The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 03/17/15

Guests: Lynn Sweet, Barbara Boxer

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: You bet. MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Today was a day of lots of late breaking news, particularly from overseas. In Israel, polls closed at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time in the U.S., 10:00 p.m. local time in Israel, and the whole world is waiting to see the fate of Israel`s prime minister and whether or not he would be reelected in these elections today or whether the country of Israel would instead take a great leap to the left by rejecting Prime Minister Netanyahu and his party. They have a parliamentary system in Israel so the election results are not going to be a black and white/yes or no question any time soon. At this point, the exit polls from today`s election in Israel show the two major parties got roughly equal numbers of votes and roughly equal number of seats in parliament. So, they were likely have to be lots of wrangling over the next days and weeks before we know exactly who is going to govern Israel and in what form of coalition. So, that story broke late this afternoon with polls closing. It continues to develop tonight and will continue to develop into tomorrow and beyond. We also got late word tonight from the Secret Service, just a few minutes ago actually, that a letter that arrived recently at the White House has tested positive for signs of cyanide. Nobody is said to be in danger from the letter, it is now undergoing further testing, but again we do have that testing result from the Secret Service, just within the last few minutes and we`re going to have more on that story in just a moment. It has been a very busy day in the news and a lot of things as yet unresolved. But in the midst of some of that breaking news today, there was also a shocking development here at home in politics, when a really high profile member of the United States Congress today suddenly resigned without warning and without much of an explanation. In 2007, one of the profoundly steady hands of American politics announced that he wouldn`t be running for office again. His name was Ray LaHood, and he`d served as a Republican member of Congress for more than a decade at that point. Ray LaHood was reelected from a safe district for Republicans in Peoria, Illinois. Ray LaHood was steady enough and centrist enough and not to put too fine a point on it, but boring enough, just noncontroversial enough that President Obama ending up picking him to be his transportation secretary after Ray LaHood finished his time in Congress. Even though he was a Republican, he became part of President Obama`s cabinet. The exit of Ray LaHood from his congressional seat in electoral terms, it was no real problem for the Republican Party in Illinois. That district is really reliably red, for one thing, and Illinois Republicans had a boy wonder ready to step up and take that seat. Aaron Schock, he`d already won a seat in the Illinois Statehouse when he was just 23 years old. The state had never had a younger lawmaker than Aaron Schock. Aaron Schock was this young, super ambitious, attractive, well-spoken, aggressive guy. Did I mention he was young? And at the time that young Mr. Schock was readying his run for Ray LaHood`s old seat from that safe Republican district, Republicans in Congress at the time were trying to remake themselves in the image of a youthful party. House Republicans, Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy and Paul Ryan, they launched this Republican Young Guns campaign in 2007. Aaron Schock was his own much younger gun, right? He was reelected to Congress, to Congress, to United States Congress, when he was only 27. Even though that year that he got elected, 2008, that was the year when Republicans got beaten badly. They lost the White House that year, they lost ground in the Senate, they lost ground in the House. But in 2008, Republicans did get from Illinois this new boy wonder, Aaron Schock, the first member of Congress born in the 1980s. So, when Aaron Schock came up from Peoria to Congress, he was already kind of a star. I don`t know why exactly the Beltway press has such love for stories about members of Congress exercising, but the Beltway press really loves to do stories about the workout routines of members of Congress, especially love bipartisan stories about members of Congress doing their workouts. This bipartisan story about members of Congress working out appeared last summer filed under fashion. Here we have Congressman Aaron Schock enjoying his bipartisan workout with Democratic freshman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, an Iraq war vet. These two freshmen members of Congress both very attractive, very young, a bipartisan duo in the gym. They`re the new generation in Congress. Right now in the background of this photo, see the guy in the red t- shirt, sort of out of focus? That`s Congressman Kevin McCarthy. He really was supposed to be the Young Gun guy. He started the Young Guns not that long ago. No offense to Congressman McCarthy, but when you`re the paunchy guy in the background of the picture, and this guy in the baseball hat is the guy in the foreground -- you guy in the red shirt, you can`t be the young gun anymore. New guy is obviously the young gun. Now, that is young. Also look at his guns. I mean -- Aaron Schock was the boy wonder that Republicans had been hoping for. This attractive, fit, new kid on the block. Honestly, in substantive terms, he did not do all that much as a member of Congress. He was not known for passing any particularly big or meaningful bills. He`s not associated with any particular causes. But he was, you know, young and fit and a great face for the party. He was able to parlay it into tons and tons of media appearances and also his own Republican Generation Y PAC, and also a famous star-turned, yes, that`s him, on a cover of men`s health. Congressman, really? He was handsome Aaron Schock. The young buck from Peoria, with a very, very well done Instagram account and the unavoidable shirtlessness every time you turn around. Aaron Schock was it. And yes, sure, maybe he decided he would read a magazine called "Washington Life" in Congress ostentatiously, literally on the floor of the House while Kathleen Sebelius was testifying about Medicare cost before his committee. Medicare costs are boring. This magazine is awesome. Aaron Schock could get away with stuff like that, right? He was Republican boy wonder. But there was always another thing about Aaron Schock from the very beginning of his career. When Aaron Schock was first running for Congress back in 2008, that November 2008 election got close, local press in Illinois started running stories about something he had years before even that, when he was barely out of his teens. Look at this. False dates on documents raise questions for Schock. It turns Aaron Schock`s parents had been the victims of a financial scam and there was a trial about that scam that had swindled Aaron Schock`s parents. Aaron Schock`s dad testified in that trial that his son had signed off on back-dated documents. The date was off by more than a year. Aaron Schock was a public notary and he signed off on those misdated documents anyway. His dad testified at trial that his son did that. And at the time, the "Peoria Star Journal" noted that what Aaron Schock had done, putting false dates on those documents that he then notarized, that could be considered a crime. That report appeared less than a month before the election that sent him to Congress. It was just a little embarrassment on his way to becoming a young Republican star in Congress. You know, he went on to Congress. That mini-scandal back in Peoria did not turned out to be a big problem for him. But it might have been a first sign, because this did become a big problem. February of this year, a "Washington Post" style reporter named Ben Terris stopped by Congressman Aaron Schock`s new office on Capitol Hill. Reporter Ben Terris described the anteroom of the congressman`s office this way, quote, "bright red walls, a gold-colored wall sconce with black candles, a federal style bull`s eye mirror with an eagle perched on top. The receptionist said the decor was based on "Downton Abbey." And then his interior designer popped out of a doorway inside the office and introduced herself and showed this reporter the congressman`s private office also with a dramatic red motif with very memorable furnishings, like a dripping crystal chandelier, massive arrangements of pheasant feathers. When the congressman`s staff realized that they had a reporter taking a tour and snapping pictures about what the office looked like, they asked the reporter to delete the photos from his phone. All of which would be embarrassing enough for young Congressman Aaron Schock, both the scale of the design, asking the reporter to get rid of the pictures. But then, the congressman`s staff hit real trouble, possibly as they tried to make this "Downton Abbey" office thing not seem like such a big deal. The congressman`s staff said that the designer had offered her services for free. She had volunteered her time. That detail, that explanation that the work had been donated to Aaron Schock, well, that`s a gift then, right? That`s a donation. That led to allegations that Congressman Schock was violating the rules about accepting gifts as a member of Congress. That little Beltway style report about Congressman Aaron Schock`s new office was meant to be a human interest thing, right? But this mention that the designer had worked for free, it just started as a very fast, very ultimately destructive cascade of terrible news for Aaron Schock. I mean, first, we got that allegation about the "Downton Abbey" office. Then came allegations that he might have taken private plane rides that violated House rules, then "The A.P." cross referenced his fancy Instagram account with those plane rides to show him how him jetting around the concerts and parties. And then, "BuzzFeed" pointed out the presidential knockoff lectern that the congressman like to use for appearances, that cost him thousands of dollars. Then, we learned that Congressman Schock`s staffers had gone on a taxpayer-funded trip to New York where they had, quote, "few official duties". What started as one off hand comment about the decorating of his office in this ostentatious way turned into a full-blown mess for Aaron Schock. Boy wonder`s cape was unraveling really fast. And Congressman Schock dealt with it as best he could. He paid back a lot of stuff, paid $40,000 for the office redesign. He got rid of some staffers. He hired some lawyers. He got a new PR team. He hired new accountants to look over his books and make sure he was doing things right. He held a press conference back home, and told everybody back home in his district that knew this didn`t look good, but he was going to do better in the future. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. AARON SCHOCK (R), ILLINOIS: I know that when I take a trip and I post photos online, it can create the misimpression of being out of touch or an image that is not worthy to my constituents. I tried to balance being a young congressman and doing things differently and more open with maintaining a level of seriousness. I listened to the feedback from folks in my district, and the team of professionals that I mentioned earlier. I believe you have to earn the trust every day of the voters you represent, and that`s exactly what I intend to do. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You have to earn the trust every day. Congressman Schock would make a new start of it. That was just the other day in his home district in Peoria. He said he heard the voters, he was going to get this right. For all that, that cascade of headlines, you know, it was embarrassing, it didn`t necessarily have to be more than that, more than embarrassing until now. Reporters seem to have been on to another story about Congressman Schock. Yesterday, Lynn Sweet of "The Chicago Sun Times" reported that Congressman Schock had used campaign money to pay for mileage on an SUV that he owned. Now, the paper said he billed taxpayers for the mileage in his SUV, and then this afternoon, "Politico" reporter Jake Sherman tweeted that Congressman Schock was resigning, that he was leaving his office, and that he was doing it, quote, "after `Politico` questioned his mileage reimbursements." "Politico" went on to report that Congressman Schock had gotten reimbursed for more miles than the SUV in question had even been driven. So, in effect, he had been paid to drive miles in that truck that had never been put on the odometer. "Politico" is clearly taking at least an implicit victory lap over this. But here is the question in his written resignation today. Congressman Schock didn`t say why he stepped down. He cited only the constant questions over the last six weeks. He said they had, quote, "proven a great distraction that has made it too difficult for me to serve the voters who elected me." But what was it. Congressman Aaron Schock resigned. Announced he is leaving office, resigning effective March 31st. And we still really don`t know why. Was it something worse about this last story, about the mileage? Having to do with allegedly getting cash? All right, is there something worse about that story than like the free decorating in the earlier stories? Was it just a cumulative affect of all of those stories? The six weeks of questions? Or was there some, you know, 50th shoe about to drop? That he thought was going to be harder to survive than everything else he has so far made it through? That he want to get out of Congress before something else was going to happen that he knew was coming down the road. Why is Congressman Schock leaving for real and what happens now. Joining us now is Lynn Sweet, the Washington, D.C. bureau chief of "The Chicago Sun Times". She has covered Aaron Schock since he was elected to Congress in 2008. Lynn, appreciate your time tonight. Thanks for being here. LYNN SWEET, THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Hi, Rachel. MADDOW: Why do you believe or from your reporting, what do you think is indicated about why he resigned today? I can`t tell what`s the worst thing that he`s been accused of. There has been a lot over these last few weeks. SWEET: Well, there is mounting number of serious legal questions that he is facing, including questions that I have that his team knew about the mileage, too. The same stuff that "Politico" was covering, they knew I had the same information. But what I think really was going on here is that he knew that not only were there stories in the pipeline he knew about, but I think his team figured there was also stories in the pipeline that they didn`t yet know about. He also kind of knew, Rachel, that it was the end of the road for him no matter what. He craved celebrity and a jet set lifestyle. That was ending. He had his serious legal problems which he hopes to downplay by quitting and paying back some of the money as certain things become apparent, not everything but some. And I think he also is losing support locally, almost every local newspaper and columnist was writing very scathing editorials about him. So, the life he loving in Congress was over. And I wouldn`t under estimate that either. And I would emphasize that even though he can leave Congress and can end the investigations from the Office of Congressional Ethics, one that was likely to happen from the House Ethics Committee, this does not automatically erase anything the Justice Department might feel like doing or a lesser regulatory agency, the Federal Election Committee. MADDOW: Is there any indication that the DOJ or the FEC have started any sort of investigation into him? And would we know if they had? SWEET: Well, FEC is -- it does slaps on the hand, nothing serious in the case of all of these questions about how he used campaign and taxpayer money. They might take it on, by quitting Congress, he makes himself less of a target. No one has reported yet that the Department of Justice opened any kind of inquiry. MADDOW: Lynn, one last question here in terms of thinking about his trajectory in Illinois and getting to Congress. I mean, is this the sort of thing that was foreshadowing about? Is this -- were there shadows like this that followed him earlier in his career. It did feel like for those of us who know him as sort of celebrity young congressman, like once that Downton office thing happens, the cascade that followed, it just felt like a side that had been held back, it was so many different things that were reported so quickly, as soon as that initial dam broke. SWEET: Well, part of it was that he did report his spending and that made it possible to put together the stories. You had multiple news organizations, including "The Sun Times" looking at him. But, of course, as you mentioned the beginning of this, just think if it wasn`t for the "Downton Abbey" story by "The Washington Post", it wouldn`t have raised questions that were important enough that people did start looking, which I think shows that, you know, the press has this watchdog function and in this case, you know, the watchdogs were able to and in short time produced stories that show that Aaron Schock had extremely, to say the least, questionable use of his campaign and taxpayer money. And I just, for people listening, there are things maybe symbolic like bad taste if you don`t like his red office, but it did lead to his whole kind of dealing with his taxpayer and government money, coming under a microscope that might otherwise not have happened. MADDOW: Lynn Sweet, Washington, D.C. bureau chief for "The Chicago Sun-Times", a leader on this story -- Lynn, thank you for helping us out. I appreciate it. SWEET: Hey, thank you so much. MADDOW: Thanks. All right. There`s much more ahead, including some more news on that breaking news that we just learned in the last hour from the Secret Service about a letter sent to the White House about a letter that tested positive for cyanide. Plus, Senator Barbara Boxer is here tonight for the interview. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: There`s breaking news to report tonight. NBC News has confirmed this evening that a letter sent to the White House has tested positive for cyanide. This news is just breaking late tonight. We don`t have a lot of details yet, but what we can tell you is that this letter was received at the mail screening facility yesterday. The Secret Service is telling NBC News tonight that the letter initially tested negative when it was first screened, but subsequent chemical testing performed on the letter today did come back positive for cyanide. Now, this news was first reported by the web site "The Intercept." Their reporting is that the return address on the suspect`s envelope is associated with a man who`s been known to the Secret Service for some time, perhaps dating back to the 1990s. They report that this man has sent suspicious packages to the White House in the past. He is believed to be behind this letter as well. Again, that`s reporting tonight from "The Intercept", that the Secret Service tells NBC News that this letter has tested positive for cyanide and a sample from the letter has been transported to another facility to confirm those testing results. We`ll bring you more details on this story as it develops. This, of course, has also been a big day for the agency at the center of that story, the Secret Service. We`ve got more on that news ahead. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: About ten miles outside of Washington, D.C., there is a place called Beltsville, Maryland. If you find yourself flying over Beltsville one day and you happen to have a really great set of binoculars, you might look down on Beltsville and see something that roughly resembles the White House, sort of. It`s not actually the White House. It`s a fake White House they have set up at the Secret Service`s training center in Beltsville, Maryland. Beltsville is this big sprawling complex. They`ve got everything from a fake Marine One, and a fake Air Force One. It`s actually half of a fake Air Force One. They have a fake village where the Secret Service can practice tactical maneuvers, and a fake White House that is apparently not that good of a fake White House. The Secret Service director told Congress today that the Secret Service wants a new fake White House to train on, something that`s a little bit more of an exact replica of the actual building and the actual White House grounds. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOSEPH CLANCY, SECRET SERVICE DIRECTOR: We don`t have the bushes, we don`t have the fountains, and don`t get a realistic look at the White House. Even our K9, they`re responding on hard surfaces rather than grass. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The Secret Service director was already scheduled to testify today about the agency`s budget before we got the latest round of bombshell reporting from "The Washington Post" about a pair of senior Secret Service agents who allegedly drove their government vehicle onto the White House grounds on March 4th and hit a temporary barrier after they`ve been out for a night of drinking at a nearby Washington bar. Even though uniformed Secret Service officers on the scene wanted to arrest those senior agents and said they believed those agents might be drunk, a supervisor at the White House grounds reportedly ordered the uniformed officers to not arrest the agents and ordered that they not be breathalyzed and instead that they should just be sent home. Joseph Clancy has only officially been director of the Secret Service for about a month now, but he got grilled today about this latest incident. He got grilled about in particular about why he, as a director of the Secret Service, wasn`t even informed about this until five days after it happened. And in the midst of that discussion, there was one remarkable moment when Director Clancy talked about how his agency has issues. Specifically, they have issues with alcohol. Watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CLANCY: There is an element within our agency that does cope with the stresses that many of you mentioned today by using alcohol. There is no question. We have that element. We also have other elements that are in our agency that go to a different route. Some go to exercise, some go to religion. Some go to their family to cope with these stresses. But we do have an element that goes to alcohol. We`ve got to find a way to help some of these people that are going towards alcohol to solve their problems as a coping mechanism. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: This hearing today was supposed to be about the Secret Service budget. It did not really end up being about the Secret Service budget. It ended up being about the need for a new fake White House, and the problem of drunken Secret Service agents, and how to cope with the problem of alcohol as an institutional problem for the Secret Service, and a lot more besides. And on the one hand, it is nice to hear that they`re working on their problems. On the other happened, given what this agency is responsible for, it is fairly terrifying to hear the details of what some of their problems are. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you tell them things? BASHAR AL ASSAD, SYRIAN PRESIDENT: No. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And apart from Iraq. AL ASSAD: When we do something in our country, on our territory, we don`t ask anyone, we don`t tell anyone. We just do it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: We don`t ask anyone, we don`t tell anyone, we just do it. Syrian President Bashar al Assad in an interview with the BBC last month. The BBC in that interview, they were pressing him about U.S. aircraft flying in Syrian airspace as the U.S. has led this coalition effort that has launched nearly 3,000 airstrikes already against ISIS targets in Syria and in Iraq. Syria as a country has considerable air defenses, so it was worth asking whether U.S. aircraft should be seen as at risk when they fly these missions over Syria. Well, now, a U.S. aircraft has gone down in Syria. The government is claiming they shot down an American Predator drone over Syria and not for from the Turkish border. Syrian state TV has been broadcasting footage today of what they claimed is the wreckage site. You can see people trying to load some of the wreckage into a truck, other people showing off burnt parts of what they claim is this aircraft. The considerable silver lining here is that there is no pilot or crew on a Predator aircraft like this. After these images were shown on Syrian TV all day, tonight, the Pentagon released a statement confirming that the aircraft was an MQ-1 Predator drone that they lost contact with it over Syria today. But they are not confirming that the Predator was shot down. Quote, "At this time, we have no information to corroborate press reports that the aircraft was shot down. We are looking into the incident and will provide more details when available." We are now eight months into this war that has never been fully debated or voted on or authorized by the Congress. Now that the first U.S. aircraft has gone down in this war, there are some questions that need to be at least asked if not answered, right? I mean, first, obviously, was it shot down? If it was shot down, does that mean we should expect them to shoot down more U.S. drones? How dangerous is it for the U.S. for its drones to be shot down and recovered by the Syrian government, or conceivably by ISIS or the other militant groups fighting in Syria. When they get one of our drones, what do they get that could help them or potentially hurt our military? And it is one thing to lose a drone. It`s another thing to lose a pilot, or to lose a pilot and a crew. Does losing this predator drone today in Syria inform the question of how much risk our pilots are at as we head into the eighth month of this undeclared air war including more than 2,700 bombing missions already? Joining us now is NBC News military analyst, Colonel Jack Jacobs. Colonel Jack, thanks for being here. COL. JACK JACOBS, NBC NEWS MILITARY ANALYST: Well, my pleasure. MADDOW: What are we hearing tonight? What do you believe tonight about whether it was shot down or whether it was some mechanical -- JACOBS: Well, they`re not talking -- they`re not talking because they want to get their story straight. Everybody has drones, the services have drones, the Defense Department has drones, the CIA has drones. It`s not entirely clear whether was a drone that was armed and was an attack drone, or instead it was doing surveillance. And I think they want to get their story straight before they tell anybody anything. So, it`s probably going to be at least 24 hours before we hear anything. MADDOW: In terms of the value of this, as a piece of crashed and salvaged equipment, is it -- is there a difference in terms of its potential value to the Syrian forces or anybody else who might recover something like this? If there was surveillance versus armed? JACOBS: Thankfully, no, there is no difference. All of the codes change. The frequencies that are used change. I can`t envision either ISIS or Syria who have their hands full at the moment trying to reverse- engineer drones. I don`t think any of the information on the drone is going to be usable to them. And we change things all of the time to make sure it`s not. MADDOW: Drones fly definitely than piloted aircraft do. Should we take comfort in that that if this was shot down that it doesn`t tell us whether or not our pilots are at more risk than we`ve seen this? JACOBS: Yes, I think so. I think it is a good way to look at it. Drones are slow, they`re much less expensive, even though they are expensive, they`re much less expansive. They have good lauder time. They can hang around for a long, long time. Our manned aircraft on the other hand are very expensive, but they`re extremely lethal. They are very fast. They can detect when enemy radar has locked on, when enemy bullets or missiles headed their way, and they can counteract many dozens of targets all at the same time, and they shoot from over the horizon, way out of harm`s way. So, when we fly manned missions in this area, we do so at a great distant from the target area, putting our guys far less at risk, which is one reason why we use drones to a great extent, and not manned aircraft. MADDOW: Colonel Jack Jacobs, NBC News military analyst, incredibly clarifying and helpful. Thank you so much. JACOBS: You`re very welcome. MADDOW: Appreciate it. All right. Straight ahead, we`ve got a lot still to come tonight, including the interview tonight. Senator Barbara boxer is here. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Ahoy! A scoop, a scoop about a mistake. There is lots of ways to screw up in public life and the law, and I`m not just talking about Aaron Schock. Consider if you will today`s most pitiful headline courtesy of "The Bismarck Tribune" in Bismarck, North Dakota. "Man fails to rob Loaf N Jug." "The Bismarck Police Department is looking for a man who failed Tuesday to rob the Loaf `N Jug on East Rosser Avenue." The store employee told police that between 4:30 and 4:40 a.m., an apparently intoxicated man holding a folding knife walked into the story with his sweatshirt over his head to conceal his face. The man demanded money, but the clerk told him he was unable to get him any. The man then demanded cigarettes, but he did not receive those either. The man then left the store empty-handed. Man fails to rob the Loaf `N Jug, today`s excellent reminder that there are lots of ways to screw up in public life and the law. But tonight`s scoop, which is next, is one of the rarest species of doing that. Tonight`s scoop is a mistake in which the perpetrator has been caught because they accidentally signed their name to what they were doing. Signed their name, at least the Loaf `N Jug guy had the good sense to pull his sweatshirt over his face. Not these next guys. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I`m able to double fuel efficiency standards, and if I`m able to make appliances more efficient, and to double the production of clean energy, if I`m able to do all of those things, we will still have a heck of a problem, but we will make enough progress that the next president and next generations can start building on it and you start getting some momentum. VICE NEWS: Which is rational, sane, is a great answer. However -- OBAMA: Yes. VICE NEWS: -- you have people, for example, Senator Inhofe who is throwing snowballs, who`s saying it is the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American public is that we can do anything about climate change, or that it`s even real. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator from Oklahoma? SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: We keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record. I ask the chair, you know what this is? It`s a snowball and it`s from outside here. So, it`s very cold, very unseasonable. So, Mr. President, catch this. VICE NEWS: Throwing a snowball would be funny -- OBAMA: Yes. VICE NEWS: -- if it weren`t for the fact that he is chairman of the Senate Committee on the environment. OBAMA: That`s disturbing. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President Obama in an interview with Vice News this week saying it is disturbing that Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma is in charge of the environment in the U.S. Senate. The chair of the environmental committee in the Senate when the Democrats were in control was, of course, Barbara Boxer of California. But now, it is James Inhofe who believes among other things that the fact that it has snowed this winter means that clearly the whole climate change thing is a hoax, disproven by the existence of snow. Well, tomorrow, Senator Snowball gets to oversee the unveiling of a huge new thing. It`s the first update to the nation`s rules on toxic chemicals in 39 years. And ahead of tomorrow`s big unveiling of that new law, "The San Francisco Chronicle" has just reported on a draft of the new law that has been circulated ahead of tomorrow`s hearing and there is a mistake in the draft that has provided one of those "Oh my God" moment about American politics. Everybody has their suspension and their cynicism and they`re, you know, back and forth sniping about the way stuff happens in our politics. Only once in a blue moon do you get a mistake, a screw up that all of a sudden makes it totally clear what`s going on. So, this is from the "San Francisco Chronicle": In recent days, a draft of the bill was circulated by one senator`s office ahead of the hearing. The draft bill is in a form of a Microsoft Word document. And once reporters of "The Chronicle" got a hold of that Microsoft Word document that was circulating as a draft of the bill, those reporters took the radical digital forensic step of right-clicking on the documents on their desktop and looking at the properties of who created that document. And as listed on that document, the company that created this draft bill of the new rules about toxic chemicals, the company that created it is listed as the American Chemistry Council, the leading trade organization and lobbyist for the chemical industry. You guys wrote this? Senator Barbara Boxer who again used to be the head of the environment committee before it got taken over by Senator Inhofe told "The Chronicle", quote, "Call me old-fashioned, but a bill to protect the public from harmful chemicals should not be written by chemical industry lobbyists." Senator Boxer announced this year that she`ll be retiring from the U.S. Senate at the end of this term. The leading Democratic candidate in California to replace her, to get that seat, is the current attorney general of California, the state`s ambitious and aggressive and high profile attorney, Kamala Harris. Kamala Harris several days ago released a blistering letter about the new bill saying, it would eviscerate California`s own rules on toxic chemicals. Because the federal law on chemicals hasn`t been updated since 1976, lots of states in the meantime have set up their own safety regulations around chemicals, including California. The new bill, arguably, would undo that. I mean, if you think about something like the federal minimum wage, that sets a floor, right? I mean, states or even cities are free to set a higher nomination wage, but nobody can go lower than $7.25 an hour. Federal minimum wage of $7.25 is low as anybody can go. States can do better if they want to. And that`s how these things usually work. With this chemical law, though, it`s the opposite. The new law they`re going to unveil tomorrow would eventually overtime set federal standards for hundreds of chemicals, but in the meantime, it would also block any state who wanted to set their more stringent rules. So, when it comes to regulating, you know, toxic junk like asbestos and all the rest of it, this new law would tell a state like California that they`re not allowed to have better safety regulations than any other state or than the federal government as the federal government slowly gets around to making new standards since the `70s on that. But that is what`s getting unveiled tomorrow in Senator Inhofe`s committee. David Vitter from Louisiana, he`s the chief Republican negotiator on this bill. The chief Democratic negotiator on this bill is Tom Udall of New Mexico, who of the course of his career has generally been seen as a great pro-environmental advocate. Senator Udall has been in Congress since 1998. Suddenly, though, last year for the first time, out of the blue, he started getting significant campaign donations from the American Chemistry Council. They also ran this ad supporting Tom Udall for reelection. It`s a strange ad. It weirdly says at the end that New Mexico voters should call Tom Udall to thank him for being so great -- brought to you by the American Chemistry Council. And now, it is Senator Udall`s office that has circulated this draft of the chemical bill that is stamped in its properties on Microsoft Word as having been written by somebody at the American Chemistry Council. Senator Udall`s office told us tonight that this has been a big misunderstanding. They told us that the American Chemistry Council did not draft the bill. They said in the process of communicating with them and other stakeholders about this bill, the American Chemistry Council must have just saved some parts of the correspondence and then sent that saved document back to Senator Udall`s office, and the somehow what the Chemistry Council sent them ending getting circulated by Senator Udall as his draft of the bill. Huh? The American Chemistry Council for their part is also having trouble explaining what happened here. A vice president for the group told "The Chronicle", quote, "It doesn`t mean the original document was generated here. Anybody could have put that digital signature in there. You could change it." Asked by "The Chronicle" if that meant that she was denying that the American Chemistry Council wrote the draft of the bill, she said this, quote, "I have no idea. There`s no way for anyone to tell." In the meantime, the I.T. staff for the Senate sergeant-at-arms has now told Senator Boxer`s staff, quote, "We can confidently say that the document was created by a user with the American Chemistry Council. Their name is specified as author and their organization is specified as American Chemistry Council." Oops, we left the lobbyist signature on the bill. It is the kind of laugh-out-loud moment that doesn`t happen all that often in Washington. When it does happen, though, it turns out to be a nice easy test of whether or not Washington is still capable of being embarrassed. We will find out tomorrow when this laugh-out-loud mistake makes its public debut under the guiding visionary leadership of Senator Snowball. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) INHOFE: I ask the chair, you know what this is? It`s a snowball. And that`s just from outside here. So, it`s very, very cold out. Very unseasonable. So here, Mr. President, catch this. Uh-huh. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That is the new Republican chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma. Tomorrow, that committee will consider to revamp the nation`s laws on toxic chemicals for the first time in nearly 40 years. That legislation is highly contested, including among Senate Democrats. Joining us now for the interview is Senator Barbara Boxer. She`s the ranking member of the Environment Committee. Senator, thank you so much for being here tonight. SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Thanks so much for doing the story. MADDOW: Well, let many ask you about the specific point that I just made a moment ago about the American Chemistry Council turning up as the apparent author, at least the Microsoft Word listed author in what appears to be a draft of the bill circulated ahead of tomorrow`s hearing. Did you and your staff first discover that? Were you the first people who figured that out? BOXER: Well, when the bill came over from the senators, Senator Udall and Vitter, there was a copy right there for us, and my staff said to me this reads like it was written by the Chemistry Council. And so, we thought, you know, maybe it was. I`m not kidding. And they checked it out, and it was written by the American Chemistry Council. And this is shocking, and people can run all over and say it wasn`t. We know it was. It`s just right there. But more important is just read the bill and you see what it does. It does nothing to protect the people. And it takes a very weak task of law, which now exists, which was so weak that it couldn`t even ban asbestos, keeps the standard very, very weak to prove, and then it does something else, it stops the states dead in their tracks, because the states had filled a void, and not only my state, but the attorneys general for about nine states and it`s growing every day, are saying what are you doing? This is dangerous. Because this bill, once it became law, which we`re going to make sure it doesn`t, I pray and I hope and I work so it doesn`t become law, basically says to the states, once we look at a chemical, you can`t do anything about it. And so, nobody would be protected, because what I wanted to tell you, your report was right on target. I take issue with one thing, there is no deadline to ban any chemical or regulate any chemical. There is a deadline to study and complete a study in seven years of just 25 of 80,000 chemicals, over seven years. No deadlines to take action. So, there`s nothing here. It is worse than current law that does not need speaking. It`s 450 different health organizations, development organizations that goes on, nurses, doctors -- they all say this is worse than current law, Rachel. MADDOW: There are some Democrats who are supporting this legislation. Senator Udall, obviously, most notably on this. You do have this dispute with him tonight. He`s denying the Chemistry Council allegations about the authorship, as you referenced. But if I think about Republicans supporting this and Democrats dividing on this, it makes me wonder what would happen if this did get the president`s desk. Do you believe the White House would sign this bill if it passed the Senate? BOXER: Well, I don`t -- I don`t see that happening, because this president understands environmental injustice. And it`s hit so many communities where you have these terrible, terrible things like chromium 6 and formaldehyde, benzene and all these things laying around in super fun sites and the rest. This president was the lead on regulating lead. But here`s the point -- I do hope, some of my colleagues jumped on the spill, and I understand why. They gave it a beautiful name. It`s named after my beloved colleague, Frank Lautenberg. And people jumped on it thinking it was fine. It has a beautiful name. But it is a very ugly bill. And it is not going to help anybody. So, I think when they see that the Chemistry Council wrote the bill, that 450 groups, including the asbestos group, the breast cancer group, and I could go on with, you know, so long. I have them at the hearing tomorrow, all the groups that oppose it. It`s unprecedented. I think maybe my colleagues will rethink it. Look, the bill is a Udall-Vitter-Inhofe bill. I want to tell you something, Rachel, the rating of Vitter by environmental groups is 5 percent. He votes against the environment 95 percent of the time. The rating of Jim Inhofe is 5 percent. I don`t even know what I haven`t seen any good votes out of them, but I guess they were good 5 percent of the time. So the bottom line here is, this is a bad bill, written by the Chemistry Council. It is a weak bill, and it pre-empts state action. It`s very, very dangerous. It`s very, very serious, and it`s no laughing matter. It is deadly serious. MADDOW: Senator Barbara Boxer of California, thank you for helping us understand your take on this tonight, ma`am. Appreciate it. BOXER: Thank you. MADDOW: All right. We`ve got a best new thing in the world coming up next. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: All right. Best new thing in the world. If you happen to be at Boston`s Logan Airport last night, across the way from the women`s bathroom in terminal E, you were probably very surprised to come upon this. That is the sound of the Dropkick Murphy`s absolutely blowing the minds of Logan Airport travelers waiting for their flight last night at Gate E-4. With amps and mikes and drum kit all set up in freaking Terminal E at Logan, local Boston legend Dropkick Murphy`s played a surprise show at the airport last night as the band was waiting at their gate to get on a plane to Dublin, Ireland. They started a European tour in Dublin for St. Patrick`s Day today, but not before surprising everybody with this total awesome thing at home in Boston. So cool. Best new thing in the world today. Happy St. Patrick`s Day. I`m wearing green, I`m just doing it secrecy. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Ari Melber filling in for Lawrence. Good evening, Ari. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END