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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 07/16/13

Guests: Sam Bagenstos, Susan Zalkind

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. Right now, as we speak, the Florida governor`s office looks like this. Somewhere north of 100 protesters have taken over the statehouse office of Florida Governor Rick Scott. It is peaceful, there have been no arrests. Clearly, there has been singing. But this does not look like it is ending any time soon. This started early this afternoon when protesters gathered on the steps here of the state capitol building in Florida. And then they decided that they were going to march to the governor`s office directly saying they want to meet with Florida Governor Rick Scott. They will not leave his office, they say, until they do meet with him. That means that at least they are planning on occupying Rick Scott`s office overnight tonight. Right now, law enforcement, thus far, saying that as long as the group does not interfere with state business, the group will not be asked to leave. The director of the capitol police saying, quote, "We will close these doors into the governor`s suite and they, the protesters, will be allowed to remain here." Photos of this protest today at the governor`s office were posted on social media by some of the protesters, themselves, also by reporters from Florida news outlets that cover the state capitol and are not use to covering anything nearly this exciting. But unless something changes overnight, this is the office scene that will greet Governor Rick Scott when he finally gets back to work. Governor Scott is apparently out of town at the moment on a trip to New York. But even while he is away, he has already responded in writing to the group`s demands. The protesters say they want Governor Scott to call a special legislative session in Florida to pass what they`re calling the Trayvon Martin Civil Rights Act, which would include a repeal of the state`s "Stand Your Ground" law. Rick Scott today in a written statement, already, said no. The governor`s communications director e-mailed to the "Today" show this statement. Quote, "Immediately following Trayvon Martin`s death, Governor Scott called a bipartisan special task force with 19 citizen to review Florida`s `Stand Your Ground` law. The task force recommended that the law should not be overturned and Governor Scott agrees." Do you remember that task force, actually? The chair who Rick Scott put in charge of that task force was his lieutenant governor -- his lieutenant governor who has since been forced to resign in a corruption scandal over Internet gambling and scamming veterans charities. But, anyway, that task force, under her leadership, made the decision to leave "Stand Your Ground" in place in Florida and Rick Scott says, at least as of this afternoon, he is sticking to that decision. That, however, does not mean that the issue is going away. Yesterday in Gainesville, Florida, another young group of protesters took over the local office of the Department of Justice making the same demand. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PROTESTERS: Stand Your Ground! Change the law! Stand Your Ground! Change the law! (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: They marched from Bo Diddley Plaza, right into the federal building in Gainesville and from there, they marched up three flights of stairs to the U.S. attorney`s office to make their case. Again, no arrests. A peaceful takeover -- a peaceful but very vocal, very determined demonstration. Florida Democratic legislators are now echoing the demands of these protesters, saying that "Stand Your Ground" should be reconsidered in Florida. One legislator who is an African-American man is telling the press now that he says even he personally, now, feels afraid to go running in sweat pants and a hoodie the way he used to because of this case. Again, though, as of late this afternoon, Rick Scott is already saying no to that demand. Him saying no does not necessarily mean the pressure is going to ebb in Florida, and indeed, this afternoon, the pressure stepped up dramatically. Late in the day, when Attorney General Eric Holder gave the keynote speech at the NAACP convention which convened this week in Orlando, Florida. In a surprise move in his speech today, the attorney general springboarded beyond the specifics of this case and the tragedy of Trayvon Martin`s death to make a blunt broadside attack on Florida -- on the laws of the state of florid Florida, specifically on the "Stand Your Ground" law. The law that says essentially if you feel afraid, you can kill the person who made you feel that way. I should note, though, beyond his very pointed attack on that policy issue, though, the attorney general also spoke in terms that were very personal and for him, especially, I think pretty emotional. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Years ago, some of these same issues drove my father to sit down with me, to have a conversation, which is no doubt familiar to many of you, about how as a young black man I should interact with the police, what to say, and how to conduct myself if I was ever stopped or confronted in a way that I thought was unwarranted. Now, I`m sure my father felt certain at that time that my parents` generation would be the last that had to worry about such things for their children. The news of Trayvon Martin`s death last year, and the discussions that have taken place since then, reminded me of my father`s words so many years ago. And they brought me back to a number of experiences that I had as a young man when I was pulled over twice and my car searched on the New Jersey turnpike when I`m sure I wasn`t speeding. Or when I was stopped by a police officer while simply running to catch a movie at night in Georgetown in Washington, D.C. I was at the time of that last incident a federal prosecutor. So -- (APPLAUSE) Trayvon`s death last spring caused me to sit down to have a conversation with my own 15-year-old son. Like my dad did with me. This was a father/son tradition I hoped would not need to be handed down, but as a father who loves his son and who is more knowing in the ways of the world, I had to do this to protect my boy. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Attorney General Eric Holder speaking today at the NAACP convention in Orlando, Florida. What happens next here? The governor`s office in Florida is right this second, and looks to be overnight, occupied with a sit-in. It`s happening now. It`s expected to last overnight and into tomorrow. Protesters demanding to see the governor, saying they will not leave the office until they do get to see the governor, saying that what they want is for Florida`s "Stand Your Ground" law to be taken off the books. This weekend, there will be more pressure and it will be nationwide pressure. Civil rights activists including the National Action Networks and MSNBC`s own Reverend Al Sharpton announcing today that they expect vigils in more than 100 cities this weekend including at federal buildings. Vigils demanding that Eric Holder`s Justice Department bring federal charges in this case now that there has been an acquittal at the state level. If there were federal charges, those would likely be hate crime charges. It was hard to figure out how likely it might be that the Justice Department would try to bring that. Meanwhile, though, the attorney general today bluntly and without euphemism going right after the state of Florida saying its laws contribute to more violence than they prevent. Listen to how the attorney general made his case. Listen to that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HOLDER: It`s time to question with laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sew dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods. These laws try to fix something that was never broken. There has always been a legal defense for using deadly force if, and the "if" is important, if no safe retreat is available. But we must examine laws that take this further by eliminating the common sense and age-old requirement that people who feel threatened have a duty to retreat outside their home if they can do so safely. By allowing and, perhaps, encouraging violent situations to escalate in public, such laws undermine public safety. The list of resulting tragedies is long, and unfortunately, has victimized too many who are innocent. It is our collective obligation. We must stand our ground to ensure -- (APPLAUSE) To ensure that our laws reduce violence and take a hard look at laws that contribute to more violence than they prevent. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Joining us now is Sam Bagenstos. He served in the Justice Department as the number two official in the civil rights division from 2009 to 2011. He`s currently a law professor at the University of Michigan. Mr. Bagenstos, thank you very much for your time tonight. I appreciate you having here. SAM BAGENSTOS, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN: Thank you for having me. MADDOW: The attorney general came out very strongly today against the "Stand Your Ground" law that exists in Florida, and it exists in other states as well. In concrete terms, does the Justice Department have any role to play in terms of seeking changes to laws like that? BAGENSTOS: Well, I think the role that the Justice Department has is really the role that the attorney general engaged in today which is to use the bully pulpit, to try to continue the conversation that really began with the Trayvon Martin shooting about whether these laws are a good idea. MADDOW: As a civil rights lawyer, somebody who practiced at very high levels in this field, can you explain to me how "Stand Your Ground" laws legally mesh with civil rights concerns? I mean, with law enforcement, we track who get arrested, who gets convicted, how severe the sentences are, we can track all that for signs that the justice system is somehow skewed. Is there a civil rights question about the way "Stand Your Ground" is applied? BAGENSTOS: I think there is definitely a civil rights question about how it`s applied. There are some very instructive but early, nonetheless instructive work from the Urban Institute about the racial effects of "Stand Your Ground" laws, and particularly the way that disproportionately it seems like based on what we know in white-on-black crime, you have a higher number of people being exonerated, essentially, because of "Stand Your Ground" laws. So that`s very concerning from the civil rights perspective. MADDOW: What about the attorney general`s argument, today, that these were laws that were designed to solve a problem that didn`t exist? That there was nothing wrong with the age-old consideration of self-defense as a defense to having killed somebody or hurt somebody? Do you agree with him? And what do you think he meant by making that assertion? BAGENSTOS: Well, so, it`s always been the case that self-defense even before "Stand Your Ground" law existed that a person can defend him or herself if there is a threat to life or serious bodily injury. And there`s no reasonable opportunity to retreat with safety. What the "Stand Your Ground" law does is says a person doesn`t have to retreat, doesn`t have to break off from a fight like that, even if there`s an opportunity to do so safely. So, it increases the chances that someone will use deadly force when it`s not really necessary to do that. MADDOW: One of the unknowns, beyond whether or not Florida might change its "Stand Your Ground" law, other states might in response to the kind of pressure we saw from the attorney general, from these protesters today, pressure I think that`s going to be ongoing -- one of the other things we`re waiting to find out is whether the Justice Department might get involved to prosecute George Zimmerman under federal charges. Likely that would be federal hate crimes law. How difficult do you think it would be to make that case? Much of the commentary around that makes it sound like it would be almost impossible. BAGENSTOS: Well, I think it would be very difficult. So, in order to prove a hate crime, the Justice Department would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that George Zimmerman acted because of Trayvon Martin`s race. And the problem with proving that beyond a reasonable doubt in a case like this is there were only two people who were there close enough to really hear what went on. One is dead and the other person doesn`t have to testify. So, proving what was on his mind is going to have very difficult. MADDOW: From your experience, at the Justice Department, should people understand the hate crimes law as being more symbolic value or political value than prosecutorial value? I mean, are cases brought under those statutes? BAGENSTOS: A lot of cases are brought. It`s actually a very significant and important statute. In the years from 2009 to 2012, the Justice Department got convictions of 141 defendants in hate crimes cases. These are hate crimes involving people targeted because of race as well as people targeted because of religion, sexual orientation, et cetera. It`s very, very significant and important problem. MADDOW: Sam Bagenstos, former principal deputy assistant general for civil rights at the Justice Department, now at University of Michigan law - - thank you very much for your time tonight, professor. It`s nice to have you here. BAGENSTOS: Thank you very much. MADDOW: Thanks. At around 5:00 today, 5:00 Eastern Time, the news gods looked down on us, felt a twinge of pity and said -- here, this is for you. That gift is next. Thank you. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: A lot of the big amendments to the Constitution, even if you don`t remember all the details, at least they bring something to mind right away. First Amendment, freedom of speech. Second Amendment, that`s the guns one, right? Fifth Amendment, self-incrimination. You know, I take the Fifth. But the 12th Amendment? Anyone? The 12th Amendment is the Dick Cheney has to pretend he doesn`t live in Dallas amendment. Seriously. The 12th Amendment is a big, long amendment explaining how we vote for presidents and the Electoral College. But look at the first line. "The electors shall meet in their respected states and vote by ballot for president and vice president. One of whom at least shall not be the inhabitant of the same state with themselves." This it turns out is an awkward thing. This made even more awkward in already astoundingly awkward situation in the summer of the year 2000. The governor of Texas at that time, of course, George W. Bush, was running for president. You will recall he outsourced the job of picking a vice president running mate to his father`s former defense secretary, Dick Cheney. Now, before being Dick Cheney defense secretary, Dick Cheney had been Wyoming Congressman Dick Cheney but hadn`t lived in Wyoming for years. He was running Halliburton. He was running the big oil field service company that he had turned into a giant defense contractor. And Halliburton was headquartered in Texas. And Dick Cheney and his family were living in Texas. They were living in Dallas. They`d been living there full time for years. And from his perch in Dallas, where he lived, Dick Cheney took a long, hard look at all the possibilities he was given for who could be George W. Bush`s running mate. Dick Cheney, after reviewing everybody, decided the best man for the job was Dick Cheney. He picked himself -- which is awkward in so many ways. But Dick Cheney don`t care. He picked himself. That`s what he`s like. But that 12th Amendment was going to be a problem, right? Because George Bush lived in Texas, obviously. He was governor. And Dick Cheney also obviously lived in Texas. He lived in Dallas and ran Halliburton from there. But that meant they`re both Texans. And under the 12th Amendment, when Texas` electors would meet to cast the state`s electoral votes for president and vice president, they would be barred by the 12th Amendment of the constitution from casting those votes for both George Bush and Dick Cheney. They could vote for one or the other of them but could not vote for both of them. If it turned out to be a close election in 2000, that might matter. How do deal with this problem? Dick Cheney decided to move, technically, at least. Cheney lived in Dallas while he was chairman of Halliburton company until he changed his voting registration to Teton County, Wyoming. Four days before becoming Bush`s running mate. Cheney lived in Dallas, but he changed his registration to Wyoming four days before the announcement that he had picked himself to be Bush`s running mate. Nice work. Maybe people won`t notice. Last week, Cheney put his Dallas house up for sale for $3.1 million. He didn`t even bother to put his Dallas house on the market until election night was already over and the results were tied up in the Bush v. Gore mess. Ultimately, Dick Cheney`s house was bought by a Republican Party donor and everybody went on to forget about the Cheney residency scandal. We instead absorbed the fact, regardless of how he got the job, Dick Cheney being vice president was the closest that true radicalism had been to the office of the presidency of the United States since Eugene V. Debs ran for president from prison and came in third. That was a different kind of radicalism. But now, that whole issue is all coming rushing back, because today mini-me Cheney, today Dick Cheney`s daughter, Liz, his ideological clone, the daughter so close to him that she wrote her father`s memoirs and no one thought it was word, Liz Cheney today announced that she, too, has ma a convenient change of business address in order to pursue the family business of getting into positions of political power that no one ever wanted them to run for. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LIZ CHENEY, DICK CHENEY`S DAUGHTER: By a federal government grown far beyond anything, the pioneers of our great state could ever have imagined. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Our -- our great state, did you say? What state would that be? Ah, the state of Cheney. Where who cares where you actually live. Liz Cheney today announcing that she will try to unseat Republican Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming even though she`s never lived in Wyoming. She`s from D.C. You know, it worked for dad when he was in Dallas. Why not? There have been rumors for a while in Wyoming that Liz Cheney might try to pull something like this off. The local paper in Cody, Wyoming, "The Cody Enterprise" just last week editorialized that she seemed nice enough, they sure liked her dad, but, really, it was ridiculous she would run for any office in Wyoming. "Liz Cheney, the former State Department official and ongoing FOX News commentator, increasingly is looking like she plans to run for that seat even though Senator Mike Enzi seeks re-election for the fourth term. If she does, it will be the end of her in Wyoming politics." "A California group this summer is promoting her GOP candidacy," says the Cody newspaper. "That`s going over with Wyoming people like a lead balloon and only serves to remind folks that Cheney is a Wyomingite in address only. Until last year she had never lived in the state." The paper continued, "We don`t like the term `carpetbagger` but has a place in politics for those who move here and promptly presume to represent us in high office. She`s from D.C., lives here a few years and wants us to pay for her to move back to D.C. Not going to happen," end quote. For his part, the Republican senator who Liz Cheney says she is going to challenge for his job, he says that she had told him explicitly if he was going to run for re-election, she would not run against him. Speaking to reporters today, Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi said, "Obviously, that was not correct." Asked a follow-up question about his relationship with Liz Cheney, the senator said, "Well, I thought we were friends." Friends with a Cheney. Right. When there`s a position of power at stake, friends with a Cheney, right? (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: The word you are looking for here is "shameless". (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: You know, there is something in politics that is worse than just losing the argument. And that is when your side of the argument starts to sound like this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you learn about breeding, you learn that you cannot breed Secretariat to a donkey and expect to win the Kentucky Derby. You guys have incredible DNA, and don`t forget it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The arguments against immigration reform have now arrived at the point where the Republican side is talking about donkey DNA. Hold on. There`s more from that. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The federal courthouse outside of Boston does not have cameras in it. If it did, it might have been a real rival to the Zimmerman trial for being the epicenter of a media universe this past week. Because simultaneously in the Boston federal courthouse, we`ve had the ongoing trial of Whitey Bulger, which the missing for 16 years Boston mob boss criminal mastermind is now found and in custody and charged with killing 19 people in a reign of terror that captivated and enthralled and terrified Boston for decades. And in the trial, he`s facing his former fellow gangsters and still trying to convince them all he`s not a rat for the FBI and never was. So, in that trial, we have days like Whitey Bulger screaming "F you" at other gangsters on the witness stand and the gangsters are screaming it back at him with the federal marshals having to intervene physically between the witnesses and the defendant in the courtroom. And people are confessing to their culpability for decades-old murders, apologizing to the victims` family members in front of them. People are weeping in the courtroom. On Thursday of this week, the prosecution`s key witness against Whitey Bulger is his former closest partner who is expected now to testify against him. He`s a guy called the rifleman and he`s going to take the stand. And, and at the same time, at the same courthouse, this past week, there was also another totally spell binding thing happening in that same courthouse. Again, where there are no cameras, but there at least is a sketch artist. And where a phalanx of federal, state and local law enforcement put on a major display of military-style force to bring the surviving Boston bombing suspect into the courtroom where he ultimately pled not guilty to 30 charges, including use of a weapon of mass destruction to kill. The charges could not get him the death penalty under Massachusetts law, but they could very well get him the death penalty under federal law, and he`s being federally charged. While all that happens, though, there remain, as mysteries on the edges of this story, a gruesome horror movie of an unsolved triple murder and equally mysterious totally unexplained FBI killing, and these persist as mysteries on the edges of these other cases and frankly, they getting weirder and worse every day. It starts in Waltham, Massachusetts, on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. It was September 11th, 2011. Three young men, two of whom were athletes -- one a martial arts fighter, one a personal trainer, big, fit, strong young guys. They ended up murdered in particularly gruesome fashion on a quiet dead end street. Waltham is a suburb of Boston. And there is no place in the world where crimes like this are common, but particularly in this place, it is a very strange thing to have happened. These are the three young men who died. They were found with their throat slit in three different rooms of a single apartment in this house in Waltham. Reportedly, they were all found in the same position -- their bodies all facing down. Their heads all turned and tilted the same direction, to the exact same angle. Their throats slit and their bodies strewn with drugs. There was marijuana all over them. One of the young men who was killed is reported to have been a smalltime pot dealer, but there were the three dead bodies covered in loose marijuana. There was also $5,000 in cash found in the apartment. It was left there. And the killers escaped. When Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older of the two Tsarnaev brothers, was named as a suspect in the Boston bombings and later killed in an explosives and bullet-laden confrontation with police, this cold case Waltham triple murder got back into the news because it turns out that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was friends with one of the men who was killed. They were about the same age. They worked out at the same gym. They were both fighters and reportedly very close friends. Is it possible there was more than just a coincidental connection between these two crimes? Between the Boston bombing and this unsolved triple murder? Could Tamerlan Tsarnaev been the perpetrator of both of these crimes two years apart? Those questions are why the Waltham case ended up back in the news after the marathon bombing. After Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed and the younger Tsarnaev brother was taken into custody, FBI agents and Massachusetts state police officers went to central Florida to interview another friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev in relation to -- well, we don`t know. Presumably in relation to the Boston bombing investigation, right? Presumably the investigation into the Boston marathon bombing continues now even to look into whether or not the Tsarnaev brothers are connected to anybody else in this country who should be seen as potentially culpable for that crime. So, the questioning of this guy in Orlando could have been about the Boston bombing. But could it have also been about those Waltham murders? Does that explain why Massachusetts state police officers were there along with those FBI agents in that apartment in Orlando, Florida, when the man who they were questioning ended up dead? Ibragim Todashev was 27 years old. No sources, anonymous or otherwise, have ever suggested he had any connection to the marathon bombing whatsoever, other than the fact he had a personal friendship with Tamerlan Tsarnaev some years earlier when he lived in Boston. But the FBI and apparently the Massachusetts state police kept questioning him over and over and over again anyway. What were they questioning him about? And it was the fifth interview they had done with him when they were in his apartment on May 22nd -- they were hours into the interview. There was nobody else there as far as we know besides Mr. Todashev and at least three law enforcement officers. But they ended up killing him, ended up shooting him and killing him. We don`t know officially how many times they shot him, although his family released photos supposedly taken of his body at the morgue which appears to show his body shot six times in the torso and once in the back of the head. Why did they shoot this guy seven times? When you look at all the different anonymous law enforcement leaks about why they shot this guy, the list of things leaked to the press anonymously by law enforcement about why they had to shoot this guy seven times, including a the back of the head, the list honestly is nonsense. He had a knife, say three law enforcement sources. Oh, and then two of those sources say, no, no, no, he did not have a knife. So the third one still says he has a knife? Well, I don`t know. Nobody ever clarified that. Somebody else, some other law enforcement sources say he had a blade, a blade that`s different than a knife? No, wait a minute. Another law enforcement source says, no, no, no, he did not have a blade. So, it`s no knife and no blade. Did he have something else? Oh, he had a pole. He had a pole or maybe it was a broom stick. No, no, he had a ceremonial sword. No, he did not have a ceremonial sword. Well, there might have been a ceremonial sword somewhere but he didn`t have it anywhere near him during the questioning. OK, then, why are we even talking about this sword then? Or maybe he pushed a table or maybe he threw a chair. Are you guys sure now? Is that why you shot him? You want to settle on one self- exculpatory here, or do you want to stick to six or seven stories that can`t all possibly be true? Each of those turns in the story where the material fact of what this guy supposedly had is represented in a totally new and different way, when only law enforcement was in the room with him and nobody else can testify to it, each new turn in the story is reported as the thing this kid definitely had in his hand or did to provoke getting shot seven times. All of these conflicting stories cannot all be true. The only thing they have in common is that they all excuse the killing by law enforcement, in about seven different inconsistent ways that cannot all possibly co- exist. No other authorities are investigating this shooting. There`s no local Florida police investigation of this shooting. The FBI is looking into itself on this one. Charlie Savidge reporting in "The New York Times" last month the internal shooting review process that the FBI is conducting about itself and its behavior here is a process that over the last 20 years has reviewed more than 150 shootings and in zero of those 150 cases had the internal review process found that the FBI did anything wrong. Well, we`re supposed to believe that this time, this internal review process means that we`ll all get the straight story soon. Just be patient. Florida authorities say they`re waiting for the FBI`s review of itself to cough up its fore gone conclusion -- I mean, its conclusion. The FBI says they`re making no public comments about the case until they finish this very important internal review. They`re also forbidding any other officials from releasing any other agency`s information about this case. Florida medical examiner`s office saying today the FBI is blocking them from releasing Todashev`s autopsy report, even though the medical examiner says the report is ready for release. In terms of any other kind of oversight -- well, there`s congress, the FBI has now written a letter to the house homeland security committee telling the committee that the FBI, quote, "will not be responding to all of the committee`s request for information." See, ongoing investigations. You know how it is. So even Congress, now, we`re not telling you. Now, though, even things are getting even weirder than they have been. And in some ways they`re getting worse. "The Boston Globe" reporting that after killing Ibrahim Todashev, federal authorities have now arrested his roommate from that Florida apartment where he was killed. They have put her in jail on immigration violations. She will reportedly stay in jail until she is deported back to Russia. "The Boston Globe" describing her as a potential witness to the murder of Ibrahim Todashev, one of the witnesses who`s not an FBI agent or other official. "The Globe" noting the immigration court which makes the decision about deporting her and the FBI, which killed her roommate that she might have been a witness to, both the court and FBI fall under the purview of the Department of Justice which could be a conflict of interest. No? Right now, the plan is this potential witness will remain in jail until she`s deported and when she`s deported she`ll be brought to the airport by law enforcement authorities. In other words, if you want to talk to her about what she may have witnessed -- good luck with that. Try tracking her down in Russia. And she conceivably is the only witness. Meanwhile, anonymous law enforcement sources have not only tried to continue to try the killing of Todashev through media leaks. They`ve also continued to sell that gruesome murder mystery in Waltham, Massachusetts, as something that`s all tied. It`s totally solved. And they`ve tried to sell that by leaking that information unanimously as well. Last week, "The New York Times" front paged a really weird story about this whole mess. It was a weird story not necessarily just because of the details of the story, but because the way they reported it. Ever since Ibrahim Todashev was killed, in addition to leaking about the weapons that he may or may have not had and his supposed actions just before being shot, ever since they killed him, law enforcement officials have also been leaking to the media that Ibrahim Todashev was a villain, that he basically confessed that both he and Tamerlan Tsarnaev who conveniently is also dead, they were the ones who committed that gruesome murder in Waltham in 2011. And last week, "The New York Times`" story on the front page bought that anonymously sourced theory and in fact reported it as if the paper had checked it out and knew it to be true somehow. "The New York Times" writing that Ibrahim Todashev definitely did implicate himself and Tamerlan Tsarnaev in those Waltham murders. Quote, "An FBI agent investigating the bombings interviewed Mr. Todashev about Mr. Tsarnaev in his Orlando, Florida, apartment in May and he began to provide information about the Waltham case," says the FBI. "The nature of Mr. Todashev`s sudden admission and shooting have left some close to the victims skeptical about the official account of what happened." Why would they be skeptical? We`re being told he definitely confessed, right? One point they said he had a knife, too. And then they said he didn`t. The FBI has never released any proof publicly that there was any confession prior to the Todashev killing. But now, "The New York Times" says, hey, surprise, that grisly case has been solved in which case, big news, front page, and a weird form of justice for those three guys who were killed in Waltham, who are now having implied to their loved ones who are mourning their loss, having implied to them through anonymous law enforcement leaks that apparently are not part of a real investigation or a real trial, that their three loved ones were conveniently killed by a couple of dead guys and so case closed. Really? James Comey just went through his confirmation hearings process to be the new director of the FBI. There were zero questions for him throughout the process about who shot Ibrahim Todashev and who has been leaking and continues to leak these self-contradictory but always self-exculpatory lies about him thus far that we`re still being told to believe. This is a farce. I don`t know why this isn`t a bigger national story, but this is an absolute farce. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Investigators with bags of evidence removing them from a Waltham, Massachusetts, apartment which is now a crime scene. Three men were found stabbed to death inside the second floor unit Monday afternoon. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It does look like the assailants and the decedents did know each other. We have no evidence of a break in the apartment, and we have other indicia that the decedents and the assailants were known to each other. REPORTER: Twenty-four hours later, state and local police were looking for clues and a motive, although the killings are thought to be drug-related. All the victims were reportedly covered in blood and marijuana. Their names have still not been released. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: We now know the names of the three young men who were killed that day. In the nearly two years since they were killed, we`re no closer to know who killed Brendan Mess, Erik, Weissmann and Raphael Teken -- or why. The only new news we do have is in the form of anonymous law enforcement leaks to the media that say the killers are two men who are now also dead. One of them, the elder Boston bombing suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and the other, a man named Ibragim Todashev who was killed by the FBI in Florida last month in circumstances no one will explain on the record. Joining us now is Susan Zalkind. She was a close friend one of the Waltham victims, Erik Weissmann. Ms. Zalkind is also a freelance journalist who`s been doing her on investigation of this story. Susan Zalkind, thank you so much for being with us. SUSAN ZALKIND, FREELANCE JOURNALIST: Thank you for having me. MADDOW: You have said you think local authorities did not do right by this investigation in Waltham. You highlighted the fact, for example, they didn`t essentially set up a tip line and call for public information. Why do you think that`s important? ZALKIND: Well, when the murders happened, everyone was scared. We were scared and people didn`t know where to turn to give information if they had it. They didn`t know if they had any information if it was useful, and they were incredibly emotional. They needed -- investigators needed to reach out a hand and let them know that they were there and they were going to be taking in more information on this case. MADDOW: Am I right that it seems like when people who are close to any of these young men who are killed, or in Waltham, were in any way connected to the killing or where it happened, I`ve seen it repeatedly asserted that police just didn`t talk to everybody who was close to these young men. ZALKIND: That`s correct, Rachel. I actually talked to someone who was spoken to by Waltham detectives. None of Weissmann`s friends I`ve been able to reach out to have been approached by state police. But I spoke to someone who spoke to Erik on the evening of September 11th, 2011, who actually provided the name of one of Erik`s best friends, just because it might be a useful person to talk to if they`re looking for information leading up to the murder. And that person was never contacted and eventually confirmed from a police source that detectives did, in fact, have that name available to them and they weren`t interested in -- they weren`t curious. They weren`t looking at the details. MADDOW: When this happened, though, I mean, Boston is a big city and big horrible crime happens in big cities everywhere. But this triple murder in Waltham, it was out of character, out of keeping, huge news story, wasn`t it? ZALKIND: It was really weird. I was actually working as a news writer at a TV station at the time. And I was looking at this murder case before I knew my friend was a victim because it was so bizarre. I had done some freelance writing for Waltham publication and it was weird. MADDOW: Yes. ZALKIND: It was weird. MADDOW: It was very definitively described as a drug-related murder at the time. ZALKIND: The drugs found on the bodies of the victims. So, drugs were related to their murder. I had talked to my colleagues who are also at the time, but yes, there is a possibility that this potentially was a -- MADDOW: A drug robbery sort of gone wrong? ZALKIND: It`s just strictly drug related crime, but it was clear to me that there was a strong potential that investigators` handling of this case should have looked into that there was other factors involved. The murders were too weird, and too gruesome. And there was no forced entry. And there was a lot of other factors that showed me that this was a possibility and that someone handling this case should have been looking into that possibility. MADDOW: With the -- in the -- the reason that this story came back to national attention was because of the connection to Tamerlan Tsarnaev and the Boston bombings. Since Ibrahim Todashev was killed, it has been sewed up in the press. The national press has been sold the story that Ibrahim Todashev confessed. It was him and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, case closed, both the perpetrators are dead. And it is over. I am critical of the way the national press has picked this up because I feel they bought this hook, line and sinker as an anonymous tip from law enforcement sources that have told things -- things about this case that haven`t turned out to be true in the past. Just wondered your reaction is to seeing it maintained that way in the press. ZALKIND: I have nothing but questions in so far as this case goes and all the factors relating to this case goes. And knowing one of the victims, having those questions unanswered, it`s really painful. MADDOW: Susan Zalkind, freelance journalist who`s been investigating on her own the murder of a good friend, Erik Weissmann -- Ms. Zalkind, thank you very much for being here tonight. I appreciate it. ZALKIND: Thank you for having me. Thank you for looking into the story. MADDOW: I appreciate it. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This generation has seen new immigrants. There was a time when people were worried, what are the Irish going to do? And now everybody accepts that the Irish has strengthened America. There were times when people were concerned about Asians, and the Chinese, who had been brought here from the railroads, and now there is a recognition that obviously Asian-Americans are incredible contributors to the wealth and prosperity of America. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Today, President Obama did multiple interviews with major Spanish language media news outlets, mostly he focused on immigration reform. And the White House is being very overt about the strategy here. They`re making it clear that, yes, they say they want immigration reform to pass, obviously. But should the immigration reform fail, it seems increasingly possible given what`s going on in the House under Republican control, if immigration does fail, the White House wants everybody in the country to know that President Obama did everything possible to try to get it passed. But while the president made his case to the Spanish language news media today, it should also be noted that the Spanish language news media itself has been piling on the Republicans, and piling on John Boehner in particular for being against the immigration bill. Take Jorge Ramos, who see you in your screen here -- the very prominent national news anchor from Univision. He told Greg Sargent of "The Washington Post," "Like it or not, the Hispanic media perceives that approving or rejecting the immigration reform is in the hands of John Boehner. When you listen to local radio stations and even national media, most of us are concentrated on John Boehner. We don`t even have a problem pronouncing his name," he said. "The question is who is responsible for failure? So far the answer is Republicans." Then, in Mr. Ramos` column yesterday, titled "House to Lose the White House in 2016," he writes, quote, "In spite of everything, the Republicans appeal to the instincts of the more anti-extremists. They will lose the White House in 2016, and it will take many more years to get the forgiveness of Latinos." On Twitter, he wrote, "Pete Williams, Joe Arpaio, Tom Tancredo, Jan Brewer, and Speaker Boehner. Does Speaker Boehner really want to be the new Joe Arpaio for the Hispanic community?" You know, the Beltway media does not necessarily care or notice when something big happens in the Hispanic media. But this is a big enough deal that everybody should be noticing. I mean, does John Boehner listen to the analysis from important Hispanic news media leaders? Right? Does he listen to this analysis that Republicans are making a horribly stupid political move, listening to leading voices in the Hispanic community who are telling him that? Or does he listen to the advice that he`s getting from his own side, telling him that immigration reform is a terrible idea and he shouldn`t do it? Well, yesterday on Capitol Hill there was an anti-immigration reform rally, attended by the highest profile anti-immigration reform Republicans -- Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, Iowa Congressman Steve King. A reporter from "The Nation" magazine was there, and says she was standing directly in front of Senator Sessions as he was walking through the crowd shaking hands when this happened on stage at the rally at the rally. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From those incredible bloodlines of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and John Smith. And all of these great Americans, Martin Luther King. These great Americans who built this country. You came from them. And the unique thing from being from that part of the world, when you learn about breeding, is you learn that you cannot breed Secretariat to a donkey and expect to win the Kentucky Derby. You guys have incredible DNA, and don`t forget it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: See, America, we can`t have immigration reform because donkey DNA can`t inter-breed with us. John Boehner has a choice, the side that includes Rand Paul voting against immigration reform, holding on to his Southern Avenger staffer, holding on to his mask who says Americans are not wrong for deploring Mexicans in America, because we really have to protect our white majority - - that guy and the donkey DNA guy, right, John Boehner can choose that side. Or he can listen to the leading Latino voices in the country who say that if house Republicans kill this bill it is essentially over for Republican politics. Tough decision, right, Mr. Speaker. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." Thanks for being with us tonight. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END