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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/11/14

Guests: Darryl Isherwood, John Stanton

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Steve. I have to tell you, we have a little bit scoop on the bridge scandal coming up in just a moment. We`ve got a new thing to report. So, thanks, man. Appreciate it. Thanks to you at home for staying with us the next hour. As I just mentioned to Steve because I feel like I`ve got to check in with him on this story because he`s been on it more than anybody else in the building, we do have some new news to report on the Chris Christie New Jersey bridge scandal tonight. MSNBC has obtained new information tonight both on the investigation into Governor Christie`s administration as well as the governor`s response to that investigation. I will explain that new information that we have uncovered tonight in just a moment. But first, you should know Governor Christie, himself commented today at some length on the bridge scandal and on how he is handling it as governor. He was questioned on the matter at an appearance at the Economic Club of Chicago. The governor was being interviewed at that appearance by the chairman of Motorola, which comes up in the initial part of the remarks. Check it out. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you think about it going forward, does the G.W. Bridge situation impact your ability to execute on those priorities for the state? GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Actually, I`m shocked you brought that up. (LAUGHTER) CHRISTIE: Here`s the thing about government or about Motorola solutions. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stick to government. Stick to government. Stay on government, Governor. CHRISTIE: You opened the door, buddy. Large organizations are dynamic and incredibly creative because they`re inhabited by human beings. They`re also inherently flawed because they`re inhabited by human beings. And some people who worked for me made some significant mistakes in judgment, and when you`re the leader of that organization, and you`re confronted with that, the first thing that happens to you, what happened to me, was extraordinary disappointment. Extraordinary disappointment that people that I had trusted had made such bad judgments and had not told the truth. But you only have a few minutes to wallow in that disappointment. And then if you`re a leader, you have to get a handle on the story and take decisive action which we did by letting people go and talking to the public about it. We`re in the midst of an internal review now, and whatever that internal review discloses, we`re going to release to the public and if there`s more action that needs to be taken, I`ll take it. But I don`t think it will curtail, for the long haul, a second-term agenda because I think the public in New Jersey won`t tolerate it. The fact is they expect me and the legislature to continue to do what we did in the first four years, which is to find solutions to New Jersey`s problems and get things done. So, while the last six weeks haven`t been the most enjoyable in my life, I can guarantee you, on the other hand, the fact is we need to do our work. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey speaking in Illinois today, addressing the bridge scandal and the investigations in to him and his administration, as he described at the end, basically the challenge of governing in that environment. Governor Christie made those remarks at the Economic Club of Chicago today. After that event, he met with Republican Party donors, this afternoon. And now tonight, he`s doing a fund-raising dinner for the Republican Governors Association which, of course, he chairs. The goal of the Republican Governors Association, of course, is to elect Republican governors around the country. And whatever you think of the prospect of any Republican being elected governor in deep blue Illinois, there are four Republicans who are in the run to try to compete for that seat in Illinois. Even though the head of the Republican Governors Association was in their state today raising money from their in-state Republican donors, presumably to try to help one of their eventual campaigns for the top job in the state, Lynn Sweet at the "Chicago Sun-Times" reported yesterday that not one of those four Republican candidates would admit to having plans to getting anywhere near Chris Christie on this trip. As it turned out, two of the four candidates did end up at Chris Christie events today, but they were events that were closed to the press and closed to the public and there were no cameras. So, no pictures of the candidates with the governor. Same thing happened on Chris Christie`s recent trip to Texas where the Republican governor of Texas and the Republican candidate for governor of Texas did not want to be seen with Chris Christie, even though he was in their state. It happened in Florida as well, where the Republican governor running for re-election in Florida did no public events with Chris Christie and the one private event he did with the governor, Governor Rick Scott, was brought in through the back door of the event to avoid reporters and photographers who would have seen him going into the front door to meet with Chris Christie. Today in Illinois, it was Democrats who tried to capitalize on Chris Christie`s appearance in that state by trotting out the former Democratic governor, Ted Strickland, to basically rake Chris Christie over the coals and to highlight the fact that the Republican candidates for governor in Illinois did not want to be seen with him while he was on a fund-raising trip to their state. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TED STRICKLAND (D), FORMER OHIO GOVERNOR: We`re here in Illinois today, it seems not even the winds of Chicago can blow away the storm clouds that are hanging over the head of Governor Chris Christie. While we wait for the governor to explain exactly what happened, he`s continuing to travel around the country as the RGA chair to raise money for candidates who seem to refuse to be seen or photographed with him. I was the governor of a large state. I was surrounded by top staff. In my judgment, it is impossible for these kinds of things to have happened in Chris Christie`s office without his knowledge or his consent. So, Governor Christie needs to stand up and clear up what he knew and when he knew it and explain just how deeply his office was involved in the scheme that has caused this evolving scandal. And while the investigations are going forward, Christie and his office should stop orchestrating attacks on those conducting these investigations, news outlets and other reasonably asking tough questions. I`m suggesting two things, two possibilities. Either the governor knew and he is lying, or he is the most inept, incompetent chief executive imaginable. As I said, I was the governor of a large state, and I had a close-knit staff. Now, Governor Christie in his press conference I think tried to absolve himself of some responsibility by talking about the thousands of state employees. Well, of course New Jersey has thousands of state employees. But we`re talking about the four or five or six people that were closest to this man, his campaign manager, his deputy chief of staff. The man he chose to nominate to be attorney general. These are people that he interacted with continually, closely, and if he did not know what they were doing, then he certainly is not a person who should be considered for the presidency of the United States of America. If he is so incompetent in his judge of character and his oversight of his administration, then God help us if he were to become president. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland basically taking New Jersey Governor Chris Christie apart today at a press conference in Illinois today that was timed to coincide with Governor Christie`s trip to that state. Of course, talking about corruption and abuse of power in Illinois has a special kind of resonance, right? I mean, if you think about it, if the Democrats wanted to have a charismatic former Democratic governor go after Chris Christie on this trip to Illinois so that charismatic Democratic former governor could talk about, you know, what I know from having governed a large state and all that, it`s a little odd that the Democrats had to resort to a governor from the not quite neighboring state of Ohio, right? But that`s because they definitely couldn`t pick the last former Democratic governor of Illinois for this gig today because the last former Democratic governor of Illinois is Rod Blagojevich and former Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois is, of course, in prison for more than a decade, on charges of corruption and abuse of power. So, awkward choice for the Democrats today. Couldn`t pick Blagojevich, so they got a guy untarnished by corruption scandals from Ohio instead, had to go two states over. In terms of what Ted Strickland said, though, today, about how Governor Christie`s office ought to stop attacking the news outlets who are reporting on the scandal and the people who are investigating it, Governor Christie`s office kept that write-up today. They released this broadside attack on "New York Times" reporter Kate Zernike after she made an appearance this morning on MSNBC. In the governor`s press release, his office attacks what he describes as, quote, "New York Times" myths about the scandal" and then calls the special counsel who is hired by the legislature, special counsel hired by the legislature in a unanimous vote, 100 percent bipartisan vote. The governor`s office today calls that special counsel, quote, "The Democrats` lawyer." Is that what he is? He`s just the lawyers for the Democrats. The way that Governor Christie has kept up a steady stream on people reporting this story and people investigating this scandal while the governor, himself, keeps saying in public how much he`s cooperating and how much he just wants to get to the bottom of all it, that paradox, that contradiction between his personal public statements and what his office is doing in his name, that continues to be one of the weirder aspects of this story that I think probably hasn`t had enough attention. It is a weirder aspect of this story. It is not quite as weird as the reporting yesterday that Governor Christie might have done a flyby of the traffic jam in Fort Lee by helicopter while those access lanes on to the George Washington Bridge were blocked. Numerous press outlets yesterday reported that Governor Christie might have flown over the traffic jam that had been ordered up by his staff on his helicopter ride back to New Jersey from New York on the morning of September 11th, last year. And that that was why the aviation unit of the New Jersey state police was having its records subpoenaed as part of the investigation. Well, today the New Jersey state police put that speculation to rest rather emphatically when they released a statement saying that the governor`s helicopter did not do that. Quote, "None of the three flights transporting the governor during the week flew over or close to either the George Washington Bridge or Fort Lee, including the flight on September 11th." Despite press speculation to the contrary, though, the subpoenas to the state police about the governor`s helicopter rides I think weren`t about whether or not he flew over the traffic jam. They may not have been aimed at all from the first place, in the first place, at figuring out where that helicopter went on September 11th or any other day that week. One of the co-chairs of the committee who issued that subpoena to the part of the state police that controls the governor`s helicopter rides, one of co-chairs of that committee that issued that subpoena yesterday explained as much to us last night right here on this show about why they were after the records of Governor Christie`s helicopter travel during the shutdown. Check out what he said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STATE REP. JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY: The subpoenas that came out today, including the one to the aviation unit, really to get answers about who knew what when. Who was in the conversations at what point in time? Who else was with various people when those conversations were had? MADDOW: That particular subpoena today was described in the press as having been -- having sprung from a concern that perhaps the governor did a flyover over the George Washington Bridge during the bridge shutdown on the day of September 11th, 2013. Do you want to comment on that speculation in the press? WISNIEWSKI: I don`t know what the governor did or didn`t do in the helicopter, but I do think that who conversations are had with at particular points in time are just as important to the committee as where the helicopter flew. And so this is part of a larger effort to peace together a puzzle that we`re not seeing entirely clearly. But we do know that there was an abuse of power and an attempt to cover it up. We need to know how far that goes and who else knew it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was John Wisniewski, co-chair of the committee that is investigating the bridge scandal saying last night here on this show essentially it`s not a question of whether or not Governor Chris Christie flew over that purpose-built traffic jam in a helicopter but rather who he might have been traveling with in the helicopter at the time of the bridge shutdown. Interesting. Who was he traveling with? Not where did he go? But it is to that last point that John Wisniewski just made there about how far this goes, about not just the abuse of power on that bridge, but the attempt to cover it up. It is that part of it to which we can add some brand new reporting tonight because MSNBC tonight has obtained a document from sources close to the investigation that explains what it is that the legislative committee is looking for in this new round of 18 subpoenas that were sent out last night. None of the subpoenas has been publicly released, but we can report tonight that the investigation is looking for something very, very specific. In the newly issued subpoenas of all of these people, we`ve had to put it in small type so we can get them all on one screen, in the newly issued subpoenas of all the people, the new subpoena for the governor`s office, the new subpoena for the governor`s re-election campaign, new subpoena for the governor`s chief of staff, and the brand new first-time subpoenas for all these other people who have never received subpoenas before. In all of these subpoenas that went out last night, the committee is looking for one common piece of information from each of them. Quote, "Drafts of Baroni, November 25th`s statement to Assembly Transportation Committee." Asking for that from all of those people. This is the common denominator of what exactly the bridge-gate investigation is looking for from all of these people who just got subpoenaed for the first time or just got a second subpoena to add to their first. Some of these people are asked for other things in addition to drafts of the Baroni statement, but they are all asked for this. The legislature is subpoenaing all these people at the Port Authority, all these lower- level people who work in the governor`s staff and governor`s office and his campaign, again, all looking for who helped draft the cover-up. This was the Bill Baroni testimony to the legislature on November 25th. This is where he spun out that whole false tale, the whole cover-up, that it was a traffic study. It wasn`t a traffic study. This was the cover-up. Now we know the investigation is casting a net to try to find out who was in on drafts of that cover story testimony. Who was in on the drafts of the cover story that they tried and failed to sell to the legislature to cover up what really happened on that bridge? Were any of these people, were any of these offices in on it? Was the governor`s campaign in on it? Was the governor`s office in on it? And we can report tonight that that is what the investigation is now zeroing in on finding out. And we can additionally report that the governor`s re-election campaign has confirmed to NBC News tonight that, indeed, one of the things that is in their new subpoena is a request for any communication with Bill Baroni prior to that false testimony to the legislature. Our document that we can report originally here tonight shows that that was the target of all of those subpoenas going to all of those people as of last night. At least one of the people, one of the organizations that received one of the subpoenas confirms that that is accurate, that is what they were asked for. This investigation is now about who was in on the cover-up. Game on. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRISTIE: Some people who work for me made significant mistakes in judgment and when you`re the leader of that organization, and you`re confronted with that, the first thing that happens to you, what happened to me was extraordinary disappointment -- extraordinary disappointment that people I had trusted had made such bad judgments and had not told the truth. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: People he trusted had not told the truth. Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey addressing his bridge lane scandal on a trip to Illinois today. Joining us now is Darryl Isherwood. He`s a senior political reporter for the New Jersey news and information Web site, Mr. Isherwood, thank you very much for being here, especially because I`m told you had to personally lift up a Lincoln town car over your head to get it out of your icy driveway, is that true? DARRYL ISHERWOOD, NJ.COM: On my shoulders, hiked it up the driveway, hopped in the backer, here we are. MADDOW: Everybody from New Jersey is that strong. That`s why all New Jersey politics stories are so amazing. ISHERWOOD: It`s a tough place. MADDOW: Well, thank you for doing it. Last night, we got our hands on what the legislature is looking for, from the people who received the new subpoenas. The legislature seems to be zeroing in on that testimony that Bill Baroni gave to the legislature. Who was involved in drafting the testimony which we now know is a cover story. What do you think is the significance of that? ISHERWOOD: You know, I think it`s interesting they`re looking at that specifically because one of the people on that list is Phil Kwon who is an attorney now with the Port Authority. If you remember, he was the governor`s nominee to the Supreme Court, shot down by the Democratic legislature. So, he was the one who actually prepped Baroni for the testimony or so it`s been reported. I think it`s interesting they`re zeroing in on that to try to find out, you know, sort of a way to back into this, the way I see it. You know, if the governor says we didn`t know anything about it but then they find out they were helping Baroni prep for this testimony which we`ve come to find out was basically untrue, you know, that`s a kind of way to back in to find out who knew what, when and where. MADDOW: It`s interesting it`s Phil Kwon, who, again, the Port Authority doesn`t deny was involved in prepping Mr. Baroni for that testimony. But also, the governor`s reelection campaign, asked specifically for information about contact with Mr. Baroni ahead of the testimony, the governor`s office more broadly and this huge, long list of people in the Port Authority and the governor`s office including, like, assistants and people who don`t have high-level jobs. Does seem like a very wide net they`re casting for this information, doesn`t it? ISHERWOOD: It does. You know, it struck me there were names on there from the governor`s administration I didn`t know and I`ve covered him for four years. You know, that tells you they`re getting down deep into this. You know, it goes back to that basically to that text from Baroni, if you remember, he texted David Wildstein to say what was the response from the administration on his testimony? And Wildstein typed back, you know, they were happy and he threw out a couple of names. I think that`s where they`re zeroing in is, Baroni was specifically asking, hey, what did they think of what I just did? He was told they loved it. I think that`s probably what sparked this interest in, you know, who in the administration, who in the election campaign, who in the Port Authority, actually knew what he was saying and helped him prep for it? MADDOW: Darryl, there`s also some news today that the legislature was told, actually in an unrelated matter, into unrelated investigation into Sandy funds, that the policy of the governor`s office under Chris Christie that nobody who works in the governor`s office will be allowed to testify before any committee of the legislature. I don`t know if they mean that to also apply to the investigatory select committee that is looking into the bridge scandal. Is that potentially a road block here for this investigation? ISHERWOOD: I think it would be, because you remember, you know, when David Wildstein was called to testify and he took the Fifth, I mean, I think they were counting on him shedding a lot of light on what happened here and he sat down and he took the Fifth. They got nothing out of him. You know, it was a long hearing of one answer after another, I`m going to exert my Fifth Amendment rights. And so, they really, you know, it stalled them a little bit and then they, you know, went back and cast an even wider net with subpoenas. So I think it would be, if you`re not getting the information, you`re not getting the people sitting down and telling you what you`re looking to hear, I think it`s definitely a road block for him. MADDOW: And, of course, it remains to be seen whether if that is a generic policy of the administration, they`ll apply it to this very special type of political committee before the legislature, but we haven`t had comment on that yet. Darryl Isherwood, thank you for being here, senior political reporter for I really appreciate it, particularly the lengths you had to go to, sir. ISHERWOOD: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: Thanks a lot. All right. Stay with us. There`s more to come. We promise you won`t have to lift your own car over your head in order to understand it. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Today in Washington, House Speaker John Boehner did something on tape that I think he really maybe did not mean. At least, well, watch it yourself. I think he at least didn`t mean it in a literal sense. Watch. He sings here. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Thanks. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. BOEHNEER: Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay. My, oh my, what a wonderful day. Plenty of sunshine, coming my way. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: We didn`t add that audio to the tape. That really was house speaker John Boehner singing zip-a-dee-doo-dah to reporters as he walked out of his press conference today. And why did John Boehner do that? Because he is an ironic man. He`s a man who has a sense of irony and, in fact, had no sunshine coming his way today. The House Republicans actually rather collapsed today, and they made sure to do it right before the giant snowstorm on purpose. Kind of a strange night in Washington tonight. Stay with us for that story. Straight ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The Southeast and the East Coast tonight are bracing for another giant winter storm to dump anywhere from three to, I don`t know, 20 inches of snow, plus tons of ice, again. The storm has already begun in some parts of the southeast. As of right now, it`s expected to make its way up the East Coast tomorrow night and all day throughout Thursday. Our nation`s capital, Washington, D.C., anticipating a storm like something they haven`t seen for three decades. Remember how Washington was absolutely stymied by the big snowstorm they called snow-mageddon in 2010? Well, this year, everybody`s worried this storm that`s bearing down on D.C. right now might be even bigger than that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A high-impact event. It`s going to start out as snow for everybody. Obviously, the amounts are going to vary widely. Major travel delays and widespread cancellations are likely. Really just depends on the track of the storm. Newest model data does indicate the storm will be hugging closer and closer to the coast. That means a heavy, wet snow. Much like blown concrete. Not the powder that we had last time. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Blown concrete, the warning from NBC Washington bureau`s weather -- blown concrete? Sorry. Sounds terrible. But glass half full here, a by-product of this gigantic winter storm is that we as a nation are not going to default on our national debt. And send the entire global economy into a free fall. That`s a nice side effect of the storm. The House of Representatives decided to vote tonight just a couple hours ago to raise the nation`s debt ceiling with no strings attached. They`re not raising the debt ceiling but only if Democrats agree to repeal Obamacare, they`re not raising the debt ceiling but only if President Obama approves the Keystone pipeline. No, the House just voted tonight to raise the debt ceiling through March of next year thereby assuring the world the U.S. will not default on its debt. It`s clean rise. No policy strings. We will pay our bills. As late as last night, everybody expected some new demand from House Republicans about what they wanted in exchange for paying the country`s outstanding debts, but the House Republican meeting last night where they were supposed to figure out what their demand was going to be, that meeting did not seem to go very well. Republican members apparently refused to go along with their leadership`s suggestions. NBC News reports that at point in the meeting last night, Republican Congressman Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania stood up and screamed to the room, quote, "What kind of team is this?" Congressman Kelly reportedly received some applause for his remarks but still nowhere near enough Republican members of Congress fell in line behind the supposed leaders of this supposed team. And so, as of this morning, nobody knew what the Republicans were going to do. Nobody knew what House Republicans were going to ask for in exchange for passing the debt ceiling. Then today, John Boehner let the other shoe drop. He announced what the Republicans would demand in exchange for raising the debt ceiling was nothing. He explained they could agree on nothing so they are demanding nothing. No demands about Obamacare or oil drilling or abortion restrictions or anything else. And so, that straight up or down vote happened today. It was originally scheduled to be later this week, but everybody`s worried enough about that storm bearing down on Washington that they all wanted to vote today in enough time to let them get out of town and get home safe before the snow comes. That debt ceiling bill passed tonight 221-201, 28 Republicans crossed the aisle to vote for it, 199 Republicans voted against it. But the bottom line is it passed. We will not self-inflict that particular economic wound again just because conservatives demanded that Republicans do so. And so, naturally conservatives are livid tonight. They are really mad at John Boehner. A group called the Senate Conservatives Fund is urging people to call House Republicans to demand that John Boehner lose the speakership because he allowed this vote to raise the debt ceiling. They, of course, are the Senate Conservatives Fund which makes this call a little awkward, but apparently they`re all over the House now as well. The Club for Growth also warned they would score the vote to punish anyone who voted for it tonight. An adviser told reporters, quote, "When we heard House leadership was scheduling a clean debt ceiling increase, we thought it was a joke. It`s not. Something is very wrong with House leadership or with the Republican Party." Heritage Action, the group widely credited with forcing the Republicans to shut down the government last fall, they, too, warned that they would score the vote today, that they would punish anyone who went along with John Boehner on this today. But you know what, the Republican leadership jumped anyway. John Boehner brought this bill to the floor and passed it with overwhelming Democratic votes and just a few Republicans. And he did not seem to care much at all about these guys screaming at him from the right, threatening his job and all the rest of it. And that`s not the first time, just this year that this has happened. Earlier this month, all these same conservative groups issued dire warnings and threats to Republicans they better not support the farm bill. But the farm bill also passed the House. And then it passed the Senate and became law and nobody much seemed to care about the scary warnings from the Senate Conservatives Fund and all these other groups about how terrible it would be especially for the Republicans who went along with it. It was the same deal on the spending bills earlier this year. The right said, don`t do it. You`ll be sorry. And John Boehner did it anyway and the legislation passed mostly with Democratic votes but with enough Republicans to make it happen. This keeps happening. So, question, if Republicans don`t really care what these right-wing groups have to say on the debt ceiling and the farm bill and the spending bills, why can`t Republicans not care what those groups have to say on immigration? Because Republicans are defying the right on all of these other matters of legislation, but they`re not defying the right on immigration -- not at all. I mean, look what`s happened on immigration. First the Republicans said they couldn`t possibly support immigration reform because President Obama wasn`t being tough enough on the border. Well, the administration then forced a record number of deportations at the border and record increase in border security. So, Republicans decided, OK, then that wasn`t their issue. They didn`t want immigration for a different reason. House Republicans then said they couldn`t possibly consider a comprehensive immigration plan. It had to be piecemeal, had to be a bunch of individual bills instead of one big bill. So, the president said, OK, sure, if that`s what you`re willing to consider, I can work with that. I don`t care what the bill looks like, let`s pass something. We can do it in a million little pieces. Then, of course, the House Republicans decided actually that wasn`t their issue. They didn`t want to do it for a whole different reason. Their latest reason was this: "House Speaker John Boehner dampened prospects for immigration reform this year, blaming a lack of trust between the White House and the Republicans." We won`t pass this because we don`t trust the president -- to which Democrats responded, OK, you don`t trust the president, no problem, we can work around that. We`ll pass an immigration law that doesn`t go into effect until President Obama isn`t president anymore. It will go into effect after he leaves office. You don`t have to worry about the fact you don`t trust him. Is that good enough? No, no. Of course not. Republicans said, oh, that`s not our issue anymore. Immigration still can`t happen because we don`t know who the next president is going it be either. Republican Congressman Jim Jordan said, quote, "We don`t know who`s going to be president in 2017." You need to guarantee that they get their chosen president in 2017 or there can`t be immigration? We might not like the next president, either. We can`t pass immigration with tons of deportations and border security. We can`t pass immigration piecemeal. We can`t pass it after Barack Obama is no longer president. I mean, on every other issue now, the Republicans are wailing about it but in the end, they`re shooting down the conservatives who are tell them to say no to everything. They`re defying the conservatives on all these other issues. Why not on this issue? Why are the conservatives winning and the Republicans still saying no on this one issue? Joining us now is John Stanton, Washington bureau chief at "BuzzFeed". John, thanks for being here. It`s nice to have you here. JOHN STANTON, BUZZFEED: It`s good to be here. MADDOW: First, I`ve got to ask you about this vote tonight. Why do you think Speaker Boehner brought up the debt limit, clean, no strings attached tonight for a vote? STANTON: Well, I think he looked at it and said there`s no political downside for him, frankly, in the House. Most of the members that are sort of arguing against him, his -- the majority of his members look at those people and they say, you don`t have any power anymore. After what happened with the government shutdown, there`s no good reason for us to follow you, sort of back into the abyss. So we`re just not going to. And Boehner looks at this and says, assuming he`s around next year, he could still be speaker, still able to control the chamber. And, frankly, the pressure in Washington just isn`t there like it was six months ago on these issues. He`s really been able on at least fiscal issues to defuse this crisis within his conference. He gets beat up by Heritage Action and others, and there`s this small very vocal group of Republicans that come at him. But at the end of the day, they don`t have the sway with their colleagues they used to. MADDOW: Well, if the pressure is less potent in the way you describe, why is that pressure apparently succeeding on immigration? Or does right- wing pressure not explain why the Republicans are still saying no on immigration? STANTON: Yes, not in the same way certainly. And I think that, you know, when you talk to members of the House, they look at it as a sort of a different situation whereas they`re getting beat up on the national level by Heritage Action and others on debt and some of these other issues. On immigration, they`re feeling the pressure from below. It`s their voters. And they go home to go do town halls. They go home and they hear talk radio. And they`re feeling this sort of organic pressure from Republican-based voters in their districts. And some of it has to do with sort of just a perceived orthodoxy, you don`t vote for immigration reform if you`re a Republican. Some of it, some Republicans have told me is frankly because they believe some of their constituents are racist. And they don`t want to see Latinos in particular coming in and getting the same kind of rights that they have. And in some instances, it`s just this sort of Democrats want it, we don`t want to have it, and if you vote for it, that make you a RINO and we won`t vote for you or will allow a primary challenger to take you out. I think that they go home and they hear this and that terrifies them. I think those are the pressures that Boehner is ultimately responding to. You know, some folks hope that he`s looking at this as an issue where he can sort of say these things now, let this play out some more and get back into May or June when they get past the primary season and bring his people back together and try to pass immigration. But I do think the hopes are starting to wane again. MADDOW: It`s fascinating the difference between public opinion and general election opinion on an issue like immigration reform and the Republican base and being an individual member having to split that -- having to split between those two things. I don`t envy them the choice. I would never run for office. Let me ask you also, John. You reported today on kind of a weirdly threatening e-mail that has been circulating to Republican members` personal e-mail accounts. Can you explain what`s going on there? STANTON: Yes, so members of the House have a personal e-mail address, House e-mail address that is not publicly available and most staff can`t get at it. And they -- some Republicans, particularly sort of moderate folks, have been getting these sort of strange e-mails from unrepresentative 1 who is an anonymous person, vaguely threatening them and threatening particularly Representative Langford from Oklahoma and saying we`re going to come after you if you vote for the debt ceiling and they circulated this list of, hit list, essentially, for political targets. And it reads more or less like your crazy uncle that sends you the weird conspiracy forwards. It reads like that. Most of them believe it`s either a member of their conference sending it anonymously or a high-level staffer maybe or they have given it to some outside person who`s now pretending to be a member of Congress. And it sort of points to a bit of the dysfunction that`s going on within the conference, frankly, because if you look three years ago, this is not the kind of thing that would happen. No one would have ever thought to use these very private e-mails that are not supposed to be used for these kind of things as a way to pressure other members into not voting for a debt ceiling vote. MADDOW: The crazy conspiratorial e-mail. It`s coming from inside the House! John Stanton, Washington bureau chief at "BuzzFeed" -- thanks for that, John. It`s great to have you here, man. STANTON: Good to be here. MADDOW: Lots more ahead including a reporter`s water bottle full of jet black toxic goo. And more. Stay with us. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BOEHNER: Thanks. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. BOEHNEER: Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay. My, oh my, what a wonderful day. Plenty of sunshine, coming my way. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is a new map, a new version of it that`s just been put out by the Energy Information Administration. When you look at the whole country, it looks terrible and totally not usable. But if you zoom in, turns out it`s awesome. If you want to start on this, zoom in to say wherever you live. Say you live in the Salt Lake City area. You just keep clicking in closer and closer and you can see. You can spend all day on this kind of map. It shows you everything having to do with energy around where you live. So, you can start at your house. And using these little icons, you can find all the nearest mines and wells and hydroelectric plants and coal- fired power plants and petroleum fired power plants and solar farms and wind farms. It`s not a complicated interface but a very thorough map. You can zoom way in close to where you live. You just click on each one of these little icons like this one coal mine near Salt Lake City and it tells you what`s there and how much it contributes in terms of energy production. It`s totally addictive. What this cool map does show you is a lot of really detailed information about energy sources and energy infrastructure around you, anywhere in the country just zoom in and you just click and check stuff out. I learned a bunch of stuff about western Massachusetts I didn`t know before. What this map does not show you, though, is this. This is the blackened water in field creek in Charleston, West Virginia, today, following a coal spill there. A local NBC reporter tweeted this picture, quote, "Water is black", says Cathleen Moxley. Also this one. It`s a bottle of thick black gunk. Cathleen Moxley writes, quote, "Fresh from Field Creek. Thirsty?" And this one, even more black gunk in the creek. Earlier this morning, sometime between midnight and 5:30 a.m., more than 100,000 gallons of coal slurry, which is a waste product of coal- mining poured into the Fields Creek stream, poured into it from a coal processing plant in the Charleston area. The toxic sludge traveled downstream. It made its way six miles down that creek, into the Kanawha River. This happened today. And once again, West Virginia officials responsible for this sort of thing are proving themselves on the spot. "The Charleston Gazette" reporting that the state director of the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency said about this six-mile toxic gunk slick, quote, "I do not think there`s really anything to it. It turned out to be much of nothing." Much of nothing, says the guy in charge of emergency management in West Virginia, the guy whose job it is to respond to disasters like that. Maybe he didn`t see the pictures. Who knows? But in terms of just being geographically oriented to what you`re looking at, if you go back to the map, the giant coal slurry spill that turned Fields Creek black today now threatens the Kanawha River, that`s here. We`ve marked that on the map there, that red dot. That`s not to be confused with the third largest coal ash disaster in history in North Carolina. That`s still going on right now. That`s there, the lower dot there. The Dan River spill. That`s the spill that happened at the Duke Energy coal ash pond two weekends ago. They only got it capped this weekend and they`ve only now just now started to think about how they might try to start cleaning it up. And that disaster is not to be confused with the gross contamination of the whole region`s drinking water supply which happened a month ago in Charleston, West Virginia, and as an ongoing disaster. That was not the coal slurry disaster from this morning or the coal ash disaster from two weeks ago. That was the coal washing chemical disaster of a month ago. And that one happened right there, that third dot. And on that one today, there was some bombshell news. Please stay with us. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re going to give everybody two minutes and so, set the clock at two. Can you introduce yourself? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. My name is Janet J.T. Thompson. And I appreciate everything I`ve heard about what you plan to do in the future and I can appreciate what you went through with freedom. But my question is this, and we do need an answer now. We were told if you smelled the water, the water was not safe. I have a 10-year-old girl tell me the other day the water stinks. She can smell the smell. They`re about 1,000 feet from the plant. They still smell it and the water stinks when it comes out. So, I think what we really want to know in order to restore the confidence is when we stop smelling the water and when we hear that the chemical leak has completely stop, and then will us assure that it`s getting into the water. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Welcome to West Virginia, to Charleston, West Virginia, the capital city of that proud and great state. I want you to learn about Malden Elementary. Malden Elementary in Charleston has about 200 kids, 25 staff members, cooks and custodians included. Malden Elementary sits close to the mighty, mighty Kanawha River. The school is about 500 feet from that river. Over a month ago, a toxic chemical used to wash coal spilled out of a virtually unregulated above ground storage tank and into the river, into Charleston`s drinking water supply. Since then, the National Guard has been testing the water in Charleston schools, looking for that toxic chemical. Sometimes you can smell the chemical in the water, but if you want an actual scientific measurement, you go here to the regular reports being published now by the state. And you can see in these reports that they tested the water at the Malden Elementary School last week on Thursday. And that sample came back ND, not detectable. They wrote "ND" twice there for lab number one and two. That toxic chemical last week at that school was not detectable. Yesterday they tested it again, east water fountain, Malden Elementary, not detectable. But down the hall at the west water fountain, same school, this time the sampling came up positive. Lab number one, positive. Lab number two, positive. The chemical was there. It wasn`t there last week, it is there this week. On Thursday, the school showed no evidence of the chemical. Yesterday, the tests were positive in that water fountain and nobody knows why. Dave Boucher (ph) reported this out today at "The Charleston Daily Mail." He noted that the school is going to keep handing out bottled water. They say they also plan to flush the pipes again. But you know what? They flush the pipes before. Something is going on here. Officials with the water company in the state, quote, "continue to say the water leaving the affected water treatment plant shows non-detectable levels of the chemical. They also say they don`t believe the chemical can stick to plumbing." So if the water is heading into the school as clean, and there`s nothing in the plumbing that can make the water not clean, why is the water dirty at that school? Where is the chemical coming from? Don`t know. How is don`t know for an answer? Quoting Dave Boucher, "No has been able to explain why several schools continue to show signs of the chemical after the schools have been flushed." The chemical is not coming from the water plant anymore. And they say it`s not leaching out of the plumbing. So, what`s the theory here? The grade schoolers at Malden Elementary are making this chemical and sticking it into the water fountain. But just the west one, not the east one? The governor of West Virginia today announced that West Virginia will start conducting some testing in some homes, trying to figure out why the chemical keeps reappearing in the water. West Virginia has commissioned an independent team of scientists to sample the water in private homes starting with 10 homes across the affected region. They say they`ll then expand that testing to 100 or more homes. The scientists will consider what the pipes are made of in the homes they test to see whether different types of materials are more likely to have somehow soaked up the chemicals, whether those pipes are essentially holding on to it like a sponge. West Virginia has traveled some hard political ground to even get this far. Last week, Governor Tomlin was all about waving off the idea of testing in homes, but now, finally, a testing project of some scoop is about to begin by scientists who will work independently of the state. And that is the news from West Virginia today, where people got the news of a new coal slurry spill blackening yet another West Virginia creek that threatens the Kanawha River in yet another way. And we`ve got another school mysteriously testing positive for the coal washing chemical that was supposed to be long gone by now. That was long gone in that school last week, but it`s back now. How is that? West Virginia, you do know how to throw a Tuesday. At this rate, who knows what`s going to happen in this story next. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". Thank you for being with us tonight. Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END