IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/21/14

Guests: Chad Campbell, Ryan Grim

STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks for that. And thanks to you at staying with us the next hour. Rachel has the night off. On November 2nd, 1983, a reluctant President Ronald Reagan created a new national holiday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: It`s official now. The dream of his family, friends and followers was realized today when President Reagan, not an enthusiastic supporter of the idea, signed a bill declaring the third Monday in January as a national holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Chris Wallace was there today in the Rose Garden for the ceremony. CHRIS WALLACE, REPORTER: There was an air of celebration in the Rose Garden but also an underlying tension. White House officials wrestled for days about how to usher in a holiday the president opposed. They finally decided to embrace it. RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT: Traces of bigotry still mar America. So each year on Martin Luther King Day, let us not only recall Dr. King, but rededicate ourselves to the commandments he believed in and sought to live every day. (APPLAUSE) WALLACE: The president signed the bill creating the holiday, and gave the pen to King`s widow. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: That was 1983. Now more than 30 years ago when President Reagan begrudgingly signed the MLK holiday into law. It`s a bill that took a lot of public pressure to even get passed, despite it being an overwhelmingly popular idea. Dr. King`s widow, Coretta Scott King, she lobbied Congress personally armed with a petition signed by no less than 6 million people in favor of the holiday. She and they overcame the initial opposition from the White House and also a last-minute effort by Senator Jesse Helms to derail it. But finally, 15 years after the assassination of Dr. King, an official federal holiday was created to honor him. Then, it was up to the states to adopt it. Some had already done so even before the federal law passed, but the pace accelerated once that federal law went into effect. One state after another putting on the books an official holiday in celebration of the civil rights hero. But not every state -- a few cases, legislators balked at the idea of creating a new holiday. One of those places where it became a seriously contentious issue, seriously contentious battle was in Arizona. In 1986, three years after that day in the Rose Garden, the Democratic governor of Arizona, Bruce Babbitt, on his way out of office signed an executive order to make Martin Luther King Day a holiday in his state. The very next year the Republican who was elected to succeed Babbitt, Evan Mecham, made it his first official act to rescind that executive order, call off MLK Day in the state of Arizona. This understandably upset a lot of people. The anger reached new levels in the fall of 1990 when the King holiday was placed on Arizona`s ballot and it failed. And now, there were loud calls for boycotts. Stevie Wonder called for one until and unless the holiday was approved. Marquee college football teams began boycotting the state`s preeminent bowl game, the Fiesta Bowl. The NFL threatened Arizona, unless they passed the MLK holiday into law, they wouldn`t be able to hold a Super Bowl in that state. That pressure campaign seemed to work because finally in 1992, a second referendum was held and this time voters chose to make MLK Day an official holiday. NFL eventually did hold a Super Bowl in the state, but it wasn`t until 1996 that it canceled the one that had been scheduled before voters passed that referendum. That fight over what most people saw is a moral no brainer left something of a stain on Arizona even after the holiday became law. The reputation that Arizona acquired through its resistance to MLK Day was a little hard to shake, took a long time to live that one down. So in 2010, when another racialized legislative fight hit national news, some were not surprised that the epicenter was in Arizona. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Protesters turned out at this weekend`s Diamondbacks game, calling on Major League Baseball to move next year`s all-star game out of Arizona. This just one sign the whole state is bracing for the start of Arizona`s tough new immigration law, Senate Bill 1070, scheduled to take effect Thursday. The law would require police who are making routine stops to check someone`s immigration status if there is reasonable suspicion to believe the person may be undocumented. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: With Senate Bill 1070, which came to be known nationally as the "papers please" bill, Arizona was once again in the national spotlight for crafting the nation`s toughest bill targeting undocumented immigrants. Critics call the bill an invitation for open discrimination. Calling it racial profiling. President Obama said it, quote, "undermined the basic notion of fairness." There was even international outcry against the bill with the Mexican government expressing its concern for the rights of Mexican citizens in Arizona. There was so much national attention on the bill, so much negative national attention that many thought in the final days that Republican Governor Jan Brewer might not actually sign it into law. But there you can see, in April of 2010, there she was signing SB- 1070, the harshest immigration bill in the nation, into law. Protests around the country once again calling for the boycott of state flourished. There were calls for sports teams not to play in the state, for anyone not to travel to the state at all. Some projections, Arizona had lost millions because of the boycotts. The law was challenged in court and it was partially invalidated by the Supreme Court two years ago, but it all took a serious toll on the national image of the state of Arizona. It may be a little hard to say this, but there does seem to be a history in Arizona, particular modern history in Arizona that suggests something of an immunity in the national cultural temperature. What`s happening right now is only bolstering that feeling, because the state legislature in Arizona just passed a pretty phenomenally anti-gay bill couching it as religious freedoms legislation. The bill allows individuals or businesses to deny services of any kind to gays if they want to. Language of the bill is so broad that this could mean that even government employees like police officers could deny services to gay people. Amendments to make sure that life-saving emergency treatment and public safety for gay people could be protected were roundly rejected in the state legislature today amid what was a very heated debate. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) STATE REP. DEMION CLINCO (D), ARIZONA: I believe I`m the only openly gay member of this House of Representatives, and so it`s pretty appalling to hear a dialogue that talks about using religion to discriminate against both myself and my community. I mean, if this bill passes in my hometown of Tucson, I could walk out of my home and call a taxicab and they could refuse me service. I could have a medical incident and somebody comes to my home to provide services, and I could be refused. That`s not the Arizona that I want to live in. That`s not the Arizona that the LGBT community wants to live in. STATE REP. LISA OTONDO (D), ARIZONA: Let me tell you as an Arizonan, a native of Arizona, a daughter of Arizona, we already took a punch. I already took a punch in the eye after 1070. And hopefully we`re starting to recuperate after that. And the last thing I want to be known for, for my wonderful state, is to be known for more discrimination. STATE REP. CHAD CAMPBELL (D), ARIZONA: The bottom line is, this is an attack on the gay community of the state, period. Right now, the gay community, LGBT community, is not a protected class, so they`re going to be open to this attack. The protected classes of everything else are not going to be protected because they have -- are not going to be affected because they have the protection right now. But at one point, African-Americans didn`t have the protection. At one point, women didn`t have the protection. At one point, many, many different classes did not have protection and that is why we did what we did to correct those wrongs. This is going to be in the future, we`re going to look back on this bill and people are going to laugh at this bill. (END VIDEO CLIPS) KORNACKI: Arizona is not the only state to float this anti-gay, religious freedoms bill. Similar legislation has been introduced around the country. Efforts in Tennessee and Kansas were scrapped just in the last two weeks because of the national outcry. But it passed in Arizona. And now, the decision rests with Governor Jan Brewer. She has five days to make a decision. Who knows what`s going to happen now? Joining us now is Arizona State Representative Chad Campbell. He`s the Arizona state house minority leader. He represents Phoenix. Representative Campbell, I want to thank you for being here tonight. I guess we`ll start with the million-dollar question. As I understand it, Governor Brewer vetoed basically the same bill last year, but at the time she was locked in a fight with the legislature over funding for the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, so it was unclear if she was really vetoing this bill or if it was just part of a broader effort on the Affordable Care Act. Do you have a sense -- do you have any indication from the governor what she`s going to do when this bill reaches her desk? CAMPBELL: Unfortunately, we don`t, and we`re hoping that she vetoes it again like she did last year. Be it on moral grounds, be it on economic grounds. This bill needs to be vetoed. It is bad for Arizona. It is bad for the people of the state. And it`s just a bad message we should be sending to the rest of the country. We`re basically telling a certain group of people that we don`t want your kind in our state. We don`t want you to live here, we don`t want you to do business here, and that`s a horrible message and it`s absolutely unacceptable. So, I`m hoping that the governor will veto this bill again. KORNACKI: You talk about the potential economic consequences. Those were mentioned in some of those clips we just played. Can you quantify for us when you look back at SB-1070, what that meant what the boycotts and protests meant for the state economically? And is there a sense of what this would mean economically? Can you put a number on that? CAMPBELL: No. That`s really hard. I mean, we lost numerous conventions over the years. We lost population. People left this state. I mean, the quantifiable number for that is I think unimaginable. We lost businesses, we lost tourism. We`re still recovering from the damage that SB-1070 did on top of the recession we were already in. And so to now put this bill into place and put this into perspective, this is kind of just doing damage to the state on top of the damage Senate Bill 1070 did and we simply can`t afford it. Economically, it will be devastating for us. We`re supposed to have the Super Bowl next year. Who knows what will happen with that. But, again, it`s not economic reasons. Morally, this is a reprehensible bill and it`s got to be stopped. The governor has to veto this bill. KORNACKI: I wonder, I think, we look at the legislative fight and it looks like it was pretty much, as I understand it, it was pretty much a party-line vote, you know, relatively close vote breaking along party lines. When you get out of the le legislature and the broader population in Arizona, is there any polling, is there a sense this is 50/50 among voters, or are voters pretty much overwhelmingly against this? And if that`s the case, where is this coming from? Where is the drive for this coming from? CAMPBELL: Yes. You know, I don`t know if any polling exists on this, but I can tell you, I`m a native Arizonan and I`ve been here my whole life. And I do not believe this reflects the values of the majority people in this state. And this is really coming from a legislature that is very extreme and that is controlled by the far religious right and in particular an organization called the Center for Arizona Policy, which is trying to push its agenda on the people of the state and has been for many years now. And so, it`s not reflective of the state and reflective of the people of the state. We have a legislature disconnected from the mass population in Arizona, has been for quite some time. Senate Bill 1070 reflected that. We talked about the MLK issue at the opening of the show here. But the legislature usually ends up having to come back and fix these problems because they`re forced to by the people of the state, once the people have recognized what kind of damage that the legislature is doing to Arizona. I think that`s going to be the case here again if Governor Brewer doesn`t veto this bill. But, hopefully, again, she`ll veto this bill. KORNACKI: I don`t mean to beat up too much on Arizona. I do want to kind of ask the question. I`ll say I like the Arizona Cardinals football team. I cheer for them. So, I like this state. But when you look at the MLK stuff in 1990, when you look at sb-1070, when you look at potentially this becoming law, if you kind of string those things together, does that say something about the culture of your state? What message -- does it send a message, you think, when you put the three things together? CAMPBELL: Well, I think the problem we have, for the most part, politically speaking, is the legislature and the maps, the district maps we have, are mainly decided in the primaries. So, you really have the most extreme element of the Republican Party winning in almost all of the legislative districts that are Republican dominated now, and there`s no moderate voices left in the elected Republican body anymore in the state of Arizona, with a few exceptions. And that`s been the case for really the past decade or so. But I do want to point out, since the mid `90s, the population, the general voters have passed a lot of progressive measures actually when given a chance. Be it public financing for campaigns, medical marijuana, redistricting, independent redistricting, excuse me, minimum wage increases. The voters have passed very progressive ideals at the ballot when given a chance. It`s the legislature that is pushing these bad ideas and really shoving it down the throats of most Arizonans. KORNACKI: All right. We`ll be keeping a eye on what Jan Brewer decides to do. She has five days. Arizona State Representative Chad Campbell, he`s the House minority leader, a Democrat from Phoenix -- we thank you for your time tonight. CAMPBELL: Thank you. KORNACKI: Up next, President Obama plays favorites for his longtime listeners. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: It was late on election night in 2012 when President Obama took the stage to give his victory speech. Media outlets had declared him the winner shortly after 11:00 Eastern Time. But the president, as custom dictates, waited for Mitt Romney`s phone call to concede the race, and then for Romney`s actual concession speech. So, it was actually well after midnight when Obama finally spoke to the crowd. And then, he engaged in the highest profile game of phone tag ever, because right after the president gave that speech on election night, 2012, he called two members of Congress. He called the Republican speaker of the House, John Boehner, and he called the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell. President called them both right after he was done giving that speech on election night. But neither one of them picked up the phone. According to "The New York Times," they were sleeping, which is maybe understandable due to the late hour, but you also might think that maybe if the president of the United States calls you right after he wins re-election, you might answer the phone or maybe the person who answers the phone on your behalf might know that this is one of those instances when it`s actually OK to disturb your boss from his sleep. Or maybe that`s just me. So, whether they were intentional snubs or whether they were innocent snafus, that pair of failed phone call attempts on election night was actually a pretty perfect symbol of the relationship between President Obama and both Boehner and McConnell ever since the 2010 midterm wave that brought Republicans to power on Capitol Hill. Think back to the summer of 2011, the first summer after that Republican takeover when the Tea Party infused GOP majority claimed the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip. Obama followed right along seeking to strike a grand bargain before the catastrophic default deadline. In those negotiations in the summer of 2011, the president put concessions on the table that angered his own party, that angered Democrats, angered his base -- the ideas of cuts to Medicare, cuts to Social Security, cuts in discretionary spending. He put the idea of those concessions on the table because he believed he was getting somewhere with the GOP, that his willingness to irritate his base would prompt them to meet him halfway, to irritate their base and to sign off on revenue increases. But we can look back now and we can realize that that was never going to happen. Republicans terrified of being branded sellouts by the Tea Party crowd wouldn`t back Boehner and Boehner pulled out of those negotiations at the 11th hour leading to one of the more memorable and emotional press conferences of Obama`s presidency. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Somebody else asked, you know, why was I willing to go along with a deal that wasn`t optimal from my perspective? It was because even if I didn`t think the deal was perfect, at least it would show that this place is serious, that we`re willing to take on our responsibilities even when it`s tough. That we`re willing to step up even when the folks who helped get us elected may disagree. And, you know, at some point, I think if you want to be a leader, then you got to lead. Thank you very much. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Now, ultimately a debt default was averted in 2011, but only of the U.S.` credit rating was downgraded for the first time in history and only at the cost of a deal that both parties hated for different reasons. But what really irked Obama`s base is he negotiated it all over the debt ceiling. Raising it was supposed to be routine, when decades of bipartisan tradition held that neither party should ever actually threaten the full faith and credit of the United States. Quote, "Dispirited liberals fumed over the deal to raise the debt ceiling that would cut deeply across government, include no new tax revenue from wealthy Americans. It would not provide any additional stimulus for a lagging economy." "It`s a surrender to Republican extortion". That`s how one Democratic member voted against the deal put it back then. So, it was back in 2011 that the president negotiated on the debt ceiling and in the process offered up sacred Democratic programs as potential concessions. It marked the lowest point of his presidency. His base was mad. The whole country was mad at the glaring dysfunction of Washington. In the deal that averted the default ultimately saddled America with the sequester, the sequester that we`re still living with. So, it was that experience that began to convince the president that compromise with the Obama-era Republican Party just might not be possible. By the time we got to last fall, a year after Obama`s election night phone calls to Boehner and McConnell went unanswered, it seemed like the president had learned his lesson. Republican used the threat of a government shutdown to extract concessions, but this time, Obama and his party didn`t blink. They waited out the Republicans who went ahead and shut down the government and then paid dearly in the polls. Right after the government was re-opened, the White House refused to negotiate over the debt ceiling. They won that battle last fall, too, just as they won it again last week. It`s when the White House refused to negotiate over the credit of the United States and, again, Republicans caved. That old norm of not negotiating over the debt ceiling it seems may actually have been restored. And then came yesterday. It`s when the president sent another signal about his changed attitude toward compromise with the GOP. Yesterday, the White House announced in the president`s soon to be unveiled budget, he will not propose a cut to the cost of living formula for Social Security benefits. Chained CPI this is called. It`s a cut that`s very unpopular with the Democratic base. Now, he`d offered it up in his budget just last year and Republicans didn`t even nibble. This year, though, he`s not even going to put it out there. So, no more negotiating over the debt ceiling. No more cuts to Social Security to meet some elusive grand bargain with Republicans in Congress. And, instead, the president spent the evening tonight making the pitch to governors why they should support raising the minimum wage. On economic issues and on progressive policies, this is a different president than the one who negotiated over the debt ceiling and maybe even the one who made that call to John Boehner and Mitch McConnell on election night. Is this what we can expect for the rest of his term? Joining us now is Ryan Grim. He`s Washington bureau chief for the "Huffington Post." Ryan, great to see you tonight. Thanks for joining us. I guess I`ll start with this -- it seemed like President Obama genuinely honestly believed in the summer of 2011 that he was going to get somewhere negotiating with the Republicans. Everybody I talked to says when he put the idea of chained CPI, adjusted Social Security formula, in his budget last year, that it was just for show. He knew Republicans weren`t going to go along with it, but he wanted to prove it to the country. He wanted people to see that. Was that the plan? And do you think he succeed in doing that? RYAN GRIM, HUFFINGTON POST: I think he was tired of not getting credit for being willing to make all the concessions that he was, because he was -- he was taking all the heat from Democrats who were furious at him for being willing to cut Medicare, cut Medicaid, cut Social Security, et cetera. And at the same time, he had all these -- you know, deficit scolds saying, why won`t the president lead? So I think he was sick of that, so he put that out there. But, you know, I don`t quite understand why he ever thought that the public would accept the bargain like this. I mean, think about what politicians would be asking people. They say, OK, look, we`re going to cut your Social Security. We`re going to cut your Medicare. We`re going to shred the social safety net. But it`s cool because we`re also going to raise your taxes. And, you know, we`ve polled this, a number of people have polled this. People don`t want a grand bargain. None of it is popular. KORNACKI: None of it`s popular, although it does -- it is, I guess, worth noting, too, that in the reporting I`ve seen on this, Obama is not technically taking off the table the idea of chained CPI. He still holds out the possibility that, hey, if Republicans come back to the table on revenue, he`s opened to doing this. You listen to these Republican statements today, you know, you`re sort of hearing two radically different things from them. You`re hearing on the one hand, you know, debt threatens the immediate future of the country, how dare the president walk away, how dare the president not be serious? On the other hand, you`re not hearing from them on the revenue side. But if Republicans do somehow change their tune. The president is still saying he`s open to this, right? GRIM: Well, sure. But, you know, that`s not gong to happen. You know, the Republicans have had every single opportunity to accept really historic concessions that Democrats have never really offered in the past. And they didn`t take it. So, there`s no reason to think that they would take it at this point, and if they did, the president could not move his party in Congress to back it. In 2011, he could have done it. 2012, he probably still could have done it. At this point, Harry Reid wouldn`t bring it to the floor. You know, they`d have to do it all with Republican votes in the House which they could never do because the Tea Party is not going to vote for tax increases. It just -- it just can`t happen for so many different reasons. KORNACKI: So I guess the question is, then what is left to happen? Because we`re sitting here in February of 2014, there`s still nearly three years left in this presidency. The talk I guess is the budget Obama is going to submit is going to look for $56 billion in new spending. He`s going to have to take that through offsets, through cutting some money elsewhere, trying to get new revenue -- good luck with the Republicans. We`re still stuck with the sequester. What proactively can Obama do besides say no to deals like this, besides stare down Republicans in debt ceiling, you know, showdowns? Is there anything he can do proactively given the divided government reality of 2014? GRIM: He can put forward executive orders and try to work on the conversation, but ironically the deficit has been coming down steadily. It`s come down by about half since he started. But he doesn`t get credit for that. We actually surveyed this and said, do you think that the deficit has come down or gone up while Obama is president? And overwhelmingly, even Democrats said we think it`s gone up. So, he has gotten no political credit, even though he`s taken the political heat on this. And ultimately what this shows, people don`t actually care about the deficit. Even when they tell pollsters that their concern is the deficit, that`s actually a proxy for the economy, because when you think about deficit, they think about debt. When you think about debt, people think about China. When they think about China, they think of the eclipse of the American empire. They think of America falling behind. So that`s why deficit and economy are kind of tied together. So, if you improve the economy, you will see people stop caring about the deficit, whether it`s going up or down. It`s going down. People don`t even know it. KORNACKI: I love the point because I can remember the Reagan years. Reagan got killed on the deficit his first two years of his presidency when unemployment was 10 percent. Unemployment dropped precipitously. The deficit spiked and nobody cared about the deficit. GRIM: Nobody cared, right. They had a job. KORNACKI: That`s a great point. Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief for the "Huffington Post" -- thanks for joining us tonight. And still ahead, an exclusive interview with Pat McCrory about North Carolina`s horrendous coal ash spill. You want to see that. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: This was a week of pretty major document dumps, particularly in the state of New Jersey where the town of Fort Lee released thousands of pages of phone records and e-mails and texts concerning the George Washington Bridge lane closures last September. And the New Jersey legislature released court filings brought against Bill Stepien and Bridget Kelly for their refusal to comply with their legislative subpoenas. Rachel piled up both sets of documents on her desk to show you how many trees were killed because of the documents released this week. But it turns out it was all worth it because we is new reporting based on information found only in these documents and I`m going to explain to you exactly what it is tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. Eastern on MSNBC. How is that for a tease? I`m going to save all of my bridge-gate talk for tomorrow. It`s a big show. So, don`t forget to set your alarms for 8:00 a.m. I will be there as bright eyed and bushy tailed as I can be on four hours of sleep. Probably have to break my New Year`s resolution to have caffeine. I`ll be there. Coming up first, exclusive interview with Pat McCrory answering tough questions about how his state plan to deal with the thousands of tons of toxic coal ash that spilled into the Dan River earlier this month. Some incredible tape and it`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: When we left off in Ukraine yesterday, intense street fighting has broken out in the capital city of Kiev and spread throughout the country. Anti-government protesters charged police lines in Independence Square trying to retake lost ground. The police in turn started firing at demonstrators with high-powered rifles. Wearing helmets and makeshift body armor, the protesters did their best to hold their ground dodging bullets as they tried to push forward. By the end of the night, they had regained the square. There have been ongoing protests in Ukraine since this past November when Ukraine`s president decided to quash a trade deal with the European Union and to align himself with Russia. But yesterday was the most lethal day of all, putting the total weekly death toll from fighting between protesters and police at 77. With close to 600 injured. That`s according to the Ukrainian health ministry. There are other news accounts that put those numbers much higher. Today, on the heels of the deadliest day of violence, we have new and seemingly positive developments to report. Ukraine`s president signed a compromise deal, a truce of sorts, with opposition leaders earlier today, negotiated by European and Russian diplomats. This new deal calls for early presidential elections and diminishes the power of the president and it further empowers the parliament. Both European and Russian diplomats reportedly played a critical role in negotiating the deal over the past two days. Russia actually left the negotiations this morning without signing the agreement. Today, members of the Ukrainian parliament took their first steps toward new reforms after some heated discussions including a small scuffle. The parliament voted overwhelmingly to return to a previous version of Ukraine`s Constitution from 2004. One that limits the power of the president and emboldens that of the parliament. In a show of strength, they voted overwhelmingly to free the Ukrainian president`s political rival. Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who`s been in jail for more than two years. In a 310-54 vote, it`s a veto-proof vote, members of parliament passed a law paving the way for her release. Following the vote, legislators chanted, "free Yulia, free Yulia" in unison and clapping. Hear them. Outside of parliament, independence square, police forces pulled back today abandoning their military trucks and crowd control vehicles. Thousands of people took to the square again holding vigil throughout the day. And through the night, holding memorials and prayer services for those who lost their lives in the protests. Today`s deal marks a possible political end to something that has been going on for months. But at what cost? Fighting this past week has completely decimated parts of Ukraine, as you can see here in these before and after shots. This is how Kiev once looked and this is how it looks now, barely standing. These images do not even convey the vast human toll this conflict has taken. Joining us now is Steve Clemons. He`s editor at large for "The Atlantic" and MSNBC contributor on global security issues. Steve, thanks for being here tonight. So, I mean, I guess the headline tonight is maybe some stability is returning to Ukraine. Maybe there`s a path forward, a path out of the bloodshed and in the chaos of this week. I see that Russia did not sign this deal. I`m wondering if that`s a big deal. If you see any other major stumbling blocks that are going to keep the stability we`re now talking about from taking hold. STEVE CLEMONS, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you`ve framed it beautifully, Steve. I mean, everything you just laid out that has happened has happened in 24 hours. I mean, just a testament to where there`s a will, there`s a way, when people feel desperate and they feel on the edge of a real abyss that could take a nation into horrific civil war. Russia could cause mischief. This remains a fragile situation. But going back to 2004 constitution, releasing Tymoshenko, announcing a December election, seeing the interior minister voted out of office and although not verified, reportedly running off to Belarus or somewhere else -- all of this has happened. And so, that`s a setback for those that want to create a false choice between Russia and Europe for Ukraine. But at the same time, Vladimir Putin does not want to see Ukraine torn up into civil war. He doesn`t want to see Ukrainian economy implode because there`s there are $40 billion of debt exposure to Russia on this. And so, they`re trying to find I think broadly a middle ground. So, while they may not have signed the document, it doesn`t mean that they want to see Ukraine collapse. That said, they also don`t want to see flamboyant liberal democracy take over, either. KORNACKI: So, now, what`s the story and what do you see as the future of the president, Yanukovych? He sort of aligned himself with Moscow last fall, set all this in motion. We hear now tonight that he`s left Kiev. Is it -- is he likely to stay in power when this is over or does he have to go? CLEMONS: Well, listen, right now they`ve got a proportional government deal that has to be put in place within 10 days. They`ll have elections in December. I think the most important factor is you had a staggering number of people resign from his party today. So, in those Rada numbers, the parliamentary numbers you just reported, that overwhelming support for rolling back the laws that imprisoned the former very popular prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, that is a sign that his party is largely collapsing every day right now. So, whether he remains around until December, many people in -- I`ve talked to many people in Ukraine today who are still extremely saddened and want, really want justice for those people that they`ve lost that have fallen in the streets. And they want to hold him accountable now. They don`t think that just coming up with a political deal is acceptable because he has to pay for these crimes that his government enacted in many -- in many eyes in Ukraine. KORNACKI: All right. Steve Clemons, editor at large for "The Atlantic" -- thank you for helping us sort through this tonight. CLEMONS: Thank you, Steve. KORNACKI: Ahead, America honors heroes overlooked for far too long. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: Out of all the news, out of all the stories we`ve seen this week, if you`re going to head into the weekend thinking about one, if your life is busy with friends and family and work taking you and you really only have time to care about one story in the news -- well, this is probably that one story. Today, the White House announced that President Obama will award the Medal of Honor, that`s the highest honor we give in this country, to 24 Army veterans who were previously overlooked during and after their time of service. This is the culmination of a 12-year Pentagon review aimed at correcting discrimination in the selection process and reassessing the records of soldiers that maybe deserved a higher honor. This list of 24 soldiers that we now know deserved the Medal of Honor but were overlooked, 19 are of African-American, Hispanic or Jewish descent. The group includes veterans of World War II, Korea and the Vietnam War. Some will be there in person like Staff Sergeant Melvin Morris, who is serving as commander of a strike force in Vietnam when he learned part of his battalion encountered a mine field and was under attack. So, he organized his troops into an assault team to help their fellow soldiers, and he went with two men to recover the body of a fallen team commander. When they were wounded doing that, he helped those men back to the group and then he charged into the gunfire alone. He destroyed four enemy positions by himself. He was wounded three times in the process, but, yes, he did retrieve that fallen soldier and bring him back to the group. Unfortunately, though, many recipients won`t be there to receive the award. That includes Master Sergeant Mike Pena. He was 25 and serving with the infantry in Korea when his unit was attacked. He led the counterattack and regained position, but they were outnumbered. The enemy wouldn`t start coming. Pena realized they were running out of ammo and ordered his unit to fall back. But Master Sergeant Pena didn`t retreat with them. He stay behind, manned the machine gun to cover his men. He got them out safely. He held back enemy forces until early the next morning when his position was finally overrun. Master Sergeant Mike Pena was killed in action. These awards of valor come as the result of exhaustive research between the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Marine Corps nearly 900 records were deemed deserving of reassessment. It took more than a decade to finally put this group of recipients together. Every face you`re seeing right now is set to receive the country`s highest honor. But what makes this honor and the work put into it as significant is what comes with each of these medals. And our country hasn`t always honored those that defend us in the way they deserve. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: There is some big news to report tonight from the great state of North Carolina, specifically from North Carolina`s governor, Republican Pat McCrory. Pat McCrory took office just over a year ago, at the beginning of 2013 and right now, he`s facing the single biggest crisis of his entire administration. It`s a crisis that has to do with this -- this is a giant coal ash spill that contaminated one of North Carolina`s rivers on Super Bowl Sunday. It`s been spreading ever since. This toxic soup of coal ash was spill by a power company called Duke Energy. It`s the company that also happens to be the governor`s former employer. Before taking office, Pat McCrory worked for Duke Energy for nearly 30 years. And his personal ties to the company have been the center of controversy surrounding his administration`s handling of this disaster. The state didn`t inform residents about the spill until the day after it happened. Officials at first downplayed the scale of the disaster. They told residents that the water was safe. And then days later, they had reversed themselves and said that no, it wasn`t safe. The state`s handling of this disaster has been sort of a mess. But it was made even worse for Governor McCrory when "The Associated Press" broke the news that his administration has over the last year been shielding his old company Duke Energy from lawsuits filed by local environmental groups. Pat McCrory`s relationship to Duke Energy has been the focus of local reporters in North Carolina for weeks now. And today, the governor sat down with NBC`s Kristen Welker to address the issue nationally. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS: Governor, what do you say to your critics who say that it`s a conflict of interest for you to have such close ties with a company that you`re charged with regulating? GOV. PAT MCCRORY (R), NORTH CAROLINA: I`m no longer employed with Duke Energy Company. That employment ceased a number of years ago and the voters of North Carolina clearly knew of my previous employment. But my job is governor and has been governor. I`m the first governor to have a lawsuit against Duke Energy regarding coal ash in our state`s history. WELKER: Are you -- MCCRORY: My predecessor and her predecessor and his predecessor never initiated action that this governor did regardless of my previous employment. I might add, previous employment. I`m no longer on the payroll with Duke Energy Company. WELKER: Are you a shareholder? MCCRORY: I have a small 401(k) within my old retirement account. I have a 401(k) with a portion of Duke Energy stock. I have fulfilled all the obligations of the requirements as governor and where my investments are. So, I`ve followed the law and the public knows of my past relationship with Duke Energy Company. And they also know that that past relationship has not caused any special treatment to Duke. And I`m the first governor to ever take legal action against Duke on coal ash pods. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Now, on that last point, that his administration has never provided any special treatment to Duke Energy, it`s not exactly as open and shut as the governor would suggest there. That very question, in fact, is now the subject of a federal investigation. Last week, federal prosecutors in North Carolina sent a subpoena to North Carolina`s environmental agency and to Duke Energy seeking documents and testimony from the state and the company about the coal ash spill. The U.S. attorney`s office described that subpoena as part of, quote, "an official criminal investigation of a suspected felony." That subpoena went out at the beginning of last week. Then, this week, we learned of more subpoenas which seemed to indicate a widening of the Governor McCrory`s administration. Federal prosecutors this week sent the McCrory administration a subpoena seeking information about the state`s regulation about every Duke Energy coal ash dump in the state, not just the one that spilled earlier this month. Prosecutors subpoenaed the environmental agency and also 18 staff members at that agency. What prosecutors are looking for here is very specific. They want to know if the governor`s environmental agency afforded any special treatment to the governor`s former employer, Duke Energy. They`re looking for documents relating to payments received by state employees from Duke Energy. They`re looking for any items of value that may have been given to state employees from the company. These subpoenas were made public shortly after "The A.P." broke that huge story earlier this month about the McCrory administration stepping and effectively blocking lawsuit from environmental groups against Duke Energy. The state essentially quashed those lawsuits by stepping in and imposing small fines of their own against Duke Energy. What federal prosecutors are looking into now is why they did that. Was the state providing special treatment to Duke Energy? There`d been a flurry of subpoenas that have come out over the last few weeks. And NBC`s Kristen Welker asked the governor about that today. Take a look at that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WELKER: I want to ask you about these subpoenas that have been served. Federal prosecutors have issued several subpoenas including to some former and past members of your administration. Are you concerned about what these subpoenas might reveal? MCCRORY: We`re going to work -- first of all, my administration is going to work very closely with the U.S. attorney`s office. We`re offering cooperation in any way. Each of the people subpoenaed, we did not hire any of them. They were all with previous administrations. But we`re going to work in any way we can with the U.S. attorney or even looking at doing our own internal investigation. If there`s been any improper activity, it`s not going to be put up with in this administration. WELKER: I just want to get you on the record on this, Governor, have you been served a subpoena, or anyone in your office? MCCRORY: No, I have not been served a subpoena. And no one I have appointed or no one in my office have been served a subpoena. WELKER: Are you confident those who received subpoenas have not received any improper financial -- MCCRORY: We do not know. WELKER: -- payments from Duke Energy? Being offer leniency? MCCRORY: Since we`ve been in office for one year, we`ve had no indications or accusations of that. And so, it was the first we`ve heard - - WELKER: Are you at all concerned about what investigation is going to reveal? MCCRORY: You know, I believe in ensuring that you find out all the information necessary to get the facts. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: So, you can see Governor McCrory did make a little news in that interview there. He said he`s personally not been subpoenaed nor has his office. He says that he cannot say for sure that there hasn`t been wrongdoing here and he said his office might launch its own internal investigation into what`s gone on. This has been a fast-moving story. Just today, one of the major newspapers in the region called on federal prosecutors who examine the actions of Governor McCrory himself. It`s unclear whether that will happen, but this story has just sort of blown up around Governor McCrory just in the last two weeks. So stay tuned. And that does it for us tonight. Rachel will be back here in this chair on Monday. And you can see me in just a few hours after I hopefully get a little sleep at least on "UP." That is starting at 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time when we will have new reporting on the George Washington Bridge scandal. Until then, as Rachel likes to say -- it`s time to go to prison. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END