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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 07/02/14

Guests: Jeh Johnson

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. "The Rapid City Journal" is not the largest newspaper in South Dakota. That distinction goes to "The Argus Leader" in Sioux Falls. But the "Rapid City Journal" definitely and definitively won the week this week in terms of South Dakota journalism. Maybe in terms of the whole country`s journalism in one specific way -- "The Rapid City Journal" in South Dakota won this week for the best ending to a news story. It`s the kind of ending to a news story you want to like get tattooed on your back. Maybe in English, maybe after translating it into Latin. I mean, there is not an award for journalism -- your story wins the best. But if there was an award, this story would get it. This is amazing. "The Rapid City Journal" and their coverage of the fact that the town of Swett, South Dakota, has put itself up for sale. The town of Swett is in Bennett County, South Dakota, it`s about two hours southeast of Rapid City. The entire town consists of six acres of land, one house, three trailers, a workshop and a bar -- a notable roadside tavern. This is Swett, South Dakota, the name of the town. The bar is called the Swett Tavern. And even though the town is very small, it`s population is two plus one dog, Swett Tavern, the bar there does do a pretty good business. It`s along a state highway. It`s a sort of local gathering place, and has long had a reputation for being a little bit rough and tumble. A 47-year-old local man who "The Rapid City Journal" described as a third generation patron of this bar. So, his daddy came to this bar and his daddy`s daddy came to this bar before him. With his fingers wrapped around a cold bottle of Budweiser, Jerry Reynolds told the paper, quote, "This place is pretty much where the highway ends and the Wild West begins. You need a buoy knife to get in this place and a chainsaw to get out." But here`s how the story ends. Although the atmosphere may be friendlier in the bar now, whether the town sells or doesn`t sell, at least these locals hope it doesn`t lose its Western charm. Jerry Reynolds downing the last drops of his Budweiser still laughs at the memory of another man, a refined friend from Seattle who he first introduced to the sweat tavern. He said, this looks like a good place to be killed, and I said, you could be killed anywhere, Randy. You could get killed at home feeding your furless cats. At least here, it will be exciting. You can be killed at home feeding your furless cats, Randy. Congratulations, "Rapid City Journal", that is the best ending of a new story on any subject, I defy you to find one better. Killed at home feeding your furless cat. The idea that the town of Swett is for sale, it is a funny story in itself, and so, maybe it was inevitably going to lead to a funny news story. But that town putting itself up for sale, that is not a unique thing. Another town in South Dakota, called Scenic, South Dakota, that town put itself on the market for $800,000 in 2011. Scenic, South Dakota, was 46 acres, a post office, a saloon, a dance hall, a bunk house, a museum, two stores and dead train depot. Swett has not yet found a buyer. But when Scenic, South Dakota, put themselves on the block a few years ago, they did find somebody to buy them. The cost was $799,000 apparently. And that cost was paid by a Filipino church. Not just like a local church in South Dakota for Filipino-Americans, it was actually bought by a church in the Philippines. This church in the Philippines bought Scenic, South Dakota, for $799,000 about a month after it went on the market in august 2011. "The Rapid City Journal" says the church in the Philippines has never publicly commented on why it bought the town, nor has it ever done anything to the town that it owns. But this is the thing. You can buy towns, one`s for sale right, now with a nice bar. In 1873, there was a guy named Ezekiel Murrieta, who bought a town in what is now southern California. He bought about 50,000 acres of land on which he planned to raise sheep. Ezekiel Murrieta, he was from Spain. And for reasons now lost to time, after he bought that land in southern California and named it after himself, he named it Murrieta, he then went back to Spain and never lived on his newly purchased land, instead he gave the town, he gave Murrieta to his brother, Juan. Juan Murrieta did put about 100,000 sheep on that land, and that land is where the city of Murrieta, California, came from. Now, 141 years later, after one brother gave the town to another, Juan Murrieta`s 100,000 sheep are now 100,000 people -- 100,000 Californians. That`s roughly the population of Murrieta, California. It`s a conservative rural town in conservative basically rural Riverside County, California. The town of Murrieta has a motto, the motto is, "The future of southern California." If that motto is true, and Murrieta is indeed the future of southern California, welcome to the future. Welcome to the future. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PROTESTER: Why are we getting these people here? Why are we getting these people here? PROTESTER: Take them to the god man border back to their countries! REPORTER: Take the $2.2 million, put them on the airplane and send them back to El Salvador. CROWD: USA! USA! USA! USA! Go home! (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: This is the angry mob of protesters that turned out in Murrieta, California, yesterday to scream and swear at three buses containing unaccompanied children and parents with small children, as Department of Homeland Security tried to move them into a Border Patrol processing facility, so they could get health checks and start going through the next steps of the immigration and customs process. As you can see from the footage, the group held signs, the protesters held American flags. They held signs that said stuff like stop illegal immigration. Signs that said, protect your kids from diseases. Murrieta is not a dumping ground, go home. This woman also seems -- you see on the right there, free pass, why should -- she seems to have something against eagles. I think that might be an unrelated matter. If Murrieta as its motto says, really is the future of southern California, looking at those images of what happened on that blacktop in that town yesterday, it seems like a foreboding future. The excellent and profane satirical Web site "Wonkette" said too perfectly about that protest today, quote, "As Jesus said, when I was hungry, you screamed in my face and was hungry you screamed in my face and chanted USA, USA! When I was thirsty, you screamed in my face and chanted USA, USA. When I was a child thousands of miles away from her mother or father, trying to escape a failed state, you said, who is going to pay for them?" But if Murrieta really is the future of southern California, just as the town`s motto says, it should be noted that the future may not just be that angry mob that turned back those three buses full of women and children yesterday. That future also has to accompany the fact that those protesters were not alone. They were not the only ones there. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: You can see supporters of the undocumented immigrants gathered on one side of the street. Over here, we have opponents. Both sides loud and passionate. (CHANTING) PROTESTERS: Not our kids! Not our problem! REPORTER: They chanted and waived flags from their native countries. Police put up barriers to keep them on opposite sides of the streets. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They`re trying to kick us out for no reason. And we`re trying to come here to take over their city and their town and this and that. And it`s not true. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They should have blocked them at the border. They should have put them on planes and turned them around. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: There were anti-immigrant protesters but there were also counter protesters. There was another side to the anti-immigrant screaming mob. That was found out that facility, where those buses got diverted to, after they couldn`t get into Murrieta. So, in Murrieta, there were anti- immigrant protesters, and some welcome we love you protesters. But when those buses got turned back, the buses ended up diverting to San Ysidro, which is about two hours away, in San Diego county. And look at what the scene was like there. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: You can take a look behind me. These are people who saw what happened in Murrieta on the news. They came out and have been chanting loudly tonight wanting the undocumented immigrant families inside to know that there are some people in this country who support them. (HORNS HONKING) REPORTER: Just outside the gates where those undocumented immigrant families are being held -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a country, we are better than that. REPORTER: A very different tone, as neighbors who saw the reaction of protesters in Murrieta, have come to show support. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re people just like us. And they deserve love. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They need to know that for as long as they are here, they are loved and they are welcome. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So, this is political, obviously, but it`s also sort of acutely human, right? People have very strong feelings on multiple sides of this issue. And some of it is about what`s happening in their town and how people feel about the responsibilities to their immediate community and the potential threats to their immediate community. But the overall context here, the big picture is this huge influx of young families and particularly of kids alone flooding over the southern border into the United States. This has been going on for months now. The numbers are staggering, tens of thousands of unaccompanied kids. And there is this controversy about where these kids and where these young families are going to end up. I mean, in the long run, there is a policy about that in terms of whether or not there is a legal way to become a legal resident of the U.S. if you start off in another country. Until that policy issue is fixed though, there was the question of whether these folks are they going to end up in the short term with these little kids and these families are going to end after their initial processing, where they`re going to be held and how. There`s also very, very short term question of what the conditions are like now in which they are being held before they can be processed out. Part of the agency responsible for that is actually HHS, Health and Human Services, because the law that says kids that come over unaccompanied, they have to be transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services where they are treated essentially as refugees. And so, there`s overlap here between agencies. There`s overlap here between Homeland Security and other agencies. But ultimately, as Congress has refused to do anything to fix the overall policy problem, the broken immigration system that we have in this country. The president has turned to the secretary of homeland security and to the Attorney General Eric Holder, to suggest to the president ways that he as president may be able to try to fix this policy problem on his own without Congress. And meanwhile, while working on that for the president, the secretary of homeland security is in charge of the agency that is having to do most of the coping with the system being as broken as it is right now. Those buses that are getting turned away in the future of southern California and Murrieta, what do the buses say on the side? They say, Department of Homeland Security. Right? Coping with the policy challenges, coping with the overheated politics on the streets, coping with the logistics of organizing the movement of this many humans who frankly are all in basically dire straits in order to process them in some kind of orderly fashion. That is all being handled by the Department of Homeland Security. And that`s just one of the many challenges we`ve got, even if you`re just looking at the border. Over the course of the past year on this show, we`ve reported here about something related to the FBI, specifically about what happens when FBI agents shoot people. We`re sort of the only cable news show or only news show that`s really covered this in detail. But there`s this incredibly troubling record, in which over a period of two decades, the FBI has done an internal review of the 150 different cases where FBI agents shot someone, including about 70 cases where FBI agents shot and killed someone. And in all, 150 of those cases, the FBI internal review found that the shooting was justified. There were 150 for 150. According to the documents that we can get from the FBI, the FBI has never ever had a bad shoot, not in almost 20 years. We covered that story extensively this year. Well, the federal law enforcement agency that has even more armed agents than the FBI, and that has an even more astonishing record of shooting people and what we`re allowed to know about it, that is the Border Patrol. With the FBI, at least we know they`ve cleared themselves 150 times in a row for shooting people. At the Border Patrol, we don`t even have that data, they don`t release any public information at all about shooting incidents, about how they review those shooting incidents. This is a huge law enforcement agency, 50 percent more armed agents than the FBI, thousands of armed agents, who occasionally, in the course of their duties, do shoot people. But there is only unofficial data by outsiders available about those shootings or what can be pieced together by hundreds of discrete public records requests to multiple different agencies to see what you might be able to pry loose. And this agency, the Border Patrol, never speaks to the press on this matter. It`s not like the press hasn`t been asking. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: According to the investigation, since 2005, Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection officers have taken the lives of 42 people including 12 Americans. "The Arizona Republic" found there were little or no apparent repercussions for agents who shot to kill, even though they may have had other less lethal options. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "The Arizona Republic" filed more than 120 public records requests, talked with families and witnesses of victims, and reached out to Border Patrol for several interviews that were denied. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Interviews requests that were denied. Border Patrol, it`s a huge agency, that is getting more huge. I mean, 21,000 officers? The number of Border Patrol agents has more than doubled since 2004. There reportedly is no signal complaint process if you want to tell someone in authority about misbehavior or abuse you have seen by a Border Patrol agent, no single complaint process. Even in the incident of the use of force incident in which a Border Patrol agent ends up shooting you, there is likely to be no public disclosure about that shooting or what has happened to that agent because of that shooting if anything. As a federal law enforcement agency, we study them all. We report on them all. But the Border Patrol is the blackest of all black boxes. That said, President Obama appointed a new head of the agency in March. In May -- he was appointed in March, in May, for the first time, the new commissioner released the full text of the agency`s handbook on the use of force by border agents, as well as a report that was done by an outside group that was critical of a number of incidents in which Border Patrol agents shot and kill people. It was the newly appointed commissioner of Customs and Border Protection who released that information after the agency had fought for years to keep its secret, the new appointed -- newly appointed commissioner said he was committed to a new era of openness and transparency at the agency and that`s why he released that information so soon after he was appointed. This is from "The New York Times" reporting on that release of information in May. Look, the new commissioner was asked by reporters why he had released the documents when agency lawyers had argued vigorously against it for more than a year. His reply, quote, "We had a difference of opinion. And I won." Is it a new era of openness in transparency at the Border Patrol? Is it a new era of openness and transparency at this mammoth agency overall at the Department of Homeland Security? And how on earth can one agency be expected to handle all of these different and huge albeit not unrelated problems? Joining us now is the man who has to know the answer to that, United States Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. Mr. Secretary, thank you for being here. JEH JOHNSON, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: It`s a pleasure, Rachel. Nice to be back on the show. MADDOW: Thank you. I have to ask you first about -- JOHNSON: Where do we start? MADDOW: Exactly. Well, I`m tempted to ask you where you start every day with the number of things you`re responsible for at DHS. But I want to ask you about those acutely emotional images of those people blocking that bus in Murrieta, California. It`s Department of Homeland Security bus carrying undocumented immigrants. How -- what is your reaction to seeing them, not just protesting, but turning those buses around? JOHNSON: Well, it`s important to understand that because of the recent influx of kids and families crossing the border in the Rio Grande Valley sector, our processing capability in that immediate area is full and we`ve had to go to other places across the Southwest simply to process these people. And so, when someone interrupts the ability of the Border Patrol to process a migrant, you`re preventing us from conducting basic health screening and basic background checks on who these people are. It`s a very basic Border Patrol function that we need to perform for law enforcement, health and other reasons for the sake of border security, for the sake of public safety. And so, I look at those images and they are disturbing. I do have to say, I was in McAllen, Texas, again two days ago for the third time in about a month and a half. And one of the things that`s remarkable about McAllen, Texas, which is sort of at the center of all of this, the community there has been remarkable. The mayor, community leaders, local law enforcement have been remarkably supportive to our Border Patrol and other people there doing their job overtime, and the community on a volunteer spirit has really come together in McAllen. And so, those images that you showed are obviously very concerning. But I`ve been very impressed by how communities in Texas have really come together and given us a tremendous amount of support with this situation we`re dealing with. MADDOW: In terms of the processing capability, obviously it becomes a much more pressing question, when you have the volume of people coming across in recent months. But do you think that DHS processes people in the right way? Obviously, you said, it`s background checks, it`s health checks. There`s a responsibility to get unaccompanied kids reunited with family members that they may have in this country, or reunited with family members somewhere. Obviously, they can`t all become wards of the state in some way. I mean, the processing that is done, do you think it`s the right process? Or at a policy level, should that be changed? JOHNSON: Well, it`s a process required by law. There`s a law passed in 2008 that basically requires us when we identify somebody as an unaccompanied child to turn them over to HHS as you pointed out, and I think that this is a legal requirement, but doing the right things by an unaccompanied child reflects our values as Americans. I`ve spent enough time now in south Texas actually talking directly to these kids, and I`ve spent time with unaccompanied children as young as eight years old, five years old, who have been on a 1,000-mile journey to come to this country. And you can see in their eyes vulnerability and fear that I recognize as a father. And so, there`s a humanitarian aspect to this situation that we simply have to grapple with and come to turns with. So, our response to this needs to reflect our laws and our values. MADDOW: Why are they coming? I mean, you`ve been there directly, you`re talking to the kids directly, you`re talking with local officials who`ve been dealing with this influx. Obviously, there`s always been some accompanied minors coming across, but there is this just incredible influx. I mean, more than 50,000 kids in a handful of months. Why is it happening? JOHNSON: Good question. First and foremost, there`s the push factor of the conditions in their countries. Three quarters of this influx are coming from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The conditions in those countries are very, very difficult right now. And so, when we talk to the kids, that`s almost the first thing they mention. You know, a child told me that the gang was going to kill me, and so my grandmother or my father told me they had no choice but to send me to the United States to be with the other parent. So, first and foremost, it`s the conditions in these three countries, because we`re seeing this migration occurring from these three countries. Second, they clearly know that the law requires that if we identify them as an unaccompanied child, we give them to Health and Human Services, and they place them in a situation that is in the best interest of the child, which very often is with the parent who was already in the United States. The other factor here is, there`s a considerable amount of misinformation out there, that I believe the smuggling organizations are stoking, because it`s in their interest to do that. And so, there`s misinformation about free passes, if you come to the United States. And that`s going to expire by the end of May or by the end of June. It`s like the used car salesman the sale ends at the end of the week. And so, the smuggling organizations are putting out a large amount of I believe misinformation about -- MADDOW: To get their money now. JOHNSON: --the legal regime that exists in the United States. And so, I and others keep saying publicly that DACA, which is the program two years that we created for children, is for kids who came to this country seven years ago, and the legislation that the Senate passed last year, the earned path to citizenship, is for those who have been in this country already for a year and a half. And those programs are not available for somebody who crosses the border today or tomorrow. And so, we`ve had to do a lot of correcting the record. But we`re also telling parents about the dangers of doing this journey. Sending your child on an 1,100 or 1,300-mile trip along the East Coast of Mexico, on top of a freight train in the hands of a smuggling organization, is very dangerous. MADDOW: And they may end up going back home at the end of it. Secretary Johnson, will you stay for a moment? JOHNSON: Yes. MADDOW: Thank you. I want to talk to you about Border Patrol. And also, the announcement that you made today about airport security and some other stuff going on. Stay with us. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: For most of the first 200 years we existed as a country, we had a Department of War. And then just to be confusing and just to give soldiers and sailors a reason to have bar fights with each other, starting in 1798, we had the Department of War and also a Department of the Navy. The Navy and the War Department were separate things. What was the Navy for if it wasn`t for war? I don`t know, it was a little confusing. But then after World War II, we changed things up radically. That was when we reorganize the whole kit and caboodle to establish for the first time that the Air Force was its own separate thing from the Army. The Air Force and the Army and Navy were all subordinate to the secretary of defense, who was a civilian. That`s when we got the Department of Defense. That`s when we got a joint chiefs of staff. That`s when the Office of Strategic Services became something that we now know as the CIA. That`s when we got the National Security Council. That all happened at once when President Harry Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947, and then they fine-tuned the law a couple years later. Before that, before 1947-1949, we never had a Department of Defense, let alone a CIA or any of the rest of that stuff. That was a massive reorganization of the American government, really created the government that we know today, or at least the national security part of the government that we know today. It was the largest reorganization of the government in forever. The largest reorganization of the government since then, since 1947, it happened in 2002, when they decided to take 22 different whole agencies and turn them into a brand new mega agency. It`s got nearly a quarter million employees, the only agencies bigger are the aforementioned Defense Department and the V.A. The Coast Guard used to be under the Department of Transportation. Now, it`s under this new agency, Homeland Security. Customs Service used to be part of Treasury Department, now it`s part of Homeland Security. Secret Service used to be part of Treasury, now it`s Homeland Security. FEMA, Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, Homeland Security. The Plum Island Animal Disease Center, Homeland Security. The TSA, Homeland Security. Border Patrol, Homeland Security. All of these things are all Homeland Security with one guy in charge. Is that a good idea? We`re finding out. Joining us now is technically the head of FEMA, the Coast Guard, the Border Patrol, the TSA, the Secret Service, Immigration and Customs, the Plum Island Animal Disease Center and all of the rest of it, at least to the extent that he is the cabinet secretary who oversees that giant agency, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson back with us. I don`t know if that`s supposed to make you feel good or bad, but that`s too overwhelming. I want to ask you about one part of Homeland Security, which is a large law enforcement agency and that`s the Border Patrol. It is the most opaque law enforcement agency that operates domestically that I know of. Specifically on the issue of use of force, we know from outside sources there have been dozens incidents of Border Patrols shooting and killing people. There`s never been any official information released about even one of those shootings. There`s never been one single complaint process for people to deal with about concerns about use or over use of force? Are you concerned about how opaque that agency is? JOHNSON: I know from my Department of Defense experience that transparency goes a long way. An armed force, a law enforcement force or military force that operates with a lack of transparency is a force that -- you threaten to undermine the entire mission if there`s not accountability and transparency. And so I`ve been very pleased that CBP has taken certain steps toward transparency. We`ve made public, as I think you pointed out in your lead- in, the use of force policy. MADDOW: Yes. JOHNSON: We made public the independent report on use of force in the Border Patrol. The Commissioner Kerlikowske is making some changes in internal affairs within CBP. So, I think we`re moving in a positive direction. We rewrote our use of force policies for the Border Patrol, to more explicitly deal with the problem of rock throwing and threats to Border Patrol agents by vehicles. I made clear to the Border Patrol, I don`t want you to do anything to undermine your agent`s ability to defend themselves in situations where it`s warranted. But transparency can go a long way with the general population. So, I think with my encouragement, the Commissioner Kerlikowske has made a lot of positive steps in this direction. We`re going to continue that. MADDOW: I would say just -- speaking for myself as a member of the media, the fact that Customs and Border Patrol doesn`t engage with the media on these issues at all many when they get asked about a shooting incident, there`s not even a no comment. There`s nothing on background. There`s no official data to resort to at all, it doesn`t feel there`s any watchdog in this issue, and maybe that`s because the population that`s most in contact with Border Patrol agents is powerless. But just in terms of democracy it`s -- JOHNSON: I think we`re moving in the right direction. MADDOW: In terms of the directions right now, in which this large amount of migrant kids and families is being held on the border, do you have concerns about whether or not your agency has been able to upscale your physical capacity to hold them in a way that`s humane? JOHNSON: We searched capacity in the last couple of months. Every time I go down there, I`m impressed that -- in a first of all, we quickly fill the space that we create with the influx of people. But our Border Patrol people day in and day out I think are doing a remarkable job with what I`ve seen. They`re doing above and beyond the call, beyond the basic Border Patrol processing mission to deal with this large amount of people and kids. I think they`re doing a remarkable job. MADDOW: Let me asking something else unrelated to the border when Department of Homeland Security was created, it was in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. And that protecting the homeland from terrorist attacks is very essentially to just the mission of the agency, but the whole reason the agency was created in a first place. You put out a statement today about increased airport security at overseas airports that have direct flights to the United States. What are the concerns that led to those steps and should we see this as the first in a number of steps? JOHNSON: We continually evaluate the world situation, and we not infrequently make changes to aviation security, we either step it up or we feel sometimes we`re in a position to dial it back. And so, this is something that happens periodically and people should not overreact to it or over speculation about what`s going on but there clearly are concerns centered around aviation security that we need to be vigilant about. There is a terrorist threat to this country that remains, and I believe that counterterrorism needs to be the cornerstone of our mission -- our vast mission that you`ve pointed out. And aviation security is something that we still have a fair amount of concerns about. And so, we continually evaluate the world situation, if we think there are improvements we can and should make without unnecessarily disrupting the traveling public we`ll do that. MADDOW: It`s been reported in relation to the fighting in Iraq, that this group, ISIS, one of the things particularly dangerous about them in an international context is that they`ve been able to attract fighters who have Western passports. Is that led to an increase threat assessment? JOHNSON: We`ve been looking at Syria for a while. In a speech I said, a speech I gave in February, I said Syria had become a matter of homeland security. And we in national security are concerned about the foreign fighter flow, going into Syria in particular, from the United States, from European countries, other countries, and we`re tracking that population, and very concerned about it because there are extremists within the borders of Syria that would like to indoctrinate these people and send them back to their countries with a different purpose. So, we`re having to spend a lot of time tracking these individuals and talking to our foreign allies about the same problem. MADDOW: Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, I know taking this much to do this long an interview is a lot to ask for a guy with this much on his plate as you do. Thank you very much. JOHNSON: It`s been a pleasure. Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: It`s nice to see you. Thank you. All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Do you believe that that private business people should be able to decide whether they want to serve black people or gays or any other minority group as they said? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Over the course of six years that this show has been on the air, we`ve had hundreds of on-air interviews. But still, to this day, one of the most bizarre and uncomfortable and baffling interviews we`ve ever had here was the one with then-Senate candidate Rand Paul in 2010, one where he refused to answer a question, no matter how many times I asked it, about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, around and around and around we went. Would you vote for it? Oh, well, it`s not that simple. Would you vote for it? I`m against racism. I think it`s a stain on our nation. Yes, me too, but would you vote for it? Over and over and over and over, we never did get -- I could never get an answer from Senator Paul, or wannabe Senator Paul at that point. But today, we are reminded of why that conversation was so uncomfortable -- at least why it should have been so uncomfortable for him. And that weird story is ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Sometimes, political combat is a chore. Sometimes, it`s the same old same old. Sometimes, it`s cynical. Sometimes, it`s winey, and repetitive and annoying. But sometimes, political combat is delicious. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In my health care bill, I said insurance companies need to provide contraceptive coverage to everybody who`s insured. Governor Romney not only opposed it, he suggested that in fact, employers should be able to make the decision as to whether or not a woman gets contraception through her insurance coverage. MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don`t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care or not. Everyone in America should have access to contraceptives. And the president`s statement of my policy is completely and totally wrong. OBAMA: Governor, that`s not true. ROMNEY: Let me come back. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Governor, that`s not true. God, I love presidential debates. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney insisting in that debate that your boss should not be able to control your access to contraceptives, that would be wrong, and he, Mitt Romney would not stand for that kind of policy, and that put Mr. Romney kind of in a pickle, because that year in 2012, Republicans really were pushing a bill that would allow your boss to decide whether or not your personal health insurance would cover birth control. It was an amendment sponsored by Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, that would let employers opt out of providing anything under health insurance plans if they said their reason for doing so was a religious belief or moral conviction. And while he was trying to appeal to conservative voters, Mitt Romney said he was all for that thing. And then when President Obama confronted him with that debate, with what supporting the Blunt Amendment would actually mean in real life, Mitt Romney was horrified by the sound of it, and he denied that was his position, that really was his position. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: I don`t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care or not. So I have -- I was simply misunderstood the question, and, of course, I support the Blunt Amendment. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Oh, did I say? Despite the shaky support from candidates like Mitt Romney, Republicans in Congress ultimately failed to pass the Blunt Amendment, they couldn`t get it done that year. But, you know what, they got it done anyway this week. Thanks to five Republican appointed justices at the Supreme Court. The court`s conservative majority ruled this week that some privately held companies should be exempt on religious grounds from covering birth control. Republicans and conservatives rejoiced over that decision. Over the new right of your boss to deny your coverage of an IUD, because that is what your boss believes God wants. Republicans were delighted with that idea in 2012, with the Blunt Amendment, but it did not pass and it did play for them politically at all. I mean, whether Mitt Romney didn`t understand what he was saying about birth control or didn`t believe what he was saying about birth control, it was not a good look, politically, to say you wanted to put the boss at work in between a woman and her doctor on the issue of using contraception. I mean, that was a problem when Republicans tried to achieve that policy outcome with the Blunt Amendment in an election year in 2012. That was a problem for them. And that is one of the Republicans with Republicans rejoicing now over having finally achieved that policy outcome through different means, through the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court ruling this week. Republicans rejoicing about that is the same problem in 2014 as it was for them in 2012. Since the ruling, though, the other problem for them, the ruling turns out not to be a narrowly focused one, some of the initial analysis about what the court did said it was a narrowly focused ruling, so maybe that would limit its political and practical impact. It turns out despite those first impressions, the ruling is not at all just about the few specific forms of birth control that the Hobby Lobby owners don`t like at their arts and crafts superstore. It turns out the ruling really does apply to all birth control, full stop. Your boss can stop your access to all of it. The Supreme Court issued their decision on Monday just after 10:00 a.m. Eastern, that ruling specifically mentioned two forms of the morning after pill, and two forms of the IUD. And so maybe that`s it? That`s all this applies to? No, on Tuesday, the court made a much quieter series of subsequent moves concerning companies that oppose every kind of birth control. The court on Tuesday sent out orders pursuant to their ruling from the day before about cases where companies opposed to all birth control had lost their cases. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court sent out orders to lower courts telling them to take a new look at those cases about all contraceptive methods. I mean, however narrow the ruling might have looked on Monday on the face of it, in the typed letters of the opinion itself, it turns out the court made clear the next day, it`s not just those few forms of birth control that Hobby Lobby doesn`t like, it`s about all birth control. So, that`s the second problem with Republicans celebrating this decision. Birth control is popular, letting your boss be in charge of it is not popular. And now, there`s a third problem. There`s another surprise still coming from the Supreme Court ruling on Monday. Since the ruling, religious groups have already started petitioning the government to say that your boss`s religious beliefs can excuse him from following a law when it comes to health insurance regulations and Obamacare. If that`s settled by the court, well, then these groups want their religious beliefs to excuse them from having to follow the law on not just contraception, not just on health law rules, but on nondiscrimination. They now because of this ruling want a religious exemption from rules that say you can`t fire someone for being gay. They want to be able to fire someone for being gay because they think God wants that. This was posted today by Molly Ball at "The Atlantic". Conservative religious leaders asking President Obama to let federal contractors discriminate. The president`s working on an executive order that would require federal contractors to not fire people just for being gay. These religious leaders say they would like a robust religious exemption from that. Look at Hobby Lobby. One of them tells "The Atlantic" that after the Hobby Lobby decision, quote, "The administration does have a decision to make whether they want to recalibrate their approach to some of these issues." So, the news this week is not just about a couple forms of birth control. It is about -- not just about even every form of birth control. The news this week is about wanting the right to fire gay people for being gay, and it`s about all birth control, and it`s presumably about every other conceivable advantage that conservatives think they will be able to gain by calling what they want to do that`s otherwise against the law -- a variety of religious freedom. It`s already started. Justice Ginsburg dissent about what that ruling meant is already coming true. The flood gates are already opening. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: One big last story for you tonight. Still to come, a senator who wants to be president celebrates the anniversary of an American milestone, an American achievement that is very popular and quite revered, and that the senator himself is against. That strange story is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In the summer of 1964, the NAACP printed up these information pamphlets. Look, the Civil Rights Act of 1964. What`s in it and how you can use it to obtain the rights that guarantees. The act that just been signed into law, and to get the word out about what exactly the new would mean, the civil rights group made these four- page booklets. They called the act, "Your Law". The pamphlet explains your law says hotels and motels and other places of lodging, restaurants, cafeterias, lunch counters, soda phones, gas stations, theaters, concert halls, sports arenas, ball parks, must now serve everyone, regardless of race. America is legally desegregated. The pamphlet explained that if you were denied service on the basis of your race in any of those places, you could bring a lawsuit against whoever barred your access. You could also complain in person to the local FBI office or to a federal prosecutor. That Civil Rights Act signed 50 years ago today, it outlawed discrimination on the base else of race, color, religion, sex, national origin. It desegregated all public establishments, hospitals, schools, public parks. It banned segregation at any private business that served the public. The long and hard-fought battle that began on buses and at lunch counters with persistent, nonviolent civil disobedience, it paid off legally. It was not the end of the fight obviously, but it was one of the most important milestones we`ve ever had on this subject in this country. Today marks 50 years since the 1964 Civil Rights Act was signed. And all across the country, this summer, there are lots of commemoration to celebrate the achievement and the heroism of the civil rights movement. They`re happening in lots of places including one yesterday in the central Kentucky City of Shelbyville. An event was held to commemorate the work of a local family of civil rights leaders. Among those attending that event was Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Rand Paul went to Shelbyville, Kentucky, yesterday and he sang the praises of the civil rights movement and civil rights activists since specifically the Civil Rights Act of 1964. On the occasion, Rand Paul released this statement, "It is simply unimaginable to think what modern America would be like if not for the brave men and women who stood up for the rights of all Americans. This legislation changed the future of our nation by enforcing the beliefs that all men and women are created equal. We must continue to build an America that our children that every race, creed and color deserve." Rand Paul coming out in full support of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 - - which is nice, and I don`t mean to be raining on the parade, but I have to point out this does mark a shift in his position on this legislation. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Maybe voting against the civil rights act which wasn`t just about governmental discrimination but public accommodation, the idea that people who provided services that were open to the public had to do so in a non-discriminatory fashion. Let me ask you specifics that we don`t get into esoteric hypotheticals here. RAND PAUL (R-KY), THEN-SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: There`s 10 different -- there`s 10 different titles, you know, to the Civil Rights Act, and nine out of 10 deal with public institutions, and I`m absolutely in favor of. One deals with private institutions. And had I been around, I would have tried to modify that. But, you know, the other thing about legislation, this is why it`s a little hard to say exactly where you are sometimes, is that when you support nine out of 10 things in a good piece of legislation, do you vote for it or against it? I think sometimes those are difficult situations. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That one part of the Civil Rights Act `64 that Rand Paul had a problem with, might have jeopardized his support for the whole thing, is the part that deals with not being able to ban black people from restaurants and lunch counters and hotels and anything that offers services to the general public. So, he admitted right there, right here when he was first running for Senate in 2010, he admitted that. But now today, here`s Rand Paul celebrating that law that he says he`s not sure he could have voted for. Today, he says it is simply unimaginable to think what modern America would be like if not for that law to which he used to admit he was opposed. Now, he`s its biggest champion. The word "unimaginable" is exactly the right word here. That does it for us. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". Lawrence, I`m sorry to take 33 seconds of your show. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END