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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 08/27/14

Guests: Robert White

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I will never recline my seat into your show. CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES: Please do. I think that`s my takeaway here, we all recline. That`s life. We all give, we all get. MADDOW: My knees to your -- never mind. All right. Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. When it comes to world affairs, all of the best conversations I have ever had. All the conversations I have learned the most from talking with NBC`s Richard Engel have begun with us standing somewhere near a map. Richard is here tonight. He is back in New York. So we have a map ready, it`s always a good idea when Richard`s around, here`s the issue to ask him about. The U.S. air strikes right now in Iraq, and with this red-hot debate right now about whether or not the U.S. should consider air strikes over the border inside Syria, when the White House talks about the militant groups that those air strikes are targeting, the Sunni militia effect that they`re bombing in Iraq, and they may want to bomb in Syria as well. When the White House talks about that group, they call them ISIL. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let`s be clear about ISIL. ISIL speaks for no religion. ISIL have no ideology of any value to human beings. ISIL opposes threat to all Iraqis and to the region. BEN RHODES, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We will be relentless against ISIL. CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: ISIL -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of terms about ISIL`s vision. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: ISIL. When the administration and the Pentagon talk about who they`re bombing in Iraq right now, and who they may want to bomb inside Syria as well, they call the group ISIL. Everybody else calls the group ISIS. Why are there these two different names? Now, the group in question does not called themselves by either of these names. First of all, they mostly speaks Arabic, and what they would prefer to be called in English, they would prefer to be jus call the Islamic state, so that would be IS. Frankly, I think nobody cares what they would prefer to be called. Nobody wants to give them anything they want including that. But still, there is this difference in how they are described in terms of English language acronyms. And when they are called is, that is sometimes translated as an acronym for the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria, ISIS. That`s not where it came from. Where it came from is a related term, ISIS started off as an Islamic state of Iraq and Alsham. Alsham is the term which means roughly greater Syria, what we think of as the nation of Syria plus what they believe to be additional territory that should be part of that same state. Now the difference of opinion in terms of calling them ISIS as opposed to ISIL, is that some people look at the idea of the Islamic state of Iraq and greater Syria, and they don`t translate greater Syria as Alsham. They translate it as a different word. They somewhat more familiar word, they translate it as the Lavonte. And yes, that still vaguely means greater Syria, but it means more than that. The Lavonte is a region that includes Syria and is probably understood to include Lebanon and Jordan and the Palestinian territories, including some parts that are controlled by Israel. That`s the Lavonte. That`s much bigger. That`s what the administration believes the group is referring to, and the name they use -- they used to use for themselves, that`s why the administration is calling them ISIL instead of ISIS. And you know, one level it`s an Englishized (ph) acronym. What`s in a name for this sort of thing in the larger sense? Maybe a lot of things here, in terms of strategy that are implicated in the difference between those two terms. I mean, the administration is now talking about air strikes against ISIS or ISIL beyond the borders of Iraq. They`re talking about maybe striking them in Syria too. They never talk about air strikes without talking about building some sort of regional coalition of other countries to be involved in a military effort like that. So it wouldn`t just be the United States. But if ISIS or ISIL is a group that doesn`t just have designs on taking over Iraq as much as they can, and Syria as much as they can, but if this group is a group that actually wants to take over Iraq and Syria and Jordan and Lebanon and the Palestinian territories including chunks of Israel, if they see that as their home base, then who in the world might be interested in trying to stop that. That`s a bigger audience for hey, who`s in this with us, right? I mean, in a full blown war effort against ISIL or ISIS, who would join in that if those are ISIL`s goals? So far the countries that have signed on the dotted line for part of the war effort so far, specifically providing more weapons to the Kurdish persons that are fighting against ISIS in Iraq. Those countries so far are not much of a Benetton ad, Britain, France, Denmark, Canada, Italy, Croatia and Albania. That`s who defense secretary Chuck Hagel says is signed on to the sending arms to the Kurds part of this fight. But beyond that specific issue of arming the Kurds, when it comes to a broader fight against this group and everything that means, what about the Arab countries? What about the other countries in the region, including the ones that are really rich, and including the ones that have relatively big strong militaries? Fighter jets and stuff like that? This is American journalist Theo Curtis. He was freed in Syria this weekend after nearly two years in captivity in Syria. He was held by a radical Al Qaeda affiliated group of Sunni fighters that is called the al- Nusra front. And we don`t exactly know the terms under which he was freed after being held by that group for so long, but we do know that the government of the nation of Qatar was the intervener basically on Theo Curtis` behalf. Qatar negotiated for his release and they were able to secure it. Now, Qatar have faced some international criticism for funding and supporting these radical Sunni militias fighting in Syria like al-Nusra front and like ISIS. Qatar has faced criticism for funding these radical Sunni groups that are fighting the Assad regime in Syria, so has the nation of Saudi Arabia, so has Kuwait, so has the united Arab emirates. Honestly, in practical terms, maybe it`s because of Qatar`s relationship with groups like that, that they were able to get Theo Curtis free. As the U.S. considers what to do next against ISIS if anything, who else would be part of any U.S. led effort? Or if the U.S. wasn`t going to lead it, who would -- who else would potentially lead that fight against them that the U.S. might participate in? I mean, would a country like Qatar, which is a very rich country, a very resourceful country. Should we see it strategically important that they intervene to get the journalists freed from the Nusra front? If Qatar and emirates and Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, have been funding some of these radical Islamist militia groups to fight against Assad and Syria, these groups which include ISIS, is it reasonable to expect that those countries that have been supporting those militias might also join a fight against one of those militias? Even just take the nation of Turkey, Turkey basically has held open part of their border with Syria, to allow foreign fighters including westerners to flow into that country to join the fight against Assad. Does fighting ISIS mean that Turkey needs to be persuaded to stop doing that, to close the border? Is the United States likely to persuade to do that? Keeping in mind that we don`t have an ambassador to Turkey right now? We don`t have an ambassador to Turkey right now, but because the United States Congress is a worthless nonfunctioning pathetic excuse for a branch of government. We have rally important business to do with Turkey, we have no ambassador, that`s not anybody else`s fault, that`s our fault, amazing. But meanwhile, the defense department today announced that they`re in full swing. Another series of air strikes against ISIS inside Iraq today with today`s three declared air strikes. That means there have now been 101 declared U.S. air strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq just since August 8th, that`s not to mention the U.S. unmanned aircraft drones, and manned aircraft. Planes with pilots in them, that are currently flying over Syria doing surveillance flights. Possibly in advance of U.S. air strikes there too, depending on how the debate goes in Washington. Adding to the whole emotional pressure of this debate, today an American mother named Shirley Sotloff, She released this video just over a minute long in which she appealed directly to the leader of is, she called him by his chosen, self-bestowed title, Caliph of the whole Muslim world. Basically asked him, pled with him in religious terms that he should please show mercy, please free her son. Her son is a 31-year-old journalist who ISIS is believed to be holding somewhere inside Syria, Steven Sotloff. He`s the second man who ISIS pictured in the execution video of James Foley the posted online last week. At the end of the execution portion of that video, they threatened to kill Steven in the same way if U.S. air strikes against ISIS targets did not stop. U.S. air strikes against ISIS targets have not stopped. Joining us now to show us how maps and understanding that part of the world, can help us make sense of all of this, is NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel. RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: I commend you for digging into this, this is complicated stuff. And I commend you for taking the time to think this through, to break it down, because I think we`re about to get involved more deeply into a military conflict because of all of this stuff which is very poorly understood by the general public. MADDOW: The way that I was explaining the role of different countries there and how they`ve been involved so far and whether they might be amenable to U.S. overtures right now, now that the U.S. is feeling more animated about this conflict, is that jive with how you see it or would you add anything to that? ENGEL: ISIS -- ISIL -- I think, by the way, the administration got stock calling them ISIL. Once you call it that, you can`t help it. ISIL and ISIS are basically mean the same. And it is just a matter on how you translate it. And you once start calling it ISIL or ISIS, it just kind of stick to it. You know why we started calling it ISIS? Because it`s easier to say. MADDOW: Right. And it is the English -- acronym that don`t -- ENGEL: ISIL is not easy. But anyway, it doesn`t have very many friends, if you asked -- a few countries raised their hands, who wants to attack is? Everyone would raise their hands. The problem is, who do you do the next day? Because you attack is, we`re going to create a failed state in -- standing between Iraq and Syria, we`re going to have a black hole in the middle of the country, a whole that is filled by this disgusting group called ISIS. We start attacking them. First of all, the group is going to attack back, this is a vicious group, so it will attack back. But that`s to be expected. What do you fill it with? Do you make a deal with Bashar al Assad? Do you say, OK we`re sorry we tried to topple your government. We know we`ve accused you of using chemical weapons and we have a pretty good case that you did. We`re just going to look past that. And we`re going to accept you, and we`re going to make amends and we are going to help you re- concur your territory, are you going to do that? Maybe. Now, I don`t think as many governments are going to sign on if you say, that`s the goal, certainly not in the Arab world. A few might. But that would be an enormous crow sandwich for the administration to eat, which I`m not sure they want to do, after all the problems they`ve had in the Middle East. So you attack ISIS, everyone wants to do it, but I don`t think there`s at all in consensus on what you`re supposed to do the next day to fill that gap. And the U.S. policy by the way, for the last couple years, the last three years really, for Syria has been, that is a mess, that is a horrible disastrous situation, let`s close that door. MADDOW: Right. We can`t fix that, let`s not try to do anything? ENGEL: Let`s not even look there. And until we knew it was rotting inside, stink was coming out, 200,000 people have been killed according to the U.N. we closed the door, we didn`t look. And you know what, it didn`t get better over time. It wasn`t getting better over time. And the execution of this poor guy, James Foley brought it to the forefront. And now I think a lot of people are finally having to say, well, what are we going to do about this? We have a dangerous group there. MADDOW: If U.S. drones did start dropping bombs on ISIS targets in eastern Syria, the way they are in northern Iraq and these other places, is there a risk in the immediate sense that ISIS would try to essentially change the way it`s operating? That they would try to invent themselves in population centers that it would make it more dangerous for Syrian civilians? ENGEL: I don`t know how more dangerous for civilian possibly could be? It is an absolute mayhem in Syria right now. The government is dropping barrel bombs. You know what a barrel bomb is? It`s a barrel, (INAUDIBLE), like a metal steel can, filled with explosives, you open the door of a helicopter and push it out, and what it falls on, it falls on. All the time they`re dropping these things, which are not precise. They`re firing scud missiles, they are firing artillery, that`s what`s coming in from above. Then what`s on the ground is militants like ISIL or ISIS, who will beat you, whip you, force you to accept Islamic law, if they want one of the women from your family, they will take them as a bribe, that`s what`s going on now. So then you add to this some drone strikes and air strikes. Does it make it more dangerous? I don`t know how -- I mean, how do you get -- where do you go from 10, you know? How does it get worse than that? MADDOW: Can I ask you also, Richard? You were abducted in Syria, and you were held for a number of days by one of these militant groups, when you look at the family of Steven Sotloff trying to appeal for his release, it`s so heartbreaking. I didn`t play the audio -- ENGEL: I thought about that. MADDOW: It is personal decision I can`t do it. I have seen it, I can`t it. How do you -- I mean, is his mom saying things that will resonate, that will be heard? Will it matter? ENGEL: Maybe it matters to her, that you can`t do nothing. She`s trying. She`s appealing to these people, please be reasonable. And you didn`t play the audio, what she says in the audio, that it`s very polite, that it is very reasoned. It says you Baghdadi, you are the Caliph. The Caliph means the successor of Mohammed. You are the leader of the Islamic empire. We are giving you the title you like. You have the power to grant amnesty, because you`re the commander. Give amnesty to my son who has no dog in this political fight, is not in charge of U.S. foreign policy, please do this for our son so I can hug him again. It`s very difficult to listen to. And she seems to, you know, have almost no emotion as she`s saying it, she`s somewhere else. She`s out of her body as she`s speaking. Will it help? I hate to say, I think it`s tough, because this group, especially if it starts getting attacked right now, is going to see it has some Americans, it`s going to try to use them for political gains and I`m not sure that it wants to show how merciful it is right now. MADDOW: Yes. NBC New chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, I`m so glad you could come in and talk to me. ENGEL: Thank you. MADDOW: It`s great to see you, my friend. ENGEL: I think we`ll be talking more because this is an incredibly important subject we`ve been ignoring. I think of it by policy ignoring, not on your show, but as a nation, because it`s so ugly, and now it`s just -- it can`t really be ignored any more. MADDOW: And the debate on this has to get a lot smarter, a lot faster than it has been. All right, thank you, Richard. It`s great to have you here. We`ll be right back. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Watch this. This is dash cam footage taken from a police car, watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While we`re doing this, put your hands behind your back. Where`s the syringe that cap came off of? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That syringe is literally a week old. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was an incident between a (INAUDIBLE) Texas police officer and a suspect and it looks pretty clear as to what happened there, right? At least how it resolves, and it does not resolve in a good way. But wait until you see it from a second angle because it turns out there were two cameras on that incident. And that ends up being really important for that incident and maybe now for the whole country. It`s fascinating. Stay with us. That story is coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Legalize and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. That was the demand on one of the very first petitions to the White House. To the Obama administration, we, the people program. The asked for it. Starting in 2011, the White House developed this program where if you could get 5,000 people to sign up with you on your petition, the White House would promise to respond in writing and in public on the White House Web site. And it turns out that not just for legal pot but for lots of things, it`s really no problem to get 5,000 people to sign on to something if it comes with a promise that the White House will then pay attention to your cause. So after that initial launch and after the White House answered lots and lots of questions about legal pot, they then decided they were going to raise the threshold from 5,000 signatures to 25,000 signatures. But still a lot of proposals and causes really had no problem at all hitting even the new threshold. For example, this petition for the U.S. government to build a death star, more like star wars. That proposal met the new 25,000 signature threshold. That official respond from the White House. And yes, thereafter the White House did moved to make the threshold rise higher again. Now you need to get 100,000 signatures tin order o get the White House to respond to you, and you have only 30 days to get those 100,000 signatures. A serious petition has blown by the 100,000 signature threshold in less than a week. As far as we can tell that is almost unheard of. The new petition is demanding something called a Mike Brown law, a national law, a federal law that would do one seemingly simple thing, require all state, county and local police to wear a camera while on duty. The petition now has over 149,000 signatures, so it is way over the threshold from earning a response from the White House and still they have two weeks left on the clock to collect more signatures. But judging anecdotally from those signatures in the petition, this relatively simple idea is very popular, and lots of police departments are already using cameras, either or both on patrol cars or on officers uniforms. It`s not a radical idea for police to have cameras at the local level. It would however be a radical change for there to be a single federal standard requiring that of all cops at all levels of policing all across the country. Had the Ferguson Missouri police department been using cameras during the police shooting, who knows how that would have affected the case itself, who knows how it would have affected the weeks of unrest that follows that shooting. This is footage from a body camera worn by an officer at the Rialto police department. Rialto is about an hour east of L.A. A couple of years ago, the Rialto police department participated in a landmark study about the use of body cameras on police officers and their effects on both officer behavior like the use of force, but also the public`s behavior, including public complaints about the use of force. The results of that study, the power of the cameras, the results were a shock even to the department itself. The study found that one year after officers started wearing the cameras, use of force by those officers declined by 60 percent. People complaining about the use of force, members of the public coming out to say the police had wrongfully used force against them, those complaints declined by 88 percent in a year. After that study, body cameras became a department wide policy. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every uniformed officer is assigned one of these right now. This is actually the camera, it`s pretty small, it is very lightweight, it has the lens, it actually has the storage system in it, and also has a small microphone and small speaker system in it, to let the officers know what amount of ton they`re recording. The great benefits for me is that it shows what we`re doing realtime. It`s kind of like documentation of our actions and it`s -- I mean, it`s recorded, it`s video, it`s kind of almost indisputable. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: And yes sometimes that indisputable record can work to the benefit of a member of the public to corroborate the citizen`s version of events if the citizen has a dispute the officer in which the officer misbehaved or the officer themselves committed a crime, right? Sometimes it benefits victims of police abuse. Sometimes it is the other way around. Sometimes it clears police officers who really were just doing their jobs despite complaints to the contrary. In the town of Celina in Texas, population is 6,000 with 9,000 -- excuse me, nine police officers on the Celina police department, they have been wearing body cameras for about nine months now. Last week they released the Celina police department released a kind of a remarkable video on their You Tube page. Here is how they described it. Celina police officer fights suspect high on heroin. It appears the officer jumped on the suspect for no reason. But from body camera, shows what really happened. Celina starts showing the dash camera angle of the encounter, just the angle taken from the video camera and the officer`s squad car. And you can`t see much at first. But from this angle it looks like the officer attacks the suspect out of nowhere for no obvious observable reason. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While we`re doing this, put your hands behind your back. Where`s the syringe that cap came off of? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That syringe is literally, probably a week old. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Video shot from the squad car. What the dash cam was able to capture sheds very little light on why that officer all of a sudden leapt on that man and forced him to the ground. And you hear calm voices and then boom the officer is on top of the suspect. That`s what the camera in the squad camera recorded from that one angle. But because the officer was also wearing a body camera, we have another angle on that encounter, which the Celina police say shows that the suspect actually charges at the officer in that incident. It goes by fast, we`ll slow it down in a second. But here`s the realtime, the fast version. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While we`re doing this, put your hands behind your back. Where`s the syringe that cap came off of? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That syringe is literally, probably a week old. (END VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: That`s the real time version. Here it is slowed way down. You can see that moment when the suspect turns around and that encounter changes. In a split second from something that sounds calm to what appears to be a violent physical altercation. Body cameras can shed light on encounters between police and the people they are there to serve. That can work in anyone`s benefit, depending on what they show and depending on what happened. They just provide additional information. In Celina, Texas, according to that police department and that video, which they have been promoting, the officers camera on his uniform happened to work in the officer`s benefit in terms of making a public case that the use of force was justified in this incident. That said, there`s yet another side to this. I mean, having a police officer record every point of contact with members of the public while on duty means that there`s a lot of video of police officers contact with the public and it`s all a matter in some ways of public record. And that might make sense in cases where there are criminal charges involved, but it does raise privacy concerns. What if in this video, one of the suspect`s friends was standing in the background, somebody who wasn`t the target of the police action that night, not charged with anything, didn`t want to be associated with this incident, what if the person was a juvenile? I mean, how would you handle those issues if the video was going to be released publicly, like this one was? In part because of those concerns, the issue of police using cameras, it would benefit from a lot of public notification about the fact that police are doing that, and it would also benefit from a lot of public debate. The police department in Denver, Colorado, today, held a big press conference announcing that they, too, would be launching a pilot program with police body cameras, in the hopes that all of their officers would be wearing these cameras by the end of the next year. The Denver Police Department also released this PSA type video, basically advertising the new policy, showing the police chief in Denver and the mayor of Denver, walking around the city telling people about this plan. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MAYOR MICHAEL HANCOCK, DENVER, COLORADO: I`m Michael Hancock, mayor of Denver, how are you? I have a question for you, we`re out testing something. You notice the glasses I have on in. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. HANCOCK: This is a camera. We`re considering fitting all of our police officers with body cameras. What do you think about that? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it`s a good idea to protect both sides. The question that I had is about the recording because it doesn`t actually record the entire time, you have to turn it on and off? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a policy that will say when you can turn it on or off. If you`re on a crime scene or making a traffic stop, they`re required to have it on. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I think -- I think it`s a good idea, absolutely. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: There are real potentials for up sides here, in terms of transparency and accountability on both sides of the relationship between the police and the public. But whether it`s a federal law or a local police department by police department movement to add these cameras to every police interaction, there are potential risks involved with turning our every interaction with a police officer into more or less a recorded matter of public record. Hold that thought. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OFFICER: While we`re doing this, go ahead and put your hands behind your back. Where`s the syringe that that cap came off of? SUSPECT: That syringe is literally probably a week old. (INAUDIBLE) OFFICER: While we`re doing this, go ahead and put your hands behind your back. Where`s the syringe that that cap came off of? SUSPECT: That syringe is literally probably a week old. (INAUDIBLE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Two very different views of that same police incident in Celina, Texas. In the first shot it`s unclear what led to the officer leaping on the guy. In the second shot from the body camera of the police officer, it looks like the suspect wield around on the officer. And that`s why the police department is publicizing that video. Our next guest is aiming to outfit his entire city police force with body cams by 2015. Today, his department has 125 of them in place. Joining us now is the chief of police of Denver, Colorado, Robert White. Chief White, thank you very much for being with us. ROBERT WHITE, DENVER POLICE CHIEF: Good evening. Thanks for having me. MADDOW: So, your department already has about 125 of these body cams on your officers on the street. Why did you decide to do that? WHITE: You know, we`ve been actually talking about body cams now for almost two years. From my perspective, it`s a credibility issue, it`s a -- it`s important that we`re very transparent. And key to our success is preventing crime from occurring. And the greatest resource we have are actually the citizens. The citizens are more willing to work with us if they believe that we`re a department that will acknowledge when we`re right, at the same time, acknowledge when we`re wrong, and that we`re a credible department. I think the body cams is just one of the tools that will speak to our commitment to being transparent and establishing and doing a better job and establishing credibility within the community. MADDOW: It sounds like you -- you`re part of this decision, you agree with this decision. Have there been concerns with rank and file officers, among resistance or worry among your force about what this will mean for them? WHITE: Well, actually, we have it as a pilot project in one of our busier districts. And the feedback thus far has been very positive, positive from the community and also positive from the officers. You know, I tell you what happens is, we go to hundreds of thousands of calls every year, and it`s inevitable that something controversial is going to happen. In many times, when you have no evidence other than he said/she said, he being the suspect or the plaintiff, and the other party being the police officer, you come up with a not sustained allegation. And that doesn`t help the individual that`s making the allegation, it certainly doesn`t have the officer that feels that he or she is doing the right thing. The body cam clears up those conflicts. So, I mean we`re excited about it. The officers are pretty much excited about it, and I think the citizens are relatively supportive of it and also excited about it. MADDOW: When -- we saw that tape that played a moment ago of you and Denver`s mayor, Michael Hancock, out on the street talking to just Denver residents, not to police officers, but to just residents of the city about whether they like the idea and basically letting them know that it`s coming and looking for feedback. Are you hearing privacy concerns or other worries from citizens? WHITE: No. It`s relatively new. You know, one of the reasons we did the press release and the mayor and I decided to go out to the community is, you know, it`s an important decision, and I think it`s a decision where we get to buy in from the community. And, thus far, it appears we`re getting that buy in. As our policies evolve, and concerns will come about, we`re certainly in a position to kind of change those policies and make sure they`re mitigating any serious concerns the citizens might have or that the residents might have. MADDOW: As the White House now has been forced to responds to one of these citizen petitions, about whether or not this ought to be a federal standard, that police officers at every level ought to basically be required to have cameras on them, do you feel like this is something that should be handled town to town, department to department, chief to chief, or do you feel like it makes sense that there maybe should be a federal law considered on something like this? WHITE: Well, yes, I`m not so sure it should be a federal law, but I think departments will be well-advised across the nation to seriously consider body cams. It`s a win-win situation for the officers and it`s certainly a win-win situation for the residents that they`re responsible for providing public safety to. MADDOW: Robert White, chief of the Denver, Colorado Police Department -- Chief, thank you for helping us understand your decision on this. Thanks very much. WHITE: Thank you for having me. MADDOW: Thank you. All right. We got much more ahead, including some breaking news that may affect the control of the United States Senate. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We`ve got one major story still ahead on the show tonight and it is a doozy. It`s the story of how a surprise guilty plea and a federal bribery case today could conceivably change the outcome of who controls the United States Senate this year. This is a big deal story, nobody else is covering it in the national news. And we`ve got it here, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK. It was December 28th, 2011, six days before the biggest event in all of Republican presidential politics, six days before the 2012 Iowa Republican caucuses, the political ground shook beneath the state of Iowa. We led our show with it that night as breaking news, watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: We actually do have some legitimate breaking news to report right now, out of Iowa. With six days to go until the Iowa caucuses, there has been a rather dramatic development just moments ago tonight in the Republican race for president. What you`re looking at right there is a campaign event that is underway right now in Des Moines. It`s a chain event for Republican Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, who you see speaking there. The two latest polls out of Iowa show Congressman Paul in first place in the PPP poll and in second place in the CNN poll. More on that in a moment. But the breaking news tonight is that Ron Paul appears to have scored a bit of a coup in his effort to win Iowa. Shortly before Dr. Paul took the stage there in Des Moines tonight, an Iowa Republican state senator who`s named Kent Sorenson was introduced to the Ron Paul supporting crowd. Now, up until tonight, Mr. Sorenson had been serving as an Iowa state co- chair for the Michele Bachmann campaign. The reason he was being introduced at a Ron Paul rally was to announce that he`s switching sides. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Six days before the 2012 Iowa caucus, the co-chair of Michele Bachmann`s presidential campaign in Iowa switched teams on the eve essentially of that election, the Bachman campaign chair announced that he was leaving the Michele Bachmann campaign and instead throwing his support to Ron Paul. Now, that defection itself was news. We covered it as breaking news that night. As you can see, I was wearing the same jacket. But the allegation from Michele Bachmann that followed that news, that ended up being a real political bombshell that`s taken a few years to go off. Now, because it`s Michele Bachmann, I have to tell you, the delivery of her big news that night, it was a little Bachmann-esque. But still, you`ll get the point. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Kent Sorenson personally -- let`s see -- excuse me just a moment. Kent Sorenson said to me yesterday -- here we go, sorry about that. Kent Sorenson personally told me he was offered a large sum of money to go to work for the Ron Paul campaign. Kent campaigned with us earlier this afternoon in Indianola, Iowa, and then he went immediately afterward to a Ron Paul event and announced that he is changing teams. Kent said to me yesterday that everyone sells out in Iowa, why shouldn`t I? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Everyone sells out in Iowa, why shouldn`t I? That allegation that hilarious Michele Bachmann leveled against Republican State Senator Kent Sorenson that night, it was that he had been paid to do this, right? He cut a secret deal of some sort with the Ron Paul campaign. He traded his Ron Paul endorsement for cash. That is an allegation that would violate Iowa state law potentially, it would violate federal election law, as well. And that night, the night that he switched sides, one of our own NBC reporters, Anthony Terrell, tracked down Kent Sorenson to get his reaction to those charges. (BEWGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: So, Kent, you`ve probably seen what the Bachmann campaign that - - STATE SEN. KENT SORENSON (R), IOWA: I just heard, yes. REPORTER: That you personally told her you were offered a large sum of money by the Ron Paul campaign. How do you react? STATE SEN. KENT SORENSON (R), IOWA: Look, that`s absurd. Like I said before, the people on this campaign supported me, my aides (ph), they worked tirelessly for me, they stuffed envelopes, they door knocked for me. I feel like I`m coming home to them. REPORTER: Have you spoken to Michele Bachmann about this at all? She said you personally told her that you were offered a sum of money. SORENSON: No, that`s not true. REPORTER: It`s not true at all? SORENSON: No. REPORTER: Were you offered any money? SORENSON: Absolutely not. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Absolutely not. I was never offered any money from the Ron Paul campaign. I never accepted any money from the Ron Paul campaign. Kent Sorenson -- deny, deny, deny, that anything like that happened, as did Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul himself on national television a few days later. Ron Paul told "Fox News Sunday" that did not happen. And for a time that was sort of the end of that scandal. A wounded Michele Bachmann went on to place sixth in the Iowa caucuses a few days later and then she dropped out of the presidential races the next day. Ron Paul finished third, which is good enough to send his campaign unto New Hampshire. But when the political storm left the state of Iowa, what it left behind were these salacious allegations that there was basically a market in Iowa, a market in which Republican presidential endorsements for the Iowa caucuses were being bought and sold for cash. After the dust had finally cleared in the 2012 presidential race after Barack Obama had been sworn in for a second term, there was still this hangover in Republican politics and in Iowa politics, this hangover worry about the all-important Iowa caucuses, which have such an important role in choosing presidential candidates in this country. Do the Iowa Republican caucuses have a bribery problem? About a year later in February 2013, a former staffer for Michele Bachmann filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission. And while Michele Bachmann had claimed right before the Iowa caucuses, the night she lost her campaign manager to Ron Paul, well, Michele Bachmann had claimed the only reason she lost him was because Ron Paul was paying money to that guy to get his endorsement, what Michele Bachmann`s former staffer claimed in this complaint was actually that Michele Bachmann was paying, too. Michele Bachmann also had that guy on the payroll for his endorsement. That complaint was filed February 2013. Later that year, October 2013, the Iowa state ethics commission concluded an exhaustive investigation into those allegations about bribery in the caucuses, and on that specific complaint that the Michele Bachmann campaign did pay this elected official in Iowa for his support, the state ethics commission basically found that claim to be substantiated. In that same day, the same day the report came out, the bribee, the Michele Bachmann campaign manager, he resigned his seat in the Iowa state senate, although I should mention that he declared in an e-mail to his supporters that he had done nothing wrong, that it was a straight up political witch hunt and that the whole thing was probably because he was so verbally against gay marriage. Sure, whatever. Interestingly, though, in that more than 500-page report from the Iowa Ethics Commission, they were mostly looking into that Michele Bachmann`s campaign had been paying bribes. But they also noted, almost as an aside, that it did appear that in addition to what he had got from Michele Bachmann, that this Iowa senator also got money from somewhere else. They noted $73,000 that had been paid to that same guy in the form of suspicious wire transfers, deeply suspicious they call them. What`s that`s all about? The next month, November 2013, FBI agents executed a search warrant at that state senator`s home and then, four months later, so in March of this year, that Michele Bachmann staffer who filed the original complaint about bribes being paid for endorsements in Iowa Republican caucuses, that staffer amended his complaint this year to say there was evidence that not only was the Michele Bachmann paying bribes, so too was the Ron Paul campaign. Now, Ron Paul had denied this publicly. His campaign denied it publicly, right? It was just crazy Michele Bachmann scrolling around on her iPad saying this thing that nobody believed because it`s something that came out of Michele Bachmann`s mouth. But once that formal campaign was made, hey, Ron Paul was bribing, too, there was an investigation of that formal complaint. There was public reports of grand juries in Iowa looking into this allegations. And today, in a surprise move, in what may turn out to be a bombshell, not just for Iowa politics, not just for a presidential campaign that`s already over and people like Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul who are already out of politics, but in what maybe a bombshell for Republican politics now and specifically for Republican efforts to take the Senate now this year, today, the surprise news is that this has all been resolved. Apparently, it wasn`t a political witch hunt because this guy was against gay marriage. It wasn`t just kooky claims from kooky Michele Bachmann. Today, former Iowa Republican State Senator Kent Sorenson pled guilty in federal court on two charges. He has yet to be sentenced, but he`s facing between five to 25 years in prison and $500,000 total fine. He posted his plea agreement online, if you want to read yourself. It`s fun reading. But the bottom line is basically that he admits to having taken bribes for his endorsement. He was bribed by the Ron Paul for president campaign. They paid him a total of $73,000 for his endorsement in Iowa, where he pled guilty to, was working with the Ron Paul campaign to lie about the bribe money they paid to him, when the campaign wrote up its expenditures and disclose its expenditures in a federal document. He also pled guilty to lying about it to investigators, which is the obstruction to justice charge in this case. But you know, primary is one of those political crimes that takes two -- takes two to make a tango, right. Which is why this is a bombshell that reaches way beyond this one Iowa state senator and Iowa Republican politics. This is a statement that Kent Sorenson`s attorney released when the plea agreement was announced today. It says, quote, "Mr. Sorenson`s pleas are part of the process of taking complete responsibility for the series of compounding errors and omissions he engaged in, aided and abetted, and participated in with others." Oh, yes, right, you can`t bribe yourself. If you`re guilty of taking a bribe, then that means somebody must have -- I mean, he didn`t trick the Ron Paul campaign in describing the bribes they paid to him as payments to some film company. They didn`t think they were actually getting film production for the price of $73,000, which is what they fold the FEC. They were bribing him. He`s now going to go to prison for 25 years because he got caught for taking a bribe and for covering it up. He`s pled guilty to helping them do it. But what about them? Who was in charge of the Ron Paul campaign when this was happening? Who done it? This man is the campaign manager now for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky senator who`s embroiled in a very tough reelection race right now. He`s the top Republican in the Senate. He will become Senate majority leader if he succeeds in his plan for Republicans to take over the Senate in this fall`s elections. His campaign manager is named Jesse Benton. Jesse Benton, at the time the Ron Paul campaign was bribing people for their endorsements in Iowa in 2011, at that time, Jesse Benton was in charge of the Ron Paul for president campaign. That October before the Iowa caucuses, this is the e-mail from the Kent Sorenson camp laying out Kent Sorenson`s demands how much he wanted to be bribed, how much he wanted to be paid to switch his endorsement from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul. Here`s the reply from Jesse Benton in November of that year, following up, saying he really wanted to get Kent Sorenson on board. The following month, December 26th, a Ron Paul campaign staffer handed Kent Sorenson a check for $25,000 in the bathroom of an Iowa restaurant. Two days later, Kent Sorenson announced his change of heart. Now, he`s endorsing Ron Paul. Shortly thereafter, Kent Sorenson wondered on the phone whether or not the candidate himself, Ron Paul, knew about this bribery that had happened. He says he didn`t know about Ron Paul himself, but he knew for sure that Jesse Benton knew that the Ron Paul campaign had paid him that bribe. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) SORENSON: Do you think the whole Ron Paul and like all of them know? The inside group? FUSARO: Sure, I`m sure Jesse Benton knows. He`s a scum -- SORENSON: Oh, I know Jesse does. I know Jesse knows. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: Does Jesse know? Does the Mitch McConnell re-election campaign in Kentucky have a problem here? If the Mitch McConnell campaign manager also ran a presidential campaign two years ago that was bribing people for their endorsements, and now, people are looking at 25 years in prison for accepting those bribes? We called Mitch McConnell`s campaign today asking if they or Jesse Benton himself wanted to give a statement on this matter. We have not heard back. I do not know if we will. But I live in hope. Watch this space. 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