IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 06/03/15

Guests: Evan Allen, Ellen Weintraub

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. HAYES: You bet. MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Governor Rick Perry of Texas is expected to announce tomorrow in Dallas that he is going to mount another campaign to become the Republican nominee for president of the United States. Honestly, full disclosure: when Rick Perry got in the presidential race in 2012, looking at him on paper, looking at his career, looking at his reputation in Texas and everything that had been written about him as a political figure, I thought in 2012, that Rick Perry was going to be the guy to beat for the nomination that year. He waited a long time to get in in 2012, as Mitt Romney kind of drifted to the head of that weird pack of Republican candidates that year. But then when Rick Perry jumped in the race, I thought he was just going to blow everyone away. I had no idea he was going to be such a terrible candidate. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICK PERRY (R), FORMER TEXAS GOVERNOR: And I will tell you. It`s three agencies of government when I get there that are gone, Commerce, Education and the -- what`s the third one there? (LAUGHTER) RON PAUL (R), FORMER CONGRESSMAN: You mean, five. PERRY: Oh, five. OK. So, Commerce, Education, and the -- MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: EPA? PERRY: EPA. There you go. MODERATOR: Seriously, is EPA the one you were talking about? PERRY: No, sir, we were talking about the agencies of government -- EPA needs to be rebuilt. MODERATOR: But you can`t name the third one. PERRY: The third agency of government I would do away with Education, Commerce and let`s see -- I can`t. The third one I can`t. Sorry. Oops. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Rick Perry now says that he was unwell. That he was unhealthy when he ran for president in 2012, and that is part of why he did so poorly. He also says he just didn`t take it seriously enough. He didn`t -- he didn`t try that hard. He didn`t prepare enough for his run in 2012. But this time he says, he`s not going to make those mistakes again, he`s been doing his homework, he`s memorized all three of the things he wants to say that come in threes. Apparently, whatever was going on with his health four years ago, his health has bounced back. And now, he says he`s ready to jump in and try again. At least that`s what we are expecting him to say when he makes his big announcement that is slated for tomorrow afternoon in Dallas, Kansas. There to rain on his parade in Texas during his announcements will be Hillary Rodham Clinton -- former first lady, former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton has conveniently scheduled her own Texas campaign stop to directly coincide with Rick Perry`s announcement tomorrow. Now, Texas, of course, is a vey, very red state. No Democrat has won statewide elected office in more than 20 years. The last time was 1994. There had been this brief glimmer of Democratic expectations when Rick Perry decided to leave the governorship and not run for re-election. Texas Democrats and Democrats around the country briefly thought that the very charismatic, very compelling Texas Democratic senator, Wendy Davis, might have a shot at the governorship. She might have a shot at succeeding Rick Perry and becoming the new Democratic governor of Texas. Wendy Davis in 2014 not only got beat, she got beat by 20 points in the 2014 elections. Texas -- whatever Texas is going to be some day, Texas right now is just really, Really, really red. President Obama lost in Texas to Mitt Romney by 16 points in the last presidential election there. So, Hillary Clinton is in Texas today. She`s going to be in Texas tomorrow as well. She`s not there for the purposes of the Electoral College. She`s not going there because I think anybody has expectations the Democrats are going to win Texas in the presidential election in 2016 unless it`s a huge blowout. Rather, the reason Hillary Clinton is in Texas today and tomorrow is ka-ching. Texas is a big state, has a big population, even though the state as a whole votes for Republican candidates basically in lockstep, that doesn`t mean there aren`t a lot of rich donor class Democrats in Texas who are happy to make their money count in national Democratic campaigns even if their vote at home in Texas really doesn`t count, at least not yet. The chair of the Democratic Party today tells "The Guardian" newspaper, quote, "Texas is an ATM machine for Democrats all over the country." So, mostly, Hillary Clinton will be going to Texas to insert her proverbial ATM card into the Texas Democratic donor class and withdraw campaign donations. I think that`s mostly why she is there, and nobody would say otherwise. But it`s not only money that is sending her to Texas, at the same time that Rick Perry is going to be making his presidential announcement tomorrow, at the same time Rick Perry is breaking the presidential glass ceiling for politicians running for president while under criminal indictment on corruption charges, nobody has ever done that before, congratulations, Rick Perry. He`ll be the first ever candidate under indictment to ever make a major party run for president of the United States. You would have thought that -- that particular glass ceiling would be bulletproof glass, right? But Rick Perry will be breaking that bulletproof glass tomorrow. And while he is doing that, simultaneously, Hillary Clinton will be speaking at Texas Southern University. And at Texas Southern, she`s going to be receiving an award that they named for the great Barbara Jordan. Barbara Jordan, the pioneering African-American member of Congress who quite famously delivered the keynote address to the Democratic National Convention in 1976. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, in case you don`t know it, may I now present our second keynote speaker, the Honorable Barbara Jordan, Democrat of Houston, Texas. REP. BARBARA JORDAN (D), TEXAS: A lot of years passed since 1832 and during that time it would have been most unusual for any national political party to ask Barbara Jordan to deliver a keynote address. But tonight, here I am, and I feel -- (APPLAUSE) I feel that notwithstanding the past, but my presence here is one additional bit of evidence that the American Dream need not forever be deferred. We believe in equality for all and privileges for none. (APPLAUSE) This is a belief -- this is a belief that each American regardless of background has equal standing in the public forum, all of us. (APPLAUSE) Because we believe this idea so firmly, we are an inclusive rather than an exclusive party. Let everybody come. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Barbara Jordan is a great figure in American history, and in Texas history. She was the first African-American elected to the Texas State Senate since Reconstruction when she was elected in 1967. When she was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1973, she was the first Southern African-American woman to ever be elected to the U.S. House. Barbara Jordan universally respected -- Barbara Jordan died relatively young at the age of 59. She died in 1996. President Clinton said that before her health went into decline, he had been planning to nominate her for the United States Supreme Court. It was known before today that Hillary Clinton would be speaking at Barbara Jordan`s alma matter in Texas, and that she would be receiving this award tomorrow. But it was not known until this afternoon, that the subject of her speech, when she gets that award tomorrow in Texas is going to be voting rights, and in particular, minority voting rights. I mean, Barbara Jordan was this pioneering African-American politician, Texas Southern her alma matter, where Hillary Clinton will be speaking tomorrow, is a historically black university. Minority voting rights are a particularly fraught subject right now, between the black population in Texas and the Latino population in Texas, Texas is now a so- called majority minority state, it`s the only majority minority state in the country that still routinely votes Republican. And Texas votes hugely Republican. And that is a significant part because of the contours of the minority vote there. If Latino voters voted at the same rate as Latino voters in other states in the American Southwest, Texas would be a blue state. But Texas is not. Texas is really, really, really red, despite their demographics and what you might expect because of them. The Texas legislature is almost entirely Republican. And with their grip on Texas state government, Republicans in Texas have taken some of the most radical steps in the nation to keep Texas voting patterns exactly the way they are now, no matter how the demographics keep changing. They want to keep voter participation rates nice and low, particularly among the growing populations in the state, who might not be inclined to vote Republican. Texas Republicans have really fine-tuned their laws, particularly in recent years, to make sure that Texas keeps voting the way it has been. For example, when Texas Republicans passed new requirements that people would have to start showing new documentation to be able to vote that they never have to show before, they made sure that if your ID, your documentation you were going to try to show was a student ID, if your ID was your student ID, or let`s say your Medicaid card or your Social Security card, that would not count. You cannot show those if you wanted to be able to vote in Texas. But you can show your concealed handgun permit in order to vote in Texas. What`s the material difference between your student ID, and your Medicaid card and your hand gun permit? The material difference there in terms of identification is hard to see. The material difference in terms of what it predicts in terms of your voting patterns is easier to see. When Texas first rolled out this very finely calibrated strict new voter ID law, there was skepticism that they actually would be able to get away with it, right? I mean, it seems deliberately structured to make it hard to vote specifically for young people and poor people and, by extension, minorities people likely to vote Democratic. But Texas went ahead with the new law anyway. And Texas advocacy groups like the Campaign Legal Center have been trying ever since to explain in Texas and to explain around the country just exactly how bad it is. Just exactly what Texas Republicans have done in terms of how hard they have made it to vote in that state. Watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ABBIE KAMIN: My name is Abbie Kamin, born and raised in Houston Texas. I am working with the Campaign Legal Center to help voters get their ID. I met Tony several weeks ago. Tony has voted in every election he`s been able to. He actually came to Texas to be a student at the University of Houston. Brilliant guy, got, you know, numerous degrees and became an engineer. ANTHONY SETTLES: I follow the politics and the candidates quite closely. An informed voter is more likely to make an intelligent decision than an uninformed one. So, I decided to be informed. KAMIN: Unfortunately, because of the new law, tony cannot vote, because he cannot prove his identity at the polls. SETTLES: My state ID was expired, so I called the DPS, Department of Public Safety and they told me that because my name was changed in 1964, that I could not get an ID. KAMIN: This is your ID card from -- SETTLES: DPS that expired. KAMIN: And here`s your current voter registration. When he was 14, his mother and father were formally married. So, they decided to change his last name to his father`s name. SETTLES: Ever since 1964, I`ve had this name, and there`s been no problems until this DPS ID thing came up. KAMIN: You talk to them, birth certificate isn`t good enough, because your name changed. So, we needed name change certificate. We have sent our attorneys from Campaign Legal Center down to the courthouse. Despite all of our efforts, they can`t find the name change certificate. I mean, there`s no real cut answer as to what the next step is. SETTLES: The bureaucrats and politicians are giving me hell and very done nothing wrong, and my family did nothing wrong. So, I`m being punished without doing anything wrong. I wonder what kind of America is it that punishes people that did nothing wrong? HARGIE RANDAL: I live in Houston, Texas, for 63 years. In my neighborhood there`s going to be quite a few people not able to vote because of this new law. KAMIN: Are those your papers over there? RANDAL: Yes. KAMIN: All right. Can we go flew those again? Hargie has been to the DPS three times now, the first time he went somebody told him he needed three forms of identification such as his Medicare card, bills, things of that nature. And another person says, no, no, we need your birth certificate. So, I got your birth certificate, if we weren`t here, would you be able to drive up to Huntsville by yourself? He can`t really get around. He has to call friends for rides, which really isn`t reliable. We want to make sure you can vote. RANDAL: Yes, I do, too. Yes. KAMIN: Yes. So, what we`re going to do is I`m going to take you over to the DPS to get your ID. RANDAL: OK. KAMIN: And hopefully it runs smoothly, and they don`t get confused over there. All right. That was an epic, disappointing failure. They would not let Hargie get his ID, on his birth certificate, there`s a clerical error where they misspelled part of his last name. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the end of the day, he would have to change his name to the incorrect spelling on his birth certificate to get an ID. This is what voting has become in Texas. KAMIN: I`m so sorry. RANDAL: Oh, it`s the system. KAMIN: Yes. RANDAL: I don`t know what part of it. KAMIN: Yes. Let`s get you back to the house. This is about the state of Texas using taxpayer dollars to implement the most restrictive photo ID law in the country that is intentionally used to suppress minority and low income voters. I don`t think you`re going to be able to vote in this election because of this law. (END VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: That`s from the Campaign Legal Center in Texas, which produced that because they`ve been trying to set off alarm bells. Not only around Texas, but around the country about how extreme Texas has become in terms of what they`ve done to the right to vote. Texas announced that it was going ahead without voter ID law, the very same day that the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. Voting Rights Act used to stop states like Texas from enacting new voting laws that were that obviously racist. Literally the day the Voting Rights Act was wiped out by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court, Texas announced they would go ahead with this voter ID law now that they could. Well, Hillary Clinton tomorrow in Texas is expected to eviscerate that Supreme Court ruling against the Voting Rights Act that gave Texas the go ahead with this voter ID bill. She`s also expected to call for Congress to call for a new Voting Rights Act. She`s also expected to call out Texas specifically for what the Republican state government has done to make voting as hard as possible for certain types of voters in Texas. Her top campaign lawyer has already filed lawsuits on voting rights against North Carolina for its new voting restrictions and Wisconsin for its new voting restrictions, and Ohio for its new voting restrictions. We`re told to expecting more lawsuits from them in Georgia, in Nevada, and Virginia and maybe more. Tomorrow it`s Texas, where logistically, Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic presidential nominee for 2016, will be raining on Rick Perry`s presidential announcement. But in substance, she will be showing in this major address on voting issues, she will be showing how she intends to pick up what is now a long and bloody fight between Democrats and Republicans across the country on how hard they can make it for certain people to vote in this country. It`s a fight that Republicans over these last few years have been winning. Tomorrow, we will hear from Hillary Clinton about the way she thinks Democrats ought to pick up that fight. I cannot wait to hear it. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, we`ve got lots more still to come tonight. Just ahead, we`re going to have a live report from Boston, where local officials are providing some startling new details tonight on alleged terror plots that was disrupted yesterday and ended in the death of one alleged terror suspect on a city street. We`ve got that story ahead, that live report. Plus, history being made today in the smallest state in the country, and history seeming to run backwards in one southern state where there`s a legislative cliffhanger under way right now. We`ve got a big show ahead tonight, with lots of suspense in it. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, we`re going to go to in just a moment to a live report from Boston, what started yesterday morning as news of a police shooting, has escalated now today in fairly lurid accusations from Boston police and the FBI about an alleged terrorism plot and intense surveillance and now a secondary arrest and a police and FBI raid in another state. This all started yesterday around 7:00 a.m. in Boston, when a Boston police officer and FBI agent got into a confrontation with a 26-year-old man on a Roslindale, Massachusetts sidewalk. The confrontation resulted in the man being shot multiple times by the officers. Now, the man`s family said that he had been talking on his cell phone with his father when he was inexplicably shot in the back and killed by these officers. But police then released this photo of a relatively giant military style knife. The ruler that`s there, the white ruler is six inches long, this is showing a knife that is, by appearances at least, over a foot long, a really large military style knife. Police say that they recovered this weapon from the man they shot. They said they shot him because he threatened the officers with this knife. Police then brought a number of community leaders and religious leaders to Boston police headquarters and played for them a video that they had of the shooting scene and the shooting incident. Now, police and the FBI have not released this video to the broader public or to the media. But they showed it to this select group of people basically as a way of priming the community for what to expect in terms of details about this shooting. They said that they would then show the family of the man who was killed. They would make sure the family saw the video as well. They would make a decision later as to when and where to release this to the public. Now, we only have hearsay reports from the people who were shown that video by police, who were invited to see it by police. But it seems clear that the police were trying in part to dispel any notion that this young man was shot while on his phone, or that he was shot in the back or that there wasn`t a confrontation that resulted in the shooting. The police also said they would have this man under 24/7 surveillance for quite some time, as part of a larger terrorism investigation. Then, we got word that the FBI had carried out a raid at a home in Rhode Island, in connection with the same investigation. Then, we got word of another person being taken into custody, a man being arrested in the Boston suburb of Everett, again, in conjunction with the same investigation. Today in federal court in Boston, that man who was arrested in Everett today was charged with conspiring to destroy evidence. Specifically, he was charged with conspiring with the man who was shot by police yesterday to destroy that man`s cell phone, to cover up evidence of a plot of some kind to attack police officers. The court released this complaint against the man they arrested in Everett who appeared in court today. The complaint says that over the weekend, the man who was shot dead yesterday and the man who was arrested in Everett, Massachusetts, today, the complaint says the two of them met with a third unnamed person on a beach in Rhode Island to discuss plans to behead someone. The complaint does not say who they were talking about beheading. The complaint claims that by Tuesday morning, by yesterday morning this week, plans had changed, the new plan was to attack somebody else closer to home, with the man who was shot by police yesterday telling the man who was arrested, quote, "I can`t wait that long, man." The two men allegedly used a code phrase for talking about committing violent jihad. Police say they called that going on vacation. They say the man who was shot yesterday by police talked about going on vacation here in Massachusetts. The complaint also claims that the man who was killed yesterday morning told his alleged co-conspirator that he planned to randomly kill police officers, either yesterday or today, either Tuesday or Wednesday. The second man responded he should prepare a will, and that he should destroy his cell phone, and he should wipe his laptop before he took any such action. "The Boston Globe" reporting today that the shooting death yesterday morning sparked this expanded investigation that led to this arrest in Everett, Mass, as well as the police raid in Rhode Island. But the overall contours of this investigation, and the seriousness of this plot honestly remains to be explained at this point. Joining us now is Evan Allen. She`s a "Boston Globe" crime reporter. Ms. Allen, thanks very much for your time tonight. Appreciate having you here. EVAN ALLEN, BOSTON GLOBE: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: Let me ask if I summarized that correctly. Is that pretty much what we know from authorities at this point? ALLEN: That`s pretty much what we know, although the confrontation between the task force members and Rahim occurred in the parking lot, not on a sidewalk. MADDOW: In a parking lot, sort of in a suburban/urban area near CVS, near a bus stop, is that true? ALLEN: Yes, it`s the parking lot of a shopping center. MADDOW: Did -- do we know whether or not police expected this to be a consequential confrontation with this young man? Obviously, if they say they had him under surveillance for a very long time, I don`t know if they expected he knew he was being surveilled. When they chose to approach him, do we know if they expected this was going to potentially be a major confrontation with him? ALLEN: I don`t believe that they did. What we`ve reported is that police were very surprised by his reaction. They approached him to do what they refer to as a threshold inquiry, which is to talk to him. Very few words were exchanged before he pulled the knife, or allegedly pulled the knife. So, no, this was a surprise to law enforcement. MADDOW: Do we know how long he had been under surveillance? Anything about the size of the investigation? As part of which he was under surveillance? Or what he was under surveillance or what he was under surveillance on suspicion of having done or doing? ALLEN: They`ve been quiet about exactly when surveillance began or why it began. They said it has been ongoing for quite a while. Rahim had a Facebook page that in 2012 mentioned he had been contacted by the FBI. And in this post he said that the FBI wanted to speak with him about allegations about him. It didn`t explain what those allegations were. Of course, it hasn`t been corroborated by the FBI. But, you know, it could be as far back as then. But they have not said that. They said that it was going on for a while. MADDOW: The video that was shown today to community leaders and faith leaders, it was an interesting choice by the authorities to allow a select invited group of people to watch it, but not release it more broadly to the media or to the public. Do we know anything about whether that decision is final, whether it`s being contested? Obviously, there`s public interest in seeing this video, and some members of the public are allowed to see it. Do we expect that to get any wider release? ALLEN: We do expect it to get wider release and fairly soon. This is actually something that the Boston Police Department and Suffolk County district attorney`s office have done in the past with police involved shootings. There was a shooting in March, where a gang officer was shot and his partners returned fire, killing the man who shot him. They did the exact same thing. They released the video to a small group to sort of dispel mounting fears in the community that the police had in some way opened fire on someone who wasn`t doing anything. And then fairly quickly thereafter, they release it to the public. So, that`s the plan here as well. MADDOW: Evan Allen, "Boston Globe" crime reporter -- thanks for helping us sort through this. Appreciate your time tonight. ALLEN: Thank you very much. MADDOW: Thanks. It`s interesting, you know, with cases like this, you never quite know where they`re going until you`ve heard everything you`re going to hear from authorities. Obviously, most of the time when we get stories about alleged terrorism plots in this country, we get them because there was an informant on the inside, someone who was working with the FBI from the beginning, right? And that`s how we end up finding about it when the sting was closed. It does not seem like this was that kind of operation. We don`t know the overall size of the investigation that resulted in this 24/7 surveillance on this guy who was shot. Nor do we know how many people eventually are going to be swept up as they continue raiding houses and arresting people that they say are connected to this. Obviously, whenever you`re talking about more than one person working with somebody who`s not an informant, it`s a much more serious thing than when you`re talking about somebody acting on their own. We`ll stay on it. We`ll let you know more as we learn more. Thanks. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: What? What? Seriously, there`s nothing to see here. I have no idea what you`re talking about. And neither does a very prominent person in today`s news, who`s definitely not doing the thing that he`s very obviously doing. That and more elephant, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I`m running for president in 2016, the focus is going to be about how we -- if I run -- how do you create high economic growth. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I`m running for president if I -- if I -- if, if. The fact that Jeb Bush has not officially declared his candidacy for the presidency when he`s so clearly running for the presidency, it is starting to get awkward. Sometimes he himself forgets. To be clear, write note to self on hand. Jeb Bush is not running for president, not officially. Not technically. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: Political man. REPORTER: Governor man. Presidential candidate man. BUSH: No. REPORTER: Yes, you are. BUSH: No, I`m not. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: What was the bit at the end there? What did they say? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Presidential candidate man. BUSH: No. REPORTER: Yes, you are. BUSH: No, I`m not. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Yes, you are. No, I`m not. Yes, you are. No, I`m not. Icksnay on the andidatecay (ph). Lately, Jeb Bush has been treating questions about whether or not he`s running as though they are gotcha questions. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: How important is transparency in a presidential candidate? BUSH: Is that a trick question? What are you going with it? Do you have a follow-up question? Want to ask that first? REPORTER: Sure, OK. You`ve been out on the trail, you`ve been meeting in New Hampshire, you`ve been raising money. Are you running for president? BUSH: Not yet. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Finally this past Sunday, on his very last day hosting CBS`s "Face the Nation", the great Bob Schieffer became the closest Bob Schieffer has ever come to saying on the air, come on, dude. Come on. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BOB SCHIEFFER, "FACE THE NATION": It`s pretty obvious that you`re running for president, you`re going around the country, raising huge amounts of money for your super PAC, in addition to making all the traditional campaign stops everywhere. Watchdog groups and some of your opponents are saying, you really may be violating campaign laws. Do you think in some way you may be just at least violating the spirit of the law? Do you feel that you have violated the law here? BUSH: No, of course, not. I would never do that. We`re going to completely adhere to the law for sure. And should I be a candidate? That will be in the relatively near future where that decision will be made. There will be no coordination at all with any super PAC. SCHIEFFER: Now, you`re not telling me there`s a possibility you may not run? BUSH: Look, I hope I run, to be honest with you. I`d like to run, but I haven`t made the decision. SCHIEFFER: What would have to happen between now and then to convince you not to run? BUSH: Who knows? I`ve learned not to answer a lot of hypothetical questions. SCHIEFFER: You`re probably going to run? BUSH: I hope so. I hope I`m a candidate in the near future. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I sure hope so, Bob. It`s totally out of my hands, but I really hope so. I mean, this is a real question, right? What does it mean if you are very obviously a presidential candidate, but you say you are not? And meanwhile, you are raking in millions of dollars for your super PACs, fundraising that would be illegal if you were a declared candidate. In the words of one former federal election commissioner, one former commissioner from the FEC, what Jeb Bush is doing, quote, "makes a mockery of the law." To pull up what he`s doing, the Bush campaign is counting on the FEC not doing much to challenge him. It`s a pretty safe assumption given that the head of the FEC herself said recently, I quote, "The likelihood of the laws being enforced is slim. People think FEC is dysfunctional. It`s worse than dysfunctional." And she runs the FEC. Last week, campaign watchdog groups asked the Justice Department to look into Bush`s campaign instead of the FEC, because the FEC is so hamstrung. The groups say they want a special counsel to investigate whether Jeb Bush`s massive super PAC fund-raising is actually illegal, because he really is in every meaningful, legal and financial sense a presidential candidate, so he can`t be raising millions of dollars for a super PAC. Is what he`s doing basically cheating? Whether or not the FEC is going to do the relevant policing here, they`re the ones who are supposed to not only enforce just basically understand what the rules are around this stuff. And what those rules are supposed to be for. Is what`s happening with Jeb Bush right now, which everyone agrees is getting increasingly ridiculous, is what`s happening with Jeb Bush par for the course? Is this -- everybody does it. He`s the shiniest object doing it, that`s what we`re talking about. Or is Jeb Bush actually pushing it further, or pushing it in a more consequential way than other people have in the past? Joining us now is Ellen Weintraub of the Federal Election Commissioner. Commissioner Weintraub was first appointed to the commission in 2002. She`s its longest serving member. It`s great to see you. Thanks very much for being us. COMISSIONER ELLEN WEINTRAUB, FEC: Great to be with you, Rachel. MADDOW: Is there a way to tell -- is there an evidentiary basis on which you can distinguish if a candidate is testing the waters versus actually running? WEINTRAUB: There is, there are rules on this. And I want to be clear that I`m not talking about what any individual is doing, because there are a lot of folks out there that appear to be thinking about running for office these days and they`re trying a lot of different techniques, I think the FEC has an obligation to be very clear about the fact that there are rules and there are clear rules. There are rules if you`re a candidate, and the rules aren`t that much different if you`re merely exploring a candidacy. You still can only explore a candidacy using federally regulated money -- money that`s raised in $2,700 or less increments. That`s all that the law permits. And once an individual decides to become a candidate. All that money is going to have to be disclosed. And since you asked, there are standards for when you cross the line from testing the waters to becoming a candidate, an actual candidate who has to register with the FEC and file all the paperwork. There are objective criteria for that. Obviously, if the candidate comes out and says, I`m the candidate, that`s the easiest way for us to tell. If they`re advertising their intention to run, if they`re raising more money than could be reasonably expected to fund exploratory activities, if they appear to be amassing money for an actual run for office, money that will be spent on the campaign, all of these are criteria that indicate that someone has crossed the line and become a candidate. MADDOW: And if somebody has crossed the line and become a candidate, but says they aren`t, is that a defense? If you`ve done all the other things, the fact that you haven`t said I`m a candidate, any reasonable defense to not being held accountable than the laws you ought to follow if you are a candidate. WEINTRAUB: Well, saying you`re a candidate clearly trips the threshold. But there are other ways of tripping the threshold without actually saying I am a candidate. And these cases have come up from time to time with the FEC. MADDOW: Is what we are seeing unprecedented? I mean, do candidates always do this, or are they pushing it further than they have in the past in a more substantive way? WEINTRAUB: Well, I think what`s different this year is the presence of super PACs, these testing the water rules have been on the books for many years, far before Citizens United, and the ways that candidates are interacting with super PACs is new since 2010. MADDOW: Given that the chair of the FEC has said that the chair can`t enforce campaign law this cycle, that dysfunctional doesn`t begin to describe it, is it a good idea for the Justice Department to get involved as some of these good government groups have asked, not just Jeb Bush, but candidates on both sides of the aisle? WEINTRAUB: Well, as I said, I`m not talking about any specific candidate, and I hesitate to tell the Justice Department what they should do. But the Justice Department has only a small slice of jurisdiction over campaign finance violations. We at the FEC have exclusive jurisdiction over civil enforcement of the law. And that`s most of the violations civil. They`re not criminal in nature. So, we really need to do a better job of doing our job. I`ve been pushing my colleagues, for example, to try to resolve cases on a more timely basis. This has been a big problem, commissioners sitting on cases and not letting them come to conclusion. And I`ve been encouraged by the fact that at least one of my colleagues seems to be interested in working with me on coming up with a policy that would let allow us to resolve the cases and force us to resolve the cases on a more timely basis, so the public would know what the rules were, and how we were dealing with these complaints. MADDOW: Was that a slight hint there might be some progress in the future? WEINTRAUB: I always believe in progress, and I would like to believe if there are clear cut violations of the law, that we will get a vote at the commission to say so. MADDOW: Commissioner Ellen Weintraub of the FEC -- really appreciate your time tonight. I know that you have to speak delicately about these matters because you can`t weigh into individual cases. But thanks for helping us understand it. I appreciate it. WEINTRAUB: Thanks, Rachel, pleasure to be here. MADDOW: It`s amazing, the part of the government in charge of policing this stuff is like, yeah, we`d love to. Can`t really -- and they`re the only part of the government in charge of enforcing it. We wonder why they`ve started to feel like a punch line rather than actual law. It`s because we have made it so in the way we have structured our government around enforcing those laws. It makes me crazy. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Correction, at the top of the show tonight I had a segment about the Texas legislature rolling back voting rights in the state of Texas, we apparently showed a graphic on screen during that segment about the partisan make-up of the Texas Senate. And the graphic was wrong. We somehow colored outside the lines and got the partisan make-up of the Texas Senate all wrong. In case you want to clip it out and put it up at the magnet on the fridge, this is the right one. The Texas Senate is on the left there, there are 11 Democrats in the Texas Senate, and 20 Republicans, we had that wrong. The partisan make-up all wrong at the top of the show. I`m sorry about that. I`ve already eaten all of my red and blue crayons and melted down the rest to make sure I do not make the same mistake again. Also, we shouldn`t make our graphics with crayons. Sorry. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: One of the less heralded novelties about the election of Barack Obama to be president of the United States is that before him, we had never before had a U.S. president who was born in Hawaii. And it turns out there are a bunch of states that have only ever had one president. Ronald Reagan is the only president born in Illinois. The only president born in Connecticut was George W. Bush. Grover Cleveland was the only president born in New Jersey. Bill Clinton was the only president born in Arkansas. Very interesting. But today, Lincoln Chafee announced that he is running for president. And if Lincoln Chafee`s campaign goes way, way, way better than expected, and we do end up getting President Lincoln Chafee somebody, that would not only make him the first president ever from the state of Rhode Island. He already, today, became Rhode Island`s first ever presidential candidate. Ever. The politics school at the University of Minnesota looked at this today. Kind of amazing. In the 225 years that Rhode Island has been a state, they have sent 74 representatives to Congress, 48 U.S. senators. There have been 70 different Rhode Island governors, three of them in Linc Chafee`s family. But none of those, none of those people and nobody else from Rhode Island has ever made a bid for the White House before Lincoln Chafee threw his hat in the ring today. He`s the first person from Rhode Island to ever run for president. So, Rhode island, congratulations. Whether or not Lincoln Chafee wins the nomination or wins the nomination, he has made presidential history for Rhode Island just by announcing. And that`s it. Honestly, that`s it. That`s all I got. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In the heart of North Carolina, in Forsyth County, you would find a place called Winston Salem Industries for the Blind. It opened during the great depression as a place where blind people could learn and get real work. In the 1970s, a young woman who was legally blind moved from Vermont to North Carolina to join up at the Industries for the Blind. She ended up falling in love with another worker there. And then her boyfriend proposed to her and she said yes and they went to the Forsyth County courthouse to get married. It was 1976. And when they got there, these two young workers from the Industries for the Blind, they were refused service. The local magistrate said that they wouldn`t give this young couple a license to get married in Forsyth County. Not because they`re legally blind, but because one of them was white and the other was black. This was 1976. They ended up getting a lawyer who fought for them in federal court, and it took three years, but they eventually won. Today in North Carolina, this same couple, Carol Ann and Thomas Person, they`ve been happily married for going on years, they have raised kids and young grandkids together. But the story of them, the story of Mr. and Mrs. Person is back in the local papers in North Carolina today for an incredible reason. Last year, a federal court ruled that gay couples also have the right to marry in North Carolina. When that happened, North Carolina legislatures started debating a bill to let public officials refuse to marry people on the basis of their own personal religious objection. If the county magistrate objects to your marriage on his or her own religious grounds of any kind, then too bad for you. Magistrate could refuse to marry gay and lesbian couples or couples remarrying after a divorce, or couples with one Buddhist and one Jew, couples where one person is white and the other is black just like the good old days. North Carolina avenues governor vetoed that bill the same day that lawmakers sent it to his desk. Ever since, state lawmakers have been trying to override that veto and get this thing passed into law. Now in the pages of the "Raleigh News & Observer" with this decision looming in the North Carolina House, Carol Ann Person, citizen of North Carolina, is telling her story again. She rights in "The News & Observer" today that when she and her huts tried to get married in 1976, quote, "The magistrate told us that marrying an interracial couple went against his religious beliefs. There was a second magistrate on duty, but he, too, said he wouldn`t marry us because doing so would violate his religious beliefs. One of them took out a bible and began to lecture us about their religious views and why Thomas and I should not be together. I will never forget how painful it was to be told by government officials that they would not give Thomas and me a civil marriage license because of the color of our skin. It was supposed to be a happy day, but instead we were turned away because of somebody else`s religious views and treated like second-class citizens. I am a church-going Christian. My faith has never taught me to turn people away because of who they love, and I never believed that my God would have any problem with me marrying a wonderful man like Thomas. But even if my faith were different, if I worked for the government, I would know that I have to treat all members of the public equally regardless of my religious views. Government employees aren`t working a religious job; they take an oath to serve all the public and they`re supposed to be impartial. The pain from that day when government officials used their own religious beliefs to discriminate against us and keep Thomas and I from marrying each other, that pain will never leave us. Whether gay or straight, black or white, Jew or gentile, nobody has a right to tell anyone who they love -- who they can love or marry. House of Representatives must finally stop Senate bill 2 and sustain the governor`s veto so that no other couple in North Carolina ever has to go through what we did when they want to marry the person that they love." Today in North Carolina, the House of Representatives did not take up the question of trying to override the governor`s veto. They instead moved it to the calendar for tomorrow where it now sits in the category of unfinished business. North Carolina lawmakers, you have a decision to make. Are you going to go backwards to a time the nation left long ago that everybody thought we couldn`t go back to or, will you go forward? Unfinished business tonight in that state. I cannot believe North Carolina is thinking about going back to that, but they are absolutely considering it. It`s on the docket for tomorrow. We`ll keep you posted. 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