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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 04/09/15

Guests: Jason Noble

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. CHRIS HAYES, ALL IN: You bet. MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. There`s a lot going on today and tonight. Tonight, there are unconfirmed but somewhat tantalizing reports that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has scheduled her announcement of when she`s going to tell the country that she is running for president. We`re going to be talking about that a little later on. Plus, President Obama is having the happiest possible presidential trip abroad today. He basically crowd surfed through the entire island of Jamaica today. We`ve got some very funny details on that, including some really funny tape. We`ve also got some hysterical, in a different way, news, from the American political right, about a communist takeover of one U.S. state and what you can do about it. So, there`s a lot going on today, there`s a lot of news, we`ve got a big show. But late this afternoon, a new video was released by the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division, new video of the altercation that led to the shooting death of Walter Scott at the hands of a North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer this past week. Now, previously, what we had seen was this tape, which was shot by a bystander, who did not know either the police officer involved or the other man involved in this altercation. He was just a young man walking by on his way to work, he noticed something was going on between the police officer and this man, and he happened to start filming on his cell phone. The tape that he shot, which was shot on Saturday morning, during the incident, was released publicly Tuesday. That tape started, literally, seconds before the shooting that killed Walter Scott. There`s never been any denying that the shots fired by that police officer are what killed 50- year-old Walter Scott. Before this video emerged, though, the officer and his police department claimed publicly that the reason that officer had to shoot Mr. Scott, the reason those shots were justified is because the officer was in fear for his life. Even without seeing the initial altercation, it is hard to imagine how you could be in fear for your life from someone who is unarmed and running away from you with their back to you. And so once this bystander`s video emerged of the shooting, a number of things happened in quick secession. First, the lawyer who had been defending the police officer, defending his actions to the press, apparently quit and said he would no longer represent the officer. The officer was also then arrested and charged with murder. That`s him being arraigned yesterday in South Carolina. The officer was then fired from the police department where he worked, although the department says they will still pay for his family health insurance, in part because the officer`s wife is eight months pregnant. But as that officer remains in jail today in South Carolina, today, we got another video. We got what is thought to be the only other video of this incident. It was shot from the dashboard camera mounted on that officer`s patrol car. Now, the video does not show the shooting itself. But it does show the traffic stop that led up to the shooting. And as you can see in the video, this is that dashboard camera video. At first, it seems like a routine traffic stop. You see it from the perspective of the officer`s squad car. Walter Scott stops his car. Officer Slager approaches the car. There`s music playing. The music you hear is in the officer`s squad car. And it seems like this is going to be an unremarkable interaction. The officer certainly seems very relaxed. You know, any number of -- this is like any number of annoying but unremarkable traffic stops in any city, anywhere. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OFFICER MICHAEL SLAGER: OK. Let`s start with your license. Reason for this stop is your brake light`s out. WALTER SCOTT: OK. (INAUDIBLE) SLAGER: OK. SCOTT: Because actually I just bought the car from my neighbor. SLAGER: Uh-huh. SCOTT: And I was planning on doing that Monday. He still has insurance papers on the car. SLAGER: Do you have insurance on the car? SCOTT: No, I don`t have insurance -- SLAGER: Well, if you don`t have insurance, it`s on your car since you bought it, you have to have insurance. SCOTT: I haven`t bought it yet. I`m saying I`m about to do that Monday. SLAGER: You told me you bought it. SCOTT: (INAUDIBLE) drive the car. SLAGER: Oh, OK. SCOTT: My car is down (INAUDIBLE) this car, I told him (INAUDIBLE) SLAGER: Let me have your driver`s license. So, you don`t have any paperwork in the glove box? SCOTT: No, sir. SLAGER: No registration in there? No insurance? SCOTT: He has all that stuff. SLAGER: Why isn`t it? OK. But you`re buying this car? SCOTT: Yes, sir. SLAGER: Did you already buy it? SCOTT: No, not yet. I`m about to buy it Monday. SLAGER: Just a minute ago, you told me that you bought it and you`re changing everything over on Monday. SCOTT: I`m sorry about that. (INAUDIBLE) everything is on Monday. SLAGER: All right, be right back with you. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The whole first part of the tape, that`s kind of it, right? Very routine, sort of boring, even -- until it isn`t. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SLAGER: Stay in the car! (INAUDIBLE) SLAGER: Taser! Taser! Taser! (INAUDIBLE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: And that`s what we`ve got. This video does not change the basic known facts of the killing here. We do not know what happened after the man who was stopped by the police officer and then ultimately the police officer ran off-camera. There`s a gap in between what we see -- there`s a gap in between what we see in this traffic stop and Walter Scott for whatever reason getting out of that car and running away with the police officer, we can hear, in pursuit. There`s a gap between that chain of events and this chain of events, in the second video, the bystander`s video, where we see how it ends, just moments later, with Walter Scott dead in the grass. This case, understandably, with this incredible visual record of the shooting, and with the incredible contrast between the police department`s initial explanation for what happened and what can be seen in that bystander`s video, this case has ignited a new national discussion on policing in plaque communities, the difference between black and white experiences of law enforcement in this country. In national politics, that discussion has included the Justice Department investigating some individual police killings in the last few years. It has also included the Justice Department intervening federally in some police departments around the country. President Obama today was actually asked about police violence in the United States, while he was on this trip to Jamaica. He talked about the federal task force that he set up on the issue of community policing after the riots in Ferguson last year that followed the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown at the hands of a white police officer. So, in our country, right, in the midst of all of the street-level activism that has happened on this issue, and all of the media attention to this problem, and the federal action to try to find solutions to this problem, in the middle of all of that, there has also even been some noise that we might get some even very, very, very, very slightly bipartisan reforms on criminal justice issues. Senator Rand Paul leading up to his run for the presidency, he has made the case that he would be able to attract African-Americans to the Republican party and to his presidential candidacy in particular, in large part because of his own self-proclaimed support for some kind of criminal justice reform. Well, in the midst of the national hubbub over the specific South Carolina police shooting, amid all this national consternation over the killing itself, the almost shocking development that the police officer was actually charged with murder in this case, in the midst of this whole national discussion, the whole furor over this South Carolina shooting, Rand Paul took his brand-new presidential campaign right to South Carolina today. And he bravely, in the midst of this national discussion, on an issue that he wants to be known for, Senator Rand Paul bravely today, while he was in South Carolina, said nothing about it -- nothing. Steve Schmidt, who ran the McCain/Palin campaign in 2008, he once famously said on this show that a presidential campaign is basically a full-body scan for everybody who runs at a high level. David Axelrod who ran Barack Obama`s campaign against Steve Schmidt`s campaign that year describes it almost exactly the same way. He said that a presidential campaign is an MRI for the soul. Once you are officially running for president, you may like the political press in this country or you may hate the political press in this country, but if you are a candidate for president at a high level because people take your candidacy seriously, you will receive so much scrutiny from the people who are running against you and by the press that is covering you all, that every single thing there is to be known about you will become known. Rand Paul right now is not even to, like, the first x-ray part of his campaign yet. And the press and his rivals for the nomination have only just started to even give him a once over at this point. So, it`s going to be really interesting to see, how long does he get to deep getting credit for being a brave criminal justice reformer when he walks into the epicenter of a huge national discussion about race and criminal justice reform and he has absolutely nothing to say about it. Similarly, there was just this astonishing visual today. Rand Paul in South Carolina today decided to give his "I`m running for president" speech again, this time in South Carolina, this time in front of an aircraft carrier. Other Republicans and conservatives have been attacking him for not being tough enough on defense to be a real presidential candidate, so he`s obviously trying to rebuff that characterization visually, by standing in front of an aircraft carrier, while he talks about being president. But because he is Rand Paul, he also needs to try to keep alive the libertarian-ish family name and reputation that got him 98 percent of the way to where he is now in politics. And so, there is this amazing visual today, where he`s got his "don`t forget I`m Ron Paul`s son" presidential campaign slogan, right there on the moment, "Defeat the Washington machine," right? Defeat the Washington machine. That`s his campaign slogan. But he`s got that campaign slogan plastered up there in front of what is literally a Washington machine, a giant Washington machine. The biggest one there is! An aircraft carrier built by Washington`s defense budget, to defend the government of the United States of America and its people. "Defeat the Washington machine" but pay no attention to that one. Or at least think different thoughts. What`s he trying to say there? Like that wasn`t built with federal tax dollars? That`s the -- oh, that`s the aircraft carrier that built with Bitcoin. Oh, I got it! Oh, that`s the private sector aircraft carrier. You know, that whole flight deck was donated by a wealthy philanthropist who was happy about his low taxes. So, there`s Rand Paul in front of the aircraft carrier, defeating the Washington machine today. There`s Rand Paul still getting the Beltway journalists to write about his appeal to young hipsters, even as he gets further and further right in his anti-gay and anti-abortion policy positions. The press is still dutifully writing down that Rand Paul has a great appeal to the tech community. He`s against net neutrality. He`s even against the basic stuff that the tech world cares about. So, I think we`re at this, you know, on race, on the youth vote, on tech, on all this other stuff that he gets credit for, I think -- on the libertarian stuff, and even on the isolationist stuff. I think we are at this bubble is about to burst moment, with a lot of the candidates who are getting into the race. I mean, right after they announce, they get a bump, right? They get a flurry of attention and get this moment of sort of equipoise with the national media, where everybody writes down the received conventional wisdom about that candidate and writes down what those candidates want to be said about themselves. But then, if these guys are going to mount a real campaign, if these guys are going to be taken seriously, the scrutiny, ultimately, is going to hurt. And I think in part, because Ssenator Paul inherited his presidential prospects fully formed from his father. He is probably the one who the scrutiny is going to hurt the most. And we`ve got a juicy story on that, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, we`ve got lots to come tonight, including this awesomeness and the story behind it. Like, yes, everybody run, everybody run across -- yep. This awesomeness, what this is, the story behind it and how it became newly relevant. It is a night of amazing tape. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Whether or not you believe that Senator Rand Paul has the experience and the temperament and the good sense to be president of the United States, what is clear already from him getting into the race for president is that there are good things and there are bad things about being a presidential candidate, who is following in the footsteps of your dad being a presidential candidate. Here, for example, is a good thing about that. This is former Republican congressman and perennial presidential candidate, Ron Paul. This is Ron Paul campaigning for president back in 2012. And he`s campaigning here with a guy I like to think of as his shadow. That`s Ron Paul on the right side of your screen, but then there`s that other guy. Everywhere Ron Paul went during that campaign, his ginormous hulking personal bodyguard followed. So, there`s Ron Paul walking through a stadium, hulking bodyguard right behind him. Here`s Ron Paul, giving a big wave to the crowd, hulking bodyguard watching his every move. There`s Ron Paul in a car, hulking bodyguard just outside of car, checking everything out. Ron Paul`s bodyguard in 2012 was so excellent, so omnipresent, he was essentially part of the presidential ticket. I mean, you want me? You get him too, likely at 18 inches or less away from me. That was 2012. This is now. Hey, you look familiar! That is Rand Paul, son of Ron, walking offstage after announcing this week that he is running for president. Not dad this time, him. And yes, he has apparently inherited dad`s awesome bodyguard. Perhaps, the Paul family got him on a long-term multi-generational lease. So, having a very experienced ginormous personal bodyguard at your disposal, who has already been in the trenches of a presidential campaign, that is one good thing for Rand Paul, about taking dad`s entire presidential campaign apparatus. But with the good also comes the bad. During Rand Paul`s presidential announcement event, you might have noticed that the camera kept panning up to the bleachers on stage, where Rand Paul`s very famous father, Ron Paul, was sitting. Just a few rows back, though, was this gentleman, who we`re pointing to with the arrow there. His name is Jesse Benton. He ran Ron Paul`s presidential campaign back in 2012. And now, there he is for Paul the younger`s big announcement, right up there on stage. That turns the out to be an awkward thing, because Jesse Benton is also currently playing a leading role in a federal investigation into the Ron Paul for president campaign, specifically the question of whether or not under his watch the Ron Paul for president campaign bribed people for Ron Paul endorsements. The specific concern is whether the Ron Paul campaign, under Jesse Benton in 2012, bribed this bald guy, a former Iowa state senator named Kent Sorenson. In the lead up to the 2012 Iowa caucuses, Kent Sorenson had been the state co-chair for the Michele Bachmann presidential campaign, but then really dramatically, just a few days before the Iowa caucuses that year, he switched teams. He publicly ditched Michele Bachmann and said, "I`m endorsing Ron Paul." We now know that Kent Sorenson did that because the Ron Paul campaign was paying him off. Kent Sorenson pled guilty last year to accepting cash to switch his support to Ron Paul, and to then working with the Ron Paul campaign to essentially cover up the $73,000 in payments that they made to him for his endorsement. When Kent Sorenson pled guilty, though, that was not the end of the story. Bribery is one of those crimes that does not just involve a bribee, person receiving the bribes, it also involves a briber, the person paying them. Kent Sorenson pled guilty to receiving bribes last August. He`s facing up to 25 years in prison. But now, eight months after he entered his guilty plea, Kent Sorenson still has not been sentenced, eight months later. That delay is because the Justice Department asked the judge in his case to delay sentencing while Kent Sorenson helps out the Justice Department, with a, quote, "larger investigation into that bribery scandal in Iowa." Last year, "The Washington Post" reported that federal prosecutors were looking into the actions of people involved in the Ron Paul for president campaign. They were looking to see if laws were broken by those individuals, as well as the laws broken by Kent Sorenson. As part of that investigation, subpoenas were reportedly issued for communications between Kent Sorenson and, among others, Jesse Benton, who was running the Ron Paul campaign at the time. Now, Jesse Benton says he`s done nothing wrong, but while that federal investigation continues, that same Jesse Benton has now just been tapped to run the official Rand Paul super PAC, the organization whose job it is to raise tens of millions of dollars to get Rand Paul, son of Ron, elected president. There are advantages to taking over your dad`s entire campaign team, for example, the awesome, enormous bodyguard. But sometimes it also means having your campaign run by the guy who`s at the center of dad`s old unresolved bribery scandal that`s under federal investigation. How`s that going to work out? Joining us now is Jason Noble, political reporter for the "Des Moines Register." Mr. Noble, nice to see you. Thanks for being here. JASON NOBLE, DES MOINES REGISTER: Hi, Rachel. Thanks for having me. MADDOW: So, Kent Sorenson pled guilty in August of last year. It`s been reported that the reason he still hasn`t been sentenced is because the Justice Department basically said, we want to keep working with Kent Sorenson. Are they implying that his eventual sentence may depend on whether or not he`s able to give them more information that might be useful to some bigger fish? NOBLE: I think that`s clearly the implication here. The Justice Department is not saying much. Believe me, I`ve tried. I sat in on a -- kind of a sentencing update hearing in February, where the attorneys for Kent Sorenson, the attorneys from Justice, and the judge got together and talked over where this case was going, and they basically said, just like you said, the government is engaged in a larger investigation here, and that is ongoing, and clearly, Sorenson is involved in that investigation in some way that is delaying his sentencing. He`s facing 25 years, something like a half million dollars in fines. What it will actually be depends on apparently this other investigation. MADDOW: "Mother Jones" magazine reported this week that the Ron Paul for president 2012 campaign has spent over $300,000 in legal fees, just since August. We can surmise that some of those legal fees for a now long-dead presidential campaign may have to do with this ongoing case. Do we know who, from the Ron Paul campaign, Senator Sorenson was communicating with around these bribes? NOBLE: We do know one individual, for sure. A guy named Dimitri Kesari from Virginia. And he was, I think he was the deputy campaign manager for Ron Paul. And he actually had a face-to-face meeting with Senator Sorenson and his wife at a restaurant here in Iowa in which this guy, Kesari, gave a $25,000 check to Kent Sorenson`s wife. The check was written on Kesari`s wife`s jewelry business, not the Ron Paul campaign, but it was part of this effort to woo Sorenson over to the Paul campaign. So, we know for certain that connection. Jesse Benton, obviously, was running the Ron Paul campaign, was regularly in Iowa, a part of that Iowa campaign leading up to the caucuses. MADDOW: Jason, obviously, with Rand Paul now starting his own presidential campaign, tapping Jesse Benton to have this key role in running his campaign, running his super PAC, which in some ways is even more important than the way you run the campaign these days, obviously, everybody is wondering if this investigation is going to follow him into his own presidential election efforts, whether Jesse Benton may end up getting named if the investigation does result in further indictments or anything like that. In the meantime, while we wait for that and we can speculate on that, there is a question about what this means for the Iowa caucuses. Is -- should we surmise from this proceeding around Kent Sorenson that people who are used to getting bribed for their endorsements in Iowa, and that`s been part of the caucuses` process? NOBLE: No, I don`t think so. You know, what actually tripped up Kent Sorenson from the beginning was a state senate rule here. He was a state senator at the time, and this rule said that if you are a sitting member of the Senate, you cannot accept payment from a presidential campaign. And that`s the rule that Sorenson was trying to evade in this whole thing, and that`s the reason why he, you know, funneled the money in the way that he did to obscure the source of it to make sure it didn`t show up on an FEC report. You know, Iowa takes the caucuses very seriously and takes steps like that Senate rule to avoid these sort of situations. And I think what we`re seeing on the ground here now is the -- that this was sort of an isolated incident. This was an incident with Kent Sorenson. There haven`t been a lot of changes in rules or laws or caucus procedures to address that. That much bigger issue coming out of the 2012 caucuses was the result on caucus night, when Mitt Romney was initially declared the winner and then a recount a few weeks later showed that Rick Santorum actually won. MADDOW: Right, it was Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, and ultimately the delegates went to Ron Paul. NOBLE: That`s right. MADDOW: That logistical chaos was fun. Jason Noble, political reporter with the "Des Moines Register," thanks for helping us sort this out. Appreciate your time tonight. NOBLE: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: OK. We`ve got lots more ahead tonight, including how today`s major diplomatic news took a detour through the Bob Marley Museum and a lot more. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: One of the things we`ve been watching for in the news is word that there will be an announcement from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that she`s officially starting her campaign to be president of the United States. The reason we`ve been expecting that announcement to come very soon is because the Clinton folks apparently rented office space for a campaign headquarters late last week in Brooklyn, New York. That`s important, because once you start spending money like -- on core campaign expenses like that, the FEC rules say you have to officially declare your campaign within 15 days of doing that. So, if they started paying rent on office headquarters last week, do the math, carry the 1, the new office space had seemed to indicate there would be an announcement any day now. Well, there are two reports tonight in the "New York Daily News" and "Business Insider" each citing one unnamed source, saying that the announcement from secretary Clinton will come this weekend. "Business Insider" says she`ll announce on Saturday or Sunday, the "Daily News" says she will announce on Sunday, thus raining on Marco Rubio`s planned announcement the following day -- but also confirming that the office space rental thing was actually the right thing to watch and it really does mean that she is about to get in. Now that we think she is starting her campaign and we know where she`s putting her headquarters, two things to know about that headquarters. First of all, the floors of office space that the soon-to-be Clinton-for- president campaign has just rented in Brooklyn, they`re located, I kid you not, on the corner of Clinton Street in downtown Brooklyn. Oh, that`s subtle! Also, you should know that the new Clinton campaign headquarters is literally across the street from the offices of Loretta Lynch, across the street from President Obama`s nominee to be attorney general. Loretta Lynch and her staff work out of a lovely regal building in downtown Brooklyn. It`s very nice. Now, they will be able to gaze across the street into the Hillary Clinton campaign headquarters, while their own boss` attorney general nomination continues to languish than longer than any other attorney general nominee in modern history. Busy neighborhood over there on Clinton Street. When we learn more about that campaign launch, we`ll let you know. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: A couple of years ago, the nation to have Jamaica launched a new tourism campaign, by installing the world`s biggest stress ball in Times Square in New York City. The idea was kind of obvious. Come to Jamaica, relax, de-stress, squeeze. President Obama flew into Jamaica last night, and by this afternoon, he was already so relaxed that he lost track of time. The president left a lovely message at the guest book at the Jamaica prime minister`s office. The message said, "May the deep and abiding friendships between our nations continue for generations to come, signed Barack Obama, 10th of April, 2015." It`s not yet the 10th of April, but getting there, almost. Oh, relax about it, 9th, 10th, potato, potato, chill out. Here`s the president visiting Jamaica`s Bob Marley Museum last night. He says he was a big Bob Marley fan in his younger days. But it`s not all relaxed. Part of this trip that`s going to freak out the right wing and one Republican who is about to announce his presidential campaign, that part is next both on the president`s itinerary and here on this show. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Less than two weeks from now, on April 21st, Rastafarians everywhere will celebrate one of their holiest days of the year. It`s a holy day called Groundnation Day or sometimes Groundation Day. The Rastafarian faith is focused in part on a mystical reverence for the nation of Ethiopia. And a lot of the faith`s holidays are focused on the founding of that nation and its first modern leader, Haile Selassie. So, Rastafarian holidays mark the implementation of the first Ethiopian constitution in 1931. There`s a Rastafarian holiday that marks the birthday of Haile Selassie, and the day on which he was crowned king of Ethiopia on 1930. But Groundation Day, which happened April 21st, that day marks the day that King Haile Selassie, king of Ethiopia, revered as a messiah on earth and almost as a deity by the Rastafarian faith, Groundation Day is a high holiday every year in the Rastafarian faith, because April 21st, 1966 is the day that Haile Selassie came to Jamaica personally, himself. And you know it is one thing, I`m sure, for hundreds of thousands of people an ocean away to revere you as a god on earth, it is another thing to have to contend with that in person. And on April 21st, 1966, 100,000 Rastafarians who wanted to see their god up close, they came to greet Haile Selassie at the airport when he landed in Jamaica. It was a momentous occasion for the Rastafarian faith. But for Haile Selassie, personally, for Haile Selassie, the man, it was kind of a mob scene. The faithful stampeded the tarmac and Selassie, who did not himself consider himself to be a Rastafarian, he was a lit freaked out by the size and fury of the welcome. And that was the scene, as a famous moment in Jamaican history, that was the scene that one Jamaican news anchor recounted last night as he and the rest of Jamaica awaited the arrival of a totally different kind of a foreign dignitary. But watch this, she tells that story, but then check out her reaction. Watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FEMALE TV ANCHOR: You know, it is interesting, in 1966, when Emperor Haile Selassie came, there was such a furor here as I mentioned earlier with the Rastafarians, about 100,000 strong of them. When he came out of that aircraft, just as he emerged from the door and saw what was happening, he actually went back into the cabin and remained there a number of minutes before he came back out. It was just out of this world what he -- ah, here he is. The 44th president of the United States of America, about now to make his way down these steps to touch down on Jamaican soil, for the first time. We hope it won`t be the last. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President Obama arrived in Jamaica last night, for the first time, visiting for the first time as president. He was definitely not greeted by tens of thousands of Rastafarians on the tarmac. I`m quite sure the Secret Service would not have allowed that, even if the Rastafarians were interested. But President Obama is definitely feeling the love on this leg of his trip. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you, one my inspiration, our champion of hope, the president of the United States of America, President Obama. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you! Thank you very much. Thank you. Greetings, massive! Wah gwaan, Jamaica? (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was how the students at the University of West Indies greeted President Obama today and how he greeted them back. When the Jamaica prime minister met with him today, she told him, quote, "You are well loved in Jamaica. I can say to you publicly, I love you." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PORTIA SIMPSON-MILLER, PRIME MINISTER OF JAMAICA: Thank you, Mr. President, for visiting with us, and I just want to say to you, you might not know, but you`re very loved in this country, Jamaica. You`re well-loved in Jamaica. Well, first of all, I can say to you, publicly, I love you. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That doesn`t happen every trip. President Obama also made an unannounced trip to the Bob Marley Museum, which he called one of the most fun meetings he has ever had as president of the United States. Earlier tonight, the president left Jamaica en route for Panama for the Summit of the Americas. At that summit, he will meet a lot of different national leaders, including, probably, this guy, Raul Castro, the president of Cuba. This will be the first meeting between President Obama and Raul Castro since the U.S. started normalizing relations at the end of last year. And on the eve of that meeting, we got sort of an amazing new poll out of Cuba. You`ve never heard that phrase before, a new poll out of Cuba. This is believed to be the first independent poll of Cubans in decades, and it shows -- not to put too fine a point on it -- but they are really psyched! Look at those results. Really psyched about reestablishing ties with the U.S. -- 97 percent of Cubans say they think normalizing relations with the U.S. will be good for Cuba, 97. And when it comes to political leaders, this is interesting, 44 percent of Cubans say they have a favorable opinion of Fidel Castro, 44 percent. The approval rate for brother Raul is slightly higher, 47 percent. When asked about President Obama, though, 80 percent of Cubans say they have a favorable opinion of President Obama. This informal meeting between President Obama and Raul Castro is expected to happen tomorrow in Panama. If and when it does, that will be historic, in part because Cuba is still officially designated by the United States as a state sponsor of terrorism, right up there with Iran, Sudan, and Syria. And that`s awkward. But today, the president announced that the State Department has completed its review of whether or not to remove Cuba from that list, and now remains the question of when and how the decision on that will be announced, and what decision, of course, will be. Joining us now live from Panama City is Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent, host of "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS" here on MSNBC. Andrea, I`m very jealous that you are in Panama. It`s great to see you. ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I am so happy to be in panama, in Panama city. I`ve never been here before. I`ve been all over the region, but this is a first. And this is going to be an historic meeting. When these two leaders meet tomorrow, there`s a lot of tension, unexpected tension that has to be dealt with. And some of that may actually be addressed tonight, because John Kerry is, as we speak, meeting with Cuba`s foreign minister, Bruno Rodriguez. And they have an unexpected problem to deal with, and that is Venezuela, because the White House, people in both political parties, Cuba observers, people who have been watching this slow dance to normalization do not understand why the administration chose last month, just weeks before this summit, to decide to slap sanctions on Venezuela`s leaders and the majority of the administration, because they`ve basically set up a situation where Raul Castro has to decide between Cuba`s longest ally, closest ally, the ally that replaced the Soviet Union in subsidizing Cuba all these years, when it was completely isolated and economically bereft, and normalization with the United States, because Maduro was going to come here tomorrow and make a big show of protesting against Obama. MADDOW: Is it likely that that consternation and that deliberate stirring up at this summit, where obviously this has the opportunity to do it, is it likely that that`s going to scuttle any stuff that is actually right -- sensitive right now between Cuba and the United States? Obviously, the U.S. is considering this state sponsor of terror decision, and that`s very important. That doesn`t have to be announced on any particular time frame. Is there anything that has to be happen that that new tension might screw up for this summit? MITCHELL: Not really. I think that the decision of Cuba as a terror sponsor has long been sort of intellectually bankrupt, because Cuba has not sponsored terror for, you know, many, many years. I mean, the last known incident was Cuban Migs shooting down brothers to the rescue in 1996 in Miami. And they do not, by any measure, belong in the same category as the other states on that list. And it has become just a terrible, more than a thorn in their side. It has, they believe, prevented American banks from letting Cuban diplomats in New York at the U.N., in Washington, at their intersection, to do any kind of normal banking, any credit. And that has made their lives and their work experience miserable. And the administration agrees with that and has been pleading with the U.S. banks to help, but they say until this terror decision is lifted. Now, the president cannot lift it himself. He can say, I accept the recommendation of my secretary of state, and I will forward that to Congress. And then after 45 days, if Congress does not act to overturn it, which is very unlikely that they would get their act together to do that, then it goes into effect. MADDOW: Fascinating. And thinking about just the domestic timing at home, if there was an unexpected announcement about that and it was going to get kicked to Congress, with Cuban-American Senator Marco Rubio planning to announce his presidential campaign Monday. MITCHELL: Right. MADDOW: Hillary Clinton expected to announce her presidential campaign on Saturday or Sunday, obviously, that becomes an international call with serious domestic political consequences here. Sounds like tomorrow will be a suspenseful day, though, in terms of seeing what happens. Andrea Mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent. MITCHELL: And you know -- MADDOW: Yes? MITCHELL: You bet. MADDOW: Andrea, thanks very much. Appreciate having you here. Andrea Mitchell reporting tonight from Panama City for us and "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS" MSNBC weekdays at noon. All right. Lots more still to come. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Debunktion junction, what`s my function? All right. We begin with a story that starts with a weird thing that happened on this show way back when we were little, a tiny little show and I interviewed Lincoln Chafee, a former senator from Rhode Island. Senator Chafee came on the show to talk about the rift in his former party, the Republican Party, and then while I was talking about that, he made an announcement. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LINCOLN CHAFEE, FORMER RHODE ISLAND GOVERNOR: I`m running as an independent here in Rhode Island. Rhode Island has a strong streak of independence, and it`s the largest voting bloc of unaffiliated voters in Rhode Island. So I decided to run as an independent. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Lincoln Chafee was running for governor of Rhode Island. (BUZZER) MADDOW: Not quite. The morning after Lincoln Chafee made that announcement on this show, I`m running as an independent, he took it back the next day. It`s not that he didn`t mean he was running, it`s just that he still had this job at Brown. He didn`t actually mean to make the formal announcement that he was running until that job was over. So, I know I said I`m running for governor. It`s not what I meant yet. Eventually, he did announce -- re-announce his candidacy and he did win that election and become governor of Rhode Island. But that history gave a good reason to be skeptical when these super surprise headlines popped up today. "Lincoln Chafee considers run for 2016 Democratic presidential nomination." Whoa! Didn`t see that coming, but I have to ask now, is that true or false that Lincoln Chafee is maybe going to run for president? He`s at least testing the waters. (BELL) MADDOW: True. Lincoln Chafee has got himself an exploratory committee, and a Web site, and an announcement video. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHAFEE: I`m Lincoln Chafee. I`m a Democrat considering a run for president of the United States. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So, it`s official. It`s official. Lincoln Chafee is exploring a run in 2016. Because it is Lincoln Chafee, though, you should also keep checking. Just in case he changes his mind. He will be on with Lawrence O`Donnell in the next hour on MSNBC tonight in case you want to check early. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Do you have an angry great-uncle who sometimes e-mails you about things that make him angry? Do you sometimes feel like you don`t have the same understanding of the news, so sometimes what your uncle is angry about is kind of a surprise to you? Well, here is your gift from the news cycle. Here`s the latest thing some people are very angry about, even though it does not exist in the real news, it only exists here. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MALE TV ANCHOR: What`s the communist flag doing flying next to our American flag over a state capitol? Didn`t take long for a few patriots to take care of that. They took it down. Find out where it all happened. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: A communist flag flying over a state capitol. Takeover has begun. Grab your gold. Get to the bunker. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TV ANCHOR: And listen to this one out of Washington state. A Chinese communist flag flown next to an American flag at the state capitol in Washington state. Governor Jay Inslee ordered that that flag be flown for his meeting with a Chinese ambassador. But some local patriots were not pleased with that. They took matters into their own hands. With the help of a capitol official, the men took down the Chinese flag. They said flying that at the same height as Old Glory was simply disrespectful. Those are your headlines. I`ll see you in a little bit. TV ANCHOR: Man, oh man. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOWE: Man, oh man. Your angry great-uncle who watches FOX News every day, this is the thing you couldn`t understand that he was so mad about. There have been headlines in the right wing media about this. Look, "Patriots remove communist flag from Washington state capitol. Washington flies communist China flag at state capitol. Patriots come out and take it down. Washington flags, communist China flag, patriots strike, patriots tear down communist flag at state capitol. Here`s the thing. The patriots in the video they`ve been plugging on FOX News in their headlines, the patriot protesters in the video, did not actually do any removing or striking or tearing down of the communist flag. The guy doing the actual lowering of the flag is just a regular run-of-the- mill Washington state employee who has to put the flags up and down as part of his job. The reason he was out there at that moment lowering the Chinese flag in front of the Washington state capitol is not because of a patriot revolt but because the Chinese ambassador had gone home from his meeting with Washington state officials. My best guess at what went wrong here is maybe the good folks at FOX News Channel did not check with the state to see what was going on here when they got breathless e-mails from fans in Washington state about the communist China flag outrage. Had they actually tried to figure out what was going on here, the governor`s office probably would have told them what they told us. Quote, "When dignitaries of recognized nations visit, we raise a flag. The flag is then lowered after their visit. Earlier this week, the flag of Austria and Finland were raised when their respective ambassadors were visiting as well. Earlier this week, the Scottish flag was raised in observance of Tartan Day." Tartan Day? I will not (INAUDIBLE) So, yes. What FOX News has gotten dear old Uncle Ralph upset about is the flag of China went up at the Washington state capitol because the Chinese ambassador was visiting the state. And then, when the ambassador left, they took the flag down. Just like they do whenever they have a foreign dignitary visiting, or maybe just in honor of some countries` holidays celebrating the majesty of flag. But remember, FOX News sold this story nationwide as an outrageous decision by a Democratic governor to fly a communist flag until a group of angry patriots ripped it down. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MALE TV ANCHOR: What is a communist flag doing flying next to our American flag over a state capitol? Didn`t take long for a few patriots to take care of that. They took it down. Find out where it happened. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: No, no, not at all. Not at all. What actually happened is people watched while a state employee took down the flag as normal, like they do all the time. Except this time the state employee doing that had to have a state trooper there as backup because of the angry Tea Party people who had gathered in outraged ignorance of how the whole flying flag thing works. It has always worked at their state capitol. And then, FOX News broadcast their mistake, which not only reaffirms their wrong beliefs to the people who are wrong in the first place, it spreads that ignorance from sea to shining sea. And now, everybody who watches the FOX News Channel who believes that is news is just as angry about your Uncle Ralph about patriotic protesters doing a thing they did not do to protest a thing that did not happen. And that is how Republican America gets what it calls the news. That is victory over tyranny. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END