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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/07/14

Guests: Josh Horowitz, Ken Ward

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Friday. There are a lot of different styles and shapes of taser stun guns. So, what I`m about to explain here will not be exactly true for every taser in the world, but to get a general sense of it, I think this is helpful. This is a side view of a taser stun gun. You see this one has a regular pistol grip and has the trigger there like a normal gun. You look down the barrel at whatever it is you`re going to shoot it at. But, interestingly, this is a picture of a taser when it`s loaded. Now, look at this other picture. This is the picture of a taser when it is unloaded. You see the difference? There`s a whole piece on the front that`s missing when it`s unloaded. That`s because the way you, quote, "load," at least this kind of taser, is by attaching a whole new piece to the end of the barrel. Basically it`s a cartridge on the end of the barrel. Inside that cartridge, that`s where you have the two little metal probes, the little barbs that shoot out the end of the weapon and the wires they`re attached to that the electrical current is conducted through. That`s what we think of as the basic mechanics of how a person gets tased. They get hit with those barbs then the current travels through the wires into those little barbs and the person gets stunned. But inside that little cartridge at the end of the barrel of the stun gun, inside that little cartridge that has the barbs and the wires in it, there`s also something else stuffed in there. And this amazing slow-motion video will show you what else is stuffed into that little cartridge. Watch. This is amazing. Those little specks, you see those? Flying out the end of the stun gun as it`s being fired? Look at that. See those little things? They`re not, like, dust motes or some cartoon representation of motion, right? Those things are there on purpose. There`s 20 or 30 of them in every taser cartridge. And they`re shaped kind of like confetti. See they`re brightly colored. They fly out of the end of the stun gun when it is fired. Just like a confetti gun. But if you look closely at those little pieces of pseudo taser confetti, you`ll see that they are marked. They`re engraved with numbers and letters. That confetti that comes out of the end of the taser, out of the end of the stun gun, it`s printed with the serial number of the cartridge that it came out of. And every time you fire a taser, that tiny imprinted material, those little confetti bits with serial numbers on them, they`re left at the scene. Basically as a unique piece of evidence of which weapon was fired, which weapon exactly was fired. Taser developed this system on their own. They call it the AFID system. A-F-I-D. Standing for anti-felon ID system. They`ve been doing this since 1994. Of course, it`s not a perfect system. Your taser could be stolen from you and used by somebody else. You could sell it to somebody else. Or maybe you figured out some way to never be the official registered owner of your taser in the first place. And so whatever the unique identifier is on that little confetti, maybe it won`t trace back to you. So, maybe your taser is used in the commission of a crime, right? Even if the police find that AFID system confetti where your taser was fired, maybe they won`t be able to trace it to you, but maybe they will. I mean, it`s something, right? It`s something to go on. If a taser is used in a commission of a crime, this sort of both very high-tech and also sort of low-tech system, it does give the police something to go on in the event of crime. It could help. This week in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, oh my God did it help. Behold Universal Knowledge Allah. Last name Allah, first name Universal, middle name Knowledge. When "The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel" posted his mug shot this week, I think they did their readers a disservice by calling him Universal K. Allah. I think you really need to know what the "K" stands for in his case. But Mr. Universal K., Mr. Universal Knowledge Allah, was arrested in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Monday along with this guy, name Salah Jones or Salah a couple other names he goes by. But one of his names is Salah Jones. And the two of them, the two of them were arrested this week in conjunction with an attack and a robbery of this man, Mr. Almond. Yes, this story has the best names of any story ever. Frank Almond was in the parking lot of Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee last Monday. He was leaving a performance at the college. He was walking to his car. As he got to his car in the parking lot, somebody came up to him and shot him with a taser and then they drove off in a waited dark red minivan. And Mr. Almond struggled to his feet after attacked and screamed out after the people who attacked him, "They got the violin! They got the violin!" Frank Almond is the first chair violinist for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and what they stole was his violin. His instrument, the violin he plays is a 300-year-old priceless Stradivarius violin and that`s what the thieves stole from him in that parking lot. Milwaukee police a few hours later did find the case for the violin dumped in north Milwaukee, but the violin was not in it. They announced $100,000 reward for the safe return of the instrument. Mr. Almond went public about what happened. The story started to get national attention. I mean, they had been able to find the violin case, but they didn`t have the instrument, they had no suspects, they basically thought they had nothing to go on. Nothing. Except the stun gun confetti, the taser confetti. The Milwaukee police at this point realizing this was not your run of the mill parking lot mugging, they called in the FBI art crime team because America, God bless us, we have an FBI art crime team. I guess I probably should have known that. I did not know before this story. Working with the taser company, which, again, developed this AFID confetti technology on their own, as a company, as a proprietary part of what they do and what they sell, working with the taser company, the FBI and the police were able to trace the confetti they found at the scene of the tasering in that parking lot from the Lutheran College, they were able to trace that to Mr. Universal Knowledge Allah, who is a barber in Milwaukee. Sure enough, he was the registered owner of that taser. And at about the same time at the police were able to follow that lead from the stun gun, they also got another tip that somebody in Universal Knowledge Allah`s barbershop had heard some suspicious conversation about that violin theft. And when you announce $100,000 reward, yes, you get a lot of tips and most of them are meaningless, but when you can cross reference that kind of tip with this information, you just got about that stun gun being registered to the owner of that barbershop -- well, then thanks to the confetti you found at the scene of the crime, on Monday night, you make an arrest. They arrested Mr. Universal Knowledge Allah and his alleged accomplice who it turns out is a convicted art thief. Twenty years ago, he was convicted in conjunction with a theft of a lovely statue about two feet tall which was stolen out of a downtown Milwaukee art gallery. It`s very nice. The whole scheme unraveled four years later when he tried to sell it back to the same gallery it was stolen from. And the gallery called the police. Within two days of making the arrests, in the violin theft this week, the "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel" says that, quote, "negotiations" with one of the suspects finally convinced that suspect to explain to the police where the violin, itself, was. Police recovered the violin, tucked into an attic in a quiet north Milwaukee street. It was in a suitcase. The homeowner reportedly says he didn`t know what it was. Didn`t know what was in the suitcase. He was just asked by a friend to please store that suitcase in his attic and he did then the police turned up. When the police turned up and found the suitcase and opened it up and found the Stradivarius inside of it. They took the instrument into custody and, of course, they needed to authenticate both it was the specific violin they were looking for and also that the violin was OK. So, the police called in an expert who had appraised the violin two years ago. He authenticated that this was, in fact, that 300-year-old Stradivarius. He also reported to the police it did not appear to be damaged. And according to "The New York Times," upon seeing the violin was not damaged, quote, "he performed a piece by Bach on the 300-year-old Stradivarius as a private concert for the police," whereupon the Milwaukee police were then able to do this. The greatest Milwaukee police press conference after all-time, maybe - - I`m no expert. I don`t know. Maybe greater things have happened in Milwaukee. But look at this, look how they laid it out. Giant police badge on the wall. Shopping mall jewelry store glamorous lighting scheme, a little blanky that the violin gets to sit on. Yes. You can imagine it was a good day. They did it. They got it back, which is both an amazing story even if the people involved here were not called Mr. Universal Knowledge Allah and Mr. Almond, right? I mean, even if it didn`t have those details, this would be an amazing story, but statistically speaking, this is a truly amazing story. Because according to the FBI art crime team, there have been 11 thefts of priceless violins in the United States they have been called in on since 1985. Only three of those violins have been recovered. One Stradivarius that was stolen in London was only recovered three years after the fact. Another Stradivarius that was stolen in 1936 from a dressing room at Carnegie Hall was only recovered 49 years later, in 1985 which was unfortunately after the guy it was stolen from had already died. But in this case in Milwaukee, this 300-year-old instrument was found unharmed in just ten days. And whatever you think of tasers and that way of shooting people, and how tasers are used in law enforcement, all the other controversies around this type of weapon, that little thing they do with the confetti, that little thing they do with the unique identifier, every time one of these things is fired, that in part is what we have to thank for the return of that priceless 300-year-old Stradivarius. Here`s the question: why don`t all guns have something like that? In 2007, Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California signed into law the Crime Gun Identification Act which tried to establish a similar standard for semiautomatic handguns in California. Not for stun guns, but for gun guns. The idea is called micro stamping. It`s essentially a manufacturing change to the firing pin so that in the act of firing a bullet out of a gun, a unique and identifying code that`s very small, almost impossible to see, it`s engraved with lasers, a unique code essentially a serial number, is stamped on the bullet as the bullet is fired, stamped on to the bullet by the firing pin. The idea is that it should not affect the functioning of the gun in any way, shouldn`t require you to buy a different kind of ammunition or anything. It should be a technology that`s essentially invisible and frictionless to the user of the gun but if a shell casing is recovered at the scene of a crime, it will give police something else to go on, one more clue. It could provide one other way to try to trace the gun that that shell casing came from at the crime scene. And no, of course, it`s not a perfect idea. Same with the taser confetti, right? I mean, the gun could be stolen. It could be trafficked a million times after its unique identifier was initially registered. People could try to figure out some way to modify the stamp or remove the stamping ability. Mess with it, right? All true. All of those things are true. But still, in some cases, it might help. It might give police an additional way to solve crimes. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed that bill into law in 2007. It was supposed to go into effect in 2010. California lawmakers delayed it until this past year in 2013. But now, it`s in effect. And the gun lobby and gun makers are furious. Smith and Wesson, which is based in western Massachusetts and Sturm Ruger, which is another New England gun manufacturer, they announced as companies they will not sell new semiautomatic handguns in California anymore because of this requirement, because they do not want to install the technology in their guns and would rather use their business in the most populous state in the Union instead of complying with that law. Smith & Wesson put out a statement when the law went into effect saying, quote, "Smith & Wesson does not and will not include micro stamping in its firearms." California for now is the first state to require this technology. But advocates say similar legislation has been introduced at one time or another in 18 other states. Will California make it work? Could it work elsewhere? And what conceivably could be the argument against this? Joining us now is Josh Horowitz. He`s executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, which supports the California law. Mr. Horowitz, thanks very much for being here. JOSH HOROWITZ, COALITION TO STOP GUN VIOLENCE: Thanks for having me, Rachel. I appreciate it. MADDOW: Do you think it is apt between the taser confetti, proprietary things that exists in stun guns and this idea of micro stamping regular guns through the firing pin? HOROWITZ: Actually, it`s a very similar idea. With micro stamping the firing pin is stamped with a code and when the gun expels a cartridge, you find the cartridge which is what you usually get at a crime scene, and that cartridge will have the code on it. That code links you to the gun. In America, we trace firearms through the serial number, we trace it through the gun, not the cartridge, linking the most common type of ballistic evidence cartridges with the firearm then getting into the tracing system will solve a lot of crimes. MADDOW: Now, California has gone ahead and it was hard fought in California, but Governor Schwarzenegger did sign it into law, 2007. There was some delay in the implementation. I know you had a part in encouraging California to write this law. How did that come about? Why did you get involved with it? And what was the fight like? HOROWITZ: Well, I was involved because, as people may remember, there was a sniper here in 2003 in D.C. I lived in those neighborhoods where the sniper was active. And we found these -- law enforcement found these cartridges and we couldn`t identify the gun. Once we found that John Mohammed from was Washington, we could do all sorts of things. But that cartridge we kept on finding, it was like a tease. But we couldn`t do anything. And after that, I said, we need to learn more about this, we need more evidence from these cartridges. We found this small company in New Hampshire that was making this great micro stamp technology and said, wow, it would be great if the industry would do this. But, of course, they wouldn`t. We went to California and started working on this law to create a market to help the manufacturers so we can do this. And I was very involved in getting the law passed and then writing the regs and getting it finally implemented which is a long fight. I can tell you that the manufacturers fought us every step of the way while we got the law accomplished and now continue to fight with the lawsuit which if they would just roll up their sleeves, get this done, show some American ingenuity like tasers have done, we`d solve a lot more crimes and save a lot more lives. MADDOW: Is this an expensive technology for the gun manufacturers? They certainly maintain that it is. Is this going to be a windfall for the microstamping company in New Hampshire? In terms of the financial objections to this, what do you make of the arguments? HOROWITZ: Well, it will cost about $6 a gun. That`s what it will cost. As far as making money for this company, one of the holdups was the company had to give up their patents in order for this law to come into effect. So, it`s a small company involved in different types of technologies and they graciously gave up the patents. The patents are in the public domain. They may not make a dime on this technology. So, I think that, you know, it`s out there. The money thing is sort of silly. It`s cheap technology. It`s the same type of technology that marks your cereal box every morning to tell you, the markings on the cereal box to tell you if it`s fresh or they could do a recall. This is industrial technology used every day in America. And the gun industry, again, is just trying to avoid basic responsibility here. I`m glad taser has done it. I wish the industry, the gun industry, would follow suit. MADDOW: Josh Horowitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence -- thanks for helping us understand this, Josh. I really appreciate it. HOROWITZ: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: When you are doing damage control about your failed damage control about your failed damage control, you really are not controlling the damage. Yet another late on a Friday night news dump on the George Washington Bridge scandal and Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. That`s coming up with the one and only Steve Kornacki. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, hey, today was a totally normal day as it turns out in New Jersey. Today, the mayor of Trenton, New Jersey, so the mayor of New Jersey`s state capital, Tony Mack, today, he was convicted along with his brother of corruption charges. The federal jury found the mayor conspired with his brother to take a bribe in exchange for okaying the development of a downtown parking garage in Trenton. The developers were fake. Parking garage was fake. It was all a government sting operation. But Trenton`s mayor fell for it. And today, he was convicted of official extortion conspiracy, attempted extortion, accepting bribes, one count of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud. And now, Trenton needs a new mayor because even though Tony Mack, aka Honey Fits, aka the Little Guy, aka Napoleon, was arrested nearly two years ago an the charges, he`s stayed in office as mayor of Trenton the whole time he has been on trial because New Jersey. "The Associated Press" helpfully notes that today since the year 2000, the mayors of Newark, Camden, Patterson, Perth Amboy, Hoboken, Passaic, Asbury Park, Orange and Hamilton, New Jersey, have all been convicted or pled guilty in corruption cases, all of them. And now, today, you can add Trenton to the list. Again, just another day in New Jersey. More ahead. Seriously. More ahead. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Late in the day today, because today is Friday and that`s apparently how this scandal works, late in the day today, front page, this sort of odd new story on the Chris Christie bridge scandal in New Jersey. And specifically, Governor Christie`s handling of the scandal. Now, the national press, particularly the Beltway press, was frankly slow to get to the story in the first place. And they have not always been great on getting the details right ever since it has become huge news. So, for "Politico" to give front page splash page treatment to their new development in the Christie story is just sort of an unusual thing. But what they`re reporting tonight is that Governor Christie, himself, had nothing to do with the weird press attack last weekend on David Wildstein. You`ll remember that it was late in the day last Friday, late in the day a week ago today, when David Wildstein`s attorney released that bombshell letter claiming that evidence existed that would show that Governor Christie was not telling the truth when he said he was unaware of the bridge lanes being shut down while day were shut down. That letter came out on Friday. The governor released a statement refuting it that same night. But then over the weekend, kind of a weird turn of events. "Politico" on Saturday was first to get its hands on this rather strange piece of opposition research that Governor Christie`s office sent out attacking David Wildstein. It was titled "Five things you should know about the bombshell that`s not a bombshell." They called it David Wildstein`s scheme to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge. This e-mail from the governor`s office went after David Wildstein in really strange terms. Just quoting from the e-mail, "People and newspaper accounts have described David Wildstein as tumultuous and someone who made moves that were not productive." Seriously, this is from the governor`s office, how they went after this guy. They went back to what he was like in high school. Look. "As a 16- year-old kid, he sued over a local school board election. He was publicly accused by his high school social studies teacher of deceptive behavior." This is the "don`t believe David Wildstein" oppo that Governor Christi Christie`s office sent around this past weekend, ending with what they said was their bottom line. Bottom line, David Wildstein will do and say anything to save David Wildstein. OK. Maybe so. But even still, what on earth is a presidential hopeful and the governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie`s office doing sending out accusations about what some guy`s high school social studies teacher thought about him in the 70s? And if the guy is so terrible and has been so terrible since high school in `70s, then why did Governor Christie install him in a $150,000 a year job at the Port Authority that was created just for him and the Port Authority eliminated as a job once Mr. Wildstein had to resign? Why did Governor Christie sign off on the statement praising David Wildstein as a tireless advocate for New Jersey after he had to resign in this scandal? Why are all these pictures of Governor Christie spending time with David Wildstein while was bridge was shut down, if David Wildstein was a terrible guy and everybody`s known it since high school? Well, today, late in the day on a Friday, breaks the news that he was a terrible guy in high school hit piece that was sent around last week by Governor Christie`s office, that hit piece should not be attributed to Governor Chris Christie. Politico says, "The memo from Governor Chris Christie`s office attacking former appointee David Wildstein`s credibility landed with a thud. It was a striking and deeply personal broadside coming from a chief executive of a state and even his allies called it a mistake. But one important person hadn`t seen the missive ahead of time, the governor, himself. Christie`s aides did not run the document which took the extraordinary step of highlighting incidents from Wildstein`s high school days. They did not run the document by the governor before they sent it out, according to two people familiar with the matter." The most important issue in this scandal for Governor Chris Christie is who was in on the scheme to inflict terrible traffic on purpose on a New Jersey town for some as yet unexplained political reason. That is the most important issue. Who was in on the scheme to kill Fort Lee using the bridge lanes as a weapon? Related question, who covered it up? Who was in on the scheme to cover up what they were doing to Fort Lee by concocting a sham story about a traffic study? Some of that sham cover story was planned in advance of the lanes being shut down. And some of it may have happened after the fact. In either case, who was in on the cover-up? But one contribution the Beltway press is making to this issue, which admittedly you maybe can`t see all that clearly if you`re focused on the proverbial crime and cover-up here rather than just Chris Christie, the third question the Beltway press is raising is a totally different matter altogether, which is -- how well is Chris Christie handling this crisis? How does he function under pressure? Is he still good at his job while facing all of this scrutiny? That is a total Beltway question. It is the kind of question you would find compelling if you were most interested in Chris Christie as a person and as presidential prospect instead of as the governor of a state where the citizens have just been abused by their own government. That question about how he`s handling it is not the only question, but I will concede it is actually a good question. And so, two sources close to the governor have tonight given the scoop that Governor Christie shouldn`t be blamed for that bad defensive misfire toward his chief accuser. He shouldn`t be blamed for that part of mishandling the response to this scandal. Today, Governor Christie spent his second day in Texas on a fund- raising trip for the Republican Governors Association. The Texas Republican candidate for governor spent a second day in Texas not being seen anywhere near Chris Christie while he was there. Same goes for the current sitting Republican governor of Texas, Rick Perry. No public events for Governor Christie in Texas. No press access, basically an underground trip to that state. On Monday, the legislative committee investigating Governor Christie will meet again and likely consider legal proceedings against the governor`s two-time campaign manager and deputy chief of staff, but of whom have invoked their Fifth Amendment rights to try to avoid turning over documents to that investigation. Then, on Tuesday, liberal groups are asking people who got stuck in the manmade traffic jam back in September to rally, to rally at what they`re describing as close as they can get to the scene of the crime. They`re going to rally at Palisades Interstate Park which you can see here is right in front of the bridge. The protesters say they want Chris Christie to resign if he knew what was being done on that bridge. Then on Thursday of next week, Governor Christie will hold a town hall about the recovery from Hurricane Sandy. He`ll be at Port Monmouth on the shore. He will not be taking questions from the press. Joining us now is Steve Kornacki, host of "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI" here on MSNBC. He`s been doing yeoman`s work on this story. Steve, thanks. STEVE KORNACKI, "UP" HOST: Thanks for having any. MADDOW: First of all, I guess, meta question. Do you care how Chris Christie is doing at handling the scandal? Is it -- is it materially relevant to understand the truth of the scandal to see how he`s dealing with the pressure and these revelations? KORNACKI: Well, I mean, a couple things. When this idea they put this attack out last weekend on David Wildstein, it is so bush league, it is so amateur. Of course, they take heat for it for three, four days and feel compelled to say, oh, no, he had nothing to do with this. And it is sort of -- it`s a micro example of sort of what the indictment of his over the bridge is all about right now, which is, you know, his claim, his self-defense is, oh, no, this was all going on. This was all swirling in the press for four months. You know, there was -- there was somebody on the New York side saying federal and state laws were being broken. I had no idea. This was all happening. So, it just -- it`s something on a much smaller level that conflicts with the image that he`s created for himself over the last four years of just this hands-on leader who makes these -- he`s involved in all these decisions. He makes common sense decisions. You know, he`s got control of his operation. And so, here he is in this political crisis and apparently someone, if you`re going to take him at his word on this, someone inserted his horribly disastrous, you know, attack and put it out to the press. And then four days later, he says, oh, I take it back. MADDOW: And what`s interesting, too, is his sort of twin brands are that he`s hands-on, he`s getting stuff done, that he wants to be seen as a technocratically effective governor, which is tough when you`re saying my staff is doing stuff and I don`t know what it is. But the other side of Chris Christie, appealing as a Republican candidate is accountability. I will prosecute you. I will get rid of corruption. I will fire you if I found you crossed me or have done something wrong. I will not let people get away with anything. So, in this case, somebody`s gone around him to levy this attack against David Wildstein he doesn`t like and doesn`t want to be associated with and gets settled by an anonymous leak to "Politico" on Friday night. KORNACKI: Just so you know, this wasn`t -- MADDOW: Wasn`t me. KORNACKI: This wasn`t his handy work, no. MADDOW: It`s hard. The other thing that broke tonight, Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich says he once met with Governor Christie for dinner. He also says he was courted for his endorsement of the governor`s re-election more significantly than he has said before. What do you make of these tonight? KORNACKI: So, yes, I`m seeing a lot of headlines that are portraying this as, like, you know, Sokolich is changing his story or Sokolich is now saying this was about endorsement as if this mystery as has been solved by what Mark Sokolich says and this is going to be -- I don`t see it. I look closely at this interview and I think the mystery lives on past this interview, because what you have here is Mark Sokolich has said before, he`s talked about Matt Mowers, who`s one of the campaign aides to Chris Christie, back in the spring, saying, hey, there are Democratic mayors endorsing Governor Christie. Is it something you might be interested in doing? He`s talked in the past how he strung them along, didn`t say no, didn`t say yes, told them how hard it would be. He`s talked in the past about the friendly gestures that Bill Baroni made for him, you know, for Fort Lee, providing certain things for Fort Lee. He talked to me before about David Wildstein meeting him at ground zero when he brought family members and saying I`m here to treat you very well. What he would always say was, you know, I`m the kind of guy who, you know, as all these things were happening, I wasn`t necessarily putting them together. Now in hindsight when I put them all together, I can see they may have been trying to cultivate me. They may have been inspecting an endorsement. I may not have been reading it, you know, the same way. But what doesn`t add up, you ask him about this, he still says he doesn`t have an explanation for this, that memo, "Time for some traffic in Fort Lee" goes out in August. You`re looking for a triggering event. What was going on in August? Did Matt Mowers ask you a bunch of times? Mayor Sokolich, did Matt Mowers ask you in that span about the endorsement? He says, no, months before that. Can you think of anything in august that might have triggered that e-mail? He can`t think of anything that went out that might have triggered that. And, again, he`s talked -- this dinner that`s been reported, too, this goes back to 2010, 20111 when Chris Christie was first elected governor. He`s bringing mayors down who were supporting what was his initial legislative goal. It was a tool kit, you know, for local municipalities to fight property taxes. So, the interesting thing there about that piece of it is you have Chris Christie walking around for the last couple months saying I couldn`t pick Mayor Mark Sokolich out of the lineup. Now you know they had a pretty intimate dinner together at one point. I don`t read that as having anything to do with 2013 courtship. And the quote in "Bloomberg" has a story that quotes Mark Sokolich saying, look, the most plausible explanation right now I can think of is the endorsement, but I`m not sold on it and there`s a lot of -- MADDOW: And he can`t speak directly to it, anyway. He`s trying to reason it out based on his experience. So, he can never give a -- KORNACKI: He says it`s an ever-changing situation. So, look, I think the question is very much on the table, why did this happen? I don`t think there was an answer tonight. MADDOW: Absolutely. Steve Kornacki, host of the excellent "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI", weekend mornings here on MSNBC -- Steve, thanks. Appreciate it. KORNACKI: Sure. MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: America, meet your newest United States senator. No, actually newer than that. There`s a newer one than that. Nope. No. Newer than that. Even since Ed Markey and since Cory Booker, there`s an even newer one. Newer one. New guy. Yes. There he is. John Walsh, our nation`s newest U.S. senator. Who? Yes. Yesterday, the Senate voted unanimously to confirm Montana Senator Max Baucus as new ambassador to China. Taking the ambassador job means resigning the Senate, so that means Montana needs a new U.S. senator. And today, Montana`s Democratic governor picked this guy, the guy in the middle there. His lieutenant governor, John Walsh, to hold the Montana U.S. Senate seat. Mr. Walsh will also run for the seat for a full term in November. In the meantime, he`ll be sworn in on Tuesday to hold the seat temporarily and that will make him the junior U.S. start from Montana serving alongside Jon Tester, which just goes to show that although there might be lots of different people in Montana qualified to be a U.S. senator, as a nation, we`re really more comfortable with all U.S. senators from Montana all having just the one haircut. You may forget if that`s John Walsh or Jon Tester you`re looking at, but when you see that little updo, you can be confident that that is at least the haircut of the senator from Montana. They share it. It`s just the one. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: If you live around Charleston, West Virginia, you might be getting good at reading these. Test results from local schools. They`re not for students at the schools but rather for a toxic chemical used by the coal industry. Some people say it smells sweet and syrupy like black licorice. Over a month ago, that chemical spilled out of a virtually unregulated above ground storage tank and into the river that provides Charleston`s drinking water. Since then, members of the National Guard have been going into local schools and taking samples of the water for testing. Yesterday, these three schools closed after people noticed the strong licorice smell again and some people felt sick, got lightheaded and nauseated. Look at the test results that morning. See ND? The chemical was not detectable but people there could still smell it and some people got sick. Now, look at this school, George Washington High School. Sample, yesterday and this morning, a test of that sample comes back positive. But that school did not close. The state posted that positive result online at 1:00 this afternoon. The school`s superintendent explained the decision on whether to close any given school was now being made by a rapid response team. Said, quote, "At that high school we can continue on with school because it`s my understanding it was below the acceptable threshold but higher than what the governor suggested. What we were told was that a smell doesn`t mean it`s unsafe. Everybody`s different." Everybody`s different. Everybody just figure this out for yourselves. That`s the emerging theme of this disaster that just will not quit in the state of West Virginia. Officials tried to give out enough water for everyone who need it, for everyone who did not or could not trust their own taps. But still enough thirsty people fanned out to other neighborhoods in the search of safe water that Cedar Grove, West Virginia, are running dry. They`re sending in the National Guard to refill water tanks in Cedar Grove. And maybe the water in and around Charleston is safe to drink now, but it`s hard to tell from local officials. The head of the local health department says his water smells bad but he`s trying to drink it against the wishes of his wife who`s also a public health doctor who says he shouldn`t drink it. The head of the state bureau of health says, sure, drink the water but maybe let the shower run for a while before you get in? West Virginia Governor Tomlin says early on it`s up to you whether you believe your water is safe. The CDC sends in an official this week who says pregnant women should follow their instincts. The guy at the EPA who`s responsible for water protection in the region told "The Charleston Gazette" this week that people`s homes are getting tested to see if the water is safe in their homes, obviously or obviously not. In fact, local reporters had to correct the guy from the EPA on that point. You might think that would be something he`d know since he`s the EPA`s man in charge of water for that specific region and we`re in month into the disaster already. He didn`t know. Just assumed the testing was happening. Now, the governor says the state will start conducting testing in some homes but his office has not spelled out which homes or how that spot testing might work. You get the feeling reading the papers in West Virginia, watching people trying to live through this, trying to make reasonable decisions for themselves and their families, you get the feeling that our fellow Americans in West Virginia would mostly just like for this mess to go ahead and stop. When you can`t get solid information about whether the water is safe, and the information you`re getting doesn`t make sense, and nobody knows where the contamination is coming from now, or why schools are showing up clear for the chemical one day, and then positive for the chemical the next day. It`s worth being mad and frustrated about the spill that started the disaster in first place, but it is also coming into sharp focus that the official response to this disaster is an ad hoc crisscrossed patchwork mess and it is not clear yet how this is going to get better. As the cleanup and the emergency response have continued, Governor Tomlin has talked about putting new regulations in place for above-ground storage tanks like the one that ruptured and started this whole thing. The fix he says would be reasonable. It would be common sense. And then a local reporter chased down documents from the governor`s office and discovered that the governor had held a very quiet private meeting to preview that reasonable and common sense bill for above-ground storage tanks. The list of invitees featured a bunch of executives and lobbyists from the state`s gas and oil and coal industries and no one representing environmental interests, at all. Documents obtained by reporter Ken Ward of "Charleston Gazette" shows the governor`s office considered the private meeting to be the governor`s consultation with, quote, "stakeholders." Joining us now is Ken Ward, reporter with "The Charleston Gazette", keeper of the blog, "Cool Tattoo." Mr. Ward, thanks very much for being with us. It`s good to have you here. KEN WARD, THE CHARLESTON GAZETTE: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: So, how surprised were you to find the governor`s office workshopping this environmental bill with the executives from the industry but not anybody who represents environmental interests? WARD: I wasn`t really surprised at all. You know, what I was surprised about is they gave us the documents that showed it and they didn`t try to make any explanation for why they thought that was a reasonable way to do things. You know, the Tomblin administration here, Governor Tomblin and his folks, who have urged the public just to trust them and I think a lot of folks here are finding it hard to trust the governor and his administration when a whole segment of society is left out of a meeting like that. MADDOW: How would you characterize the response overall to this disaster? I mean, everybody was sort of looking to the state for leadership. Obviously, there`s local responsibility, there`s state responsibility and there`s federal responsibility. What`s your overall sense of how the response has been? I have to say, looking at it from here in New York, looking at it as a national story, the confusion and the mixed messages happening that we can see from here is infuriating. WARD: Well, I think the state has a number of things they`ve done very well. The National Guard here has been, and local emergency responders have been very effective at getting bottled water out to people and handling those sorts of things. What the state hasn`t done very well is kind of communicate to people what the people really need to know. The governor said it`s really a personal choice if you want to continue to drink this water or not. And, but the people haven`t been given all of the information that they need to make those decisions. You know, a week or so kind of went by when they announced there was this one part per million screening level that was safe. Day after day went by when no one would talk to the newspaper, talk to the media or talk to the public and really explain how they derived that number. And especially when you have a chemical like this, very little known about like most of the chemicals that we see in society. It hasn`t been fully tested. And there was all these unknowns about it to not put someone out who could explain that to us, so that we could explain it to readers was very frustrating. On the federal level, it was especially frustrating. The Centers for Disease Control went day after day refusing to make anybody available for interviews. At one point, they were telling people to talk to the water company. A colleague of mine, David Gutman had to call the director of the CDC at his home in the evening to try to get information after days of calling the press office and the director of the CDC said, hey, this is a private number, I`ll give you the press office. And when we quoted him in the paper saying that, miraculously, they decided they would have a press conference and answer some questions. The EPA which gets depicted like it`s this bunch of jack booted thugs breaking down factory doors to put people out of work, the EPA has for the most part been nowhere to be found here and it`s been frustrating trying to get anybody from the EPA to answer any sorts of questions about their role and what`s going on here. They did show up here for a press conference and they`ve provided a couple of interviews. But, you know, one of the big questions that`s come up here is this chemical adhering to the inside of pipes and tanks inside people`s homes. You know, kind of like is it -- have the pipes sucked it up like a sponge sucks up water? And it`s kind of sitting in there seeping out. That`s why we see a non-detect in a school and the next day we see a detect at a school. And the EPA said at a press conference here, oh, we have a stud y that shows that won`t happen. We asked them for a copy of the study and they still haven`t given it to us. MADDOW: Wow. It is -- it is -- it is an upsetting thing that happened, but to hear that even at the federal level, the response 30 days out, or a month out, is still that from the people who ought to know how serious this is and what a national concern this is. It`s just -- it`s very upsetting. Ken Ward, reporter for West Virginia`s "Charleston Gazette" -- your reporting on this has been very aggressive and very informative. And it`s done a lot to I think let the rest of the country know what`s going on, Ken. So, thank you for your reporting. Thanks for being with us. WARD: Thank you. MADDOW: Thanks. All right. So, welcome to Russia, everybody. And by everybody, obviously, I don`t mean quite a few of you. Hold on. That`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: One of the ways the nation of Russia celebrated the opening of the winter Olympic Games in Russia today was by arresting people for holding rainbow flags and speaking in favor of gay rights. Ten people were arrested in Red Square, in the heart of Moscow. And in St. Petersburg, same deal, but more overtly in the Olympic spirit. Today in St. Petersburg, people -- police arrested people for the crime of putting up a banner that quoted the Olympic charter. The Olympic charter has a bunch of nice parts to it. It says, "The goal of the Olympics is to play sport, at the service of human kind. With the view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity." It says, "The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport without discrimination of any kind." That`s the part that`s been up all day at But as the games open in Russia today and Russia starting rounding up people for criticizing discrimination against gay people, it was part six of the Olympic charter that people in St. Petersburg today painted on a banner and tried to unfurl on (INAUDIBLE) island. Part 6 of the Olympic charter reads, "Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic movement." A lot about Russian President Vladimir Putin`s anti-gay enthusiasm is ridiculous. The Russian Olympic team, for example, walked into the stadium at the opening ceremonies tonight accompanied with the song, "We Will Rock You." They picked that as their Olympics theme song, the Russians. "We Will Rock You," of course, as sung by Freddie Mercury and Queen. Do the Russians not know about Freddie Mercury? Will nobody tell Mr. Putin what he needs to know here about Freddie Mercury and Queen? They also had the band Tattoo play at the preshow opening ceremonies today. Tattoo, the terrible Russian girl version of Milli Vanilli, famous for pretending to be lesbians although they`re not. A lot about the recent antigay lurch in Russia is kind of hilarious and it`s ignorance. But most of it is not. Nobody wants politics mixed up in their Olympics or vice versa. But this really is how Russia started the Olympic Games today, on day one. Holding our breath for day two. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again on Monday. Now on the count of three, it`s off to the gulag. Three, two, one -- prison. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END