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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/06/15

Guests: Monica Malbrough

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to your home for joining us this hour. Happy Friday, and I should also say happy birthday, sort of. Today marks exactly one month since the Republicans took complete control of Congress. And what a month it has been. First things first, because this is the modern Republican Party which the beltway keeps telling us is totally over divisive social issues. The very first thing that the Republican Congress moved on after they got control in Washington, was abortion. They introduced five or six different abortion bans or abortion restrictions right off the bat at the start of the new Congress. Then they decided that the ones they were going to run with, would be a federal nationwide 20-week ban on abortion. They ran it through a committee, they put it on a schedule. It was going to go to the floor of the house for a vote, and then they yanked it. They pulled their own bill. Then the next one was a border bill. The Republican`s own border security bill. Remember securing the border was all they wanted to talk about in the campaign for the last election. So, they had their border security bill. They ran it through committee. Scheduled a vote on the House floor, ready to go on their own border security bill, and then just like the abortion bill, they yanked that one too. Now this was not the Republicans getting, you know, outmaneuvered, right? This was not the Democrats figuring out how to block the Republicans plans. This was just the Republicans doing this to themselves. This was the Republicans on their own not being able to get it together to pass their own legislation with only their own votes. They could not do it. There is also this manufactured crisis at the Department of Homeland Security. They started this new Congress one month ago today, knowing that homeland security is due to run out of money at the end of February. It`s only funded till the end of this month. And they knew that was the case, but so far the Republicans, even though they are in complete control of Congress, they have not been able to pass a bill, to keep homeland security funded. And right now apparently there is no plan for doing that. There is nothing in the works in the Republican-controlled Congress to avoid a shutdown of the whole giant homeland security department in just a couple of weeks. Now, to be fair, in this month that the Republicans have been in charge, they did manage to pass a bill to force the construction of the Keystone pipeline. They passed it as gas prices dropped below $2.00 a gallon. As new poll numbers came out showing that even Republican voters want political action to combat climate change, and they passed the bill at the end of a three-week period, in which there were no fewer than five significant pipeline explosions and ruptures in our country, including one rupture of a North Dakota pipeline that was less than a year old. And that rupture caused the largest spill of its kind in state history. And then right after that, OK, everybody ready to vote on Keystone? It seems like a good - even before they took that vote, President Obama announced he would veto the bill, so, they did pass that one. It`s going nowhere. If you really want to talk futility, though, the Republican Congress did also get up on its hind legs and by some counts, for the 56th time, they got up on their hind legs and they voted to repeal Obamacare again. 56 times. Here`s what that looked like. Can you smell the excitement? As "The Washington Post" summed up for much of the debate on repealing Obamacare for the 56th time, for much of a debate, afternoon, no more than a dozen seats were occupied on the repeal it side of the house. More than once the Republican Party had nobody available to speak on their side at they geared up to do it one more time. It`s like it is not even exciting any more, but they did do it for the 56TH time. It has been one month, exactly since Republicans took full control of Congress. It has not been auspicious first month. You know, but hope springs eternal. They`re the only Congress we`ve got, and we all do really need to have some hope here that Congress is up to the task of doing stuff that only Congress can do. Not only because the Homeland Security Department is about to shut down, but because this Congress is finally going have to do some real work and make a real decision on the very serious matter of ISIS. NBC News is reporting tonight the foreign relations committee in the senate, the foreign affairs committee in the House, they`re expecting draft language for authorizing the use of military force against ISIS. They`re expecting that draft language to arrive on the White House as soon as next week, foreign relations and foreign affairs will be the lead committees for dealing with this in Congress, but it is expected that there is also going to be hearings and debate on this matter in the armed services committees and in the intelligence committees. And again, that may all start next week. It is a little awkward because the war effort is already sixth months old. We are already sixth months into it. There has already been over 2,000 airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Congress has never weighed in on any of it, but they are about to have to. And from the structural perspective of our Constitution and our divided system of government, that is great news. Congress is supposed to make those decisions. From our position as contemporary humans, looking at this particular ridiculous Congress and all it can`t do, it is a little scary to imagine a decision like this in their hands. But the founders left this way. That work, that debate, that decision making will start in Washington next week. They are going to have to get real serious real fast. Today, meanwhile, CENTCOM confirms further airstrikes against ISIS targets, both in Iraq and Syria. Now, the U.S. only ever announces that it is U.S. and coalition fighters carrying out those strikes, but the nation of Jordan for a second day today, probably let it be known, their planes are involved in these strikes as well. Jordan continues to be absolutely enflamed in its response to ISIS killing that Jordanian air force pilot in the propaganda video that ISIS released this week. The airstrikes, though, I`m not sure this is getting a lot of attention, but I think it ought to, particularly as we are heading into this debate in Congress next week. The airstrikes are not the only military part of this campaign. They`re not the only fighting that`s going on. Richard Engel, NBC`s own, is in northern Iraq right now, and he`s with the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters out there who are fighting ISIS. You know, that the Kurds have a sort of semiautonomous region in northern Iraq. Their fighters are called the Peshmerga fighters. And Richard with them, filed this amazing report today about the Peshmerga fighters out there taking and holding, with some difficulty, but holding, the main road between Iraq and Syria and that part of this ISIS threatened territory. And the strategic importance here, and in addition how amazing it is just to see it. The strategic importance here is that if these Kurdish fighters, in northern Iraq, if they can continue to hold that position, if they can continue to control that road, it is possible that ISIS could be split in half between these two countries. Between Iraq and Syria, again, instead of how it has been for months now, which is them controlling territory in both countries in a way that erases the border. Watch, Richard. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RICHARD ENGEL, MSNBC ANCHOR: We joined Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq. America`s closest allies in this war and travelled to their newest frontline position just outside of Mosul, captured two weeks ago. Captain Akram (ph) explained why he and his man fought so hard to take and hold this ground. This position is strategic because from here we control the road from Syria, he said. Now we cut it off. Cutting the road means the Kurds have severed ISIS`s main supply line between Iraq and Syria, and ISIS wants it back. So, there was just an incoming round in this area, luckily it overshot this position. You could see where the soldiers there, the Kurdish fighters are looking at this moment. There comes at another round. So, let`s find a more secure area. The Kurds fire back to keep back ISIS. Sometimes mortar attacks followed by ambushes. The Kurds took this base and have already lost three men holding it. They will lose many more, they say, unless they get a lot more help from Washington and soon. (END VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: That was Richard Engel reporting from northern Iraq today with these Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters. And all of the ground level reporting from Iraq and Syria today about the airstrikes and about the kind of fighting that Richard is witnessing firsthand. All of that fighting, at least for us in this country today, is dominated by the upsetting and at times confusing news today about this young American woman who has been in ISIS custody. And honestly, I will skip to the end here. We do not know her fate at this hour, but her family has given news organizations their blessing to release her name and her photo so we can now tell you without worrying that her family believes it will jeopardize her safety. That she is 26-years old Kayla Mueller. She`s from Prescott, Arizona. She graduated from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, she`d done humanitarian work in a number of places overseas, including some dangerous places. But in 2012 she traveled to the Turkish/Syrian border, and apparently linked up with the number of international aid groups trying to help Syrians, particularly trying to help Syrian kids who had been displaced by the fighting in their country. On august 4th, 2013, so not last year, but the year before, her family says she was kidnapped by ISIS in the Syrian city of Aleppo after she left a hospital operated there by Doctors without Borders. We reported earlier this week that some anonymous U.S. government sources told reporters that as recently as two weeks ago, there had been some specific information about her that led the U.S. to believe that Kayla Mueller was still alive in Syria. None of that has ever been confirmed on the record by a named source, but she has been held by ISIS for a very long time. The U.S. government has known that even though you have probably not heard her name reported in the press before today. She was reportedly one of the Americans who the Special Operations troops were trying to rescue when they dropped into Syria. They dropped into Raqqa in Syria, specifically, in that really high risk helicopter born rescue attempt last July. That was an effort to find all the American hostages known to be held by ISIS at that time. Kayla Mueller and James Foley and Stephen Sotloff and Peter Kassig. Now, that raid last summer, that special-ops raid inside Syria, it was not a fiasco. As far as what we`ve been told, none of those special operators were killed or were seriously wounded in that effort. There was apparently one minor injury. They did get in and safely get out of that most dangerous place on earth where they believed those hostages were being held. But the place that they went where they thought the hostages would be, the hostages were not there. After that raid, three of the four Americans known to be held by ISIS, the three men, James Foley and Stephen Sotloff and then Peter Kassig, were all killed by ISIS, and they were all killed in those brutal, brutal murders that ISIS then turned into execution propaganda videos. But all of this time it has been interesting that ISIS, and they`ve reportedly held Kayla Mueller since August of 2013, but they have never chosen to parade her on camera in one of these propaganda videos. And nobody knows exactly why that was. I will tell you there is speculation as crazy as it sounds, that in the internal logic of their theologically inflected crazy barbarity, it`s been supposed that they had some strategic reason we can`t understand about why they didn`t want to film themselves killing a woman in the same way they killed all those men. Maybe, it sort of seems unlikely, given the way they`ve treated women everywhere they`ve had the opportunity to. But for whatever reason, they have never paraded Kayla Mueller on camera and as far as we know, they have never filmed any sort of execution video of her. But then today, the day after Jordan proudly claimed responsibility for sending dozens of its F-16s on airstrike raids against ISIS targets in Syria, today ISIS announced that actually Jordan killed her. Announced that it was definitely Jordanian warplanes, it wasn`t ISIS that killed her. It wasn`t ISIS that killed her after kidnapping her and holding her the hostage for a year and a half. No, no, no. It`s somebody`s else`s fault that they say she is now dead. And it may be true. It may be true that she`s dead, it may be true that she was killed in that airstrike, in those airstrikes, but there are reasons to be skeptical. And the news coverage today hasn`t been skeptical, I think it ought to be given the facts that we know. I mean, the first one is the most obvious. It is a little too tidy, right? It`s a little too perfect for them as an explanation, particularly if they didn`t want to be seen as responsible for killing her because she is a woman. All right, so that is convenient to be able to blame it on somebody else. Why simultaneously trying to deflate the patriotic fervor in Jordan right now. The sort of national scream of outrage in that country for retaliation against ISIS. Obviously, they`re trying to deflate that by blaming this blameless hostage`s death on Jordan`s airstrikes. It is worst reason to be skeptical is that it is way too convenient. The second reason to be skeptical is that they provided no evidence whatsoever that she was killed by those airstrikes or by any other means. The only thing ISIS publicized was this photo of a damaged building in Raqqa, or they say at least it`s in Raqqa, and that`s why they say, she was being held. And that`s where they say, that she was killed in a Jordanian airstrike, but there is no images that prove any of that at all. And then there is the third point. The location. The location in which they say that she was killed. These are the airstrike videos that were released by the Pentagon today. You see, they come with an open - this is the opening slate. The screen slate. Jordanian airstrike. They said a Jordanian airstrike. So, according to the Pentagon, these are tapes of Jordanian F- 16 dropping bombs on ISIS targets in Syria. Interesting, of course, that they`re naming Jordan as the country carrying these out since they previously have not been naming coalition countries, but there are also specifically labeling these airstrikes as hitting targets near al-Hasakah. And forgive my pronunciation. Hasakah. Al-Hasakah, which is an ISIS- controlled area of Syria. But it`s nowhere near Raqqa, and Raqqa is where ISIS today said that those terrible Jordanian airstrikes resulted in the death of this American hostage. So, it`s been reported everywhere today that American aid worker Kayla Mueller had been killed in Syria while being held by ISIS militants. And that may be true. It also may not be true. Even the claim is obviously of grave concern. It is of more concern than even knowing that she`s been held all this time, and it must be a very, very heroing (ph) time for her family and for everyone who knows and loves her. But anybody that is taking ISIS`s word on what happened here, and say, oh, yeah, this is Jordanian airstrikes that killed her. Anybody who`s taken ISIS explanation of what happened here as truth, as the descriptive journalistic truth of what happened here, is both ignoring some very good reasons to be skeptical about their claims, and frankly, doing ISIS propaganda work for them. Like repeating what ISIS says uncritically? It is like posting an ISIS propaganda video online and full for everybody to enjoy. Thank you, you have just done ISIS`s work for them. If ISIS has earned nothing - nothing else, it is the right to be known as liars. Joining us now is NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell. She`s also the host of "Andrea Mitchell Reports" here on MSNBC. Andrea, it`s great to see you, thanks for being here. ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: You too, Rachel. MADDOW: So, you reported tonight on nightly news that it was a shaky claim at best when ISIS said today that she was killed by Jordanian bombs in Raqqa today. Why is it a shaky claim? MITCHELL: For many of the reasons that you`ve just sited. I`m so glad, Rachel, that you are as appropriately skeptical, as you were in your description of what this is all about. First of all it is too convenient. Right after the rallying of Jordanian, the public, the military, in a previously divided country about the wisdom of these coalition airstrikes including the father of the dead pilot. Now you`ve got a country completely united, a region united. You`ve got the other Arab leaders. They`re all, you know, so repulsed by the burning alive of the Jordanian pilot that ISIS had gone too far, and it perhaps was a turning point. We don`t know. But there really was a coming together, and now 24 hours later, they say it was a Jordanian pilot that killed the American hostage. Far too convenient. Plus the location. They showed us a picture, we don`t know if that is in Raqqa, but they showed us the rubble. They claimed it was Raqqa. And the Jordanian and U.S.-led coalition did not hit, if we are to believe, the CENTCOM, the Pentagon and the coalition leaders, they didn`t hit any targets there, they were 140 miles away. So, that doesn`t make sense. Plus, we have not seen any proof, and in the past, they have come up with evidence, visual evidence that is then fairly rapidly confirmed by the experts, by the intelligence officials and then acknowledged by Jordan, by the, you know, the White House. That has not happened in this case. So there is reason to hope. Now, the fact that they are liars, the fact that the Jordanian pilot was dead for weeks before they even started negotiating for his release in a prisoner swap, and then intelligence established that, that also leads one to believe that something horrible could have happened to her and they did not acknowledge her death. But one hopes and the family hopes, and we just have to hope and pray that she is still alive and that the lack of evidence bears that out. I just want to say, you know, I have covered a lot of stories as you know. I go back a long way. This got to me. I felt that I knew her somehow in reading about her, in absorbing the information about her, and in keeping it secret at the request of the family, agreed to by the government that the best hope was to not make this too big of a deal. To not feed into the propaganda machine. And so, we tried to keep it as quiet as possible until this announcement today. And she is like all of your young idealistic, passionate, hopeful assistants, young producers, associate producers, interns, the college women here in our news room today. They were devastated by this and I found myself reacting and channeling their aspirations and inspiration that a young woman who would go to this border, and then join doctors without borders as a volunteer, who previously had been in India, in Israel, in Palestine, had come back to Flagstaff working in an HIV/AIDS clinic, then gone back to the region. She is the best of America and so ewe just we hope she is alive. MADDOW: And especially because she was held for so long. To have held - to have held - I mean to your point, to have held the story, but also to have seen her family having to hold on to this hope for so long. Knowing what she has been through, and knowing what - what not just unusual, but just terrifying circumstances she has been in. It`s been so - for so long. I do feel like the only responsible thing we can do now is admit what we don`t know. MITCHELL: Exactly. MADDOW: And to hope for the best. Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, chief foreign affairs correspondent, thank you so much, Andrea. MITCHELL: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: Andrea Mitchell, of course, hosts Andrea Mitchell Reports weekdays` noon here on MSNBC. All right, we do actually have some breaking news next, we`re just getting into the news room. I have not even fully digested it yet. But I`ve just been handed some of this. It is news about the fight against ISIS. It`s breaking tonight, actually, from the Justice Department and we have got that breaking news ahead, stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So we have breaking news to tell you about tonight. It is just now coming, and it`s just crossing, we`ve just wrangled NBC justice correspondent Pete Williams to phone in with the live report to explain this. This is news that is breaking from the Justice Department tonight, it concerns ISIS. We`re getting Pete now, we`ll be back with him in just a second, please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, as promised there is some breaking news to report tonight. The Justice Department is now reporting, that they have charged six individuals, six individuals living in the United States with providing material support to the ISIS terrorist group. Five of those individuals apparently have been arrested, and a sixth is believed to be at large and overseas. Again, this news is just breaking within the last hour. Joining us now, to help us understand what`s going on here is NBC News chief justice correspondent Pete Williams. Pete, thanks for joining us, what is going on with this story? PETE WILLIAMS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well the Justice Department says a St. Louis man named Abdullah Ramo Pazara went to Syria in 2013, and they say in the months that followed five - rather, six people in the U.S. we are sending him support, sending him cash by Western Union and PayPal, and also sending him clothes, firearms, accessories, military boots, camouflage, gloves, all kinds of other things that would help him. The people that have been charged here, three of them are from the St. Louis area. A husband and wife that are 40 and 35. One is from Utica, New York, one is from suburban Chicago. And the other is from Rockford, Illinois. So, they are in essence charged with indirectly supporting ISIS by supporting this man who the government says went to Syria in 2013 and they say they believe that he was killed last year at some point. MADDOW: Is he named as one of the people who they are charging, even if they believe that he has been killed? WILLIAMS: No, and for that reason they`re not charging him. They say they believe Pazara is dead, and of course, therefore he can`t be charged. Of the six that were charged, as you point out, they say that five were arrested in the United States. The sixth, and they don`t tell us which it is, is still overseas. They don`t want to give that person a heads up, that they`re on to that person. They`re trying to get that other country to make the arrest. MADDOW: I see. So that was my confusion, so the person who received this material support from the United States, at least according to the complaint is believed to have been killed, but one of the people who is alleged to have sent that material support is no longer in the United States, and is being sought abroad? WILLIAMS: That`s right. Now, they do say that one of these six people, the person who lived in Utica, New York tried to go to Syria, but did not succeed. So we don`t know who the other person is, and we don`t at this point know what country that other person is in. MADDOW: One last quick question for you. Do we know that, or is the allegation that these six people were working together or that they form any sort of - I know I hate to use the word "sell," but that sort of what I mean. That they were any sort of group in this country, or they - are they grouped together in this charge by happenstance because they all have different sort of connections to this dead ISIS fighter? WILLIAMS: It is not clear how they came to know each other. What the government says Pazara communicated by social media, by Facebook, by other social media. Sometimes by phone and used coded language. But it is not clear from this relatively bare bones indictment that was just been unveiled tonight whether they all were in essence in cahoots with him before he left the country . MADDOW: Right. WILLIAMS: Or whether he formed some alliances with him after he got there. But in any event, the government says they sent this material to him through the postal service to Turkey, and then intermediaries took it from Turkey into Syria and gave it to him. MADDOW: NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams. Pete, thank you for joining us on short notice, I really appreciate your help with this. WILLIAMS: You bet. MADDOW: Thank you. Again, that breaking news from Pete Williams is that an indictment has just been unsealed tonight. Just in a last hour. Six people being charged with material support for ISIS fighters. Specifically one ISIS fighter who had become an actualized citizen in the United States, went to Syria, was fighting with ISIS, was killed there, but six people are being charged with having him sent him stuff to help him fight from this country. Five of the six people are said tonight to be under arrest. One is being sought. Authorities tonight are saying that he is not in the United States, but they are not saying where he is. A dramatic story just breaking tonight. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Debunktion Junction, what`s my function? All right. The first one tonight is an important one. Now, you have probably seen this story in the last 24 or 48 hours. There`s been a bunch of media reports in the last day or so, saying that federal investigators have launched a new federal criminal investigation into Governor Chris Christie and his administration. No, not the bridge thing where the Christie administration may have closed down lanes on a bridge to purposely gridlock one New Jersey town as political retribution. No, not the bridge thing, this is a different thing. And no, not the Hoboken thing, where local officials said the Christie administration might have stiffed the city on Super Storm Sandy recovery money as political retribution against their city. No, not the Hoboken thing, this is a different thing. Also, it`s not the Jersey City thing where local officials said the Christie administration stiffed that city on economic development efforts as political retributions. And no, it`s the Bridgegate thing, it`s not the Hoboken thing, it`s the Jersey City thing, it`s a different thing. It is also not the travel thing, and the RGA thing where Governor Christie has reportedly taken lots of gifts and free travel and donations from people with business before the state. No, it`s not that thing either. This is a different thing. No, it`s not even the other brand new thing where Governor Christie`s mentor and his top appointee to an agency called the Port Authority has been asked to explain basically whether he got United Airlines to do him the favor of creating a brand new flight route between Newark Airport and his vacation home for the duration of the time that he was chairman of the Port Authority and the United Airlines had lots of business before the Port Authority. United reportedly canceled that route which was called the chairman`s flight. They reportedly cancelled that three days after said chairman had to resign from the port authority last spring. I know it is a little hard to keep track of all of the investigations and allegations that follow New Jersey Governor Christi Christie around like a herd of stray dogs following a tanker truck full of quibble that has sprung a leak. I know it is hard to keep track sometimes of what is following him around. But the Chris Christie story we`re actually talking about here is one that you might remember from way back, that`s about the cat police. It is a case that originated in rural Hunterdon County, New Jersey. It involves a local sheriff`s department, fake credentials, and a branch of the SPCA -- I kid you not -- that outfitted itself as a paramilitary organization. The story is nuts nine ways to Sunday. If you want to get back into the details, including the cat police, we have reposted our segment on this story at Maddow Blog tonight in case you want to watch it again, it`s great. But, basically, for all of the crazy details of this Hunterdon County case, the allegations of wrongdoing concerning Governor Chris Christie and his administration boil down to a former assistant prosecutor in New Jersey who says he was fired basically for prosecuting people that the Christie administration didn`t want prosecuted. The way the prosecutor tells it, he says the Christie administration quashed his investigation, quashed his indictment against some Christie administration allies. Again, like I said, it`s a juicy story. And the local prosecutor who got fired in this case, Ben Barlyn, he has been pursuing this case for a very long time. But these new reports this week are sort of shocking. There`s been all these headlines this week saying that federal investigators have now launched a formal federal criminal investigation into this Hunterdon County scandal, these allegations by prosecutor Ben Barlyn against Governor Christie and his administration. So, you might have seen those headlines this week. Is it true? Have federal prosecutors launched a federal investigation into Governor Christie and his administration concerning this Hunterdon case? You have seen the headlines about it this week. Is it true or is that false? (BUZZER) MADDOW: False. Or at least we don`t know. Here is the thing: Ben Barlyn, this local prosecutor, who says he was fired for all the wrong reasons. He has been spoken to by federal investigators. He has been asked interviewed by federal investigators asking about his allegations against Governor Chris Christie. That does not necessarily mean there is some new formal federal criminal investigation into the Christie administration. The headlines on the story this week had been very juicy but they have been overblown. We spoke to the former prosecutor Ben Barlyn today and he says, yes, he did speak to federal prosecutors this week. He also says he has no idea whether a federal criminal investigation has actually been launched into his allegations. We also reached out to the U.S. attorney`s office in New Jersey today. They would neither confirm nor deny whether their investigators actually did speak with Ben Barlyn, but they told us that reports characterizing an investigator speaking with Ben Barlyn, characterizing those conversations as their office having launched an investigation into Governor Christie, those reports are, and I quote, "a tremendous leap forward. We talk to people all of the time. It doesn`t mean we`re investigating anybody." Quote, "Any characterization that we are investigating the governor about this is just not true." And that`s the horse`s mouth. So, there is a federal criminal investigation of Chris Christie in New Jersey about bridgegate, right? As far as we can tell, not necessarily this whole other unrelated scandal. There might, in fact, be a federal investigation of that other story, the cat police story, right, at some point. But if there is yet, nobody knows about it, the prosecutor isn`t saying. So, although a bunch of reporting, national news organizations jumped the gun on this one -- (BUZZER) MADDOW: -- don`t believe the hype. There`s more, though. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Debunktion Junction continues. All right. Another one might have heard about today that screened out for Debunktion Junction, here it is -- is it true or false that Elvis has left the Republican Party? Is that true or is that false? (BELL) MADDOW: What, that was like the saddest, tiniest little bell I have ever heard in my entire life. Come on. Bring it. (BELL) MADDOW: Slightly better. Can`t get any bigger than that? (BELL) MADDOW: Fix the bell. So, yes, it`s true and it`s glorious. This is former State Senator Tim Johnson who served two terms as a Republican in the Mississippi State Senate. He is a legitimate and pretty well known politician in the state of Mississippi. He noted this week that he had served Mississippi as an elected Republican official for five different terms in three different offices. Senator Tim Johnson, look, is also pretty known in Mississippi politics because of this. That`s him in the white suit with the red scarf. He is an Elvis impersonator. He`s actually a pretty good Elvis impersonator. He performs as Elvis all over Mississippi and has had some pretty good success performing as Elvis all across the country. Well, now, this particular Elvis, Republican State Senator Tim Johnson, has decided to make a big, big change. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FORMER STATE SEN. TIM JOHNSON (D), MISSISSIPPI: Today, ladies and gentlemen, I have an announcement. I am announcing today that I am switching to the Mississippi Democratic Party. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) And I also want to announce that I am running to be the next lieutenant governor in the great state of Mississippi. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Mississippi is a very Republican state. So much so that the Democratic Party is sometimes recently had a hard time even fielding candidates for statewide races. But the Democratic Party of Mississippi just got a former two-term state senator and a very well known Elvis to join their team. He gave this heartfelt speech today saying he was switching in part because of Obamacare. Because Mississippi Republicans won`t expand Medicaid in the state, Medicaid in the state, and that`s going to close a lot of Mississippi hospitals, including he says the one that his mother is in right now in his hometown and he just says he cannot abide it. And so, Elvis has left the building. And he is seeking to come back in through the other door. Obamacare of all things is minting new Democrats in the great state of Mississippi. That is a true story. All right. Last one, finally, true or false -- I love this one -- a Republican congressman has changed the bill number on his federal legislation in order to avoid the devil, altering a piece of federal congressional legislation because of Satan, Satan, Satan. Is that true or is that false? (BELL) MADDOW: True. Joe Barton, congressman from Texas, filed a bill this week. It was assigned the number 666, House Bill 666. Instead of keeping the number, the congressman had it changed. It`s now an innocuous bill number 702. He did not want his crude oil imports bill marred with the number 666, because you can never be too on guard against the mark of the beast in the House of Representatives. (BELL) MADDOW: Too true. Too true. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Still ahead tonight: we`ve got an important and I think a surprising update on a story we covered a few days ago, that the government has now done a 180 on. We covered this story. We`re very worried about what the government seems to have done. It now seems that the government has completely reversed course on that story. It`s an interesting one and that`s next. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is such a strange story. All right. You remember the incredible melting Afghan police training center that we spent a half million dollars for? It melts when it rains. And then, there`s a fleet of airplanes that we bought for Afghanistan for $486 million and then ended up shredding into scrap for 6 cents a pound. Two examples of the kind of nonsense and waste exposed by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction. A few days ago, you may remember that we reported on a sudden and unexplained decision by the U.S. military to start classifying to newly make secret a whole bunch of stuff about what we`re doing in Afghanistan that didn`t used to be classified before. All of a sudden, everything related to our support for the Afghan forces, everything from how many Afghan soldiers there are, to how much the U.S. spends on food to them, food for them. All of these things which have been publicly available for the past six years were now secret, which is a problem if you want to know how the U.S. mission is going in Afghanistan if everything that might tell you that is now a secret. So, that was last week. Our report on that was Thursday. Now, look the American military command in Afghanistan has changed its mind. That information that had been unclassified and was then classified is now going to be re-declassified, at least we think so. The inspector general tells us that that office is still trying to figure out exactly what has been un-un-unclassified. But the military was at least embarrassed enough by what they did last week that they`re reversing some of it. We will stay on it to get to the bottom of it. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, it turns out the great thing about weeks is that they end. We are ending this one, splat, with a Friday night news dump. Producer Nick Tuths is here, richly tanned, and fresh from his honeymoon. Congratulations, Mr. Newlywed. NICK TUTHS, TRMS PRODUCER: Thank you very much, Rachel. MADDOW: It seems like you`re wearing it well. TUTHS: I`m doing the best I can, you know? MADDOW: If you`re not a good husband, we will all be furious with you. TUTHS: I know. MADDOW: One thing about our family, we will set up on you like locusts, we like her for so much. TUTHS: I respect you for it. MADDOW: All right. Who`s playing -- after that threat -- who`s playing on the Friday night news dump? TUTHS: We have Monica Malbrough from Atlanta, Georgia. MADDOW: Hi, Monica. TUTHS: She`s getting a PhD in political science. MADDOW: OK. TUTHS: She`s done field work for her dissertation in Mozambique and she is obsessed with maps. MADDOW: Monica, it`s very nice to meet you. Thank you for coming on the show. MONICA MALBROUGH, ATLANTA, GA: Thank you. MADDOW: PhD on political science is not useful for anything, take it from me. MALBROUGH: I know. I`ve been in it for a long time. (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: Were you doing political science dissertation, research in Mozambique on their political system? MALBROUGH: Yes, I do Sub-Saharan African politics, so I was there doing my field work. So -- MADDOW: Very good. MALBROUGH: One day, I`ll finish my dissertation. MADDOW: Can I ask you, like how far along you think you are in dissertation? MALBROUGH: I know that you probably have had that question in the past. I`m on my theory chapter, so I`m getting into the data side. It`s a work in progress. MADDOW: My secret about the theory chapter, they don`t really read it. They want to know you did a theory chapter, but they`re going to read the Mozambique stuff way more than they`re going to red the like -- MALBROUGH: That`s really good advice, because I`ve been pulling my hair out for weeks over my theory chapter. So -- MADDOW: I mean, worry about it, but if you want something, if there is a place to cheat, that`s it. OK. MALBROUGH: OK. MADDOW: This is a way it goes. I`m going to ask you three questions. If you get two or more of the three questions, you will win -- Nick, what is Monica`s prize? TUTHS: A Rachel Maddow drink shaker. MADDOW: Teeny, teeny, tiny cocktail shaker. And if you get all three right, and so, you need extra credit, or if you only get one right and you need a consolation prize, or if it just feels like that kind of night, we also might send you something random that we found in our office. Tonight, we`re doing something a little different. We`re actually going to offer you a choice of junk from the office, because I couldn`t narrow it down. Nick, what are Monica`s random office junk choices? TUTHS: So, the random office junk is this NFL football, from our deflate- gate, bathroom escapade, or we have something very special, we have this chain, and this big daddy four knuckle ring. MADDOW: OK, these are of no value. TUTHS: They`re of no value. We had not known where this was, but somebody on the staff remembered. This was actually worn by Kent Jones in an old segment. He looks great. MADDOW: We dressed him up. (CROSSTALK) MALBROUGH: I`m from Atlanta, so that speaks to me. MADDOW: OK. All right. So, that`s what you`re going for then. All right. We also need to bring in the disembodied voice of Steve Benen, lord of Maddow blog. He was also the guy who determines whether or not you got the right answer. Hi, Steve. STEVE BENEN, MADDOW BLOG: Good evening to both of you. MADDOW: Hello. All right, Monica. Ready for your first question? MALBROUGH: Yes, ma`am. MADDOW: From Monday`s show -- on Monday`s show, we talked about a trip that then presidential candidate Mitt Romney made to England in 2012. It was a trip that did not go well. On this trip, one of the things that didn`t go well is he addressed the head of the Labour Party, Ed Milliband, by the wrong name. What did he call him? Did he call him, (a), Mr. Labor, (b), Mr. Party, (c), Mr. Leader, or (d), Mr. Bean? (LAUGHTER) MALBROUGH: I love Mr. Bean, but I know it`s (c), Mr. Leader. MADDOW: Steve, did Monica get that right? BENEN: The question is not easy, but let`s check the Monday`s show. MADDOW: OK. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: He repeatedly described him in that appearance as "Mr. Leader", which sounds like a nice sort of complimentary thing. That is not a term that is used in Britain. (END VIDEO CLIP) BENEN: You know, I wish he had said Mr. Bean, too. But the correct answer is (c), Mr. Leader, and Monica is correct. MADDOW: Ed Milliband was mad enough without calling him Mr. Bean. OK. You have to get two right to win at least the shaker prize. On Wednesday`s show, we talked about one of our coalition partners, one of the U.S. coalition partners in the air strikes against ISIS, reportedly refusing to fly coming missions in Syria after ISIS captured that Jordanian fighter pilot back on New Year`s Eve. That coalition member reportedly demanded that more military assets get positioned closer to the action in case more pilots needed to get rescued. The question for you is, which country reportedly decided not to put pilots in harm`s way until more got done in terms of search and rescue report? Was that (a), Kuwait, (b), Saudi Arabia, (c), Bahrain, or (d), the United Arab Emirates? MALBROUGH: It`s (d), the United Arab Emirates. MADDOW: Steve, is she right about that? BENEN: Let`s check Wednesday`s show. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: We also learned that the United Arab Emirates suspended its participation in air strikes against ISIS. They suspended that key part of their involvement in the U.S.-led coalition in December. (END VIDEO CLIP) BENEN: Yes, that`s right. Correct answer is (d). And Monica is correct again. MADDOW: Well done. And the super surprising like coda to that story was that the day after we learned over those complaints, the U.S. announced that they did, in fact, move search and rescue -- more search and rescue assets closer to where UAE wanted them. Anyway, I digress. Are ready for your last question? MALBROUGH: I`m ready. MADDOW: This is from Thursday`s show. We introduced America, we talked about C.J. and Charlie. They`re bears. They`re two Oregon high tech bears, two guys who have owned the Web site since 2008. So, the question is, what do CJ and Charlie plan to do with the URL Do they plan to (a), sell it to Jeb Bush for a million dollars, (b), post content about gay rights on the Web site, (c), make it redirect to Rand Paul`s campaign Web site, because they`re Rand Paul supporters, or (d), do they plan to use it to post pictures of their dog, which is named Jeb Bush? MALBROUGH: I wish it was all like C, D and A. But I know it`s B. MADDOW: Steve? BENEN: That`s correct. Our high teach bears, they plan to post content about gay rights and Monica is correct once again. MADDOW: Excellent. Can I also tell you, I know I`m diverging from the script here. We got a letter from CJ and Charlie after we did the segment. Do you remember at the beginning I said if there`s any justice in the world they`ll be on the show? MALBROUGH: Yes. MADDOW: Listen to what they said, as to the question of appearing on the show, let me answer with an old Southern saying, has a cat got climbing gear? Which means, yes, we would love to. So, we`re going to have them on the show at some point. MALBROUGH: We love our bears in Atlanta, by the way. MADDOW: Everybody loves bears. They`re the universal lunch. All right. Nick, did Monica win the prize or prizes? TUTHS: She did. She got all three right. She got the shaker and I don`t know, you get all three right. You get to choose? MADDOW: Monica, you want to the football or you want the big daddy? MALBROUGH: You know, I feel like you guys were attached to that bag of balls and I live in Atlanta, so I will rock that chain and the ring. MADDOW: All right. We will send you that cheap chain and the four knuckle big daddy ring. Monica, thank you so much for playing. It was great to have you here. MALBROUGH: Thank you. MADDOW: Thank you. That was really fun. All right. If you want to be like Monica, even though you no longer have the opportunity to be the big daddy, please send us an e-mail at, tell us who you are, where you`re from, why you want to play the Friday night news dump. There is cheap stuff in our office with your name on it. But right now, you have to go to a place where you`re known by a number. Go to prison. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END