The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 01/22/14

Guests: John Stanton, Ben Ginsberg, Robert Bauer

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us. Happy Wednesday. I have to tell you in advance that we are tracking a developing story tonight this hour, news out of New Jersey tonight that the FBI is reportedly interviewing new witnesses in the New Jersey abuse of power investigation concerning the administration of Chris Christie. Again, this is a late-breaking story. We`re just getting confirmation tonight. We`re still confirming the last details of the story tonight before we bring it to you on the air. But I have to let you know that that story is developing right now, and I expect to be able to give you further details this hour. Again, new FBI interviews reported tonight in New Jersey connected to that abuse of power investigation, details ahead. Meanwhile, though, all right, this was the "NBC Nightly News" lead story on June 27, 2011. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRIAN WILLIAMS, ANCHOR, "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS": Big news out of Chicago today: former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich convicted this afternoon of 17 out of 20 corruption charges against him, most of the charges related to his attempts to benefit from choosing a replacement for President Obama in the U.S. Senate, in effect, trying to sell a Senate seat. Jurors said FBI wiretaps of his phone conversations were the key here. And as he met with reporters after the verdict today, Blagojevich told him he was trying to learn his lesson about talking too much. ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), FORMER ILLINOIS GOVERNOR: I, frankly, am stunned. There`s not much left to say other than, we want to get home to our little girls and talk to them and explain things to them and then try to sort things out. WILLIAMS: Jurors added they wanted the verdict to send a message to public servants about the line between deal-making and corruption. Blagojevich will become the fourth Illinois governor in recent memory to go to jail. His predecessor, George Ryan, is still in federal prison, also for corruption. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Before Illinois Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich started serving 14 years in federal prison for corruption, while Rod Blagojevich was still at liberty, while he was still governor of Illinois, while he was fighting those corruption charges against him, Rod Blagojevich did a round of media interviews in New York to try to tell his side of the story. This was after the charges against him were unveiled. It was after the U.S. attorney had gone public with what was on the Blagojevich wiretaps where the governor talked about selling Barack Obama`s Senate seat and what he could get for it. It was after all that, but before he was impeached and before he went on trial. And in that interregnum of Rod Blagojevich`s corruption, he came to New York because he wanted to get his side of the story out there. And one of the people who got to interview Rod Blagojevich at that very weird time was me. And the thing I will always remember about that interview is the striking sense, even face to face with him, even looking him in the eye, even walking into and out of the interview when we were not on camera, there was a striking sense that he didn`t really get why anybody would think what he did was wrong. He didn`t really dispute that he tried to sell the also U.S. Senate seat. He just didn`t think it was so wrong. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Do you agree that it would be wrong, it would be criminal for you to try to exchange Barack Obama`s U.S. senate seat, that appointment, for something that would be of value to you? You agree that that would be wrong. BLAGOJEVICH: Oh, absolutely. MADDOW: Yes. Did... BLAGOJEVICH: A personal -- you know, one for the other personal gain? MADDOW: Yes. BLAGOJEVICH: Absolutely. MADDOW: And you didn`t do that? BLAGOJEVICH: Absolutely not. MADDOW: Well, on the wiretaps, you`re quoted saying, "It`s a `bleeping` valuable thing. You don`t just give it away for nothing. If they`re not going to offer anything of value, I might just take it. I`ve got this thing and it`s `bleeping` golden. I`m not just giving it up for `bleeping` nothing." In what possible context could you say -- say things like that if you weren`t trying to exchange something of value for the Senate seat? What other context would make that... (CROSSTALK) BLAGOJEVICH: Well, let me answer that two ways. I`m not acknowledging that`s what actually were on the tapes, because we haven`t had a chance to hear it. But playing the devil`s advocate in assuming it was, why can`t the construction of that be, I want them to help me pass a public works program, a jobs program. MADDOW: Even if you wanted food for the hungry, I mean, even if you wanted justice itself in exchange for the senate seat, you`re not supposed to exchange anything for the Senate seat. BLAGOJEVICH: Well, I don`t disagree that one for the other isn`t. But there are political negotiations and leveraging, which is all very much part of the process. MADDOW: When you -- again, this is from the wiretapped calls. I realize you`re not going to testify to their veracity. But they are out there, and the transcripts are there, and some of them were played today in the senate. Speaking about Barack Obama`s advisers, "They`re not willing to give me anything but appreciation in exchange for the senate seat. `Bleep` them." What would you want other than appreciation? What could be kosher to exchange for a Senate seat? BLAGOJEVICH: Well, how about helping us pass health care and a jobs bill and helping the people of Illinois? Don`t just leave Illinois now. MADDOW: I will appoint person X instead of person Y unless you do this favor for me? BLAGOJEVICH: No, no, the one for the other is not -- that`s not what I`m saying. I`m simply saying, I`m in a political business. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I`m in a political business. Well, now he`s in a federal prison, because making politics into that kind of business, turns out, is criminal bribery and extortion and conspiracy to commit bribery and extortion. And that`s why Rod Blagojevich is in prison. And it`s those same charges that have now been leveled against another governor with really above-average hair, Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia. Governor McDonnell is vehemently asserting his total innocence of the 14 felony charges that have been levied against him by federal prosecutors as of yesterday. And his innocence, of course, will be adjudicated in federal court now. But, weirdly, Governor McDonnell is also asserting that nobody has ever been convicted of charges like this ever before. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BOB MCDONNELL (R), FORMER VIRGINIA GOVERNOR: I come before you this evening as someone who has been falsely and wrongfully accused. The federal government`s case rests entirely on a misguided legal theory. No other elected official has been successfully prosecuted for such conduct, yet federal officials in Washington, in their zeal to find a basis for charging Maureen and me, have decided to stretch the law to its breaking point in this case. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: No other elected official has been successfully prosecuted for such conduct. Mr. McDonnell, meet Mr. Blagojevich, also now known as inmate number 40892- 424. Mr. Blagojevich, meet Mr. McDonnell. The claim that the bribery prosecution of Bob McDonnell is novel, that it has never been done before, that claim itself is pretty novel, right? But there are going to be two interesting things to watch here going forward. First, most of the charges in the Bob McDonnell case are shared between the governor and his wife, in that the government alleges that the two of them worked together to exchange official acts by the governor for material things and money that they took for themselves. But the governor alone is charged with lying to a bank about the money that he took from the donor in question, a man named Jonnie Williams. And it`s the governor`s wife alone who is charged with obstructing an official proceeding for concocting, allegedly, a fake story about all the designer clones she was bought by that donor and concocting that story and trying to pass it off as the truth after she was interviewed by law enforcement. That`s the allegation in the indictment. Most of the charges, the bribery, extortion, fraud, conspiracy charges are for both the governor and his wife. They do have two separate legal teams defending them, though. Does the prosecution and does the defense proceed against them as a couple, right, or does at least the defense start to diverge between the two of them, because the two of them do face different lists of charges? Remember, back when Bob McDonnell apologized for the scandal for the first time, he tried to essentially put some of the blame on his family members, to a certain extent, apologizing -- he apologized for their behavior before he apologized for his own behavior, and he apologized for their behavior separately from his own behavior. And then he put it out there that some of this stuff was done by his wife without his knowledge. So, does the defense of these two parties in this corruption case, does the defense of the two of them diverge for their two cases? That`s one question that remains to be seen. The other thing to watch here is what happens politically now both in Virginia and around the country. Unlike the scandal surrounding Chris Christie`s administration in New Jersey right now, which is being investigated aggressively by the state legislature, unlike New Jersey, this corruption scandal in Virginia has never had other politicians involved at all, at least in the legislature. The legislature never investigated Governor McDonnell. They never formed an inquiry into the allegations. Bob McDonnell is a Republican, and it is Republicans who control the Virginia legislature, and whether or not that`s why they stayed out of this whole thing or whether it was just the sequence of events, after the FBI started their federal investigation last spring. One big contrast between these concurrent scandals in New Jersey and Virginia is that, in Virginia, there really has been almost no occasion for the other parts of state government to weigh in on this scandal at all, to be part of sorting it out, or even to decide whether they would side with the governor or not, as he`s been denying this thing from the beginning. Virginia legislators haven`t had to say whether they are siding with Bob McDonnell. They have just been declining comment by and large since the first day the story broke. Well, that sort of has to change now, because today is day one of the full- scale pushback from Bob McDonnell against these federal charges that have been levied against him and his wife. And his pushback is partisan. His pushback is that these charges are federal government overreach. The reason he`s being charged is that the Obama Justice Department is out to get him -- it`s implied in his statement -- out to get him because he`s a Republican governor. Look, from his motion filed with the court in his defense: "The federal government`s decision to use these deceitful tactics in order to prosecute a popular and serving Republican governor immediately upon leaving office is disgraceful. It violates basic principles of justice and it`s contemptuous of the citizens of Virginia who elected him." And if that is going to be Bob McDonnell`s defense to these corruption charges, then that really does put Virginia Republicans and to a certain extent national Republicans in the position of deciding whether they are with him, deciding if this really is, as he says, just Bob McDonnell being persecuted for partisan reasons by a Democratic administration, or whether this is Bob McDonnell caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Bob McDonnell`s defense is partisan. Will other Republicans in Virginia and around the country line up with him? Will they continue to stay out of it? Or will they walk to see the prosecution proceed? Watch this space. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BLAGOJEVICH: I`m here to tell you right off the bat that I am not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing, that I intend to stay on the job, and I will fight this thing every step of the way. I will fight, I will fight, I will fight until I take my last breath. I have done nothing wrong. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Got lots to get to tonight, including again, as I mentioned, this developing story that we, I think, are going to be able to bring you in just a moment about apparently new FBI interviews tonight in New Jersey in the abuse of power investigation in that state. Stay with us. We will be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: On Election Day, if you want to, you can stage a protest anywhere in America on a subject of your choosing. It`s a free country. And if you want to stage your protest on Election Day, you might want to stage that protest where you know you will have basically a captive audience, and a captive audience with politics on their minds. You might want to stage your protest at a place where people are voting, at a polling site. You have the right to do that. You have the free speech right to do that. But, because we also have laws that protect prospective voters as they go to fulfill their constitutional right to vote, you can protest outside a polling place on Election Day, but you can only get so close when you do it. You have to abide by a protective buffer zone, so you don`t interfere with or intimidate or unduly influence people as they go about casting their vote. The size of that buffer zone varies from state to state. In, say, the state of Massachusetts, you have to stay 150 feet away from the entrance of a polling place when voting is under way. But there are also buffer zone laws at military funerals. If you`re someone who believes that the best use of your time is to protest at the funerals of American service members -- and there are people who believe that, God bless their souls -- well, the U.S. Constitution and the right to free speech means that you have a right to protest at funerals, but, again, buffer zone. Federal law says that you can get no closer than 300 feet to the entrance of that military funeral that you are protesting. That`s how the law and the courts balance that particular right to free speech with the rights of the loved ones of that fallen service member not to be harassed and terrorized as they attend the funeral of that person they loved. Same general idea, actually, for protesters at the Supreme Court of the United States. If you`re protesting at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., whether you`re happy with the Supreme Court or mad at them or anything in between, if you`re protesting at the court, you have to stay a certain distance away from the entrance to the court. There are no protests of any kind, no public demonstrations of any kind allowed anywhere on the 250-foot plaza of the Supreme Court. So, if you want to protest at the court, you`re welcome to, but there`s a very specific geographic limit on that right, which gives the court effectively a 250-foot geographical buffer zone from any protests. On December 30, 1994, a man with a gun, 22-year-old man, walked into the Planned Parenthood clinic in Brookline, Massachusetts. He walked up to the receptionist and he said, "Is this Planned Parenthood?" And when the receptionist told him it was, he shot her and he killed her. And he was not done. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eyewitnesses say he arrived dressed in black, pulled out a .22-caliber rifle and, as they tried to flee, opened fire. The gunman shot four people before escaping here. One woman, a clinic worker, died at the scene. But the terror wasn`t over -- just 10 minutes later, a similar attack at a clinic blocks away by a gunman also dressed in black. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He dropped the duffel bag, pulls out a rifle, and I was stunned when I saw the rifle, before he hit and shoots the girl I`m talking to. She falls. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three people were injured at the second clinic, including one woman who died at the hospital. A massive manhunt involving federal, state and local police agencies is under way, but authorities stopped short of saying the same gunman carried out both attacks. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are presently in the beginning phase of an intensive investigation to find the individual or individuals. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The two clinics are just a mile-and-a-half apart, and anti-abortion activists have protested frequently at both. Clinic officials confirm that both clinics received death threats over the last few weeks. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That gunman killed two women that day in Brookline. It was the same guy. The people he killed were Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols. He killed them both on the same day in 1994. They were both receptionists at two different clinics on the same street in Brookline. The gunman then got away. He fled to Virginia, it turns out, where he kept up the rampage. He shot into the doors of another abortion clinic in Norfolk, Virginia. But then he was captured by police. The clinics where the shootings happened, where two people were killed and five people were shot and wounded, those two clinics were routine targets for anti-abortion protesters at the time. According to contemporaneous reports, an hour after that gunman killed Shannon Lowney at the Brookline Planned Parenthood, somebody called that same clinic and told a counselor there who answered the phone -- quote -- "You got what you deserved." Shannon Lowney`s family later announced they were creating a fund to help provide protection at clinics, both for the patients who attended the clinics and for the employees who work there. Eventually, the state of Massachusetts did pass a specific law aimed at protecting those people. In 2000, Massachusetts Republican Governor Paul Cellucci signed a new law that said, even though you can protest outside a clinic that provides abortion services, you cannot get closer than 18 feet to the entrance. That principle is why you see those yellow lines painted on the ground around some of the entrances to some clinics in Massachusetts. Those lines are there so people know they can state their case, they can say whatever they want. They just can`t physically approach the people entering a clinic or the clinic`s patients. Then, in 2007, that buffer zone law in Massachusetts, which was enacted after those two young women were shot and killed, that buffer zone law was strengthened to 35 feet. And it is that 2007 law from Massachusetts, the 35-foot buffer zone, that law is now awaiting word on its fate from the United States Supreme Court. In a case very similar to this in 2000, the court ruled in favor of Colorado`s version of this law. But, this year, everybody sort of expects that the court is going to rule against the Massachusetts buffer zone, or at least that they`re going to weaken it. The court has heard the oral arguments in the Massachusetts case already. They`re expected to rule on it in June. And, of course, if they do rule against the 35-foot buffer zone, which is designed to protect patients seeking access to those clinics and the staff who work at those clinics, that ruling could have reverberations, not just for Massachusetts, but for any state with a similar buffer zone set up for clinics that provide abortion, and not just abortion clinics, military funerals, other places where buffer zones limit free speech geographically in the name of protecting other rights, polling places, the Supreme Court itself. Today, of course, is the anniversary of the Supreme Court`s landmark ruling protecting a woman`s right to get an abortion in this country; 41 years ago today was Roe vs. Wade. President Obama today put out a statement praising that decision, calling the right to get an abortion in this country part of -- quote -- "reproductive freedom." Also in Washington today, because it is the anniversary of Roe, anti- abortion protesters took to the National Mall for their big annual anti- abortion rally. It`s something they do every year. They call it the March for Life. Republican elected officials always, always speak at the March for Life. But, this year, the Republican Party sort of tripled down on their support for this march. They delayed the start of the Republican Party`s annual winter meeting so members of the RNC could go to the march and not miss any of the meeting. The chairman of the Republican National Committee himself attended the march, and the RNC chartered a bus. They provided bus service to and from the march for RNC members. At their winter meeting, once it got under way, once everybody had had their chance to go marching against abortion rights, the RNC introduced a big new anti- abortion resolution for its members, stating that Republican candidates for office must stop shying away from being anti-abortion. They should loudly declare how anti-abortion they are. And if a Republican candidate for office does not talk enough about just how against abortion rights they are, this resolution says the RNC should not support that strategy as that candidate runs for office. Republican National Committee set to vote on that new "be louder about being anti-abortion" resolution by Friday of this week. Meanwhile, in Congress, they`re considering these measures -- not just a matter of marching in the streets and dealing with the Supreme Court. The legislature matters here, too. And, in Congress, Republicans control the House of Representatives. The Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives, specifically the Republican majority on the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives, which looks like this, all these lovely ladies, they decided that the first bill they would mark up in 2014, the way they would start this new session of Congress, the very first thing they would work on would be the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which concerns abortion coverage and whether or not Washington, D.C., is allowed to spend even its own money, even non-federal money, providing access to abortion for low- income women in that city. That was the very first thing that the Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee decided to work on this year. And all the male Republicans on that committee, which is all the Republicans on that committee, unanimously voted for it, but not before telling the one representative of Washington, D.C., in Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton, that she would not be allowed to speak on the issue. Republicans in the House are also expecting this year to make their most concerted push ever for a federal nationwide ban that would criminalize abortion all across the country at 20 weeks or later. The House voted to pass a 20-week ban last year. This year, they are on a renewed push for it. They think they can try to get it through the Senate, too. They are going to mount a concerted effort to target centrist Democrats, hoping that that -- those centrist Democratic votes and all the Republican votes in the Senate would help them get that abortion ban through the Democratic-controlled Senate, whereupon it would be promptly vetoed by President Obama. The Supreme Court just last week struck down Arizona`s version of a 20-week ban on abortion, or, rather, they allowed to stand the lower court ruling that had struck down the Arizona law. But House Republicans still say they want that for the whole country. They think this is the year they`re going to be able to get it passed. And, as we await probably yet another ruling on 20-week bans, federally clarifying that issue after what they did with Arizona, and as we await the judicial fate of the Massachusetts buffer zone law that passed after that fatal rampage in Brookline and created a safety buffer zone around those clinics, as we await those things judicially, the Republican Party, not just in the states, but in Washington, is declaring that, more than anything else, more than any other policy issue in the country, the one thing that unifies the Republican Party in the United States is how opposed they are to abortion rights. War and peace, spending vs. not spending, hands-off government vs. hands-on government, guns, gays, the Voting Rights Acts, there are real differences of opinion among elected Republicans on all of those issues, but on abortion, unity. There is one Republican position on which you can say there is unity, and they are putting it at the forefront what it means to be a Republican. They think it`s not just the right thing to do. They think it`s going to work for them strategically. Why do they think that? And what does it mean for our politics? Joining us now is John Stanton. He`s Washington bureau chief for BuzzFeed. Mr. Stanton, thank you for being here tonight. JOHN STANTON, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, BUZZFEED: It`s good to be here. MADDOW: On this issue, there`s a lot of talk by people who don`t know, such as myself, about what was going on inside the Republican mind about losing women by 12 points, about all the Senate seats that they thought were going to be winnable that they lost, about the resonance of the idea of a Republican war on women. And people who don`t know were thinking, oh, Republican mind-set here is that they`re going to have to start soft-pedaling this issue. STANTON: Yes. MADDOW: They have gone in completely the opposite direction. Do you have any insight from your reporting into why? STANTON: Yes, I think they look at this as a thing that unites their base. It does bring their people out to vote. They see this as a very good political issue. They don`t have any notion that this is going to actually pass. They understand that if, by some miracle, they found the 20-some-odd votes they`re going to need from Democrats in the Senate to get it through the Senate, it would be vetoed. You could not override that veto. But they see it as a way to gin up their base. And in an off-year election like this, that is key. They also, I think, see this as a way to try to win back that -- at least get a true stalemate maybe with Democrats on this issue of the war with women. They`re trying to put some of these moderate Democrats into a bit of a tough bind by saying, well, you`re for late-term abortions or you don`t want to tell the parents of children that are having an abortion that they`re having it. But the idea that there is this moral thing to this, at least for, I think, members of, for instance, the RNC committee and for some members of the Republican Party, but a lot of them, this is also very much a political issue. MADDOW: And that is the part -- seeing it as a moral issue and having a moral debate about what`s right in terms of policy is something I understand completely and I think everybody believes is a legitimate debate. I think the thing that is -- we`re just figuring out now is that the electoral calculus, Democrats look at this and think, I can`t believe Republicans are shooting themselves in the foot like this, taking this into a general election and saying, no, we want to be more loudly known as anti- abortion. We want that to be more prominent in terms of how you think of us. But that really is the way that they think it shakes out. STANTON: And it is -- goes against sort of what everyone would say is the obvious evidence. The Virginia election is a great example. But it`s a very conservative state. It`s a state where abortion is very much frowned upon, and yet they pushed this issue. It became a thing, and it helped Democrats in the end. And the gender gap between Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe was enormous. That`s why Terry McAuliffe, of all people, is the governor of Virginia now, and... MADDOW: In Washington, are there any issues where this Republican orthodoxy on the issue actually gets complicated, where it means they don`t know what to do? STANTON: The biggest one is Israel. My colleague Kate Nocera did this great story about how we give them billions of dollars every year, and Israel now has the most progressive or liberal law on abortion. They are now providing taxpayer-funded abortions to people in Israel. And you cannot find a Republican that will criticize that. And they say, well, that`s separate money, but they say, in the case of, for instance, District of Columbia or Planned Parenthood, that money is fungible. Those arguments don`t come into play on the domestic level. It`s only on Israel. And that`s really the only place that we have seen the Republican Party suddenly back away from its criticism of abortion. MADDOW: So, this is going to be the hard-line fight, the Republicans telling each other, you support funding for Israel, you`re a murderer? STANTON: Right. MADDOW: Specifically on the issue of abortion? STANTON: Right. Exactly. MADDOW: Right. This is -- that`s -- I want to see that fight. (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: I just want to see that fight, just because I would like to bet on it. (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: John Stanton, Washington bureau chief for BuzzFeed, thank you very much for being here, John. Good to see you. All right, a major development in the federal investigation into the abuse of power allegations against the Christie administration in New Jersey. We have got that breaking news story for you next. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We have breaking news from New Jersey tonight. NBC News is reporting tonight that FBI agents have begun questioning witnesses in New Jersey as they investigate the explosive -- explosive claims by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer concerning the administration of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. According to NBC`s Michael Isikoff tonight, three sources are confirming that federal agents have been in Hoboken questioning the mayor`s chief of staff and her communications director. Those two are among a reported five witnesses who may be able to confirm or not confirm that Mayor Zimmer previously told them her account of a conversation that she had with the lieutenant governor of New Jersey, Kim Guadagno. That of course is the conversation in which Mayor Zimmer says that the lieutenant governor told her that Superstorm Sandy relief funds might flow more freely to Hoboken if the mayor OK`d a private real estate development deal in that town. Federal agents have also reportedly instructed key witnesses to preserve all documents and e-mails related to those allegations. Now of course the lieutenant governor categorically denied any wrongdoing yesterday in a public statement. Governor Christie`s office has also denied the allegations and called them, quote, "partisan politics." Whatever the charges amount to ultimately or not, the feds are obviously taking the charges very seriously. They are in Hoboken, according to NBC News, tonight. And they are asking questions, again five witnesses interviewed by the FBI. Stay tuned, we`ll keep you posted. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: It is five years ago this week that former president George W. Bush left office. They welcomed the new guy, shared some hugs and handshakes, and then former President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush climbed to the steps into the helicopter and they flew away. The Bush presidency was over January 20th, 2009. Five years ago this week. And whatever that moment meant to you at the time, it has a whole new meaning now, because under federal law, once a president has been out of office for five years, the public gets to see a whole lot more about what that president was up to while he was in office. This Monday, five years exactly after George W. Bush left office, the George W. Bush Presidential Library started accepting Freedom of Information Act requests. FOIA requests. That`s what reporters call it, right? We say we are FOIA-ing documents. But FOIA is not just for reporters. Any individual, regardless of citizenship, as well as organizations, companies, and state and local government can now submit FOIA requests for George W. Bush records at the George W. Bush Presidential Library. This is a particularly great variety of nerd Christmas. I mean, you, your grandmother, adoring wannabe George Bush biographers, reporters, students, the curious, the suspicious, folks needing to settle a longstanding, friendly bet about the Scooter Libby prosecution, libertarians who now think they remember that they never liked George W. Bush in the first place, all of us, anyone, we can all now file FOIA requests demanding to know just about anything about the George W. Bush presidency. Anything that isn`t classified. Of course presumably most of the really interesting stuff is classified. Still it`s very exciting. If you want help starting your own FOIA request, the "Dallas Morning News" has hopefully published the contact information and a list of steps you have to go through in order to file your very own FOIA if you want to. We will post a link to it on our Web site in case you`re curious. And so it has been five years this week since George W. Bush was in office which among other things means you can now FOIA requests from his library. But that anniversary involving George W. Bush also means it has been one year since this happened, since President Obama took the oath of office to begin his second term as president. January 21st, 2013. The real and final end to an election where Americans in a surprising number of places waited hour after hour after hour just for their chance to vote. A lot of people called this the stay-in-line election. Remember Desiline Victor, 102 years old, Desiline Victor staying in line more than three hours to cast her ballot in south Florida? We may never know the full effect of those long lines in the 2012 election. The best analysis we have by the people who study this stuff is that Latinos and African-Americans and young people in particular, waited longer than other people. And not everybody could afford to heroically, stoically wait it out for hours. After the election, one study found that 200,000 people in Florida alone likely gave up in frustration over those long lines at the Florida polls. 200,000 people tried but they gave up and never voted. The night he won that second term, President Obama thanked everybody who voted. He mentioned specifically the voters who, quote, "waited in line" for a very long time. And the newly reelected president said, off script, by the way, we have to fix that. He brought up the issue again in his inaugural address. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is now our generation`s task to carry on what those pioneers began. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Then a few weeks later in his State of the Union address last year President Obama announced a way toward trying to fix it. He announced a yearlong effort, a national commission headed up by the top lawyer from his own re-election campaign -- a former White House counsel -- and the top lawyer from Mitt Romney`s election campaign. A commission headed by the two of them, the two of them working together to try to come up with bipartisan solutions, consensus, doable solutions that both Democrats and Republicans might like to stop Americans from having to wait hours in line in order to vote. Well, today they reported back. Joining us now for the interview are Bob Bauer and Ben Ginsberg, co-chairs to the Presidential Commission on Election Administration. Mr. Bauer and Mr. Ginsberg worked for the Obama and Romney campaigns respectively in the last election. Gentlemen, thank you very much for being with us. BENJAMIN GINSBERG, PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION ADMINISTRATION CO-CHAIR: Thank you. ROBERT BAUER, PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION ADMINISTRATION CO-CHAIR: Thank you. MADDOW: Mr. Ginsberg, let me start with you, the premise of the report and it`s very specific, is that no citizen should have to wait more than 30 minutes to vote. Do you think that is feasible and what do we have to change about our system in order to get that? GINSBERG: Well, in the commission studies, which was -- which was involved in detail, we talked to many of the administrators who had long lines in their districts as well as academicians and voters. And what we discovered is that the problems that caused the long lines were all, number one, identifiable and number two solvable. And what the report does is go through quite a large number of recommendations and best practices with which to fulfill that. But we primarily found that there`s not adequate planning by the local administrators to do that and in one of the things the commission discovered in its testimony was there are a number of very good online tools that are available to administrators to help them plan, understand the flow of elections, kind of get things right. And those will be available. They`re available now on the commission Web site, and will be housed permanently on Cal Tech MIT Web site. MADDOW: Mr. Bauer, let me ask you, in terms of sort of technocratic fixes like that, and in some cases technological fixes, ways that local administrators who want to do a good job can do a -- can do the good job that they want to do, that seems relatively noncontroversial at least in ideological terms. You`re a guy who`s been very close to the real politic of getting things done, what do you think the hopes are for actually improving these things that you guys say could be improved. Who has to buy into it? BAUER: The pieces of the commission was that if we went around the country and we spoke to the people who ran elections in the states and the localities and we listened to the experts and we talked to the stakeholders, to the groups that are representing the interest of voters across the spectrum, without regard to ideology or party affiliation that we could build from the ground up, from what we heard and on the best social science and data available, we could build from the ground up a set of packages that would really sell. And we`re confident from what we`re hearing from the states, from the localities just in the last few hours and quite frankly over the period of time that we were discussing some of these recommendations, we`re confident that we can sell it, that there`s a significant motivation, a significant appetite within the community of election administrators to do something to solve this problem because -- and this is something we discovered, they know the voters expect it, and our guideline all along was the interest and the evolving expectation of our voters. MADDOW: Do you expect that most of these important fixes will be expensive? BAUER: I`ll invite my co-chair here, Mr. Ginsberg, to comment. Some will -- may well require resources, there may be some equipment, facilities that will require funds. We, however are going to help election administrators make the case for those funds, often they tell us that their budget priorities are shuffled a bit to the bottom of the deck. There are other pressing demands that governments have to meet. We`re trying to help them build a case for that which does require resources, but there are other resources that we made available to them. Other tools that they can use that really would not require the expenditure of the significant sum of money and the planning advice and support that we`d like to give including the online tools, as Ben mentioned, are among those less expensive options. MADDOW: Mr. Ginsberg, let me ask you about the -- some of the politics here. In political science 101, at least political strategy 101, they teach you essentially that Republicans historically have benefited when turnout is lower, and Democrats have benefited when turnout is higher. Whether or not you think that`s true, that is the widespread belief in political circles, and given that, how do you take this goal of making it easier for people to vote out of something that has partisan implications that Republicans might not like? GINSBERG: I must have missed that part of the course that you`re referring to. (LAUGHTER) I believe that what we present in this report are a series of bipartisan and unanimous recommendations aimed at the voter and making voting easier for all legally qualified voters. And as Bob said, our mission in this report was to improve the voter experience. I sort of reject the -- completely reject the notion that somehow Republicans don`t want people to vote. MADDOW: Mr. Ginsberg, I am really happy to hear you say that and I promise to clip that sound bite and play it over and over again a lot in our really good news segment for a year. GINSBERG: I believe. (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: All right. Ben Ginsberg, Bob Bauer, co-chairs of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration. Thank you very much for your time tonight and talking to us. But I also have to say you guys are busy guys who bill a lot for your time and your devotion to do this for the country and to spend a year working on this in a totally nonpartisan way is really an honorable thing for you both to have done. So thank you for doing it. GINSBERG: Thank you. BAUER: Thank you very much. MADDOW: Thank you. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GARY SOUTHERN, FREEDOM INDUSTRIES PRESIDENT: Look, guys, it has been an extremely long day. I`m having a hard trouble talking at the moment. I would appreciate it if we could wrap this thing up. I will -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a lot -- we actually have a lot of questions. It`s been a long day for a lot of people who don`t have water. Are there no systems in place to alert you of a leak at your facility other than a smell? SOUTHERN: At this moment in time, I think that`s all we have time for. So thanks for coming, thanks for your time. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have more questions. Hey, hey, hey, we`re not done. SOUTHERN: We`re not done? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re not done. No. Anyone else have any other questions? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s the charmer who runs Freedom Industries which two weeks ago spilled chemicals into the Elk River in West Virginia which rendered undrinkable and toxic the water supply for one in six people who live in that state. Since the company president`s "I`ve had a long day" press conference, that company has been sued many times. They`ve declared bankruptcy. The people of West Virginia have, of course, gone days without access to safe water. Even after some of their water was declared safe, it was then still found to be unsafe. Hundreds of people have gone to West Virginia hospitals with symptoms consistent with exposure to the chemical that was spilled. On Monday of this week, West Virginia`s governor basically declared that people were on their own. That everyone has to make their own personal decision as to whether or not you think your water is safe to drink. That`s nice. It`s been a bad two weeks in West Virginia since Freedom Industries` tank number 396 spilled its contents into that Elk River and started this whole disaster. And now there`s more. Turns out Freedom Industries just realized that there was something else in that leaking tank. A second chemical was in the tank. The president of Freedom Industries decided to tell the state yesterday, 12 days into the spill, about there being a second chemical in that tank. The company had never listed this chemical on its chemical inventory that it had filed with the state. It never told any of the authorities involved in responding to the spill that this other chemical might be implicated. But yesterday at about 10:00 a.m., the head of Emergency Response for the state`s Department of Environmental Protection says just before the daily meeting that they have now about that leak to try to coordinate the response -- just before that meeting at the leak site yesterday, the president of Freedom Industries pulled the state official aside and asked to speak with him privately. He then told the state official about this second chemical that was also in the tank and handed him data sheets on the material. The Freedom Industries president then told the state official, quote, "I`m going to have a terrible day today." Yes, he`s going to have a terrible day. Meanwhile, 300,000 people in West Virginia are just finding out that thanks to him and his company, their drinking water was contaminated, yes, with a coal washing chemical that smells like licorice and that makes you sick and has unknown long-term health effects, but there it was also contaminated with several hundred galons of the chemical called PPH, which is also said to irritate the eyes and skin and to be harmful if swallowed, but how harmful? Don`t know exactly. The race is now on to find out what information exists in the world about the health effects in humans of exposure to this chemical and how to test for it and how to treat it out of the water and how to find out if it is still in West Virginia`s water even now. Not being particularly helpful in the race so far is Freedom Industries, who is now claiming that the exact identity of that substance is proprietary to their business. After the company`s bankruptcy hearing yesterday when reporters approached the Freedom Industries president to ask him about these new revelations 12 days into the spill that there was a second chemical involved, the president of Freedom Industries, quote, "walked away from reporters" and said he had another meeting to attend. Busy guy. He was probably having a really terrible day. A really, really long day. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is my favorite story of the day. All right. Funny thing happened in the news today, and not in the sense that something funny happened. It was the release of the aforementioned Presidential Commission on Election Administration, the voting fix thing, right? It`s not that funny. But the way it was reported was really funny. Look. This from "The Washington Post." "President Obama called the commission`s suggestions imminently glittering after receiving them today." Imminently glittering? Let`s check another source. Check Politico. Look. Yes, quoting the president. "Obama said the recommendations that are contained in this commission report are imminently glittering." President Obama admittedly can turn a fancy phrase, but did he really call the voting commission recommendation "imminently glittering"? Judge for yourself. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: The good news is that the recommendations that are on contained in this commission report are imminently doable. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Doable. Imminently doable. Where did glittering come from? Official White House transcript, remarks by the president, paragraph seven, the president`s remarks, "The recommendations that are contained in this commissions report are imminently glittering." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Imminently doable. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Imminently doable. How did doable become glittering in the White House transcript and then in all the press reports today, I have no idea. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. 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