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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 07/14/14

Guests: Alan Gomez, Andrew Ross Sorkin, David Boucher

STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks for that. And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. Rachel has the night off. I`ll start by asking if you remember the kiss. In case you haven`t heard the story, it starts back in November 2004. It`s when George W. Bush was re-elected as president over John Kerry. In the following February, that`s February of 2005, Bush was set to give his first State of the Union address since being re-elected. Obviously, this was a big deal -- the first speech to set the course of his second term as president. It was February 2nd, 2005. That was the date to be exact. And after Bush finished delivering that speech, that State of the Union Address, he made his way up along the aisle in the House chamber and toward the exits. The scene you`ve seen on TV every year, it seems. Those members of Congress, they reach out, they try to shake his hand, they try to get a word in with him. Maybe try to get their picture taken. Maybe try to get on the news while the president is trying to leave the building. On his way out that night back on February 2nd, 2005, Bush spotted one particular senator who he wanted to stop, who he wanted to talk to. So he stopped, he leaned over, and he put his hand on Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and then as you see there, he kissed him. It was an unexpected move. Got a lot of attention. It ended up playing a big role in the history of American politics for the past decade because Joe Lieberman was still a full fledged Democrat back then. He`d been his party`s candidate for vice president back in 2000. He`d run for president, himself, in 2004. In 2005, Democrats were starting to turn on him, because it was then that the Iraq War was spiraling out of control, and Lieberman wouldn`t stop standing with Bush. That`s why Bush was so happy to see him in the chamber that night. To those Democrats who were starting to turn on Lieberman, this was a big moment. This was an image that crystallized their feelings. This was the ultimate symbol of just how close to Bush Lieberman had become. And so, following year, in 2006, when Lieberman ran for re- re- election in Connecticut, he got a challenge in the Democratic primary and his opponents put that infamous kiss image, they put on buttons, they put in on flyers, they put it in ads. The image was a big reason that Lieberman went down in that Democratic primary. Why he lost his party`s support. Why he ended up spending the rest of his time in the Senate as an independent. And now, here`s the thing. There was actually around that same time, around that time of that kiss, there was actually another Democrat who George W. Bush also looked forward to seeing during his State of the Union Addresses. And he made that very clear the year after the Lieberman kiss. This was in the 2006 State of the Union Address. Right after Bush had finished his speech, he was also making his way out of the Capitol. He was trying to exit. He was working his way through the crowds and that`s when he saw his other favorite Democrat, Texas congressman named Henry Cuellar. What he`s doing isn`t a kiss, but we could call it more of a cusping of Mr. Cuellar`s cheeks. We can call a clasp. It was the clasp. It was less famous than the kiss, but it`s very significant right now. The clasp. The thing is, when that picture was taken, Henry Cuellar was running for re-election in Texas. And his primary was in March of that year. It was just a month after that picture was taken. That picture, that clasp, it did happen a few months before in the heat of a primary campaign when he was being challenged in the Democratic primary. The picture could have been toxic to Henry Cuellar. It could have been the equivalent to the kiss. It could have been what the kiss was to Joe Lieberman. Henry Cuellar was facing the same basic charge Lieberman was facing in Connecticut. Liberals who believed he was way too close, way too friendly to George W. Bush and wanted him gone. In Henry Cuellar`s case, it didn`t work. Here`s the Henry Cuellar story. In the 2000 presidential election, when he was a state representative in Texas, Cuellar chose to back then- Republican Governor George W. Bush for president over his own party`s candidate, Al Gore. He was basically a Bush surrogate. Bush campaign proceeded to use Cuellar in Bush for president ad campaign to attack Gore, quoting Cuellar from the "Associated Press" back then, saying, quote, "As a Democratic member of the House Appropriations Committee, Cuellar said by criticizing the state`s fiscal health, Gore is attacking us, the legislature." Following year in 2001, Republican Governor Rick Perry appointed Henry Cuellar secretary of state in Texas. It`s a position he held basically for the next year. In 2004, though he did back John Kerry over Bush that year, Cuellar decided to run for Congress against not just anyone but -- not against any Democrat but the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Ciro Rodriguez was his name. And Cuellar ran in that primary. It turns out, it was a very contentious race and it was over the initial tally gave Rodriguez a 145-vote lead. But after a recount, Cuellar moved ahead by 58 votes. So, the race ended up going to court and in the end, Henry Cuellar was declared the winner of the seat. He upset Ciro Rodriguez, sitting Democratic member of Congress, in a primary. In 2006, Ciro Rodriguez came back to try to get his revenge. Cuellar, of course, by then had infuriated national liberal groups. The conservative group, the Club for Growth, you`ve probably heard of them, they came in and endorsed Henry Cuellar. I was actually reporting on that race back then when I was at "Roll Call." It`s the very first time ever the Club for Growth endorsed a Democrat. And so, that was the context for George W. Bush clasping Henry Cuellar at his 2006 State of the Union Address. He sees his old buddy before that 2006 election and gives that buddy a good luck clasp. Cuellar ended up surviving, though, in spite of the clasp. Democrats after that election stopped trying to oust him. For as long as he wanted to, they figured he was going to be representing that slice of South Texas in Congress. But now, flash forward to right now, all these years later, we are being reminded why he drove Democrats nuts in the first place. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, Congressman, by that, I take it you mean he should be seeing the border? REP. HENRY CUELLAR (D), TEXAS (via telephone): Well, I hope that doesn`t become a President Obama`s Katrina moment. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should the president be going to the border today? He`s in Texas. CUELLAR: Absolutely. He will be 500 miles from Dallas, and in fact, he`ll be 242 miles from Austin, Texas. the other fund-raiser that he`ll be having. So, he`s so close to the border. Let me say this. When I saw -- I hate to use the word bizarre, but under the circumstances when he is shown playing pool in Colorado, drinking a beer, and he can`t even go 242 miles to the Texas border? UNIDENTIFID MALE: Congressman, President Obama is visiting Texas today but not going to the border. Is that a mistake? CUELLAR: I think it is. Look, he`s going to be in Austin 242 miles away from the border. He`s going to be in Dallas, 500 miles away from the border. Last night, we saw some of the photographs where he was in Colorado drinking a beer, playing pool. I mean, the outtakes are just horrible. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think he looks detached at this moment? CUELLAR: Yes, unfortunately, I think he does. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: We`ve been hearing a lot from Congressman Henry Cuellar in the last few weeks during this border crisis. He`s a Democrat. He`s a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He has emerged as an unusually blunt critic of President Obama. A lot of the attention he gets stems from the fact that he`s a member of the president`s own party. Any Republican, after all, can attack the administration and say that the president is detached or bizarre or whatever. But when a Democrat does it, it becomes much bigger news. It`s much more powerful when a Democrat does it about a Democratic president. Today, we learned that Republican Texas Senator John Cornyn and Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar are now prepared to release a bipartisan, bicameral bill to deal with the current border crisis. It`s a bipartisan proposal being introduced in Congress tomorrow. The bill would essentially rewrite the current 2008 George W. Bush law so that minors from Central American countries can be treated like those from Mexico and Canada. They can be deported more quickly. Under the plan, unaccompanied minors from any country would be able to have an immigration court hearing within seven days of their processing by Health and Human Services and an immigration judge would be required to rule on their case within three days. While it appears the administration isn`t totally against this bill, they have yet to officially get behind it, many Democrats, including the Hispanic Caucus, have indicated they don`t have plans to support the legislation. Now, we asked Congressman Cuellar to come on the show tonight, but he said he had a scheduling conflict. So, what are the prospects of this bill getting through Congress? Joining us now is Alan Gomez. He`s a reporter who`s covering immigration issues for "USA Today". Alan, thanks for being here today. So, let`s start with this bill and just -- if you can help us understand it a little bit, because right now, we`re hearing so much about this 2008 law that`s in effect that basically treats unaccompanied minors coming in from the Central American countries different than unaccompanied minors that might come in from Mexico, say. What specifically would happen if this bill were enacted? What would happen to an unaccompanied minor coming in from Central America that`s not happening right now? ALLEN GOMEZ, USA TODAY: Well, to put it very simply, right now, they wait about two years before they get a hearing to determine whether they`re going to stay in the country or whether they`re going to go back. This would make that about a two-week process. The way the law is written now, if you come from a contiguous state, that means either Mexico or Canada, and obviously, we`re talking about Mexico here, that process can be just a matter of days. A border patrol agent can make the determination of whether you qualify for asylum, for refugee statuses or any of the number of visas that are available for kids who are trying to get here and they can immediately hand them over. Part of the reasoning is that we can do that safely and directly to Mexican officials and we know they`re going to take care of them. The reason this law was introduced back in 2008 is that it`s a more involved process. Obviously, it involves a plane flight. It involves looking at the specific cases that they`re facing back home. We don`t have the same relationship with these governments that we do with Mexico. So, the thinking was, let`s have more protections for these kids so when we send them back, we know it`s a safer situation. We know -- we understand better where they`re headed. So, what they`re trying to do now with this bill is to treat all those other kids as we treat kids from Mexico or Canada. Speed up that process and make it a lot quicker. The law itself actually doesn`t require that they face an immigration judge. But that`s usually the practice. They end up being here so long. They end up going before a judge. This law would actually require that for the first time. So it kind of balances it out. They do have the guarantee where they`re going to see a judge, but it`s going to be a heck of a lot quicker. KORNACKI: So, where are the politics, sort of, on Capitol Hill and in Washington about this? We have, I guess the Congressional Hispanic Congress is already denouncing the proposal. They`re going out there and saying Congressman Cuellar does not speak for us on this. At the same time -- GOMEZ: Right. KORNACKI: -- I`ve seen reporting that the white house has basically indicated, and they`ve done this in this sort of indirect way, they won`t say it officially but have people tell reporters off the record. The White House seems to be sending the message that, hey, we`d like Congress to do this, we`d like to tie it to this funding request. Is this something the White House wants but doesn`t want to come out and say they want right now? GOMEZ: Well, exactly what you`re saying. The -- they were the first ones to actually bring this up. This was about a week ago when the president made that speech in the Rose Garden, a week ago Monday, and he announced he was going to be asking for some more money. And he said he was going to be looking for some changes into the laws. You know, we found out that it was specifically this law and it was this very thing we`re talking about, being able to treat these Central American kids. HAYES: Why is the White House so hesitant to say that publicly and to publicly embrace it? What`s keeping them back politically? GOMEZ: I`m not sure about that. But I can tell you that as soon as that kind of broke out, all of a sudden, they started getting blowback from a lot of Democrats on the Hill. Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate, who orchestrated the immigration bill last year that passed the Senate, he said he would fight, quote, "tooth and nail" to oppose it. Other senators have been ling up. Dick Durbin, a close ally of the White House, had said he wants more money for kids to get lawyers. Other Democrats in both chambers are saying that this is really an unfair trade-off, just to get some money to take care of these kids. So, the blowback has been pretty sharp and been pretty heated just in the last couple days since this start materializing. KORNACKI: And what about -- so, we went through some of the history here. I remember when I was covering Congress in `06 when Cuellar beat Rodriguez in the primary. You know, a lot of people thought he was going to lose that primary. He bragged to us. I just gave him a South Texas beating. I remember that`s the expression he used. So, obviously, you know, he`s been getting a lot of, you know, sort of blowback within the Democratic Party for the last couple of weeks, for how he has been talking about the president and the president`s handling of the immigration crisis, the border crisis right now. With his fingerprints on a bill like this, does that actually make it more radioactive with Democrats? Is that how they`re now responding to Henry Cuellar? GOMEZ: Yes, I mean, you can see it a couple of different ways here. I mean, when you look at the sort of traditional party breakdown, once you get right to the border, things get a little different. So, on the one hand, we`re talking about Henry Cuellar as if he`s a staunch Republican trying to hammer on these immigrants. But at the same time, he`s one of the strongest opponents of extending the border wall. He says it`s an old solution that can`t really work and that`s a traditional Republican thing to be pushing for to secure the border. So, he`s got this -- his brother`s a sheriff down there along the border. I mean, he understands these issues very well. So, it`s -- and it`s very complicated -- when you start talking to the folks down along the border, about what they think needs to work and what they think can solve the problem. KORNACKI: Alan, I`m just curious, though, he really has, it seems, gone out of his way in the last couple weeks to be going after President Obama to be picking a public fight with -- what are the politics of that? It`s a Democratic district he comes from. Is there a political angle, you know, behind this? Is there some history with him and Obama maybe that we done don`t know about? GOMEZ: I mean, as far as their history together, I`m not really sure. He`s in a safe district. He, you know, last year, he won with, like, 67 percent in the Democratic primary and he ran unopposed the year before that, there wasn`t even opposition in the Democratic Party. So, I think, obviously, he`s a little insulated. He has the opportunity to do things other Democrats cannot do. So, what his point in doing this, why he`s kind of making this point? As the clip you showed, when he`s talking about the president`s actions as being bizarre, when he brings up that question of, is this Obama`s Katrina moment? I mean, those are Republican talking points they`ve been parroting the last week or so. So, yes, you wonder where he`s coming from. I`m not exactly sure what the impetus of his push is. But I can tell you, it`s not that he`s worried about his district. So, whether he`s looking for another office or if this is what he truly believes and wants to push to get things done -- you know, it would be nice for him to get out here to explain this a little bit. KORNACKI: Yes, I mean, every Republicans` favorite Democrat, they said that about Lieberman a decade ago and the last two weeks, certainly, I`ve been hearing it about Henry Cuellar. Anyway, Alan Gomez, reporter for "USA Today" -- thank you very much for helping us understand this tonight. Appreciate. GOMEZ: Thank you. KORNACKI: That we`ve got lots more ahead, including multibillion dollar bank fines. The rise of Elizabeth Warren as the Democrat`s go-to red state campaigner, believe it or not. And a Chris Christie you have never heard before and possibly neither has he. But first, a one more thing regarding the crisis of Central American kids coming into the country without documentation. United States today deported 21 girls and boys from Honduras, back to their home country on a charter flight, departed from New Mexico for San Pedro Sula, that`s the city with the highest murder rate in the world. Children reportedly range in age from 18 months to 15 years old. This was the first such deportation flight since president Obama pledged to fast track the return of undocumented immigrant kids to their home countries. Be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: Almost one month ago exactly, on the afternoon of June 17th, some surprising news broke that immediately became front page headlines. This was news leaking of the capture of one of the suspected ring leaders of the attacks on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. U.S. Special Forces has taken Ahmed Abu Khattala into custody in a secret raid just a few days before and that big news sort of upstaged another announcement the Obama administration was hoping to deliver that same day, because that same someday when the Justice Department planned to break the news that the federal government was going to sue one of the country`s largest banks. Lead prosecutor for the DOJ had been flown in from Colorado, a press conference room had been booked in preparation for the announcement that they were going to go after Citigroup for its role in the financial crisis. DOJ hoped the suit would send a clear public message, message that the Obama administration was serious about holding Wall Street accountable. But then at the last minute, prosecutors pulled back, because they feared that the Benghazi news was taking over the day. So, Justice Department officials decided to postpone filing their suit. This was a suit that had been in the works since Citigroup balked at a reported $12 billion settlement demand from the Justice Department. Bank`s original offer had been far less -- far less gigantic, $360 million. So, they were at an impasse, and the bank was told to be ready for a federal lawsuit. When the Benghazi arrest happened, the suit didn`t come. And that allowed more time for negotiation, culminating in today`s announcement that Citigroup will be shelling out $7 billion to pay for their financial sins. This case, knowingly selling investments and bad mortgages that brought the U.S. economy to its knees six years ago now. Settlement includes a record $4 billion. That`s $4 billion with a B -- a $4 billion penalty for their misdeeds, along with $2.5 billion earmarked for so-called consumer relief, that reportedly will go to helping those struggling to pay their mortgages and to finance affordable housing. Today`s announcement is the latest of Justice Department settlements with the big banks. November, JPMorgan Chase settled for a landmark $13 billion, a sizable chunk of the fines and fees that big banks have agreed to pay in the fallout from the credit crisis. "Wall Street Journal" has been keeping a stunning tally of the payouts which top more than $100 billion, that`s as of today. Bank of America is leading the pack so far having already forked over $56 billion in various settlements since 2010. And they are still in negotiations with the Department of Justice about what they owe the federal government. The mortgage settlements are the last of the unfinished business from the collapse of 2008, disaster that caused upwards of $14 trillion in economic damage, which is an amount of money too abstract, too enormous to comprehend. If we`re able to compare that double digit trillion-dollar figure with $100 billion in fees that big banks have paid out, it raises the question of, whether the punishment has fit the crime. Have the too big to fail banks made any real changes to ensure another crisis is not just around the corner? Well, joining us now is Andrew Ross Sorkin. He`s "New York Times" columnist and co-host of "Squawk Box" on CNBC. Andrew, thanks for joining us. ANDREW ROSS SORKIN, NEW YORK TIMES: Thanks for having me. KORNACKI: OK. Headline this morning, $7 billion settlement, fine, however you want to phrase that. OK. Another headline this afternoon, Citi`s stock goes up. SORKIN: Up. KORNACKI: So, this isn`t a real punishment, right? SORKIN: It`s not a real punishment. Look, this is too little, too late. Had they wanted to do this in 2009 when homes were being foreclosed upon, perhaps we could argue that this is the right type of thing that happened. But if you really look at what happened here, who`s paying this? Nobody`s going to jail. The shareholders of Citigroup today, not the shareholders who were there, by the way, six, seven, eight years ago, they`re the ones that are paying for this. And so, like at this situation, and I say, it looks to me very much like the executives of Citigroup using shareholder money, not their own, have effectively bribed the government to say, go away. And on the other side, to some extent, I would argue, if I wanted to argue the other point, I would say, the government clearly not having a case against any individual or at least not deciding to bring one, has decided to bribe Citigroup and their shareholders so that they can come up with a statement and a press release. KORNACKI: So, what is -- let`s look at this -- $2.5 billion in consumer relief. That`s the -- what does not mean? $2.5 billion sounds like a big -- what does that mean to the consumer? Will they feel it? SORKIN: No. That`s why I said if they had done this five years ago, you could have felt it. What`s almost comical about this at this point is that Citigroup has very little mortgage business. In fact, they don`t have mortgages to change the structure of. In fact, so much so that what they`re doing now, part of the deal, is they`re going to subsidize, effectively, affordable housing, which has basically nothing to do with this case. By the way, the case itself was actually about defrauding investors, it wasn`t, oddly enough, about defrauding -- so, I`m not sure -- the punishment fits the crime, I`m not sure the crime -- it`s just, the whole thing. KORNACKI: I mean, it reminds me -- I was saying to somebody earlier it reminds me of a scene from the "Sopranos." Tony Soprano would beat up the guy and throw a couple 20 dollar bills at him. Go get your jaw fixed or whatever. And it was sort of like, hey, it means nothing to me. It`s the money I have to fork over to do what I really want to do. SORKIN: I think that`s the answer. That`s become the cost of doing business. That`s what this has become. KORNACKI: Is there any way the government could have extracted more? Why is the government settling for so little if Citibank -- SORKIN: I`m not sure if it`s so little. I`m not sure what the right answer is. Look, I`m not somebody who believes that corporations are people, to use an over cliched expression. If there`s a crime, they should go after the people who are responsible for the crime and then they should go after the company. KORNACKI: Do you think there were crimes? SORKIN: Oh, I`m sure there were crimes here. KORNACKI: Why -- what`s been the reluctance there? SORKIN: I think they went after this too late. They didn`t go after this aggressively enough. And ultimately, the crimes that did happen probably were too far down the chain to make the impact that they wanted to in terms of getting that poster boy. That`s what they wanted and they don`t have it. KORNACKI: Yes. I mean, I think Holder was saying today there`s still the possibility of some kind of criminal -- SORKIN: Yes, but that`s -- KORNACKI: It`s not going to happen, is it? SORKIN: It`s very difficult to believe. The statute of limitations has kind of run out. The Dodd/Frank legislation tries to extend it. But anybody who brings a case is going to then, of course, face a whole other legal challenge. Just on the fact of whether they can actually bring the case or not. KORNACKI: So, Citibank, the other big banks, Wall Street, five or six years. Okay. SORKIN: Five or six years. KORNACKI: We`ve had Dodd/Frank, all these incremental settlements here and there. Right now, has Wall Street, has the big banks, has Citibank changed in any fundamental way that we can feel good about versus five or six years ago? SORKIN: So, here`s the good news -- the answer is actually yes. If you asked me two, three years ago I would have said no. But I do think that Wall Street has changed to a large degree. Citigroup looks like a very different firm than it did then. There is less risk being taken in the firm than before. Having said that, there are other risks now building up in the system -- in other places frankly that aren`t regulated. And so, will we have another crisis? Of course, we`ll have another crisis. Will it be a banking crisis? Maybe not. KORNACKI: So, it`s the rearview mirror problem. Looking at the last thing and forgetting about the thing -- SORKIN: The ultimate problem every single time. KORNACKI: On that optimistic note, Andrew Ross Sorkin -- SORKIN: Sorry to depress you. KORNACKI: -- "New York Times" columnist and author, co-host of "Squawk Box" on CNBC -- thanks for being here. OK. Let`s say you are a Democrat, say you`re running for office. Which party big wig do you want out on the trail with you right now? Think about that for a second and ask yourself if you`re really sure. We`ll explain why just ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: There are obvious reasons that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie became a national star in the Republican Party. Years before his prominent leadership in the crisis management of Superstorm Sandy in 2012, way before his administration became entangled in whatever that was at the George Washington Bridge, before the committees, before the U.S. attorneys, before all the rest of what`s been a politically challenging 2014, before all of that, there was this Chris Christie, circa 2010. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: This is who I am. Like it or not, you guys are stuck with me for four years and I`m going to say things directly when you ask me questions, I`m going to answer them directly, straightly, bluntly, and nobody in New Jersey is going to have to wonder where I am on an issue. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: That was Chris Christie and he knew it was his political trump card. The idea was no matter what people thought of where he stood on issues, they liked his pugnacious style enough they elected him governor twice. That makes Chris Christie most recent evolution pretty remarkable because Chris Christie has now been out there making news as only a politician like Chris Christie could, by not letting anyone know what he thinks. Now, why would that be the case? The story, coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: Heading into the 2008 presidential election, the Democratic Party did not have a clear, obvious presidential nominee. Democrats had a couple of leading choices and the race between them ended up staying close for months. Barack Obama tended to do better in the states that allotted delegates in a caucus system. Hillary Clinton did better in the states that had primaries. Even though Clinton ended up losing overall, there were some states where she just plain shellacked Obama and one of those states stands out. At the very end of that campaign, when it was clear Obama had the delegates he was going to need to win the nomination, even then, he nonetheless lost the West Virginia primary to Clinton by 41 points, 20 percent of the voters in West Virginia that day actually identified race as a factor in their decision. In 2012, four years later, President Obama returned to the Democratic primary ballot in West Virginia. This time as the incumbent. This time as the clear favorite with no Clinton running against him, with no big-name Democrat of any kind running against him. But technically, the president wasn`t running unopposed in that Democratic primary. He was actually running against someone named Keith Judd of Texarkana, Texas. By Texarkana, Texas, that actually means the federal correctional institution in Texarkana, Texas, because Keith Judd was a federal prisoner, a convicted felon who was serving a sentence of 210 months for extortion. From behind bars he described himself as, quote, "a candidate with conviction." Even though he`s just a classic political gadfly, Keith Judd somehow got his name on the ball lot in West Virginia in 2012. When he did, he did great. He got 41 percent of the vote. He didn`t win the primary, but he did better in West Virginia in 2012 as a convict than Barack Obama did in 2008 as a United States senator. Keith Judd, the candidate who was sitting in prison actually won 10 whole counties in that Democratic primary, 10 whole counties against the president of the United States. He did well enough that he bothered trying to contest the results. Or maybe that was just a way of passing time because he was bored. In any case, come November in the general election, president Obama lost West Virginia to Mitt Romney by 27 points. The president lost every single county in West Virginia, all 55 of them. Safe to say that West Virginia really, really doesn`t like Barack Obama. Now, that we are in the heart of this year`s midterm election campaign, you can start to see, state by state, where the president is unpopular, at least where he`s an iffy proposition politically. You can see that sometimes you can see that by direct polling, sometimes you can see it by how the candidates from his own Democratic Party are reacting to him. In Arkansas, Democratic Senator Mark Pryor, has one of the toughest fights for re-election this year. He`s campaigning hard but not with President Obama. In Colorado, President Obama showed up for a fundraising event last week, fundraising event for Democratic Senator Mark Udall. But Mark Udall was nowhere to be seen. He stayed in Washington, which his campaign insisted was not a political decision but which sure looked like one in the Beltway press. And yesterday in Alaska, Democratic Senator Mark Begich described himself to the "Washington Post" as a sharp object sent to the capitol to jab at President Obama. Quote, "Sort of, I`ll be a thorn in his posterior." Senator Begich told "The Post," "There`s times when I`m a total thorn, you know, and he doesn`t appreciate it." It makes a certain pure political sense for Democratic politicians to steer clear of his party`s president when the president is not popular in their home state especially if you`re campaigning in a state that Obama lost by a lot. What`s interesting, though, is who some of these Democrats do think helps them this year. President Obama lost in Kentucky last time around by 22 points. He is very unpopular in Kentucky. So, last month, the Democratic hopeful for the Senate there brought in Senator Elizabeth Warren instead. Alison Lundergan-Grimes campaigning with a liberal Democrat from Massachusetts. Elizabeth Warren brought her populist economic message to Kentucky and the Democrat there was happy to have it. Just today, in West Virginia, a state where Barack Obama remains as unpopular as ever, in West Virginia, where coal is king and Obama is seen as the destroyer, in that state, today, the Democratic Senate hopeful called on Elizabeth Warren for help. You won`t find Natalie Tennant campaigning for the Senate with President Obama. You will find her betting that Elizabeth Warren will boost her campaign and her brand of populism is still popular. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: You can talk to them about what is at stake in this election. What it means for the families of West Virginia. What it means for the future of West Virginia. If West Virginia decides to send a senator to Washington who`s going to be there to fight for Wall Street for those who`ve already made it. Or what it will mean for West Virginia to have a person who will get up every morning and go to work to absolutely work her heart out for the families of West Virginia. I`m here because I believe in democracy. I believe in what we can do together. I believe in Natalie Tennant. She`s going to be your next senator. Make it happen. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) WARREN: Make it happen. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Elizabeth Warren, Democrats` surprising new campaign weapon in red states. Joining us now is David Boucher. He`s the capitol bureau chief for "The Charleston Daily Mail" in West Virginia. Dave, thanks for joining us. So, when I look at a state like West Virginia, Kentucky, a lot of these red states where control of the Senate is sort of going to be determined this year, the prevailing logic there for I don`t know how long, has been a Democrat who wants to win West Virginia has to get as far away as humanly possible from anyone who is associated with the National Democratic Party. Make it the West Virginia Democratic Party and not the National Democratic Party, and now I see Elizabeth Warren, who is probably tone of the most popular figures in the National Democratic Party, coming to West Virginia. What can she do there that no other national Democrat can do? DAVID BOUCHER, CHARLESTON DAILY MAIL: Well, the argument from the Tennant campaign is she can come in and be a, quote, "champion for the middle class." So, they expect that senator warren`s message, and you mentioned it several times, a populist message, will resonate with the residents and voters of West Virginia. A vast majority or a large amount of West Virginia`s population relies on some of the welfare or social programs that National Democrats tend to promote and historically Democrats have, you know, done very well in the state. And so, they`re hoping that Senator Warren`s policy stances on some of these issues will sort of resonate with those voters as opposed to some of her stances on the president`s energy policy. KORNACKI: So, I mean, the conventional wisdom about this race has been -- this is the Senate seat that Jay Rockefeller, long-serving Democrat, he`s retiring this year. Basically the assumption in Washington is that Republicans, Congressman Shelley Moore Capito is there candidate, the assumption is, she`s going to win the race because West Virginia at the federal level has become such a Republican state. Do you see it that way? BOUCHER: That`s certainly what you`ll hear state-level Republicans in the Capito campaign talk about. "The Charleston Daily Mail" commissioned a poll in may that showed Congresswoman Capito was up 11 points on Secretary of State Tennant and there was a consistent message that West Virginia is slowly but surely turning into a Republican- controlled state. Congresswoman Capito has served in the Congress since 2000. She`s handily defeated her last several opponents. And she`s faced similar criticism of being a friend of Wall Street or being too close with bankers, and that didn`t really derail any of her previous campaigns. So, I think that the state-level Republicans here and the Capito campaign are quite confident in where they stand in the race today. KORNACKI: So how do you think the event went today? I mean, you mentioned it a little bit in the first answer there. I mean, there is some tension where, for instance, one of the reasons President Obama is so unpopular in West Virginia has to do with coal, has to do with his environment policies. When you get to the idea of moving away from coal, moving away from fossil fuels, Elizabeth Warren is right there with the president, right there with sort of these environmentalists who politicians in West Virginia tend to rail against. Certainly, Natalie Tennant being one of them. Was there some awkwardness today? Was there any tension because of that? BOUCHER: Well, actually, the event where the senator spoke with Secretary Tennant was in Shepherdstown, which is about as far east as you can get in West Virginia. It`s approximately six or seven hours from the coal fields region of the state. And so, from what I was told, that there was about 450 supporters at the event, and that there were, you know, quite a few people there who agreed with the message according to several media reports and the campaign. Today in Charleston, Congresswoman Capito appeared with Representative Paul Ryan at a roundtable event with some local leaders in business, and that was -- the Tennant event was also central to that roundtable, pointing out Warren`s, again, stances on energy policy. KORNACKI: And so, talk a little bit, if you would, also, just the evolution of West Virginia, because it`s so fascinating to me. I wonder if there`s a state that has swung more dramatically to one party from another in a shorter time than West Virginia. I remember in 1988 Michael Dukakis getting crushed nationally and still won West Virginia. Walter Mondale almost won West Virginia in 1984. And now, we`re talking about it as, you know, one of the most solidly Republican state in the presidential elections. I mean, -- look at all the stuff there we just put out about President Obama and his standing in the state. What is behind that? What is behind that shift? BOUCHER: Well, I think some of the rhetoric amongst politicos on both sides of the aisle kind of comes back to just a general feeling that federal policy has shifted away from West Virginia families. There are labor unions and teacher unions and just unions in general, had a huge influence in the state for a long time and helped control the state for Democrats. But just with shifts, most people point to the coal industry, with some declines in the coal industry. People have started to align more with the Republicans and typically, or just historically, Democrats and a lot of people in West Virginia have had conservative social values. And so especially leading up to the presidential campaign of George W. Bush, Republicans noticed that there could be a chance for some pickups in the state and they have continued to do better and better at the federal level. KORNACKI: All right. David Boucher, he`s capital bureau chief for "The Charleston Daily Mail", thanks very much for helping us figure this out tonight. I appreciate the time. Took a freedom of information request for the public to learn certain details about the Central Intelligence Agency that will probably make you feel closer to America`s most famous spying organization than you ever knew you were. Stay tuned. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie`s battles with his state`s Supreme Court are borderline legendary. His efforts to shift the balance of that court have been some of the most impassioned and most covered clashes in New Jersey politics these last few years. After all, this New Jersey State Supreme Court has long enjoyed a reputation as one of the most liberal state Supreme Courts in America which has long made it a favorite punching bag for Republicans in New Jersey, including Chris Christie. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) CHRISTIE: As a fundamental principle, I do not believe that it is the role of the State Supreme Court to determine what programs the state should and should not be funding. The court should not be dictating how taxpayer dollars are spent and prioritizing certain programs over others. The Supreme Court is not the legislature. I`ve read the opinion, I`ve read both the majority opinion, the dissenting opinion. I think that what it is, is an example once again of liberal activist judges running amok. I don`t think the ruling was appropriate. I think it was wrong. I think it`s typical, Eric, of what the problem we see in the New Jersey Supreme Court and it`s just another example of judicial supremacy rather than having the government run by the people we actually vote for. So, I thought it was a bad decision. (END VIDEO CLIPS) KORNACKI: Suffice to say, there is no love lost between Governor Christie and his state`s Supreme Court. When the court hasn`t ruled the way he wants, he has had zero problem airing his grievances, airing them loudly and repeatedly. So given how much he`s railed against his own estimate Supreme Court decisions when Christie was asked recently for his thoughts on the U.S. Supreme Court`s Hobby Lobby ruling, you`d probably figure he had a strong opinion or two. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was the Supreme Court right in its decision? CHRISTIE: Who knows, is the Supreme Court right? The fact is that when you`re an executive, your Supreme Court makes a ruling and you`ve got to live with it unless you can get the legislative body to change the law or change the Constitution. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Chris Christie of all people saying, when your Supreme Court makes a decision you`ve got to live with it. That`s a new one coming from him. Although actually, the idea of ducking a tough political question, the idea of avoiding a potentially sensitive political issue, that does seem to be something that Christie`s doing a lot of these days. It seems like maybe it`s his new strategy. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRISTIE: I`ve got a whole range of very different opinions on different subjects. I believe I`m a conservative. There will be other people who say, no, he`s a moderate. There`ll be other people in my state who say, he`s crazy, he`s too far right. The point is, like, why should I give an opinion on whether they`re right or wrong? In the end of the day, they did what they did. This is the way you get bogged down on those things. You know what? I don`t think that`s the most central issue that we need to talk about this morning when you look at the challenges that face our country. If I allow people to put me into that box, shame on me, I`m not a good politician, I`m not a good leader. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Well, what this really sounds like, of course, is a guy who`s getting ready to run for president, a guy who wants to walk the fence to avoid chasing the base and saying something that will haunt him in a general election for president. It`s the same formula he used when he was approaching the debate over Syria as well as the debate over immigration. Many people assume that bridgegate has sealed Chris Christie`s political fate, there is at least one person who remains convinced he`s still very much in the 2016 mix, and his name is Chris Christie. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIIFED MALE: I work for the CIA. I am not a spy. I just read books. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: That was Robert Redford in the vastly underrated `70s spy thriller, "Three Days of the Condor." His character code named Condor is a CIA researcher who suddenly and quite unexpectedly finds his quiet office job has turned into a mysterious and murderous whodunit, wherein he has to both outrun and outsmart the bad guys whose identity he doesn`t know or understand, avoid detection, and get Fay Dunaway to be his girlfriend. And because this was the `70s, Redford achieves it all but he`s still left disillusioned and uncertain whether in the grand scheme of things, he`s really succeeded. It was a very philosophical movie. "Three Days of the Condor" has one thing in common with basically every other spy movie that`s ever been made. In it, the CIA agent is unflappable, rattled by nothing, adept even under the scariest circumstances. You know the type. Crack foreign encryptions and successfully avoid a shoot-out at your secret CIA offices, of course. Commandeer a cop car with four armed officers inside then drive that same car while handcuff no sweat. Pop culture has consistently portrayed CIA agents as the definition of cool under pressure. So, it raises the question, what actually does get under the CIA skin? What irks them what eats at them, what unsettles the nerves of these masters of composure? Is there anything big enough, anything scary enough, anything dangerous enough to make them lose their cool? Well, today, we found out. Quote, "The jazz salad was supposed to be a Sonoma grape and prosciutto salad. This is one of my favorites, so I stand in line and notice there are no grapes. Grapes are in the title of the salad. I asked them about and the server pointed to the cherry tomatoes and said they`re red grapes. I said, no, those are tomatoes. Should I get grapes from the salad bar? She didn`t give an opinion but I did get grapes from the salad bar." It`s all starting to unfold like a John le Carre novel, isn`t it? Here`s another, quote, "As of late, there seems to be a shortage of almonds for the breakfast cereal such as oatmeal, cream of wheat. I`m sure I`m speaking for myself as well as others, when I kindly request that whomever is responsible for ordering food supplies note the level of usage and increase the almond purchases/supplies as appropriate." Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act and the rise of data journalism, we now have access to all kinds of information that probably otherwise would never have seen the light of day. And today, that means we all know the cafeteria at the CIA is pretty much like the cafeteria at any other office cubicle farm in America. The Web site "Muck Rock" posted this set of documents awhile back and today they reposted them so a bunch of people including us found it for the first time. It is a treasure trove of CIA employee complaints, specifically about the office cafeteria. This is the stuff that rattles them. Quote, "Please put back the individual packets of ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise. Two times this the week I heard folks make comments about these pump boxes. Comments have been made indicating this process is cumbersome, a pain in the neck, is causing frustration by some people. It would be appreciated by many to put out the individual condiment packets." Quote, "I had the Russian meal today and am disappointed. First of all to try to be cute with a substitute, a backward R, a yeah (ph) for an R, it`s tacky. Please realize many of us have really traveled to this countries and when you provide food like you have today it causes me to not support this kind of cuisine in the future." Quote, "Last week and then again this week, I have talked to numerous cafe employees to inform them the Pepsi coming out of the regular Pepsi spout is Diet Pepsi. They have the wrong Pepsi tank hooked up to the wrong Pepsi spout, yet no one has fixed this problem. Why is this problem not been fixed?" The feedback really isn`t all bad. This person thanks the cafeteria for finally fixing the salad dressing area. But the one thing to learn from this cache of CIA office complaints is that all these folks need when you`re not in the middle of some covert operation or drumming up classified intelligence briefing is almonds on their cream of wheat, a few ketchup packets, maybe a regular Pepsi. Spies, they`re just like us, at least when it comes to complaining about the company commissary. Anyway, that does it for us tonight. It`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." Hi, Lawrence. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END