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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 03/19/15

Guests: Tulsi Gabbard, Carol Leonnig

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: You bet. MADDOW: And thanks to those at home for joining us this hour. Can you hear that in the distance? Can you hear your uncle who just listens to talk radio all day and reads "World Net Daily" and sends you the all caps emails and thinks President Obama is a Muslim, but he can`t spell Muslim? Can you hear your uncle who just listened to that segment with Chris Hayes and Sam Seder and Dave Weigel and was like, wait a minute, they didn`t disprove the nuclear weapon in Charleston thing? Can you hear in the distance your beloved angry uncle getting really, really upset about Hillary Clinton right now? If you sense the rising blood pressure of your uncle and a thousand right wing conspiracy theorists right now, it is not only because of that last segment on Chris Hayes` show. It is because Hillary Clinton just said something today that they all knew she has always believed. And that she has been trying to impose on this great nation. They knew it. They called it ahead of time. But she finally admitted it out loud today, in Atlantic City. Oh, my god. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I have decided we really need camps for adults. (LAUGHTER) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Camps for adults! See? The FEMA concentration camps, that Glenn Beck warned us about. The communist, fascist, Muslim, Marxist, Kenyan, Chicago black helicopter, one-world government plot to lock everybody up in FEMA concentration camps in this country, turns out we had a little bit of it wrong, turns out it`s not going to happen under the communist dictator "Nobama," it`s going to happen on the communist dictator, Hillary Clinton. I do not know if the freak-out has officially started already. But you can`t say we really need camps for adults in this country. You can`t say that as a Democratic politician anymore without the conspiratorial right losing their minds for approximately a decade. But that is what Hillary Clinton said today. And this is what she meant by it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CLINTON: I have decided we really need camps for adults. (LAUGHTER) (CHEERS) CLINTON: And we need the kind of camps that you all run. I mean, really, where -- you know, none of the serious stuff, none of the -- you know, life-challenge stuff, more fun. I think we have a huge fun deficit in America. (APPLAUSE) CLINTON: And we need to figure out how to fill that fun deficit, certainly for our kids, but also for the rest of us. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The fun deficit. That was Hillary Clinton today speaking in Atlantic city before an organization that runs summer camps for kids. Everybody saying this will probably be her final paid speech as a non- candidate before she announces she`s formally running for president. But in this speech today, she did talk about there being a deficit of fun in this country. She said we all need to have more fun, kids and adults alike, and she made a case that we need to have less of a political divide in our personal lives. That you need to be able to call and talk reasonably with your beloved uncle who sent you the all-caps e-mail about Muslims. Hillary Clinton made that point in an original way today, again, using this nefarious concentration camp theme of summer camps. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CLINTON: We`ve become in so many ways a country that has slowly but surely figured out how to get along with more people from more backgrounds, but there`s still differences that we need to get over, or much less, racist, sexist, homophobic, all of those things. But we sure don`t want to spend time with anybody who we disagree with politically. I mean, that is just too stressful. So, you know, maybe mix it up a little bit. You know, you can have the red cabin, the blue cabin, have a come-together and actually listen to each other. Wouldn`t that be a novel idea? And -- (APPLAUSE) CLINTON: -- sort of create this much more open dialogue opportunity, which I would like to see more of. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Hillary Clinton speaking this afternoon in Atlantic City. And again, what is thought to probably be her last paid speech before she becomes an official candidate for president. There`s all this non- sense noise in the political press today about how Hillary Clinton`s numbers are softening among Democratic voters. But she mysteriously is still in the lead to win the Democratic nomination. Yes, duh! I mean, there isn`t actually a race to win the Democratic presidential nomination right now. Saying Hillary Clinton is in the lead in that race is like saying Hawaii is also in the lead to win the title for best state that is also a Pacific island. It`s the only one. Yes, she`s winning. It`s the wrong question to be asking. On the Republican side, though, there is definitely a real race, a race that is getting more interesting by the day, but one in which some surprising candidates are also having what appear to be some growing pains, as they get closer to actually declaring that they`re candidates and they have to build up their presidential campaign operations. I mean, Hillary Clinton will likely be the first female presidential nominee of either major political party. But the last time around, in 2012, for the first time, the Republican Party had up there on its debate stages and for a time up in the top tier of presidential candidates their own first female presidential contender, Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota congresswoman. It`s hard for a general audience I think to think of Michele Bachmann as a national contender for the presidency, but she was in 2012, particularly in all important Iowa. She was a real contender for the presidency on to the Republican side. Michele Bachmann won the Iowa straw poll in 2012. And in the middle of a very hard fought contest for Iowa in 2012, when the Republicans had this top tier female contender to win those caucuses, Rick Santorum, former Pennsylvania senator, who was competing for a lot of the same voters as Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum hired a guy in Iowa named Jamie Johnson to work on his campaign in that state. And soon after that was announced, "The Des Moines Register" got hold of an e-mail that Jamie Johnson had once sent in which he questioned whether it could really be God`s will to have a woman rule the institution of state? Mr. Johnson basically said it would be against God`s will for a woman to be president. And if a woman were elected president, that would put the lives of America`s children in danger. And when that happened in 2012, the Michele Bachmann campaign was furious. They were furious. They said Rick Santorum was using a sexist strategy against Michele Bachmann in Iowa. They said does Rick Santorum really want all the female members of Congress to step down and all the female Supreme Court justices to step down and all the female governors across the country to step down? The Web site "Talking Points Memo" dug that all up again today from the 2012 campaign, because that same guy, the guy questioning whether it might be God`s will, really, that woman will be allowed to hold political office, that same guy was just hired this year. He was just hired again in Iowa to run Rick Perry`s presidential PAC. Now, there`s no Michele Bachmann in the race this time for the Republicans. Still, Republican women are not likely to be psyched about Rick Perry hiring that guy who questions whether or not god will allow a woman president. So, that`s happening in the Rick Perry camp. You kind of think he would know better. And that comes today after two days of another Iowa drama from another presidential campaign that you think would know better. On Monday of this week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker`s campaign announced they had hired a new top communications staffer for their national efforts. Within hours of making that announcement about their new hire, they had fired her. I mean, she had resigned, after apparently they didn`t notice a long string of tweets that she had made over the years, calling Iowa Republicans embarrassing and saying Iowa should be removed from its front-runner status in the presidential nominating process in part because people from Iowa grow up so dependent on the government and the rest of the country doesn`t understand that about Iowa. I mean, her arguments were not nonsensical. They were not particularly profane, right? They had been expressed completely in public, and so, the Scott Walker outfit could have read her public tweets before they decided to hire her. It would not be that big a deal in terms of a background check. But the Scott Walker campaign`s little profile in political courage was not reading up on her background before they hired her, hiring her, announcing that they hired her, being totally shocked by Iowa Republicans being mad that they hired her, given what she`d said about Iowa Republicans, and then within hours of announcing her hire, having her resign from the new job. Ta-da! Today, Scott Walker was in South Carolina. He is doing two full days of events in South Carolina, today and tomorrow, which is handy for him politically, because what`s going on for him at home right now in Wisconsin is a slew of terrible headlines. First of all, there`s the matter of former staffers going to prison. One of the scandals that trails behind Scott Walker as he makes this run for the presidency is this sprawling investigation into people who were working for him as public employees, also doing Scott Walker campaign business while they were working on the public dime. That investigation into Scott Walker`s political past has resulted in six staffers and associates of Scott Walker being convicted, including his deputy chief of staff from when he ran the county government in Milwaukee. She has been sentenced to six months in prison for this case, for illegally working for Scott Walkerton taxpayers` dime. Today in Wisconsin, the state supreme court rejected her last appeal, which means she`s effectively being told to report to prison to start serving her six months. Unless she can convince the only other court in the land that still has jurisdiction, to intervene. And so, Scott Walker`s former deputy chief of staff is either going to prison very soon or she`s going to take her case to the United States Supreme Court. So, that was one set of headlines for Scott Walker at home today. Not good news. The other set of headlines for him at home today was about the terrible jobs record that he`s leaving behind in Wisconsin. Scott Walker, like most presidential candidates, is trying to run on his economic record. He is trying to run as a jobs, jobs, jobs candidate. Before today, the problem for him with that was his current ranking in terms of job creation as governor of Wisconsin. Wisconsin ranked 31st in the nation out of 50, in terms of jobs created heading into today. Today, the blaring headline in Wisconsin is that Wisconsin has now dropped in job creation. They had been 31st in the nation, now they are 38th in the nation, tied for last place among similar states in the Midwest. And the national comparison is particularly stark. In the last 12 months, the national job creation rate has been double what the job creation rate has been in Wisconsin. So, under Scott Walker, Wisconsin is doing badly, compared to the rest of country. Wisconsin is even doing badly compared to its similar states in its neighborhood of the country. And so, there was Scott Walker today, campaigning for president in South Carolina, talking to conservative groups in South Carolina, trying to make a pitch for his economic record as Wisconsin`s governor. When you have a bad economic record and you`re trying to run on that record, you have to sort of get very specific in order to find something to brag about. The very specific pitch Scott Walker is making is that the thing he did in Wisconsin, which would make him a good president, the thing he did in Wisconsin, which shows you what he could do for the country, is that in Wisconsin, he destroyed union rights. That`s his pitch for running for president, that he destroyed union rights in Wisconsin. And he did. In 2011, Scott Walker became nationally famous when he destroyed union rights for public employees in the state that gave birth to union rights in this country. That gave Scott Walker a national profile, in part because hundreds of thousands of people in Wisconsin protested against what he was doing. Those protests against what Scott Walker did were the largest demonstrations in the history of the state of Wisconsin. Now, this year, as he`s running for president, Scott Walker and the Republican legislature in Wisconsin have basically finished the job. What they took apart in 2011, were union rights for public employees, what they just took away this year, were union rights for everybody else in Wisconsin. And that destruction of union rights is really the central case that Scott Walker is making for why he should be president, that is the story he most wants you to know about him as he runs for national office. It`s so central to his campaign for the presidency, he kind of tries to attach it to everything, everything. Even things he really should not try to attach it to. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) QUESTION: Should you become commander in chief, how would you deal with threats such as ISIS? GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: Well, you know, the interesting thing, sometimes people in the media don`t understand that as a governor, I should get a threat assessment from the FBI, and from my adjutant general. And without divulging confidential information, I would tell you, for years, I`ve been concerned about that threat not just abroad but here on American soil. I want a commander-in-chief who will do everything in their power to ensure that the threat from Islamic terrorists do not wash up on American soil. We will have someone who leads and ultimately will send a message that we`ll protect American soil but do not -- do not take this upon freedom-loving people anywhere else in the world. We need a lead were that kind of confidence. If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Protesters? Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin claiming at CPAC recently that he has the experience and know how to fight is because look what he did to those residents of Wisconsin, and their terrible blood curdling freedom of speech. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re not actually comparing ISIS terrorists to the protesters of Wisconsin, right? WALKER: No, not -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re not trying to make that comparison in either direction? WALKER: No. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not that protesters are equivalent to terrorists? Or that terrorists are equivalent to protesters? WALKER: Not by a landmine -- by a landslide of difference out there. Not a Grand Canyon size difference. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Not by a land mine or a landslide or by a Grand Canyon, whatever. This is, to a fault, to an awkward fault, the central and at times only focus of Scott Walker`s run for the presidency, but he`s doing pretty well with it so far. The latest sort of aggravation of polls on the Republican side where there is a real contest for the nomination is that Scott Walker`s tied for first place with Jeb Bush. Jeb Bush with a lot more money and a lot more name recognition. And so, there is a question now as to whether or not Scott Walker`s platform, his all union-busting all the time platform as a top tier Republican presidential candidate, there`s a question now as to whether that might create sort of an ambient ripple effect in politics more broadly. What does that do to union politics in the country if one of the top tier candidates for president is running for that on his platform? That`s about to become a really salient question for everybody because President Obama is about to do something he really never does. This is the entire list of vetoes that President Obama has issued in his time as president. This is the whole list. The first one was something that almost literally was a typo in the legislative process, something that got done backwards in terms of timing. He had to veto something to clear up the legislative calendar around some random spending bill. It made absolutely no news. It was basically like somebody forgot to cross a T or dot an I. The other one was related to the way that mortgage documents are signed, and that can be a big issue. But in this specific case, that specific bill, it was a completely noncontroversial veto. A technical matter, it was not a big deal, it did not make news. Those were his first two vetoes as president. Those were the only vetoes of his whole first term in office. But since Republicans took full control of Congress, now, President Obama is vetoing the big stuff. The first veto since Republicans took full control was Keystone, the Keystone pipeline, the highest possible profile, very controversial issue. President Obama vetoed the Keystone bill. Republicans tried to override that veto. Their override effort failed. And now, as of today, the White House is looking down the barrel of President Obama`s next veto. It is a bill to change the rules around union elections. Now, usually this is the sort of issue at the federal level that would be closer on the controversy number line to the bill about like the way mortgages are signed, than it would to keystone. In terms of how controversial it is, it`s much more toward the not make news kind of bill, than it is towards the really controversial stuff. But right now, with one of the major Republican presidential contenders basing his whole appeal for the presidency on the political issue of destroying union rights, does that change the politics around this? We have to wait and see. The bill passed the Senate earlier this month. It passed the U.S. House today. That means it`s headed to President Obama`s desk. He promises he`s going to veto it. How is that is going to land, what political ripples that`s going to have, how much light and heat there`s going to be on this -- Scott Walker may be key to that. Stay tuned. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Here`s something to keep an eye on with the negotiations with Iran. You might have seen a flurry of leaks today about what might be going on with the Iran deal. These are just leaks, until we see a draft of the deal, we don`t know what`s in the deal. But here`s one thing to watch in this news story. Until now, we`ve seen negotiations led by Secretary of State John Kerry. That makes sense, right? This is diplomacy. He is our nation`s top diplomat. But these are not just negotiations about any old diplomatic thing, right? They`re negotiations about nuclear energy, and nuclear material and nuclear weapons. And so, now, one of the ways you can tell this deal might be getting to the nitty-gritty, is that all of a sudden, we`re not just seeing John Kerry leading things for the U.S. Now, who is that guy on the left? Now, we`re seeing the only man in U.S. government with hair better than John Kerry`s hair also involved at the top level -- our energy secretary who is himself a nuclear physicist, Ernest Moniz. He and the Iranian nuclear physicist are now very high profile in these talks all of a sudden. Now, both of them involved in taking the lead in these talks, which if nothing else means that these talks are down to the nuclear details. Stay tuned. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Congress got a new caucus today. As of Congress, for the first time today -- Congress for the first time today, as of today, has a caucus of post-9/11 veterans. Twenty-six veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now serving in Congress. That`s enough of them that they have now formed their own group. A bipartisan group headed up by Democrat Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Republican Scott Perry of Pennsylvania. And that`s gratuitous news for our current generation of veterans in terms of them getting their issues heard. But also when it comes to war and peace and the use of the U.S. military, it`s helpful to have people who have been there, right? Speaking from their own experience, helping us make more informed choices about these things as a country, especially when it`s less than 1 percent of our population who has been serving in our most recent giantly long wars. That said, the fact that we have enough of this new generation of vets in Congress to form this new caucus, it doesn`t mean there`s been an outbreak of courage in Congress overall in terms of dealing with the decisions that they`ve got on their plate right now concerning the current use of military force we`ve got going on right now against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. For example, the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing with the defense secretary, the chairman of the joint chiefs. The hearing was called specifically to discuss the military budget and that fight against ISIS. The president`s request for Congress to authorize this military force that we`ve been using for eight months now against ISIS, that was the title of the hearing. We are going to talk at this hearing about voting to authorize the fight against ISIS. Even though that was the title of the hearing, they never really got around to that part of it. They talked about lots of other stuff. But barely even mentioned authorizing the fight against ISIS. The fact that Congress is afraid to talk about that fight doesn`t mean that that fight isn`t happening. In the midst of Iraqi troops fighting this large offensive against ISIS in Tikrit, now, Iraqi planes are reportedly dropping hundreds of thousands of leaflets over Iraq`s second largest city, over Mosul, promising that the fight against ISIS is moving to Mosul next, promising Iraqi residents in that ISIS-occupied city, that their liberation is coming. That huge fight is coming. The U.S. military is bombing ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria on an ongoing basis. Iran is actually on the ground against ISIS with Iraqi troops in Tikrit and probably in Mosul too when that big fight in Mosul kicks off. So, the fight against ISIS is only going to get more high profile, and the strategic decisions are only going to get harder for the U.S. military, and we`re in the eighth month of this incredibly complex fraught military campaign against ISIS already with this fragile coalition and this very strange coalition of frenemies. And Congress, you know what, has yet to weigh in. And the beltway common wisdom now is that they just won`t ever weigh in on this. And meanwhile, there`s this other thing. This past week, Britain, in this elaborate ceremony, commemorated the end of the U.K.`s long involvement in the war in Afghanistan. They commemorated the end of their part in the war with a service at St. Paul`s Cathedral. Queen Elizabeth herself, members of the royal family, joined Britain`s top brass to mark the end of that country`s war in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, very quietly here in this country, one of the things that has happened since Ash Carter was confirmed as our new defense secretary is that we have apparently stopped planning to end our war in Afghanistan. This weekend, "The A.P." reported that the administration is no longer planning on cutting down the number of troops in Afghanistan by the end of this year, as we`ve been hearing for years that they would. Late last night, "Reuters" said U.S. officials have chosen at least a couple of U.S. military bases in Afghanistan that will remain in business, not just beyond this year, 2015, but basically, forever. And whether or not you think it`s a good idea, its kind of idea that probably deserves some debate. It probably also deserves Congress making a decision about it. Maybe that could be the first job for the Post-9/11 Veterans Caucus, that we actually talk about that stuff and maybe someday take a vote on it. It is good news that this caucus of post-9/11 veterans is being formed. More power to them. Literally, more power to them. Joining us now is congresswoman and Iraq war veteran, Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. Today, she, along with Republican Congressman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, launched this new Post-9/11 Veterans Caucus. Congresswoman Gabbard, congratulations. Thank you very much for being with us. REP. TULSI GABBARD (D), HAWAII: Thanks, Rachel. Aloha. MADDOW: I want there to be more political courage in Congress on debating and even voting on what we`re doing in terms of the use of military force in Afghanistan, in the fight against ISIS, everywhere we`re thinking about doing it. Do you think that veterans -- Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, the new folks in your caucus, feel that way too? GABBARD: I can tell you that those who have served in this post-9/11 conflict, whether in Iraq or Afghanistan, have a different perspective. And, obviously, it comes from our first-hand experience in being able to ask tough questions, not in a partisan way, but in a way that is actually informed by our experience and the experience of our brothers and sisters in uniform who are still being deployed and who are still serving overseas. We come out on different sides of these issues of when and where our troops should be serving in combat, about what our strategy must be to defeat our enemy. But I can tell you that the veterans who are part of this caucus are asking these questions not with partisan blinds on, but actually trying to see what`s in the best interest of our country. MADDOW: I feel like the thing that I have seen in terms of veterans advocacy since 9/11, groups like IAVA, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, who have been so supportive of the creation of this new caucus, I feel like they have been able to cut through. Veterans -- our current generation of veterans have been able to cut through partisan nonsense and get stuff done, when it is for veterans, when it`s about the way that veterans are treated and it`s about veterans` concerns. I guess I`m wondering if you feel like that sort of cutting through the partisan stuff and being more constructive can apply to other issues that your caucus might want to work on? GABBARD: I think it can and it does, because when we go from wearing the uniform, serving in the military in whatever branch of service it, I know for myself, this is a continuation of my service to my country, serving as a member of Congress. And carrying the perspective of the incredibly high cost of war that I saw when I was deployed to Iraq in a medical unit in 2005, to the work that`s happening here, not only on issues related to veterans but issues that are related to national security, to foreign policy, to how we can best serve the people in the United States here at home. A lot of the grayness and the muck is easily weighted through because I bring this mission first, this service-mission first perspective to what I do and I see that same element, that same value in my colleagues who have also served. MADDOW: Do you think that the Congress will eventually vote on an authorization to use military force against ISIS as this military operation continues now for more than half a year? There hasn`t been much serious debate let alone a movement toward a vote. Do you think there will be one? GABBARD: I honestly don`t know, Rachel. I can`t tell you there will or there won`t. There are a few reasons why. I think first of all, we`re seeing a lot of concerns raised because before you can have a real, true debate on an authorization to use military force, I think the first thing that needs to happen is a recognition of an overall strategy of which this authorization needs to be a part of. So, when I look at this proposal that the president has brought before Congress, I look at it within the prism of our 2002 authorization, that caused the United States to invade Iraq in the first place. I look how 12 years later, after spending over a trillion dollars and thousands of American lives to speak of Iraqi lives, we`re still there. And this authorization is what allowed that to occur, and we`re seeing what happens when there is not a clear strategy in place. We`re seeing a continuation now by this administration of the failed Bush policy of propping up this central Iraqi government in Baghdad, which really is oppressing the Sunni people, which has created the oxygen for ISIS to exist in Iraq in a way that continues to grow in strength. So, it`s most important for us to learn from these lessons in the past, to make sure that there`s an overall strategy of which the military is obviously a huge component. But right alongside that, there`s needs to be a political strategy, for example, to deal with the sectarian divide that continues to exist in Iraq, where you have the Shia militias and the Iranian forces on the ground persecuting these Sunni tribes and these Sunni communities with no plan. For example, in Tikrit, no plan for what happens next for the Sunnis to be empowered to take charge over their own communities and their own towns so we can prevent groups like ISIS from coming right back in and taking advantage of that oppressive environment that has caused them to be there in the first place. MADDOW: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, thank you for your time again. And, congratulations on launching this new Post-9/11 Veterans Caucus. I think it`s a really big deal for our politics. Congratulations. GABBARD: Thank you so much, Rachel. Aloha. MADDOW: Thanks a lot. I will say that more often than anybody else in politics, when you talk to veterans, my experience is, when you talk to veterans, they are the ones who talk about the need to have a political strategy alongside a military strategy. Non-veterans are much happier to talk about the military. People who`ve been in the military talk about the need for that having to be integrated with politics. Fascinating. We`ll be right back. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Are you protesting me? TRICIA MCKINNEY, TRMS SENIOR PLANNING PRODUCER: No, I`m not. I`m here to have you pick some prizes for our contestants for the Friday night news stop. MADDOW: OK. MCKINNEY: OK, let`s start with the big one. So, this is -- these are from the show from 2013, during the whole government shutdown. This is like your way of illustrating the changing -- the changing positions from the various constituencies. So, like at one point, house leadership is don`t raise the debt ceiling and then suddenly - - MADDOW: Maybe just raise the debt ceiling for a few days. OK. MCKINNEY: There`s a million of these signs and they`re all in the little closet where we put the interns. (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: I think they would be happier if we got rid of a large number -- MCKINNEY: Of many more than this. OK, this is -- MADDOW: A moon pie hat. MCKINNEY: OK, it`s a moon pie hat? You can feel free to put that on your head. MADDOW: I`m not running for president. Could I? MCKINNEY: My work here is (INAUDIBLE) (LAUGHTER) MCKINNEY: And there`s some very dusty -- MADDOW: Oh, those are mine. MCKINNEY: Oh, those are yours? MADDOW: Where were they? MCKINNEY: I just found them in a drawer. MADDOW: These are my -- I mean, they have to be because they have these weird hands and I totally remember it. These were on my desk at my Air America Radio office, back in the days when there was liberal radio. MCKINNEY: Those are really valuable. MADDOW: Well, no. No, they`re not really valuable. They`re really funky. They were always a little dirty. And their hands are fused. They look like ducks, see? MCKINNEY: So, maybe a real fan of yours would probably want that the most. MADDOW: But this would be nicer to the interns. MCKINNEY: Yes. MADDOW: Should we give people a choice? MCKINNEY: Yes, let`s give them a choice. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: What happens if you hold a really important hearing and nobody shows up? This was a Senate hearing today featuring the man of the hour in Washington, the director of the Secret Service. His agency has been under fire for more than a week now over yet more allegations of wrongdoing by his agents. The director of the Secret Service, Joseph Clancy, was called to testify today before a Senate subcommittee. He was going to be on the hot seat in the Senate about all these allegations now swirling around his agency. And this was what he met with when he showed up. Look. Empty chair, empty chair, empty chair, empty chair. Two senators, empty chair, empty chair, empty -- yes, your tax dollars at work. This hearing happened around 2:00 this afternoon. So, what, maybe it was a late lunch for everybody else. Don`t know. This was the second time the Secret Service director has faced questioning from Congress this week. He also appeared at a House hearing on Tuesday. But ahead of today`s testimony, the Secret Service had tell graphed that this was going to be dramatic, that Director Clancy was going to be pushing back on a lot of the recent reporting out there about his agency and its misdeeds. Specifically, he`d be pushing back on the initial reporting about an incident that took place at the White House on March 4th, earlier this month, the allegations that a pair of very senior Secret Service agents drove their government vehicle on to the White House grounds and hit a temporary barrier after a night of drinking at a nearby Washington, D.C. bar. Those initial reports, from "The Washington Post`s" Carol Leonnig who broke that story, described the Secret Service vehicle as, quote, "running through security tape before hitting the barricades." "The New York Times" reported that the car, quote, "ran through the tape and crashed into the barricade." Secret Service director made it a point during his testimony today to say that he wanted everybody to know that there was no crashing. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOSEPH CLANCY, SECRET SERVICE DIRECTOR: Based on the footage, previous reports of a crash are inaccurate. There was no crash. The video shows a vehicle entering a White House complex at a speed of approximately 1 to 2 miles per hour and pushing aside a plastic barrel. There was no damage to the vehicle. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: There was no crash. OK. As for the questions of whether or not these Secret Service agents in their slow-speed, we`re not going to call it a crash, the question as to whether or not they were drunk, whether they had been out drinking in a bar, or whether officers on scene were ordered not to arrest them and not to breathalyze them even though they wanted to, as to the issue of why this incident was reported to the director of the Secret Service until five days after it happened, as for all of those question -- we don`t have answers to any of that yet. The Secret Service director said today, as he also said on Tuesday, that he`s waiting for the full report of an inspector general investigation before speaking on those matters. He also said of this incident, quote, "Our mission is too important for this to happen. It undermines my leadership, and I won`t stand for it." I should also say for the record, that we reached out today to the appropriations committee in the Senate to find out where they all were, why the heck nobody showed up today for that hearing. The committee did not exactly know. I mean, I suppose it`s possible the other senators might have had other business to attend to today and the testimony of the guy in charge of protecting the president of the United States just didn`t make the cut. That`s possible. Or maybe long lunch? I don`t know. But they weren`t there. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CLANCY: Based on the footage, previous reports of a crash are inaccurate. There was no crash. The video shows a vehicle entering a White House complex at a speed of approximately 1 to 2 miles per hour and pushing aside a plastic barrel. There was no damage to the vehicle. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy testifying before the Senate today, a very sparsely attended Senate hearing, in the midst of what has been an intense week of public attention for the Secret Service. Joining us now is Carol Leonnig, staff reporter for "The Washington Post", who has taken the lead on many of the most troubling reports about recent failures and problems at the Secret Service. Carol, thanks so much for being here. CAROL LEONNIG, THE WASHINGTON POST: You bet. MADDOW: So, I want to ask your response to the Secret Service director today, essentially pushing back on the reporting about what happened at the White House a couple of weeks ago. To my ear, he`s basically saying that this is being made out to be more than it really was. What`s your reaction to that? LEONNIG: I understand why the director is, you know, pushing back in some respects. He wants to make clear that this incident, upon review of the partial tape they have available, doesn`t look like a really scary thing. There was a lot of hyperbole and assumption sort of in the midst of this reporting. But what most people reported is what I reported in the beginning, which was that the Secret Service was investigating allegations that agents who were believed to be intoxicated or under the influence, drove onto the White House and hit a temporary barricade. Most people wrote exactly that. And indeed, Director Clancy confirmed that was true on his appearance at the House hearing the other day when he said that, when he learned about this -- of course five days later -- but when he learned about this incident, he said the first thing he heard from his staff, really from a friend outside of the agency, was that there were reports and allegations that agents were drunk and had crashed into something at the White House. He said that on Tuesday. I mean, you can look at the transcript. MADDOW: Right. LEONNIG: So, to say now that it`s not so serious, the driving part, I think most people who are watching the Secret Service, or just everyday taxpayers are saying, but what does your investigation show about two of your senior most officials, suspected of drinking, getting in a government car, using it to go into a bomb scene, what about that? And what we learned about that may be very limited by something Director Clancy said later today. MADDOW: Which was about the videotaped evidence of the incident -- at least I think that`s where you`re going. I mean, this has been a strange turn in the last 24 to 48 hours, this question of whether the Secret Service retains videotapes showing this incident. They`re basically saying that some of the tapes from that night were taped over. They`re trying to get the manufacturer in to try to restore those tapes. What`s your understanding about what`s going on with videotapes of this incident and how they tape things in general at the White House? LEONNIG: So, we began at "The Post" hearing about this Tuesday night, because Clancy -- Director Clancy had a briefing privately with some key lawmakers who have some oversight role over the Secret Service. And in that briefing, the members left it very disturbed. The reason was he said, I may not be able to give you any more tape because we have a policy of overtaping, basically writing over surveillance footage every 72 hours at the White House. Remember, there are hundreds of cameras on the grounds, in the complex, inside the house, on the perimeter that are trying to capture all sorts of angles of what`s going on. When there`s a serious incident, this footage is supposed to be saved, i.e., not written over, so that the service can check out what happened, use it possibly in court for evidence and use it for protective intelligence to figure out, how did that fence jumper get over the fence, where did we have a weak spot? So, this video is retained when there are incidents. What Director Clancy told lawmakers today was -- well, we had an incident that night, but a lot of the tape has been overwritten, and lawmakers are pretty upset about that and wondering how that can be. MADDOW: Carol Leonnig, staff reporter at "The Washington Post" -- thank you for -- thank you for taking the time to walk us through. It`s very clarifying and specific. Thank you, Carol. LEONNIG: You bet. MADDOW: I mean, you think about those overlapping problems. If it`s taking four or five days for things to go up the chain after an incident happens, but they`re overwriting the tapes from incidents every three days. You can see how where the -- yes, you know how that goes. All right. Lots to come. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: You know you are committed to your job, you know you are committed when you show up to work on a three-wheeled medical razor scooter. Can`t run, can`t walk, can`t crawl. All right then, medical scooter, I`m coming in, boss. Yes, you`ve got a brand new, totally debilitating injury, but just somehow, some way, get up and roll into work. What happened for that very committed guy? The guy on the medical razor scooter there is pretty much the best new thing in the world in a very, very long time. And that story is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Best new thing in the world today. This is the intersection of unbridled love and falling straight down. As you probably know, but you may or may not care a lot about, the college basketball tournament that everybody calls March Madness is going on right now. Of all the Division I college basketball programs in the country, 68 of them go to the tournament. The tournament is set up in a big sprawling bracket of games in which every single game is single elimination. So, no matter how good you are, no matter how highly you are seeded in the tournament, if you lose a game to anyone at any time, your team is out. So, that`s part of why it`s exciting. Even if you don`t follow college basketball the rest of the year, it`s the possibility of upsets. Today, there was a great upset. Georgia State has a head coach named Ron Hunter. His son is on the team that he coaches, his son`s name is R.J., Ron Jr. The way that that team -- the way Georgia State got into the tournament is that the coach`s son, R.J., made the deciding free throws with 20 seconds left to win the game and clinch a trip to the NCAA, and it was very, very, very exciting. And when he did that, dad and lad screamed and hugged and fell on the ground celebrating, and it was amazing for the team and for this father and son, and they were jumping and he, while they were jumping around, dad hurt himself. He tore his Achilles tendon while he was jumping around celebrating his team getting into the tournament in the first place. He cannot use his busted leg at all. So he`s been coaching since then from an office stool, and he has a little razor motor scooter thing that not motor scooter thing that he`s been using to get around and also to coach. Well, his team, Georgia State, was not slated to have a particularly long tournament this year, because their first game in the tournament was against Baylor. And Baylor is really good this season. Baylor is ranked really, really high in the tournament, ranked really quite a bit higher than Georgia State is. So Georgia State was expected to lose to Baylor in their first game today, expected to lose to Baylor just about everybody. But Georgia State did not lose to Baylor today. Georgia State was down by 12. They were losing badly with less than 3:00 left. But they came back and right at the buzzer, right before the end of the game, the some of the coach, R.J. Hunter, hurled a huge three-point shot at the buzzer. He was way behind the three point line, he`s more than 30 feet away from the basket and he hit it! And then, R.J. Hunter, the coach`s son, with his dad coaching on the sidelines from his little scooter, R.J. Hunter hurled the shot from over 30 feet at the buzzer and it went in -- and then watch what happened to his dad. Just watch. Watch the dad. Go on. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SPORTS ANCHOR: R.J. Hunter for three. Got it! (CHEERS) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Oh, dad! R.J. Hunter just did something so great, he knocked his dad off his little scooter, his stool thing, with because he was so happy for his team and so excited for his son and Georgia State advances and they upset Baylor. Watch it again. Go on. Go on. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SPORTS ANCHOR: R.J. Hunter for three. Got it! (CHEERS) SPORTS ANCHOR: R.J. Hunter for three. Got it! (CHEERS) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The greatest single still image from that moment is this one. Look, the woman on the bench next to the coach when she realizes what`s happening to the coach. That`s the freaking greatest thing I`ve ever seen. Whether or not you love basketball or even sports at all, come on. Come on. That is the best new thing in the world today -- and we all know it. That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Ari Melber filling in. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END