leaker and those who are saying we should examine the policy. But this should bring both sides together. I want to mention that Dianne Feinstein led a letter that asked her to. She joined in it, she led the letter asking the FISA court to declassify the secret interpretations. Senator Wyden joined that. Mark Udall joined that. So, this could bring folks who might disagree on the content of the policy together to say, but we need to have an open and public debate about the standards and whether we`re off track. MADDOW: When we talked about this before, talked about the last forward in this direction legislatively, you were able to get three dozen other senators to join you at the time. Since we`ve had this uproar over the last week or so out of this new information that has been leaked, are you finding new allies that you didn`t have before? Are you attracting more support? MERKLEY: Well, we just introduced a bill today. We have seven sponsors, bipartisan sponsors. But they`re the sponsors I think all within the group that supported it previously. So, now, we`re going to start the work of educating those who voted against it before. Many of them voted against it because they were told by the floor leader that you couldn`t make a change because the Senate bill had to match the House bill. There will be no such standard if we bring this to the floor again. There will be need to match an existing House bill,. And I hope that all the members can now say, yes, we need to have the public debate and decide, do we like the court`s interpretation? And if not, we need to change the language of the laws to correct it. And I must say, you know, I feel like this is a very big deal. This is something where all of your information about where you are in the country is captured by this metadata. All the folks you talk to, all how long you talk to them, how often. This is a huge invasion of American privacy. And how is your cell phone data or my cell phone data related or relevant to an investigation, which is the standard in plain language of the law? It`s hard to explain that that could possibly square. We need those secret court opinions to figure this out. MADDOW: One of the things that has been unclear about which there seems to be conflicting information reported is the role of Internet companies in essentially facilitating the delivery of this information to the government. Microsoft, Google and Facebook coming out today asking the Obama administration for permission to disclose publicly the kinds of demands from the government they are getting for their data, do you think the government should be allowing them to be more transparent about the requests they`re getting? MERKLEY: Well, this is the other side. You have the phone and records provision and then you have the PRISM program which was much more hidden, if you will. I feel like I don`t have a good grip on its full extent. And here`s the confusion. It appears, from what was leaked, that all sorts of companies are cooperating. Those companies are coming out and saying, no, we`re not. Certainly I`d like to err on the side of a public debate, public disclosure of the principles. I understand that there may be sensitive methods, although at this point, maybe those methods are already presented in a way that there`s not much more protection is need of them. So, I lean toward a yes, let`s get the information, but since I haven`t been briefed on that program, since I don`t have all the details, I want to be slightly cautious until I have a better understanding of it. MADDOW: Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, in that answer making the important point that when they say everybody in the Senate has been fully briefed on all of these programs, it`s not the way at least you guys feel from your perspective on these things. It`s really been helpful to have you talk to us about this stuff, sir. Thank you very much. MERKLEY: Great to be with you. Thank you. MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Any day when NBC`s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel ends up wearing a gas mask while he is at work, that is not a good day abroad. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: There were 10,000, maybe 20,000 people in the square behind me. It was relatively peaceful. I didn`t see anybody throwing stones. They were just chanting anti-government demonstrations. And then the police came in with their biggest show of force of the day. Hundreds if not maybe a thousand riot police stormed into the square, firing enormous amounts of tear gas. They were backed up by water cannons, and maybe quickly cleared the square and filled the skies with so much tear gas that even from our vantage point we had to put this kind of mask. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Richard Engel reporting today from the edge of Taksim Square in Istanbul, in Turkey, the main square where tens of thousands of people have been demonstrating for 12 days now, and where the use of force against the protesters escalated dramatically today after the Turkish prime minister told the demonstrators that they should stop protesting and clear the square. They did not do that. The crowd grew today after that proclamation from the prime minister, the riot police cracked down on the demonstrators in a very big show of force. They repeatedly fired rounds of tear gas and shot water cannons on the very large crowd of protesters in the square. These demonstrations have been going on strong for almost two weeks now. And during that time, three people have died, more than 5,000 people have been injured. There had been a meeting scheduled for tomorrow between the prime minister and some of the protesters, but after today`s very dramatic turn in the streets of Istanbul, we`ll see if those talks still happen. Watch this space. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The swirling ethical question surrounding both Governor Bob McDonnell and the man who hopes to replace him, Republican attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE), Governor Bob McDonnell wouldn`t talk about news that the grand jury is looking into gifts that the governor may have received. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell us anything about the story at "The Washington Post" today? GOV. BOB MCDONNELL (R), VIRGINIA: I really can`t. I came to talk about transportation business, to talk about it. Thank you. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Thank you. Local coverage from Fox 5 in the D.C. area. Once upon a time, particularly right after he was elected, the Republican governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, was the next big thing in the politics -- the hair, the jaw line, the incredibly right wing, Pat Robertson university social conservative anti-abortion background hidden behind a businessy seeming exterior. He was the whole package. And then he became governor ultrasound, and then Mitt Romney didn`t pick him for VP, with the added indignity on the guy who got picked, that was done in Virginia, and McDonnell had to introduce the guy who got the job that he wanted to get but didn`t get. But, now, Bob McDonnell may yet become the next big thing he always wanted to be, but not the way he wanted to get there. We learned at the end of April that the FBI is investigating his relationship with the campaign donor. We learned at the end of May, that the state prosecutor was looking into the gifts of the governor and whether or not he violated disclosure laws. Now, it turns out there is a grand jury. Bob McDonnell, this is your life. The grand jury now, the FBI, the state investigation, all centering around undisclosed gifts to Bob McDonnell and his family, lots of gifts, including the gifts to his daughter for her wedding, and the donor loaning Bob McDonnell a Ferrari to drive, yes, really and all sorts of gifts, too. While the state level investigation goes to whether or not the gifts were properly disclosed, the federal investigation is looking into basically bribery, whether there was quid pro quo, whether he provided favors in his official capacity as governor in an exchange in cash for prizes from this donor. The grand jury details are slim at this point, the one thing we do know reported by "The Washington Post" is that a Republican state legislator who is an ally of the governor`s, he has been called to testify before the grand jury. That is all we have for now. All of this, of course, happening in an election year in Virginia, with the Republican candidate vying to replace Governor McDonnell himself took gifts, previously undisclosed gifts from the same donor who`s gotten Bob McDonnell in all this trouble. Oh, Virginia, I thought the probe would be as interesting as it would get -- I was so wrong. I was so very wrong. 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