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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 04/29/14

Guests: Len Elmore, Madeline Cohen, John Harwood

DOC RIVERS, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS COACH: Coach and the team right. And I actually don`t know who to call if I need something. You know? And so the quicker that this is done the better for everyone. Having said that, it`s going to take time. And we all have to be patient. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And can I also ask you, just obviously the players, yourself, you are very wealthy men. At the same time you`re in a situation you`re working for a man who has these views. How insulting is it to you as a human being to be working for a man who expressed these views? RIVERS: Well, that`s the difficult part. And that`s -- over the last three or four days it`s been very difficult. You know. Doesn`t matter the wealth to be honest. You could be making nothing. You want to work for someone that at least shares your values or respects, and they don`t have to actually share them. But they have to respect them. And that`s difficult. You know. And especially when you`re working in a company that when you do your job you have it on your chest. You know. I think that`s hard. Like, I got to wear a suit and tie the other night. But I had a sense that that was very hard for the players. You know. They add to wear that. And I think that was hard for them. I really do. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Doc, you said -- excuse me. You said that you were in film, and then you told them about the decision that Adam Silver had handed down and then you said what you needed to say to them. What did you need to say to them? What did you tell them? RIVERS: Well, that will be private, that part. I just -- you know, a lot of it was just how much I admire them on how they tried to handle this. And just to let them know that this was some closure. But there is still work to do. And you know, I just thought that they set a very good example around the league on how they conducted themselves. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Doc, you said you expected an amazing crowd tonight. A couple of nights ago you had questions about it. Have you gotten enough feedback between now and then -- (CROSSTALK) RIVERS: Yes. Yes. Yes. Maybe I`m hoping, too. Maybe that`s part of it. Yes, I think the mayor has been great, by the way. And what he said today -- Kevin Johnson, you know, as jokingly, I like him again. You know? (LAUGHTER) It`s amazing. Like, he`s been great. He was great in what he said today. I didn`t know he could speak so well, so eloquently. My goodness. But just that the rallying that this is not just the Clippers or Lakers or L.A., this is some bigger and support this team. And again I go back to the 14 guys that we dress or that are -- you know, that are players. They did nothing wrong. And they need support. And I think that that will happen. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Doc, would you like to see the Clippers` name changed? RIVERS: You know, Jim, that`s been asked. I don`t know. I honestly -- someone asked me that today. And it`s the first time I`d heard it or thought of it. I have no idea. I think wherever -- whatever happens, whoever -- if there is a new owner or change of ownership I think all those things would be answered by somebody much smarter than me. I`m not smart enough to give that answer. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last few questions. Right here in front. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I just need some clarification on something you said before. I thought the union said that if they didn`t like the resolution from Adam Silver players would consider not playing. Did your players consider not playing if they did not like the resolution? RIVERS: They hadn`t discussed it. I think they had the trust that there would be. I`m glad we don`t have to find out, would be the answer. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mark? UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Doc, you said your players made the right decision by just not doing anything and waiting for Silver. Why was that the right decision to not make some kind of major statement or sit out a game before the decision? RIVERS: You know, I don`t know, Mark. Like I said the other day, I don`t know -- I know what I think is right. And that`s all I can go by. There`s a lot of people who think we didn`t do the right thing and then there`s a lot of people who think we did. And all you can go by is what you feel like you should do. You know, I lean on a lot of things and trying to help our guys get to the decision. And like I told you, they did talk about -- you know, when at first not playing. You know, I thought the black socks and the -- you know, the shirts and all that was fine. But at the end of the day, you know, I just -- for me at least I always try to lean back on people that I`ve learned from. And you know, from Wayne Embry to -- you know, I talked to a lot of people. You know, and my father who is no longer here, he would have told me to go do my job and don`t let anyone stop you from doing your job because of what they think about you. And you can make a bigger statement by doing your job well. And in front of adversity. And I know my father would have said that. And so I don`t know if he was right. I don`t know if I`m right. But I -- the decision I made is what I thought was right for the team. And that`s all you can do. And that`s all they can do. And again, the burden shouldn`t be on them to have a right or wrong response. They didn`t do anything wrong. And so no one should vilify them, my players, for making the choice of playing. I think no matter what choice they made it was the right one because they shouldn`t have the burden of making a response. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last question here in the back. (CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coach is emotionally drained. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Coach? RIVERS: Yes, I am. I am. (LAUGHTER) But I`m not drained enough not to go out and coach this game. I can tell you that. We`ll be ready. And, you know, there`ll be time to get rest. But this is not the time. And this is not a pity party for us. And I did tell my players that. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Coach, when was the last time you had a conversation with Mr. Sterling? RIVERS: You know, I don`t even know the answer to that. That`s -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But ballpark it? A week? Like -- RIVERS: Yes, I don`t know. A month? I`m not even sure. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. And you said earlier -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Thank you, guys. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t know. You said I don`t know who to call if I need something. RIVERS: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So how does this play out like on your day to day? How do you -- how do you operate this way? RIVERS: I`m going to do my job. You know, whatever it takes with the team. Thanks, guys. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Mark Jackson is on his way in here. Just to remind you the locker rooms will be close -- RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Thanks for staying with us for the next hour. We`ve just seen a rather remarkable press conference held before the L.A. Clippers basketball game tonight to address the lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine that was dropped today on the team`s owner, Donald sterling. The Clippers coach, Doc Rivers, that`s who you just saw there, speaking tonight in an off-the-cup way so he did not have a prepared statement and then taking questions for a long time there. And this is only about an hour and a half before his team`s big playoff game tonight at their home stadium in Los Angeles. When President Ronald Reagan was first elected, of course, in 1980, re- elected in `84, his successor George H.W. Bush was chosen in the elections that took place in the fall of 1988, so it was January of 1989 when the new president was getting ready to be sworn in and Ronald Reagan was preparing to leave office. On President Ronald Reagan`s last full day in office, this is what he did. This was Ronald Reagan`s last day as president of the United States. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: White House officials said today that President Reagan has given a full pardon to Yankee baseball owner George Steinbrenner convicted of making an illegal campaign contribution to Richard Nixon in 1972. White House officials also said it does not appear that the president will pardon Patty Hearst or Iran contra figures Oliver North and John Poindexter before he leaves office tomorrow. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Sorry, Patty Hearst, sorry Iran-contra guys. Ronald Reagan will be of no help to you. But as his last order of business as president, after eight years in office, Ronald Reagan`s parting shot was to give this guy a hand. Give this guy a pardon. Around the time that George Steinbrenner was arranging to buy the New York Yankees baseball team from CBS which had owned the team in the early `70s. Around the same time that he was buying the Yankees, George Steinbrenner was also making illegal campaign contributions to the presidential reelection campaign of Richard Nixon. And he got caught for it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: George Steinbrenner who was chairman of the American shipbuilding company and majority stockholder of the New York Yankees was accused by the SEC today of not reporting illegal campaign contributions. That brings to 11 the number of corporations formally accused of illegal political gifts in 1972. (END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: George Steinbrenner, the Yankees owner, was ultimately charged with 14 felony counts in connection with the part of the water gate scandal that involved Richard Nixon`s re-election campaign fundraising. Mr. Steinbrenner was indicted on those 14 counts 40 years ago this month. In April 1974. And that story simmered all through the hot summer of 1974. By August of that year George Steinbrenner had pled guilty. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: George Steinbrenner who was co-owner of the New York Yankees pleaded guilty today to conspiring to funnel illegal corporate campaign contributions to Republicans and to Democrats. Steinbrenner also pleaded guilty to telling employees at his shipbuilding firm to lie to the grand jury and the FBI. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The owner of the Yankees pled guilty to two of the 14 federal felony charges against him. He was charged a relatively minor fine by the government for those things that he fled guilty to. But beyond his criminal punishment Major League Baseball as a business association had to decide what they wanted to do with this guy as a team owner. The commissioner of baseball at the time was Bowie Kuhn and he suspended George Steinbrenner from baseball for two years after he pled guilty to those Watergate-related crimes. A two-year suspension. At least it was supposed to be two years. A year and change into George Steinbrenner`s supposed punishment and baseball decided, oh, forget it. They didn`t actually keep him suspended for two years even though that was supposedly his sentence. They waited a year and change and then they brought him back. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: November 1974, George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees, was suspended from baseball for two years. The reason was illegal political contributions by Steinbrenner and another of his businesses. Today Steinbrenner`s suspension was lifted. Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn said the Yankees need him. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Forget this punishment. Yes, 14 felony charges and pleading guilty to two of them and that whole Watergate mess, that`s been kind of a pain for the country, but you know what, the Yankees need him. So let`s bring him back. So much for his punishment in the business world. Then in 1989 Ronald Reagan took care of his punishment in the criminal world as well when he retroactively pardoned Mr. Steinbrenner for his Watergate crimes. By that time baseball had a new commissioner. His name was Fay Vincent. And fresh off George Steinbrenner`s pardon as Ronald Reagan`s last act as president of the United States, fresh off that pardon Mr. Steinbrenner got in trouble again right after the pardon with the new baseball commissioner. I`m going to show you one more clip from these old news reels. This one I could not resist because they do not write news like this anymore, which was probably a good thing. But this is just amazing. Watch right to the end of this. I can`t believe this exists. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: New York Yankees, owner George Steinbrenner, born on the Fourth of July. But this birthday may not be such a happy one. Tomorrow he appears before the baseball commissioner to explain some of his activities off the field. Activities that could lead to his suspension. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Steinbrenner has dictated everything from how long players can wear their hair to how long managers will survive. Not long in either case. GEORGE STEINBRENNER, NEW YORK YANKEES OWNER: The only thing that counts to me is giving the Yankees a winner. And we`ve done it 14 out of 17 years. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But baseball commissioner Fay Vincent suspects that something other than the urge to win motivated Steinbrenner`s treatment of star outfielder Dave Winfield. The commissioner`s investigator has questioned the Yankee players and employees about Steinbrenner`s alleged hounding of Winfield, harassments that reportedly included Steinbrenner`s payment of $40,000 to this man, Howie Spira, for any information harmful to Winfield who was traded by the Yankees this year. STEINBRENNER: You`re always concerned when you`re going before the commissioner. So, yes, I`m concerned. But I have hopes that I will get a fair hearing. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But even if Steinbrenner can convince the commissioner his actions were proper he`ll need to do more to satisfy fans that he`s restoring the team to its former luster. Only 1 in 10 says he approves of Steinbrenner`s ownership. A dandy of a birthday present for this Yankee Doodle who turned 60 today. Steven Frasier, NBC News, New York. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: A dandy of a birthday president for this Yankee Doodle. Sticking a feather in my cap and calling it macaroni, I`m Steven Frasier, NBC News. Why don`t we write news like that anymore? A dandy of a birthday present for this Yankee Doodle? Seriously? (LAUGHTER) Why wasn`t I on the news then? It`s so great. But that meeting between Fay Vincent, the commissioner, and George Steinbrenner, it didn`t go well for Mr. Steinbrenner that day. The commissioner of baseball, on behalf of the league, found that not only had the Yankees owner paid this outside guy to go dig up dirt on one of his own players to try to hurt one of his own players, but this guy, that guy who he paid was a known big-time sports gambler. And being a professional sports team owner associated with professional gambling on sports, that is a problem for a lot of really obvious reasons. And so on July 30th, 1990 George Steinbrenner was banned from Major League Baseball for life. Or for three years, whichever came first. They banned him for life in 1990, they brought him back in 1993. What is a life ban that ends after three years? They reconsidered after three years, caved and brought him back just like his previous two-year suspension had sort of just fallen apart after a few months and they brought him back because the Yankees needed him. You know, if you really want to get banned for life for real in American sports the only sure way to do it is to be an actual athlete who plays sports, not to be a rich guy on the business side of things. Tanya Harding, the American figure skater, she was stripped of her 1994 national championship title. She was banned from skating for life for her involvement in that lurid plot to hurt her rival skater Nancy Kerrigan. Lance Armstrong, the legendary American cyclist, he was not only banned from cycling for life, he had all of his cycling titles retroactively disqualified. Basically his entire career annulled when he admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs. Pete Rose had been one of the all-time greatest hitters in the history of baseball, then he was a manager when he was found to not only be involved in gambling on baseball but actually betting on his own teams. Pete Rose was banned from baseball for life in 1989. The commissioner said at the time if there hadn`t been such grave allegations about gambling corrupting professional baseball since the 1919 World Series when the Chicago White Sox had eight players not just suspended but banned for life for their involvement in a plot to throw the World Series that year. If you are a player, if you are an athlete, if you are involved in the physical performance of the game, there are a million ways to get kicked out, disgraced, punished, humiliated, suspended, banned for life. But if you`re the boss, if you`re one of the money guys, the same standards do not apply to you. Hey, if nothing else the president of the United States might step in and save you on his last day in office. The owner of the Lakers gets a DUI conviction, he gets suspended for two games. The owner of the Washington Capitals gets into a fistfight with a fan in the stands at one of his own games, suspended for one week. The owner of the 49ers neglects to mention to the NFL his felony conviction in a gambling, fraud and extortion case. They let him take one season off and then came back. The owner of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1953 had to go to federal prison in order to do a 15-month sentence for federal tax evasion. Major League Baseball did not see fit to punish him for that although they did find it embarrassing to have the owner of one of their teams in prison. They found that embarrassing enough that they gently pressured him to sell his team. Same deal with Marge Schott, owner of the Cincinnati Reds. She has the kind words for Adolf Hitler, the Nazi memorabilia collection, and calling her star players her million dollar N-words. Yes, Marge Schott had a couple of one-year suspensions but ultimately they gently persuaded her to just sell the team to somebody else. Players get burned for life, right? Players get thrown out, they get disgraced, they get barred from the sport until they are dead. Owners may be in the worst-case scenario get quietly pressured to please cash in. Before today the only time any owner in professional sports had been banned for life, had been that joke about George Steinbrenner. It was a joke. It was a life ban where he was back in less than three years. Today that history apparently changed for the first time ever with a remarkable, terse and ultimately genuinely shocking press conference by the brand new commissioner of the National Basketball Association. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ADAM SILVER, NBA COMMISSIONER: I am personally distraught that the views expressed by Mr. Sterling came from within an institution that has -- that has historically taken such a leadership role in matters of race relations. And caused current and former players, coaches, fans and partners of the NBA to question their very association with the league. To them and pioneers of the game like Early Lloyd, Chuck Cooper, Sweet Water Clifton, the great Bill Russell, and particularly Magic Johnson, I apologize. Accordingly, effective immediately, I am banning Mr. Sterling for life for any association with the Clippers organization or the NBA. As for Mr. Sterling`s ownership interest in the Clippers, I will urge the Board of Governors to exercise its authority to force a sale of the team and will do anything in my power to ensure that happens. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Unless this turns out to be some fake lifetime ban like baseball handed out to George Steinbrenner in the early `90s and it only lasted three years. Unless they`re doing another fake-out here. What was announced today is an unprecedented moment in the history of big- time sports in the United States. Not a player, not even a front office employee or a manager, but an owner. One of the bosses. One of the money guys actually being thrown out in shame. The short-term question obviously is what happens next? Will the NBA owners who have the power to do it in this case, will the other NBA owners vote to strip Donald Sterling of his ownership of his team, force him to sell that team? That`s the other shoe that may or may not drop. Lots of the owners today put out statements today suggesting that that vote is going to be an easy vote. The bigger question here particularly for people who don`t necessarily care about sports as sports, right? But just recognize that sports are an important part of American culture and that may be a landmark thing just happened here whether or not you know how many baseball or how many basketball teams represent Los Angeles. The bigger question in terms of American culture, American politics and accountability in our country and our time is why did this just happen? This is a historically significant moment given what else has happened if professional sports before this. Why did this just happen now? Is this something specific to what`s going on in sports right now or is this a reflection of changing expectations for what`s acceptable behavior in American big business? Donald Sterling said offensively racist things about black people in what he thought was a private context. And then through some machinations involving with his private life and his mistress, those remarks became public. But you know in the late 1970s the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers spoke publicly about how he didn`t want too many black people on his team at any one time because if a team looked too black that would be bad for business. He said all that stuff publicly, openly. He didn`t get banned for life. They encouraged him to sell his team eventually but he didn`t get banned. Neither did Marge Schott with her Swastika armed band and "Hitler wasn`t all that bad." The knee-jerk analysis for today is that we`re all offended now by statements that didn`t used to offend us. And that`s why this team owner today got banned for life when nobody else before him ever did. But you know what? The Cavaliers guy in the `70s offended people by trying to publicly titrate the racial makeup of his teams to be maximally business efficient. And Marge Schott offended people -- for real. And George Steinbrenner got freaking convicted in Watergate. It`s not like these things were laughed off. We didn`t suddenly get sensitive to things that didn`t used to bother us. What`s different now is not that we suddenly take offense at things that did not use to offend us. What is different now is that when we are offended, when we are bothered, that offense is being expressed in a way that these huge business interests can no longer afford to ignore. And so all of these sponsors fled immediately from any association with this L.A. Clippers team which they had previously sponsored once they heard those words out of the mouth of the owner of the L.A. Clippers and the players from that team themselves, they turned their warm-ups inside out so as not to show the name of their team as they warmed up for their own playoff game. And then immediately after the commissioner`s announcement today, for all of its drama today, the true bombshell revelation today came after this press conference from one of the officials in the NBA`s Players Association, explaining that the players themselves were ready to express their own offense at what this owner did by boycotting their own games starting tonight. If the league did not act. It is a multibillion dollar business. If the players stop playing, the business is over. If the sponsors flee, the business is over. And so for the first time ever, today, a major league sports owner, has been thrown out on his ear because of his own offensive behavior. And that is not necessarily just the story about sports. That is a story about American business and American power and the expression of American power. And it is a story that is not static, it turns out. It changes over time. It takes a really long time but these things change. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROGER MASON JR., VICE PRESIDENT, NBPA: Additionally, I have reached out to other players around the league and made it clear the players were ready to boycott the games if this type of action was not something that Adam Silver felt was necessary. We want a timetable from the owners as far as when this vote is going to happen. But we feel confident that with Adam Silver`s urging and obviously we have heard from a lot of the owners around the league, we think this is something that can be handled quickly. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was Roger Mason today from the NBA Players Association, one of the -- one of the top players in the Players Association. That was immediately following the NBA commissioner -- announcing today that the L.A. Clippers owner would be handed a lifetime ban from basketball and that he would be doing everything in his power to ensure that the other owners of other NBA teams voted to essentially strip him of his ownership of the Clippers. Immediately following that announcement today there was that fairly dramatic revelation from the players union today that there was the very real possibility that the players would stop playing starting tonight if the NBA had not taken the action that they in fact took. Joining us now is NCAA All-American, former NBA player, attorney and now professor at Columbia University, Len Elmore. Mr. Elmore, thank you for coming in. LEN ELMORE, FORMER NBA PLAYER: My pleasure. Thanks for having me. MADDOW: Let me just ask big picture, your reaction to the league`s decision today. If you felt it was the right decision and why you think it went down this way. ELMORE: Well, absolutely it was the right decision. And, you know, I`m very pleased that Adam understands that it needed swift, sure and severe punishment to be laid down simply because, again, this constituency was calling for that. Adam in his first year as commissioner had to demonstrate his strength and more than anything else I think it was also a reaction to past years when Sterling, without this direct evidence of his attitudes, was kind of coddled. The NBA was maybe complicit in, you know, helping him succeed and become the owner that he is today. And even comfortable in making these statements as opposed to stepping down and really clamping down on him earlier. MADDOW: When you talk about the commissioner today sort of serving his constituency, at least recognizing his constituency, do you mean the players, the fans, the owners? Who is his constituency primarily? ELMORE: All of the above. MADDOW: Yes. ELMORE: I really think, again, that he had to make a decision what was the consensus feeling. And once he recognized that, he could come down in the manner in which he did. I don`t think that if any of these constituencies had an objection to a lifetime ban relegating him to literally a passive investor that they -- that he might not have come down as hard. But as the consensus was exactly what he wanted to hear and he was able to exercise his authority. MADDOW: I -- the reason that I described that press conference today as shocking is not just because of the bottom line, because of the lifetime ban. But for me it was the moment -- I was watching in the newsroom. A whole bunch -- we stopped our news meeting, everybody was riveted to find out what`s going to happen. And when he got to the part where he listed that handful of pioneering black players from the NBA and looked at the camera and said, I apologize. First of all, we`re just not used to hearing anybody say that. You know, we always couch those things so directly. But it was also a recognition that a wrong had been done to the players, to the people whose -- without whom the league would not exist. That, to me, felt like a new way of talking about the league that I don`t usually hear. Is that -- was that new? Does that -- I mean, should that have struck me as much as it did? ELMORE: I think so. And again, I think when you talk about historically as you did in the last segment of the different owners who had the same kinds of transgressions, the difference is obviously you have a league that`s a majority of color. You also have a society right now that in this post-racial era that when something like this occurs people are going to stand up and take a look because it`s so out of the ordinary supposedly right now. You don`t have a problem with those thoughts. You have a problem expressing those thoughts. You know, that`s where the problem comes in. And isn`t it amazing in the last two weeks we have had Cliven Bundy and now we have Donald Sterling? I think that kind of environment also had an impact. But most importantly I think it`s the players and the fans that they`re the ones who essentially put forth the greatest leverage, more than anything else. And let`s face it. This is a business. And that type of leverage is going to have impact on decisions. For me it was said that this is a defining moment for the players. And I have never seen the players so unified, so galvanized before behind any of the issue besides maybe collective bargaining as I did today. And my hope is, going forward, that when you take a look at other issues that are very important that you can never fall on the wrong side of, whether it`s gang violence, whether it`s under education of kids, whether it`s childhood obesity, I`d like to see these players exercise that same leverage. Gather support from, you know, corporate world and others to be able to speak out and utilize the same leverage to cure those ills. So this is a great sign. MADDOW: The sort of quiet discipline and unity I think exhibited by the players in this, I think. Struck everybody on all sides of this as being both remarkable and I think you`re right, hopefully a sign that they could really leverage the power that they`ve got as stars to a lot of different causes. ELMORE: Exactly. MADDOW: Professor Len Elmore, one of the greatest players in ACC history. Thank you. ELMORE: My goodness. (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: Thank you for being here. I was trying to embarrass you. I had to wait for the end. Thank you, sir. All right. We`ve got some big news coming up tonight including some very late breaking, and very disturbing news out of Oklahoma. Oklahoma was planning on doing something tonight that they had not done in more than 80 years. They tried to go ahead with it and it went horribly, horribly wrong at the last moment. And we`ve got that story for you next. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We have breaking news tonight out of Oklahoma. And I want to warn you at the outset that this is a difficult and shocking story. The state of Oklahoma had been planning to execute not one but two prisoners tonight. This would be the first double execution in that state for 80 years. The last time they did a double execution in Oklahoma was 1937. The two executions tonight scheduled for two hours apart, they were supposed to be carried out, both of them, by lethal injection. But you may have read recently that state prison systems have been finding it difficult and in some cases impossible to get the chemicals that traditionally have been used for the lethal injection process. The last American manufacturer of the primary execution drug doesn`t make it anymore. And European manufacturers don`t want their drug used for American executions. So it`s been hard for states to get a supply of drugs to kill their prisoners with. As a result of those difficulties, the state of Oklahoma recently made a decision that they would keep the source of their lethal injection drugs secret. The two prisoners who were expected to be executed tonight in Oklahoma they had sued the state over that secrecy. They said that because Oklahoma wouldn`t reveal the drugs to be used or where those drugs were coming from, the plan for killing them came with, quote, "a substantial risk of inflicting severe pain." Last week on Monday the Oklahoma Supreme Court in hearing those objections decided to stay this double execution. They decided that they could not allow the executions to go forward until these issues about is the secrecy were -- were resolved. The day after that ruling a state lawmaker in Oklahoma said he was going to try to impeach the five justices who voted for the stay of execution. And in the governor`s office, Oklahoma Republican Governor Mary Fallin said she would not abide by the court order. She said she could not abide by that court order and still keep her oath of office. And she, defying the court, set a new date for the executions, she set the date for tonight. And so in the middle of that constitutional crisis, the Oklahoma Supreme Court decided that they would cave essentially, they would lift the stay that they had just put in place. And the state moved forward with the executions. The first was scheduled for 6:00 p.m. local time tonight. The second for two hours later, 8:00 p.m. local time. When a state executes a prisoner it`s typical for reporters to be allowed to cover that punishment and to write about it. They don`t allow cameras or videotape or anything like that typically into the sight of an execution. But at least print reporters are allowed to describe what happens. Well, tonight in Oklahoma the first reporting from that first execution appeared on Twitter. From an A.P. reporter named Bailey Elise McBride. Miss McBride tweeted this first. Quote, "The first execution botched. The second stayed." Another reporter on the scene says that about 15 minutes into the execution the prisoner sat up and said, quote, "Something is wrong." Then a couple of minutes later, quoting Miss McBride again, quote, "Prison officials say they will try to get Mr. Lockett to the hospital to resuscitate him." She described the prisoner like this, quote, "He was conscious and blinking, licking his lips, even after the process began. He then began to seize." Meaning have seizures. Again this is on-the-scene eyewitness reporting from A.P. reporter Bailey Elise McBride. She went on to report that the prisoner after being taken out of the prison and rushed to a hospital suffered a heart attack and died. This is breaking news tonight out of Oklahoma. The state had scheduled two executions for tonight by lethal injection. Back to back. The first did not go as planned. In fact it appears that it went horribly wrong and the prisoner died of a heart attack after the execution was halted. The second execution has now been stayed for two weeks. A short while ago the director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections gave this account of what happened tonight and what went wrong. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROBERT PATTON, DIRECTOR, OKLAHOMA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS: Those that were inside witnessed, it was determined that he was sedated approximately seven minutes into the execution. At that time we began pushing the second and third drugs in the protocol. There was some concern at that time that the drugs were not having the effect. So the doctor observed the line and determined that the line had blown. It was my decision at that time to stop the execution. I notified the attorney general`s office, the governor`s office of my intent to stop the execution, and request for a stay for 14 days for the second execution scheduled this afternoon. At approximately 706 hours, the inmate suffered what appears to be a massive heart attack and passed away. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Oklahoma`s director of corrections explaining tonight that the condemned prisoner had some sort of vein failure that prevented the drugs from properly entering his body. Again, this is breaking news out of the state of Oklahoma. This has just happened tonight, just in the last few hours. The state had planned to execute two prisoners tonight. The first of those executions had to be stopped after it appeared not to be working, after it went on for a very long time including the prisoner saying, "something is wrong," after the prisoner had what they`re describing as vein failure. According to reporters on the scene, officials considered trying to revive the prisoner. He instead eventually died of a heart attack. And that is how the second executive was postponed. Governor Fallin has now issued an executive order officially postponing the execution of the second prisoner who was scheduled to be killed tonight. His name is Charles Warner. The stay is for 14 days. The governor has ordered a, quote, "full review of the state`s execution procedure." Joining us now live is Madeline Cohen, she is the attorney for Charles Warner. He`s the prisoner who was scheduled to be the second man executed this evening. He has just received a 14-day stay after the first executive was botched. I should tell you that Miss Cohen was at the prison at the time with her client tonight when all of this happened. Madeline Cohen, thank you very much for being with us tonight. I know this is a very hard time. MADELINE COHEN, CHARLES WARNER`S ATTORNEY: Hi, Rachel. Thanks for having me on the show. MADDOW: First of all, let me ask, I`ve just summarized this as best as we can tell from here. Obviously this is still a breaking news story nationally. Is what I just explained what you understood -- what you understand happened tonight? COHEN: What you reported is what I have heard. I have to say that I have spent time with Clayton Lockett. My colleague Dean Sanderford, who`s sitting next to me right now, is Clayton Lockett`s lawyer. We`ve spent time with him, we`ve seen him, we know what he`s all about. He did not have vein failure. And that is dissembling by the Department of Corrections to cover up a horribly botched execution. MADDOW: Why do you say that you know that he wouldn`t have had vein failure? COHEN: I can`t say that for sure without an independent autopsy which should be the next step. But he was a guy with healthy, bulging veins. He was not an I.V. drug user. He was not unhealthy, dehydrated. He was a very, very fit, strong guy with, you know, big arms and bulging veins. It`s just not remotely likely that that would have happened. MADDOW: You filed suit against the state of Oklahoma earlier this year around this secrecy about the procedure they want to use to kill prisoners including your client. You argued that this new method of execution that they`re planning carried a substantial risk of inflicting severe pain. Obviously it`s hard, I think, for people outside of a direct legal context to get their heads around the idea that there is a prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment that would still allow for executions. That people could still be put to death but there would be reasonable constraints on the way in which people could be killed. Did what happened tonight affect your overall understanding of your legal arguments for your own client? And will you re-file on that claim? COHEN: Well, what we have been asking for all along is for transparency in the process. For information about the drugs that are being used and where they come from. Because, as you pointed out earlier, the sources of those drugs have diminished. And so the states have turned to, in many cases, questionable sources. And this certainly and very, very unfortunately reinforces our concern about the source of the drugs. Are they safe? Are they legal? Have they been imported from back alley suppliers as has happened in some cases? Have they been made by underregulated (INAUDIBLE) pharmacies? This is the thing that we never want to happen that it`s us here and the reason that we need to have complete transparency in the process. MADDOW: In terms of -- I just have to ask you tonight, with this trauma tonight, this traumatic failure in the process, just have to ask if your client -- your colleague who was representing Mr. Lockett and indeed your own -- your own client, I just have to ask about personal reactions to what happened tonight and how you`re receiving this information? COHEN: It`s horrible. We never want this to happen. As Dean put it to me just a few moments ago, it was like watching somebody be tortured. And that`s the farthest thing from a constitutional execution that we can imagine. We just have -- we have to have an investigation. We have to have transparency in this process. MADDOW: Madeline Cohen, the attorney for Charles Warner who tonight under incredibly difficult circumstances was granted a 14-day stay of execution. He had been scheduled to be killed by the state of Oklahoma tonight. Miss Cohen, I know this is a very difficult time. Thank you for being with us. I appreciate it tonight. COHEN: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: Thank you. All right. We`ll be right back. Much more to come. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Amid lots of other news tonight, not just from the NBA but lots of other news tonight, the White House today received some very, very good news. News that is both very good for the White House on its face and that must be terribly frustrating for them at the same time. That news is coming up with NBC`s John Harwood. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Good news for the White House. Turns out that what the administration is doing on the Ukraine issue is being appreciated by the American people. First, we know that the administration`s position to not go to war in Ukraine, that`s very popular. The last polling from Pew shows 74 percent of Americans agreeing with President Obama that we shouldn`t send U.S. troops to Ukraine. Now today new polling from Pew and "USA Today" asks specifically about the things that President Obama is doing instead of having a war there. The president is increasing diplomatic sanctions on Russia, turns out that is very popular, 53 percent of Americans approve of increasing sanctions on Russia. The president`s Republican critics like John McCain keep demanding that we send weapons to arm the Ukrainians. President Obama has rejected that advice. He said no, we`re not going to send military supplies and weapons to Ukraine. Turns out that decision by President Obama is even more popular than the sanctions thing, 62 percent of Americans approve of us not sending weapons to Ukraine. So between the U.S. not starting a new war ourselves, not sending weapons to Ukraine, and pursuing sanctions instead, all of those policies are popular, popular, and more popular. And here`s why stepping into the White House makes your hair turn gray instantly. Because even though all of these things that the White House is doing, all of the major decisions they have made on Ukraine are hugely supported by big majorities of the American people, look, the president`s handling of Ukraine is very unpopular. New polling today from the "Washington Post" and ABC News shows that only 34 percent of Americans approve of President Obama`s handling of Ukraine even though Americans like every specific thing the president is actually doing on Ukraine. Is that a total paradox? Yes, it is. Does it make the White House crazy? I`m sure it does. But that ridicules paradox is the way it is. Chart imitates life. Joining us now is John Harwood, political writer for "The New York Times". Chief Washington correspondent for CNBC. John, thanks very much for being here. It`s good to see you. JOHN HARWOOD, NEW YORK TIMES POLITICAL WRITER: Hey, Rachel. MADDOW: So, I have to imagine that this recent polling makes the White House crazy. Do they deal with this by going into denial and refusing to believe that people dislike them even though they like everything they`re doing or do they have a strategy for handling this paradox? HARWOOD: I think, Rachel, they understand it`s measuring two different things when you ask about specific steps. And the same is true of the president`s economic plan, they`re popular. But when people are asked, do you approve how his handling his job performance on that issue, it`s really a question about are things going well or not? So you could support all the items the president`s for in Ukraine, or on his economic plan, and say he`s not doing very well with Ukraine or the economy if they don`t feel like those situations are being -- if events are going well. That`s what that question measures. MADDOW: John, one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you about this is your own reporting on President Obama`s strategy for dealing with the last few years of his second term and how he is trying to handle essentially management issues within the executive branch. How does that jibe with problems like this that he`s facing in terms of his public approval rating? HARWOOD: The most important things to Barack Obama is legacy and success in the remainder of his presidency, are managing the thing he`s already got going. The part of his presidency that`s about passing new laws through Congress, yes, maybe they could get immigration, it`s possible. But that`s mostly faded. This is about now making the health care law work so it can`t be pulled out by its roots later. Making Dodd-Frank, the financial regulation law, work, making other aspects of the president`s policies. Climate change where there`s executive orders. If he can do those things that`s more important than any relations with Congress right now or even the midterm elections for that matter. MADDOW: John Harwood, political reporter for "The New York Times," with CNBC as well. John, thanks for being with us. It`s nice to see you. HARWOOD: You bet. MADDOW: Thanks. All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END