The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 03/24/15

Guests: Jason Chaffetz, Michael Isikoff

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thank you very much, Chris. Thank you. Great to see Marc there as well, my old colleague from Air America Radio. Thanks to you as well at home for joining us this hour. The last time the Republican Party won a presidential election without somebody named Bush being on the ticket was 1972, when Nixon and Agnew won. It sounds crazy, right? It sounds like that can`t possibly be true. But look at every election since then. These are all of the Republican presidential election victories since 1972, and every single one of them, there has been someone named Bush on the ballot as either president or vice president. It is not foolproof. Poppy Bush did not win reelection against Bill Clinton in 1992, even though his name was Bush and he was on the ballot, but you really have to go back to Nixon/Agnew `72 to find a winning Republican presidential ticket that did not have somebody from that one family running for either the number one spot or the number two spot. Crazy. And on the one hand, that bodes very well for the Republican Party deciding to put Jeb Bush on the ballot again for this next presidential election. On the other hand, Governor Bush himself has acknowledged that it might be a little creepy, it might feel a little creepy to the American public to vote for somebody for president when not only was that guy`s father already the president but his brother was too, and not that long ago. So, it was sort of the unofficial Jeb Bush for president campaign launch when he announced last month that he is going to be possibly thinking about, considering, maybe possibly running for president. But if he does run for president, he will do so as his own man. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I have also been fortunate to have a father and a brother who have helped shape America`s foreign policy from the Oval Office. I recognize that as a result, my views will often be held in comparison to theirs. I love my brother, I love my dad, actually, my mother as well, I hope that`s OK, and I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions they had to make. But I`m my own man and my views are shaped by my own thinking and my own experiences. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I am my own man, that was last month. Since then, Jeb Bush has put himself on pace to raise more money more quickly than anybody who has ever run for president ever, and he`s done so almost entirely by tapping the network of donors and contacts that his father and his brother built up during their own efforts to win the White House and stay in the White House. Shortly after the "I`m my own man" speech, Jeb Bush also tapped his mom to raise funds for his super PAC. She sent out a fundraising effort on his behalf and set up a fund for her son and his presidential campaign and its super PAC. Now, tomorrow, "The Dallas Morning News" reports that former president, George W. Bush, Jeb`s brother, will be headlining a $100,000 per couple fund-raiser for Jeb Bush`s super PAC in Texas. And it is interesting in a couple of levels, first of all, there is Ted Cruz, right, who has shaken up the presidential race a little bit by skipping the exploratory, supposedly self-reflective navel gazing, I`m thinking about running for president time and just jumping right in, right? What`s there to think about? He`s jumping right in first, way earlier than anybody else and saying just directly that he is running. If there was any illusions that early leap might help Ted Cruz lock up the lucrative Texas donor base where he was so popular among Republicans as a first term senator, Governor Bush hauling out his brother, the former president, and former first lady, Laura Bush, to raise what will likely be millions of dollars tomorrow in a single night tomorrow night in Dallas for Jeb, that should put those Ted Cruz Texas illusions to rest. Wall Street was supposed to be the domain of Chris Christie. Texas was supposed to be the domain of Ted Cruz and Rick Perry. Even Jeb Bush`s home state of Florida, he was supposed to at least be competing for major donors with Marco Rubio. But in all of those places, Jeb Bush is just cleaning up in terms of the big money donors. He is all but monopolizing the big money in the Republican race for the presidency so far. He is stealing everybody`s lunch money, even in their hometowns. Because of that, even if Republican voters hate Jeb Bush, simply by virtue of the magnitude of his money, we may be irretrievably on the path of the Republican Party once again putting somebody named Bush on the presidential ballot. It worked well so far. It is the only thing that has worked for the Republican Party for the last 43 years, so why not? But former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura headlining this fundraiser for Jeb Bush tomorrow in Texas, it`s also interesting at another level, which is that up until now, the big Beltway question about Jeb Bush making his run for the presidency is going to be how he would distance himself not just from the dynasty concerns about being both the son and brother of very recently former presidents, but specifically how he would distance himself from the deeply, deeply unpopular presidency of his brother George. We now know the answer, he just won`t. He will not be hiding that light under any bushel. They are going to apparently just run Jeb as our nation`s opportunity for a fourth term of the Bush family presidency. No distancing. I mean, we probably should have known when Jeb Bush released a list of 21 gray beards, right, policy sages who`d be advising him particularly on matters of foreign policy. Of the 21 people that Jeb Bush named, 19 of the 21 worked in the administration of either his father, or his brother, or both, 19 of the 21. We should have known. But if we did not know then, we know now, now that he is trotting his brother out openly on the campaign trail. And tonight in Washington, D.C., as we speak, I think, former Vice President Dick Cheney is out there, too. He is the keynote speaker tonight at the National Republican Party`s biggest fundraiser of the year for their congressional candidates. The NRCC annual March dinner raises millions of dollars for Republican congressional candidates. It`s the Republican Party`s biggest such gig of the year. No cameras were allowed. No video recording is allowed. No press is invited to cover it. But the man they chose to give their keynote this year, tonight, is Vice President Dick Cheney. And this follows multiple recent high profile meetings of Vice President Dick Cheney with congressional Republicans. They keep inviting Dick Cheney back to Capitol Hill to meet over and over and over again over the past few months. Sometimes, they led him in wearing a cowboy hat. Dick Cheney is also having a big round of press in the conservative media. You might have heard about Dick Cheney doing that giantly long new interview with "Playboy" magazine. That was not conducted by a "Playboy" magazine political correspondent -- does that magazine have correspondents? I don`t know. I don`t read it for the articles. But that interview was done actually by a FOX News reporter for "Playboy". And actually, this coverage, what you`re seeing right here, this is a FOX -- that FOX News reporter`s interview with Dick Cheney being discussed on FOX News by another FOX News reporter, and after they discuss the content of that interview conducted by another FOX News reporter, they turn for analysis of that interview to Karl Rove who was, of course, the top political strategist for the Bush-Cheney administration. You know, for a long time in life, I looked forward to missing Dick Cheney and George W. Bush. Maybe some day I still will, maybe someday we will all miss them. But you know, we cannot miss you if you refused to leave. And the fact that they`re back and being sort of normalized in Republican politics and conservative media right now, it is salient and a little spooky as the Republican Party starts their new round of presidential politicking. I mean, most of the party looks back on the Bush/Cheney years like this. But in national Republican politics, they are mainstream again. They are back. And that is good to know in terms of understanding our national politics. It is also hard to avoid thinking about in terms of policy, especially on days like today when it gets so painfully clear that on policy, neither of the wars that they started in the Bush-Cheney administration are over even now, and both of them acutely right now are not only not over, they`re both getting pretty weird and a little bit hard to explain. Today in Iraq, for example, the "Associated Press" reports that U.S. airpower, U.S. pilots have started participating directly in the fight against ISIS in Tikrit. That fight on the ground has been a relatively small number of Iraqi troops, and a large number commanded by a general from Iran`s revolutionary guard. So, think about that for a second. On the ground, it is Iran. In the air, it`s us. American pilots flying surveillance flights to help Iran in its battle against ISIS on the ground. Us and Iran, you got your peanut butter and my chocolate, you got your chocolate and my peanut butter -- us and Iran, really? So, is the Iraq war, this great strategic gift to Iran, has now resulted in the United States and Iran fighting on the same side in Saddam Hussein`s hometown. The only war that we`re fighting that Congress likes to talk about less than that very confusing one that we are fighting in Iraq and Syria is the one that we are fighting still in Afghanistan, but we basically refuse to talk about as a political matter, and that war took a really, really dramatic turn today. That is also -- it is also a big deal and also a little bit inexplicable. And this dramatic turn in the U.S. war in Afghanistan happened today on the occasion of what turned out to be a really remarkable, and at times a very moving visit by the new president of Afghanistan to the United States. This today was President Ashraf Ghani, along with the Afghan official who`s sort of the equivalent of his vice president. It`s the two of them, and our vice president, Joe Biden, along with our defense secretary, Ash Carter, the four of them laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown at Arlington National Cemetery today. Just a very somber, very moving ceremony, including the playing of "Taps" to honor the more than 2,200 American troops who have been killed so far in the Afghanistan war. And honoring American service in Afghanistan has basically been the theme of President Ghani`s visit to the United States this week. Ashraf Ghani lived in the U.S. for many years, something like 20 years. He got a PhD at Columbia. He worked as a U.S. college professor. He worked as a World Bank official in Washington. He had a home in Bethesda for a lot of years. So, he`s very familiar with the United States. He speaks very good English. This is his first visit as president of Afghanistan. But what he has come back to over and over again since he has been here this week is striking -- he just keeps coming back to how thankful he is, how appreciative he is for the sacrifice of American troops and their families over these 13-plus years of war that Americans have fought in his country. I think his remarks have been moving in part because of the way he has gone out of his way to not just say it in platitudes, and talk about it as a country to country relationship, but the way he addressed it directly to troops, and the way he said thank you. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ASHRAF GHANI, AFGHAN PRESIDENT: My fondest hope and to the veterans is that we hope to welcome you in Afghanistan as tourists, as civilians, revisiting with your loved ones, the peaks, the deserts, the valleys, the homes of people that your loved ones touched so dearly. Come back to us in some years and at that moment, Afghans, millions of us will be able to say thank you to each one of you personally. Shake your hands, and invite you to our homes. I would like to take the opportunity to pay tribute to those common sacrifices and simultaneously take the opportunity to pay tribute to 2,215 American servicemen and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice. More than 22,000 American soldiers have been wounded in action, civilians, numerous contractors and others. You stood shoulder to shoulder with us, and I would like to stay thank you. I would also like to thank the American taxpayer for his and her hard- earned dollars that have enabled us. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The taxpayers. When is the last time that you, as a taxpayer, were thanked for paying for the war in Afghanistan? We do not talk about that as a country. I mean, it`s remarkable to see a national leader thank the people of the United States for sacrificing over a trillion dollars in addition to what service members and their families have sacrificed from their own lives. Honestly, we never talk about the war at all in this country. Let alone the in fact it is being fought in our name and with our money. I mean, to the point where the Republican budgets that were unveiled on Capitol Hill this week propose going back to the Bush-Cheney accounting system where the money for the war is listed as an emergency expense, a surprise every year, that therefore does not factor into the budget at all. It`s free money. But there`s the Afghan president in Washington, thanking us as a nation, thanking American service members and their families for 13 1/2 years of fighting in Afghanistan, and thanking every American taxpayer for the more than trillion tax dollars that had been spent there. You can almost hear everybody in Washington on both sides of aisle going, you know, ixnay, ixnay on the axpayertay alkingtay -- like we don`t talk about the fact this actually cost anything. But here he is, saying thank you, and being so publicly appreciative for what the United States has done in Afghanistan. And the reason he is doing that is because he wants more of it. And today, President Obama said yes. Today, at this joint press conference, this remarkable press conference today, President Obama announced a dramatic change in U.S. policy. This had previously been the plan for the end of the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan after more than 13 1/2 years. As you see, we got 2015, 2016, 2017. Here`s where we are, that blue dot is where we are now, roughly 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. What the president previously said was going to happen was a plan to go down by the end of this year to about half that number, to about 5,500, on the way toward going down to a residual force of about 1,000 troops left in Afghanistan, just to protect the embassy and be based on the country`s capital by the time President Obama leaves office in the end of 2016, by the time a new president is sworn in to start 2017. That had been the plan. Today, President Obama announced that he plans on keeping that end date and state the same, but we`re not going to make that said gradual decline in troop numbers over the next two years, we withdraw by half in a year, and the other half thereafter. We instead are going to keep 10,000 troops, which is what we have there now, we`re going to keep them there for the rest of the year. That means that the decline to that end state will be a much more rapid descent, a much more rapid withdrawal over the course of the final year. And so, this is a little bit inexplicably, right? I mean, it is clear that the Afghan president wants more American troops there for longer. The U.S. now says we`re going to do that. But the end game now makes less sense, right? If you`re worried about what happens in Afghanistan as the number of foreign troops declines, that decline will be more severe, more drastic, faster, more shocking to the system because it`s going to happen now over a shorter period of time in 2016. Instead of going from 10,000 to 5,000, and then 5,000 to 1,000, it is going from 10,000 to 1,000 over the course of one year. That`s a much more dramatic decline in the number of troops. If you are worried that that withdrawal of troops is going to shock Afghanistan and Afghanistan is not going to be able to handle it, well, that decline has just gotten much more shocking. Are they really going to stick to that? I mean, President Obama still says, we`re going down to that same end point. We`re going down to 1,000 troops by the end of December 2016. But you know what will happen in 2016? In December 2016, he`s going to be a lame duck president. Someone new will be elected, and that somebody will either be a Republican president, Jeb Bush, with all the Bush/Cheney advisers you can fit into one clown car, or it will be Hillary Clinton, likely. I mean, either way, you think they`re going to be happy with this withdrawal plan? This dramatic withdrawal plan for the last year down to 1,000? You think they`re going to let that stand if the Obama administration won`t? The Afghanistan war is already 13 1/2 years long. It is nice to finally see some discussion in Washington about what that sacrifice has meant for members of our military and for our country more broadly, even if it had to come from a foreign leader who was saying it in part because he was asking for more. If you ever had suspicions that a war only got to be this long, only got to be 13 1/2 years long because Washington didn`t know how to end it -- today, those suspicions became policy. It is already America`s longest war, and anybody who is being honest about how Washington will deal with it will tell you right now that today, more than ever, there is no end in sight. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We try really hard on this show to have guests from all perspectives, particularly guests from both political parties, whenever we can. You may have noticed we`re really bad at it. We have much better luck booking members of one party and sometimes independents. But there is another party that doesn`t like to talk to me for any reason. Tonight, a small antidote to that ongoing problem. We have one of the members of the other party, a real live elected Republican official who happens to be at the center of making sure that something of really vital national importance gets fixed. He`s right at the center of this story and he joins us live, next. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Yesterday during the White House science fair, one of the journalists on hand to cover that event and cover all President Obama`s interaction with all the science fair kids, a journalist named Manku Singh, who works for TV Asia, which is the largest South Asian cable network in the United States. Yesterday, during the science fair, he suddenly collapsed at the White House. He had a heart attack while he was covering the president at this event and the science fair. Because that heart attack happened inside the White House, the first responders were actually uniformed Secret Service agents. Secret Service agents are trained in advanced life saving techniques. Those agents were the first on hand to help him. They started CPR, White House medics were then on hand to help, and they called in D.C. fire and ambulance. It was very scary and very serious. They ended up using defibrillator paddles on him right there. They started an IV line, they did ultimately get the journalist into an ambulance. He was taken to a hospital and he remains hospitalized tonight. No one wants obviously anything like that to happen to them under any circumstances. If it does happen to you, you could do worse than to have it happen right in front of highly trained Secret Service agents who immediately leapt to your aid. Also yesterday, the Secret Service was called for help after the University of Maryland got a threatening phone call regarding President Obama`s niece. She is a student at Princeton University. She`s a student athlete who is also a forward on the Princeton women`s varsity basketball team, which was playing last night in the NCAA tournament against Maryland. The University of Maryland police notified the Secret Service that they have received a threat concerning the president`s niece in that game. Security was upped at the game. I should also mention that there were also two Supreme Court justices at that game. Both Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan are Princeton alums, both of them were there at the same game last night at which the president`s niece was the subject of this threat. Everything ended up going OK, except that Princeton lost. But imagine if you`re the Secret Service, and that was all just in a day`s work yesterday. The Secret Service has responsibilities that are hard to overstate in terms of the high stakes and the main guy they protect, but also the complicated and multivariate threats that they are expected to handle on any given day. All of which makes it all more worrying when they get things wrong. This is footage from three weeks ago, March 4th. This footage shows a person dropping off a suspicious package outside of the security gate of the White House. After that happened, Secret Service agents put a temporary barricade to block off the area around the suspicious package while they investigate. And then, this is the part that has made news, recently. Two senior Secret Service agents drive up to the scene, they turn on their flashing lights, and then they bump into the barricade that was set up. Uniformed agents on the scene reportedly believe that two agents behind the wheel of that car had been drinking. It`s been reported that they wanted to arrest the agents on the scene and administer sobriety tests, but their watch commander on duty told them to just let the Secret Service senior agents go home instead. The bomb threat, the suspicion package on the evening of March 4th, that ended up not being a bomb. It ended up being nothing. But members of the House Oversight Committee today cited that threat, paired with the senior agents attempting to drive right through the crime scene as evidence of this agency`s inability to properly protect the president and his family. That D.C. police videotape was released today by the Oversight Committee as they questioned Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy on his agency`s handling of the March 4th incident. This was an utterly nonpartisan thing today and it was very heated. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: I believe that when the chain of command is broken, when a chain of command is broken, there is no command. It is like a body without a head. And when there is no command, there is vulnerability. Again, that vulnerability goes to the safety of the president of the United States of America. REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R-UT), OVERSIGHT CMTE. CHAIRMAN: It takes 27 minutes to secure the scene, 27 minutes. What if that was a real bomb? What if it was a real bomb? JOSEPH CLANCY, U.S. SECRET SERVICE DIRECTOR: Yes. Mr. Chairman, I have been at the White House complex when we cordoned areas, when we have secured zones, and it happens very rapidly from my -- CHAFFETZ: But this didn`t, and this is the most recent example. Why didn`t it happen? CLANCY: I don`t know. CHAFFETZ: Who are you holding accountable? CLANCY: We`re going to wait -- CHAFFETZ: You`re going to wait. That`s the problem. CLANCY: We`re going to wait. CHAFFETZ: That`s the problem. "We`re going to wait." That`s the problem. CLANCY: Yes. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The chairman of that committee, Republican Jason Chaffetz, joins us next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHAFFETZ: It takes 27 minutes to secure the scene, 27 minutes. What if it was a real bomb? What if it was a real bomb? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Joining us now is Congressman Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. That was him speaking today at a very heated hearing along with the director of the Secret Service. Congressman Chaffetz, thanks very much for your time tonight. CHAFFETZ: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: So, I have been watching the Secret Service story unfold. The congressional oversight part of it is interesting both because it seems very bipartisan and passionate, but because it seems like it might be the way we actually find out what`s going on with the Secret Service. Do you feel like there is something going on with that agency that we are yet to understand? CHAFFETZ: Yes, we have had too many incidents. We have great men and women out there who serve, but there has been a lack of leadership. When you`re not doing the very basics, you have a duty and responsibility. Elijah Cummings and I are very united in this. It`s not a partisan issue. I made no secret about the fact that I was a Mitt Romney supporter, but guess what? Barack Obama is our president. He is the president of the United States and I don`t want anything to happen, not on my watch, not on Elijah Cummings` watch. MADDOW: In terms of the Secret Service and the leadership concerns that you were expressing there, do you feel like Director Clancy is himself the problem? Obviously, these incidents preceded him. He was brought in in part to try to clean up the agency and get it back on track. Do you feel like he was the wrong guy to pick and somebody else might be able to clean the place up? What`s your perspective on him? CHAFFETZ: They have a deep-seated cultural problem. They brought in an independent panel, four independent people. They unanimously came back and said, we need a transformative figure from the outside. The president chose not to follow their recommendation. I happen to think the recommendation was the right one. Nevertheless, President Obama selected Director Clancy. I can`t blame everything to him. But this is a pivotal moment. How is he going to deal with this crisis when they`re not able to detain somebody who drops off a would-be bomb? When you have two very senior people drive through a crime scene, two crime scenes, the assault on the officer and within a couple of feet of a bomb. When they`re not able to secure that area for 27 minutes, when they don`t even call the metro police department for 11 minutes. But they don`t send out a BOLO, a be on a lookout for this would-be bomber for 30 minutes, then it goes to the senior leadership, and how they deal with it. That`s the concern. MADDOW: What do you imagine is going to be the solution here? Obviously, you`re indicating you may have concern with the top-level leadership, that you may want a change in the top-level leadership. That can`t -- presumably that can`t be all if the problems have been this deep, and this widespread, particularly when there is a few senior leadership ranks among themselves. What do you imagine might be the type of fix this agency would need? CHAFFETZ: We have thousands of Secret Service officers and agents in the uniform division and as agents, they have got to gain the confidence that they`re going to get a workable schedule. They`re overworked. They`re under-trained. We don`t have enough agents and officers. And they`ve got to know that senior leadership has got their back and is going to treat senior management the way they rank-and-file. Until they gain that confidence, I think we`re going to continue to have these struggles. MADDOW: Particularly, with the mention of the uniform division, and the way that the difference between them and the agents, and some of the morale issues around there, one of the things that it seems like this narrative keeps coming around to is staffing levels, how much they`re working, how well they`re trained, how well they`re equipped. If part of the solution here is going to be significantly more money, significantly more resources, do you think that the fiscal conservatives in the House, yourself among them, would be willing to steer more resources to that agency if it`s got to be part of the solution? CHAFFETZ: Oh, absolutely. The average, average training time over the course of the year is 25 minutes, 25 minutes! They train girl scouts how to sell cookies longer than that. And it`s just not acceptable. I support the idea they need to build a mock White House that`s going to be $8 million expenditure. Right now, they`re going on a ball field with spray paint and trying to teach the officers. Hey, this is how you protect the White House in a ball field filled with spray paint. That is not acceptable. We have to spend money to do this. It`s going to take resources. We can figure out where to cut somewhere else, but protecting the president of the United States and his family, we can never, ever, ever let anything happen to them. MADDOW: Congressman Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, it is really hard for me to get Republicans to come on this show to talk to me even about totally nonpartisan things -- so an extra special thank you for being willing to do it. CHAFFETZ: Invite me back. You have always been good to me. You`ve always been good to me. Thank you. MADDOW: Thank you, sir. Great to see you. Thank you. It`s good to get that perspective, and I got to tell you, when I see Elijah Cummings, ranking Democrat, and Jason Chaffetz, both yelling with the same veins bulging on their necks about this issue and basically getting so hot under the collar about it, it is a nice bipartisan to see that the outrage around the Secret Service and the need to fix the Secret Service is a technocratic good government thing that knows no partisan bounds. It is a scary situation, but the solution is going to be heartening, I tell you. We`ll be right back. (COMEMRCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: A quick note to our dear friends at the FOX News Channel: no means no. Seriously. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS: Would you entertain the party coming to you and saying, governor, we`re at a draw here? MITT ROMNEY: First, that`s not going to happen. Two, I`m not an entertainer. CAVUTO: You`re saying never, never, never, never, never? ROMNEY: It`s just not going to happen, I`m sorry, Neil. CAVUTO: So, that`s never, never, never? ROMNEY: It`s not going to happen. CAVUTO: OK. ROMNEY: There`s no realistic scenario in which that would happen. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Never, never, never, never, never? Like never, never, never, never, never, never? Never? Republicans are yearning for another Mitt Romney candidacy to the point of begging for one. Is that just Mitt Romney love? Does it indicate some dissatisfaction with the bumper crop of non-Mitt Romney candidates that they already have this year? I don`t know. But for one of the candidates that found himself in the top tier of Republican contenders this year, life in the spotlight has just gotten considerably harder, thanks to a bombshell new report. And we`ve got the details next with the reporter who broke that story. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: If you live anywhere in the Upper Midwest, and you have turned on a television, you know this very short song. It`s earworm. You will not be able to get it out of your head. (MUSIC) MADDOW: It sets my teeth on edge even now. That will be in your head all night. Save good. Menards is a giant home improvement store chain. Its founder, John Menard Jr., is a billionaire several times over. "Forbes" says he`s the 142nd richest man in the world. Save big money. He is also the richest man in the state of Wisconsin. And he is well known not just being the richest man in the state, and not just for his chain of hardware stores with their inescapable jingle, but also for his many and long-running battles with the state`s environmental cops. Ten years ago, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said they had more problems with John Menard and his company than with any other Wisconsin company. They cited John Menard and his company, Menards, at least 13 times over three decades for ignoring or violating state pollution and hazardous waste regulations. At one point, the state caught Mr. Menard himself on video and this is true, personally dumping arsenic-laden hazardous waste ashes from one of his lumber plants into a state landfill. Personally. Instead of paying for the stuff to go to a hazardous materials facility, apparently, John Menard would just bag up the waste, bring it home to his house and put it in his personal trash at home. So, instead of going to the hazardous facility, it would just go to the landfill. John Menard ended up paying a $1.7 million fine for that, which at the time was a record for Wisconsin. So, that`s John Menard, Jr. Save big money. Here is what Michael Isikoff has just reported about John Menard and his brand new starring role in American national politics. In 2012, when Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was engaged in a bitter recall election that he ultimately won, John Menard Jr. donated more than $1.5 million -- $1.5 million -- to a pro-Scott Walker group that promised that it would keep its donors anonymous. They accepted unlimited donations of any size, from anyone, even from corporations, and they said they would keep those secret forever. John Menard Jr. reportedly gave $1.5 million to that group to support Scott Walker, but to support Scott Walker secretly. Since then, since Scott Walker won that recall election, things have gone pretty well for John Menard, Jr. in his dealings with Wisconsin state government. His company has been awarded up to $1.8 million in tax breaks from the state. That alone recoups the donation. The Walker administration has sharply scaled back the kind of environmental enforcement actions that have plagued John Menard and his company more than any other company in the state for years. Now, to be clear, there was no bribery investigation here. Scott Walker is not being investigated for any sort of quid pro quo. Governor Walker`s spoke American gave us a detailed explanation, making the case that everything about the way John Menard Jr. was treated by the Scott Walker administration can be explained by just normal politics, nothing scandalous about this at all. But the fact remains that John Menard Jr. tried to secretly give $1.5 million to elect Scott Walker, and subsequently he received very favorable treatment from Scott Walker in Wisconsin state government. And yes, those things may not be connected at all in any way that is criminal and even stinky. But we were never supposed to know about the donations in the first place. And part of the reason we may know about them now is because of the trailing ends of an ongoing criminal investigation in Wisconsin, into Scott Walker`s campaign donations. That investigation has been working its way through the courts in Wisconsin. The case is going to be heard before the Wisconsin state Supreme Court next month. And Governor Walker and his campaign team have successfully argued, thus far, to the press corps that this investigation, the other hometown investigations trailing behind Scott Walker, they should just be seen as parochial Wisconsin issues that will be of no interest to the nation, certainly of no interest to the national press corps because this is just, you know, hometown stuff, usual hometown enemies going after local politicians for the usual partisan stuff. And that works when you`re just the governor of Wisconsin, and the national process only mildly interested in you at a distance. But when you are a top-tier presidential contender, investigative reporters with serious national chops start looking at everything trailing behind you as you try to become president, and because these investigations are still trailing him in Wisconsin, the story of Scott Walker is going to be end up being way more interesting in future months than it has been recently, particularly if he stays at the top of the pack. Joining us is Michael Isikoff, chief investigative correspondent for Yahoo News. His reporting appears in Yahoo`s new digital political magazine, which launched today. Mike, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here. MICHAEL ISIKOFF, YAHOO NEWS: Great to be back on the show, Rachel. MADDOW: So, let me ask you first if I summarized that in a way that - - if I miss anything important, or are those were the right basics? ISIKOFF: No, I think you got it, just a couple points worth emphasizing here. One of the things that has been uncovered in the course of this John Doe 2 probe into the Walker fund-raising was that Scott Walker was personally involved in raising money for the Wisconsin Club for Growth. There are e-mails in which this is -- his aides refer to this, to the governor as a Wisconsin Club for Growth, as your 501(c)(4), that we should steer donations through this group in order to insure correct messaging to defend the governor`s record in advertisements. So, this is something Scott Walker was directly involved in, in raising money for this group. And there has been a lot of attention in Wisconsin in the last year, especially in Wisconsin, about some of the huge donations that Walker himself had raised from the likes of Donald Trump or other hedge fund, Paul Singer, the hedge fund billionaire. But what stands out in this matter is this is a guy, Menard, who is the richest man in Wisconsin who has extensive business before the state government. MADDOW: Right. ISIKOFF: He was making what appears to be the largest single donation to the group that Scott Walker was trying to raise money for and the public knew nothing about it. And I think that`s the part of the story that is getting a lot of attention, which is why didn`t -- wasn`t this disclosed? What did -- would Scott -- had the public known about these donations, would Scott Walker have been forced to answer questions when he ran for reelection? Would the Wisconsin press have been pressing him for information about his meetings, whatever meetings he might have had with John Menard? Whatever he knew about these donations? Whether he solicited them. But none of those questions have been put to him. I think that`s why this story, if nothing else, may prod Walker to have to answer some of those questions. MADDOW: As this investigation continues, this case continues to work its way through the courts in Wisconsin, it`s had a wild ride through the courts already. Is it likely, if that case continues, that there will be more made known that will get more public information about who were those donors to Scott Walker back in those days who thought they were going to be able to make those donations under the cover of anonymity offered by this arrangement. Are we going to learn more? ISIKOFF: Well, presumably, if the investigation is allowed to continue and charges are brought -- then yes, we could learn lots more. You know, the question that this story raises is, what else is there in the files? What else have prosecutors obtained about who was funneling donations to this group and what role Walker himself played in raising that money? It`s unclear whether the investigation is going to go forward. I should say. The Wisconsin Supreme Court is going to be hearing arguments on this next month. Some of its members have received support from some of the same people who were backing Scott Walker. MADDOW: Right. ISIKOFF: There`s -- so, we`ll see. But I think if nothing else, there will be a lot more attention on those oral arguments next month before the court. MADDOW: Michael Isikoff, chief investigative correspondent for Yahoo News, it is great to see you, Mike. I got to say. We`ll miss you here in the building, but you`re doing great work for Yahoo. I`m glad you`re on this. Thanks, man. ISIKOFF: Thank you. MADDOW: Thanks. All right. Much more ahead tonight. Please do stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: It is 2:53 a.m. in France right now. This is the sight of the question of the Germanwings Airbus A320 that was flying this morning from Barcelona to Dusseldorf with 144 passengers and six crew members on board. That plane crashed in the remote hard to reach high altitude site in the French Alps. All 150 people onboard are presumed to be dead. Amazingly, given the remote location of the crash, authorities have already been able to locate one of the black boxes, the cockpit voice recorder, which is going to be key to what happens next in terms of finding out what happened to cause this crash. Perhaps the most unusual thing being reported about this crash thus far is the circumstances of its descent. The plane took off about 10:00 a.m. local time. Twenty-seven minutes after takeoff, it reached a cruising altitude of 38,000 feet. At 10:31, it then started an eight-minute long descent. At about 10:40 a.m., that plane lost control with French radar and French air traffic control. Now, it is unclear why the plane started that descent. Air traffic control had not authorized the plane to descent. But what makes this even weirder is that while the plane was descending, it didn`t deviate from its course at all, even as it lost altitude. And that is unusual for a plane that`s in distress. It basically kept on its planned trajectory while inexplicably dropping 4,000 feet per minute for eight straight minutes. Plane crashes themselves are rare. Plane crashes like this from a cruising altitude without explanation -- this type of plane crash is almost unheard of. The latest we know of is that the black box was found today in this debris was flown to Paris tonight. France`s flight safety agency is leading the investigation. They say they`re going to be analyzing the contents of the box tomorrow. But this is a strange, strange story. Plane crashes are rare, but this is a very rare type of plane crash. We`re going to bring you more as we learn more, and Lawrence O`Donnell will have a lot more at the top of the hour. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is not the best new thing in the world, but it does have a happy ending. Early this morning in London, in the southeast section of London that`s called Suffolk, residents woke up to an informational flyer telling them that a 1,000-pound World War II era bomb had been found in the neighborhood and, quote, "If the bomb explodes, buildings in the 200-meter zone will be significantly damaged and those close to the bomb will be destroyed. Remaining in your home is placing your life at significant risk." Also, good morning. By 8:00 a.m., 1,200 homes and businesses were emptied out, 1,200 -- so officials could secure the construction site where this bomb had been found. This five-foot-long bomb had been found lying on its side, seemingly untouched since the Nazis dropped it there about 70 years ago, freaking Nazis! A military bomb squad from the defense was called in. They put in a big igloo of sandbags to absorb the impact in the event that the bomb went off when they were trying to dig it out. Happily, it did not go off and they were able to dig it out. Military experts extracted it and safely trucked it out of London for detonation. Early this evening, local residents were able to return to their homes and they received an apology from the police. The cops have officially apologized that their warning flyer was, quote, "a bit blunt." Considering that there was an undetonated 1,000-pound five-foot-long Nazi bomb in the neighborhood, I hereby declare that the cops can be excused for bluntness. Old Nazi bomb trumps charming British understatement. New rule. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." Good evening, Lawrence. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END