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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 08/26/14

Guests: Tim Kaine

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back, Chris. Great to have you back, man. Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. This is May Day 1960, May 1st, 1960. It`s a May Day parade in Moscow. And the thing that is remarkable about this parade in 1960 in Moscow is that the theme of the parade that year was all about peace. That year, the Soviets decided not to parade around their artillery and rockets and military equipment and stuff like usual, and instead the theme that year was all about children and doves and peace -- which is kind of a remarkable thing if you think about it because 1960 was right in the middle of the Cold War, right? This is the year before they built the Berlin wall. It`s just two years before the Cuban missile crisis. You would think that the Soviets in 1960 would be wanting to display all of their biggest missiles, right, all of their finest weaponry as a show of force against the dreaded United States. It was an incredibly intense time for U.S./Soviet relations. But there was this moment back in 1960 when the president of the United States at the time, Dwight Eisenhower, and the leader of the Soviet Union at the time, Nikita Khrushchev, they did in 1960, they did for a while seem like they were trying to thaw relations between our two countries. And to that end, those two leaders had planned to meet in Paris for a one-on-one superpower summit in 1960 -- a meeting to talk face to face, man to man, about relations between our two countries, these two Cold War enemies. That meeting was supposed to take place about two weeks after that May Day parade. It was supposed to take place in May Day 1960. And that summit meeting in Paris never happened. And the reason it never happened is because on the same day as this peace-themed May Day parade in Moscow, on May 1st, 1960, an American U2 spy plane on a reconnaissance mission for the CIA was shot down over the Soviet Union. An American plane went down in Russia. And the pilot, a 30-year-old American named Gary Powers, he was captured alive by the Soviet Union. Captured alive. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Moscow, Nikita Khrushchev is shown as he told a Soviet presidium says that pilot Gary Powers of the downed American reconnaissance plane was alive, and Russia has seized five photographs made 1,400 miles inside the Soviet borders. The plane was brought down on May Day. Less than two weeks before the summit talks and Mr. K. was quick to play on the incident for propaganda advantage. Out in the open came the story of the most sensational intelligence operations yet revealed. America officially admits extensive flights over and around Russia by unarmed planes during the last five years. State Department spokesman Lincoln White used the reasons for the flight. LINCOLN WHITE, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: That given the state of the world today, intelligence collection activities are practiced by all countries, and post-war history certainly reveals that the Soviet Union has not been lagging behind in this field. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: "Soviet Union has not been lagging behind in this field." That`s what the United States said officially, right? But there was no denying that this was a huge deal. For the world to find out not just that the CIA was spying on the Soviet Union using secret spy aircraft. But for the world to find out about it in this incredibly shocking way, shooting down of his supposedly secret American spy plane, with the capture of the American pilot alive. Two weeks later, the plans for that Soviet/American summit in Paris, those plans collapsed completely. We all know what happened between the Soviet Union and the United States over the next few years. The Soviet Union proudly displayed the captured American U2 spy plane for the word to see. Khrushchev made sure the remnants of the planes, photographed with the crashed plane parts. They played this up to maximum effect. And part of what made this story so sensational is that the U2 spy plane was supposed to be virtually undetectable by radar. It was supposed to fly at such a high altitude, roughly 70,000 feet, that they thought radar wouldn`t be able to pick it up and nobody would know it was there. But that U2 spy plane was shot down in the Soviet Union then Moscow decided to put that American pilot, Gary Powers, on trial. Gary Powers in his trial was convicted in that Soviet court. He got a 10-year sentence. They sentenced him to three years in prison and then seven additional years at hard labor. Gary Powers did not end up serving all that time. Ultimately, it was President Kennedy who got him released in a prisoner exchange in 1962. But that incident was hugely embarrassing for the United States, and hugely upsetting to our very tenuous relations with the Soviet Union. I mean, that was never supposed to have happened given the type of aircraft involved and for that American pilot to have ended up a Soviet prisoner, it was just almost unthinkable. That was 1960. In 1995, a U.S. Air Force pilot named Scott O`Grady, he was flying a much smaller plane. He was flying an F-16 fighter jet over Bosnia. The United States was part of an international coalition that had decided to intervene against the Serbs in the war that was being fought in Bosnia. In June 1995, pilot Scott O`Grady`s F-16, it was shot down in hostile territory in Bosnia. Mr. O`Grady disappeared for six days until U.S. Marines went in on the ground in a rescue mission. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two-o-eight local time this morning, the mission to rescue begins. NATO aircraft over Bosnia get a flash Morse code from O`Grady deep in hostile Serb territory 20 miles south of Bihaj. Twelve minutes later, O`Grady speaks into his high-tech hand held radio. His voice instantly is recognized by a buddy from his squadron in an F-16 overhead. The radio pinpointing his position, positive identification. Marines rescue specialists on the Kearsarge prepare for action. They know they must fly over areas bristling with Serb anti-aircraft weapons. Daylight makes them easy targets. Still at 5:50, two marine Cobra gunships get the order to go and are launched from the Kearsarge. Next two CH-53 assault choppers loaded with 41 of the highly trained marines. They do have Harrier jump sets and F-16s and the A-10s as backup. Electronic warfare planes jam Serb radar and they move in fast. O`Grady popping a yellow smoke grenade, choppers landing. Marines forming a security line. Two minutes on the ground. UNIDENTIFEID MALE: The Marines secured the area and Captain O`Grady came running out of the tree line, jumped on the second 53, and they lifted off. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Almost six days in the woods, hiding at day, moving only at night, surviving on bugs, grass, and rainwater. Just 80 miles now back to the Kearsarge, they`re flying low, but halfway there, a missile nearly hits them. They take rifle fire, too, and they shoot back. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Miraculously, there were no casualties during that high-risk mission to save fighter pilot Scott O`Grady after he was shot down in what was supposed to been an air-only U.S. military mission over Bosnia, when that resulted in him hiding out in the woods for six days hoping he would be rescued before he was found by the enemy. It was never supposed to be any boots on the ground in Bosnia in terms of U.S. forces, right? But air wars have a way of not always just staying in the air. Sometimes stuff happens. Today, we learned that President Obama has authorized what the White House is calling surveillance flights over the war-torn nation of Syria. Unnamed Defense Department officials telling reporters today that some of those surveillance flights would be unmanned aircraft, drones, but some of them would be manned, U2 spy planes, the same model of plane flown by Gary Powers over the Soviet Union. U2s are among the aircraft that they may use or that the military already be using over Syria right now. Throughout the three-year brutal Syria civil war, one of the strategically important things to know about Syria is they have a strong air defense system. They have a sophisticated national defense system to shoot down what they see as enemy aircraft. And Syria, of course, did not develop that system because of the civil war that they`re in. They`ve had this system in place for a long time. Part of hardening themselves as a target by to tension strikes by Israel or any other middle eastern government that might decide they want a piece of the Assad regime. And the Assad regime has not been cheapy when it comes to investing in these sorts of weapon systems. They have a rock solid ally in Russia. Russia has been more than happy to sell Syria any weapons that it wants and prop them up on complex systems like air defense. And that relatively sophisticated air defense system in Syria is one of the reasons that those American Special Forces, that team of Marines and Delta Force commandos that carried out that attempted secret rescue mission last month to try to save American hostages held by is in Syria, their awareness of Syrian air defense systems is apparently why that Special Ops raid used the special secret modified kind of awkwardly shaped radar evading Black Hawk helicopters that were also used in the 2011 mission to find and kill Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan. Now, of course, in Syria, you have not just the danger posed by the official government still clinging to power in that country, and their air defense systems, you also have the danger of various rebel groups fighting in Syria, including, of course, ISIS, which was the target of that raid back in July which ultimately did not find the hostages including American journalist Jim Foley who was later killed. One sure way to know you`re in chicken hawk territory when it comes to debating these things is when you hear politicians, or talking heads, talk about air strikes against some enemy or some other country as if airstrikes are some kind of magic, right? They`re a risk-free military solution. They`re easy peasy. You go in safely, you drop a couple of bombs, you`re out. No American boots on the ground. No American lives at risk. You hear people talk about airstrikes like that all the time, like they`re a free play somehow. Very recent history tells us that that is not the case. And right now you have large swaths of Syria controlled by forces that are hostile to the United States. There`s ISIS, of course. There`s also the government in Syria who has said plainly that they must approve any U.S. military action in that country, and if the U.S. takes action outside of what they approve, well, that would be seen as an act of aggression. The United States says for its part, they have no intention of ever coordinating anything with the Assad regime. And in that kind of environment, the United States military is not going to get any help on the ground in support of airstrikes if it turns out they need it. And if the effectiveness of airstrikes is to some extent contingent on on-the-ground intelligence and on-the-ground help with targeting, and the local presence of any other supportive elements to maintain that air operation or to respond if anything, God forbid, goes wrong -- then if we start airstrikes in Syria, we are heading into a very difficult and inarguably dangerous new U.S. military operation in a country where we previously have not been involved. Should the United States be engaged in an aerial campaign against this militant group, ISIS, inside Syria? As a country, we`re going to have to make a decision about that one way or the other. And even if you are very clear as to where you stand on that question, yes or no, you`d admit that it`s a hard enough question, right, that if our government really is seriously considering it, and these surveillance flights make it seem like they really are seriously considering it, it`s a hard enough question that it deserves a real debate. Not one just on TV. Not one just in the op-ed pages. But a real argument -- a real debate like our founders envisioned. A debate followed by a binding decision on whether or not we do it. A decision made publicly for which our politicians will be known and accountable for how they vote. That`s the way it`s designed in the Constitution, and it`s designed that way on purpose. And I know Congress is enjoying taking more than a month off right now, but with each passing day, the news from Syria, and the news involving the terrorist group is seems to get more and more horrifying and the White House starts to talk about more and more operations targeting is including those that they say will not respect geographic boundaries. Today, part of the terrible news was learning that a 33-year-old American man was apparently killed in Syria while fighting with ISIS. His family in San Diego confirms today that the State Department has told them that 33-year-old American Douglas McCain was killed last weekend in Syria apparently while he was fighting with ISIS. We`ve also learned today that one of the American hostages being held by is in Syria is apparently an American woman. She`s 26 years old. She`s been held for just over a year now. She was taken hostage in August of last year. She was apparently in Syria on some sort of humanitarian mission at the time that she was captured. Her family does not want her name reported in the media, but NBC News has also learned that ISIS is demanding a more than $6 million ransom in order to free her. As a matter of policy, the United States does not pay ransom for hostages, ransom of any size. This group, ISIS, is continuing to do everything it can to try to provoke a military reaction from the United States. And a lot of people in this country will argue that maybe we should have one. Maybe the threats and provocations where ISIS warrant putting American military personnel back into a new part of the Middle East in harm`s way. But a lot of Americans will not agree with that contention. And honestly, neither is a wrong or unpatriotic decision at this point. It`s an argument that deserves a really vigorous debate. Every side of that question deserves to be heard and heard again and heard thoroughly and argued well and rebutted well, because even though they`re only talking about airstrikes, you know what, there`s no such thing as only airstrikes. Airstrikes really do put American military personnel in harm`s way. They are not magic. They constitute a difficult decision to deploy American troops -- a decision that our elected representatives in the U.S. Congress constitutionally are supposed to make. It`s their call. It was almost exactly one year ago when President Obama said he had decided as commander in chief that he wanted the U.S. military to mount airstrikes in Syria. A year ago he said that. But not talking about mounting them against ISIS, he said he wanted airstrikes against the Assad regime itself because they used chemical weapons. He walked into the Rose Garden and said he wanted airstrikes in Syria, but he also said the Congress should take a vote on whether to authorize those strikes. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our military has positioned assets in the region. The chairman of the joint chiefs has informed me that we are prepared to strike whenever we choose. I`m prepared to give that order. But having made my decision as commander-in-chief based on what I am convinced is our national security interests, I`m also mindful that I`m the president of the world`s oldest constitutional democracy. I`ve long believed that our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. That`s why I`ve made a second decision. I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people`s representatives in congress. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was August 31st, last year, almost exactly a year ago, President Obama asking Congress to approve military strikes in Syria. Congress at the time was hinting that they would say no, but they never actually said anything. They just sort of hinted to the media that they would say no and then they never did anything. Ultimately, the administration embarked instead of airstrikes on a successful international mission to get rid of all the chemical weapons in Syria. That went forward instead of airstrikes, but as to that request to Congress to authorize airstrikes, it has been almost exactly a year and Congress has still not gone on the record about the president`s request. And now one year later, the White House is openly mulling airstrikes again, this time on different targets inside Syria, going so far as to start surveillance flights already as of today and now, members of Congress are apparently paying attention to what is happening from Syria, from wherever they`re on vacation. And if you care to listen to them while they`re on vacation and they choose to speak instead of act, the sounds they`re pointlessly making seem to indicate, particularly from the Republican side of the aisle, that they think President Obama definitely should have done something in Syria by now. But they also apparently think that he should have just done it without asking them. They`d rather not make the decision themselves. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: President Obama has to admit to himself if no one else, that what he`s doing is not working. We`ve talked about Iraq, but there`s no way you can solve the problem in Iraq without hitting them in Syria. We need to hit them in Syria. We need to help the Free Syrian Army mobilize so they can fight them on the ground. When it comes to ground troops, if our military commanders tell us that we need ground forces to defeat ISIL, which is a threat to the United States, so be it. We have got to win and stop these guys. REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN (via telephone): We need to finish them off because they -- we will either fight them here or we will fight them there. That in my mind is basically the choice. INTERVIEWER: So, it sounds to me like you anticipate at some point combat boots on the ground? RYAN: I don`t know -- I don`t know the answer to that, but you certainly don`t take that off the table. REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D), NEW YORK: We need to do everything we can to repel ISIS. I don`t think we have the luxury of putting our heads in the sand and saying, well, it`s over there and we`re not going to do it. SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: There`s no boundary between Syria and Iraq. One of the key decisions the president is going to have to make is air power in Syria. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: One of the decisions the president is going to have to make? Who has to make this decision? I mean, these are all, you know, degrees of reasonable opinion. Shared on TV by members of Congress recently. But try to get them to put their votes where their mouths are, and nothing. We`re still waiting to hear from Congress about what President Obama proposed a year ago, on the same day that he announced the House Republicans` lawsuit against President Obama for taking way too many actions on his own. You might remember House Speaker John Boehner was asked in that same press conference if he had a role. If John Boehner had a role in deciding what kind of action the United States should take in Iraq. Here`s how John Boehner answered at the time. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: You opened up with Iraq. I`m curious if you have any suggestions for what the president should do there. REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, what he should do is have an overarching strategy to deal with the growing threat of terrorism. REPORTER: Don`t you feel, though, that you have some responsibility here to say, here`s what I think that we should do? Here`s what the president should be doing, to be giving counsel at that point? BOEHNER: I called for more increased U.S. activity a year ago. In January, when the ISIS forces came across the Iraq border and began to gather territory, I called on the administration to act, and it`s not my job to outline for the president what tools he should use or not use. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: And when he says, what tools he should use or not use, what he means is whether or not the president should use military force. John Boehner thinks that is not his job, it`s not Congress` job, it`s the president`s job somehow. That was at the same time that he was suing the president for doing too much without Congress. Well, today, House Speaker John Boehner released this video about what he thinks his job really is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BOEHNER: This sits in my office on my coffee table because this is me. That`s what I do all day. They wind me up about every 15 minutes. UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Again, again. BOEHNER: No, no, I got to go to work. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I got to go to work. The people we elect to represent us in Congress need to have a vigorous debate about deploying U.S. military personnel to an incredibly dangerous country, to carry out an incredibly dangerous mission where they would be risking their lives and where American citizens and interests are at stake. The monkey thing, admittedly, is awesome, but there`s this other job they`re supposed to be doing. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BOEHNER: This sits in my office on my coffee table because this is me. That`s what I do all day. They wind me up about every 15 minutes. UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Again, again. BOEHNER: No, no, I got to go to work. My staff gave it to me. Every 15, 30 minutes, they come in and wind me up and I do my thing. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: This is what I do all day. The video was put out by Speaker of the House John Boehner today. And there`s no way around it. The toy monkey thing is very, very cute. Also, there`s no way around it, making videos about toy monkeys clanging cymbals together really does make up the sum total of what Congress is doing right now. They`re in the middle of a five-week vacation, and as such, what they`re not doing emphatically is making any sort of decision about making any sort of decision about maybe possibly having a debate about making a decision to maybe talk about starting to take a vote someday about what is starting to feel like a new U.S. war effort with troops in harm`s way and everything, in a new country in the Middle East. This is what they do all day. Wind him up, they clang cymbals together, they fall off the table. Wind him up again. Joining us now is one U.S. senator who has repeatedly called for Congress to debate and vote on potential U.S. military action in Iraq and maybe in Syria. He chairs the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee that is responsible for policy in that part of the world. Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, thank you so much for being with us, sir. SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: You bet, Rachel. Glad to be with you. MADDOW: So, it was almost a year ago to today that President Obama said he wanted to mount U.S. airstrikes in Syria because of chemical weapons. He said he wanted to do that but that Congress should authorize it. Congress never acted on that one way or the other. Do you think Congress will act now on this new proposal for airstrikes in Syria? KAINE: Well, Rachel, first I hope desperately that the president brings this to Congress. I know the team is weighing whether to bring it to Congress or not. And, actually, let me walk through what happened last year because I think what happened last year shows if you do it the way the constitutional Framers intended, good things happen. The president had to come to Congress, he had to define the mission. We need to use airstrikes in Syria to deter the use of chemical weapons. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I sit on it, we voted 10-8 to use military force for that limited purpose. As soon as we did, Russia and Syria changed their calculation, came to the table, said hold on a second, don`t start military action, we will give up our entire chemical weapons stockpile. So, the president by announcing the goal, coming to Congress, the Foreign Relations Committee acting on the president`s request, even when it was unclear the rest of Congress would go along, led to achievement of what the president`s objective was, which was the complete destruction of the chemical weapons stockpile in Syria which was very important. My argument is the president did it right last year, and by doing it right, he got the objective that he defined to Congress which was taking the chemical weapons stockpile out of the equation. And so, he needs to come to Congress again with respect to the threat that ISIL poses and he needs to explain it and crisply define what a military mission would be, and then as you indicate, let Congress debate it and vote it up or down. That`s what the Framers of the Constitution intended. It`s the right thing to do legally. It`s the right thing to do morally because if you`re going to put servicemen and women in harm`s way, you ought to try to get a political consensus first that the mission is worth it, and it`s the most likely way for things to work out well after that kind of considered debate. MADDOW: Even if we put aside the question of whether or not airstrikes should be expanded into Syria, it`s been about 2 1/2 weeks since the president notified congress that he would start using airstrikes against is in Iraq. So, under the War Powers resolution, after 60 days, legally would that action need to stop if Congress doesn`t vote to authorize that action inside Iraq, or is the president OK with continuing to do that on his own even if Congress doesn`t say anything about it? KAINE: Rachel, I don`t think the president can. I think there`s only one circumstance where the president can really act unilaterally before Congress, and that`s when American lives are imminently threatened, whether it be an embassy or American troops. When American lives are imminently threatened, the president as commander-in-chief has the ability to act first and then hopefully get congressional approval later. But when there`s no imminent threat to American life, the Framers of the Constitution were very, very clear. James Madison of Virginia, OK, so I`m biased about him, but they were very clear that we put the decisions about declaration of war in the hands of Congress, the people`s elected representatives, and what that forces is the president to be disciplined, come explain a mission, to have that debate which educates the American public, and then to make a decision knowing that once it`s made, if there`s a decision made to go forward, you`ve got a political consensus and you`re not asking servicemen and women to risk their lives with the political class not having done the work to describe whether the mission is worth it or not. And so, I think the president -- we are in a position where those 60 days really start to run right when we get back. For the next two weeks, while Congress -- and we`re not just vacating. We`re also doing all kinds of work all around our states. But the president should take the next two weeks to define what this military mission is, because it`s clear by word and action that the president, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the secretary of defense, thinks we need to engage militarily to stop the momentum of ISIL, but they ought to describe what the military mission is and what we would hope to achieve so we can educate the American public and let the people`s representatives cast a vote of approval or disapproval as the Framers intended. MADDOW: Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia -- you`ve been outspoken on this for a long time. I appreciate you walking us through your thoughts on this. Thank you, sir. KAINE: Absolutely. MADDOW: I have to say, this is one of those things where I`ve spoken with people in Washington, people in the administration who say when they talk to members of Congress about this, they feel like most members of Congress absolutely don`t want to be asked. They don`t want to handle this hot potato. That implicitly gives the administration the ability to do this without them for as long as they can. Your member of Congress at home, if they read the Constitution the way that Senator Kaine discuss, frankly the way that I do, your member of Congress at home ought to be clamoring to get this authorization vote happening. This shouldn`t be the White House deciding whether or not they`re putting it to Congress. Congress ought to be taking this responsibility and running with it, call themselves back from vacation to deal with this right now. If they really care about this, this is Congress` imperative. No waiting on the White House on this. Congress ought to do it, in my opinion. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK. True or false? For the low, low price of just $25, you can own a wearable version of Rick Perry`s mugshot. Is that true or is that false? True. You have seen smiling, fashionable, no glasses, Rick Perry`s mugshot already. See him trying to profit off that mugshot by charging $25 a pop for a limited edition of mugshot t-shirt, now being sold by Rick Perry`s political action committee, handed out by Rick Perry aides as he travels the country apparently running for president. So, that is true. Wear Rick Perry`s mugshot on your chest. Because you like Rick Perry, wear his mugshot. Really? Really. But, oh, wait, there`s more. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This past March, March 2nd, two young men were walking down the street on a Sunday night. Twenty-two-year-old Victor White and his friend had just left a convenience store called Hop In in the town of New Iberia, Louisiana. New Iberia is a town of about 30,000 people, a couple hours west of New Orleans. And as Victor White and his friend walked down that road in New Iberia, about 11:30 p.m., a police cruiser pulled up alongside them. According to a police report from that night, the officer was looking for a couple people who might have been involved in a fistfight at the Hop In. The report says Mr. White consented to a pat-down by the officer. That officer found marijuana in Victor White`s front pants pocket. The officer then reportedly ran the men`s names through the police database and then he called for backup. Mr. White`s friend says that when the second officer arrived, the backup officer arrived. Police handcuffed Victor White and placed him in the back of the first car. They read him his rights. They then searched him again. It was during that second search that police say they found cigars on him and a small amount of cocaine. He said apparently that he was going to use the cigars to smoke marijuana. According to the police report, Mr. White said both the cocaine and the marijuana belonged to him. Police officers dismissed Mr. White`s friend. They said he could go home. He walked back home, but they kept Victor White. They drove Victor White to the sheriff`s office for furthering questioning and what happened next is very unclear. Much of this story is unclear. But the next series of events are particularly woolly, and then the following day, on March 3rd, the Louisiana state police posted this press release on Facebook. It says, quote, "Once at the sheriff`s office, Victor White became uncooperative and refused to exit the deputy`s patrol vehicle. As the deputy requested assistance from other deputies, Victor White produced a handgun and fired one round striking himself in the back. Victor White was then transported to a local hospital by ambulance where he was pronounced dead by an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound." An apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. After he`d been searched twice, he miraculously still somehow had a fun on him gun on him or found one in the police car and used that to shoot himself in the back while he was handcuffed? Victor White`s parents tell NBC News that when they arrived at the police station, they did not know the circumstances of their son`s death. Victor white`s father is a Baptist minister. He tells NBC when he was finally led into the morgue, he performed last rights on his son. He also says he was not allowed to view his son`s body below the chin. Local headlines in Louisiana that week read, "Man kills himself in back seat of Iberia Parish deputy`s car." "State police investigate in- custody death of Iberia Parish man." Two weeks ago, the Iberia Parish coroner`s office met with Victor White`s family and told them the initial conclusion by police was correct, that it was a self-inflicted wound. In fact, it was suicide by a .25 caliber weapon according to the coroner, which is important because it`s not the .45 caliber weapons that are typically issued to these officers. In a press release yesterday, the coroner said this, "The manner of death is suicide." The coroner says his office has a policy of not releasing details on deaths by suicide to the public, so there`s been no public release from his office of that full autopsy, but that full report has now been obtained exclusively by`s investigative unit. Reporter Hannah Rappleye got that report by pictures taken by Victor White`s family. They photographed it page by page and sent her these photos. And it`s a complete report. NBC News can post it. But the takeaway, some of this report directly contradicts what the Louisiana state police said back in March. The autopsy states that although the police said Victor White was shot in the back, while his hands were cuffed behind his back, the autopsy says he was actually not shot in the back. He was shot in the chest, while his hands were cuffed behind his back. The autopsy says the bullet entered his right lateral chest and exited under his left armpit. Think about that for a second. He`s handcuffed with his hands behind his back and somehow he obtains a gun in the back seat of that squad car even though he`s been frisked twice. And then somehow with the gun, he`s able to shoot himself while handcuffs from behind in the chest. In his press release, the coroner offered an explanation for this. He said it was possible for Victor White to pull that off because of his physical build. Quote, "Due to his body habitus, he would have been able to manipulate the weapon to point where the contact entrance wound was found." As Hannah Rappleye reports today for, Victor White`s family says they`re not convinced. His father tells NBC, quote, "You can`t make me understand how my son took his left hand when he was handcuffed behind the back and shot himself. I don`t believe a thing they`re saying at this point." The family is still awaiting a final report from the Louisiana state police investigation which is separate from the coroner`s investigation. But they say, quote, "The only thing we want back is our son." Joining us now is Hannah Rappleye, the NBC News investigative reporter who`s been covering this story since the shooting. And she`s the one who obtained exclusive access to the full coroner`s report. Congratulations on the scoop, Hannah. Thanks for being with us. HANNAH RAPPLEYE, NBC NEWS INVESTIGATIVE REPOTER: Thanks for having any. MADDOW: So, first, let me just ask you, I am new to this story because of your reporting. Did I get anything wrong in describing it there? RAPPLEYE: No, you pretty much told the whole story, and when it first happened very few outlets covered it. There were -- as you noted, there were a few blotter-like items in the local press. But -- and I started reporting it the same month, but because there were so many questions and so few documents available, I had to spend the last six months, now, trying to get as many documents as possible and speak to as many people that knew him as possible. MADDOW: Can you explain the term the coroner is using her and what that argument means? Body habitus -- the idea that Victor White`s body habitus somehow enabled him to fire a bullet into his chest while his hands were cuffed behind his back? From the coroner`s perspective, what does that mean? RAPPLEYE: Well, I`m not quite sure because I was never able to get an interview with the coroner`s office. He does say in the report and the press release that based on all the information that the investigators and pathologist, the forensic pathologist gathered, that he deemed the death of Victor White a suicide. One thing that particularly struck me about the report was that the coroner noted that Victor White had lacerations on the left side of his face. Early on in my reporting, the Iberia Parish police department told me that he had not been involved in an altercation with police that night. And the friend that I interviewed that was with him the night that he was stopped also said that Victor didn`t have marks on his face. So, that seemed to imply to me that maybe there was some type of altercation, but it`s not clear. The other thing that really was important in that report was that the coroner noted that investigators told him that Victor White had somehow said something along the lines of, "I`m gone", before officers heard the gunshot, which indicated that it was a self-inflicted wound, that it was suicide to him. MADDOW: If the police and now the coroner contend that it was a self- inflicted wound, that he, himself, fired a gun into himself to end his life, why is it, or do we have any understanding, in fact, that the coroner didn`t actually test his hands for gunshot residue? RAPPLEYE: According to the documents that I received, his hands were not tested for gunshot residue. MADDOW: Wow. RAPPLEYE: There was residue in the wound, itself. And when I went back to the coroner`s office to confirm whether I misread or, you know, missed something, they referred me to the state police and the state police were unable to confirm whether his hands were or were not tested for residue. MADDOW: Hannah Rappleye, investigative reporter for NBC News, who turned up previously unknown information about this case, which is now getting, we should admit it, national attention of a kind it probably would not have before, both because of this new information and because of the Ferguson, Missouri, upset over Michael Brown`s death -- I want to thank you for walking us through this, Hannah. Thank you. RAPPLEYE: Absolutely. Thank you. MADDOW: We`ve got links to all that detail in those reports at tonight. OK. "Debunktion Junction", a really good one is coming up next. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Programming note: in the 11:00 p.m. hour Eastern Time tonight, I will be on "The Late Show with David Letterman." Different shirt, same jacket and also glasses. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAVID LETTERMAN, TV HOST: Keep this in mind, you`re talking to a dumb guy. So I`m going to ask you dumb guy questions. MADDOW: OK. LETTERMAN: What happened to al Qaeda and why does ISIS seem to hate us more than al Qaeda? And why does al Qaeda hate us in the first place? MADDOW: OK. Al Qaeda`s still there. They hate us as much as ever, but they also hate ISIS. LETTERMAN: They hate ISIS? MADDOW: Which is -- (APPLAUSE) MADDOW: They hate ISIS. They think that ISIS is too extreme. And when that message is coming from al Qaeda, you know it`s time to listen. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I`ll be on "The Late Show with David Letterman" tonight, just so you know. And I will be on "Debunktion Junction" train to Texas, next, right here. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Hoot, hoot. "Debunktion Junction", what`s my function? This is a special edition of "Debunktion Junction" tonight, to honor the fact that one of the biggest politics stories in the country is also a story about which there is a lot of bunk in circulation. So, here we go. Earlier this month, Texas Governor Rick Perry was indicted by a grand jury on two felony counts of basically abuse of power, after a Texas county district attorney was convicted of drunk driving. He demanded that she resign. He said he would veto state funds that went to her office if she did not resign. Specifically, the governor said he`d veto funding for the unit in her office that investigates public corruption by Texas state officials, a unit that Texas Republicans had long hated and have tried many times to defund. Well, the D.A. did apologize after her arrest, she said she would not run for re-election but she also refused to resign and Rick Perry did zero out the funding for the ethnics investigation unit in her office. Now, Rick Perry has contended since he was indicted for that that the reason he pushed for district attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg, to resign is because she lost the public`s confidence with that drunk driving scandal. Her drunk driving conviction ruined her reputation in office. She lost the public trust, and therefore she had to go. It`s kind of a reasonable contention, right? Rick Perry has standards. Any district attorney in Texas who gets busted for DWI, unfit for office. If you`re a Texas D.A. and you get busted for drunk driving, Governor Rick Perry is going to demand that you resign. Is that true or is that false? False. "The Dallas Morning News" reports at least two other examples during Rick Perry`s administration when a county district attorney was busted for DWI and Rick Perry didn`t give a hoot. Didn`t say a word. In 2003, it was the D.A. from Swisher County, Texas, guilty of aggravated DWI, sentenced to jail, not a word from the governor. 2009, the D.A. from Kaufman County, Texas, was convicted on DWI charge after driving the wrong way on the street and hitting another car, and it was a second offense. Again, no word from Rick Perry. But those two guys were Republicans, and the Democrat who did say had to resign because of her DWI -- well, she did also head up the office that investigates public corruption among state officials, so her DWI is a reason to force her out of office. But the other guys, nah. Next stop, true or false? Back in May before he was indicted, "The Dallas Morning News" asked Rick Perry what he did, what his personal involvement was in this plan to force the D.A. Rosemary Lehmberg out of office and replace her as Travis County D.A. Quote, "Asked if he personally had made any phone calls about the quit or lose funding deal, Governor Perry said no. Asked if he initiated any deal, the governor also said no, before the elevator arrived and he left." So, before the elevator arrived, Rick Perry says he made absolutely no phone calls associated with this plan to force that Democratic D.A. out of office. Is that true or false? False. At least if you believe new reporting in "The Austin American- Statesman" and a claim by this woman, an Austin defense attorney, named Mindy Montford, who has now said that actually in the days after Rosemary Lehmberg`s arrest for drunk driving last year, Mindy Montford says Governor Rick Perry personally obtained her cell phone number from a mutual acquaintance and called her up himself one on one to tell her that he intended to veto money from the Public Integrity Unit unless Rosemary Lehmberg resigned. Governor Perry then reportedly asked this woman, Mindy Montford, if she wanted Rosemary Lehmberg`s job. If he succeeded in his plan to get her to quit, would you she take the job? Quote, "I think I told him of course, it would be an amazing opportunity and I thanked him for considering me. I told him I would think about it and thanked him." Of course, the offer became moot once Rosemary Lehmberg made it clear that she would not resign. But it shows that Rick Perry himself, at least according to this defense attorney in Austin, personally got on the phone one on one to discuss these plans to try to oust Rosemary Lehmberg from office, contrary to what he`s been telling the press it was just his staff handling the whole thing and he was never personally involved. Rick Perry is already running for president in 2016. Rick Perry is, in his own mind, at least a top tier contender for president in 2016. This is one of the biggest politics stories in the country. He`s had a multiple felony indictment for abuse of power while he is simultaneously running for president. Has anybody else under felony indictment ever run for president? But the basic details of this fact -- of this case have been misconstrued in the national press over and over and over again. And I think we`re going the keep debunking it night after night until that stops. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." Good evening, Lawrence. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END