The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/07/14

Guests: Stan Greenberg, Alan Vinegrad

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Tonight -- and, yes, we do a thing at the end of the show on Friday night that we jokingly call the Friday night news dump here. But that`s not what I mean. Tonight, there was an actual Friday night news dump from Washington that we didn`t expect. And that is very, very big news. Tonight, the White House put out their official announcement at 6:07 p.m. on a Friday, naming President Obama`s choice to succeed Eric Holder as Attorney General of the United States. Eric Holder has of course been a very consequential Attorney General over this past six years. He was a historic choice for A.G. He is our nation`s first-ever African American Attorney General. Well, the nominee who President Obama has chosen to succeed him will also be a history-making choice if she is confirmed for the job. But the fact that we did have a big, national election this week in which the Republicans took control of the Senate, that does raise some interesting question as to whether the president`s new nominee for the attorney general will be confirmed for the job. So we`ve got that story coming up tonight. There`s some interesting wrinkles there. We are going to have a report on that late-breaking news. It`s also going to be the subject tonight on the interview. Also tonight, that we`ve got an incredible corruption story coming up out of the Deep South. It involves a really, really, really good local journalist and the better part of a billion dollars in a corruption case in a very poor state. That amazing story is coming up later on in the show tonight and more. But we start tonight in Colorado. The top of the ticket, headline results in Colorado elections this week were, of course, that Colorado Democratic Senator Mark Udall. He lost his seat to a Republican Congressman named Cory Gardner. Colorado`s Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper, however, he was able to hang on to his seat despite the fact that the NRA made him public enemy number one. Republicans really thought they were going to win that seats but Hickenlooper held on. Just below those top of tickets races, though, there has been this very interesting question, as to whether or not the Colorado state government, the Colorado Legislature would also be taking over by the Republican Party. Democrats had control on both chambers of the Colorado Legislature heading into this election. And, as of right now, they still don`t know who`s going to be controlling the Senate after this election. In Adam Country, Colorado, there`s something like 800 votes between the two candidates for the Senate race there. And there are several thousand ballots left to count. So whoever wins in that Senate race in Adams County, Colorado, that will determine which party controls the Colorado Senate. In the Colorado House, they only decided late this afternoon who would be in control. Late this afternoon, enough results came in from the last outstanding House races in Colorado that the Republican Party there finally conceded that they will not be able to take over the House from the Democrats there, even though they really wanted. Democrats will keep control in the House. But I should tell you. Among the newly-elected Republicans who will be keeping the Democrats company in much larger numbers than they did before in Colorado is this guy. His name is Gordon Klingenschmitt. Gordon Klingenschmitt has been a long-time Internet preacher. But now he`s going to be a Republican State Lawmaker in Colorado which will give him a whole new platform for what he has become famous for already. Which of course are his eloquent YouTube exorcism of the demons that he says lurk inside President Barack Obama. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) STATE REP. GORDON KLINGENSCHMITT (R), COLORADO: Wanted to discerns the spirit here and there is a spirit of hiding, a spirit of secrecy that is just really law breaking and law laciness and they`re doing all these secretly behind the scenes and we are exposing that as really it`s got its roots in as satanic evil spirit of violation of tyranny, ultimately, because here`s what Jesus warned in Luke chapter 12. They`re not going to keep their secrets from us. We`re going to expose them as soon as we see them. There is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, nothing hidden that will not be known, what you said in the dark, Mr. Obama, will be heard in the light. What you whispered in secret rooms, we`re going to proclaim that on housetops. Let`s pray. Father in heaven, we pray against the domestic enemies in constitution against this demon of tyranny who is using the White House occupant that demonic spirit is oppressing us. Father, we command it to leave. We pray that you will help the president repent. (END VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: Newly elected Republican State Representative Gordon Klingenschmitt of Colorado, performing an exorcism of the demons inhabiting President Obama. The reason it says Dr. Chaps there, can you see that in the bottom there? You see there in sort of squish, it says Dr. Chaps. The reason it says there at the bottom of his Internet TV Show is because even though his name is Republican State Representative Elect Gordon Klingenschmitt, he prefers that you call him Dr. Chaps. We learned today that Dr. Chaps will not be up for any committee chairmanships or anything like that in the Colorado State House because his Republican Party did not get control of that chamber. He did kind a like it but didn`t get control of the House is still up for grabs. The House is not up grabs although the Senate still is. And, actually, a lot of states are still unsettled in terms of individual races and party control state legislative chambers in Alaska, there`s still no clear winner in the Governor`s race. Sean Parnell, the incumbent Republican Governor is behind by a few thousand votes so far in Alaska against the ticket that is running against him. Which is an independent and a Democrat running together against him. NBC is not called the winner in Alaska Governor`s race nobody has conceded that so far. Same deal, actually, in the Alaska Senate race where it`s the incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Begich, she`s behind by few thousand votes. He is not conceding though, he says he`s going to wait for the last few thousand votes to come in particularly from the flump world part of Alaska that haven`t been counted yet. A huge storm, stronger than super storm -- super storm Sandy and about the size of Alaska itself, is due to hit the Aleutian Islands in Alaska sometime this weekend. This is -- if this is as big a storm as they think it might be, it could have really wide-ranging implications in a state where they`re still counting among lots other things. So that`s worth keeping an eye on this weekend. The Virginia Senate Race, between the incumbent Democrat Mark Warner and Republican challenger Ed Gillespie, that race was finally settled today when Ed Gillespie announced that he would not be asking for a recount. He conceded the race today to incumbent Democrat Mark Warner. So all-in-all, in terms of the Senate, that leaves Alaska, Mark Begich and Louisiana Mary Landrieu, of the last two Senate races in the country that are not decided. That Mary Landrieu, Louisiana race, we knew on election night would be going to a runoff because neither candidate got 50 percent of the vote. Mary Landrieu is going to be defending her seat against the Republican challenger named Bill Cassidy in a Louisiana runoff on December 6th. Now, Mary Landrieu is projecting all kinds of confident about that runoff. She has one state wide runoffs for that senate seat, twice before. But the odds are considered to be pretty strongly stacked against her this year. She is the last remaining Democrat in a statewide office in Louisiana. And now the Democratic Senate campaign committee has actually pulled all of its money out of the Mary Landrieu runoff. They preserved almost $2 million in TV airtime for that runoff election. But, now, they have released those reservations and Mary Landrieu is currently going to be on her own to try to save her seat. So, yes, there`s this -- this two outstanding and interesting senate races still to be fought out, still to be called in Alaska and Louisiana. This also about a half dozen house races that are still outstanding as well. But regardless of what happens on those races the overall picture in terms of who`s in control, it`s settled in Washington. And such today we had, the great bipartisan awkwardness of the ceremonial herb crusted sea bass at the White House. Herb crusted sea bass was the main course of President Obama`s lunch with Congressional Leaders from both parties today. The press isn`t allowed to stick around and actually watch them put their napkins on their lap and actually eat the sea bass, but you do get the sense from watching the first part, where they do allow the press on to look at them for a minute.. You do get the sense that this is the kind of lunch where people spend a lot of time not talking, right. Awkwardly looking down and poking at their sea bass. It`s like the worst kind of dinner party where they don`t let you is e sit with the person you came with, even though that`s obviously is the person you like the best because that`s why you came with them. So it`s like, they do this sometimes like in a dinner party or a wedding they forcibly break you up so you can`t sit next to your spouse or your partner, right. In this case they did it for this lunch today. This awkward by part of you`re sitting. They did the Republican and Democrat, Republican and Democrat, Republican and Democrat. You know how those conversations go. Anybody watching any good TV lately? How`s your family? So far, House Speaker John Boehner ended up getting sat next to President Obama. Neither, Speaker Boehner nor President Obama seems all they are happy about it. But still, this was a big, you know, ornate display of very unhappy good with. This was the day to, if you didn`t feel happy, to at least say happy things, to at least say nice things, and they did. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I want to thank the leadership for both the House and the Senate for being here for this lunch, post-election. As I said the other night obviously, Republicans had a good night. I congratulated both Mitch McConnell as well as Speaker Boehner for running a very strong campaigns. As also said the day after the election, what we`ve seen now for number of cycles is the American people just want to see work done here in Washington. I think they`re frustrated by the gridlock. They`d liked see more cooperation and think all of us have a responsibility, me in particular, to try to make it happen. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Me in particular? Very conciliatory words today from President Obama. Let`s work together. Let`s get things done. I, in particular, looking forward to cooperating with the new Republican Leadership in Congress. Very conciliatory words. And then they eat their fish. And these things are awkward right at the best of times. But I cannot imagine how awkward it must be for Speaker Boehner to have to sit there, next to President Obama in front of the press, right, accepting the congratulations from the president, hearing the president say how much he`s looking forward to working together and how much they can get done together and how much he wants to cooperate with them. You know, there you are, everybody is making nice and then the press leaves and the door closes and then it`s time to really talk. To really talk about maybe what you`ve been saying since the election. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: He is going to poison the well. When you play with matches, you take the risk of burning self. And he`s going to burn himself, if he continues to go down this path. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Speaker Boehner talking yesterday about President Obama with a very complicated metaphor involving poison, a path, matches, burning and somewhat (inaudible) as well. If you like the fire metaphors, more than you like the drowning metaphors, that is the post elections specialty that turns out of Reince Priebus, the Chairman of the Republican Party. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: The president is just throwing a barrel of kerosene on a fire if he signs the executive amnesty order. But he didn`t deliver when he had an opportunity. Then he went forward and threatened executive amnesty, which is, in our mind, a nuclear threat. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Nuclear, kerosene, barrel fire, poison, burning matches, well path, in a well. In a well. Since the Republicans did so well in the elections on Tuesday night, the "Beltway Press" has been chat, chat, chatting about the Republicans visceral hatred for President Obama just can`t be their reason for living anymore. Now that they are taking control of Congress in Washington, surely, the Republicans will be looking for ways to work constructively with the president to find areas of mutual agreement, substantive policy matters that matter to the American people. Are you kidding -- this is what the "Beltway" is saying. They`re going to be working on governing. Now that the Republicans have control, they can`t just be interested going after President Obama anymore. The "Beltway" keeps telling themselves this fairytale about Republicans and how Republicans must feel now. But listen to them actually talk to each other. Like go to Republican Ville and listen to what people are saying, that`s not at all how its sounds when you`re there. (BEGIN VIDEO TAPE) CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: There is going to be a fire storm on Capitol Hill. You`re going to see calls for impeachment. I don`t mean that necessary they`ll do but because -- MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Some of the other things that people are suggesting such as possible impeachment of the president for what many would consider lawless action if he goes too far. Some would suggest if he goes too far he should be impeached. How big would the action have to be? What would he have to do to make it an impeachable offense, you know? That would so offend the Republican, they would take the political paralyze step of impeaching him. Is President Obama trying to bait the Republicans into impeaching him? (END VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: Kumbaya, my Lord. Attention "Sunday Morning", the "Beltway Press" has decided that these elections this woke mean everybody`s going to be singing "Kumbaya". The Republicans must feel super constructive now. They must be ready to put this stop Obama agenda behind to them. You should have taken it as a hint when the Republican Party press conference the morning after the election was done in front of a giant red screen that said stop Obama. That`s what they mean when Republicans talk to each other, which is what FOX News is for, what they`re talking about this week is not freaking constructive policymaking. It`s when do we impeach the president? When do we get to start? That is where Republicans are right now and their politics. And you can see it on the FOX News channel. You can also see it in the polling. Stan Greenberg Perm, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, they`ve released new national poll on the subject today. Look, among all voters, Sophists, Democrats and Independent or Republicans, everybody, ask this question, for what you`ve heard about President Barack Obama, do you think that the new Congress should begin an impeachment investigation of Obama? Or is there no reason to consider impeaching him? You ask everybody all together and everybody all together says that`s crazy. There`s no reason to begin impeaching President Obama. That`s what`s happens 69-24. No. That`s nuts. That`s what happens when you ask everybody all together. But now, look when you ask just Republicans. Republicans, yes, actually. Yes.Yes. The new Congress should start impeaching President Obama. And if you ask just tea party Republicans, just the subset of the Republican party which is super-served by their representatives in Congress, if you ask just tea partiers, wow, they are ready to start impeaching President Obama by a two to one margin. A lot of things are still unsettled from the election this week. The Republican Party seeing the destruction of President Obama as their reason for leaving, that is not unsettled, that is settled, that is clear as a bell in a well with some poison on fire. It`s a conflagration. Joining us now is Stan Greenberg, the pollsters who conducted that poll on impeachment. He was also President Bill Clinton campaign pollsters. STAN GREENBERG, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Thank you. Mr. Greenberg, thank you for being here tonight. It`s nice to see you. GREENBERG: Same thing. I`m delighted to be here on this perfect day to talk about this really important data. MADDOW: Can I ask you? GREENBERG: Yes. MADDOW: When you look at this data now on impeachment, does it look the same to you as it did the last time Republicans impeached a Democratic President. GREENBERG: You know, my advantage point on this was as the -- as a spouse of a member of Congress, my wife is Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro; we went to civility conference in Hershey, Pennsylvania. And my partner was Bob Barr. And upon leaving the conference, he, then, proceeded to introduce the first impeachment resolution. And so I`ve seen these moments in the past where they get together and Kumbaya and say yes we`re going to be working together. That`s not their agenda and it`s central to who they are. MADDOW: In terms of the way that Republicans talk to one another about this, I feel like in watching conservative media, watching FOX News, I see them telling each other this would be an unpopular thing to do. This is something that we know wouldn`t have paid political dividends for us. But, yet, there is this -- this drive for it. Do you -- can you tell us what makes the difference to them as long as they want to do it? GREENBERG: Remember when, you know, when they proceeded down this path in the House under Newt Gingrich 1998, when they had very disappointing results in the election such that Newt Gingrich, you know had to resign, you know as speaker. But, nonetheless, they proceeded to go forward with the impeachment leading to the -- to the trial, despite the fact that the voters had rejected it very concretely. They pay, already paid a political price for it. And yet, they proceeded to go forward, you know. And, you know, it was at that point they begin to realize that the politics within the Republican Party, which obviously began under Newt Gingrich, which I think reached a whole new level, is that the politics within the Republican Party which is very much grounded in GOP conservative Hartland, Evangelical, Tea party, South Appalachian, the most rural part of the country. In those places, they are talking to each other like FOX News in which impeachment seems like a reasonable thing. Why wouldn`t you be thinking about impeachment given what you`re saying he is doing in threatening the constitutions? So we put this question in this -- in this survey -- this -- you know, this election night survey that we conducted. I was actually surprised that a majority of Republicans would say yes as time to begin this process and much more for Tea party. But that`s the echo chamber they`re in. You know, it`s a bigger than FOX News and really is a big part of the country where they, you know, rule -- where they have almost total control in these 20 states. And there this is -- this is they don`t pay a price there for this. MADDOW: Stan Greenberg, political strategist polling adviser, thanks for helping us understand this results. I appreciate you being here. Thank you. GREENBERG: Thank you. MADDOW: You know, In that point actually, about what happened after Clinton did well in that election and then he came back with a lame duck in pursued impeachment anyway, you think about what`s going on right now in Internal Republican politics. The next thing that`s going to happen in the Republican Party that`s important to Republicans is the 2016 Presidential primary, where they`ve got to prove, they`ve got to convince the candidates, they have to convince Republican primary voters to vote for them. That is something for which impeachment is probably a very appealing case. Just my guess. Lots more ahead tonight. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Two really big things happened today in Washington. Two big potentialities were for fluted today. One is that the Supreme Court is going to think again about whether to kill Obamacare. The Supreme Court said today that they`ll take up a new challenge to the affordable care acts. The case is basically over a drafting error almost a typo in terms of how the law was written. But now that the court has decided to take this case, if they decide in favor of anti-Obamacare plaintiffs, that ruling could, in a stroke, take away health care coverage for over five million people in 36 states. The court agreed today to hear the case, the oral argument will happens in a few months and then the court will rule by June. So that`s one big thing that landed on the political radar today. The other big thing that happened today is the news that the White House, this was exploded today, there was news that the White House had all but confirmed the identity of their nominee to replace Eric Holder as attorney general. Today, rumors swirled all day that the president`s nominee would be this woman. Her name is Loretta Lynch. She`s the U.S. Attorney from Eastern District of New York which means she oversees Federal Prosecutors in Brooklyn, Staten Island and Long Island. So her name circulated unofficially all day today, lot`s of news organization reporting that she was the pick. But it was interesting. The White House, all day, wouldn`t confirm any of the reporting. They said that there is no official word. They said the President would not even make a final decision, let alone an announcement until after he returned from his trip from Asia next week. But then, all of the sudden, late tonight, that changed. After 6:00 p.m., tonight, on a Friday night, the White House announced that yes, in fact, all that reporting was correct. Loretta Lynch is the President`s nominee for Attorney General. President Obama will make the official announcement in person at the White House, tomorrow. And so now, there`s the Washington politics of it all. I mean, especially since we did have the giant national election in which Republican won control of the U.S. Senate which is the body that confirms high level nominees for jobs like attorney general. As a U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, has been confirmed by the Senate twice already. She was confirmed in 2000 and she was confirmed again in 2010. Both times it was by acclimation or no votes against her, such a really faith factor in her favor, in terms of being confirmed as attorney general. Then there`s this other thing. One of the prosecutions that she has led as a U.S. attorney for a large portion of New York City, is the case that recently lead to a 21-count felony indictment against a their serving Congressman. A Staten Island Republican Congressman named Michael Grim. Even though, thanks to Loretta Lynch`s office Congressman Grim really does have 20 felony charges pending against him. Staten Island just re-elected him. He`s indicted. They re-elected him. He`s going back to Washington. And that becomes a whole new level of awkward now that the U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting this Republican Congressman is about to be nominated for Attorney General of the United States. Hold that thought. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: My hope is that even if as we enter into a new Congress, the previous Congress has the opportunity still to make progress on a whole bunch of fronts. And I`m confident we can get that done. So thank you. (INAUDIBLE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President Obama today addressing reporters during that bipartisan meeting with Congressional Leaders at the White House. You saw the president there starting to ignore and then just batting away these questions about whether he had made this decision on who he wanted to be the next Attorney General of the United States. Just a few hours later though, the White House did make it official, announcing that the president intense to nominate the U.S. Attorney from the Eastern District of New York. Her name is Loretta Lynch. President Obama will announce in person tomorrow at the White House that she is his choice to become the new attorney general of the United States succeeding Eric Holder, again, that announcement due tomorrow at the White House. The White House put on statement tonight that it will happen tomorrow at about 11:00 a.m. Joining us now is Alan Vinegrad. He is a former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. He is a long-time colleague, friend and assistant to Loretta Lynch. Mr. Vinegrad, thank you very much for joining us. ALAN VINEGRAD, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY FOR EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Good evening, Rachel. MADDOW: Did you know this was coming? VINEGRAD: I was hoping it was coming. MADDOW: It was very rare to get -- taken from U.S. attorney, federal prosecutor to attorney general. That hasn`t happened in decades. VINEGRAD: Only the second time in history. The last time was 1817. MADDOW: There you go. I was almost, well, yes -- VINEGRAD: Almost two. MADDOW: Almost two. So in terms of Loretta Lynch`s biography, I mean, we know the basics. We know about her storied educational background, her legal career. How would you describe her to a country that is now going to try to figure out what she`d be like as attorney general? VINEGRAD: I think she`ll be a terrific attorney general. She has a whole package of skills you`d want. She`s smart. She has great judgment. She`s fair. She`s very sophisticated. She`s very level headed. She`s been a great leader of one of the largest U.S. attorney`s offices in the country twice now. And she`s obviously committed to the cause of justice. She`s served in the department for 15 years. So to me, she`s got what we want. MADDOW: In terms of what the attorney general does, and sort of remit, of that very, very important job, obviously, part of it is overseeing the Department of Justice. Part of it is setting political priorities in the area of justice for the country in carrying out the president`s policy views in that area. What have been her priorities as a U.S. attorney? Obviously it`s about prosecuting cases, but you oversee a huge number of lawyers, a ton of power. It`s a big jurisdiction. VINEGRAD: Right. MADDOW: How would you describe her priorities? VINEGRAD: I think her priorities mirror those of the Justice Department, generally. I wouldn`t call them political priorities. I call them law enforcement priorities. And I`m talking about areas like terrorism, health care fraud, corruption, organized crime, cybercrime. These are some of the areas where I think the Eastern District has been most active under her tenure in the last few years, and I think that`s consistent with the Department of Justice as a whole. MADDOW: The other thing that happens with attorneys general, it`s sort of be the subtitle under that job title is the lightning rod particularly in Democratic administration. VINEGRAD: Right. MADDOW: Attorneys general tend to be the focus of a lot of very, very partisan criticism. VINEGRAD: Especially with the Republican Congress. MADDOW: How does she deal with criticism and with political attacks? VINEGRAD: So, you know, I think she`s probably one of the most even- tempered people, not just lawyers, I`ve ever worked with. I`ve known her for almost 25 years. I don`t think I`ve ever seen her lose her temper. Once, when I think she was frustrated on a particular issue. She sort of like, you know, took her fists and sort of down-pounded the chair a little bit. MADDOW: At that volume? VINEGRAD: Basically. And that`s about as bad as it gets with her and that`s true in terms of her, sort of outward, you know, appearance in terms of dealing with the public or press conferences and the like. That`s also the way she carries herself with her colleagues and subordinates in the office. She`s very calm, cool and collected, even under pressure, even on high profile situations. To me, that`s also qualities that you want in an attorney general. MADDOW: Alan Vinegrad, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York long-time friend and colleague of Loretta Lynch who we now know is the president`s nominee for U.S. attorney general. If she is confirmed, she`d be the first ever African-American woman in that job succeeding the first ever African-American men in that job and Eric Holder have no idea what the confirmation process will be like or what the political response will be. But the pride that you can feel over this choice in New York is almost palpable. VINEGRAD: Absolutely. MADDOW: Yes, Alan Vinegrad, thanks for being here. Appreciate it. VINEGRAD: Good to be here. MADDOW: Thank you. All right, we`ll be right back. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We have got a mind-bending story coming up next. It`s an American corruption story that is so massive. It approaches like the scale of an African dictator "Kleptocracy" story. It`s a story of incredible corruption. It`s just starting to break. And, even more than that, it is the story of some amazing journalism that led to that story starting to break open right now. This is an amazing story and it`s next. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is a hell of a story. All right, not many journalists win genius awards. The genius award technically is called the McArthur Fellowship. You can`t apply for one. Nobody really knows who does the nominating or the deciding. The McArthur Foundation just calls you up and says you have been picked. When you get picked, if you get a genius award, you get an award of several hundred thousand dollars paid out not at once but over time. The idea is to give you time and freedom to do whatever it is that you have proved to be so extraordinary at doing that you are recognized for this award. The genius award has recently been given to, you know, chemist and cartoonist and economists and community organizers. Not many journalists win genius awards. But this one did. His name is Jerry Mitchell. He is a long time reporter in the great state of Mississippi, works for the Jackson "Clarion-Ledger" newspaper. Jerry Mitchel started to be thought of as maybe a little bit of a genius. When he started tracking down cold cases in Mississippi, really cold cases. His reporting helps them to prison the man who murdered civil right leader, Medgar Evers in Jackson, Mississippi, decades after that killing took place. He helped put in prison this imperial wizard of Klux Klan for a fire bombing in Mississippi decades after the Klan has been thought that they`ve gotten away with it. In 1963, the Klan bombed a church in Birmingham, Alabama on a Sunday morning, killing four little girls. Forty years after that bombing, Jerry Mitchell`s reporting helped send another Klansman to prison for that crime, even though the Klansman had moved away from Alabama and seem to be forgotten as a suspect. In 2006, Jerry Mitchell was named a finalist for the Pulitzer for covering those cases from the civil rights era and then three years after that, reporter, Jerry Mitchell got that phone call from the McArthur folks. At the time, his newspaper had been going through layoffs. He`d been pulled away from his investigative work, but he got that genius award and that genius award bought Jerry Michelle time, freedom and attention and recognition. And what that translated to in his career in journalism was that it basically earned him the right to work on big, long term stuff, stuff that needed lots of lead time. The kinds of stories that might take months of investigating and tons of sources, the stuff you can`t do with two phone calls and a rough draft. But now look at what that work has turned up. Jerry Mitchell spent the last year taking a really deep dive into a very unforgiving subject, Mississippi prisons, no surprise are terrible places. Jerry Mitchell spent the past year plus investigating what goes on behind prison walls in that state investigating the beatings and stabbings and gangster guards and families are being made to pay protection money to keep their loved ones safe in prison and drugs and smuggling, all of this very dark stuff. But one thing, Jerry Mitchell noticed, as he went about his work, was not just that the situation inside the prison system was, but it`s also sort of weird. There seemed to be something strange about what was going on. And it seemed to have to do with the guy at the very top of the system. The guy who has been at the top of that system longer than anyone of state history, something was just off. Here`s an example of what was off. Back in 2012, a federal judge ruled in a lawsuit that one specific Mississippi prison was, quote, "a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions," 2012. The very next year, that same prison got a perfect score, a perfect, 100 percent rating from the American Corrections Association. You know what? It turns out the head of the American Corrections Association, which gave this cesspool of Mississippi prison a perfect, 100 percent school? The head of the American Corrections Association was also the head of the Mississippi Prisons System. Commissioner Christopher Epps said at the time, quote, "Achieving 100 percent of standards is very difficult. I am extremely proud." Jerry Mitchell reported on stuff like that for the "Clarion-Ledger" and the commissioner pushed back against Jerry Mitchell and against this paper for printing those stories. He said Mississippi prisons had gotten perfect scores before he became president of this trade group handing out the perfect scores. We`re always perfect. But, still, that was the kind of thing that was weird, right? The commissioner getting an award from himself for this very, very troubled prison, and Jerry Mitchell kept digging. And I`m not sure even he had an inkling of how huge this story was about to get. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: First in six, the state`s prison facing bribery and money laundering charges. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible) Tammy Esmik is live at the Federal Court House with this corrections correction tape. Tammy? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, that`s right, Ladies. This is a huge investigation. Everyone from the FBI, the IRS, the state auditor`s office, that`s just to name a few. Now, all are accusing the former head of the state prison system and a former lawmaker of a huge bribery conspiracy. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And our commissioner, Christopher Epps is quiet on bribery and conspiracy charges. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this point, we just got the indictment. It`s an extensive document. We really have no comment and the commissioner is not going to make any comment. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The federal prosecutors just unsealed an indictment months in the making against Commissioner Christopher Epps in the Mississippi Department of Corrections, dozens of federal felony charges. Federal prosecutors say he`s been collecting bribes and kickbacks from a local businessman, who has ties to companies that were given contracts to run parts of the prison system. The scale of this thing is actually epic. All told, the companies that are allegedly involved in this game have taken in close to a billion, billion with a "b," dollars, a billion dollars in Mississippi. That comes out to almost $200 for each person in Mississippi. The indictment alleges the commissioner got his share in increments of several thousand dollars at a time. According to prosecutors, the commissioner told the businessman guy after one contract, quote, "I got us $12,000 a month," which they then allegedly divided evenly after accounting for the taxes that the businessman would owe on his part of it. So I guess that part would be legal because he`d pay the taxes on his half. Prosecutors said the commissioner shoot the businessman down for a condo on the Mississippi coast. They say the commissioner than shoot him down again for a larger, more expensive condo, a couple of towns over. Mostly, though, as you read through these 49 felony counts, you get the sense that the commissioner seems to have preferred cash. So much cash that he couldn`t figure out how to keep anybody from noticing that he was awash in bills. Look at this, this is from count one of the indictment and we mapped it out as best we could. Look, quote, "On July 30th, 2009, the commissioner deposited $9,000 cash at the Regions branch bank in Fluid, Mississippi at 2:16 p.m., 15 minutes later, he deposited $9,000 cash at the Bank Plus in Fluid. And 22 minutes after that, he deposited $9,000 cash at Region`s Bank in Jackson and then he deposited, quote, "$9,000 cash" at the Mississippi Public Employees Credit Union in Jackson. Honey, I`ll be back in an hour. I have to go stash $36,000 in cash at four different banks. Commissioner Epps resigned on Wednesday from his as the state prison`s commissioner and as the president of the trade group that gave himself the perfect score. He and the businessman guy pleaded not guilty yesterday. The commissioner now faces 368 years in prison. And I believe that would be federal prison, not Mississippi Cesspool Prison. The governor of Mississippi today announced a full review of prison contracts in the state now that nearly a billion taxpayer dollars are alleged to be tangled up in this scheme with the bribes and the kickbacks. And there`s a lot of questions to answer about this 49-count indictment, which includes not just the commissioner, who allegedly took all the bribes and the kickbacks, but this businessman who`s a former judge and former legislator who is charged with paying him all the brides and the kickbacks in order to get the business from the prison system. But this huge, huge federal corruption case is almost an x marks the spot, where a local reporter, right, the celebrated genius reporter, Jerry Mitchell decided he would spend his new found freedom to dig with his considerable talent and his effort even though nobody wants to hear about something like poorly-run prisons in a poor state. We do not expect much from prisons anywhere in this country. We can at least expect that the people in charge of them will watch out for more than their beachfront condominiums and their Mercedes-Benz sedans and their bank accounts all over town. Fortunately for all of us, as long as we`ve got good local press where we live, we can still expect good local journalists, good local journalists, sometimes genius local journalists to stay on a story like this one wherever it leads and however long it takes. For that, we thank you. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Happy Friday. So much has happened in the news this week. It`s a kind of week that can be a challenge to keep it all straight, which is why we`re about to do this. It`s time to dump this week`s news all over one of our faithful viewers. Producer Nick Tutz is here tonight to make the introduction. Hello, Nick. Snazzy. NICK TUTZ, SHOW PRODUCER: I do what I can. MADDOW: You didn`t wear that all day. TUTZ: No, I did not. I changed because I`m on camera. MADDOW: All right, who is about to play tonight? TUTZ: Tonight, we have Laura Anne Ayres from Zurich, Switzerland. She was actually born in Texas and now lives in Switzerland. She is an opera singer. She is a fan of the Alphorn. And she`s ready for the show so Rachel. MADDOW: Laura Anne, nice to meet you. LAURA ANNE AYRES: Nice to meet you, too. MADDOW: What`s an Alphorn? AYRES: Well, it`s a special instrument that comes from Switzerland. You`ve probably seen it a few times. It`s wooden and very long. MADDOW: It looks like a cross between a shofar thing and a pipe? AYRES: Exactly. MADDOW: Got it. All right, may I ask how do you watch us from Switzerland? AYRES: OK, well, I only listen to the podcast. I listen obsessively every single day. MADDOW: Wow. Thank you for doing that. And welcome. I`m now going to ask you three questions and you know the deal. If you get two or more of them correct, you will win -- Nick, what is the prize? TUTZ: We have one of our RACHEL MADDOW SHOW mini-drink mixers. MADDOW: That`s right. You can use it for all sorts of Swiss things if that`s appropriate. All right, we also now need to bring in the disembodied voice of Steve Bennan, the kind of Maddow blog, who yields tremendous power over your faith in this game. Laura Anne, Steve. Steve, Laura Anne. STEVE BENNAN: Good evening, Laura Anne. AYRES: Hi, Steve. MADDOW: The way this works is I will ask you questions, Steve will tell you whether or not you got them right. If you get two of them right, we`ll give you that cheap thing that Nick just showed you. Ready for your first question? AYRES: Yes. MADDOW: OK, this is exciting. On Monday`s show, which was the day before the election, we talked about the likelihood of President Obama having to face a Republican controlled House and a Republican controlled Senate and therefore we talked about the likelihood that he might start breaking out his until now extremely dusty rarely used veto pen. How many times has President Obama vetoed legislation since he has been president? Is it 11 times, four times, two times, or never? AYRES: Two times? MADDOW: Steve, did Laura Anne get that right? BENNAN: Let`s check the segment from Monday`s show. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Heading into tomorrow`s elections, President Obama so far in this presidency has only vetoed two pieces of legislation. It`s only happened twice so far in this entire presidency. (END VIDEO CLIP) BENNAN: So the correct answer is C, and Laura Anne is one for one. MADDOW: Well done. Also I repeat myself a lot. All right, here`s question two. On Wednesday, we learned that Chevron, the giant oil corporation didn`t have that great of an election, at least at the local level. Chevron spent millions of dollars to try to elect their own chosen candidates in the town of Richmond, California, where Chevron has a really big refinery. But the Chevron candidates all lost. We also learned that I am very immature because I loved the name of the new mayor of Richmond, California, the one who Chevron bet against. What is the name of the new mayor elect of Richmond, California. It`s multiple choice. Is the new mayor`s name Mayor Butt, Mayor Doody, Mayor Snot or Mayor Fart? AYRES: The correct answer is A. MADDOW: Mayor Butt. AYRES: And you might need to grow up. MADDOW: Steve, do I have to grow up and is she correct? BENNAN: Let`s check the segment from Wednesday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: If part of your mind is permanently 8 years old like mine is, the fact that his name is Tom Butt is a constant source of delight. (END VIDEO CLIP) BENNAN: Yes, the Mayor Butt was elected this week. The answer is A, and Laura Anne gets another one right. MADDOW: Very good, excellent. AYRES: The best was when you called it an asset. MADDOW: I wrote it into the script. I was like, I can`t use, I`ll say it anyway. AYRES: Genius. MADDOW: All right, you have one last question. Yesterday`s show, we learned that yet another state legislature flipped from Democratic control to Republican control, but this one happened a day after the election. When the results came in on election night, the particular state Senate was tied half Republican, half Democrat. But when on Wednesday, one Democratic state senator switched parties, thus giving the Republicans of the Senate in his state. In which state did this party-switching state senator give the Republicans control of his state senate for the first time since the great depression? Was it a, Kentucky, b, Tennessee, c, Indiana or d, West Virginia? AYRES: D. MADDOW: Steve? BENNAN: Let`s check the segment from last night`s show. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: A state senator in West Virginia, a Democrat, left the Democratic Party and flipped his registration to Republican. (END VIDEO CLIP) BENNAN: The correct answer is d, just like Laura Anne said. MADDOW: Nick, did Laura Anne win the prize? TUTZ: She did, congratulations. MADDOW: You`re the first person who has gotten them all right. I think you might be our first extra credit winner. Second, first? Well, anyway, you got all three. You only needed two. If we do have a piece of Tom Butt campaign swag around the office somewhere, we`ll mail you that as extra credit along with your tiny shaker. Thank you for playing. AYRES: Super. MADDOW: That was awesome. AYRES: Thank you so much, guys. MADDOW: Thank you. Happy Alphorn. If you think that you have what it takes to survive the Friday night news dump, head over to to learn how to apply. You can win this cheap thing plus maybe something else we find around the office. Before you can do that, though, you do tonight have to go meet your new cell mates. But I have heard they are extra nice to me. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END