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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 10/2/15

Guests: Ian Campbell

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour this Friday night. This has been a very busy news day with a lot of news breaking late into the evening tonight, including new details about the shooting in Roseburg, Oregon, yesterday. We now have both the identities of the nine victims other than the shooter in that case. We also have some new and unexpected information about the shooter that we did not have yesterday. We are now learning tonight that the shooter was a student at Umpqua Community College, which is something we were assured yesterday was not true. But we`re going to have a live report from Roseburg, Oregon, coming up in just a couple of minutes tonight. President Obama also did a long and wide-ranging press conference at the White House today. He talked about gun violence. He talked about how the United States is not going to wage a proxy war with Russia in Syria even though the U.S. and Russia are both dropping bombs in Syria now on opposite sides of that conflict. There was also a bunch of news on the 2016 presidential race, which we`ll have for you tonight, including some startling news from the Donald Trump campaign and some bad news for both the Chris Christie campaign and the Rand Paul campaign. Tonight for the interview, we`ve got a sitting Supreme Court justice. What? Yes. Ari Melber is here tonight, having just interviewed sitting Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. It is very rare for Justice Breyer to do an interview. But we have got that here tonight. Plus, there`s a hurricane in the Atlanta which you may have noticed or heard something about. There`s a lot going on tonight. We`ve got a big show. But we start tonight in Washington. We start in Washington, where something that was supposed to be a sure bet is now starting to look like it might not happen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), CALIFORNIA: In the past few years alone I have visited Poland, Hungria, Estonia, Russia, and Georgia. We don`t have the same as difficult decision but this White House is managing the decline and putting us in tough decisions for the future. Unlike during the surge in Iraq when Petraeus and Crocker had an effective politically strategy to match the military strategy. The simple promise to all of our heroes to the need when they need it most. It defies belief that the president would allow the ban on Iranian oil exports to be lifted and also stand by a Russia blackmails an entire continent -- all the while keeping the place of the band on America. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: All the while keeping the place of the band on America. His new job title is supposed to be speaker. There`s a bit of a political earthquake rolling through Washington right now about speaker in waiting Kevin McCarthy. Kevin McCarthy became the number two Republican in Congress last year. And when John Boehner suddenly resigned a week ago tonight, Kevin McCarthy was widely hailed as the man who would be next in line to become speaker after John Boehner. If he does become speaker next week, that would put Kevin McCarthy third in line for the presidency of the United States. And one of the remarkable things, a truly historically remarkable thing about that prospect of him becoming speaker, is Mr. McCarthy`s lack of experience. Not since 1891 has anyone with such a small amount of experience in Congress become speaker. And frankly the guy who became speaker in 1891, even he had more experience than Kevin McCarthy did in Congress. He`s just the closest one that we can find. One of the other remarkable things about the prospect of Kevin McCarthy becoming speaker is the issue of his skill at speaking. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MCCARTHY: In the past few years alone I have visited Poland, Hungria -- (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Hungria was super happy to have him. No American politician has ever visited Hungria before. We checked the records. Kevin McCarthy`s speaking skills are unusually, notably insert adjective here for any member of congress, let alone for somebody who`s supposed to now become the second most powerful person in Washington, the man in charge of Congress. I mean, those clips we showed before with him talking about visiting Hungria and putting the band on America and all the rest, those are all from his first ever foreign policy speech, which he delivered earlier this week as what I think was sort of a rollout event, so we could all start imagining him being third in line to the presidency. And when Kevin McCarthy screwed up so many things in that speech, to the point where it was -- at times it was funny, some observers, fair- minded observers said maybe that was just an instance in which he was having trouble reading. One empathetically near-sighted producer on this show said perhaps Kevin McCarthy screwed up so many things in that speech because he didn`t have his reading glasses on and maybe he just couldn`t read the pages of the script in front of him during that speech. I was sympathetic to that possibility. But then this happened. This was Kevin McCarthy last night on the FOX News show, which is hosted by a very nice guy named Bret Baier. And for this particular Kevin McCarthy word typhoon -- can we call it that? -- he was not reading this time. This one cannot be explained by forgetting his reading glasses or something. I think this is maybe just what he`s like. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MCCARTHY: Look at the way they have carried themselves out. What had happened within the truth, you found out about a server. Sometimes truth comes out in other manners. It wasn`t what I in my mind was saying out there. I was saying some truth came out from this committee is where you found the server, where you went forward. You can always improve. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You can always improve. But it is daunting to think look at the way they have carried themselves out. They picked themselves up by their pants and -- it is daunting to think how much he will probably want to improve between now and next week when they take a vote on him to become the second most powerful person in Washington after the president. But this really is the way Kevin McCarthy talks. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS: This has been a bit of a setback. MCCARTHY: It`s been a setback, yes, because I do not want to make that harm Benghazi committee in any way. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I do not want to make that harm Benghazi committee in any way. Nobody wants to make that harm. What the congressman is trying really hard to talk about there, what he was trying to undo in that FOX News interview, is the other big worry that has arisen among Republicans in particular about the fact that Kevin McCarthy is about to become speaker. And that worry is the fact that Mr. McCarthy volunteered on FOX News this week that the Republican Party sought to bring down Hillary Clinton`s poll numbers with the special select committee they created to investigate Benghazi. Mr. McCarthy bragged to FOX News this week that bringing down Hillary Clinton`s poll numbers is why the Republicans created that committee, and he further bragged that that plan worked. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MCCARTHY: Let me give you one example. Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Since those comments it has been a building, building, building rumble throughout Washington that maybe Kevin McCarthy should not be speaker of the House. There`s been a lot of other news this week, but the Washington headlines, the beltway headlines since Kevin McCarthy stepped in it the way he has, the headlines about Kevin McCarthy have been like this -- McCarthy`s GOP critics see opening after Benghazi blunder. McCarthy`s nasty Benghazi hangover. Kevin McCarthy`s Benghazi gaffe roils House speaker race. Kevin McCarthy`s Benghazi gift to team Hillary. I mean, this has been the headline all this week in Washington. I mean, other Republican members of the House have called on him to apologize. They have said over and over again that they done agree with him, that he must have misspoken. John Boehner himself had to come out and repudiate Kevin McCarthy`s comments. Now, Democrats are threatening to leave the Benghazi committee. They`re demanding the committee be disbanded. I mean, this is the longest- standing select committee investigation in congressional history. They have kept this thing going longer than the 9/11 investigation, than the Watergate investigation, longer than the JFK assassination investigation, longer than Iran-Contra, longer than anything else. And Republicans were going to use this endless select committee to try to nuke Hillary Clinton somehow, to try to ruin her presidential campaign. Well, now they have given that game away because of the guy who was suppose td to be their next speaker of the House. He got on FOX News and started talking about it openly. Even now it`s getting harder and harder and harder to imagine he`s actually going to get that job when the vote happens next week. Tonight another high-profile Republican member of Congress who previously said he would support Kevin McCarthy for speaker, Jason Chaffetz, congressman from Utah, just announced that tonight actually he`s going to run himself. He`s getting called a long shot by the Beltway press tonight since he announced he was getting in. But honestly at this point if I had to bet on Kevin McCarthy to win versus Jason Chaffetz to win, I would bet on Jason Chaffetz. Also, the top Democrat in Congress, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, has now really called the question on what Kevin McCarthy screwed up so badly. Nancy Pelosi tonight has submitted a letter to the Republican leadership in Congress saying basically, hey, if you guys are going to use the most powerful tool that Congress has, if you`re going to use one of these select committees, the longest one ever, to just wage a political partisan war against a Democrat presidential candidate, you guys knock yourself out doing that, go for it. But if that`s how you`re going to use the select committee process can we also please have one of those select committees now to address the plague of mass shootings in this country? Maybe you could turn your attention to that as well if you guys aren`t too busy spending taxpayer dollars on a multimillion-dollar partisan vendetta against Hillary Clinton. That proposal today from Nancy Pelosi for a select committee on gun violence. Maybe you could turn your attention to that as well if you guys aren`t too busy spending taxpayer dollars on a multimillion-dollar partisan vendetta against Hillary Clinton. That proposal today from Nancy Pelosi for a select committee on gun violence. That was one of several serious and provocative political responses to the mass shooting yesterday in Roseburg, Oregon. That includes comments today from President Obama on his own terms about that shooting. But also comments from President Obama tonight -- or this afternoon directly repudiating what presidential candidate Jeb Bush said about the shooting today. There`s more to come on all of that including new news about the Roseburg, Oregon, shooter. Lots to come tonight. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In a very busy news week like this one a state issue would not usually pop, something going on just in one state. But there is a state, there`s one state`s decision that has come up this week that is so outrageous, even on a week like this it`s finally starting to get a lot of attention including presidential candidate Hillary Clinton weighing in on the issue today. This again is a single state issue, but I think it is going to become a national issue, probably as of this weekend. It`s out of Alabama. It`s absolutely stunning. And we`ve got that story coming up for you tonight. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But, you know, no matter what you do, guns, no guns, it doesn`t matter. You have people that are mentally ill, and they`re going to come through the cracks and they`re going to do things that people will not even believe are possible. GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, I don`t believe that gun control would stop this. SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I always find it interesting that the reflexive reaction of the left is to say we need more gun laws. DR. BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You`re not going to handle it with more gun control because gun control only works for normal law-abiding citizens. It doesn`t work for crazies. JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s just -- it`s very sad to see. But I resist the notion. And I did -- I had this challenge as governor because we had -- look, stuff happens. There`s always a crisis. And the impulse is always to do something, and it`s not necessarily the right thing to do. REPORTER: How would you react to governor bush? BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t even think I have to react to that one. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Some of the political reaction today, to the mass shooting in Roseburg, Oregon yesterday. But as we noted last night, there have been enough mass shootings in this country now that we`re used to a certain way they go. A certain flow of information, a certain tempo at which the basic facts of the crime and the basic facts about the perpetrator get confirmed by local authorities and become publicly known. Well, in this case in Oregon that standard tempo hasn`t been followed. There`s a lot that we didn`t know in the first 24 hours after the shooting that we would usually expect to know, and there have been important details that have changed about this case even today and into night, including some important new news about the shooter that was first reported by our next guest. Joining us is Ian Campbell. He`s a reporter with "The News-Review" in Roseburg, Oregon. Mr. Campbell, thank you for your time tonight. I appreciate you being here. IAN CAMPBELL, THE NEWS-REVIEW REPORTER: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: Ian, just a short time ago you broke some major news about the gunman, specifically about his relationship to Umpqua Community College. We were told yesterday that he had an uncertain relationship to the college but he certainly wasn`t a student. You`re now reporting that he was a student. CAMPBELL: That`s correct. So, earlier today I was able to talk to a student at UCC who was able to confirm and find that an e-mail address or an e-mail account under the shooter`s name was available and existed, and from there with what we did is we contacted the Douglas County sheriff`s office and we also contacted some UCC communications people who later were able to confirm that not only was the shooter a student at UCC but was also enrolled in the classroom where the shooting occurred. MADDOW: Do we know whether he had actually attended that class, whether he had actually shown up and been there, would have been a recognizable figure in that classroom before the shooting? CAMPBELL: We don`t know. It was the fourth day of school. So it would be, you know, a long shot to say if anyone had recognized him, whether he had shown up or whether he knew anyone. You know, at this point, we just know that he was enrolled in the class and, you know, four days into school, he showed up and shot and killed nine individuals. MADDOW: In terms of the people who he killed, we understand now they`ve released a list of the people who were killed in this instance, that one of the victims was the professor in that class, in the classroom where at least the bulk of the shooting seems to have taken place. Do we know anything further about or anything else that could -- about that list of nine that could tell us more about what happened or at least where the shooting happened? CAMPBELL: We don`t know a ton of specifics. What we do know and what is kind of a symptom of being in a small community, which Roseburg is, and Douglas County is, is you know, when the news came across of who the victims were, almost everyone in the county had a personal relationship with one of the victims, whether it was a friend of a friend, an acquaintance, or you know, a loved one. Even when the news broke across the newsroom, there were many people inside watching television who hadn`t heard or were shocked to learn that someone that they knew or someone they were close to had been killed the day before. MADDOW: Ian Campbell, reporter for "The News-Review" in Roseburg, Oregon, which is not the biggest city in the world to be involved in news reporting, but this is just incredibly close to you and you guys are doing nationally and internationally, important work from your perch. I hope you know how much it`s valued. I know how difficult it is. CAMPBELL: Yes, thank you for having me. MADDOW: Thanks. There`s lots more ahead tonight including a very rare interview with a sitting justice of the United States Supreme Court. Don`t miss it. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Whether or not Hurricane Joaquin becomes an epic east coast storm this weekend, and it looks like it probably won`t, still the threat of Hurricane Joaquin earlier this week was enough to cancel several high- profile presidential events, one of which seemed frankly unlikely in the first place. But Donald Trump and his presidential campaign really had apparently planned for Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump to be doing a rally tonight at a mega church in Virginia Beach. Before they canceled the event the tickets had sold out, all 2,500 of them, which would have filled the megachurch to capacity. By the time Donald Trump announced they were canceling the event, though, that had morphed into a forgone crowd of 10,000 people who were definitely going to be there. It`s kind of like loaves and fishes but different. The Donald Trump megachurch event tonight, though, was canceled because of expected heavy weather. But it`s been interesting. This has been kind of an evangelically focused week. He has never himself professed to be that religious, but this was the week when he started to bring his bible with him to campaign appearances. That made for a slightly strange sight in its own right. It definitely made for a juxtaposition when it became clear that this was also going to be the week when Donald Trump started swearing at his campaign events. The holding the bible thing and the swearing was a weird combination of things to roll out in the same week. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They asked Bush, what do you think of Rubio? Rubio comes out and he`s talking about bush and, you know. What do you think of Rubio? He`s my dear friend. He`s so wonderful. I love him so much. So they ask Rubio, what do you think of Bush? Oh, he`s my dear friend. Wonderful. They hate each other. They hate. Trust me, I know. They hate so much. They hate more than anybody in this room hates their neighbor. But it`s political bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Do you understand? It`s true. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) It`s true. Remember when Obama was saying we will leave, we are leaving Iraq as of a certain date? Now, the opponents said, wow, that`s great. What do we have to fight any more for? Let`s just wait a year and a half. That`s what happened. And then as soon as we left they knocked the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of everybody. Right? They just knocked the hell out of everybody. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: It`s weird to hear presidential candidates swear. But all of the swearing was particularly weird because this was also the week when he decided that he would be publicly cleansed. Sort of. Repenting. I don`t know. He was at least prayed for publicly. Mr. Trump at his New York office made a public show of himself being laid -- having hands laid on him. These evangelical leaders whom Donald Trump invited to meet with him, they all touched Donald Trump which is interesting to see because one of the famous things about him is he`s sort of germaphobic, he doesn`t like to be touched. There was a lot of touching of Donald Trump including touching his face. It`s not the way we are used to seeing him either as a TV personality or a businessman or a presidential candidate. But this was a very colorful group of evangelists whom Mr. Trump invited to pray on him at his office. Many of them are evangelists with TV shows. Many of them are proponents of the idea that the gospels are key to getting rich, the so-called prosperity gospel. At least one of the televangelists who invited to this display of praying for Donald Trump is a little famous even outside of evangelical circles for claiming she has the power to raise chickens from the dead. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAN CROUCH, TELEVANGELIST: When you`ve gone through depression, you know there`s no way out. Except Jesus healed me. And that`s the only reason I`m here. I had a little chicken that died. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, not the chicken story. CROUCH: And the only thing I did was prayed in the name of Jesus. And that little chicken became alive. It happened. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Her name is Jan Crouch. That`s the way she appears on televangelist TV. But here she was meeting this week with Donald Trump. So, Donald Trump had a big evangelical week. That said, his megachurch event tonight was cancelled a couple of days ago because of worries about this hurricane. Chris Christie also canceled events scheduled for today and tonight ahead of hurricane Joaquin. Governor Christie, along with the governors of several Eastern Seaboard states, declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm but as news emerged that the storm appeared to be banking out to sea, imposing less of a threat to people and property on the East Coast, a little bit of a political storm simultaneously broke out for Governor Christie. One of his cabinet officials chose basically 5:00 on Friday today as his opportunity for a surprise resignation. And you know, people do resign from state government. It happens. Even late in the day on Friday. It`s not always a scandal. But in this particular case this particular Chris Christie cabinet official is tied very directly to the ongoing criminal probes of the Chris Christie administration and his appointees in New Jersey. One of those investigations of course is bridgegate, in which criminal trials for Mr. Christie`s appointees and staffers are supposed to start in March. Another one of those criminal investigations involves the Christie administration`s dealings with United Airlines. This probe has already claimed the scalp of the CEO of United Airlines. And tonight the man whom expectedly quit Chris Christie`s cabinet, his secretary of transportation, he`s tied to that scandal as well because he was the lobbyist for United Airlines when that company bribed Christie administration figures for preferential treatment at Newark Airport, et cetera. And these sort of scandals, even these sorts of criminal investigations biting him on the ankles, these are the sort of things that a stronger presidential candidate could probably weather without much worry. Chris Christie, though, is not a strong presidential candidate. In the new national Republican poll that just came out from pew polling today, Chris Christie`s name does not even appear in the pullout graphic of how people did in the poll. Chris Christie is just lumped in as other, with all the other candidates who are somewhere south of 2 percent in this new national Republican poll. So, Chris Christie`s New Jersey looks like it may have dodged a bullet with this big Atlantic hurricane, but Chris Christie`s presidential campaign really only got bad news today. And if we`re talking about life at the bottom of the polling universe that also needs to bring us to the man just above other in this poll. That would be Rand Paul, who`s polling at 2 percent from pew today. It has been a week of bad news already for Rand Paul. At the beginning of the week, one of his three super PACs died. The head of his super PAC called Rand Paul`s presidential campaign futile, said he didn`t want to waste his time raising money for his presidential campaign anymore. Beyond the super PAC, we`ve also got campaign fund- raising numbers for his campaign as of today. And they`re terrible. They`re just off a cliff. I mean, if you look back to last quarter in the second quarter, Rand Paul raised about $7 million. In the third quarter, which just ended yesterday, he raised $2.5 million. He went from $7 million to $2.5 million. That`s a drop-off of what, 65 percent? And remember, Rand Paul isn`t just trying to run for president. He`s also simultaneously trying to run for re-election to his Senate seat in Kentucky. This week Rand Paul has been doing fund-raisers for that Senate re-election campaign. This weekend, he`s heading home to Kentucky to try to boost his Senate re-election efforts. He`s planning to tomorrow do a joint campaign event in Kentucky with the Republican Party`s candidate for governor in that state. Governor`s races in Kentucky happen in odd years I guess so, that election is next month. Well, as a measure of how bad things are for Rand Paul right now even at home two, hours after his campaign announced that joint event between Rand Paul and the Republican candidate for governor in his home state, two hours after they announced the joint event between these two guys, that Republican candidate for governor went on local talk radio and announced that his choice for president this year is probably Ben Carson. Apparently, these guys are still doing the event together tomorrow, but presumably it will be awkward. So, it`s tough times right now for Rand Paul. Even if he were not trying to run for president and Senate at the same time, he would be having a hard time with either of those races. At this point, as we reported earlier this week, Rand Paul is on the bubble to potentially not even make it onto the main stage for the next Republican debate later this month in Colorado. But if you`re looking for signs today about whether or not Rand Paul`s going to be the next candidate out, whether he`s going to be the next one to quit the presidency, there was one very specific smoke signal on that issue today. And granted, it`s from people who are absolutely not allies of Rand Paul. It`s from the leading Democratic super PAC American Bridge. I think of American bridge as kind of an opposition research organization. But they`re a super PAC. They`re very much in support of Hillary Clinton`s presidential candidacy. So, take it with a grain of salt because it`s coming from them. But American Bridge announced today a subtle sort of low-key personnel announcement. This is what they said: "Hi, all. In case you haven`t met me I`m the primary press contact for Senate races in American bridge. In light of recent events including fund-raising numbers for this quarter we`re making updates to our staff assignments. Please direct any future inquiries about Senator Rand Paul to me," the Senate press person, "instead of to our presidential team. So take that for what it`s worth. That is a Democratic group that does not have nice things to say about Rand Paul, nor do they wish him well politically speaking. But they have announced that they are now treating him as a Senate re-election candidate and they are no longer even bothering to oppo him as a presidential candidate because his presidential candidacy is getting smaller and smaller and smaller on the horizon so you`re starting to feel like maybe you`re watching a sunset that you`ll never be able to rewind. I mean, usually not this many candidacies end before Iowa, let alone among candidates who are household names. But this year it`s two down already and several teetering. and the hot money`s on Rand Paul to be next to go. Watch this space. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: There are nine justices on the Supreme Court. Contrary to popular impression, the nine life-tenured members of the United States Supreme Court, they are human. They are people. That said, that doesn`t mean you can talk to them. Except tonight we can. Tonight, an interview with sitting Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Seriously. That`s next. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ARI MELBER, MSNBC CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: Let me ask you about another big issue, Citizens United, a case where the dissent that you joined said this will cripple the ability of ordinary citizens, Congress, and the states to adopt even limited measures to protect against corporate domination of the electoral process. JUSTICE STEPHEN BREYER, SUPREME COURT: But I don`t want to -- I mean, that`s a very important issue. I was in the dissent in that case. It`s complicated and takes a significant amount of time to explain. And so, I would rather not explain it on television because it is so controversial. And I`d like to go on to some other thing. Not that I don`t have views on it. MELBER: All right. BREYER: But they`re in writing. And I`ve joined opinions and so forth. That`s too controversial and too complex a matter for me to discuss in this forum. MELBER: Let me ask you, then, a theoretical question. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Yes. Change tack, go back at that time a different way. That was amazing. MSNBC`s Ari Melber on the one hand getting this incredibly rare thing, an on-camera interview with a sitting Supreme Court justice, Stephen Breyer. And on the other hand he just got this brick wall, one of those crazy old school brick prison walls studded with broken glass on the top, when he tried to push Justice Breyer on the issue of Citizens United. The justice would not talk about it when Ari sat down with him for this interview this week. But it wasn`t that Justice Breyer wanted to avoid controversial issues altogether. This week in particular has been full of dramatic and controversial, even at times shocking news on the death penalty, including the state of Georgia killing a female prisoner whose death had previously been delayed because of problems with the drugs they were going to use to kill her. Just last night, Virginia killed a prisoner whose death had been delayed because of the mystery where the drugs came from that were used to kill him. Oklahoma this week at least temporarily ended the death penalty in that state after a bizarre last-minute screw-up where they were less than two hours away from killing a prisoner whose case had gone all the way to the Supreme Court. But less than two hours before that killing as the state un-packed their execution kit they realized that they didn`t actually have the drugs on hand they thought they would have on hand. They had different drugs. And nobody knows how the screw-up happened. But now, because of that, Oklahoma has scotched its plans to kill all three of the prisoners who they had lined up next for the execution chamber, including Richard Glossip, whose namesake Supreme Court case this summer paved the way for continued legal lethal injections, even a amidst the chaos that reigns in the states right now over the drugs used in that kind of killing. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a remarkable dissent in the Glossip case in which he said he not only disagreed with the majority ruling but that the whole question of the death penalty itself should be considered again by the Supreme Court now. He said, "I believe that it is now time to reopen the question" -- which for a Supreme Court justice is kind of going way out there on a limb. And Ari asked him why. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BREYER: Sometimes it`s the wrong person. Often, it`s very arbitrary as to who gets executed. It`s not the worst of the worst very often. And there are just absolutely arbitrary criteria that shouldn`t be in determining who is selected for execution. That it takes years to litigate a matter. So if a person is sentenced to death on average if there is an execution it takes place on average 18 years later. And the number of instances in which there is an execution has fallen dramatically within the United States. There are just a handful of counties where there really are executions. A handful, that`s so few. And the risk of arbitrariness is so great. And the risk of the wrong person is enough. And the length of time is so long. It`s like being hit by lightning 40 years later. And all that put together convinced me that there is a good case to be made under the constitutional provision, is it a cruel and unusual punishment? Those are the things that are relevant that this court should hear the case. And that`s what I said in the dissenting opinion. MELBER: And you talk about it being arbitrary. You also in that dissent talk about it being worse than arbitrary, it being unfair. You cite data that shows murders of white victims are more likely to receive the death penalty. That is part of an argument that`s been circulating in the country right now, in the Black Lives Matter movement, the idea that the justice system is sometimes treating black Americans differently, be they defendant or victim. Is that issue with regard to the death penalty a matter of simple unfairness that people can debate, or could it raise to the level of being unconstitutional? BREYER: In my -- in the opinion that I wrote I mentioned that and many other things. Quite a few problems, and put those problems together and they all spell out let`s hear this issue again. And that was the point I wanted to make. MELBER: Justice Scalia this week says he would not be surprised if this court overruled the death penalty. Do you think that could happen? BREYER: I won`t go beyond what I said. What I said was we should hear it. That means you get arguments from both sides. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: We should hear it. Justice Breyer writes in a new book that he`s got out which is called "The Court and the World," he writes that Americans should care, for instance, that the death penalty has been banned by most other democracies in the world. And he now is basically lobbying the legal world to bring the Supreme Court a case that would challenge the death penalty in America. Not one way it`s done versus another way that it`s done but the way that it`s done in America. Once and for all, should killing prisoners be legal? Fascinating, super controversial, and amazing that Ari got him to talk about it that way even as he was trying not to. That doesn`t mean, though, that he was willing to talk about everything. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MELBER: You`ve been on the court over 20 years. BREYER: Yes. MELBER: How do you know in a job where only you decide, how do you know when it`s time to retire? BREYER: That`s a good question. I feel I will know. And I feel so far I seem to be able to do the job. And there will perhaps be some indication or I`ll think about it. But I haven`t thought it through enough yet to be able to give you much guidance on when I`ll retire. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Joining us now is Ari Melber, MSNBC chief legal correspondent. Ari, congratulations on that. It`s -- I mean, it`s great to watch. How`d you get it? MELBER: I got it partly because of his book. He`s not doing a ton of interviews, but he`s doing a few. MADDOW: Yes, it was great to hear you draw him out and how far he would go on some issues and not on others. That said, I mean, I think I`m attuned to the death penalty stuff right now because there`s so much going on around that issue. Is it -- from a legal perspective is it remarkable that he is basically begging the legal world for a case to rule on the death penalty`s constitutionality again? MELBER: It is certainly unusual. It is striking. We know that the court is generally reactive. It takes the cases that come up, and it doesn`t have the opportunity in opinions or in other remarks to say bring us this or that. It can because as you saw, the justices can say or, as you point out, not say whatever they choose. They do have life tenure. So, what you see here is a growing sentiment led by Justice Breyer and other justices on the court to say let`s not just look at the margins, let`s look at the way this country at this point in time metes out capital punishment and question whether it is really constitutional. MADDOW: He is making the argument, and the reason he`s not only written the book but he`s willing to do interviews about it, is that he`s making a case which I think would be a very politically unpopular case if he were a politician, that Americans should care about how the rest of the democratic world views the death penalty, that there are things that happen in other countries, both like international law but also in foreign law, and just in foreign sociology, understanding the international world that should reasonably be part of our jurisprudence. That is -- I mean, had he written this book before he was up for confirmation, that would have been the game, set and match, right? But this is controversial stuff. MELBER: It is. There`s a sort of political nativism that we know about that is seeping into the courts. He cites with alarm in the book a Republican bill in the House that would have tried to prevent judges from even looking at anything abroad, including this kind of information. What he says is obviously the court is bound first by American precedent and what the text of American documents including the Constitution say but that there`s an obligation on these courts in a globalized world to look around the world. And with regard to cruel and unusual, that can mean unusual and cruel in a domestic setting and he believes as part of the broader analysis in a global setting, if we are the only democracy doing something. And as he argues, we`re doing it so poorly. We should reconsider. MADDOW: Oh, that`s fascinating. That the unusual part of cruel and unusual could simply be the fact that we`re alone in simply our strata of the world in treating prisoners this way. Fascinating stuff. MSNBC chief legal correspondent Ari Melber, congratulations again. This is a fascinating interview. I should tell you if you want to see more from this interview, please go to We`ve got lots more clips from the interview posted there. And it`s totally worth watching. MELBER: Thank you. MADDOW: Much more ahead. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We have a story tonight that you will not hear elsewhere. It has snuck under the national radar so far. Honestly, I think it`s mostly been lost in the incredible flood of news this week. But this is a story that`s not going to stay lost. It`s almost unbelievable state news out of one state in the Deep South. It is truly stunning. I think it`s about to become a national story this weekend. But see it here first. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK. Deep breath. This is an amazing story and I think you have probably not seen it anywhere else. You can see here, map makers best efforts at showing us Planet Earth, right? They take it apart like an orange peel. It`s not like a globe anymore you would see from space. It`s something more like we would experience walking around as human beings. Our planet has changed a lot over time. The continents are slowly shifting around over time with vast consequences. There was a period, for instance, when Maine was connected by land to Africa. There was a period where you could walk from what we now call Russia to Sarah Palin`s house in Alaska. Parts of earth that used to connect are now separated by ocean. And parts of what we think of as solid land were covered by the sea. If you look closely of this map, you will recognize what became the modern United States. But you`ll also see water where we do not have water now. One hundred millions ago, some states of what was now the American South, they were covered by water. They were covered by seawater. And inside that water, right, were jillions of little sea creatures, little plankton. And the presence of all that life had profound consequences for the land itself, because when the water reseeded with all that life in it, that let behind some of the richest soil on the entire earth. Those geologic events happened over a vast amount of time, 100 million years ago or more. But if you look at our history, you can see the lasting effect of that. Starting in the 19th century, farmers used that rich soil left behind by the prehistoric sea. They used it for growing cotton. You can still see it using something like Google Earth. You see this crescent of light green, that`s farms there. One name for this rich fertile swath of Alabama is the Cotton Belt, because of all the cotton that was grown there. This is a map of production in 159 just before the civil war. You see the same crescent shape there. But that region, that space, it has another name, too, particularly inside Alabama itself, what they call it is the Black Belt. First, for this particular kind of rich, rich, rich dark soil there. But second for the slaves who were brought there to work on the cotton plantations. Booker T. Washington writing at the turn of the century, quote, "The part of the country possessing this thick, dark and naturally rich soil was, of course, the part of the South where the slaves were most profitable. And consequently they were taken there in the largest numbers. Later, and especially since the war, the civil war, the term seems to be used wholly in a political sense to designate the counties where the black people outnumber the white people." The Black Belt in Alabama. And what Booker T. Washington wrote about the Black Belt at the turn of the century, it`s still true today. The Black Belt of Alabama now means the parts of Alabama where, because of old slave economy, African-Americans tend to outnumber white people. In political terms, it ends up to be where Democratic voters tend to outnumber Republican voters. If you studied this stuff at all or if you happen to live now in what is the old confederacy, you won`t be surprised where counties where they once grew a lot of cotton is where there are majority black populations even today. But in Alabama specifically this story, this history took a new turn that I did not see coming and I`m not sure anybody did. Check this out. Check this out -- after a very bad year of budget trouble, Alabama`s governor just signed an emergency budget. It had to be passed by the Republican legislature in an emergency session. He just signed it. And this week, cuts went into effect. They got this budget crisis and to deal with it, they are closing, for example, five state parks. In 28 counties in Alabama, they are closing where you get a driver`s license. And, of course, that`s an inconvenience for anyone who wants to deal with that state service. But Alabama is a state a where as of last year you now had to show ID you never had to show before in order to vote. A quarter million people who are registered voters in the state don`t have the kind of ID that the state now says you need if you want to cast your ballot. But here`s where it gets amazing. Here`s where the stories come together, because at the top of the short official state IDs Alabama will accept at the polls, top of the list is a driver`s license. And, of course, the state just made it harder to get a driver`s license. But they didn`t make it equally harder to get for everyone. Of the 28 counties losing, the place in that country where you get a drivers license, half of them are in the Alabama Black Belt. Half. Look at this. Of the counties in that state where three-quarters of the registered voters are black, every single one of those counties, every single one of them is losing a place where you can get a driver`s license that would let you vote in Alabama. Every one of the states, every one of the counties, which is more than 75 percent black. These are the ten counties where Barack Obama posted his biggest wins in Alabama in the year 2012. In eight of those ten counties, you will no longer be able to get a driver`s license. In case you wanted to get one to use it as your ID to vote. To the everlasting credit of the Alabama press, the outcry over this announcement this week has been mediate and loud. John Archibald writes in "The Birmingham News", quote, "It`s not just a civil rights violation, it`s not just a public relations nightmare, it`s not just an invitation for worldwide scorn and an alarm belt of Justice Department, it is an affront to the very notion of justice in a nation where one man one vote is as precious as oxygen. It`s a slap in a face to all who believe the stuff we teach kids about how we`re all created equal. Maybe it`s not racial at all, right? Maybe it`s just political. And let`s face it, it may not be either. But no matter the intent, the consequence is the same." Hope springs eternal, that Alabama Republicans did not just deliberately zap the ability to get the most common voter ID in all of the blackest counties in that state, right? Hope springs eternal that it wasn`t specifically that racist. But out of all God`s great green evolving earth, Alabama Republicans really did manage to pick this one spot, this center of African-American life in their state in the black belt as the place where they could really save some money by cutting all those offices where you get what you need to vote. Hillary Clinton put out a statement on this today calling it a blast from the Jim Crowe past. Whether Alabama Republicans meant to do this with as much racial specificity as it seems they did, that I cannot say. But the important question now is whether or not they`re going to get away with it. And that does it for us tonight. We will see you again on Monday. I`m going to cool off in the drunk tank for a while. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. 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