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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 06/24/13

Guests: Ben Jealous

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Today in the news, a riveting real life chase. This is Rusty. He`s a red panda who lives at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. And early this morning when zoo keepers went to check in on Rusty, to say, "Hi, Rusty," make sure everything was OK, they discovered that everything was not OK because Rusty was gone. Cue the urgent tweet from the National Zoo, "We`re looking for a missing red panda. A male named Rusty." Funny they thought the gender would be appropriate in identifying him. We`re looking for Rusty. They included a picture. He was seen -- last seen at 6:00 p.m. last night. Included that picture there, "In case you had seen him, please call." Quote, "Animal care staff have been combing the trees around the zoo since 8:00 a.m. He could be sick or in hiding, or somebody could have taken him." Rusty vanished from his cage at the National Zoo. And maybe he was stolen. Listen up, everybody in the D.C. Metropolitan area, have you seen a red panda? Please help us find him. But maybe don`t get too close if you do find him. Please help us keep an eye out for Rusty, but remember, red pandas are wild animals and will bite if cornered or scared. Also, they wanted to point out that Rusty might be very tired because he would normally be a guy who naps during the day. Also, quote, "Red pandas are arboreal, territorial animals." So, it would be unusual for rusty to wander far from his home range, in this case, his exhibit. So, our nation`s capital was on high alert, the whole city looking for Rusty the red panda who basically arrived from that zoo, by way of Nebraska but was now missing and nobody knew where he was. He could have been taken. It was very scary. And then at 1:25 this afternoon, somebody spotted him near the Airy View Condo Complex at Adams Morgan. The woman tweeted at the national zoo, "Are you missing this guy?" This enterprising person called the zoo, rushed over to where she said she saw him. They brought strange looking nets and a crate and it was tense there for a few minutes between the time we learned Rusty had been spotted to the time we learned he was safely back in custody, but they got him, back in the crate, back at the zoo. He was not hurt. He apparently was very thirsty. He drank lots of ice water once he was home. It was a hot day. If you track where they found him on Google Maps, they say he was a 14-minute walk from the zoo. That`s based on how fast humans walk. Google Maps does not have the option of tracking distances traveled by the average red panda scurrying speed. Now, though, having been liberated from the Adams Morgan neighborhood where he was trying to get a place, Rusty will soon rejoin his fellow red panda, Shima, back at the zoo and the zoo presumably will get a better fence. Rusty, the red panda, found. Hands down, the most interesting chase story of the day. The other absolutely unrelated chase story in day`s news began on Friday night. Friday night, we had that breaking news on the show. You might remember that Edward Snowden, the NSA leaker, in hiding in Hong Kong, had been charged with espionage. He was charged with three violations including unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified communications and intelligence information to an unauthorized person. Each of the three charges they unveiled on Friday night carries a possible 10 years in prison. The fact that the U.S. made public these charges against Edward Snowden means that the United States wanted him to be arrested wherever he was in the world, presumably in Hong Kong which the last place he was known to be. The authorities in Hong Kong reacted to that news on Friday that the United States wanted Mr. Snowden arrested by saying at first they didn`t know where he was. And then, yesterday, they said he`s gone. Mr. Edward Snowden left Hong Kong today on his own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel. That third country was supposed to be Cuba, maybe? Edward Snowden was initially reported to be going from Hong Kong to Cuba via Moscow according to all the reporting this weekend. It was reported he would be flying through Moscow`s airport on his way to Cuba and that, of course, led to a giant media circus at the Moscow airport. A throng of reporters waiting around the airport in Moscow trying to catch a glimpse of Mr. Snowden as he presumably got off his flight from Hong Kong and then boarded his flight to Havana, presumably without trying to go through passport control so he wouldn`t be crossing an international border into Russia, so Russia wouldn`t face any legal concerns about whether or not they were supposed to arrest him, too. But despite all this at Moscow airport, everybody watching out for this guy, and nothing. And it`s not like he was magically able to get on to that flight to Cuba unannounced. This is seat 17A, Moscow to Havana, which was supposed to be Edward Snowden`s seat. That was supposed to be Edward Snowden`s flight from Moscow to Cuba, but as you can see, no Mr. Snowden in seat 17A. It appears he was either disguised really well and took a different seat or just did not get on that flight to Cuba. A bunch of reporters got on that flight to Cuba, though. They bought tickets and boarded that flight hoping they`d be on the same flight as the NSA leaker in 17A. Maybe they`d get to interview him or at least report on where he was headed or play that game where you can interact with other people in other seat rows and it`s like you`re flirting and it`s creepy. Correspondent for the "Associated Press" tweeted, "Cuba here we come, taxiing down the runway, and no sign of Snowden. Seats empty still by 17A." Some of the confusion/excitement surrounding Edward Snowden`s whereabouts today may have been because of deliberate false leads and red herrings put out there to distract from where he was and what route he was actually taking. But still, bottom line is nobody`s seen him. Nobody saw him on the airport in Hong Kong, nobody saw him in airport at Russia. Nobody saw him arrive in Cuba. Nobody`s seen him arrive anywhere. What this means, besides the fact a few reporters took a 13-hour flight to Cuba for no reason is nobody knows where he is and perhaps more importantly in diplomatic terms is nobody has stopped him along the way while he is in transit. No country has detained him. Other governments are not helping the United States get their hands on him. The United States is metaphorically standing there in the street yelling, stop, thief, stop, thief, and the guy running down the sidewalk holding the purse instead of anybody grabbing him or tripping him, instead people are moving out of his way as he gets away with the metaphorical purse we`re screaming has been stolen. Even in this metaphor, though, it maybe important to note that the United States is not actually just yelling stop, thief. What the United States is yelling is stop spy, when the U.S. government unsealed these charges on Friday charging Mr. Snowden with espionage, with spying, that might have made it harder for Hong Kong to arrest him. I mean, think about it. All countries spy on each other, right? If the Chinese government hires you to spy for them, the Chinese government hires you to go to America and steal American secrets and bring them back to China, they cannot very well tell you as part of making that deal with you, you know, by the way, if the U.S. realizes you spied on them, once you`re back here, we will extradite you back to the United States to be tried for espionage if they ask. All countries spy on each other. Charging him with espionage seems like it makes it less likely that China would send him back, asking another country to extradite somebody for that specific crime, that`s a difficult thing to ask. Putting that charge out there in public, on Friday, before American authorities had Mr. Snowden in custody seems like it might have been a strategic mistake. Why did the U.S. do that? That said, China`s saying that the espionage charge made it impossible for them to arrest Snowden might just be another Chinese excuse. They might not have been planning on arresting him at all no matter what he was charged with. The Chinese government rather seems to be enjoying one of the things he`s leaked about is the U.S. spying on China. So, now, they get to crow about that publicly and say the U.S. is a hypocrite for complaining about Chinese spying since America is spying on them. And then they let the guy who let everybody know the spying information get away. So, yes, maybe China was going to do that anyway. And that, so far, has been China`s role in Mr. Snowden`s adventure. In terms of Russia, the joy on the part of Russia in all this is even more blatant. Within basically five minutes of Edward Snowden telling the world who he was, saying that he was the NSA leaker, Vladimir Putin was already volunteering without being asked that Russia would be happy to consider his asylum application. At that point, he had not made any asylum application. The guy hadn`t made any asylum application anywhere in the world. But Putin was put it out there in case he wanted to app to Russia, it would get considered. Now, today, the nation of Ecuador says that it is evaluating a request for asylum that Mr. Snowden has actually made. Ecuador, of course, made its embassy available to the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in Britain. If Mr. Assange leaves the embassy grounds in Britain, British police will arrest him and extradite him to Sweden to face sex crime charges. But Ecuador says it`s OK for him to stay in the embassy. They`re telling him he doesn`t have to leave. So, Julian Assange has been staying in his embassy doing his WikiLeaks stuff. He`s been there for a year now. That same country, Ecuador, is considering taking in Edward Snowden. Although nobody knows how he would get to Ecuador, nobody knows where he is right now. So at this point, this is logistically totally unresolved. But all these questions remain, right? I mean, perhaps the most superficial question at this point is, hey, what`s up with Ecuador? The second question, though, is this as big of a kick in the teeth from Russia and China as it seems to be? With the United States very vocally and obviously upset about the aforementioned kick in the teeth from Russia and China, with Secretary of State John Kerry complaining in very strong terms today, with the White House complaining in very strong terms today. What exactly are our government`s options for retaliating against China and Russia? For at least expressing displeasure instead of just these strong words? Will they do something else? Also, was this inevitable? Was this inevitable? Was this sort of ghost flight red herring, media circus, where`s Waldo mess with Edward Snowden inevitable? Was it going to happen this way inevitably? Or did the U.S. government screw up their extradition efforts in a way that made this all possible and it didn`t have to go down this way? And most importantly, if you do not care for this guy as a personality but do care about this story, what does he still have to leak? Both "The Washington Post" and "The Guardian" as well as Mr. Snowden, himself, have said that he`s only turned over thus far a really small proportion of what he took from the NSA. Does he still have it? Did he hand it over to China when he was there? Did China maybe take it from him when he was in China in some ways he might not even know about? Did he hand any of that material over to Russia when he was there? Or did Russia take it from him when he was there in a way that he might not even know about? Is he planning on handing any of that documentation over to Ecuador? Or Venezuela? Or Cuba? Or Iceland? Or other places that might be red herrings or might be where he`s going? If the espionage charge wrinkles in this case, if this guy should not be seen as a spy but as a whistleblower, would that impression change if he does conduit the information he has got not just to the free press here and in Britain, but to foreign governments? And how much is that affected by whether he does so willingly or whether they just take it off him? What happens next? Joining us now is Andrea Mitchell, NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent and host of MSNBC`s "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS." Andrea, thank you so much for being here. ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Thank you so much, Rachel. Just the fact you could do the red panda and Edward Snowden in the same segment -- MADDOW: It`s a shame. MITCHELL: Perfect. Perfect. MADDOW: It tells you something about the taxonomy of my brain. I file things under chase. We had two of those. MITCHELL: Hunted. MADDOW: On Russia and China part of this, it seems -- you are the expert on these things -- but it seems to me like Russia and China have essentially given the United States a big one-finger salute here. They have really kicked sand in America`s face. Is that -- is that the case, and what does the United States do in response? MITCHELL: That certainly is the case. That`s the way it appears. Unless for some reason that Edward Snowden was not on the plane to Cuba from which he was expected to transit to Ecuador, for some reason, Russia is cooperating quietly and this is going to all evolve in the next couple of hours, overnight. But right now, at least, from what I`m hearing, U.S. officials are very frustrated with Russia. They think that Putin is playing this game, playing it very hard. And they are furious with China. And that is really overt stuff because the U.S. has been very careful to try to say that things were getting to a new place with China. Frankly, the summit with President Xi did not go well I`m told. They found him not as flexible, too hide bound, politically tied up in knots, not at all what they had hoped for in that very informal setting in Sunnylands. So, that wasn`t going very well, but they didn`t say that publicly, and it`s only the kind of threads that I was beginning to pick up. Now they are openly saying they are really ticked off at China. And they`re prodding Putin and hoping they can cut some deal and get him back. MADDOW: In terms of the China/U.S. relations, what are the sort of menu of options that the president or the State Department feel like they have in terms of trying to show their displeasure and retaliate in some way? MITCHELL: Well, of course, China is our banker, so they have a lot of leverage, too. But we have a lot of relationships. I mean, just the Smithfield ham deal. That has to be approved by the federal government. It was on track to be approved. That`s the big purchase. The biggest single purchase pork producer that China wants, which is one economic tie. There are a lot of things that can be done to slow walk approvals for various purchases and other economic interests that China has. Now, obviously China is circling the globe and buying things up that we want and one of the things that the president is doing later this week is going to Africa and trying to compete with President Xi who was just there, already aggressively buying up mineral rights and putting down, you know, his markers in all sorts of places on the continent. So, this is a big economic rivalry, but there are connections and clearly, this is not a good place to be at with China and the United States. And now, Russia blocking us on Syria. If Putin really wanted to try to show the other side of Putin, he could get a big bargaining chip right now with the United States by turning over Edward Snowden. MADDOW: On the opposite end of the sort of number line of international influence, there`s teeny tiny little Ecuador who is really quite proudly playing this rule and seems to be really relishing this position, both with regard to Julian Assange but also specifically now wit Mr. Snowden. How do they fit into this and how does the United States government treat them here? MITCHELL: Well, the United States government does have a big trading relationship from Ecuador`s standpoint, but it has not stopped Ecuador from covering for Julian Assange now for a year now in the embassy in London. I think Ecuador is going to welcome Snowden with open arms if he can get out of Russia. MADDOW: Did the administration make mistakes with Mr. Snowden`s extradition, technically? MITCHELL: It`s good question. MADDOW: Yes. MITCHELL: Well, they did not announce it willingly. It was broken by the "Washington Post" around 6:11 Friday night that that indictment had come down. So, they then confirmed it a couple hours later. It was a sealed indictment. The indictment first came on the 14th of June, so the Friday previous and they weren`t planning to announce it. So, I don`t think they can be faulted for announcing the espionage charge. But I`m told, and what Pete Williams and others who cover the Justice Department say is that the Justice Department, the FBI and justice were working very closely with Hong Kong authorities and thought they had a deal. They were massaging the charges to be serious enough that they could get the extradition but not over the top. This is all very well- coordinated, they were saying. And then perhaps after Assange leaked the fact that the U.S., evidence that the U.S. was spying, big surprise, spying on China, that gave Beijing a big impetus. It increased the support that he was getting in Hong Kong. He began to see those very approved protests in support of Edward Snowden. And that`s when Beijing took it away from Hong Kong authorities and decided that they were going to make it, first of all, get him out of there because it was going to be a very protracted extradition fight. There were a lot of court hearings that would take place under Hong Kong law. And Beijing clearly decided to let him go. MADDOW: Wow. The fact it all unravels with yet another national security leak of what`s supposed to be a sealed indictment. It`s just full circle here. Andrea Mitchell. Host of MSNBC`s "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS," 1:00 p.m. Eastern on MSNBC. It`s required viewing for all RACHEL MADDOW SHOW viewers. MITCHELL: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: Andrea, thank you so much. Thanks. MITCHELL: Thanks. MADDOW: You know, I will say one last note on this. The last interview published with the Chinese press while Mr. Snowden was still in or leaving China was by "The South China Morning Post" today. They published something today that they said he told them a couple of weeks ago but didn`t publish it until today. And what they published was him saying that he didn`t have the job at the NSA and then just come across information that horrified him and shocked his conscience and decided to leak it. Rather, he took the job at the NSA specifically to try to get information that he could take and then publicly disseminate. That`s why he got the job at the NSA in the first place through Booz Allen Hamilton which Booz Allen should maybe do some explaining about. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: On Friday night`s show, we reported on politics in Texas going sort of off the hook. Thursday night, protesters flocked to the Texas state capitol to mount effectively a citizens filibuster of sweeping new antiabortion legislation for the state. More than 700 people signed up Thursday night to be witnesses to provide three minutes each of testimony to the assembly, to an assembly committee to try to slow down this antiabortion bill. It was on to 4:00 in the morning Thursday night/Friday morning when the Republican chair of the committee finally yanked the proceedings and sent everybody home. That was Thursday night into Friday, a big remarkable show of force from the pro-choice side in Texas politics. On Friday night, we spoke with a Democratic state representative, Jessica Farrar, who told us that the protest had been successful in slowing down the progress of that bill. Which is of material consequence here because the special session that the Texas legislature is in right now ends tomorrow night, Tuesday night at midnight. So that is the deadline for Republicans to jam this thing through. When the assembly reconvened this weekend, yesterday, to pass the bill, the protesters were backed by the hundreds, crammed into the capitol rotund rotunda, watching the assembly from the gallery in the legislature. They were cheering, chanting, applauding and occasionally getting kicked out of the place as the Democratic opponents of the bill dragged out debate for 15 straight hours. Remember, their whole strategy is to try to slow this thing down, 15 hours. And in the middle of the debate, we got to one of those moments where Republicans start talking about rape again. Yes. This bill is expected to shut down 80 percent of the clinics that provide abortions in the state of Texas. There would be nowhere to get a legal abortion at all in all of West Texas. It would ban abortion all together statewide at 20 weeks. Democrats propose that rape victims and incest victims, at least, be spared from this bill. The Republicans were having none of that. And when the Republican sponsor of the bill tried to explain her reasoning for why rape victims should not be spared, that`s when things went awry. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. LAUBENBERG: You have hospital emergency rooms we have funded what`s called rape kits that will help the woman. It`s basically clean her out. And then, hopefully, that will alleviate that. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: This is the sponsor of the big omnibus antiabortion bill Republicans are trying to pass in Texas. She says rape victims should not be accepted from the new abortion because rape kits alleviate the problem. The exact quote was, "rape kits that will help the woman, basically cleaning her out." A Democratic representative then interrupted and asked her to please clarify, I`m sorry, I`m not quite sure I heard that. And she repeated it. She said in the emergency room, they have what`s called rape kits that the woman, she`ll get cleaned out. I can`t believe I have to say this, but rape kits, for the record, are the kit that`s used to collect forensic samples from a rape victim`s body to be used in potential prosecution of the rapist. The sponsor of this legislation in Texas apparently thinks a rape kit is an abortion? Has no idea what a rape kit is, but she thinks it miraculously solves the problem of a rape-causing pregnancy. Cleans her out! Ah! So the magic rape kit thing happened very late last night, as Democrats were stretching out the debate on this abortion ban in Texas, in a Texas state capitol full of pro-choice protesters. The Republicans finally cut off debate and adjourned at 4:30 this morning saying they`d be back a couple hours later to reconvene at 6:46 a.m. to try to pass the bill. So, 6:46 a.m. They`d been up and in session until 4:30. They said they`d be back at 6:46 and 6:46 rolled around this morning and the Democratic side did not show up. The Democratic side showed up more than two hours late. Again, remember their strategy is to stretch this out as long as they can. And then, finally, the Democrats delayed until they could delay no further and ultimately it was the Texas state assembly passing this abortion ban at 10:40 this morning Texas time. So, that`s the assembly. Now, it goes to the Senate. Texas Republicans are racing against the deadline to pass this thing when the session ends tomorrow night at midnight. They need to pass it before them. The Senate rules say the bill has to sit for 24 hours after the assembly passes it before the Senate can start. When Republicans tried to waive that rule, a Democratic state senator threatened to speed back to the capitol from planning her father`s funeral in order to stop them from changing the rules and going ahead and skipping the 24-hour period. So the rules stayed. That means the Senate has to sit on it for 24 hours. They cannot start working on the thing until tomorrow late morning at the earliest. Remember, the deadline to pass it is tomorrow night at midnight. And now, State Senator Wendy Davis, Democratic Senator Wendy Davis of Texas, says she personally will filibuster the antiabortion bill and just stand on the floor and personally keep talking until the midnight deadline to stop it from being voted on in the Senate. That, of course, would stop everything in the special session from passing. It would stop a huge transportation spending bill, stop a big juvenile justice bill. But also this ban that would shut down 37 clinics in the state, it would ban abortion everywhere in Texas at 20 weeks. It would effectively ban all legal abortion in all of west Texas. Wendy Davis and the Democrats say they will hold the floor all night, again, and as long as it takes to stop it. Republicans, meanwhile, say they will do anything it takes to get it passed. And the protesters, the citizens` filibuster, has raised a real question as to who is actually going to win this fight. Texas, who knew? We`ll keep you posted. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is what a heavily redacted document looks like. Somebody sat at a desk all day and cloaked the heck out of about 80 percent of these documents with a sharpie marker. There`s enough not to see you`d be hard pressed to figure out what this document even is only looking at the un-redacted parts that you can still see. But this enormously redacted PDF document was released by the Democrats in the House Ways & Means Committee today and turns out it`s kind of important. This is one of the "be on the lookout" lists that was apparently used by the Internal Revenue Service for evaluating applications of tax exempt groups. It was just turned over to congressional investigators and, look, there seems to be a really important line here. Line 16 of this IRS BOLO, "be on the lookout" report from November 2010. The crucial un-redacted part here you see in the fine print, the keyword the agents are supposed to look for down there in the left, "progressive". Here`s what IRS agents are supposed to be aware of. "Political activities: common thread is the word progressive. Activities appear to lean toward a new political party. Activities are partisan and appear anti-Republican. You see references to blue as being progressive. Applicants submit form 1023. Their progressive activities appear to show that C3 may not be an appropriate status." Smoking gun, right? President Obama and accountants were targeting liberals, starving them out to tip the election using their hand-picked treasury thugs like a Soviet-made billy club to silence freedom loving blue progressive liberal types. (INAUDIBLE) Comrade Obama. We caught you now. Or maybe the IRS inspector general should explain not disclosing until now that the IRS was scrutinizing tax avoiding political groups both on the conservative side and on the liberal side. It turns out it wasn`t just Tea Party groups. It was also groups labeled progressive, which means this whole thing is over now. Right? Maybe this whole thing is over now. I think maybe this thing is over now. What do you think? (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Great state of Texas is not just great as in good, it is great as in ginormous. Texas is the size of whole big countries. Countries we take seriously like France. Texas has a huge population, 26 million and growing. To educate all those Texans, Texas has three dozen public universities, full four-year schools. They have more than twice that many community colleges. And these ones all belong to the Lone Star College System. It`s part of greater Houston. Because all of those are public college, they are governed publicly by publicly elected officials. The Lone Star College System has nine elected trustees, people who run for office as public officials. It might not be the most exciting exercise in democracy, but it is, people voting for a government official to represent them in governing. This particular district in Texas got ready for an election in 2006, they got a letter from the Justice Department in Washington. Justice had noticed the district had made some changes from how elections had been held there in the past. One of the things the district wanted to do was cut the number of polling places from 84 down to 12. Oh. That`s a big change. How did they pick the 12 sites when narrowing it down from 84? That`s where it gets really interesting, if by interesting you mean creepy. Quoting the Justice Department, "The assignment of voters to these 12 sites is remarkably uneven." The site with the smallest proportion of minority voters, so the whitest voting site, will serve 6,500 voters, while the most heavily minority site will serve over 67,000 voters. We turn that into a chart to make it clear as a punch in the face. The big new idea in greater Houston was that the most black and Latino and Asian polling place should serve 10 times as many voters as the whitest polling place. Yes, can`t have white people waiting in line. The federal government looked at that plan from greater Houston and they said, no. They told the district to try again in a way that was more fair. And the Lone Star College System in greater Houston had to go along. The reason the federal government was empowered to do that is because Texas qualifies for special scrutiny into something called the Voting Rights Act. One section of the hard fought, hard won Voting Rights Act says that if a state or a county has shown enough problems with racially biased ways of administering election in the past, then that place gets special scrutiny until further notice. At least until it stops having problems. You can opt out. If you`re covered under Section 5 and you can show you`ve gotten over the urge to run your elections in racially discriminatory ways, you can opt out if you can show you`ve gotten better. Until you do, you are covered and cannot change your laws without the Justice Department giving the OK. Voting Rights Act has been very, very popular over the years. A few months after the federal government intervened in that greater Houston college district election, President Bush signed a reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act. The vote in the Senate was 98-nothing. Over the next very few days, this week, these are the votes that are going to be the ones that matter. The United States Supreme Court set to rule this week on a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, the part that`s called Section 5, which says if your history shows you deserve it, any changes you make in holding election will get a second look unless you can show that you have grown out of your past problems. And it`s not like this is a vestigial old law that`s not getting used anymore. Since the law was reauthorized in 2006, there have been 31 proposed changes that the Justice Department has blocked in places that are covered by this section. Before the reauthorization, the Brennan Center counted 153 changes over 6 years in which local governments gave up on them after the federal government merely asked for more information about them. As in hey, what`s up with cutting the number of polling places for Latinos? The states say, were we going to do that? Who, us? And then they backed down because they got asked for more information by it because they`re covered under the Voting Rights Act. That is all at risk now. Predicting Supreme Court rulings is sometimes not more scientific than reading tea leaves, but the initial reaction to the oral arguments on the voting rights act back in February was at the odds of it surviving in tact did not seem good. Again, nobody knows. Until we all know. And that ruling is still to come sometime this week, maybe tomorrow. And today`s ruling at the court on affirmative action, it should be noted, was also not necessarily what people were expecting. The court did not take the opportunity it had to ban the whole idea of affirmative action broadly which some people had been fearing. Instead, the court sent the case they had back to the lower courts with plenty of room for further argument and further challenge. Does that basically cautious ruling on race and justice today signal anything about the overall mood of the court on issues like this? And if the backbone of U.S. civil rights law, the Voting Rights Act is in true danger this week, do the law supporters have any kind of practical response in mind to that expected ruling? Joining us now for the interview is Ben Jealous. He`s president of the NAACP. Mr. Jealous, thank you very much for being here tonight. It`s good to see you, Ben. MADDOW: There`s no reason to speculate since we`re all going to know soon enough. I`m curious as to your expectations how you`re feeling about how endangered Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is. BEN JEALOUS, NAACP PRESIDENT: Look, this court has upheld this act four times in the past four decades. It would be extreme, to say the least, if they were to strike down the act or Section 5 now. So we are continuing to remain optimistic. You know, there were many people who expected that today when the decision came down on Fisher that we would see the future of affirmative action on college campuses close. It certainly didn`t happen. Despite the fact "The New York Times" basically wrote its obituary over and over for more than a week. So we remain optimistic that the court will do as it`s done each time that it`s come up before. MADDOW: Ben, when you look at the overwhelming support in Congress for the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, not very long ago, 2006, 98-nothing vote in the Senate. Incredible bipartisan support, George W. Bush signing it and very proud to do so. If the court does have trouble, sorry, if the law does have trouble in the court this week, do you think that it gets re-legislated? A new version of it can be legislated even by this Congress that might be able to address some of the court`s concerns if that`s the way it goes. JEALOUS: Well, you know, the real concern here is around the formula, right? That`s what the other side is saying is outdated. And if, indeed, we come to that point, we will push very hard, I think, successfully, to get a new formula. The reality is that 98 senators voted for it and many of them are still there. And this country has a very clear interest in not going backwards. We will make our case if we come to that point, but we`re very confident that we will not come to that point. MADDOW: Ben, when I think about that 98-nothing vote, it`s hard for me to imagine confidence that even the senators who were there and voted for it in 2006 would necessarily vote for it again on the Republican side. It just seems like there has been a very quick turnaround particularly in conservative politics, in Republican politics around this issue. I don`t know if you can still count on those votes. Do you have an understanding what happened with the politics there, about how this became newly controversial? JEALOUS: Sure, well, look, back then in 2006, there were at least two big factors. One was that Ken Mehlman, the then-chairman of the Republican National Committee, who just apologized for the Southern campaign, frankly was very stern with his party in saying that they needed to line up and support or he would blast them, himself as their chairman. You know? One of the other factors was the NAACP sent thousands of people to the Hill in a very strong push. But the most important thing was that there was 15,000 pages of testimony, the not from the `60s but the 2000s, saying why we need this. There was almost two dozen hearings on the Hill that came to the same conclusion. You`ll see the same sort of effort mounted. The Republican Party has really struggled because it has been draconian on so many important civil rights issues recently. And if they choose to be draconian nationally, in the Congress, in the Senate, on the Voting Rights Act, explicitly, you know, they could be facing a real backlash, not just from people of color communities, but from some of their own base. MADDOW: Or who knows, the Supreme Court might tomorrow give the Voting Rights Act another stamp, s fist stamp of approval in the last generation and that whole legislative strategy will be moot. It will be fascinating to watch. I look toward forward to talking to you about it again. Ben Jealous, thank you, sir. JEALOUS: Thank you. MADDOW: Ben Jealous, of course, is NAACP`s president and CEO nationwide. All right. On the one hand, the biggest legislative deal since health reform is making amazing progress in Washington right now. On the other hand, it`s about to go to the part of who`s in charge in Washington that cannot count at all. Not even using its fingers. News ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So this was one of those kinds of news days where, like, the prime minister of Italy gets convicted of paying for sex at underage prostitutes at fetish parties that included at least one lady prostitute dressed up like President Obama. This is one of those kinds of days when a prime minister get sentenced to seven years in prison for his underage hooker Obama fetish bunga bunga parties, and doesn`t really make the news here because there`s plenty of other stuff going on, from the Supreme Court rulings to the international where`s Waldo about Edward Snowden, to the opening of the George Zimmerman trial for killing Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, to immigration reform suddenly getting done, to the huge drama in Texas over the abortion bill there, to the big U.S. Senate race tomorrow in Massachusetts, to the red panda escaping from the zoo into Washington, D.C., to the Berlusconi conviction. This is just one of those times in the news when everything happens at once. And into the middle of this hurly-burly news week that we`re in right now, into the middle of all of this the White House this weekend added more hurly-burly. The White House announced this weekend that President Obama will be giving a major policy address tomorrow, on Tuesday. He`s going to announce new policies to try to reduce our role in contributing to global warming and to try to protect the country from the impact of global warming, which of course is already well under way. We usually get an announcement in advance if the president`s planning a big policy speech, but we don`t usually get the announcement in the form of kind of a very dramatic movie produced by the White House and narrated by the president that ends with an on-camera appeal to you, average citizen, to please watch the president`s speech tomorrow. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There`s no single step that can reverse the effects of climate change. But when it comes to the world we leave our children, we owe it to them to do what we can. So I hope you`ll share this message with your friends because this is a challenge that affects everyone and we all have a stake in solving it together. I hope to see you Tuesday. Thanks. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: This is a big rollout that they`re doing here, which might reflect the busyness of the news cycle into which they are jumping here. They`re just trying to compete with Rusty the missing panda and the bunga bunga fetish parties conviction. But it might also reflect what we are told the president is likely to say tomorrow. All the advance word on what to expect tomorrow seems to indicate that the president`s going to announce policies that are not things he wants Congress to do. He`s going to announce things that he is doing in the executive branch that do not require congressional action, which means the White House is not primarily focused on trying to win over members of Congress here to act on the president`s stated priorities. The White House is focused instead on trying to win over the public directly, to support the decisions that the president is making because of what he thinks is right for the country that he`s going to explain tomorrow he is lobbying you on this one, not some congressional committee. The speech is tomorrow at 1:35 Eastern. And Republican howls protests are expected to start roughly three seconds after that. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Today, the Senate did not pass immigration reform, but they did do something that looked like that if you squint. They voted on a part of immigration reform that`s seen as key to locking up Republican votes for it. And the thing passed by a lot. It passed with 67 votes. And it could have been even more than that, had some known supporters not been stuck outside D.C. with flight delays and stuff. Just a huge vote today that could have been even huger. And that bodes well for immigration reform passing the Senate overall by a really large margin. The Beltway thinking here is if the margin by which this thing passes the Senate is huge enough then even the Republican-controlled House will feel like they have to pass it too -- the House, where they don`t really like passing anything except abortion bans and the fake repeal of Obamacare 37 times. The House, the House under John Boehner. Could they actually pass something real? Could they really do it? John Boehner apparently thinks he can do it. At least last week when he met with the all-Democratic Congressional Hispanic Caucus, he told them that he could do it. He says he has a plan to do it. Quote, "In a private meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Wednesday, Mr. Boehner cited the farm bill process to describe how he intended to move immigration reform through the house." The farm bill process. The farm bill process that he talked about on Wednesday is a process that failed spectacularly on Thursday. His whole plan for how to pass something difficult is to use the same strategy that he used to fail to pass something easy. Eke. This was the stinging and embarrassing loss for Boehner. This was the doo-whoop move that made one sitting member of Congress lament to "The Hill" newspaper, quote, "We can`t even do an F -- star star star star star star -- farm bill." that`s how they printed. I will not try to guess what the six asterisks stood for after the letter F. This was a terrible failure for them. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), DEMOCRATIC LEADER: What`s happening on the floor today was a demonstration of major amateur hour. They didn`t get results. And they put the blame on somebody else. Just interesting because you know I love numbers and I love counting votes -- 62 Republicans voted no on the bill today, 62 Republicans. There`s almost no way to offset that. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The Republicans have tried to save face on this face plant. They sent out their numbers guy today, former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. They sent him out to try to make the case that it wasn`t Republicans` fault that they failed on this thing, it was Democrats` fault. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: The Democrats promised 40 votes and they didn`t deliver the votes that they had promised. Our leaders brought the bill to the floor based upon the commitment that Democrats from the agricultural districts made, and then during consideration of this bill on the floor they reneged on the commitment of the 40 votes that they promised and the bill went down. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Oh, no. See, if this is the analysis that makes Republicans feel better about completely losing control of the House and having no idea what will happen there from day to day and vote to vote even though they`re supposed to be in charge, that`s a problem, because Paul Ryan is totally wrong about that. Paul Ryan, math guy, is getting the arithmetic horribly wrong here. Paul Ryan says we thought we would have 40 votes from Democrats, but 16 of them reneged. Look at the number of Republican votes there. If you add to that number the 16 lost Democrats who Paul Ryan says would have made all the difference, the bill still fails. They would still be seven votes shy of winning. The problem is not that they lost Democrats by making the bill too conservative. Even if they had kept all of those Democrats, they still would have lost anyway because of their own side. The Republicans` problem is that they lost so many Republicans, including Paul Ryan himself, who voted against it. And they were so surprised by their own side losing it for them, they had no idea what happened. They still do not understand it. They are bewildered by their own failure. And that is the game plan they say they are going to use to pass immigration reform. And maybe they will. But in assessing that possibility it seems important to note that the Republican leadership in Congress has absolutely no idea what it is doing. To the point where they don`t even understand why they`re failing when they`re failing. Someone should talk to them about the math guy. That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night. 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